Posted by admin at 28 July 2014

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DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. When barriers to disallow dalits into temple were broken 75 years ago (2)

MADURAI: When a group of dalit students from Sevalayam, a children’s home in Madurai run by Harijan Seva Sangh (HSS) founded by Mahatma Gandhi visited the Meenakshi Amman temple and offered prayers, there was more significance to it. Though a simple event, the visit of the dalit students had a great historic significance marking the 75th anniversary of the temple entry movement in Madurai. It was on July 8, 1939 that dalits led by Gandhians A Vaidhyanatha Iyer entered the Meenakshi Amman temple. While the temple entry demolished the unwritten barrier of dalits and oppressed classes in Meenakshi Amman temple, the event also paved way for similar temple entries in other famous temples of south Tamil Nadu like Tiruchendur Subramanya Swamy temple. “But not many of youth in present day are aware of the history. They should learn history and continue the fight against such social inequalities,” said M Chidambara Bharathi, president, Amman Sannithi Gandhi Statue Committee who had made the arrangements for the commemoration event. The students of Sevalayam along with a host of social activists and freedom fighter Mayandi Bharathi and Gandhians entered the temple through the East tower and visited all the shrines to offer prayers. Explaining the significance of the event, Chidambara Bharathi said that dalits and nadars, a backward class, have been denied entry into temples for centuries. Their struggle to gain the right of entering and worshipping in temples including Meenakshi Amman temple were stiffly resisted more often leading to violent attacks on dalits. In Madurai, Vaidhyanatha Iyer and Gandhians like N M Subburaman held a temple entry conference and formed a committee to take forward their objective in June 1939. Finally, on July 8 the same year they managed to take into the temple dalits and a nadar amidst stiff oppression. Since then, the temple entry day is commemorated by dalits and freedom fighters. In a bid to honour Vaidhayanatha Iyer, a life-size statue was also erected in the city. After offering prayers in the temple, the tudents from Sevalayam and Gandhians also visited the statue and garlanded it. (Times of India 9/7/14)

2. Tension Rises as One More Dalit Attacked (2)

CHIDAMBARAM: A Dalit student was attacked at Vadakku Mangudi village near here on Wednesday, further intensifying the  prevailing tension. As people belonging to the intermediate caste and Dalit communities started gathering at the village, a heavy posse of police was deployed. According to sources, Santhosh (15), class X student of a government school, was attacked by four persons with a knife and other weapons on Wednesday. He was admitted to the Chidambaram GH. On hearing this, Human Right Party president L R Vishwanathan went to the village in his car, which was stoned. After this,  the Dalits and people of intermediate-caste started to gather at the village. As tension was running high, a heavy posse of police was deployed. Chidambaram DSP R Rajaram, Sethiathope DSP Suresh Babu were engaged in providing security. Cuddalore SP A Radhika went to the spot and coordinated the security arrangements. The problem between the two communities began on the evening of Parliamentary election day in the State (April 24) when some people from the intermediate-caste entered a Dalit colony and attacked the Dalits. Their properties were also damaged. In the attack, six persons were injured and two of them died later. Registering a case, Annamalai Nagar police arrested 50 persons of Vadakku Mangudi village belonging to the intermediate-caste for their hand in the attack. Following this, enmity between the communities has grown. On Monday night, two Dalit youths, who were travelling on a motorbike, were stopped and attacked by unknown persons. The injured are being treated at the government hospital, Chidambaram. Condemning the attack, VCK, CPM and some Dalits staged a road-blockade in front of the hospital on Tuesday. Police pacified them and the protest was withdrawn. Later, the Collector S Suresh Kumar rushed to the village and spoke to the residents. Meanwhile, L R Vishwanathan demanded an alternative place for the Dalits of this village. He said, “Dalits here are being continuously attacked. They are living an insecure life. So, the government should allocate a separate place for the Dalits of Vadakku Mangudi village. Otherwise, Dalits will surrender their ration cards and hold a protest.” (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

3. Caste Hindu beats up Dalit Boy With Brick (2)

THOOTHUKUDI: A caste Hindu man was booked for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old Dalit boy with brick over a parking row, at Kayathar near here on Friday. Sources said Ashokaraja, a Dalit resident of Kayathar, had parked his bicycle in front of the house of Ayyannar, a caste Hindu, in South Colony, Indira Nagar, before entering his relative’s house. Ayyannar allegedly picked a quarrel with Ashokaraja and abused him using his caste name. He beat up Ashokaraja with brick. Ashokaraja sustained grievous injuries in the attack and was rushed to the Tirunelveli government hospital. Based on a compliant from Ashokaraja, the Kayathar Police booked a case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014, against Ayyannar and launched an investigation. Sources said Ashokaraja used to regularly park his bicycle at a spot before entering his relative’s house to deliver food. There had been no fight over the issue between the two, sources claimed. Meanwhile, preliminary inquiries revealed that Ayyannar had earlier been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2011 as well. (New Indian Express 3/7/14)

4. Dalit wedding fetes face feudal rage in Rajasthan (2)

Jaipur: It was Jaipal’s wedding at Gugal Kota in Alwar on June 21. His father, Roshan Lal, made him ride a decorated horse, at the head of the wedding party, to the bride’s home. But the Rajputs in the village disliked such a celebration by a Dalit family and they would not allow it to go on. Mr. Jaipal was pulled down from the horse on the road and the guests were attacked. Flying stones hit some of the revellers and some others were beaten up. Mr. Lal had to pay the price because he decided to celebrate his son’s wedding with fanfare that only the Rajputs used to have in the past. In the village, not a long way from the National Capital Region, three bridegrooms had earlier ridden horses under police protection. Only on June 18, another bridegroom, Kamlesh Regar, was pulled down from his horse at Tarnavon ka Kheda in Chittorgarh district. During the wedding season between March and June, nearly a dozen such Ghodi Utaro (pull down from a horse) incidents take place in the State. The upper caste people dislike such celebrations by the Dalits, more so if the bridegroom mounts a horse and goes to the bride’s house with band and music. “This is a typical feudal mentality at work, particularly in the regions with a higher population of Rajputs who believe that Dalits are not entitled to the same privileges as them,” P.L. Mimrothi of the Centre for Dalit Rights here says. While Ghodi Chadhna (riding a horse) is a major function for upper caste bridegrooms, a similar celebration often means trouble for the Dalit families, which have to face the ignominy of Ghodi Utaro. Earlier, when landlords and upper castes ruled these regions, they would celebrate weddings with customs such as sending the groom on an elephant or horse and a band troop would accompany the bride when she came to her husband’s house. While many things changed after Independence, the feudal thinking continues. “The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is meant precisely for protecting the dignity of Dalits, but even then such incidents are happening,” Mr. Mimrothi says. Though some arrests are made off and on, conviction is almost nil. The Act emphasises the intention of the government to deliver justice to these communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression from the dominant class. Earlier, only Rajput communities were known to oppose such celebrations by Dalits, but now Jats and Gujjars are also not behind, Mr. Mimrothi says. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

5. Unrestricted temple entry: agitation planned (2)

Tirupur: Dalit Liberation Movement- Tamil Nadu is planning agitations to get the issue of unrestricted temple entry demanded by Dalit community in the case of Uthamapalayam New Mariamman temple settled expeditiously. The Movement also would pursue the demand for speedy disbursal of the financial compensation to 150 Dalit people who were allegedly attacked by upper caste people when they tried to enter the temple in October 2010. S. Karuppaiah, state joint general secretary of the Movement, said almost a year had gone since the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed the departments concerned to provide compensation to the victims. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

TRIBALS

6. ‘Economic liberalisation threatening tribal life’ (6)

CHENNAI: Forced land acquisition and unparalleled looting of natural resources on the pretext of development by corporate and big scale industries are threatening the existence of tribals in rural Chhattisgarh, according to Pravin Patel of Tribal Welfare Society, a Chhattisgarh-based NGO. At a conference organised by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Patel claimed that the Chhattisgarh  Government had been involved in such activities and added that economic liberalisation had only worsened the livelihood of tribals in States like Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “It is a swim against tide for the tribals to reclaim their livelihood rights against the big mining and industrial interests,” he said. “Since liberalisation of our economic policies in 1991, the nation’s invaluable natural wealth has been looted indiscriminately by the corporate sector, without the right price for it,” he added. Elaborating on his statement, he said that as recently as 2012, the State government of Chhattisgarh allowed the coal and mining industry to operate whilst charging ‘insensible’ royalty rates. Recounting the episode of selling a 22-km stretch of Shivnath River, when the undivided Madhya Pradesh government sold it to a private party, Patel said that nowhere else the parties responsible for the ‘crime’ would have been allowed to walk free. “Absolute lawlessness prevails in these States. If you question the government, you will end up dead or silenced,” he said. Central jails in Chhattisgarh, the activist claimed, also hold the record for housing the largest number of undertrial inmates arrested on false charges of having Maoist links. “Tribals would be targeted and arrested on false charges that they have links with Maoist and Naxalite groups. They would then spend the next eight to 10 years in prison while under trial or in some cases that will never be tried,” said Dr V Suresh, national general secretary of PUCL. “The harsh truth is that 10 years later nearly all of them will be declared innocent and released without conviction. Such things help corporates in the land grabbing,” he added. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

7. Tribal groups protest in Delhi (6)

Kokrajhar, July 11: The tribal organisations of Assam today staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in support of their various demands. More than 100 tribal organisations staged a sit-in with placards, festoons and banners from 11am to 2pm to demand revision of tribal land policy and preparation of a new land policy of Assam and implementation of the Assam SCs and STs (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012. “The loopholes in the Chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue (Regulation) Act, 1886, has given a chance to exploit it. Therefore, a major chunk of land from the tribal belt and block have already been grabbed by non-bona fide persons or sometimes by the government itself,” the general secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha, Aditya Kaklary, said. The organisations are vehemently opposed to the inclusion of some more advanced communities into the list of ST (plains) category. The group members said the Assam government has recently forwarded a proposal to the Centre despite the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for STs turning down such a proposal on the ground that these communities namely the Morans, Muttocks, Koch Rajbongshis, Sooteas, Tai Ahoms and tea tribes, do not fulfil the criteria required to declare them Scheduled Tribes. “There are apprehensions among the tribal people that these six communities might be considered for ST status, which will adversely effected the interest of the existing ST communities,” Kaklary said. “We have no objection to giving any special status, protection and/or privilege to any ethnic group of Assam in any other manner which will in no way hamper the rights and interests of the plains tribal people of Assam,” he said. A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister, home minister and tribal welfare minister. In another development, United Tribal Organisation, Assam (UTOA), today sought immunity to their existing constitutional safeguards if the six communities are accorded ST status. (The Telegraph 12/7/14)

8. Tribal sub-plan area to be reduced with transfer of villages (6)

KHAMMAM: The transfer of 324 revenue villages of Khammam, including 545 habitations comprising an estimated 1.89 lakh population to Andhra Pradesh for the purpose of Polavaram project is poised to reduce the tribal sub-plan (TSP) area of the district drastically. Bhadrachalam Agency, with a population of over 5.61 lakh spread across 12,175 sq km in 29 TSP mandals, will undergo extensive changes in geographical area, demographic profile and composition of three ST reserved Assembly constituencies after merger. The merger of seven TSP mandals — VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) with the AP is set to alter the demographic composition of the Agency. As many as 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the TSP area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of AP. The move is likely to affect the composition of Bhadrachalam, Pinapaka and Aswraopet ST reserved Assembly constituencies. The major tourism destinations including Papikondalu wildlife sanctuary, Sriramagiri and Perantalapalli, the Mothugudem-based 460 MW lower Sileru hydro-electric power plant, several historical temples and structures besides 1.40 lakh hectares of forest area are set to become part of AP. Although the famous temple town Bhadrachalam, the abode of Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy, will continue in the district, the vast stretches of the temple lands spread in over 1,000 acres in the division will be transferred to AP. The jurisdiction of the ITDA, Bhadrachalam, will be condensed owing to the merger of four mandals with Rampachodavaram Agency of East Godavari district and the remaining three mandals with Jangareddygudem division of West Godavari district. The total number of TSP mandals will come down from 29 to 22. The unilateral move by the Centre will spell doom for lakhs of Adivasis, the diverse tribal cultural heritage and rich eco-system, warns Sode Murali, secretary, Adivasi Sankshema Parishad. “It amounted to not only breach of the established democratic norms but blatant violation of the constitutional provisions pertaining to Fifth Schedule areas,” he charges. Tribal people of the areas allotted to AP will face a peculiar problem. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

9. ‘BJP will launch stir for entire Bhadrachalam division’ (6)

RAJAHMUNDRY: BJP National Committee member Somu Veerraju on Monday warned Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to withdraw his statements on Polavaram Bill, which paved the way for merger of seven mandals with Andhra Pradesh. “If KCR and his party leaders did not withdraw their statements and claims on Polavaram submerging villages, the AP BJP unit will launch an agitation, demanding the restoration of status before 1959 where the entire Bhadrachalam Revenue division is part and parcel of the East Godavari district,” Mr. Veerraju said. Addressing media conference on Monday, he said that a team of BJP MPs, Ministers, MLAs from Andhra Pradesh would visit New Delhi and make a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Central Ministers on merging of Venkatapuram, Charla, Vajedu and Dummugudem mandals with East Godavari and also meet Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on the issue. He said that BJP was demanding the formation of a new tribal district with Rampachodavaram or Rajahmundry as headquarters with seven merged villages —VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) — with A.P. According to Mr. Veerraju, 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the Tribal Sub-Plan area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of A.P. The BJP leader demanded that Mr. Naidu decentralise the development and immediately announce a development road map for the State. He reminded that the BJP government at the Centre had kept its promise by announcing Petroleum University, Tribal University, Horticulture Research Institute Sub-Centre, Hardware Park, Fertilizers production with coconut pith and also land for Agriculture University — all in East Godavari district. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

10. Polavaram Project: Injustice to Tribals Alleged (6)

KHAMMAM: All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) vice president Sunith Chopra has alleged that the Central Government has done injustice to the tribals in the Khammam district with regard to the Polavaram project. Speaking to newsmen here on Tuesday, he said that the Polavaram project issue would be specially discussed at the AIAWU’s national convention to be held in Warangal from July 30. He alleged that the central government had violated tribal laws in the Polavaram issue and added that, as a consequence, lakhs of innocent tribals were going to suffer. He called up the tribals to stiffly resist any move(s) to evict them from their places and assured them of his outfit’s support in all aspects. Speaking about other burning issues, he alleged that due to the governments’ anti-people policies, over three lakh farmers across the country had committed suicides in the last three years. He also said that the sexual harassment of women had increased and no government had taken stringent action against culprits nor measures to curb the menace. He accused the BJP-led NDA government also of taking anti-people decisions, one of which was to impose Rs 7,000 cr taxes on the people as envisaged in the recent Budget. Chopra said that representatives from 14 states would participate in his outfit’s national convention in Warangal. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar would also participate in the convention, he added. AIAWU state secretary B Venkat demanded that chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao should convene an all-party meeting to discuss the Polavaram issue. He faulted the state BJP for its demand that the Bhadrachalam town should also be merged in the Residuary Andhra Pradesh state. District AIAWU president V Srinivasa Rao and secretary M Venkateswarlu were also present at the news conference. Blamed the successive govts for forcing over three lakh farmers across the country to commit suicide in last three years Flayed the NDA government for demanding merger of Bhadrachalam town with AP (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

WOMEN

11. Urban women registered max complaints at crisis centre (8)

BHOPAL: A large number of women from various parts of Madhya Pradesh have approached One Stop Crisis Centre (Gaurvi) in state capital seeking help. What is alarming is 83.5% of complaints were received from urban areas as compared to 16.95% from rural areas. In three weeks, the centre has witnessed more than 500 calls and 41 walk-ins. The women have complained against their husbands, brothers, parents, and in-laws among others. Their usual complaints include rape, dowry harassment, molestation, trafficking and domestic violence. “Many of these women have faced violence for as long as 37 years and it seems to have become an integral part of their lives. Most women are not economically independent,” said a representative of Action Aid, which is running OSCC in collaboration with health department. “For women with complaints of domestic violence, their families do not co-operate and it takes a lot of time to get both parties to sit across the table to reach a resolution. The women, in the meantime, are left destitute, ” representative said. Some women, because of brutality, develop suicidal tendencies. They need immediate intervention and are being referred to psychiatrists, Action Aid spokesperson added. The focus of the centre is on medication and relief to women rather than just establishing the crime. For younger age groups, it was noticed that sexual harassment, molestation, rape and cybercrime have been reported. (Times of India 9/7/14)

12. Yechury for Parliament to set up gender sensitivity panel (8)

NEW DELHI: A day after the Lok Sabha witnessed ugly scenes with some derogatory remarks, reportedly made against women MPs of TMC, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday pointed out that Parliament, which enacted a law providing for establishment of gender sensitivity committees at all workplaces, itself does not have any such panel. His remark prompted Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien to ask the government to “act” on the suggestion as early as possible. Yechury raised the issue in the Upper House during Zero Hour when a mention was made about the persisting crimes against women. “In Parliament we are not implementing laws we passed,” Yechury said while asking why the ‘Gender Sensitive Committee’ provided under the law to protect women at workplaces did not exist in Parliament. He was speaking after the Congress member Rajni Patil voiced concern over incidents of rape and other crimes against women. (Times of India 10/7/14)

13. Budget 2014: Rs. 150 Crore for Women’s Safety Leaves Many Skeptical (8)

New Delhi:  The government today allocated Rs. 150 crore for the safety of women in cities and Rs. 50 crore for their safety on public transport, as well as Rs. 100 crore for the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme for the girl child. The finance minister’s Rs. 200 crore plan to ensure women’s safety may have been cheered inside the Parliament, but out on the streets women seem to be skeptical. A woman using public transport told NDTV, “Every time announcements are made but nothing changes on the ground for us. Have things changed post December 16? (referring to the Delhi gang-rape that left victim dead).” “There are times when drunk boys board the bus and we have no way to protect ourselves, hope they actually apply this time,” said another commuter. Perhaps the skepticism is not misfounded. In last year’s Union Budget, the then UPA government had allocated Rs. 1000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund, named after the Delhi gang-rape victim. According to then Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the inspiration was the gang-rape of the 23-year-old paramedic student inside a moving bus. However, a year later, the response to an RTI revealed that not a single rupee was spent from that fund. In his reponse to the RTI query Amit Bansal, under secretary at the Economic Affairs Department of the Finance Ministry said, “Parliament approved the setting up of a Rs. 1,000-crore fund titled the Nirbhaya Fund, but the funds have not been used so far as the relevant schemes are yet to be finalised.” The skepticism only increases when the finance minister ends up allocating the same amount for the construction of a statue. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today set aside Rs. 200 crore for a giant statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat. Critics have questioned the Modi government’s priorities at a time India is struggling with an alarming spurt in crimes against women. The Statue of Unity may have ambitions of being the tallest statue in the world, but when it comes to women’s safety and security, are our politicians only interested in making the tallest claims? (NDTV 11/7/14)

14. SIFF hails SC order on automatic arrest of men (8)

HYDERABAD: Members of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court order to end automatic arrests of men, their parents and relatives under section 498-A of IPC and anti-dowry law. The SIFF also demanded that the police should follow the Supreme Court directives and bring an end to the automatic arrests. The SIFF said that Courts must not use threat of arrests under Section 498-A of IPC as a tool for negotiating high alimony for wife. “Alimony has to be decided by competent family courts. Some provisions must be made to protect men from domestic violence,” said P. Rukma Chary of SIFF, talking to presspersons. According to SIFF, reports from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2013 have revealed that 64,098 married men have committed suicide as against 29,491 married women who ended their lives. “Family disputes are the main reason of suicide of people in India. In 2013, more than 24 per cent of all suicides were due to family reasons,” Mr. Rukma Chary said. (The Hindu 11/7/14)

15. People urged to fight against female foeticide (8)

Mandya: M.A. Ponnappa, president of the Karnataka Media Academy, has stressed on collective efforts to prevent the horrible practice of female foeticide in the State. Speaking at a seminar on the “Role of media in preventing female foeticide” here on Saturday, Mr. Ponnappa urged the media, doctors, non-governmental organisations, self-help groups and members of all sections of society to join hands to fight against the menace. C.S. Puttaraju, MP, called upon the women to combat female foeticide and growing disparity in sex ratio. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Puttaraju said that both the State and the Union governments had initiated many programmes for the welfare of women and children. Women should take full advantage of such programmes and enhance their quality of life. While P.M. Narendra Swamy, Malavalli MLA, appealed to the society to support government- sponsored programmes on prevention of female foeticide, D.C. Thammanna, Maddur MLA, said that women should raise their voice against female foeticide and for social change. The Karnataka Media Academy and Information Department, in association with the District Union of Working Journalists, had organised the programme to highlight the ill-effects of female foeticide. Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and anganwadi assistants participated. District Information Officer R. Raju, Mandya Zilla Panchayat president Manjula Paramesh, Academy secretary Shankarappa, DUWJ president Krishna and others were present. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

16. More women come forward to report crime since December 16 case: Bassi (8)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi on Saturday attributed the five-fold rise in the number of crimes against women since the December 16 gang-rape incident to a renewed emphasis on truthful recording of incidents. He said this at an interactive session — “Face-To-Face with the Government — This time with Delhi Police to Discuss the Burning Issue of Women Safety”, organised by the FICCI Ladies Organisation. During his presentation, Mr. Bassi also provided statistics on the rise in the number of cases of rape, molestation and dowry harassment. The 1,636 rape cases registered in 2013 were more than twice the corresponding number — 706 — in 2012. In the first six months of 2014, 984 cases of rape were reported against 869 in the same period last year, he added. The Police Commissioner said that prior to the December 16, 2012, incident, there was reluctance on the part of the police personnel to register cases as they feared it would indicate a failure to check crimes of such nature. He added that such response from the police, coupled with the a sense of social ostracism faced by the women victims, also deterred them from coming forward and lodging a complaint. Mr. Bassi was of the view that an improvement on both counts was also a factor behind an increased number in registered case. The police chief, however, acknowledged that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, was also a contributing factor in making the staff more responsive. “Now when a woman comes to a police station and a cognisable offence is made out of her complaint, she is not denied the registration of an FIR,” he added. A similar trend was also witnessed in the overall crime figures. The total number of all cases reported in Delhi till June 30 stands at 71,523, which is more than double of 33,797 cases reported in the same period in 2013. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

17. Women panel backs harsher punishment for juvenile criminals (8)

NEW DELHI: The government found support from the National Commission for Women (NCW) which favoured treating juveniles guilty of heinous crimes on par with adults. Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi is working on amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act and has proposed harsher punishment for juveniles found guilty of gang rape, rape, murder or acid attack. “There are almost 45% cases of rapes in which juveniles above 16 years of age are involved, so just saying that they should not be punished as they are juveniles and sending them to reform homes further strengthens their morale,” NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said. But then, she said, it should vary from case to case. “There should be a proper investigation, the psychological aspects and even the circumstantial aspects should be looked into while deciding on such cases,” she said. However, supporting the government’s move, Sharma said there was a need to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Sharma also stressed upon juvenile reforms and said juvenile delinquents, especially those involved in heinous crimes, should be roped in to carry out social activities like tending to rape victims and the elderly. “They should know what a rape victim goes through after she is raped. That is why they should be made to attend interactions with such women violence victims, not the ones they have assaulted, but other victims, so that even they can know about their ordeal,” Sharma said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Number of child labour has reduced by 65 percent: Govt (14)

New Delhi: The total number of child labour in the country has reduced by 65 per cent as per the Census 2011, Rajya Sabha was informed today. The government also said that elimination of child labour was its “priority”. On the other hand, it also said as per the last Census of 2011, more than 26,000 children were working in Delhi in the age group of 5-14 years. Replying to separate questions in Rajya Sabha on Child Labour, Labour and Employment minister Vishnu Deo Sai said around 808 child labourers were rescued from Delhi in 2013 while 709 were rescued in 2012. “The total number of working children in the country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the Census 2001 to 43.53 lakh as per Census 2011 which shows 65 per cent reduction,” Sai said. “Efforts to eliminate child labour especially in hazardous occupations and processes continues to be a priority of the government,” he added. He said that as per the 2001 Census, the child labourers were mostly working in paan (betel), bidi, construction, domestic work, spinning and weaving sector. However sectoral dis-aggregated data on child labour from 2011 Census was not available. “As per Census 2011, there were 26,473 working children in the age group of 5-14 years in Delhi,” Sai said. He said that the government is implementing the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme since 1988 in areas of high concentration of child labour. Under the scheme, children in age group of 9-14 years are rescued from hazardous occupations and enrolled in NCLP special training centres which has provisions for bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care and others before being mainstreamed into formal educational system. The minister said that the scheme is approved for 24 districts in Odisha at present. (Zee news 9/7/14)

19. 18 children go missing in Delhi every day: report (14)

NEW DELHI: It has been a year and four months since her 13-year-old daughter Rosie went missing from their home in North-West Delhi and even today when Nasima Khatun recounts the tale her eyes well up. The girl was alone at home while her three siblings were at work and school that day, said Ms. Khatun, who was in her hometown in Bihar at that time. “We are quite certain that a neighbour, who has been missing since that day, is the one who took our daughter,” said Ms. Khatun. What happened to Rosie and thousands of other minors has become a depressing statistic, one which was reinforced by a new report on missing children released on Wednesday. On an average, 18 children go missing in the Capital every day and four of them are never traced, the report by the Alliance for People’s Rights found. A total of 6,494 children, 53 per cent of them girls, disappeared in Delhi from January 1 to December 31, 2013, the report said, citing Right to Information replies from the Delhi Police. The report also found that the number of missing children has increased in the past year from 14 cases a day in 2012. In some districts the number has shot up, with a 54.82 per cent jump in cases reported in West and a 47.24 per cent increase in North-West districts. Only two districts, North-East and New Delhi, saw a decline in the number of missing children in 2013 compared to 2012. The report stated “more than 50 per cent of them [rescued victims] are from the socially deprived sections of society”. The convenor of the alliance, Reena Banerjee, said: “This is just the data we could get from the police through RTI, but there are many cases that never get registered. So the actual number of missing children may be higher.” The parents of missing children allege that the authorities are not doing enough to bring them back and to prevent similar cases happening again. Ms. Khatun said: “We gave the police a photo of the accused and his number. But they didn’t do much. Now, we have filed a habeas corpus plea in the High Court, which has asked the police about what action they have taken so far.” A “blame game” would not work and a holistic approach was the need of the hour, said Ms. Banerjee. The report and its recommendations will be shared with the Lieutenant-Governor, the High Court and the Centre so the problem of missing children can be addressed at different levels. Soha Moitra, the regional director of Child Rights and You, said a single and transparent database should be kept. “Children’s commissions should be proactive,” she added. Ms. Banerjee said: “If we can have bullet trains in the country, we can surely keep our children safe.” (The Hindu 10/7/14)

20. CRY opines poorly on budget for children (14)

BANGALORE: Komal Ganotra, director, policy, research and advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You said, “The Union Budget 2014-15, has on the overall, not laid much emphasis on social sectors, especially children. Overall, the total allocation earmarked for children as proportion of Union Budget has declined marginally. In 2014-15, child budget stands at 4.52 percent compared to the figure of 4.56 percent in the previous year, with absolute amount increasing slightly from Rs 72496.21 crore in 2013-14 (Revised Estimate) to Rs 81075.26 crore in 2014-15 (Budget Estimate). Total child budget in 2014-15 stands at meagre 0.63 percent of GDP. However, given the child population of 42 percent (up to the age of 18) the allocation is far from encouraging. A few schemes only have referred to children, especially girls, including “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” with an allocation of Rs 100 crores, the modernization of madarsas, and the announcement on ensuring toilets and drinking water in girls’ schools. The proposed National Programme on Malnutrition is an encouraging sign and acknowledges the need for urgent action to improve the nutritional status of almost 50 percent of our child population.” (Times of India 11/7/14)

21. Child rights takes centre stage in Council (14)

Bangalore: Members of the Legislative Council initiated a discussion on protection of child rights to draw the government’s attention on the status of children, the role of government and community in the implementation of the rights. Chairman D.H. Shankaramurthy, who initiated the discussion on Thursday, termed it a historic initiative. It was also to mark the 25th year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). India is a signatory to the UNCRC, he said. Although there are a wide range of laws that guarantee children their rights and entitlements as provided in the Constitution and in the UN Convention, cases of child abuse are increasing, he said. Around 30 MLCs, cutting across party lines, including a few Ministers, participated in the discussion. Congress member V.S. Ugrappa said the State and Union governments, non-governmental organisations and the public should collaborate to ensure protection of child rights. Another Congress member R.V. Venkatesh demanded that the State Plan of Action for Children, a draft of which is ready, should be put in place. Veeranna Mathikatti (Congress) wanted the Department of Women and Child Development to organise a children’s parliament to understand their problems and resolve them. Bharatiya Janata Party member Tara said although Karnataka had achieved targets in several areas, a lot of issues in the field of child health, protection and education needed to be addressed. Capt. Ganesh Karnik (BJP) said the Council should take up discussions on juvenile justice, disability rehabilitation, providing quality education to rural children and on hostels run by the Social Welfare Department. Issues pertaining to child health, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths, malnutrition and adolescent health were dealt with statistical information and case studies during the discussion. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

22. Missing kids: SC directs states to file compliance reports (14)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed all states and Union Territories to file their compliance reports of its verdict for registration of FIR and conduct of probe in every case of missing child. A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu asked the states to file the report and supply a copy of them to NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan on whose petition it had passed a slew of directions on January 17 last year. The apex court had directed that a special officer be appointed in every police station across the country to deal with juveniles in view of growing number of minors getting involved in various offences. The court had passed the order on a PIL filed by the NGO alleging that for over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008-2010, many of whom were kidnapped for trafficking in flesh trade and child labour. (Zee News 14/7/14)

23. Child Rights Groups Oppose Maneka’s Stand, Activists Seek Debate (14)

NEW DELHI: Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s stand that juveniles who commit rape should be tried as adults has evoked mixed reaction, with women’s and political leaders stressing widespread consultations but child rights organisations completely opposed to the suggestion. Speaking in Chennai, Gandhi said: “We are changing the law and I am personally working on it to bring 16-year-olds into the purview. According to police, 50 percent of the crimes are committed by 16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act.” The parents of the Dec 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim, who died days after her brutal gang rape in a moving bus, welcomed the statement as one of the six rapists was a juvenile. “No criminal should be given special treatment only on the ground of being a juvenile. Every body who rapes, gang-rapes or murders should be given equal punishment. There should be no difference between juvenile and adult criminals,” the father of the 23-year-old victim told IANS. He said if such a law comes in existence, it will be helpful in controlling crime. Agreeing with Gandhi’s statement to a point, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma said: “The minister’s statement is fine to some extent, because according to police data, juveniles commit crime and they are let free. This is a debatable issue so experts, psychologists, etc. should hold debates and consultation on the matter.” National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Kushal Singh, however, said that changing the law and punishment was not a solution. “Right from the beginning we have held that lowering the age of the juvenile regardless of the crime committed goes against the basic philosophy of Juvenile Justice Act. “A separate act has been made for the children because there is scientific proof that children are not developed enough mentally and physically so to hold them responsible for the actions taken by them,” he said. Echoing similar feelings, a lawyer with the Juvenile Justice Board told IANS that the age of 18 has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that “till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, instead of becoming hardened criminals in future”.Officials of Chetna, an NGO working for children, told IANS that they disagree with the minister’s statement. “We do not agree with what the minister has said. We request her to consult children and NGOs in this matter,” said Sanjay Gupta from the NGO. Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said the issue needs detailed discussion and consideration. “To bring change… I support a nationwide discussion, it is something we need to discuss threadbare, we need to revisit and relook everything and keep it in the matrix of today’s time,” she said. (Neqw Indian Express 15/7/14)

24. Runaway kids fleeing abuse at home on the rise (14)

Ludhiana: Six-year-old Subhash, a resident of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, ran away from home after accusing his parents of mistreating him. Railway Police Force personnel later found the boy crying in a train at the city’s railway station and handed him over to Childline India, an NGO engaged in helping children in distress, on July 11. A 12-year-old-girl who had been reported missing by her parents in Uttarakhand was found by the police near Payal. At first she tried to mislead the cops by making up fake stories but when Childline volunteers who were called in investigated the matter they learnt she run away from her home because of an abusive stepmother. These are just two of the thousands of cases of runaway children who left their homes, often for seemingly trivial reasons. And the number of such kids is rising by the day. “Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops have caught at least 18 minor children at the city train station so far this year; the figure was 38 last year. Most of these kids fled home because they felt their family members did not treat them well or were too authoritarian”, said RPF inspector Yashwant Singh. “The number of runaway kids has been steadily rising during the past few years. Initially they leave their homes just for pleasure but after a few days find it difficult to survive on the streets. I’ve also come across a few who were ready to work as rag pickers to avoid going back home. Most of these children found at the city’s train station”, Yashwant added. “Childline is engaged in assisting an average of 16 minor children every month in Ludhiana and half of them are those who have run away ran from their homes”, said Arvind Kumar, the NGO’s centre coordinator for the city. “Some of the excuses that they give us for leaving home are insignificant like parents putting pressure on them to study or not giving them mobiles or other things they have demanded. However, with proper counseling we are able to send back 80 percent of the runaways to their homes.” (Hindustan Times 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

25. Government monitoring PM’s 15-point programme for minorities… (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities is being monitored at different levels to ensure its effective implementation, the Rajya Sabha was told today. Replying to a question, Minority Affairs Minister Najma A Heptulla said it is an overarching programme, covering schemes and initiatives of different ministries and departments by either earmarking 15 per cent of outlays for the minorities or specific monitoring of flow of funds to minorities or areas with a substantial minority population. The schemes and initiatives under the programme are being implemented by concerned ministers and departments. The state-wise details of the targets and achievements for the last three years were made available by the ministries and departments concerned, Heptulla said. Some shortfalls have been noticed in achieving the target by the states and Union Territories in some schemes, she added. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

26. Jaitley allots Rs 100 cr for modernising madrassas (7)

New Delhi: Lacking big ticket announcements, the NDA’s maiden budget though offered to minority communities an additional amount of Rs 100 crore for modernisation of madarsas and a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lower House that a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development of the minorities called “Upgradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods” would be launched to preserve the traditional arts and crafts which have a rich heritage. Besides, he also provided funds for modernisation of madarsas. The BJP, which accuses Congress of indulging in “appeasement politics”, in its 2014 election manifesto had promised providing “equal opportunities” to all while acknowledging that minorities, especially the Muslim community, continued to be caught in poverty. The party had promised upgradation of educational systems and madarsas and augmenting artisanship and entrepreneurial skills, which it did in the budget, besides other programmes such as ensuring that the young and the girl child get education and jobs without discrimination. Earlier, P Chidamabaram, while presenting the Interim Budget in February had given details of the funds spent on projects for minorities. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

27. Rs 1 Lakh Interest-free Loans for Minorities: Babu (7)

VIJAYAWADA:  Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu promised interest-free loans up to one lakh rupees for minorities through the Minority Finance Corporation. The chief minister hosted an Iftaar party for Muslims in Vijayawada Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, Chandrababu Naidu assured that the government will increase the honorarium to Imams to Rs 5,000. As no MLA from the community was elected from the TDP, the party had ensured a ZP chairperson post and a mayor post for Muslims, he said. Minority Welfare minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy said that the TDP is committed to minorities’ welfare and reminded that it was Chandrababu Naidu who had built the Haj House in Hyderabad for the benefit of Muslims going on the annual pilgrimage. Naidu had repaired 7,500 mosques and built 600 shadhikhanas during his tenure as chief minister. The Iftaar party was organised by the AP government in Vijayawada for the first time. Prior to Iftaar, the chief minister participated in  prayers. Assembly speaker Kodela Sivaparasada Rao, ministers Devineni Umamaheswara Rao, Kollu Ravindra, Kamineni Srinivas, Vijayawada MP Kesineni Srinivas, TDP Vijayawada convenor Nagul Meera and the Wynchpet masjid Imam were among those who attended the programme. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

28. Akali MLAs seek Centre’s intervention (7)

CHANDIGARH: The Shiromani Akali Dal legislative party, through a unanimous resolution on Tuesday, sought immediate intervention of the Union government to check the “unconstitutional and anti-Sikh move” of the Haryana government which had legislated constitution of a separate committee to manage the gurdwaras in the State. The meeting of Punjab’s ruling party MLAs, chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was convened immediately after the Speaker adjourned the first day’s proceedings of the Budget session of the Assembly following obituary references. The resolution said that the step of the Congress was aimed at creating fissures in the Sikh Panth by weakening its religious and political power. An official release on the occasion said the unwarranted action of the Haryana government had led to a constitutional crisis which necessitated immediate intervention by the Union Government. By passing the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill 2014, the Haryana government had breached the Constitution as the matter was under the ambit of Punjab Re-organization Act 1966 and only Parliament was authorised to take any action, it said. The Akali MLAs cautioned that the action of the Haryana government posed a serious challenge to the communal harmony, peace and amity in the region. The release also said the party was also of the opinion that by constituting a separate committee, the Haryana government had disrespected the mandate by the Sikhs during the last elections of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). (The Hindu 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

29. Arcot Nawab Hails SC Ruling on Fatwas (7)

CHENNAI: Prince of Arcot Mohammed Abdul Ali welcomed the Supreme Court judgment which stated that fatwas do not have legal sanctity and cannot be enforced if they infringe on an individual’s fundamental rights. Pointing out that while the Shariat was most certainly supreme in Islam, what was happening right now was that things not justified in the Noble Quran and the authentic Haddith were being propagated and justified in the name of Shariat. The Prince went on to give the example of the triple ‘talaq’ in one sitting and child marriage. Both practices, he said, had been justified by many fatwas but neither was allowed by Islam. “This has to stop because the truth is that neither the triple talaq at one time nor child marriage is allowed in Islam. How then, can these be brought under Shariat?” he asked in his statement. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

30. Ordinance promulgated for Maratha, Muslim quotas in Maharashtra (7)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan on Friday promulgated an ordinance providing for 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. Promulgation of the ordinance paves the way for implementation of the state cabinet’s June 26 decision to provide reservation for the influential Maratha community and Muslims in jobs and education. The move by the Congress-NCP government came months ahead of the tough assembly elections due in October after the severe drubbing the alliance, in power in Maharashtra since 1999, received in the Lok Sabha polls. The two parties could together clinch just six of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats, in their worst performance ever. With additional 21 per cent quotas for the politically powerful Marathas and the minority community, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent, way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court.  (Times of India 11/7/14)

31. “Quota helped Muslims’ political empowerment” (7)

HYDERABAD: The Congress has observed that the four per cent reservation for minorities introduced by it when in power has ensured political empowerment of Muslims both in AP and Telangana. Muslim candidates got elected to 306 posts in Telangana and 605 in AP in the BC (E) category in the rural and urban local bodies’ elections, Telangana Congress leader K. Jana Reddy and Mohd. Ali Shabbir said. Speaking to newspersons here on Monday, the leaders said “revolutionary policy decision” had benefited thousands of Muslim youth in education and employment apart from political field. But for the implementation of reservation for Muslims, their chances of securing admissions in medical, engineering and other professional courses would have been drastically low, Mr. Shabbir said adding that the quota had also improved their representation in local bodies considerably. In a letter addressed to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma A. Heptullah, Mr. Shabbir requested her to take a serious view of the subject instead of trying to please the sections opposing reservation to Muslims. He made it clear that the Congress was not seeking reservation on communal basis, but on the economic backwardness of the community. Understanding the positive aspects of reservation to Muslims, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra had also announced 5 per cent quota to Muslims. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

32. Goan priest appointed auxiliary bishop of Ranchi (7)

PANAJI: Pope Francis has appointed Goan priest Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, belonging to the Missionary Society of St Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar), as the Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Titular Bishop of Lisinia (Turkey). The announcement was made public on Wednesday at the Vatican (Rome) and Ranchi simultaneously, Society of Pilar said in a statement. Hailing from Camurlim in Salcete, the 54-year-old was ordained priest on April 24, 1988. The date of his consecration as auxiliary bishop is to be finalized shortly. Currently based in Rome, Mascarenhas works at the pontifical council for culture as the head of the departments for Asia, Africa and Oceania. He is also chairman of the Vatican cricket team called the Saint Peter’s cricket club and is the procurator-general of the Society of Pilar in Rome. Academically, he is visiting professor for Old Testament studies at Pilar Theological College, Goa; Gregorian University, Rome, and St Thomas D’Aquino University (Angelicum), Rome. His doctoral dissertation is from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, with the theme: ?The Missionary Function of Israel in Psalms 67, 96 and 117′. He was also the principal of English Medium School in Bathinda, Punjab, with 2,100 students on its rolls from 1989 to 1993. In March 2010, Mascarenhas was appointed by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as member of the pontifical committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. He has served three popes?John Paul, Benedict XVI and now Francis. Known for his flair with languages, Mascarenhas can speak fluent English, Italian, German, French, Hindi, Punjabi and Konkani. He has also mastered Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and Aramaic as part of Biblical language studies. The Archdiocese of Ranchi, with 1,35,744 Catholics, has embraced St Francis Xavier as its patron and there are presently seven Pilar priests working at the Archdiocese. Mascarenhas becomes only the second bishop the Society of Pilar has offered to the Church in India. The first is Bishop Alex Dias from Calangute who was appointed bishop of Andaman and Nicobar islands in 1984. Mascarenhas has two brothers and a sister. One of his brothers, Sebastiao Mascarenhas, is a priest in the Society of Pilar and presently works as the mission superior of the mission of Daman of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Felipe Neri Ferrao, has offered his “heartfelt congratulations” to Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, his family and the Society of Pilar. “The Church in Goa and Daman is deeply grateful to Bishop-Elect Theodore for all the help and solicitude received from him in various ways, particularly during his stay in the Vatican, serving the Holy See in the Pontifical Council for Culture, and offers him prayerful support in his new pastoral ministry,” said a statement from Ferrao. (Times of India 10/7/14)

33. Village councils row: Christian bodies threaten to move court (7)

RAIPUR: Christian organizations have threatened to move court against gram sabhas-village councils-adopting resolution banning entry of all non-Hindu missionaries in tribal Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. Addressing a joint press conference here, representatives of Christian organizations said vested groups were instigating village councils to adopt a controversial resolution under provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act, which, they said, was against the spirit of Constitution. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal, Archbishop’s press secretary Fr Sabastian Poomattom and Evangelic Fellowship of India director Vijesh Lall wanted to know what action the state government was contemplating to nullify resolutions adopted by village councils. “The ban will have disturbing repercussions in the region’s social fabric as non-Hindus were being denied rations from fair price shops and this is against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion,” he said. Asked about allegation that some missionaries had made derogatory remarks about idol worship by members of majority community, Christian leaders said, “Such instances, if any, should have been dealt legally, instead of bullying and denying them their basic rights.” “We feel that it’s an act at the behest of petty criminals, who perhaps, have vested interest to chase out people and grab their land in village Belar, to extract compensation for the land being acquired by a corporate sector for their proposed steel plant in the mineral rich region,” they added. Christian leaders said they would call on state chief secretary Vivek Dhand to submit a memorandum, demanding appropriate action in the wake of village councils adopting resolutions banning non-Hindus from their respective villages. (Times of India 12/7/14)

34. Christian weekly wants prayer for Modi (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday found support from unexpected quarters as a weekly Christian publication in Kerala urged believers to pray for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. In its editorial titled ‘Narendra Modi, disciple of Jesus Christ’, Sunday Shalom – a weekly publication in Malayalam for Catholic communities — tries to trace the impact of BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections on Christian faith and believers in the country.  “Narendra Modi has won on God’s design and with God’s consent. Anything that has God’s consent also comes with God’s plan,” Chief Editor Bro Benny Punnathara wrote. Meanwhile, some of those who commented on the editorial’s online page have slammed the publication for its stance on Modi and alleged ‘political designs’ of the Church. (Deccan Herald 14/7/14)

35. Priest’s family trying to meet Sushma (7)

DEVAKOTTAI (SIVAGANGA),: With no trace of Rev. Alexis Prem Kumar, the Catholic priest from Sivaganga district, more than a month after he was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, his family is trying to meet Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to seek her intervention. The family has approached the Tamil Nadu government to get an appointment with Ms. Swaraj, his brother A. Albert Manoharan has said. The priest’s father, A.S.M. Anthony, 77, and other family members, living at Ram Nagar near here, are waiting for the appointment, spending anxious moments with prayer, hoping for some good news during the holy month of Ramalan. “We expect the Taliban to show mercy on my brother and free him unharmed during Ramalan,” Mr. Manoharan told The Hindu . The family was anxious to meet Ms. Swaraj to make a personal plea and know the steps being taken by the BJP-led government to secure his release, he said. Mr. Manoharan said Amarjith Singh, Indian Consul-General in Heart, phoned him once in a while, asking the family not to lose hope. On July 8, he called him up and said the priest was safe and asked the family to remain patient. Four days after the abduction, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to secure the safe and early release of the priest. The Sivaganga Diocese is also taking steps to secure the safe release of the Jesuit at the earliest, Fr S. Michael Raj, spokesman of the Diocese, has said. In response to the pleas made by the Diocese, Tamil Nadu Principal Secretary and Commissioner for Rehabilitation B. Anand informed Rev J. Soosai Manickam, Bishop of the Diocese, that the State was in touch with the officials concerned. In an email to the Bishop on Friday, Mr. Anand said the mail sent by the Diocese was forwarded to the Consul-General of India in Afghanistan, the First Secretary/PPS, Embassy of India in Kabul, and the Consul-General of India in Herat, he said. Mr. Anand quoted the Consul-General of India in Herat as having said in the mail that “all steps are being taken to secure the safe release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar at the earliest,” the Spokesman told The Hindu  (The Hindu 16/7/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. J-K benefits with Rs 500-cr package for Kashmiri migrants, IIT (13)

A Rs 500-crore package for rebuilding the lives of Kashmiri migrants was among the slew of measures announced in this year’s Union budget for Jammu and Kashmir. Presenting the Budget for 2014-15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that a fund of Rs 500 crore will be earmarked for providing support to Kashmiri migrants for “rebuilding their lives”.The Narendra Modi government has flagged rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants, who left the Valley after the onset of militancy in 1990, as its priority and, ahead of the budget, a series of meetings was held between officials of the state and the Centre. At present, a total of 60,452 families of Kashmiri migrants are registered in the country, of which 38,119 are in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi and 1,995 in other states. The Finance Minister also announced the setting up of an Indian Institute of Technology in Jammu. The NDA government allocated Rs 500 crore for the creation of five more IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM). While the new IITs are to come up in Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgrah, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the five new IIMs will be built in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. Making an observation that J-K had a lot of sporting talent which was not finding expression due to inadequate facilities, the Finance Minister said that a sum of Rs 200 crore is being provided for upgrading indoor and outdoor stadiums to international standards in Jammu and in Kashmir Valley. Jaitley also proposed to launch a Pashmina Promotion Programme and a programme for the development of other crafts of J-K with a sum of Rs 50 crore earmarked for the same in this year’s budget. Also, Ladakh of J-K was included by the Finance Minister in a proposal — which also covers Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — for taking up Ultra Mega Solar Power projects with Rs 500 crore allocated for the purpose. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

37. Conversion of refugee colonies gets Centre’s nod (13)

New Delhi: Union urban development ministry has started the process to convert the refugee colonies from leasehold to freehold, after a gap of 60 years, civic officials said on Thursday. A delegation, comprising officials from all three municipal corporations led by Leader of the House in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Subhash Arya met the Union Urban development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to press for people’s demands from such colonies to sanction building plans in those flats. Land and Development Office (L&DO) under the urban development ministry had allotted flats on lease in these refugees colonies after Independence, from year 1955 to 1965. The flats are built in 107 to 120 yards area and single-storeyed. L&DO has started the procedure to freehold these flats, Mr Arya said. Under this policy property owners can construct five floors (including parking) in these colonies, he said. Representatives from all three corporations had taken up this demand to the minister and with his (Naidu’s) approval we are implementing this policy, Mr Arya said in a statement. The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi, established in 1958 and it was trifurcated into North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in 2012. While the North and East corporations so far have not made any announcements in this regard for areas under their jurisdiction, but officials said, the policy change would just have to be notified in the respective municipal houses to implement it for them. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board on Thursday said that it will organise a two-day camp for conversion of plots on lease to freehold in Kalyanpuri JJ colony. “The camp will be organised on July 12 and 13, 2014 to facilitate the allottees of plots in Kalyanpuri Resettlement JJ Colony for conversion of leasehold plots to freehold in its Zonal Office at Community Hall, Block 11-12, Kalyanpuri,” CEO DUSIB, Amar Nath said. He added that the Board has tied up with Deputy Commissioner (East) to ease the process of registration of those documents and to minimize the time requirement for registration. “One representative of the Collector of Stamps will also be available to issue challans for depositing stamp duties to the beneficiaries. The process will ease the hardship faced by the people in sale/purchase and will give them ownership rights within the shortest possible time with least delay in a single window,” he said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

38. HC orders release of Lankan refugees held under NSA (13)

CHENNAI: The preventive detention of two Sri Lankan refugees, held under the National Security Act ( NSA) after botched attempts to take 18 Tamil refugees to Australia by boat, has been quashed by the Madras high court. Setting aside the detention of T Sathishkumar alias Mandapam Sathish, detained in September 2013, and B Sivashankar alias Shankar, held in October 2013, a division bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice G Chockalingam recently said: “The detaining authority (commissioner of police, Coimbatore city) has merely stated that there is a real possibility of the detenu coming out on bail and as such the detention order is vitiated and the same is liable to be set aside on the ground of absence of cogent materials for arriving at the subjective satisfaction.” The human trafficking allegedly done by the duo was brought to the knowledge of police by another Sri Lankan refugee, G Vivekanandan. In his complaint to Coimbatore police, he said Sathish and Shankar had promised to take him and 17 others to Australia in May 2013. They collected sums ranging from 1 lakh to 2 lakh from each aspirant, besides taking away their jewellery. In mid-May, they even asked the potential illegal immigrants to assemble in Ooty ‘for proceeding to Australia’. After making them stay in Ooty for three days, they said the programme did not materialise and that the immigrants should go home. After his repeated attempts to get refund of his money failed, Vivekanandan filed the complaint. State public prosecutor Shanmugavelayutham, justifying the detention, told the bench that the offences committed by them were not the regular offences involving body or property. They have indulged in clandestine human trafficking to a foreign country without any valid visa, he said. The judges, however, ordered their release saying there was an unexplained delay in considering and disposing of the representation of the duo. “However, considering the gravity of the offences, it is open to the prosecution to effectively contest the matter before the regular court, uninfluenced by the above order,” the judges said, adding: “It is also made clear that this order shall not confer any right or advantage whatsoever to the detenu to claim anything before the regular court”. (Times of India 13/7/14)

39. Thousands flee from Gaza after Israel issues warning (13)

Gaza City: Israel briefly deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as some 4,000 people fled southward from the northern part of the territory in the face of Israeli threats to step up attacks there.  Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their weeklong conflict, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza’s borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered. “All our ground forces are ready,” a senior Israeli military official said Sunday. “We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so.” Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded. The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel’s military spokesman described as a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. (0900 GMT). The area is home to at least 100,000 people. It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive _ something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake. As the ultimatum drew near, hundreds fled Beit Lahiya, one of the communities the Israeli announcement affected. Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. “They are sending warning messages,” resident Mohammad Abu Halemah said. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave.” Adnan Abu Hassna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinian refugees, said eight schools were opened as temporary shelters, and about 4,000 people had moved in. He said more schools would be opened if needed. Essam Al Sultan, 46, a farmer from Beit Lahiya said he had taken the decision to flee the area because the youngest of his eight children had been terrorized by the constant sound of explosions in and around their community. `For me I don’t fear death because we are dying every single moment of this war but I left because I want to protect my family,” he said… (Indian Express 14/7/14)

40. Assam for citizenship of refugees (13)

Guwahati: In a major political move, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi here on Wednesday forwarded a Cabinet resolution to the central government to grant citizenship to such foreigners who fled their respective countries because of religious persecution and harassment and now taking shelter in Assam. Informing that Assam government had sent a similar proposal to the central government on April 20,2012, Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain, who is also the spokesperson of the state government said, “We have forwarded the Cabinet resolution to the central government today asking to grant citizenship to foreigners who were driven out of their respective countries because of harassment and religious persecution. We have referred the precedence followed in Gujarat and Rajasthan.” Referring the quotes from proposal he said, “Those who were Indian citizens at the time of partisan and chose to be settled in different country but subsequently compelled to leave their respective countries because of harassments and religious persecution deserve humanitarian consideration. Under the existing law and system, such persons in India and particularly in Assam are liable to face trial in the court, expulsion and deportation.” Mr Hussain said, “The Cabinet resolution has pleaded to the central government that such persons taking shelter in India should not be treated as foreigners. They should be accorded basic human rights.” (Asian Age 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

41. Aruna Roy Advocates Safety of Whistle-blowers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Eight million citizens have used the Right to Information (RTI) Act so far. But accessing information through this Act has also taken a heavy toll with 40 rights activist losing their lives and more than 200 being brutally attacked ever since RTI was enacted in 2005. The Whistle-blower’s Protection Act is therefore an essential tool to safeguard the life and property of rights activists and their families, said social activist Aruna Roy. The use of RTI Act should not be limited for retrieving information only, it must also act as a tool for grievance redressal, expression of dissent and accountability, she added. Roy was addressing a workshop on the Whistle Blower’s Protection (WBP) Act, here on Tuesday. She stressed on forming pre-legislative discussion forums which would enable the common man to participate and voice their views on a bill, before it is enacted as law. “The SEZ Act of 2005, was not even sent to a Select Committee and passed within two days. Such a law which acquires land from the poor and uses it for industrialisation, required an intensive debate?, remarked Roy. Speaking at the workshop, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) Convener, Nikhil Dey said though the WBP Act has certain important safeguards for whistle-blowers, many provisions which the NCPRI had suggested were omitted from it. “Setting a time limit for investigation and allowing anonymous complaints should be allowed under ambit of the bill,” suggested Dey. Introduction of multiple exemptions into RTI Act was an attempt by the Government to weaken it, opined both of them. They added that the WBP Act was passed hurriedly through an ordinance by the previous government and was not equipped enough to protect the whistle-blowers. Representatives of more than a dozen social rights organisations and RTI activists from across the State participated. Among others, Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi, BJP Legislative Party Leader Basanta Panda, BJD MLA Amar Satpathy, senior journalist Rabi Das and State Convenor of NCPRI  Pradeep Pradhan were present. (New Indian Express 9/7/14)

42. RTI activist, family take refuge in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: D Selvendran’s fight against corruption in his native Chittilabakkam near Kalpakkam has proved costly. His children have been unable to go to school and the family of four, facing a threat from local politicians, has taken refuge at a relative’s house at Siruthavoor near Thiruporur. At an event organised by Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, an NGO, in the city on Wednesday, the 34-year-old RTI activist said everything in his village, from ration cards to widow pensions, had to be bought. While he fought against this and some politicians drove his family away, police took no action on his complaints, he said. “I erected a banner with a message against corruption in front of my house. I also spread word on the RTI Act and asked villagers not to pay bribe for any government services” said Selvendran, a driver. In his complaint to police, he said AIADMK’s Thirukazhukundram taluk joint secretary Selvaraj, advocate Dinesh Kumar, village assistant Swami Das and Arumugam, who works at Kalpakkam atomic power station, came to his house at night on June 19 and asked the family to leave. “They were upset about my anti-corruption messages as they were collecting 2,000-3,000 as bribe for government services,” he said. He said water supply to his house was cut. “We didn’t have any other alternative other than leaving the place,” he said. His wife Reeta, a dalit, said: “My husband is unable to go to work. Our children have not gone to school for more than ten days. We returned home on Tuesday after we lodged complaints with the CM’s cell, DGP office and collector’s office hoping they will protect us.” However, the local AIADMK leader and a few others threatened them with dire consequences. “They hurled stones and tried to set our house afire. The villagers are also helpless. But where will we go with these children?” she wept. She said they would have to commit suicide if threats continued. “They will be responsible if something happens to our lives.” When contacted, Selvaraj said, “I didn’t threaten anyone or ask them to vacate the place.” Dinesh Kumar, too, denied the allegations. Sub-inspector of Sadras police station S Vijakumar was unavailable to commentSatta Panchayat Iyakkam president Siva Elango said some politicians were running a ?khap panchayat’ (kangaroo court) in the village. “It’s unfortunate that a family is being excommunicated for creating awareness against corruptionThe government is responsible for protecting the family.” (Times of India 10/7/14)

43. RTI pleas seeking similar information will be rejected: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Repeated RTI applications seeking similar information could be grounds for rejecting it, the Central Information Commission has said. “The citizens have no right to repeat the same or similar or slightly altered information request under the RTI Act, 2005, for which he already got a response,” the Commission said. Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said once an RTI application is answered the appellants shall refrain themselves from filing another RTI application against the public authority “…as once information is received and held by them or posted in public domain, because such information is deemed to have ceased to be ‘held’ by the public authority,” he said basing his arguments on the observations given by previous information commissioners and objectives of the RTI Act. Dismissing the appeals of an RTI applicant Nitesh Tripathi who was repeatedly seeking “information which are highly voluminous,” Acharyulu said the first appellate authority (within the department) and Commission may be right and reasonable to consider this as a ground for rejecting the first or second appeal, respectively among other reasons. “An applicant or appellant repeating the RTI application or appeal either once or multiple times, suppressing the fact of earlier application and receipt of the answer, the CPIO of the public authority may reject it forthwith after intimating it along with reasons,” he said. Tripathi had filed a number of RTI applications to various authorities in the health department and hospitals seeking details on several issues. The data submitted by these authorities showed Tripathi had filed at least 12 applications every year at directorate of health services, 17 at department of health and family welfare, 62 to Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, 200 applications at the rate of 30-31 applications per day at Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, 100 at Acharya Bhikshu Hospital of which CIC decided in 16 cases on the same issue among others. The information commissioner said applications filed by Tripathi are “wide-ranging requiring lot of effort by authorities to collect the voluminous information which is difficult to be answered in one go”. “The Commission considers this case as the case of repetitive use of RTI assuming the proportion of harassment to the public authority and reckless abuse of RTI,” Acharyulu said in his order. (Times of India 12/7/14)

44. Most Information commissions fail transparency test (1)

NEW DELHI: Information commissions — watchdogs for the transparency regime under the RTI Act — are some of the most opaque organizations according to an independent report. Of the 29 commissions in the country, only 17% have the facility of online filing of appeals and complaints, 42% do not display information on the cases that will be heard that day or that week, 58% do not display the updated status of pending appeals and complaints while 35% do not have a system of making their orders public within a reasonable timeframe. The report prepared by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) also revealed that there was a steady increase in the number of RTI queries in 2012 as compared to the previous year. While Gujarat and Odisha saw a 46% increase in applications, Karnataka witnessed 29% increase. There was a 19% increase in RTI appeals with the Central Information Commission (CIC). More than three-fourths of the commissions do not have a website in the local language. The CIC and state information commissions of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have local language websites. Only 17% of information commissions provide online facilities for submitting appeals or complaints or both. While the CIC, Gujarat and Tripura commissions accept online filing of both appeals and complaints, their counterpart in Bihar provides this facility for filing second appeals only. About 42% of information commissions do not display cause lists on their websites that will help the public know what cases are likely to be heard by the commission. These include commissions in Assam, Bihar, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim that continue to resist the idea of displaying cause lists on their websites, the report said. About 58% of commissions including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal do not provide data on disposal of cases and pendency of appeals and complaints. Nineteen of the 29 commissions have made their orders public but the commissions of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh do not have updated information for the last 2-4 years. Incidentally, this comes at a time when there has been a sharp increase in RTI applications. Gujarat and Odisha have seen a 46% increase in applications while Karnataka has recorded 29% increase. At 26%, Chhattisgarh witnessed the third highest increase in the number of RTI applications received in 2012 followed by Mizoram at 20%. (Times of India 14/7/14)

45. Corporation Official Gets it for Failing to Send RTI Reply on Dump Yard (1)

COIMBATORE: The State Information Commission has ordered the Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner to take disciplinary action against the Deputy Commissioner for failing to provide information regarding Vellalore dump yard under the Right to information (RTI) Act to an applicant. According to the order copy available with Express, City Corporation commissioner G Latha can take disciplinary action against Deputy Commissioner S Sivarasu, who has failed to provide few details regarding the Vellalore dump yard. RTI applicant K S Mohan who is the secretary of the Kurichi Vellalore Pollution Prevention Action Committee has sought answers to 14 questions related to the dump yard from the city Corporation. Mohan and his committee members are fighting for about a decade to shift the dump yard from the present locality.  The DC had failed to provide details about the total amount spent for the Vellalore dump yard so far, besides the total amount handed over to the private company which is maintaining the dump yard. However, Sivarasu provided answers to the other queries sought by Mohan such as inspection report carried out at the scientific closure site. The State Information Commission Christopher Nelson has also ordered the Public Information Officer Natarajan to pay `25,000 as fine for failing to provide details to few questions sought in the RTI. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

46. Disclose info sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists: Aruna Roy (1)

BANGALORE: A group of campaigners has urged the government to make public all information sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists. Claiming that more than 40 such activists have been killed in India, political and social activist Aruna Roy told TOI on Wednesday: “We are pushing the government to reveal the information wanted by such applicants so that citizens don’t have to risk seeking the same again.” Stating that it won’t be possible to amend the law and allow people to seek information anonymously, she said: “We must show that we can act collectively. Let 100 people demand the same information, we’ll see if all of us can be murdered”.Roy was conducting a workshop on public policy at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), along with her colleagues Nikhil Dey and Shankar. Even with all its advantages, RTI is still not a magic wand, remarked Nikhil. “…It’s time for us to further our campaigns and put in place legislation that enhances our rights. We need literate India to understand and participate in the campaign for the need for pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP)”, he said. Roy said: “…the rulers we send to Parliament for five years are sent on a social contract. They cannot make laws arbitrarily on our behalf.” NLSIU professor and Aam Aadmi Party member Babu Mathew said it is essential that certain elements of the proposed law must stand the scrutiny of people before being introduced in the house. “This has been mandated by the constitution in South Africa, why is Indian bureaucracy scared?” he asked. The activists also urged people to join the campaign for introducing and passing the Grievances Redressal Bill, which, Nikhil said: “…has somehow not been passed despite all parties having arrived at some consensus.” As part of the workshop, students participated in debates on the Lokpal Bill, Grievances Redressal Bill and pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP). They offered suggestions on how to take them forward. and what these bills should include to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which will take it up with the government, eventually. At the end of the three-day session, students presented their views on RTI in innovative ways. While one group performed a skit, others conveyed the message through song and poetry. “I am thoroughly impressed. I’m taking the material with me and will use it in our future campaigns,” Aruna said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

47. Goa school shuts down over HIV-positive students (11)

Panaji: A deadlock between the parent teachers association (PTA) and management over granting of admission to 13 HIV-positive students has forced the school authorities to temporarily close down the educational institution. The closure has now been followed by Green Goa Foundation, a local NGO, issuing notice to state education director Anil Powar, asking him to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. An official of the Fatima High School in Rivona, a mining town located 50 km from here, told IANS that the school had been closed temporarily in view of the deadlock between the institution management and the PTA. “The parents have been demanding that the students be removed from the school, which is clearly not only unreasonable but also not legal… the school has been shut until the matter is resolved,” the official said wishing anonymity. The parents-teachers association of the Fatima High School has threatened a boycott if the institution’s management admits 13 HIV-positive students. The stand-off even forced the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to Monday direct both Goa Police and the South Goa district administration to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. The 13 students belong to a children’s home called Nitya Seva Niketan located in the mining belt of Rivona in Quepem sub-district (45 km from here) and had been enrolled in an open school, before the nuns – who run the home – decided to admit them to a regular school this year. Attempts made in June to admit the students to the Don Bosco-run school in Sulcorna village, located 50 km from here, also failed due to opposition from parents of students already studying there.Raison Almeida of the Green Goa Foundation claimed that non-admission of the students was a clear violation of their right to education. “I have issued a notice to the education director to uphold the right of the students to education,” Almeida told IANS. In his notice, Almeida said he would be forced to petition the Bombay High Court bench in Goa if the education department doesn’t ensure admissions to the HIV-positive students. (Zee News 9/7/14)

48. Budget 2014: No major changes in education sector in Budget (11)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government’s maiden Budget doesn’t stray too far from past practice when it comes to the education sector. The allocation for school education is up by nearly 10% from the interim 2014-15 Budget, while that for higher education is 13% up. The total budget of the human resources development ministry has seen an increase of 12.3% from last year to Rs 83,771 crore. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which is the programme for the implementation of the Right to Education Act, got an allocation of Rs 28,635 crore, an increase of Rs 1,000 crore, while the Mid-Day Meal Programme has been allocated Rs 13,215 crore. Another Rs 4,966 crore has been budgeted for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. Quality interventions appear to be the top priority of the government when it comes to school education. The efforts announced in the Budget, if designed and implemented properly, could lead to improved learning in schools. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has increased the allocation for teacher training and education. A new effort, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teacher Training Programme, has been launched with an initial allocation of Rs 500 crore. This programme will focus on training students, who aspire to become teachers, in professional colleges. Details of the programme are not available, but the indication is that the government is going to focus on teachers, reiterating its recognition that they remain the weakest link in the government’s school education efforts. The programme is envisaged to benefit nearly 20,000 teacher trainees studying in Teacher Education Institutions. Another new initiative is a school assessment programme — this is another attempt to address the issue of quality. The assessment will take into account parameters such as levels of student learning outcomes. “The public display of such school performance would enable parents to make a more informed choice about schools. This will ultimately benefit all children, parents and stakeholders,” said Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani. “I am sure the education fraternity will also welcome the newly launched Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya Teacher’s Training Programme. This move shall go a long way in improving the quality of teaching and thus improving learning outcomes,” said Ranjan Kaul, managing director of OxfordBSE -1.82 % University Press India. Though the finance minister has not made any monetary allocations for addressing gaps in school infrastructure, the government has made it clear that provisions of toilets and drinking water will be a priority. (The Economic Times 10/7/14)

49. Drastic rise in school dropouts in Udupi (11)

Udupi: According to the information provided by the Department of Public Instruction here, the number of school dropouts in the district was 86 in 2011-12, 123 in 2012-13 and 372 in 2013-14. As per the Right to Education (RTE) Act, children between the ages of 6 to 14 have to be compulsorily admitted to schools. The drive to admit out-of-school children in schools is taken up under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). But a survey of schools conducted in November 2013 showed that 997 students had dropped out. As many as 435 students had left their schools mid-way without even taking their Transfer Certificates, while 190 children had crossed 14 years and were deleted from the dropouts list. Finally, as many as 101 children remained in the list of dropouts for 2013-14 and were yet to be traced and re-enrolled. Hence the target of the SSA for re-enrolment for 2014-15 is 372. The Range Education Coordinators have managed to re-enrol 271 dropouts for the present academic year 2014-15. Under the RTE norms, if a child is absent for seven days continuously except for medical conditions, he/she was treated as a dropout. P. Nagaraj, Deputy Project Coordinator of SSA, said the change in the method of survey was one of the reasons for a rise in the number of dropouts. “Earlier, we used to do household survey of dropouts. But now we do a school-wise survey, which gives us more details of the dropouts,” he said. Usually the children of migrant workers from districts of North Karnataka dropped out as their parents returned to their home districts. The department was using a software which helped in checking if the students who had dropped out here had joined schools in other places in the State. The names of students who had dropped out of schools and those joining schools were entered in the software. The software had five parameters such as name of student, father’s name, date of birth, class and religion/caste, which helped in tracing the students. Mr. Nagaraj said very few students dropped out till they were 10 years old. The dropouts normally increased once the children were 12 to 14 years old. The reasons were lack of awareness on the importance of education among parents and their desire to get additional hands to financially support the family. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

50. Implementation of Right To Education Not Tardy: Govt to RS (1)

NEW DELHI: The Right To Education (RTE), initiated during the UPA regime, today got a thumbs-up from the NDA government which said its implementation had not been tardy as 19.88 crore children have been enrolled at the elementary level.  “No, the progress under RTE Act 2009 indicates that 19.88 crore children have been enrolled in elementary school, with a gross enrolment ratio of 96.5 per cent as per district information system for education 2013-14,” HRD Minister Smriti Irani said in Rajya Sabha today.            She said this in a written reply to a question by D Raja and M P Achuthan as to whether it was a fact that the implementation of RTE has been tardy. The minister said that the average drop out rate has come down from 6.8 per cent in 2009-10 to 4.7 per cent in 2013-14 at the primary level. The RTE Act 2009 provided for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14. To a related question, the Minister said availability of teacher in elementary education has improved with additional recruitment of 15.06 lakh teachers funded under the Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan programme, an important the RTE programme. Talking about the Rashtriya Uchchattar Sikshya Abhiyan Programme, which seeks to universalise secondary education, she said while 23 states are participating in the programme, state higher education plans have been received from 13 states and Rs 310.40 crore has been released to different states till June this year. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

51. Telangana to Have Higher Education Institutes: Irani (11)

NEW DELHI: The government shall take steps to establish various institutes of higher education both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said Wednesday. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Irani said that as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the government shall take steps to establish one institute each of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), National Institute of Technology (NIT), a central university and a tribal university, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in the successor state of Andhra Pradesh. The other institutes proposed in the state include a petroleum university, an agriculture university, one National Institute of Disaster Management and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like institute. “In Telangana, one horticulture university and one tribal university are proposed to be established as per the Act. Details of locations and budgetary provisions for these institutions are yet to be finalised,” she added. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

52. India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from poverty: Arun Jaitley (21)

New Delhi: While delivering his maiden budget speech in Parliament today, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from the curse of poverty. “The people are in no mood to suffer unemployment, inadequate basic amenities, lack of infrastructure and apathetic governance. The Indian economy will have to maneuver its way through a sluggish global recovery,” said Jaitley. Jaitley said that the government intends to usher in a policy regime that would bring the desired growth, lower inflation, sustained level of external sector balance and prudent policy stance. The Finance Minister pointed out that the present economic situation presents a challenge of slow growth in manufacturing, in infrastructure and also the need to introduce fiscal prudence. The tax to GDP ratio must be improved and non-tax revenues increased. He has set a target of fiscal deficit of 3.6% for 2015-16 and 3% for 2016-17. Jaitley said that the government will constitute an Expenditure Management Commission to look into every aspect of expenditure reform. The government also intends to overhaul the subsidy regime while providing full protection to the marginalized. The Finance Minister also said that the government would like to introduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) to streamline the tax administration, avoid harassment of business and ensure higher revenue collection. Jaitley further said that the Indian Government will promote FDI selectively in sectors. FDI in Defence and Insurance sector is being raised to 49% with full Indian management and control. FDI is also being encouraged in the development of `Smart Cities’. To infuse Rs. 2,40,000 crore in the Indian Banking system, citizens of India will be allowed direct share holding in these banks. The government will also provide tax incentives for real estate investment trusts. A similar incentive will also be announced for Infrastructure Investment Trusts. A national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched. This will provide training in traditional professions like welding and carpentry etc. A sum of Rupees 1,000 crore will be provided to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana to provide assured irrigation in rain fed areas. Earlier today, Jaitley presented his maiden General Budget for the year 2014-15 with the permission of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan at 11 am. (DNA 10/7/14)

53. Food security act from September (21)

Guwahati, July 14: The Assam government will implement National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, from September 1 this year. This was announced in a meeting convened by chief minister Tarun Gogoi at his office here today. During the meeting, senior officials of the state food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department, the nodal department for implementing the act, apprised Gogoi of the slew of measures that have been taken for implementation of a particular scheme. Minister for food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, Nazrul Islam, chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, additional chief secretary of finance, H.S. Das, principal secretary of food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, S.L. Mewara, principal secretary to chief minister, Jishnu Barua and other senior officials were present at the meeting. Gogoi urged the officials to ensure that the scheme is implemented efficiently in the state and actually benefits those for whom it is meant. He also directed them to ensure that sufficient quantity of commodities are available in Amar Dukan, the state’s fair price shops, take concrete and effective steps to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of necessary commodities and maintain a steady supply line to create a balance between their demand and supply. “Adequate arrangements have to be made to check the prescribed stock limit of essential commodities from time to time so that no criminal element can indulge in artificial shortage by way of hoarding of necessary articles, leading to black-marketing,” Gogoi said. The government also plans to bring onions and potatoes in the list of essential commodities to curb hoarding. “The step will help undertake de-hoarding operations and control the prices of onions and potatoes. All officials concerned should send a list of regular stocks and prices of essential items, including onions and potatoes, to the media on a daily basis so that the consumers are made aware of it,” Gogoi said. Officials of the legal meteorology department were also asked to carry out inspections of weighing scales and weight equipment in the grocery and in vegetable, fuel and other retail outlets so that they cannot dupe unsuspecting consumers. Gogoi also suggested opening up of a farmers’ market to ensure that farmers are able to sell their produce to the consumers directly so that they earn the right price without the middlemen milking the profits. (The Telegraph 14/7/14)

54. People protest against Bihar Govt. for its reluctance to pay pension to widows (21)

Patna: People in Bihar on Monday launched a protest against the state government for not providing widows their due under a social security scheme. The Laxmibai Social Security Widow Pension Scheme, introduced in 2007, is aimed at the welfare of widows in Bihar. Under the scheme, widows living under the poverty line are provided with an amount of Rs.300 per month. However, the widows are not getting the amount from the state government. The protesters said that the state government had promised an amount of rupees 11 lakh in September last year but the amount is yet to be distributed among the aggrieved parties. “The priorities of the Bihar government have changed. They used to say that they would help the poor, the helpless and the widows. Today the pension to widows which is given 75 percent by the central government and 25 percent by the state is not being distributed, and this reflects the negligence on government’s part,” said a legislator of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitin Navin. The protesters blamed the corrupt system that is responsible for the distribution under the scheme, saying the money goes through long channels and is often eaten up by the very people who are accountable for distribution. In addition, the remuneration is lent after a period of three to four months at the local council instead at the woman’s own village. This is a cumbersome process especially for old women, who have to traverse faraway places. “We demand that the money that comes in from the state government should be given to the widows. Each month, there should be camps set up in the concerned woman’s village instead of her coming to the local council for which she has to bear additional expenses. Money should then be distributed to the widows after a verification process,” said another legislator of BJP, Usha Vidyarthi. (New Kerala 14/7/14)

55. One-third of World’s Extreme Poor Live in India, Says UN Report Card (21)

NEW DELHI: One-third of the global extreme poor lived in India as of 2010, the largest share for a country, the latest UN Millennium Development Goals report has said. In South Asia, poverty rates fell by an average of one percentage point annually — from 51 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent two decades later. In South Asia, the proportion of the extreme poor increased from 23 per cent to 42 per cent. The trend, if it continues, will be insufficient to meet the target of halving the proportion of population without access to basic sanitation by 2015. Close to 60 per cent of the 1 billion who defecate in the open live in India, the report added. As per the data, India also had the highest child mortality rate in 2012 with 1.4 million children dying before the age of five. In terms of child nutrition, despite steady progress, 30 per cent of children below age five were underweight in South Asia. The report was released here by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Dr Najma Heptullah on Wednesday. She said several problem areas had been identified by the government before the report’s release. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

56. Tamil Nadu tops in NREGS with 59 person days, Kerala follows (14)

CHENNAI: The previous UPA regime’s flagship scheme, NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), set to undergo changes under the new NDA government, no doubt, has many takers in Tamil Nadu. The Economic Survey presented in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday confirms this, certifying that the state ranks number one with 59 person days (the average number of days that workers in the state have been employed) during 2013-14, followed by Kerala with 57 person days. The two states also have the highest percentage of women being employed under the scheme. While this is a point to boast, the moot question remains whether Tamil Nadu really benefitted in terms of creation of assets or improvement in living standards of the poor. Experts involved in the scheme have expressed reservations about the efficacy of the scheme in the state. “Though Tamil Nadu may lead in terms of providing employment to rural people, not many assets have been created,” said director of Centre for Environment Concerns, KS Gopal, who is an expert in rural development. Also the scheme is most needed in states where infrastructure and other basic amenities are lacking. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are better in these areas,” said Gopal. “If the NDA government revamps the scheme, it should be linked to productivity like creation of assets to improve infrastructure in villages and providing drinking water, which is scarce,” said Gopal. The scheme being implemented in the state is beset with many bottlenecks with regard to payment of wages and choice of project, said Tamil Nadu Farmers Association chief K Balakrishnan. “At present many people in villages prefer to work as construction labourerers rather than enroll themselves as NREGS workers,” said Balakrishnan. He claimed there was delay in disbursement of wages under the scheme due to issues with banks and other procedures of the rural development department. Tamil Nadu’s wage rate of Rs 148 per worker is the lowest in south India after Andhra Pradesh which pays Rs 137. While Kerala pays Rs 164 and Karnataka Rs 155. The share of women employed under the scheme is the highest in Kerala (93.4%) followed by Tamil Nadu (84.1%), said the survey. (Times of India 10/7/14)

57. Modi govt’s rural push: MGNREGA to be revamped, fund for start-ups (14)

NEW DELHI: Committing itself to create more jobs in rural India, the Modi government has decided to continue with MGNREGA- the previous UPA’s government’s flagship rural employment programme- but the scheme will be revamped to make it ‘development-oriented’. The programme, assuring 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household, has been subject to allegations of misuse and corruption. “The government is committed to providing wage and self-employment opportunities in rural areas. However, wage employment would be provided under MGNREGA through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is his budget speech. The BJP government has allocated Rs 34,000 crore for the rural job scheme, allaying the fear that new dispensation may scuttle the programme. The outlay for 2013-14 was Rs 33,000 crore. Calling for an urgent revamp of the programme, the Economic Survey had found MNREGA responsible for labour shortages in SMEs and price hike in the food sector among other things. The government has also promised safe drinking water in around 20,000 habitations, affected with arsenic, fluoride, heavy/ toxic elements and pesticides, through community water purification plants over the next three years. The budget allocated Rs 3,600 crore under ‘National Rural Drinking Water Programme’ for the purpose. For encouraging rural youth, the government announced a “Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme” with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore. The corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), operated by NABARD, has been raised to Rs 25000 crore to create infrastructure in agriculture and rural sectors. The road connectivity in rural areas too gets enhanced attention with the government allocating Rs 14,389 crore under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, initiated during the NDA-I regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Centre would also restructure Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), currently implemented in 272 backward districts in 27 States, to fill up critical gaps in development of basic infrastructure facilities and for capacity-building of panchayats and gram sabhas. The restructuring would focus on addressing intra-district inequalities. The provision of bank loan for women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at 4% under Ajeevika scheme will be extended to another 100 districts. (Times of India 11/7/14)

58. Minimum wage for unskilled workers increased by Rs 42 in tier III cities (14)

New Delhi: The minimum wage for central government works for unskilled farm workers was revised upward to Rs 193 per day on April 1, 2014 from Rs 151 three years ago for tier III cities, Parliament was informed today. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister for State for Labour Vishnu Deo Sai said that for tier II cities, the per day minimum wage was increased to Rs 195 from Rs 153 in 2011 in unskilled category for farm sector. Similarly, for metros or tier I cities, it was raised to Rs 215 from Rs 169 in 2011. In construction sector, the minimum wage was revised from Rs 165 to Rs 220 in 2014 for the tier III or C-category areas across the country. In construction sector, for tier II cities, the minimum wage is Rs 273, up from Rs 205 in 2011. In metros or Class-A areas, it is now Rs 329 compared to Rs 247 in 2011, Sai said. The minister said that in order to protect minimum wages against inflation, the government mooted the idea of Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) as one of the recommendations of Labour Ministers conference held in 1988. As per practice, the central government revises the minimum wage for works coming under its purview periodically as per the provisions of the Minimum Wage Act 1948, taking into account the rise in Consumer Price Indices (Retail Inflation). The minister was replying to a question whether the government has made any mechanism to link minimum wages with price rise. Price rise has been an issue for quite sometime and rocked Parliament also. The price situation has not been good in the past years and the previous government had discussed the issue in Parliament and also passed the resolutions to contain inflation. (Indian Express 14/7/14)

59. Govt mulls amending host of labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: The government is considering amending a host of labour laws. Though it has not got any formal proposal, the move is aimed at simplifying archaic laws so that they don’t create problems in expanding facilities. Minister of state for labour and employment Vishnu Deo Sai told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the amendments to a host of labour laws, including Minimum Wages Act,1 948, Labour Laws,1988, Factories Act, 1948 and Child Labour Act, 1986, are under active consideration. Industry representatives have been long demanding changes in labour laws which they have often termed “archaic” and a hindrance in raising and expanding their facilities. In his written response to a question, the minister, insisted that “at present there is no proposal to formulate new labour laws”. Sai informed the Upper House that India has a total workforce of 47.41 crore as per the last survey of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) conducted in 2011-12. “The total workforce is estimated at 47.41 crore, out of which 33.69 crore were rural workers and 13.72 crore urban workers,” Sai said, adding 35.3% of the workers are employed as casual labourers in rural areas. Sai said as per the NSSO survey of 2009-10, the total employment in the unorganised sector is 43.7 crore. He also said there were 11.25 lakh permanent workmen and 2.63 lakh contract labourers in 234 Central public sector enterprises (PSEs) during 2011-12. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RESERVATION

60. Govt revises format of OBC caste certificate (25)

New Delhi: The format of caste certificate for Other Backward Class (OBC) has been revised to make it easier for them to get the benefit of the reservation, the Government said on Wednesday. Representations were being received from candidates belonging to OBC citing difficulty in getting the benefit of reservation, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told Lok Sabha in a written reply. Difficulties were being faced as in the caste certificate there was space for mentioning the name of the caste or community but no space was provided for indicating the specific resolution by which the said caste or community has been included in the central list of OBC, he said. “The issue was examined in consultation with National Commission for Backward Classes and the format of OBC certificate has since been revised,” the Minister said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

61. Governor approves ordinance for Maratha, Muslim reservation (25)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayan on Wednesday approved the ordinance granting reservation to Maratha and Muslim communities in Maharashtra. Marathas will get a 16 per cent quota and Muslims five per cent in government jobs and educational institutions. Sources in Mr. Sankaranarayanan’s office said the file had been approved and returned to the government. Once promulgated, the ordinance will raise quota in the State to 73 per cent. The Supreme Court had earlier capped quota at 50 per cent. The reservation was cleared by the government a fortnight ago. The decision has already been challenged in the Bombay High Court, with petitioners arguing that it is unconstitutional and has crossed the quota limit. Reservation for the Maratha community had triggered opposition from Other Backward Class (OBC) groups which pointed out that the Marathas were dominant and politically influential and could not been classified as backward. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

62. Women’s Reservation can be Potential Game Changer: UN Official (25)

NEW DELHI: Thirty-three per cent reservation to women in Parliament has the potential to be a “game changer” as not only will such a step change patriarchal mindsets but also boost pro-women legislation, feels senior UN official Lakshmi Puri. “The perception of the girl child will change. When you have empowered women out there in Parliament, and in such great numbers, you are representative of the people more and more. You change that whole mindset about women being a burden… the way Union minister Smriti Irani said that such comments were made when she was born,” the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women said . More women in Parliament will help change that “patriarchal mindset”, she said, adding that the experience in several other countries which have reservation for women has been very positive. Speaking to PTI here, Puri, who is also Assistant Secretary General with the UN, said that if there are 33 per cent women in Parliament, they will move aggressively across party lines to advance the interests and needs of women. “It’s not only symbolic but effectively it has the potential to really change the game. It can be a game changer for gender responsive legislation and a change in prioritisation of women and girls issues, in the planning and budgeting process,” she said. Puri, who is a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, however, added 33 per cent is just the critical mass and the real objective should be parity. Speaking further, she emphasised that there is a need to push towards making the whole system more gender responsive and gender sensitive and all public institutions and not just the Parliament. She hoped that the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed. The BJP, which is the leading party in the ruling NDA, had in its pre-election manifesto said that it is committed to 33 per cent reservation in parliamentary and state assemblies. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

63. Transgenders voice fears (25)

Transgenders on Tuesday voiced concern over the Supreme Court verdict labelling them as “third gender” and the proposal to club them with OBCs. About 30 representatives of the transgender community expressed their opinion on the issues at an interactive session hosted by the state government to find ways to implement the apex court’s recommendations on transgenders. Social welfare minister Shashi Panja and officials of her department interacted with the transgenders at the session held at a Salt Lake hotel. The Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in April, recognised “the third gender” and ruled that they were entitled to all fundamental rights, reservation in jobs and education, and separate public toilets. The state government is mulling options to form a transgender welfare board to implement the court’s order. “Even after the verdict we have faced rude behaviour from police. A transgender couple went to a city police station on May 15 after they were harassed by local youths. What they faced at the police station amounted to a second round of torture,” said Anindita Dutta, a transgender. The couple approached the Association for Transgender/Hijra, an NGO working for transgenders, that persuaded the officers to lodge a complaint. “When we approach the protector of law, this is the behaviour we get. The Supreme Court order is three months old but nothing has changed,” said another transgender. Panja as well as police officers present admitted to the problem. Members of the transgender community urged the minister to ensure the government did not use the term “third gender” as it was “humiliating”. “We are proud to be transgender and the government should use that term,” said Aparna Banerjee, after Panja said she was unsure of the correct word to use. The community members also expressed apprehension about being clubbed with OBCs for reservations. “If the government is serious, they must create a separate quota for us,” said Dutta. Creating public toilets, separate wards in hospitals and facilities were also discussed but government officials said it would take time to tackle the sensitive issues. The transgenders said they should be represented in all committees formed to implement the Supreme Court order. (The Telegraph 16/7/14)

64. Quota norm must for pvt units getting govt aid (25)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday clarified that it won’t be mandatory for the private sector as a whole to reserve 16 per cent seats for Maratha and five per cent for Muslim communities in education and employment. However, the new quota plan will be applicable in those private sector units and educational institutes receiving the state government’s aid in the form of concessions on land prices or grants. The state government’s quota plan will be applicable to all government undertakings and semi-government organisations. The government has already promulgated an ordinance and issued directives in this regard. With the additional 21 per cent quota for Marathas and Muslims, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent — way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court. At present, the Bombay High Court is currently hearing a public interest litigation, challenging the government’s decision. Minister for Minority Welfare Naseem Khan told Business Standard: “The government decision will not be applicable for all private sector units. However, government-aided private educational institutes will have to provide quota for members of the Maratha and Muslim communities. Besides, it will also be applicable to those private sector units which have received government aid.” Khan reiterated that all government and semi-government organisations will have to strictly implement the quota decision. An NCP minister, who did not want to be named, said there has been a demand from various organisations representing Maratha and Muslim communities for quota in all private sector undertakings. The Indian Merchants’ Chamber said it is concerned about the manner in which the reservation issue is being handled and promoted. IMC President Prabodh Thakker said the new mechanism seems more political rather than having socio, economic content. ”IMC is not appreciative of the current announcement of reservation in Maharashtra, we support the stance that weaker section should be given a helping hand in skill development. IMC will lead from the front as an enabler,” he added. (Business Standard 17/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

65. Pass Women’s Reservation Bill: NHRC (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) Tuesday called for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and state legislatures. It also called for the successful implementation of women related policies. Addressing the 58th Session of the National Human Rights Institution’s (NHRI) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva, Switzerland, NHRC chairperson Justice K.G Balakrishnan said: “For the successful implementation of women related policies, it is of critical importance that the 16th Lok Sabha urgently passes the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and legislative assemblies”.He said that conviction in crimes against women is low and the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled as it has not been able to respond to the needs of widespread gender-based violence. “The twelfth Plan document, on the basis of NCRB data, indicates total number of crimes against women have increased by 29.6 percent between 2006 and 2010. These included dowry deaths, early marriages, domestic violence, abductions, acid attacks, sexual assault as well as female foeticide”, Balakrishnan said, referring to the National Crime Record Bureau data. In all India Gross Enrolment Ratio, there is a gender gap both in the general and the reserved categories of boys and girls and the same is the case with the overall literacy rate, even though it has increased for women from 53.67 percent in 2001 to 65.4 percent in 2011 Census. Balakrishnan said the police should be more accountable as the they seem to be insensitive to the women related cases due to traditional and patriarchal mind-sets. They should be made more accountable. The Armed Forces Special Power Act in Jammu & Kashmir and northeastern states confers an impunity on the armed forces personnel which often leads to the violation of human rights. “Most often, in cases of sexual assault, many a time, the victims are discouraged by the community and even by the police for resorting to legal remedy. Despite long drawn out legal process, the low conviction rate is also resulting in the harassment of the victims,” he said. He said that during 2013, the NHRC registered a total of 288 cases of sexual harassment of women at various places and 59 cases of sexual harassment in government offices though the Supreme Court had laid the guidelines ensuring women’s safety at workplace in the famous case of Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan in 1997. “Trafficking of women and girls still continues both for sexual exploitation as well as for illegal labour in spite of the government initiatives like Ujjwala Scheme. They face different kinds of harassment, including false implication and unlawful detention,” Balakrishnan said. “Open defecation, especially in rural areas, also increases vulnerability of girls to rape as seen in the recent case of rape of girls in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh,” he said. (Business Standard 9/7/14)

66. Civil society condemns attack on student leader (1)

Itanagar: The Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society has appealed to the state government to ensure safety of all in the state capital. This comes in the wake of attack on Unti Umbrey, a student leader from the community. At a meeting at Roing on Sunday, the society condemned the attack and described the incident as ‘unfortunate and shocking’. “We understand that differences within a students’ union might have led to the attack. But attack on any individual is never justifiable,” said a leader of the society demanding arrest of the culprits and necessary action. It further appealed to people not to post inflammatory comments on the social media over the incident that might affect the peace and harmony in the state. The Cultural and Literary Society of Mishmi also termed the attack barbaric and cowardly. “We are deeply hurt by the unfortunate incident and pledge support through democratic means for justice to Unti Umbrey,” said a member of the society. The All Tai Khampti Singpho Students’ Union of Arunachal Pradesh also joined the chorus. (Times of India 15/7/14)

67. Pay Palghar girls Rs. 50,000 each: NHRC (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the two Palghar girls who were detained by the police in November 2012 for making comments on Facebook after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. Their arrest, the Commission observed, was a serious violation of human rights. “The Commission has also observed that every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any contents to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution of India, every individual has a right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights.” The Commission also expressed displeasure at the Maharashtra government’s lacklustre attitude. Having received no response to its notice and reminders to show cause why monetary relief should not be paid to the victims of human rights violation, the Commission, in its latest direction, asked the Chief Secretary of the State to submit the compliance report along with the proof of payment within four weeks failing which, it may be constrained to take recourse to coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Shaheen Dhada, 23, and 22-year-old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, were detained by the police after Shiv Sena activists in Palghar objected to their posts on the social media site criticising bandhs called after Mr Thackeray’s demise. After being illegally detained for nearly 10 days, they were formally arrested and immediately released on bail of Rs. 15,000. “The Commission has held that their detention was in violation of freedom of speech and expression of views guaranteed in the Constitution of India,” the press release stated. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

68. NHRC Takes Note of Minor’s Pregnancy (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra to institute a mechanism for comprehensive monitoring of health, including reproductive health, of girls residing in Government-run hostels while ensuring their overall security. The Commission has taken a serious note of a complaint regarding a 14-year-old girl giving birth inside the Bhogpara Primary Sevashram hostel in Kutra block of Sundargarh district on August 5 last year with authorities and Superintendent of the hostel having no knowledge of her pregnancy. Directing the Chief Secretary to submit his response within four weeks, the Commission also instructed the Secretary of ST and SC Department to submit the outcome of proceedings against Kutra Welfare Extension Officer within six weeks. While Sundargarh Collector has been asked to submit details on the proceedings against the ashram authorities, the SP has been asked to apprise whether any official of the hostel was involved in the incident. The complaint would be taken up for hearing during the Bhubaneswar sitting of the Commission next month. A complaint in this regard was filed by executive director of Global Human Rights Communications Subash Mohapatra. (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

69. Abide by educational loan policy, court tells banks (19)

CHENNAI: Rejecting a nationalised bank’s contention that only candidates with 60 per cent marks in the qualifying examination are eligible for educational loans, the Madras High Court has directed it to extend financial assistance to an engineering student. Nationalised banks and other financial institutions should abide by the Union government’s policy for lending educational loans to the weaker sections, a Division Bench of Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and M. Sathyanarayanan has said. While sanctioning loans, the banks should cover the genuine, reasonable and justified educational expenses of applicants and help students and their parents out of the pressing financial crisis, the Bench said. In 2012, the Indian Overseas Bank branch at Sandaikadaithottam in Tirupur rejected the application by A. Ravi, a parent, for financial assistance. Challenging it, he prayed for a directive to the bank to lend his son Rs.1.88 lakh in educational loan. The bank argued that only those who scored 60 per cent marks and above were eligible. A single judge allowed the petition because the appellant’s son secured 59 per cent marks and got admission to B.E. Hence, the bank branch manager’s appeal. The Bench said the Union Finance Minister had announced that students admitted under the management quota were eligible for loans, and all banks were directed to adopt the policy. After a review meeting held by the Finance Minister with the chief executives of the public sector banks on September 27, 2012, new guidelines were framed. “Nowhere has it been stated in the guidelines that educational loans could be sanctioned only to those who secured 60 per cent and more,” it said. In light of the revised policy, the Bench dismissed the appeal. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

70. Kerala Mulling Law to Provide Welfare Scheme for Migrant Workers (19)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Government is considering a legislation to provide welfare schemes for migrant workers, who have become a major work force in the state. Announcing this in the Assembly today, Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, however, said a consensus needed to be reached on the issue, as there were differences of opinion about extending such facilities to migrant workers. “A section in the society is skeptical whether it is good to provide welfare measures and keep them in the state always,” he said, adding government was even planning to call an all-party meeting to arrive at a consensus on the matter.  John ruled out a suggestion to issue identity cards for all migrant labourers “Every Indian citizen has the right to work anywhere in the country, so providing them with identity cards to work in the state was violative of fundamental rights”, he said. John, while narrating the difficulties in dealing with them, said language was the main blockade. Now itself government has provided certain welfare schemes to these workers, but they were ignorant about it, he said.As a first step to communicate with them, government plans to set up kiosks at four major railway stations-Ernakulam, Aluva, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode- with help desk managed by people who speak Hindi language, he said. He said so far about 42,000 workers from other states have registered with the Labour Board. Moving the calling attention, K Suresh Kurup said as per a study of Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, the number of migrant labourer stood at 25 lakh and their number would become 50 lakh in another ten years. He wanted government to ensure protection and wages as per law to them. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

71. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of Article 370 which gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The petition had said that the Constitution does not allow the benefits of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. There had been a raging debate over Article 370 soon after the Narendra Modi government had taken charge. Union Minister Jitendra Singh had sparked off a controversy by saying that the Central government had started speaking to stakeholders to repeal the Act. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K The plea had said that the Constitution does not allow benefit of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. “The process of repealing Article 370 has started. We are speaking to the stakeholders,” Jitendra Singh had said. Clarifying the statement, the government said that it will come up with a “structured” response to the issue of Article 370. “At the appropriate time, the Government of India, led by Narendra Modi, will come with a response on the issue of Article 370,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. (IBN Live 13/7/14)

72. Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Supreme Court stays hanging of 2 convicts (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed till further orders the execution of death penalty of two of the four convicts in the December 16 gang rape-and-murder case. A bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and NV Ramana said since the death sentence of other convicts have already been suspended by this court, the same order has to be passed. It stayed the execution of Vinay Sharma (21) and Akshay Thakur (29), who were convicted along with other two — Mukesh (27) and Pawan Gupta (20) — whose death sentence has already been stayed. Vinay and Akshay had moved the apex court seeking a stay on their execution and reversal of the Delhi high court verdict upholding their conviction and the punishment. The court proceedings also witnessed some confusion as the bench queried whether it could hear the plea in the light of observation made by Chief Justice RM Lodha that the cases of death convicts be heard by not less than a three-judge bench. The bench called for Supreme Court registrar who said no such notification has been issued so far in this regard. The bench then went ahead with the hearing and passed the stay order. The Delhi high court had on March 13 this year upheld their conviction and award of death penalty by terming the offence as “extremely fiendish” and “unparallelled in the history of criminal jurisprudence” and said the “exemplary punishment” was the need of the hour. The two convicts — ​Akshay Thakur (left) and Vinay Sharma. It had also said if this case was not “the rarest of rare cases” then “there is likely to be none”. Besides seeking setting aside of the high court verdict, Vinay and Akshay, in their appeal, have sought a stay on their execution as an interim relief. The petition has said the judgment be set aside as there was no “substance or material piece of evidence” and there were contradictions in the depositions of the victim and her friend, who had accompanied her in the bus, about the offence and the offenders. The petition has said the testimony of the SDM cannot be relied on as she had deposed that the victim was “comfortable, happy and willing to record her statement.” The juvenile involved in the Nirbhaya case (face covered) was sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. “Whether a patient who is on ventillator … can be happy and comfortable?,” it has said. Disputing the veracity of the dying declaration of the victim, it has said she was not fit enough to record her statement and hence, the statement made through gestures cannot be relied upon. “The high court failed to appreciate before awarding death sentence to appellant Vinay Sharma that he was juvenile at the time of the incident …” it has said. The 23-year-old paramedic, on the night of December 16, 2012, was brutally assaulted and gangraped by six persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend. She later died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. Prime accused in the case Ram Singh was found dead in Tihar Jail in March last year and the trial against him was abated. The sixth accused, the juvenile, was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. (Times of India 14/7/14)

73. NGOs seek proper deliberations on new Juvenile Justice Bill (19)

New Delhi: A group of 58 NGOs and individuals working for children’s rights in the country on Wednesday urged the Centre to carry out proper deliberations before deciding to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The coalition – ProChild Network – has offered to help the government find a solution to the problems of crimes like sexual violence by juveniles, by giving professional suggestions based on evidence and research. The group comprises 58 NGOs including the Aangan Trust, Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU-Bangalore, CRY, HAQ:Centre for Child Rights, Leher and Save the Children. “We strongly condemn all sexual violence, be it by adults or juveniles… But we also condemn pitching human rights of women against human rights of children since that will not provide an answer to creating a healthy society. All we want is a dialogue with the government before a final decision in this regard is taken,” said Bharti Ali, Co-Director of HAQ:Centre for Child Rights. On June 18, the Ministry of Women and Child Development stated their intent to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice Act and invited feedback from stakeholders and civil society groups on the draft Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014. According to the ministry’s proposal, while trying the juvenile, in the age group of 16-18 years, involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder, the Juvenile Justice Board will decide whether the juvenile should be sent to observation home or required a trial under a regular court. “We firmly believe all human beings, especially growing children, need to be taught that there are consequences of their action and that they need to be accountable for their behaviour,” a statement issued by the group said. “However, we assert that the means for ensuring such accountability should be grounded in child and adolescent psychology, the rights of children and a deeper understanding of the circumstances that lead to such behaviour or action, be it indiscipline, anti-social or criminal behaviour,” it adds. The government move comes over a year after the role of a juvenile in the December 16 gang rape case sparked off a debate over lowering the age limit for juveniles involved in heinous crimes. As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, in 2013, as many as 33,707 rape cases were registered in the country as against 24,923 cases in 2012. As many as 1,884 juveniles were involved in rape cases in 2013.  (DNA 16/7/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

74. Jail inmate’s body found in water tank (1)

NASHIK: The dead body of an inmate at Central Jail here was found in the water tank inside the jail on Wednesday morning. This is the second such incident in the last three months. According to police sources, Nana Namdeo Patil (49), a resident of Surat, was being tried in several cases of cheating registered against him in Panchavati (Nashik), Surat and other towns. He had been brought by the Panchavati police to Nashik in connection with one such case and had been remanded to magisterial custody for the past one month. On Tuesday evening, the prison staff realized Patil was missing when he failed to answer his roll call. Around 9 am on Wednesday, Patil was found in the water tank in barrack 1 in yard number 5. The medical officers declared him dead and the case was reported to the Nashik Road Police Station. The cause of death is yet to be ascertained. The police are awaiting the post mortem results. A case of accidental death has been registered. On April 30 another convict, 32-year-old Meva Zavre, was found dead hanging by a nylon rope in a prison bathroom. The incident brings to the fore the rising unrest among the jail inmates – be they convicts or undertrails. (Times of India 10/7/14)

75. Iraq forces executed 250 Sunni prisoners (1)

Baghdad. Iraq’s security forces and allied Shiite militias executed at least 255 Sunni prisoners as they fled a lightning jihadist-led advance last month, Human Rights Watch said today. “Iraqi security forces and militias affiliated with the government appear to have unlawfully executed at least 255 prisoners… since June 9,” the watchdog said in a statement. “The mass extrajudicial killings may be evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the New York-based HRW said. It said the killings appeared to have been carried out in revenge for the onslaught led by what was still known last month as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The group, which has since rebranded itself as the Islamic State (IS), is a Sunni extremist organisation which last month overran large swathes of Iraq, including second city Mosul, and has since declared a “caliphate” straddling the border with Syria. “Gunning down prisoners is an outrageous violation of international law,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork. “While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of (ISIL), it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces.” The rights group said it had documented massacres of prisoners last month in Mosul, as well as in the towns and villages of Tal Afar, Baquba, Jumarkhe and Rawa. “In one case the killers also set dozens of prisoners on fire, and in two cases they threw grenades into cells,” HRW said. It demanded an international investigation into the killings. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

76. Respect Human Rights: Army Chief (1)

SRI NAGAR: Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who arrived here on Saturday, asked soldiers and officers to respect human rights and avoid collateral damage during anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army Chief arrived here for a farewell visit to the strategically important 15 Corps, named Chinar Corps.  “For the Army Chief, this is like homecoming to the Valley as he has commanded the 15 Corps for a year from November 25, 2008, to November 30, 2009,” a defence spokesman said. Singh will be retiring on July 31 and Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will take over reigns of the Army. During his day-long visit to the state, the Army Chief paid homage at the War Memorial at Badamibagh Cantonment in Srinagar, headquarters of the 15 Corps. He interacted with top army officials and discussed the prevailing security situation in the state with them.  He was briefed about the measures being taken to stop infiltration and ensure peace in the Valley. Later, while addressing the men and officers, the Army Chief complimented 15 Corps for ensuring a secure environment in Jammu and Kashmir, which is battling militancy. The soldiers should uphold the law of land and respect human rights of the people, he said. “The men and officers should ensure that no collateral damage takes place during anti-militancy operations,” Singh said and stressed on the need for people-friendly operations. He also highlighted the initiatives being undertaken for capability augmentation of the armed forces and welfare measures. The Army Chief along with Northern Command chief Lt Gen D S Hooda and GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha called on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here and discussed the matters relating to the prevailing security situation in the state. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

77. Government told to pay Rs 5 lkh to kin of biker shot by cops (1)

NEW DELHI: Police firing at bikers on Ashoka Road last July that led to the death of teenager Karan Pandey was disproportionate to the threat, and showed negligence and error of judgment, National Human Rights Commission has observed relying on a magisterial inquiry report. It has recommended that the Delhi government pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to Karan’s next-of-kin. Karan, 19, was riding pillion on a bike at Windsor Place when inspector Rajneesh Parmar fired at its rear tyre. NHRC has asked the chief secretary, Delhi to submit the proof of payment along with the report on departmental proceedings initiated against the delinquent cops within six weeks. Karan’s mother, a widow, told TOI that she does not want any compensation but strict action against the erring cop. “Now, even the magistrate’s report has indicted the cops who took away my only son. I have also requested the police commissioner to book the inspector for murder but nobody has paid heed to my pleas. What will I do with the money? My only son is gone now. I want the killer to be punished,” she said. National Human Rights Commission had taken cognizance of the incident on the basis of complaints and intimation received from the deputy commissioner of police, New Delhi. It observed that the inquiry magistrate found negligence and error of judgment on the part of Parmar. The magistrate also observed that the force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived by the PCR officials, and police’s version of heavy stone pelting was “highly doubtful” in the light of CCTV footage and statements of witnesses. The report found serious inconsistencies in the evidence, versions and sequence of events narrated by cops. The magistrate has written to the lieutenant governor and the home department recommending action against Parmar. Two other policemen accompanying Parmar have been indicted. “The number of bikers, claimed by Parmar and the two other policemen ranges from 30-40 to 150-200,” it said. (Times of India 15/7/14)

78. Govt Rules Out Changes in AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir (1)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is understood to have ruled out changes in the controversial AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir and favoured its continuation in the present form in the state. The decision in this regard is understood to have been taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister recently, sources said here. The CCS discussed changes suggested by the Administrative Reforms Commission, they said. The Army had also given its opinion in the matter and had opposed the repealing or dilution of the law in any form and stated that it was required for it to operate in the state, sources said. Even though Jammu and Kashmir has been relatively peaceful in the recent past except for the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC), the Army feels that it is more of “absence of violence” rather than establishment of peace there. Several groups and political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern region have been demanding either repeal or amendment to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)which has been in force in some of the disturbed regions in the country. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had also visited Jammu and Kashmir to analyse the situation in the state and had visited the forward locations there. He had stated that any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time. On the need for AFSPA, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had stated that it was “an enabling” act as it “gives Army additional powers to operate in an environment which is marked by very high degree of uncertainty and complexity and an asymmetric environment where you cannot differentiate between a friend and a foe as the terrorist merges with the backdrop and hides amongst the locals.” (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

79. Sri Lanka orders NGOs not to talk to media (1)

Washington: Expressing concern over Sri Lankan government’s recent order on non-governmental organisations, the US has said the move undermines freedom of speech and assembly. “The United States is concerned by reports that the Sri Lankan ministry of defence has ordered registered NGOs and civil society groups to cease their media engagements and activities,” state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “This order undermines Sri Lanka’s long-standing and proud democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” she said. The national NGO secretariat of Sri Lanka, under the ministry of defence and urban development had on July 1 issued a new regulation which stated, it has been found that certain non-governmental organisations conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases which is beyond their mandate. (Asian Age 10/7/14)

80. EC notice raises question on media responsibility (1)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission notice, asking former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to show cause as to why he should not be disqualified in the “paid news” case is aimed as much at the senior Congress leader as a section of the media. The crux of the case relates to a series of articles and news items in sections of the media in Maharashtra in praise of Mr. Chavan as well as publication of 25 advertisements on his election campaign. The issue of paid news has been a serious concern for the Commission as well as several institutions related to the media. The Press Council of India (PCI) had come out with a detailed report on the “paid news” in the latter half of 2009 and the Election Commission initiated its first considered steps against it in 2010. The Commission accepted the PCI definition of “paid news” as any news or analysis appearing in any media (print and electronic) for a price in cash or kind and went on to appoint Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) at district and State-levels for certification of advertisements and keeping a check on violations. In Mr. Chavan’s case, after several hearings, including appeals in the High Court as well as Supreme Court, the Commission was convinced that during the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2009, a large number of news items, articles, analysis and items marked “advertisements” and “advertorials” appeared in various newspapers, newspaper supplements, pamphlets and magazines eulogising Mr. Chavan, which were in fact paid news published for consideration in kind or cash. This spending, however, did not reflect in Mr. Chavan’s poll campaign expenses. The Commission had sought comments of four newspapers – Lokmat, Pudhari, Maharashtra Times and Deshonnati – in which this material appeared. The newspapers denied the allegation of any payment contending that the impugned “paid news” were, in fact, news or editorials or supplements published by them gratuitously as they had either links with, or leanings towards, the Congress and Mr. Chavan. On the contention of the Lokmat newspaper that it strongly believed that the Congress was the only party which offered a secular option to the electorate, the Commission said it was no excuse to pass off paid news as news. “While every newspaper/media house is entitled to its own philosophy (which could be akin to a political party’s philosophy), what is sought to be published as news should be untinged by such philosophy as different from editorial. The minimum that is expected of ethical journalism is that the reader is cautioned by suitable disclaimers while such articles are published so that the unwary reader can make suitable allowance in his mind while forming his judgement. This matter assumes greater significance in the election period when the media needs to show greater responsibility,” it said. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

81. Women in media facing problems: Kalpana Sharma (1)

Thiruvnanthapuram: Well-known columnist Kalpana Sharma today said many women journalists were scared to reveal the harassments faced by them within their organisations due to the fear of losing their jobs. Speaking at a two-day national workshop on ‘Women in Media’ organised by Kerala Press Academy and Network of Women in Media, she said many media houses were yet to set up committees to deal with sexual harassment complaints. “Many women journalists are still not coming up and speaking out. Because, they want to save their jobs. Many media groups are not setting up anti-sexual harassment cells,” Sharma said. “Earlier we had a belief that we were safe as we were journalists and women. But, many women journalists do not feel so today,” she said. Sharma also noted that the number of women journalists giving up their jobs were on the rise these days. Film editor Bina Paul Venugopal, journalist BRP Bhaskar and activist Ajitha also spoke during the interaction. “Samghaditha”, a Kozhikode-base publication, received this year’s media award instituted by Network of Women in Media. The award comprised a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and citation. (Business standard 14/7/14)

82. Compensate Two Women Over Facebook Post: NHRC to Maharashtra (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday sent a reminder to the Maharashtra government to pay Rs.50,000 each as compensation to two women who were illegally detained for 10 days by police following a Facebook post after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray two years ago. In a communication to the Maharashtra chief secretary, the NHRC reiterated that “their detention was in violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution”. It ordered compliance of its order within four weeks along with proof of payment, failing which the NHRC would resort to a coercive process. The reminder came in the Nov 19, 2012 case in which the NHRC took suo motu cognizance after the two 21-year-old women from Palghar town in Thane were arrested. The women – Shaheen Dhada and Renu Shrinivasan – had lamented in a Facebook post the virtual paralysis in the state Nov 18 when Thackeray’s funeral was held in Mumbai. While Shaheen had posted the comment, her friend Renu had ‘liked’ it, angering Shiv Sena leaders who vandalized a hospital run by Shaheen’s uncle. Police arrested both the women Nov 19 though they had already removed the post and even apologized for it the same day. After an inquiry, the NHRC observed that it found no malicious intention in the comments to hurt the feelings of any class or religion. “The comment only indicated that the bandh was not necessary as a mark of respect to the departed leader and that the city was shut down due to fear and not due to respect,” the NHRC said. From the facts in the case, the NHRC said police had no reasonable ground to invoke Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code that charges people with issuing statements amounting to public mischief, with intent to cause fear or alarm. “Because of the over-reaction of the police, these two young women had to be in jail for more than 10 days for which the state is prima facie responsible,” it said. The NHRC said every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any content to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution, every individual has the right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights, it concluded. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

83. Gulberg society massacre: Court asks SIT to submit papers  (7)

Ahmedabad: A special designated court on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team to submit all the documents related to the 2002 Gulberg society massacre case within 15 days. Special judge K K Bhatt passed the order in response to an application by the witnesses of the massacre, their lawyer SM Vora said. The SIT investigation into the charges of conspiracy against former Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others gave a clean chit to the current Prime Minister in its closure report on February 8, 2012. “Since documents related to their investigation are also related to the Gulbarg case, the special court had ruled two years ago that they be produced before it. The SIT sought a revision of this order, but withdrew its revision petition last month. Therefore I approached the court and said the agency must now comply with the order of the special court and submit the documents. The court has given 15 days time,” Mr. Vora told The Hindu. A total of 69 people were killed in the Gulberg massacre, including former Congress Ehsan Jafri. When the SIT gave a clean chit to Mr. Modi in 2012, Mr. Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri filed a protest petition against their report before the metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra in 2013. However, her petition was turned down. She then approached the Gujarat High Court this March challenging the lower court’s order upholding SIT’s clean chit to Mr. Modi. The Gulbarg society case is among the nine riots cases probed by the SIT. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

84. Bihar: 2 killed after row over WhatsApp message (7)

Sasaram: Two youth were killed and seven injured at Akbarpur village in Rohtas on Tuesday in an incident sparked off by a message exchanged between friends from two different communities on WhatsApp. The message allegedly had communal undertones and the offended community went on a rampage, attacking several shops, which set off panic in the area. Soon after the offensive message’s sender was identified, Rohtas police station in-charge Mithilesh Kumar Jaiswal detained and relocated him away from the mob. However, rumours spread that the boy had been killed in police custody and the body been disposed of secretly. His family, not finding him at the local police station, started accusing the police. Soon, a large crowd gathered and attacked a police party and torched its vehicle. Immediately thereafter, the police station came under heavy brick batting and isolated gunfire from country-made weapons. Several officials, policemen and CRPF jawans sustained injuries.  An SLR rifle of a SAP jawan was also snatched. The police opened fire in which two persons are said to have died, while the condition of CRPF jawans Chetan Desai and KK Yadav, who sustained injuries, is said to be critical. Sasaram BJP MP Chhedi Paswan told the HT on phone from Delhi that the SHO of Rohtas police station was responsible for the entire episode and demanded strict action against him. The situation is under control and top police officials are camping at the site. Main towns of Sasaram, Dehri, Dinara, Bikramganj and other sensitive places in Rohtas district have been put on high alert. (Hindustan Times 10/7/14)

85. Marad riots case: SC grants bail to 22 accused (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to 22 accused, sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court and confirmed by the Kerala High Court, in the second Marad riots case despite objections raised by the Kerala government that the riot area was still “communally sensitive.” A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P.K. Ghose refused to impose any restrictive conditions on the accused before enlarging them on bail, asking the Kerala government to approach the trial court if they want to. The Bench said the accused had already spent 11 years in jail since their arrest in 2003 and there was no point in them continuing behind bars as their criminal appeals against the High Court verdict were pending before the apex court and would take time to be decided on. Nine persons were killed and many others injured in violence between two communities on the Marad beach at Beypore constituency in Kozhikode district of Kerala on May 2, 2003. The Court had earlier allowed bail to 23 other accused, including P.P. Moideen Koya, former president of the IUML Beypore constituency, in the same case. Even then, the reason for bail was the extended period of incarceration of the accused. In the earlier order, the court drew attention to the social circumstances of the accused. It had pointed to the long period that the accused – “daily wage labourers eking out a living as coolies and fishermen” – had spent in jail without bail and the “irrevocable financial difficulties” that their families had to suffer. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

86. Now 5 attacks in 9 days on BJP leaders in UP; 1 more dead (7)

Lucknow: Rakesh Kumar Rastogi, who was found strangulated to death Saturday morning in Baheri area of Bareilly district, was the latest BJP leader to come under attack in Uttar Pradesh over less than 10 days. In that time, two other BJP leaders have been killed, a BJP MP has been attacked and the mother of another senior BJP leader has been shot at. In all the incidents, the BJP has accused leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP). On June 12, a BJP delegation met Governor B L Joshi seeking action against the state government, accusing that party workers were being attacked at the behest of SP leaders. The BJP has formed a panel of state leaders to look into such attacks and to hold protests. Party spokesperson Chandra Mohan said the attacks were “an attempt to discourage BJP workers in UP”, given the party’s unprecedented performance in the state in the recent polls. Denying the BJP charge, SP spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said, “These allegations are baseless and politically motivated.” (Indian Express 16/7/14)

COMMUNALISM

87. VHP to celebrate 50 years of its inception, says Togadia (26)

Vadodara: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is planning to organise programmes at the taluka and village level to celebrate 50 years of its inception in August, its international working president Pravin Togadia said here today. Addressing VHP workers at Godhra about 60 km from here, Togadia said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will launch a new movement called ‘Hindu Ahead, for Hindu Security and Prosperity’, which aims to reach out to Hindus in villages, towns, cities and tribal areas”.The event will be organised by invoking the issue of the “insecure Hindu,” Togadia said. “To protect and prosper, Hindus themselves have to gear up, by becoming true practicing Hindus, aware Hindus and active Hindus, while state governments and central governments must protect Hindu interests,” he said. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

88. VHP Leader Giriraj Kishore Passes Away (26)

NEW DELHI: Senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Giriraj Kishore, who actively participated in the Ram Janambhoomi agitation, died here on Sunday evening following prolonged illness. He was 96. Giriraj had joined the RSS at an early age and was one of its seniormost ‘pracharaks’. The Sangh had sent him to the VHP, where he actively campaigned for the Hindutva issues. “He was ailing for some time now. He died peacefully at the VHP headquarters in R K Puram at 9.15 pm,” VHP Delhi unit spokesperson Vinod Bansal said. A bachelor, Giriraj, was wheelchair-bound for several years. He had recently pledged to donate his body for a social cause. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

89. RSS’ social engineering is caste-based division: CPI(M) (26)

KOLKATA: Accusing the Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh (RSS) of creating communal as well as social discrimination in society, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra said here on Sunday that the “social engineering” of RSS is nothing but the caste-based division of society. Addressing a gathering at the Pramod Dasgupta Memorial Lecture, Dr. Mishra accused the RSS of “double standards” by alleging that its tactics were based on caste division, derived from the writings of Manu, a mythical sage of ancient India. “The RSS never mentions Manuvaad (the religious doctrine of Manu) in public, but its actions are based on it,” said Dr. Mishra, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. With regard to the importance of protecting secularism for the Left parties, Dr. Mishra said the “attack on democracy” in the State was going on ever since the Trinamool Congress came to power, adding that “such attacks cannot suppress the Communist movement in Bengal.” Sounding a note of caution about the BJP coming to power at the Centre, he said that if secularism came under attack in the State, the “the unity among the working class [members] that is the primary support base of the Left parties will be in jeopardy.” Dr. Mishra said, “The BJP wants to bifurcate the States that were formed on the basis of linguistic unity, as then controlling them will be easier.” Taking a veiled dig at the saffron party’s support for the creation of smaller States, he said, “If State’s can be divided like this then their linguistic unity will be weakened and it would be easier for the Centre to act as per its whims.” Dr. Mishra also said that by bifurcating States, the BJP wanted to establish “cooperative federalism where without cooperation (with the Centre) there will be no federalism.” With regard to the BJP getting single party majority in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Mishra said the “politics in the country has definitely taken a right turn.” Questioning the unity of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Dr. Mishra said such “coalitions are based on power and not on common minimum programme.” With regard to the recovery of the Left Parties that received a severe drubbing in the general elections, Dr.. Mishra said “responsibility has to be given to the younger generation. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

90. ‘Hindutva-corporate Combine Helped Modi’ (26)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: CPI state assistant secretary K Prakash Babu has opined that the crumbling of the much-touted ‘Bengal Model’ and the mindless actions of certain people which they had implemented under the influence of the neo-liberal policies during the Left Front Government paved the way for Narendra Modi-led Hindutva forces to make their triumphant run across the country. Delivering a lecture on ‘Modi Government and Corporates’ at the N E Balaram remembrance meet held on his 20th death anniversary, under the aegis of the N E Balaram Institute of Social Sciences (NEBISS), he, however, pointed out that the shifting of the Nano car factory to Gujarat had become a major boost to Modi at a time when he was facing a tough time politically in Gujarat and isolation not only in India but outside as well by being denied visa by countries such as the US and the European nations. Prakash Babu said the BJP and the Sangh Parivar could effectively contain caste politics and replace it with the Hindutva aided by the corporates such as Ambanis and Adani. “Modi and Sangh Parivar mesmerized the people with their ‘Hindutva mantra’ and inflated stories of development. Corporates such as Ambanis and Adani were calling for making Modi the CEO of India,” he said. He said that there was no difference between Manmohan and Modi Governments’ approach towards the corporates. “Modi is extending the red carpet rolled out by Manmohan Singh since 2005.  Since then the Indian corporates had been given Rs 36.5 lakh crore subsidies while the agri, fuel and fertilizer sectors together got Rs 2 lakh crore,” he said. Delivering the remembrance lecture, veteran socialist leader and Ex-MP P Viswambharan said   Balaram had always been a model to the politicians. “Since the days of ‘Haripura Congress’ Balaram had been active in politics. He was there in the first meeting of the Communist party held at Parappuram in  Pinarayi village. Till the end of his life, he did not leave it and its ideology,” he said. A scholar in Sanskrit and Indian culture and author of many books, Balaram could touch upon subjects like Marxian aesthetics and  spirituality with the ease of a master mind,’’ he said. K Ashokan presided over the function. CPI district secretary Venjarammoodu Sasi also spoke. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

91. BJP win blow to Muslim politics: Singhal (26)

New Delhi: The recent Lok Sabha polls had shown that an election could be won “without Muslim support” and it was time the minority community learnt to respect Hindu sentiments, VHP chief patron and senior RSS leader Ashok Singhal has said. Narendra Modi — an “ideal swayamsevak” — would deliver on the Hindutva agenda unlike the first NDA government, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad supremo and one of the longest serving senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders told HT in an exclusive interview. The right-wing Hindu leader, who had a front-row seat at Modi’s swearing-in, said “tables had turned”. The polls were a “setback to Muslim politics” used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity,” he said. It was time for them to learn their lessons. “Muslims will be treated as common citizens — nothing more, nothing less. And, they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” said the 88-year-old who has been a lifelong pracharak of the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP. Asked to elaborate, Singhal said Muslims should give up claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code. The VHP is understood to have asked interlocutors to convey this message to Muslim organisations. “We’ll then give them love, and not claim any other mosque sites even though there are thousands built on the ruins of temples. But if they don’t accept it, they should be prepared for further Hindu consolidation. It has happened at the Centre, it will happen in other states,” said Singhal, who set up the VHP and spearheaded the stir for the Ram Temple. The temple issue, civil code and abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had strained the VHP’s ties with the Vajpayee government. The Hindu outfit felt that the NDA did not come good on “core issues”. But no such apprehensions this time, Singhal said in clearest indication, so far, of the RSS’ assessment of what the Modi government can deliver. “The government will not and does not need to backtrack because it has the numbers in the House, and whatever we want to do, we want to do it through constitutional means,” the VHP leader said. The Ram Temple and Godhra had made the BJP win possible. “These were the undercurrents and then issues of development and governance appealed to the young.” For the RSS veteran, elections and religion are never too far. “Religion is the rock on which this country rests.” In Modi, he sees an “ideal swayamsevak. “During the campaign, he conducted himself like a swayamsevak. He also showed to the world the discipline and hard work that a Sangh pracharak puts in.” The PM started his political journey as an RSS pracharak. Singhal admitted that there was “an unprecedented mobilisation” by the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella term for various Hindu outfits, during the elections. Did Sangh expect rewards? “The governors being appointed — be it Ram Naik or Kesari Nath Tripathi — are all from the Sangh but this is not necessary. We worked because it was our duty,” he said. “The important thing is the agenda must be fulfilled.” Despite the Sangh’s tough anti-Pakistan stance, he sees Modi’s invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif as diplomacy. “You also have to resort to deceit at times, and there are segments in Pakistan who want good ties. The problem lies with the jihadi elements, and till they are there, relations can’t be good.” There were some more suggestions on foreign policy. India should take the lead in building a “cultural commonwealth” of South and Southeast Asia, with Hindu and Buddhist population. “China cannot lead such a grouping, it has no cultural backbone and, like the USSR, China will collapse one day.” (Hindustan Times 17/7/14)

TERRORISM

92. Minor gets three-year jail term in Delhi High Court blast case (12)

NEW DELHI: The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) here on Wednesday awarded the maximum punishment of three years under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, to the sole minor accused in the 2011 Delhi High Court bomb blast case. As many as 15 people were killed and 79 injured in the blast outside Gate No. 5 of the Court. The minor convict would serve the sentence in a reformatory centre. The Board also gave him the set-off benefit for the period he had already spent at the centre before the award of punishment to him. The Board had on July 7 held him guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act and waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India, collecting arms with the intention of waging war, criminal conspiracy, mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt, murder, attempt to murder, causing hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt under the Indian Penal Code. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which probed the case, had charged the minor convict with sending an e-mail claiming responsibility for the blast and also threatening to cause more blasts at other courts, including at the Supreme Court of India, if Afzal Guru, the prime accused of the Parliament attack case, was hanged. Guru was later hanged. According to the NIA, the convict had sent the email from Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. An adult accused in the case is facing trial in a court here. Initially, the Delhi Police had registered the case. The investigation was later transferred to the NIA. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

93. Pune blasts: ATS to question Indian Mujahideen terrorists in custody (12)

Pune: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) will be questioning the Indian Mujahiddin terrorists in connection with Thursday’s Pune blast, as per reports on Sunday. The list of IM terrorists, whom the ATS team will question, includes Yasin Bhatkal, Haider Ali and Asadullah Akhtar. Bhatkal and Asadullah are presently in the custody after they were arrested from India-Nepal border for carrying out Pune German Bakery and Hyderabad Dilkushnagar blasts. Yesterday, ATS had reportedly spotted a suspect in a CCTV footage recovered from the Pune blast site. The footage showed the suspect parking a bike near Faraskhana police station’s parking lot before the blast occurred. The ATS also monitored some emails which revealed that online messages were exchanged among Indian Mujahideen’s terrorists in Karachi before carrying out blasts, as per reports. The blast caused by an IED planted in a motorcycle at Faraskhana police station’s parking lot had left five injured, including a police constable. The motorbike was stolen from a policeman posted in Satara some time back. A case has been registered under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), besides various sections of the Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. (Zee News 13/7/14)

94. Terror export to Iraq matter of concern: Shiv Sena (12)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena Tuesday expressed concern over what it described as “home-grown terror being exported” to Iraq, which could pose serious ramifications for India. In an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the party said that the incident of four missing youths from Kalyan town in Thane, who have reportedly joined the ISIS jihad in Iraq, is a warning bell which India must heed. The Shiv Sena feels that “until now terror was being imported into India by organisations like Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and HuJI. But, this is a new trend in which home-grown terror is being exported,” said the editorial. “Does India have any action plan to deal with such jihadi forces? Unless we control Islamic extremism, this jihadi explosive could soon prove to be suicidal,” the editorial warned. Noting how highly educated youths from middle-class families are being attracted to organisations like Indian Mujahiddeen or ISIS, the Shiv Sena said this trend itself needs to be studied carefully. “Until now, terror was being imported into India from different countries, but now we are witnessing this new development — The Indian intelligence agencies believe that internet medium could have been used to indoctrinate these youth,” the editorial noted. The editorial comes in the wake of the Maharashtra government taking help from the central government to trace out four youths from Kalyan, who were reported ‘missing’ by their families late May and are believed to have joined a jihadi group in Iraq. Additional Commissioner of Police Sharad Shelar, Kalyan, said Monday that the complaints were registered May 25, 26 and 27, and the probe is on. However, despite all efforts, there has been no breakthrough so far, and it is also not clear whether the four were known to one another, police said. The missing youths are Arif Fayyaz Majeed, Aman Naik Tandel, Shaheed Farooqui Tanki and Fahad Tanvir Sheikh. The police and intelligence agencies suspect that the youths may have been indoctrinated online, through some chatrooms where lot of propaganda material has been uploaded on the recent developments in Iraq. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

95. Missing Kalyan youths probe: 43 suspects, eight former SIMI men questioned (12)

KALYAN: Investigation agencies probing the disappearance of four Kalyan youths in Iraq, have grilled more than 51 persons, including eight former SIMI activists, to find out if they had indoctrinated the youths to become jihadis. Aarif Majid, Aman Tandel, Fahad Shaikh and Saleem Tanki, all in the 20s, had travelled to Iraq in late May, and reportedly joined the insurgents of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The investigators are also keeping tabs on four local organizations after learning that the four youths were in regular touch with them. In a related development, Aadil Dolare, a volunteer with the Islamic Guidance Centre in Kalyan, has rubbished media allegations that he had brainwashed the four youths and funded their trip to Iraq. Dolare told TOI that the four youths would come to the centre, which helps poor people, to work as volunteers and they “do not have any further relation”.At least three of the youths are from affluent families. Two were studying engineering and one is a mechanical engineering graduate. Aarif, son of a doctor, was in the midst of his third-year civil engineering diploma examinations, when he left for Iraq. When Aarif did not return home, his father, a doctor, filed a missing person’s complaint with the Bazarpeth police and produced a note saying he would meet his parents in heaven. Later, the families of the other three youths also filed missing complaints. The local police shared the information with the higher authorities, who then alerted the security agencies and a probe was initiated into the disappearances. The agencies suspected that the four youths had joined the jihadis after the Intelligence Bureau found that their last location was in Mosul in Iraq, which is under the control of ISIS. However, Aman’s father refuses to believe media reports that his son has joined the ISIS. He told TOI that his son might have “got stuck” in Iraq and could be in trouble. He said he has faith that the investigation agencies and the government will bring his son back. (Times of India 16/7/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

96. Home Ministry to state governments: Submit proof of funds used for tackling Maoism or Naxalism

NEW DELHI: State governments will have to send photographs to the home ministry by the end of this month as proof that they have executed projects aimed at countering Left-wing extremism. Only then will the states be able to claim further funds under the Centre’s Rs 500-crore Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), a senior official told ET. As part of its efforts to step up the offensive against Maoism or Naxalism, the home ministry has also asked the telecom department to stop inter-ministerial consultations on a mobile tower project for the affected areas and bring it directly before the Cabinet, the official added on condition of anonymity. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked all state governments to submit photographs of projects executed by them with central funds under the SIS within 30 days along with physical and financial project reports, the official said. Funds under the SIS are meant to be spent by states on projects that increase mobility of security forces in Maoist-affected areas by way of upgrading roads, providing secure camps and helipads, strengthening police stations and upgrading weaponry. “The utilisation of funds in this regard will now be closely monitored-…future release of such funds will depend on the success of implementation of projects,” the official said. Under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), which caters to development schemes, states have to upload photographs of the completed projects on a portal managed by Planning Commission. A similar monitoring mechanism has been replicated for the home ministry’s security schemes. Bihar is struggling to complete projects under both schemes. The home minister has also directed the telecom department to “not waste further time” in inter-ministerial consultations on the proposal of installation of mobile towers in Maoist-affected states, the official said. “The minister has asked the telecom department to bring the proposal of installing towers with an increased cost directly before the Cabinet for consideration and approval. The minister feels that the project has already been delayed badly and the installation of towers at least around security force establishments should be done immediately,” the official said. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

97. 6 suspected Maoist trainees detained under NSA in Dharmapuri (12)

DHARMAPURI: Six persons of Natham Colony in Naikankottai village here, who were arrested by the Dharmapuri police on June 28 for their alleged participation in arms training given by the associates of elusive Maoist leader Kalidass, were detained under the National Security Act (NSA) on Friday, police sources said. Based on the recommendations of Superintendent of Police Asra Garg, Collector K. Vivekanandan issued the order. The persons detained are S. Sakthi, 38, M. Durai, 46, C. Santhosh, 22, S. Adhiyaman, 22, G. Ashokan, 27, and G. Shankar, 36. The order was served on the accused at the Salem Central Prison on Friday afternoon, the sources said. The police said two country-made guns and some explosives were recovered from the accused, and they were arrested to foil an armed assault on leaders of a particular community. The prohibitory orders promulgated across the Dharmapuri district late last month have been extended for two weeks from July 10. The orders were in force in view of the July 4 death anniversary of Dalit youth I. Ilavarasan of Natham Colony, who committed suicide after his caste-Hindu wife left him to live with her mother. The arrests were made in the run-up to the anniversary. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

98. Naxalites demand Rs 50 lakh from construction officials (12)

BHOPAL: Naxalites have allegedly demanded Rs 50 lakh extortion money from officials of Dilip Buildcon – a construction company owned by Dilip Suryavanshi, who is considered close to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Dilip Buildcon is constructing a 65km road from Balaghat to Baihar where construction is nearing completion. Balaghat SP Gaurav Tiwari said, “Manager of Dilip Buildcon filed a complaint against Naxalites on July 11. He said four people came to their makeshift office at Parastola, 12 km from Baihar, and demanded money. All four claimed to be Naxalites and threatened to blow up the project, if they failed to pay up. They also said wage of labourers employed by the company should be raised.” But police are not convinced the extortionists are Naxalites. “In pamphlets dropped by the miscreants, the extortion amount mentioned was Rs 5 lakh and not Rs 50 lakh as claimed by company officials. Also, there was no mention of their ‘dalam’ or group as is their usual practice,” said Tiwari. “We have registered a case and have begun investigation. Security has been tightened in the area,” Tiwari said. (Times of India 14/7/14)

99. Four wanted Naxals held in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Security forces on Wednesday apprehended four suspected Naxalites, carrying rewards on their heads, from Maoist-affected Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh. The suspected Naxals were held by a patrol squad led by paramilitary CRPF from the Korenda-Benur axis of the district. The apprehended Naxals have been identified as Rajman (35), Somnath (35), Rejju alias Rai Singh and Kachru Salam. All were wanted by the police and while the former two carried a reward of Rs 5,000, the other two had a bounty of Rs 10,000 on them, a senior official said. All the suspects are residents of Korenda and have been handed over to local police, the official said. (Zee News 16/7/14)

100. Naxal camp destroyed; arms, explosives seized (12)

Raipur: A joint team of District Police and Special Task Force (STF) destroyed a temporary Naxal camp in a forested patch under Mardapal police station, Superintendent of Police (SP) Kondagaon, Abhishek Meena informed here on Wednesday. “We had specific intelligence inputs that a group of left wing insurgents were camping in a jungle near Kelam village under Mardapal police station. Based on the information, a joint police party consisting of District Police and STF jawans was mobilised to move from Mardapal towards the spot,” SP said. Around 10 am on July 15, the police party had face-off with armed insurgents in jungle near Kelam village who were about 30 to 40 in numbers and both the sides engaged in gun battle. The gunfire lasted more than an hour and Naxals finding themselves surrounded by police personnel ran away in the deep forest while taking advantage of dense vegetation and continuous rain, the SP maintained adding that the Naxals were members of Maoist military platoon number-6 active in the region. Later on, during the searching of area police recovered Walkie-talkies, tiffin bombs, live bullets hand grenades detonator wire, flash, watches, tent, radio, ration in huge quantity and other items of daily use from the spot Meena said that Naxals had gathered for organising ‘Jan Adalat’. Notably, Naxals had killed a villager in Usri on July 13 in a ‘Jan Adalat’ branding him as a police informer. However, police had later on denied of having any link with the deceased person. (Pioneer 17/7/14)

TRAFFICKING

101. Bihar police order survey of girls from Bihar married in Haryana (1)

Patna: Following widespread protests by the JD-U, RJD and Congress leaders over the alleged derogatory remark of Haryana BJP leader OP Dhankar concerning Bihar girls, the state government has ordered a survey in 14 districts to trace how many girls were actually married off to Haryana boys. Inspector general of police, weaker section, Arvind Pandey, on Tuesday wrote a letter to SPs of Begusarai, Purnea, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Munger, Bettiah, Motihari, Kishaganj, Araria, Madhubani and Katihar to compile a list of girls sent for marriage and their present condition. He has ordered to make district anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) fully functional to track such cases. Pandey said the SPs have been asked to submit a report to the district magistrates concerned detailing their names, village etc, for further verification of their present status in Haryana. Pandey said in the letter that a few such instances had been reported in the past from Katihar and some other districts. “The girls had been taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage,” he said, adding one such instance had been reported from Darbhanga also when he was posted there as IG. “The girls were being taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage in a suspicious manner. Some people suspected something wrong in the entire process and lodged a case,” he recalled. The state government had launched the human trafficking prevention programme in 2007-08 to check illegal trafficking of women and child labourers and ensured a comprehensive rehabilitation package. District-level anti-trafficking cells have been constituted in 26 districts under the supervision of the district magistrates. (Hindustan Times 9/7/14)

102. ‘Children trafficked to Kerala being furnished with fake IDs’ (1)

Kochi: Children from other States who are being trafficked to Kerala are being given fake Aadhaar cards that show them as residents of Kerala, DIG S. Sreejith, chief investigation officer of the State Human Rights Commission, has said. He said children were taken from their homes and brought here to be exploited in various ways. Fake documents made the children vulnerable to further exploitation, he added. He was speaking on ‘Human trafficking and child rights’ at a workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association and National Human Rights Commission in Kochi on Saturday. P.M. Nair, chair professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences and former Director General of the National Disaster Response Force, said that as of 2011, over one lakh children had been reported missing in the country. About 33,000 of missing children remained untraced, he said, highlighting the scale of human trafficking operations in the country. Mr. Nair said video conferencing facility should be made available for victims who have been trafficked over long distances to give statements in court. Focus should be on rehabilitating the victims and taking them back home if they wanted to as soon as possible. It would be easier for them to give their statements through videoconferencing rather than come back to the place where they were taken forcibly. The inaugural day of the two-day workshop also featured a discussion on ‘human trafficking and women’s rights’ by Meena Kuruvilla, member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.  Justice Ashok Bhushan, judge of the High Court of Kerala, inaugurated the workshop. He called upon all citizens to work together to combat human trafficking. Minister for Law and Finance K.M. Mani delivered the presidential address. He said the government would study the recommendations that would come out of the workshop and take necessary action. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission, said people held many misconceptions regarding trafficking. “Trafficking can be curbed only with the combined work of law enforcement agencies, lawyers, and judges,” he said. Advocates, law students, and professors of law attended the workshop on the first day. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

103. National Federation for Indian Women delegation meets Rajnath Singh, raises women trafficking issue (1)

A delegation of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), the women’s wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), on Sunday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and raised the issue of women trafficking in the country. “There was a news report in the newspaper which says that a large number of children, especially girls, were trafficked from Jharkhand to different states,” said women activist and NFIW general secretary Annie Raja. Annie further said that the NFIW had sent a fact finding team to Gumla district of Jharkhand and interacted with families of the missing children. “We understood that from each family at least one girl is missing. Even the parents are clueless about their kids’ whereabouts. So we met the Home Minister today and raised this issue,” she added. The delegation has appealed for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this issue. “We have also requested for formulation and passage of legislation to prevent trafficking. We need a standalone act on this issue,” Annie said. (DNA 14/7/14)

104. Anti-trafficking clubs in colleges (1)

Kochi: Four law colleges in the district have resolved to start anti-human trafficking clubs in their institutions to combat trafficking in all its forms. The colleges made the decision at the end of a two-day workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (KHCAA) and the National Human Rights Commission. The clubs will be opened at S.N. Law College, Poothotta; Government Law College, Ernakulam; National University of Advanced Legal Studies; and the School of Legal Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) with the support of the KHCAA. “We will try to synergise the functioning of the various agencies, including the corporate sector, to provide appropriate and timely rehabilitation of victims of trafficking,” a resolution drafted by the students and others read. The workshop was attended by advocates, rights activists, law students and teachers. Legal professionals who attended the workshop also resolved to provide free legal services to trafficked persons and those vulnerable to trafficking. The participants also plan to hold campaigns to increase awareness about human trafficking. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and former Chief Justice of India, was the chief guest at the concluding session of the workshop on Sunday. He explained the laws concerning human trafficking to the participants of the workshop and examined the theme of the workshop, ‘Human trafficking – myth or reality’. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission was also present at the workshop and interacted with the students and other participants. The morning session focused on the role of different agencies in combating human trafficking. Experts from various agencies that deal with traffickers and victims of trafficking shared their experiences and suggested ways to improve the system. Home Department Additional Chief Secretary Nivedita P. Haran, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala Justice K.K. Usha, Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan of the High Court of Kerala, Deputy Commissioner of Police R. Nishanthini, former MP Sebastian Paul, Additional Director General of Prosecution Tom Jose Padinjarekkara, and advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and V.P. Seemandini were among those who spoke. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

105. Girl missing for five years rescued from Howrah (1)

NEW DELHI: A girl trafficked from a West Bengal village five years ago has been rescued by a joint team of the Delhi police, the Kolkata police and the members of NGO Shakti Vahini. The girl was a minor when she was brought to Delhi in the name of employment and had been missing for the past five years. She was rescued from Howrah, West Bengal, late on Sunday night. The officers who rescued the girl said that she was not physically or sexually assaulted in Delhi. However, she was not allowed to keep in touch with her family. “She has so far not complained against her employers in Delhi. But it could be because she has been brainwashed by her trafficker who promised to marry her after bringing her to Delhi. She is not even naming the man who brought her to Delhi,” said an officer close to the investigation. The rescue came after the girl’s father filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court last year saying that his daughter who went out of West Bengal for job has been missing for five years. Responding to the petition, the Court had instructed the CID Kolkata to trace the girl. The CID team came to know that the girl had been brought to Delhi and they got in touch with the Delhi police and Shakti Vahini members. “In Delhi, we conducted raids for three days along with a team of the Delhi Police and the NGO and finally zeroed down upon a suspect identified as Tapan Sardar in Tughlakabad Extension. After taking him in custody we came to know that he had received prior information about the raid and had communicated the same to another accused named Akash alias Raj who managed to escape with the victim,” said Inspector Sarbari Bhattacharjee from the CID Kolkata. “Another team that traced the victim’s employer’s address at Krishna Garden in West Delhi reached there and found that the victim had already left the place with Akash. The AHTU team then shared her photograph with the AHTU staff in Kolkata through WhatsApp. The team there kept a close vigil on the railway stations in Howrah and nearby. When the train reached Burdwan, a CID team boarded the train and managed to trace the girl. However, the alleged trafficker Akash managed to ran away by jumping from the train,” she added. The accused Tapan was produced in a local Delhi court that granted his transit custody to the CID, West Bengal for four days. The investigation has revealed that the girl was brought to Delhi from her village Sandeshkhali in West Bengal about five years ago by a family friend. According to the girl’s father the man who brought her to Delhi had promised a good job to his daughter but once she came to Delhi she became untraceable. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

CORRUPTION

106. Governor can’t be tried in criminal case: Sheila to HC (5)

NEW DELHI: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday sought quashing of the trial court order to lodge FIR against her in a graft case, contending in the Delhi high court that such proceedings cannot be continued against a governor. Advocate M Pracha, appearing for Dikshit, said as per Article 361(2) of the Constitution there is a bar on criminal proceedings against a governor. Dikshit is currently the governor of Kerala and as per Article 361 (2) of the Constitution “no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President, or the governor of a state, in any court during his term of office”.A bench of Justice Sunil Gaur, however, adjourned the matter to July 23 as the advocate for the complainant, BJP leader Vijender Gupta, was not present owing to some illness. Gupta had filed a complaint alleging that Dikshit’s administration misused public funds to the tune of Rs 22.56 crore in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls and the trial court had ordered lodging of an FIR against her. Thereafter, the then Delhi government had moved the high court against the trial court order which was stayed. AAP government had said Dikshit will have to defend herself as she is no more the CM and the government lacked the “locus standi” to fight for her.  Then in February 2014, the Arvind Kejriwal government had moved the high court seeking to take back the appeal filed by then Congress government headed by Dikshit. Dikshit had then moved the high court opposing the plea of the Kejriwal government and had also sought her impleadment in the matter. Thereafter, on February 26, the high court had said that Dikshit will have to defend herself in the graft case. A special judge had on August 31, last year, ordered registration of FIR against Dikshit and others for offences including criminal breach of trust (section 409 IPC), criminal misappropriation of public funds and criminal misconduct under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The order had come on separate complaints filed by Gupta and RTI activist Vivek Garg against her. Both of them had in their complaints alleged that Dikshit misused government funds in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls. (Times of India 9/7/14)

107. NREGA scam in Kalahandi: Wages paid for planting of trees that do not exist (5)

Mumbai: The NDA government has leased a new life into the flagship programme of the last UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which provides 100 days of work to rural workers who wish to claim it. It is difficult to oppose the Act in principle. In a country where right to life is an inviolable fundamental right for the people, many would argue that right to food and work would also be inviolable. But there has been much protests against the Act as well. While some including Rajastha chief minister Vasundhara Raje want it to be made into a scheme and not a law, there are few who complain the wages have been spiraling due to the Act. However, the biggest issue in the implementation of the Act has been the corruption charges, the latest added to that list being Kalahandi district in Orissa. Zee News reported that recently the funds to plant trees under the NREGA scheme in Kalahandi were siphoned by few officials as the the trees were never planted. Though on papers, money has been paid to workers under the scheme for planting trees, in reality, physically no trees exist. This is also not the first instance of such scam in Orissa. In 2007, a group of researchers led by well known economists Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera found muster rolls that had fake finger prints of fake labourers. The survey was being carried out in the districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Boudh. The panchayat executive officer was suspended and enquiry ordered. The Supreme Court while hearing a civil writ petition had even asked why it should not call for SBI probe in a scam that was pegged at Rs 500 crore. A second survey in 2011 showed that in Orissa and UP, 67 percent of the poorest Dalit and tribal households did not get even a day’s work in the past one year. SImilarly, more than a third of them did not even have access to the public distribution system.  The latest Economic Survey by the finance ministry also called for an overhaul of the system. It says, “Though the act is panchayat-centric and demand based, on the ground there is lack of principal role in planning, execution and monitoring by the panchayati raj institutions (PRI’s) especially the gram sabha”. Also the wages are in some places lower than market wages, which means mainly women come to take up jobs. The corruption in implementing a social sector scheme is its biggest evil. On the one hand, if people who need it the most are not getting access to the government schemes, the argument of the rise in rural wages because of the scheme can be challenged. On the other hand, any modification of the scheme to make it more targeted and remove pilferage will be difficult. Those who need to implement the change are the ones who benefit the most from the current system. NREGA is not just a subsidy scheme from the government unlike say, the mid-day meal scheme, because the state does not assume just a patronising role here. People are actually working to earn their wages. The government must work towards making the scheme efficient because both the state and the rural poor need it. The state sets a minimum wage and gets workers to work towards asset creating, while the poor have access to jobs with humane wages during the lean season or otherwise. The new government has followed the UPA path in terms of allocation of funds. But it must take a completely different route to make this work. (DNA 11/7/14)

108. Lokayukta police get govt nod to prosecute BDA secretary (5)

Bangalore: Days after the Chief Minister assured swift sanction for prosecution and suspension of officials facing charges of corruption, Lokayukta police received permission to prosecute Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) secretary A Rajamma Chowdareddy. Rajamma was arrested while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs seven lakh at her office on April 25. The official had allegedly demanded bribe to process the files pertaining to allotment of four sites as compensation to Parvathamma and Nagendra, both residents of Vadagerahalli near Sahakaranagar. Rajamma allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakh and later scaled it down to Rs seven lakh. The Lokayukta police had completed the investigation pertaining to the trap and sent the request for Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) in last week of June. During the search after the trap, the Lokayukta police had seized Rs 2.3 lakh in cash from Rajamma’s office cupboard. The next day, Rs 44 lakh in cash and jewellery worth Rs 35 lakh were seized from her house in Koramangala. The police had registered a case of disproportionate assets against Rajamma. “The sanction to prosecute Rajamma was given on Friday and the charge sheet will be filed by Monday or Tuesday. The investigation pertaining to the disproportionate assets case is on,” an official said. Prompted by the chief minister’s statement in the Assembly, the Lokayukta police have decided to forward a fresh list of cases seeking sanction for prosecution. “In eight cases respective department heads have not suspended officials raided for disproportionate assets. This apart, PSOs are also pending with various departments in connection with 90 officials. The communication will be sent to the government soon,” the official said. Meanwhile, the government also placed BDA Additional Land Acquisition Officer G R Harishilpa under suspension. During a surprise check on June 20, Lokayukta officials had found Rs 1.69 lakh cash in possession of Harishilpa. The surprise check was conducted after Lokayukta police had received several complaints about touts demanding money on behalf of the officials. Lokayukta police had arrested seven persons, including agents. Surveyor M M Gangadhar, JE Hirannaiah and record room in-charge Srinivas were among those arrested during the raid. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

109. CBI files charge sheet against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh in Tatra case (5)

New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday filed its charge sheet against Lt. Gen. (retd.) Tejinder Singh for allegedly offering a bribe of Rs. 14 crore to the then Army Chief V.K. Singh, who is now a Union Minister, in connection with the Tatra truck deal. The charge sheet filed under section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act named the retired Lieutenant General for having allegedly offered the bribe on behalf of Tatra trucks suppliers who provided the all terrain vehicles to the Indian Army. The section 12 of the Act deals with the offence of offering bribe to a public servant. CBI sources said the charge sheet was based purely on circumstantial evidence which includes Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh’s meeting with the then Army Chief and putting on hold the order for supply of trucks from Tatra. Expressing surprise over the move, Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh said in 2013 there were dozens of media reports which stated that no evidence was found in the case and that it was heading for a closure. These media reports were obviously based from information from the CBI, he claimed. “My interaction with the agency clearly indicated that there was no credible evidence found. “Now with the change of government, there seems to be a change of heart in the probe agency and therefore the filing of charge sheet is abuse of power by the people concerned and politically motivated,” Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh told PTI in his reaction to the CBI charge sheet. A case was registered against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh on October 19, 2012 following a complaint by Gen. V.K. Singh, who is at present Minister of State of External Affairs and Minister of State in charge of the Department of Northeast Region. The then Army Chief had alleged that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had offered him a bribe of Rs. 14 crore on September 22, 2010 on behalf of Tatra truck supplier for clearing file for procurement of 1,676 Tatra HMVs (High Mobility Vehicles) for the Indian Army. The CBI during its probe also recorded the statement of the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony who corroborated that the Army Chief had come to his office and informed him that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had made a bribe offer. As a corroborative evidence in its charge sheet, the CBI has mentioned the orders of the then Army Chief to his staff that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh should not be given any appointment in future, the sources said. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

110. Declare drought, opposition tells government (9)

New Delhi: The opposition Wednesday urged the government to declare drought and take steps to contain a looming crisis caused by deficient rainfall. Initiating a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav described the situation in northern India as “bad”.”The situation is bad in northern India due to drought, specially in regions where paddy is grown. This will affect not just the present but the next crop as well,” Yadav said. Janata Dal-United’s KC Tyagi said sowing was already less than average. “Why is drought not being declared?” Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Brajesh Pathak urged the government to announce a financial package for farmers. Congress member and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh urged the government to make a contingency plan to mitigate the effects of a possible drought. He underlined the importance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in this context. “In all drought-notified (areas), guaranteed employment in public work for 150, not 100, days should be given,” he said. “The cost of the additional 50 days should be borne by the central government.” Jairam Ramesh also urged the government to study the climate change vis-a-vis agriculture. “Indian monsoon is changing. Today the monsoon is not what it was 10-20 years back. Overall rainfall has not changed but the pattern and distribution have changed,” he said. “We must realise the reality of climate change and we need to embrace new techniques to fight (this).” Rainfall deficit is maximum in central India at 63 percent, with severe shortfall in Gujarat region (91 percent) followed by Marathwada (80 percent), Saurashtra and Kutch (78 percent) and western Madhya Pradesh (76 percent), according to the India Meteorological Department. Sowing area of kharif crops across the country this year is down by 43 percent at 182.4 lakh hectares, the agriculture ministry has said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

111. Assam leads in urban green cover (9)

Guwahati, July 9: Assam has 128 square km of urban tree cover, way ahead of other states of the Northeast, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed in the state of forest report released yesterday. This is the first time that the FSI has done a study on urban tree cover in the country as greening of urban landscape is one of the important measures to mitigate some of the problems of urbanisation. Trees grown in urban areas have contributed significantly in cleaning the environment but also in fulfilling the timber and fuel wood requirement of poor people living in cities. “Urban trees and forests can contribute immensely to the quality of life in towns and cities. Urban forest is one of the resources of an urban area, it is part of its infrastructure and is integral to the quality of life of its residents,” the report stated. Environmental services of urban forests are climate and air quality improvement, energy saving, reduction of global warming and carbon dioxide, noise abatement, soil conservation and others. In this survey, all trees recorded in urban area and outside the forest area have been considered. Trees with more than 10cm diameter have been included in the survey. Among states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum green cover of 1,509 square km followed by Maharashtra (1,373 square km), Karnataka (1,276 square km) and Kerala (1,241 square km). A senior forest official said the issue needs a detailed study as it would be difficult to tell how Assam has done in planting trees in its urban surroundings as compared to other cities. “Enough importance has been given to planting trees in urban areas of the state to protect the environment,” another official said. Encroachment of reserve forests and hills in Guwahati has forced the department to go for massive planting of trees, using younger children as agents of change. During Environment Day celebrations in the Northeast, many initiatives are taken to encourage people to plant fruit-bearing trees. Welcoming the emphasis on urban tree cover by the FSI, Simanta Kalita, programme co-ordinator of the Centre for Environment Education, Guwahati, said as urban forestry is important there has to be a planned programme on planting trees in urban areas. “We can identify some old trees in Guwahati and conserve them,” he said, adding that certain areas can be earmarked so that these can be made into “green lungs” of the city. Meghalaya principal chief conservator of forests Sunil Kumar said the department has been trying to increase the green cover in urban centres, particularly in the state capital. However, he lamented that in view of the increased built-up area in the state capital, space for planting more trees has become scarce. In contrast, a semblance of greenery is conspicuous in places like Tura and Jowai, although these urban centres are also expanding both in terms of human population and infrastructure. Kumar said the department would soon carry out a survey to identify pockets, which could be converted into “green lungs” in the urban areas. “We will first start with Shillong, and then move on to other places,” he added. (The Telegraph 10/7/14)

112. Environmentalists unimpressed by ‘pro-corporate’ Budget (9)

New Delhi: The Budget shows no real commitment towards the environment and is not transformational because it does not allocate enough funds towards promoting renewable energy or public transport and appears to favour corporates over people, environmentalists said on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which swept to power in May, said on Thursday that it would invest in very large solar power projects and establish a fund to help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns as a result of climate change. But some environmental groups said that while they welcomed plans to boost clean energy such as solar and wind, the budget proposals left much to be desired. “The steps on renewable energy and energy efficiency are not transformational and the attempt to force fit coal production to clear the irrational power proposals, is a signal that the reality of climate change has far from been recognised by this government,” said Vinuta Gopal, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace India. “It’s good that the government is talking of investments in renewable but it is largely focused on large scale renewables and not on decentralised renewable energy for meeting the electrification needs of rural India,” Gopal added. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that renewable energy was “a very high priority” and announced around $100 million to build four “ultra mega solar power projects” in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu and Kashmir. Jaitley said his coalition government, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, also planned to launch scheme for solar power-driven agricultural water pumping stations, develop solar parks on canal banks and give tax breaks on imported solar components. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading Delhi-based environmental think-tank, agreed with Greenpeace saying the biggest potential for solar energy will come from decentralised and off-grid solutions. CSE’s director Sunita Narain said it was important to invest in smaller power plants that provide clean energy to millions across India’s grid and remote villages that have electricity lines but no power. Instead, she said, budget 2014/15 falls back on the “big” solar plants. (Buiness Standard 12/7/14)

113. Lokayukta for amending law to stem illegal mining (9)

BANGALORE: Lokayukta Y. Bhaskar Rao showed concern over large-scale illegal mining which continues in Karnataka despite the State government’s claim of containing the menace. The government has issued statements on the Floor of both Houses that all steps have been taken to curb illegal mining. In his recent letter to heads of departments of Home, Commerce and Industries, Forests, Ecology and Environment, Mr. Rao observed that the Lokayukta had found a number of violations by mining lessees.“Actions taken by concerned departments are not in parity with the gravity of the violations,” he noted. Explosives were being used illegally by most of the granite mining lessees. Mining activities were being carried out without paying royalty, resulting in heavy monetary loss to the department, he observed. Taking a dig at the authorities, he said in none of the instances had provisions of the Explosive Substances Act been invoked for initiating criminal prosecution against erring lessees. “Only their licences have been cancelled,” he said. To tackle this, Mr. Rao favoured amendment to existing laws to accord more powers to authorities concerned for confiscation, forfeiture of properties and imprisonment with hefty fines. The Lokayukta had met heads of various departments — that have powers to regulate mining of ore, sand and granite — recently and discussed the ongoing illegal mining activity. According to Mr. Rao, the meeting was the result of complaints from people across the State as also reports in the media. Mr. Rao observed continued illegal mining was denuding natural resources, upsetting the ecological balance, and causing a huge loss to the exchequer. The violations were on the rise as the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act), 1957 (MMDR), did not prescribe minimum punishment. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

114. Govt has identified over 3,200 polluting industries: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday informed Parliament that it had identified 3,266 highly polluting industries and 150 polluted stretches along various rivers across the country in the past couple of years and had taken measures to deal with it. “The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified 3,266 highly polluting industries including power plants, of which 2,328 industries are complying with prescribed standards, 571 are non-complying and 367 have been closed,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said in response to a Parliament question in Lok Sabha. Javadekar said the government has notified 102 industry-specific (effluent 45, emissions 57) environmental standards. All the industries are required to comply with these standards and take pollution control measures under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. During the last five years (2010 to June 2014), CPCB issued 601 directions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which included 497 directions for compliance of standards and 104 directions for closure of defaulting industries. In response to another question relating to river pollution, the minister said, “CPCB has identified 150 polluting stretches along various rivers in the country based on bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution.” The polluting river stretches are located in 27 states.He also said the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) covered 42 rivers in 199 towns spread over 21 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 10,716.45 crore. The government has released Rs 5,097.50 crore to state governments for implementation of various pollution abatement schemes till March, he added. (Times of India 17/7/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Farmers’ forum expresses concern over continuing suicides (20)

HYDERABAD: A group of agricultural and social scientists under the banner of a farmers’ forum ‘Rythu Swarajya Vedika’ expressed concern over the rising number of suicides, with as many as 2,014 ryots ending their lives in 2013 alone in united Andhra Pradesh. Of the 2,014 farmers from erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, 1,800 were from Telangana State unable to bear the burden of debt. “In the past 19 years from 1995, NCRB says a total of 2,96,466 farmers took their lives across the country, of which the figure is 37,912 in erstwhile AP alone and this indicates a deepening crisis in the agriculture sector. Sadly, successive governments have not come up with solutions that were permanent in any way,” Mr. Ramanjaneyulu, from Sustainable Agriculture, a care initiative for farmers said. He regretted that while there were about 1,800 deaths of farmers in Telangana alone, according to police records, revenue officials placed it at a mere 22. “This is an indicator of the callous nature of Revenue officials who are apparently not keen on identifying the problem. It is a classic case of denial syndrome,” he regretted. Others present were Usha Seethalakshmi, an independent researcher working on gender, land and rural livelihood issues; S. Ashalatha, representing the Forum; K. Sajaya of Caring Citizens Collective; P. Shankar from the Dalit Bahujan Front and Ravi Kannegandi, a journalist and activist. Ms. Usha underscored the need for the government to have an efficient system of identifying who were farmers living off the land and who were not. She pointed out that in Hyderabad district alone people had taken loans by pledging their land and gold to the tune of a whopping Rs. 4,000 crore. “While all these have been categorised as farm loans by banks one wonders how they can be called so. When almost all of the loanees have addresses in the city and have jobs, they have shown as security land that is all over the 23 districts of erstwhile AP,” she said. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

116. ‘Budget silent on crucial farmer suicide issue’ (20)

AMRITSAR: The first budget presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has deflated the expectations of farmers who were looking for ‘achhe din’ ahead. With a major chunk of farmers reeling under debt, famers and their leaders were disappointed on finding that the finance minister’s speech was silent on measures to address the crucial issue of farmer suicides. “In Punjab, the state government’s official figures put the farmers’ suicides between 2000 and 2011 at 6,926. But our sample survey found the number to be between 40,000 and 45,000. I wonder what the central government is waiting for? The budget indicates no succor for farmers to enable them to pay off their debts and make farming a profitable profession, ” said Bharatiya Kissan Union (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan while talking to TOI on Thursday. ‘We were expecting implementation of Land Reforms Act, recommendations of Swaminathan Commission on remunerative prices, debt waiver, but there was nothing in the Jaitely’s budget to bring a smile on our faces,” he said. State president of Jamhauri Kissan Sabha Dr. Satnam Singh Ajnala said that 12 Punjab farmers had committed suicide between April 10 and May 11 this year. And the only thing that the state government has done is to form a committee to come up with a comprehensive policy on the issue. “This is not a logical solution to the problem. If the state government couldn’t do anything , then Chief Minister PS Badal could have prevailed upon Modi to announce some facilities for farmers in his budget,” he said. He said no doubt the budget had provisions for developing farmers markets, post harvest lending to farmers, upliftment of marginal farmers , but it has skipped the crucial issue of farmer suicides completely. A farmer Kundan Singh said the budget should have made spelled out provisions to help farmers come out of the vicious debt cycle by providing interest-free crop loans. (Times of India 11/7/14)

117. 1000 aid-starved, drought-hit farmers protest in Vidarbha (20)

Nagpur: Nearly 1,000 farmers, including many women, staged a day’s hunger strike and sit-in protest demanding minimum support price for cotton and waiver of farm loans in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, an NGO leader said here Saturday. The protest at Yavatmal came in the wake of rains eluding the Vidarbha region where farmers had sowed cotton and soyabean twice and many were now resorting to a third sowing, incurring heavy debts. According to NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari, over 800,000 farmers in the region have become victims of little or no rain as the cotton sowing season is in full swing. “They sowed seeds bought from loans early June. But after the crop rotted without rains, many again availed loans for a second sowing late June, which met the same fate. Some are now going for a third sowing, hoping rains will revive in July, but so far the sky is clear,” Tiwari told IANS. Lack of rainfall has destroyed the cotton and soyabean seeds sown in over two million hectares in farmlands across Vidarbha, even as the spectre of drought looms large, he said. Seeking fresh credit facilities, food, health and education security, and a halt to the ongoing import of cheap cotton into the country, the farmers’ meeting Saturday warned of a sustained agitation and indefinite hunger strike outside the collectorate from Aug 1 if their demands were not met. A drought-like situation, lack of credit facilities, failure of the monsoon and other factors are forcing farmers in the state, especially Vidarbha, to commit suicide, Tiwari said. Last year, Maharashtra topped the list of farmland suicides with a whopping 3,146 deaths. There have been 60,768 farmers’ suicides in the state since 1995, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau report. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

118. Low interest rate can check farmers’ suicides: Expert panel (20)

PATIALA: To arrest the menace of farmer suicide, Punjab government’s expert committee has suggested slashing of interest rates on loans to half at 2% per annum as a key solution. Over 6,000 farmers and farm labourers ended their lives in the state between 2001 and 2010. Admitting that Punjab agriculture is facing “crisis both in terms of economic and environmental viability”, it is for the first time that any government constituted expert panel has sought loan facility to farmers at such a low rate of interest. TOI is in possession of the committee’s draft report. However, rate of interest charged by private moneylenders is as high as 12-18% per annum. Due to easy availability and various economical compulsions, most farmers prefer to take loan from private moneylenders. As per existing norms, total rate of interest on farm loan is 7% per annum, of which farmers pay 4% and rest is paid by the government of India in the form of subsidy. The condition is that maximum cap of loan amount should be Rs 3 lakh and should be paid within specified time. The committee is demanding that the Centre should increase its subsidy from existing 3% to 5%.Not only agriculture loan, the committee has also recommended reduction of interest rate on investment loan for farmers up to 6%. The investment loan is otherwise available at around 12%.Apart from chairman of Punjab Farmers’ Commission GS Kalkat, financial commissioner (Development) Suresh Kumar; financial commissioner (Revenue) NS Kang; head of the department of economics, PAU, Ludhiana, Sukhpal Singh and professor of sociology, PAU, Sukhdev Singh were on board of the committee. Commissioner, agriculture, Punjab, BS Sidhu is convenor of the committee. The committee was constituted by Punjab government to propose framework to state government for is agriculture policy, which state government has to submit to Punjab and Haryana High Court next month. A survey conducted by the three state universities — Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar – on behalf of Punjab government revealed that 6,128 suicides were committed by farmers and farm labourers during 2000-2010 in the state, out of which, 4,686 suicides (2,943 farmers and 1,743 agricultural labourers) were committed due to debt. The committee observed that the debt burden of Punjab peasantry was estimated as Rs 35,000 crore in 2010-11 out of which Rs 13,300 crore was non-institutional debt. The methods of recovery of non-institutional sources are considered coercive in nature causing severe psychological and social distress. (Times of India 14/7/14)

119. Farmers ask for increase in FRP for sugarcane (20)

BELGAUM: Sugarcane farmers want the Centre to increase the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs. 220 per quintal for 2014-15. They said that the government should consider factors like cost of cultivation and reasonable margin for the farmers. The FRP was recommended by the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices appointed by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. National Farmers Association president and advocate B.P. Sheri said that the commission did not take the price input costs, such as prices of seeds, fertilizers, labour wages and maintenance, into consideration while recommending Rs.220. This amount is just Rs. 10 more than the FRP fixed for the year 2013-14. He added that the timing of the announcement of FRP was itself unscientific and untimely. These prices should be announced before December for the next ensuing season and not in February and March as is currently done. An early notice will give farmers a fair idea and help him decide on feasibility of cultivating sugarcane. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

120. Raigad farmers to protest forceful land acquisition (4)

NAVI MUMBAI: Farmers from 78 villages of Mangaon, Roha and Tala tehsil in Raigad district will be protesting on Wednesday against the alleged forceful land acquisition for Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The farmers, who are organized under the banner of Anti-Corridor Struggle Action Committee, will protest the acquisition of 67,500 acres for the Dighi Port Industrial area in Raigad district. They claim that the agitation is to save their agricultural land and livelihoods. They will march to the Sub Divisional Office of the land acquisition authority located at Mangoan in the morning. A member of the committee, Ulka Mahajan said, “The project will render farmers from 78 villages landless and also snatch away their allied livelihood. All the panchayats have unanimously resolved not to give away their land. They have been agitating for 18 months.” She added that the Central government and the then-CEO of the DMIC asked the state government to drop Dighi Port from DMIC project. Despite this move, the state government is acquiring the land, ‘without the consent of the land owners’. Mahajan added, “The authorities are threatening to amend the clause under the new Land Acquisition Act (Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013). It states that unless 70% of the farmers from the area give consent for the land acquisition, no land can be acquired. The farmers have no choice but to agitate. Local MLAs and activists will also be joining the protest.” Another farmer, S Bhoir from Vichumbe village said that the compensation package should include job opportunities for the Project Affected Persons or family members. (Times of India 9/7/14)

121. Goverment to focus on SEZ revival (4)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley expressed the government’s commitment to revive special economic zones (SEZs) as he said it would take “effective steps” to make them instruments of industrial production, economic growth, export promotion and employment generation. At the same time, he also informed that he was assured the public sector units (PSUs) would invest through capital investment “a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crore”. “For achieving this, effective steps would be undertaken to operationalise the SEZs to revive the investors’ interest to develop better infrastructure and to effectively and efficiently use the available unutilised land,” the finance minister said. Of the total 47,803 hectares of SEZ land notified, only 17,689 have been put to use so far, according to ministry of commerce and industry data. Once major export and manufacturing hubs, SEZs started losing sheen after the imposition of minimum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend distribution tax (DDT) in 2011 on them. Meanwhile, insisting to give a thrust to investment in the economy, Mr Jaitley said, “PSUs will also play their part constructively. I am assured that PSUs will invest through capital investment a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crores in current financial year to create a virtuous investment cycle.” Proposing to provide greater autonomy to public sector banks, the minister said these lenders would require Rs 2.40 lakh crore capital by 2018 to meet global Basel III norms. “To be in line with the Basel III norms, there is requirement to infuse Rs 2.40 lakh crore as equity by 2018 in our banks (public sector banks). To meet this huge capital requirement, we need to raise additional resources to fill this obligation,” he said. A large part of this fund would be raised through public offers made to retail customers, Mr Jaitley said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

122. Neglected, Patana Families Await Govt Help (4)

PARADIP: It has not been a smooth sailing for the 34 families who returned to their village, Patana, last month after staying in exile for almost seven years. Banished from their village by anti-Posco activists for supporting the South Korean Steel major’s proposed steel plant, they had been staying in the company’s transit colony from 2007. As the situation normalised, they decided to return to Patana a month back. The villagers were excited ahead of their return as they had been assured by the anti-Posco members that no harm would be done to them. But with no roof over their head and devoid of basic facilities, their homecoming has not been a happy affair. With their houses damaged by activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) during the peak of anti-Posco stir, their only shelter now are polythene tents. Housing assistance by the State Government either under Indira Awas Yojana or Mo Kudia scheme continues to elude them. A month back, all they had got from the local administration was a sustenance allowance of `2,400 and a polythene sheet for each family to take care of emergency operations during the transition. “We had supported Posco in 2007 for which we were thrown out of our village. And now when we returned, the administration has rewarded us with a meagre cash amount and a polythene sheet,” said former village chief, Suresh Muduli. Another villager, Pradip Mohanty, said they committed a mistake by supporting the decision for a steel plant. “Those who had opposed the project are living peacefully now, but we have been left to fend for ourselves both by the Government and Posco company,” he said. Mohanty’s betel vines and house were set afire by anti-Posco activists in 2007. “We have to begin from scratch to earn a living because all our properties have been destroyed by PPSS members. Now, we neither have roof over our head nor money to rebuild our houses,” said Manguli Rout, another villager. Surprisingly, even the PPSS members have now come out in support of these families. Woman leader of PPSS, Manorama Khatua, said it is a matter of regret that neither the district administration nor Posco has come forward to help these families in rebuilding their lives. Erasama Block Development Officer, Subodh Acharya, said administration had taken steps to provide housing assistance to the 34 families under Indira Awas Yojana. “The financial aid has already been sanctioned by the Government and it will be disbursed to them very soon,” he informed. (New Indian Express 12/7/14)

123. Rural Ministry suggests industry-friendly changes in Land Act (4)

New Delhi: The Rural Development Ministry has suggested a number of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act which would water down pro-farmer provisions like mandatory consent of at least 70% locals for acquiring land for PPP projects and 80% for acquiring land for private projects. The Land Acquisition Act enacted during the UPA government is likely to go undergo drastic changes if Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives nod for Rural Development Ministry’s proposals which also include dilution of a key clause of Social Impact Assessment study criticised by states as time consuming for industrialisation process. “The Consent Clause (Section 2(2)) should be re-examined as ownership of land vests with the Government in PPP projects. The consent clause should be removed from PPP projects. Alternatively, consent requirement may be brought down to 50%,” says the Ministry in its note sent to the PMO. It says that “mandatory Social Impact Assessment study should be done away with. SIA should be confined to large projects/PPP Projects as it may delay acquisition process.” It has also suggested amendment to another key provision on acquisition of “multi-cropped irrigated land”.”The provision to safeguard food security (Section 10) by development of culturable wastelands in lieu of acquisition of multi-cropped irrigated land needs to be amended as States like Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand do not have any wasteland for the purpose,” it says. The Ministry’s suggestions for drastic changes in the Act came after most of the states recently came out openly against the new Act, complaining that it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. They have demanded “drastic changes” in certain provisions of the law. At a meeting of State Revenue Ministers here chaired by Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, the states including Congress-ruled Haryana objected to provisions for mandatory consent and Social Impact Assessment study, which are made mandatory in all land acquisitions. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

124. Opposition demands white paper on Polavaram project (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The Biju Janata Dal Government was blamed by opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party in the State Assembly on Tuesday with both parties alleging that it lacked adequate data on the controversial Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project. Senior legislators of Congress and BJP demanded that the government should place a white paper on the possible impact the irrigation project will have on the State. The BJD had on Monday observed a hartal in four districts in south Odisha apprehending that a large number of tribal people will be displaced and vast tracts of land will be submerged in Malkangiri district when the project comes up in Andhra Pradesh. The BJD legislators had also disrupted the Assembly proceedings on Monday and submitted a memorandum to the Governor over the Polavaram issue. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra told the House during zero hour that the government should place facts stating how the project would affect the State and how many tribal villages would be affected. The senior Congress legislator also demanded that the issue should be discussed threadbare in the Assembly after the government placed a white paper. Senior BJP legislator and party’s State unit president K. V. Singh Deo also made a similar demand and said that his party will stand by the State government if Polavaram project would actually have any adverse impact on the tribal peole in Malkangiri district. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

125. Jaitley Announces New Schemes for Disabled (3)

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday announced some new schemes for disabled people. Tabling the union budget 2014-15 in parliament, Jaitley said: “Fifteen new Braille presses will be established and 10 existing ones will be revived.” Jaitley said the scheme to assist the disabled to purchase aids and appliances will be extended. “I propose to extend the scheme for assistance to disabled persons for purchase of aids and appliances (ADIP) to include contemporary aids and assistive devices,” he said. “A national level institute for Universal Inclusive Design and Mental Health Rehabilitation and a Centre for Disability Sport has also been proposed for the welfare of the disabled people in the country,” Jaitley said. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

126. State lags in reducing infant, maternal mortality rates (3)

Bangalore: Among the South Indian states, Karnataka fares poorer in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, while, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have performed much better, said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Addressing Asha workers on the occasion of ‘World Population Day’ here on Friday, Siddaramaiah said that when compared to the national average, the State had reduced both the mortality rates substantially. The chief minister, on the occasion, called upon the Asha workers to strive to bring down the infant and maternal mortality rates in the State. Promising additional funds to achieve the target, Siddaramaiah said Karnataka was the only State which provided matching grants sanctioned by the Centre to the states, under the National Rural Health Mission. As a result, Asha workers in Karnataka were paid well under the scheme compared to their counterparts in other states. He said: “We are paying between Rs 2,150 and Rs 6,155 to Asha workers, whereas states like West Bengal, etc, pay around Rs 900.” Citing insecurity among parents on their children’s longevity as the reason behind population explosion, the chief minister said: “People should have one or two children. It was the duty of the government to ensure that the younger generation was healthy. In order to achieve this, there was a need to strengthen the public health system.” Warning a bleak future if citizens failed to realise the dangers of population explosion, he said: “This was the day to warn people on the dangers of population explosion. India’s population was just 36 crore in 1951, which had presently increased to 125 crore. The pace at which our population is increasing, we will turn 240 crore in the next 40 years. Do not forget that the geographical position, natural resources and our crop production may not increase any more. Population growth leads to over-exploitation of natural resources and takes away all the vitals of the nation,” he added. He reminded the impending dangers of acute shortage of water, food, housing and clothing, if people do not realise perils of overpopulation. Minister for Health and Family Welfare U T Khader said that the State would formulate a policy to provide health insurance to Asha workers. A few Asha workers were honoured with incentives for their services. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

127. Tamil Nadu a trendsetter in health schemes in country, says Health Minister (3)

COIMBATORE: Tamil Nadu has the distinction of being a trendsetter in health schemes in the country as it had among the best health indicators. The State had an Infant Mortality Rate of 21 per 1,000 live births, which was half the national rate of 42 per 1,000 live births, said Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar here on Saturday. He was addressing the inaugural function of ‘Nalam 2014,’ a medical exhibition being held here from Saturday to Tuesday by the PSG Hospitals as part of its silver jubilee celebrations. Maternal mortality rate of Tamil Nadu stood at 73 per 1,00,000 births, which was less than half the national figure of 150 per 1,00,000 births. This was achieved through the round-the-clock service provided by neonatal intensive care units and Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) centres set up across the State. Tamil Nadu also accounted for the highest number of cadaver transplants in the country with 450 performed so far and as many as 2,800 organs having been transplanted. Further, the Minister said that present All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime headed by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had allotted more than Rs. 7,000 crore for health, which was among the highest budgetary allocations for health sector, and next only to education. Private hospitals also play a vital role in achieving such figures through schemes such as the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme (CMHIS). Around 96,000 persons had benefited from this scheme over the past two years in Coimbatore alone with Rs. 265 crore disbursed under CMHIS, Dr. Vijaya Baskar said. Earlier, L. Gopalakrishnan, managing trustee of PSG Institutions, said that the 900-bed multi-speciality hospital had made rapid strides in recent years. It was among the first institutions in the city to obtain National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) certification. It also had a simulator to train medical students at a cost of Rs. 7 crore. The trust managed around 30 educational institutions that provided from primary education to higher education besides specialised institutions for children with special needs, he added. Vimal Kumar Govindan, hospital medical director, said that the exhibition focussed on health promotion and creation of awareness on disease prevention among the public. S.P. Velumani, Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development, R. Chinnasamy, Singanallur MLA and O.K. Chinnaraj, Mettupalayam MLA, among others took part in the function. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

128. RTI reveals TB accounted for 8.1% of 87,027 deaths in city in 2013-14 (3)

Mumbai: In 2013-14, tuberculosis (TB) accounted for 8.1 per cent of the 87,027 deaths reported in the city — a glaring health concern highlighted by a report released by NGO Praja on Tuesday. While TB deaths stood at 7,075, there were 255 diarrhoea deaths, followed by 195 malaria and 108 dengue deaths in 2013-2014. The report is based on death certificates collected from the civic body through the Right to Information applications, said Praja officials. There are, however, significant discrepancies in the data accumulated by Praja and figures provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The BMC reported only 1,393 deaths due to TB and 30 deaths due to malaria in 2013. Dr Minnie Khetarpal, TB control officer at BMC, said, “The death figures in our records are based on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). On several occasions, even para-medics issue death certificates without filling the form properly. This leads to inaccurate data. I feel the difference in Praja and BMC figures is due to that.” Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of Praja, said under-reported cases of TB can affect the planning and control mechanism of the disease. “Cases of malaria have been reducing every year, but Mumbai might now become the metropolitan city with the highest TB deaths in the world,” Mehta said. As per the data released by Praja, there were 10 deaths due to typhoid and seven due to cholera in 2013-14. HIV-AIDS accounted for 439 deaths and hypertension was responsible for 4,525 deaths in the city. According to Praja’s data, for the past six years, K-East ward, comprising Andheri (east) and parts of Jogeshwari and Vile Parle, had the highest cumulative count of diseases among all 24 wards in the city. In 2013-14, 10,167 cases of malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrhoea were reported from the ward. “Since 2008, K East ward has constantly reported a high number of malaria, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrheoa cases, with the ward also slowly becoming a den for dengue (16 cases reported in 2012-2013 and 29 cases in 2013-2014),” Praja report stated. A BMC official said the biggest challenge in the ward were the enormous slums where health and hygiene conditions were poor. There are over eight slum pockets in the ward with Mograpada and Bandrekar Wadi being two major slums. “The slum dwellers do not co-operate with fogging exercises and on several occasions they have turned a deaf ear towards the instructions given by health workers,” a former medical officer from the ward said. Rajan Naringrekar, insecticide officer at BMC, said, “K-East ward is huge. So, the cases reported from there will be higher than A, B and C wards, which are much smaller.” The ward covers 23.5 sq kms. Four wards in the city – K East (Andheri East), L (Kurla), G South (Elphinstone) and E (Byculla and Chinchpokli) – have been notified as high risk areas since 2010, where presence of slums, massive construction activities and demographic conditions have led to high ailments count. (Indian Express 16/7/14)

129. Encephalitis claims 29 lives in State (3)

GUWAHATI: The Japanese encephalitis (JE)-related death toll in the State has shot up to 29. The number of persons affected by this mosquito-borne disease, which is yet to have a curative treatment, has also shot up to 224 in the State. Sources in the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) unit of the State Health Directorate told this newspaper that this time the lower Assam districts of Barpeta, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Nalbari and Darrang are mainly affected by the disease unlike in the previous years, when the upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat were mainly affected by it. Though the number of confirmed cases of JE is growing at present, it is expected that the number of such cases will decline by mid-August. Last year, there were 193 confirmed JE cases till July 15. Of them, 41 died. But this year, 29 persons were killed by the disease till July 15, sources said, adding, the percentage of death this time is 40 per cent less compared to that last year. Preventive vaccination has resulted in significant reduction in the cases of JE in the upper Assam districts. The Health Department will undertake vaccination programmes in nine lower Assam districts by September next and in a phased manner the entire State would be covered under the vaccination programme within the current year, sources said. Meanwhile, fogging operations are undertaken regularly in the affected areas, besides public awareness programmes, sources said. (Assam Tribune 17//7/14)

HIV/AIDS

130. Goa govt., NGOs rally around HIV+ students (3)

PANAJI: As a row over admission of HIV-positive children to a school in Rivona in south Goa escalates, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has warned that stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act will be invoked to tackle any discrimination against the children. The Goa government, he said, will step in to provide justice to the 13 students from a community-run centre who are facing opposition from parents of other students at St. Fatima High School at Rivona. The parents have threatened to boycott the school ignoring the intervention of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The controversy began last week when some 50 parents opposed the decision of the management to admit the students, and demanded the cancellation of the admissions. The parents extended their agitation till Friday. The school management is in no way responsible for the situation, the Chief Minister said on Tuesday and promised to intervene personally to solve the controversy. Efforts are on to defuse the pressure built up by the parents. The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an organisation which runs a care home for orphaned and vulnerable children, says children living with HIV face multiple forms of discrimination in schools. Consequently, on March 3, the Supreme Court issued notices to all States based on a public interest litigation petition to declare HIV-positive children as a disadvantaged group under the Right to Education Act to ensure their education without discrimination. Deputy Director of Education Anil Powar admitted on Wednesday that the department was conscious that it would have to face contempt charges from the court, and as such in no way it would allow the cancellation of admissions. Moreover, the government is all set to invoke the stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act and Rules. No child can be denied admission to any school on any ground, whether living with HIV/AIDS or differently-abled. Contravention of the provisions is punishable with a fine, which may extend to Rs. 50,000. Mr. Powar said on Wednesday that the government was in the process of convincing the parents, and hoped for an amicable settlement within two or three days. Groups working with HIV-positive children such as Positive People have reacted with shock and anger at the way the children have been identified, stigmatised and victimised. Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), a children’s rights group, lauded the steps taken by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to ensure that the HIV-positive students were not denied their right to education, and appreciated the statement by the government that their right to admission to a regular school would be upheld. Expressing anguish with the response of the parent-teacher association, CRG director Nishtha Desai recalled that prior to this, the same children were denied admission in another school at Sulcorna because of opposition from parents of children studying in the school. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

131. HIV evidence found in child said to be cured (3)

July 11: A child in Mississippi who was thought to have been cured of HIV with aggressive drug treatment immediately after birth is now showing signs of infection with the virus, federal health officials announced yesterday — a serious setback to hopes for a cure for AIDS. The report in March 2013 that the child had apparently been cured raised the possibility that aggressive early treatment might be able to reverse infections in newborns — and perhaps even in newly infected adults. About 2.3 million people around the world were newly infected with HIV in 2012, the last year for which figures were available; 260,000 were infants infected at birth or immediately afterward. So yesterday’s announcement was especially deflating. During a telephone news conference held by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Hannah B. Gay, the pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson who first put the child on large doses of antiretroviral drugs, said it was “like a punch in the gut”. With hopes raised by the Mississippi case, doctors had made plans for a worldwide clinical trial in which about 450 babies — chosen because their infected mothers had no testing or treatment before the births — would be put on the three-drug regimen called triple therapy. If those who were infected with HIV showed no virus after 48 weeks of treatment, the plan was to stop their drugs and see if they had been cured before the virus had a chance to establish a reservoir of infected cells. But not a single baby has yet been enrolled in the trial, and in light of the failure to cure the Mississippi baby, “We’ve got to go back and look at the trial’s design,” said Dr Anthony S. Fauci, a leading AIDS expert who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Asked how he felt about yesterday’s announcement, he said: “It’s obviously disappointing, but I was not surprised. I’ve been chasing these reservoirs for the last 25 years, and I know this virus has a really uncanny way of hiding itself.” Before the Mississippi baby, only one other person had been considered cured of HIV. That was an adult, Timothy Brown, previously known as the anonymous “Berlin patient”, who had a transplant of blood stem cells to treat his leukemia after his bone marrow was wiped out with drugs and radiation. (The Telegraph 11/7/14)

132. Parents now target 23 non-HIV students in Goa (3)

Panaji: The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. AP photo for representation purpose The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. The PTA now wants 23 non-HIV students, who live in the same Church-run children’s home along with the 13 HIV-positive students, to be dropped from the school. Several members of the PTA were demanding that the Fatima High School in Rivona, 50 km south of Panaji, should not allow 23 non HIV students to continue in school, Father Maverick Fernandes, a Church official who was involved in negotiations with the parents in a meeting held Friday told IANS. “We tried to allay the fears of the parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. Fernandes said the 13 HIV students had been admitted to another school. The identity of the school has been kept secret, perhaps fearing another set of protests at the school where the 13 children have found admission. The Friday meeting was attended by the state education department officials, chairperson of state commission for protection of child rights, school management and the PTA, but failed to resolve the deadlock, with as many as 40 parents resolving to withdraw their children from the school. By evening 25 parents have already applied for a school leaving certificate, so that they could transfer them to other schools nearby. “We tried our best to convince the parents. But we insisted that the students cannot be removed from school,” said Ramkrisnhna Samant, deputy director (education) South Goa. BJP MLA Subhash Phaldesai, who also tried to convince the parents to let the 23 non HIV students to continue in school, said the 150 odd parents at the meeting seemed to be convinced until the last minute, when they consolidated and stuck to their demand.”They wanted us to give in writing that the non HIV students will not be affected by HIV in the future. It is an unreasonable demand. It is extremely unfair. I feel for the children,” Phaldesai said. The school management was forced to shutdown for a couple of days after the stand-off between the PTA and the school authorities. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

133. More demands over HIV ‘threat’ in Goa school (3)

Panaji: Even the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa / DH Photo only for representationEven the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa. The PTA has now demanded that 23 other students, who lived in the same church-run children’s home as the HIV-positive students, be dropped from the school. The Fatima High School in Rivona had last week been forced to transfer the 13 HIV-positive students after protests from the association. Father Maverick Fernandes, a church official, was on Friday negotiating with the PTA over its demands for the removal of wards who came in contact with the HIV-positive students. “We tried to allay the fears of parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. However, the meeting failed to break the deadlock with as many as 40 parents vowing to transfer their children from the school. By Friday evening, parents of 25 children applied for transfer certificates. (Deccan Herald 13/7/14)

134. Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian: Report (3)

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday. The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the UN AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million. Here are some facts and figures on India from the report: India accounted for 51% of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8% of deaths worldwide. At the end of 2013, more than 700,000 people in India were on antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number of people on the treatment in any country. However, 64% of those affected do not have access to antiretroviral treatment. In India, the number of new HIV infections declined by 19% between 2005 and 2013, yet it accounted for 38% of all new HIV infections in Asia. The country recorded a 38% decline in AIDS-related deaths in the same period. HIV prevalence among gay men and other men who have sex with men is between 4-9% in India. In Chhattisgarh, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 15%, three times the national figure. Data indicates that more than 75% of women in India who tested positive for HIV have husbands who travel far for work, such as truck drivers migrant labourers. In certain states, nearly 90% of newly diagnosed HIV infections were among wives with a migrant husband. In Mumbai, almost a quarter (22.9%) of female prostitutes who were victims of trafficking are HIV-positive. Data collected from interviews in India indicates that women forced into prostitution are nearly three times as likely to be HIV-positive. Around 2.8% of sex workers in the country are estimated to be HIV-positive. (Times of India 17/7/14)

 

Posted by admin at 17 July 2014

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Cong to raise dalit issue in Punjab assembly (2)

BATHINDA: Bathinda district unit of Congress accused SAD-BJP government of not providing a fair chance to dalits in getting common village agricultural land meant for them. Party workers decided to hold a protest at Bathinda deputy commissioner’s office on July 5 on the issue. Bhucho MLA Ajaib Singh Bhatti has also decided to raise the issue in the next session of Punjab assembly and before legislative assembly committee for welfare of SCs and BCs. He demanded impartial inquiry into lathicharge on dalit families for demanding cultivable land. On June 27, police resorted to use of force over Dalits of Balad Kalan village of Sangrur, and booked them under attempt to murder charges. On Monday, MLA Bhatti held a meeting in Bathinda in which former legislator Makhan Singh, district (rural) chief Gura Singh Tungwali and leaders of the party’s dalit wing participated. He said, “The state government is discriminating against the dalit sections across Punjab in providing one-third of panchayat/shamlat lands to them through open auctions. At most of the places, these are being usurped by influential farmers through proxy.” Bhatti said providing land meant for dalits to influential landlords by proxy was against spirit of giving fair chance of livelihood to the downtrodden. He said that cane-charging of dalits at Balad Kalan and not allowing them to getting land at Baupar were the latest examples of discrimination faced by the socially weaker sections. (Time of India 1/7/14)

2. Bajwa joins stir by Dalits in Balad Kalan village (2)

Sangrur: Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa on Wednesday joined the protest organised by Dalits in Balad Kalan village of Sangrur district. The Dalits have been fighting for their rights over panchayat land. Accompanied by Dalit leader Chaudhary Santokh Singh, Jalandhar MP and Sangrur leaders, including former MP Vijay Inder Singla, Bajwa joined the protest and heavily lashed out at the ruling SAD-BJP government. He also visited Sangrur jail to meet agitating 41 Dalits, who had been detained by the police. Bajwa said the Dalits had been agitating for the past several days over the fraudulent auction of panchayat land reserved for them. They had been demanding that the auction should be organised by lowering the reserve price and arguing that the one fixed by the panchayat was too high. He said in the process, three Dalit members of panchayat had resigned. He strongly condemned the police lathicharge on the agitating Dalits. Demanding immediate withdrawal of cases against Dalits and acceptance of their demand for lowering the reserve price for the auction of 478 bighas of land reserved for them in the village, Bajwa termed the lathicharge as unprovoked. He said the Congress had always articulated the concerns of the Dalits historically and the party in Punjab would continue to plead their cause at every level. He said the Akali Dal had always betrayed the weaker sections and had only been concerned with getting their votes. He asserted it was the Congress which was fully committed to their uplift. He said the Dalits had been agitating at several places against the policies of the ruling government and the Congress would take up their issues at state level. He said the SAD-BJP government had been ignoring Dalits as evident from the lackadaisical implementation of the schemes meant for their welfare, which also included scholarships for the Dalit students. He said grants under the Shagun Scheme for Dalit girls had not been paid for months. (Hindustan Times 2/7/14)

3. Dalits want case withdrawn, threaten stir (2)

FARIDKOT: Dalits of Nathalwala village threatened to start a protest if cases registered against them for stopping landlords from taking possession of the village common land earmarked for them were not quashed. Cases were registered against four dalits last week. The dalits accused Faridkot police of implicating them in false cases and sent a complaint to the SSP, seeking immediate withdrawal of the cases. Faridkot DSP HPS Parmar said a case under sections 323 and 324 of IPC has been registered against Harjinder Singh, Resham Singh, Jaswant Singh and Sukhpreet Kaur on the complaint of a few Nathalwala residents. Harjinder Singh and Resham Singh said a piece of land was allotted to dalits by scheduled caste society a few months ago but the landlords wanted to usurp it. “We had a running feud with the landlords and they tried to take possession of the land last week but we stopped them and an altercation had taken place. The police wrongly registered a case against us. We want the case to be withdrawn,” said Harjinder Singh. (Times of India 4/7/14)

4. Crime against dalits biggest challenge for Bihar CM (2)

Patna: New data released by the national crime record bureau (NCRB) shows checking crime against dalits presents itself as one of the biggest challenges facing Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who comes from this disadvantaged category. As per the NCRB data, 6,721 incidents of crime against persons belonging to the scheduled castes (SCs) were recorded in Bihar during calendar year 2013, the second highest for any Indian state after Uttar Pradesh with 7,078 cases. As such, Bihar contributed 17.05% of all incidents of crime against SCs, spread across 28 states and seven union territories, which are covered by the NCRB in its new report, released last week. The report shows the total number of cases in Bihar involving crime against SCs which were up for trial in 2013 (including cases pending from the previous year) stood at 16,515, again, only second behind UP (25,538). But what was an even more telling figure behind the court trial data, released by the NCRB, was the very low percentage of such cases that were disposed of by courts in Bihar during the year. Out of 16,515 cases under trial, 67 cases were out compounded or withdrawn. Of the remaining 16,448 cases, just 1,560 cases could be disposed of during calendar year 2013. This worked out to disposal rate just 9.48% of the cases involving crime against SCs that were under trial in Bihar during the year previous year. Again, the conviction rate in 1,560 concluded cases was just 13.1%. This figure stood in stark contrast to the overall very high rate of conviction achieved by the state government in recent years. The government had claimed last year it was the highest in the country. However, PK Thakur, who assumed charge as Bihar’s director general of police (DGP) last month, insisted the position pertaining to crime against SCs in Bihar was far less aggravated than the figure of 6,721 suggested. “What needs to be clarified at the outset is that unlike some other states, the bulk of the cases in Bihar are minor in nature – involving arson or abuses in the name of caste”, said Bihar director general of police (DGP) P K Thakur. Heinous offences against SCs, he said were fewer than most other states. This appeared to be supported by NCRB data which showed 50 cases of murder, 68 cases of rape and nine cases of kidnapping of SCs. The rest were less serious cases. The DGP said greater awareness among SCs about their rights was also contributing to a larger number of cases being instituted. “We are trying to empower SC police stations by posting more able officers and providing them more manpower and resources for more effective investigation of cases involving SCs”, he explained. About the slow progress of trials in cases involving SCs, DGP Mishra said a part of the problem was that courts were overburdened with cases. “We may put forward a request to the government to facilitate – through the high court, more special courts dedicated to the trial of cases involving SCs”, the DGP added. Bihar state human rights commission member Neelmani said the commission has organized six divisional level workshops in Bihar last year to sensitize public servants regarding the violation of human rights of those belonging to the weaker sections. “We plan to cover the remaining three divisions of Bihar (in all there are nine) later this year”, Neelmani added. (Hindustan Times 6/7/14)

5. Dalit family seeks fresh probe into mysterious death of woman (2)

JODHPUR: The mysterious death of a young Dalit woman in a far-off village of Jodhpur has forced her in-laws’ family to sit on a dharna outside the Collectorate since May 28 seeking a re-investigation into the case. The woman’s father-in-law Tejaram runs between police stations and court, while his wife and two children — both of whom are mentally unstable — wait endlessly. Life, probably, was never easy for Tejaram’s 21-year-old daughter-in-law whose burnt body was found in a jungle near Dediya village on February 10. But it became even worse for the family after her death under suspicious circumstances. The police arrested Tejaram and his son, Omaram, on charges of dowry death based on a complaint lodged by the victim’s parents. Police registered a case because Omaram and his wife had been married for only three years. While Tejaram was kept in a lock-up illegally and released on judicial intervention, Omaram is still in jail facing trial. Tejaram and his family have a different story to tell. In a petition before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), filed on their behalf by Dalit Adhikar Network, they alleged that the victim was being sexually exploited by three upper caste men living near Tejaram’s house — the only other family in the vicinity. The three — Tej Singh, Kavraj Singh and Manohar Singh — used to visit Tejaram’s house when he and Omaram were away at work in the nearby mines, threaten the three family members and sexually exploit the victim. They eventually killed her, the petition alleged. “Dalit women have been exploited by upper caste men for ages. No one listens to Dalits,” Tulsidas Raj, State convenor of Dalit Adhikar Manch told The Hindu. He has been helping the family fight the case. “Our only hope is the NHRC, which has taken cognisance of the case, and we have demanded a CBI enquiry, protection to Tejaram and his family and action against the policemen who kept Tejaram in illegal custody. Importantly, it makes a case under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,’’ he said. On May 13, Tejaram, after a directive from the court, lodged a second FIR in which the three men had been accused of sexually assaulting and killing his daughter-in-law. It was after the police refused to take action against those named in the second FIR that the family left their house fearing victimisation and sat on a dharna outside the Collectorate. The police, on the other hand, claim that it was a clear case of dowry death. “The victim and Omaram did not get along. She was staying there against her will. Who wants to live with mentally unstable people? The only two sane men were out during the day, and there was no other family nearby. So the victim made friends with these three young boys which the family disapproved of,’’ said Govind Singh Devada, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Jodhpur. The case was registered at Phalodi police station on a complaint from the victim’s parents, he said. (The Hindu 7/7/14)

 

TRIBALS

6. Centre to draw up strategy to empower tribals’ (6)

MARGAO: Union minister for tribal affairs Joel Oram on Friday stated that the government of India is committed to drawing up a strategy to empower tribals to ensure their welfare and well being and provide sustainable development while preserving their unique identity and culture. Oram made this statement while inaugurating a two-day regional consultation with state governments and union territories (UTs) of Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Daman and Diu on tribal affairs. The programme held in a private hotel at Varca was jointly organized by Union ministry of tribal affairs and department for international development (DFID). Union minister of state for tribal affairs Mansukhbhai Vasava expressed concern that even though focused efforts have been made for the development of tribals over the years, the desired outcomes have not been achieved. Ramesh Tawadkar, minister of sports, youth and tribal affairs, explained in detail efforts made by the state government in improving the overall scenario of tribal population in the state. Tawadkar added that he would strive to make Goa a role model state in the country in implementing ST development schemes and added that in the last two years Goa government had implemented 17 such schemes. He thanked the central goverment for organizing the consultation in Goa which he said, indicates the importance given to the tribal development in the region. He also expressed the need to have political reservation for the ST community in the state and country. (Times of India 28/6/14)

7. Attappady tribes’ home dream vanishes into thin air (6)

Palakkad: A special police team under the Home Department to oversee tribal affairs in Attappady has detected irregularities in expending funds under the Tribal Special Plan (TSP). It has sought a Vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities. The team found that about 100 homeless tribal families in Pudur grama panchayat of Attappady had not benefited from a housing project launched under the plan. Alleging a lobby of politicians, contractors, and officials, the Assistant Director of the Panchayat Department in Palakkad had also raised a similar demand. In a report, he stated that even related documents were missing from the panchayat office. Police nodal officer for tribal affairs V. Krishnankutty told The Hindu that the report from the Panchayat Department would strengthen his demand for a vigilance probe. He said 29 beneficiaries were reportedly allotted five cents under a housing scheme in 2011 at Padavayal village. The panchayat had purchased 1.62 acres for the project paying Rs.30,000 for each five-cent plot. As per panchayat documents, the land was owned by one Rugmini Balan, a relative of a local contractor and a panchayat member. On scrutiny, it was found that the land was alienated tribal land and none of the beneficiaries was aware of the scheme. Mr. Krishnankutty said, in a difficult terrain, the land was unfit for construction. Two of the beneficiaries, Palani and Kamala, could not be traced. Another scam was unearthed at Mulli on the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border. The panchayat had purchased 3.21 acres paying Rs.21,07,500 to construct houses for 79 homeless tribal people. He said the beneficiaries were unaware of the housing project in this case too. The police were investigating whether any funds other than the TSP funds were spent on purchasing the plots. The police had also found evidence against a contractor who built 107 houses for the tribal people in the Anaikatty- Gottiyankandi belt four years ago. The houses had been reduced to rubble as they were constructed flouting norms. “There is no dearth of schemes for the tribal people in Attappady. But monitoring agencies should have power for periodic audit and asset verification,” says social activist M. Sukumaran, who approached the Panachayat Department seeking investigation. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

8. Transport scheme for tribal students sputters (6)

KATTAPPANA: The Gothrasarathy project, introduced through the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) office for tribal children in remote areas, is in limbo in Idukki district. Under the project, tribal students from remote areas were transported to and from school. Schools used to arrange taxis or other vehicles to ferry students. The project was introduced throughout the State on July 2 last year. Idukki benefited a lot as the district has the most number of tribal communities in remote areas. Many such areas have only single-teacher schools. But, the project seems to be headed for uncertain times. S. Sudarsanan, ITDP Officer, told The Hindu on Thursday that so far he had not received an order on implementing the project this year. Last year, Rs.47.5 lakh was sanctioned for the project for 32 schools in Idukki district. Some schools discontinued the project by December itself due to lack of funds. The government still owed the schools Rs.7.5 lakh, he said. In many schools, teachers had to pool money to clear fare arrears of taxis that transported students. Fifty-seven schools applied for the project in Idukki this year and Rs.1.5 crore was required for its implementation, he said. “If the project is not executed properly, children will drop out and discontinue studies,” he said. In the remote tribal settlements of Memarikudy and Poomala, tribal students walk nearly 10 km a day to school. The project had benefited them immensely. There were allegations that some schools had arranged taxis even for a single student and that schools which did not come under the relevant category had taken advantage of the project. (The Hindu 4/7/14)

9. Rs.100 crore for developing tribal colonies, says Minister (6)

KALPETTA: Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi has said that the government will spent Rs.100 crore for the infrastructure development of tribal colonies in the district in two years. Speaking after inaugurating a self-employment scheme for unemployed tribeswomen in the State at Panamaram in the district on Thursday, Ms. Jayalakshmi said the project was part of a group of development projects being implemented by the government in the State to tackle unemployment among tribal youths. As many as 700 youths would be appointed as tribal watchers through special recruitments soon and jobs would be ensured to the tribal youths who had completed Plus Two courses after providing special training to them, Ms. Jayalakshmi said adding that the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nettur Technical Foundation in Bangalore for the purpose. A project to provide land to all landless tribesmen in the State was underway, the Minister said adding that the government was planning to execute a comprehensive project to give houses to all tribesmen. Apart from this, a special development scheme would be executed for tribesmen under six grama panchayats in the district such as Panamaram, Thirunelly, Mupainad, Poothadi, and Noolpuzha grama panchayats at an estimated cost of Rs.10 crore, Ms. Jayalakshmi said. The Minister disbursed autorickshaws to 160 unemployed tribeswomen under the scheme. (The Hindu 5/7/14)

10. Tribal Children Deprived of Education (6)

CHAMARAJANAGAR: Children of three tribal hamlets of Bailur range are deprived of education because the authorities have failed to issue orders to start bridge course for them at Kere Dimba school. Kere Dimba, a tribal hamlet with 40 families, 15 schoolchildren and 20 anganwadi children, is situated in a deep forest, 40 km from Kollegal town. The tribals have to trek 15 km to reach P G Palya or BRT where they can get vehicles to reach urban areas. The hamlet falls in Hanur assembly constituency. A residential bridge course was conducted last year at the school run by VGKK, an NGO. Children of Nallikathri and Gombegallu, another tribal hamlet, also depend on Kere Dimba school for education. Chandregowda, Deputy Director of Public Instruction, said the department will issue work order to VGKK to start a bridge course this year, the duration of which has been extended to 10 months from three. He said stringent forest laws do not allow them to construct a building to run a school. “Hence NGOs are appointed to conduct bridge courses and mainstream tribal kids,” he said. District Child Protection Officer said they cannot open anganwadis as the population in the hamlet is not more than 150. “Hence, we are providing them food,” he added. N Krishnamurthy, president of Standing Committee on Infrastructure, PG Palya gram panchayat, said, “We were happy when ZP officials visited tribal hamlets in the beginning of this academic year and drilled a borewell at Keredimba. But what is worrying the people is that the borewell became defunct within three days after its inauguration. Tribals neither get education nor water as promised by authorities.” (New Indian Express 7/6/14)

 

WOMEN

11. If wedlock turns deadlock, grant divorce, HC says (8)

CHENNAI: It is inhuman to compel two people to live together when their “wedlock has become a deadlock,” the Madras high court has held. Allowing a divorce based on a man’s complaint that he was being tortured by his wife who kept filing police complaints, the court recently said the sanctity of marriage cannot be left at the whims of one of the annoying spouses. Setting aside the order of a family court, the court granted divorce on grounds of mental cruelty and desertion by the wife. Arun Kumar Jain alias Bunty and Geeta got married in March 2001 and the couple had a male child. Disputes arose in the marriage after he found that his wife was elder to him. He moved the family court in 2004 seeking divorce. In his petition, he said Geeta insulted him often citing the educational qualification of his family members and threatened to book them under false charges of demanding dowry and attempt to murder. In November 2002, she lodged a police complaint saying her brother-in-law had tried to outrage her modesty and her in-laws had tried to kill her, Bunty said, seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty and desertion. Denying the allegations, Geeta said Bunty was jealous of her educational qualifications and he along with his family abused her in filthy language. In its verdict in December 2010, the family court denied divorce saying the charges of cruelty and desertion were not proved. The next year, Bunty moved the Madras high court. In its order, the bench of Justice S Rajeswaran and Justice S Vaidyanathan pointed to the events after the family court quashed the divorce petition. It said Bunty had subsequently sent a letter and a telegram asking Geeta to come back. Also, after Bunty’s family was acquitted in the dowry harassment case, Geeta filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act following which Bunty and his family were arrested, the bench said. Instead of solving the disputes amicably, Geeta had continuously initiated criminal proceedings against Bunty which meant she made all attempts to ensure he could not live in peace, the bench said. The fact that she was living apart from her husband for more than nine years showed that Geeta had subjected her husband to mental cruelty and deserted him, the bench said, granting divorce. (Times of India 29/6/14)

12. National shame: Madhya Pradesh tops in female foeticide (8)

BHOPAL: On October 6, 2011, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had sought the blessings at Peetambara Peeth at Ratangarh in Datia and launched the much-hyped ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ all over the state with a pledge to protect girl child. Three years later, after spending crores of rupees in posters, banners and advertisements, Madhya Pradesh has topped the country in incidents of foeticide in year 2013 as per the national crime records bureau (NCRB). Even a Beti Bachao Rath was launched to propagate the scheme. Instead of the number of cases going down, the incidents of female foeticide have doubled between 2011 — when the Beti Bachao Abiyaan was launched — and 2013. NCRB figures show that from 38 cases in 2011 and 64 cases in 2012, the number of cases has increased to 79 in 2013. A total of 217 cases of female foeticide were reported in the country. The state is lagging far behind even from the states like Haryana and Rajasthan which were infamous for foeticide. The states have reported 21 and 34 cases, respectively. In a reply made to a question raised in assembly in 2012, state government had informed that around Rs15 crore was spent in just 10 months after the scheme was launched. “A lot of money has been wasted in publicity and it has failed to provide any outcome,” former Congress MLA from Dharmpuri constituency Pachilal Meda, who had raised the question in assembly, said. (Times of India 2/7/14)

13. 16 crore jobless women form India’s ‘Great Invisible Force’ (8)

NEW DELHI: Nearly 160 million women in India, 88% of which are of working age — that is between 15 to 59 years — just remain at home doing “household duties”, according to Census data that has just been released. Note that these are women who reported themselves as ‘not working’. All the other women who work, whether full time or part time, also do domestic work. But these 16 crore are the Great Invisible Workforce, primarily involved in care work and rearing families. The total number of women in the age group 15-59, according to Census data released earlier, is just under 355 million. What the latest data shows is that about 45% of them, or nearly half, are confined solely to domestic duties. The women confined to doing household duties has an interesting complement — men exclusively doing household duties. The ratio is, unsurprisingly, 28 to 1. That is, compared to 16 crore women doing only domestic duties, just 58 lakh men are exclusively involved in household duties. The large proportion of working age group women who are confined to their home and hearth is partly because of social pressures, and partly the result of economic policies that have offered no opportunities to women. Either way, it is a shocking loss to the country, and to the women themselves. (Times of India 3/7/14)

14. Gender equality? Nine laws in India that make women less equal than men (8)

Mumbai: Do current laws in India aim at equality of men and women? Though equality is one of the fundamental rights as stated in our Constitution, it is far from practice. There are laws in our country, which clearly favour men over women, according to Quartz India. In a recent UN report on India’s legal code lists, it just got official. Here are some of them: Hindu laws of inheritance: Different religions have different inheritance laws. According to the Hindu inheritance law, the property of a woman who dies without a will is handled differently from that of a man. In the absence of spouse and children, the husband’s heirs inherit the woman’s estate. Parsi laws of inheritance: Despite decreasing numbers in the Parsi community, those who marry outside the community are penalised. A non-parsi woman who is either a wife or a widow of a Parsi man cannot inherit. However, their children can. But again, a Parsi woman marrying a non-Parsi man cannot be considered a part of the Parsi community. Prohibition of Child Marriage Act: The law only prohibits the marriages of children; it does not render them illegal once they actually happen. The married children, however, have the right to declare it void. A woman can call off a marriage until she turns 20, whereas a man has till age 23. Age of consent: Sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 18 is considered rape. But since child marriages are not illegal, a man can legally have sex with his wife even if she is a minor, as long as she is above the age of 15. Further, marital rape is still not criminalised in India. Rape of a separated wife: The rape of a separated wife carries lesser punishment than the rape of any other woman. Forced sexual intercourse with the former is punishable with two to seven years of imprisonment. The prison sentence for the rape of any other woman ranges from seven years to life. Marriageable age: The minimum age for marriage for a boy is 21, but 18 for a girl. This is a legal extension of the patriarchal mindset that believes that a wife should always be younger than the man. Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act: Women are still not equal guardians of their children. A father is considered the “natural guardian” of a child, although the custody of offspring under the age of 5 will ordinarily be awarded to the mother. The Goa Law on polygamy: A law recognises the second marriage of a “Gentile Hindu” man of Goa if his previous wife does not have any children before the age of 25 or if she does not have a male child by 30. No right to marital property: Upon separation or divorce, an Indian woman is entitled only to maintenance from her husband. She has no right to the assets, such as house or commercial property, bought in her husband’s name during the marriage. (Asian Age 4/7/14)

15. How conflict affects women’s reproductive health (8)

Gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity all flourish in times of conflict, says a review, suggesting clinicians need to be sensitive and aware of the unique challenges of women’s reproductive health needs in such times. “In an increasingly globalised world, a working knowledge of reproductive health during conflict allows clinicians to approach subjects sensitively with women, building a relationship of trust and understanding, allowing women to gain access to services they need,” said Benjamin Black from Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sierra Leone. Approximately 1.5 billion people are currently living in countries affected by conflict, fragility or large-scale violence. Women and children account for approximately 75 per cent of those displaced by conflict and roughly 20 percent of those displaced are women of reproductive age. Conflict can negatively impact all aspects of reproductive health, directly through damage to services, gender-based violence and forced displacement of populations and indirectly through reductions in the availability of basic healthcare, the researchers noted. Further, the loss of access to adequate family planning and basic health services also increases reliance on traditional or harmful methods, including unsafe termination of pregnancy. Looking at maternal mortality specifically, high rates are frequently encountered in conflict-affected populations — eight of the 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios have experienced current or recent conflict. Approximately 15 percent of displaced pregnant women will encounter a potentially life-threatening complication, such as haemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour or eclampsia, the review noted. In the context of conflict and displacement, services are often scarce, resulting in delays in reaching the care required. Furthermore, the poor security conditions, exodus of healthcare providers, lack of transport and loss of facilities result in heightened vulnerability and reduced access to life-saving interventions. Awareness and recognition by medical staff to these issues may be beneficial to the women’s care and aid them in accessing the appropriate services, the authors concluded. The review appeared in the journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. (Times of India 6/7/14)

16. 10,821 crime on women cases pending (8)

Mumbai: Over 10,000 triable cases of atrocities against women were pending in the 32 district sessions courts in the state by the end of March this year. The figure obtained through RTI says that Thane district tops the list with 1,569 pendency cases out of 10,821 such cases. The Pune district comes in second with 1,215 cases. These figures were procured by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve who has been following the issue for the last few years. He has demanded the state government give utmost priority to setting up and starting fast track courts to dispose the cases. “The Bombay high court has informed me that court has written a letter to the government to make its scheme for 100 fast-track courts a permanent feature beyond its 2016 deadline, but it seems that government is not serious,” he said. Kalpana Chavan, chief public prosecutor and in-charge of City Civil Court, Bombay, said, “As far as Mumbai is concerned, two special courts for looking into cases against the minors and two courts for atrocities against women are operational and hence the number of pending cases have gone down considerably.” She added, “Earlier courts had cases pending for more than five to six years, but now cases are being disposed at faster pace.” At present, apart from Mumbai other women special courts are in Thane, Yeotmal, Pune, Ahmadnagar, Akola, Amravati, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Beed, Jalgaon, Nagpur, and Kolhapur. The state government has also issued a government resolution (GR) to set up an additional 14 special courts exclusively to hear cases of crimes against women. These new special courts are to come up at Bhandara, Chandrapur, Dhule, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Nashik, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Wardha and another one at Mumbai. However, Mr Durve said, “Unfortunately nothing has been done on this front. I have written many letters to the chief minister and chief secretary of the state, but it seems that my voice is going unheard at the governmental level.” (Asian Age 7/7/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

17. 80% of kids rescued are from Bihar (14)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra labour department has found that 80 per cent of the children rescued from child labour are from Bihar. The department is also of the view that criminal gangs related to human trafficking are behind the migration of children in large numbers. It is now approaching the Bihar government to cooperate in breaking down the nexus and in resolving the issues faced by the poor families in Bihar. Employment of children up to the age of 14 years in both hazardous and non-hazardous work is banned under the Anti-Child Labour Act. Many NGOs are helping the government in rescuing such children and sending them back to their respective states. “We will be writing to the Bihar government to help us in resolving the issue permanently as 80 per cent of the children rescued in Maharashtra so far are from districts like Sitamarhi, Purnia and Darbhanga of Bihar,” said Arvind Kumar, principal secretary, labour department. “Though with the help of NGOs and social activists, we have succeeded in rescuing thousands of such labourers and sending them back to their districts, we still need a permanent solution,” he added. The decision was taken in a joint meeting headed by chief secretary J.S. Saharia along with some NGOs like Pratham, who have been working in rescuing such children. Following the trend, the department is also of the view of that some criminal gangs related to human trafficking are involved in delivering children from Bihar to the state. “They give some money to the parents as an advance for taking their child to another city and earn money by making the child work in any condition,” said Mr Kumar. Farida Lambay, Pratham co-founder, who also attended the meet, said, “Unless we have any proof, it is hard to make any comment on such a serious issue, but there are some agents or middlemen that deliver the children in different states,” Ms Lambay said. She also said the number of child labourers in Mumbai has been decreased drastically as there is strict vigilance with cooperation from the state government. “We are conducting a house-to-house follow-up of the families after sending the children back to their districts, with the help of the local administration,” she said. (Asian Age 29/6/14)

18. 65% fall in child labourers, but we still have 44 lakh (14)

CHENNAI: India has 43.5 lakh labourers in the age group of 5 to 14 years, according to the 2011 census. Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of child workers with nearly 9 lakh and a majority of them are in the rural areas. This is followed by Maharashtra with close to 5 lakh. Compared to the 2001 census, there is a drop of 65% in the number of workers in this age group. In the last census, there were 1.3 crore children aged 5 to 14 working fulltime in various factories, shops and establishments. A combination of efforts by governments through various legislations, judicial intervention and also by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seems to have brought down the number of child labourers in the country. The 2009-10 NSSO survey estimated that there were 49.8 lakh child labourers. Most of the child labour in UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is in rural areas. Of the 9 lakh children employed in UP, about 7 lakh work in rural areas. Similarly, in Rajasthan, of the 2.5 lakh child labourers, 2.1 lakh are in rural areas. Across the country, there are 32.7 lakh children working in rural areas compared to 10.8 lakh in urban areas. “Though the number of children employed has come down since the last census, states like UP, Bihar should announce incentives to woo children to schools. Tamil Nadu is a classic example, where the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan has improved the enrolment due to provision of mid-day meals. Other states should also implement similar schemes to increase enrolment in schools,” Unicef child protection specialist R Vidyasagar told TOI. The focus should be not just weaning away children from employment, the government schemes should provide incentives to parents to compensate the loss of revenue after the child is enrolled in schools, said Vidyasagar. Children in UP are employed in the carpet and textile industries as well as domestic help in cities. “Many children are employed in carpet and textile industries in the state. We have adopted 200 villages in the state and have successfully weaned away children from these industries,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director, Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) involved in Varanasi and nearby districts. Campaign and boycott of goods made by Indian children across the world has also lent a sense of urgency to tackling the social evil. “States which have more children in employment should set up taskforces as done in Delhi. In many northern states, there is lack of will to implement various laws to prevent employment of children in harzardous industries,” said Varun Pathak of Justice Ventures International. “In Delhi, many bureaucrats and affluent people employ children from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal as domestic help. Only stringent laws can prevent this,” said Pathak. (Times of India 2/7/14)

19. Child Labour: Rescue Act at Central Rly Station (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Childline activists on Wednesday rescued two children at Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station here who were on the run from child labour and physical abuse at a sweet factory in Aluva. The cousins aged 11 and 14, who are reportedly school dropouts hailing from Tiruchendur near Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, were rescued around 11 am on Wednesday by the activists of the 24-hour Childline desk at the railway station. “The two children were picked up during a routine check at the railway station. They were dressed in shabby clothes and looked tired and were taken into Childline’s custody immediately,” said Joby A P, Childline’s district coordinator. The duo were offered food and clothes by the activists of the organisation and were given counselling on Wednesday, following which the children revealed that they were subjected to beatings on legs and faces and other physical abuse at the Aluva-based JMS Sweet Company. “They complained that they were tortured by caning on the legs and slapping on their faces. They said that they were confined to unhealthy and compact spaces,” members of Childline said. The children also revealed that there were around 40 children who were employed at the factory who tried to escape in groups of fours and fives in the late hours of Tuesday, the Childline said. Search is on to track down the rest of the group. The mothers of the children who were summoned to the city by the organisation claimed that a neighbour had offered last week to take the children to Kerala to attend a housewarming function. It is learnt that the children were at the factory for  five days before finally escaping. “The children will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee on Friday,” Joby said. The Childline activists hope that the children,  whose fathers had abandoned the families, will be rehabilitated and provided education at a hostel facility, ideally at Tuticorin. (New Indian Express 4/7/14)

20. 66 more child labourers rescued from Chandpole (14)

JAIPUR: The city is fast emerging as a hub of child labour. The city police’s anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) rescued 66 children aged between 8 and 16 years from five bangle-manufacturing units in Chandpole’sNeendadRaoKaRasta on Saturday. The police arrested 14 traffickers and said that the accused were making these children work under inhuman condition. Some children even had marks of burn injures which they sustained while working near the fire. AHTU’s in-charge for the north police district and ACP, Kotwali, Shankar Lal Ojha said that these children were confined indoors 24 hours a day as they were not allowed to go outside. “Four teams consisting of nearly 50 personal raided these units and found children working under inhuman conditions. These children, mostly belonging to Bihar and West Bengal, were paid Rs 1,500 a month and made to work more than 12-14 hours a day,” said the officer. The officer added that some children are just eight-years-old. “They were made to work near fire. We have charged the 14 arrested men with human trafficking and other charges. Further investigation is going on,” said the officer. (Times of India 6/7/14)

21. Courts sympathetic to children’s plight (14)

BANGALORE: Parents need not despair. The courts understand the plight of children carrying heavy loads, advocate G R Mohan told City Express, responding to our campaign for lighter school bags. The High Court has already spoken against heavy school bags, Mohan said. “The order came in 1998, referencing an existing circular. The petitioner P S Ranganathachar was 88 then, and soon passed away. So there was no one to follow it up,” said Mohan, who argued for the petitioner. It is an important precedent,  since it applies, in addition to the state board, to CBSE and ICSE schools as well. “The bags of students from CBSE and ICSE are often heavier than those of children studying under the state board,” he explained. Another PIL against weighty backpacks for school kids might soon be on its way, thanks to a Mysore-based NGO called People’s Legal Forum (PLF). Started in 2003 by a group of public-spirited lawyers, it has looked at the 2006 Children’s School Bags Bill that has remained in cold                    storage. Collaborating with experts in medicine, PLF plans to file a PIL in August about the bag problem, using the adverse health effects as the basis. “Even now, Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act can be invoked to implicate schools. The only problem is, parents won’t file cases because the child has to continue in the same school, and they are afraid of harassment,” said PLF Director Baburaj P P, who is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Court. He said the police should also be educated about the problem. But real reforms can come from the judiciary, he believes. “We cannot expect the elected representatives to act. After all, children aren’t voters,” he remarked, bitingly. PLF is also thinking of approaching two MPs—Pratap Simha and R Dhruvanarayana—to see if the issue can be raised in Parliament. A parent had filed a petition against heavy bags invoking the Act, but the school used a jursidiction question to get away. “The girl would often complain of weakness, and was even hospitalised a few times. Though the father carried her bag to the bus stop, she would have to lug it up a flight of stairs, so he approached me,” Baburaj said. And although the DDPI issued a notice to the Block Education Officers, who in turn issued notices to schools, most schools, which were CBSE-affiliated, responded that they weren’t answerable to the DDPI, he recalled. He feels for ‘general issues’, regardless of the board the school is affiliated to, the DDPI should be the overseeing authority. “And we’re talking about physical strain here, so it’s not necessarily syllabus-related,” he added. Long before this, the famous novelist R K Narayan had raised the issue in his only Rajya Sabha speech. Then the Yashpal Committee report made  recommendations that schools could follow the ‘Learning without burden’ model in 1993. More recently, in 2006, The Children’s School Bags Bill attempted to find a solution but it hasn’t been passed in the Rajya Sabha. M G Kumar of M G Kumar Law Firm talks of a PIL against heavy school bags was filed before the High Court in 2001 “but it was summarily dismissed”. A PIL before the Supreme Court might work, he suggested. “It can be filed by an association of aggrieved parents or a group or an individual parent under Article 32 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court can uphold the children’s fundamental right to life and safety, under Article 21. Parents can also write to the Chief Justice of India, seeking suo moto action. Even a letter can be treated as a PIL,” he explained… (New Indian Express 8/7/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

22. Minorities panel to conduct socio-economic survey (7)

HYDERABAD: Announcing its plans to conduct a socio-economic survey of minorities, the AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) has entered into talks with various universities to chalk out survey plans. Chairman Abid Rasool Khan said that the survey would include an exhaustive data-gathering exercise in both states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which would include demographics, income, standard of living, education, health and other components of human development index of persons belonging to minority communities. “We are in talks with Maulana Azad National Urdu University (Manuu) and Osmania University. We have spoken to them about various aspects including finances. We estimate an expenditure running into Rs 15 or Rs 20 crore. The survey, once taken up, would require three months for completion. While the Sachar Committee report saw a more generalised approach, this will be specific to states,” Khan said. With Ramzan beginning within three days, the commission visited Chanchalguda Central Jail, Chanchalguda Women’s Prison and Cherlapally Jail with a view to observe the conditions of inmates belonging to minority communities. Commission members said that while they found no instances of officers’ bias against inmates, there were many under-trials whose cases had not come up for hearing in various courts of law. “There are around 197 under-trials in Cherlapally Jail. Many of them have complained that their trials have not begun. In this regard, we will seek an appointment with the chief justice to explore if fast track courts can be set up for them on humanitarian grounds. Also, we will request him to grant bail to inmates after conducting background checks and after doing case to case studies. It was in 2004, 2009 and 2013 that GOs were issued for release of inmates, the government can do the same this time too,” Khan said. The commission observed that the inmates were concerned about the ostracisation of the family members by society as they were reportedly being denied admission in educational institutions. Further, the commission will hold a meeting with Kishan Bagh riot victims on July 1. (Time of India 29/6/14)

23. UN experts call on Sri Lanka to stop religious hatred (7)

Colombo: Three UN experts today asked Sri Lankan government to take urgent steps to stop frequent racial and faith-based hatred and violence against Muslim and Christian communities by hardline Buddhist groups. In a statement, they said Muslims and Christians are subjected to hate speech, discrimination, attacks and acts of violence throughout the country frequently. More than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians have been reported in the last two years, they said. This violence is fuelled by the atmosphere of impunity, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said. Impunity and inadequate response from the police and judicial authorities aimed at protecting the lives, physical security, the property and places of worship of these communities may encourage further attacks and a risk of spiralling violence, he warned. The Government must end the violence and put in place urgent protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals belonging to religious minority communities living in the country, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsk said. The Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, called on authorities to take urgent and firm measures to bring the perpetrators of killings to justice, and ensure the immediate adoption of robust protective measures. They say that hate statements by Buddhist extremist groups have contributed to spread a climate of fear among Sinhala Buddhists, who constitute the majority population in Sri Lanka, and resentment towards minorities. Four persons were killed and over 100 injured in last month’s anti-Muslim violence in the southwestern coastal areas of Beruwala, Aluthgama and Dharga Town. Nationalist Buddhist group BBS or the Forces of Buddhist Power led by Galagodaatte Gnanasara was accused of being behind the anti-Muslim riots that began on June 15. (Zee News 2/7/14)

24. Report by minority rights group paints BJP black (7)

MUMBAI: The BJP has made it to the ‘State of The World’s Minorities and Indigenous People 2014′ report for all the wrong reasons. The report, released by Minority Rights Group (MRG) International on Thursday, delves into BJP’s role in the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP in the run-up to the polls. According to a case study on the Muzaffarnagar riots that was part of the report, both Muslim and Jat respondents held BJP responsible for the communal violence. Minorities across South Asia were also affected by political transitions over the last year, said the report. While Pakistan witnessed its first-ever democratic transfer of power between two elected governments in 2013, Shias were killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan that year, while there were violent attacks on Christians in Lahore and Peshawar. Nepal witnessed hate crimes against Muslims and Dalits, while Christians, Shias and the Hazaras in Afghanistan faced threats. Bangladesh saw continued attacks against Hindus. “India has progressive and significant legislation and policies that protect the rights of its minorities, including national- and state-level minority commissions, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act, and reservations for minorities in education and politics. India’s neighbours have not quite managed to secure such broad rights protection at the national level. Still, India has problems implementing its own legislation. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Acts has provisions for special courts…but few states have established such courts…India has provisions in the penal code which can be used to prosecute hate speech crimes. But widespread entrenched discrimination against minorities and gender discrimination result in the lack of will on behalf of authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and hate speech against minorities,” Nicole Girard, Asia programme coordinator, MRG and co-author of the South Asia chapter of the report, told TOI, adding that India must pay special attention to the role of politicians in inciting and manipulating violence against minorities. “Two kinds of discourse took place during India’s elections, one aimed at a certain notion of development focused on the private sector, and another aimed at creating fear and polarization,” says Harsh Mander, who heads the Centre for Equity Studies, which contributed to the India chapter. (Times of India 3/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

25. Muslims need to come out of fear politics, says Modi (7)

New Delhi: In his first meeting with a prominent Muslim leader after he became the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi assured to look into the issue of false implication of Muslim youths in terror cases. In his meeting with the president of India Islamic Cultural Centre, Sirajuddin Qureshi on Wednesday, Modi also emphasised that he doesn’t believe in discrimination and asked the minority community to “come out of fear politics”. “When I pointed out that many Muslims have associated with his government’s agenda he said more people should come forward. He pointed out how he is taking steps to provide modern education to Muslims,” Qureshi told HT. On the issue of false implication of Muslim youth in terror cases Modi reportedly told Qureshi that he is aware of the sensitivity of the issue and will look into the matter. While Modi avoided any frequent mention of Muslims in his entire poll campaign, his first speech in Lok Sabha during the debate on President’s speech saw him talking about modernising education for Muslims. Qureshi also told HT, “The PM also accepted my invitation to visit India Islamic Cultural Centre after the holy month of Ramadan.” The PM’s office, however, did not come out with any press statement on the meeting. (Hindustan Times 28/6/14)

26. ISIS caliphate decision ‘heresy’, say Islamists (7)

Beirut: The surprise declaration of a “caliphate” by jihadists accused of committing atrocities in Syria and Iraq has provoked an outcry even among Islamists who dream of a state under Shariat. The caliphate, an Islamic system of rule, was abolished nearly 100 years ago, although many Arabs and Muslims still associate it with a golden age. But this week’s announcement of a caliphate by the radical Islamic State group — formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) — appears to only appeal to fanatics. “All Islamist groups want the caliphate,” said Mathieu Guidere, who teaches Islamic studies at France’s University of Toulouse. But the ISIS “is equated with terrorism and massacres; it has a bad track record”, Mr Guidere said. ISIS’s widely publicised brutality, including public beheadings and crucifixions, “give a very bad image of Islam… Tainting the (caliphate) project, which Islamists view as an ideal”. ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s designation as “caliph” — or leader of all Muslims, and successor to the Prophet Mohammed — has shocked most Muslims. Al-Azhar, a leading authority of Sunni Islam, “believes that all those who are today speaking of an Islamic state are terrorists”, its senior representative Sheikh Abbas Shuman said. Lebanon’s Jamaa Islamiyeh, which is the local branch of the widely influential Muslim Brotherhood, lashed out at the announcement and called it heresy. In Saudi Arabia, bastion of Sunni Islam and home to the religion’s holiest places, Al-Riyadh daily ripped the caliphate as being “no more than one person heading a terrorist organisation”. Syrian rebels have branded the caliphate announcement as “null and void”. The paper, which expresses views close to the Saudi monarchy, said “it would be a mistake to exaggerate the importance of this initiative, by imagining it might eradicate borders… And give way to a great Islamic caliphate”. Sunday’s announcement by ISIS comes amid a major offensive it is spearheading in Iraq, capturing large swathes of territory from government hands. The group has also secured fresh gains in Syria, where it is firmly in control of areas in the north and east of the war-torn country. (Asian Age 3/7/14)

27. Scholarship for Muslim girls hiked (7)

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat government has decided to increase the scholarship for minority community girl students in class 6 to 10 from Rs 250 per annum to Rs 750 per annum. Currently, the students of class 6 to 8 get Rs 250 and of class 9 and 10 Rs 400 per annum. The government has set aside Rs 57 lakh for the purpose in its budget for 2014-15. Over one lakh minority girls in government and grant-in-aid schools will be benefited by the scheme. Sources in the state social justice & empowerment department said, “The state government has decided to increase the scholarship amount for the girl students from minority communities along with those from SC/ST and the socially & economically backward class from the current Rs 250 to Rs 750 per annum.” Over 2.62 lakh students benefited from the pre-matriculation minority scholarship in 2013-14 while in 2012-13, over 2.87 lakh students got the scholarship. In another welfare scheme, over 3.94 lakh students got free school uniform in 2013-14 of which around 40% were girls. According to sources, the state government has decided to give top priority to schemes meant for minority girl students. According to Sachar Committee report, Muslims in Gujarat have a literacy percentage of 73.5% compared to the national average of 59.1%. In rural areas of Gujarat, Muslim women’s literacy is 57% compared to the national average of 43%. (Times of India 4/7/14)

28. Over 150 Hindu inmates keep Roza with 2,300 Muslims at Tihar (7)

New Delhi: Setting an example of rare communal harmony, more than 150 Hindu inmates of Tihar Jail here are keeping roza, the dawn-to-dusk fast during Ramzan, along with over 2,300 Muslim inmates. The holy month of Ramazan commenced on June 29 this year. Tihar Jail authorities said the Hindu inmates started keeping Rozas along with the Muslim inmates from the very first day and have said they will continue the month-long fasting to its completion. “The inmates have symbolised the strong bond of unity among them which is appreciable. Jail authorities have made all the arrangements so that those observing Ramzan do not face any difficulty,” Tihar jail PRO Sunil Gupta said. Special arrangements have been made for the inmates to perform prayers and enjoy their pre-dawn ‘sehri’ meal and evening meals known as ‘iftars’. “Food items like seasonal fruits, sweets like ‘Jalebi’, dry fruits, and various other snacks are being made available to them for both ‘Sehari’ and ‘Iftar’,” he said. Gupta said that the day-long ‘roza’ ends with ‘iftar’ in their respective wards of the jail following which they offer Namaz outside their cells. Over 70 women inmates are also a part of the religious practice, he added. Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is observed as a fasting period by Muslims, who abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Muslims wake up early morning for the pre-dawn ‘sehri’ meal renouncing food and water during the day before breaking their fasts in the evening. The evening meals are known as ‘iftars’. The month-long fasting will culminate in the Id-ul-Fitr celebrations next month. As Islam follows a lunar calendar, the holy month begins every year about 11 days earlier and its commencement is traditionally determined by the appearance of the new moon. (Indian Express 7/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

29. Law to Check Attacks on Christians Demanded (7)

VIJAYAWADA: Expressing fears over the increasing attacks on Christians, the Association of Integrated Christian Council (AICC) has demanded that the Union and state governments make a special legislation to ensure that Christians feel secure in this country. Speaking at the meeting held in the city on Thursday, the AICC representatives alleged that attacks on Christians had increased within a month of BJP forming its government at the Centre. They also demanded that the government set up separate community halls for Christians in urban and rural areas. They also wanted the government to fill all Christian nominated posts and appoint Christians officials as heads of the departments meant for the welfare of the community.  AICC national director Gera Hanock, national secretary Ch David John Abraham, state secretary M Kamalakar Rao and other members attended the meeting. (New Indian Express 28/6/14)

30. In Bastar, 50 villages ban non-Hindu missionaries (7)

SIRISGUDA (BASTAR): An aggressive campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had led to a ban on the entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the last six months. According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.” The Sirisguda gram panchayat in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10. The order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says, “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.” In Sirisguda, the dispute started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival. “They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them,” claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel. In the recent past, some Christians were allegedly attacked in the village and have been denied ration on the orders of the village panchayat. “It’s been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village and 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration,” claimed Sonuru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002. “The villagers came to us with their problems. The VHP only told them about the law. Now that the gram panchayats have passed the orders, it is the responsibility of the district administration to implement it otherwise we will protest. We will also approach the CM and the Governor to get the ban imposed,” asserted Mr. Yadav. The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), however, has alleged that the ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”. “It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?” asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all. To a question, Bastar Collector Ankit Anand said, “In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted.” (The Hindu 5/7/14)

31. PIL demands quota for Christians (7)

Close on the heels of the state government providing 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and five per cent for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions, a PIL in the Bombay high court has sought similar benefit for the Christian community. The PIL, filed by city-based Alpha Omega Christian Community in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court, said it was demanding five per cent reservation for Christians on the basis of recommendations made by Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, constituted by National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. According to the PIL, the Maharashtra government had, on the basis of the Ranganath Commission report, appointed a seven-member committee headed by Dr Mehmoodur Rehman to study the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslim community in the state. Thereafter, on the basis of the Mehmoodur Rehman Committee report, the Maharashtra cabinet approved five per cent reservation to Muslims on June 25. On the same lines, five per cent reservation should also be provided to the Christian community, which the PIL said had not been considered on the basis of recommendation of the Ranganath Commission report. (Asian Age 6/7/14)

32. Church continues opposition (7)

Aizawl, July 6: As the Lal Thanhawla government in Mizoram is all set to lift the 17-year-old controversial dry law, the Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in the Christian-majority state, has stepped up its opposition. For the second time, the synod of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church asked all its member churches across the state to organise mass prayer seeking for divine intervention to keep the dry law. The churches had organised mass prayer on the same issue on March 9. The decision to hold mass prayers comes after the synod failed to garner support for a protest rally by three of the largest NGOs in Mizoram, Young Mizo Association, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women’s organisation) and Mizoram Upa Pawl (senior citizens’ association). The NGOs in separate meetings last week decided to remain aloof from the church-sponsored protest. As part of the protest, the synod displayed posters in the city streets, demanding the government to keep the liquor prohibition in place. It has also sent letters to the chief minister, excise and narcotics minister and all the legislators urging them not to pass the bill in the state Assembly. The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014, to replace the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act 1995, will be introduced in the upcoming state Assembly session to start from July 8. The church leaders, who had pressurised the then Congress government to impose the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act in 1997, are still adamant that the dry law is a success. “Since the implementation of total prohibition, our public areas have become safer and more peaceful, there have been less vehicular accidents caused by drink driving and alcohol-related violence has decreased visibly,” said a statement of the synod read out in all the member churches today. “Given that alcohol harms human health, disturbs social relations and even spiritual well-being, we believe allowing alcohol to be more free is not likely to benefit us,” the note added. The Presbyterian Church believes that “violent crimes such as murder, rape and accidents are mostly committed under the influence of alcohol”. According to the church’s own assessment, in 1994, two years before Mizoram’s dry law was passed, 65 per cent of the women lost their husbands to alcohol abuse. The synod is also of the opinion that revenues to be received from liquor taxes are not worth the lives to be destroyed by liquor. The Baptist Church of Mizoram, the second largest denomination, also issued a strongly worded statement last week demanding the government to continue with the prohibition. The Congress government, however, appears to be unfazed by the mounting pressure of the churches. Indicating that the bill would be passed in the next state Assembly session, Congress minister Lal Thanzara on Friday said as a government, they could not ignore the sufferings of those who cannot do without drinks. “(Under the dry law) foreigners are manufacturing liquor to make easy money. There are many church members who can’t do without liquor. The government is planning to give them good quality liquor at cheaper prices,” Lal Thanzara said, while addressing a public meeting here on Friday. “Because of the scarcity of liquor, drinkers have no choice but to drink whatever liquor they can find. The life span of drinkers has become shorter because of spurious liquor,” he added. Illicit liquor was responsible for 90 deaths in the past 17 years, according to the state excise and narcotics department records. Home minister R. Lalzirliana, who also holds the excise and narcotics portfolio, has also made it very clear the churches would not be consulted on the liquor issue. (The Telegraph 7/6/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

33. Coast Guard rules out Illegal Transport of refugees from Pondy (13)

PUDUCHERRY: Puducherry Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies have no information on the reported illegal transportation of 152 Sri Lankan refugees by boat from the Puducherry coast on June 13. Though there has been an unsuccessful attempt from Veerampattinam Village in 2010, the security agencies have been taken by surprise. The Indian Coast Guard at Chennai had issued an alert about three months ago on the possibility of human trafficking from the Puducherry coast, superintendent of police,  Coastal Police, A Nandhagopal told Express. Based on the alert, coastal police was informed and they kept strict vigil, he said. No such activity was detected, he said, adding that the boat might not have sailed from Puducherry coast. Puducherry Coast Guard Commandant N Somasundaram, said, “There is no such information, and with the Coast Guard network being strong, any such attempt would have been  detected,” said Somasundaram. However, there are reason to suspect that the boat could have left from Puducherry without being noticed. In 2010, around 37 to 40 Sri Lankan refugees had boarded a boat off the coast of Veerampattinam to set sail for Australia. However, they could not start the voyage as the boat developed a snag. The refugees returned to shore and went back to their respective camps. Interestingly, it got detected during the visit of Sonia Gandhi when intelligence agencies detected the use of two satellite phones to communicate from Indira Gandhi square to Moopanar Statue. They apprehended two persons who were using the phones. On interrogation, the two revealed the plans to illegally transport Sri Lankan refugees from Puducherry after the first attempt failed. They said the satellite phones were given to them by the then Karaikal district secretary of PMK, K Devamani. An abandoned boat found off the Karaikal coast earlier was linked to the plan. The case was subsequently handed over to the police and 11 people were booked. Former DMK councillor A Sakthivel from Veerampattinam fishing village (who took the boat on lease), Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam chief Logu Ayappan and Devamani were booked under NSA but were subsequently released following Ministry of Home Affairs revoking the order. The other eight accused including a Sri Lankan national Kannan, who was living in Veerampattinam village without any documents were released by the court on bail. Since then  Kannan has been residing in Veerampattinam. While preparing the chargesheet, the investigating agency was in a fix on whether to treat Kannan as a refugee or an illegal immigrant. (New Indian Express 29/6/14)

34. Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to reach 1.5 mn (13)

Ankara: The number of Syrian refugees taking shelter in Turkey is expected to reach 1.5 million by the end of 2014, according to a report released Wednesday. A total of 1.05 million Syrian refugees are currently housed in 22 refugee camps and cities in neighbouring Turkey, Xinhua reported quoting the Anadolu News Agency which cited a report released by the International Strategic Research Organisation and the Brookings Institute on Wednesday. At the current rate, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey will rise to 1.5 million by the end of 2014, said the report, adding that Turkey has become sixth among the countries in the world hosting the largest number of refugees. The report urged the Turkish government to develop long-term policies to ease the integration of Syrian refugees into Turkish society as they are likely to stay in Turkey for quite sometime. (New kerala 2/7/14)

35. More than 75,000 Pakistanis flee to Afghanistan: UN (13)

United Nations: The current Pakistani military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in the past two weeks, seeking shelter in neighbouring Afghanistan, the United Nations refugee agency said. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 75,000 people have fled their homes over the past two weeks, many with very few possessions, as the military offensive continues in troubled North Waziristan region. In addition to those who have fled across the border, the Pakistani government estimates that the latest fighting has left some 470,000 people internally displaced. While UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners are working to coordinate relief efforts and deliver assistance, “sanitation, clean drinking water and medical care are in short supply.” Local communities are helping the displaced but the already scarce resources are now reaching capacity, UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday. The agency stressed that humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to support the host communities in Khost and Paktika provinces in sustaining the level of assistance they have been providing to displaced families. UNHCR’s Country Representative in Afghanistan Bo Schack and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Mark Bowden visited the eastern province of Khost along with Afghan government officials to see first-hand the situation of thousands of Pakistanis who have arrived after fleeing the fighting in their homeland. Since the cross-border movement began in mid-June, a number of UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have provided food and non-food items, vaccinated thousands of children against polio and measles and provided life-saving medicines for 10,000 patients. The agencies operating on the ground have appealed for about USD 20 million of assistance for six months to deliver emergency and life-saving assistance to 10,000 families in Khost and 3,000 families in Paktika. (Indian Express 3/7/14)

36. Kukis demand trial for killings of 905 people of their tribe (13)

IMPHAL: Thousands of Kukis took out demonstrations in Imphal and other districts in Manipur on Friday to demand trial for the killings of 905 men, women, invalids and children allegedly by armed National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) rebels during the ethnic cleansing from 1992. The NSCN(IM) had served quit notices to the Kukis who were staying in the “areas of the Nagas” with September 13,1993 as the deadline. Kuki Impi Manipur (KIM) says that 905 persons were killed, 360 villages uprooted and 100,000 persons internally displaced. The demonstration in Imphal was started from Thau grounds in Imphal. They walked along Chingmeirong road, North AOC and then returned to the Thau grounds again. A spokesman told The Hindu that in the past they had submitted several dozen of memorandas to the government demanding action. However, there has been no response. After Friday’s demonstration they submitted a memoranda to Governor Vinod Kumar Duggal, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei. The Kukis are demanding prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime against mankind and rehabilitation of the displaced persons before inking an agreement between the Union Government and the NSCN(IM). Reports of such demonstrations were received from other districts. Police had ramped up security measures ahead of the demonstration. (The Hindu 5/7/14)

37. Australia court bars return of Sri Lanka refugees (13)

SYDNEY: A high court has barred Australia from handing back a boat carrying 153 asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka, a day after Canberra returned another vessel to Colombo following a week of secrecy. The interim injunction from a late-night sitting applies at least until a hearing resumes this afternoon, and was granted after lawyers argued the transfer was illegal. Refugee advocates claim the asylum-seekers have been deprived of the ability to have their claims for refugee status properly assessed, with their screening reportedly being carried out at sea via video link. Lawyer George Newhouse said yesterday they were “entitled to have their claims for protection processed in accordance with Australian law.” “The asylum-seekers claim that they are fleeing persecution and that they’re at risk of death, torture or significant harm by Sri Lankan authorities,” he told Australian Associated Press. There were claims that Australia could be breaking international law in the way it screened the passengers and by returning them involuntarily to a country in which they had a fear of persecution. After a week of stonewalling, Canberra confirmed yesterday that one boatload of 41 Sri Lankans who attempted to reach Australia were handed back to Colombo on Sunday. Under its policy of not commenting on “operational matters”, Canberra has yet to confirm whether the second vessel, carrying 153 people, even exists. Sri Lankan police confirmed that the adults among the group of 41 – 28 men and four women – would be charged with attempting to leave the country illegally, a crime punishable by up to two years in jail. They were being held in the notorious high-security Boossa prison yesterday and would appear before a magistrate today. The nine children with them will also be brought before a magistrate, police spokesman Ajith Rohana told AFP, “but we won’t press charges and we won’t object to their being released,” he added. In a statement, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it was “deeply concerned” by the decision to return the 41. UNHCR said it did not have enough information about how they were screened to determine whether the process was in accordance with international law – but added that “such an environment would rarely afford an appropriate venue for a fair procedure”. (Times of India 8/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

38. Activists want provisions for handling RTI cases at dist-level (1)

Mangalore: RTI activists in the city have largely felt the need for the State Information Commission to make provisions to handle Right to Information cases at the district-level. Majority of the activists, specially senior citizens found it inconvenient to travel all the way to Bangalore to approach the appellate authority for the hearing of cases. In a programme to discuss the loopholes in the Right to Information Act and suggestions to improve the Act, organised by DK Anti Corruption Forum at Roshni Nilaya School of Social Works on Saturday, RTI activists said that there were instances of the appellate authorities defering the hearing even 10 to 11 times. It is practically not viable for the applicant to travel to Bangalore everytime only to return futile when the hearing is deferred. Apart from setting up a mechanism in the district level, a law should be enforced to limit the defering of the case hearing not more than twice, RTI activists demanded. A senior citizen C A Shenoy said that several times, when the public information officer realises that the applicant has approached the appellate authority, it is then that he acts on the application and furnishes information to avoid the penalty. The appellate authorities too entertain this act by closing the case and leaving the officers without imposing the penalty which is not justifiable, he said. RTI activist Adoor Krishna Rao pointed at the loophole in the State Information Commission, which has restricted the applicants to limit their questions and number of words in an application to 150. The Central Information Commission has nowhere put such a restriction, rather the Commission allows an applicant to ask any number of questions and use any number of words in the application. Another participant accused the public information officer (PIO) of not maintaining confidentiality of the RTI applicants. At times, the applicants get threat calls from the opponent party, which is due to the PIO leaking information about the application to the opponent party. Some of the suggestions mooted at the discussion programme include, appoint more number of commissioners for the speedy disposal of cases, bring the CRPC provisions under RTI so that criminal action could be initiated against erring officials, make arrangements to pay TA, DA and cost of appeal to the applicant soon after the judgement is in his favour. DK Anti Corruption Forum office-bearer Vidya Dinker said that the suggestions would be forwarded to the law ministry, Central and State Information Commission. (Deccan Herald 28/6/14)

39. Haryana cooperative sugar mills under RTI ambit: State information commission (1)

CHANDIGARH: In a major relief to Haryana farmers, who want to seek information regarding their pending payment from the cooperative sugar mills, the state information commission on Tuesday held that the mills were liable to furnish information under the RTI Act. A three-member bench of the state commission, comprising chief information commissioner Naresh Gulati and commissioners Hemant Atri and Sajjan Singh, asked the officials of sugar mills situated in Jind, Panipat and Rohtak to designate state public information officers without any delay. The Punjab and Haryana high court had forwarded the matter to the commission to take a call on the matter. Four residents of different villages and towns had alleged that these sugar mills were not providing information to them under RTI. According to a villager of Jind district, Amit Kumar, his RTI application was returned by the Jind sugar mill that told him that in the wake of law laid down by the apex court, the cooperative societies don’t fall under the ambit of the Act. Another applicant Mahabir Singh claimed that Panipat sugar mill denied the information to him despite the fact that the sugar mills of Karnal, Meham, Sonipat and Gohana were furnishing details to the information seekers. The commission bench noted that although the mills don’t receive any direct financial support in the form of grants, but they do receive indirect support in the form of share capital to the extent of over 90% of the total share capital from the government to conduct its business. Withdrawal of financial assistance by the government would put the cooperative sugar mills in a situation where they would struggle to exist, the bench stated. According to the commission order, the sugar mills of Rohtak, Panipat and Jind have received loans ranging from Rs 45 crore to Rs 128 crore from the government, but there were no evidence which suggested that the loans have been returned. (Times of India 2/7/14)

40. Fill all posts of information commissioners by August 14: HC (1)

JODHPUR: The Rajasthan high court on Friday ordered the state government to fill up all the vacant positions of the information commissioners by August 14 in order to ensure speed up disposal of the pending appeals in the state information commission. The court has also asked the government to make functioning of the commission effective in tune with the fundamental principles of the RTI Act so that the common man need not face any hurdle in obtaining information. A division bench of the court comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Banwari Lal Sharma gave passed the order while disposing of the petition filed by Dinesh Bothra. The petitioner said the state government has appointed only one Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in state, whereas the Act demanded appointment a minimum of one and a maximum 10 information commissioner with the CIC. Bothra’s counsel B S Sandhu argued in the court that in absence of information commissioners, the commission was not authorized for second appeals and hearing the petitions as per the provisions of the Act. “But the despite need of the commission as a multi-personnel structure, the state government has not appointed the information commissioners as provided by the Act,” Sandhu argued. In reply to Sandhu’s arguments, the Additional Advocate General informed the court that the process for appointment of information commissioners has already been initiated. “The government has received 119 applications, which are being screened by a committee comprising the chief minister, the leader of opposition and a cabinet minister. This committee would submit the list of short-listed candidates to the governor after completing the screening by July 24, after the approval of which, the appointments would be made,” the AAG informed. Hearing both the sides, the court ordered that the government must complete the process and ensure appointment of information commissioners by August 14. Besides, the court also direct the government to make the functioning of the commission effective for the common man. (Times of India 5/7/14)

41.  ‘Govt. should amend RTI Act’ (1)

Bidar: L. Bhairappa , president of the Karnataka State government employees association State unit, has complained that the RTI Act was being misused to harass government employees. RTI has become a tool for torturing hard working, honest government employees. It had also become fashionable for some so called RTI activists to pose questions about the personal life of employees or some irrelevant issues only to insult employees, he said. The association has therefore, asked the government to recommend to the Centre to amend the Act to limit the questions only to development issues and ban personal questions and to take action against those who misuse the Act, Mr. Bhairappa said. He was speaking at the district conference of the association. He demanded the government take steps to initiate the seventh pay commission and address long pending problems of employees like differences in the pay scales of employees of Union and State government. Rajendra Kumr Gandage, district unit president and others were present. (The Hindu 6/7/14)

42. 66,000 RTI complaints pending in six info panels, Maharashtra tops list (1)

MUMBAI: The aam aadmi’s favourite law, the Right to Information Act, turns nine this year. Information commissions were set up to decide on complaints and appeals filed by people against government authorities for blocking access to information. How have they performed? At present, over 66,000 complaints and appeals are pending at six information commissions. Maharashtra tops the list with 34,158, followed by the Central Information Commission (CIC; Delhi). Kerala, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir are next. The states are the only ones to provide pendency figures besides Sikkim and Tripura, which showed no pendency. The findings are by the non-profit Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). The data raises questions about the composition of the commissions. While much has been said about the need for more women in parliament, their representation in the commissions is abysmal. Goa is the only state whose commission is headed by a woman. A woman information commissioner in Tripura is serving as the acting chief information commissioner. Only 11 of 93 information commissioners in India were women as of May 2014. A former director of the Intelligence Bureau now heads the CIC, the country’s apex decision making body on RTI appeals. IB is one of the few organizations exempt from providing information under RTI, except in cases of corruption and human rights violation. “The problem with a former IB director heading the CIC is that such an individual has no experience of embedding transparency in administration. The RTI is path-breaking because it aims to replace a regime of secrecy with one of transparency. But IB has deliberately been kept out of RTI purview. Will a person with a background in IB be adequately able to champion transparency?” asks RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who headed the CHRI research on information commissions. That the vast majority of information commissioners are retired civil servants raises fears of the information commissions turning into a geriatric bureaucratic ward; 69% of CICs are retired IAS officers. In 2013, the Supreme Court directed governments to identify candidates other than retired civil servants as information commissioners. The Supreme Court has also asked governments to identify candidates for the post of information commissioner, with expertise in the fields mentioned in the RTI Act, which includes law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, and administration and governance. (Times of India 7/7/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

43. Education instrument for transforming society: Pranab Mukherjee (11)

Indore: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said education was the most efficacious instrument for transforming a society as it broadens perceptions and gives individuals better insights into the diverse aspects of their life. Addressing the participants of “School Chale Hum Abhiyan’ here, Mukherjee said: “Education not only brings about personal evolution and growth but also brings progress and positive development of the people.” Describing the Right to Education a historic step that made education a fundamental right, he said: “Having enacted such a constitutional provision, we would fail in our duty if we did not do our utmost to implement it in letter and spirit.” Urging that the country must reap the dividends of India’s youthful demographic structure, he said: “History will not forgive us if we neglect this precious asset. We should aim to achieve better quality, research and innovation in our educational institutions.” Along with all of this, Mukherjee said: “We will need to continuously remind our younger generations of their unique heritage in the form of the Indian value systems which, combined with the knowledge imparted through formal education, will give them the priceless gift of wisdom.” He said education can be used to pursue the goal of inclusive growth of our society, and paying special attention to those that are marginalised due to socio-economic or cultural reasons. (Zee News 29/6/14)

44. Up to 20,000 teachers in Bihar hired on forged degrees (11)

Patna: In one of his first acts after taking charge as chief minister of Bihar in November 2005, Nitish Kumar announced mass recruitment of school teachers on contract. Between 2006 and 2011, Bihar recruited over 1.42 lakh teachers for classes I to XII. This one move, which won Kumar plaudits then for boosting school enrolment and providing jobs to the educated unemployed, now appears to be blowing up in his face — a verification exercise, ordered after a flood of complaints, suggests that forged degrees may have been submitted by over 20,000 who landed these jobs. Stumped by the sheer numbers involved, the government has until now checked 7,000 of the 1.42 lakh degrees which were cleared for jobs. So far, 779 teachers have been sacked, a state official said. Another 2,734 teachers have been removed after failing twice to clear a competency test. The government suspects that here again, the majority used forged degrees to get jobs. The mass recruitment of contract teachers was done in two phases under Shikshak Niyojan 2006 and Shikshak Niyojan 2008. The only criteria were high percentage of marks in class XII, graduation, post-graduation, bachelor of education degrees or equivalent. This practice was stopped in 2012 with the state deciding to hold the TET or teacher eligibility test to draw up a shortlist for final selection. But it is the appointments prior to 2012 that are under scrutiny. R S Singh, joint director for primary education, told The Indian Express that over 12,000 complaints regarding appointments made under Shikshak Niyojan 2006 had been received. During this drive, 1.10 lakh teachers were recruited. Under Shikshak Niyojan 2008, another 32,000 contract teachers were appointed. Singh said appellate authorities of 38 Bihar districts received 40,000 complaints of appointment made on the basis of forged degrees, of candidates with lower marks being preferred over the complainants. Tribunals disposed over 30,000 cases but never ordered any probe into complaints of appointments made on forged degrees. Admitting to lapses in the past, HRD sources said it is standard procedure to verify the degree or education qualification papers of a new teacher before disbursal of his/her first salary. Of the 779 sackings, the maximum took place in West Champaran (238). Other notables included Vaishali (128), Jamui (106), East Champaran (55), Bhojpur (44), Katihar (34) and Madhubani (27). As the verification drive plods on, the picture that emerges is grim. Documents accessed by The Indian Express – these are 20 reports of universities and institutes outside Bihar – show that in Kaimur district alone, 354 of the 5,400 appointments made under Shikshak Niyojan 2008 were on the basis of forged degrees. In Bhojpur, 88 teachers have been found with forged degrees. These numbers, one official said, are likely to rise since many of the applicants are suspected to have handed in forged degrees – not yet verified – from universities in Bihar. But even the verification exercise is under a cloud. It is alleged that in many cases, (Indian Express 3/7/14)

45. New HRD rule to make pvt school admissions transparent (11)

RANCHI: The human resource development department will soon make it mandatory for city-based private schools to upload all information, including admission procedure, for proper implementation of Right to Education Act. All private schools in the city will get separate login IDs and passwords for uploading information like number of students from economically weak background, details of affiliation, number of teachers and their qualification, among others. “Implementation of the RTE Act in private schools is our priority and this step will definitely help us in doing so. Once the system starts then private schools will be directly able to update all the information online,” district superintendent of education Jayant Mishra said. “Most of the schools do not submit the reports to us because they have to come to our office and submit it every time. Once online update of the details is made compulsory then action will be taken against those schools who do not update information,” he added. However, while some details updated on the website will be visible to all, some details will be visible only to the HRD department. “Basic details of the schools like their affiliation, fees, number of students and teachers, qualification of teachers and procedure of admission and reservation will be visible to all who visit the HRD website so that transparency is maintained while some information like the audit report will be visible only to the HRD department officials,” said Mishra. Parents have welcomed the decision as they will now know why and how their children are getting admission. Achint Sinha, father of a five-year-old boy, said, “If details of schools are available on the website we do not have to run to the school every time to know why the fees are being increased.” The decision to introduce this system was taken at a meeting convened by HRD minister Geetashree Oraon in May. this year regarding the implementation of RTE guidelines in the private schools. The decision of online update of the details was taken in the meeting after which the work of creating Ids and passwords of schools started which is now almost completed. In the meeting the schools were also directed to stop overcrowding the buses, stop taking extra money on the name of readmission, taking admission of BPL category students in 25% of the seats and much more. (Times of India 4/7/14)

46. 12,000 kids enrolled in schools under South Corporation plan (11)

New Delhi: South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s recently launched ‘Neev’ project has enabled over 12,000 children to enter formal school. The campaign was launched over the summer vacation and approximately 4,500 teachers went door-to-door in South Delhi to enroll children into schools, officials said. According to Ashish Sood, chairman of the education committee, there are approximately 45,000 children living in the city’s slums and resettlement colonies (across the four zones) who do not go to school as many contribute to the family income, or help at home. The civic body is also considering using mobile technology to educate children who cannot attend classes due to familial obligations. “We had launched the scheme with a focus on educating girls…In the next three years, we hope to enroll every child in the area in a formal school,” Sood said. The chairman also said that among the students who enrolled, at least 60 per cent had already joined schools. However, the bigger challenge for the corporation is to retain these students in schools. For this, the corporation is roping in NGOs and corporates, to help reduce drop out rates. “We are also considering asking companies to utilise their funds on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and help improve infrastructure in schools. Currently, there are at least 11 NGOs aiding us in retaining children in schools,” the chairman said. He added that the funds from corporates will be utilised to provide students a clean environment along with drinking water facilities and smart classrooms. “Until now, the NGOs who we work with gave us their own projects. Now we will ask them to develop projects for us, based on our needs.” Along with these measures, at least 50 councillors will be employed in schools within the month to help students. “Neev” has been the first project of its kind, as the civic body has collaborated with the Directorate of Education in the project’s implementation. School inspectors have also been asked to keep a check on schools, to make sure that those enrolled are attending classes regularly. (Indian Express 8/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD

47. Government wakes up to tea garden deaths (21)

Kolkata: A day after workers at the closed Raipur Tea Estate in the State’s Jalpaiguri district alleged starvation deaths, the administration has taken note of the plight of workers and swung into action by ordering the preparation of a list of closed and sick tea gardens in the district. Even as Food Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said that the workers of the closed tea garden refuse to come out and seek help provided by the government, Minister for North Bengal Development Gautam Deb announced that he would visit the tea garden and meet the workers on Sunday. A medical team was sent to the tea garden on Saturday and found many of the workers and their family members malnourished. Six deaths in the past 10 days at Raipur Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district have brought back the spectre of starvation deaths in the closed tea gardens of the State once again. Though the workers have claimed that the deaths were because of starvation and lack of medical care, the district administration has denied it. Raipur Tea Estate with about 640 workers has been closed since September 2013, and the only source of livelihood for the tea garden workers has been selling green tea leaves and working under the MGNREGA scheme. The last death in the tea garden was reported on Friday when Jeet Bahan Munda, a worker, died. Before him, three women – Sapina Tirkey (65), Basu Oraon (50), and Tetri Bara (25) – and two newborn babies died over 10 days. “The deaths are occurring because of starvation and illness. Since the tea garden has been closed for nearly nine months, the people have no money left. We had written to the Block Development Officer (BDO) a month ago highlighting our problems to seek relief,” Pradhan Hembram, a tea garden worker, told The Hindu over phone from the district. Mr. Hembram, who is a Trinamool Congress member of the local panchayat, said the wages for the MNREGA are delivered after two months and the demand of the workers is that the garden be reopened. The tea garden is spread over about 826 acres and has a history of lock-out. According to Mr. Hembram, it was closed for six whole years from 2003 to 2009, and after reopening, it was once again closed in 2013. After the death of Mr. Munda, a medical team arrived in the tea garden on Saturday, and, according to the doctor, many workers of the garden are suffering from malnourishment. Before his death, the 42-year-old tea garden worker resembled a bag of bones. Though the authorities have refused to admit that these are starvation deaths, they have accepted the fact that there is a crisis in the tea garden. “Raipur is a closed tea garden. Obviously, the people there are facing problems in earning a livelihood. From our side we are doing whatever we can. We have sent a team comprising senior district officials there,” District Magistrate of Jalpaiguri Pritha Sarkar told the Hindu. Activist and advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioner on Right to Food Anuradha Talwar said even in the past, such incidents of starvation have occurred in the tea gardens of north Bengal and none of the governments – neither the present Trinamool Congress government nor the erstwhile CPI (M)-led Left Front have accepted this. Ms. Talwar said various non-governmental organisations pointed out that 13 starvation deaths were reported between May, 2011 and September, 2012 in closed tea gardens and certain other backward regions of the State. The State government had ruled out that the deaths had anything to do with starvation. Referring to Raipur Tea Estate, she said such incidents point out that two orders of the Supreme Court were being violated. While one order states that food under Antoday Anna Yojana, jobs under the MGNREGA and medical facilities along with financial assistance are provided to the workers of locked-out industries, another order directs that all outstanding payments be handed over to workers of certain tea gardens, including Raipur garden. (The Hindu 29/6/14)

48. Dark days for hunger-ridden tea garden (21)

JALPAIGURI: Big need not be better. This is applicable for the Raipur Tea Estate near Jalpaiguri – the largest in the area – where at least six people, including infants, have allegedly died of starvation and malnutrition in the last few days. While the administration promised to look into workers’ complaints of poor quality and inadequate rations, there is no indication that the tea garden will open soon. It has been a roller coaster ride for the workers of Raipur TE for over a decade. “Work was suspended between 2002 and 2004 and again in 2005. Work restarted in 2010 only to be suspended again in October 2013. The workers won’t benefit till production resumes in the garden but this looks difficult at the moment. A co-operative had made attempts to run the show but things didn’t work out. People here didn’t earn enough to make a living,” Pradhan Munda, a local panchayat member said. Raipur is the only tea estate in the area that is suffering so badly. One reason is size. The garden is spread across 750 acres but it’s not been put to best use. Most of the tea bushes are nearly 70 years old and the yield is poor. Owners haven’t paid much attention to manure or pesticides. Even the factory that still stands on the premises has become defunct. Much of the equipment inside has been pilfered and the remaining has been taken away by the owners for ‘replacement’. It is difficult for a garden of this size to survive without a processing unit, workers say. It is primarily Trinamool Congress now that is running the show in tea gardens and there are few who dare speak out against local leaders. There are some who say that not enough is being done for the workers. Nothing would have happened had the media not got wind of the starvation deaths. “District leaders are too busy with their own politics to bother about tea garden workers. They are simply waiting for the issue to die down. This has happened elsewhere in North Bengal. The government has to realize that it is not feasible for an owner to run a tea garden of this size. The land will simply have to be taken over and divided into four portions to be handed to separate owners. The work force can also be divided in this way. Things will become more manageable for owners and the workers won’t suffer,” a Trinamool leader in the tea garden said. Workers’ unions are likely to put up the proposal before the government. Without sufficient investment and a working capital, Raipur Tea Estate cannot survive. Liabilities are quite high and loans from financial institutions may not be forthcoming, say insiders. “Unless steps are taken immediately, Raipur TE may end up like the gardens near Birpara in Alipurduar that have been closed for over a decade. The owners will not take any initiative as there is nothing in it for them. The government will have to take steps,” the leader said. (Times of India 1/7/14)

49. Govt admits failure to execute Food Security Act (21)

PATNA: Food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak on Thursday admitted in the assembly that the Food Security Act could not be implemented in the state as the Union government did not supply the state’s quota of foodgrains since March. The state government had earlier announced implementation of the law from February 1. Replying to a short-notice question of Manjit Kumar Singh (JD-U), Rajak also admitted that 18.29 lakh poor families found eligible to get foodgrains under the Act had not yet received their ration cards. He was challenged by both the ruling and opposition members. Congress’s Sadanand Singh alleged large-scale irregularities in distribution of ration cards and RJD’s Abdul Bari Siddiqui complained about failure of the state to distribute foodgrains since February. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh, in his brief intervention, also described the issue as ?sensitive’. Leader of opposition in the state assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav said the state government implemented the Act in a haste for vote-bank politics. Neither ration cards were distributed nor foodgrains were arranged, while the government scrapped the cards of BPL families. Rajak claimed the government employees were busy in election work, hence cards could not be distributed among the beneficiaries. He alleged BJP workers were creating disturbance in distribution of new cards, which would be done by July 31. Manjit Kumar Singh claimed due to non-distribution of foodgrains, people all over the state were agitated. The minister said Food Corporation of India (FCI) arranged only 60 rail rakes against the demand of 101 to deliver foodgrains through FCI. Due to problems caused by workers in FCI, foodgrains were not being loaded on trucks. He said FCI did not have depots at Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Gopalganj, Sheikhpura, Banka, Sheohar, Khagaria, Arwal, Lakhisarai and Nalanda. He said the chief secretary has asked district magistrates to arrange distribution of ration cards to the beneficiaries, with announcement of the dates and places of distribution through public address system at panchayats and villages. Rural development minister Nitish Mishra, while replying to a call attention notice of Manjit Kumar Singh and others said his department has supplied the list of 1.43 crore families to the food and consumer protection department to identify the beneficiaries of the Food Security Act. (Times of India 4/7/14)

50. Controversy over new poverty line estimates (21)

New Delhi: The Rangarajan Committee has said that a person spending more than Rs 32 per day in rural and Rs 47 per day in urban cannot be described as poor person. Reuters file photo. For representation purpose  The new poverty line recommended by the C Rangarajan Committee on Monday triggered a fresh wave of criticism as the issue echoed inside and outside Parliament, with Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti dubbing it “misleading”. The Rangarajan Committee has said that a person spending more than Rs 32 per day in rural and Rs 47 per day in urban cannot be described as poor person.  Bharti said the fresh poverty figures and assessments were “misleading”. “I will be raising this issue at the appropriate level,” she said. Minister of State for Rural Development Upendra Kushwaha said, “I don’t agree with this. This is not the reality.” The new recommendations evoked criticism similar to the  Suresh Tendulkar committee which recommended Rs 32 in urban areas and Rs 27 in rural areas as the poverty line. The Rangarajan Committee was formed to re-look into the recommendations of Tendulkar committee. On the first day of Budget Session of Parliament, the issue figured during speeches of members during a discussion on price rise.  CPM’s Sitaram Yechury took a dig at the government, saying the PM himself had tweeted when Tendulkar Committee had fixed poverty line as Rs 32 a day, saying it was ridiculous that Rangarajan Committee has fixed it at Rs 47 a day. During his speech, NCP MP Praful Patel also demanded a clarification from the government on the issue and reminded the BJP that they had opposed the Tendulkar Committee earlier fixing poverty line at Rs 32 a day. The sharpest criticism came from BSP chief Mayawati. “This is nothing but making a joke of poor people. Whatever figure that has been given and the way it has been calculated, our party does not support it,” Mayawati told reporters. Sharad Yadav of JD(U) also echoed Mayawati’s view, saying it was “totally wrong and a cruel joke”.   Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Aggarwal said they would give Rangarajan Rs 100  everyday. “Let him show us how to live on this in a village,” he said. (Deccan Herald 7/7/14)

51. Bihar records highest dip in poverty ratio (21)

New Delhi: In what could be a  relief to Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, the C Rangarajan panel on poverty estimation report has said that in Bihar the poverty ratios dipped by over one-third in just two years between 2009-10 and 2011-12  —  much greater than any other state in India. Kumar had resigned as Bihar chief minister after receiving drubbing at the hands of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. The JD(U) had won only 2 whereas the NDA bagged 28 out of the total 40 seats in Bihar. According to the Rangarajan panel on state-wise poverty ratios Bihar witnessed the maximum dip in poverty ratios with the fall from 63.9% in 2009-10 to 41.3% in 2011-12 — a dip of about 22 percentage points. In absolute terms, it translates into 21 million people lesser poor people in the state. The feat resulted in Bihar losing the dubious tag of having the  highest poverty ratio in India. Bihar has been replaced by BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, where the panel has categorised 47.9% of the people as being poor. In 2009-10, 53.8% of Chhattisgarh’s population was categorised as poor as per Rangarajan’s definition of poverty based on “basic standard of well being” including spending on food, education, transport and house rent. The panel’s estimation shows that poverty is still a huge concern in Maoist effected states even though the UPA government had spent over `4,600 crore in 83 districts over four years starting 2010-11 under its ambitious Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for bridging development deficiency in Left Wing Extremism hit areas. Apart from Maoist hit Chhattisgarh, two other affected states Odisha and Jharkhand find themselves high on the poverty ratio scale. Around 45.9% of people in Odisha were poor in 2011-12 as compared to 48.3% in 2009-10. In Jharkhand, 42.4% were poor in 2011-12 as compared to 52.1% in 2009-10. A member of the panel, who was not willing to be quoted said, the estimation clearly showed that effective implementation of poverty alleviation programmes can result in dip in numbers. “Bihar is a case for study on how government programmes can reduce poverty. But in contrast the same programmes have not helped in substantially reducing poverty in other Maoist-affected states where impact of these programmes are not much,” he added. Eight districts of Bihar were also covered under IAP. (Hindustan Times 8/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

52. Government criticised for ‘poor’ implementation of MNREGA (14)

BANGALORE: Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised the government in the Legislative Assembly for not implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) “properly” in the State. Leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar and Janata Dal (Secular) floor leader H.D. Kumaraswamy took the government to task for not exploiting MNREGA. During the discussion on budgetary demands for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR), Mr. Shettar criticised the government for not continuing “pro-people programmes” launched by the previous BJP government and accused the Congress government of remaining “apathetic to rural development.” Listing out the welfare schemes launched by the BJP government, including Suvarna Bhoomi, Suvarna Grama and Bhagyalakshmi, he appealed to the government to continue them in public interest. Mr. Shettar also alleged that the government was not effectively implementing its won programmes, including Anna Bhagya. “The government has failed to distribute below the poverty line (BPL) cards to eligible families,” he said. Mr. Shettar sought to know how the government would rejuvenate 12,000 tanks and lakes in the State under the MNREGA. On the target fixed by the government to construct 6 lakh toilets in 2013–14, Mr. Kumaraswamy sought to know the number of toilets constructed with government funding. He recalled the statement of RDPR Minister H.K. Patil on 19 lakh “missing” toilets in the State. Regretting the non-disbursal of wages to workers under the MNREGA, Mr. Kumaraswamy said some such workers had launched an agitation in Koppal. He accused the government of not utilising Central funds for MNREGA works. “While Andhra Pradesh issued 144.31 lakh job cards and Tamil Nadu 91.29 lakh, Karnataka issued only 54.64 lakh job cards in 2013–14. Similarly, while Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu governments utilised Rs. 4,750 crore and Rs. 4,690 crore Central funds respectively, Karnataka could spend only Rs. 1,590 crore,” he said. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

53. Migrant worker welfare only on paper (14)

CHENNAI:  “We had nothing but the clothes of the affected workers to identify them at the building collapse site,” said Rekha Ravi, joint collector for Nellore. Supervising rescue operations at the site, she said migrant workers had no identification documents nor were they registered by their home State or the host State as per existing rules. A large number of dead workers at the site were migrants. K. Ramana, a migrant worker from Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, who was injured in the accident, said he had no idea he was eligible for identity cards from the Tamil Nadu government. He said he had pinned all his hopes on the promise of the Srikakulam collector to pay compensation to all affected workers.  What the Moulivakam accident glaringly exposed was the lack of implementation of the action plan for migrant workers and their children, drawn up by the Tamil Nadu labour department two years ago, in consultation with civil society organisations. Geetha Ramakrishnan of the Unorganised Workers Federation said the most basic need for registering workers had not been undertaken (see infographic). P. Karuppusamy, additional labour commissioner, said while schemes such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act, 2009, adequately addressed the needs of migrant children, and schools were set up for them, the workers themselves had little or no protection. As R. Vidya Sagar of UNICEF pointed out, though the action plan was meant to rehabilitate migrant children, addressing the problems faced by migrant worker families was equally pertinent. In Moulivakkam, for instance, most migrant workers on the site had left their children at home. Though an inter-State coordination committee existed to register migrant workers coming into Tamil Nadu, its functioning was affected due to lack of adequate coordination from source States. The revenue department was supposed to enumerate these workers to make them eligible for State benefits such as the public distribution system and healthcare, as per recommendations but these remained on paper. Mr. Karuppusamy said an elaborate migrant worker mapping exercise across the State was under way, in order to assess the gaps in implementation of welfare measures for the community. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

54. Census data: 1.10 lakh unemployed in Goa (14)

PANAJI: Around 1.10 lakh persons, around 8% of the state’s population, between the ages of 15 and 59 are unemployed and on the lookout for work in Goa, according to data released by the directorate of census operations. Of the close to 9.75 lakh persons in this age group , 71,193 females and 38,896 males are still in the search of employment of every kind from daily wage basis to long term work. The highest number of unemployed-27,709-were found between the ages of 20 and 24, as per the census 2011 data. Other than the unemployed, the census data shows that around another 90,000 persons in Goa are marginal workers or are only able to find work occasionally. While the census found that 71,936 persons to have worked for three months to six months, about 18,070 persons had worked for less than three months. Among the scheduled castes in the state, 2,250 were unemployed and seeking work during the 2011 census. Over 13,000 scheduled tribe members were found to be looking out for work, according to the data. The census survey seems to reflect similar figures as those registered as unemployed with the state employment exchange office. According to sources, in 2011, around 50,000 unemployed youth in north Goa and another 30,000 in south Goa were registered with the employment exchange. Of these unemployed youth, around 20,000 possess a graduate degree or a higher qualification, while a similar number of unemployed youth are Class XII pass and another 40,000 comprise matriculates or have a similar qualification, sources said. The high number of unemployed in the state is not lost on the Goa government, which recently set up a state human resources development corporation to offer skill training to unemployed youngsters, though the outcome has not been quantified thus far. (Times of India 3/7/14)

55. Union minister seeks report on rural employment (14)

LUCKNOW: Union ministry of rural development has sought findings of first social audit of the National Rural Employment Scheme in UP. The ministry has also sought action taken on reports from the districts but they don’t have much to share. The first social audit of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in UP could not come up with the result it was to meant to come up with. The government agencies which executed the work sanctioned under NREGS have given the first social audit of the scheme in UP short shrift. None of the 10 government executing agencies submitted the records of work executed by them to the social audit directorate which audited 11,412 gram panchayats for work done in 2012-13. “The audit either stopped or was left complete because of this,” said a circular issued by the state rural development department to forest, panchayati raj, sericulture, land development and water resources, agriculture, minor irrigation, fisheries and public works department. Social audit is meant to gauge the social impact of the scheme but the audit was limited to finding out how many beneficiaries were issued the card and what was the quality of work done. The audit which started in September had the target to cover 13,192 gram panchayats which were sanctioned Rs 10 lakh and more under NREGS in 2012-13. Only 11, 412 gram panchayats, however, could be assessed. Union ministry has asked districts about number of grievances registered based on findings of the social audit, number of grievances redressed and closed, number of FIRs registered as per findings of the social audit, amount of misappropriated money that has been recovered and number of functionaries against whom action has been taken based on the findings of the social audit. “We have written to the district magistrates to furnish details,” said director, social audit directorate UP, Shankar Singh. Social audit directorate will now take up the audit of gram panchayats for the year 2013-14. (Times of India 6/7/14)

56. 84 construction workers return from Iraq (14)

NEW DELHI: A batch of 84 construction workers, hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, returned here on Monday from Iraq, saying it was an escape from death in the strife-torn country. “It was dangerous. War has started in areas that are just 30 kilometres away from our working site. So, we thought that it was high time for us to leave the country to save our lives,” Surya, a mason from West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, said. He was among the 84 labourers, who were employed in a construction project to develop villas in Najaf, which is around 180 kilometers away from the capital Baghdad. They reached Delhi this morning by a Iraqi Airways flight and have been accommodated at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan here. Of the returnees, 38 belong to Andhra Pradesh while the rest are from Telangana. Gangarajam, who is from Telangana, claimed that their employer had not paid them wages for the last three months. “Our company did not pay wages for the last three months. We had the contact number of Indian embassy officials in Iraq and they came for our rescue,” Gangarajam, who hails from Karimnagar district, said. Several of the returnees alleged that their employer refused to extend any help for their safe return to India. They also made allegations against a recruitment agency based in Mumbai, saying it also failed to give any assistance. “We have returned to India only because of the efforts by our embassy. Neither the company nor the agency did anything for our safe return,” Srinivas from Telangana rued. The workers were on a contract ranging between six months and two years for monthly wages from 350 US dollars to 500 US dollars. Though the labourers expressed relief on having returned safely to India, they were worried about their future as most of them have availed loans for paying to the agency to work overseas. Meanwhile, the central government has taken steps for sending the returnees back to their native towns. “All the 84 labourers would be sent by an evening flight to Hyderabad today. Two officers have been deputed by the Andhra Pradesh government for coordinating with the returnees,” a state government official here said. (Times of India 7/7/14)

RESERVATION

57. Maharashtra quota not taken up seriously (25)

New Delhi: The issue of granting reservation for the Maratha and Muslim communities in education and government jobs in Maharashtra was not discussed “seriously” at the AICC level before the Prithviraj Chavan government took a formal decision in this regard recently. Well-placed sources in the AICC said “Ab jaane dijiye (Let it be). Reservation has always been a sensitive issue for the Congress for different reasons. Moreover, it does not want to be seen as aggressive as some of the regional parties whose politics have been based on caste.” Although the Congress high command had backed reservation for OBCs in higher education brought by Arjun Singh when he was HRD minister in UPA-1, it did not appreciate it. If insiders are to be believed, the reservation issue was relevant before the Mandal Commission’s report. Politics in India changed after economic reforms were introduced. “You cannot get electoral mileage from the issue twice,” they felt. A prominent dalit (Ambedkarite) leader from Maharashtra on Friday said caste cannot influence voters in urban areas like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, or even in Nagpur. The Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra has announced 16 per cent reservation for the Maratha community and five per cent reservation for Muslims in government jobs and education on the grounds of their economic and educational backwardness. But it was taken at a time when the ruling combine got just six of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra and ahead of the state Assembly polls. The population of Marathas in the state is said to be over 30 per cent while Muslims are 10 to 12 per cent. Marathas have been the ruling community of the state for the last 50 years. They not only have the highest representation in the Cabinet, irrespective of which party or parties are in power, but control cooperative banks, sugar factories and educational institutions. Marathas are seen as an upper caste in Maharashtra and are equated with Thakurs elsewhere. (Asian Age 28/6/14)

58. Will you table Bapat committee report, asks Bombay HC (25)

MUMBAI: The issue of Maratha reservation has refused to die down in Maharashtra. The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked Maharashtra government if it was inclined to table a July 2008 report which had not favoured Maratha reservation in the State. The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in 2009, opposing reservation to the community. It had sought the tabling of the 22nd report of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission headed by retired Judge R M Bapat. The report had opposed granting OBC status to Marathas. The government neither accepted nor rejected the report. It was not tabled in the legislature. The court asked the government on Tuesday why it had failed to take any decision on the tabling of the report, six years after it was submitted. The government has been directed to reply in three weeks’ time. Recently, the government had also announced a cabinet decision granting 16 per cent reservation to the community. This cabinet decision too has been challenged in the Bombay High Court on the grounds that the Maratha community has been traditionally wealthy and powerful. The court was told by the State government on Monday that there was no question of implementing it immediately as it was not turned into legislation. On Tuesday, advocate Sangharaj Rupwate appearing for petitioner Rajaram Kharat, said the government should soon table the Bapat committee report. The petition has said that the Marathas are not backward, and cannot be included in the Other Backward Classes category. It further claimed that instead of tabling the Bapat committee report, the government set up a new committee under Justice (retired) B P Saraf. Four of the six members of Bapat committee had voted against including Marathas in the OBC classification. (The Hindu 1/7/14)

59. PIL in Bombay HC seeks 5 percent reservation for Christians too (25)

Beed: Close on the heels of Maharashtra government providing 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions, a PIL in the Bombay High Court has sought similar facility for the Christian community. The PIL, filed by city-based Alpha Omega Christian Community in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, said it was demanding five per cent reservation for Christians on the basis of recommendations made by the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission constituted by National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. According to the PIL, Maharashtra government had, on the basis of the Ranganath Commission report, appointed a seven-member committee headed by Dr Mehmoodur Rehman to study the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslim community in the state. Thereafter, on the basis of the Mehmoodur Rehman Committee report, the Maharashtra cabinet approved 5 per cent reservation to Muslims on June 25. On the same lines, 5 per cent reservation should also be provided to the Christian community which the PIL said had not been considered on the basis of recommendation of Ranganath Commission report. The President of Alpha Omega, Ashish Shinde said “we have been demanding 5 per cent reservation to the Christian community. The government has only given verbal assurance in the past. Now that reservation has been approved for Muslim community, we strongly demand for Christians.” (Zee News 5/7/14)

60. Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes file petition against 10 J&K institutions (25)

Jammu: An organisation representing Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes has filed a petition before the National Commission for Schedule Tribes in New Delhi against 10 institutions of Jammu & Kashmir accusing them of violating Constitutional guarantees by denying reservation to members of the tribes in recruitment and promotions. The petition was filed by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation (TRCF). It requests the commission to issue direction to the State for grant of 10 per cent reservation to STs in all the 10 institutions and provide constitutional safeguards to nomadic and tribal communities of Jammu & Kashmir, Secretary of TRCF Javaid Rahi said here on Sunday. The petition states that as per the Constitution of India and laws of the State, the ST communities including Gujjars and Bakerwals are entitled to 10 per cent reservation in recruitment and promotions in all government and autonomous bodies, but these organisations have violated the provisions, he said. The petition states that since 1991 when ST status was granted to Gujjar-Bakerwals these institutions have filled up thousands of posts at various levels, but no reservation was provided to the reserve categories, especially STs, and the rights of downtrodden communities were suppressed openly. It claims that there is a negligible representation of the STs, especially Gujjars and Bakerwals, in the 10 organisations. PTI (The Hindu 7/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

61. Convention on Human Rights of Human Rights Defenders held (1)

Imphal, June 28 2014 : A one-day Convention on ‘Human Rights of Human Rights Defenders of Manipur’ was held at Manipur Press Club here Friday. Jointly organized by Human Rights Law Networks (Manipur Unit), Human Rights Initiative, United NGOs Mission and Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur, the convention also strongly condemned the assault on Laimayum Sevananda of Human Rights Law Network, Manipur Unit by suspected security forces in plain clothes and called upon the state Government to investigate and identify those involved in the attack within a reasonable period of time. It also condemned the verification campaign unleashed by the Intelligence Bureau on activist d and NGOs in the name of deterring development by using foreign funds. In his keynote address, Jiten Yumnam elaborated the need for protection of human rights defenders of Manipur who are working in an environment of armed conflict situation and also in the context of recommendations of Ms.Margeret Sagakya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to protect human rights defenders across India. Director of Human Rights Law Network, Manipur Unit Rakesh Meihoubam pointed out that government should change their behavior and respect the human rights of all peoples of Manipur. Sharing the recent incident of harassment on him by the personnel of IRB, Journalist Paojel Chaoba condemned the actions of the state security forces violating the rights and freedom of media persons of Manipur. Stressing the need for a system where all violations can be addressed with proper legal aid, Executive Director of Human Rights Alert Babloo Loitongbam stressed on the crucial need for specific mechanisms in which all victims can raise their voice and mooted idea of a focal point committee which can monitor all violations. Director of WAD Sobita, while expressing concern over the recent incident of physical attack on Advocate Shivananda by team of security personal, said that attacking an Advocate like Shivananda represents an attack on all advocates of Manipur. Phulindro Konsam, Chairperson of COHR raised concern how the Government of India still relies on colonial laws of the British imposed during the Indian freedom movement. He put up the proposal to demand the government to implement provisions of UN declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 1998 to end violations against human rights defenders. Saying said that the law enforcing agencies, instead of protecting people, are targeting innocent people and human rights defenders, UNMM Secretary U.Nobokishwor stressed the need for review of the Indian Police Act, 1860 for its inconsistency with human rights advances. Among others, the Convention resolved that Centre and the Government of Manipur should recognize the human rights and ensure protection of all human rights defenders who are striving for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at all levels. It also appealed to the government to investigate and punish those involved in the torture, arbitrary detention and killing of all human rights defenders of Manipur specifically those involved in the attack on Journalist Paojel Chaoba. Implementation of the recommendations made by UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sagakya during her visit to India in February 2011; repeal of all emergency laws, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 and the National Security Act, 1980; unconditional release of Irom Sharmila conceding her legitimate demand for repeal of AFSPA; review of Indian Police Act, 1860 etc. were among the resolutions taken in the Convention. The Convention also demanded full functioning of the Manipur Human Rights Commission by appointment of competent and committed members through a transparent process, and setting up of special cell for protection of human rights defenders. (E-Pao 29/6/14)

62. NHRC sends notice to Centre, states, UTs on lack of toilets (1)

New Delhi: Alarmed over reports that around 62 crore Indians defecate in the open and 30 per cent of the women who went out for toilet fall prey to sexual assault, NHRC on Monday issued notices and sought reports from the Centre, states and Union Territories on the lack of toilets in the country. In a statement today, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said it has sought reports within four weeks from the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Chief Secretaries of all states and UTs on the issue. “A survey also proved that 30 per cent of the women who went out for toilet became victims of sexual assault. (NHRC) has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights,” the statement said. The notice was issued after NHRC took suo motu cognisance of a media report citing the 2011 Census to say that half the population of India had to go out for toilet. In Jharkhand and Odisha, 77 per cent of the population and 76 per cent in Bihar and 64 per cent in Uttar Pradesh did not have toilets in their houses, the report said. The previous UPA government in October, 2013, had reportedly agreed that lack of toilets inside houses was one of the main reasons for the increasing incidents of rape in the country. (Zee News 1/7/14)

63. UN to draft treaty on human rights violation by multinationals (1)

New Delhi: The Indian government-backed demand for an international legally binding agreement to curb human right violations by multinational companies has been agreed to at the recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. The move comes in contrast to the tenor of the leaked Intelligence Bureau report, which had cricitised non-governmental organisations (NGO) and activists for using violation of human rights and other reasons to stall projects and investments by multinational corporations in India. At the council meeting on June 26, a majority vote decided that work would begin on “elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”.The resolution was moved by Ecuador and South Africa and found support among 20 members of the council, including India, China, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Russia. Some developing countries like Argentina and Brazil abstained from voting but 14 developed country members voted against the resolution. These included the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The Human Rights Council resolution establishes a process by which an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of multinational corporations would be decided. The resolution emphasises “the important role of civil society actors in promoting corporate social responsibility and in preventing, mitigating, and seeking remedy for adverse human rights impacts of transnational corporations and other business enterprises”.While debating the resolution before the vote, the Ecuadorian ambassador recalled that the “victims of disasters, such as that by Union Carbide in Bhopal (India)” were yet to get a fair compensation and remedy. This was reported by the Third World Network, a south-based NGO observer group. An Indian official speaking at the meeting asked countries to work together to not only encourage businesses to respect human rights, but also to hold them accountable for violations. The US refused to participate in the treaty-making process, encouraging others to follow suit and said it preferred the existing guiding principles on the issue that are not enforceable. The EU and Japan, too, took a similar line of argument against the resolution, preferring to stick to the guidelines, while the UK suggested appropriate domestic laws would suffice. The resolution passed by majority vote came a year after Ecuador in September 2013, backed by more than 80 developing countries, had talked of a system to prosecute transnational companies that cannot be effectively regulated by countries. The Human Rights Council meeting had come under pressure of unprecedented mobilisation by international civil society groups, with more than 600 of them from various developing and developed countries coming together in an alliance to demand a treaty of this nature. The negotiations for the treaty are slated to start in 2015. (Business Standard 1/7/14)

64. HRW asks Sri Lanka not to deport Pakistan’s Ahmdaiyyas (1)

Washington: The Human Rights Watch has asked Sri Lanka not to deport members of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadiyya community until the U.N. refugee agency had full access to them and determined their need for international protection. At least 142 Pakistanis, mostly Ahmadiyyas, arrested in police sweeps in Sri Lanka in June 2014 are being detained and are at risk of deportation, the Human Rights Watch said. “Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan,” said Bill Frelick, refugees director at Human Rights Watch. “Preventing asylum seekers from lodging claims in no way absolves Sri Lanka from its duty not to return them to possible persecution,” he added. The sweeps of Pakistani minority neighbourhoods in Negombo, a city on the western coast of Sri Lanka, began on June 9, with authorities citing security concerns for the sweep. Negombo has been a haven for minority refugees from Pakistan. In 2013, UNHCR registered nearly 1,500 refugee claims of Pakistanis in Sri Lanka. “Sri Lankan authorities should know that Pakistan fails to protect its minority communities from persecution. Sri Lanka must honour its international obligations, and allow UNHCR access to ensure that no detainee is deported to face the risk of persecution or torture,” Mr. Frelick said. (The Hindu 3/7/14)

65. Maharashtra human rights commission struggles with huge backlog (1)

MUMBAI: The state human rights commission (SHRC), which probes custodial death cases to suggest corrective measures to the government, is struggling to clear a backlog. The commission has heard less than 15% cases, complaints for which it has received in four years. Officials said internal problems made it difficult to clear the backlog. In 2013-14, the SHRC received 5,170 cases, but heard only 187. The commission is quasi-judicial and it receives cases related to human rights violation, including deaths in police and judicial custody, and beggars’, children’s, women’s and special children’s homes. Whenever any such death is reported, the authorities inform the SHRC and provide it relevant documents, like details of the postmortem report. The commission scrutinizes the reports independently and draws conclusions. Accordingly, it reports the lacunae, culpability of persons concerned and corrective measures to stop further such incidents. The commission has its own investigation wing, headed by a senior IPS officer, which conducts probes on the directions of the SHRC chairman. Officers said that the Bombay high court had recently expressed concern over custodial deaths. An officer stated that the investigation wing was wasting taxpayers’ money as they rarely get investigations conducted. “Investigation wing chief Sanjay Pande has requested the government to transfer him, as he is using government resources for no work, due to internal problems at the SHRC,” said an officer. The commission is loaded with other human rights violation cases and the backlog is increasing. In 2010-11, it received 5,634 cases and the following year, 5,610. The SHRC chairman’s post was vacant in 2012-13, and the commission did not take up a single case for hearing from the 5,680 received. (Times of India 6/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

66. Why repeal Juvenile Justice Act? activists ask (19)

NEW DELHI: Child-rights activists and other stakeholders have wondered why the new government wanted to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. The women and child development ministry announced its decision to repeal the existing act and put up a draft bill on its website on June 18, seeking suggestions and comments within 15 days. Before sending in its comments, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights held a two-day discussion with various stakeholders that ended on Friday. Speaking to TOI, NCPCR chairperson Kushal Singh said, “The draft bill has several positive aspects like facilitating adoption and the proposal to make CARA a statutory body. But, there is no justification of repealing the entire JJ Act without any study.” Activists and other stakeholders, too, shared similar opinions. Enakshi Ganguly of Haq Centre for Child Rights said, “We are intrigued why the new government wants to repeal the entire JJ Act when some amendments to correct the flaws would have been enough. Besides, important amendments have already been drafted after consultations in 2011 and are sitting with the WCD ministry.” Those who attended the meeting were mostly unanimous in saying that 15 days were too short a time for suggestions for change in such a massive act. They also believed children’s right to be heard has not been given due recognition in the draft bill. Some of the contentious issues in the draft include age of the child in conflict with the law. India moved from penal law to reformative law by repealing the 1989 JJ Act and enacting the JJ Act 2000, said Singh. There was unanimous decision that age of the child in conflict with law should not be lowered from 18 years. There are Supreme Court judgments, too, in this regard. Lowering the age or having any provision to deviate children from juvenile justice system to criminal justice system is not acceptable. “The recent judgments of the Supreme Court regarding not lowering the age of juvenile should be taken into consideration while redrafting the bill,” said Ganguly. Also, the draft bill proposes district magistrate as the head of child welfare committee. “After conducting the onerous duty, the DM can’t be expected to also look into this,” said Kushal Singh. Activists too shared her opinion of continuing with the existing system where a selection committee of the state government chose a person from the civil society to head CWCs. (Times of India 28/6/14)

67. CJI Lodha takes on government, calls decision on Subramanium unilateral (19)

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has taken strong exception to the government “unilaterally” segregating former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium while approving the appointment of three other candidates as Supreme Court judges. “I have taken objection to the segregation, unilaterally done by the executive without my knowledge and concurrence. It was not proper,” the CJI said Tuesday, breaking his silence on the controversy that broke when he was travelling abroad. Accusing the government of dealing with an appointment to a high constitutional post in a casual manner, he added, “In the last 20 years, I have fought for independence of the judiciary and for me this is one subject that is non-negotiable… I will be the first man to leave this chair if I know independence of the judiciary has been compromised; I will not hold my office even for a second then.” Reacting to the CJI’s criticism, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told HT, “The government has the highest regard for the judiciary, including the independence of the Supreme Court and all other courts of India. It also has the highest regard for the Chief Justice of India.” On June 19, the law ministry had turned down the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium — a group of top SC judges headed by the CJI — for appointment of Subramanium as an SC judge, questioning his “suitability” for the post while citing negative CBI and Intelligence Bureau reports on him. Ministry sources had defended the segregation, claiming there were precedents. The executive can object to a particular name but in such a scenario, it normally sends back the entire file for the collegium’s reconsideration. However, in this case, it rejected Subramanium’s name while clearing the elevation of three other candidates — Calcutta and Orissa high court chief justices Arun Mishra and Adarsh Goel, respectively, and senior advocate Rohinton Nariman. The three are yet to take oath though. On June 25, Subramanium wrote to the CJI ruling himself out of the race, accusing the government of “character assassination” and admonishing the judiciary for not asserting its independence. He also went public with his anguish. Subsequently, jurists, including former CJI MN Venkatachaliah, accused the government of taking over the collegium’s role. Speaking at a farewell function on Tuesday for justice BS Chauhan — one of the collegium members that recommended Subramanium’s name — the CJI said he had assured Subramanium that the collegium would reiterate its decision recommending him if he considered taking back his withdrawal letter. He also expressed regret that the senior counsel had gone public with his letter despite his assurances. “I was shocked,” he said. CJI Lodha said he learnt about the government decision only on his return on June 28, though he had spoken to Subramanium on two occasions — June 24 and 25. On the day of his return, the CJI met Subramanium and “requested” him to withdraw his letter. A day later, he received a 30-word regret letter from the senior counsel. “I discussed the issue with the collegium members and two future CJIs and felt there was no point pursuing the matter further,” the CJI added. (Hindustan Times 1/7/14)

68. 365 days working: Judges are not supermen, blogs Justice Katju (19)

New Delhi: “It is true that while many Judges work hard, others do not. But even a hard working Judge requires some rest and has a family. “It is true that while many Judges work hard, others do not. But even a hard working Judge requires some rest and has a family Judges are not “supermen” and they also require some rest, was how a former Supreme Court judge expressed his disapproval to Chief Justice of India R M Lodha’s suggestion of making courts function all round the year. “The Chief Justice of India has said that Courts should remain open 365 days in a year. How is this possible? Does a Judge not require some rest ? Is he not a human being with a family to look after?” Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), wrote in his blog. Questioning the proposal, he said there are various stake holders and it should be left to the public to consider the situation under which the judiciary functions. “It is true that while many Judges work hard, others do not. But even a hard working Judge requires some rest and has a family. “Similarly, lawyers and registry officials, too have families to look after and, being human beings, need some rest. I am not holding a brief for Judges who do not work hard. All I am requesting is for the public to consider the situation,” Justice Katju said. Sharing his experience on the issue of pendency of cases plaguing the judiciary, he said, “This shows the plight of the judiciary. After all we are not supermen. If a man can carry a maximum load of, say, 100 pounds, and if an elephant is placed on his head, what will happen ? He will collapse. “The massive load of arrears is simply too heavy for the judiciary to carry, and the filing of new cases is also huge,” he said. He also said that it takes time to decide a case properly and a judge has to work hard to deliver a high quality judgement. “People do not know this situation and yet blame the judges for not working hard. I am not holding a brief for corrupt judges. While many Judges are honest, there are some who are corrupt. But how much can even an honest and hard working Judge do in the face of such massive arrears?” he said. (Indian Express 2/7/14)

69. Amnesty International urges India to tighten immigration laws (19)

Thiruvananthapuram: Amnesty International on Friday urged the Centre to come out with a strong immigration law to avoid situations like the present crisis faced by Indian nurses in strife-torn Iraq. Releasing the copy of a research report on visa fraud and alleged human rights violations faced by Indian migrants in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty said the evacuation of Indian nurses could have been made earlier if they had been paid their salaries in time. “According to reports, many of the nurses had not received their salaries in the last few months. If they were paid on time, they would have showed readiness to quit the country much before and the present situation could have been averted,” Amnesty International India CEO G Ananthapadmanabhan and Deputy CEO Shashikumar Velath told a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram. They said that recent events in Iraq had been a harsh reminder of the risks that Indian migrant workers face in the countries they work. The outfit also said the Union government should pay more focus on the working conditions and job security of Indians working outside. (Hindustan Times 4/7/14)

70. Fatwas have no legal standing: Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that fatwas issued by shariat courts or muftis had no legal sanctity, asserting that the defiance of fatwas will have no civil or criminal consequences. The court said it would be illegal to impose these religion-based opinions on personal issues on citizens in violation of their fundamental rights. “Whatever may be the status of fatwa during Mughal or British rule, it has no place in independent India under our constitutional scheme,” a bench of Justices Chandramauli K Prasad and Pinaki C Ghose said. “Any person trying to enforce a fatwa by any method shall be illegal and has to be dealt with in accordance with law,” it added. There have been bizarre fatwas covering almost the entire spectrum of social life of Muslims — from banning a popular all-girls Kashmiri band leading to its disbanding, to asking Muzaffarnagar’s Imrana to treat her husband as her son after she was raped by her father-in-law. In fact, it was the mushrooming of fatwas, ranging from dissolution of marriage to dress code for women, which led advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan to file a PIL questioning jurisdiction of shariat courts, Dar-ul-Qaza (personal law courts) and Deoband muftis in dictating social behaviour of citizens and, in the process, virtually setting up a parallel judicial system on issues relating to Muslim personal law. “A fatwa has no legal sanction and cannot be enforced by any legal process either by the Dar-ul-Qaza issuing that or the person concerned or for that matter anybody. The person or the body concerned may ignore it and it will not be necessary for anybody to challenge it before any court of law,” said Justice Prasad, who authored the judgment. “In case any person or body tries to impose it, their act would be illegal. Therefore, the grievance of the petitioner that Dar-ul-Qazas and Nizam-e-Qaza are running a parallel judicial system is misconceived,” the bench said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had told the apex court, “Establishment of a network of judicial system throughout the country to help Muslims get their disputes settled by qazis may not have police powers but shall have the book of Allah in hand and Sunnat of the Rasool and all decisions should be according to the book and the Sunnat. This will bring Muslims to Muslim courts. They will get justice.” But the bench was not amused. It said, “The object of establishment of such a court may be laudable but we have no doubt in our mind that it has no legal status. It is bereft of any legal pedigree and has no sanction in laws of the land.” Though the court said existence of Dar-ul-Qaza and issuance of fatwas were not per se illegal, it clarified that “it is not a decree, not binding on the court or the state or the individual. It is not sanctioned under our constitutional scheme”…. (Times of India 8/7/14)

71. Legal experts celebrate SC’s progressive verdict (19)

New Delhi: Legal experts across the board are hailing the Supreme Court’s ruling that said Shariat courts have no legal sanction, as progressive. Senior SC lawyer Vikas Singh said Monday’s judgment was “very progressive” as it was in line with the concept of ‘uniform civil code’ which envisages covering all the personal laws into one unified set of a secular law that will be applicable to every citizen of India, irrespective of his/her religious community. “The SC verdict is a move toward universal civil code. You cannot have different laws acting upon different communities. It goes against the very concept of equality if we consider the variety of communities existing in the country today,” Singh told HT. Another advocate practicing at the SC, Apar Gupta, agreed with the verdict saying, “This verdict presents a good balance in law where an informal adjudication mechanism is not allowed to infringe on the fundamental rights of the citizen.” “Any decision reached by such a body cannot be enforced by a court, so they are voluntary,” Gupta added. Reacting to the verdict, historian S Irfan Habib said, “The court had said earlier too that Shariat courts are illegal. If they or anything violates the fundamental rights of the citizen, then you can’t call it legal. In that case, Shariat courts are illegal.” “This decision will not affect the life of Muslims largely because these court verdicts existed already. People already know that they are not valid. Still they exist because a large number of people go to them,” he added. (Hindustan Times 8/7/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

72. CBI questions station manager, gangmen in railway custodial death (1)

MUMBAI: A CBI team probing the railway custodial death of Agnelo Valdaris (25) on Saturday questioned the station manager of Wadala and a couple of railway gangmen. A student and a part-time driver, Valdaris, who was picked up from his Reay Road resident in a theft case, died on April 18 in police custody. The CBI has registered an FIR against 10 Wadala GRP personnel, charging them with offences that could attract capital punishment for the custodial death, but arrests do not seem imminent. Following a Bombay high court order, the FIR was registered on Wednesday night after recording statements of victim Agnelo’s father and his co-accused in a theft case, Sufiyan Khan, Irfan Hajam and a minor. The trio claims to be witnesses to torture and sexual abuse in the railway police’s custody. “The CBI had summoned me, Khan, Hajam and the minor to the Wadala GRP outpost on Saturday. After a few inquiries, we were allowed to go,” Agnelo’s father, Leonard, told TOI. The CBI then quizzed the station manager of Wadala and a few Central Railway gangmen. This is because the GRP has been claiming that Agnelo, while being escorted for a medical examination on April 18, had escaped from their grip and made a dash for the tracks when he was run over by a train. The CBI team also questioned a couple of constables at the Wadala GRP outpost who may have been present around the time Agnelo and his co-accused were lodged in police custody. Senior GRP officials said all the 10 booked personnel have been shunted out of the force. The accused include a woman officer, A M Pujari then in-charge of the Wadala GRP outpost, Jitendra Rathod, sub-inspector Tondse, head constable Mane and constables Kamble, Pathan, Mane, Suryavanshi, Ganya, Satish. (Times of India 30/6/14)

73. 90% increase in custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu, NCRB data show (1)

CHENNAI: There was a 90% increase in the number of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Tamil Nadu has ranked second on the list of custodial deaths in states released by the NCRB. Maharashtra topped the list. According to the NCRB data, at least 34 people died in Maharashtra police’s custody in 2013. It was only 20 in 2012. In Tamil Nadu, the number of deaths in police custody was 15 in 2013, while it was only seven in 2012. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat appear third and fourth, respectively, on the list. There were two custodial deaths of undertrials in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in 2013 while there was no death of undertrials in Tamil Nadu in the period. The Tamil Nadu police said seven people in their custody died at hospitals and two others committed suicide. One person died after he escaped from police custody as he was taken to produce before a court. Five others died due to illness and natural causes. In 2012, only one person in custody died at a hospital. Three others committed suicide and another suspect was killed by the other criminals. (Times of India 1/7/14)

74. UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo recommends AFSPA repeal (1)

IMPHAL: The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, has recommended, as a matter of urgency, the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Rashoda Manjoo, who visited Manipur on April 28 last year, recommended the repeal of AFSPA while presenting her report to the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on June 12 last. According to Human Rights Alert (HRA), the Government of India reacted harshly, claiming that it lacks ‘full objectivity and exhibits a tendency to over-simplify the issues.’ In her concluding statement the Rapportuer mentioned her visit to Manipur and lamented that this was her 14th or 15th country visit but never has she been subjected to such humiliating treatment and attitude as done by the Government of India during and after her mission. Civil society groups from Manipur also actively participated during the interactive dialogue following the presentation of her report. Babloo Loitongbam took the floor on behalf of the Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative and welcomed the report on behalf of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN. He appreciated that the report ‘Aptly outlines the due diligence obligations by the state to address not just the manifestations of violence – but most importantly its causes and consequences, so that social transformation becomes possible’. Sobita Mangshatabam, speaking on behalf of the Social Service Agency of Protestant Church in Germany and others, quoted from the report that ‘Women in militarized region live in constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public’ and provided further insights using the experience of North East India. She asserted that “Rape and sexual and physical harassment of indigenous women by the army personnel was used as an instrument of war.” Thangjam Dolendro Meitei, taking the floor during the interactive dialogue following the presentation of the report by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, narrated the story of his sister Thangjam Manorama. He wondered why the AFSPA is used to protect the very criminals who (allegedly) raped and murdered his sister for the last ten years. Over and above these two-minute-direct-oral-interventions, the civil society group also organized side events on 11 and 12 June 2011 to explain in detail the human rights situation in Manipur in particular to the interested participant of the Council. A film entitled Claiming Justice: Women’s Struggle against Impunity in NE India by HRA and EEVFAM was also screened. Closely following this debate in the Human Rights Council, India was again reviewed by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women on July 2, 2014. It may be noted that the United NGO Mission Manipur submitted an alternate report to the CEDAW Committee. In relation to AFSPA, expert Pramila Patten (Mauritius) was the leading voice. She asked what priority is given to the Justice Verma-Report, what is the new government’s position in relation to AFSPA, and the permission to have trials against army personnel in the framework of AFSPA. The government delegation argued mainly with the operational needs of the army, that in some areas it would be necessary to protect armed forces in order to be effective, although there should be no misuse. The government is continuously surveying AFSPA, and misuse of the regulation would be accordingly prosecuted. For the moment, it would not be possible to repeal AFSPA. In addition, large areas in Manipur have been taken out from the purview of the AFSPA. Pramila Patten got back to AFSPA saying that they are not convinced, in particular having the Justice Verma-Report as a source which again was quoted. But no additional explanation was given by the government delegation, the HRA said. (Meghalaya Times 7/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

75. ‘Web, social media can create 15k jobs in State in three yrs’ (1)

Bhubaneswar: The web and social media have the potential to generate more than 15,000 direct jobs over a period of three years in the State,” said founder-member of Janata Vikas Manch (JVM) Sai Prasan here on Saturday. Addressing the participants at a workshop on ‘Web and Social Media for Social Sector’ organised by the JVM, Prasan said the penetration of computers and the internet connectivity is very poor in Odisha. “The high load-shedding and the frequent fluctuation of electricity is a major hurdle in a regular use of the internet which is hampering the growth of web and social media in the State,” Prasan said. He urged the State Government to provide a good environment for expansion of the web and social media which would help the Odia youth develop and get jobs in the sector.  “If all the Government departments and non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) open their own websites, hundreds of youths would get jobs easily,” said Prasan, adding, “The Chief Minister should direct all the Ministers, departmental heads, university Vice-Chancellors, professional institutions and others to have their own organisational website within six months.” Sai Prasan said the web and social media tools would connect Odisha with the global world and would also help the State build a positive image across the globe. The workshop participants were trained on how to ensure a good and effective website. They were educated on the use of Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and mobile apps like Whats App as a tool for advocacy or social cause. Among others, former Information Commissioner Jagadananda, RTI activist Pradip Pradhan, students and social activists attended the workshop. (Pioneer 30/6/14)

76. PMO wants media reports under 7 specific heads (1)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to keenly follow media reports about him but instructions to the Press Information Bureau (PIB) from his office suggest he is just as eager to stay abreast of what the media writes about the government, his party, its allies and the Opposition. The PMO has told the PIB — the government’s publicity and communication arm — to send morning media reports in a structured format under seven specific heads. It wants positive and negative reports about the Prime Minister, the government, the BJP and its allies and the Opposition meticulously flagged and segregated in the report. The other three heads under which the PIB needs to log media reports are grievances, editorials, op-eds and other articles. It has been a long-standing practice of the PIB to send media reports to the PMO every morning. It was earlier compiled by the PM unit of the bureau and used to be a mishmash of reports about the government and sundry ministers depending on their standing in the government. However, with a PMO directive specifying that the report must have a pre-decided structure and be brief  — not more than 10 pages — there is a greater emphasis on the compilation and despatch of the report than ever before. It also has to reach the PMO by 9.15 am sharp.“Recently the PMO has made it clear that it wants the report under specific heads and there should also be a clear demarcation of positive and negative reports that appear in the media. Earlier reports about allies or opposition parties were not routinely included in the report but now the South Block has made it clear that this is also something that they want reports about on a daily basis,” a source said. This is the latest in a series of new measures that the government has taken to keep itself and the PM aware of what is making news in the media. Sometime back the Information and Broadcasting Ministry also started sending a report to the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat about what is trending on the social media. The move is in keeping with the image of the PM as a tech-savvy politician. (Indian Express 1/7/14)

77. I&B ministry to hold social media training (1)

New Delhi: Following the directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all ministries to get interactive on the social media and make government operations transparent and easily accessible to people, Union information and broadcasting ministry is set to hold the first training session of various departments for a successful debut on social media. The first such tutorial session will be held on July 11 and is likely to be addressed by social media experts, sources stated. Sources stated that so far 38 ministries have already appointed nodal officers through which the social media teams will be interacting with common people. It is understood that several important ministries like the ministry of home affairs have appointed joint secretary level officials as nodal officers for social media. At the day-long session these nodal officers will be trained in the social media outreach programme, and will be guided from basics like creating a Twitter handle or Facebook page, to posting photographs and other relevant details on these. The government officials are also expected to be trained in handling people on the social media so as to evolve this new media outreach programme for the country, sources stated. These officials will also be trained in organising social media events like Google hangouts and also how to upload videos on YouTube. The I&B ministry team for social media will also be providing assistance to these ministries in inter-inking of accounts and how to promote each other on the social media so that maximum exposure for government is received. The step comes days after a letter by I&B minister Prakash Javadekar who asked all central ministries asking them to disseminate their policy initiatives through the Communication Hub under the existing New Media Wing of the ministry. (Asian Age 5/7/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

78. Fear of communal tension over murder of police officer in Manipur (7)

IMPHAL: Home Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei and many sections of people fear that the murder of one police sub inspector Krishnadas Mayengbam on June 21 night near the FCI godown at Sagaiprou may snowball into a communal flare up. In the recent past charges of fomenting communal trouble had been traded between Gangmei and action committee which was formed to spearhead agitations demanding justice to the slain police officer. The police officer was stabbed to death on the fateful night. The finger of suspicion is pointed at a definite direction. However police are detaining Krishna Chandra with whom Mayangbam had reportedly gone to an illegal drinking joint for imbibing some drinks. The action committee told reporters on Tuesday that police had picked up Chandra on the plea to seek his assistance since he was the last person to see Mayangbam alive. One woman kiosk owner, Babina Takhellambam told reporters that after drinks the two persons had bought some eatables from her. Then both of them had gone towards their own homes. Very interestingly, the dead police officer was found holding a pouch of country liquor. But his hands were bloody and they were not in a position to hold the pouch. The agitating people have been demanding resignation of the home minister as the murderers have not been arrested so far. Meanwhile the action committees formed on behalf of Mayengbam and Chandra have announced on Tuesday that if the killers are not arrested and Chandra who is “innocent” is not released they will launch more intensified agitations from Wednesday. Police are on alert in the troubled areas. (The Hindu 1/7/14)

79. Communal flare-up in Noida village leaves four injured (7)

Noida: A communal flare-up in Sarfabad village in Noida — 21 km from Delhi — late on Monday left four Muslims injured after a room they used for prayers was found desecrated. Police said miscreants also pelted stones at the room and nearby houses for almost half an hour before police dispersed the mob. According to police, Muslims of the village had just finished their prayers when the skirmish began around 10.30 pm. “We have arrested five suspects and a case has been filed under relevant sections of the IPC,” Gautam Buddh Nagar SSP Dr Preetinder Singh said. He said additional forces from Hapur, Bulandshahr and Ghaziabad were deployed in the area in addition to Noida police to prevent any escalation in tension. “We are investigating the allegations of desecration. If found true, relevant sections will be added in the chargesheet for hurting religious sentiments. There was some disagreement between the two parties regarding the construction and expansion of that prayer room, and we are looking into the matter,” Singh said. Trouble began three years ago after residents of the village opposed the building of a larger prayer room for Muslims. “They say we should confine our prayers to our houses only. They would not let us expand the room into a proper prayer house. For the past three years this dispute has been raging and we have already had two incidents over this,” a resident said. According to Uday Ram, the village pradhan, the dispute revolves around allowing Muslims from other villages into Sarfabad for prayers. “In the past, we have had Muslims from outside the village conducting prayers and meetings in our village. That is not acceptable to many people which is why they are opposed to the construction of that prayer house,” he said. A police officer said for three years, a number of meetings between the two communities have taken place on the issue but to little avail. “Technically, a mosque or even a madrassa cannot be built on that land since it belongs to the government and the local residents do not have the necessary permission. But they have no intention of building a mosque. They just want a bigger prayer house,” the officer said. (Indian Express 2/7/14)

80. UP in trouble: Communal clashes emerging in state (7)

LUCKNOW: The seething communal tension in Uttar Pradesh is again emerging in the form of small clashes. Post Lok Sabha elections, 13 incidents of communal clashes have left five persons dead and over 100 injured in the state. Though of low intensity, these clashes pose a serious law and order concern in the state, which is yet to recover from the scars of last year’s Muzaffarnagar riots. Nearly half of these clashes occurred over petty disputes on use of loudspeakers in a religious place or playing of drums and use of firecrackers in processions. A series of similar incidents, after SP government came to power in 2012, had surcharged communal atmosphere which snowballed in the form of large scale riots in Muzaffarnagar. Moradabad, which saw clashes between police and BJP workers on Friday, had been simmering since June 27 when police removed a loudspeaker from a temple in a village of Kanth area on the application of local MLA Anees-ur-Rehman. Three communal clashes have occurred in Meerut since May. While on May 10, two communities clashed over the construction of a water kiosk near a mosque, leaving one dead and seven injured, a dispute over fire works led to clash in Delhigate on June 2. A woman was critically injured by a stray bullet at Lisari village on June 19 when a dispute over the use of a loudspeaker led to clash between two communities. On May 23, two students of Darul Uloom Deoband, Abu Azmi and Mohammad Mubarik, were shot at in Muzaffarnagar by two gunmen when they were on their way to the institute. Mubarik later succumbed to his injuries. Seven persons were injured in Gajadharpur area of Pratapgarh on May 24 after two communities clashed with each other, indulging in arson and rioting, over dispute on bursting crackers during a function. In Faizabad, communal tension erupted after two groups of different communities clashed over the dispute on route of a religious procession in Ibrahimpur Village on May 24. About a dozen persons were injured in the clash. In Bahraich, a minor dispute over payment of paan masala snowballed into a group clash at Begumpur Bazaar on May 25. The two sides threw stones, bricks and bottles at each other, leaving 10 persons injured. Similarly, on June 2, a minor dispute over playing of dhol (drum) in a religious procession led to clashes in Kurrampur village of Saharanpur. In Shamli, at least 20 people were injured when two groups belonging to separate communities clashed over a land dispute at Chousana village in Shamli district on June 5. Six persons were injured at Sarfabad village of Gautam Budh Nagar on June 30 following clashes between two communities over a dispute related to construction work in a religious place. On July 2, two persons were killed in a firing incident between two parties in Shahjahanpur. The clash occurred over a dispute between a tea-stall owner, Sudhir Kumar and Tasaduq, who runs a wood shop, neighbouring Kumar’s stall. Sudhir and his cousin Dilip were killed in the firing. Six persons were injured on July 3 in a communal clash in Khamini village of Mathura over dispute on construction work at a religious place. (Times of India 5/7/14)

COMMUNALISM

81. RSS, VHP demand apology to seer (26)

Bhubaneswar: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday strongly reacted to restriction imposed by the Orissa government and the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on the climbing of chariots during rathyatra by Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Jagadguru Shankar-acharya of Puri Gobardhan Peeth. The RSS and VHP, in separate statements, threatened to take to agitation unless the government came out with an apology to the religious leader. In a strongly-worded statement, the secretary of the Srikshetra unit of the VHP Pramod Kumar Dash threatened to launch an agitation if the SJTA, an agency of the state government, did not apologise for “insulting” the Shankaracharya and thereby causing a deep sense of hurt among crores of Hindus. Terming the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration’s letter to the Puri seer asking him to visit the chariots all alone without his assistants as an “irresponsible” and “arrogant” act, Mr Dash asked the temple administration to apologise to the Shankaracharya at the earliest. He said as per the record of rights, the Shankaracharya is the chief adviser and superviser of the Sri Jagannath temple in all religious matters. “Like the Gajapati, who visits the chariots along with his team of assistants, the Shankaracharya too is accompanied by his disciples when he visits the deities,” Mr Dash said.“The Sanatani Hindus will not allow anyone to diminish the authority of the institution of the Shankaracharya,” he said while threatening that the VHP would not hesitate to take to agitation if the government and SJTA do not mend their ways. RSS member Sameer Kumar Mohanty asked the state administration to apologise to the Puri seer for “overstepping” their jurisdiction and imposing restrictions on his customary visit to the chariots during rathyatra (Asian Age 30/6/14)

82. Instilling nationalist pride in NE is RSS’s top agenda: Bhagwat (26)

Kakadkui: Instilling a “nationalist pride” in the Northeast is now on top agenda for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, who inaugurated a school, Madhav Vidyapeeth, run by the RSS education wing Vidyabharti in Kakadkui village of Bharuch district on Sunday, said the organisation has to now “spread the feeling of nationalism” in the seven sister states of the Northeast. Citing the success of Sangh’s five-year-old school in Nagaland in “binding” the people with the country, he said the education wing of the RSS has to now carry forward the work in Northeast. Stressing on building Vidyabharti schools in the Northeast, Bhagwat said, “Five years ago, we started a Vidyabharti school in Nagaland. Today, the children are speaking in Hindi and we are glad that we have been able to spread the spirit of nationalism there. Tomorrow, they will be fearless and defend every inch of this country. Our vision is not restricted to just these areas. This is our country and we have to be concerned about what is happening here.” When asked Bhagwat on his thoughts about China’s latest claim to Arunachal Pradesh, he said, “I feel what every Indian feels about this issue. This our country (in entirety) and that is what everyone’s stand should be.” At the Kakadkui inauguration, a leaflet in Gujarati, distributed to guests and parents of students, stated that it is unfortunate that Vidyabharti has been seen as a “violent” organisation. The leaflet says, “The tribal society is an integral part of the Hindu civilisation. The tribals are devotees of Hindu Gods and they are equal to any other Hindu. They are very straightforward and simple and many people are taking advantage of their lack of knowledge. Vidyabharti is educating tribals to make sure they are aware of what is happening around them. It is unfortunate that people see Vidyabharti as a violent organization. It is untrue. The aim is to educate through the tenets of Hindu way of life.” The event saw a huge turnout of RSS workers and BJP leaders including Union Minister and Bharuch MP Mansukh Vasava, Rajya Sabha MP Bharatsinh Parmar, Gujarat Ministers Ganpat Vasava, Chhatrasinh Mori and Nanu Vanani as Bhagwat inaugurated the newly constructed buildings in the massive compound that also houses a Ram Mandir. The classrooms have been named after Indian mythological characters — Dhruv, Eklavya and Chanakya among others. At his address to approximately 300 students belonging to tribal families, Bhagwat praised the skills of tribals and said, “When we look at the kind of education today, the picture is not very pleasing. They teach about science and progress, but not about Indian values and nationalism. That is where Vidyabharti has to step in.” (Indian Express 1/7/14)

83. RSS deputes Ram Madhav, Shiv Prakash to BJP (26)

Ahead of the appointment of the new BJP president, the RSS on Monday decided to depute two of its functionaries – Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash – to its political saffron affiliate BJP. “Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash have been deputed to the BJP,” Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, told The Indian Express. Ram Madhav, who has been the most accessible talking head for the media from the RSS, has been serving as Akhil Bharatiya Sah-Sampark Pramukh for the Sangh. Shiv Prakash, on the other hand, has been serving as the Kshetra Pracharak of Western Uttar Pradesh. Earlier this year, the RSS deputed Sunil Bansal, joint organising secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyrathi Parishad (ABVP) – the student wing of the RSS – to the BJP where he worked along with BJP general secretary Amit Shah during the elections. Recently, after BJP’s success in the state, Bansal was appointed general secretary of the UP BJP. These changes indicate gaining pace of organisational reshuffle within the BJP starting from the party presidentship. While the party general secretary Amit Shah is the front-runner for the job, a final decision rests upon the consultations with the RSS after the conclusion of its top office-bearers meeting at Mohankeda (Dhar) in Madhya Pradesh. RSS sources said it was for the BJP to decide what responsibilities it want to assign to Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash. The organisational reshuffle along with the new president is likely to witness these two leaders bagging important responsibilities within the party. (Indian Express 7/7/14)

84. Another village bans non-Hindu religious activities, govt sits idle (26)

RAIPUR: Amid controversy over right wing groups motivating gram sabhas or village councils to adopt resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activities in villages in tribal Bastar, Chhattisgarh government seem to be adopting wait and watch policy on how to deal with the situation. Yet another village, Belar in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district, convened its gram sabha on Sunday and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities. On May 10, gram sabha at village Sirisguda in Tongpal block convened under the provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, adopted a similar resolution banning non-Hindu missionaries. The resolution stated that “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.” Bastar’s district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Suresh Yadav claimed that village councils of more than 50 gram panchayats has already adopted such resolutions to ban outsider missionaries from their respective villages. However, Bastar district collector Ankit Anand told TOI, “To our knowledge, only three gram panchayats have passed such a resolution but it is not being enforced anywhere.” “Initially, it was brought to our notice that some outsiders were trying to attend gram sabha meeting. Gram sabha is a body of locals and outsiders cannot attend it,” he pointed out, admitting that “any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void.” He maintained that there was no tension in any of the villages. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said it’s the latest strategy of right wing groups to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law. Pointing out that panchayat bodies cannot override Article 25 of the constitution that guarantees freedom of religion to all, Pannalal said the state government was silent on the issue for the last three months even as right wing groups were trying to influence gram panchayats in other districts to adopt similar resolution. Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Chhiaranjan Bakshi told TOI that the matter has been brought up with the Adivasi Mahasabha, a body of local tribals in Bastar, which has registered its strong protest against adopting such resolutions. “CPI national leadership has been apprised about the development and we will do something more against such tactics by right wing groups,” he said it’s an attempt divide the tribals on religious lines and create trouble. (Times of India 8/7/14)

TERRORISM

85. For antiterror operations, NIA may get more teeth (12)

NEW DELHI: If the NIA has its way, tougher antiterror laws with enhanced powers to the agency may be in the offing. In the forthcoming visit of home minister Rajnath Singh to NIA headquarters, the agency is likely to propose certain changes in Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the NIA Act that could allow the agency to exercise powers that were enshrined in the now-repealed antiterror law POTA. The proposed legal changes would vest the agency with power to detain a terror accused in custody for more than 30 days and give it the time period of one year to file a chargesheet as against 180 days available now under UAPA. Sources said NIA has made such proposals in the past and is likely to push for it with the new regime which is perceived to have a tough stance against terrorism. It is also pinning its hopes on the fact that BJP had put “strengthening of NIA” as top priority in its manifesto. If accepted, it could be back to POTA/TADA days with the only exception of statement given to police not having evidentiary value. Enacted by previous NDA regime, POTA was repealed by the UPA government on the ground that it was draconian. However, a majority of its provisions were reincorporated in UAPA. The agency has argued that because its investigations have international ramification which involve long-drawn processes of letter rogatory and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) engagements with other countries, it should be given more time to file chargesheets. Also the complexity of terror cases demands more custody time, said sources. It is also likely to demand changes that would help the agency retake custody of an accused in the face of fresh evidence even after a chargesheet has been filed. NIA is also learned to be pushing for powers to investigate cyber crimes that do not come under scheduled offences. The agency argument is that even the seemingly unconnected-to-terror acts such as hacking of a government website has distant links with terrorism and such powers will help the agency to take comprehensive action against terrorism. As of now the agency can’t investigate cases under IT Act. Apart from this, the home minister is likely to be made aware of the severe shortage of manpower at inspector and DSP level and the paucity of financial resources. The agency is also likely to push for its own intelligence wing and powers to conduct counterterror operations. (Times of India 29/6/14)

86. New Pakistan anti-terror law raises fears over civil rights (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan’s parliament passed a law on Wednesday giving security forces sweeping powers to clamp down on militancy, but some activists and legislators criticised the provisions as too harsh. The legislation, known as the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, must now be signed into law by the president. The debate over the law follows months of high-profile Taliban attacks and this month’s offensive by the Pakistani military against militant sanctuaries in the remote border region of North Waziristan. Opposition senators had managed to water down some of the law’s most punitive clauses, said Senator Afrasiab Khattak. “It is still a very harsh law though,” Khattak said by telephone. “We will be raising these issues again when the law comes up for renewal in two years.” The revised legislation, he said, allows suspects to be held for questioning for 60 days without charges being laid instead of 15 days permitted at present. Senior police officers will be empowered to issue orders to shoot to kill suspects. It allows prisoners to be held at secret facilities but provides for some judicial oversight. Warrantless searches are allowed, but the evidence and cause must be presented in court within two days. In its original form, the bill was far more harsh. It is intended to replace Pakistan’s outdated 1997 law, which has been the main piece of legislation used to counter growing militancy in the South Asian nation of 180 million. But Fawad Chaudhry, a media adviser for the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, said the old law had not been used properly and he doubted that this one would be either. Hundreds of Pakistanis have been held for years in secret prisons without being charged. Extrajudicial killings by the security forces are also common. “The passing of legislation is hardly a problem. The problem is the implementation,” he said by telephone. Pakistani courts rarely convict high-profile militants. Police are not properly trained how to gather evidence, and judges and prosecutors are frequently subjected to death threats. Chaudhry said sometimes court officials also were sympathetic to militant aims. (DNA 2/7/14)

87. Nurses return home, joy erupts among family members (12)

KOCHI: Forty-six nurses, who were held captive by ISIS militants in Iraq, on Saturday returned home by a special Air India flight to a happy reunion with their families here, bringing to an end their about month-long ordeal. The special aircraft, which also had on board about 137 others, touched down the tarmac at the Kochi International Airport at 11.57am, a senior airport official said. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy whose coordinated effort with the Union government that ensured liberty to nurses from his state, besides another who hails from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu received them at the airport. Family members of nurses, on whose face a sigh of relief was writ large had assembled in large numbers to see their beloved ones return and were joined by political leaders from BJP and Congress at the airport. The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, began when ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) militants launched an offensive in that region on June nine. Even as Indian authorities continued to maintain constant touch with their counterparts at Iraq for safe release of nurses, they were moved out on Thursday against their will and detained in the militant-held city of Mosul. Efforts by external affairs ministry led to setting free the nurses held in captivity and they were transported in buses to Erbil International airport yesterday. The special flight that left Erbil in the early hours of today arrived at Mumbai for a brief stopover for refueling and catering supplies. Besides the nurses, the flight also carried 137 other Indian nationals, including 70 from Kirkuk in the northern part of Iraq, 23 crew members and three government officials, including a joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala. Chandy thanked the Centre, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian embassy in Iraq and MEA for ensuring the return of nurses from strife-hit Iraq. “The Centre has acted in complete understanding of the deep anxieties of Kerala. The ministry of external affairs and the Indian embassy in Iraq have made sincere efforts in securing release of the nurses,” Chandy told reporters here. Kerala government has made arrangements to enable nurses to reach their respective destinations across the state. (Times of India 5/7/14)

88. Protests in Jammu & Kashmir after encounter (12)

Srinagar: Irate crowds torched two police vehicles and damaged three others as massive protests erupted in Tral area of Jammu and Kashmir’s southern district of Pulwama on Saturday following the killing of an Islamic militant. Officials said that the slain man was a foreign militant belonging to Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit and was killed in an encounter with security forces in Tral’s Aaripal-Patsuna area earlier during the day. An Army soldier was injured in the fire fight. Reports said that the slain militant’s accomplice managed to escape the security dragnet during the encounter. As the word spread, hundreds of people from Aaripal-Pastuna and neighbouring villages took to streets to mourn and protest the killing of the militant. Soon the surging crowds chanting anti India and pro-freedom slogans clashed with the police which resorted to aerial firing and also burst teargas canisters to control the situation. The crowds turned violent and torched two police vehicles. Three other vehicles suffered damage in the mob violence, officials said adding the “miscreants” also indulged in stone-pelting on police. A police handout issued here said, “Police exercised maximum restraint. There are no reports of injury to anyone.” The encounter and subsequent protests by residents came a day after Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Kashmir visit. Eyewitnesses said the encounter was still going on when residents came out to chant pro-freedom slogans apparently to encourage the holed up militants. A police officer said that the residents were demanding that the slain militant’s body be handed over to them so that they could give it a decent burial. “The situation was brought under control after it (militant’s body) was given to the village elders for burial,” he said. Officials while giving details of the encounter said that the security forces including Army’s 42 Rashtriya Rifles, 185 Battalion of CRPF and local police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) had earlier launched a joint operation following specific information about presence of militants in Aaripal village of Tral. “The terrorists trapped in a house fired upon the joint team injuring one Army man. The fire was retaliated injuring one terrorist who fled to the nearby Pastuna forest area,” the police said adding that later on his body was found in the jungle. The police has identified the slain militant with his code name Madni of the Jaish outfit. An AK rifle with three magazines was found on him, it added. The police also claimed that Madni operated in coordination with indigenous Hizb-ul-Mujahedin cadres in the Tral area. The Army identified the slain militant as Adil Pathan of the Jaish. (Asian Age 6/7/14)

89. JM Road blasts: MCOCA to stay on main accused (12)

PUNE: The Bombay high court on June 26 quashed a special court’s order dropping MCOCA charges against Firoz alias Hamza Abdul Hameed Sayyed (40), the main suspect in the serial blasts on JM Road in August 2012. Sayyed had earlier moved an application in the special court arguing that he was booked for committing the same crime under two acts—the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). While MCOCA is a state act, UAPA is a central act. On February 11, the special court while dropping charges against Sayeed had observed that the accused could not be tried under both MCOCA and UAPA for the same offence. Following the decision, the state government had filed an appeal in the high court (HC). A division bench comprising justices P V Hardas and Anuja Prabhudessai observed: “On perusal of the order it is disclosed that on factual aspects of the case also there is no consideration and no finding has been recorded. With the consent of the learned counsel for the parties therefore, the order which is impugned in the present appeal is hereby quashed and set aside and the matter is remitted back to the trial court for a decision afresh in accordance with law.” The HC bench further stated: “It is needless to state that since we have not decided any of the issues which have been urged in the present appeal for challenging the impugned order, all issues and questions are kept open to be adjudicated and decided by the trial judge.” The order read: “We further direct that the trial court shall endeavor to decide the application as expeditiously as possible and preferably within three months from the date of appearance of the counsel. We expect the counsel for the parties to co-operate with the trial judge in expeditiously deciding the application.” Advocate General D J Khambatta and special public prosecutor Raja Thakare, representing the ATS, submitted that the trial court did not take note of the fact that the constitutional validity of MCOCA was upheld by the Supreme Court and hence “it would not be correct to hold that the offences under the MCOCA and the offences under the UAPA cannot co exist as it would render the judgment of the Supreme Court a nullity”.They argued that there was sufficient evidence to show that Sayyed was a member of an organized crime syndicate and provisions of MCOCA were applicable. Defence lawyer Mehmood Pracha told the HC that there were certain other aspects of the case which unfortunately were not raised before the trial court. On hearing both sides, the HC quashed the trial court order while upholding the government appeal. The HC order was uploaded on its website on July 7. On the status of the blasts case, Thakare told TOI over phone from Mumbai that the case will now come for formal hearing before the special court on July 9. All the accused arrested in the blasts are in judicial custody. On August 1, four co-ordinated low-intensity explosions had shaken J M Road between 7.25 pm and 11.30 pm, injuring one person. Two more bombs were defused. The ATS had on December 20 obtained the custody of four suspects – Sayyed of Shukruwar Peth, Asad Khan Jamshed Ali Khan (35) of Aurangabad, Imran Khan Wajid Khan Pathan (34) of Nanded, and Irfan Mustapha Landge (30) of Ahmednagar. They were arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police in October 2012. (Times of India 8/7/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

90. Bihar CM Jitan Manjhi disagrees with Rajnath on Naxals (12)

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday said that he disagreed with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that no talks will be held with Maoists and a befitting reply given if attacked. “Theoretically I disagree with what he has said. Naxalism cannot be solved with the help of gun. We have to find the underlying reasons behind it. The only solution lies in all-round development of society,” Manjhi told reporters here. “Frustration over lack of socio-economic-educational development and employment, as well as unavailability of justice among the weaker sections has led to naxalism. The answer to it lies only in development,” Manjhi said. Manjhi said former chief minister Nitish Kumar tried to solve the Maoist issue in the state and took up development work for marginalised people to tackle it. “This policy actually helped and now the situation in the state has changed so much that our Maoist brothers have to work hard to search for new recruits. Young men don’t want to join them. Development weans people away from Naxalism,” he said. “Our intention is to bring so much development in Biharthat issues like Naxalism automatically get solved. If we take development to the huts of the poor people it will definitely end Naxalism,” added Manjhi. Yesterday, ruling out talks with Maoists, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, has said forces will give a “befitting reply” if they are attacked and announced that it will fully fund the formation of elite commando force in states to deal with the menace. Singh, who met top civil and police brass of ten states affected by Left Wing Extremism, told them that enough funds will be provided to equip and modernise their respective police forces. “There is no question of any talks now. We will take a balanced approach. But the forces will give a befitting reply if the Naxals launch attacks,” Singh has told reporters after chairing a high-level meeting in Delhi. A Home Ministry official later said talks with the Maoists will be held only if they shun violence and come forward for a dialogue. Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar, Manjhi also said that he wanted the Public Distribution System to be run in the state with the help of Primary Agriculture Cooperatives, NGOs and Self Help Groups related to Bihar Rural Livelihood Project also known as Jeevika. Manjhi said if PDS shops needed to be given to individuals, they would be given to people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He said these issues were discussed with Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in a meeting yesterday. (Indian Express 28/6/14)

91. Woman among 6 Naxals arrested in Bijapur (12)

Bijapur: Six Naxals, including a woman, were arrested by the police in a search operation in Bangoli village forest under Bangapal police station, of the insurgency-hit Bijapur district, on Tuesday. They were at large for many years and four of them carried a reward of Rs 5000 each. District Superintendent of Police KL Dhruv said that the arrests were made during a search operation conducted by the district force in Bangapal police station area. The team started the operation from Satwa village, and moved through Chinger, Karkawada, Kakerlanka and Bangoli villages. In the forest near Bangoli village, the police force spotted six persons moving in a suspicious manner. Suspecting them as Naxals,  police cornered them and interrogated them. They disclosed their identity as Podiya (50) son of Dulla, Somaru Warsa (35), son of Dulla, Gopi (32), son of Dulla, Budhram Tamo (36), son of Sukda Tamo, Kadiyam Nehru (38), son of Dogga, and Sundari Warsa (40), daughter of Soma Warsa. Dhruv said that they all are residents of Sakinan Bangoli under Bangapal police station. They are wanted in a number of cases of murder, dacoity, attempt to murder, arson etc besides Naxal activities in Bangapal police station. (Pioneer 2/7/14)

92. 15 Naxals surrender (12)

NAGPUR: Security agencies received a major fillip in their fight against Naxals after 15 rebel guerillas surrendered before state home and guardian minister of Gadchiroli RR Patil on Thursday. Patil, who headed a DPDC meeting at Gadchiroli, presented cheques to the surrendered Naxals. Apart from welcoming the rebels back to mainstream, Patil also distributed sewing machines and other materials to 34 surrendered Naxals who had earlier laid down their arms before the district administration and police. Patil, in a strong worded address, stated that police were prepared to meet the Naxals on a war footing and also remained behind those who wanted to surrender. The home minister also stated that he aimed at preparing better surrender policies targeted at overall development of the surrendered Naxals. (Times of India 4/7/14)

93. Ex-Salwa Judum members face Maoist threat (12)

KUTURU (BIJAPUR):  Sitting in his barricaded house adjacent to the police station in Kuturu village in Bijapur district of South Bastar and surrounded by heavily-armed bodyguards, Madhukar Rao laughs when he says he is “waiting for death”. Mr. Rao was one of the founders of the anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum in Bastar — “a people’s resistance movement” — which was begun under his leadership in Ambeli village. “If they can kill Mahendra Karma [another founder and face of the Salwa Judum in Bastar], then we are small players,” Mr. Rao said, pointing out that other Salwa Judum functionaries had either been killed by the Maoists or forced, like himself, to live under tight security. “At times, police deploy Road Opening Parties (ROP) for me,” says Mr. Rao. Following allegations of human rights violations, the Supreme Court in 2011 declared the Salwa Judum illegal and unconstitutional and ordered that it be disbanded. Members of the outfit have been regularly targeted by Maoists for its “anti-tribal” actions. Mahendra Sadgul, who headed Salwa Judum in Bhopalpatnam area, was shot dead in 2008. Budhram Rana, another leader in Bijapur area, was killed some two kilometres away from his house. Chinaram Gota of Faresgad village was killed along with his bodyguards in 2011. “But the biggest jolt to Salwa Judum was the killing of senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma last year,” says Ajay Singh, who headed the outfit in the Bairamgad area and has now been provided Z category security cover. Mr. Singh and another senior Judum leader Vikram Mandavi managed to escape from Jiramghati attack last year. “We threw away our mobiles and identity cards to escape identification, but we are named as the main targets in their meetings,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu. Chaitram Mattami, who actively participated in Salwa Judum activities in the Dantewada area, lives a secluded life and refuses to meet journalists. “He won’t meet you unless he is sure about your identity. He will be in Dantewada, but he would tell you that he is in Raipur or Jagdalpur,” said Bappy Ray, a Dantewada-based journalist. Even Madhukar Rao has been attacked four times by the Maoists. The most recent attempt on his life was made on April 9 this year. “ How long will we manage to escape? Only few of us are alive now,” rues Mr. Singh, who charges the Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh government with being “opportunist”. “There was a time when the CM shared the stage with us and said he would give complete support, but now we have been left to the mercy of God with a few bodyguards,” said Mr. Singh. (The Hindu 5/7/14)

94. Two CoBRA Jawans Injured in Anti-Naxal Operation in Sukma

RAIPUR: Two CoBRA jawans were injured in a gun-battle between security forces and ultras in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Sukma district today. The jawans received minor injuries in the firing that took place in the restive Karikunda forests of Bhejji region, Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar said. A joint team of CoBRA’s (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action), a specialised unit of CRPF, 208 battalion and district force was mobilised from Bhejji police station for an anti-Naxal operation in the interiors of south Bastar. When they reached Karikunda forests, around 500 kms away from here, Naxals started indiscriminate firing. The rebels fled to the core forests, when jawans retaliated, the ASP said. Two jawans received minor injuries in the incident and were air-lifted to Raipur for treatment, he?said. (New Indian Express 7/7/14)

TRAFFICKING

95. Seminar in Kozhikode calls for probe into women trafficking (1)

Kozhikode: A seminar on ‘Child rights’ organised by the Anweshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies here on Friday, called for a thorough investigation into the increasing incidents of trafficking girl children for flesh trade. Panelists, including lawyers and social activists who addressed the seminar, stressed on the need to expose organisations those work under the banner of charity and secretly collude with tainted agencies to support women trafficking. Papers presented at the programme criticised that human trafficking was emerging as the most cruel face of globalisation and girl children and women were not in a situation to live safe in their own land, especially in some States in north India. The trend should be considered as the biggest social issue and should be attended to immediately by the responsible authorities, the panelists observed. Writer and social critic M.N. Karassery opened the seminar. Maria Louise, advocate, introduced the topic for discussion. Representatives of various women’s organisations also attended the programme, which was chaired by Anweshi’s president K. Ajitha. (The Hindu 29//6/14)

96. Child trafficking case: CBI prepared to takeover investigation (1)

Kochi: CBI today informed the Kerala High court that it was prepared to takeover investigation of the case relating to bringing of 580 odd children from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal to the state orphanages. The stand of CBI was informed while considering a PIL by an All Kerala Anti Corruption and Human Rights Protection Council, an NGO in Palakkad district seeking to handover the investigation to CBI. Meanwhile, on the court’s directions, Advocate General K P Dandapani handed over details of the investigation conducted so far by the Crime Branch police to the court in a sealed cover. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice K Vinod Chandran opined that since other states were also involved, proper investigation had to be conducted by an outside agency. According to the petitioner, the present investigation carried out was ‘ineffective’ and only if an independent outside agency conducted investigation, truth could be brought out. The case has been posted to Monday. The children, who had been brought to be sent to two orphanages in the state, had been detained by police last month at Palakkad railway station after finding that many of them did not have any proper documents. The issue had snowballed into a major row in the state with IUML, the key partner in UDF, objected treating the incident as a case of child trafficking. (Business Standard 2/7/14)

97. Four More Persons Included as Accused in Trafficking Case (1)

KOCHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the human trafficking case from Nedumbassery and Thiruvananthapuram, has arraigned four persons as accused in the case. The CBI filed a report in this regard at the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court on Friday. The four persons arraigned as accused are M Ramesh of Chelambra, Malappuram; A P Ramesh of Eriyad, Kodungallur; T A Rafeeq of Azhikode and Varghese Rafael of Chembakkara, Maradu. Now, there are 11 accused persons in the case. The report was filed by CBI inspector V S Uma. According to CBI officials, based on the statements of the victims who were taken to brothels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the agency has decided to include the four  persons as accused. During the investigation, it was found that Rafeeq was the driver of Lissy Sojan, who was running a brothel in Ajman. Rafeeq used to collect money from the customers visiting the brothel on behalf of Lissy. Varghese Rafael was the driver of Lissy in Dubai. He allegedly forged documents for transporting women to brothels in the UAE from India. The CBI has traced several victims from India, who were transported to Dubai and employed as sex workers. The victims have identified all the accused persons. Manesh was security guard at the brothel run by Lissy. He was arrested in Ajman during a raid conducted at the brothel a few months ago. He was later deported to India. Ramesh was working for Lissy in Kerala. He allegedly collected money from relatives of the victims for releasing them from the brothels. The CBI case is that a woman from Kizhakuttam was taken to Dubai in 2012 for household work, offering a monthly salary of Rs 25,000. She was transported using a fake passport, and was sent to a brothel in Dubai. She was tortured when she refused to enter into the prostitution. Following repeated requests from the victim’s family members, Lissy sent the woman back to India.    However, she was booked by officials at immigration wing of the Mumbai airport. Later, the case was transferred to the Kerala Police. Initially, the case was investigated by the Crime Branch, which arrested six persons, including the policemen who helped Lissy to take the victims to Dubai from the Nedumbassery airport. The case was handed over to CBI last year. (New Indian Express 5/7/14)

98. Take Measures To End Trafficking Of Girls, NGOs Tell Govt (1)

BANGALORE: Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have demanded that the State government take stern action against those involved in the trafficking of girls. In the light of recent statements by Women and Child Development Minister Umashree expressing concern over the increasing cases of trafficking, representatives of several NGOs have sought appropriate measures. Shakun Mohini of Vimochana, an NGO, said the sources of trafficking need to be broken. “The number of children pushed into prostitution is increasing. But the government or the police are hardly doing anything,” she said.  Nagasimha Rao of Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO) said in the last five-and-a-half years, around 4,234 women and children have been trafficked in the state. Upto June 2014, 511 cases of trafficking have been reported in the state and in Bangalore Urban alone, 277 cases were recorded. However, a senior official in the Child and Women Welfare Department said it is difficult for the authorities to keep track of every missing case. “Migration of people from different parts of the country makes it difficult for the authorities to keep track of every single missing case.” The official said the government is taking many measures to put an end to trafficking of girls. In the Assembly, Umashree had said 277 cases have been recorded in Bangalore in one year. She also said the number of cases reported in other districts are: Tumkur-23, Bijapur-22, Hassan-18, Bangalore Rural-13, Mandya-12,Bellary-12 and Belgaum-10. (New Indian Express 7/7/14)

CORRUPTION/ SCAM

99. Six anti-corruption bureau teams raid King George Hospital (5)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) teams raided the King George Hospital (KGH) on Tuesday and verified all the records, including those of the blood bank and medical stores. Around six teams headed by circle inspector rank officers and monitored by DSP M Narasimha Rao carried out the raids. They enquired about the services to the patients, sanitation in the wards, attendance of the staff among other things. Interacting with some of the attendants of patients, they sought to know if any doctors and staff were demanding bribes for conducting tests and treatment. The ACB sleuths also examined the security measures in place at the hospital as well as other aspects as there have been allegations of corruption against staff members, including doctors, as well as recent incidents of newborns going missing from wards and allegations of patient deaths due to negligence of staff. According to sources, the ACB sleuths found irregularities and lapses in the system in every wing of the hospital. The raids at KGH were part of statewide raids carried out on various government hospitals at Hyderabad, Nellore, Tirupati, Eluru and Vijayawada, the ACB DSP Narasimha Rao said. (Times of India 2/7/14)

100. Coal block scam: ED attaches assets (5)

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday attached assets worth Rs.24.5 crore belonging to a company owned by Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, in the coal block allocation case. According to the ED, AMR Iron & Steel director Manoj Jayaswal had paid Rs.24.6 crore to Asera Banka Power (ABP), owned by Mr. Vijay Darda and his son Devendra Darda, for exercising personal influence in facilitating allocation of the Bander coal block in Maharashtra. The attached assets include shares of JAS Infrastructure & Power Limited (owned by Mr. Jayaswal) and Rs.33.78 lakh in fixed deposits held by ABP. The amount, allegedly routed to ABP through Kolkata-based companies, was utilised to purchase shares of JAS. The company also allegedly concealed the fact that its group companies had earlier been allocated coal blocks. (The Hindu 2/7/14)

101. Maharashtra arrested 810 corrupt babus (5)

Mumbai: Maharashtra tops the list in the number of government officials arrested for graft under anti-corruption laws and for other crimes under relevant sections of the IPC concerned with civil servants in 2013. The state has seen the arrest of 810 government officials, with 712 of the accused being chargesheeted in trial courts. The data, however, does not specify the number of corruption cases and IPC charges. While cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, done by the state anti-corruption bureau (ACB), clearly pertain to accepting bribes, cases under the IPC include sections like Section 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant). In Maharashtra, a total of 4,339 such persons were under trial with seven cases withdrawn or disposed off by the courts. The trials of 800 such cases were completed with 120 convictions and 680 acquittals. The NCRB data also lists the number of civil servants reported for departmental actions/inquiries with 10 such cases where, surprisingly, no dismissals took place, with only one case being meted ‘major punishment’. “Major punishment in these cases include either ‘censuring’ by senior officers or punitive measures such as temporary suspension of salary. This comes after the preliminary enquiry when the departmental inquiry begins, that is conducted by a senior officer, heading another department in the commissionerate,” explained an IPS officer. When asked about the measures for ensuring higher convictions in corruption cases, state ACB chief, director general P.N. Dixit said that the number of anti-corruption courts have to be increased which will automatically ensure a higher convictions. “The trials in anti-corruption cases take place after prolonged periods with some of our own cases, done in the 1990s, which are still in the trial phase. The state government must increase the number of special courts for this purpose,” Mr Dixit said. IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y.P. Singh said the ACB should ensure better gathering of evidence to guarantee convictions, which according to him is a major cause behind corruption case accused going scot-free. (Asian Age 4/7/14)

102. Give more freedom to vigilance wing: Officers (5)

LUCKNOW: On the occasion of golden jubilee celebrations of the Vigilance Establishment of the UP Police, senior IPS officers advocated the state government give more freedom to vigilance department to punish the corrupt. Most of the speakers including director general of police A L Bannerji who also holds additional charge of director Vigilance spoke about fighting against corruption. Principal secretary Home Rakesh Bahadur was special guest of the function organised at the Indira Gandhi Pratishthan. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav could not turn up and was represented at the function by Health minister Mohammad Azam Khan, who said there would be no compromise on fight against corruption and his government has given permission to the CBI to punish 72 officials facing charges in NRHM and other cases. Write-ups by senior officers in a magazine published to mark the occasion drew attention of participants as the articles pleaded strongly for actual freedom to officers to investigate corruption cases and punish the powerful. “At the state level, anti- corruption mechanism needs to be more effective. Vigilance establishment, the anti-corruption organisation and crime branch of the CID need to be more effective instruments against corruption. State governments must cleanse the Augean stables of corruption, or else the electorate would not spare them,” warns the article penned by former DGP of UP, Assam and DG BSP, Prakash Singh who is fighting in the court for the police reforms. Mahesh Chand Diwedi another retired DGP questioned lack of freedom in functioning as it was mandatory to seek permission from government at every level to start inquiry. Most of the officers agreed that dozens of cases of corruption were pending in government. Earlier, a new logo of the Vigilance was unveiled. (Times of India 7/7/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

103. Over 2/3rd Indian population still rely on dung-based fuel: UN

NEW DELHI: More than two-third of India’s one billion strong population continue to rely on carbon-emitting biomass and dung-based fuel to meet energy needs for cooking, according to a UN report. “More than half of the global population lacking clean cooking facilities lives in India, China and Bangladesh. Here, India sits at the top of the list as the country with the largest population lacking access to clean fuel for cooking,” says the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation report titled “Sustainable Energy For All”.It says that India faces a significant challenge in providing access to adequate, affordable and clean sources of energy. “Roughly 85 per cent of the rural households are dependent on traditional biomass fuels for their cooking energy requirements and about 45 per cent do not have access to electricity,” says the report. The 2011 population census of India estimates the number of rural households at 167.8 million. In many poor rural communities, where biomass remains the most practical fuel, improved cook-stove can cut back indoor smoke levels considerably, says the UN. “Burning solid fuels produces extremely high levels of indoor air pollution. Typically, 24 hour levels of PM 10 in a biomass-using home range from 300 to 3000 micrograms per cubic meter,” says the report. As cooking takes place every day of the year, most people using solid fuels are exposed to small smoke particles at a level many times higher than the accepted annual limits for outdoor air pollution. “Thus, the health impact of burning biomass fuel is considerable, apart from being an obstacle to achieving a minimum standard of living,” it says. The report suggests that improved cook-stoves can cut back indoor smoke levels. “These stoves reduce a family’s exposure to harmful pollutants by optimising combustion, venting smoke through a flue and chimney and in some cases, reducing cooking time,” it says. The UN also says that often, across the country a large number of families who breathe polluted air inside their homes do not have access to clean drinking water and poor sanitation facilities. (Times of India 29/6/14)

104. Electronic companies and pollution boards flout e-waste rules: Report (9)

NEW DELHI: Most reputed electronic and electrical equipment companies—both Indian and multinational have failed grossly in fulfilling their responsibilities under extended producer responsibility (EPR) as defined under the e-waste management rules 2011, according to a report released by Toxics Link, an environmental NGO recently. The report titled “Time to Reboot” names and shames 50 well-known electronics including mobile phone, laptop, electronics, camera brands for not taking back their products after ‘end of life’ or after they turn into e waste, not having enough collection centers and other drawbacks. The report also exposes the state pollution control boards that have not been carrying out their functions of taking inventory of e-waste manufacturing units, ensuring storage facility for e-waste, authorizing e-waste recycling plants and laying out a procedure for storage of e-waste. Andhra Pradesh (4268.42 MT) and West Bengal (34,124 MT) were the highest e-waste generating states in 2011-12, the study found. Out of 50 companies examined in the study, as many as 16 fared very poorly. They got extremely poor, in most cases a zero in the four categories they were assessed for: sufficiency of information on website on disposing end of life products, ease of accessibility to information, take back system, number of collection points and information on take back policy with customer care or the helpline provided. Around 15 of them were in the “not so good” category where some of them had take back policies and information but none of them had collection points. Only 7 brands which include– Canon India, Intex Technologies, Lenovo, Nokia, Onida, Panasonic, Sansui India were found to be in the “good” category. Toxics Link filed RTI queries to check progress of pollution control boards in dealing with e-waste and found that only 7 out of 28 states and 6 UTs have made inventories of e-waste generating units, 4 states have partially done it. More than 19 states have no infrastructure to deal with e-waste. Delhi has the highest number of authorised producers (EEE). About 22 producers have sought authorisation till July 2013 and 17 producers have been granted permission in Delhi. Delhi Pollution Control Committee has also given notices to 13 producers for violating e-waste rules 2011. “The take back mechanism – which is a system to collect e-waste from the consumers, is blatantly ignored by a number of companies; one third of the brands assessed had no take back mechanism at all, and more than half of them did not provide any information on physical collection points,” said Priti Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link. 46 of the 50 brands included in the study had less than 100 collections points across the nation. This is woefully inadequate for the amount of e-waste generated in India, the study said. “We hope the scathing findings of the report serve as an eye opener to the top management of companies and senior officials of pollution control boards.” says Ravi Agarwal, Director, Toxics Link. India is currently generating about 2.7 million tons of e-waste annually and a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report suggests it will go up 500 times by 2030. “The apprehension arising is not of volumes alone, but also of the nature of toxicity associated. E-waste contains a variety of toxic chemicals, metals and materials such as mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants, known to cause major health and environmental damage,” says Toxics Link’s statement. The report also found a gap in e-waste compliance in India and the rest of the world. “Most top companies have a global policy on waste management and demonstrate responsible behavior by setting up efficient systems in most parts of the world. In India, however, the same companies follow a totally different yardstick, which leaves much to be desired,” says Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link. (Times of India 1/7/14)

105. Govt under Pressure to Probe Eco Clearances (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With more incidents of norms violations in environmental clearances to projects coming out, the government has come under pressure to go for a comprehensive probe against the top officials involved in sanctioning clearances. The LDF has raised three major issues related to norms violations while granting environmental clearances for projects, in this Assembly session. Left leaders, including V S Achuthanandan, have come down heavily on four key officials – P Sreekantan Nair, P K Mohanty, K P Joy and V N Rajasekharan Pillai – after these issues were raised in the Assembly. And if sources are to be believed, the Opposition plans to bring in major issues related to environmental clearances issued against norms. Adding to this, Congress MLA T N Prathapan too demanded a comprehensive probe into the the issue. In his letter, Prathapan pointed out issues related to activities in the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority. Major lapses on the part of officials, including not conducting site visits before granting clearance, were pointed out by the MLA. He demanded a Vigilance probe into the environmental clearances granted during this UDF Government’s tenure. It was following this demand that the Chief Minister directed the Chief Secretary to conduct a probe into the permissions and licences granted to quarry projects and other activities of the Environment Department. Home Minister too declared a Vigilance probe. Meanwhile, another probe by a three-member expert team is also on. However, P Sreeramakrishnan of the CPM, who raised one of the environmental clearance issues in the Assembly, pointed out the need to probe the criminal conspiracy angle. ‘’Cancelling all environmental clearances issued by these officials may not be always practical. There was a planned conspiracy by the officials behind sanctioning clearance to these projects. A probe should be conducted  into the activities of these officials. Based on the probe, decision can be taken on the environmental clearances issued,’’ he said. (New Indian Express 4/7/14)

106. UK push for a carbon-resilient city (9)

KOLKATA: The spurt in construction of buildings in Kolkata is a timely opportunity to start the transformation of the city’s economy from a high carbon path to a sustainable low carbon one, feels British junior minister (energy and climate change) Sandeep Verma. “I have seen dramatic changes happen to the city. There is a lot of construction happening here. It is a great opportunity for the city to adopt a green growth strategy and ensure that energy efficient buildings are constructed. India (and Bengal) is on a high growth trajectory with 70% of infrastructure yet to be put up,” said the Baroness who first visited Kolkata during her honeymoon in 1977 and twice subsequently. Though she is on a personal visit this time as well, Verma took time out to interact with CII members on Monday and urged upon them the need to embrace renewables in a major way. “Schools and hospitals are two institutions where solar panels should be installed so that they can run entirely on solar power,” she said. The UK government has already announced a £1 million programme to help the state adopt green and sustainable growth. During British PM David Cameron’s visit last November, the UK government and Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had signed an MoU to mainstream climate change within KMC policies and strategies. Greg Barker, the minister of state for climate change and energy, who had accompanied Cameron during the trip, visited again in February and announced the £1 million funding for the initiative. “UK will help the KMC prepare a roadmap for low-carbon, carbon-resilient Kolkata; organize sensitization programmes and strengthen the institutional capacity of KMC so that it can implement the roadmap, improve governance and respond to climate change challenges,” said British deputy high commissioner Scott Furssedonn-Wood. While the sensitization programme for councillors, MLAs and MPs through use of special tool kits is expected to commence within a month, a team led by renewable energy expert SP Gon Chowdhury is working on a policy and regulatory framework for grid connected rooftop solar so that Kolkata can introduce the concept of net metering. According to sources, the initiative is aimed at giving a boost to renewable energy by providing incentives to homes and institutions to install rooftop solar panels and generate a portion of its total energy requirement. When the solar energy generation is more than that required in the building, it will have the ability to push the electricity into the grid. (Times of India 8/7/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

107. Distress in cotton farming continues (20)

Hyderabad: The farm distress, particularly in cotton growing areas, continues to haunt the country. Maharashtra topped the list of farm suicides in 2013 with 3,146 farmers ending their lives. Andhra Pradesh (along with Telangana) stood second in the list with 2,014 deaths. The latest report of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) has put the total number at 11,772, including 1,283 women, for the year 2013. The cotton-growing States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka accounted for more than half of the total number of suicides. Last year, about 70 per cent of all the 14,000 farm suicides took place in the four States, indicating severe distress in the cotton-growing regions. Almost all of the area under cotton in these States is rain-fed. Though the situation has improved from the previous year’s 4,000 farmer suicides, the number still indicates serious crisis in the sector. The other States that witnessed high incidence of farmer suicides were Karnataka (1,403), Madhya Pradesh (1,090), Kerala (972) and Gujarat (582). Chhattisgarh and West Bengal reported no farm suicides at all. Eighty-three farmers committed suicide in Punjab and 150 in Odisha. (Business Line 1/7/14)

108. Severe Water crisis in 22 districts of Maharashtra; Five farmers commit suicide (20)

Mumbai: As the 22 districts of Maharashtra state continue to face drought-like conditions arisen due to delayed rains and depleting water levels, Five farmers from Marathwada region have committed suicide. With an expectation that the rain would arrive early, the farmers of Marathwatha region had sowed seeds in farm. But even as the June month ended and the expected rainfall did not happen, the farmers – Madhukar Mahajan, Shivaji Maanisange, Ramchandra Kadam, Kalyan Thote and Bhagwan Pawar who were already debt-ridden took the harsh step and committed suicide. Madhukar Mahajan of Nanded, Kalyan Thote of Jalna and Bhagwan Pawar of Beed who feared increasing financial burden committed suicide by consuming poison. Currently, Maharashtra has limited reserves of water, which will last only for the next 45 days.  At present, the Konkan area has water storage of 28%, Marathwada 17%, Amravati 30%, Pune 13% and Nashik 15%. Compared to last year, Nashik has reported 0% sowing. There has been sowing only on 44 hectares of land, which is nominal. The Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has asked farmers and there families not to worry about loans and should not get demoralised as the rain is delayed. So far, a total rainfall of just about 28 mm has been recorded in all the five districts in Nashik division (Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon and Ahmednagar), while the average expected rainfall is 155mm. Meanwhile, the central government is planning to work out a separate plan along with the state governments for drought-prone regions, such as Vidharbha, to ensure there is no shortage of drinking water and fodder. To make the water available, the state government has also started acquiring wells that have better storage. Till now the government has acquired 1,237 wells. Maximum number of 428 wells belongs to Marathwada region. Nandurbar district has recorded the lowest rainfall in the month. Compared to the last year, it is 89% lesser, followed by Hingoli, Mumbai.  (DNA 2/7/14)

109. Pilot project to attract rural youth to farming in the pipeline

BANGALORE: An innovative national pilot project to attract and retain rural youth in agriculture, in a bid to tap the youth potential in farming and also prevent their migration to urban areas, is in the pipeline. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has recommended this proposal to the Planning Commission of India which has agreed in-principle to include it in the 12th five-year-plan, according to experts involved in the process. The proposal regarding the pilot project had been recommended to the ICAR by its committee which had been formed to suggest the measures to be taken to attract youth to farming. The recommendations of the ICAR committee with a theme — “Attracting and Retaining of Youth in Agriculture (ARYA)” had been scrutinised by the vice-chancellors of all the agricultural universities in the country, agricultural experts and innovative farmers before forwarding to the Planning Commission. University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore Vice-chancellor K. Narayana Gowda, who headed the ARYA Committee, told The Hindu that the Committee had recommended that a Rs. 200-crore pilot project should be taken up in 30 different places across the country to motivate the rural youth to remain in agriculture. “The prospects of agriculture are getting affected because of the youth shunning farming and migrating to cities in search of menial jobs. The only way of attracting them to agriculture is to turn farming into a profitable venture. The proposed project aims at not only making farming a profitable venture, but also increasing the farmers’ incomes by three folds in five years,” Dr. Gowda noted. According to him, efforts will be made to increase the farmers’ incomes under the proposed project through various technological interventions depending upon the local requirements and bringing about convergence among the local research institutes, administrative bodies and farmers. This would also involve organising the youth on the basis of crops being grown by them and promotion of integrated farming. To begin with, about 500 farm youth would be chosen from each centre, which would comprise a cluster of three to four village panchayats. They would be given training in various aspects of farming including hi-tech farming and value addition to crops. The project would also link them with banks to get loans for setting up processing units and custom-hiring services related to farm machinery. Dr. Gowda said the main intention of the project was to instil confidence among rural youth that they can lead a decent life through farming rather than chasing menial jobs in cities. Through this, an effort is also being made to transform the agrarian sector, he noted… (The Hindu 3/7/14)

110. Maharashtra tops farmer-suicides list (20)

Nagpur: With 3,146 distressed farmers ending their lives last year, Maharashtra has topped the list of farmland suicides in the country, an activist said here Friday. Citing the latest National Crime Records Bureau report, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari said there have been 60,768 farmers’ suicides in the state since 1995. “These are not mere suicides or homicides. It is a genocide perpetrated by the wrong policies of the state government over the years, especially the last 15 years’ rule of Congress-Nationalist Congress Party,” Tiwari told IANS. He said it was a matter of “shame” that the Congress-NCP failed to address the distress and despair among the farmers. He said the NCRB report has exposed as untrue government claims that last year farmland suicides dropped by 50%.”With 60,768 suicides in the state, topping the number of suicides among all states in the country, it is high time the Centre intervenes,” said Tiwari, whose NGO has been documenting the Vidarbha crisis since 1995. Describing the gravity of the situation, he said the NCRB figures of 300,000 farmland suicides till date revealed that every fifth farmer who ended his/her life in the country is from Maharashtra, with the maximum incidence from Vidarbha in the eastern part of the state. Several expert panels and committees have studied the situation in Vidarbha and concluded that unpredictable rains with intermittent dry or wet droughts lead to crop failures. Besides, increasing cost of inputs and cultivation practices, mono-culture or dependence on a single crop only, poor awareness of agronomics, and lack of proper farm credit availability lead to an increased hold of private moneylenders, which leads to suicides. Tiwari said that following a court order in 2006 in a VJAS public interest litigation, the state government carried out a door-to-door survey of over two million cotton farmers. The survey revealed that of the 1.70 million people covered, more than one-fourth were under “maximum distress” and the rest were in “medium distress”, leaving barely 10 percent who were relatively well-off. (Hindustan Times 5/7/14)

111. Develop agriculture and you develop all industries’ (20)

CHENNAI: Agriculture is our core competency, developing this segment will help develop every other industry, said Ponraj Vellaichamy, advisor to APJ Abdul Kalam. He was speaking at Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Foundation (RAIF) Talks organised by IIT Madras in association with the RAIF recently. “Though agriculture is our core competency, its contribution to GDP is only 17 per cent. Developing agriculture and agro food processing industry would mean developing every other industry. This is because the consumer base will increase with the development of agriculture,” he said. Diverting funds that are provided for industries like automobile to innovation in agriculture will enable generation of a larger share of jobs, especially since the land for these is already available with the farmer, he said. By 2020, India will have to grow much more crops to feed the growing population. But the land available for agriculture and manpower in the industry will reduce. This calls for huge innovations in the area. Engineers from various colleges in the State should look at agriculture as an avenue for innovation, he added. Speaking about innovations like unmanned aerial vehicles, he said that many of these can be used to solve common problems. “We have sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles developed for surveillance and other defense purposes, but there are many areas which require this just as much. Unmanned vehicles might be of great use if it can be used to unblock the drains instead of doing it manually,” he said. (New Indian Express 8/7/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

112. Land Act: State wants changes (4)

Mumbai: Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat has suggested to the Centre to make some changes in the Land Acquisition Act so that projects do not get halted and project-affected people (PAP) get justice. The minister gave a presentation to Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari last week in Delhi about provisions in the Act that needed to be changed. “There is no doubt that the Act passed by then UPA government was revolutionary and provided more compensation to project-affected people than before. However, there are some technical difficulties we are facing while implementing it in the state, and I have suggested to the Centre to clear these hurdles,” Mr Thorat said. The minister said that in projects where land acquisition is required, the PAP’s should get compensation as per the new Act. “The farmers should be compensated properly as land, his sole income source, is acquired for the projects. We want the Act to cover projects which are underway,” he added. There are many lands acquired by the government, mostly for dams, which are lying unused as either the projects have been cancelled or could not take place. “I have told them to return those lands to the farmers so that they can benefit from it. Also, the government is not using them and the lands are lying unused,” he said, adding the new Act should have more positive amendments. Union minister Mr Gadkari had last week hinted at bringing changes in the Land Acquisition Act, as its stringent provisions were delaying projects. The Act passed by the then UPA government was considered landmark as it emphasised on land not being forcibly taken away from farmers and ensured adequate compensation and rehabilitation to owners. “The present Land Acquisition Act, with its stringent provisions, discourages coming up of any project,” Mr Gadkari had said. He, however, said that due compensation for land should not halt projects. “There can be no compromise on compensation and rehabilitation,” he had added. (Asian Age 30/6/14)

113. ‘New Land Acquisition Act tough to implement’ (4)

PANAJI: The new central Land Acquisition Act, passed during the earlier UPA government, may either be amended or totally revamped as most states in India have cited difficulties in implementing it, deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza told TOI on Tuesday. D’Souza, who is also the state revenue minister, made the statement after returning from the all-India revenue ministers’ conference in Delhi recently. The revenue minister said that the conference took a review of the new Land Acquisition Act and that all the states are unhappy about the act. “Although the Congress government said it is a good legislation, practically it is impossible to use it. The North-Eastern states have demanded that the Land Acquisition Act be withdrawn, because they claimed that theirs is community land,” said D’Souza. Asked if there were any provisions in the act which affected Goa adversely, D’Souza said that small states had their own problems. For example, the act has a provision whereby when land is acquired, the people whose land has been acquired have to be rehabilitated. So the government will have to acquire additional land to rehabilitate the affected people. “That is not practical in Goa, because we do not have land here. If we need 10,000 sq m, we will have to acquire 20,000 sq m,” D’Souza said. The government had said that cases after January 1, 2014, would be processed under the new Land Acquisition Act. But under the new act, the acquisition proposal has to be put up before the gram sabhas and it has to be approved by 70% of those present. “If land were to be acquired along the highway from Mapusa to Margao for road widening, there are numerous villages all along the length of this road. We would have to go to the gram sabhas of all the villages and get 70% approval from all gram sabhas. I have told Nitin Gadkari, who is holding charge after Munde’s death, that we will never be able to acquire land,” D’Souza said. Also, the proposal has to be looked at by a social impact assessment committee, comprising a team of social scientists and other people. Having heard views of 29 states on the act, most of which were similar, the Centre will take a decision on whether to amend or revamp the act. “Most states have echoed the sentiment that while the act is theoretically okay, practically we will not be able to do any fast-track acquisition” said the deputy chief minister. Asked if the delay in implementing the act would affect Goa, D’Souza answered in the affirmative. “The Centre was supposed to frame rules for the act and send them to the states. These rules have not been sent yet. Rules give details of the procedure to be followed in the implementation of the act,”he said. (Times of India 2/7/14)

114. NBA slams reported nod to raise height of Sardar Sarovar dam (4)

NEW DELHI: The Narmada Bachao Andolan on Saturday criticised as “dubious and misleading” a government press release which stated that the Narmada Control Authority had given the nod for phase I of the Sardar Sarovar Project. The Press Information Bureau issued a statement, purportedly from the Ministry of Water Resources, on July 3. The proposal for the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. comprised construction of piers, overhead bridges and installation of gates at the dam. The NBA has demanded a review of the decision to increase the dam height to 138 metres. The release also said in the absence of the NCA’s permission, construction work at the dam site in Kevadia colony had come to a standstill. It maintained that the dam had, for lack of gates, been overflowing for the last two months. The installation of spillway piers would take the dam to its full height of 138 metres. The PIB statement comes after the NCA on June 12 cleared an eight-year-old proposal to increase the height of the SSP by 17 metres. The NBA has challenged the contention that the dam has been overflowing for the last two months. Quoting recent media reports, the NBA statement said that on June 21, low water-flow had forced the SSNNL authorities to shut down the River Bed Power House. The NBA reiterated the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award’s clauses on submergence and rehabilitation, according to which all affected families must be rehabilitated six months prior to the start of construction work. After the agitation by displaced persons in June, there was a meeting with the Union Water Resources Minister on June 24, who promised to direct NCA officials to verify the rehabilitation status. The government should have given information on the unfinished agenda of resettlement and rehabilitation as per the law and Supreme Court directives, the NBA statement observed. (The Hindu 6/7/14)

115. BJP farmers’ wing wants land acquired for SEZs returned (4)

CHANDIGARH: Apparently to woo Haryana’s strong farming community ahead of the state assembly elections, BJP’s farmers wing on Saturday demanded return of around 8,000 acres of land bought by different companies in the name of special economic zones (SEZs) to the tillers in the national capital region (NCR) area in the state. To press for the demand, BJP Kisan Morcha-led by its president Om Prakash Dhankhar on Saturday started a cycle march from a village Ghadhauli of Gurgaon district. The march would conclude at Jhajjar on Sunday. “Reliance and other companies had bought the land at the rate of Rs 22 lakh to Rs 32 lakh per acre while showing big dreams of development and employment. But no development took place in the area and now forest cows are wandering in this area,” he added. The farmers leader said that the land bought from the farmers was now being sold at the rate of Rs 2 crore to Rs 6 crore per acre. “As per land sealing act, no company can buy the land beyond 54 acres but in Haryana private companies have bought thousands of acres of land,” he added. “If BJP comes to power in the state, we would ask these companies to return the land to the farmers or we would take action,” Dhankhar announced. The BJP leader said that they want that the land acquired by the government or bought by companies in the name of special economic zone should be returned to the farmers because SEZs have failed to take off here. Haryana state industrial and infrastructure development corporation (HSIDC) had transferred 1383.68 acres land to the Reliance for the joint project of HSIDC and Reliance few years back. Six months back, the state cabinet approved the proposal for reversal of this land peace. (Times of India 7/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

116. BHU scientists claim breakthrough in Japanese encephalitis research (1)

VARANASI: A team of scientists headed by an associate professor and head of the molecular biology unit at BHU’s Institute of Medical Sciences has reported the role of cellular TRIM protein in human microglial cells infected by Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus. This breakthrough research would be helpful in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of JE virus which takes hundreds of lives annually. “The TRIM family of proteins has many members. Some of them like TRIM-5 alpha have been reported as a strong anti-viral cellular factor. TRIM-21 protein acts as a negative regulator of interferon beta production during Japanese encephalitis virus infection,” said Sunit Kumar Singh, head of the molecular biology unit who led a research group in the area of human molecular virology and immunology at IMS-BHU. “Our research would be helpful in designing the anti-viral medicines against JE virus as during a JE infection, its virus exploits TRIM-21 as a potential strategy to suppress type-I interferon response and protects itself from antiviral action of the microglial cells in brain,” he said. He said the research work was published in the February issue of the “Journal of Neuroinflammation”.He said JE has an estimated worldwide annual incidence of 45,000 human cases and 10,000 deaths. Approximately, 25% of encephalitis patients die while about 50% of the survivors develop permanent neurological or psychiatric problems like memory loss, impaired cognition, behavioral disturbances, convulsions, motor weakness or paralysis and abnormalities of tone and coordination. Occurrence of JE epidemics has been a regular feature in Gorakhpur since the first major JE epidemic in 1978. Japanese encephalitis virus infection primarily occurs in children less than 15 years old, but it has also been reported in adults. The incubation time for Japanese encephalitis ranges from 5-15 days. Typical febrile illness of JE manifests with abrupt onset of fever, headache, backache, muscle pain, anorexia, and lasts for a week, he said. He said that a vaccine against JE virus is already available in country and the government should ensure its easy availability and develop a proper vaccination programme to cover a larger population, he added (Times of India 28/6/14)

117. Kerala to Seek Steps Against Misleading Health Ads (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Government will demand amendments to the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules for checking misleading advertisements which make tall claims of cure through Ayurveda and other medical streams, according to Health Minister V S Sivakumar. The Centre will be approached to bring in more stringent laws against such misleading advertisements, the Minister told the Assembly while replying to a question. He also said that 105 cases have been registered for giving misleading advertisements. To a question on providing healthcare to students, the Minister said that the project  ‘Safe Food for a Healthy Life’ will be implemented in schools as part of a drive against the prevalence of lifestyle diseases among children. As part of the programme, training will be given to 10 children each from Class 9 and 11 in selected schools, who will then impart awareness among others. The Minister said that yoga classes would be organised for children with the cooperation of Ayush. The Lifestyle Disease Education and Awareness Programme (LEAP) for schoolchildren will be extended to all schools in the state, Sivakumar said. (New Indian Express 3/7/14)

118. Human mobility boosts spread of dengue: Study (3)

AHMEDABAD: Human mobility is more to blame for the spread of dengue than mosquitoes, says a study conducted by IITGandhinagar (IIT-Gn) on the incidence of the disease in the city. The study titled, ‘Modelling spread of dengue epidemic in urban areas from a spatial interacting networks perspective’, was carried out by Prof ShivakumarJolad and PhD student MuraliEnduri of IIT-Gn. The researchers also found that dengue was more common in densely inhabited urban areas than in regions with sparse population. The research, conducted over a period of 7 years (from 2006 to 2012), studied the incidence of the disease at the ward level in Ahmedabad city. Prof Jolad analyzed the data received from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s entomologist Dr VK Kohli to examine the spatial spread of dengue in different wards. “We found that, on an average, there is a delay of about two months from the onset of monsoon to the peak in detected dengue cases. This is primarily due to multiple stages of the dengue virus’s lifecycle in the mosquito,” Jolad said. The dengue lifecycle includes stages in human beings as well as the Aedes Aegepti mosquito. The monsoon provides ample stagnant water for the dengue mosquito to start breeding. When this mosquito bites an already infected person it also becomes infected and becomes a host to the virus. When the infected mosquito bites another human being, it passes on the infection to him. There is an incubation period between being bitten by a dengue mosquito and showing symptoms of the disease. “This explains the two-month delay, between the onset of monsoon and the incidence of the disease reaching a peak,” said Jolad, who is an assistant professor in physics at IIT-Gn. The study also says that dengue, as a disease, is spread more by humans than by mosquitoes. A mosquito can fly distances up to 25 to 30 metres in a day but infected human beings can travel much longer distances. “This allows the virus to travel to newer places where the cycle of infection is repeated,” said Jolad. The study, which has been presented at various conferences, suggests that an effective plan for preventing dengue outbreak would require devising of vector control strategies and minimizing of vector-to-human transmission of the virus… (Times of India 4/7/14)

119. Poverty, child, maternal deaths high in India: UN report (3)

United Nations: India continues to battle poverty, child and maternal deaths, according to a United Nations report on the Millennium Development Goals that said while several key global targets have been met, more sustained effort is needed to cover disparities by the 2015 deadline. The ‘Millennium Development Goals Report 2014′, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon here yesterday, said many global MDG targets on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary schools have already been met. Many more goals are within reach by their 2015 target date, the report said, adding that if current trends continue, the world will surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. The report is the most up-to-date “global scorecard” on efforts to achieve the eight mostly anti-poverty goals agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000. It, however, said that some MDG targets related to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are slipping away from achievement by 2015, despite major progress. “We know that achievements have been uneven between goals, among and within regions and countries, and between population groups,” Ban said, adding that unless imbalances are addressed through bolder and more focused interventions, some targets will not be met, including in key areas such as childbirth, maternal mortality, universal education, and environmental sustainability. The overwhelming majority of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day belong to Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with one third of the world’s 1.2 billion extreme poor living in India alone in 2010. India also had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children dying before reaching their fifth birthday. While Southern Asia has made “strong and steady” progress in reducing child deaths by more than halving its under-five mortality rate, yet nearly one in every three deaths still takes place in the region. Despite progress in all world regions, the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions – 230 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013 – was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013. Highlighting the extreme differences in maternal mortality among countries, the report said that almost one-third of all global maternal deaths are concentrated in the two populous countries – India and Nigeria. India has an estimated 50,000 maternal deaths (17 per cent) while Nigeria has an estimated 40,000 maternal deaths (14 per cent). (Busines Standard 8/7/14)

HIV/AIDS

120. In India, more people ended their lives over love than property

NEW DELHI: More people commit suicide daily due to unrequited love or a failed affair than due to poverty, bankruptcy or unemployment in the country. And not surprisingly, this is reflected in the maximum number of suicides recorded in the age group of 0-29 years, according to latest government data. According to the 2013 NCRB data, there are 12 suicides every day due to love affairs compared to five for poverty, seven for bankruptcy and six for unemployment. In fact, love affairs have turned out to be third biggest killers after family problems and illness. This is well reflected in the fact that as many as 135 suicides fall in the age group of 0-29. The data shows that 89 people commit suicide every day due to family problems while 72 end their lives because of illness. Cancer has turned out to be the biggest reason for which most suffering from illness commit suicide followed by paralysis and AIDS. According to the data, in 2013 781 people committed suicide due to cancer while 724 took their lives due to paralysis. AIDS, despite being the deadliest disease, pushed only 590 people to suicide. It also fared better in terms of percentage increase in comparison to 2012. While paralysis suicides grew by 35.1% and cancer suicides recorded an increase of 33%, AIDS suicides clocked only 12.4% rise. Illness was the biggest reason driving people to suicides in Punjab with 35% of all suicides in the state falling in such category. Notably, Punjab has been severely affected by cancer and drug abuse in recent past. The data also show that as many as 86 people died due to heart attacks and epileptic fits in the country. Meanwhile, the picturesque and quaint environs of Kerala and Puducherry do not seem to be spreading any happiness within families. Both places were top of the heap in the category of suicides due to family problems with over 50% of all suicides attributed to this reason. Apart from this some new reasons seem to be trending in pushing people to take their lives. Illegitimate pregnancy has recorded an increase of 64.5% over 2012 while ‘fall in social reputation’ (49.4%), ‘professional/career problem’ (40.8%), ‘divorce’ (35.7%), and ‘cancellation/non-settlement of marriage’ (33.5%) have followed closely in their rise as the new trending. (Times of India 2/7/14)

121. Haryana to open anti-retroviral treatment therapy centres (3)

Chandigarh: The Haryana Government has decided to open anti-retroviral treatment therapy centres in seven districts of the state in this financial year so as to provide free and convenient treatment facility to HIV and AIDS patients near their homes. This information was given in an Inter-Departmental Co-Ordination Committee meeting on HIV and AIDS of Haryana State AIDS Control Society today. The meeting was presided over by Director General, Health Services, Dr Narender Arora. The aim of meeting was prepare a strategy for prevention of HIV and AIDS with Inter-Departmental Co-ordination. Dr Arora said that Facility Anti-Retroviral Treatment Centres would be opened in the districts of Ambala, Sonepat, Jind, Bhiwani, Sirsa, Kaithal and Panchkula in this financial year. He said a new Anti-Retroviral Treatment Therapy centre at Medical College, Agroha would also be made functional in this financial year. Apart from this, 10 New Integrated Counseling and Testing Centres would also be set up in the financial year. He said under Harm Reduction Programme, six new Opioid Substitution Treatment Centres would be opened at Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Gurgaon, Rohtak and Karnal for the treatment of Injecting Drug Users in Government Health Facilities. Apart from this, two new STI clinics would be set up Ambala Cantonment and Jagadhri in this financial year. He said the prevalence of HIV in Haryana is 0.11 per cent and lower as compared to all the neighboring states, he added. He said the State Government has a target to achieve the goal of Zero New HIV infection, Zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths by 2015. (New Kerala 4/7/14)

122. Women body for probe into sex workers figure (3)

BHUBANESWAR: Women’s rights organization All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) on Sunday demanded a high-level probe into NGOs’ projecting homemakers as sex workers to grab funds for HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. “It is a highly atrocious revelation. Impartial probe should be done and criminal action initiated against the NGOs. Connivance of officials, if any, should also be investigated,” said AIDWA central committee member Tapasi Praharaj. To an RTI query by a campaigner, the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) had submitted that an independent evaluator appointed by it found the unethical practice of manipulating number of sex workers by including homemakers in the list. “Since NACO itself has found out the misdeed, government must initiate early action,” Praharaj said. An NGO in Dhenkanal manipulated its target population of female sex workers (FSW) by including homemakers and community women, the evaluator found out. Surprisingly, the evaluator has recommended continuation of its work by reviewing its target population. The NACO evaluator recommended discontinuation of assistance to two NGOs in Khurda, one of which worked for FSW, and another for composite group, because of their shortcomings. The evaluator also pointed out several other shortcomings in implementation of the HIV/AIDS initiatives by the NGOs in various districts, the RTI reply said. The evaluator said social marketing of condom was not properly done in most of the districts. (Times of India 7/7/14)

123. ‘Rights of children will be upheld’ (3)

PANAJI: Amidst continued protests by parents of students at a Rivona school to oppose admissions to 13 HIV positive orphans to the institute, director of education Anil Powar assured that rights of the HIV positive children to admission to a regular school will be upheld. “All 43 children from the home in Sanguem have been admitted in the school and they will continue to study at the school. The children have the right under the Right to Education Act and we will see that they get their rights,” Powar said. He said that efforts are on to convince the protesting parents to accept the decision of absorbing the HIV positive children in the regular school. The children from the Sanguem home were earlier studying through the open school and it was decided this year by the authorities at the home that they be assimilated in a regular school after medical tests found them fit. “We are trying to convince the protesting parents. We cannot deny admissions to anyone. But if some parents want to withdraw their children from one school and admit them in another, it is their choice,” Powar said. The protesting parents are threatening to withdraw their children en-mass from the school if admission to the HIV positive children is not withdrawn. The parents are holding protests outside the school over the last few days to pressurize the school management. The parents feel that the health of their children could be at risk with the HIV positive children around. (Times of India 8/7/14)

Posted by admin at 8 July 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. 2 proposals in BMC making citizens vulnerable, say RTI activists

Mumbai: Activists have slammed two proposals, one on complainants and another on the Right To Information (RTI) Act in the BMC which they say are aimed at making complainants vulnerable. This, they will be doing so by exposing their identity and setting several conditions on them. Activists have slammed two proposals on the Right To Information (RTI) Act in the BMC which they claim are aimed at making the complainants vulnerable by exposing their identity and setting several conditions on them, thereby diluting the power of the Act. The first proposal pertains to seeking details of complainants. An advertisement by the corporation states that complaints in ward offices “should be accepted along with the proof of education, occupation, identity and residence of complainant…name of complainant and information sought by him/her to be displayed on the notice board.” The other proposal pertains to several expectations from the complainant. In its January 30 edition, dna had reported the notice of motion moved by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator Manisha Chaudhury. In her motion, she had said that RTI applicants should submit a “letter of guarantee” regarding constructive work related to the information they sought. The proposal suggested that the RTI applicant must submit a letter of guarantee regarding constructive work for which information is sought along with application and submitting proper reason in writing in case he or she is withdrawing the application. “What they have suggested is ridiculous and has been done to only make the position of the complainant vulnerable. We will be soon approaching the municipal commissioner. It is due to the complaints which are followed up by RTI that illegalities are coming out. These proposals are making citizens vulnerable to illegal elements,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, an activist. Activist have already written a letter to the BJP city president complaining about the issue. “What she (Chaudhary) has stated is against our fundamental rights through which we can seek information. Constructive work may not be constructive for someone if the information is exposing him. This Act is passed by Parliament and amendments can be done only by it,” said Anand Castelino, another activist. The proposals, in fact go against the rules of the RTI Act itself. Section 6 (1) of the RTI Act clearly states that the purpose of the application cannot be sought from the applicant. According to the section: An applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. Manisha Chaudhury was not available for comment. Talking earlier to dna on the same issue, she had said, “There are some people who are misusing the Act. Hence I have put this up.” BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte said that he would have to look at the advertisement and then comment. On the issue of rules for RTI, he told dna, “Notice of motion by itself comes in a form as a suggestion. It is put in house and comes for remark to the commissioner. We will apprise them (corporators) of the legal position when it comes up.” (DNA 21/6/14)

 

2. Stingy Government Puts RTI Awareness in Limbo (1)

THRISSUR: The Right to Information Act of 2006  and Right to Services Act of 2012 might have removed the veil of secrecy of government functioning from the common man. But the genuineness of government in creating mass awareness about how to effectively use them is under question. For the past eight years ever since the RTI  Act came into effect, both the LDF and UDF governments have not spent a single paisa during the period to carry out public campaigns on the laws. But on the other hand, the government had spent as many as `81.12 crore for giving advertisements on other government schemes through electronic and print media between May 2006 and July 2013, reveals a reply to an RTI query. Even though the General Administration Department, under the jurisdiction of which the State Information Commission functions, claims that several awareness campaigns were conducted on RTI, no money has been spent for giving ads during the period. Under Secretary of the Department M Harshan told Express that ultimately it was up to the government to decide on whether to give advertisements. The department would take up the matter with the Public Relations Department that deals with the advertisements given by the government, he said. Human Rights activist P B Satheesh, who had filed the RTI application in this regard, said that only a minority was effectively making use of both the RTI and RTS laws, which could be used with much more vigour against the endemic corruption and inefficiency in the system of governance. “Creating awareness about the Acts is essential because the citizens themselves have to file applications to access information. “If the data sought pertains to human rights violation and corruption, it needs to be given to the applicant within 30 to 35 days,” he said. (New Indian express 23/6/14)

 

3. Activist slams postal department over RTI stamps (1)

Panaji: The postal department’s idea of allowing ordinary postage stamps of definitive series towards payment of Right to Information (RTI) fees had to be rejected outright requiring amendment to the RTI Act, said RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. Mr. Agrawal revealed how the postal department could not issue RTI stamps due to shortage of paper in two printing presses at Hyderabad and Nashik and as such came out with an idea of allowing ordinary postage stamps of definitive series towards payment of RTI fees, which was struck down as impractical. He recalled the postal department earlier accepting full bench Central Information Commission (CIC) verdict in August 2013, recommending issue of RTI stamps as mode of payment of RTI fees and accepting RTI petitions addressed to central public authorities at 25464 post offices rather than present 4710 post offices without postal charges. “CIC had for such reasons recommended issue of exclusive RTI stamps on lines of erstwhile stamps issued by postal department in respect of licence fees for radio and TV sets. Postal department has also backed out on its earlier commitment to accept RTI petitions addressed to central public authorities allegedly because of lack of infrastructural facilities,” Mr. Agrawal said on Monday. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

4. Information doesn’t come cheap under RTI (1)

Hyderabad: While the RTI Act is usually seen as an empowering tool of a common man entitled to receive information by just spending Rs 10, some provisions in it has literally made it out of reach of the applicants. For instance, Kalyan J. Yakaiah, founder-cum-president, Hyderabad Intellectuals Forum had applied for a certified copy of a sanctioned plan of a plot in Punjagutta under the RTI Act recently. The Town Planning Department of GHMC replied asking Mr. Kalyan to pay Rs. 17,775 for the copy of the plan which was calculated at Rs. 150 per 100 sq. mt. “We go by the provisions of the Act which say we have to charge as per the actual cost of the plans. There is no other way of providing this information without charging for the plans or maps,” said B. Raghu, chief city planner, GHMC. According to the AP rules of the RTI Act, the copies of plans and maps which are more than A4 size can be charged as actual cost. However, the RTI activists have been saying that this has been misinterpreted by the officials and they should be either photocopied or furnished in a soft copy. RTI activist Rakesh Reddy too had a similar experience and wanted the officials to consider cheaper and easier ways of furnishing information. “I was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh for the building plan of a commercial complex in Ameerpet. But instead we asked for soft copy of the plan and paid around Rs 200. Just because there is a provision, the public information officers should not deter the applicants by charging huge amounts and instead look for cheaper ways of furnishing this kind of information.” The RTI applicant, Mr. Kalyan, felt that RTI Act was not being taken seriously in the government departments. “I did not get any explanation from the GHMC staff on why I need to pay so much for a plan. My experience with electricity and education department too has been disappointing as I failed to get proper replies for my RTI queries,” he bemoaned. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

5. Greenpeace terms IB reports as ‘malicious’ (1)

New Delhi: Greenpeace on Thursday termed as “malicious” the Intelligence Bureau’s two reports against it and said the NGO has been “specifically targeted” as it emerged as one of the primary voices opposing coal mining and nuclear power projects in India. The environmental NGO’s fresh statement came a day after the central agency in a fresh report, submitted to Prime Minister’s Office and National Security Adviser, recommended cancellation of permission given to it for collecting funds abroad besides reassessment of its tax compliance. The Greenpeace India said that it believes that the leak of IB reports is a “concerted effort by parties with vested interest to ensure elimination of any opposition.”  “The strategy, it seems, is to discredit the organisation towards the long term goal of removing obstacles for pushing fast clearances. But discrediting Greenpeace will not save the world from climate change. Ours is probably the last generation that can make a difference to curb climate change,” Samit Aich, Executive Director, Greenpeace India said. The NGO said that over the past few years Greenpeace India’s activities has led to anger among people in the government as well as corporate entities. “And the timing and the purpose of the leak seem very suspicious. Such malicious reports however, will not stop Greenpeace India in fighting for a better future,” it said. “They plan to create a wave of anger and discontent amongst the public and over a quarter million supporters with blatant lies and half truths. Both the reports are riddled with mistruths and factual errors,” Aich said. He said the NGO will continue to challenge fossil fuels and dangerous technologies across the world and in India. “We will campaign for greater investments in ecologically sustainable, clean and safe practices both in agriculture and energy, and demand for equitable development,” he said. “Such efforts to crush the spirit of individualism and social justice can never be successful,” Aich added. (Hindustan Times 19/6/14)

6. India should take steps to prevent child combatants: HRW (1)

New York: India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups, a rights group has said. “Children from India’s poorest and most marginalised communities are ending up on the front lines as combatants, or because their schools are bombed by armed groups,” South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said. Human Rights Watch said that non-state armed groups should halt their recruitment and use of children and attacks on schools,? “The UN has laid out a series of steps that the government should take to protect these children better.” The group said that India should carry out recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that urged India to promptly enact legislation that criminalises the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 in hostilities by non-state armed groups. It also said India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups. Unlawful attacks on schools should be promptly investigated, and those responsible should be prosecuted and punished, the committee said. The Child Rights Committee has said it was “deeply concerned” about opposition Maoist forces in central India as well as armed groups in the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir recruiting and using anyone under 18 in hostilities. The committee also expressed concern about government armed forces occupying schools in Maoist-affected areas, despite Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the practice. The committee said that India should “take all necessary measures to prevent the occupation and use of… Places with a significant presence of children,?such as schools, in line with international humanitarian law, expedite the vacation of schools as appropriate and take concrete measures to ensure that cases of?unlawful ? occupation of schools are promptly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.” Although security forces’ occupation and use of schools has declined since 2010, instances of dangerous dual use of schools continue, placing students and teachers potentially in the line of fire and harming children?s right to education. “The Indian government should finally and fully withdraw its security forces from schools,” Ganguly said. “India’s children are entitled to safe schools and safe childhoods.” (Zee news 22/6/14)

7. NHRC Talks Tough on Destitute Issue (1)

BALASORE: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued strong direction to the Balasore Collector over non-compliance of its order pertaining to the plight of a destitute widow. The Commission has warned of initiating action against the district administration as per the Protection of Human Rights Act if it fails to take appropriate action in this regard within four weeks. Sources said Sukanti Rana, a widow of Taharpur village of Bahanaga panchayat in Balasore district, has been leading a difficult life after the death of her husband a few years back. With the sole bread earner dead, the five-member family finds it hard to sustain. Along with her three minor children and an elderly father-in-law, Sukanti resides in a shanty which is in a dilapidated condition. Though belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category, the family is yet to be provided a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and other benefits under poverty alleviation schemes. The education of Sukanti’s children has also been affected as there is none to provide financial support. Rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy had moved the apex human rights watchdog explaining the tragic condition of Sukanti. Sukanti should be provided a house under IAY, food grains at subsidised rate and widow pension and her children admitted in any Government school, the petitioner had appealed. Tripathy had requested the NHRC to direct the district administration to provide a house under the IAY and other benefits of several welfare schemes of the Government to Sukanti’s family. Though more than a year has passed since the matter came to light, the district administration is yet to take any step. “Despite several reminders, the reports sought from the district administration are yet to be submitted. Reminders should be issued to the authorities concerned to send the requisite reports, failing which the Commission would be constrained to invoke coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The response should reach at the Commission in four weeks,” the order stated. (New Indian Express 23/6/14)

8. Manmohan Singh’s immunity issue looked at in rights case in US

Washington: A US court has asked the Department of Justice to respond by July 10 on the immunity issue of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a human rights violation case filed by a New York-based Sikh group. The Department of Justice had recently informed the Washington Federal Court that Singh as the prime minister had immunity in the US. But the Sikh for Justice (SFJ) group in response claimed that now that Singh is no longer the prime minister of the country, he does not carry immunity. “Suing human rights violators in the US Courts is not a detrimental to the US Foreign Policy as portrayed by the Department of Justice in ‘Suggestion of Immunity’, rather it promotes the US agenda of respect for human rights,” said attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ. The court has asked the Department of Justice to respond by July 10 on the immunity issue of Singh, court documents said. The June 20 order of the Washington Court had granted rights group till August 18 to complete the service of outstanding summons on Singh. A Washington Court last September had issued summons against Singh, at the time of his Washington trip to meet US President Barack Obama. (Deccan Herald 24/6/14)

9. Ensure human rights: Amnesty (1)

Srinagar: Amnesty International (India) has urged the Narendra Modi government to implement “effective policies” to ensure protection of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also welcomed the pledge of the new Central government to ensure the security of all citizens in the state against the backdrop of defence minister Arun Jaitley’s recent visit to Srinagar. “In particular, the organisation welcomes the recent overtures made to rehabilitate families of an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave the state between 1990 and 1994 due to threats and intimidation from armed groups,” am AI statement said. It added, “AI (India) welcomes the positive steps taken by the NDA government, and urges it to take a comprehensive approach in implementing proposed policies, including consultations with all communities living in Jammu and Kashmir, and those looking to return there.” It, however, adds that it is concerned that the proposed steps do not adequately address India’s obligations under international and domestic law to provide effective remedy and reparation to victims of human rights abuses, a necessary measure according community leaders to build confidence in the state and promote long-term stability. “Amnesty International (India) recognises the government’s duty to protect its citizens in situations of conflict from threats to their lives and security,” the statement says. (Asian Age 25/6/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/AFSPA

10. 5 policemen suspended for youth’s death in custody (1)

MUMBAI: Two months after the custodial death of a youth in the Borivli general lock-up, the Mumbai police recently suspended a sub-inspector and four constables. The suspension order was issued on Tuesday, pending an inquiry against the five personnel by the crime branch. On April 22, the victim, Akash Kharade, a Kandivli resident, was waiting his turn to use the lavatory in the lock-up, when he “suddenly collapsed”. He had sustained head injuries. He was taken to Shatabdi Hospital, where he was declared dead. “Samta Nagar PSI Santosh Borade and four constables have been suspended,” said DCP Pravinkumar Patil. Kharade’s family had alleged foul play in the case. The crime branch arrested Kharade and three aides in a murder case on April 18 and handed them over to the Samta Nagar police the next day. (Times of India 19/6/14)

11. Omar Abdullah meets Rajnath Singh, discusses … (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and discussed various issues pertaining to the state especially return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley, which is on priority list of the NDA government. This was Omar’s first meeting with Singh after the latter became the Home Minister. The forthcoming Amarnath Yatra also figured prominently during the meeting and Omar briefed the Home Minister about the arrangements made for smooth conduct of the Yatra which will commence later this month. The Centre has been actively considering the state’s proposal for return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley in which the Omar government had proposed increasing the amount for construction or repairs of their houses to Rs 20 lakh from existing Rs 7.5 lakh. This proposal was sent to the previous UPA government but no decision was taken. UPA government had announced Rs 7.5 lakh package for each Kashmiri Pandit family for reconstruction or construction of their houses. Kashmiri Pandits had left the Valley in 1990 with the onset of militancy and the number such migrants in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country are estimated somewhere between six and seven lakhs. “I discussed wide-ranging issues with the Home Minister including the policy on return of Kashmiri Pandits, law and order situation, ceasefire violations and AFSPA,” Omar said. The package for enhancement of monetary assistance was sent by the state government in 2012 but nothing was done about it. “I am glad that the present government is actively considering the proposal with some modifications,” he said, adding “we are supportive of this measure”. On the Amarnath Yatra, he informed the Home Minister about the infrastructure put in place for any emergency situation resulting from bad weather or any natural calamity. Asked about the Centre’s decision to promote Hindi language, Omar said, “We have Urdu and English as official languages. So Hindi can’t be forced.” With the state going to polls later this year, Omar refused to answer questions on whether his party, National Conference, will have an alliance with Congress. “It’s too premature to even ask,” he said. (Indian Express 21/6/14)

12. Jam-packed Arthur Road prison condition dismal, admits state (1)

MUMBAI: In a stark admission, the state government told the Bombay HC on Monday that conditions at the Arthur Road jail are very bad due to overcrowding of inmates. Prosecutor Poornima Kantharia informed a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode about the jail’s condition during a routine hearing of a parole plea by a convict lodged in Kolhapur jail. Authorities had rejected Kamlakar Patil’s application for parole to attend to his ailing wife. The judges questioned why Patil’s relatives cannot be allowed to meet him so that he can give instructions to them. They said in other countries, prisoners are allowed visitors. Patil’s advocate Farhana Shah said in India, convicts are allowed visitors “only once a month and that too with great difficulty”. Kantharia then pitched in recounting the dismal conditions of jails, specifically referring to Arthur Road jail. “Horrible is not the word!” she exclaimed. Authorities keep the prison neat and clean only when they are intimated in advance of visits, she said. “When we go there, everything is clean…but it is not possible to disbelieve stories about the jail’s miserable conditions.” She added that the sleeping conditions at the jail are shocking. “Five thousand inmates are lodged in a space meant for five. They are forced to sleep on sides,” she said. Kantharia said prisoners have to cook their own food and there is no hygiene. “The chapattis are very thick,” she said. Justice Kanade asked, “Are there no trained cooks?”, to which Kantharia said, “Outsiders will not be allowed.” The judges said they may visit the jail.Agreeing with the judges that there is a lot to be done to improve the conditions of jails, Kantharia said, “The will to do something must come from within.” The judges have sought Arthur Road jail statistics— how many inmates are lodged, what is the capacity, etc. They also called for similar figures of women’s jail in Byculla to be presented at the next hearing after two weeks. (Times of India 24/6/14)

13. 2 Thane cops held for teen’s torture, victim still critical (1)

BHIWANDI: The Thane crime branch on Tuesday arrested the two constables of the Nizampura police station who allegedly tortured a 16-year-old labourer to force him to confess to stealing one kg gold. The condition of the victim, who is in ICU, continues to be critical. The accused duo, Jalindar Khaire (27) and Dheeraj Kharmude (24), were produced in the Bhiwandi court which sent them to judicial custody. The Thane crime branch probing the case found that the two cops did not make any official entry after they detained the victim. It slapped charges under sections 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) 34, (common Intention) and 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) of the IPC on the accused. The victim’s family has demanded maximum punishment for the accused, who had beaten him up, leading to his suicide attempt. (Times of India 26/2/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

14. Hindi as social media language: Govt says it’s committed to promote all tongues (1)

CHENNAI: Hours after DMK chief M Karunanidhi criticized the Union home ministry’s directive to bureaucrats to use Hindi as the language for posting their comments on social media websites like Twitter and Faceboook, the home ministry on Thursday evening clarified that government is committed to promote all languages in the country. A tweet of the HMO said, “The home ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important. The ministry is committed to promote all languages in the country.” Earlier in the day, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said the new government would promote use of Hindi in all departments and public life. He also said that promotion of Hindi language should not be seen as undermining other languages. “I have taken a decision that we will give priority to the promotion of Hindi in all communications in various departments and public life because it is our official language,” Rijiju told reporters in Delhi. Since Hindi is the national language, the government should promote it, he said, adding, “It does not mean that we are going to discourage the use of regional languages.” In a statement, Karunanidhi had said the move would be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens. “Giving priority to Hindi will be construed as a first step towards attempt at creating differences among non-Hindi speaking people and making them second class citizens,” the five-time Tamil Nadu chief minister, whose party spearheaded the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s in the state, said in the statement. “Language battlefields have not yet been dried. History has recorded anti-Hindi agitation. Can we forget Nehru’s assurance that English would be the official language as long as non-Hindi speakers want,” he asked. Karunanidhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should focus on economic and social development of the country instead of imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people. Reacting to media reports that officials of all Union ministries, departments, corporations and banks, who have official accounts in social media, should use Hindi or both Hindi and English but give priority to Hindi, Karunanidhi questioned why Hindi should be given priority over other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Recalling the decades-long history of his party’s opposition to the imposition Hindi, Karunanidhi said at a time when the aspirations of a diverse section of people should be addressed through constructive efforts, showing interest in a language for communication would become diversionary. (Times of India 19/6/14)

15. Social media, emerging key political communication channel (1)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  has advised the cabinet ministers to use social media (SM) regularly and issued a diktat to all his ministers to be present on Twitter and Facebook and interact with the masses. Desiring his ministers to be pro-active, Modi’s IT team will be monitoring the ministries to elicit firsthand feedback. He is keen to use SM platforms effectively for transparency, authenticity, speed and ultimately better governance, in addition to reach out a large section of the people, youth in particular. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar requested the various ministries to employ this initiative to disseminate information. Barack Obama’s 2008 US presidential campaign has been described as the first electoral campaign in which the use of SM had a decisive impact. While it is great for marketing, entertainment and individual users, does it work for politics and governance? Is SM inevitable? Does the unabated influence of this mode of communication add new insights to democracy? Modi apart, the other ministers like Ravishankar Prasad, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitaraman are already active players in social media. Modi has two twitter accounts, one in his personal capacity and the other in PMO twitter account. Modi’s personal website has been given a spanking new election upgrade, as much as his other platforms like Twitter, Facebook page, Youtube channel etc. It doesn’t need to be interpreted that the mainstream media’s intolerance and bias against Modi that forced him to go over to social media. While SM usage in 2009 was miniscule, the 2014-LS polls will be commemorated for large-scale use of technology, online chats and mobilisation of opinion. This election is more about combating corruption, controlling inflation, securing jobs and restoring governance, and these were the main FB themes. Whether the “likes” of FB can be turned into votes or not, Modi’s FB fan base crossed 17 m. The transfer of modern approach to communication could usher in far-reaching changes to the style of governance after the taciturn Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dismal failure on the vital subject of communication with the people. Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s undeclared PM candidate, doesn’t have a website and doesn’t use any of the major social networks. Today, FB has 150m users and Twitter has about 35m accounts in the country. No serious politician can afford to avoid SM altogether. It is possible that data collated through SM can, in future, be used for replacing opinion polls and evaluate sentiments. Though cynics infer that most of the people are illiterates without access to the tech-savvy ambience, the medium will continue its march. Gripping it is to observe that more politicians are realising that more people are directly accessible, the digital media is, hence, more to welcome. Stepping into the virtual world is seen as an effective way of reaching out to the people at large, deepening the democratic process. (Deccan Herald 23/6/14)

16. Government makes most of social media (1)

New Delhi: Departments have been asked to create their accounts on social media and engage with the public on policy issuesModi government believes in direct communication with the public through social media. In fact Mr Modi on Wednesday became the fouth most followed global leader on Twitter beating White House. Mr Modi governmnet’s use of social media should not come as a surprise as he used social media to build a momentum for the BJP in the general elections. He successfully used Facebook and Twitter to reach out to his supporters and general public. So it is obvious that Modi government will also use this new powerful medium to propagate its polices and put their message across. Prime Minister has been active on his own personal Twitter account and also on the official account of the PMO. “Within weeks of his election in May 2014, the @NarendraModi account has moved into the top four most followed Twitter accounts of world leaders with close to five million followers,” said a study Twiplomacy. US President (@BarackObama), tops the world-leader list with a colossal 43.7 million followers and Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts is second on the list. One of the latest picture put out by PMO’s Twitter account is that of Mr Modi giving sweets to a PMO official son who cleared civil services examination. Such powerful images help to build Prime Minister’s reputation. It is natural for the ministers to be asked to form Twitter and Facebook accounts. Departments have been asked to create their accounts on social media and engage with the public on policy issues. All the three top ministers of NDA government Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj have got Twitter accounts. Infact, when Mr Jaitley had to issue statement on important issue like rise in inflation and why he recused himself from Vodafone tax dispute issue, he depended on Facebook. In the past such statements were issued through government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB). (Asian Age 26/6/14)

TRAFFICKING

17. Kerala HC for CBI probe in child trafficking case (1)

KOCHI: Observing that the incident of bringing children from other States to Kerala in droves should be investigated properly, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday suo motu impleaded the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a respondent in a public interest writ petition on the issue. The Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice P.R. Ramachandra Menon issued the order when the petition seeking immediate repatriation of the children came up for hearing. The court observed that it was a serious matter. “There has to be a proper investigation. The court should know how the children are coming, the purpose, what is happening,” the Bench orally observed. The judges added that the court was “the custodian and guardians of the children” and it could not ignore their welfare. The court was concerned even if it was a case of a single child. Advocate-General K.P. Dandapani submitted that the police were conducting an effective investigation. The court also asked why the government was worried about a CBI investigation. The court observed that the children were brought here “not for fun, not for schooling, and not for picnic. Is it not a serious issue”, the court asked. The court was of the opinion that as the incident had inter-State ramifications, it would be desirable to have an investigation by the CBI. In an affidavit, the government said officials of the Social Justice Department and the police had taken all efforts to ensure the safety and protection of these children. They had also ensured that the children were housed properly and restored to proper authority parents. The Crime Branch was investigating the incident. Meanwhile, the Association of Orphanages and Charitable Institutions of Kerala sought to implead itself in the writ. The association, which claims to represent 1,800 orphanages, said in its petition that serious allegations had been levelled against the orphanages, which would cause irreparable damage to the orphanages. The writ petition was filed by Rajendra Prasad, president of Thampu, (National Trust for Tribal Education, Development and Research), Kochi, and another person. (The Hindu 20/6/14)

18. US downgrades Pakistan in human trafficking, China upgraded

WASHINGTON: Alleging that the Pakistan government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the US has downgraded Pakistan to “Tier Two Watch List” in its latest annual Trafficking in Person report for the year 2014. In the previous annual report for the year 2013, Pakistan was placed with India in Tier 2, which is for nations whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, said the annual report released by the secretary of state, John Kerry yesterday. “A large percentage of trafficking that occurs within the country, particularly of children, is due in part to Pakistan’s deteriorating security situation and weak economy. Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts monopolised the Pakistani government’s resources and attention,” it said. The report, however, upgrades China from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List. Tier 3 is for those countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. “This year’s rankings include deserved downgrades for countries like Laos and Pakistan. We should ask why China’s placement on the TIP Report was upgraded from Tier 3 to the Watch List when China continues to fail on the three core areas of protection, prevention, and prosecution,” Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said. In its annual report, the state department alleged that Chinese men, women, and children are subjected to forced labour in brick kilns, coal mines and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax government supervision. “Forced begging by adults and children occurs throughout China. There are reports that traffickers are increasingly subjecting deaf and mute individuals to forced labour. Media reports indicate that children in some work-study programs supported by local governments and schools are forced to work in factories,” it said. “State-sponsored forced labour continues to be an area of significant concern in China. “Reform through labour (RTL) was a systematic form of forced labour that had existed in China for decades,” the report said, adding that the Chinese government reportedly profited from this forced labour, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration for up to four years. (Times of India 21/6/14)

19. Gumla administration holds ‘janta darbar’ on trafficking, govt schemes (1)

GUMLA: The district administration on Sunday organized a Janata Darbar at Bangu village in Palkot block of the district to discuss the circumstances that leads to migration and trafficking and the measures that needs to be taken to curb the menace. The administrative authorities lent a patient ear to the woes of the locals and ensured effective execution of the government schemes in the area. Located 29 km off the district town of Gumla, Bangru is home to 4052 people. Although the village boasts of schools, anganwadi centre and registers 65 % literacy rate, several families have sent at least one of their girls to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa for work. Villagers, mostly women, thronged the meeting to put forth their opinion on the issue. “Since we don’t have land, we send our children outside to support us,” said Ropni Devi. DC Veena Shrivastava, SP Bhimsen Tuti and DDC Anjani Kumar interacted with the villagers and tried to find out the reason behind exodus of locals. “The Janata Durbar was held to apprise the locals of the problems that the locals, especially girls, could face if sent to metro cities without proper guidance,” said the SP. Those above 18 years of age and working outside were told to get themselves registered and the families of trafficking victims were ensured help from police. “The objective was to assess the ground situation with regards to the execution of government schemes. The villagers are still ignorant about the beneficiary schemes owing to lack of publicity. We are planning to put up hoardings with information of government projects and welfare measures at the block office,” the DC said. Some applications like those of old age pension and others were sanctioned on the spot while a leveling of play ground as demanded by youths will soon be executed, added Shrivastava saying officers have been asked to make field visits. She also pointed out that four categories of list will be prepared in connection with migrants or trafficked ones- those who are 18 years of age but have gone outside with consent of guardians, those who are of the same age group but have been taken out without parent willingness, and minor migrants who have gone outside with parents permission and those without their assent. But there are only a few cases of human trafficking. Most of the migrants who return village also are in the knowledge of their parents’, the DC said adding FIR has been lodged with regard to 2 cases of human trafficking also. (Times of India 23/6/14)

20. 168 Children Rescued from Sex Trafficking Operation: FBI (1)

WASHINGTON: Federal authorities conducted a sweep through more than 100 US cities and recovered 168 children from child sex trafficking, the FBI has said. Some 281 pimps were also arrested in Operation Cross-Country, a week-long enforcement that Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey yesterday said can help “end the cycle of victimization” of US youth. Denver was the FBI division with the most recovered victims, with 18, followed by Cleveland, Ohio (16), Chicago (13) and Atlanta (11). Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said sex traffickers “create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims” who are targeted and sold for sex in the United States. “They use fear, and force, and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again,” Caldwell said in a statement. “This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.” The FBI, Justice Department and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have recovered nearly 3,600 children since partnering in 2003 to address the growing child prostitution problem in the United States. Their task force operations have led to some 1,450 convictions. (New Indian Express 25/6/14)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

21. Upper castes boycott barbers for catering to Dalits in KTK (2)

Bangalore: Barbers in a village in Bellary District of Karnataka are facing a boycott by the upper caste people who are cut up with them for extending saloon services to Dalits disregarding their diktat, prompting state government to provide them financial relief. It all started when the upper caste people recently ordered the barbers of five saloons in Talur village not to provide hair cutting and shaving services to Dalits. Tension erupted between the Dalits and barbers when the latter refused to cut their hair, which ended in the shutting down of the saloons for five days, one of the barbers, who received a cheque for Rs 50,000 from Social Welfare Minister Anjaneya at the secretariat here today, told reporters. However, after the intervention of social welfare department officials, the barbers resumed services to Dalits, which angered the 4,000-strong upper caste people and they started boycotting the saloons. Caught in a piquant situation with their livelihood in question since the village had only about 100 Dalits, the barbers approached the government yesterday, which provided the financial help under the Devaraj Urs Backward Class Development Scheme, the Minister said while distributing the cheques to seven barbers. He said the assistance will be extended to 11 more barbers of the village. Mallikarjun, a beneficiary, told PTI: “We were threatened by the upper-castes that if we extended haircutting and shaving services to the Dalits, they would stop coming to our shops.” “We also shut our shops in fear of upper-caste people throwing us out of the village if we went against their diktat,” Mallikarjun said. “We came to Bangalore and met Minister Anjaneya, and explained our problems. Soon, he realised our problems and immediately took a decision to give Rs 50,000 cheque in 24 hours,” he said. (Business Standard 19/6/14)

22. Dalits claim Maluka agreed to reduce auction rate of land reserved for SCs (2)

Sangrur: The punjab rural development and panchayat minister Sikander Singh Maluka agreed to lower the auction rates of panchayati agriculture land reserved for the scheduled castes (SC) in Balad Kalan village of the district according to the dalits who met with the minister on Saturday. According to the members of Zameen Papati Sangrash Samiti (ZPSS), the minister called the meeting after repeated protests by the ZPSS. ZPSS member Bhupinder Singh Longowal said, “We were called by the minister in Rampura Phul to discuss the issue, and the minister has assured us to reduce the rate of the Panchayati land to `20,000 per acre from last year’s `26,400″. He said that the minister also spoke to the Sangrur district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) about the auction slated for Friday. “We will now meet the DDPO on the coming Monday,” he added. However, Sangrur DDPO Manjit Singh said that there was no discussion about the rates for this although he enquired about last year’s rates.  ”Yes, I got a telephone call from the minister and he asked me to discuss the issue with the dalits.  But, he did not talk about the rates for the auction,” he said. Out of total 350 acres of Panchayati land in Balad Kalan village, 117 acres have been reserved for the scheduled castes.  Besides Balad Kalan, the ZPSS was also demanded that the land reserved for the SCs in Matoi, Namool and Baupur villages should also be given to dalit farmers at cheaper rates. (Hindustan Times 21/6/14)

23. NHRC notice to Punjab govt on social boycott of dalits in Sangrur (2)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that 105 families of Scheduled Castes have been facing social boycott by upper caste people in Baopur village of Moonak Sub-Division of District Sangrur, Punjab since May 15 of this year. They are reportedly facing this situation since they decided to cultivate 26 acres of Panchayat land reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Earlier, this land was being cultivated by the upper caste people who used to getting on contract through auction in the names of Dalits. The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of human rights of Dalits. It has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab calling for a report within four weeks. (Zee News 23/6/14)

24. Arvind Kejriwal to meet Bhagana rape victims today (2)

New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party chief, Mr Arvind Kejriwal, will meet the dalit families from the Haryana village of Bhagana, where four teenage girls were brutally raped in March. The victims and their families have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for justice since last two months. The Bhagana rape victims and some 137 dalit families have again put up their tents at Jantar Mantar after waiting for two weeks in the scorching heat for the permission from the NDMC and the Delhi police officials. The Delhi police and the NDMC had removed the tent being used by protesters at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday last week “We have written to all the possible authorities like the deputy commissioner of police and the NDMC to allow us to fix our tents as it’s too hot. The government has no sensitivity towards the rape victims and all other dalits who have been thrown out of our villages. We kept waiting, but when no reply came, we had to fix our tents again,” said a 15-year-old girl, one of the four rape victims, with disappointment on her face. The AAP leaders had promised the victims and other dalit protesters that their party would stand by them for their rights. “AAP leader Yogender Yadav visited us multiple times in the past. Their party chief Arvind Kejriwal has promised us that he will come for our support on June 24 at 5 pm,” claimed Satish Kajla, who has been protesting along with the rape victims. The victims are now waiting for AAP leaders to help them. “In the past also, BJP leaders like Udit Raj have visited us and we were hoping that once their government will come into the power, our problems will be solved but nothing like that happened. I hope the AAP leader will be able to help us in atleast reaching the right persons to get our right to live without fear,” added Mr Kajla. All the four victims are aged between 13 and 18 years and belong to the landless Dhanuk sub-caste, who worked for upper caste landowners. “Rape is used as a weapon against us to humiliate and suppress us,” said a 17-year-old victim. The families from Bhagana have been sitting on a dharna since April 16 seeking justice for the four rape victims. The dominant land-holding Jats from the same village allegedly raped the dalit minors. (Asian Age 24/6/14)

25. Woman’s marriage with Dalit leads to honour killing (2)

Madurai: In what is perceived as another honour killing in Ramanathapuram, the police have arrested her brother on the charge of murdering her. Bhavani’s crime was that she had married a Dalit. Born into a caste Hindu family, in this case Piramalai Kallars, at Kuyavankudi, Bhavani, after completing her Std. X, went to work in a garment company at Tirupur six years ago. At the workplace there, she fell in love with Satishkumar, a native of Sivakkam in Cuddalore. After a year, they got married in a temple at Ramanathapuram, in the presence of friends and well wishers. Initially, Bhavani did not reveal her husband’s caste to her family, but elders distanced themselves from the couple after making discreet enquiries. As Bhavani’s parents were upset, Satishkumar decided to shift to Cuddalore. When he got a job in a department store in Malaysia, Bhavani’s grandparents insisted that she live with them at Ramanathapuram. The woman, with her two children, left Cuddalore and was living with her grandparents for the past 10 months. Three days ago, after an altercation, Bhavani’s family members allegedly beat her up. “In a fit of rage, my wife’s brother Dinesh Kumar murdered her with a knife, in the presence of our children,” Satishkumar, who flew down from Kula Lumpur two days ago, told The Hindu. Veera Ganesan, a social activist at Ramanathapuram, accused the Kenikkarai police of not following the laws. “The victim’s husband was not informed. There was no inquiry with the family members. Post mortem was not video-graphed, and the cremation was done in a hurry,” he said. However, a police officer said the police had registered a case of murder (under Section 302 of the IPC) and arrested Dinesh Kumar. The children were handed over to Satishkumar in the presence of a revenue official by a woman police officer on Tuesday. Describing the death as “honour killing,” A. Kadir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO, said Bhavani’s death was not a stray case. The National Commission for Women had given several recommendations for handling interference with the freedom of matrimonial alliance, but the body had not been given the power to enforce them. In Tamil Nadu, 28 such cases, involving the death of 24 women, had been reported in the past two years. “There are three types of honour killings. Either kill the daughter or kill the boy who had married the girl. Or, kill both the boy and girl,” he says. High Court advocate R. Satyamurthi said elders resorted to murdering their own children in their zeal to restore the family’s honour. In the case of Bhavani, since she hailed from a caste Hindu family, the question of atrocity against a Dalit did not arise. “It is a legal challenge, and the National Law Commission and the NCW should look into the gaps,” he said. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

26. CAG Raps Kerala Health Department for Neglecting Tribals (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has expressed concern over the failure of the public health system in Kerala to tackle the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia among the tribal population in Wayanad, home to nearly 31 per cent of Adivasi communities in the state. According to a recent CAG report, out of the 85 per cent of tribal population screened by health authorities in the district, a total of 706 persons were found to be affected with the disease while 6,992 showed its traits. Quoting a survey by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) from 2007-08 to 2012-13, it said as many as 312 of those suffering from the “life-long inherited disease” were in the age group of 18-40 and 262 in the school-going age of 5-17. Sickle Cell Anaemia is an inherited disease characterised by red blood cells that assuming a sickle shape making normal life difficult in later stages of the sickness. The NRHM had recommended grant of incentives to the school going students to continue their studies and for preferential treatment and temporary and contract jobs to those patients in the age group of 18-40, it said. However, the government and district administration did not initiate steps to implement this, the report said. The report also found fault with the state health department for not completing the disease screening to cover the entire tribal population in the region. “No special efforts have been made by the Health Department to extend help to the identified patients to lead a normal life,” it added. The report also said the prevalence rate of HIV positive cases in Wayanad was found to be slightly higher at 0.18 per cent as against the state average of 0.12 per cent. “The total number of HIV positive cases in Wayanad was 116. Out of 73 full-blown HIV positive cases requiring Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) in the district, only 54 patients were given ART,” the report pointed out and called for strengthening preventive measures and awareness programmes. (New Indian Express 22/6/14)

 

27. Haryana to set up 22 care units for newborn babies (3)

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government has announced the setting up of 22 sick newborn care units in 18 districts and has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Neonatology Forum for training doctors and nurses working in these facilities. According to an official release, the State health department has launched the programme to improve child health services and reduce neonatal, infant and child mortality. The sample research system of the last census, infant mortality rate in Haryana was 42 per 1000 live births, which equalled the national average. The neonatal mortality rate was 28 per 1000 live births accounting for 66 per cent of the total IMR in the State. The 22 newly proposed SNCUs for neonatal care have been equipped with open care radiant warmers, phototherapy units, resuscitators and oxygen concentrators. The doctors and nurses working in SNCUs have been trained at various hospitals like PGIMER, Chandigarh, PGIMS, Rohtak, Safadarjung Hospital, Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalay, Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College and Kasturba Hospital, New Delhi. In the current year, 16,581 newborn children were admitted to SNCUs, of which 7959 were found with low birth weight. About 84 per cent of these deliveries were conducted in government medical facilities where around 50 per cent in-born and 90 per cent out-born babies were critically ill. Of the 7,959 low birth weight babies admitted, two per cent weighed less than 1000 grams and faced highest risk of mortality. These babies were admitted for 30-40 days on an average in the SNCU with all expenses met under the revised guidelines under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) from the Union government allowing free treatment for sick neonates and infants up to one year of age. The release pointed out that every year, four million newborn babies die in the first month of their lives. India accounted for 25-30 per cent neonatal deaths in the world, where nearly 45 per cent babies died within the first two days of birth. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

 

28. Encephalitis a challenge for state, Central govt: Harsh Vardhan during Bihar visit (3)

Patna: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, while taking a stock of the rising number of deaths in Muzzafarpur and surrounding areas due to encephalitis, said that he is coordinating with state authorities and health officials to deal with the disease. Muzaffarpur has been worst hit by an encephalitis outbreak which has claimed 148 deaths so far. “I’m distressed to see children suffering with encephalitis,” said Vardhan while speaking to reporters. He further added, “I’m aware of this disease for the past 40 years, but I got to know about it in detail during election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. Vardhan was accompanied by Bihar Health Minister and Secretary of Union Health Ministry. During his two-day visit in the district, Vardhan met several children suffering from encephalitis and announced a series of measures to try and tackle the disease, including a 100-bed paediatric ICU for Sri Krishna Memorial Hospital and two research centres at Muzaffarpur and adjoining Darbhanga. “It will be a big challenge for both state and Central government to deal with encephalitis,”said Vardhan. Vardhan also reiterated that the central government would provide all possible help to Bihar in controlling the outbreak. A virology centre would be set up in Bihar on the lines of the National Institute of Virology in Pune, he said. The disease, limited to Muzaffarpur till last week, has now spread to Vaishali, Samastipur, Sheohar, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Bhagalpur and Gaya districts of the state. The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome is a severe case of encephalitis characterised by inflammation of the brain. The infection – transmitted by mosquitoes – causes high fever. (Zee News 23/6/14)

 

29. In Lucknow, One Toilet for Every 58,844 People (3)

LUCKNOW: Lucknow, with a population of nearly three million and the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t have any public toilets for women and has a toilet for every 58,844 people, a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed. No wonder then, says RTI activist Urvashi Sharma, the city has become an open toilet, with hundreds spotted on any given day relieving themselves out in the open, on busy thoroughfares and even in VIP colonies. In her questions sent to the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC), the activist had sought the number of public toilets within its limits. Admitting to an “acute shortage” of public toilets, LMC officials have also conceded that Lucknow has “no separate toilets for women.” This, amid growing concerns in the civil society about creating more toilets in the state, in absence of which many crimes against women like rape are taking place in the countryside. “I found this shocking as every day we hear that absence of public toilets is leading to spiralling crime,” Sharma told IANS while ruing the fact that if this was the situation in the state capital what it would be in small towns and villages. Sharma also pointed out that the issue was much more grave as Lucknow is not only the state’s seat of power but also a tourist attraction and a cultural centre. Reacting sharply, social activist Umra Warsi said the RTI revelations were shocking and urged the state government to sit up and take note. “It is a shame that even after so many years of independence, successive governments have failed to provide such a basic need in the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous and politically significant state,” she noted. “I am amazed that a chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav) who zips through the city’s streets and roads every now and then has not even thought of something as important as this,” Madonna Xavier, a teacher with a local college in Indiranagar, told IANS. More shocking, she added, is the fact that the state had a woman chief minister a few years back. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and city mayor Dinesh Sharma said the facts are misplaced. When confronted with the facts given by the city’s medical health official, Sharma said that additional toilets have been made by other government agencies like SUDA and the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and private NGOs including Sulabh. Sharma admitted that there should be greater focus on the development of public utilities. “We have identified some places for modern toilets and they would be ready soon,” he informed. Municipal officials however say “people travelling in cars and on two-wheelers do not use public toilets and tend to use ones in malls, multiplexes and big shopping complexes.” So where is the need to build more toilets, especially for women? (New Indian Express 25/6/14)

30. 47 Dead Due to Malaria in Tripura: Health Minister (3)

AGARTALA: Forty seven people have died of malaria in Tripura in last 20 days, Health minister Badal Chowdhury said today. Forty seven people including 30 children have died of malaria in the state in last 20 days, Chowdhury said. “Since June 13, 36329 people have been treated by government doctors, of which 5833 patients were found to be malaria positive. 6288 blood samples were examined of which 1251 samples were bearing malarial germs,” Chowdhury told reporters. Affected people mainly belonged to tribal communities, from three districts ? Dhalai, Gomati and South Tripura, he said adding the state was afflicted with malaria after a gap of four years. Chowdhury said, ministers of different departments were given responsibility to look after the malaria control measures being taken in the affected areas and added a Central team of doctors which was still touring in the affected areas stated that malaria did not assume epidemic proportions till now. He said, the officials of the Health department were instructed to camp in the affected districts for 15-days for supervision of the malaria control measures. (New Indian Express 26/6/14)

31. Everyone has a role to play in creating awareness (3)

Even as we rejoice the eradication of polio from India, another dreaded and stigmatised disease called leprosy continues to stalk the country. Though the impression among the public today is that India has been cleansed of the illness, nothing is farther from the truth. In the year 2010-11, a whopping 1,27,000 persons were diagnosed with leprosy. The successive year, 1,35,00 new cases emerged. One million Indians are now estimated to be suffering from the disease, which is 58 per cent of the total international burden, and NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) has recently written to the Union Health Ministry asking for an explanation on the disturbing upward spiral. Dr Sunil Anand, director, The Leprosy Mission Trust India, says it is a most unfortunate development because leprosy is one of the easiest diseases to detect and treat. “All that one has to do is check for patches of discolouration on the body where there is no sensation and approach the nearest hospital; but there is no awareness on the disease. The Government just hasn’t taken up any aggressive awareness campaigns on the lines of tuberculosis, AIDS and polio, and allowed the disease to grow.” In 2005, leprosy was announced to have been eliminated from India, which means only one patient per 10,000 population remains, but since then, leprosy has constantly gone down the public health priority list, he underlines. Add to that the stigma attached to the illness, propagated further by films, and patients don’t want to admit to the problem and seek treatment. “There are so many cases in our healthcare centres in Delhi,” informs Nikita Sarah, Head – Advocacy and Communication at The Leprosy Mission Trust India, “Who come from faraway places in the country just to escape drawing attention to their condition in their hometowns.”“A patient we had here was an educated chemistry teacher from Kolkata who had, first, only shown to quacks for lack of knowledge, and then came all the way to our Tahirpur (East Delhi) centre to hide his disease. Leprosy had affected him severely leaving him with serious deformities.” Delhi, itself, houses seven colonies for the leprosy-afflicted with thousands of families living in isolation, not to mention the inhuman conditions they reside in.Then there is the problem of insensitive laws pertaining to the leprosy-affected and even more insensitive successive political leaders who have made no effort to amend them. Leprosy is accepted by courts as a ground for divorce, the such-affected are not given a driving licence and even prohibited from travelling in public transportation. To add insult to injury, they are even barred from contesting elections. “These are all laws framed in the 1800s when no medication was available for leprosy,” informs Seema Baquer, a disability rights activist, “Now there is 100 per cent guarantee for cure with Multi Drug Therapy (MDT). It is lesser contagious than even Tuberculosis. When TB patients are not barred from taking public transport, why leprosy victims?”  (Deccan Herald 26/6/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

32. Parents object to HIV+ kids joining Sulcorna school (3)

PANAJI: Over 80 children living at a children’s home in Zambaulim are yet to begin attending classes this academic year. As they innocently await a new set of books and uniforms, the nuns who run the home are struggling to find a school willing to admit the children. The problem arose when the nuns approached a school close to the home and the children were refused admission as 14 of them were HIV+. Despite there being two other schools closer to the institute, the nuns then approached a school in Sulcorna, that is about 15km away. The Sulcorna school decided to admit the children, but ran into trouble when parents objected. Sources in the Sulcorna school management said parents of other students objected to HIV+ children sharing space with their children and threatened to pull out their children from the school if the HIV+ children were admitted.?Some parents even sought school leaving certificates for their children, school sources said. Speaking to TOI, the head of the children’s institute said, “The parents believe that if their children mingle with children with HIV, they would be exposed to the infection.” To allay such fears, Indian medical association (IMA) Goa state president Dr Jagadish Cacodkar had a session with the school’s parent teachers association (PTA) to explain that “merely mixing with HIV positive persons does not pass the infection”.Some 200 PTA members attended the session and Cacodkar claimed they appeared satisfied with the explanation and reasoning. Cacodkar said the opposition by parents was a result of misconception. “The main reason parents object is because AIDS is incurable. The psychological fear of contracting a deadly disease coupled with misconception about its transition has compounded their ignorance. Their biggest misconception is that HIV is contagious,” he said. “They were explained why it is not possible to get an infection if you touch a HIV positive person, share a seat with one or even when you eat from a common plate,” he said. Even late Friday evening, the nuns were in talks with the parents and the school management, and remained hopeful that all the children from their home will be admitted. “I can say that 95% of the problem is sorted out. Consultative efforts to change the outlook of parents seems to be finally yielding results,” the nun said. Until last academic year the 14 HIV positive children were schooled in the home. It was only this year that, emboldened by the Supreme Court decision in March that asked Central and state governments to end discrimination against HIV positive children during school admission, the nuns decided to admit them in a public school. (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

33. Decision not to admit HIV+ students painful’ (3)

MARGAO: For an institution which has worked dedicatedly for the welfare of the marginalized young and the poor from the village since its inception, denying admission to the HIV+ students was definitely a painful one for the Sulcorna-based high school. Particularly because it was a reversal of its own conscious and bold decision taken only a few days ago to admit those students on “humanitarian grounds”.When the Salesian priests came to Sulcorna over 50 years ago, they transformed large swathes of jungle areas into a farm, growing sugarcane, cashew, and other cash crops, employing locals as farmhands and helping the needy. Today the Don Bosco Agro-Ed Complex at Sulcorna, situated on a sprawling lush land, has grown into a hub of educational, agricultural and social activities. “Besides playing a pioneering role in the remote villages along this hinterland belt in the field of agriculture, horticulture, watershed development etc, the activities of Don Bosco Sulcorna, have always been village-centric. We have taken utmost care of the villagers all these years and the locals hold us in high esteem. We are always the first to reach out to them in their times of need. We have always fought for protecting the interests of the villagers. We have helped them form self-help groups and cooperative societies, besides helping the young in gaining employment. Though our students come from a poor background, they excel in studies and are on par with those from the urban schools. Our relationship with the villagers is close knit and we share a mutual trust,” sources in the school management told TOI. Sources within the local community confirmed that it was exactly because of the villagers’ sense of attachment and belonging to Don Bosco school that they felt “let down” by the school management when it granted admission to HIV positive students residing “far away” from the village. The school management is now concerned about the probable withdrawal of students by their parents in case admission is granted to the HIV positive students. The HIV positive students have also been denied admission in at least two other schools located in the vicinity of the children’s home in which they are lodged, it is reliably learnt. It was exactly because of such discrimination against HIV positive students that the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an organization which runs a care home for orphaned and vulnerable children, had moved the Supreme Court, invoking the fundamental rights to life, education and equality guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The foundation had pointed out that based on their own HIV status or that of their parents or guardians, children affected by HIV face multiple forms of discrimination in schools. It was on this PIL that on March 3, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and all states to declare HIV positive children as a disadvantaged group under the Right to Education (RTE) Act to ensure they got education without discrimination. Section 9(c) of the Act says, “Every local authority shall ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds.” (Times of India 23/6/14)

 

34. Team to meet stakeholders in HIV+ kids’ admission issue (3)

MARGAO: The education department on Monday deputed a team to meet the stakeholders over the admission issue to HIV+ children in South Goa’s hinterland. Sources said that the department will take necessary action based on a report which it will get from the team in a day or two. The sources said that the department is working out a solution taking into consideration views from all stakeholders. Being a sensitive matter, the government doesn’t want to make public the proposal for a solution fearing that it might go against the interest of the children, the sources said. A couple of meetings took place on Tuesday to resolve the issue. The government has involved bodies like Goa state aids control society to come out of the imbroglio. Confidentiality is also being maintained as parents of children studying in a Sulcorna school threatened to withdraw their wards en masse if the HIV+ children were admitted in the school. The Sulcorna school was in a fix as it had on humanitarian grounds decided to admit the children after two schools close to the children’s home where they were housed, had reportedly refused to admit them. Though the education department was initially reluctant to intervene, officials went into a pro-active mode after the chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the education minister, stated that the government would not tolerate any discrimination. An official said that the government will ensure that the Supreme Court directions are implemented – that there is no discrimination to HIV children in getting admission to a neighbourhood school. A source said that the education department is also working on adopting some preventive steps so that such cases do not occur in the future. In March 2014, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and all states on a PIL to declare HIV-affected children as a disadvantaged group under Right to Education Act (RTE), to ensure that they get admission without any discrimination. The Goa state commission for protection of child rights as well as GSACS members have decided to meet the stakeholders. The former will also inquire into the leakage of information of the children who are HIV positive. (Times of India 25/6/14)

35. HIV Prevention Project in City Reviewed (3)

VELLORE: A five-member team of officials from the National AIDS Control Organisation from Delhi and the State AIDS Control Society from Chennai, besides representatives from the UNAIDS and Centre for Disease Control in Delhi visited the Vellore Government Medical College Hospital on Wednesday, to review the ongoing pilot project of ‘Prevention of parent to childhood transmission of HIV.’ Deputy director of health services (DDHS), Dr Poongodi and the district AIDS control officer, who accompanied the team said, the pilot project being implemented in Vellore since 2011 aimed at monitoring pregnant mothers across the district, who were affected by HIV infection, to prevent the transmission of the infection to the new born. The DDHS said, the pilot project was being implemented in the three States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Vellore district last year, 54 pregnant women were found to be infected with HIV and were monitored by the project at the three centres and none of the child born to them had traces of HIV infection, she added. Taoufik Bakkale, Strategic information advisor attached to the USAIDS in India, told Express that the purpose of the visit was to find out whether the treatment provided to the HIV infected mothers were as per the international guidelines. “We also wanted to understand the challenges faced by the implementing agencies and the solutions identified by them. The pilot project was being extended across the country and this input would be useful,” he added. (New Indian Express 26/6/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

36. Land law changes on cards (4)

New Delhi, June 18: The NDA government is planning to bring amendments to the land acquisition law to speed up road projects being executed in partnership with private investors. Rural development minister Nitin Gadkari today told a television channel that several states had expressed reservations about the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, which lays down a three-layer takeover procedure. According to the law, the district administration concerned has to conduct a social impact assessment within six months of a project being envisaged to find out the number of persons to be affected and the total land required. If it is a public-private partnership (PPP) project, the government will have to take the consent of 70 per cent of land-losers. For private projects with public interest, 80 per cent of land-losers have to give their consent. This process would take another six months, after which the government will pay the compensation to the affected families and acquire the land. Gadkari, who is also the transport minister, is worried about road projects stuck because of the provisions of the acquisition law. “We will discuss (the acquisition act) with the states and, after I have considered their suggestions, I will take them to the Prime Minister. We will go by his decision,” he told the channel. “Within 20 days… we will come to a conclusion because this is the issue which is related with the future development of this country.” The timeline of almost a year — six months for the social impact assessment and another six for taking consent — is something the government wants to bring down. The maximum time should be six months, at least for road projects, sources in the ministry said. Another amendment being planned is to dilute the consent provision, at least for PPP projects. Road projects are mainly implemented in PPP mode. Since seeking written consent of 70 per cent of land-losers is a gigantic task, the ministry would like to bring it down, though it is not clear to what extent. Gadkari has said road projects worth Rs 60,000 crore are stuck in legal disputes. There are certain exemptions for linear projects like road, railway and electricity lines in the existing act. For example, while the law says multi-crop land cannot be acquired, linear projects have been exempted. The new law came into effect from January 2014, replacing a 120-year-old act. Parliament had passed the law in the winter session when the UPA was in power. (The Telegraph 19/6/14)

37. ‘Restore ownership of farm land to farmers’ (20)

CHANDIGARH: The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ambavata) on Sunday asked the Haryana government to restore the ownership of agriculture land of 15 villages to farmers who have not taken the compensation so far. The farmers’ body threatened jail “bharo” in the state from the first week of July. This was decided during the meeting of state executive of the union chaired by its Haryana president Shamsher Singh Dahiya at Bad Khalsa village in Sonipat. Around 200 members of the union from villages whose land has been acquired attended the meeting. Land acquisition in Sonipat was for Rajiv Gandhi Education city. The project began in 2006 and since then the farmers of this area are on a warpath. “According to the new Land Acquisition Act, the government is supposed to return the land to farmers who have not got any kind of compensation so far. Secondly, the government is also supposed to return the land where farmer is still in possession. But, Haryana government is deliberately avoiding the same and this has been going on for the past nine years,” Dahiya said. This is not just the case of Sonipat but of other districts as well, hence we have decided to go for a strike now, he added. (Times of India  23/6/14)

38. Narmada dam oustees oppose NCA decision (4)

New Delhi: Even as the official-level Narmada Control Authority (NCA) asserted that all project-affected families facing displacement at the present height of the Narmada dam had been “resettled,” several people still living in the submergence villages arrived here on Tuesday from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat seeking a hearing from the Central government. The oustees, many of who are struggling for the last 29 years, said the NCA on June 12 gave the permission to raise the height of the dam to the final height of 138.68 metres based on the claims made by the State governments without independently verifying the status. “We want to know what is the legal basis for giving the permission to raise the height ignoring the claims of displaced people in the affected States, including 245 villages in Madhya Pradesh alone?” asked the project-affected people who are on protest at Jantar Mantar here. It is learnt that the NCA, in its emergency meeting, said the permission to raise the height of the dam will would only allow completion of civil works and leave the gates open on raised position. Official figures say that of the 46,749 project-affected families from the Narmada dam, 46,498 have been resettled. Of these 4,765 have been resettled in Gujarat and 3,976 families displaced in Maharashtra have been settled in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Of the 37,757 families displaced in Madhya Pradesh, 32,233 have been resettled in the State itself and 5,524 in Gujarat. Questioning the decision to allow raising the height of the dam, the Narmada Bachao Andolan asked whether this was done to derail the judicial inquiry into the Rs.1000-crore resettlement scam in Madhya Pradesh? (The Hindu 25/6/14)

39. Govt moves to tweak land acquisition law (4)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has called a meeting with states on Friday to discuss possible changes to be made to the land acquisition law, prompting the Congress to accuse BJP of shifting goalposts on farmers’ interests within nine months of backing the law in Parliament. Rural Development minister Nitin Gadkari will meet state revenue ministers who deal with land acquisition to discuss the law. Officials said the states are yet to frame the rules to implement the law and they would form the core of the discussions. With the NDA government having earlier dubbed the law as impeding industrialization and Gadkari himself having promised amendments soon, the meeting is being seen as a move in the direction of softening some of the provisions opposed by the industry and the corporates. Jairam Ramesh, who piloted the bill in UPA-II, said Gadkari was going against his predecessor in rural development ministry Gopinath Munde. “Gadkari does not have the same approach to the new land acquisition law as his predecessor Munde who had gone on record to support the law strongly and committed himself to its strict enforcement,” the former minister told TOI. The sensitive land law has polarized opinions. Having been paraded as a fair deal for landowners, it lays down elaborate procedures of taking over land, limits the unbridled powers the governments enjoyed earlier, insists on resettlement of displaced persons ahead of acquisition and even lays down higher compensation norms. On the other hand, the industry has opposed many provisions as inimical to their interests, warning that these would hurt growth. Any bid to amend the law is likely to result in claims that the government was putting the interest of industry over farmers. Officials sought to dispel the notion that the government was looking to appease corporates. “Even farmers have expressed reservations about the Act. The government would look into the issues holistically and see what needs to be done,” an official said. Ramesh said he did not know what amendments Gadkari was contemplating but reminded that the law was passed with “huge acclaim in September 2013 and his colleagues Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, apart from Munde, had played an active role in ensuring smooth passage.” He said BJP was giving up its stance in favour of land law in just nine months without testing it over a reasonable period of time. “Gadkari should know that four recent judgements of the Supreme Court have upheld the new law,” the Congress leader said. (Times of India 26/6/14)

CORRUPTION/ SCAM

40. Anti-corruption bureau lodges FIR against Karjat tehsildar (5)

NAVI MUMBAI: The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) today lodged an FIR at the Karjat police station against the suspended Karjat tehsildar Yuvraj Bangar, for having disproportionate assets of over Rs 58.28 lakh. Bangar was arrested by ACB last October for taking a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from a quarry owner in Karjat in order to legitimize certain mining operations in the area. He was suspended and an ACB inquiry was initiated against him. On Thursday, the ACB formally lodged the FIR following the completion of the inquiry against the tainted tehsildar. Further police investigation is on. (Times of India 19/6/14)

 

41. Black money: ‘Swiss drawing up list of Indians’ (5)

New Delhi: Switzerland has prepared a list of Indians suspected to have stashed black money in Swiss banks and the details are being shared with the Indian government, according to a senior Swiss government official. The names of these Indian individuals and entities have come under scanner of the Swiss authorities during an ongoing exercise to identify real beneficiary owners of funds held in various banks operating in Switzerland, the official said. “These individuals and entities are suspected to have held un-taxed money in Swiss banks through structures like trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of countries other than India,” the official, who did not want to be named, told PTI. He refused to divulge the identities of these persons and entities, as also the amount of money they had in banks, citing confidentiality clause of the information exchange treaty between the two countries. The official said Swiss authorities were very keen to work with the new government in India and they would also provide all necessary support to the newly set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money. He, however, dismissed claims that black money stashed in Swiss banks by Indians could be trillions of dollars, as the latest Swiss National Bank data pegs the total foreign client money across 283 banks in Switzerland at US $1.6 trillion. When asked about rise in Indian exposure to Swiss banks at 2.03 billion Swiss francs (Rs 14,000 crore), he said these are the funds held by clients who have declared themselves as Indian and therefore were unlikely to be ill-gotten wealth. The senior official further said the details are being shared with India on a ‘spontaneous’ basis and are different from the information sought earlier by the Indian authorities on the basis of ‘leaked’ or ‘stolen’ lists of certain banks, including the so-called ‘HSBC list’. The Swiss government has been refusing to share details about the Indians named in this ‘HSBC list’, which was stolen by a bank employee and later found its way to tax authorities in various countries, including India. Despite repeated requests from India, Switzerland has said its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters where information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists. The said ‘HSBC list’ allegedly contains names of Indians and other foreign nationals having black money in the Swiss unit of the global banking major. India is one of the 36 countries with which Switzerland has signed treaties to provide administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with international (Indian Express 23/6/14)

 

42. Road to corruption: Centre loses Rs 1.25 crore (5)

INDORE: Thriving builder-government official nexus has inflicted a loss of over Rs 1.25 crore to the Central government in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. The fraud has been detected in construction of 6.8km road connecting Pipri and Nimanpur villages in Bagli tehsil of Dewas district, under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) -ambitious scheme of erstwhile Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. The fraud detected by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) while investigating a 2010 complaint dates back to development of road under the centrally sponsored scheme in 2002-2006. EOW of Madhya Pradesh police is readying to lodge a case of fraud, criminal conspiracy and corruption against a premier Indore-based builder and nine officials of MP Rural Road Development Authority (MPRRDA) posted in Dewas between 2002 and 2006. The Indore-based builder group was given the contract to construct the road in 2002 with the rider that work would be completed in two years and the road was expected to be defect-free till five years from the date of completion. Not only did the builder violate terms and conditions of the contract by completing the road in three years, even the newly-built road lasted for just over an year. A subsequent analysis of samples of the worn out road by the National Quality Monitoring team of PMGSY established that the builder had used retrograde material for construction. Not only was substandard material used to build the road, but flouting related norms, the builder even managed to get Rs 44.02 lakh from government agencies for maintaining the road, besides the Rs 89.94 lakh already sanctioned to him as the contract amount. With the road lasting for just over a year, new tenders were invited by the government agencies to construct the same road again in 2007 for a price of Rs 81.31 lakh, ultimately causing the Central government a loss of over Rs 1.25 crore (re-tender price of Rs 81.31 lakh and Rs 44.02 lakh as maintenance sum). A subsequent EOW probe into the irregularities in 2010 found that had officials of MPRRDA physically verified and regularly monitored the road construction work, the loss of public funds would have been checked, EOW sources told TOI on Tuesday. Based on the findings of the probe, the EOW-Indore recently sought sanction from its headquarters in Bhopal to book 10 people, including the builder and MPRRDA-Dewas officials, including managing director, assistant manager, assistant engineer and sub-engineer level. Once given the clearance from Bhopal, 10 people will be booked under Sections 420, 120B of IPC, besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. (Times of India 26/6/14)

 

TRIBALS

43. Congress may escalate fight if heads of SC/ST panels asked to go

NEW DELHI: Amid all-round savagery on UPA appointees in statutory posts, Congress feels it can escalate the fight with the Centre on three commissions – those for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities. The mood in the Congress camp and among the incumbents in the commissions is that they would resist any bid to eject them from their positions. “It is a legal bomb,” a senior leader warned. The confidence in the otherwise dispirited Congress about the three panels is in stark contrast to the timid view the party has taken on governors, largely because the UPA itself had undertaken a ruthless purge of Raj Bhavans when it swept to power in 2004, dislodging the BJP. But Congress did not touch the nominees to panels on dalits, tribals and minorities despite its “detoxification” drive in other commissions, Raj Bhavans and committees appointed by the BJP. It was not because Congress was generous to these three panels but thought any move to eject the incumbents in these three commissions would be legally risky. The national panels on SCs and STs are constitutional commissions with elaborately laid out procedure of appointment and removal. Above all, they derive their existence from Article 338 of the Constitution. Any forcible eviction can be challenged in court and result in embarrassment. “Let the appointing authority (President) give the message and I will consider,” NCSC chairman PL Punia told TOI about speculation that he was being nudged to put in his papers. Ramesh Oraon of NCST said, “I have received no telephone calls.” When the UPA came to power, the BJP appointees were allowed to stay on. A hardcore BJP member Suraj Bhan’s term was to end three years later in 2007. The veteran politician passed away in 2006, allowing Congress to pick its nominee sooner. The same was true for National Commission for STs. The BJP had appointed Kunwar Singh as the head of the panel and he too came near to completing his term in 2007 before he decided to resign. Tarlochan Singh, who headed the national panel on minorities, too finished his term in 2006, well two years into UPA-1. (Times of India 20/6/14)

44. Rehabilitate Warriam Settlers: HC to Centre (6)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Central Government to take steps to rehabilitate the 300-odd tribal people, known as Warriam settlers, who surrendered 600 acres of forest land at Pooyamkutty. The Court also urged the government to redress the issue by including the same in the next Working Plan itself. Justice A V Ramakrishna Pillai issued the directive while considering a plea filed by Kuttan of the Adivasi Punaradhivasa Samithy. The Court observed that the tribesmen are entitled to forest rights, and by shifting them from their original place in the thick forest areas, the state is merely modifying their forest rights and resettling them. “It is not a case of diversion of forest land, but it is a case of modification of forest rights,” the Court observed. (New Indian Express 21/6/14)

45. Lok Ayuktha fumes over lack of facilities in tribal haadis (6)

MYSORE: “I don’t want to hear excuses, I know what forest laws say first you should create facilities for the decent living of soliga tribals as it is their birth right.” These were strict words of state lok ayuktha Y Bhasker Rao who paid a visit to the tribal haadis( hamlets) around Biligiri Rangana Betta ( B R hills) in the remote Chamarajnagar to the officials for failing to create facilities for the aborigines in the area. Tribals of the Purani haadi poured in their woes before the lok Ayuktha and complained that they are a totally neglected lot. ” We neither have drinking water facilities nor roads to walk, leave alone the electricity supply to our haadis” they complained , adding that their life has become more rigorous and miserable as far as health facilities are concerned. ” We tribals have to visit Yelandur town which is ten kms from here or B R Hills five kilometres from our haadi in case of emergencies and especially when the women start experiencing labour pains” they pointed out urging the lok ayuktha to direct the government to create facilities for them who have been displaced from the forests where according to them they lived happily . Revealing sufferings of the tribals , ZP member Ketamma said the forest officials are creating problems for the tribals as the tribals have to trek through the forest to reach these health centres. Particularly during night time if a women get labour pains, they have to live at the mercy of the forest officials, she alleged and said there are incidents of tribal pregnant women delivering the babies in the forest itself on their way to hospitals. Hearing the complaints and sufferings from the tribals Bhasker Rao warned the forest official Lingaraju when he started revealing the constraints of the forest act . ” As a judge I know what forest law says and at the same time I know what the constitution says on the rights of the aborigines,” he disclosed and said no law suggest the officials to usurp the fundamental rights of the individuals, especially the tribals. “What prevents you from creating facilities which are already existing, what prevents you from strengthening the existing road which is in bad shape?” he asked adding that forest law prevents from laying tar , but it does not prevent you from creating a motorable road. “I know the value of the trees and environment, but it does not prevent you from creating living conditions for the tribals” he said warning them to create facilities in a three months time. ” I suggest you to lay a metal road , then electric poles without hitting the trees and then sink bore wells and fit them with motors to help the tribals to draw water easily” he said adding that he will visit the haadis again after three months . Bhasker Rao visited even Purani podu, Sigebetta, Yarakangadde , Hosapodu , Muttuganagadde and Banglepodu haadis to receive score of complaints from the tribals. Lok ayuktha also suggested the district administration to open vocational centres where the tribals earned their livelihood from the work they do at these centres. ” Such experiment has yielded results in AP and the officials emulate that experiment” he said. Bhasker Rao said Ketamma will be representative of lok Ayuktha and she will submit report on the works taken up by the district administration . ” Involve public representatives in you work,” he suggested the officials. (Times of India 21/6/14)

46. Poverty haunts Challa Yanadi tribal families (6)

Nellore: They live in thatched huts that come up mostly alongside the bunds of irrigation channels and canals in rural areas. For the hundreds and thousands of Challa Yanadi tribal families, life became a matter of facing problems like water-logging, lack of pucca houses and house sites, absence of proper drinking water source, constant danger from reptiles and so on. A pucca house built of brick, cement and concrete is a dream for every Yanadi family as such a dwelling provides huge respite from most of the immediate daily problems like water logging and roof-leaking. They poured out these problems before visiting politicians at the time of elections, seeking solutions like levelling of the land of their localities adjoining the canals. Fencing of the small pockets of land given to them in forest fringes was also among their demands as a measure to protect their crops from the stray animals. At the Mallemala Yanadi locality in Balayapalli mandal, the residents wanted desilting of a few wells so that they would get good supply of irrigation water for their crops. Little bits of forest land were given to some families here for growing crops but water supply continued to be a problem. The tribals narrated their travails before District Collector N. Srikanth, who visited the Challa Yanadi dwellings in Manubolu and Balayapalli areas recently along with a host of district officials. Nellore District Yanadi Samakhya president Mallika Sailaja accompanied the officials. With the help of NGOs, several Yanadi families have been freed from bonded labour and they were given parcels of land. As they were cultivating crops, harvesting posed problems with stray animals feeding on the crops. The tribals sought help for fencing all around the land. Mini water schemes were suggested as an effective way of solving drinking water problem in the tribal localities. For creating work opportunities, watershed development and land levelling works are sought in tribal lands and localities under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

47. ‘Train police personnel on Prevention of Atrocities Act’ (6)

New Delhi: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Tuesday met the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) and the Joint Commissioner of Police (South East Range) and asked them to train the police personnel on provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “Delhi has emerged as an epicentre of violence against domestic workers. A majority of these are tribals from Jharkhand and Jashpur [Chhattisgarh], and Assam. The Act prescribes stringent punishment as well as a provision for 50 per cent compensation to the victim immediately once the facts of abuse or assault are ascertained through medical tests, etc. But the police frequently omit this in the first information reports,” NCST chairperson Rameshwar Oraon told The Hindu. Dr. Oraon said the Commission is collating data from FIRs filed in such cases during the past three years and the number of instances during which the Prevention of Atrocities Act was included by the police. Last month, a 12-year-old girl from Jharkhand revealed how her employers forcibly tonsured her head — a crime as per the new category of offences added in March though an amendment to the existing 19 punishable offences under the Act. On April 27, a tribal in her late teens from Singhbhum in Jharkhand, who was working as domestic worker in Model Town, was found dead. There were injuries on her body. Her employer — businessman Sachin Jindal — and his wife Shilpi Jindal were arrested, but provisions under the Act were not included in the case. “There is a need to regulate the law and improve the working conditions of domestic workers — How do private placement agencies treat them? Do the workers earn a minimum wage? Do they receive their wages in a bank account and have passbooks? What are the working conditions inside the houses?” he added. The Draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies Regulation Bill has been pending in the Assembly since last year. On September 10, 2013, Jharkhand-based NGO Diya Sewa Sansathan (DSS) submitted a list of 240 placement agencies to the Delhi Police, which tribal girls had pointed out as illegal or as places where they were abused. “There was no response to this information or on our RTI on the action taken,” said Baidnath Kumar of the DSS. “Our records show that tribal girls and women working domestic workers are usually the victims of abuse. Often, they do not speak the language and are new to the city. There is a need to sensitise Station House Officers, Sub-Inspectors, Investigating Officers, who are the first officials required to respond,” said Rishi Kant of NGO Shakti Vahini. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

48. Didi defends ‘extra help’ to minorities (7)

Kolkata: Defending the “extra help” to the minority community, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday brushed aside allegations that her government was appeasing them and said she was only carrying out her constitutional responsibilities. “Some are saying that we are only giving stress for (development of) the minorities. Why shall I not do it? Certainly I will do it. The word ‘minority’ seems to be disturbing for some people. We must understand that even Bengalis would be minorities in some other state,” Mamata said. Asking the “majority” to come forward to help “members of the minority community who are lagging behind in the field of education and jobs”, Mamata said, “It is our responsibility to help them come ahhad”.” “Some people only to try to create communal disharmony,” she said, adding that her government would not allow any suchattempt and offenders would be strongly dealt with “irrespective of their faith”. She was addressing a programme jointly put up by the department of minority affairs, Madrasa education department and West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation (WBMDFC) to distribute loans and scholarships to minority students. Addressing the gathering, Abu Ayes Mondal, chairman, WBMDFC, gave a detailed break up of the money spent under various heads. “Term loan amounting to Rs 7.45 crore, education loan worth Rs 3.06 crore and micro loan worth Rs 20 crore were distributed among 22,296 members of the minority community. Besides, 2.5 lakh students got pre-matric scholarship amounting to Rs 30.39 crore, 1.53 lakh students got postgraduate scholarship totalling Rs 54.03 crore and Rs 14 lakh was distributed among 140 women under the women empowerment scheme,” Mondal said. Thirty-eight students who ranked in top 10 of Alim, Fazil and Madrasa High examinations were felicitated with a laptop, said Prof Fuzl-e-Rabbi, president, Madrasa Board. (Indian Express 20/6/14)

49. Hope dims for merit students in Mumbai’s minority colleges (7)

Mumbai: A government resolution (GR) on First Year Junior College (FYJC), or Class IX, admissions is set to affect the future of many merit students in the state. The resolution, issued on June 18, directs colleges to include other linguistic and religious minority students in the 51% quota they enjoy, if they fail to fill up the seats. For example, if a college run by a Sindhi trust fills only 30% of its 51% quota with Sindhi students, it has to offer the remaining 21% to other minorities. Hitherto, such vacant seats were being surrendered to the open, or merit, category. City colleges are unhappy with the new rule, saying it means injustice to open category students. FYJC admissions, which started on June 18, ends on June 27. There are 762 colleges in the city and 70% of them in Mumbai district are run by minority administrations. Junior colleges prefer to give 51% minority seats for their respective communities. For example, Somaiya College, Vidyavihar, prefers Gujrati Kutchi students in its minority quota and Rizvi Trust, which has several schools and colleges, prefers students from Muslim community for its 51% minority quota. Narendra Pathak, principal, SK Somaiya Vinay Mandir Junior College, said, “Already, there is 51% reservation quota for minorities. If the government wants to add more communities to that, it will be injustice to students from the open category. There will be more commercialisation in this category. The resolution says if you don’t get linguistic minority students, look for students from different religions. Merit holders will suffer due to this new rule.” Dr. Kalim Khan, director, Rizvi Institute of management studies and research, said, “The purpose of minority institutes is to serve that particular community. Today, that has been forfeited. The government should have taken the opinion and then come up with such government resolution. This process will delay the admission process and students with good percentage will definitely get affected.” City colleges are disappointed and say the new GR will affect meritorious students and delay the admission process. Some principals feel the new rule will commercialise minority quota admission. T Shiware, chairman of the Association of Non-Government College Principals, said, “The new government resolution for minority quota is not acceptable. This will deprive meritorious students from the open category to get admission to good junior colleges.” (DNA 23/6/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

50. Shia Muslims protest violence, volunteer to go to Iraq (7)

New Delhi: Shias from across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday to protest against the alleged persecution of Shia Muslims in Iraq after violence broke out last week. About 3,000 youths have volunteered to go to Iraq and help with rescue operations. More than 400 Shia Muslims from Delhi, Aligarh, Punjab and neighbouring areas arrived in Delhi on Wednesday evening after religious groups called for a “unified resistance against the persecution of Shia” community in Iraq. A large number of students of Delhi University (DU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) also participated in the protest. Speaking to Newsline, Maulana Mohsin Taqvi, who leads Friday prayers at the Shia mosque in Kashmere Gate in Old Delhi, said the protest was an attempt to “protect” the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf, two of the holiest sites for Shias worldwide. “The terror Al-Qaeda is spreading in Iraq and elsewhere in the world is against the tenets of Islam. Karbala is our sacred site, where the battle leading to the martyrdom of Imam Hussein took place several centuries ago. Najaf is also one of our holiest sites, housing the shrine of Imam Ali. We will talk to the Indian government to take strict action in this regard. This is also a message to our Shia brothers that we are there for them morally and will not shy away from extending any support whatsoever that they need,” Taqvi said. As the maulana addressed the crowd and urged them to “morally support” Iraqi Shia Muslims, he was greeted with loud cheers, with many youth proclaiming to lay down their lives for the “cause”. According to one of the organisers, Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, more than 3,000 youths from all over India have enlisted themselves in the registration for going to Iraq. “Online registrations are pouring in constantly. Here, almost 300 people gave their names for going to Iraq. We will submit this list to the Iraqi embassy and in case the need arises, we will go to Iraq and fight the insurgents, who are killing innocent people…,” Naqvi said. Syed Ali Rizvi (25), who studies accountancy, said the situation in Iraq raises “important concerns” about the security situation worldwide. “We are aware of the situation in Iraq and the kind of problems people are facing… We expect the Modi government to exert pressure on Iraq and take strict action in this regard. If possible, we will go to Iraq and take arms training to fight and protect innocent people,” he said. (Indian Express 19/6/14)

51. ‘Form central SIT to probe atrocities on Pune Muslims’ (7)

Pune: A fact finding committee of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) has claimed that the murder of Muslim techie Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Hadapsar, allegedly by the activists of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), was a well planned conspiracy and not a “random attack”. In a press conference on Saturday, members of the fact-finding committee demanded that a central special investigation team (SIT) comprising reputed officers should be formed to investigate the atrocities on Muslims of Pune in June 2014. The committee also demanded a fast track court and appointment of a special public prosecutor in consultation with the victims to try these cases. Other demands included the payment of compensation of Rs 25 lakh to Mohsin’s family, action against the police officers who did not act against the culprits during the riots, and the expediting of the investigation by the cyber cell to identify and arrest those who posted the posts on Facebook. The committee alleged that government officials are biased against the minority communities, and so sensitisation programmes for the police and revenue officials should be conducted on the issues of minorities. The committee demanded the deployment of Muslim officers and more police personnel in areas where Muslims are largely populated. The fact finding committee comprised of Prof A Marx of the People Union For Human Rights, Chennai, Reny Ayline, National Secretary, NCHRO, Prof G K Ramasamy, People Democratic Forum, Bangalore, Advocates Y K Shabana, Babita Kesharwani of Mumbai, Sudhir Dhawale, Editor of “Vidrohi”, Mumbai and Rupali Jadhav, an artiste of Kabir Kala Manch. Incidentally, Dhawale was arrested for his alleged links with Maoists in 2011. He was acquitted by the court and released in May 2014. A Marx, head of the committee, said it visited about 100 victims and eyewitnesses of the recent communal clashes in Pune that started from May 31. “We concluded that the murder of Mohsin was well-planned and not a random attack by HRS,” he said. Dhawale said, “Police have a casual approach towards HRS. We spoke to the police officers about a ban on HRS. But an officer said – how can HRS be banned just after one crime?” Pune police have so far arrested 21 persons allegedly associated with the HRS, including its chief, Dhananjay alias Bhai Desai (34), in connection with the murder of Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh at Hadapsar on June 2, following the communal clashes that started due to the spread of derogatory pictures of Maratha King Shivaji and Bal Thackeray uploaded on a Facebook (FB) profile. The committee alleged that intelligence agencies and police failed to control the activities of Hindu outfits like HRS, due to which the riots spread and led to Mohsin’s murder. (Indian Express 22/6/14)

52. ‘Muslim women behind SCs, STs in education’ (7)

GUWAHATI: Regretting lack of education among Muslim women, eminent leaders and thinkers from different parts of the country have appealed for a change. Taking part in a seminar on “the programmes and schemes of the Union ministry of minority affairs for their socio-economic and educational development,” they demanded creating awareness among the masses. Speaking on the occasion, Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqui, professor of Jamia Millia Islamia from New Delhi, highlighted on education of minority girls, implementation and issues. “Education for women is a must for the uplift of society as a whole. Muslim women are still educationally backward than the SCs and STs according to the latest government report. This is a serious concern,” said Siddiqui. In a bid to create awareness among the minority communities for their “socio-cultural, economic and educational backwardness of India with special reference to Assam”, the workshop was organized by Ajmal Foundation, Hojai, in collaboration with the Union ministry of minority affairs, New Delhi, on Sunday. Raj V Siddiqui, member of National Minorities Education Committee of the Union ministry of human resource development, focused on “alleviation of poverty through management of sustainable resources”.Anita Nuna, faculty and programme coordinator of department of women’s studies, NCERT, New Delhi, urged all the participants to create more awareness about the projects and schemes which are available to all ministries, including the ministry of minority affairs. (Times of India 24/6/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

53. Christian couple hacked to death in Bengal’s Kalimpong (7)

Siliguri: A Christian couple was hacked to death and their 12-year-old daughter’s eye gouged out by masked assailants in Kalimpong sub division of West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, police said Thursday. The incident at the Geetdubling slum in remote Budhwar area, about two hours drive from Kalimpong town, Tuesday-Wednesday midnight, has left the young girl fighting in a serious condition first at Kalimpong Hospital, and now at north Bengal Medical College and Hospital. Her left eye has been severely affected after being slashed with a sharp weapon. The couple’s four-year-old younger daughter escaped the assailants by fleeing from home. One person has been detained in connection with the incident, said Darjeeling’s Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Chaturvedi. Kalimpong Additional Superintendent of Police Anjali Singh said the husband Dominik Bhutia worked with a cable operator. Locals saw the victims lying in a pool of blood in their house Thursday morning and informed police. The bodies have been sent for post mortem. Chaturvedi said the Tibetan couple had converted to Christianity. He hoped the case would be solved soon. Himalayan Buddhist Association general secretary and Tibetan Support Group’s north east India core committee convenor Sonam Londrup Lama has condemned the incident and demaned exemplary punishment of the culprits. Various other organisations in Kalimpong have also raised their voice against the attack. (Zee News 20/6/14)

54. Servant of God Moves Ahead on Road to Sainthood (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Living the life of a saint is not easy, but getting someone officially declared as one could prove equally tough. The Thiruvananthapuram-based Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has now completed a gargantuan documentation and translation project as part of the efforts to get its founder listed as a saint of the Catholic Church. On Monday, the Church is undertaking another exercise that is crucial to the cause of canonisation. The mortal remains of Mar Ivanios, buried at the St Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, will be exhumed and subjected to an examination by a 21-member team which includes six doctors. The remains, before they are returned to the grave, will be kept on display at the Cathedral for a few hours in a specially-made casket. Six decades after his death, much of what Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios put down on paper or uttered in speeches and discourses have been painstakingly compiled and translated into English. The documents, Church officials said, number almost one lakh. “The translation work is over. The texts will soon be submitted to the Vatican, where it will undergo thorough scrutiny. If the Vatican finds him worthy, Ivanios ‘Thirumeni’ will be declared as ‘venerable,’ which is the next step in the canonisation process,” Fr Bovas Mathew Meloottu, spokesperson of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, said. “Earlier, the documents had to be translated into Italian. Rome has simplified the process, though. Now English will do,” he said. Serious time and effort go into canonisation, the process of getting an individual listed in the canon of recognised saints. All other factors being on track, a candidate listed as ‘venerable’ is declared ‘blessed’, if it can be proved that he/she was responsible for one miracle. For being declared a saint, two miracles have to be established. In Mar Ivanios’ case, the initial hurdles of this tedious process are being negotiated. Born in 1882 in Mavelikkara, Mar Ivanios is best known as the architect of the Reunion Movement. Formerly a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Church, he joined Communion with the Catholic Church in 1930, and founded the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, the present head of the church, had declared Mar Ivanios a ‘Servant of God’ in 2007, after which the church appointed a 150-member team on the canonisation ‘project.’ But the groundwork began as early as 1998. The 150-member team comprises experts  — people on long leave from their profession and retired college professors — under an oath of secrecy. “Documents were collected from 38 archives, some from as far as the US and Rome. All this is required to prove that the individual in question lived his life as a pure Catholic and that his faith was true,” Fr Bovas said. The documentation/translation work itself was carried out by the Historical Commission. (New Indian Express 23/6/14)

55. Now, Christians too demand reservations (7)

MUMBAI: Christian leaders have demanded reservations for Christian Dalits, most of whom are poor, as Muslim leaders welcomed 5% reservations for their community in education and jobs. Abraham Mathai of the Indian Christian Voice said, “The government should give reservations to Christians too as most of them in the state are poor and tribals. Marginalized Christians should not be ignored as they are a small minority.” Dolphy D’Souza of Save Our Land (SOUL) complained that Christians have been ignored by successive governments as they “are not a big votebank”. She said that the 1950 Presidential order excluded Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits from the purview of quotas, as given to scheduled castes. Muslim leaders demanded immediate implementation of the state cabinet’s decision and said the government must strongly defend it if challenged in the Supreme Court. Congress MLA Amin Patel, who had demanded quotas for Muslims in the last monsoon session, said, “Reservations have been a long-standing demand of the community, as panels headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ranganath Mishra and Mahmoodur Rahman had also recommended quotas to empower Muslims. This will help mainstream the community, which has felt alienated due to backwardness.” Signs of Muslims getting reservations were evident when, replying to Patel’s questions, minister Fauzia Khan had said, “You will soon get good news.” But M A Khalid of the All-India Milli Council said the government should have announced it earlier, as it seems like a sop before the assembly elections. Many said the state government should not flinch from defending the decision in the apex court, if challenged. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, “This is not the first time Muslims have been given reservations in India. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had provided reservations to economically poor Muslims, and Muslims in Maharashtra too needed it.” (Times of India 27/6/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

56. Nanavati panel seeks review of HC order about Sanjiv Bhatt (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Nanavati commission probing the 2002 riots has moved the Gujarat high court for a review of the latter’s order asking the probe panel to supply all intelligence documents to suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. In a review petition filed on Wednesday, the commission argued the court could not issue such an order. The HC had earlier asked the probe panel to supply Bhatt all intelligence documents – even those that were classified – for inspection. Justice G T Nanavati, the inquiry commission’s chairman, said they had sought a review of the order. A division bench is likely to take up the matter on Thursday. On Monday the HC had directed the commission to allow Bhatt to inspect all state IB documents so he could file an affidavit. Last October the HC had asked the state government to supply the suspended IPS officer all the 47 documents he had sought for inspection, even if they were classified. The government had raised the matter of relevance and confidentiality to oppose the HC order, but the court had rejected the objections. Since the HC was unmoved on the issue of relevance and permitted Bhatt to begin inspection within three days and file the affidavit by June 27, he went to the commission. But the probe panel provided him only those documents that were not classified and told him it would seek a review of the HC order. Bhatt refused to inspect the documents that had been supplied to him earlier also. Bhatt has been demanding these documents of the subsidiary intelligence bureau to depose before the commission. In 2011 he had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, alleging the SIT had tried to shield then chief minister Narendra Modi and others by not recording his statement implicating them in offences such as the Gulbarg Society massacre that had taken place after the Godhra carnage. In October 2012 advocate general Kamal Trivedi had assured the HC all documents would be supplied to Bhatt for inspection. But the government supplied only 14 documents to the probe panel and withheld 23 others on the grounds they were classified. Of the 15 documents given to the panel, the government recommended only five be given to the suspended police officer. (Times of India 19/6/14)

57. Mamata: Will not allow communal violence in state (7)

KOLKATA: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday brushed aside allegations that her government was appeasing the minorities ignoring the interests of the Hindus. “Some are saying that we are only focusing on the minorities and not the Hindus. You should have the eyes to see the overall development,” she said, adding that state the government is also renovating the house of Swami Vivekananda. “There are people who indulge in divisive politics. Swami Vivekananda had said that one day people from the lowest section of the society will lead the country. If one section of the society needs development, the other sections should come forward and help them. There is no place for violence in democracy. There is no place for conspiracy in development. Let there be development for everybody. It is our responsibility to help the downtrodden,” she added. Some people, the chief minister said, tend to react when they hear the word minority. “I don’t understand why. I am a Bengali. I am a minority in Assam. Everybody will belong to the minority community in some place or the other. This must be accepted. It is the duty of the majority to come forward for the development of the minority,” she said at a programme on offering of loans, scholarship and other benefits for minority welfare at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. “This is how a bridge of trust is built. There should be competition on the basis of the development work done, not by being jealous. We are working for anyone who needs development. Helping them, standing by them is our moral responsibility,” she said, adding that she had heard questions being raised about the state government’s giving sops to the Muslims. She asked “Why won’t we not do it? Certainly, I will do it. I will do so for whoever is needy,” she added. “I am against riots. I abhor the idea of inciting communal tension. Criminals are criminals. Even for petty cases like theft some sections search for communal links. We should not bring religion here. Criminals do not have any caste, creed or religion. Those guilty of crimes will be punished according to the law,” she said. Mamata also said: “We wan’t to ensure that our brothers and sisters pursue their studies properly, receive training and get jobs. And, those who cannot get jobs, can start business by taking loans from the government,” she said. (Times of India 20/6/14)

58. UPA’s Communal Violence Bill Put on Back Burner by NDA Govt? (7)

NEW DELHI: The Communal Violence Bill, an initiative of the previous UPA regime, seems to have been put on the back burner by the NDA government with the Home Ministry unlikely to push the controversial legislation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dubbed the bill as a “recipe for disaster” when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Home Ministry officials said there has been no discussion at all on the ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill ever since the new government assumed charge and the legislation did not figure in any discussions either with Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “The bill is not in sync with the new government’s thinking. So, we have decided not to bring it into the table,” a Home Ministry official said. The UPA government, which tried to enact the bill with stringent punitive provisions, had faced strong opposition from BJP and several chief ministers, including West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s J Jayalalithaa. Just before the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha in February, the UPA government tried to bring the draft bill to the House by dropping several provisions including making it neutral to all communities and reducing the role of the central government in case of riots. Earlier the bill specifically mentioned that the onus of riots lies on the majority community. The draft bill is made neutral to all groups or communities and the central government will not have any alleged over-riding powers anywhere. Besides, the central government’s role will largely be of coordination and will act only when the state government seeks help. Earlier, the Centre was given unilateral powers to send central paramilitary forces in case of communal violence without consulting the state government. However, there were no takers for even the diluted version of the legislation. BJP had been maintaining it opposed to it on the ground that it would be a “threat to India’s communal harmony”.In a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Modi termed the bill as a “recipe for disaster” and said the timing to bring the bill was “suspicious owing to political considerations and vote bank politics, rather than genuine concerns”. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

WOMEN

59. Crime against women unabated in UP; no change after transfers (8)

Lucknow, Jun 18 : Uttar Pradesh, was further rocked with about a dozen crimes, in which members of fairer sex were sexually exploited, raped, murdered for dowry and other crimes during past 24-hours. A police report from Aligarh said, body of a 15-year-old girl was found hanging with a tree at mango orchard in Wazidpur area of Dadu, this morning. She went to attend call of nature’s call last night and went missing. Her family members recovered her body this morning. Local police sent the body for post-mortem and sought report to confirm whether the girl was sexually assaulted. Similarly, in Rae Bareli, 18-year-old, a resident of Bhadhukar, went out to attend nature’s call. In Sultanpur, a mentally retarded minor girl hailing from Khethara locality of Dhakwa, was raped by a local resident identified as Chotu, for past several months. The incident came to notice when the victim turned pregnant. A case was registered and Chotu was arrested. In Mainpuri, two minor girls were molested by a local youth identified as Mukesh Jatav yesterday. According to police, brother of one of the girl suddenly reached the spot and during scuffle with the accused, he bite his private parts in which Mukesh was critically injured. Local police admitted Mukesh to hospital and further action has been on in the matter. (New Kerala 19/6/14)

60. Post-Nirbhaya, Delhi theatre focuses on women-centric issues (8)

NEW DELHI: Post-Nirbhaya, both professional as well as amateur theatre in the capital, is witnessing a definite shift towards addressing women-centric issues such as eve teasing, molestation, harassment, sexual assault and patriarchy. Plays such as Sarkari Feminism by the Pandies Theatre Group and Draupadi by Atul Satya Koushik were staged in support of women who had survived gruesome crimes. Even campus theatre, notably Sri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, IP College for Women and Jesus and Mary Convent staged plays on women. Some colleges took the additional step of creating their own websites for signing petitions and taking these issues ahead. “We should all have a feminist approach, if we want to visualize a better nation,” says Sanjay Kumar, director of Pandies Theatre Group, which has been focusing on women-centric plays. He adds, “There is too much misogyny in this country and the problem lies in the overpowering dominance of men. This is one of the main reasons why we stage these plays.” Theatre has given these groups an excellent platform to express the unsaid, but more importantly it has given them the power to act out their opinions and incorporate another point of view too. Kumar’s ribald but humorous play, Sarkari Feminism, first takes an irreverent look at commissions and committees appointed by the state to look into women’s problems. It then asks: is the intervention of independent groups better than that of the state? Are they more capable of surmounting their class biases and address the issues better? Leaning on the group’s incessant work with women in slums and bastis of north India, the play presents stories that scream to redress these issues on their own terms. On the other hand, Draupadi directed by Atul Satya Koushik, takes excerpts from the age-told story of Draupadi and adds imaginative sequences to bring out the real essence of association between Draupadi and today`s women. The juxtaposing makes this work fit to be called an imaginative re-telling of certain chapters from Draupadi`s life. The incidents in the play take place in an Indian village in the late 1960s. A bunch of playful females of a large family of Haryanvi rural performers, decide to play Draupadi in the absence of all the males of the family. In the process they discover how closely their lives are a reflection of Draupadi’s. This intense story unfolds in a light and seamless manner. Like all other productions of the society, this play also scores high on folk music. “Everything circles around women. And it’s a shame that they are disrespected in our society,” says Koushik. He feels it is his responsibility as a theatre artist to bring about awareness among people and he believes that theatre has immense potential to reach out to a large audience and make a difference. Similarly, taking campus theatre forward is practitioner, director and activist Kuljeet Singh who organizes ‘Ateliers’, an annual theatre fest which picks out the best of DU plays and stages them for the public. They are then performed in reputed auditoriums such as Kamani Auditorium and Sri Ram Centre. Others are using internet to spread the message. Aniket Jaiswal, a former member of the Hans Raj College dramatics society, has now started his own YouTube channel ‘ Old Delhi Films’ and has posted videos like ‘ Real men don’t rape and tape’ and ‘She’ which are focused on the ordeals faced by women today. Theatre has immense potential to bring about a change in society. As US playwright Thornton Wilder once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share the sense of what it is to be a human being”. Eighteen months after the sexual assault and killing of Nirbhaya shocked the nation, Delhi theatre is taking some small but sure-footed steps in that direction. (Times of India 22/6/14)

61. Vrindavan widows come to Delhi with hopes from Modi govt (8)

NEW DELHI: A hundred widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi were provided a platform by NGO Sulabh International to give voice to the many inequities and injustices suffered by them on International Widows’ Day. The women, who gathered in the capital, appealed to the Narendra Modi government to introduce and pass a bill to protect their rights drafted by Bindeshwar Pathak, Sulabh founder, in the Budget Session of Parliament next month. “We will approach Modiji and our MP from Mathura, Hema Malini, for measures to ensure welfare of widows who are living in Vrindavan and Varanasi,” Radha Dasi (84), who is originally from West Bengal, said. Vrindavan is home to thousands of old widows from West Bengal and their condition used to be pitiable until the Supreme Court intervened and NGOs took up the challenge to ameliorate their plight. To highlight inequities and atrocities suffered by many women once they lose their husbands, United Nations officially recognized International Widows’ Day at a New York conference in 2011. “No woman should lose her rights when she loses her husband,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said. Some 40 million of the world’s widows live in India and life for many of these women is hard and fraught with struggle. Often with no social security, they are made to feel worthless, undesirable and a burden by their in-laws. While 8% women in India are widows, only 2.5% men are widowers as men usually remarry. “Widows, sometimes teenagers, are mostly not allowed to remarry. Some mothers have even been cast out by their children and forced to live on streets,” said Pathak, who felt the Bill must be passed at the earliest, said. (Times of India 24/6/14)

62. Average gender ratio improves in UP: Minister (8)

Lucknow, Jun 25: Uttar Pradesh government today said the gender ratio in 2001 was 898 female per thousand male, has now gone up to 912 females per 1000 males in 2011 census. Infant gender ratio which was 916 girls per thousand boys in 2001 in the age group of 0 to 6 years has come down to 902 in 2011, disclosed UP health minister Ahmed Hassan in a written reply in the state assembly. The minister, however, did not give any specific reason for the downfall of gender in the infant group. The birth rate in Uttar Pradesh was 24.8 per cent per thousand during 2012-13. In urban areas, the birth rate was 26.4 while it was 19.6 per thousand in the rural areas. But the infant mortality rate was still higher at 68 child per thousand children born in the state in that year, the minister said while quoting the Annual Health Survey of the Central government. (New Kerala 25/6/14)

63. Gujarat Sets Example in Women Empowerment (8)

The Gujarat government’s announcement of revision of its recruitment norms to ensure that women comprise 33 per cent of the state police force is a welcome step towards empowering women. Though the quota for women in police force already existed in Gujarat on paper, it could not be filled due to stringent criteria for physical tests. Now the norms will be adjusted so that women can clear the tests and Gujarat will become the first state in the country to implement such a progressive provision which in effect provides for such reservation to women in all cadres in future recruitments. This should be seen as a continuation of the women empowerment drive of chief minister Anandiben Patel. The state government had ascribed top priority to women empowerment and had listed out several measures to be taken for the women in the state even in the 100-day agenda released recently. Credit for this must go to prime minister Narendra Modi who ensured that the state got a woman chief minister who gave primacy to women’s empowerment issues. He has ensured that charity begins in his home state. It is to be hoped that every effort would be made to ensure that the experiment is successful. The state government must also ensure that police stations do not become hotbeds of gender discrimination against women by men who will continue to outnumber them. Gujarat’s lead should inspire other states to follow its example and improve representation of women in police forces all over the country. At present, women constitute less than 7 per cent of the central and state law enforcement agencies and their under-representation is one of the main causes for lax enforcement of laws protecting women. The proportion is extremely skewed in states like Uttar Pradesh, which has just 2,586 women against the total strength of 1.73 lakh in the state police forces. It is small wonder then that crimes against women are rampant there. (New Indian Express 27/6/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

64. Gujarat expert to lead water management panel in capital (9)

NEW DELHI: The adviser to the Gujarat government on water issues, Babubhai Navalawala will now head an advisory group that will “guide the Delhi government on issues related to water management”.Navalawala, a former secretary in the ministry of water resources and a water expert, has also been associated with the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, responsible for the Narmada dam. He was in Delhi at the invitation of lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung and met him and senior officials on Thursday. During the meeting, Jung appointed Navalawala as chairperson of the advisory group that will focus on three critical areas-disposal of untreated sewage by storm water drains into the Yamuna, development of the river and raising the water table in Delhi. The LG, who on Tuesday reviewed the working of DJB, announced that the city needs to draft a long-term plan for water and sewage, both of which will also be supervised by the advisory group. It will also work out an action plan on the three major water and sewerage concerns and create task forces which will execute the specific plans and report to the advisory group. “The advisory group will consist of five expert members and they will meet on a monthly basis to review the progress of the works assigned,” said sources. Last week, a team of Delhi government officials visited Ahmedabad to study the Sabarmati river project. On their return, several departments recommended that the only way of cleaning the Yamuna is by channelizing it like the Sabarmati, a suggestion that has met with stiff opposition from environmentalists. Meanwhile, Jung asked DJB to improve water supply and provide sewerage facilities to unauthorized colonies. (Times of India 20/6/14)

65. Expedite implementation of biodiversity plan: Javadekar (9)

New Delhi: India’s Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar Monday urged the parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to expedite the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, a statement said. In a video message, Javadekar, president of the 11th Conference of Parties (CoP-11) to the CBD, highlighted key issues of biodiversity conservation that were discussed at the CBD’s fifth meeting of the Working Group on review of implementation (WGRI-5) held in Montreal (Canada) June 16-20. Javdekar also urged the parties to decide on final targets for resource mobilisation for implementation of the Strategic Plan, and also highlighted the importance of addressing poverty reduction as a cross-cutting issue of the strategic plan, the statement said. “He expressed confidence that these initiatives would help to harness long-term benefits by investing in biodiversity conservation,” it added. At the WGRI-5 meeting, India was represented by Hem Pande, additional secretary in the ministry and India’s pointman for the CBD. (Zee News 23/6/14)

66. EFL Act: Govt for Further Amendment (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government proposes to bring in  further amendment to the Ecologically Fragile Lands (EFL) Act, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told the Assembly on Monday. As many as 467 cases are pending in connection with the implementation of the Act. It is for the urgent settlement of these cases that the amendment is being proposed. A meeting chaired by the Chief Minister was convened in this regard and the suggestion of it will be considered while amending the Act, the Minister said. A project to grow ‘mini forest’ in houses with medicinal plants and trees will be launched. Those who successfully implement it will be given awards at district and state levels. Various other projects have been envisaged to protect the biodiversity of forests. It is important to create habitat for the wild animals as their numbers are increasing, the Minister said. The decision to give no-objection certificate to Karuna Estate in Nelliampathy was taken by eight officers from six departments. A probe by three officers is going on to study all sides of the decision and action will be taken once they submit report, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said. The decision on the suggestion to increase the number days of trawling ban to 60 could be taken only after reaching a consensus with all sections, Fisheries Minister K Babu told the Assembly. A committee was set up to study the impact of trawling ban. It has suggested to impose the ban for 60 days in two phases. But there has been no agreement on this suggestion yet. The practice of exporting fish which are not consumable will be prevented, the Minister told the House. The de-addiction centres functioning in the state will be given financial assistance from the revenue of Bevco. A state committee chaired by the Excise Commissioner and a district committees led by District Collectors have been set up to find out the centres which deserve the assistance, Babu said. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

67. NHRC issues notice to Bihar government over shortage of schools (11)

Patna: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued a notice to Bihar government over alleged acute shortage of schools in the state. The NHRC has issued notice to the Government of Bihar, through its Chief Secretary, calling for a report within four weeks about the steps taken by the state administration to fulfill the shortage of schools in the state, According to an NHRC statement released on Thursday. He has also been asked to inform about the time-frame in which the entitlements as per the Right to Education Act will be fulfilled. The Commission has also sought status of availability of Primary School teachers in the state, the statement said. The notice was issued after the Commission took suo motu cognisance of a media report that there was acute shortage of middle-level schools in Bihar and the children have to walk miles for primary education. Quoting a Government survey, the report says that there were still 896 inhabited locations where elementary education was not available within a kilometre. 2,974 inhabited locations do not have middle schools within three kilometres. There were still 2,100 locations which were deprived of education facilities even after more than 65 years of independence. The Commission has observed that the contents of press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of Right to Education of children. (DNA 19/6/14)

68. UGC Gives Ultimatum to Delhi University over Four-Year Programme (11)

New Delhi:  Toughening its stand, the University Grants Commission (UGC) today asked the Delhi University and all its colleges to conduct admissions only under the three-year undergraduate programme and not under the controversial FYUP while warning of “consequences” if its direction is violated. The UGC direction for the coming academic session came a day after the Delhi University struck a defiant note, rejecting the Commission’s directive to scrap the controversial four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). “Under no circumstances shall the University of Delhi or any of the colleges under it admit students to the FYUP for academic year 2014-15,” the Commission said in a statement. “And further that any deviation from this directive either by the University of Delhi or any of the colleges under it shall be deemed to be in contravention of the UGC Act, 1956 with its consequences,” it said. Officials said disobeying the UGC direction could spell trouble for Delhi University as it could stand to lose grants and degrees offered by the varsity could be de-recognised. The UGC said that it would be ensured that students, who were admitted in 2013-14 in FYUP when it was introduced, are able to migrate to the three-year programme. In the statement, the UGC said “admission for academic year 2014-15 at the undergraduate level in the general degree programmes (including the Honours programme in different subjects of Humanities, Science and Commerce) in various colleges under the University of Delhi shall only be to the three-year undergraduate programme which was offered prior to the introduction of the FYUP”.The UGC has also decided to constitute a ten-member committee with representations from teachers, students and statutory bodies to advice DU for the implementation of the directive. They would ensure that students, who were admitted in 2013-14 are able to migrate to the three-year programme, without any hassle and acquire necessary academic and other competencies during the next two academic years, it said. The committee would comprise the vice chairman of the UGC, president of DUTA and students’ body DUSU among others. At its full commission meeting on June 13, the UGC had asked Delhi University to review the programme as it felt that it was in violation of the national policy on education which follows the 10-plus 2-plus 3 pattern. The Delhi University, however, stood by the programme and in a reply to the commission has maintained that it has followed due procedure. The varsity yesterday said it had revised the programme to make it compliant with the National Policy on Education (NPE). Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) along with several student organisations such as NSUI and ABVP has been demanding immediate roll back of the FYUP and the VC’s resignation. BJP had during the elections promised to scrap the FYUP if it comes to power. The UGC is a statutory organisation responsible for co-ordination, determination and maintenance of standards of education as well of disbursal of funds for universities in the country. (NDTV 22/6/14)

69. Delhi Cantonment Board schools teach Sanskrit to Muslim kids (11)

Ew Delhi: In a surprising finding, all Muslim students studying at seven schools run by the Delhi Cantonment Board are being taught Sanskrit as these schools do not have provision to teach Urdu. The board runs seven schools in the city, out of which one is meant for specially-abled children and the other six are general schools. These six schools have a total of 69 Muslim students and all the students have to study Sanskrit as there is no provision for teaching Urdu, an RTI has revealed. The RTI, which was filed by a Jamia Nagar resident and Nawa-e-Haque Welfare Association president Asad Gazi, the Commission for Linguistic Minorities, which is regulated by the Union minorities ministry, launched an investigation into the matter on May 16 and directed the board’s chief executive officer, Sanjeev Kumar, to initiate action in this regard. The memorandum was also submitted to the principal secretary (education), National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions chairman, National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities and Central Board of Secondary Education chairman. (Asin Age 23/6/14)

70. Last year, HRD ministry had backed 4-yr course in high court (11)

New Delhi: The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) may have refused to interfere in the standoff between the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission over the four-year undergraduate programme this time, but in 2013 it had supported the course. In a reply sent to the High Court in relation to a PIL against the course sent on July 23, 2013, the MHRD has clearly stated that the university is a statutory autonomous body and all academic decisions are taken by it on approval by the Academic and Executive council and the University Court. “It (DU) has complied with all formal requirements as per the University Act, Statutes and Ordinance for introducing FYUP from July 2013. In view of the above, there is no ground or occasion for the Ministry to take an otherwise view on an academic decision like this,” the letter stated. The letter also states that the FYUP is in conformity with the UGC regulations. It also points out that the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore had also announced a four-year Bachelor of Science programme. The MHRD may not have spoken out against the Vice Chancellor nor questioned the university’s autonomy but it has not come out in the university’s defence either — a position contrary to the one it took last year. The letter has also pointed out that the name FYUP is a misnomer as only those students who are seeking an honours degree will have to stay for four years. The others can leave in two years with a diploma or in three years with a simple bachelor degree.   This is a position that the university has also communicated to the UGC but was rejected by the regulatory body which declared that the course was against the National Education Policy that says that an undergraduate degree should be three years long.  What has changed in this one year is the regime. “The Pallam Raju-led ministry had taken a stand that Delhi University is an autonomous institution and it would not take any step in contravention of that status. MHRD is nowhere in the picture even now. The issue is between DU and UGC,” said a senior MHRD official.    (Hindustan Times 25/6/14)

71. Sex education should be banned in schools: Harsh Vardhan (11)

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has courted yet another controversy by stating that sex education should be banned in schools. The Union Minister is his vision document for Delhi schools says: “So-called “sex education” to be banned. Yoga to be made compulsory.” Dr Vardhan’s views on sex education is sure to spark a debate and give fresh ammunition to the Congress to hit back at the Cabinet minister. Recently, the Union Health Minister sparked a controversy by saying that promoting condom usage is not enough to prevent AIDS. However, Dr Vardhan on Wednesday denied opposing promotion of condoms, and said a combination of condoms and abstinence was needed to fight HIV/AIDS. The Health Minister also expressed “disappointment” over the way media “distorted” his statements in an interview given to The New York Times. In the interview to the US daily, Dr Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying: “One should also promote integrity of sexual relationship between husband and wife – a part of Indian culture.” “The thrust of the AIDS campaign should not only be on the use of condoms. This sends the wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you’re using a condom, it’s fine,” he said. In response to the criticism he received, the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist said: “Any experienced NGO activist knows that condoms sometimes break while being used. That is why government campaigns in India, whether through the National Aids Control Organisation or the state governments, should focus on safe sex as a holistic concept which includes highlighting the role of fidelity to single partners.” He said: “The tradition of preserving institution of marriage governed relevant government legislations”.”Even the law on divorce insists on attempts at reconciliation and suggest recourse to separation only in the last resort,” he said. “The culture of regarding husband and wife as halves of a whole should be upheld in the modern age where one sees all-round crumbling of values.” “My statement on informing people on the supremacy of fidelity as an AIDS prevention measure is not only a piece of cultural advice but also a scientific one. So as Minister of Health I find it justified to include this simple message in the communication strategy of the government’s anti-AIDS programmes,” he said. “Condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner. Prevention is always better than cure,” he added. (Zee News 27/6/14)

TERRORISM

72. Families of 40 Indian construction workers abducted in Iraq pray for their safe return (12)

Amritsar: Family members of the Punjabi boys who have been abducted in Iraq are shattered and praying hard for the safe return of their sons from Iraq. On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed the abduction of 40 Indians in Iraq, but added that they have not received calls from anyone who has indicated about ransom or taking these workers under control. The family members of these boys are worried about their fate even as the Iraqi government has now asked the United States to conduct air strikes against the militants of the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Gurpinder Kaur’s brother Manjinder Singh is one of the 40 Punjabi boys who are stranded in Iraq. She said that last time she spoke to her brother was on Sunday when he was well but under the care of ISIL. Now she has learnt from the TV news reports that he might be one of those abducted in Iraq. Sukhjinder Kaur, the mother of Manjinder Singh, told ANI, “I’m only concerned about the safety of my child.” She failed to hold back her tears while talking and said she didn’t care who her son was captured by, ISIL or someone else, she just wanted her child safe back home. She also asked the Indian government to take all the necessary steps to bring the construction workers back home. (DNA 19/6/14)

73. Iraq crisis: As the Sunni terror spreads, its fighters look for wives (12)

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are battling for control of Iraq’s largest refinery outside Baiji north of Baghdad, with each side holding part of the complex. But in the town of Baiji itself, a few miles away, which is completely under the control of ISIS, residents say they are most frightened by ISIS militants going door to door asking about the numbers of married and unmarried women in the house. “I told them that there were only two women in the house and both were married,” said Abu Lahid. “They said that many of their mujahedin (fighters) were unmarried and wanted a wife. They insisted on coming into my house to look at the women’s ID cards (which in Iraq show marital status).” ISIS says its men have been ordered not to bother local people if they are Sunni, but in many places they are imposing their puritanical social norms in the towns they have captured. In Mosul people were at first jubilant that ISIS had removed the checkpoints that for years had made movement in the city very slow. Merchants and farmers were ordered to reduce the prices of their goods. But tolerance and moderation on the part of ISIS is intermittent and may be temporary. In one case in Mosul a woman was reportedly whipped, along with her husband, because she was only wearing a headscarf rather than the niqqab cloak covering the whole body. In some captured towns fanatical ISIS militants start imposing rules about women’s clothing, watching TV in coffee shops and cigarette smoking almost before the fighting is ended. The restraint, or lack of it, shown by ISIS has important political implications. When al-Qaida in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, insisted on local women marrying their fighters during the Sunni-Shia civil war between 2004 and 2008, they alienated much of the Sunni community. They killed even minor government employees. “I would rather have my door kicked in by American soldiers than by al-Qaida because, with the Americans, I would stand a better chance of staying alive,” a young Sunni man in Baghdad said at the time. Such feelings enabled the Americans to create Sahwa, an anti-al-Qaida force among the Sunni. (Times of India 22/6/14)

74. 38 killed, around 60 abducted in Nigeria (12)

Maiduguri (Nigeria): Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria and over two months since more than 200 schoolgirls were seized. Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters. Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen killed 38 people, mostly women and children, in raids on two villages in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, an area plagued by years of sectarian conflict, officials said Tuesday. The late Monday attacks targeted the remote villages of Fadan Karshi and Nandu in southern Kaduna, the head of the area’s local government, Emmanuel Adamu Danzaria, said. “Twenty-one people were killed in Karshi and 17 others were killed in Nandu. We are yet to identify those behind the attacks,” he said. “Most of the victims were women and children.” Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its brothers in arms currently held in Nigerian jails. Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions. The military in Abuja said in a tweet late on Monday it could not confirm the latest abductions and spokesmen were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP on Tuesday. But a senior officer in the Damboa local government, who asked for his name to be withheld as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said: “Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists. “The village was also destroyed,” he said, adding that locals had fled their homes to other parts of Borno and across the state border into Adamawa. “Among those abducted are children between the ages of three and 12,” he added… (Hindustan Times 24/6/14)

75. India, US Working Together to Track and Disrupt Terror Networks (12)

WASHINGTON: India and the US are working together to track and disrupt transnational terrorism networks including those responsible for the attack on Indian consulate in Herat, a senior US official said, reiterating that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was to be blamed for the attack. “We will continue to work together to track and disrupt transnational terrorism, including those responsible for the Indian consulate attack in Herat,” the official said, a day after the United States publicly blamed LeT for the attack. “India remains an active and strong counter terrorism partner of the United States, and we will continue to share information with the Government of India on counter terrorism issues,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. On Wednesday, the US had re-designated LeT and several of its alias as a terrorist organization and had slapped sanctions against two of its leaders. “While we cannot publicly comment on the specific deliberations related to terrorist designations, I can say that any designation is the result of an extensive, deliberative process that involves consultations with both intra-agency, inter-agency, and international partners,” the official added. “We’ve been very clear about the threat LeT poses,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said. “Obviously, we’ve made very clear our concern about LeT (to Pakistan). That’s why we put them on our designation list; that’s why we try to cut off funding and support to them,” she said. Responding to a question, Harf said the US has worked very closely with Pakistan on counter terrorism issues. “The threat from the Taliban and other terrorist groups is not new. We’ve worked with them very closely. It doesn’t just threaten the Pakistanis; it threatens Afghanistan and India, and has the United States in the past as well,” she said. “In terms of the current operations Pakistan is undertaking in North Waziristan, this is an entirely Pakistani-led and executed operation. Obviously, we have long supported their efforts to extend the writ of government throughout their country and to increase internal stability and security. But again, these current operations are an entire Pakistani-led event,” Harf said. (New Indian Express 27/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

76. Chhattisgarh CM devises elaborate development plan for Maoist-hit Bastar (12)

Raipur (Chhattisgarh), June 19 : Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has revealed that he may soon come out with an elaborate plan to develop and strengthen security in Maoist-hit Bastar District. Singh said road construction would be speed up and every police station in the district would have solar power and better connectivity. “We are going to speed up road construction and agency is about to be set up. Bastar will open up and development will take place. Connectivity will increase. In every police station, whether it is connected with electricity or not, we have decided to set up solar plant there,” said Singh. Any development activity in Maoist infested areas is often met with strong opposition from the red rebels. They attack workers and destroy the work done. The rebels have operated for decades across a wide swathe of central and eastern India and grown in strength during recent times in areas where poor, tribal villagers came into conflict with mining companies seeking resources for industrialisation. Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers. Thousands have been killed in the insurgency since the late 1960s. New Kerala 19/6/14)

77. Naxals extort Rs 100 crore annually from Chhattisgarh: Police

Raipur: The naxal-hit Chhattisgarh has become centre of extorting money by the ultras, who collect nearly Rs 100 crore annually from various sources in the state, police said. “Numerous intelligence inputs suggested that Maoist have extorted money to the tune of Rs 80-100 crore from various sources like contractors, businessmen, transporters and tendu patta contractors, every year in the state,” a senior police official, said. Senior naxal leaders were primarily focusing on mineral-rich Chhattisgarh for extorting money for functioning of the banned outfit CPI (Maoist) in the country, the official said. In March this year, based on tip-offs, security forces had unearthed naxal dumps in the forests of Sitagaon and Aundhi in Rajnandagon district and seized nearly Rs 29 lakh, he said. The spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee Gudsa Usendi alias GVK Prasad, who surrendered early this year in Andhra Pradesh had revealed that naxals were involved in extorting a hefty amount of money from restive Bastar (south Chhattisgarh) region, he added. Giving details of the account of money extorted by naxals, based on the documents received from State Intelligence Bureau, the officer said, naxals have been extorting money to the tune of Rs 3 crore annually from the locals, Rs 10 crore from businessmen, Rs 20 crore from contractors, Rs 10 crore from transporters. Around Rs 20 crore from?tendu leaves contractors, Rs 15 crore from timber contractors, Rs 20 crore from industrialists based in naxal-hit areas and Rs 20 crore from the employees and officers, he added. Around 20 per cent of total cost of any projects or development work undertaken in the Maoist-affected zones is extorted as “protection money”, ensuring safety to the work as well as people involved in it till its completion, the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) document said. Moreover, mobile operators also pay protection money of Rs 20,000 to Maoist to ensure safety of the mobile towers. From the locals, money is raised in the name of “revolutionary tax”, which ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 2,000, it said. The SIB document also revealed that the central committee of CPI (Maoist) take the final call on the amount to be extorted from different sources. The task has been divided among organisation’s segments like zonal committee, area committee and local cadres, and at each level and the place where money kept after collection is known to only two persons. Mostly, money is hidden underneath the earth in deep forests. However, sometimes it is deposited in banks as well, it said. As per the documents, money is used for different purposes like buying vehicles, procuring gold biscuits, weapons and explosives, printing works, medicines, communication, food, training camps, legal aid. Senior police officials said although they believe naxals were largely engaged in extortion in Chhattisgarh but with increasing pressure of police they have been able to control it. “Indeed naxals extort big amount of money in LWE (left wing extremism) affected areas. Instead of complaining to police, contractors, businessmen and industrialists pay them money under their threat,” Additional Director General of Police (Naxal Operation) R K Vij, said. Gradually, it is being witnessed that contractors and businessmen have refused to pay extortion in places where they (naxals) are losing its grips amid increasing police pressure, he added. (Zee News 22/6/14)

78. Two Naxals arrested in Jharkhand (12)

Jamshedpur: Acting on a tip-off, the police arrested two Naxals both members of Supai Tuddu squad of CPI-Maoist. The police have recovered a loaded pistol, two cell-phones and Naxal literatures from their possession. Talking to the scribes, SSP Amol V Homkar said that acting on an information that some naxals are extorting levy from the contractors who are carrying out Government projects in Ghurabandha block and adjoining Mosabani block. “We carried out an operation acting on the information and set up a special team in the areas were the development projects like road and check-dam constructions were going on. Finally, two suspected naxals were nabbed,” said Homkar. The senior SP said that a third person, identified as Anil Kisku, had also been nabbed along with the two, but Kisku managed to escape from the police custody. He said on being searched the police recovered the loaded fire-arms, cell-phones and Naxal literatures from their possession. The senior SP said on being questioned , Hinduram and Sadhucharan who were residents of Sudgi village and Lakhtia village of Ghurabandha and Mosabani police station areas respectively, confessed that they were the members of Supai Tuddu, who is the area commander of Ghurabandha and Mosabani blocks. The two arrested Naxals also confessed that they were collecting levy from the contractors engaged in the development work beside spreading naxalism among the villagers by motivating them for joining their outfit by means of distributing naxal pamphlets. Homkar pointed out that they have also nabbed a villager who was suspected to be a naxal sympathiser.  He said they were getting the antecedents of the villager and would arrest him only after getting it confirmed that he was also involved in the naxal activity. Homkar said the two arrested rebels would be forwarded to the judicial custody on Tuesday. The senior SP further informed that two admitted to have collected over Rs 15 lakh as levy from the contractors working in the rebel-hit areas during the past one year. (Pioneer 24/6/14)

79. Naxal-hit States to brief Rajnath (12)

New Delhi: Ten Maoist-affected States will give detailed presentations before Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here on Friday where strategies will be chalked out to tackle the menace. Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will brief the Home Minister about the left wing extremism scenario in their respective jurisdiction and the achievements and failures recorded in anti-Maoist operations till now. A critical appraisal of operational performance of security forces, gaps in coordination between the State police forces and Central paramilitary forces will be discussed during the daylong meet.Performance of State Governments in Centrally-sponsored projects like Security-Related Expenditure (SRE), special infrastructure scheme, fortified police stations and infrastructure availability in Central paramilitary forces camps will be reviewed by the Home Minister. Presentations will be given on developments projects like integrated action plan, road projects and installation of over 2,199 mobile phone towers in Naxal-hit areas.Construction of around 5,000 km roads at a cost of Rs10,000 crore are under various stages and plans to set up the mobile phone towers at a cost of Rs3,000 crore is yet to start. Singh is also expected to take a view on a new initiative of the Home Ministry to give special monetary benefits, out-of- turn promotions and choice posting to bureaucrats and security personnel operating in Maoist-hit areas considered “dangerous”. Flagging Naxal areas as the ‘most dangerous zone’ in the country, the Centre is planning to enhance hardship allowance given to paramilitary personnel deployed in these areas  more than what they get while serving in Jammu & Kashmir and Northeastern region.At present, a paramilitary constable serving in J&K gets around Rs8,000 per month in addition to his or her normal salary and other entitlements. Meanwhile, Singh visited CRPF headquarters ahead of the meet to take stock of anti-Naxal operations and other internal security challenges being by the paramilitary.The Minister was given a presentation by CRPF DG Dileep Trivedi. Singh lauded the CRPF for free and fair conduct of the just-concluded Parliamentary polls and termed the paramilitary as playing key role in internal security responsibilities. In his presentation, Trivedi highlighted the lack of mobile phone connectivity to the officers and men in Maoist-affected areas. To this, Singh assured the DG that he would personally take up the issue of setting up mobile phone towers in such areas and also bring the issues concerning the force to the notice of the PMO, an official who attended the meeting said. Apart from underscoring the need to rationalise the allowances, the DG also sought a mechanism to directly route the SRE funds to the paramilitary for speedy action on ground. Presently, the funds are routed through the State Governments that do not spend money for years together, the official said.The controversial reorganisation policy and according the benefits of the old pension scheme was also discussed during the meeting. (Pioneer 27/6/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

80. 300 ‘Bru’ refugees return to Mizoram from Tripura (13)

Aizawl/Agartala, June 19 : Around 300 refugees sheltered in Tripura since 1997 have returned to Mizoram since Tuesday, but a large number of migrants are averse to returning to their homes until their demands are met, officials said Thursday. Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years. “Of the 36,000 refugees, about 300 returned to Mizoram on their own in the past three days (Tuesday to Thursday),” Kanchanpur (in north Tripura) Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Ranjan Das told IANS over phone. Mizoram Home Department Joint Secretary Lalbiakzama told reporters in Aizawl: “Home-bound refugees arrived at the facilitation centres in Mizoram (near Tripura-Mizoram border) where officials and leaders of NGOs have identified their bona-fide residents of Mizoram.” He said: “Those identified as residents of the state (Mizoram) were taken to their respective villages (in western Mizoram). They were given 20 kg of rice per family and doctors posted at the facilitation centres conducted a thorough medical check-up.” Lalbiakzama said the repatriation process will continue for some more days even as there were reports that some people in the relief camps in northern Tripura tried to physically prevent those keen to return to Mizoram. On the first day of the repatriation Tuesday, several hundred tribal refugees, including women, organised a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. “We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, free ration to every repatriated family for two years, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang told reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala. The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees. North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS over phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no tribals availed the facilities to go back to their villages,” he said. Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official. The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government had sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance for the repatriated refugees. “An adequate amount of food grain has been stored to provide free ration to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year,” an official added. The official said refugee leaders recently had told the Supreme Court’s Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return to their villages. Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees. Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.  (New Kerala 19/6/14)

81. Higher Education Remains a Struggle for Refugees (13)

COIMBATORE: For the children of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees getting access to higher education, especially professional courses, has been a struggle in Tamil Nadu. The plight of Nandini, who is unable to get admission into a medical college, best illustrates this. Children of Tamil refugees were first permitted to join arts and science colleges in the 1984 by the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Government headed by M G Ramachandran, a year after the State witnessed a mass influx of refugees. However, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in May 1991 that made every Sri Lankan Tamil a suspect disrupted the higher education dreams of the refugee children. It took another five years for the DMK Government to restore the scheme in 1996. This arrangement lasted only until 2002. In 2003, a five-judge bench of the Madras High Court delivered a verdict on an additional quota created for Indian students, which had an adverse bearing on the admission of the refugee children as well. Surprising, the then Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, one of the bitterest critic of the Tamil Eelam cause, moved a petition in the High Court seeking to restore the quota for the refugee children and he secured a favourable order. Based on this verdict, refugee students were allowed to be admitted in arts and science colleges. Thereafter, on an average around 500 Tamil refugee students enrolled for various arts and science courses. However, entering engineering and medical colleges remained a pipedream for these refugee children despite some of them coming up with flying colours in the Plus Two board examinations. After numerous representations, in 2010, a year after the Eelam war ended in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu Government paved the way for the entry of refugee children in engineering colleges through the Government Quota. A Government Order issued on June 29, 2010, allowed the meritorious students “to participate in the single window counselling (for Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions) along with other students according to a merit list prepared on the basis of their (Plus Two) scores under the general category.” But the Government Order, for some strange reason, was silent on admitting refugee students to the medical colleges, affecting the likes of Nandini. (New Indian Express 22/6/14)

82. Over 4 Lakh Uprooted in Pakistan Military Operations (13)

GENEVA: Over four lakh people have been displaced amid the on-going Pakistani military offensive against Taliban militants in the northern parts of the country, with figures expected to rise, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday. Citing official registration figures, UNHCR’s spokesman Dan McNorton said in a press conference here that as many as 435,429 people, including some 183,000 children, have escaped fighting from combat zones in North Waziristan since mid-June, Xinhua reported. Most families have sought refuge in different parts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in north-western Pakistan, and almost all the internally displaced people (IDPs) are being hosted by local communities, McNorton said. “The government of Pakistan and our UN and humanitarian community partners expect up to half a million people could be displaced by the current military operations,” said McNorton. He warned that this would bring the total number of displaced people from the tribal regions of the country to 1.5 million (including 930,000 uprooted in various waves since 2009). The UN refugee agency and partners called for full and immediate access to the affected populations so as to allow the delivery of humanitarian aids to those in need. (New Indian Express 24/6/14)

83. Over 14,000 Ukrainian refugees accommodated in Russia (13)

Moscow: The total number of Ukrainian refugees living in temporary accommodation in Russia exceeds 14,000, the Russian ministry of emergency situations said Tuesday. “A total of 211 temporary accommodation sites have been established, with over 14,200 people with nearly 6,500 children, living in them,” Xinhua quoted a ministry spokesman as saying. “Six more mobile temporary accommodation sites have been set up with a capacity of 3,000 people.” Russia’s Rostov region and Crimea have the largest number of refugees. The Russian ministry of emergency situations and regional governments have jointly worked to help the refugees. “Six ‘air bridges’ have been established for the transfer of people to other regions of the Central and Southern Federal Districts,” the spokesman said. The ministry also ordered convoys to make sure refugees can reach the temporary settlements safely. Moreover, over 250 tonnes of humanitarian cargo has been delivered to the violence-hit areas of Ukraine, the spokesman said. (Zee News 24/6/14)

84. A home for Kashmiri Pandits: why we need a policy for internally displaced people (13)

New Delhi: The BJP’s muscular stand on Kashmir is no secret. The party is opposed to autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and its 2014 election manifesto promised the “safe return” of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with “full dignity, security and assured livelihood”. The Kashmiri Pandits fled from the Valley after militancy broke out in 1989. Recently, chief minister Omar Abdullah met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and the issue came up again in the discussion. While the Centre is yet to make any such formal demand before the state government, there were reports that the NDA government has asked the state to set up enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits wishing to return to the Valley. It is unclear who floated the enclave idea,  but it has been rightly criticised by many. All we know for the moment is that the Centre is considering the state government’s proposal of increasing the amount for construction or repairs for the houses of Kashmiri Pandits to Rs. 20 lakh from the existing Rs. 7.5 lakh. The issue of repatriation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley brings the focus back on the larger issue of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in India. Unlike refugees who cross international boundaries, IDPs  are those forced to flee their homeland as a result of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural  or human-made disasters.  While the development of laws and policies on IDPs are becoming a trend across the world and internal security issues exist in 16 out of 29 states, India has no national policy for IDPs and no central agency for monitoring and implementing strategies aimed at them. Even in semi-autonomous J&K there is no policy to manage issues of internal displacement. Those displaced by the conflict in Kashmir are identified as ‘migrants’ rather than IDPs, which allows the government to provide humanitarian assistance but deny State protection for such citizens. Citizens who are forced to leave their homes due to political violence or development projects in Kashmir, the North-East and Chhattisgarh are often left to their own devices. This is because welfare services and schemes can be accessed only by people who are registered as residents of a particular state and who meet the eligibility criteria. The displaced cannot access them and are forced to depend on sympathetic officials for periodic handouts. A law specifically meant for IDPs can guarantee — at least, put the onus on the State to provide — them a life of peace and dignity and make them feel at home, no matter where they stay in India. (Hindustan Times 26/6/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

85. Hundreds of Indian construction workers possibly stranded in Iraq: Amnesty International (14)

NEW DELHI: Evidence has emerged which suggests that several hundred Indian nationals may be stranded in the Najaf province of Iraq, unable to return home because their employer refuses to return their passports, said Amnesty International India on Saturday. With fighting between state forces and armed groups intensifying and affecting civilians across Iraq, the stranded Indian workers could be facing rising dangers. All the workers are reportedly employed with an infrastructure and construction company. Amnesty International India spoke with some of these workers, who said they have not been paid salaries for the past five months. Baljinder Singh (name changed), one of the migrant workers, told Amnesty International India over the phone: “The employer holds all our passports and refuses to return them. We have been restricting ourselves to the company premises since the conflict began because we are scared. Without our passports we can’t leave this country, and every passing day makes us feel more and more unsafe. We just want to go home.” Singh said that the workers had raised this concern with the Indian embassy in Baghdad, which asked them to provide their passport details via text message. The workers sent the details on the morning of 19 June and are now awaiting a response. Daljit Singh (name changed), another employee at the company, said: “I have been working here for over two years and my employer is withholding more than US $ 1500 of my salary. Most of my colleagues are in the same situation.” The workers said their employer had told them that they were safe and would be moved to safer locations if they perceived a threat from the armed groups led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Avtar Singh (name changed), another employee, said: “Many of us have huge debts back home. But we don’t care about money anymore. We only want to return to our families immediately. We are only about 200kms from the conflict zone. Danger is approaching and we can feel it.” Amnesty International India called the main telephone lines of the construction company as well as the mobile phones of three of its managers on June 20, but could not speak to anyone for response over allegations being made by some of their workers against them. Amnesty International India welcomes the Indian government’s initiatives to evacuate stranded workers quickly and urges it to pay special attention to migrant workers who may have had to handover their passports and other travel documents to their employers. Migrant workers, including those from India, are among the most vulnerable groups in Iraq as fighting between government forces and armed groups led by ISIS spreads to other areas in the country. Around 46 Indian nurses are trapped in a hospital in the city of Tikrit, which is controlled by armed groups. There are reports that ISIS and other armed groups have abducted 40 Indian workers in the city of Mosul. On June 20, 44 workers, including Turkish nationals who were abducted near the city of Kirkuk on Wednesday were handed over to the police forces in Kirkuk. Amnesty International calls on ISIS and other armed groups to immediately and unconditionally release all unharmed civilians they are holding as hostages, and end all attacks on civilians. Under international humanitarian law, state and non-state actors are obligated to take necessary precautions to avoid endangering the civilian population. The parties to the conflict must facilitate the safe passage of all civilians wishing to flee the fighting. Amnesty International also calls upon the Kurdistan Regional Government and the authorities of neighboring countries to provide fleeing civilians with refuge. (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

86. ‘Implement MGNREGA in drought-prone taluks’

Udhagamandalam: The need to modify the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been underscored by the Rural Development Organisation (RDO), an Aruvankadu-based non-governmental establishment. Welcoming the move of the Centre to revamp the scheme, the Chairman, RDO, N.K. Perumal, in a letter to the Union Minister for Rural Development Nitin Gadkari, said that at present the scheme was not serving its purpose in many parts of the country. While it was effective in drought-prone and coastal areas, places such as Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus, Yamuna,Cauveri, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, Mahanadi and Tapti belts are facing acute labour shortage. Consequently, agricultural activities are adversely affected. Hence, it should be implemented only in drought-prone and poverty stricken taluks. Pointing out that it would facilitate diversion of funds for various other schemes, he said that the possibility of bringing the farm sector under MGNREGA should be explored. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

 

87. Over 3 lakh bonded labourers work in Rajasthan (14)

JAIPUR: Babu Bhai, a sahariya adivasi in his 50s, spent 24 years of his life as a bonded labourer at Umrao Singh’s farm at Chainpura in Kishanganj, Baran district. His father had died when he took a loan of Rs 3,000 and that led to his bondage with no reprieve. When his brother died, Umrao Singh did not let him attend his brother’s funeral as he had asked for money which he didn’t have. His entire family, wife, children and daughter-in-laws were a part of the bondage repaying the loans which had increased manifold. The time he was released by the help of Jagrit Mahila Sangathan of Baranin district in 2010 the loan on him was 12 lakhs. His misery doesn’t stop here. Senior district magistrate refused to give his family a bondage freedom certificate and so he has no state support for rehabilitation. But it was MNREGA, which helped them initially and they also got Sahariya free ration shops from the government ration shops, which kept them going along with ploughing the land they got back from Umrao Singh. However, they still fear the Sardars and the Dhakar who kept them in bondage for half their lives. They wanted more government support to improve their lives. He is not alone leading a miserable life in this century. Rough estimate compiled by bonded labour activists says that over 3 lakh bonded labourers worked alone in bricks kilns in Rajasthan. However, government and administration deny the presence of even one bonded labourer. These narrations were a part of the feedback meeting of the India Exclusion Report prepared by the Centre for Equity Studies from Delhi held at a government institute in Jhalan area on Monday which is to be released on the 25th June, 2014. Speaking on the occasion, international scholar Jan Breman from the Netherlands, who has spent more than 40 years in India, particularly in Gujarat studying migrant labour and the phenomena of the unorganised sector, spoke about the phenomena of bondage and defined being bonded as taking away free will and free choices. (Times of India 24/6/14)

 

88. Centre assures trade unions of discussion before amending labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: The government has assured central trade unions that they will be consulted on all issues, including proposed amendments to labour laws. Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday said agreed to “accord due consideration” to the 10-point charter of demands of the trade unions. The minister assured that the Centre would decide on increase in minimum pension and raising the ceiling on PF scheme to Rs 15,000 from the existing Rs 6,500 within two weeks, said CITU president A K Padmanabhan. At their first meeting with Tomar, the trade unions referred to the Rajasthan government’s move to amend labour laws and urged the Centre to shun unilateralism. The Centre was taking “hurried steps to push through major amendments” to a number of principal labour statutes, including Factories Act, Minimum Wages Act and Child Labour Act. “The trade unions urged the government to refrain from unilateralism and one-sided approach in matters involving and affecting workers and employers, including amendment of labour laws,” said CITU general secretary Tapan Sen. Stiff opposition by all trade unions to the Rajasthan government’s move seems to have stalled work on labour law amendments, said BMS president Baijnath Rai. “If Rajasthan still goes through it, there will be strong protests by all trade unions,” he said. While labour secretary Gauri Kumar stressed on strengthening tripartism, trade unions urged the Centre to implement decisions taken by consensus at the Indian Labour Conference (ILC). “If the government practises tripartism, then all consensus recommendations of the highest tripartite forum in the country, the Indian Labour Conference, must be implemented in letter and spirit,” said Padmanabhan. Citing instances of Maruti-Suzuki at Manesar, virtual closure of Nokia plant at Tamil Nadu, closure of Hind Motor, Jessop and Duckback and shut down of several jute mills in West Bengal, the trade unions urged the Centre to ensure rule of law at workplaces. “The law enforcement machinery of the labour departments are being deliberately and continuously weakened with huge vacancies of inspectors and other officials. Even vacancies of judges in labour courts are piling up. This is being done to create ground for such non-enforcement and are aimed at benefitting the employers,” said Tapan Sen. (Times of India 25/6/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

89. India in ‘Dereliction of Duty’ Over Rapes: UN Watchdog (14)

Geneva:  Indian law enforcement and justice authorities have shirked their responsibility to fight sex attacks, a UN child rights watchdog said on Thursday, amid uproar over the horrific gang-rape and murder of two girls. “There has been a dereliction of duty in relation to rape cases,” said Benyam Mezmur, deputy chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. India has been struggling to overcome its reputation for sexual violence since the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, which sparked mass protests and drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. Public outrage was reignited last month by the deaths of two girls, aged 14 and 15, who were gang-raped and murdered in their impoverished village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. A string of other headline-making cases have piled pressure on the authorities. The UN committee is made of up 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation of international children’s rights treaties. The panel held a hearing with Indian officials earlier this month. In its conclusions on that session, released on Thursday, it said it was alarmed by “widespread violence, abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children”.It pointed to data showing that one in three rape victims in India is a minor and that half of the abusers were known to the child or in a position of trust and responsiblity. – One rape every 22 minutes -”We’re not only interested about those cases that attract international media attention,” said Mezmur, who hails from Ethiopia and is a human rights law lecturer at the University of Western Cape in South Africa. He said they were the tip of the iceberg. “We’re also very much concerned about those that do not benefit from the media attention, do not get to be reported to the authorities, do not command a protest in the streets of the cities or the villages where they have been committed,” he said. A rape occurs every 22 minutes in India, according to government figures. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the New Delhi gang-rape. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. And the UN committee noted that the 2013 law failed to criminalise sexual abuse of girls over the age of 15, provided they were married — in contradiction with legislation passed the previous year on child protection. Mezmur said there were major concerns about the “implementation gap” between different federal and state laws, a lack of capacity to apply the rules, and inadequate crime data. The UN committee also criticised comments from political leaders who have played down the problem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept to power in last month’s elections, has pledged to increase women’s security. Last week, Mr Modi warned politicians against “politicising rape”, saying they were “playing with the dignity of women” and should instead work together to protect women. The UN committee also urged India to take immediate measures to prevent female infanticide and abandonment of girls, and ensure implementation of rules against sex-selective abortions. (NDTV 20/6/14)

90. Less than 20,000 children adopted in four years (14)

CHENNAI: The waiting list of parents wanting to adopt children is growing every year, but only 19,136 children were adopted and placed with families within the country between 2010 and 2013, as per the reply to an application filed under the Right to Information Act by TOI. In its reply, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which deals with all the matters concerning adoption in India, said 1,866 children were adopted by families living abroad in the same period. Americans adopted the most children from the country (662) between 2010 and 2013, followed by Italy (377), Spain (149) and UAE (88). In India, Maharashtra has registered the highest number of in-country adoptions with 4,397 in the last four years, followed by Tamil Nadu (1892), West Bengal (1,719), Andhra Pradesh (1,547) and Karnataka (1,477), the reply says. The states with the lowest numbers are the north-eastern states, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, which have placed less than 25 children in four years. In the middle of the pack are larger states like Bihar (374), Punjab (326), Madhya Pradesh (585), Uttar Pradesh (579) and Gujarat (563). The data shows that there has been a gradual decline in the number of adoptions over the four years across the country. A shortage of babies and a maze of procedures has led to the low numbers. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are 850 pending applications but only 333 babies available for adoption. Pune-based child rights activist Anjali Pawar said the high number of adoptions in Maharashtra is because of the proliferation of adoption agencies. “Adoption agencies have been functioning in Mumbai from the 1960s. This contributes to greater willingness to adopt babies as awareness is better,” she said. A senior official of CARA agreed and said, “Maharashtra has the highest number of adoption agencies in the country. The number of adoption agencies depends on licenses given by the respective state governments.” He admitted that there are delays in the procedures. “There is a huge demand for children and we are unable to keep up. We are working to reduce the delays in the procedures for adoption.”… Times of India 21/6/14)

91. What happens to India’s ‘railway’ children? (14)

NEW DELHI: What happens to those children in India who for some reason leave their homes or families? What happens to those children who end up being victims of trafficking? Why do media reports talk about only abandoned children, trafficked children, runaway children but not the ‘railway’ children of India? Mentioned above are few of the questions raised in a new book titled ‘Rescuing Railway Children: Reuniting families from India’s railway platforms’. “The phenomenon of ‘runaway children’, as it is loosely called, is global. But neither there is consolidated data available for the children who end up living on railway platforms, nor there are any government bodies in place to ensure the rehabilitation of these children,” says the author Malcolm Halper, a social consultant who is researching the plight of ‘railway children’ of India. The last official estimate on the numbers of street children across India was 11,000,000. It is estimated that across 50 main railway stations, at least 70,000-120,000 children arrive onto platforms every year. In comparison, it is estimated that about 84,000 children do this every year in UK, the book says. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that there are 11,000,000 such children in India. But the official document ‘India : Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’ released in October 2011 by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, refrains from stating a number and acknowledges the lack of reliable data. “Why do runaway children use the railways to escape as well as to survive? What are our Child Welfare Committees (CWC) doing? Why haven’t these children caught the attention of our National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR),” says the co-author of the book, Lalitha Iyer who is chairperson of Sathi, an NGO which works for rehabilitation of ‘railway children’. There is an urgent need to workout scalable models which demonstrate how railway station can become safe for children. Drop-in shelter for platform children, a Special Juvenile Police Unit of the Railway Police Force, frequent patrolling by the CWCs at railway stations, among others are few measures which can be adopted in this regard, adds Iyer. The book published by Sage publications, has anecdotes pertaining to lives of few children who ended up being on railway platforms. The book also deals with platform outreach and focuses on shelter close to stations. The reuniting process is examined from a practical as well as child rights perspective. (Economic Times 23/6/14)

92. Save the Children and Ikea tie up to prevent child labour in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan (14)

Chandigarh: Focusing on preventing child labour in the cotton area of Northern region, NGO-Save the Children, its partners Breakthrough and Pratham, and the IKEA Foundation unveiled a Rs 50 crore programme to protect 790,000 children living in cotton communities in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The programme to be implemented in four years(2013-2017), aims to keep children out of cotton fields, and in classrooms where they can learn, play, grow and develop and be children. The program will cover nine cotton districts of Punjab and Haryana namely Bathinda, Muksar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka in Punjab, Hissar, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jhajjar and Rohtak in Haryana and Banswara in Rajasthan. According to estimates there are over 10 lakh child labour, working in cotton fields in these states mainly deployed in cotton picking. Also, an independent research study in 2008 revealed that prosperous Punjab has a large number of children working in the agriculture sector with an estimated 25% of them in cotton picking. Rajasthan and Haryana are not far behind, with 23% and 16% of cotton picking labour being children. Rough estimates say that In Punjab there are over about 5 lakh child labour employed in cotton area, followed by Haryana (3.58 lakh). The NGO-Save the Children, Pratham and Breakthrough will work with panchayat leaders, farmers, teachers, families and Indian state officials in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, to provide children with access to quality education, improve teacher training, develop local child protection committees and school management committees and tackle issues like gender based discrimination. “We know there is no quick-fix solution to ending child labour, but long-term approaches can yield impressive results,” Harpal Singh, Chairman, Save the Children, India explained, ” This new phase reinforces our long-term commitment and our desire to help millions more children out of child labour and back into the classrooms.” Thomas Chandy, Save the Children’s CEO in India, “IKEA Foundation has been an invaluable partner to Save the Children to achieve immediate and lasting change in the lives of the most marginalised children. The partnership means that many more children will attain the right to education, protection and development across India.” In the states of Punjab and Haryana, Save the Children will work directly at community level to form community groups and increase the reporting of child labour, linking them with the Government’s Child Protection Services. Pratham will work at primary & upper middle school level to improve the learning levels across grades 3. Breakthrough will generate communication material & provide information on gender discrimination at school & national level in two pilot districts, Jhajjar and Rohtak, and will train Save the Children to scale it up in all 7 project districts, which include Bathinda, Muktsar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka (earlier part of Ferozepur) in Punjab and Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad in Haryana. Considering Migration is a key issue in Rajasthan, the programme has been designed with the focus on reducing children migrating for work in the nearby states. Save the Children will closely work with other NGOs in the source and destination location to holistically tackle the issue of children migrating for work. (Business Standard 24/6/14)

93. India has over 1 million unschooled children: UN (14)

Nited Nations: India, Indonesia and Pakistan each have more than a million children out of school, according to a UN report which said the global number of unschooled children aged 6 to 11 is still as high as 58 million, showing little overall improvement since 2007. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report said that India had 1.4 million children out of school in 2011 but the country is among 17 other nations that have managed to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the past decade. “Combined with UNESCO’s recent news that aid to education has fallen yet again, the lack of progress in reducing out of school numbers confirms our fears – there is no chance whatsoever that countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. Pakistan had 5.4 million children out of school in 2012 while the figure for Indonesia was 1.3 million. The UNESCO’s policy paper said that positive change is possible, spotlighting success in 17 countries that have reversed that trend over the past decade. The 17 countries, including Burundi, Yemen, Ghana, Nepal, Rwanda, India, Iran and Vietnam, accounted for about one-quarter of the global out-of-school population in 2000. But they managed to reduce their out-of-school numbers by 86 per cent, from 27 million to less than four million, in little over a decade. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics, which produced the policy paper, said that 15 million girls and 10 million boys, constituting around 43 per cent of those out of school, are unlikely to ever get access to primary education if the current situation remains the same. “We cannot meet this news with further inertia. On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilise the political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” she said. The lack of global progress is largely due to high population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which is now home to more than 30 million out-of-school children. Most of them will never start school and those who do are at risk of dropping out. The paper also shows critical gaps in the education of older children aged 12 to 15. Globally, 63 million adolescents were out of school in 2012. Numbers have fallen by nearly one-third since 2000 in South and West Asia, the region has the largest population of out-of-school adolescents at 26 million. According to the UNESCO paper, abolishing school fees, introducing more relevant curricula, devoting increased attention to ethnic and linguistic minorities and providing financial support to families in need could have a positive role in promoting and extending the right to education to every human being. Bokova stressed that progress is possible and that many countries have been key examples in driving positive changes in education for all. (Indian Express 27/6/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

94. Judges not consulted on keeping courts open round the year

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India R M Lodha did not consult his colleagues in the Supreme Court before pushing for a public debate on keeping courts open round the year like emergency services. Justice Lodha had mooted the radical proposal before lawyers at Jaipur in the second week of May to improve disposal of pending cases and had requested Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Biri Singh Sinsinwar, who like the CJI also hails from Rajasthan, to urgently seek views of other state bar councils. BCI is the apex regulatory body for professional conduct of lawyers. After making public his proposal to keep courts open throughout the year, the CJI wrote to chief justices of all high courts for a debate on it and sought feedback. But judges of the Supreme Court felt ignored by the CJI on this score as there was “no consultation at all” with them on this issue. TOI learnt from some judges that “the issue was never even broached in any of the full court meetings of judges in the Supreme Court”. “Probably, we could have told the CJI how unworkable the proposal is. Also, we could have given suggestions to improve the pace of the justice delivery system,” a judge said. The judiciary is groaning under the weight of over 2 crore pending cases though rate of disposal has improved over the years. TOI had asked the CJI about the feasibility of his proposal. He had said, “It is not such a difficult task. There is not going to be any increase in the number of working days or working hours of any judge. At the beginning of the year, the judges would be required to tell the designated desk managing court sittings when they would like to avail vacations and holidays. Accordingly, a calendar would be prepared for arranging the benches in the Supreme Court and high courts to ensure that judiciary functions throughout the year.” At present, the Supreme Court has 193 working days, the HCs 210 days and trial courts 245 days a year. Justice Lodha had said, “It is feasible and I am quite hopeful of this working out without increasing the existing workload on judges, who are overburdened. Judiciary over the years has become an essential service provider like hospitals and electricity or water department. These departments function 365 days a year, then why not the judiciary?” On the CJI’s request, the BCI had called a meeting to discuss the proposal. After the meeting on June 4, Sinsinwar had said, “It is not possible for advocates to attend court for all 365 days. It is neither practical nor feasible for an advocate to work throughout the year without rest.” The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) too opposed the proposal and said it would be inhuman to expect advocates to work throughout the year without a break. In an open representation to the CJI, SCBA president P H Parekh said “On the face of it, 365 days work scheme may not reduce the arrears because if working hours of judges remain the same, the judicial output will remain constant. In fact, the new scheme may perhaps result in increasing the arrears because on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays, the stakeholders may not take judicial work as seriously as they do on working days.” (Times of India 19/6/14)

95. Pranab clears files, apex court to get 3 new judges (19)

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has cleared the elevation of the Chief Justices of Calcutta and Orissa High Courts Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel, respectively, and senior lawyers Rohinton Nariman as Supreme Court judges. Earlier this week, the Law Ministry sent the file to the President after removing the name of the former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium. The Centre returned his name to the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha for reconsideration. Highly placed sources said the warrant of appointment is expected to be issued next week to enable them to assume office when the court reconvenes on June 30 after the summer holidays. With their appointment, the strength of judges in the court will go up to 28, as against the sanctioned 31. However Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.K. Prasad are due to retire in July; the Chief Justice on September 27; and Ms. Justice Ranjana Desai on October 29. Mr. Nariman is the fifth lawyer to be elevated as Supreme Court judge after almost 15 years. The first to be appointed from the Bar was Justice S.M. Sikri in 1963. He became the Chief Justice of India in January 1971 and retired in April 1973. Justice S.C. Roy was appointed judge in 1971 and he died after holding the post for four months. Then in 1988, after a gap of 15 years, Justice Kuldip Singh was appointed directly from the Bar. He retired in December 1996. Three years later in January 1999, Santosh Hedge was appointed Supreme Court judge and he retired in June 2005. Justice Goel, 60, who hails from Haryana, was elevated as judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in July 2, 2001, and became its Acting Chief Justice in May 2011, when he was transferred to the Gauhati High Court and became its Chief Justice in December 2011. He was shifted as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court in October 2013. He will be the first judge to represent Haryana in the court and he will have a tenure of a little over five years. Justice Arun Mishra, 58, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, was appointed a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in October 1999. He was transferred as judge of the Rajasthan High Court in September 2010 and became the Acting Chief Justice in November 1 and Chief Justice on November 26. He was transferred as Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court in December 2012. He will represent Madhya Pradesh after Justice Deepak Verma, who retired in August 2012. He will have a tenure of about seven years. Rohinton Nariman, 58, who is from Maharashtra, is known for his plain-speaking both inside the court and outside. Mr. Nariman was designated as a senior advocate at the age of 37 in 1993 when the then Chief Justice of India, M.N. Venkatachaliah, amended the rules for designating senior lawyers by reducing the minimum age limit of 45. He was appointed Solicitor-General in July 2011 after Mr. Gopal Subramanium resigned. He will have a tenure of about seven years. (The Hindu 22/6/14)

96. Objections from judges force rethink on judicial accountability Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said the government was having a rethink on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in view of objections from judges. The Bill, pending in Parliament, seeks to lay down enforceable standards of conduct for judges. It requires judges to declare details of theirs and their family members’ assets and liabilities and it creates mechanism to allow any person to complain against judges on grounds of ‘misbehaviour or incapacity.’ “We want to have broad discussion with senior lawyers, former Chief Justices and judges and other stake holders before taking a view on it,” Mr. Prasad told The Hindu. On a National Judicial Commission providing for appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary, Mr. Prasad said “even on this aspect we will have wider consultations.” The Law Minister refused to be drawn into the controversy relating to putting on hold the elevation of senior advocate Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court, saying “no comments.” Asked what would be the government’s stand if the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha were to reiterate Mr. Subramanium’s recommendation, he said: “We will cross the bridge when it comes.” When his attention was drawn to a Ghaziabad court’s action in summoning Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-Hee to appear in a cheating case and asked whether such instances would drive away investors, Mr. Prasad said the government had asked the Law Commission to examine whether cases relating to contractual disputes, which were purely civil in nature, could be turned into a criminal case. He said filing of such criminal cases was also affecting investment climate. He wanted the Commission to make the Arbitration Act more effective to make India a hub for international arbitration. Mr. Prasad outlined the initiatives taken by his Ministry in the last 22 days to streamline the judicial system which was clogged by huge pendency of cases and vacancies of judges, particularly in the subordinate judiciary. Mr. Prasad said he had written to Chief Justices of various High Courts and to the State governments to expedite the process of filling up vacancies in the subordinate judiciary keeping in view the vacancies that might arise in three years ahead. He had asked the Chief Justices and the States to fast-track trial relating to women, children and elderly people. He said another area of concern was pendency of over 22-lakh cheque bouncing cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and 18-20 lakh cases before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals. He had asked the Chief Justices of High Courts to suggest measures for speedy disposal of these cases. On amendment to Lokpal selection rules, the Minister said: “Certain things are needed to be done to make the law meaningful.” On the absence of Leader of the Opposition to participate in the Lokpal selection process, he said the issue of LoP would be decided by the Lok Sabha Speaker. (The Hindu 24/6/14)

97. Judges list: Gopal Subramanium opts out (19)

New Delhi: Feeling “let down” by the government and the judiciary, senior advocate and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on Wednesday informed Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha that he was withdrawing his consent for appointment as a Supreme Court judge. In his nine-page letter, Mr. Subramanium told the CJI, “I do not want my elevation to be the subject matter of any kind of politicisation. I am dismayed at reports that the file forwarded by the court to the government recommending four names for elevation (including mine) has been segregated and the names of three candidates (not including mine) have been cleared by the government as well as by the President of India and that warrants have been issued for their appointment.” Speaking to journalists at his residence, Mr. Subramanium said, “I withdrew my consent to uphold my self-respect and dignity.” Asked whether he would change his stand if the collegium were to reiterate his appointment, he said his decision was final. “I don’t want to start as a judge with trust deficit from the government, particularly when there is a chance of my becoming the future CJI,” he said. Asked if he was disappointed with the Supreme Court for not defending him, Mr. Subramanium said, “I feel the court should have taken up the matter with the government when all sorts of allegations and diatribe were thrown at me. It is really unfortunate that the court permitted this to happen. I want the candidature of a judge of the Supreme Court to be decided in some kind of sacredness and should not be bashed about.” Keywords: Law Ministry, Gopal Subramanium, Supreme Court collegium, judges appointment, NDA government rejection, consent withdrawal (The Hindu 25/6/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

98. As NGOs cry foul, seed industry body defends IB report (20)

NEW DELHI: With the NGOs raising a question whether the Intelligence Bureau is being used by foreign hands to take over India’s vital seed sector, an industry body representing agriculture biotechnology companies on Friday came out in defence of the government’s agency saying the recent IB report on foreign funded NGOs confirms a “longstanding suspicion” of the industry. “Over Rs 10,500 crore public and private sector investments are in jeopardy due to NGO activism,” said the industry body, Association of Biotech Led Enterprises – Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG). It said, “Sustained campaign has led to derailment of vital genetically modified (GM) technology in India, depriving millions of Indian farmers of opportunity to enhance their economic and social lives. The IB report appropriately and comprehensively exposes NGOs.” The remark, supporting IB findings, came even as NGO representatives charged India’s internal intelligence agency with favouring ‘foreign hand’ to promote the interest of multi-national seed company Monsanto. “The IB report quotes Ronald Herring of Cornell University who promotes GMOs and the monopoly of Monsanto. It is ironic that the IB report relies on the evidence of Herring with his antecedents in Cornell University, a hub of blind GMO promotion,” said a joint statement issued by Aruna Rodrigues, Kavitha Kuruganti and Vandana Shiva. They said, “The strategy of the global GMO seed industry with their patents and IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) is to bend regulation and influence governments and regulators to approve GMOs, bypassing scientific, transparent and independent safety testing.” The IB in its report, which was leaked to media last week, had alleged that many NGOs were holding anti-nuclear, anti-genetic modified food and anti-coal agitations to negatively impact the country’s economic growth. Supporting the IB findings, the ABLE-AG, however, said the report highlighted how these NGOs have diligently worked towards derailing the diffusion of progressive crop biotechnology in India, which has seen benefits with millions of farmers across the globe. “It is a pity that just when the country was about to take further steps in deploying biotechnology in more crops, the unfortunate moratorium on Bt Brinjal was imposed in 2010, under pressure from the same NGOs,” said Ram Kaundinya, chairman of the ABLE-AG. He said, “As a result, R&D activities in GM crops by both public and private sectors were put on hold since 2010, causing enormous delay in making these technologies available to farmers.” The industry body highlighted that there are over 50 applications for initiating biotech research and field trials of various biotech-enabled crops pending with the GEAC – the government’s regulator on genetically engineered crops. “At stake is over Rs 8,000 crore invested in research in the sector by public sector institutions over the past five years. The private sector which is being increasingly maligned too is investing about Rs 2,700 crore a year into research. This is research that is being conducted by Indian researchers, in India, for the Indian farmer,” said the body. Urging government to ensure that the process of research including open-field trials under the supervision of existing regulatory bodies does not get halted, Kaundinya said, “Field trials are parts of research to ensure that the data generated helps to scientifically evaluate bio-safety, food safety and the efficacy of the genetically modified seeds, and any attempt to discourage such tests conducted under strict supervision of the regulators is a retrograde step.” (Times of India 21/6/14)

 

99. Prolonged dry spell render farmers helpless (20)

KURNOOL: Farmers in Kurnool district are in deep distress due to adverse weather conditions. With the rainfall in June being almost on the negligible side, the sowing operations are seriously affected. Though the agriculture officials claim a rainfall of 58 mm as against the normal 77 mm, the farmers say that it’s not sufficient to take up sowing operations except land preparation. The farmers say that they are facing unprecedented crisis the first time during the season. Apart from the dry spell, shortage of seed, power cut and lack of clarity on the loan waiver scheme has affected them badly. Due to this, there will be a drastic change in crop pattern this year. According to official estimation, 6.12 lakh farmers have borrowed loans worth Rs. 4,344 crore of which crop loan accounted for Rs. 2,819 crore, gold loan – Rs. 315 crore and term loan – Rs. 92 crore. The district has a total cultivable area of 5.85 lakh hectare. The area under cotton is likely to increase to 2 lakh hectare from 1.21 lakh hectare last year. Groundnut is cultivated in 1.34 lakh hectare. Maize area may also increase while paddy and other crops will remain the same. The bankers have told the farmers that they will renew the loans only when the government formally announces the loan waiver. Otherwise, they are to pay the loans and get them renewed. Some of the farmers say that they would repay the loans and get fresh ones, but the State government has to include them in the loan waiver. (The Hindu 23/6/14)

 

100. Agriculture experts say government misled farmer community (20)

HYDERABAD: With rains continuing to stay away, scientists and agriculture experts say governments in the two states misled the farmer community by assuring a timely monsoon, while in reality, there has been an enormous delay that is likely to hit crop production severely. Such is the crisis that scientists fear that if the states do not receive good rainfall within the next one week, agricultural production will fall by a massive 30%. And if the dry spell further extends to a fortnight, production is likely to drop by a staggering 50 %, scientists rue. The Met department, under pressure from the government, declared the onset of southwest monsoon across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana last week, despite there being no rains in sight. Thanks to such predictions, farmers who were told that the skies would open up in two to three days, in the first week of June, have not stopped looking at the sky ever since. So much so that many have even invoked the Gods by praying at temples. “Any delay beyond the third week of June will lead to decline in the yield. Sowing cannot be done if there is just one spell of rain. There must be six centimeters of rainfall to sow any crop and the rainfall should continue for two to three days. As of now, the soil profile is completely dry and it has to be saturated,” said L Jalapathi Rao, a retired agricultural scientist. According to Rao, if sowing of rain-fed crops such as maize and soya bean extends beyond July 2, the decline in the yield will be a substantial 40 kg per day. Sowing of cotton, which is grown in most of the districts, cannot be delayed, he added. Experts said farmers working in areas where there is abundant groundwater, could have relied on that water source, but with the grim power situation, there are several villages without power, leaving them with no choice but to wait for the rains. Promises made to waive off farm loans has not happened either, compounding problems further. “Banks are not willing to give fresh loans leaving the farmers to depend on private loans at high interest rates. Farmers are in a dire situation. Weather prediction system today is as unpredictable as it was four decades ago,” said D Narasimha Reddy, an agriculture policy expert. Sounding a word of caution, he further added: “Timing is important for certain crops. If within the fortnight, there is no improvement in the situation, there could be a 50% reduction in the agricultural production.” Jalapathi Rao who is closely working with farmers too confessed that if the respective state governments did not show any concern in a week’s time, the situation is likely to flare up into a major issue. “Rice is one crop which has got more time to sow but officials are concentrating on paddy only but 50% of area is rain fed and rain fed contingency plan is not there,” said Rao. (Times of India 25/6/14)

 

101. Integrated farming, a means to achieve drought mitigation (20)

Madurai: Farmer S. Muniyammal’s land in Tirumangalam has a fish pond, a vermicompost unit and separate enclosures for chicken, ducks and goats. Integrated farms, such as hers, are being considered an effective solution to mitigate drought by farmers in the district. “The Department of Agriculture is also propagating this under the ‘Integrated Farming System (IFS)’ where we have tied up with different departments. The Fisheries Department helps farmers set up fish ponds in their lands and the Animal Husbandry Department aids in procurement of buffaloes and goats,” says Jaisingh Gnanadurai, Joint Director of Agriculture. “IFS encourages farmers not to solely depend on their crops but explore other avenues for income generation,” he adds. A farmer in Kulamangalam, V. Krishnan, says the integrated system is self-sufficient and has been cost-effective. “Waste from poultry birds is used as food for fish and the manure from goats and buffaloes maintains the vermicompost unit,” he explains. “The coconut grove I have in my farm has provided me with steady income since coconuts fetch a good price locally,” Mr. Krishnan adds. “There is no farm nearby that has an integrated set up like this and many farmers have evinced interest in it since most of them have incurred losses due to water scarcity,” he explains. V. C. Velaichamy, an agriculturalist in Mulaikuruchi near Samayanallur, points out that the clay soil in his farmland helps to retain water in the fish pond.  “I introduced 500 ‘Katlas’ in the fish pond eight months back. Farmers should make it a point to dig farm ponds in a small area which will effectively conserve water and rear fish, which will provide an additional income,” he says. A number of farmers, including Mr. Velaichamy, who have vermicompost units in their integrated farms, have reduced the use of chemical fertilizers and are growing organic produce. In Kallipatti, Tirumangalam, Usilampatti and Kalligudi blocks, the Agriculture Department has indentified 12 beneficiaries each and offers them subsidy and expertise on setting up of integrated farms. This is being done to help farmers in the dry belt overcome drought. A subsidy of Rs.55,000 is currently given to each farmer to set up an integrated farm which will cover the expenses of setting up a vermicompost unit and a fish pond. “If not for rearing fish, digging farm ponds for water storage as part of the IFS has also helped in groundwater recharge,” an official says. (The Hindu 26/6/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

102. Odisha second among 14 poor States (21)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha stands second among the 14 States in the country with highest incidence of poverty after Bihar. While Bihar topped the list with registering highest 33.34 per cent of poor people, Odisha followed with 32.59 per cent by 2011-12. The incidence of poverty had been 54.40 per cent and 57.20 per cent in Bihar and Odisha, respectively, in 2004-05. However, Odisha has expressed satisfaction that it has recorded the highest reduction in poverty among all major States between 2004-05 and 20-11-12  and the Odisha Economic Survey (OES) -2013-14 , prepared by the Planning and Coordination Department, described the achievement  as “impressive”. The Economic Survey-2013-14 report was circulated on Tuesday prior to the presentation of full-fledged Budget for the financial year 2014-15. According to the OES, Kerala has earned the distinction of being the number one State as far elimination of poverty by 2011-12. In Kerala, the incidence of poverty has been only 7.05 per cent against 19.70 per cent in 2004-05  as Punjab is the second State with lowest incidence of poverty with 8.26 per cent in 2011-12 against 20.9 per cent in 2004-05 . While neighbour Andhra Pradesh has only 9.20 incidence of poverty against 29.90 in 2004-05, the incidence of poverty in West Bengal was 19.98 per cent against 34.3 per cent in 2004-05. The incidence of poverty in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat has been shown as 16.63 per cent in 2011-12 against the prevalence of 31.80 per cent in 2004-05. The survey report said that the faster poverty reduction in Odisha was due to the development strategies adopted by the State Government. “The State has undertaken several programmes to reduce poverty in Odisha in general and for the poorer social classes and poorer regions in particular. Quoting the National Sample Survey (NSS) data and the Expert Committee methodology – Tendulkar Committee- for the period 1973-74 to 2011-12, the OES report said that the poverty estimates for 2011-12 had been recorded on the basis of poverty lines of Rs 695 and Rs 861 for rural and urban Odisha respectively. It said the poverty has declined by 24.61 percentage points from 57.20 per cent in 2004-05 to 32.59 per cent in 2011-12. The reduction of poverty by 25.11 percentage points was higher in rural Odisha than that of 20.31 percentage points in urban Odisha. The report said, among the regions, the northern region has registered the highest reduction of poverty with 30.53 percentage points followed by the southern region with 25.40 percentage points and the coastal region with 19.95 percentage points. Similarly poverty among the ST and SC communities has been reducing at a faster rate. However, it was observed that ST communities are poorer than other social classes. (Pioneer 19/6/14)

103. State ready with two schemes for urban poverty alleviation (21)

Bangalore: Come July, the State will witness the launch of two programmes on urban poverty alleviation, from providing identity cards and social security to street vendors to the launch of certified courses in skills development for the urban poor. The Centrally sponsored National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) will be launched in 35 cities in the State with a population of more than one lakh. In 181 smaller towns, the government will launch a new scheme – Chief Minister’s Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme – to address the needs of the urban poor. “The guidelines and components of the two programmes are being prepared. We will also set the target for the two schemes for the current year,” Urban Development Department Secretary (Municipalities and Urban Development Authorities) T K Anil Kumar told Deccan Herald. The NULM in 35 cities will be funded by grants under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM). Anil Kumar pointed out that the State decided to launch a separate scheme for smaller towns, as JnNURM was not applicable for urban areas with a population below one lakh. The State government has set aside Rs 25 crore for implementing the Chief Minister’s Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme. A major component of the two schemes would be providing certified skill based courses to improve the employability of the urban poor. To start with, certified courses on skills required by the industry besides soft skills courses like basic communication skills (both in English and local language), computer operations and professional etiquettes will be imparted with the help of government and private agencies.  The courses will be for duration of three months with minimal fee structure. The candidates will also be given orientation on financial literacy, awareness on savings, credit, subsidy, remittance, insurance and pensions, officials said. Another component would be to address the livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors by facilitating access to suitable spaces, bank loans and social security. To start with, a survey of street vendors in city corporations in the State would be completed within the next three months. Following the completion of the survey, the street vendors would be issued identity cards by the government. City Street Vending Plan will also be chalked out for all towns and cities which will contain  profile of street vending trades and activities and earmarking of areas for vending zones, officials said. (Deccan Herald 22/6/14)

104. PDS in state has collapsed, says Modi (21)

PATNA: Former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has claimed the public distribution system (PDS) in Bihar has collapsed as the state government failed to procure adequate paddy this year. For the last four to six months, over 7.85 crore people are not getting wheat and rice assured to them under the Food Security Act, he said. “The state government implemented the Act on March 1 in haste without completing preliminary works of procuring wheat and rice for the 7.85 crore targeted beneficiaries. The Act was implemented without ground support as the Lok Sabha election was approaching,” Modi said on Tuesday and alleged vote-bank politics was played by the then CM Nitish Kumar. Under the Act, people were expected to get rice at the rate of Rs 3 per kg and wheat Rs 2 per kg. The government scrapped the old ration cards which became useless with the introduction of the Act. But, new ration cards were not issued to the targeted beneficiaries, the BJP leader rued. Against the target of procurement of 35 lakh MT of paddy, only 12 lakh MT was procured. For the last three successive years, Modi said, paddy procurement was going down from 19 lakh MT in 2012-13 to only 12 lakh MT last year. For successful implementation of the Act, Bihar needs 46.59 lakh MT this year, but only 12 lakh MT is available locally. Modi said the State Food Corporation (SFC) would buy the grains from Punjab and Haryana and this would lead to heavy burden on the state exchequer. Transportation cost would further escalate prices of paddy and wheat. “The railways will bring wheat and rice from other states to Patna and they would be sent to different districts by trucks. This is bound to delay the delivery of PDS items,” he feared. The SFC has only Rs 200 crore at its disposal to procure wheat and paddy, Modi said and claimed the non-availability of PDS items in the villages has led to law and order problem. Poor people are agitating and organizing road blockades at different places in the state, Modi said. (Times of India 25/6/14)

105. National Food Security Act to add Rs 2,500 crore burden on Telangana (21)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government may have to shell out about Rs 2,500 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act (NFSA). With the additional financial burden on the state coffers, the Telangana government is requesting the Centre to extend the deadline for implementation of the scheme and also provide Rs 2,500 crore subsidy to take up the scheme. The UPA government had introduced NFSA last year and asked all states to implement it by July 4, 2014. Official sources said while the population of the state is 3.52 crore as per the 2011 census, nearly 3.28 crore people have been getting subsidised rice and other essential commodities under various schemes like rice at Re 1 per kg and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). The Re 1 per kg rice scheme is applicable to white card holders and as of now, there are 7.92 lakh AAY beneficiaries in the state, where 35 kg rice is supplied at Re 1 per kg irrespective of the number of family members in the card. But NFSA is applicable to only 1.93 crore people in the state. Another 1.35 crore would be left out of the scheme. “The requirement of rice per month for all schemes covered under PDS in the state even after NFSA comes into force would be 1.80 lakh MTs. But the Centre would provide only 1.13 lakh MTs as per their norms. The rest 67,000 MTs of rice has to be procured for the uncovered population at the rate of Rs 26 per kg and supplied to them at Re 1 per kg. This would be a great burden on the state government,” a senior official of the civil supplies department told TOI. “Officials said the state government has recently asked the Centre to provide subsidy for the uncovered population and extension of time to implement the scheme. The state government is waiting for the decision by the Centre,” C Parathasarathi, civil supplies commissioner told TOI. The BJP government at the Centre is likely to extend the deadline to implement the NFSA as some other states have also requested the Centre for extending the time. But the Centre wants to go ahead with the scheme with minor changes if required, sources said. Only five states Chattisgarh, Haryana, Maharastra, Rajasthan and Punjab have been implementing the scheme, while some states like Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have been implementing the scheme partially. (Times of India 25/6/14)

106. Food law gets 3 more months (21)

New Delhi, June 26: The Centre has given states and Union territories three more months to roll out the food security law so that they can identify the beneficiaries of the scheme, the previous government’s flagship project to keep hunger at bay. “The food security law came into force on July 5, 2013. As per the law, state governments were to implement the law within 365 days (by July 4, 2014). Twenty states and five Union territories have not implemented the food law so far. So we have decided to extend the deadline by three months,” food minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Only five states — Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra — have implemented the Food Security Act, which was passed by the UPA government and entitles two-thirds of the country’s population to 5kg of rice and wheat every month at Rs 3 and Rs 2 a kilo. Six others, including Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, are on the verge of implementing the act and have done so partially, the minister, who is also in charge of consumer affairs and public distribution, said. The rest are completely unprepared. Sources said problems in identifying the beneficiaries had led to the delay in these states. According to the scheme, the Centre sets a cap on the number of beneficiaries, based on poverty figures for each state. Each state has to identify the households eligible for the subsidised grain, to be delivered through the existing public distribution system. Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, or the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35kg of food grain every month. Paswan said the Centre would continue to provide food grain allocated to the states, adding that there was no need to amend the food law or issue an ordinance to extend the deadline. An executive order will be issued. The minister, who described the law as an important legislation for the poor, said he has written to the chief ministers of the 25 states and Union territories to implement the scheme. “We do not want any confrontation between the Centre and states on the Food Security Act,” he said, while asking the states if they wanted any changes. He said the implementation of the law would increase the Centre’s food subsidy bill by Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 1.31 lakh crore while the requirement for grains would rise by 6-8 million tonnes from the current 55 million tonnes a year. Modi held a meeting with cabinet colleagues to review the progress of the monsoon and steps taken to contain inflation amid growing worries over its weak start that could push up food prices sharply. Asking state governments to set up fast-track courts to try hoarders and black-marketers, the Prime Minister stressed on the need for a coordinated effort to launch an advance action plan in case the rains fail this year. The country received 45 per cent less rainfall in the first spell till June 17. Modi said farmers should get adequate water, power and seed supply so that production is not affected because of scant rainfall. (The Telegraph 27/6/14)

RESERVATION

107. Cannot deny quota if person is married in upper caste: HC (25)

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday ruled that reservation benefits for underprivileged classes cannot be denied if a person is married in upper caste. A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmed Mir and Justice Trilok Singh Chauhan slapped a fine of Rs 2 lakh on respondents for not issuing OBC (Other Backward Classes) certificate to the petitioner who belonged to OBC category. The bench observed, “For the last five years the petitioner (Neetu) has been dragged from pillar to post by the respondents without any reason.” “The only fault of the petitioner is that she was born in a reserved?category and married in an upper caste family.” The court ordered that out of the total costs imposed, Rs 50,000 should be recovered from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Mandi, who denied her the certificate and an equal amount from the chairman of the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission. The petitioner had cleared the examination for the post of lecturer (college cadre) Class-I conducted by the State Public Service Commission. She appeared in the interview on August 28, 2009, but was asked to produce the latest OBC certificate. However, she was denied the certificate because she got married into an upper?class Rajput family. During the trial, she was issued the certificate. The bench also directed the government to give the petitioner?seniority according to merit from the date other people have been appointed but without monetary benefits. Of the total costs imposed, Rs one lakh is to be paid to the petitioner and the remainder to be deposited with the state High Court Bar Association Welfare fund. (Zee News 21/6/14)

 

108. Quotas: Why not for us? (25)

The government that is contemplating granting reservations to upper-caste Marathas, seems to have touched a raw nerve with other social/caste groups also raising similar demands. While the govt has indicated that Muslims too might be given reservations before the assembly polls, communities like Dhangars, Lingayats, Wadars, Kolis and Matangs too are seeking quota benefits. After its severe drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, the Cong-NCP govt is under immense pressure to ensure that these decisions come through before polls. However, some of these demands are being opposed by other caste groups as well as sections within the beneficiaries. For instance, while tribal legislators across party lines have threatened to resign en masse if Dhangars and other ‘non-tribals’ are included in the ST category; OBC Muslim leaders are against they being granted quota on religious grounds, as this, they feel, will largely benefit upper-caste Ashraf Muslims. Various classes among Muslims fall in categories like OBC, VJNT (vimukta jati and nomadic tribes), SC and ST. OBCs also resent granting Marathas reservation. “Many communities are seeking downward mobility in the caste pyramid for more benefits. While those in the open category want to be included in OBC list, OBCs want themselves to be categorised as VJNTs, and those in VJNT want to be in ST list. This is almost competitive,” said a veteran OBC activist. This amounts to turning on its head the Sanskritisation theory put forth by eminent sociologist MN Srinivas, where lower castes seek upward mobility. The Dhangar (shepherd) community (VJNT), wants to be part of ST. “Dhangars and Dhangads are one,” said community leader Mahadeo Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP). Dhangads (corrupt form of the community’s name) were included in STs, he added. According to him, Dhangars would get more benefits if classified as STs instead of the present VJNT, and attacked NCP for not meeting their demand. Dhangars, who are said to rank only next to Maratha-Kunbis, had significant share of votes in 89 of the 288 assembly segments and nine parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra, Jankar said, lamenting that despite this they hadn’t been able to get a single Dhangar elected as MP so far. Writer and activist Sanjay Sonawani pointed out that many other states had included Dhangars in ST list. He, however, noted that politicians had created an impression that reservation was the panacea for social ills and backwardness. Wadars (VJNT) and Kolis (special backward classes-SBC) also want to be in ST list. The Matang community has also demanded separate quota as benefits under the SC category are being appropriated by others. The Shiva Akhil Bhartiya Veershaiva Yuvak Sanghatana led by Manohar Dhonde has demanded that various Veershaiva Lingayat communities be given quota benefits. Presently, only a miniscule number of 153 Lingayat castes have this benefit. Dhonde said though they were covered largely in the SC, OBC, VJNT and SBC categories, Lingayats were not provided benefits unless they dropped the term ‘Lingayat’ from most caste names. For instance, Lingayat Sutars, Lingayat Guravs, Lingayat Phularis and Lingayat Kumbhars can get quotas only if they call themselves Sutars, Guravs, Phularis and Kumbhars, respectively, he added. The organisation has been seeking to be classified as minorities since 1999. “This is related to identity politics. Reservation is seen as complementary for upward social mobility,” said Surendra Jondhale, professor, department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai, adding that the reference point was the progress of Dalits in social, economic and educational sectors. (DNA 22/6/14)

 

109. 33% police jobs in Gujarat reserved for women (25)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat’s first woman chief minister Anandiben Patel delivered a blow for women empowerment on Tuesday when she declared recruitment norms would be revised and relaxed for women to ensure 33% jobs in the khaki force for the fair sex. Gujarat will become the first state in the country to implement such a provision, a senior police officer said. Currently, women constitute less than 7% of the state’s law enforcement agencies including police and state reserve police. The announcement came after the CM presided over the passing out parade of 134 police officers including 96 armed police sub-inspectors and 38 intelligence officers at Gujarat Police Academy, Karai. The officers included 25 women: 15 sub-inspectors and 10 intelligence officers. The function was attended by police and administrative top brass of the state. “It is necessary to empower women for their uplift in society. We have decided to provide 33% reservation to women in the police recruitments,” Patel told reporters. (Times of India 25/6/14)

 

110. ‘Congress-NCP playing communal card in Maharashtra’ (25)

New Delhi: The Maharashtra BJP on Tuesday charged the Congress-NCP alliance government with playing the “communal” card ahead of state Assembly polls. While the party opposed plans to grant reservation for Muslims in government jobs and education, it said reservation for Marathas should not affect the existing reservation for OBCs directly or indirectly. The Prithviraj Chavan government has decided to play the reservation card in a bid to check damage to the ruling combine, which won merely six of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Vinod Tawde on Tuesday said, “We do not support reservation on the lines of religion and the Constitution also does not permit this.” On reservation of Marathas, he said, “In case of Maratha reservation, we do not mind if it is extended to the community as it will help poor students. But the move should not hurt the existing reservation for OBCs. (Asian Age 25/6/14)

 

111. Now, Christians too demand reservations (25)

MUMBAI: Christian leaders have demanded reservations for Christian Dalits, most of whom are poor, as Muslim leaders welcomed 5% reservations for their community in education and jobs. Abraham Mathai of the Indian Christian Voice said, “The government should give reservations to Christians too as most of them in the state are poor and tribals. Marginalized Christians should not be ignored as they are a small minority.” Dolphy D’Souza of Save Our Land (SOUL) complained that Christians have been ignored by successive governments as they “are not a big votebank”. She said that the 1950 Presidential order excluded Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits from the purview of quotas, as given to scheduled castes. Muslim leaders demanded immediate implementation of the state cabinet’s decision and said the government must strongly defend it if challenged in the Supreme Court. Congress MLA Amin Patel, who had demanded quotas for Muslims in the last monsoon session, said, “Reservations have been a long-standing demand of the community, as panels headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ranganath Mishra and Mahmoodur Rahman had also recommended quotas to empower Muslims. This will help mainstream the community, which has felt alienated due to backwardness.” Signs of Muslims getting reservations were evident when, replying to Patel’s questions, minister Fauzia Khan had said, “You will soon get good news.” But M A Khalid of the All-India Milli Council said the government should have announced it earlier, as it seems like a sop before the assembly elections. Many said the state government should not flinch from defending the decision in the apex court, if challenged. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, “This is not the first time Muslims have been given reservations in India. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had provided reservations to economically poor Muslims, and Muslims in Maharashtra too needed it.” (Times of India 27/6/14)

 

HINDUTVA

112. Hindu Munnani activist’s murder condemned (26)

CHENNAI: The BJP on Thursday condemned the murder of a Hindu Munnani activist at Ambattur on Wednesday night. Hindu Munnani’s Tiruvallur district president Suresh Kumar died after he was attacked by a gang near the Ambattur bus stand on Wednesday night. In a statement, BJP state president Pon Radhakrishnan said Suresh had been involved in social service for the past several years and his death was a great loss to the society. He said several Sangh Parivar activists had been killed in Tamil Nadu in the recent years. The delay in punishing the accused in the murders of Auditor Ramesh and others has led to more such crimes. The state government should quickly act and arrest the killers of Suresh Kumar so that such incidents won’t happen in future,” he said. He expressed his condolence to the family members of Kumar. Meanwhile, Hindu Munnani leader Ramagopalan asked chief minister J Jayalalithaa to give special attention to the case and arrest the gang which killed Kumar. In a statement, Ramagopalan said, “Though some of the murder accused are in prison, many others with the same motive are roaming freely and this is proved by the latest murder.” (Times of India 19/6/14)

113. RSS prepares for a new 10-storey office complex (26)

New Delhi: Its design has been cleared, requisite approvals from municipal authorities have been in place for more than a year, and come October 3, Vijayadashami day, the RSS plans to mark its 89th anniversary by laying the foundation stone for a new 10-storey headquarters that will replace its current office in Jhandewalan in the capital. The cluster of low buildings spread over 2.5 acres in Keshav Kunj (named after founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar) that have housed the RSS head office for over five decades will be torn down. The Indian Express has learnt that the process has begun for occupants to move to temporary accommodation for an estimated three years while the new office is built. A school on the premises has been vacated to house RSS office-bearers for the time being. The new complex will have parking space for 400 cars. A senior RSS pracharak said: “Planning has been on for many years. Now almost all preparations are done. The design is approved, and once all occupants move, we will start construction.” Sources said that for years, Sah-sarkaryavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi has been discussing the need for more office space on the premises. Nitin Gadkari, during his stint as BJP president, was said to have advised the Sangh to “reconstruct” the office. The RSS deputed one of its pracharaks, Ravindra, to look after construction-related work. Sources said the new office would accommodate all RSS units currently housed in Keshav Kunj. These include publications Panchajanya and Organiser, along with Suruchi Prakashan, Sanskrit Bharati, Seva Bharati, Bharati Itihaas Sankalan Samiti, and the RSS’s international affairs wing. (Indian Express 22/6/14)

114. Train fare hike: RSS taken aback by the timing of the decision; says will not interfere… (26)

NEW DELHI: Tough economic decisions are never really politically palatable, the across-the-board hike in railway fares has been one such decision. While the BJP has been supportive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party and the larger Sangh Parivar, including the RSS, have been taken aback by the timing of the decision. According to top sources in the RSS, there has been a bit of a worry over the blowback of this decision on the government, though the basic premise of it has been unquestioned. “Nobody can deny that rail fares, frozen for the last 11 years, needed rationalisation and they were bound to increase. The only issue that we have with this is the timing and manner of the decision,” said a top office bearer of the RSS. “The people should have been prepared for this decision, which is in the country’s interest, but cannot be palatable to the general public,” added the source. After the initial shock of the decision, however, BJP men have been quick to defend the hike in the face of the opposition’s ire. “The decision was necessary for the preservation of the Railways,” said senior party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) which has not exactly been on the same page as previous NDA governments on neo-liberal economic agendas, has, however, also completely backed the fare hike. Economist Ashwini Mahajan who is associated with the SJM made it clear that something like this was “required” to rescue Indian Railways. “It is the pride of India, and if you compare fares in India to other countries it is still very low. Fares had not risen in 11 years whereas fuel costs, wear and tear and modernisation costs had gone up exponentially. Was there really a way out?” he said to ET. Mahajan said that if the Indian Railways has to remain a national resource, its financial health has to be protected. “A few more years of the previous state would have forced a privatisation, do we really want that?” he said. The RSS in fact has reportedly decided to give a very wide berth to the BJP led government on policy issues. “We are aware that Modi has not come into the PMO “khaali haath” (empty handed). He has a vision, and we are waiting for some economic recovery to emanate from this. We are not looking to interfere or second guess him,” added the source. (The Economic Times 23/6/14)

115. Hindu outfit threatens to attack top Pak diplomats (26)

NEW DELHI: A nondescript Hindu outfit, which calls itself Shri Hanuman Sena, has threatened to physically harm top Pakistani diplomats in the country. Pakistan on Tuesday officially raised the issue with the ministry of external affairs seeking a foolproof security cover for its officials. The threat was received by the high commission in the form of a letter. In their response, Indian officials assured Pakistan that no effort will be spared in ensuring the safety and security of all diplomats in India. “Indian officials also recalled that when on an earlier occasion a reference was made by Pakistani diplomats about security issues, a safety review had been conducted with representatives of Pakistan High Commission and Indian authorities,” said a source. Even last month, the high commission had received anonymous letters threatening to hurt Pakistani diplomats. There is still no confirmation about who sent those letters. Pakistani diplomatic sources said the threat was a matter of concern. Pakistan and India are looking to get dialogue going, at least between the two foreign secretaries, after the freeze resulting from last year’s bloody ceasefire violations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised many by inviting his counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in but the invite and the subsequent round of “letter and saree diplomacy” has provided an impetus to Modi’s stated desire to build trust with Pakistan. (Times of India 25/6/14)

116. VHP to push Sangh agenda as part of 50-yr celebrations (26)

New Delhi: The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), along with the Bajrang Dal and the Durga Vahini, claims to have played a key role in mobilising support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Now, these outfits, particularly the VHP, hope to leverage the favourable government at the Centre to increase their national profiles and widen the organisational network. The VHP, founded on August 29, 1964, plans to mark its golden jubilee celebrations this year by taking its messages of nationalism, anti-cow slaughter and anti-religious conversions to every corner of the country. As part of the celebrations, it is planning shobha yatras (processions) in important cities and towns to showcase its “glorious history”, including its contribution to the anti-cow slaughter movement of the mid-60s and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 80s and 90s. Sources in the Sangh Parivar said the processions would exhort people to support construction of a bhavya, or grand, Ram temple at Ayodhya and revive the demand for temples at the so-called Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura. The VHP’s celebrations are aimed at assisting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre to “undo” the ills brought about by the policies of earlier governments. After NDA’s victory, VHP leader Ashok Singhal had identified construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, adoption of a uniform civil code and an end to cow slaughter and religious conversions as part of the outfit’s agenda. The VHP has started revitalising its organisational structure, as it believes it should assist the administration in stopping cow slaughter, etc, through its own network. VHP media chief (Delhi) Vinod Bansal told Business Standard the outfit was already seeing more people joining the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini camps. While the Bajrang Dal is the VHP’s youth wing for men (aged 15 to 45), the Durga Vahini is for women of the same age group. The Matru Shakti is the outfit’s entity for women aged more than 45. Owing to the increase in numbers, the VHP is mobilising more workers at the grassroots level. It has divided its organisational structure across India into 41 prantas, or states. States such as Rajasthan have been subdivided into three prantas and each pranta is further divided into regions or districts. Each district is categorised into prakhanda, khanda and upakhanda. VHP administrative units have 10-member decision making committees. “In Delhi, we have committees up to the khanda level. Now, we plan to extend it to upakhandas, too,” Bansal says. The committees at the upakhanda or block level will comprise a president, a secretary and a convener each from the Bajrang Dal and the Durga Vahini, as well as a dedicated person to address media issues. “This is to ensure we have a good rapport with local journalists,” Bansal says. He adds the committees at the upakhanda level will also have a gau raksha pramukh, responsible for tracking cow slaughters. “The dharma prasar pramukh will check religious conversions and ensure ghar wapasi/shuddhikaran, or re-conversion,” Bansal says, adding an archak purohit pramukh will coordinate with all temples in the area concerned, while a math mandir pramukh “will keep an eye on activities in churches and mosques of his area”.VHP leaders such as Bansal dismiss suggestions that the outfit has been asked not to rake up issues that might prove inconvenient for the government. “The Sangh will not go to sleep or be satisfied with what it has achieved in unseating a corrupt government. We will work towards awakening people to establish a society based on dharma,” Bansal says. He identifies the education sector as an area that needs revamping. If need be, the VHP will agitate to make the new government change the prevailing education system, which teaches “angreziyat”, or Western values, he says. “We will encourage education in Hindi and regional languages, instead of the current English-based education, focused on training people to work as employees,” Bansal says. (Business Standard 26/6/14)

 

Posted by admin at 27 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Table pending reports in Tamil Nadu assembly: RTI activists (1)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government, which has displayed extraordinary lack of compliance with rules under the Right To Information Act, 2005, will have a chance to come good in the upcoming session of the Tamil Nadu assembly. Activists have strongly urged the government to place all pending reports of the state information commission in the House during the session. The state government last tabled reports on RTI applications in 2006-07. Annual reports by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission should declare the number of RTI applications received by public information officers (PIOs) of overnment departments, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs by the commission for violation of rules under the RTI Act. State chief information commissioner K S Sripathi recently pleaded helplessness over the information not being made public, saying his department had sent reports till 2010-11 to the government, which tabled reports only till 2006-07 in the assembly . “We can’t publish annual reports before they are placed in the assembly .” A survey by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found that Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura have all failed to table reports of their RTI cases in the assembly or put them online, which is mandatory under the RTI Act. Gujarat recently made amends. Maharashtra, which has an impeccable record, has placed annual reports in the assembly every year to evaluate the implementation of the legislation in the state. Publishing the annual reports makes government departments accountable and enhances transparency in administration, activists say. “The Tamil Nadu Information Commission and the personnel and administrative reforms department have not reacted to several petitions on the matter,” NGO Satta Panchayat Iyakkam member Siva Elango said. “It is disturbing that the government has not tabled reports in the assembly since 2006.” “In this assembly session, the government should place all reports till 2013 in the House. No data is currently available on the number of appeals the commission received and disposed of and those that are pending or of action taken against errant PIOs,” he said. Deepak P B, of NGO Voice of India, says people have a right to know which departments receive the most RTI applications and those that stonewalls petitions. “It is unfortunate not a single MLA has raised the issue in the assembly,” he said. The TNSIC receives an average of 55,000 appeals under the RTI Act every year, but officials say an acute shortage of manpower and funds has hampered disposal of petitions, leading to a huge backlog of pleas. (Times of India 10/6/14)

2. Assets disclosed by just 57% ministers (1)

Mumbai: A directive from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to his ministers to disclose their assets seems to have fallen on deaf ears, because only 57 per cent of ministers have done so. An RTI query this year has revealed that only 24 out of 42 ministers in the state have given details of their assets to the chief minister’s office. An RTI query seeking the details of the all ministers and details of the assets declared by them to the CM’s office filed by activist Anil Galgali has found that 18 out of 42 ministers in the Cabinet have not provided details of their assets to the state. Last year, the same RTI query had revealed that just 22 out of 40 ministers had followed the CM’s directives. Prithviraj Chavan, after being sworn in as the chief minister on December 10, 2010 had asked his ministers to declare their assets, so that people have greater faith in the government. “This shows that the CM has no hold on his colleagues. He is a weak administrator and working under pressure. His ‘Mr Clean’ image is a farce,” said Anil Galgali. Chief secretary of state J. S. Saharia remained unavailable for comment. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

3. UP government refuses to provide information about inquiry commissions (1)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh government has refused to provide information about the various inquiry commissions formed by it since 1947 to probe various scams, scandals and riots among other issues. RTI activist Nutan Thakur had asked the chief secretary and home department to provide her information about the inquiry commissions formed under section 3 of the Commission of Inquiries Act 1952 after independence, their composition and membership, date of formation, increase of time duration and the interim and final reports submitted by them. While the chief secretary office transferred the matter to home department, the home department declined to provide the information saying that it was too lengthy. Thakur has said that information cannot be denied for being lengthy and she had sought this information because of the common perception of governments forming such commissions in times of crisis and later forgetting them. This perception has been strengthen by the refusal to provide information, she added. (Times of India 14/6/14)

4. Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC (1)

New Delhi: The rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said. An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons. “It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order. It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue. (Zee News 15/6/14)

5. Parties Should Embrace RTI, Says Chennithala (1)

KOCHI: Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has reiterated that he is in favour of bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Inaugurating the ‘RTI Knowledge Meet 2014’ held at Hotel Presidency here, he said that a ‘Right to Hearing’ Act will soon be passed and that a discussion regarding the same is taking place in the government. “It is high time that the political parties come out of their iron veils. There should not be anything secretive about them. All people’s representatives, including MPs, MLAs and ministers, are accountable to the public. The Act will help evaluate their performances and perform better” he said. “For transparent governance, it is important that the parties reveal the details of their activities. The functioning of political parties need not be conducted clandestinely. People have the right to know what is happening inside the party. This will make people more aware and active in decision-making. The Act will strengthen democracy by making it participatory. The Right to Hearing Act will only add to the existing power of the people” he added. The meet was organised under the aegis of National Constitution Club, Thalassery, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), New Delhi. Colloquiums were held on topics such as ‘RTI Act and its Social Impact’, ‘Right to Services Act-a Corollary to RTI Act’, ‘RTI Act and Good Governance’ and ‘RTI in News Reports’ by Chief Information Commissioner Siby Mathew, Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI, New Delhi, former Central Information Commissioner Shylesh Gandhi, Kerala Press Academy chairman N P Rajendran and journalist P Mohamed Nazeer. RTI People’s Assembly was also held on the occasion. Over 100 delegates, including RTI activists, Public Information Officers and bureaucrats were present for the event. Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali presided over the meet. National Constitution Club vice-chairman P Sherafudheen also attended the meet. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

6. NHRC on track, kids on train (1)

Ranchi, June 9: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today took suo motu cognisance of media reports that Jharkhand labour department team “confirmed” trafficking of 500-plus Muslim children to Kerala from eastern states, on a day 119 state minors boarded a train back home after a fortnight’s ordeal. Media reports so far taken into account by the panel say that eight persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the interstate child trafficking racket with links to orphanages in Kerala. The panel observed that the contents of media reports, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights. It has issued notices to the chief secretaries and directors-general of police of the governments of Jharkhand and Kerala, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. According to Delhi-based NHRC spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, they were taking the matter “very seriously”. Media reports, including one of the earliest in The Telegraph in May, said the racket was busted at Palakkad station only when children were held for ticketless travel and adults with them did not have valid papers. But for 119 children of Godda, this evening marked a comfortable — not to speak of high-profile — homecoming as Jharkhand’s eight-member team led by labour commissioner Manish Ranjan helped them board Ernakulam-Patna Express train. At Palakkad, a final check revealed one child of the 120 slated to board the train was from Bihar. Finally, 119 children of Godda finally boarded the train around 8pm. The children will reach Jasidih station in Deoghar on Wednesday around 3pm and then be sent to their homes in villages of Godda district, by buses. Labour commissioner Manish Ranjan told The Telegraph that 16 personnel from Kerala were part of the escort party. “They comprise eight police personnel, including four mahila police, six senior bureaucrats and two anganwadi workers,” said Ranjan. Social welfare minister Annapurna Devi, who took the rescue initiative in May within 24 hours of the media breaking the news on May 25, it is more like “mission successful”. “I pray the children come back home safe and healthy,” she told over the phone. “I will meet them once they are back in Godda. Let them settle down first. I will ensure that children get proper education and livelihood options are generated for their parents,” she said. Sajal Chakraborty, acting CS, who also was at the forefront of forming a rescue team, said: “Thank God. Our team has done a good job.” Godda administration is fine-tuning arrangements to ferry the children from Jasidih to Godda by buses. Godda DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma said that he directed DDC Godda (Arun Kumar Ratan) to make proper arrangements to send children from Jasidih. The DC said: “Initially, children will go to their parents. But after four-five days they will be enrolled to residential schools, the girls in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and boys in welfare department-run institutions.” If the above options do not work out, he said, a double-storey building has been identified in Godda town for the children’s education. Of the 589 children detained at Kerala’s Palakkad on their way to orphanages, 167 were from Jharkhand, while the rest were from Bihar and Bengal. But officially, 120 children were escorted to the train this evening as parents of the rest kept coming in the past few days to personally take charge of the wards. The incident has taken on a political colour ever since probe revealed that Jharkhand’s children were bound for Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode, chaired by Syed Hyederali Shihab Thangal of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United democratic front Government in Kerala. This is one tangle that chief ministers Hemant Soren and Oommen Chandy, who share a common Congress factor in their respective governments, will sort out. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

7. Beas tragedy: Human rights body issues notices to Himachal authorities (1)

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued notices and sought reports from authorities in Himachal Pradesh in connection with the drowning of 25 persons in the Beas allegedly due to unannounced release of water from a dam. According to a statement, the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report about the incident and issued notices to the chief secretary, Himachal Pradesh, and the deputy commissioner, Mandi, calling for a report on the matter within two weeks. A tour operator and 24 engineering students of a college in Hyderabad were washed away in a flash flood in the Beas near Thalout, 40 kms from Mandi on Sunday. The victims were caught unawares by the sudden discharge of water in the river from the reservoir of 126 MW Larji project. Six bodies have been recovered so far by rescue teams. “The cause of the flash flood was stated to be the opening of the floodgates of the Larji hydel project’s dam without warning. Reportedly, the toll could rise as rescue operations were hampered by non-availability of search lights and divers,” the statement said citing a media report. The state government admitted that the authorities did not follow the right protocol on use of hooters and other warning signals on the release of the water from the hydel project, the statement said. The commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of right to life and safety of the victims. (Times of India 12/6/14)

8. Foreign-aided NGOs under govt scanner after IB report (1)

New Delhi: The Union home ministry’s foreigners division has started examining records of some of the NGOs named by the Intelligence Bureau in its report to the Prime Minister’s Office. The IB report had expressed fear that activities of some of the NGOs was affecting the country’s economic growth. It is mandatory for NGOs registered with the home ministry to file their annual returns with it including donations and funds received from abroad. Sources said once the scrutiny of records is done and if some discrepancy if found there is a possibility that some of the NGOs may be issued show cause notices to explain their funding pattern. The government, sources added, was also looking at the possibility of amending the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “It has been noticed in case of some of the NGOs that they receive funds through a circuitous route. Money comes into these NGOs through some other social or cultural organisations which may well be fronts for something else. It is this loophole that needs to be plugged”, a senior ministry official said. The home ministry has already directed intelligence agencies to carryout a more stringent check on funds being received by non-registered NGOs which are granted permission for receiving grants on a case to case basis. Meanwhile, a number of prominent citizens and activists on Friday rubbished the IB report which had said funding of several NGOs was “cleverly disguised” as donations for issues like human rights, but instead they were involved in stalling developmental projects. (Asian Age 14/6/14)

9. Rs 12,500 cr from abroad and only 2% NGOs report it: Home ministry (1)

New Delhi: Nongovernmental organisations in India received nearly Rs 12,500 crore from foreign contributors in 2013, according to a home ministry report. In 2011-12, they had received Rs 11,500 crore, which in turn was nearly 12 per cent since the previous year. In the two years preceding that, foreign donations had dropped around 4 per cent. The report also noted that only two per cent of the country’s estimated 20 lakh NGOs report their donations from abroad, and that most of the money is used for purposes not specified by the NGOs. NGOs have been under the government scanner following an Intelligence Bureau report to the PMO stating stating that they are “stalling development projects”. The home ministry report, released last December, states, “…It is necessary to note that the NGO sector in India is vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing.” The ministry report notes the absence of a centralised database on the number of NGO in the country and the quantum of finance involved in their operation. But it adds, “Unofficial figures indicate that there are over 20 lakh NGOs registered in India and those reporting to MHA for Foreign Contributions Regulation Act are only 2 per cent of the total NGOs.” The report classifies 15 major purposes for which the foreign contributions have been received, and states that the highest amounts were received and utilised for “activities which are not mentioned” and under the miscellaneous head — Rs 2,350 crore approximately in 2013 and Rs 2253.61 crore in 2012 — followed by work in rural development, welfare of children, construction and maintenance of schools and colleges, and research. The home ministry also raises concern that a “large number of registered associations still don’t submit their statutory annual returns mandated by the law”. Among states and UTs, the highest amount of foreign contribution for the year 2013 was reported by Delhi, followed by Tamil Nadu. Between 2012 and 2013, several anti-government protests were organised in both states, holding up various projects including the Kudankulam nuclear plant. In previous years, the highest foreign contribution by any district in 2011-12 was reported by Chennai (Rs 889.99 crore) followed by Mumbai (Rs 825.40 crore) and Bangalore (Rs 812.48 crore). Among NGOs, World Vision of India, Chennai, received the highest that year at Rs 233.38 crore, followed by the Believers Church India, Pathanamthitta, Kerala (Rs 190.05 crore), and Rural Development Trust, Anathapur, in Andhra Pradesh (Rs 144.39 crore)… (Indian Express 16/6/14)

10. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (1)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council.India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (CNN IBN 18/6/14)

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

11. Dad of ‘custody death’ victim seeks CBI probe (1)

MUMBAI: Reay Road resident Leonard Valdaris on Monday moved the Bombay high court seeking a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of his 25-year-old son, Agnello. The petition filed by Valdaris and three others who were picked up by the Wadala railway police, along with Agnello, in a chain-snatching case, have alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse. The petition has urged the court to order that the 12 police officers, including a lady officer be criminally prosecuted. It has further sought compensation from the Maharashtra government. A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode have scheduled the case for hearing on Tuesday. According to the complaint, Agnello and three others, including a minor, were picked up by the Wadala railway police on April 15, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that they were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. On April 18, Agnello died. The Wadala GRP has claimed that Agnello had tried to escape and was run over by a train. The authorities have already initiated an inquiry against the 12 police officers. (Times of India 10/6/14)

12. Life term for 17 cops in fake encounter (1)

New Delhi: Seventeen policemen convicted in the fake encounter of a 22-year-old MBA student in Uttarakhand on Monday escaped the gallows, with a Delhi court awarding them life imprisonment, much to the disappointment of the victim’s family, who vowed to challenge it in a higher court for death penalty. The 17 policemen had been held guilty on June 6 of involvement in the conspiracy to kidnap and kill Ghaziabad resident Ranbir Singh, who had gone to Dehradun to take up a job on July 3, 2009. The cops were handed life terms as the court said the crime committed by them does not fall in the “rarest of rare” category that warrants capital punishment. Parents of the victim—Ranbir Singh—present with other family members in the courtroom immediately expressed disappointment, saying they would like to see all the policemen hanged, and that they would approach a higher court against the verdict. “I want death for all the policemen who killed my younger son,” said the victim’s tearful mother. The wife of one of the convicts, Santosh Kumar Jaiswal, also broke down in the courtroom and said the judge should have once given a thought to the fate of her children. “Where will we go? He (Santosh) is the only earning member in the family,” she shouted, before being taken out of the courtroom. Detailing the facts and circumstances of the case, Special CBI Judge J P S Malik said, “The case is purely based on circumstantial evidence, and the conviction is based on conspiracy between the convicts. I am of the opinion that the case does not fall in the category of rarest-of-rare cases. “Policemen at Dalanwala and Nehru Colony police station and the Special Operation Group (SOG), all of the Dehradun city, were involved. A (accused)-3 Rajesh Bhist, A-16 Inderbhan Singh, A-13 Vikas Chander Baluni and A-14 Sanjay Rawat, were of PS (police station) Nehru Colony; A-5 Nitin Chauhan, A-10 Chander Pal and A-11 Saurabh Nautiyal were of the SOG, and rest of PS Dalanwalla. What the common thread between the three was has not been revealed,” added the court. In his verdict, the judge also observed that the scene of the crime, in Ladpur forest, is within the jurisdiction of Raipur police station in Dehradun, and the then President of India was visiting the city on the July 3, 2009. “The city was on high alert but policemen from the Raipur police station were nowhere,” said the court. (Deccan Herald 10/6/14)

13. Woman gang-raped on police station premises in U.P. (1)

LUCKNOW: With the dust yet to settle down on the Badaun gang rape and murder, another shocking incident of a woman being gang-raped allegedly by a Station House Officer and two constables on the station premises has come to light in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur district. Sub-inspector Rahul Pandey was arrested but the constables absconded. The incident took place on Sumerpur police station premises on Monday night. The arrests were made on Wednesday after a complaint was registered with the Hamirpur Superintendent of Police, V.K. Shekhar by the victim. A police spokesman said the victim had gone to the station to meet her husband, who had been arrested and put in lock-up. It is alleged that Mr. Pandey demanded a bribe of Rs. 20,000 from the victim for her husband’s release. She was taken to the SHO’s quarters behind the station at 1 a.m. and allegedly gang-raped by the three policemen. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

14. FIR filed against seven cops in 25-year-old’s custodial death (1)

MUMBAI: The police cannot go to the extent of torturing a person to death, said the high court on Friday on a petition urging a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of Agnelo Valdaris (25). The petition was by the Reay Road resident’s father, Leonard, and three others, including a minor. The youths and the minor were picked up by the police on April 15 for theft. They complained of being beaten up and sexually abused in custody. The police claimed Agnelo died in a train accident while trying to flee. Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode that an FIR had been filed on Wednesday against seven police officers, including the senior inspector of the Wadala railway police station, under the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Shinde said the officers had been transferred, the probe handed to the crime branch and permission sought from the district magistrate to exhume Agnelo’s body. The judges remarked that the state takes action only after a matter comes to court. Shinde said that when the complaint was received in May, the statements of 32 witnesses, including the motorman, were recorded. “The impression that is sought to be created is that the police eliminated him, but a post-mortem report and videography indicate it was accidental death and not torture,” said Shinde, adding that CCTV footage of Agnelo’s escape has been sought from the railway police. Valdaris’s advocate Yug Chaudhry pointed out that in the FIR, the complaint had been filed by the Wadala police and not the victims or Leonard, who was made to wait and then told to go home. “None of the victims was called for the FIR. Why is it a police FIR? Is it a cover-up?” said Chaudhry. The judges said custodial deaths are “increasing” and interrogation is being done even for petty offences. They referred to a custodial death case where the man concerned had been picked up and interrogated for possessing six 180-ml bottles of liquor and another where an accused consumed poison and “preferred to die”. (Times of India 14/6/14)

15. Any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on situation: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley (1)

SRINAGAR: Any decision on revoking Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said today. “As far as today the situation is concerned, our armed forces and local security forces have been handling the situation. Over the period of time, we have to watch how the situation progresses,” Jaitley told reporters here at the end of his two-day visit to the state. He was responding to a question on whether the Centre will consider revoking the controversial AFSPA in the state in view of the improved security scenario. “As far as your question is concerned, today I am not in a position to make any comment on this,” he said. Replying to another question, the Defence Minister said sanction for prosecution of armed forces personnel accused of involvement in human rights violations is decided on the merits of the case. “Each case is decided on its own merits. In case the permission has no basis, then it (prosecution) certainly cannot be allowed. In case there is a basis in it, there is a human rights violation, it will be viewed differently,” he said. (The Econopmic Times 16/6/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

16. Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar says ban social media, retracts (1)

New Delhi: Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar Monday suggested banning social media only to retract his statement minutes later. He was speaking in the context of rising instances of violence in the state due to offensive posts against iconic personalities on the social media. “The recent incidents have taken a toll on the society. China had adopted a two-year ban on social media. The government and the Opposition must press for a similar clamp down when we meet PM Narendra Modi,” Pawar said while replying to a discussion on the budget in the state legislative Assembly. A few minutes later, Pawar did a U-turn, and clarified, “I did not mean a ban on social media forums such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. I am not against freedom of the social media but there must be some kind of regulation on it.” His public relations officer, seated in the media gallery when the initial statement was made, had sent him a note urging him to clarify his stand. Meanwhile, Home minister R R Patil said that apart from those who have been uploading offensive posts denigrating iconic personalities, all those who approve and ‘like’ such posts will also be liable for prosecution. (ndian Express 10/6/14)

17. Global media body condemns soft censorship by governments (1)

A new report by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) has strongly condemned “soft censorship” by governments and regulators as a “very serious threat to media independence and the very viability of media companies”. WAN, which is the umbrella organization of newspapers representing more than 18,000 publications and 15,000 online sites in 120 countries around the world, has urgently called for rapid action to stop this blatant repression of media and press freedom. “Soft censorship” is the practice where governments use financial leverage and regulatory powers -most often stopping advertising– when they find coverage to be “adverse”. The practice is rampant in India as well, with some state governments especially guilty of misusing tax payers’ money to try to pressurize and influence those media entities which criticize them. Some private sector companies also try to intimidate and pressurize the media in this manner and hence try to influence news coverage in their favour. In fact, the report — ” Soft Censorship, Hard Impact”, released earlier this week — goes into damning detail of the practice, specifying that: “Soft censorship is used to promote positive coverage of—and to punish media outlets that criticize-officials or their actions. It is the practice of influencing news coverage of state bodies and officials and their policies and activities through allocation or withholding of state media spending (subsidies, advertising, and other media contracts or assistance), or selective application of licensing, permits or regulations, to shape the broad media landscape; promote or diminish the economic viability of specific media houses or outlets; and/or reward or punish content produced by individual media workers”. (Times of India 13/6/14)

18. Media persons furious, probe demanded (1)

Bhopal: Media persons are furious over inaction in a case of police personnel beating up a journalist at the TT Nagar police station. No complaint has been registered against the police. On Friday when the journalist, Ajay Verma, was passing through the TT Nagar police station  he spotted one Brajesh Patil attempting suicide and tried to record the incident but was interrupted by the SHO, Rajkumar Saraf. Verma was taken inside the police station where the police personnel roughed him up. As soon as his condition worsened, he was admitted to Katju hospital. Since his condition was critical he was later referred to JP hospital where he is said to be out of danger. The doctors have said Verma has sustained serious injuries in his stomach, kidney and ribs.Verma has alleged that the SHO and constable Gorelal beat him up severely. Police have alleged that the journalist provoked the person to commit suicide so that he could record the act live, but the journalist claimed that he was silently recording the act of Brajesh Patil. In the evening, the Home Minister visited Verma at the hospital and assured him that the case would be investigated. MLA Vishwas Sarang also visited the injured journalist on Friday night after he was admitted in the hospital. Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Manoj Shrivastava also visited the victim at hospital, while Public Relations Minister Rajendra Shukla enquired about the health of Verma over phone. Meanwhile, Director-General of Police Nanden Dube has instructed Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Bhopal Srinivas Varma to investigate the matter. Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Arun Yadav also visited the hospital on Saturday morning and enquired about his health. He condemned the police brutality on the journo and demanded strict action against the guilty police personnel. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

19. Don’t kill social opinion (1)

A few states have been very active in throttling displays of dissent on the social media, particularly if there were derogatory references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proliferation of social media users and the Internet’s several other avenues for expressing personal opinion have led to governments taking notice of what it believes is subversive activity. While no one would wish the country’s leader to become a subject of ridicule or a figure of hate, the state should understand that the social media is primarily a place in which people tend to vent their feelings. The establishing of some control over disparaging assaults on public figures and private individuals should not lead to a repression of the freedom of expression. There has been little concerted effort towards formulating a procedure by which the offending post can be voluntarily taken down, failing which a clearly defined course of action can be set in motion to make the person comply if indeed the post is disruptive, capable of spreading disaffection, or defamatory under the law. The larger issue is should dissenting opinion expressed only against politicians or their lampooning draw such a lightning response from the executive and judiciary to the extent that even college students have been booked for defaming the PM in their campus magazines. While the anxiety of a new government to get a handle on this before it explodes is understandable, it is important to understand that there is room for opinion in a democratic set-up. Not everyone putting up an irreverent post is to be deemed anti-national. (Asian Age 17/6/14)

TRAFFICKING

20. Child trafficking: NHRC issues notices to Kerala, Jharkhand (1)

NHRC today issued notices to authorities in Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on the alleged trafficking of children for orphanages. According to a statement issued by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the notices were served to the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of Jharkhand and Kerala asking them to submite their reports within four weeks. The notices were issued after the Commission took cognisance of a media report which said that Jharkhand Labour Department officials has confirmed reports of trafficking of over 500 children to Kerala from the eastern states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. As per the media report, the racket was busted by the Railway Police when the children arrived at Palakkad Railway Station and the adults who accompanied them were found not having any valid documents for taking the children from their home state. Reportedly, eight persons have been arrested in this connection. The arrested persons were booked under the Juvenile Justice Act and remanded to judicial custody. The Commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amounts to serious violation of human rights of the children involved. (DNA 10/6/14)

21. Once trafficked, she now rescues girls in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district (1)

RAIPUR: For 16-year-old Rukmani, world day against child labour on Thursday could have been another back-breaking day from dawn to midnight, cleaning utensils, mopping floors and washing clothes at households in Delhi. But she displayed exemplary courage to wriggle out of bondage and find her way back home in Jashpur. Rukmani, who was once sold to middlemen, is now at the vanguard of a campaign to ban child trafficking. With the help of an NGO, Rukmani, who had studied till Class 3, has also resumed her studies. Talking to Times of India, Rukmani from Kansabel block of tribal Jashpur district said, “I was 12 when I fled from captivity in Delhi. A resident of my village, Salma, had tempted me with big city lifestyle and with good money if I went along with her. Immediately after landing in Delhi, I was sold off to a placement agent, Kripa, who dumped me in a house as a 24-hour domestic servant for Rs 2000 per month.” She would work non-stop from 6 am till midnight and she would be abused and would be forced to sleep hungry. When she complained to the placement agency, Rukmani was bundled off in a train and sent to Indore where her working hours extended to 1.30 in the night as the family had visitors every night. “There was another girl from Jharkhand who was always frightened. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I told them I won’t continue.” In Jashpur, Rukmani’s parent filed a missing complaint with police and a search was launched. The placement agency in Delhi was tapped and she was tracked to her hellhole in Indore from where she was rescued. While Rukmani struggled to find her place back in family, she emerged as a multi-tasking girl. Learning to stitch and study, she also tries to save girls from traffickers. She has already helped police to nab Salma and other touts. Rukmani works with Jivan Jharna Vikas Sanstha, an NGO that rehabilitates trafficked children and has built her own brigade of boys and girls who act against touts. “We have groups at panchayat-level of 30 youths who keep vigil on middlemen. We tip off police and NGOs when we hear about girls being huddled into buses or trains. Many have been rescued and many agents are now in jail. I have vowed to ban trafficking,” Rukmani said. Sister Annie in charge of NGO said it was difficult to handle rescued children as they are traumatized and refuse to open up. Majority of these girls go with touts without informing parents. Six and a half decades after Independence, India’s tribal-dominated areas remain as backward as they are. Economical development is the need of hour so that tribal girls get enough opportunities for gainful employment locally. (Times of India 11/6/14)

22. 20 Jamtara kids rescued in Kerala (1)

DUMKA: Kerala police on Thursday rescued 20 more children, who were trafficked from Jamtara district, said the district deputy commissioner. Jamtara DC Chandrashekhar said a team of government officials would visit Kerala to bring the children back to the state. All of them are from Narayanpur block. “The collector of Kolam district in Kerala informed me about the rescue of 20 children from an orphanage. A team of administrative officials and local police will leave for Kerala on Thursday to bring them back to the state,” he said. The DC has also referred the matter to the Jamtara SP for lodging FIR against those involved in trafficking. Railway police had, on May 24, rescued 500 children, 119 of whom were from Godda district, from Palakkad railway station. On June 9, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Jharkhand and Kerala seeking detailed report on trafficking. The 119 children, from different villages in Godda, Basantrai and Mahgama blocks, were brought to the state on Wednesday and sent home on Thursday. There were 44 boys and 75 girls between the age of five and 12 years. (Times of India 13/6/14)

23. Delhi: More women getting involved in sex trade (1)

New Delhi: Increasingly, women are becoming catalysts of exploitation of other women. The number of women being arrested for forcing others into prostitution at least suggests so. Delhi Police, which arrested 48-year-old Raj Radha for allegedly running a prostitution racket in the city on Friday, says that as many as 66 women were arrested in 2013 for forcing innocent women into the flesh trade. If one goes by the statistics, at least six women were arrested every month, on an average two every week, on similar charges. In 2012, 44 women were arrested for the same crime. It means that there was an increase of almost 50% in the arrests of women in such cases by Delhi police. Though data for this year is not available yet, senior police officers claim that they have arrested as many as 30 women already on similar charges. Other than their alleged involvement in flesh trade, a senior police officer said, some of the women were accused of cheating girls and luring them into paid sex on one pretext or the other — job offer being the most common ploy. Till 2011, the senior officer said, there were not many female names in the illegal flesh trade. However, a high profile prostitute-turned-pimp, Sonu Punjaban alias Geeta Arora arrested that year, changed the whole game. She was arrested a couple of times by different teams of the Delhi police for allegedly running flesh trade in the city. At that time only Kanwaljeet Singh— Delhi’s notorious supplier of women who was well known as the ‘Cadillac pimp’ because of the car he drove, was the most famous pimp. Sonu Punjaban emerged as the next big thing in the prostitution business. However, today, police claim, a good number of women, a few of them belonging to high society, are involved in the flesh trade because of it being ‘high profit, less risk’. On being asked why there has been a sharp increase in arrest of women in such cases, Ashok Chand, additional commissioner of police (crime branch) said, “The number has gone up because more people are coming forward to lodge their complaints against this illegal business. In some of the cases, the women were arrested for facilitating girls/women to their clients for sex without the consent of the victims.” Another senior police officer said that the arrests of such women has also gone up because of the directive by the Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi that the police should go after the pimps instead of arresting sex workers who are the victims of the crime. In March this year, the Delhi police had arrested two women for allegedly running a prostitution racket in west Delhi’s Hari Nagar. (Hindustan Times 15/6/14)

24. Sectarian Issues Cannot Cloud Government Intervention (1)

Kerala is home to about 1,100 government-recognised orphanages or children’s homes. They run on funds raised independently by the orphanage and aid provided by the state government. In 2013-14, monthly grant-in-aid given by the government per inmate was `700. In 2014-15, the amount has been raised to `1,000. On an average, the state government shells out approximately `30 crore, going up to `50 crore a year as grants-in-aid for the orphanages. However, it is mandatory for those orphanages receiving donations from abroad to come clean, even if such a move were to result in the automatic suspension of grants-in-aid by the state government. Following an Express investigation, it has come to light that 99 per cent of the orphanages in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad and Malappuram have been concealing records regarding aid from foreign sources since 2010-11. The story in the other nine districts, though not yet made public, is expected to be no different. In other words, the scam involving fraudulent funds raised by orphanages in Kerala could figure in the `100 crore-150 crore bracket. Yet, the state government seems least bothered by all this and is more pre-occupied with scams such as those of the solar variety where the declared damage is well below `10 crore. All this is coming to pass when the government is struggling to provide aid to hapless endosulphan victims in Kasargod or to undernourished tribals in Attappadi. The alleged child trafficking busted in Kerala and the disclosures of fraudulent fund-raising are turning out to be a fit case for a central agency probe. The scam, in the name of giving succour to destitute children, is taking on alarming proportions. The government has a foolproof opportunity to crack down on erring orphanage managements, something that successive governments have been reluctant to do as they never wanted to hurt the minority vote bank—most orphanages being run by Muslim and Christian outfits. It is high time the state government stopped being bothered by sectarian considerations. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

25. Barbers turn away dalits in Bellary village (2)

HUBLI: The dalits of a Karnataka village have been boycotted by the local barbers allegedly under pressure from people of upper-castes. The dalits of Talur, a small village in Shiraguppa taluk of Bellary district, have been barred from entering barber salons. A scuffle broke out between dalits and barbers when the latter refused to cut their hair. All the five salons in the village are closed for five days. The social welfare department called a meeting on Sunday to resolve the issue, but the barber shops remained shut on Monday. Speaking to TOI, dalit leader Uchhappa Chalavadi, an employee of the state government’s revenue department, said: “We don’t know why people of our community are being denied a haircut. They had been visiting the salons for years. When we raised the issue with the village elders, they said we had to abide by the decision and get our hair cut elsewhere.” Anjaneya Tendaukkirappa, who runs a barber shop in Talur, told TOI: “Upper-caste people have forced us not to extend haircutting and shaving services to the dalits. We have been strictly told not to allow dalits to enter our shops. If we cut the dalits’ hair, upper-caste people will stop coming here. There are only 80-100 dalits here, but upper-caste people number more than 3,000. Our business will be affected if upper-caste people stop visiting our shops. Hence, we are not providing any service to dalits.” Four days ago, the barbers refused to cut dalit children’s hair, leading to arguments. Nagaraj Chalwadi, a dalit, told TOI: “Teachers don’t allow our children in class if their hair is not trimmed. Women are now cutting our children’s hair. We elders have to go to Bellary, Gullyam, Chanal Cross and Hudlagi villages for haircut and shave.” Tendaukkirappa said: “If we go against the diktat issued by upper-caste people, we may be thrown out of the village. We don’t know what to do. We have closed our shops for five days, and plan to stop this occupation and work as coolies.” Bellary district social welfare officer Rajappa N said: “We held a meeting with the barbers and the dalits. We asked the barbers to allow the dalits to enter their shops and get their hair cut. We told them there should not be any discrimination against the dalits once the shops reopen. We will also talk to upper-caste people. We will not coerce the barbers if they continue to keep their shops shut; it’s their decision. But the dalits should be served if they reopen the shops.”  (Times of India 10/6/14)

26. Dalit woman found ‘raped’, hanged in UP village (2)

Lcknow: A middle-aged woman was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich after allegedly being raped, a crime being reported a fortnight after two cousins in a different part of Uttar Pradesh met a similar fate. While police have not yet zeroed in on a motive, it has emerged that the woman, 45, took on a local liquor vend next to the grocery store she was running in her village Gauria Loniyarpurwa. The state administration has been battling allegations of incompetence since the Badaun rape-murders came to light and drew widespread condemnation from within the nation and outside. The UP government has transferred a slew of bureaucrats, including the chief secretary, in the wake of the criticism. Police officials said the body found in Ranipur village on Wednesday, around two hours from state capital Lucknow, bore injuries on her private parts that indicate possible rape before she was hanged. She had been missing since the previous evening when she was on her way back to her village. Her family had alerted the police on Tuesday, and a hunt was underway till the body was found in a guava orchard. District magistrate in-charge Uday Shankar Upadhyay and police superintendent Happy Guptan were at the spot for investigation. (Hindustan Times 11/6/14)

27. Rs 21,000 fine for interacting with dalits in a Punjab district: Report (2)

PATIALA: Already in news for allegedly organizing a boycott of dalits, upper caste community of Baupur village in Sangrur district had announced that penalty of Rs 21,000 would be imposed in case any member interacted with a dalit in the village, revealed a draft report of an independent fact finding team which visited the village last month. The upper caste villagers boycotted dalits last month, after members of the lower caste community demanded one-third of village common agriculture land on rent. Claiming that an announcement to boycott dalits was made from the village’s religious place on Mach 16, the report, quoting the announcement, reads, “Nobody shall take these people on work, ban their entry in fields, cut off any exchange of ghee, milk or lassi…anybody who shall keep contact with dalits will have to pay a fine of Rs 21,000″.The incident hogged the headlines after Rajesh Bagha, chairman of Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission, visited the village last week. Krishan Singh, who represents dalits of the village, claimed that the boycott was still continuing in some form or other. “On the other hand, district and police officials are claiming that there is no boycott,” he added. So much so that two dalit families reportedly migrated from the village on Tuesday due to unavailability of job. The report is prepared by the research scholar of Punjabi University, Patiala, members of Students for Society (SFS), Panjab University, Chandigarh, and a Chandigarh-based NGO “Lokayat”.The report said the village has 81 acres of agricultural common land, out of which 27 acres are reserved for dalits. “As it is a prevalent practice all over Punjab, the land reserved for dalits is never cultivated by them. The dominant landlords bid for the land on dalits’ names. So generally the Jats would bid for around Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per acre, which is obviously not affordable by the dalits who don’t have any means or resources”.This time the dalits refused. They decided to get the land by their collective efforts so that they could get the land for the collective farming, which ultimately led to their boycott,” reads the report. Krishan Singh said the bidding for village common land could not be materialized despite three attempts by the administration. (Times of India 12/6/14)

28. Govt to fix accountability for dalit funds (2)

NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to fix accountability for diversion of funds meant for the welfare of dalits, a move that could institutionalize the concept of Special Component Plan (SCP) after four decades of drift. The Union social justice ministry is planning to insert “penal provisions” in the implementation of the SCP that would make the “sanctioning authority” and the “implementation authority” in the states and the Centre liable for diversion of dalit funds. Though at an early stage, the plan is to recommend specific punishment for the violation. The move is likely to be achieved by rewriting the rules on SCP, with the Centre and states in their ambit. “We want to fix accountability in the implementation of SCP. We want the budget for SC welfare to be used as per norms,” Union social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot told TOI. “This would act as a deterrent for the indifferent officialdom.” The SCP, also known as dalit sub-plan, mandates that the Centre and states should set aside funds for welfare of SCs in proportion to their population. The dalit sub-plan has failed to take off in the four decades of its existence with most arms of the governments only doing lip-service. The biggest problem has been the diversion of funds for non-dalit welfare measures. A reason behind its failure have been the constant battles by some ministries that they cannot divide funds into dalit and non-dalit compartments, like roads and schools that are used by all irrespective of their caste. Consequently, repeated efforts by the Centre to activate the SCP came a cropper. However, many states have lately brought in laws to give a legislative backing to dalit sub-plan with Andhra Pradesh pioneering the initiative. In UPA-2, the social justice ministry made a belated push in this direction at the fag end of its tenure but the move could not fructify. As per the draft law, it was proposed that all states and Union ministries would submit ‘dalit budgets’ six months ahead of the fiscal and “nodal bodies” would approve the proposed expenditure on the “only for dalit” parameter. The draft law also proposed that the governments formulate “incentives for commendable performance and disincentives for proven negligence and lack of due diligence by an official”.However, it could not move past the draft stage with the PMO turning down the demand from social justice minister Kumari Selja to rush it through the cabinet in the last month before the 2014 elections. (Times of India 15/6/14)

29. Caste Hindus object to Dalit participation in temple festival (2)

MADURAI, A group of eight Caste Hindus from Sathamangalam village in Melur Taluk near here has preferred a writ appeal in the Madras High Court Bench here challenging an order passed by a single judge on June 6 permitting the Dalits in the village to participate in the annual festival of Sri Harihara Puthira Ayyanar Temple. The appellant group led by P. Ganesan Ambalam contended that people belonging to its community had been administering the temple since 1978 and the Dalits had no right to interfere in the temple affairs but for worshipping the deity. It also stated that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes were administering a separate temple in the village. Filing an affidavit on behalf of all the appellants, Mr. Ambalam said that a dispute arose between the two communities over administering the temple way back in 1986. Then, the appellants filed a civil suit before the Munsif Court in Melur to restrain the Dalits from interfering in the administration and obtained a favourable decree in 1986 since the opponents failed to contest the suit. After a long time, a Dalit villager began claiming right over the administration of the temple since this year and obtained an order from a single judge of the High Court without including the appellants as parties to the case, the group claimed. It also stated that it was not against the Dalits worshipping the deity without interfering in the administration of the temple. When the matter came up for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice V.M. Velumani on Friday, they told the appellants that no one could be prevented from participating in a temple festival on the basis of his/her caste. Later, the matter was adjourned to Monday as the lawyers were on court boycott on Friday. (The Hindu 16/6/14)

30. Dalit man dies of burns in U.P.(2)

Lucknow: A Dalit youth was allegedly set ablaze by three brothers for reportedly refusing to work for them in Atbei village of Chirgaon in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. Within 24 hours of the incident, the police claimed that the deceased was an alcoholic and had set himself on fire following a dispute with the three brothers. The State IG ( Law and Order) Amrendra Kumar Sengar told reporters on Monday that following an inquiry by the Circle Officer of Chirgaon and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, it was found that the charges mentioned in the FIR were false. The complaint lodged by the deceased Pawan’s father, Gayadin, in which Rajesh Yadav, Brijesh Yadav and Suresh Yadav, and their father were named as accused. Pawan succumbed to his burn injuries in Jhansi Medical College, while his younger brother, who tried to save him, is reportedly battling for his life with 60 per cent burns. (The Hindu 17/6/14)

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

31. Modi’s governance agenda: Health, hygiene to get special attention (3)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led coalition will revamp the critical healthcare sector, upgrade hygiene standards across the country and launch a mission to drive home the message. President Pranab Mukherjee stressed the need for an accessible, affordable and effective healthcare system. The government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. On the hygiene front, the focus will be on ensuring that every household has toilets and public spaces are not littered with garbage. The government announced ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. The government may end up spending about Rs 4 crore to make the country open defecation free and to ensure drinking water supply at home. The President said government will promote yoga and Ayush. India has a shortage of around 6.4 million allied health professionals. To address the shortfall, government will transform health education and training. Out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India, at over 70%, is one of the highest globally and is responsible for pushing hundreds of millions into poverty every year. The President added, “AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” UPA government in 2006 approved six AIIMS-like institutions – in Patna, Bhopal , Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Raipur and Rishikesh. These institutes will also provide undergraduate medical education for 100 students a year. In 2009, the government approved two more such institutes, taking the final number to eight. (Times of India 10/6/14)

32. Vardhan asks doctors to achieve the targets ahead of schedule (3)

New Delhi: Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan today asked the doctors to achieve the target set by the government to control and eradication various diseases ahead of their schedule. He said the Health Ministry would soon roll out initiatives to make a social movement out of the mission to achieve high standards in public health, wedded to the priorities of prevention, environmental safeguards and disease control. “If there are targets then let’s bring them forward. If in the past achieving eradication of measles before 2020 was deemed impossible, then my objective is to do it by 2018. I would like to halve the maternal mortality rate and this determination is there for all diseases,” the Minister said, adding “as doctors, let’s make it possible to achieve targets set by the government earlier than schedule.” He said being specialists in different branches of medicine each of the doctors are aware of the issues concerning their respective departments. “Please give me inputs and your intellectual acumen which I wish to use in my drive to achieve health for all.” Vardhan also suggested to his “colleagues” to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good in order to earn the respect, which earlier they had. “The respect that we gave to doctors in our childhood is no longer there in the popular perception. This is cause for introspection. I would urge you to make the new generation of doctors understand that a patient’s first interface with a hospital doctor should be good. This message must go down to the young resident doctors and all employees,” Vardhan stressed. Without referring to particular incidents of doctor- patient confrontation, Vardhan said he wanted expressions of short-temper to be controlled through proper training. “The difference between good and bad behaviour in the doctor-patient interface can often be only a hair’s breadth. So I would urge the seniors to instill in the young generation of doctors better behaviour standards,” he said while interacting with doctors at RML hospital after his review of hygiene conditions in the hospital. As part of the sanitation drive launched by his ministry, Vardhan today visited the hospital to review the hygiene conditions in there. He spent an hour reviewing the cleanliness drive at RML and visited the Emergency Ward to see its facilities. People also informed the Minister about the problem of water supply, issues with staffing and availability of medicine. (Zee News 12/6/14)

33. Malnutrition kills over 3mn toddlers a year: UN (3)

Rome: More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem. “Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added. Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said. There has only been a 17% reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished. The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November. They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. “Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement. “At the same time, another half billion are obese.” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.” Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

34. Blood banks in each dist in 2-3 years: Vardhan (3)

New Delhi: Expressing concern over the high rate of maternal mortality in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today said that the government will work to ensure that each district soon has a blood bank. “Almost 88 per cent of pregnant women in this country suffer from anaemia, which is a major contributor to the high maternal mortality rate in India. “Of these, 13.5 per cent women come under the grip of acute anaemia, often leading to death,” Vardhan said here at an event organised to mark World Blood Donor Day. He said that as many as 80,000 women die in the country due to want of safe blood during pregnancy. About 87 per cent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia of which 13.5 per cent suffer from acute anaemia, which can be life threatening. If there are more safe blood banks in the country, the number of women dying during pregnancy due to loss of blood can be significantly reduced, Vardhan said. “We will see that each district in the country has a safe blood bank in the coming one-two years. I will talk to the states and civil society organisations about this. The Centre will do all it can to see that this is implemented soon,” said the Health Minister. He also launched a National Plasma Policy on the occasion which is aimed at optimising the use of plasma recovered by blood banks which are tested safe for clinical use. The policy aims at making available high-quality proteins of immense clinical significance, derived from human plasma, which otherwise goes to waste. While attempting to bridge the gap between demand and supply of such life-saving plasma-derived proteins, it seeks to ensure adequate regulatory and legislative steps for monitoring of activities related to plasma-derived products. The policy, drafted by the Department of AIDS Control,is an addendum to the National Blood Policy, 2003. (Deccan Herald 14/6/14)

HIV/AIDS

35. Expired medicine for HIV victim at MGM (3)

An HIV positive patient admitted to MGM Medical College and Hospital in Jamshedpur discovered to her horror on Monday that she had been given a packet of ORS that had expired, prompting her husband to lodge a complaint with the authorities. While the superintendent in-charge of the hospital has promised to look into the matter, the patient’s family and members of support groups have expressed serious apprehension about the quality of treatment being provided at the government hospital. The 30-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with the condition three years ago, is from Baridih. She had been admitted to the hospital on June 6 after doctors told her she needed blood. During the course of her treatment, she was also being given rejuvenating drinks of oral rehydration salts. On Monday, as soon as she saw that the ORS packet had expired in May, she informed her husband, who is also HIV positive. Before leaving the hospital after completing treatment, she informed the duty nurse and D.P. Shukla, president of Jamshedpur district-level network for people living with HIV/AIDS, an organisation that works for the welfare of patients. Later, Shukla came to the hospital, collected the packet of ORS that had expired and complained to the principal of MGM Medical College, A.N. Mishra, who is holding dual charge as hospital superintendent. “I went over to the medicine store and asked the nurse on duty to provide me with a packet of ORS. She gave me one with expiry date of August, 2014. But when I showed her the expired packet, the nurse said that it must have been mistakenly handed over by a staffer,” Shukla told The Telegraph. Shukla claimed to have found over 250 packets of expired ORS at the medicine store. “ORS is given to patients especially during the summer. But if this energy drink has expired, then it may aggravate the patient’s condition,” Shukla said. Superintendent-in-charge Mishra confirmed having received a verbal complaint. “I have received a complaint about expired ORS being given to patients. It is a serious issue. I will have the matter probed and take strong action against those found guilty,” he added. The patient’s husband was understandably upset. “We do not know whether the medicines the hospital is providing HIV-positive patients are also dated or not. All I can say is that patients suffering from HIV/AIDS are getting step-motherly treatment,” he said. (The Telegraph 10/6/14)

36. Migrant Labourers Push State’s HIV Graph Up (3)

KOCHI: For the past many years the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has been efficiently tackling HIV. But putting a spoke in its wheel is a new factor-the increasing homosexuality among  migrant labourers in the state. Shockingly, owing to their indulgence in sex with commercial MSMs (men having sex with men), categorised as high-risk groups, HIV is literally banging on the door which has been almost closed by the KSACS. The risk mounts when the migrant labourers also go for female sex workers. Much to the dismay of the officials, each HIV case reported from Thrissur, Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam is owing to the increasing homosexuality among them. Dennis Joseph, Joint Director, Target Intervention, KSACS, said that it is the occasional indulgences to suppress their libido which slowly slip into homosexuality. “They cannot be blamed for that and the nature of their jobs restricts them from going home. Hence they are left with no alternative. But we need strict monitoring to prevent it from sowing further risks,” he said. A migrant labourer based in Kochi opined that 80 per cent of the migrant workers indulge in homosexual activities. “Everywhere it happens and Kerala is no different. Indulging in homosexual activities is not deliberate. It just happens. But we always take necessary precautions,” he said. But the truth is that safe sex practice is always compromised. The construction sites in the cities have literally become a haven for sexual encounters as most of the migrant labourers are employed in construction sites. Ratheesh V K, counsellor, Suraksha project, of the Rajagiri outreach which works to prevent HIV among migrant labourers, said that his subjects offer various reasons for increased interest in homosexuality. “Living a morose life in a crammed living space and unsatisfied heterosexual relationships are some of the reasons. But slowly they move outside their circle and go for MSMs and female sex workers,” he said. But what makes the situation more grave is that they do not hesitate to shed safe sex practices. MSMs who go with the migrant labourers admitted that, many a time, they have to forsake safe sex. “Sometimes the situation would not allow us to take the necessary precautions as most of the encounters happen at construction sites. Apart from it, many who approach us also go for female sex workers. We know that there is a high risk involved,” said Gokul, a commercial MSM based in Kothamangalam. They offer good money and most primarily they do not  torture or harass us, said Baby K M,  an MSM based in Thodupuzha. (New Indian Express 16/6/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. TMC land ‘catalyst’ for NTPC (4)

The Trinamul Congress today participated in an all-party meeting on land acquisition convened by NTPC for its proposed 1,320MW thermal power plant at Burdwan’s Katwa and promised to play the role of a “catalyst” in helping the central utility purchase plots directly. The timing of the move, which marked a sea change in the party’s stand on land for the project in a little over three years, hinted at latent political concerns after the Lok Sabha poll results showed significant Opposition gains in seven Assembly segments in and around the site. “Trinamul will happily play the role of a catalyst. Land must not stand in the way when people are willingly parting with it for industry,” said Trinamul’s Ketugram MLA Sheikh Shahnawaz after the meeting at the SDO’s office. The ruling party today went to the extent of requesting NTPC to double the capacity — 2,640MW instead of the sanctioned plan of 1,320MW and four units instead of two — for the benefit of the region. Even if twice the quantum of land is required, according to Shahnawaz, “willing participation of land-owners will simply not be an issue”. The utility possesses 556 acres acquired by the Left government and needs another 227 acres. Following Mamata’s “gift” of 97 acres before the general election, it has to buy 130 acres directly from around 1,100 land-owners. Trinamul sources said the decision to help accelerate the Rs 9,000-crore project was taken at the “highest level” of the government after the elections. While the CPM led in the Ketugram and Katwa Assembly segments, the BJP was ahead in Mangalkot, Raina, Memari and Purbasthali North and South. The Ketugram and Mangalkot segments are under the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat, while the rest are part of the Burdwan East parliamentary constituency. “The sluggish progress of the project is causing discontent,” a source said. Less than a fortnight after Trinamul came to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee had declared that the government would not acquire “even an inch” of land for the project. NTPC’s eastern regional chairman Mahendra Singh said the utility would start the process of buying land from tomorrow. “It’s great to see everyone coming together for the realisation of this dream project,” Singh said. After the meeting, 53 land-owners from Koshigram’s Sahapur gave a letter to Singh declaring their willingness to part with around 80 acres. (The Telegraph 11/6/14)

38. Draft rules on new land acquisition law soon: Min (4)

Bangalore: Karnataka Revenue department is hopeful of tabling the draft rules in the next Assembly session to implement the new land acquisition law after getting Cabinet approval tomorrow. “The Cabinet sub-committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss the framing of draft rules for implementing the state’s own Bill, modelled on the Centre’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” Karnataka Revenue Minister Sreenivasa Prasad told reporters here. “After framing the draft rules it will be placed before the Cabinet tomorrow for approval and tabled in the Assembly session scheduled this month,” Prasad added. Prasad held a meeting with officials to discuss the pros and cons of implementing the new land Act, which has replaced the 120-year-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, from January 1. Each state is allowed to frame rules to implement the Act.

Under the proposed Act, farmers selling their land will get attractive compensation and there will be transparency in land acquisition for public, public-private and private purposes, Prasad said. “Farmers holding land in rural areas will get a compensation four times more than the guidance value and two times more for holding land in urban areas,” Prasad said. The compensation under the new law will be paid with retrospective effect from January 2014, he added. (Zee News 12/6/14)

39. Narmada Dam height to be raised by 17 metres; lakhs will lose their homes, activists say (4)

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: The government has decided to raise the height of the Narmada Dam by 17 metres — a longstanding demand of Gujarat — within 20 days of Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister, raising protests from activist Medha Patkar who drew attention to the resultant displacement of thousands of people. On Thursday, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) approved the proposal to raise the dam’s height from 121.9 metres to 138.7 metres, making it the second highest dam in the world after Grand Coulee in the US. The approval came two days after the Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel met Modi and water resources minister Uma Bharti and reiterated the state’s demand. A higher dam will optimize hydro-power generation and water supply capacity of this project, and is expected to benefit not just Gujarat but also neighbouring Rajashthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat has been demanding this for the last eight years, and Modi would place this demand before the Centre on every official visit to Delhi as chief minister. (Times of India 13/6/14)

40. Government to review Special Economic Zones, Free Trade Agreements policies (4)

Chennai: The status of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has come under critical review of the Union commerce and industry ministry and a policy decision on their viability, especially economic benefits, will be made soon. Union commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had ordered her ministry officials to undertake a thorough review also said a consultation with the stakeholders to address concerns of the industry with regard to the Companies Act had been planned. “There has been mixed reaction to the FTAs, particularly its benefits. I instructed the ministry officials to do a complete analysis and the ministry will soon come out with a status report in a fortnight,” she said. “I have also instructed officials to do a complete review of SEZs and why they have not worked. We are going to review and rework SEZs,” she added. Ms Sitharaman said that the review of FTAs and SEZ policies was meant to boost investments and improve employment opportunities. PM Narendra Modi was meeting officials in Delhi to address the problems related to SEZs on Saturday, she added. Nirmala Sitharaman is in the city to meet various industry associations like Confederation of Indian Industries and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to understand how to attract more investments to Tamil Nadu and create employment opportunities, said a meeting with all stakeholders would be held next week in Delhi to explore the changes that require to be effected in the new Companies Act to bring back investor confidence. The new Companies Act, 2013, replaced the old Companies Act, 1956 and had “posed a lot of problems” to companies, chartered accountants and industries. On the FDI in multi-brand retail, she said it was unwelcome. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

41. Dalit minor set on fire in Gujarat after dispute (2)

Ahmedabad: A spat with neighbours over disposal of dirty water resulted in a minor Dalit girl from Gujarat being set ablaze on Sunday. Chandrika Parmar (15) suffered 70 per cent burns when her neighbours, also Dalits, launched a sudden attack on her and her family. She is battling for her life at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. The incident took place in Syla village in Surendranagar district. Chandrika had complained to her neighbour, Suneeta Vaghela, about throwing dirty water outside her house, leading to an argument. Ms. Vaghela’s father Motibhai Sumera then slapped Chandrika’s younger brother Milan and threatened the family. When Chandrika’s mother Manjuben Parmar lodged a police complaint, the neighbours were infuriated. “That afternoon, Mr. Sumera, along with his immediate and extended family members, barged into the Parmar home and started beating everyone,” Chandrika’s cousin Mahendra Parmar told The Hindu. “They were carrying sticks, red chilli powder and kerosene. There were nearly 10 of them. They were trying to douse Chandrika’s younger brother with kerosene when she rushed to his rescue. The assailants then turned on her. While three women held her down, the men poured kerosene and set her on fire,” the cousin said. Chandrika suffered severe burns. “She is still in a critical condition,” M.M. Prabhakar, medical superintendent of the Civil Hospital, told The Hindu. “Had the police acted on Manjuben’s complaint, the matter would not have escalated to this extent,” said Anand Parmar, Chandrika’s elder brother. “Instead, the local police used abusive words. They threatened to put me behind bars. When we went to the police station, we were made to wait for hours.” The police have registered a case of attempt to murder, house-trespass and criminal intimidation against Mr. Sumera, a civil engineer; Sangeeta Vaghela, a school headmistress, and six other members of the Sumera family, based on Chandrika’s statement. “Such a violent reaction to such a trivial issue is quite unexpected. There is no history of animosity or violence between the neighbours, except for occasional arguments over petty issues,” P.N. Momaya, Deputy Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu. She denied the family’s allegations that the police was lax in acting on the family’s complaint. “We took prompt action,” she said. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

CORRUPTION

42. Goa illegal mining scam: Enforcement Directorate registers ECIR (5)

Panaji: The Directorate of Enforcement, Goa registered an Enforcement Case Investigation Report (ECIR) on Monday under Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 in respect of the illegal mining case in Goa and commenced investigation in the illegal mining scam under the provisions of PML Act, 2002. A senior official of the Directorate of Enforcement in Panaji told The Hindu on Tuesday that the case has been registered against official of the State Mining Department including ex-Director, a draftsman and others in respect of the scheduled offences of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in Rs. 35,000-crore illegal mining case against government officials, mining companies and entities identified and mentioned in the report of Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, Justice M.B.Shah Commission report and report of the Public Accounts Committee of Goa. The CEC appointed by the Supreme Court in its report had observed that in there was no system of periodic verification of the iron ore produced in the mining leases, payment of royalty after verification, issue of transit permits by the forest department, issue of permits by the State Mining department for transportation, etc., in Goa and hence illegal mining took place outside the mining leased area and the same was conveniently shown to have been done legally in the leased area. A number of environmental clearances for the status of the land was mentioned as non-forest whereas the leased area comprised partly/wholly of forest land. All the above facts are of serious nature having financial implications and loss to the exchequer in crores of rupees. The manufacture and fabrication of documents and using such documents for fraudulent purpose by active support of the government officials has caused a huge loss to the state exchequer, the complaint had noted. Mr. Pravin Pawar, Joint Director, Enforcement said on Tuesday that the documents and other related records are being collected from various agencies and its examination is under way. Summons will be issued shortly to various government officials, mining company directors and to those involved in the process of illegal mining activities, he said. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

43. ‘Make Anti-corruption a Curriculum Subject’ (5)

COIMBATORE: The University Grants Commission has asked universities to include anti-corruption as a subject in the academic curriculum, which was welcomed by anti-corruption movements. “The government of India is actively participating in the activities of International Anti-Corruption Academy to strengthen participation and to combat corruption in every form. The Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has considered the inclusion of the subject ‘anti-corruption’ in the curriculum, and research work in this field in the higher educational institutes,” UGC said in a recent circular to Vice-Chancellors of all universities in the country. The UGC has requested the universities to consider inclusion of anti-corruption in the curriculum of relevant subjects like law, public administration, human rights and convey relevant instructions to all the stakeholders concerned for recognition of this curriculum. Welcoming this, Coimbatore unit secretary of the anti-corruption movement NK Velu said including anti-corruption as a subject in curriculum is a very good proposal. “Corruption has become part and parcel of the Indian’s life. This needs to be changed on a war footing,” he said. (New Indian Express 13/6/14)

44. LTC Scam: CBI books Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery (5)

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked three sitting and three former Rajya Sabha MPs for cheating and forgery in Leave Ticket Concession (LTC) scam – they availed full fare reimbursements using fake tickets. The central probe agency filed FIRs, Friday, against sitting MPs D Bandopadhyay (TMC), Brijesh Pathak (BSP) and Lalhming Liana (MPF) and former MPs JPN Singh (BJP), Renu Bala (BJD) and Mehmood Arshad Madani (RLD). This is the first case registered by the CBI in the scam. Searches are being conducted at 10 locations, which include the houses, office premises of the MPs and also at the offices of travel agencies in Delhi and Odisha. The agency has registered a case of cheating and forgery among other charges under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The MPs are alleged to have purchased return air e-tickets in connivance with tour operators. They allegedly used online service to get boarding passes using web check-in facility and just before boarding time, these boarding passes and tickets were allegedly cancelled to pocket the refund money. Later the e-tickets and boarding passes, which were earlier issued, were allegedly submitted to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to claim the travel expenses by the MP. The incident came to light after the vigilance department of Air India (AI) was alerted about the arrest of a man in March at the Kolkata airport with 600 blank boarding passes of the airline in his possession. (Zee News 13/6/14)

45. Irrigation scam: ATR blames officials (5)

MUMBAI: Even as it tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly the report of the Chitale Committee, which probed the multicrore irrigation scam, the Congress-NCP government gave a clean chit to politicians in its Action Taken Report (ATR). The ATR made no mention of politicians, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who was Irrigation Minister between 1999 and 2009. He belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party. The probe was initiated in 2012 after allegations of major irregularities in irrigation projects. The outcry led to Mr. Pawar’s resignation as Deputy Chief Minister. However, he was reappointed three months later. The Chitale report itself lays the bulk of the blame on officers rather than politicians. It points out that investigating several irregularities were outside its terms of reference. The report has only one line which points to the role of Mr. Pawar, though it does not name him. It says that in some cases of cost escalation, a revised approval for more funds was given in violation of rules. “It was sanctioned despite being brought to the notice of the Governing Council. In such cases the responsibility lies with the members and the president of the Governing Council,” the report says. As Irrigation Minister during the period, Mr. Pawar headed the Governing Council. While the report has asked the government to decide on the possible action, the ATR claims that the Governing Council had the power to sanction extra money till August 2009. The Opposition called the ATR eyewash to protect politicians. “We hope the government initiates criminal proceedings against those criticised in the report. Otherwise, we will consider going to court,” said State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis. The report has pointed out major irregularities by project officers while granting Administrative Approvals (AA) for projects. In several cases, the AA was granted without finalising the design of the project, it says. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

TRIBALS

46. House disrupted over Polavaram (6)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha witnessed its first disruption — albeit a short one — by members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on its fourth day on Monday when Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Santosh Gangwar tabled the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, promulgated on May 29. The ordinance relates to the transfer of seven mandals of the Bhadrachalam revenue division, encompassing 205 villages and tribal hamlets, to Andhra Pradesh for execution of the Polavaram project. Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are opposed to the transfer as they feel that it would displace tribal people and adversely impact their power projects. While BJD member B. Mahtab sought to raise a point of order, the TRS members briefly trooped into the well shouting slogans. Some of them held placards, drawing the disapproval of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The Speaker tried to pacify them with the assurance that they would be allowed to have their say when the Bill replacing the ordinance comes up for discussion. However, the TRS members persisted with their protest. As not much business was scheduled for the day, proceedings were adjourned after the papers listed for the day were tabled followed by the announcement of the 10 members nominated by the Speaker to the panel of chairpersons. On Sunday, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao had said the P.M. had assured him that the Centre would not act in haste on the transfer of villages. The Polavaram Ordinance was one of the first actions of the Narendra Modi government as it wanted the issue to be addressed before the Telangana came into existence on June 2. The government had to take the ordinance route as the proposed transfer was not part of the AP Reorganisation Bill approved by Parliament. Mr. Rao had said he wanted the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the four Chief Ministers in a bid to hammer out a consensus. (The Hindu 10/6/14)

47. Tribal kids give up studies fearing tusker attacks while trekking to school (6)

RAIPUR: Education in Chhattisgarh has hit an elephantine wall, particularly for children residing in villages hemmed in by forests. Rampaging tuskers in forests on the periphery of these villages have left scores of students stranded. At least 100 students of Raigarh district have quit studies after class 10 as they dread crossing forests to study in higher secondary schools, fearing attacks from elephants. For tribal students of Puringa village, walking 10 km to a school at Hati village is fraught with danger as man-elephant conflict peaks in the worst-hit districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Jashpur and Korba. Talking to TOI, vice-president of Janpad panchayat in Dharamjaigarh, Sanjay Gupta, said there are at least 100 tuskers in forests spanning 8km. “Due to rise in pachyderm population in last few years, students quit studies after class 10 over last five years. They prefer farming or other jobs than braving rampaging tuskers to study in school,” he said. The situation is same at Purunga, Kakedar, Tendumuda, Samarsingha, Gerwani and Gida villages. Students were traumatised after elephants trampled three schoolchildren. Block education officer V K Singh said along with elephants there are other factors that deter students. “It’s a tough task to walk to the school at Hati, particularly for girls. We have sent a proposal to tribal and education department to upgrade the existing school to higher secondary level, then students won’t have to trek long distances,” he said. Some students have displayed courage and continue with their studies. “Most of them have bi-cycles and manage to cover the distance,” said Singh. In Raigarh’s Dharamjaigarh area alone, 26 elephants and 64 people have died over 10 years in the continuing conflict between elephants and humans. While state government continues to pay unsatisfactory compensation to victims, it has also failed to resolve the issue. Raipur: Furious tribals in Jashpur district recently threatened to take up arms against elephants. They warned that if administration can’t resolve the issue, they will kill the elephants. While villagers have shown restraint due to religious sentiments, tusker deaths have risen with three deaths in Korba, three in Dharamjaigarh and two in Jashpur this year. To save paddy fields, villagers fence their farms with electrical cables which electrocute elephants. Though forest department claims elephants aren’t being killed by poachers, locals at Korba say ivory smugglers are active in the region. Locals have been demanding an elephant corridor in their region to maintain peace. However, the proposed corridor at Korba and Jashpur was put on the back burner after mining industries sought to acquire forest lands. (Times of India 11/6/14)

48. Include Khasi and Garo in the 8th Schedule: Meghalaya opposition dema (6)

Shillong, Jun 12 : Opposition legislators in the Meghalaya Assembly today stressed on the need for the state government to pressurize the centre to include Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the constitution. ‘We urged the government to pressurise the centre for the inclusion of the Khasi and Garo languages in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution not only to get a national recognition but also protect the identity of the two tribes,’ UDP legislator Titostarswell Chyne said moving a resolution in the assembly.He said, the Khasi language has been recognized as one of major tribal languages by the Calcutta University since 1900 up to the entrance examinations, degree level in 1919 and NEHU recognized the language in its master degree, M phil and also doctorate level. ‘The inclusion of the language will also benefit the students’ community particularly those who aspire to appear for Indian civil services exams besides opening job opportunities,’ Mr Chyne said. Supporting the resolution, National People’s Party (NPP) legislator James K Sangma said, ‘It is important to have Khasi and Garo language included in the Eight Schedule because this is the aspiration of the people of the state.’Stating that the demand reflects that people of Meghalaya wants to have a sense of belonging in the Indian mainstream, Sangma said, ‘However, the state government has failed to recognize this aspiration of the people by not taking necessary initiative with the Centre.’According to Sangma, out of the 22 languages listed in the eighth schedule, three languages are from North East which includes – Assamese, Manipuri and Bodo. Participating in the debate, opposition leader and UDP president Donkupar Roy suggested that the state government should take initiative in building up a strong case to convince the centre on the need to include the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule. In his reply, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma informed that as a result of the persistence of the state government on inclusion of the Khasi and Garo language in the Eight Schedule, the Ministry of Home Affairs has recently sought details of the Khasi language for evolving a set of uniform criteria which may pave the way for deciding inclusion of the language or otherwise in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India. (New Kerala 13/6/14)

49. Proposal for C’garh Tribal University at Centre’s Doorstep (6)

NEW DELHI: The decision on the proposal of the Chhattisgarh Government to set up a Tribal university at Bastar is now at the Centre’s doors. At an interactive session with the state representatives during the conference of secretaries of higher and technical education on Tuesday, Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani discussed the infrastructure requirements for the new Central universities, IITs and other institutions. Chhattisgarh Government had proposed a Central university at the naxalite-affected Bastar to promote higher education among tribal people. When the issue came up for discussion in the conference of state secretaries, Higher Education Secretary to Chhattisgarh B L Agrawal said the state government had identified 100 acres of land in Bastar for the proposed Tribal university. He also requested the Centre to waive the requirement of 300 acres land as the additional land for the university needed the clearance of Forest Department. He said the Chhattisgarh Government wanted to set up the university in the conflict zone as part of measures to provide higher education opportunities for tribal youths, who are potential cadres for the Maoists. “Now the Centre assured us to consider our request positively on land requirement for the university. We have a hope now,” Agrawal told Express. Smriti said that a new Central University for Himalayan Technology will soon be set up in Uttarakhand with international faculty.  The minister also sought the help of states to create an enabling environment for the education of children in backward areas, minorities, women, weaker sections and tribal zones. Special steps are being taken by the Ministry to meet the needs of higher education of students from the North-East in the form of collaborative efforts with premier institutes of the country, she said. Highlighting the need for a Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan to make science interesting for children, system of finding patents and to make parents and communities a part of the innovation realm, Smriti asked the states to revisit the Right to Education Act in the light of their experiences. “The fragmentation between the primary, secondary and higher education should be removed and skill development should start at the school level. Technology will be leveraged for empowering the students and teachers,” she said. (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

50. Minorities will be Made Equal Partners in Development: Govt (7)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-government today vowed to make all minority communities equal partners in the country’s progress as it regretted that the benefits of schemes do not reach them, leaving them in poverty even after decades of Independence. The government specifically promised to strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among them and initiate National Madrassa Modernisation Programme.  Addressing the first joint sitting of Parliament after the recent Lok Sabha polls, President Pranab Mukherjee said it is unfortunate that even after several decades of Independence, sections of minority communities continue to suffer from poverty, as benefits of government schemes do not reach them. “My government is committed to making all minorities equal partners in India’s progress,” he said. Mukherjee said keeping in mind welfare of people belonging to the SCs, STs, OBCs and the weaker sections of the society, the government will take steps to create an enabling “eco-system of equal opportunity” in education, health and livelihood.”My government is committed to see that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes are able to avail emerging opportunities.”For the Scheduled Tribes, my government will launch a dedicated ‘Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana’. Electrification of tribal hamlets and connecting them with all-weather roads will be a priority area,” he said. The President said the welfare and rehabilitation of specially-abled people is integral to the NDA government’s vision of a caring society. “It will take steps to provide dignity of life to them by facilitating their participation in all walks of life. Steps will be taken to identify their special needs and to provide institutional care to them,” he said. (New Indian Express 10/6/14)

51. Mah Assembly presses for regulation of minority-run institutes (7)

Mumbai: Members in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly today sounded the need for government regulation of educational institutions run by linguistic minorities. The intervention on this issue was made by Speaker Dilip Walse Patil during a discussion on educational opportunities for minorities in the lower house through a calling attention notice. Walse Patil said apart from religious minorities, there are linguistic minorities, most of whom are well to do and own educational institutions who do not grant admissions to weaker and backward class students. The view was supported by Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse who demanded that government take steps to ensure that the erring educational institutions do not go scot-free. Industries Minister Narayan Rane assured the House that the issue would be discussed in the cabinet and an appropriate decision would be taken soon. Earlier in the debate, Congress legislator Amin Patel who initiated the calling attention notice, demanded 10 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs and education to which Minister of State for Minority Affairs Fauzia Khan said reservation for minorities in both the areas would be taken soon. Patel also demanded improvement in quality of education as well as upgradation of facilities in minority-run institutions. The proposal is being studied she said adding minorities included not just Muslims but Sikhs, Jains,Buddhists and Parsis too. (Business Standard 11/6/14)

52. Muslims, Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation: Subramanian Swamy (7)

New Delhi: Reacting to Congress MP Hussain Dalwai’s demand for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said Muslims and Christians shouldn’t ask for reservation, as they have ruled our country in the past. “Muslim rulers have ruled India for hundreds of years and have also destroyed it, and I find it surprising that now Muslims demand reservation claiming that they have been oppressed. When the Indian Constitution was being made, it was decided that the communities which had been oppressed and tortured will be given reservation, which is why SC/ST have reservation in our country,” said Swamy. He further said “Later, under VP Singh’s governance, whoever was poor or backward was given a reservation. Now, Yadavs, Jats and others have ruled the country, but I feel they shouldn’t be given reservation too. We have poor Brahmins in our country as well, and 50% of them are below poverty line, but they will never ask for reservations.” Swamy added, “I feel that only those who have been oppressed by the society and have been forced to live a backward life should given reservations. If Muslims want to study, then should be given scholarships, good schools, But Muslims and Christians can’t have reservation as they have ruled our country.” Dalwai had earlier made a strong pitch for reservation for Muslims in Mumbai at the time when the Maharashtra government is set to announce its decision on the Rane Committee’s recommendation for 20% quota for Marathas. (Business Standard 16/6/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

53. BJP hosts first rally of Muslims in Bengal (7)

KOLKATA: Days after a Muslim youth was killed in Pune by members of a radical right-wing outfit, Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), the West Bengal unit of the BJP took out a rally featuring hundreds of Muslims here on Tuesday. It is one of the rare occasions when a few hundred members of Muslim community raised their voices against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The rally is indicative of the BJP’s growing interest in Bengal’s Muslim vote bank as the party has realised it is virtually impossible to win any election in the State that has 25 to 26 per cent minority population without wooing the Muslims. So the BJP’s State committee and the Central leadership have stepped up their activities to win over the minorities, right after the Lok Sabha elections. Last week, the party had dispatched State-level teams to probe the killing of Sheikh Rahim, a daily wage-earner in Birbhum district, while announcing its plan to get the members of the minority cell to investigate the death of Mr. Rahim. On Tuesday, the party launched a rally through the heart of central Kolkata to protest the killing of Mr. Rahim. Minority Morcha President of the BJP, Shakil Ansari, told The Hindu that such ‘protest-demonstrations were already yielding results’. “Muslims are now joining the BJP because they have seen through the TMC and the CPI (M)’s falsehood that if BJP came to power Muslims would be slaughtered. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking a lot of steps for minority development,” said Mr. Ansari. He accused the TMC of trying to keep the ‘Muslims confined within the boundaries of Madrasa education, doing Namaz’. “Madrasa education will not help Muslim youth become doctors and engineers. They need modern education to achieve progress.” Taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to provide monthly honorarium to Muslim clerics, Mr. Ansari said that by Madrasa education, Muslim youths would only become imams. When asked by journalists earlier in the day as to why any BJP leaders are not condemning the murder of a Muslim youth in Pune, BJP State president Rahul Sinha avoided giving a direct answer. He said, “I am not authorised to make comments on what happened in Pune as the State president of the BJP. Only Central leaders, who are authorised to talk on national matters, can speak on this.” Mr. Sinha, however, slammed the TMC for the murder of Mr. Rahim and said, “They (TMC leaders) always raise such a hue and cry about minority development, but their first victim after the general elections is a member of the minority community.” (The Hindu 11/6/14)

54. Suggestions to codify Muslim Personal laws (7)

MUMBAI: After months of brainstorming sessions and consultations, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a women’s advocacy group, has drafted a set of recommendations , which if accepted by the government, can “revolutionize” the to codify Muslim Personal laws. These laws mainly concern on marriage, divorce, maintenance and children’s custody. The draft, they said, will help end “arbitrariness and alleged patriarchal practices”. To be released on Wednesday, the draft is expected to annoy the orthodox elements in the community and may not find favour with the powerful All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). “This may be called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and only the Centre can enforce it through notification in the official gazette. It will debar unilateral triple talaq, discourage polygamy and establish women as natural guardian of kids. Marriage, maintenance and divorce will take place on principles laid do8wn by the Quran,” said Noorjahan Safia Niaz, BMMA founder. Senior advocate and head of legal cell of AIMPLB Yusuf Muchchalla said the draft is ill-timed. “Security, arrest of youth on false terror charges, unemployment and lack of education are the issues that Muslims must focus on. Codification will create more problems as there are several schools of thought in Islam and one kind of family law can’t be applicable to all.” (Times of India 17/6/14)

55. Parties decry attack on Lanka Muslims (7)

Chennai: Political parties in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday condemned the attack on Muslims in Sri Lanka by hard-line Buddhists, in which three persons were killed. Several Muslim outfits, including the Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamat, organised protests in Chennai. Hundreds of workers were arrested. Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said the attacks on Muslims showed that the Sri Lankan government was against the interests of the minorities. (The Hindu 18/6/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

56. Nagaland MP urges Christian MPs to work with dedication (7)

Kohima Jun 10: The Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland Neiphiu Rio today urged upon the Christian members of parliament to serve the nation with sincerity and dedication in the greater interest of the people, especially the minorities and the marginalised. In a release, Mr Rio said while addressing the thanks giving service for Christian parliamentarians at the Cathedral Church of the Redemption in New Delhi. The service is part of the Parliamentarians Fellowship hosted by the National Prayer Tower and Cathedral Church of the Redemption. Others who participated in the service included former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, Lok Sabha MP Vincent Pala, Oscar Fernandes, Mizoram MP C L Ruala former MP Thomas Sangma and Manipur MP Thangso Baite amongst others. The service was led by Archbishop Emiritus Vincent Concessao and church leaders who participated included Rev. Dr Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa, Bishop, Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Diocese of Delhi, Rev. Subodh C Mondal, Bishop of Methodist Church, Delhi, Rev. Sunil Singh, Bishop of CNI, Delhi Diocese, Dr. M. Ezra Sargunam, Bishop, Evangelical Church of India, Rev. Dr. Paul Swarup, Presbyter in charge, Archbishop Anil J T Couto Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Delhi and Bro. Ashirvatham, Director of the National Prayer Tower. The thanksgiving service is held at the beginning of very new Lok Sabha, the release said. (New Kerala 11/6/14)

57. India will spare no effort to secure release of Catholic priest abducted in Afghanistan: Modi (7)

CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday assured Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa that the Centre would spare no effort to get Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar released from the custody of suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan. “I will continue to monitor the situation very closely,” he said in a letter to Jayalalithaa. Modi expressed his deep concern over the abduction of Kumar in Herat province of Afghanistan. “I have been assured that the Government of Afghanistan and the authorities in Herat are taking every possible step to ensure the early release of Father Prem Kumar. Our ambassador in Kabul has been in regular touch with the President’s Office and the security agencies,” Modi said. The Prime Minister said national security advisor Ajit Doval had also spoken to the Afghan national security advisor, who assured full and sustained efforts by the Afghan government to seek Kumar’s release. “This is an extremely delicate situation and our primary concern at this stage is to ensure the integrity of the ongoing efforts for Kumar’s release and to ensure that he does not come to harm,” Modi said. (Times of India 12/6/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

58. 2 mosques burnt in riot-hit Mewat village, curfew on (7)

Tauru: At least two mosques, one barely 100 metres away from a police station, were gutted during clashes between Hindus and Muslims following a road accident in Tauru, 35 km from Gurgaon, in Mewat Sunday. At least 15 people, including a DSP, were injured in the clashes. Curfew has been clamped in the area where paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed in strength. Flag marches were staged Monday as shops downed shutters and streets wore a deserted look. The clashes broke out after 20-year-old Danveer, returning home on a motorcycle, was knocked down by a dumper around 7.30 am Sunday. Angry residents gathered and assaulted the dumper driver Raees, 35, and helper Mubarak, 18. But word spread that the mob had killed the duo. Muslims from adjoining villages landed in Tauru, allegedly carrying weapons. Eyewitnesses claimed that some in the large crowd opened fire and looted shops near the bus stand. Kiran Devi, whose 12-year old son was hit by a bullet, said, “Rohit had gone out to buy groceries when he was hit by a bullet in the abdomen. He is undergoing treatment at Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon.” Three others, also seriously injured, are admitted in the same hospital. Pointing towards the broken windows of the SBI branch, customer executive Vishal Sharma said many in the mob were carrying lathis. “They broke in and took away everything that they could. The Allahabad Bank branch next to ours was also targeted.” Anil Taneja, whose mobile shop was allegedly looted, said, “When we saw the mob approaching, we fled. I lost goods worth Rs 3.5 lakh. They smashed all counters and windows.” It is alleged that the mob stoned a Shiva temple on Bawla road. Minutes later, two mosques — Jama Masjid hardly 100 metres from the police station, and Qureshiya mosque a little further — were set ablaze. Mohammad Abdullah, Imam of Jama Masjid,said, “I saw groups of men gather in the locality and thought it safe to leave the place. So, I locked the mosque and went home. At night, a police team informed me that the mosque had been burnt and escorted me there.” But Raj Kumar Mittal, local councillor and president of Tauru Traders Union, denied that Hindus were behind the destruction of the mosques and a shop. “The shop was burnt due to a short circuit but the owner blamed it on us. In the case of Jama Masjid, a youth smoking near the mosque threw a cigarette on a straw mat, which caught fire and burnt the mosque,” Mittal claimed. Blaming politicians for “inciting the Muslims”, he demanded a CBI probe into the riots. …(Indian Express 10/6/14)

59. Riot-displaced given 3-day ultimatum to leave camps (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Displaced villagers who have been living in camps on government land in neighbouring Shamli district since the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in September last year have been asked to vacate them within three days by authorities. Subdivisional Magistrate Suresh Kumar Mishra on Saturday said that a team of government officials visited the camps on Friday and “appealed” to the riot-displaced people to return to their native villages within three days. “They would not be allowed to stay on government land. They have been asked to vacate the camps,” he told reporters. These camps are located in Malakpura, Narpur Khurgan, Akbarpur and Sunethi villages in Shamli district. More than 250 families, who fled their homes after the communal riots that claimed over 60 lives, are believed to be staying in camps in these places in Shamli district, 100 km from the national capital. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

60. BKU leaders booked for inciting communal passions (7)

MEERUT: Prohibitory orders have been issued in Shamli district after local people burnt effigies of Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders who allegedly made inflammatory speeches with the potential to set off communal tension at a mahapanchayat on June 13. Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining areas have been communally charged in the wake of remarks allegedly made by BKU president Naresh Tikait and district youth wing chief Puran Singh, who spoke at the Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat in Dulhera village of Muzaffarnagar district. SSP Muzaffarnagar HN Singh said, “Security has been tightened in the entire region. No one will be allowed to disturb communal harmony.” In the mahapanchayat, which was attended by khap chaudharys of dozens of villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, speakers demanded that the state’s Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act, 1986 be invoked against those involved in the riots of August-September last year in Muzaffarnagar. They also demanded that fast track courts be set up to punish the culprits. Some speakers said the circle officer of Shahpur should be terminated from service. During his speech, Tikait said all people in India must live like Indians. Referring to the incident that reportedly sparked the riots last year, the murder of a Muslim youth allegedly for teasing a Hindu a girl in Kawal village of Muzaffarnagar district, Tikait said that was “only a trailer”. He alleged that the state government had been sheltering a particular section of society. “If we come to our own, we will force ‘them’ to leave India”, he had said. Speaking of the cases slapped against him, Tikait said, “It seems it has become a sin to protect our women. I had commented on the perpetrators of crime and the state government has slapped these false cases against us.” The panchayat of June 13 was held to denounce an incident of gang rape of a woman who was returning to Dulhera from Shahpur village on June 3. The woman was abducted and brutally raped in a graveyard by 11 people. Eight of the accused have so far been arrested. Members of the minority community have reacted with outrage to the comments allegedly made by the BKU leaders. Effigies of Tikait were burnt at various places in Shahpur, Shamli, and Budhana. Considering the sensitivity of the situation, the city administration booked the two BHU leaders on June 16 for inciting communal tension through inflammatory speeches. Kaushal Raj Sharma, district magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, said, “After a thorough investigation, a case was registered against Naresh Tikait and Puran Singh for making inflammatory remarks and violating prohibitory orders.” A case has been booked under Sections 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by public servant) and 153a (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the Shamli administration has issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 (preventing assembly of more than five people) of the Criminal Procedure Code in the backdrop of protests by Muslims. (Times of India 18/6/14)

WOMEN

61. Modi signals women’s quota in Parliament, zero tolerance for riots (8)

NEW DELHI: Pushed to the backburner for the last four years, the women’s reservation bill appears closest now to being passed with the Narendra Modi government expressing its commitment for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. Spelling out the Modi government’s agenda in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday, “My government recognizes the important role our women play in the development of our society and growth of the nation. It is committed to providing 33% reservation to them in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.” While similar resolves for women’s quota in legislatures were expressed in the past as well, the fresh pledge sounds credible both because of BJP’s absolute majority in Lok Sabha as well as the near-rout of SP, BSP, JD(U) and RJD who vetoed the implementation. Stressing that women’s welfare will be one of the thrust areas for the new government, Mukherjee announced the launch of a country wide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ (save girl child, teach girl child) campaign to save the girl child and enable her education and prevent crimes against women by strengthening the criminal justice system. He also put the challenge of communal violence on the same footing as terrorism, extremism and crime, stressing that the government would follow a “zero tolerance” approach towards all. “A national plan will be chalked out in consultation with the state governments to effectively curb incidents of communal violence and the challenges posed by left wing extremism,” said the President. (Times of India 10/6/14)

62. Sushma Swaraj seeks support for women’s reservation bill (8)

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday said the 16th Lok Sabha should be the one which passes the much-delayed women’s reservation bill. “A lot of parties have spoken about women’s empowerment, but we have done our bit by making a woman the chief minister of Gujarat. We also have 25% women in our Cabinet and even the speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman,” External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said during a debate in the lower house on the motion of thanks on the President’s address. Urging all members of the house to support the bill when it is introduced in Parliament, Swaraj named leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and said: “I request you to support the women’s reservation bill when we introduce it just as we did when you introduced.” The government on Monday announced a policy of “zero tolerance” for violence against women, and said it was committed to providing 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislatures. The bill, which reserves 33% of seats in parliament and the state legislatures for women, lapsed for the fourth time with the 15th Lok Sabha holding its last sitting ahead of the April-May general elections. Swaraj said the Congress lost badly in the Lok Sabha election due to non-performance, while the BJP succeeded as its “product” was good and became a hit with the people. “Let us be clear that the product should be good. If it is not, then marketing will make no impact. Our product was liked by the people because of its quality,” she said. “You also did your marketing. But there was anger against your government… People accepted Narendra Modi as an alternative and the candidates (of the ruling alliance) became secondary. People cutting across caste and creed voted for Modi,” she said. “People had thought that the era of single party majority has ended. But this time, it is unique as the BJP has got 282 and the NDA 336… When we talked of getting 272-plus (seats) on our own, people laughed,” she said. (Times of India 11/6/14)

63. Ten incidents of sexual assault, UP accounts for 4 (8)

New Delhi: More cases of crime against women were reported in several parts of the country with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting for four of the 10 incidents of sexual assault which included the alleged gang-rape of a 25-year-old girl in Delhi. Cases of sexual assault were reported from Meerut, Sitapur, Varanasi and Jalaun in UP. Three persons were arrested for allegedly throwing acid on a teenage girl in Rampur area of Jalaun, police said on Thursday. Rape cases were also reported from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. In south Delhi, the 25-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men in a moving car following which police arrested them. The woman had approached police last night after which an FIR was registered, a senior police official said. In Moradabad in UP, a 19-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree but a senior police officer claimed that prima facie it appeared to be a case of suicide. A young Dalit woman was abducted and raped by a youth in Meerut following which he was arrested while a 21-year-old girl was raped by her paramour in Sitapur, police said. A mentally retarded woman was allegedly abducted and gang-raped by two persons in Manduadih area in Varanasi late last night, Manduadih police station in-charge Moin Ahmed said. A senior police officer said a six-year-old girl was allegedly molested by a 15-year-old boy who was her neighbour in Kadaura area of Jalaun on June 10. A 24-year-old girl accused a police sub-inspector in Hamirpur in UP of sexually assaulting her inside a police station when she had gone there to secure her husband’s release on the night of June 9. However, DIG (Banda range) Amitabh Yash today said no injury was detected in the medical report of the woman and rape was not confirmed. He added that, according to the medical report, the woman was three-and-a-half months pregnant. In Haryana, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a youth in Kaithal. Police said a 22-year-old newly married woman was raped by a distant relative in a village in Moga district in Punjab. In Kota in Rajathan, a 22-year-old married woman was raped by her neighbour while her husband was away from the house, police said. In a shocking incident, a 17-year-old boy was on Thursday arrested in Ahmedabad for allegedly raping and killing a five-year-old girl from his neighbouring locality. The incident came to light after the father of the girl, living near Sola bridge area in the city, approached the police when his minor daughter went missing at 10am on Wednesday. While searching for the girl, the police learnt that the victim was last seen with the young boy working as a cleaner with a private bus operator. On the basis of suspicion, the police interrogated the boy this morning during which he admitted to have dumped her body in the luggage compartment of a bus, Sola police inspector SM Patel said. The boy, however, claimed that he did not rape the minor girl, Patel said, adding, “Based on the complaint we have arrested the minor boy on the charges of abduction, rape and murder.” The body has been sent for postmortem to ascertain whether she was raped, he said. Two minor girls, who were staying in a private hostel in Pollachi town near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, were abducted and gangraped allegedly by two persons at a nearby complex, the police said. The incident occurred past midnight when the two accused came to the hostel run by a church and asked for some water. When the girls, aged 10 and 11, fetched water for the duo, they pulled them by their hand, it said. A boy in the hostel witnessed the incident and questioned the men, but was thrashed by the duo, who then forcibly took away the girls to a nearby complex and raped them, it said. The victims were admitted to a government hospital in Pollachi, about 35 kms from Coimbatore, with severe bleeding and injuries. Davidson Devashirvatham, IG, West Zone and Sudhakar, Rural SP, who are conducting an inquiry, said they have received ‘some clues’ and would soon bring the culprits to book. Meanwhile, the postmortem report of the 45-year-old woman, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich in UP yesterday, has “not confirmed rape”, even as five policemen have been suspended in connection with the case. “The postmortem report of the woman has not confirmed rape. The cause of death is ante-mortem hanging. The body of the victim did not have any injury marks,” district magistrate NK Singh said. (Hindustan Times 12/6/14)

64. Uttar Pradesh: Four cops gang-rape woman inside police station (8)

Lucknow: Yet another ghastly incident of sexual assault has come to the fore in Uttar Pradesh where a woman was gang-raped by four policemen, including a Station House Officer (SHO), when she had gone to police station to meet her husband detained in connection with a case. The shameful incident happened in Sumerpur police station of Hamirpur district. The woman was sexually assaulted when she had gone to seek her husband’s release, who was held for possessing a country made pistol. The woman was allegedly gang-raped by SHO and three constables for two hours inside the premises of the police station. Following this, the alleged victim lodged a complaint and Hamirpur Superintendent of Police Virendra Shekhar assured the woman that no one would be spared if found guilty. Shekhar told IANS that following a complaint by the woman, a First Information Report was lodged and the SHO was arrested on Wednesday. The three constables are absconding. The latest incident is surely to put Uttar Pradesh government under huge pressure, which is already facing severe criticism over spurt in sexual crimes against women. Crime against women have witnessed a sudden spurt in the state and on an average, 10 cases of rape are being reported every day. BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said the incident is yet another example of lawlessness in state of Uttar Pradesh. (Zee News 12/6/14)

65. Woman gangraped by 10 men, including husband, in MP (8)

Khandwa: A tribal woman in Madhya Pradesh was allegedly gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband, paraded naked and forced to drink urine in front of her minor son following a land dispute. After the woman lodged a complaint in which she alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of her husband, all the accused were nabbed, police said. The incident took place three days ago at Bhiali Kheda village under Piplod police station and the victim reported the matter on June 13, 2014 to police after her family members brought her to Khandwa district hospital, police said. Acting on the complaint, police on Saturday arrested all the 10, including the victim’s husband, relatives and other villagers, Sunita Rawat, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Women’s Cell, Khandwa told reporters in Khandwa on Saturday. In her complaint, the woman alleged that she was gangraped by 10 persons, including her husband and relatives, the DSP said. Before raping her, the men manhandled the victim, paraded her naked and when she asked for water, they forced her to drink urine in front of her minor son, Ms. Rawat said quoting from the woman’s complaint. Meanwhile, the woman’s husband claimed before the media that she was levelling baseless allegations against him and other villagers over a land dispute. Police have registered a case under IPC sections 376 (g) (gangrape), 354 (b) (act with intent to disrobe a woman), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) against the accused and are further probing the incident. The victim was undergoing treatment at the district hospital where women constables and Piplod police station in-charge were deployed for her security, Ms. Rawat added. There has been nationwide outrage on the string of incidents of sexual assault on women. The issue has come into fresh focus following the gangrape and murder of two teenage cousins, whose bodies were found hanging from a tree in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. (The Hindu 15/6/14)

66. UN rights chief calls time on caste-based sex attacks (8)

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay today urged India to ensure that perpetrators of caste-based sexual attacks do not escape justice. “Women from stigmatised castes suffer the double assault of caste-based and gender-based discrimination,” Pillay said on the sidelines of a session of the UN Human Rights Council. “And all too often abuses of their rights are committed with complete impunity,” she said. “Such impunity must end,” said Pillay, a South African with Indian roots. India has been trying to overcome its reputation for violence against women, but public outrage was reignited by the deaths last month of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who were gang-raped and lynched in their impoverished village in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The girls’ families refused to cut their bodies down from a tree in protest at alleged police inaction, which they said was because they were from a lower caste. Last week, a woman said she had been gang-raped by four officers at a police station in the same state, and police said they were also investigating the death of a nineteen-year-old found hanging from a tree. “The victims of these crimes must receive justice, and societies, communities and officials must receive the clear message that discrimination and violence will no longer be tolerated,” said Pillay. “States must take steps to prevent such violence and discrimination and protect the rights of vulnerable people and communities,” she added. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation of India’s treatment of women. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence. “Violence against women of poorly regarded castes has very deep roots, which cannot be tackled without far-reaching efforts. Clearly laws are necessary, but they are not enough,” said Pillay. “There must also be fundamental change within communities, to peel off, layer by layer, the mind-set that generates caste discrimination and bigotry,” she said. Pillay noted that caste-based discrimination was a global problem, hitting communities not only in India but other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Around 260 million people are affected, she said. (Zee News 18/6/14)

67. Domestics pitch for legal reform in labour laws (8)

NEW DELHI: About 1,000, domestic workers from different parts of the city came together at Talkatora Stadium to demand an amendment in existing labour laws and a separate law to address their specific occupation. The National Domestic Workers Movement and Chetanalaya-Domestic Workers Forum brought the women to the event. Abuse and sexual harassment, lack of welfare measures and social protection were key concerns raised by them. N Mukta Toppo, president of the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi, recounted the story of one of the workers who was abused by her employer. International Labour Organization representative Tushima Reiko advocated ratification of resolutions of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention signed by the union government in June 2011. “The ratification of the ILO Convention 189 will provide much-awaited recognition to domestic workers across the country who work as hard as any other professional but hardly get recognition and relevant wages. Philippines is the only Asian country to get this done,” Reiko said. The main demands of the domestic workers were a comprehensive legislation for domestic workers, a tripartite board at the national and state level, fixed minimum wages, and registration of workers, employers and their social security contribution. Issuing of smart cards for the workers was also sought. “Seven Indian states had already fixed minimum wages for the domestic workers, 11 states have an unorganized social security board and three have a domestic workers welfare board. Delhi has got none of them,” said Leeza Joseph of NDWM. The Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Equal Renumeration Act 1976 and Payment of Wages Act 1936 are the important laws that must be amended, she said. The domestics are often at the receiving end of serious yet unfair allegations. A worker, Radha Rani from Indore, said, “I worked in a house, in Jawahar Park near Devli Village for almost eight years. In 2007, I was wrongly accused of theft and a police case was registered against me. I fought persistently for two years in the Saket Court for my rights and dignity. I was declared innocent by the court in 2009.” (Times of India 18/6/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

68. Water pollution killing Goa’s marine population (9)

PANAJI: The next time you want to dig into a spiced, crunchy fried mussel or fancy some coconut-laced clam gravy while lounging in a Goa beach shack, you might have to look harder for it. An alarmed Goa forest and environment ministry last week ordered a probe into the death of thousands of clams at Velim, a coastal village in South Goa, one of the few places along the state’s coastline, where the molluscs have been surfacing for decades now. According to experts, Goa’s shellfish is also threatened by water pollution caused over the years by mining and the increasing discharge of toxins into the state’s main rivers, Mandovi in north Goa and the Zuari towards the south. The clam deaths come as yet another blow to the state’s traditional fish-loving population, which is already reeling under high prices on account of severe shortages in the fish catch over the last few months. Activist Clifton D’Souza was one of those few who saw first-hand the stretch of dead clams which lay open, with sandy grime in their cavity, instead of the sought after edible tissue. He claims the discharge of raw sewage into the Sal river is the reason for the carnage. Environment minister Alina Saldanha, who had earlier dispatched a team of the Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) to inspect the site and interact with the locals, has now ordered a detailed investigation with the help of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), a central marine research institute located in Goa. “This mysterious episode of clam deaths will need detailed investigation to determine the true causes,” she said earlier this week. According to a preliminary investigation conducted by the state environment ministry, the deaths could have been caused by a shell pathogen, shell fish toxin accumulated through filter feeding, stress induced mortality caused by hypoxia/anoxia, a very high biological oxygen demand in the lower water strata close to the sediment or salinity. Local fishermen have been claiming over two months that there were recurring instances of clams coming up dead. One of Goa’s top marine scientists, Baban Ingole, claims that the beach state, well known for its sea-food, may soon have to bid goodbye to its mussels if it did not take steps quick enough. “The mussel seed in the Vasco bay area is seriously depleting. Very soon Goa will not have any mussels. Most of them which are sold in Goa are from outside the state any way,” he warned during an Environment Day function earlier this month. Ingole, who works for the NIO, was also the first in 2010 to warn of a possible fish famine off Goa’s coast due to pollution and overfishing to feed the state’s ever growing in-bound tourism. Subsequently, in the last couple of years, the scientific community has also been churning out research about how mining silt accumulated over the years and pollution are squelching Goa’s shellfish population. One of them was Padma Bhushan awardee and ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who has spearheaded a couple of major studies in Goa and the Western Ghats, a majestic mountain range which overlooks the state. He blamed the loss of fish and shellfish productivity in Goa to three key factors: “Turbidity in water, increased sedimentation and oil, iron and manganese pollution.” A similar sentiment is echoed in an NIO study, authored by a team of Indian and Chinese researchers, who examined both the major rivers. Released last year, the study blames “abundant” spillages from the ferrying of iron ore in river barges as one of the causes for river pollution. “Since ore handling – loading in barges, transporting and reloading at the port or mid-stream in giant ships – is done in an open system there is abundant spilled-over ore material into the estuaries (of the two rivers),” the study said. “Shipbuilding industries on the shores of both rivers may have contributed to the trace metals,” the study further stated, adding that in some areas in the two rivers, pollution had reached “significant” levels. (Times of Indi 11/6/14)

69. India, World Bank sign agreement for DPL loan to Himachal (9)

New Delhi, June 11 : Credit Agreement for World Bank DPL Loan of US$ 100 million for promoting Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development has been signed between the Government of India, the World Bank and the Government of Himachal Pradesh in New Delhi on Wednesday. The agreement was signed by Usha Titus, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Indian government and Shrikant Baldi, Principal Secretary (Finance), on behalf of the Himachal Pradesh government and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India, on behalf of the World Bank. The Loan agreement signed here on Wednesday will be financed by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). “It will help Himachal Pradesh bring in better policies and practices to guide the development of sustainable hydropower; adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change; empower local communities to conserve their watersheds better; promote cleaner methods of industrial production; promote environmentally sustainable tourism; and integrate GIS in decision making,” read a government statement. The government of Himachal Pradesh is the implementing agency. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

70. India’s Plant, Animal Species Under Severe Threat: Govt Report (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s plant and animal species, particularly in the global biodiversity hotspots of Himalayas, Western Ghats, Northeast and the Nicobar Islands, are under severe threat due to overexploitation, forest fires and climate change, says an official report. The Environment Ministry report, came out in the midst of raging debate between environmental protection and industrial growth, rings alarm bells over destruction of forest and biodiversity in the country, which is home to 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. In a candid admission, the Ministry says that it has diverted an estimated over 1.7 million hectares of forest land for executing more than 23,000 developmental projects since the enactment of Forest Conservation Act in 1980. The report says that “a considerable area of forests in the country is under low fragmentation (49.63 per cent of the total geographic area of the country), 21.89 per cent under medium while 5.16 per cent was under high fragmentation. The Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), a copy of which is with PTI, was developed prior to CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. “Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation through conversion of land use through agriculture, urbanisation and industrial development, invasive alien species and over exploitation of natural resources, including plants and animals, are amongst the major threats faced by biodiversity globally and in India,” says the report. Mining and quarrying caused habitat loss and degradation, with severe consequences for the ecology of areas such as the Aravalli range and the Western Ghats. Considering the outstanding universal values and exceptionally high levels of endemism in the Western Ghats, 39 sites in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. (New Indian Express 15/6/14)

71. Centre for Science and Environment insists on river pollution control (9)

PUNE: New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has stated that reinventing the strategy for river pollution control must be on the top government’s environment agenda. It has insisted a need to aggressively implement the national sanitation programme -make it a top governmental priority. In a recent press statement the CSE has stated that it has released ‘ Environment and Development Agenda’ for the newly elected NDA government at the Centre. This agenda is based on years of research by CSE on key environmental challenges. One section of the agenda is devoted to river improvement. ” Every river in India is like the Ganga – either dying or already dead—as cities take water from them and return sewage, and industries discharge effluents into them. The strategy of river cleaning by building sewage treatment plants has proved to be inadequate” states the CSE. The group has added that the government needs to make ecological flow mandatory in all stretches of a river and accept that urban areas cannot build conventional sewage networks at a required pace. ” Ensure treated effluent is reused or discharged directly into rivers for dilution and go for affordable water and sanitation solutions. Design a garbage disposal system to segregate waste and make a resource out of it. Learn that controlling industrial pollution demands effective enforcement of laws and appropriate technologies for small-scale industries” states the CSE press release. (Times of India 16/6/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

72. National Education Policy Soon, Sports to be Part of School Curriculum (11)

NEW DELHI: Emphasising its priority on social sector, the NDA Government would soon formulate a National Education policy. The policy would be aimed at setting up IITs and IIMs in each state and establishment of AIIMS-like institutions in every state as well as providing 33 per cent reservation for women in legislature. Addressing the Joint Session of Parliament on Monday, President Pranab Mukehrjee said that the government was committed to making all minorities’ equal partners in India’s progress and that a dedicated Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana for the Scheduled Tribes would be launched. In his address, which enlisted the agenda of Narendra Modi Government for the next five years, Mukherjee said, “The government will strive for transition from Youth Development to Youth-led Development. It will set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms and formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research, and innovation, in our educational institutions.” “With the motto of ‘Har Haath ko Hunar’, the government  will strive to break the barriers between formal education and skill development, and put in place a mechanism to give academic equivalence to vocational qualifications. With the goal of Skilled India, my Government will also launch a National Multi-skill Mission,” the President added. Recognising the important role that women play in the development of society and growth of the nation, he said, “The government is committed to providing 33 per cent reservation to them in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. With a commitment to ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’, we will launch a mass campaign for saving the girl child and enabling her education.  The Government will have a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, and will strengthen the criminal justice system for its effective implementation.” President added that the children and youth of the country need avenues of recreation to develop them constructively and keep them fit. “The government will launch a ‘National Sports Talent Search System’ to facilitate development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives,“ he said. Maintaining that a holistic health care system that is universally accessible, affordable and effective, is the need of the hour, the President said, “To achieve this objective, the government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. It will promote Yoga and AYUSH. To address the shortfalls of health care professionals, health education and training will be transformed. AIIMS-like institutes will be established in every state in a phased manner.” Mukherjee said that a “Swachh Bharat Mission” would be launched to ensure hygiene, waste management and sanitation across India. Keeping in mind the welfare of the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the weaker sections, Mukherjee said that the government would take steps to enable an eco-system of equal opportunity in education, health and livelihood. The President also said that the government would especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and that a National Madarsa Modernisation Programme will be initiated. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

73. SFI activists stage protest in Coimbatore over RTE Act (11)

COIMBATORE: Students Federation of India activists staged a protest in front of the School Education Department office here on Wednesday demanding effective implementation of the Right To Education Act in private schools. While the Act mandated private schools to set aside 25 per cent of their total seats to students from socio-economically weaker sections, the activists alleged that this provision was not being implemented and claimed that many schools were refusing to issue applications. In a petition submitted to Chief Educational Officer A. Gnanagowri, the members also alleged that the private schools were collecting fees in excess of the levels filed by the Private Schools Fee Determination Committee. They urged the official to crackdown on such schools. Ms. Gnanagowri assured them that action would be taken against schools violating the norms. She also explained the provisions of the RTE Act and the functioning of a grievance cell set up to look into these issues. In Tirupur, SFI members took to the streets on Wednesday alleging that inadequate attention was given to improve infrastructure in government/Corporation schools in the city and also demanded impartial checks in private schools to ascertain whether the institutions followed RTE guidelines. (The Hindu 12/6/14)

74. New RTE Norms for Minority Institutions (11)

BANGALORE: The state government has decided to change the norms for educational institutions to qualify themselves as linguistic or religious minority institutions for the implementation of Right to Education(RTE) Act in primary education. The state Cabinet which discussed the issue in detail on Friday decided to amend the existing rules to accord the status of minority institution to any school/ educational institution being run by people belonging to minority communities. According to the proposed new rule, if the number of students belonging to the community that runs the institution is not less than 25 per cent of its strength, it can be considered as a minority institution. The previous law stipulated that at least 75 per cent of the students should be from the concerned minority community to accord the status of minority institution for getting exemption from the RTE Act. Such institutions will be exempted from compulsory allocation of 25 per cent of seats to students from weaker sections whose fee will be paid by the government. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters that the change in rule was in the wake of the High Court issuing a stay order against the  state government’s earlier rule. The court had directed the state to bring a new legislation. The Cabinet on Friday gave its nod to set up Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Company Ltd (KMERCL) to provide basic amenities to people in mining-ravaged areas of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts. The decision was taken in accordance with the Supreme Court directive to set up such a company. KMERCL will implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining-Impact Zones, Minister Jayachandra said and added that it would work for mitigating the impact of mining. It will take up afforestation programmes and address issues in the field of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and minor irrigation. The KMERCL will receive funds already collected by the Monitoring Committee from A, B and C category mines in the form of compensation (fine) from sale proceeds of existing stock in accordance with the guidelines fixed by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC). “About Rs 10,000 crore has already been collected. We are hoping to get about Rs 30,000 crore from the mines which had violated various rules,”  he said. The cabinet has also decided to ask State-owned Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd to study the extent of iron ore mined and reserves left in C category mines, to speed up the process of auctioning of mines to comply with the Supreme Court directive. (New Indian Express  14/6/14)

75. Government teachers to work for 30 more minutes (11)

NEW DELHI: To comply with the minimum work hours prescribed by the Right to Education Act, 2009, the Directorate of Education has increased the work hours of government school teachers by half-an-hour. The RTE mandates a minimum of 45 working hours per week for a teacher. “The teachers will get 30 extra minutes to plan their lessons, check notebooks, evaluate their own performance as well as that of their students [and] prepare teaching aids,” says a statement issued by the department. “Because almost 300 of the school buildings have to accommodate two schools (in shifts), the average time for a shift was 5.30 hours which included an assembly and a recess period. So, the effective teaching time left with the school was only 4.40 hours,” says the statement explaining why the increase was required. The government had made an attempt to increase teaching hours in January this year but had to withdraw that circular following protests. However, director, education, Padmini Singla says they hadn’t withdrawn the %January circular but “had suspended it till this academic session.” (Times of India 16/6/14)

76. BJP Opposes Govt’s Decision on Minority Status to Schools (11)

BANGALORE: Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned the State government’s decision to change RTE guidelines for granting minority status to primary schools by reducing the strength of students belonging to a minority community from 75 per cent to 25 per cent. Former ministers S Suresh Kumar and C T Ravi told newsmen here on Tuesday that the government’s move has dealt a severe blow to the very spirit of the RTE Act enacted by the previous UPA government. The previous BJP Government had issued guidelines stating that institutions which do not have 75 per cent of student intake from religious and linguistic minority groups come under the RTE Act. It was aimed at protecting the interests of the students belonging to minority and oppressed classes enabling them to get quality education in reputed institutions, they claimed. “The Congress government has now changed the guidelines and thus, it has removed the very essence of the legislation. We will exert pressure on the government by mobilising public opinion against its order,” they said. “We will fight both within and outside the legislature to bring the government to sense on the matter,” Suresh Kumar said. The government, in a bid to protect the interests of the school managements, has ignored the idea to provide quality education to the deprived sections in the society, he alleged. Suresh Kumar and Ravi expressed apprehension that the government’s decision will prompt more and more institutions to seek exemption from the RTE Act.  (New Indian Express 18/6/14)

TERRORISM

77. India condemns Karachi airport attack (12)

NEW DELHI: India strongly condemned the Karachi airport attack saying there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism and that this scourge must be fought urgently and comprehensively, without making any exception. “The attack yesterday on Karachi International Airport by 10 suicide bombers must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “The attack underlines the magnitude of danger that is posed by terrorism. Left unchecked, terrorism will continue to hinder efforts to promote national economic development, overcome poverty and provide people better quality of lives,” it added. Terrorism in recent times has been the main bone of contention between the two countries with the Indian side insisting on Islamabad acting decisively against terror groups operating out of Pakistan soil for carrying the dialogue process forward. The attack, which began just before midnight on Pakistan’s biggest airport Jinnah International, ended on Monday afternoon after a 13-hour gun battle which left 28 people dead, including all 10 terrorists. (Times of India 10/6/14)

Ministry of Home Affairs beefs up security at religious places (12)

New Delhi: In a first exercise by the BJP government to tighten security measures at religious places in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura, the Union home ministry on Thursday called for beefing up of the security apparatus in view of intelligence inputs suggesting that terror outfits may try to attack them. The decision was taken at a meeting held here on Thursday and chaired by Union home secretary Anil Goswami and attended by DGP of CRPF Dilip Trivedi, Uttar Pradesh DGP A.L. Banerjee, principal secretary (home) Deepak Singh Singhal among others. Ayodhya and Varanasi had witnessed terror attacks in the past. Top security officials said more CCTV cameras and other high end electronic devices will be put in place which is part of a new security drill which will be carried out at the religious sites. CRPF, which is guarding the sites, has been asked to deploy more forces and remain alert round-the-clock to foil any possible attempt by terrorists to attack these sites. Beefing up peripheral security at the religious sites, enhanced cover for the sites, deployment of snipers were among other steps suggested. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

78. ‘Pak Taliban had sleeper cells for Karachi attack’ (12)

Islamabad: The brazen Karachi airport attack clearly suggests the role of the Pakistani Taliban’s sleeper cells in the city that must have planned it during the interval when their central leadership was busy talking peace with the government, a media report said on Thursday. Background interviews with current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials revealed that real success against militants was not possible till the elimination of their sleeper cells. The cells provided shelter, weapons, explosives, transport and even intelligence to their comrades responsible for carrying out attacks, the Dawn reported.

The report said the attack on the airport was a work of planning that must have begun weeks if not months before its execution and it appeared the TTP leadership was using the time it had bought through a ceasefire to put the finishing touches to the planning of the airport attack. “It’s not that simple that one fine day 10 men find a weak spot in the security and sneak into the airport, fire at security personnel and get killed after a pitched battle while trying to blow an aircraft,” said an intelligence official. “Even a common man can understand that there must be a mastermind (behind such attacks) but what they don’t understand is the fact that there are people, a lot of people in fact, who are living in their midst like normal people but actually work for terrorist groups,” he said. The official said the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claimed responsibility for the airport attack, has been sending its associates to Karachi with the single objective to blend with the local population and settle in their midst without arousing suspicion. The officials said that it could not be ruled out that some Taliban loyalists managed to get some low-level jobs in sensitive places, where background checks were not at all carried out. (Asian Age 13/6/14)

79. Anti-terror law extended in Tripura for six more months (12)

AGARTALA: Tripura government has once again extended for six months the operation of AFSPA, the anti-terrorism law that gives full powers to the armed forces to take any steps to control terror, an official said on Saturday. “Top security and civil officials of the state government recently assessed the prevailing law and order situation of the state and decided to extend the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) for another six months,” a home department official told reporters. He said: “A state-level coordination committee (SLCC) on security affairs led by chief secretary SK Panda periodically assesses the overall security situation in the state with top officials of the state and central security forces”.The SLCC is overseeing the counter insurgency operation in Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh. Two separatist outfits – National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – who operate in the state are also sheltering and availing arms training in the adjoining Bangladesh. Both outfits have set up bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist outfits of the northeast India. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India. Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion earlier this month had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Satchhari jungles in the northeastern district of Habiganj, bordering India’s western Tripura. The arms and ammunition, belonging to ATTF, included anti-tank weapons, mortars and AF series rifles. “Though the four-and-half-decade old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is averse to taking any chances for some more time,” the official added. The northeastern state of Tripura has 72 police stations. The AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas; it is fully operational in 24 police station areas, and partially operational in six. In view of the improvement of the situation and the lessening of terrorist activities, the Tripura government in June last year reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas instead of the 40 earlier. The act was earlier fully operational in 34 police station areas, and partially in six. The act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997, when terrorism was at its peak in the mountainous state. The central act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without obstacles and without any one’s consent. It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act. Local rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), describe the act as “draconian” and want it repealed. “Innocent people are victimized by the security forces in the name of anti-insurgency operations,” said Nagendra Jamatia, former minister and a senior leader of the INPT, an electoral ally of the opposition Congress. “Demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our movement against the Left Front government,” Jamatia said. Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland, and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 14 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act. (Times of India 14/6/14)

80. Over 100 militants killed in fresh air strikes in Pakistan (12)

ISLAMABAD: Over 100 militants were killed as Pakistani fighter jets pounded nearly six militant hideouts in the country’s northwestern tribal region early on Sunday. The air raid targeted the militants hideouts in Degan area of Data Khel in North Waziristan tribal district, Geo News reported. Meanwhile, Express Tribune reported that the bombing is feared to have caused civilian casualties as well, including women and children. Following the incident, the local administration has imposed a curfew in the area for an indefinite period. The latest air strikes come a week after ten Uzbek militants entered the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi from different directions in two groups, resulting in a bloody standoff lasting for about 13 hours that left 37 people dead including 10 terrorists. Pressure has been mounting on Pakistan to react after the airport attack. At least 25 militants were killed on Tuesday when Pakistani jets pounded targets in the northwestern tribal region. The US also carried out two drone strikes in North Waziristan the same day in which 16 militants perished, including 10 from the dreaded Haqqani network. This was the first time the controversial CIA drone strikes were launched this year. (Times of India 15/6/14)

81. India knocks on Iraq military door (12)

New Delhi, June 17: India has sought help from Iraq’s military forces to rescue over 100 of its nationals trapped in Mosul and Tikrit, seized by militants from an al Qaida splinter group. Anil Wadhwa, the secretary (east) at the external affairs ministry, today met Iraq’s ambassador to India, Ahmad Tahseen Ahmad Berwari, to discuss joint evacuation efforts as the US moved warships and firepower close to Iraq. India has been scrambling to try and rescue at least 44 Indians — many of them nurses — trapped in Tikrit and dozens more estimated in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. But the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has grabbed control of a quarter of the area of Iraq, is engaged in firefights with Iraqi forces on key roads leading up to Baghdad. “It is impossible for us to evacuate our nationals without cover and assistance from Iraqi forces, and that’s what we’ve requested for,” an Indian official said. “We are still looking at multiple possible strategies but none of them can work without the on-the-ground assistance of Iraq.” Indian ambassador to Iraq Ajay Kumar had said on Saturday that India is exploring the possibility of evacuating citizens into parts of Kurdistan in north Iraq still controlled by the region’s semi-autonomous government. They can then be flown out either from Kurdistan or through neighbouring Turkey. India has strong diplomatic ties both with Turkey and with the Kurdish government. On Tuesday, India set up a 24/7 control room at the foreign ministry headquarters in South Block to coordinate evacuation efforts and to collect as well as share information about these efforts. The embassy in Baghdad on Sunday set up helplines to communicate with trapped nationals. The control room was set up after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj convened a meeting with senior officials to evaluate possible strategies for evacuating Indian citizens. The embassy in Baghdad has been asked to update the foreign ministry headquarters every hour, officials said. Several families from Punjab and Kerala have also sought the intervention of the foreign ministry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has written to Swaraj, requesting the Centre to launch rescue operations. India’s acceleration in efforts to rescue citizens trapped in Iraq’s battlezones comes as the US positions key military assets in and around Iraq. At least three ships — including a launch vehicle and a warship — have reached the Persian Gulf, just off the coast of Iraq, the US has confirmed. The seriousness of the crisis in Iraq can be best gauged from the talks US secretary of state John Kerry has begun with long-time rival Iran in Geneva to collaborate in beating back the offensive from the ISIS, as the advancing terror group is widely referred to. Indian officials said they agreed with Baghdad’s assessment that external assistance might be needed to tackle the ISIS amid multiple reports of desertions from Iraq’s army. India, the officials said, also shares global concerns that the spread of the ISIS could lead a coalescing of Syria’s civil war with the one threatening to explode in Iraq. (The Telegraph 18/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

82. No plans for aerial attacks on Maoists: Raman Singh (12)

Raipur: Stressing that “an integrated approach with focus on holistic development of Bastar is the only way to tackle the Maoist problem”, the Chhattisgarh government has refuted speculation that the state is preparing for aerial attacks on the rebels and with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, an all-out war will be launched against them. The government clarified that the recent meeting of Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief Minister Raman Singh and other senior state officials was “not for seeking more choppers or battalions”, but to essentially draw the integrated plan. “No. Not at all. I categorically deny this,” the Chief Minister told The Indian Express, when asked about the possibility of aerial attacks on Maoists. “The main agenda of the meeting was to discuss law and order and development issues in Left Wing Extremism affected region. We need to take a holistic view of the problem and evolve a new strategy particularly for development. We emphasized that the development projects pending at Union level should be fast-tracked as only all-round development can bring permanent solution. The need for streamlining and resolving pending projects in a set time frame was mutually agreed upon,” he said. In fact, during the meeting Singh conveyed that “if the country is to fight Left Wing Extremism then the biggest battle to be fought will be in Bastar, and this battle is possible only through the holistic development of Bastar”. Contrary to the perception that Chhattisgarh sought more firepower, senior officials present in the meeting said the policing aspect occupied less than 10 per cent of the presentation as the state advocated for a paradigm shift in identification and execution of projects in Bastar. Explaining the reason behind the demand of choppers, ADG (Naxal Ops) RK Vij told The Indian Express: “More choppers were asked for improving mobility of forces and response time in crisis situations, not for aerial attacks or dropping bombs.” About the need of more battalions, Vij said, “Security vacuum still exists in many areas of Bastar. Forces are needed to make inroads in such zones and for providing protection to road construction programmes.” Officers pointed out that while the Centre has approved 10 regular and two technical battalions, it has not promised even a single chopper so far, and they at most expect only two aircraft, which will be used for ferrying forces. Many police stations, and posts and CRPF camps are located in remote areas of Bastar where troops and ration is airlifted as roads do not exist. “We need choppers primarily for this reason,” said an official, adding that even the thought of aerial attacks in Bastar is absurd… (New Indian Express 11/6/14)

83. Naxals becoming parallel force: MHA (12)

New Delhi: Contrary to the UPA government’s claim that Naxal growth is being contained, fresh statistics presented by security forces to Union home minister Rajnath Singh shows the CPI (Maoist) has become almost a parallel force in the “Red Zones”. One lakh sangam cadres, 2,080 dalam members, more than two dozen “platoons” and “companies” of 3,000 Naxalites with regular weapons and 3,000 with sophisticated weapons like LMGs, AK-47s, INSAS rifles, SLRs and mortars are part of a formidable Maoist army. The Reds have key links with the PLA of Manipur, RPF and NSCN-IM, the home ministry has told Mr Singh. The secret note, prepared by the ministry of home affairs (MHA), also warns that Maoists will get more active in espousing the Kashmir cause and work for a strategic “United Front” in its bid to counter the hard anti-Naxal push planned by the new BJP government. The Naxal forces have built up formidable strength and have chalked out a detailed plan of deployment across the red corridor, making it difficult for the security forces or any government machinery to penetrate, top government sources said. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal being their areas of operations, the deployment plan chalks out core areas of operations. In the Dandkaranya region, two “battalions” and 22-25 “platoons” have been spread out, making it one of the hardest regions for state machinery to penetrate. The Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh zone has at least 12 “battalions” and around 45,000 weapons. The Andhra-Orissa-Bihar special zonal committee of the Maoists has at least the “companies” (180 cadres) deployed in the border areas. (Asian Age 12/6/14)

84. Coming soon: Jingles, videos to counter Naxal propaganda (12)

New Delhi: With themes like ‘Ladai Nahi Padhai’ (Don’t fight, study), the government will soon launch an audio and video campaign to discourage tribals from joining the ultra-Left armed movement. Four jingles will be aired through All India Radio and four videos will be telecast through Doordarshan regularly to reach the maximum number of people in nine Naxal-affected states, officials in the Home Ministry said. Through these jingles and videos, the government plans to educate rural populace — especially tribals — about the negative effects of violence and the armed movement besides the necessity of education and development. The jingles and videos — each 10 minutes long — will be made in five languages; Gondi, Halbi, Nagpuria, Oriya and Telugu. Apart from being telecast on Doordarshan, the videos will also be broadcast in Maoist-affected villages. The government will play the jingles through AIR to counter Maoist propaganda and will urge villagers and tribals to join the mainstream. (Indian Express 14/6/14)

85. Four Naxals, including woman surrender (12)

Raipur: Four Naxalites, including a woman, laid down their arms before the police in the insurgency-hit Bijapur district on Saturday. Superintendent of Police, Bijapur, Prashant Agrawal here said that the surrendered insurgents were highly discontented with the dual standards and ideology of the Naxals in sprawling Bastar region which is made up of seven districts. According to police, the surrendered left wing insurgents have been identified as Lakshman Hemla alias Sagar (24) resident of Palnar village under Gangalur police station, Ganesh Irpa (24) of Rajpenta village under Basaguda police station, Jamuna Pallo alias Jatte (26) hailing from Nugur under Bedre police station and Kosa Parsa (19) of Chhote Palli, Bhairamgarh. Giving information about the surrendered naxalites, the police said that Lakshman Hemla had joined Naxal cadre in 2007 as a member of ‘Jan militia’, an offshoot of banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).From 2008 to 2009, he was section commander of militia platoon and from 2011 to 2014 he was president of Jantana Sarkar–a form of local governing system adopted by the Maoists. Ganesh Irpa and Kosa Parsa were members of Naxal supply team. Ganesh joined the outfit in 2001. From 2002 to 2005, he was commander of Janmilita group and in 2009 he was made member of Local Operating Squad (LOS). Kosa Parsa had joined the group in 2005, and he has been member of the platoon number 16 active in the region. Jamuna Pallo ailas Jatte was member of platoon number 16. She had joined Naxal cadre in 2006 and had received Naxal training in Abujhmad region. She had also worked as member of LGS (Local Guerrilla Squad) in Narayanpur and Pakhanjur areas, police informed.Discrimination among Naxal cadres hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, killing of innocents in the name of police informer and having soft corner only for Maoists who are in jail have forced them to lay down their arms, the police claimed. Initially, the surrendered outlaws would be given Rs 10,000. Later the state government would give them all the benefits of different government schemes, the SP Bijapur stated. (Pioneer 15/6/14)

86. Five arrested for Maoist links in Odisha (12)

Five persons were arrested for allegedly providing logistic support to Maoists in Rairakhol area of Sambalpur district, police said today. “The five arrested persons are sympathisers of Maoists. They had come to Rairakhol market to purchase some goods for the ultras. We arrested them while they were going back in an auto rickshaw on the weekend,” Deputy Superintendent of Police of Rairakhol, Abakash Raoutray said. Police have seized 40 items including medicines, Maoist literature, uniform and footwear besides Rs 16,920 from them, he said. (DNA 17/6/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

87. Pandits Want to Discuss Rehab Package with Government (13)

SRI NAGAR: Amid reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce a special package for the return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to  Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandit (KP) groups on Monday urged the Centre to consult the community’s representatives and seek their suggestions before coming out with any rehabilitation package. “The Centre should not take hasty decisions on the return of migrant KPs to the Valley. The government must create a cordial atmosphere in the Valley. It should talk to the representatives of KPs, mainstream groups, separatists, civil society members and the majority community (Muslims) and seek their suggestions for a smooth and dignified return of migrant KPs to the Valley,” said Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) president Sanjay Tickoo. The exodus of Pandits from the Valley began  after militancy erupted in the Valley in 1989. According to government figures, 24,202 KP families had migrated from the Valley and 219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989-2004.  The migrant KPs are living in Jammu and other parts of the country. Tickoo said the political agenda behind Modi Government’s “package for Pandits” could well backfire. “The ground situation in the Valley should be made conducive for their return. The militant activities are taking place regularly in the Valley and how is it going to instil confidence among the migrant KPs?” he said, adding the Pandits should not be put up in concentration-type camps because it will increase the animosity between the different communities. Disapproving of the hype about the return of migrant KPs, Tickoo said, “There should be no media hype. In 1997, then J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had chalked out a plan for the return of KPs to the Valley. 15 days  after the plan got media hype, seven Pandits were killed during the night of March 21-22, 1997 at Sangrampora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.” Ashwani Chrangoo, president of KP group ‘Panun Kashmir’,  said conditions in the Valley are not conducive for the return of migrant KPs. ‘Panun Kashmir’ is known for its radical views. It has also demanded a homeland for Pandits in the Valley. “Lot of packages (at least four) have been announced in the past by the previous governments at the Centre. Ours is not a money-related issue. It is a geo-political issue,” he said. According to Ashwani, the two mainstream parties in the Valley– the NC and the PDP– and the separatist groups have been saying that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved while, “our point of view is that the Kashmir issue has already been settled and the region is now part of India”. (Indian Express 10/6/14)

88. Delhi NGO offering skill development to refugees (13)

New Delhi:  Bosco Delhi, in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), is providing comprehensive support in education and skill training programmes, language and vocational training, health services and psychosocial support to refugees from Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar and African countries. Don Bosco is a global organization operating in 132 countries in the world. It works like a companion, accompanying the refugees to lead a dignified life. Bosco helps the refugees in upgrading their skills by providing various training programmes to get suitable job in the market. Ahmed Yusuf hails from Kabul and studied till Class 10. He is now happy to continue his studies through Bosco. Bosco helps the migrants to get access in government schools and also make them accessible to avail health benefits from the government hospitals. They also provide generic medicines to them. Delhi is home to a large number of refugees from conflict countries and they seek better opportunities to settle their life. Skill development of refugees is the prime aim of Bosco. Bosco is operating in South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area with three learning centers, a creche and health services. Besides providing education and health facilities to the refugees, the NGO creates small scale business opportunities for them in support of UNHCR. UNHCR is always negotiating with the government for the safe and protection of refugee because it is mandate of UNHCR and therefore there is always a liaison with the government to give maximize dignified life to any refugee. Psychosocial element is given particular attention in Bosco. There are refugees who go through Psycho-traumatic situation, personal and individual counsel is given to the refugees. Those who are in acute cases are given institutional care and protection. Bosco is linked with one of the technical support in psychosocial interventions with Vimhans Mental Health Center. The government of India has taken proactive steps for the refugees who keep coming into India are helped to stand on their own feet. (New Kerala 12/6/14)

89. Fleeing Pakistani tribesman consider Afghanistan safer (13)

Islamabad: Over 6,000 people from Pakistan’s North Waziristan province fleeing to Afghanistan to take refuge due to the recent targeted military action, consider the neighbouring country safer than their own, a media report said on Friday. “Keeping in view the long stay and plight of thousands of internally displaced persons of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in and off relief camps, I have made my mind to take my family to Afghanistan instead of keeping them in grimy tents in the adjacent Bannu district,” Dawn online quoted a tribesman from Miranshah. Several families have already crossed over to Afghanistan’s Khost province next to FATA, due to uncertainty. Displaced people from other tribal agencies in Pakistan, including South Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber, have been living in awful conditions in and off camps for as long as seven years. The Taliban shura has asked the tribesman to move to areas close to the Afghanistan border instead of proceeding to relief camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. An Afghan official said that families crossed over to Khost since the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban began. “The provincial government has provided land for the refugees in Gurbaz, Nadirshah Kot, Mandozai and Esmail Khail districts of Khost, while a site has also been reserved for them in the provincial capital,” the official said. (Zee News 13/6/14)

90. 9 ‘Biharis’ killed in Bangladesh (13)

Dhaka: Clashes in a refugee camp north of Dhaka killed at least nine people during festival celebrations on Saturday. The shanty town in Mirpur suburb is home to a community of Bihari Muslims and authorities said tensions there had been rising. Emergency services put the death toll at nine, including eight in the camp and another who was brought to a hospital in central Dhaka. The exact trigger for the incident was unclear. “We can confirm the death toll of eight people (in the camp). All of them are Biharis,” fire service director Mahabubur Rahman told AFP. Half a million Indian-origin Muslims have lived in refugee camps in the country since the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Although not all came from the Indian state of Bihar, they are referred to as “Biharis” in Bangladesh. Anti-Bihari feelings run deep among Bangladesh’s majority Bengalis as the migrants supported Pakistan during the war. Most of the victims at the camp burned to death after their homes were torched during the clashes, Rahman said. An AFP photographer inside the camp said he counted nine bodies there, all of them with burn injuries. Several people were injured after police fired shotgun pellets at the rioters, Rahman added. “The situation is now largely under control. But we could not recover the bodies from the camp,” he said. (Asian Age 15/6/14)

91. Refugees don’t leave Tripura for Mizoram (13)

Agartala/Aizawl, June 17 : The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura didn’t resume Tuesday as the displaced men and women refused to go back to Mizoram unless their demands were met. Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years. “We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang said. He was speaking to reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala. The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees. But no officials of the Mizoram government Tuesday came to the refugee camps in Tripura. The refugees, including women, began a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp Tuesday in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS on phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no tribal is ready to go back to western Mizoram,” he said. Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called ‘Bru’, are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997. They fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official in October 1997. The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government h