Posted by admin at 20 April 2015

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DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Rs. 200-cr. fund for SC/ST entrepreneurs (2)

HYDERABAD: State government will set up a Rs.200 crore fund under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Rs.100 crore under Tribal Sub Plan for direct lending to SC and ST entrepreneurs. Social Welfare Minister R. Kishore Babu told reporters here on Thursday that the government would also create another fund of Rs.100 crore under Schedule Caste Sub Plan and Rs.50 crore under Tribal Sub Plan for State level credit guarantee fund trust for micro and small enterprises scheme for SC and ST entrepreneurs. He said the new industrial policy announced by the government would enable more number of SC, ST entrepreneurs to avail the incentives and set up units. He said the Dalit Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) also appreciated the new policy. Mentioning the concessions given in the policy, he said the fixed power cost reimbursement has been increased to Rs.1.50 per unit from Re.1 for five years. Seed capital assistance to first generation entrepreneurs has been enhanced from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of the machinery cost, which would be deducted from eligible investment subsidy. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

2. Dalit manual scavenger’s unbelievable journey (2)

LONDON: As a child, the longest distance Usha had travelled was the two kilometre walk from Hazurigate Harijan Colony in Alwar (Rajasthan) to the houses where her mother worked as a manual scavenger. When she reached seven years of age, she followed her mother’s footsteps and for the next three decades, used her bare hands to manually clean human waste in drains and homes of upper caste people. But on Monday, Usha Chamour’s remarkable journey will see her embark on a plane ride she could never imagine in her wildest dreams – to United Kingdom. Forty-two-year-old Usha, who was married off at the age of 10 and spent most of her years being treated as an “untouchable” will travel nine hours to tell Britain of her incredible story of being a Dalit and call on the eradication of the age old practice of manual scavenging in India. Usha has been invited by the British Association of South Asian Studies at University of Portsmouth to narrate an almost unbelievable story that saw her clean sewage pipes and dirty stinking manholes and drains in India for a paltry Rs 300 a month to working as a motivator for other Dalit women, pushing them into giving up manual scavenging in order to lead a “more honourable life” making jute bags, pickles, Indian sweets and also train them in working in beauty parlours. Usha, who was rescued and rehabilitated by the NGO Sulabh International’s Dr Bindeshwar Pathak will interact with top British academics and policy makers during a special panel discussion on “Sanitation and Women’s Rights in India’ on April 8. Speaking to TOI from India, Usha said “It almost like a dream. I can’t wait for this night to end”.”It was almost a given that we had to follow our mother’s footsteps into becoming a manual scavenger. I worked in 30 houses around Alwar cleaning human waste for just Rs 10 a day. I would eat the leftover food from the previous day’s dinner given to me by the houses where I worked. I pray no one has to ever work as a manual scavenger – the worst job in the world,” Usha told TOI. She lamented, “Most people avoided us like a plague. We were the untouchables”.”I was then helped by Sulabh and now am involved in making jute bags, pickles and am also trained to work in beauty parlours. Today I make almost Rs 3500 as salary. During wedding season, I can earn upto Rs 5000 a day to dress up the bride. The people who once avoided me for being from the low caste today invite me to their homes for meals and attend their functions like weddings. They also don’t mind me eating from the same utensils used by them. The priests of the local Jagannath temple also invite me during festivities,” Usha said. UK recently became the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. A bill that outlawed discrimination on the basis of caste received royal assent from the Queen. In a major victory to 4 lakh dalits here, The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill made history in parliament with the House of Commons voting for the inclusion of caste as an aspect of race. Now, it is illegal to discriminate against Dalits on the basis of their caste. (Times of India 5/4/15)

3. Decision to demote dalit officials a political vendetta, says Maya (2)

LUCKNOW: BSP supremo Mayawati on Sunday slammed the Samajwadi Party for demoting government employees of SC/ST category saying the decision was part of a ‘political vendetta’. She said the state government has treated the MBCs and even the economically weaker section of upper caste in the same way. The BSP chief also took a swipe at UP chief minister Akhilesh saying that he did not have work to do and thus was cycling around. Responding to this, Akhilesh said, “Cycling is good for health, she should know.” He said Mayawati did not have any issue to raise and was, therefore, dabbling in non-issues. Mayawati said the SP government was only harvesting the developmental initiatives which were taken during her previous tenure. “Metro rail in Lucknow, Noida and Ghaziabad was initiated during my tenure,” the BSP chief said and added that the present state government was only focusing on SP strongholds like Saifai. Mayawati said that the SP government has failed to meet the expectations of the people, especially farmers who are committing suicides because of government apathy. Mayawati challenged the Samajwadi Party to dissolve the assembly and hold elections if it has, at all, stood by what it promised to the electorate during the assembly elections of 2012. (Times of India 6/4/15)

4. Dalit family set on fire over land dispute, 1 dies (2)

JAIPUR: An old land dispute has claimed one life in Nagaur district after three members of a Scheduled Caste family were reportedly set on fire inside their hut on the February 18. Two others received burn injuries, one of whom continues to be admitted in a hospital in a serious condition. However, there have been no arrests so far and the Congress is alleging that the accused named in the FIR were politically-connected, rich and being shielded by the police. The deceased Udao, her son Babulal and grandson Harendra, were sleeping inside their hut on the intervening night of February 18 and 19 when they were set on fire allegedly by Amraram, Chhaila Ram, Ardan Ram (all brothers) and an associate Dungar Ram. The accused are from Raika community. While Udao died on way to Jodhpur while she was shifted for treatment, Harendra is still undergoing treatment for severe burns, though Babulal escaped with some burn injuries. According to the police, the two had an old dispute over land. “We have sent out police teams to arrest the accused,” a senior police official told The Hindu . Describing the incident as inhumane, Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot said it was unfortunate that more than 45 days had elapsed since the incident took place and no arrests had still been made. “One the one hand we are celebrating 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar and on the other hand atrocities continue to be committed on Dalits. Taking on the State government for not appointing a chairperson for the Scheduled Caste Commission which only showed how serious she was about SC welfare. In Nagaur, the local SC community members are sitting on a dharna outside the Collectorate demanding the arrest of the accused, and a memorandum has been submitted to the Chief Minister’s Office as well but to no avail. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Mahua Flower Collectors Suffer for Central Apathy (6)

PADAMPUR (BARGARH):Collection of mahua flower and seeds generates about 90 mandays of work involving about 1.5 lakh families across Western Odisha in a year. But the minor forest produce (MFP), which is the lifeline of the landless and marginal peasants of the region, is yet to get the support of the Centre in the form of minimum support price (MSP). Though the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) recently floated a scheme for procurement of MFP to ensure MSP, it excluded mahua flower from the scheme. Due to the exclusion and lack of an organised market, the collectors of mahua flowers continue to be exposed to exploitation by the traders. With the flower much in demand for country liquor brewing industry, mahua tree used to be a revenue grosser for the villagers. Those having a mahua tree on their land leased it out to others, particularly the landless, for a handsome amount. But, with the price of mahua flower yet to be notified, those who venture out to the forest and toil hard to collect it or have taken trees on lease are at the crossroads. Normally, a committee is formed at the block level to fix the price of MFP. The rate is then intimated to the panchayats who in turn inform the collectors. But, with the information failing to trickle down to the grassroots, the collectors have been left at the mercy of middlemen and traders who call the shots. To add to the woes of collectors, none of the panchayats has storage facilities forcing them to go for distress sale. Dahita Majhi of Kuradhipasha village on the foothills of Gandhamardhan under Mithipali panchayat said though she owns about 25 mahua trees, those are not fetching good income any more. In the absence of price controlling authorities, people are not willing to take the trees on lease at high rate. “Traders from Chhattisgarh visit the villages and offer ready cash to lure the villagers to sell their collection at throwaway price,” she said. Dahita is among hundreds of Kondh tribals inhabiting the villages of Paikmal block who are either landless or have marginal land holdings. With irrigation still a far cry in Padampur sub-division, the failure of panchayats to fix the price of mahua flower is set to trigger migration. The story is same in Nuapada, Sonepur and Boudh districts where mahua flower is being sold at `10 a kg. With a month left for the collection of mahua flower to come to an end, it is feared that the price will go down further, burdening the poor collectors further. (New Indian Express 1/4/15)

6. Tribesmen to take protest to Delhi (6)

KALPETTA: The Adivasi Kshema Samithi (AKS), affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), will stage an Adivasi Prathishedha Koottayma (a collective protest of tribesmen) in front of Parliament during its monsoon session in protest against the anti-tribal policies of the Central government. This was announced at a tribal parliament organised by the organisation here on Thursday. The tribal parliament said that the Narendra Modi government had cheated the tribal community in the country by cutting Rs.5,000 crore from the Tribal Special Plan fund in its budget for the 2015-16 fiscal. While the fund for various tribal development projects was cut to the tune of Rs.12,000 crore, the government gave an incentive of Rs.8,315 crore to corporates. The AKS would also launch a Kudil Ketti Samram by erecting huts in front of State and Central government offices in August. The meeting decided to launch a tribal labour bank to undertake tribal housing projects, open a career guidance centre for tribal youths, and start a campaign against alcoholism among tribesmen. It urged the government to make timely amendments to the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and provide at least one acre each to landless tribal families before August 1. Measures to provide land in place of the alienated land; extending the cut-off date of the FRA; job reservation to tribesmen in public sector enterprises; special welfare projects for tribal widows and orphans; a vigilance probe into corruption in tribal housing projects; spot admission for tribal students who pass the SSLC examination; measures to control malnutrition deaths of tribal children; and solatium of Rs.10 lakh to the kin of those who died of monkey fever are among the demands. CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan inaugurated the parliament. Seetha Balan, president, AKS, presided. (The Hindu 4/4/15)

7. ST status for 6 Assam tribes soon, says Oram (6)

Guwahati: Union tribal welfare minister Jual Oram on Sunday announced that six communities of the state would be given ST status within the next four to five months. Making an election statement while campaigning for BJP candidates for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls in Kokrajhar, Oram said, “I cannot give a time frame but six communities — Koch-Rajbongshis, tea tribes, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Motoks and Chutiyas — will be given ST status in four to five months.” “The case of ST status to these six communities is lying with me. The group of ministers has already prepared a note. We are changing the modalities of granting tribal status.” These six communities account for almost 60% of the state’s population. The granting of tribal status to these six communities would make Assam a tribal-dominated state, having wide political ramifications. Almost 80 out of 126 assembly constituencies are likely to be reserved for tribals if the six communities get the ST status. Once the Union Cabinet clears the ST status for these six communities, the execution will be done through a bill, which has to be passed in Parliament. (Times of India 5/4/15)

8. Tribals being Driven Out of Forests: Rights Activists (6)

HYDERABAD: The scheduled tribes today are going through a living hell as they are being driven out of the land they have grown up in and the government chooses to pay a deaf ear to their plight, allege human rights activists. “As per the 2006 Forest Rights Act, as many as 4 lakh forest-dwellers have filed applications for about 12 lakh acres of land that they have been cultivating. Out of this, only 1.76 lakh tribals got the permit,” S Jeevan Kumar, president of the  Human Rights Forum has said. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, rights activists demanded the government to protect the rights of the tribal community. “The government says that post-bifurcation, most of the lands have been handed to Andhra Pradesh and hence the government has stopped accepting applications from the people here,” Jeevan Kumar said. “As per the Forest Rights Act 2006, the Adivasi communities living in the forests  were hoping to get legal rights over forest land that they have been cultivating and there would be no harassment. But the ground reality is totally opposite,” he added. Forest officials have been continuously attacking Koya tribals in Enukuru, Joolurupadu, Ramachandrapuram, Dummugudem and Pinapaka mandals of Bhadrachalam division to leave the forest, Vasudha, a High Court advocate and a human rights activist, said. “They have nowhere to go. The forest department officials say that the land belongs to trees and animals but not humans. We find it unethical because after all, they are the ones who conserve the forests,” she said, further adding, “They do not even have legal documents for the land and hence, it becomes easier for the government to evacuate them.” When asked if the members are willing to adopt to urbanisation,  Vasudha said it would be difficult for them to adjust. (New Indian Express 9/4/15)

9. Government Taken to Task over Tribal Women’s Unemployment Issue (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday exposed the government’s lack of concern to address the unemployment issues of the tribal  women of Wayanad and   trafficking of children from other states to various orphanages under a particular community. Considering the case  of non-payment of compensation  to the women who were raped  and killed in Karnataka’s ginger fields, the Commission asked the government  why it could not provide them with employment in Wayanad even when there was sufficient fund  to be utilized under MGNREGS and other employment schemes. The Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Home who represented the government tried to depict the situation prevailing in Kerala as complex and argued that it was having 22 lakh migrant labourers from North-East states and  over 2.5 million people from Kerala were working in Gulf countries. The Commission told the Home Secretary that they were concerned about the hapless tribal women who could have been saved from physical and sexual harassment as well as economic exploitation if the government had put in the efforts. “Many women have been raped, some of them have even lost their lives. They are  harassed by the contractors who engage them in the fields,” the Commission pointed out. Asked about the measures taken by the Social Justice Department, there were no senior officer to depose the facts before the  Commission. A deputy secretary who appeared reluctantly could not offer any valid explanation for its failure. The Labour Commissioner of the state said  they had started registering the contractors with the labour department. Asked how many of them have been registered, he said to be able to register one was an ‘achievement’  they made with great effort in nearly 40 years after the  enactment of Migrant Labourers Act of 1979. A visibly irked Commission asked the government to file a detailed report in four weeks. When the Commission took the child trafficking case involving children from Bihar, Karnataka and other states to orphanages in Palakkad and Kozhikode, the police officials misled the Commission by circumventing facts. The Crime Branch DySP in charge of the investigation told the Commission that he was still unaware of the motive behind the trafficking as he had not completed the investigation. Asked whether the children were sexually or physically exploited  at the orphanages, he feigned ignorance about any such happenings. He told the Commission that he had registered  a case under 370(5) of the IPC. The IG administration, however, said that they were brought to top up the shortage of children in the orphanages to prevent loss of government grants and foreign funding. A Social Justice Department official told the Commission that they had issued a circular against the  migration of destitute children. Again the Commission asked him on the strength of what law that the Department issued such a circular. One of the Commission members insisted on asking whether the Government had examined the fate and destination of the children who  complete their studies at the adjacent Madrassas . “Many of them will become ‘Mukri’ in mosques on their return,” the IG, Administration  replied. Asked whether these children are sent to foreign countries after studies, police officials said that they had no idea. The Commission, however, sought a detailed report from the government. (New Indian Express 10/4/15)

WOMEN

10. Odisha Welfare schemes for girls failed: CAG (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The CAG report on the social sector which was tabled in Odisha Assembly on Tuesday says, “Though the child sex ratio declined from 953 in 2001 to 941 in 2011 in the State, enforcement of Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was not adequate and effective to curb female foeticide due to belated and non-constitution of PNDT cells across all the districts coupled with absence of enforcement measures,” the report says. “It was noticed that 11,552 children including 8,246 girls (71 per cent) were reported missing in Odisha during 2009-2013. The number of missing girls outnumbered the missing boys every year,” the report says. “Against the number of missing 3,306 boys and 8,246 girls, only 2,972 girls (36 per cent) were rescued and 5,274 girls were not traced in 2013,” it maintains. On the education front, girls continued to be neglected. “Out of 17.80 lakh girls enrolled in Class I to IV during 2009-10, only 14.22 lakh girls were pursuing their studies in Class V to Class VII during 2013-14,” the audit agency finds. Similarly, at elementary level, 2,516 primary and upper primary schools did not have own school buildings; 7,497 schools did not have separate toilets for girls and 18,616 schools were not having boundary walls. “Implementation of SABALA scheme under which iron folic acid is supplied to adolescent girls was not fully effective as an amount of Rs. 5.95 crore was surrendered, even though 9.38 lakh adolescent girls remained uncovered under the scheme,” CAG says. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

11. Sexual harassments on train (8)

BHOPAL: A 21-year-old woman was sexually harassed by a drunk soldier on Rajdhani Express on Tuesday night. The woman managed to contact police after which the accused was arrested at Bhopal railway station. In another incident, a minor was sexually harassed in Shridham Express between Bhopal and Vidisha. In both cases, accused were nabbed after complaints were lodged through mobile help app of railway police. This comes barely a fortnight after a 10-year-old girl was sexually harassed by a law graduate on a train between Jabalpur and Bhopal on March 16 and Delhi girl Rati Tripathi was thrown off a speeding Malwa Express in Sagar district, 25 km from Bina railway station on November 19. The woman who was stalked by armyman, Kamlesh Prasad, 25, was travelling from Delhi to Bilaspur in B-4 coach of Rajdhani Express. He consumed liquor in train and began harassing her. The train was speeding through Bina, when Prasad told the woman he wanted to touch her. She called the coach attendant, who informed the TTE after which police were tipped off. She was told action would be taken against the soldier once the train reached Bhopal. The woman also used the Government Railway Police (GRP) help app to contact cops and send picture of accused to police. He was brought down from train at Bhopal railway station and arrested. He told police he was posted in Andhra Pradesh. Police registered a case of assault and criminal use of force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Police said the case diary would be transferred to Bina. Accused was later produced in court and taken on judicial remand till April 13. In the second incident, a 17-year-old girl was sexually harassed by 40-year-old man in Shridham Express on Tuesday night. Police said minor was traveling between Bhopal to Bina to meet her friend when the accused, Ghanshyam Panthi of Ganj Basoda, a post office clerk office in Raisen, started sexually harassing her. An eye witness sent his picture on GRP help app after which police arrested him and registered a case under POCSO.  (Times of India 2/4/15)

12. 3 more held in tribal girl’s rape, abortion case (8)

SURAT: The quack, who had carried out illegal abortion on the minor tribal girl, is still on the run even as the Navsari local crime branch (LCB) police on Saturday arrested three more persons in the case. This has taken the total number of arrests to five. Those arrested on Saturday were the girl’s mother and two persons – Jayesh Rathod (30) and Mitesh Vasava (19) – who had helped dispose of the six-month-old foetus on the banks of Mindhola river near Kalakacha village in Navsari district. Police inspector N P Gohil said, “We have found contradiction in the statements of complainant (the girl’s mother) and also that of the others. We also need to interrogate the mother of the rape survivor.” The complainant said abortion took place on March 27 but it had taken place on March 29. Meanwhile, Sohel Saleji, farm-owner of Kalakacha village in Navsari district where the rape survivor and her mother worked and who had contacted Khan of Vijalpore for abortion, was produced in a court on Saturday. He was arrested on Friday. The police had requested the court for his remand but it was rejected. He was sent to judicial custody. Khan is not a qualified doctor, police said. The 17-year-old girl became pregnant after having an affair with Umesh Rathod. The accused is also a tribal and from her village of Kalakacha. He was arrested on Friday and sent to a remand home as he is a minor. The complaint of rape was lodged after the refusal of the boy to marry the girl, police said. (Times of India 5/4/15)

13. Underage marriages low in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal hit areas (8)

RAIPUR: Defying the national trend of 33% of women getting married before the age of 18 years, the hotbeds of Naxalism in Chattissgarh – Bastar, Bijapur and Narayanpur – have less than one-fourth (25%) of women tying the knot before their legal age. Contrary to the general perception that underage marriages are more prevalent in tribal societies, but Naxal affected areas of the state have lesser number of girls marrying before the age of 18 years even when compared to the urban cities of Chhattisgarh like Raipur and Drug. While the latest census report 2011 reveals that across the country almost one-third of women (33%) get married before the age of 18 years, in Chhattisgarh the number of such girls over 38%. Interestingly this figure is much higher in Durg where 44.7% of women tie the knot before the legal age of 18 years. In comparison, Raipur is lower at 36.8% but if compared to the national average, its high. In contrast, the Naxal affected and tribal dominated areas of Bijapur, Bastar and Naryanpur have far less number of women getting married before the age of 18 years. The figure is the lowest in Bijapur where only 12.27% girls married before their legal age. The figures in Bastar and Narayanpur are 22.2% and 17.45% respectively. As far as males are concerned, in Chhattisgarh 9.74% married before the age of 18. This figure is higher than the national average of 6%. The legal age of marriage of for males is 21 years. Here too, the cities surpass the tribal areas with higher percentage of boys getting married before attaining the age of 18 years. While the figures in Raipur and Durg are 8.28% and 12.5% respectively, the Naxal affected areas of Bastar, Bijapur and Naryanpur are much lower at 3.42%, 2.26% and 2.60% respectively. Talking to TOI Shatabdi Pandey, a social activist and former member of the state’s Women Commission, insecurity among women in urban areas is the main the reason for early marriages. She said unlike the urban areas, girls feel more secure in their own communities in tribal populations. She said, “social and sexual danger of single women in urban areas is the main reason for their early marriages”.According to the census report, 34.2% of all married women in the state, tied the knot between the age of 18-19 years. There numbers however get decreasing at the age of 20-21years (14.9%) and 22-23 years (5.17%). The numbers of women getting married above the age of 30 years is extremely low as only y 11,225 (0.15%) tied the knot above the age of 34 years. When compared to the neighbouring states, barring Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh has a higher number of women getting married before the age of 18 years than Odisha (24.7%) and Maharashtra (28%). In MP the figure is however higher at 39.5%.According to the data, about 4.3% of the state’s adult population (above 25 years) remained unmarried.  (Times of India 5/4/15)

14. Women’s empowerment on Smriti lips wins hearts (8)

The RJD-JDU reunion under the Janata parivar umbrella came under attack at a BJP programme organised on Sunday to mobilise womenfolk from the state in support of the party. Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani, who came to the city to address the function, tore into the alliance at SK Memorial Hall, less than a kilometre from a city hotel where RJD chief Lalu Prasad announced that the merger was complete and only a formal announcement had to be made. “The merger is a final call for the Jungle Raj 2 in the state. The same jungle raj in which women were raped, kidnapped and molested. I request the women party workers to escalate and intensify their pace of work for the upcoming elections. Swachchhata Abhiyan is much needed in the politics of Bihar,” Smriti told a gather of around 3,000 women BJP workers.The BJP had been using this term (Jungle Raj 2) against the Nitish Kumar government ever since Nitish parted ways with it in 2013 and proved a majority in the Assembly with support of Lalu’s RJD. The BJP used to term the Lalu-Rabri regime in Bihar from 1990 to 2005 as Jungle Raj. In the 2005 Assembly elections, when the BJP and the JDU were alliance partners in the NDA, the term was used widely during campaigning. After attacking Nitish and Lalu from the dais, the minister donned the role of a teacher and chose to share few points with the participants, who were listening with rapt attention and were applauding every now and then. “The party workers should have three incumbent characteristics – courage, service and respect towards the people. The reservation for women has been questioned in Parliament infinite times. But the Prime Minister of India will soon pass the women’s reservation bill to encourage women to participate in politics,” she told the participants amid thunderous applause. Surrounded by a host of male leaders of the party, which included cabinet colleagues Radha Mohan Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ram Kripal Yadav apart from senior party leaders Sushil Kumar Modi, Shahnawaz Hussain and Nand Kishore Yadav, Smriti was the most-awaited speaker at the programme and the organisers had accordingly requested her to be the last speaker. As things move in political circles here, the most important speaker is made to be the last speaker to keep the crowd glued to their seats till the last minute of the programme. “Sensing the mood of the participants, we decided that Smriti ji would be requested to be the last speaker and she was okay with the idea,” said a BJP insider. The BJP women’s wing had organised the conference to encourage the participation of women in party work and escalate the pace of work for the Assembly elections. “The number of women members in the party has grown in the past two years. We have organised this meeting to keep our demands before senior party leaders. From reservation for women in Parliament to recognition for their hard work – women need to be empowered,” said BJP Mahila Morcha president Sushma Sahu. With an impressive gathering of women as audience, senior leader Sushil Kumar Modi, considered to be the party face in Bihar, used the occasion to make an announcement. “If our party comes to power in the state, I promise to waive off 1 per cent registration charge on the registration of land for women, Rs 12,000 and Rs 8,000 scholarship for girl students passing the Intermediate examination with first and second class respectively for all categories. The facility was available for students from SC/ST and OBC till now,” said Modi. (The Telegraph 6/4/15)

15. Women 68% of adult illiterates in India (8)

LONDON: The world is now home to 781 million illiterate adults – with 68% of illiterate adults in India being women. India has failed to reduce its adult illiteracy rate by 50% as planned and since 2000 only managed reducing it by 26%, according to a new Unesco global education report to be launched on April 9. Even though there is good news with India expected to become the only country in South and West Asia in 2015 to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education, the bad news is that early marriage and adolescent pregnancies are keeping girls out of school in India. In 41 countries, 30% women aged 20 to 24 were married by the age of 18. As many as 36.4 million women in developing countries aged 20 to 24 reported having given birth before age 18 and 2 million before age 15. India has the dismal record of having the highest absolute number of child brides: about 24 million. This represents 40% of the 60 million world’s child marriages. India is also home to 225 million adolescents, consisting nearly one-fifth of the nation’s total population. Around 16% of these girls – aged 15-19 – have already begun child bearing and 12% have had a live birth. The report had some good news for India – rural India saw substantial improvement in nearly all aspects of school facilities and infrastructure. Between 2003 and 2010, 45% of schools had electricity compared to 20% earlier and 78% of roads are paved within one kilometre of schools versus 63% earlier. Since 2000, when countries committed themselves to the global education goals, India has reduced its out of school children by over 90% and Universal Primary Education has been achieved. One of the main reasons behind an improvement in the number of girls visiting schools is the building of bathrooms. The report says “In India after a school latrine construction effort in the early 2000s, girls’ enrolment increased more than that of boys’ in schools with latrines. At younger ages, girls and boys both benefited substantially from latrines but separate latrines were a critical factor in adolescent girls’ enrolment”. Adult illiteracy has been a serious global worry. Only 17 out of 73 countries with a literacy rate below 95% in 2000 halved their illiteracy rate by 2015. “Literacy is fundamental for participating in society. However, the goal of halving global illiteracy rates by 2015 has been missed,” according to the report. In South Asia, the adult female literacy rate increased from 47% in 2000 to 52% in 2010 and is expected to reach 60% by 2015, when the projected gender parity index will be 76 literate women for every 100 literate men. Overall, 64% of illiterate adults will be female in 2015. As of 2012, almost 58 million children of primary school age were out of school. Based on the trends of the past five years, 57 million children would still be out of school in 2015. The report says that the problem of out-of-school children is becoming increasingly concentrated in conflict affected countries, where the proportion increased from 30% in 1999 to 36% in 2012. As many as 100 million children are still not completing primary education, 61 million adolescents remain out of school and one third of adolescents in low income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015. Globally, 47% of countries achieved universal pre-primary enrolment and another 8% were close, including India. Around 52% of countries achieved the target of universal enrolment in primary education, including India; 10% are close and the remaining 38% are far or very far from achieving it. The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 83% countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed. (Times of India 9/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Call to implement rights of children aged 14-18 (14)

VELLORE: The central and state governments should ensure implementation of rights for children in the age group of 14-18 who are not covered by the existing laws, according to R. Vidyasaagar, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural function of the two-day UNICEF-sponsored Workshop on Child Rights Implementation with a Focus on Child Protection Issues organized jointly by the School of Social Sciences and Languages (SSL) and VIT Business School (VITBS) of the VIT University here on Monday, Mr.Vidyasaagar said that while existing laws such as the Right To Education Act and the Child Labour Abolition Act covered children below the age of 14, children in the 14-18 age group also face problems such as child marriage, child labour, sexual abuse, addiction to liquor, drugs and smoking, and suicides caused by the above problems. About 40-50 per cent of the children in the 14-18 age group dropped out despite free education and education aids. Because of this, they went into the informal labour market. “So, protection of the rights of children in the 14-18 age group should be covered through news laws and policies”, he said. The UNICEF specialist said that most of the existing vocational education courses are theoretical, and they are taught vocational skills which are not required by the industry. The demand for vocational skills is increasing in the newly emerging sectors. Noting that the Vision 2020 of the Tamil Nadu government envisaged creation of one crore skilled manpower, he said that this skill creation should be based on the demands. Mr. Vidyasaagar said that India had the unique population advantage wherein 40 % of the children are in the age group of 14-18. Unless measures were taken to address the problems of the children in this age group, it would not be possible for the country to reap the benefits of this demographic dividend. Laws and policies for this age group should be framed after eliciting the views of the children in the above age group on the problems confronted by them, he said. G. Viswanathan, VIT Chancellor who inaugurated the workshop said that it had been organised in association with UNICEF in order to create awareness among the college students about the problems such as beggary among children and the social problems they encountered on account of poverty. The workshop should also deliberate on what the central and state governments and educational institutions could do to prevent and address the problems properly, he said. John Sundar David, Dean, SSL welcomed the august gathering. G. Karunanithi, Professor, SSL introduced the theme of the workshop. Kalyani Rangarajan, Dean, VITBS spoke. Suresh Mariaselvam of VITBS proposed a vote of thanks. About 200 students from VIT and other colleges in and around Vellore participated in the workshop. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

17. Child marriage (14)

Madurai): The act prohibiting child marriages is not against Muslim personal law and will prevail over the latter as it has been passed for the welfare of girl children, Madras High Court has held. The court dismissed a PIL seeking a direction to officials not to interfere in marriages solemnised under the Muslim personal law by invoking the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act of 2006, which bars marriage of girls below 18 years of age. According to the petitioner, the personal law allows marriage of Muslim girls between 15 and 18. “The Prohibition of Child Marriages Act is not against Muslim personal law. The act enacted for the welfare of the girl children prevails over the personal law. The former helps the girls get education, empowerment etc,” a division bench of Justices S. Tamilvanan and V.S. Ravi said in its order yesterday. The PIL filed by Social Democratic Party of India leader Mohammed Abbas had challenged the action of a district social welfare officer stopping the proposed marriage of a 16-year old girl. (The Telegraph 2/4/15)

18. Family, child rights activists decry police insensitivity (14)

NOIDA: Child rights activists joined the family of the three-year-old in raising questions about the style of functioning of the police, after parents filed a complaint suspecting their child had been sexually assaulted. The girl was questioned by male cops, who made her confront the security guard of the kindergarten, one of those suspected of carrying out the assault on Thursday, a family member said. DSP Raj Kumar Mishra said, “I’m not aware of any goof-ups during the probe. We’ll take stringent action against any cop found guilty.” Talking to TOI, a family member of the girl said four cops, three of whom were male, questioned the child for half an hour and made her confront a security guard of the kindergarten. “From the beginning, the cops have been trying to hush up. Of the four who questioned her, the single female was a junior and thus hardly involved in the proceedings. The sight of our child being grilled by the burly men after having undergone mental trauma was heartbreaking,” he said. A family friend said, “Afterwards, they made her face the security guard and asked her if she knew him. Obviously, she could hardly speak.” “With a medical examination already done at a private hospital, there was no need of another test. Even district hospital staff agreed there was no need for a fresh medical examination, yet the cops insisted on it,” he said. Child rights activist Satyaprakash, of NGO FXB India Suraksha Childline, said police should show sensitivity in such cases. “After lodging an FIR, they should have roped in child activists. Police have little understanding of ways to deal with children, whose trauma is of primary importance here.” Neelima Pandey of Plan India questioned the cops’ insistence on a second medical test. “Under POCSO Act, 2012, medical test at a private hospital is admissible. Government hospitals anyway show little sensitivity in cases involving kids, like for example avoiding the two-finger test. With this sort of probe, police ensure the child is traumatized by the time she reaches court,” Pandey said. (Times of India 4/4/15)

19. Govt planning to relax laws to allow children below age 14 to work in select family businesses

New Delhi: The government plans to relax child labour laws and allow children below the age of 14 to work in select family enterprises if it doesn’t hamper their education, saying it wants to encourage learning at home as it leads to entrepreneurship. A draft provision in the Child Labour Prohibition Act says the prohibition on child labour will not apply if they are helping the family in fields, forests and home-based work after school hours or during vacations, or while attending technical institutions. The new norm will also apply to the entertainment industry and sports except the circus, a proposal by the labour ministry says. In addition, children between 14 and 18 years will not be allowed to work in hazardous industries. “We don’t want to redraw the social fabric of Indian society where children learn by participating in work with family elders. We, instead, want to encourage learning work at home as it leads to entrepreneurship,” said a government official. Family businesses have been given a wide definition and cover any job, profession, or business performed primarily by family members. This will especially help poor families where children help in family subsistence, officials said. Child right activists, however, have opposed the move, saying the proposal could be used to deny education to the girl child, whose school drop-out rate is almost double than that of boys, and can hamper the government’s bid to provide elementary education to all children below 14 years. India has seen a sharp drop in the number of child labourers in the last decade, down to 4.3 million from 12.6 million, according to census data. Child rights activists, however, dispute the numbers, saying the decline is due to under-reporting because of fear of prosecution but officials crediting the improvement to increased school enrolment. A large number of child labourers continue to work in several industries such as fireworks, matchboxes, footwear and carpet making, where children are in high demand owing to their nimble fingers, necessary for intricate designs. Activists say children are often preferred because they can be forced to work long hours with poor pay. The original child labour law banned the employment of children below 14 in only 18 hazardous industries but the UPA government in 2012 proposed to extend the ban to all industries. They also introduced a new category of adolescents — 14 to 18 years — who were banned from hazardous industries but allowed to work in other sectors. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill, 2012, introduced in the Rajya Sabha, recommended a complete ban on child labour until they finish elementary education, guaranteed under the Right To Education Act. The amendments were welcomed by activists but were seen by many as an “inspector raj” that gave labour department officials a permit to harass small businesses and farmers. The changes were re-examined by the new government due to apprehensions of misuse and fears that they could upset the social fabric of the country. These were also the reasons given by the labour ministry while rejecting a parliamentary committee recommendation that barred children from helping parents in domestic chores, saying the ban could be reframed to prohibit employment in all occupations. The ministry also rejected a proposal to make elementary education a must for employment of adolescents in non-hazardous industries, pointing out that a separate law existed to guarantee education. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya announced last week the government would be introducing amendments to the Child Labour Prohibition Act in the ongoing winter session. The ministry has prepared to proposal to seek the cabinet’s approval and it is expected to be considered soon. (Hindustan Times 9/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. Unused sum for minorities welfare hits students hard (7)

HYDERABAD: On account of the low budget releases by the Telangana government, its own Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) has been forced to leave a large amount unspent at the end of the FY 2014-15. While the state government has time and again claimed that it is dedicated to the welfare of minorities, it released less than Rs 500 crore, of the Rs 1,030 crore budgetary allocations. As a result, students suffered the most after eagerly waiting for funds by way of the fee reimbursement scheme. Those who wanted to avail loans offered to minorities under the bankable schemes had to put up with this as well. The scheme hands out loans of upto Rs 1 lakh to beneficiaries. “Of the Rs 84 crore earmarked for the then AP State Minorities Finance Corporation (APSMFC), around Rs 51 crore is yet to be released,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified. There were a lot of applications which the corporation has received, he added. “One of the primary concerns of the APSMFC is to help entrepreneurs from Muslim communities. This will save many from the cycle of debt when they approach the illegal micro-financiers of the Old City. The government had framed guidelines to release the funds very late,” the official added. The APSMFC has “committed” the amount and the last date for submission of forms for availing the scheme is April 15, he added. The Urdu Academy too had a similar fate. Sources from the academy said that of the Rs 22 crore allotted, only Rs 3 crore was released. “The allocation was also for construction of Shaadikhanas, among other things. We have not received the remaining amount,” said an official on the condition of anonymity. Officials said that the government is insisting that the funds, especially for the Shaadi Mubarak scheme, will be utilised by green channel, which means the funds can be used well into the next financial year and would not lapse, they reasoned. While there have been rumours that well over 60% of the funds have been returned to the treasury, officials were quick to deny. When contacted, special secretary, MWD, Syed Omar Jaleel clarified, “When around Rs 500 crore of the Rs 1,030 crore was released there is no question of 60% or more of the budgetary allocation to be returned.” (Times of India 4/4/15)

21. Minorities Commission to probe custodial death in Nizamabad (7)

HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Commission has decided to inquire into the custodial death of Shaik Hyder in One Town police station of Nizamabad with a four member committee headed by Qurratulain Hasan. The decision was taken at a meeting of the commission held by Chairman Abid Rasool Khan here on Saturday. Mr. Khan stated that they had already registered a suo motu case on the incident, made enquiries and obtained a preliminary report from the Superintendent of Police of Nizamabad. The other members of the probe committee would be Sardar Sarjith Singh, Percy Italia and Goutham Jain. A retired judge Ismail and a judicial officer would also accompany the probe team’s visit to Nizamabad. The committee would talk to parents and relatives of the victim, police and revenue officials and file a report within a week. Meanwhile, the commission has recommended to District Collector of Nizamabad to pay ex-gratia to the family of Shaik Hyder. The commission has also considered the request of Jain community, a part of minority communities, for allotment of land for constructing a community hall. The proposal made by the community for allotment of two acres land has been forwarded to the Telangana Government with a recommendation to allot suitable land. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

22. Akalis play minority card to woo Muslims in Dhuri village (7)

DUGNI: At an election rally held here on Monday, Akalis pitched for the party candidate, reminding residents of the lone Muslim dominated village of Dhuri assembly segment of their minority status and how they would benefit from its rule. Accompanying deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Badal at a poll rally at Dugni, MLA F Nesara Khatoon, also known as Farzana Alam, told the residents how the community was being badly treated in the entire India except Punjab. “This village is totally Muslim dominated. Just think, if we assure Akalis of their win from here then we can easily demand money for our masjids, madarasas and graveyards. But if Akalis lose elections, how can we seek grants for development. We need Akalis more than they need us,” said Khatoon. She added, “You must be reading about communal tension in various states in newspapers these days. But here in Punjab, we live in absolute communal peace.” Sukhbir, though, avoided to indulge in the minorities’ issue and restricted his address to stating that Punjab was safe place to live for all. “Sikhs, Muslims and Christians are minorities. In Punjab, Hindus are also among minorities. So all minorities in Punjab know how to live in peace,” he said. Dugni is part of Malerkotla administrative block of Sangrur district and the only Muslim dominated town in Punjab apart from Qadian in Gurdaspur district. The village has over 1,250 voters, of whom around 95% are Muslims. Dugni resident Ishtiaq Khan said the village had recently got a grant of Rs 33 lakh with which panchayat had restructured the graveyard. “Even the Islamia school now has regular teachers. Till recently, such facilities would be listed as demands during elections,” he added. (Times of India 7/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

23. By 2050, India to surpass Indonesia, will have largest Muslim population: Study (7)

WASHINGTON: Hindus will become the world’s third largest population by 2050, while India will overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population, according to a new study. According to the Pew Research Center’s religious profile predictions assessed data released on Thursday, the Hindu population is projected to rise by 34 per cent worldwide, from a little over 1 billion to nearly 1.4 billion by 2050. By 2050, Hindus will be third, making up 14.9 per cent of the world’s total population, followed by people who do not affiliate with any religion, accounting for 13.2 per cent, the report said. The people with no religious affiliation currently have the third largest share of the world’s total population. Muslims are projected to grow faster than the world’s overall population and that Hindus and Christians are projected to roughly keep pace with worldwide population growth, the report said. “India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia,” it said. “Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion,” according to the report. The report predicted that by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30 per cent of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31 per cent), possibly for the first time in history. There were 1.6 billion Muslims in 2010, compared to 2.17 billion Christians. “The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world,” it added. If the trend continues, Islam will be the most popular faith in the world after 2070, it said. By 2050, Muslims will make up about 10 per cent of the Europe’s population, up from 5.9 per cent in 2010. Over the same period, the number of Hindus in Europe is expected to roughly double, from a little under 1.4 million (0.2 per cent of Europe’s population) to nearly 2.7 million (0.4 per cent), mainly as a result of immigration, it said. In North America, the Hindu share of the population is expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, from 0.7 per cent in 2010 to 1.3 per cent in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models. Without migration, the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain the same. Buddhism is the only faith that is not expected to increase its followers, due to an ageing population and stable fertility rates in Buddhist countries, such as China, Japan and Thailand. The projections considered fertility rates, trends in youth population growth and religious conversion statistics. (Times of India 3/4/15)

24. PM Modi meets Muslim leaders, vows support (7)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured full support to Muslim community to deal with their grievances particularly related to improving its social condition and educational standing. The PM expressed his views on Monday during a meeting with a delegation of Muslim leaders which discussed various socio-economic and political issues related to the community. “The Prime Minister gave a patient hearing to the delegation and assured them of his full support in meeting grievances of all sections of Muslim society,” a PMO statement said. The Muslim leaders promised to strengthen communal harmony and national unity. The PM emphasised the need for empowering Muslim youth to enable them to play a larger role in the nation building, it added. Mr Modi specifically assured the leaders that he would look into their grievances on shrines, mosques and madrasas. The PM’s assurance came in wake of the community leaders bringing to his notice issues related to properties of Muslim shrines, mosques and madarsas. They also sought the government’s support in providing better facilities to Muslim youth particularly in the field of education. Mr Modi promised his “complete assistance in ameliorating their social conditions and addressing their educational requirements”, the statement said. On their part, the Muslim leaders committed full support of the community to Mr Modi in meeting his objectives of ensuring speedy economic growth, promoting communal harmony and peace, and strengthening national security, the statement added. While expressing apprehensions about the trend of increased radicalisation and emerging threat of terrorism, the leaders underlined the need for greater unity and collective efforts to meet the challenge. Meanwhile, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said there was a lot of misinformation over isolated incidents of attack on some religious places and dismissed the perception that minorities have become insecure under the NDA government. While addressing a conference of business leaders here, Mr Naidu said,”Modi aaya sabko insecurity aaya. Haan kuch political logon ko insecurity aaya. Hum log kya karen? (Since Modi has come, insecurity has come. Yes, insecurity has come for some political people. What can we do about it?)” Mr Naidu said. Referring to a “very condemnable” gangrape of a nun in West Bengal, the minister and said there was a lot of “hue and cry” over it with the incident being linked to “hindutva” froces. “At the end of the day, the police have arrested the accused people. The number one accused is from Bangladesh and belonged to a particular community,” he said, adding, “Since that fact came out, nobody is speaking now”. Even in Delhi, he said, there were five incidents which were wrongly projected. “Even a small incident of pelting a stone on a place of worship, Church or Gurudwara or Mosque or Temple, it should be condemned by one and all,” Mr Naidu said. The delegation of Muslim leaders from across the country — including Syed Sultan-Ul-Hasan Chishti Misbahi (Sajjada Nashin, Ajmer Sharif), Hazrat Ghulam Yasin Sahib (Shahar Kazi, Varanasi), Sheikh Wasim Ashrafi (Imam Tanzeem, Mumbai), Muhammed Hamid (National President, Imam Tanzeem, Nagpur) and Allama Tasleem Raaza Sahib (Dargah Barelvi Sharif, UP), Syed Abdul Rashid Ali (Syed Shahid Dargah Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh), Maulana Abu Bakr Basani (Nagori Sharif Dargah, Rajasthan), Syed Ali Akbar (Taajpura Sharif, Chennai) and Haji Abdul Hafiz Khan (Imam, Tanzeem Balaghat, MP) — were part of the delegation. (Asian Age 7/4/15)

25. Ensure Muslim youth keep off terrorism: PM Modi (7)

New Delhi: Following his meeting with prominent leaders of the Muslim community a couple of days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed national security advisor Ajit Doval to prepare a detailed roadmap to ensure that Muslim youth stay away from radical and terror groups. Sources said even though the NSA was already working closely with intelligence and security agencies to ensure that the Muslim youth were not attracted to terror outfits like ISIS and Al Qaeda, sources said the government will put in place a foolproof mechanism to bring these youth from the minority community into the country’s “political and social” mainstream. Incidentally, the NSA was part of the meeting that PM had with the religious leaders to discuss various socio, economic and political issues related to the community. As part of the plan the government will give greater to emphasis to education for the Muslim youth, with special focus on educating girls.Sources said the focus will not merely be on providing basic education to these youth, but skilled training which will help them in securing proper jobs. We will ensure that such youth get professional training so that they get employment and don’t get lured by radical or terror groups,’’ a senior government official said. Even though the government has already announced its intent to modernise the madrasas, but now the Centre in association with some voluntary groups from the community will closely monitor the working of such educational and cultural centres. Intelligence and security agencies suspect that subversive and radical specifically target the madrasas making them “ideal breeding grounds” for young recruits. As part of the plan the PMO will also focus early disposal of grievances on shrines, mosques and madrasas. A core team within the office of the national security advisor will work in close co-ordination with community leaders to prepare this detailed blueprint. At the meeting the Muslim leaders had also expressed apprehensions about the trend of increased radicalisation and emerging threat of terrorism and underlined the need for greater unity and collective efforts to meet the challenge. (Asian Age 9/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

26. Legal fraternity backs Justice’s Joseph call for religious sensitivity (7)

New Delhi: A number of senior Supreme Court lawyers have come in support of Justice Kurian Joseph who protested against holding of a conference of top judges on Good Friday saying it was “insensitive”, and wrong to make it a case of individual versus institutional interest. “There was no individual interest (in what Justice Joseph said). It was a sacred day for the Christians. One has to be sensitive to their feelings and point of view and can’t be insensitive and belligerent about them,” said senior counsel Rupinder Singh Sodhi. Justice Joseph had written to Chief Justice H.L.Dattu protesting against the holding of High Court Chief Justices conference on Good Friday, but Chief Justice Dattu had replied that institutional interests were more important than the individual interests. Not only did Justice Joseph stay away from the conference but also did not attend the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the participants as he had gone to Kerala for the religious event. Sodhi, a former Delhi High Court judge, said: “It (holding the conference on Good Friday) was in bad taste. What I am most concerned is that none of the brother judges of Supreme Court stood by him. I am sorry that none stood by him. Had I been one of them, I would have protested though I don’t belong to the same faith”If saving a working day was an issue, then “this conference could have been held during the summer vacation when courts are closed,” he said. Agreeing with Justice Joseph, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “I agree with Justice Kurian Joseph. These sensitivities have to be born in mind before scheduling such conferences.” To Chief Justice H.L.Dattu’s response: “It is not a question of individual interest. It is a question of being sensitive to sentiments of the people belonging to different religion. Good Friday is no different from any other national holidays.” Another former judge of Delhi High Court and now senior counsel Jaspal Singh said: ” I personally feel that it is a very important religious day and the sentiments of the Christian community should be taken note of, more so when such conferences can take place on any other day also.” “It is not personal. It is very much a national holiday. Also Christians are part of Indian society. They are as important as any other community. I do feel that there was nothing personal in it and the reaction of Chief Justice Dattu in that regard was totally uncalled for,” he said. (Business Standard 4/4/15)

27. 51 persons embrace Hinduism on Easter in VHP-organised programme (26)

Kottayam (Kerala): At least 51 persons, most of them belonging to Christian community, embraced Hinduism at nearby Kurichi on Easter on Sunday. Twenty five men and 26 women converted to Hinduism in the reconversion ritual organised by Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), organisers of the programme said. VHP district secretary PK Gopalakrishnan claimed that it was not a forced conversion and the people belonging to 20 families embraced Hinduism on their own. “We are just facilitators. There is no force,” Gopalakrishnan told PTI. He also justified the decision to organise the event on Easter saying it was a convenient day for all since it is a holiday. Gopalakrishnan said so far 153 persons, mostly belonging to Christian community, have reconverted to Hinduism in the district under the initiatives undertaken by various Hindu organisations since Christmas last year. On Christmas last year, at least 58 persons had converted to Hinduism at two temples as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme organised by the VHP, he said. (DNA 5/4/15)

28. Church attack figures in UPA rule match those under NDA (7)

NEW DELHI: Even as Narendra Modi government faces criticism for the attacks on churches and Christian institutions during its 10-month rule, crime records from the UPA era reveal that not only were there a matching number of such attacks between May 2013 and March 2014 but also 50% of those cases still remain unsolved. According to a secret report accessed by TOI, there were 10 cases of so-called anti-Christian attacks between May 26, 2013 and March 31, 2014, when UPA was in power. While nine were instances of church vandalization, one related to a pastor’s murder. Of these 10 cases reported from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, five remain undetected while in four cases, 16 persons were arrested. An unsound person was found to be responsible in one case. In comparison, between installation of the Modi government on May 26, 2014 and March 31, 2015, 11 cases were reported. Of these, six incidents relate to Delhi and one each to West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharasthra, Kerala and Haryana. In two separate cases of fire at a church in East Delhi and Rohini, a short-circuit was found be the cause. The Jasola church attack, in which a windowpane was damaged, has been blamed on an unintentional throwing of a stone by a boy. Four cases (relating to vandalization of churches in Vikaspuri, Hisar, Jabalpur and Navi Mumbai) have been investigated, leading to arrest of 14 persons. Two of three cases have not yet been solved and are suspected to be that of burglary. As for the March 13 rape of a 71-year-old nun at a convent in Nadia, which evoked angry reactions from church leaders, the police have claimed that the case has been solved with the arrest of a Bangladeshi, Mohammad Salim Sheikh, and another accused, Gopal Sarkar. Four others, all Bangladeshi nationals, have since escaped to Bangladesh. (Times of India 7/4/15)

29. Christian association meets state BJP chief over attacks in MP (7)

Bhopal: Alarmed by attacks on the Christian community and its places of worship in Madhya Pradesh in the last one year, a delegation of Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh (RIM) on Wednesday met state BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan here and sought his help to prevent such incidents. Father Anand Muttungal, a Catholic priest who led the delegation told Chauhan that as many as 19 attacks were reported in the media in the state since June 2014, apart from several other unreported minor attacks. According to Muttungal, RIM state women cell convener Sheela Santiago told Chauhan that many Christians too had joined BJP under the party’s ongoing enrolment drive, but such incidents would alienate the community from it. The delegation handed over a memorandum and list of 19 major incidents since last June to Chauhan, Muttungal told PTI. According to RIM, the latest of these incidents took place on Good Friday this year (April 3) when VHP and Bajrang Dal workers forcibly stopped a prayer meeting in Khargone district. (Zee News 8/4/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Pak to Expel 11,000 Illegal Afghan Refugees in Pok (13)

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir today said they will expel about 11,000 illegal Afghan refugees living in the disputed region. The decision has been taken after Pakistan launched a crackdown on illegal refugees in the wake of the deadly Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar that killed 136 students in December. Senior police official Faheem Abbasi said in PoK capital Muzaffarabad that “some 11,000 Afghans would be expelled” from the region. There are about 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who fled to the country during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. A majority of them have permission to live under agreement with the UN and Afghan government and are issued special cards. They live in designated camps and are also allowed to work. But about 1.4 million are illegal refugees and they are targeted by security forces and are being asked to leave or register to become legal refugees. Pakistan recently decided to take action against illegal Afghan refugees and about 30,000 have already left after the Peshawar school attack. (New Indian Express 2/4/15)

31. Mass exodus: 100,000 villagers migrate from Chhatisgarh in 3 years (13)

RAIPUR: There’s a deathly silence in many villages across Chhattisgarh these days. The houses are locked as entire families have left for greener pastures for want of work, despite Central government’s rural job scheme and availability of rice at Rs1 per kg. “We (55 labourers and 15 children) are leaving for Faizabad (in Uttar Pradesh) where we will make bricks. The payment is Rs 400 for 1,000 bricks. Two labourers can make 1,000 bricks in a day. We will come back after working for six months there,” Kans Nishad of Baloda Bazaar said at the Raipur railway station.  According to government statistics, 95,324 people have left their homes in last three years. A substantial part of the migration – 29,190 – took place from Janjgir-Champa district. Inquiries revealed that people living below the poverty line are not getting jobs under MGNREGA scheme. Chhattisgarh revenue minister Prem Prakash Pandey accepted the migration issue in state assembly but didn’t have any solutions. Apart from Janjgir-Champa, there are also reports of migration from Bemetara, Balod, Kawardha, Gariaband, Durg and Dhamtari districts, among others. The migrants have moved to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh where they are engaged in construction of houses, roads and canals or they work in brick kilns. Official records in Maoist-hit Sukma district show that no villager has been given employment under MGNREGA in last nine months. This apart, government officials working on the scheme say they have not been paid for the past six to 10 months. Ironically, neighbouring Dantewada district, which is also Maoist-affected, was given a national award earlier this year for its good performance under the scheme. Statistics of Baloda district are stark with some 500 labourers migrating every month. Besides, statistics show that 20,000 labourers have moved out of Lavan area, leaving hundreds of houses in around 15 villages locked. “The labourers have not derived any benefit inspite of state’s small size. That’s why a large number of labourers are migrating to other states,” Rajesh Mishra, general-secretary of NGO Gram Vikas Samiti said. “The statistics of economic development are lying in cold storage, far away from the ground reality. That’s why people of Chhattisgarh are moving away. A major question that arises here is till when would this continue,” Mishra said. (Times of India 6/4/15)

32. Palestinians urge UN to ensure safety of besieged refugees (13)

United Nations: The Palestinian UN ambassador is urging the UN Security Council to take action to ensure safe passage for up to 18,000 Palestinians besieged in a refugee camp in the Syrian capital. The council held an emergency meeting today on the crisis at the Yarmouk camp, which is now mainly controlled by the Islamic State group. The Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told reporters that saving the refugees is his government’s top priority. He appealed to all nations to help the refugees relocate to safer areas in Syria or in other countries. Mansour said about 2,000 of the estimated 18,000 refugees in Yarmouk had made it to safety on their own. The Security Council was being briefed behind closed doors by the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl. (Zee News 7/4/15)

33. UN warns of “slaughter of innocents” in Syrian refugee camp (13)

London: United Nations officials warn of a potential “slaughter of innocents” unless aid and assistance reached a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where thousands of civilians are trapped up in a vicious battle. United Nations officials warned on Wednesday of a potential “slaughter of innocents” unless aid and assistance reached a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where thousands of civilians are trapped up in a vicious battle. Some 18,000 civilians, including 3,500 children, are caught in the camp outside Damascus just a few miles from President Bashar al-Assad’s palace. The camp largely fell under Islamic State (IS) control last week and is surrounded by the Syrian army. The Yarmouk camp, which was home to half a million Palestinians before the conflict began in 2011, has been held by anti-Assad insurgents and besieged by government troops since the early days of the war and many have already fled. But as fighting intensified in and around the camp, the remaining refugees have been left without food, water and medical supplies prompting aid agencies to call for the warring parties to allow access for aid and evacuations.”The level of inhumanity that Yarmouk has descended to is frankly unimaginable,” Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from Jerusalem. “The situation is absolutely desperate. We need urgently to have humanitarian access, which is why UNRWA is calling for all parties to exercise influence with their clients on the ground so that we can get into the camp.” Gunness said since the fighting escalated a week ago, UNRWA aid convoys have not been able to enter the camp and the already dire situation has become more desperate with people left without water, food or medicine and the growing risk of disease. Gunness said a few Palestinian charities had managed to get some supplies to the camp but otherwise people were cut off with the risk of disease rising daily. “When you have public health system completely shot to pieces, when you have such terrible levels of food insecurity … disease is going to soar,” said Gunness. “We have tragic pictures of children and others scooping up water out of holes in the streets.” Gunness said UNRWA had not been a regular presence in the camp for at least two years so it was impossible to estimate the number of people now ill or the death toll. The war in Syria has killed 220,000 people and displaced millions of Syrians. The United Nations has said it is extremely concerned about the safety and protection of Syrian and Palestinian civilians at the Yarmouk camp. Gunness said an estimated 94 civilians, including 43 women and 20 children, managed to leave the camp on Sunday and were provided with humanitarian support so there was no reason why more could not be helped to safety. “For me it is unconceivable that the so-called civilised world can stand and watch what is going on in Yarmouk,” he said. “We are facing a potential slaughter of the innocents and the world cannot stand by and watch that happen.” (DNA 8/4/15)

34. Kashmiri Pandits Demand “Composite Township” Amid Separatist’s Protests (13)

JAMMU: Various organisations representing people of Kashmiri Pandit community today held protests here against the separatists and political parties opposed to the idea of creation of a “composite township” in Kashmir Valley for the displaced people. Members of the community living in various satellite townships here demanded townships in the Valley where they can live peacefully. “It has been 25 years that we were forced to leave Kashmir valley and now we want to go back to our homeland. At present the situation is not conducive for our return to our native places so we want a Jagti-type township in Kashmir Valley where we can go and live peacefully,” said Kakaji Bhat, a resident of the Jagti satellite township for Kashmiri migrants. He said Kashmiri Pandits want to return to their native places, but the opposition from separatists has shown that situation is not conducive for their return. “There are certain villages in the Valley where only one or two Kashmiri Pandit families used to live. They were forced to leave their houses, how can you expect them to return to their native place where they will have to live under the shadow of militant guns always,” Kakaji said. Raising slogans against separatist leaders, the residents demanded that the state government should not succumb to the pressure of the separatists and should go ahead with the township proposal. “The state and Central governments must not succumb to the dictate of these separatists and must go ahead with the proposal,” Shadi Lal Pandita President of Jagti Tenement Committee said. He said opposition to the proposal was part of a conspiracy to stop the rehabilitation of the community. “The opposition is a well-planned conspiracy hatched so as to stop the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandit community back in the Valley. Actually they don’t want us to resettle there,” Shadi Lal said. The activists of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj (YAIKS) also held a protest in Jammu, demanding action against the separatist leaders who have been opposing the creation of the township in Kashmir. Meanwhile, other organisations representing the community have also expressed their resentment over the opposition shown by several mainstream and separatists parties to the proposal. Organisations like All State Kashmiri Pandit conference (ASKPC), Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), Kashmiri Displaced Lawyers Forum Jammu (KDLFJ), Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch (JKVM) have demanded that the government must go ahead with the proposal of setting up of the township. (New Indian Express 10/4/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

35. RTI forces AMC’s medical education trust to disclose all (1)

AHMEDABAD: After resisting from giving details of its function and budget the AMC Medical Education Trust finally bowed before Right to Information Act (RTI). The state information commission had ordered AMC-MET a few weeks ago to upload all information regarding its functions, budget and employee status on its website- amcdental.org. The trust established a dental college in 2009 for various academic courses in medicine. These disclosures are mandatory as AMC-MET is a public-funded trust. Despite this, the trust had managed to remain largely underground for many years, till RTI queries started probing into its activities. The information commission while acting on a complaint filed by Pankaj Bhatt, an RTI applicant, had sought reasons for non-disclosure of details under section 4(1)b of the RTI Act. Under this clause a public funded body has to reveal powers and duties of its officers, procedures followed in decision-making process, details of rules and regulations and manuals and discharge of duties by the board councils or committees. Following the RTI query the state information commission directed the state government’s General Administration Department and the Urban Development Department to look into the matter. GAD wrote to the trust in October 2014 and in February this year UDD sought clarification on the matter from the trust. Finally on Wednesday the matter was resolved when the trust uploaded all relevant details on its website, as per directives of the information commission. (Times of India 2/4/15)

36. Parliament has never submitted report on RTI stats since law was enacted (1)

MUMBAI: In the nine years of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Parliament has never submitted statistics on the RTI applications it has received till date. Neither the Lok Sabha (LS) nor the Rajya Sabha (RS) secretariats have ever submitted reports to the Central Information Commission (CIC), which compiles data received from public authorities across the country. “Parliament has the right to get annual reports on the implementation of the RTI Act under section 25 of the Act. It is a contradiction of sorts that the supervisory body itself has never submitted RTI stats to the CIC,” says Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which has analyzed CIC reports over the last nine years. “I personally know of retired and serving officials in the LS and RS secretariats who have sought information from these bodies. It is clear that both houses of Parliament are receiving a lot of RTI applications. It is their duty to report them to the ministry of parliament affairs,” says Nayak. The study showed a steady decline in the proportion of public authorities submitting data on RTI to the CIC. In 2005-06, the year RTI was passed, there were 938 public authorities, of which 89.23% filed a compliance report. In 2013-14, the number of public authorities was 2,776, of which 73% submitted an RTI report to the CIC, a 17% dip since 2005-06. “The department of personnel and training (DoPT) had initially called for quarterly reports on RTI data from all public authorities. But many have instead chosen to submit only one report at the end of the year. When they miss the deadline, the data is simply not reported,” says Nayak. Ironically, he points out, the DoPT itself did not submit an RTI report this year, despite the fact that RTI falls under its purview. The rejection rate for RTI applications was over 20% for the PMO, nearly three times the average rejection rate for public authorities, which was 7.2%. The rejection rate was higher still for the Supreme Court (23%) and 28.8% for the ministry of corporate affairs—four times the national average. The corporate affairs ministry saw an almost 300% increase in the rejection rate last year, says the CHRI report. Nayak points to a worrying trend—the increase in the ‘others’ column, which signifies rejections on grounds other than those stated in the RTI Act. According to the CIC’s recent annual report, the railways (largest number of RTI queries) has a rejection rate of 0.1%. Nayak says there is a need to independently examine the data submitted by public authorities, pointing to instances where these had cited a rejection rate of zero, while the number of second appeals in those bodies was high, contradicting their claim of no rejections. (Times of India 4/4/15)

37. Post office to auction unclaimed items soon (1)

New Delhi: Over 33,000 unclaimed articles like jewellery, cellphones, cameras and watches are gathering dust since last three years at the Returned Letter Office of the postal department here, awaiting bonafide owners to claim them before these go under the hammer.The department in an RTI response, filed by PTI, revealed that there were 8,070 undelivered mails in the year 2012, 11,938 mails in 2013 and 13,075 mails in 2014, totalling 33,0083 mails that post officials are planning to auction soon as the rightful claimants have so far not come to pick them up. These returned mails/parcels include jewellery, watches, cellphones, cameras, books, imitation jewellery, and stationary items among others. These parcels land in the Returned Letter Office only when the addresses of both the sender and recipient are found to be inconclusive. The department of posts auctioned undelivered mails twice in 2010 and then five times in 2011, fetching Rs 1.11 lakh in all seven attempts. (Asian Age 6/4/15)

38. CBI not filing RTI data with CIC; IB regular with figures (1)

New Delhi: CBI which primarily probes corruption cases has not filed its mandatory report giving statistics of RTI applications received and processed by it since 2012 when it was included in the list of exempted organisations. In contrast, Intelligence Bureau, which holds information pertaining to security and intelligence is regularly filing returns with the Central Information Commission despite being in the list of exempted organisations, an analysis of annual report of the Central Information Commission done by activist Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative reveals. Nayak says CBI, which functions under the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal ministry for RTI implementation, has stopped reporting RTI statistics since 2012 after it was notified under Section 24 of the RTI Act. The provisions of the RTI Act do not apply on the exempted organisations but when it comes to any material in any form held by them pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations provisions of the transparency law have to be abided by. CBI which is like any other state police primarily deals with allegations of corruption has been avoiding to follow mandatory provisions of the law. “By holding such a position… Readers end up disrespecting the security and intelligence organisations which faithfully report RTI stats, like the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for example,” he said. The IB and the CRPF have no problems with giving such harmless information, he said. “As on date, the Government of India has notified 25 security and intelligence organisations as exempted from the ordinary obligations of transparency under the RTI Act like their parent departments and ministries and other public authorities. However, they are required to provide access to information if it relates to allegations of corruption and human rights violation. Such information must not be withheld under the RTI Act,” Nayak said. He said by logical extension of this statutory requirement, they must also submit their reports to the CIC under Section 25 of the Act about the number of RTI applications received, amount of fees collected and details of cases where access to information was rejected. (Business Standard 8/4/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Education neglected in state’s tribal areas: CAG (11)

GANDHINAGAR: The implementation of Right to Education (RTE) and other educational schemes in the tribal areas of the state has been poor, says the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its latest social sector audit of the Gujarat government. The CAG audited different schemes of the education department in Dahod, Dangs, Panchmahal, Tapi and Valsad districts. It has observed that though funds from centre and the state were released after bifurcation into general and tribal sub-plan (TSP) grants, no separate account of expenditure incurred under the two heads — general and TSP grants (except for mid-day meal scheme) — were maintained at the state or the district level. The auditor has further noted that expenditure against available funds was only 12.67% in 2011-12; 14.09% in 2012-13; and 22.42 % in 2013-14. It further says that the district project coordinators (DPCs) of Dang and Tapi districts had diverted (in 2011-14) Rs 24.46 lakh of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan funds (SSA) to Ashramshalas and Eklavya Model Residential schools of tribal development department. (The SSA is a central scheme while the latter two are state-sponsored schemes.) This was against the provisions of the grant release order, the CAG says. Rs 89.55 crore allotted to the implementing agency under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) as advance were shown as expenditure and incorrect expenditure figures were reported to the central government, says CAG in its report. “According to the norms of SSA and RTE Act, there should be at least two teachers in a primary school with a pupil-teacher ratio of 40:1. Upper Primary Schools should have at least one teacher per class so that there shall be at least one teacher each for (i) science and mathematics, (ii) social studies and (iii) language with pupil-teacher ratio of 35:1. The correct pupil-teacher ratio was not maintained in 156 primary schools and 2,535 upper primary schools, the highest being 156:1 as against 40:1 in primary schools and 363:1 as against 35:1 in Upper Primary Schools. Further, 64 schools with a total strength of 5,698 students had no teachers while 874 schools had only one teacher each. Three schools of Valsad district with 156 students belonging to the Scheduled Tribes had no teachers and 111 out of 6,163 schools had only one teacher,” the CAG says in its report. The CAG noted: “11,888 computers were provided to 1,368 schools during the period 2005-06 to 2011-12. However, computer teachers/co-ordinators were not appointed in these schools to impart computer-aided learning. Joint field visits to 14 Upper Primary Schools revealed that the computers were lying idle.” It further notes that Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) was found running from a private rented building and did not have infrastructural facilities, viz., separate library room, computers, toilets, compound wall, playground, separate room for teaching and living, etc. “Separate hostel buildings were not available in two KGBVs; three halls were used as hostel and also for teaching. In one KGBV, only one bathroom and toilet was available for 51 students and teachers,” the CAG report states. (Times of India 1/4/15)

40. Rise in dropout rate, thanks to flawed school education (11)

INDORE: Faulty school education system, which stress rote learning more than developing knowledge and understanding among children, is one of the major reasons behind increasing drop-out rates, admits union human resource development ministry in a reply to an RTI query over increasing weight of school bags and its adverse effect on children’s health. Ministry, in its reply, mentioned that students who drop out of school due to wrong teaching methods being practiced can do well, provided they get proper guidance. “Yashpal Committee report on ‘Education without Burden’ mentioned that school curriculum cannot be the only parameter for checking ability and intelligence of a student,” reads reply. It went on to say that learning can become engaging and entertaining only when schools start encouraging students to understand concepts and develop new thoughts and ideas. RTI activist Rajendra K Gupta had filed an RTI with union human resource ministry highlighting adverse effect of heavy school bags on children’s health, quoting findings of committee ministry said schools underestimate the intelligence of children and stress only rote learning. “Every year syllabus to be covered is increasing as schools are always under pressure to enhance their curriculum. All these steps have bombarded children with lots of information but downgraded their analytical ability,” reads reply. It mentioned that efforts should be made to connect learning with practical experiences, which will help in all-round development of children. Gupta said going against suggestions of committee, private schools continue to increase number of books, forcing students to rely on rote learning. “Schools have not changed their mindset, school education does not encourage innovation and ideas,” said Gupta adding that heavy schoolbags badly affect the physical and mental growth of children. (Times of India 3/4/15)

41. State not doing much in education sector: CAG report (11)

JAIPUR: Enrolment in government schools have registered a sharp decline of 12 lakh students from 2008-09 to 2013-14, the CAG recently published in its report. It has slammed the state for either, not improving or making slight improvement in most education parameters during 2008-09 to 2013-14 even after spending crores in the sector. The enrolment in government schools reduced from 77 lakh in 2008-09 to 65 lakh in 2013-14. On the contrary, the enrolment in private schools jumped from 45 lakh in 2008-09 to 57 lakh in 2013-14, said the report. It said even after implementing the national programme for education of girls at elementary level for 10 years between 2003 and 13, the female literacy rate in the state remained at 52.1% which was below the national average of 64.6%.”Rajasthan stood lowest in female literacy rate among all the states and Union Territories,” says report. The report pointed out the alarming decline in the enrolment rate in government schools. It said 141 schools did not find a single student in the present session and 12, 782 schools have a single teacher. It also highlighted the deficiencies in policy of government. The clause (2) of section 3 of RTE Act envisaged that no child be liable to pay any kind of fee or charge or expenses which may prevent him or her form pursuing and completing his elementary education. The report highlighted that state did not include provision for school uniform in the notification under RTE rules. This means that beneficiaries of this act which are from economically weaker sections have to bear the cost of uniforms. The report highlights the main role of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and RTE Act which guarantees education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years of age. Even the guidelines say that 100% enrolment of Out of School category was to be achieved by 2013. The government started enrolling this category through special enrolment programme starting from 2011-12 but made no significant improvement. (Times of India 4/4/15)

42. India made big gains in child education: UN (11)

NEW DELHI: India has made significant strides in the past 15 years, but remains far from reducing adult illiteracy. A Unesco global education report that human resource development minister Smriti Irani would release on Thursday has revealed this. The report said gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary education touched 58% in 2012, compared to 19% in 1999. Primary education net enrolment ratio reached 99% in 2012. India has reduced its out-of-school children by over 90%. Globally 52% of countries including India achieved universal enrolment in primary education. India is predicted to be the only country in South and West Asia to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education this year. Unesco’s Global Monitoring Report (GMR) director Aaron Benavot praised India for making exemplary progress in helping children gain access to pre-primary and primary education since the global education goals were set in 2000. “India’s example clearly shows that with sufficient political will and resources the world can step up to meet the new education targets by 2030,” said Benavot. “To achieve global change in promoting a more sustainable future, all governments, including India, must mobilize new resources for education. International partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.” Globally, just one-third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. Only half of all countries have achieved the most prominent goal of universal primary education. Now, new education targets are being set for 2030. An extra $22 billion a year is needed apart from ambitious government contributions to ensure goals are achieved. These are the key findings of Unesco’s 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report ‘Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges’ which has tracked progress on these goals for the past 15 years. The report would be released one month before the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea). It said 20% of countries were very far from the goal of expanding early childhood care and education. While, for the goal towards universal primary education, 38% are far or very far from achieving it, leaving almost 100 million children without primary education. A lack of focus on the marginalized has left the poorest five times less likely to complete primary education than the richest. Over a third of out-of-school children are living in conflict zones. (Times of India 9/4/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Fight against poverty: Telangana, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst performing states (21)

NEW DELHI: Telangana, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst performing states in providing for the poorest of the poor, show latest data on the performance of states under a key poverty-eradication initiative of the Central government. The top performers are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, West Bengal and Karnataka. The April-Dec 2014 data on the Twenty Point Programme show that the four worst performers could not perform well in over half the schemes targeted at people below the poverty line. The performance is rated on three parameters: very good (where at least 90% of the target is achieved), good (80-90%) and poor (under 80%). Telangana could achieve “very good” rating in just three schemes, J&K for four and MP and Maharashtra, five each, according to a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The states were scored on target-oriented parameters, which include assistance to the urban poor under the Seven Point Charter (land tenure, housing at affordable cost, water, sanitation, education, health and social security), construction of rural roads and houses for the economically weaker and low-income groups, planting of seedlings, food security and electrification of villages. Rajasthan pipped PM Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat to the top slot with better achievement record on the initiative envisaged by former PM Indira Gandhi. Both states had “very good” rating for 14 schemes each, but Rajasthan performed well on the other programmes, where it scored better than national average in two more. Gujarat reported zero performance on three counts. Karnataka is the only Congress-ruled state among the top five. The ministry used to rank states on their performance under the Twenty Point Programme, before the practice was discontinued by the previous Congress-led government. (Times of India 1/4/15)

44. City has just 14 beds for 36,000 severely malnourished kids (21)

MUMBAI: Mahim toddler Mohammed Habib has missed most developmental milestones listed by the World Health Organisation for young children. At nine months, he cannot sit on his own, stand up with support or call out coherently for his mother. Worse, his weight when he was rushed to Sion Hospital’s Dharavi outpost in a dehydrated state on a November morning was 3.47 kg—the birth weight of many infants born in the city’s posh addresses. NGO Fight Hunger Foundation estimates that Habib is only one of the 36,000 children with SAM or severe acute malnutrition in Mumbai. The city, though, has only one 14-bed nutrition rehabilitation centre in Sion Hospital’s Dharavi outpost to nurse SAM kids to health. Experts say this inequality is the result of poor awareness about malnutrition in urban areas. Consider Habib, the third child of a driver, who doctors say was given formula feeds that were too diluted to be nutritious. He got diarrhoea in early November that rapidly spiralled into SAM. “Malnutrition is probably more prevalent in urban than in rural areas. In Mumbai, mothers have to get back to work at the earliest after delivery and the cost of living is so high that nutrition gets short shrift,” said Sion Hospital’s Dr Alka Jadhav, who is in charge of NRC. Fight Hunger Foundation director Dr Wasundhara Joshi said it’s high time the government recognized that urban poor are as badly off as their rural counterparts. “They have nine times the risk of dying as a normal kid.” Maharashtra’s fight against childhood malnutrition is seen as an example of public health success in recent times; a study commissioned by UNICEF showed 7% to 16% drop in malnutrition rates in the past eight years. The success was credited, in part, to the government’s nutrition rehabilitation centres. “NRCs operate out of district hospitals and provide food and care to severely malnourished infants for 14 days or more,” said state director general of health services Dr Satish Pawar. In Mumbai, the only NRC is run by BMC and supported by UNICEF and Fight Hunger Foundation. “Mumbai’s NRC is located in Sion Hospital and doing a great job.” The centre was set up in 2009. “We have helped around 400 children so far with over 95% success,” said the centre’s nutritionist. Children like Habib are fed on a special peanut butter meal recommended by WHO and treated for 14 days. Habib, for instance, gained 1.2kg in a fortnight. “But his growth is still stunted compared with to others his age. His poor cognition skills could take years to improve,” said a doctor. Meanwhile, Sion Hospital NRC will reopen its new-look ward soon. Fight Hunger Foundation plans to take the Sion Hospital-made therapeutic food to slums in Kandivli, Dharavi and Govandi. (Times of India 5/4/15)

45. New approach soon to estimate number of poor (21)

New Delhi: A task-force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya will soon come up with a new methodology to estimate the number of poor in the country. The task force held its first meeting on Tuesday. “It was a brain-storming session today on how to go about it. The report is to be submitted within three months and thus, a road map for the purpose will be designed soon,” said Chairman of National Statistical Commission Pronab Sen, who attended the meeting as special invitee. The other member of the task force include Bibek Debroy, who is a permanent member of the NITI Aayog, noted economist Surjit Bhalla and Chief Statistician T C A Anant. The secretaries of 5 central ministries, director-general of the Unique Identification Authority of India and two advisers from the Aayog too are part of the panel. The 14-member task-force will develop a working definition of poverty and prepare a roadmap for its elimination. Besides the panel will also suggest strategies and anti-poverty programmes, including reforms of the existing ones. Earlier, the UPA government had set up C Rangarajan committee to rework the poverty line, which was based on the methodology provided by Suresh Tendulkar panel. However the new government has not officially accepted its recommendations.The expert group headed by Rangarajan had dismissed the Suresh Tendulkar Committee methodology on estimating poverty and projected that the number of poor in India was much higher in 2011-12 at 29.5 per cent of the population. Estimates based on Tendulkar committee methodology, had pegged the poverty ratio at 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. In absolute terms, the number of poor in India stood at 36.3 crore in 2011-12, down from 45.4 crore in 2009-10, as per the Rangarajan panel. Tendulkar Committee, however, had suggested that the number of poor was 35.4 crore in 2009-10 and 26.9 crore in 2011-12. (Business Standard 8/4/15)

46. Poverty Forces Tamil Labourers to Fall Prey to Sanders Smugglers (21)

HYDERABAD:Poverty is forcing people from backward areas in Tamil Nadu, especially Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Vellore districts, to fall prey to dreaded red sanders smugglers and risk their lives. Many touts, working for these smugglers in the past few years, have been targeting drought-affected areas in Tamil Nadu such as Kootu Muthal, Sonapadi, Arangam, Koothamedu and Vaazhavand for getting labourers for cutting and transporting red sanders trees. According to official sources, smugglers pay woodcutters anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 per day depending on the risk and urgency of the order. There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders. “They are from the lower strata of the society who are trapped by the smugglers to chop down trees. But, once they are caught while cutting trees or during transportation, the smugglers just wash their hands off and leave them to their own fate,” said a senior forest official. Most of them have no clue about the value of red sanders and only look for the money they get on daily basis, the official added. Red sandalwood is both rare and valued at exorbitantly high rates in the international market, making it a hot commodity for smugglers. Seshachalam Abounds in Sanders In AP, red sanders grows mainly in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool districts in the Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. The area under red sanders is estimated to be 4.67 lakh hectares. There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders. These are from the lower strata of society who are lured by the smugglers to chop down the trees. (New Indian Express 9/4/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. Minimum wages for workers rise to Rs 9,048 (14)

NEW DELHI: Delhi government has hiked the minimum wages to Rs 9,048 per month for unskilled labourers with effect from April 1. In the order passed on Tuesday, the government has asked licensed contractors to pay additional dearness allowances of Rs 416 to labourers in the unskilled category. In the semiskilled category, the new minimum wage has been fixed at Rs 10,010 per month, which includes dearness allowance of Rs 468. The skilled workers, after additional dearness allowance of Rs 520, will be ensured minimum wages of Rs 10,998 per month. Labour Minister Gopal Rai said the government will organise a public hearing on April 24 to hear the grievances of contractual labourers and ensure that minimum wages is guaranteed to them. “Details of licensed agencies are being collected so as to monitor their performance and ensure benefits to the contractual labourers,” he said. The Department of Labour will also organise camps for registration of construction labourers from April 20 onwards at all Labour Chowks in Delhi.  After registration, the construction labourers will get various benefits from the construction workers welfare fund, which has a corpus of Rs 1,640 crore. Unorganised workers in the age group of 18-60 years are eligible under this scheme. The city government is also contributing for the welfare of un-organised sector workers for ensuring them pensioner benefits under National Pension Scheme, called ‘Dilli Swavalamban Yojana’.  As a contribution of Delhi Government, the first instalment of Rs 56 lakh was handed over to the representatives of Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority. This will give social security to domestic workers, auto and taxi drivers, Anganwadi and ASHA workers, BPL families, rickshaw pullers, hawkers, rag pickers, and Mid Day Meal workers. For the pension scheme, the city government contributes Rs 1,000 per beneficiary per annum for 25 years, whereas the Centre contributes Rs 1,000 per beneficiary for four years only. (Deccan Herald 2/4/15)

48. Bills to Amend Child Labour and EPF Acts after April 20 (14)

HYDERABAD:The Centre will introduce Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 and Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPF Act) Amendment Bill in the second phase of the budget session of Parliament which will begin on April 20. Disclosing this at a media conference here on Sunday, Union minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya said there was a need to amend the Child Labour Act since it did not prohibit child labour in all occupations and was not in conformity with the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. He said the proposed amendments would completely prohibit employment of children aged below 14 years and adolescents (14 to 18 years) in hazardous occupations. The penalty for employing a child will be increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 and the imprisonment term from six months to two years. He said the Centre also proposed creation of child and adolescent labour rehabilitation fund in every district or for two or more districts. Currently, the EPF & MP Act, 1952 applies if an establishment has 20 employees. It is now proposed to amend the Act to make the Act applicable even if a firm has 10 employees. Bringing down the threshold limit to 10 would bring in 50 lakh more workers under the social security net of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). According to Dattatreya, the bill also proposed to do away with the ‘Schedule of Industries’ and come up with a ‘Negative List’. “The government is also working to extend social security benefits to the workers of unorganised sector, bringing into its fold a large number of workers under social security ambit.” He added that the Universal Account Number(UAN) for Provident Fund subscribers would enable one to link his PF account to this number. This would allow easier portability as well as ease of transfer directly to employees bank accounts, he said. According to the Union minister, already over 4.35 crore UANs had been generated and employers had been asked to provide the Aadhaar numbers, bank account numbers and permanent account numbers of employees. “By March 2016 every worker will get UAN cards,” Dattatreya said. (New Indian Express 6/4/15)

49. MNREGA wages hiked by Rs. 13 a day (14)

BENGALURU: There’s some good news for beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), as the wage rate per day has been revised with effect from April 1. Daily wages have gone up from Rs. 191 in 2014–15 to Rs. 204 in 2015–16, an increase by Rs. 13 a day. However, the expenditure incurred per person per day is Rs. 360.4, which includes equipment cost (Rs. 136) and administration cost (Rs. 20.4). With this, the wage rates have been revised nine times since the launch of the job scheme in 2006–07 by the previous UPA government. The revision in the wage rate indexed to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour. The State government spent just 51 per cent of the allocated funds during 2014–15 [Rs. 1,683.65 crore as against Rs. 3,151.76 crore]. The State is expected to get Rs. 2,587.35 crore during 2015–16 for taking up various works under the scheme. In the current fiscal year, the State will spend more than 60 per cent of the allocated amount in the most backward 69 taluks. More funds will be spent on labour budget in these taluks. The labour budget has been depressed due to poor capacity. It was proposed to generate 4.56 crore man-days work in the most backward taluks and 2.61 crore man-days work in rest of the taluks in the State in the current financial year. The Centre has directed the State to identify gram panchayats for the ‘open defecation free’ campaign under the scheme as a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The planning and identification of works should be started before August to ensure completion by March 2016. The Centre said in 11 districts, the expenditure on agriculture-related works is below the statutory limit and efforts should be made to spend more money on farm works. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

50. Daily wage workers’ strike in hospital enters fifth day (14)

Mumbai: Over 4,000 daily wage workers from the seven BMC hospitals will enter the fifth day of their strike on Friday, following the debarment of workers who were employed since 2009 in the health sector. The demand for reappointing the same staff and giving them a similar position has remained unacknowledged by the authorities, leading to the strike. As the strike was underway on Thursday, the condition of BMC hospitals was deplorable. “Toilets are not being cleaned, the floors — which were wiped once a week — are soiled, and dustbins are not being emptied. The strike has worsened hygiene conditions for patients,” said a resident doctor from Sion Hospital. Pradeep Narkar, secretary of the Maharashtra Mazdoor Union, said the authorities are failing to understand the plight of informal sector labourers. “Just because their jobs are not permanent does not mean that they can be uprooted whenever it is so desired. They also have a family to look after,” he said. The temporary staff of these hospitals are scared that they will be left with no guaranteed income. “I have two sons who go to school. I earn Rs 100 here everyday as a sweeper. After they make me leave, how am I to take care of my kids? It’s been five years since when I have been here,” said a temporary class worker from Sion Hospital. The union members are to meet additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh to address their request on Friday. (Asian Age 10/4/15)

RESERVATION

51. Disabled quota: CabSec to meet secretaries today (25)

New Delhi: In what could be a major relief for persons living with disabilities, the Cabinet secretary on Wednesday has called upon a committee of secretaries with an aim to implement three per cent quota in jobs for the disabled.In a meeting on Wednesday, secretaries of 16 crucial ministries, including Union health ministry, ministry of social justice and empowerment, women and child development, department of personnel and training etc, along with chairman of the Railway Board will discuss the modalities for implementation of the reservation policy. “Headed by the Cabinet secretary, secretaries of different ministries will take part in the meeting which is scheduled for tomorrow morning. We hope to come out with suggestions for implementation of reservation for the persons living with disabilities,” a senior official said. Earlier, even the SC had sought Centre’s response on an NGO’s plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for not complying with an earlier order of three per cent in jobs to persons with disabilities. (Asian Age 1/4/15)

52. Centre moves SC seeking review of Jat quota verdict (25)

NEW DELHI: The Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking review of a March 17 judgment quashing a UPA government notification including Jats in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in nine States to grant them community reservation benefits. Countering the Supreme Court’s findings that the government should have complied with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), which had advised against the inclusion of Jats in the OBC category, the NDA government said it could exercise its own independent view on quota. “The Centre’s power to make available quota for a community is not dependent on the advice of the National Commission for Backward Classes,” the petition filed on Wednesday said. The judgment held the government both judicially and statutorily bound to comply with the NCBC decision. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

53. Jats put in OBC as per Constitutional mandate: Centre to SC (25)

New Delhi: Government has said it has the powers under the Constitution to include Jats in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and sought a review of Supreme Court’s decision to scrap quota for the community. In its review petition, the NDA government, which strongly supported the erstwhile UPA regime on the issue, also submitted that the apex court “committed an error” in holding that the National Commission for Backward Classes’ (NCBC) opinion would be binding on it. “The power to make provisions for reservation flows from Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India. This power is not dependent upon the advice of NCBC. “The Union of India, notwithstanding the provisions of the NCBC Act, possesses/retains this power to add or subtract from the central list of other backward classes,” the review plea, settled by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, said. The Centre had moved the court days after a Jat delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who assured the community leaders that his regime would try to find a solution within the legal framework. Earlier, a bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman, in its verdict, had referred to various constitutional schemes and the NCBC report and said that the finding of the OBC panel that Jats do not deserve to be given quota benefits was “supported by good and acceptable reasons”.The court had also said the NCBC had considered reports of state backward classes panels and other literature on the subject before recommending that Jats should not be included in the list of OBCs. Seeking a review of the apex court’s March 17 verdict setting aside a 2014 notification to include Jats in OBC list in nine states, the Centre said that its constitutional power can neither be “dependent” nor be curtailed on the advice of NCBC. (Zee News 5/4/15)

54. Implement 25 pc Quota to Poor in Private Schools (25)

HYDERABAD: The Joint Action Committee for Implementation of Model RTE Rules In Telangana state has urged the government to adopt the Model Rules immediately and undertake immediate implementation to ensure that all private schools in Telangana starts admitting 25 per cent poor students from the academic year 2015-16. The committee adopted a resolution to this effect at a meeting organised at dharna chowk near Indira Park here on Tuesday. They requested the state government to bring about the required amendments in rules framed by erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government for free admission to poor students in private schools. And the revised rules should be notified by or before May, the resolution said. Representatives of various political parties expressed support to the demand. Implementation of RTE Act in Telangana is zero. The rules have to be amended to implement the Act, claimed Mazher Hussain, executive director of COVA. The demand for allotting 25 per cent of seats in private schools holds significance because of exorbitant fee structure in private schools, and lack of space for government schools in the city, said professor M Kodandaram, chairman of Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), who was present at the meeting.  Telangana State convenor for RTE Forum, Ch Murali dismissed opinions expressed by some  that the strength in government schools will dwindle if the provision of 25 per cent admission is implemented. The committee stated that they would meet chief minister, education minister and  other officials concerned to submit a memorandum on the issue. The meeting was attended by Tammineni Veerabadhram, CPI(M) Telangana unit secretary, representatives from Lok Satta Party and BJP Mazdoor Morcha. APSA, COVA, Dalit Bahujan Shramik Union, Divya Disha, MV Foundation, RTE Forum for Telangana State and others were part of the committee. (New Indian Express 8/4/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. National rights panel to hold camp in city (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPUARAM: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hold a three-day open camp here from April 8. On the first day, the NHRC team will hear complaints pertaining to atrocities committed by public servants or negligence by a public servant in prevention an atrocity against Scheduled Caste community. In the afternoon, the Commission will hold a meeting with NGOs of the State on human rights. On April 9, the commission will take up 24 cases on issues such as endosulfan-related illnesses, deaths in judicial custody/police action, vandalisation of churches, trafficking of children from other States to Kerala, harassment of physically challenged candidates in examination, rehabilitation of landless Dalits, death of devotees in Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala, infants death in Attappady, child labour, pension non-payment etc. On the last day, the commission will hold discussions with the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, and senior civil, police and jail officers of the State. — ANI (The Hindu 2/4/15)

56. NHRC Seeks ATR from Government on Sexual Abuse in Schools (1)

BALASORE:The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday sought an Action Taken Report (ATR) from the State Government over sexual abuse of minor girl students in Government-run hostels. Acting on a petition filed by human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex human rights body has asked Principal Secretary of School and Mass Education Department to submit the ATR within four weeks from the date the notice was issued. A Class VII student of Bhimei village under Oupada block of Balasore district had become pregnant and the matter came to light in the second week of February. Tripathy alleged that such incidents reflect lack of awareness among the caretakers of the hostels to deal with the teenaged students. At least three cases of minor girl boarders of school hostels getting pregnant have come to the fore from across the State in past few months. The petitioner said failure of Government officials of Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Centre and Mass Education Department in ensuring basic rights of the minor schoolchildren amounts to torture, harassment and denial of basic human rights. Tripathy requested NHRC to direct the State Government to rehabilitate the minor girls and ensure them proper medical care and compensation besides ensuring full protection of basic human rights in the SC/ST residential schools. (New Indian Express 3/4/15)

57. Amend Mines Act to contain silicosis: State Human Rights Commission (1)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has asked the government to take a fresh look at the Mines Act, 1952 to contain the alarming spread of occupational diseases and effectively deal with violators. The Commission has also suggested the need for an independent agency with adequate powers to deal with all issues relating to occupational diseases and another panel to conduct studies and research. In a special report on silicosis submitted to the government, the SHRC has said it should be made compulsory for the mine owners to use modern technology for the extraction of sandstone and other dimensional stones from mines. Silicosis is an incurable respiratory disease which is caused due to inhalation of silica dust, and is more prevalent among miners. “Problem will be prevalent among the workers engaged in several other occupations also like stone crushers, quartz mining and processing, foundries, sand blasting, ceramic industries, gem cutting and polishing, slate and pencil industries, glass manufacturing, and construction workers,” the report said. Taking on the government for failing to launch a state-wide study on silicosis as recommended in the Commission’s first special report on silicosis, the panel has said not even the terms of reference for the study have been framed even after 15 months. “The departments concerned also have not displayed any urgency or sensitivity in implementing the other important decisions taken.”Majority of stone mines are in the unorganized and small-scale sector and almost all of them are operating providing employment to lakhs of people living around the mines. Reliable data about these workers are not available since details of employment are not maintained, though rough estimates suggest that 25 lakh workers are engaged in mining operations Rajasthan. Roughly 57 silicosis deaths have been reported from Rajasthan since 2009-10 and over 891 cases detected. These workers are among the poorest of poor. Working conditions in the stone quarries are far from satisfactory. Most of the small mine operators are reluctant to adopt safety and health measures for their workers and do not comply with the provisions of the Mines Act, 1952. “There is need to give identity cards to mineworkers. In view of the endemic nature of silicosis in the State and widespread violation of provisions relating to record of employment and daily attendance, the identity card should be a biometric one that contains the record of employment and medical history of the holder.” The Commission is of the view the employment of workers, whether they are regular ones or contract/casual workers exposed to occupational diseases, without identity cards should be prohibited. Medical examination at the time of employment and periodic medical examination prescribed under the Mines Act and the Factories Act should be made mandatory for the contract and casual labour in hazardous occupations. Importantly, the Commission has pointed out that the requirement of certification of silicosis by the Pneumoconiosis Board for claiming compensation in the case of death and disability is a futile exercise as far as most of the mineworkers are concerned since even the Board members do not have any expertise on the disease. To overcome this, the panel has said the doctors in the districts with adequate training in pneumoconiosis may be appointed as Certifying Physicians or a Pneumoconiosis Medical Board consisting of a group of doctors posted in the district may be authorized to issue such certificates. Further, it has also recommended setting up a Rajasthan State Institute of Occupational Health for developing implementing strategies to prevent detect and treat occupational diseases, and a special State Pneumoconiosis Control Programme. The doctors posted in the Pneumoconiosis Boards, and public health facilities in the sandstone mining areas and other areas having industries whose workers are prone to silicosis should be trained in the prevention, detection and treatment of silicosis and other occupational diseases, the report has said. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

58. SHRC orders restoration of Bal Bhavan premises to NGO (1)

BENGALURU: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered that the Parents’ Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy (PAPCP) be restored the structure at Jeevan Bima Nagar that Bal Bhavan took over recently. The Bal Bhavan Society had on March 14 taken over possession of the property. The building houses a school for children with cerebral palsy. At present, the school has 32 students. The SHRC has sought a report from the Department of Women and Child Development. Till the matter is sorted out, the NGO will be restored possession of the building. Meanwhile, members of the PAPCP denied allegations made by chairperson Bhavana Ramanna that they threatened her. (The Hindu 7/4/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

59. Madras HC says anti-child marriage act prevails over Muslim Personal Law (19)

Chennai: The Madras High Court has held that the act prohibiting child marriages was not against the Muslim Personal Law and would prevail over the latter as it had been enacted for the welfare of girl children. The court was dismissing a public interest litigation which sought a direction to government officials not to interfere with marriages solemnised as per the Muslim Personal Law by invoking provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriages Act (POCMA) of 2006, which bars marriage of girls below 18 years. According to the petitioner, the personal law allows marriage of Muslim girls between the age of 15 and 18. “The Prohibition of Child Marriages Act is not against the Muslim Personal Law. The Act enacted for the welfare of the girl children prevails over the personal law. The former helps the girls to get education, empowerment etc.,” a division bench here comprising justices S Tamilvanan and VS Ravi said in their order yesterday. The PIL filed by Social Democratic Party of India functionary Mohammed Abbas challenged the action of District Social Welfare Officer, who had stopped the proposed marriage of a 16-year old girl, daughter of one Syed Abuthakir or Maharajapuram village in Virudhunagar, and handing her over to the custody of Child Welfare Committee. This is the second time that the high court has delivered a similar order on the issue of marriage of minor Muslim girls. On March 5, Justice CT Selvam, dimissing an appeal against a lower court order, had ruled POCMA was secular in nature and Muslims could not rely on their personal law to claim the right to give minor girls in marriage even at the age of 15 presuming that the girl had attained puberty. He had further said such a right would run counter to the POCMA aimed at preventing the “evil practice” of child marriage besides safeguarding the health of girl children and elevating the status of women. The PIL was filed against the Social Welfare officer’s action contending that the officials were in no way competent to prohibit Muslim marriages under POCMA. The petitioner submitted the Muslim Personal Law allows the marriage of girls aged between 15 and 18 and hence, the PIL “is filed for the overall welfare of the Islam community.” He also sought the court’s direction to the government to pay Rs.10 lakh compensation to the family. Earlier, the court had directed to produce the girl before it and later handed her over to her parents after obtaining an undertaking that the girl shall not be given in marriage till the judgement was given. (DNA 1/4/15)

60. ‘Absence of independent witness can’t negate victim’s testimony’ (19)

NEW DELHI: Observing that absence of an independent witness in the case “is not sufficient to negate the victim’s testimony”, a sessions court has refused to set aside the three-month jail term awarded to two persons for molesting a woman. “It is common knowledge that people are ordinarily reluctant to become witnesses in such cases for fear of harassment due to their pressing engagement, for fear of harassment or for fear of going to courts time and again for evidence. Even otherwise it is well-settled that the evidence has to be weighed and not to be counted,” additional sessions judge Ashutosh Kumar said. The court’s order came while dismissing the appeal of the convicts against a magisterial court’s order on their conviction and sentence. The convicts, Ajay and Arun Dubey, residents of west Delhi, were sentenced by a magisterial court for the offences under sections 354 (molestation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC. In their appeal, the duo contended that there was no independent witness to support the prosecution’s case and that there were discrepancies in the victim’s testimony with regard to time of the incident and tearing of her clothes. They had contended the woman had falsely implicated them. “No plausible explanation has been given by appellants as to why the complainant would incriminate them in her testimony or as to what was the cause of injury suffered by her,” the court said, while rejecting the contentions of the convicts. The sessions court upheld the order of the magisterial court, saying “…There is no infirmity, illegality, proprietary or perversity in the judgement of conviction of the trial court and the same is upheld.” In January, a magisterial court had jailed Ajay and Arun to three month imprisonment for molesting a married woman by abusing her and tearing her clothes and had also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on each of them. (Times of India 4/4/15)

61. HC to Maharashtra: Why ban meat of only cows, bulls? Why not goats too? (19)

Mumbai, Apr 6 (Agencies) The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to explain why it had banned the slaughter and consumption of the meat of only cows, bulls and bullocks, and not other animals such as goats. And the state replied that this is just the start, and the state may consider including other animals as well. A division bench of justices V.M. Kanade and A.R. Joshi was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging a provision under section 5 (d) of the recently amended Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which bans possession and consumption of the meat of animals such as the cow, bull and bullock. According to the petitions, the flesh of cows, bulls and bullocks slaughtered outside Maharashtra should be allowed inside the state.”Why has the state banned only cows, bulls and bullocks? What about other animals like goat?” the bench asked. To this, Advocate General Sunil Manohar said the government was considering it.”This is just the start (banning of cows, bulls and bullocks). We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks,” he said. The court also suggested the government should have a licence policy by which import of meat of cattle slaughtered outside the state can be permitted.”Section 5 (d) of the Act which is under challenge does not prohibit slaughter of cattle outside the state. Why should a person be prevented to eat or possess beef that has been slaughtered outside? Indirectly you (government) are prohibiting slaughter of animals outside the state too,” Justice Kanade said. Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that section 5 (d) of the Act was arbitrary and against the fundamental right of a citizen and that if the object of the Act was to preserve cattle in Maharashtra, then import of meat should be allowed. Advocate General Manohar, however, objected and said, ”How can the state say slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra amounts to cruelty but one can slaughter outside the state. That would also amount to cruelty. The Act incidentally prohibits import also.” The bench directed the government to file its affidavit in reply to the petitions and posted the hearing on April 20. (The Telegraph 6/4/15)

62. NCW could soon get powers of civil court (19)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women (NCW) could soon be granted powers of a civil court with a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Arun Jaitley approving the draft bill. The seven-member group, headed by the finance minister, has approved amendments to the NCW Act, 1990. The draft bill will now be placed before the Union Cabinet for consideration. The GoMs, formed last month to look into the matter, approved the amendments in a meeting on Tuesday. The bill has been moved by the ministry of women and child development (WCD). “This is a long-standing demand of the WCD ministry and will be placed before the Cabinet,” said an official. According to the bill, the commission can investigate, summon and penalize to enforce attendance in order to provide rights for disenfranchised women. The ministry’s earlier proposal to provide the commission with punitive powers to arrest people guilty of harassing women and ignoring its summons has been struck down. The original draft had also suggested that the commission be headed by a retired judge. This has been opened up to include a non-judicial member as well. “The commission to have all powers of a civil court trying a suit while investigating any matter, and in particular in respect of matters like summoning and enforcing the attendance and examining on oath, discovery and production of any document, receiving evidence on affidavits, requisitioning any record from any court or office. Every proceeding before the commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 and for the purpose of Section 196 of the IPC,” the amendments say. The commission can also utilize services of any officer or investigation agency of the Centre or state governments for the purpose of investigation. Its main functions will be to investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided to women under the Constitution and other laws and review existing laws and suggest amendments or remedial legislative measures. As per the proposed amendments, the commission will be vested with the power to impose a fine of Rs 100 per day subject to a maximum of Rs 5,000 on a person who fails to produce any document or appear before it without sufficient reason. (Times of India 9/4/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

63. Two women beaten up in police station, 5 suspended (1)

New Delhi: Five police personnel including four women officers, were on Saturday suspended for beating up two women accused of theft by their employer, police said. Sub-Inspector Rajbir Singh, of the South Rohini police station, picked up the women from their house and took them to the police station. There, he along with four women constables – Sarita, Mamta, Lakshmi and Shagun – beat them up in a bid to make them confess to the crime, police said. The victims, both in their mid-20s, worked in a computer centre in sector 3 of Rohini in north Delhi. Their employer had accused them of stealing golden ornaments from his house recently and filed a case against them. The women made a call to the PCR van and approached senior police officers on Saturday morning after being let off from the police station, following which action was taken against the police personnel responsible. The women were sent for medical examination at Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital. (Business Standard 4/4/15)

64. 1,400 complaints against policemen in just two months (1)

New Delhi: About 1,400 complaints have been filed against Delhi Police personnel in the first two months of this year. The complaints have been substantiated in 59 cases after which action was taken against 62 personnel. About 500 of the complaints were not substantiated and 837 complaints are pending. The most number of complaints were received against police personnel posted with north-east district. Data reveals that 310 complaints were received followed by 251 complaints against staff of south district and 216 against staff of east district. The least number of complaints were made against staff of outer district. Only 12 complaints were filed. However, on Saturday, four police personnel, including three women constables, were suspended on allegations of brutality on two Dalit women at outer Delhi’s Rohini South police station. In their complaint, the women had stated that the police personnel abused them and made offensive and derogatory remarks. Remarkably, no complaint was received against Railways, Metro and Crime Branch. Police substantiated 36 complaints against staff of north-east district and action was taken against 38 personnel. In January, a constable was also suspended for allegedly denying to pay for food at an eatery and roughing up its owner. Last year, police had suspended 563 personnel in 727 departmental enquiries and 538 Vigilance enquiries. Cases under Prevention of Corruption Act were also registered against 44 personnel and two Delhi Home Guards. Allegations were proved in 53 of the Vigilance enquiries. Those found guilty were three assistant commissioners of police, including a retired officer, 18 inspectors, 24 sub-inspectors, seven assistant sub-inspectors, 17 head constables and 30 head constables. Police have been using modern technology to enable people to complain against corruption or harassment by police on toll free number 1064. Public has also been given the facility to send audio or video clips at a well publicised number 9910641064. Every call or message that is received on these numbers is attended and cases under Prevention of Corruption Act are registered after due assessment of the evidence furnished. (Deccan Herald 5/4/15)

65. Man beaten to death in road rage in the Capital (1)

NEW DELHI: In a case of road rage reported from the Capital, a 37-year-old man was beaten to death allegedly by five men, while his two sons watched in horror, after his bike collided with their car at Central Delhi’s Turkman Gate late on Sunday night. The incident took place around 11-30 p.m. on Sunday. According to the police, the victim identified as Shehnewaz was travelling on his bike along with his two children when his bike came in front of an i-20 car being driven by two of the accused. The other three were following them on a bike. “After the collision, the occupants of the car got down and an argument ensued between them and Shehnewaz. After a while, they were joined by the other three and five of them started beating Shehnewaz,” a police officer said. “He was later taken to a nearby hospital but was declared dead upon arrival,” he added.A case was later registered and investigation taken up after which the police arrested one accused on Monday. “We have arrested the main accused in the case identified as Wasim. The other three accused have been identified and will be arrested soon,” a senior police officer said. The victim’s son, who was with him at the time of the incident, later alleged that he went to ask for help from the police post nearby but the cops present there refused. It was only after the locals heard the boy screaming for help that the man was taken to hospital. Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi has taken note of the allegation and said that he will look into it and will take an action against the policemen if found guilty of misconduct of duty. Following the incident, the area residents held a protest rally in the Turkman Gate area on Monday to express their anger towards the police and local politicians. There was a massive traffic jam around ITO and Turkman Gate. (The Hindu 7/4/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

66. Content creators leave cluttered media (1)

Washington: The ease of communicating with lots of people via social networks does not result in more and more users sharing their thoughts and political views, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found. Researchers at University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business said the flood of tweets and posts washing across cyberspace has created a huge imbalance in the number of people creating content and the number of people who receive it. The new study was conducted by Associate Professor Zsolt Katona and Ganesh Iyer, Edgar F. Kaiser chair in business administration at Berkeley-Haas. The study found that the cheaper and easier it becomes to reach large numbers of people via social media, the fewer “content creators” choose to participate and the more cluttered the networks become. If it were as difficult to post messages to large numbers of people as it was just a few years ago — before the rise of mobile messaging apps — more users would create content, researchers found. Although more and more people are participating in social networking, a smaller percentage of users are actively creating and sharing content. Industry reports estimate that just 10 per cent of Twitter users broadcast 90 per cent of the network’s tweets, while only a tiny fraction of the 55 million users who blog post daily, said Mr Katona. The new research suggests that social networking is a bit like a market: People who create and send content are investing effort to win customers — in this case the “receivers” who will view their content. (Asian Age 6/4/15)

67. Barred Praveen Togadia cries for ‘freedom of speech’ (1)

Chandigarh: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) international working president, Praveen Togadia, Sunday termed the West Bengal government’s move to stop him from addressing a rally in North Dinajpur district as “undemocratic” and “a dictatorial act”, saying the move “muzzles (his) freedom of speech” at a time when the Supreme Court has struck down the Section 66A of the IT Act. “I have addressed thousands of public rallies and not one law and order situation occurred anywhere after my rally,” he said. The Mamata Banerjee government had issued prohibitory orders, restricting Togadia’s entry into the state fearing “communal tension and disruption in public tranquility”. Addressing the Sunday’s press conference, Togadia also called upon the Union government to enact a law to establish two-child norm in the country and deprive those who do not adhere to it of their citizenship. He blamed “love jihad” and “higher rates of religious conversion” as the major factors behind the increase in Muslim population in India. “Growing Muslim population is a threat to Hindus and all Hindus should take note of this,” he said. He also cited “a survey conducted by an organisation in the USA”, which, he claimed, “revealed that by 2070 Muslim population will be more than that of Christians in the world and that by 2050 India will have the largest population of Muslims in the world”. Togadia also demanded that the “illegal Bangladeshis” staying in the country be deported and asked the Bengal and central governments to formulate a plan in this regard. Togadia added that all criminal cases against him have been discharged. He said VHP will make use of social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to get across its message across the country in form of videos. (Indian Express 7/4/15)

68. VK Singh in new row, calls media ‘presstitutes’ (1)

NEW DELHI: Union minister General V K Singh ran into a fresh row on Tuesday as he was criticized by several political parties for describing the media as ‘presstitutes’. While the Congress said his comments were “deplorable” and showed his “insensitivity”, the Left said they reflected the minister’s mindset. The remark, made in a tweet, followed a press briefing in Djibouti in which the former Army chief raised eyebrows for saying that visiting the Pakistani high commission was more exciting than conducting rescue operations in Yemen. Singh is camping in Djibouti to oversee evacuation of Indians from Yemen. Apparently, he was taking a dig at a section of the media which had criticized him for attending Pakistan Day celebrations. As social media began commenting about the remark, Singh tweeted, “Friends what do you expect from presstitutes.” Last month, Singh had raked up a controversy by tweeting with the hashtag ‘DISGUST’ after attending the Pakistan Day celebrations in New Delhi. Shortly after representing the government at the national day reception at Pakistan High Commission, Singh had issued a series of intriguing tweets defining “disgust” and “duty”. (Times of India 8/4/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

69. Curfew continues for third day in MP town (7)

Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh): Curfew, imposed in a town in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district following communal violence, continued for the third day on Sunday. Some miscreants on Friday threw stones at a procession taken out on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti in Jawad town and at least 20 people were injured in the resulting melee. Violence then flared up with a mob setting fire to residential buildings, vehicles and shops which left a number of people, including police personnel, injured. “Women and children were exempted from the curfew between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday to let them buy things for their basic needs,” Indrajit Singh, sub-divisional police officer of Jawad town, said. – IANS (The Hindu 6/4/15)

70. Naroda Patiya riot victims object HC preference to Kodnani’s appeal (7)

NEW DELHI: Riot victims of Naroda Patiya on Tuesday complained to the Supreme Court against Gujarat high court for hearing former minister Maya Kodnani’s appeal out of turn. The victims in their joint petition said they have filed appeals against trial court’s decision to acquit some accused and also pleaded for enhancement of sentence of the convicts. They said their appeals are not being heard along with Kodnani’s appeal though all these appeals pertained to the same incident – communal riots in Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad in 2002. The Supreme Court appointed SIT headed by R K Raghavan also informed the court through senior advocate Harish Salve that the HC judge was not deciding the SIT’s application for hearing all the appeals together. The riot victims through advocate Aparna Bhat told the SC that the victims had sought recusal of the HC judge but he continues to hear Kodnani’s appeal in haste prior to his retirement. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said the appeals will be heard soon by the apex court. (Times of India 7/4/15)

71. In Gujarat, Muslim forced to sell house in Hindu locality: Report (7)

New Delhi: Hindu right-wing groups forced a Muslim businessman to sell off his property and move out of a posh locality in Bhavnagar in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, media reports said on Wednesday.The Indian Express said the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) brokered the deal between a real estate firm and scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri for the sale of his bungalow on December 30, 2014. The paper said he had bought the house in the Sanatorium locality of Bhavnagar, around 200km from state capital Gandhinagar, in January last year, when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Gujarat was rocked by widespread communal riots in 2002 which had left over a thousand people dead across the state. Modi’s government was accused of doing little to stop the violence though he was later given a clean chit by the Supreme Court. Modi became the Prime Minister in May last year after leading the BJP to a comprehensive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Rights activists say that after the BJP government came to power at the Centre, right-wing Hindu groups have been targeting minority communities and their institutions, pointing to attacks on missionary schools and churches besides programmes like ‘ghar wapsi’ which aims to re-convert people of other faiths to Hinduism. The Indian Express report said, a couple of months after Zaveri bought the bungalow, “Hindu residents of the area started protesting, saying the food habits of Muslims may offend them and that it could open the floodgates for the entry of other Muslims into the area.” Pravin Togadia, a firebrand VHP leader, asked residents of the locality in April last year to attack Zaveri’s office “if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours,” the report said. “Following the alleged hate speech, Togadia was booked for inciting communal passions and police were deployed at the bungalow. Zaveri, who lives in a Muslim-dominated area, could never move in,” the report added. Zaveri, according to the report, refused to comment on the issue. The paper quoted SD Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, as saying: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.” One of partners in the real estate firm was quoted as saying that the sale of the house was not “distress selling” by Zaveri. (Hindustan Times 8/4/15)

COMMUNALISM

72. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath wants cow declared Rashtra Maata (26)

NEW DELHI: Star Bharatiya Janata Party campaigner and lawmaker Yogi Adityanath, whose impeccable Hindutva credentials include support for Ghar Wapsi and the desire to install idols of Gauri-Ganesh in every Indian mosque, now has the cow in his sights. He’s embarked on a drive to raise Bos taurus indicus to new heights of veneration. The Hindu Yuva Vahini led by Adityanath wants the cow declared Rashtra Maata or Mother of the Nation. Inspired by the success of the BJP’s missed-call membership drive that has apparently made it the world’s biggest political party, the Vahini has adopted a similar tactic. It has launched a missed-call subscription number, 07533007511, on a pilot basis in Aligarh to canvass support for the cause. “Gai sanaatan dharma ki pehchaan hai,” Adityanath told ET, referring to the cow as being a symbol of orthodox Hinduism. “There is no doubt that it is the link between India’s spiritual and economic cosmology. Gauvansh (cow genealogy) and gausampada( the animal’s variety) bridge the temporal and religious worlds in India.” The Narendra Modi-led BJP’s resounding victory in the general election last year followed by the party doing well in some state polls strengthened the cow preservation movement. Maharashtra’s BJP led government enforced a law banning the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in March. Anyone who sells beef or has it in their possession is liable to face five years in jail and fines. Police in the state’s Malegaon town have asked people who own cows to provide them with photographs of each animal, presumably to help keep track of the bovines. Haryana, another state with a new BJP government, recently banned cow slaughter. Those breaking the law could face jail time of 10 years and fines. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on a recent visit to a Border Security Force station on the India-Bangladesh border, called for the prevention of “cows crossing over” in order to discourage beef eating in the neighbouring country… (Times of India 3/4/15)

73. 51 persons embrace Hinduism on Easter in VHP-organised programme (26)

Kottayam (Kerala): At least 51 persons, most of them belonging to Christian community, embraced Hinduism at nearby Kurichi on Easter on Sunday. Twenty five men and 26 women converted to Hinduism in the reconversion ritual organised by Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), organisers of the programme said. VHP district secretary PK Gopalakrishnan claimed that it was not a forced conversion and the people belonging to 20 families embraced Hinduism on their own. “We are just facilitators. There is no force,” Gopalakrishnan told PTI. He also justified the decision to organise the event on Easter saying it was a convenient day for all since it is a holiday. Gopalakrishnan said so far 153 persons, mostly belonging to Christian community, have reconverted to Hinduism in the district under the initiatives undertaken by various Hindu organisations since Christmas last year. On Christmas last year, at least 58 persons had converted to Hinduism at two temples as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme organised by the VHP, he said. (DNA 5/4/15)

74. VHP, RSS force Muslim to sell home in Hindu locality (26)

Bhavnagar: Barely a year after he bought a bungalow in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood of Bhavnagar, prompting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia to ask neighbours not to allow him to move in, a Muslim businessman was forced to sell it off with functionaries of Hindu Right-wing groups brokering the deal. Scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri had bought the bungalow in Bhavnagar’s posh Sanatorium area on January 10, 2014. But under pressure from Hindu neighbours, VHP and RSS, Zaveri, a Bohra Muslim, sold his bungalow to real-state firm Bhumiti Associates on December 30, 2014. “Zaveri tried many things to gain a toehold in the area. He suggested renting the bungalow out to Hindus but we rejected it. He also tried to give it to a firm for shooting a film, but we did not allow that. Meanwhile, we were in touch with real-estate developers. Having realised that neighbours would not relent, he agreed to sell it,” a senior RSS functionary who lives nearby and was among those leading the protests, said. Sanatorium near Meghani Circle is a Hindu-dominated locality. Out of around 150 bungalows, only four have Muslim owners. Out of the four, two migrated to the Shishoo Vihar area after the 2002 riots. Two months after Zaveri bought the bungalow from hotelier Kishoresinh Gohil for Rs 49 lakh, Hindu residents of the area started protesting, saying the food habits of Muslims may offend them and that it could open the floodgates for the entry of other Muslims into the area. They started holding Ram Darbars, gatherings at which they would play Hanuman Chalisa and bhajans on a music system, outside the bungalow every evening. They invited Togadia to their darbar on April 19, 2014. Togadia reportedly asked residents to attack Zaveri’s office in Bhadevadi Street if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours. Following the alleged hate speech, Togadia was booked for inciting communal passions and police were deployed at the bungalow. Zaveri, who lives in a Muslim-dominated area, could never move in.  Zaveri refused to comment on the development. “He (Zaveri) wanted to get rid of it. We got the plot at market rates. I can assure you, it was not distress selling on his part,” said Chetan Kamdar, one of the partners of Bhumiti Associates. While Bhumiti Associates said the deal did not involve any political or religious group, RSS and VHP leaders said they had facilitated it. S D Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, said: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.” (Indian Express 8/4/15)

TERRORISM

75. India condemns barbaric terror attack in Kenya (12)

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday condemned the barbaric terror attack in a Kenyan university campus, adding that the country stands in solidarity with the bereaved families. “The Government of India strongly condemns this barbaric attack on Kenyan university campus. We stand in solidarity with bereaved families and injured,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the terror attack by the al-Shabab Islamist group which left nearly 150 students dead. The militants burst inside the university campus before dawn and singled out the Christian students and shot them. The university was set up in 2011 and is the only public university in the region. (New Kerala 3/4/15)

76. Three Bodo militants held from Navi Mumbai (12)

MUMBAI: The state anti-terrorism squad (ATS), questioning the three National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants, said that the accused were planning to bring some more associates to Maharashtra to avoid police arrest or encounters. One of the accused, Bisho alias Ansai Songa Basumatary (22), had led the December 2014 massacre in Assam killing around 74 tribals. “Masumatary is a history sheeter. He along with his associates had kidnapped a businessman in Assam for extortion. He is one of the platoon commanders of the Sounjit faction. He seems to be fully trained in militant activities. The Assam police has reached Mumbai and they are interrogating the accused. The ATS had got information about these suspects, taking shelter in Navi Mumbai, and worked five days continuously in verification of information and then arrested them,” the officer added. The Assam police was looking for Basumatary since the massacare but could not get iformation about his whereabouts. “His arrest will help us to detect the other platoon commanders hiding in various parts of the country,” said an officer. The trio was wanted in a case of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and waging war against the nation in Chariduar police station, Sonitpur district, Assam. Those arrested are suspected to be commanders of the outfit, said an officer. Those arrested include Basumatary (22), Swamkhwr Basumatary (20) and Purno Narzary (19). They will be produced before a court on Saturday. After the Assam massacare when the NDFB militants gunned down over 74 villagers, the Assam police began cracking down the NDFB. Many of the NDFB commandos fled Assam and were hiding in various part of the country. (Times of India 4/4/15)

77. Activists say anti-terrorism bill undemocratic (12)

AHMEDABAD: Various city-based organizations on Friday denounced the anti-terrorism bill – Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime Bill (GUJCTOC), which was recently been passed by the assembly, as the state government’s bid to suppress minorities and agitating activists. They spoke to newspersons after holding a discussion as they were denied permission to protest at Sardar Baug by Karanj police, who cited traffic congestion. Gathered under the umbrella organization of ‘Gujarat Jan Andolan’, the activists said that this law was thrice returned by the President when the state government sought it to be ratified under the name of Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Bill (GUJCOC). They said that they will continue protesting until the President rejects this bill. Advocate Rajesh Mankad of Jan Sangharsh Manch said, “This law aims to suppress people with highhandedness, especially the minorities. This is a black law because confessions are admissible evidence under this law. This will give unabated powers to police and their political masters will use it for their personal gain.” Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind’s Akram Baig Mirza said that while police refuse to improve despite various reform commissions, handing them with such a draconian law will lead to further complications. “Like earlier special laws like TADA and Pota, this too is aimed at harassing minorities,” said Mirza. Mufti Rizwan Tarapuri of All India Milli Council said, “Gujarat has always been the RSS laboratory. This law is being introduced at the RSS’s behest. Gujarat is obviously the testing ground for this law because all anti-minority activities began in Gujarat.” Activist Hiren Gandhi and Dwarikanath Rath also opposed the bill and said that it aims to curtail democratic space and alienate those who oppose the government’s policies. (Times of India 5.4.15)

78. Uproar in J&K Assembly over terrorist attack in Shopian (12)

Proceedings in the State Legislative Assembly on Tuesday began with uproarious scenes with BJP legislators on the treasury benches raising slogans like “Pakistan murdabad” and (Indian) “security forces zindabad”. Trouble erupted soon after the House assembled in the morning and Speaker Kavinder Gupta called the first question. The BJP MLAs including Ravinder Raina and R S Pathania came into the well raising slogans against Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorism on the Indian soil. One if them was even carrying a playcard saying “Big No (to revocation of) AFSPA”. The BJP legislators were protesting over recent terrorist attacks in Jammu Kashmir including the one in which three policemen had been killed in Shopian on Monday. The disruptions by BJP legislators during question hour drew angry protests from opposition benches, with members from National Conference and Congress standing on their feet. Independent legislator Engineer Rashid also came into the well

This was second militant attack on policemen within hours in Kashmir Valley. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi) This was second militant attack on policemen within hours in Kashmir Valley. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi) Nothing was audible in the din, with G M Saroori of Congress asking the chair as to what had been going on in the House. Ali Mohammad Sagar of NC was seen having heated exchanges with some BJP legislators. After nearly ten minutes when the order got restored in the house, Nawang Rigzin Jora of Congress took a jive on BJP legislators for their opposition to revocation of AFSPA when Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed says that it will be revoked. Also drawing their attention to continued incursions by Chinese troops into Ladak region, he asked “as to where is the person with 56 inch chest” in apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Indian Express 7/4/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

79. Villagers lynch top Maoist leader in Jharkhand (12)

Ranchi: Villagers lynched a top Maoist leader on Thursday night in Jharkhand’s West Singhbum district, police said on Friday. They said that the lynching could be a sign of growing public anger against the alleged excesses by extremist outfits in the state. Johnson Ganju, an area commander of the CPI-Maoists, was said to have been involved in several attacks on security forces besides two jailbreaks in the state, where Maoist violence has left hundreds dead in the past two decades. Around 18 extremist outfits are active in Jharkhand but police say that most of them are bands of thugs involved in extortion and abduction besides gun-running. There are also allegations of rape on cadres of these outfits including the CPI-Maoist, the biggest Left-wing group in the country. In January last year, a Maoist cadre was lynched by villagers in Ranchi district. The same year, a leader of the AJSU Party was lynched after villagers mistook him for a Maoist commander, which police say are manifestation of the people’s anger against militant outfits.  A police official said villagers of Rongo under Manoharpur police station, around 180 km from the state capital, lynched Ganju after he terrorised them for several days. “The villagers were furious. He (Ganju) abused them and also scared them off by firing in the air. On Thursday night, things went out of hand and he was killed,” said Surender Ravidas, the Manoharpur police station-in-charge. Police have lodged an FIR against “unknown persons”. The police official described the rebel leader’s face as “beyond recognition” and said his identity was confirmed from “documents” found on him. His body was recovered on Friday morning after some villagers alerted the police. Ravidas said the rebel was shot with an arrow — a traditional weapon of the state’s hunter-gatherer tribes — before he was beaten to death. Police, quoting villagers, said that the Maoist commander took shelter in the village a week ago. He was waiting for the return of his ‘companion’ Helen Charwa, a Maoist sympathiser who acted as a conduit in the outfit’s extortion network. Helen, who was once arrested in 2011, was scheduled to return home on Saturday from an undisclosed location. Police sources said that in December last year, Ganju had helped 13 prisoners including eight hardcore Maoists to escape from the Chaibasa jail. In 2012, he had escaped from the Mander jail with four of other rebels. (Hindustan Times 4/4/15)

80. Maoists Encouraging Farmers to Grow Cannabis in Odisha (12)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government may have successfully contained the Maoist mlitants in some pockets of the state but the government is yet to plug the cannabis cultivation which, police believe, is a major source of funding for the ultras. “Whenever we get information about ganja (ganja) cultivation, we destroy the crops and take action against the culprits,” Director General of Odisha Police Sanjeev Marik told IANS. He admitted that the Maoists are directly and indirectly involved in the cannabis cultivation and are encouraging the farmers to do so. The state government has decided to take a multi-disciplinary approach to destroying cannabis cultivation in the state, involving the police, the excise department and the narcotics control bureau to chalk out and implement an action plan on this. Cannabis cultivation is happening in the state’s interior pockets, particularly in tribal-dominated districts where Maoists have unleashed terror among the village communities, another officer said. Clandestine cultivation of cannabis is rampant in eight districts – Angul, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Boudh, Kandhamal, Rayagara, Gajapati and Malkangiri, an official said. In fact, Excise Minister Damodar Rout has admitted that there are large tracts under cannabis cultivation in some districts. The excise department, with the assistance of police, forest and revenue officials, has destroyed cannabis worth Rs.2,500 crore in the last four years, an official said. “The government is taking steps to destroy the ganja cultivation in the state. It has engaged local people to inform about such cultivation and action is being takan against the violators under the law,” Rout told the assembly. He said 6.6 million illegal plants have been destroyed in eight districts by Jan 31. In the 2013-14 financial year, 9.05 million plants were destroyed, 4.57 millionin 2012-13 and 2.16 million in 2011-12, Rout said. Even though the police and excise department have been destroying the illegal cultivation from time to time, this is yet to be wiped out. Now, cannabis is being grown in dense hilly areas, where police face difficulties in destroying the crops. Sources said traders from neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh are encouraging farmers to cultivate cannabis, which provides better returns than paddy. (New Indian Express 4/4/15)

81. Underage marriages low in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal hit areas (12)

RAIPUR: Defying the national trend of 33% of women getting married before the age of 18 years, the hotbeds of Naxalism in Chattissgarh – Bastar, Bijapur and Narayanpur – have less than one-fourth (25%) of women tying the knot before their legal age. Contrary to the general perception that underage marriages are more prevalent in tribal societies, but Naxal affected areas of the state have lesser number of girls marrying before the age of 18 years even when compared to the urban cities of Chhattisgarh like Raipur and Drug. While the latest census report 2011 reveals that across the country almost one-third of women (33%) get married before the age of 18 years, in Chhattisgarh the number of such girls over 38%. Interestingly this figure is much higher in Durg where 44.7% of women tie the knot before the legal age of 18 years. In comparison, Raipur is lower at 36.8% but if compared to the national average, its high. In contrast, the Naxal affected and tribal dominated areas of Bijapur, Bastar and Naryanpur have far less number of women getting married before the age of 18 years. The figure is the lowest in Bijapur where only 12.27% girls married before their legal age. The figures in Bastar and Narayanpur are 22.2% and 17.45% respectively. As far as males are concerned, in Chhattisgarh 9.74% married before the age of 18. This figure is higher than the national average of 6%. The legal age of marriage of for males is 21 years. Here too, the cities surpass the tribal areas with higher percentage of boys getting married before attaining the age of 18 years. While the figures in Raipur and Durg are 8.28% and 12.5% respectively, the Naxal affected areas of Bastar, Bijapur and Naryanpur are much lower at 3.42%, 2.26% and 2.60% respectively. Talking to TOI Shatabdi Pandey, a social activist and former member of the state’s Women Commission, insecurity among women in urban areas is the main the reason for early marriages. She said unlike the urban areas, girls feel more secure in their own communities in tribal populations. She said, “social and sexual danger of single women in urban areas is the main reason for their early marriages”.According to the census report, 34.2% of all married women in the state, tied the knot between the age of 18-19 years. There numbers however get decreasing at the age of 20-21years (14.9%) and 22-23 years (5.17%). The numbers of women getting married above the age of 30 years is extremely low as only y 11,225 (0.15%) tied the knot above the age of 34 years. When compared to the neighbouring states, barring Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh has a higher number of women getting married before the age of 18 years than Odisha (24.7%) and Maharashtra (28%). In MP the figure is however higher at 39.5%.According to the data, about 4.3% of the state’s adult population (above 25 years) remained unmarried.  (Times of India 5/4/15)

82. Nine states share intel on controlling Maoist-related probs (12)

Bhubaneswar: Senior police officers of nine Left Wing Extremism (LEW) hit states on Wednesday gathered to discuss ways to tackle Maoist-related problems. The workshop, organised by the Home Ministry, was chaired by Odisha DGP Sanjeev Marik and attended by intelligence heads Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bihar. “There were discussions on successful models being used by the Odisha government in tackling the LWEs,” DGP Marik told reporters adding the officers of other states were told on the steps taken by Odisha in successfully controlling the Maoist menace in the past three years. The meeting was attended by senior officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Odisha DGP Sanjiv Marik, additional DGP A K Sarangi, Intelligence ADG Sunil Roy and other top IPS officers. The MHA had directed the Maoist-affected states to replicate the strategy used by the Odisha Police to deal with the Red rebels, Marik told reporters after the meeting. “The focus of the meeting was on Intelligence sharing among the Naxal affected states,” he said. Senior officers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana shared their views through video presentation of their respective strategies, which have helped them combat Maoist menace successfully in their states. Among others, senior officers of CRPF, BSF and the Intelligence Bureau were present in the meeting. (Zee News 9/4/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Cry for law to curb human trafficking (1)

Ranchi, April 2: Anti-trafficking activists are pitching for a legislation to regulate placement agencies in Assam, given the rise in trafficking of children from the state to work as domestic helps in the metros. According to NGOs working against child trafficking, the need for such a law is now being felt more than ever as Assam has become an important source area in the country for trafficking children for domestic labour in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Digambar Narzary, chairperson of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based anti-trafficking NGO, said such a law was very much required in Assam, and Dispur should take a cue from Chhattisgarh, which was the first state in the country to enact a legislation last year to rein in private placement agencies involved in the trafficking of women and children to metros. Speaking to The Telegraph on the sidelines of the Fourth Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave held here recently, Narzary said many districts in Assam, such as Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Sonitpur, had become the hotbed of trafficking. Echoing Narzary, Ravi Kant, president of the NGO Shakti Vahini, said a Chhattisgarh-like legislation was required in Assam to make it mandatory for placement agencies and their agents operating in the state to get registered with the government to ensure better monitoring of these agencies. Kant said Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das had announced during the conclave that his government would promulgate a law to regulate placement agencies to check human trafficking. “The Assam government should also bring such an act as soon as possible,” he added. Kant, who has been behind the rescue of several children who were forced to work as domestic helps in Delhi in subhuman conditions, said the absence of such an act in Assam made it difficult to ascertain the exact number of placement agencies and their agents operating in the state. Over the years, Assam has become a source area for trafficking of children who are forced to work as domestic helps, are often exploited, abused, even pushed into the flesh trade or simply remain untraced. Nobel laureate and child rights crusader Kailash Satyarthi, during his visit to Assam in December 2012, had acknowledge the fact that the state had emerged as one of the biggest source areas, transit route and destination for trafficking of children. “It is the choicest place for child traffickers to thrive on account of frequent natural calamities, insurgency, acute poverty, illiteracy, ignorance of the masses and extremely weak law enforcement,” the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan had said. Satyarthi had also expressed concern over the low conviction rate in human trafficking cases in Assam and had underscored the need to clamp down on dubious placement agencies, which source children from the state to employ them as domestic helps. These kids often end up being physically abused and sexually exploited. NGOs involved in rescuing trafficked children said the owners of placement agencies keep the children in confinement in unhygienic conditions for days and prevent them from communicating with relatives back home. There is a vicious network of human traffickers who bring children mostly belonging to poverty-stricken and remote regions of Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar to the metros, they added. (The Telegraph 3/4/15)

84. 200 railway stations to have anti-child trafficking measures by year-end: Maneka (1)

MANGALURU: Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi said that the ministry is planning to bring 200 railway stations across the country under its radar by the end of this year in a move to curb child trafficking. “About 90% of the child trafficking cases take place through railway network and there are 12,000 railway stations in the country and we have started the programme in 20 stations,” she said here on Sunday. The ministry will put up posters in all bogies and ask passengers to call 1098 in case they see a child travelling alone or in an uncomfortable situation with adults . “As soon as the train reaches the next station, somebody will come to investigate the matter. Passengers can also inform railway police,” she added. The ministry will also set up telephone booths in railway stations where a child can come and call for help. “We hope these measures will help stop child trafficking,” she said. She said that priority will be given to set up more phone booths in railway stations so that children can dial the Childline’s number quickly. “Officials will arrive at the address and do the needful. We will also create awareness among railway officials so that they can identify children in distress and inform NGOs who will rehabilitate them,” she added. Childline director Rene D’Souza said the system has been made centralized through a central communication centre and all calls are routed through Chennai and hence it is difficult to know how many cases are reported from railway stations in Mangaluru. Last year the Childline received 3,555 calls and of them 13 were from railway stations. The centre gets about 350-400 calls pertaining to child abuse and trafficking every month. (Times of India 6/1/15)

CORRUPTION

85. Promises steps to curb flight of black money (5)

BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday indicated that his government would not only work towards bringing back the black money stashed away in foreign banks, but also take measures to prevent further flow of black money to other countries. “We need to not only bring back whatever has gone away, but also make arrangements to ensure that no one dares to take away fresh black money abroad. I want to assure the people of the country that we will initiate the necessary measures,” Mr. Modi said, while addressing a public meeting here. He said that his government would fulfil the aspirations of people who wanted tough measures against corruption. He said the Opposition carried out a false propaganda against his government and questioned its commitment to the pre-poll promise of bringing back black money. But they could not suppress the truth, he said while pointing out that a Special Investigation Team had been formed to look into the issue and that the team had been regularly filing reports before the Supreme Court. He said those ridiculing the government had to keep quiet after the Finance Minister introduced a Bill in Parliament to curb black money, he said. (The Hindu 4/4/15)

86. Delhi anti-corruption helpline gets over 12K calls in 24 hrs (5)

New Delhi:  AAP government’s anti-corruption helpline, re-launched yesterday in Delhi, has received 12,731 calls in 24 hours, with most of them wanting to know about the process of registering a graft case. “Most of the calls received at helpline were made to inquire about how to register corruption case with the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB). The calls received so far are being analyzed to segregate between frivolous and real calls,” a senior official said today. Yesterday Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had launched the 24×7 helpline, which can answer over 10,000 calls a day. The made-over re-launch comes after the service, during AAP’s previous stint, could respond to only 1,000 calls a day due to shortage of lines, the official said. He also said genuine calls, after segregation, would be forwarded to Anti-Corruption Branch for further investigation. “Some of the calls which have been segregated have already been sent to the ACB for further probe. Cases being forwarded to the ACB include complaints against Delhi Police, Municipal Corporation, Education Department, Transport Department, Jal Board, Delhi Fire etc,” he said. The data of calls received will be made public on a regular basis for the convenience and information of the public, official said. In order to strengthen the Anti Corruption Branch, government has increased its strength from 30 to 40 inspectors who work with 40 teams to investigate cases of corruption at any point of time. Besides increasing its staff strength, Delhi Government has directed to increase the budget allocation to the anti-graft wing to Rs 15 crore from Rs 8 crore. The official also said the Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), an advisory body of the AAP government, will study global practices and define a vision for ACB. The anti-corruption helpline was first launched during Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) 49-day stint in power after the 2013 Assembly elections, but was later discontinued. Reviving the helpline was one of the poll promises made by the party this year. Last time around 1.2 lakh calls were made on the helpline, during 49 days of AAP’s rule.  (Deccan Herald 6/4/15)

87. Punjab PSC ex-chairman gets 7 years (5)

Chandigrh: The court of additional sessions judge in Patiala on Tuesday sentenced former chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) Ravi Sidhu to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment along with Rs 1 crore fine, holding him along with three others guilty in the infamous cash-for-job scam that was unearthed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in 2002. The court sentenced the then PPSC secretary Pritpal Singh and Paramjit Singh Pammi to four-year rigorous imprisonment along with Rs 5,000 fine while another accused P.S. Sodhi got two years imprisonment with bail. The case was registered at the VB police station, Patiala, under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471-A, 409 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 7, 13(1) (d) (i) of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Ravi Sidhu, his mother Pritpal Kaur, brother Reetinder Singh, sister-in-law Ajinder Kaur, Pritpal Singh and others. The first case was registered against Sidhu on March 25, 2002, after he was nabbed red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from Bhupjit Singh, excise and taxation inspector. He was also booked for possessing assets disproportionate to his income. As the recruitment scam assumed bigger proportions and a large number of appointments recommended by the commission appeared tainted, the Vigilance Bureau decided to file a separate case. (Asian Age 8/4/15)

88. 59 complaints transferred to ACB (5)

NEW DELHI: Within 72 hours of the anti-corruption helpline being launched by the Delhi Government, the facilitators working with the helpline have found 59 complaints of serious nature, which have been forwarded to the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) for further probe and necessary action. Officials said the helpline team has so far referred 150 calls to the facilitators for further action and of these 59 have been found to be fit for further probe by the ACB. “The complaints that have been referred for further probe include those against the Delhi Police, MCD, DDA and even against departments of the Delhi Government. Only those cases where evidence have been provided by the complainant, and prima facie the complaints were found to have any merit have been recommended for further probe,” an official said. Till now, the anti corruption helpline of Delhi government answered a total of 26,712 telephone calls till 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The re-launched helpline is functioning on a 24×7 basis. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

89. Delhi’s waste-to-energy plants ‘toxic, costly, inefficient’ (9)

NEW DELHI: Waste-to-energy incineration plants may not help Delhi deal with its massive trash problem. They may instead end up adding to its air pollution and cost the government a substantial sum. When two such plants in Narela and Ghazipur are about to start operations, experts at a conference organized by Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, said incineration plants are expensive, yet unviable. There is a consensus that mixed trash is unsuitable for incineration, as it’s not only polluting but extremely inefficient due to its low calorific value. Shyamala Mani, professor at National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), that assists the ministry of urban development in formulating policies, highlighted concerns with the quality of waste in cities. She quoted a recent study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that measured the emissions from a landfill site called Dhapa near Kolkata and found very high levels of non-methane volatile organic compounds including several carcinogens. Since the composition of waste in cities is similar, the findings apply to Delhi’s poorly managed landfill sites and mixed waste as well. The study concluded that the cumulative cancer risk was found to be 2,792 per million population. Workers at landfill sites are at major risk. NIUA has made formal representations to the ministry of environment, forests and climate change and CPCB requesting a policy to be drafted for handling of hazardous waste from homes and small industries. “Mercury in Indian waste is 10 to 15 times the prescribed standard. Unless MoEFCC supports us with a detailed description of how these can be handled, we are skeptical,” she said referring to plans for more waste-to-energy plants. She also highlighted that the calorific value of mixed waste is about 50% lower than what’s required for incineration. This leads to less energy being generated. Pollution control measures for these plants are also expensive. (Times of India 1/4/15)

90. Environmentalists warn against concretisation in cities, towns (9)

NEW DELHI:  “There is an urgent need to stop encroachment on drains and prevent them from being used as dumping grounds,” noted Professor A.K. Gosain, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. Professor Gosain was speaking at a seminar on ‘Ground Concretisation — inducing Climate Change, Water Scarcity and Loss of Lives’ on Saturday at Zakir Husain College. Meanwhile, environmentalists, under the umbrella of non-government organisation Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have warned against the critical threat to the nation’s environment from increasing soil and ground concretisation in cities and towns; direct augmentation of climate change, posing gloom to country’s groundwater resources, and seeking urgent intervention and strong action. Vice-president and Society conservation head Aruna Vashishtha said: “Civic, development and construction agencies across the country are mindlessly turning permeable soil ground surfaces into impervious covers that nearly eliminate the possibility of natural groundwater recharge while critically upsetting the entire ecology.” Increasing concretisation of soil with concrete and cemented slabs in our towns and cities augment climate change, as soil is the biggest carbon sink after forests and oceans, noted the letter. “There are several ecological hazards that our cities and towns face due to this seemingly petty but gravely hazardous practice adopted by the agencies, the ill-consequences of which will be borne by the future generations,” said the letter. Environmentalists have warned that the situation has turned so critical that there are virtually no soil areas left in cities and towns for rainwater to percolate and recharge the groundwater aquifers. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

91. Gulf storm haze triggers pollution fears in Maharashtra (9)

Pune: Parts of Maharashtra continue to suffer low visibility due to the after-effects of last week’s major sandstorm in the Gulf region. The effects of the ‘haboob’ (Arabic for intense dust storm) will be felt in the State for the next 48 hours, say meteorologists. “The haze seen over Mumbai, Pune and Nashik is the residual element of the Gulf sandstorm which has now crossed the Arabian Sea,” said Dr. Gufran Beig, senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM). Dr. Beig, project director of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), said that the particulate matter in the air was likely to increase in the next two days. Air quality is monitored by measuring the presence of particulate matter (PM) in air. PM10 refers to particles that are 10 micrometres (less than the width of a human hair) in diameter or less. It is feared that the PM10 levels in the air over Maharashtra may shoot up to 200 micrograms per cubic metre of air in the next two days. PM10 levels in Mumbai and Pune were about 70 micrograms per cubic metre of air on Sunday. The phenomenon has alarmed physicians who are worried that the pollution may trigger asthma attacks and cause respiratory ailments. (The Hindu 6/4/15)

92. Centres Proposed Environmental Steps Draw Flak From Activists (9)

BENGALURU:The wide-ranging environmental measures proposed by the NDA government, based on the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee, have drawn flak from conservationists. The committee has suggested sweeping changes to environmental, forest and biodiversity protection laws of the country. The Centre is in the process of eliciting the support of various state governments, state pollution control boards and other organisations on the proposals, which seek to hasten clearances for various infrastructure and industrial projects. Calling the proposed steps as highly regressive, Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group said it would result in irreversible damage to environment and human rights and will compromise the ecological security of present and future generations. “The proposed reforms are oriented towards promoting unprecedented access to land, water and other natural resources to large corporate bodies and pave the way for mega infrastructure, industrial and urban projects,” he said. He said the committee has proposed new laws to manage old laws, and “promotes the establishment of a slew of new bureaucracies and the dismantling of decades-old regulatory institutions such as the pollution control boards”. Terming the recommendations as flawed, Praveen Bhargava of Wildlife First said, “Several recommendations of the committee are not going to help and strengthen conservation. It is hoped that the Parliamentary Standing Committee to which the TSR report has been referred to evaluates the proposals carefully to ensure that no further dilution of forest and wildlife clearances takes place.” Even the existing forest laws are not being implemented properly, and the Centre’s move to go in for wide-ranging changes will be a disaster, said noted wildlife conservationist D V Girish. “Following the China-model for development will be a total disaster for conservation in this country and all the state governments should give serious thought before agreeing to the proposals. Any dilution or process to dismantle the existing forest laws will sound the death knell for conservation efforts,” he added. Another shocking proposal of the committee is that industries should be allowed to self-regulate on a self-certification model based on utmost good faith, he said. This completely ignores India’s disastrous experience, most painfully by the people of Bhopal, he said. “The very pillars on which India’s environmental jurisprudence stands today will be shaken,” said Saldanha. “We appeal to all the state governments to reject the environmental reforms proposed by the Centre,” he added. (New Indian Express 8/4/15)

93. Greenpeace protests helped other nations: MHA (9)

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry believes that Greenpeace India was helping foreign policy “interests” of United Kingdom government by protesting against Mahan coal block and damaging India’s energy security needs. A government document, prepared by the ministry’s Foreigners Division after six months of investigation into Greenpeace activities, says so though it does not take the name of the UK directly. The government had mentioned about “foreign policy interest of other nations” in last year’s Intelligence Bureau report and during arguments in Delhi High Court early this year on activist Priya Pillai’s offloading case from plane but it never mentioned a particular country then. In the recent dossier prepared after its investigations, the ministry referred to Greenpeace UK’s “very keen interest” in promoting Greenpeace India’s “ground level protest-creation” activities by sending 13 foreign activists (nine British, three American and an Australian)  to “train, equip and guide” Indian activists. The document claimed that after government blocked foreign donations from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation in June last year, Greenpeace UK decided to coordinate seven Indian activists’ testimony before All Party Parliamentary Group of UK, with all expenses borne by Greenpeace UK. The Indian activists were “tasked to testify on the alleged poor state of tribal people in India and the manner in which the government had allegedly increased efforts to rob the tribal people of their rights, which are absolutely false allegation,” the dossier said. The ministry goes on to say that, “the testimony would have been paid for by foreign funds, to testify or depose before foreign MPs of a foreign government, for a purpose which would advance the foreign policy interests of only the foreign government”. “Such an act, apart from helping a foreign government’s foreign policy, had the potential to damage India’s energy security and economic interests substantially,” it added. It said Greenpeace India prepared seven activists to testify before the UK panel but only Pillai could get visa. However, India did not allow Pillai to go as she was offloaded from a London-bound plane in January. The dossier said Pillai was posted by the NGO in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, since 2011 to “initiate dissension” amongst villagers and to create protests to prevent coal mining by Mahan Coal Ltd’s 1200 MW thermal power plant. It also alleged that Greenpeace India employed a fultime PR and Political Affairs Advisor at a monthly salary of Rs 1, 04,850, in violation of its terms and conditions that it will not participate or intervene in any political campaign. (Deccan Herald 10/4/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

94. Modi asks RBI to prepare 20-yr road map for financial inclusion (20)

Mumbai : Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked the Reserve Bank to prepare a 20-year road map for financial inclusion and nudged banks to be considerate in giving loans to the poor as also while making recoveries from them, especially farmers. “RBI will be completing 100 years in 2035…It will be appropriate for the central bank to work on the theme of financial inclusion and prepare a road map for achieving it,” he said while addressing a function to mark the 80th anniversary of the Reserve Bank of India. The other milestones for achieving financial inclusion could be 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, 75th year of Independence in 2022, 90th anniversary of RBI in 2025 and 100 years of RBI in 2035, the Prime Minister said. “These are four important dates…We can create a road map for financial inclusion,” he said, adding that the financial inclusion should not remain a government programme but should become “an article of faith”.Expressing concern of farmers’ suicides and the plight of the poor people in the country, Modi asked the bankers to be considerate in providing financial assistance to poor. Farmers’ plight should, he added, shake up the conscience of the banking sector. “Our farmers commit suicide. The pain of this should not only be restricted to newspapers and TV screens. When farmer dies, does it shake the heart of banking sector? Because of taking loan from money lender, he has to face death,” Modi said. The Prime Minister also called upon the bankers to extend credit to resource-rich eastern states. (Business Standard 2.4.15)

95. 200 farmers committed suicide in Marathwada, says official (20)

AURANGABAD: The total number of farmers who committed suicide during the last three months in the eight districts of Marathwada region has crossed 200, official sources said here today. The main reason behind taking the extreme step is bankruptcy due to loans which cannot be repayed due to crops destroyed by natural calamities. Notably, last year, 510 farmers ended their lives. As of 2015, families of 105 farmers who ended their lives, received government assistance, whereas 29 farmers were not eligible. When asked about rejection of aid to families of 29 farmers, a district administration official said, “The criterion for government compensation states that farmers who had committed suicide should have taken loans in his name and he should not be an alcoholic”.About 39,77,000 farmers from the Marathwada region are eligible for compensation since crops including cotton, maize and soyabean were entirely destroyed, though the total number of farmers committing suicide in Marathwada is 206, official sources said.It may be noted that a drought-like situation has prevailed in the region since 2011 and ground water level went down by about one feet. (Times of India 8/4/15)

96. Maharashtra cities corner more farm loans than villages: Study (20)

MUMBAI: At the RBI’s 80th anniversary recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invoked farmers’ suicides to urge banks to lend more to cultivators. “When a farmer dies, does it shake the conscience of the banking sector? He faces death because he has taken loans from a moneylender,” Mr Modi said. Credit to the farm sector has in fact risen across the country over the last decade. Yet, in Maharashtra, which reports the highest farmer’s suicides in the country, the bulk of farm loans ironically do not go to farmers, says a new study based on RBI data. Although the majority of farmers live in rural areas, a larger portion of agricultural loans are supplied by urban and metropolitan branches of scheduled commercial banks, the study says. Urban and metropolitan branches of these banks accounted for nearly 44% of agricultural credit, the study said. By contrast, rural branches supplied almost 30%. The study by economists R Ramakumar and Pallavi Chavan is based on data from the RBI’s report “Basic Statistical Returns of Scheduled Commercial Banks in India” for 2013. So loans to farmers are not driving the rise in agricultural credit. Instead the major beneficiaries in the revival of farm credit in this decade are agri-businesses and corporates involved in agriculture, the authors say. This is because the definition of agricultural credit has been expanded to include these businesses. “The definition now includes loans to corporate and agri-business institutions as well as storage equipment in cities. It also includes loans for commercial and export-oriented agriculture,” says Ramakumar, an economist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The growth in agricultural credit has also been fuelled by a rise in indirect loans, the study says. Direct loans are given to farmers while indirect loans are given to institutions indirectly involved in agricultural production. Significantly, the share of credit to small and marginal farmers has dropped dramatically across the country, the study shows. Instead, loans of Rs 1 crore and above are driving the revival of agricultural credit, the study says. The share of direct agricultural loans worth less than Rs 25,000 from scheduled commercial banks has fallen sharply, the study shows. It reduced from a share of almost 23% % in 2005 to just 4.3% in 2013. On the other hand, the share of direct agricultural loans worth over Rs 1 crore rose from 7.5 % in 2005 to 10% in 2013. This means mega-loans worth over Rs 1 crore account for a higher share of banks loan to agriculture at 10% of the loan share than small loans for marginal farmers which stand at 4.3%. “The 1990s were the lost decade in rural banking. There was large-scale closure of commercial banks in rural areas,” says Ramakumar. Since 2000, there has been a growth of agricultural credit, but a major part of this growth is illusory, he says. “It is driven by the expansion of funding to corporate and agri-business institutions involved in agriculture, high-value loans and credit from urban and metropolitan branches,” he says. (Times of India 9/4/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. Govt against consent of tribals for displacement (4)

New Delhi: India has told the World Bank that it is not ‘comfortable’ with mandatory need for free, informed and prior consent of tribals who are displaced for projects funded by the Bank. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s submission to the Bank comes at a time when it is working to do away with the need for consent from tribals, while handing over their traditional forests to industry. India’s position was stated to the World Bank during consultations held on the latter’s Safeguard Policies & Proposed Environmental and Social Framework. This document, once finalised, would become the policy the Bank follows while lending to countries for specific projects. The NDA government told the World Bank that India has domestic laws and rules that protect tribal rights, including the powers of consent “in some cases” and the Bank should rely on such domestic regulations instead of imposing its own conditions. But, domestically, the NDA government is on the verge of passing executive orders that would do away with the veto powers of tribals that protect their forestlands in most cases. At present, the Forest Rights Act requires governments to seek the prior informed consent of gram sabhas (village councils) of tribals when their traditional forestlands are to be given over to industry or other development projects. Since June 2014, the government has been working to dilute these provisions though it’s been opposed by the tribal affairs ministry tooth and nail. The need for consent while using tribal people’s non-forest lands is available only in the limited Schedule V and VI areas under the land ordinance and does not extend to all tribal lands in the country. The Indian submission to the World Bank says the proposed Bank policy “prohibits forced evictions of indigenous peoples. This standard mandates that in three specific circumstances free, informed and prior consent is needed before proceeding with a project affecting indigenous people. We are not comfortable with this provision.” The NDA government justified this saying, “Domestic laws of acquisition and protection of such communities already provide for adequate safeguards, including consent before acquisition can take place in certain cases. The Bank thus needs to rely on such domestic laws/guidelines where the domestic laws rules etc. take care of such issues.” It added, “The proposed clauses like free, prior and informed consent (replacing consultation process) can lead to legal complications, delays, increase in costs and delay in project execution.” Consultations are non-binding in nature but prior informed consent gives tribals veto powers over the use of their lands. Reacting to this submission, Aruna Chandrashekhar, Amnesty India’s Business and Human Rights Researcher, said, “This further contributes to a disturbing trend of the government’s unwillingness to even listen to its citizens’ concerns on decisions affecting their lands and resources. Along with recent attempts to bypass the Forest Rights Act for a variety of different projects, its current position on respecting the free, prior, informed consent of adivasi communities is a distinct reversal from its decision on the Niyamgiri mine in 2013.” Amnesty has been tracking the debate on the World Bank safeguards and environmental policy. India has demanded that the Bank’s lending policy should not be intrusive setting up long-term inspections and environmental supervision of projects that go beyond and are more onerous than the requirements of domestic law. “The engagement of the WorldBank should be in the spirit of partnership, and should be non-intrusive,” it has said. “Besides the creating an intrusive regime, such conditionalities imposed on loans from the Bank create an imbalance in the way environmental and sustainability norms are imposed globally. Most of the Bank’s borrowers are developing countries, we must remember,” said a senior government official, who was part of the consultations for preparing India’s reply. “The policy should not become a backdoor route to impose additional and more onerous targets on developing countries. The lending must be in adherence to domestic laws of each country,” he added. India has also opposed strict standards and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption of projects for which the country borrows from the Bank. (Business Standard 1/4/15)

98. Amendments in land acquisition bill is for development: LS Speaker (4)

INDORE: Terming the amendments made in the land acquisition bill as being in the interest of the nation, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Sunday said that the changes are being made keeping in mind the changing economic scenario along with the overall development of the nation. She added that important aspects of the bill such as compensation to farmers and getting their consent before acquiring their land have been retained. Amendments are only made to speed up the work. “Every government has the right to make new law and make amendments in the existing law,” said Mahajan adding that laws, passed by the government, do not belong to any particular party, law is passed and amended by the parliament. Referring to her recent Vietnam visit, she said small countries like Vietnam, which have come out of devastating wars just few decades back, have made progress because of the people of the region. “After seeing wide roads and all round development, when I tried to understand how they acquire land for it, I was informed that people readily give their land and provide all kind of support for development works,” said Mahajan adding that though Vietnam government give compensation for land but people themselves come forward in support of development projects. “This kind of thinking and support of people have helped in the progress of Vietnam,” said Mahajan adding that similar kind of thinking and support is needed in India for the development of the country. (Times of India 5/4/15)

99. Gadkari asks industry to pay adequate relief to farmers (4)

NEW DELHI: Transport minister Nitin Gadkari, the government pointsperson on the controversial land bill, on Tuesday asked industry to stop cutting corners when it comes to paying compensation to farmers for land acquisition. Addressing a conference organized by industry body, CII, Gadkari said he was surprised how companies do not say anything when bank interests go up, but try hard instead to get land deals at cheaper rates. “Even if the project is of Rs 10,000 crore and the cost of land is just Rs 25 crore, the companies try their level best to get that land for Rs 10 crore or Rs 15 crore,” said the minister who is leading the firefight in the face of a combined opposition threatening to stonewall the land bill in Rajya Sabha. Gadkari said paying a little more to farmers will save the amount incurred due to cost escalation for delay in land acquisition. He said highway developers have been lining up to get out of projects since he took over. Gadkari said that developers approached him since he took over to terminate contracts after charging penalty. NHAI has terminated 39 projects totaling about 4,700 km and four more are likely to be terminated or cancelled. “After terminating the contracts we bring them back for awarding. In the past months, environment clearances have been sanctioned for 70-80 projects and approvals for about 80 railway bridges have been accorded. We will have no outstanding issues by end of April,” Gadkari said. Referring to the state of Indian developers in the highway sector he put the blame on several reasons including the rolling out of projects during UPA despite having little land and high interest rate on bank loans for such works. The minister claimed that he is hopeful of achieving the target of constructing 30 km highway per day in the next one year. Since NDA government came to power, outstanding issues have been sorted out in 28 projects and there is a plan to complete 16 other projects who are stalled for want of funds. Gadkari said that from now onwards no project will be awarded until there is 80% land availability. (Times of India 8/4/15)

100. We are not averse to more amendments to Land Acquisition Bill, says Gadkari (4)

NEW DELHI: Hopeful of bringing the opposition on-board to get the much-debated land legislation passed, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said the government is not averse to more changes to the bill. “We are not averse to more amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill provided they are good and substantial in nature. There is no restriction on fresh changes,” road transport and highways minister Gadkari said.  But at the same time, he cautioned that amendments aimed at delaying the measure and scoring political points against the government would certainly not be considered. “We accepted nine amendments to the bill after discussion in the Lok Sabha. We are obviously open to new changes,” he said. Asked about NDA government’s lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the union minister said that he is hopeful of getting support from the Upper House. (Times of India 9/4/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Malnutrition behind 55% of TB cases in India, not HIV (3)

NEW DELHI: The search for a tuberculosis vaccine has proved elusive despite decades of research. However, there is one vaccine that has been found to cut TB disease incidence in India by half — food. Chronic lack of adequate food is the reason for more than half of the TB infections here progressing to become a fullblown disease, says a study. In an international publication ‘Eradicating TB – Challenges, Perspectives, Solutions’, of the Observer Research Foundation, experts from across the world and India stressed on the need for India’s TB control programme to take into account the role of social conditions such as rising inequity, malnutrition, poverty and over-crowding in the spread of TB. Even though 40% of the Indian population or 480 million people carry the TB bug within their body, TB cases annually is estimated to be 2.3 million, a fraction of those who carry the infection. “Over 90% of those carrying the TB bug are able to prevent the infection from becoming TB disease with the help of the body’s immune system. Anything that reduces the strength of one’s immunity, like lack of good nutritious food, increases the risk of contracting TB,” explained Dr Anurag Bhargava of the Himalayan Institute of Medicine and an expert on TB treatment. Instead of Direct Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS), a World Health Organisation (WHO) concept, Dr Bhargava felt that it might be more effective to have a programme more suited to Indian needs called DOST—Directly Observed and Supported Treatment – which would offer TB patients and their families nutritional support and counselling through behavorial change of healthcare providers along with treatment. He added that several studies have shown that unlike many African countries, where HIV is the biggest risk factor for TB, in India, 55% of TB is attributable to under nutrition. An annual estimated mortality of 2, 70,000 deaths means that TB claims one life in India every two minutes. According to R S Gupta, former deputy director general of the Central TB Division in India, malnutrition is one of the primary reasons for the high incidence of TB. “TB patients suffers from loss of appetite, nutrient malabsorption, micronutrient malabsorption and altered metabolism, which leads to wasting. Deficiency in proteins and micronutrients increases the risk of TB. It has been found that malnourished TB patients have delayed recovery and higher mortality rates than well-nourished patients,” said Gupta. “It cannot be stressed enough that without ensuring better nutrition and environmental conditions, mere medication, no matter how good and effectively administered, is unlikely to solve the problem,” said Harsh Sethi of the Observer Research Foundation. He added that, an underfed citizenry forced to live in unsanitary surroundings is unlikely to respond favourably to medical care. (Times of India 4/4/15)

102. Over 59,000 children to be covered under Indradhanush Mission (3)

BENGALURU: As many as 59,878 children, aged below two, who have missed their routine immunisation in the five Hyderabad-Karnataka districts of Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Bengaluru (Urban) and in the jurisdiction of Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be covered under the Centre’s ‘Mission Indradhanush’ that will be launched in the city on April 7. Health Minister U.T. Khader told presspersons on Tuesday that the programme was aimed at covering all those children who have either missed vaccination or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine-preventable diseases, which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. Expecting mothers will also be immunised for tetanus, he said. To ensure complete coverage, immunisation will be taken up for one week from the 7th of April, May, June and July. In the first phase, the programme will be taken up in five Hyderabad Karnataka districts as they have a low record of immunisation. It would be taken up in BBMP jurisdiction and in Bengalurue (Urban) due to high concentration of migration workers or labourers. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

103. SAARC health ministers’ meet to discuss major issues (3)

New Delhi: Health issues like prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases and disease surveillance network will be up for discussion at the 5th SAARC health ministers’ meet here on Wednesday. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) ministers’ meet will be presided over by union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda, an official statement said here on Sunday. It will deliberate and provide guidance and a roadmap for strengthening collaboration among SAARC countries on a number of issues and challenges faced by them. Other health issues to be discussed at the meet will include health infrastructure, human resources for health, immunization for vaccine-preventable diseases, HIV/AIDS, mental health, improving access to medicines and anti-microbial resistance. The health ministers will also discuss for adoption ‘Delhi Declaration’, affirming their commitment to work together in identified areas and further strengthen health collaboration with agreed roadmap and timeliness. Prior to the meet, the 7th meeting of the SAARC expert group on HIV/AIDS, 5th meeting of the SAARC technical committee on health and population and the 5th meeting of the SAARC senior officials (health secretaries) will be held on Monday and Tuesday, the statement added. The meetings are being organised in pursuance of decisions taken by the SAARC summit of heads of states or governments held at Kathmandu in November, 2014. Fifty delegates from all SAARC countries, including India, comprising officials and experts will participate in the technical and official level meetings. The SAARC countries comprising India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, account for nearly a quarter of the world population. (Business Standard 5/4/15)

104. Vizianagaram tops in mother, child tracking (3)

VIZIANAGARAM: Vizianagaram has gained the first position in the State for uploading data pertaining to pregnant women under the mother and child tracking system, according to District Collector M.M. Naik. The system enables health officials to monitor the health chart of women and address problems like malnutrition and anaemia. “The achievement was possible owing to interaction with mandal and cluster-level officials on a regular basis,” the Collector said. Expressing happiness over the fall in maternal mortality rate in the district, Mr. Naik directed medical officers to update immunisation data online. (The Hindu 6/4/15)

HIV/AIDS

105. Pay HIV patient compensation for wrong incarceration: HC (3)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has directed the State government to pay an interim compensation of Rs.1.5 lakh to a HIV patient, who was wrongly implicated in a criminal case by Dindigul police in 2005, leading to his conviction and incarceration for seven years. Justice M. Sathyanarayanan ordered the Home Secretary to disburse the compensation amount in four weeks, from the date of receipt of the order copy, since the patient was reported to be in a serious condition and was in need of money for medical as well as incidental expenses. The judge also directed the Director-General of Police to submit a report by June 8 explaining the reasons for having promoted a Sub-Inspector of Police and allowing an Inspector to retire from service though they were allegedly responsible for having implicated the patient wrongly. According to the patient’s counsel, R. Alagumani, his client Sambandan (name changed) was initially convicted by a Sessions Court in Periyakulam in Theni district on May 24, 2005, on charges of assaulting his wife with dangerous weapons and lodged in Madurai Central Prison. He challenged the conviction before the High Court in 2006 and got the sentence suspended. Meanwhile, the Dindigul Town West police booked him in another case, mistaking him to be the accused wanted in that case and got him sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Disposing of a case filed by him against the two police officers, Murugan and R.M. Madhavan, for malicious prosecution, a Sessions Court in Dindigul on April 30, 2013 recommended initiation of criminal action against the officers and directed the petitioner to approach a civil court. Thereafter, the duo filed individual revision petitions in the High Court and obtained an interim stay on the Sessions Court order which paved the way for their promotion and retirement. On coming to know of it, the HIV patient too filed a revision petition this year seeking compensation. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

106. Depressed HIV patient lets dog eat into his wound (3)

HYDERABAD: In a heart-rending incident, an HIV patient who on Thursday allegedly attempted to end his life and in the process got his right leg crushed by a truck, looked on helplessly as a stray dog tried to consume his flesh, which was writhing with blood fresh from his wounds. The graphic scene unfolded right in front of the casualty wing of Gandhi Hospital on Friday morning. The patient, Gopi, who doctors said was depressed due to his health condition, did not even try to parry the dog. It was up to the onlookers to raise an alarm, as the gory scene unfolded. After a while, health care workers, who claimed they had no idea how the patient ended up outside the casualty after he was brought to the hospital on Thursday, brought him back to be sedated. Gopi was admitted to the hospital on Thursday between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. with his right leg run over by a truck and damaged from the thigh down. While onlookers and relatives of other patients in the emergency claimed Gopi was thrown out of the casualty because of being HIV positive, doctors said he went out on his own. However, it is yet not clear how a heavily sedated patient with his right leg crushed and plastered ended up at the portico of the emergency ward. “He was lying on a stretcher outside. He did not shout for help when the dog attacked his wound. Bystanders shouted at the dog, but by that time, the dog had managed to get its pound of flesh,” onlookers at the Gandhi Hospital said. Hospital doctors said Gopi had kept saying that he wanted to die. “He kept insisting that he wanted to get out and die. We learnt that he had no family ties because of his health condition. The casualty is a very busy place and there is a chance that he might have tried to get out on his own when doctors and nurses where busy handling other victims,” explained Resident Medical Officer S. Pramila. Gopi is now back in the casualty and being treated for dog attack and leg injury. “We are taking care of him, but he needs some psychological support too for depression,” doctors said. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

107. HIV+ woman gets a taste of civil hospital’s discrimination (3)

LUDHIANA: A gynaecologist at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital here refused to perform a caesarean on a woman after he found out that she was HIV positive. In his defence, Dr Manjeet Bajwa alleged that the equipment provided for surgeries at the civil hospital was of poor quality and he did want to risk getting infected. The doctor’s refusal made the woman’s family shift her to a private hospital in Sunet, where the baby was delivered. Taking note of the incident, Dr Inderjeet Dhingra, the project director of Prevention of Parents to Child Transmission Project which is being implemented by Punjab State AIDS Control Society, has written a complaint to higher-ups regarding the incident. The HIV-positive patient was admitted to the civil hospital’s Mother Child Hospital on Monday. As soon as he came to know of the woman’s condition, Dr Bajwa refused to perform the delivery. However, following pressure from Ludhiana civil surgeon Dr Renu Chattwal and Punjab State Aids Control Society project director Dr US Sooch, he agreed to operate on the woman, only to go back to his earlier position on the day of the scheduled c-section. On Friday, Dr Manjeet Bajwa told the media: “I can’t put my life on stake as there are chances of getting infection from the patient. Moreover, the government provides us with low-quality kits, which are not reliable.” He also claimed that he did not get incentives for c-sections, so he could not risk his life. Dr Chattwal could not be contacted for comment on the allegations levelled by Dr Bajwa. Meanwhile, Dr Inderjeet Dhingra said, “I have written a complaint about this discriminatory behaviour by the doctor and sent it to the addition project director of Punjab State Aids Control Society. I have sought an inquiry against him.” Dr Bajwa had reportedly performed a c-section on another HIV-positive patient on Wednesday, but that procedure was performed without any prior tests.  (Times of India 4/4/15)

108. Therapy centres to aid HIV+ patients to find mates (3)

BAREILLY: For those fighting a lone battle against HIV, here is some hope. Many among the registered patients can now hope to find a life partner among other registered patients to lead a near normal life. The move is also expected to encourage patients who fear social taboo to come forward and register themselves with the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres in the district in the days to come. According to sources, ART centers will collect biodatas of HIV patients who are willing to tie the nuptial knot with other HIV patients and bring them together, providing them with a ray of hope to lead a normal life. Sunil (name changed), a 27-year-old who tested HIV positive a few years ago, is looking forward to get married with another HIV positive patient. He is undergoing treatment and taking medicines at the ART centre in the district. Excited about the scheme, Sunil says, “It was not easy for me after I was diagnosed with HIV. Most of my friends and relatives started keeping a distance from me, which was a big blow for me. However, I refused to give up hope.” He said he had all but given up hope of finding a life partner. “However, after learning about my desire, ART centre officials began to collect biodata of patients willing to marry. I have approached them with my biodata and I’m hopeful that soon I too will lead a normal married life.” He is not alone in his quest for a mate. There are several HIV positive patients who are registered at ART centre in the district hospital here who wish to get married. For many HIV patients, ART centre’s initiative of finding a life partner for them is a dream come true. As part of the initiative, ART officials will distribute special marriage application forms among registered patients and will collect information and choice of life partner by individual patients. An ART official, Manoj Verma, said, “Distribution of marriage application forms will commence soon. There are a few patients who have expressed their desire to enter into matrimony. We had collected some biodata while several others who are not aware about the scheme will be informed about it.” Talking to TOI, Verma said, “Recently, directions in this regard were issued by senior officials at a three-day national conference on ‘early warning indicators’ held from March 24 to 26 in Lucknow. Officials gave their approval to work in this direction, which is likely to be connected with the national data-sharing application in the coming days.” Uttar Pradesh State Aids Control Society (UPSACS) in association with Uttar Pradesh Welfare for People Living with HIV/AIDS (UPNP Plus) will collect data of interested candidates across the state. As per reports, there are 1,142 HIV registered patients in Bareilly division. Out of these, 723 adult patients are male and 365 female. Among children, 22 are boys and 27 girls. They are all registered with ART centre in the district hospital along with five transgenders. Out of 1,142 registered patients, 875 patients are between 20 and 40 years old. According to officials, the step will not only encourage HIV positive patients to lead a normal life but will also motivate “hidden” patients who fear social boycott to register themselves with ART centres in the district. Talking to TOI, in-charge of the ART centre Dr Sanjeev Mishra said, “After directions from the head office, we are all set to prepare biodatas of HIV positive patients who are willing to get married with another HIV positive patient. Once a couple agrees, all such cases will be sent to the head office for final nod.” (Times of India 8/4/15)

109. Government aid to 75 HIV-affected orphans (3)

COIMBATORE: The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society has sanctioned financial assistance of Rs. 2.98 lakh to 75 orphan and vulnerable children affected with HIV in Coimbatore. According to officials, the sum would be divided among the children. While some of them are in Children’s Homes, others are living with relatives. Further, the district administration has sanctioned free rice to 82 families with an HIV-affected person under a Central Government scheme. Launched on December 25, 2000, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana is a Central Government scheme aimed at providing food grains to the poor. Under the scheme, 35 families will have ‘AAY’ stamped on the ration cards. (The Hindu 10/4/15)

 

Posted by admin at 13 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit woman gang-raped in Haryana village (2)

CHANDIGARH: A Dalit woman on her way to a marriage was abducted by six men, taken to a field and gang-raped at Roopgarh village in Jind district of Haryana on Tuesday. It is the second such recent incident in the State after the gang rape of a Nepalese woman in Rohtak. The victim, who is from Harsola village in Kaithal district, was travelling with a relative. When their car reached Patiala Chowk, two of the accused, who were drinking nearby, spotted her. They and the others attacked the car with rods and smashed its windows. They beat up the woman’s relative. The woman was taken to a nearby field and assaulted. When she raised an alarm, the accused threatened to kill her. They hurled casteist abuses at her. She managed to reach the Sadar police station and file a complaint. The police registered a first information report by invoking sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code. Five of the accused have been identified as Chandrasekhar, Manoj, Jitendra, Kala and Sandeep, all of Kandela village. Superintendent of Police, Jind, Abhishek Jorwal said medical examination of the victim confirmed rape. A manhunt has been launched for the culprits. Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Kiran Choudhary said the law-and-order situation in Haryana had gone from bad to worse and dastardly attacks on women had been on the rise. The government has not yet commented on the incident. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

2. Groups demand a Dalit CM for the State (2)

RAICHUR: Janandolana for Dalit Chief Minister, a conglomeration of 50 groups representing various Dalit communities, demanded the Congress high command to replace Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with a Dalit candidate. Addressing a media conference at Reporters’ Guild here on Sunday, K. Shivaram and N. Murthy, the leaders of the Janandolana, alleged that the Dalits had been systematically kept out of power even 68 years after the Independence. They also blamed Congress for using Dalit and minority communities as its vote-bank and depriving them of enjoying power. “Lingayat leaders ruled the state as Chief Ministers for 23 years, Vakkaliga leaders for 18 years, Brahman leaders for 8.5 years. The leaders of other numerically smaller communities could also become chief ministers. However, the leaders of Dalit and minority communities which are relatively bigger in terms of numerical size have not assumed power as chief minister owing largely to systematic conspiracies,” N Murthy charged. He verbally attacked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for his role in “defeating Parameshwar” in the last assembly election. “It is none other than Siddaramaiah who made an all-out effort to defeat Parameswhar for clearing his way to Chief Minister post. Parameshwar who was completely engaged in election campaign across the state for Congress victory could not concentrate on his own constituency. Taking advantage of his absence in the constituency, Siddaramaiah ensured his defeat,” Murthy alleged. K. Shivaram, former IAS officer and leader of Chalavadi Mahasabha, alleged that Dalit leaders were systematically sidelined and deprived of Chief Minister post despite they led Congress to power in many assembly polls. “There are many able leaders in Dalit community, such as Mallikarjun Kharge, G. Parameshwar, K.H. Muniyappa, Motamma, Anjaneya, who can efficiently lead the state as Chief Minister on the path of development. Our campaign is not for any one particular leader. We want the Congress high command to choose any one Dalit leader for the post,” he clarified. The leaders announced that over 10,000 Dalits would march to Delhi for pressurising the Congress high command to make a Dalit leader chief minister of Karnataka. “If our demand is ignored, all Dalit groups will work against Congress right away in all coming elections. We will ensure that Congress will be reduced to politically irrelevant as Aam Aadmi Party uprooted its base in Delhi,” Murhty warned. Dalit leaders Ravindranath Patti, J. Lingaiah and others were present. (The Hindu 15/3/17)

3. UP: Day after ‘attack by Gurjars’, three Dalit families flee Pilibhit village (2)

Lucknow: A day after a mob of Gurjar community allegedly attacked three Dalit families ransacking their houses and beating up women and children in Nuria police station area of Pilibhit district, the families left the village on Sunday morning fearing more attacks. Four persons including two women had sustained injuries in the attack. The families were targeted in response to the alleged elopement of a Gurjar girl with a youth of one of the Dalit families on March 10. After the attack, a case was registered against 22 persons, including the girl’s father who has been arrested along with three others on Saturday. Incidentally, the girl’s father, after his arrest, too, got an FIR registered against the Dalit youth, Vijay Pal, his uncle and two cousins on charges of abducting his 19-year-old daughter for force-marriage. Heavy police force have been deployed in the village to avoid any untoward incident. Additional Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Sudhir Kumar Singh said Pal’s family had left the village on Friday morning while the Gurjar community attacked the other families later in the night. Village pradhan Anand Prakash, a Gurjar, told The Indian Express that three Dalit families, including that of Vijay Pal, his uncle and another relative, have left the village, which has a population of around 1000 with a predominantly Gurjar population (nearly 80 per cent). Pal is a daily-wage labourer at a factory in Uttrakhand, the pradhan added. Station Officer, Nuria police station, Shamshad Ali said the girl left house for some work on March 10 and did not return. Her family, informed by others that she had eloped with Pal, did not inform the police and carried out a search of their own, the SO said. Four persons identified as Gaurav, Prempal, Sunderlal and the girl’s father were caught from the spot when the attack took place. Upon the arrival of the police, members of the Gurjar community staged protest following which police had to use force to disperse the crowd. The injured have been identified as Mayadevi, Suman Devi, Raju and Sohanlal. They were sent to district hospital for treatment. Later, Sohanlal got an FIR registered against 22 named and 40-50 unidentified assailants at the Nuria police station on various charges, including arson and SC/ST Act. (Indian Express 17/3/15)

4. Upper caste men ‘urinate’ in dalit youth’s mouth in Tamil Nadu (2)

KRISHNAGIRI: A group of non-dalits in a Tamil Nadu village allegedly attacked a 20-year-old dalit youth and urinated in his mouth. The incident happened during a temple festival at Karuvanur in Krishnagiri district on March 2. M Aravindhan (20), who is working as a welder at a private company in Bangalore, visited his native village to participate at a temple festival on March 2. “I went to the temple with my relative R Dinesh (20). Some caste Hindus used filthy words against us when they saw us,” Aravindhan said. When the duo opposed it, the group attacked them. The caste men later dragged both of them to a nearby toilet and continued to beat them up. Aravindhan fell on the ground. When he asked for a glass of water, the men allegedly urinated in his mouth. Meanwhile, Dinesh, who managed to escape, alerted his family members. They rushed to the spot and rescued Aravindhan. The next day, he was admitted to Dharmapuri Government Medical College and Hospital. “I suffered several injuries when they attacked me,” the victim told TOI. Meanwhile, he lodged a complaint with the Kallavi police. However, the police allegedly refused to register a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “They just registered an assault case against unknown people,” he said. Meanwhile, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kuravan Pazhankudiina Makkal Sangam (TNKPMS) S Ravi urged the Kallavi police to register the case under SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “Police officials told me that they would extort money from the non-dalits in return for not registering a case against them. So, we have decided to take up this issue to the court,” Ravi said. When contacted by TOI, the Kallavi police said they had registered a case and the investigating was going on. “We will alter the case once we confirm whether the dalit youth was harassed or not,” they said. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

5. 3 Dalit Girls Found Dead in Uttar Pradesh, Families Allege Gang-Rape and Murder (2)

Lucknow:  Three Dalit girls from Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, who had gone missing since Friday, were found dead in a field on Saturday. The families of the three girls suspect it to be a case of gang-rape and murder. Two of the three girls were minors and belonged to the same village, Katiyari. According to the families of the girls – aged 18, 13 and nine – the three had gone to the fields to collect fodder around noon on Friday but did not return. The next day their bodies were discovered in the fields by a local and had injury marks on the neck and head. The police claim the case to be a fallout of a one-sided love affair. The main accused, Sonu, from the same village, was in love with the eldest girl who had rejected his advances, prompting him to take this step. Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria said “Sonu had made up his mind to kill the girl. They killed the other 2 girls to remove evidence. This is not a case of rape”.The police are waiting for the post-mortem report before calling it a rape and murder case. “The bodies bear head injury which seems to have caused the death. The case has been filed and we will look whether there was any sexual offence,” said Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria. Of the 4 accused, 2 have been nabbed by the police while 2 are still absconding. (NDTV 22/3/15)

6. Homeless Dalit families protest outside Tahsildar’s office (2)

RAICHUR: As many as 25 Dalit families of Tidigola village in Sindhanur taluk, whose houses were alleged burnt in the presence of police as per court orders on Monday, camped outside the office of Sindhanur Tahsildar on Tuesday, protesting the action. While the women prepared food in the office premises, the children, babies and aged were exhausted in the sweltering heat. “We have been living on 11 gunta land bearing survey number 2/1 at Tidigola village for the last 25 years. The original land owner, Yankareddeppa, claims that he had donated the land to government in 1986-87. The owner and his followers along with a police constable with a court order forcibly dragged us out of our homes on Monday and burnt our homes, which were later cleared with an earth mover,” the agitating families said. Addressing at the agitation site, Mr. H N Badiger, state convenor of Jaati Nirmoolana Chalavali, verbally attacked the taluk administration for its “inhuman action” against poor Dalit families. “The bureaucratic apparatus from top to bottom is indisputably working for the creamy layer of society and crushing the downtrodden and marginalised sections under its iron heels. The Tidigola incident, where the concerned authorities neither served prior-notices to poor Dalits nor made alternative arrangements, clearly showed how democracy functioned at grassroots level,” he said. He demanded for a stringent legal action against all those involved in the case, including Turvihal Police Sub Inspector and Sindhanur Circle Inspector for their alleged support to the “miscreants who destroyed the homes of the Dalits”.He warned that the Dalit families would continue to stay at the Tahshildar’s office if they were not provided with permanent shelters. The agitating families later submitted a memorandum to Tahshildar M.Gangappa with a list of demands which included paying compensation and providing alternative and permanent shelters for the homeless, registering First Information Report based on the complaint lodged by the grieving families, amongst others. Representatives of various organisations, including Ramesh Patil Berigi of Karnataka Raitha Sangha, Nagaraj Pujar of Revolutionary Youth Federation of India, B.N. Yaradihal of Trade Union Centre of India and Basappa Kadabur of Hamalara Sangha participated in the protest and expressed their solidarity to the agitating Dalit families. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

7. Attack on dalits on rise in Haryana (2)

CHANDIGARH: The change of guard in Haryana has not improved the condition of dalits in the state if the data on crime against the community tabled in the assembly is anything to go by. During Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP regime in the state, there was at least one attack on dalits in Haryana everyday from October 26 to February 28. According to the documents presented in the House, 146 crimes, including rapes, murders, dacoities and assaults, were committed against dalits during the said period. Cases were registered against 358 persons and 142 of them are still on the run. In backward classes’ case, 292 persons were booked for 98 crimes against the community and 151 accused are yet to be arrested. This data was tabled in the assembly in response to a question by INLD MLAs Ranbir Singh Gangwa and Ravinder Baliani. In his reply, chief minister M L Khattar said the best possible measures had been put in place for the protection of dalits and backward classes. During the previous Bhupinder Hooda regime, 238 cases of crime against dalits were registered in 2010 and 257 in 2013. Secretary general of INLD R S Chaudhary said, “After the new government took over, we had expected that they would be able to control the atrocities against dalits. However, things are going from bad to worse.”Chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit Organizations Ashok Bharti alleged that the BJP lacked political will to curb crimes against dalits in Haryana. “Dalits had lot of expectations from the new government. We were disappointment on Day 1 itself as Khattar did not induct any dalit in his cabinet. Only one dalit was appointed as a minister of state,” said Bharti. (Times of India 25/3/15)

8. Dalits, ‘upper’ castes at daggers drawn in Hassan village (2)

Hassan: The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes over celebrating Ramanavami at Nittur in Hassan taluk have deepened with both of them filing complaints against each other with the Hassan Rural police. Ananth, a Dalit, was allegedly assaulted by ‘upper’ caste people on March 26 following differences between the two groups over putting up a banner on Ramanavami celebrations in the village. Ananth, who is being treated at the Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences, filed a complaint against seven people under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Hassan Rural police had taken two persons into custody following the complaint registered on March 27. Later, representatives of the ‘upper’ castes filed a case against 16 people, all Dalits, levelling charges of attempt to murder. The police registered the complaint.Dalit organisations alleged that the police had registered the complaint against innocent persons. Satish, Hassan district president of Samata Sainik Dal, said, “The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes began in Nittur three or four years ago as many Dalit families started accepting Buddhism. Time and again, the ‘upper’ caste people had picked quarrels with Dalits. On March 26, ‘upper’ caste youths tried to put up a banner close to a retail shop belonging to a Dalit. As the shopkeeper pointed out that the banner would end up as an obstruction to people, the Dalits were assaulted. Now, they have filed complaint against those who were not in the village on the day,” he said. Hassan Deputy Superintendent of Police Jayaram said the cases were registered based on the written complaints submitted by both the groups. The police would take appropriate action after investigation, he added. (The Hindu 29/3/15)

TRIBALS

9. Government actions add to plight of Attappady: tribal leaders (6)

PALAKKAD: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement in the Assembly on Tuesday that government officials had failed to effectively expend the funds sanctioned for the welfare of tribespeople in Attappady was only one side of the reality, assert tribal leaders and activists. According to them, transfer of honest officials and replacing them with incompetent persons at the behest of mafias had also contributed to the crisis in the tribal belt where almost all development initiatives are at a stand still now. “Most of the multi-crore tribal welfare packages announced in the recent years by the Central and State governments for the Attappady region are remaining unimplemented with the authorities failing to depute a full-time project officer for the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP). The ITDP that handles tribal developmental works worth several crores of rupees for Attappady has been remaining headless for the last seven months after project officer P.V. Radhakrishnan was transferred out following political pressure. Though an officer, who underwent disciplinary action while working in Idukki, was appointed, he went on leave,” said R.J. Rajendra Prasad, who works with voluntary organisation ‘Thampu.’ “The officer was the first native to be appointed in the post but was transferred to Kasaragod due to alleged pressure from the contractor lobby. The government posted an assistant project officer last month but the situation turned complicated with the officer who went on leave refusing to transfer charge to the assistant officer,” he said. Another honest officer who was shifted out from Attappady recently was K. Krishnan Kutty, the special officer for tribal affairs deputed by the Home Department. Though he earned appreciation from higher officials for taking serious efforts to prevent tribal land alienation and sexual abuse of tribal women, he was promoted and transferred as demanded by the mafias. The office of special officer was closed for ever after the transfer. The Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) also was remaining headless as its director was removed from the post recently. Though the charge was given to Ottappalam Sub Collector, the IAS officer has to find extra time for AHADS amidst busy schedules of district administration. Replying to questions in the Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Chandy said that sanctioning of funds alone would not solve the problems in the tribal hamlets. Dedicated service of officials was also imperative. “The Chief Minister is partially true. In the absence of coordination among departments, 186 community kitchens opened last year to provide nutritious food, especially to pregnant and lactating tribal women, had lost steam. Funds crunch is also disrupting their daily functioning,” said M. Sukumaran of the Attappady Samrakshana Samiti. “There is severe shortage of doctors and paramedical staff in hospitals and primary health centres in the region, despite a promise by the government to pay those willing an additional allowance of Rs.20,000 per month. The government tribal specialty hospital is still facing shortage of doctors and equipment,” Social activist P.M. Raveendran said. “The promise of appointing an IAS officer with proven track-record to coordinate the packages still remains unfulfilled. Though retired IAS officer S. Subbarayan was posted as special officer for Attappady packages, he was later given the charge to set up the Palakkad Government Medical College. With the government giving priority to the medical college, the special officer left Attappady to focus on it and never returned,” Mr. Raveendran said. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

10. Gandha colony tribals living in penurious condition (6)

Somwarpet: Tribal people at Gandha colony in Somwarpet are living in a pathetic condition. They lack drinking water, and live in ramshackle houses. Despite various claims of development by panchayat bodies and the State Government, their status has not changed. Majority of the colonies in the taluk are devoid of basic facilities including the title deeds, road and electricity connection. The residents of Gandha colony still depend on left bank canal of Harangi. When the canal goes dry during summer, the residents walk for two kilometre to fetch a pot of water at Yadavanadu. The colony has 10 children, two puerperal women and one pregnant woman. The children in the colony fall sick very often. Jenukurubara Muthappa said “the government had constructed six houses two years ago for name sake. However, the house is of poor quality. The rain water enters inside the house during monsoon. The houses might collapse at any time.” The children in the colony still depend on kerosene lamp to read. “We do not even get two litres of kerosene in a month. The road leading to the colony is in pathetic condition. As we have to walk beside the canal, we fear the attack by wild elephants in the evening,” said students. Taluk social welfare office Ramegowda said “a borewell has been dug in Gandhada colony. There was delay in electricity connection. The forest department is not cooperating to provide facilities to the tribal colony. The ZP CEO has directed forest department to cooperate to lay pipelines to supply water. The problems will be solved in the future.” (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

11. Literacy rates of STs far below national average: Par panel (6)

New Delhi: Despite government efforts to promote education among the Scheduled Tribes (STs), their literacy rates as compared to the national average have remained low, a Parliamentary Committee has said this week. The literacy rate as per Census 2011 is 73 per cent but for STs is 59 per cent only. The House panel also flagged the female literacy rate, saying it is also lower as compared to the national average. “The overall literacy gap amongst the various groups and STs has come down from 19.77 per cent in 1961 to 14.03 per cent in 2011, a scrutiny of state-wise literacy data reveals that in most of the north eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, STs are at par with the general population. “While in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which have sizeable ST population in remote areas, the literacy gap is as high as 18 to 26 per cent,” the committee has noted. It has also exhorted the government to view the large disparity in literacy rates of STs in these states, which have lagged in almost all socio-economic parameters, and promote educational development for STs on a “mission mode”.The panel also stated that it was unhappy with the fact that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs till date does not have the complete data about the total number of Ashram schools in states and UTs, as according to them the requisite information is awaited from some of the states. Keeping in view the “sub-standard food and bad quality” of personal care products being provided to the ST students in the Ashram schools, the committee has recommended that the ministry should ask all the state governments to take such complaints seriously and conduct appropriate inquiries in this regard and also ensure strict compliance of the standards laid down under the Right to Eduction Act (RTE). “The Ministry has stated that the states are being requested to provide good food and quality personal care products to tribal children in Ashram schools and hostels will also be asked to deal with complaints seriously and conduct appropriate enquiries. “The committee may be apprised of the remedial measures taken in the matter so far,” said the report. The committee therefore reiterated that the Ministry should pursue the matter vigorously with the state governments /UTs and obtain the information without further delay. In order to bring greater transparency and efficiency, the committee recommended the Ministry to furnish a detailed statement on the number of proposals received, rejected, approved and those pending with reasons therefore state-wise during the last three years. The committee said it was dismayed to note from the reply of the Ministry that the said detailed statement is not being prepared and urged the ministry to do the same at the earliest. The committee also urged the Ministry to implement the recommendations or suggestions of Professor Thorat Committee report on educational requirements of STs for the better functioning of the Ashram schools. The objective of the scheme (Establishment of Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas) is to provide residential schools for Scheduled Tribes including PTGs in an environment conducive to learning to increase the literacy rate among the tribal students and to bring them at par with other population of the country. (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

12. Tribal forum expresses concern (6)

Kokrajhar, March 16: The Tribal Belts and Blocks Protection Forum expressed serious concern over the huge encroachment of indigenous belts and blocks by illegal settlers and urged Delhi and Dispur to take strong measures under the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, which was amended in 1947. A meeting was held yesterday at Rupnath Brahma Memorial Bodo Sahitya Sabha Bhawan in Kokrajhar to discuss numerous issues pertaining to protection of indigenous lands, particularly in the BTAD and Assam in general. Members of the forum from the BTAD attended the meeting, which was chaired by Manik Kumar Brahma, president of the forum. Attending the meeting, Rakeshwar Brahma, MLA of Mazbat, said, “Huge encroachment of tribal lands has adversely affected the demographic pattern, resulting in manipulation of electoral politics of Assam. It is an open secret that indigenous lands, especially in tribal belts and blocks, have been illegally encroached upon, violating the land law as given in Chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886.” The forum said the 32 tribal belts and blocks of the state were not protected from the illegal occupation of non-tribal people, many of them with suspect nationalities. Official records said over 3 lakh bighas in belts, blocks and sub-plan areas in the BTAD are under encroachment. The forum president said the panel has been formed to work and raise the land alienation issues of indigenous people of Assam. The organisation is also concerned about the vast deforestation because of gross negligence of the state government. The organisation also demanded the update of the NRC on the basis of 1951 census instead of 1971, especially in tribal belts and blocks for safeguarding the indigenous population of Assam. (The Telegraph 17/3/15)

13. Tribals in Bengal to use Facebook for development (6)

Kolkata: Taking their friendship from the virtual to the real world, more than 600 “educated and privileged” Facebook users belonging to West Bengal’s tribal communities will meet on April 5 to discuss strategies to harness social media for tribal development. The second ‘Kolkata Adibasi Facebook Meet’ aims to unite youngsters and adults from the tribal communities who have established themselves in various careers. “We are trying to translate the virtual friendship into real bonding so that this platform can be used to promote development and unity among the tribal members,” Pradip Kumar Hansda, one of the organisers, told IANS. He said the responsibility lies with the accomplished members of the tribal communities to foster growth and progress for the rest. “The educated and privileged youths of the tribal society need to take up issues and provide solutions. Since they are active on social media, we believe it could be a catalyst in bringing about change. Youngsters are already buzzing with ideas and this platform will help give those ideas shape,” Hansda said. As many as 642 users of the popular social networking site have been invited to the day-long meeting at the Victoria Memorial Hall grounds. Most of the invitees are members of Facebook groups such as ‘Santal Students and Youth Unity’ and ‘All India Adibasi Employees and Teachers Association’. “Most of the people are from Bengal tribes such as Santals and their clans like Murmu, Soren etc. We have members of the tribe from neighbouring states of Odisha and Bihar as well. There are tribes from other parts of India too. We have started with Bengal and we want to take it to the national level,” Hansda said. (Business Standard 21/3/15)

14. ‘Hindu Malayali’ community resents denial of ST status (6)

ERODE: Students and elders belonging to ‘Hindu Malayali’ community converged at the district collectorate on Monday to express resentment over denial of Scheduled Tribe status to the community. Representatives of the community lamented that benefits accruing from the Union and State scholarships, educational assistance and welfare schemes have eluded school and college students belonging to the hilly areas of Kadambur, Bargur and Olaiyur. They urged the district administration to expedite the process of issuing ST certification, citing consideration of ‘Hindu Malayali’ as ST by the Tribal Research Institute. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

15. Rape of tribal girls: four more held (6)

KALPETTA: A special mobile squad led by Y.R. Restem, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Wayanad, arrested four persons, including a woman, on Tuesday in connection with a case of sexual abuse of three minor tribal girls in the district. The arrested were identified as Prajish, 33, of Kadachikkunnu, Ratheesh, 30, of Rippon, Bajitha, 26, of Padivayal, and Rajesh, 28, from Tamil Nadu. Bajitha is a relative of the victims, the police said. The police had arrested six persons on Sunday on the charge of sexually exploiting the children studying in standards V, VI, and VIII. The police said the accused allegedly raped the victims at different places in the district, including two lodges here, with the connivance of Bajitha and Rajesh for the past year-and-a-half. Prajish was the first accused in the case, Mr. Restem said adding that the police were in search of three more persons involved in the case. The accused were charged under various sections of the IPC, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Atrocities Act, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Those accused were produced before the District Court and remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

16. MP high court slaps notice on top officials over tribals’ PIL (6)

Indore: After hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) over inhuman living conditions of tribals residing near Mandu in Dhar, an Indore bench of High Court has issued a notice to top officials of various concerned departments. The bench has given four weeks time to the principal secretaries of department of public health and family welfare, rural administration and development, Madhya Pradesh road development corporation ltd, managing director of MP paschim kshetra vidyut vitaran co. ltd and to the city commissioner and collector of Dhar to respond to the PIL. Filed by tribals of the area, the PIL brings into the court’s notice the lack of medical facility, unavailability of roads and other basic amenities in the area. As per the PIL, four pregnant ladies have died on their way to hospitals in 2013, which throws light on the lack of basic medical facilities in the area.  A woman named Kusum recently delivered her child on the way to the hospital but unfortunately the child couldn’t be saved. One 75-year-old Hagariya was suffering from Typhoid and villagers took him to the hospital 4 km away from the village by using bed sheets, the PIL states. “These two people Kusum and Hagariya filed the PIL. The court has issued notice to seven respondents and sought answers,” said Shanno Shagufta Khan, the advocate of the petitioners. As per the PIL, there are approximately 35,000 tribals living in six villages in Mandu district namely Ambapura, Ratitalayi, Bhatkala, Bandhav, Pipladiya and Malipura. However, the residents of the area have only two options in terms of medical facilities —Mandu Hospital and Nalsa Hospital. This two hospitals are approximately at a distance of 4 to 13 km from these villages that register no less than 8 to 10 medical emergency cases every month. Hindustan Times 27/3/15)

17. Over 2,000 tribal farmers to form cooperative, trusts and company as part of NABARD’s plan

NEW DELHI: Farmers in tribal states are joining hands to form corporate structures as the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Farm to Fork’ programme begins a quiet rollout even as the much-criticised APMC law is yet to be exorcised. Over 2,000 farmer organisations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will be incubated to grow into a cooperative society, trust and ultimately, a company, as part of the plan being implemented by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the country’s largest development lender. “We have already identified over 300 farmer groups…We will be hand-holding them, helping with registrations and business process re-engineering to facilitate their take off,” Nabard chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala told ET. These organisations will get help at each level — from sourcing of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to machine requirements for management of farms, processing of produce, marketing and linking up with large value chains. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act has been amended in some states to allow farmers to sell perishables directly to consumers to help farmers get better value for their harvest. However, even where the act has been amended, constraints on farmers and large customers remain, such as multiple registration requirements and limitations on sourcing of perishable fruits and vegetables. Nabard will use a Rs 200 crore fund set up by the government to provide initial-stage funding besides additional money through its NBFC arm. The move is aimed at facilitating creation of structures that would take the country’s farm sector to the next level by bringing in cost efficiencies. The government has identified agrireforms to enhance productivity and value as a key focus area “Land holdings in the country have come down from the 80s…Thus, farmers organisations can help in bringing costs down and making agriculture more efficient,” Bhanwala said. These structures permit pooling of land so that farmers can come together and benefit from greater use of technology and reap the benefits of scale.Nabard has also launched a digitisation programme for self-help groups in rural India that can be expanded to offer multiple products, including government services and the sale of consumer goods. “I don’t mind if an FMCG company wants to use the platform to sell its products,” he said. The bank funded 44 lakh self-help groups through a programme called e-Shakti. The pilot digitisation project was started in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. This platform will allow members to receive transaction information through SMS, a facility that till now has been used only by banks. It also uses the Aadhaar identity programme, which helps curb the practice of multiple loans. “There are 74 lakh SHGs of which 44 lakh are bank funded…We are now looking to digitise them by providing tablets which is on a platform hosted by Nabard,” Bhanwala said, adding that the second pilot project is being launched in Dhule in Maharashtra. The programme will be expanded to 10 districts before a countrywide rollout, he added. (Times of India 30/3/15)

WOMEN

18. 291 rape cases registered in Delhi in Jan-Feb this year (8)

New Delhi: Over 290 cases of rape have been registered in the first two months of this year, government said in Rajya Sabha today. Replying to a question on rising crimes against women in the national capital, Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said that 291 cases of rape were registered in Delhi in January and February this year. As many as 662 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty too were registered during the period, in addition to 212 cases of insult to the modesty of women. This year till February 28, 438 cases of cruelty by husband and in-laws were also registered, apart from 19 cases of dowry deaths. In 2014 and 2013, 2,166 and 1,636 cases of rape were registered in Delhi respectively, while in 2012, the figure was 706 only. Chaudhary also said that almost 5,200 CCTV cameras are being installed at 85 locations in Delhi at a cost of about Rs 333 crore to check rising crimes. “The project for installation of approximately 5,200 CCTV cameras at 85 identified locations in public places in Delhi at a total cost of around 332.96 crore has already commenced,” he said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

19. In Delhi, women are still tortured for giving birth to girls (8)

New Delhi: Sweets if it’s a boy. But faces hang when a girl is born. That’s how an attendant at a government hospital describes the arrival of a newborn in Delhi. This lingering stress of bearing girls without giving birth to a boy allegedly drove a 27-year-old woman in Ambedkar Nagar to kill her three daughters and attempt suicide on Monday. Despite social campaigns, stricter laws and welfare schemes, many mothers are still tortured for producing a girl child. And not just domestic violence, women have to go through emotional stress, frequent jibes and insufficient meals as a price for not bearing a son. “Since I raised my voice against my husband and in-l aws, I have come across several women who shared that they had to go through multiple abortions because their families didn’t want girls. One woman was made to abort five or six times. Things have just become worse,” said Dr Mitu Khurana, the first woman to file a case under the PNDT Act in 2008. Her husband’s family tricked her into having a sex determination test when she was carrying twin girls and later forced her to terminate her pregnancy. “There is no support system for women like me who want to make a choice and bring up their daughters. When I went to the authorities to complain, I was told to go back and give my husband a son. The government says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. But how can a mother do that?” Khurana asks. The ministry of Women and Child Development identified five districts of the Capital in 2013 that had a skewed child sex ratio (CSR). Of south-west, west, north, north-west and east, south-west Delhi had the lowest CSR at 845 girls per 1000 boys. In a UGC-funded study by the Institute of Home Economics in 2011, 44% of 200 married couples said they wanted a boy as their first child. Sixty-one percent of them were graduates and 4% were under treatment to have a son. “It’s still a huge problem cutting across all strata. Patriarchal mindset is deep-seated in our culture which says that daughters are a paraya dhan while a boy can provide moksh (salvation),” said Soha Moitra, regional director-North, Child Rights and You. Most women who do seek help from NGOs or Delhi Police find it difficult to demand action against their tormentors. “Those from poor backgrounds simply want us to counsel their families so they can get back together. They hardly even admit being hit. They know they have nowhere to go as they are not independent or educated,” said a Delhi Police official dealing with women’s issues. “However, those from well-off families are  clearer about walking out of the marriage. Women in such situations suffer from huge emotional trauma,” the official said. “Mothers are very happy to have a child be it a girl or a boy. It’s the fear of the future that troubles her,” said Vartika Nanda, associate professor at Lady Shri Ram College, who works on women’s issues. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

20. Govt plans to amend anti-dowry harassment law (8)

New Delhi:  Plans are afoot to amend a criminal law that will allow compromise and settlement between husband and wife at the onset of trial in dowry harassment cases, a move that comes after frequent misuse of the provision to trouble men and their near relatives. Under the proposal, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will be made a compoundable offence with the permission of the courts as suggested by the Law Commission and Justice Malimath Committee. “A draft note for the Union Cabinet seeking to amend Section 498A of the IPC, making it compoundable, has been sent to the Law Ministry for drawing up the draft bill,” a Home Ministry official said. Now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable which provides for immediate arrest of the accused. Conciliatory effort by the warring sides is virtually impossible. A husband or his family members are presumed to be guilty till they prove their innocence in the court. The guilty is punishable with a jail term of up to three years. There have been allegations that in many cases, husbands and their relatives are often charged with false dowry harassment cases by their wives or her family members when some marital problems arise. If the offence is made compoundable, misuse of the law may come down hugely as there would be scope for initiating conciliation proceedings and out-of-court settlement. Permission from a court will be a guarantee against attempts where a wife may be compelled into a compromise by her husband or in-laws, the Home Ministry official said. Now, if a dowry harassment case is proved wrong or proved that the law is misused, only Rs 1,000 penalty is slapped. But the amendment provides for a Rs 15,000 fine. Another new section is expected to be inserted to allow an accused to escape jail by paying a penalty. Opposing the move to dilute the anti-dowry provision of the law, senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising said it is a law which gives relief and protection to harassed woman and it should be continued. “Violence against women is a violation of human rights. There is no compromise of that. I would disagree with the government move,” Jaising told PTI. The Supreme Court had in a judgement in 2010 said as it stood now, the law had become a “weapon in the hands of disgruntled women”. It had also observed that serious re-look of the entire provision is warranted by the Legislature. “It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases,” the apex court had said. Section 498A was introduced in early eighties to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives involving newly-married brides. A spate of dowry deaths in Delhi and elsewhere led to a campaign by some leading women members of Parliament pushing the government to bring the amendment. A punishment involving imprisonment of up to three years is provided in the present law. The expression ‘cruelty’ has been defined in wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. The Law Commission recommended that the offence under Section 498A should be made a compoundable offence with the permission of Court. Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reform also recommended that it should be made compoundable as well as bailable. Last year, the Home Ministry had asked all state governments to be judicious in slapping Section 498A of IPC in matrimonial disputes as the provision may be used as “weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives”. In an advisory to the states and union territories, the Ministry had asked them to instruct their police officers not to automatically arrest a person when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41, CrPC (When police may arrest without warrant). (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

21. 59% Indian women are anaemic: Study (8)

MUMBAI: A study to analyze women who have undergone preventive health check-ups across the country show that anaemia and vitamin D deficiency are rampant across different age groups. Both may lead to several ailments, ranging from mild aches and fatigue to bone diseases and even cancer. As many as 59% women were found to be anaemic in the country, with the eastern region having a significantly higher prevalence at 72.12% than the rest of the country. Around 45% women from the western region were found to be severely lacking in adequate haemoglobin levels in blood. Around 25 lakh women had undergone testing for anaemia between 2012 and 2014. Among women who underwent lipid profile tests, around 31% were found to have at least one abnormal parameter. Here too, women from eastern India topped the list with 34.8% having abnormal levels of triglycerides, LDL, HDL or complete cholesterol. Women from the western region fared better here with nearly 70% showing the right levels. The thyroid disorder was found to be present among 27% of the women tested from across the country. The survey also found that the deficiency of vitamin D was rampant with 76% across the country having lower levels. (Times of India 17/3/15)

22. Law protects women all along: experts (8)

TIRUCHI: A “Know Your Law” programme to raise awareness about women’s legal rights was held by Cauvery College for Women, under the auspices of the Centre of Advocacy and Research and Snegam Trust, in the city on Wednesday. Advocates B. Shanthi and J. Jeyachandran of the District Legal Committee were those who addressed the gathering of around 200 students, briefing them about the legislation available to women in distress while simultaneously cautioning them against misusing the law. “Women in India are protected by law from birth to death,” said Ms. Shanthi, “but how many of us are aware of what is legal or not? Three years after the Nirbhaya gang-rape incident what has grabbed headlines recently is the documentary that has interviewed one of the rapists, and his regressive comments about women,” she added, referring to the now-banned BBC production India’s Daughter. She said limiting women’s movement in public was not practical as the number of women workers on night-shift jobs had gone up. “It’s important for women to speak up when they face sexual harassment, but don’t misuse the law to get your back on your spouse or in-laws,” said Ms. Shanthi. “Victimising your in-laws with exaggerated complaints will be harmful for the family in the long run.” According to Mr. Jeyachandran, women in India, despite being at risk, have access to a “very strong and clear legislation that not many are aware of.” Commenting on the growing divorce rate in the city, he said: “Women’s expectations of marriage and their life partners have gone up and these are largely influenced by what they see on television or in the movies. The courts would prefer couples to settle their differences amicably on their own rather than spend long years waiting for verdicts.” Gajalakshmi, president, Snegam Trust, said that more should be done to stop marginalising sex workers, transgenders, and women living with HIV/AIDS. “Women have been facing sexual violence for a long time, perhaps it is only now that we are speaking about it more openly. “Young women should develop their skills and use their education to work for those who are socially disadvantaged.” R. Murugan, president of the college’s governing council and V. Sujatha, principal, also spoke. (The Hindu 20/3/15)

 

23. 10% of dowry cases false, government plans changes in law (8)

NEW DELHI: Every year more than 10,000 complaints of dowry harassment are found to be false. Given that close to 90,000 to 1 lakh cases are investigated every year, the figure makes it one of the most abused laws in the country. Government is now working on a proposal to make Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code—that deals with offences of dowry demand and cruelty by husband and in-laws—compoundable. This means that the law, if amended, would have the provision of settlement between the warring couple if the court allows the same. As the law stands now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable. This leads to immediate arrest of husband and in-laws with onus to prove their innocence on them. It also rules out any effort at reconciliation. Sources in home ministry said that the ministry sent a draft note for the Union Cabinet to amend Section 498A of the IPC to the law ministry for drawing up a draft bill. Making dowry law compoundable was also among recommendations made by the law commission and Justice Malimath Committee. The new law would also have penalty provisions of Rs 15,000 as against Rs 1,000 now if the case is found to be false, said sources. However, it would not be easy to get an amendment such as this through easily as women’s rights activists have been vociferously opposed to such moves in the past. The argument against any dilution of the law is that it is the strength that several economically dependent and helpless women have against dowry harassment. A dilution effected due to over 10% false cases will affect millions whose cases may be genuine. Arguments in favour have always stressed that those who are really in need hardly approach the police against in-laws due to various societal pressures and it’s only those looking to ‘exact revenge’ and having robust economic strength who reach the courts. In a recent order, the Supreme Court had said Section 498A had “dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.An effort by National Commission for Women to amend Dowry Prohibition Act came a cropper after government rejected the recommendation last year. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had in December, 2014 informed Lok Sabha, “The NCW had recommended certain amendments in Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the ministry has taken a considered view on the matter and decided to drop the amendment proposed by NCW in the present form after taking into account the comments of the high-level committee on the status of women and the ministry of home affairs.” (Times of India 22/3/15)

24.  ‘Maharashtra IAS officer raped girls under threat’ (8)

Pune: More sordid details have emerged in the case of a senior IAS officer who was arrested by the Pune police on charge of sexually assaulting four schoolgirls in the Sinhagad Road area here. According to the schoolgirls, Maruti Sawant (58), Director-General of the Maharashtra Council of Agricultural Education and Research (MCAER), had allegedly threatened to kill them if they refused to give in to his wishes. As a result, the eldest of the girls, now aged 13 and studying in Class VII, had been raped for three years but was scared to confide it to her parents, said the police. The sexual assault came to light when the victims told a school counsellor, who alerted the principal. Sawant, who lured the schoolgirls by offering money to buy school books and sweets, used to show obscene photos on a computer before sexually assaulting them, said the police. Pune police retrieved liquor bottles and packets of contraceptives from the flat owned by Sawant’s father-in-law on Sinhagad Road, where he used to exploit the victims. “We verified all details at the municipal school where the girls studied,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Swargate division) Milind Mohite. The accused, who has since been sacked by the State government, has been remanded in 10-day police custody. (The Hindu 22/3/15)

25. Spiralling Trend in crimes against Women in Assam (8)

GUWAHATI: Against the backdrop of unabated violence against women in various parts of the country, there has been a spurt in the number of crimes against females in Congress-ruled Assam over the last decade. According to official records, heinous crimes like rape as well as social evils such as dowry and witch-hunting had claimed the lives of as many as 1,589 women in the state during 2005-2014. “During 2005-2014, altogether 68,329 cases of crime against women were registered. A total of 78 women died due to rape while 1,388 others were killed in dowry-related cases. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 123. The number of rape cases registered during the period was 15,931,” state Agricultural Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the Assembly on Monday while replying to a query. The year wise break-up of the crimes against women registered with the police were 3,562(2005), 3,907 (2006), 4,547 (2007), 5,021 (2008), 6,209 (2009), 7,326 (2010), 7,075 (2011), 8,268 (2012), 10,757 (2013) and 11,657 (2014) respectively. Except for 2011, when there was a slight dip in the crime graph compared to the year-ago period, there was a general upswing. “In 2014, the number of crimes committed against women and registered with the police was 11,657. The number of rape cases registered was 2,047. Altogether 13 lost their lives in these cases. There were also 205 deaths in dowry-related cases while six others were killed after they had been branded as witches,” the minister informed the House. “Similarly in 2013, 10,757 cases of crime against women were registered. The number of rape cases recorded was 1,960. Of them, 14 had lost their lives. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 18 while 170 others were killed in dowry-related cases,” Hussain said. He informed the House that altogether 47,298 people were arrested in connection with the cases and that 44,877 had been chargesheeted. The court had convicted 1,385 of them so far while the trial of the rest was in progress. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

26. Women power line to get ‘power angels’ soon (8)

VARANASI: ‘Women Power Line’, a toll free helpline for women being harassed by obscene callers and road Romeos, the brain child of UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, is about to witness some major changes soon. IG Woman Power Line Navniet Sikera, who was in the city for the expansion of four-digit helpline on Tuesday, said that the second phase of the Women Power Line is selection of a couple of girls from rural and urban areas who could assume the role of ‘power angels’. “The state government is taking every necessary measure to curb incidents of eve-teasing. Under this initiative, one-two girls from rural and urban areas would be chosen and given status of special police officers. These ‘power angels’ will work as a link between girl students, Women Power Line and the police,” he said. It is an extension of the drive started in Lucknow and aims to encourage girls to speak out against harassment, child marriage and other issues. He further said a total of 3,23,581 calls were received at WPL till Monday night, out of which, 3,17,626 calls related to crime against women were attended and solved. As per data collected by 1090 Women Power Line within two years, maximum were cases of harassment over phone. “Usually, the issues get resolved after counselling with parents. Presently, cases against 372 people have been filed against harassment and been sent to jail,” said Sikera. Sikera discussed all the significant pointers of the 1090 helpline through a power point presentation and also, interacted with the girl students. He assured the girls that ensure that all the complaints are heard immediately and anonymity is maintained. Later, he asked the girls to take oath to raise their voice against such crimes and be independent. Finally, he gave tips to the cops of all the four districts to act immediately after WPL centre receives the complaint on phone. (Times of India 26/3/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

27. India’s 13 million child brides, their 6 million children (14)

Nearly 17 million Indian children between the ages of 10 and 19—6% of the age group—are married, many of them to older men, newly-released census figures reveal. This is an increase of 0.9 million from the 2001 census figure. The legal age for marriage is 18, so some involved may have been adults, but it is unlikely both partners were. Of these married children, 76%, or 12.7 million, are girls, according to census data. Only four million boys in this age group are married, reinforcing the fact that girls are significantly more disadvantaged. More boys were married in 2011 at 4 million compared to 3.4 million in 2001.  The number is constant for girls. Uttar Pradesh has the most married children (2.8 million), followed by Bihar and Rajasthan (with 1.6 million each). IndiaSpend has previously reported that India is ranked 6th among the top 10 countries that report child marriages among females. Since the number of married boys is much lower than that of girls, it is clear girls are marrying older men. For example, Uttar Pradesh has 2 million married girls in the age group of 10-19 years, while 2.8 million in total (boys & girls) are married in the age group; Girls account for 71% of the total married people in this group. It’s the same for other states. Source: Census; shapefile from Datameet;  Six million children were born to couples married in the age group of 10-19.  The majority of these children were boys (3 million). Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of children born to children: 1 million. A UNICEF study pointed that early marriage hinders educational attainment, which then leads to poor maternal health and higher infant mortality rates. Child-bearing at a young age is detrimental to the health of both the mother and the infant. This is why child marriage affects women more than men, other than the fact that men are less likely to be married as children. India’s maternal mortality ratio (the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births) has gone down from 254 in 2006 to 190 in 2014, but it is still higher than the ratio in most other countries. Infant mortality rate (number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births) has come down from 68 in 2000 to 56 in 2014, but is still too high and short of human-development targets. States with higher child marriage rates report higher maternal as well as infant deaths. The exception is Maharashtra which has a high rate of child marriage but still maintains a low maternal mortality ratio of 68. The reason for this could be improved healthcare services, as this IndiaSpend report has explained. Married children are part of the 47% of India’s population that is currently married. The age group of 35-39 years had the highest number of married men with 40.2 million, and the age bracket of 25-29 years had the highest number of married women with 44.6 million. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

28. 27 kids, mostly girls, rescued from bonded labour in Ajmer (14)

AJMER: At least 27 children, who were working as bonded labourers in a poly packing industry at Palara village near here, were rescued on Wednesday. The freed children include 24 girls. “We received a call three days ago and we conducted a recce of the area. We passed on the information to police and also to the labour department,” said Nanu Lal Prajapati, district coordinator of child helpline. The rescued children belong to nearby villages of Badgav, Sandaria, Kalyanipura and Palara. They were all from poor families and were working for 12 to 14 hours a day in a poly packing industry. Most of the children were girls and in the age group of 8 to 14 years. “We found that these children were working there for the past seven months and were kept in the factory premises in shabby conditions and were paid wages of Rs 55 to 60 for working 12 to 14 hours,” said Prajapati. During medical examination, most of the children were found underweight and malnourished. The rescued children were produced before Bal Kalyan Samiti which handed over these children to their families. Meanwhile, sources said that as the state government have no rehabilitation programme for child labourers, things are not improving, “As poverty is the main reason for child labour, rescuing them and handing back to the family means snatching a little food from them and returning them back to bonded labour,” said a specialist. (Times of India 12/3/15)

29. 57 rescued children sent back home (14)

HYDERABAD: Fifty seven child labourers from West Bengal, who were rescued from different workshops in old city, were sent back to their native place on Sunday. Of the 57 children, 30 were rescued from a bag making unit at Nawab Sahab Kunta in Falaknuma, while the remaining were rescued from goldsmith workshops in Gulzar Houz and Charminar. They were kept at the Government Observation Home for the last two months. “We contacted the West Bengal government and after completing necessary formalities, we are handing over the children to them,” District Child Protection Officer, Md Imtiyaz Raheem said, adding that the West Bengal government will look into the rehabilitation aspect of the children. The children were taken in a special bogie arranged in the East Coast Express by South Central Railway authorities. Officials of Child and Welfare Department, Government Railway Police and NGO’s representatives are accompanying them. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

30. Child slavery ‘most heinous crime against humanity’: Satyarthi (14)

United Nations: Describing child slavery as the “most heinous crime against humanity,” Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday called for a greater political will in the global development agenda to bring an end to the scourge affecting millions of children worldwide. Satyarthi told the UN that the number of child slaves has not decreased in the last few decades, but has stagnated at about 5.5 million. “We have not made progress in (ending) the most heinous crime against humanity. The most shameful commentary on the present times on the society is child slavery still exists.” Satyarthi was at the UN headquarters for a special briefing organised by the NGO Relations Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI). The Nobel Peace Prize winner said there must be explicit language in the sustainable development goals to abolish child slavery. He gave examples of several young boys and girls whom he rescued from bonded labour, saying their childhood and sense of innocence is lost when they are exploited and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The question of abolishing child slavery and restoring the childhood of millions of boys and girls has to be answered with “utmost political will, utmost priority, we have to feel inside us the sense of urgency,” he said. Satyarthi, the founder of grassroots non-profit ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, said nations must come up with innovative ways and build strongest possible partnerships to put an end to child slavery. He called for strengthening the UN system and stressed that there is a serious need of deeper and broader inter- agency cooperation. “We have to bring the UN agencies closer for a holistic policy thinking and responses to the problems of children in the world,” he said appealing to the UN to be more “proactive” in building partnerships with the other stakeholders. Satyarthi expressed hope that the scourge of child labour can end in his lifetime but said that concerted efforts from governments, corporates, civil society and public was needed. “I am very confident that I will see the end of child servitude in my lifetime. It was a non-issue 30 years ago… I refuse to accept that some children are born to live without human dignity and without their rights. We cannot compromise, it is non-negotiable,” he said. Satyarthi said there has been progress over the last few years to tackle child labour and everyone has a “moral responsibility” to end it. (Zee News 18/3/15)

 

31. Modi invokes farmers’ children to pitch for Land Bill (14)

Hussainiwala (Punjab): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked the welfare of farmers’ children to justify the Land Bill as he maintained that efforts are being made to “mislead” the farming community over the new measure. Pitching for the proposed new legislation that is facing stiff resistance from almost all opposition parties, he said it is necessary to bring about development which will benefit the farmers and their families as well. “Efforts are being made to mislead farmers in various ways. I talked about it yesterday also in my ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme,” Mr. Modi said addressing an event organised in the memory of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on their martyrdom day. He said if the nation makes progress, it will benefit the farmers as well as their future generations, many of whom want employment in areas other than farming. “If there is no development, what will happen to your children? Do you want them to live in ‘jhuggi jhopris’ (slums) of Delhi and Mumbai? Development will bring benefits for the farmer, their children as well as their villages,” the Prime Minister said. The controversial Bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier this month but has got stuck in Rajya Sabha because of a united opposition which has stepped up its campaign against the measure. Talking about corruption, he said it had “destroyed” the country. Targeting the previous UPA government, he said that the coal-block allocation scam was “bigger” than assessed by the CAG. He said that the CAG’s assessment of the loss in the coal-block allocation scam was much less than what it actually was. When the CAG concluded that the loss was to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore, there was “disbelief about such a huge figure”. “There was also a ‘zero loss theory’,” he said targeting the previous UPA ministers who had contended so. After the scam came to light, Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal blocks, the Prime Minister noted. “This happened as soon as we came to power. It was their sin but we faced a situation where power plants were about to face closure on account of lack of coal. So, we decided to go for auction. “Out of 204 coal blocks cancelled, only 20 have been auctioned so far and more than 180 are still left. Since an honest government is in place, Rs two lakh crore was deposited in the national treasury on account of auction of these 20 coal blocks,” Mr. Modi said, adding that it will benefit the poor. Slamming the previous Congress-led government without naming it, he said, “They left no areas” (in terms of corruption). “LED bulbs were purchased in 2014 at Rs. 300 apiece. When we came, we decided the rate of a bulb should be Rs. 80 each. So on each bulb, we saved Rs. 220. You brought us here because of our honesty, we did it,” Mr. Modi told the gathering. He also talked about the “crisis” being faced by farmers, first on account of deficit rainfall last year and now due to hailstorm, and promised to do all that his government can along with the states. He said he had told his ministers to get an assessment conducted of the losses. “A survey has started. The states and the Centre are with you in this crisis situation. We will not hesitate in giving whatever help we can,” the Prime Minister said. At the same time, he referred to his government’s new scheme — Soil Health Card Yojana — and said it is aimed at benefiting the farmers as they can assess how much water and fertilisers they require for farming their land. He also announced that a new horticulture research institute to be set up in Amritsar would be named after Bhagat Singh. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

32. ISIS recruits 400 children since January: Report (14)

BEIRUT: Islamic State has recruited at least 400 children in Syria in the past three months and given these so-called “Cubs of the Caliphate” military training and hardline indoctrination, a monitoring group said on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the children, all aged under 18, were recruited near schools, mosques and in public areas where Islamic State carries out killings and brutal punishments on local people. One such young boy appeared in a video early this month shooting dead an Israeli Arab accused by Islamic State of being as spy. A French police source said the boy might be the half-brother of Mohamed Merah, who killed three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse in 2012. “They use children because it is easy to brainwash them. They can build these children into what they want, they stop them from going to school and send them to IS schools instead,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based Observatory. Islamic State declared a caliphate last year in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in both countries. It has beheaded or shot dead Syrian civilians, combatants, foreign aid workers and journalists and has released videos appearing to show children witnessing or participating in some of the killings. The group persecutes people across sects and ethnicities who do not adhere to its ultra-hardline doctrine. The group may be resorting to children because it has been having difficulties recruiting adults since the start of the year, with only 120 joining its ranks, Abdulrahman said. This was partly due to tighter controls on the Turkish border, where foreign fighters tend to enter, he added. Islamic State has encouraged parents to send children to training camps or has recruited them without their parents’ consent, often luring them with money, said the Observatory, which tracks the conflict using sources on the ground. At the training camps, the children learn to fire live ammunition, fight in battles and to drive, it said. Islamic State also recruits children as informants and as guards for its headquarters as well as welcoming children with birth defects into its ranks, the Observatory added. (Times of India 24/3/15)

33. CBSE glare on sexual abuse in schools (14)

The Central Board of Secondary Education has moved to check sexual abuse of schoolchildren on campuses after taking a tough stand on cyber-bullying and ragging. The board, last week, issued a circular to all affiliated schools to ensure no child suffered from this crime and listed out certain steps as preventive measures. Defining the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the circular reads: “The challenges of gender inequality, eve teasing and sexual abuse in school environment call for increased awareness and creating synergy among parents, teachers and schools. In order to ensure strict compliance of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the CBSE has taken several initiatives and actions for creating awareness about sexual exploitation of schoolchildren.” The board has suggested schools to form a committee, which may consist of principal/vice-principal, one male teacher, one female teacher, one female student, one male student and one non-teaching employee. The panel would serve as a complaints and redressal body. However, improved response system and alert administrative machinery is required to take immediate action on reported cases of misbehaviour. “We have a student council where we have boys and girls of the school, the vice-principal and male and female teachers. The council looks after problems faced by the students and conveys it to the school administration,” said Anita Chaudhary, principal, Tribhuvan School. The CBSE has asked the schools to report sexual abuse as soon as the institutions come to know about it. The board has made training compulsory for teachers to attend to adolescent (gender) related issues, conduct of adolescent education programmes and special activities that promote gender equality and sensitivity. The notice also states: Camps on sensitisation of girls on health and sanitation issues, karate/self-defence training should be conducted at regular intervals. Programmes like folk dance, nukkad natak, poster competitions, quiz, debate, and exhibition can also be conducted to foster gender equality”.”Last week, a leading Patna-based school was involved in the issue. This stringent step of the board will check these kinds of activities inside the campus,” said Shingini Singh, a Class IX student of Radiant International. Schools have been also asked to put up complaint/suggestion box so that students can make written complaints. (The Telegraph 25/3/15)

34. Provide affordable public transport for students from slums: child rights panel (14)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government should provide affordable public transport facilities, so that children of slum residents can travel to schools, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has recommended. The commission recently passed an order saying as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, it is the duty of the state government to arrange public transport services for children living in slums, so they can access schools. The order was given in connection to a case filed by Door Step School, an organisation based in Grant Road. The organisation had complained that several places in the city such as Ganesh Murthi Nagar, Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar, Shiv Shakti Nagar in Backbay, Cuffe Parade – where a majority of residents belong to the scheduled castes and tribes or other backward classes – do not have access to schools. “A majority of children who are residing in these slums are in the 6-8 age group, and so they cannot travel on their own. Their parents are daily wage workers and are unable to accompany them,” reads the complaint filed by the organisation. “So BEST bus services are required at concessional rates in these areas.” Many children were being deprived of school education as their parents could not afford to pay the hiked BEST fare, which goes against the provisions of the RTE Act, the complaint stated. “It is the duty of the state under the RTE Act to provide education to children between 6-14 years and cheap public transport services to access that education,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission. (The Hindustan Tmes 27/3/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

35. Christians, Muslims to gain as govt links loans with population share (7)

NEW DELHI: The BJP government is asking public sector banks to lend to each minority community in line with its share of the total minority population within the 6% quota fixed for all minorities. The move will result in higher credit flow to Muslims and Christians. Under current rules, banks have to mandatorily earmark 15% of their priority sector loans to minority communities. Priority sector lending in turn is mandated as 40% of all bank loans and includes those to agriculture and micro, small and medium enterprises. Census 2001 figures for the population of various minority communities shows that they put together constituted about 19.5% of India’s population. Muslims were around 69% of the minority population, Christians 12%, Sikhs just under 10% and the rest about 9%. While these shares may have changed somewhat in the 2011 census, yet to be released, they are unlikely to have changed drastically. Therefore, the new norms would mean that about 4% of all bank loans would go to Muslims, around 0.7% to Christians and 0.6% to Sikhs. Against the stipulation, banks were providing 16% of the priority sector loans to minorities at the end of December 2014. Although the rule has resulted in higher flows to this segment following the UPA government’s decision in June 2007, studies suggest that Muslims and Christians have not benefitted adequately, while some other minority groups like Jains, Parsis and Sikhs account for larger chunks of bank loans. As a result, the minority affairs department has already flagged the issue to bankers and the finance ministry has stepped in now. “It has been desired by secretary, ministry of minority affairs in nodal officers’ meeting to increase the percentage share of lending to each minority community in proportion to their respective share in minority population,” said the agenda note for a meeting of bank chiefs on Wednesday. In addition, it asked state-run banks to open branches in minority-concentrated areas to ensure proportionate credit flow. (Times of India 12/3/15)

36. Take action against those attacking minorities: MPs to government (7)

New Delhi: “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. Members in Rajya Sabha on Monday sought stern action to check growing attacks on minorities citing instances of rape of a 70-year-old nun in Bengal and demolition of a church in Haryana, with the government saying communal amity must be maintained at all costs. D Raja (CPI), who had given a notice for suspension of business to take up a discussion on the matter, said it was a serious situation that minorities were not safe. “With great pain and agony I raise this issue. A 70-year- old nun in West Bengal has been raped. A church under construction has been demolished in Haryana. There is increase in attacks on Christians in the country. It is very shocking. Right wing extremist forces have become very aggressive.    “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. He also cited the example of a senior BJP leader making a controversial statement in Guwahati that God only resides in temples and nowhere else. “What is happening in this country,” he asked. Agreeing with Raja, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the state governments should take necessary action in such cases and book the culprits. He also agreed for a discussion on the issue after proper notice. “In its an important issue. We are against such incidents.    Communal harmony should be maintained in the country. No one has any doubt on this. Everyone has the right to practice their religion and all state government where such incidents are happening should take stern steps against the guilty and those responsible for such incidents,” Naqvi said. Raja was supported by Ali Anwar Ansari (JD-U), Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) who also sought a discussion on the issue. Indicating provocative statements by various people, Sen also said there have been “repeated use of abusive language” which were not being stopped despite assurances by the Prime Minister.    “Ministers including the Prime Mnister have assured, but the next day or even on the same day, inflammatory speeches are made to divide people on religious and caste lines. What is the sanctity of assurance made by the Prime Minister,” the CPI(M) member asked.  (DNA 16/3/15)

37. Nun Rape Case: No arrest yet, bandh in Ranaghat (7)

Kolkata: Even 72 hours after a septuagenarian nun was raped in a convent in Nadia’s Ranaghat, the CID, which is investigating the case, has failed to make any arrest, although some more people were detained for questioning. The delay in apprehending the culprits has sparked anger in both the Christian community and the local public. The shopkeepers in Ranaghat kept their shutters down on Tuesday. “We are observing trade bandh in this town as a mark of protest to the brutalities which were perpetrated on a mother-like figure. We want immediate arrest of the culprits,” Samiran Paul, a spokesperson for the local business association, said. The locals also took out a rally in the town. Students from Jadavpur University and Presidency University also visited Ranaghat in a show of solidarity with the students and teachers of Convent of Jesus and Mary High School. On the other hand, local Trinamul Congress workers also took out a rally to protest the blockade of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s convoy on Monday. The horrific crime has sent shockwaves not only in the state and country but also abroad. Vatican City is sending a representative to Ranaghat on Wednesday. “A delegation from Vatican City will be arriving on Wednesday afternoon to meet the nun at the hospital and the students of the Convent of Jesus and Mary,” Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said. A delegation of state minorities’ commission, led by vice-chairperson Maria Fernandes, visited Ranaghat. She came to the conclusion that dacoity was not the real objective behind the crime. (Asian Age 18/3/15)

38. Haryana church vandalism: NHRC issues notice to state government (7)

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to Haryana government asking them to send a report on desecration of an under-construction church in Hisar and the steps being taken to protest the religious places of minorities in the state. According to an official statement released today, the commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Haryana calling for reports within two weeks. They have also been directed to report what steps were being taken for the protection of religious places of minorities in the State, it said. The notices were served after the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report that an under construction Church in Hisar district of Haryana was attacked on March 15. Police had registered a case against 14 people in this connection and the main accused Anil Godara was arrested on Tuesday from Hisar and taken on remand. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar was vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman on Sunday, triggering tension in the area. The complainant, Father Subhash Chand of Williwarsh church, stated that the group fragmented the cross and installed the statue of Hanuman and a flag depicting Lord Ram and threatened to kill him. (The Asian Age 19/3/15)

 

39. ‘Protect the rights of minorities’ (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights organized a protest meeting at Sardar Baug near Lal Darwaja against various state and national issues on Friday where human rights activists participated from across the state. The participants from 10 NGOs including Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), ANHAD, INSAF, Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) and Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) advocated non-tolerance against atrocities against weak sections of the society, upholding of constitutional rights and public awakening to address social issues. Father Cedric Prakash said that right from tribal issues to the issues of the farmers, the voiceless have been pushed into margins. “It was our effort to voice our concerns and bring the issues to the fore. Our demand was to uphold the high values established by our constitution,” he said. Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad diocese said that everyday media reports atrocities ranging from brutality on six-year-old girl in Ahmedabad to rape of a 72-year-old nun in West Bengal. “Woman safety is a big concern today. We will have to change our attitude towards the issue. Public awareness is only possible solution,” he said. (Times of India 21/3/15)

40. Minorities are patriots: Rajnath (7)

New Delhi: Terming Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments on conversion as a veiled message to minorities to confine themselves to their respective faiths and not interact with society, Prabha Joseph, member of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission, said: “If the conversion propaganda against Christians was true then the community would have been larger than two per cent of the population as till very recently we ran a large number of private schools and hospitals in the country. Several BJP leaders studied in our schools; were they converted?’’ Apart from prising open the conversion debate — partially capped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month said “everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence” — Mr. Singh sought to assure the gathering at the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions here that the government would do everything to protect the minorities and allay the sense of fear gripping them. In an oblique reference to some Sangh Parivar outfits questioning the patriotism of the minorities, he said: “I believe the minorities of our country are patriots and their patriotism should not be questioned.” Further, he dwelt on India’s diversity; stating that this is a country which respects all religions and believes in peaceful co-existence. “We have all 72 sects of Islam living here peacefully,” he said. Without directly referring to Sangh Parivar propaganda of Christianity being brought to India by the colonial powers, he flagged the fact that Kerala houses one of the oldest churches in the world. After the day-long deliberations, participants uniformly stressed the importance of India’s multi-religious character and emphasised the need for the country to develop as a whole. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

41. Minorities panel to visit Mumbai (7)

MUMBAI: A five-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is on a two-day visit to Mumbai to hold meetings with leaders of various minority communities. But a few members of those communities have expressed reservations about the visit as it has not been widely publicised. “This will only mean that the commission will decide which community leaders it wants to meet. The meeting should have been publicly announced to make themselves accessible to all members of the minorities who have grievances. The NCM website too does not reflect that it has raised significant issues about minority welfare in the past few months,” Dolphy D’Souza, former president of Bombay Catholic Sabha, said. But NCM chairperson Naseem Ahmad said: “We have been holding meetings with various community leaders. Our office has sent invites to them.” Two members of the commission are slated to visit the Archbishop of Mumbai at his residence on Friday. “The schedule was decided much before the Navi Panvel church attack. But given the circumstances, I will definitely raise my anxieties with them,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, told The Hindu . Mr. Ahmad said the members of the commission had already met leaders of Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities on Thursday. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

42. Why foreigners cant pray at Taj mosque, asks Muslim body (7)

AGRA: Taj Mahal Masjid Intezamiya Committee, which claims to make arrangements for namaz in the monument’s mosque, has sought revoking a seven-year-old ban on foreigners offering Friday prayers, especially from SAARC countries, at the monument. At present, only locals can offer namaz in the mosque on Friday. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for Taj Mahal’s maintenance, has refuted the committee’s claim of making arrangements for prayers at the Taj’s mosque. It also said that according to rules, only locals who have been traditionally offering namaz at the mosque could be allowed. The department also. The committee has been raising this issue for many years, and recently sought information under an RTI query regarding who can offer prayers at Taj. The reply stated that a 2008 gazette notification mentions Taj will be open on Friday only for those “offering customary afternoon prayers”. The committee contends that it was nowhere written that foreigners cannot offer prayers. Committee’s chairman Syed Munawwar Ali said, “The ASI is discriminating between Indian and foreign Muslims. Till 2002, foreigners were offering prayers here, but then ASI stopped it citing security reasons, which is unfair.” ASI officials, however, said from the time the Taj Mahal came under its protection, only those who have been offering namaz have been allowed entry during Friday prayers. Earlier, Taj Mahal used to be closed on Mondays for tourists and the archaeological body allowed entry to local Muslims to offer namaz on Fridays. In 2001, the weekly closing day was changed to Friday and locals were allowed to offer Juma namaz between 12pm and 2 pm. When contacted, ASI superintending archaeologist N K Pathak said, “No new changes have been made in the rules. As far as foreigners are concerned, they can offer namaz at two mosques located outside the monument complex at east and west gates.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

43. Muslims protest to get back collegeMohammed Wajihuddin (7)

MUMBAI: Kicking off its campaign to get the Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari back from government control, members of the Ismail Yusuf College Campus Bachao Sangharsh Samiti held a demonstration outside the college on Monday. “The government must remove all encroachments, declare Ismail Yusuf College a minority institution and hand over the college and its nearly 54 acre land to a suitable Muslim trust to develop it as a world-class university,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman (Mumbai), Observer Research Foundation. The protesters announced a massive morcha at Azad Maidan on March 25. “Today is the formal beginning of our movement. Sir Ismail Yusuf gave Rs 8 lakh in 1914 to set up an institution of higher learning for Muslims though its doors have been open to all since its inception in 1924,” said M A Khalid of the All India Milli Council. Amir Idrisi of the Association of Muslim Professionals said efforts were made to start a dialogue with the government, but the latter seems adamant to go ahead with its plan to establish a law university and an educational hub on the college premises. “We are not against the law university but it should be established elsewhere, not on a piece of land which was bought with an endowment fund to establish a massive institute of higher learning for Muslims,” said Idrisi. He announced that on Thursday, former Congress MLA Yusuf Abrahni will lead a group of activists to forcibly occupy the college. Activist Sajid Shaikh said that a series of corner meetings have been planned to mobilize people for the protest rally at Azad Maidan. (Times of India 17/3/15)

44. ‘Ghar wapsi’ issue to figure at Muslim Personal Law Board meet (7)

Lucknow: The issue of ‘ghar wapsi’ programme by some Hindu organisations is likely to figure prominently in the three-day meet of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) scheduled to be held in Jaipur from March 20. “The Jamaits and the Board have already clarified their stand on the issue. It’s only a propaganda,” AIMLPB General Secretary Maulana Nizamuddin said. He said that though the matter has not been included in the general agenda, it would be raised in the meeting. “Thought should be given whether the country will progress or get destroyed. What does this ‘ghar wapsi’ programme mean?” he asked. “Tomorrow you will tell Christians to become Hindus, the next day you will tell Muslims to become Hindus. Is it a joke? It’s like insulting the entire community,” he said. He said the agenda of the meeting was general in nature and such contentious issues were not included in it. “It is a secular state where all communities exist since long,” he said. He said a campaign was being carried out against Muslims, but generally such issues are kept out of the agenda. “But, if some questions crop up, the board give its reply,” he said. To a question, he dismissed as “politics” the ban on beef by the Maharashtra government. “It’s all politics,” he said. “Whether it is Maharashtra or Kolkata, not only Muslims, but other persons also eat beef,” he claimed. He said the issue did not pertain to Muslims alone. But, the business of many persons and companies would be affected due to the ban. (DNA 17/3/15)

45. All India Muslim Personal Law Board Hits Out at Modi Government, Questions Silence on ‘Ghar Wapasi’

Jaipur:  The All India Muslim Personal Law Board today had some strong words for the Narendra Modi government, as it questioned the Prime Minister’s silence on controversial issues, including ‘ghar wapasi’ – the campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. “Ever since Modiji came to power, the Hindutva forces have become stronger,” Abdul Rahim Qureshi, the General Secretary, said at the Board’s 24th meeting in Jaipur today. “The ‘ghar wapasi’ programme is gaining ground and the VHP is polarising the atmosphere and spreading anti-Muslim feelings… Ever since the new government has taken over, there is a conspiracy to convert the country into a fascist state,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board said there was a need for the government to make all citizens feel secure in an atmosphere where their best interests were safeguarded. Mr Qureshi also strongly criticised the Rajasthan government’s recent decision to make Surya Namaskar compulsory in all schools, and demanded the withdrawal of the controversial order. “This is anti-Islam and the government should immediately withdraw the decision. Islam does not permit for such practice,” he said, adding, “This is absolutely wrong to impose such things on Muslims.” “Internal stability is necessary for the peace and development in the country and the governments, both Central and states, should work in this direction instead of announcing such decision which affects our religious freedom,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board also rejected calls for amendments to the Muslim personal law, saying such changes struck at the roots of religion. (NDTV 23/3/15)

46. Muslim population no issue, conversion is, says home minister Rajnath Singh (7)

NEW DELHI: Home minister Rajnath Singh, in comments that would run counter to the line often used by hardline Hindutva elements, said on Monday he had no issues with the pace of growth of the Muslim population in the country, but railed against religious conversions and exhorted minorities to take the lead in pressing for an anti-conversion law. “It does not matter how many Muslims are there. If their population is increasing, let it increase. We have no issues. But the cycle of conversions must stop,” Singh told a conference of state minority commissions in Delhi. The comments come at a time some hardliners in the Sangh Parivar have expressed their annoyance at what they allege is the fast pace of growth in the country’s Muslim population and have exhorted Hindus to procreate more to counter this. India’s Muslim population probably rose to 14.2% in 2011 from 13.4% in 2001, the government yet-to-be-released census data is expected to show. While Singh appeared conciliatory to Muslims, he struck a hard line against religious conversions — a topic that has of late been sought to be linked with the Christian community. Members of the Sangh Parivar have in recent weeks sought to link service done by Christian institutions with religious conversions. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat last month stirred up a controversy when, referring to conversions, he said there was a “motive” behind the service rendered by Mother Teresa. Singh appeared to echo similar sentiments. “Why do we do conversions? If we want to do service, let us do service. But should service be done for the purpose of religious conversion? Cannot we decide that we will go worldwide to do service but conversion will not be our target but only to serve humanity?” he asked. “Can’t we live without respecting each other’s faith. What is the necessity of conversion. Can’t a religion survive without involving in conversion?… People say conversions are done by people on their own accord…that there is freedom for conversions. Do not do this (conversions). Leave it,” he added. The home minister said he was posing three basic questions. “First, is conversion necessary? Second, can a religion not survive without conversions? Thirdly, if anybody tries to change the demographic character of any country, will anyone tolerate it? In US or Europe, if I go and try to change their demographic character, isn’t it a crime on my part? Why should I do this? Let that country’s identity remain. That country has a culture, let it be. Why do we want to change it?” he said. Singh also blamed the Congress government for creating an “atmosphere of insecurity” among minorities and said the Narendra Modi government was reversing this. He termed the controversy around ‘Ghar Vapasi’, or reconversion of minorities back into the Hindu faith, as “misunderstandings and rumours” and said a solution needed to be found. The home minister lamented that the majority community had to ask for an anti-conversion law and not minorities. “In other countries, minorities demand that anti-conversion law should be made. India is the only country where it is not so. In our country, the state of affairs is such that we have to say and demand that there should be a debate over anti-conversion law. Why is there such a state of affairs? It will be good if you think over this and debate it,” he said… (Times of India 24/3/15)

47. Muslim bodies want UP govt to challenge Hashimpura court order (7)

LUCKNOW: Various Muslim organisations, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board, today asked the Uttar Pradesh government to challenge the verdict of a Delhi court in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case in a higher court. Additional sessions judge Sanjay Jindal in his March 21 judgement acquitted 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel of charges related to the killing 42 Muslims who were picked up from a village in Meerut, giving them benefit of doubt for want of evidence. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind would decide their strategy in their upcoming meeting on March 28 while the Shia Personal Law Board will take up the matter seriously at its meeting in the second week of April. AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Nizamuddin alleged that the decision of the lower court, which came 28 years after the massacre, was a result of failure on the part of the state government. He said the case should have been disposed of in four- five months but due to “lackadaisical attitude” of the government the case was dragged for 28 years.The ruling Samajwadi Party, however, said it would take a decision whether to challenge the lower court order only after reading it thoroughly. “We will go through the order and then only take a view,” said Rajendra Choudhary, SP spokesperson. Nizamuddin said though the lower court had acquitted all the accused, it had admitted there was a massacre in Hashimpura. “The government should challenge the order in a higher court,” he said. Echoing similar views, spokesman of Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yasoob Abbas said the court order has disappointed the family members of the victims. “We will strongly take up the matter in our executive meeting likely to be held in the second week of next month,” he said. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind state chief Ashhad Rashidi also demanded that the government challenge the lower court order. He said the government which itself accepts that only because of Muslim votes it came to power, it should strongly take up any matter pertaining to the community. “The matter would be discussed in Jamiat’s Ijlas-e-Aam (biennial conference) on March 28 in Lucknow,” he added. (Times of India 26/3/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48. Christians resent restrictions on preaching religion (7)

ERODE: Members of Akhila Indiya Christhuva Valibargal Munnetra Iyakkam staged a demonstration here on Tuesday resenting restrictions imposed on preaching Christianity. Though the Constitution has guaranteed democracy and secularism, and unity in diversity, there was no positive reflection at the ground level for practising and preaching Christianity, the protesters said. They called upon the authorities to desist from creating hurdles in the functioning of schools, organisations, and hostels run by Christians. Restrictions faced by Christians in constructing prayer centres and churches must be lifted, they demanded. Preachers were not only denied permission to hold prayer meetings, but also were booked by the police department in “false” cases, the speakers said. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

49. 15 killed in Lahore church-bombings, Christians go on rampage (7)

Islamabad: At least 15 people were killed in bomb attacks at two churches on Sunday in Pakistan’s Lahore city, triggering violent protests from the minority Christian community which took to the streets, killed two suspected attackers, smashed vehicles and clashed with the police, media reports said. Two powerful explosions rocked the Catholic Church and Christ Church in the city’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 70 others, Pakistani daily Dawn reported. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted in Lahore, the capital city of the Pakistani province of Punjab, soon after the blasts, the daily said, adding that a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashed vehicles. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protestors also clashed with the police. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians took to the streets and blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar city in the country’s northwest, in the city of Multan and in Quetta in the southwest, according to Geo TV. The report said two men suspected to be associated with the bombings were burnt alive by a mob in the presence of the police. Seven policemen were deployed for the security of the churches, said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Haider Ashraf, of which two constables were killed while four others sustained injuries in the attack. A man blew himself up outside one of the churches when a police guard stopped him from entering, Geo TV quoted a witness as saying. Police were collecting forensic evidence from the blast sites and would not confirm the report. Rana Mashood, a government spokesperson, said the government was determined to tackle the issue of militancy and asserted that “terrorists will be brought to justice”.He said they were not looking at the event as an attack on a particular community or members of one religion, according to Dawn. Christians constitute around two percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million and the community has been a target of terror attacks as well as riots in recent years. “We are not separated by religion, this is an attack on Pakistan, and we feel their pain,” the report quoted Punjab Education Minister Mian Mujtuba Shuja-ur-Rehman as saying. Sunday’s attack was the worst on the community since 2013, when twin suicide attacks at the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area left at least 80 people dead and over 100 others injured. Meanwhile, missionary schools in Karachi and across Punjab will remain closed on Monday in protest against the attack. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blasts and expressed grief over the loss of lives in the attacks. (New Kerala 15/3/15)

50. Haryana Village Tense After Church Attack; 14 People Booked (7)

CHANDIGARH: Tension prevailed in a village in Haryana’s Hisar district on Monday after an under construction church was attacked and vandalised by miscreants and the idol of a Hindu god was placed inside the premises. Police officials said on Monday that 14 people were booked for rioting, damaging place of worship, theft and promoting enmity following a complaint from the church priest in Kaimri village in Hisar district, 260km from here. No arrests have been made so far. The attackers allegedly damaged the cross at the church and took away some other items. The priest told media that certain activists of the Bajrang Dal and others had threatened him earlier. He alleged that the same people could be behind the attack on the church. “I was threatened by Bajrang Dal activists and other locals last month,” the priest, Subhash Chand, said. Haryana has a BJP government since October last year. Local residents in the village alleged that the priest was trying to construct the church despite the fact that there was no Christian in the entire village. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

51. Nun gangrape: 8 held, police faces heat (7)

Kolkata: The Christian missionary school at Ranaghat in Nadia, where a septuagenarian nun was gangraped by robbers, was reeling under threat for the last four months. But the district police allegedly remained silent. With this revelation coming to light on Sunday, the police, now under the scanner for its failure, detained eight suspects for questioning as governor Keshari Nath Tripathi condemned the attack.

In the morning, a delegation of the West Bengal Commission for Women led by its chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee visited the Convent of Jesus and Mary High School and spoke to its senior officials. Sisters and nuns were seen in tears while narrating the ordeal to them. Later, Ms Mukherjee said that the institute received threats twice. She elaborated, “On November 13, a day before the Children’s Day, some miscreants threatened the school officials to kill them. The second threat came over phone seven days before the March 14 incident. The school authorities soon lodged a complaint with the police. But no action was taken. Had the police acted, the crime would not have happened. The police failed in its job.”

In Kolkata, the governor expressed his concern over the incident on the sidelines of a programme and said, “It is very sad. No one should insult any religion or the people engaged with any religious institute. I am confident that the state government will act strongly to catch the culprits.” During the day, superintendent of police (Nadia) Arnab Ghosh said that eight youth were detained following raids in Ranaghat and other places. While grilling them extensively, the CID found that the face of one of the suspects partially resembles to that of one of the four accused seen in the CCTV footages, sources disclosed. The CID is not ruling out the possibility of an old grudge behind the incident. A high alert has been sounded by the police since Nadia is located at the India-Bangladesh border. Forwarding the images of the accused to the Border Security Force, the CID sought assistance from the Central force to catch them. Meanwhile, school students took out rallies in and around Ranaghat to demand justice and oppose the political parties’ beeline. In the afternoon, when a BJP delegation went to visit the school, they were greeted with strong opposition by the school. (Asian Age 16/3/15)

52. Delhi Archbishop Couto condemns attack on Christians (7)

New Delhi: Delhi Archbishop Anil J.T. Couto on Monday strongly condemned the recent attacks on Christians, including the one on a convent in West Bengal, in which a nun was gangraped, and destruction of an under-construction church in Hisar and called for immediate action by authorities to maintain peace and harmony. Archbishop Couto also observed that frequent unwarranted remarks and irresponsible statements made by leaders of both religious groups and political parties hurt the sentiments of minorities and created an atmosphere of hate and suspicion towards other faiths and communities. “I strongly condemn the brutal and heinous attack on Sisters of Convent of Jesus and Mary in West Bengal and destruction of a church under construction in Hisar, Haryana. I also condemn the bomb attacks in Lahore yesterday. Any form of violence in the name of religion needs to be stopped immediately through a collective and strong political will by the governments, both at central and state levels,” the Archbishop said. Maintaining that hate campaigns against the Christian community and the Christian faith by fundamentalist and extremist religious organisations in the past preceded large scale violence against the Christians community, he called for an immediate action by local police and civil authorities to stop such campaigns and maintain social peace and harmony. He also expressed anguish and concern at the continued hate campaign against the Christian community and other minorities perpetuated by frequent and irresponsible statements made by various leaders of religious groups and political parties. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar, Haryana, was yesterday vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman, triggering tension in the state.

In another incident, a 71-year-old nun was allegedly gangraped by dacoits in a convent school in Nadia district of West Bengal, evoking an uproar across the state. A CID probe has been ordered in the incident but no one has been arrested yet. The gang also decamped with Rs 12 lakh kept in the almirah. (Asian Age 17/3/15)

 

53. Nagaland Catholics condemn repeated attacks on Christians (7)

Kohima: Expressing concern over the increasing acts of violence against Christians and the “apathy” of the Union government, the Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN) alleged that ever since the new government had come to power at the Centre, several churches had been attacked in the country’s capital. In a statement recently, CAN stated it was horrified at the “inhuman, undemocratic and appalling fanatical position” adopted by some members of the dominant religion in the country. “From north to south of the country, violence against Christians has been unabated,” it stated. CAN termed the most recent attack in West Bengal, where a 72-year-old nun was gang-raped, as “most detestable, despicable and utterly loathsome act.” It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told church leaders on February 18 that every citizen had the right to follow any faith without being coerced and had vowed to protect all religious groups in India and also asserted that his government would not allow any religious group, belonging to majority or minority groups, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. “The promises of the Prime Minister have been mocked,” CAN stated. Concerned over the growing attacks on the Christian community across the country, 19 incumbent and former Christian members of Parliament met in New Delhi on Friday to chalk out a strategy to counter these attacks and project the community’s immense contribution to the nation. The meeting was attended by several senior members including former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma from Meghalaya, Derek O’Brian from West Bengal, Jose K Mani of Kerela, former Nagaland chief minister and present MP Neiphiu Rio, Oscar Fernandes, P J Kurian and Rabi Barnard among others. (Times of India 23/3/15)

54. Six arrested for MP church attack (7)

Jabalpur/Mumbai: Amid widespread outcry over an attack on a cathedral and a church-run school in Jabalpur in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the police Monday arrested six people belonging to a right-wing Hindu group but let them off on bail soon, drawing flak from the Christian community. But in neighbouring Maharashtra, also ruled by the BJP, a probe into Saturday’s attack on a Navi Mumbai church was yet to make any breakthrough even as the issue triggered a heated debate in the Assembly, leading to the Opposition walkout. The police identified those arrested in Jabalpur as Dharam Sena leader Yogesh Agrawal and his associates Nitin Rajak, Prateek Pyasi, Anurag Choukse, Abhishek Choukse and Sharad Rao. According to Additional SP Isha Pant, they had been booked under Sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief) and other relevant sections of the IPC. They were, however, granted bail by the Cantonment Police, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each. The church authorities expressed disappointment over the grant of bail immediately after the arrest. “We are not at all happy. The action (arrest) appears just a formality. We want that they be punished,” a church spokesperson said. A delegation of Christian community led by Vicar of Peter and Paul Cathedral Father James D’Souza met Jabalpur IGP D. Sriniwas Roa and lodged a protest over the bail granted to the accused and handed over to police the CCTV footage of the attack. The incident took place on March 20 night when some members of the minority community were allegedly assaulted by Dharam Sena and Bajrang Dal activists. (Asian Age 24/3/15)

55. Christian institutions to hire armed guards (7)

KOLKATA: Christian institutions have been advised to strengthen security, and hire armed guards if possible, in the wake of the Ranaghat horror. No formal instructions have been issued but the two churches under whose tutelage various Christian congregations function in the state have sent out advisories to have a structured security in place — a far cry from the elderly durwans, armed with a stick, at best. “We cannot ignore the urgency of this any more. Armed security is the need of the hour. We never thought that things would come to such a pass,” said Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Roman Catholic church, second in command to the Archbishop who heads the church in Bengal. “Many congregations, especially those in remote areas, do not have that kind of money, but security cannot be compromised with any more,” Gomes said. Bishop Ashoke Biswas of the Church of North India has already issued a circular to all CNI schools on this. “From private security guards to CCTVs and view cutters, we have taken a large number of measures because our schools have big campuses,” said Supriyo Dhar, secretary, La Martiniere Schools. The home department has asked Kolkata Police to keep a close watch on religious institutions and nearby localities. Beat officers have to keep records of their rounds of such places, say sources. The local police will vet the security staff of these institutions. Police have been told to increase their presence at the various hostels and ensure that more armed cops are on duty at night near such “sensitive” locations. The church heads are happy at the concern showed by the state government. “But we cannot accept the fact that the accused in the Ranaghat tragedy are still at large. The fact that they were at the spot in close proximity of police is just unacceptable. Private and armed security is our only answer to the changing situation. We cannot take any chances,” said a church official. (Times of India 25/3/15)

56. Christian missionary meet attacked (7)

Lucknow:  Alleged right wing activists attacked a meeting of a Christian missionary outfit in Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajganj district. Several people were injured. According to police sources here, a few dozen right wing workers attacked the meeting being held at Belwa Ghat in the district on Wednesday, alleging that the missionary people were engaged in conversion. Sources said the attackers were armed with sticks and did not spare even women and children. A case was registered against a former district chief of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad  and some others after a complaint was lodged by Peter Masih, organiser of the religious meet. Security personnel have been deployed at the village, police said. Earlier too, right wing activists targeted such meetings in different parts of the state. They have warned that they will continue to use force to thwart what they allege is conversion of Hindus into Christians by luring them with money and jobs. (Deccan Herald 27/3/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

57. J&K govt approves 3,000 posts for Kashmiri pandits under PM’s package (13)

JAMMU: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kashmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue.: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kahsmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue. ITimes of India 11/3/15)

58. Need for effective treaty with Bangla stressed (13)

GUWAHATI, March 14 – Highlighting the urgent need for a repatriation treaty between India and Bangladesh for effectively deporting the illegal migrants from Assam, the Axom Jatiya Gana Sangram Parishad today organised a seminar on the topic ‘Why do we need an Indo-Bangladesh repatriation treaty’ and launched a public awareness campaign on the issue. Introducing the topic, Dr Aroop J Kalita, chief convenor of the forum, said that the treaty was a must for facilitating a concrete mechanism for deporting migrants from Bangladesh. Stressing the fact that in the absence of a concrete mechanism to deport the illegal migrants, the authorities only push back the detected Bangladeshis from the border, the Parishad said that eventually the expelled migrants re-enter India, as the Bangladesh government does not formally receive them. The Parishad argued that a large portion of illegal migrants do not fall under the jurisdiction of the existing extradition treaty between the two countries due to some legal hitch. Throwing light on the legal aspects of the problem of illegal infiltration, Dr Ramesh Chandra Borpatragohain, Dean, Faculty of Law, Gauhati University, said that the issue was no longer a national issue. “It is an international issue because it involves two sovereign countries, and therefore, this has to be dealt by the principles of international laws. “Since the entire issue of deportation has become vague in the absence of a properly laid down mechanism, and given the Supreme Court’s recent directions on the issue, it is the bounden duty of the Government of India to immediately negotiate it with the Government of Bangladesh and sign a repatriation treaty to resolve the entire problem,” he added. Advocate Durlav Mahanta, while speaking on the occasion said that it was necessary to raise the issue in Delhi from a political perspective as the pressure groups of the State were not strong enough to make a difference in policy making. Former bureaucrat Dr Rohini Kr Baruah gave a historical perspective of the entire issue. Several noted personalities spoke on the occasion. (The Assam Tribune 14/3/15)

59. Thousands of Afghan refugees facing harassment flee Pakistan (13)

Torkham (Afghanistan): Crossing back into his native Afghanistan from Pakistan, Nezamuddin wept as he recounted the hardships his family of 11 had faced in their years as refugees, troubles that only grew insufferable after a recent terror attack there killed 150 people. “Whenever there was a bomb blast they would arrest us for it, beat us up, take our money,” said Nezamuddin, who goes by one name like many Afghans. “Now I don’t know how I am going to look after my old father, myself and my mother.” Since January, almost 50,000 Afghans like Nezamuddin’s family have passed through Torkham, double the amount of all refugees returning through the border town in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many like Nezamuddin say they fled Pakistan over increased harassment by police who told them to return to Afghanistan, a country many have never even seen, putting new pressure on both countries to find solutions to the decades-old flow of refugees. There are some 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan and up to an estimated 1.5 million unregistered Afghans live there, said Abdul Quadir Baloch, the Pakistani minister responsible for refugee issues. Exact figures remain elusive as tens of thousands cross the border daily. Pakistan initially welcomed waves of Afghan refugees after the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. But as years progressed, attitudes hardened. Many now see Afghan refugees as criminals or militants or taking jobs from Pakistanis. Then came the Dec. 16 Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, in which 150 people, most of them children, were killed. Suddenly, Afghan refugees reported increased harassment by authorities checking their documents, demanding bribes and telling them they had to return to Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said. At Torkham, Afghan refugees now pour over the border with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some arrive on foot, others in rented trucks with family members huddled between bags, boxes, mattresses and suitcases. Awal Khan, a father of seven, spent 35 years in Pakistan, arriving as a baby when his parents fled after the 1979 invasion. Khan said he worked as a daily laborer, earning just enough to feed his family. Serious harassment began after the school attack, he said. “They went house to house, looking for Afghan refugees. They forced us to leave,” he told The Associated Press. “I have no house to live in and no money to rent one. We will have to live in a tent.” Syed Liaqat Banori, who heads the Islamabad-based Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid, said authorities often harass Afghan refugees following security incidents but this time was much worse. (Zee News 16/3/15)

 

60. J&K govt ambiguous on west Pak refugees’ issue: Hurriyat (13)

Srinagar: Hardline Hurriyat conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday accused the Jammu and Kashmir government of taking an ambiguous stand on west Pakistan refugees, saying the state was under no obligation to rehabilitate them. The Hurriyat was reacting to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s statement that the state government will ensure employment opportunities for the West Pakistan Refugees in the private sector. “The government has ambiguous stand with regarding to the Pakistan Refugees and it seems that the government is shying away from expressing their stand,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said. (Zee News 21/3/15)

61. Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees (13)

SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation. “The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,”  All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday. He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending  minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989. “J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated. The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989. Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting  minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands. “We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said. The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to. Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable. “The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said. The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homesoin the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

62. Rijiju visits refugee camp (13)

KANCHEEPURAM: Framing of a refugee policy will be considered if needed, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju has said. Talking to reporters at the Sri Lankan Refugee Camp at Gummidipoondi in Tiruvallur district, on Tuesday, the Minister said that all humanitarian support was being extended to refugees in the country, even though India was not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. When asked whether the present government was contemplating of signing the treaty in view of the influx of refugees faced by border States,  Mr.Rijiju said as of now there was no such proposal. Earlier, addressing refugee camp inmates, the Minister assured them that as long as they stayed in the country, the Indian government would take care of them and extend whatever necessary help in association with the State Government. He complemented the State government for providing basic civic amenities and other steps initiated to provide good care to the refugees in the camps. Meanwhile, representative of the Gummidipoondi refugee camp, P.Sivakumar, in his memorandum stated that five per cent of the refugees were willing to return to their homeland in view of the steps initiated by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Further, 30 percent of them would wish to return after the completion of the education of their children, whereas five per cent preferred to stay in India, it added. Stating that some Sri Lankan Tamils, living in camps and as well as outside, were languishing in the absence of registration as refugees, the memorandum made a request that they too should be registered as refugees. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

63. UNHCR says highest ever number of asylum applications submitted by Pak in 2014 (13)

Karachi: A report has revealed that more than 26,000 applications seeking asylum were received from Pakistan in 2014, the highest-ever number of such applications received from a country on record, making the nation the sixth largest source of asylum seekers. A report published by the UNHCR titled “Asylum Trends 2014,” showed that about 26,300 applications were submitted by asylum seekers in Pakistan, which is slightly over four percent higher than 25,200 applications received in 2013, reported The Express Tribune. The UN agency noted that although the increase was nominal, just 4.3 percent higher than previous year’s numbers, yet in comparison to the global increase of approximately 45 percent last year, it was the fourth consecutive annual rise for the country. While request for asylum to Italy from Pakistanis rose by more than 100% from 3,000 claims in 2013 to 7,100 last year, the number of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Hungary decreased significantly from over 3,000 claims in 2013 to just 300 last year. Barring Italy, Germany and United Kingdom were the other major destinations for asylum seekers from Pakistan with 4,000 and 3,900 applications, respectively. (New Kerala 27/3/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

64. Attorney General’s office under RTI ambit, says Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The office of the Attorney General for India (AGI) is a public authority falling under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Delhi high court held on Tuesday. In a ruling that would make the office of the top law officer answerable to public, the HC said AGI was a constitutional functionary and its role was not limited to merely acting as a “lawyer for the government of India”. Under the RTI Act, any government office or authority or any organisation substantially funded by government would come under the purview of the transparency law. Justice Vibhu Bakhru also refused to accept the government’s contention that nature of information or advice rendered by the AGI was “privileged” and not amenable to disclosure under the RTI Act. “Merely because the bulk of the duties of the AGI are advisory, the same would not render the office of the AGI any less authoritative than other constitutional functionaries,” Bakhru said. The HC also refused to consider the government’s argument that there was practical difficulty in providing information under the Act as the office of the AGI did not have the requisite infrastructure, saying, “This cannot be considered as a reason for excluding the applicability of the Act on a public authority.” The office of AGI can refuse to disclose all such information or data which falls under the Section 8 of the RTI Act, the HC ruled. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

65. RTI query reveals over 12,000 posts lying vacant in Maha police dept (1)

This was in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to the DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. As many as 12,115 posts in Maharashtra Police department are lying vacant, out of which the highest 2,708 vacancies are of sub-inspectors, an RTI query has revealed. There are total 2,19,986 posts in Maharashtra Police department out of which 2,07,871 are filled. There are a total of 12,115 posts lying vacant, Public Information Officer P K Ghuge said in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. Galgali had sought information on the total number of employees as well as sanctioned and vacant posts in the police department. The police department has 6,951 sub-inspectors presently, whereas the required number is 9,659. Thus, 2,708 posts of police sub-inspectors are lying vacant. Besides, three posts of additional DG out of 25 are vacant, whereas eight posts of special inspector general of police are not filled out of total 47. The other posts lying vacant include five out of 36 of deputy inspector general, both posts of inspector general (technical), 30 out of 265 of superintendent of police/deputy commissioner of police, 209 out of 686 deputy superintendent of police/assistant commissioner of police (unarmed), 50 out of 87 for armed deputy superintendent, 471 out of 4,447 of assistant police inspector and 1,030 out of 18,804 of assistant sub-inspector. Galgali also sought information about the number of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Muslim officers in Maharashtra Police. Ghuge informed that the recruitments were not done on the basis of religion, but on different caste categories. (The Hindu 15/3/15)

66. State info panel imposes Rs 25K penalty on dy secy (1)

BHOPAL: State Information Commission has slapped a penalty on an officer for withholding RTI information. Chief information commissioner KD Khan imposed Rs 25,000 penalty on deputy secretary of urban administration development department for not giving RTI information within 30 days. This is the second time in a month when an officer has been summoned by the commission for misusing powers vested in public information officer (PIO). The action comes for withholding information demanded by a senior union leader over a query on a government letter. “The action will make them make them think twice before they misuse the act, MP State information Commission under secretary,” Parag Karkare said. Karkare said, “For some PIOs, Rs 25,000 is a pittance as they gain more by concealing the information. For greater transparency, either a heavy penalty should be imposed or there should a strong deterrent.”.. (Times of India 16/3/15)

67. Can’t penalise political parties for not following RTI: CIC (1)

New Delhi: In a blow to transparency in political parties, the Central Information Commission Tuesday said it cannot penalise parties for failure to implement the information watchdog’s order bringing them under the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The reason: the parties have not appointed the Central Information Officers against whom any action can be taken. In an order winding up its inquiry on failure of six national political parties to comply with its June 2013 order, the commission said penalties cannot be imposed on any leader or member of a party as they were not government servants. The CIC said that the failure to comply with the order has not resulted in any demonstrable loss to the complainants. It also asked the Department of Personnel and Training to fill in legal gaps. The order, given on a complaint of RTI activist Subhash Agrawal and the Association of Democratic Reforms, was issued by a bench of three former bureaucrats, Vijai Sharma, Manjula Parashar and Sharat Sabharwal, who have also applied for the position of the Chief Information Commissioner. The commission said the legal position was that imposition of penalty and award of compensation cannot be considered. Other bodies may refuse to abide by the CIC directive citing this order, Aggarwal said. “It is true that CIC has limited powers but it can always approach a court to get its orders enforced,” said former Chief Information Commissioner AN Tiwari.  India’s first chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah agreed with him. Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said that in 2009 the CIC had faced similar situation where the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) refused to comply with its order. The CIC issued a notice asking why it should not launch criminal against the department secretary, he said, adding, “Strangely, the CIC does not seem to have adopted such a course of action in this case”. “Even Presidents/Secretaries of political parties could be taken as deemed CPIOs in absence of appointment of CPIOs by defaulting parties,” Agrawal said. (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)

68. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

69. RTI query results in Rs 1.87 cr recovery from toll operator (1)

New Delhi: An RTI application from a citizen helped National Highway Authority of India to detect overcharging of toll on a Bangalore toll plaza resulting in recovery of Rs 1.87 crore. The applicant P A Burge, in his application, stated that he wants to know the reasons for which the user fee was being charged at Rs 20 and Rs 40 whereas it should have been Rs 15 and Rs 35 respectively. Soon after his RTI application landed in the NHAI offices, a surprise check was carried out Hattargi user fee plaza which showed the commuters were indeed charged extra. “The respondent stated that the issue of imposing penalty for excess collection toll fee by toll collecting agency has been taken up with NHAI Headquarters and an amount of Rs 1.827 crore has been recovered for the same. The excess amount of toll fee collected by the agency has also been refunded to NHAI by the toll collecting agency,” Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted in his order. He said the fact that the appellant’s RTI application made the officials of the NHAI to investigate into the matter and to stop the excess collection of user fee from passengers, is commendable. “This not only led to the recovery of the amount of 1.827 crore along with interest to the NHAI but notice boards came up on all toll booths, displaying that the excess user fee of Rs 5 can be collected by the passengers, after producing proof of identification and excess fee charged,” he said. Azad said the Commission, therefore, appreciates the fact that the complainant has raised a very pertinent and an important issue involving public interest through his RTI application, which has been promptly redressed by the public authority. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

70. Haryana state information commission slaps Rs 25,000 fine for not giving information (1)

GURGAON: A former state public information officer (SPIO) and superintendent of Bhondsi Jail has been fined Rs 25,000 for not providing information on an RTI seeking details of food given to inmates between June 1, 2014, and June 21, 2014. Harinder Singh, currently the superintendent of Panipat Jail, has been penalized by an order of the state information commission (SIC) dated February 19. The fine will be deducted from his salary in five installments, said SIC registrar Urvashi Gulati. The RTI, filed on June 21, last year had sought copies of the ration provided to inmates of Bhondsi Jail, complaints received from jail inmates about inferior/short supply of food items and files related to illness/food poisoning of inmates. “The superintendent on complaints and illnesses. So, I filed a first appeal with IG prisons in Haryana, but didn’t get any help from there. Then I filed a second appeal before Haryana state information commission, which issued a show-cause,” said RTI activist Harinder Dhingra on Tuesday. (Times of India 25/3/15)

71. Order bringing Attorney General’s office under RTI stayed (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi High Court order that had brought the Attorney-General’s office within the ambit of the Right to Information Act was stayed by a Division Bench on Wednesday on an appeal by the Union Law Ministry. The court said it needed to go through the decision of the single judge Bench and stayed the order until the next date of hearing on April 27. “We will hear the appeal filed by the Law Ministry and have to stay the order of the single judge, otherwise the purpose will not be served,” said the Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw. On March 10, stating that even under common parlance, the office of the Attorney-General has always been understood to mean a “constitutional authority,” the single Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru had refused to accept that this office was outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act and further directed the Attorney-General’s office to reconsider the RTI application that it had rejected on these grounds. The ruling came on a hearing of a petition challenging an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) . The CIC had held that the office of the AGI was not a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. The petition also challenged a letter by the AGI refusing all information to the petitioner under the RTI Act. “An office that is established under the Constitution of India would clearly fall within the definition of Section 2(h) (definition of public authority of the RTI Act). Even in common parlance, the AGI has always been understood as a constitutional authority,” the single judge had said. The judge also referred to a precedent of the Supreme Court which held the office of the AGI to be a “public” office. “In this view also, the office of the AGI should be a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” the court had said. (The Hindu 28/3/15)

72. RTI Activist Dares Odisha Government Over IIM Issue (1)

BALANGIR:An RTI activist has challenged the State Government’s stand that the Centre was not willing to set up IIM in Western Odisha due to lack of air connectivity. The RTI activist of Balangir, Hemanta Panda, who had sought information in this regard, claimed that there is no guideline which would hinder establishment of IIM in this part of the State. In support of his claim, Panda cited the case of Srimore in Himachal Pradesh where the Centre has decided to establish an IIM. Stating that there is no airport near Srimore, Panda said the nearest railway station is located 70 km from the place. “The State Government is playing with the emotion of people of Western Odisha over IIM location,” he said. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

73. This man cycles 40 miles every day to teach Lucknow’s slum children (11)

Lucknow: Every day, Aditya Kumar cycles around 40 miles with a heavy load of books and his few possessions on the back of his battered old bike to bring education to India’s slum children. The science graduate has dedicated his life to teaching in the slums of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, and home to some of the country’s most deprived communities. He takes no money for his lessons, which he gives all over the city, parking his bike up wherever he is needed and staging an impromptu outdoor lesson. “These children do not know what a classroom looks like. Until I met them, they had no reason to visit a school,” Kumar told AFP during one of his lessons, gesturing to a group of rapt-looking pupils. A Right to Education Act passed in 2009 guarantees state schooling for children from six to 14 in India. But education activists say schools are often overcrowded or inaccessible, or that the quality of teaching is so poor that children simply stop going. Poverty is also a major driver, with India home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. Kumar, who does not know his exact age but thinks he is in his mid-40s, has been conducting his mobile school for around two decades, with no fixed curriculum and no standard text books. Most of his pupils are under 10 and have no education at all. He teaches them functional English and mathematics, with the aim of getting them to a standard where they can start going to a regular school. “I can relate to the lives of these kids. I know how tough life can be for want of an education,” says Kumar. As the son of a poor labourer who wanted his children in paid work as soon as they were able, Kumar had to fight to go to school. He managed to find a place in a government-run establishment, but he ran away from home when he was a teenager because his parents insisted he stop studying and start earning his keep. For a while, he lived on the streets, before meeting a teacher who spotted his potential and helped him graduate from university in science. In return, Kumar helped his new mentor with his teaching — and found his vocation in the process. He has no teaching qualifications, however, and says he never had any ambition to become a proper school teacher. He believes he can make more of an impact on literacy through his mobile school, which he says reaches around 200 children a day.Government figures show that around 97% of children of primary school age are in education, but campaigners say the true figure is far lower. Many of those who do attend classes are failing to learn the basics, according to a major, annual survey of school children in rural areas released in January. Only one quarter of children aged eight could read a text book meant for seven year olds, the survey of 570,000 students found. “Overall, the situation with basic reading continues to be extremely disheartening in India,” the survey, by Indian education research group Pratham, concluded. Kumar’s solo efforts are applauded by child rights activists, including teacher Roop Rekha Verma who said it was “no mean feat” teaching from a bike. “I am so glad that his efforts have exposed so many underprivileged children to the world of words,” the former vice-chancellor of the University of Lucknow told AFP. “And with this exposure these children now have a reason to attempt accessing newspapers and books,” she said. But she stressed much more needed to be done to help India’s millions of impoverished children facing bleak futures receive an education. To earn money, Kumar occasionally does paid tuition for private students. But mostly he lives on charitable donations, sleeping on the streets like many of his pupils. When Limca — the makers of a soft drink that publishes India’s answer to the Guinness Book of Records — wanted to honour him for his work in 2014, the certificate had to be mailed to a well-wisher as Kumar has no fixed address. “I am used to it,” he told AFP. “I have learnt the art of surviving.” (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

74. School Student Strength Declining in State: Study (11)

BHUBANESWAR: The number of students in primary and upper primary schools in the State is reducing drastically. A recent study conducted by the School and Mass Education Department has brought to the fore the alarming trend. Official sources said between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the number of students in the schools run by School and Mass Education Department has come down from 52,39,597 to 49,24,453, a drop of 3.15 lakh. During 2010-11, there were 50,856 primary and upper primary schools in the State. The number increased to 52,521 in 2011-12. But, the number came down to 51,594 in 2013-14 as 927 schools were closed. A New Delhi-based organisation, ICRA, was entrusted to study the reasons of reduction of the number of students in primary schools in the State. In its study, the organisation has attributed poor quality of teaching, poor parent-teacher interaction, lack of resources and migration for livelihood for the declining trend in the students’ strength in primary education sector. Besides, the study has highlighted other important aspects for decline in school enrolment. ICRA has suggested orientation of parents, refresher training and capacity building programmes for teachers, maintenance of school report cards, preparation of monitoring plan and linkages with other departments like Women and Child Development to work out action plan for retaining students in schools. The report has also recommended evolving a tracking system for children, involvement of community-based organisations for ensuring enrolment, need for increasing school leadership to check the drop in number of students. After implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, the School and Mass Education Department is emphasising on enrolment through various schemes including Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

75. A Project to Improve Educational,Living Standards of ST Students (11)

KOZHIKODE: A three-year project has been started by Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) aiming to improve the educational and living standards of Scheduled Caste students studying in Model Residential Schools (MRS) in the state. The project, funded by the Ministry for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes and supported by the Education Department, is the first of its kind started by the state. In line with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in the country, MRS were designed to provide quality education for children belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line families. “The aim was lost midway when those Model Residential Schools failed to produce not even a single achiever,” said CREST Associate Programme Coordinator Vinod Krishnan. “Nine schools were selected from the state and personality development classes are being given to them, by including 60 days extra classes, complementing the syllabus,” he added. The selected model residential schools are in Punnapra (Alappuzha), Peermade (Idukki), Keezhmad, Aluva (Ernakulam), Vadakkanchery and Chelakkara (both in Thrissur), Thrithala and Kuzhalmannam (both in Palakkad), Ullyeri (Kozhikode) and Udinoor (Kasargod). The current MRS in Kozhikode district is functioning in a rented building. Most of the other Model Residential Schools do not have staff quarters and those with quarters, do not have primary facilities like water connection. So, teachers do not prefer to stay there. Week-long workshops are planned for each schools in the first phase. Eminent scholars will interact with the students and instill in them confidence. Instead of getting secluded from the society, they will be creatively motivated to succeed in life. To MRS, students are admitted up to class five, on the basis of an entrance examination held in February every year. Classes will begin in June as in the case of other schools having state syllabus. Usually the intake preference is for children from SC (60 per cent), and the rest belonging to children from BPL families and ST. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

76. Capital’s schools violate education act, force students to sit for tests (11)

New Delhi: Nursery admissions may be under the scanner in the city but schools tend to get away with violating the Right to Education Act when it comes to admission in senior classes. While the RTE clearly states that for admissions between classes 1 and 8 schools cannot ask students to write tests or appear for interactions, schools in the city routinely ask students seeking admission in classes 5, 6 and 8 to do so. The latest in the list of these schools is Modern School, Barakhamba Road. The school invited aspirants who wanted admission in class 6 for an interaction. A list of candidates who were shortlisted for admissions was also put up on the website on Tuesday. When asked about the scheduled interaction, the principal of the school, Vijay Datta, asked for some time to ‘find out about the notice’. He however, did not respond to calls and messages after that. The website of the school shows the link where the names of the shortlisted candidates can be seen. The link, however, became inactive on Wednesday. Hindustan Times has a copy of the original notice posted on the school website. According to the notice, the interactive session will be held on March 21 at 9.30 am. Parents have been asked to drop the children to school at 9 am and pick them up by 11 am. According to activists, this is not the first time this has happened and several other schools do the same. “Every year, we get a large number of complaints by parents regarding similar tests being conducted by schools in senior classes. In the admission season, most of the attention is centred on nursery. Schools in the city are, however, guilty of flouting RTE guidelines,” said Khagesh Jha, member, Social Jurist, an NGO that works in the field of education. Another anomaly that Jha points out is that schools refuse to implement EWS quota reservations in non-entry level classes. According to rules, 20% of the students admitted in classes above nursery, kindergarten or 1 are supposed to be from the EWS category. This is because schools were given land on very low rates. “Schools are supposed to notify admission vacancies, along with the seats for EWS category, clearly in admission notices. None of them, however, do it,” Jha added. (Hindustan Times 19/3/15)

 

77. Right to education delay: 250 BPL kids await admission (11)

JAMSHEDPUR: The process of mandatory Below Poverty Level(BPL) children’s admission under Right To Education Act 2008 seems to be yielding no results as 250 poor candidates still await admission call from private English medium schools. Several candidates hailing from poor economic background, have submitted the requisite documents to their neighbourhood schools for seeking admission in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act but they are still waiting for a call from the respective schools. “It’s over a few weeks since I am waiting for a call from the school. Hopefully, my ward will get free admission according to RTE Act,” said Rita, who lives in Gandhi Ashram in Sakchi. Rita is keen to get her child admitted to the nursery class of Dayanand Public School, Bistupur. The case of Videsh Jal, resident of Devnagar is also the same. “The school (MNPS) did not find my son eligible for admission in nursery as school claims he is over admissible age which according to RTE guidelines is not correct. I have approached the school again hoping to get a positive response soon,” said the poor father. Like Videsh and Rita, several BPL parents have claimed that schools have put their candidates on waiting list at entry level classes. It is learnt that several English schools have resorted to delaying tactics to thwart free admission of the BPL candidates in their respective institutions as mandated under RTE rule. (Times of India 21/3/15)

78. School education min wants CBSE schools under state vigil (11)

BHOPAL: To crack the whip on schools affiliated to CBSE, school education minister Paras Jain said CBSE schools should also be monitored by respective state governments. Jain was participating in a meeting of education ministers of various states chaired by HRD minister Smriti Irani, pertaining to new education policy in Delhi on Saturday. Meanwhile, uniform courses should be taught in all states of the country. For this, NCERT textbooks should be made compulsory in all states. BEd/DEd courses should be revamped for strengthening teachers’ training courses. Private school teachers should be given five years more to complete the professional courses as per Right to Education (RTE) Act. Jain also said RTE clause of not failing any student till class 8 should be revoked and board exams should be introduced in both classes 5 and 8 to improve results. English should also be made compulsory from class 1. Teaching of Hindi should be made compulsory under three-language formula in all states for making Hindi lingua franca of India. Besides, it can also be considered there would be no pressure of passing or failing exams in Hindi in non-Hindi states. (Times of India 22/3/15)

79. Right to Education struggles to make an impact (11)

New Delhi: Only 29 per cent of the seats reserved for disadvantaged students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act were filled in 2013-14, finds a new study. In Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, the percentage of seats filled was as low as three per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively. The top performing states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan together accounted for half of the national fill rate. The study, a collaborative effort of the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative (Centre for Policy Research) and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy draws on the District Information System for Education (DISE) 2013-14 data to provide a comparison of fill rate of RTE quota seats across private schools in 28 states. The report points out that of the 2,06,000 private unaided schools with Class I, only about 45,000 schools reported enrolling students under the provision in 2013-14. The states of Rajasthan (65 per cent), Delhi (48 per cent) and Uttarakhand (43 per cent) had the highest school participation rate, while Andhra Pradesh (0.1 per cent), Odisha (1 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (2 per cent) reported having the lowest school participation rate. According to Ashish Dhawan, founder and chief executive officer, Central square foundation, “even after five years of RTE, state rules and notifications of this provision are not clearly defined, this is leading to ineffective implementation across states.” (Business Standard 25/3/15)

80. Eligible Kids Miss Out on RTE Seats (11)

UDUPI: With the minority status of seven schools remaining unresolved in Udupi and Brahmavara blocks, eligible students will miss out on 161 free seats in these schools this academic year of 2015-16. There are 1,067 free seats in 74 schools in Udupi district. According to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every school should reserve 25 per cent of its total seats for poor children aged between six and 14 years. However, the clause is not mandatory for schools with a minority status. The minority status is given to schools that have a large number of minority students. As a result, there were many schools lining up for the status. These seven private schools were among those claiming the status. Last year, parents admitted their children to the seven schools under the impression that education would be free of cost under the RTE. However, the schools moved the High Court claiming that they were minority institutions and could not reserve free seats. This forced the parents to pay the fees as the last date for filing the applications for free seats under the RTE was over. With the schools having approached the High Court, the students will miss out on 161 free seats. Deputy Director of Public Instruction of Udupi, Divakar Shetty, told Express that the process of accepting applications for the RTE seats was initiated, but not for these seven schools due to the stay order. He also said that the reimbursement grant of `1.54 crore given by the state government has reached the District Education Department and will be disbursed to the schools. Udupi District Education Officer Srikanth Urs said the issue has been brought to the notice of the office of Commissioner of Public Instructions. However, the issue would be solved by next year, he said. On the status of the RTE seats in the district, Urs said the admission process began on March 20. In case the students do not turn up for the seats, a second round of admission will be initiated, he added. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

81. Chhattisgarh PDS Scam: .. (21)

CHHATTISGARH:  Chhattishgarh police investigating the multi-crore rice procurement scam appear to have prima facie cleared Chief Minister Raman Singh of any involvement in it. Speaking exclusively to NDTV, Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Gupta said, “Prima Facie there does not seem to be any involvement of the Chief Minister in the rice procurement scam under investigation.” Mr Gupta’s statement comes in the backdrop of multiple raids conducted last month, where the police seized more than 300 documents and recovered Rs. 4 crores in cash. As many as 28 raids were carried out, mostly on Civil Supplies Department officials, across the state. Sources tell NDTV, that there are more than two dozen names of officials ranging from peons to department heads. These names were a part of meticulously maintained payoff records. Sources say, more than 50 entries were labelled as “for CM Sir” and the corresponding payoff amount against them is more than Rs. 50 Lakhs. “CM initials in the seized papers could also refer to Chinta Mani Chandrakar – an officer in the civil supplies department,” says Mr Gupta adding that his department will not spare someone because of their influence of position. The opposition in the state however is not convinced. A galvanised Congress has kick started a Padyatra to the capital where supporters are expected to converge on March 16 in a show of strength. “We want the Chief Minister to resign and the CBI should conduct the investigation” said Bhupesh Bhagel, Chhattisgarh Congress chief, who is leading the protest. Chhattisgarh has often been touted as a model state for its Public Distribution System by the BJP where subsidised rice is available to lakhs of poor families at Rs. 2 per kg. Reacting to the allegations, Mr Singh said “the Anti-corruption branch is conducting the investigations and will present its findings to the court”Sources tell NDTV that investigations could be complete within a week followed by filing of the chargesheet soon after. (NDTV 12/3/15)

82. Poverty kills 50% Trauma Centre head injury patients: AIIMS study (21)

New Delhi: Extreme poverty leads to the death of nearly 50% of patients with severe head injury cases within six months of their discharge from the trauma centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, an internal study has found. Almost all of them slipped into a vegetative state after sustaining severe head or spine injury, and the families did not have enough means to meet their nutritional requirements and provide nursing care, underlining the importance of hospice facilities that are scarce in India. The doctors at the centre followed up on 2,500 discharged patients from the neurosurgery department over a period of five years, starting 2008. Patients were observed for a maximum of one year before being declared vegetative. “These people belonged to migrant families in the Capital and usually were the sole breadwinners who left their village in search of work. Their wives were unable to generate enough money to keep them alive, especially with three-four kids to take care of,” said Dr Deepak Agrawal, senior surgeon at the trauma centre. The trauma centre – the only functional one in the Capital — gets about 200 injury cases in a day, of which about 40% suffer head or spine injury. 10% of those need admission, which means the hospital requires 10-15 vacant beds daily. In hospitals such as AIIMS, where shortage of beds is a daily problem, these patients with no chance of recovery– at least six at any given point – occupy beds for the want of any hospice facility. Over 3,300 people die in road accidents everyday in India and nearly a third of them result in severe head injuries but hospice facilities are scarce, resulting in terminally-ill patients occupying care beds and denying them to some acutely-injured patients. Due to lack of enough research, however, there is no consolidated data to gauge the enormity of the problem. About 20% of those discharged from the AIIMS trauma centre are in a vegetative state, which means there is no responsiveness and awareness due to irreversible injury to the brain. All these people need is nursing care to avoid bed sores and chest infection. These patients can’t eat regular meals; a mixture of a glass of milk, sugar, soybean powder and a little ghee or oil is what they require three times a day to survive. As most of the people in a vegetative state come from a very poor financial background, the families are unable to bear the maintenance cost. “We have seen many families get wiped out due to this problem. It’s high time the government takes note and focus on rehabilitation of such people or at least provide some financial assistance to their families,” Dr Agrawal added. (Hindustan Times 16/3/15)

 

83. India among 5 nations accounting for half of world’s hungry (21)

New Delhi: Five middle-income countries (MICs) which displayed strong economic growth in 2014 – India, Brazil, China, Mexico and Indonesia – account for 363 million, or a half, of the world’s hungry, according to a report released on Wednesday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The 2014–2015 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) called on Governments of these middle income countries to reshape their food systems to focus on nutrition and health, close the gender gap in agriculture, and improve rural infrastructure to ensure food security for all. “It may seem counterintuitive, but these growing economies play a key role in our ability to adequately and nutritiously feed the world,” said Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI, in a statement. He added that important strides towards global food security had been made in 2014, it was crucial to “keep these and other food policy issues high on the global development agenda to ensure we eliminate hunger and malnutrition worldwide”. The study noted that distribution specifics needed to be ironed out for India’s National Food Security Act that aims to provide subsidised food to 67 per cent of the population, while it also praised the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme that aimed to open 7.5 crore bank accounts for poor households. Sanitation link The report highlighted the link between sanitation and nutrition, using findings from Bangladesh to show reduction in open defecation helped reduce the number of stunted children who were taller than those living in comparable areas with similar economic standing in West Bengal. Of the five countries highlighted in the IFPRI study, India measured poorest in terms of stunted children at 47.9 per cent, as compared to 35.6 per cent in Indonesia, 14 per cent in Mexico, 9.4 per cent in China and 7.1 per cent in Brazil. “It has become clear that the factors that influence people’s nutrition go well beyond food and agriculture to include drinking water and sanitation, the role of women, the quality of care giving, among others,” Fan said. The report also included a perception survey undertaken in January comprising responses from 1,000 individuals, most employed with NGOs, academic circles and Government/policy sectors, across 55 countries. Only 8 per cent of young respondents – those under 30 – believed that global hunger could be eliminated by 2025. Nearly 70 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with food policies in their own countries and a significant perception gap existed between sexes with only 23 per cent of women satisfied with prevalent food security measures as compared to 44 per cent of men. (HBL 20/3/15)

84. State’s poor kids left high & dry on World Water Day (21)

Guwahati: It has been 22 years since the UN started observing March 22 as World Water Day to focus on those who are not blessed with access to clean water, but the benefits have not reached people in Assam’s poverty-stricken hinterlands. Children in particular, who are malnourished and anaemic, are in serious risk of being affected by water-borne diseases like Fluorosis and arsenicosis. A balanced diet could help them combat these diseases, but for the poor, this is a distant dream. Prolonged exposure to arsenic causes cancer of bladder, kidney, lung and skin. It affects the central and peripheral nervous systems and can cause birth defects and reproductive problems. Former retired chief engineer, public health engineering department, and water crusader A B Paul, who is credited with pointing out fluoride and arsenic contamination in Assam for the first time, said, “Malnourished children are vulnerable to fluorosis and arsenicosis. Studies show that animal protein is essential in fighting these diseases.” According to the last National Family Health Survey, 41.1% children in the age group of three to five years are stunted and 35.8% are underweight. Besides, over 67.8% adolescent girls were found to be anaemic. Malnourishment and anaemia are rampant among tea garden communities. Studies show that water in nine districts of Assam contain fluoride beyond permissible limit. For arsenic, the number is 21. Around 1,970 villages, home to about 7.22 lakh people, are severely affected by arsenic contamination. (Times of India 23/3/15)

85. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)

86. Centre should not hurry implementation of National Food Security Act: ICRIER (21)

NEW DELHI: The Centre should not “hurry” the implementation of the National Food Security Act in the rest of 25 states and UTs given the present level of unpreparedness and “apprehensions” over its delivery, says an ICRIER paper. The NFSA, passed by Parliament in September, has been so far rolled out in 11 states and Union Territories. The rest of 25 states/UTs have not implemented it yet. The deadline for implementing it has been extended twice, to April 4. The law aims at providing legal entitlement to 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person per month at Rs 1-3/kg to two-thirds of the country’s population. “However, given the present level of unpreparedness and uncorrected systemic inefficiencies of the state PDS machinery, the likelihood of states defaulting on even the extended deadline is high,” said the ICRIER working paper co-authored by former CACP chief Ashok Gulati. “Therefore, the immediate suggestion is not to hurry the NFSA implementation process, especially not without satisfying its pre-conditions in each state,” it said. This time should be used to carefully re-visit the objectives of the Act and provisions looking for efficient ways to attain them, it added. Highlighting key challenges in implementing NFSA, the paper observed, “There are wider apprehensions that the Act will fail to deliver on the promises made or will deliver at a huge cost, which may not be worth the price.” The bigger operational challenges include ensuring the adequate supply of grains every year, lowering per person entitlement or population coverage particularly when the population is expanding, unpreparedness of the implementing states, and slowing down the natural process of agricultural diversification by increasing the relevance of rice and wheat in the system, it added. On unpreparedness of implementing states, the paper said that the progress on the public distribution system (PDS) improvement initiatives is both slow and below expectations. “….states have been implementing the NFSA with old TPDS beneficiaries being rechristened as NFSA beneficiaries instead of undertaking fresh surveys/efforts to identify beneficiaries. This is undesirable and does not conform to the reform process initiated under the new system,” it said. As on August 1 2014, 100 per cent identification of beneficiaries has been completed only in six states – Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan – out of the 11 NFSA implementing states. The identification is still partial in the remaining five states – Bihar (87 per cent), Delhi (44 pc), Himchal Pradesh (73 pc), Madhya Pradesh (88 pc) and Chandigarh (40 pc). (The Economic Times 30/3/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

87. MGNREGA downsized in R’than in past 5 yrs (14)

JAIPUR: The funds earmarked annually under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Rajasthan have been downsized by over 70 per cent in the last five years. In 2009-10 around Rs 8,731.32 crore was allocated under the scheme which was gradually cut down to Rs 2,960 crore in 2013-14. The programme has fallen off track as the Congress and BJP governments in the state could not utilise the sanctioned funds completely, which eventually led to decrease in the funds sanctioned. The slow pace of implementation of the scheme is evident from the fact that number of beneficiaries have also fallen by over 90 per cent in the last five years. In 2008-09 around 25 lakh families were given 100 day jobs. The number dropped to just two lakh families in 2013-14. Agreeing upon the facts, the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Surendra Goyal said the scheme is a demand oriented and the demand for work has been constantly falling. “The decrease in number of beneficiaries is due to decrease in demand for work. This is also the reason that funds could not be fully utilised in the last few years, which led to reduction of annual funds sanctioned under the programme,” said Surendra Goyal. However, experts feel that root cause of all the problems is the inability of the state government to converge the 14 line departments with the scheme. Due to various reasons many departments were reluctant to converge with the programme. A team of local officials was also sent to Madhya Pradesh to study the convergence model in the MGNREGA. But none of the governments could replicate the model in proper spirit. “Under the convergence model, MGREGA workforce is used to complete various works of government department. The material is supplied by the department concerned and workforce is paid under the scheme. It’s dual benefit as department save labour cost and also demand for work generates under programme,” said a rural development department senior official. Many legislators of the ruling party are of the view that according to National Sample Survey there has been a sharp increase of 50 per cent in rural labour force. Despite this, the demand for work in MGREGA has been on a constant decrease. “It’s true that government’s efforts for the convergence of departments with the programme have not been satisfactory. Our government is taking the issue seriously and I hope to get good results in future,” said Gulab Chand Kataria, the Home Minister and the second most powerful person in the BJP government. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

88. Ghost workers, fake job cards mar MGNREGA implementation (14)

Gaya: Implementation of MGNREGA, the flagship employment guarantee and poverty alleviation scheme introduced by the UPA, is replete with instances of ghost workers, fake job cards, non-existent schemes and siphoning-off public fund in fraudulent manner in Gaya district. Eleven job card holders of village Chabura under Konch block of the district deny having either worked or received any payment for MGNREGA work but their names appear on payment register of the panchayat. They allege, the local mukhiya, alongwith her husband and a section of government officials siphoned off Rs 40 lakh on the basis of forged documents. For example, Sharda Devi, Suresh Yadav, Bachchu Sao, Baleshwar Yadav, Laita Devi, Joot Das and Yogindra Yadav are shown to have worked and received payments ranging between Rs 9,180 and Rs 25,734. Yogindra says though he has been issued a job card, he has never been offered job and yet an amount of Rs 25,734 has been withdrawn in his name by manipulating documents and putting false signatures. The villagers also suspect the involvement of bank officials in the ongoing racket. Not only that Kamlesh Yadav does not even live at his native village Baithi under Konch block as he is in a private job in Rafiganj area of Aurangabad district. But records show him as MGNREGA beneficiary having received Rs 7,000. Md Arif Khan of village Gohchak under Atri block in the district is an affluent farmer and owns 20 bighas of multiple crop land. Khan also owns a tractor. But block office reports show Khan as a job card holder who has regularly been doing earth work under the scheme. Records show that 400 trees have been planted at Solara village graveyard under Paraiya block of the district, barely 15 km from the district headquarters. Besides tree plantation, a handpump was also shown to have been installed. There is any trace of any tree or handpump . MGNREGA Lok Pal Rai Madan Kishore has been flooded with complaints of fraud. He has so far recommended realization of more than Rs1 crore from the fund managers and legal action against the scamsters. According to left activist SB Bhaskar, in many cases, the victims of fraud have been coerced into accepting having done work, while, in fact they neither did any work nor received any payment. (Times of India 15/3/15)

89. Fewer jobs as Delhi ‘neglects’ rural scheme (14)

New Delhi, March 15: Millions of villagers are on course to missing out on livelihood-sustaining work under the national job scheme this year if figures released by the government are any indication. The figures suggest that by the time this financial year draws to a close, far fewer families will have benefited under the scheme compared with 2013-14, while the number of persondays of work generated would also drop significantly. According to official data furnished by junior rural development minister Sudarshan Bhagat in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) had generated 135 crore persondays of work till February 17. The scheme, which provides for up to 100 days of work in a year for every rural household, generated 220 crore persondays in 2013-14. The number of households covered under the scheme was 48 million in 2013-14. The coverage till the middle of February this year was a little over 38 million (see chart). Experts said the scheme, a flagship project started by the UPA government, was unlikely to generate 85 crore mandays of work in the 40-odd days remaining in this year – counted from February 17 – and might not cover another 10 million families. The corresponding figures for both 2011-12 and 2012-13 were higher than this year too: they show that the scheme generated 218 crore persondays of work in 2011-12 and 230 crore persondays in 2012-13. The number of households employed was also higher – 50.6 million in 2011-12 and 49.8 million in 2012-13 – Bhagat said in a written reply. Social activist and former National Advisory Council (NAC) member Harsh Mander said the demand-driven scheme, implemented by panchayats, had been neglected ever since the BJP-led NDA assumed power at the Centre. “It is impossible to match the achievements of last year in generation of persondays and coverage of households. This is because the government has been systematically neglecting the scheme,” Mander said. Many states, including Bengal and Tripura, have complained that implementation has been affected because the central government, which shares the cost of material with states but bears the full expense on wages, delayed releasing funds. Jean Dreze, a former NAC member and economist, said he too had great doubts whether employment generation in this financial year would come “anywhere” near the corresponding figures last year. “The central government certainly bears a heavy responsibility for this – there have been unprecedented problems with the flow of funds this year, mainly due to the central government’s lack of commitment to the programme.” Mander said the ministry had selected 2,500 of the country’s 6,500 blocks for focus, which means the scheme – which involves mostly labour-intensive work like de-silting of water bodies and building embankments and roads, as decided by the panchayat concerned – might not be getting the attention required. The government had set aside Rs 34,000 crore for the scheme for 2014-15 but the finance ministry had cut the allocation by Rs 3,000 crore in December. The allocation for 2015-16 is Rs 34,695 crore. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has denied that the scheme is being neglected, has said the government might give another Rs 5,000 crore, depending on the availability of funds. Mander, however, said workers were not getting wages on time. “If poor workers have to wait for months to get their wages, they would not be interested to place demands for work. That is why there has been a drop in job creation and coverage of households.” Under the scheme, panchayats are to hold gram sabhas where families can place their demand for jobs. Social activist Shekhar Singh said the decline in the number of beneficiaries would ideally mean that the economic condition of villagers had improved. “But the economic condition of all rural people has not improved. There is still distress migration of labour. What is clear is that panchayat officials are not accepting the demand for MGNREGA work,” he said. Since the panchayats don’t get funds on time, they don’t entertain the demand for work, he added. (The Telegraph 16/3/15)

90. One crore workers to be covered under welfare fund (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The government is keen on inducting one crore workers from the unorganised sector into the Unorganised Workers Welfare Board, a scheme that was announced last year, according to Joint Commissioner of Labour M.N. Varahala Reddy. Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Zonal Sports Meet, organised by the Labour Department at the IGMC stadium here on Wednesday, he said the government had prepared a comprehensive plan for the unorganised sector, which included motor transport workers, pushcart vendors, auto drivers, domestic workers and coconut sellers, besides announcing a Rs. 5 lakh accident benefit policy for them. “The Central government’s policies such as Aam Aadmi Beema Yojana will also apply to them,” he added. Mr. Reddy said the Labour Department, which was earlier an enforcement-oriented outfit, had turned into a welfare-oriented one. “The new capital city is attracting a new workforce. We are fully prepared to nurture them for the new challenges. We are expecting around three lakh new workers entering the 13 districts to give an image makeover to Andhra Pradesh,” he added. According to Mr. Reddy, the emerging State has plenty to offer to the modern-day work force including IT, mechanical, electrical and electronics professionals, as several state-of-art facilities are expected to come up. He said the government was also keen on imparting training to children of workers to prepare them for future. “This is a platform for them to prepare for future challenges,” he added. Mr. Reddy said Vijayawada had a tremendous scope for hospitality and health sectors in the days to come, hence the demand for quality workers would always be in the ascending order. (The Hindu 19/3/15)

 

91. Changes in EPF, Child Labour Acts may be tabled next month (14)

The Centre is likely to introduce two Bills in the Parliament session next month to amend EPF and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in Hyderabad today. Observing that changes are required in different laws in public interest, he said amendments are proposed in the EPF Act to benefit more workmen. The proposed amendments to the Child Labour Act would be discussed with the inter-ministerial group, said Dattatreya, who holds independent charge of the Labour Ministry. The government is keen on improving the ease of doing business in the country, but there will be no compromise on the rights and security of workmen, he said. “EPFO, with the help of technology, is gearing up to update annual accounts for 2014-15 of about 14 crore members in April first week. All members will have their provident fund balances by the end of first week of April, which is historic,” he said. The government is also working to extend social security benefits to the workers of unorganised sector, bringing into its fold a large number of workers under social security ambit, he said. Hailing the passage of crucial Bills in Parliament recently, Dattatreya alleged that the Congress and Left parties were trying to defame the NDA government through a false campaign that it is “pro-corporate.” Noting that it is the right of political parties and MPs to voice their views, he, however, said it is not proper for them to disrupt the Parliament and government’s business. He emphasised that the government’s endeavour is to provide employment opportunities to the youth, and said the ‘Digital India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ programmes of the NDA government would provide large scale job avenues. The Labour Ministry would be instrumental in providing employment and work opportunities to one crore people in the next two-three years, Dattatreya said. Alleging that the Land Acquisition Act passed by the UPA government had certain defects, he said the compensation for loss of land has been increased four times by the NDA government now. The governments would take up land acquisition only for public interest projects like railways and not for private persons or companies, he assured. Highlighting that Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya laid emphasis on ‘Antyodaya’ (welfare of poorest of the poor), Dattatreya said the Narendra Modi government would not take any decision against the interest of the poor and downtrodden. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

92. 3.65L jobless youth in Punjab, just 352 got allowance (14)

CHANDIGARH: Two Punjabs seem to be existing side by side when it comes to money power. One is facing its worst unemployment crisis and the other that is spending extravagantly. State minister Ajit Singh Kohar on Tuesday, in a reply to Congress leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar, said that 3,65,771 unemployed people in Punjab were registered with the employment exchange. The number is the maximum for the corresponding period between March and December in the last five years. While Kohar did not have the number of jobless who received government allowance till date, an RTI reply with Jakhar revealed that a paltry 352 had been receiving a monthly allowance. The grant has been fixed at Rs 150 for those who are matric pass and Rs 200 for those who have studied up to class 12. However, according to the Economic Survey 2014-15, the average per capita income expenditure for the ruralites has now shot up to Rs 2,345, only behind Kerala at Rs 2,630 in India. This comes as no surprise as most residents in rural areas make trips to foreign countries, either for a vacation or jobs and purchasing big cars. Around 23 lakh people across rural precincts Sangrur, Moga, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur had applied for fresh passports and 1.97 lakh from the same areas purchased two wheelers and four wheelers. Among urbanites, the expenditure is Rs 2,794 — considered low when compared to other states. The report also reveals that per capita income in Punjab has increased, albeit marginally, to Rs 49,529 and Rs 47,854. The government data also said that about 36,000-odd have been provided jobs. The youth unemployment rate, for the age group of 15-29 years is reeling at 7.7% in rural area and slightly less at 6.3% in urban Punjab. (Times of India 25/3/15)

93. Rs.279-crore works under job scheme (21)

KANNUR: Works estimated at Rs.278.85 crore will be carried out in the district in 2015-16 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). This was disclosed in a district panchahyat meeting held here on Wednesday which approved the District Poverty Alleviation Committee’s action plan for the next fiscal. As per the action plan, the amount will be spent in 19,304 works. The meeting decided that the MGNREGS works would stress on protection of natural resources. The other works include 6,809 works estimated at Rs.139.88 crore for protecting individual assets of the weaker sections, 220 projects for developing basic infrastructure required by self-help groups, and 5,158 works with a total estimate of Rs.54.62 crore for developing rural infrastructure. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

94. Kerela Government will Take Efforts to Bring Khadi Workers Under MGNREGS: Minister (14)

KANNUR:Minister for Rural Development K C Joseph has assured that the state government would continue its efforts to include workers of Khadi and Village Industries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Inaugurating the state-level exhibition organised jointly by Kerala Khadi and Village Industries Board and National Khadi and Village Industries Commission at Town Square here on Sunday, the minister said that the government’s efforts to include the Khadi sector under MGNREGS had not succeeded.However, the government would continue to exert pressure on the central government to incorporate Khadi workers as the beneficiaries of the employment guarantee scheme to ensure steady wages, he added. The minister regretted that the Khadi workers are poorly paid and are devoid of social security. In o rder to save the Khadi sector from decline, it should be ensured that the workers are paid a decent remuneration for their work. There should be schemes to ensure the welfare and social security of these workers, he added. The minister also inaugurated the first sale of the exhibition. Khadi Board vice-chairman K P Nooruddeen presided over the function. P K Sreemathi MP, A P Abdullakutty MLA, district panchayat president K A Sarala and District Collector P Balakiran spoke. The Khadi expo is being organised in connection with the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. Products from more than 70 units under the Khadi and Village Industries Board would be on display at the expo. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)

RESERVATION

95. Allotment of RTEseats through online lottery system begins (25)

Bengaluru:  The process of allotting seats under the reserved quota of the RTE Act took place here on Wednesday through the online lottery system for the first time in the State. Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, Lokyukta, inaugurated the online system in the presence of Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar and Education department officials. Mohammed Mohsin, Commisioner for Public Instruction, said that the school education department received around 3.89 lakh applications of which 2,57, 942 will be eligible for allotments. As many as 1,11,329 seats are available in 11,202 schools this year, he added. Of these as many as 57,797 seats are for class I and 53,532 seats are for UKG.  The online lottery seat allotment system involves three processes – cleansing and updating process that weeds out duplicate and double forms from the database, randomisation process that generates a unique ID for eligible candidates. Finally the lottery number ranking process assigns lottery numbers to applicants based on the unique ID. The system then allots seats based on the lottery numbers of candidates, priority mentioned and the reservation claimed such as ST, SC or OBC. Vacant seats in each category will be transferred to the next category, said Mohsin.   Candidates from weaker sections of the society such as orphans, transgenders, HIV patients, children with special needs, migrant children, streetchildren will be given seats directly without any lottery process. There is no income limit for SC, ST, Category 1 whereas for OBC candidates, the income limit has been divided in three slabs namely – Rs one lakh and below, Rs one lakh to two lakh, above Rs two lakh to 3.5 lakh. As many as 50,175 applications have been received from SC candidates for 34,074 seats. So far as ST candidates are concerned, 13,262 applications have been received for 7,901 seats. Lastly, for OBC as many as 1,72,527 applications have been received for 69, 354 seats.  Speaking at the programme, Rao said that the Lokayukta would be watching the entire process closely for any instances of corruption. “All those education officers and schools who are either indulging or encouraging corruption will not be spared. The government has taken a good step to eradicate corruption,” he said. He highlighted the need to bring tribal children, who could not apply through online means, into the fold of education. There are around 42 lakhs such tribals in need of education , he added. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

96. SC to pronounce verdict on quota for Jats on Tuesday (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce judgment on Tuesday on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the reservation for Jats by including them in other backward class (OBC) category. The judgment, reserved on December 17, 2014, will be pronounced by a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. The batch of petitioners, while challenging the United Progressive Alliance government’s decision to extend reservation to Jats by including them in OBC category, had contended that Jats were politically and socially advanced and the decision to extend reservation to them was politically and electorally motivated. The UPA government had announced reservation for Jats on the eve of general elections held in May 2014. Ironically, the Narendra Modi government too backed the UPA decision to extend OBC reservation to Jats saying that it was not inspired by electoral considerations but a bonafide decision in public interest. “As regards the averments that the central government with a motive to gain benefit for the ruling political parties in the forthcoming general election issued the said notification, this fact is denied as unfounded,” the central government had said in its affidavit filed in the apex court August 11, 2014. “It is a submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” it had said. Seeking the dismissal of the petition by OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti and others challenging the extension of OBC reservation to Jats in nine states, the affidavit had said: “In the present case, the advice tendered by the National Commission for Backward Classes was rejected by the cabinet for the reason that the commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities.” (Business Standard 16/3/15)

97. Chalavadi community urged to participate in survey (25)

RAICHUR: Upholding the imminent Social, Educational and Economic Survey in the State as a “good move” to know the actual socio-economic status of different communities, Chalavadi community leaders called upon community members to take part in it. Addressing a media conference at Reporters Guild here on Monday, Mr. Chalavadi Narayana Swamy, Chairman of Karnataka State Forest Development Board, said that the survey would help the government understand the social, educational, economic conditions of communities and better design focussed welfare programmes. “Chalavadi community members are known by 40 different names in different regions. All the names are synonyms to Chalavadi and we therefore appeal the community members to mention their caste as Chalavadi only, so that the numerical size of the community could also be ascertained,” he said. Mr. Swamy opposed the extending of the same reservation facilities that Scheduled Castes enjoy to those who had converted from different Scheduled Castes to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religious faiths. “One choosing and following a religion one wants is one’s own unquestionable right. A person, however, once converted from a Scheduled Caste to another religion would no longer belong to the category and so cannot claim reservation and other facilities offered to Scheduled Castes. Therefore, the people will have to carefully choose their religious and caste identity during the survey,” he said. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

98. Supreme Court verdict on Jat quota a blow to politics of reservation (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict asking the government to move away from caste-centric reservation for backwards deals a blow to politics of reservation often played in the most blatant manner just before polls. The verdict is landmark for several important reasons. First, it forces the policy makers to think creatively beyond caste for identification of socially and educationally backward classes. For decades successive governments have found caste-based quota an easy way out to achieve the constitutional goal of equality to undo historic injustice to backward castes in Hindu society. Second, the fact that the SC rejected old data to justify inclusion of Jats in the OBC category and emphasised that all citizens were advancing on every front – social, economic and education — should serve as a reminder to politicians and bureaucrats who are not in sync with the changed social realities and continue to have a 20th century mindset. The top court has given them a jolt. The constitutional mandate under Article 16(4) and Article 15(5) that deal with reservation in jobs and education respectively is to ensure equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The government’s affirmative actions are based on positive discrimination. But the manner in which reservation policy has been pursued by successive governments — irrespective of their political ideology — created social discord and deprived many deserving socially and educationally backward groups of its benefits. Reservation policy, if not properly thought out, becomes even more discriminatory, rather than a means of achieving social justice. Be it the 1990 decision of VP Singh’s government to introduce quota in jobs for OBCs or the 2008 decision of the UPA-I government to extend it to education — the decisions led to prolonged agitation and social unrest. In both the cases the SC verdicts had the calming effect as it enjoys public confidence more than that enjoyed by the legislature or the executive. What made the 1992 Mandal verdict acceptable was the court’s decision to put a 50% ceiling on reservation and exclude the creamy layer among OBCs. The top court has once again shown judicial statesmanship by displaying a progressive and realistic approach to reservation that would ensure that “only to the most distressed” benefit from it. A similar approach is needed to rationalise reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by excluding the rich among these communities. This would ensure that only the most deserving SC and SC candidates get the benefit of reservation. Left to politicians, such progressive decisions would never happen. If judges can innovate, why can’t politicians? (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)

 

99. 33 per cent women quota in UT police (25)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday announced 33 per cent reservation for women in police forces of Union Territories, including the national capital, for posts from constables to sub-inspectors, in a bid to make police more gender-sensitive. The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday gave its nod to the decision, which came against the backdrop of rising demands for preventing crimes against women, particularly in the backdrop of the brutal 2012 Delhi gangrape case . The government said the decision will also instil confidence among women and enable them to approach police without hesitation for seeking protection and assistance. This decision will help augment the number of women in the police force of all UTs and the Delhi police so as to make them more gender-sensitive, it said. The reservation will also cover reserved categories like SCs, STs and OBCs. Notably, after the brutal December 16 Gangrape case, the Justice Verma Committee, which recommended major changes in criminal laws, had also flagged this issue. The government on Friday noted that a “skewed police force” is a major practical barrier in effective implementation of legislations intended for the protection of women. “The police is the first line of interface between citizens and the law enforcement machinery. It has been observed that many women do not approach the police as they may have to confide or report the incident to a male police officer. “This is particularly so in respect of sex-related crimes,” it said. Meanwhile, over 758 Appropriation Acts, which have lost relevance and are clogging the statute books, are set to be repealed as the Cabinet cleared a proposal to bring a bill in this regard. The move is in line with the NDA government’s decision to do away with irrelevant laws, including Railways (appropriation) Acts. (Asian Age 21/3/15)

100. SC ruling on Jat quota warning bell to political class (25)

The Supreme Court’s verdict quashing the government’s decision to grant politically-dominant Jat community the OBC (Other Backward Classes) status in nine northern states is  futuristic. The verdict sounds a warning bell to the political class which used reservation as a potent weapon to grab votes. Dealing with challenge to the March 4, 2014 notification, the court strikes at the root of the problem. It has been noted that political considerations played a bigger role in granting such status. Without mincing words, the court went on to point out the need for review of the list every 10 years as per the Constitutional mandate. This would definitely not have hurt the deserving and deprived ones. In the instant case, the demands of politically-organised Jats were long pending as they were already declared OBC in their respective states. The underlying message by the apex court to the political class is very clear. The perception, mathematical formulae evolved on the basis of social and educational indicators or relative inclusion of other groups could not be used to form the basis for providing such largesse by the state. In the 1992 Indira Sawhney case (Mandal), the SC held that the terms “backward class” and “socially and educationally backward classes” are not equivalent and further that in Article 16(4) of the Constitution backwardness contemplated is mainly social. So, the court said that a social class could be understood as an identifiable section of society which may be internally homogenous (based on caste or occupation) or heterogeneous (based on disability or gender, say transgender). Thus, neither caste nor historical injustice could be the sole determinant factor, the court said. In identity politics, these have been the only basis for such preferential treatments. Backwardness is a manifestation caused by the presence of several independent circumstances which may be social, cultural, economic, educational or even political, it said. “Owing to historical conditions, particularly in Hindu society, recognition of backwardness has been associated with caste. Though caste may be a prominent and distinguishing factor for easy determination of backwardness of a social group, this court has been routinely discouraging the identification of a group as backward solely on the basis of caste,” the SC bench observed. The affirmative actions by the state as envisaged under the Constitution must be meant for the most deserving. This could be ascertained if new benchmark or criteria are put in place. Certainly, contemporaneous statistics and not outdated data as seen in case of Jats could be look into. According to the SC, new practices, methods and yardsticks have to be continuously evolved moving away from caste centric definition of backwardness. This alone can enable recognition of newly emerging groups in society which would require palliative action. “The recognition of the third gender as a socially and educationally backward class of citizens entitled to affirmative action of the state under the Constitution in National Legal Services Authority Vs Union of India is too significant a development to be ignored,” the court noted. “In fact, it is a path finder, if not a path-breaker,” the court remarked while emphasising the need for the state to observe high degree of vigilance for discovering new emerging forms of backwardness. The “historical injustice” that manifests in caste identification could result in “under protection of the most deserving backward class of citizens”… (Deccan Herald 24/3/15)

101. PM Vows to Address Jats’ Quota Woes within Legal Framework (25)

NEW DELHI: With the perception on the Land Bill still loaded against the BJP-NDA Government, the Centre on Thursday reached out to Jats and paid heed to their demands on reservation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court recently.  When the 70-member delegation, accompanied by the BJP MPs from Jat-dominated states, called on  Modi, he not only heard them ‘carefully’ but also assured a solution from within the ‘legal framework.’ The delegation also met BJP chief Amit Shah.  “The Prime Minister carefully listened to the issues raised by the delegation. He said the government was studying the Supreme Court ruling and would try to find a solution to the issue from within the legal framework,” a statement from the PMO said, adding that other issues related to the community also figured in the discussions. The PM urged the delegation to take the lead in implementing the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, an initiative aimed at saving the girl child. The SC order to scrap the reservation for the Jats under the OBC quota, a decision which was announced by the UPA Government in nine states ahead of the 2014 polls, has been a headache for the NDA Government. (New Indian Express 27/3/15)

102. Government firm on opposing dalit tag for converts (25)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to oppose the demand for dalit status for “converts” to Christianity and Islam, arguing that only Hinduism recognized “caste system” and “untouchability” that led to the creation of a special category called Scheduled Castes. An interesting reason cited to red-flag the demand is that the Constitution provides reservation in legislatures to dalits and tribals to “compensate for the social injustice” suffered by them over centuries and extending this benefit to converts would impinge on the rights of SCs/STs. While the move was expected after social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot made the government stance plain in an interview to TOI on October 10 last year, it is now learnt that his ministry detailed reasons to the Union law ministry to oppose in Supreme Court the petition seeking SC status for converts.The unambiguous opposition from the BJP government is a sharp departure from the UPA regime’s strategy to buy time – in 2005, entrusting a national commission to study the issue and in 2011, deciding to wait for ‘socio-economic caste census’ for data to commission further studies. As polarizing as it is complicated, the issue is rooted in the reasoning that SC status — limited to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists — should be made religion-neutral, thereby opening it to Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Islam and Christianity. Strongly objecting to the demand, the BJP government argues that “untouchability” was a peculiar aspect of Hindu religion that “denied to disadvantaged castes the fundamentals of human dignity, human self-respect and even some of the attributes of human personality”.Linking this “evil practice” exclusively to Hinduism, the government says mere social “backwardness” cannot put converts at par with dalits whose backwardness arises from the traditional practice of “untouchability”.The Centre argues that recognizing SC among followers of Islam and Christianity would amount to violation of the basic tenets of these religions since they do not recognize the caste system. Besides, stretching the quota frontiers to Christianity and Islam would necessitate an increase in the quantum of reservation which would result in the upper ceiling of 50% being breached, the Centre argues. According to the Centre, identifying dalit converts is not easy – since conversions have been happening over several centuries, the caste of an individual’s forefathers cannot be ascertained, especially where the descendants have left the original caste-related occupation. On the contrary, the government argues that dalit converts form part of OBCs in states and at the Centre, benefitting from job reservations and welfare schemes catering to backwards as also religious minorities, adding it would be “iniquitous” to grant “converts” the benefits targeting SCs. Crucially, the apprehension that rendering the SC list religion-neutral would encourage conversions, expressed by minister Gehlot in his interview to TOI, does not figure in the social justice ministry’s list of reasons to oppose the demand of dalit Christians/Muslims. (Times of India 30/3/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

103. Disabled denied dignity, rights by uncaring city (1)

Guwahati: Notoriously unfriendly towards differently-abled persons, the city’s attitude, many feel, has worsened. “Accessibility in public places for the disabled is a major problem. Though Guwahati seems to be one of the fastest-growing cities in South East Asia, it is yet to improve facilities for the disabled. If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s almost impossible to move around in the city. I have faced so many problems. All my friends have my ATM pin as I find it difficult to operate the machines,” said Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, a city-based NGO that works for the differently-abled. Ali added that he has approached the administration of Kamrup (Metro) district to take steps in this regard. “Some good steps have been taken, but a lot remains to be done. We need political will and a holistic approach to help the disabled. We do not want sympathy, but the right to live with dignity,” he said. Medal-winning para-athlete Suvarna Raj, who was in the city recently to be felicitated, also expressed her unhappiness over the lack of facilities for the disabled in the city. “I feel Guwahati has a long way to go in terms of being accessible for persons with disabilities. I am a wheelchair-user and the organizers of the event were aware of this. Still, there wasn’t any provision of a ramp on the stage. I had to be carried up to the stage before the prize distribution began and made to sit behind the dignitaries before the ceremony started. This was most upsetting,” she had said. Bhaben Barman, principal of Guwahati Blind School, termed lack of awareness a major hurdle. “Even guardians are not aware of how to go ahead. Around 10% of our students face problems in travelling. Of late, some NGOs have started coming forward to help people with disabilities,” said Barman. (Times of India 11/3/15)

104. HC to probe antecedents of human rights organizations (1)

MADURAI: Shocked over reports of many office-bearers of private “human rights organisations” facing heinous criminal charges including murder and extortion, the Madras High Court Bench here has decided to find out the antecedents of such people and their sources of funding. Passing interim orders on anticipatory bail applications filed by as many as nine such individuals based in different districts under the jurisdiction of the High Court Bench, Justice P.N. Prakash has directed the police to file reports listing out criminal cases that had been booked against them. The judge also appointed advocate Veera Kathiravan as an amicus curiae to assist the court in deciding the cases and directed the counsel for the petitioners to submit documents relating to incorporation of the organisations, details of their bank accounts and the activities undertaken by them. He has further directed the High Court Registry to club all advance bail applications filed by those claiming to be office-bearers of human rights organisations and list them for hearing on Monday in order to give a quietus to the issue after hearing their counsel, the prosecution and the amicus curiae. The orders have been passed on applications filed by Ulagappan alias Alagappan facing a case registered by Ponamaravathy police in Pudukottai district, Rajaraman alias Bharathiraja booked by Gandhi Market police in Tiruchi district, R. Vijayabose booked by Kottar police in Kanyakumari district. Identical orders had been passed also on petitions filed by D. Senthil Servai facing a case booked by Karaikudi North Police in Sivaganga district, P.L. Lawrence booked by Colachel police in Kanyakumari, S. Ratheesh (Pettai police in Tirunelveli district), Balamurugan (Nilakottai police in Dindigul district), Raman (Manapparai police in Tiruchi district) and Chinnaiya alias Chinnaiya Baskar (Pudukottai town police). (The Hindu 15/3/15)

105. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)

 

106. NGO alleges rights violations in destitute home (1)

SHIMLA: Gross violation of human rights of poor inmates residing at the government-run Nari Sewa Sadan in Mashobra near Shimla has been alleged by a Shimla-based NGO. It claimed that breaking all set norms, a newborn girl of an abused unwed inmate was separated from her mother and shifted to Kids Home in Shimla. It further claimed that last rites of dead inmates were not being performed as per their religious faith. While interacting with media persons in Shimla on Sunday, Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, said that information gathered under RTI revealed that out of total 30 inmates, about 26 are suffering from severe mental illness and many are physically disabled. He said that they are unable to manage themselves during menstrual cycles and to meet nature’s call. He said one unwed woman, who was brought to the destitute home from Una some months ago, delivered a female baby in the last week of January. “When the government was busy celebrating Beti Bachao campaign on International Women Day on March 8, the newborn was separated from her mother, violating the guidelines of government of India which state that mother’s milk is mandatory for child’s health. Now the girl is staying more than 10 kilometers away from her mother,” he added. He said that information gathered under RTI showed that inmates were never checked up by any endocrinologist. He said that inmates were suffering from different psychological problems but have no access to any psychological counseling. Ajai Srivastava demanded a high-level inquiry so that responsibility could be fixed for violation of human rights of the defenseless destitute inmates. (Times of India 23/3/15)

107. NGO complains to UN against attacks on Christians (1)

MUMBAI: Mumbai based NGO Watchdog Foundation has complained to the United Nations against the increasing attacks on Christians in India. The letter states, “Citizens particularly belonging to Christian denomination have been subjudicated by the fundamentalist organisations operating freely in India under the very nose of the federal/state Government. There have been attacks on the community, churches being vandalised, nuns being raped and murdered. We feel there fermented Western apathy towards gross human rights abuses committed by the fundamentalist groups in India.” The NGO has urged the UN as custodian of humanity to interrogate the “so called world largest democracy” to see if it deserves it so proudly it claims. “Whilst Indian regularly stakes a claim for being model multicultural society built on principles of secularism, the reality is that across India ethnic cleansing of religious minorities at the hands of fundamentalist organisations is a regular feature. Despite the Indian Prime Minister being chided by none other that US President Barak Obama, nothing has changed. Today one more church in Panvel, near Mumbai has been vandalised.” ”It seems to us that only the political system of India attract any kind of scrutiny by the Westerns media during General Elections campaign.Every General Elections India gets billed as worlds largest democracy, but what about the sufferings of the minorities. If this trend is not arrested in time this beloved country shall go the same way as some of the Gulf Countries are facing internal strife.” (Times of India 23/3/15)

108. Sathasivam likely to be next chairman of NHRC (1)

New Delhi: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam is understood to have given his consent to the Centre to be considered for appointment as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) when its present chief K G Balakrishnan completes his term in June. A former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala following the resignation of Shiela Dikshit in September last year. However, with Balakrishnan’s five-year term due to end on June 6, the search for his successor has led to the Centre seeking to know Sathasivam’s mind in this regard, highly placed sources said. The post of NHRC chairman has always been held by a former Chief Justice of India since the panel was set up in 1993. Prior to Balakrishnan, other CJIs who graced the post include Ranganath Misra (1993-96), M Venkatachaliah (1996-99), J S Verma (1999-2003), A S Anand (2003-2006) and S Rajendra Babu (2007 to 2009). When approached, Sathasivam apparently evinced interest in playing a more active role like that of the NHRC chairman, which would involve his vast experience as a judge compared to a rather ceremonial role in Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, the sources said. On March 15, Sathasivam broke the tradition and expressed concerns over the disruptive behaviour of legislators in the Kerala Assembly when the state budget was presented. His office even issued a press note saying that the ugly nature of the events justified invoking Article 356 and reporting as such to the President. Under this Article, the President can dismiss a state government or dissolve a State Assembly or keep it under suspended animation in the event of a failure of the constitutional machinery in that state. This was after the Legislature Secretary had informed him about how the Speaker’s chair was forcibly wheeled away and thrown into the well of the House and his public address system destroyed. The ruling United Democratic Front, including Finance Minister K M Mani, had disapproved mention of Article 356. But the Opposition Left Democratic Front has welcomed it, saying their stand has been validated. Interestingly, Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala in the middle of a raging debate over whether such political appointments will compromise judicial independence. This was for the first time a retired CJI was appointed to serve as a governor of a state. (Deccan Herald 26/3/15)

109. Advance bail denied to ‘human rights activists’ (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday dismissed en masse 16 anticipatory bail applications filed by people accused of deceiving the gullible by misusing the words ‘human rights’ in name boards and letterheads of non-governmental organisations run by them. Justice P.N. Prakash refused to grant the relief to any of them on the ground that they should be necessarily subjected to custodial interrogation. He also observed that “all people can be fooled sometimes, some people can be fooled at all times but all people cannot be fooled at all times.” Shocked that some of the petitioners were advocates, and some others were murder case accused, the judge pointed out that in the recent years, “it was observed that name boards and banners bearing titles such as ‘human rights organisation’ have suddenly mushroomed in every nook and cranny of the State. “Self-proclaimed human rights activists have surfaced everywhere, flying the flag of the United Nations and other organisations on their vehicles… and including the names of eminent personalities such as former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwati in their letterheads. “With visiting cards and letter pads so printed, these individuals are emboldened to interfere not only in public affairs but also in the affairs of the common man. No one dared to question them fearing that they are part of the State machinery.” The issue came to the adverse notice of National Human Rights Commission, which on September 25, 2009, and December 29, 2010, asked the State government to crack down on such dubious organisations and make sure that no private organisation used the words ‘human rights’ in its name. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission itself lodged complaints against as many as 16 organisations across the State for misusing the term. “All these measures did not deter the petitioners herein from closing down their shops and they were continuing to carry on with their activities with impunity under the very nose of the police, perhaps with their blessings,” the judge added. He also recorded the submission of advocate Veera Kathiravan, appointed as amicus curiae , that the dubious organisations diverted funds received from abroad for their subversive activities. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

110. Clarify on when beef order was notified, says HC (19)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Wednesday sought a clarification from the state government on the date when the new Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks and makes the possession or sale of beef a crime, came into force. The court’s direction came after advocate Yusuf Muchhala, counsel for Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers’ Welfare Association, told the court that its animals, which were being taken out from the Deonar abattoir, were seized. The government claimed that it had notified the law on March 4. Advocate Muchhala claimed that the notification had not been produced during the court hearings either on March 3 or March 5. It was only when the association pointed out that the law could not come into force unless it is published in the official gazette that the state seemed to have furnished a copy at the Deonar abattoir. The advocate further claimed that it was only on March 9 that a copy was given to them and it was available on the government website. Advocate Muchhala cited judgments which stated that a law could be enforced only after it was in public domain. The police had seized the cattle before the law was notified, the advocate contended. The HC asked the state to place on record the documents related to publishing the law in the official gazette. While earlier, cow slaughter was banned, the new rule that was granted sanction by the President of India in February 2015, added bulls and bullocks to that list. (Times of India 12/3/15)

111. Haryana makes sale of beef a non-bailable offence (19)

CHANDIGARH: After Maharashtra, Haryana on Monday passed a much more stringent bill banning sale of beef. According to the legislation, the rigorous imprisonment for selling beef would be five years — same as that in Maharashtra — and the fine of up to Rs 50,000. The western state has kept it at Rs 10,000. In case the convict fails to pay the fine, in Haryana he/she will have to spend up to one year more in jail. The Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Bill 2015, passed by the assembly unanimously, bans sale of all kinds of beef. As per the law in force so far, sale of beef was banned but there was no prohibition on packaged beef. This distinction has also been removed. “No person shall sell or offer for sale or cause to be sold beef or beef products..,” reads the bill, which was tabled in the assembly by animal husbandry minister Om Prakash Dhankar on Monday. According to the bill, a person convicted of cow slaughter can be sentenced up to 10 years in jail, apart from a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. There is provision of additional imprisonment of up to one year if the fine is not paid. The bill makes both violations — cow slaughter and beef sale — non-bailable. During the trial for cow slaughter and sale of beef, the burden of proving the innocence would be on the accused, much like other most stringent laws like the Dowry Act. The bill also mentions that any person found indulging in export of cow for the purpose of slaughter either directly or through his agent can be sentenced up to seven years of jail term with a fine of up to Rs 70,000. Any person desiring to export cows out of the state will have to apply for a permit from the government stating the reasons for which they are to be exported along with the exact number of cows and the name of the state to which they are proposed to be sent. Such persons will also file a declaration that cows for which permit of export is required will not be slaughtered. However, no permit for export of cows will be issued for a state where cow slaughter is not banned… (Times of India 17/3/15)

112. Collegium illegal: Govt (19)

New Delhi, March 18: The Centre today defended the controversial National Judicial Appointments Commission, saying the existing method of selecting judges was “illegal”, but struck a conciliatory note as it pleaded with the Supreme Court to give the new system an opportunity to work. Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, however, gave no hint when the NJAC would come into force, replacing the collegium system. The NJAC bill, which has got presidential assent, has not been notified yet. It was on this ground that Rohatgi sought the dismissal of a batch of petitions that have challenged the commission’s constitutional validity. “Lordships will test the validity of an act only when the law is brought into force, when it is capable of affecting the rights of the people…,” Rohatgi told the bench of Justices A.R. Dave, J. Chelameshwar and Madan B. Lokur. Alternatively, he urged the judges to refer the issue to a Constitution bench of at least five judges as it involved a question of law. “Should your lordships decide to entertain the petitions, then it must go to a five-judge bench,” he argued. In August last year, Parliament had passed the NJACBill, 2014, and an amendment bill to replace the collegium system, under which a panel of five judges used to select judges for the high courts and the Supreme Court. It led to the petitions that challenged the commission’s validity on the ground that it affected the basic structure of the Constitution that had accorded primacy to the Chief Justice of India in the appointment of judges. Under the NJAC, a panel of six members – the CJI, two senior-most judges, the Union law minister and two eminent experts – will select and transfer judges. Rohatgi referred to jurist Fali Nariman’s argument to contend that the existing system was illegal. Nariman had said the Narendra Modi government had ignored the earlier NDA regime’s bill of a better variant of the NJAC with primacy to the judiciary, as suggested by the Justice Venkatachallaiah panel. He said the Venkatachallaiah commission, too, had said there should be an NJAC and the power of appointment should not be vested only with the judiciary, thus disagreeing with the collegium system. “According to us, the present collegium system is illegal,” he said. “(But) Venkatachallaiah is not a statute. Today, Parliament is not accountable to Mr Fali Nariman or Mr Venkatachallaiah,” he said. Ideally, the court should “allow the (new) system to work, see how it works and not nip it in the bud”, he said, but avoided any assurance on when the law would be notified. Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushayant Dave supported Rohatgi, saying the arguments of the petitioners are “based on fallacy”.Santosh Paul, appearing for the NGO Change India that opposes the NJAC, cited the example of the UK judicial commission on which the NJAC is modelled. He said: “No politician is part of the (UK) commission. Affiliation to any political party is considered an encroachment of judicial independence.” He said a constitutional amendment comes into being on the date it gets the President’s assent. In this case, the assent came on December 31. The arguments will resume tomorrow. (The Telegraph 19/3/15)

 

113. PIL filed over difficulties faced by non-custodian parents, children while meeting at family courts

Mumbai: A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court to bring to the court’s notice the difficulties faced by children and non-custodian parents who are not permitted to meet outside the cramped Child Access Room in the children’s complex at family courts. Petitioner Kishwar Mirza has alleged that in spite of guidelines being issued to the family court, non-custodian parents are not allowed to meet the child outside the Child Access Room during the pendency of the parents’ divorce case. According to the petition, guidelines named “Child Access & Custody Guidelines ” formulated by an NGO named Child Rights Foundation, and the Guardian Judges of the Family Courts in the State of Maharashtra, were circulated to the Family Court Judges and Marriage Counselors across the state by the Registrar, High Court in January 2011. “However, the same has not been implemented/approved brought into force/effect, and the same merely lies idle on the desk of the benches of the Family Courts,” the petition says. The guidelines reportedly detail the mode and manner in which access/visitation is to be provided to the non-custodial parent. The petitioner has urged HC to approve the guidelines and direct the principal judge of Family Courts to implement them. Moreover, the petition requested the Court to permit a Panel of renowned practicing psychiatrists to visit the Family Court to ascertain the medical/psychological conditions of the children and submit a report accordingly. The petition says that the children are exposed to a litigating environment which is “ruining and poisoning their normal growth”. Alleging that the non-custodian parent feels as if he or she is meeting a jail inmate at the Children’s Complex, the petitioner urged the court to frame guidelines pertaining to the issues. (Indian Express 24/3/15)

114. After 66A is scrapped, Sec 67 of same Act lands Chennai techie in jail (19)

CHENNAI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of Information Technology Act saying the clause struck at the root of liberty and freedom of expression. It, however, does not mean that sending abusive messages through a computer or communication device will exempt an offender from conviction. A cyber culprit can still be sentenced under similar provisions of the IT Act, IPC and state-enacted provisions that criminalize harassment. A software engineer learned this the hard way. Srinath Nambudri of Karnataka will now cool his heels in prison for one year on the charge of harassing a woman colleague after she spurned his advances. The cyber cell of the CB-CID, in December 2011, had registered a case against Nambudri under various provisions including Section 66A of IT Act (sending offensive and menacing electronic mail. On Tuesday, even as the Supreme Court said Section 66A of the IT Act was unconstitutional and struck it down, a city court, perhaps following the dictum, absolved him from conviction under the section. But he was found guilty of charges under Section 67 (punishment for publishing or obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act, 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation, if threat be to cause death or grievous hurt) and 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC, along with Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998. According to police, Nambduri was working as a software engineer at TCS, Siruseri. He was attracted to a colleague, and expressed his love to her. When she spurned his advances, an infuriated Nambudri started sending several obscene and derogatory emails to her from April 2011. On one occasion, when the woman went to the US on an official visit, he emailed malicious contents about her to the company’s head. Nambudri also sent a morphed nude picture of the woman to her brother. “He continued to stalk and eve-tease the woman electronically for several months,” said special public prosecutor Mary Jayanthi… (Times of India 26/3/15)

115. Anti-dowry legislations must not be anti-men, demand activists (19)

NAGPUR: Men’s rights activists have always harped on the misuse of Domestic Violence Act and anti-dowry laws. They are now further upset about a proposed amendment to section 498A of Indian Penal Code, which makes it a compoundable offence. The activists feel that this will only lead to an increase in the number of false cases and abuse of the law. NGO Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) has objected to the proposed amendment, while also making several suggestions that can help implement the law in a better way. SIFF describes as state sponsored extortion the move to favour feminists through biased laws without consideration of men’s abuse. The organization has demanded that divorce and dowry related cases be dealt with in a more accountable way. “Even the government acknowledges the extensive misuse of dowry laws in the country. It’s not a new phenomenon. We have been bringing it to the attention of authorities for years,” said SIFF president Rajesh Vakharia. He added that the judiciary itself was responsible for this misuse, as it has focused on making the laws so women-friendly that it has ended up making it abusive towards accused men. SIFF presented several examples to point out how the Criminal Procedure Code is broken blatantly by the police and judiciary in cases of marital discord and dowry. Despite the rules, police don’t provide any counselling before registering a case under both laws. Moreover, they arrest the accused and even their relatives against whom a complaint hasn’t been made, without a warrant. Bail petitions of accused in these cases often take months to be cleared even if a man is willing to cooperate in the investigation. No action is taken against a complainant or her relatives even if they physically abuse the accused or his relatives. Even if cases linger on for years, judges take no action on women for not attending hearings. “It is sad that instead of working to resolve these procedural hurdles, which result in abuse of men, the government is planning to make this law compoundable. It is already compoundable in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. After the law was made compoundable, the misuse of this law increased manifold in these states,” said SIFF spokesperson Jyoti Tiwari. ..(Times of India 26/3/15)

116. Draconian anti-terror measures a concern: Former chief justice (19)

MUMBAI: While terrorism needs to be condemned, counter-terrorist measures, including draconian laws too are matters of concern, said chairperson of National Human Rights Commission and former chief justice of India Justice KG Balakrishnan. At a conference on international terrorism in Mumbai on Sunday, Justice Balakrishnan said anti-terrorist laws have put a large number of people in jail without trial and conviction. “It is a matter of worry,” he said. Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, chief justice of Bangladesh, said his country always supported global war against terrorism, but its ability to combat terrorism is undermined by weak institutions, porous borders and limited law enforcement capacity,” he said. NGT chairman Justice Swatentar Kumar likened terrorism to free air capable of transcending borders and checks. He urged members of younger generation and students to be aware implications of terrorist acts. Justice Chauhan, chairman of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, said government should focus on employment policies across the nation, especially in border regions, so that hungry and unemployed do not land in the trap of rival nations. (Times of India 30/3/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

117. Activists threaten case on Omar Abdullah (1)

Srinagar:  A civil society group in Jammu and Kashmir said on Wednesday that it will file a criminal case against National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah if a senior police officer stands by his allegation that as chief minister he had asked him to “bump off” separatist leader Massarat Aalam when arrested in October 2010. The police officer, Syed Ashiq Hussein Bukhari, a former senior superintendent of police (Srinagar range), had earlier claimed that that the then chief minister had on hearing about the arrest of Mr. Aalam from the outskirts of Srinagar city on October 18, 2010 after a four-month hunt, asked him (Mr Bukhari) on the phone why he had been arrested and not bumped off. The former police officer, who had after his retirement announced to join (now) the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, also reportedly said that apart from getting a cash reward of `1 million earlier announced by the government for information leading to the separatist leader’s arrest, he was given additional `1.5 million by the then chief minister “from his own pocket”. The police officer also claimed that Mr Abdullah paid him `1.5 crore through four cheques for his “outstanding work”. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said in a statement here, “These allegations confirm the truth that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have known. That extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances and other crimes have been routinely used by the Indian state to control the population of the state.” It added, “Fake encounters, as proposed by Omar Abdullah in the case of Massarat Aalam, has been a regular tool of the State. Further, money – in the form of cash rewards for these crimes – has fuelled and sustained the work of various armed forces personnel, including police, in carrying out the necessary crimes.” The JKCCS said that the allegations levelled by the former police officer “merely substantiate the pre-existing evidence on the numerous fake encounters and other crimes committed in Jammu and Kashmir” and reiterated the demand for impartial and fair investigations to uncover the truth of past violations, including attacks on political leaders such as the killing of separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz in 2008. “The reported statement of Omar Abdullah is also reminiscent of an earlier reported statement of January 13, 2001 of the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah that his orders to the police are ‘wherever you find a militant, dispatch him to Allah as I do not want to fill jails’. “This mirrors the later Indian Army Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations released on December 31, 2006 which speaks of ‘neutralizing all hostile elements in the conflict zone that oppose or retard the peace initiatives and secondly, at transforming the will and attitudes of the people”. The group also said that Mr. Bukhari himself has numerous allegations of human rights violations against him in addition to responsibility, directly and/or under the principle of command responsibility, for the killing of 18 persons in Srinagar, upon him taking control of Srinagar as SSP in June 2010. “The present reported allegations must lead to formal proceedings i.e. criminal investigations. The cynical use of the media by criminal insiders to score personal political points is not a substitute for formal criminal proceedings,” it said adding “Further, while Ashiq Bukhari reveals part of the criminal enterprise, as did former Army Chief (retired), General V.K. Singh earlier regarding Army funding in Jammu and Kashmir and the role of then SSP Anantnag, Farooq Khan, in the Pathribal fake encounter, numerous others remain silent and continue to enjoy the comforts of the State”. The JKCCS further said the latest revelations by former police officer “must lead to a public accountability of all cash rewards given to armed forces including police which as Indian State mercenaries have committed crimes in Jammu and Kashmir…The corruption that fuels crimes must be investigated, along with the crimes themselves.” The group spokesperson and human rights activist Khurram Parvez added, “As an immediate step, ex-SSP Ashiq Bukhari must stand by his statements and we will file a case against then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.” (Asian Age 12/3/15)

118. Custodial Torture Case of Dalit Farmer goes to CB-CID (1)

CHENNAI: Madras High Court has directed the CBCID to probe the alleged custodial torture of a Dalit in Kaveripakkam  police station in Vellore district while granting him Rs 2 lakh as  interim compensation. Justice T S Sivagnanam gave the directions recently while disposing of a writ petition by Poovarasan, an agricultural labourer of Athipattu village. According to petitioner, he was arrested on the night of September 23, 2014 and taken to Kaveripakkam police station where he was beaten up brutally. He was produced before the District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate in Wallajahpet around noon the next day, who referred him to a local hospital for medical examination. As the injuries were heavy, the doctors there referred him to the Government Hospital in Vellore. Even then, according to the  petitioner, the police made an attempt to kidnap him when he was on way to the hospital in an ambulance. However, he was brought back to the court following the intervention of the magistrate, who after chiding the police personnel, granted bail to the victim. As Poovarasan could not expect justice from the local police, his counsel V Suresh of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties, filed the writ petition in the High Court. He also demanded a compensation of `50 lakh for the sufferings underwent by Poovarasan at the hands of the police. Based on the medical records, produced by the Public Prosecutor, the Court concluded that the injuries on Poovarasan was inflicted at Kaveripakkam police station on September 23, 2014. The records suggested that the injuries were inflicted using wooden rod. The Judge observed that there is sufficient material to come to a prima facie conclusion that  Poovarasan was assaulted on the premises of the Kaveripakkam police station by police personnel. Surprisingly, the counter affidavit filed by Vellore Superintendent of Police does not deal with these issues, except merely denying all the averments made by the petitioner, the Judge noted. It does not speak about the action taken on the petitioner’s complaint dated September 26. Further, the Judicial Magistrate in his order dated September 24, has noted the fractures and multiple injuries sustained by the petitioner and suggested treatment and hence, he had granted bail. All this made out a prima facie case, Justice Sivagnanam said. Hence, the court directed the local police to forward the complaint given by the petitioner on September 26, 2014 to the Director General of Police who in turn must entrust the investigations to a competent officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBCID. The Court observed that till the investigation is completed by the CB CID and a final report is filed, the petitioner was entitled for an interim compensation of Rs 2 lakh and left it open to the petitioner to work out his remedies after the conclusion of the proceedings. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

119. Centre to take final call on AFSPA: J&K Governor (1)

Jammu: J&K Governor N N Vohra today noted that the final decision on the continuation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state would be taken by the central government. “Keeping in mind the fact that the situation is steadily improving, the government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’ and this in turn, would enable the central government to take a final view on the continuation of the AFSPA in such areas,” he said while addressing the joint session of the state legislature. “In this context, the coalition government will thoroughly review the security in J&K and examine the need and desirability of all the special laws which are being applied in the state,” he said. Vohra maintained that there has been “progressive improvement” in the security environment in the state. “In the recent years there has been progressive improvement in the security environment. To build greater and sustained public confidence, the coalition government is committed to ensure that the people of the state are enabled to fully enjoy the peace and normalcy dividend,” he said. The Governor pointed out that the government would also address the concerns of the people living on the border and those in the remote and far flung areas of the state. Vohra added that the state would work on returning the land taken by the security forces to its owners. “A very important step which the government will implement shall be to ensure that all lands, other than those which have been given to the security forces on lease, license or through acquisition under the provision of the land acquisition act; must be returned to the rightful legal owners within a given time frame,” he said. (Business Standard 18/3/15)

 

120. ‘They treated us worse than animals’: SFI activists in Shimla allege police brutality (1)

Shimla: Amid allegations of police brutality and torture, a Shimla court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of six Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists, who are in jail following violent clashes with the police outside Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday. The activists, including SFI state president Puneet Dhanta, were arrested on charges of rioting and lawlessness. They were protesting against decisions, including a fee hike, taken by the Himachal Pradesh University and the state government. Outside prison, SFI activists who were part of the protest allege they were beaten up and tortured at the police station. One of the activists, Pallavi, who sustained injuries to her face, has sought shelter with a local family fearing arrest. Another activist, Lokinder Kumar, showed torture marks all over his body and said he can’t walk, sit or eat properly. Kumar, who has also been named in the FIR, had an additional charge added against him for allegedly escaping from police custody from the local hospital, where he was taken for a medical test.SFI national president Dr V Sivadasan, who was also injured, is being treated in New Delhi. He was granted bail on Friday. Rama Kant Mishra, CPM’s 62-year old office secretary, said he too was treated in an “inhuman manner” at the police station along with other SFI activists. Mishra says he was was not part of the agitation, but was rounded up from the CPM state office along with other SFI activists. He was in the office after addressing the SFI rally, and was planning to return to Delhi, when he was picked up. Mishra said, “I pleaded with them not to beat me up as I am a heart patient. Three-four people pounced on me with lathis. They hurled abuses when I asked if they were carrying search warrants to enter the CPM office. They treated us worse than animals.” “Sivadasan was stripped naked, kicked repeatedly by policemen. I saw lying on the floor, being beaten non-stop.” Kumar, too, recounted a similar experience. “I was saving some women activists during the lathi charge. At one point, I felt I might die, so I raised up my hands and surrendered. But they showed no sympathy and thrashed me.” SP, Shimla, D W Negi said, “I won’t deny that some SFI activists, who were taken to the police station, may have been dealt with sternly. After all, they were not taken there to be worshipped or rewarded for creating lawlessness .”.. (Indian Express 22/3/15)

121. AFSPA to be gradually scrapped from Jammu and Kashmir: Mufti (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedJammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedTwo days after twin terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir killed three security personnel, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Monday said his government would initiate the gradual process of scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state. “There are certain reservations as far as the Defence Ministry and some army officials are concerned, but we will try to start the gradual process (of scrapping AFSPA),” Mufti told the state Assembly. “Until you completely revoke AFSPA, make your people accountable,” he said. Referring to his recent discussion with GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen DS Hooda, Mufti said, “I told him that you have to have a standard procedure.” On the alleged encounter in which two youths were killed in Budgam district, he said, “Two people were fired upon by the army and killed, but I came to know that when prime minister was informed about it, he ordered an enquiry into it. “The two boys were not terrorists but innocent civilians. He (the PM) asked the army to take the responsibility.” Mufti said the prime minister made sure that the culprits in the Machil Fake encounter case too were punished. “In Machil Fake encounter case, they killed innocent people for medals but the army court-martialed them and made sure that they were punished,” he said. (India Today 23/3/15)

122. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

123. Gujarat: 61 people died in police custody in 5 years (1)

Gandhinagar: As many as 61 persons died during police custody in the last five years, the Gujarat government today informed the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel said this while replying to Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani who had sought details about custodial deaths. In her written reply, Patel stated that a total of 61 persons have died in police custody in the last five years (as on November-2014). Out of these, thirty died a natural death, while thirty others committed suicide. Surat city registered seven deaths in police custody, including four suicide cases. Others include Banaskantha district (five deaths) Ahmedabad city (four deaths), Anand (three), Morbi (three), Bhavnagar (three) and Kutch-West (three). (Zee News 26/3/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

124. TV channel targeted for talk show (1)

Chennai: The office of Tamil news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked on Thursday by a motorcycle-borne gang with crude bombs, just days after it was forced to cancel the telecast of a programme at the instance of Hindutva outfits. No one was injured in the incident. The bombs stuffed in a food carrier and a ‘soap box’ exploded outside the office, but caused no damage to property. While the city police arrested six persons involved in the attack, the president of Hindu Ilaignar Sena, Jayam A. Pandian, surrendered in a Madurai court claiming responsibility for the incident. Around 3 a.m., four men on two motorcycles hurled two bombs into the compound of the channel’s office on the Guindy Industrial Estate. Both exploded with a loud noise shocking security personnel N. Janakiraman and S. Rajasekar on duty and mediapersons on night shift in the building. It was a low-intensity blast as the bombs were assembled using firecrackers, the police said. CCTV cameras installed on the office premises captured the images of the attack and a preliminary examination by the police of the footage revealed dark pictures of the suspects, who were spotted loitering in the area 30 minutes before the attack. On Sunday, a cameraman of Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked allegedly by some Hindu Munnani cadres, who had gathered outside its office to protest against the scheduled telecast of a controversial debate by the channel. The debate was on the question whether the ‘thaali’ (the ‘mangalsutra’ worn by married women) was still relevant in this day and age. Hindu outfits claimed it was an affront to Hindu culture. Chennai Police Commissioner S. George said the six persons involved in the attack were — Venugopal (29), Saravanan (24), Siva (22), Murali (32), Raja (22) and Mahadevan (27) — all employees of a travel agency owned by Jayam Pandian in Koyambedu here. A motorbike used for the crime and unused crackers were seized. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

125. Ban on airing India’s Daughter to continue (1)

NEW DELHI: Remarking that media trials tend to influence judgments, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said although it had no objection to screening of the BBC documentary India’s Daughter , the matter can only be decided after a verdict regarding the fate of the convicts by the Supreme Court. The Division Bench further said that whether the ban be lifted or not can only be decided by an appropriate Chief Justice’s Bench. “We are prima-facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals,” said a Division Bench of Justices B. D. Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva. It also refused to pass any interim orders on the appeal asking for the ban to be lifted. “Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted. But it has come here from the Roster Bench of the Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the Roster Bench decide it,” the court said. The judges spoke at length over the subject of media trials influencing court decisions. “Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously, a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused. Whether he [accused] has shown remorse or not will be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?” The petitioners in the case also said that such a ban might result in more gags. They added that the video had anyway spread via the Internet, with no law and order situation arising, so they could not see a point to its ban. Though the Court partly agreed, it also said that it was forced to impose these restrictions since sub judice matters are being reported brazenly these days. The government had claimed that permitting the video will mean, giving the convict a platform to air his views, which were only derogatory statements against the victim. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

126. 75 media persons killed in Syria since 2011: Report (1)

Geneva: Journalists paid a heavy price for informing people about the sufferings in the Syrian conflict, with at least 75 media persons being killed in the war-torn country since March 2011, a report said on Tuesday. The findings of the study by the Swiss-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) were presented at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) here on Tuesday, Xinhua reported. “During the past three years, Syria was the most dangerous place for journalists to work,” the PEC said in a statement. It noted that a peak in the horror was reached when three journalists — Kenji Goto of Japan, and Steven Sotloff and James Foley of the US — were beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The PEC also expressed concern over the fate of Mazen Darwish, the director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, who was detained in February 2012 along with his two colleagues, Hani Zitani and Hussein Al Ghurair, and called for their immediate release. Syria, along with the neighbouring Iraq, has faced the brunt of the IS, which controls large territories in the two countries. The IS had proclaimed a caliphate under its ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the areas it controls in the two countries. The PEC is a non-governmental organisation with special consultative UN status, and was founded in June 2004 by journalists from several countries with the aim of strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest, or on dangerous missions. (Business Standard 17/3/15)

127. Attack on TV channel condemned (1)

KRISHNAGIRI: Condemning the recent attacks on writers and a private news channel, the district media came together on Monday to voice their protest against the rising acts of violence. In a demonstration staged at Anna Statue near here, the media came on board to condemn the hounding of Tamil writers including Perumal Murugan, Puliyur Murugesan and the last week’s crude bomb attack on a private television channel. The protestors wanted both the State Government and the police to prevent such attacks. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

128. Bombay High Court bats for freedom of speech (1)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday in its order held that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government or its measures by way of criticism or comments so long as he does not incite violence against the government or do so with the intention of creating public disorder. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar passed the ruling while hearing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe. The PIL was filed after the arrest of Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on September 8, 2012. Trivedi was arrested after a sedition charge of section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code was slapped on him for drawing cartoons and caricatures allegedly insulting the national emblem and Parliament. Soon after the petition was filed, the state government had come up with a draft circular for police stations on how to handle such cases. The court, however, continued hearing the petition on the limited question of invocation of section 124 A of IPC and the permissible lawful restriction on the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of public order. The judges in their order clarified that they were not hearing the petition with respect to any offence alleged to have been committed by Mr Trivedi. While disposing of the petition the judges asked the government to widely circulate the guidelines to all authorities concerned. An FIR under the sedition charge was filed against Mr Trivedi after his cartoons were displayed at the movement started by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. The judges, however, after seeing those cartoons observed, “Having seen the seven cartoons in question drawn by the third respondent (Trivedi), it is difficult to find any element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” The judges further said, those cartoons “were full of anger and disgust against corruption prevailing in the political system and had no element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” According to judges for that reason the freedom of speech and expression available to Trivedi to express his indignation against corruption in the political system in strong terms or visual representations could not have been encroached upon when there is no allegation of incitement to violence. (Asian Age 18/3/15)

 

129. Government welcomes SC judgment on Section 66A: Prasad (1)

New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, on Tuesday, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said people in power should be tolerant and liberal towards criticism. “We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court. The government is committed to free speech. India is a democratic country and free flow of ideas should be respected. We do not seek to curtail any right,” Prasad told reporters in a press meet here. The minister, however, said it was important to have self-regulation as well when expressing thoughts in social media. “There are lakhs of people in India indulging in social media. I am a supporter of self-regulation and would like to say it is important to have self-regulation,” he said. He said social media platforms should also practise some ‘self-restraint’. Earlier in the day, he said the government did not favour gagging dissent or honest criticism on social media. Prasad said: “We respect communication of ideas on social media, not in favour of curtailing honest criticism, dissent on social media.” Earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech. “Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety,” said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. “Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law (Section 66A) is vague in its entirety,” said Justice Nariman pronouncing the judgment. The minister said the government absolutely respects the right to freedom of speech and expression on social media and has no intention of curbing it. “Only reasonable restrictions apply on social media, as they do in routine normal day to day life in the physical world under Article 19(2) of the constitution of India. We will have to understand that we cannot set a different standard of public morality for speech & expression in cyberspace from speech in other mediums and in the public domain,” the minister added. The Supreme Court has “read down” Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act which states that “upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner”. Taking a dig at the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Prasad said: “When the UPA Govt came out with draconian provisions under 66A, BJP in opposition firmly opposed it and said that ’66 is unacceptable in current form’. BJP resolutely stood up against the censorship and blocking on social media done by UPA government.” “Once in government, it took its opposition to the draconian provisions of 66A on record in Court Proceedings. New Affidavits filed by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government in Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly show the marked difference in the approach from UPA Govt.,” he said. “NDA government, in what can be dubbed as a landmark moment in India’s Internet history, has accorded the same amount of freedom of speech and expression that a citizen of India is granted in normal life under our constitution by our founding fathers,” Prasad added. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

130. Scrapping of Section 66A of IT Act: Khushbu says social media should have self-regulation

CHENNAI: Newly appointed national spokesperson of the Congress, Khushbu Sundar, on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order that scrapped Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. However, she said there had to be some self-regulation within the social media. “Whether it is celebrities or politicians, or others, they have to draw a line beyond which they should not cross,” Khushbu said here. She was answering questions at her maiden press meet, a after she was appointed as the Congress spokesperson. She defended party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s month-long sabbatical saying, “He is a human being.” “Rahul has taken leave of absence and everybody has to wait till he comes back,” she said. Asked whether she had left the DMK because she felt strongly about the lack of democracy in that party, Khushbu said she had not mentioned the reasons when she quit the party last year and would never be provoked to reveal it. “I can only say that my respect and regard for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi remains undiminished,” she said. On the possibility of her being named as the party’s CM candidate for the 2016 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Khushbu said it was hypothetical and it was too early to speak about that now. On some detractors saying that she had little knowledge of state and national issues, Khushbu dared them to ask her questions. “I was appointed only last evening as a spokesperson and am not a member of the party’s planning committee,” she said. She took a dig at AIADMK leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and chief minister O Panneerselvam saying “Amma remains within her house, while OPS has only now dared to sit in the CM’s chair in the state assembly.” Responding to another query, she played down factionalism within the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee saying all were members of one party. (Times of India 25/3/15)

131. Scribes stage House walkout (1)

Shillong, March 25: Journalists in Meghalaya today walked out of the press gallery in the Assembly – when chief minister Mukul Sangma replied on a discussion on state budget, as a part of the boycott against him for calling the media “publicity houses of terrorist organisations”.More than 50 reporters from the print and electronic media, as well as photographers, walked out of the House as soon as Mukul stood up to speak. Media houses in Meghalaya have started to boycott the chief minister since March 23 after he refused to withdraw derogatory statements he had made against the media on the floor of the Assembly recently. On March 10, while replying to a motion on the government’s failure to promote tourism in Garo hills Mukul lambasted national and local media for “negative reporting” about the Northeast, including Meghalaya. Despite the demand from the media to withdraw such remarks, Mukul on March 20 said in the Assembly that no words spoken by him during the course of his reply (on March 10) were unparliamentary. He said every member of the Assembly enjoys the privilege to speak in the House, adding that any attempt to gag the members amounts to breach of that privilege. Disapproving of Mukul’s stand, the mediapersons feel no legislator has the right to make sweeping statements against anyone in the House and hide behind legislative privileges.Meghalaya, which drafted a sports policy many years ago and could not come up with the final draft, has contemplated entrusting the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong to prepare the much-awaited policy. Replying to a question raised in the Assembly by Independent legislator Saleng A. Sangma, sports and youth affairs minister Zenith Sangma said the state government was planning to entrust IIM Shillong with preparing the policy and that this would require at least seven to eight months. Zenith said a state resource group was constituted on May 20 last year headed by former home minister, R.G. Lyngdoh, the president of Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA), to prepare the draft policy. However, the group had only two sittings till today and has not been able to complete the exercise tasked to it, though it was assigned to complete the drafting of the policy within two months. The Opposition, however, attacked the government for its failure to finalise the sports policy as it is still at a drafting stage. They also sought a clarification from the minister if a sports quota would be included in the proposed sports policy. (The Telegraph 26/3/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

132. RTI query on Gujarat riots stonewalled again by PMO (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office has once again refused to release details of the correspondence during the Gujarat riots between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, citing “third party objections.” RTI activist Subhash Agarwal wrote to the PMO in December 2013 seeking complete copies of correspondence between Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Modi between February 27, 2002, the day the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in Godhra, and April 30, 2002, by when the worst of the post-Godhra riots was over. After first refusing to give the information, a decision overturned in appeal, the PMO replied to Mr. Agarwal in April 2014 that it was seeking consent of third parties. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

133. Muzaffarnagar riots: Displaced people to get pension benefit (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: The state government has decided to extend the benefit of the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ to almost two thousand persons displaced due to the Muzaffarnagar riots. “The benefit of Samajwadi pension scheme would be provided to the displaced families affected by the riots in the district. Some 2,065 people who were displaced because of the riots in Jolla, Paldi, Shafipur, Loee Sarai and other places have filled-up the forms, which will be scrutinised, to provide them the benefit of the scheme,” additional district magistrate, Indermani Tripathi said. The district authorities have identified 45,245 people for the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ which included two thousands riot-hit victims. (Times of India 15/3/15)

134. Section of media to blame for biased coverage of riots’(7)

HYDERABAD: Studies have revealed that sections of the media were biased in reporting communal incidents such as the post Godhra riots in Gujarat and the violent aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, said eminent journalist N Ram. Addressing a gathering at the Manuu conference, Ram said a report by the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Editor’s Guild had noted that a section of the media had adopted a “general culpability in adopting a celebratory attitude” after the demolition of the mosque. He said that PCI report described that the Hindi media had played a “karsevak role”.Touching upon the post Godhra riots, Ram said, “There was a differential coverage between the English and Gujarati media. While the national media was applauded for truth telling, the mischievous role of the Gujarati newspapers is a fact that fact-finding missions have said cannot be glossed over. Fuelling disorder is a criminal offence.” Ram also said that UPA – II had withheld the 2011 census data which showed an upward trend in the Muslim population. This, he said, was in view of the 2014 elections. Blaming the media partly for the portrayal of Muslims, eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta said Muslims were the “usual suspects” in terror attacks. “So many Iftekhars and Irfans have been caught and later other groups were found to be involved. Anybody who is kept in police custody for six months or a year is ruined for life,” he said. He noted that movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. “Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” Touching upon the subject of Muslims in newsrooms, Gupta said: “Muslims in media are trusted as anybody else. Newsrooms are not inclusive in terms of caste.” Noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said that the media houses are concerned about an increase in TRP which has led to a negative portrayal of Muslims. Many media houses invite Muslim intellectuals from the north, thereby ignoring the voices from the south, he said. “If you want a Muslim voice, don’t get him from Delhi of Lucknow but from Hyderabad,” he said. He noted that a Muslim parliamentarian such as Asaduddin Owaisi was unlikely to be invited on a debate on the land acquisition bill because the media was more interested in a “Togadia versus Owaisi” debate. “Movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” (Times of India 18/3/15)

135. Communal post on FB triggers tension in Bhandara (7)

BHANDARA: Timely action by Bhandara police prevented a flare-up between two communities after a Std X student’s derogatory Facebook post briefly sparked tension in the city on Monday night. The student posted an objectionable photograph about a place of worship of Muslims while a friend of the boy wrote a derogatory remark about Prophet Mohammed on the post. This led to members of the aggrieved community barging into the boy’s friend’s house and thrashing him. Police registered an offence under relevant sections of IT Act and Indian Penal Code. The juvenile offenders will be produced before the court on Wednesday. The situation of the town is peaceful and under control, police said. Sources added that the juvenile student would regularly attend camps of right-wing organizations and was in close contact of their activists. According to reports, the 16-year-old boy, who is appearing for his Std X examination, sent the image in question to his friend via Facebook. His friend added an offending remark to the photograph and broadcast it among his friends. One of the friends is a Muslim and he informed members of his community about the post. Enraged, some members of the community went to Bhandara police station and lodged a complaint against the mischief mongers. Some others barged into the second student’s home in the night and thrashed him. Police were informed and rushed to the student’s home. Seeing this, the mob fled from the scene. The student was rushed to government general hospital at Bhandara. The student’s mother lodged a police complaint, mentioning the names of five youths. These youths have been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the IPC. On Tuesday, a group of activists met superintendent of police Kailash Kanse and demanded the arrest of another fifty persons who, the activists claimed, were involved in the attack. The activists said they were not satisfied with the replies given by Kanse. Kanse told TOI that the juvenile students were using the social networking site to create tension between two communities and their guardians should be watchful about their activities. The juvenile student appeared for his Std X examination under police protection on Tuesday. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

136. Curb hate speech that triggers communal riots, says Teesta (7)

CHENNAI: Communal flare-ups get noticed only when the violence takes place. But the events that cause the flare-ups should be duly dealt with so that they don’t take place, said Teesta Setalvad, well-known civil rights activist on Friday. In her speech during a seminar held in the city, Setalvad recalled the history of communal violence in the country and said that despite stringent laws in place, hate speeches often went unpunished in the past. Young people are impressionable and get swayed by hate speeches but premier educational institutions do not seem to care about the impact these speeches are having on their students. “College campuses like IITs and Banaras Hindu University do not have a problem in people like Subramaniam Swamy attacking certain communities while delivering speeches,” she said. Teesta also asked the younger generation to step out of their classrooms and social media to understand real history. Pointing out that the trigger factors for communal violence vary from place to place, Setalvad said there was a need to engage judges and policemen with people on the ground to get a clear picture of the situation leading to and following communal violence. “After 2002 post-Godhra communal violence, we were able to file many cases pertaining to it only after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) went on a field visit and recorded statements,” said Setalvad, who runs Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO that filed petitions on behalf of the victims of Godhra riots. (Times of India 21/3/15)

137. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

138. Clean chit to Tytler in 1984 riots case: ‘Upset’ Phoolka to file protest petition (7)

NEW DELHI: Expressing his disappointment over the CBI’s move to file a closure report giving clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 riots case, senior advocate HS Phoolka on Wednesday said that he would file a protest petition regarding the same. Phoolka said it is very unfortunate that the CBI quietly filed the closure report giving clean chit to Tytler on December 24, 2014. “There has been a hearing in the court after that but this matter has been kept top secret and confidential. Why a matter of such great importance is kept confidential? The people want to know,” he told ANI here. Phoolka also lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, for keeping silent on the entire episode despite being aware of the CBI’s move in this case. “The Akali Dal and the Gurdwara Committee were aware of it and even they did not inform the people. When Jagadish Tytler was given a clean-chit in 2009 during the UPA Government, the Akali Dal and the BJP raised such a hue and cry in the Parliament that the house had to be adjourned,” Phoolka said. “Now when their government is in power, they quietly want to ensure that Tytler is given the clean-chit,” he added. The senior advocate further said that he would file a protest petition challenging the clean-chit given by the CBI to Tytler. “Fortunately, till today, the court had not accepted this clean chit, we will definitely protest (against) this. We would have done this earlier if we were aware of it,” he said. Tytler was among the three prominent leaders named in the reports on anti-Sikh riots case. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which claimed the lives of almost 3000 Sikhs, were triggered by the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. (Times of India 25/3/15)

139. Kishtwar riots: Final inquiry report changes line, indicts ex-minister Sajjad Kitchloo (7)

Srinagar: Former Minister of State for Home and sitting National Conference legislator in the Upper House of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, has been indicted by a one-man judicial commission that inquired into the communal riots that left three dead and over 80 injured in Kishtwar on Eid in 2013. The Commission, headed by retired High Court Justice R C Gandhi, indicted nearly five dozen people, including senior IAS and IPS officers, for their role in the violence. Among the officers named are then IGP (Jammu) Rajesh Kumar, then DIG (Ramban-Doda-Kishtwar) Ashkoor Wani, and the then Kishtwar DC and SP Mohammad Saleem Choudhary and Dr Sunil Gupta respectively. Kumar is now director of the Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy in Udhampur, Wani is DIG, Traffic in Jammu, Gupta is SP, Leh, and Saleem Choudhary is with the Rural Development Department.The Commission has recommended a probe into the role played by civil and police officials posted at that time in Kishtwar town, sources said. It has hinted at a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal clashes, pointing out that the rioters had come prepared with containers full of kerosene. Sources said the Commission has referred to the deposition of a police officer who had, quoting a forensic report, said kerosene was poured before residential and commercial buildings were torched. During a nine-hour rampage, rioters had torched a large number of buildings on August 9, 2013. As the violence spilled to other places, the then Omar Abdullah government had imposed a curfew in various areas of the state, and put Kishtwar out of bounds, including for the media. The inquiry has, however, exonerated the bodyguard of local BJP leader Sunil Sharma, now Minister of State for Revenue and R&B, of the charge of inciting trouble by ramming his motorcycle into people in the Eid procession. Quoting witnesses who said he was beaten up by the mob, the Commission has said that the man appeared in fact, to have been a victim of the violence. It was Sharma who told reporters on Sunday that the Commission had indicted Kitchloo in its final report. The indictment for playing an active role in the violence comes a year after the same commission of inquiry had, in its interim report, exonerated him of “any involvement at any level” in the riots. Kitchloo on Sunday expressed surprise over the report, and both the National Conference and Congress termed it “suspect”, and described the inquiry as “partial”. “I don’t think so (that the Gandhi Commission has indicted me). How is it possible that he will indict me? He had given me a clean chit in the interim report,” the former MoS Home told The Indian Express. “It is all politics. Everybody in the state knows who planned the riots, and why.” Justice (retd) Gandhi himself said many witnesses had come forward after he submitted his interim report. “I won’t say (whether Kitchloo has been indicted or not). You read both the reports and then draw a conclusion,” he said. The National Conference said the contradictory reports reflected on the credibility of the Commission. “We have not seen the report as yet. If the media reports are true and Justice R C Gandhi Commission has indicted Kitchloo, it puts a big question mark on the credibility of the commission,” NC provincial president Devendar Rana said. “If he (Justice Gandhi) has now indicted Kitchloo, it means that either the earlier report, or the latest report is politically motivated. Either way, it makes the Commission of Inquiry suspect,” Rana added. Kitchloo, who was also the Kishtwar MLA at the time of the riots, had resigned after the BJP accused him of having played a partisan role in the violence. After the Gandhi Commission’s interim report said “no evidence” had been found of his “involvement at any level, though he was in the town that day”, Kitchloo was re-inducted as MoS Home. “It seems that the Justice wants to keep happy whosoever is in the government,” Ghulam Nabi Monga, senior Congress leader, said. “Had he (Justice Gandhi) written in his interim report that there was a prima facie case against Kitchloo, this would have been understandable. But how can you declare somebody innocent in the interim report, and accused in the final report?” Communist leader M Y Tarigami said he was “surprised”, and demanded an “objective assessment of the whole situation”. “The fact is that certain elements vitiated the environment, polarised the situation for political ends,” Tarigami said. “There is a vested interest of some outfits to polarise the state. That was evident from the recently held elections as well.” The PDP said it had not gone through the report. “Let’s first go through the report,” chief spokesman and Education minister Nayeem Akhtar said. “It would be then sent to the cabinet for a decision. We have not seen the report and it would not be proper for us to comment at this point of time.” (Indian Express 30/3/15)

COMMUNALISM

140. Speculation peaks over RSS reshuffle (26)

NAGPUR/MUMBAI: Amid intense speculation on a major reshuffle at the top level of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the outfit will meet for its triennial three-day conclave beginning Friday in Nagpur. Would Dattatreya Hosabale, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be elevated as the executive head of the RSS? And would Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi, the organisation’s man and second-in-command, step down the RSS hierarchy? There is a strong buzz that Mr. Hosabale, who is from Karnataka and currently holds the position of the joint secretary (sah karyavah), could be elevated to the post of sarkaryavah, the executive head of the body. The sah karyavah, who technically controls the organisation’s actual functioning, is essentially the second-in-command and just one rung below sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat. Mr. Joshi currently holds that post. Even as there is a strong buzz within the RSS that Mr. Joshi could step down, sources hinted that he could be asked to assume new duties in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

141. RSS’s Nagpur meet decides on inclusive Hinduism as key strategy for next 3 years (26)

NAGPUR: “One well, one temple and one crematorium” for all Hindus— that’s going to be the key strategy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the next three years as it seeks to unite all those who profess the faith by ending caste discrimination and bringing back to the fold those it sees as having moved away. It’s also looking to make the Northeast a focus area, expand in the south and push to give regional languages greater importance as opposed to the learning of “a foreign language”. These were among the themes that emerged at the Sangh’s Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur, where more than 1,400 representatives discussed ways of taking the saffronBSE 4.38 % agenda forward. During the three-day meeting that concluded on Sunday, the RSS took stock of a caste survey it had commissioned recently in more than a dozen states. Karyakartas were asked to make presentations about discrimination and ways of countering it, a project that Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat is said to be keen on. Sevaks were asked to intensify programmes in all states in the coming months by organising ‘janajagran’ committees. “Last month, the Sangh itself had organised an event where we had called saints and heads of mutts who practice untouchability or some sort of caste discrimination to reason with them,” a senior member said. Additionally, the RSS had conducted drives to engage the migrant tribes of Uttarakhand that venerate Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap but were said to have drifted away from Hindu traditions in recent times. Also, more RSS leaders have been paying respects at Buddhist diksha bhumis (conversion venues), members noted. “The number of people attending programmes to listen to Hindu dharma has increased,” RSS general secretary Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi said. “This shows there is a growing interest among the community in being one.” The symbol of the Pratinidhi Sabha this time was Rani Gaidinliu of Nagaland who fought the British and opposed conversions of tribals to Christianity, suggesting the Northeast is a priority area for the RSS. One of its projects focuses on “making them aware of the similarities that exist in their birth, death and worship rituals with Hindu rituals,” said a member. Joshi said the focus of the Sangh for the next three years will be samavesh (inclusion) and samiksha (analysis). “We have reached only 54,000 villages now but the fact that we could open shakhas in 10,000 new kendras in the last few years shows there is an interest.” The sabha also passed a resolution demanding that that elementary education should be in the mother tongue or in state languages as “a person learning a foreign language gets alienated from his surroundings, traditions, culture and values of life”.The Sangh is planning a drive to increase the number of shakhas in southern India, the blueprint of which was prepared in the sabha. New chiefs were named for the southern units on Saturday and the growth plan will be discussed in a few days. More than 25 affiliated groups working in the educational, intellectual, political, cultural and social fields presented their report cards on Saturday and Sunday. RSS leader J Nandkumar said Sangh-run educational institutes had registered tremendous progress in the last three years. “The plan is to expand to every district, to reach out to as many households,” he said. In the coming months, activists will meet state education officials to look at the prospects of increasing the focus on regional languages. Senior RSS leaders feel previous attempts to unite Hindus had not succeeded because of differences within. “This year is (former Sarsangchalak) Balasaheb Deoras’s 100th birth anniversary. He chose the first non-Brahmin sarsangchalak and opened multiple doors to Dalits. We at the Sangh feel this is the best time to intensify the drive,” one member said. He added that reports presented by the karyakartas highlighted the need to intensify the effort. “For instance, in Bihar, our study shows that people over the age of 50 are not willing to change but they are open to us talking to their children about it.” The mood at the first Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister was upbeat with over a nearly 30% increase in shakhas and sevaks in the last few months. With Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah camping out at the Sangh hostel for all three days and holding crucial meetings with Bhagwat, the evenings were said to have been filled with political discussions, including plans for elections in Bihar, West Bengal and other states besides the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that there were at least two detailed discussions on the vacant general secretary positions in the BJP and a cabinet reshuffle. A senior RSS member said political decisions have never been a key element of Pratinidhi Sabhas. “For the RSS, the BJP is just one of the frontal organisations among its 42 affiliates. It makes more sense for the Sangh to focus on organisations such as the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) or educational institutes that directly fall under it and can take the agenda forward,” one member said. (The Economic Times 16/3/15)

142. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi stokes fresh controversy, says Mahatma Gandhi was a British agent

Lucknow: In comments that may trigger a huge controversy, firebrand Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi on Tuesday called Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi a British agent. In an apparent dig at Mahatma Gandhi, the controversial VHP leader said India got freedom from the British rule not by spinning the charkha, but because of sacrifices made by brave sons like Veer Savarkar and Bhagat Singh. Addressing a Hindu Sammelan in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district, the saffron clad leader further said that every Indian national, whether Hindu or Muslim, should be allowed to bear only two children. If somebody opts for more than two children then that person should be deprived of all the government facilities, the Sadhvi opined. She further said those who do not chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai’, “Vande Mataram”, insult the national flag and those who indulge in cow slaughter have no right to live in India. Sadhvi Prachi is not new to courting controversies. In the past she has several times made remarks at public functions which created huge political uproar. She had earlier kicked up a storm by saying that if persons of other community produce 40-50 children, then Hindus should also raise four children. Last month the VHP leader had stoked a controversy by making inflammatory remarks on the issue of ‘love jihad’. The latest hate speech came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to party leaders to restrain from making controversial comments which can overshadow his government’s agenda of development and economic reforms. (Zee news 18/3/15)

 

143. VHP will campaign to fight untouchability (26)

New Delhi: After its “ghar wapsi” campaign, seen by many as a strategy for Hindu consolidation, came under criticism, the VHP seems to have changed tack to propagate its views. Citing a resolution passed during the 1969 “Udupi conclave” of saints, which said “Hindava sarve sahodaraha (All Hindus are brothers)”, senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Saturday said the organisation will launch a nationwide campaign against “untouchability”. The Sangh Parivar is of the view that the ostracism of people belonging to the so-called “lower caste” is one of the main reasons for religious conversion. The Parivar’s “ghar wapsi” campaign is aimed at bringing back to Hinduism those who converted. Maintaining that all Hindus are “genetically and racially” the same, the VHP leader said there is no place for untouchability in the Hindu religion. Giving details of the action plan regarding the campaign against untouchability, Mr Togadia said all Hindus, including SC/STs, should be allowed to enter temples, drink water from the same well as others, have the same crematorium and every Hindu family should adopt an SC/ST family and should share food and participate in functions with them. He said VHP leaders, saints and volunteers will visit more than six lakh villages to propagate the message against untouchability, which is against Hinduism. Mr Togadia, who reportedly doesn’t share a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he has been “too busy” with his work to assess the performance of the BJP government at the Centre. On the issue of beef ban in some states, he said in the name of personal freedom, one cannot disrespect the tradition and culture of the country or else there could be reactions. On the recent developments in J&K, including the release of separatist leader Massarat Aalam, Mr Togadia said: “Massarat Aalam has been released. Terror attacks are rising. The nation is watching… The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, with his actions, has compromised national interest.” He, however, declined to comment on the BJP’s decision to ally with the PDP but insisted that “national interest and national security should not be compromised”. The Hindutva firebrand leader also batted for the abrogation of Article 370, a long-time demand of the BJP, saying that the VHP remains committed to it. He also took a swipe at those blaming Hindutva groups for attacks on churches. “Churches had been attacked in Pakistan and Syria as well but Hindus should not be blamed for everything,” he said. (The Asian Age 22/3/15)

144. Hindutva forces gaining ground: Muslim board (26)

JAIPUR: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said here on Sunday that Hindutva forces had been emboldened after the new government came to power and a conspiracy was on to convert India into a fascist state. The three-day 24th national-level convention (general meeting) of the Board, which concluded here, decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi only ‘if required’ to take up the problems faced by minorities. Over 200 members deliberated upon the political situation in India, particularly in the wake of the ghar vapsi conversion campaign and attacks on minorities. In a resolution passed at the meeting, the members condemned various State governments for introducing Surya Namaskar and yoga in schools, saying religion should be disassociated from education. The meeting condemned the continued attacks on minorities and attempts at conversion, which, the members said, did not augur well for the country. Muslims wanted good relations with their Hindu brethren, it was said at the meeting. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board was created to adopt strategies for the protection of Muslim personal law, importantly the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Briefing presspersons after the meeting, AIMPLB secretary Mohammed Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the participants condemned the Centre’s ‘failure’ to act against Hindutva forces. Calling upon Muslims to come together, the resolution said: “Islam needs to be presented in the right perspective to the world.” (The Hindu 23/3/15)

145. Chhattisgarh congress walks out on allowing employees to participate in RSS activities (26)

RAIPUR: Slogans of “Jai shree Ram” and “Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega” (saffronisation would not be allowed) echoed in the Chhattisgarh assembly on Wednesday as the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress members indulged in a game of one-upmanship over the government’s recent decision allowing its employees to participate in activities of RSS and ‘shakhas’. Accusing the government of attempting to “saffronise” the employees, Congress legislators also staged a walkout to protest against the Speaker’s decision disallowing a discussion (under rule 131) on the subject. Congress leader Amit Jogi raised the issue during the zero hour and said the RSS cannot be called a non-political organisation. Accusing the government of politicisation of its employees, Jogi said the decision was wrong as all employees were bound by the Constitution. Joining him Congress legislator, Satynarayan Sharma, and other MLAs said the matter was serious and they would not allow the saffronisation of the administration. The MLAs further sought discussion on the issue under the rule 131. Speaker, Gaurishankar Agrawal, said he had received the notice for discussion and would consider it in due course. When he disallowed the discussion, Congress MLAs started shouting slogans – ‘Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega and Bhagwakaran band karo (stop saffronisation) – and staged a walkout. Countering their slogans, BJP MLA Mahesh Gagda and others started shouting slogan-’Jai Shree Ram’ inside the House. The sloganeering continued till the time the Congress workers walked out of the house. The Chhattisgarh government had last month revoked the ban on the participation of government employees in RSS activities. The decision had then also provoked a strong response from the opposition. (Times of India 25/3/15)

146. Sangh gets Appsolute makeover to spread ideology, connect with youth (26)

Lucknow: Locating a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha or information about its ideologues and ideology is now just a click or a touch away on your smartphone. The RSS has launched seven mobile phone applications with aim to widen its youth base by spreading its “nationalist thoughts”. The move, a senior RSS functionary said, came after the Sangh realised the power and reach of the social media, which was evident by the role it played in BJP’s massive win in last year’s Lok Sabha elections. The applications are now available on the android phones. One of the applications is ‘RSS mobile’ with which one can locate the nearest Shakha. So far, locations of shakhas being organised in three cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad (RSS calls it Bhagyanagar) and New Delhi, can be found through this application. The application also hosts a number of other features such as a panchang as per Hindu calender, Sangh Samachar (news reports of RSS), books on RSS, wall papers and Sangh parivar’s songs among others. Quotable quotes by thinkers and leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, philosopher Chanakya among others and profiles of all former Sarsanghchalaks and present RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is also available. ‘Prerna Suman’, another application, provides the biography of RSS founder K B Hedgewar, RSS ideologue Madan Mohan Malaviya, socialist Ram Manohar Lohia and first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. (Indian Express 30/3/15)

TERRORISM

147. Three killed, 23 injured in Manipur blast (12)

Imphal :  At least three people were killed and 23 injured in a powerful bomb blast at a crowded marketplace here in the Manipur capital on Wednesday evening, police said. Some media reports said four people were killed in the explosion triggered by a separatist outfit. “An IED (improvised explosive device) planted near a chicken shop at Khwairamband Keithel exploded, killing three people on the spot and wounding 23 others, including women,” a police official said. Inspector General of Police Clay Khongsai had earlier told IANS that three people were dead and 21 were injured. The injured, most of them either shoppers or vendors, were immediately taken to the central government run Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). Local media reports said another man succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, taking the toll to four. Police officials were unavailable to confirm the death of the fourth person. RIMS sources said the condition of at least six of the wounded was critical. Among those killed, two were non-locals. One was identified as Mithu Yadav, a resident of Bihar, while the identity of the other person was yet to be ascertained. The third person killed in the blast was identified as Md. Suman Khan, a resident of Kshetri Awang Leikai of Imphal East district. Police officials along with additional security forces have rushed to the spot and launched a combing operation to nab those responsible for the blast.

Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, told reporters: “We have asked police to nab the militants responsible for the blasts at any cost.” Manipur has about 40 militant outfits. While more than 20 armed groups have tripartite ceasefire agreements with the state and central governments, the Coordination Committee, an umbrella group of six militant outfits, has been rejecting an offer of peace talks. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

148. 13 Militants Killed in Pakistan (12)

KARACHI:  At least 13 militants have been killed in two different search operations by Pakistani security forces in the restive Baluchistan province in last 24 hours, a minister said today. Baluchistan Home Minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters in Quetta that the insurgents were killed in two separate operations yesterday night and today morning in the Dera Bugti district. Bugti said seven militants were killed yesterday by Frontier Corp troops while six more were killed today morning in the Dera Jun and Rustom gasfields in Dera Bugti. “On Wednesday operations were carried out in Pirkoh areas of Dera Bugti and seven militants were killed in armed clashes with the security forces,” he said. The militants were involved in targeting security forces and blowing up gas installations in the district, a spokesman said earlier today. Rocket launchers, improvised explosive devices, bombs and other weapons were recovered from the militants, who belonged to a defunct militant group operating in the area, he added. Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan province is rich in minerals and resources but has been hit by violence from separatist groups since the death of tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military operation in the area in August, 2007 during the tenure of former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Bugti said that insurgents belonged to the Baluchistan Republican Army (BRA). (New Indian Express 12/3/15)

149. Pakistan mourns church victims, Christians protest (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday mourned the dead in the deadly suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore that killed 15 people, as Christians took to the streets to denounce the ghastly massacre. Provincial governments declared Monday a day of mourning. All missionary schools and colleges were shut across the country, officials and the media reported. Security was stepped up in churches and missionary institutions while patrolling by police and Pakistan Rangers were enhanced, Dunya TV quoted officials as saying. Prayer ceremonies were held in churches across Pakistan on Monday. Two powerful explosions on Sunday rocked the Catholic Church and the Christ Church in Lahore’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population. The churches are separated by half a kilometre. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend the Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted at the site after the blasts, with a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashing vehicles and setting fire to two suspected terrorists. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protesters also clashed with the police. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the anger and grief of the Christian community in the wake of the terror attack strengthened the government’s resolve to counter terrorism. “Our Christian community has rendered invaluable services to the motherland, particularly in the social sector, and we consider them as our honour and pride,” Sharif said. Pakistan’s Christian community on Monday took to the streets in Faisalabad and Lahore. Protesters gathered at Faisalabad’s Millat road where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw, Dawn online reported. They also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway. Following the mob attack on the metro bus terminal in Lahore, authorities curtailed bus routes on Monday. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar in the country’s north-west and in the cities of Multan and Quetta. On Monday, police registered cases over the twin bombings. Senior Superintendent of Police Rana Ayyaz Saleem said discussions were on file a case over the retaliatory violence too. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar described the church bombings as tragic and said the extremists appeared intent on dividing Pakistan. He said attacks on mosques and churches depicted the “wretched condition” of terrorist outfits outlawed by the government. The minister said further steps were needed to eradicate militancy in the country. (Business Standard 16/3/15)

150. India demands UN action against terror threats to Afghanistan (12)

United Nations: India has lashed out against the “systematic state supporta” from outside to terrorist organisations bent on destabilising Afghanistan and has called on the UN Security Council to act immediately against the threat from these forces. Speaking at a Security Council debate Monday on aid to Afghanistan, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said, “It is terrorism and not tribal differences or ethnic rivalries, which is the main source of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan.” “Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s report to the Security Council last month on Afghanistan and international security backs up this view of India,” he said. “These terrorist groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT, are active despite the efforts of the valiant personnel of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and the international coalition forces,” Mukerji said. “It is obvious that their activity cannot be sustained without systematic state support from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.” Although he tactfully avoided naming names, singling out Lashkar-e-Taiba made clear the source of the “systematic state support.” The terror group is based in Lahore and operated training camps in Pakistan-administerd Kashmir, a fact acknowledged by the US State Department. “Reports indicate these groups are mutating into more virulent forms, in a region already impacted by terrorism,” Mukerji added. “The Council must act against this threat with a sense of urgency.” Ban’s report said that “the rise in the overall number of security incidents recorded indicates a mounting challenge to the Afghan security forces from insurgent groups.” Highlighting the growing violence, it said, “In 2014 there were 22,051 recorded (insurgent) incidents, which surpassed those of 2013 by 10 per cent. In terms of incidents recorded over the past 13 years, 2014 was the second-highest, after 2011.” Acknowledging that “as anticipated, violence has escalated”, Pakistan’s newly-appointed Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi asserted that her country’s “military operation has targeted all terrorist groups without distinction”.The trend of Afghanistan warming towards Pakistan and China under the new government of President Ashraf Ghani and Beijing’s backing for the Islamabad-backed dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban was in evidence during the Security Council discussions. Ban’s report set the scene by referring to last month’s China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Kabul. It said, “Both China and Pakistan pledged to support the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.” The three countries discussed “the peace and security situation in the region, as well as the need to deepen trilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and security”, it added. Lodhi said Afghanistan and Pakistan “share a vision of a partnership built on multiple pillars of common security and economic interests”. She added, “We welcome China’s closer engagement in promoting reconciliation and economic development in Afghanistan.” And Afghanistan’s Permanent Ambassador Zahir Tanin reciprocated, “We welcome the new phase of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan towards the shared goal of peace and reconciliation.” And as for Beijing, he added that Kabul would like to “express our appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for its help facilitating the peace process”.Ban’s special representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom mentioned among reasons for “renewed hope for peace” the dialogue between Islamabad and Kabul on peace, trade and security. Wang Min, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative, said that the international community should adapt to the new reality in Afghanistan and promote a broad-based reconciliation process. (Business Standard 17/3/15)

 

151. J&K assembly passes resolution against terror attacks in Samba and Kathua (12)

NEW DELHI: J&K assembly on Sunday passed resolution against attacks in Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and urged government of India to take up the issue with Pakistan. Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed condemned terror attacks in Jammu, saying it is a conspiracy to derail peace process. “If they (Pakistan) wants peace, reconciliation, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, its establishment must control them (terrorism),” he told the J&K assembly after opposition created a ruckus demanding adjournment of the question hour. This is the first statement that has come from the CM after the twin attacks in Jammu.Expressing hope that peace would return to Jammu and Kashmir soon, he said, “People of J&K have given a mandate. My suggestion is to introduce a resolution to condemn such attacks. “This is not the first attack that has taken place in the state. I am sure peace will soon return as it happened during 2002-2007,” Sayeed told the assembly. “If Pakistan wants friendship with us (India), then they will have to help bring in peace to the state. Pakistan will have to tell people involved in such attacks that they should desist,” Sayeed said. He said during the tenure of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf “peace prevailed” on both sides of the border and Line of Control. Earlier, confusion and noise marred the budget session proceedings of the J&K assembly as the opposition demanded a resolution over the twin terror attacks in Kathua and Samba districts. As the house assembled for finance minister Haseeb Drabu to present budget proposals for 2015-2016, National Conference and Congress legislators demanded a resolution in the assembly over the terror attacks on Friday and Saturday. Efforts by Speaker Kavinder Gupta failed to bring the situation under control following which some ruling BJP legislators tried to move into the well of the house.Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed told the opposition that if they respected the dignity of the house, they should not interrupt its normal proceedings. He said a resolution on the subject could be taken up for discussion. Asserting that these attacks were attacks against peace in the state, the chief minister requested the speaker that the house should pass a unanimous resolution condemning the attack. Devinder Rana of the National Conference said his party had already brought in a resolution in the house which the speaker said had been disallowed. Not satisfied by the chief minister’s statement, all the opposition National Conference legislators led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah walked out.Securitymen during encounter with the militants Rajbagh police station in Kathua district. On Saturday, two militants had opened fired and lobbed grenades at an Army camp in Meshwara area of Samba. Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar had later informed the Parliament and media that the two militants were killed in the heavy gun-battle that followed. On Friday too, two heavily-armed terrorists, posing as soldiers in Army fatigues, had stormed a police station and killed three people before they were gunned down at Rajbagh in J&K’s Kathua district. “The two back to back terror attacks in Jammu is an attempt by the militants to boost their morale which has come down due to the Army operations (in the state),” Parrikar had said. (Times of India 22/3/15)

152. Gujarat anti-terror bill, an old wine in new bottle (12)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, which replaces the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill, continues to include the provision of interception and confessions as admissible evidence. The bill is likely to be tabled in the House for discussion and approval on March 31, the last day of the ongoing Budget session. These were some of the points of conflict in the earlier bill, which was designed on the lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and rejected in 2004 and 2008 by the then Presidents A P J Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, respectively. The bill has been passed for a third time by the Assembly, but it is still pending with the President. The state government has once again prepared a new draft of the bill and rechristened it to cover terrorism. However, the proposed GCTOC Act also applies to ponzi and multi-level marketing schemes to control economic offences, besides large scale gambling and “cyber crimes having severe consequences”.The contentious provision of admissibility of evidence collected through intercepted calls of the accused has been justified in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’, saying it was “considered necessary to enact a special law with stringent provisions, including the power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication.” As per the clause-14 of the new bill, evidence collected through “interception of wire, electronic or oral communication… shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the court”. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, however, had in 2004 objected to the particular clause-14 and returned the earlier GUJCOC bill to the government led by the then CM Narendra Modi, asking it to remove the provision. Later in 2008, the bill was passed after deleting the clause related to interception of communication, as per Kalam’s suggestion. The new bill says that every accused will have to be furnished with the order of the relevant authority under which the interception was authorised or approved, in not less than 10 days before the trial. However it allows for “…the period of 10 days may be waived by the judge trying the offence if he comes to the conclusion that it was not possible to furnish the accused with the aforesaid information ten days before the trial, hearing or proceeding and that the accused may not be prejudiced by the delay in receiving such information”. Earlier, the GUJCOC Bill was also rejected by Patil, who had suggested some more amendments. One of them was to eliminate the provision which allows confession made before a police officer to be admitted in the court as evidence. However, ignoring the suggestion, the state government had once again passed the bill in 2009 for the third time and sent it for President’s approval. The bill is still pending with the President. In the new bill, the government has retained the provision related to confession made before a police officer in clause-16. It is proposed that the officer should be of Superintendent of Police (SP) rank or above. (Indian Express 26/3/15)

153.  ‘Over 80,000 Pakistanis killed in U.S.-led anti-terror op’ (12)

Islamabad: More than 80,000 Pakistanis, including over 48,000 civilians, have been killed in the decade-long U.S.-led war against terror in the country, according to a new report. The report, titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror”, was released by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival, The Express Tribune reported on Sunday. The report, dealing with the conflict from 2004 until the end of 2013, shows that a total of 81,325 to 81,860 persons — including 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 5,498 security personnel and 26,862 militants — lost their lives in the terror operation. It also said that around 1.3 million people were directly and indirectly killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of U.S.-led wars in the regions during the same period. One million people were killed in Iraq and 220,000 in Afghanistan as a result of the war, it said. “The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware,” the authors of the study said. “And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries could also be in excess of 2 million,” they said. The report scoured the results of individual studies and data published by United Nations organisations, government agencies and non-governmental organisations. (The Hindu 29/3/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

154. ‘Maoist violence has declined in the country’ (12)

VELLORE: Maoist violence has declined in the country from 1,000 killings during 2008, 2009 and 2010 to about 300-odd now, K. Vijay Kumar, special security adviser, Union Ministry of Home Affairs said. “This is a sign that two-third violence has come down. But that does not mean that they (Maoists) are incapable of causing hiccups and giving surprises,” he said. He was here for a programme at the VIT University on Wednesday. Speaking to The Hindu , he said there were two to three Maoist-affected States that were being concentrated upon. “Chattisgarh and Jharkhand contribute about 30 per cent each that is two-third in the country. The governments are trying to tighten efforts here,” he pointed out. “The Central government has a good policy in dealing with Maoists. It has a two-pronged approach for bringing in development and rehabilitation and also for surrender of Maoists,” he mentioned Mr. Kumar said they were concentrating particularly on Chattisgarh and Jharkand. “Overall, State governments have done well in coordination with the Centre,” he noted. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

155. No ‘Rambo-style’ operations in Naxal areas, SOPs being revised: CRPF (12)

New Delhi: CRPF will desist from undertaking any “Rambo”-style operations in the Naxal-affected areas even as the standard operating procedures in that regard are being rejigged, the chief of the country’s largest paramilitary force has said. Also, in the Left Wing-Extremism operations theatre, more than one lakh central security troops, apart from state police forces, will now be able to get better feed and intelligence data from technological gadgets as the NTRO’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) base has now been operationalised right inside the Naxal hotbed in Chhattisgarh. “We don’t need to do Rambo-style operations… we don’t want that. When we ask our boys to perform a task (in Naxal- affected areas), they do it with a prompt sincerity and hence it is our responsibility to see that they are safe,” CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra told PTI. The former Odisha DGP, who took charge of the lead anti-Naxal operations force a few months back, said that the operations of the force will now be more focused and intelligence-based rather than being done by deploying security personnel in “herds” to effect a Rambo-type offensive that requires a huge number of boots on the ground. “We believe quality operations with specific intelligence should be the aim. I have already said all large operations where a large mobilisation of forces is required will need to get clearance from the headquarters,” the DG said. He added that the SOPs in this regard were being “fine-tuned and rejigged”. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief, after taking charge of the three-lakh-strong force in December of last year, had made it known that his “top priority” was to ensure fewer or zero casualties involving personnel in anti-Naxal operations. Mishra had earlier said that such operations, where there are a big number of troops on the ground, leads to larger visibility of personnel in the operation area, thereby making them vulnerable, tired and easier to be spotted and identified. Close to 100 security personnel were killed in these operations last year with the major cause of death being Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks or ambushes staged either by Naxal or security forces. The DG, who has toured almost all the major Naxal-violence affected states, said that the new UAV base in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai was a step in the direction of giving better intelligence and technical aid to the troops on the ground. The UAVs were till now based in Andhra Pradesh and used to undertake sorties from there under directions of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Efforts to get the UAV base located in the Naxal heartland gained momentum after security forces complained about the delay in the help being provided by these machines owing to the distance from their base to the scene of Maoist activity. .. (Indian Express 15/3/15)

156. Kerala: Two civil rights activists released on bail in Maoist attacks case (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to two civil rights activists who had been arrested in connection with suspected Maoist attacks. Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, were arrested in the last week of January this year in connection with an attack on the NHAI project office in Kochi. They were known as ultra Left sympathizers in Kerala. Both were charged under section 13 (b) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Several intellectuals and Amnesty International India have demanded unconditional release of Sarathy and Cooper. Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.” On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Police had earlier stated that both of them were not involved in the attack on the NHAI office, but were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. Cooper had challenged police action saying that how the police could arrest him on the reason that he had possessed notices issued by a registered human rights organisation. (Indian Express 17/3/15)

 

157. 2 police jawans die in Naxal ambush (12)

CHANDRAPUR: Two police jawans were killed in an encounter between Gadchiroli police and Naxalites in Hekker forest in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli on Sunday. Reports that one more jawan was injured in the gun battle could not be confirmed. Sources claimed that search operations were underway in the forests under Jambiagutta outpost since last five days following intelligence about Naxals camping in the area. While the police party was returning to the base after the daylong search operation late in the afternoon, they were ambushed by Naxalites in Hekker forest, around 25km from Jambiagutta outpost. Reports suggest that a fierce gun battle took place in which two jawans were killed and one was injured. The dead jawans have been identified as Joge Atram and Swaroop Kumar Amrutkar. Sources claimed that Joge Atram was a fresh recruit and inducted into the force only a couple of months ago. Earlier, he had served the police force as a special police officer (SPO). The Naxalites who laid the ambush fled into the jungle following rising pressure from police side during the encounter. Police have so far not made any claims about casualties to the Naxal side. There were reports of Naxals triggering a landmine blast during the encounter, but they could not be confirmed. Bodies of the two dead jawans had not been brought back to Gadchiroli till the filing of this report. (Times of India 23/3/15)

158. Jethwa Calls upon Tribals to Shun Maoists for Growth (12)

NARAYANPATNA (KORAPUT):In a bid to dissuade the people from joining the Maoists and repose faith in security forces, Yeshwant Jethwa, IG, South West range, on Wednesday called upon the tribal youths to join hands with the administration for development of their area. Addressing a mammoth gathering during a community policing programme at Narayanpatna, the epicentre of Maoist activities in the KBK region, Jethwa pointed out that people of the bordering pockets of the area were neglected due to Maoist activities. The Red rebels are the root cause of backwardness of the area and their activities should be stopped for all-round development of the tribals, he said. Stating that Odisha Police and para-military forces have stepped up efforts to wipe out Maoists in Narayanpatna, Bandhugam and other pockets, Jethwa sought the support of locals. “We are ready to end the Maoist menace but locals should join hands and boost our efforts”, he said. Speaking on the occasion, Koraput Collector Yamini Sarangi highlighted the development schemes meant for Maoist infested areas and called upon the people to avail the benefits. Among others, Koraput SP CS Meena, BSF DIG AK Sharma also addressed the people. During the police-public interaction programme, locals sought development of infrastructural facilities and security for those who have been fighting against Maoists. During the programme, festive mood gripped Narayanpatna for the first time in over a decade. The locals, who have been living under the shadow of Maoist fear, danced with the men in uniform and participated in games organised on the occasion. The police administration also organised a health camp where over 500 people were screened. The locals said earlier it was not possible for the administration to host even a normal event due to the presence of Maoists and CMAS activists. However, regular combing operation by the police and BSF could free Narayanpatna and Bandhugam from the clutches of Maoists. Over 200 hardcore Maoists have been arrested, over 2000 CMAS activists including their leader Nachika Linga surrendered and a dozen Maoist camps destroyed in the bordering areas in past couple of months. (New Indian Express 26/3/15)

159. 2 CRPF personnel injured in bomb blasts triggered by Naxals (12)

Raipur: Two CRPF personnel were on Friday injured in separate pressure bomb blasts triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said. The blasts occurred at separate spots near Fundri village when the paramilitary personnel were conducting anti-Naxal operations under Bhairamgarh police station limits, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela said. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with pressure bombs planted by the Maoists in Fundri hills area that exploded, injuring sub-inspector B B Rai and constable Ravi Hari Patil belonging to 199th battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), he said. Reinforcement was rushed to both the places and the injured personnel were brought to Bijapur district hospital. Later, they were airlifted to Raipur for treatment, he said. A combing operation was underway in the region to nab the culprits, he added. (Indian Express 27/3/15)

160. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (The Economic Trimes 28/3/15)

TRAFFICKING

161. Offence cases against children pending trial: HC seeks details (1)

Bengaluru: The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday asked the government to give the number of cases of offences against children pending for trial in various courts in the State. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy also asked the State what specific steps had been taken to trace 782 children, who remain untraceable from among the 2,523 registered cases of missing children, between January 2014 and October 2014. The Bench was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by the High Court’s Legal Services Committee and Justice and Care, a non-profit organisation, complaining about the increase in instances of trafficking of children and women. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

162. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)

163. Woman among three held on trafficking charge (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Two Town police arrested L. Leela (38) of Ganjipeta for allegedly indulging in trafficking of young women along with two other persons in Chennai. According to Two Town Police Station Inspector Mallikarjun Rao, Gopalan of Chennai and Srinivasa Rao of Gudur had employed Leela to lure young women for jobs as housekeepers in Malaysia and Singapore, with the intention of employing them in the flesh trade business. Leela was first exposed in a sting operation by a television channel and later after seeing the reports, Nookaratnam of Ganjipeta approached the Two Town police and lodged a complaint accusing Leela and the two at Chennai for trafficking women. Talking to The Hindu , Nookaratnam said that she was one of the earlier victims of Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. “I was sent as a housekeeper on a tourist visa to Malaysia a few months ago. On reaching a city in Malaysia, I was taken to a beauty parlour and groomed up. And later put into flesh trade by force. My passport was taken by the organisers and it was a torturous experience, entertaining over 10 clients on a daily basis. After two months I was sent back,” she said. According to the Inspector, Leela was also one among the many who ventured to go to Singapore or Malaysia for better earnings, but was told by Srinivas to lure a few other women, so that she could earn some incentives.It was learnt that she had already sent a woman by name Raju from the city and was in the process of gathering a few more, when she was exposed. The police are on the job to apprehend Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. Meanwhile, the City Task Force have taken into custody Sai Prasad, a law student, who was responsible for processing the passports. (The Hindu 18/3/15)

 

164. HC directs district judge, CJM to speed up trafficking trials (1)

PUNE: The Bombay high court has directed the principal district judge and the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Pune to ensure that cases of trafficking of minor girls and women are assigned to the sessions judge who can give priority to their trials. The high court has also directed them to take steps to ensure that there is no delay in magisterial courts committing the proceedings in such cases to the sessions court. It further gave a month’s time to the district judges and CJMs across the state to give their views on a set of proposed guidelines for speedier trials in such cases. The bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice G S Kulkarni passed a four-page order to this effect on March 19 while hearing a criminal PIL filed by NGO Freedom Firm against the commissioner of Pune police others. Among other things, the NGO has raised various issues regarding the proceedings under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, 1956, and offences under the Indian Penal Code in relation to trafficking of minor girls and women and has proposed certain guidelines for speedier trial of such cases. The petitioner, represented by lawyer Gayatri Singh, has pointed out that cases remain pending for many years due to reasons like the accused not being traceable. But the victims, many of whom are minors at the time the offence was committed, remain in children’s homes and are not released as the criminal case concerned is pending. Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai placed on record a report filed by senior police inspector of the Faraskhana police station, detailing the cases pending in the Pune sessions court. The bench referred to this report and observed, “Many cases are pending since 2007-08. It also appears that in many such cases, which are pending for as long as four to seven years, the accused are not traceable in spite of issuance of non-bailable warrants and proclamations.” Pai submitted that unnecessary delay occurs on account of the time taken by magisterial courts to commit the cases to the sessions court. She further submitted that often the accused, particularly those charged with trafficking, go absconding after they are released on bail and police also find it difficult to trace the persons who stand sureties for such accused. As such, the investigating officer should be given an opportunity to verify the existence and antecedents of the sureties before the accused, who face charges of trafficking and running brothels, are released on bail, she said. She suggested stringent conditions for bail in such cases, like the accused being asked to file an affidavit mentioning the names, addresses and other particulars of sureties and giving the investigation officer an opportunity to verify such particulars before granting bail. Pai submitted that instead of granting bail to the traffickers, the trial court ought to see that such cases are expedited and the trial should preferably be completed in six months. The bench referred to these submissions while observing that the principal district judge and the CJM should take steps to ensure that there are no delays in the committal proceedings and that the cases be referred to judges who can give priority to trial of such matters. (Times of India 22/3/15)

165. 1,000 Children Missing, Jharkhand Emerges Trafficking Hub (1)

KHUNTI, JHARKHAND:  Jharkhand has emerged as India’s trafficking hub with thousands of tribal boys and girls, particularly minor girls being trafficked out of the state each year to Delhi and beyond. More than 4000 children went missing from the state in the last 10 years, and over 1000 are yet to be traced. Most of the missing children are from tribal communities, particularly minor girls who are trafficked to Delhi and beyond. While most of these girls go out for work, there has been a rise in the case of sex trafficking in the state too. Take the case of a 14 year old girl, trafficked from Khunti in Jharkhand to Sangrur in Punjab this January, and sold for Rs. 1 lakh to a 55-year-old man, as a child bride. She had been kidnapped after she was taken on an outing by a woman from her village, who has since been arrested along with four men.Another couple from Khunti , haven’t heard from their 12-year-old daughter since last November last, when she vanished from their home while here parents were out. The alleged trafficker has been arrested, but there is no trace yet of the girl. “Maybe someday my daughter will realise this is home and make noise, who knows,” says the emotional mother, who works at a stone crushing unit. Activists say the number of trafficked children is hugely under reported, and that the actual figures could be in lakhs. Rishi Kant , who runs Shakti Vahini, says, “Delhi has emerged as a major destination for these girls. Most of them are taken there to placement agencies with no registration, etc.” There is some good news too. Sub inspector Aradhana Singh has been in charge of Khunti’s child trafficking unit since 2014. Her catch in the last year was 20 big traffickers, including the biggest of them all, Panna Lal Mahto , who in the last decade could be responsible for the trafficking of over 20,000 girls. “I don’t think just his arrest makes any difference . He has a network of agents we need to break ,” says Sub Inspector Singh. (NDTV 23/3/15)

166. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (Times of India 29/3/15)

CORRUPTION

167. Coalgate scam: Manmohan Singh, Birla accused (5)

New Delhi: A special CBI court here on Wednesday summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in the Coalgate scam, a significant development that is likely to have a cascading effect on the country’s political situation. The case pertains to the allocation of Talabira II coal block (in Orissa) to Hindalco in 2005 and involves industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, who, along with former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, have also been summoned as accused. The court observed that the former PM was “roped” into a criminal conspiracy to “accommodate” a major private company in coal block allocation. Dr Singh held the coal portfolio in 2005. Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar in his order clarified that he was fully conscious of the observations made by him as the then minister of coal was none else but the then Prime Minister. “It will be also not wrong if I say that while coming to such a conclusion about prima facie involvement of the then Prime Minister in the present matter this court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realisation the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole,” he said. If found guilty, the accused may face punishment of up to life imprisonment as the court has taken cognisance of offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants or by banker, merchant or agent under the Indian Penal Code and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court noted that Dr Singh chose to keep the coal portfolio with him and “prima facie he cannot claim that being the Prime Minister he could not be expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case”. It said the “omission” of not referring the request of Hindalco to the screening committee in accordance with established procedure prima facie showed that it was a “conscious decision” by the accused to accommodate Hindalco in a joint coal block comprising Talabira-II and Talabira-III coal blocks. It observed that Dr Singh’s approval in violation of established procedure and already approved guidelines “clearly resulted in defeating the efforts of Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) “to establish a 2,000 MW power plant in Odisha”. “His (Dr Singh’s) action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, which was a PSU, and facilitated windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco,” the judge said….  (Asian Age 12/3/15)

168. Coalgate: Manmohan Singh to move Supreme Court against summons (5)

NEW DELHI: Manmohan Singh’s lawyers, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, are likely to move the Supreme Court to challenge the trial court’s order summoning the former PM as an accused in the alleged irregular allotment of Odisha’s Talabira II coal block to a joint venture of Hindalco. The option of moving Delhi HC to challenge the trial court decision, the normal course of grievance redressal in a three-tier justice delivery system, is ruled out because of a July 25, 2014 apex court order, which monitored the CBI probe into the alleged irregular coal block allotments during the UPA and previous NDA governments and cancelled all 214 allocations during that period. “We make it clear that any prayer for stay or impeding the progress in the investigation/trial can be made only before this court and no other court shall entertain the same,” the July 25 order said. Special Judge Bharat Parashar, trying the coal scam cases investigated by CBI under SC supervision in his summoning order focused on Singh’s role, not as PM but as coal minister. The trial judge said Singh as coal minister allowed reopening of the allocation “even though he himself had permitted approval of the minutes of 25th Screening Committee recommending allocation of the same block to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), a PSU”. “Repeated reminders from PMO, written as well as telephonic, to ministry of coal to expeditiously process the matter in view of letters received from Kumar Mangalam Birla prime facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by PMO in the matter,” the judge said. Singh’s action, the judge said, defeated NLC’s efforts to set up a 2,000-MW power plant in Odisha. “His action prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, a PSU, and facilitated windfall profi ts to a private company, Hindalco.” Sibal thinks little of the trial court’s order and feels it would meet a fate similar to the summons issued to Sunil Mittal and Ravi Ruia by the 2G spectrum scam trial court. SC had quashed the summons to the industrialists. Asked if the strong opinion of the trial judge posed diffi culty for Singh, Sibal said: “The conspiracy and criminal breach of trust charges perceived by the judge from the investigation report and accompanying evidence have no (legal) limb to stand on.”  ”If taking an administrative decision and asking the coal ministry to expedite the process could land a PM in litigation, that too as an accused after he demits office, then every PM would be wary of taking such decisions for the fear of being summoned as an accused. There’s no evidence to even prima facie conclude Singh indulged in any wrongdoing, forget corruption,” he said. (Times of India 13/3/15)

169. Kerala assembly chaos echoes in Parliament (5)

New Delhi: The fracas in Kerala assembly today found its echo in both Houses of Parliament, with Congress and Left members from the state indulging in a verbal spat and the Chair disallowing them from raising of the issue. As soon as the Question Hour began in Lok Sabha, members of Left parties and Congress from Kerala raised the issue that soon turned into a verbal spat, prompting the government to urge the Chair to ensure that the issue is not allowed to be raised in the House. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to disallow them from raising the matter as it pertained to a state legislature. In the Rajya Sabha, K N Balagopal (CPI-M) tried to raise the issue during Zero Hour but was disallowed by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, saying whatever references made about Kerala Assembly have been expunged. Balagopal got up to raise the issue of the happenings in Kerala when the budget has to be passed by the state assembly and alleged that top leaders of the ruling coalition UDF were facing charges in the bar bribery scam. Kerala Assembly today witnessed unprecedented and ugly scenes as Finance Minister K M Mani, facing allegations in the bar bribery issue, presented the state budget amid stiff resistance by LDF-led Opposition who tried all means to thwart his attempt. In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge tried to raise the issue of attack on Tamil T V channel allegedly by a Hindu outfit, but the Chair disallowed him. (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

170. Number of women caught in bribery cases rising (5)

AHMEDABAD: Till 2012, the number of women caught as primary accused or intermediary in a bribery case by state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) was minuscule. However, in past three years, the number has shot up steadily. In past six months the agency has caught eight women across the state on graft charges including two class I officers. The percentage however in overall cases is less than 5%, admits ACB officials. “A case is a case for us and we don’t see gender when it comes to registration or investigation of cases. However, it is a fact that the number of women getting booked in graft cases have gone up,” said a senior ACB official. ACB officials said that in most of the cases where the women were caught, it was found that their husbands were involved as middlemen. “While in one of the case the accused husband was working in her office as a clerk, in another the woman’s husband used to deal on her behalf and get her files for clearance. Thus, they were made co-accused in the cases,” said an official. Officials cited an interesting case registered in 2014 where they had received a complaint of corrupt practices at a village in north Gujarat. The village had a woman sarpanch. During their investigation, ACB found that it was the sarpanch’s husband who used to get money for getting the work done while the sarpanch did not know about it. ACB had arrested the man in the case as they did not find evidence against the sarpanch. (Times of India 17/3/15)

171. With Auctions, Corruption is Disappearing from India: Jaitley (5)

NEW DELHI: Corruption is disappering owing to the way the government is managing the allocation of the country’s natural resources, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said citing the on-going auctions of spectrum and coal mines whose earlier allotments were cancelled by the Supreme Court. “Corruption is disappearing from the Indian dictionary, if you see spectrum, coal,” Jaitley told the Lok Sabha in his reply to the debate on his first full union budget presented last month. Addressing an intervention by a Congress member, the finance minister said: “In spectrum, you brought in a host of cases, in coal…all the corruption was caught by the Supreme Court, the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General). Referring to the former prime minister in this connection, Jaitley said that “Manmohan Singh in his first two months in office in 2004 had said coal blocks should be auctioned, but till 2014, nothing had been done”.”Today because of this faulty decision, we have a situation in which the former PM has been caught. In future, there should not be a situation in which an ex-PM is summoned by court.” In fact, in a move designed to be doubly sure about coal allocations this time around, the government is re-examining the e-auction of coal blocks won by Balco, Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) and BS Ispat. JSPL was the successful bidder for Gare Palma IV 2 and Gare Palma IV 3 mines, Balco successfully bid Gare Palma IV/1, and BS Ispat bagged Marki Mangli III mine. The central government has asked for a review of the bidding process of the mines by the nominated authority, which has published the results of only 8 out of 13 mines that have been auctioned. The bids for the five undeclared blocks closed in five to eight rounds, while difference between the opening price and closing price was much lower than other blocks, a coal ministry source told IANS on Tuesday. For instance in case of the Brinda and Sasai block, bidding opened at Rs.1,802 per tonne and closed at Rs.1,804 per tonne. Similarly, bidding for the Meral mine opened at Rs.725 a tonne and closed at Rs.727 a tonne. (New Indian Express 18/3/15)

 

172. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

173. Coal scam much bigger than it was thought: PM (5)

Hussainwala: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the coal blocks allocation scam during the tenure of the previous UPA government at the centre was much bigger than the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report. Addressing a martyr’s rally after paying homage to martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at their memorial in Hussainiwala in Punjab’s frontier district of Ferozepur, the prime minister made a direct attack on the UPA government over the coalgate scam. “The coal scam was thought to Rs 1.76 lakh crore as per the CAG report. Some people said that the amount was exaggerated. It has turned out to be much bigger than that figure. Only 20 coal blocks out of 204 blocks have been auctioned by our government so far and over Rs.two lakh crore has already collected. Rest of the coal blocks yet to be auctioned. Imagine how much more money will come for the development of the country,” Modi, sporting a yellow turban, which is symbolic to martyr Bhagat Singh, said. “Corruption has ruined our country,” he lamented, adding that martyrs like Bhagat Singh had not sacrificed their lives to see the country in this situation. Highlighting another scandal related to purchase of LED bulbs by the UPA government, Modi said: “The previous government bought LED bulbs at Rs.300 per bulb in 2014. We have bought the same for Rs.80 apiece. There was rampant corruption everywhere.” Modi arrived here Monday afternoon and paid homage to freedom struggle martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The prime minister placed a wreath at the martyrs’ memorial and bowed with folded hands. (Business Standard 23/3/15)

174. Himachal governor declines Dhumal’s prosecution (5)

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision to decline sanction for the prosecution of former chief minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal is all set to snowball into a major legal controversy. Responding to the developments, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday made it categorically clear that it’s now for the courts to decide the issue. Acting on a plea by Dhumal, the governor asserted that enough evidence was not there to prosecute the BJP leader. The Rajasthan governor, who holds additional charge of the hill state, called for the documents relating to the case and made his observations in a communication to the state, official sources said. The state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau filed a charge sheet against Dhumal and three top government officials, who are now retired, on March 13 for alleged misuse of position when Dhumal was the chief minister in 2007. Official sources said that in a knee-jerk reaction to summoning of the records, the government on the same day filed the charge sheet. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for favouring Indian Police Service (IPS) officer A.N. Sharma. Clarifying his government’s stand, Virbhadra Singh said the government decided to file charge sheet in the court after previous governor Urmila Singh, whose term ended on January 24, advised the government that there was no need for her intervention to grant prosecution sanction against Dhumal. The chief minister told reporters here that Urmila Singh took the call after taking legal opinion and taking into consideration Supreme Court rulings. Refusing to comment on Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision, Virbhadra Singh said: “He (the governor) might be advised to write this way.” The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau last June registered a case against Dhumal for alleged misuse of position. Former IPS officer Sharma, who is also named in the first information report (FIR), had applied for voluntary retirement from the police service to contest the 2007 assembly elections on a BJP ticket. But he did not get the ticket. At that time, the Congress led by Virbhadra Singh was in power in the state. In the 2007 assembly elections, the BJP returned to power. The BJP allowed Sharma to withdraw his resignation to rejoin the service. The BJP government led by Dhumal promoted Sharma to the rank of inspector general of police. The FIR was registered under different sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Then chief secretary Ravi Dhingra and then home secretary P.C. Kapoor, whose prosecution sanction was granted by the court on March 11, were also named in the case. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

175. Congress to target BJP in 3 states on corruption (5)

New Delhi: The Congress has made three BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, its target on the corruption issue and decided to raise malpractice in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board and rice scam in the Chhattisgarh PDS scheme in Parliament next month. “We are exposing the Rs 4,000-crore betting scam in Gujarat soon,” Congress officials said.While the party is mounting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act on the reports of scams in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it has demanded Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to be made an accused in the Vyapam scam. On Wednesday, AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi demanded that Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh step down and the PDS rice scam be probed by a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge. While the Gujarat Assembly polls are due in January 2018, MP and Chhattisgarh would go to the polls expectedly in December the same year. A change of guard in these three states by the BJP leadership could be seen as a victory for the Congress and if these chief ministers continue till the polls, then the Opposition will make corruption and scams a major poll issue. Scams in 2G spectrum and coal blocks allocation during the UPA regime became a major poll issue against the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections along with the allegations of irregularities in the Commonwealth Games. Building a case against the PDS rice scam in Chhattisgarh after a diary surfaced containing names of the alleged beneficiaries, Mr Singhvi said: “In the garb of providing rice at Rs 1 per kg under the much-touted PDS scheme, the BJP government in Chhattisgarh has created a well-oiled corruption machine in connivance with rice mill owners… to earn thousands of crores in kickbacks and commission.” At a joint press conference attended by top party leaders from Chhattisgarh and AICC general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, Mr Singhvi also accused the Raman Singh government of resorting to corruption in distribution of commodities like salt, gram flour, kerosene and wheat. The magnitude of the scam could be gauged from the fact that during the past 11 years of the BJP rule in Chhattisgarh, the amount spent from public exchequer on procurement of paddy as also procurement and supply of various PDS items through the State Civil Supplies Corporation is approximately Rs 1,50,000 crore, the party said. Mr Singhvi alleged that the diary of one Shiv Shankar Bhatt of the State Civil Supplies Corporation revealed the story of “unprecedented corruption of unimaginable magnitude” by the chief minister, his wife, sister-in-law and in-laws as also some state ministers and officials. The Congress leader claimed that commissions were paid by millers for adulteration of bad quality rice in good rice meant for distribution under PDS. State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and CLP leader T.P. Singhdeo were present at the press meet. Mr Singhvi said the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), probing the scam, has recovered two more diaries exposing the “well-oiled wheel of corruption”. Demanding an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court/high court judge into the scam, he said this was necessary as the ACB chief has himself conceded that it was beyond him to even think of probing those in the highest echelons of the state. The Congress also wanted Mr Singh to quit as chief minister to ensure that there is a “fair and impartial probe”. Mr Singhvi said so far only 12 junior-level employees of the corporation have been arrested in connection with the scam. (Asian Age 26/3/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

176. ‘Sunderbans hardly prepared for climate change, migration’ (9)

Kolkata: The fragile Sunderbans – the largest mangrove forests and delta region spread over both Bangladesh and India – is “hardly prepared” for climate change-related issues, experts said here on Thursday. Policy makers, academicians, civil society organisations and community development experts said gaps in preparedness in the face of submergence of islands in Sunderbans and the consequent mass migration needs to be addressed “immediately” and at a global level. “Bay of Bengal harbouring all coastal countries – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Indonesia – have the highest record of disasters historically and the frequency of disasters is six times more in this region than that in any part of the world,” said climate change expert Saroj Dash. He was speaking at the third sub-regional workshop on community resilience to climate change in Bay of Bengal organised by World Vision India. The previous editions of the workshop were held in Odisha (2012) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013). “Sunderbans flanked by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world and one of the most densely populated region on earth. It is hardly prepared for even partial submergence and consequent mass migration,” said Dash, regional technical co-ordinator, climate change, Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organisation. Observations such as these will be part of a charter that will feed into two forthcoming key global events – the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, and finally targeting the Sustainable Development Goals 2015. Aiming to build resilience to climate change in the region, the charter will focus on women and children. “Women and children are the most vulnerable because of food security, health and migratory issues. “Their identities and empowerment have a lot to do with their homes and if that is washed away due to floods and other disasters, then they suffer,” said Ardhendu Sekhar Chatterjee, a leading figure in sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry. In addition to highlighting adaptation, biodiversity, climate change impact monitoring and assessment, experts also called for building up more active networks of parliamentarians of countries in the Bay of Bengal. “The need of the hour is to build up more and more active networks of MPs to combat climate change. Capacity development of parliamentarians could also have a positive impact on international climate negotiations,” said Mukul Sharma, regional director-South Asia, Climate Parliament. (New Kerala 12/3/15)

177. MPCB slaps notice on Sterlite for violating green norms (9)

AURANGABAD: The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Friday issued a show cause notice to industrial giant Sterlite Technologies Ltd for allegedly violation of consent conditions following a case involving dumping of hazardous acid, a byproduct of the company, into the Kham River. The MIDC Waluj police had on March 28 arrested five persons, including a corporator and a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader, for allegedly dumping spent hydrochloric (HCL) acid in the river passing through the Waluj industrial area. Eventually, the police and MPCB found that spend hydrochloric acid was a by-product of the Sterlite unit. The board stated that the company has violated the consent norms under Section 26 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and under section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 and under the Hazardous Waste Management Handling and Trans-boundary Movement Rules, 2008.. “The consent obtained by the company for manufacturing of optical fiber, silicon tetrachloride (SiCl4), glass performs, power generation, hydrogen, oxygen and by-product as Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), HCL and Sodium Hypochlorite was valid up to June 30, 2014,” read the notice. “However, it was obligatory on the part of the company to comply with the conditions stipulated in the consent,” it added. The MPCB said when the company had shown HCL as a byproduct in consent and on paper, it was sold as byproducts to parties. But ultimately it was observed that it was dumped into the Kham River illegally, polluting the river and violating the provisions of the Environment Act, it added. The MPCB stated that though the renewal consent was approved by it at a meeting held on September 23, 2014, the company failed to submit the required documents till date. “Whereas, the inspector of the Waluj police station has found seven tankers carrying HCL near the banks of the Kham River standing on the premises of Gujarat Freight Transport Office early on February 2 morning. One tanker disposed the entire acidic effluent containing spent HCL willfully and purposely into the Kham River through pipeline,” the notice stated. “All the seven tankers were detained by the police and an FIR has been lodged against the seven tankers disposing spent HCL acid with the Waluj police station. On the request of the Waluj police station, the MPCB sub-regional officer collected effluent samples from all seven tankers. The analysis reports of all the effluent in the tankers were found highly acidic in nature with pH less than 1 and high Total dissolved solids (TDS) and chlorides,” it added. “Moreover, when the MPCB officials visited the industry for investigations, it was found that the seven tankers carrying HCL acid were found to be of Sterlite and was sold to contractors of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Kalyan. The industry did not bother to comply with the environmental Laws and was negligent towards pollution prevention,” the board stated in the notice. The board has instructed the company to submit its reply within seven days after the receipt of the notice. If it fails to do so, the board then would issue directions to close down its manufacturing unit and direct authorities concerned to disconnect water and electricity supplies. Anil Bhadauria, Sterlite plant head, Aurangabad facility, said, “Our plants have always followed the best standards in manufacturing and research, and we remain committed to our stated goals of quality and environmental sustainability.” “The byproducts are allowed to be sold to recyclers/end-users as per provisions of law. These companies are responsible for utilising the same. Sterlite is in no way connected with the recent incident of HCL disposal,” he said. “We have already initiated legal action against companies involved in the incident. Besides, we have also invested close to Rs 50cr in setting up ‘Advanced pollution control systems’ at our Waluj facility and effluents are treated 100% within the facility,” said Bhadauria. “The management will now ensure that HCL containers are fitted with GPS system to track their movement henceforth to avoid any nuances in future,” he added. (Times of India 14/3/15)

178. NGO seeks execution of NGT order in Delhi (9)

New Delhi: The All India Lokadhikar Sangathan has written to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee urging immediate execution of the National Green Tribunal’s order to shut down stainless steel pickling units in Wazirpur, New Delhi. “We are in the process of moving an application before the Tribunal soon for the execution of the directions due to the continuous pollution of river Yamuna because of negligence by the DPCC in not taking action against illegal functioning of industries,” said Girish Kumar Pandey, President of the All India Lokadhikar Sangathan. In its order of January 22, the NGT had asked DPCC to shut down 17 pickling units. The NGT had also directed the DPCC to ensure that no unit should operate without the consent of the Pollution Control Board in the region. The tribunal had issued notices to several industrial units in October 2014 for discharging harmful effluents into drains that empty into river Yamuna. (HBL 16/3/15)

179. Concern over pollution by power plants in VidShakti Singh, (9)

NAGPUR: The environment activists and NGOs from across the city on Tuesday gathered to discuss and formulate plans through which they could make a difference to prevent ecological damages taking place in Vidarbha. According to majority of such NGOs, by setting up power plants in Maharashtra concentrated across Vidarbha, the water resources and forests of the region were being compromised at the cost of supplying power to other parts of the state. The discussion took place in the meeting organized by RTM Nagpur University Alumni Association (RTMNUAA) at Nagpur University Library, where Advocate Shrihari Aney was guest speaker. NGOs like Vidarbha Environmental Action Group (VEAG), Vidarbha Connect, Shrusti Paryavaran Sanstha and other local organizations took part in the meeting. Aney said, “Adivasis and farmers, who formed the major human resource of Vidarbha, were being treated absurdly. By creating reserved forests for power plants the government had simply knocked out Adivasis who otherwise used forest for their own livelihood.” Talking about the power plant harming the farming sector, Aney said, “The government instead of creating canal irrigation for farmers to use water is selling the same to power plants.” On this, the RTMNUAA secretary Sudhir Paliwal said, “The upcoming Adani Power Plant project undertaken at Pench will basically steal surplus water from Pench river. The river being the artificial reservoir created by early fishermen is still being used for breeding fish. The complete reservoir is going to be ruined to entertain the upcoming project, hence wasting water as well as livelihood of those fishermen.” Another troubling factor discussed was of Koradi Power Plant, which was continuously emitting mercury, thus polluting its lake. He also told, “Koradi has been majorly supplying fish and milk to Nagpur, which are highly infected with mercury.” According to Paliwal, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been suggesting eco-friendly norms for setting up as well as running the thermal power plants where the radio activity in the ambient air should be measured regularly. “We also suggested instead of investing fresh water of the city in such power plants, treated sewage water be used,” he said adding the state government had been openly neglecting these suggestions. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

180. NGOs asks Centre to stop building mega dams (9)

IMPHAL, March 19 – The North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF) has asked the Government of India to stop construction of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam project, 2700 MW Lower Demwe HE project and the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam. Expressing strong disapproval over the Union Government’s decision and its initiation of building mega dams and various other multipurpose hydroelectric projects across the entire Northeastern States, NEDF, a conglomerate of different NE-based NGOs, has demanded revocation of all such policies including Manipur Hydro Power Policy 2012 in public interest. This was conveyed to media persons at a hurriedly called press conference here by the NEDF. The press meet was attended by NGO activists from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and NEDF members. The NGO representatives expressed serious concern over the aggressive plan of the Government of India to construct more than 200 mega dams across North East which will lead to complete destruction of the rich biodiversity of the region, without addressing the needs of the local populace. They further alleged that such move to construct mega dams was initiated without impact assessment and without prior informed consent of the people. The Forum further asked the international funding agencies like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japanese Bank of International Cooperation to discontinue financing energy projects without recognising the traditional right of indigenous people over their land and without taking free, prior and informed consent. The forum members further demanded the decommissioning of all the non-performing mega dams. It also asked the government to assess the performance of previously failed and underperforming dams in the region. It further asked the government to cease the militarisation in the name of development in the NE region and respect the human rights of the indigenous people as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of People, 2007 and recommendation of the World Commission on Dam. (The Assam Tribune 20/3/15)

181. mIndia should prepare to face extreme weather, warn scientists (9)

Bengaluru: Around the same time as Cyclone Pam flattened the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu early this month, untimely rains and hailstorms lashed Maharashtra in India destroying at least 5.5 million hectares of winter crops. That was a big jolt to the nation still recovering from the worst calamity of its kind in Uttarakhand in June 2013 when thousands perished in flooding and landslides induced by heavy rains and, in September 2014, from the flash floods in Srinagar, the deadliest to hit the valley in 60 years. The list of extreme weather events that crippled life in India in recent times gets longer when one includes the July 26, 2005, downpour — the heaviest in recorded history — that flooded the entire city of Mumbai and the August 6, 2010, cloudburst in Leh that dumped 14 inches of rain in two hours. It was not just the extreme rain events that have surprised weathermen. The longest heat wave that swept northern India in June 2014 drove Delhi’s temperature to 47.6 degrees Celsius, the hottest in 62 years. According to Global Climate Risk Index, published by Germanwatch, India is one of the three countries (besides the Philippines and Cambodia) affected by the most extreme weather events in 2013. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that “rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events”.”There has been a 50 percent increase in extreme rainfall events during the past 50 years in India,” Jayaraman Srinivasan, chairman of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bengaluru, wrote in the journal Current Science after the Uttarakhand disaster. “During the past few months there have been a few unusual weather events but there is no clear indication that these are related to global warming,” Srinivasan told IANS. “I would argue that earth’s weather and climate are governed by non-linear processes, and hence one should expect unusual weather events now and then.” He, however, added that “extreme rainfall events will increase as global warming proceeds unabated, and hence it is absolutely essential for us to be prepared to tackle more extreme rainfall events in the future”. Bhupendra Nath Goswami, former director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, says his studies have shown that the occurrence of “extreme rainfall events” had been increasing over the country in the last five-six decades. “We can say with a high degree of confidence that this increasing trend is due to global warming,” Goswami told IANS. Global warming, Goswami said, “increases the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere and makes it more convectively unstable, facilitating a stronger rain event. “Because the atmosphere has become more unstable over the whole country, one or more such events can occur anywhere at a given time.” Goswami said that all climate models predict an increasing trend of these extreme events into the future. Therefore, “there is strong reason to prepare ourselves to face the potential disasters associated with increasing frequency and intensity of these events”.”This erratic behaviour is a regional manifestation of climate change,” says R. Krishnan, a senior scientist at IITM, who has made a detailed analysis of long-term climate data sets. “Our findings show that the pronounced surface warming of the Tibetan Plateau has altered the spatial distribution of atmospheric temperature, strengthened the sub-tropical westerly winds over the region and created favourable conditions for increased variability of the Western Disturbances activity,” Krishnan told IANS. Western disturbance is a low pressure system that originates over the Mediterranean sea and moves eastwards, bringing winter rain and snow to the north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent. Some British scientists suggest a possible link between the extreme events in mid-latitudes and rapid loss of the ice cap that covers the Arctic Ocean….  (Zee News 24/3/15)

182. Centre mulls giving 90 per cent afforestation fund to states (9)

MUMBAI: In a bid to boost afforestation activities, the Centre is mulling to hand over 90 per cent of the Rs 36,000 crore compensatory afforestation management fund directly to all the states, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said. The fund was created from the penalties collected from corporates for not meeting the mandatory compensatory afforestation drives. “We want to pass on Rs 33,000 crore or 90 per cent of the compensatory afforestation management fund worth Rs 36,000 crore directly to the states to boost the environment activities across the country,” the Union minister of state for environment, forests and climate change said during an Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) event here late this evening. The minister, however, said that for the funds to be directly transferred to the state, the Forests Act has to be amended. The Centre is also planning to bring in a new set of regulations by amending the existing ones. “We are planning to introduce the new set of laws and regulations during the second part of the ongoing Budget session. The idea is to ensure concrete action for greening the forests in degraded forest land,” Javadekar told PTI on the sidelines of the event. The minister outlined the blueprint on policy measures by his ministry and the government while addressing the gathering earlier. Stressing optimum use of advancing technology, he said, “We want to incorporate latest technology to change environment protection via focused regulatory mechanism through three pertinent measures namely, round the clock pollution monitoring of 3,026 industrial units in the seven most polluting sectors; leveraging satellite technology to monitor projects, and finally GPS-based management monitoring and compliance regime to ensure implementation.” Talking about the initiatives being undertaken by the government towards maintaining a balance between development and ecology, he said, “We are in mission mode, not commission mode. With our clean water, clean air, clean energy mission, we are determined to change and allow growth on one hand and protect the environment on the other.” “We will be going to the upcoming Paris Agreement on climate change in December with a positive agenda with a view to increasing the energy efficiency by 20-25 per cent in all sectors,” he added. (Times of India 25/3/15)

183. Environmental laws being reviewed to give more teeth: Prakash Javadekar (9)

HYDERABAD: The Centre is reviewing all environmental laws with an aim to give them more teeth and hand severe punishment in cases of encroachment and violation, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday. Speaking to PTI here, Javadekar said two Forest Acts, and one each in environment protection, air, water and bio-diversity govern the whole environmental regime. “We are reviewing all these laws to make people participatory in it … make them more meaningful and give more teeth. Instances of violations and encroachments will be severely punished,” he said. The minister said the government will come out with draft laws after completing the review work, he said. Earlier, interacting with joggers at KBR Park here, Javadekar said India is currently faced with the problem of shrinking space and limited resources. “We (India) are just 2.5 per cent of the world’s land mass, and we are 17 per cent of the (global) human population and 70 per cent of cattle population. It’s a huge pressure on land resources,” he added. (Times of India 28/3/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

184. Farmer who took part in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ kills self (20)

MUMBAI: A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday.Image for representation A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Modi had addressed a series of ‘Chai pe Charcha’ programmes which received tremendous response. “Farmers who had participated in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ with Modi, are committing suicides,”  Patil, NCP group leader in Maharashtra Legislative  Assembly, told reporters in the Vidhan Bhavan complex, while referring to the suicide committed by Vithal Rathod (45), who hailed from Dabhadi village in Yavatmal. He had committed suicide on February 24. “On March 20 last year, Modi held a ‘Chai pe Charcha’ at Dabhadi village in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. He assured farmers that if they elect him, he will solve all their problems. It’s nine months since he (Modi) came to power. Farmers waited for a long time, but with no relief coming, Rathod committed suicide,” he said. He said Rathod committed suicide “due to burden of loan”. “It is the biggest failure in the country that the assurance given by its top leader cannot give confidence to farmers,” Patil said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

185. Farmers want govt. to ensure them guaranteed income (20)

BENGALURU: With two days left for the presentation of the State Budget, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president Kodihalli Chandrashekar on Wednesday demanded that the government ensure them guaranteed income by setting up a farmers’ income guarantee commission. But differing in terms of approach, Economist Abdul Aziz advocated the need to consider farmers as a “special social category” on the lines of oppressed sections such as Dalits and backward classes so that they too would get support guaranteed from the government for their welfare, including reservation in jobs and education. Expressing concern over the plight of farmers at a seminar on ‘Farmers and budget’ organised by the KRRS and Hasiru Sene here, Mr. Chandrashekar alleged that both the State and the Centre were looking at the agricultural sector only from the point of food security of the country and they did not have concern for the welfare of farmers. Alleging that the Union Budget had ignored agricultural sector and focussed only on corporate welfare, he said farmers were now looking forward to getting some support from the State Budget. University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, Vice-Chancellor H. Shivanna assured farmers of holding a meeting with their representatives to elicit their views and conveying them to the government. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

186. Farmer suicides: 20 yrs on, no relief yet for families (20)

HYDERABAD: The official claim notwithstanding, governments of AP and Telangana have failed to pay compensation to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide due to mounting agricultural debts. As many as 28,358 farmers committed suicide in Telangana and 12,016 in Andhra Pradesh in the last two decades, according to National Crime Records Bureau. But rights activists claim that only 4,442 ryot families in Telangana and 2,200 families in Andhra Pradesh received the much-touted compensation from the government under the ‘economic support and rehabilitation package’. This in other words means that a mere 15% of farm families in Telangana and 18% in AP actually benefited from the compensation package. A fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) on Sunday visited five villages in Chevella and Vikarabad mandals of Ranga Reddy district to ascertain the government claim that compensation is paid immediately to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide. The HRF team led by its general secretary VS Krishna randomly selected families of seven farmers, who had ended their life unable to bear frequent crop loss and consequent financial burden. The team was surprised to find that only one of the seven families had actually got the compensation. The HRF members interacted with the farmers at Kesaram, Kammeta, Kandlapalli, Dannaram and Pileru villages. Kummari Ramulu, a tenant farmer, who grows cotton in Kesaram village of Chevella mandal, killed himself unable to cope up with the pressure of money lenders from whom he borrowed about Rs 3 lakh for cultivation. He consumed pesticide on November 17, 2014. Even after four months, no government official visited the family for verification and payment of compensation. There are two more victims in the same village, whose families do not even know that they are entitled to compensation. Of the seven families the team visited, only one from Pileru village in Vikarabad mandal has received the compensation. “This clearly shows the careless attitude of the officials. Even after several months no official has visited the devastated families. Farm suicide is a crisis of unimaginable proportion. The least the government could do is to ensure the families are looked after,” Krishna said. When contacted Chandra Mohan, RDO of Chevella, who chairs the compensation committee, said they are trying to speed up the process of verification to pay compensation. “We are trying to verify as many cases as possible so that the families do not suffer. It is true that there has been a delay in the verification process, but I have instructed officials to get data at the earliest.” (Times of India 16/3/15)

187. Farmer unions begin 4-day protests in Malwa (20)

BATHINDA: Demanding five-marla residential plots for homeless, financial assistance to families of labourers who committed suicide, arrears of MNREGA scheme and old-age pension, hundreds Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union members on Tuesday started a four-day dharna at deputy commissioners’ offices in more than half a dozen districts in Malwa region. Dharnas were held in Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Mansa, Sangrur and Bathinda. As the protesters were not allowed to hold a dharna near the district administrative complex in Bathinda, they held it at children’s park. “Punjab government in 2014 had promised to allot plots to homeless labourers, but has not done it till now. The government has also failed to financially compensate the suicide-hit families and is not giving money meant for MNREGA and pension to deserving persons,” Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union state president Jora Singh Nasrali and general secretary Lachman Sewewala said. (Times of India 18/3/15)

 

188. Two more farmers end lives, one die of shock due to crop loss (20)

Kota: Two more farmers allegedly committed suicide while another died of shock after seeing their crops destroyed in untimely rains, police said on Sunday. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on Saturday evening in Ladpur village of Keshoraipatan police station area of Bundi district, they said. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops caused by recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm, they said. The body was found hanging from a tree in a field, police said, adding, a case under section 174 of CrPc was registered in this regard. In a second such incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village of Boodadit police station, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land on Thursday evening. The body was found among the bushes on the way to nearby village, police said, adding, that after conducting post-mortem the body was handed over to the family members. In another incident, Rameshawar Tiwari (68), a resident of Hanotiya village of Kota district died on Friday. According to the family members, Tiwari suddenly fell ill and restless after seeing the damaged crops of coriander over his 40 bighas of land. He was rushed to hospital where the doctors declared him dead. Meanwhile, farmers at Jalunda village of Bundi district claimed that no survey team or relief work has reached them yet. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had visited villages in the district here on March 20 where she met farmers, who have suffered crop and livestock losses, and expressed solidarity with them. When asked about the survey and relief work, ruling BJP MLA from Ladpura area of Kota Bhawani Singh Rajawat said the state government has already announced a relief package to the rain-affected farmers and ensured that assistance to the farmers would reach within five to six days. State president of Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sandeep Singh Choudhary demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. He also demanded exemption of electricity bills for the affected farmers for the next six months. At least 11 farmers have died so far in Kota division of Rajasthan. (Zee News 22/3/15)

189. 89 farmers have committed suicide: Gujarat Government (20)

AHMEDABAD: The State government which has been claiming that no farmer in Gujarat has committed suicide has admitted that in the state 89 farmers have committed suicide in the state since 2010. However of these 11 suicide were directly related to failure of crop of increase in debt due to farmer. In reply to the question of Viramgam MLA Tejashreeben Patel, the state government said that of the 11 death in three and half years there were three suicide related to increase in depth due to agriculture, while another eight death were due to increase in debt and 78 suicides were due to other reasons. The Government has stated that no farmers had committed suicide due to crop failure. The Government said that the three suicide which were committed due to increasing in debt due to Agriculture one each death was reported from Amreli, Bhavnagar and Surat district. These three suicides occurred in seven months of July. Also due to increase in debt the eight death were reported from three from Jamnagar, two from Porbandar and one each from Surendranagar, Gandhinagar and Dang. The officials said refusing to quote said in 2014 there was a delay in the rains and the farmers who had gone in for early sowing were forced to commit suicide. Similarly the other eight deaths which were reported due to increase in debt was because the farmers were getting money from private lenders instead of going to the banks. However, farmers union refusing to be quoted said that these eight debt were also directly related to the agriculture as the farmer is forced to borrow money if he does not good income of his produce. Also of the 78 suicide deaths also the government has tried to divert it to other issues. “One should go and inquire each case and they will find out that all the deaths were due to increase in debt of the farmers due to failure of crop.” (Times of India 24/3/15)

190. ‘Give aid to farmers in Rajasthan’ (20)

The Opposition Congress Wednesday demanded a similar relief package to Rajasthan farmers as the one given to the farmers in Jammu and Kashmir following the natural calamity there last year. Claiming that farmers are committing suicide due to heavy rains and hailstorm, Congress MLA from Sapotara Ramesh Meena accused the BJP government of not providing compensation to farmers. “The farmers are severely distressed as they see no hope of government relief. The government must write off their loans and electricity bills,” he said, adding that 14 farmers have already taken their lives as they are counting losses from crop damage and loss of cattle. “J&K was given special assistance of Rs 1,000 crore but Rajasthan is not being provided special package despite the fact that the BJP is in power at both the Centre and the state,” he said. Relief minister Gulab Chand Kataria, however, claimed that the state government has acted swiftly. “Families of farmers who died because of rains and hailstorm have been provided Rs 3 lakh. The government had transferred money online into the accounts of district collectors on the basis of their demands,” he said. According to him, the Girdawari report would be submitted in the next three days after which the farmers who have suffered more than 50 per cent damages would be paid relief. Kataria however asked the legislator not to link suicide deaths with those affected by the natural calamity. He said that the government has been verifying cause of their suicide. Meanwhile, two more farmers committed suicide in Kota division bringing the total number of farmers’ suicide because of financial distress due to hailstorm. So far, seven farmers have died in Bundi, four in Kota and three in Baran districts. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly hanged himself on Saturday evening. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops the police said. In another incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village allegedly consumed poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land. Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sangh President, Sandeep Singh Choudhary has demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. (Asian Age 26/3/15)

191. Ban on potato export led to farmers’ suicide: Opposition (20)

Kolkata: Experts and Opposition leaders heaped criticism on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Government’s policy of banning the export of potato to the neighbouring States for its reduction in demand in these States. They said that the decision was not financially logical and had contributed to reduced prices of potato this year leading to farmers’ suicide. State’s Agriculture Minister Purnendu Basu refuted this statement. So far, 17 potato farmers’ suicides have been reported in Bengal. In 2013, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had imposed restrictions on export of potato to other States to curb its rising price in Bengal, which continued for one-and-a-half years. These restrictions were however eased last year. Encouraged by the profit gained from potato farming last year, farmers had sown potato in more than 4 lakh hectares of land. The chairperson of the Pradeshik Krishak Sabha, the peasant wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Madan Ghosh said that the West Bengal Government’s decision to restrict the export of potato to neighbouring States left them with no choice but to increase their own yield of potato. “As a result, traders from other States lost interest in importing potato from West Bengal and our farmers lost an essential means to sell their crop,” he told The Hindu here on Sunday. Mr. Ghosh said that the potato production this year had crossed 1 crore tonne compared to the normal yield of 90 lakh tonne. “So the State government’s decision to purchase 50,000 metric tonne directly from farmers is grossly inadequate,” he said, adding the State’s cold storages maximum capacity was only 65 lakh tonne. Speaking in the same vein, professor of Economics and Rural Development in Vidyasagar University Sebak Kumar Jana said that the decision to ban export of potato was not financially logical. “If there was adequate infrastructure to set up more cold storages, such a loss to farmers could have been avoided,” he added. Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Joyashree Roy, however, said that to associate potato farmers’ suicide directly the with low price of the crop would be scientifically justified. Mr. Basu, however said that the restriction on potato export was imposed to prevent large-scale shortage of the crop in Bengal as it was illegally exported to Uttar Pradesh, which had low crop production in 2013. “So, it was a positive step by the State Government that prevented the acute shortage of potato in West Bengal,” he told The Hindu . Mr. Basu said that some dishonest potato traders were also responsible for the present crisis as they were not buying potatoes from farmers to pressurise the State Government for their vested interests. (The Hindu 30/3/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

192. Farmer outfit begins 4-day sit-in against proposed Land Acquisition Bill (4)

BATHINDA: Accusing the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking anti-farmers steps, including taking up Land Acquisition Bill in the parliament and failing to implement the Swaminathan commission recommendations about fixing minimum support price of crops by giving 50% profit over input costs, peasant organization BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) on Tuesday started four-day protests outside the offices of deputy commissioners across the state. At Bathinda, police stopped the protesters from holding dharna at the DC office and had to be organized at Children’s Park. BKU activists had a heated exchange with the police over denial of right to protest outside the DC office. They also accused the Punjab government of failing to provide compensation to suicide-hit farm families. The organization also demanded that compensation be raised to Rs 5 lakh per family from the current Rs 2 lakh. BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “The Modi government has decided to make certain amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill taken up by the previous UPA government, but it has been learnt that the proposed changes in the bill are tailor-made for big business houses and are not being made keeping the interests of farmers or small landowners in mind. We want complete justice to farmers and will reject any bill that is not in line with the aspirations of the farming community.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

193. Amendment to land Act a ‘death warrant to farmers’ (4)

BALLARI: Chamarasa Mali Patil, president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene, has described the Bharatiya Janata Party -led National Democratic Alliance government’s amendment to the Land Acquisition Act as a “death warrant to the farmers”. He told presspersons here on Sunday that Union government was working against the interest of the working class, especially the farming community, which was evident by the clauses incorporated in the amendment to the Act that would enable forcible acquisition of land. “The acts of Mr. Modi are contrary to what he had promised prior to coming to power. Going by the manner in which his government is functioning, ‘achche din kabhi nahi ayenge’. The amendments brought in are aimed at giving a red carpet welcome to multinational companies and the corporate sector without any hassles,” Mr. Patil alleged. He said that the farmers would stage a dharna at New Delhi on March 18 to press for withdrawing the amendments. “Around 3,000 farmers from all over the State will participate in the New Delhi chalo programme,” Mr. Patil said.

“Diabetes, hyper tension among other health hazards have become common among the people with the introduction of hybrid seeds. One cannot imagine further deterioration of public health with introduction of GM seeds. With that in view the government should completely ban their use in the country,” he said. If Mr. Modi did not respond to the farmers demand positively, we will be compelled to launch ‘Modi hataao, Desh ko bachao’ campaign, he said. Darur Purushotamgouda, president of the district unit of the KRRS and Hasiru Sene, was present. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

194. Rights of Polavaram displaced not documented: report (4)

HYDERABAD: Details of the rights of tribals living in the submergence area of the Polavaram Project, as enunciated by the Forest Rights Act, are not even documented, before which the tribals are being displaced, said a fact finding report by a city-based voluntary organisation. The organisation, Human Rights Society, through a press meet on Monday, revealed that the individual and customary traditional rights of the tribals have not been codified and gazetted by the governments yet. Even before it is done, they are being displaced with a nominal compensation. While releasing the report of a fact finding team which visited seven affected villages, N. Rajeswara Rao, the general secretary of the society, demanded that details of the rights of each individual, his family, his community, lands under cultivation, and grazing lands should be documented along with traditional customary rights and boundaries of the community enjoyment areas. It should be done under the supervision of Grama Sabha, and the recommendations accepted by the government. Former AP High Court justice A. Gopala Rao, who headed the team, noted that revenue records in the villages were fudged so that names of outsiders are replaced by the names of original tribal residents who will end up not receiving any rehabilitation package. Nobody in the seven villages have received the relief and rehabilitation settlements, he said, and pointed out that even while increasing the project cost since 2005, it has not occurred to the government to increase the amount payable for those being displaced. Though land for land and house for house are on offer, land and housing plot are separated by long distances, unlike in the present villages where they are adjacent to each other, Justice Rao said. The team visited the villages named Mamidigondi, Devaragondi, Ramayyapeta, Thota Gondhi, Singanapalli, Pydipaka and Chegondipally, which are the first to be submerged by the project. Team members demanded that the government conduct meetings, interact with the gram sabha and local politicians, and preparing a road map based on mutual agreement and consent, before laying the next brick for the project. The issue of rehabilitation should be discussed by the State and Central governments within these parameters. The package should be as per the directions by the monitoring committee, and if the package is found to be lagging in reference to the fixed benchmarks, construction should be deferred or stopped. In the interests of the rights of the project-affected families, the area of relocation should be declared as Scheduled Area, so that the protection and benefits of being Scheduled Tribes are not lost, Mr. Gopala Rao demanded. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

195. Consent of land owners must for acquisition in U.P. (4)

LUCKNOW: Land for the development of State-funded projects in Uttar Pradesh will now be acquired through mutual agreement with land owners and land holders. The new system of land acquisition was granted approval by the State Government in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Informed sources said the system has been introduced to tide over the delay in acquiring land under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and to prevent any legal tussle with land owners. The compensation for the land acquired in urban areas will not be more than two times the market value/circle rate and in the rural areas not more than four times the market value/circle rate of the land. The land owners will also be paid for the property, trees and standing crops on their land. If land cannot be acquired through mutual agreement, then action would be taken under the provisions of the 2013 Act and the concerning government orders, an official said. Approval was granted to the Uttar Pradesh Goonda Control (Amendment) Bill, 2015. A significant feature is the inclusion of the provisions related to cattle smuggling, sexual exploitation, child labour, bonded labour, beggary and the illegal trade in the removal of body parts in the Amendment Bill. The Uttar Pradesh Gangster’s and Anti-Social Activities (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was also given the Cabinet approval, informed sources said. The Government has also decided to increase the pension (“sammaan raashi” ) to the MISA ( Maintenance of Internal Security Act ) and DIFR (Defence of India Rules) detenu during the Emergency ( June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977 ) by Rs. 4,000. They will now get a pension of Rs. 10,000 per month. The Cabinet decision would be effective from the date of the Government Order (GO). Pension to freedom fighters and their dependants has also been increased by Rs. 3.189. They will now be entitled for a pension of Rs. 12,000 per month and this decision will also be effective from the date of the GO. Among the other decisions, sources said, was the approval for The Uttar Pradesh Braj Planning and Development Board-Bill, 2015, which entails the integrated development of Mathura and the Braj region. The proposed Board would be headed by the Chief Minister. The Braj Planning and Development Council is also proposed to be constituted. Meanwhile, the land identified by the Revenue Department will be given free of cost on 90 years lease to the Agra Development Authority for the development of a “Roadside Café Street” of international standards on the Agra-Fatehabad road. A roadside café street on the lines of those in London and Paris would be developed on 7120 square metres of land. (The Hindu 18/3/15)

 

196. Meets with farmers for land acquisition to start in fortnight (4)

NASHIK: Meetings with farmers for acquisition of land for industries at Gonde and Sinnar will be started within a fortnight. Allotment of plots to industries at the proposed additional industrial estate at Talegaon-Akrale village in Dindori tehsil near the city is expected to start by June-end. The issue of land acquisition came up during the Zilla Udyog Mitra (ZUM) meeting on Friday. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) has identified around 5,000 hectares of land at various locations across the district for the estate in different stages of acquisition. District collector Deependra Singh Kushwah said, “With an aim to speed up the acquisition process, negotiations with farmers at Gonde and Sinnar for acquisition of land for the estate would be started in the next 15 days.” The MIDC has earmarked 128 hectares of land for the development of the new industrial area at Gonde village near Igatpuri and 127 hectares at Sinnar. MIDC regional officer (Nashik region) Ramdas Khedkar said, “We have already started the process of acquisition of 113 hectares at Sayane in Malegaon tehsil. Of this, 60 hectares have been acquired and we are in the process of getting the rest of the land. Of the Rs 36 crore approved, we have already distributed Rs 21 crore to the concerned farmers. In Dindori, we have notified 922 acres for developing an additional industrial estate of which we have acquired 500 acres. The process to develop infrastructure there has been started by our engineering department. Actual allotment of industrial plots at the additional industrial estate in Dindori is expected to begin by June-end.” Khedkar added, “We have earmarked 128 hectares at Gonde and 127 hectares in Sinnar. We need to hold meetings with the farmers to speed up the land acquisition process there. In Yeola, we have already acquired 109 hectares and we are in process of developing the infrastructure.” (Times of India 21/3/15)

197. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

198. Cabinet will decide fate of land bill: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Prevented by a near-united opposition from tabling the bill on fair compensation towards land acquired for development, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the union cabinet will take a decision on its future. “You’ll have to wait for the cabinet to take a decision,” Jaitley told a conference co-hosted by the external affairs ministry. “There is an opportunity for all of us, at least for the states that want to implement these provisions. They can’t be stopped by those who don’t want to implement these provisions,” the finance minister said. “You can’t have a situation like this: Where one state says ‘I will not grow’ and ‘I will also not allow others to grow’. This is not an acceptable economic proposition,” Jaitley added, just ahead of a cabinet meeting that was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But there was no word on the land bill from the meeting. Even as the government managed to get parliament to pass some key legislations like the ones on insurance, mining and coal blocks, it did not have the strength to push the land bill in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. Officially called the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2005, it was passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house, on March 11. The government has maintained that it had promulgated an ordinance on this earlier after wide consultation with 32 states and union territories and that several opposition leaders, in fact, had even supported it in the past. In his latest periodic radio address, this time to farmers, Prime Minister Modi said lies were being spread on the new land acquisition bill, asserting that the proposed law was in their interest as it will improve infrastructure, employment, output and incomes in rural areas. “Misinformation which is being spread, that it (the bill) is against farmers. It’s a conspiracy to keep the farmer poor. It is part of the conspiracies not to take our nation forward. We have to protect ourselves from this, save the country, save the farmer,” he said. The new bill, proposed by the National Democratic Alliance, government, has evoked resistance from activists as also political parties, especially the Congress that wants the provisions of the land bill passed in 2013 be restored. As the bill has not been passed in parliament, the ordinance amending the 2013 Act will lapse. (Business Standard 25/3/15)

199. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

200. UN report: Campaign has reduced mother and child deaths (3)

United Nations: A UN initiative to improve the health of women and children that attracted USD 60 billion over the past five years has led to a decrease in maternal and child death rates in all 49 targeted countries, according to a report. It cited declines in mortality rates for children under age 5 between 2010 and 2013 in the target nations ranging from 58.3 percent in Haiti to 16.3 percent in Bangladesh, 13.2 percent in Liberia, and 7.5 percent in Afghanistan. It also reported drops in the maternal mortality rate in the same period ranging from 22.9 percent in Zimbabwe to 16 percent in Ethiopia, 9.1 percent in Myanmar, and 3.9 percent in Vietnam. Despite “historic progress,” the report said, more than 17,000 children died before the age of 5 every day in 2013 around the world, which meant an annual total of 6.3 million. And it said 2,89,000 women died from complications from pregnancy or childbirth that year. Globally, the report said, 60 per cent of maternal deaths and 53 per cent of under-5 deaths occur in countries affected by conflict, displacement and natural disasters.”Through continued political commitment, an increase in innovative financing and strong partnership we can realistically end the preventable deaths of women and children within a generation wherever they live,” UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting to launch the report. The report credited the UN’s “Every Woman Every Child” campaign for many of the gains in the 49 priority countries. Those gains include 870,000 new health workers, a 193 percent increase in treatments to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and a 25 percent rise in skilled care at births and in post-natal care for women. “Since 2010 alone, the world has saved the lives of some 2.4 million women and children,” Ban said. “More children are receiving medicines to combat diarrhoea, more babies are receiving proper nutrition and the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.” The UN chief said more women are also giving birth at health facilities and more women and girls are receiving sexual and reproductive health services that “they want and need.” Ban said the goal now is to end “the appalling tragedy of preventable deaths” and keep investing in the health of women, children and adolescents. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

201. Concern over High Infant Mortality Rate (3)

GUNTUR:Former president APJ Abdul Kalam has emphasised upon the need to do away with prescription of unnecessary diagnostic tests while describing the practice as ‘diagnostic pain’. Inaugurating the Ramesh Super Speciality Hospital here Sunday, Kalam said that a doctor should possess two hearts, a biological heart and a kind heart, so he/she can provide treatment irrespective of their financial standing. Pointing out at the high maternal and infant mortality rates in India, which was mentioned in the WHO’s latest report, he stressed conducting more research on the ways and means to address the issues and provide quality treatment to the needy. He listed out the virtues that those in medical profession should possess and also made the doctors and other members of medical fraternity present on the occasion take oath to address the ‘diagnostic pain’. Union minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu said that health was a vital cog in the development of a nation. Everyone should contribute to the improvement of the health sector, for the key for development of many countries and improvement of their wealth had been betterment of health services, he observed. The government was taking every measure to fulfill all the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act. Development should not just get concentrated in Tullur, but also spread to Guntur, Vijayawada and other cities in the capital region, if it was to become truly a world-class capital city, he opined. The government sanctioned Rs 1,000 crore for improving basic infrastructure facilities like drainages and drinking water. But then, a change of mindset was required among people towards the government and the PPP model of development should be encouraged, the Union minister opined. Speaker Kodela Sivaprasad Rao, ministers P Narayana, R Kishore, K Srinivas, P Pulla Rao, MP R Sambasiva Rao and Dr. Ramesh were present. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

202. Improper biomedical waste disposal poses riskSulogna Mehta,(3)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Walk past any GVMC garbage dump at Ramnagar, Maharanipeta or the areas around King George Hospital (KGH) and you can be sure to spot used syringes, saline bottles or bandages strewn around dustbins. Rag-pickers and GVMC staff rummage through these bins and stray animals litter the hazardous biomedical waste on the roads – an open invitation to HIV, Hepatitis and other infections. Though biomedical waste should be properly segregated and then incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts, in reality the norms are often flouted blatantly and hazardous waste is dumped in regular garbage bins, jeopardising the health of denizens. To blame are the ignorance and apathy of hospital staff and those collecting the waste as they don’t segregate it properly in respective colour-coded disposal bins. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags. Black bags are meant for throwing remnants of food, red bags for plastic disposables such as catheter, gloves and IV fluid bottles, while yellow bags are meant for disposing human waste including used dressing pads, plaster, and needles and so on. Also needle tips need to be destroyed in needle cutters and hubs disposed of in red covers. Commenting on the improper segregation, a senior surgeon from King George Hospital (KGH), said, “Even though the paramedics, ward-boys and staff are trained, they callously dump the waste in any bin that’s close at hand, irrespective of colour codes. There’s neither proper supervision nor any disciplinary action being taken for these acts of omission,” he said. The lack of timely availability of colour-coded bags, especially the frequently used yellow and black bags, also poses another problem. “The bags collected from various wards are overfilled and their mouths are not tied properly. Stray dogs cause a spillage while searching food,” pointed out another senior doctor. B Sivaji, director, Maridi Eco Industries (Andhra) Private Limited, the company that’s responsible for treating biomedical waste in the city, too blames the negligent hospital staff for the sorry state of affairs. “Our vehicles daily collect one to five tonnes of waste from various hospitals. Despite repeatedly training the staff and management of government and private hospitals, they don’t segregate the waste in respective colour-coded bags properly.” There are also allegations that used saline bottles are sold and syringes and needles not destroyed before being disposed. “Sometimes, hospital workers sell used saline bottles outside for Rs 50-Rs 100 and these are recycled or reused, putting public health at risk. Needles are also disposed of without breaking them in needle cutters exposing rag-pickers, GVMC sanitation staff and even our garbage collectors to the risk of HIV and other dangerous ailments if they come in contact with them,” Sivaji alleged. However, the staffer of a private hospital from Ramnagar alleged that though they do segregate the biomedical waste, the vehicles that carry the uncovered biomedical waste litter them on the road. According to official figures, one to five tonnes of biomedical waste is generated daily from various hospitals in the city and brought to the disposal site at Kappuluppada on the city outskirts. Per hour, around 250 kg of waste is incinerated at the five-tonne capacity plant, which has been leased out by the government for 33 years to Maridi Eco Industries. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags, treated and incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts. (Times of India 17/3/15)

 

203. TB a Socio-Economic Disorder, Say Experts (3)

BENGALURU :Tuberculosis is not the responsibility of the health system alone; the society has to be aware and chip in too, say experts. Dr Shashidhar Buggi, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said, “Societal factors contribute to tuberculosis. Overcrowding, malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, smoking, poverty and societal situations contribute to TB infection. All of us are infected with the TB bacteria yet not all of us develop the disease. This is probably because we live in a clean house in a clean area, eat nutritious food and do not have chronic bad habits.” “If the infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, and rates of TB, malaria and dengue are known, one can predict the state of  society in that country. They are all interlinked and must be controlled to control TB,” he said. In 1990, about 44 out of one lakh people were dying because of tuberculosis in the state. This has decreased to 24 per lakh in Karnataka, said a source at the Department of Health. Detection of co-infection of TB and AIDS in people has become more treatable as well. Death rate due to co-infection has fallen from 25 per cent to around 11 per cent in the last 4-5 years, the source added.  A senior officer at the department told Express that the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has been running for 14 years and its success rate is 85 per cent. “We are able to detect and treat more patients than we could earlier. The TB-HIV package to treat co-infection patients was introduced in 2008. Death rates have fallen because of the effectiveness of the programme,” he said. He added, “We have a Cartridge-based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test to detect TB in HIV patients. We had five machines till last year, now we have seven more. He said the officials at ART (Anti-Retro-viral Therapy) centres are being trained in a phased manner. Government set-ups have been asked to prioritise HIV patients and give early diagnosis, he added. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

204. 33,689 cases of TB in Mysuru since 2003 (3)

MYSURU: As many as 33,689 tuberculosis (TB) cases had been detected in Mysuru district between January 2003 and February 2015, according to figures from the Health Department. World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 every year. The National TB Control Programme was launched in the district about 12 years ago. The sputum test of 3,46,858 suspected cases of tuberculosis had been undertaken since the launch of the programme till date, and 33,689 persons had been diagnosed with the disease. “These patients have been treated and 80 percent completely recovered,” a release said here. Primary health centres (PHCs) in the district have been equipped with facilities to conduct sputum test under the national programme. TB patients were also subjected to tests for HIV and diabetes. TB patients receive Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS), recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), at nearby hospitals and anganwadi centres. DOTS providers were being given honorarium for their services to the patients, the release added. Under the DOTS, patients are supposed to take medicine in the presence of a doctor or a nursing staff during the intense phase of treatment, which lasts two months. This makes the treatment effective and the patients compulsorily take medicines without fail under the department’s supervision and evaluation. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

205. Rs.34 lakh for KFD-hit areas in Wayanad (3)

KALPETTA: The Tribal Development Department has sanctioned Rs.35 lakh to disburse provision to the tribal people in the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever-hit areas in the district. The amount was sanctioned under the food support project of the department, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi said in a press release here on Wednesday. Earlier, the department had allocated Rs.10 lakh to the Health Department and Rs.9 lakh to the Animal Husbandry Department to execute preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease, Ms. Jayalakshmi said. Apart from this, the department would hand over Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased as solatium and Rs.10,000 each to the KFD-affected persons, the Minister said. (The Hindu 26/3/15)

206. India has highest number of deaths of children under five years of age (3)

NEW DELHI: India accounts for the highest number of deaths of children under-five years of age with 50% of such deaths caused mainly due to malnutrition, a new policy paper has said. The paper, prepared by Forum for Learning and Action with Innovation and Rigour (FLAIR), estimates more than 15 lakh children below five years of age died in India. Flair is a non-government organization engaged in policy research and analysis. A report by Unicef on child mortality also endorses the figure. According to the Unicef report, about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. While India accounts for 22% of the total under-five children death worldwide, Nigeria contributes 13%. Lack of basic sanitation in India is seen as a key reason for severe child malnutrition burden. The policy paper suggests states like Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim, where 80% or more of the rural population have access to toilets, have the lowest levels of child malnutrition in India. However, child malnutrition rates are high in states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand where most households are without toilets. “Unhygienic environment combined with high population density creates a perfect storm for diseases to thrive, and malnutrition to flourish,” says Dr Raj Bhandari, advisor-health & nutrition in Flair. Bhandari, who has co-authored the paper, is also technical consultant to Unicef. According to Bhandari, the absence of sanitation exposes children to infectious diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea, which rob them of their ability to absorb nutrients and make them vulnerable causing comorbidity. Apart from poor sanitation, food and nutrition insecurity, lack of health care and extremely poor conditions of public health including water are considered primary reasons of malnutrition. Highlighting the need for adequate public policy and finance, the paper says though there has been in general an increase in allocation in food and nutrition programmes between 2011-12 and 2014-15, but the share of nutrition schemes in total Union and respective state budgets have been highly inadequate considering the grim status of malnutrition. “There is an urgent need for the government to introduce nutrition as a development indicator in various other schemes such as the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),” Bhandari said. While the paper appreciates the Centre’s move to give more funds to states, it points out that states should be able to utilize the funds in the right manner and implement schemes with proper monitoring. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 28/3/15)

HIV/AIDS

207. Depressed man kills wife and 2 kids, claims they were HIV +ve (3)

Betul (MP): A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. DH Illustration. A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. The accused (name witheld) surrendered before Amravati police in Maharashtra yesterday. The incident took place on the intervening night of March 3-4 when the engineer, working with a PSU at Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, was returning from his hometown Amravati with his family, police inspector S K Singh told PTI today. He stopped his car close to Gaunighat under Multai police station limits near here and after alighting from it, he pushed the vehicle into a gorge. The accused then descended from the hill and set the vehicle with his family inside on fire, he said. After this, he claimed to have allegedly made a futile attempt to hang himself to death.

However, later he felt guilty of killing his family and surrendered before the Amravati police yesterday following which he was brought here, the inspector said. Police later recovered the bodies of his 38-year-old wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 2, he said. During interrogation, the accused told police that he was under depression after contracting AIDS in Delhi. He said that his wife and younger daughter too were HIV positive because of which he was quite disturbed. The accused claimed that earlier too he and his wife had planned to kill their children and end their lives by consuming food laced with poison on March 1 at Amravati, but dropped the idea at the last minute, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the family members said that they were unaware of the accused and his family being infected with HIV. Police have booked the accused under sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of IPC, Singh said adding, further investigation was on in the case. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

208. Old data hides spurt in HIV positive cases, say NGOs (3)

Here’s a paradox: The government of Bihar has the most schemes for persons with HIV/AIDS, and at the same time apathy, inefficient reporting, gaps in the health delivery system and red tape are pushing the state towards an HIV epidemic. Even as the spread of HIV seems to have been brought under control in the southern states, Bihar, once known as a ‘low prevalence’ state, has over a lakh of HIV positive persons, with new detections happening practically every day. The issue was brought up on Friday, during discussions on the release of a study of ‘Issues affecting PLHA’ (People Living with HIV/AIDS) in Patna district attended by NGO representatives, doctors from primary health centres of two blocks, ICDS functionaries and Women’s Development Corporation (WDC) representatives. The questions being asked were: “Why doesn’t Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) update its obsolete data? Why is the procurement and dispensing of ART medicines inconsistent? Why is there no reporting on indents? Why is BSACS reluctant to engage with NGOs and networks of people with HIV and AIDS?” These questions just hung in the air. No representatives from BSACS were present. They ignored the invitation, it seemed. “BSACS hasn’t updated its data base for ages. In the absence of current data, we are forced to use 2011 data. Yet, ART centres and ICTC centres are updating their records on a monthly basis. If BSACS Patna cannot afford a data entry person, may be the NGOs should offer some technical assistance,” said Dr Diwakar Tejaswi. The old figures do not give the true picture of the HIV incidence in the state. One of the key findings is that the number of PLHA who have actual access to the government schemes for PLHA is very small (so far about one per cent for Antyodaya and two per cent for Parvarish). PLHA may have heard of some schemes (such as the Shatabdi AIDS Yojana) but are clueless about how to go about applying for the benefits in the absence of proper guidelines and procedures laid down and publicized by the government. “I am happy to say that in spite of the bottlenecks, the Parvarish Yojana (which is a stipend for HIV positive and affected kids) has finally kicked in, and some 24 beneficiaries in two blocks will soon receive their allowances,” said Sanjit Singh, a representative of CHMU, the organization that released the report of the study. “Every month, we come across at least two more people with HIV,” said a PHC staff from Maner block. A WDC official called for greater coordination and synergy between NGO networks and government so that they could address the issues of women with HIV in certain short stay homes, citing a case from Vaishali district. Women with HIV have the heaviest burdens to bear. “Women with HIV continue to face multiple threats such as physical and emotional violence, especially from the husband’s family, and widowhood often means that the woman loses the support of in-laws. In many cases, the woman either returns to the parents’ home or lives on her own with her dependants,” read the document. The ART delivery system remains problematic. Essential tests such as the CD4 count are often not conducted either due to non-availability of kits or for some other ‘technical’ reasons. One of the recommendations from the survey, readily endorsed by the primary health centre personnel, was that medication for opportunistic infections could be made available to the PHC, so that it could be readily available to PLHA, rather than have them travelling several kilometres to the government hospitals. “HIV testing kits should be given to PHCs. After all, it is at the PHC where antenatal care is given. If the HIV test can be done as well, it would further help in detecting prenatal HIV cases and ensuring proper PPTC and safe delivery of the child,” said a doctor. “Copies of the study and the recommendations from the conference will be presented to government departments concerned as well as BSACS. NGOs are not here to confront BSACS or government, but to work together with them to improve the system,” CHMU coordinator Chandy told the delegates. (Times of India 14/3/15)

209. HIV+ Lankan Man Dropped Off on TN Boat (3)

RAMESWARAM:In a bizarre incident, a Sri Lankan national who has confessed to being HIV positive, was alleged to have been forcefully dropped into a boat of Indian fishermen by an unidentified Sri Lankan national in another boat, near Katchatheevu on Sunday. According to police, the unidentified Sri Lankan national intercepted the Indian fishermen in their boat near Katchatheevu and made them take one David Gajendrachith (42) of Puttalam with them. After the Sri Lankan had dropped Gajendrachith in the Indian fishermen’s boat, he sped off in his boat toward Sri Lanka. The four fishermen Naina Muhammed, Valli Muthu, Samaya Muthu and Arumugam from Mandapam handed over Gajendrachith to the Mandapam police on Sunday evening. The senior police officer in charge of the inquiry, said that Ganjendrachith confessed to being HIV positive and was carrying tablets for the illness with him. The police said he did not possess a passport. “We have registered a case and are investigating the case from all angles,” said the officer. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

210. HIV/AIDS sets alarm bells ringing in Chhattisgarh (3)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh has failed to secure maternal health, besides remaining a laggard in promoting use of contraceptives as an alternative to female sterilization, according MDG India Country Report 2015. Also, high HIV prevalence among youth, pregnant women and adults remain a cause of concern. In the third part of series on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) achieved by state, TOI analyses how Chhattisgarh and neighbouring MP fare on both parameters at national level. Among major states, maternal mortality rate (MMR) (i.e. maternal deaths per one lakh live births), ranges from 61 in Kerala to 300 in Assam (highest) in 2011-13. MMR in BIMARU states of Bihar/Jharkhand (208), Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh (221), Rajasthan (244), Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand (285) and Orissa (222) was reportedly much higher than all India level estimates (167). Four states UP, Bihar, MP/CG and Rajasthan together contributed to 67% of MMR in the country. Chhattisgarh and MP were also going to miss MDG target for 2015 (150.7) by a huge margin of 40 points. Maternal mortality rate (MM Rate), number of maternal deaths in age 15 to 49 per lakh of women was also among highest (20.2), only below UP and Rajasthan and almost double that of national average (11.7). Life time risk or probability that, one women of reproductive age (15 to 49) will die due to child birth within six weeks after delivery was 0.7%, higher than average. As per the sample registration system estimates of 2011-13, 68% of maternal deaths were women in the age group of 20 to 29 years. Though Madhya Pradesh along with Andhra Pradesh is expected to achieve universal coverage of births by skilled health personnel up in 2015, the proportion has actually dipped in the state from 2009 where it was 56.4% and would be 50.5% in 2015. There have been around 2,500 deaths because of HIV/AIDS in 2011 (last available date). This was lower than MP’s 3,324 while highest was Andhra Pradesh (31,347). However, prevalence of HIV in youth, young pregnant women and adults was much higher than MP and more than national average in youth category while at par in the rest. Also Chhattisgarh reported double the number of new infections (4,565) than MP (2,387)in 15+ age group which is a cause for concern. This could be attributed due to the fact that condom use rate was lower in Chhattisgarh than MP (2.9 and 4.8 respectively). Both states were also lower on condom use rate among contraceptives use in India (5.2). While female sterilizations remain the preferred choice of contraceptives in both urban and rural pollution, it doesn’t protect against HIV incidence. MP and Chhattisgarh reported more than two lakh malaria cases in 2014 out of the 10.7 lakh total cases in the country with over a lakh cases reported from the latter state. MP reported more deaths in 2013 but fewer deaths than Chhattisgarh in 2014. More than a 1,000 deaths were reported pan India in 2013 and 2014. 85% cases in 2014 in CG were caused by Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is critical as it is prone to develop severity and death. (Times of India 22/3/15)

211. Single-window system to extend facilities to AIDS patients (3)

MANGALURU: The district will get a single-window system to extend various government facilities to those affected by AIDS. The Aids Prevention and Control Unit to be set up at the district hospital will act as the single window agency, said Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim. He was chairing a meeting on AIDS prevention here on Monday. The unit is being set up as per the directions from the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society to make the required documents available to those suffering from AIDS to help them get various government benefits. Mr. Ibrahim said those suffering from the disease may directly approach the unit or NGOs concerned to avail government schemes. The government aims to bring those affected by AIDS to to the mainstream of society as they hesitate from availing social security schemes. The government is providing financial help to the children, aged below 18 years, of those affected. Also, the government is reimbursing the travel cost for patients who visit ART centres for treatment. District AIDS Control Officer M. Kishore Kumar said that 7,549 people had been identified as HIV positive since 2007 in the district. Some facilities have been provided to them, including housing, self-employment scheme and Antyodaya ration card. (The Hndu 25/3/15)

212. Highest HIV+ cases in four years (3)

MEERUT: In a recent disclosure by the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) for AIDS at P L Sharma district hospital the city recorded highest number of HIV+ cases in four years. Statistics reveal a marked increase of 50% in the number of patients testing positive between 2011 and 2014. A total of 102 positive cases made of 84 males, 17 females and one transgender were recorded in the past year. In comparison, 2011 had a total of 68 HIV+ cases. Interestingly, 2013 showed a steep drop in the number of positive cases. Dr J P Singh, in-charge, ICTC, said, “Maximum cases in AIDS are caused by unprotected sex. Sex education in schools is necessary so that young people can protect themselves.” Yogesh Kumar, counsellor, ICTC, too agrees that one of the primary reasons for the spread of AIDS is the practice of unsafe sex. Singh further adds, “There is an increase in the number of patients visiting the centre from 2,222 in 2011 to 7,054 in 2014. This points to the fact that the disease has become less of a taboo. We just hope that awareness levels would also increase simultaneously.” Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 26/3/15)

213. Ex gratia granted to HIV-infected (3)

GUWAHATI, March 28 – Under the Assam Chief Minister’s special package of ‘One time financial assistance to widows of HIV/AIDS patients’, the Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) released an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to 50 HIV-infected/affected widows of the State during the financial year 2014-15. The scheme was launched by the State Government in 2012 and since then a total number of 272 HIV-infected/affected widows have benefited with this scheme. Till date, an amount of Rs 2.72 crore has been spent under this scheme. The scheme has covered 155 beneficiaries and in 2013, 1,4 67 beneficiaries benefited under this scheme. (The Assam Tribune 29/3/15)

Posted by admin at 10 March 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Social boycott of Dalits can’t be ended by judicial order: SC (2)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that it cannot pass an order to end alleged social boycott of the Dalit community in violence-hit Mirchpur village in Haryana as it would be an “ineffective” one. “What is the solution to end the social boycott? The courts cannot say that end the social boycott of Dalits. It would be an ineffective order,” the social justice bench of justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit said. The court was hearing a PIL seeking rehabilitation and relocation of Dalit community members from Mirchpur in Rohtak district. An old Dalit man and his physically-challenged daughter of the village were killed by members of dominant Jat community in 2010, sparking fear among the Dalits. The bench today asked the counsel for Haryana to apprise it as to whether a judicial panel headed by Justice Iqbal Singh has filed its report on the incident. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Dalit community members, said that they are living under constant threat as the dominant community members feel that because of them some persons have been convicted in the case. Moreover, the appeals against the conviction of some members of the dominant community are pending in the Delhi High Court and Dalits feel threatened, he said. “We are also suffering the social boycott,” he said, adding that the entire state is not hostile to the community and hence, they be given land at some other place to live. The counsel, appearing for Haryana, however, said that one company of CRPF personnel is camping in the village since 2010 and there has been such incidents thereafter against Dalit community members there. Meanwhile, Gonsalves said that he will not press for the relief that the members of Dalit community be rehabilitated in Delhi and added rather, they be given land at some other place in Haryana itself. Earlier, the apex court had dubbed the incident as “scar on the society” and had expressed its anguish after the then Congress-led state government said the 70-year-old man and his handicap daughter were “trapped” in the house after it was set on fire and the trial court has not held their death as murder. Earlier, the 15 convicts, belonging to Jat community, were held guilty for setting ablaze victim Tara Chand’s house, which caused the death on April 21, 2010 at Mirchpur. The incident took place after a dispute between Jat and Dalit communities of the village. They were convicted in the case by a Delhi trial court on September 24, 2011. Three persons were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court on October 31, 2011 for their involvement in the killings. Five others were sentenced to varying jail terms up to five years and seven convicts were let off on probation for one year. The court had earlier acquitted 82 out of 97 accused in the case saying the allegations levelled against them were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The accused resorted to rioting and attacked the houses of members of Dalit community on April 21 as a pet dog of a Dalit had barked at a group of Jats two days ago when they were passing through the colony, according to the charge sheet. They got enraged when a Dalit boy objected to hurling of stones by Jat youths at the dog, it had said, adding later it led to the killings. (Zee News 20/2/15)

2. Attack leaves Dalits terrorised; police drag their feet on taking action (2)

Bengaluru: Around 100 Dalit families living in a separate colony at Harobele village on the outskirts of the city were allegedly attacked and terrorised by upper caste people over a trivial row in January. Though the incident indicated the practice of untouchability and atrocity, the jurisdictional Sathanur police took a month to register the complaint and that too after a city-based NGO approached the National and State human rights commissions. Men and women were beaten up and their houses damaged. They were threatened with dire consequences, forcing the families to flee and take shelter in a nearby field the whole night on the day of the attack. “We even approached the State police chief and got a direction issued to the Ramanagaram Superintendent of Police to take immediate action on January 16. But neither have the police taken up a complaint nor acted against the attackers,” Mariswamy, a member of the All-India Human Rights Council told The Hindu. According to him, the village practises untouchability as the Dalits (Christians) are not allowed to enter the hotel and the barber’s shop, and do not even have access to houses of the upper castes. They have a separate barber’s shop, he said. The attack was a fallout of an incident where Upkar Raju (57), a Dalit from the colony and theatre artiste, was bashed up by “Kerosene” Prakash on January 11 over a trivial row, according to the complaint. Raju’s daughter Mary (22), who came to the rescue of her father, was also abused and beaten up. Upset by this, Raju’s two sons Naveen (27) and Antony (20) went to Prakash’s house to enquire about the incident. Enraged by this, a group of 20 people not only beat up the boys, but also chased them to their colony; they also attacked other men and damaged houses, according to the complaint. The Sathanur police on Saturday registered a case against Prakash and others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “We have taken up a case and are investigating,” a senior police officer said. (The Hindu 22/2/15)

3. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (2)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha Tuesday. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. (Zee News 24/2/15)

4. Dalit family thrown out of their house and threatened (2)

Gadchiroli: A Dalit from Laxmipur village in Kurkheda taluka named Hiralal Shende, demanded stern action against the Purada police station officer for allegedly shielding the accused who threw away his belongings as well as compelled his family to leave his house and village, police sources said on Wednesday. After the incident, Hiralal met the Superintendent of Police here on Tuesday and submitted a memorandum to him requesting for stringent action against the erring police officials and those who harassed him as well as his family. “On February 11, around 13 people entered my house and threw away all my belongings out of my house. They molested my wife and broke portraits of Lord Buddha and Dr Ambedkar,” Shende said. “You will not be allowed to stay in the village until you agree to graze our cattle. They also destroyed our food and then virtually drove me as well as my wife out of our house, warning us to leave the village immediately,” Shende’s complaint said. “The next day I went to the Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police office and submitted a complaint. The officials asked me to lodge a complaint at the Purada Police Station. I approached the police station on February 13 and submitted the same complaint but instead of registering my original complaint, the police gave me a non-cognisable offence letter. They failed to take any action against attackers,” the complaint said. “My family has been terrorised due to this incident and it has become difficult for us to return to the village. We have been wandering since the incident and are homeless. The attackers can do anything to my life any time,” he said in his complaint. “Therefore, stringent action should be taken against the police station officer for shielding the accused. Action should also an action be taken against the attackers,” Shende said in his complaint. When asked about the incident, police sub-inspector Sagar Khare of Purada police station claimed that the complaint is being probed and action would be taken after the enquiry. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Tribal communities resolve to safeguard indigenous cultures despite odds (6)

ERODE: Members of Oorali, Sholagar, Irular and Badaga tribal communities living in Sathyamangalam hills converged at Hasanur on Saturday to commemorate World Mother Language Day by deliberating on ways to safeguard their language, culture and their way of life, overcoming their downward economic spiral. The programme organised jointly by the National Advocacy Council for Development of Indigenous People (NACDIP), National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC), and Thalavadi Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (TAMS) witnessed representatives of the tribal communities making a strong case for implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006, for their academic and economic betterment. The Act provides for appointment of a teacher at the anganwadis run by Integrated Child Development Services to teach children in the pre-Dravidar languages spoken by the tribes, K. Krishnan, NASC, said. A foundation in native language was necessary for the tribal children to acquire skills in other languages that are vital for their academic progress at a later stage. There was an imperative need for the tribal communities to develop scripts so that the native wisdom pertaining to wild life, rain pattern and medicinal herbs could be transferred down the generations, Mr. Krishnan said. Tribal people whose presence was necessary for safeguarding forest wealth ought to be well taken care of, Mr. Krishnan said. Bhavani Sagar MLA P.L. Sundaram said preservation of native languages must be accorded prime importance since the thinking process takes place only in mother tongue. The MLA wanted the State Government to implement the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit. Tribal people must learn to be assertive to pre-empt extinction of their cultures, Mr. Sundaram said. Hassanur Ranger Palanichamy said Village Forest Committees were being enabled to access non-timber forest produce and derive optimal economic benefits without scope for involvement of intermediaries. Tribal communities were being involved in conservation of forest wealth through their induction into the Department as tribal watchers and anti-poaching watchers. A proposal for eco-tourism submitted to the government envisages creation of permanent employment opportunities for 200 members of tribal communities, Mr. Palanichamy said. Village Forest Committees were functional in nine forest settlements in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and three in Gobichettipalayam, Special Tahsildar, Adi-Dravida Welfare, Sathyamangalam, Meekshi Sundaram said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

6. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police violence’ on Odisha tribals (6)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odisha, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

7. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (6)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

8. Justice still a distant dream for most forest-dwellers in State (6)

BENGALURU: Even six years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 coming into force, the government has failed to extend the benefits of the legislation to over 70,000 tribal families in nine districts of Karnataka. Instead of correcting “historical injustice”, delay in implementing the legislation (the Act was notified in 2008), is only fanning discontent among tribal people and traditional forest-dwellers. Of the 2,58,780 applicants belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community rights seekers, a meagre 7,700 have got title deeds between 2010 and 2015. As many as 1,73,082 applications have been rejected so far for various reasons, according to statistics released by the Department of Social Welfare recently. Elected representatives cutting across party lines are demanding implementation of the Act in “letter and spirit” and are urging the government to extend the time for people belonging to ST and OTFDs to submit applications. Tribal organisations are also demanding a “review of the applications” rejected so far, and have blamed the Wildlife Act for the delay in implementation of Forests Rights Act. At the same time, the Forest Rights Committees have their own reasons for receiving and rejecting applications. While the Uttara Kannada district received the highest number of applications, Shivamogga district received the lowest. Peeved at the way the government had dealt with the matter, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kagodu Thimmappa raised the issue in the recent legislature session. Upset with the apathy of the authorities, he even cautioned of holding a protest. Interestingly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Revenue Minister V. Srinivas Prasad and Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya recently visited haadis (tribal settlements) and assured the residents of implementing the Act. Despite, assurances from those at the helm of affairs, nothing has changed at the ground level, regrets S. Srikanth, convener of the Tribal Action Committee. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

9. ‘Give tribal people control of at least half of natural resources on their land’ (6)

MYSURU: The Kabini reservoir in H.D. Kote near here may be the source of electricity and drinking water for residents of Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the tribal people living in the area are allegedly not even given permission by the forest authorities to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs. Citing this as an instance of denial of benefits to the local population from the natural resources available on their land, founder of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) R. Balasubramaniam emphasised the importance of giving tribal people control of the natural resources on their land if any meaningful progress was to be made for their development. He was delivering the keynote address at an interaction programme with 263 tribal people from Chhattisgarh, who are on a weeklong tour of Karnataka as part of the National Tribal Youth Exchange Programme with the aim of drawing tribal people into the mainstream. “The Kabini reservoir produces 27 MW of power and around 26 MW is sent to Bengaluru. The reservoir also meets the drinking water of people in Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the Forest Department refuses to give permission to tribal people to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs,” Dr. Balasubramaniam lamented. As long as such lopsided planning continued, H.D. Kote taluk would remain at the bottom of human development indicators, he said. Dr. Balasubramaniam said a similar situation prevailed even in Chhattisgarh, where natural resources are controlled by private corporations in Delhi. Tribal people should be given control of at least half of the natural resources on their land. Their development should not be dictated by the plans drawn up by governments and NGOs. “Instead, they should have a say in the matter,” he said. Later, the visitors from Chhattisgarh interacted with a group of Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas and Yerawas from H.D. Kote taluk, sharing views on their livelihood, challenges, and opportunities. “There are 72 girls among the visitors, who are in the age group of 15 to 29,” said M.N. Nataraj, Mysuru District Youth Co-ordinator of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan. The group later visited Mysuru palace, the zoo and Brindavan Gardens before returning to Bengaluru. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

WOMEN

10. Himachal CM Expresses Concern Over Declining Female Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today expressed concern over the declining female sex ratio in the state, especially in areas adjoining Punjab and said that it was an indication that people were resorting to sex selective abortions and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques. Addressing a public meeting at Dadasiba in Jaswan Pragpur Constituency here, the Chief Minister warned that the grants of those panchayats where female sex ratio was declining, would be stopped and no financial aid would be given for development. “Action would be taken against those who were found indulging in illegal practice of aborting the girl child,” he said. Singh said that it was wrong to differentiate between boy and girl in the present era where women were excelling in every field and held in high esteem. “We should spread the message of protecting the girl child for ensuring a balanced society as I am keenly watching the trend of declining female sex ratio,” he said, adding that he was well aware that some people were going outside the state to abort the girl child, which was inexcusable. Speaking about the setting up of Central University Campus in Kangra, he alleged that it was the BJP which was creating hurdles and spreading rumours about its establishment. “No doubt the Central University will have its main Campus at Dharamsala but surely the people of Dehra won’t be bereft of its benefits or advantages,” he said. He said that the Central University would be established at Dharamsala and its affiliated colleges would be opened at Dehra. The Chief Minister said that many schools were opened in the state and now the need was to open primary schools and that too in those areas where the topography demands so or where there was a necessity and not otherwise. He announced a Police Post for Dadasiba and the introduction of three more trades in ITI from the next academic session. Besides, he said that a Government College would be opened at Dadasiba and granted a Sub-Tehsil status. (New Indian Express 23/2/15)

11. Twin City Sees Spurt in Crime against Women (8)

BHUBANESWAR: In a disturbing trend in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, crime against women has increased by 70 per cent in 2014 as compared to the previous year. Among the incidents of violence against fair sex, rape cases rose to 138 from 81. What is alarming is that the cases of rape involving minors have gone up in the Twin City. The number of minor rape victims shot up to 76 in 2014, registering 43 per cent increase over the previous year. With 89 cases of eve-teasing and molestation recorded in Cuttack in 2014, the figure increased by a whopping 170 per cent compared to 2013. However, the Capital recorded a downward trend in such cases. Similarly, 143 cases of domestic violence and dowry torture were registered in 2014 as against 88 in 2013. Presenting the figures here on Monday, Police Commissioner Dr RP Sharma said a rise in the number points to the fact that more women have come forward to report the atrocities and police have registered their complaints. Cases of swindling involving money circulation rackets and fraud construction firms have also been a cause of concern for the Commissionerate Police. In 2014, number of swindling cases jumped to 551 from 381 in the previous year. However, there was a decline in number of murder in Bhubaneswar where 42 cases were registered though Cuttack recorded a marginal rise from 34 in 2013 to 36 in 2014.  While 15 cases of dacoity were registered in both the cities, police managed to foil 30 attempts. Robberies, though, have surged in the Capital where 123 cases were registered in 2014 as compared to 88 in 2013. In 2014, the Commissionerate Police booked 674 persons in 684 excise cases and seized 5,500 litres and 13,500  bottles of liquor. A penalty of Rs 3,32,22,500 was realised from the violators booked in 66,160 cases registered under Odisha Urban Police Act. Similarly, 466 habitual offenders were detained and 5847 non-bailable warrants executed in 2014, Sharma said while addressing the media. With 92 firearms and a huge cache of ammunition seized in 2014, the Capital City failed to contain the flow of illegal weapons. Around 1000 kgs of ‘ganja’ were seized in nine separate raids during the period. Statistics-wise, the overall situation has shown an improvement in 2014 compared to 2013. From 5,634 cases registered in 2013, the number fell to 5548 in 2014, the Commissioner said. The Twin City has a sanctioned strength of 277 sub-inspector posts of which 174 have been filled up. Similarly, six Inspector and 10 assistant sub-inspector posts are lying vacant in the Commissionerate Police. “A fully manned force would mean that officers handling criminal cases can focus solely on investigation. We have written to the State Government for enhancement of manpower and strengthening the fleet of PCR vans,” Sharma said. In 2014, the Twin City recorded 822 road accidents which claimed 271 lives leaving 749 injured. As many as 347 accidents occurred on National Highways in which 156 lives were lost. (New Indian Express 24/2/15)

12. Women are not given fair share of respect: Court (8)

New Delhi: A Delhi court, while awarding 10 years jail term to a 63-year-old for attempting to outrage the modesty of his pregnant daughter-in-law that led her to commit suicide, observed that if a woman is not safe at her own house, she is safe nowhere. The court also noted that intra­familial sexual abuse’ is a deep-seated malady in the social order and a crime which most of the family members tend to hide and this kind of relationship is never consensual. The court said that the victim committed suicide after being harassed by the accused Bharat Singh Rawat and awarded him the jail term. A case against him was lodged with the Sultanpuri police station. The court said that such cases should be treated with more severity, as it’s an offence committed in secrecy within the four walls of the house. The court said that instead of providing her a shelter, the accused took advantage of the situation and had tried to outrage her modesty when her husband (the accused’s son) was not home. “The trick was very simple. Either the deceased submits to his evil designs or else face social disgrace and defamation,” the court said. The woman was found hanging at her matrimonial house in September 2008 within two years of her marriage and a suicide note was recovered from her before her post mortem. Meanwhile, another court, while convicting two men guilty of beating a man who later died following an argument over an eve-teasing case, noted that the women have not been given their fair share of respect. The court held the accused, Suraj and Ajay, guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to one Sewa Lal who had opposed eve teasing. Both were, however, acquitted from the charges of culpable homicide and not amounting to murder. (Asian Age 25/2/15)

13. Run For Women Empowerment to be Flagged Off on Women’s Day (8)

CHENNAI: In an initiative to empower women, Seek Foundation in association with St Brittos college will organize ‘Womanathon’, a marathon for women on March 8, 2015 to mark Women’s Day. “With the growing number of atrocities and cases against women we have decided to bring awareness in the community by holding a marathon where only the women will participate,” said Vimala Britto, founder of Seek foundation an ngo that works for social welfare. ‘Run with Her’ is the theme of the event. It will be held across three cities – Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad on March 8.  “The people who can do most to improve the situation of so many women and girls are men. It’s in their hands to stop violence against women.  This run is mainly a run for respect,” said Nithyshree from Quanta G events. More than 40,000 men and women are expected to participate in the run. Cyclist Neville Billimoria who too had presided over the press meet stressed on the need to spread awareness and stop violence against women, “It’s important that each one of us takes a stand and puts an end to every form of torture or bad behavior meted out to women folk. I am in full support of this run.” The run will be started at 6 am near Gandhi statue in Marina beach on March 8, 2015. (New Indian Express 27/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 2,091 missing children traced in Mumbai (14)

MUMBAI: The city police have traced 2, 091 children out of 2,527 children who went missing in 2014 in the special drive to trace the missing children. Interestingly out of this 2,091 traced children 1,249 are girls alone and rest are boys in the age group of 2 to 15 and 16 years old. According to the statistics the 2013 there were 2,979 children including girls and boys went missing and out of which police traced 2,243 out of which while 968 of them were boys and 1275 were girls. Police said that around 10 percent of children are still missing and they are doing their best to trace them. Many of these children were found begging outside religious places and some of them were push into child labour. Police said that this year in last two months they have traced 137 children. The tracing children began in November after Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria announced the special drive to trace missing persons. “We have started the special drive to trace missing girls and boys under the age of 18. I have asked our teams to go back to 10 years and track each missing child,” Maria had said. Now every police station there are atleast three to four policemen who are dedicated only to trace the missing children. Maria has also announced a cash rewards for the police team which traces a child. (Times of India 22/2/15)

15. Centre to Make Amendments to Child Labour Act: Minister (14)

HYDERABAD: The Union government is all set to make amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 to enforce stricter punishment to the violators in the ensuing budget session of the Parliament slated to begin from Monday. Speaking to newsmen here on Saturday, Union labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the Bill would be introduced in the budget session to prevent the practice of employing children below 14 years and prohibiting adolescents( 14 to 18 years of age)in hazardous occupations. Besides the legislative actions, he said the Union labour ministry had undertaken programme called the National Child Labour Project for rehabilitating working children in 270 districts in the country. Around 6,000 special training centres, under the said project, was providing non-formal(bridge)education, vocational training, stipend of Rs 150 per month among other facilities to enrolled children. The project is being operational in eight districts of Telangana, he added. An amendment to the Factories Act, 1948 and Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill will also come up before the Parliament in this budget session, the minister informed. “Although Factories Act vests the power of enforcing the provisions of the said Act with the state governments, any amendments to the Act proposed by states require the consent of the President of India. To bring more flexibity to this, we are bringing an amendment,” he explained. Dattatreya said the new Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill is aimed at regulating factories with workforce less than 40. Terrorist Activities: Dattatreya lamented that Hyderabad has become a nerve centre for terrorism and terro-related activities in the country. In order to prevent the same, he demanded the TRS government to release a white paper on the efforts made to contain such acts. “The government should appoint a DGP-level officer to keep a vigil on the terrorist activities in the city,” he appealed to the government. He expressed sympathy with the kin of those killed in Dilshuknagar blasts, that rocked the city two years ago on this day. Taking a dig at the MIM, he said some political parties were making provocative speeches using religion for their political benefits. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

16. Why paper laws and policies are inadequate to bring reforms on child rights (14)

Despite a number of legislations aimed at improving children’s conditions in India, not much has changed in reality, explains Puja Marwaha. Children may constitute 40 percent of the population, but they are not a vote bank. It is therefore no surprise that child rights reforms are moving forward at a snail’s pace. While there are policies and laws on paper, on the ground, India is still miles away from being the child-friendly nation it committed to be, when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Even the money spent for reforms remains poor: in the 25th year of the CRC, child welfare was allocated just 4.64 per cent of the annual budget. In the South Asian Report on Child Friendliness of Governments of 2013, India tops the list in just one category i.e. legal and policy framework. But overall, it scores lower than countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan and is ranked fourth among eight nations—the other four being Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. India’s gender equality record is particularly dismal; it managed to better only Afghanistan’s score. Obviously, mere enactment of laws has not helped in areas such as education, health and protection. While there are several laws to deal with protection of child rights, the legal remedies needed to deal with violations of these laws are often not in place. For instance, there is no one law that explicitly bans all forms of corporal punishment across settings. Although the Right To Education (RTE) Act bans corporal punishment in schools, it does not talk of a mechanism for its implementation across schools. In June 2014, the CRC committee in its observations on India reiterates “great concern regarding reports of widespread violence, abuse and neglect of children. This includes family settings, alternative care institutions, schools, and the community.” The committee recommends that India should prohibit corporal punishment and “ensure that legal proceedings are systematically initiated against those responsible for ill-treating children.” As for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012— experts feel that it is a law that’s skewed against children. It criminalises even consensual sex among those below 18 years, leading to a large number of rape cases being filed against boys mostly by the girls’ parents, who take undue advantage of the Act to end a relationship they don’t approve of. On the other hand, forced sex on married minor girls of ages above 15 by their husbands is condoned since the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 does not recognise marital rape. The CRC committee has pointed out that the non-criminalisation of sexual abuse of minor married girls above 15 “is inconsistent” with POCSO. It has asked the government to ensure that sexual abuses in such cases are also criminalised.  With reports of sexual abuse of children on the rise in schools and homes across the country, the CRC committee has asked the government to establish mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of all cases of child sexual abuse as well as necessary measures to ensure proper investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. With surrogacy on the rise in India, there are also a few concerns regarding a child’s rights in such an arrangement. What if a child is rejected due to issues such as disability, gender or complexion? The CRC committee has asked the government to ensure that the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (or any other legislation to be developed) helps regulate surrogacy and prevent its abuse. Illegal adoptions must also be stopped with appropriate legislation. There are concerns about the Child Labour Act, 1986 too. In the absence of a national database on the types and extent of child labour, which occurs not just in informal sectors such as domestic work, but also in hazardous ones including mining and quarry work, it may be difficult to eliminate this national shame.  While thousands of children continue to be employed, there are no regular inspections, and thus prosecutions and convictions are abysmally low. According to Census 2011 data, only 1061 convictions were reported in 2013 despite more than one crore children engaged as labourers. In addition, the rehabilitation of rescued children also lacks any comprehensive strategy or plan. One conclusion that emerges clearly from the current scenario is that if child rights is to be given the importance it deserves, the government needs to go beyond enacting laws and drive change at the ground level. (DNA 24/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. PM has dispelled doubts about being anti-minority: CSF (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his special intervention, resulting in the release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar from Taliban captivity after eight months. CSF general secretary Joseph Dias said: Not just the Christian community, but many who thought of the PM as anti-minority, will now have sufficient cause to re-consider. Getting the release of the Jesuit priest is no small achievement, especially since he had no connection with the Indian government nor was part of the mission in Afghanistan; rather he was working for an NGO, as were hundreds of others in the line of Taliban fire. After, Modi’s statement on religious freedom, most in the Christian world, including CSF wanted the PM to walk the talk and waited patiently. With India securing Fr. Alexis’ release, we are even more open to cordial relations with Modi, as the kind gesture showed his priorities, besides being a diplomatic coup of sorts. It also shows the difficult conditions Christians work in, out of love for their faith, not just in distant parts of the country, but also the hostile environments of the world.” Dias appealed to rein in the fringe elements who were rearing their heads, like Mutalik of the Ram Sena, who had been put in place by the Goa government. The forthcoming session of Parliament could also be used by the PM to assure minorities that no national anti-conversion law is proposed by the government, Dias added. According to CSF, the minorities now need to engage with and assist the government, in taking India to greater heights, in keeping with Modi’s ‘Sabka Vikas, Sabka Saath’ agenda, as the Prime Minister seems to be going out of his way in the face of opposition from the Hindutva forces and needs to also deal with terrorism and fundamentalism from other minorities too. (Times of India 23/2/15)

18. Minorities to protest BJP’s policies (7)

CHENNAI: Organisations representing religious minorities have come together to organise a mass protest in Chennai on February 28 against the “divisive policies” of the BJP and its affiliated outfits. The demonstration will see Christian and Muslim organisations of all denominations sharing the platform. Event coordinator Inigo Irudayaraj said all political parties except the BJP and its allies have been invited for the event. “The MDMK, the VCK and the Left have agreed to participate,” he said, adding that several Jain, Buddhist and Hindu groups have also been invited. On Sunday, churches across Chennai informed the faithful about the demonstration seeking large participation. “The last time when different denominations of the Christian community came together for a protest was against an anti-conversion law passed by the Tamil Nadu government. Now, issues such as ‘ghar wapsi’ and attacks on churches have got us together,” he said. However, despite seeking permission for the agitation on February 2, the police have not replied. Therefore, the organisations have decided to move the High Court. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

19. Notice to Haryana on removal of state minorities commission chairman, members (7)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday issued notice to the state government for its decision to remove the chairman and members of the Haryana State Commission for Minorities. A division bench headed by Justice S K Mittal has asked the Haryana government to file its reply on March 3 after hearing a petition filed by chairman of the commission, Trilochan Singh, and one of the members. The petitioners alleged that they were not given any opportunity of being heard before removing from the commission. In July 2014, the then Congress-led state government had constituted Haryana State Commission for Minorities to safeguard the interests of minority communities. Trilochan was appointed as chairman of the commission while Ishaq Mohammed, an advocate and local Congress leader from Mewat, Dr Stella Portar, a senior Congress leader, and Harbhajan Singh Khera, a local party leader, both from Rohtak, were appointed as members of the commission. The commission was authorized to examine, investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards for the minority communities. The other functions of commission included planning process of socio-economic and educational development of the minority communities and to evaluate the progress of their development. However, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana had removed the commission members in January. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Muslim trusts want custody of campus (7)

Mumbai: The recent announcement by Ravindra Waikar, minister of state for higher and technical education, of setting up an educational hub on the Ismail Yusuf College campus at Jogeshwari has prompted activists and Muslim trusts to protest against the minister’s proposal by forming a group that will not only stop the government from going ahead with their plans but also get custody of the campus. Announcing the decision on Saturday, the group named Ismail Yusuf Campus Bachao Samiti said that they were against an aggressive protest. The samiti consists of Dr Zaheer Kazi, president of Anjuman-i-Islam Trust, social activists like Sudheendra Kulkarni, Anil Tyagi, Prabhakar Narkar and Kishore Jagtap who work on issues related to students and people from the minorities and backward classes and MLA Kapil Patil. “Our demand is that as the government has failed to fulfil the purpose of providing facilities to encourage higher education amongst Muslim youth, it should hand over the custody and management of the campus to a Muslim trust so that it can achieve the vision of Sir Mohammad Ismail Yusuf who had donated Rs 30 lakh to the governor of Mumbai in 1914 to set up educational facilities for Muslim youth and minorities,” said Dr Kazi. Activist Kulkarni said “We appeal to the government of Maharashtra to immediately stop its plans to encroach upon land belonging to Ismail Yusuf College, which was donated by a Muslim philanthropist for Muslim education,” said Mr Kulkarni. Speaking about the issue, MLC Patil said that as both the Sachar Committee and Mehmood-ur-Rehman committee had pointed to lack of education as the main reason for the backwardness of Muslims, the government should hand over the custody of the college campus to a Muslim trust so that the land could be properly used for the intended purpose. (Asian Age 22/2/15)

21. Over 180 million Muslims in India but they are not part of global terror groups: Govt (7)

New Delhi: The government might not have officially released the religious data of Census 2011, but in a presentation before an international delegation in the United States it said that over 180 million Muslims were living in India, constituting 14.88 per cent of the total population. It also asserted that despite a large Muslim population in India, there was hardly any case of the community members joining violent pan-Islamic groups. Representing India at the White House hosted Summit to Counter Violent Extremism last week, Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chief RN Ravi told a delegation, where representatives from 60 countries were present, that “the usual alienation of minorities is not valid in the Indian context. Going by the usual definition of minority, their population is over 260 million i.e over 21 per cent of India’s population. There are over 180 million Muslims in India.” The data given by the government at an international platform assumes significance after US President Barack Obama, during his India visit, said: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation.” Due to various political considerations, the religious data of Census 2011 were never released by the UPA government. When the NDA government came to power, they decided to release the religious data, which still has not been done. The Indian Express reported on January 24 that Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 121.05 crore, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, Muslim population increased 24.4 per cent to 17.18 crore from 13.8 crore during 2001-11. Muslims were 13.4 per cent of the total population in 2001. Ravi also told the delegation: “The recently held elections in Jammu and Kashmir – a Muslim majority state of the Indian Union – in which over 65 per cent electorate peacefully cast their votes is a testimony of its success story.” He further said, “India’s response to violent extremism is calibrated in a way that prevents disproportionate use of force by the state.” On the other hand, one of the civil society representatives from Pakistan told the delegation: “At least 26 terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Taliban, Haqqani network had people in leadership roles who came from madrasa background. The government had to go into the root cause of this and reform madrasa education.” (Indian Express 24/2/15)

22. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

23. Centre’s scheme for madrassas lost in translation (7)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government had allocated Rs 100 crore for modernization of madrassas in the last budget while the erstwhile UPA government had earmarked Rs 182.5 crore for the same in 2013-14. However, a lack of awareness about the scheme and language barrier seem to have prevented a majority of madrassas from availing its benefits. According to an RTI application filed by NGO Zakat Foundation in 2013, only 2,800 madrassas benefitted from the central scheme. The reason for many not availing the benefits was because information about the scheme had not been translated into Urdu from English. “The scheme has been there since 1996 but the funds have been curtailed over the years. There is a lack of awareness—not many know about the scheme as it’s not properly advertized. Madrassas are going for an image makeover and apart from the religious teaching, education is imparted there,” said Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation. According to people associated with Madrassa committees, most of these institutes are community-funded. Some of the community heads believe that Rs 100 crore is a mere tokenism and is not sufficient even for all Madrassas in Delhi. “There are 33,000 madrassas in India, according to the Sachar committee report and many more must have come up by now. And this amount is too small to strengthen and modernize all the institutes. Madrassas are just like any other schools which need an investment of at least Rs 1 crore,” said Zafrul Islam Khan of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat. However, many argue that till the time these institutes aren’t recognized and affiliated to any education board, modernization will not help. (Times of India 27/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

24. PM Modi saved me, says released priest Alexis Prem Kumar (7)

New Delhi: Indian Christian priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar who returned to India eight months after his abduction in Afghanistan, gave the credit of his return to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it was because of him that he was here. “This is because our Prime Minister Narendra Modi (that) I am here. He saved me. This evening he talked to me when I was at the Kabul Airport. Possibly, he took a lot of interest in rescuing me,” Kumar told reporters after arriving at Delhi airport here this evening. Earlier, the announcement of the release of the 47-year-old private aid worker from Tamil Nadu was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through tweets. “Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan,” he tweeted. “Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” he added. Prem Kumar was abducted in Herat province in western Afghanistan by unidentified gunmen on June 2 last year. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. “Father Alexis Prem Kumar is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” he added. He expressed India’s “deep gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly over the last 8 months to help in this humanitarian task of ensuring the safe release of one of our citizens”.At the time of his abduction, Prem Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international NGO, and was engaged in the educational field in Afghanistan. He was its Afghanistan Director and had been in the country for over three years. He had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25-km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS had said then. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Four days after the abduction, Afghan authorities had announced that three Taliban members had been arrested in connection with the case. (DNA 23/2/15)

25. ‘Mother Teresa a noble soul’, says Kejriwal after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s ‘conversion’ remarks

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday strongly objected to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s objectionable comments on Mother Teresa. Bhagwat had on Sunday stoked a controversy by saying conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa’s service to the poor. Kejriwal, the newly elected Delhi chief minister, who worked with Mother Teresa long back, termed her as a ‘noble soul’ and urged the RSS top brass to spare her from such views. Speaking at a function organised by NGO ‘Apna Ghar’ near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the RSS chief said, “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.” “The question is not about conversion but if this (conversion) is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he said. “But here (at the NGO), the objective is purely service of poor and helpless people,” added Bhagwat. The RSS Chief was addressing a function in village Bajhera, near 8 kms from here, where he inaugurated ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ in the NGO for helpless women and children. Later, RSS said on its twitter handle that the media reported “wrongly” and Bhagwat had only replied to former BSF DG’s comments. (Zee news 24/2/15)

26. Mangalore church attacked despite PM’s appeal (7)

Bangalore: A church in Karnataka’s Mangalore was vandalised on Tuesday night, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to protect all religious minorities. “A small stone of the size of 1-2 centimetres was thrown at the St Joseph Vaz worship centre near Deralakatte, damaging the windowpane, but no damage has been done to the idols of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus,” Mangaluru city police commissioner S Murugan told PTI. Over the last two months, eight mosques have been stoned in the region, though no churches were targeted in recent months. Karnataka health minister UT Khader visited the spot. Murugan said the incident could have been carried out by a mischief-monger, but it could not be established immediately whether a group of people were involved. Mangalore was the epicentre of a wave of attacks on Christian properties in 2008, when alleged Bajrang Dal and VHP activists attacked prayer halls and beat up preachers in what they said was a response to conversions. The fresh incident would embarrass not just Congress-ruled Karnataka, but also the central government, as PM Modi, at a religious function in Delhi last week, had condemned increasing attacks on Christian institutions. “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi had said at a function organised by the Catholic church. The PM’s statement was a reaction to the series of attacks on churches in Delhi, with over five places of worship vandalised over two months. Modi’s stand was welcomed by minority leaders and opposition political parties, but downplayed by the Hindu rightwing organisations. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

27. Ban Togadia’s entry, Kandhamal Christians urge government (7)

BERHAMPUR: The Christian community of Kandhamal district in Odisha wants the government to restrain Vishva Hindu Praishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia from entering the communally volatile region. According to VHP sources, Mr Togadia is expected to attend a public meeting in Phulbani, the district headquarter town, on February 28 as part of golden jubilee celebrations of the organisation. The Christian community of the district, which was worst affected during the communal riots in 2007 and 2008, fear that Mr Togadia’s inflammatory speech will be detrimental to the fragile communal amity of Kandhamal. Christan Jan Kalyan Samaj, an organisation of religious minority in Kandhamal district, has already approached the Kandhamal district administration and the police with the request to ban the entry of Mr Togadia into the district. “We have also written to Odisha Chief Minister, Prime Minister and President of the country to check Mr Togadia’s entry into Kandhamal,” said secretary of the organisation, Suranjan Nayak. The inflammatory speeches of Mr Togadia few days after the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in August 2008 had aggravated communal riots in the district. At least 38 persons had been killed and thousands had been rendered homeless. In another development, Ramakant Baliarsingh, a Christian resident of Brahmanigaon area of Kandhamal district has filed a petition before Kandhamal district magistrate on February 24 urging restriction on activities of Mr Togadia in Kandhamal district. Manas Ranjan Singh, advocate of the petitioner, said this petition had been filed under Section 144 of the CrPC to restrain Mr Togadia from entering Kandhamal and delivering communally inflammatory speech. The VHP activists termed the demands for ban on entry of Mr Togadia into Kandhamal district undemocratic. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. ‘Lankan refugees should not be forced to leave’ (13)

MADURAI: The ‘Samam Kudimakkal Iyakkam,’ a Madurai-based human rights organisation, has appealed to the Union government to sign the 1951 United Nations Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. In a resolution passed here on Friday, it said the government should come out with a law on refugee rights. Thyagu, Editor, Tamil Desam, felt that discussions on refugees centred around only the facilities made available to them and not their rights. He wondered how the refugees could be sent back when Tamils living in Sri Lanka were still under surveillance of the army. The government was talking about sending back only refugees from Sri Lanka and not those from Myanmar, Bangladesh or Tibet, Mr. Thyagu said. Human rights educationist Devasagayam said that Sri Lankan Tamils were neither accepted as refugees nor recognised as citizens here as India was not a signatory to the UN Convention. According to a press release, C. J. Rajan, State president, Samam, said that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees residing in camps across Tamil Nadu should not be forced to go back. The individual’s wish should be ascertained before making any attempt at deportation. The government should not act in any manner that would be detrimental to freedom of Sri Lankan Tamils living in 107 refugee camps in the State. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

29. HRW urges Pak to halt forceful return of Afghan refugees in wake of Peshawar school attack

 Islamabad: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Pakistan to halt forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan in the wake of the recent Peshawar school attack. A substantial rise in the number of Afghan refugees leaving the country has been noted since the Dec 16 Taliban attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School. According to Dawn, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that nine times as many Afghan refugees repatriated from Pakistan in January 2015 than in December 2014. The increase in the count of refugees leaving the country seems to indicate that they are being forced to go back to Afghanistan by the local authorities. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that Pakistani officials should not be scapegoating Afghans because of the Taliban’s atrocities in Peshawar. He further said that it was “inhumane” and “unlawful” to coerce Afghanis to return to places where they were likely to face harassment and abuse, the report added. (New Kerala 24/2/15)

30. Don’t question Christian missionaries: Alexis Prem Kumar (13)

New Delhi: Statements such as those made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioning the intent behind Mother Teresa’s service are politically motivated, according to Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was just released after eight months of Taliban captivity in Afghanistan. Kumar, in an interview to PTI today, said he did not have any mindset of conversion while working with refugees in Afghanistan and even this identity was not of a Christian priest as people knew him as “Mr Prem Kumar”.”For me religion is not the thing. For me goal of religion is service. To bring humanity joy, peace, justice and equality. All the religions must work towards that. That must be the goal. Actually all this fight is politically motivated… That is way I think India must grow out of it,” he said on the statements of Bhagwat on Mother Teresa. Recounting his experience of captivity, Kumar said that he was not tortured even once by the militants during the eight months and they took good care of him by providing him good food and basic facilities. “The only torture was that they had kept me tied 24 hours. I could not move around,” he recounted. He said he was grateful to the efforts undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his release. Kumar, 47, who was serving for three years as Country Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, a voluntary group working for the refugees, in Afghanistan was abducted by a group of Taliban militants on June 2, 2014 from Sohadat village, 25 km from Herat where he had gone to inspect a school supported by his organisation. “The talks of militants planning to kidnap a foreigner were very common. But it was only after attack on Indian consulate in Herat in May that Indian diplomats had warned me to be careful in my activities. This was the first serious warning that was issued to me,” Kumar said. Kumar said the regional director of his organisation held hectic negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar during the period even as government of India continued with its efforts. Describing his kidnapping, he said no one in Sohadat had any idea that he would be visiting the area as he had planned to visit Bamyan to oversee work done by his organisation but the flight was cancelled. “It was a routine early morning visit to Sohadat after 15 days to the area. I had also gone to nearby district from where I returned at about 12.30 in afternoon. When I came back, I saw four people in an SUV full of weapons approaching us. They just asked who was the foreigner and fired upon a building,” he said. Kumar said in order to save his people from militants he came forward and identified himself. “They put me in the vehicle, tied my hands and blindfolded me. They kept driving for nearly eight hours after which we rested the night in a cave,” he said. According to Kumar, “Language was a major problem. During entire period of eight months, I did not see a single child, woman or an elderly person. I could only guess from Helmand river and desert that I was kept some where around Baluchistan and Afghanistan border but I could be completely wrong.” He said he did not speak to his family or any Indian official during the entire eight-month period but he knew that his captives were in touch with the family members through his cell phone which was taken by them. He said the group that kidnapped him had handed him to another group of armed men who kept him in captivity during entire period and kept shifting bases. “When the first group handed me over to the second group, I was told that they had sold me for 20 million dollars, a figure which I did not believe,” he said. “Sometimes I was shifted within eight days while at some other places I was kept for nearly 81 days,” he said. On January 15, Kumar said they informed him that he would be released soon but it took nearly one month that he was actually released. “They left me at a place where firing was going on. One of the militants gave me his cell phone and from other side for the first time I could hear English. It was then I realised that I am safe. They asked me to run towards a highway, where officials were present,” he said. DNA 25/2/15)

31. My captors starved with me and told me I’d live, says Jesuit priest.. (13)

CHENNAI: Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was released from captivity in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that he didn’t know who his captors were. He said he didn’t know the reason for his abduction. Addressing a press meet at Loyola College in Chennai, Fr Alexis narrated the hardships he had undergone in captivity. The priest said he had lived in harsh environment after being abducted by some men while he was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Herat province. The men moved him from one place to another after abducting him on June 2. He said his hands and legs had been chained. The chains were removed only when he wanted to relieve himself. A gun wielding man was watching over him always. “The man who was tasked with watching me was nice to me. He was clueless about why I was held captive. He kept reassuring me that I would live,” the priest said. Fr Alexis said he had starved at times. “But my captors also starved with me as there was no food.” Fr Alexis, hailing from Devakottai in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, was released after India pursued his case at the highest level. “While releasing me, my captors warned me that they would shoot me if they saw me again in Afghanistan,” the priest said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

32. PIO Should Give Reason For RTI Rejection: Government Asks Departments (1)

NEW DELHI: Centre has asked the Ministries to ensure proper disposal of applications and appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, as per the specified guidelines. The Public Information Officer (PIO) should communicate reason for rejection, period within which appeal can be filed and particulars of appellate authority while rejecting a RTI application, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in an order. An applicant should be given details of further fees to be paid, the calculations made to arrive at the amount of fees asked and the fact that the applicant has a right to make an appeal about the amount of fees so demanded, it said. While disposing off first appeals, the first appellate authorities should act in a fair and judicious manner. It is very important that the order passed by the first appellate authority should be a detailed and speaking order, giving justification for the decision arrived at, the DoPT said. If an appellate authority while deciding an appeal comes to a conclusion that the appellant should be supplied information in addition to what has been supplied by the PIO, he may either pass an order directing the officer to give such information or he himself may give information to the appellant, it said. The appellate authority should ensure that the information ordered by him to be supplied (by PIO) is given to the appellant immediately, the DoPT said. “It would, however, be better if the appellate authority chooses the second course of action and he himself furnishes the information along with the order passed by him in the matter,” it said. A citizen can also seek information on governance-matters by exercising his Right to Information. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

33. CIC notice to Delhi Transport Department (1)

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued a show-cause notice to the Delhi Transport Department for not giving information sought by an RTI applicant on the Justice (retd.) Mukul Mudgal inquiry committee report. “The commission has perused the record available in the file and directs the Public Information Officer, Transport Department, to show-cause as to why penalty should not be imposed upon him for not providing the information within the prescribed time,” the CIC said in its order. Advocate Vivek Garg had sought copies under the RTI Act of a transport inquiry report prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Mudgal, a former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “My application was transferred to various divisions. But I did not get any response from the Transport Department. Aggrieved , I moved the CIC,” Mr. Garg said. Delhi Lt Governor had in 2013 ordered an inquiry into the allegations on collection of fees by M/s ESP India Private Ltd without conducting Loaded Mode Emission test and the omission on the part of officers of the Transport Department. The committee, which had former IAS officer Ramesh Chandra as a member, was mandated to ascertain the amount collected by the firm from vehicle owners and the liability of the firm for any omission. It was to also suggest preventive measures to avoid such occurrences in future. “It is a multi-crore scam. I do not understand why the Delhi Government is shying away from sharing the report. They must put this report in the public domain for greater transparency on the issue,” Mr. Garg said. — PTI (The Hindu 24/2/15)

34. CBI sends backdated communications to RTI pleas (1)

New Delhi: In an example of callousness in handling applications filed under the RTI Act, the CBI has sent a reply dated even before the application was filed, apparently aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. Sending backdated communication for application under statutory provisions is a serious offence under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Under Section 18 of the Act, a CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) can be slapped with a penalty for giving “false and misleading” information. If sending backdated communication was not enough, the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency also returned the postal order of RTI fee which is again an offence under the transparency law. Claiming exemption from disclosure under the RTI Act, CPIO Ratan Sanjay returned the RTI application, along with the fee, seeking status of closed Preliminary Enquiries related to allegations of corruption — an information which is provided in the annual report of the agency, a public document. Ironically, the reply no. 568/1-RTI/CBI/AC-II/2015 is dated January 3, 2015 whereas the application was dated January 16, 2015, showing that the agency might be using templates to respond to applications without applying mind to the information sought. Sending backdated reply apparently could also be aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. The then Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had sought the intervention of then CBI Director A P Singh, underlining that the agency was returning the applications after CBI was brought in the list of organisations exempted from the RTI Act. Singh had then directed the officials to not return the RTI applications but with new Director Anil Sinha at the helm of affairs, the practice of returning the applications has again started. (Deccan Herald 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. Modi lauds girls for doing well in exams despite helping at home (11)

NEW DELHI: Exhorting school students, especially boys, to believe in themselves, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday praised girl students, and said, “they do well in examinations despite helping their mothers in household work”.In his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme, the prime minister said it was very important to understand and know oneself well. “You don’t have to go far away… just see your sister or may be your friend’s sister who is appearing in the board examination and you would see she is assisting her mother in her household work while preparing for her examination and still does well,” he said. “Have you ever thought what power do they have? You will understand it’s just lack of confidence that makes us weak,” Modi said, asking students to develop it. (Times of India 22/2/15)

36. Court doubts govt’s RTE will, suggests lawyers’ panel (11)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Monday expressed dissatisfaction with the state government for its “lack of efforts” to implement the Right to Education Act in order to ensure admission of poor children on the 25% seats in primary section in private schools. A bench of acting Chief Justice V M Sahai and Justice R P Dholaria made oral observation that it believed that reliance cannot be placed on the state government for implementation of RTE laws for ensuring admission of poor kids in private schools. The court was of the opinion that for proper implementation, a committee of senior lawyers is required to be constituted which would come up with proposal for proper implementation of the law, said advocate Parul Joshi who represents petitioner NGO, Jagega Gujarat Sangharsh Samiti. Last month, the HC had asked 16 schools of the city, which were selected as model schools to implement RTE Act, to keep 25% seats vacant for poor students in their primary section. The petitioner NGO had claimed that these schools did not grant admission to poor students under RTE laws. These schools cited various reasons for not filling up the quota – the reasons varied from getting fewer applications, not fulfilling the criteria, etc. The petitioner submitted that most of these schools charge high fees and the state government’s allocation of Rs 10,000 towards fees for each student is not enough for them. Till now, 12,601 students have been granted admission in private schools, though the government has reserved 18,000 seats for them. In Ahmedabad city limits, against 2,000 seats reserved for admission in private schools, only 604 students have been admitted. In Ahmedabad district, against 1,400 seats, 779 kids have been given admission during current academic year. It was alleged that the schools selected as model schools in the city have not been following rules on various pretexts. (Times of India 24/2/15)

37. Govt circular deprives 3,800 students of RTE seats (11)

HUBBALLI: Vaishnavi Habib, studying in UKG at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, cannot seek admission under the Right To Education (RTE) Act because the government has instructed her school to provide RTE seats only for LKG. The same circular allows schools that do not have pre-primary classes to admit students to class 1 under RTE. Like Vaishnavi, over 3,800 students in Hubballi city alone cannot apply for RTE seats due to the restriction. Though private schools are ready to give seats in class 1, the circular restricts them from doing so. Vaishnavi’s father Vinayak Habib says that though his family falls under the below poverty line (BPL) category and his daughter is eligible for a seat under RTE, the circular is a hurdle. Bhaskar Jituri, a social activist who has approached the CM, the education minister, legislators and education department officials, said the government is denying students studying in pre-primary classes their fundamental right. “The circular states that schools having LKG should provide admission under RTE only to LKG. Such schools cannot provide admission to the first standard.” RS Patil Kulkarni of the District Parents’ Association accused the government of bowing to pressure from the private schools lobby. “We had submitted a memorandum to the Dharwad DDPI which he had forwarded to the commissioner. Instead of taking action, the government has issued the same content in an order dated December 7, 2014,” he said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

38. 27% of govt schools without DJB water: NGO (11)

NEW DELHI: Over a quarter of Delhi’s government schools are functioning without a water connection. Of the 798 that bothered to respond to a query filed under RTI by a Delhi NGO, 220—27.5%—reported they don’t have a Delhi Jal Board connection. “We work in the northeast district (there are 13 school districts in Delhi) and know of schools that have no water supply. We wanted to know what the situation is in other parts of Delhi,” says Rajiv Kumar who runs Pardarshita in New Seemapuri. Kumar believes that a similar RTI application filed in 2014 resulted in one school in the area getting connected. As per data received by the NGO, the maximum number of schools without connections is in the northeast district—50. In southwest B, there are 41 schools and in south, 30. However, the count in these districts may be higher simply because they have bothered to furnish complete lists. There are only 24 schools in northwest B that don’t have DJB connections as per the RTI responses but the actual number may be higher—there are several schools that haven’t replied. It’s the same situation with southeast—17 have declared they’re without water connections but over 40 haven’t responded. “Absence of a DJB connection does not mean there’s no water,” clarifies Padmini Singla, director, education. “In those cases, we give permission for bore-wells.” “Schools got bore-wells some time ago,” agrees Ajay Vir Yadav, general secretary of Government School Teachers’ Association. “If the school doesn’t have a RO system or there’s no maintenance, that’s pure negligence. However, bore-wells don’t function too well in certain parts of town.” On paper, there are provisions. “Most schools will tell you they use groundwater,” says Kumar. “But in reality you’ll find that in some schools there’s no safe drinking water. One principal tells me she calls the tanker but it comes three days late. There are also cases where the filtration systems aren’t cleaned regularly.” He also maintains that the list of schools without connections includes both old and new schools. (Times of India 27/2/15

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. National Food Security Act in NE: Paswan (21)

IMPHAL, Feb 18 – The National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was implemented two years ago in the country, will be implemented in North Eastern States by June/July this year. This was announced by Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on his maiden visit to Manipur after becoming a Minister in the BJP Government at the Centre, in Imphal on Saturday. Paswan was speaking to media persons at Hotel Imphal after attending a review meeting on the preparatory work for the implementation of NFSA in Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram. The Union Minister said that computerisation of data has been completed to the extent of 90 per cent in Mizoram and Tripura, Manipur has done 77 per cent and Assam 62. Assam and Tripura have informed that they will be ready to roll out the Act in June next while Manipur informed that they will implement the scheme by July. Paswan also informed that the ongoing mega-block due to Lumding-Silchar railway line broad gauge conversion through which the supply of food grains for Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and south Assam goes, will be lifted and the track will be made operational after March 31 next. “The Railways have targeted to complete the broad gauge conversion by March 2015,” he said and directed the concerned officials that all efforts should be taken to ensure adequate supply of foodgrains in the NE States. Earlier, Food Corporation of India (FCI) which transports about 85,000 MT of food grains per month for the NE States, had even plans to import rice from Myanmar. The monthly requirement of these States is 82,744 MT for which storage capacity of 12,6443 MTs is available with FCI against which the Corporation is having stock of 1,19,000 MTs of foodgrains in various godowns in the region. Regarding the complaint of anomalies in the distribution of grains through PDS, he said, “We are aware of such grievances, but it depends on the State Governments on how to improve the system.” After attending the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in Guwahati, Union Minister Paswan airdashed here to lay the foundation for construction of food storage depots at Bishnupur and Sawombung on Sunday besides attending the review meeting of FCI and State officials. (The Assam Tribune 20/2/15)

40.  ‘Next-generation genomics key to global food security’ (21)

SANGAREDDY: Renowned agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said on Friday that making a hunger and malnutrition-free society should be the ultimate goal of every agricultural scientist and stakeholder. Next-generation genomics backed by strong technological advancements will facilitate science-based agricultural innovations such as development of nutrition-rich crops to eradicate hunger. He was addressing the concluding session of the 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement (NGGIBCI-V) held at the International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Over 300 delegates representing private and public sectors from 30 countries worldwide participated and deliberated on future collaborations and ways to integrate next-generation genomics into the future of crop improvement to contribute to global food and nutrition security. Genomics – or deciphering the genomic content of crop species using high-throughput and next-generation approaches – allows the scientific community access to ‘good genes’ to speed up breeding for superior crop varieties with agronomically important traits. “It is not so much a question of more food. It is more a question of better food,” opined Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, MARS Inc. USA, while talking on genomics interventions to ensure food and nutritional security in developing countries. “Next-generation sequencing technologies are vital in feeding the ever growing global population,” said Asis Datta, founder and former director, National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India. “It is important to train the next generation of breeders to deploy modern technologies for crop improvement,” stressed Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director, CGIAR Generation Challenge Program (GCP), Mexico, in highlighting successful case studies in translating genomics research for crop improvement and the GCP’s role in providing the platform. “The challenge of producing more nutritious food to feed 9 billion people in 2050 amid the threat of climate change is enormous. Next-generation genomics is one of the ‘best bets’ for sustainably eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty. This powerful tool can dramatically increase our capacity to utilise genetic diversity and develop highly nutritious, stress tolerant crop varieties faster and cheaper than conventional crop improvement practices,” emphasised David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

41. 5,000 women from across district demand regular foodgrain supply (21)

KOLHAPUR: Around 5,000 women from across the district participated in a morcha organised by the Ration Bachao Samiti demanding regular supply of foodgrain at ration shops through the public distribution system (PDS). They also demanded cancellation of direct transfer of subsidy into the bank account of beneficiaries, saying that many poor people who do not have bank accounts or Aadhaar cards will not benefit from the scheme. Chandrakant Yadav, leader of the samiti said, “We voted the Narendra Modi government to power hoping that he will take steps to ensure that all the poor people, including workers and farmers who are mostly dependent on the PDS, will get foodgrain cheap. But, instead of preventing irregularities in the system, the government is ensuring that the least number of people come under the scheme to reduce the burden of subsidies.” “From 2008, we were agitating for foodgrain for all through the PDS which resulted in the central government passing the Food Security Bill. We are not against linking the Aadhaar card with the ration card or modernisation of the PDS so that the right people will get the benefit. But that does not mean reducing the quantity of foodgrain that people get under the system. We want 10kg of foodgrain per person which is 5kg per person now. We also want sugar through the PDS as it was done previously,” Yadav said. DN Patil, another member of the samiti said, “In 2013, the BJP organised agitations for food security bill and foodgrain for all. Now, after coming to power, instead of providing more foodgrain through the PDS to serve the motive of the Food Security Act, the government is reducing the customer base.” Pushpa Raj Deshmukh, state president of the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation said, “Along with the demands of the people, the government should consider our long-pending demands also that include increase in transportation and supply commissions which have been stable since 2001. All the ration shop holders in the state are supporting the agitation and will participate in the next rally that would be organised at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on March 2 and at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.” On Tuesday, the rally began from Mirajkar Tikti around 12pm and reached the collector’s office via Binkhambi Ganesh mandir, Mahadwar road and Maharana Pratap chowk. The delegation of the Ration Bachao Samiti submitted a memorandum of their demands to the district supply officer Vivek Agawane who assured them to convey their message to the higher authorities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

42. Feed underprivileged kids with ‘Ticket to Cheer’ (21)

New Delhi: With the ongoing World Cup fever, the six-week-long campaign urges cricket lovers to showcase their love for the game and their team with a personalised ‘ticket to cheer’. “The ‘Ticket to Cheer’ campaign is an attempt to fulfil the basic need of satiating the hunger of children in school through mid-day meals. We are united in this cause with foodpanda which shares our desire to provide nourishment to children. “By targeting cricket lovers during the World Cup, we are hoping to add purpose to their passion and bring a ray of happiness into the lives of children,” Shridhar Venkat, CEO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said in a statement. The microsite, tickettocheer.com, has been created to facilitate cricket fans to support their favourite team, in a match of choice, during the World Cup by generating their own ‘Ticket to Cheer’. One ticket implies a contribution of Rs.750 to provide mid-day meals to a child for an entire school year. Foodpanda will also be sharing posts to cheer India on social media and for every cheer foodpanda will donate a meal from their side. “The World Cup is a great occasion to unite people for a common cause. We take this opportunity to encourage people to join us in serving 1.4 million children with the potential to lead a healthy and progressive life like any of us,” said Rohit Chadda, managing director and founder, foodpanda.in. Besides foodpanda, the initiative is also being supported by ESPN Cricinfo and Freecharge. (Business Standard 27/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. They came from Odisha with hope, rescued in Yelahanka 4 months later (14)

BENGALURU: Twenty-five labourers allegedly kept in bondage for almost four months, including 10 minors, were released from a brick kiln in Yelahanka, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, on Wednesday. All of them hail from Odisha. The labourers were rescued by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department. The owner of the kiln was arrested and an FIR has been filed at Sampigehalli police station. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), the non-governmental organisation that was also involved in the rescue, the owner of the brick kiln had visited villages in Odisha and brought them to Bengaluru. Each adult was promised Rs. 25,000 as advance upon arrival, but none was paid. Instead, they got Rs. 150 as weekly salary, while the children were not paid at all, said IJM. The minimum wage for a brick kiln worker in Karnataka is Rs. 252 a day. One of the labourers said the owner did not provide enough firewood for cooking, and worse, they did not have enough money to buy food. He claimed that while men began work at 3 a.m., women joined them at 6 a.m. The target for a couple was 1,500 bricks a day. The children had the task of lining the bricks in the sun and preparing to fire them, said the labourer. According to IJM, the labourers worked till 6 p.m. and had no weekly off. “On Sundays, the man of the family was allowed to go to the market to buy groceries, while his wife and children had to remain in the kiln,” said an IJM spokesperson. The labourers said they were beaten if they disobeyed and were not allowed to leave the kiln together as a family. Last week, the Karnataka High Court upheld a seven-year conviction for bonded labour in a case from Chickaballapur where 42 people were forced to work in a quarry. When contacted, the Sampigehalli police confirmed that an FIR was filed against the owner of the brick kiln under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

44. EPFO mulls medical benefits for its pensioners (14)

New Delhi: Retirement fund body EPFO is planning to provide medical benefits under its pension scheme through the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, a move which would immediately benefit around 46 lakh pensioners. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s (EPFO) Pension & EDLI Implementation Committee (PEIC) has recently concluded in its meeting held on January 30 that the pensioners should be extended the facility of medical benefits. “..medical benefit as an extra benefit should be recommended to Labour Ministry,” the committee concluded as per the minutes of the committee’s meeting held last month. It was suggested that the surplus in Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance scheme could be used for extending medical benefits through ESIC. It was also pointed out in the meeting that retired government employees are provided medical benefits under the Central Government Health Services and even unorganised workers are covered under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) but there is no such facility for EPFO pensioners. A senior official said, “If EPFO chooses the ESIC for extending health benefits to its pensioners then they would be able to use the OPD (out patient department) facility of ESIC hospitals and dispensaries as well as other health benefits provided by it to insured persons.” The recommendations of the committee were listed for discussion in EPFO’s apex decision making body Central Board of Trustees’ meet on February 19. But the meeting was deferred at the last moment. Now this proposal will be discussed in the next meeting of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT). mAfter deliberating on the proposal for extending medical benefits to pensioners, the CBT may send it to Labour Ministry for consideration and approval. However, for using surplus funds in the EDLI for the purpose, government would have to amend the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952 and the EDLI scheme. The committee wanted that the medical facility to pensioners should be provided free of cost and the EDLI funds should be used for the purpose. (Deccan Herald 22/2/15)

45. 70% state women not working: Survey (14)

MUMBAI: An analysis of Maharashtra’s labour force over nearly a decade looks much like a study in patriarchy. Nearly 70% of women are not in the labour force; the figure is 23% for men. A paper on the dynamics of the state’s labour force by Binoo Paul, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, launched at a seminar on informal employment on Wednesday, paints a stark contrast between the work done by men and women. The study, which analyses three rounds of the National Sample Survey from 2004-5 to 2011-12, has found that only around 1% of Maharashtra labour force are employers. For every 1,000 male employers, there were only 62 women employers in 2004-5. The figure doubled to 120 in 2011-12 but is still only 12% that of male employers. For 1,000 men who work as regular, salaried employees in the formal sector, the number of women has ranged from 201 to 244. Housework, though, is an area where women far outnumber men. For every 1,000 house husbands (men who attend to domestic duties only, or alongside the free collection of goods for the household), there are around 2 lakh women who do so. Paul attributes this to rigid gender relations. “Despite an increase in education attainment and urbanization, there is little improvement in the participation of women in paid work. In fact, the situation seems to have consistently worsened,” he adds. When it comes to gender inclusion at work, Paul believes there is a need for more planning and creative thinking. For instance, he believes there should be some consideration paid to washrooms, toilets, urinals and transit rooms for women, which would make it easier for them to access the workplace. Safety, too, is a big concern for women and restricts their entry into the labour market, points out Paul. As for the disproportionate number of women who perform household chores as compared to men, Paul believes this may have to do with the fact that marriage, as an institution, is skewed in favour of men. He believes Indian sociology may have something to do with the abysmally low number of women who are employers compared with men. “Much like the rest of India, property rights in Maharashtra are skewed in favour of men. To be an employer or an entrepreneur, you need capital,” says Paul. Interestingly, the analysis shows that a higher proportion of urban women are not in the labour force when compared with rural women. The figure of those not in the labour force ranges from 40.9% to 59.4% for rural women and 76.6% to 80.5% for urban women. But far fewer urban women are engaged in casual wage labour when compared with rural women. While the largest proportion of casual labour is in agriculture (75-79%), the largest proportion of regular salaried/wage work is in the service sector (64-67.8%). The study suggests that informal employment differs across religious lines. While 93.4% working-age Muslims are employed in the informal sector, 87.7% Hindus, 87.5% Christians and 87% Buddhists are in the informal sector. The percentage of Zoroastrians in the informal sector is negligible, and a disproportionate number of Schedule Tribes are employed in the informal sector. Agriculture employs 46.96% of the working population, but only 2.4% graduates. At the other end of the spectrum, 65.84% of those employed with the information and communication sector and 63.26% in the financial sector are graduates. (Times of India 26/2/15)

46. Capital’s dust pollution chokes unprotected construction workers (14)

New Delhi: Jitendra Kumar goes around in the dusty terrain of south Delhi’s Moti Bagh, where metro construction is progressing in full swing, supervising his subordinates as they go about their daily duty of mixing cement and setting the mortar. Kumar said these workers were initially given masks and gloves, along with their safety gear, to protect them from constant exposure to pollution. But now the company did not seem to mind compromising on the health of hundreds of workers in a bid to earn profits. In Delhi, around 4,000 tonnes of construction waste is generated every day. This constitutes around 40% of the total waste generated in the city. “We spend at least 12 to 14 hours in this dust daily. Though we have been given safety gear for protection, the damage caused internally is much greater. Earlier, we were working with masks and gloves. After our night shift, the entire area was sprinkled with water to let the dust settle down. But this has stopped due to insufficient funds,” said Kumar. In an affidavit submitted by the ministry of environment and forest to the Supreme Court last month, it was noted that dust particles were the highest source of pollution in Delhi. Dust contributed to 52% of particulate matter in the air with vehicular emissions contributing to only 6.6%.Construction workers at flyover sites work in worse conditions with private contractors not taking the trouble of providing any protective gear to them. One of them, Devyani, who has been working at the Wazirabad flyover on the Outer Ring Road, has no option but to carry bricks and cement on her head with her eight-month-old baby strapped to her back. Devyani said the constant dust in the air might be dangerous both for her and the baby but she cannot leave the child unattended. Experts and doctors said a person who is constantly exposed to dust particles ends up inhaling both visible as well as suspended particulate matter. “Over the years, these workers run the risk of inhaling silica, which escapes the filter mechanism of nose and the throat. This reduces the capacity of the lungs and makes the person vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis,” said Dr Neeraj Jain, chest specialist, Ganga Ram Hospital. He said if such particles enter the airway and reach the end, they tends to accumulate in the lung tissues and cause injury to the lungs. Silica particles, for instance, give off toxic substances which are responsible for scarring of the lungs. (Hindustan Times 27/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Cabinet writes to Centre on quota (25)

Patna, Feb. 19: The state government today decided to send a request letter to the Centre to provide reservation to people belonging to Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in central services as on the pattern of Bihar. A resolution to this effect was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi here on Thursday. The move assumes significance in the wake of last week’s decision to give reservation to SCST people in government contracts. The cabinet also passed a proposal to give reservation to backward and extremely backward classes and women in government contracts up to Rs 25 lakh. The cabinet had earlier decided to give similar facility to SCST category in contracts up to Rs 75 lakh. Cabinet coordination department principal secretary B. Pradhan said a state-level commission would be set up for the uplift of scavengers on the lines of Rashtriya Safai Karamchari Aayog. It also decided in-principle to set up the Finance and Development Corporation for Extremely Backward Classes. Pradhan said the cabinet gave its nod for setting up a traffic police station at Muzaffarpur. A proposal to adopt a new youth policy for the state was also passed by the cabinet. To woo voters of Mithilanchal, the government passed a proposal to declare Saurashtra Mela a state festival. It also decided to raise the monthly remuneration of gram kachharis from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. A total of 23 proposals were passed by the cabinet. The political instability in the state has taken a toll on the meeting of the board of governors of Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in which many important decisions were to be taken. “The meeting, earlier scheduled to take place on February 21, has been deferred owing to political uncertainty. The date of next board of governors’ meeting has now fixed for February 28,” said the IGIMS director, N.R. Biswas. Sources said the IGIMS administration was forced to take this decision because the health minister happens to be the chairman of the board and in his absence, the meeting could not be conducted. At present, urban development and housing department minister Samrat Chaudhary is holding the additional charge of the health department. (The Telegraph 20/2/15)

48. Dalits demand quota in private sector (25)

SHIMLA: The first convention of Dalits was organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kullu this weekend. It formed the Himachal Dalit Shoshan Mukti Sabha at the two-day convention that ended on Sunday and attended by more than 140 delegates, said Tikender Panwar, CPI-M leader. Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of Scheduled Caste population after Punjab. The Dalits in Himachal like elsewhere are also the poorest and have the least resources including the land holdings. The Dalits shared their bitter experiences of humiliation and atrocities that had been committed on them in an otherwise sleepy State. They demanded a special session of the Vidhan Sabha on Dalit atrocities, reservations in private sector, special packages and rewards for inter-caste marriages, redistribution of agriculture land and 200 days’ minimum jobs in MNREGA for the SCs. The convention elected Paras Ram from Mandi as its president and Lokendra from Kullu as its general secretary. The convention was also addressed by S. Srinivas Rao, leader of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Morcha, who said the Dalits should organise to form a democratic movement and not get into the politics of identity. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

49. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (25)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha today. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. Ahmed Hassan (Trinamool Cong) demanded socio economic survey by the Rural Development department to be completed to enable the government decide on who to be included in the SC/ST list. A W Rabi Bernard (AIADMK) demanded that Dalit Christians be included in the list of SCs. Veer Singh (BSP) sought enhancement of reservation quota for SC saying that their population had increased over time but the quota remained stagnant. “Also, there should be check on diversion of funds meant for such communities like in case of diversion of Rs 744 crore Scheduled Caste Sub Plan to projects related to Commonwealth Games,” he said. T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) demanded formation of a Commission which should visit every state to assess communities inclusion into SC/ST categories besides evolving some mechanism for it. Ramdas Athawale (RPI), Vijaylaxmi Sadho (Cong), Nand Kumar Sai (BJP) and S Thangavelu (DMK) wanted increase in reservation quota for SC/ST while Bhushan Lal Jangde (BJP) drew the attention of the governemnt towards SC/ST communities in Chhattisgarh which were devoid of ration cards. Anil Kumar Sahani (JDU) said successive Bihar governments have been advocating for inclusion of certain communities in the list but in vain. Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD) sought the government to dalit Muslims and Christians should also been included. (Deccan Herald 24/2/15)

50. Dalit reconverts will get all sops: Supreme Court (25)

New Delhi: If a Christian reconverts to Scheduled Caste, he is entitled to all SC benefits if the community accepts him into its fold, the Supreme Court held on Thursday. Giving this ruling a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V. Gopala Gowda said, “A person whose parents belong to a Scheduled Caste before their conversion to Christ-ianity can, on conversion or reconversion to Hinduism, be regarded as a member of the Scheduled Caste so as to be eligible for the benefit of reservation for Scheduled Castes.” Writing the judgement, Justice Misra said, “The practice of caste, however irrational it may appear to our reason and however repugnant it may appear to our moral and social sense, is so deep-rooted in the Indian people that its mark does not seem to disappear on conversion to a different religion. If it disappears, it is only to reappear on reconversion.” (Deccan Herald 27/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Various civil society organizations condemn threat on Thoudang editor (1)

IMPHAL, February 19: Various civil society organizations have strongly condemned the act of unknown gunmen who came looking for Naharolgi Thoudang editor Khoirom Loyalakpa at his residence. In a press release, the United NGOs Mission Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, Social Welfare and Development Centre, Women Action for Development, Social Action Development Organization, Social Development Foundation, United Tribal Development Project, Peoples` Platform Secretariat, People Action Development H-37, Life Development Organization, Centre for Social Development and Village Women Coordinating Committee have strongly condemned the incident. `We are deeply shocked to hear the news of attacking the residence of Khoirom Loyalakpa, Editor, Naharolgi Thoudang, the Local daily newspaper on 17th February 2015 at around 10.30 am at Kontha Khabam Mayai Leikai by four armed persons while he was out of his residence,he statement said. `The four masked armed men asked for Loyalakpa in the presence of his 94 years old mother and 97 years old father. Every nook and corner of the residence was searched with an arrogant action by holding a gun in their hands, it further said. `94 years old mother of Loyalakpa was mentally shocked after the action of the four masked men, and she is still traumatized, it said. `We strongly condemned such act of serious human rights violation,it said. `We also condemned the attack on Noren Ningombam along with his cameramen Bipin Sharma, the bureau chief of “Impact TV” on 13th February 2015 at Moreh by the four personnel of 9th Assam Rifles while they were covering a mob gathered at Moreh police station to demand the release of a man arrested earlier,`it further said. The people in Manipur already experienced the assassination of Konsam Rishikanta of Imphal Free Press and others few years ago, it said. Attacking civilians, journalists, human rights defenders, women and children are fall under War Crime which has to be obliged by Indian State, it said. `We urge the Government of India and Manipur to investigate the cases mentioned above by establishing an independent committee and take up legal measures to the perpetrators and punish them under the rule of law,` the statement added. (Kangla Online 20/2/15)

52. Attempt to divide farmers: Activists (1)

New Delhi, Feb. 23: Ten civil society groups today got together to demand scrapping of the land acquisition ordinance and accused the government of trying to divide the protesting farmer bodies. The government recently spoke to two pro-farmer bodies, the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj yesterday and the Ekta Parishad today. Madhuresh Kumar, convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements – a conglomeration of left-of-centre organisations – said the government’s dialogue with select farmer bodies was an attempt to divide the movement. Among the other groups present at the joint news conference were the All India Union of Forest Working People, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Yuva Kranti and the Campaign for Survival and Dignity. Social activist Medha Patkar said these groups would not accept any compromise formula but would intensify their agitation for the scrapping of the ordinance. They are likely to meet President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow. “The government is engaging in false propaganda that the land ordinance is beneficial to farmers and is necessary for building rural infrastructure like drinking water supply, electricity, roads and houses for the poor,” Patkar said. She denied the Centre’s contention that the 2013 land acquisition act which the ordinance amends was too stringent, saying neither the Centre nor any state government had attempted acquiring land under its provisions. The UPA-steered law was prepared after consultations, she said, while the NDA government did not speak to any stakeholder except the state governments before promulgating the ordinance. Union home minister Rajnath Singh today met a delegation from the Ekta Parishad, which is organising a march of 5,000 landless people to Delhi from Palwal in Haryana. They are demanding, among other things, scrapping of the ordinance and a law granting the landless a right to homestead land. Singh promised to take the matter up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said the National Land Reforms Council, headed by the Prime Minister, would be reconstituted in keeping with the Parishad’s demands. The government had formed the council in 2008 to suggest ways of redistributing excess land among the landless, among other things. But the council hasn’t held a single meeting. (The Telegraph 24/2/15)

53. Amnesty International criticises Modi govt’s rights record (1)

London, In its Annual Report 2015, Amnesty has highlighted poll-related violence in May, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government, saying under the new regime India had witnessed a rise in communal violence and its Land Acquisition Ordinance has put thousands of Indians at “risk” of forcible eviction. In its Annual Report 2015, released here, Amnesty highlighted poll-related violence in the lead-up to the May 2014 General Elections, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. “National elections in May saw a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party come to power with a landslide victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on promises of good governance and development for all, made commitments to improve access to financial services and sanitation for people living in poverty. “However, the government took steps towards reducing requirements to consult with communities affected by corporate-led projects,” Amnesty said in its report. The report highlighted that “the authorities continued to violate people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. There was a rise in communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and some other states and corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive.” In reference to communal violence, it noted that, “A string of communally charged incidents in Uttar Pradesh prior to elections led to an increase in tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities…Politicians were accused of and in some cases criminally charged with making provocative speeches.””…In December, Hindu groups were accused of forcibly converting several Muslims and Christians to Hinduism,” the report said. The rights body also went on to single out the Land Acquisition Ordinance for criticism as it described the move as a new “risk” to thousands of Indians. “In December, the government passed a temporary law which removed requirements related to seeking the consent of affected communities and assessing social impact when state authorities acquired land for certain projects,” it said. “Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure projects. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi communities living near new and expanding mines and dams,” it added. While the group recognised “progressive legal reform”, it was critical of India’s “overburdened and under-funded criminal justice system“.Amnesty pointed out two court orders as important “gains” for India in 2014, including a Bhopal court’s decision in November to demand that its criminal summons against the Dow Chemical Company be re-issued and a “landmark judgment” by the Supreme Court in April granting legal recognition to transgender people. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

54. Rights violation at smelting units alleged (1)

Palakkad: Jana Jagratha, a civil society organisation, has approached the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking its immediate intervention to stop constant abuse of human rights by iron smelting factories at Kanjikode. The organisation urged the commission to intervene in the issue and put an end to the human rights violations at the earliest. “In a blast at Minar factory on January 16, 2015, a migrant labourer from Bihar was killed and another one was injured. The bereaved family has not yet been compensated. This is not an isolated incident. Almost all workers in the factories there have been denied proper wage, food, rest, and good working conditions,” said P.S. Panicker, secretary of the organisation. There are 30 iron and steel factories at Kanjikode and 750 permanent and 1,226 contract labourers are working in these factories. “The workers here have not been getting enough rest and they live in absolutely unhygienic conditions,” said Mr. Panicker.Commission member R. Natarajan had accepted the complaint and directed its chief investigation officer to conduct a probe. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Industry happy over likely amendments in Factories Act (19)

LUDHIANA: In what may be termed as a big development, finally the process to amend the Factories Act, 1948, by the Union government is likely to be completed soon. Amendments in the Act would be important for the industrial city of Ludhiana. Giving this information, Badish Jindal, chairman of Federation of Association of Small Industries of India (FASSI), and the member of the tripartite committee on labour, said last amendment in the Act was made after the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Speaking to TOI, Jindal said meeting of tripartite committee held under the chairmanship of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatriya, all the ministries and prominent industrialists and workers, the ministry has drafted the amendments, which will be sent to the Parliament for amendments in Factories Act. As per the information, the most important amendment would be to end the Inspector Raj. End of the Inspector Raj would be a boon for the industrial community, as no inspector-level officer would be empowered to enter the factory premises as per his whims and fancy. “The inspection system would be made online and only if the senior authorities of the department would be convinced about any complaint, then the inspection would be carried out physically”, said Jindal. Apart from this, the draft amendments would be having the provision for setting up the Labour Courts within the factory premises for the speedy disposal of the cases. Another crucial things would be that children below 15 years can not be deployed in factories, violation of which would invoke harsh penalties. One important amendment likely to benefit the workers would be pertaining to the overtime hour limit. “Presently, the workers can do overtime for 50 hours in three months but now the committee has proposed to extend 50 hours to 125 hours in three months”, informed Jindal. The committee has also proposed that under adequate safeguards and safety provisions, the women workers can work during night shifts also. Any person with disability or pregnant women’s won’t be allowed to work in Pipe Chamber. The new Factories Act will have more penalty provisions on all the evasions by the employers. (Times of India 23/2/15)

56. Is govt’s will the hurdle for judicial reforms? (19)

NEW DELHI: Legal reform is one of the priorities of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, an intent it has reiterated through the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament on Monday. However, in the last nine months the government has not been able to achieve much progress on judicial reforms. The much debated National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which replaced the Supreme Court collegium through a constitutional amendment, has been kept in abeyance for the lack of government’s will to notify it. The unofficial reason, of course, is a pending litigation in the SC challenging the NJAC. But, sources said nothing prevents the government from notifying the NJAC and going ahead with framing of its rules and procedures. The government had through recent communications to the chief justices of high courts impressed upon the need to improve the criminal justice system by strictly implementing the amendments made in the Code of Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure Code. One of the issues raised was on repeated adjournments given by courts delaying the process of justice delivery and thus increasing the pendency list. A proposal was discussed to link adjournments with the judges appraisal system. However, all high courts have their own independent appraisal system and there has been no headway in bringing uniformity in judges’ appraisal system across the country. The key to expediting justice delivery is to have a full strength subordinate judiciary. Currently, there are more than 4,400 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 19,518. The high courts too have a similar problem. Against a sanctioned strength of 984 judges there are at least 348 vacancies. One of the proposals of the government was to frame an All India Judicial Service on the lines of civil services, particularly, after several HCs told the government that one of the main difficulties faced by them was finding suitable candidates who can satisfy the eligibility conditions and are able to clear the written examinations. However, despite repeated attempts the government has been unable to convince the higher judiciary on constituting such a service for the recruitment of judicial officers. (Times of India 24/2/15)

57. Delhi HC seeks govt reply on PIL against law protecting unauthorised constructions (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Centre and city government’s responses on a PIL challenging an NCT law and its recent amendment by which unauthorised constructions up to June 1, 2014 have been protected from punitive action. Prior to the latest amendment to National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011, unauthorised constructions only up to February 8, 2007 were protected. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi government and sought their replies by May 4 on a PIL by NGO, Campaign for People Participation in Development Planning which has challenged the constitutional validity of the Act. The petition, filed though advocate Anil K Aggarwal, has said that by ordering a “complete embargo” on any punitive and coercive action against encroachment on public land and utilities and unauthorised and irregular construction of building, a “free hand” has been given to the violators of law to deface coordinated spatial planning of Delhi. It has sought quashing of the Act and amendment and declaring all effects of the legislation as “ab initio null and void”.It has raised the apprehension that if something is not done soon to bring the effect of these legislation to naught, then “the day is not far when instead of serving as a model of urban development for other parts of the country to follow, the chaotic Delhi will wither and collapse under the burden of ill-planned, haphazard growth”.It has alleged that by way of these legislation, the government have “belied the promises held out by it to all law-abiding citizens for the last more than 7 years that after notification of Master Plan – 2021, no haphazard/unplanned development, construction and use of buildings and encroachments over public land and utilities, beyond February 8, 2007 shall be tolerated or overlooked”. The petition has alleged the laws were enacted by the Centre to “cover up their failure” to prevent unplanned development as well as encroachments over public land and utilities. The PIL has said the Centre “enacted the legislation against all norms of disaster mitigation, knowing that all unplanned/illegal constructions and development, rapidly erected overnight, inherently structurally unsafe and entail immense risk to lives of the people occupying the same”.It has sought directions to the Centre and city government “to facilitate the municipalities to frame improvement scheme for the unplanned colonies with the active participation of the councillors, elected representatives of the people”.The petition has also asked for directions to the government “to constitute a metropolitan planning committee to assimilate and coordinate development plans and improvement schemes prepared by the respective municipalities”. (Zee News 25/2/15)

58. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. HC seeks reply on CCTVs in police stations (1)

ALLAHABAD: Hearing a PIL seeking installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all police stations of Uttar Pradesh in order to check human rights violations, the Allahabad High Court has directed the state’s principal secretary (Home) to file reply (counter affidavit) within six weeks. Hearing a PIL filed by Vinay Kumar Pandey, a Maharajganj based advocate, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and Justice Suneet Kumar directed to list this case after six weeks for next hearing. According to the petitioner, as per a report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), UP stands second after Maharastra in number of custodial deaths, custodial torture and rapes in police stations. In this backdrop, the petitioner suggested that if CCTV cameras were installed in each room and corridor of every police station across the state, increasing incidents of human rights violations could be checked to a great extent. In order to prove his contentions, the petitioner also submitted a report of Law Commission 2012, which had also suggested modernization of police stations in Uttar Pradesh, including installation of CCTV cameras in every police station in order to check human rights violations. The petitioner submitted certain documents which showed as to how installation of CCTV cameras in police stations helped in checking violation of human rights to a great extent in some foreign countries. The principal secretary (Home), director general of police and National Human Rights Commission have been arrayed as respondents in the PIL. (Times of India 22/2/15)

60. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police torture’ of tribals (1)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odhisa, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Juel Oram has urged Odisha Minister for Housing and Urban Development Pushpendra Singh Deo to “examine the matter afresh.” “They [the villagers] have further alleged that the areas which are far from Rourkela town have been included in the proposed municipal corporation, whereas areas within the Rourkela municipal limits have been excluded,” Mr. Oram said in his letter, naming more than six areas which are “neither included in the gram panchayat nor in municipal areas.” The rights of the tribals are also violated as the areas were supposed to be governed under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, said Mr. Oram, the lone BJP MP from the State, elected from Sundergarh. Denying any atrocity on the villagers, Superintendent of Police, Rourkela, Anirudh Kumar Singh told The Hindu on the phone that 300 persons were detained on January 20 because they had imposed an economic blockade. “We had to use force to remove the villagers who had squatted on roads, preventing the movement of buses. That’s the only force we used. All of them were released the next day [January 21]. About seven to eight cases were registered in November, 2014 when villagers blocked trains and the National Highway. Parts of Sundergarh are being included in Rourkela to urbanise the area,” Mr. Singh said. He blamed the “vested interests” of some people of the panchayats for the protest. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

61. New Act lets cops get away with murder (1)

MUMBAI: Citizens’ groups and human rights bodies fear the 2014 Maharashtra Police Act may give rise to a delinquent police force that can “get away with murder”.Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Police Reforms Watch jointly conducted a conference to push for a discussion on the subject in the upcoming assembly session. Human rights lawyer Vijay Hiremath said the Maharashtra Act makes no mention of section 197 of the CrPC, according to which no police officer can be tried without state/union government sanction. This was used to allow the policemen involved in the custodial killing of Khwaja Yunus and the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter killing to get away with murder, he adds. Pointing to the need to snap the link between politics and police, activist Gerson da Cunha says the new law makes matters worse. Dolphy D’Souza of Police Reforms Watch says the law, passed by the previous government, is among the worst in the country. Saurav Datta of CHRI said the social media lab of the Mumbai police has begun monitoring WhatsApp. “The manner in which this cell monitors WhatsApp flouts all norms,” says Datta. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

62. Media Need Respect, Dignity: Big B (1)

MUMBAI: Actors and the media are known to share a “love-hate” kind of relationship, but megastar Amitabh Bachchan took to his official blog to laud the dedication of mediapersons, saying they deserve “respect” and “dignity”. “I do feel, that the job assigned to a member of the media has an agenda too. They get briefed from their seniors, much like what we are subjected to by our writers and directors,” the 72-year-old posted on srbachchan.tumblr.com. “They have a job on hand. They are under instructions and they are carrying out their job. They need the respect and dignity of their presence,” he added. The actor, who has been tagged as “Bollywood’s Shahenshah”, also noted that instructing journalists to ask a particular set of questions is unfair. “Once agreed to meet the press or the media, then dictating to them what they can ask and not ask is really expecting too much. It also is freedom curbing. If you do not wish to make a statement or say something for public consumption, do not agree to meet the media. “But once agreed, be prepared for all kinds…they could be favourable to you, or uncomfortable. You may chose to at the moment to keep silent or not comment at all. But…to expect that it shall be within the precincts of what you desire, may not entirely be possible…at least that is what my experience says,” Big B shared. Meanwhile, the screen icon is gearing up for the release of his films “Piku” and “Wazir”. (New Indian Express 21/2/15)

63. TS bars journalists from entering CMO, retracts (1)

HYDERABAD: The government of Telangana barred the entry of journalists into the C-Block that houses the Chief Minister’s office and a part of the General Administration Department for a few hours on Monday, but relented later in the evening with the CMO officials stating that there were no such orders “as of now”. Two days after the TS government hinted at regulating the entry of journalists into Secretariat, on Monday around 2.30 p.m. a police constable Sidda Reddy, on security duties at C-Block, went into the office of the Chief Minister’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) V. Jwala Narasimha Rao located on the ground floor and informed journalists (print and electronic media) there that orders were received from the Information & Public Relations Department not to allow entry (of journalists) with immediate effect. The constable led the shocked journalists out of the C-Block even as some media personnel frantically called up Commissioner of I&PR R.V. Chandravadan immediately to know the reality. However, he replied in negative. It became evident that the government had started implementing its decision by first regulating entry into the Chief Minister’s office premises. Officials were not forthcoming when journalists grilled them about the motive to ease them out of the C-Block. The journalists took up the matter with Telangana State Press Academy Chairman Allam Narayana, who reached there due to his scheduled meeting in the CMO. “There are no orders (GO) issued so far barring the entry of journalists into the C-Block and the incident could be due to a communication gap,” he told the agitated journalists, who gathered near the media lounge. Not convinced by his clarification, the journalists argued with him as to how a police constable would send them out without getting instructions from the higher-ups. Mr. Narayana held discussions with the journalists for over an hour and gave an assurance that he would take up the matter with the Chief Minister. Later, the CPRO also stated that there was no ban on journalists’ entry “as of now”. Congress general secretary Konagala Mahesh, in a statement derided the government for curtailing the movement of media inside Secretariat. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

64. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

65. Prohibitory orders imposed in Shimoga after communal clash (7)

Bangalore: Tension prevailed in Karnataka’s Shimoga town on Friday following communal clashes that broke out on Thursday evening after a rally by Popular Front of India (PFI). One person had died and two were injured in violence during the rally. Prohibitory orders were clamped in the town by the Shimoga district administration on Friday. The violence broke out after members of the PFI, a Muslim activist group, staged a rally in the city to mark the birth of a founder. Some of the participants were confronted by locals for allegedly throwing stones at vehicles during the rally, resulting in the outbreak of violence. According to the Shimoga police, three persons who were riding on a bike were attacked in  Gajnur, resulting in the death of one and serious injures to two. The deceased was identified as Vishwanath, 30, from the nearby Bhadravati town. News of the death and clashes led to more people from both communities coming out on the streets and attempting to set fire to some establishments in the town. The police brought in reinforcements in the night and brought the situation under control. Prohibitory orders were imposed in the town and schools and colleges remained closed on Friday. Commercial establishments and banks, however, opened for business. The PFI rally in Shimoga came close on the heels of a major rally in the town organised by right wing groups led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Police claimed to have arrested a few persons who were involved in the clashes. Additional Director General of Police (internal security) Amar Kumar Pandey and Inspector General of Police (eastern range) Nanjunda Swamy have been stationed at Shimoga to monitor the situation. The district in-charge minister Kimmane Rathnakar, meanwhile, announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the family of Vishwanath. (Indian Express 21/2/15)

66. 4 get 10 years in jail for plotting bomb attacks in Chennai (7)

CHENNAI: A special court in the city on Monday sentenced four members of a Muslim radical organisation to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for plotting bomb blasts at temples in Chennai in 2002. According to the prosecution, police were on an alert after receiving a tip that Muslim Defence Force (MDF) was planning explosions at important Hindu temples in the city to foment communal violence on December 6, 2002, the 10th anniversary of Babri masjid demolition. Special public prosecutor N Vijayaraj said during a vehicle check, a police team led by sub-inspector Mahindran apprehended two MDF operatives, Zakir Hussain alias Zakirah, 28, and Towfiq alias Yasir, 27, with 5kg of explosives, 40 gelatin sticks and detonators near Rajaratnam Nagar bridge in Kodungaiyur on November 29, 2002. Subsequently, a case was registered under Sections 5, 9 (B) and (1) (a) of the Explosives Substances Act and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. Based on information from the duo, police seized a large amount of explosives from Mallipattinam in Thanjavur district, and arrested two more people, Nizamuddin and Abdul Quadir. The case was later transferred to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department After investigation, police chargesheeted 23 people in the case. On completion of the trial, P Murugan, judge of the special court for bomb blast cases in Poonamallee, sentenced Zakir, Towfiq, Nizammudin and Abdul Quadir to 10 years of RI. The court also slapped each with a fine of 5,000. The court acquitted 17 accused as the prosecution was unable to prove charges against them. Two of the accused are absconding. MDF was founded in Saudi Arabia by Abu Hamsa, 35, of Hyderabad with the objective of extending Islamist fundamentalism to south India. MDF reportedly also had links with Lashkar-e-Toiba, responsible for the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. According to police Zakir had confessed that he had gone to Saudi Arabia and befriended Abu Hamsa in Riyadh. (Times of India 24/2/15)

67. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

68. VHP to go against BJP’s diktat on ‘ghar wapsi’ (26)

HYDERABAD: Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to abandon the controversial Ghar Wapsi religious reconversion programme, the latter is planning to go ahead with it in the two states. The BJP’s debacle in the Delhi elections has poured cold water on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Hyderabad in March-end. The party has asked the VHP , which claimed to have welcomed back over 5,000 people from other faiths into the Hindu religion in the past two months, to put a brake on the Ghar Wapsi programme in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Ill at ease with the BJP’s stance, the VHP , however, has pledged to continue the reconversion drive from March 21, when it launches the Ramotsav campaign. The celebrations in the two states would come to an end on April 4 with Hanuman Jayanti. The BJP’s change in stance became evident with Modi’s statement earlier this week that his government was com mitted to protecting the freedom of faith. The change, according to sources, came after it received a drubbing in the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in the national capital. “There are certain changes in the party’s approach. It was decided not to send Modi to address political rallies in the states since there is a tendency to link the party’s electoral performance in those states to his leadership. Also, we have requested the VHP to put Ghar Wapsi on hold in Telangana and AP at least for now,” said a BJP leader. The BJP’s move is seen as politically significant in the backdrop of the elections which are due for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy said Modi’s Hyderabad visit is like ly only in August-September, which would be well past the municipal elections. Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said there would be no Ghar Wapsi unless people voluntarily come forward to be reconverted. “As such, there is no question of starting reconver question of starting sion or stopping it.If the people are willing, there will be reconversion.If there are none, then what is the point of organizing a Ghar Wapsi event,” he said. But the VHP is determined to take up Ghar Wapsi during Ramotsav, when it organizes Seetarama Kalyanam at the mandal level in both Telangana and AP . “Whatever Modi says may be suitable for his politics, it is not binding on the VHP ,” said G Satyam, VHP central joint secretary . “While the BJP is a political party, VHP is an independent organization whose cause is to protect Hindu tradition.” VHP’s defiant note comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar has decided to join hands with the Ekta Parivar, which has launched a nation-wide agitation in support of Anna Hazare’s campaign against the Modi government’s anti-farmer land policy, focusing mainly on the Land Acquisition Act. While Ekta Parivar launched a paday atra from Palwal in Haryana to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, RSS leader Govinda Acharya ex pressed the Sangh Parivar’s solidarity with it. In Telanga na and AP , the constituents of the Sangh Pari var, including RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, are set to take sts on February 24, part in protests on February 24, when Ekta Parivar has called for a nation-wide picketing.”The VHP supports any activity taken by anybody which is in the interest of the country and its people. As our objective is the wellbeing of the country, we will do whatever it takes,” Satyam said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

69. Conversion was Mother Teresa’s real aim, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says (26)

ALWAR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday said that the prime motive behind Mother Teresa’s service to the destitute was converting them to Christianity at a function in a village in Bharatpur, adding that her selfish aim devalued the virtues of a noble cause. “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity,” said Bhagwat. “In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too,” he said. Bhagwat was overseeing the functioning of an NGO, Apna Ghar, and inaugurated a ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ for helpless women and children. He applauded their work and maintained that it was dedicated to the service of the poor and helpless. At the function, former DGP of Border Security Force Prakash Singh, too, criticized Mother Teresa. “There are many other organizations that have done far more good work than her. But Christians with the help of media were able to publicize their work,” said Singh. He also mentioned that during his posting in the Northeast, he had witnessed forced conversion of tribal by Roman Catholics. Mother Teresa’s organization, ‘Missionaries of Charity’ works for the homeless and ailing across the country. The comments follow a series of attacks on Christian places of worship in Delhi and elsewhere. Mother Teresa, around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress, on July 01, 1971. (Earlier this month, priests, nuns and parishioners had clashed with the police in Delhi as they staged a protest against the attacks in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Last week, the home ministry had stepped in directing the police to bring the culprits to book. At a gathering to pay tributes to Indians beatified by the Vatican as saints in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out on the issue, saying his government “will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly”. (Times of India 24/2/15)

70. VHP gives PM Modi time till May 2015 for temple (26)

Lucknow: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has given Prime Minister Narendra Modi time till May 2015 to resolve the Ram temple issue in Ayodhya, failing which the VHP will launch a mass agitation. VHP spokesman Sharad Sharma said on Wednesday that 70 acres of land was needed for temple construction but a large part of it is being dubbed as disputed by Muslims. “The Modi government has come to power on the agenda of development and initially we did not wish to disturb the government but saints and seers will now be meeting the Prime Minister in May 2015 to demand that a law be enacted in Parliament and clear hurdles in the path of temple construction,” he said. The VHP has already started warming up the temple movement and will be celebrating Ram Mahotsav next month across the country. Idols of Lord Ram will be installed in all villages and subsequently immersed after Ram Navami. The idea is to popularise Ram Mahotsav like Ganesh Utsav and Durga Puja. The VHP has also rejected the plan mooted by some saints and Hashim Ansari, one of the plaintiffs in the Babri case, for a joint shrine at the disputed site. The VHP spokesman said that “people who have no locus standi have been trying to show interest in the case and raise such issues”. Mr Ansari had recently said that a temple and a mosque could be constructed at the same site with a 100-foot-high wall separating the two. Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Sunni waqf board, said that the there is no point in arriving at a compromise formula without the VHP which is a part of the case in court. It may be recalled that the Allahabad high court, in 2010, had ordered to trifurcate the disputed 70 acres of land and give the makeshift temple area to Ram Lalla Virajman (a party in the case) while handing the platform and Sita Rasoi area to Nirmohi Akhara and one-third portion to the Sunni waqf board. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

71. Chhattisgarh: Government staff may join RSS; no service rules under violation (26)

Raipur: Kicking off a political storm, the Chhattisgarh government has issued a notification that allows government servants to join RSS and participate in its activities. The Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 prohibit a government servant from taking part in politics. “No government servant shall be member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity,” states Rule 5(1). However, the state government, in a notification dated February 23, with the subject line “regarding participation of government servants in activities of RSS”, said that “as far as Rule 5(1) of Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 is concerned, its restriction does not apply to RSS”. The notification was signed by Additional Secretary (General Administration Department) K R Mishra, and copies were marked to almost all major government officer-bearers in the state, including Principal Secretary to Governor; Chief Minister’s Office; Principal Secretary, Vidhan Sabha Secretariat; Registrar General, High Court; Public Service Commission; Human Rights Commission; Lok Ayog; Information Commission and all collectors and divisional commissioners. Opposing the notification, the Congress termed it as “politicisation of administration”. “It is an unconstitutional move with clear political colours. It will indoctrinate government servants. They will go to shakhas and will no longer remain impartial,” said former chief minister Ajit Jogi. “It is an attempt by the government to force officers to visit RSS shakhas. It will blur the dividing line between the government and a political party. The BJP’s top leadership is annoyed with Raman Singh. He wants to save his chair and please them. The present move confirms his desperation,” said PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel. “Officers will now openly speak and work in favour of RSS-BJP. It will damage democracy in Chhattisgarh,” he added. Welcoming the move, the RSS claimed that it was not a political organisation. “This rule was made by the British but still continues. This government has done a good thing. The RSS is not a political party, we are a social organisation,” said Deepak Vispute, RSS’s Chhattisgarh Sar Sanghchalak. Asked about the RSS’s involvement in campaigning for the BJP, he said: “We never asked people to vote for BJP. RSS ne wahi kaha jo Election Commission ne kaha — matdaan karo. We only asked people to vote for rashtra hit.” When pointed out that RSS leaders occupy top political posts, Vispute said: “Our swayamsevaks are in various fields. Some of them are in politics also, but we are a cultural organisation.” … (Indian Express 27/2/15)

TERRORISM

72. Indian aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan returns (12)

New Delhi: India has secured the release of Jesuit priest Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy, who spent eight months in captivity in Afghanistan. Announcing his release in a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Fr Alexis Premkumar from captivity in Afghanistan.” “Have spoken to Father Alexis Premkumar. Informed happy family of the Father of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” Modi added. Father Premkumar, an Indian citizen, was kidnapped on June 2, 2014 from Herat province in western Afghanistan by terrorist elements.  After landing in Delhi, the relieved priest said, “I want to thank the Almighty. I thank him first. Also this is because of our PM Modi that I am here.” At the time of his abduction, Premkumar was working with the Jesuist Refugee Service, an international NGO, that carried out work in the educational field in the war ravaged Afghanistan. Soon after his abduction, the deputy police chief of Herat, Mohammad Nadir Fahimi stated six gunmen had abducted Premkumar and might have taken him to Gulran district. He stated that Afghan authorities were working with “district elders” to mediate his release.  Premkumar was the country director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Afghanistan. A native of Tamil Nadu, he has been working with the JRS for more than a decade. After serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu, he has been serving in the education programme in Afghanistan for the last three years. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister.  Arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

73. IS kidnaps 56 Christians in Syria (12)

Damascus: The Islamic State (IS) militants Monday kidnapped 56 Syrian Christians of Assyrian minority in Al-Hasakah province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Assyrians were abducted from the town of Tal Shamiram in the countryside of the predominantly-Kurdish city of Hasaka, Xinhua reported. Tens of other Assyrians were also taken into captivity by the IS in the town of Tal Hurmos, adjacent to Tal Shamiram, according to the London-based watchdog group. The IS repeatedly attacked minority groups across Syria and most recently in Libya, where the terrorist group abducted and executed over 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians, branding them the “worshipers of the cross.” (Zee News 24/2/15)

74. Educated, rich militants worry forces (12)

Srinagar: The security forces combating the 25-year-old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are worried by highly educated youth, including those from affluent families, joining the ranks of militants. The state authorities seem to be equally perturbed about the trend and are already trying to find the reason behind it. The alarming issue again came to the fore on Wednesday when the authorities discovered that one of the two militants killed in a 24-hour gun battle with security forces in a remote village of southern Shopian district was not only a post-graduate in English and also held a B.Ed. degree, but had quit a government job a few months ago to become an active member of indigenous militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The clash took place just a day after the Army released a report wherein it said that post-2010, highly educated youth were joining militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, which was “a very disturbing” trend. Also, deputy inspector-general of police (South Kashmir) Ali Muhammad had acknowledged the fact and said it was a worrying trend. He told reporters in Anantnag Tuesday the police was making every possible effort to engage youth in sports and other extra-curricular activities and was also holding counselling sessions “to prevent them from falling into the trap”. Wednesday’s encounter took place in Heff village of Shopian and one of the militants killed was 24-year-old Ashiq Hussain Dar, a resident of Turkewangam village of the same district, who had joined the militants in August 2014 after working for three months as a government official. The other militant killed in the encounter has been identified as Shabir Ahmed Ganai, also a local resident. An Army major and three jawans were injured in the clash and were immediately evacuated to the 92 Army Base Hospital here, police and Army sources said. Police confirmed the slain duo were associated with the Hizb and said the firefight began on Tuesday afternoon after it received specific intelligence inputs about the presence of militants in the village, 52 km from here. As a joint team of the local police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group and the Army began a search operation, the hiding militants opened fire on them, triggering an encounter, it said. The operation was halted at night and resumed in the early hours of Wednesday, reports said. The Army said the joint operation to flush out militant dead or alive started at 3.40 pm on Tuesday. “The terrorists were holed up in a house in village Heff Shirmal near Shopian town. As soon as the troops closed in on the house, the terrorists opened heavy volume of fire from the house. This led to heavy exchange of fire and the operations lasted through the night of February 24 and 25 and the daytime of February 25,” it said in a statement. “The operation to flush out the terrorists from the house was conducted very deliberately to avoid any collateral damage,” the Army added. The Hizb on Wednesday threatened to exterminate all those “informers” of the Army who, it alleged, are helping security forces trace and kill militants in Kashmir. “There is an active network in Kashmir that is helping the Indian Army trace and kill the mujahideen. We have identified all the men working for this network and in coming days we will teach them a lesson,” Hizb operational spokesperson Baleeg-ud-din told local news agency CNS. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

75. ‘Maoist’ arrests: Families of accused allege denial of rights (12)

KOCHI: The relatives of activists Thushar Nirmal Sarathy (36) and Jaison Cooper (37), booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for Maoist links, have accused police of highhandedness. Thushar’s wife Uma said she was barred from the district court premises on February 6, on orders from police officers, when the case was taken up. She was also not allowed to give some books to him, on the grounds that he could only read whatever was available at the prison library. “The search and arrest itself were carried out without a proper warrant,” said Uma, who works in an IT firm. “I had to seek legal aid to remain on the court premises and give books to Thushar. His brother Sooraj was still not allowed to meet him. We are denied our rights and police are terrorizing us. Sooraj was treated like an accused at the circle inspector’s office, where he went to meet Thushar.” Police had arrested Thushar and Cooper, an employee with the state insurance department, on January 30 following the ‘Maoist’ attack on NHAI project office here. Thushar was arrested from Kozhikode after he addressed a news conference, condemning the police hunt, while Cooper was taken into custody from his office here. The evidence cited against Thushar was that he possessed pro-Maoist literature and Sreekanth Prabhakaran, a student booked under the UAPA in December last, had called him over phone. Against Cooper, police had claimed possession of pro-Maoist literature and posting pro-Maoist messages on social networking sites. “The pamphlet that allegedly promotes Maoism was in fact a notice issued by the Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, a human rights group for which they worked,” Uma said. Police had claimed that they were not involved in Maoist attacks but were active in ‘front organizations’ of the movement. Cooper’s friend Prasanth Sarangadharan said: “They harassed him even before his arrest. They didn’t bother to inform friends and relatives when they were arrested. Our social networking accounts and calls are constantly monitored.” . Uma said police had issued a lookout notice against the two last yearo, while they were taking part in a protest against two crusher units in Wadakkancherry, which was repealed later. Meanwhile, police denied allegations that the families were not informed of the arrests. “Both have received calls from a public telephone booth and that is suspected to have come from ‘Sakhavu’” said Baiju Poulose, CI, Hill Palace station. Sakhavu is the missing man behind the recent Maoist attacks. (Times of India 19/2/15)

76. Naxal Blast Injures Two Policemen in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two police jawans were injured in a pressure bomb blast triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district today, police said. The blast occurred near Emargunda village when the security personnel were carrying out a combing operation in the Gangaloor police station limits, a senior police official told PTI. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with a pressure bomb planted by Maoists outside of the village. In the explosion, head constable Rajesh Sen and assistant constable Asharam Netam sustained injuries, he said. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured policemen are being brought to a local hospital for treatment, he said. A search operation was underway in the region, he added. Maoists had earlier given a day-long bandh call for today in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to protest against the alleged displacement of tribals due to development projects. (New Indian Express 20/2/15)

77. Naxal beats up foresters on charges of corruption (12)

GADCHIROLI: A forest guard and round officer were thrashed by senior Naxal cadres to protest alleged corruption by their department. Senior Naxal cadre Vikas took an aggressive stance against foresters at Yedaskuhi village in north Gadchiroli to convey their dissent against the department. Sources stated that the Naxals were trying to mount pressure on foresters and also on the local population for dominance during the forthcoming Tendu leaves picking season in the district which is a multi-crore seasonal industry. Naxals aim to collect substantial party funds from foresters, tendu contractors and transporters during this tendu season. The rebels also collect donations for the party from the tribal population who engages in picking tendu. A senior police official stated that Naxals targeting foresters is nothing unusual on various issues, ranging from corruption to exploitation of tribals. “Intelligence agencies have underlined the fact that a section of Naxals are trying to capitalize on the wrath of the tribal against foresters and are also trying to incite them to target the grassroots level personnel like forest guards and round officers,” said a senior officer. He added that Naxals are targeting foresters on local issues like bamboo cutting and transportation, auction of tendu, allotment of stretches for farming and trading of the local forest produce. According to a reliable source, Naxals manhandled the two foresters protesting corruption in allotting solar powered pump machines to tribals for farming. It’s also learnt that some goof-ups related to allotment of compartments led to destruction of substantial stacks of bamboo in Khobramenda. The tribal population was deprived of daily wages too as the work allotment had come under scanner leading to major public loss, it was learnt. The incident has left the senior Naxal cadre angry too. Police also stated that surrendered Naxal cadre Gopi, once a senior leader in the party, has also informed that top forest officials extended monetary favours to Naxals through their messengers. The revelation has also tarnished image of the rebels, leading to their wrath. Sources said that Naxals are also targeting foresters for being hand-in-glove with teakwood smugglers in south Gadchiroli. The rebels are learnt to be unhappy with foresters for allowing contractors to misuse sand and gravel from the forest and riverbeds for construction of roads and undertaking other activities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

78. Assam police arrest two Maoists, recover arms (12)

Jorabat: Assam Police have arrested two suspected Maoists and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunitions from Jorabat area of Guwahati Wednesday evening. According to reports, the police had launched an operation in the area based on intelligence inputs. The arrested, meanwhile, have been identified as Biswajit Sangma and Runa Sangma who were allegedly involved in an illegal arms consignment. “The nabbed duo had carried the arms-ammunition from Dimapur in Nagaland to Meghalaya and they were suspected to be involved with terrorist group in Meghalaya,” a top police official said. One AK-47 rifle with two magazines, 164 rounds of live ammunition of Insas rifle, six rounds AK-47 rifle ammunition and 380 rounds 9 mm pistol ammunition were recovered by the police. (Zee News 26/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

79. State to focus on rehabilitation to fight trafficking menace (1)

Ranchi: Alarmed over the increasing instances of trafficking, the State Government is planning to stress more on the rehabilitation of the rescued persons providing them better opportunities and living conditions at their native villages. According to Social Welfare, Women and Child Development Minister Lois Marandi, an effective rehabilitation programme for the rescued individuals was needed to check the menace. “Bringing them back home is not important. What is more important is rehabilitating them properly as most of the time, they are not accepted by their families,” said Marandi. “The State government, taking the issue seriously, was also planning some effective measures against the menace which is likely to be implemented soon after a thorough discussion with the CM,” Marandi added. According to the data available with the government, there has been a steep rise in the cases registered every year in the State. As many as 147 cases of human trafficking was registered in the year 2014 against 96 cases registered in 2013. Maximum of 42 cases were found to be registered in Gumla while Khunti remained on the second position with 23 cases. Ranchi was on the third rung with 16 cases of human trafficking in the year 2014. Senior officials of the state police also believed that the issue cannot be resolved by the police alone until the state itself comes in a bigger way and the concerned departments are clearly told their mandate that what exactly should be done by them. Officials of Crime Investigation Department (CID), stressed on multifold initiatives to be taken jointly by police, State government as well as other civil societies dealing with the issues. “Trafficking will continue in the State till some of the issues like push factors (poverty and unemployment) as well as the pull factors (greater opportunity and better life) are adequately gratified at their native places,” said ADG (CID) SN Pradhan. “I think the State should have to come in a bigger way into this as no respite could be achieved by outsourcing the responsibilities to others,” said Pradhan. Referring to the efforts made by the police department, Pradhan added that a hotline has been set up with the Delhi Police providing a list to them which was being monitored by them. A feedback is also being provided to us from time to time so that a close vigil could be kept on them. The department has also been working very closely with some of the NGOs, he added. The ADG, however, asserted that the issue needs a better ownership by the State. “Thirdly, a data is being created at the resource centre so that one stop monitoring could be done centrally. Once the data base is created, we will soon hand over the list to the concerned police station to find them out,” added the ADG. Pradhan, however, said that the menace of trafficking still continues as the rehabilitation part of the rescued individuals is not being done properly in the State. “Stress must be given on the rehabilitation part of the rescued persons so that they are not forced to get into the trap of the traffickers again due to the lack of ground facilities at their native places,” added the ADG. Pradhan further added that a chain system has developed where an important role is being played by the relatives. “The problem has now entered to a vicious circle where an important role is played by the relatives of the individuals who are being trafficked,” Pradhan said. “It is not the agents who are doing it, but the relatives who have now become agents of agents, and have become a part of the supply chain for the agencies involved in trafficking,” he added.  (Pioneer 22/2/15)

80. Mobile app to help girls fight traffickers (1)

Kolkata: A mobile app is giving a new ray of hope to girls in villages of some West Bengal districts, where incidents of child marriage and girl trafficking have been alarming in the past few decades. “GPower” was launched as a joint venture of Accenture and NGO CINI (Child in Need Institute) last year following a survey on the condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad districts. It has helped in saving over 200 girls spread around 20 villages from either being trafficked or being a victim of child marriage, its makers claim. “At the fag end of 2013, we decided to conduct a survey on condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad. At that time we came to know about the vulnerability of the adolescent and teenage girls aged between 10-19,” CINI’s Assistant Director Indrani Bhattacharya said. “The education of the girls were stopped either midway or they were trafficked. Some of them were traced back. But we felt the need for such a software which could help us in preventing trafficking, child marriage and keep a regular track of these girl child,” she told PTI. “Then in March 2014 the mobile app was launched. It is a multi-pronged approach to save the girl child,” she said. “The project is a huge success. It is limited to 20 villages due to lack of funds. We have a target of reaching out to 7000 girls from 100 villages of South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad in next 3 years,” she said. When asked how does this app works in providing real time data and prevents trafficking, Bhattacharya said there are two-three stages. Firstly, community facilitators or teachers in the villages are trained and provided with tablets/android phones which have GPower mobile app installed in it. We have now community. Their job is to register each and every detail of adolescent girls aged between 10-19 in those villages. Using cloud-based technology, GPower ensures quick transmission of data to centralised servers, which allows real-time data analysis. “Its analytic-based functions then process the data to provide instant insights. These insights create a continuous information flow that not only allows tracking of individual cases of vulnerability, but also reveals trends and allows forecast of results,” she says, adding action is taken depending on which of the three zones of safety a girl falls. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

81. Ghaziabad police to represent India at UN seminar on trafficking (1)

GHAZIABAD: The Ghaziabad police authority will represent India at the United Nations seminar on human trafficking in Africa next month, an official said on Sunday. Senior Superintendent of Police Dharmendra Singh will attend a seminar to represent India in Djibouti (a country in African continent), to be convened from 16th to 18th March, DSP Ranvijay Singh said. He said that the seminar will be organised at United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC), the only entity of UN focusing on criminal justice and combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The SSP will share his experiences with police chiefs of various nations, he said. The district police authority came into the limelight with the rescue of more than 600 missing children from different parts of the country as part of ‘Operation Smile’The Home Ministry had asked all the State governments to replicate ‘Operation Smile’ in their respective areas.— PTI (The Hindu 23/2/15)

82. Trafficked tribal girls forced to conceive, deliver babies for sale (1)

Lohardaga/Gumla: From the time she was 13, Phulmani (name changed) was forced to act as a surrogate mother and deliver six children by human traffickers from Jharkhand, widely considered a hotbed of modern day slavery. Phulmani, now 31, was made to breastfeed the children – all born in consecutive years in Delhi – for about six months before giving them to the agents who sold them off. The resident of Patru village in Gumla district was rescued by rights activists and returned to Jharkhand last year. Her experiences have left her emotionally and physically scarred.  “They treated me like a money minting machine. My will never mattered to them, all they wanted was me to deliver babies for them,” she said, avoiding eye contact. Phulmani was lured to Delhi by an agent from her village with the promise of a job in the national capital. She worked as a domestic help in a posh locality in her first year in Delhi before the inhuman treatment began.  She has no idea who bought her babies or what became of them. But now she is seeking justice and has filed a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Gumla. Rights groups have complained for long that well organised rings have been trafficking girls and young women from Jharkhand. According to civil society groups, about 10,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand every year to either work as domestic help or sex workers, but trafficking for forced surrogacy has never been heard of before.  The CWC in Gumla came across another case of trafficking for surrogacy from Lotwadugdugi village in Palkot block. The girl was trafficked to Delhi when she was just eight years old. Now 29, she returned to Jharkhand last year and alleged that she was forced to deliver at least 10 babies, said Alakh Singh, a member of the CWC. “It is not a regular pattern, but we have come across a few such cases in the past. It is a major concern if such practices are happening in the state,” said additional director general of police (CID) SN Pradhan. Like Phulmani, some more girls from Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Jharkhand were trafficked for conceiving children, local residents claimed. Some girls were even forced to conceive babies for sale in Jharkhand, they alleged. Jagatram Mahato, an elderly man from Arahasa village in Lohardaga, said teenagers from his village had been lured to Delhi and some northern states for forced surrogacy.  Some of them even gave birth to children in the village. Later, the agents came and took the babies,” he said. While a few girls were paid a negligible amount for being surrogate mothers, a majority did not get even a penny, he said. However, police said they could not act unless FIRs were filed about such cases. A majority of the girls did not bother to complain to the police, probably due to fear, villagers said. The NGO Shakti Vahini says it has rescued more than 100 girls from Jharkhand in Delhi. Bachapan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO run by Noble Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, says it rescued almost 80,000 children across India, of whom 15% to 20% were from Jharkhand and Bihar. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

83. Submit report on placement agencies, NHRC tells police (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of reports that the surging demand for domestic helps is fuelling a business thriving on human trafficking due to unregulated placement agencies here. Hundreds of agencies are allegedly involved in the business of selling domestic workers. The root cause of exploitation of tribal people, mostly women and children, and those hailing from rural areas is that there is no hold on the placement agencies. According to the reports, the placement agencies have allegedly emerged as the hubs and transit points for human trafficking. The Commission has observed that the contents of the reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of women and children. It has issued notice to the Delhi Police Commissioner, asking him to respond within two weeks with a report on placement agencies. It has directed that his report will include the number of placement agencies, registered or unregistered, functioning here as well as the information on steps taken to keep a check on them. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

CORRUPTION

84. Spare judiciary from corrupt practices: Supreme Court (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday sent out a loud warning to the high and mighty, including politicians, not to try to change the course of judicial proceedings with corrupt practices and said any such attempt would be dealt with an iron hand. “Please keep corrupt practices away from judiciary. At least this institution should be spared,” a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Rohinton F Nariman said while hearing a petition by mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy, who is accused of paying a bribe of Rs 10 crore to a trial judge for getting bail. Reddy approached the court seeking that two cases filed against him — one for illegal mining and another for bribery — be heard together as the facts and evidence of the cases arose from the same offence. Expressing concern over attempts to bribe judges, the bench said, “People are having so much money that they are now bribing judges. When money comes in abundance, then people don’t know what to do with the money. They try to subvert the entire system and judicial process. Anyone who plays with the court system must be dealt with heavily. This virus has to be eliminated.” It added that people who adopted corrupt practices like bribing a judicial officer were actually attempting to hijack the system. The bench asked the counsel appearing for Reddy how much money was allegedly paid to the judge. The lawyer tried to skirt the question but the bench insisted on knowing the amount. “Don’t feel embarrassed to tell the amount,” the bench said. The counsel said the allegation against his client was that he paid Rs 10 crore. Reddy submitted that the two cases against him were related and should be tried together. He said his defence would be exposed if the cases were not clubbed together. “What defence can a person have for bribing a judge,” the bench asked. The CBI has alleged that trial judge T Pattabhirama Rao granted bail to Reddy after the mining baron agreed to pay Rs 10 crore. The judge was later suspended by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the CBI filed an FIR against him, his son and five others including Reddy. (Times of India 20/2/15)

85. CBI, CVC give view on Lokpal amendments to Parliamentary panel (5)

New Delhi: CBI and CVC have given their views on the provisions of the Lokpal amendment bill to a parliamentary panel examining it. “We have got the views from Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). These are under consideration of the committee,” E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, who is heading a parliamentary committee examining the Lokpal Bill, said. He said the committee had earlier invited memoranda containing views or suggestions from the individuals and organisations through public advertisement on the proposed changes in the anti-corruption legislation and they are being looked into. “We are taking up the matter of the bill one by one. We cannot given any timeframe (as to when the panel will be giving its report). But it is a priority for us,” Natchiappan told PTI.

A 31-member Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Natchiappan, is examining the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 8 last year. The committee has been mandated to examine the bill and submit its report by March 25. He said the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal authority of the central government for anti-corruption matters, is also providing its input on the proposed changes in the Lokpal Act. The amendments seeks to provide for the alternative of leader of single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha in the event there is no Leader of Opposition in the House, for being represented on the selection panel for appointments of chairperson and members of Lokpal. It aims to provide for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in the CBI for the sake of its functional independence. The bill also seeks to lay down the tenure of the eminent jurist nominated as member of the Lokpal and to provide for a scheme wherein the filing of information by the public servants is brought in harmony with the provisions of the respective acts, rules or regulations as applicable to different categories of public servants. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Lokpal selection committee, led by the Prime Minister, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member. Ahead of the announcement of the general election last year, the UPA government had appointed an eight-member search committee in February in a hurry with Justice (retd) K T Thomas as its chairperson. The other members were Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), F S Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), M L Kumawat (former BSF chief), H K Dua and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha MPs) and S Y Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner). But later both Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (DNA 22/2/15)

86. MP governor booked in MPPEB scam (5)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav was on Tuesday booked for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam along with 101 others, including former MP technical education minister Laxmikant Sharma and mining baron Sudhir Sharma. Eighty-six-year-old Yadav, charged with misuse of office because he wrote letters recommending selection of candidates in his official letter-head, is perhaps the first governor to be booked in a cheating case. He has also been charged with forgery and corruption. Yadav, the Janata Party chief minister of UP in 1977-79, later joined the Congress, and was sworn in as MP governor by then President Pratibha Patil in 2011. Legal experts said although the STF has booked the governor, it would require presidential sanction to chargesheet him. The governor had allegedly sent a list of three candidates to MPPEB racketeers Pankaj Trivedi, former exam controller, asking him to ensure that they passed the examination of forest guard recruitment in 2013, police sources said. The FIR follows a hearing in the matter in the Madhya Pradesh high court on February 20 in which a division bench said, “The STF is free to proceed against the high dignitary.” The MPPEB scam is a massive admission and recruitment scandal involving politicians and top government officials. The governor’s role came under the scanner after the arrest of his officer on special duty, Dhanraj Yadav. His son, Shailesh Yadav’s name too cropped up during investigations when an accused alleged he took money for recruitment of contractual teachers. Two of the three candidates recommended by Yadav were identified as Satish and Mahesh, both of Azamgarh, UP. Others booked were those who’d appeared for the test, and asked to fill answers that they knew and leave the rest of the sheet blank. The blanks were later filled by MPPEB officials including principal system analyst Nitin Mohindra, the key accused, who was arrested in 2013. This is the 54th FIR in MPPEB scam, which involves several politicians, senior officials and businessmen. The opposition Congress, the party to which Yadav belongs, has been calling for Yadav’s resignation and a CBI probe into the irregularities. It had also boycotted the governor’s address on the opening day of the assembly’s budget session on February 18. (Times of India 25/2/15)

87. Modi govt has no intention to bring black money: Ram Jethmalani (5)

NEW DELHI: Noted advocate and former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani met anti corruption crusader Anna Hazare today to discuss the issue of black money, which the saffron party had promised to bring back once it came to power. Lashing out at the government, Jethmalani said that the government was not serious about bringing back black money stashed abroad. “My motive to meet Anna Hazare was that it seems from the government’s statement that they have no intention to bring black money. And since I have been a leader in this movement, it is my duty to discuss this with him,” Jethmalani said after his meeting with Hazare at the new Maharashtra Sadan. “You ask him (Hazare) about this. It would be breach of confidence for me to tell you what he replied. What is our strategy is not to share with enemies,” Jethmalani added. When he was asked about the issue of black money, the senior advocate said, “Government is not serious to bring it back.”  Earlier in the day, Hazare lashed out at the Centre for trying to mislead people over the issue of black money. “He (Narendra Modi) claimed that black money will be brought back to the country and every bank account will receive Rs 15 lakh, but people haven’t even received Rs 15 since last nine months,” Hazare said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

88. Environmental loss in Sundarbans worth Rs 1,290 cr: World Bank (9)

New Delhi: Environmental damage in the climate change-hit islands of Sundarbans is costing India Rs 1,290 crore each year, estimates a latest World Bank report. The cost of environmental damage associated with ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss is about Rs 6.7 billion (Rs 670 crore) annually, while the cost of health effects due to poor environment is estimated at Rs 6.2 billion (Rs 620 crore), it says. The total figure of Rs 1,290 crore is about ten per cent of Sundarbans’ GDP in 2009. Released here recently, the report ‘Building Resilience for Sustainable Development of the Sundarbans’ is prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the West Bengal government. “The losses stem from a combination of factors associated with unsustainable and inefficient economic activities – for example, mangrove destruction, impact of cyclones, reduced agricultural yields and unsustainable fisheries – as well as destruction of ecosystem services,” the report says. Sundarbans is an archipelago of 54 islands and is home to about 44 lakh people. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels and global warming. Damage costs from cyclones were found to be the highest in the research at Rs 2.9 billion and include damages to houses, agriculture, human injuries and fatalities. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects an increase in sea level and intensification of present climatic variability. (Business Standard 22/2/15)

89. Another 450 Climate Reality Leaders to be trained on climate change (9)

NEW DELHI: High-profile leaders in renewable energy are joining Nobel laureate and former US vice-president Al Gore here to train another 450 Climate Reality Leaders on the science of climate change and solutions for the climate crisis while developing skills to effectively communicate about both the challenges and opportunities, the Climate Reality Project announced on Monday. The February 22-24 event marks the 27th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training, and will focus on India’s renewable energy potential, as well as the key role the country plays in the lead up to the highly anticipated COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year. World-class experts will speak on a variety of topics relevant to India and climate change, including its effects on the country, opportunities for renewable solutions, and how grassroots engagement can benefit people across India. The speakers include Ken Berlin, president & CEO, Climate Reality Project; Sanjit Bunker Roy, founder, Barefoot College; Ajay Mathur, director general, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Angela Rutter, director of strategic engagement, Australian Conservation Foundation. “There are many reasons to be optimistic about our ability to solve the climate crisis,” said Gore, chairman and founder of the Climate Reality Project. “The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in New Delhi, which will bring together committed activists and citizens from all over India and from several others nations, gives me yet another reason to be hopeful. After completing this training, these leaders will be empowered with the best tools possible to communicate this message of hope to their own communities,” he added. Kamal Meattle, trustee, the Climate Reality Project, India spoke about the implications of climate change for India and apprised the climate leaders about the current situation in the country. “India is an important country when it comes to climate action, as it is already experiencing negative effects of climate change, including extreme rainfall, flooding and significant changes to agricultural patterns without the infrastructure to easily adapt. While the country has a low per-capita historical responsibility for emissions, India also has the opportunity to pursue an inclusive and sustainable development pathway, to secure a healthy, safe and prosperous future for its citizens and the world,” a Climate Reality Project statement said. Thus far, the Climate Reality Project has trained over 7,000 Climate Reality Leaders from more than 100 countries, including recent trainings held in Istanbul, Chicago, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro. (Times of India 23/2/15)

90. High air pollution cuts most Indian lives by 3 years (9)

India’s high air pollution, ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) among the worst in the world, is adversely impacting the lifespans of its citizens, reducing most Indian lives by over three years, a new study has said. Over half of India’s population — 660 million people — live in areas where fine particulate matter pollution is above India’s standards for what is considered safe, said the study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale published in Economic & Political Weekly. If India reverses this trend to meet its air standards, those 660 million people would gain about 3.2 years onto their lives, the study said. Put another way, compliance with Indian air quality standards would save 2.1 billion life years, it said. “India’s focus is necessarily on growth. However, for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods.” The new figures come after the WHO estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India. “The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution,” said Rohini Pande, also an author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It is in India’s power to change this in cost effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth,” Pande said. The authors — who also include Nicholas Ryan of Yale, Janhavi Nilekani and Anish Sugathan of Harvard, and Anant Sudarshan, director of EPIC’s India office — offer three policy solutions that would help to cost-effectively decrease India’s pollution. One initial step would be to increase its monitoring efforts and take advantage of new technology that allows for real-time monitoring, the authors said. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

91. Minimum support price cannot be 50% more than cost of produce, Centre to SC (20)

NEW DELHI: Farmers’ plight has worsened due to the non-remunerative nature of agriculture but the Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it would not be able to enhance the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce to be 50% more than the input cost. A PIL filed by Consortium of Indian Farmers Association had complained that agriculture had become non-remunerative and was driving farmers to borrow heavily from local money-lenders. Unable to repay loans, farmers were committing suicide, it said. Suggesting a quantum jump in the MSP to help them overcome their pitiable financial condition, the association had demanded implementation of the National Policy for Farmers. Appearing before a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh submitted the Centre’s affidavit, which said MSP for 22 agricultural commodities and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane were recommended by the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). MSP and FRP were fixed keeping in mind the cost of production, demand and supply, price trends in domestic and international markets, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors and the likely impact of MSP on consumers, the affidavit said. “It may be noted that pricing policy, that is fixing of MSP, is not a ‘cost plus’ exercise, though cost is an important determinant of MSP. The pricing policy seeks to achieve the objective of fair and remunerative prices and is not an income policy,” the agriculture ministry said. “Hence, prescribing an increase of at least 50% on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter-productive in some cases. No comparison can be made about increase or decrease of price of one commodity as compared to other commodities as the same depends on demand and supply and market forces,” the affidavit said. It said India accounted for only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area and 4% of its water resources but had to support 17% of the world’s population and 15% of the world’s livestock. “The government has taken all possible steps for implementation of National Policy for Farmers, 2007 for development and growth of agriculture and allied sectors as well as for the betterment of farmers,” it said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

92. Farmers’ unions to protest outside parliament against land ordinance (20)

New Delhi: Several farmer unions from across the country will launch an indefinite agitation against the government’s land ordinance outside Parliament House Tuesday, which will see participation of social activists Anna Hazare and Medha Patkar. The protest will be held with the slogan of ‘Bhoo Adhigrahan Nahi, Bhoo Adhikar chahiye (We want Land Rights, not Land Acquisition)’ and will coincide with the second day of the Budget Session, Patkar said at a press conference here. Patkar Monday also joined Hazare on the first day of his two-day dharna at Jantar Mantar here. Hazare said several farmer unions are also joining him Tuesday at Jantar Mantar on the second day of his dharna, from where his movement would spread to rest of the country. “We reject the ordinance which is unacceptable to farmers, farm labourers and all traders, fishermen and others, associated with the occupation and hence it was felt necessary to bring together the agitations going on in different parts of the country,” Patkar said. Saying that the government was likely to introduce a bill to make the ordinance a law during the Budget Session, the Narmada Bachchao Aandolan activist said, “They might also initiate the process of bringing changes in the Bill, hence on the very first day of the Budget Session, we will make it known that it is unacceptable to us.” Outrightly rejecting the “government’s bid” to initiate talks with farmers’ unions on the issue, she said any such attempt would be to “sabotage the movement”. Calling for support from various parties against the ordinance, leaders from left-wing farmer unions said that they had issued an “open letter” to all such outfits on the issue. “We want to appeal to all political parties not to get trapped in the sinister designs of the BJP government,” said CPI leader and All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Atul Anjan. Clarifying that the agitation was not an attempt to distance itself from Anna’s dharna, National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) member Ranjit Rafiq said, “He had agreed to support our agitation but when he was coming here, his supporters in Delhi said they too wanted to join him.” Besides, CPI’s All India Kisan Sabha and NAPM, farmer unions like Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Kisan Manch, and Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan, among others, would also join the agitation. In a separate press conference, All India Agricultural Workers Union of CPI(M) also expressed its support to the agitation and demanded a “10 per cent allocation” in the Budget for agriculture. (Indian Express 23/2/15)

93. Ban on jallikattu: 3,000 farmers to observe fast in Chennai (20)

CHENNAI: Around 3,000 farmers from all over Tamil Nadu would observe a daylong fast at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai on Thursday to garner support for resumption of jallikattu (taming of bulls), which has been banned by the Supreme Court. The fast has been organized by Gowher Aziz, animal activist and member of the National Cattle Commission. Gowher told TOI that 3,000 farmers and animal activists would participate in the fast to save jallikattu bulls and Tamil tradition. “Ever since the ban on jalllikattu came into force, many pedigree bulls reared by farmers in the state have been sold to dubious organizations which claim to be saviours of cattle but are engaged in extracting semen from them to export,” she said. She alleged that the bulls were being mistreated by such organizations. Gowher said at a time when indigenous bull species were facing extinction, sports like jallikattu would encourage farmers to breed them. The Centre proposes to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to lift the ban on the use of bulls in jallikattu. A notification issued by the central government on July 11, 2011 banned their use as performing animals either for jallikattu or events of bullock cart races in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country. Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to denotify bulls from the list of performing animals to help conduct the event during Pongal in January last. (Times of India 25/2/15)

94. Land Bill: BJP forms 8-member panel to talk to farmers (20)

New Delhi: Parliament sessionBJP chief Amit Shah formed an eight-member committee on Tuesday to seek suggestions from India’s farmers on the controversial Land Acquisition Bill which was earlier presented in the Lok Sabha amid a huge uproar. Former Union minister Satyapal Malik is the convener of the committee, which will hold discussions with farmers and other organisations on land acquisition. The other members are MPs Bhupender Yadav, Ram Narayan Dudi, Hukam Dev Narayan, Rakesh Singh, Sanjay Dhotre and Suresh Angadi, along with chartered accountant Gopal Agarwal. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh introduced the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government on December 30, 2014. The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the Land Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, Public Private Partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.  An outraged opposition led by the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha raising slogans against the amendment to the 2013 law passed by the then Manmohan Singh government. “This is not right that despite opposition it (NDA government) introduced the bill. It did not send the bill either to the standing committee or select committees. This attitude of the government of bulldozing bills is not right,” Congress Leader of the House Mallikarjun Kharge said. Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said his party opposed the bill. “This is the most anti-farmer and anti-poor legislation possible. In one stroke, it (government) has added a part in which four-five different kind of projects… It has taken away the social impact assessment clause.” Biju Janata Dal MP B Mehtab said that his party was opposed to two changes in the original act – doing away with the consent clause and the scaling down of social impact assessment. Responding to the opposition charges, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “Minority cannot dictate over the majority. We are not bulldozing.” “It (opposition) does not want to discuss. In June 2013, 32 state governments made a representation that the act makes development impossible,” he said, adding, “If anybody has any objection, then they have to discuss. We are with the farmers.” Social activist Anna Hazare is also holding a two-day protest against the Modi government’s decision to amend the 2013 land law. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also expected to join his former mentor’s demonstration at Jantar Mantar in the national capital. Meanwhile, amid stiff opposition to government’s move to amend the land Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that there was no going back. The BJP was, at the same time, preparing for discussions with NDA partners to make the legislation more “effective” and “farmer-friendly”.At the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party, Modi said the bill will benefit farmers and that the amendments brought by his government were based on suggestions and demands made by Congress-ruled states and their chief ministers. He asked his party MPs to “bust the myths” propagated by opposition parties on it, sources said. To make the land ordinance bill more effective in favour of farmers, the BJP and NDA leaders will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss and work out means to further improve it. (India Today 25/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

95. Land acquisition ordinance: Anna Hazare vows to fight Modi govt’s ‘anti-farmer’ bill (4)

NEW DELHI: Veteran social activist Anna Hazare on Monday launched his protest at Jantar Mantar against the ordinance on Land Acquisition Bill. Terming the Narendra Modi-led government’s Land Acquisition Bill as “ant-farmer” Anna Hazare vowed to fight it. The move is bound to spell trouble for the present government which is keen on pushing the ordinance. “BJP went for an ordinance on land acquisition which is not in favour of democracy,” Anna said. In response to a query on whether AAP leader Kumar Vishwas was joining his agitation, Anna Hazare said, “If people from parties come on our stage then people would think that it’s a party protest.” The social activist also today hinted at a bigger agitation at the Ramlila ground if the Narendra Modi government did not heed to his demands on the issue. Hazare said the two-day protest will be followed by a three to four month long ‘padyatra’ across the country to make people aware of the “anti-farmer” provisions made by the Centre in the ordinance. “If the government doesn’t take the ordinance back, then the people will also continue with their agitation. The activists will make aware the farmers (of the amendments). There is a chance that farmers from across the country will gather at the Ramlila Maidan in the next three-four months,” he said. 77-year-old Hazare has been highly critical of the Modi government for making certain changes in the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance. On December 29 last year, the government had recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. A group of farmers who began marching from Haryana’s Palwal on Friday are joining Hazare at the venue on Monday to demand withdrawal of amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (Times of India 23/2/15)

96. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

97. Land acquisition ordinance: Opposition tears into Narendra Modi govt (4)

New Delhi: Facing flak from a united Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Narendra Modi government today expressed its intent to hold discussion with all parties to find a way out on the new land bill to replace the contentious ordinance on the issue. As members from Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and JD-U targetted the government over provisions of the land ordinance calling it “anti-farmer” and aimed at “benefitting corporates”, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley assured them that he would convey the suggestion to the concerned minister to “hold discussions with parties” on the issue. The House resumed its normal business at noon after the Finance Minister’s assurance following a heated discussion which went on for an hour. Jaitley’s remarks came in response to the comments of Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, who said the government should talk to all parties and find a way out so that farmers’ interests are protected while development activities are carried out. Yadav said that while it is true that at times acquiring land becomes difficult but a way should have been found out through discussions. “You should have taken the Opposition into confidence,” he said. “I do not want a deadlock in Parliament. You talk to all parties and find a way out,” he said. K C Tyagi from JD-U also supported Yadav’s demand for a discussion on the issue at an all-party meet. Jaitley later said that Yadav has made some suggestions in the right spirit. “Responding in the same spirit, I will convey his suggestions to the minister concerned to have discussion with parties.” Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma said that since Government has acknowledged the need to consult all parties, “he (Jaitley) should go a step further” and say that “till consultations are completed, the ordinance will remain suspended”. To this, Jaitley was seen waving his hand indicating a negative response. Soon after obituary references and listed papers laid on the table in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma (Cong) said Congress and three other parties have given a notice under rule 267 for suspension of the business as the government has bypassed Parliament to amend a law that was passed in 2013 through consensus of all parties including BJP. Responding to this, Jaitley said 639 ordinances had been promulgated since Independence, of which 80 per cent under Congress rule. Jaitley said as many as 70 ordinances were promulgated under first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and 18 the under United Front and listed the ordinances promulgated multiple times during the previous UPA regime.

“No law can be passed by by-passing Parliament,” he said adding a bill to convert the ordinance into an act was in the Lok Sabha and would be brought to this House after it is passed by the Lower House. “So the new logic that is being constructed that Parliament is being bypassed is not justified,” he said. Later, Jaitley said the government has, through the ordinance, provisioned for four times compensation to farmers for land acquisition even in the 13 sectors which were kept out of the earlier land law passed during the UPA rule. Defending the ordinance provisions of exempting social impact surveys for acquisition for five purposes including rural infrastructure, housing for the poor and industrial corridor, Jaitley they will benefit the rural areas and asked the leaders opposing the Ordinance to read the law again. However, members were unrelenting in their criticism of the Ordinance and Jaitley’s plea to them to raise objections when the bill was brought in the House fell on deaf ears. Former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that Jaitley has “misled” the House by saying compensation has been increased four times for farmers whose lands were acquired under 13 laws. He said the government has done no favour by doing so as the land law passed in 2013 itself had a separate schedule in which it was clearly written that within one year, changes in compensation will be brought under those 13 laws. Sharma also countered Jaitley’s arguments on ordinances saying that ordinances under Nehru were spread over his 17 years in power and under extra-ordinary circumstances as the country had then just been partitioned. The ordinances under UPA had to be re-promulgated multiple time as the opposition had not allowed the House to function, he said. Sharma, a former Commerce Minister, also noted that nobody in the House was against the industry. Derek ‘O’ Brien of Trinamool Congress also accused Jaitley of giving “selective information” alleging the government has brought more ordinances than bills during its nine-month tenure. Recalling that his party Trinamool Congress had opposed the land law passed by the UPA in 2013, he said that after this Ordinance “they are looking like angels”. Sharad Yadav (JDU) said through the ordinance, the government was “bulldozing and trampling” on Parliamentary scrutiny because they have absolute majority. D Raja (CPI) said the ordinance was intended “to help the corporate and big business Houses.” Mayawati (BSP) said the ordinance was not in the interest of the farmers and favoured only few industralists and corporate houses. (Financial Express 25/2/15)

98. Government digs in heels on land ordinance  (4)

NEW DELHI: A day after Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari sought to make out a case for the government’s land ordinance at a press briefing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made a spirited defence of the land reforms that have been denounced as “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate” by a united Opposition and civil society groups. Sources said Mr. Modi is absolutely clear that he will not allow major changes to what he sees as one of his key reforms. On Wednesday, in discussions with Cabinet colleagues on how to tackle the dissent, Mr. Modi indicated that an all-party meeting would serve little purpose. Mr. Jaitley made a frontal attack on the Congress, under whose watch the Land Acquisition Act — that this government is seeking to amend — was enacted in 2013. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

99. Why kids in rural India die of diarrhoea, pneumonia (3)

The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become abundantly clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children aged under five years in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health-care providers who were studied in rural Bihar rarely practised what little they knew about treating children suffering from these two diseases. The results of a study were published a couple of days ago in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. “Vignette” interviews were conducted to assess how they would diagnose and treat children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health-care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse during practice. Cheap, life-saving, widely available oral rehydartion salts (ORS) with zinc supplementation is the correct treatment for diarrhoea (2013 WHO recommendation). During the vignette interviews, a paltry 3.5 per cent of providers offered the correct treatment for diarrhoea. Another 69 per cent offered ORS, but it was in addition to other unnecessary treatments. Some even prescribed antibiotics. Shockingly, no health care provider prescribed the correct treatment for the “patients” with diarrhoea — only ORS. It was a few shades better in the case of pneumonia where the figure stood at 13 per cent. Again, if nearly 21 per cent of practitioners prescribed potentially harmful treatment (including antibiotics) without ORS during the interviews, an alarming 72 per cent offered dangerous cocktails that included antibiotics during practice. In the case of pneumonia, while 12 per cent prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia during interviews, the figure went up marginally to 15 per cent during practice. Severe pneumonia requires treatment with appropriate antibiotics. “Our ongoing studies aim to understand why providers who know they shouldn’t be prescribing antibiotics for conditions like simple diarrhoea continue to do so,” Dr. Manoj Mohanan from Duke University, North Carolina and the lead author said in a release. Besides wrong treatment, the researchers found that the health-care providers asked very few pertinent questions that would enable correct diagnosis and understanding of the severity of the diseases during practice than they did during interviews. Even the most basic diagnostic question of frequency of stools was asked only by 46 per cent during interviews and 30 per cent during practice. Similarly, in the case of pneumonia, only 27 per cent of the providers asked about rapid breathing and 25 per cent about signs of respiratory distress during practice. Most distressing was that during practice, 76 per cent of practitioners offered treatment despite not seeing the “sick” child with diarrhoea. It was 79 per cent in the case of pneumonia. Eighty per cent of the providers in the study did not have a medical degree from any system of medicine — allopathy, ayurveda, homeopathy or unani medicine. While those with formal medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practised, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs, the study found. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

100. Gujarat: Swine flu toll reaches close to 200 (3)

Swine flu has claimed 11 more lives in Gujarat, taking the total death toll in the state to 197 since January this year. In Surat and Vadodara, three deaths were reported; while two deaths each were reported from Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar. One person also reportedly died in Sabarkantha district. In view of the swine flu rush, the central government last week had placed an order to increase the national stock of diagnostic kits to test for the virus. Authorities are also procuring additional masks and doses of the anti-viral drug Oseltamivir. Swine flu is caused by H1N1 virus. Symptoms for swine flu include high fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and internal and external bleeding. (DNA 22/2/15)

101. 46 lakh people to be screened for diabetes (3)

BHUBANESWAR: Amid growing concern over increasing incidence of diabetes, the state government has decided to screen around 46 lakh people in 10 districts this year. These are Cuttack, Puri, Ganjam, Khurda, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Angul. Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said people above 30 years will be screened in 10 districts. Besides, all pregnant women, tuberculosis patients and HIV positive individuals irrespective of age will also be examined for diabetes, as chances of the disease among them is higher, he said. Odisha doesn’t have any comprehensive data on the prevalence of diabetic population. Nayak said the screening would be part of the central-sponsored National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in these districts. “Those identified with diabetes will be treated for free,” he said. During a pilot project in five districts of Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Balangir, Nuapada and Koraput, the government screened 29 lakh people above 30 years age group in 2013-14. About 6% to 7% of them were found to be diabetic. According to a 1990 study in coastal Odisha, prevalence of was 0.8%. At the current 7%, it has gone up by 700 times in 20 years. Health workers and paramedical staff would be trained in using glucometers and glucostrips for screening at the sub-centres of district headquarter hospitals, the minister said. Diabetes has been emerging as a major public health problem. “Going by prevalence in the five surveyed districts, we apprehend over 3 lakh diabetes cases would be detected during the upcoming screening programme in the 10 districts,” said state nodal officer, NPCDCS P K B Patnaik. The main reason for increasing incidence of diabetes in rural areas of the state may be attributed to the transition of people from being very poor to relatively well off with assured meals, said noted diabetologist Alok Kanungo. “When an underfed belly starts getting daily meals, s/he has chances of diabetes,” Kanungo said, adding for urban areas the causes are sedentary lifestyle. Director, Regional Medical Research Centre Santanu Kar said only a statewide survey would reveal the exact disease burden though it appears it has being emerging as a big cause of mortality and morbidity. (Times of India 26/2/15)

102. Soaring Maternal Mortality Rate Leaves Officials Red-faced (3)

VISAKHAPATNAM:The district registered as many as 127 maternal deaths per every 1,000 deliveries this financial year, while the state recorded 92 deaths, said panchayat raj minister Chintakayala Ayyannapatrudu. Addressing the district convergence meeting here Wednesday, the minister expressed his anguish over officials failing to control maternal mortality rate (MMR). He called upon the women, Panchayat Raj secretaries and officials of child welfare and medical and health departments to initiate concrete measures to bring the MMR to zero per cent. He directed the officials to make periodical visits to anganwadi centres and ANMs in all villages, and told the Panchayat Raj secretaries to bring down the MMR in the district. He also ordered the officials to convene a meeting every month with all the line departments at village-level, municipal ward-level and district-level to review the steps initiated in this regard. A district-level meeting should be convened on the fourth Monday of every month at 4 pm during which the officials concerned must submit the ground-level reports on the number of pregnant women visiting hospitals and the support extended to them by the field staff. He also announced that Rs 1 lakh would be given to each panchayat as an incentive if the village achieves zero MMR. Collector N Yuvaraj, ZP chairperson, MLAs, DMHO Sarojani, PD ICDS Chinmayadevi and DRDA project director V Satya Sai Srinivas were present. (New Indian Express 26/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

103. HIV awareness campaigns to be stepped up (3)

NAGAPATTINAM: The need for awareness is essential for tackling new HIV positive cases particularly in rural areas although the district has been listed under “Category C” districts of the State for comparatively minimal HIV positive cases and HIV prevalence, said Collector S. Palanisamy. The District Aids Prevention and Control Unit convened an awareness meeting for panchayat presidents to tackle HIV infections in rural areas on Thursday. Mr. Palanisamy said unborn baby could be treated adequately to prevent the infection of HIV from the mother thanks to modern therapy and medical invention available for HIV positive pregnant women. As many as 1,158 HIV positive cases had been reported in the district. Since the panchayat presidents had better rapport with rural residents, an awareness meeting was held by DAPCU to educate them on AIDS prevention and brief them about welfare schemes, rehabilitation measures available for HIV positive people, Deputy Collector S. Divyadharshini, Deputy Director for Health N. Kalusivalingam and Assistant Director for Panchayats Vishnubaran attended the meeting. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

104. Vaccine important in fight against AIDS (3)

Despite the progress in anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, it was important to have a safe vaccine which can prevent the disease, health experts said here Friday. “There has been incredible progress towards a safe vaccine in the last eight months,” Wayne Koff, vice president of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), said at a conference here. Benny Kottiri, Health Science Administrator and senior researcher at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said the development of a vaccine was very important for containing the disease. According to V.M. Katoch, secretary department of health research, efforts to make a vaccine have to be intensified. “India has contained it. We can further contain the virus, but HIV will always be there.” “Vaccines will always be needed for select groups,” he added. He cautioned that the research to develop a vaccine has not had many new leads. “We have to revisit all the studies”.India has third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world with 2.1 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asiaa Pacific region, according to a UN report. (The Economic Times 22/2/15)

105. HIV awareness campaign from March 2 to 8 (3)

Mandya: Expressing concern over the rising number of HIV cases in Mandya, the district administration has decided to launch HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns across the district. M.N. Ajay Nagabhushan, Deputy Commissioner of Mandya, told presspersons here on Wednesday evening that the district administration would launch a massive awareness campaign from March 2. Health and Family Welfare Minister U.T. Khader will inaugurate it. As many as 400 teams will be formed to spread awareness. Accredited Social Health Activists, Auxillary Nurse Midwifes, government employees, workers of Anti-Retroviral Therapy centres and Integrated Testing and Counselling Centres and volunteers will take part. The first phase of the campaign will be held in Mandya and Maddur from March 2 to 8. During the door-to-door campaign, volunteers will educate at least 1.38 lakh people, two from each family, in Mandya and Maddur taluks. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

 

Posted by admin at 27 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Unique tool to track atrocities against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: To monitor atrocities perpetrated against Dalits and Adivasis and to ensure speedy justice, a unique web-based tool — Atrocity Tracking and Monitoring (ATM) System — has been launched. The initiative falls under the aegis of the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST PoA Act (NCSPOA) by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). A two-day training workshop will also be organised in the city next month to promote the use of ATM System among the stakeholders concerned. “The ATM System has been built with an objective to provide a tool in the hands of Dalits and Adivasis to report atrocities and avail of timely justice. We hope it will be useful for Dalit human rights activists and organisations, to create and maintain a repository of cases, track records, and facilitate information exchange for timely action,” said V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ. “At present, more than 100 atrocity cases have been reported from different parts of the country. The users of the States concerned have sent e-mail and SMS notifications to the officials in their region regarding the cases of atrocities against Dalits,” he added. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (2001-12), the extent of atrocities committed against SCs & STs is enormous. Nearly 3,70,234 crimes have been committed against SCs & STs, 15,917 women have reportedly been raped, 7,900 murdered, 49,514 brutally attacked and severely injured, and 1,59,692 other forms of atrocities have been committed. Under the ATM System, anyone with Internet access can go to the website where a helpline number 9898915455 is given. As soon as a person sends a message on this number, the website automatically identifies its circle and sends a message. After the validation is done, the message goes to the authority concerned to facilitate necessary action against the case. The NDMJ, is a democratic non-party movement of Dalit survivors, defenders, academics, organisations headed by Dalits  to initiate advocacy and involve in mass action to address the issues of caste-based discrimination and violence (primarily untouchability and atrocities) to ensure dignity, equality and justice. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

2. 3 held for attacking Dalit who tried to fend off their dogs (2)

MEERUT: Three men were arrested from Khanjapur Kushaavli village of Meerut district after a Dalit man complained that he was attacked and insulted by them as he tried to fend off their pet dogs. The man complained that he had long endured the onslaught of pet dogs that belonged to a Rajput family, but on February 6, as two dogs set upon him, he warded them off with a stick. Gopal, the Dalit, said the dogs’ owners unleashed verbal abuse laced with caste-related insults. They also attacked him with knives and sticks. Gopal said he had taken the matter to police soon afterwards, but police were slow to react. “I was on the way to my shop when I was attacked by the dogs belonging to a Rajput family. Their dogs have always been a problem for my kids, who have often been attacked by the animals while passing by,” Gopal said. Dhanu Singh, Kaalicharan and Sanju, members of a Rajput family, had allegedly once told Gopal’s kids that the “dogs were better than them”. “On February 6, as the dogs grew aggressive, I tried to shoo them away with a stick. That was when Dhanu, Kaalicharan and Sanju came out of their house with knives and sticks. Angry that I had tried to hit the animals, the three of them thrashed me. I was cut in the face by a knife one of them used,” Gopal said. “Because I am a Dalit doesn’t mean they can call me what they like,” Gopal said, adding that he filed a complaint at the Sardhana police station that very day. Station officer Meher Singh of Sardhana police station said the three accused were arrested on Wednesday, and investigations were underway. Early Wednesday, Gopal had approached the office of the SSP seeking action in the matter. (Times of India 13/2/15)

3. All Dalits now Mahadalits, question is who’s their leader (2)

Patna: By expanding the Mahadalit bracket to include Dharis and Dhadis, sub-castes of Dusadh or Paswan, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has effectively staked his claim to being the leader of Bihar’s Dalits, a role so far associated with Ram Vilas Paswan. So far, Paswans were the only one of 22 Scheduled Castes kept out of the bracket. Mahadalit status entails benefits of over a dozen welfare schemes, including free land to the landless. And so far, Ram Vilas’s stand has been that Paswans, being the most “forward looking of Scheduled Castes”, did not need the Mahadalit tag. The LJP chief cannot, however, openly criticise the new move. He was the first prominent NDA leader to come out in support of Manjhi in his showdown with Nitish Kumar. “Manjhi is a fellow Dalit,” Paswan has said, describing him as a better CM than Nitish, but has steered clear of reacting to the cabinet decision. “In long-term politics, Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi are going to share same the Dalit space,” says a senior leader of Paswan’s LJP. “With Manjhi moving close to the BJP, there is bound to be competition between the two leaders.” “If Manjhi joins the BJP, the conflict would be less intense,” says a BJP leader, “but Ram Vilas Paswan can still lose some of his bargaining power with the BJP. If Manjhi floats a party, the BJP will have to deal with two allies with a similar profile. It will be a problem of plenty.” CM Manjhi said after the cabinet meeting: “The government saw no point in leaving Paswans out of the Mahadalit umbrella. In fact, we have proposed to appoint Paswans as chowkidars across the state.” The Nitish Kumar camp has already lodged a protest with Raj Bhavan, questioning how the cabinet of “a government of 13 MLAs” can decide ahead of a floor test. “It is not about what decisions have been taken by the cabinet but whether Manjhi can take such a decision when his government is in a minority,” says JD(U) leader Bijay Kumar Choudhary. As chief minister, Nitish had introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007 after the Bihar State Mahadalit Commission recommended inclusion of 18 SCs in the category. Subsequently, three more SC groups were included, leaving out only the Paswans or Dusadhs. Following the inclusion of Paswans, there remains no distinction between Dalits and Mahadalits. Ravidas, Mushahar and Paswan are among the most dominant groups among the Scheduled Castes, accounting for 18 per cent of the population. And a caste conglomerate created with meticulous social engineering by Nitish Kumar now has three claimants to their leadership —  Nitish, Manjhi and Paswan. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

4. Dalit man’s nose cut off for breaking bread with upper castes (2)

Lucknow: Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). This virtually god-forsaken area in southern UP bordering Madhya Pradesh is one of the remotest and most backward regions of the state, and is infamous for continuing social evils like untouchability, dowry and female infanticide. The latest episode has been reported from Surpati village in Madhogarh area of Jalaun district where Amar Singh, a labourer, was dealt the horrific punishment by his masters belonging to the upper caste. The incident is even more alarming as the village is a Dalit-dominated one. The Surpati gram panchayat of three villages accounts for as many as 2,500 Dalits out of the total population of about 5,000. Dalits in this region are barred from even touching the utensils used by upper castes. They are also not allowed to draw water from the same well. Amar Singh had gone with his master’s family in the ‘barat’ (wedding procession) for a wedding to another village and had committed the “crime” of having food along with his feudal masters there. “Some people on the bride’s side raised the issue with them which created quite a scene at the wedding as the other guests threatened to leave without having food on discovering that a Dalit was also breaking bread with them,” Daddu Prasad, ex-minister and a prominent Dalit BSP leader told dna. Once they returned to their village, they decided “justice needed to be done”, he said. Their justification was simple, though rather gruesome. “Tumne hamaari naak katwa di. Ab hum tumhaari naak kaatenge. (since you caused us such humiliation, you shall get equivalent punishment),” they are reported to have told Amar Singh before pinning him down and cutting off his nose with a domestic knife. Family members rushed to his rescue and took the profusely bleeding Amar Singh to Jhansi for treatment. On being informed, Jhansi DIG AK Singh got a case registered against the named accused. He told reporters that they would soon be arrested. However, till late evening no arrest had been made as, sources said, the feudal landlords responsible for the ghastly act were “politically well connected”.Bundelkhand has witnessed such horrific incidents earlier, too. But, since it is a remote area, most of these incidents don’t even get reported in the mainstream media. “I know of places (in Bundelkhand) where Dalits go to other villages incognito to get a shave or buy things for daily needs as they can’t dare to do this in their own village,” says Vivek Singh, former Congress MLA from Banda. (DNA 17/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Govt Okays IFAD Loan for Primitive Tribal Groups (6)

BHUBANESWAR:The Odisha Government has agreed to a Rs 312-crore loan from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Rs 800-crore Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme (OPELIP). While conveying its consent to the Department of Economic Affairs, the Government has stipulated that the project must contain separate micro projects for each primitive tribal group. The project is aimed at changing the socio-economic condition of 62,356 households in 12 districts of the State. These households comprise 32,090 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) who would directly benefit from the programmes. Thirteen PVTGs are targeted to be covered under the eight-year project. The OPELIP will address issues of socio-economic backwardness through community empowerment, natural resource management, livelihood enhancement, community infrastructure and drudgery reduction. Over the project period, it is expected to trigger a 300 per cent increase in food production per household and net income by several times. Since most of the habitations of these primitive groups are characterised by poor housing, virtually no access to potable water and electricity, absence of sanitation and road connectivity, the project will support construction of over 300 drinking water projects, 542 school toilets, 4,000 housing units, 500 km of road connectivity and 50 km of electrification apart from other rural infrastructure. It will also focus on homestead production and forest-based livelihood by encouraging kitchen gardens, backyard poultry, goat rearing and other income generating activities. “A database for all 13 PVTGs to assess their exact population will be drawn up as part of the project. Besides, an approach paper for each group will be formulated so that their identity, sensitivity and uniqueness of culture can be acknowledged along with actual response to development,” the ST and SC Development Department said in the letter. Under the OPELIP, a community nutrition assessment will be conducted and all its activities will be investigated through a nutrition lens to ensure that crops and activities promoted result in household nutrition security. The project will also involve sustainable development and improvement of natural resources covering 20,000 hectare of land. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

6. Tribal people allege harassment (6)

ERODE: Members of a tribal community residing in Sholagar Colony on Bargur hills have petitioned the district administration, seeking its intervention for extricating them from ‘bonded labour’. According to Madhammal, a representative of the 20 affected families, adults were compelled to work for a wage of Rs. 50 per a day at a 150-acre-farm owned by two persons hailing from Karnataka. The affected families charged the two persons with encroaching on the farm provided by the district administration to the tribal people. The mutt management had confiscated a buffalo belonging to one of the affected families. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

7. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (6)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

8. Manipur tribals ignore verification exercise (6)

IMPHAL: The verification of the nationality of migrant workers staying in Manipur is continuing in Thoubal district. Such exercises by activists had already been done in other valley districts. However, people in tribal dominated districts are not interested since they enjoy a constitutional protection against possession of land by non-tribals. The government is not intervening as it fears that it would provoke the activists to launch various forms of agitations. Over 36 organisations in Manipur had joined hands to demand the reintroduction of the Inner Line Permit which was lifted from Manipur in 1950. The migrant workers are required to furnish details including their photographs to the activists. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Women under represented in higher education in India: Report (8)

New Delhi: Women continue to be under-represented in India’s higher education leadership despite nine-fold increase in the government expenditure on the sector between 2007 and 2012, according to a British Council report. While women constitute 44 per cent of the 27.5 million students in country’s higher educational institutions, they constitute just 1.4 per cent of the professoriate and 3 per cent of vice-chancellors in the universities, it noted. In most Indian universities, the representation of women academics is less than 40 per cent, added the report, titled ‘Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning’. “While in all categories of academic positions women are under-represented, this increases for higher positions. Thus, only 25.5 per cent of professors, 31.1 per cent of readers and associate professors, and 38.5 per cent of lecturers or assistant professors are women,” it noted, analysing a 2013 report of the government. The report, prepared by the British Council in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) of the University of Sussex, was released here at a two-day deliberation on the representation of women in higher education in South Asia. The event, organised by the British Council, concluded on Wednesday. An analysis of the government data also indicated that women with disability represent only 1.9 per cent of the overall total number of academics in India. “Muslim women are also under-represented in Indian higher education, both in relation to male academics and overall. Of the Muslim academics, only 33.5 per cent are women, which is only 14.9 per cent of the total number of academics in India,” underlined the report. The report found that women in higher education in South Asia, including India, were not prepared for leadership. There was also evidence that when they did aspire for leadership, they were frequently rejected for the most senior positions. Referring to interactions with women faculty, the report highlighted how the country’s universities’ selection procedures were “exclusionary and discriminated” against women. “First and foremost, most selection committees have only men. Very few have women. Most that I’ve gone through, have all men on the committee, for any position,” the report quoted a senior woman faculty. The British Council suggested that educational institutions should adopt changes in work practices. (Deccan Herald 11/2/15)

10. Men willing to stand up to parents against dowry, finds online survey (8)

MUMBAI: The results of an online opinion poll indicate that the youth seem to have taken matters into their own hands to end the social evil of dowry. A recent survey by a matrimonial website has shown that 44% of prospective brides would report their in-laws to the police if they sought dowry. Another indicator of a paradigm shift is that not just women, even men are willing to stand up to their parents against this practice. The online poll received 5,800 responses from single Indians aged between 25 and 36 years of which 3,318 were men and 2,482 women. The aim of the online survey was to determine what the modern generation thinks of dowry. An overwhelming 72.1% of male respondents said they would stand up against their parents if they demanded dowry, while 14.3% said they were unsure. While 87.3% of the female respondents said they would refuse to give dowry, 10.6% replied “may be”.When prospective grooms were asked what they would do if their own parents demanded dowry, 63.8% respondents said they would raise their voice strongly against it. Another 31.3% said they would try to convince their parents to not demand dowry and a smaller, but significant, 4.9% said they would report the crime to the police. Of the polled single women, 53.3% said that they would refuse the proposal if their parents agreed to give dowry, 44.2% said they would file a police complaint, but 2.5% expressed willingness to go along with their parents’ decision. The 5,800 respondents were those who had registered themselves with the marriage portal, shaadi.com. “We have always been clear about our intolerance towards the social evil of dowry. This survey reaffirms our belief that Indian men and women today believe in a marriage based on love and equality,” said Gourav Rakshit,chief operating officer of the website. Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria was “extremely pleased to know that our Indian bride has finally evolved into a mature thinking adult”.She said, “The man, too, is finally accepting that accepting dowry is a crime. These small changes help us to grow and evolve as a society where gender equality will soon be the norm and the girl child will no longer be abhorred but respected.” (Times of India 12/2/15)

11. Violence against women cause for child marriages (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The increasing atrocities against women and young girls are forcing parents to marry off their daughters even before they complete schooling. The situation is grim in Krishna district where nearly 30 child marriages were reported in the last fortnight. Officials prevented more than 20 weddings, while some took place even before they reached the venues, police said. Child marriages were prevented at Vijayawada, Avanigadda, Gudivada, Machilipatnam, Vissannapet, Mudinepalli, Mandavalli and Tiruvuru in the district. “We hear pathetic stories from brides and their parents. But, most of them [parents] express fear of sexual assaults on minor girls as reported in the media,” said counsellor Ch. Vijaya Lakshmi. Krishna District Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Project Director K. Krishna Kumari said child marriages were rampant in the district, and that officials were holding awareness camps in villages with the support of NGOs to curb the practice. “Parents cite a number of reasons for marrying off their minor children, but we explain the other side of the practice,” said Child Welfare Committee Chairman B. Nagesh Rao. According to psychologist T.S. Rao, child marriages are common among lower castes. He stressed the need for creating awareness about health implications for girls. “My sister asked me to take care of her 14-year-old daughter two years ago, as she had fallen sick. Not able to give dowry, we did not send her to school and married her off. But, the WD&CW, Revenue and police officials counselled us, as my daughter was just 16,” said Sakkubai, the mother of a bride. Child Protection Officer Rama Devi said Sakkubai had been told not to send her daughter to her in-laws’ house till turned 18. “We counselled the bride, and officials will follow up the case,” she added. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

12. Kashmir to Kanyakumari on a bike to promote girl child (8)

CHANDIGARH: With just a bicycle, Hiralal Yadav had been touring the country to spread the message of saving the girl child – to cover its length from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. On Monday, Yadav was hosted by the Peace Club of Dev Samaj College of Education, Sector 36, in collaboration with NGO Yuvsatta. Here, the cyclist interacted with students as part of his countrywide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao Abhiyan’. Yadav is promoting rights and dignity of girls and women in society. “Our traditions and rituals outline the existence of the Indian girl child. Amidst uproars of gender equality and law enforcement, female infants are still found dumped in trash by the dozen, while unborn lives continue to be sniffed out in the womb,” Yadav said, talking about female foeticide in the country. “Wrought with discrimination and prejudiced by rituals, our society has dealt the girl child a rough hand, starting even before birth, till the fag end of life. This is why despite all efforts, over six lakh cases of female foeticide happen annually in India,” Yadav added. He also quoted some lines of his self-composed poem on female foeticide which left the entire audience in tears. Addressing the students, he quoted a message of the late NASA astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, “The path from our dream to success exists; provided we have the sight to search, courage to walk on it and willpower to persevere”.Principal Jyoti Khanna shared that Yadav in the past had also undertaken many such campaigns in support of promoting national harmony, de-addiction, against drug abuse and prisoners of wars, for which he has been awarded by former president APJ Abdul Kalam. (Times of India 17/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

13. Rights groups to reach out to children in slums (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Exactly four months ago, when Hudhud ravaged the city, life came to a standstill for many. And the impact was severe for those residing in slums. More than 100 children from several slum areas narrated their nightmarish experience on that day, at a consultation meet organised jointly by the Child Rights Advocacy Foundation and the Visakha Forum for Child Rights (VFCR) on Tuesday. Students studying in classes VI and X in slum areas such as Kobbarithota, Jalaripeta, Ambedkar Colony, and Bukka Veedhi came forward to share their experiences. “There was no proper drinking water for almost one week. Our houses were submerged due to overflowing storm water drains. Except for a few NGO representatives who turned up to help us push things through, we did not receive any other help,” says Padma a resident of Bhupesh Nagar. Most of the slum-dwellers said that they were not able to afford vegetables and milk. Some of them said that there were no toilet facilities in their localities. Joint Collector J. Nivas, who attended the meeting as chief guest, explained the features of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, under which the government had increased the unit cost of the individual household latrine to Rs.12,000 from Rs.10,000. He said that people should consider construction of toilets more seriously and ensure that every household had one. As part of the relief measure, Mr. Nivas said that textbooks would be distributed to schoolchildren after conducting a review meeting with the DEO. Reaching out to the disadvantaged groups, convener of VFCR R.D. Sampath Kumar said that the forum would be distributing notebooks, geometry boxes, and a pair of shoes to 1,000 schoolchildren in a couple of weeks. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

14. Panel appointed to look into sexual abuse in Delhi schools (14)

NEW DELHI: To curb incidents of sexual abuse of school students, Delhi government has told the Supreme Court that it has asked all schools to have CCTVs, especially in corridors and at entrances, in addition to administering a pledge to boys to respect women. The government said it has also constituted committees at three levels—school, district and headquarters—to address issues relating to sexual abuse of students. Women members would be in majority in all these committees, it said. In an affidavit, the Directorate of Education said it has directed schools to appoint a nodal officer who would stay back in school after children leave to look into complaints of any child not reaching home. The government filed its response in compliance with a court order which on December 5 had issued notices to states on a PIL by advocate Vineet Dhanda expressing concern over safety of girl students in schools. The government said 70,000 teachers have been trained in gender sensitization in the last two years. It also said schools have been directed to talk to the local police to ensure a PCR van is stationed near schools at the time of opening and closing. It said a pledge has been included in the students’ diary saying they would respect and protect the dignity of women and the pledge was being repeated by students on numerous occasions in schools. The court last year had agreed to examine the arrangement made by states in schools to prevent cases of sexual abuse and had issued notices to the Centre and states. The PIL had sought direction from the court to the government to frame laws, guidelines and policies “fixing liability of educational institutions on whose premises sexual abuse takes place”. It had said the liability of schools should be spelt out in cases of physical and mental abuse. (Times of India 13/2/15)

15. Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal Urged to Take Up Issues of Street Kids (14)

NEW DELHI: An organisation of street children has urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to address their issues and include them as part of the government’s agenda. The organisation, ‘Badhte Kadam’, today said that it had faxed the letter to the CM’s office yesterday. “We are hopeful that he will successfully carry out his tenure while helping us to address our issues,” 16-year-old Chandni, a member of the group, said, adding that they had written a similar letter during the previous AAP government. Another member Jyoti, 14, said, “Our demands include ensuring legal identity to street and working children, proper implementation of all government schemes for underprivileged children and action against people involved in child labour.”   Director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), of which ‘Badhte Kadam’ is a part, said, “Children have a lot of hope from this government and I hope they take up the issues highlighted by them on a priority basis.”  (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

16. Child brides serve ‘probation period’ before marriage in Odisha village (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  Prior to marriage, teenaged brides in Odisha’s capital city are forced to spend time in their prospective in-laws’ house in order to assess if they fit the role of a suitable bride. This crude form of child marriage is still practised by many in the snake-charmer community residing in Padmakesharipur village in Bhubaneswar. Many girls are withdrawn from school, some even at elementary level, and forced into marriage alliances. “My daughter was just 12 when I arranged a groom for her. She has been helping her in-laws in household chores for the past four years. Finally, her in-laws have agreed to organise a formal marriage next week,” said Bharati Das, who is now busy arranging bridal gifts (dowry) for her daughter. The worrying aspect of teenage marriage practice in the community is that if at some point of time the would-be in-laws feel the bride lacks the physical ability to perform daily household assignments or the mental attitude to match the groom’s mindset and theirs’, the proposal gets rejected. “After the engagement, we send our daughter to work in the in-laws’ house in the daytime and give them the freedom to mingle with the groom,” Bharati said. This period, which is almost like a probation before marriage, is of concern for the bride’s family. Due to this free interaction, girls often risk dangerous pregnancies. Once a girl becomes pregnant, family members of the bride are left with no option but to adhere to the terms set by the groom’s family. “This is a tradition we have been following since time immemorial. Although the community is aware of the legal implications of child marriage, we don’t have leadership to assert and put an end to the practice,” said Shankar Das, a member of snake charmer community of Padmakesharipur. Jyotsna, a mother, said, “Since the marriage has to take place within the community which is confined to a single village in Odisha, the bride’s family has to look for a suitable groom. The desperation for a groom within the community, which has a higher percentage of girls forces the parents to opt for early marriage.” Many girls give birth long before they are physically and emotionally ready. Bharati, who is in her late thirties, already has a large family having several grandsons and granddaughters. The 752-family-strong community, which has lost the main occupation after a ban on snake charming, is now finding it difficult to eke out a living. While many end up begging, some daily wagers from the community seek solace in alcohol. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. Central fund for minority welfare (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah assured that the Telangana state has her full support with regard to schemes for the welfare of minorities, according to a press communique issued by deputy chief minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali’s office. Interacting with a delegation of officials of the minorities welfare department, including the deputy CM, special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel, State Wakf Board (SWB) special officer M J Akbar and State Minorities Finance Corporation vice-chairman and managing director S A Shukoor, Heptullah said that senior officials of the ministry of minority affairs would visit the state on February 18 and take part in a dialogue with both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh government representatives to expedite the bifurcation of the SWB. The delegation apprised the minister of increase in the number of applications for pre-matric scholarships, which was more than the stipulated target. They urged her to consider releasing funds so that all applicants could avail the scholarships. Heptullah said that Rs 38 crore would be sanctioned for the multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP). The programme seeks to improve the socio-economic conditions of minorities by initiating schemes for healthcare, education, sanitation, skill development and income generation in districts, where they comprise 25%.In what could be a shot in the arm for Daairatul Maarif, a repository of Arabic manuscripts in Osmania University, she assured funds for digitisation of manuscripts so that they can be preserved better. In addition, the minister said that the Centre would also consider starting coaching programmes for various competitive exams. (Times of India 11/2/15)

18. BJP must better understand the India it seeks to govern (7)

Who knew that the BJP’s party offices would wear a deserted look on counting day in the capital, just eight months after Narendra Modi swept into power in the general elections? The ruling party and millions of its faithful will take a while to recover from the enormity of the defeat in the Delhi elections. They will come to terms with the fact that for all their relish about the Congress getting only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, they themselves narrowly avoided a blank result in Delhi polls. For their own and the nation’s sake, the BJP should absorb the right lessons from this defeat. A combination of factors worked against the BJP even though it marshalled the Prime Minister and 120 MPs into a campaign that left few stones unturned. For all its rhetoric about development and aspiration, the party failed to connect with the poor in ways that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP have managed to, through sustained contact with neighbourhoods across the city. That was in a way expressed in the absence of local leadership beyond a few high profile leaders like Harsh Vardhan. That is a significant failing for a party in a country that is still largely poor. The BJP will need to, at the very least, rethink its narrative which is currently freighted towards the interests of the middle and upper classes. What should particularly shock the BJP is that it has lost support among the middle class which it had come to take for granted. The party’s development agenda has been consistently undercut by its own elements and its ideological affiliates who frequently indulge in misogynistic commentary, unleash unacceptable anti-minority rhetoric and violence while pursuing pointless campaigns against occasions like Valentine’s Day. The Sangh parivar seems completely out of step with what India’s cities and youth want. They are not interested in renaming minority festivals, nor in declarations by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu Rashtra that needs to have “one language, one God and one religion”. Not only do such statements fly against the reality and idea of India, they fundamentally violate notions of fairness and individual freedom that young people intuitively embrace. The BJP must urgently seek to understand the India it seeks to govern, which formidable forces like the AAP seem to have a better handle on. It is time for Prime Minister Modi to speak out more explicitly against the regressive agenda that some of his party colleagues and allies espouse – and return to a singular focus on the development platform for which he was elected. (Hindustantimes 11/2/15)

19. Finally, Modi breaks silence, says won’t allow religious intolerance (7)

NEW DELHI: Breaking his silence over the rising incidence of attacks on churches and aggressive religious conversions, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith. Narendra Modi asserted that everyone had the right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice without coercion. He also warned that his government would not allow any religious group, of majority or minority communities, to incite hatred against other. “Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi said. The PM’s comments come not just in the wake of hate speeches by fringe Sangh elements, but also after repeated concerns raised by US president Barack Obama about growing religious intolerance in India. In a strong warning to the fringe elements, Modi said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”He appealed to all religious groups “to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution”.Addressing a meeting organized by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church to celebrate Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphresia being declared saints by the Vatican, the PM’s comments would put to rest any speculation about any changes in conversion laws or in India’s constitutional commitment to secularism. The PM’s silence on the rising anxiety had led many observers to warn that Modi’s development agenda could be washed away by such controversies. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was also there for the meeting, said that the recent attacks on churches were “unacceptable aberrations”, and that the culprits would be punished. In one case, the guilty had been identified and brought to book, and in all other cases strong action would be taken. Mischief makers will have no place in our country, he said. The PM recalled the words of Swami Vivekanand — “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” The principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths, Modi said, has been part of the Indian ethos for thousands of years, adding: “And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.” Modi pointed out that India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and “equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian”.The PM said he had a vision for a modern India, and its mantra was development. “In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud,” he said. The PM referred to the declaration adopted at the interfaith conference held on December 10, 2008 at The Hague to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN. “We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen,” he quoted from the declaration. (Times of India 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Kiran Bedi writes to Election Commission over ‘fatwa’ (7)

New Delhi: After a humiliating defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, BJP CM candidate Kiran Bedi has written to the Election Commission saying fatwas impact the freedom of choice to vote. On Wednesday, Ms Bedi blamed the “fatwa” by Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari appealing to Muslims to support AAP for her defeat in the BJP’s traditional stronghold of Krishna Nagar in East Delhi and sought a probe into it by the poll panel. She said the Election Commission should inquire the issue to find out whether the Shahi Imam’s appeal to Muslims a day before the polls had any impact on the electoral outcome. Ms Bedi claimed that though she was leading in the vote count, her vote share started dropping when counting of votes in a Muslim-dominated area of her constituency was taken up. “I was told that during the vote count in Krishna Nagar I was leading, but when the counting of votes of the area where the fatwa might have an impact was carried out, it started to drop,” Ms Bedi said, adding, “I lost by 2,000 votes when the counting reached that area.” A day ahead of the polls, Shahi Imam Bukhari appealed to Muslims to vote for AAP but the party promptly rejected the offer. Though it was an appeal by Bukhari, several BJP leaders called it a “fatwa”. “Fatwa means a diktat, a directive, it also means a hukumnama in a way. EC should examine whether fatwas issued last minute before the elections are good for the democratic process or not,” said Ms Bedi. However, the comments of the former IPS officer drew instant criticism from the Congress camp. “BJP saw a downfall (sic) since the day Kiran Bedi was nominated,” Congress leader J.P. Aggarwal said, dismissing her “fatwa” remark. Ms Bedi’s statements were noticed on Tuesday after the results were announced, when she said, “I have not lost. I gave it all my best. Let the BJP introspect. They will assess for themselves.” This after she took full responsibility for the poll debacle. (Asian Age 12/2/5)

21. U.P. villagers reject communal politics (7)

Nayagaon Akbarpur Chhendri (Kanth), A loudspeaker was installed in a small temple at Kanth in Moradabad last Friday. Muslim and Hindu villagers sat together with the local authorities and agreed to install it for a few days on the occasion of Mahashivratri. What happened in just an hour of discussion would have appeared “almost impossible” a few months ago, the villagers said. They spoke of the “mutual distrust” between the two communities and attempts of political players to polarise the region over the issue. Last June, the situation became tense after BJP workers violently protested against the removal of the loudspeaker by the administration, which acted on complaints registered by a member of the minority community. Tragically, during the protests, the then Moradabad District Magistrate Chandrakant lost vision in one eye. Residents of Kanth, where Dalits and Muslims live in a closely knit society, told The Hindu that political players in the region were trying to polarise the village by engaging in “competitive communal politics” ahead of the by-polls in western Uttar Pradesh in September. Alok, a scrap seller on the outskirts of the village, felt quite strongly about the peace of the village being a “casualty” in the aftermath of the controversy. “The issue of loudspeaker over a temple or a mosque is a simple issue that we could have sorted out had the political parties not jumped and made it a Hindu-Muslim issue,” he said. Despite being a high-school dropout, Alok said he was “wise enough” to see that political parties tried to cash in on the controversy. “You must notice the fact that no political leader visits the village once the by-polls were over in September last year,” he added. Moradbad MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh of the BJP had promised the Dalit community, which worships in the temple, to ensure that the temple got a permanent loudspeaker, Alok said. Mr. Singh along with other BJP MPs and Anisurrahman — the local MLA from the Peace Party, a relatively new political outfit — were at the forefront of an agitation against the decision to remove the loudspeaker. The BJP also planned to organise a Mahapanchayat over the issue, but the local administration banned it, leading to the protests in which Mr. Chandrakant lost sight in one of his eyes. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

22. Muslim clerics pose six questions to RSS (7)

KANPUR: A delegation of Muslim clerics led by the Sunni Ulema Council’s general secretary met RSS functionary Indresh and posed six questions to the Sangh including whether it has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’, which he claimed left the saffron outfit irritated. The Muslim delegation claimed that Indresh refused to answer their questions and instead said that a conference of Muslim organisations should be called where he would give the answers. “We had a meeting with senior RSS functionary Indreshji last night during which we asked six questions, but he did not have any answer,” Sunni Ulema Council general secretary Haji Mohammed Salees said on Tuesday. He alleged that Indreshji, who is pracharak and looks after minority affairs in the organisation, got “irritated” with the questions. “Our first question was whether RSS considers India a Hindu country. The second one was whether RSS has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’. The third one was whether this Hindu ‘rashtra’ will be according to Hindu religious texts or RSS has chalked out a new philosophy,” he said. Salees said, “The fourth question was what they want on religious conversion. The fifth one was what type of ‘rashtra prem’ (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims. The sixth one was how RSS views Islam,” he said. He said that these were the six questions which Indreshji “failed” to answer. “They (RSS) did not have any format. They are shouting about ‘Hindu rashtra’ only on the basis of propaganda,” he alleged. Salees feared that if Hindu rashtra was built on Hindu texts, Dalits could once again not be allowed to enter temples. “We asked whether a new philosophy has been chalked out by RSS. If a new philosophy has been chalked out that means Hindu religion is not religious culture. In that case, anyone can convert,” he said. Salees said when the Constitution provides freedom of religion, why is the RSS afraid of bringing a bill. “We are not afraid. If any Muslim does not like Islam and wants to leave, he can go. We don’t have any law to keep anyone Muslim by compulsion,” he said. Salees said as far as love for the country was concerned their ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan. “In 1947, when the concept of two countries was decided, our ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan and accepted Gandhiji as our leader, India as our country and expressed faith in the Constitution,” he said. “What do they want from the Muslims? They should sing Vande Matram and bow before the picture of Bharat Mata, which they have visualized? We won’t accept it. It is against Islam,” he said. “The ultimate result of the 90-minute meeting was they (RSS) asked us to call a ‘sammelan’ of Muslims and they will reply (to our posers),” Salees said. “I said that when you cannot answer these questions in a room, then how will you do so in a conference. We then asked as to why should we call a conference,” he said. Salees said there was restlessness among Muslims over these issues and “I came to take reply to these questions being raised in our community.” “I believe whatever be our religion, we should be honest towards the Constitution. Religion is our personal thing. It is not an issue of the nation. We don’t even support the statements of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi. “Those flaring communal passion are not loyal to the country. The country will run on the principles of Gandhiji, it will not run on the statements of Owaisi or Sangh,” he added. Meanwhile, a city cleric, who skipped a meeting between Indresh and a delegation of Muslim leaders on Monday night, said there “was no point” in meeting a representative and that he would only meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to highlight issues pertaining to their community. “Salees had called me for the meeting but I have already met Indresh before and there was no point in meeting him again. I will respond to the request of a meeting only if Bhagwat will call us,” city cleric Alam Raja Noori said. “If we had met Bhagwat, we would have put forth our issues with their agenda of a Hindu nation. Talking with Indresh about our concerns will not affect organisation’s perspective,” he said. The cleric further said he was out of town when the meeting took place but even if he were here he wouldn’t have met Indresh. Meanwhile, Salees said Noori’s name was not included in the list of members who were to meet the RSS functionary and was only added later. Elaborating on the meeting, Salees said, on being questioned by Indresh on their alleged silence over remarks by AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi, the delegation told him that Owaisi does not represent the views of the community. Equating him with the likes of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti, Salees said, “Owaisi is “just a Member of Parliament”. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

23. 8 Dalit Christians Re-convert to Hinduism at Pudukottai (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Eight Dalit Christians of  Ramanathapuram district re-embraced Hinduism in a Pudukkottai temple on Wednesday aided by Hindu Munnani cadre and a priest from Madurai Seva Ashram. According to Hindu Munnnai sources, Pudukkottai district, the ‘home coming’ was organised at Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar temple as it was the dalits’ kuladeivam (family deity). Ramamoorthi, district secretary, Hindu Munnani told Express that the dalits wished to re-embrace Hinduism as they worshipped Hindu deities for more than two decades even though they were officially Christians. The group’s letter to Hindu Munnani stated that the eight wanted help to reunite with their ancestor’s religion. Muruganandamji, a priest from Seva Ashram, Thiruparankundram, Madurai district did the rituals. Ramamoorthi said, “Their Christian names have been changed to Hindu names.” Meanwhile, Sudalai Mani, state secretary of Hindu Munnani told Express, “To avoid police torture in Ramanathapuram district we selected Pudukkottai district and the exact place was chosen by the eight as the temple is said to be their kuladeivam (family deity).” “In Chennai we had to face several hurdles by police when we planned a ‘home coming ceremony.’ Following this we selected another district,” Mani said, adding, “We never forced anyone and we organised the programme after the group requested. They visited Sabarimala for the last two decades though they were Christians. Now they have changed their religion officially.” The district police have begun questioning various Hindu activists, sources said. (New Indian Express 13/2/15)

24. Delhi convent school vandalised, PM summons Police Commissioner (7)

NEW DELHI: The Holy Child Auxilium School was vandalised in the early hours of Friday in the sixth attack on Christian establishments in the city in three months. Though the Delhi police are under the Union Home Ministry, it is rare for the Prime Minister to summon the Commissioner directly. The action comes after a series of attacks on churches and Christian leaders, resulting in accusation of Delhi police inaction despite representations to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The attacks and the allegation that the government did little to assuage the feeling of fear among the community are suspected to have contributed to the BJP’s rout in the recently concluded Assembly elections. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Manipur on Friday. Mr. Modi spoke on the phone with Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, virtually directing him to personally monitor the Delhi police action. “The Prime Minister asked the Home Secretary to pay special attention to the rising incidents of crime and vandalism and to work towards ensuring the safety and security of women in the Capital,” a senior ministry official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

25. 36 Re-Convert at Ghar Wapsi Drive (7)

KOLLAM: In yet another massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive held in the district on Sunday, 36 people including members of a Roman Catholic family reportedly returned to Hinduism. The number of re-converted people in the district during the past two months has reached 115 with this drive organised by various Hindu organisations in the area. The drive was reportedly led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad local committe. In a massive drive held at Areekkara near Uzhavoor, members of as many as 25 families from Uzhavoor, Ramapuram, Monippally, Veliyannoor, Kadanadu, Kuryanadu, Kudakkachira, Melukavu, Kurichithanam and Marangattupilly took part. The participants were mainly from Cheramar Christian, Roman Catholic and Vedar castes. The drive was reportedly organised by the Uzhavoor Unit of VHP, the Areekkara Branch of SNDP Yogam and Sree Ramadasa Ashram, Chenkottukonam. The ritualistic ceremonies were held under the aegis of Brahmapadananda Swaraswathi Theertha Padar, the head of the Chenkottukonam Math and Brahmachari Praveeth Kumar, general convener of the Math. The first massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive in the state was held on last Christmas Day. As many as 58 took part in the programme held at Thirunakkara and Ponkunnam then. Later, another re-conversion programme was held in Uzhavoor on January 15, in which as many as 16 persons reportedly returned to Hinduism.As part of the efforts to forge the greater Hindu alliance initiatives, the Hindu conference organised under the aegis of the district unit of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here the other day, resolved to bring in place various changes in ritualistic performances and activities in temples. According to VHP functionaries, the decisions of the conference will be implemented in 12 temples under the VHP district unit.  K P Prakash, VHP district seva pramukh, said that the main decision of the conference was to convert the temples as service centers to carry out social services to the public. “This will be implemented in 12 temples under VHP district unit in the first phase of the initiative. We also decided to allow the male devotees to have ‘darshans’ in the temples with tops (shirts, vests etc),” he said. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

26. CBCI Hails PM’s Assurance on Religious Freedom (7)

KOCHI: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India  (CBCI) welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that  the government would not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority and minority categories, to incite hatred against others. It was the first time the Prime Minister reacted to the recent incidents of attack on Christian places of worship in the capital city. CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis in a statement said those who attempt to sabotage the country’s secularism should understand the significance of the Prime Minister’s statement to bring in a change in their attitude and actions. The Cardinal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue directive to the law enforcement agencies to provide protection and security to religious minorities so that they could follow faith according to their respective religions. Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC)  stated that the Prime Minister’s statement assuring religious freedom was a great relief for the minorities, among whom a feeling of insecurity was growing in the wake of the recent developments, including the ‘ghar vapsi’ programme and the attack on churches and church-run establishments in Delhi. “The proactive statement by the PM will definitely help to ease the tension prevailing in many places,” a KCBC spokesperson said. The KCBC further stated that the global developments  should be an inspiration for the people of India to maintain the country’s great tradition of secularism’’. (New Indian Express 18/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

27. Rajnath to Visit Tripura on Repatriation of Reang Refugees (13)

AGARTALA: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijuju will visit Tripura on Saturday to review the law and order situation and discuss the repatriation of Reang refugees, housed in six evacuee camps in the state, official sources said today. The Union Home Minister would arrive here by chopper from Imphal and then again fly by chopper for Khanthlang border outpost, a remote area in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura district to hold meeting with BSF officers, SP, Police Control, Uttam Bhowmick said. From Khanthlang he would visit the evacuee camps of the internally displaced Reangs from neighbouring Mizoram and then return to Agartala to hold meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla at the Civil Secretariat, Bhowmick said. More than 32,000 Reang/Bru refugees were huddled in six camps after they took shelter in Tripura since 1997 following ethnic clashes with the local Mizos over possession of land. The Union Home Minister would return to Delhi on the same day. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

28. Rajnath Singh visits Bangladesh border in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by his deputy, Kiren Rijiju, Saturday visited the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura and discussed issues with officials and BSF troopers. The two ministers also met Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. “Rajnath Singh with Rijiju (minister of state for home affairs) and home ministry officials visited Khantlang in Tripura along the India-Bangladesh-Mizoram border,” a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said. The home ministers interacted with the BSF officials and troopers at the Khantlang border outposts (195 km from Agartala), along the Bangladesh`s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The militants set up camps in CHT and used the unfenced borders for their trans-border movements. “Senior BSF officials briefed both the ministers about the border issues and militancy related problems,” the BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity. The home minister appreciated the BSF troopers for their role in maintaining security in the mountainous areas. Earlier both the ministers accompanied by senior home ministry officials arrived here from Manipur, capital Imphal and left for the bordering areas by an Indian Air Force helicopter. After visiting the border areas, the union ministers met Sarkar and senior state government officials in Agartala to chalk out a plan to repatriate the tribal refugees to Mizoram. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was scheduled to attend the meeting but could not make it. About 32,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are staying in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in Mizoram, following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official. Home Ministry`s Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh Jan 30 held a meeting in New Delhi with Tripura and Mizoram officials and discussed the repatriation of Mizoram`s tribal refugees. The Tripura government has been asking both Mizoram and the union home ministry to repatriate the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram. (Zee News 14/2/15)

29. Rajnath Singh assures all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants (13)

Kanchanpur: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured all possible help