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HR News May 2016

(News Collection from May 1 to 31, 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Dalit sarpanch ‘beaten’ for sharing dais with MP CM (2)

BHOPAL: Sharing dais with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan proved costly for a dalit sarpanch who was allegedly beaten by upper caste members in Tikamgarh district of Bundelkhand on Friday. The incident took place during Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday Abhiyan when sarpanch Alakh Prasad Valmiki was allegedly thrashed along with panchayat secretary Brij Kishore Rai by upper caste men and nodal officer Suresh Ahirwar, who was also attending the function at Poochikarguan village, 100km from Tikamgarh district headquarter. A day before this incident, the sarpanch had welcomed the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at gram sansad programme. In a written complaint at Sendri police station, Valmiki named six persons of the village for the assault. He alleged they also hurled castiest remarks at him. Panchayat secretary alleged, “Anand Nayak, Anurag Nayak, Harishchandra Nayak, Suresh Ahirwar and Anand Nayak were among others who not only assaulted them, but also tore panchayat documents in public view. This was done when gram sabha meeting was on.” Meanwhile, nodal officer has lodged a separate complaint against the sarpanch and others. Sendri police station in charge Subodh Mishra said, “We are conducting investigations after receiving the complaints. Action will be initiated depending on outcome of probe.” (Times of India 1/5/16)

Dalit students protesting OBC reservation lathicharged (2)

LUCKNOW: A day after students, teaching and non-teaching staff of BBAU under the aegis of Pichda Jan kalyan Samiti (PJKS) moved a writ petition claiming 50% reservation should be done away with and that Other Backward Class (OBC) should be accommodated, Dalit students under the banner of Ambedkar University Dalit Student Union (AUDSU) staged day long protest on Tuesday demanding action against the petitioners. Later, police chased the students and used mild force in which some students were injured. On Tuesday morning, the student protesters gathered outside the administrative block. Holding placards, they raised slogans demanding termination of those protesting against the 50% SC/ST reservation. The protester burnt an effigy of the vice-chancellor RC Sobti and proctor Kamal Jaiswal who they claimed of being biased towards them. The students also demanded resignation of the proctor and dean, student welfare. This university is not like any other Central University. The very purpose of this university to uplift the economically and socially backward will be defeated if the 50% SC/ST reservation will be done away with,” said Shreyat Buddha core member of AUDSU. After submitting a memorandum to the V-C in the morning, students, instigated by a section of teachers intensified their protest in the evening. They barged inside the V-C’s office demanding immediate action against the petitioners. Sensing trouble, university administration called the police. Though the police denied use of any force, students claimed that they were cane charged which left few students injured. Officer-in-charge of Ashiana police station, sub-inspector Santosh Kumar Tiwari said that the university vice- chancellor made an SOS call and a team was deputed to bring him out of his chamber. Students were protesting outside his office over some demands. We brought him out safely. No force was used by police and nobody was injured,”" said Tiwari. University spokesperson Kamal Jaiswal said that varsity has accepted the students demand of removing the proctor. A committee has been constituted to find out whether or not action can be taken against the petitioners. The matter is sub juidice. In Tuesday’s incident, no force was used. Not a single student is injured. Police broke the glass door to chase the students.” (Times of India 3/5/16)

Kerala rape case: Pervert held for Dalit law student’s murder (2)

Kochi: The Kerala police has finally zeroed in on the culprit in the Perumbavur law student rape and murder case. A top police source confirmed to this newspaper that a ‘pervert’ is in custody and the police is waiting to corroborate the scientific evidence to make a formal arrest. The source added that a man is under custody, and is an active mobile phone user. There were reports that the murderer was not using a phone that delayed the probe. Earlier in the day, the state police chief T.P. Senkumar visited the victim’s house and told media that the probe is at a crucial phase. “We’re taking all evidences to a logical end. There is no lapse in investigation,” he said. The police was after a key suspect whom the cyber team found to be in the vicinity of the victim’s house on the fateful day on April 28.The cops on Friday withdrew an application filed before the Kuruppampady Judicial First Class Magistrate to conduct scientific examination on a pair of footwear and other material objects found at the victim’s makeshift house on the banks of a local canal in Rayamangalam panchayath. The police team also used the expertise of a retired Cyber Crime Investigation Cell CI Francis Periera on Friday.Earlier in the day Additional Director General of Police K. Padmakumar, supervising the probe said, “It appears to be a pre-meditated murder. We’ve got crucial evidence and are hopeful of cracking the case. 10 special teams are on the field even as experts, including cyber and forensic, have been called in to assist the probe.” (Deccan Herald 7/5/16)

Wife denied water, Dalit digs up a well for her in 40 days (2)

NAGPUR: His achievement may not be as colossal as that of Dashrath Manjhi, the mountain man, but his spirit is equally indomitable. Refused permission to draw water from a well by the owner and insult of his wife made him so determined to be self reliant that Bapurao Tajne dug a well all by himself, a job that is normally done by 4-5 people. Now, the entire Dalit locality of the village is drawing water from his well and do not have to depend on people from other castes for water. Tajne is a poor labourer of Kalambeshwar village of Washim district. Though he had never dug a well before, he devoted six hours daily for 40 days until he struck water. No one, not even his family members, helped him. Everybody thought he had gone crazy. After all, who could find water in a rocky terrain especially when three wells and a borewell near the spot had gone dry. The villagers openly mocked him but Bapurao went ahead with his task undeterred. “I don’t want to name the well owner for I don’t want bad blood in the village. However, I feel that he insulted us because we are poor and Dalits. I came home that day in March and almost cried. I resolved never to beg for water from anybody. I went to Malegaon (the closest town) and bought tools and within an hour I started digging,” Tajne told TOI at his modest home. There was no hydrological study to select the spot, Tajne went by instinct. “I prayed fervently to God before starting the job. I am thankful that my effort has been rewarded,” he said. Tajne is a daily wager and couldn’t afford to give up work for digging a well. He worked for four hours before leaving for work and two hours on return. He did back-breaking work for 14 hours a day almost without a break during those 40 days. “It is difficult to explain what I felt in those days. I just wanted to provide water for my whole locality so that we Dalits did not have to beg for water from other castes,” said the labourer, who has studied up to final year of BA.His wife Sangita now regrets mocking at him. “I did not help him a bit until he struck water. Now the whole family, except the two kids, helps him as he deepens and widens the well. It is already 15 feet deep and Bapurao wants to dig 5 feet further. It is 6 feet wide at the top and he wants to make it 8 feet wide. We are hoping our neighbours will help us in this task,” she said.Tajne is slowly getting recognition. The sarpanch visited his house and was full of praise for him. After a Marathi channel aired his deed, the Malegaon tehsildar presented him a bouquet. Film actor Nana Patekar spoke to him over phone and promised to meet him soon. A social worker from Washim presented him Rs 5000. But Tajne is too proud to ask for help. “When the tehsildar asked me what sort of help I needed, I told her to do whatever was appropriate.” (Times of India 8/5/16)

‘Dalit families attacked over use of village pond’ (2)

BERHAMPUR: Dalit families are allegedly facing caste-related atrocities at Panchabhuti village under Jagananthpur police station in Ganjam district of Odisha over use of village ponds. The local sarpanch and husband of the nayab sarpanch, who have links with the ruling party, are alleged to have led an attack on Dalit families of the village on March 24. A joint fact-finding team of representatives of various organisations reached Panchabhuti village on Monday to enquire about the issue. This team included State secretariat member of the CPI(M) Santosh Das, Odisha Bahujan Kranti Dal secretary-general Madhusudan Yadav, Sankar Sahu of CPI-ML (Red Star) and Odisha Dalit Adhikar Manch coordinator Basant Mallik among aothers. The team made detailed enquiry about the attack on the 46 Dalit families by the upper castes on March 24 as well as the present situation. On March 24, houses of these Dalit families had been attacked and ransacked. The police had arrested 14 persons in the case, including four from Dalit families and ten of upper castes. As per this fact finding team, situation has not improved much at the village. Although a peace committee has been formed, Dalits have less confidence in it as it is dominated by the elements of the ruling party who are from the upper castes. “The sarpanch, who had led the attack, is yet to be arrested. Even the administration has not provided adequate relief and rehabilitation measures to the affected Dalit families as per the norms,” said Mr Das. This fact-finding team would submit its report to the Odisha CM, human rights cell of State police, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Collector and Ganjam SP for necessary action. Speaking to The Hindu , the team members said their enquiry has revealed that the tussle over use of three public ponds was at the root of trouble between Dalits and upper castes. All these three ponds on government land have separate points of entry for Dalits and upper castes. While the portions used by Dalits are in a dilapidated condition, those used by upper castes are properly developed. A person had also put a fence to restrict entry of Dalits to their side of the pond. The issue had been simmering which turned violent because of a small misunderstanding between the two groups, said Mr Mallik. It is alleged that on March 24, a group of upper castes had attacked and beaten several Dalit persons, broken doors of their houses to ransack them, had looted valuables and made serious threats. Till now, these families have not received any relief from the administration except for two quintals of rice, said Mr Sahu. (The Hindu 11/5/16)

Protest against alleged attacks on Dalits in Ganjam district (2)

BERHAMPUR: A joint demonstration against alleged caste-based atrocities and attacks on Dalits at Panchabhuti village under Jagananthprasad police station in Ganjam district was held in front of office of Revenue Divisional Commissioner, southern division in Berhampur on Thursday. The demonstration had been organised by Odisha Dalit Adhikar Manch and CPI-ML (Red Star). Leaders of various other organisations like Ganjam district secretary of CPI (M) Kailash Sarangi also attended the demonstration to express solidarity on the issue. A memorandum was handed over to the RDC demanding adequate security and relief to the Dalit families of Panchabhuti, who are continuously facing atrocities at the hands of upper castes. Sankar Sahu of CPI-ML (Red Star) and Bhikari Nayak of ODAM alleged that as the upper caste elements of Panchabhuti village have links with leaders of the ruling BJD, police and administration have not taken adequate action against them.They alleged that the local sarpanch of Panchabhuti was directly involved in attacks on Dalit families.Mr Sahu and Mr Nayak also alleged that intervention of Minister Bikram Arukh had made the police silent about the Panchabhuti issue. On May 10, around 20 houses of Dalit families of Panchabhuti were gutted in a fire. As per the victims, on the same day, a group of upper caste miscreants threatened them and told them to lift cases lodged against upper castes. The Dalit families were threatened of dire consequences and the arson took place on that night. Forty six Dalit families of the village are facing caste based atrocities. Tussle over use of portions of village pond by Dalit families had led to violence at Panchabhuti on March 24. Houses of Dalits had been ransacked allegedly by upper caste mob led by the local sarpanch and husband of the nayab sarpanch. ODAM had come out in support of the Dalit victims.A joint fact finding team of social activists had visited the village on May 9 to make on the spot enquiry into the allegations of atrocities on dalits. s per this fact finding team, caste-based superstitions and continuing tradition of untouchability was the reason behind atrocities against the Dalits oft Panchabhuti. (The Hindu 13/5/16)

NGO seeks SC panel’s help to put guilty in dalit rape behind bars (2)

Coimbatore: Vizhuthugal, an NGO fighting for the rights of dalits, has notified the National Commission of Schedule Castes about two recent incidents where minor dalit girls were raped by caste Hindus. The first incident occured on May 2 in Udumalpet, Tirupur district and the second in Kannivadi, Dindigul district. The NGO asked the commission to ensure the state takes action against the guilty in both cases. A 17-year-old dalit girl from Kallapalayam village near Sular, who was a second year diploma student in a polytechnic college in the city, was in love with Azhagupadmanaban, 22 from Kannivadi in Dindigul. He worked for a private firm in Sulur. He was a Chettiyar and promised to marry the minor soon. Trusting him, she left home discretely on May 2. Her parents approached the Sulur police to file a ‘girl missing’ complaint. Sub-inspector Sivakumar refused to receive the complaint.”Azhagupadmanaban and his two friends raped and murdered the girl and dumped the body in a hilly area near Kannivadi in Dindigul. He returned to work on May 2 and later pretended to help the girl’s parents search for her. On May 6, the girl”s body was found after which police picked him up for interrogation. Later, he was arrested,” said M Thangavel, director of Vizhuthugal organisation. Moorthy, one of his accomplices, surrendered before a court, while Jayapandi, the third culprit, is still absconding. “The police failed to register rape case against the trio. They told us that they are waiting for the post-mortem report,” he said, calling for a CBI probe into the case.On May 2 around 11.30pm, a 16-year-old dalit girl, who was waiting for her SSLC results, was raped by her neighbour in an abandoned building at Vilamarathupatti near Udumalpet. She had gone to attend a temple function in the village and was returning home on foot. M Mahendran, 34, a Gounder from the same village took her to an abandoned building with the help of his friend where he raped her.Dalit are oppressed by caste Hindus. They are unable to fight back. Many dalit girls are being raped but not all incidents come to light. It’s time the government did something to protect the safety of dalit girls,” said Thangavel. (Times of India 16/5/16)

Uttarakhand Dalits demand entry into temples, spark fears of conflict (2)

Dehradun: Dalits in Uttarakhand are preparing to fight a centuries-old tradition that forbids them from entering and worshipping at 349 temples of the hill state’s Jaunsar-Bhabar region, which might ignite a volatile face-off with upper-caste communities. Dubbed the holiest land for Hindus, the Himalayan state is studded with thousands of temples, many of which have been off-limits for low-caste people. Dalit leaders said they would forcibly enter the temples, especially five popular ones in the Jaunsar-Bhabar region of Dehradun district, constituting the Chakrata hill block. The campaign will begin at Sindhugur Maharaj temple at Pokhari village of Chakrata on May 20, where a religious function to mark its Rs 2.5-crore renovation is expected to attract about 10,000 people, they said. The shrine, like many others in the area, is reserved for upper castes. “The temple committee engaged Dalit labourer for the renovation. It sought donation from members of the community but won’t allow them to worship in the temple now. It plans to drive away Dalits visiting the temple on May 20,” said Daulat Kunwar, who will lead a march along with BJP leader Tarun Vijay. He said such discrimination and subjugation won’t be tolerated. “We will enter the temple, come what may.” The Dalits plan on entering the Khatwa Dev and Regyo temples, both in Chakrata, and the Bisoi shrine in Kalsi. “Similar efforts were made at Kukurshi Maharaj temple at Gabela village but the temple committee washed the floor with Ganga water later, saying it was desecrated by Dalits,” Kunwar said on Tuesday. Caste-based temple controversies are nothing new. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was stopped at the gates of the Jagannath temple in Puri as she was deemed an outcast for marrying a non-Hindu. In 2014, a temple in Bihar’s Madhubani district was “purified” — the shrine cleaned and its idols washed — after a visit by then chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a member of the Musahar community. Caste-centric discrimination, or untouchability, was banned in India in 1955, but centuries-old feudal attitudes persist in many parts of the country and Dalits, who represent 16% of the country’s population, still face prejudice in every sector. They are sometimes beaten or killed for using a well or worshipping at a temple. The fear of a backlash was palpable among the poor Dalits in Jaunsar-Bhabar region too. “We want to worship at the temple where we worked as labourers and donated money. But cannot say if it’s going to happen,” said Kripal, a Dalit resident. (Hindustan Times 18/5/16)

9-day ‘purification ritual’ at Jaunsar Bawar temple where dalits had entered (2)

DEHRADUN: The Silgur devta temple in Pokhri village of the Jaunsar Bawar region, which witnessed unruly scenes on Friday when a mob attacked Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay with stones for entering the premises with dalits, would now conduct a “long purification ritual of nine days”. A temple official said that they needed to conduct purifying poojas since the temple had been “desecrated by the entry of dalits.” “The dev doli of Silgur Devta that was brought after a gap of almost 36 years to our village was defiled. The devta is upset. We will now undergo a nine-day stringent prayer and some purification rituals to appease it,” said an official of the temple samiti. Meanwhile, many dalits of the area have started fleeing from their homes for the fear of a backlash from the upper-caste members of the village. Almost 100 villagers converged at Doon hospital on Sunday where their leader Daulat Kunwar is admitted in the ICU. The villagers said they will not return to their area till they get a written assurance from the state home minister that their lives would be safe if they returned. “A number of young boys from our village were beaten up by upper-caste villagers because they had captured the incidents of May 20 (when mobs pelted stones at dalits) on their mobile camera phones. They were threatened not to speak about the incident either to the police or city administration,” claimed Narender Singh, a villager from Pokhri where the incident had occured. Meanwhile, Saraswati Kunwar, the wife of injured dalit leader Daulat Kunwar, blamed the state home minister Pritam Singh for supporting the attrocities against dalits. “It’s ironic that Pritam Singh who is from the Chakrata area, didn’t even bother to visit Kunwar who is battling for his life in the hospital. It clearly shows that there is disdain and contempt against dalits ingrained in his mind.” She added that the head of the khat (group of 10-15 villages) had also issued a notice in the village that “anyone who speaks in favour of dalits will face the same fate as Tarun Vijay and Daulat Kunwar.” A group of dalits also burnt an effigy of Pritam Singh in the Doon hospital premises. While a probe has been ordered on the incident, human rights activists say they are not convinced it will be a “fair one.” “There is just one dalit woman in the probe committee while rest all are upper-caste men. It raises suspicion on the authenticity of the probe,” said a human-rights activist from Vikas Nagar. (Times of India 22/5/16)

 

Clashes in Khurja after Rajput men ‘eve-tease’ Dalit girl (2)

MEERUT: Clashes broke out between Dalits and Rajputs near Bulandshahr district’s Khurja city after a Dalit teen was eve-teased and a statue of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar was vandalized on late on Sunday night. Trouble began after a group of drunk Rajput men visited a fair organized by Dalits of Sultanpur village and indulged in rowdy behaviour. Incidents of violence were also reported on Monday morning. Meanwhile, police and provincial armed constabulary (PAC) personnel have been deployed to maintain law and order situation in the area. Police said 12 people have been arrested. The incident was reminiscent of the Kawal eve-teasing incident of 2013, which sparked the Muzaffarnagar riots. “The incident took place on Sunday evening during a fair organized by the Dalit community. Around 10-15 drunk Rajput men arrived at the fair on their motorcycles and started abusing the Dalits. They also indulged in eve-teasing. Soon, an altercation took place between the Dalits and the Rajput men, which snowballed into a major fight. Men of both the castes came to blows with each other. About six people were injured in the scuffle. We have arrested 12 people from both the sides,” said R K Sharma, station officer at Khurja (city) police station. Sharma said, “Local police and PAC personnel have been deployed in the village, and the situation is under control. We have booked the accused under various sections, including sections 147 (rioting) and 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) of the Indian Penal Code.” Anil (name changed), a local resident, told TOI, “Drunk Rajput men teased a 16-year-old Dalit girl. When the Dalits objected, the Rajput men became violent and even vandalized a statue of B R Ambedkar nearby, prompting the Dalits to fight back.” Incidents of violence were also reported on Monday morning. A Dalit youth from the village was attacked by a group of Rajputs when he was on his way to work. Later in the day, protesting Dalits blocked railway tracks in Khurja. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) workers also protested against what they called “police inaction”. (Times of India 23/5/16)

Dalit girl gangraped for three nights in Karnataka (2)

Bengaluru: In a shocking display of brutality, a Dalit woman was kidnapped, kept in confinement and gang raped by three men over a period of two days and three nights. The incident, which came to light on Tuesday evening, took place in Chikkabalapur district. District police swung into action the same evening and began a massive hunt for the four men. All of the accused had been arrested by Wednesday morning and booked under section 376 2(G)of the IPC and section 3 (1) (xii) in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. 22 year old Girish, who is a labourer in a cargo company, is the victim’s alleged lover. His three friends are Shiv Kumar (20), Shashidhar (22)  – both men are auto-rickshaw drivers and Ramesh Babu (18), a carpenter. All the four are said to be residents of Chikkabalapur. Police said Girish had befriended the victim a few days ago. The two began keeping in touch over the phone and on Friday, he called the young woman to meet him in person. She arrived at the designated spot and found his three friends instead. She asked them where Girish was and they took her to a house in Dinnehalli, where she was confined. They raped her in turns for three nights. However, they ran out of luck on Sunday night, when their auto was stopped by a beat policeman who had grown suspicious at the sight of three men traveling with a woman. “Ramesh Babu and Shashidhar fled the spot, while Shiv Kumar was taken to the police station,” said a senior police officer. On Sunday night, however, the victim insisted that no wrong had been done to her , saying the three men were her friends. “She even gave a written statement to that effect,” said the officer. Realising something was amiss, the sub-inspector kept Shiv Kumar in custody hoping to question him further, while the victim was sent to an NGO where she received counseling. “On Tuesday night,” said the officer, “members of the NGO came to the police station and filed a gangrape complaint.” The officer added, “On Sunday night the survivor denied any wrong doing and gave a written statement saying that three men were her friends. But, realizing something amiss, the sub-inspector kept Shivkumar in police custody to question him further while the woman was sent to a NGO where when she was counseled by NGO people she narrated the horror. On Tuesday night at 8 pm, she along with NGO members came to police station and filed a gang rape complaint.” (Deccan Chronicle 26/5/16)

Family of upper caste man forces dalit wife out of home, goes into hiding (2)

Coimbatore: A family residing in Palapatty in Mettupalayam has thrown out the newly-wedded wife of the son from their home after they found out that she was a dalit. The woman, identified as Revathy, 23, was to leave for Jaipur with her husband P Rajiv, 25, on Sunday when her in-laws became aware of her caste identity. Revathy lodged a complaint with the Thudiyalur all-women police station, stating that her husband’s entire family has gone into hiding.Police on the case said Revathy and Rajiv worked together in a private company at Kalapatty, where they fell in love. Rajiv was aware that Revathy was a dalit and had met her family too. The duo got married with the help of their cousins and friends on March 11, following which Rajiv’s parents accepted the couple into their home. Rajiv had not told his parents that Revathy was a dalit. The couple was to leave for Jaipur on Sunday as Rajiv had secured a job with a private company there. But on Monday (May 23), when the couple had gone out shopping, Rajiv’s mother, P Malathy, 43, father, Palanichamy, 60, and sister, Vidhya, 27, came across Revathy’s certificates. “When we returned home, they abused and harassed me using my caste name, and asked me to get out of the house. I was taken aback because I had repeatedly told Rajiv to inform his parents that I was a dalit,” said Revathy. “They took my mobile phone and there was no way I could communicate with Rajiv. So, I approached the police,” she added. Investigating officer Inspector Amutha said Rajiv’s family was summoned to the police station on Thursday (May 26). Police have registered a case under various Sections of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and also under Sections of IPC. “We will arrest her husband’s family soon,” the investigating officer said. (Times of India 29/5/16)

TRIBALS

Convert Forest Villages to Revenue Villages: Centre to States (6)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday admitted in Lok Sabha the difficulties faced by people living in forest villages and said it had asked state governments to convert them into revenue villages to enable villagers get benefits of welfare schemes. There are 4,526 forest villages in the country in which 22.06 lakh people like, majority of them being tribals, Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said during Question Hour. Out of a total 22,06,011 population living in 4,526 forest villages across the country, 13,32,265 belong to Scheduled Tribes, he said. Admitting difficulties faced by these people, the Minister said state governments were told to convert the forest villages into revenue villages so that the people living there get government welfare benefits. Oram said that 925 forest villages in Madhya Pradesh will be converted to revenue villages, in Maharashtra all forest villages, except for 73 villages in Nandurbar, are in the process of conversion into revenue villages, while 421 forest villages in Chhattisgarh have been converted into revenue villages. The Minister said in West Bengal 86 forest villages were converted into revenue villages, while in Odisha, 22 forest villages and unsurveyed habitations were identified for conversion to revenue villages. In Gujarat, out of 196 recorded forest settlement, 175 have been identified for conversion to revenue villages, while in Uttar Pradesh, out of the 12 recorded forest settlement, six have been converted to revenue villages, he said. (New Indian Express 2/5/16)

Food security act not available for vulnerable tribal groups: NCST head (6)

New Delhi, May 3 : The government’s “inability” to implement the Food Security Act among the ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ in India has resulted in a drop in their population, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) head Rameshwar Oraon has said. The former union minister of state for tribal affairs, who took over as chairperson of NCST in 2013, has also questioned the existence of many such PVGT communities if the government does not consider the seriousness of the issue. “Food security is not at all available to the tribals. It is a major problem as far as the question of their existence is concerned. The government is not understanding that the PVTGs are very vulnerable community and there is a big question on their existence if the food security programme continues to elude them,” Oraon told IANS in an interview. Recounting that when he was on a recent official visit to Garhwa district of Jharkhand, he was told that community members of Korwas and Parhaiyas were buying rice at Rs.20-30 per kg, a steep price for the poor communities. “I was shocked to hear that members of PVTG communities were buying their staple food –rice — at Rs.20-30 per kg. They are supposed to get all this at a very low rate under the Food Security Act. This is too costly for communities who neither have any permanent source of income nor any help from the government for economic empowerment,” said Oraon, 69, who belongs to the Congress and was MoS Tribal Affairs during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule. The Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) (earlier known as Primitive tribal group) is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the condition of certain communities with particularly low development indices. The Jharkhand leader, who became a politician after relinquishing a career with the Indian Police Service, also said the NCST will conduct a comprehensive study of the PVTGs across the country to properly check their state of vulnerability and submit the results to the government. …  (New Kerala 3/5/16)

SC/ST MLAs’ Fast Illegal: Speaker (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as Speaker Niranjan Pujari on Tuesday declared the hunger strike launched by a group of Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) MLAs in front of Chief Minister’s chamber on Assembly premises here as ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, he assured the MLAs to give a ruling on their demands on Wednesday. The agitating MLAs from opposition Congress and BJP called off the strike after Pujari held discussion and assured them of looking into their demands. The Dalit and tribal MLAs sat on a hunger strike in front of the Chief Minister’s chamber demanding proper implementation of Odisha Reservation of Vacancies (ORV) Act. Though SC and ST MLAs belonging to BJD had signed the letter supporting the agitation, they did not join the hunger strike. The Scheduled Categories MLAs have been demanding reservation of 38 per cent of seats in medical and engineering colleges and institutes of higher education. The other demands include job reservation in private sectors. “The State Government has been apathetic to our demands. The orders of the Chief Minister are not followed properly by the officers at district level,” said Congress MLAs Prafulla Majhi and Bhujabal Majhi. The issue was raised by Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra in the Assembly. Mishra said the agitation by the MLAs is justified. Mishra said though the Government had promised to implement their demands, none has been fulfilled. He requested the Speaker to persuade the agitating MLAs to call off the strike. Ruling BJD member Sashibhusan Behera also requested the Speaker to ensure that an unprecedented incident like MLAs staging hunger strike in front of Chief Minister’s chamber does not take place. Speaker Pujari adjourned the House for more than two hours and convened an all party meeting with the agitating lawmakers. However, the effort did not yield result as the SC and ST MLAs refused to call off agitation. (New Indian Express 4/5/16)

Tribals take up patrolling in villages to check Naxal violence (6)

Raipur, May 6 () In a bold initiative, the tribals of a village panchayat in Chhattisgarh’s worst insurgency-hit Sukma district have decided to oppose Naxal atrocities carried out in the name of people’s movement and device their own efforts to prevent violence by the ultras.  Armed with bow and arrows and other traditional weapons, the youths can be seen patrolling the peripheral areas of their villages throughout the night to ban the entry of rebels at their native place. The practice started in Kumakoleng and Nama villages falling under Kumakoleng gram panchayat, located around 22 kms from Tongpal police station on National Highway- 30 which connects Jagdalpur to Sukma, about two months back. “We were disturbed with the Maoists’ act of obstructing development which had resulted in no power supply and lack of proper road connectivity in our village. In the name of police informers, innocent villagers have been killed,” Aayta Karma, a resident of Nama village, said. “Braving Naxal threats, the youths of the two villages have decided not to allow anymore act of atrocity or violence in the area. Now we want development and peace,” Karma said. The Kanger Area Committee of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) looks after the Maoists’ activities in Kumakoleng, which lies on the bordering region of Chhattisgarh-Odisha, around 400 kms from the state capital Raipur. The committee has been instrumental in executing several major incidents in the region, including the 2013 Jiram valley attack in which Congress leaders were killed. The distance between Kumakoleng and Nama villages, having a population of 500-550, is about 1.5 kms. A group of 60-65 men from the two villages carry out night patrolling to prohibit entry of Naxals in their areas. “Each and every youth has been assigned with a responsibility. They are deployed randomly at several locations in and around villages,” Karma said. Ruling out that the initiative may take an ugly turn in future, another villager, on condition of anonymity, said, “We just want peace in our village and don’t want to enter in any violent clash with Maoists.” “While patrolling, youths had come face-to-face with Naxals twice, but on both the occasions the ultras fled after facing strong opposition from us,” he said. Meanwhile, police said similar initiatives against Naxals have also been reported from other places in Sukma. “Villagers from Kumakoleng had requested us to set up a police camp in their area which is quite in the interior. We have assured them to think over it. As of now, we have stepped up patrolling in the region to ensure security to them,” Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Santosh Singh told .(Times of India 6/5/16)

Religious conversion of tribals in Dangs has stopped: Guj min (6)

Ahmedabad, May 8 () Conversion of tribal people to Christianity in Dangs district has “stopped because of intervention” by the Gujarat government, state minister Mangubhai Patel said here today. Speaking at a function here after an RSS-affiliated body released a ‘vision document’ for uplift of the community, the Minister said Christian missionaries were “carrying out religious conversion” several years ago because of poverty in the region but that has stopped now. “In Dangs, they distributed sugar and wheat as a lure to convert poor tribal people to Christianity, (but) we led a revolution and today we can say for sure that conversion has stopped because of government’s intervention,” said Patel, who holds Forest, Environment and Tribal Development portfolios. Patel, also BJP in-charge for Dangs, said the government’s move to provide easy loans and special coaching classes for competitive exams have helped tribal youths. “As many as 140 tribal youths have been given Rs 15 lakh as easy loan by government. There are four women and 15 men (among them) who have become pilots. Last year, 558 tribal youths made it to GUJCET (a combined test for entrance to medical and engineering colleges) because of special coaching classes for tribals started by the government,” he said. The vision document of the RSS-affiliated ‘Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram’ suggests policy intervention by administration for the development of tribals. The document was first unveiled in New Delhi and is being released in different states. The organisers said they had invited state Governor O P Kohli for the event but he could not come because of prior commitments. (Times of India 8/5/16)

Opposition unimpressed by advertorial on Jharkhand domicile policy (6)

Ranchi, May 11 : It’s an all-out battle between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition in Jharkhand over the domicile policy announced by the Raghubar Das government. With the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) calling for a statewide shutdown on May 14, the ruling dispensation on Wednesday came out with an advertorial in the local newspapers in support of the policy. The two-page advertorial has been penned by BJP leader and former IAS officer J.B. Tubid, besides former high court judges, scholars and journalists. But the opposition is in no mood to relent. “We are getting support from all sections of the society. We are shocked to see the advertorial. It’s sheer misuse of public money for writing favourable articles on the domicile policy,” said JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya. The domicile policy has been a bone of contention between the ruling BJP and the opposition ever since it was notified in April. Even some BJP leaders have expressed serious reservations about the policy, saying it would adversely impact the rightS of the tribals and the Moolvasis in the state. Under the new domicile policy, anyone living in the region for 30 years and possessing immovable assets will be considered as a resident of Jharkhand. Moreover, those who were born in Jharkhand and passed the tenth standard examination will also qualify as a resident. Anyone whose name appears in the land records will also be considered as a Jharkhand resident. Those without land may qualify as a resident if the Gram Sabhas vouch for them, provided they speak the local language. Employees of the state and central governments, and other local authorities living in the state will also be considered as residents of Jharkhand. However, former Jharkhand chief ministers Arjun Munda (of BJP), Hemant Soren (JMM), Babulal Marandi (Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik) and Madhu Koda have opposed the policy. They have raised concerns over the 30-year criterion, saying anyone can “illegally” acquire land and become a resident of Jharkhand. Several BJP MPs have also red-flagged the policy on similar grounds. Ranchi Lok Sabha MP Ram Tahal Choudhary, Khuti MP Karia Munda, Jamshedpur MP Vidyut Baran Mahto and Chaibasa MP Laxman Gilua have written to Governor Draupadi Murmu, saying the policy has led to widespread discontent among the tribals and the Moolvasis. (New Kerala 11/5/16)

Opposition SC/ ST MLAs beg CM for redressal of their grievances (6)

BHUBANESWAR: A day after they were evicted from infront of  chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s chamber in the assembly from their dharna, opposition SC and ST MLAs begged and prostrated before him in the house today seeking redressal of their grievances. The unexpected move by the SC and ST MLAs took the chief minister and other ruling party members by surprise and forced Speaker Niranjan Pujari to adjourn the house till 12.30 pm. The incident occured after the obituary references to former minister Raghunath Patnaik were over. However, the chief minister left the house without any reaction. The dalit and tribal MLAs, who were on a dharna in the well of the house demanding implementation of the Odisha Reservation of Vacancies (ORV) Act, suddenly stood up and begged before the chief minister. As Naveen remained unmoved and prepared to leave the house, they lied down on the floor in front of him near the Speaker’s podium. “There is nothing wrong in prostrating before the leader of the house for the interest of 38 per cent of the population of the state. But the chief minister ignored us,” Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi said. Majhi said, they have sought support and cooperation of all the lawmakers irrespective of political parties to fight for the downtrodden people. “The sanctity of the assembly should not be violated in any way. They should protest in a democratic way,” BJD spokesperson and MLA Sashibhusan Behera said. BJP member Rabi Naik said the agitating MLAs have raised a demand that is vital for the interests of 38 per cent of the state’s population. The agitating MLAs were evicted from infront of the chief minister’s chamber in the assembly by the security personnel on Thursday. They sat on dharna infront of the Speaker’s office in the assembly following this and later shifted to the well of the house and spent a night there. “The assembly authorities had last night switched off the air-conditioner to harass us. But it was restored after we protested,”  Prafulla Majhi (Cong) said. (New Indian Express 13/5/16)

Tribal refugees burn 10 houses after tribal’s suicide in Tripura (6)

Agartala, May 15 : Tension prevailed on Sunday in Kanchanpur in northern Tripura as angry tribal refugees, originally hailing from Mizoram, burnt around 10 houses of locals, police here said. The arson followed suicide by a tribal man living in a refugee camp at Kanchanpur, 175 km north from Agartala, after he was allegedly beaten up by locals. A police official said deceased Bhriguram Reang, 36, allegedly committed suicide on Sunday after he was beaten up by local people who accused him of catching fish from a pond without seeking permission from the owner. Senior police officials, along with a huge contingent of Tripura State Rifles, rushed to the area to control the situation. Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Anurag was supervising the situation. Around 31,000 Reang tribals or ‘Bru’ are living in seven makeshift camps in northern Tripura for the past 19 years after they fled Mizoram following ethnic trouble after a Mizo forest officer was killed. (New Kerala 15/5/16)

PESA rollout awaits Centre’s nod (6)

Palakkad: Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comparison of the tribal situation in Attappady with the human development indices of Somalia has evoked nation-wide attention, official attempts to bring three grama panchayats in the backward region under the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, better known as PESA, have been pending for the last five months owing to lack of Union Cabinet approval. The Department of Scheduled Tribes has approached the Centre in January first week with the plan to bring 31 grama panchayats and one municipality under the Act saying that such a mo Agali, Puthur, and Sholayur grama panchayats which house the Attappady region have been brought under the move. Other identified areas are scattered in Wayanad, Palakkad, Kannur, Malappuram, and Idukki districts.The law, protected by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, would benefit over 4.2 lakh tribes people in the State who have been subjected to worst forms of exploitation. The Act had been one of the major demands of the ‘‘nilppu samaram’’ by the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha in front of the Secretariat last year. ‘‘Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have delayed implementation of the Act so far. It is delayed justice, as even progressive forces have showed no enthusiasm in implementing it,” said M. Geethanandan, one of the leaders of the ‘nilppu samaram.’ According to him, implementing it in the State should be the first priority of the political formation emerging victorious in the Assembly election. Once the Cabinet ratifies the proposal, it will come into force in these areas replacing the Panchayati Raj Act. ‘‘In States such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the law has helped improve the tribes living conditions. We can check the flow of illicit liquor in our region apart from implementing poverty eradication measures effectively. We can have control over our resources apart from running schools and hospitals. The tribal grama sabhas mandated under PESA can protect us against vested interests plundering natural resources in our regions,” said Maruthi, a tribal leader of women collective Thaykula Sanghom in Attappady. (The Hindu 19/5/16)

Reject ‘anti-tribal’ Bills : NPF MLAs to Centre (6)

New Delhi, May 20 2016 : Manipur MLAs, who had resigned following passage of three contentious Bills in the State Assembly a year ago, today urged the Centre not to give its consent to the “anti-tribal” Bills. “We are here to apprise the Central leadership, the President of India about the trauma we are facing today. The three Bills were passed without referring to the hill people, as is the rule,” Samuel Risom, one of the four MLAs, told reporters here. “With these enactments, they want to destroy the hill people and tribals. They want to give a free hand to others with vested interests to purchase land in the State,” he said. The Manipur Assembly had passed three contentious Bills the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, last year. The MLAs belonging to Naga People’s Front (NPF) Dikho, Alexander Pou, Nunghlung Victor and Samuel Risom  had resigned, alleging “procedural lapses” and that the Bills were “against the interest of the tribals” . “The Bills were passed within minutes without any debate and they called it ‘unanimously passed’. We were not even given time to put forth our concerns,” Risom said. “But, at least by our resignation, people are now aware about the situation of tribals in Manipur,” he said. NPF Manipur state President Awangbow Newmai complained of the indifference shown to the “injured” State of Manipur. “It is time the Government of India intervenes and sees to it that normalcy is restored in Manipur and interests of all sections of people are safeguarded and that everyone is happy. And if otherwise, Manipur is going to face a very serious problem,” he said. The former MLAs and other NPF leaders yesterday met Union Minister Kiren Rijiju with their plea. They also want to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. After the passage of the contentious Bills, tribals had launched protests and clashed with security personnel alleging the Bills will allow the “outsiders” to snatch away their land rights. Nine people, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed during the agitation. (Manipur: E-Pao 21/5/16)

 

STs have been let down by political leadership: former bureaucrat (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The political leadership has failed to deliver justice to members of Scheduled Tribes and has only used them to suit their electoral politics, former Tribal Welfare Commissioner T. Gopala Rao said. To compound the problem some among us have turned into compradors and are serving the interests of the political masters and not the community, he said addressing delegates of tribes and tribal organisations from across the State who gathered to discuss the number of issues facing the tribals at the Girijan Bhavan here on Sunday. Only a few are benefiting from the development programmes of the government either due to access to information or through proximity to the powers that be, he pointed out. “We have to take care of our family members who have stayed back at home in our villages,” he said calling upon everyone to visit their homes at least once a month and do the needful to get their issues addressed by officials and others. “The Telugu Desam government is subverting the law on relief and rehabilitation by creating a new system of land pooling. Since the land owner has voluntarily surrendered the land there is no need to pay the compensation as laid out in the Act,” Mr Gopal Rao said explaining how the political parties were serving the interests of landlords and not the agricultural workers and poor whose livelihoods were dependent on land. Referring to the Jeenabadu issue, he said it was unfortunate that no government was keen on enforcing the implementation of Land Transfer Regulation (1 of 70). This government only listens when its hand is forced, he said calling upon the delegates to organise a big dharna to bring pressure on the State. He promised to participate in the protest whenever and wherever the tribals decide to organise it.  (The Hindu 23.5.16)

Tribal woman shot dead; witchcraft suspected (6)

BHUBANESWAR: A tribal woman of Mayurbhanj district was shot dead on Thursday by three bike-borne miscreants. Witchcraft might be the reason behind the gruesome act, police source said. The deceased woman was identified as Manuku Majhi, 56, of Sijukala village under Bahalda police station in Mayurbhanj district. She is survived by her husband and a married daughter.Bahalada police station inspector-in-charge NK Das said the police have started investigation into the matter after sending the body for postmortem. Das said the miscreants suddenly opened fire at the woman from a close distance. The incident occurred when she was busy in grazing her goats on the bank of a canal on the outskirts of her village. She died on the spot after bullet pierced into her head, he added. Rairangpur sub-divisional police officer MP Karua said the woman had no dispute with the villagers. “From preliminary investigation, we found that the miscreants killed the woman suspecting her a sorcerer,” Karua said. He said people in the tribal belt kill elderly woman suspecting witchcraft. “Though actual reason is yet to be known, the police have started investigating into the case from witchcraft angle. We have started a manhunt to nab the culprits,” he added. (Times of India 26/5/16)

 

Chhattisgarh tribals use art to document encounter killings (6)

Kolkata: Villagers in the heavily militarised areas of south Chhattisgarh have embraced the traditional Gond art to document fake encounters that are not uncommon in that part of India. The last moments of Gond tribals, as they are killed by the security forces, are narrated on stone plaques called Mritak Sthamv. Kamal Shukla, a writer-journalist from south Chhattisgarh who has documented such plaques, says he never came across such unique storytelling earlier. The tribals often put up a stone or two to mark the passing away of a member in the village. The plaques (not headstones) are not placed in the burial grounds like in organised religion but mostly in an open space near the village and coloured with pigments extracted from trees. But of late, the villagers are documenting encounter killings on plaques.The plaque in Sulenga village in Bijapur district in Bastar Division is named after its resident Hedma Ram, who was killed on February 4. His name is painted at the top of the plaque. The upper panel shows a man, presumably Mr. Ram, resting while cattle graze around. He then gets surrounded by armed men in the second panel. “They are policemen with guns in the plaque, I confirmed it from the villagers,” says Mr. Shukla. The third panel, at the bottom of the plaque, shows Mr. Ram’s body being “dragged by the police”, with many animals witnessing the encounter. “Hedma Ram’s brother is a Naxalite. Mr. Ram was told to get him surrendered, but he could not. So he was arrested on fake charges and was released in January end,” says Mr Shukla, who investigated the killing. However, he was picked up within a week of his release and killed near Sulenga in a “fake encounter.” Following the incident, the police claimed that Hedma Ram was “a wanted Naxalite” who carried a reward of Rs. 1 lakh on his head. (The Hindu 28/5/16)

Gothra Vidya project for Wayanad tribal children (6)

KALPETTA: The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), Wayanad, in association with the district administration, Tribal Development Department and three-tier local administrative bodies, has launched Gothra Vidya, a year-long project to ensure better education to all tribal children in the district. “The comprehensive project envisages school enrolment and continuity of education to all tribal children, for which all means of support would be provided to children,” T.K. Abbas Ali, district project officer, SSA, Wayanad, told The Hindu . As a part of it, the public campaign TIDE (Total Intensive Drive on Enrollment) began in the district on Saturday. During the three-day campaign, trained volunteers including retired teachers, tribal promoters, Kudumbasree members, officials of various departments and Asha workers would visit tribal hamlets in 23 grama panchayats and three municipalities and ensure enrolment of tribal children in the nearest schools, said Mr. Ali said.Prior to the campaign, the SSA had organised workshops for volunteers under the project in all local administrative bodies, M.O. Saji, SSA district programme officer, said. Follow-up measures such as monthly review meeting of volunteers and convergence meetings of officials of various departments would be held in each grama panchayat every month to tackle the dropout of tribal children from schools. The services of 19 committed social workers of the SSA would be utilised for the purpose and they would monitor school dropouts, Mr. Saji said. Apart from the project, the SSA would launch the Samanuayam and Orukkam projects during the academic year to attract children in the age group of six to 14 to nearby schools and ensure quality education to all children, he said. The district-level School Pravesanolsavam, the formal ceremony of welcoming tiny tots to school, will be held at the Government High School, Mathamangalam, at 10 a.m. on June 1, he added. (The Hindu 29/5/16)

WOMEN

37 Women’s Vanishing Act Baffles Kerala Cops; Human Trafficking Suspected (8)

KOZHIKODE: Sounding caution on the activities of human trafficking rackets in the state, the state police have decided to launch a thorough probe into the missing of 37 women from northern regions of the state in the first quarter of 2016. A special operation is on across the districts of Malappuram, Kannur, Kasargod, Wayanad and Kozhikode to ascertain the reason for each missing case of woman/girl considering the increase in number of missing cases in the state in the last five years. As per police records, 3,311 girl children were reported missing from the state between 2011 and 2015. “We need to know the reason for the rise in missing cases. Some might have eloped with their lovers while a few might have left their homes on their own. We need to ascertain the reason in each case to get a clear picture.  Human trafficking rackets might be behind some cases. The situation is serious and we are probing the cases in detail,” said ADGP (North Zone) Nitin Agarwal. According to the officer, the district police chiefs of Malappuram, Kannur, Kasargod, Wayanad and Kozhikode have been directed to prepare a comprehensive report on the status of each woman/girl missing case. Senior police officers confirmed that police personnel in the zone have been directed to revisit all the missing cases to check whether the missing person has contacted their family members. “Usually those girls who elope with their lovers contact their family after a few months. We need to ascertain whether there are rackets which trap girls by acting as lovers and take them to other states promising them a bright future,” the officers said.  State intelligence wing has been wary of the inter-state sex trafficking rackets ever since their activities unearthed in the state following the suicide of school girls at Ambalappuzha in Alappuzha in 2008. “Girls who fall trap to fake lovers are blackmailed and then forced to flee their homes along with the racket members. Once they are into the network, it is hard to get out,” said an  intelligence officer. (Indian Express 1/5/16)

For women, Tamil Nadu safer than educated Kerala (8)

Kerala and Tamil Nadu show stark contrast in terms of violence against women. Violent crimes like rape and assault, in particular, are at high levels in Kerala, almost in the same league as north Indian states. In Kerala, the rate of crimes against women is 63 per lakh population, higher than the national average of 56.3, and over three times the rate for neighbouring Tamil Nadu (18.4), as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Rate of crimes is the number of incidents per lakh population. This is ironic because in Kerala, women are not only half the electorate as elsewhere, but are much more organized in various ways. The state has one of the largest community-based women’s networks called Kudumbashree with over 41 lakh members. Pressure from the women’s movement paved the way for the government’s move to make prohibition a reality: Alcoholism being directly linked with violence against women. Kerala’s violence is more astonishing as on most other parameters, it is way ahead of other states – highest literacy (94%), highest women’s literacy (92%), a healthy sex ratio at birth (966), and India’s lowest maternal mortality rate of 167.While TN is not bad in most of these indicators, it is not as good as Kerala. And yet, rape incidents are six times lower, assaults eight times lower and domestic violence three times lower in TN compared to Kerala. Even more shocking is that the violence against women is growing at a faster clip in Kerala than in TN, and in fact, is one of the country’s fastest growing. Between 2005 and 2014, rate of rape grew by a staggering 436%, assaults 246%, sexual harassment 980% and cases of cruelty by husband by 82%.Overall, crimes against women zoomed by 210% in Kerala, compared to 38% in Tamil Nadu, and 299% for India as a whole. Says Praveena Kodoth, professor at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. “Better education, stronger community networks enable women to set aside patriarchal pressures and report violent crimes. Having said that, there’s no denying that there’s a high degree of violence against women in Kerala,” she told TOI, adding “Studies have shown that women who have property rights face less violence compared to those that don’t and increased alienation of such rights has perhaps heightened violence.” … (Times of India 4/5/16)

All parties in race to exploit brutal Kerala rape, murder (8)

Thiruvananthapuram: For the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala, the timing of the brutal rape and murder of a young law student in poll-bound state could not have been worse. Political parties are using the incident, which has been compared to the 2012 Delhi gangrape, to attack the ruling combine. The 29-year-old’s body was found by her mother in their one-room house on April 28. Autopsy reports confirm she had 38 big and small wounds on her body and her intestines had been pulled out using a sharp-edged weapon. The gruesome details emerged four days after the incident triggering an outrage across the country. Though the police rounded up three men for questioning on Wednesday and released a suspect’s sketch, no arrests have been made. Read | Kerala rape and murder case: Cash cannot make up for justiceThe state’s law and order machinery has failed, a BJP delegation told the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in Delhi a day after the issue echoed in the Rajya Sabha where members demanded ‘exemplary punishment’ for the culprits. On Thursday itself, three leaders — Union social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, SC/ST commission chairman RL Punia and National Women’s Commission chairperson Lalitha Kumaramagalam — met the traumatized mother admitted in a hospital in Perumbavoor near Kochi. As others make a beeline to meet the aggrieved woman, there is strong speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will begin a tour of the state on Friday, will also call on her. In fact, such has been the rush that the superintendent of Perumbavoor government hospital had to issue a statement for VIPs to restrict their visits. The Ernakulam district collector, Raja Manickam — who opened a joint bank account with the victim’s mother to help her build a house — used Facebook and requested visitors to not use the incident as a photo opportunity. But the well-intentioned pleas fall far from the political arena where parties are using the crime to slam the government for its failure to nab culprits even after a week. The Left Democratic Front has announced a series of protest marches and rallies across the state till the assailants are booked. “The Congress-led UDF is not giving protection to vulnerable women in society; criminals are thriving under the present government,” said CPI(M) senior leader Pinarayi Vijayan blaming the police for not taking action against those who threatened the family earlier. The Congress, on the other hand, is making impassioned requests to not politicize the incident and divert the attention from the crime. “The murder has shocked the entire nation. Police officials are probing the case with all seriousness required,” said Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy who announced solatium of `10 lakh for the mother and promised a job for the elder daughter. (Hindustan Times 6/5/16)

10% women candidates in the four poll-bound states (8)

NEW DELHI: Mother’s Day saw its usual share of women empowerment messages on Sunday, but that’s not still not reflected in the Indian political scene. Barely about 10% of candidates contesting the current elections in four states are women. While the number of women contestants has more or less stagnated in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala, in Tamil Nadu the number of women contestants has nearly doubled from 6% to 11% since the last assembly polls. Though Bengal has a woman chief minister, only 10% of the tickets went to women in 2016. In Kerala, the number was even less at 8%. Both states had the same percentage of women candidates in the 2011 polls as well. Assam improved its tally marginally with the percentage of women candidates rising from 8% to 9%. Only 9% of women netas won in 4 state polls in 2011 The percentage of women winners in the four poll-bound states was depressingly low in 2011. In the 2011 state polls, the percentage of women who won was about 9%, according to National Election Watch. In Bengal, women won 33 of 285 seats (12%), while in Assam it was only 11% (14 of 126 seats). In TN, the percentage was even lower at 7% (16 of 225 seats) and in Kerala women won only 6% (7 of the 126 seats). This news comes at a time when parties have acknowledged and are actively wooing the woman voter. This was first seen in the 2014 general elections when the percentage of women voters rose to 65.6% from 55.8% in 2009. The total voter turnout was 66.4%, up from 58.2% in previous polls. The influence of women voters is reflected in the sops promised by parties, whether it is prohibition, maternity benefits or pension schemes. Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa recently promised to increase financial assistance under a maternity scheme from Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000, assured to double the quantum of gold for ‘tali’ (mangal sutra), provide subsidy for women to buy scooters and train them to drive. In Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has promised a pension scheme for women and increase in the number of female police personnel.In several states, women outnumber male voters. According to a report, states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand have a burgeoning female population. (Times of India 9/5/16)

Domestic violence Act misused: Centre (8)

New Delhi; The government told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that “some times” provisions of the Domestic Violence and Anti-Dowry Acts were misused and several NGOs had also given reports supporting it. Answering a question on cases of domestic violence in the country, MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju said that only 13 persons were convicted out of the 639 charge sheeted in 2014 under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. After the reply of the Minister in question hour, Samajwadi Party member Javed Ali Khan raised the issue of misuse of the Act, a contention which was resented by women members vehemently but was supported by Vijay Goel (BJP). Mr. Khan said that many fake cases were registered and there was misuse of the DV Act. “Misuse does happen. I agree with what brother [SP member] has said,” Mr. Goel said. While admitting that this does happen, Mr. Rijiju said the government’s focus was women safety and any dilution to it could not be allowed. “This is a very sensitive issue. Our focus is women security. This is also true that some times a few provisions of any law can be misused. One cannot deny this. Many NGOs have also given reports of gross misuse of certain laws like the Anti Dowry Act.” However, Mr. Rijiju’s remark that the data pertains to “civil” nature of crimes under the Act evoked strong reaction from Deputy Leader of the Congress in the House Anand Sharma, who said violence was not civil but criminal. As Congress members, particularly the women members, took strong objection to the reply, Mr. Rjiju first tried to convince them about the reply and then told them “you give notice for further discussion.” This apparently infuriated some members, including Kumari Selja of the Congress, who said the use of such language by a Minister was “highly objectionable” and was improper.When Chairman Hamid Ansari tried to pacify them by noting that the reply states that data collection of crimes under the Act only started in 2014, Ms. Selja said “My point is not that. My point is the Minister has used objectionable language when we rose [to speak]” Mr. Sharma also registered his objection. Mr. Ansari, however, tried to soothe the frayed tempers assuring them that he would examine whether something objectionable has been said and would take corrective steps. Mr. Rijiju told the House that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) started collecting data on the Act only since 2014. According to the reply, 426 cases were registered under the Act in 2014, of which charge sheet was filed in 312 cases. Conviction happened in just nine cases. Trial was completed in 19.1 per cent cases. Of the 693 persons arrested in these cases, 639 were charge-sheeted. Only 13 were convicted. Members wanted to know why the conviction rate in these cases was so low to which the Minister said that in many cases, the husband and wife reach a compromise at a later stage and that the offences under the Act were of “civil” nature. (The Hindu 12/5/16)

MGNREGA and women’s security: Need better policing, say researchers (8)

JAIPUR: There is one aspect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), launched 10 years ago, that has perhaps not been sufficiently addressed – women comprise a third of all workers under this programme, and crimes against women appear to have increased since the introduction of this programme. That, at least, is the finding of researchers Sofia Amaral and Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay of the University of Birmingham, UK, and Rudra Sensarma of IIM Kozhikode. The three researchers have authored the paper ‘Employment programmes for the poor and female empowerment: The effect of NREGS on gender-based violence in India,’ published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics. Using data from the National Crime Records Bureau and drawing inferences from household income and violence against women in studies from across the world, the authors write: “We find evidence that increased female labour participation following the NREGS has increased total gender-based violence. There have been increases in kidnappings, sexual harassment and domestic violence, while dowry deaths have decreased.” The authors note that the gender gap in India runs across several areas. Despite legislation that has increased women’s political participation, property rights and access to employment, “female labour force participation has been decreasing and ranks among the lowest, in comparison to other emerging economies”.The authors also note a paradox: Women’s education and status negatively affect enrolment in the labour market in rural areas, as traditional roles prevent women from working outside the household. The interesting finding, however, is that while other forms of violence against women increased, dowry deaths decreased since NREGS. This suggests that participation in work under NREGS can financially empower women to face pressures from the husband’s family. Dowry, the authors note, is an economically motivated crime, and could mean that the husband’s family has less need to extract payments from the bride’s. The authors also suggest that the government must pay greater attention to policing and security, as women spend more time outside the house and are more exposed to unsecured workplaces. Cases of rape, sexual harassment and abductions are more likely, under such circumstances. (Times of India 12/5/16)

Dowry shame: Husband pours boiling water on 21-year-old wife in Kolkata (8)

Kolkata: In what may be called a shocking act of cruelty, a 21-year-old woman was allegedly burnt by her husband and in-laws in Old Malda police station area on Friday. The report published in Indian Express said that Rehana Biwi’s husband Azad Sheikh poured boiling water on her after she failed to get Rs 50,000 cash in dowry. The doctors treating her said that the victim has suffered at least 70 per cent burn injuries and is said to be in a critical state. Her family has alleged that Rehana’s husband and in-laws had been torturing her for days over dowry and beat her regularly. According to one of her family members, they had given Rs 15,000, gold ornaments and other valuables to Rehana’s in-laws but they started demanding more after the marriage. On Friday, another altercation over dowry demand broke out between Rehana and Azad. In a fit of rage, he took a pot of boiling water and poured over her. She was rushed to a nearby hospital after neighbours heard her screaming in pain. Rehana was married to Azad five years ago. They have two children. Police have registered a complaint against her husband Azad, 34, and her in-laws. (Zee News 15/5/16)

Muslim woman divorced through speed post, moves SC against ‘triple talaq’ system (8)

JAIPUR (Rajasthan): A Muslim woman on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against the ‘triple talaq’ system to nullify the prevailing divorce practice. A 25-year-old Afreen Rehman, a resident of Jaipur who has been a victim of the ‘triple talaq’ system, filed a petition with the apex court after receiving a divorce letter through speed post seeking intervention into the matter. Narrating her ordeal, Rehman said, “I got married in 2014 through a matrimonial portal. After two to three months, my in-laws started mentally harassing me by demanding dowry.” “Later, they started beating me up and asked me to leave. I came to my maternal home and now I have received speed post announcing divorce. This is completely wrong, unfair and unacceptable. I have filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention into the matter,” she added. All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) president Shaista Ambar has demanded for abolishing the triple talaq system.Talaq-e-bidat is a Muslim man divorcing his wife by pronouncing more than one talaq in a single tuhr (the period between two menstruations), or in a tuhr after coitus or pronouncing an irrevocable instantaneous divorce at one go (unilateral triple-talaq). The Centre has set a high-level committee to review the status of women in India and according to reports has recommended a ban on the practice of oral, unilateral and triple talaq (divorce) and polygamy. (Times of India 18/5/16)

 ‘89% of women in North India have experienced sexual abuse’ (8)

LONDON: To mark the occasion of International Safe Cities for Women Day, which falls on May 20, Action Aid — a global charity — has set up an installation of 30 mannequins at the iconic Marble Arch to represent women standing up against sexual violence. Its objective is to highlight the unsafe nature of cities in general for women. Action Aid has also commissioned a poll by YouGov, which interviewed women across the globe from countries like Brazil, India, Thailand and the United Kingdom. Forty per cent of women interviewed said they had experienced at least one of these forms of abuse — being groped in public transport or bus stops; getting stared at or being called names; being stalked or followed; or being sexually molested. In North India, according to the survey, 89 per cent of women said they had experienced harassment of some sort, with 50 per cent having experienced unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature. In Britain, 43 per cent of women polled said they felt at risk of harassment on city streets and 36 per cent felt at risk when travelling on public transport. The charity has asked the U.K. government to contribute at least £70 million from its existing aid budget to help protect women over the next three years. “I am not a statistic”, “Afraid to wait at the bus stop alone”, “Fear”, “Anger” — these are some of the messages on display that “highlight what must not be forgotten: that behind every statistic is a real woman, with a real experience of violence”, said Action Aid in a statement on its website. (The Hindu 20/5/16)

Women head 16% of T.N. households (8)

CHENNAI: Over 16 per cent of the households in the State are headed by women, data from Census 2011 recently released by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India shows. The percentage of households headed by women in the State is higher than the 13.17 per cent reported at the national level, where 3.27 crore of the total 24.88 crore households are headed by women. In Tamil Nadu, 29 lakh of the 18.47 crore households are headed by women. At 16.65 lakh, rural areas have more households headed by women compared to urban areas (12.99 lakh). Women also head about 8,600 households in the State, where there are at least 11 persons or more in each of the households. The fairer sex also heads 1.10 lakh households with seven to 10 members and 14.33 lakh households with three to six members. Among various religious groups, more percentage of Muslim women are heading households than women from other faiths. Over 18 per cent of Muslim households in the State are headed by women followed by Hindu women (15.82 per cent) and Christian women (8.14 per cent), the data on households by religion, sex of the head of the household and its size reveals. Contrary to the pattern observed in women-headed households in general where the numbers are more in rural areas, more women-headed Muslim households are in urban areas (6.08 lakh) than in rural areas (1.67 lakh). Of the 48,000 households, which have at least 11 members in each of them, over 34,000 are Hindu, over 10,700 are Muslim and about 2,300 are Christian. Going by the data, there are about 88.44 per cent Hindu, 6.14 per cent Christian and 5.16 per cent Muslim households in the State, which has over 1.84 crore households. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

 

‘Women’s contribution has helped Gujarat grow’ (8)

Surat: ‘Ability of women that constitutes half the spectrum of our society makes the development saga of our state speedier’. These were the words of chief minister Anandiben Patel on Monday while addressing a women’s conclave here on the occasion of her government completing two years in power.Patel, during her two-hour visit to the city, signed the banner creating awareness on ‘Beti Bachao’ (save the girl child) and addressed the women empowerment programme of the state government at Indoor stadium. Number of women workers from different districts of the state attended the programme where government schemes for women were highlighted. “Our government has aided large number of people suffering from critical illnesses and helped saving lives. We have provided aid to the tune of Rs 176 crore in the last one year under Ma Amrutum and Ma Vatsalyam schemes,” Patel said. Addressing over 7,000 women, Patel said that Gujarat is known for providing safety and security to women. “Now, we need a combined efforts to develop a glorious state,” she said. Speaking on the occasion, child development minister of state Vasu Trivedi gave information on ongoing Nari Adalats. Patel also felicitated the women doing exemplary work in the field of education, sports and health. (Times of India 24/5/16)

 

Mangal Raj and rule of law in Bihar: Nitish Kumar (8)

Munger/Patna: Amid Opposition’s claim that ‘Jungle Raj’ has returned in Bihar in view of alleged spurt in crime in the recent past, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday used latest crime figures to assert there is ‘Mangal Raj’ and ‘rule of law’ in the state. “People say there is Jungle Raj in Bihar. But, there is Mangal Raj and rule of law in Bihar. Action is being taken in all cases of murders. Guilty, whoever he or she may be, will not be spared at any cost,” Kumar said while addressing a programme on prohibition organised by members of Jeevika society at the Polo Ground at Munger. Citing latest crime figures compiled upto May 23, Kumar tried to blunt opposition claims of rise in crime graph saying the crime rate has gone down following imposition of total prohibition in the state. “Bihar has witnessed a decline in various types of crimes following the imposition of prohibition. There is a decline of 39 per cent in murder cases, while incidents of dacoity has dropped by 54 per cent, loot by 25 per cent and ransom by 71 per cent,” Kumar said. “The cases of atrocities against women have dropped by 28 per cent, while road accidents have gone down by 31 per cent and the numbers of total cognisable offence have decreased to 20 per cent,” he said. Talking about campaigning against liquor, Kumar said the issue of prohibition, which has gained momentum in different parts of the country, would bring another social change and add another chapter in history. In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa has started taking steps to implement prohibition in her state, he said adding various women’s groups of Rajasthan and Dhanbad have launched movement against liquor.People in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra too have started raising their voice against liquor, while women of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra have successfully implemented prohibition in their district, the CM said. It would be true tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of the 100th year of Champaran movement if prohibition was implemented successfully, which is mandated by Article 47 of the Constitution, Kumar said. To give further push to women empowerment and to make Self Help Groups (SHG) self-dependent, the state government has decided to implement various schemes with the help of Jeevika, Chief Minister said adding at present there were five lakh SHGs, the number of which would increase to ten lakh by the end of 2017, associating 1.5 crore women. (Asian Age 25/5/16)

New ploy to prevent female feticide (8)

BHUBANESWAR: To prevent female foeticide in Odisha, the state government would soon come up with a new scheme—Biju Kanya Ratna. According to sources, the scheme would be initially launched in four districts—Ganjam, Nayagarh, Angul and Dhenkanal—on a pilot basis, where the rate of foeticide is quite high. The decision was taken at a review meeting of the women and child development department (W&CD) by chief minister Naveen Patnaik here. Naveen directed the officers of the department to launch a new 24×7 helpline number (161) to ensure safety of women in the state. As around 25,000 aanganwadi centres in Odisha operates without a permanent buildings, the chief minister asked to take up construction work of all aanganwadi centres in a time bound manner. To promote institutional delivery among rural women, Naveen directed to ensure effective implementation of Mamata scheme—a conditional cash benefit programme for pregnant and nursing mothers.The department of social security and empowerment of persons with disability, which was segregated from W&CD department, has submitted a proposal to the state government to include transgenders under the below poverty line (BPL) category. “To extend different social security measures to the transgenders, our department has requested the state government to include them under BPL category. Since their numbers are quite few, we are hopeful that the government would accept our request,” said minister, social security and empowerment of persons with disability, Usha Devi. Reviewing activities of the department, the chief minister directed to open old age homes in all districts and to come up with a policy to ensure safety and security of old age people in Odisha. Naveen has also directed for proper rehabilitation of mentally challenged children by opening new institutes in different districts. (Times of India 28/5/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Study throws light on what goes inside a runaway kid’s mind (14)

CHENNAI: When child welfare officers in Chennai rescued 13-year-old Devyani (name changed) off the streets, she was unlike other children they had found in the past — her clothes were torn in places but they were evidently expensive, her language was crisp and her eyes, piercing. It wasn’t until several weeks later, officials discovered that she was a victim of sexual abuse. And the perpetrator was her father. Four years on, Devyani stays with her aunt now. “Or that’s what we believe because we have no contact with her. Would you call that a successful integration with the family? I would think not,” said Andal Damodharan, president Tamil Nadu chapter of the Indian Council for Child Welfare. It was Devyani’s choice to be integrated with her extended family instead of shuttling from one home to another. In most cases, children don’t have a choice, they return to the same lives they ran away from. “If the child chooses to return to his or her family it can mean many things — the child realised running away was a mistake or the lack of an alternate option has pushed them back into the same lives they tried to escape from,” said Andal. Child rights activists, who on Monday attended a regional consultation on strengthening reunification of children with their families, said at least 75% of the children in the streets want to return to their homes, irrespective of the reasons that drove them out. A team from Chennai-based community health education society (CHES) interviewed street children over the last four months and found that 55% of them had run away from broken or abusive families. “If 75% of them wanted to return, it signifies the importance of involving families in the healing process. Reunion with families doesn’t necessarily translate into rehabilitation,” said P Manorama, former chairperson of Child Welfare Committee and director of CHES. Another team from Railway Children India, an organisation that works with this group, studied 21 families in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over the course of a year to know the pattern of runaway children who had returned home. They found that 11 children had left home only once, while three left twice. Seven of them had run away multiple times. Incidentally, all seven of them were from West Bengal. Researchers then set out to find the difference between children who chose to stay on with their families and those who ran away again. “Many of the children were scared to go back to the streets. We found that the child’s act of running away was also a wake-up call to their parents, who started paying more attention to their wards,” said Shreya Jha, who was part of the research team…. . (Times of India 2/5/16)

Make fresh appointments to Child Rights Commission: HC (14)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the State government to make fresh appointments of chairman and members to the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) within six months. The commission is mandated to have all the members as per the provisions of Commission Protection for Child Rights Act, 2005. A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and P.D. Naik was hearing a PIL filed by NGO, Forum for Fairness in Education, highlighting the violations of the Act by MSCPCR in the past four years. The petitioner, alleging lack of transparency in the appointment process, said the appointments have been pending since 2011. The PIL states that every sessions court in each district of the State should have a children’s court. A public prosecutor or an advocate has to be appointed in cases where children have been victimized in divorce cases; victims of malnutrition; cases where children are mentally and physically disabled; and subject to sexual abuse. The court said the State has made no efforts so that capable members of the Bar are appointed as special public prosecutor, therefore it will have to re-consider the appointments and proposals. It said the State will have to ensure that training is imparted to special public prosecutors. (The Hindu 3/5/16)

Rescued child labourers pour out horror and exploitation (14)

Bhopal: Government Railway Police (GRP), Bhopal, on Monday rescued 12 child labourers, aged between 7 and 12 years, wearing identical clothes and having suspicious marks on their neck from platform number 1 of Bhopal railway station. According to the inquiry conducted by police officials and labour department, the marks on their neck are due to the nature of their work in a bangle factory. They were brought to Bhopal from Araria, district in Bihar on the pretext of education and were forced to work at a bangle factory in Islampura, Bhopal. All rashes and other marks on their neck were covered with a layer of talcum powder. Police also took four men accompanying them into their custody. Out of these four, Naseem is their employer while Ghalib used to teach them Urdu. They were arrested after the police received a tip-off about their presence at the railway station. Following the raid, all the kids were taken to police station where it came to light that they had been working at a bangle factory here. Later, the children shared their gruesome tales with the members of Childline. One of them, Amir (name changed), 8, said, “We had been working from 8 am to 11 pm. All we got to eat in a day was a bowl of rice in afternoon and two chapattis at night. We slept on flattened cartons and were beaten with bats, sleepers and belts whenever we refused for work.” Another child said, “They did not let us talk to our parents and kept us confined to a room. We were just taught Urdu in the name of education for one or two hours in a day. They didn’t even provide us fans.” Some of these children came along with their friends without informing their parents while others were sent by their parents. According to their statements, they got only Rs 20 per week. Special juvenile police unit (SJPU) also reached the spot and an FIR was registered under section 372 of IPC for trafficking and bonded child labour. “These children will remain at Childline till the proceedings are on,” said Mayank Awasthi, SJPU’s Bhopal head. (Times of India 3/5/16)

Child Labourer, 10, Loses Arm While Crushing Sugarcane (14)

KALABURAGI:  In a tragic incident, the right arm of a child labourer working on a cane crushing machine was pulverized, near the Railway Station of Sedam town on Wednesday. The boy has been identified as Bhimashankar (10), son of Suryakant Policepatil from Hosalli village, Sedam taluk. He was taken to Sedam Taluk Government Hospital immediately and is undergoing treatment. Suryakant told Express over phone that due to severe  poverty, Bhimashankar opted to work. He was assisting the owner by crushing sugarcane and supplying juice to customers. He used to earn up to `150 per day depending on the business, Suryakant said. (New Indian Express 5/5/16)

Odisha reports high number of kids’ deaths in residential tribal schools (14)

BHUBANESWAR: In a span of five years from 2010-11 to 2014-15, as many as 133 students in residential schools have died, says a government report. Only Maharashtra, where 1077 children died in residential schools between the year 2000-01 and 2015-16, has more frightening record as far as death of tribal students is concerned. Although no specific reason has been attributed to deaths, it is alarming to find such high number of deaths. Neighbouring States like Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand have not reported any death in residential schools. “Exactly for this reason, we have knocked doors of Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) seeking its intervention to bring qualitative change the lives of tribal and Dalit children staying in government-run residential schools,” said Biswapriya Kanungo, a human rights activist. Between 2013 and 2015, girls in the age group of 12 to 16, who were pursuing studies in tribal residential schools, became pregnant while 12 girls in residential schools were raped, faced sexual advance and other harassments. (The Hindu 9/5/16)

‘No rehab centres for rescued children in some districts’ (14)

BERHAMPUR: There are no rehabilitation centres for the rescued children in Ganjam, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts of Odisha, which are major points of child trafficking, allege activists. Children from these three districts are regularly trafficked to different parts of Odisha and outside the State as labourers through middlemen. Berhampur is a major transit point. At regular intervals, child rights activists and Childline volunteers rescue such children from Berhampur while they are being transported out. During the past one year, around 146 children from these three districts had been rescued from Berhampur. According Berhampur Childline coordinator Prabhu Prasad Patra, most of the rescued children do not get properly rehabilitated. Therefore, such children again become labourers or get trafficked outside the State. State convener of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Sudhir Sabat cited example of 16 children from Salimagochha village of Ganjam district, who were rescued last year from Berhampur while they were being trafficked outside the State. Those involved in their trafficking had also been arrested. As per the direction of the district Child Welfare Committee, these children had been handed over to their poor parents. However, when the Childline volunteers enquired about these children after three months of their rescue, it was found that they had again left their village as child labourers, said Mr Sabat. This had been brought to the notice of administration and CWC. According to child right activists, remote rural pockets of Surada area of Ganjam district, Mohana region of Gajapati district and Daringbadi area of Kandhamal district are most prone to child trafficking. Poor parents fall prey to dubious middlemen. “In districts of Odisha like Khurda, Puri, Bolangir, Kalahandi there are rehabilitation centres for rescued children. But till now no such facility exists in Ganjam, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts,” said Mr Sabat. (The Hindu 11/5/16)

‘Special children need right encouragement’ (14)

Bengaluru: To make differently-abled children and people inspirational to others, give them the right kind of encouragement (not sympathy), says Naseema Maraikayar, founder-chairperson of Abdul Kalam International Foundation and niece of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.She cited the example of Thomas Alva Edison, who was expelled from the school due to his hearing problem. “His mother never gave up on him. She taught him well enough to make him who he was,” Naseema said here on Saturday during the launch of Precious Souls, authored by journalist M Anantha Krishnan. Precious Souls is a compilation of 24 stories from the homes of differently-abled people, several of them still children. Recalling Kalam’s fondness for children and his emphasis on special children, Naseema said: “The book captures the stories of not just differently-abled people who are inspiring, but also their families.” In his foreword for the book, Kalam has written: “There are thousands of precious souls around us. We see them, pass by them, but hardly take the time and effort to understand and appreciate them. All they need is a little push, a nod of understanding, or a smile of appreciation.” Author Anita Nair, who curated the book launch, said: “We’ve seen many book launches, launched in many different ways. But this one celebrates both the author and the subjects of his book at the same venue.” The book captures the struggles of the families in raising children who are differently-abled, and speaks about the various talents each of these people possess and how their parents have managed to nurture the same. (Times of India 15/5/16)

Over 9,000 kids out of school in Karnataka (14)

Bengaluru: With less than a fortnight to go for schools to re-open, as many as 9,012 children across Karnataka are out of school, according to a survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Termed Out of school children (OOSC), the highest number of dropouts are in Ballari (2,018), followed by Bengaluru South (1,462), Mysuru (1,002), Kalaburagi (993) and Yadgir (429). OOSC are defined as children in the age group of 7-13 years who have drifted away from the school campus, mostly due to parental pressure and poverty. The survey was conducted in January and February 2016. SSA followed it up with efforts to mainstream the children in March and April and so far, 456 children are engaged in bridge courses, to return to school.According to Kripa Alva, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, one of the major reasons children are away from school is child labour. “Bag making, hotels, garage and garment units hire children in Bengaluru.That’s when their education is compromised. Through the commission we are promoting `Shale Kade Nanna Nade’ (my walk towards school) to bring dropouts back to school. This campaign is going on across Karnataka will be on till June 10,” she said.Over 60% of the OOSC are girls, points out N Kodanda Ramaiah, deputy project coordinator, Bengaluru South district of education department.”From April 5 we started the bridge course at five tent schools in Bengaluru South district alone.Parents are reluctant to admit they took their children out of school but when we explain to them the importance of education, they are convinced. The whole issue requires a follow-up.Bengaluru South has seen an increase in construction activity.That does not mean all OOSC children are child labourers. They may be made to stay home to tend to their younger siblings, at the cost of their studies, when their parents go to work,” he said. In Bengaluru South alone, 219 children have joined the bridge course. (Times of India 16/5/16)

Custodial torture of boy: Child rights commission seeks report (14)

Kochi: The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Tuesday sought a report from Ernakulam range IG, Ernakulam district collector and district child welfare officer on the alleged custodial torture of a 16-year-old dalit orphan boy from Karukutty by the Nedumbassery police. The report was sought following a complaint filed by the boy before the commission. The boy was allegedly beaten up by the Nedumbassery police with cane and forced to admit his involvement in a motorcycle theft case on May 10. The panel will consider the case on June 1. (Times of India 18/5/16)

Over 20 children go missing in Delhi every day (14)

NEW DELHI: Over 20 children go missing every day in the national capital and most of them become victims of organised crimes like prostitution, pornography and organ trade, according to a child rights group. Child Rights and You (CRY) said that Delhi Police informed it in reply to a Right to Information query that “a whopping 7,928 children went missing in 2015″.This is 1,500 children more than the previous year and “largest in the last four years”, CRY said. “Missing children represent a conglomeration of various social problems, ranging from kidnappings, abductions, trafficking,” the NGO said. It said that girls, mostly aged between 12-18 years, were among those reported missing. “Young boys missing are majorly employed as child labourers. And girls are mostly forced into domestic work and commercial sex trade.” It noted that the majority of missing children were from poor, especially migrant families, who come to Delhi from various parts of the country in search of livelihood. “These missing children are most likely to become victims of heinous and organised crimes such as rape, prostitution, child pornography, forced labour, begging and organ trade. Lately, there has been evidence to support stealing of young children for illegal adoption,” it said. Soha Moitra, CRY’s regional director, said it was a grave concern that the count of missing children was increasing every year here. “The first few hours after the child goes missing are the most crucial, especially in a city like Delhi with porous borders from where children are quickly smuggled into neighbouring states,” Moitra said. In India, more than 3.85 lakh children have gone missing during 2010-2014, the NGO said, citing home ministry figures. (New Indian Express 20/5/16)

7,928 kids go missing in Delhi in 2015 (14)

NEW DELHI: 7,928 children went missing in 2015, accounting for 22 children every day, in the national capital, according to a RTI reply from Delhi Police. There is an increase of 1,500 from 2014 in the figure and the data reveals that the number of boys in the age group of 0-12 years who went missing was much higher as compared to the girls. Similarly, girls formed a major share of those missing in 12-18 years age bracket. The RTI was filed by Child Rights organisation CRY and its partner Navsristhi. According to CRY, its ground experience has shown that while young boys found missing are majorly employed as child labourers, girls are mostly forced into domestic work and commercial sex trade.  Even the percentage of untraced children has risen steadily with every year across all age groups. Although there was an increase in the number of both FIRs registered and children traced in 2015 as compared to the previous year, the percentage of untraced children however remained high especially for girls. 1,335 girls and 835 boys remained untraced raising serious concerns about the status of these children. “It’s a grave concern that the count of missing children is increasing every year in the national capital. The first few hours after the child goes missing are the most crucial especially in a city like Delhi with porous borders from where children are quickly smuggled into neighbouring states. The fight over jurisdiction further delays the recovery process. Lapse of time, ineffective tracking system and insufficient information database minimize the chance of these children being brought back home,” said Soha Moitra, Regional Director, CRY. Another RTI query seeking district wise break-up in the city showed varying trends. Data available for nine out of the 13 police districts showed that Outer Delhi was the most unsafe with maximum number of children missing from that area, followed by South West with half the numbers. Almost 50 per cent of missing children in Outer Delhi remained untraced last year. According to the Union Home ministry’s data released last year, Delhi was amongst the top four states which account for 60 per cent missing children in the country for the period 2010-2014. The data also revealed that nationally more than 3.85 lakh children have gone missing in India during the same period. (Deccan Herald 20/5/16)

One in every five missing children in India from Bengal: CRY (14)

KOLKATA: One in every five missing children in India is from West Bengal, which reported 14,671 cases of missing children in 2014 or more than 21 per cent of the total cases reported in the country, said NGO CRY – Child Rights and You on Tuesday. “Going by the data shared by the ministry of home affairs during the parliamentary session, West Bengal was among the four states which together accounted for more than 60 per cent of the missing children in the country. “To be more accurate, the state reported 14,671 cases of missing children in 2014, which is more than 21 per cent of the total cases reported in India. In other words, one in every 5 missing children in India is from Bengal,” a CRY statement said. Citing National Crime Record Bureau ( NCRB ) data, the organization highlighted Bengal was among the top five states in the country in kidnapping and abduction (K&A) of children and accounts for six per cent of such cases in the country. “Cases related to kidnapping and abduction of minors in the state has grown by 608 per cent over the last five years. Number of K&A cases in 2010 was 332 and over the last five years it rose to a whopping 2,351 in Bengal,” the statement said. The organization also drew attention to the gender skewing among missing children, as revealed by the home ministry data. “Over 2010-2014, out of the 3.85 lakh children who went missing across the country, 61 per cent were girls. The situation is worse in West Bengal. Missing children data from 2014 shows that 70 per cent of the children who went missing in the year were girls,” the statement said. Atindra Nath Das, regional director, CRY East, said: “It’s good that the state has recorded a decrease, however small it might be, in the number of missing children. But, going by the current trend reflected in the government data, Bengal along with some other states continue to show worrying trends in cases related to missing children. There is a close linkage of missing children to organized crime.” (Times of India 24/5/16)

Draft rules of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 released (14)

New Delhi: According to the draft rules, proper medical and legal aid will be provided to juvenile criminals and their parents and guardians will be duly informed. DH Illustration No child between 16 and 18 years of age in conflict with law will be handcuffed or sent to jail or lock-up, according to the draft rules of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 that was released today. The rules that were released by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi prescribe detailed child friendly procedures for police, Juvenile Justice Board and Children’s court to deal with children in conflict with law. According to the draft rules, proper medical and legal aid will be provided to juvenile criminals and their parents and guardians will be duly informed. “The Board and the Children’s Court are to adhere to the principle of best interest of the child and the objective of rehabilitation and reintegration of child in the society,” Gandhi said, after releasing the draft rules. According to the rules, every state government is required to set up at least one ‘place of safety’ for the rehabilitation of such children. The rules prescribe for extensive services to be provided to such children through regular monitoring. The rules were drafted by a multi-disciplinary committee comprising a senior judge and advocates, members of Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee, representatives of state governments, mental health experts and civil society members. Several new offences against children have also been included in the Act such as sale and procurement of children for any purpose, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant or adult groups, giving children intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug or psychotropic substance or tobacco products. It also prescribes detailed procedures for determination of age. The JJB or Juvenile Justice Committee will determine the age of the child within 30 days from date of submission of application. “Wherever medical opinion is required, same will be sought from a duly constituted medical board for which all government hospitals will constitute medical boards on permanent basis. Where medical boards give a range of age, the age of the child on lower side will be considered in order to give benefit to the child,” the official said.  The preliminary assessment will be conducted by JJBs within three months with the assistance of psychologists or psycho-social workers or other experts. There will be provision of appeal to the Children’s Court for those who are aggrieved by the order of the Board, the draft rules say. “Children’s court will interact with the child in order to evaluate whether the child has undergone reformative changes and if the child can be a contributing member of the society. The Court and Board will keep in mind the principle of best interest of the child and the objective of rehabilitation and reintegration of the child in the society,” a senior ministry official explained. The draft rules submitted by the committee were reviewed by the ministry and, after a thorough review, comments have been invited on the draft rules from all stakeholders, official said. (Deccan Herald 25/5/16)

13 former child workers script success (14)

Tirupur: As many as 14 children who were rescued from child labour on different occasions in the recent times were able to script success in the SSLC examinations from the district this year. But even as they rejoice of their triumph, many of the faces wore a tinge of sadness because of the uncertainty over the future. Most of them come from families which still struggle financially and face poverty, which, in fact, has been the main reason that made them go opt for hard labour. Despite been in the middle of difficult situations for most part of the life, these children have some clear thoughts about what they wanted to become. “I wanted to become an architect”, says A. D. Deepika (16), who scored 404 marks out of 500, the highest among the 14 children. T. Selvan, who was rescued while been employed in casual labour and as a rag picker, wanted to become a police officer. All said is good but these children and their parents have no clue of how they could pursue higher studies. “We are expecting some philanthropists to come forward to sponsor as the scholarships given by the government is minimal”, said some of the parents. D. V. Vijayakumaar, the project director of National Child Labour Project, told The Hindu that the NCLP would be trying to raise financial assistance with the help of generous people to help the rescued child workers realise their career ambitions. (The Hindu 26/5/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

US report on religious freedom fails to understand India: Govt (7)

New Delhi: Reacting strongly to a US report which said religious freedom in India was on a “negative trajectory” in 2015, India on Tuesday said it “fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society”. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Government does not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. “Our attention has been drawn to the recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which once again fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society.“India is a vibrant pluralistic society founded on strong democratic principles. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion. “Government does not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. We take no cognizance of their report,” Swarup said. He was reacting to the US report which said, “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India.” In its annual report, USCIRF asked the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory statements about religious communities. Members of USCIRF were denied visas by Indian government early this year on the argument that religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and any foreign third party has no locus standi to comment or investigate on it.“Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups,” the report alleged. USCIRF alleged that members of the ruling BJP tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions. (Hindustan Times 3/5/16)

US panel wants Pak on list for religious freedom violations (7)

Washington: A US Congress-formed federal body on international religious freedom on Monday appelaed to the Obama administration to designate Pakistan among nations listed as worst violators of religious freedom due to the current state of minorities in the ciuntry. “In 2015, the Pakistani government continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations,” US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in its annual report. As such USCIRF again recommended the State Department to designated Pakistan a “country of particular concern, or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has recommended since 2002. Its recommendations are non-binding and Pakistan has not been designated as a CPC country by the State Department. In addition to Pakistan USCIRF has recommended to the State Department to designate seven other countries as CPC: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Tajikistan and Vietnam. The State Department designated CPC countries are Myanmar, China, Eriteria, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. “Religiously-discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation, such as the country’s blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, intrinsically violate international standards of freedom of religion or belief and result in prosecutions and imprisonments,” the report said. The actions of non-state actors, including US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), continue to threaten all Pakistanis and the country’s overall security, it said. Religious minority communities, including Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians, and Hindus, experience chronic sectarian and religious violence from both terrorist organizations and individuals within society, it added. The government’s failure to provide adequate protection for likely targets of such violence or prosecute perpetrators has created a deep rooted climate of impunity, it said, noting that discriminatory content against minorities in provincial textbooks remains a significant concern, as are reports of forced conversions and marriages of Christian and Hindu girls and women. “While the Pakistani government has taken some steps over the last two years to address egregious religious freedom violations, it has failed to implement systemic changes,” the report noted.’”For years, the Pakistani government has failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence,” USCIRF said. USCIRF in its report expressed its disappointment over US policy towards Pakistan. “Human rights and religious freedom have not been among the highest priorities in the bilateral relationship,” it said. (Zee News 3/5/16)

Jains given minority status by Gujarat govt (7)

Ahmedabad: CM Anandiben Patel, BJP, Asiatic lions, patidar youths, quota violence, gujarat quota violence, gujarat news Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. The Gujarat government Saturday announced its decision to give minority status to the Jain community. The announcement was made by Vijay Rupani, state minister for transport, water supply, labour and employment. Rupani, chief of the Gujarat BJP unit, also belongs to the Jain community. Rupani welcomed the move, saying that the government had taken a positive decision on the long-pending demand. When contacted by The Sunday Express, Rupani said the minority status of Jains would not be influenced by the current arrangement of reservation. He said the decision was taken by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in Gandhinagar on Saturday. “Orders on the decision have already been issued today. She took the decision. I have only made the announcement,” he said. Rupani was quoted in a BJP press release as saying, “With today’s decision, poor Jain children will get scholarship and study-related benefits. Jain institutions will get benefits under various schemes by virtue of being minority bodies.” He said that the Jain community youth would also get assistance under self-employment schemes of the government. They will also become eligible for assistance under various state and central government schemes, Rupani said. (Indian Express 7/5/16)

Petitioners against beef ban: Fights for individual’s rights, farmers’ welfare, Mumbai’s culture (7)

Mumbai: More than 20 petitions pertaining to the beef ban had been filed in the Bombay High Court and clubbed together, including intervention applications being heard by benches in the state. One petition was filed by a multi-religious, Hindu-Muslim-Christian coalition of 30 Mumbaiites, who challenged the ban claiming that the Maharashtra government’s aim was to impose its version of “Hindu law”. The petitioners included filmmakers, women’s rights activists, professors, medical practitioners and students. Their petition mainly opposed Section 5D of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, criminalising possession of beef. One of the petitioners, Sandhya Gokhle, said: “I am a beef eater and feel that the government has no right to tell us what we should or should not eat or possess. If they want to protect cattle wealth, how do they expect the farmers who are facing drought to provide water to the animals?” According to Gokhle, a Dadar resident who is a computer professional, she and 29 like-minded people met through an Internet group and decided to file the petition. Co-petitioner Chayanika Shah said the ban takes away the right, especially from the poor, to eat good, nutritious food. Another petition was by farmers in Aurangabad who claimed the state had not considered their plight before enacting the ban. These petitioners said many of them were not in a position to maintain bullocks that had outlived their utility for agricultural purposes, and that the market for sale of such cattle had collapsed. They urged the HC to strike down the law, or order the state to purchase cattle at market prices. Jogeshwari resident Arif Kapadia and senior lawyer Haresh Jagtani were prime movers of another petition that challenged the provision criminalising possession of beef. Jagtani claimed that the rule affects the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai. Kapadia’s petition said the provision in Section 5(D) that makes possession of meat or flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra illegal was “draconian”. Other petitions include those filed by residents, including one by Fort-based lawyer Vishal Sheth, Bandra-based student Shaina Sen and others. Some of these petitions sought protection of their right to quality of life ingrained in people’s choice of source of nutrition, and also protection of a “cultural minority” among Hindus who consume beef. The government, in an affidavit submitted earlier, said eating habits of a group does not make it a “cultural minority” entitled to protection under Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities) of the Constitution. The then Advocate General Shrihari Aney had also sought to draw a distinction between “culture” and “tradition” when he told the court that not allowing slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks by Muslims during a religious event cannot be considered a violation of their culture. (Indian Express 7/5/16)

BJP for making Assam a model state for minority development (7)

GUWAHATI: With Assam having the highest Muslim population after Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP is thinking of making the former a model state for minority development in the country if it comes to power in Dispur. “We do not want to see that people from minority community makes their livings from pulling rickshaws or doing other odd jobs. Since Narendra Modi came to power, minority affairs, HRD and skill development ministries are working together for overall development of minority community through education and skill development. Assam being the state with highest Muslim population after J&K, we want to make it a model state for minority development,” BJP’s minority morcha national president Abdul Rashid Ansari said here on Wednesday. Confident of BJP forming the next government at Dispur, Ansari on Wednesday had meeting with different Muslim organisations of the state on preparing a road map for implementation of promises the saffron party made ahead of the assembly polls for minority welfare in the vision document. In an effort to instill confidence in Muslim community in case BJP-led government is formed in the state, Ansari said that the first task of the government would be to stop “leakages” of central funds meant for minority welfares in the state. “Lots of funds from the Centre have come to the state for the development of minorities. But there are allegations of leakages of these funds. Once BJP is in power, this menace will be stopped once and for all,” Ansari said. BJP leaders alleged that following “negative campaigns” by Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) against the saffron party as “anti-Muslims”, it has become imperative to build confidence among the minority community if the BJP-led government is formed at Dispur. Muslim comprises 34 % of the 3.12 crore population in Assam. BJP state minority morcha president Sayed Mominul Awal said that protection of cultural and ethnic identities of indigenous Assamese Muslims is one of the saffron party’s commitments in the vision document, which was also the party’s election manifesto. (Times of India 11/5/16)

120 residential schools for minorities soon (7)

NIZAMABAD: ACB Director General A.K. Khan has said that the State Government, with an aim to take education, employment and development closer to the minorities, would launch 120 residential schools for them in the next two years. To begin with, during the coming academic year 71 schools would start functioning.In a meeting with minority leaders and religious heads here on Saturday, he told them that quality education would become available to the poor minority children at these schools and therefore they must encourage children to pursue education. To begin with only three classes from 5 to 7 would be introduced and later upgrade it to Intermediate. Schools would be opened for boys at Armoor, Yellareddy and Kotagiri and for girls at Banswada, Nizamabad and Bodhan. To enable students to compete with their counterparts at international-level, the medium for teaching would be English , he said and added that well qualified teachers would be appointed. The State government would spend Rs.8,000 on each student. He said that residential schools have been achieving results on a par with corporate schools, he said and disclosed that each class would have two sections with 40 students in each section. Seventy five per cent seats will be reserved for Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsies, Budhists and Jains and the remaining would be open for others, he said. Mr. Khan, a senior IPS officer, said that in 71 schools 17,040 seats are available and this year already 10,000 candidates applied for admissions. In this district a least number of students [170] applied for seats. He appealed to minority elders to take personal interest to encourage students to join these schools. Minority Welfare Department Secretary and Minority Finance Corporation Managing Director Mohammed Shafi, said that teachers of the minority residential schools would be selected through TSPSC. In the meantime, highly qualified people would be appointed on contract basis, he said. Unlike in the past this time the Government allocated Rs.4,300 crore for minority welfare, he said and added that the student strength would be increased to 1.50 lakh in the schools gradually. District Collector Yogitha Rana and Superintendent of Police S. Chandrashekar Reddy were also present. (The Hindu 15/5/16)

GPCC to go on hunger strike to demand ‘justice for minorities’ (7)

MARGAO: The Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) minority block on Saturday declared that it would commence a hunger strike from May 17 to prod the state’s BJP-led government to fulfill assurances made given to the minority community. GPCC minority block chairperson Urfan Mulla told mediapersons that an amount of 5 crore had been sanctioned by the previous Congress regime towards this purpose, and that nothing was implemented by the present BJP government. Mulla also drew attention to “yet another unfulfilled assurance of the construction of a Goa Haj House where pilgrims could rest and have access guidance about their trip. “Besides, the present 2,000 sq m of land provided by the government at Verna, there was a proposal to acquire an area of 5,000sq m. Former Goa chief minister and defence minister Manohar Parrikar had also assured the minority community of providing it, but none of the promises have been fulfilled till date,” Mulla said. Newly appointed GPCC minority block presidents Colin Crasto, Imran Shaikh, Sayed Zahur and Shaikh Munaf along with GPCC minority block vice-chairperson Kalim Pathan were present at the media briefing. (Times of India 15/5/16)

Jews in Maharashtra to get minority status, free trip to Jerusalem (7)

The Jews in Maharashtra will soon get minority status and also a free trip to Jerusalem, if they want. The move, announced by Maharashtra’s minority affairs minister Eknath Khadase, may go a long way in making life easier for the members of the community in the state. There are around 5,000 Jews who are Indian nationals, living in various parts of the country at present. However, the majority of them, around 2700, live in and around Mumbai and Konkan area in Maharashtra. If officially recognized as a minority community, the Jews would enjoy several privileges like other minority communities. It would become easier for them to register their marriages. They would also be able to set up their own educational institutes and practice and promote their culture. The Jews have been a part of the Indian society for over 2,300 years now. At present, there are six notified minority communities in India, namely the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains. According to 2001 Census, the number of Jews living in India was 4650 with 2466 of them residing in Maharashtra. (Times of India 18/5/16)

Telangana declares Jains as religious minority (7)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government on Friday declared the Jain community as a religious minority. A government order was issued from the Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) after the All India Digamber Jain Organisations Coordination Committee, a Delhi-based organisation, presented the issue to the government. The committee reiterated that the Jain community was officially recognised as a religious minority in 2010 in the united state of Andhra Pradesh (AP). Subsequently, it requested the Telangana government to accord the community the same status as the previous government which would enable it to establish and run educational and religious institutions as provided by Article 30 of the Constitution. Using the 2001 census data, the organisation noted that there are as many as 26,690 Jains in the state out of a population of 3.51 crore. This, it explained, constituted 0.075 per cent of the population of the state. “Jains belong to a distinct religion different from Hinduism (sic),” an excerpt of the GO reads. When contacted, MWD secretary Syed Omer Jaleel said: “The organisation met us recently and presented their case. The government will publish a notification in the next Telangana Gazette issue.” Jain community members welcomed the move even as they said that the declaration would provide them with an equal footing vis-a-vis other religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. According to Gautam Jain, a member of the State Minorities Commission (SMC), the community can now request the government to release Jain temples and prayer halls from the endowments department (ED). “We are different from the Hindus. A representation to release our places of worship from the ED will now have more weight on account of the GO. We can now have the equivalent of a State Wakf Board to manage our places of worship,” Jain said. The declaration would allow several Jains from economically weak backgrounds to apply for loans and students to apply for the Overseas Study Scheme for Minorities, he added. Meanwhile, SMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan said that the APSMC Act of 1998 does not reserve a post for a member of the Jain community. The notification, he opined, could change that. “The first step of declaring the community as a religious minority has been taken. The next step should entail an amendment to the Act in the assembly so that a Jain is made a member of the community. Though we have a Jain member, we require an amendment which will mandate a member of the community be represented in the commission,” he said. The Act lists only Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Parsis as minorities. (Times of India 21/5/16)

Substantial decline in riots and communal incidents: Naqvi (7)

New Delhi: There has been 82 percent decline in riots and communal incidents in last two years, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Tuesday. “We are committed to peace and harmony in the country,” he noted, while crediting the Narendra Modi government’s for creating a strong atmosphere of development and trust among minority communities. Naqvi told reporters said the BJP-led government has kept aside political hypocrisy, which had been going in the name of secularism and implemented several schemes for overall empowerment of minorities. “Percentage of minorities in government jobs was 6.91 percent in 2013-14 and it has reached 8.70 in 2014-15,” he said adding it will see further increase in 2015-16 due to an atmosphere of “trust and development without any discrimination”. In the last two years, contribution of minority candidates in administrative services and other government services have been breaking record of last three decades, he said. “A large number of candidates from minority communities have been selected in civil services this year which include eight candidates from Jammu and Kashmir.” He said the budgetary allocation of his ministry has been increased to Rs.38,000 crore this year and several other ministries have also worked a lot for minority dominated areas under Prime Minister’s new 15-Point Programme. The minister said under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, 7,667 primary schools and additional class rooms have been constructed in minority-concentrated areas in 2015 while about Rs.19,000 crore have been released for various states under multi-sectoral development programme to address the deficits in basic amenities in such areas. (Zee News 25/5/16)

Govt has worked for uplift of minorities: Heptullah (7)

New Delhi, May 28 () Union Minister Najma Heptulla today claimed her Minority Affairs Ministry has succeeded in changing the “intentionally created” perception that the Modi government would be anti-minority by launching various schemes for the uplift of the communities in its two-year rule. “A perception and fear was intentionally created in the minds of the people before Lok Sabha elections that if Modiji comes to power he will eliminate the Minorities Ministry or if manages to exit, its budget will certainly be cut. It was a big challenge for me to take up this ministry in that circumstances. But I accepted it and things changed,” the minister said. She was speaking at an event to showcase the Minority Affairs Ministry’s two-years achievements at Vigyan Bhawan. Talking about new initiatives like ‘Nai Manzil’, ‘Seekho Aur Kamao’ ‘USTTAD’ and ‘Hamari Dharohar’ taken up by the ministry for the development of minorities, she said after the allocation of 10 per cent more to states, there was continuous increase in the budget allocation and no cut was imposed in the embarked Plan Budget for the ministry. “We have started a pilot project in our programme ‘Nai Manzil’ for madarsas and we are happy that today thousands of children are taking training under it. The trainers promise to provide jobs to more than 70 per cent children or we will facilitate cheaper loans to them from NMDFC to start their own occupation,” she said. ‘Nai Manzil’ is a scheme under which girls from minority communities are imparted three month skill development training in seven identified sectors relevant to the region. Appreciating the programme, Heptulla said World Bank also recognized the importance of development of minorities and agreed to provide loan for the project. “The World Bank liked the Nai Manzil module and provided us USD 50 million loan while recommending the module to the madarsas of Africa and south east Asia so that they can also introduce skill development in their madarsas,” she said. During the event, a short film showcasing the achievements of the ministry was also screened. An MoU was also signed between Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills (MANAS), Madhya Pradesh Madarsas Board and former cricketer K Srikanth’s organisation, AA EduTech Private Limited for providing leadership and entrepreneurship skills.She also launched ‘Nai Udan’ portal and MANAS web portal for geographical information system mapping of training centers of MANAS and their online monitoring and evaluation through real time CCTV cameras (Times of India 28/5/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Gujarat has over a third of India’s Muslim detainees (7)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat accounts for over a third of the total Muslim detainees in the country, Union home ministry figures show. Of the country’s 658 Muslim detainees, 240 are in PM Narendra Modi’s home state. Tamil Nadu is a close second with 220. India has 82,190 Muslims in its jails and police custody. These include 21,550 convicts, 59,550 undertrials in prisons and 658 in lock-ups. The state has 58.6 lakh Muslims who account for 9.7% of 6 crore Gujaratis. The number of Muslim detainees is disproportionate to the state’s share in the country’s Muslim population. Gujarat is home to 3.4% of India’s 17.2-crore Muslim population. Yet the state accounts for 36.5% of total Muslims detainees. Like Gujarat, the number of Muslim detainees in Tamil Nadu is also disproportionate to that state’s share in India’s Muslim population, which stands at just 2.5%.Gujarat has 846 convicts — 3.9% of Muslims convicted. For undertrials, this figure stands at 1,724 or 2.9% of Muslim undertrials. Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of Muslims behind bars — including 5,040 convicts and 17,858 undertrials — has just 45 detainees. The state accounts for 22.4% of India’s Muslim population. Interestingly, Jammu and Kashmir, which is battling insurgency, accounts for just 35 Muslim detainees. The state accounts for about 5% of India’s Muslims. It has 153 Muslim convicts and 1,125 undertrials.Activists allege that laws like Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act 1985 (Pasa) and the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Activities Act (Pota) is used mostly against minorities. Shamshad Pathan, a city-based civil rights activist and lawyer, alleges that the main reason for detaining Muslims is to instil fear in the minority community. “After 2000, there was a trend to detain Muslims for interrogation and that, too, on suspicion of terrorism. Police would force these detainees to become informers and threaten them that they would otherwise be framed in cases of terrorism,” Pathan alleged.Gujarat minister of state for home Rajnikant Patel denied that people were being victimized on basis of their community. “Offences are registered as per law. No community is targeted while registering any case — be it for Pasa or any other offence,” Patel said. (Times of India 4/5/16)

Maharashtra beef law’s victims: Mostly transporters, and mostly Muslim (7)

Mumbai: Upholding the Maharashtra government’s ban on slaughter for beef in the state, the Bombay High Court on Friday allowed consumption of beef imported from other states. But in the more than one year of implementing the law banning slaughter, sale and possession of cows, bulls and bullocks and their progeny in the state, it is mainly transporters of meat who have been prosecuted. Investigation in most cases are stymied by delayed forensic reports and flagging interest from complainants.The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act was effected by the BJP-led state government on March 4, 2015. Under the law, anyone found selling beef or possessing it could be jailed up to five years, besides being fined. An analysis of 100 FIRs filed in 2015 under the new law throws up several common links. Almost all FIRs bear the same narrative — a Hindu activist stumbles upon ‘confidential information’ of beef or animals being transported, police are alerted, the vehicle tracked, the cattle or the meat recovered and a case slapped against the driver and cleaner of the vehicle. In almost all cases, the transporters are Muslim men. The source of the meat/animals and the end recipients are seldom mentioned. Of the 155 cases registered until October 31, 2015, only in 28 cases were meat samples actually sent to forensic science laboratories for testing. Of these 28 cases, police have received results in only seven cases. Six of these seven samples were indeed ‘beef meat’. On Friday, the Bombay High Court struck down Section 5(D) which, until now, was central to the implementation of the law. Of the 100 FIRs analysed by The Sunday Express, 89 are against transporters. Among these 89 cases, accused in 85 cases are Muslims. Sixteen cases were registered under Section 5 (d). In 15 cases, the complainant was a police officer. Almost all the large seizures pertain to cases where the meat was in transit. In Beed, 40 tonnes of meat was found in a cold storage in August last year. In another instance, in Shirdi in November last year, meat was seized while being sent through the railways. There were 38 boxes labelled as fish, probably meant for export, and later seized as suspected beef. “Innovative methods are utilised to transport animals. In one case in Dhule, they had created compartments in the vehicle and kept the animals in the lowest compartment in inhuman conditions,” said an official of the animal husbandry commissionerate. The commissionerate wrote several letters to the advocate general during the period of the litigation, explaining their view on the importance of Section 5 (d). “Implementation will be impossible without it. People can then take the animal to another state for slaughtering,” an official said. …  (Indian Express 8/5/16)

Can’t blame government for under representation of Muslims in bureaucracy: Zafar Mahmood (7)

ALIGARH: Perturbed about the lower number of Indian Muslims applying for the Civil Services examinations Zafar Mahmood, founder of Zakat Foundation of India took upon himself to make the Indian Muslim youth aspire for civil services. Since 1977, when he joined the services, no matter where he was posted, he took leave and visited Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia to encourage Muslim students for taking the civil services exams. He also established Sir Syed Coaching & Guidance Centre for Civil Services as a unit of his Foundation. Here, students from all over India sit for an exam and those who clear their exam are provided training in the professionally run civil services coaching institutes mostly at Mukherjee Nagar in New Delhi. The entire competitive cycle is financed by the Foundation’s fund – including coaching and hostel. He said that this was also an afterthought of his experience in Sachar Committee assigned to him by the Prime Minister’s Officer as Officer on Special Duty. “However, after the report came out not even 10% of the recommendations were implemented even when UPA was in power for seven years after that,” he said and added that the Muslim political representation according to the population is also very low, “This is because Muslim predominant constituencies are reserved for SCs. Sachar Committee has asked for referring this anomaly to Delimitation Commission.” But for the under representation of Muslims in the bureaucracy, Mahmood does not blame the government. He said “The government cannot be blamed for it. Sufficient number of Muslims are not appearing for civil services after a well-directed training. Not even 2000 appear for these exams. The effort needs to be made by sincere community leaders and well-wishers.” …  (Times of India 9/5/16)

How does RSS plan to deradicalise Muslim youth drawn to ISIS? (7)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s plans to wean away young Muslim men who want to join the Islamic State army in Syria is a welcome step. Its credentials, however, might pose problems in its engagement with the Muslim youth. The RSS is widely perceived to be anti-Muslim — its anti-minority rhetoric closely follows its actions on the ground. Its militant ideology at the core of which is the aggressive assertion to turn India into a Hindu rashtra may have served its core constituency, but a vast majority of peace-loving Muslims view the RSS and its affiliates with fear and suspicion. If the Hindutva outfit wants the deradicalisation programme to be successful, it should first work on its own image and soften the belligerent rhetoric. According to the last census, India’s Muslim population is roughly 172 million and out of that huge number, only a handful of misguided young men has been tempted by the ISIS call to arms. Recall that France, despite having a much lower Muslim population compared to India, has significantly more Muslim youths (1200 according to an International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation estimate) fighting the IS battle. On the other hand, so far only 23 Indians have travelled to the IS-dominated territories in Syria and Iraq. Faced with reversals on the ground, IS sympathisers have infiltrated the Internet, especially the social networking sites, to brainwash impressionable youth. Looking at India as a fertile ground for recruitment, its latest video features a young IS soldier from India who had been reportedly killed in 2014. If the question is how far has the IS been successful to lure Indian youth, the answer is ‘till now very little’. Its videos may try to exhort youngsters with the message that ‘jihad is our duty’ but so far the National Investigation Agency has identified and put under surveillance only 150 Indian youth. However, Indian authorities cannot afford to take chances with IS recruiters. There has been a significant jump in the numbers of social media users in the country, most of whom are in their teens or barely into early adulthood. Some of them might find the IS’s philosophy appealing. It’s just that the restlessness of youth drives some youngsters to take up arms for a cause. Being gullible makes them easy targets for the IS. Investigating agencies and the police need to handle this trend, which is still at a rudimentary stage, with care and tact. Early this year, the NIA had arrested 24 people, including some top IS recruiters. The NIA and at the state level, the Anti-Terrorism Squad, also has the near-impossible task of closely monitoring the internet activities of the country’s youth — something in which even the European Union has floundered. But a far more effective strategy would be to rope in parents, the respected faces of the community, teachers and religious leaders whose messages can steer the youth in the right direction. It cannot be a talk-down approach — that never works with the youth. What can win over hearts is love and patience. Since the IS is planning to set up cells in every Indian city and town, India also needs to step up efforts to counter the threats.Coming back to the RSS, its affiliate Muslim Rashtriya Manch, will have to tread cautiously. Much of its success will however depend on whether the radical Hindu outfit will mend its ways and eschew violence in the name of religion. (DNA 12/5/16)

‘Muslim personal law not word of God’ (7)

Lucknow: Batting for a common civil code for all Indians to replace separate Hindu and Muslims laws, author and former director of the Indian Association for Women.s Studies (IAWS) Delhi, Zarina Bhatty in Lucknow on Saturday said when a common criminal code exists for all and is followed by all irrespective of religion or other, why can’t a common civil code safeguard the rights of all Indian men and women. “Who decides the law for anyone? As for Muslim personal law, at least four versions exist on it where the Shia school is different from the Sunni thought,” she said. Bhatty added “Muslims should expose it to the society within and outside as Muslim personal law is not the word of God.” Bhatty was referring primarily to the issue of triple Talaq while speaking about her current book ‘Purdah to Piccadily’ at Sanatkada.Brought up in a purdah which she later shunned, Bhatty said she felt constrained in her formative years in Lucknow where she was not able to meet and interact with people or know the city with as much ease as she did without the veil. “Onus of carrying the religious identity should not be on women only,” she argued. Comparing the society of an era gone by as more inclusive and accepting of one another, she said today, specially under the present central government, there is exclusiveness on a large scale. “People do not like what is happening today under the Modi government and are speaking out and for all that we know speaking out might actually help during elections,” said Bhatty. (Times of India 15/5/16)

Muslim vote bank offers different interest rates (7)

NEW DELHI: Assam, West Bengal and Kerala have the highest proportion of Muslims in their population for any state other than Jammu & Kashmir. It is natural, therefore, that how the community votes can have an important, often decisive effect on electoral outcomes. So what happened in the seats with significant Muslim populations this time round?  The bad news for the Congress is that in Kerala its alliance did worse than last time even in the Muslim-dominated seats. The good news is that in Bengal, it did better in terms of both seats and vote shares and in Assam it won an extra seat, but saw its vote share drop a touch. In all three states, the BJP has gained vote share even in these seats, an indication perhaps of some consolidation of the non-Muslim vote in its favour. In Assam, the Congress had won 14 of the 36 seats with a dominant or decisive Muslim presence last time, while the AIUDF had won 17, leaving little for the others.This time round, the Congress raised its tally to 15 while the AIUDF saw its tally fall to 11, which meant the BJP won eight of the Muslim-dominated seats and the AGP two. In Kerala, the LDF made gains in the Muslim-dominated seats that have traditionally been a hard nut to crack for the Left. Against a 29-14 split of the 43 such seats last time in the UDF’s favour, this time the Left won 22 to the UDF’s 21. The UDF’s vote share fell sharply in these seats from 47.8% last time to just 38.4%. In West Bengal, any hopes the Left may have entertained of winning back a part of the Muslim vote from Mamata Banerjee seem to have been dashed. Not only has Trinamool won 38 of the 65 Muslim-dominated seats this time against 30 in 2011, it has raised its vote share from 29.3% in them to 40.8%. In contrast, the Left’s vote share in these seats has fallen from 41.7% to just 24.2%. Interestingly, the Congress has increased both its tally of seats and votes in the Muslim-dominated areas. Its seat tally rose from 16 in 2011 to 18 now and its vote share from 14.4% to 19.3%. (Times of India 20/5/16)

Minority report: Muslim families shrinking fastest among Indian communities (7)

New Delhi: Indian families are getting smaller and the decline is sharpest among Muslims, religious census data released on Friday said, in what could be signs of rising literacy levels in the community.The report of the census carried out in 2011 was released almost a year after the government revealed religion-wise population figures from the same year. The latest data said the country’s average family size in 2011 was 4.45 members, down from 4.67 a decade earlier, a drop of 5.3%.In the Muslim community the average family size fell from 5.61 to 5.15, the report released by the home ministry said. The reduction was sharper — 11.1% — for Muslim households headed by men while for families headed by women it was 4.47%. The Muslim community is often targeted by Hindu right-wing groups of having large families and a higher population growth rate. Last year, BJP parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Sadhvi Prachi had separately asked Hindu women to bear at least four children to counter the growth in Muslim population. Religious population data released last year showed that the community grew by 24.6 percent between 2001 and 2011. At 17.22 crore, the community formed 14.2% of India’s 121 crore population. With a population of 96.63 crore, Hindus constitute 79.8% of the population. Data released on Friday also showed the average size of Hindu families declined by 5.02% over the decade, Christian households by 6.47%, Sikh by 7.44%, Buddhist by 5.96% and Jain by 5.5%.The average household size was higher in male headed households as compared to those headed by females across all religious communities. Overall, “Christians had the highest percentage of households headed by females (17.4%) followed next by Buddhist (15.9%). The lowest percentage of female headed households is in Jain community (11.5%),” the report said. The data showed that the difference in household size between different religious communities wasn’t as big as was often made out. Besides, the continuing decline has also narrowed the gap in family size between different religious communities. In 2011, the average size of a Hindu family was 4.35. In contrast, a Muslim household had 5.15 members, a Christian household 4.05, Sikh household 4.85, Buddhist household 4.1 and a Jain household 4.45 members. In 2011, an average Muslim family just had 0.8 more persons than a Hindu household as compared to 1.03 persons in 2001. (Hindustan Times 21/5/16)

India has 31 million Muslim households (7)

New Delhi:  As many as 202.4 million households in the country belong to Hindus, 31.2 million to Muslims and 6.3 million to Christians, according to the 2011 census data released here on Friday. The total number of households in the country is 248.8 million. Of them, 4.1 million are of Sikhs and 1.9 million of Jains. An average 5.6 persons live in a Muslim household, 5.1 persons in a Sikh household, 4.9 persons in a Hindu household, 4.8 persons in a Jain household, 4.6 persons in a Buddhist household and 4.5 persons in a Christian household. The highest percentage of women headed households is noticed in the Christian community (17.4 per cent). — PTI (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Assam’s Nellie Muslims say their vote was to stay back in India (7)

MORIGAON (Assam): Nellie, a small hamlet ringed by low-lying hills, about 50 km from Guwahati, is infamous for the massacre in 1983 that claimed the lives of 1,800 Muslims. But in the recently concluded Assam Assembly elections, a majority of its 2,000-member Muslim community voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In an election deeply polarised between Hindu and Muslim communities, the Muslims of Nellie justify their electoral choice by citing a wide range of problems — from the absence of drinking water pipelines to the impending fear of deportation.“Our trust in the BJP is based on hope,” said Sulaiman Ahmed Qasmi, former chairman of Jamaat-e-Ulema Hind in Morigaon. “The AGP [Asom Gana Parishad] and the Congress ruled for so many years and they have done no good to us.” Every Muslim family in Nellie lost a member in the 1983 massacre. Back then, the Indira Gandhi government at the Centre said xenophobia against Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam, who were, and still are, suspected to be “illegal” immigrants from Bangladesh, was the main cause of violence, accusing a local tribe named Lulang of carrying it out. But Muslims in Nellie believe that the violence came upon them because they defied the election boycott call of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and voted in the February 1983 elections. The poll boycott call was aimed at fuelling the demand for deporting all illegal migrants in Assam and having their names removed from the voters’ list. The village is full of macabre tales of bloodshed and yet they decided to make the unusual choice of voting for the BJP, the party which projected Sarbananda Sonowal, a former AASU leader, as its chief ministerial candidate and deployed anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout its poll campaign. “We are fine with not eating mutton or beef. That’s a small adjustment they [BJP leaders] are asking for,” said Abdul Hamid, a 66-year-old resident of Nellie. Mr. Hamid’s mother and sister were stabbed in the massacre. Two days after the attack, Mr. Hamid said, they died in the relief camp. “Their wounds got infected and there was no doctor in the camp,” he said. Asked why he voted for the BJP, he said “to escape harassment by the Foreigners Tribunal”. In 2012, the local police declared him a “doubtful voter”, and asked him to prove his Indian nationality at the tribunal. He submitted his voter ID, property deeds dating back to 1947 and other documents of identification at the tribunal. Eight months later, it approved his documents and confirmed him as an Indian national. But in January 2016, he received another notice from the tribunal, asking him to again prove his nationality. “I have become very poor. I paid my lawyer Rs. 60,000 last time. I have no money to pay him this time,” Mr. Hamid said. The tribunal has asked 200 people from Nellie to prove their nationality. It has sent four villagers — three men and one woman — to detention facilities meant for undocumented immigrants. Aware of the situation, the BJP unit in Morigoan altered its rhetoric to win over Muslims. “We know a lot of Muslims, real Indian Muslims, are facing trials at the tribunal,” said Taneswar Deka, the BJP secretary in Morigaon district. “So we made a small change to our campaign slogan. It was development and Muslims and Hindus living together.” (The Hindu 25/5/16)

‘Constitution is the mother of all laws’: Army tribunal rules against triple talaq (7)

NEW DELHI: The Armed Forces Tribunal has held that unilaterally delivering the triple talaq to one’s wife over the telephone or by issuing a notice is un-Islamic and against the tenets of the Holy Quran. The Lucknow bench of the tribunal said this last week while dismissing the plea of Lance Naik Mohammad Faroor, who wanted the army to stop granting maintenance money from his salary to his wife. It held that the Constitution was superior to all laws, and has an overriding effect over religious or cultural practices that may offend people individually or collectively. Ruling in favour of the wife, who was allegedly divorced under the Muslim Personal Law, the tribunal held that Faroor could not have broken the marriage unilaterally. An individual’s fundamental right cannot be infringed upon under the garb of personal law, it said. Faroor contended that the army had no right to grant maintenance to his wife because the marriage was dissolved. He argued that maintenance money, according to the rules, is meant for one’s legally wedded wife and children. The Arabic word ‘talaq’ means to release or repudiate one’s marriage to a woman. Faroor argued that under the Muslim Law, a man has the unrestricted right to divorce his wife without giving a reason. However, the tribunal held a different view. Quoting from teachings in the Quran, it said that the holy book followed by Muslims for guidance does not propound oral or ex-party talaq. “Ex-parte divorce, oral or by letter, telegram or any other form, seems not permissible under the Muslim personal law,” the tribunal said. “The great holy book that deals with maintaining human conduct should not be read in piecemeal. It should be read from A to Z, and thereafter interpreted on the basis of the inference drawn.” This judgment by the tribunal, which hears petitions against the army’s administrative decisions, comes at a time when the Supreme Court is flooded with petitions filed against the practice of triple talaq. The tribunal said nikah —the ceremony of marriage in Islam — is based on offer and acceptance between man and woman. Unless both of them agree, it cannot happen. Using the same analogy, a talaq must be declared in the presence of the wife, it said, adding that the two may file a divorce suit in court in the event of a disagreement. (Hindustan Times 30/5/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Church attack victim shows forgiveness, accused gets bail (7)

RAIPUR: Bastar church attack accused, who allegedly set the church ablaze and poured petrol on Pastor and his seven month pregnant wife, have got bail from a court in Chhattisgarh after the pastor gave them forgiveness. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, however, claimed that pastor was threatened and forced do so. The Forum, an organisation fighting for the cause of Christian minorities, maintained that it will move to the higher court as the matter is associated with entire religion. Baster police arrested two youths, Mriyam Borai (32) alias Babu from Dharampura area and Akash Singh (27) from Guru Govind Singh ward on Friday. The arrests were made on the basis of the sketches prepared by cops on the explanations of the victims. Police also claimed to have traced the localisation of these youths which is the basis of their arrests. When the accused were produced in the court, the pastor Deenbandhu Sameli gave them forgiveness. In a written letter submitted in court, the pastor stated that bible teach the path of forgiveness and so does he. The pastor also sought forgiveness and wisdom for the accused from the god. “The court granted bail to both the accused and the pastor gave them forgiveness,” said inspector Abdul Khan. When asked how the court can give bail to accused on the basis of a forgiveness letter, he refused to comment and said bail is the matter of court and police has nothing to do with it. President of Chhattisgarh’s Christian Forum Arun Pannalal alleged that the pastor was threatened by the families of the accused due to which he was forced to give forgiveness in the court. “They have made the mockery of the law and constitution. Somebody can do anything with me, my wife and my religion and is it possible that court can let go the accused on the basis of a forgiveness letter written by me?” questioned Pannalal. He added that the Christian forum will follow the case and would take it to higher court for justice. .. (Times of India 1/5/16)

Satna Church Wedding, Slap Sedition Charge on Pastors: MP Panel Member (7)

BHOPAL: A member of MP Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Commission today wanted sedition charge to be slapped on four pastors and believers for allegedly helping an OBC couple enter into a wedlock unlawfully at a church in Satna district that was foiled by right wing activists. Laxmi Yadav said he has sought legal opinion on whether sedition charge could be invoked against the four Christians for “waging a war against the country”. The four are already facing prosecution in connection with the event on April 27. “The clerics and the faithful have waged a war against the state by trying to convert the Other Backward Classes (OBC) Hindu couple clandestinely and marry off a minor,” Yadav told PTI. “I have sought legal opinion on whether sedition charge could be invoked against the Christians for waging a war against the country,” he said and argued that when Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel can be charged with sedition why the pastors can’t face similar charge. Yadav said he was going to petition Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, State Home Minister Babulal Gaur and Director General of Police to slap sedition charge on the reverends after seeking legal opinion. “The pastors and believers have tried to convert (groom) Arun Kushwaha and (bride) Subhadra, (both who are allegedly Hindus) to Christianity. A Christian network with a centre in Satna is working in the country to convert Hindus, a community which is on decline in India,” he claimed. “Ten people including four reverends and believers have already been booked for conversion and trying to facilitate a minor girl’s marriage,” he added. Church of God pastor Sam Samuel told PTI that the only mistake he had committed was that he did not check Subhadra’s birth and school certificates. “Her parents told me that she was 19 years old as per her birth certificate and 18 according to her school certificate. I personally did not check it given that the girl’s parents were believers and coming to Church since last three years,” the pastor said. “I did not indulge in any conversion or wrongdoing. Along with me, pastors Stephen Raj Kumar from Tamil Nadu, Gyan Das and Gaya Pratap were also arrested,” he added. (New Indian Express 2/5/16)

Christian community falsely framed in Saraswati killing: Book (7)

New Delhi, May 5 (PTI) The murder of VHP leader Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati in 2008 which had triggered violence in Kandhamal in Odisha was a “contractual” killing in which members of the Christian community were falsely framed, claims a new book on the ethno-communal riots. The book Who Killed Swami Laxamanananda?, released here by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, also claimed the incidents were “pre-planned”.Its author Anto Akkara, however, did not name anyone as being behind the Swamis murder but insisted those accused of killing the religious leader were “innocent”.Without naming any group or party, Nayar said the country cannot be ruled by “certain religion”, but by the Constitution. The “idea of India” is in danger today, he added. (India Today 5/5/16)

Religious conversion of tribals in Dangs has stopped: Guj min (7)

Ahmedabad, May 8 () Conversion of tribal people to Christianity in Dangs district has “stopped because of intervention” by the Gujarat government, state minister Mangubhai Patel said here today. Speaking at a function here after an RSS-affiliated body released a ‘vision document’ for uplift of the community, the Minister said Christian missionaries were “carrying out religious conversion” several years ago because of poverty in the region but that has stopped now. “In Dangs, they distributed sugar and wheat as a lure to convert poor tribal people to Christianity, (but) we led a revolution and today we can say for sure that conversion has stopped because of government’s intervention,” said Patel, who holds Forest, Environment and Tribal Development portfolios. Patel, also BJP in-charge for Dangs, said the government’s move to provide easy loans and special coaching classes for competitive exams have helped tribal youths. “As many as 140 tribal youths have been given Rs 15 lakh as easy loan by government. There are four women and 15 men (among them) who have become pilots. Last year, 558 tribal youths made it to GUJCET (a combined test for entrance to medical and engineering colleges) because of special coaching classes for tribals started by the government,” he said. The vision document of the RSS-affiliated ‘Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram’ suggests policy intervention by administration for the development of tribals. The document was first unveiled in New Delhi and is being released in different states. The organisers said they had invited state Governor O P Kohli for the event but he could not come because of prior commitments.  (Times of India 8/5/16)

Christian transgenders to have equal right on ancestral property (7)

New Delhi: For the first time, transgenders (belonging to the Christian community) can have equal rights over ancestral property. The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) — after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christians, which consists of 52 religious leaders and professionals — has recommended to the Law Commission to amend the India Succession Act, 1925 and include the third gender in section 44. In a meeting held on April 21, all members of the Advisory Committee agreed that transgenders should be given equal rights just as men and women. “The entire Christian Committee agreed. We are hopeful that this will be incorporated and the Law Commission clears this recommendation,” said Abraham M. Pattiyani, member of DMC. The Law Commission of India in its 247th report had asked the DMC for recommendations and suggestions for amendments in India Succession Act. Once cleared, the Bill will be tabled in the Parliament. “With the inclusion of the term ‘transgender’ in the Act, they can move to court if they are discriminated during distribution of property,” said Mr Pattiyani.As per Section 44 of the Act, If the intestate’s father is dead but the intestate’s mother is living, and if any brother or sister and the child or children of any brother or sister who may have died in the intestate’s lifetime are also living, then the mother and each living brother or sister, and the living child or children of each deceased brother or sister, shall be entitled to the property in equal shares, such children (if more than one) taking in equal shares only the shares which their respective parents would have taken if living at the intestate’s death. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court in April 2014 created the ‘third gender’ status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender. “But that law states equal rights to brothers and sisters. This amendment will help those who do not want to be called son or daughter but just transgenders,” said Dr M.P Raju, a Supreme Court lawyer…. (The Hindu 12/5/16)

Jaya writes to PM Modi over demolition of church by SL (7)

New Delhi, May 14 : Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over reports indicating that the Sri Lankan Government plans to demolish and reconstruct the ancient St Anthonys Church on the island of Katchatheevu, which holds great significance by Tamil fishermen who have been visiting the church since centuries. In the letter, she states that the fishermen who mostly belong to the Roman Catholic faith are extremely concerned that they have not been consulted regarding the proposed reconstruction. “St Anthonys Church on Katchatheevu Island holds considerable religious significance for the fisherfolk in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu including Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli. They have traditionally undertaken pilgrimages to the island for the annual festival of St Anthonys for several centuries. It is part of their essential cultural and religious heritage,” the letter states. “You are also aware that I have consistently taken up the issue of retrieval of Katchatheevu and restoration of the traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen with the Government of India. As per Agreements entered into by the Government of India in 1974 and 1976, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka and the fishermen of Tamil Nadu have been deprived of their fishing rights around Katchatheevu ever since,” she added. The Chief Minister also said that she has personally filed a Writ Petition in this regard in the Supreme Court of India in 2008 and the Tamil Nadu government has also impleaded itself in 2011. As per the order of the Supreme Court of India in the Berubari case of 1960, a part of any territory owned by India can be ceded to another country only through a Constitutional Amendment. “However, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka without a Constitutional amendment and hence the ceding is unlawful and not valid. The abrogation of the 1974 and 1976 agreements and retrieval of Katchatheevu will permanently restore the traditional fishing rights of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and resolve a long pending issue,” Jaya said. She also asserted that the decision of the Sri Lankan government to demolish and reconstruct the St Anthonys Church, without consulting Tamil Nadu fishermen who are vital stakeholders, appears to be a carefully calculated provocation. Calling on the Prime Minister to respond immediately, Jaya appealed to him to him to prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to first consult the fishermen from Tamil Nadu on this issue and take further steps in this regard only in consultation with all the key stakeholders. “The Sri Lankan side should also be prevailed upon to accept the reconstruction of the church jointly by India and Sri Lanka after obtaining the concurrence of the Tamil Nadu fishermen,” she said. (New Kerala 14/5/16)

Protest against church demolition on Sunday (7)

Mumbai: The parishioners of Our Lady of Remedy Church at Poinsur would be seen uniting to form a human chain on May 22 against the BMC’s recent notice on demolishing a heritage cross and a portion of the cemetery in the church for widening S V Road. The parishioners, along with members of some NGOs in Mumbai like Watchdog Foundation and Save Our Land (SOUL), would be coming together to form a human chain as a mark of protest. Ramsey Rebello, one of the parishioners, said, “We want to create awareness about the issue as the BMC cannot demolish a part of our church. Therefore, as a parish, we all plan to unite for the cause.” On April 27 this year, in an interim order, the Bombay high court stayed the BMC notice for demolition. The petition said “the graves are active and cannot be dug up” in the heritage cemetery as per civic rules. It also added “that there is a religious sentiment as far as the dead is concerned in the graves”. (Times of India 16/5/16)

Christian priest among 3 held for ‘forcible’ conversion of Hindu men (7)

SATNA: A Christian priest and his two women associates were arrested by police today after a man accused them of “forcibly converting” him and two others by offering them job and money. “We have arrested them under section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of IPC and (section) 3/4 of Religious Conversion Act,” said Kotar police station In-charge, Mahendra Jagat. The trio was produced before a local court which sent them to judicial custody after rejecting their bail applications. They have been identified as A B Anthony, the priest attached to Aber Church under Kotar police station area, and his women assistants P Anthony and Prabha Anthony. The complainant, Prashant Gupta stated the trio had invited him and his two associates– Rambhan Adivasi and Hemraj Verma–to Aber Church where he was offered job and money. “I was in touch with the priest A B Anthony for quite some time and he had offered me and my two friends job at the church and money. Later, he forced me to embrace Christianity,” Gupta alleged.Gupta said he got angry as the priest started “abusing” the country. Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Backward Class Commission member, Laxmi Yadav said, “Such incidents are on the rise in the region and police should take tough stand in such issues”.Recently, police and Bajrang Dal activists had entered a church in Kogavan area here and stopped the wedding of a minor girl and a boy who had allegedly converted to Christianity four years ago. Police had said that the couple did not inform them about their conversion which is mandatory under law. (New Indian Express 23/5/16)

Thousands protest BMC move to demolish Cross for road widening (7)

MUMBAI: Thousands gathered at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy at Poinsor in Kandivali on Sunday to protest the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) proposal to demolish a Cross on the church’s premises and to flatten part of the church’s graveyard to enable the widening of S.V. Road. The protesters said the 16th century church was a grade II heritage site and the Cross is 300 years old. The graveyard has 150 graves. “The church, being a heritage site, cannot be demolished,” said Dolphy D’Souza, spokesperson of Save Our Land (SOUL), one of the organisations participating in the protest. About 3,000 people from 15 parishes gathered at the protest organised by Guardians United, SOUL, Watchdog Foundation, St. Vincent De Paul Political & Civic Cell, and other citizen groups. They formed a human chain around the church as a symbol of shielding its boundary. On February 27, the BMC had razed an 80-year-old chawl that belonged to the church, the protesters said, and on April 21, the local ward office served the church a noticeproposing to demolish the Cross and flatten the graveyard. “This amounts to defilement of the church, which is an offence under Section 295 of the IPC,” said advocate Godfrery Pimenta, a trustee of Watchdog Foundation. Nicholas Almeida, another member of Watchdog Foundation, said they will move the court to ensure that the Cross is not pulled down. “I will file a petition at the Borivali court on Wednesday and seek an inquiry into the proposal,” he said, adding that the road widening plan was lopsided as the authorities were planning to widen just one side of the road. The parishioners said there was a dearth of Christian burial grounds in Mumbai. “Right from Dahisar to Khar, there is no other graveyard on the western suburbs. The road construction will eat into the graveyard’s capacity by half. A body will then be needed to be taken to Sewri or Sion,” said Alfi Quinny, a parishioner. Besides, the protesters alleged that the road widening has been planned to promote the business interest of one particular building located in a lane adjacent to the church. “If parts of the church are destroyed and the road is widened, this building will be standing on the main S.V. Road, which will push up sale of the flats here. It is a builder-politician-BMC nexus,” alleged Mr. D’Souza. The protesters were soon joined by people from other communities. “We plan to assemble parishioners from over 100 parishes from all over Mumbai and keep opposing this,” said Mr. D’Souza. The protesters also said that politicians would fall out of favour if they failed to respect religious sentiments of the community. “We may be a minority, but collectively, we constitute 20 per cent of the electorate and a difference of 500 votes can make or break a candidate,” said Mr. Pimenta. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Catholic bishop to donate kidney to Hindu youth (7)

KOTTAYAM: A Catholic bishop has come forward to donate one of his kidneys to a youth belonging to a poor Hindu family. An authorisation committee for unrelated donors at Kottayam government medical college on Saturday cleared auxiliary bishop Jacob Murickan as the donor for 30-year-old E Sooraj. The surgery will be held at Kochi Lakeshore Hospital on June 1. The bishop at Pala diocese had earlier undergone medical examinations for the donation at the hospital. The 52-year-old bishop had come to know about Sooraj’s condition from Kidney Federation of India chairman, Fr Davis Chiramel, who himself had donated one of his kidneys to an ailing patient earlier. “I was inspired by a talk by Fr Chiramel two years ago. I had decided to donate one of my kidneys after listening to the talk,” Fr Murickan said. Sooraj, an employee with Arya Vaidya Sala, is the sole breadwinner of his family, comprising mother Parvathy and his wife Baby Resmi. “It will be the first time a bishop is donating his kidney,” Fr Chiramel said. “By God’s grace, everything is on the right track and we need to find money for the surgery now.” (Times of India 28/5/16)

 

Karunanidhi seeks SC status for Dalit Christians (7)

CHENNAI: Welcoming the Union Cabinet’s decision to accord Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Narikuravars, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi on Sunday demanded Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians and inclusion of fishermen in the ST list as marine tribes. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said by an early Constitution Amendment, the Narikuravars, who were socially and educationally far behind all other Communities, would start moving forward by reaping the benefits earmarked for STs. Mr. Karunanidhi said as a secular country India had freedom of religion. Hence, Dalits after their conversion to Christianity should be treated as SCs/STs. “They should be allowed to have access to all concessions and privileges. There are precedents for extending such concessions in respect of similar conversions to Sikh Christians and Buddhist Christians,” he said, pointing out the recommendation of the Justice Sachar Committee to this effect. Explaining why the fishermen should be included in the list of STs as marine tribes, he said the community, by their very geographical nature was socially and educationally akin to the STs. “Their only occupation is fishing and they spend most of their lifetime in seawaters without effective contacts with the outside world. If they are included in the list of STs, which they deserve well in all respects, it will enable them to surely climb up the ladder of life and enjoy the sunlight of advancement,” he said. A copy of his letter to the Mr. Modi was released to the media here. (The Hindu 30/5/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

84 migrants still missing after boat sinks off Libya: International Organization for Migration (13)

Rome: Eighty-four migrants are still missing after an inflatable craft sank off the coast of Libya, according to survivors cited by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Saturday. Twenty-six people were rescued from the boat which sank on Friday, and were questioned overnight. “According to testimonies gathered by IOM in Lampedusa 84 people went missing,” IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio Di Giacomo wrote on his Twitter feed. Di Giacomo told AFP that the survivors indicated 110 people, all from assorted west African states, had embarked in Libya. In an email, he added that the vessel “was in a very bad state, was taking on water and many people fell into the water and drowned. “Ten fell very rapidly and several others just minutes later.” Earlier Saturday, Italy`s coastguard said an Italian cargo ship had rescued 26 migrants from a flimsy boat sinking off the coast of Libya but voiced fears that tens more could be missing. The coastguard received a call from a satellite phone late Friday that helped locate the stricken inflatable and called on the merchant ship to make a detour to the area about four miles (seven kilometres) off the Libyan coast near Sabratha. Rough seas and waves topping two metres (seven feet) hampered attempts to find any other survivors. The rescued migrants were transferred to two coastguard vessel and taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Images released by the coastguard showed two women wrapped in shawls and blankets stepping off one of their vessels. An IOM spokesman said five unaccompanied minors aged between 16 and 17 were among those rescued. More than 350,000 people fleeing conflict and poverty have reached Italy on boats from Libya since the start of 2014, as Europe struggles to manage its biggest migration crisis since World War II. Most of the 27,000 people who have made it to the Italian coast this year hail from Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal. Some 500 were rescued on Friday by monitoring vessels in the area while Di Giacomo said two bodies had been spotted in one inflatable craft. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates 1,261 people have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, chiefly on precarious voyages to Greek islands, in desperate attempts to secure a new life. The additional migrant flow from the Syrian conflict has put further pressure on search and rescue operation efforts. Last year, the IOM estimated that around 3,800 people died or were listed as missing in the Mediterranean — though some UN estimates put the figure at nearer 5,000. (Zee News 1/5/16)

Migration, refugee issues need differentiated approaches: India (13)

UNITED NATIONS: India has said the international community’s collective approach in dealing with migration and refugee issues should retain a “balanced” and “differentiated” perspective since the two are distinct concepts and differ in their causes and impacts. “Migration and movement of refugees across borders are distinct concepts and differ in fundamental way in their causes, motivations and impacts… It is important therefore that our collective approach in dealing with these issues retains a balanced, differentiated and a longer term perspective,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Tanmaya Lal said here on Tuesday. Mr. Lal said cross-border movements of both refugees and migrants have existed for generations and human mobility has fundamentally shaped and influenced the current community of nations as well as the international system. “It is therefore particularly important that we collectively take a longer term view and consider broad approaches to these two issues,” he said at an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly on the report of the Secretary General on refugees and migrants. The report notes that the estimated number of people on the move globally is close to 250 million, of which the number of refugees stands at nearly 15 million. About 75 per cent of the refugees come from just 11 countries and seven countries host more than half of all refugees, the report has said. “Even more tellingly, it is important to recognise that 86 per cent of all refugees are hosted in developing countries,” Mr. Lal said. The report groups refugees and migrants into three distinct pillars of ensuring safety and dignity of all migrants and refugees; a global compact on refugees; and a global compact on migration. Mr. Lal said the issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is “very distinct” from the issues of refugees and migrants.“Since through the current deliberations, we are examining possible ways of international cooperation to address cross-border large movements of refugees and migrants, it would be advisable to exercise caution before expanding this discussion to include IDPs,” he added. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

Some 59,000 Syrians, a new high, stranded on Jordan border (13)

Hadalat: The number of Syrian refugees gathered in remote desert areas on the Jordanian border and waiting to enter the kingdom has risen to a new high of 59,000, the commander of Jordan’s Border Guard Forces said today. In the last three days alone, some 5,000 more Syrians arrived in two sprawling makeshift camps on the border, fleeing renewed fighting in the city of Aleppo, GenSaber al-Mahayreh told reporters. Jordan and the international community are at odds over the fate of the stranded refugees. Aid organizations say Jordan must speed up entry procedures because the refugees live in dire conditions, including inadequate shelter, along the border. The groups note that the UN-run Azraq camp in Jordan stands largely empty and could accommodate tens of thousands more refugees.Jordan says refugees pose a potential security risk, with some coming from areas controlled by the extremist Islamic State group, and need to be vetted. The stranded refugees are gathered in two areas Rokban, with 52,000 people, and Hadalat, with 7,200 people, said the border commander. Hadalat is about 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of the Jordanian capital of Amman. The number of refugees has risen steadily in recent months. Jordanian army officials said the refugees have received tents, heaters, food and medicine from UN aid agencies.Today, about 300 refugees were permitted to enter Jordan, with priority given to women, children, the sick and the elderly. Ahmed Jadouh, a refugee from Aleppo, said there is large-scale destruction in his city. “We had no other place to go, so we decided to come to Jordan,” he said. One refugee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, said he has been living in a tent near the border for six months. He said he is afraid to apply for entry to Jordan for fear of being sent back to Syria. Close to 5 million Syrians have fled their country since conflict erupted there in 2011, including more than 640,000 who settled in Jordan. (Zee News 5/5/16)

 ‘Will expedite refugees’ return to Sri Lanka’ (13)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has reiterated that it is the policy of his government to encourage the return of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in India by removing legal and other hurdles. Replying to a question of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda, Mr. Wickremesinghe told Parliament that steps would be taken to issue [provisional, one-way] passports in two to four weeks to the refugees in India through the website of the Department of Immigration and Emigration, according to a release issued by the EPDP on the discussion in Parliament. [According to data of the Tamil Nadu government, there are about one lakh persons living in the State, both as camp refugees and non-camp refugees]. Mr. Devananda told The Hindu that it took almost a year for refugees to secure provisional one-way passports. The Prime Minister’s assurance would go a long way in expediting the process. The Prime Minister said that since 2003, those aged below 22 years would not have to pay charges for registering themselves with the authorities for getting citizenship. A similar arrangement was being worked out in respect of those who were aged above 22 years.Apart from birth certificates of parents and refugees concerned, the recommendation of the office of the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Chennai was required, Mr Wickremesinghe informed the House, adding that efforts were on to provide lands to enable returnee-refugees for resettlement.The EPDP leader said that in respect of those refugees not having the birth certificates, records maintained by officials at camps and police stations in India could be regarded as the requisite documents. An official of the Prime Minister’s Office clarified to this correspondent that Mr Wickremesinghe’s statement on the refugees had to be viewed only in the case of those who were willing to return to Sri Lanka. (The Hindu 9/5/16)

Refugees demand disbursement of monthly assistance (13)

NAMAKKAL: Stating that the monthly assistance given to each Sri Lankan refugee family at the camp in Valayapatti in Paramathi was not given for the past two months, members blocked the Paramathi – Tiruchengode road here on Monday. Over 2,000 persons are living in the camp for many years now.Every month, the family head was given assistance of Rs. 1,000, children above 12 years were given Rs. 750 and children less than 12 years were given Rs. 400. But it was said that they were not given the assistance in the past two months. When the camp inspector visited the camp on Monday, members questioned him on the non-receipt of assistance. Later, they blocked the road disrupting traffic for over 30 minutes.Paramathi Tahsildar Loganathan, Paramathi Police Inspector Kumar held talks with the protesters and pacified them. They assured to look into the issue. Later, the protest was withdrawn. (The Hindu 11/5/16)

UN refugee agency reports some 1,000 refugees and migrants rescued off Italian coast (13)

New York, May 14 :Some 1,000 people of various nationalities, including refugee families and unaccompanied children, were rescued yesterday from the Mediterranean Sea, the UN refugee agency said on Friday. In one operation carried out yesterday, about 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south-east of Cape Passero, William Spindler, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a regular bi-weekly news briefing to reporters at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. According to the Italian Coastguard, there are some Syrians and Iraqis among this group, as well as people from other nationalities. Apart from the two fishing boats that sailed from Egypt, it is believed that there were other smaller boats that came from Libya, the spokesperson said. Disembarkation of the 1,000 people rescued yesterday is taking place on Friday at four different locations in southern Italy: Augusta, Catania, Crotone and Palermo, and will likely last the whole day. UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued in the operations, which were coordinated by Frontex, Spindler noted. So far this year, 187,920 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea, during which 1,361 have either died or been reported missing. Of those making the journey, 155,765 have reached Greece and 31,252 have reached Italy. UNHCR continues to advocate for legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe through resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, family reunification, private sponsorship, humanitarian and refugee student or work visas, etc., as a way to help put an end to the smuggling of human beings, the spokesperson said. (New Kerala 14/5/16)

Seven cops injured in clash with refugees (13)

Agartala: Seven police personnel were injured in a clash with the inmates of a Reang refugee camp in North Tripura district following the suicide of an inmate early on Sunday morning. North district Superintendent of Police Manik Das said the trouble began three days ago when the inmate (or internally displaced person IDP) at Narsingpara camp in Kanchanpur subdivision had been caught catching fish illegally from the pond of a person at nearby Kashirampur. The 32-year-old camp inmate was beaten by the pond owner and villagers. He was admitted to Kanchanpur hospital, from where he was released on Friday last. However, he was readmitted on Saturday following some complaints and he committed suicide on Sunday morning by hanging from a nearby tree. Mr. Das said the youth had left behind a note saying no one was responsible for his death. However, a rumour spread that the youth was killed in the hospital, a mob of camp inmates attacked the pond owner’s house and ransacked it. – PTI (The Hindu 16/5/16)

31 Lankan refugees from state camps head home tomorrow (13)

Chennai: Thirty-one Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in the state will return to their hometowns on Thursday under an UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. Sri Lankan deputy high commissioner Vadivel Krishnamoorthy on Tuesday said the UNHCR will provide free air tickets as well as $75 reintegration allowance and $19 as transport allowance to each of the repatriates and $75 as monetary non-food grant per family. Those heading home on Thursday are from Trincomalee, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Pollonnaruwa and Jaffna. They will fly out of the city on Thursday morning. Most of them are from refugee camps in Villipuram, Trichy, Tiruvallur, Tiruvanamalai and Madurai. Deputy high commissioner Krishnamoorthy envoy said discussions between officials of his country and India with UNHCR representatives helped them plan the project and work out the logistics. He said the public enterprise development ministry in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan airline Mihin Lanka had allowed them increased the baggage allowance per person. “Unlike earlier where refugees were given emergency certificates – a one-way travel document – to return to Sri Lanka in the absence of a passport, Thursday’s repatriates have received fresh passports. The end of the civil war in Sri Lanka on May 18, 2009, after close to 26 years of violence and bloodshed, allowed Sri Lankan Tamils who had fled their country and took refuge in India to finally return home. As many as 4,733 refugees (1,718 families) have returned to Sri Lanka since 2011. More than 100,000 refugees remain in the country. The Australian government last month made it clear that refugees from Sri Lanka were no longer welcome to Australia because most were not from UNHCR-approved refugee camps. Between 2009 and 2013, an estimated 1,200 refugees drowned while attempting to travel to Australia from the Indian subcontinent in vessels too small for the high seas. Thousands of others got stranded on Christmas Island, a 135sqkm island that is Australian territory, 540km south of South Sumatra and more than 1,500km from the closest point of Western Australia. (Times of India 18/5/16)

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than others – UN report (13)

New York, May 21(Just Earth News): Just 50 percent of refugee children are in primary school and 25 per cent of refugee adolescents are in secondary school, a new policy paper released on Friday by two United Nations agencies has found. Refugee children, like children everywhere, have the right to education. It is fundamental that children who have been uprooted by war and violence are not left behind even further, stressed Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a press release issued by his Office. We urge donors and development organizations to support efforts to include refugee children and youth in national education systems, he added. The No More Excuses paper was jointly released by UNHCR and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, which is set to start on 23 May. The paper calls for countries and their humanitarian and development partners to urgently ensure that children and adolescents who are forcibly displaced are included in national education plans, and to collect better data to monitor their education status and progress. There are unprecedented numbers of forcibly displaced populations, putting huge pressure on education syste But for these children and youth education is especially important: by simply being in school, they are better protected from trafficking, illegal adoption, child marriage, sexual exploitation and forced labour, said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. Specifically, the paper reveals that behind the global average number of refugee children out of school, there are significant differences among countries. Primary enrolment rates average 80 per cent in selected refugee sites in Egypt, Iran and Yemen, but only 40 per cent in Pakistan and 50 per cent in Ethiopia. …  (New Kerala 21/5/16)

Mizoram seeks to take back Bru refugees (13)

Aizawl/Agartala: The Mizoram government has undertaken a fresh initiative to take back tribal refugees sheltered in seven north Tripura camps for the last 19 years, officials said here on Monday.”The Mizoram government submitted a detailed plan for repatriation of tribal refugees to the Union home ministry last week,” said Lalbiakzama, additional secretary in Mizoram’s home department. The state government has sought Rs 68 crore from the Centre to rehabilitate the tribals, Lalbiakzama said. About 31,300 Reang tribals, who call themselves Bru, have been living in seven makeshift camps in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur area adjoining Mizoram since October 1997. They had fled ethnic violence in Mizoram (Times of India 24/5/16)

Another 3,000 migrants rescued off Libya, says Italy (13)

Rome: Another 3,000 migrants were rescued from stricken boats in waters off Libya today, the Italian coastguard said, lifting the total saved in the space of 48 hours to 5,600. The latest rescues, involving 23 different operations, will take to more than 37,000 the total number of people taken to southern Italian ports since the start of the year. Coastguard boats, vessels from the EU’s naval operation EUNAVFOR Med and its border agency Frontex, a boat from NGO SOS Mediterranee and two tug boats from an offshore oil platform were all involved in the rescue operations. Every search and rescue asset in the area was deployed, the coastguard said. No breakdown of the nationalities of the people rescued was immediately available. The overwhelming majority of those arriving in Italy so far this year have been from sub-Saharan Africa, and officials say there is no sign yet of Middle Eastern refugees switching to the Libyan route to Europe en masse following moves to restrict access from Turkey via the Greek islands. (Business Standard 25/5/16)

At least 700 migrants feared dead (13)

Rome: At least 700 migrants may have died at sea this past week in the busiest week of migrant crossings from Libya towards Italy this year, Medecins San Frontieres and the UN Refugee agency said on Sunday. About 14,000 have been rescued since Monday amid calm seas, and there have been at least three confirmed instances of boats sinking. But the number of dead can only be estimated based on survivor testimony, which is still being collected. “We will never know exact numbers,” Medecins San Frontieres said in a Tweet after estimating that 900 had died during the week. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 700 had drowned. Migrants interviewed on Saturday in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo told of a large fishing boat that overturned and sank on Thursday with many women and children on board. Initial estimates were that 400 people died, but the UN Refugee agency said on Sunday there may have been about 670 passengers on board. According to testimony collected by EU border agency Frontex, when the motorless fishing boat capsized, 25 swam to the boat that had been towing it, while 79-89 others were saved by rescuers and 15 bodies were recovered. This meant more than 550 died, the UNHCR said. The migrants – fleeing wars, oppression and poverty – often do not know how to swim and do not have life jackets. They pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to make the crossing from Libya to Italy, by far the most dangerous border passage for migrants in the world. This week’s arrivals included Eritreans, Sudanese, Nigerians and many other West Africans, humanitarian groups say. Despite the surge this week, as of Friday 40,660 arrivals had been counted, 2 per cent fewer than the same period of last year, the Interior Ministry said. Most of the boats this week appear to have left from Sabratha, Libya, where many said smugglers had beaten them and women said they had been raped, said MSF, which has three rescue boats in the area.The migrants are piled onto flimsy rubber boats or old fishing vessels which can toss their occupants into the sea in a matter of seconds.About 100 are thought to have either been trapped in the hull or to have drowned after tumbling into the sea on Wednesday. On Friday, the Italian Navy ship Vega collected 45 bodies and rescued 135 from a “half submerged” rubber boat. It is not yet known exactly how many were on board, but the rubber boats normally carry about 300. “Some were more shaken than others because they had lost their loved ones,” Raffaele Martino, commander of the Vega, told Reuters on Sunday in the southern port of Reggio Calabria, where the Vega docked with the survivors and corpses, including those of three infants. “It’s time that Europe had the courage to offer safe alternatives that allow these people to come without putting their own lives or those of their children in danger,” Tommaso Fabri of MSF Italy said. (Business Standard 30/5/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

After Kejriwal’s query, PM Modi’s score in MA revealed (1)

New Delhi, May 1 : After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s letter to the Central Information Commission (CIC), it has been now revealed that Prime minister Narendra Modi completed his post-graduation in Political Science from the Gujarat University with a 62.3pc score, media reports said. The Prime Ministers Office was recently asked to come clear on Narendra Modis education details. The matter became a formal RTI query. The Central Information Commission (CIC) had asked the PMs Office to give a response on the same. The PMs office had been asked for details like his roll number so that the Delhi University and Gujarat University reveal information about his degree. Kejriwal, who on Thursday had written to the Central Information Commission (CIC) demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modis educational qualification be made public, received support from his party as it said that the degree hardly matters but honesty does. While contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, PM Modi had declared that he has a BA degree from the Delhi University and a Masters from the Gujarat University. (New Kerala 1/5/16)

Vehicles With Fraudulent Permits May Repeat Nirbhaya Case: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Underlining “serious fraud” in issuing licences, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said if transport department allows vehicles with fraudulent permits based on false affidavits, these will facilitate ghastly “crimes on wheels” like the “Nirbhaya” case. The order of the Commission came on the plea of D K Garg, whose address was allegedly used in a fraudulent way to get State Transport Authority (STA) permit for heavy transport goods vehicle to one Indu Goyal. “On Garg’s persistent complaints and RTI applications, Indu Goyal’s permit was blocked but till now, it was not surrendered. There was no proper response to his RTI application and his first appeal was also not heard. There is no order in First Appeal,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu noted. He said the transport department is not responding properly and “negligently” allowing the false permits and facilitating heavy vehicles to ply in the city without proper documents. Acharyulu directed the transport department to provide the file noting and correspondence relating to Garg’s complaint about wrongful permit based on false documents. “The Commission found that this second appeal revealed a serious fraud in issuing STA licence permits on false residential addresses. If the RTA allows such vehicles to roam around the city with fraudulent permits based on false affidavits, such vehicles will facilitate ghastly crimes on wheels like ‘Nirbhaya Kand’,” he said, referring to the brutal December 16 gangrape case. A 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally raped and murdered in a moving bus in Delhi in 2012, triggering massive public outrage. Acharyulu directed Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai and the higher authorities of RTA, to look into this issue in general and address the case of appellant in particular within one month. “The RTI application of the appellant reveals a very large public interest indicating serious defect in the system of granting permit, which will not only facilitate crimes but also implicate genuine owners of the residences, whose address formed basis for granting the permits, in criminal and civil cases,” the Information Commissioner said. He recommended to the Transport Department to plug the loopholes in the system to prevent issuing of permits in such a fraudulent manner and make it mandatory to have physical verification of residential address claimed by the applicant as that happens for the issuance of Passport. (New Indian Express 3/5/16)

EPFO has four times more members than Jaitley claimed: RTI info (1)

Bhopal, May 6 (IANS) The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has 15.84 crore members and not 3.7 crore as claimed by union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last March in connection with his proposal to tax PF withdrawals, an RTI applicant has learnt. “According to the EPFO’s 2014-15 report, the number of members is 15,84,70,000,” Regional PF Commissioner Navendu Rai informed Chandrashekhar Gaur on April 1 in response to a right to information (RTI) request. The membership of 15.84 crore is more than four times the figure of 3.7 crore that Jaitley used in referring to the employees who would be affected by his controversial budgetary proposal to tax 60 percent of EPF balances at the time of withdrawal. “The EPFO has about 3.7 crore members, of whom about three crore members are those in the earning category of Rs.15,000 and below,” the minister was quoted as saying in a newspaper report in March. Jaitley used the figure of 3.7 crore in arguing that the large majority of the EPFO members would not be adversely affected by his budgetary proposal. Asked about the number of EPFO members who earn less than Rs.15,000 and those who earn more than that threshold, the EPFO informed Chandrashekhar Gaur that no such information was available with it. Gaur, who belongs to Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh, told IANS that he was intrigued by wide variation in the strength of EPFO membership as claimed by the minister and the figures cited in some media reports. “How could there be such difference in those figures? So I decided to file an RTI request,” he said. Set up in 1951, the EPFO administers a contributory provident fund, pension scheme and an insurance scheme for workers in India’s organised sector. It’s one of the world’s largest social security organisations in terms of membership and volume of funds managed. The organisation is under the administrative control of the union ministry of labour and employment. (Times of India 6/5/16)

Central Information Commission issues fresh notice to Sonia Gandhi in RTI matter (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has issued a fresh notice to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to explain her case before its full bench on allegations of not responding to queries in a RTI application despite orders of the transparency panel. A full bench of the commission comprising Information Commissioner Bimal Julka, Sridhar Acharyulu and Sudhir Bhargava will hear the complaint filed by activist R K Jain. The fresh notice was issued after the orders of the Delhi High Court which had directed in August, 2014 that the “complaint filed by the petitioner be considered expeditiously and preferably within a period of six months” and subsequent complaint to the Commission by Jain against its registrar. Jain had alleged that despite orders of the high court, Registrar M K Sharma has not fixed any date by the commission. Threatening to file a contempt petition, Jain alleged the registrar is “deliberately, malafidely and persistently” defying the orders and directions of the Delhi High Court and causing to fix the said case for hearing, despite issue of four weeks’ notice. Jain had filed the RTI application with Congress in February, 2014 but with there being no response to it, he later made a complaint in that regard before the CIC. In his complaint which will be heard before the Full Bench, Jain has alleged that this was violation of a full bench order of the Commission which had declared Congress along with five other national parties — BJP, CPI, CPI-M, NCP and BSP — as public authorities making them answerable under the RTI Act. Refusal to provide information or not furnishing complete information is deemed an offence under the RTI Act, which prescribes a penalty of Rs 250 per day on the public information officer of the public authority from the date the information became due to the day that it was finally made available. (Times of India 8/5/16)

No political pressure on PM Modi’s degree: Delhi University (1)

NEW DELHI: A day after Aam Aadmi Party accused Delhi University of “authenticating” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree due to pressure from the Centre ,the varsity on Thursday said it has not been influenced by “any political pressure” and asserted that it is acting in accordance with the law. “Few AAP leaders visited the university on Wednesday and met vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi over issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree. “The VC told them that RTI cell of the university shall act in accordance with the law but it is incorrect to say that the university is acting under any political pressure,” DU registrar Tarun Das said. The clarification by DU came a day after an AAP delegation visited the university demanding that they be allowed to examine the records of Modi’s BA degree but they had to return empty handed. AAP leader Sanjay Singh alleged that Tyagi asked them to “understand his position saying there is a lot of pressure on him on the issue”.The AAP has been alleging that the Prime Minister’s BA and MA degrees were forged and there were many “glaring discrepancies in them”, including in his name and total marks.Amid the relentless attack on the Prime Minister on the issue, the DU registrar had earlier this week said that the BA degree was “authentic” and termed as “minor error” the alleged discrepancies in his marksheets and degree certificate.On Monday, BJP had fielded two of its heavyweights — party president Amit Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley — to rebut AAP’s charges. They had also released copies of Modi’s BA and MA degrees. (Times of India 12/5/16)

Journalist arrested for fabricating RTI reply (1)

New Delhi: A journalist was arrested on Saturday for allegedly “fabricating” a response to his right to information (RTI) request to make the claim that the Ministry of Ayush has a policy not to hire Muslims, police said. “He was arrested for fabricating an RTI reply,” a senior police officer told IANS. Journalist Pushp Sharma was arrested under section 418 (Cheating), 467 (Forgery of valuable security), 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation) and 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said. Sharma had claimed, in an article headlined “We don’t recruit Muslims: Modi government’s Ayush Ministry,” and published in March in Milli Gazette newspaper, that the ministry informed him that it is the “government policy” not to recruit Muslims. “The ministry said a total of 711 Muslim yoga trainers had applied for the short-term assignment abroad but none was even called for an interview while 26 trainers (all Hindus) were sent abroad on this assignment,” Sharma wrote in the article in question. The article was accompanied by a letter from the ministry transferring Sharma’s RTI request to a government yoga institute along with an ‘Annexure-I’ that included the statement, “As per government policy, no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad”.This annexure was “non-existent” and “fictitious” as was “never issued by the ministry”, the government said in a statement on March 12. Sharma’s RTI query that purportedly invited the ‘Annexure-I’ was: How many Muslim candidates were invited, selected or sent abroad as yoga trainer/teacher during World Yoga Day 2015? The government said in its statement that the ministry never replied to this query or any other, but simply transferred Sharma’s RTI request to two other public authorities. “The contents regarding religion-based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the international cooperation section of the ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religions,” the government statement said. Sharma had rejected the government statement as “misleading,” claiming the RTI response did indeed come from the ministry. He was interrogated by the police for a few days after the article was published. The police had then sent the RTI replies for forensic analysis. Ayush is an acronym for ‘Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy’ (Business Standard 14/5/16)

Activists take stand over omission of RTI chapter (1)

Jaipur: Activists of the Majdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) have shot a letter to the chief secretary, C S Rajan, airing their objection to the fact that the movement in Rajasthan that ultimately gave the country the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been removed from the revised Class VIII social science textbook in the state. Letter reads: The omission of RTI chapter (Chapter 12, page 105) from Class VIII social science textbook has hurt the sentiments of ordinary people. It is like burying the truth and actually attempting to obliterate acknowledgement of a contribution that should be of pride to the whole state.”This is absolutely unfair at a time when RTI as a case study has become a part of the curricula at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Governance, Budapest University along with many other institutes. It is clear that it is being done for political gains. The MKSS registers its strong protest and demands that an independent textbook revision commission should be set up to evaluate the revised textbooks. The deficiencies in the textbooks should be completed by adding supplementary books,” said Nikhil Dey of MKSS. TOI had on May 11 reported that Rajasthan’s contribution to bringing about the only of its kind Right to Information Act has been dropped in the revised Class VIII social science textbook in the article titled ‘Rajasthan textbooks omit local heroes, downsize dynasties.’ This chapter had a brief description of how the struggle for right to information started in Rajsamand and went on to give the country a unique Act in 2005. It gives credit to farmers and activists for this Act. The MKSS expressed surprise over the way textbooks were revised in a matter of two-three months. “The set process was not followed in the textbook revision. Textbooks rewriting committees for each subject was formed which subscribes to a particular ideology. The revision of textbooks, which otherwise takes one-two years, was not sent for any review to independent authors, not even to the child psychologist, which has questioned the entire process,” said Dey. The letters demand chief secretary for the reason behind textbook rewriting when the last revision was done in 2011. “As per some news reports, state has spent over Rs 350 crores for eight crore textbooks, which appears to be a colossal waste,” said Dey. (Times of India 16/5/16)

Rs. 12 crore spent on ads in two years for anti-graft helpline; only six arrests (1)

NEW DELHI: To publicise the anti-corruption vigilance helpline numbers meant to check corruption by its men, the Delhi Police has been spending an average of Rs. 1.5 lakh daily for the past two years. However, it has only eight cases and six arrests to show for all that publicity so far, reveals an RTI reply. Between March 2014, when the four-digit anti-corruption helpline was launched, and this April, the police have spent nearly Rs. 12 crore in radio and newspapers ads to make people aware about it as well as the WhatsApp helpline number 9910641064 launched a few months later. These helpline numbers were launched with great fanfare and were touted to be one of the most effective tools in the hands of the common man to fight corruption in the police.Of the Rs. 11.77 crore spent, the major share went into radio ads costing the public exchequer Rs. 10.65 crore. A relatively smaller but significant amount, Rs. 1.12 crore, was spent on publishing advertisements. The reply states that periodic data of these advertisements or the money spent on them was not available. Hence neither the RTI reply nor independent queries made by The Hindu could establish whether this entire chunk was spent for the initial promotion or the advertisements have been a recurring feature. But if the RTI figures are to be believed, that publicity has not translated into more policemen facing legal action.“A total of eight cases under Prevention of Corruption Act have been registered in the vigilance Branch police station on the basis of information received through Anti-Corruption helpline,” reads the reply. It further notes that based on these complaints only six policemen have been arrested so far. The numbers also show a declining trend in the numbers of calls received on the helpline. Compared to 109 calls made in the quarter ending June 2014 i.e. the initial days after its launch, only 30 were received in the one ending April 2016. RTI activist Sudhir Yadav who sought the data sees these numbers as the helpline not being publicised enough despite the humongous spending. He asked why despite bribes being demanded from the common man on a daily basis, why were so few cases registered against the cops and wondered if the publicity money was extravagant. Responding to the RTI numbers, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) R.K. Jha did not comment on the specifics but said it was not possible to have a case registered each day. Another officer said the declining number was a positive sign, showing that the presence of the helpline numbers itself was deterrent enough for cops to stay away from making such demands. (The Hindu 19/5/16)

No fee to be paid for appeals and complaints related to RTI (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State information commission has said that the RTI applicant needs to pay fees only for the first application for information and no fees shall be paid for appeals or complaints. The commission issued the notification in the wake of instances where applicants were made to pay fees for appeals and complaints as well. The complaints filed before the commission as per section 18 of Right to Information act and appeals filed as per section 19 does not require fees, the commission said. It has also been pointed out that postal orders, money orders will not be considered as fees for matters under the control of state government. Section 6 of RTI act says that the applicant has to pay the fees as prescribed by the state government while filing an application for information. The state government has determined Rs 10 as application fee as per Kerala Right to Information ( Regulation of fee and cost) rules. (Times of India 21/5/16)

RTI reveals Centre bias against Odisha on drought-assistance funds (1)

BALANGIR : In a clear case of step-motherly attitude of the Centre in granting drought assistance, Odisha has received far less fund in comparison to the BJP-ruled States such as  Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra in 2015-16. Information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by Balangir-based activist Hemant Panda revealed that while assistance towards gratuitous relief has been provided to other States, the claim of Odisha has been ignored. The Centre has provided only input subsidy to the State while it failed to provide gratuitous fund. There is a provision to provide input subsidy with gratuitous relief to drought-hit States, but Odisha didn’t receive the latter. The gratuitous relief was provided to Telangana from NDRF during 2015-16 drought, alleged Panda. Sources said gratuitous relief is provided to families of deceased or critically-injured farmers. Under National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), an adult and a child of a family get `60 and `45 per day respectively for 30 days in case of natural calamities. The duration may be extended to 90 days in case of drought. (New Indian Express 23/5/16)

Kejriwal claims Centre spending over Rs. 1000 crores on NDA’s two year bash (1)

New Delhi, May 26 : Facing criticism over its expenditure on advertisement, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday tried to douse the fire, claiming the Centre is spending over Rs. 1000 on the bash to celebrate the Modi government’s two years in power. “Modi govt spend on ads for jst ONE event 2 yr bash? Sources- more than Rs 1000cr. All Del govt depts total spend less than 150cr for full yr,” Kejriwal said in a tweet. The Delhi Chief Minister in another tweet asked as to how much money the government is spending over the function. The accusation of the Delhi Chief Minister comes after the Congress accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of extravagant spending for self-promotion in the last three months. “An RTI has revealed that between February 10 and May 10, Arvind Kejriwal has spent Rs. 14.5 crore of taxpayers money on advertisements published in newspapers only,” Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters here. “However, the Delhi government has yet not given the amount spent on TV, radio ads and publicity hoardings but as per calculation, Kejriwal has spent approximately Rs.100 crore on all sorts of ads,” she added. Recently, an RTI query revealed that the Kejriwal government is spending around Rs 16 lakh per day on print advertising. As per the reply, the current Delhi government has spent Rs 14.45 crore on advertising, excluding broadcast. (New Kerala 26/5/16)

Second RTI appeals pile up at info panels across state (1)

Aurangbad: The pendency of second appeals made under the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005 has touched 32,644 in the state, affecting the implementation of the transparency legislation. Latest data from the state information commission shows that Pune and Amravati divisions have maximum number of pendency of second appeals, followed by Nashik. At Aurangabad, the pendency of these appeals has crossed 3,700 mark. Pune and Amravati SIC benches have 7,502 and 7,433 second appeals pending, respectively. Nashik division has 6,727 pending second appeals, followed by Konkan (4,228), Aurangabad (3,714), Greater Mumbai (1,973), Nagpur (849) and Mumbai (218) RTI activists said the vacant posts of the information commissioner on State Information Commission (SIC) benches in different divisions were one of the key reasons behind the high number of pending second appeals. Three of the eight SIC benches in different parts of Maharashtra do not have full-time information commissioners for a long time now. V D Patil, information commissioner for Nagpur bench of SIC, has been given additional charge of Aurangabad and Amravati divisions. Similarly, R J Jadhav, information commissioner of Pune bench, is also looking after Nashik division. When contacted, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said the government has no legal hurdles like in past while making appointments of the information commissioners. “Given pending litigation in the court, the government was reluctant to make necessary appointments for last several months. As our knowledge, the government is now free to make appointments,” he said. Kumbhar also claimed that the SIC benches were adopting a bureaucratic approach while handling second appeals under the RTI Act…  (Times of India 29/5/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

50% children irregular in school: Survey (11)

GUWAHATI, April 30 – A baseline survey conducted among 10,000 children from 10 tea gardens across four blocks of Sonitpur district revealed that around 50 per cent of the children in the tea gardens do not attend schools regularly. Also, among the sample schools (surveyed), only 30 per cent of them adhere to the pupil-teacher ratio as per the Right to Education Act. In a media consultation on ‘Protecting the rights of children of tea plantation workers in Assam: a call for joint action’ organised here today by ‘Save the Children’ in association with PAJHRA and People’s Action for Development, it was also stated that there is a provision of only a few crèches in the tea gardens, of which many are non functional. “With 90 per cent of the adolescent girls believed to be anaemic, the health quotient of the tea garden population has been found wanting,” said Chittapriyo Sadhu, General Manager, Save the Children, while interacting with mediapersons. The education opportunities for the children are also limited with only a few lower primary schools and lack of access to higher education. “Besides, only 30 per cent of the schools have provisions for separate toilets for girl children, which eventually leads to increase drop out among girls,” the survey revealed. “The survey also found several other gross violations of education and health rights,” he added. Wilfred Topno of People’s Action for Development said, “Just because they are born in tea gardens, they should not be deprived of basic entitlements. The basic benefits have to be ensured.” Topno, replying to a query, said that the explanations given by various stakeholders for not providing space for construction of schools by the Government in the tea gardens, does not hold good as several tea estates in West Bengal have already shown the way. Among other initiatives, the consultation stressed on the need to facilitate convergence between line departments including Department of Child and Women Development, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Labour Commissionerate, Education Department, Panchayat representatives and members from other civil society organisations. (The Assam Tribune 1/5/16)

116 students fail, school blames ‘no-detention policy’ (11)

ALIGARH: Out of 302 students that appeared for class 9th exam in a CBSE board school, 116 of them failed. The students, teachers and parents were in for a shock when the result came out. Parents created ruckus in the school premise questioning the role of the teachers. The school principal Zakia Siddiqui soon called a meeting with the parents and told them that letter has been written to the authorities asking for a solution. Addressed to the Regional Office of the Board in Dehradun, the letter mentions: Due to the no-detention policy of RTE Act we are promoting the students from class 1 to class 8th and a large group of weak students are in class 9th. A number of students are failed in class 9th and as per CBSE rules, the failed students have been given compartment examinations. Those who are failed in one or two subjects are allowed to repeat in the same class. The students who are failed in more than two subjects are asked to look for another school.”Seeking the opinion of the officer, Siddiqui writes in the letter: Those who are very poor and secured almost 15 % marks should they be allowed to take another examination?” Awaiting the reply from the authorities, Siddiqui said, “We will see if something can be done.” There are five section in class 9th and 302 appeared for the tests. Out of those who appeared 40 have been asked to repeat and other 76 have been told to leave the school. Some parents are unhappy about this, one of them said, “Who will give them admission now- the school should look into this – what went wrong with teaching?” Siddiqui said, “The no-detention policy of the RTE hampered setting the learning level. Students did not take assessments seriously. Now when class 9th result is upon them they are alleging us of mal practice. Foundation of some is still not strong.” Last year 18 States demanded “required amendments” in this policy of Right to Education (RTE) Act, recommendations were made to the Central government to have the policy revoked. (Times of India 4/5/16)

Maharashtra second-largest recipient of education grants for minorities (11)

Mumbai: Maharashtra has been the second-largest recipient of grants provided by the Centre for educational upliftment of minorities, revealed a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report. Between 2008-09 and 2013-14, Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) – an organisation established under the minority affairs ministry to promote education among the backward communities – distributed Rs 9.38 crore to 68 NGOs in the state. The state also ranked fourth, in terms of availing scholarship for girls from minority communities. According to the report, Uttar Pradesh (UP) received the biggest share, with 255 NGOs in the state being allotted Rs 30.79 crore — 35.8% of the total allocation of Rs 85.94 crore. The data also shows that about three-fourths of the Rs 85.94 crore has gone to six states — UP, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, AP and Haryana. A few districts have received disproportionately high share of grants. During 2008-09 to 2013-14, Malappuram in Kerala, Moradabad in UP and Gurgaon in Haryana has each received around 25 grants aggregating between Rs 3.65 crore and Rs 4.04 crore. The report also revealed that 12,095 girls from minority communities in Maharashtra have availed the Maulana Azad Scholarship between 2003-04 and 2013-14. UP, Kerala and West Bengal lead the list, having received 21%, 14% and 9% of the total scholarships. Last year, the minority affairs ministry had asked TISS to suggest ways to make MAEF’s funds disbursal mechanism more efficient. The institute has submitted its recommendations in the report, ‘Revisioning Maulana Azad Foundation’. “The report, through several statistics, has highlighted the need to support minorities in higher education. We have suggested several ways to MAEF can function more efficiently with its current resources,” said Bino Paul, a professor from TISS who co-authored the report. (Hindustan Times 5/5/16)

Jawarharlal Nehru’s name removed from class VIII and XI textbooks in Rajasthan (11)

JAIPUR: Chapters penned by India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru have been removed from revised text books for class VIII and XI in Rajasthan. The revision of text books for government schools began last year, two years after the BJP came to power in the state, and were completed in January this year. ‘Bharat-Mata’, a chapter taught in the Hindi text book for class XI, taken from Nehru’s Discovery of India, has now been axed in the revised Hindi textbook, a copy of which is with TOI. Chapters by renowned artist and Padma Vibushan Syed Haider Raza’s ‘Aatma Ka Tap’ and author Krishna Sobti’s ‘Miya Nasruddin’ have also been dropped by the textbook revise committee formed by the education minister Vasudev Devnani. Extracts in the form of two chapters – Baroda Ka Boarding School and Ranipur Bazaar from the life sketch of late controversial painter Maqbool Fida Hussain – is also missing. Notable additions include former RSS chief KC Sudershan’s ‘Dhara and Environment’ and convenor of Gujarat based and RSS-backed Punarutthan Vidyapeeth Indumati Katdare. Nehru’s chapter was part of compulsory Hindi literature book Aaroh which has been replaced by a new book Apra in class XI. The chapter had brief description about Nehru’s political career and achievements. Former textbook rewriting committee members revealed that they were told to remove chapters authored by Muslim writers and those chapters which had Muslim characters.Revised Hindi textbooks for Class XI, which are not yet available in the market, have also done away with a chapter by artist Syed Haider Raza. The chapter by Raza, known for his art work around Indian spiritual system, had a summary of his autobiography. Prominent Urdu writer Ismat Chugtai’s chapter ‘Kamchor’ has also been erased from the class VIII textbook, while a chapter by RSS ideologue and Rajya Sabha member Tarun Vijay’s Kailesh Mansarovar has been included in class IX. Another inclusion has been Katdare’s Bhartiya Jeevan Darshan and Sanskriti which talks about life from the context of Indian values.TOI has earlier reported that revised textbooks have downsized the role of Congress leaders in the struggle for independence. And it is not just the case of books for class XI. In fact, Nehru’s name has been removed from text books for most classes. The textbook revision for classes IX to XII has been done by Rajasthan Board for Secondary Education, while the revision for books from class I to VIII has been done by the State Institute of Education Research and Training (SIERT), Udaipur. Brajmohan Ramdev, chairman of SIERT has claimed that changes in textbooks were made without any political and religious biases. While defending the move to drop prefix ‘Great’ from Akbar, Ramdev said, “Maharana Pratap character had more shades than Akbar. If Pratap is greater than Akbar, what’s wrong in that?” (Times of India 8/5/16)

School slaps Rs 1 crore defamation notice on parent ‘for lowering its goodwill’ (11)

Agra: A minority education institution filed a defamation notice and sought Rs 1 crore from a student, after his father took legal recourse against the school accusing the administration of deliberately failing his son in Class 8. While the student’s father claims the school “purposely” failed his son as he had once opposed the school’s “illegal demand” for money, school authorities said the father’s allegation was “false and frivolous”.At the heart of the dispute is the no-detention policy in schools enforced under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Referring to the RTE Act which enshrines continuous promotion of students till Class 8, the father said, “I had no choice but to send a legal notice to the school on April 18 for not promoting my son to the next class,” said the father, a motor mechanic by profession. The father also accused the school of not disclosing his son’s exam marks. “I approached the Joint Director Education of Agra. The official asked the school to divulge my son’s exam transcript, but to no avail,” he claimed. The father also showed TOI a letter from the ministry of human resource development (dated August 27), which states that “prohibition of holding back” students applies to minority institutions too.It is important to recall that in September 2014, the Centre had added two provisions in the RTE Act, which mandated minority institutions to follow the no-detention policy despite a Supreme Court directive exempting them from the law. Meanwhile, the school’s defamation notice sought Rs 1 crore as damages for “lowering the goodwill of the school” within 15 days, along with 1% interest every month. The notice said the school would launch a legal action against the parent if the amount was not paid within the stipulated time.The defamation notice, which was sent to the parent on May 6, states that the provisions of the HRD ministry’s circular are “not binding in nature nor it is the law of land” and “not enforceable against the said institution, being minority institution based on religion”. It also stated that the “academic root of the student (name withheld) was very weak and at the request of his father, the institute issued a transfer certificate (TC) to his son”. .. (Times of India 10/5/16)

Authority to enforce implementation of fee Acts (11)

Mumbai: The education department has finally decided to enforce the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act and the decades-old Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act 1987 by appointing an implementing authority for the same. According to officials, the absence of an implementing authority had given schools a free run, but this would end with the setting up of the committee that would start functioning in June. The Acts, one of which was enacted in 1987, have been ineffective due to the absence of an implementing authority. According to Laxmikant Pande, joint director, Administration, Estimate and Planning, Commissionerate of Education, the laws enacted were strong enough to curb the commercialisation of education and exploitation of parents by the schools. “The Acts plug all the possible avenues for schools to charge and recover excess fees from students and their parents. As there was no implementing authority (of) the various clauses of the Acts, they remained ineffective. However, this will soon change as a committee that will be headed by a retired judge is being constituted as the implementing authority,” said Mr Pande. The committee, he added, would be empowered to hear complaints and issue orders against errant schools as per the Act. The committee would direct the police and the local education inspector to take action. The two Acts were aimed at curbing the recovery of huge amounts in the form of donations at the time of admission and the arbitrary increase of fees by school managements every year. As the Acts were not being implemented, parents were forced to go to court that directed the government to enforce the laws but the same remained partially fulfilled. Welcoming the move, Jayant Jain, president of the Forum For Fairness in Education, said, “If it happens it will be a boon to aggrieved parents, and it put an end to the high-handedness of the schools. The Acts are restrictive, but in the absence of an implementing authority, schools were getting away with flouting the very clauses of the Act. In the past 30 years of the Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act being enacted, only three cases have been registered, but now it will hopefully be different.” However, Bharat Malik, member of Private Unaided Schools Managements Association (PUSMA) said that the committee would only lead to increase in corruption and take away the autonomy of the private schools. “While there may be a few elite schools that resort to exploitation, most of our budget schools that are not run for profit will be badly hit. It will lead to more litigation and increase in corruption,” Mr Malik said. (Asian Age 12/5/16)

Corporal punishment: Nine school girls faint (11)

Chandigarh: Nine girls studying in Class VII of government school in a village of Jind district were rushed to hospital after they fainted following corporal punishment by a teacher. The incident took place in government girls senior secondary school in Lijwana Kalan village under Julana sub-division of Jind on Friday. Parents of the girls alleged that the teacher made the students do a 1,000 sit-ups as punishment for not doing their homework due to which they fainted and were taken to Jind civil hospital for treatment. They alleged that the harsh punishment was administered by vocational teacher Seema Rani. As the news spread, parents rushed to the school. Fearing the situation could go worse, school principal lodged a complaint against Seema at Julana police station. A case under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Section 17 of Juvenile Justice Act and Section 17 of Right To Education (RTE) Act has been registered against Seema. According to information, the incident occurred before the noon break when Seema was taking the class. The students were discharged from the hospital on Friday late evening. “Seema claims that she had asked for only 10 sit-ups as a punishment whereas the students exgerrated the matter before their parents. I informed the village sarpanch as well and shifted students to the hospital for treatment,” said principal Satish Kumar. When contacted, Julana SHO Samundar Singh said that a woman sub-inspector was investigating the case. (Times of India 15/11/16)

Over 9,000 kids out of school in Karnataka (14)

Bengaluru: With less than a fortnight to go for schools to re-open, as many as 9,012 children across Karnataka are out of school, according to a survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Termed Out of school children (OOSC), the highest number of dropouts are in Ballari (2,018), followed by Bengaluru South (1,462), Mysuru (1,002), Kalaburagi (993) and Yadgir (429). OOSC are defined as children in the age group of 7-13 years who have drifted away from the school campus, mostly due to parental pressure and poverty. The survey was conducted in January and February 2016. SSA followed it up with efforts to mainstream the children in March and April and so far, 456 children are engaged in bridge courses, to return to school.According to Kripa Alva, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, one of the major reasons children are away from school is child labour. “Bag making, hotels, garage and garment units hire children in Bengaluru.That’s when their education is compromised. Through the commission we are promoting `Shale Kade Nanna Nade’ (my walk towards school) to bring dropouts back to school. This campaign is going on across Karnataka will be on till June 10,” she said.Over 60% of the OOSC are girls, points out N Kodanda Ramaiah, deputy project coordinator, Bengaluru South district of education department.”From April 5 we started the bridge course at five tent schools in Bengaluru South district alone.Parents are reluctant to admit they took their children out of school but when we explain to them the importance of education, they are convinced. The whole issue requires a follow-up.Bengaluru South has seen an increase in construction activity.That does not mean all OOSC children are child labourers. They may be made to stay home to tend to their younger siblings, at the cost of their studies, when their parents go to work,” he said. In Bengaluru South alone, 219 children have joined the bridge course. (Times of India 16/5/16)

3,000 government primary schools across Karnataka to be shut (11)

BENGALURU: The state government has decided to shut down over 3,000 government primary schools which have less student strength. As per the decision taken at the government level, government-run primary schools which have less than 10 admissions will be closed down this academic year and as per the information available from the Department of Public Instructions, there are 3,000 such schools. Based on the number of students admitted in government primary schools during the academic year 2015-16, the department has prepared a report recommending closure of over 3,000 schools where the students strength is less than 10.Though the government is shutting down the schools, it is trying to justify itself by saying, “We are not closing them down, we are merging them.” A senior official of the department told Express, “We will not close down the schools, we will merge the schools which have lesser strength with the nearby schools.” In the state, there are over 44000 government  primary schools and of that, there are even schools which have zero admissions, single digit admissions and thousands of schools have less than 20 admissions. The department officials feels that the introduction of Right to Education Act (RTE) has also had its impact on admissions at government schools. “From last few years thousands of students who used to get admissions at govenrment schools turned towards private schools under RTE 25% quota and this also is one of the reason behind decreasing strength at government schools,” said an official. (New Indian Express 21/5/16)

14,735 students admitted under RTE ACT in Ahmedabad (11)

AHMEDABAD: A total of 14,735 students were given admission under RTE Act in the district of Ahmedabad. Of these, 10,145 students were granted admission in Ahmedabad city. The city District Education officer AK Rathod said that a total of 17,000 forms were distributed under RTE but out of these, only 11,044 forms were received back from applicants. After scrutiny, 10,145 students were given permission for admission. 2,448 were from BPL card-holding families, 2,741 from Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes; and 2,389 from Other Backward Classes. The rest were general category students. There are a total 767 schools in the city – 440 are Gujarati medium schools; 77 Hindi medium; 248 English medium; and there are also two Urdu medium schools. Ahmedabad rural DEO, Mahesh Mehta, said 4,590 admissions were confirmed in 697 schools of the district. Additionally, he said that they had not received many complaints regarding the admissions so far. “There was only one complaint and that was from Charodi Gurukul where parents had alleged that the school was charging high fees. We spoke to the school, and the matter has been sorted out,” said Mehta. Rahod said that apart from admission in schools located in children’s respective wards, the DEO will conduct a review each week of the admissions at different schools. If there are any problems, they will be addressed immediately, he said. Rathod further stated that the schools have been informed that they cannot charge high fees from the students. “If any school charges hig fees or asks students for more money than necessary, action will be taken,” he said. (Times of India 23/5/16)

Educationists to file PIL against use of new books (11)

Jaipur: After a two-day gathering to examine the contents of the new textbooks to be introduced in Rajasthan schools from the next academic session, alarmed educationists and social scientists say they will file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court seeking that these books not be used. Educationists feel the flaws in the books are too deep to be rectified. Quite apart from numerous typological errors, experts found Sanskrit shlokas were used to spice up a chapter on biodiversity in the Class VIII science textbook. The Indus Valley Civilization, in the Class IX social science text, is repeatedly referred to as the Sindhu-Saraswati Culture; a reference to satellite images is made, to affirm to children that the river Saraswati flows underground. There is however, little scientific evidence offered to back claims that this river did indeed exist. This text also claims that Lord Krishna’s brother Balaram made a pilgrimage to the banks of river Sindhu. This generous dose of unscientific material in a textbook is bound to leave impressionable children confused, experts said. Educationist Komal Srivastava pointed out that the science text for Class VIII has retained the information on plant reproduction, but there is no mention of animal or human fertility. Meat has been mentioned as a source of protein, but the images are all of eggs and pulses. Apoorvanand of Hindi department of Delhi University, who was part of the group that analyzed the text over two days, said, “One Hindi lesson has a few riddles. One is about a man approaching an ascetic and telling him that he is fed up of his wife. What could he do? The sadhu responds: ‘You think I’d turn sadhu if I knew?’”Apoorvanand expressed disappointment that kids were encouraged to scour for such riddles that celebrated misogyny. He remarked also on the cover of one of the texts, which had a large number of mustachioed men and little else. “To put it rather mildly, these are rather ‘confused’ books,” Apoorvanand told TOI over phone from Delhi. “I grew up in Bihar, where we were told the camel is the ship of the desert. In textbooks in Rajasthan, we found numerous cows and no camels! No opportunity to slip in Hindu nationalism seemed to have been allowed to slip. There is even one lesson in a Hindi textbook on Sardar Patel – and more than three quarters of the narrative has to do with the restoration of the Somnath temple, as if that was the most important of his achievements.” Experts also questioned the need for new textbooks, printed at an estimated cost of Rs 350 crore, when the older ones had been in use only for about two years. (Times of india 26/5/16)

Govt in slumber, 657 primary schools face shutdown (11)

BENGALURU: Blame it on parents’ growing inclination towards private schools or government’s apathy, more Kannada medium primary schools in the state are staring at a bleak future. If the government fails to improve the situation forthwith, 657 schools where the students’ strength is very low (between 0 and 5) are likely to be shut down this year. Last year, 654 schools were closed. There are 1,000 schools with students’ strength between 5 and 10, and 15,000 schools with 0 and 30. This means by next academic year, more schools are likely to come under the 0-5 category. Out of 44,110 primary schools, only 337 are fairly packed with 500 and above students. A senior official in primary and education department said after the introduction of the Right to Education (RTE) quota, parents are attracted to English medium private schools. Due to closing down of schools, 15,000 teachers had to be shifted to other schools last year. If this trend continues, it will affect recruitment of new teachers, said a source in the department.Every year, around one lakh students from economically poor sections join private schools under RTE quota.VP Niranjan Aradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, said introduction of RTE cannot be the only reason for decreasing strength in government primary schools. “The department should teach English effectively. The competency level of English teachers must be good. By correcting these mistakes, the department can check the decline of government schools,” he said. Echoing the same, D Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of Government Recognized English Medium Schools in Karnataka (KAMS), said: “Even before RTE was implemented in 2012, the admission to government private schools had been dipping by around 10 to 20%. Lack of quality teaching has to blamed. This could be the reason why many government school teachers are also sending their children to private schools.” (Times of India 30/5/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Food Security far cry as paper hunt consumes poor (21)

AHMEDABAD: For Leela Angari, 56, a resident of Jadi Chimbal village near Khedbrahma in Sabarkantha district, the ordeal to get her name on the list of beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act, 2013, has been on for over a month. “I was not included in the original list and when we approached Mamlatdar, we were told to furnish seven documents including details of whether we earn more than Rs 10,000 per month and whether anybody pays income tax. Apart from all these, I also have to furnish an affidavit,” said Angari. She said that the primary issue is, all the documents are to be procured from different offices and for the affidavit, they generally have to go outside the village which takes time. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report on April 29 assessing implementation of the Act where Gujarat gets mentioned just once -`Gujarat cited variations in SECC (Socio-Economic Caste Census) data and total population of the state as per census 2011as a reason for delay in implementation of NFSA.’ Neeta Hardikar of Ah medabad-based ANANDI said that Gujarat was not covered in the report as it has started implementing the Public Distribution System (PDS) entitlements only from April 1, 2016. “There have been two rounds of statelevel meetings of ASAA Gujarat since, and there are glaring gaps, repetition of old mistakes in identification and general chaos on grievance redressal for coverage of priority households under PDS,” she said. The beneficiaries have to submit the documents mentioned to get 5 kg of grain per head per month -4 kg whe at, 750 grams rice and 250 grams of coarse grains -rates of up to Rs 3 per kg. Joseph Pateliya of HDRC said that the primary issue is non-inclusion of a number of families in the last SECC in Gujarat. “As per projections, around 75% of the rural population in India would be beneficiaries of the scheme but on ground, the reality is very different.Those who are omitted have to go through a long ordeal to get their due which is not only frustrating but also against the heart of the law,” he said. NGOs said that they have time and again raised the issue of both NFSA and Antyoday Yojna beneficiaries with the state administration and MLAs representing tribal areas but so far they have not got encouraging results. (Times of India 3/5/16)

‘Food security act not available for vulnerable tribal groups’ (21)

New Delhi: The government’s “inability” to implement the Food Security Act among the ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ in India has resulted in a drop in their population, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) head Rameshwar Oraon has said. The former union minister of state for tribal affairs, who took over as chairperson of NCST in 2013, has also questioned the existence of many such PVGT communities if the government does not consider the seriousness of the issue. “Food security is not at all available to the tribals. It is a major problem as far as the question of their existence is concerned. The government is not understanding that the PVTGs are very vulnerable community and there is a big question on their existence if the food security programme continues to elude them,” Oraon said. Recounting that when he was on a recent official visit to Garhwa district of Jharkhand, he was told that community members of Korwas and Parhaiyas were buying rice at Rs.20-30 per kg, a steep price for the poor communities. “I was shocked to hear that members of PVTG communities were buying their staple food –rice — at Rs.20-30 per kg. They are supposed to get all this at a very low rate under the Food Security Act. This is too costly for communities who neither have any permanent source of income nor any help from the government for economic empowerment,” said Oraon, 69, who belongs to the Congress and was MoS Tribal Affairs during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule. The Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) (earlier known as Primitive tribal group) is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the condition of certain communities with particularly low development indices. The Jharkhand leader, who became a politician after relinquishing a career with the Indian Police Service, also said the NCST will conduct a comprehensive study of the PVTGs across the country to properly check their state of vulnerability and submit the results to the government.”Looking at the deteriorating situation of the PVTGs, our commission will be making a comprehensive study of their problems and living conditions. We will submit the outcome to the government to comply with its recommendations. The studies available on such communities now are haphazard,” said Oraon….  (IndiaTV News 4/5/16)

Man dies of ‘starvation’; UP CM grants compensation (21)

LUCKNOW: Pushed on the back foot after a Dalit man died of alleged starvation in drought-hit Bundelkhand, Uttar Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on late Wednesday evening announced Rs 5 lakh as in gratia compensation to the deceased’s kin. The State government also ordered an inquiry into the reported starvation death of Nathu Prasad (40), a resident of Aila village in Naraini tehsil of Banda on Wednesday. Mr. Yadav’s action came after heavy criticism from opposition parties who accused the government of failing to provide proper relief to drought-affected persons. Fifty districts of Uttar Pradesh, including all seven of Bundelkhand, currently reel under drought. While not terming it a case of starvation, Mr. Yadav expressed his grief at Nathu Prasad’s death under “unusual circumstances.” Nathu Prasad’s family claimed he had not eaten for four days. A probe is on to obtain the full details of the case and Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan has given District Magistrate Banda Yogesh Kumar 24 hours to submit his report. Coming down heavily on officials for laxity in drought relief measures, Mr. Ranjan has warned them to ensure that are no starvation deaths. In case such incidents are reported, the concerned district magistrate would be held responsible, a government spokesperson said. The government had so far been patting its own back for drought relief measures but the incident has pushed it on the defensive. As news of the alleged starvation death broke, the BJP had launched an attack on the SP government saying that it had failed to provide relief to drought-hit people in Bundelkhand. BJP state president Keshav Prasad Maurya described the “starvation death” sad and shameful. He said the State government was not serious in getting the relief sent by the Centre to the deserved beneficiaries in Bundelkhand. In a meeting with officials of various drought-affected districts, Mr. Ranjan also expressed his displeasure at the slow rate of distribution of funds—out of the Rs 867 crore allotted as relief only Rs 52 crore had been so far distributed in the affected districts. Mr. Ranjan has given the district magistrates of the affected districts 10 days to ensure the distribution of the rest of the funds to farmers. He also urged officials to ensure that at least one pond was kept alive in all villages so that animals did not die of thirst. The SP government said it was providing Samajwadi Drought Relief food packets to 2.30 lakh Antodyaya families. Also, under the Food Security Act, which was implemented last month, the beneficiaries would get free food for four months. The government said that to resolve the drinking water crisis in the parched region, it had announced installation of 3226 India Mark-2 handpumps in the seven districts. More than 400 water tankers have also been set in motion, a government spokesperson said. Last week, the government also released Rs 102 as relief to farmers in 12 districts where crops were damaged due to hailstorm. The list includes some districts of Bundelkhand. While farmers in Banda would get Rs. 3.28 crore, Mahoba will get Rs. 4.28 crore, Hamirpur Rs. 7.87 crore and Jalaun Rs. 38.57 crore as compensation. (The Hindu 5/5/16)

25L BPL card holders to get free LPG: CM (21)

Raipur: Around 25 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families will get free LPG connections in Chhattisgarh under Prime minister Ujjawala scheme. The announcement in this regard was made by chief minister Raman Singh on Friday. Ujjwala, the Modi government’s flagship scheme for empowering BPL women, has halved the cost of LPG stoves to Rs 990 to ease the burden on the poor households. The reduction has possibly been brought about through bulk procurement for the scheme, under which LPG connection would be provided free of cost in the name of women from five crore BPL households over the next three years. Talking to media at Raipur airport, chief minister Raman Singh said that 25 lakh households will get LPG connections for free in the financial year 2016-17. The BPL families will be identified on the basis of government data. “Use of LPG would help improve the health of women folk of BPL households that still use unhealthy fuels such as firewood and leaves, dried cowdung cakes, kerosene and coal. LPG would also reduce the time of cooking, allowing women more time for productive work,” said Raman Singh adding that the scheme will also create jobs through the appointment of LPG distributorship and delivery chains. Chief minister also met central petroleum and energy minister Dhamrendra Pradhan, who was in Raipur on Saturday, and discussed the proposal related to the scheme. Pradhan while talking to media said that Chhattisgarh is the first state in India which agreed to participate in the central scheme. “The government is planning to set up a bottling plant in Tilda to produce some 2.5 lakh LPG cylinders. Some more areas are also being identified to set up bottling plants. The state will also get 250 new LPG distribution centers,” said Dharmendra Pradhan. (Times of India 8/5/16)

KFC India launches programme to fight malnutrition (21)

New Delhi: Aiming to fight hunger and malnutrition in the country, KFC India on Wednesday launched ‘Add Hope’ initiative to create awareness and raise funds to provide meals to underprivileged children. It expects to provide 20 million meals by 2020. The company will do this with the help of three partners — World Food Program (WFP), Akshaya Patra Foundation and India Food Banking Network (IFBN). “One out of every four children in India is malnourished. We are a food company and it’s our privilege and responsibility to address the issue of hunger where millions of children go days without a proper meal,” said Rahul Shinde, managing director, KFC India. Starting May 16, consumers can feed a hungry child by adding Rs.5 to their bill. (Business Standard 11/5/16)

Kerala’s social indicators better than US: Congress (21)

New Delhi:  The Congress on Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s jibe comparing Kerala to Somalia, contending the southern state’s social indicators are better than many developed countries including the US. “We know that in education, health, female literacy, women empowerment, infant mortality – in all matters of social development, Kerala is number one in the country – far, far ahead of Gujarat,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told reporters here. “Today the quality of life and social indicators of Kerala are better than most countries in the world including the United States,” he said, accusing Modi of “making outrageous statements which must be condemned by all right-thinking Indians”.”This prime minister makes statements that are blatantly false, he lies with the straight face and he lies because it is in his nature,” he said, calling the comparison of Kerala to Somalia an “insult to all of India”. (Business Standard 12/5/16)

Chandy should apologise for ‘starvation’ deaths in Kerala:Shah (21)

Thiruvananthapuram, May 14 () BJP today demanded an apology from Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for the continuing deaths of children in the state’s tribal areas due to poverty and starvation.   “Forget the comparison. I am telling you for the deaths of two children yesterday…Chief Minister should apologise. Children are dying. Isn’t this an issue in Kerala?”, BJP President Amit Shah said when asked about Chandy demanding an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Somalia-Kerala remark.      “The issue is not what someone has said. The issue is about starvation deaths and condition of tribal children in the state,” Shah told reporters at a press conference here. The BJP supremo was pointing at the two deaths of new born children at a tribal colony in Waynad district yesterday.   Replying to another query, he said there was no starvation deaths of children in Gujarat. “Don’t make wrong statements. If you have data, show me,” he said. An English magazine in 2013 had published a report about starvation deaths in Kerala. The “insensitive” Chief Minister had given a reply stating that “people are dying as they are not eating properly,” Shah claimed. The magazine had quoted Culture Affairs Minister K C Joseph as saying that the deaths were due to alcohol consumption among tribal families.    The BJP leader urged journalists to visit Attapady, a tribal settlement in Palakkad district, where several instances of infant deaths due to malnutrition have been reported and tell the truth.  “If there are no deaths, print it. But if children have died of starvation, then the Chief Minister should explain why children are dying. It is very easy to create controversy with figures. Please go and visit the place”, he said, adding, starvation deaths cannot be hidden by using mere datas.  “Gareebon ki bhook, bhok hoti hai, Mritiyu, Mritiyu hoti hai. Aakando se ye chipaya nahi jata (starvation of the poor is starvation and deaths are deaths. It cannot be hidden under figures),” he said, adding Chandy government has the responsibility to address the issue.

The government of India is sending food-grains to the state. “Where has it gone? Why has it not reached the tribal children?” the BJP chief asked.  (Times of India 14/5/16)

PIL for Food Security Act implementation:HC seeks Centres (21)

New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today sought responses of the Centre and Delhi government on a PIL seeking directions to them to implement National Food Security Act which aims to provide subsidized foodgrains to 75 per cent of rural and 50 per cent of urban population. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Delhi government on the plea by an NGO which has alleged that various provisions of the Act have not yet been implemented. As per the PIL of NGO Veterans Forum For Transparency In Public Life, one of the provisions which has not been implemented deals with providing every pregnant woman and lactating mother free meals during pregnancy and six months after the child birth through the local anganwadi so as to meet nutritional standards. It has alleged that Delhi government has “failed to create and maintain scientific storage facilities at state, district and block levels sufficient to accommodate foodgrains required under the Targeted Public Distribution System and other food based welfare schemes”.The PIL also alleged that Delhi government has “failed to conduct or cause to be conducted, periodic social audits on the functioning of fair price shops”.The petition also said that under the Act, every state government has to constitute a State Food Commission for the purpose of monitoring and review of implementation of the Act but Delhi government has “failed to do so till date” despite the Act being implemented here since September 1, 2013. (India Today 17/5/16)

Centre asks states to implement Direct Benefit Transfer for food subsidy (21)

New Delhi: Pitching for direct transfer of food subsidy, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Saturday asked states to initiate a pilot programme in at least some districts to pay cash directly to ration card holders. “The government is implementing Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme for LPG subsidy. We wish DBT should be implemented for food subsidy as well,” Paswan said, addressing a state food ministers conference on price rise.The direct transfer of food subsidy would enable ration card holders to purchase their choice of foodgrain from the market and also reduce the subsidy bill with reduction in cost of transportation and handling of foodgrains. Under the food security law, the Centre is supplying foodgrains at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 1-3/kg to 72.46 crore beneficiaries in 33 states and union territories. Three states are yet to roll out the law. Already, DBT for food subsidy is being implemented fully in Chandigarh and Puducherry and in some areas of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Paswan said. “I urge all other states and union territories to implement DBT on a pilot basis in some selective districts if not in the entire state,” he added. Highlighting the benefits of DBT, the minister said, “Implementation of cash transfer of food subsidy will reduce transportation cost of foodgrains from Punjab and Haryana. There will not be complaints from poor people that quality grains is not being supplied in ration shops.” He said the government provides about Rs 1.30 lakh crore food subsidy annually and it should reach the right beneficiaries. He also said that foodgrains worth Rs 10,000 crore have been better targeted because of elimination of ineligible ration cards. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which came into force from July 5, 2013, over 81 crore beneficiaries will be legally entitled to get cheaper foodgrains from ration shops when the law is implemented across the country. (Indian Express 22/5/16)

Poverty, superstition take their toll on Sangola women’s health (21)

Sangola (Solapur): Kushala Dadaso Sangolkar can split her 34 years of life in two halves — the first in which toiled at a sugarcane factory or on a farm, bore children and took care of the household work. The second half of her life began 11 years ago, when she was 23 and underwent a hysterectomy. Life, as she had known it, changed since then. “I have to work harder, longer now to repay the loan I took for the operation. But my body is giving way. My joints and back ache all the time,” she says. Karande vasti, where Kushala lives, is located in the Sangola taluka of Solapur district. It is a small hamlet with barely 25 homes. But in each family a woman or two has undergone hysterectomy.Widespread practice The widespread practice in a small taluka such as Sangola could well be anecdotal evidence of what is clearly a national concern. What makes it different here, however, is that doctors have been prescribing hysterectomies for making it almost a rite of passage where a woman undergoes the procedure once she is through with her reproductive “duty” of giving birth to children. Also, in this part of western Maharashtra, hysterectomies are not rooted in medical malpractice alone. Superstitious beliefs around the menstrual cycle have made hysterectomies rather acceptable. Also, in this water-scarce region where women migrate to work in sugarcane factories or in road construction work, periods are a financial strain as they mean loss of wages for five days. Sarika Raju Kalgurde, 23, has just come back to her village Hatkarmangewadi after putting in six months of work at a sugarcane factory. She says it is a labour-intensive job and the work hours are unpredictable. Last year, Sarika underwent a hysterectomy, a procedure a private doctor prescribed to cure her of irregular menstrual cycles and white discharge. She readily agreed as she had had two children. Besides, her mother, Jhimbhai (38), too had undergone a hysterectomy more than a decade ago. Most importantly, the decision took care of the five days of being ostracised. “During periods, we are made to sit outside the hut, also served food outside in separate vessels,” she says. Doing physical labour during periods was difficult. “So my parents sold their animals and pawned their jewellery for this operation that cost us Rs 43,000.”Awareness is missing in the villages of Sangola. Child marriages are common, which explains why women undergo the procedure in their early twenties. Susheela Samadhan Hipurkar, 26, married at 14, had three children, and underwent a hysterectomy two years ago. She is now working as a farm labour. “I have no time to rest,” she says. (The Hindu 22/5/16)

No help from govt or mine owners for silicosis-afflicted (21)

Budhpura village, Bundi : Almost all those affected with silicosis and living close to the stone mines in this village showed TOI above-poverty line ration cards. Many of them had not availed anything but kerosene with their cards, and some even had unstamped cards that were two years old. At 42, Lalita has a mop of grey hair and a youthful face. She is the mother of four. Her husband died of silicosis last year. Her brother-in-law Ram Swaroop now has swollen legs and is a certified patient. For him, work in the mines is no longer possible. “I should be getting a widow’s pension, but I’ve got nothing. The schools our children study in have no teachers, so the kids are back early and there’s no one asking why. The government school has just four teachers and 150 students. What kind of learning can one expect? When it comes to the ration cards, we get next to nothing on it. All of us have above-poverty-line cards, and all we can sometimes get is kerosene. And if there is a gas stove in the house, not even that,” says Lalita.The family is still to receive the Rs 3 lakh sum assured as compensation by the government to kin of those dying of the disease. Her 18-year-old son is the only one now able to work in the family. He wants to move out of the mine, but he has to repay to the mine owner over Rs 1 lakh debt incurred as treatment cost for his father. Under provisions of the Mines Act, 1952, expenses on medical examinations must be borne by the mine owner. However, since many mines use no explosives and employ less than 20 people, they are not covered under the Act. Attempts to reach Bundi district collector Naresh Thakral for reactions to these complaints over the phone proved futile. (Times of India 28/5/16)

Taking to streets to fight hunger (21)

COIMBATORE: Food Bank Coimbatore volunteers gathered near the VOC Park here on Saturday to celebrate World Hunger Day.The organisation launched by Vaishnavi Balaji in October 2015 aim to reach surplus food to the needy. A rally was held to create awareness among the masses on the need to feed hungry stomachs in and around the city. Volunteers would collect food from houses and deliver them to the needy. The participants of the rally held placards saying “Love Food Hate Waste.” They distributed food along the way. After culminating at the the park entrance, the participants of the rally led by Abdul Basith a volunteer of the organisation took a pledg to stop wastage of food. A motivational song that followed conveyed an idea of the food bank’s activities, the ways to fight hunger. A discussion helped those gathered there to understand their objective. A skit was enacted by students of CIET in order to communicate to the public the working of the organisation. R. Ranganathar a physically challenged person sponsored a tricycle to Mohammed Ismail, also a physically challenged. Says Mohammed: “I have been fed by the organisation for about six months, and now will be glad to help it.” “We are happy to share food to the hungry and find pleasure seeing them smile,” says Parvathiu Rathnagiri and Usha Baskaran home makers, and volunteers of the organisation. (The Hindu 29/5/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Govt to use Aadhaar to deliver benefits to unorganised workers (14)

New Delhi, May 2 () The government is working on a plan to offer benefits like insurance and pension to over 40 crore unorganised workers in India using Aadhaar, Jan Dhan accounts and the existing platform without going for smart cards. “In view of the near-universal coverage of Aadhaar, the government is now working on a policy on delivery of various public services using Aadhaar, Jan Dhan yojana accounts (JDY) and the existing platform without the issuance of new ‘Unorganized Workers Identification Number’ (U-WIN Card),” Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in a written reply to Lok Sabha today. According to the UIDAI portal, Aadhaar has been issued to over 100 crore residents with over 93 per cent adults having the 12-digit unique number and over 25 crore bank accounts linked with it. A senior official said that using Aadhaar can save resources and time for implementing the government’s various programmes for informal sector workers, including social security schemes. The minister also informed the House that the government has proposed a unified IT-based platform for delivery of the services available under various social security schemes. The proposal is being reviewed on the basis of remarks/comments received from various stakeholders. Earlier, the government had planned to launch a smart card scheme for over 40 crore unorganised workers in the country to provide them with various social security benefits such as insurance and pension. It wanted to provide social security to all those people who are not covered either by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) through this smart card. As per the proposal, the U-WIN card would have been a chip-based instrument to provide benefits to these workers and their families under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Atal Pension Yojana, Aam Admi Bima Yojana (AABY), Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana. The government wanted to complete the entire task of issuing smart cards to over 40 crore informal sector workers in two years. On non-distribution of the cards so far, the minister added that the registration, identification and issuance of the smart card to unorganised workers come under the purview of respective states/UTs as per the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.  (Times of India 2/5/16)

Labourers seeking work under MNREGA lathi-charged (14)

Raichur: The Raichur police lathi-charged rural labourers who were demanding work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) on Wednesday. This comes barely a fortnight after Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister H.K. Patil, during a review meeting on drought by the Cabinet sub-committee, warned officials of stringent action for denial of work under the scheme. Around 40 labourers were detained and released later. Six labourers, who were injured in the police action, were treated at Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) and later discharged. Upon the call given by Grameena Coolie Karmikara Sanghatane (GCKS), an organisation of rural labourers, around 250 workers assembled at Basaveshwara early on Wednesday. To register their protest against the non-payment of pending wages and denial of work under the scheme, they began digging holes on either side of the road to plant saplings. Though the police were informed about the protest, teams led by Deputy Superintendent of Police C.R. Neelagar raised objections and prevented the labourers. After heated exchange of words, the police force attacked labourers and detained 20 people. The police then chased others up to the official residence of Deputy Commissioner and again lathi-charged them. They detained another 20 labourers there. All of them were taken to the district police grounds. After persistent demand by the workers, the injured were taken to RIMS hospital and others were asked to leave. However, when the labourers refused to leave until the Deputy Commissioner heard them. The Superintendent of Police, who arrived at the spot, assured the labourers of initiating action against the erring police officials. “The chief executive officer of the zilla panchayat has ignored the Minister’s express directions of not denying work. We mobilised over 20,000 rural labourers and applied for jobs under MNREGA in about 80 gram panchayats. Of them, 75 per cent are yet to get jobs. Hundreds who worked under the scheme have not been paid even months after completion of work. We demanded our right and the police attacked us,” alleged Abhay Singh from GCKS. He added that a formal complaint would be lodged with the Deputy Commissioner seeking an enquiry into the unprovoked lathi-charge and action against the officer responsible for it. He also said the workers would launch an indefinite agitation from Thursday. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

Government Releases Rs 9,367 Crore Under MGNREGA to Drought-hit States(14)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has released Rs 9,367 crore to drought-hit states under MGNREGA in 2016-17, Parliament was informed today. The government has also relaxed norms under MGNREGA to provide additional employment of 50 days per household over and above the 100 days in areas affected by natural calamities during 2015-16, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. “During 2015-16 and 2016-17 (so far), Rs 18,715.01 crore and Rs 9,367.19 crore have been released, respectively, to the drought-hit states under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA),” Singh said. The minister added that the state government is primarily responsible for taking necessary relief measures in the event of natural calamities. Funds are available with the state government in the form of state disaster response fund (SDRF) and additional financial assistance is considered from the national disaster response fund (NDRF) for natural calamities of severe nature, Singh said. The government has released in advance the first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17 amounting Rs 2,551.9 crore  to the drought-affected states. Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan are reeling under drought. (New Indian Express 6/5/16)

Digital DBT aids rural job schemes (14)

NEW DELHI: The government has electronically transferred more than Rs.61,000 crore in the last financial year to March 30 through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme, Finance Ministry data showed. According to the data presented in Parliament, Rs.61,824.32 crore was transferred to 30.8 crore beneficiaries in 59 schemes. Out of this, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) payments made up Rs.25,800 crore, or 42 per cent of total DBT schemes. This also means that 85 per cent of the MGNREGA payments made in 2015-16 were done directly into the beneficiary’s bank accounts. The second largest head under which DBT transfers were made was the PAHAL scheme for the electronic transfer of LPG subsidies. The government transferred Rs.21,400 crore under the PAHAL scheme in 2015-16, which is 35 per cent of the total amount transferred through DBT. The Finance Ministry data also showed that 3.34 crore duplicate, fake, or inactive consumers were blocked under the PAHAL and related schemes as of April 1, 2015. That number may have increased since then.

Savings “The savings in LPG subsidy on account of this blocked customers, calculated at an average cash subsidy of Rs.150 taking the average cylinders used by a consumer at 6.5 comes to an estimated savings of Rs.3,300 crore in 2015-16,” according to the Finance Ministry statement. The Department of Higher Education (Rs.1,975 crore), Ministry of Minority Affairs (Rs.1,134 crore) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Rs.955 crore) were the other government agencies that made substantial payments using the DBT model. (The Hindu 8/5/16)

MGNREGA and women’s security: Need better policing, say researchers (14)

JAIPUR: There is one aspect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), launched 10 years ago, that has perhaps not been sufficiently addressed – women comprise a third of all workers under this programme, and crimes against women appear to have increased since the introduction of this programme. That, at least, is the finding of researchers Sofia Amaral and Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay of the University of Birmingham, UK, and Rudra Sensarma of IIM Kozhikode. The three researchers have authored the paper ‘Employment programmes for the poor and female empowerment: The effect of NREGS on gender-based violence in India,’ published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics. Using data from the National Crime Records Bureau and drawing inferences from household income and violence against women in studies from across the world, the authors write: “We find evidence that increased female labour participation following the NREGS has increased total gender-based violence. There have been increases in kidnappings, sexual harassment and domestic violence, while dowry deaths have decreased.” The authors note that the gender gap in India runs across several areas. Despite legislation that has increased women’s political participation, property rights and access to employment, “female labour force participation has been decreasing and ranks among the lowest, in comparison to other emerging economies”.The authors also note a paradox: Women’s education and status negatively affect enrolment in the labour market in rural areas, as traditional roles prevent women from working outside the household. The interesting finding, however, is that while other forms of violence against women increased, dowry deaths decreased since NREGS. This suggests that participation in work under NREGS can financially empower women to face pressures from the husband’s family. Dowry, the authors note, is an economically motivated crime, and could mean that the husband’s family has less need to extract payments from the bride’s. The authors also suggest that the government must pay greater attention to policing and security, as women spend more time outside the house and are more exposed to unsecured workplaces. Cases of rape, sexual harassment and abductions are more likely, under such circumstances. (Times of India 12/5/16)

Increased ex gratia mooted for rescued bonded labourers (14)

Bengaluru: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended increasing the monetary compensation for rescued bonded labourers. An ordinary bonded labourer should get Rs one lakh up from Rs 20,000, woman or child labourer Rs two lakh and disabled labourer Rs 4.5 lakh, it said. Speaking at a workshop on ‘Elimination of bonded labour” at the Vikasa Soudha here on Friday, Justice D Murugesan, a member of the commission,  suggested collection of labour cess from employers and giving it to the released labourers. Justice Murugesan emphasised the need to set up special courts to deal with cases of human rights violations. He said non-release of certificates was the reason for long delay in paying compensation to the sufferers. He also pointed to a flaw in the rules that the Central and state governments share the compensation of Rs 20,000. “The Centre does not release its share unless prosecution and conviction happen. This provision will defeat the purpose. We had objected to it. We should have faith in the district collectors or deputy commissioners. Why want proof of rescuing bonded labourers,” Justice Murugesan said. Many applications for compensation are pending across India, he said and suggested that districts have a corpus of Rs five lakh for the purpose. Justice Murugesan hailed Karnataka for its interest in abolishing the practice of bonded labourers. “We had six such workshops in different states but Karnataka is the only state where the minister, the chief secretary, principal secretaries, deputy commissioners and a large number of officials turned up,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Chief Secretary Arvind Jadhav said that since 2001, as many as 2,774 bonded labourers had been rescued in Karnataka, with about 2,000 labourers being rescued during 2001-02 alone. Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, H K Patil, said the government had set up a Bonded Labour Review Committee, which worked for eight months and gave 22 recommendations. The government is examining them and will implement them. He directed officials to dispose of 7,000 applications for compensation before July 30 this year. (Deccan Herald 14/5/16)

Supreme Court: Rush aid to drought zones (21)

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and state governments not to hide behind the “smokescreen of lack of funds” and ordered wide-ranging relief for drought-affected people in 12 states. These include mid-day meals during the summer vacation, addition of egg or milk to the mid-day meal menu, to universalise foodgrain rations and ensure adequate and timely release of funds for NREGA. It also ordered implementation of crop loss compensation, agricultural loan restructuring and provision for cattle fodder. These orders were passed on a petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan. The court delivered the first part of the judgment on Wednesday, where it laid down new principles for the declaration of drought. The court will continue to monitor the implementation of its orders and review it August 1. A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and N.V. Ramana, while taking food security a step forward, accepted the plea by Swaraj Abhiyan that all those living in drought-affected areas should be entitled to the benefits under the National Food Security Act. This means every household in a drought-hit area will be entitled to 5 kg foodgrain per person per month. The existing distinction of “eligible” and “non-eligible” households will no longer apply. The bench said no one will be denied foodgrains merely because he or she does not have a ration card. Alternative identifications will be accepted. The court tightened the oversight mechanisms prescribed under the National Food Security Act and ordered the appointment of food commissioners and district grievance committees. Coming down heavily on states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh that delayed implementation of NFSA inordinately, the court asked if this was permissible in our constitutional system. The court recommended to every state government that it should take appropriate measures to provide daal and cooking medium (oil), but expressed its inability to issue a binding legal order to this effect. In a major step to secure nutritional rights of children under stress, the court accepted Swaraj Abhiyan’s plea that the mid-day meal menu be supplemented with one egg or a glass of milk or other nutritional food for five days a week or at least thrice a week. In the drought-hit states, mid-day meals will be offered in schools even in the summer vacation. The court warned the government that “financial constraints shall not be an excuse for not complying” with this order. On NREGA, the bench directed the Government of India to release to state governments adequate funds under the scheme in a timely manner so that the “workforce” is paid its wages well in time. “It is regrettable that the pending wage bill for 2015-16 was cleared only during pendency of this petition. The Government of India must shape up in this regard,” it said. The bench passed strictures against the Centre for delays and “pending liabilities”, and over its failure to give due compensation for the delay in payment of wages. The court observed: “This is extremely unfortunate and certainly does not behove a welfare state in any situation, more so in a drought situation. Social justice has been thrown out of the window by the Government of India.” Here too the court has tightened its oversight mechanism with a Central Employment Guarantee Council and state councils. (Asian Age 14/5/16)

UP family rescued from bonded labour (14)

NEW DELHI: In order to earn the Rs 1 lakh that he needed for his 18-year-old daughter’s marriage scheduled for July 12, Santosh Kumar moved to Bhilwara, Rajasthan, from Chitrakoot in UP last December. He was optimistic of achieving his target because the contractor who hired him had promised high wages. He was in for a shock at Bhilwara. All he got paid, if in time too, was Rs 480 for every thousand bricks he made. In order to raise the planned amount well in time before the wedding, Kumar did double shifts and also got his wife, two daughters aged 18 and 14 and a 7-year-old son to chip in. But Kumar saw that it didn’t seem possible he would have the lakh in his pocket any time soon. “I tried very hard to save at least Rs 200 daily,” said Kumar.”But the contractors offered no food, no shelter and no help for medical expenses.” His budgeting went awry when his oneand-a-half-year-old daughter had to be treated for a month for a chest sore. With no help from the contractor, Kumar had to dip into his savings to get her medical attention. Luckily for him, he was able to escape the nightmarish situation when NGO Jai Bheem and International Justice Mission freed him and 125 other bonded labourers. They are now being sent back to their villages in UP and Rajasthan.These labourers, including around 30 who are minors, worked at a brick kiln, which the NGOs say was owned by the husband of a local politician. (Times of India 15/5/16)

Hike in wages for ‘Dak’ workers soon (14)

HYDERABAD: An estimated five lakh postal workers across the country, who are earning Rs.6,000 a month now, will soon get a minimum wage of Rs.10,000, according to Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. At the 11{+t}{+h}Federal Council of Bharat Postal Employees Federation (BPEF) here on Sunday, he said he will participate in a meeting of the Union Cabinet Sub-Committee in New Delhi on Monday and hoped that the panel will thrash out their problems by coming up with solutions aimed at utilising the human resources and the potential of postal employees better. Even as things were racing towards Digital India, Mr. Dattatreya said that the role of the frontline `Postman’ continued to be as important as it had been, all these decades. The Centre was contemplating utilising their full potential, he said, adding that this was what the panel had on its agenda. He said that the 7{+t}{+h}Pay Commission would be implemented in its amended version soon. The Union Minister said that because the subject of ‘labour’ was in the concurrent list, he would be initiating discussions with the State Government to ensure that a labourer got Rs.160 a day under the National Floor-level Minimum Wage. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Centre gives Rs.1,359.79 cr. for rural job scheme (14)

HYDERABAD: The Director of Panchayat Raj and rural Development Anita Ramachandran said that the State had received an amount of Rs 1359.79 crore from the Union Government for payment of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for 201-6-17 and all pending wage payments were being cleared. In a statement issued on Monday in response to reports on MGREGS implementation published in The Hindu , Ms Ramachandran said that the strike by field assistants of MGNREGS had also been called off last week and the labour turnout had increased. Due to hot summer, the works under the scheme were being taken up before 11 a.m. and after 4.30 p.m. During 2015-16, she said, 25.43 lakh households were provided wage employment out of 32.7 lakh households covered under the Shrama Shakti Sanghas. Also, 4.15 lakh households have completed 100 days of wage employment and 13.71 person days were generated in the financial year, “which is the highest in the last five years of implementation”.In the drought affected mandals, Ms Ramachandran said, 23 lakh wage seekers belonging to 13 lakh households were provided work during last fiscal. Similarl, 3.11 lakh households have accessed 100 days of wage employment. (The Hindu 24/5/16)

Government hikes minimum wage for contract workers to Rs 10,000 (14)

NEW DELHI: The minimum wage for contract workers has been increased to Rs 10,000 per month, Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya said on Monday. The minister of state for labour and employment informed Lok Sabha that the wage hike has been implemented based on a Supreme Court verdict. Asserting that the government is committed towards the betterment of the working class, he said workers are being protected through all the rights.”Recently, we have increased minimum wage to Rs 10,000 at the national level taking into consideration the Consumer Price Index and Dearness Allowance. This was based on the verdict of the Supreme Court. We have linked this increase of minimum wage to pension and bonus,” he said during Question Hour. On April 17, Dattatreya had said the government would bring out an executive order to ensure that contract workers get a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month.”It is the endeavour of the central government to make reforms in labour laws and to proceed from minimum wage to universal wage. Because the Opposition is not cooperating in Parliament, we will do it through an executive order,” he had said. “We have taken a decision to make changes to rule 25 of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Central Rules. Every contract worker will be entitled to get Rs 10,000 per month,” Dattatreya had said. (Times of India 25/5/16)

Government will pursue amendment on labour laws after unanimity: Jaitley (14)

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday that union government will pursue any amendment on labour laws only after unanimity among all the stake holders and agreed that the issue of minimum wages has to be given serious thought. “Government will pursue any amendment on labour laws only after bringing unanimity among trade unions, employers’ organisations and state governments,” Jaitley told a delegation of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour wing of the RSS. A delegation of BMS headed by its general secretary Virjesh Upadhyay on Thursday met a Group of Ministers headed by Jaitley. The GOM also includes Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya , Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh. After the meeting, the BMS said in a statement that Jaitley agreed that minimum wages has to be given serious thought considering the differences in consumer price in major cities and towns. Upadhyay said that the finance minister asked the labour minister to prepare a formula to work out minimum wage and extend social security schemes to workers. Jaitley also asssured to look into issue of contract workers to make their service condition at par with regular workmen. He said the government will instruct all state governments and central departments, to strictly implement the decision on enhancement of ceiling of bonus. During the meeting, the BMS pushed for the government to take a relook at economic policies to ensure better job creation and to strengthen the PSUs, which are the best model of decent wages, to make the economy run. Jaitley conveyed to the delegation that the government has realised that labour reforms are essential for industrial growth, while the BMS also said that the GOM assured the delegation that the assurances given on 12 point Charter of Demands of the joint trade unions will be implemented with priority in the coming few weeks. (Times of India 29/5/16)

RESERVATION

Govt favours reservation in promotion, pvt sector jobs (25)

New Delhi: The Centre on Monday told the Lok Sabha that it favours reservation in promotion and also in private sector jobs but urged the Opposition to make efforts to create a conducive “atmosphere” for wider acceptance of the two demands. The issue of giving reservation in promotion in the government jobs was raised by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge in the Lower House while members cutting across the party lines pressed for reservation in private sector jobs during a debate on the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s demands for grants. The erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government had brought a bill for reservation in government job promotion. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was then in Opposition. The draft legislation, however, could not get nod of the Lok Sabha. “The government is in favour of giving reservation in promotion. We had supported the passage of UPA bill in the Rajya Sabha. But, there are people in your party also who do not support it. There is need to create an atmosphere. So, you create an atmosphere and give us in writing that the Congress is in support of reservation in promotion. We will definitely consider and move forward,” Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said, while replying to Kharge’s demand. Seeking the government resolve to revive the proposed legislation, Kharge urged the Union minister to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. Since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has the majority, it should try to push the proposal using its strength so that members belong to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes get the benefit of reservation in promotion. “Only a fraction of officers from these communities are holding top posts,” Kharge pointed out. Responding to members demand for enforcing reservation in private sector jobs, the Union minister said the previous government had set up a committee to look into the issue. “We will act accordingly once we receive the report of the committee. But, I have a request to you that please create an atmosphere for it. Create an atmosphere in the corporate sector. We are also doing it. If they say they are ready, we do not have any problem. We will definitely try for it,” he said. Earlier, the Lok Sabha witnessed angry reactions from Congress members as Gehlot raised the Hyderabad University issue and charged Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of “deliberately” creating an atmosphere in the country for “class struggle”. “As many as 11 students of the Hyderabad University committed suicide since 2006. Of them, three belonged to scheduled castes, another three scheduled tribes and rest belonged to other backward classes and general category. Rahul Gandhi visted the campus (after Dalit Scholar Rohit vemula’s suicide). Why did not you go there earlier when these incidents of suicide took place?,” Gehlot charged. (Deccan Herald 3/5/16)

33% quota for women in govt jobs, says CM (25)

Bhopal: In a significant step, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced reservation for women in all government departments, except in one. “Till now we have reserved 33% for women in police department. From now onward, women will get 33% reservation in all departments, except forest department as it is a field job,” he said here on Tuesday. Wooing the middle class, Chouhan also said that a ‘middle class commission’ would be set up for the lower strata of the general class. Recently, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel has announced 10% reservation for poor students of general category families. Chouhan’s announcement came during a function held to mark the widening of Chetak Bridge in Bhopal. He also assured scholarships for poor students of the general category. Presently, the government provides scholarships, foreign education and hostel facility to SC/ST students, while this is for the first time that such benefits are being extended to students of the general category. “I have provided financial help and laptops to backward class students. We are giving facilities to second and third year students. Now we will also help the poor in general category and award scholarships to meritorious students,” the chief minister said. Following up on his plans to create a happiness ministry in his government, Chouhan said that he will expand the cabinet soon and appoint a ‘happiness minister.’ This is for the first time in the country that a state will have a department to measure its prosperity by gauging the citizens’ happiness quotient, he said. “Happiness ministry is my dream plan and I want to see the citizens of my state happy and satisfied. I will appoint a ‘happiness minister’ soon as I am going to expand my cabinet shortly,” said the chief minister.He also assured incessant power supply for the residents of Anna Nagar and a plot of land. “People living in BHEL area for the last 50 years will not be displaced. There is a dispute over electricity supply to some colonies in the area, but I will ensure regular power supply to all inhabitants and see that no one dares to shift them from their homes,” said Chouhan. (Times of India 4/5/16)

SC/ST, OBC reservation tussle reaches court (25)

Lucknow: Two days after Pichda Jan Kalyan Samiti (comprising of OBC teachers, employees and students) of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University moved a petition claiming 50% SC/ST reservation should be done away with and OBC should be accommodated, the SC/ST students on Wednesday moved an application in the high court through their advocate SK Kalia requesting that they be made a party in the petition. The BBAU has 50% reservation for Dalits in admissions. OBC students, however, want university to implement 27% reservation for them.In the petition, the Samiti sought 27% reservation for OBC students. Petitioner’s counsel Amit Bose told the court that 50% reservation for dalits in BBAU violates Article 15 of the Constitution. BBAU’s counsel Rajesh Tiwari, however, argued that the university has been created with the objective to uplift the economically and socially backward by giving weightage to SC/ST students. Further, he said, since the petitioner has not challenged the provision by which 50% seats are reserved for SC/ST students, the petition is not maintainable.The court deferred the matter till May 10 and gave opportunity to the petitioner to challenge the constitutionality of the provision which provides 50% reservation to Dalits. BBAU campus has been witnessing protests by Dalit and OBC students over reservation since January. (Times of India 5/5/16)

Gujarat govt accords minority status to Jains (25)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government on Saturday issued a government resolution (GR) giving minority status to the Jain community. Transport Minister and BJP state unit chief Vijay Rupani made the announcement here. The previous UPA government had conferred minority status on the community at the national level in January 2014. “Chief Minister Anandiben Patel today decided to accord minority status to the Jain community. The matter had been put on hold for some time due to the Patidar reservation agitation,” Rupani, a Jain, said. The decision has been pending also because a large section of the Jain community felt several rituals of the community are similar to those practised by the Hindus, so the Jains are a part of the Hindu community and should not be treated as separate entity, he said. “The decision has nothing to do with reservation. The status will benefit the poor among the Jain community as they can avail of various scholarships, government welfare schemes. Jain institutions will get special status like those accorded to Christian and Muslim institutions,” Rupani said. The decision comes within a week of the state government awarding 10 per cent reservation to the economically backward class among the upper castes in the face of Patel community’s agitation for OBC quota. —PTI (The Hindu 8/5/16)

Odisha’s SC/ST MLAs resume hunger strike (25)

Bhubaneswar, May 11 () A group of SC and ST MLAs belonging to Congress and BJP today resumed its hunger strike in front of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik .s chamber in the Odisha Assembly premises, demanding 38 per cent quota for Dalit and tribal students in medical and engineering colleges. “Though the SC/ST MLAs had sat on a similar hunger strike on May 3, they called it off after the assurance from Speaker Niranjan Pujari. But, there has been no progress in this regard,” said Bhujabal Majhi, a tribal Congress MLA. Speaker Pujari, they said, had assured to intervene and get the grievances of SC/ST MLAs addressed by the government within seven days. “There was no attempt from the government’s side to call for a discussion and avoid the proposed strike. It proves that the government has no compassion for the suferring SC/ST people of the state and seems to be committed to protect the ancient practice of discrimination,” the SC/ST MLAs said in a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. They said Patnaik will be held responsible if any unfortunate incident took place during the hunger strike. “Though the state government has announced to reserve 38 per cent of seats for SC/ST students in higher education, the quota policy is not implemented in medical and engineering colleges,” Prafulla Majhi said. Some ex-MLAs and ex-MPs also joined the hunger strike which continued for whole day. SC/ST Minister Lalbihari Himirika tried convincing the agitating MLAs as per the direction of the Speaker, but he remained unsuccessful. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Despite government holiday, ST/SC MLAs continue protest in Odisha assembly (25)

BHUBANESWAR: Despite holiday, the ST/SC agitating MLAs of Congress and BJP continue their protest in the well of the assembly on Saturday demanding amendment and effective implementation of the Odisha Reservation of Vacancies Act. Though speaker Niranjan Pujari on Friday adjourned the house till Monday because of two successive government holidays (second Saturday and Sunday), the agitating MLAs continued their protest which enters fifth day. After forcibly evicted by security forces from the chief minister’s office inside the assembly premises, the MLAs are continuing protest in the well of the house since Thursday evening. “We wanted to check the sympathy of the chief minister for ST/SC communities of the state. So, we begged and prostrated before him. Instead of paying heed to our demand, the chief minister walked away which hurt us,” said Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria. He said the Dailt and tribal outfits would hold protest rallies in all district headquarters against the lackadaisical attitude of the state government towards the genuine demand of Dalit and tribal people in the state. Opposition BJP and Congress have extended their support for the protest. “BJD is in power since last 16 years due to the support of ST/SC people of the state. The way, the state government turned down our demand, it would get a befitting reply from them,” said BJP law maker Rabinarayan Naik. The MLAs demand more reservation for ST/SC students in medical, engineering and other technical education institutions on the lines of general colleges, where the reservation was 22.5 for ST and 16.3 for SC students. (Times of India 14/5/16)

A number of Dalit and tribal outfits came in support of the agitating ST/SC MLAs. (25)

Tirupati: Party All India OBC Morcha president S.P. Singh Baghel observed that unlike the SC Commission chairperson who enjoyed all powers, his counterpart at the BC Commission remained powerless and without recognition, and thus BCs still remained backward. He addressed delegates from Chittoor to Srikakulam at the maiden meeting of State OBC Morcha here on Sunday, which was presided over by State president Jally Madhusudhan. Mr. Baghel placed his wish list before the Centre, which included reservation within reservation and census enumeration with caste details. The BCs forming over 50 p.c. of the Indian population had been taken for a ride by the rulers all these years, he rued, adding that only the BJP recognised their genuine aspirations. While insisting that quota within quota was a must, he explained the case of his home state of Uttar Pradesh, where SC reservation was being garnered by a couple of sub-sects, while many others remained uncovered. “While the census officials ask so many questions including the consumer durables present in the house, why can’t they ask the caste, which will give a clear picture on who has benefited all these years?” Spokesperson Sudhish Rambhotla called the ‘party with a difference’ as according top priority to the common man. When the activists of all other parties work for development of one family or a caste, only the BJP workers strive for national development, State vice-president K. Kapileswaraiah remarked. K. Santha Reddy, national council member, recalled Kalyan Singh’s appointment as UP Chief Minister to indicate the BJP’s commitment for Backward Classes. BJP district president B. Chandra Reddy hailed OBC Morcha as yet another platform for the party’s growth. Lauding ‘Mudra Bank’ as an initiative that directly benefited the OBCs, Mr. Madhusudhan urged the Morcha members to take the message to the grassroots by establishing connect with villagers. (The Hindu 16/5/16)

STs to draw up action plan on rights (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Members of the Scheduled Tribes are feeling that they are being ignored and their rights are being trampled upon by an insensitive administration. Representatives of all the tribes would be meeting here on Sunday next to draw up an action plan for getting their grievances redressed, members of the A.P. ST Employees’ Welfare Association said. Addressing the media here on Monday, APSTEWA general secretary Aragada Simhachalam Naidu and president Kokkula Rama Rao wanted the Government to follow rule of reservation in recruiting outsourcing employees to ensure social justice. (The Hindu 17/5/16)

NEET to bring in more medical seats under Government quota (25)

BENGALURU: The Supreme Court judgment on National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), will benefit the general merit quota. As per the judgment, the management quota seats should be restricted to 15 per cent and accordingly, private medical colleges in the state are going to lose 5 per cent of their management quota. With the existing system, the management quota is 20 per cent and rest 80 per cent seats are shared between the State government and COMED-K quota. Though this is good news for the medical seat aspirants, the college managements are going to lose around `7 to 8 crore per year. Speaking to Express, a representative of one of the private medical college management in state said, “As the fee fixed by the state government under the government quota is less, we used to recover it through management quota. Now, colleges are going to lose around `7-8 crore per year.” With this order from the Supreme Court, over 130 seats will be added to the general quota from the management quota. “As per our knowledge those 5 per cent of management seats will be converted into general merit automatically,” explained an official source from medical education department. All these years, to help the poor and meritorious students, government used to sign consensual agreement with the private colleges by fixing fee for government quota seats and leaving free hand towards the management quota. “Presently, we are not sure if the consensual agreement will be valid or not. We are waiting for Union government’s decision on bringing ordinance,” mentioned the official. According to college managements, losing the 5 per cent seats will have a big impact on financial situation of the medical education institutes. (New Indian Express 20/5/16)

Haryana suspends officers over Jat stir violence (25)

NEW DELHI: Haryana government on Friday suspended three Haryana Civil Service (HCS) officers and 10 Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), a week after a government-appointed inquiry committee’s report found negligence on the part of 90 officials during the Jat-quota agitation in February. The State government in a statement said the officers placed under suspension include Mr. Dharmender Singh (earlier stationed in Gohana), currently posted as Sub Divisional Magistrate Ferozepur Jhirka, Mr. Pankaj Kumar SDM, Jhajjar and Mr. Jagdeep Singh SDM, Hansi. “During the period of suspension, their headquarters would be in the office of the chief secretary in services-I branch in Chandigarh and they would not leave the headquarters without obtaining prior permission of the chief secretary,” the statement said. The DSPs who have been suspended include Mr. Sukhbir Singh, DSP, State Crime Bureau (SCB), (earlier posted as DSP, Rohtak at Kalanaur), Mr. Surender Singh, DSP, SCB, (earlier posted as DSP, Meham), Mr. Vijender Singh, DSP, Headquarters Rohtak and Mr. Pawan Kumar, DSP, Rohtak. Other suspended officials are Mr. Jagat Singh, DSP, Beri, Mr. Sandeep Malik, DSP, CID, (earlier posted as DSP Hansi), Mr. Rajbir Singh, DSP Loharu and Mr. Vinod Kumar, ACP, Faridabad (earlier posted as DSP, Gohana) and Mr. Sunil Kumar, DSP, Sonipat and Mr. Satish Kumar, DSP Kharkhoda, (earlier posted as DSP, Ganaur). On Tuesday, the Haryana government shunted out its Additional Chief Secretary (Home), P K Das, after the Prakash Singh Committee submitted its report to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The inquiry committee in its report had pointed out that around 90 officers were found showing negligence of duty during the Jat quota agitation. The committee had examined the role of officers starting from the rank of Sub-Inspector to SP and Naib Tehsildar or duty Magistrate to the rank of Deputy Commissioner in the Jat stir-affected districts of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Jind, Hisar, Kaithal, Bhiwani, Sonepat and Panipat during the 71 days of investigation and then submitted its report. The Haryana government constituted the committee on February 25 to inquire into the acts of omission and commission on part of the police and the civil administration officials during the Jat quota stir from February 7 to February 22 this year. In February, the protests left the State paralysed for over 10 days during which at least 30 people were killed, over 200 injured and property worth hundreds of crores destroyed as the agitation turned violent. (The Hindu 21/5/16)

Paswan demands continuation of quota in job promotion (25)

Patna: Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday called the BIhar government “anti-Dalit” for “discontinuing reservation in promotion” and warned CM Nitish Kumar of facing large-scale protests and dharnas from Tuesday if the system of quota in promotion is not resumed. “Bihar’s general administration department issued a notification on April 1, discontinuing with reservation in promotion for SC/ST officials in Bihar government jobs and also authorised department promotion committee (DPC) to meet and look into regular promotions,” Paswan said at a presser. He said the Patna high court has not told the Bihar government to completely do away with the reservation facility in promotion. “The ruling only says that certain checkpoints and the M Nagraj case ruling needed to be relooked. In fact, now even the Supreme Court has admitted a Special Leave Petition (SLP), which means it will reconsider the lower court’s judgement on reservation to SC/ST in job,” he said. The April 1 government notification states that “any promotion granted to any of the government servants will not be a substantive promotion and will not create a right in their favour and it will surely be subject to the law to be declared by the apex court in the SLP of the state. But, if Nitish claims to be the messiah of the Dalit and backward people, why did he not go the other way round and continue with quota in job promotion, subject to the Supreme Court ruling,” Paswan questioned.The minister pointed that if general category people are promoted and all seats are filled, will their promotion be reverted to make space for SC/ST people if the Supreme Court rules in the latter’s favour? Paswan also recalled “how the so-called pro-Dalit CM once removed a Musahar Jitan Ram Manjhi from the post when he did not fall in line to Nitish’s wishes.”LJP MP from Jamui and party’s parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan raised the issue of reduction in scholarships to SC/ST students. “During the assembly polls, the grand alliance leaders gave misleading statements that if the NDA comes to power in Bihar, it will do away with reservation. Now, people can themselves see which government has started taking back the benefits of reservation from the poor and backward people,” he said. The party leaders will stage at daylong dharna at Gardanibagh on Tuesday to demand recommencing of quota in promotion. It has also threatened to intensify its stir if its demands are not met soon. (Times of India 23/5/16)

‘One of the six primitive tribes’ (25)

Kalyani, human rights activists and coordinator of Pazhangudi Irular Pathukaapu Sangam, said: “Irular community is considered to be one of the six primitive tribes in Tamil Nadu. The Scheduled Tribes form only 2.16 per cent of the total population in Tamil Nadu. Since the population of Irular community is very less, they are not considered as an important political force and their demands are completely neglected.” He added that a very low percentage of Scheduled Tribe population is educated. “It is important to encourage them and providing community certificate will help them avail the reservation benefits,” Mr.Kalyani said. A Pauli of Punitha Annal Kalvi Sudar, a Christian institution working for the Irular community, stated that there were 150 Irular students who applied for the ST community certificate last year. “Among them, only 50 received it. This year, there were 60 applicants from primary school to plus two. First, the plus two students have to get the certificate to apply for graduation courses. We have to struggle for every student to get the ST certificate. There are many students who are pursuing PG, working as teachers, nurses and in the police department. Every certificate we got for the children is only through protests or agitation,” she said. Ms. Pauli added that without the certificates, the children either stay at home or their parents get them married off. This affects their future. (The Hindu 27/5/16)

 

 “Follow reservations in Plus One admissions” (25)

Madurai: Despite a Government Order (G.O.) insisting that reservations for BC, MBC and SC/ST students be followed in admissions to every subject group in Plus One, none of the schools is following it, education rights activists allege. They say that since reservations are not followed, representation of children from disadvantaged communities in Mathematics, Science and Computer Science groups is too low. C. Jim Jesudoss, Executive Director of Madurai-based NGO Sakthi-Vidiyal, said that a majority of the children coming from downtrodden communities, particularly SC/STs, were the first generation from their families to complete SSLC. “Considering the socio-economic backgrounds these children come from, it is difficult for them to score more than 90 per cent marks. Therefore, it is unfair to deny them Mathematics and Science groups based on marks,” he said. These children were forced to take humanities or vocational groups even if they had interest in Maths, Science or Computer Science. “Most of the schools tell these children that they will not be able to do well in the top groups,” he added. A. Devaneyan, Director of child rights NGO Thozhamai, said that a large number of schools and even officials from School Education Department were denying the existence of reservations for Plus One. “After filing multiple RTI queries and paying a visit to the government archives, we recently found the G.O. which was issued in 1994,” he said. According to Mr. Devaneyan, the G.O. clearly states that the 69 per cent reservation policy of the State government be followed in every subject group in Plus One admissions in all schools. “The G.O. not only applies to government schools but also to all management types,” he said, adding that his organisation was planning to approach the court soon regarding the non-implementation of the G.O. When contacted, a senior official from the district administration acknowledged that the reservation policy was not followed by many schools. “The need, however, does not arise in government schools as the students are mostly allocated the groups of their choice. The problem is with private schools,” he said. (The Hindu 30/5/16)

Jat quota: Wary govt gets more paramilitary forces (25)

CHANDIGARH: Stung by criticism for mishandling riots and caste violence during the Jat stir in February, Haryana police and civil administration formed a strategy to deal with the law and order situation for an anticipated Jat stir II, which is expected to start in June. Following the stay on reservation for Jats and five other communities on orders of Punjab and Haryana High Court last week, Jats have threatened to launch a stir from June 6. Even as some of the Jat khap panchayats resolved to wait and watch, Haryana police, anticipating a law and order problem, made additional deployment. Besides, the Sonipat deputy commissioner issued prohibitory orders across district.Haryana got 10 companies of paramilitary forces by Sunday evening. The district magistrate has been directed to notify places for rallies and agitations. According to the home department, agitators will be liable for action if they decide or hold agitations at places other than those designated by the administration. “Accompanied by the DGP, I have visited affected districts and interacted with policemen as well as a cross section of society. We are every clear that anybody staging an agitation at places other than the ones identified by the local administration shall invite action. This comes with the implementation of the K T Thomas Committee report wherein we shall effect recovery of all kinds of damages from organizers and those involved in cases,” Haryana home secretary Ram Niwas said. During the agitation in February, rail and road traffic came to a total standstill for over one week. The districts where additional deployments have been made include Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar and Hisar. According to the home department, 10 companies of CRPF and Rapid Action Force have been deployed in four districts. This comes along with additional deployment of three companies of paramilitary forces on the side of the Western Jamuna Canal (WJC) in Sonipat. In February, Jat agitators damaged the WJC and paramilitary forces were forced to open fire, claiming lives. The agitation also led to adverse effect on water supply to New Delhi. (Times of India 30/5/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

Uttarakhand Human Rights Commission slams state govt body over juridriction claims (1)

NAINITAL: The Uttarakhand Human Rights Commission has reacted strongly to a rejoinder by the Uttarakhand Purva Sainik Kalyan Nigam Limited (UPNL) that the commission has ‘no jurisdiction’ to interfere in its affairs. The order dated April 26, 2016 the copy of which is with TOI stated, “The reply of the state government that the Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction as the matter pertains to service and labour is also totally contrary and a misconceived motion of the state government.” The next hearing of the case has been scheduled on May 11, 2016. The commission also directed that the order must be brought to the notice of the chief secretary of the state. The rejoinder came after the commission issued a notice in January to the chief secretary of the state and managing director of UPNL related to discrepancies of salaries paid to the Nigam officials after an official approached the commission citing discrepancies. Speaking to TOI, chairman of the commission Justice Vijendra Jain, citing a Supreme Court order, said that the Nigam’s submission was “misconceived” and that the “state cannot discriminate between its employees.” “Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind is the basic right of a worker, how State can deny that right. If state denies or permits its own agency then the state violates human rights of such worker,” added Jain.The order futher slamming the state went on stating that it should be ‘a matter of shame’ to the state that a worker has agreed to work on a lesser wage because of his/her poverty. “It is sheer exploitation. Instead of solving the problems and looking from the human angle the reply of the state government is nothing but seems to be a reply of a private employer to exploit the labour,” stated the order of the commission. The complainant Vinod Kavi in his complaint dated January 22, 2016 stated many points to cast light on alleged discrimination and discrepancies from various government agencies including the state power corporation. The complainant alleged that employees in various government agencies recruited through UPNL despite engaged in the work of same nature and magnitude do not get same wages as others. The UPNL was formed by the state government in August 2004 for support and welfare of former employees of Indian armed forces as well as their dependents. At present, around 18000 such employees are working in various government agencies. Other points of complaint included no annual increment since year 2012 as well as non-payment of bonuses of any nature. The complainant also mentioned that despite completing five years of service by most of these employees they have not been granted permanent jobs as the the rules drafted by the state government in 2013. (Times of India 1/5/16)

NHRC issues notice to TN officials over violation of human rights in political rallies (1)

New Delhi, May 2 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognizance of a complaint that several people were gathered, forced and threatened to sit for political rallies, in open fields under the scorching sun, for four to five hours without drinking water and other basic facilities leading to injuries and loss of lives, amounting to violation of basic and fundamental human rights. This had allegedly despite the District Collectors’ orders that public should not venture out from 11:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. due to scorching heat. The commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Tamil Nadu calling for detailed reports, within two weeks, about the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incidents. NHRC has also directed them to take all necessary measures to prevent reoccurrence of all such incidents in the future. Issuing the notices, the commission has observed that the allegations are serious and the incidents, if true, are indeed unfortunate. It said, “while the political parties, especially during the election period, have every right to organise public meetings, it is also the duty of the State/District Administration, while granting permissions for such meetings, to take all necessary steps considering the safety and security issues in mind.” The repeated incidents, one after the other, point towards failure on part of the authorities. Allegedly, for three public rallies on the April 11, 15 and 20 in Cuddalore, Virudhunagar and Salem districts respectively, people were forced and threatened to assemble as early as 11:00 a.m. in the scorching heat, although, the meetings were to start after 03:00 p.m. They were neither allowed to attend nature’s call nor provided with basic amenities like drinking water, thereby subjecting them to various hardships. It is reported that many people fainted at Virudhuchalam rally in Cuddalore district, creating unrest and panic, which in turn, led to stampede. Total 17 persons were admitted in hospital following the incident. Two persons lost lives as first aid was not provided promptly. Another person was seriously hurt in the stampede at Aruppukkottai in Virudhunagar district and eventually died while two others died in Magudanchavadi in Salem district due to heat and overcrowding. It is also reported that people were paid Rs.300 over and above the wages under the MNREGA to participate in the meetings. (ANI) (Times of India 2/5/16)

Rights body demands probe into killing of 2 in police firing (1)

Guwahati: The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has demanded that the central government conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the death of two protestors in police firing at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh recently. Condemning the killings on May 2, the FORUM-ASIA also demanded that action be taken against those responsible for the killings and asked the central government to ensure freedom of assembly and to protect the life and liberty of the protestors. FORUM-ASIA also believes that an independent investigation into the whole incident is essential focussing on the role of political leaders and police officials to ascertain the proportionality of the force used and to fix accountability for the loss of human life. Two persons died in the police firing and many were injured when a group of people protested against the arrest of Lobsang Gyatso, a Buddhist monk who has been actively opposing mega dam projects in Tawang, said a press release by the regional human rights group. (Business Standard 6/5/16)

Rights ‘violation’ in Bastar shocks citizens committee (1)

Raipur: Human rights violations are rampant in Bastar and there is an urgent need for immediate dialogue between state and Maoists, felt members of citizens’ committee, a group of eminent persons raising voice against alleged lawlessness in tribal-dominated region. The committee comprising Justice (retd) Suresh, retired BSF DG Ram Mohan, TISS (Guwahati ) deputy director Virginious Xaxa and senior journalist Saba Naqvi expressed concern over alleged violation of human rights in the tribal region. Talking to media in Raipur on Sunday after a three-day visit to Bastar in Chhattisgarh, committee members expressed shock over “lawlessness” in the region. They voiced concern over complaints about alleged human rights violations by security forces. The team visited Jagdalpur, Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur and enquired about harassment of lawyers, social activists and journalists. They met three journalists Prabhat Singh, Santosh and Somaru, who are lodged in Jagdalpur jail. “I was shocked to learn Prabhat, Santosh and Somaru were brought to Papra police station before the three were produced in courts. They said police tortured them all through night and took their signatures on papers. If this is what the freedom of press is all about in Chhattisgarh, the situation needs immediate attention,” Saba said. “The Constitution provides for uniform rule in the whole country, but certain regions of the country are governed by special provisions. These provisions ensure protection of cultural identity, customs, economic and political interests of original inhabitants of these areas,” Ram Mohan said.Retired BSF DG Ram Mohan said governors were not playing their role in states where Fifth Schedule of the Constitution is in force. The Fifth Schedule areas include tribal hills in North Eastern States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura, state of Jammu and Kashmir and regions known as Fifth Schedule Areas where the chief minister and forest minister have no right to interfere. Same rule extends to forest areas in states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. Besides these areas, some other regions of the country are governed by special provisions. “The poor administration in Chhattisgarh is a sign of poor performance of governor, who has never constituted any tribal advisory council for uplift and safeguard interest of tribal population. If governors in these states knew their rights and responsibilities, situation of tribal will surely have been better,” Ram Mohan said. Xaxa claimed lawlessness in Bastar is at its peak and he has never come across such situation in any other state. He said tribals told them police throw their food, rape women, snatch their money, beat them and their kids. “Is it a way police force is supposed to keep check on Naxalism,?” he questioned. Retired judge Justice Suresh expressed disappointment over law and order in Bastar. (Times of India 9/5/16)

SC slams politics over human rights body (1)

NEW DELHI: The Centre and Delhi’s AAP regime were involved in fresh jousting in the Supreme Court on Tuesday with the NDA government saying the capital continued to be a Union territory administered by the Union government through the lieutenant governor. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the court’s July 24, 2015 direction to set up a human rights commission in Delhi mistakenly construed the capital as a state. He said the settled legal position, as recognised by the apex court in several judgments, was that Delhi was a UT administered by the Union government. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices R Banumathi and U U Lalit said it was not on jurisdiction of the Centre or the Delhi government. “All we directed was to set up a human rights commission which could take up grievances on rights violations,” it said. The AG said this direction should have been issued to the Centre and not to the Delhi government. The bench said if the Union government was the administering authority for Delhi, then it should consider the July 24 order as a direction to the Centre and set up the SHRC. Appearing for Delhi, senior advocate C U Singh told the court that the Kejriwal government had taken immediate action and recommended setting up of the SHRC to the Centre with retired Meghalaya HC chief Justice Umanath Singh as its chief. Interestingly, a petition is pending in the SC filed by Shillong Bar Association questioning the decision of Meghalaya HC then headed by Justice Singh designating Delhi-based lawyers, who had no practice in the north-eastern state, as senior advocates. When the bench learnt about Justice Singh’s name being recommended, it asked the Kejriwal government, “Did you jump the gun by recommending the name for chairman of SHRC even before it was set up? The AG says you have no jurisdiction to set up the SHRC. Do you have a problem if the Centre constituted the SHRC.” C U Singh said the Delhi government was questioning the jurisdiction of the Centre on many issues and had filed a suit seeking a declaration from the SC. The AG said such a petition could only be filed by a state and, hence, the petition filed by AAP government was not maintainable as Delhi was still a UT. Finding the matter relating to human rights violations getting mired in politics, the bench sternly told both the Centre and the Delhi government to “sort out their politics” and warned that if they failed to do so, then the court would pass an order.The home ministry had said that because of a possible “oversight”, the SC had treated Delhi as a state along with Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Nagaland, while directing setting up of SHRC. The SC had not discussed whether the Protection of Human Rights Act contemplated setting up of SHRCs in Union Territories. “Inclusion of Delhi in the direction as State of Delhi may be due to an oversight of the fact that the Delhi government continues to be a Union Territory despite having an elected government,” it had said. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Panel wants equal property rights for transgenders (1)

New Delhi: For the first time, transgenders belonging to the Christian community can have equal rights over ancestral property. The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) — after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christians — has recommended to the Law Commission that the India Succession Act, 1925 be amended and include the third gender in Section 44.In a meeting on April 21, the Advisory Committee agreed that transgenders should be given equal rights just as men and women. “The entire Christian Committee agreed. We are hopeful that this will be incorporated and the Law Commission clears this recommendation,” said Abraham M. Pattiyani, member of DMC. The Law Commission of India in its 247th report had asked the DMC for recommendations and suggestions for amendments in India Succession Act. Once cleared, the Bill will be tabled in Parliament. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court in April 2014 created the ‘third gender’ status for transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.“But that law states equal rights to brothers and sisters. This amendment will help those who do not want to be called son or daughter but just transgenders,” said Dr. M.P Raju, a Supreme Court lawyer. (The Hindu 13/5/16)

Disburse welfare pensions for disabled: State human rights commission to govt (1)

Thiruvananthapuram: The state human rights commission has asked the government to disburse welfare pension for physically disabled people to beneficiaries who are either bedridden or mentally ill, through money order. While issuing the order on a petition filed by advocate Jobin P S here on Friday, commission chairman Justice J B Koshi directed the chief secretary and the social welfare special secretary to give a report in this regard at the commission’s sitting to be held at its office on July 5. Currently, the welfare pensions distributed through panchayats are issued as cheques, which requires the beneficiaries to have a bank account. Those suffering from mental illness can only open a bank account in the name of their guardian, and for that they need to submit to the bank a guardianship certificate issued by the district court. This will lead to complications and delay in the disbursement of pension, the commission said. (Times of India 14/5/16)

Green activists approach NHRC over SRD project (1)

HYDERABAD: The members of Hyderabad Rising, who have been opposing the felling of trees for a State government road project, have approached the National Human rights Commission on Wednesday on this issue. Through a representation, the members demanded that the Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP) be scrapped along with other projects which pose a threat to the city’s biodiversity. Specifically mentioning KBR National Park in Banjara Hills, it was mentioned that the eco-sensitive zone or the buffer area surrounding the park might be cleared for the project and hence, this should be averted. “Any damage to the ESZ around a national park will cause irreparable damage to its ecology. The trees, shrubs, rocks and innumerable flora and fauna form the micro-climate of the buffer zone, which in turn acts as a shield, protecting the national park against air pollution, noise pollution and other factors, which have a detrimental impact on the life of the national park,” read one of the contents of the representation. According to the members, the park maintains oxygen levels and acts as water sink feeding several lakes.Conveying that they are for an “organic, sensible and sustainable” development model, they demanded that the government evaluate alternative options instead of the present SRDP. The members also want the government to constitute Tree, Ecology and Environment Protection Committees, with passionate citizens as members, at circle level. Meanwhile, the members of Hyderabad Rising also started an online petition onwww.change.orgto protect the trees surrounding the KBR Park. By Wednesday evening, more than 1,000 members signed up pledging their support to the cause. (The Hindu 19/5/16)

India’s housing law should be based on human rights: UN official (1)

NEW DELHI: There is a growing tension between aspirational housing development in India and the millions that are being left out or evicted or condemned to slums that merely move their locations, not their condition. “When India is going through the path of economic greatness and growth, it should consider still meeting its human rights obligations to those people on the pavements. I think there is an inherent tension between the commodification of housing and slums. For every mall that’s built, how many people are being rendered homeless or being evicted? It’s not easy to look for answers in this vast country, but I think India is ripe for a national housing legislation based on human rights,” said Leilani Farha, UN special rapporteur for adequate housing. On a visit to India on government invitation to monitor how India fulfils its obligations in the right to “adequate” housing, Farha told TOI that she would present her report to the UN Human Rights Council by March 2017. The report would be one of the inputs to India’s UPR scheduled for June 2017. Her initial reaction is “international human rights law hasn’t found its place in any area relating to housing in India. I don’t hear government officials here referencing human rights law. I don’t see court judgments referring to human rights law. It’s not part of the lexicon here. I don’t see an interaction with international human rights law.” India should fashion its policies on housing keeping human rights in mind, she said adding that this is achievable in India, because Indians “are rightly, very proud of their constitution.”"International human rights law doesn’t have to be viewed as a western big brother. India has signed and ratified international human rights treaties. It could be viewed as something that’s useful as Indian policymakers draft policy for this vast country. It can be used as a policy tool.” “Adequacy” of housing covers some core concepts like ‘security of tenure’ and ‘living in dignity’. “Without these things, adequacy is precarious, probably not there,” she said. “Under human rights law, there are standards and norms established when housing is adequate and in compliance with human rights obligations. India has a number of human rights obligations. One of them is with respect to the right to adequate housing. India has to ensure that what it is doing and what it is working towards is in compliance with these standards. The term “adequacy” has been defined under international law.” … (Times of India 23/5/16)

Fresh plea in Supreme Court against triple talaq (1)

New Delhi: A fresh petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to declare the “triple talaq system” under Sharia law which enables Muslim men to unilaterally exercise the power of divorce, as invalid in law and unconstitutional. Last week, a Muslim woman from Jaipur moved the top court challenging the triple talaq she received from her husband through “speed post”. Former Tamil Nadu MLA and rights activist Badar Sayeed has filed the present petition seeking intervention in a batch of petitions pending in the apex court challenging the triple talaq system of divorce. She drew the court’s attention to the plight faced by Muslim women in this country on account of arbitrary divorces imposed upon them by men without due intervention of courts. She said Muslim women are thrown away from their matrimonial houses causing sufferings to them and their children. She said the kazis in Tamil Nadu are routinely and habitually issuing certificates to Muslim men, validating such pronouncements of triple talaq, causing prejudice and hardship to many women affected by such practices. Kazis have no power or legal authority to issue certificate of divorce certifying validity of triple talaq, in the manner in which it is being interpreted and used in the country. The current scenario emerging from the imposition of unilateral triple talaq on Muslim women in India has resulted in infringement and violation of their fundamental rights of equality and rights guaranteed under Article 14 & 21 of the Constitution. It is well settled principle of law that a person cannot be a judge of his own cause and in the case of triple talaq, the Muslim men unilaterally decides to put an end to the matrimonial tie which is clearly opposed to public policy. It is only through the mandatory granting of divorce through due intervention of courts which would protect the interests of both parties for resolving their marital disputes. Ms. Badar Sayeed submitted that such unilateral divorce and driving out women from their homes is a clear violation of human rights of Muslim women. It is the duty of every State under Article 15(3) of the Constitution read with Article 46 to ensure that rights of women, irrespective of their Religion/caste/Creed are uniformly protected. Though, it is ordained and also reiterated by Courts that Triple Talaq should precede mediation, etc, the rights of Muslim Women who are in a dis-advantaged position in Muslim Society, are hardly respected in any mediation or other processes preceding Triple Talaq. She urged the apex court to formulate guidelines as was done in the `Visakha case’ (relating to sexual harassment of women in work places). She said any rule of Shariat law or the provisions which encourages unilateral decision to put an end to marriage is to be declared unconstitutional and void. (Asian Age 24/5/16)

India using old, new laws to criminalise free speech: Report (1)

Indian authorities use vaguely worded British-era as well as newer laws to criminalise free speech and stamp out dissent, the Human Rights Watch said in a report on Tuesday, calling on the government to do away with such legislation. The report, titled “Stifling Dissent: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in India”, said old and new laws were being used to restrict activities by NGOs, block internet sites and target “marginalized communities, particularly Dalits, and religious minorities” in the country. The observations come amid rising instances of dissenting voices being dragged to court or citizens being jailed for expressing their opinion, especially on social media. The report mentioned the high-profile case of Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest on sedition charges after a campus event in February where alleged anti-India slogans were shouted. The government’s action against Kumar and fellow students triggered a debate on free speech and invited criticism by the Opposition and many public intellectuals who said cases of religious and political intolerance had gone up since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in 2014. The report said Indian authorities and political parties used government resources to file cases under archaic laws. “India’s abusive laws are the hallmark of a repressive society, not a vibrant democracy,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Putting critics in prison or even forcing them to defend themselves in lengthy and expensive court proceedings undermine the government’s efforts to present India as a modern country in the Internet age committed to free speech and the rule of law.” The human rights organisation said its report was based on an in-depth analysis of various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (including laws on sedition, criminal defamation, hate speech). The report also referred to Indian laws that criminalise defamation, saying such legislation should be scrapped in keeping with the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. But earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of such legal provisions, observing that they do not clash with the right to free speech.“Sedition and criminal defamation laws are routinely used to shield the powerful from criticism, and send a message that dissent carries a high price,” Ganguly said. “India’s courts have largely been protective of freedom of expression but as long as you have bad laws on the books, free speech will remain under threat,” she said. The Tamil Nadu government has used criminal defamation cases against journalists, with about 200 such cases pending in the state. The Human Rights Watch’s report also cited Penguin India’s decision to withdraw a book on the history of Hinduism by American scholar Wendy Doniger in 2014 rather than fight a case brought by a religious group. (Hindustantimes 25/5/16)

NHRC tells Assam, MoD to pay Rs 5 lakh for fake encounters (1)

Guwahati:The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found four cases of encounter carried out by Assam Police along with the Army and paramilitary forces, in which six people were killed, to be fake and directed the state government and Union defence ministry to pay compensation to the victims’ families. The six people killed in the four incidents of fake encounters were: Piku Ali, Mriganka Hazarika, Himangshu Gogoi, Jwnwm Basumatary, Okhophat Basumatary and Rojit Narzary. A press release issued by the NHRC said while Piku Ali was killed in a fake encounter by police in Nagaon district on July 23, 2008; Jwnwm Basumatary and Okhophat Basumatary were killed in a fake encounter with police at Furoibari in Sonitpur district on June 22, 2009. Mriganka Hazarika and Himan-gshu Gogoi were killed by police in Guwahati on February 23, 2011. The sixth person, Rojit Narzary, alias Abram, was killed in a fake encounter by Assam Police and Assam Rifles in Sonitpur district on July 9, 2009. The Assam government has been asked to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the first five, while the NHRC has directed Union defence ministry to pay Rs 5 lakh Rojit Narzary’s family within six weeks. (Indian Express 28/5/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Capitation fee is illegal, rules Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: Holding demand of capitation fee by educational institutions illegal, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that commercialization and exploitation is not permissible in the education sector and institutions must run on ‘no-profit-no-loss’ basis. A five-judge Constitution bench of Justices A R Dave, A K Sikri, R K Agrawal, A K Goel and R Banumathi said the objective of setting up educational institutions must not be to make profit and the government must step in to regulate the sector to promote merit, curb malpractices and secure merit-based admission in a transparent manner. “Though education is now treated as an ‘occupation’ and, thus, has become a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution, at the same time shackles are put in so far as this particular occupation is concerned, which is termed as noble. Therefore, profiteering and commercialization are not permitted and no capitation fee can be charged. The admission of students has to be on merit and not at the whims and fancies of the educational institutions,” the bench said. “It is to be ensured that this admission process meets the triple test of transparency, fairness and non-exploitativeness,” it said. The court said unreasonable demand could not be made from the students and their parents. It said the educational institutions can charge fees that would take care of various expenses incurred by them plus provision for the expansion of education for future generations. “Education is treated as a noble occupation on ‘no-profit-no-loss’ basis. Thus, those who establish and are managing the educational institutions are not expected to indulge in profiteering or commercialize this noble activity. Keeping this objective in mind, the court did not give complete freedom to the educational institutions in respect of right to admit the students and also with regard to fixation of fee,” it said, while referring to its earlier judgement. “The object of setting up educational institutions is not to make profit. There could, however, be a reasonable revenue surplus for development of education. For admission, merit must play an important role. The state or the university could require private unaided institutions to provide for merit-based selection while giving sufficient discretion in admitting students,” the bench said. (Indian Express 3/5/16)

Delhi HC to hear PIL against ban on possession of beef (19)

The Delhi High court Wednesday agreed to hear a PIL challenging provisions of the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, which prohibits possession and consumption of beef in the capital, “in violation of constitutional provision”. The PIL, filed through advocate Apar Gupta, has alleged that the “Cattle Preservation Act is nothing but a case of legislative over-reach. The National Capital Territory of Delhi, by prohibiting the possession of the flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Delhi in effect prohibits the slaughter of animals in other states as well. It also makes the possession of beef, i.e. the meat of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered in any other country an offence.” The PIL has alleged that the “prohibition of possession and consumption of beef per se as under the Cattle Preservation Act is in violation of the fundamental rights of the Petitioners and other persons similarly situated..” as “right to food is an essential part of the right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India”. The bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked the counsel for the Delhi government to seek instructions on the matter, and will now hear the plea on July 13. Notice has not yet been issued in the case.Petitioners in the PIL include Gaurav Jain, a law student who was detained in October last year for allegedly attempting to organise a “beef party”, Naga People’s Union of Civil Liberties head Kahorngam Zimik, and the Dr. Ambedkar Educational Foundation, which works for the rights of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe persons. “The provision is vaguely worded and does not make any distinction between innocent purchasers who may not be able to distinguish the source of the meat and persons possessing it in the course of trade. It indirectly leads to a prohibition on the consumption of meat which is otherwise legally permissible and hence is arbitrary, being against Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” says the plea. (Times of India 5/5/16)

Rajya Sabha passes Anti-Hijacking Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014, which provides for death penalty even if ground handling staff and airport personnel are killed during such acts. In the earlier Bill, hijackers could be tried for death penalty only in the event of death of hostages, such as flight crew, passengers and security personnel. The amendments in the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014 were cleared by the Cabinet In July 2015. Besides broadening the definition of hijacking, it also provides for an enhanced punishment to the perpetrators as well as the area of jurisdiction. Following the amendments, the perpetrators of hijacking would now be punishable with death penalty where such an act result in the death of any person. The Anti-Hijacking Bill 2014, introduced in Rajya Sabha in December 2014, was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. The panel submitted its report in March 2015, suggesting various changes including making hoax calls a punishable offence and providing adequate compensation for victims of hijacking. The panel had asked the government to look at adequately defining the terms ‘hostage’ and ‘security personnel’. Earlier on discussion on the bill, A U Singh Deo (BJD) said the bill does not have provisions for improving security and intelligence gathering. He added that India should make an agency to handle airport security on the lines of TSA in the US, which was created post 9/11. V P Singh Badnore (BJP) said that there should be provisions for the safety of the Parliament building as well as the President’s estate, which are close to the airports. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajpathi Raju said that the issues of security zone is looked after by Home Ministry. Deputy Chairman P J kurien asked Raju to convey to the Ministry the concerns raised by the member over the security of the Parliament building and the President’s estate. During Special Mention, Vijay Jawaharlal Darda (Cong) raised the issue of restructuring of the Bureau of Civil Aviation. (Times of India 4/5/16)

Resolution in RS seeks abolition of capital punishment (19)

New Delhi, May 6 () A private member resolution was today moved in the Rajya Sabha seeking abolition of capital punishment and an imposition of moratorium on all death sentences till the necessary amendments are made to the existing laws. “The time has come for India to say emphatic “no” to capital punishment by making amendments to various laws, which have provision for death penalty so as to abolish capital punishment in the country. Till that time, impose moratorium on execution of dealth sentences,” said D Raja of CPI while moving the resolution. The resolution should not be linked to any particular case as the issue is related to confronting the humanity, he said, adding, “I am not making it as an ideological issue at this point of time. It is more than that.” Asserting that India should take a stand on this issue, Raja said the majority of the UN members have voted in support of the UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on dealth penalty and India is among the minority of member countries still voting against the resolution. About 120 countries have abolished capital punishment and few of them have stopped the practice of execution, he added. “The situation now has fast changed. The world is moving towards jurisprudence based on humanism and correction of individuals committing crimes. But we are still lagging behind. We are still stick on to the colonial laws. We need to change our mindset,” Raja noted. Stating that crimes have socio-economic factors, Raja said, “The issue should not be looked at from just legal and technical point of view. It should be looked at pyschological, sociological and polical angle.” Quoting a study by students of Delhi-based National Law University, Raja said the research shows that there are caste and religious biases in the imposition of dealth penalty in India, indicating that 94 per cent of the persons given dealth sentences for terror related cases belonged to dalit caste or religious miniorities. Even the Supreme Court has admitted to “errors and miscarriage of justice due to arbitrary application of dealth penalty” and the Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah has also said that there is “serious need to re-examine” the issue of dealth panalty. Raja said this resolution was earlier submitted to the Upper House in July 2015 but it was not taken up due to various reasons. Even his party colleague late C K Chandrappan had moved a private member bill on this issue way back in 2004.  (Times of India 6/5/16)

Domestic violence can’t be blamed for every unsuccessful marriage: Ahmedabad court (19)

AHMEDABAD: The metro court of Ahmedabad refused to grant alimony to a woman who alleged she was the survivor of domestic violence. Demand for a dowry and domestic violence cannot be blamed for every unsuccessful marriage, said additional chief metropolitan judge Shilpa Mansukh Kanabar. The woman, Neha (not her real name) had filed an application against her in-laws and her US-based husband. In her application, she claimed that she married Ronak (not his real name) in February 2009. After the marriage, Ronak lost his job and went to Abu Dhabi in search of work. Ronak called Neha to Abu Dhabi and she found a job there, but according to her, Ronak did not trust Neha. She came back to Ahmedabad and Ronak went to US. Accusing her in-laws of domestic violence, Neha claimed that they stay in a house bought with her money and now she’s being kicked out. Neha also claimed that in Abu Dhabi, Ronak kept all her salary and used to beat her. “If all the women use law of domestic violence in the case of unsuccessful marriage, number of pending cases will increase drastically,” said the husband’s lawyer. Ronak’s lawyer told the court that Neha is well educated and she has hidden many facts. Ronak used to send her money from the US and a bank statement showing the same has been produced before the court. The lawyer added that Neha does not like to stay with her in-laws, so there’s no question of them not allowing her to stay. Opposing Neha’s claim for alimony, Ronak’s lawyer argued that Neha is earning Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 per month and does not need any alimony. She has filed this complain just to harass her in-laws, the lawyer said. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Convicted politicians must be debarred from contesting polls forever, PIL in Madras HC says (19)

CHENNAI: Government servants lose jobs forever in case of getting convicted in a criminal case, whereas politicians or legislators convicted in cases would be disqualified from contesting polls only for a period of six years from the date of completing sentence in jail. Calling this discriminatory, a PIL filed in the Madras high court has sought to quash the provision permitting convicted legislators to contest polls after the disqualification period as discriminatory and violative of the fundamental right to equality. The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh, before which the PIL of K Parthasarathy of Chepauk came up for hearing, issued notices to the Union law ministry and the Election Commission of India. They posted the matter to July 26 for further hearing. The PIL sought to declare as unconstitutional the provisions in Sections 8, 8A and 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, according to which convicted persons are allowed to become members of legislatures/parliament as disqualification is only for six years. It said though legislators are burdened with the “important task of law making,” law has not provided for any guidelines such as minimum educational qualifications, good character and conduct for legislators.Stating that there is no justification for giving exemptions to those convicted and undergone sentence of imprisonment, it urged the court to declare the provisions restricting the disqualification period for six years as illegal and violative of constitutional principles. In this regard, the PIL said the discrimination in applying one rule to members of the executive and judiciary, and another to politicians, in case they are arrested, tried and convicted for criminal offences must end. (Times of India 13/5/16)

Panel wants equal property rights for transgenders (19)

New Delhi: For the first time, transgenders belonging to the Christian community can have equal rights over ancestral property. The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) — after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christians — has recommended to the Law Commission that the India Succession Act, 1925 be amended and include the third gender in Section 44.In a meeting on April 21, the Advisory Committee agreed that transgenders should be given equal rights just as men and women. “The entire Christian Committee agreed. We are hopeful that this will be incorporated and the Law Commission clears this recommendation,” said Abraham M. Pattiyani, member of DMC. The Law Commission of India in its 247th report had asked the DMC for recommendations and suggestions for amendments in India Succession Act. Once cleared, the Bill will be tabled in Parliament. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court in April 2014 created the ‘third gender’ status for transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.“But that law states equal rights to brothers and sisters. This amendment will help those who do not want to be called son or daughter but just transgenders,” said Dr. M.P Raju, a Supreme Court lawyer. (The Hindu 13/5/16)

Chhattisgarh activists seek Prez intervention to review state’s judiciary (19)

RAIPUR: A group of activists has written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking his intervention to streamline the functioning of judiciary in Chhattisgarh, alleging that few recent incidents, including termination of a judge and suspension of another judge and incidents of alleged corruption, needs to be taken seriously. The activists have threatened to stage protest in front of Chhattisgarh High Court if their demands are not met with within 30 days. The activists said that Chhattisgarh government’s Law and Legislative Affairs Department and a nine-judge bench at the high court recently dismissed Prabhakar Gwal, a civil judge, member of lower judicial service and chief judicial magistrate, Sukma from serving in public interest. And later, another judge Ashwini Chaturvedi was suspended for considering the petition filed by Gwal’s wife at a court. Activists Radheshyam Sharma and Mamta Sharma while briefing the media on Tuesday said that earlier too similar incidents have come in light when in 2013, 17 judges were forced to resign of which 16 belonged to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. “More than 90% of the judiciary in the country has gone corrupt and despite being caught with evidences, none was punished. We requested President Pranab Mukherjee to take the matters into consideration and help these two innocent judges of Chhattisgarh get their positions back. We also challenge that in case our demands aren’t met within 30 days, activists at large would stage protest and stand for closure of the Chhattisgarh High Court to stop lawyers’ and judges’ entry in the court,” they said. (Times of India 17/5/16)

Divorcees need not file separately to get back dowry articles (19)

CHENNAI: A divorced woman need not file a separate petition to get back the sridhana articles given to the bridegroom at the time or before marriage. The court, which has granted the decree can also settle the issue relating to the return of the same. The decree also applies to estranged bridegrooms, the Madras High Court has held. On a plain reading of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, it becomes obvious that the matrimonial court trying any proceedings under the Act, has the jurisdiction to make such provision in the decree as it deems just and proper with regard to any property presented at or about the time of marriage, which may belong jointly to the husband and wife. This Act provides an alternate remedy to the wife so that she can recover the property without having to take recourse to filling of a separate civil suit and avoid further litigation, said Justice S Vimala. The judge was passing orders on a revision petition from the father and mother in-law of a woman, who was granted divorce by a lower court in Tambaram in 2014. The wife applied for return of the sridhana presented to the husband at the time of marriage and the Tambaram Sub-Court granted the plea. The in-laws filed a petition before the same court to appoint an advocate-commissioner to take inventory of the articles presented at the time of marriage by the bride and their own contribution to the bride and settle the matter. However, the plea was rejected. Hence, the present petition before the High Court. After the decree of divorce, the wife had filed an application seeking return of her sridhana articles and this has been allowed on August 28, 2015. Her in-laws had filed an application before Tambaram Sub-Court stating that they are intending to return the sridhana articles and they anticipate the return of the articles given by them to her at the time of marriage.And Justice Vimala directed the lower court to take up the case and decide the issue within a month. (New Indian Express 18/5/16)

Father’s name not needed for passport, Delhi HC says (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has held that in certain cases, mother’s name is sufficient for a child to apply for a passport , especially because a single woman can be a natural guardian as well as a parent. Justice Manmohan earlier this week directed the Regional Passport Office to accept the application form of the girl child of a single parent without insisting upon mentioning her father’s name. The court ruled that authorities “can insist upon the name of the biological father in the passport only if it is a requirement in law, like standing instructions, manuals, etc. In the absence of any provision making it mandatory to mention the name of one’s biological father in the passport, the respondents cannot insist upon the same”.Justice Manmohan observed, “This court also takes judicial notice of the fact that families of single parents are on the increase due to various reasons like unwed mothers, sex workers, surrogate mothers, rape survivors, children abandoned by father and also children born through IVF technology.” He said just because the software of the passport office didn’t accept a single parent’s applications, it cannot become a legal requirement. The HC also pointed out that on two previous occasions, in 2005 and 2011, the girl was issued a passport without her father’s name, which “makes it evident that the said requirement is not a legal necessity, but only a procedural formality, which cannot be the basis of rejecting her case”. The court saw merit in the argument of the petitioner that if the authorities didn’t alter their stand, her daughter would be compelled “to alter not only her name, but also her identity that she had been using since her birth-i.e. as the daughter of the petitioner No.1 rather than her biological father who had abandoned her at the time of her birth”. The father had refused to accept the child because he did not want a girl, the petition added. In her plea, the woman sought a reissue of her daughter’s passport without her father’s name being mentioned in the application. She informed the HC that being a divorcee, she had raised the child as a single parent since her birth after the biological father completely abdicated his responsibilities towards the child. Saying she was forced to move court after passport authorities insisted on the father’s name, the woman argued it violated her daughter’s rights to determine her name and identity. She also pointed out that the entire record of her daughter, including her educational certificates and the Aadhaar card did not bear the name of her father. … (Times of India 20/5/16)

Minimum Wage Rule Amendment: KPHA moves Kerala High Court (19)

KOCHI: The Kerala Private Hospitals’ Association (KPHA) has approached the Kerala High Court, seeking to quash amendment to the Minimum Wage Rules-1958 directing hospital managements to disclose the salary package/benefits of staff.  “The amendment to the Minimum Wage Rules is not only cumbersome and practically unworkable, but also prejudicial and destructive of the business interests. Under the amended rule, managements will have to divulge and expose private and confidential data that are extraneous to the mandate of Minimum Wage Rules,” stated the petition. “Disclosure of confidential information would lead to violation of the right of hospital management to protect trade secrets and business strategies,” stated the petition. (New Indian Express 24/5/16)

NEET: No end to row; now, ordinance to be challenged in Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: Now, a fresh petition is expected to be filed in the Supreme Court to oppose the NEET ordinance. Dubbing as ‘lame and frivolous’ the government’s stand on the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Sanklap Charitable Trust will file a fresh petition in the Supreme Court to oppose the ordinance while alleging it is against the Constitution, law and separation of power aimed at eventually stalling reforms in medical fields. Amit Kumar, the lawyer for Sanklap Charitable Trust, says, “The ordinance is also against the balance which is there in our Constitution because the executive cannot overwrite the decision of the judiciary by ordinance that is against the Constitution, adding the decision of the judiciary is final and binding.” “What the ordinance is saying that the decision of the Supreme Court will not be enforced for period of one year. This kind of ordinance has never been issued in our history and, therefore, this ordinance will be challenged as early as possible as and when it is promulgated and notified in the gazette,” he added. Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda on Tuesday had said that the government was clear from the very beginning and has always been in favour of NEET.President Pranab Mukherjee earlier signed the ordinance to keep state boards out of NEET for MBBS and dental courses for this year.The ordinance on NEET is aimed at partially overturning an apex court order that had taken into account the multiple medical entrance tests by states and private colleges as well as allegations of corruption. (Zee News 25/5/16)

Khaps say watching court case closely (19)

CHANDIGARH: Jat khap panchayats of Rohtak, Sonipat and Jhajjar districts on Sunday said that the Haryana government would not be able to suppress their demand for reservation. They, however, resolved to wait and watch closely the development in the high court, which has put a stay on the law grant them backward classes quota.The khaps also sought cancellation of sedition case registered against their leaders and All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti chief Yashpal Malik. In a meeting of representatives of all the khaps on Sunday, it was unanimously resolved to adopt a wait-and-watch policy, before jumping to any conclusion related to stir. The khaps also announced to take a call on relaunching the agitation after scanning the stand of the Haryana government in the Punjab and Haryana high court. “Our six-member team of khap representatives is already camping in Chandigarh to take the legal opinion and to pursue this case well. At the same time, they shall also examine the stand of the Haryana government,”‘ said Mahender Singh Nandal, who chaired the khap meeting held in Rohtak’s Nandal Bhwan. “Jat community has a reputation of working for the welfare of country, hence we shall not take any step till the government protects our interest. We shall rather support the government and its agencies. Else we shall convene another round of meeting,” added Nandal. Speaking on the occasion, president of Saroha Khap Panchayat Randhir Singh Saroha too supported Nandal and urged the BJP government to stop the arrest of persons in the cases registered during the unrest in February. “Those arrested should be released without any delay. While the cases under investigations should be closed. The government must use its best senses in dealing with this situation. Jats are provoked only when they are humiliated,” he said, adding that there was need to immediately arrest Kurukshtra MP Raj Kumar Saini. (Times of India 30/5/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

20-year-old man commits suicide in police lockup (1)

MUMBAI: A 20 year old man arrested in a theft case by the Mulund police was found hanging inside the toilet of police lock up on late Sunday. Police suspect he committed suicide. According to police the deceased identified as Amit Ravi Rathod was arrested in trespassing and theft case. Rathod was produced before the local court which had remanded him to police custody.On Sunday evening Rathod under pretext of going to attend nature’s call went inside the toilet and did not return. The police opened the door to find him hanging with his shirt to a water pipe. The police immediately moved him to Rajawadi hospital but he was declared dead on arrival. The Mulund police have registered an accidental death report and have sent his body to JJ hospital for post mortem. Police said that his relatives have been informed. (Times of India 2/5/16)

No proposal on AFSPA withdrawal under consideration, says Centre (1)

Srinagar: The Government of India on Tuesday said there is no proposal under its consideration to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Kashmir. “…There is no proposal under consideration of Government of India to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir and  other States at present,” Minister of State for Home Affairs, HaribhaiParathbhaiChoudary, informed the LokSabha in a written reply. The Minister however said the Government of India is periodically reviewing applicability of the law after holdings consultations with different stakeholders. “The same (law) is reviewed periodically by the Government of India after consultations with State Government concerned and the central agencies,” he said. The Government of India’s assertion on continuation of AFSPA in J&K comes at a time when certain quarters have demanded withdrawal of the law from the state in the wake of civilian killings in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Five civilians including a woman were shot dead by army and police in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district last month. In its Agenda of Alliance, the framework guiding functioning of six-year government in the State, the PDP-BJP alliance has pledged to examine the need for de-notifying distributed areas to pave way for the AFSPA revocation. “While both parties have historically held a different view on the AFSPA and the need for it in the State at present, as part of the agenda for governance of this alliance, the coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’. This, as a consequence, would enable the Union Government to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in these areas,” the Agenda of Alliance reads. AFSPA, which provides impunity to central forces in Jammu and Kashmir, was enacted on July 5, 1990 after outbreak of armed militancy in the State. Post-enactment of the law, Jammu and Kashmir Government issued two separate notifications in 1990 and 2001 to facilitate imposition of AFSPA in the State.On July 6, 1990, the State Home department (vide SRO-SW4 ) declared  Kashmir and parts of Rajouri and Poonch district as disturbed to facilitate imposition of AFSPA in these areas. Another similar notification was issued on August 10, 2011 to pave way for AFSPA imposition in Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri and Doda districts. (Greater Kashmir 4/5/16)

AFSPA to remain in 12 Arunachal districts (1)

New Delhi: THE ARMED Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will remain in force in 12 districts of Arunachal Pradesh for six more months on grounds of continuous violence, extortion and intimidation by insurgent groups. In a gazette notification issued by Home Ministry, Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts and areas falling under 16 police stations in nine other districts bordering Assam are declared as “disturbed area” under Section 3 of AFSPA 1958 for six months beyond May 4, 2016. Three people have died and 24 militants arrested in 24 insurgency-related incidents by Naga groups over the past six months. On March 27, 2015, the Centre had declared all districts of the state bordering Assam as “disturbed areas”. The order was later withdrawn after protests from the Nabam Tuki government. (The Indian Express 7/5/16)

3/4th Death Row Convicts Socio-economically Backward: Report (1)

NEW DELHI: More than three-fourths of death row convicts in the country belong to socially, economically and educationally backward section of the society, according to a report.  The report by Centre for Death Penalty of Delhi National Law University also states that more than 80 per cent of the death row inmates are subjected to ‘inhuman, degrading and extreme forms of physical and mental torture’ inside prisons.  The study which documents the socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death in India identifies that almost three-fourth of the prisoners were economically vulnerable and a major chunk of them were either primary or sole earners in their family. Seventy six per cent of convicts awaiting gallows belong to backward classes and religious minorities, as per the report which also indicates that all the 12 female death row convicts in the country belong to the above mentioned categories. Two hundred and sixteen of 270 prisoners, (i.e, 80 per cent) in this study spoke about custodial torture faced by them which includes the most inhuman, degrading and extreme forms of physical and mental torture inside the dark walls. Burning skin with cigarettes, inserting needles into fingernails, forced nudity, forced anal penetration with rods and glass bottles, forced to drink urine, made to urinate on heater, hung by wires, extreme beating etc are few forms of torture that have been revealed in the study.  The study also found that 23 per cent of prisoners sentenced to death had never attended school and 61.6 per cent had not completed their secondary education. “If the accused is illiterate, it affects his defence,” Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur said during a panel discussion regarding the report. The report identifies 385 death row convicts lodged in various prisons across different states among which Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 79 convicts in line to gallows. Living on a death row with uncertainty is worsened with the harsh conditions which includes solitary confinement as the the apex court itself in 1978 had ruled that the prisoner sentenced to death could be kept in a cell away from other prisoners, the ‘Death Penalty India Report’ has saidThe report throws light into the life of death row convicts and is a critical analysis of the criminal justice system, which according to Justice Lokur, requires a major procedural and substantive reformation.  “While it is not possible to make any arguments regarding direct discrimination, the report certainly highlights the disparate impact of the death penalty in India on groups marginalised along the axis of caste, religion, economic vulnerability and educational status,” said Anup Surendranath, director of the Centre on the Death Penalty.  … (New Indian Express 8/5/16)

Amended draft of anti-torture Bill ready: Govt.(1)

New Delhi: The government has finalized an amended draft of an anti-torture Bill and will soon bring it before Parliament, the Rajya Sabha was told on Wednesday. “I cannot give a guarantee on time frame that it will be brought in so many months but I assure the House that a full-fledged draft Bill has been prepared. The draft has been sent to Law Ministry,” Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary said replying to questions about bringing for passage the amended Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 before the Parliament. The Minister said certain amendments have been made in the earlier Bill including replacing the word “hurt” with “hurt and torture”. “A proposal to suitably amend Section 330 and Section 331 of the Indian Penal Code is currently under examination,” he said in the written reply. In the written reply, the Minister said the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 was prepared as an enabling legislation to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on May 5, 2010. The Rajya Sabha referred it to the Select Committee for scrutiny. The Select Committee referred the Bill for enactment with certain modifications. Comments of State governments and Union Territory administrations were called. Some of the State governments felt that adequate provisions already exist in the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure and suggested suitable amendments in the existing provisions of these laws. In the meanwhile, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in May 2014, necessitating introduction of a new Bill in the House. Members wanted to know the reasons for the delay in bringing the Bill. One of the members took potshots at the government saying “you bring all anti-democratic Bill like on Uttarakhand so fast. Give us a specific time by when you are bringing this Bill.” Pawan Varma (JDU) wanted to know whether one of the five permanent members China has decided against ratifying the Convention. Responding to another question about details of the steps taken by government to improve conviction rates in cases of custodial torture resulting in deaths, the Minister said that under seventh schedule of the Constitution of India, Police and Public Order are State subjects. “And therefore, the State governments are primarily responsible for prevention, registration, detection and investigation of crime and prosecution of the perpetrators of crime within their jurisdiction, including those causing custodial torture leading to deaths. “The National Human Rights Commission has issued guidelines from time to time to be followed by the law enforcing agencies in cases of custodial death. Advisories have also been issued by the government to all states and Union Territories on measures to be taken on relevant issues like arrest of individual,” he said. (The Hindu 11/5/16)

‘No plans to lift AFSPA from J-K, Northeast’ (1)

New Delhi: Government has no plans to revoke AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. “No, sir,” minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in reply to a written question on whether government has plans to revoke Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states.Chaudhary also said the government has not received any information from its sources about conducive atmosphere prevailing in the states for lifting AFSPA. The minister was responding to a question by PDP MP Nazir Ahmed Laway. (Hindustan Times 11/5/16)

NGO seeks SC panel’s help to put guilty in dalit rape behind bars (1)

Coimbatore: Vizhuthugal, an NGO fighting for the rights of dalits, has notified the National Commission of Schedule Castes about two recent incidents where minor dalit girls were raped by caste Hindus. The first incident occured on May 2 in Udumalpet, Tirupur district and the second in Kannivadi, Dindigul district. The NGO asked the commission to ensure the state takes action against the guilty in both cases. A 17-year-old dalit girl from Kallapalayam village near Sular, who was a second year diploma student in a polytechnic college in the city, was in love with Azhagupadmanaban, 22 from Kannivadi in Dindigul. He worked for a private firm in Sulur. He was a Chettiyar and promised to marry the minor soon. Trusting him, she left home discretely on May 2. Her parents approached the Sulur police to file a ‘girl missing’ complaint. Sub-inspector Sivakumar refused to receive the complaint.”Azhagupadmanaban and his two friends raped and murdered the girl and dumped the body in a hilly area near Kannivadi in Dindigul. He returned to work on May 2 and later pretended to help the girl’s parents search for her. On May 6, the girl”s body was found after which police picked him up for interrogation. Later, he was arrested,” said M Thangavel, director of Vizhuthugal organisation. Moorthy, one of his accomplices, surrendered before a court, while Jayapandi, the third culprit, is still absconding. “The police failed to register rape case against the trio. They told us that they are waiting for the post-mortem report,” he said, calling for a CBI probe into the case.On May 2 around 11.30pm, a 16-year-old dalit girl, who was waiting for her SSLC results, was raped by her neighbour in an abandoned building at Vilamarathupatti near Udumalpet. She had gone to attend a temple function in the village and was returning home on foot. M Mahendran, 34, a Gounder from the same village took her to an abandoned building with the help of his friend where he raped her.Dalit are oppressed by caste Hindus. They are unable to fight back. Many dalit girls are being raped but not all incidents come to light. It’s time the government did something to protect the safety of dalit girls,” said Thangavel. (Times of India 16/5/16)

Rs. 10 lakh awarded to family of man killed in police custody (1)

KOCHI: The Kerala State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA), probing the death of a 27-year-old man after being taken into custody by the Parassala police in May 2014, has confirmed custodial violence as the cause of his death and directed the Kerala police chief to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) for investigating the case further. Pronouncing the order here on Tuesday, Justice K. Narayana Kurup, SPCA chairman, also directed the State government to pay a compensation of Rs.10 lakh to the kin of the deceased within six weeks. He took strong exception to an inter-departmental inquiry exonerating the accused officers and directed the police chief to constitute an SIT consisting of officers nominated by the SPCA.The police chief was further directed to depute a Superintendent of Police to discuss the modalities to be followed with the residuary investigation, to be conducted within 10 days. The investigation team will report to the SPCA once in a fortnight. In its order, the SPCA said the police version that the victim, Sreejeev, died after consuming Furadan was a Machiavellian plot to cover up the brutal assault in custody. It also dismissed the police claim that the victim had concealed the pesticide in his underwear, terming it a “satanic design” to divert attention from the real issue, and confirmed that Sreejeev died of severe muscle trauma inflicted by the police.After due consultations with toxicologists and forensic scientists, the SPCA confirmed that it was impossible for a person to swallow 63 grams of the pesticide. “That apart, Sreejeev having studied only up to fifth standard cannot be imputed with a basic idea of toxicology of the insecticide to calculate the lethal dose,” the judge observed. According to the SPCA, the police version of suicide also stood exposed as a stomach wash of the deceased at the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvanathapuram was negative for the pesticide. Further, a qualitative analysis of stomach wash found no evidence of the pesticide. The SPCA found that the real motive behind Sreejeev’s arrest was to keep him away from his girlfriend’s marriage at the behest of her father. It discovered that the victim had been administered a dose of 230 mg of atropine. (The Hindu 18/5/16)

Minor’s torture: Childline to approach Collector (1)

KOCHI: The alleged torture of a minor Dalit boy by the Nedumbassery police has taken a fresh turn, with the Childline authorities deciding to approach the Ernakulam District Collector charging the police with threatening and forcing the boy to withdraw a “custodial torture” complaint. Childline officials said the police, on the pretext of Childline officials, met the boy in his shelter and forced him to sign a document, saying he had no complaint. “We will again record the boy’s statement and submit it to the Collector,” an official of Childline, Ernakulam, said. According to them, if the police suspected that the minor was involved in any crime, they should have produced him before the Juvenile Justice Board.The 16-year-old boy, who lost his father and was abandoned by his mother, was taken into custody from his relative’s house by the Nedumbassery Police on May 10 in connection with a bike theft case. He was allegedly tortured in custody, resulting in bruises under his feet and serious injury to the spinal cord. Childline officials had visited the boy last Thursday and produced him before the District Child Welfare Committee the next day. The CWC, in turn, asked Childline to provide shelter to him for 10 days after his relatives accused the police of pressurising them to withdraw the complaint. It has also sought a report from the Superintendent of Police, Ernakulam Rural, on the matter and is awaiting a report from the Child Rights Commission to decide the next course of action. Two days later, Childline also filed a complaint with the Juvenile Justice Board. Meanwhile, the police denied the charges. “No reports on the boy being pressurised to withdraw the complaint has come to our notice,” Shaju V.S., Circle Inspector of Police, Nedumbassery, said. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

NHRC seeks status report on Kendrapada police excesses (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the IG of Police (HRPC) to send copies of medico legal certificates (MLCs) of the people who were injured during the police lathi-charge and also a status report on the investigation of the case within four weeks. The NHRC has been monitoring the case after Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy filed a petition seeking justice for the innocent people who were protesting illegal activities done by self styled God man Sarathi Baba. The petitioner had requested the NHRC to investigate the case by the Special Rapporteur, direct the Chief Secretary and DG of Police to immediately release all those picked at random by police and ensure free medical treatment to the injured ones besides asking the State Government to pay compensation to the victims injured in police lathi-charge and keeping a vigilant eye over the activities of all the self-proclaimed godmen (Babas). Pursuant to an earlier notice of NHRC, the IGP had sent a report on October 15 last year confirming that the protest was staged by some people against Sarathi Baba on August 5 and 6. The agitation was intensified on August 6 as at about 7 pm, about 700 persons with a visible representation of women, under the leadership of Mamta Samantra, assembled on the road leading to the Ashram and blocked the vehicular traffic. The crowd gradually swelled, became unruly and turned violent. “Hence, the then SP, directed the force to disperse the agitators, chased away the agitators and in the process some vehicles kept on the roadside were damaged. Samantra was arrested and forwarded to the court,” the report stated. In his rejoinder Tripathy however claimed that the one page report sent to the Commission by the State authorities is an eye-wash and did not cover the entire episode. Law and order was completely collapsed in Kendrapada town as police cracked down on the protestors on August 6 and 7. “A couple of media persons were also injured in the incident. Police even attacked those who had raised hands above their shoulders as a sign of surrender. Police arrested Kendrapada district BJPpresident Duryodhan Sahu and another lawyer was also made to do sit-ups at Tinimuhani Square. The Religious Institutions Prevention of Misuse Act, 1988 has not been used sincerely by the State. This is one of the few incidents of fraudulent activities of the self-proclaimed God-man and preachers/ religious persons of the state. The State officials sat silently to witness the growth of the empire of the so-called Baba till large scale public anger spreads,” he wrote. The Commission, following the rejoinder of the petitioner, has directed the IGP to submit the MLCs and a status report by June 21. (New Indian Express 23/5/16)

 

NC, Cong protest over AFSPA; walk out of J&K Assembly (1)

Srinagar: Opposition parties Wednesday staged a walkout from the J&K Assembly, as Governor NN Vohra was addressing the joint sitting of the legislature on the first day of the budget session. The walkout by National Conference and the Congress has been in protest over continued enforcement of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) in the state, shortage of ration and other issues. Soon as the Governor began his address, opposition legislators began shouting slogans over revoking the Armed Services Special Powers Act and National Food Security Act. They also demanded magisterial probe over the recent Handwara killings and sacking of forest minister Lal Singh for allegedly making threatening remarks against a Gujjar delegation in Jammu last week. “We need ration, not speeches,” the NC leaders shouted and thumped the desks. Congress members led by its legislature party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora also joined the protest demanding roll back of the NFSA. The government criticised the opposition saying they should have listened to the Governor before making their objections in a democratic manner. As the Governor refused to pay heed to the protests and continued his address, members of both the opposition parties walked out. However, independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid chose to remain in the House. Carrying a banner on recent Handwara killings, Rashid said that the Chief Minister had promised to complete the investigation in one month and make the probe public.“Where is the investigation now (the specified) one month has passed?” he asked. Rashid also objected to the plans to build cluster townships for Kashmir Pandits and Sainik Colony saying: “We won’t allow Kashmir to be made another Palestine.”Addressing the Governor, he said, “You (Governor) do not represent us. You are a non-state subject. We are supposed to have an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat (president of the state). you represent Delhi.” He even alleged that Vohra had been “made to lie” by the central government. (Deccan Herald 26/5/16)

Retired officer jailed in custodial torture trial (1)

Agartala: A retired police officer has been jailed in a case of custodial torture that occurred 16 years ago at Sidhai police station near Agartala. Senior Magistrate Ispita Das on Thursday imprisoned Debjyoti Gautam , who retired as a Deputy Superintendent of Police and was Circle Inspector in 2000 when he physically tortured and critically wounded plaintiff Parimal Debnath, son of a former CPI(M) MLA. The victim was picked up from his home for interrogation in connection with a murder case. Lawyers of a human rights group helped Mr. Debnath to register a case after the local police station and even the police headquarters refused to accept complaints against the police officer. Mr Gautam, however, was released on bail to allow him to make an appeal in the upper court. (The Hindu 27/5/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

`Threats of violence, political pressure among challenges to freedom of press in India’ (May 3 is World Press Freedom Day) (1)

New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) There are several challenges to the freedom of the press in India, including threats of violence from vested interests and pressure from political parties, experts have said, calling for greater involvement of civil society in cases pertaining to journalists. Talking to IANS on the issues concerning the media in India on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the experts, including senior journalists, said that mediapersons also need to adapt to the new challenges by being more bold. The World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defends the media from attacks on their independence and pays tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It is observed on the anniversary of Declaration of Windhoek – a statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a Unesco seminar held in the Namibian city in 1991. Sevanti Ninan, Editor, The Hoot, a website which undertakes research pertaining to the media to strengthen its independence, said there has been a decline in press freedom in the last few years. “The greater vulnerability is for journalists in districts and small towns. One reason for this that many of them are now using RTI to investigate local scams and they pose a threat to the powerful in government and in politics,” Ninan told IANS. She cited instances of death of three journalists covering investigative stories over the last year and said there should be a law guaranteeing press freedom, which is different from free speech. She said committees comprising journalists and civil society members should be kept informed of police action against journalist. Ninan said the media community in India has been remiss in protecting its counterparts in the regional press. “There is no pressure group at the national level which maintains pressure on the central and state governments in cases regarding journalists. The Editors Guild and other bodies are not really proactive in this regard. The Press Council publishes reports, but they have no impact,” she said. Ninan said that it states like Chhattisgarh, where the state is battling Maoists, journalists who try to report on incidents involving the ultras were becoming victims of state oppression. “There have been four arrests of journalists in Chhattisgarh since july 2015,” Ninan said. She said the other issue is defamation. “The state government of Tamil Nadu is very active in filing defamation cases against journalists. There have been several already this year,” she said. Ninan said threats to editorial independence “come from proprietors and advertisers among others” while physical threats come from a variety of sources including the state police. Senior journalist and political commentator S. Nihal Singh said the political atmosphere was not very conducive to freedom of press. “There are the usual suspects in terms of the bureaucracy being overzealous on occasions. That is one danger and the other is that the whole climate is not really conducive to press freedom. Because, if you narrow down the national ideal to things like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and other things in a similar vein, you are constricting the room for free opinion,” he said. ….  (Times of India 4/5/16)

Journalists at high risk in state, says Amnesty International (1)

Raipur: Chhattisgarh continues to be one of the most dangerous places for journalists and human rights defenders in India. On May 3, World Press Freedom day, Amnesty International India demanded from Raman Singh government to release four journalists, who have been arrested for writing against state government. In March 2016, The Editors Guild Of India fact-finding committee said that they could not find a single journalist who could claim with confidence that he/she was working without fear or pressure in state. Four journalists Santosh Yadav, Somaru Nag, Prabhat Singh and Deepak Jaiswal, all working out of Bastar region, have been arrested on politically motivated charges since July 2015. Another journalist Malini Subramaniam, who has extensively reported on human rights violations by state, was forced to leave Bastar in February 2016 following attacks on her home and police pressure on her landlord.Patrakar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, an organization formed by journalists in Bastar, will be protesting in New Delhi on May 10. “Journalism is not a crime and every journalist has the right to question government based on facts. There is a complete crackdown on journalists, which has led to the stifling of democracy in the region. The state must respect Constitution and release all journalists who were arrested for doing their work,” said Tara Rao, programme director at Amnesty. Violations by state have been accompanied by intimidation by those acting on its behalf. Local self-styled vigilante groups which appear to have the backing of state police, have intimidated and harassed journalists and activists who express dissenting views. “State police continue to use abusive laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act to stifle the right to freedom of expression,” said Rao. Chhattisgarh government’s open contempt for constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms needs to end now, she added. (Times of India 4/5/16)

Scribe death: three booked for abetment to suicide (1)

FARIDABAD: A former Haryana Indian Medical Association president, his wife and another doctor were booked for abetment to suicide, a day after a young woman journalist with the web portal of an English daily leapt to her death from her fifth floor flat in Sector 46 here. Based on the complaint of the deceased’s father Ravi Tiwari, the police lodged a First Information Report under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code naming Faridabad’s prominent paediatrician Anil Goyal, his gynaecologist wife Archana Goyal and Dr. Dhawal. Hailing from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Puja Tiwari, stayed alone in a rented flat in Sadhbhawan Apartments. However, his journalist friend Amreen Khan and Haryana Police Inspector Amit Kumar were also present with her in the flat when she took the extreme step on May 1. Amreen had come to stay with her on April 22. She had come from Indore in search of a job. Amit is a family friend of the Tiwaris, the police said. Puja had conducted a sting operation on the Goyals for allegedly practising female foeticide this past month following which the doctor-couple had lodged an FIR against her for allegedly trying to extort Rs.2 lakh. According to the police, she was suspended from her job with the news portal following the registration of the case and was stressed. Puja’s brother Sourav said that she was left in a lurch by her journalist-friends as well and no one believed her. “The news about registration of case against her was carried prominently in local newspapers and even went viral on the social media. All this left her shattered and she went into depression,” said Sourav. The family blamed the doctors for allegedly registering a false case and causing her mental trauma. Dr. Goyal, however, dismissed the allegations against him and his wife as “baseless” and instead demanded a probe into the role of the police inspector who was present with her. “We had no communication with the journalist after the registration of the case on April 8. It is a baseless allegation that we forced her to commit suicide. The police are trying to protect the police inspector who was present with her at the time of suicide. Earlier, the family was accusing the inspector, but they were later tutored to put the blame on doctors to protect the inspector,” said Dr. Goyal. Meanwhile, an audio clip featuring the police inspector and the journalist quarrelling on the night of May 1 also appeared and was also doing the rounds. “We have registered an FIR based on the complaint of the parents of the deceased, but we will investigate all aspects of the case. We will also investigate the audio clip and the records of conversation between the journalist and the police inspector,” said the Commissioner of Police (Faridabad) Hanif Qureshi. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

MP gave Rs 14 cr govt ads to shady websites run by journalists, relatives: Report (1)

Mumbai: An investigation by the Indian Express has revealed that the Madhya Pradesh government has spent over Rs 14 crore on advertisements to 234 websites over a period of four years. Many of these websites, it has been found out, are run by relatives of journalists based within the state. These websites have reportedly been identified in a list that was prepared by the government as response to a question in the state Assembly by Congress MLA Bala Bachchan. The report revealed that costs of the advertisements placed on these websites ranged between Rs 10,000 to Rs 21.7 lakh. The newspaper also revealed that: 1. Out of at least 26 websites that got advertisements worth Rs 10 lakh or more, at least 18 are run by journalists or their relatives. 2. At least 81 websites, many of them associated with relatives of journalists, received advertisements worth Rs 5-10 lakh. 3. Some of the websites identified by Indian Express are http://www.failaan.com (Rs 18.70 lakh), http://www.citychowk.com (Rs 11.90 lakh) and http://www.prakalp.org (Rs 10.60 lakh). The listed addresses for http://www.failaan.com (Prakhar Agnihotri) and http://www.indiannews&view.com (Rs. 8.75 lakh, Rajesh Agnihotri) are the same. Anupam Rajan, commissioner for public relations, Madhya Pradesh in relation to the advertisements said, “Web sites are the new news media. Money was given to popularise this new medium, no matter who runs those sites.” However, he added that the policy of giving advertisements to websites has now been changed. The government now checks whether a website is actually working or not before the money is paid, he said. “Besides, we give advertisements now only after getting reports of the number of hits on the site. We cannot do anything if any of these web sites shut down after getting advertisements,” Rajan added. MLA Bala Bachchan said, “Advertisements should go to actual news portals run by genuine journalists. Why are advertisements being given to web sites of people associated with the BJP and some journalists?” (Business Standard 9/5/16)

Journalists protest in Delhi over press freedom issues in Chandigarh (1)

New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India in its report had claimed that there is “a sense of fear” in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Alleging “undermining” of press freedom in Chhattisgarh, scores of journalists from the state on Tuesday protested at the Jantar Mantar here and demanded release of the scribes who have been arrested there. The protesters who hailed from various districts of Chattisgarh, alleged that journalists in the state are being “intimidated” by the administration and “self-styled vigilante” groups. They also held black banners and placards bearing messages like ‘journalism is not a crime’ and ‘stop illegal detention’. The journalists demanded that the state government ensure an environment where they could report freely, especially in regions like Bastar, without the fear of being linked with Maoists. “Every journalist is being intimidated by police. There is a nexus between administration and vigilante group to ensure that the journalists do not report truth,” alleged Kamal Shukla, editor of Bhumkal Samachar, a Bastar-based newspaper. Journalists from Chattisgarh had formed Patrakaar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti after the arrest of two local reporters last year in what the fraternity has alleged were “fabricated cases”. The protest today was led by the Samiti. Two other journalists were also arrested and another was made to leave Bastar, journalists associated with the Sangharsh Samiti alleged. “We are being harassed on trumped-up charges of having links with the Maoists. Police want us to become their mouthpiece,” claimed Kamal Chauhan of a weekly newspaper Rajat Khabar. Meanwhile, global human rights body Amnesty International has demanded release of four journalists who have been arrested for writing “against” the state government. “We demand that the Raman Singh government release four journalists who have been arrested for writing against the state government,” the rights body said in a statement. Earlier in March, a three-member fact-finding team of Editors Guild of India in its report had claimed that there is “a sense of fear” in Bastar and every journalist working there feels that he/she is “not safe.” (DNA 11/5/16)

Journalist arrested for fabricating RTI reply (1)

New Delhi: A journalist was arrested on Saturday for allegedly “fabricating” a response to his right to information (RTI) request to make the claim that the Ministry of Ayush has a policy not to hire Muslims, police said. “He was arrested for fabricating an RTI reply,” a senior police officer told IANS. Journalist Pushp Sharma was arrested under section 418 (Cheating), 467 (Forgery of valuable security), 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation) and 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code, the police officer said. Sharma had claimed, in an article headlined “We don’t recruit Muslims: Modi government’s Ayush Ministry,” and published in March in Milli Gazette newspaper, that the ministry informed him that it is the “government policy” not to recruit Muslims. “The ministry said a total of 711 Muslim yoga trainers had applied for the short-term assignment abroad but none was even called for an interview while 26 trainers (all Hindus) were sent abroad on this assignment,” Sharma wrote in the article in question. The article was accompanied by a letter from the ministry transferring Sharma’s RTI request to a government yoga institute along with an ‘Annexure-I’ that included the statement, “As per government policy, no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad”.This annexure was “non-existent” and “fictitious” as was “never issued by the ministry”, the government said in a statement on March 12. Sharma’s RTI query that purportedly invited the ‘Annexure-I’ was: How many Muslim candidates were invited, selected or sent abroad as yoga trainer/teacher during World Yoga Day 2015? The government said in its statement that the ministry never replied to this query or any other, but simply transferred Sharma’s RTI request to two other public authorities. “The contents regarding religion-based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the international cooperation section of the ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religions,” the government statement said. Sharma had rejected the government statement as “misleading,” claiming the RTI response did indeed come from the ministry. He was interrogated by the police for a few days after the article was published. The police had then sent the RTI replies for forensic analysis. Ayush is an acronym for ‘Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy’ (Business Standard 14/5/16)

Press freedom groups urge probe into journalist killings (1)

New Delhi: A coalition of press freedom groups urged on Sunday a swift investigation into the murder of two journalists in 24 hours, crimes that heightened fears about media safety and freedom in the country. Siwan bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan Rajdeo Ranjan was shot five times by unknown gunmen late on Friday. On Thursday evening television journalist Akhilesh Pratap Singh was shot dead while he was returning home on a motorbike in Jharkhand. Police have not yet made any formal arrests in either case. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the shootings took to nine the number of journalists killed in the past year in India, which has been ranked as Asia’s deadliest country for reporters.“We utterly condemn the killings, demand a speedy and thorough investigation and justice for our colleagues,” Brussels-based IFJ president Jim Boumelha said in a statement. “The toll of killings in India is undermining press freedom and the government and police must act to bring the killers to justice and put an end to impunity.” The Indian Journalists Union, an IFJ affiliate, said both of the reporters were killed because of their work exposing corruption and criminal activities in the underdeveloped states. Police have similar suspicions. “Rural reporters, who are the most neglected and poorly-paid journalists in the country, are braving the threats and intimidation of a political and criminal nexus,” the group said in the same statement.The National Union of Journalists of India has threatened nationwide protests if police fail to move quickly to bring those responsible to justice. India was Asia’s deadliest country for journalists in 2015, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. It is also one of the most restrictive for them, ranked 133 out of 180 nations by the group. Journalists in the world’s largest democracy often face harassment and intimidation by police, politicians, bureaucrats and criminal gangs, while scores work in hostile conditions in conflict-ridden pockets of the country. (Hindustan Times 15/5/16)

A setback to free speech (1)

Freedom of speech and expression, which is a fundamental right, suffered a setback when the Supreme Court recently refused to consider criminal defamation as anachronistic. This 400-year-old British law which became part of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was long back condemned to the dustbin in the land of its origin. Many other countries, including the US, Canada and neighbouring Sri Lanka, have taken out criminal defamation from their statute books. In India, the apex court has been stoutly defending it in the belief that, otherwise, it would lead to a situation in which people would defame one another without restraint. It is significant that the petitioners who wanted the archaic law to be jettisoned were Subramanian Swamy, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi who among them represent a broad spectrum of public opinion. Alas, the significance was lost on the court which elevated the non-existent right to reputation to the level of the right to speech. It did not consider truth as a mitigating factor in a criminal defamation case. Nor did the court give any consideration to the argument that the criminal defamation law — Section 499 and 500 of IPC — could be misused. As per an estimate, there are over 30 million such cases pending in various courts. Needless to say that all of them are genuine cases filed by innocent people. Dissent, criticism and critique are central to the practice of democracy and any attempt to smother them will take the sheen off democracy. The sooner the verdict is reviewed the better it will be for the country. This is not to say that people should be allowed to intentionally defame others with baseless allegations. An appropriate deterrent could be put in place to prevent the unhealthy policy of shoot and scoot adopted by some people. This other side of the story surely merits consideration. But giving the nod to what could effectively be negation of freedom of speech is dangerous. (New Indian Express 21/5/16)

Selective ads being used as political bribery, says Arun Jaitley (1)

New Delhi: In an apparent attack on the AAP-led Delhi government, which had faced criticism over its advertisement budget, Union minister Arun Jaitley on Friday wondered whether “selective and excessive” advertising by a state government amounts to “political bribery.” “If today any state gets the right to disburse excessive and selective advertising, a trend which is being witnessed for the first time, under which friends are rewarded and opponents punished….So the power of selective and excessive advertising is used…. I raised a question, will such advertising become political bribery or political incentive?” Union minister of information and broadcasting asked at an RSS event. Though the Union minister did not name any political outfit, his remarks were seen as a veiled attack on the Kejriwal government which had come under severe criticism from the Opposition over its advertisement budget. The senior BJP leader said he used to feel that the “era of censorship or pinching pockets had ended”, but the first symptoms of a new method are being witnessed in the country. He said he felt that if this experiment of “selective and excessive advertising” succeeds, then “all states will do it”.“And those people, who are critics of the ideology which I support, their stunning silence is most eloquent,” Mr Jaitley said, adding that a debate is needed on the issue. Referring to the Constituent Assembly, he said the two media personalities in it had emphasised on aspects related to the need to preserve commercial independence of media. He, however, also said that the idea of any curbs on the freedom of media has been rejected by society and in this age, because of technology, this is not even possible. “If the Emergency, instead of 1975, had been brought in 2016, technology itself would have defeated it,” he said. Mr Jaitley also said that the definition of the term news has been changing. He said there was a time when reading one newspaper gave you the entire picture, but with the coming of 24X7 TV news, the definition of news changed to what camera can capture. (Asian Age 21/5/16)

Bihar journalist’s murder: Five arrested in Uttar Pradesh (1)

NEW DELHI: Five people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday in connection with the murder of a journalist in Bihar’s Siwan district.42-year-old Rajdeo Ranjan was shot dead by criminals near a fruit market in Siwan on May 13. Two bullets were fired at the Siwan bureau chief of a Hindi daily that hit on his head and neck. He was rushed to a hospital, where the doctors declared him brought dead.Rohit, a notorious supari killer is also being interrogated by SIT and Siwan Police in connection with the case. (Times of India 25/5/16)

India using old, new laws to criminalise free speech: Report (1)

Indian authorities use vaguely worded British-era as well as newer laws to criminalise free speech and stamp out dissent, the Human Rights Watch said in a report on Tuesday, calling on the government to do away with such legislation. The report, titled “Stifling Dissent: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in India”, said old and new laws were being used to restrict activities by NGOs, block internet sites and target “marginalized communities, particularly Dalits, and religious minorities” in the country. The observations come amid rising instances of dissenting voices being dragged to court or citizens being jailed for expressing their opinion, especially on social media. The report mentioned the high-profile case of Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest on sedition charges after a campus event in February where alleged anti-India slogans were shouted. The government’s action against Kumar and fellow students triggered a debate on free speech and invited criticism by the Opposition and many public intellectuals who said cases of religious and political intolerance had gone up since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in 2014. The report said Indian authorities and political parties used government resources to file cases under archaic laws. “India’s abusive laws are the hallmark of a repressive society, not a vibrant democracy,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Putting critics in prison or even forcing them to defend themselves in lengthy and expensive court proceedings undermine the government’s efforts to present India as a modern country in the Internet age committed to free speech and the rule of law.” The human rights organisation said its report was based on an in-depth analysis of various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (including laws on sedition, criminal defamation, hate speech). The report also referred to Indian laws that criminalise defamation, saying such legislation should be scrapped in keeping with the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. But earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of such legal provisions, observing that they do not clash with the right to free speech.“Sedition and criminal defamation laws are routinely used to shield the powerful from criticism, and send a message that dissent carries a high price,” Ganguly said. “India’s courts have largely been protective of freedom of expression but as long as you have bad laws on the books, free speech will remain under threat,” she said. The Tamil Nadu government has used criminal defamation cases against journalists, with about 200 such cases pending in the state. The Human Rights Watch’s report also cited Penguin India’s decision to withdraw a book on the history of Hinduism by American scholar Wendy Doniger in 2014 rather than fight a case brought by a religious group. (Hindustantimes 25/5/16)

India abstains from voting on US press freedom group’s plea (1)

United Nations: India has abstained from voting, while China and Pakistan voted against a bid by a US advocacy group for press freedom, seeking accreditation as an NGO at the United Nations. The non-governmental organisation (NGO) Committee of the United Nations voted yesterday to deny the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) consultative status with the Economic Social Council (ECOSOC). India, Iran and Turkey abstained from voting while 10 countries including Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Sudan voted against CPJ’s application. Greece, Guinea, Israel, Mauritania, Uruguay and the US voted in favor of the group. CPJ said without the consultative status, it would be unable to access UN bodies and processes, notably the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where accredited NGOs can deliver a counter-narrative to states. The vote came after CPJ’s application, first made in 2012, was deferred seven times. “It is sad that the UN, which has taken up the issue of press freedom through Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and through the adoption of the UN Action Plan, has denied accreditation to CPJ, which has deep and useful knowledge that could inform decision making,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, who answered the committee’s questions on Tuesday. “A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that call their own abusive policies into high relief,” CPJ said. Noting that its application has been deferred for years by persistent, lengthy, and repetitive questioning, the CPJ said during the session, the NGO Committee “hid behind the pretense” of rules and procedures. … (Hindustan Times 28/5/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Cattle trading behind 21 communal riots since 2015 (7)

New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Emphasising that cattle trading was not prohibited in India, the Narendra Modi government on Thursday said that 21 incidents of cow and beef transportation resulted in communal riots during the year of 2015 and 2016. In a statement in response to the calling attention notice in the Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that such incidents were recorded from states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Citing that “police and public order” was a state subject, the minister said “state governments were primarily responsible for prevention, detection, registration and investigation of crime and for prosecuting the criminals”.Replying to a discussion on incidents of violence against cattle traders in various parts of the country, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that all political parties should come together to ensure peace in the country. He said that pictures of cow slaughter were being put on social sites that incite people. The minister, however, said everything possible was being done to ensure peaceful atmosphere in the country. The opposition Congress was not satisfied with the government’s response on the issue and said that the Modi government was silent on how a minority community, involved in the cattle trade, would be protected from violent incidents and attacks. “Purpose of the debate has been lost,” Leader of opposition Gulam Nabi Azad said after hearing Rijiju. Earlier speaking on the issue, Kumari Selja of the Congress demanded a policy on it and said the issue should not be politicised. (Times of India 5/5/16)

Christian community falsely framed in Saraswati killing: Book (7)

New Delhi, May 5 (PTI) The murder of VHP leader Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati in 2008 which had triggered violence in Kandhamal in Odisha was a “contractual” killing in which members of the Christian community were falsely framed, claims a new book on the ethno-communal riots. The book Who Killed Swami Laxamanananda?, released here by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, also claimed the incidents were “pre-planned”.Its author Anto Akkara, however, did not name anyone as being behind the Swamis murder but insisted those accused of killing the religious leader were “innocent”.Without naming any group or party, Nayar said the country cannot be ruled by “certain religion”, but by the Constitution. The “idea of India” is in danger today, he added. (India Today 5/5/16)

ops book 300 in Muzaffarnagar communal clash (7)

MEERUT: Tensions are running high once more in the communally sensitive district of Muzaffarnagar after an incident of road rage led to communal clashes late on Thursday night. Police have booked 300 people, including 63 named accused, for rioting. Violence had erupted in Khatauli town in the district after a vehicle driven by a man of one community had accidently hit a child from another community. Deputy superintendent of police (DSP) of Khatauli, Shivraj Singh, told TOI that adequate police force has been deployed in the area and the situation was under control. “We are conducting raids to catch those accused who are still at large,” he added. According to police officials, at around 8 pm on Thursday, one Shahwez was on his way home driving his e-rickshaw when the vehicle hit a bike rider Himanshu, who had a child riding with him. Both men had a heated argument and the public gathered there allegedly beat up Shahwez for his “rash driving”.Reaching home, Shahwez narrated the incident to his family and other members of his community. Within no time, people gathered at the spot and started pelting stones and firing at each other for the next hour. Police rushed to the spot to control the situation but the stone pelting and firing was reportedly so intense that they too had to run for cover. In the process, sub-inspector Vikram Bhati and 10 other policemen sustained injuries. Station officer Sanjeev Sharma immediately informed senior officials and additional force from 10 police stations was sent there to control the riot. District magistrate (DM) Dinesh Kumar Singh, senior superintendent of police (SSP) KB Singh, SP (city) Santosh Mishra and additional district magistrate (ADM) Manoj Kumar also reached the spot and appealed to the locals to maintain law and order. Public representatives also reached out to the people in an effort to make them understand. DSP Singh said while taking up precautionary measures, force from 10 police stations and three platoons of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) have been deployed under the supervision of three circle officers in Khatauli. “The situation is now completely under control. After receiving complaints from both sides we have lodged an FIR against six people from Himanshu’s side and 35 people from Shahwez’s side. Besides, police lodged an FIR on its own naming 11 persons from either side. Around 250 unidentified persons involving in stone pelting and violating the law have also booked in the case,” DSP added. (Times of India 6/5/16)

Target Hindu leaders to strike communal tension in India, get foreign jobs, said Dawood Ibrahim’s gang to lure people (7)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday submitted charge sheet before a special court against 10 accused in the double murder case of BJP leaders in Bharuch, claiming the killings were part of a larger conspiracy involving co-accused located in Pakistan and South Africa. Reportedly, the Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company had lured people by saying that ‘target Hindu leaders seen to have had a role in the Gujarat riots and those perceived as “anti-Muslim” and get good money and jobs in South Africa’, according to a report in TOI. As per the charge sheet submitted before the special NIA court of principal judge P B Desai, “The case relates to murder of two persons …as part of a larger conspiracy in which co-accused located in foreign countries too, were conspiring to kill and strike terror in the minds of people belonging to a particular section of society.” “During investigation, role of co-accused located in Pakistan and South Africa has also emerged and investigation of the case is being continued to collect more evidence against the accused,” it said.The central agency said charge sheet against two more arrested accused – Abdul Samad and Nasir Khan Pathan – will be filed later. The charge sheet was filed against accused Saiyed Imran, Zuheb Ansari, Inayat Patel, Mohmad Yunus, Haider Ali, Nissarbhai Sheikh, Mohsin Khan Pathan, Mohmed Altaf Shaikh, Abid Patel and Abdul Salim Ghanchi. Former BJP president of Bharuch and senior RSS member Shirish Bangali and general secretary of Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha Pragnesh Mistry were shot dead in the district by two unidentified gunmen on November 2 last year. Public prosecutor Geeta Gorambe also submitted three applications before the court, seeking permission to keep identity of some witnesses secret, details of certain documents hidden, and NIA protection to the witnesses. Gorambe told the court that NIA will itself provide protection to certain witnesses but wanted court permission for the same. The court granted permission for all three requests. A total of 12 accused were arrested in connection with the case and were booked under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, IPC, Arms Act the Gujarat Police Act. The special court had in December last year granted NIA more time for filing the charge sheet. Initially, Bharuch police along with Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) conducted the probe and had termed the murders as an ‘act of terror’. (Zee News 9/5/16)

Bharuch murders carried out to foment communal trouble: NIA (7)

Ahmedabad, May 11 () The murder of two BJP leaders in Bharuch in Gujarat last year was part of a conspiracy by an international terror module operated by the “D Company” to incite communal passions, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has stated in its charge sheet in the case. The central agency submitted the charge sheet against ten accused last Saturday in the court of principal judge P B Desai. It was made available today to the defence lawyers. “During the investigation, it was revealed that an international terror module had been conspiring to kill selected people belonging to a particular section of society to terrorise them and to foment communal passions,” NIA says. Former Bharuch district president of BJP and a senior RSS member Shirish Bangali and general secretary of Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha’s district unit Pragnesh Mistry were shot dead by two gunmen in Bharuch on November 2, 2015. “The conspiracy was to kill Hindu leaders allegedly involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots and who were perceived to be anti-Muslim,” the chargesheet says. The accused youths were lured with money and promise of foreign jobs and some of them were asked to kill Hindus in the name of Islam while others were asked to extort money using the name of “D gang”, NIA says, without mentioning the fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim, head of the “D gang”.Some of them were also asked to throw alcohol bottles in churches to start fires, it says. “The arrested accused Inayat Patel, Mohamed Yunus and Abid Patel, along with foreign conspirators based in South Africa and Pakistan, formed a terrorist gang and entered into a conspiracy…to kill persons belonging to a particular section of society with the intention to terrorise them and to create communal tension,” it says. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Uttar Pradesh: Communal tension in Azamgarh village, police officers injured (7)

Lucknow: Tension erupted in Nizamabad area of Azamgarh after members of two communities clashed in Khudadadpur village Saturday night. The violence, which continued till Sunday morning, left Deputy SP K K Saroj and a few other officers injured. Inspector General (Varanasi S K Bhagat, who visited the spot on Sunday, said the situation has been brought under control and adequate force has been deployed. Only police officers were injured in the clashes, he added.Police said a Dalit villager named Musafir had lodged a complaint a week ago, alleging that he was assaulted by some Muslim men. Those accused, however, claimed that they were being threatened by Musafir. Police said that on Saturday night, some of the Muslim men allegedly set Musafir’s house on fire, sparking tension between the two communities.“Police have brought the situation under control, but lots of rumours are still being circulated. The police teams are on vigil and forces have been deployed to avoid any untoward incident,” said Bhagat, adding preventive arrests are being made. Khudadadpur village has a mixed population with Muslims in a majority. (Indian Express 16/5/16)

Communal tension flares up in Tripura as Mizoram tribal refugees burn (7)

KANCHANPUR: Communal tension flared up between locals of Tripura and Mizoram Bru (Reang) refugees in the Kanchanpur area of the state after the latter burnt and damaged the houses of the former. Several houses of locals Bengali community were set afire by the refugees following the suicide of 38-year-old Bhiguram Reang after he was allegedly beaten up on being caught red-handed catching fish without the owner’s permission. Police had to fire several rounds in the air and use tear gas to disperse the crowd. The district magistrate, the superintendent of police and the inspector general of police (law and order) monitored the situation to bring the situation under control. Seven police personnel were reportedly injured in the clash with inmates of Reang refugee camps in North Tripura district. Around 31,000 Reang tribals, who locally call themselves ‘Bru’, are living in seven makeshift camps in northern Tripura for the past 19 years after they fled Mizoram following ethnic troubles. Paramilitary has been deployed in the area to keep the area under domination apprehending retaliation from the locals. Meantime, locals those who lost their homes and properties have taken refugee in nearby Tripura State Rifles (TSR) camp. Around 35,000 Reang tribals or ‘Bru’ are living in seven makeshift camps in northern Tripura for the past 19 years after they fled Mizoram following ethnic trouble after a Mizo forest officer was killed. (New Indian Express 16/5/16)

2 days after clash: Azamgarh DIG, DM, SP, police commissioner shunted out (7)

Lucknow: In a major administrative reshuffle on Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government transferred as many as 62 IPS officers and 20 IAS officers while replacing 22 district SSPs or SPs and three DMs. Taking cognizance of the communal tension that erupted in Azamgarh Saturday night, the government shifted the district’s DIG, DM, SP and the police commissioner. J Ravinder Goud, Aligarh SSP, has been transferred to Meerut in the same capacity, and will be replaced by Love Kumar. K S Emmanuel, Allahabad SSP, takes the same responsibility in Ghaziabad, and is replaced by Joginder Kumar. Deepak Kumar will be the new SSP of communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar. The new SP of Azamgarh will be Ajay Kumar Sahni while that of Bijnor will be Umesh Kumar Srivastava.Among the IAS officers transferred this evening were three divisional commissioners — Lucknow, Devipatan and Azamgarh. The list also included DMs of Varanasi, Aligarh and Shahjahanpur. Varanasi DM Rajmani Yadav has been replaced by his counterpart in Shahjahanpur, Vijay Kiran Anand. T Venkatesh, who was serving as the Principal Secretary (Irrigation) has been made the new Divisional Commissioner of Lucknow while Mahesh Kumar Gupta, who was on the wait list, has been given the charge of Principal Secretary in the Rural Engineering Department. Senior IAS officer Sanjay Agarwal, who was already holding the charge of Principal Secretary in the Power Department and of Chairman in the Power Corporation Ltd, has been assigned additional duty of Principal Secretary (Infrastructure and Industries), Managing Director (PICCUP), CEO (Lucknow Industrial Development Authority) as well as Executive Director (Udyog Bandhu). The government has also transferred 27 PCS officers and as many as 69 sub-divisional magistrates in various districts. (Indian Express 17/5/16)

Communal tension defused in Phagwara (7)

Phagwara: A possible face-off between hardliners of two communities here was averted on Sunday after the administration intervened to defuse the tension. It was a poster war that triggered tension between the two communities, police said. According to the police, an activist of Akal Students Federation Gurdip Singh had put up a poster of slain militant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale outside his house in Adarsh Nagar on Saturday. This was objected to by Deepak Bhardwaj, State unit president of Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Surakhsha Samiti. Mr. Bhardwaj then put up outside his house a poster of General A.S. Vaidya who had played key role in the Blue Star Operation in which Bhindrawale was killed. Houses of both Mr. Singh and Mr. Bhardwaj are situated side by side in the same locality. Soon after, Federation activists converged outside the house of Mr. Singh, police said, adding Mr. Bhardawaj also called supporters of his organisation. The police was called and a contingent was deployed in front of their houses to ward off any ugly incident. Additional force was requisitioned from adjoining districts as a precautionay step and kept on standby, the police said. Police authorities intervened and brought the two sides to a negotiating table. After the talks which went on till midnight, both sides relented. While Mr. Bhardawaj removed Gen Vaidya’s poster, Federation activists removed Bhindrawale’s poster. When contacted on Sunday, Phagwara SP Ajinder Singh said the matter was amicably resolved and that there was no tension whatsoever in the city. PTI (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Gujarat Riots

The Gujarat riots of 2002 are said to be the worst communal violence in India after the 2003 Nellie massacre in Assam and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Officially, the Gujarat riots resulted in the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus with over 2,500 people injured. However, activists and NGOs say that up to 2,000 Muslims were killed in the violence which allegedly had the backing of the then BJP government led by Narendra Modi. A Supreme Court appointed investigation later exonerated Modi of any wrongdoing. Many right-wing organisations defended the riots as a natural reaction to the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a mysterious fire which engulfed four coaches of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station. (Hindustan Times 24/5/16)

Weapons training camp: Bajrang Dal leader arrested (26)

Faizabad/Ayodhya: The Faizabad police on Wednesday evening arrested the convenor of Bajrang Dal’s local unit under charges of hurting religious sentiments and spreading communal enmity. On Tuesday night, the police had booked several activists and office bearers of the saffron outfit in connection with a weapons training camp held in Ayodhya on May 14. During the camp, Bajrang Dal activists executed a mock drill eliminating ‘rioters and terrorists’ in Islamic clothing like skull caps and kaafia (Arabic scarves). Video clips and photographs from the camp went viral on social media, sparking outrage. Faizabad SSP Mohit Gupta said that taking into cognizance the unlawful activities the outfit indulged in, the Faizabad police late on Tuesday night lodged an FIR at Kotwali police station against Bajrang Dal activists and office bearers for disturbing peace, law and order and communal harmony. Subsequently, Mahesh Mishra, the convenor of Bajrang Dal’s Faizabad/Ayodhya unit was arrested. (Times of India 26/5/16)

Gujarat Files: Sting claims political pressure in Gujarat riots (7)

New Delhi: Officials of the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government alleged political pressure in connection with the 2002 riots and the various alleged fake encounters in the state. They made these claims in a sting operation by former Tehelka journalist Rana Ayyub who has self-published what she calls excerpts from these purported conversations in “Gujarat Files – Anatomy of a cover up”. The book was launched in New Delhi this evening. Ayyub, who has said that she recorded Modi, too, at his Gandhinagar residence — wearing a camera in her watch — did not release the sting tapes saying she would give them to investigating agencies if they asked for it. Ayyub said the common thread in all her sting operations was Amit Shah, the then home minister of Gujarat and now the BJP president. Shah, who was once jailed in the Sohrabuddin case, was discharged by a CBI court in December 2014.Ayyub alleged that Tehelka, which had sent her on the assignment, refused to publish the story later citing “political pressure”. The then editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury, was not available for comment. Asked about Ayyub’s allegations today, a BJP spokesman declined to comment. Ayyub claimed she stung Ashok Narayan, G L Singhal, P C Pande, G C Raighar, Rajan Priyadarshi and Y A Shaikh over eight months during 2010-11, posing as an NRI filmmaker from the US who was making a film on “vibrant Gujarat”. She said she assumed the name of Maithili Tyagi. Ayyub quoted IPS officer Rajan Priyadarshi as linked Modi and Shah to the communal violence in the state. Priyadarshi joined the Congress after he retired, campaigned for the party and launched a fortnightly called ‘Rajan’. “I have nothing to hide, I said all this even in election campaigns,” he told The Indian Express on Friday. Priyadarshi, who retired as Additional DGP (Prisons) in 2009, added that he had met someone by the name of “Maithili Tyagi” three years ago. “Though I have not seen or read the book, whatever I may have told her is 100 per cent the truth,” he said. Singhal, an accused in the Ishrat case that was investigated by the CBI, is now posted as Deputy Inspector General of Police at the Police Training Academy in Gandhinagar. At the time of the encounter, he was serving as Superintendent of Police, ATS. Ayyub claimed when she asked him whether Ishrat was a Lashkar terrorist, he purportedly replied: “See, she was not but she was killed in the same incident. I mean she could have been or not have been. Or she could have been used as a cover.” …. (Indian Express 30/5/16)

COMMUNALISM

Now, Goa BJP feels RSS heat over mother tongue, asks Delhi for help (26)

THE GOA unit of the BJP has approached the party’s national leadership to resolve a face-off with the RSS over grant of funds to English-medium primary schools. The Sangh and the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) want the state to restrict such grants to primary schools that impart education in Konkani or Marathi. They have even threatened to call on people to vote against the government in the 2017 assembly elections. “The government must accept our demand that grant to all the 129 primary schools that impart education in English must be withdrawn. We have nothing against English-medium schools but the government grant must be given only to Konkani and Marathi schools. Primary education should be in the mother tongue,” Krishna Raj Narsinh, Uttar Goa RSS sanchalak, told The Indian Express. RSS Goa president Subhas Velingkar said that “people will show the BJP government its place in the 2017 elections and push them out of power if the government continues its support for a non-regional language”. But government officials said any such move would affect around 29,000 students in 129 primary schools. “It is unfair to withdraw the grants to those institutes which have been granted permission to run in English medium,” said Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar. Defending the government, state BJP chief V D Tendulkar said that it has been providing incentives to schools that impart education in Konkani and Marathi. “The grant will continue. We Now Goa BJP feels RSS heat over mother tongue, asks Delhi for help have not given grant to any new English school since we came to power in 2012, while we have given grants to 31 Konkani and 56 Marathi schools. In this budget, we have also announced a grant of Rs 400 per student for all those primary schools that impart education in the mother tongue,” said Tendulkar. Asked about the RSS call to vote against the party, Tendulkar said: “The people of Goa are with the BJP. It (agitation) won’t have any impact on polls.” He added, “This is the internal matter of our Parivar. We will resolve it amicably.” However, the issue has led to a rift within the BJP, too, as some top leaders, including Environment Minister Rajendra Arlekar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza, have opposed the government’s position. Recently, Chief Minister Parsekar had to ask his Cabinet colleagues to stop expressing their views on the issue. Incidentally, before the previous elections in 2012, the BJP had opposed the grant of funds for English-medium primary schools and demanded that the mother tongue must be followed as the medium of instruction. (Indian Express 2/5/16)

RSS-BJP bent to convert Kashmir into Hindu Rashtra: Gilani (26)

Srinagar, May 03 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, the Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Syed Ali Gilani, has said that India continues to hatch conspiracies to change the Muslim majority status of Jammu and Kashmir into a minority. Syed Ali Gilani told mediamen at his residence in Srinagar that India was not concerned about the people of Kashmir but its land. “The RSS and the BJP want to convert our Valley of Saints into a Hindu Rashtra. Worst part is that local pro-India parties are assisting these forces in every possible way in fulfilling their agenda in the territory, ” he said. He cited the examples of covering Jammu and Kashmir under India’s Eligibility Entrance Test for admissions in medical courses, the plan to build concrete structures for non-local labourers and the unsympathetic attitude towards Urdu language as proofs of the conspiracies hatched against the Muslims of the territory. The APHC Chairman, who is under continued house arrest, said, Kashmiri people are witnessing the worst kind of state terrorism, which is among the worst in the world. He pointed out that Islam and Muslims were the main targets of the Indian state. “We saw how Regional Engineering College in Kashmir was converted into National (Indian) Institute of Technology which has majority of students from India now. These Indian students harass their colleagues from Jammu and Kashmir and when they resist, people from New Delhi are flown to Srinagar to support them. Now medical students from Jammu and Kashmir are being asked to appear in All-India-level entrance exam. Their selection will also be made at All India level. Subsequently, doctors from India will be settled in Jammu and Kashmir,” he maintained. Elaborating, he said, Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region, but the sinister plans are on to change it into a Muslim minority territory. “The ultimate conspiracy is to settle more people from Indian states. Over seven lakh troops and five lakh non-locals are present in the territory. Army has occupied over 28 lakh kanals of land in Kashmir and is converting temporary sheds into concrete structures. India also plans to settle non-locals and West Pakistani non-Muslim refugees to change demography of the territory,” he further said….  (Kashmir Media Seervice 3/5/16)

VHP opposes campaign seeking women’s entry into Sabarimala (26)

Kochi, May 6 () Opposing campaign seeking women’s entry into Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, VHP today said it was concerned about such developments and urged Kerala government to prevent if any of their group try to enter the hill shrine. VHP state President S J R Kumar alleged that such campaigns were part of “conspiracy to hurt the sentiments of devotees of Lord Ayyappa and destroy the importance of Sabarimala in Hindu faith”.Customs and rituals in places of worships particularly in temples have been practised for thousands of years and the court has no role in deciding matters related to faith, he told reporters here. The restriction imposed on women between the age group of 10 and 50 from trekking the holy hills of Sabarimala and offering worship at the temple is in accordance with the practise prevalent from the time immemorial, as the deity is in the form of a Naisthik Brahmachari, he said. Asked about the reported statement by activist Trupti Desai, who led a successful campaign for women’s entry into the Shani Shingapur temple in Maharashtra, that she wanted Travancore Devasom Board to allow women’s entry into Sabarimala, Kumar said, “it is the duty of the state government to prevent any such attempts”.The Kerala High Court in its earlier judgement on this issue has ordered to render all necessary assistance inclusive of police and to impose restriction on young women’s entry at the temple, he said. He said the VHP per se is not against women’s entry in the hill shrine. “We have no problem if a decision in this regard is taken by Thanthri (head priest) based on a Devaprasnam by well known astrologers.” “We believe that the Court has no role in such matters,” Kumar said. Citing an earlier high court judgement, he said since the deity is in the form of a Naisthik Brahmachari, it is therefore believed that young women should not offer worship in the temple so that even the slightest deviation from celibacy and austerity observed by the deity is not caused by the presence of such women.Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has made it clear that his government would not interfere in the customs and traditions of the hill shrine. “There are persons who have the right to deal with matters related to faith and customs. Let them take decisions on such issues,” Chandy had said earlier. (Times of India 6/5/16)

English medium schools: BJP broke trust, will intensify protest, says Goa RSS chief

Intensifying his attack on the BJP leadership in Goa, RSS state unit chief Subhash Velingkar on Sunday said that the party in Goa was full of “bluff-masters”. Without naming former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, Velingkar said that he had broken the trust reposed in him by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), which supports regional language as a medium of instruction in schools. “He is a professional bluffer. Prior to election, the BJP leader stood by BBSM and assured to implement Medium of Instruction (MOI policy) in regional language and withdrawing grant to English (medium schools). It was our mistake to trust him, we got bluffed,” Velingkar told a 1,500-strong gathering at Shiroda Bazaar. No BJP leader was present at the BBSM public meet — Jaheer Sabha — Sunday. “The former CM completely won us over with an assurance of an amicable solution over the matter,” he said, adding that BBSM withdrew its petition filed before the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court because it trusted BJP leaders. Setting a deadline for the BJP government in the state to implement the MOI in regional language, Velingkar warned that BBSM will intensify its agitation from October 2 if the ruling party failed to keep its word.“If they don’t withdraw the grants, they will be responsible for the consequence and not us. For us it is the war of principles, not political or personal, don’t take us for granted. We will be a good political opposition,” he said. Velingkar also claimed that several Christian institutions were in agreement with the BBSM view, adding that it was the BJP that was dividing communities in Goa through a discriminatory policy on grants that pitted people against each other. “By this kind of stand, the BJP is grooming anti-national elements,” he added. Fr. Mauzine Athaide, a local priest who took part in the BBSM agitation, said Christians were suffering due to the state BJP’s stand. “Goa BJP leaders have no right to brand anyone anti-national, if they knew the real meaning of nationalism they would not have taken such a divisive stand,” he said. Advocate Swati Kerkar said now it was “BBSM vs BJP”, and there was no opposition for Congress or AAP. Velingkar also accused Goa BJP leaders of giving wrong information to the central leadership about BBSM’s protest. “Our members have already mailed about the exact situation in Goa, and we think the central leadership is with us,” he added. (Indian Express 9/5/16)

VHP sets December 31 deadline for building Ram temple at Ayodhya (26)

INDORE: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Tuesday gave a December 31 deadline for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya.Addressing a gathering of sants and youths from across the country at Ujjain mahakumbh, the saffron outfit’s general secretary Champat Rai said, “Construction will start before December 31, and we won’t wait for the Supreme Court verdict… We kept our patience, but won’t wait beyond December.” Responding to some media reports which claimed that the temple’s construction would begin from November 1, the VHP general secretary said some organisations were spreading rumours to hog limelight on the Ayodhya issue. He said 90% of the work for temple construction had been completed and the remaining would be done with the help of sants.”The matter is sub judice in the SC and regular hearings are expected from June,” Rai told the gathering. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Ahmedabad to Karnavati? RSS wants name change for more Indian cities (26)

New Delhi: Ahmedabad might soon be known as Karnavati, Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar and Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar, if the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has its way. The Sangh that was crucial in pushing through Gurgaon’s name change to Gurugram last month is now preparing for more such “reversals” to highlight Indian culture and cleanse foreign influence. Critics say the name changes are an attempt to rewrite India’s history and extend the Sangh’s cultural influence. The RSS has made such attempts in the past but its clout in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – that rules Gujarat and Maharashtra among other states – strengthens the possibility of such changes being accepted by governments. RSS leaders believe the names of places should be tied to their “history and culture” and the Sangh already uses “historic names” to address cities. “We use the old, historic names of cities and not the ones that were given by invaders. As a free country, we should take pride in our culture,” a senior Sangh functionary told HT. The expanded list also proposes changing Kerala’s name to Keralam. In April, the BJP-ruled government in Haryana changed Gurgaon’s name to Gurugram as a homage to Guru Dronacharya, who, legend says, was given the land by his disciples in the Mahabharata-era. The RSS has referred to the Haryana town as Gurugram for years. The RSS wants Ahmedabad to be named as Karnavati after a Hindu king, Karan Dev, who is said to have established the city in the 11th century; Sambhaji Nagar after Sambhaji, the elder son of King Shivaji, who was captured and executed by the Mughals; and Bhagyanagar after goddess Bhagyalakshmi. The BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, has also been demanding the renaming of Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar for years. “This demand dates back to about 20 years. The Shiv Sena – BJP government in late 1990s even completed the procedure to rename Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar,” said state BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari. “The decision would be in accordance with the sentiments of the people of Marathwada.” The BJP is not in a position to push through the changes in Telangana and Kerala – where it is not in power – but local party leaders in both states appeared in favour of the changes. BJP state legislator G Kishan Reddy said the RSS made the name change demand only because the people wanted it. “Nobody questioned when Madras was renamed as Chennai, Bombay as Mumbai and Calcutta as Kolkata. Did the RSS demand the change of these names? Then, why is it being blamed for changing Gurgaon as Gurugram?” he asked. He said Muslim invaders and the British changed the names of cities and towns at their will. “All that we want now is to restore the original names that reflect the local culture and tradition,” Reddy said. In Kerala, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said he hadn’t heard of a proposal to change Kerala’a name. “In any case, when we write our state’s name in our mother tongue Malayalam it as Keralam but in English it is Kerala. I don’t think it will make any difference,” Rajasekharan said. The RSS and the BJP have a history of proposing such name changes to link cities to their perceived heritage. During the BJP-Shiv Sena rule in 1996, Bombay was renamed Mumbai to honour a local goddess. Months after assuming power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP-led NDA government consented to officially renaming Banglore as Bengaluru along with 11 other cities in Karnataka. The government renamed Aurangzeb Raod in the Capital’s Lutyen’s zone to Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Road to honour the late president and agreed to an argument by right-wing organisations that said there was no merit in glorifying the Mughal king who was perceived to be “anti-Hindu”. In 2011, the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh petitioned the Centre to rename state capital Bhopal as Bhojpal to mark 1,000 years of King Bhojpal’s coronation. The request was not approved by the UPA government. Attempts have also been made to rename Allahabad as Prayag. (Hindustan Times 15/5/16)

Synthesis of tribal welfare and Hindutva helped BJP in Assam (26)

NEW DELHI: A low-profile man but always sporting an infectious smile, Sarbanand Sonowal is now all set to be Assam’s second tribal chief minister after legendary Jogen Hazarika in the 1970s. The 53-year-old former president of influential All-Assam Students Union, who hails from the Kachari tribe, brings in a unique synthesis of tribal leadership and Hindutva politics in governance-starved Assam. Sonowal’s being a tribal suited both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP in their quest for power beyond river Brahmaputra in the northeast. With his staunch opposition to the illegal migrants from Bangaldesh, Sonowal gave legitimacy to the Hindutva politics of a ‘north Indian party’ among the tribals in the northeast. “BJP was always an accepted political force for upper caste Hindu Assamese, but Sonowal and few others like tea tribe leader Kamakhya Tassa gave BJP new footholds. The election results in Assam today exemplify that paradigm shift and hopefully its a new beginning under Sonowal,” says Guwahati-based political analyst Ratnadeep Gupta. It goes to Sonowal’s credit that he could deliver Assam to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah in an election where the so-called ‘Modi wave’ of 2014 was either on the wane or simply non-existent. Trends available so far suggests Sonowal’s presence actually helped BJP which portrayed itself as a pro-tribal outfit for the first time. This brought in huge dividends. Besides Sonowal’s own Kachari tribe, other communities like Moran, Muttock, Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Sootea and the Tea tribes too flocked to the BJP. These tribals from the plain have a significant presence in upper Assam districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sivsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. The fact that BJP has overthrown a government which ruled for 15 years is significant because in 2011 the saffron party was an ‘also-ran’ with only six seats in the assembly. Delighted by the success, Sonowal attributed it to the “family-like team work” of BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, BJP chief Shah and a new entrant Himanta Biswa Sarma. The alliance BJP worked out with tribal group Bodo People’s Front (BPF) also helped the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Observers feel the basic credit should go to the strategy team which advised BJP leadership to project Sonowal as the chief ministerial candidate and work out an alliance with the Bodo People’s Front (BPF). In the last assembly election, the BPF was in alliance with the Congress. Till end of November 2015, BJP was not sure about the tie-up with the BPF. But Ram Lal, BJP’s organisational general secretary, had said that only such a tie-up will put the BJP on track in Assam. His calculation seemed to have worked pretty well. This alliance did well across the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts — BTAD comprising Kokrajhar, Kajolgaon, Udalguri and Baksa districts. The BJP calculation that Bodos can influence results in as many as 25-30 assembly seats in the state also brought in dividends. Significantly, at a later stage the Bodos had decided to extend support to the Gorkhas, Kalitas, Koch-Rajbongshis and Adivasis for ST status. Congress tried an alliance with smaller Bodo group United People’s Party (UPP) but that did not help. (New Indian Express 19/5/16)

RSS credits itself for BJP’s debut seat in Kerala (26)

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is not shying from admitting its own contribution to help its protégé — the BJP — gain a toehold in the Left bastion of Kerala. After the Kerala assembly election results on Thursday, the Sangh — which otherwise insists on being called a cultural organisation— shed its diffidence in admitting it helped the BJP. The party won its first ever assembly seat and its vote share jumped to a double digit from mere 6% in the 2011 assembly polls. “Election outcomes do not determine the Sangh’s work, but yes positive changes (electoral gains) enthuse our workers,” a senior RSS functionary told HT. The RSS, which runs the highest number of shakhas (5,000) in the state, has been zealously working to breach the Left’s firewall in Kerala. Its biggest concern about the state is its “changing demography”, which fuels worries over “increasing religious conversions” and a “decreasing Hindu population.” “When we began work in the state, people mocked us; they said Nagpur oranges don’t grow in Kerala (RSS is headquartered in Nagpur). But our positive work in the state has been recognised. We worked undeterred by ridicule, neglect and physical attacks,” a functionary in Kerala said. (Hndustan Times 20/5/16)

‘Industry’ coined from Indus, says VHP’s Swami Vigyananand (26)

BENGALURU: The word ‘industry’ has its origins in India – from the river Indus – according to the World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF). The body says the British coined the word when they saw how industrialized India was before Muslim and British invasions.”I am telling you the ‘industry’ word has come from us – Indus. We were very industrialized, (and) that is why they used the word,” Swami Vigyananand, head of WHEF and joint general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, said at a summit organized in Bengaluru by the Forum on Saturday. The Forum, started in 2012, brings together successful Hindu professionals – traders, bankers, technocrats, economists and industrialists – to share their business knowledge, experience, expertise and resources to create a prosperous society. (Times of India 22/5/16)

Mantri defends Kapoor’s tirade on Nehru-Gandhis (26)

NEW DELHI: Days after Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor flagged the issue of a large number of national assets and programmes having been named after the Nehru-Gandhi family, the Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma termed his anguish as a “reflection of sentiments held by many people”.Responding to the recent tweets by Kapoor, Sharma said, “A lot of people were aggrieved that so many institutions are named after only one family. They were disappointed and felt that this was inappropriate. I would say many in Congress feel the same. There have been many Congress PMs… Now they are expressing their dissatisfaction.” However, he tried to put an end to the idea of “renaming” these institutions and programmes by saying that the Modi government did not believe in the idea. On being asked about the accusations of ‘saffronisation’ of cultural institutions, he replied, “Charge of saffronisation was the creation of some narrow-minded people. India’s culture is matchless and it is our strength. My country’s culture and heritage is a matter of pride and it cannot be described in such a way. What people call saffronisation is actually nationalism. There is no other institution in our country or the world which is more nationalistic than RSS.” He denied any interference by RSS in the matters of governance. “Yes, they do make suggestions to us from time to time which are often accepted,” he added. (Times of India 22/5/16)

RSS threatened artists painting Urdu text, says Delhi Culture Minister Kapil Mishra (26)

New Delhi: Delhi Culture Minister Kapil Mishra Wednesday accused the RSS of threatening and intimidating artists, including a French national, for painting Urdu text on a wall as part a project undertaken by the Delhi government. Mishra wrote to Police Commissioner Alok Verma, saying Delhi Police had failed to take action against “RSS members” who allegedly cornered the artists and threatened them against painting the Urdu text. ”I demand that police take immediate action against members of the RSS who indulged in such a heinous act against our artists and violated all the laws of the land. I hope the police will become more sensitive to the diverse social fabric of Delhi.” The incident took place on May 20 in Shahadara. The Delhi Tourism department had partnered with ‘Delhi, I love you’ (DILY) — a movement to celebrate Delhi’s art and culture that has painted walls including those at Northern Railways, Saket Multi-specialty Hospital and Ambedkar University — for a #MyDilliStory, a twitter-based competition inviting people to post anecdotes on Delhi. The best 40 entries would be painted on walls across the city.An Urdu couplet was chosen for the Jal Board wall at Shahadara. The couplet read, “Dilli tera ujadna, aur phir ujad ke basna. Woh dil hai toone paya, saani nahi hai jiska (Oh Delhi, you were ruined and you overcame your ruin to settle. No city has a heart like yours).” DILY artist Akhlaq Ahmad and French artist Swen Simon were painting the wall when 10-15 men showed up and asked them what they were writing in Urdu, said Ahmad. “They told us they were from RSS. They said we could not write in Urdu on the wall. Swen was manhandled and our paint was strewn all over. They told us to paint the wall saffron, write Swachch Bharat Abhiyan and Narendra Modi on the wall,” said Ahmad. “We had permissions. They asked us if we were Pakistanis… They called the foreign national with me Pakistani, Kashmiri, Lahori etc.” “It’s tragic that while DILY is working… to popularise Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, our artists get roughed up by alleged RSS men for writing Urdu poetry,” said Aastha Chauhan, director, DILY. Meanwhile, RSS prachar pramukh (Delhi unit) Rajeev Tuli said, “We heard of the incident only after Mishra’s press conference. I doubt his claims… The matter should be probed… Let the truth come to light.” DCP (north east) A K Singla said they had received a call about a foreign national writing on the wall in a “foreign language”. “The PCR team went to the spot and verified their permission to write couplets on the wall in Urdu. They were then allowed to write,” said Singla, adding there was no confirmed presence of RSS members at the spot. (Indian Express 26/5/16)

Self-defence training camp in Varanasi: Police raid Durga Vahini camp (26)

Lucknow: Days after an arms training camp organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) youth wing Bajrang Dal landed in controversy, the police on Sunday inspected a school in Varanasi’s Sigra area where members of Durga Vahini — VHP’s women wing — were taking part in their annual “self-defence” camp. The police reportedly visited the school, Bharti Siksha Mandir, following a tip-off that firearms were being distributed in the camp organised by the Kashi region of the Vahini. While a VHP office-bearer said the members are being trained on using airguns and lathis for self defence at the camp, police claimed no airgun was found in the school. “The police did not find anything objectionable. The women were being taught judo,” Varanasi IG S K Bhagat said. Sigra Police Station Officer Anupam Srivastava said: “We did not find any firearm… not even airguns and lathis.”VHP’s Kashi Prant Organisation Secretary Diwakar said 125 volunteers, including nine members of Matra Shakti, are being trained at the camp. “Senior workers of Durga Vahini are training them… Such training is important for the security of women,” he said. He claimed that around 50 police personnel visited the camp on Sunday and asked about the use of firearms. “They left after we told them that this is a self-defence training camp, where volunteers are being taught judo and how to use lathis for self defence. We are not using any firearms or even airguns for training,” Diwakar said. However, VHP joint secretary for Kashi region, Anand Singh, said volunteers are being taught how to use airguns at the camp. “Airguns are being used to train the volunteers. Temporary structures have been erected and volunteers are using airguns to target these. Whatever they have learned, the volunteers will display the same on Monday before seniors leaders in Varanasi,” Singh said. The camp, which began on May 24, will conclude on Monday. (Indian Express 30/5/16)

TERRORISM

Scribe, Jamaat duo held for Hindu tailor’s murder in Bangladesh (12)

DHAKA: Bangladesh police on Sunday arrested three men, including a member of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and a journalist, for the brutal murder of a Hindu tailor by machete-wielding Islamic State (IS) militants in the latest attack on secular writers and minorities in the Muslim-majority nation. Two cases have also been filed over the killing of 50-year-old Nikhil Chandra Joarder, who was hacked to death by three assailants who forcibly entered his house and slit his throat on Saturday in central Bangladesh’s Tangail district. One of the cases was filed over the murder of Joarder and another over bombs seized from a bag left by the assailants. Police arrested Badsa Miah, Jamaat secretary of Gopalpur municipal unit, local BNP activist Jhantu Mia and a local journalist and Gopalpur Press Club’s vice-president Aminul Islam for the murder. “They have been detained for questioning in connection with Joardar’s murder as part of the investigation,” Tangail’s Additional Superintendent of Police Mohammad Aslam Khan said. Hours after Joarder’s murder, U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group in a statement said that the IS group has claimed responsibility for the attack.Media reports said Joarder had served three months in prison in 2012 for blasphemous comments. Police said his neighbours feared Joarder might have drawn the wrath of the militants for his controversial comments. “We are trying to track down the killers and called CID to probe the murder,” police said. There have been systematic assaults in Bangladesh in recent months, especially targeting minorities, secular bloggers, intellectuals and foreigners. Last Saturday, a liberal professor was hacked to death by IS militants who slit his throat in Rajshahi city. Two days later, Bangladesh’s first gay magazine editor was murdered along with a friend in his flat in Dhaka by Islamists. In February, the head priest of a Hindu temple was killed in an area bordering India. It was the first attack by IS militants targeting the community. Last year, four prominent secular bloggers were killed, one inside his own home. In most of the cases, the IS or al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub Continent have claimed the attacks. But the Bangladeshi government has repeatedly denies that jihadist groups were behind the spate of bloody attacks. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has often denied existence of any foreign terrorist groups in the country and has attributed the deadly attacks on homegrown extremists backed by the BNP, the main opposition outside parliament, and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami. (The Hindu 1/5/16)

3 terror suspects arrested in Delhi, explosives seized (12)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi police have arrested three persons allegedly sympathetic to the banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed in the national capital. The suspects, planning a major terror strike at a busy market place or a shopping mall in the city, have been identified as Sajid Ahmad, Sameer Ahmed and Shakir Ansari, the police said. While Sajid, 19, and Sameer hail from Gokalpur in northeast Delhi and neighbouring Loni district in Uttar Pradesh respectively, Shakir is a resident of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. They were produced before a court, which remanded them in police custody for 10 days. The police and other security agencies have detained nearly a dozen people for questioning, sources said. The police said the arrest came after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that Sajid was allegedly trying to assemble went off accidentally on Monday night, injuring his left hand. The police claimed that the accused were self-indoctrinated by watching online videos of the JeM and “atrocities” on Muslims around the world. Their movements were tracked by Central agencies and the Special Cell of the Delhi police for the last six months. Police said all suspects had met at Sajid’s house on April 20 to discuss their plans. The breakthrough, according to the police, came on Tuesday after their source informed them about the explosion. Sajid’s house was raided. Upon his arrest, one live IED, one damaged IED and raw materials were recovered. Parallel raids were conducted in Loni and Deoband and Gokalpur and Bhajanpura in Delhi to arrest the other suspects. According to official sources, Sajid was the mastermind, who influenced the others to be part of the gang. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

Four ‘Jaish’ suspects freed due to lack of evidence (12)

New Delhi: Four of the 10 suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) members, detained five days ago, have been freed due to lack of any evidence of ties to the banned Pakistan-based terror outfit and involvement in any terror activities, Delhi Police said on Saturday. The ten suspects were detained on Tuesday night when a JeM module, planning bombings in crowded places likes malls in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR), was busted and three terrorists arrested. Police said that three of the four released suspects are the residents of Chand Bagh area in east Delhi while one belongs to Loni in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad. “We have released four JeM suspects in lack of evidence indicating their relation with the terror outfit and involvement in any terror acts,” said a police officer said. The suspects were let off from the Lodhi Colony office of Delhi Police’s Special Cell this evening. The Special Cell, an anti-terror unit of the 80,000 strong force, had busted the self-styled JeM module in a raid conducted on Tuesday night. Three JeM terrorists Sajid, Sameer Ahmed and Shakir Ansari were arrested from Chand Bagh, Loni and Deoband in Uttar Pradesh respectively, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and the 10 other suspects detained for questioning. (Business Standard 7/5/16)

Six Suspected ISIS Operatives Sent to Three-day NIA Custody (12)

NEW DELHI: Six suspected terror operatives, alleged to have links with ISIS, were today sent to three days NIA custody by a special court after the probe agency said they were needed to be confronted with the accused arrested in connection with another terror case. According to sources, during an in-camera proceeding, District Judge Amarnath sent accused Mohd Azeemusan, Mohd Osama, Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Meeraj, Mohsin Ibrahim Sayyed and Mohd Mustaq Seikh to NIA custody on the agency’s plea which said probe into the case, which has been transferred to it from Delhi Police, was at a crucial stage. The sources said National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the court that in order to unearth larger conspiracy of ISIS, further custodial interrogation of these accused, who were in judicial custody, was required. Earlier, these six accused were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in a case for allegedly having links with ISIS. The Home Ministry had later transferred the case to NIA. In its remand application, the NIA said, “The accused are likely to be confronted with the accused of another case being handled by the NIA and with the certain incriminating points which have been cropped up recently in the instant case.” “The arrested accused are to be taken to the various scene of crimes in order to know the facts and circumstances of hatched criminal conspiracy, more information is likely to be gathered in this regard,” it said. “The accused are likely to be put on more relevant questions regarding their meeting and conspiracy in Deoband and Lucknow with the accused of another case of ISIS,” the agency said. The NIA’s plea further said the accused were to be put on more relevant questionnaire regarding photos, audio, videos and miscellaneous data received by the forensic experts. The NIA submitted before the court that during the course of investigation, larger conspiracy of ISIS activities in India and abroad including recruitment of resident and non- resident Indians by the outfit was yet to be ascertain. It also informed the court that during the custodial probe conducted by the Delhi Police, certain names, codes and mobile numbers of some active members and motivator of ISIS, were disclosed by them. These members were involved in furtherance of activities of their ideologies using Internet-based communications like Facebook, Skype and other platforms to lure youths in joining the proscribed terrorist organisation, it claimed. It said that identities of these members were required to be ascertained. “During the course of investigation, Delhi Police had seized mobile phone sets, SIMs, laptops and micro SD card from the accused which have been sent for forensic analysis and the results are still awaited,” the NIA said. The Delhi Police’s Special Cell had registered the FIR in January under the sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC. Later the case was transferred to the NIA and a fresh FIR was registered. (New Indian Express 9/5/16)

Government plans to add more teeth to the NIA (12)

NEW DELHI: Aiming to give more teeth to NIA, the government is contemplating to empower the anti-terror investigating agency by allowing it to probe in foreign countries if there is any attack on Indians and Indian assets. Official sources said the Home Ministry is planning to amend the National Investigation Agency Act, enacted in 2008 after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, to give additional powers to the agency mandated to investigate all terror- related cases. As per the proposal, NIA will be given powers to investigate in foreign soil, with the permission of the host government, since there have been instances of attacks on Indians and Indian assets like foreign missions in the past. A note for the Union Cabinet is being prepared and once it is cleared, the amendments will be tabled before Parliament for its nod before it is included in NIA Act, sources said. The conspiracy of Pathankot terror attack was also hatched in Pakistan. NIA may also be given special power to keep eyes on activities of modules of Middle-East terror group ISIS and Pakistan-based terror groups to ensure any attempt to harm India will be detected in advance. Also, NIA may be authorised, through the amendment of the Act, to commute the charge of death penalty to life imprisonment in plea bargaining cases. There are several administrative gaps in NIA Act and through the amendment these loopholes would be plugged, sources said. (New Indian Express 13/5/16)

11 Afghan soldiers killed in past 24 hours (12)

Kabul, May 15 : At least 11 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces were killed in the fight against terrorism in the past 24 hours. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) in its statement said that the soldiers were martyred while conducting counter-terrorism operations against the internal and external terrorists. “The Afghan National Army (ANA) forces are prepared for all kinds of devotion and with all force to maintain security and comfort for the people of Afghanistan,” the Khaama Press quoted the statement by Ministry of Defense as saying. Apart from the 11 soldiers, at least 65 militants were also killed and 22 others were wounded during the same operations the statement said. The operations were conducted in Kandahar, Ghor, Baghlan, Helmand, Maidan WArdak, Kunar and Ghazni provinces with the support of Afghan Air Force and artillery units. The Ministry of Defense added that a commander of the Taliban group identified as Mullah Abdul Hadi was also among those killed during the clearance operations. So far, no anti-government armed militant groups have commented regarding the reports. (New Kerala 15/5/16)

ISIS commander killed in Afghanistan airstrike (12)

KABUL: A top commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in Afghanistan was killed in an Afghan Air Force air strike. Khamma Press quoted the Ministry of Defense (MoD), as saying that the air strike was carried out in Wata Pur district of eastern Kunar province. The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army in a statement said the airstrike was carried out by the U.S. forces using an unmanned aerial vehicle. A statement said Shafiq Abbas was a commander of the Taliban group and was involved in major terrorist activities in Wata Pur district. Following major blows in some of their strongholds in eastern Nangarhar province, the insurgent group have recently started operations in the restive Kunar province. On Sunday, at least eight ISIS loyalists were killed in an airstrike in Achin district. The Afghan forces have stepped up operations to eliminate the insurgent groups amid concerns that it is attempting to expand foothold in the country. (New Indian Express 16/5/16)

Shiv Sena: ATS wrongly implicated Sadhvi (12)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday welcomed the NIA’s move to discharge Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case. The party alleged that the Maharashtra ATS had falsely implicated them in the case. The Sena also said that campaigning for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is not “saffron terrorism”. “The Supreme Court has held that defamation is a crime. Therefore those who were unnecessarily harassed in the (2008) Malegoan bomb blast case should file defamation cases against ATS officers who falsely implicated them. The Congress and NCP had claimed that the Malegaon bomb blast was ‘saffron terrorism’. The ATS carried out a bogus investigation to prove that Hindutva organisations were behind the blast. Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and others were implicated in it. They were tortured physically and mentally and Hindutva organisations were defamed. They may believe in Hindu nationalism, which is not anti-national. Hindu nationalism is not terrorism,” an editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana said. The editorial further said certain people, instead of eliminating terrorism fanned by Muslim extremists, with the help of Pakistan chose to create an air of saffron terror in the country. “The previous Congress government at the Centre and the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra did not understand that by doing so we are only strengthening the hands of Pakistan. Whenever we asked Pakistan to hand over the terrorists taking refuge there, they asked for Col Purohit,” it said. The NIA had on Friday dropped all charges against Sadhvi Thakur and five others in the Malegaon blast case while charges under the stringent MCOCA law were dropped against all the other 10 accused, including Col Purohit. Seven people were killed in the blast when they were leaving after prayers during Ramzan on September 29, 2008. During the investigation, “sufficient evidences were not found” against Sadhvi Thakur and five others, the NIA had said, adding it has submitted in the chargesheet “that the prosecution against them is not maintainable”. The case was investigated initially by joint commissioner of Mumbai’s ATS Hemant Karkare who was killed during the 26/11 Mumbai attack. (Asian Age 17/5/16)

Six Assam Rifles personnel killed in ambush in Manipur (12)

Imphal:  A Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and five jawans of Assam Rifles were today killed in an ambush by militants in Chandel district of Manipur near the Indo-Myanmar border. An Assam Rifles convoy was attacked by heavily armed militants around 1 PM in Joupi Hengshi area of Chandel when the security personnel were returning after inspecting a landslide site in the interior tribal district, defence and police sources said. The slain personnel belonged to 29 Assam Rifles. It is suspected that two or more militant groups jointly carried out the attack. More troops were rushed to the area and a massive search operation is underway, they said. The incident occurred near Joupi village within the limits of Molcham Police Station, a police officer said. Last year, 18 army personnel were killed in the same district in an ambush by NSCN(K) militants. Subedar Baldeo Sharma was among the victims. The Assam Rifles party was returning to their camp in Joupi after inspecting a landslide in the Holenjang village. (Deccan Herald 22/5/16)

Udhampur Terror Attack: NIA Court Orders Framing Of Charges (12)

Jammu:  A special NIA court today ordered framing of charges against six persons, including Pakistani national Mohammad Naveed, who was caught alive during a terror attack on a BSF convoy at Udhampur in August last year. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed a chargesheet against nine people on January 25 this year and alleged that the terror strike was the handiwork of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Naveed along with Abu Noman had carried out a terror strike on a BSF convoy on August five at Udhampur when it was moving from Jammu to Srinagar. The attack resulted in the death of two BSF personnel, while 13 others were injured. The case was subsequently transferred to NIA for investigation. The court today ordered framing of charges against the six accused under various sections of Ranbir Penal Code dealing with murder and waging war against the country, besides Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosives Act and Arms Act. Naveed has also been slapped with the charges under the Foreigners Act. Others against whom the order of framing the charges was issued are Khursheed Ahmed Bhat, Showkat Ahmed Bhat, Shabzar Ahmed Bhat, Fayaz Ahmed Ittoo alias Fayaz Khar and Khursheed Ahmed Ittu. The NIA chargesheet has also named Fayaz Ahmed Ashwar alias Setha and Ashiq Hussain Bhat alias Ubaida, both of whom are still absconding.Abu Noman was killed in retaliatory action by the security forces. The NIA said in its chargesheet that the probe into the Udhampur attack had not only unearthed “specific conspiracy behind the terrorist attack in Udhampur but also the larger conspiracy of the LeT through which Mohammed Naveed and his associates were infiltrated and sheltered in Indian territory for committing terrorist acts.” Naveed was overpowered by two local youths whom he had tried to take hostage after carrying out the terror strike. (NDTV 23/5/16)

Bus blast: Haryana govt announces Rs 10 lakh reward (12)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana government today announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any credible information about those involved in the blast in a Chandigarh-bound state roadways bus in Kurukshetra district yesterday, which police said was carried out using an IED. A mixture of chemicals was used in the IED (improvised explosive device) which was detonated with a time device, Superintendent of Police (SP) Simardeep Singh said. Teams of IB and NIA today visited the site of the “low intensity” blast which occurred near Pipli when the bus was on its way to Chandigarh from Sonepat. Around 12 people were injured in the explosion in which IED was suspectedly used. Police spokesman said the reward of Rs 10 lakh will be given to any person who gives credible information about the blast. An FIR has been registered under section 307 of Indian Penal Code, sections 3 and 5 of Explosives Substances Act, section 4 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and section 16 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act at Police Station Sadar Thana, Kurukshetra, he said. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted under Haryana Additional Director General of Police (Crime) S S Kapoor, he said, adding it has already started its investigation, he added. Simardeep Singh said the teams of IB and NIA today examined the Haryana Roadways bus and the site at Pipli where the blast took place. “The team members analysed the material of low intensity bomb recovered from the bus,” he said. Forensic experts are analysing details to establish the pattern of the Pipli blast with two recent similar incidents at Panipat railway station, he said. Singh said the central agencies were working in close coordination with Haryana police’s SIT. (New Indian Express 27/5/16)

Indian Army now confirms Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tariq Pandit held (12)

Srinagar: In one of the biggest catches in recent months, a top Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tariq Pandit, a close aide of the terror group’s poster boy Burhan Wani, was on Saturday arrested after he surrendered to police in Pulwama. Considered as a category “A” militant, Pandit figured prominently with Burhan in various pictures and videos that were posted by the terror group last year. Pandit carried a cash reward of Rs three lakh for information leading to his arrest.There were conflicting reports as senior police officials of Pulwama district in South Kashmir said that Pandit had surrendered but the army maintained that he had been apprehended. A senior police official said that he was put under arrest after he surrendered to the army unit in Pulwama. A defence spokesman issued a statement saying that a “major blow” had been dealt to the banned Hizbul Mujahideen with the arrest of Pandit in a “well coordinated swift operation” today on Newa-Pinglana road in the district. He said based on specific intelligence input regarding the movement of a Hizb militant near Karimabad, a joint mobile vehicle check post was established by Army and police in the morning hours. “The movement of the terrorist was kept under constant surveillance. As the terrorist closed in, he was apprehended by the team of Rashtriya Rifle battalion, along with one 9 mm pistol, two Chinese grenades and other war like stores were recovered from him,” the spokesman said. He said the militant was involved in many terror-related incidents in the district. However, police officials said that Pandit had joined the terror group along with his cousin Naseer Pandit, a cop- turned-terrorist, early last year. After Naseer was gunned down by army in Shopian during an encounter in April this year, Pandit started sending feelers to the authorities for surrender, the officials said. An FIR has been registered and the apprehended terrorist has been handed over to the local Police Station, Pulwama, the defence spokesman added. He was among the 11 Hizb militants who, defying the convention, posted their photographs on social media networks. “Pandit was a self-styled area commander and is a very important catch. His interrogation should definitely lead us to the Hizb Mujahideen network in south Kashmir,” the officials said. The Hizbul group, led by Burhan, continues to give worries to the security agencies as the officials feel the militants’ bravado of hogging the limelight on social networking sites was to attract more youths to join militant ranks.   (Zee News 28/5/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Naxals gun down 2 organization men (12)

Nagpur: Sheshrao Darro (52) and Devaji Atla (55), both working for Naxal movement as party organizers, were gunned down by the rebels outside Masanadi village in Pendri taluka. Their bodies were discovered on Saturday. The duo was whisked away from the village on Friday evening. Police said Darro was vice-president of Naxal’s ‘Jantana Sarkar’ at the village level. Atla was an old member of the party. Darro’s brother works with C-60 force of the district police. The Naxals targeted Darro and Atla alleging that they were not focusing on the party organization but were helping police. Ramji Potavi, a Naxalite and bodyguard of former secretary of state zonal committee of CPI (Maoist) Aitu, has surrendered before the administration and security forces of Gadchiroli this week. Aitu had surrendered before Telangana police one year ago. Potavi, who had a reward of 4 lakh on him, had taken part in several actions against the police, including three big ones in 2009 when security forces had lost 51 personnel. There are 17 offences against Potavi, who had joined the Naxal movement in 2006. He was serving in Company 4 when he decided to surrender. Sheshrao Darro (52) and Devaji Atla (55), both working for Naxal movement as party organizers, were gunned down by the rebels outside Masanadi village in Pendri taluka. Their bodies were discovered on Saturday. The duo was whisked away outside the village on Friday evening.Police said Darro was vice-president of Naxal’s ‘Jantana Sarkar’ at the village level. Atla was an old member of the party. Darro’s brother works with C-60 force of the district police. The Naxals targeted Darro and Atla alleging that they were not focusing on the party organization but were helping police. (Times of India 2/5/16)

Top Maoist leader killed in encounter (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The banned CPI (Maoist) received another jolt when a member of its east division committee Azad (Gopal) was killed in an encounter with the a police party that was on a combing operation, near Palasamudram under Mampa police station limits in Koyyuru mandal on Wednesday evening. Superintendent of Police Koya Praveen said Azad’s body was identified by the police party. An AK 47 weapon was recovered. Identity of the other two Maoists killed in the encounter has not been established yet. Azad reportedly carried a reward of Rs. 4 lakh on his head. The death of Azad in an encounter came in less than one month after Kudumula Ravi (Venkata Ramana), member of the party’s central regional committee who was responsible for many of Maoist party’s attacks, died of jaundice at a city hospital. Death of two leaders in a short span of time has dealt a big blow to the party which is struggling to retain its hold in the Agency. The spot where the encounter has taken place is close to East Godavari border and incidentally the Maoist party has given a call for bandh on Wednesday and Thursday in the Chintoor area which was recently merged with East Godavari, and Khammam districts in protest against Green Hunt operation and demanding compensation to those to be displaced under the Polavaram project. This is the second encounter in Visakha Agency during this year. In late February two Maoists were killed near Revulakota, which is also under Mampa police station limits, but Human Rights Forum has hotly contested the police version saying that the two dead were hunters from Odisha who went deep into the forest in Andhra area and were killed by the police. This area is said to be a sort of safe zone as it is very difficult for the police to trek into the area and the Maoists also take shelter here. (The Hindu 5/5/16)

CRPF to send over 560 women for anti-Naxal ops for the 1st time (12)

New Delhi: Breaking yet another proverbial glass ceiling, country’s largest paramilitary force CRPF is set to deploy over 560 women commandos for undertaking anti-Naxal operations in select Left Wing Extremism-affected states. The ambitious plan to deploy such a large number of women personnel in most challenging combat theatres in the country’s internal security domain got moving with a batch of 567 women passing out from the force’s training centre in Rajasthan’s Ajmer last week. CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad told PTI that the full batch will now be deployed in phases in LWE areas in the ‘company formation’ style, which means about 100 personnel at one time. “These women who passed out on May 6 from Ajmer have been trained keeping in mind the LWE tasks rendered by us. We thought to give them the toughest assignment in the initial years of their service itself. Initially these women personnel will be deployed in one company at a time and after some time their deployment and work utility will be scaled up,” Prasad said. The DG added the force has already created living infrastructure and barracks for these women at certain locations while more such facilities will be created in due course of time. The CRPF, officials said, has been working on the concept that if Maoists can have women in their ranks, why not the security forces. Recently, border-guarding force Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had declared that it will post its women personnel in full combat role in its units along the Sino-Indian border. The latest batch of Central Reserve Police women personnel have been trained for 44 weeks in jungle warfare, unarmed combat, smart weapons firing and other drills after which they got commissioned in the 232nd battalion of the force. This is the fourth ‘mahila’ battalion of CRPF. A CRPF battalion has about 1,000 personnel. Officials had earlier said the induction of these women squads will be made in West Bengal and Jharkhand. The force had initiated a plan in this regard last year when two small teams of these women personnel were sent for familiarisation exercises and based in CRPF camps in the worst-affected Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and some sensitive LWE hit areas of Jharkhand. Officials said the women personnel, once deployed, will be operating from active CRPF bases and will carry arms and undertake patrols like their male counterparts. The nearly three lakh personnel-strong CRPF is the lead anti-Naxal operations force of the country. Officials said there are specific reasons and operational benefits of deploying women combatants in LWE areas. They can easily interact with the local women folk which will not only help in gathering good intelligence but also help bring the force closer to the locals. (Indian Express 8/5/16)

Chhattisgarh constable killed in naxal blast (12)

KHAMMAM: A constable of Chhattisgarh police was killed and another person sustained injuries in a pressure bomb explosion in the forest area under Maraigudem police outpost limits in Sukma district of neighbouring Chhattisgarh on Monday afternoon. According to sources, the incident took place a few kms away from Cherupally village in Dummugudem mandal of Khammam district along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border. Sources said that Madakam Joga, a constable of Chhattisgarh police, and Sanjay, an operator of a concrete mixer excavator, sustained grievous injuries in a pressure bomb blast allegedly triggered by Maoists in Maraigudem forest area in the strife-torn Sukma district late on Monday afternoon. The injured constable was part of a joint team of police and CRPF personnel deployed at the spot to guard the ongoing road work between Maraigudem and Gollapalli in the dense forest area. The constable succumbed to injuries while being shifted to a hospital, the sources said. The injured excavator operator was shifted to the Government area hospital in Bhadrachalam. His condition is stated to be critical. (The Hindu 10/5/16)

‘Unprecedented rise in Naxalism during ’15-16’ (12)

Rasipur: Maoist activities decreased in all the States except Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh with number of incidents rising to 42 per cent, observes the annual report of the Union Ministry of Home for 2015-16. The report mentioned that the rise in incidents had been due to conduct of Panchayat polls in January-February month in 2015-16 in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region. It further mentioned that the Dandakarnya region in South Chhattisgarh had been the nucleus of Maoist activities. The Central Government has allocated two India Reserve (IR) battalions for Chhattisgarh and has two coys of Engineering component to assist the battalions in creation of infrastructure such as roads , barracks and police stations. The Government had been implementing various developmental schemes through its different Ministries/Departments for creating infrastructure in the LWE affected regions of the country including Chhattisgarh. Some of such schemes are Road Requirement Plan-I (RRP-I), Construction of fortified Police Stations, Mobile Towers and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) etc., the report informed. The Road Requirement Plan-I (RRP-I  scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for improving road connectivity in 34 most LWE affected districts. This scheme envisages 5,422 Km road lengths. The Left Wing Extremists often oppose any development activities in the areas of their influence and try to obstruct the implementation of the schemes, officials stated. Consequently, some projects are delayed beyond their scheduled time. However, as and when such incidents come into the notice of the Government, adequate security is provided by deployment of Security Forces. Besides, the Central Government has provided various relaxations for taking up the works in LWE affected areas ensuring early and timely completion of the projects. These relaxations include accepting of tenders up to 10% higher of the updated cost, splitting the works in smaller parts, awarding of works on nomination basis, separate Schedule of Rates (SoR), extended completion period and general exemption upto 5 hectare forest land under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. While taking it as a challenge, the Chhattisgarh government has completed construction of 1052 kms of roads in insurgency infested pockets of the State with co-operation of the Central Government, State PWD Minister Rajesh Munat said recently. In an official statement issued here, Munat said that the police provided adequate security cover to road development projects in the red zones. Notably, a total of 16 districts of Chhattisgarh remain insurgency-infested out of the 106 districts in 10 States as identified by the Central Government as ‘Left Wing Extremism’ (LWE) affected districts in the country, according to the latest Central Government data. … (Pioneer 13/5/16)

Naxals attack CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh, one jawan killed (12)

RAIPUR: A CRPF jawan was killed after Naxals attacked a force camp in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh early on Tuesday. Officials said the incident occurred at about 3:00am when a Maoist squad mounted sniper fire on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in the jungles of Rangareddy in Gangloor area of the district. In the ensuing gunbattle, constable Satish Gaur (28) who was on sentry duty sustained bullet injuries and later succumbed, they said. Gaur hailed from Andhra Pradesh and belonged to the 85th battalion of the paramilitary deployed in the area for anti-Naxal operations.None of the other troops present in the camp were harmed, officials said. The Maoist firing lasted few minutes after which they fled into the forests, officials said, adding that a search operation has been launched in the area by security forces. (Times of India 17/5/16)

Jharkhand villagers return Maoist fire with ‘Ulgulan’ movement (12)

Ranchi: Seventy-year-old Dharmu Munda* still recalls that fateful day in 2004, when an armed gang led by Maoist leaders Kundan and Shyam Pahan swooped down on Tilma village in Jharkhand’s Khunti district and laid claim to his land. When he protested, the Maoists asked him to shell out Rs 3 lakh as ransom. Munda refused to give in to their demands. His temerity was bound to have consequences. One day, Kundan and Shyam came back with more armed fighters and dragged Munda out of his house. They brutally assaulted the villager before leaving him for dead in the bushes nearby. Destiny, however, had something else in mind for the hardy Munda. Hailing from a tribe of warriors, he not only survived the attempt on his life but also emerged stronger from the ordeal. Today, Munda has recruited the support of thousands of tribals from over 100 villages in Khunti district for his anti-Maoist crusade. These people – who were once scared to voice a word of dissent against the extremists – have now launched a mass movement called Ulgulan (which stands for ‘revolt’ in local parlance). As part of the movement, villagers hold day-long meetings called ‘shanti sabhas’ to mobilise support against extremists, convince the youth against joining them, and convince Maoists as well as their sympathisers to rejoin mainstream society. Over the last two months, villagers held at least four mega meetings in as many Maoist-affected villages. The sight of thousands converging has reportedly alarmed extremists in the area, forcing some to flee and spurring others to mend their ways. The meetings, however, have a rule: the accused are not punished, but left with a stern warning to refrain from indulging in unlawful acts in the future. Impressed by the initiative, the Jharkhand government and security forces are reportedly lending their support to the leaders of the movement. The authorities are happy that the villagers have found a way to alleviate the Maoist situation without resorting to vigilantism. Past initiatives by the police to raise armed groups for combating the Maoist movement met with little success. “People are fed up with Maoists, and are coming out against them openly. The massive public outrage vindicates our claims that the rebels have lost their foothold in the state,” director general of police DK Pandey said, hailing propagators of the Ulgulan movement for their courage and conviction. No police assistance was provided for holding the shanti sabhas, he added. Munda gave credence to the DGP’s observation at a gathering in Tilma village on April 10. Dressed in a lungi and vest, he told the villagers before him: “For once, we have realised that united we stand and divided we fall. The Maoists made our lives hell, and we have finally run out of patience.” However, the shanti sabhas have evoked suspicion in certain human rights groups in the area. “The Maoists, unlike militant organisations like the People’s Liberation Front of India, are considered pro-people. One wonders what has given rise to campaigns like these,” said People’s Union for Civil Liberties general secretary Shashi Bhushan Pathak. Dustan Times 17/5/16)

Jharkhand to strike off some jungle gangs from list of Maoist groups  (12)

Ranchi: Jharkhand will strike off several armed groups from the official list of Maoist organisations and declare them rogues, chief minister Raghubar Das said on Wednesday, unveiling plans to tackle rag-tag outfits involved in extortion, abductions and killings. Jharkhand lies in the so-called ‘red corridor’, a string of states infested by armed Maoist groups – officially called left-wing extremists (LWEs) — claiming to be fighting for the rights of peasants, tribals and landless labourers. At least 17 armed groups are active in Jharkhand but police say that most of them are just running extortion rackets targeting businessmen and the salaried. Besides, some of these gangs are also accused of raping women and trafficking girls. The biggest and most influential of them, the CPI (Maoists) has a separate armed wing called the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army. Sources said the trigger for the decision was the murder of a television journalist in Chatra, allegedly by a splinter Maoist outfit for his refusal to pay ‘tax’ to the outfit. “Unlike the Maoists, the various other armed groups operating from our jungles like People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have no ideology. They extort money and indulge in violence. They do not deserve mercy and needs tough treatment,” Das said. Police said delisting groups from the LWE list will enable security forces to go after them as ordinary criminals. Though Maoists are also targeted by security forces, the government considers them a political problem, keeping the option open for talks and also offers them lucrative surrender packages. Also, security forces killed or injured during operations against Maoist groups are entitled to special compensation packages from the government. Inspector general of police Manvinder Singh Bhatia told HT that the proposal to “delist these jungle gangs from LWE is under active consideration”. A top Maoist leader, Kisaanda from West Bengal had revealed to police that mineral-rich Jharkhand was very crucial for the Maoist movement as it gave them maximum levy that helps in strengthening their armories. Over the years, the easy money gave rise to several splinter and new groups all claiming to be motivated by the Maoist ideology. Rights groups allege that several groups enjoy political patronage. Security agencies are also accused of backing some groups to use them against the Maoists. HT had published a series of reports highlighting how these gangs were wrecking havoc in the countryside and forces were overlooking the people’s plight. (Hindustan Times 18/5/16)

59 can bombs recovered from Naxal-affected Latehar and Khunti districts (12)

LATEHAR/ KHUNTI: Security personnel have recovered 59 can bombs and a powerful IED from Naxal-affected Latehar and Khunti districts, the police said. The can bombs, each weighing half-a-kg, were recovered today from under the ground Serendaag jungles in Latehar district by personnel of CRPF and District Armed Police force. The 40-kg improvised explosive device (IED) was found from near Jerko Musanga area of Khunti district last evening during search operation. These recoveries were made during the on-going anti-Naxal operation being carried out for the past 20-25 days, Latehar Superintendent of Police Anup Birtheray said. Birtheray visited the spot where the can bombs were found and directed bomb disposal squad to defuse the bombs. The IED has been defused by bomb disposal squad of CRPF, police said. Birtheray said during the anti-Naxal operation so far, security personnel have seized around 200 IEDs, huge quantity of ammunition of different bores, Naxal literature and other articles. (New Indian Express 23/5/16)

Nine Naxals surrender in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Nine lower-rung Naxals Monday surrendered in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Kondagaon district, citing increasing pressure from security forces and disappointment with the ideology of the outlawed CPI (Maoist), police said.”The rebels, all Jan Militia members, turned themselves in before senior police officials at Kondagoan district headquarters,” Kondagaon Superintendent of Police J S Watti told PTI. In their statement, they expressed disappointment with “empty” ideology of the outlawed Naxal movement, he said. “Besides, they were also impressed with the provisions of surrender and rehabilitation policy of the state government, which compelled them to join the mainstream,” he said. The SP said the ultras were frustrated with the increasing pressure of anti-Naxal operations in the region. (Times of India 23/5/16)

Jharkhand Maoists torch 35 vehicles in 150 days; contractors panic (12)

Ranchi:    Jharkhand notifies six-member panel on JPSC exams Opposition finds fault with Jharkhand domicile policy Two assembly by-polls in Jharkhand Jharkhand assembly disrupted again over domicile policy Jharkhand shutdown on Saturday against domicile policy Maoists have torched 35 vehicles in the past five months in Jharkhand, hampering the state government’s efforts to woo investors and develop infrastructure. The violent attacks by the Maoist guerrillas have created panic among the contractors involved in construction work. The state police with the help of paramilitary forces have destroyed many bunkers and recovered more than 2,000 landmines planted by the Maoists in different parts of the state. Police claim to have hit the backbone of the Maoist guerrillas in last one year, but the guerrillas make their presence felt by demanding levy and torching vehicles. From January 19 to May 24, a total of 35 vehicles involved in construction work have been torched in the state. The vehicles were set ablaze in Ranchi, Dumka, Lohardagga, Gumla, Chaibasa, Ramgarh and other districts of the state. Police sources say that the Maoist guerrillas are desperate and indulging in such activities to make their presence felt. “Maoists main source of earning is extortion and levy from the development and construction work. In the past, police cracked down on many companies involved in road construction that were giving levy to Maoists. This dented Maoists source of earning in a big way. The denial of levy led them to torch vehicles,” said a police official involved in anti-Maoist operations to IANS. In Jharkhand, there were local media reports that contractors did not turn up at the tender process of road construction in Maoist infested areas. Police sources say that earlier there were two Maoist groups, Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and People’s War Group (PWG). After the MCC and PWG merged, a new CPI-Maoist was floated 12 years ago. In Jharkhand, unhappy with the merger, many Maoists formed their own outfits which were also involved in extortion and levy. There are allegations that Jharkhand Police also raised two Maoist groups in the state to counter the CPI-Maoist. Police sources say the CPI-Maoist used to claim six per cent levy in the construction work.When many Maoists groups were floated, the demand for levy increased and contractors had to pay to two to three Maoist groups. At present the prominent Maoist groups involved in extortion are CPI-Maoist, People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC). Maoist guerrillas are active in 18 of the 24 districts of the state. (Business Standard 25/5/16)

Naxal bandh on May 31 to protest deaths of five Naxal cadres (12)

Nagpur: The western sub-zonal committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has called for a bandh in Gadchiroli district on May 31 to protest the gunning down of five women cadres, including two of the rank of deputy commander, in the year so far. This is probably the first time Naxals have called for a bandh protesting death of their senior women cadres. Naxals have appealed for local support, while keeping the medical and emergency services out of the purview of the bandh, underlining the contributions of the women cadres fighting for the rights of tribals. This year, Gadchiroli police have eliminated around half-a-dozen Naxals in different encounters while 14 were arrested and 26 surrendered. The setbacks, especially of the top cadres, appear to have pushed the Naxal movement into a tight corner. As the rebels are unable to inflict any reverses on the police department, they have started targeting civilians and government properties. However, this ploy seems to be failing, as seen in the increasing domination of the security forces. Calling repeated bandhs on different pretexts, Naxals are trying to assert their domination through bandh, like on this Tuesday, but success seems to be eluding them. The Naxals, highlighting the martyrdom of Chatgaon area committee secretary Rajitha Usendi, deputy commander of Company no. 2 Minco Naroti, deputy commander of Perimili area committee Sarita Kowasi, and Arti Pudo and Nirmala Dumma of Kasansur area committee, have claimed that these women cadres sacrificed their lives fighting for the tribal rights on the jal, jungle and jameen (water, forest and land) of the district. The contributions of Nirmala Dumma, also known as ‘barefoot doctor’ of the dalam, was highlighted in the press communication. The Naxals have appealed to the masses to keep business establishments closed on the day. The Naxals claimed in their press communication that security forces, in their third phase of Operation Green Hunt, have been conducting repeated operations across the country under ‘Mission 2016′ to eliminate the rebel movement fighting for tribals. Superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, Sandip Patil said adequate arrangements have been made to thwart Naxal attempts to paralyse normal life in the district. “The Naxals have been trying to make a comeback but failing in their tactics. In their press communication, the Naxals have underlined the fact that police have stronger impact than them,” he said. Gadchiroli police, under Patil’s supervision, have carried out 17 encounters this year at different locations. The government has also helped police open posts and conducted various public-oriented programmes at strategical locations. “The Naxals are fast losing ground in the district. Their civilian killings and other disruptive activities are nothing but reflection of frustration,” he said. (Times of India 30/5/16)

TRAFFICKING

Set up portal to tackle trafficking of tribal women: Par panel (1)

New Delhi, May 3 () A Parliamentary committee has rapped the government for its “insensitive” attitude towards trafficking of tribal women and proposed setting up a web portal to tackle this issue with regular inputs from the Centre. In its report to the Parliament, the Committee on ‘Empowerment of Tribal Women’, also recommended holding campaigns in “vulnerable” areas with the involvement of school teachers, tribal chieftains, people’s representatives and village heads, to sensitise girls and their parents about trafficking. “The committee strongly condemns the attitude of the Ministry with regard to trafficking of tribal women. It is a pity that the government has no reliable data on the number of tribal women trafficked to big cities,” it said. The need of the hour is cooperation among all agencies, gram panchayats, panchayat samities, police, local administration and society to keep traffickers at bay, it said. The committee expressed “utter dismay” to see that the government have been “insensitive” to this gigantic problem. It also recommended regulating the placement agencies which acts as “conduits for trafficking” tribal girls to metropolitan cities. “It should be made mandatory for placement agencies to get registered with the department concerned and submit details of women getting placed by them as domestic workers to the government. Strict action should be taken against illegal agencies working without registration. “Since domestic workers form a huge chunk of work force in the metro cities, it is overdue that their work is given dignity and recognition,” the Committee said. The tribal women face atrocities like murder and rape often, the committee said, adding it is perturbed by the inaction of police and administration in such cases and their failure or delay in charge-sheeting the accused. (Times of India 3/5/16)

Child trafficking racket busted, 67 children rescued (1)

Indore: In a joint operation, Childline and railway police on Monday busted a child trafficking racket and rescued 67 children from Bihar. The children travelling on Jansadharan Express from Raxaul were rescued in two groups at Itarsi junction and at Khandwa railway station late on Sunday night. According to Khandwa GRP TI Mohan Singh Singore “It was an organized child trafficking racket operating from Bihar.” “We rescued around 67 children. One group was heading to Nashik to work in a tomato firm while the other was being taken to Indore to work in a bag firm. Inquiry into the matter is being carried out,” Singore said, “We have booked four people, including three agents who were nabbed at Itarsi junction and one at Khandwa railway station. They have been booked under IPC 370 (exploitation, forced labour, slavery and servitude) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy).” He said that prima facie it appears to be a case of human trafficking run by one Gyan from Raxaul. He gave money to poor parents and took their children to touts who then sent them to various cities for child labour. According to an Indore Childline official, the joint operation with GRP was carried out after a tip-off from an informer that some children were being brought from Raxaul, Bihar, to Khandwa in the Jansadharan Express from where they would be sent to Indore via bus. “After getting the information, Childline and the railway authority planned a rescue operation at Itarsi junction. The GRP team rescued around 61 children from Itarsi station and 6 from Khandwa station,” said Indore Childline coordinator Avinash Verma. The rescue operation at Itarsi revealed that some of the children were also being sent to Nashik and Mumbai to work in tomato firms. Khandwa Childline officer Rajesh Shukla said “All the six children who have been rescued at Khadwa station are aged below 14. (Times of India 3/5/16)

Eight minor boys rescued from human trafficking (1)

Berhampur (Odisha): Eight minor boys were rescued while allegedly being trafficked to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from the railway station here by members of an NGO working for children. Childline’s Berhampur Coordinator, Prabhu Prasad Patra, said the boys, all school drop outs aged between 12 and 16 years, were rescued yesterday. Six of the boys from Digapahandi were being taken to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, while two others hailing from Polasara were waiting at Berhampur station to go to Kerala. They had train tickets with them. “The boys could not tell the names of the traffickers, who fled from the spot,” said Patra. The rescued children will be united with their parents after being produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), he said. Childline’s Ganjam district Director Sudhir Sabat said as the summer vacation is on, the traffickers are moving in rural areas to lure children. It is for the second time in a week that Childline activists rescued children from the railway station. On April 25, they rescued 16 children (14 girls and two boys) from the Puri-Tirupati express. While nine girls were from Khurda district, seven others — five girls and two boys — were from Gajapati district. The children were being taken to Andhra Pradesh to work in prawn processing units. The traffickers escaped from the railway station. (The Hindu 5/5/16)

SAARC countries to discuss trafficking, children’s rights at next week meet (1)

NEW DELHI: Trafficking and child protection will be high on the agenda at the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) starting next week. Eight countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will assess progress and developments in the past decade of regional efforts, and identify priorities for the next five years. The fourth ministerial meeting will set strategies and agree on commitments to ensure the protection and security of the children of the region. The meeting is being hosted by the ministry of women and child development and will focus on critical issues of child protection and violence in the region. Home minister Rajnath Singh and women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi will attend the conference. SAIEVAC is the apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) created to bring governments of the region into active engagement for child protection against violence. SAARC made history in 1986 by installing children as a ‘summit-level concern and commitment.’ But is it going to make any difference to Pakistan and its younger brother Bangladesh?Ravishankar Bhujanga . The technical consultation will bring forward recommendations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on regional child protection opportunities emerging from country experiences. This will include India’s positive insights from innovative measures for tracking and rescuing lost and missing children. The potential of using information and communication technology for improving these measures will also be examined. India will showcase some of its major initiatives like Trackchild and Khoya Paya, Childline-1098 and POCSO Act among others. (Times of India 7/5/16)

CBI files chargesheet against SI, travel agents in human trafficking case (1)

Kochi: The CBI on Tuesday submitted charge-sheets against a sub inspector and two travel agents in a case related to the trafficking of unskilled labourers to Saudi Arabia through the Cochin airport. They are SI Raju Mathew of Lakkatoor in Kottayam, Namboola Abubacker of Kondotty in Malappuram and P M Subair of Naduvattom in Kozhikode. The CBI said that Mathew, during his tenure as counter officer with immigration wing at the airport from January 2009 to July 2012, facilitated illegal immigration of unskilled labourers to Saudi Arabia by accepting bribes. Abubacker and Subair had arranged visa for the labourers through their travel agencies Fayis Travels, Kondotty and West India Air Travels, Kozhikode respectively. Mathew was introduced to Abubacker by another police officer Shaju George. The CBI found that a sum of Rs 24,775 was transferred to Mathew’s bank account as remuneration. (Times of India 11/5/16)

3 traffickers arrested from Gumla, Dhanbad (1)

Gumla/Dhanbad: Three traffickers, two of whom are women, were arrested from Gumla and Dhanbad on Thursday. Police said the accused, Reshmi Devi and Bhuneshwar Sahu, are residents of Salam-Navatoli and Pandrapani, both villages in Maoist-hit areas. The arrests were made based on a complaint lodged by a woman at Bishunpur police station in 2011. She had alleged that Reshmi trafficked her daughter to Delhi in 2011 and sold her, said Bishunpur OC Manilal Rana.The police said Sahu was arrested after Reshmi’s statement. “Reshmi confessed that she had taken two girls, one of whom was the complainant’s, from Bishunpur to Ghaghra police station. From there, Sahu had taken them to Delhi,” police said. “Over 100 cases of trafficking have been registered with the child welfare committee in the last four months,” said CWC chairperson Tagren Panna. Meanwhile, Jalandhar police arrested a woman from Jharia late on Thursday night for trafficking. Puja alias Navita is from Gazipur in Uttar Pradesh and has allegedly trafficked a 16-year-old on April 11 from Jalandhar and brought her to Jharia at her brother-in-law’s residence at Dobari in Jharia. The girl’s parents lodged a complaint on April 12 in Jalandhar, which was converted to an FIR on April 15. Police after initial investigation arrested a boy who had helped Puja in kidnapping of he minor and on the basis of his statements, a five-member team of Jalandhar police, led by ASI Sukhchain Kaur, arrived in the coal city on Thursday and raided the house in Jharia. The woman was taken to Jalandhar after a transit remand order from the chief judicial magistrate of Dhanbad. (Times of India 14/5/16)

Trafficking survivors not rehabilitated (1)

Ranchi: The state police’s fast action has led to the rescue of many trafficked children from Jharkhand in the last few years. However, in most of the cases, survivors who are either shifted to shelter homes or sent to their families are not rehabilitated. Also, NGOs or police rarely monitor the cases. A first of its kind study by Neela Jayaraman and Diya Seva Sansthan, a local NGO that works against trafficking, shows that most of the rescued children are untraceable. The research, named ‘Study on socio-economic condition and mental health status of survivors post restoration’, was conducted over two-and-a-half months. The research team chose 170 cases in and around Ranchi and collected their details from various government and non-government organisations, like Childline, the Child Welfare Committee and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. However, 85% of the 170 rescued children were untraceable. “We tried to contact the 170 girls, but they were either not at home or their mobiles were unreachable. We could finally manage to talk to only 26 of them. There’s a possibility that those whose cellphones were unreachable were trafficked again,” said Jayaraman, who has a masters degree in social work from Boston College. After doing a case study of 26 girls whom the team managed to contact, it was found that in most of the cases, nobody from the government or non-profit organisations tried to contact them after rehabilitating them with the families. “We asked them if somebody came to them to enquire about their wellbeing and they said no. Then we asked if they wanted to know about the government schemes for the rescued trafficked victims and they were quite anxious to hear about them,” Jayramanan said. Sita Swansi of DSS said now that people are aware about anti-trafficking laws, it’s time to ensure long-term rehabilitation. “There is a need to strengthen the system of proper rehabilitation of survivors and all government and non-government stakeholders should come forward to do it. It is shocking to know that nobody has gone back to check how the children are doind,” she said. Jayaramanan will send the final report to DSS in August. (Times of India 18/5/16)

The new face of the trafficking victim (1)

HYDERABAD: Around 5,000 women and girls from southern parts of the city employed as ‘female escorts’, says an NGOIt’s 11.30 p.m. and the road stretch near the Nehru Zoological Park is dimly lit and relatively empty. A few minutes later, an autorickshaw stops on the road followed by a cab. Three women with their faces covered get out of the autorickshaw and get into the cab. After driving down for half an hour, the cab stops in front of an apartment in Banjara Hills Road No.12, two women get down and briskly walk into the apartment. The cab then heads to an upscale hotel in Somajiguda where the third woman gets down. What makes this journey different from the regular ones is that the women from the southern parts of the city are high-profile ‘female escorts’. “Whenever I get a call, I pick them up from the same place and drop them at different hotels and buildings in newer areas of the city. In the morning I ferry them back,” the cab driver, wishing to remain anonymous, said. While the Government talks about safety and protection of women in the city, the escort agencies are having a free run aided by technology and secrecy provided by modern gizmos. “Strict monitoring on brokers engaged in facilitating contract marriages has put it on hold. But now organised syndicates are luring teenagers, young widows and divorcees into prostitution. Travel arrangements are being made for the ‘escorts’ by the brokers themselves,” Jameela Nishath, of Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association, an NGO working for empowerment of Muslim women, said. According to Ms. Nishath, around 5,000 women and girls from southern areas of the city are now victims of human trafficking. “Localities where there is high poverty are their target. Unless issues relating to poverty and women empowerment are addressed, the problem will only grow. To compound the issue, there are very few job opportunities and these people are falling for easy money,” she felt. S. Q. Masood, a social activist from Kalapather area, explains, “Poor migrant families settled in newer areas are being targetted. While some of the victims are offered junior artist roles in films, others are directly pushed into prostitution. In the end, brokers are making huge money while the victims end up getting exploited.” On the other hand, the police said that they regularly catch brokers and brothel organisers. “Till now we have raided around 20 brothels and arrested many brokers. The victims were also rescued,” Commissioner’s Task Force DCP B. Limba Reddy said. (The Hindu 19/5/16)

‘Swaraksha’ campaign ends with call for participation of citizens against human trafficking (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as enforcement agencies and civil societies have managed some success to contain the menace of human trafficking, it is impossible to check the crime in totality without involvement of common citizens. If people are sensitised effectively, potential trafficking cases would be identified and checked before the crime occurs, State Commission for Women (SCW) Chairperson Lopamudra Baxipatra said on Sunday. Speaking on the closing ceremony of a five-month campaign ‘Swaraksha’ (to counter human trafficking) here, Baxipatra said efforts are underway to set up information kiosks in railway stations and display anti-trafficking messages and contact details of Anti Human Trafficking Units at tourist centres. Special DG (Crime) Bijay Sharma said with all 37 police districts having Anti Human Trafficking Units, people are turning up in large number to report incidents of trafficking in the last two years. Sharma, however, regretted lack of any comprehensive survey or study on actual number of victims, cause behind their falling into trap and the vulnerable pockets. Joint Secretary in Ministry of Women and Child Development Rashmi Sahni said in 2014, cases of trafficking of minors rose by 65 per cent. Majority of the victims were engaged as commercial sex workers, beggars and forced into labour, Sahni added. The 165-day caravan – Swaraksha – was organised by Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala which sensitised more than one million people across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha. During this period, 112 cases were booked on human trafficking and 40 people involved in the crime voluntarily confessed and surrendered, founder of Prajwala Sunitha Krishnan said. Among others, Higher Education Minister Pradip Panigrahy, Deputy Chief of Mission US Embassy Michael Pelletier, Consul General, US Consulate at Hyderabad Micheal Mullins, Director, Women and Child Development Rabindra Pratap Singh also spoke. (New Indian Express 23/5/16)

Almost half of girl trafficking is from West Bengal: CRY (1)

Kolkata: About 42% of trafficking of minor girls in India is from West Bengal, according to a report released Tuesday. NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) analysed the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2014 and found that almost 75% of the cases related to procurement of minor girls across the country are concentrated in just four states. West Bengal tops the list as it accounts for 42% of the cases registered under procurement of minor girls in India, the other three states being Assam, Bihar and Odisha. Haryana’s share is 14%.These five states in India account for 97% of girl child trafficking, according to the analysis by CRY. “Going by the current trend reflected in the government data, West Bengal along with some other states continue to show worrying trends in cases related to missing children. There is a close linkage of missing children to organised crime,” Atindra Nath Das, regional director of the NGO said. The magnitude of missing children in India and available on-ground evidence gathered by CRY over the last three and a half decades indicate that the large number of missing children are actually trafficked, kidnapped or abducted, he said. Missing children data from 2014 shows that 70% of the children who went missing in that year were girls. According to NCRB data, West Bengal was among the top five states in the country in kidnapping and abduction of children and accounts for 6% of such cases in the country. Cases related to kidnapping and abduction of minors in the state has grown by 608% over the last five years, it said. (Business Standard 24/5/16)

Child trafficking cases should end in 30 days: Satyarthi (1)

New Delhi, May 27 : Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Friday urged the government to ensure that summary trials in cases of child trafficking and bonded labour should be concluded within 30 days. Speaking during ‘National Consultation on Eradication of Bonded Labour and Trafficking’ here, Satyarthi said: “While the government has taken great strides in building policy framework against trafficking, huge gaps continue to exist with respect to prevention, protection and rehabilitation of victims as well as conviction of offenders.” He added: “The offenders should be convicted within 30 days. The victim must also be rehabilitated and monetary compensation should reach him or her within 30 days.” Referring to the new law on trafficking which is in the pipeline, Satyarthi said there should be a strong and accountable mechanism for robust implementation of these rules. “The benefits of new legislation will only reach the most neglected child when processes and procedures of implementation are strengthened and accountability is ensured,” he said. He urged the government to ensure strict vigilance of placement agencies which are involved in trafficking. “A new form of trafficking is emerging in the form of placement agencies. They traffic people from across the country. There should be strict vigilance and provisions for such agencies in the new law,” said the child rights activist. Satyarthi also congratulated the central government for the new Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour Scheme wherein compensation for victims of bonded labour has been raised from Rs.20,000 to Rs.3 lakh. The survivors of trafficking also should be considered under this scheme, he felt. Satyarthi has worked for child rights for over 30 years through the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a voluntary organisation which is credited with freeing over 80,000 children from bonded labour across India. (New Kerala 27/5/16)

Trafficking victims to get more relief under new rule (1)

NEW DELHI: In a move which will help in the rehabilitation of trafficking victims, the central government has issued a guideline saying victims rescued from a placement agency, massage parlour or brothels will now be eligible to get compensation under the Bonded Labour Act. In Delhi, where over 2,000 placement agencies are operational and almost every day a minor is rescued, the move will benefit the victims who are trafficked from small villages to Delhi. Since the guideline is prepared and soon rules will be framed, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has demanded the provision of timebound trial and disbursal of compensation within 30 days. It was announced that as per the new Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourer Scheme, financial assistance for persons freed from bonded labour has been increased 15 times, from Rs 20,000 to Rs 3 lakh in case of children rescued from trafficking and sexual exploitation. “While the government has taken great strides in building policy framework against trafficking, huge gaps continue to exist with respect to prevention, protection of trafficking, effective rehabilitation of victims and conviction of offenders. “The key lies in recognising that these crimes are not disparate offences but are different forms of slavery. Convergence of efforts at the central, state and district levels among various agencies for rehabilitation is essential for elimination of child trafficking,” said Satyarthi. Police often deal with cases of trafficking where victims are rescued from brothel or placement agency under sections of IPC and added section of Bonded Labour Act will help in stricter punishment and better compensation. “We have to enforce the existing laws. There should be trained and sensitised personnel to deal with cases of trafficking. We have also demanded for summary trial, which means within 30 days, the court proceedings should end and the victim must get the compensation within that period,” added Satyarthi, while speaking at a National Consultation on Eradication of Bonded Labour and Trafficking by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). Satyarthi also demanded that the states adopt the Bonded Labourers Scheme and the Juvenile Justice rules as soon as the central model rules are notified. (Hindustan Times 28/5/16)

CORRUPTION

AgustaWestland deal: CBI questions former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi (5)

New Delhi, May.2 : The Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) on Monday questioned former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi in connection with alleged corruption in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal. Sources in the CBI said the focus of today’s questioning were bribery allegations and the Italy court’s judgement. The questioning will continue tomorrow. The top investigative agency has said that they are trying to figure out the purpose of Tyagi’s visit to Italy after retirement, adding that the former Air Force chief’s accounts and asset details are also being looked into. Sources say that the CBI would also call Tyagi’s cousins and alleged middle man in the case, Delhi-based business man, Gautam Khaitan, for questioning soon. The CBI had on Friday issued summons to Tyagi as part of its ongoing probe in the AgustaWestland choppers deal. The ex-IAF chief is accused of modifying the requirements in order to seal the deal with AgustaWestland. The investigating agency had quizzed former IAF Deputy Chief J.S Gujral on Saturday in the case. Both, Tyagi and Gujral were questioned at length in 2013 but the fresh round of questioning was necessitated after recent order of an Italian Court which indicated corruption in the deal. The court has given details of how alleged bribes were paid by helicopter maker Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal. The investigating agency had registered a case against Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case. Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had also issued summons to Tyagi. He has been summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. However, the date of hearing has not been revealed. (New Kerala 2/5/16)

ED took 16 months to initiate probe into chopper deal (5)

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate took almost 16 months to initiate full-blown investigations into the bribery allegations in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the agency records reveal. According to government documents, the CBI registered the case against 13 individuals and firms in connection with the deal in March 2013, after about a month’s preliminary enquiry. The move followed arrest of some of the accused by the Italian agencies. It has now turned out that the CBI did not suo motu share a copy of the case with the ED, which would have enabled immediate investigations into the money trail of the alleged kickbacks. The Directorate also did not ask for the copy on its own. Over three months in 2013, after the CBI had registered the case, the Directorate wrote to the agency seeking a copy of the document. However, it was not provided. The ED sent two reminders to the CBI seeking cooperation in getting the papers, on the basis of which it could have launched a probe into the allegations. However, there was no response from the CBI and it was in December 2013, almost nine months after it had registered the case, that the document was finally supplied to the ED. The ED allegedly did not take any action on the papers for almost seven months. The agency finally registered the case on July 3, 2014, against over 20 individuals and companies under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). “As the provisions under which the CBI had registered the case were part of the PMLA schedule of predicate offences, this empowered us to initiate money laundering investigations,” said a government official. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

Agusta scam: The murky steps (5)

A Milan court’s decision last month convicting Giuseppe Orsi, former chief of Italian defence supplier Finmeccanica, for corruption turned public attention back on India’s helicopter deal with AgustaWestland, or “Choppergate” as the controversy-ridden purchase is being called. TOI tracks the investigations.August 1999: IAF suggests replacement of old Mi-8 VVIP helicopters due to several operational constraints . Mar 2002: Global tender floated among 11 vendors. Four vendors respond but only Eurocopter EC-225 meets specification of being capable of flight at an operational ceiling of 6,000 metres. Flight evaluation of AW-101 of AgustaWestland not done since it was not certified for 6,000-metre altitude. Dec 2003: NSA Brajesh Mishra in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMO directs MoD & IAF to change technical specifications to avoid “single vendor” situation. Mandatory spec: 4,500 metres of flight ceiling. Desirable specifications: Cabin height of 1.8 metres. Mar 2005-May 2005: Tech requirements changed (flying ceiling of 4,500 metres, cabin height of 1.8 metres made mandatory). This brings in AW-101, eliminates EC-225. Pranab Mukherjee is defence minister (UPA-I) and S P Tyagi is IAF chief. Jan 2006: Defence ministry accords acceptance of necessity for procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters at an estimated price of Rs 793cr. Sept 2006: Fresh tender issued to 6 vendors. Only 2 vendors – AW-101 (AgustaWestland) and S-92 (Sikorsky) – respond. Russia not willing to ink integrity pact and provide guarantees for its Mi-172 chopper. EC-225, which made the cut earlier, does not meet the changed specifications. MoD’s internal benchmarking price set at Rs 4,877 crore, six times the earlier figure of Rs 793cr. RFP issued to AgustaWestland, Italy, but response comes not from Italy but from AgustaWestland International, UK, which is allegedly not an original equipment manufacturer. Oct 2006: AK Antony becomes defence minister. Mar 2007: Tyagi retires as IAF chief. 2008: Three-engine AW-101s selected over S-92 after field trials overseen both by IAF & SPG. The trials are, however, held abroad (in UK & US) and not in India as required to test the choppers in varying Indian climates, altitudes & terrains. Jan 2010: CCS approves acquisition of 12 AW-101 choppers. Feb 2010: Euro 556 million (3,546) contract inked with AgustaWestland. Pranab Mukherjee is finance minister. Of the total contract price, 15% is paid, and another 30% to be paid in March 2011. Feb 2012: Allegations surface in Italy of 360 crore paid as bribes to Indian politicians, bureaucrats & IAF officers to swing deal through middlemen. Dec 2012: IAF gets delivery of three of the 12 AW-101s. Feb 2013: Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Finmeccanica, Italian parent company of AgustaWestland, and Bruno Spagnolini, chief of AgustaWestland, arrested in Italy. Indian defence ministry freezes payments to AgustaWestland and orders CBI probe. Mar 2013: CBI registers case against former IAF chief SP Tyagi, his three cousins and nine others, including Orsi and Spagnolini. No politician or bureaucrat named. CBI forwards FIR to Enforcement Directorate in Dec 2013 after a delay of nine months, which also does not act till July 2014 until after NDA assumes office at Centre. Jan 2014: MoD scraps the contract. Later “encashes” advance bank guarantees and bonds submitted by AgustaWestland to recover 199.62mn of the 250mn paid earlier (50.7mn deducted by court towards delivery of three helicopters). July 2014: NDA government formally issues order to put on hold all fresh procurement from Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, though approved by earlier UPA regime. Oct 2014: Italian lower court sentences Orsi and Spagnolini to 2 years imprisonment for falsifying invoices but acquits them of corruption  (Times of India 8/5/16)

CBI registers case against MHA official for corruption (5)

New Delhi, May 9 () CBI has registered a case against an Under Secretary of the Home Ministry for allegedly issuing FCRA notices arbitrarily to several NGOs for financial gains. The case was slapped against Under Secretary Anand Joshi and some other unnamed persons for allegedly indulging in corrupt practices and arbitrarily issuing notices to many NGOs, registered under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which were receiving foreign contributions. The accused allegedly obtained bribe from some of these organisations through immovable assets and certain private companies, official sources said. Searches were conducted at four locations of the accused official, they said. The issue came to the fore after files pertaining to the alleged FCRA violations by two NGOs run by social activist Teesta Setalvad went missing from the Home Ministry. The files were traced and restored in the FCRA division but CBI was asked to investigate the matter. It was noticed that the files had gone missing when the Home Ministry took a decision to cancel FCRA registration of one of Setalvad’s NGOs, Sabrang Trust, sources said. Sabrang Trust’s licence was suspended on September 9, 2015 by MHA and it asked for an explanation from the firm, failing which FCRA registration would have been cancelled in 180 days. Setalvad filed her reply in October and the deadline given by MHA expired in March this year. When Home Ministry officials found that the files had gone missing, they conducted an inquiry and identified the official who had taken away the files. He was summoned and the files were restored. A senior Home Ministry official said the government has taken the matter very seriously and hence asked CBI to conduct a probe. An Under Secretary is not allowed to take away files, only Joint Secretary and above are allowed to take the files home. It is a serious violation, the official added.  (Times of India 9/5/16)

Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav make fresh AgustaWestland expose (5)

New Delhi: Noted lawyer and Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan and his colleague Yogendra Yadav on Thursday made fresh revelations on the AgustaWestland scam in which senior Congress leaders like Sonia Gandhi and others allged to be involved. Addressing a joint press conference, Bhushan dragged Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s name in the multi-crore VVIP bribery scam case. The duo claimed irregularities in the Chhattisgarh A-109 chopper deal and linked Raman Singh’s son Abhishek to the Panama Papers leak. Daring the BJP to initiate a probe against Raman Singh, the duo said global tender was not called for the deal and the tender rules were seriously bypassed. They also claimed that USD 1.5 million was paid as kickback. They told reporters that all documents related to their claims on the AugustaWestland deal has been made available on Swaraj Abhiyan website. Here are the highlights of their press briefing:- A virtual single vendor situation was created in Agusta deal. Sharing details of a deal where only one product was promoted. A compensation of 30% was given. The deal was executed to intentionally provide illegal benefits. A-109 chopper could be made available at $6.22 million, Chhattisgarh government told AgustaWestland. AgustaWestland said our dealer Sharp Ocean (located in the British Virgin Isles), can supply the choppers early without any extra commission. No efforts were made to find out about other firms that make and supply choppers. Government proposed only AgustaWestland choppers to be preferred. Cabinet decided in February 2007 that choppers may be bought from Sharp Ocean provided if $200,000 premium can be negotiated. On March 30, a government note said choppers should be bought from Sharp Ocean. Chhattisgarh government later said it will invite a global tender and on May 30, the government issued a global tender. Three offers were made on this tender, interestingly out of these 3 firms, AgustaWestland offered Rs. 29.77cr. Chhattisgarh govt bought one Agusta helicopter for USD 5 million and paid USD 1.57 million as commission. CM Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh allegedly having investments offshore. CAG had mentioned in its report that in the VVIP chopper deal, Chhattisgarh government made payments of Rs 64 lakh to the company. (Zee News 12/5/16)

 

Govt suspends 26 engineers in Rs 34-crore irrigation scam (5)

Bengaluru: The timing appears all wrong for Siddaramaiah and the Congress, which is celebrating its third anniversary in office on Friday. Scams are tumbling out of its cupboard, and opposition leaders are going hammer and tongs at the government. On Thursday, minor irrigation minister Shivaraj Tangadagi told reporters he has suspended 26 engineers suspected to be involved in the Rs 34.35-crore scam in the development of minor irrigation tanks in Koppal and Kushtagi taluks, and will be soon writing to the CM, seeking a CID inquiry into it. He said the officials were suspended after he found violations in the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act in awarding 47 contracts. Sources said the suspended officials have been charged with producing fake bills for dredging tanks. These employees allegedly produced the bills to claim money without executing work, sources said. While 17 employees belonged to the minor irrigation department, the others were on deputation from other departments.This is the second successive embarrassment for the Congress government in the span of a fortnight. Rural development and panchayati raj minister HK Patil cancelled tenders for 46 new testing laboratories and ordered a CID probe into the matter while admitting to a drinking water testing laboratory scam in his department. While BJP opposition leader Ja gadish Shettar brought to light the scam in the RDPR department of 120 laboratories being awarded to a single person, JD(S) state president HD Kumaraswamy raised the fake bill scam in the minor irrigation department. Last month, Siddaramaiah came under fire for permitting a firm in which his son Dr Yathindra was a partner, to set up a lab and diagnostic facility at a government-run hospital, in alleged violation of the code of conduct for ministers.

Kumaraswamy alleged that CM Siddaramaiah had cleared Rs 3,500 crore worth of contracts under the PWD across the state, by dividing the projects into 126 piece works at a higher rate, without cabinet approval. “The projects have been handed over to contractors at 10-15% higher than permissible limits,” he alleged. He said the government had received Rs 50 crore in kickbacks from a BDA official to appoint him next chairperson of the Karnataka Public Service Commission.`Ugrappa unsympathetic to women’ Kumaraswamy accused VS Ugrappa, chairman of the expert committee on preventing sexual violence against women and children, of making derogatory statements against a sexual harass ment victim when she approached him to lodge a complaint. He said a woman employee of a healthcare firm in Mahadevapura had lodged a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace before the labour department. “When she failed to get justice there, she approached Ugrappa for help only to be rebuked by him,” he alleged. (Times of India 13/5/16)

Home ministry official arrested on graft charge (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Sunday arrested union home ministry official Anand Joshi, who had gone missing after the agency issued him summons following corruption allegations. “Based on the information of his movements, raids were conducted and Joshi was detained from Tilak Nagar in west Delhi around 5 p.m. today (Sunday). He was taken to the CBI headquarters (in Delhi) and was arrested after questioning,” Central Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Devpreet Singh told IANS. The official said that Joshi was trying to evade CBI questioning regarding information on charges against him. “His family is also not cooperating in the investigation.” The CBI booked Joshi, an under secretary, earlier this month on charge of corruption and asked him to appear for questioning. Joshi subsequently went missing. Home ministry sources earlier said that Joshi, recently posted in the foreigners division, had access to files related to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and was under the scanner for several months. He was reported to the CBI after it was confirmed that he was allegedly taking bribes to favour certain NGOs. Joshi was also indulging in other alleged illegal activities and arbitrarily issuing notices to a large number of non-governmental organisations and societies registered under the FCRA who had been receiving significant foreign contributions. Joshi is said to have demanded and obtained illegal gratification from some of these organisations, which was laundered through various immovable assets as well as certain private companies. The accused official was also accused of being responsible for some files related to Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust going amiss from the ministry a few months back. The files were later traced to the officer and restored. Joshi along with some unknown people has been booked on charge of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The CBI had seized certain incriminating documents, including files pertaining to the MHA and ministry of information and broadcasting, from his residential and office premises. (New Indian Express 15/5/16)

Kejriwal government spent Rs.100 crore on ads in three months: Congress (5)

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi of spending Rs.100 crore for self-promotion in the last three months. “An RTI has revealed that between February 10 and May 10, Arvind Kejriwal has spent Rs. 14.5 crore of taxpayers money on advertisements published in newspapers only,” Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters at the party headquarters here. “However, the Delhi government has yet not given the amount spent on TV, radio ads and publicity hoardings but as per calculation, Kejriwal has spent approximately Rs.100 crore on all sorts of ads,” she added. Oza accused the AAP of “betraying” the promises of good governance and of ending any kind of wasteful expenditure, on which promise it had come to power. “Kejriwal could have used the money for buying 200 new DTC buses, 2,000 flats for EWS (Extremely Weaker Section) and 20 government schools with this money,” Oza said “What is the justification of the ‘outstation ads’ being published by Delhi government in Kerala, Bangalore, Chennai etc,” she asked insisting the expenditure “is a white collar corruption”.She said that Kejriwal does not have money to pay the salary of poor sanitation workers, the old age pension, widows pension but his party has left no stone unturned to splurge public wealth on glorification of Kejriwal’s and misinforming people. (Business Standard 16/5/16)

ACB busts bribery racket in NRHM, raids senior IAS officer, lodges FIR (5)

Jaipur: Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday registered an FIR against IAS officer Neeraj K Pawan and four others for alleged corruption while awarding tenders under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Three of them – two government officials and a middleman – have been arrested. The FIR has been lodged under appropriate sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Pawan, an IAS of the 2003 batch, is currently posted as commissioner in agriculture department. “We have arrested Deepa Gupta, chief accounts officer at NRHM; Joji Varghese, the store-keeper; and one Ajit Kumar Soni for allegedly manipulating NRHM tenders and taking hefty bribes. These three were named in the FIR besides IAS Pawan and Anil Kumar Agarwal, the then additional director at NRHM,” V K Singh, inspector general of Police, ACB, told TOI late on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, ACB teams raided 18 places, including houses and offices of these officials.NRHM tenders were allegedly manipulated to favour some firms during his tenure as additional mission director. Separate teams were sent to the offices and houses of Ajit Soni, who allegedly played the role of a broker and played a catalyst’s role in the nexus. ACB says arrest of IAS officer is likely. “We got complaints with some audio and video proofs that Joji Varghese was getting a bribe for clearing some bills under NRHM. Later, when we verified things it was found that Ajit Soni was in touch with the then officers at NRHM and was into fixing the commission with some private firms.”"In the investigation, we also found that Soni had given a car, a Scooty and other valuables to IAS officer Pawan. The complainant had got work orders worth nearly Rs 7 crore in which officials’ cut was 17%. Of this amount, 5 per cent was taken as advance and the rest 12 per cent was taken after tenders were awarded in favour of the designated firm,” he said. (Times of India 19/5/16)

Corruption in Delhi reduced by 70 to 80 percent: Kejriwal (5)

Panaji, May 22 : Corruption in the national capital has not been completely eliminated, but has reduced by about 70 to 80 percent since the AAP government came to power, Delhi Chief Minister Arivind Kejriwal said on Sunday. “Corruption is least in Delhi. I am not saying it is (reduced by) 100 percent. But we have reduced corruption by 70 percent to 80 percent,” he told a public meeting organised by his Aam Aadmi Party, as it gears up for the upcoming assembly polls, which are tentatively scheduled to be held in January next year. Kejriwal said that his government’s efforts to crackdown on corruption were being impeded by the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which he claimed had been wrested away the Anti-Corruption Bureau from the purview of the state government for ulterior motives. “They will not crackdown on corruption and not let us do it. Let them do what they want, our resolve against corruption will not end. Our battle against corruption will go on,” he asserted. (New Kerala 22/5/16)

Home ministry official arrested on graft charge sent to jail (5)

New Delhi: A CBI court on Tuesday sent suspended home ministry official Anand Joshi in judicial custody till June 6 in a case of corruption. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge Vinod Kumar remanded Joshi in 14 days’ judicial custody after the probe agency told the court that the accused was not required for further custodial interrogation. Joshi, who was under-secretary with the union home ministry until he was suspended, was presented before the court after the expiry of his earlier four days’ police custody. He was arrested by the CBI on May 15 here on the charge of “obtaining illegal gratification” from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) after issuing notices to them under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The CBI is reported to have found files relating to activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust from his possession. Joshi had gone “missing” from his residence in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh after summons were issued by the CBI. Earlier, home ministry sources said Joshi, recently posted in the Foreigners Division, had access to files related to the FCRA and was under the scanner for several months.Joshi has denied the charge of receiving bribes from NGOs. (Business Standard 24/5/16)

Fodder scam: ACB files chargesheet against eight (5)

Jaipur: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against 8 accused arrested in connection with the alleged multi-crore fodder scam of Hingonia Gaushala. The ACB had registered an FIR in this case in 2010 in which it was stated that the officers at the gaushala were in cahoots with the contractors and other staff and used to over value fodder for cows. The FIR further stated that cows were fed low standard fodder against which the officials would make inflated fake bills. It must be noted here that many cows had died after continuous consumption of low quality fodder since 2010. Taking cognizance of the matter, even Rajasthan High Court had lambasted the state government and concerned department. In the 7,500 page chargesheet, the ACB has framed charges against accused including Radheyshyam Saini, Rajendra Saini, Roshan Tanwar, Ramesh Tanwar, Ghanshyam Saini, Mahendra Saini and Jetharam under section 13(1)(D) of Prevention of Corruption Act and also under section 420 (cheating), 466 (Forgery for record) 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (Using a forged document as genuine) and 120-B (Criminal conspiracy) of IPC. All the accused are already under judicial custody. However, in the charge-sheet, ACB has left investigation pending against accused Sanwar Mal Meena, the then commissioner, Hingonia Gaushala under section 173(8) of CRPC.In the same case, ACB had already arrested and chargesheeted Kailash Mode, the then veterinary doctor at Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC). “We have filed strong chargesheet against all the accused in a court and we are sure to get them prosecuted by the court,” said Bajrang Singh, additional superintendent of police, ACB. It may be recalled here that Rajasthan High Court too had urged ACB to probe alleged irregularities in the procurement and distribution of fodder for gaushala. That time, Dinesh MN, inspector general of police had informed the court that many cases were pending against the Gaushala and its staff for alleged irregularities in the procurement and distrubution of fodder. (Times of India 26/5/16)

Lalit Modi case: probe agencies to approach Interpol afresh (5)

New Delhi: Indian investigative agencies will make a fresh bid to obtain the much-delayed Interpol arrest warrant against former IPL Chairman Lalit Modi after the Chennai Police recently submitted that it is actively pursuing its criminal probe against him and others. Officials said the Investigating Officer (IO) of the Crime Branch of Chennai police has informed the Finance Ministry and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that it had registered an FIR against Mr. Modi and seven others in 2010 on charges of alleged financial irregularities, based on a complaint by former BCCI President N. Srinivasan, which is “under investigation” and evidence is being gathered. It is likely that the IO of Chennai police would also approach a local court to seek Mr. Modi’s presence in the case as being sought by the ED in its money laundering probe. This 2010 FIR became the basis for the ED to register the ’predicate offence’ of money laundering against Mr. Modi in 2012. After registering the offence, the anti-money laundering agency had sought an international Red Corner Notice (RCN) and arrest warrant against him from the Interpol. The agencies, sources said, will make a renewed effort to make Mr. Modi join the probe being carried out by the ED and Chennai Police. The Union government, during the recently concluded Parliament session, had said it was awaiting an investigation status report from Chennai Police in order to respond to queries raised by the Interpol in connection with the money laundering case against Mr. Modi. Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha had, while replying to a question related to ED’s request to Interpol for issue of the RCN against Mr. Modi, said “certain queries were raised by the Commission for the Control of Interpol Files“. “Further, a letter to the predicate agency (Chennai Police) has been sent for obtaining investigation status of the scheduled offence. The reply from predicate agency is awaited for responding to the queries raised by the Commission for the Control of Interpol Files,” he had said in a written reply. (The Hindu 29/5/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Taking Uttarakhand forest fires very seriously, says Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar

 “Government is taking the forest fires of Uttarakhand very seriously. 6000 people have been deployed for fighting it. We also granted Rs 5 crore to the state yesterday. Our top officer, including the DG of Forest department is on the spot guiding the local forces. The air force, the Home Ministry…all are helping and guiding the residents there,” he said. The government will study the reasons behind such major fires and prepare an action plan accordingly, he said. “The larger issue is why such fire occurs in the summer season. We will study the reasons and come out with an action plan on how to control it in future all over the country,” Javadekar said. He said his ministry today began trial runs for a pre-fire alert system that will issue warnings via SMS about possible fire outbreaks in the country so that the forest department could attend to them immediately. “We are issuing fire alerts through satellite since last year. Wherever a fire breaks out in any remote forest, we get to know immediately. But these alerts are only issued after the fire has started,” Javadekar said.  (Indian Express 1/5/16

Forest fire destroys 1600ha green cover (9)

Bhubaneswar: At a time when the forest fire in Uttarakhand raised countrywide concern, a green cover of around 1600 hectares (ha) was devastated in Odisha this year alone. Forest blaze razed more than 7800 hectares of forest land in the state in the last seven years. Forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukha, in a written reply, told the state assembly on Tuesday that 1578 hectare of forest land was affected by fire this year (as on April 25). Many incidents of forest fire were reported from various parts of the state, including Dhenkanal and Athagarh, after that. The spread of inferno was significantly higher compared to the last five years. Raging fire engulfed around 849 hectares of forest land in 2015, 881 ha in 2014, 162 ha in 2013 and 960 ha in 2012, the minister said. The extent of the damage was highest in 2010 when around 2251 hectares of forest land was gutted followed by 1135 hectares in 2011. The extent of forest fire this year coincided withthe continuous dry spell and record-breaking mercury level in various parts of the state. To contain the rising temperature in Rourkela, Titlagarh, Bhubaneswar, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Talcher and Angul, the government plans to plant 6.90 saplings and distribute 24.85 lakh seedlings, the minister told the assembly. He added that the government has been making fireline (clear patch between forests so that fire) to prevent the spread of fire. Control rooms were opened in forest divisional headquarters to quickly respond to fire, he said. The 37 forest divisions in the state have 216 fire-fighting squads. Altogether 2160 fire watchers were deployed to notice the fire early, the minister said. Environmental activists believe the government has failed to contain forest fire. Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa, a voluntary organization working for environment, said: “Despite being aware of the higher susceptibility to forest fire this year because of drought, nothing was done to prevent the blaze. In case of fire, the squads are not responding in time. There is a specific instance when the forest officers concerned ignored information of fire provided by local people,” he said. Apart from ruining timber, fruits and leaves, forest fires cause injuries to wild animals and raze their habitat. These destroy nests and eggs of birds and fodder of animals, he added. (Times of India 4/5/16)

Climate change may be ‘accelerating’ kidney disease: study (9)

New Delhi, May 9 () Climate change may be “accelerating” rates of chronic kidney disease caused by dehydration and heat stress, a new study has claimed. The research, paper published in Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), says. “Climate change may be accelerating rates of chronic kidney disease caused by dehydration and heat stress.”The findings suggest that a condition called heat stress nephropathy may represent a disease of neglected populations but one that may emerge as a major cause of poor kidney health in the near future,” a statement issued by the George Institute for Global Health said. It said that climate change and resultant water shortages are likely to affect a wide variety of health issues related to dehydration and heat stress with risks increasing for cognitive dysfunction, malnutrition, water-borne infectious diseases, chronic kidney disease and other conditions.”The increasing number of extreme heat waves brought about by global warming may disproportionately be causing kidney damage among at-risk populations,” said Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of George Institute for Global Health, India, who is also the co-author of the paper.The researchers found that chronic kidney disease that is not associated with traditional risk factors appears to be “increasing” in rural hot communities as worldwide temperature progressively rises.”They (researchers) believe the risk for heat stress nephropathy has increased due to global warming and an increase in extreme heat waves and it is having a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as agricultural workers,” the statement said. Jha had earlier submitted a research proposal to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to “systematically evaluate this epidemic in at least four regions of India along with local nephrologists.”  (Times of India 9/5/16)

Climate change bomb: State India’s 2nd most vulnerable (9)

Ahmedabad: “Convenient Action” on climate change doesn’t seem to be working in Gujarat, as it has been ranked 2nd among Indian states facing severe environmental threats. As many as 14 districts of the state have been included in the “very high” category under vulnerability indices relating to climate change. The bleak reality has been revealed in findings of various studies conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), according to which only Rajasthan is ahead of Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka share space with Gujarat with 14 very highly vulnerable districts. Gujarat has six districts under the highly vulnerable category. Studies indicate more erratic and intense monsoons, unseasonal rains and hailstorms, increasing risk of droughts and floods, and rise in temperatures. The increasing frequency of warm days in certain pockets will hit small-scale agricultural systems. The impact of climate change is expected to be felt in the economic viability and production of livestock systems because of poor availability of quality feed, decreased reproductive performance, and decline in milk production. The indices are fixed on the basis of frequent changes in climatic patterns. Experts believe that agriculture also contributes to climate change as it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. J K Vyas, a city-based environmentalist, said deforestation was one of the reasons for climate change in Gujarat. “In agriculture, power plants set up for irrigation burn fuel,” Vyas said. However, Dr Dinesh Mishra, the principal chief conservator of forests of the state, said that deforestation cannot be a factor as the forest cover of Gujarat has increased over the past few years. (Times of India 11/5/16)

Delhi not ‘most polluted’, but dirty air fouls many cities (9)

New Delhi: Delhi is no longer the most polluted city in the world, the latest air quality report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The national capital which earned notoriety for the state of its environment now stands 11th among 3,000 cities in 103 countries in terms of fine particulate matter or PM 2.5. The ‘Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016)’ released by WHO on Thursday placed the capital in 25th place based on bigger particulate or PM 10 levels. Particulate matter affects everyone but causes harm faster to children and senior citizens.Although Delhi improved its ranking, four Indian cities are among the world’s ten most polluted. Ten out of the top 20 are also in the country. The data are for 2013, but the Delhi government was quick to put out a statement exulting in a “definitive positive trend” in the city. In 2014, Delhi was ranked the most polluted globally in terms of PM 2.5, for which the WHO had monitored 1,600 cities. Delhi’s place as the most polluted is taken by Zabol, in Iran. Gwalior and Allahabad, meanwhile, come a close second and third in terms of PM 2.5, while Patna and Raipur are ranked 6th and 7th. WHO used data from government and research organisations to prepare the database. It is based on ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) and “aims at representing an average for the city or town as a whole, rather than for individual stations. Years of measurements range from 2010 to 2015, unless the latest available data was older,” the report said. PM 2.5 refers to atmospheric particulates with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Exposure to fine particulates is linked to premature death from heart and lung disease. They trigger or worsen asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The WHO states that as urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma increases. More than 7 million premature deaths occur every year due to air pollution, and 3 million of these are due to outdoor air quality. Maria Neira, head of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, WHO, praised the Centre for developing a national plan to deal with the problem when others have been unable to. “Probably some of the worst cities that are the most polluted ones in the world are not included in our list, just because they are so bad that they do not even have a good system of monitoring of air quality, so it’s unfair to compare or give a rank,” she said. Common causes of air pollution include diesel-fuelled vehicles, heavy construction activities, temperature control in large buildings and use of coal or diesel generators. (The Hindu 12/5/16)

Gwalior, Allahabad now ahead of Delhi in pollution (9)

Delhi is no longer the world’s most polluted city. Gwalior , Allahabad, Patna and Raipur have overtaken Delhi in the latest report from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Delhi is at the 11th spot among the most polluted cities, with the annual PM 2.5 being at 122. This is about three times the Indian safe standard and 12 times the WHO standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metres. The most polluted city of the world now is Zabol in Iran , with PM 2.5 at an alarming 217. Next in the list are Gwalior and Allahabad (India), Riyadh and Al Jubail (Saudi Arabia), Patna and Raipur (India), Bamenda (Cameroon), Xintagi and Baoding (China) and Delhi and Ludhiana (India). Kanpur, Lucknow, and Firozabad are also among top 20 most polluted cities in the world. In the WHO 2014 report, 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, were in India. “While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted,” the report said. As per WHO, 98 percent of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. (Times of India 13/5/16)

GM crops: to eat or not to eat (9)

Miami: The findings issued by the US National Academies of Science examined two decades of research on genetically engineered (GE) crops, as they are also known, and called for regulators to take a closer look at the final product of a new plant variety, rather than the process used to breed or engineer it. “We dug deeply into the literature to take a fresh look at the data on GE and conventionally bred crops,” said committee chair Fred Gould, co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. Gould acknowledged that the wealth of data and opinions on the controversial matter “had created a confusing landscape” and that the new report aimed to offer an unbiased review of the evidence. The committee of more than 50 scientists looked at almost 900 research and other publications on genetically engineered characteristics in maize (corn), soybean, and cotton — representing the vast majority of commercial crops to date. “While recognizing the inherent difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects on health or the environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops,” said the report. However, it urged regulators to submit new plant varieties to “safety testing — regardless of whether they were developed using genetic engineering or conventional breeding techniques.” The report also found that “evolved resistance to current GE characteristics in crops is a major agricultural problem,” including both insect and weed resistance. The report found no links between genetically modified crops and cancer or diabetes, and no association “between any disease or chronic conditions and the consumption of GE foods.” Biologists have used genetic engineering since the 1980s to produce fruit that can last longer on store shelves, have higher vitamin content and be more resilient against common diseases. The only genetically engineered characteristics that have been put into widespread commercial use are those that allow a crop to withstand the application of a herbicide or to be toxic to insect pests.” The report pointed to some evidence that insect-resistant biotech crops have actually boosted human health by cutting back on insecticide poisonings. According to Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, the report is “thorough and comprehensive” and it should “give consumers confidence about the safety of eating foods that have those ingredients.”AFP (The Hindu 19/5/16)

‘Extreme rainfall influenced by changes in local temperature’ (9)

New Delhi:  Extreme rainfall in India is more influenced by changes in local temperature than global conditions, a study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science has claimed. By analysing 35-year climate-related data collected from hundreds of weather stations spread across the country, the researchers said they found that the intensity and frequency of extreme rainfall are greatly influenced by changes in local temperature. Other global factors like the El-Nino Southern Oscillation and the global climate change do not influence as much as the local temperature do, the study said. El-Nino Southern Oscillation, or simply ENSO, is the warming up of the Pacific waters. Some studies show that a strong El-Nino in the far Pacific is accompanied by a weak Indian summer monsoon. India received less than normal rainfall in 2015, a year which also witnessed the strongest El-Nino on record. If El-Nino can affect one year rainfall, global climate change can influence the very seasonality of the rainfall. Using closely related branches of statistics called the extreme value theory and generalised linear models, the researchers analysed how different climatic factors, both local and global, affected extreme rainfall in India. By going through the maze of historically observed rainfall, and land and sea surface temperatures for the period 1969–2005, they looked for clues to understand what actually influenced three extreme rainfall parameters – intensity, frequency, and duration. “We analysed rainfall data for summer monsoon months collected by the Indian Meteorological Department from nearly two thousand locations. We modelled the extreme rainfall in the country under the influence of changes in local temperature at the regional scale, while ENSO, and changes in global temperature are considered as global factors,” said Arpita Mondal, an Assistant Professor in IIT Mumbai. “Unlike earlier studies, we looked simultaneously at the intensity, duration and frequency of extreme rainfall at fine spatial scales,” said Mondal. She carried out the study when she was a research scholar at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change, IISc. A rainfall event is considered extreme if it crosses a high threshold. The frequency is about the number of extreme rainfall spells in June, July, August, and September, the summer monsoon months. The duration of the extreme rainfall is the number of consecutive days on which the rainfall is above the threshold. The strong influence of changes in local temperature on extreme rainfall indicates that localised effects play a more significant role. (Deccan Herald 21/5/16)

India fifth largest producer of e-waste: study (9)

New Delhi: India, which has emerged as the world’s second largest mobile market, is also the fifth largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 18.5 lakh tonnes of electronic waste each year, a study says. Telecom equipment alone accounts for 12 per cent of the e-waste, a joint study by Assocham-KPMG said.The rising levels of e-waste generation in India have been a matter of concern in recent years. With more than 100 crore mobile phones in circulation, nearly 25 per cent end up in e-waste annually, it said. “India has surely emerged as the second largest mobile market with 1.03 billion subscribers, but also the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world, discarding roughly 18.5 lakh metric tonnes of electronic waste each year, with telecom equipment alone accounting for 12 per cent of the e-waste,” the study said. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified e-waste management rules, 2016, in which producers are for the first time covered under extended producers’ responsibility (EPR).The rules prescribe a waste collection target of 30 per cent waste generated under EPR for the first two years, progressively going up to 70 per cent in the seventh year of the rule. The rules prescribe stringent financial penalties for non-compliance. However, the study said the unorganised sector in India is estimated to handle around 95 per cent of the e-waste produced in the country. Given the huge user base and vast reach of telecom in India, it is practically difficult and expensive for the handset manufacturers to achieve the targets prescribed in the rules from first year, the study added.“It is suggested that electronic waste collection targets are implemented in a phased manner with lower and practically achievable target limits. Also, detailed implementation procedures for collection of electronic waste from the market need to be followed,” the study said. (The Hindu 25/5/16)

Environment Ministry lifts moratorium on industrial unit in Maharashtra (9)

NEW DELHI: The Environment Ministry has lifted the moratorium on polluting industrial clusters in the Critically Polluted Areas ( CPA ) of Chandrapur in Maharashtra, a move aimed at enabling new investments which have been stalled for the last over five years. The move came after the evaluation of the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index ( CEPI ) score of the area done by pollution watchdog Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed improvement. “The Environment Ministry through its office memorandum dated 20.05.2016 has lifted moratorium from the CEPI area of Chandrapur (MIDC Chandrapur, Tadali, Ghuggus, Ballapur) in Maharashtra. This will enable new investments in the region, which was stalled for last more than 5 years. The Ministry had imposed moratorium on 13.01.2010 in 43 CEPI areas,” an official statement said. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitored Chandrapur’s CPA during February – March, 2016, re-assessed the CEPI score, and informed the Ministry on April 18 this year about it.”In view of the re-assessment of CEPI score and taking into consideration that action plans for improving environment quality take time to yield results, it has been decided to lift the moratorium on the consideration of projects for environmental clearance in respect of projects to be located in Chandrapur (Maharashtra), where CEPI score is below 70 as compared to the CEPI score of 2013 (81.93),” the statement said. According to reports, pollution watchdog CPCB has recently revised the criterion to assess CEPI across industrial clusters in the country and has asked state pollution control boards to do a fresh assessment of industrial clusters based on the new parameters. “The new formula of CEPI is more scientific reasonable and will ensure pollution management better. To that end this new formula will give justice and this will end arbitrariness,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told PTI after the Ministry lifted the moratorium. (Times of India 29/5/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

‘Liberalisation, privatisation are hurting farmers, workers’ (20)

Udupi: The members of the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) took out a procession and staged a dharna to mark May Day, in front of the Clock Tower, here on Sunday. Addressing the protesters, K. Shankar, convener of JCTU, said that the policies of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation had a severe impact on the agricultural and industrial sectors in the country. The removal of subsidies and severe drought in most parts of the country had left farmers financially crippled. The inability to repay agricultural loans and failure of crops had driven nearly 1,300 farmers to suicide in the State. In Kundapur taluk of Udupi district alone, five farmers had committed suicide as they were unable to repay their loans owing to a fall in the prices of rubber. The situation of workers and the industry was no better. Traditional tile factories and beedi industries were facing tough times. The wages given to the beedi workers are already low. With the government implementing the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), the beedi industry was sure to suffer a big blow. A tile factory, which had been functioning for the last 53 years here, had closed down. Earlier, two tile factories had closed down in Kundapur. These closures had rendered a large number of workers jobless, Mr. Shankar said. Balakrishna Shetty, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said that a large number of people were working in unorganised sectors were getting a pittance as wages. The government should therefore enact a law that ensures a minimum wage of Rs. 18,000 a month to these workers. The government should give up its attempts to privatise public sector units. It should stop targeting the provident fund and small savings schemes that are the only refuge of poor workers. The government’s attempts to tamper with the provident fund were responsible for thousands of women garment workers going on a two-day strike in Bengaluru, Mr. Shetty said. Though the Union government had since rescinded the move, cases had been slapped against as many as 96 women garment workers. The workers’ unions had vowed to fight the cases of these workers, Mr. Shetty said. (The Hindu 2/5/16)

Women farmers bring home the food, keep suicides at bay (20)

TULJAPUR (Osmanabad): Shaken by the 338 farmer suicides in Marathwada this year alone, and fearing for the lives of their husbands, some women from the villages in parched Osmanabad have taken over farming operations to keep home and hearth together. The effort has raked in enough produce to see them through the drought, with a little cash in their hands. It is also bringing MBA students and officials from the Agriculture University in Marathwada to their doorstep seeking guidance on sustainable farming, despite the women farmers being school dropouts or even illiterate. The parched land in Osmanabad where crops have failed has pushed many over the brink, but suicidal thoughts have never once crossed Vaishali Ghuge’s mind. “I am proud to be a farm er and my land in Tuljapur taluka yields more than enough for my family to survive. Why should I even think of suicide?” she said. At a low point in her life, Vaishali did say that she felt sad being married to a farmer. “Farming and farmers have no value. But I have changed this picture for myself and my family ,” she add ed. Archana Bhosale backed her story of toil with statistics. “The average yield from my field is worth Rs 2 lakh.Even if the crop fails, I have a small poultry which gives me returns of about Rs 1.5 lakh. There is no need to worry or get distressed,” she said. Like Vaishali and Archa na, many women have taken over the farming operations from their husbands and are producing better results. “A few years ago, we witnessed a similar drought like now. Women got together and shared thoughts about what will happen to our families if our men fall into a depression and take some hasty step. We realized that we must do something,” Rekha Shinde from remote Hinglajwadi recalled. When she spoke to her husband about wanting to help him in farming operations, he ridiculed her.”Farming is difficult and women cannot do it,” he told her. But the other women in Hinglajwadi joined Rekha and made similar demands from their husbands. Komal Katkate said their actions were not planned, but they were worried about their children. “The suicides and distress all around us made us determined to do something. We thought we should be able to feed our children. We would need grain, pulses and vegetables that need less water to grow. Our men were producing nothing of this.They were after cash crops like sugarcane and soybean,” she added. … (Times of India 4/5/16)

TTDP seeks compensation for drought-hit farmers (20)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana Telugu Desam Party (TTDP) has demanded that the State government pay compensation of Rs. 15,000 per acre to farmers who suffered crop loss owing to severe drought conditions prevailing in the State. The party wanted the government to take steps to mitigate the acute drinking water shortage in the rural areas, besides providing fodder for cattle. The extended meeting of the Telangana TDP held here on Wednesday expressed concern over government’s “indifference” in mitigating the plight of farmers and rural household that were facing severe hardships on account of drought. The government which ought to have sent the report on the ground realities to the Central government seeking its assistance, however, did not act in time. In contrast, the TDP government in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh had launched water conservation measures like digging farm ponds, constructing check dams and others on war-footing. “Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his Cabinet is keen on casting aspersions on TDP rather than taking measures to mitigate the plight of the people,” TTDP president L. Ramana said. The meeting also resolved to demand that the government set aside its plans for opting for opencast mining in the Singareni mines in public interest. The meeting criticised the TRS government for ignoring the interests of the families of youth who committed suicide for the cause of separate Telangana. Over 1,200 youth committed suicide during the separate Telangana movement, but the government was trying to cut down the figure to around 300. The party demanded that the government take steps to establish a memorial for Telangana martyrs abutting the Buddha statue in Tank Bund. (The Hindu 5/5/16)

Crop failure claims yet another farmer’s life in UP (20)

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), May 8 : In yet another unfortunate incident, a farmer in Uttar Pradesh’s drought-hit Sambhal district died following his crop failure. It is reported that the farmer suffered from a heart-attack and died on the spot as soon as he came to know that all his crops have been damaged. According to his family members, due to the unavailability of electricity, the crops could not be irrigated and as a result got damaged. The farmer has left behind five daughters and a son. Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to discuss the drought situation in their respective states. The Centre and the states resolved to work together to mitigate problems faced by the people against the backdrop of a severe water shortage. During the meeting, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister sought nearly Rs 11,000 crore from the Centre and financial assistance to buy 10,000 tankers to carry water to villages in drought-hit districts of his state. Over 1,400 farmers have reportedly committed suicide in the last one year. As many as 1,690 cases of farmer suicides were reported in 10 states during 2015. (New Kerala 8/5/16)

Aid given to 3.2 mn drought-hit farmers: Karnataka minister (20)

Bengaluru:The Karnataka government has disbursed financial aid to 3.2 million farmers to compensate for crop loss due to severe drought in 27 of the 30 districts in the state, agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda said on Wednesday. “We have compensated 31,90,000 farmers across the state so far by depositing money directly in their bank accounts through RTGS (real-time gross settlement) as per their land holdings from funds (Rs.1,540 crore) the central government granted and supplemented by the state budgetary allocation,” Gowda told reporters here. Reeling under a worst drought in over four decades due to deficit south-west monsoon for two consecutive years, the state government sought Rs.3,840 crore from the Centre in the last fiscal (2015-16) to compensate farmers for kharif crop loss and an additional Rs.1,250 crore for rabi crop loss to mitigate hardships they were facing. “Besides compensation, interest on loans were waived and their repayments deferred to this fiscal (2016-17) to ensure that farmers cope with the crisis and prevent them from committing suicide, which was highest (1,036) in the state,” Gowda added. Alarmed by the spate of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in the state since June 2015, the state government cracked the whip on money lenders, pawn brokers and private financiers who were fleecing the drought-hit farmers for repaying their credit borrowed at high interest rates. “In addition to compensation and waivers, we are providing free counselling and medical aid to farmers and their families to check rising suicides by their fraternity. As a result, the number of suicides declined drastically to 45 in April from about 150-200 between June and August last year,” Gowda said. Hoping for a normal monsoon this year, Gowda said his ministry had provided enough seeds and fertilisers to all local bodies for sale and distribution to farmers in time after the first spell of rains by June 10. “We are gearing up officials, extension officers and agriculture experts to provide their expertise to farmers for sowing operations within days after the rainy season starts early June and lasts hopefully till September,” Gowda added. (Business Standard 11/5/16)

Agitating farmers lock offices of district collectors in Odisha (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Agitating farmers locked up the offices of the District Collectors in four districts of Odisha on Thursday demanding monthly social security allowance for farmers and acknowledgement of farmers’ suicides by the Naveen Patnaik Government. Virtually taking the administration and police by surprise, a large number of farmers owing their allegiance to the Navnirman Krushak Sangathan participated in the agitation to highlight their demands. The farmers started gathering outside the District Collector’s office in Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur when the offices opened around 7 am. The offices are being held during morning hours due to prevailing heat wave conditions in the State. The farmers locked up the offices around 8 am when majority of staff members had arrived and started their work inside. They did not move from the spot until they courted arrest and taken away. The farmers have been agitating under the banner of Navnirman Krushak Sangathan since long. They had observed a jail bharo protest outside Odisha Assembly on March 29. Sangathan convenor Akshaya Kumar reiterated that the agitation will continue until the State government announces to pay at least Rs. 1,000 per month as social security allowance to all farmers of the State before it considers our demands in detail. There are about 36 lakh farmers in Odisha at present, he said. Among other things, the Sangathan has been demanding payment of compensation to the families of farmers who committed suicide, provision of Rs. 5,000 social security allowance, better procurement facilities, higher minimum support price, and better social recognition for the farmers. Thousands of farmers had taken part when the Sangathan organised a ‘jail bharo’ agitation in Bhubaneswar in March this year to highlight their demands. The ‘jail bharo’ was organised as no dialogue could take place between the Sangathan activists and the State government even after the farmers led by Mr. Kumar sat on hunger strike in the Capital city for more than 10 days. (The Hindu 13/5/16)

Conduct a survey on farmer’s suicide, MP tells psychiatrists (20)

KARIMNAGAR: Karimnagar MP B. Vinod Kumar has called upon the members of Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) to conduct a thorough research on the reasons for the spate of suicides by farmers in the State and give suggestions to the State government on taking appropriate measures to stop the same. Speaking after inaugurating the two-day IPS south zone Continuous Medical Education programme on ‘Schizophrenia spectrum disorders – therapeutic challenges’ in the town on Saturday, the MP said farmers’ suicides were very high in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka and Telangana was just next to these two States. Expressing concern over increasing number of farmers’ suicides, he said farmers were incurring huge loss by cultivating cotton due to high investment and low returns following poor minimum support price to their produce. He also informed the psychiatrists to conduct a survey on suicides by students and give concrete suggestions to the Union Ministry of HRD on the issue. He appreciated the efforts made by psychiatrists to check mental illness among patients and stopping them from approaching quacks. On setting up of government medical colleges in all the districts, he said the State government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) were for setting up of medical colleges through public private partnership (PPP). IPS Telangana State president Raghurami Reddy asked the MP to ensure that mental illness treatment was also included in Aarogyasri. (The Hindu 15/5/16)

Orphaned by farm suicides, kids find their feet here (20)

Dinkar Patil, 9, hasn’t been home for the last two years for a vacation or festival. He lives and studies at an ashram. Three years ago, Patil’s father, a farmer in Jalgaon district, committed suicide after he failed to repay a loan. His mother ended her life soon after. Patil was living with his grandmother when the village sarpanch suggested that she put him in an ashram near Trimbakeshwar in Nashik. “There is no one at home for me so I just stay here and read my books,” says the Class IV student. The Adhartirth Adharaashram currently has at least 100 other children with similar life stories. Since it was set up in 2007, the shelter has been home to nearly 366 children. Last year, the state revenue department recorded 3,228 farmer suicides across Maharashtra. The year before, the number was 1,981 and in 2013, 1,296. The highest tally last year was from Amravati division (1,179), followed by Aurangabad division (1,130), Nashik division (459), Nagpur division (362), Pune division (96) and two in Konkan division. The figure is nearing the 2006 numbers when the central and state governments declared loan waivers for farmers. These deaths have left children devastated and vulnerable. Ashok Patil, a Class VIII student from Gadchiroli, says he sorely misses his parents. “Parents should not commit suicide, however bad the situation.They don’t know what we have to deal with after they are gone,” he says. Dinkar’s friend, Rohit Ingle, lost his father seven years ago; his mother sent him to the ashram for a better life. A Class X student, Rohit wants to become a doctor. “Doctors help cure people, I want to do that,” he says. The ashram runs on donations, which include clothes, shoes, foodgrain, school books and uniforms. The kids attend a nearby government primary school where they are served a mid-day meal. There is also government assistance for fees, and some concessions extended to them through the school. The ashram takes care of all other needs. Some children who have completed high school and found work in local firms are now supporting their siblings. Among them is Manisha Chaudhary , who was recruited by a Nashik firm earlier this year. “I have three younger sisters at the ashram and I hope that they too will eventually get jobs and become independent,” she says. Her mother, Laxmibai, lives at the shelter and helps in the kitchen. She is one of eight widows who live at the ashram and look after the children.”Back home, there is nothing left for us.People harass us for money (debt). Here, we get two meals and education for our daughters. If they study well and complete their basic education, they can stand on their own feet. That is all we want,” says Laxmibai. The government is offering the widows opportunities to resume education in open universities. There is also an effort by the state to keep the children and widows in their villages. “The state government has decided to provide free education to such children studying in primary schools -this includes private institutions. Widows are also being supported so that they and their children do not have to leave home,” says prominent farm activist Kishor Tiwari, who heads the staterun Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM), a special task force set up by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. … (Times of India 16/5/16)

To avert farmer suicides, govt plans to curb financial firms (20)

Bengaluru: Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFC), which lend money to farmers and the general public at exorbitant rates of interest, may be in for trouble. The state government is likely to move the High Court for removal of a stay order that prevents it from taking any “coercive action” against such companies.On April 5, 2016, the government took the first step towards tightening the noose around these companies by withdrawing exemption given to four of them. Accordingly, Manappuram Finance (Tamil Nadu) Ltd, Coimbatore, Manappuram General Finance and Leasing Limited, Thrissur, Kerala, Muthoot Finance Ltd and Muthoot Fincorp Ltd, Bengaluru, are no longer exempt from Section 2(10) (iv) (b) of the Karnataka Money-Lenders (KML) Act, 1961, which seeks to crack down on moneylenders. The government action is based on recommendations of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies. The government is under pressure to avert further farmer suicides. As many as 1,136 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka, mainly for being unable to repay the loans taken from the NBFCs at high rates of interest, as per the records of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies. The government feels its hands are tied in the matter since most financial companies claim jurisdiction under the Reserve Bank of India, saying they follow the Fair Practices Code for Lenders and are governed under Chapter 3(B) of the RBI Act, 1934. The companies also argued before the High Court that the RBI Act “overrides” state laws such as the KML Act, 1961, and the Karnataka Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act, 2004. Hence, these laws do not apply to them, they maintained. There are 17,027 NBFCs in Karnataka, according to a source in the Department of Cooperation. Section 28 of the KML Act, 1961, empowers the government to fix the interest rates from time to time. The present interest rate is 14% for secured loans and 16% for unsecured loans. In reality, however, the companies charge between 20% and 35%, making it extremely difficult for the borrower to repay. There have been many police complaints against the NBFCs. The High Court also heard many petitions and ordered the government not to take any “coercive action” against them until it adjudicates in the matter. Similar petitions were filed before the High Courts in Kerala and Gujarat. While the Kerala High Court favoured the NBFCs, the latter ruled against them. The matter is now before the Supreme Court, said the source. (Deccan Herald 18/5/16)

Two farmers commit suicide, toll reaches 34 (20)

Nashik: Two farmers from the Chandwad taluka of the district allegedly committed suicide this week, bringing the number of farmer suicides to 34 in this north Maharashtra district this year. Kondaji Rambhau Vakte, a 36-year-old resident of Vadner Bhairav, Chandwad committed suicide by consuming poison on Tuesday. According to revenue officials, the farmer was under immense pressure due to loss of crop and the loans that had to be repaid, which most likely pushed him into taking the drastic decision. He was taken to a private hospital at Pimpalgaon where he died. Kondaji had an acre of land and a loan of Rs 11 lakh. He was the only earning member in his family and is survived by his wife, their two sons, parents and a brother. Devidas Bhausaheb Chavan (38), another farmer from Hirapur, Chandwad, also committed suicide by consuming poison on Wednesday. He died while being treated at the civil hospital. This year, the number of suicides in the district has seen a sharp rise as compared to the 19 farmers who took the extreme step during the same period last year. So far, 19 farmers have committed suicide in the district by consuming poison and 11 hanged themselves to death. (Times of India 20/5/16)

Suicides by 11 farmers disqualify to be termed as ‘farmers’ suicide’ (20)

NASHIK: In all 11 out of 34 cases farmers – committing suicides failed to meet the criteria to be termed as farmers’ suicides. The decision comes after the committee headed by Collector evaluated the situation and conducted scrutiny as per the state government norms, a senior official said. Till May 20, 34 farmers in the district had committed suicide and the cases were put for the scrutiny in front of the panel headed by Collector where the decision was taken after going through the norms of conforming farmers’ suicides. The district committee till May 20 has cleared all the proposals for the farmers’ suicide case. About 34 farmers had committed suicide during January 1 to May 20 this year reportedly due to failing crop, rising debts and debt recovery programme by the financial institutions – be it private banks, cooperative banks or nationalised banks.The committee has cleared 21 proposals till date and rejected the claims in 11 cases while in two cases re-inquiry has been ordered. “The state government has laid down the criteria in order to term a suicide by a farmer as a ‘farmers’ suicide’ which is pre-requisit for getting aid of Rs 1 lakh. Criteria largely consider the series of times for which the farmer has been affected because of crop loss, the loan taken by the farmer and the recovery notices by the financial institutions,” the senior official pointed out. The farmers’ family that qualifies for the government aid gets Rs 1 lakh as an aid from the government, the children are given free education in government schools and the family is entitled for food grains under food security act – where they get food grains at Rs 2/ kg. Besides, the government also calls for restructuring of loan, help the family members in terms of training them in some kind of agriculture processing etc. (Times of India 24/5/16)

Marathwada farmer suicides at 454, 22% higher than in 2015 (20)

MUMBAI: As many as 454 cases of farmer suicide have been reported in drought-struck Marathwada so far this year. The figure is 22 per cent higher than the 372 cases reported till the end of May last year.The region is in the grip of its fourth drought in five years, which has devastated agriculture and resulted in an acute shortage of drinking water. The district of Beed, the home constituency of state rural development minister Pankaja Munde, continues to report the highest number of cases, with 81 farmer suicides. Nanded has reported 70 cases and Aurangabad has 67. The district of Latur has reported 61 cases of farmer suicides while Osmanabad has recorded 59 cases so far. Water levels in the region’s dams are down to just 1 per cent, compared to 8 per cent at this time last year. As many as nine of the region’s 11 dams are below dead storage level. Of these, two have run completely dry. The region is in the grip of its fourth drought in five years, which has devastated agriculture and resulted in an acute shortage of drinking water.”We are expecting the water to last till the monsoon and are hoping there is good rainfall this year,” says Marathwada’s divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat. He says that the government has made efforts to provide both water and jobs under the rural employment scheme in the drought belt. However, activists from the Right to Life Campaign say the state is neglecting the provision of social services, including health care, food security and employment. “The Supreme Court has asked for the mid-day meal scheme to be operational even during holidays in drought affected districts but this has not been done, even though funds have been released,” said activist Ulka Mahajan. (Times of India 28/5/16)

Agri body seeks fresh survey of farm suicides (20)

BATHINDA: Farmers’ organization BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) on Saturday announced that it was going to intensify its protests to pressure the state government to announce a full debt waiver for agriculturists and a survey of suicides committed by farmers and farmhands since 2010. BKU general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said now they were going lift their separate, five-day sit-in protests at 11 districts of Punjab and instead launch a joint agitation of all district units in Bathinda. The farmers’ outfit has asked members of its district units to start reaching Bathinda from Sunday. Earlier, it had protested at Bathinda for 18 days in October 2015 to demand compensation for damage to the cotton crop due to whitefly attack. Following the protest at that time, the state government had agreed to pay a compensation of Rs 640 crore to farmers at Rs 8,000 per acre. “The Punjab Settlement of Indebtedness Bill 2016 passed by Punjab government in April is full of lacunae which do not provide much respite to aggrieved farmers. We want the state government to waive of all institutional debt pending against farmers,” said Kokri. The peasant outfit also demanded the compensation to suicide-hit farm families be enhanced from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Its president, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, said, “The state government must ensure that the compensation is provided to suicide-hit family either the same day of the incident or at the earliest.” (Times of India 29/5/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

PIL against Mohar reservoir project (4)

Raipur: Chhattisgarh’s Mohar Reservoir Project in Balod district is in the midst of a row after a public interest litigation (PIL), moved in state high court, claimed that the project essentially of industrial purpose was camouflaged as a minor irrigation project, thereby avoiding grant of adequate and reasonable compensation and rehabilitation to farmers, mainly tribals. Hearing the petition filed by Shailendra Kumar Deshmukh, the bench of Justice Pritankar Diwakar issued notices returnable within six weeks to state government through revenue secretary and five others. Additional advocate General AS Kachhwaha appeared for the state while Sudha Bharadwaj represented the petitioner. The reservoir project, despite being given administrative clearance as a project of industrial purpose, has been camouflaged as a minor irrigation project to avoid environmental impact assessment and public hearing and also avoid obtaining permission from Central Water Commission. This project, under which more than 70% of the proposed water use is for the 500 MW power plant of NTPC-SAIL Power Company Limited (NSPCL), will submerge more than 1,000 hectares of land in the districts Balod and Rajnandgaon in the predominantly tribal blocks of Dondi Lohara and Ambagarh Chowk, including more than 300 hectares of forest land, the petition said. Pointing out that land acquisition in the area has been carried out without prior gram sabha consultation, the petition said the project will totally submerge one village and partially submerge eight others, ostensibly to provide 800 hectares of irrigation to six villages. The petition said very paltry sums of compensation have been granted as computed from the depressed market rates of land in remote and tribal areas in the awards passed. This is despite the fact that in March 2010, state government amended its industrial and rehabilitation policies to provide a compensation of at least Rs 6 lakh per acre for barren land; Rs 8 lakh per acre for non-irrigated land; and Rs 10 lakh per acre for irrigated double cropped land that was acquired for industrial or commercial purpose, the petition said.Pointing out that the petitioner and the villagers concerned do not oppose the project, it said they are aggrieved for the reason that affected tribal farmers of Balod district were not granted adequate compensation, rehabilitation and employment and other facilities as they should have, given that the project is actually for industrial purpose. … (Times of India 4/5/16)

Sparks fly at meet on land acquisition (4)

GUNTUR: Even as Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu hinted at invoking provisions of the Land Acquisition Act to acquire about 1,500 acres of land in the two villages of Undavalli and Penumaka, a meeting held before the Socio Impact Assessment (SIA) and Environment Impact Assessment Survey (EIA) ended on a tense note after villagers raised objections over the survey. The meeting, held in a local government school was presided over by a special deputy collector. “The government is trying to intimidate us by repeatedly threatening to invoke provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Till now, the CRDA has not filed its replies to objections raised by landowners in Form 9.2. We have raised objections on the proposals to lay a speed access road from Undavalli to Borupalem for which there was no meeting held to receive objections and we have also raised the issue of Kondaveeti Vagu flood contingency plans,’’ said Balaji Reddy, a farmer from Undavalli, who is among a few land owners who had stayed away from land pooling. Mr. Reddy said that the road from Undavalli to Borupalem was proposed to be laid at a cost of Rs. 240 crore and till now, no official had come to register objections from the owners of properties on both sides of the river. Even in the case of demarcation of land for constructing reservoirs under Kondaveeti Vagu, the government has shown lands which have not been acquired. (The Hindu 4/5/16)

SC raises questions on Singur land allocation for Tata Motors (4)

New Delhi, May 5 () Tata Motors, which was allotted land for its proposed Nano car plant in Singur in West Bengal which eventually was shifted to Gujarat, had a tough time today in the Supreme Court to justify its claim for retaining it. A bench comprising justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra questioned the manner in which over 400 acres of land was allotted to Tata Motors without adhering to the section 4 and 5 of the Land Acquisition Act which mandate public notice for receiving objections. The bench noted that the entire exercise was done by “bulldozing the law” as the then Cabinet suo motu cleared the allocation of the land identified by the automobile major which was the task of the government of the day. The bench said it was a farcical exercise through which the land was allocated and it was a “legal mala fide”.It said there were several grey areas which needed to be answered and the company has to first address those questions. The court said, “You cannot argue that they (farmers) have accepted the award so they cannot challenge the acquisition. This case is under different footing and there are several issues which needs to be answered.” Senior advocates appearing for the company had submitted that the matter should be referred to the constitution bench which was not accepted by the bench which continued with the hearing. The court was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the quashing of Singur Land Acquisition Act by the Calcutta High Court. The state government had moved the apex court against the high court order which had struck down the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 that allowed it to reclaim the 400 acres of land given to Tata Motors.  (Times of India 5/5/16)

Economic consideration could not weigh over land acquisition law: SC (4)

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday said that economic consideration could not weigh over the land acquisition law as it took exception to the manner in which the then Left Front government in West Bengal gave a bypass to the law for acquiring land in Singur for Tata’s Nano project. Describing as “shocking” how section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act was ignored for acquiring land in Singur, a bench of Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice Arun Mishra said: “The government should have applied its mind on why requirement of land was increased.” As senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Tata’s urged the court to hear then with an open mind, the bench said: “Your economics can’t bulldoze law…even if one person is against acquisition, the court will hear… this is not your land , you have almost got it for charity ..you are enjoying the land paid by public exchequer.” Telling the court that they went to West Bengal as the state government wanted to push economic development, Tatas told the court that in thee commercial world every state gives incentives as it pointed to Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. Noting there was a shift in the stand of the government with the change of party in power, Tatas said: “We never said we will leave Bengal if Singur is not given to us a they showed us Singur..We liked it.” The court is hearing a plea by the West Bengal government challenging the Calcutta High Court order holding unconstitutional its Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 to reclaim 400 acres given to the company. (Times of India 6/5/16)

Record 28 million internally displaced persons reported in 2015 (4)

Conflict, violence and disasters displaced 27.8 million people within their own countries in 2015, according to a new report released 11 May. “Put another way, around 66,000 people abandoned their homes every day of 2015,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The report covering internal displacement caused by conflict and sudden-onset disasters, has been prepared by the NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). In addition the new report now also explores displacement currently “off the grid” displacement, such as that caused by criminal and gang violence, slow-onset disasters like drought, and development projects. The report makes sobering reading. Some 8.6 million new displacements associated with conflict and violence were recorded in 2015, and as of the end of the year the total including those who fled in previous years stood at 40.8 million. “This is the highest figure ever recorded, and twice the number of refugees worldwide,” Egeland said. The Middle East and North Africa bore the brunt of new conflict-related displacement in 2015, with 4.8 million people internally displaced , with Syria, Yemen and Iraq accounting for over half of all new conflict-induced internal displacement worldwide. Of the ten countries with the highest number of people internally displaced by conflict, five – Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan – have been on the list every year since 2003. “This is further evidence that in the absence of the help IDPs need, displacement tends to drag on for years and even decades,” Bilak said…..  (Times of India 11/5/16)

Kovvada project-displaced promised fair compensation (4)

SRIKAKULAM: Senior revenue officials on Thursday assured that the persons who would surrender their lands for construction of the Kovvada nuclear power plant would be given compensation as per the new Land Acquisition Act-2013. The officials, including Srikakulam Revenue Divisional Officer B. Dayanidhi and officer of land acquisition unit – Kovvada J. Sitarama Raju interacted with public representatives in Ranasthalam and sought their opinion on the project. Local leaders Gorle Vijaykumar, Dhanunjaya Rao and others sought clarification over the package since many villagers were worried about their future. The officials told them that there was no need to worry since interests of displaced persons would be protected as per the new Act. They also said Nuclear Power Corporation of India Private Limited had already deposited Rs.389 crore towards payment of compensation. The officials also said that the government would allocate five cents of land and Rs.6 lakh for construction of houses for the displaced persons. They indicated that the government needed only 2,000 acres of land in Kovvada, Tekkali, Kotapalem and surrounding areas (The Hindu 13/5/16)

Samiti oppose any move to acquire land for MRPL expansion (4)

MANGALURU: Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, a forum of farmers and activists, reiterated here on Saturday that it opposed any move by the State government to acquire more farm land for the expansion of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. (MRPL) projects. Addressing presspersons, Samiti president Madhukar Ameen said that following series of agitations and opposition by people, the government in 2011 denotified 2,035 acres of land acquired in 2006 for setting up industries under the Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ). Now the government in the first phase was planning to acquire another 1,050 acres from the denotified land for the Phase IV expansion of the MRPL. The land in question is in Permude and Kuttettur villages, he said. According to the information available with the Samiti, the government was planning to acquire 2,000 acres more in the second pahse covering Tenka Ekkar, Delantabettu, Permude and Kuttettur. He said that people in the four villages would not spare any land. If Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) made any move to acquire land, people would once against start agitations, he said. Mr. Ameen said that about 85 per cent of land owners in the four villages have in writing submitted their objections to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada. The same has been brought to the notice of the elected representatives concerned and top officials of the government. In addition, Permude Gram Panchayat, in its general meeting on March 9, resolved to object acquiring land for MRPL. The gram sabhas of Permude and Kuttettur Gram Panchayats on May 5 have passed similar resolutions. Mr. Ameen said that according to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, public hearing and social impact study would have to be conducted before issuing preliminary land acquisition notification. (The Hindu 15/5/16)

Farmers angry over delay in compensation (4)

Bengaluru: Farmers whose lands have been notified for the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) are an angry lot, because, though their lands have been locked for the project for around 12 years now, they have still not received any compensation. Raghu, a landloser, told The Hindu that it was high time the government made a final decision on the project. Farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekhar said that the BDA had proposed many innovative methods of compensation, all of which involved acquiring more land to be developed into commercial real estate. “Our demand is that either the land losers receive monetary compensation as per the new Land Acquisition Act, 2013 or the PPR project is dropped,” he said. The farmers have now given the government a month’s time to make a final decision. The next meeting with farmers is scheduled to be held on June 21, 2016. (The Hindu 17/5/16)

Farmers prefer Land Acquisition Act to GO 123 (4)

ETIGADDAKISHTAPUR (MEDAK DISTRICT): A majority of the farmers in Medak district, who were forced to give up their land for different projects are preferring to receive compensation under Right for Fair Compensation and Accountability in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 — enacted by Parliament with the consent of President on September 26, 2013 — instead of GO No. 123 issued by the State government on July 30, 2015. A cross section of villagers said they would get a house in a newly established village with the required infrastructure in addition to getting compensation four times to the card value of the house or land, after considering three years average. The farmers of Etigaddakishtapur are losing land for the proposed construction of Komuravelli Mallanna reservoir as part of Kaleswaram project. “We are ready to quit the village and hand over our lands and houses to the government provided the government is ready to offer compensation under Land Acquisition Act under which we can be rehabilitated as well. We want to meet Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and present our argument,” said Mannem Penta Reddy of Erravalli village in Kondapaka mandal. “Majority farmers in our village are opting for Land Acquisition Act 2013 as it offers resettlement and some other benefits. GO 123 offers nothing but one-time payment of cash at one go,” said Mr. Prashant, a software employee of the village fighting on behalf of farmers and oustees. Tirupati Narsaiah (65) was found dead in his house on Sunday. He had about half an acre of land. On Saturday Narsaiah had played drums ( chavu dappu ) at the funeral of Tallapalli Rajavva (68) — – a farmer with a holding of three acres — who died the previous day on Friday. According to one Y. Srinivas Reddy of Vemulaghat of Toguta mandal, which is expected be submerged in the proposed Komurvelli Mallanna reservoir, Rajavva entered into a heated argument with officials who came to the village to collect the details of land holdings and conducted survey at about 11 a.m. At 3 p.m. she breathed her last. On May 16, Gollapally Ramaiah (65), a farmer who owned two acres, suddenly collapsed and died. “The stress being faced by the elders to vacate the village is much higher than the younger generation. Where to go after vacating the village is a big question before us,” said Mr. Srinivas Reddy, who was here to participate in the ‘Mallannasagar Land Oustees Struggle Committee’ meeting. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Now, acquiring less than 100 acres for public purpose can bypass R&R (4)

Bengaluru: The Cabinet on Monday gave its nod for acquiring parcels of land less than 100 acres for public purposes without going through the process of Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R). Briefing reporters after the meeting, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said the provision would apply only to land being acquired for public purposes like housing, railway projects, road widening, power installations and for burial grounds. However, the land would be acquired only after getting the consent of the land loser. A committee headed by the jurisdictional deputy commissioner would be constituted to fix the price for the land to be acquired. Jayachandra said a price higher than the market value would be paid.Asked whether the move would not amount to circumventing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (a central act), which has stringent R&R provisions, Jayachandra replied in the negative.The Cabinet decided to constitute a sub-committee headed by Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister H K Patil to study the provisions of the ‘state cultural policy’ submitted by a committee headed by writer Baraguru Ramachandrappa. The six-member committee had submitted its report to the government in June 2014 and had made 44 recommendations, including decentralisation of the department of Kannada and Culture, restricting ‘moral policing,’ setting up three academies and a tribal university.  In another decision, the Cabinet decided to make suitable changes in the Karnataka Stamps Act to provide some relaxation in payment of stamp duty by lease holders who opt for ‘C’ category mines, which will be auctioned soon.  Jayachandra said as per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, the mines should be granted for a lease period of 50 years. The total stamps and registration duty that needs to be paid by the lease holders would work out to Rs 2,800 crore. “Nobody was participating in the auction process due to the high stamp duty that needs to be paid and hence, we have decided to provide some relaxation,” Jayachandra said and added that the exact amount of relief to be provided was yet to be decided. The government is expecting around Rs 18,000 crore from the auctioning of ‘C’ category mines, Jayachandra said. Extension of 4th State Finance Commission headed by C G Chinnaswamy till September 30, 2017

 Upgradation of Mysuru Police Public School on the lines of Sainik schools at a cost of Rs 22.51 crore (Deccan Herald 24/5/16)

For land oustees, June 2 will be ‘black day’ (4)

SANGAREDDY: Slowly, but surely, the agitation against acquiring land under GO 123 and GO 214 is gaining strength and the agitators are trying to come under one umbrella. Land oustess are demanding payment of compensation under the Land Acquisition Act 2013. Etigaddakishtapur has become epic centre of activity with almost every political leader and social activist trying to visit the village. Though initially the protests by residents did not get much focus, though they were on agitation mode for the past few months, as many as 13 women fell unconscious on May 14 at Etigaddakishtapur, and the CPI(M) commencing padayatra from Erravalli, both submerging villages, got national attention. Later, it was visited by PCC leader Ponnala Lakshmaiah, Congress Kisan Cell president M. Kondanda Reddy, CPI (M) general secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram, former judge Justice Chandrakumar, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Sarampally Malla Reddy, Human Rights Forum convenor Jeevan Kumar among others. The government has been proposing to acquire 20,079 acres, adversely impacting as many as 14 villages. The residents of all these villages – which includes habitations and hamlet villages expected to get submerged under the proposed Komuravelli Mallanna Sangar project, part of Kaleswaram project, have decided to observe ‘Black Day’ on June 2, the Telangana Formation Day. G. Jayaraj, secretary, AIKS, held a meeting with residents of the two villages on Friday and few more meetings are on cards. “We have decided to register our protest and wear black badges on June 2. We are contacting the residents of other villages as well,” said Mannem Mahipal Reddy of Erravalli. Meanwhile on Saturday, the Mallanna Sagar land oustees met Congress party leaders at Gandhi Bhavan and sought their support in their fight for right compensation. Zaheerabad legislator J. Geeta Reddy, while extending support for their agitation, questioned the rationality behind not paying compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. (The Hindu 29/5/16)

 

Protesting dam, 14 Medak villages to boycott state formation day fete (4)

SANGAREDDY: As Telangana is preparing to celebrate the second state formation day on June 2, residents of 14 villages in Siddipet mandal of Medak district have decided to mark the occasion with the launch of a protest to sustain their lives. The villagers are up in arms against the government’s move to take away their lands for peanuts. The government has decided to take up Mallanna Sagar project, which will submerge 14 villages, leaving hundreds of families displaced. The state government has issued GOs 124 and 214, offering a rehabilitation package but the villagers are demanding compensation as per the 2013 Land Acquisition Act. What started as a small protest by a group of youngsters in Etigadda Kistapur and Erravelli villages has now grown into a massive agitation. “We should be provided compensation according to the Land Acquisition Act which ensures compensation as per land value. The land value is Rs 16 lakh per acre now but the government is offering a meagre Rs 5.4 lakh per acre,” rued a farmer of Etigadda Kistapur.The protest has gained significance as the agitation is taking place in the district represented by CM K Chandrasekhar Rao and irrigation minister T Harish Rao.Land acquision process met road block as villagers rejected compensation package14 villages to be affected.Seven villages including Etigadda Kishtapur, Vemulghat, Pallepahad, Singaram, Erravalli will submerge completelyResidents of 14 villages in Siddipet mandal, who are up in arms against Mallanna Sagar project, are trying to rope in TJAC and have invited Prof Kodandaram to lead their protest on June 2. The villagers, however, said they are not against the project but against the attitude of the government in denying due compensation. The villagers have come together under the leadership of educated youth to form a single platform and are ready to launch an agitation. Meanwhile, the recent attack on Siddipet RDO Muthyam Reddy when he went to Etigadda Kistapur for land acquisition works has taken the agitation to a new level. Sensing an opportunity, the opposition and NGOs have jumped in offering their support to the agitation.  Akhila Bharat Kisan Sabha secretary Jayaraj, who leads the protest, said they want all the 14 villages to boycott the formation day celebrations and welcome officials with black badges. (New Indian Express 30/5/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Health ministry sends a 5-member team to probe Rajasthan’s Jamdoli deaths (3)

NEW DELHI: The health ministry has sent five-member team of doctors and experts to Rajasthan to assist the state government in probing the cause of water and food contamination allegedly leading to death of 12 inmates, mostly children, at the rehabilitation home for the mentally challenged at Jamdoli in Jaipur. The team includes a senior paediatrician, epidemiologist and microbiologist. Apart from investigating the causes for the deaths, the team will also suggest public health measures to prevent such incidents in the future, the ministry said in a statement. “Union health minister JP Nadda has directed for a special five-member expert team to be sent to assist the Rajasthan government to investigate into the causes of water and food contamination that are reported to have resulted in the death of 12 specially-abled persons in the state-run home at Jamdoli in Rajasthan,” the statement said. Nadda has also spoken to the state health minister Rajendra Rathore who informed him that necessary measures have been taken to prevent such incidents in future. “The Union health minister assured him of all support. A detailed report in the incident is expected shortly,” officials said.Twelve people with special needs, mostly children, staying at the government-run home died between April 16 and 27 due to suspected bacterial infection after drinking contaminated water. Three officers and as many staff members of the home for people with special needs were suspended after the incident.With the opposition hitting out at Vasundhara Raje government over the deaths, the state government appointed a three-member committee to probe the matter. The chief minister on Saturday issued instructions for strict action against erring government officials. (Times of India 1/5/16)

State-wide drive to bring down infant, maternal mortality (3)

KOZHIKODE: The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) launched here on Friday a State-wide drive to bring down infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR) by stressing safe food and hygiene. “Compared with the national-level IMR of 40 per 1,000 live births, Kerala is low at 12 per 1,000 live births. The aim is to reduce it to single digit, to match international standards,” UNICEF’s Chief of Field Office (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) Job Zachariah told presspersons. The MMR in Kerala is 60 as against the national rate of 167. The latest drive aims at reducing it by advocating safe delivery, and also good hygiene and healthy diet that will have a bearing on the child’s health. IMA State president A.V. Jayakrishnan said 35,000 doctors (gynaecologists and paediatricians) would be part of this drive. Doctors trained by IMA and UNICEF teams would write the safe practices on the prescription, in addition to diet, drugs and vitamin supplements. Specific emphasis would be on mother’s milk, to provide nutrition to and build immunity in the child. IMA State secretary Samuel Koshy said the drive would also train hospital staff, especially the paramedics, in sensitising mothers on safe practices and breastfeeding. Personal hygiene also would get very high priority in the prescriptions. “Hand washing is the most basic and highly significant safe practice,” said Dr. Jayakrishnan. By washing the hands before feeding the child, transmission of any infection-causing pathogen could be prevented. Asked whether non-institutional deliveries (done at home with midwives) and hospital-acquired infection continued to contribute to IMR and MMR, Dr. Jayakrishnan said almost all deliveries were only in hospitals and infection had been brought down, especially with the National Board for Accreditation of Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions insisting on it as a major criterion for accreditation. Dr. Jayakrishnan said every IMA branch would adopt 10 schools to provide awareness to teachers on the drive’s focus areas, and also to tell students of the ill-effects of junk food. (The Hindu 3/5/16)

Bihar govt asked to pay Rs 18 cr to victims in womb scam (3)

Patna: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) has awarded Rs 18 crore as compensation to 709 women for unwarranted removal of uterus by doctors to avail incentive through insurance companies under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna. Passing the order, chairperson of the BHRC Bilal Nazki asked the state government to comply with the order and pay compensation to the victims within 3 months. The matter initially came to light in 2012 when it was found that the registered hospitals and clinics in the state were performing unwarranted surgeries on women below poverty line (BPL) and reportedly removing uterus to claim money under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (National Health Insurance Scheme). After the rights panel took up the case suo motu in 2012, the Nitish regime appointed an experts committee to look into the matter. The inquiry team found that 540 unwarranted surgeries had been carried out and the women deprived of their uteruses. The rights panel has now asked the state government to compensate 540 women (besides 169 women who too underwent surgeries but whose age could not be established). “Removal of uterus deprives a woman of the opportunity of being a mother and attaining complete motherhood. The right of procreation is a facet of right to life and therefore involves human rights issue,” said Nazki in the order. (Deccan Herald 5/5/16)

At 26, Mumbai betters nation’s infant mortality rate (3)

Mumbai: Despite a dozen children dying everyday, infant mortality in the city registered a 6% decline in 2015-16. Mumbai’s infant mortality rate (IMR)—baby deaths per thousand live births— now stands at 26, much better than the national average of 40, as per the latest Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data. The fast decline has been attributed to increased institutional deliveries combined with better antenatal care and improved neonatal facilities. As per the numbers made public under an RTI filed by Chetan Kothari, the death of babies under the age of one fell from 4,883 in 2014-15 to 4,575 in 2015-16. Mortality of children under the age of five, however, declined marginally from 983 cases in 2014-15 to 965 in the last financial year. “IMR is considered a significant benchmark of the public healthcare system and its success in reaching out to the target population. Mumbai’s IMR has fallen from 35 in 2005 to 26 now as there are multiple health initiatives, including tracking of mothers, early registration, vaccines and better awareness for pregnant women. There is also an evolved referral system to transport critical babies to better equipped centres,” a senior civic official said. With this Mumbai also achieved its target of reducing the IMR to less than 39 per 1,000 live births, in line with UN’s Millennium Development Goals. But experts said some critical concerns remain unresolved and one is neonatal mortality. “It is a mammoth challenge for us,” said Dr Jayashree Mondkar, head of neonatology, Sion Hospital. Neonatal mortality refers to the death of babies during the first 28 days of life. Dr Bhupendra Avasthi of Surya Children’s Hospital said the city should not rest till the mortality rate falls under 10, like Kerala. “Education of mothers makes a huge difference. They understand the importance of taking iron and folic acid to antenatal checks and even vaccination. What we need is more neonatal experts and ICUs,” he added. Dr Sushant Mane, associate professor in pediatrics, Grant Medical College, said the city needed much more than the 200-odd beds in public hospitals. (Times of India 8/5/16)

5 more die of malnutrition at Duncan gardens (3)

Kolkata: More than a year since a number of tea estates owned by Duncan Industries stopped functioning at Dooars in North Bengal, the situation has gotten worse. While the parade of death continued unhindered over the months, this week witnessed the death of 5 people, including 2 children.Even though the state government is unwilling to accept these as malnutrition-related deaths, trade unions at the closed tea gardens claim that since the Duncan gardens stopped functioning from May 2015, most people died due to lack of proper food or proper medical attention. A ground report by DH from Dooars in November 2015 had found that if shortage of food is a reality, lack of money to seek medical support is also a major concern.The district administration, which denied reports of malnutrition, claimed the state government has been regularly providing low cost foodgrain to workers of closed gardens. Unions, however, allege that the food distribution system is fraught with corruption. The latest deaths were reported from Tulsipara, Hantapara and Birpara, all belonging to Duncan. Ever since the gardens turned non-operational, the state government took control of 7 Duncan gardens, with the Tea Board acting as their custodian. While the pseudo-regulatory body has been looking for prospective buyers for these 7 gardens, including for Birpara, the largest from Duncan’s stable, the board has failed to get suitable price, forcing it to put the process on hold. In January, the Centre had issued a gazette notification, authorising the Tea Board to take over management control of 7 Duncan gardens — Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Hantapara, Dhumchipara and Demdima — under relevant provisions of the Tea Act, 1963. The recent Assembly election in the state delayed the process even as the situation in these gardens kept worsening. “The situation is alarming. Workers and their dependents are dying of malnutrition or due to lack of treatment but the government refuses to accept these as valid reasons for their death. Officials say only old people are dying,” said Avijit Majumdar, convenor of the joint forum of tea garden workers’ unions. Adding to concerns, Majumdar pointed out that till last count, the number of deaths in these gardens stood at 361 between March and December 2015, the number could have crossed the 500 mark since then. Interestingly, not just the Leftist unions, but even functionaries of the Terai Dooars Plantation Workers Union, affiliated to ruling party Trinamool Congress, feel the administration has done little to help workers of closed tea gardens. (Deccan Herald 13/5/16)

63% of dengue cases are reported from urban areas in Nashik: IDSP reports (3)

Nashik: Monsoon is yet to arrive and reports of dengue have started pouring in. Records available with the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) here reveal that 63% of the dengue cases were reported from urban areas in the district. Officials from the Nashik zilla parishad said 69 dengue positive cases have already been reported this year, of which 44 were from urban areas. There have been two deaths so far, while five dengue positive cases were detected in the first week of May. B R Gaikwad, medical superintendent of the Nashik Municipal Corporation, said people are storing water for longer periods, which becomes a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito. “With summer at its peak and due to the water shortage, there is a tendency among people to store water. Nonetheless, we are ensuring constant awareness drives in places where dengue positive patients are detected,” he said.Gaikwad added that authorities take up a seven-day survey in areas where dengue positive patients are detected to locate more patients and bring them under immediate treatment. Authorities are also preparing to spreading awareness from July to November when the possibility of disease spreading is at its peak, said Gaikwad. Meanwhile, there have been two deaths due to dengue in the district so far. Officials from the ZP’s health department said one death each was reported in Surgana and Kanashi in Kalwan bloc. Officials have also said 25 dengue positive patients were detected in January, followed by nine in February, 16 in March and 14 in April. Dengue fever is a severe, flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults. It causes high fever accompanied by two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or a rash. Symptoms usually last for two to seven days, after an incubation period of four to ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A higher percentage of positive cases indicates the need for effective surveillance, and preventive strategies to control the spread of the disease in urban areas. Cities have many places where water can get accumulated providing an ideal breeding ground for the Aedes mosquitoes such as coolers, air conditioners, pots, gardens, water fountains, improper garbage disposal, containers, tyres, plastics and others. (Times of India 14/5/16)

Infant mortality down in Kerala’s tribal belt (3)

Palakkad: Official figures confirm that infant mortality and neonatal deaths are coming down in Kerala’s Attapaddy tribal belt. This comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comparison of the situation in the region with the human development indices of Somalia.Although half-a-dozen infant deaths have been reported since January this year, only two have been confirmed as the result of malnutrition and poor health of the mother. The area witnessed 58 malnutrition-related deaths in 2013. The figure came down to 30 in 2014 and further to 14 in 2015, as per the State Health Department. R. Prabhudas, nodal officer for tribal health in Attappady, said the multipronged approach of the Central and State governments since 2013 had brought down the infant mortality rate. The community kitchen scheme, aimed at providing nutritious food to pregnant and lactating mothers, children, and the elderly, had helped the cause. “In 2013, as many as 299 tribal children in Attappady were found to have severe malnutrition. The number has reduced to 52 now. In 2013, the number of children with moderate acute malnutrition was 600. The figure is 296 now,” he said.Newborns’ weight The average weight of newborn babies rose from 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg in these years. Apart from short-term measures like community kitchen and free ration, initiatives aimed at restoring alienated tribal land and helping them in farming are on. “We are focusing more on livelihood restoration. Water is another priority,” said Seema Bhaskar of the National Rural Health Mission. (The Hindu 17/5/16)

Health dept notifies Haryana Epidemic Diseases Regulation, 2016 (3)

GURGAON: Ahead of dengue outbreak, the Haryana health department has notified the Haryana Epidemic Diseases Regulation, 2016 for control of Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya and Japanese Encephalitis (JE). Coming up with strict guidelines, the notification (a copy of which is with TOI) states, “An inspecting officer, who is unavoidably prevented from discharging all or any of the functions may enter any premises for the purpose of fever surveillance, treatment, anti-larvae measures, fogging or spray. Also, inspecting officer may direct suspected person to give his blood slide/ sample for examination.” Dr Snehlata, Deputy Civil Surgeon, vector-borne diseases welcomed the notification. “The initiative will help in identification of larvae so that diseases like dengue and malaria can be prevented completely. We have already started inspecting water bodies. After the first rain of the season, we will start an aggressive larvae checking drive.” She added that it is mandatory for both government and private hospitals to follow the notification till March 31, 2017. The notification also specified tests that need to be conducted in case of dengue nad malaria. “doctors in government health institutions and the registered medical practitioners of the private hospitals/ clinics are required to get the blood slides prepared for each fever case reported besides the presently adopted procedure for Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) by them,” states the notification. The hospitals are also directed to conduct antigen detecting bivalent RTDs instead of RTDs in case of malaria. In case of dengue, on the other hand, NSI antigen test is to be conducted for dengue patients having fever for less than 5 days and IgM antibody test is to be conducted for patients having dengue for more than 5 days. Dr Snehlata added that price cap for dengue tests have also been decided. “The health authorities have sent directions to all private hospital not to charge more than Rs. 600 for any test in case of dengue. Also, the hospitals have been asked to put the information on a display board in their premises.” (Times of India 18/5/16)

64 cases of infant death in Udupi in last five months (3)

Udupi: Rohini, District Health and Family Welfare Officer, said recently that there were 64 cases of infant mortality in Udupi district from December 2015 to this April. She was speaking at a review meeting on health matters at the District Offices Complex, here. Dr. Rohini said that two cases of maternal mortality had been reported in the district this year. Last year, the maternal mortality in the district stood at 10. Pregnant women were being given nutritious food in government hospitals. Required injections, protein supplements and eggs were being given to pregnant women having lesser weight, she said. R. Vishal, Deputy Commissioner, said that the Health Department should give clear reason for the cases of infant mortality in the district. It should also formulate an integrated action plan to prevent cases of infant mortality. If there was any case of infant mortality, clear reason should be mentioned in the report submitted to the district administration. Cases of maternal mortality should be brought done to zero in the district by next year. There was room for improvement in providing better service to reduce both maternal and infant mortality, he said. Dr. Rohini said that the doctors were doing their best to prevent incidents of maternal and infant mortality. Low weight was one of the reasons for infant mortality, she said. Dr. Vishal said that the department should form a plan to prevent low weight in babies. He said that district unit of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) was being strengthened. The Kundapur unit of IRCS should improve its performance. He directed the Assistant Commissioner to supervise the functioning of blood banks. He informed the meeting that 59 houses were being constructed for persons living with HIV. He directed the CEO of zilla panchayat Priyanka Mary Francis and tahsildars to provide sites to remaining applicants soon. Issue relating to Arogya Kavacha, communicable diseases, health facilities for endosulfan affected persons also figured in the meeting. The officers of Health Department, private hospitals and voluntary organisations were present. (The Hindu 23/5/16)

Cancer-causing chemical in bread: Health Ministry asks food regulator for report (3)

New Delhi: The Central government is all set to ban the use of potassium bromate — the cancer-causing chemical found in bread samples tested by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) — as a food additive. Health Minister J. P. Nadda asserted that the government will take speedy and appropriate action. The move follows the CSE report where breads of top brands were tested and the results showed that nearly 84 per cent of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, had the presence of potassium bromate and potassium iodate, banned in many countries and listed as “hazardous” for public health. The CSE report said that while one of the chemicals is a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans), the other could trigger thyroid disorders but India has not banned their use. The Health Minister has directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to take-up the matter and submit a detailed report at the earliest. “The Ministry will take appropriate action accordingly,” he said. The FSSAI has maintained that it has recommended removal of potassium bromate from the list of permissible food additives to the Health Ministry. “We think that a notification will be issued in a week or two,” said FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar AgarwalMeanwhile, despite the relative quick move by the Centre to remove and ban the cancer-causing chemical the common man believes that the government has a more important role to play in ensuring the safety of the public and in particular children. However, shops across Delhi claim that they haven’t registered any sharp dip in sales following the release of the report. Industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM), on Tuesday, came out strongly in support of bread makers, saying the use of potassium bromate is with “full knowledge” of the FSSAI. (The Hindu 25/5/16)

Zika threat: Shift Games out of Rio, say health experts (3)

The 150 experts -including a former White House science adviser -issued an open letter to the UN health agency , calling for the games to be delayed or relocated “in the name of public health.” The letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis. The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, cases in Rio have gone up rather than down.Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people head to the August 5-21 games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus’ global spread. WHO declared the Zika epidemic to be a global emergency in February and in its latest assessment this week, said it “does not see an overall decline in the outbreak.” “The fire is already burning, but that is not a rationale not to do anything about the Olympics,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the letter’s authors. “It is not the time now to throw more gasoline onto the fire.” WHO has already advised pregnant women not to travel to Rio and says other travellers should avoid poor and overcrowded parts of the city. No Olympic games have ever been moved from their host city due to medical concerns, but in 2003, FIFA decided to switch the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament from China to the United States on short notice due to the threat posed by the respiratory virus SARS. (Times of India 28/5/16)

Ajmer Infants’ Death: Child Rights Commission Says ‘System Negligent’ (3)

Ajmer:  The government hospital in Rajasthan’s Ajmer where 16 infants died in the last two weeks is under the scanner. A team of official from national child rights commission highlighted poor facilities and lack of cleanliness at the Jawaharlal Nehru Children’s hospital. The team found that the hospital, the biggest in the district, is severely short staffed. Despite the temperatures touching almost 45 degrees, the long lines were witnessed outside the hospital that serves four neighboring districts in Ajmer division. “We have to line up for hours before we are attended to, the waiting is almost one to two hours,” said Salman father of a patient.”The hospital has only eight senior doctors to attend hundreds of patients,” said Dr Vikrant the head of the department of the pediatrics department at the hospital.Rupa Kapoor, member National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who visited the hospital on Wednesday, said: “There is negligence from top to bottom. I will not say that doctors are completely at fault, they are struggling with patients brought to them at the last minute in a critical state. However, the negligence is in the entire system and if we want to improve the system we will have to start from the scratch.” All newborns, who died in this hospital came from rural areas and were referred late to the hospital from rural primary health centers. More so, all were less than 21 days old and had very poor birth weight putting them at risk of infection. When NDTV conducted a surprise check at the hospital it was found that most doctors were without gloves or masks even when attending to patients. After the alarming number of infant deaths at the hospital, a senior doctor has now been put on night duty. “We have improved the floor duty, there is more nursing staff now and at night we have an assistant professor posted round-the-clock,” said Dr PC Verma, medical superintendent, JLN Hospital. (NDTV 28/5/16)

HIV/AIDS

The story of HIV/AIDS in India is one of denial and delusion (3)

It was a hot muggy July day in 1987. 22nd of the month, humidity was at its peak during that particular week in Chennai. Noorie Saleem had come to meet a doctor, who had her blood test results. Noorie sat in silence looking at the doctor as she was informed that her body contained the deadliest virus known to man: AIDS (the term HIV hadn’t been coined till then). Noorie had six months to live and to plan her exit from this world.  Dr Suniti Solomon, Noorie’s doctor, had just a year before begun looking for the virus in India. The assumption was that since there was no “LGBT community” in India, there was bound to be no virus either. AIDS was a disease which had ravaged the gay community in America since late 1970′s. Suniti’s research led her to a bunch of arrested sex workers in Chennai from whom she took some blood samples. Six of the sex workers tested positive. Shocked at her finding, Suniti sent the blood samples for further testing to Johns Hopkins University lab. All six came back positive, confirming her deepest fears once again. As she announced to the medical fraternity that AIDS had come to India, she was met with disbelief, dismissal and discrimination.Infact, it was only when scientists discovered that HIV could actually be passed on through blood transfusions that it came as a shock to the health ministry here. But even so, India was shy to admit that there was a problem. During the Narsimha Rao government, in order to address the need to get more dollars into the economy, the first plans to tackle the disease were drawn up – World Bank had for the first time got involved in a public health project and was giving loans at a fairly subsidised rates. However, 30 years since HIV/AIDS was first detected in India, the country still has the third highest number of positive patients in the world. Meanwhile, 29 years after she was diagnosed with HIV, Noorie Saleem is still alive and living in Chennai. She runs an orphange for abandoned children. (DailyO 2/5/16)

New UN report shows that urgent action is needed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 (3)

New York, May 7 : A new report released by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that the AIDS epidemic could be prolonged indefinitely if urgent action is not implemented within the next five years. On the Fast-Track to end the AIDS epidemic reveals that the extraordinary acceleration of progress made over the past 15 years could be lost and urges all partners to concentrate their efforts to increase and front-load investments to ensure that the global AIDS epidemic is ended as a public health threat by 2030. The AIDS response has delivered more than results. It has delivered the aspiration and the practical foundation to end the epidemic by 2030, said Ban in the report. But if we accept the status quo unchanged, the epidemic will rebound in several low- and middle-income countries. Our tremendous investment, and the worlds most inspiring movement for the right to health, will have been in vain. According to a press release issued by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the review of progress looks at the gains made, particularly since the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, which accelerated action by uniting the world around a set of ambitious targets for 2015. The progress made has been inspiring, said Ban. Reaching 15 million people with antiretroviral therapy nine months before the December 2015 deadline is a major global victory. The report outlines that the rapid treatment scale-up has been a major contributing factor to the 42 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths since the peak in 2004 and notes that this has caused life expectancy in the countries most affected by HIV to rise sharply in recent years. It also underlines the critical role civil society has played in securing many of the gains made and the leadership provided by people living with HIV. Community efforts have been key to removing many of the obstacles faced in scaling up the AIDS response, including reaching people at risk of HIV infection with HIV services, helping people to adhere to treatment and reinforcing other essential health services. In the report, however, the UN chief also calls the shortfalls in the implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS distressing, revealing that even as new HIV prevention tools and approaches have emerged, HIV prevention programmes have weakened in recent years owing to inadequate leadership, weak accountability and declining funding. He notes that new HIV infections declined by just 8 per cent between 2010 and 2014. The report draws attention to regions where new HIV infections are continuing to rise, such as in eastern Europe and central Asia where new HIV infections rose by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2014, mostly among people who inject drugs and in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in the AsiaPacific region. … (New Kerala 7/5/16)

HIV Positive love binds woman to 54 girls in Surat (3)

Surat: There is a notice board in the portico of Janani Dham situated on the outskirts of Surat. The message on the board reads: “You are the most beautiful, compassionate and best mom in the world: All girls”.The girls are 54 HIV+ residents of Janani Dham and the message is for Daxa Patel, an HIV positive woman herself. She is also secretary of Gujarat Network of People Living with HIVAIDS (GSNP+) which runs Janani Dham. Around 50% of the girls are orphans while the others have only one parent. But all of them consider Daxa Patel their mother. Five-year-old Chandani (name changed) runs to Daxa and hugs her when that latter comes to Janani Dham. The little girl is HIV positive. She was two months old when she was found abandoned by the Mehsana police at the railway station. Chandani was handed over to Daxaben and has been at Janani Dham since then. Next year, the girl will be admitted in a nearby school. Same is the story of Nandini, a 14-year-old HIV positive orphan girl who was brought to this place when she was six. “Daxa is our mother. We owe our life to her,” says Nandini.Janani Dham, a brain child of Daxa Patel, has been functioning since 2009 and is run in private-public partnership. It is supported by Gujarat government’s Social Justice Department and Surat-based P P Savani Group. “These young girls have a right to live in society with dignity. Yet they face discrimination,” says Daxa. “Like every mother who dreams of a better future of her children, I too feel the same way for my 54 girls. I want to bring them back into the social mainstream by ensuring them quality education and facilities.” She said that all the staff of Janani Dham are also HIV positive. (Times of India 8/5/16)

Kerala village to become HIV-literate soon (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Malayinkeezhu grama panchayat in Kerala is on its way to becoming the second local body in the State to achieve HIV-literate status by implementing the HIV Policy and Guidelines 2012 of the Local Self-Government Department (LSGD). Two years ago, the Kerala State AIDS Control Society (KSACS) had accorded Mankara panchayat in Palakkad the status of being the first HIV-literate local body in the State, after the guidelines for effective control and management of HIV/AIDS were brought by the LSGD.Under the policy guidelines, gram panchayats carry out awareness programmes involving schoolchildren, Kudumbasree units, accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers, the KSACS and staff of community health centres. As per the guidelines, the civic body has to conduct detection camps and provide health-care benefits to persons detected with the virus. “The work was started during the tenure of the Congress-led panchayat committee early last year. We are in the last leg of implementing the guidelines. Immediately after the Assembly election, we will carry out a house-to-house campaign to create awareness on HIV,” said K. Chandran Nair, president of Malayinkeezhu grama panchayat. G. Sunil Kumar, Joint Director, Information Education and Communication, KSACS, said the society, as part of the programme, had trained the panchayat staff, ASHA workers, and Kudumbasree members to hold awareness camps. So far, awareness programmes have been held at 18 locations. “The members have been equipped to create awareness about HIV, including its early symptoms, treatment, and social security programmes for affected persons,” he said. (The Hindu 8/5/16)

Increasing HIV cases around Amaravati worries Government (3)

HYDERABAD: Though Andhra Pradesh has recorded a marginal drop in the number HIV positive cases in the last two years, the government is worried about the occurrence of new cases in Guntur district would tarnish the image of the new capital city Amaravati, which is being built in the district. As per latest data, Guntur, Krishna and East Godavari districts continue to remain in the list of highly vulnerable places for HIV transmission in the State. Even though, the State government is making all-possible efforts to contain the spread of HIV spread in these districts, new cases continue to appear, throwing challenges to the State administration. Between April and September last year, HIV tests were conducted on 4.9 lakh people across the state. Of them, 12,742 people were found positive and 42 per cent of the positive cases were found in Guntur, Krishna and East Godavari districts. During 2015-16, 24,957 new HIV cases were recorded in the State, of which 3,781 cases were registered in Guntur, 3,538 in East Godavari and 2,693 in Krishna district. Currently, there are about 3.4 lakh registered HIV positive patients in the State and it is estimated that there are about 1.5 lakh people whose records are not with the government, taking the total number of HIV positive cases to over 5 lakh. With Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu planning to make Amaravati a world-class capital and a major tourism hub, the highest number of HIV cases being recorded in Guntur district is worrying officials. They fear it affect Amaravati’s image. “The high prevalence of HIV in Guntur district is worrying us all. We are making all out effort to bring awareness among people about the prevalence of HIV and the measures to be taken to prevent this dreaded disease. But, still new cases are appearing,” joint director of AP State AIDS Control society (APSACS) Dr P Rajendra Prasad told Express. (New Indian Express 10/5/16)

Child diagnosed HIV+ after blood transfusion (3)

GUWAHATI, May 10 – In a shocking incident, the blood report of a three-and-a-half-year-old boy was tested positive for HIV virus during the course of his treatment at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). The child had undergone multiple surgeries and blood transmission at the GMCH during the course of his treatment for burn injuries which he had sustained more than a year ago.GMCH sources said that the child was admitted to the hospital in April last year and was undergoing treatment till October, during which he had gone through a series of surgeries and blood transmission. “For the last six months, there was no information about the child. He was again admitted to the GMCH in March this year and during the course of a routine blood check-up, the HIV report was found to be positive,” sources said.Meanwhile, GMCH Superintendent Babul K Bezbaruah declined to confirm if the boy was infected after taking blood from the GMCH’s blood bank as his parents do not suffer from the disease. “We have formed a five-member committee to look into the matter. Only after a thorough inquiry, we will be able to tell anything in this regard,” Bezbaruah said. The GMCH Superintendent, however, claimed there is an open wound in the boy’s leg and the inquiry committee will look into the possibility of his contracting the virus through it. (The Assam Tribune 11/5/16)

Government concerned over rise in HIV cases near Amaravati (3)

Though Andhra Pradesh has recorded a marginal drop in HIV positive cases in the last two years, the government is worried about the occurrence of new cases in Guntur district would tarnish the image of the new capital city Amaravati, which is being built in the district. Between April and September last year, HIV tests were conducted on 4.9 lakh people across the state. Of them, 12,742 people were found positive and 42 per cent of the positive cases were found in Guntur, Krishna and East Godavari districts. During 2015-16, 24,957 new HIV cases were recorded in the state, of which 3,781 cases were registered in Guntur, 3,538 in East Godavari and 2,693 in Krishna district. (New Indian Express 15/5/16)

6,000 HIV cases registered in Kanpur hospital in last six months (3)

Kanpur: In a shocking revelation, it is found out that around 6,000 patients infected with HIV have been registered at Kanpur’s Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial Medical College in the last six months. According to Dr. Chaman Kumar of the Medical College, around 40-50 cases of people infected with HIV are registered every month. Officials say that awareness among the people is the reason behind this increasing figure. There has been increase in the number of cases, especially in the rural areas. (Business Standard 16/5/16)

11,705 HIV cases in State (3)

GUWAHATI, May 16 – Till February this year, Assam recorded a total 11,705 HIV-positive cases and of them, 916 were expecting mothers. State’s Health Department officials informed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of this development at a meeting held here today, said an official press release here this evening. At the meeting, the Chief Minister asked the Health Department to urgently purchase Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) machine for detecting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the blood units used in transfusion. The Health Department officials also informed the Chief Minister that according to the India HIV Estimations, 2015, there was a 0.06 per cent rise in the number of adult HIV-positive patients in the State, against the 0.26 per cent rise in the national level. (The Assam Tribune 17/5/16)

Aurangabad hospital shooes away HIV-positive pregnant woman (3)

Aurangabad: The sadar hospital here is again in the news for wrong reasons. This time, a doctor insulted a pregnant woman with HIV positive by denying her treatment in the hospital. Sources said one Manju Devi of village Pawai under Muffasil police station reached Aurangabad sadar Hospital to get herself admitted. When she met the doctor on duty, Dr Lalsa Sinha, she was allegedly refused treatment because Manju was HIV positive. “Tum yahan HIV faila dogi, jaldi jao yahan se (you would spread this deadly disease here, go away),” the doctor allegedly shouted at Manju. When Manju’s attendants argued with the doctor to get her admitted, the doctor allegedly got furious and asked the ward boy to throw the patient on road. “I will not treat you and this is my decision,” Manju quoted the doctor as saying. Since Manju is from economically backward family, she could not afford treatment at any private clinic or hospital.”Mai nao mahine ki garbhwati hoon, pati driver hai. Paisa hai nahi, kahan jaun kya karoon kuch samajh main nahi aa raha hai (I am nine months pregnant, my husband is a driver. I have no money. Where would I go),” Manju told this correspondent. However, medical officer Dr Ravi Ranjan said HIV is neither a fatal disease nor it spreads by contact. HIV patients can lead a normal life while taking timely medicine. He said nobody has the right to discriminate against HIV patients. When contacted, civil surgeon Dr Rampratap Singh said, “We will look into the matter.” He admitted that the hospital does not have sufficient resources to ensure normal delivery to HIV patients. It may be mentioned here that sadar hospital has earned a bad name in recent times because of alleged rude behaviour of doctors resulting in law and order problems. (Times of India 18/5/16)

In a first, researchers cut out HIV genes from animals infected with virus (3)

Scientists at Temple University made their first successful attempt at eliminating HIV genes from the genomes of mice and rats infected with the virus, reported TIME magazine. The lead scientist of this research, Kamel Khalili, director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University, with his team engineered mice and rats to integrate specific HIV genes with all the other possible cells of their body. Later, they designed a pair of molecular scissors using a gene-editing technique called CRISPR to cut out those viral genes. The peculiarity of CRISPR is that it precisely snips out the viral genes leaving the animals’ own DNA unharmed.Khalili in the research studied CRISPR’s ability to eliminate HIV from the animals. Conclusion implied that it had eliminated HIV from more than 50%of the infected cells of each type. He informed TIME that this technology is much less complicated than the previous ones, like bone marrow transplant and can be accessible to the patients of under-developed countries with improper health facilities. Khalili thinks that this technique is a step ahead towards finding a cure to HIV and treating the people infected by it. The study is still to find answers to whether it will have side effects when used on human DNA.Khalili says: “The first step is to permanently inactivate those viruses incorporated in cells… If we can do that, and reach that level, then we may be able to functionally cure individuals or have a sterilizing cure.” (DNA 22/5/16)

Patients with HIV not welcome to govt hospitals (3)

Patna: The snub to a pregnant woman with the virus by doctors at the Aurangabad sadar hospital last week was not a one-off case of its kind in the state. “Four to five such cases from Patna and adjoining areas come to us every month,” Gyan Ranjan of the Patna Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS says and rattles off names of at least half a dozen such patients who were made to run in circles as doctors refused to treat them. Ram Kumar, in his late 40s, needed to get his urethra dilated in 2009. For the next six years, he visited the city’s Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), Nalanda Medical College & Hospital (NMCH) and Patna Medical College & Hospital (PMCH) several times, but doctors kept postponing his surgery on one pretext or another. Kumar even represented his concerns over his compounding health complications to a senior official of the state health department last year. The official’s call to IGIMS authorities did elicit a positive assurance, but it proved hollow. “I eventually ended up spending a fortune on my surgery in a private hospital at Rajendra Nagar in Patna,” Kumar told TOI on Tuesday as he showed the prescriptions of the government hospitals he had visited. Fatuha’s Sharda Devi still writhes in pain because of an “infection” in uterus. As she cannot speak because of her precarious condition, Anupriya of the Patna Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS recalled the woman in 30s visited the PMCH’s gynae ward earlier this year to get her uterus removed, but the doctor used medical jargon to warn her that the surgery would complicate the matters. “We even petitioned the hospital superintendent, but to no avail,” Anupriya alleged. Fatuha’s Kumar Vivek has a similar tale to tell the world. He along with his brother has been visiting the PMCH for four years to get urethra dilated. “We last visited the PMCH in August 2015. The doctors agreed to operate, but backed out when they came to know that my brother has HIV,” Vivek said and recalled he was made to run from the emergency ward to the Rajendra Surgical Block and vice versa. As the pain refused to subside, Vivek had to be admitted to a private hospital on Boring Road. “We sold off a piece of our land to arrange Rs 2 lakh which we spent on the surgery at the private facility,” Vivek’s brother said. (Times of India 25/5/16)

Russian activists struggle to raise HIV awareness as epidemic grows (3)

MOSCOW: Vadim Pokrovsky stunned hundreds of students at a conference in Moscow last week when he reached into his pocket and took out a condom. “And you, the young generation, how do you protect yourselves from HIV?” said Pokrovsky, the 61-year-old head of Russia’s federal AIDS centre. “I always have a condom on me. Today even a 90-year-old can contract the virus.” The audience fell silent for a moment before breaking into applause. Despite the efforts of activists like Pokrovsky, the total number of registered HIV cases in Russia exceeded one million in late 2015, with authorities struggling to contain an epidemic that experts say could be curbed by increased funding and more awareness campaigns. Pokrovsky has been openly critical of the Kremlin’s policies promoting traditional family values, saying they have failed to halt the spread of the deadly virus. “In 2015 alone, some 100,000 new HIV cases were reported in Russia,” Pokrovsky told AFP. “This is a very high rate, maybe the highest in Europe.”The Russian government’s policy focuses on treatment while neglecting prevention drives such as sex education in schools, with the number of people infected with the virus soaring as a result, say experts. A public health campaign in Moscow last year urged people to be faithful to their partners, rather than promoting condom use. “Young people here often don’t even know what HIV is and don’t understand its dangers,” said Moscow-based student Darya Belimova who joined Pokrovsky to address more than a thousand young people at the conference. The gathering was part of the “Stop HIV/AIDS” prevention campaign spanning more than 200 universities. And although the Russian health and education ministries support “Stop HIV/AIDS”, activists and volunteers say they are fighting a lonely battle against Russia’s AIDS epidemic as the virus increasingly affects the heterosexual population. The World Health Organization last year said that Russia accounted for 60 percent of all HIV diagnoses in Europe in 2014, with heterosexual sex the main route of transmission of the virus which is spread through contact with contaminated body fluids. The number of HIV-positive minors — which stood at 9,792 in 2015 — has also jumped 8.5 percent compared to the previous year. In most of these cases an HIV-positive mother transmitted the virus to the child at birth, said Pokrovsky. “In Russia, there is not enough public financing to support the fight against HIV at a national scale, and HIV prevention programmes for drug addicts practically don’t exist,” he said….  (New Indian Express 28/5/16)