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News Collected from December 1 to 31, 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1.  Dalits victims of caste system: Mayawati (2)

Lucknow:IN AN attempt to reach out to people from Other Backward Classes (OBC), who are said to be tilting towards the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Tuesday said that people from both OBC and Dalit communities are “victims of an unequal Hindu caste system”. She also accused the saffron party of employing “various tactics to divide” the “Bahujan Samaj”, which, she said, includes people from Dalit, OBC, Muslim and other religious minority communities. Addressing a rally at Lucknow’s Ambedkar Memorial Park on the death anniversary of B R Ambedkar, Mayawati claimed that the BJP and the RSS want to change the secular Constitution drafted by Ambedkar and establish the old order of “Hindutvadi, caste-based system”.She also took on the two other prominent opposition parties in next year’s state Assembly elections – the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Congress – but some of her most stinging salvos and criticism was reserved for the BJP, which has poached several leaders from the BSP in recent months. Since June, the BSP has lost 12 OBC MLAs, including its general secretary and most prominent OBC leader – Swami Prasad Maurya – to the BJP. Most of these legislators are from extremely backward castes, a strong BSP support base for long. The BJP has also tried to woo OBCs by appointing Phulpur MP Keshav Prasad Maurya as the party’s state president, and has projected several leaders from these communities in the run-up to the elections. Stating that people from Dalit and backward caste communities were known as ati-shudras and shudras, respectively, during the British rule and that Ambedkar worked for emancipation of these groups, Mayawati said the BJP is trying to spread “misinformation” by saying that Ambedkar worked for the uplift of only Dalits, and not people from extremely backward castes. Emphasising that the BSP had fought for the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s report that granted reservation to OBCs, Mayawati said BJP withdrew support to the V P Singh government because the saffron party was opposed to such reservations. In an indication to the social combination she is trying to forge for the forthcoming elections – as against 2007, when she had suddenly experimented with social engineering between Dalits and upper castes, especially Brahmins – Mayawati said it is time for Dalits, Backward Castes, Muslims and those who converted to other religions to unite in order to get the “master key of political power” for social and economic welfare. Mayawati alleged that both BJP and Congress are “exploiters” of these people, who form a majority of population, and have all these years worked on keeping them divided in order to keep them away from power. “If the BJP comes to power, Muslims can understand what will happen in Varanasi and Mathura…(and) Dalits can understand how many (incidents such as) Rohith Vemula (suicide) and Una (attack on Dalits) will take place,” Mayawati said. (Indian Express 7/12/16)

2. 155 dalits convert to Buddhism (2)

Palanpur: On the 60th death anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar, nearly 155 dalits from across Banaskantha district converted to Buddhism at a function in Palanpur on Tuesday.The dalits, including five women, embraced Buddhism in Ramdeo Temple at Malan Darwaza, said Dalpat Bhatiya, one of the organizers from Banaskantha Dalit Sangathan. Before the ‘Diksha’ ritual began, cases of atrocities and discrimination against the suppressed classes remained central to the discussion. Most of those who quit their faith cited discrimination as the reason for choosing Buddhism.At the gathering, incidents that were raised included the flogging of dalits in Una and migration of six dalit families from Patan district. Pragnya Ratna Bhante, chief of Porbandar Buddhist Vihar, repeatedly asked the dalits before the ritual if they were lured or coerced to convert. All replied in negative. (Times of India 7/12/16)

3. Maharashtra: Dalit houses in Satara attacked after murder of upper-caste girl, 36 arrested (2)

Angry over the killing of a girl belonging to the upper-caste Maratha community, a Dalit locality was attack on the outskirts of Korale Khurd village in Satara. Police in Satara district of western Maharashtra have arrested 36 persons for attacking a Dalit locality following the murder of a girl belonging to the upper-caste Maratha community. The accused, angry over the killing of the girl last month, targeted the houses and vehicles of Dalits on the outskirts of Korale Khurd village on night, police said. In July, the rape and murder of a Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district had sparked off state-wide protests and mobilisation of Marathas. Yesterday’s incident at Korale Khurd followed the murder of 21-year-old Aruna Mohite, allegedly by her estranged lover Siddharth Dhanane (24), a Dalit, police said. They were in a relationship for the last few years but her parents forcibly married her off to another person, according to the police. Dhanane asked her meet him at Thoseghar on November 30. During an argument, he allegedly hit her with a stick, killing her on the spot. He then buried the body to destroy evidence, police said. After a missing persons case was lodged, police found that she was in contact with Dhanane on phone, and questioned him. He allegedly confessed and took the police to the buried body. Late last night, several members of Maratha community attacked homes of Dalits on the outskirts of the village and torched their vehicles, police said. Stones were pelted at the houses, window panes of 18 houses were broken and 13 vehicles including three cars were damaged, police said. “We have arrested 36 persons. We also held meetings of leaders from both communities,” said Sandeep Patil, Superintendent of Police, Satara, speaking to (DNA 8/12/16)

4. Dalit group to honour B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary (2)

Dalits of Sigaranahalli, who fought against the restriction on their entry into the Basaveshwara Temple in the village for several months, have formed a unit of the Dalit Hakkugala Samiti (DHS) in the village, and under the committee’s banner, have decided to hold an event to mark the 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, on Sunday. The Dalit youths of the village, who were at the forefront in the struggle against imposition of penalty on women who entered the temple in September 2015, are organising the event in association with the district unit of the DHS, an organisation associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Senior leaders of the party, including G.V. Srirama Reddy, V. Lakshminarayana and state convenor of DHS Gopalakrishna Haralahalli, besides many progressive thinkers and writers of Hassan have been invited. The villagers have also invited their friends and relatives in the neighbouring villages, who had supported their struggle.The Dalits had sought entry into the temple and also the community hall built by spending government fund. Finally, they succeeded in getting entry into the temple in April this year in the presence of police. The ‘upper castes’ have boycotted the temple since the entry of the Dalits. Meanwhile, the district administration closed the community hall citing repair works. “We had planned to hold this programme in the community hall. But, we were told that the community hall cannot be given for any programme as it in under repair,” Raju Sigaranahalli, a youth of the village and Holenarasipur taluk convener of DHS, told The Hindu recently. Now the programme will be held in an open space in the village. The programme, according to the organisers, is to motivate people to continue their struggle towards socio-economic equality. “Getting an entry into the temple is not sufficient. The Dalits should be treated on a par with others in all fields. The programme is an effort to spread awareness among the people on socio-economic equality and motivate them to lead a life with self-esteem by following the way Dr. Ambedkar showed through his long struggle,” said M.G. Pruthvi, DHS district convener, said. (The Hindu 9/12/16)

5. Karnataka government mulls 70% quota for Dalits (2)

HUBBALLI: The Karnataka government is mulling 70% quota for Dalits and backward classes. Addressing the Madigara Maha Samavesh here on Sunday, CM Siddaramaiah said that Tamil Nadu has already provided 69% reservation for SCs and STs, adding that the state will consult legal experts to make amendments to the existing laws and put forth a resolution in the next Assembly session.The move, however, will need a constitutional amendment by Parliament in view of the Supreme Court verdict, capping reservation at 50%.Emphasizing on social equality, Siddaramaiah said the Constitution’s objective to distribute wealth and power had not been fulfilled yet. “It is shameful that social and economic equality dreamt by Basavanna and Sharanas of 12th century still remains a dream. Visionaries like BR Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram experienced untouchability and tried to elevate the position of such communities in the society. Even after 69 years of Independence, the practice of untouchability still exists,” he said. “Socio-economic development of the region or country will be curbed when a part of the society is segregated from the mainstream. Casteism is still deep rooted. Our Constitution has provided political freedom for the downtrodden, but we have to provide them social and economic freedom,” the CM said. Adequate representation of all the communities is something that’s still to be achieved, he added. Justifying his move for a caste Census, conducted in Karnataka for the first time after Independence, the chief minister said, “We have reserved funds for communities depending on their population. Once the Census report is out, it will be helpful to reserve funds scientifically. According to 2011 Census, Karnataka has 1.04 crore people belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This year, we have spent Rs 19,880 crore for the welfare of SCs,” Siddaramaiah said.Siddaramaiah refused to give an assurance of the implementation Justice AJ Sadashiv Commission recommendations. The CM said that he has asked social welfare minister H Anjaneya to table it in the next cabinet meeting. “I’m personally in favor of its implementation but I cannot announce the same as it has to get the cabinet’s nod,” he said. (Times of India 12/12/2016)

6. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability (2)

New Delhi: FOR THE first time in its history, the Indian Catholic Church has officially accepted that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. These admissions are contained in a policy document prepared and released Monday by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward section and empower them. The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. “If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” says the document. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, president, CBCI, told The Indian Express: “It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection.” Incidentally, the Church has been fighting for years for the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes list. But its latest policy document admits that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the higher levels, it is almost nil”. At present, only 12 out of the more than 5,000 bishops in the Catholic Church in the country are Dalit Christians. “There is wider acceptance that the practice of untouchability and discrimination against Dalits exist in the Church and there is need to address these issues urgently,” says the document. It adds, however, that there have been some positive changes and “more acceptance of the rights and dignity of Dalits at least at the ideological and theoretical level” due to various efforts made by the Church and Dalit outfits. Although various levels of the Church structure have been sensitised, with the younger generation growing with a much higher sense of dignity and self worth, there are newer forms of discrimination. “Since there is inadequate representation in seminaries in appointments to key positions and sharing of common resources in the religious orders and in the Church in general, efforts need to be made to remedy the situation given the importance of good priests… for the mission of the Church,” the document states.It states that Dalits are being deprived of access to courses that are job-oriented or in demand. …  (The Indian Express 15/12/16)

7. Dalit youth beaten for twirling moustache (2)

AHMEDABAD: A dispute over a dalit youth twirling his moustache before members of the darbar community sparked violence in which some darbars assaulted the dalit youth’s family in Memadpur village of Jotana taluka in Mehsana district. Two persons of the family are still hospitalized in Mehsana’s civil hospital. Mahesh Parmar, 24, the dalit youth, was fond of sporting a moustache but he did not know that it would lead to an assault on his family. Mahesh’s elder brother, Naresh (27), said his brother was standing at a roadside eatery on December 12 and twirling his moustache while some members of darbar community were standing in front of him. “They went to my brother and asked him why he was twirling his moustache and to which community he belonged. When my brother told him that he is a Parmar, they started abusing and beating him,” Naresh said. “Later, my brother on the advice of the elders of our village, settled the matter with those darbars. But the very next day, four other darbars came to our house and started abusing us and hurled caste-related insults. When we asked them to refrain from this, they started beating me,” Naresh said. Naresh further said that when his 72-year-old grandmother, Maniben, came to rescue her grandson, she fell down and fractured her leg. “I was beaten mercilessly and my grandmother also got injured in that attack. We were then taken to the civil hospital,” he said. An FIR was lodged with the Santhal police station on December 14 regarding the incident and the four accused — Indrasinh Jhala, Dharmendrasinh Jhala, Mehulsinh Jhala and Hiteshsinh Jhala — were booked. The accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult, criminal intimidation along with the sections of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act-2015. (Times of India 17/12/16)

8. Dalit attack ‘failure’ (2)

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Supreme Court has said the Centre and state governments have both failed to prevent increasing attacks on Dalits and tribal people, defeating the “laudable” objective of a law that has long been in force to deal with such crimes. The court said people from these segments were often subjected to social indignities although Parliament has enacted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “There has been a failure on the part of the concerned authorities in complying with the provisions of the act…. The laudable object with which the act had been made is defeated by the indifferent attitude of the authorities. “It is true that the state governments are responsible for carrying out the provisions of the act as contended by the counsel for the Union of India. At the same time, the central government has an important role to play in ensuring… compliance…,” the three-judge bench said in a recent judgment. “The constitutional goal of equality for all… citizens… can be achieved only when the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are protected,” the bench added. The court was dealing with a petition filed by the NGO National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). The NGO had complained that authorities in all states and Union territories had failed to enforce the law, resulting in the continuing victimisation of Dalits and tribal people. The top court referred to a report placed before it by the rights body NHRC, which said even in cases of “heinous crimes”, the police machinery in many states “has been deliberately avoiding the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989″.The report also alleged non-registration of cases and other means resorted to by the police to discourage Dalits from filing cases under the act that prohibits granting anticipatory bail to the accused. “The abundant material on record proves that the authorities concerned are guilty of not enforcing the provisions of the act,” Justice L. Nageswara Rao said. “The National Commissions (For Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) are also directed to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” the bench added. (The Telegraph 17/12/16)

9. Haryana Dalit woman killed for intervening in quarrel (2)

A 55-year-old Dalit woman was killed allegedly by a group of upper caste youths, who crushed her under a car for intervening in a quarrel in Haryana on Tuesday night, police said. The woman has been identified as Dani Devi of Charkhi Dadri district’s Kakroli Sardara village. Haryana recorded a sevenfold increase in number of crimes against Dalits and Scheduled Castes in over 15 years, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s data released last year. Dalits form roughly 20% of the state’s population of 2.5 crore as per the 2011 census. Giving sequel of the latest crime against a Dalit woman, police quoting family sources said a group of upper-caste youths swooped down on the village in a car on Tuesday night and dragged out from home Devi’s nephew Mahesh who had engaged in a quarrel with them in the morning. When Devi and other members of the family tried to rescue him, the intruders also assaulted them with logs, police said, adding while leaving the village the inebriated youths mowed down by their car an injured Devi. The incident sparked tension in the village, the largest Dalit majority village. To prevent any untoward incident, four police personnel have been posted to guard the village. The village sarpanch said out of 1,100 families, more than 550 were Dalits while rest are Jats, Muslims, Brahmins and others. DSP Loharu Kuldeep Singh said a case against five named and four unnamed men under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and the SC and the ST (prevention of atrocities) Act was registered. Among the five named accused four are Jats — Vedvir, Ravi, Ballu, Ashwini— and one Muslim identified as Salim. “All the accused and their family members are on the run since the incident,” the DSP said. The family members said Devi was rushed to a community health centre where she was pronounced dead. Her body was sent to Civil Hospital in Bhiwani for post mortem. The family members of the deceased staged a dharna at the hospital demanding arrests of the accused. After police assured action, they agreed to cremate the body. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

10. Siddaramaiah questions old confidant’s secular credence (2)

Mysuru: With former minister V Srinivas Prasad finally announcing his decision to join BJP, Congress leaders have launched an attack on him, questioning his credence on secularism and social justice, which were advocated by Buddha and Dr B R Ambedkar. Chief minister Siddaramaiah, his friend-turned-foe, was the first to take a dig at Prasad’s decision to join BJP, During the Sankalpa Diwas organized by Karnataka Rajya Dalit Sangarsha Samithi on Saturday, Siddaramaiah taunted Prasad, stating that the person (without mentioning Prasad’s name) who claimed to be a follower of Dr B R Ambedkar and Buddha, is now ready to join BJP, which propagates Hindutva. “Ambedkar who was born in a dalit family suffered humiliation due to caste discrimination. He fought throughout his life for social and economic justice of dalits. When he couldn’t succeed, he decided to leave Hinduism and got converted to Buddhism. But the person who claims to be a follower of Ambedkar and Buddha, is joining BJP and RSS,” Siddaramaiah said. “Those who are true followers of Basavanna and Ambedkar will not support BJP and RSS, even in their dreams. The followers of Buddha will not join hands with people who believe in Hindutva. The BJP, Bajrang Dal and RSS doesn’t believe in social justice or equality,” Siddaramaiah stated.Speaking on Ambedkar’s fight for social justice, Siddaramaiah said there are still places in the country where untouchability is practised. “Dalits are not allowed inside temples, nor are they allowed to draw water from wells. In India, caste system is deep-rooted and it is difficult to eradicate it,” he said. “The mindset of people should change. We should think like Ambedkar to bring change to the society. He advocated inter-caste marriages and sahapanthi bojana as means of bringing social justice. The Congress government is providing cash incentives for marriages between dalits and non-dalits. While the dalit bride will get Rs 3 lakh incentive, the dalit groom will get Rs 2 lakh,” he claimed. Siddaramaiah said the Congress government has raised spending on dalit programmes from Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 19,842 crore per year. The officials who failed to deliver the programmes will be booked under criminal charges,” he said (Times of India 25/12/16)

11. Dalits re-enact Mahad Satyagraha (2)

ONGOLE:  Activists of the Dalit Hakkula Parirakshana Samiti (DHPS) re-enacted on Sunday the Mahad Satyagaraha enacted by Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar by burning Manusmriti. The activists shouted slogans against the ruling BJP-TDP combine for pursuing with vigour the neo-liberal economic policies which marginalised the Dalits and curtailed the benefits of reservation. Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG) policies meant expansion of the private sector and loss of education and job opportunities in the public sector for Dalits guaranteed by the Constitution, said DHPS Prakasam district president Neelam Nagendra Rao while leading the protest in front of the Ambedkar statue on the arterial Trunk Road here. The State government allotted large tracts of land for industries but denied a piece of land in each village for burial ground for Dalits, he alleged. It was unfortunate that Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had not convened a meeting to review SC/ST atrocities cases in the last 2-1/2 years and not implemented recommendations of the Justice Punniah Commission to ameliorate the living condition of Dalits, he added. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

12. Dalit youth attacked by caste Hindus dies (2)

MADURAI: A Dalit youth, S. Muruganantham (36), who was brutally attacked by three caste Hindus in Kodaikanal in August and admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) here in a serious condition, died on Wednesday.Makkal Viduthalai Meetpu Iyakkam has demanded the immediate arrest of the accused – K. Sudhakar (26), R. Balamuruganantham (31) and B. Ulaganathan (31) – and adequate compensation to the family of the deceased under the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. Iyakkam general secretary R. Srinivasa Raghavan said the delay by Dingidul district police in registering the case under the correct legal provisions led to undue delay in the victim and his family getting due compensation envisaged in the Act. Muruganantham had bought a mobile phone from Sudhakar and promised to pay the money in due course. However, on August 21, Sudhakar and his friends, who were reportedly under the influence of alcohol, picked a quarrel with Muruganantham and assaulted him. His mother Murugammal was also assaulted by them, he said. Muruganantham was admitted to the GRH after being treated at a local hospital and Dindigul Government Hospital. “Ms. Murugammal made a representation to the Superintendent of Police, Dindigul, and the Inspector General of Police (South Zone), seeking the immediate arrest of the accused and special treatment to Muruganantham as his health condition worsened,” Mr. Raghavan, said. Another representation was made to the Madurai Collector, seeking special medical care to Muruganantham. However, after 120 days in hospital, Muruganantham died. “Still the accused have not been arrested. Had Kodaikanal police registered the case under the right Sections, the poor Arunthathiyar family would have provided a better treatment to the victim,” Mr. Raghavan, said. Kodaikanal Deputy Superintendent of Police P. Chandran said the accused could not be arrested as they had obtained anticipatory bail. “We are taking steps to cancel the advance bail as the victim has died, and they will be arrested soon,” he said. Mr. Raghavan demanded a government job to the wife of the deceased and due compensation to Ms. Murugammal, who was also injured in the attack. (The Hindu 28/12/16)

TRIBALS

13. Tribal students confined to hostels during Jharkhand shutdown (6)

Ranchi, Dec 2 : Tribal students were on Friday confined to their hostels in Jharkhand to prevent them from taking part in the shutdown called by tribal organisations to protest the amendments to the two state land acts.The security personnel have been asked to keep the students inside the hostels. “We have been directed not to allow the tribal students to come out of the hostels in groups. Forces will be used if they try to come outside. We are prepared for any eventualities,” a police official at Ranchi College hostel told IANS. “Heavy security was deployed outside our hostel before we woke up. We are not allowed to take part in the shutdown. What kind of democratic system are we living in,” asked Prem Munda, a tribal student. The Jharkhand Adivasi Morcha and other tribal organisations called for the shutdown to protest the move. The Congress, Left parties as well as the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) have extended their support to the shutdown. The united opposition had earlier called for a shutdown in the state on November 25. The shutdown has affected normal life in the state. The shutdown supporters burnt tyres on main roads in Lohardagga, Khuti and other districts to disrupt traffic. Tree were cut and used as road barricades at some places. The schools and shops have been closed, and long-route buses are not plying. The Raghubar Das government succeeded in passing the bills amending the two state land acts — Chhotanagur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act — in the assembly on November 23. The amendments were carried by voice votes, without holding any discussion. After the passage of the bills, agricultural land can be used for non-agricultural purposes. The government can acquire land for infrastructure, power plants, roads, canals, panchayat buildings and others. The Jharkhand government has made elaborate security arrangements to counter the shutdown. Drone and other equipments have been used to keep watch on the protesters. (New Kerala 2/12/16)

14. Adivasi blockade hits train services in northeast (6)

Guwahati, Dec 5 : Train services to and from the northeastern states were affected on Monday following an 11-hour blockade by the Adivasi National Convention Committee (ANCC), a conglomeration of several organisations of indigenous people.The blockade started at 6 a.m. when thousands of volunteers of the ANCC gathered at the Kokrajhar railway station and blockaded the tracks, demanding the Scheduled Tribes status to the indigenous communities. NF Railway officials said that 16 trains, including 12 Up trains, were controlled at New Alipurduar, New Coochbehar, Falakata, New Jalpaiguri, Kishanganj, Malda, Barsoi, Katihar and other stations. Similarly, four down trains were controlled at New Bongaigaon, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Barpeta Road railway stations.The ANCC later submitted a memorandum to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal through the Deputy Commissioner and demanded that the government to solve the problems of the community on the priority basis. (New Kerala 5/12/16)

15. Scheduled Tribe status for six Assam communities (6)

New Delhi:    Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora new Assam Cong chief Assam CM meets Prime Minister After Assam, Bihar Assembly passes GST bill Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill moved in Rajya Sabha amid row Constitution Amendment Bill on GST passed by Rajya SabhaThe committee formed to recommend communities of Assam for granting the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status will submit its report shortly, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. “A committee has been set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to recommend the modalities for granting of Scheduled Tribe status to six communities, namely Koch Rajbongshi, Moran, Matak, Tai Ahom, Chutia and Adivasi (Tea Tribes) of Assam,” Rijiju said in a written reply. The Government set up a committee headed by Mahesh Kumar Singla, Special Secretary (Internal Security), on February 29 and it was expected to submit its report by May 31, which was subsequently extended to October 15. “However, due to by-election in Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency in Assam in November 2016, the committee could not finalise its reports. It is expected to submit its report shortly,” the Minister said. At present, the six communities are in the ‘Other Backward Class’ category. (Business Standard 7/12/16)

16. Gujarat has fifth highest neonatal mortality in tribals (6)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat has the fifth highest rate of neonatal deaths among tribals, 56.5 per 1,000 births. The overall neo-natal death rate in the state is 39.6 per 1,000 births.The state also has the fifth highest infant mortality rate and under-five child mortality rate. Jual Oram, the minister of tribal affairs, in a reply in Parliament stated that the Registrar General of India, through its Sample Registration System (SRS), revealed that that maternal mortality rate (MMR) in India has declined from 212 per 100,000 live births in 2007-09, to 178 in 2010-12 and 167 in 2011-13. The reply also stated that the MMR in Gujarat, which was 148 per 100,000 live births in 2007-09, dropped to 112 in 2011-13. The reply states that the ministry of health and family welfare conducts periodic surveys to determine health indicators. The latest national survey was National Family Health Survey-3, (NFH-3), conducted in 2005-06. It states that in Gujarat, the overall neo-natal mortality rate was 35.9 per 1,000 live births, but this was 53 among scheduled tribes. Similarly, infant mortality rate (IMR), for children younger than one year, was 47.3 per 1,000 live births in Gujarat, but was 86 among scheduled tribes.Officials in the health department said under-five mortality was nearly double the general population among scheduled tribes. The under-five mortality rate in Gujarat was 55.7 per 1,000 live births, but among scheduled tribes was 115.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The reply further stated that the ministry of health and family welfare has constituted an expert group on tribal health. There is also an empowered programme committee of the national health mission under the ministry of health and family welfare to look into the high IMR, neo-natal and under-five mortality rate among scheduled tribes. (Times of India 8/12/16)

17. Adivasis for booking of cases against forest officials (6)

ADILABAD: Agitated Gond Adivasi farmers of Gadiguda mandal in Adilabad district on Friday demanded booking of cases against Forest Department officers who damaged their standing crop by digging trenches around their fields. They also demanded compensation for the crop so damaged. During a protest staged near the fields at Rumankhasa village, the farmers forced an excavator machine to abandon work on digging trenches. The Forest Department had deployed the heavy machine to dig trenches around the fields to reclaim lands which it claimed to be forest lands. The trench digging was on for the past 20 days in the area. “We are trying to reclaim about 500 hectares of forest land, some of which is encroached upon,” Adilabad District Forest Officer Sivala Rambabu said about the exercise. About four days ago, trenches were dug in the fields of Adivasi farmers from Rumankhasa and Builikhasa which resulted in damage to cotton crop. The Adivasis have cried foul saying the Forest officials entered their fields which have pattas issued by the Revenue authorities. About 100 farmers from these villages will be affected if the Forest Department goes ahead in reclaiming the 29 hectares spread over the limits of Rumankhasa, Builikhasa, Lokari (B), Lokari (K), Khadki Kolamguda, Sawri and Jhari. The DFO, however, assured them of a joint survey by Revenue and Forest officials to be taken up on Saturday before proceeding with reclamation work. Meanwhile, leaders of Adivasi organisations were planning to stage an agitation soon on the issue. The protest was followed with a meeting attended by Adivasi Aikya Vedika State president Sidam Shambhu, Adivasi Sanghala Joint Action Committee chairman Kanaka Yadav Rao, State vice-president of Grameena Pedala Sangham Nethavath Ramdas and others. (The Hindu 10/12/16)

18. Tribals in TS to benefit from ‘Vanjeevan’ (6)

New Delhi: The country can look forward to a National Resource Centre for Tribal Livelihood issues. To be located at Bhubaneswar and christened `Vanjeevan’, it will be formally be launched by the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs on December 22.It is a collaborative project of the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs with UNDP and National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). On the same day the NRC website and e-knowledge platform on tribal livelihood will also be unveiled. The ceremony will be followed by a workshop on Skill development and entrepreneurship landscape in tribal areas, Livelihood mapping; skill gap analysis – Farm, Non Farm and Forest based and Skill and Enterprise Promotion in Farm and Forest-based Livelihood. Eminent experts and senior officials of Centre and State Governments including Hrusikesh Panda, former Union Tribal Secretary and N.C. Saxena, former Secretary, Planning Commission will attend the workshop. Vanjeevan will be a programme to identify the problems in livelihood issues in select districts of six states having low HDI of tribal people in the first phase. The states are Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Telangana. In the second phase the programme will be implemented in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Tripura. The programme will focus on the identification of local resources, keeping in view the existing skill level. It will facilitate utilization of funds under various government programmes for the programme. The National Resource Centre will serve as a platform for livelihood mapping, skill gap analysis and knowledge hub where consolidation of best livelihood and entrepreneurship models will be accessible for tribal entrepreneurship development. (The Hindu 14/12/16)

19. MoS home blames Maoists for tribal’s underdevelopment (6)

RANCHI: Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir has blamed it on Maoists for underdevelopment of tribals in the country. Addressing media here on Friday after attending the concluding part of three-day workshop on “LWE theatre – Interstate operations and coordination’ hosted by the CRPF, Ahir said that the living standard of tribals in most parts of the country is around 150 years behind that of our modern cities. “The Maoists have not allowed development work to penetrate to the far flung hamlets,” he accused reiterating his government’s commitment to wipe out naxalism of all forms from the country with full might.”We don’t want to use bullets against our own people and its better if they understand our language (Hum chahte hain ki goli nahi boli se baat bane) and get prepared to shun violence,” he said. Ahir expressed disappointment over use of Central Auxiliary Police Forces (CAPF) for controlling left wing extremism in different states. “If we are not compelled to use our forces within the mainland they can be engaged at the borders,” he said. Ahir participated in the concluding section of three day workshop in which police from ten LWE affected states were present along with the top officials of CRPF. He took a stock of the situation prevailing in all ten states which includes Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh considered to be red corridor region of the country. “Our central minister Rajnath Singh has agreed to extend full cooperation in terms of financial support and assistance of the security forces in these states to ensure that the development work is not affected,” he said.Ahir pointed finger to the fact that most of the central welfare schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, extending loans under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna and skill development programmes have failed to reach the tribal hamlets because of Maoist presence. “Construction of schools, health centres, railway, industry, irrigation projects and roads have also suffered because of presence of Maoists which has not just retarded government’s effort for development but has deprived the tribals of facilities that they should enjoy as citizens of an independent nation,” he said underlining the fact that everyone in the country has equal right to life and opportunities. Ahir expressed happiness over the approach of CRPF and state police in Jharkhand and congratulated them for successfully running campaigns of social policing. “I was told that the forces are now living in homogeneity with the tribal population with due regards to their culture and practices,” he said appreciating the surrender policy which has already encouraged many LWE activists to put down their arms in state. (Times of India 16/12/16)

20. Government committed to rehabilitation of tribals in Diddalli: MP (6)

MYSURU:  Member of Parliament Pratap Simha on Monday said tribal families evicted from Diddalli in Devamachi Reserve Forest in Kodagu — which comes under Mysuru Parliamentary constituency — will be suitably rehabilitated. However, he ruled out the possibility of their resettlement in the same place, as is being demanded by activists. Mr. Simha told reporters that the government was aware of the problems plaguing the tribals and was committed to addressing them, but the law of the land does not provide for their resettlement inside the forest. “Even a court will take strong objection to any violation as Devamachi was declared a reserve forest way back in 1891,” he said. “But there is adequate land for the construction of houses and resettlement of the tribes in the region, and the government has identified nearly 253 acres of land in Somwarpet and 53 acres near Dubare where the resettlement plans can be implemented,” Mr. Simha said. Tribal rights will be met under the Tribal Sub-Plan, under which the communities can be provided with housing, other amenities and three acres of land. Even the Scheduled Caste groups living in the vicinity could be rehabilitated under the Ambedkar Abhivrudhi Nigam, the MP said. However, he hinted that not all the protesters at Diddalli were locals and that outsiders from coffee estates as well might have pitched their camps in order to claim three acres of land. Mr. Simha said according to State government statistics, 2,703 applications were received for rehabilitation from Scheduled Tribes under the Forest Rights Act, of which 1,467 had been processed and deeds distributed, and 1,174 rejected. He said the Diddalli issue was not an overnight development and some of the tribes were misled into believing that they were eligible for three acres of land, which had resulted in mass encampment in the reserve forest about six months ago. “Forest Department personnel brought it to the notice of the administration and sought permission to get them evacuated, but it was put off owing to the Cauvery agitation, Tipu Jayanti, etc. Even Forest Minister Ramanath Rai is aware of the problem. The genuine demands of the affected people will be met,” Mr. Simha said. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

21. Rajasthan worst place for SCs/STs, Uttar Pradesh comes a close secnd: Study (6)

JAIPUR/ LUCKNOW: Dalits and the tribals are most vulnerable to atrocities in Rajasthan in comparison to other states in the country. The state tops the list with highest number of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SCs and STs between 2013 and 2015. Rajasthan (23,861), Uttar Pradesh (23,556) and Bihar (21,061) registered highest number of cases under the amended Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act in the list of highest number of atrocities against SCs and STs. Rajasthan, UP and Bihar are followed by Madhya Pradesh (14,016), Andhra Pradesh (9,054), Odisha (8,084), Karnataka (7,565), Maharashtra (6,546), Tamil Nadu (5,131) and Gujarat (3,969) in the list of highest number of atrocities against SCs and STs. The figures were tabled in a meeting called by Union Social Justice and Empowerment minister Thaawarchand Gehlot to review the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.Gehlot asked state governments to ensure faster disposal of cases and improve conviction rate.Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) said the majority of cases of atrocities against the Dalits and adivasis in Rajasthan were related to land dispute. “Untouchability, cases of rape and violence against women and children, custodial torture by police, violence during elections, and or assault on Dalit bridegroom are some of the common crimes that the vulnerable section faces in Rajasthan,” CDR patron P L Mimroth said. “The Rajasthan government came up with an amendment in January 2016 and paved way for exclusive courts to hear cases of atrocities against SC/STs. Though all 33 districts in the state have these courts, what is concerning is the low conviction rate,” Mimroth said. While the overall conviction rate is about 10%, it is just about 4% in cases of atrocities against women primarily because the victims and witnesses turn hostile under pressure. “In some cases, the victims leave their villages because of threat to their lives,” he added. (Times of India 20/12/16)

22. 221 residential schools for SCs, STs (6)

HYDERABAD:  The Government has sanctioned 221 residential schools for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities in different parts of Telangana and they will be operational by the next academic year. This is in addition to the 266 schools sanctioned during the current academic year as part of the State Government’s initiatives to ensure that students from lower strata of society compete with their counterparts in private sector, Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Kadiam Srihari said. Replying to a query in the Legislative Assembly during the Question Hour on Thursday, the Minister said that the Government had accorded priority to girls’ education and accordingly, 268 schools of the total 487 sanctioned were for girls. This is in addition to 30 degree colleges for girls from the underprivileged communities. Each school building would be provided with all facilities involving an investment of Rs. 23 crore each and the Government would spend around Rs. 11,200 crore over the next few years to improve the educational infrastructure in the State. In addition to sanctioning new schools, the Government had decided to recruit teaching and non-teaching staff for these institutions and accordingly, proposals were submitted to the TS Public Service Commission. The total number of vacancies in the social welfare residential schools was expected to be around 5,315, minority residential schools 2,240 and in tribal welfare residential schools 1,771. In the first phase, it was decided to fill 1,794 posts in social welfare residential schools, 630 posts in minority residential schools and 516 posts in tribal welfare residential schools. In the meantime, arrangements were being made to engage suitable persons on outsourcing basis till regular appointments were made, he added. Several Congress members including D.K. Arnua sought setting up of social welfare residential schools in their respective constituencies. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

23. Over 1.7 lakh pattas distributed among tribals: Centre (6)

Bhubaneswar, Dec 22 (PTI) Affirming its resolve to empower tribals and promote entrepreneurship among them, the Centre today said more than 1.7 lakh land pattas have been distributed to them under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. “The Centre has distributed 1,70,149 pattas among the tribal people by September, 2016 under the Forest Rights Act, 2006,” Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jasvantsinh Bhabhor said while launching “Vanjeevan”, a national resource centre for tribal livelihood issues here. So far, 12,306 acres of land had been distributed through this measure, he said. Stating that the Centre was also committed to develop entrepreneurship among tribal people, Bhabhor said that around Rs 1,426 crore had been provided as loans to tribal entrepreneurs through the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). Emphasising that the Modi government has taken initiatives to empower the tribals and ensure capacity building among them, he said 4 percent industrial raw materials worth Rs 28,000 crore are to be procured from tribal entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector through PSUs. In order to encourage tribal entrepreneurs, Tribal Affairs Ministry is taking steps for providing them linkage with vendors, contractors and suppliers, he said adding that people belonging to scheduled tribes and scheduled castes are also being encouraged by steps for financial inclusion. While special measures are taken to benefit tribal entrepreneurs through start-up India, Make in India, Digital India and Mudra programme, tribal youth are also being imparted training for skill development through Skill India mission, the Union minister said. Noting that there are around 700 tribal communities in the country, Bhabhor said the newly launched Vanjeevan national resource centre (NRC) would play a major role in boosting self-employment and entrepreneurship among tribals. Vanjeevan is a collaborative venture between UNDP and National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC) under Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.  (India Today 22/12/16)

24. Cong rasta roko over Govt apathy to tribals (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) on Sunday announced that a two-hour ‘rasta roko’ agitation at all district headquarters towns will be held on Monday to protest against the indifference of the State Government towards the welfare of dalits and tribals. The rasta roko will start from 10 am and continue till 12 pm, chairperson of the ST Department of OPCC Pradip Majhi said. The OPCC has announced the rasta roko agitation demanding compensation of `12 lakh each to the families of children who have died due to Japanese Encephalitis in Malkangiri district. The other demands include action against police personnel involved in the firing on innocent tribals and dalits at Gumudumaha in Kandhamal district in which six persons died. Alleging that dalits and tribals have been neglected during the 17-year rule of the BJD, the OPCC demanded that vacant post of doctors in tribal-dominated districts including Malkangiri should be filled up by the Government on a priority basis. Criticising the visit of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to Malkangiri on Saturday, the OPCC alleged that compensation of `3 lakh each for families of victims of Japanese Encephalitis was announced keeping in view the ensuing panchayat election. The fast-unto-death, launched by Majhi and Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria demanding rights for tribals and dalits, entered fifth day on Sunday. (The New Indian Express 26/12/16)

25. CRPF sets up exclusive tribal battalion in Bastar (6)

New Delhi: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Tuesday told Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that for the first time, an exclusive composite tribal battalion was being raised by recruiting male and female tribal youth from Chhattisgarh`s Bastar region. This is also a first recruitment process, where CRPF have implemented 33 per cent reservation at the constable level recruitment for women, said an official statement. “The recruitment process is going on and is likely to be completed by mid- January, 2017. The recruits will be joining during April 2017 for their basic training,” said the release. The CRPF also told Rajnath Singh about the steps being taken to promote the digitisation campaign on cashless transactions and to make the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) personnel i.e CRPF, Border Security Force, the Sashastra Seema Bal, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force, the National Security Guard and Assam Rifles – aware about the benefits of usage of latest technology in cashless transaction. The Minister advised the heads of CAPFs to organise workshops up to the battalion level in their forces so as to apprise all the force personnel and their families about benefits and different models of cashless transaction, as per the release. (Zee News 28/12/16)

WOMEN

26. ‘Women coming forward against harassment’ (8)

PANAJI: As per the National Crime Records Bureau, 57 and 119 cases of sexual harassment at workplace were reported under section 509 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) in year 2014 and 2015.The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development said the increase in numbers shows that women were coming forward to seek police assistance in such cases, instead of suffering in silence. The government had enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 to provide a secure workplace environment to women. “Reason behind sexual harassment of women at workplace [is a] socio-culture mindset which is an outcome of deeply rooted patriarchal social constructs,” a press release by the Ministry on Friday said. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 mandates constitution of Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) in all public and private workplaces. Women can submit their complaints to the ICC directly, or to a Local Complaints Committee which is constituted at district level. (The Hindu 3/12/16)

27. 3 women commit suicide in different parts of Lucknow (8)

LUCKNOW: Three women ended their lives over tiffs with family in different parts of the city on Friday In the first incident, Nima (30) immolated herself after an argument with her husband Dinesh Kumar at their home in Sarojininagar late on Thursday night.Nima has left behind three children. In the second incident, reported from Bazaarkhala, Yasmeen (20) hanged herself at her parents’ house in Haiderganj after a spat with her husband Imran over the phone. According to the police, Yasmeen got married to Imran of Kaiserbagh on August 19 this year. She was being tortured by her in-laws over dowry since. On Friday morning, she came to visit her parents. There, she had a heated argument with her husband over the phone and then locked herself in a room and hanged herself. When she did not come out for long, the door was broken and she was found hanging. “We took her to KGMU trauma centre where she was declared brought dead by doctors,” said Farid, Yasmeen’s father. In Hassanganj, Nandini (19) committed suicide at her home near Mankameshwar temple. According to the police, Nandini was a student of BA (I) at Shia PG College. She was reportedly not going to college and had had a tiff with her parents over studies.Around 2pm, she locked herself in a room. When her father knocked on it and she did not open it, he broke it open to find his daughter dead.She was later taken to KGMU where she was declared brought dead. Her father Shivkumar is a clerk in LDA. Police have sent the bodies for autopsy . No FIR has been registered in any of the cases. (Times of India 3/12/16)

28. Agra sees rise in number domestic violence cases (8)

AGRA: After repeatedly abusing and beating her for years, on the night of November 13, 27-year-old Niloufer’s husband dragged her to the roof of his house, tied her up with a plastic rope and emptied a five-litre kerosene canister on her, before allegedly setting her on fire. The mother-of-three was charred to death at her husband’s house in Sayeed Nagar of Tajganj area, her home for eight years, since her marriage to Shannu. “Our inability to pay dowry cost my sister her life. Her died in the most brutal manner,” Niloufer’s brother —– told TOI. While police have filed a case, the accused, along with his family, is still absconding. The number of cases of domestic violence (DV) against women reported in the district has seen a sharp rise, of at least 45%, in comparison to last year’s figures. According to Agra police, in last 11 months, 520 cases of cruelty against woman by husband and in-laws were reported, while it was 358 last year. Police also recorded 24% rise in dowry deaths. Till November 30, 82 women were allegedly murdered by husband and in-laws, while 66 victims lost their lives in DV in the district last year. On November 12, 20-year-old Babita was tied up with a chair and allegedly set on fire by in-laws and husband. The incident took place in Sherkhan village of Khandauli. Three-months pregnant, Mamta Singh, 22, was brutally-murdered after her in-laws drowned her in Yamuna with the help of a tantric on July 12. In all these cases, the accused were booked under various relevant sections of Indian Penal Code, including 498-A, under which a woman’s husband and even his relatives can be booked for subjecting her to cruelty, 304-B (dowry death) and 302 (punishment for murder). According to Vivek Sarabhoy, senior lawyer at Agra district court, in DV cases, the accused are generally set free by courts due to poor police investigation. “Since, the victim is killed at the in-laws house, there are often no witnesses to the incident and police, as such, fails to establish the sequence and prove the crime,” he said. Speaking to TOI, Anurag Vats, additional superintendent of police, said, “The cases of DV are registered directly from the court and is send for mediation before the actual trial begins. We also try to create awareness among the complainants about various women-friendly laws.” In 2015, UP reported 8,660 cases of cruelty by husband and his relatives and 2,335 deaths for dowry. Women’s rights activist Roli Tiwari Mishra, member of state woman commission, said, “It’s a shame that dowry deaths are still prevalent in our society. Unfortunately, women have to pay a price if they give birth to a girl child. In fact, the number of DV cases have always been high. I believe that due to awareness about new women-friendly laws more cases are being reported to police. A lot more needs to be done to end violence against women.” (Times of India 7/12/16)

29. Women’s empowerment government’s top priority: Kumari Manju Verma (8)

PATNA: State social welfare minister Kumari Manju Verma inaugurated the government’s ‘One Stop Centre’ scheme for counselling and rehabilitation of women, who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, here on Friday. “The opening of the centre is a big step towards rehabilitation of women in the state. The centre will provide shelter, counselling, legal aid and medical assistance to the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” Verma said.”Women’s empowerment is one of the top priorities of the government. Chief minister Nitish Kumar has set an example by providing 35% reservation to women in government jobs. However, women, especially those in the remote areas, still struggle to fight for their own rights. Such women should take help from the newly opened centre,” the minister said, adding that women should also learn to help each other. Dr N Vijaya Laxmi, chairman-cum-MD of Women Development Corporation, said the ‘women helpline’ which was earlier functioning from Indira Bhawan, will now shift to the newly opened centre. “The women helpline, started in 1999 with the help of Unicef, has been a success in the state. Every district of the state has its own women helpline number,” she said, adding that recruitments would soon be made for the one stop centre.”Seven more such centres will come up at Gaya, Begusarai, Nalanda, Gopalganj, Purnia, Saran and Darbhanga soon,” she added. Patna DM Sanjay Kumar Agrawal said the centre would be linked with Gardiner Road Hospital for medical assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. (Times of India 10/12/16)

30. Girl mortality high in India: UNICEF (8)

INDORE: India’s fight against gender-based discrimination takes a hit with the fact that unlike most neighbouring countries, child mortality rate among girls in India is higher than boys. “The girl child mortality rate is 17 per cent higher than that of boys as per the latest data compiled by UNICEF,” said Dr Gagan Gupta, team lead for newborn and child health, UNICEF India. Though detailed analysis is needed to ascertain the root cause behind the higher girl child mortality rate, social outlook can be attributed as one of the reasons behind the imbalance in boys and girls infant mortality rate. Dr Gupta praised efforts made by government, NGOs and child care specialists since India witnessed a decline of 25 percent in infant mortality rate between 2009 and 2014. Speaking about the child mortality rate up to 5 years in India, Dr Gupta said that out of 57 per cent infants, 50 per cent die during first month of their birth. “We need to ensure delivery in hospitals under experts’ supervision. Besides, newborn care for first 24 hours is essential” he added.Dr Gupta claimed that breast feeding has helped in bringing down newborn death rate to 27 per cent However, due to many reasons, only 45 percent women are able to breastfeed their child in urban area while in rural area, the percentage goes to 60 per cent. “Time crunch for working women, urbanisation, cesarean delivery effects, and in absence of proper counselling, the newborn fails to get breastfeed” he said. Dr Gupta said that situation can further be improved by adopting some practices like keeping a focus to improve gender imbalance and giving breastfeeding a stronger push. (Times of India 11/12/16)

31. Government plans equal abortion rights for single women (8)

NEW DELHI: In a move that will make it easier for single women to safely and legally terminate unwanted pregnancies, the health ministry has recommended recognising “failure of contraceptive” and “unplanned pregnancy” as lawful reasons for abortion among all women, married or otherwise. At present, the law recognises these two reasons for abortion only in case of “married” women. The relief is part of a series of recommendations made by the health ministry for amendment of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The proposal is likely to be taken up by the Cabinet soon after the ongoing Parliament session ends, sources said. The existing MTP Act requires a doctor to indicate a reason for abortion. This could be to save the life of the woman, in case of rape or incest, or due to the physical or mental health of the woman. Recognising the growing reality of sexually active single or unmarried women, the government’s recommendations aim to widen the purview of legal abortion. Experts say the move is progressive and will give women safe and legal abortion options. Other amendments to the law dating back to 1971 would allow abortion any time during pregnancy for “selective” foetal abnormality, which cannot be detected during the 20-week gestation period. Currently, the law allows medical abortion only till 20 weeks of pregnancy.It will also help address the social taboo attached to sexual activity of single or unmarried women and instead allow them a right over their body. The ministry has also recommended allowing homoeopaths, nurses and midwives to conduct non-invasive abortions with training. The proposed amendments also include extending the gestation period from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for “special categories”, which is also likely to include single women with unwanted pregnancy, apart from disabled and other vulnerable women. “Once the amendments bill is passed by Parliament, the ministry will elaborate on implementation of the law by notifying rules. That will bring more clarity,” an official said. “The amendments will increase women’s access to safe abortion and we are hoping the government will attempt to pass the bill in Parliament at the earliest,” said Vinoj Manning, executive director of IPAS India, a non-profit organisation working to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to reduce maternal mortality. (Times of India 12/12/16)

32. DCW files documents on rape complaints, steps taken in HC (8)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Friday filed in the high court annexures and documents on rape complaints received by it and the steps taken to help survivors. The commission said that its Rape Crisis Cell and Crisis Intervention Centre provides speedy justice and compensation to survivors of sexual abuse, for which it regularly communicates with the police and prosecutors. Citing an example, the women’s panel said that in May 2016, the Rape Crisis Cell had received as many as 124 reports of alleged rape from across Delhi, of which 84 involved minor survivors. DCW also referred to the letters received from chief prosecutors of all district courts in Delhi regarding trials in the cases. The women’s panel had intervened in the HC in the Nirbhaya suo moto matter. Since then a division bench has been tracking progress on a range of issues related to women’s security and safety in the city. DCW also filed copies of its notices and letters sent to senior police officials, seeking their intervention in cases of rape, gang rape, acid attack and sexual assault to prove that the Centre and Delhi Police failed to act on its recommendations to improve women’s safety in the capital. HC has appointed advocate Meera Bhatia an amicus in the case. DCW had moved the HC after the rape of a three-and-a-half-year-old girl at Sarai Rohilla, and the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Keshavpuram recently. The court had sought a reply from the Centre, Delhi Police and the AAP government. The commission said a high-level committee on women’s safety should be set up to take decisions and monitor implementation of the same. It said the central government should use the Nirbhaya Fund to install CCTV cameras in DTC buses and at bus stops.It also sought an explanation for the delay in notification of the increased relief under Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme 2015 for rape and acid attack survivors, an issue being monitored by a division bench comprising Justices B D Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar. The HC fixed a deadline for notification of the scheme and hoped that LG would take steps in this regard at the earliest. The bench had earlier red flagged problems during forensic investigations. It was distressed that “even in rape cases, there has been a noticeable delay of around 120 days in sending samples to the labs. “This results in putrefaction, as a result of which the labs cannot return a definitive finding, which in turn adversely impacts the investigation and the trial.” The court has also goaded the Centre to fill up thousands of posts lying vacant in Delhi Police and appoint more personnel so that the city is better patrolled. HC will now take stock of progress in implementing its directions next week. (Times of India 17/12/16)

33. More married women at work than single: Census (8)

NEW DELHI: How does marriage affect a woman’s job prospects, and later, how does she negotiate issues like the number of children and their gender? Recently released Census 2011 data offers some interesting insights. Among those in the child-bearing age of 15-49 years, married women are more likely to be working than unmarried women. Those with regular jobs are also likely to have fewer children. But there is a downside to this: with fewer children, the preference for a son becomes an overriding factor, causing a fall in the sex ratio. The lot of non-working women, who make up the majority, is no better. Confined to “domestic duties”, they not only have more children than working women, the sex ratio among their children is much worse, indicating a stronger stranglehold of patriarchal values. In the child-bearing age group, just 27% of unmarried women are working compared with 41% among married women. Experts say that most unmarried women are young and families don’t allow them to go out to work. Some are students in higher levels of school or college.The total fertility rate or average number of children born to a woman over her full child-bearing years has dipped to 2.9 for working women from 3.3 a decade ago. On the other hand, the fertility rate is higher at 3.1 among non-workers, only marginally down from 3.2 in 2001. In both cases, the sex ratio of children born in the last year is falling, but more so among working women — from 912 in 2001 to 901 in 2011. Among non-workers, the sex ratio fell from 901 to 894 in this period.Marginal workers — women who have irregular or casual jobs for less than six months in a year — show the tense equation between a desire to limit children and son preference. The fertility rate is still high among them at 3.4 though down from 3.7 a decade ago. But the sex ratio has slightly improved from 911 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. Economic reasons may prevent such women and their families from accessing sex-selective abortions, often forcing more pregnancies in pursuit of sons. Also, underprivileged sections like tribals and Muslims form a larger chunk of marginal workers and sex-selective abortion is not as acceptable in these communities. The wide chasm between urban and rural India is a striking feature of this data. Half of the married women in rural areas work while in urban areas just 22% go out for jobs. In urban areas, fertility rates have dropped drastically with women main workers having just two children on an average compared to 3.1 for their rural counterparts.Side by side, sex ratio too has suffered a chilling decline from 936 to 906 for them, the biggest decline among all economic groups. (Times of India 19/12/16)

34. Men earning more even as women drop out of India’s workforce (8)

Men in India earn Rs.112 more than women on average per day, as per a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 2015 report. While men earn Rs. 396 per day on average, women earn only a little over Rs. 284. The report shows the average per day wages earned in rural and urban areas from July 2011 to June in 2012. Combining the data gives the average wage earned by a man or a woman in each state or union territory. Men earn more everywhere in India except for Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The wage gap shows up consistently across various sectors like electricity, agriculture and services and different educational levels among men and women. The mining and quarrying sector throws up the starkest pay gaps. Even among educated workers in this sector, the gap persists. For instance, while an illiterate man living in a rural area will earn fifty rupees more than his female counterpart, an urban male graduate will earn almost a thousand rupees more. The only sector where women are paid more than men is transport and storage even though the gains are almost marginal. Where an illiterate rural woman would earn sixty rupees more than her male counterpart, an urban graduate in the field would earn barely ten rupees more. “Women in India are over-represented in low paying jobs and under-represented in high paying jobs,” says Xavier Estupinan, Wage Specialist at International Labour Organization (ILO). Estupinan believes that such an uneven representation of women in workforce is one of the reasons for the wage gap. In the Employment and Unemployment Survey by the NSSO in 2011, it was found in 2004, one in three rural workers was a woman. By 2009, one in four such workers was a woman. Experts have argued that for India to grow, it will have to bring more women to the workforce. As per ILO data, an urban Indian woman earned Rs. 125 per day in 1993. At the same time, her male counterpart earned almost 160 rupees. By 2012, he was earning 270 rupees while the woman earned more than 200 rupees. While the declining workforce participation of women is still a concern, Estupinan says that the wage gap shrinking now as women are better educated and aware of their rights at workplace. (Hindustan Times 21/12/16)

35. Women commission to look into Baran rape case (8)

JAIPUR: A day after a physical trainer teacher was held by Baran police for raping a minor student, Rajasthan State Commission for Women (RSCW) said that it has sent a team to probe if the trainer had molested other students of the school. SWC chairperson Suman Sharma told TOI that a team has already landed in Baran to take stock of the situation. “We want to check if the accused teacher had molested other girls of this school too. Our team also met with the parents of the child and assured them of all possible help,” she added. Sharma added that teacher has been suspended from his government job “We have been informed that a local sarpanch was trying to pressurize the parents to withdraw their complained, cops have been informed about him too,” she added.The accused teacher identified as Abdul Hanif, who teaches in a government school in a village near Baran district was arrested by the police on Monday following a complained by the parents of the child. “The father of the minor had lodged a complained against the accused on Sunday. He alleged that Hanif sexually abused her daughter multiple times on the pretext of teaching her,” said Ram Singh, SHO, Mahila Thana. “After recording statements of the minor, the teacher was arrested under section 376 (rape) of the IPC and other relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO),” Singh told TOI. The district police booked Hanif under relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities act as the victim is a Dalit. In his complained to the police the father has alleged that, on Saturday too, the teacher took her student to a hotel in Baran on the pretext of sports tournament. (Times of India 21/12/16)

36. Make justice system sympathetic to sexual abuse victims, says SC (8)

NEW DELHI:  A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Sapre said the criminal justice system needed significant reforms to institutionalise a more sympathetic approach in which the sexual abuse survivor was the focus. “It would be adding insult to injury to tell a woman that her rape claims will not be believed unless it is corroborated in material particulars,” the court observed in a recent judgment. The court was restoring the conviction of a man found guilty of raping his nine-year old niece in 2009. He was sent to jail for 12 years. The court found, in this case, positive proof and a credible sequence of events linking the man to the crime. The verdict, based on the appeal filed by the Himachal Pradesh government, dismissed the defence’s argument that there was a delay in filing the FIR in the rape case, which they claimed was fabricated. “It is not easy to lodge a complaint of this nature exposing the prosecutrix [victim] to the risk of social stigma which unfortunately still prevails in our society,” the court responded. Moreover, it added that “a decision to lodge FIR becomes more difficult and harder when the accused happens to be a family member.” Justices Sikri and Sapre also observed that in many cases rape by family members was not reported to the police by the victim or her immediate family, fearing social stigma. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

37. State police register 2,084 rape cases till October (8)

KOLLAM:  From January to October this year, the police have registered 2,084 rape cases across the State, which is higher than the annual figures of the past 10 years, statistics released by the State Crime Records Bureau show.Thiruvananthapuram district topped with 172 cases of rape. Since 2010, the highest number of rape cases in the State was being registered in the State capital. Ernakulam stood second with 148 cases and Malappuram followed with 137 cases. The least number of 59 cases was registered in Kannur. In 2007, the number of cases of adults raped in Thiruvananthapuram was 68 and the total for the State was 500. Statistics released by the SCRB show that 765 of the rape victims during the period were minors.Fifteen cases of dowry deaths were registered in the State during the first ten months of the year, with Palakkad reporting three such deaths. Twenty four minors were murdered during the period and one case of infanticide was also registered. Eight cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act were also registered in the State. The statistics also show that 126 women and 124 children were kidnapped during the period. Thiruvananthapuram district was on top with 657 cases of molestation registered till October this year. The railway police also registered 27 molestation cases, indicating the crime on trains and railway stations. Across the State, 3,351 molestation cases were registered till October this year. The police also registered 2,822 cases of cruelty to women by husband or his relatives during the period.In all, 11,608 cases of crimes against women and 2,358 cases of crimes against children were registered by the police across the State during the first 10 months of this year. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

38. 17 children working as labourers rescued in Ballari (14)

BALLAR: Based on credible information, officials of departments of Labour, Child Welfare Committee, child labour project and education, led by the Tahasildar, raided a house in Sonta Linganna colony and found the children, who were kept there by one Mohan Reddy. Preliminary enquiry revealed that the children were from different places in and around Ballari district and were being sent to work in wine shops. Tahasidar said that a detailed investigation would be held and stern legal action initiated against the culprits. (The Hindu 1/12/16)

39. National survey to measure nutrition levels of children (14)

New Delhi: The UNICEF has teamed up with the Indian government to conduct the first ever national survey to measure nutrition levels of children in the country. As per the survey, data is being collected to quantify deficiencies of micro nutrients, vitamin and mineral as well as worm infestation among children. According to UNICEF, the findings of the exercise will start trickling in early next year. A total of 1,20,000 children in the age group of 0-19 years are being surveyed across the country through systematic random sampling as part of the exercise. The survey has been completed in seven states and will be concluded in another five states by the end of this year, it said. All the states of the country are expected to be covered by the end of 2017. UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist Jee Hyun Rah explained how lack of data leads to gaps in government policies which can be addressed through this comprehensive ‘National Nutrition Survey’. “In terms of nutritional aspect, there is just one intervention from the Government of India in order to fight anaemia, which is by providing folic acid and iron supplements. But anaemia is caused not merely because of iron deficiency, but also due to a whole bunch of nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin A, folic acid, zinc and even protein deficiency. Apart from this, there is a whole spectrum of infection as well as worm infestation,” Rah said. “The reason why there is no intervention for these multiple deficiencies is that we do not know where the population stands in terms of mineral and vitamin requirements,” the official said. UNICEF said indicators for over-nutrition (which causes obesity and diabetes) are also being calculated through body composition and fat distribution as part of the study. Importantly, association between lack of nourishment and its impact on school readiness, cognitive development and educational outcomes will also be determined, it said. The global body said while surveys of this nature carried out at state levels in India have so far only studied measurements and proportions of human body like height, weight and mid-upper arm circumference, this time, blood, urine and stool samples are being collected as well. UNICEF said a fact sheet of specific indicators for each state where the survey has been completed will be released early next year. A committee comprising of national experts and chaired by the Health Ministry will decide the specific indicators to be included in the fact sheet as well as the cut-offs to be used to define deficiency. “We will have state-specific data sets. We will need to coordinate with respective state governments to devise suitable response as well as guidelines for intervention. Also, nutrition is linked to health, sanitation, cultural practices, social norms and all these need to be taken into account,” Henriette Ahrens, Deputy Representative-Programme, UNICEF said.The survey is being funded by Aditya Mittal, Group CFO and CEO Europe ArcelorMittal, along with his wife Megha Mittal. They have contributed nearly USD 10 million for the initiative. (Indian Express 4/12/16)

40. 3 Nalanda villages declared child labour free (14)

BIHARSHARIF : In a significant development, three villages in Nalanda district have been declared child labour free, a unique feat perhaps not achieved by any other district in the state. The villages are Karimganj Balwa under Kolawan panchayat, Mahathwar under Barah panchayat and Sadikpur in Pachaura panchayat. All the panchayats fall under Harnaut block of the district. Here parents do not seek financial support from children and ensure that their wards attend schools on regular basis. At a function organized at Harnaut block office on Wednesday, Nalanda deputy director, child protection department, lauded the efforts of ‘Save The Children’, village organizations and others for achieving the feat. She said, “Child labour is an issue of national concern and every sensitive citizen should come forward to ensure that children are sent to schools, are allowed to play like other children and remain protected against exploitations.” Harnaut block circle officer (CO) Umesh Kumar said, “We can imagine of a good society only when we ensure protection of child rights.” ‘Save the Children’ in association with Jeevika launched a campaign against child labour in 50 villages of Harnaut block in 2011. They engaged women of village organizations to connect every family to government-sponsored social security schemes like old age pension, subsidized ration etc. Over a period of time, poor and deprived villagers started getting benefits of those schemes and they gradually withdrew their children from working as labourers. Now their children go to schools and the village organizations not only keep an eye on their regular attendance in schools but also ensure that teachers do not skip classes. With their intervention, proper mid-day-meal is served to the children and they are provided every benefit meant for them. Two other villages–Mubarakpur and Chatiana–in the same block had earlier achieved the similar distinction, said Rinki Kumari, from the district unit of ‘Save the Children’. (Times of India 7/12/16)

41. Mukherjee to open global campaign for child rights (14)

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee will host a summit of Nobel laureates and global leaders here on December 10-11 in support of a campaign for child rights, it was announced on Thursday. Titled “100 Million for 100 Million”, the campaign aims to mobilise 100 million youths and children to work for 100 million underprivileged children across the world, the Rashtrapati Bhavan said. Mukherjee will host the “Laureates and Leaders” summit to deliberate on ways build a strong moral platform for protecting children from violence. The event is being organised by the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation.Child rights activist Satyarthi will be one of the five Nobel Prize winners at the summit. The others are Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, former Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Tawakkol Karman (Yemen). The Nobel prize winning organisations attending the event are the International Labour Organisation (ILO), ICRC, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, MSF or Doctors Without Borders and Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. The other VIPs who will be coming are Princess Charlene of Monaco, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Princess Laurentien of The Netherlands, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo, The Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs as well as Angel Gurria, Secretary-General, OECD. A Town Hall meeting will be organized on December 11 when the Nobel Laureates and others will interact with an audience of child and youth leaders, government and business leaders and civil society groups. A total of 4.52 lakh cases of human trafficking and forced labour were registered in India between 2008 and 2012, according to information provided by the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation. India is said to be home to some 4.3 million child labourers. (Business Standard 8/12/16)

42. Unicef pushes plan for child-friendly Kerala (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) is pushing an action plan to make Kerala the country’s first ‘child-friendly state’. The UN agency hopes to achieve this goal by implementing programmes based on the indicators to reduce child malnutrition, ensure proper immunisation and to protect children from all forms of abuse. Joining hands with the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) and Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR), it plans to make all the 1,200 units of local self-government (LSG) bodies child-friendly. “The first pilot phase of the child-friendly indicator-based awareness and training programme was implemented in six LSG bodies. The six local bodies were the Nilambur municipality and Engandiyoor panchayat in Thrissur, Srikrishnapuram in Palakkad, Pulamanthole in Malappuram, Noolpuzha in Wayanad and Tuluperiya in Kasaragod,” said Job Zachariah, Unicef chief for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “Now it is in the second phase of its implementation in 154 LSG bodies and plans are afoot to extend it to all 1,200 units of LSGs in Kerala,” he added. Unicef, with the state government, aims at ensuring a child-friendly Kerala by implementing the indicators such best baby-friendly feeding practices with breast feeding in the first hour of birth. Immunisation, nutrition, health care, protection against violence and abuse, safe drinking water, sanitation, education and entertainment or space to play is also part of it, he said.”To commemorate Unicef’s completion of its 70 years, working for the rights of the child in 190 countries, Unicef has now changed its tagline to ‘For every child, a fair chance’ to ensure that their rights are protected by giving them a fair chance, a voice, education, safe home, love, clean water, hope, laughter, play and a future to look forward to. Earlier, Unicef had the tagline ‘Unite for Children’,” he said. He, along with Unicef communication specialist Sugata Roy, informed that the genesis of Kudumbashree programme can be attributed to the Urban Basic Services for the Poor (UBSP) models initiated in Alappuzha supported by Unicef in 1990. Unicef declared Kerala as the first lost-and-find centre in the world for initiating baby-friendly hospital initiatives in the state in 2002, yet the officials indicate that now it needs to be boosted up further. (Times of India 12/12/16)

43. Laws on child rights remain on paper (14)

CHENNAI: It has been 24 years since India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on December 11, 1992. While several comprehensive laws protecting the rights of children were later passed, child rights experts are of the view that ineffective implementation of these laws continues to plague society. “We first need to define who is a child,” said P. Joseph Victor Raj, national convener, Campaign Against Child Labour, pointing out to the Convention which mandates that any human being below the age of 18 should be considered a child. “Though the country agreed to several principles, there were certain reservations on child labour, citing lack of resources, but they did ban work in hazardous industries. However the latest Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 has posed a new challenge to us all,” he said. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 allows children below the age of 18 to work with their families or family enterprises after school or during vacation, except in hazardous occupations which have been slashed down from 83 to three — mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act. Girija Kumar Babu, general secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), pointed out that more children would end up dropping out from schools due to the new Act, which will also violate the Right to Education Act. “If a child spends many hours working, how can he or she study? Further, eight years of schooling is not enough to survive in the 21st century. This needs to be looked at closely,” she said. Experts further pointed out to the flaws in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which mandates setting up of one or more Child Welfare Committees (CWC) in every district across the country and the proposed National Education Policy which differentiates between performing and non-performing students. “ The legal framework needs to be more child friendly,” said R. Vidyasagar, former child protection specialist, UNICEF. “We undoubtedly have progressed after the ratification with UNCRC, but what we need is governance and proper implementation of laws that were made to protect their interests,” A. Narayanan, director, CHANGEindia. (The Hindu 12/12/16)

44. ‘Panels should be proactive in curbing child rights violation’ (14)

GURGAON: With crimes against children rising every year, a senior Supreme Court judge has urged the national and the state commissions for protection of child rights to play a proactive role to deal with the violations. According to Justice Madan B Lokur, even after a decade of constitution of these commissions, there is still not enough awareness about their role and the various areas that they look into. “The national as well as the state commissions are quasi-judicial bodies and they must use these powers for the benefit of the children,” Lokur said, while addressing a national workshop for the protection of child rights, held in Gurgaon on Saturday. He said there is an array of issues that need attention with respect to child protection in the country — health, education and hygiene, apart from safety and security. Quoting the numbers for crime against children in the country, Lokur said 95,000 cases have been registered in 2015, which is more than any other kind of crime in the IPC. “The number of cases registered under POCSO was around 15,000. These numbers are a cause of constant worry for the nation,” said the apex court judge. Discussing the various provisions of the Constitution of India for the children, Lokur said the framers of the constitution gave importance to the children of the country and their development, and “we must ensure that we maintain that spirit”.Lokur also said the problem with child-related issues is that there are not enough people talking about it. He congratulated Bollywood filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh for making a movie, highlighting the issues of child sexual abuse. Ghosh, who was also a speaker at the event, said, “An incident I came to know about while studying in the UK prompted me to make a film on the subject to create awareness among the people as such issues are generally kept secret.” The aim of the workshop was to discuss the problems faced by commissions and the possible solutions towards better implementation of laws for child rights. (Times of India 18/12/16)

45. ‘Why are kids fleeing from juvenile homes?’ (14)

JAIPUR: Taking the incidents of children fleeing from juvenile homes seriously, the Rajasthan High Court asked the government to submit a report by January 9. The court asked why the children were fleeing from juvenile homes and what preventive steps have been taken by the authorities. The court gave the directions during a hearing on vacant posts at Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committees (CWC). The court observed that the condition of juvenile homes is very bad and asked what the government was doing to rectify it. Recently, 15 children fled from the juvenile home at Sethi colony and officials of the State Legal Service Authority, which is a party to the suo motu petition, visited the place and found many irregularities and mismanagement in its functioning. They noted that there is no full-time caretaker in the homes and even the gates were not properly closed at night. Besides, the unruly children were kept in the same cell along with other children. (Times of India 19/12/2016)

46. Child marriage: Where cure is just as important as prevention (14)

Jaipur: When Laxmi Sargara hit the headlines in April 2012 by becoming the first woman in the country to annul her child marriage, 21-year-old Santa Meghwal was still in Class 12. Like Laxmi, she was a toddler – just 11 months old – when she was married off in a family mass wedding. She cut out the newspaper report on her role model’s marriage annulment and kept it in her bag for two years before finally getting through to Kriti Bharti, the Jodhpur-based child rights activist who had helped Laxmi. In May 2015, Santa filed a petition for annulment of her child marriage at a Jodhpur family court. By October the same year, she had become a free woman. UNICEF defines child marriage as a marital alliance struck before the people involved have attained 18 years of age, and considers it a human rights violation. According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 35% of the women in the 20-24 years age group get married before 18. Some of the problems arising through such an event are loss of education opportunities, segregation from family and friends, sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, health risks, increased vulnerability to domestic violence, higher infant mortality rate, lightweight babies, and pre-mature birth. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act-2006, which replaced the Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929, had introduced a section for nullifying marriages solemnised in childhood within two years of the partners attaining maturity. Annulling a marriage simply erases it from the records, as if it never took place. Child marriages in Rajasthan enjoy traditional, cultural and religious support. However, when children grow up, they find that the alliance is unmatched – the man is less educated than the woman, he doesn’t want her to continue her studies, the families don’t approve of women working, or the men are found to be medically unfit – and want to call it off. But that takes a hard battle against a feudal society. The caste elders, who have a hand in pushing child marriages, oppose the woman’s decision. When Santa filed the annulment petition, a caste panchayat at Rohicha Kalan village in Luni block, slapped a fine of Rs 16 lakh on the family and ex-communicated it for two years. Bharti, who fought Santa’s case, was threatened with gang rape and mutilation. However, Santa was determined to end the marriage because the ‘husband’ was harassing her as well as her friends. “I wanted to study and get a government job. Keeping that in view, how could I live with an alcoholic who had absolutely no interest in education?” Santa asked. … (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

47. Society must protect underprivileged children, says Archbishop (14)

KOCHI: Heeding to the call by Pope Francis, societally-minded people must accept, and encourage orphaned children, those affected by poverty and civil unrest, to prevent them from being exploited, Archbishop of Varapuzha Archdiocese Joseph Kalathiparambil has said.Addressing the media here on Thursday, the Archbishop, who served as Secretary of Rome-based Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said that each child had a right to grow up in a good family atmosphere. The church and nations the world over are duty-bound to ensure this. “Members of the society must, in the name of Jesus Christ, accept and help children in distress, to alleviate their suffering. Only then will one’s life becomes meaningful,” he said. “Any reluctance will result in their exploitation by mafia groups who are into drugs and human trafficking. They might also take to crime. Lakhs of children in India and abroad are engaged in child labour. In many countries, they are forced to become soldiers of war lords. Both boys and girls who flee violence and migrate to other regions too are vulnerable in different ways. Children found in streets are prone to be sexually and physically exploited. All this is in violation of international conventions on rights of children,” the Archbishop said.He exhorted people to ensure emotional and physical health of helpless children and their education. “Pope Francis further expressed deep concern over increasing environmental degradation, corruption and poverty,” the Archbishop said. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

48. Cannot contest elections if your child is not enrolled in school: NCPCR (14)

New Delhi: The apex body for child rights has made an appeal to all state governments and asked them to disqualify candidates for local body and panchayati raj elections if they do not send their children to school. According to the recommendation by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a candidate must produce a certificate from his child’s school to prove that his/her ward is enrolled there and has regular attendance. This is only for those candidates who have children between the ages of 6-14.“We have appealed to state governments to make amendments in electoral rules for local body elections and panchayati raj institutions and say that anyone who wants to fight elections will need to produce a certificate from his child’s school to prove that his/her ward is enrolled there and is attending the school regularly. “If a person fails to do this, then he/she should not be eligible to fight in an election,” said Priyank Kanoongo, Member- RTE and Education, NCPCR. Kanoongo also said that this suggestion draws from the 86th amendment of the Constitution, which inserted Article 21a and made education a fundamental right, as well as the Right To Education Act, 2009. The NCPCR official calls it a “new milestone” in creating awareness as an elected representative will be an example in the society. He also said that this move will help draw a politician’s attention towards the state of schools in his state.This suggestion is also part of recommendations prepared by NCPCR on “re-engagement of out-of-school children and prevention of drop-outs”, which were tabled before a sub-committee of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In the recent past, there have been laws passed by Haryana and Rajasthan governments imposing minimum educational requirements for candidates contesting panchayat elections. Many activists have said such a move was against the principle of universal suffrage. According to Kanoongo, there is no such debate about NCPCR’s move. “We are not talking about those who were denied education in the past either because of caste or poverty but about today’s children who have a right to free and compulsory education. If you are opposed to this, right then you are opposed to the Constitution as well,” he said. (The Indian Express 24/12/16)

49. Officials fail to assist court properly, HC quashes order in child labour case (14)

MADURAI: The failure of government officials to assist the court properly has led to the Madras High Court Bench here quashing the proceedings of Virudhunagar district administration in a child labour case. The proceedings had been issued by a Personal Assistant to Virudhunagar Collector on June 29, 2007 directing S. Dhanalakshmi, a convict in a child labour case to deposit Rs.2 lakh, at the rate of Rs.20,000 for every child labourer engaged by her in a match industry in Sivakasi, in Child Labour Rehabilitiation-cum-Welfare Fund as ordered by the Supreme Court in the famous M.C. Mehta’s case in 1996. Allowing a writ petition filed by the convict in 2009, Justice M.V. Muralidaran quashed the proceedings since the officials failed to produce officials records that led to the demand of Rs.2 lakh from the petitioner and explain the basis for having made such a demand. The judge pointed out that the Inspector of Factories in Sivakasi had even failed to mention the correct case number of the apex court judgement in his counter affidavit. “Unfortunately, the proposal dated August 9, 2006 and the memorandum of instructions dated July 24, 2007 were not placed before this court in spite of time granted by this court. So, in the absence of those records, this court is unable to accept the contentions raised by the 4th respondent (Inspector),” the judge said. While defending the case, the officials failed to bring it to the notice of the High Court that the Supreme Court had on December 10, 1996 directed all State governments in the country to create Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund district wise or area wise by collecting a compensation of Rs. 20,000 per child labourer from the offending employers. The SC orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate M.C. Mehta in 1986 on the premises that as on December 31, 1985, there were 221 registered match factories in Sivakasi employing 27,338 workmen of whom 2,941 were children. While disposing of that case, the Supreme Court said: “In our country, Sivakasi was one taken as the worst offender in the matter of violating prohibition on employing child labour.” (The Hindu 26/12/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

50. Scholarships for Minorities: Why 4 lakh students did not get scholarships last year, Bombay HC asks govt

Mumbai: The Aurangabad bench of the High Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Latur corporator Rahul Maknikar and activist Razaullah Khan. Justice RM Borde and Justice Sangitrao Patil gave the respondents, including the state Minority Development department and Education and Sports department, four weeks to respond.Khan had filed the PIL after a response to a Right to Information (RTI) plea showed that Maharashtra had received only 3,30,776 applications for 2015-16, even as 7,17,896 students were eligible for renewal going by the previous year’s numbers. The RTI response from the Minority and Adult Education Department (MAE), reported by The Indian Express in September, showed that more than 53 per cent had not applied for renewal. MAE Director Nandan Nangare said that number was less because fewer students had applied, but Khan contended that students had not been registered because of the failure of the application process. Earlier, the application process was online and the students had to enter their details into the National Scholarship Portal. However, owing to limited internet accessibility in rural areas, the process was made available offline last year. The state’s plan to make the process offline was supposed to benefit students as the details could now be filled in excel sheets at the school. (Indian Express 5/12/16)

51. West Bengal progresses on implementing minority schemes (7)

KOLKATA: Capt. Praveem Davar, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, who was on an official visit in the state, had a review meeting with the state principal secretary of minority affairs and madrasah education department and other government officials, taking stock of the schemes that the state government is taking on minority issues. Davar, on his visit also met the members of the West Bengal Minorities’ Commission separately and reviewed its function. According to sources from the state secretariat, Davar was impressed by the action taken by the state government over the last five years and lauded the efforts of chief minister Mamata Banerjee in taking the issues of the minorities in right earnest and sincerely implementing the schemes for the social, educational and economical upliftment of the minorities. “He was very impressed by the fact that the West Bengal stands first in India in terms of providing scholarships to the students, in disbursement of term loan and direct lending schemes as well as in drawing of funds under the MSDP”. (Times of India 6/12/16)

52. Different parameters for accused from minorities: A P Shah (7)

New Delhi: Former Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah today said there are different parameters to deal with the accused from a majority community and those from minority communities in cases like Malegaon blasts. Referring to the alleged differential treatment given to Malegaon blast accused and the exonerees, the former Delhi High Court Chief Justice also said the testimonies in that case indicate that the probe agencies, being prejudiced, made manipulated and fabricated evidences to make unnecessary arrest because the accused belong to a minority community.Justice Shah’s remarks came during the release of a report on ‘Acquitted Innocents’, a framework for Compensation and Rehabilitation for victims of wrongful prosecution/ conviction, on behalf of the 1st People’s Tribunal organised by Innocence Network, a private organisation that works for the rights of the wrongfully prosecuted or convicted. “After the Malegaon blast, the members of Muslim communities were shown as SIMI activists and key suspects. Testimonies indicate that the investigating agencies, being prejudiced, made manipulated and fabricated evidences to make unnecessary arrest only because accused belong to a minority community. “NIA filed a second chargesheet against another set of accused who belong to a majority community. The public prosecutor in that case, a competent law officer of Maharashtra, was asked to go soft on the accused and she resigned. The entire trial was collapsing,” Shah said. He said “there are different parameters to deal with accused from a majority community and from minority communities”.Justice Shah also mentioned the case of a TADA convict Md Nisaruddin, who spent 23 years in jail but was released by the Supreme Court this year, observing that the document on the basis of which Nisar was convicted should not have been admitted as evidence. He said the issue of forced confessions extracted under duress, delay in granting bail, wrongful detention, malicious prosecution, and presenting fabricated evidence has become endemic to terror prosecution. The report, while recognising the need for the State to provide compensation to the victims for their wrongful conviction, identified different stakeholders involved in the entire process of arrest and acquittal. It also suggested a rights based approach to be adopted by the state to grant compensation to the victims for the wrongful actions of the state. The report also calls for holding responsible, the police officials involved in such cases and to make them criminally liable. Justice Shah, who headed the jury which included filmmaker Saeed Akhtar Mirza, G S Bajpai (NLU Delhi Registrar), journalist Neena Vyas, Delhi School academic Nandini Sundar, TISS Deputy Director Abdul Shaban, journalist Vinod Sharma and Advocate Monica Sakrani also put forward certain guidelines for the media. The media must refrain from pronouncing the accused as guilty till a formal pronouncement is made by the court. Further, the media must publish an apology, if it had written defamatory material against the acquitted innocent at the time of his arrest, the report said. It also suggests legislative reforms, institutional and social reforms and points out the failure of human rights bodies to acknowledge the issue and intervene in such cases of wrongful arrests and prosecution. (Business Standard 10/12/16)

53. Minority schools cannot be compelled to absorb surplus teachers: HC (7)

Nagpur: The Bombay High Court has said that minority educational institutions cannot be compelled to absorb surplus teachers unless the institutions concur with the same. A division bench of Justices Vasanti Naik and Swapna Naik, while upholding the right of minority institutions, said the state government cannot direct such institutions to absorb surplus employees from other schools. The HC quashed the action of Amravati Education Officer directing a minority school to absorb surplus teachers. While allowing a petition filed by Shri Balmukund Rathi Shikshan Sanstha in Chandur Bazar in Amravati district, the HC made it clear that authorities have no right to compel minority-run educational institutions to absorb teachers declared surplus by the Education Officer. According to petitioner-institution, Education Officer (Secondary), Zilla Parishad, Amravati ordered it on September 14 and 15, 2016 to absorb two assistant teachers in the school run by it. The institution resisted the order claiming it was a minority institution and State Government cannot direct such institutions to absorb surplus employees of other schools unless the minority institution concurs with the absorption.Citing the recent judgement of the High Court in Canossa Society, Mumbai vs Commissioner, Social Welfare, Pune, the petitioner sought quashing of order. Respondent authorities justified the order stating that petitioner-institutions were issued certificate as minority institutions only on September 23, 2016 while the orders were passed before that on September 14 and 15, 2016. Hence the petitioner would be required to absorb the teachers in the school. The High Court also rejected the contention of order-first-minority status later argument forwarded by the respondent authorities. Advocate Prashant Shende appeared for the petitioner while AGP G R Tiwari represented the authorities. (Indian Express 12/12/16)

54. State govt allocates Rs 250 crore for minority development (7)

UDUPI: M A Gafoor, chairperson for Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation, said on Sunday that the state government has allocated Rs 250 crore for the development of the minority community.While addressing the media, Gafoor said, “For minority development and welfare, the state government has allocated Rs 200 crore budget and an additional Rs 50 crore for Christian community. National Minorities Development Corporation also extends assistance by assuring Rs 23 crore for education purpose and it is expected to be released soon. Minority Corporation includes people from different religions like Muslims, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Anglo Indian. It was started in 1986. At present, they have 186 employees working.” The commission will concentrate more on self-reliant projects like marginal loans and beneficial loans. It will have an education loan scheme, micro loan scheme and Ganga Kalyan Scheme (famers who have 2 to 5 acres of land, will be given free borewell upto Rs 2 lakh). For Christ society, loan for housing and renovation work will be given. For farmers, land purchasing scheme will be introduced soon.Under the student’s schemes, Udupi district is developed with 600 beneficiaries a year. However, Dakshin Kannada and Mysuru district lag behind. The corporation aimed at supporting 5,998 people from the Udupi district with Rs 1.56 crore. However, the target reached was 8,716 beneficiaries with Rs 2 crore. Hence, the achievement is 126%, claimed Gafoor. Muslims have been allocated Rs 6.94 crore, Christians – Rs 4.20 crore, Jains – Rs. 1.1 crore and for others Rs 1.16 crore has been allocated. “Udupi has the best loan repay system. We aim to work without any financial hurdle and without waiting for government grants. In 2016 alone, Rs.1.23 crore were repaid. Under Ganga Kalyan Yojana from Udupi, 600 beneficiaries have applied for borewell, which will be given soon,” said Gafoor. (Times of India 12/12/16)

55. Minorities didn’t get honour they deserve because of opponents: CM Akhilesh Yadav (7)

Lucknow : Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday said that minority communities in the state had not received the honour they deserved “because of hurdles created by opponents”, adding that they would now be taken care of as “we are going to form the next government with your support in the next 100 days”. He was addressing a programme organised by the Uttar Pradesh Minority Commission on the Minority Rights Day in the poll-bound state. Recalling that “some people” had moved court against the state government’s decision to give 20 per cent reservation in all its schemes to members of minority communities, Akhilesh said his government had pursued the matter legally to make sure minorities got this facility. “In all our schemes, be it Samajwadi Pension Yojana, Laptop distribution or Kanya Vidya Dhan, minorities get 20 per cent share. It is in the state government’s programmes that we have power. But we need to do more outside of the state,” he said, stressing that his government had worked hard towards the development of minorities. Attacking the BJP government at the Centre, the chief minister once again said that those who had promised “acche din” were making people stand in queues outside banks. He said the situation after demonetisation was unlikely to improve within 50 days as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and claimed that the nation has been “pushed backwards by one year”. Cabinet Minister Azam Khan chose the occasion to target Governor Ram Naik, saying that the president should have sacked Naik as soon as he said that the Ram Temple should be built in Ayodhya as per the sentiments of Hindus. Naik has “tarnished the reputation of Raj Bhawan”, said Khan, adding that the governor did not give his assent to the government’s bill to confer the rank of Cabinet minister or minister of state upon the chairman of the UP Minority Commission. Addressing an audience comprising mainly of Muslims, Khan said the community should not be “unconcerned” and “inert” before the elections because “they have big plans”. “Jis din BJP ke hath Uttar Pradesh aa gaya, chhathi ka doodh yaad aa jayega (The day Uttar Pradesh comes in the hands of BJP, you will face great hardship),” he said. The SP leader further said that Muslims had remained “inert” even after attempts to snatch their “big institutions”, adding that had Sikhs been in the same situation, “it would have been difficult to count who is dead and who is left alive”. Addressing another programme organised by Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali in the old city, Akhilesh, while referring to suggestions to remove encroachments, said it will be looked into after the elections. “Those who encroach also vote in the elections. I think these people encroach only because the government fails to provide them space to do their business,” he said. Mahali referred to the chief minister as “the heartbeat of India’s Muslims” and said his government had worked towards the development of the community. (Indian Express 19/12/16)

56. Cabinet panel on minority welfare soon (7)

BENGALURU: THE Siddaramaiah government is all set to constitute a cabinet sub-committee to study the  living conditions of minorities in the state and introduce measures for their all-round development. It will also fulfill the long-standing demand of the minority Muslim community to set up a separate body to prevent  misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). At an event to mark Minorities’ Rights Day here on  Sunday, the chief minister said his government is thinking of introducing population-based proportionate  reservation system for the weaker sections.Home Minister G Parameshwara announced that the state government has taken the decision to set up an  authority soon to prevent misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Once constituted, the UAPA  Authority would review all complaints filed under the Act before it is taken up by security agencies. Presently,  ecurity agencies directly take up such cases, which has led to complaints of misuse of the Act. (The New Indian Express 19/12/16)

57. Minorities demand immediate amendments in family laws (7)

PESHAWAR: The minority community on Wednesday demanded the federal government to immediately bring amendments in the minorities divorce and marriage acts aimed at solving the current issues being faced by the community. All Pakistan Hindu Movement Rights (APHMR) Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal, during a press conference at Peshawar Press Club, said that being citizens of the country minority community demands for the legislation required for to them. “We are Pakistani and being Pakistani it is our right to get legislation for us according to the changing circumstances,” he said, adding that a draft had been prepared and laying in the Upper House (Senate) standing committee regarding the minority’s family laws amendment. He expressed grave concern on the attitude of the committee saying that the committee was least bothered to bring changes in the current minorities laws. Flanked by Radesh Singh Tony, representative of Sikh community, Pastor Amir William, chairman Shaloom Bible College, Silasgill, member of local body district Peshawar of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Munesha Arfa, a member of National Minority Rights Network (NMRN), Sarbdiyal rejected all the reforms committees, units and commissions formed for the minorities rights because there is no minority representatives in that committees and commissions. He urged the government to form a minority committee consist on every minority representative which would prepare recommendation in the light of those issues which are being faced by the minorities living in different parts of Pakistan. He demanded of the federal and KP governments to take an exemplary step and announce three holidays for Christian community on the occasion of upcoming Christmas. He also asked the government to make sure the religious freedom and protection of rights to the minority community. “We are demanding to hand over the minority worship places which are in the custody of government departments. We will build educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities on those places” he claimed. Radesh Singh criticized the Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf  (PTI) led  government  that the KP government had failed because the government had totally ignored the minority in the Insaf health cards scheme. He added that Sikh community living in Peshawar faced miseries because they carried their dead bodies to Attack Shamshan ghaat (graveyard) which is very expensive and a difficult task for them. He demanded of the government to provide a piece of land to Sikh community for their Shamshan ghaat and also hand over those public schools which were for the children of Sikh community before the partition of sub-continent. Radesh further demanded of the government to increase the job quota from 3 to 5 percent to minorities with its full implementation. However, Silasgill expressed grave concerns and said that the PTI local government had adopted a step mother attitude with the district members who are elected on reserved. He added that since he is elected as a member of the local government, a single penny was not given to him for developmental works in his respective constituency while the district Nazim bestow on his discretionary funds to those member who are belongs to the ruling party. Munesha Arfa stressed the law makers to take tangible steps in the amendment of the minorities’ laws, saying that the amendment would solve more issues being faced by the minorities’ women. (Daily Times 21/12/16)

58. More quota for Muslims? Minority panel wants 12% (7)

CHARMINAR: The State Minorities Commission (SMC) on Thursday made a representation to the Telangana State Backward Classes Commission (TSBCC) pushing the case for a 12 percent quota for Muslims, an additional 8 percent over the existing 4 percent.. Explaining the rationale behind the demand, SMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan said, “If the government clears the 12 percent reservation, the existing 4 percent will be superseeded and a fresh GO will be issued. If its challenged in court, the existing 4 percent will be in danger. It is important to protect the existing quota. Therefore, we has asked reservations in the 4%+8% format, resulting in an aggregate of 12 percent.” In the petition the minorities panel reiterated that quotas have been challenged in courts of law and it has resulted in them being “set aside”. The commission reiterated that while the existing 4 percent reservations for Muslims cover 14 communities -which include Attar Saibulu, Turaka Kasha, Dhobi, Labbi, Garadi Muslim and Hajam -it excludes backward sections from other Muslim communities. “There are many Khans and Syeds who are socio-economically weak. We have requested the commission to consider their case as well,” Khan said. It was on December 14 that the TSBCC began a hearing on a separate quota for Muslims. It received more that 13,000 petitions from various Muslim social and religious groups. Many of them had requested the commission to tour districts of the state so as to understand the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.Political parties such as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Congress and the Majlis Bachao Tehreek to made their representations. According to development economist Amirullah Khan, a member of the Post Sachar Evaluation Committee (PSEC), the Sachar Committee Report, released in 2006, does not specifically push the case for reservations for Muslims but implies that it is one of the several forward. “The PSEC pegs the number of Muslim graduates across the country at around 2 percent. It also says that Muslim community has the highest level of drop-outs at the secondary school level,” he opined. Khan is also a member of the G Sudhir Committee. (Times of India 23/12/16)

59. Big relief for minorities living in India’s neighbourhood (7)

New Delhi [India], Dec. 25(ANI): In a bid to aid Hindus and other minority community people from the neighbouring countries including Pakistan, the Home Ministry has reduced the registration fee from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 100. [NK India] According to the Home Ministry Gazette, new rules will be applicable to minority communities- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians- from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and living in India on long term visa. The minority members form the neighbouring countries will have register themselves and take an oath of allegiance as an Indian citizen in front of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, in case of absence of Collector, Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate. The rules also say that the minority community people from countries other than Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, will have to pay Rs. 10, 000 as the registration fee. The changes have been made after amending various provisions of the Citizenship Rules 2009.(ANI) (New Kerala 25/12/16)

60. Education, jobs top on Minority Affairs Ministry list in 2017 (7)

New Delhi: Empowering minorities by providing them education and employment opportunities will top the 2017 priority list of Union Minority Affairs Ministry which said bringing socio-economic schemes “out of papers and computers” and taking them to ground were its biggest achievement this year. 2016 saw change of guard in the Ministry with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assuming its charge following resignation of Najma Heptulla (now Manipur Governor) while the management of Haj pilgrimage was also transferred to it from Ministry of External Affairs from October 1. Often under attack from Opposition over issues relating to minorities, particularly in the wake of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri in 2015, the government also sought to combat “Opposition’s propaganda” against it by undertaking outreach programme like ‘Progress Panchayat’ in minority-dominated pockets. “The biggest highlight of our governance has been that we managed to bring the socio-economic schemes out of papers and computers and took them to ground. Progress Panchayat was initiated. “… We also gave international platform to artisans from minority communities through initiatives like Hunar Haat (Skill Haat),” Minister of State for Minority Affairs Naqvi said.Seeking to highlight the difference between governance of previous UPA and present NDA regimes, he said the number of Muslims employed with central government has risen from 6.9 per cent two-and-half years ago to approximately 9 per cent now. Naqvi lauded his ministry for ensuring that scholarships reached deserving students through direct benefit transfer (DBT), eliminating scope of “middlemen siphoning off money”. A total of Rs 6,715 crore have been disbursed thus to three crore students until now, he added. “This measure eliminated role of middlemen and we managed to plug 100 per cent leakage ensuring benefits reach the right students. Going digital helped,” he claimed. Naqvi referred to another information campaign, the ‘Cashless Chaupal’, the Ministry undertook recently to connect minorities with cashless economic system. “… We want a transparent, leakage-free and pro-development economic system. Digital transactions will benefit minorities,” he added. (The Indian Express 27/12/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

61. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind calls triple talaq un-Islamic (7)

New Delhi: THE 33rd session of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, held in Ajmer last month, held triple talaq as un-Islamic while opposing any proposals for a uniform civil code. While even the Ahl e Hadith, one of the most reclusive sects among Indian Muslims, has said the same thing, the stand taken by Maulana Mahmood Madani’s organisation is significant as the Jamiat is the largest organisation of imams in India. The Ajmer session was attended by imams of the many madrasas run by the organisation. The Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of petitions questioning the validity of triple talaq.Quoting the resolution passed at the Ajmer gathering, Madani said, “The session condemned  talaq at one go and appealed to every section of Muslim society to make strides to eliminate it.”The resolution added, “We have to wage jihad against the wrong practices prevalent in nikah and talaq. We have to spearhead the movement to give proper rights to women in accordance with Islam. We will strive to insert such clauses in the nikahnama that will resolve any disputes in martial life.” Admitting that a Law Commission questionnaire on “reforms” in personal laws had provoked fears of an attempt to push a uniform civil code, Madani said, “The PM has spoken on this and his credentials on this are suspect. So we are not concerned about what he has said. But we feel women in Islam have been given their due and we must ensure that happens practically. That is central to Islam.” At a rally in UP on October 24, PM Narendra Modi had said “lives of Muslim women cannot be allowed to be ruined by triple talaq”. Madani said the Jamiat had started persuading people to adopt the kabin nama, which is like a pre-nuptial agreement. “There had been a move in 2005, at our 28th session, to have the kabin nama along with the nikahnama. Like a prenuptial agreement, the kabin nama requires designation of two representatives each on both sides to mediate in case of irreconcilable differences between couples, so that women can get divorce easily.” The Muslim personal law also provides for “khula”, where a wife can unilaterally ask for divorce. The Jamiat resolution also made its stand clear against a uniform civil code, calling it fundamental violation of the compact of India where religious minorities are free to practise their faith. “We consider practising and preserving our religious identity and dealing with our internal matters in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah our constitutional rights,” said the resolution. (Indian Expresas 2/12/16)

62. Triple talaq unconstitutional, violates rights of Muslim women: Allahabad HC (7)

New Delhi: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday said that the practice of triple talaq among Muslims is unconstitutional and it violates the rights of women. The high court said that no personal law board is above the Constitution. It said, “Triple talaq is unconstitutional, it violates the rights of Muslim women. No personal law board is above the Constitution.”The high court’s order deals with the plea by a Muslim man and his second wife seeking protection against police action. The court didn’t pronounce on legality of triple talaq saying that the Supreme Court is seized of matter but observed that the practice of triple talaq is cruel and demeaning. However, the court left the issues of divorce to the first wife through triple talaq as well as second marriage open andn simply dismissed the man’s plea of protection. Several political parties reacted to the High Court’s say, with both the BJP and the Congress hailing the court’s observation. Muslim Law board, AIMPLB, said that its legal committee will study the verdict and observation after which it will file its appeal against the said verdict. Appreciating the court’s say, social activist Zakiya Soman said, “I welcome the verdict of Allahabad HC, its true that triple talaq is not constitutional and it must be abolished.” .. (Indian Express 7/12/16)

63. Now, oppn demands quota for Muslims (7)

Nagpur: Legislators came up with a new demand of reservation for Muslims in jobs and reservations, in the state assembly on Thursday. The demand came from the opposition to counter the BJP-Shiv Sena government’s similar proposal for Maratha community. However, members cutting across party lines displayed rare unity to discuss both proposals, which also included Dhangar, Lingayat, and Koli communities. The first resolution under Rule 293 was by MLA Ashish Shelar from the ruling party on Wednesday. However, the opposition members strongly demanded to include other communities and even Muslims. The speaker then objected to it and even chief minister Devendra Fadnavis advised to bring another proposal, which would also be discussed along with the original one. Accordingly, former CM Prithviraj Chavan, ex-deputy CM Ajit Pawar and others moved another resolution for the inclusion of other communities in the reservation list. Both proposals were taken up for discussions on Thursday.MLAs Anil Kadam, Nitesh Rane and others demanded to set up State Backward Commission as per the recommendations of the Narayan Rane panel. The government is likely to reply to the debate on Friday. Chavan strongly demanded restoration of at least education quota for Muslims, which his government had introduced in 2013 in the form of an ordinance, but was lapsed after the saffron government failed to ratify it. Chavn said he was not demanding reservations on the basis of religion, but on social factors, as the community didn’t progress on many fronts, including education, in all these years. He also demanded a white paper on the alleged misuse of Atrocities Act, which he said should be discussed. “We provided Muslims reservation in education after working on it for over two years. We extensively studied all factors. On the basis of statistical data collected for two years, we decided to provide them reservation in education and jobs. Even the Bombay High Court upheld our decision to provide 5% reservation in educational institutions to Muslims, but the new government only gave hollow assurances without giving them actual benefits,” he said. The former CM warned the government not to take the silent rallies of Marathas lightly, as it may erupt into violence if their demands were not met. “The government must put up a strong side in the high court, which had stayed the quota. We must fight for increasing the quota beyond 50%, just like the Tamil Nadu government. Even the Supreme Court was ready to consider TN government’s plea for hearing. We don’t want to disturb the existing quota for OBCs,” he added. (Times of India 9/12/16)

64. Basic literacy rate among Telangana Muslims high (7)

HYDERABAD: Muslims in Telangana have higher average of basic literacy rate than the national average, but they fare worse than all other communities in case of graduate and postgraduate education. Their drop out rates are also among the highest.According to the Sudhir Commission that went into the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims in Telangana, their literacy rate is better than the State and national average and only Christian and some other religious minority groups have better literacy. The Commission report said that literacy rate among Muslims is 76.89 per cent compared to the State average of 66.46 per cent and national average of 74.04 per cent. Literacy among Muslims is also high compared to Hindus (64.64 p.c.), Scheduled Castes (59 p.c.) and Scheduled Tribes (50 p.c.). The gender gap in literacy rate among Muslims is also low (10.38 p.c.) compared to SCs (18.10 p.c.), STs (20.10 p.c.) and Hindus (18.12 p.c.). Quoting the 2011 Census statistics, the Commission also said that Muslims are better off in the urban-rural gap in terms of literacy as compared to other socio-religious categories. The dropout rate among Muslims in the age group of 0-29 years in 2011-12 was less than Hindus, SCs, STs, but in the 18-20 years age group, it is very high at 61.2 p.c. and 84 p.c. in the 21-29 years age group. The Commission’s survey reveals that enrolment of Muslim students is 11.5 p.c. at school-level, but it’s only around 5 p.c. at the Intermediate level. Similarly, in Bachelor Degree and Masters Degree programmes (2014-15), their percentage is found to be very low with the highest of 10.85 p.c. (10,529/97,039) in Osmania University, 9.83 p.c. in Ambedkar Open University, 6.22 p.c. in Palamuru University, 3.47 p.c. in Telangana University, 3.4 p.c. in Mahatma Gandhi University and 3.13 p.c. in Agricultural University. (The Hindu 11/12/15)

65. ‘Hindus, Muslims must come to terms with history’ (7)

KOCHI: Former regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India K K Muhammed, who was part of the team that discovered the presence of temple ruins at Babri Masjid, was felicitated in Kochi by the Kerala unit of the Indian Society of Authors (INSA). Muhammed, the author of Njanenna Bharatheeyan, received the P S Velayudhan award for his contribution to history and literature. “Muslims should acknowledge the fact that many Masjids were built following the destruction of temples. Hindus should restrain from taking revenge on these acts. Communal harmony will only be possible in such a scenario,” he said. The book written by Muhammed had received wide criticism after it bashed Leftist historians.”No Muslims were staying in a 3km radius of the temple. The location had no connection with the prophet or any particular significance as such. The place, on the other hand was significant to Hindus.It was Leftist historians, led by Irfan Habib, who brainwashed Muslims in the area against handing over the land to Hindus,” he said.A certificate of honour and a cash award was handed over to Muhammad by INSA state president Justice Sukumaran. “The award is being given to the best book on history this year. Njanenna Bharatheeyan has a deep understanding of history,” said Justice Sukumaran. Mohammed had graduated in History from Aligarh Muslim University . He has received five national awards for the conservation of Sanchi Stupa, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort. He also received the SAARC environment award for conservation of Bateshwar temple complex in 2010. (Times of India 12/12/16)

66. Grave problem torments city Muslims (7)

Although burial in grave yards is free in Andhra Pradesh and parts of Telangana, rampant commercialisation of burial spaces in the city has hit Muslims hard. Unscrupulous custodians collecting `maintenance fees’ charge hapless families upward of Rs 8,000 to allot deceased members space to rest in peace. The rate goes up to as much as Rs 3 lakh if the grave is located on the premises of a dargah. Burial spaces in prime areas and those that have a huge demand due to sentimental reasons also come at a premium. With prices averaging Rs 25,000, relatives of the deceased who cannot afford the `luxury’, are left with no option but to look for burial spots far from the city. That’s not all. They also have to grapple with a localnon-local divide created by mutavallis (graveyard custodians), who give preference to locals; a non-local, despite paying higher, has to settle for a slot at some corner of a graveyard. Community elders complain that there has been a two-fold increase in ‘grave real estate prices’ in just one year. The absence of an elected body to govern the Telangana State Wakf Board has only emboldened mutavallis to levy heavy charges on the families of the dead. Even the intervention of the State Minorities Commission, a statutory body, has failed to curb the ever-growing menace. Over the last three months, the commis sion issued three notices to the chief executive officer of the Wakf Board, calling for a report. Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan has now decided to recommend to the state government that an exclusive state-level panel be constituted and headed by an IAS officer to take over the reins of all graveyards in Telangana to curb the wide-scale extortion. Khan also suggests that a portion of the unspent budget of the minorities’ welfare department be utilised to provide all funeral-related services gratis. “The proposed panel should be given the powers to regulate, maintain and identify new parcels of land for graveyards,” he says. Secretary of the Muslim Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (MESCO), Dr Fakhruddin Mohammad, alleges that many mutavallis and committee members have connived with land-grabbers and occupied large chunks of land in several graveyards.”This has reduced burial spaces. Besides reining in the mu tavallis, the government should emulate the Delhi Development Authority that has earmarked places of burial. The state gover nment should identify large parcels of land on the city’s outskirts for burial grounds,” he suggests. Muslim elders put the blame squarely on the state government for failing to rein in unscrupulous mutavallis, sajjadas (hereditary heads of dargahs) and graveyard management committees. Many of them face police cases, including charges of land-grabbing. “It is sad that graveyards have been commercialised. Many mutavallis and committees flout all rules, both religious and Wakf. Burial should be free. Of course, a nominal amount can be collected for the upkeep of graveyards. Even this should not be forced on the poor,” says opposition leader in the Telangana state legislative council, Mohammad Ali Shabbir. … (Times of India 18/12/16)

67. Muslim leaders praise ‘long overdue’ verdict (7)

HYDERABAD: Muslim leaders welcomed the verdict in the Dilsukhnagar blasts case, saying it was long due. Majlis Bachao Tehreek spokesman Amjed Ullah Khan said this sentence should not be looked on religion and regional lines because many of those killed or disabled due to the blasts were Muslims. He, however, raised questions on why there was a delay in the trial and judgments in other blast cases, including Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express, Malegaon and Jama Masjid. These took place much before the February 21, 2013 blasts in Dilshukhnagar and workers of the RSS and allied organisations were accused of triggering them, he claimed. Other Muslim leaders who did not want to be quoted recalled how many Muslims had died and suffered injuries in several coordinated blasts across the city. “They deserve to be punished for the heinous crime they committed. The youth today needs to be dissuaded not to get influenced by propaganda videos of jihadis,” said a Muslim religious leader. (Times of India 20/12/16)

68. BJP using UCC to destroy Muslim identity: Karat (7)

KANNUR:  Accusing the BJP of using the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as a weapon to obliterate the identity of Muslims in the country, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat has said that the fundamentalist position insisting that instant and arbitrary triple ‘talaq’ is ordained by Islam will help communalists create a communal divide in the country. Addressing a seminar on ‘Uniform Civil Code and the Left’ organised by the coordination committee of minority cultural groups loyal to the CPI(M) here on Tuesday, Mr. Karat said the BJP government was trying to conflate and combine the issue of the misuse of the instant and arbitrary use of triple talaq with the enforcement of the UCC. The CPI(M) supports the plea of three Muslim women to the Supreme Court that the instant and arbitrary declaration of triple talaq should be made illegal. “A substantial Muslim opinion is against the exercise of triple talaq in instant and arbitrary manner,” he said. Noting that there are certain inequalities and defects in the personal laws, the CPI(M) leader said they were not particular to any religion. The real issue in his view was whether the country could have equality within and between religious communities. “The way forward is to see that personal laws of all religious communities have reforms which will help to provide for gender justice,” he said. Alleging that the Sangh Parivar had a planned agenda to demonise the Muslim community, he said the attempt was to portray Muslims as alien to the Indian mainstream. Referring to the Law Commission’s ‘unfortunate’ issue of a questionnaire eliciting views of different sections of the people on the UCC, Mr. Karat said its purpose was stated to be to harmonise the cultures of India. Describing India as a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic country, he said the CPIM) had sent an effective rebuttal to the questionnaire. “The BJP-led government and the Law Commission should read the Constitution,” he said adding that Article 371 A allows no Act of Parliament in respect of religious or social practices of the Nagas and Naga customary law and procedure because of the distinct social and culture structure of the Nagas.A.N. Shamseer, MLA, presided. CPI(M) district secretary P. Jayarajan, party leaders M. Prakashan and M.V. Jayarajan, writer Khadeeja Mumtaz and academic Hussain Randathani were among those present at the seminar. (The Hindu 21/12/16)

69. Aligarh muslim university students demand Muslim quota promised by Samajwadi party (7)

AGRA: Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students took out a protest march on Friday to demand implementation of 18% reservation for Muslims as promised by Samajwadi Party in its 2012 poll manifesto. In its election manifesto in 2012, SP had promised that Muslims would be considered most backward and given reservation like Dalits in proportion to their population.Raising slogans against the government and carrying placards saying. “Now is the time to remind the promise and move beyond vote bank politics”, the students also objected to the UP government’s cabinet’s decision to recommend inclusion of 17 OBC castes into the Scheduled Caste category. They also threatened to intensify their agitation and launch a mass movement if the promises made in the manifesto are not fulfilled within two weeks. The students submitted a memorandum to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav through the district magistrate of Aligarh. The memorandum demanded implementation of the Sachhar Committee recommendations on granting special privileges and jobs to Muslims. The memorandum said amendments be made in the Constitution and Dalit Muslims be considered under SC category, 15% job quota for Muslims in state police, opening of more Urdu schools and free coaching centres for higher education. It also demanded that the government should aid innocent Muslims behind bars over “fake terror charges” slapped on them. (Times of India 24/12/16)

70. Muslim youths told to shun kite flying (7)

Nagpur: Little-known Islamic organization Assaqafatur Razaviya of Satranjipura has initiated an anti-kite flying campaign to dissuade Muslim youths from the ‘vice’. As part of the campaign, the organization, that draws its ideology from Barelvi movement, has pasted posters outside several masjids across the city beside spreading the message through discourses. During winter, especially in December and January, kite flying becomes rampant across the city. Every year, activists run campaigns to create awareness about the ill-effects of manja, especially the Chinese or nylon one, used for kite flying. Earlier this month, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a nationwide interim ban on the use of glass-coated manja for kite flying. But, Assaqafatur Razaviya has added religious dimension to the issue. Though the posters directly target Muslims and cites the works of Barelvi scholar Ahmad Raza, president of the organization Maulana Ateeque-ur-Rehman sought to promote it as a social campaign. In the poster, the organization states “Kite flying is illicit and a sin. Muslims must overcome the vice and take to the road of progress. Spending money on prohibited acts only brings bankruptcy. Islam doesn’t allows acts which create problems for others.” The only social message it gives is the pictures of injuries caused to human and birds along with the caption “patang aur manje ki qatilana tabahi (disasters of kite and manja)”. “We have been doing social work, taking up healthcare initiatives as well as working for the welfare of Muslim community. Anti-kite flying campaign is not limited to the community because it is a social issue. There are already court orders banning the use of manja. Right now, we are publishing posters and discourse. We have received good feedback from parents too,” Rehman said. Rehman added that they were also concerned about the threat to citizens from manja. “If someone gets injured and dies, it would be nothing but murder.”The organization has based its views on Ahkamat-e-Shariat, a book by Ahmad Raza. The campaign has found support from other thinkers and followers of the religion who don’t conform to the Barelvi movement. “This is a good initiative. Kite flying distracts one from worship and is a waste of time,” says an imam who belongs to Deobandi movement. “They may have considered it as laghviyat, meaning acts which have no personal, spiritual and social use. Islam’s base is remembering the lord and serving humanity. Only three sports having specific purposes are allowed in Islam — horse riding as it was means of transport, archery because of defence, and swimming because of health. Even I don’t’ subscribe to the idea of flying kite,” said Ayub Khan, professor of English at Women’s College of Arts and a member of NGO Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. Quranic scholar Abdul Gafoor Parekh said, “Kite flying is a kind of social custom and shouldn’t be connected with religion. It should be left to personal choice. But, yes, it is wrong if it causes harm to human beings. ” (Times of India 26/12/16)

71. Ten years after Sachar Report (7)

On November 30, 2006, the 403-page report of the Sachar Committee, on the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India, was tabled in Parliament. The Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, was set up soon after the UPA 1 government took over, and it submitted its findings in less than 2 years. The Report highlighted a range of disabilities faced by the community, and made a slew of recommendations to address the situation. It placed Indian Muslims below Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness. Among the many issues it highlighted were the huge mismatch between the percentage of Muslims in the population and in decisionmaking positions such as the IAS and IPS, and the general poor representation of the community in the police. Sachar report, Sachar report details, Sachar report progress, muslims, india muslims, muslims in india, indian muslims, muslims india, india news The Report highlighted a range of disabilities faced by the community, and made a slew of recommendations to address the situation. It placed Indian Muslims below Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness. An analysis of government data show that most indicators have not seen significant improvement in the years since the Report was submitted. In some cases things seem to have, in fact, deteriorated — in 2005, for example, the share of Muslims among India’s police forces was 7.63%; in 2013, it fell to 6.27%. The government subsequently stopped releasing data on police personnel broken down by religion. In the years both preceding and following Sachar, Muslims continued to have the lowest average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) among all communities. The work participation rate for Muslim men increased only slightly to 49.5% in 2011 from 47.5% in 2001; for Muslim women, the increase was even smaller, from 14.1% in 2001 to 14.8% in 2011. Sachar report, Sachar report details, Sachar report progress, muslims, india muslims, muslims in india, indian muslims, muslims india, india news Only 3 out of 100 IAS, IPS are Muslim. Perhaps the most telling figures are in the IAS and IPS, the country’s top officialdom. The Sachar Committee recorded the percentage of Muslims in the IAS and IPS as 3% and 4% respectively. These numbers were 3.32% and 3.19% respectively on January 1, 2016, Home Ministry data show. The fall in Muslim representation in the IPS was due primarily to a steep fall in the share of Muslim promotee officers in the IPS — from 7.1% in the Sachar Report to merely 3.82% at the beginning of 2016. As per the Census of 2001, Muslims were 13.43% of India’s population; in 2011, they were 14.2%. The increase of 24.69% in the population of Muslims between the two Censuses was the smallest ever recorded for the community. The sex ratio among Muslims remained better than that of India overall in both 2001 and 2011, and the percentage of Muslims living in urban centres too remained higher than the national average in both Censuses. (The Indian Express 26/12/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

72. ‘Demonetisation causing hardship to poor’ (7)

Panaji: The demonetisation move has been causing immense hardship to poor people, especially in rural areas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India Theodore Mascarenhas said on Saturday. “About demonetisation, you should ask the government what it thinks about it, but as we see for the moment, it is creating a lot of problems for the poor people, especially in villages” Mascarenhas said. “I have visited Jharkhand villages where money is not reaching to the people. What will be the long term effects, what will be the short term effects we don’t know, but it is causing hardships,” he said. The secretary general is in Goa to participate in the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the state’s patron saint. Nearly 26 per cent of the state’s population are Christians. He also said, that Christians would defend their constitutional rights as far as freedom for education for the minority community is concerned. “Now as I said, the Christian community is not communal and the gospel will not allow us to be communal. We belong to everybody because God belongs to everybody,” he said.”We have certain rights in the constitution and those constitutional rights are to be protected. We will not allow anyone to touch those rights. And that is a right to education, we are free to educate in any language we want. We are free to teach what we want as long as it is not against the nation,” he added. (Business Standard 3/12/16)

73. Jharkhand yet to act on IAS officer’s reply over religion conversion issue (7)

Ranchi: The Jharkhand government is yet to decide on whether to act against a senior tribal IAS officer over her Facebook post even though she has submitted her reply to a show-cause notice. The officer had indirectly questioned Chief Minister Raghubar Das over the raising of the religious conversion issue at an official programme. The Personnel Department served a show-cause notice to Panchayati Raj Secretary Vandana Dadel, a 1996 batch officer, on October 24 and sought a reply within 15 days. Dadel submitted her reply, but the government has since neither taken any action against her nor exonerated her of the charges. “We received her reply. The file has been moved; the decision will now be taken at the Chief Secretary and Chief Minister levels,” a Personnel Department official told IANS. Departmental sources said Dadel has justified her Facebook post in her reply and asserted that the freedom of speech and expression is a constitutional right. In her Facebook post in Hindi, Dadel wrote: “A question arises in the mind when questions are raised during an official programme about the religion of tribals, and on religious conversion. “Does a tribal has no right to choose a religion of his/her choice with respect. Why all of a sudden have people started thinking about the religion of tribals? The fact is that society is suffering from many other serious issues like malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment.” Dadel’s remarks came on October 20 when she had shared the dais with Chief Minister Raghubar Das at an official programme in Dumka district. Das had used the official platform to raise the religious conversion issue and threatened punishment to those involved in conversions. Das, heading a BJP-led alliance government, had claimed that those involved in conversions of tribals were inciting protests against the Jharkhand government’s move to amend the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act. The Chief Minister’s statement had not gone down well with the Christian community. Das raised the conversion issue days after a rally held to protest against amendments to the two land Acts originally meant to protect the rights of the tribal and indigenous people. After the controversy over the IAS officer’s Facebook comments, the Chief Minister stopped making such remarks. (Business Standard 7/12/16)

74. Church bodies appeal for calling off blockade (7)

IMPHAL, Dec 7 – Tribal Churches Leaders Forum (TCLF) and All Manipur Christian Organisation (AMCO) have appealed to concerned organisations to relax the ongoing indefinite economic blockade as well as the counter blockade to give a ‘breathing space’ in the State on humanitarian grounds.The two organisations which is taking up a mediatory role in resolving the ongoing situation conveyed this while speaking to media persons at Manipur Press Club here on Wednesday. A six member TCLF team also made their appeal to United Naga Council (UNC), Naga Women Union and students association leaders during their trip to Senapati district headquarters, on Tuesday, according to Pastor Johny Shimray. TCLF and AMCO also initiated talks with the State Government to initiate steps to bring about an amicable solution, Rev Dr Lalpi Vaiphei added. Appealing not to create violence but to maintain peace, Convenor Panti Gonmei informed that the church elders are also working hard to find a solution. Hao Research Guild, a body of tribal researchers and scholars also appealed to all communities in the State to play a vital role in resolving the ongoing problem as the State is the birthplace of various ethnic groups. Earlier, Town Churches Union, Tamenglong (TCU) appealed for calling off the economic blockade and counter economic blockade in the interest of the general public, TCU secretary said in a release. Meanwhile, United Committee Manipur, an apex body of various organisations, has called a public meeting in Imphal on December 9 to discuss the future course of action in connection with the ongoing blockade. (The Assam Tribune 8/12/16)

75. US religious freedom official’s visit to India follows criticism (7)

New York, Dec 10 : A US religious freedom official is to visit India next week on the heels of criticism by Congressional leaders on restrictions on a Christian organisation funding activities in India. [NK US] New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai are on the itinerary of David Saperstein, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who will discuss religious freedom with government officials, civil society representatives, and leaders of both majority and minority religious communities, the State Department said on Friday. The announcement of Saperstein’s visit came a day after US Congress members asked India to ease restrictions on Compassion International sending funds to India. At the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday on “government obstacles” to Compassion International, Ed Royce, a Republican Representative, criticised the Indian bureaucracy for restrictions placed on it sending money to related organisations in India. Royce, who is also the head of the Congressional Caucus on India, said that organisation sends 145,000 Indian children $38 every month. Royce questioned assertions that the Christian organisation was involved in conversions. However, Compassion International states on its website that its mission is to enable the children it helps “to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.”It also says: “A local church partner is always the implementer of our child development work” and adds, “Our decision to partner with local churches is a strategic one.” At the hearing, Stephen Oakley, the organisation’s general counsel, claimed that $18 million in taxes levied by the Commissioner of Income Tax on one of its beneficiaries, a charitable public trust, for transferring funds meant for charity to religious organisations was “illegal”.He also questioned the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by the Home Ministry to require Compassion International to get prior clearance for giving money to Indian organisations. Oakley was joined by Irfan Nooruddin, the Hamad bin Khalifa Professor of Indian Politics at the Catholic-run Georgetown University, in criticising the application of the FCRA. Nooruddin referred to New Delhi’s “decision to reconsider its position on Ford Foundation’s status” for distributing funds to Indian organisations that he attributed to criticism by Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry and Ambassador Richard Verma. This showed that India was susceptible to US pressures and it “can be leveraged to demand more transparent applications of FCRA rules and stronger commitments to protecting religious minorities in India even if the government appears reluctant thus far to do the same for Compassion International.” John Sifton, the Asia Policy Director of Human Rights Watch also attacked the regulation of NGOs through the FCRA saying it was “intrusive” and “overbroad and over reaching”.”This harassment of NGOs is taking place in a context in which religious minority groups, in particular Muslim and Christians, are at increased risk,” he said. (New Kerala 10/12/16)

76. Hundreds protest in front of Cairo’s Cathedral after attack (7)

Cairo, Dec 11 : Several hundred Egyptians, mostly Christians, on Sunday gathered outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral to protest an explosion in which at least 25 people were killed. [NK Middle East] Participants chanted slogans calling for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar to step down, reports Efe. Michael Yamini, a 29-year-old protester, said that he was at the scene to understand how a bomb could have exploded at the Cathedral’s complex. According to police, an explosive device had been placed at the door of the small church of St. Peter, next to the Coptic Cathedral. The protest was held amid tight security measures following the attack, for which no group had yet claimed responsibility. At least 25 people were killed and 49 others wounded in the explosion outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral in the Abbassia neighbourhood of the Egyptian capital. The attack came two days after the death of six policemen in a bomb attack near the Pyramids of Giza, west of Cairo. (New Kerala 11/12/16)

77. St. Anthony’s statue in church portico vandalised in Udupi (7)

Udupi: A statue of St. Anthony was found vandalised and a statue of St. Lawrence was found displaced, at the portico of Our Lady of Health Church at Shirva village, about 20 km from Udupi, on Sunday. The statute of St. Lawrence was located close to the steps at the church portico. Both the statues are about two ft tall. According to the police, the incident took place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. As there was Sunday mass, devotees were there in the church till around 12.30 p.m. Fr. Stany Tauro, parish priest told The Hindu that some parishoners saw the vandalised statue and informed him around 3.45 p.m. There are two closed-circuit television cameras on the church premises, but both were not working. The police rushed into service a team of fingerprint experts and a dog squad. They are also examining CCTV footage of the educational institutions around the church. Fr. Tauro said, “I do not suspect any communal element in the incident. The relations between all communities are peaceful in Shirva. We do not know the intention of miscreants. There has been no previous incident of vandalisation in the church here.” A case had been registered at the Shirva police station and investigation is on. The Udupi Pradesh Catholic Sabha has condemned the vandalisation of the statue of St. Anthony and displacement of a statue of St. Lawrence. “The miscreants behind the act should be arrested,” said Valerian Fernandes, president of the sabha, in a press release issued here. (The Hindu 12/12/2016)

78. Man held in church statue vandalisation case (7)

Udupi: The district police on Monday arrested one person in connection with the vandalisation of a statue of St. Anthony and displacement of the statue of St. Lawrnece, at the Our Lady of Health Church at Shirva on Sunday. K.T. Balakrishna, Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu that Benedict D’Souza (56), a driver, was arrested near Bantakal village. Benedict, who was drunk, had a fight with some workers from North India, who were working at a construction site behind the church on Sunday afternoon.He entered the church compound from the rear gate. He then came to the church to pray, but found that the door was locked. He then sat there for a prayer.Benedict then thought that his fate would change if he changed the statues at the church portico. He wanted to put the statue at the left to right and vice-versa. He removed the statue of St. Lawrence and kept it on the floor. But he could not hold the statue of St. Anthony and it fell from his hand and got damaged. Then he panicked and went to his house and slept. The matter came to light after the contractor at the site spoke to his workers from North India. They narrated about the fight to the contractor, who in turn told the police.The police then caught Benedict and questioned him about it. After denying it initially, he then agreed and narrated the events leading to the damage of the statue, Mr. Balakrishna said. Earlier in the day, Oscar Fernandes and Shobha Karandlaje, MPs, Ivan D’Souza, MLC, Vinay Kumar Sorake, MLA, visited the spot. (The Hindu 13/12/16)

79. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability (7)

New Delhi: FOR THE first time in its history, the Indian Catholic Church has officially accepted that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. These admissions are contained in a policy document prepared and released Monday by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward section and empower them. The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. “If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” says the document. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, president, CBCI, told The Indian Express: “It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection.” Incidentally, the Church has been fighting for years for the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes list. But its latest policy document admits that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the higher levels, it is almost nil”. At present, only 12 out of the more than 5,000 bishops in the Catholic Church in the country are Dalit Christians. “There is wider acceptance that the practice of untouchability and discrimination against Dalits exist in the Church and there is need to address these issues urgently,” says the document. It adds, however, that there have been some positive changes and “more acceptance of the rights and dignity of Dalits at least at the ideological and theoretical level” due to various efforts made by the Church and Dalit outfits. Although various levels of the Church structure have been sensitised, with the younger generation growing with a much higher sense of dignity and self worth, there are newer forms of discrimination. “Since there is inadequate representation in seminaries in appointments to key positions and sharing of common resources in the religious orders and in the Church in general, efforts need to be made to remedy the situation given the importance of good priests… for the mission of the Church,” the document states.It states that Dalits are being deprived of access to courses that are job-oriented or in demand. …  (The Indian Express 15/12/16)

80. India: Catholic bishops issue document on Dalits, condemn caste system (7)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a policy document on Dalit empowerment on 13 December, in which it acknowledged that ‘caste discrimination is a grave social sin’ and committed to ensuring that the practise of ‘untouchability’ will not be tolerated within the church. The document, entitled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India: An Ethical Imperative to Build Inclusive Communities’, includes commitments such as ensuring that Dalits are given equal employment opportunities; more competent and cohesive lay leadership development for Dalit men and women at both regional and diocesan levels in the Church; building an interactive portal and helpline for the community; dedicated funding and scholarship structures to assist marginalised Dalit students to further their education and to facilitate the Dalit community’s access social justice. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Catholic Bishops’s Conference of India said: “I whole heartedly urge the Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to internalize and implement the policy at all levels. We should consider it as our obligation based on Christian faith to empower our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin and other marginalized people.” Dr John Dayal, the former National President of the All India Catholic Union, noted: “The CBCI Dalit empowerment document is a powerful commitment to a seminal struggle against birth-based discrimination that corrodes human dignity even as it limits citizenship and other constitutional rights. Succeeding governments have effectively strengthened caste as well as religious discrimination. In appeasing upper castes, a disservice was done to a marginalised group. While other churches had taken a lead, this document brings the three Rites of the Catholic Church including the two Oriental churches into the frontline of the struggle.” Almost 65% of the Indian Catholic community are Dalits, who have endured a long history of discrimination and injustice in India. Christian and Muslims Dalits are legally excluded from ‘Scheduled Castes’ status, which means that they are denied employment opportunities such as holding elected office, which would otherwise be available to Dalits who profess Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Their legal status also means that Muslim and Christian Dalits are denied legal protections in the event of wrongful occupation of land, malicious criminal suits or humiliation. In 2008, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief echoed the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to restore the eligibility for affirmative action to all members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and that membership should not have any link to the individual’s choice of religion. CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW warmly welcomes this landmark policy document. This policy, if put to work effectively, will go a long way to elevate the status of Dalits as a social class who have long been ostracised at every level in society. They deserve to be respected and treated as equal Indian citizens.” (ICN 18/12/16)

81. Curfew in Imphal, mobile internet snapped after violence (7)

Imphal: In the wake of heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were on Sinday brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours over an alleged attack on a church. The curfew was imposed this noon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation here, following three blasts on Friday. The Imphal West District Magistrate issued an order directing telecom operators to shut down mobile data service in the district immediately until further orders. The action came in the wake of tensions following Friday’s blasts and an alleged attack on a church. Major areas of the state capital fall in Imphal West district where the three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening. The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said. The move was preceded by a 24-hour bandh called to protest militants’ attacks on Manipur Police in the last few days in different parts of the state that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured. The militants also snatched several weapons from the IRB personnel. All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said. The capital on Sunday saw violence by protesters who were agitating against the ongoing economic blockade in the state and a series of terrorist attacks. A number of vehicles were set on fire or vandalised.The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since November 1 after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state. The blockade was imposed following the state government’s announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. Tension in the state heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People’s Front on Friday. In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area yesterday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons. (The Hindu 18/12/16)

82. Catholic Church in India condemns caste system in new policy document empowering Dalits

The Catholic Church in India has issued a policy document on Dalit empowerment, in which it acknowledges centuries of caste based discrimination as a ‘grave social sin’ and commits to ensuring that the practice of ‘untouchability’ will not be tolerated within the church. “I whole heartedly urge the Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to internalise and implement the policy at all levels. We should consider it as our obligation based on Christian faith to empower our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin and other marginalised people,” said Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Catholic Bishops’s Conference of India. The document, entitled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India: An Ethical Imperative to Build Inclusive Communities’, issued on 13 December, includes commitments such as ensuring that Dalits are given equal employment opportunities; more competent and cohesive lay leadership development for Dalit men and women at regional and diocesan levels in the Church; dedicated funding and scholarship structures to assist marginalised Dalit students to further their education and to facilitate the Dalit community’s access to social justice. Dr John Dayal, the former National President of the All India Catholic Union, described the document as “a powerful commitment to a seminal struggle against birth-based discrimination that corrodes human dignity.” Almost 65 per cent of Indian Catholics are Dalits, who have endured a long history of discrimination and injustice in India. Christian and Muslims Dalits are legally excluded from ‘Scheduled Castes’ status, which means that they are denied employment opportunities such as holding elected office, which would otherwise be available to Dalits who profess Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Their legal status also means that Muslim and Christian Dalits are denied legal protections in the event of wrongful occupation of land, malicious criminal suits or humiliation. (The Tablet 21/12/16)

83. Christians protest BMC notice against church (7)

The notice, issued on November 24, 2016 by the BMC’s deputy municipal commissioner for zone 7, is to acquire a part of the church’s land in order to widen the perennially-clogged SV RoadHundreds of Catholics protested outside Our Lady of Remedy Church on SV Road in the Poisar area of Kandivali West on Christmas against a notice served on the church by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The notice, issued on November 24, 2016 by the BMC’s deputy municipal commissioner for zone 7, is to acquire a part of the church’s land in order to widen the perennially-clogged SV Road.The BMC and the parishioners of the church are already fighting a case in the Bombay High Court after the civic body earlier in the year served a notice to acquire a part of land in the front portion of the church that houses a cemetery and an ancient cross dating back to 1550. The case is still on at the HC. The BMC’s contention is that the SV road narrows down at the spot in front of the church and needs to be widened to 90 feet for free flow of traffic. (DNA 25/12/16)

84. After alert, tight vigil at churches (7)

NEW DELHI: Security has been beefed up at churches in the city after Delhi Police was alerted by intelligence agencies that a terror outfit might attack a church to create communal tension. Last year, one incident after another at churches had put the police in a quandary. Cops had, however, claimed that none of the incidents were communal. The special branch has deployed sources around “hotspots” identified by them.The alert, incidentally, mentions the blast in a church in Cairo. Daish (IS) had claimed responsibility for the attack, which had occurred on December 11 and killed 25 people. On Sunday, security was further tightened due to Christmas. PCR vans were asked to frequently patrol churches. This year, there have been two church-related incidents. One was a fire, which had broken out in Centenary Methodist Church on Lodhi Road in January this year. Church officials didn’t suspect any foul play. The second occurred in October in outer Delhi’s Rohini. Two men were arrested for barging into a church and threatening the priest and the worshippers during mass. The same church had been targeted earlier by miscreants after which it was provided police cover. The cover was lifted after authorities decided that there was no further threat. In January 2015, miscreants had vandalised a church in west Delhi. (Times of India 26/12/16)

85. “National education policy: Church was not in the loop” (7)

PANAJI: The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao, said on Wednesday that the Union government did not take the Church into confidence before finalising the draft national education policy. He was delivering his Christmas speech at the Archbishop’s Palace, where Governor Mridula Sinha, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Ministers, MLAs, politicians, businessmen, and industrialists were present. “Our charitable works are being viewed with suspicion and an allure for conversion. The Church has been accused of being of foreign origin, although it has gifted the nation with some of the finest high-ranking defence and administrative personnel, who have served the country with exemplary patriotism and dedication,” said the Archbishop. “Our institutions are attacked, robbed, burnt down, and the perpetrators of these crimes often go scot-free. It is almost as if the three per cent population is posing a serious threat to the integration of the nation.” The Archbishop said the Roman Catholic Church will guide its faithful to vote for genuine candidates in the Assembly polls. “The Church takes it upon itself the task of guiding its members in electing the right kind of individuals to the local and the national government.” (The Hindu 29/12/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

86. Race against time as nearly 20,000 children flee Aleppo: UN (13)

Geneva: The UN said some 31,500 people had fled their homes in opposition-held east Aleppo since November 24, when the Syrian government intensified its brutal offensive to retake the entire city.The UN children’s agency UNICEF estimates that around 60 per cent of those displaced — around 19,000 — are children. The number of displaced children could be far higher: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the overall number of people on the run from the violence in east Aleppo at more than 50,000 since Saturday. “What is critical now is that we provide the immediate and sustained assistance that these children and their families desperately need,” UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva. “It’s a race against time, as winter is here and conditions are basic,” he added. He said UNICEF had “winter clothing and blankets … ready for distribution (to) at least help to provide some protection from the freezing temperatures.” The UN refugee agency meanwhile warned today that the main focus now in providing aid to those flooding out of east Aleppo is “the rapidly growing shelter needs”. “Many of those who have fled eastern districts are now in unfinished or partly destroyed buildings,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters. “Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding are already challenges in a congested city with few open spaces,” he said, pointing out that even before the latest exodus from east Aleppo there were already some 400,000 displaced people in the government-held west of the city. In addition to trying to provide shelter, food, healthcare and other physical assistance to the displaced, the UN is also providing much needed psychological support, he said. That is vital, according to Boulierac, who said UNICEF staff meeting with children who have fled east Aleppo in recent days said “you could see the loss and horror in their eyes.” He said UNICEF was also rushing to provide vaccinations for the newly displaced children, pointing out that “many children in east Aleppo have missed out on critical routine vaccinations to protect them from preventable childhood illnesses.” The UN is meanwhile desperately trying to gain access to the people who remain inside east Aleppo where more than 300 civilians, including dozens of children, have been killed since the government launched its offensive on November 15, according to the Observatory. The escalation of violence in Aleppo has been met with international outrage, including a warning by the UN that the city’s east could become “a giant graveyard”. (Deccan Herald 2/12/16)

87. Bru refugee return likely in January (13)

AGARTALA, Dec 3 – Repatriation of Reang refugees from Tripura to Mizoram would start from next year – probably in the month of January. In the third meeting of Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) held in Delhi on November 24, two major players – Mizoram Government and Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) tabled some demands. MBDPF leaders also placed their demands to push the repatriation of Bru refugees. Their major demands include allotment of five acres of land to each Bru family after repatriation and a government job to each repariated family apart from a hike in the financial assistance of Rs 80,000. In addition, they want a monthly financial assistance of Rs 5,000 to each family for two years. “Providing of at least one government job to each repatriated Reang family was principally agreed by the MHA in the meeting. Besides, the cash assistance of Rs 80,000 will also be increased if the process get started”, said Brunu Msha, general secretary of MBDPF. (The Assam Tribune 4/12/16)

88. 21,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar: IOM (13)

Dhaka: Around 21,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks to escape violence in neighbouring Myanmar, an official of the International Organisation for Migration said today. Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on the border to try to stem the tide of refugees fleeing a bloody crackdown by Myanmar’s army in the western state of Rakhine since early October. But Sanjukta Sahany, head of the IOM office in Bangladesh’s southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar bordering Rakhine, said around 21,000 members of the stateless ethnic minority had crossed over in the past two months. The vast majority of those who arrived took refuge in makeshift settlements, official refugee camps and villages, said Sahany. “An estimated 21,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox’s Bazar district between October 9 and December 2,” she told AFP by phone. “It is based on the figures collected by UN agencies and international NGOs” (non-governmental organisations). Those interviewed by AFP inside Bangladesh told horrifying stories of gang-rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces. Analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed. Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse but has banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area. Myanmar’s Nobel peace laureate and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a growing international backlash for what a UN official has said amounts to a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, a Muslim group loathed by many of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. Last week she vowed to work for “peace and national reconciliation”, saying her country faced many challenges, but did not mention the violence in Rakhine state. Bangladesh has reinforced its border posts and deployed coastguard ships to try to prevent a fresh influx of refugees. In the past two months Bangladeshi border guards have prevented hundreds of boats packed with Rohingya women and children from entering the country. The Bangladesh government has been under pressure from Muslim groups and the opposition to open its border to the fleeing Rohingya. Today police stopped thousands of hardline Muslims from marching to the Myanmar embassy in Dhaka to protest at the ongoing “genocide” of Rohingya. Shiblee Noman, an assistant commissioner of Dhaka police, told AFP about 10,000 Muslims joined the march, which was halted at central Dhaka’s Nightingale Crossing. (Deccan Herald 6/12/16)

89. Over 4,7000 migrants perish in Mediterranean (13)

Rome, Dec 6 (IANS/AKI) A record 4,715 boat migrants have died Mediterranean this year, while 351,080 migrants have landed in southern Europe, mainly in Greece and Italy till December 4, the International Organisation for Migration said on Tuesday. Although the number of arrivals has dropped by more than half compared with the 883,393 migrants who arrived during the same period of 2015, 1,148 more people have drowned, IOM said. The total number of migrant and refugee fatalities in the Mediterranean this year till November 27 is 4,715 – 1,148 more deaths than in the same period of 2015. The overwhelming majority of the fatalities (4,223) occurred on the perilous central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy, according to IOM. The United Nations refugees agency expects the death-toll to reach 5,000 by the year’s end, its chief Filippo Grandi warned on Friday. The number of migrants who landed in Greece this year fell by over three-quarters to 171,875 from 739,188 in 2015, following a landmark deal between the European Union and Turkey in March under which the country agreed to take back any asylum-seekers. IOM said some 173,571 people have arrived by sea in Italy this year, up from 144,205 in 2015, as more mainly African migrants attempt the crossing from Libya. Italy is struggling to cope with the growing influx of migrants and has threatened to veto the EU’s 2017 budget unless it does more to help, including relocating 39,600 asylum seekers from its soil to other European countries. (Business Standard 6/12/16)

90. Bru repatriation to begin from Jan 15 (13)

AGARTALA, Dec 8 – Clearing all doubts, repatriation of Bru refugees sheltered in six relief camps in Tripura would begin from January 15 next, official sources confirmed here on Thursday. Initially, those who have been identified as bona fide citizens of Mizoram would be taken back to their homeland while no decision has been taken on the fate of around 1,000 Bru families living in relief camps. The decision to start repatriation of Reang refugees was taken in a meeting held at Kanchanpur in North Tripura district which was chaired by Special Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Internal Security) Mahesh Kumar Singla. Representatives from Tripura and Mizoram Governments attended the meeting. “All issues related to repatriation of Reang refugees and rehabilitation were discussed in the meeting held on Wednesday. The district administration will complete all necessary arrangements for resuming the repatriation of Bru refugees”, District Magistrate, North Tripura Dr Sandeep Mahatme said over telephone from Kanchanpur. Although he did not reveal the rehabilitation package to be offered to the refugees, sources said most of the repatriated Bru families will get job either in the State or Central Government. Besides, cash assistance and housing under IYA will also be provided to them. Reports said Singla who arrived here on Wednesday, also held a meeting with inmates of Naisingpara refugee camp on Thursday. Identification reports indicate increase in the number of genuine number of Bru families living in relief camp. Therefore, the government needs to identify more villages apart from 77 already selected centres for resettlement of the repatriated families. There was a decision to update the population of Bru refugees by Tripura Government and issue of birth certificates to all the children who were born after 1997. Cash assistance and other benefits would be extended to those families who have already been repatriated in the past. (The Assam Tribune 9/12/16)

91. Martyrs’ families angry, confused (13)

Guwahati: The 59-year-old elder brother of Khagen Bharali, the third martyr of the Assam Movement, said: “The BJP government, which is flouting the Assam Accord by amending the Citizenship Act to pave the way for more Bangladeshi migrants to come here, is also honouring the martyrs who died fighting against illegal migration. I am a bit confused.” Ranju, a resident of Narengi forest gate here, spoke to The Telegraph during the Swahid Divas function organised by the state government to honour the 855 martyrs of the six-year Assam Agitation (1979-1985). The Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre introduced the bill in July to amend the Citizenship Act to allow Hindus, Sikhs and other religious minorities of neighbouring countries to get Indian citizenship. The Centre, after facing protests from several indigenous organisations, referred the bill to a joint parliamentary committee for a review. Khagen, who was a Class X student in 1979 and member of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad, was protesting at the IOL campus in Narengi and died in police firing. He became the third protester to die after Barpeta’s Khargeswar Talukdar and Nalbari’s Dilip Huzuri. Md Giyasuddin Ahmed, brother of martyr Mukut Ali, also seemed angry. “It is a nice move by the government to honour the martyrs. But they are also going to amend the Citizenship Act. If that happens, I am ready to lead another Assam Agitation and lay down my life like my brother.” Mukut died in 1982 in an explosion during a demonstration at Fatasil Bazar here. Swahid Diwas is celebrated on December 10 every year in the memory of Khargeswar. A resident of Bhabanipur in Barpeta district, he led a blockade to prevent Abida Begum, wife of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, from submitting her nomination papers for Barpeta parliamentary constituency and was gunned down by then CRPF commander K.P.S. Gill. The agitation culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, but its key clauses, however, have not been implemented.Talukdar’s brother, Chandra, said, “If the bill is passed, Assam will be overburdened with more migrants. I believe we can negotiate with the Centre and ensure at least Assam is left out of the bill’s purview,” he said. The AGP government had honoured the martyrs’ families by organising the first Swahid Divas and gave them Rs 30,000 each in 1986. The Sarbananda Sonowal-led government revived the occasion after 36 years and gave away Rs 5 lakh to the families. However, the family members felt the sum was equivalent to that given in 1986. “The value of Rs 5 lakh today is similar to Rs 30,000 in 1986. The aid back then was minus the threat of more Bangladeshis coming to Assam,” said 76-year-old Maneshwar Sarma, brother of Thaneswar, who was martyred in Mangaldoi. (The Telegraph 11/12/16)

92. PM fulfilling his promise towards PoK refugees: BJP (13)

Jammu: With the distribution of cheques amounting to Rs 5.5 lakh each among families of the displaced persons of 1947, 1965 and 1971 under ‘Prime Minister’s Development Plan’ for PoK refugees, the BJP state unit today said that the process for providing assistance to these people has officially been kicked off by the coalition government. “The process for providing assistance to displaced persons of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971 has officially been kicked off by the BJP-PDP coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir,” BJP State Spokesperson Balbir Ram Rattan said in a handout here. It was indeed a historic moment for the PoK displaced persons, whose three generations have perished while agitating for decades after they left their homes and hearths besides losing their family members, he said. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had during the 2014 general elections promised to consider and fulfill the demands of the PoK displaced persons of 1947, 65 and 71. Within two years of taking over as Prime Minister, he has kept his promise and provided Rs 2000 crore as assistance to be distributed among the affected families residing in the state, he said. He said that it has been most unfortunate that despite ruling the country for maximum period after independence, the Congress did nothing for the welfare and development of the displaced persons from PoK. He said that the long pending issue now stands resolved with the continuous efforts of the BJP as coalition partner in the state government, which had been building pressure and kept reminding the Prime Minister about the genuine demand of the displaced persons from PoK. The BJP spokesperson said that the Modi-led government at the Centre in January 2015, had given its nod to certain concessions for the refugees from West Pakistan residing in Jammu and Kashmir considering the problems faced by them. Equal employment opportunities, special recruitment drives for induction into paramilitary forces, admission for the children of refugees in Kendriya Vidyalayas, to mention a few, were a part of the concessions granted by the union government. Balbir said that party has always fully supported the demands of the displaces persons and West Pakistan refugees living in Jammu and Kashmir, who have faced discrimination for the last six decades. (Zee News 13/12/16)

93. Human Rights Groups Warn Myanmar Over Rohingya Issue (13)

Bangkok:  The actions of Myanmar’s military may constitute crimes against humanity, human rights group Amnesty International has warned, based on accounts of violence against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. Myanmar has come under heavy criticism for its army’s forceful treatment of the Rohingya, and international human rights groups such as Amnesty have accused the military of mass murder, looting and rape. “The Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence,” said Rafendi Djamin, Southeast Asia director for Amnesty International. “The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity.” Amnesty released a report on Monday outlining its accusations. The report comes as Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to meet fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asians Nations at a Monday meeting in Yangon. The military sweeps were sparked by an October 9 attack on police outposts in Rakhine state that killed nine officers. Rakhine, located in Myanmar’s west, has long been home to simmering tensions between the Rohingya and the country’s Buddhist majority population. The last major outbreak of violence in 2012 left hundreds dead and drove 140,000 people into internal displacement camps. Amnesty cautioned that the scale and extent of the violence is unclear, as the military has closed Rakhine to outside observers, including aid workers. But eyewitness accounts detail specific cases of murder, looting and rape. In one incident on November 12, following an alleged skirmish between the army and villagers armed mostly with swords and other simple weapons, helicopter gunships descended on a village and sprayed bullets indiscriminately, killing civilians fleeing in a panic, Amnesty said. This was corroborated to an extent by Myanmar army officials, who said helicopters opening fire that day and killed six people, who officials said were insurgents. Refugees told Amnesty that the military is torching villages. Satellite images Amnesty obtained show 1,200 burned structures, which they say is in line with images released by Human Rights Watch in November that showed 1,500 burned homes. Amnesty’s report follows concerns voiced in an International Crisis Group report released last week that repressive government policies are radicalizing the Rohingya, and sharp criticism from the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. “Myanmar’s handling of northern Rakhine is a lesson in how to make a bad situation worse,” al-Hussein said in Geneva on Friday. “The results have been catastrophic, with mass displacement, the nurturing of violent extremism, and everybody ultimately losing.” The border attacks were coordinated by a new insurgent group calling itself Harakah al-Yaqin, or the Faith Movement, according to the Belgium-based International Crisis Group. Organized by a network of Rohingya in Saudi Arabia and bankrolled by wealthy donors, the militant group is being called a “game changer” for drawing Muslims disillusioned and desperate from years of disenfranchisement by the Myanmar government. Amnesty is urging the government to immediately cease hostilities, open Rakhine for humanitarian aid groups, and allow independent investigations. (NDTV 19/12/2016)

94. Centre approves Rs 2,000 crore package for POJK refugees (13)

New Delhi: A Rs 2,000-crore development package, approved by the central government recently, will be applicable to the displaced people of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and not to those from West Pakistan. The central assistance of Rs 2,000 crore would be given to 36,384 displaced families from POJK and Chhamb following an announcement of Prime Minister’s Development Package for Jammu and Kashmir in November, 2015, according to the Union Cabinet decision on November 30. In the aftermath of partition of the country in 1947, thousands of families from Pakistan occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir migrated to Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, during Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971, a large number of families were displaced from Chhamb Niabat area of Jammu and Kashmir.A series of relief and rehabilitation packages have been extended by the Governments of India and Jammu and Kashmir from time to time to mitigate the hardship of displaced persons from POJK and Chhamb and to rehabilitate them, an official said.PTI had on November 30 inadvertently reported that refugees from West Pakistan, mostly from PoK, settled in different areas of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts will receive the package. The POJK refugees are bonafide state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir as they originally belonged to Jammu and Kashmir and migrated only from one side of the state to the other. Since POJK refugees are state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir, they are eligible to cast their votes to Lok Sabha, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and local body elections. (Indian Express 20/12/16)

95. Facing flak, J-K govt clears air on status of west Pakistan refugees (13)

After media reports on issuance of domicile certificates to west Pakistan refugees (WPR) in Jammu and Kashmir created a political storm, the state government on Thursday clarified that they have been issued identity certificates and it didn’t make them state subjects. The government added that a “false and contrived impression was being created regarding the change of status of the West Pakistan Refugees (WPR)” and such reports were deliberately circulated to “destabilise the situation and hit the political and economic interests of the people”. News reports of government issuing domicile certificates to west Pakistan refugees has touched a raw nerve in Jammu and Kashmir and separatists have already announced state-wide protests on Friday. Controversial legislator Engineer Rashid was on Thursday detained by police after he attempted to take out a march on the issue. In a press statement, education minister Naeem Akhtar said, “It seems an orchestrated and misleading campaign has been launched to create an impression that the government is changing the status of the WPR and they are being provided domicile certificates.” Akhtar said the refugees who settled in the state post-partition, include those from PoK and West Pakistan. (Hindustan Times 23/12/16)

96. Fresh protests in Kashmir over West Pakistan refugees (13)

Srinagar:  Protests erupted amid a shutdown call by separatists in the Kashmir Valley on Friday against the alleged move to grant domicile certificate to West Pakistan refugees in J&K. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was detained when he tried to take out a march in Srinagar. “Kashmiris will not shy away from spilling even their blood to safeguard the Muslim majority character of J&K. The Supreme Court orders regarding the quasi-sovereign status of J&K and permitting outside banks to confiscate and hold properties in it is part of the conspiracy to change the demography,” alleged Mr. Malik. Speaking at the Jamia Masjid before the Friday prayers, Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, “Our peaceful programme against the anti-Kashmir policies of granting domicile rights to WP refugees and using the judiciary to subvert the Kashmir dispute was thwarted by the police.” The West Pakistan refugees issue sparked fresh street protests in the Valley. There were clashes in parts of Sopore, Srinagar and Bandipora districts among others.. On Thursday, Government spokesman and State Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar ruled out granting any citizenship to WP refugees in J&K, saying “only identification certificates were issued.” CPI(M) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami warned against “violating and eroding the special status of J&K”. “The State is still passing through a difficult phase. It seems that conspiracies are being hatched to prolong the uncertain atmosphere here,” Mr. Tarigami said. (The Hindu 24/12/16)

97. Brazil seeking 19 migrants lost at sea (13)

Rio de Janeiro: At least 19 Brazilians were among the passengers of a boat believed to have capsized in the Caribbean sometime between November and December, local media reports said. The boat was purportedly carrying illegal migrants attempting to reach US shores, and was last known to be sailing from the Bahamas to Miami, Florida, the report said on Sunday, citing Brazil`s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Since the Brazilian passengers boarded the ship on November 6, their relatives have had no news from them, Xinhua news agency reported. Authorities from Brazil, the Bahamas and the US have been in contact over the incident, the ministry said. The US Coast Guard and its Bahamian counterpart were permanently patrolling the coasts, but have yet to detect signs of a possible shipwreck, the ministry added. (Zee News 26/12/16)

98. It is up to Sri Lankan refugees to return home, says Minister (13)

CHENNAI:  After visiting a camp for the refugees in Gummidipoondi, on the northern outskirts of Chennai, Mr. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu on Monday evening that he favoured voluntary repatriation. “If the refugees want to remain here, suitable arrangements should be in place.” They should also keep in mind that there should be no fall in the population of Tamils in Sri Lanka. He visited the camp which was affected by the recent cyclonic storm “Vardah.” There are about one lakh refugees living in the State including around 36,650 persons living outside the camps. According to information provided by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs in the Sri Lanka government, 5,266 persons returned to Sri Lanka from 2011 to mid-November. As part of a scheme of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), those who go back on their own are provided free air tickets, reintegration allowance of $75 per person, transport allowance of $19 per person and monetary non-food grant of $75 per family. The Sri Lankan authorities have initiated a livelihood assistance programme of maximum LKR (Sri Lankan currency) 100,000 per refugee returnee family to support the livelihood activities. S.C. Chandrahasan, founder of the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), has been pushing for a package of assistance to those who are willing to return. Apart from covering subsistence allowance, the proposed assistance includes provisions for the establishment of homes and livelihood. The assistance programme can be implemented by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments jointly. Mr. Chandrahasan is also for the resumption of ferry services between Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar in the Northern Province. According to him, initially the services can be used for the return of refugees. Subsequently, pilgrims on either side of the Palk Bay can use the services. (The Hindu 27/12/16)

99. Domicile for refugees splits J&K along communal lines (13)

JAMMU: The BJP-PDP coalition government’s decision to issue domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees is snowballing into a major controversy in Jammu & Kashmir, polarising the state communally once again. CM Mehbooba Mufti recently decided to issue domicile certificates to those who migrated to the Jammu region during Partition. There are 19,960 West Pakistan refugee families registered with the state government.Domicile certificates, according to the government, will help them get government jobs and establish them as Indian citizens. Kashmir-centric parties, including National Conference, and separatist groups have opposed the move while Jammu-centric ones -BJP, VHP, Shri Ram Sena and Panthers Party -support the decision. Separatists have called for protests in the Valley. Both separatists and NC have accu sed the government of engi neering demographic change s in the Muslim majority state. BJP state chief Sat Sharma said it was clearly mentioned in the PDP-BJP agenda of alliance that the government would consider providing better livelihood for refugees. “Separatists and opposition parties are out to trigger trouble,” he said. Refugees, who have been living in the state for 70 years… can in no way af fect demography, he said.Labha Ram Gandhi, chairman of West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee lashed out, asking: “No one has a problem with government sup port for Rohingyas but they have an is sue with West Pakis tan refugees. Why?… They (separatists) and anti-national for ces are hell bent on converting Jammu into a Muslim-majo rity region,” he alle ged. As per official re cords, over 13,384 fo reigners, including Rohingya Muslims, `camp’ in the state. Madan Lal Dabgotra, a refugee, said, “For the first time, a government has decided to provide identity cards to us. We are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections and have valid ration cards. We pay proper housing taxes to the J&K government, yet our existence is questioned.” (Times of India 28/12/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

100. 14,474 cases of HIV through blood transfusion; govt in denial (1)

New Delhi, Dec 1 : Tall, lean and dark, Jaiprakash was an average 11-year-old who loved galli cricket and chips. Then, to his parents dismay, the peppy fourth-grader from Junagadh in western Gujarat started falling ill frequently. Finally, he had to drop out of school. [NK India] On a December morning five years ago, Jai started bleeding from his nose and mouth. Doctors at the nearest government hospital referred him to another hospital in Rajkot, about 100 km away.It turned out that Jai, who was a Thalassemic patient since he was just a year old, had contracted HIV through blood transfusion at the Junagadh Civil Hospital. And it wasn’t just him; 35 other Thalassemic children being given transfusion at the same hospital had become HIV-infected. Of them, eight died. “All our happiness died with our child. Who do we live for now?” said 50-year-old Rafeeq Ranava, Jai’s father, a daily-wage labourer in Junagadh. An IndiaSpend investigation, through a series of Right to Information (RTI) requests, has revealed that 14,474 cases of HIV through blood transfusion have been reported in India over the last seven years. It also revealed that the Indian government has yet to order a study or inquiry into this medical crisis that puts millions of lives at risk. Not just that, there has been a 10 per cent rise in the number of such cases over the last one year — from 1,424 in 2014-15 to 1,559 in 2015-16 — according to documents obtained from that National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the apex government body dealing with India’s HIV/AIDS control programme. The 10 per cent increase in 2015-16 numbers is significant because it has reversed the near-consecutive decrease in cases in the five preceding years. NACO, however, has downplayed the rise in its report on blood banks: “Due to concerted and active efforts, the prevalence of TTIs (transfusion transmission infections) has come down significantly over the years.” NACO’s data are based on self-reporting by people at its Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres spread across the country. Referring to this, Sobhini Rajan, Additional Director General, Blood Safety, NACO, maintained that the data are “based on responses received from people and it is (sic) not scientifically corroborated”. She also added that the “figures have come down — from around 15 per cent in the 1990s to less than 1 per cent now”.Developed countries rarely report such cases now. Canada, for instance, hasn’t seen a single case of blood transfusion-related HIV since 1985, and the US, since 2008. ….  (New Kerala 1/12/16)

101. Panchayat clerk seeks exemption from answering RTI query (1)

MADURAI: A panchayat staff, who has to answer a list of queries under the RTI, has in his reply said that the applicant was seeking answers to a list of questions with an ulterior motive and sought exemption from having to answer them. In the RTI dated Nov 2, 2016, the applicant, KVA Tamilselvan, had sought answers to the queries pertaining to the Viraganoor panchayat in Thiruparankundram union in Madurai. The questions include details of the green houses constructed in the panchayat between 2011 and 2016, the number of houses constructed under the Indira Awaaz Yojna for the same period, the number of toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharath mission, the amount of manure manufactured using the biodegradable waste collected from houses and buildings in the panchayat. The applicant received his reply on Wednesday, which was in fact a letter by the panchayat clerk of Viraganoor panchayat, S Rajamani to the State RTI commissioner, in which he has stated the petitioner had sought replies to a hoard of queries, for which unlimited amount of records would have to be perused. It would affect the work of the panchayat. He has said the the petitioner (Tamilselvan) has attempted to make fun of the RTI system by asking too many queries and that he was ready to provide details if they pertained to a specific period. He has sought exemption from answering the RTI under Section 7(9), which says that public authority can deny information. (Times of India 3/12/16)

102. Reserve Bank of India head earns Rs 2 lakh per month (1)

Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel gets a little over Rs 2 lakh per month as salary and has not been provided with any supporting staff at his residence, the central bank has said.

Patel, who took over as RBI governor in September, is in possession of the bank’s flat (deputy governor’s flat) at Mumbai, it said.  “No supporting staff has been provided to the present governor Urjit Patel at his residence. Two cars and two drivers have been provided,” RBI said in a reply to a Right to Information query.The central bank was asked to provide details of remuneration given to former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and incumbent Patel.For October — the first full month Patel was in office as governor — Patel got Rs 2.09 lakh as his salary, the same amount drawn by Rajan in August. Rajan demitted office on September 4, and was given Rs 27,933 as remuneration for four days. Rajan assumed the charge as RBI governor from September 5, 2013, at a monthly salary of Rs 1.69 lakh. His salary was revised to Rs 1.78 lakh and Rs 1.87 lakh, respectively, during 2014 and March 2015. His salary was hiked to Rs 2.09 lakh from Rs 2.04 lakh in January this year, the RTI reply said. Rajan was provided with three cars and four drivers. “One caretaker and nine maintenance attendants were posted as supporting staff in the bungalow provided by the bank to the former Governor Raghuram Rajan at Mumbai,” RBI said. The Centre has recently declined to share details on appointment of Patel and other candidates shortlisted for the top post in the entral bank saying these are “Cabinet papers” and cannot be made public.Patel was on August 20 named as RBI’s Governor to succeed Rajan. (Business Standard 6/12/16)

103. Prasar Bharati has no record of how it spent Rs.190 crore (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed shock and wondered if there was some misappropriation of funds when it learnt that Prasar Bharati had no record of how it used Rs.190 crore allocated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for telecast of awareness programmes on family planning and population control.The court was even more surprised when Prasar Bharati said it had received Rs.190 crore and not Rs.160 crore, as stated in an RTI reply by the Union Health Ministry. Prasar Bharati submitted that it did not keep any record of how the money was spent as 122 programmes were telecast from 30 different kendras and it was not possible to collate all the data of expenditure because there were many “hidden costs”.A Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar was hearing a petition by Satyanarain, who had sought details of how the money granted by the Health Ministry in 2012-13 for family planning awareness programmes on Doordarshan was utilised and how many shows were telecast. While the petitioner had sought a record of Rs.160 crore as per the information received in an RTI reply from the Health Ministry, Prasar Bharati said in court that it had received Rs.190 crore and even showed a record of having spent the money. “How is it that they [Health Ministry] gave you Rs.160 crore and you spent Rs.190 crore? How has this discrepancy crept in?” the Bench asked the counsel for Prasar Bharati.“There is a CAG report to show everything. We have telecast shows. But we don’t keep a record of how much money is spent on each aspect of a show,” said the counsel, adding that the Rs.190 crore figure had been reached as there were certain “hidden costs”. To this, the Bench remarked: “If you don’t have record of expenditure from that Rs.160 or Rs.190 crore, that means anyone can come take out the money and go. You must be having some record on how much you spent on production, on stage, etc., otherwise you can receive Rs.190 crore and spend it wherever.” “We will simply say that Doordarshan is unable to give a clear picture of amount received and spent. You are not giving satisfactory answers. Why do you want to hide things,” the Bench asked as Prasar Bharati said collecting information sought by the petitioner would lead to diversion of funds. On Prasar Bharati saying that RTI Act does not apply to information which is not available, the Bench said this is a case of information not being collated and “it is about money for which there is no information”. The Bench asked Prasar Bharati to collate all information on how the money was spent and fixed the matter for hearing on January 25. (The Hindu 9/12/16)

104. NGO launches exhaustive RTI portal (1)

Mumbai: The website seeks to provide regular RTI applicants with answers to any queries they may have, as well as initiate a first-time applicant to ways in which an RTI application can be filed While the state continues to drag its feet on offering a website dedicated to the Right to Information Act, 2005, an NGO has come out with an exhaustive RTI portal. While an official state government RTI portal has been in the pipeline for the past four years, the last update from the government was that it would be launched after the monsoon session. The website developed by the NGO promises to provide exhaustive information pertaining to the filing of RTI applications, RTI rules of various states, orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts, among other related details. The website seeks to provide regular RTI applicants with answers to any queries they may have, as well as initiate a first-time applicant to ways in which an RTI application can be filed. Called mahitiadhikarmanch.ngo – named after the NGO which derives its name in Marathi from the RTI Act, the portal has rules of different states in their respective state languages. The RTI Act itself is available in 10 languages including Marathi,besides English and Hindi, on the website. “A lot of organizations do work on RTI. However, there is no single website that gives the information on all the details about the RTI. On our website, we have put up the RTI Act and even the rules in all languages. There is a link to all information commissions and all organizations that work towards the RTI Act. There are important SC and HC judgments related to RTI Act, motivational songs and talks by various people. Information will also be provided of various workshops on RTI that people can look forward to attend. We are trying to make the website as live as we can make it,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, that has come out with the website. The website will be followed by a RTI vehicle that will educated people on the Act moving from place to place. “In future we will also put up details of all the Acts that relate to or compliment the RTI Act like the Indian Evidence Act, Records Maintenance Act, Services Act and all other Act that co-relate with the RTI,” said Prabhu. (DNA 11/12/16)

105. Least RTI requests rejected in 2015-16 (1)

New Delhi: About 6.62 per cent of the total RTI requests were rejected in 2015-16, the lowest in the past five years, Parliament was informed on Wednesday. Out of 11,65,904 RTI requests received in 2015-16, 64,666 (6.62 percent) were rejected, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply. As information given by the Central Information Commission (CIC), in 2014-15, out of 8,45,032 RTI requests received, 63,351 (8.39 per cent) requests were rejected. In 2013-14, out of 9,62,630 RTI requests received, 60,127 (7.21 per cent) were rejected. In 2012-13, out of 8,86,681 RTI requests received, 62,231 (7.70 per cent) were rejected. In 2011-12, out of 7,05,976 RTI requests received, 52,313 (8.30 per cent) requests were rejected. (Business Standard 14/12/16)

106. RBI stonewalling info on key issues, says former RTI chief (1)

MUMBAI: Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi has said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is setting a “dangerous” precedent by putting out a list of issues about which it will not disclose information under the Right to Information Act. Gandhi said this list includes nine issues regarding which the Supreme Court had in 2015 upheld the CIC’s order and directed the RBI to disclose information sought by the petitioner. Gandhi said that the RBI’s Disclosure Policy effectively means that the central bank arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. “This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided exemptions to disclosure in sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act,” said Gandhi. He said that the RTI Act would be “rendered useless” if every government department comes out with such Disclosure Policies.In a complaint to the CIC against the RBI’s Disclosure Policy, Gandhi said the Disclosure Policy only lists information which will not be disclosed in the garb of claiming exemptions under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act. “This is illegal and is certainly usurpation of the powers of the Commission. RBI has no power under law to declare which information is exempt,” he said, adding that it would be the role of the Commission to do so. Terming the action as as “very dangerous and illegal”, Gandhi said it could cause complete disruption of the working of RTI if other public authorities follow this example. “Public Information Officer’s of public authorities will then be following the illegal proclamation of their organizations instead of the RTI Act,” he said. Gandhi has asked the CIC to declare the action of the RBI illegal and reprimand the apex bank for this illegal act. (Times of India 17/12/16)

107. Rs40 spent on RTI information worth Rs6 (1)

NAGPUR: For supplying information worth Rs6, Pench Tiger Reserve public information officer (PIO) GS Hingne has spent Rs40 towards postal charges. He has asked city RTI activist Avinash Prabhune to deposit Rs46 for giving out the information that was sought under RTI. The information was in 3 pages. On November 10, Prabhune filed an RTI application with PTR regarding information about number of visitors to Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary from October 17, 2015 to November 15, 2015 & from October 1, 2016 to Nov 7, 2016 along with few other queries. He was surprised to receive a letter for which Rs40 was spent. “The PIO should have provided information at the first instance as it would have avoided valuable government resources like manpower, office hours, stationery, postal charges,” said Prabhune.He added that the PIO decision is against a government resolution which states that instead of demanding meagre amounts, economic viability must be logically analysed so that it helps in providing timely information to citizens as well as save government resources. In the same GR, the government has taken reference of department of personnel and training (DoPT), where it had been suggested not to transfer applications to multiple authorities as per Section 6(3) of the RTI Act and had advised the PIOs to inform applicant to file separate RTI applications to other public authority. Prabhune says though there is nothing wrong in the state GR, it appears that government officials adopt DoPT circulars which are suitable to them but ignores circular as regards to postal charges. DoPT had issued notification on July 31, 2012, no postal charges are to be collected as long as postal charges are below Rs50. “In my case, the Pench PIO has asked to deposit Rs46. It is sheer waste of resources and manpower,” added Prabhune. (Times of India 19/12/16)

108. PMO refuses demonetisation info under RTI (1)

JALANDHAR: The Prime Minister’s Office has refused to give information under RTI Act about decisions taken as part of the demonetisation plan. PMO has cited a provision of RTI Act claiming exemption from providing information. Nawanshahr based RTI activist Parvinder Singh Kitna had sought information about the timings of crucial decisions and sent an application to the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of PMO on November 16. On December 2, the PMO forwarded the application to the ministry of home affairs “for action as appropriate”. On December 16, PMO Under Secretary-cum-CPIO Parveen Kumar replied to Kitna’s application and cited provision 8(i)(a) of the RTI Act to refuse the information sought. Kitna’s queries were: on which date was the decision taken to ban currency notes of Rs 500 and 1000; on which date were copies of the letter issued to the authorities/departments concerned and RBI for starting the process in this regard; when was the process of demonetisation of high currency notes started in PMO; at which level/branch was this process initiated. The other points on which the information was sought included: when was the final decision taken on demonetising the currency and copy of orders issued by the PMO on the subject; was the Union cabinet taken into confidence; if yes, provide a copy of the “minister” (minutes) of the cabinet meeting; copies of the legal and financial opinion on the subject given by the respective offices. The RTI application also posed questions about quantum of black money as it asked: how much of black money has been received by the government as on date of providing the required information. Kitna said PMO should make public all the facts related to demonetisation as refusal to give information was leading to apprehensions. He said he would file an appeal with the appellate authority, as provided by the RTI Act, against this refusal to share information. Meanwhile, Punjab and Haryana high court advocate H C Arora said that information should be made public as the RTI Act also provided “that the decisions of council of ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over”. He said that once the demonetisation policy had been implemented, there was no harm in making public the information pertaining to its decisions. (Times of India 23/12/16)

109. Uttrakhand government mulling amending RTI Act, allege activists (1)

DEHRADUN: RTI activists in Uttarakhand are up in arms alleging that the state government is planning to make furnishing of an affidavit “compulsory” by the information seeker at the stage of the appeal. The activists, while addressing a press conference, said that they will challenge the move in the court if it is implemented. They also alleged that the state government has given the proposal to introduce a new clause to the legal department.However, a senior state government official claimed that no changes have been introduced into the RTI manual and no decision has been taken in the matter. As per the procedure of the RTI Act, an applicant first gives his queries to the department. If he is not satisfied, he can again file an appeal to press further for the replies. The “proposal” of making submission of the affidavit has irked the RTI activists, who call it “legally untenable”.Amar Singh Dhunta, an RTI activist, said: “All activists are against this proposed move because it is against the very spirit of the RTI Act. Nowhere does the Act states that the applicant needs to file an affidavit. The state government should not fiddle with the RTI Act.” The activists claimed that the move to bring affidavit at the stage of appeal is aimed at discouraging the RTI applicant. “At present anyone, irrespective of age and profession, can file an RTI for information. At the stage of appeal, he only fills a form (RTI appeal). Now, with this move, the state government is scaring the applicant against pursuing his case,” said Ajay Kumar, another RTI activist. Introducing the affidavit in the RTI will also make the entire exercise expensive, they said. Dunta added: “If it happens, then we will approach the court.” A Bareilly-based RTI activist and advocate Mohd Khalid Jilani said: “No affidavit is required to file an RTI query. If the Uttarakhand government makes affidavit mandatory, it is illegal.” (Times of India 21/12/16)

110. RBI refuses to disclose deliberations of its Board on demonetisation (1)

New Delhi: Responding to an RTI application filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak, the Bankers’ Bank refused to disclose the minutes of the crucial meetings of Central Board of Directors on the issue of demonetisation citing section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law. The Reserve Bank of India has refused to allow access to minutes of meetings held to decide on the issue of demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. Responding to an RTI application filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak, the Bankers’ Bank refused to disclose the minutes of the crucial meetings of Central Board of Directors on the issue of demonetisation citing section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law. The Section exempts disclosure of information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence. Nayak said he will appeal against the decision, adding, “While confidentiality prior to the making of the demonetisation decision is understandable, continued secrecy after the decision is implemented is difficult to understand when crores of Indians including this author have faced difficulties due to the shortage of cash in the economy”. He said the refusal to disclose the minutes of the Board meeting where the decision was taken to recommend demonetisation of the high value currency notes, is perplexing to say the very least.”Cash-starved people have had problems paying hospital charges when mothers delivered babies and bereaved families faced problems paying fees to cremate or bury their dead at cemeteries or crematoria,” he said. (Deccan Herald 25/12/16)

111. Officials warned against not giving information under RTI Act (1)

RAICHUR: Suchet Kumar, Commissioner, State Information Commission, has warned officials that action will be initiated against them if they failed to provide information against applications seeking information under the Right to Information Act. He was addressing a meeting on Right to Information Act at the zilla panchayat auditorium in Raichur on Monday. Stating that every citizen had the right to get information about government action in a particular work or a project or a programme, Mr. Suchet Kumar asked the officials to ensure that the right to information was not turned down, except for a few reasons mentioned under the law. As many as 66 applications seeking information were inquired into and of them, several were disposed of on the spot. The commissioner warned officials that fine would be imposed on them if they did not furnish information in 15 days, when it was brought to his notice that applications seeking information on computer operators working in the Taluk Panchayat Office in Raichur and the action plan of Chandrabanda Gram Panchayat were still pending. People from various villages and applicants participated in the meeting. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

112. Half of migrant children turn school dropouts (11)

Hyderabad: Coming out with startling figures, the study pointed out that 35 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls who used to attend primary school in their native villages dropped out of education once they accompanied their parents to Hyderabad.As per the report while 53 per cent of boys and 47 per cent of girls were enrolled in primary schools of their home towns, after migration just 18 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of the girls went to school. A lot many of them end up adding on to child labour force in urban and semi-urban work-sites. However, enrolment of such students in anganwadis was better with 41 per cent of boys and 53 per cent of girls getting enrolled in these institutions. In the city, 10 per cent of the total number of schools in any locality were available within one kilometer radius of the work site. However, it was not just lack of schools that caused the abysmal drop out, study revealed.“In most cases children migrate along with families during the peak of the academic year and fail to get admission in schools in the destination place. Also continual migrations force children to stop education as they always travel during the academic year,” the study read. The drop-out rates among boys in elementary schools are higher than that among girls as male children are preferred for labour. Even Right to Education Act had not ensured enrolment of displaced children, the study revealed. The study which collected data from families of brick kiln labourers had also drawn conclusions with national ramifications as it had examined workers from Odisha, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.As per the full report, Hyderabad fared better among other cities when it came to the education of migrant children. Talking to The Hindu, P. David Raj, State Programme Manager, Child Protection Unit, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that being out of school increases the chances of being exploited both for labour and sex. “These children’s living conditions are also poor. From healthcare to education they are the most neglected,” Mr. Raj said. Such children are neglected also because welfare officers and State departments are not aware of their existence because their families do not have documents including birth certificates or ration cards. On Tuesday, Aide et Action held discussions with parents of children and social workers to provide safe and healthy lives to migrant children. (The Hindu 1/12/16)

113. Tribal kids’ rape: FIR against school for fake pupils on rolls (11)

MUMBAI: The state government has registered a criminal offence against the management of the controversial tribal school in Buldhana for drawing benefits in the name of fictitious students. The state government has suspended the Nimbaji Kokre aashramshala and its teaching and non-teaching staff after at least three teenage girls were raped allegedly by a sweeper. That the school was drawing money in the name of the fictitious students came to light after officials of the state education department went to track down all the 389 students on the rolls in their 69 villages and found that 50 students could not be traced.The department wanted to track them down to enrol them in neighbouring schools after this school was shut. “Of 50 students, 20 did not exist while 30 were studying in different schools and had nothing to do with this school,” said an official from the tribal welfare department. The management that runs the school gets Rs900 a month per student from the state government to maintain the students. “The government has registered a fresh case against the management of the school,” said an official. Most of the students are from three districts of Vidarbha region and from the Khandesh region. Officials of the state education department also said that it has now been decided to make Aadhar linkage compulsory so that benefits can be allotted to students directly and there is no misuse.There are many cases where residential schools meant for tribals inflate the number of students by enrolling bogus students to draw money from the government. “If there are not more than 30 students in a class, grants are not given. So, to increase the number, bogus students are often enrolled,” said an official. (Times of India 2/12/16)

114. Centre not to make singing of National Anthem compulsory in government schools (11)

New Delhi: It is up to the States to take necessary action for observance of provisions of the RTE Act and Constitution concerning National Anthem, the Lok Sabha was informed. The Centre does not propose to make singing of the National Anthem mandatory in all government and government-aided schools, and it is up to the States to take necessary action for observance of provisions of the RTE Act and Constitution concerning the same, the Lok Sabha was informed on Monday. Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Upendra Kushwaha made a statement in Lok Sabha when he was asked whether the Centre proposes to make singing of the National Anthem mandatory in all government and government-aided schools. “No, Madam,” Mr. Kushwaha said, addressing the Speaker. Citing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, Mr. Kushwaha said it provides for free and compulsory education to every child of age 6 to 14 in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education in all States and UTs except Jammu and Kashmir. Section 29(2)(a) of the RTE Act provides that the academic authority, while laying down the curriculum and the evaluation procedure under sub-section (1), shall take into consideration conformity with the values enshrined in the Constitution. “Further, Article 51-A (a) of the Constitution of India mentions that it shall be the duty of the every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem. “As education is in the concurrent list and a majority of schools are under the jurisdiction of the state governments and UT administrations, it is for them to take necessary action for observance of the above provisions of the RTE Act and the Constitution of India,” he said. (The Hindu 5/12/16)

115. Municipal school enrolment drops by 45% in seven years (11)

Mumbai: Replies to RTI queries filed by the city-based NGO have revealed that the enrolment in Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) schools in Class 1 decreased to 34,549 in 2015-16 from 63,392 in 2008-09. The report also said the dropout rate in municipal schools stands at a worrisome 15 per 100 students. “Municipal schools are supposed to support the low-income strata of society and in spite of increasing budgets, these figures show that the quality of education in these schools is falling,” said Nitai Mehta, Managing Trustee at the NGO. The NGO conducted a time-series analysis to study the future of municipal education and it predicted that total number of students being enrolled in Class 1 in municipal schools could fall even further in the coming years. “If this slide in the numbers of enrolment continues, we calculate that only 5,558 students would be enrolled in class 1 in 2019-20,” said Mehta. Dropout rates are equally worrisome. The report shows 57,788 students dropped out of municipal schools in 2015-16 as compared to 32,580 in 2011-12, a 56 per cent increase. The dropout of students in Marathi-medium schools has gone up by around 7.4 per cent over the past five years. The authorities, however, had a different story to tell. Mahesh Palkar, Education officer at the MCGM, said the high dropout rates had to be seen in the context of extraneous factors like migration of families from the cities, shift from Marathi medium to English medium, and so on. “Students come from different states to the city every year and leave at the same rate. As for the falling enrolment, there are other factors like population in a certain age group continuously fluctuating,” Mr. Palkar told The Hindu. The NGO also conducted a survey along with Neilsen among families living in the city, and while 45 per cent of respondents felt facilities given to students are ‘not very good’, 55 per cent felt the quality of education was not up to the mark. Mr. Palkar did not agree that parents preferred private schools to BMC-run schools. He said MCGM has been carrying out reforms in schools and the quality of education and facilities are improving by the day. However, the NGO said an increase in budgetary allocation did not correspond to an improvement in quality. (The Hindu 8/12/16)

116. Fight inequality with education: Prez (11)

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday that education should be the strongest weapon in the fight against inequality. “Our children will inherit a world that we would devolve them. It is our responsibility to ensure that such a world is a better place than what we are given. Exploitation of resources and degradation of the environment is posing a serious challenge to sustainable development. It is manifested in the ill-effects of climate change,” Mukherjee said inaugurating a two-day event, “Nobel Laureates and Leaders for Children 2016″, at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Developing economies, which are closely tied to climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture and forestry, are more vulnerable to climate change. Efficient use of natural resources is reflective of a society that is mindful of its responsibilities towards the present and future generations equally,” he added. The summit, organised by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Children Foundation, will deliberate on the issues of building a platform for protecting children from violence and ensuring a world where children are free to be just children. Nobel laureate and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and other dignitaries also spoke at the event.The President said problems of varying degrees afflict children from the seemingly less severe ones like bullying at school to cases of sexual harassment, child marriage and trafficking. “According to UNICEF, 80% of child deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In regions marred by armed conflicts, violence and insurgencies, children are the most affected. There are many children amongst refugees who face an uncertain future,” he added. He asserted that programmes and actions for children have to take centre-stage in national policy-making. “The path towards an equal future will come through prioritising. The disparities in education, health and poverty indicators will have to be eliminated,” Mukherjee said. “Education should be the strongest weapon in our fight against inequality.” (Times of India 11/12/16)

117. CBSE Class 10 exams will be mandatory from 2017-18: Prakash Javadekar (11)

New Delhi: CBSE Board would meet at the end of the month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session. The CBSE Board would meet at the end of this month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has said. The minister also said the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) is working on an amendment to the Right to Education Act (RTE), and a proposal has been approved by the Law Ministry that would come to the Cabinet in a week or two. “This month there will be a CBSE Board meeting, in which there will be a resolution (for compulsory class X board exams). “So, I am very sure, from academic session 2017-18, Board examination will be mandatory for all students,” Javadekar told PTI. The minister also asserted that it was “unfair” that 23 million students in the country were taking various examinations -state boards and CBSE- and yet two million were not. Under the present norms, CBSE students can choose between the Board exam or a school based examination. On RTE amendment, he said once it is approved by the Cabinet, it will go to Parliament. “Even if it is referred to a Standing Committee, I hope by April, we will have an amendment which will allow states to take a call on whether to have detention or no detention,” Javadekar said. Presently, the ‘No Detention’ provision under the RTE Act does not allow students to be failed or detained till class VIII. The states will be given freedom to choose between having examination for classes V and VIII, Javadekar said. “But we are also simultaneously saying that if you take it and somebody’s detained, he should not lose one year. There should be a supplementary exam two months after and then he again joins the next batch. So that he does not lose a year but there is accountability for the student also,” the HRD minister said. “We don’t want to create exam oriented pressure on students but there has to be a challenge mode,” he said. (DNA 13/12/2016)

118. Muslims rack up numbers, seek education quota (11)

NAGPUR: A day after Maratha muk morcha (silent march), a similar rally but pipping the former in numbers was held by Muslims under the aegis of Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, on Thursday. Though seeking 5% quota in education, the tone was more against any change in triple talaaq and interference in Shariat laws. Unlike rallies by other communities, women were absent here. Organizers said it could have been difficult to control the crowd if women were included. “Women are being misguided in the name of banning triple talaaq,” said participants of the rally. As against close to 20,000 participants in the Maratha rally, the number of Muslims was up to 40,000. Organizers say this was a show of strength before taking to the streets. Taking a cue from Maratha rallies that began from June this year, Muslims too started holding silent marches in the state since the last two months. Before Nagpur, the Muslim reservation rallies were held in Bhusawal, Parbhani, Akola and Aurangabad. The rally held on Thursday was the biggest, said Javed Ansari of United Students Association (USA) and a participant. The rally began from Indora Square off Kamptee Road and ended at LIC Square. Later, a delegation met the chief minister who assured to look into their demands, said a source among the organizers. Leaders of Congress, NCP and BSP, apart from Asaddudin Owaisi-led AIMIM, took part in the rally. Jamait president Maulana Mehmood Arshad Madni said, “The community will take to the streets if the government tries to impose changes in Shariat laws.”Shakeel Patel of AIMIM said the rally was solely held by the Jamait which is a religious organization and political leaders only followed. Maulana Siraj Ahmed Qasmi, who heads Jamait’s city unit, said, “If the Constitution has given us the right to practice our religion, then no other law interfering with the Shariat can be passed.” (Times of India 17/12/16)

119. 3 months on, 1000 Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan teachers yet to get salaries (11)

CHANDIGARH: With the Centre yet to release UT’s second instalment from the annual budget under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), even after three months, many teachers have been left with no option other than taking loans at higher interest rates. With no salary in hand from last three months, the teachers have been looking for banks and people who will offer short loans. However, many banks too have refused loan since the teachers did not have the salary statement showing last two months’ salary. Many teachers are finding it difficult to cope with financial requirements. This issue is the main subject in Chandigarh’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Teachers Welfare Association (SSATWA). “Teachers have been asking me about personal loans. Surviving without salary, that too for more than two months is very difficult for anyone. Teachers are forced to take loans as it was responsibility of director school education and finance secretary to provide salary. Teachers are not concerned from where the budget comes. They are employees of Chandigarh administration which is depriving the teachers of salary,” said Arvind Rana, president of SSATWA. “And the Central government made mockery of combined SSA and right to education (RTE) by not providing budget for implementation of SSA-RTE norms,” Rana said. As per calculation, average interest amount on Rs 50,000 is 1,100-1,500 for three months period, teachers said. Teachers questioned if the administration will give their salaries with interest. SSATWA has been making various efforts for transfer of budget from ministry of human resource development (MHRD) to Chandigarh but to no avail. On December 13, SSATWA also sent a request to local MP Kirron Kher for speedy transfer of SSA budget from the Government of India to Chandigarh. “After our request to MP Kirron Kher, she intervened in the matter and her adviser called officials of MHRD for speedy transfer of budget,” Rana said. On December 9, Rana sent a letter to MHRD director on WhatsApp for disbursal of salary budget to Chandigarh. They informed her that the Chandigarh administration has sent fresh utilization certificate which was asked for. “We had gone to MHRD and were told the budget was not transferred since the UT was yet to provide utilization certificate for first instalment,” he said. When asked, director school education if there was any confirmation about the transfer of budget, he said, “There has been no confirmation yet.” (Times of India 19/12/16)

120. Boost for tribal education in Odisha (11)

Bhubaneswar: To increase the intake capacity of tribal schools, the state government has decided to upgrade ashram schools to high schools and high schools to higher secondary schools by 2018-19 academic session. “Education is the only medium to bridge the gap of inequality. The upgradation of schools will benefit around 1,200 to 1,500 tribal students in availing higher secondary education,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurating the annual children’s festival, Saragi Phul, for students of schools run by ST and SC development department at the adivasi ground here on Tuesday. Naveen said at present 8,000 tribal children from interior districts are studying in different private English-medium schools in various cities and district headquarters under the Anwesha scheme. There are a total 1,760 schools under the department of which 21 ashram schools will be upgraded to high schools and 65 high schools will have Plus III classes.As many as 250 hostels to accommodate children studying in elite schools will be set up under Anwesha scheme. At present, around 1,000 tribal students pursuing higher education are staying in two hostels in Bhubaneswar, three more hostels will be set up in Rourkela, Sambalpur and Berhampur soon, Naveen said. Over 2,000 tribal students from across the state took part in a three-day children’s festival where they showcased their talents and learned different skills. A number of workshops were conducted like ‘best from the waste’, child reporting, terracotta and pottery, magic show, puppet show, storytelling, photography, dance and music. “The department is also planning to introduce vocational training programme for school dropouts to increase their employability. Things are in the planning stage now,” said department secretary Surendra Kumar. (Times of India 21/12/16)

121. Study: States hardly invest in improving education quality (11)

NEW DELHI: For all the talk on education quality and improving learning outcomes, little is actually being done to achieve either. The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and Child Rights and You (CRY) studied education budgets in 10 general-category states and found that allocations for measures, even statutory provisions for ensuring quality — teacher training, monitoring, community mobilisation and training — are close to negligible in education budgets. In fact, share of any of these categories rarely rises beyond 1% in the education or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget in any state. “There is much discussion on quality but governments are not investing in the systems responsible for improving quality,” said Subrat Das of CBGA. The share of teacher-training in the education budget doesn’t rise above 1% in any of the 10 states included in the analysis except Bihar, where it was 1.6% in 2015-16 (budget estimate).Inspection and monitoring are similarly neglected with their share crossing 1% in only Tamil Nadu and Odisha, both 1.2%. The study considered all 12 years of schooling. While there is huge variation across states, per-student expenditure is less than that of relatively successful centrally-funded systems — the Kendriya and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (KVs and JNVs) — nearly everywhere. More than 98% schools in the 10 states have formed school management committees (SMCs). Mandated by the RTE Act 2009, these are composed mainly of parents and community-members. In addition to monitoring the functioning of schools, the RTE also requires them to formulate school development plans and clear school budgets. But, again, states have spent very little on training them. The share of training SMCs and Panchayati Raj Institutions in the SSA budget was less than 1% in all 10 states in 2014-15.Teachers’ salaries do claim the largest chunk of the budget in all 10 states, ranging from 51.6% in Bihar to 80.4% in Rajasthan. But, as Protiva Kundu from CBGA said, “The myth that teachers’ salaries take away all the funds for education is not true.” State governments, especially UP and Maharashtra, spend significant amounts on non-government schools — as grants-in-aid and compensation for children enrolled in the 25% quota for Economically Weaker Sections and Disadvantaged Groups. Education as a sector is under-funded, believe the organisations that authored the report. The per-student expenditure in public education in practically every general-category state is below that of KVs and JNVs. (Times of India 23/12/16)

122. Right To Education Act set to cover students up to Class X (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Right To Education (RTE)-2009 Act is likely to be extended up to Class 10. (As of now, it is being implemented only up to class 8.) This idea came up at a meeting held recently of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) committee which comes under Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Gujarat education minister, Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, who is also a member in the CABE committee, confirmed this development and said that “mixed response” was received by various states regarding the proposal to extend the implementation of RTE Act to Class 10. “A proposal regarding extension of RTE implementation up to class 10 is under consideration of the CABE committee. Discussion regarding issues between the state and central government will be held in the upcoming meeting of the committee in which some concrete outcome is likely,” Chudasma told ToI.The minister had earlier sought feedback of district education officers (DEOs) and district primary education officers (DPEOs) regarding extension of RTE Act’s ambit. Having received a positive feedback, Chudasma had forwarded the proposal to the Union government. It had come to the notice of the state government that several students had dropped out after Class 8. This made the government push for a proposal to extend the RTE in higher classes too. Speculation regarding political gain from this initiative is also rife as it is believed that as Congress introduced the RTE upto Class 8, if the BJP-ruled government extends it upto class 10, it will gain politically. Sources said the question of what will be the central and state government’s share in the cost of implementation of the RTE Act and the budget allocation for that, will be discussed in the upcoming meeting of CABE committee in January. Earlier in February, ten states including Gujarat had demanded extension of the RTE upto class 10. The RTE act was introduced by the Congress-led Union government in 2009 to give free and compulsory education to children belonging to the downtrodden classes. (Times of India 26/12/16)

123. Create a state advisory council to discuss about RTE: Expert (11)

BENGALURU: Admissions to the 25% Right to Education (RTE) quota has stirred fresh controversies among experts and activists. The ministry of primary and secondary education has been criticized for its apathy towards creating a state advisory council of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) along with parents associations and experts. In a letter addressed to Tanveer Sait, minister, primary and secondary education, Karnataka, the RTE Students and Parents Association along with Niranjan Aradhya VP, Fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU urged the government to also appoint an eminent lawyer who would be dedicated towards all RTE related cases.With a number of cases of schools seeking exemption from the act, pending in the court, the association has asked the government to expedite the cases as soon as possible. “Every year, the state government changes its policies on the Right to Education issue. It is not just about 25% quota seats reserved for underprivileged students. The government must look at the other sections of the act and ensure quality of the free education too,” said Aradhya. He further said that there seems to be no rationale in making Aadhaar a compulsion for students to apply for seats through the quota. “A child’s birth certificate and the BPL or voter ID cards are proof enough. Aadhaar cards puts migrant families working as daily wage labourers at a disadvantage. The government ought to clarify its stand on this,” he added. The letter further urged the government to seriously consider mapping schools that have been receiving benefits under the RTE quota and assess the progress every year. “Many schools have stopped offering RTE seats but still receive the reimbursements.” (Times of India 27/12/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

124. 952 applications cleared under Ujjwala Yojana (21)

MARGAO: Till date 952 applications from Goa have been cleared under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), a scheme that aims at providing free cooking gas (LPG) connections to families below the poverty line (BPL) over the next three years. Launched in May this year, the scheme envisages reaching a target of five crore Indian families by 2019. PMUY gives a monetary support of 1,600 for each LPG connection to BPL households. Of the 952 applications cleared, 655 are from North Goa and the rest are from South Goa district, official sources informed.In Goa, the scheme is being implemented through Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPC) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). While BPC has cleared 281 applications through its 10 distributors, HPC has cleared 609 through its 15 distributors. 62 applications have been cleared by IOC through its four distributors in Goa. At a function held by Indane gas agency at Curchorem recently, 15 beneficiaries of the scheme were given free gas connections at the hands of ex-chairperson of Curchorem-Cacora Municipal Council Vishwas Sawant and vice chairperson Pradnya Naik. Speaking to TOI, proprietor of the Indane gas agency, Harish Makwana said that the scheme was receiving good response as people have become more aware of the health benefits of switching over to LPG. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a scheme that aims at providing free cooking gas connections to families below the poverty line (BPL) over the next three years (Times of India 1/12/16)

125. Don’t withdraw money from Jan Dhan account: PM Modi (21)

Meerut: Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked poor people not to withdraw money from their Jan Dhan accounts. In an attempt to mobilise people’s support ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, Mr. Modi centred his entire speech around the inconvenience faced by the common public due to demonetisation and tried to hard sell it as something which was for the larger good of the people and the country. He was addressing a “parivartan rally” in Moradabad on Saturday. Mr. Modi said the money should go to poor people. The black money holders should go to jail. He was referring to reports of millions of rupees being deposited in Jan Dhan accounts allegedly by black money holders.”I want to tell the poor people in whose account money has been deposited: don’t touch that money. If they ask for money, ask for proof. I am finding ways to put those guilty of stashing their black money in the jandhan accounts of the poor behind bars,” he said to loud cheers from the public.Mr. Modi also said that the long queues outside banks ever since the demonetisation would be the “last queues” the country would see. “We had to stand in queue to buy sugar. We had to stand in queue to buy kerosene. We had to stand in queue to buy wheat. Thanks to those who ruled for 60 years, this country was wasting away in queues,” he said. “What I have done is to start a queue to end all queues.” Mr. Modi said demonetisation had brought black money holders to the doors of the poor people. “When we started getting poor people to open Jan Dhan accounts they did not know how they would be of use. Are they of use now or not? Those who had hoarded black money are now running after the poor and ordinary among us. They make small talk and then politely ask the poor people to deposit two lakh rupees in their accounts,” he said. “Did these people who collect black money ever come to talk to the poor people? But now, they keep lurking around the houses of the poor. I am telling you, if you have deposited money like this in your account, do not return it. Let the money stay in your account,” Mr. Modi said. “If they come back and threaten you, write to Modi.” The Prime Minister also attacked the Opposition which criticised demonetisation as “anti-people”. … (The Hindu 3/12/16)

126. Poor now borrowing at 20% interest (21)

SHAHJAHANPUR: Daily wagers and others living around the poverty line, facing unemployment after small businesses began shutting following demonetisation, are forced to borrow from private lenders at interest rates of 10% to 20% monthly, to survive, pushing them deeper into debt. Navin Pradhan, head of Research & Relief Society, a Meerut-based NGO told TOI, “Private lenders usually charge 3-5% per month as interest. But now, the interest rate is hovering around 10%.”Akash Kumar, a street vendor in Agra, said, “I took a loan of Rs 30,000 from a lender at 15% interest. But now it seems I have been duped, as he took away Rs 2,250 in advance interest.” Borrowers are to make repayments on a daily basis. If they fail to do so for over a week, the interest rate is hiked, they said. (Times of India 8/12/16)

127. Door-to-door identification of priority households for PDS (21)

MADURAI: An elaborate door-to-door verification exercise to identify priority households (PHH) as part of the implementation of National Food Security Act (NFSA) is expected to commence from next week, sources in the district administration said. With Tamil Nadu implementing NFSA from November 1, officials said that it had become mandatory to identify PHHs even though the State had said that it would continue universal coverage with its Public Distribution System (PDS). According to officials, the Central government has asked the State to limit the percentage of PHHs in rural areas at 62.50 per cent and in urban areas at 37.88 per cent. Consequently, the intensive verification exercise of all ration card holders has been planned to eliminate bogus beneficiaries and ensure that only the truly eligible households come under PHHs that receive additional benefits. In the elaborate guidelines issued by the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection department for the exercise, the district administrations have been asked to make use of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists and the list of beneficiaries under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) available with Rural Development department for easy identification of PHHs. While the inclusion criteria for PHHs include all BPL families, families headed by women or differently-abled persons and households of agricultural labourers, the exclusion criteria include households with at least one income tax payer, households owning air-conditioner or four-wheeler, farmers with more than five acres of land and those with annual family income of more than Rs. 1 lakh. The district administrations have also been asked to use this exercise as an opportunity to validate the ration card data, which is already digitised to a large extent, for issue of smart cards expected to commence in the near future . A majority of the officials has raised concerns that the manpower, financial assistance and time provided for the exercise is grossly inadequate. “There are about 9.4 lakh ration card holders in Madurai district. Door-to-door verification of all these is somewhat equivalent to data collection for Census and they want us to finish it by third week of December,” said a Tahsildar-rank official. He, however, added that the concerns had been taken to the notice of senior-level officials, who had assured of some mitigation measures. (The Hindu 9/12/16)

128. Govt trying to subvert attention from NITI Aayog’s failure to cashless transactions: Congress

New Delhi: Slamming the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s decision to reward Rs.1 crore for promoting e-payment, Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit on Sunday questioned the government whether cashless exchange was more important to it than poverty eradication, employment generation and providing better life to the people. “What NITI Aayog has done to promote the government’s policy is fair enough. You can give a prize of (Rs) one crore, two crores or whatever you want, but the interesting and amusing part is that the real challenge of the government, which is reducing poverty, bringing fall in infant mortality rate, getting the sex ratio up, reducing malnourishment, out of these, the NITI Aayog has not even given a one-rupia prize to anybody. The problem with NITI Aayog is that in terms of employment, it cannot give prize to anybody, because unemployment is increasing and growth has stagnated, so you cannot reward anybody. Poverty is not reducing, thus, it cannot reward anyone for it; infant mortality rate and health is stagnating, so you can’t reward anybody; there is no initiative in education, so you cannot give prize to anyone,” he said, adding the government is a “complete failure so it is subverting every attention to cashless (exchange)”. “You are rewarding somebody to say that rather than keeping my own money, I will give money to Chinese company like Paytm that charges 2.5% on every transaction. So, to make them rich, the government is ultimately rewarding you,” said the Congress leader. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dikshit added, “If my money is deposited in banks like ICICI, HDFC, IDBI, then its CEOs will earn profit by investing my money into short-term deposits and get astronomical salary. If these people living on my money and earning crores per month, then it is advisable for the Prime Minister, but if I will keep my money in cash under my own security, then it would be wrong for the nation.” “The government and NITI Aayog are going to completely sell off all every little assets that I have to the service of the rich, who own and runs the banks, who take service from the banks, who take credits from the banks and for whom Indian banking system works.” he said. The NITI Aayog has planned an incentive scheme, including Rs one crore prize, for those who use digital payment systems the most, as the government steps up measures to push electronic transactions. Guiding India towards being a cashless society, the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has proposed that all consumers and merchants using digital payments will be eligible for two levels of incentive amounts available under the scheme: weekly lucky draw of the transaction IDs generated in that week, the contours of which are being finalised, and quarterly draw for grand prizes. The detail guideline of the scheme will be unveiled soon, however, it would be ensured that all those who have used digital payment systems after November 8 will be eligible to participate in the scheme, the NITI Aayog stated. (DNA 11/12/16)

129. Delhi government to serve food to those ‘starving due to demonetisation’ (21)

New Delhi: The Delhi government on Monday started langars (common kitchens) at 10 places across the capital to serve food to those who have “lost their livelihood due to demonetisation”, a statement said. “The government has decided to come forward to help those who are on verge of starvation due to demonetisation. So we have started serving food to the poor at 10 centres from today (Monday),” it said. After inaugurating the common kitchen at at Geeta Ghat here, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Aam Aadmi Party government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation. “No matter if (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi makes such policies which lead people to the brink of death, but Delhi government will not let that happen. Delhi government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation due to demonetisation,” he said. The other centres where these kitchens are opened include Yamuna Pushta, Dandi Park, Jama Masjid, Sarai Kale Khan, Nizamuddin Neela Gumbad, Sarai Pushta, Jhandewalan shelter I, Kotla Mubarakpur and Fatehpuri near Old Delhi Railway Station. “These centres will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner not only for those living in the night shelters but for all poor people living in the vicinity,” the statement said. (Business Standard 12/12/16)

130. 80,000 children will starve to death in Nigeria: UNICEF (21)

Lagos(Nigeria): Nearly a half million children will face starvation in northeastern Nigeria next year and 80,000 will die if they don’t get treatment in the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising, the U.N. Children’s Agency warned. “What is already a crisis can become a catastrophe,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said yesterday. His statement said the 400,000 children at risk of starvation represent just a fraction of the suffering among some 2.6 million refugees in the seven-year insurgency that has killed more than 20,000 people. “If they do not receive the treatment they need, one in five of these children will die,” Lake said. “Large areas of Borno state are completely inaccessible to any kind of humanitarian assistance. We are extremely concerned about the children trapped in these areas,” he added. He spoke just days after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari accused the U.N. And private international aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations. Buhari declared that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” a year ago and appears fixed on maintaining that fiction. While soldiers from a multinational force of Nigeria and neighboring countries have pushed the extremists out of towns and many villages they occupied, attacks on military outposts and suicide bombings of soft targets continue. The Associated Press has reported since September that children already are dying of starvation in Maiduguri, the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast that is easily accessible. Doctors Without Borders said in November that thousands of kids already have died, including 10 percent to 25 percent of children admitted to its 110-bed Maiduguri emergency treatment center. Nigeria’s Senate is investigating allegations that government agencies are diverting food aid that could help prevent those deaths. Buhari was elected in March 2015 on a platform that pledged to finish off Boko Haram and halt endemic corruption. (Zee News 14/12/16)

131. 14 lakh beneficiaries fail to avail food grains from Public distribution system (21)

JAIPUR: This may come as a big surprise and make you rethink the poverty level in the state. About 14 lakh of the over 90 lakh families, which are beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in Rajasthan, are not availing this state ‘largesse’ for the last three months. Following this rather unusual development, the government is planning to cancel the entitlements of these families and replace them with new categories of beneficiaries. Rajasthan is the first state to implement the Food Security Act on October 2, 2013, initially covering a population of around 4.64 crore. Since September, about 15% ration card holders in the state have not bought their monthly entitlements of the highly subsidised food grains under NFSA. Each beneficiary is entitled to 5 kg each of wheat at Rs 2 per kg, rice at Rs 3 per kg and bajra at Rs 1 per kg every month. Principal secretary, food and civil supplies, Subodh Agarwal said that if beneficiaries do not buy their subsidised provisions by December-end, the government would consider keeping their names in ‘abeyance’ from January next year. “At this point, we are not assuming that these ration card holders are fake. There may be some genuine reasons because of migration or exigencies in the family, etc. to reach fair price shops (FPSs) to buy grains,” he said.He said that those turning up by the end of this month would be able to buy their full quantum of entitlements for the last three months and their names would not be kept in ‘abeyance’ before the final cancellation. The food and civil supplies department has installed electronic point of sale (ePoS) machines to track the purchase of grains by beneficiaries in all the 25,000 fair price shops. The state government believes that the sudden drop in the number of buyers is due to ePoS-induced transparency which curtailed the scope of manipulation of purchase records and diversion of PDS grains to the open market.However, the state government would add new categories of beneficiaries under NFSA after the deletion of those card holders who do not pick up subsidised grains. The new categories of beneficiaries could be AIDS patients, some of the primitive tribes, safai workers, etc., said sources. “We do not want to lose our annual entitlement of around 2.7 million tonnes of wheat for NFSA from the Centre,” a state government official said. (Times of India 18/12/16)

132. BJP removing poor, not poverty: Asaduddin Owaisi (21)

GORAKHPUR: Taking a dig on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent demonetisation of currency notes, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, on Monday, said BJP was removing the poor of the country instead of the poverty. Addressing a public meeting on Monday in Siddharthnagar, Owaisi said, “With demonetization, BJP is not removing poverty but poor people instead. Most Muslims do not have access to banking services. Muslims and Dalits are the worst hit by the move. (Times of India  20/12/16)

133. Remote villages without PDS ration for 6 months (21)

Pithoragarh: Villagers residing in remote areas, after facing the burnt of demonetisation and a dru season, are now facing hunger as they have not got ration for the past six months that they get through Public Distribution System (PDS) shops. Deb Singh, a poor villager from Chaupata village of Devalthal subdivision of the district, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Harish Rawat, stating that his family was on the verge of starvation as the state food programme had cut the ration allocated to his family for the past some months. “The quota of both wheat and rice has been cut under the state food programme allocation to my family, and I am getting ration from national food programme allocation, which is not sufficient as we are totally dependent on PDS ration for survival,” said Deb Singh in the letter. Besides the unnoticed cut in poor man’s ration by the state quota, another jolt the poor in the district are receiving is non-allocation of PDS ration to the card holders who have not been able to link their ration cards with Aadhar cards. This is a big blow to the PDS-dependent families of the district as only 20 per cent ration cards have been linked with Aadhar card so far. “We have orders from the state Food Secretary not to allocate ration to those who have failed to link their ration cards with Aadhar card,” said PS Thapa, a District Supply Official in Pithoragarh. Sources said the ration being allocated to BPL, Antyodaya and Annapurna category of card holders had been stopped by the government without any prior information to the beneficiaries of these categories while those without Aadhar cards have already been stripped of PDS ration from the past some months. “People of these categories consist nearly 40 per cent of the total ration card holders and fall into the poorest of poor category who are in no position to purchase ration from general shops,” said a PDS shop owner. Asked why the ration of poor card holders in villagers had been stopped on basis of non-linking with Aadhar cards when there was no facility being provided to facilitate linking with Aadhar cards in remote villages, spokesperson of the district administration said the administration had now ordered to hold a camp in remote villages to speed up the process. “When the administration has no means to reach poor villages residing in remote villages to facilitate linking of the ration card with Aadhar number even on Wednesday, then why are the poor being stripped of ration for the past six months,” asked Jagdish Kumar, a Zila Panchayat member from Muwani area of the district. (The Tribune 21/12/16)

134. All ration shops to go cashless by March-end, says Paswan (21)

NEW DELHI: The government announced on Friday that it will equip ration shops across the country for cashless transactions by March-end. At present, cashless payments can be made only in 38,000 outlets of the total 5.27 lakh ration shops.”There is a plan to meet this target and it has been prepared in consultation with state governments. You can imagine how cashless movement will get a big boost when most of the 80 crore beneficiaries under the food security law start adopting cashless transactions,” food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. He said the government has enough stock of foodgrain to cater to the requirement under the food security scheme. There is no proposal to import wheat, Paswan said, adding that the government will procure any quantity of pulses from farmers at the minimum support price as fixed by the government.Paswan avoided responding to whether there is a genuine concern within the government about the likelihood of less wheat production than what the agriculture ministry has projected. However, consumer affairs secretary Hem Pande said an inter-ministerial committee had considered both the agriculture ministry’s projection and estimates of private players while suggesting for doing away with import duty on wheat. Recently, the central government had scrapped import duty on wheat. (Times of India 24/12/16)

135. India Must Grow Higher To Eradiate Poverty By 2032: Amitabh Kant (21)

New Delhi:  Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant today said that India must aim at a higher growth rate of 9-10 per cent to eradicate poverty by 2032. “Our per capita income is $1,652. If we continue to grow at 7 per cent, by 2032. per capita income will be $4,000. If we grow by 10 per cent, per capita income will be $6,800 and India will have no poverty by 2032,” Kant said at the annual general meeting of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi. “Unless we don’t penetrate the global markets it will be very difficult for India to grow at 9-10 per cent. Indians must use the domestic market as a spring board and penetrate the global market. India’s contribution of exports to global market is very minimal, it is just 1.7 per cent,” he added. While India is growing at 7.5-7.6 per cent, it must be hungry and ambitious to grow at 9-10 per cent, he said. “We also need factor market reforms. Unless labour laws, land laws are reformed, it will be difficult for India to grow at a high rate. You can’t be in a situation where 79 per cent of your job creation is done by the micro-small and medium enterprise sector,” he said. Mr Kant said that gender equality will play a very critical role. In India, women contribute only 17 per cent to the GDP while the world average is about 40 per cent. (NDTV 26/12/16)

136. Urban infrastructure spending likely to increase: Venkaiah Naidu (21)

CHENNAI: Urban infrastructure spending will be increasing in the next five months.”The government will be announcing a lot of welfare measures for poverty alleviation and urban development,” said Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu in the city on Tuesday. Union Minister of Urban Development said, ” Mahatma Gandhi gave two pieces of pertinent advice, which India has ignored. One was India should go back to the villages. Instead of which we have turned our back on villages. With lack of opportunities everyone has migrated to cities. Why even I have gone from rural development minister under A B Vajpayee to urban development minister under Narendra Modi”"The second piece of advice Mahatma Gandhi gave was disband the Congress, soon after we got freedom. A very relevant piece of advice today for our Opposition,” said the Union Minister. The Minister launched a postal stamp in memory of the late KCP chairman V Ramakrishna at the event marking 75 years of KCP Ltd. “I am very critical about dynasty in politics. It is nasty. But dynasty in business is to be applauded as evinced by groups like KCP, which today celebrate 75 years of business cohesiveness, ethics and family values,” said the Minister. On demonetisation, the Minister observed, “Everyone is asking “Where are the results? It’s 40 days! 50 days of demonetisation! I don’t blame them for asking. But the effects will be felt 5 months and even 5 years from now,” said the Minister. Demonetisation he said has helped cleanse India, “created a parallel digital economy, completely eradicated terror attacks and Pakistan’s inflow of counterfeit currencies in the borders, stopped drug and women trafficking and corruption at certain political parties.” On questioned about demonetisation deaths and inconveniences faced by the common man, the Minister said, “Demonetisation a bitter pill. People must swallow it for short-term pain, which will result in long-term gain. Why talk of 50 days? Talk of 69 years of misrule. The Congress looted, cheated and plundered. They talk of unity. But no Opposition party in its senses will join hands with Congress. On the cancellation of FCRA licenses of 20,000 NGOs, the Minister choose not to comment. On former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Ram Mohan Rao’s comment that he would have been protected under former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the Minister said that there has been “no political interference.” “This is a matter for the IT department. And from the Centre’s end there has been absolutely no political interference.” (Times of India 28/12/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

137. Tea Board useless as it can’t ensure wages to workers, says Sovan Chatterjee (14)

Kolkata: Intensifying the protest against demonetisation, state environment and housing minister Sovan Chatterjee on Thursday questioned the existence of the Tea Board for its failure to ensure the wages of the tea garden workers across the state. Addressing a demonstration programme of Trinamul Congress’s trade wing INTTUC involving the tea garden workers right in front of Tea Board, Mr Chatterjee said, “Workers in tea gardens are on the brink of starvation due to the present cash crunch. The tea garden owners are unable to pay wages to them. If the Tea Board cannot ensure wages of the workers, then what is the need for it? If this situation continues, then it’s better to make this Tea Board non-functional.” INTTUC on Thursday submitted a deputation before the chairman of the Tea Board, seeking its intervention to alleviate the poor condition of the tea garden workers in the state MP and INTTUC chief Dola Sen alleged discrimination by the Narendra Modi government in regard to the tea gardens in Assam and Bengal” The central government is allowing the district administration to pay salary of the tea garden workers. But it is now allowing the system for Bengal. There are no atm’s in tea gardens. The workers have to travel  a distance of 10 km for drawing cash and in most cases they are finding that the machines are unable to dispense cash. The tea garden workers will have no other option but to commit suicide if this situation continues,” Ms Sen added. (Asian Age 1/12/16)

138. 9 lakh workers come into banking fold, claims labour ministry (14)

NEW DELHI: Union labour ministry has claimed to bring in over nine lakh workers into banking fold within six days of launching of a campaign to open bank accounts of all labours working in organized and unorganised sector. The move is part of the multi-pronged strategy to make India a cashless economy after the government scrapped high-value currency notes on November 8. As per government data there are already 25.68 crore Jandhan accounts and the campaign aimed at covering workers who were not be able to open accounts. “Till Thursday evening, around 9,15,431 bank accounts were opened by organizing 33,145 camps,” said an official. The focus of the campaign is to open bank accounts of workers especially in unorganised sector like construction, beedi, Anganwadi, Asha and cine workers who still do not have bank accounts. The campaign aimed at ensuring that all workers come into banking fold and their wages are paid directly into their account.”This will not only prevent exploitation of workers and payment of wages without cut but will also inculcate the habit of using cashless transactions,” said an official. He added that labour ministry officials have been deputed for coordinating and supervising the bank account opening activities at the camps, across the country. (Times of India 2/12/16)

139. Construction workers feel pinch as money dries up (14)

GURUGRAM: Every day, after work, construction worker Vijay Singh goes straight to a small grocery shop to buy some pulses and rice for dinner. But he would not have any money to pay the shop owner till the 10th of this month when his wages will be credited into his bank account. But the 24-year-old will have to take a day off to withdraw some money, part of which he will send home, and keep the rest to meet his expenses. “I have no problem standing in queue, I think whatever is happening is for good,” he says. “But the irony is that I will not be paid Rs 500 on the day I take an off to go to the bank to get money,” he says, claiming the sum translates into survival for more than a week for him. Vijay, a resident of Ullawas village, is not the only one. Most construction workers in the city are facing the brunt of demonetisation. While payments have been kept on hold for some, many will have to do away with one day’s wage to go and stand in queues to withdraw money from bank when they get paid this month. Ramesh, 20, who is originally from Malda district in Bengal, says he is already living a “cashless” life. His money is directly sent to his family in his village, while his thekedar (contractor) gives him around Rs 500 a week for daily needs. “Now this money has started coming down, two weeks back he gave me Rs 200, and has not given anything since that,” he says.Mohan Pehan and Nirmal, both working for a construction company, have similar stories to share. “We have had to face a lot of difficulty since notebandi,” says Mohan. Both he and his wife came to Gurgaon two months ago and haven’t been paid yet, even though they were promised to be paid on the first. “We don’t know how to survive. We are very new here,” says Mohan’s wife. Nirmal says that his employer told him that he will get paid in the old currency this month, so he will also pay his workers likewise. On an average each worker gets around Rs 11,000 per month in the project, making the sum more than Rs 40 lakh, which will be paid in old currency this month at this site alone. At another construction site near Mayfield Gardens, Vishwanath is working hard to start a green old style concrete mixer. He says he gets his ration from nearby Samaspur village, which is where he lives. But there is a catch to when he goes with the old currency. “The shopkeeper charges commission for accepting old currency notes,” he says. Most construction workers have accepted the troubles they are facing as a result of demonetisation as a given. As there is no decline in work, at least in construction work in large townships, they see it as a good sign. But their day to day finances have been badly affected, with mounting debts and declining salaries by standing in bank queues. There are also unaware of being used as pawns in converting large sums of old currency, which might not be necessarily legitimate, by accepting payments in these currency. (Times of India 4/12/16)

140. Govt to spend Rs 60,000 cr more on rural jobs (14)

New Delhi: The Centre has sought parliamentary approval for nearly Rs 60,000 crore in additional spending, primarily for rural employment, urban development, farm insurance and infrastructure. The Second Supplementary Demand for Grants, tabled in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, sought gross additional expenditure of Rs 59,978.29 crore. Presenting the demand, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the net cash outgo would be Rs 35,171.92 crore, while the rest would come from enhanced receipts and savings by ministries. An official said if the demands were approved, Plan expenditure for 2016-17 would rise to Rs 5.95 lakh crore from the Budget Estimate of Rs 5.5 lakh crore. The official said the second half of the financial year could be see a slowdown but tax collections for 2016-17 would exceed Budget Estimates of Rs 1.05 lakh crore. According to the demands, Rs 4,000 crore has been sought for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and Rs 3,096.28 crore by the agriculture ministry for the Krishi Kalyan Kosh and and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. Including the Budget Estimates and a previous supplementary demand, the allocation for the NREGA in 2016-17 will be Rs 47,000 crore, the highest-ever. This includes last year’s dues of Rs 12,000 crore. The urban development ministry has sought Rs 3,700 crore for funding Metro rail projects in Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai and Ahmedabad. Jaitley also sought approval for Rs 1,000 crore for the Coast Guard to buy ships, aircraft and land, Rs 2,500 crore for the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, and Rs 210 crore for implementation of the goods and services tax and project Saksham. Approval was also sought for meeting expenditure for clearing pending claims for the maintenance of the Prime Minister’s aircraft (Rs 193 crore), the cyber security research and development scheme of the National Security Council Secretariat (Rs 50 crore), and grants-in-general to the National Authority Chemical Weapons Convention helpdesks (Rs 1.01 crore). (Business Standard 8/12/16)

141. Labour Ministry kept in the dark over made-ups sector labour reform package (14)

New Delhi: A senior labour ministry official said the Cabinet note wasn’t moved by the labour ministry. “We were not consulted on this matter,” said another ministry official. In June this year, the Centre had proposed making EPF optional for textile and apparels workers earning less than Rs.15,000 a month as a part of a special package for the garments sector. Now, the Cabinet has extended this proposal to the made-ups manufacturing sector. Made-up products like towels and bedsheets form the second-largest employer in the textiles sector following apparel.The decision is a part of reform measures approved by the Cabinet to boost employment generation and exports in the made-ups sector. These measures, however, will be embedded within the approved budget of Rs.6,006 crore for the apparel package. The EPF exemption has already drawn flak. Terming the move ‘a retrograde step’, Subramanyam Sreenivasaiah, CEO, Ascent HR, said it went against the much-talked about objective of moving towards a ‘pensionable society’. “For one, this is an exemption given to one sector to the exclusion of others. For another, it defeats the very EPF principle of providing future protection.” EPF, according to him, is the lone state-initiated cover available in the Indian context for employees. The policy uncertainty, he said, wasn’t good for the economy.However, a top EPFO official said that the move to make the EPF contribution optional for workers in the made-ups sector will require amendments to the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1952. At present, EPF contribution is mandatory in all factories employing 20 or more workers. Both employer and employee compulsorily contribute 12 per cent each of the latter’s income towards EPF.Mr. Sreenivasaiah also pointed to flip-flops in decisions vis-a-vis employer contributions and EPF withdrawals. If “take-home pay” were to guide EPF option for employees, there were several spheres within the economy when an employee got less than Rs.15,000 a month, he said. “Why then they aren’t given that option to opt out of EP?” he asked. (The Hindu 8/12/16)

142. Amend law to ensure equal wage, work hours for contract worker (14)

New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel has pitched for amending laws for contract labour in the Budget Session to provide for equal wages, working hours and other conditions of services at par with regular employees. “There is now an urgent need for amendment to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, which should be the guiding force for the protection of rights of a huge work force of Contract Labourers in the country in terms of wages, hours of work, holidays and other conditions of service similar to that of regular employees,” Parliamentary Committee on Petitions chaired by Bhagat Singh Koshyari said in a report tabled in Parliament on Friday. Noting that the country needs not only the urgent redressal of grievances of the Contract Labourers but also making a workable formulation to induce the Contractors and the Principal Employers to adhere to the various provisions of the Act. The Committee recommend that the government should finalise all the deliberations relating to amendment of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. The Committee said, ” (We) expect and trust that self-contained proposals, in the form of a Bill, shall be introduced in the Parliament by the Government during the Budget Session of 2017.” It recommended that the government focus on coalescing all the existing Labour Laws into one unified piece of legislation with specific provisions covering Labour-Management relations, wages, social security, safety at workplace, welfare provisions, terms and condition of employment, recognition of trade unions, provisions regarding collective bargaining, and above all, enforcement of International Labour Standards. Such a comprehensive legislative enactment would also serve as a model for the State Governments, it said. Apart from the provisions contained in the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, the rights of Contract Labourers are protected by various Labour Laws, the Committee noted. These include Industrial Disputes Act of 1947; Employees’ Compensation Act of 1923; Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provision Act of 1952; Employees State Insurance Act of 1948; Maternity Benefit Act of 1961; Payment of Wages Act of 1936; Minimum Wages Act of 1948; Equal Remuneration Act of 1976; Payment of Gratuity Act of 1972; Payment of Bonus Act of 1965; Mines Act of 1952; Factories Act of 1948 and so on. The Committee pointed out that the overall welfare and protection of rights of workers could not be effectively achieved by way of making amendments only to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 – in view of the fact that other Labour Laws also deal with various aspects connected with their well being in the form of health, safety and social security. (Indian Express 9/12/16)

143. Demonetisation impact: Migrant workers head back home (14)

Ahmedabad: Demonetisation brings payments in Surat’s diamond industry to grinding halt Demonetisation pulls down jewellery stocks by a fourth Demonetisation: Surat, the world’s diamond polishing hub, faces a big cut Demonetisation: 30% of unorganised jewellery market could perish Job cuts loom in jewellery industry Safirul Shaikh, a migrant from West Bengal, has been living in Ahmedabad and working in the jewellery industry since he was nine years. The 30-something, winner of various awards, including a national one, has had little work since the demonetisation drive by the central government. Shaikh runs a small shop in Sheth ni Pol, in the neighbourhood of Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad’s old city. It bears a deserted look; his workers have gone home, in the absence of work. Sitting alone in his cramped workshop, covered in thick jute carpets to make any gold dust stick to it, Shaikh cuts a forlorn figure.  He is not the only one facing this crisis. The crowded bylanes of Ratanpol, where one could hardly manoeuvre a motorbike, bears a deserted look. Harshvardhan Chokshi, former president of the Manek Chowk Chokshi Mahajan, says bullion trade worth Rs 10-12 crore used to take place each day at this 350-year-old gold market here. Now, business is down to a trickle.  A few meters away at Manek Chowk, 400 jewellers who employ around 3,000 gold and silver artisans, a majority from Bengal, have seen 60 per cent of their employees leave for their villages. Earlier this year, there was some reverse migration due to slack business. However, that was nothing compared to the hit from the demonetisation announcement on November 8, which has crippled the industry. In fact, those on Diwali vacation did not return — there is almost no work.  On an average, an artisan earns Rs 8,000-12,000 a month. Most of them keep their salaries with their employer, who deducts their monthly cost of living and pays out the money in cash when they return home during Diwali or on other vacations. Shaikh says some workers do have bank accounts but their employers insist on paying in cash. … (Business Standrd 11/12/16)

144. MGNREGA hires plummet by 23 per cent in notebandi November (14)

NEW DELHI: The Modi government’s demonetisation move seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of an already faltering job guarantee scheme. The number of households getting work in November dropped by 23% compared to the previous month and those being turned back empty-handed jumped to a staggering 23.4 lakh, almost twice the number in October. Compared to the same month last year, work given this November is down by over 55%, indicating this is not a seasonal decline peculiar to November. With the overall employment last year, work given this November is down by over 55%, indicating this is not a seasonal decline peculiar to November. With the overall employment situation grim, this dip in jobs is expected to increase distress in rural areas.If there was work available (in MGNREGA), we would have got some relief at least. Now we get casual labour work at just Rs 50 per day, sometimes. Mostly we are just sitting, waiting,” says Suniya Laguri, a 20-year old woman in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district. Suniya is voicing a concern that finds echoes across India in greater or lesser measure. Rural wages have crashed due to non-availability of cash as well as the desperation of the poorest — agricultural labourers and small or marginal farmers — to try and earn something in order to survive. Mangoo Ram of Hardoi district in UP says his family survived the first few weeks by getting basic food items on credit and cutting down on an already minimal consumption. But now, in the fifth week of demonetisation, the situation is dire. Most of the wages earned for work under the job guarantee scheme are deposited in banks or post offices. So, why has work itself suffered so much? The answer is not clear, with people citing different reasons. Shankar Singh of advocacy NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan says everybody — MGNREGA employees as well as people seeking work — were too preoccupied with standing at banks or post office lines for the first few weeks. This directly affected the whole system. “Already, there was a squeeze on expenditure, with government not releasing adequate funds and gram panchayats overstretched. Notebandi has come on top of that, that is why this problem,” Singh said. Till December 12, gram panchayats were in the red to the tune of an incredible Rs 37,000 crore, according to the latest financial summary available with the rural development ministry. … (Times of India 13/12/16)

145. MGNREGA funds ‘sanctioned’ for works that do not exist (14)

CHANDIGARH: Despite several complaints at Haryana government’s much pushed grievance redressal system, chief minister’s window, seeking action against those responsible for misappropriating the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) fund in Nekpur village of Faridabad district, no action has been taken by the state government. Hinting at a big scam, an inquiry conducted by the then additional deputy commissioner Faridabad in May this year had found that money under MGNREGA was misappropriated by showing fake beneficiaries. Data Ram, a resident of Nekpur village and whistleblower of the scam, had given three complaints (registration number CMOFF/N/2015/83799, CMOFF/N/2015/104741, CMOFF/N/2015/102170) to CM window since October 2015. In his complaint, he urged the chief minister to take action against those who misappropriated villagers’ money. According to Data Ram, the Faridabad additional deputy commissioner’s May report had found that fake muster rolls were prepared for disposing money under MGNREGA and recommended action against those responsible for that. In his complaint, along with the inquiry report, he had also submitted affidavits of around 38 villagers who have deposed that they never applied for cards to get job under MGNREGA in the village. While most of them were living in penury, their names were entered in the muster roll of MGNREGA to withdraw money fraudulently. According to the complainant, in several cases one photograph was used with different names to prepare fake MGNREGA cards. “After making complaints, I was threatened by the village sarpanch for exposing the scam of Rs five-six crore but no action on my complaint has been taken. On papers, around 145 streets were constructed but a visit to the village would reveal that there are only four-five streets in the village. Pond claimed to have constructed in the village, is nowhere in existence. The scam is going for a several years with the connivance of local panchayat and officials of panchayat department,” Data Ram added.In his fourth complaint, sent on June 8, 2016, to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Data Ram has submitted that an investigation by the vigilance, CID or accountant general would reveal how entire public money has been misappropriated. A copy along with all the documents has also been sent to the central vigilance commission. Faridabad additional deputy commissioner Jitender Singh said the inquiry was conducted by his predecessor and he has not received any reference from the state government regarding further action. “However, I will have to check it in the record pertaining to MGNREGA cases in my office”, he added. (Times of India 14/12/2016)

146. Changes in labour laws can raise formal employment to 40 per cent (14)

New Delhi: Revamp of labour laws can help in raising participation in the formal sector and increase the share of formal employment from current 11 per cent to nearly 40 per cent besides improving India’s ranking in ease of doing business, says a report by staffing services firm TeamLease. “A revamp of the regulatory eco-system can improve India’s ranking with regard to the ease of doing business and raise the labour force participation in formal sector. Regulatory changes can raise the share of formal employment from the current 11% to nearly 40%”, said the report. According to TeamLease, the current labour regulations not only make things difficult for job creators, it does little in protecting employees. “Labour law reforms are always equated with tackling the infamous Chapter VB of the Industrial Disputes Act (hire-and-fire). While it needs to be revamped, the larger agenda would be to make compliance transparent, seamless and hassle free,” said Sonal Arora, VP TeamLease Services. Arora further noted, “the critical aspect will be to create a conducive environment that stimulates the growth of enterprises as well as formal jobs”. TeamLease recommended 11 top regulatory changes that are needed in 2017 to accelerate formal job creation including consolidation of 44 central labour laws into four labour codes, Unique Enterprise Number (UEN). The report noted that employees should be offered a choice in receiving salaries in their preferred mode — CTC or take home. The report added that amendments in Contract Labour and Regulation Act 1970, Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and Trade Union Act 1926, among others, would help in creating more formal jobs (The Indian Express 19/12/2016)

147. 40% contractual staff jobless in Noida (14)

NOIDA: More than 40% of contractual workers have been laid off from Noida’s garment industry in the past 40 days after demonetisation was announced. Gautam Budh Nagar district labour department and workers’ associations confirmed that while many garment export and manufacturing units have started pulling down shutters, many people who work on a contractual basis have been rendered jobless. Noida has 1,800 garment manufacturing and export units. Of the people employed in the garment industry, a large number get paid on the basis of the work they get each day. Such employees include tailors, people who fix buttons, zippers, labels and add finishing touches to the apparels. These workers, who are daily wagers, do not have bank accounts. According to the district labour department, most of such contract workers from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal have gone back to their states over the past month as a direct result of the cash crunch triggered by demonetisation. Ritesh Kumar Jha, secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, an association working for labour rights in Noida, told TOI that two garment manufacturing units have shut down in sectors 4 and 5 over the past two days, having rendered more than 300 workers jobless overnight. “This morning a unit closed down in Sector 4 with a notice that work would resume after normalcy returns to the market. About 150 workers came and stood outside the factory in the morning. We are getting to hear of shutdowns from all over Noida, at least 40% of contractual workers in various units have become unempolyed in the past one month,” Jha said. He added that even demands and protests were of no use because workers are simply packing their bags. B K Rai, Gautam Budh Nagar deputy labour commissioner, endorsed Jha’s assertion that 40% workers had lost their jobs and said that the problem with contractual workers was that salaries could be paid to them only in cash as most of them did not have bank accounts. “Employers are not opening bank accounts for them because they fear they may start demanding permanent jobs,” Rai said. (Times of India 21/12/2016)

148. Labour settlements under scanner (14)

Kozhikode: Aimed at ensuring quality accommodation for migrant workers, the Labour Department, following a direction from the Ministry of Labour, has decided to conduct regular inspections at labourer settlements in the district. For this, special squads under the leadership of the Regional Joint Labour Commissioner will be formed within two days. The settlements in Feroke municipality will be checked thoroughly as the municipality has a large non-Keralite population working in the unorganised sector. As per the Labour Department figures, around 25,000 migrant workers are settled in Feroke, where the rules and regulations regarding quality and hygienic accommodation are frequently violated.Feroke municipal chairperson Zuhrabi says she is aware of the issues and a detailed action plan will be formulated to address them in the next fiscal. “The State government has some specific plans for the migrant workers and the municipality’s action plan will be formulated in consultation with the government,” she adds. Labour Department officials point out that the main issue in Feroke is the practice of hiring labourers from the wayside on a regular basis and dropping them back at the same spot after the work. “Such employers are not bothered about providing good accommodation to the workers,” says District Labour Officer P. Mohanan. The situation is forcing many workers live in squalor.Noticing the trend, the Labour Department has directed the local bodies to make it mandatory for the employers to ensure quality accommodation for their workers. The local bodies have the legal responsibility to ensure it at the time of registering the migrant worker’s details for official requirements. “As per the plans, all major migrant workers’ settlements will be inspected twice a week. The employers who are found violating the rules will be prosecuted under the labour laws,” says Mr. Mohanan. The large construction sites will be closely monitored by the Health Inspectors and the Labour Department squads. There are over three lakh migrants labourers in Kozhikode district and providing them quality accommodation is definitely a priority for the department. These workers are prone to various communicable diseases in the absence of hygienic living conditions, he says. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

149. Centre tells Maharashtra government to resolve all pending work under MNREGA (14)

Mumbai: Pointing out the Maharashtra government’s failure to complete various work targets under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme till December this year, the Union Ministry of Rural Development has asked government officials to “expeditiously” resolve the issues. According to the performance analysis done by the Centre, some works under MGNREGA in Maharashtra have slowed down leading to backlog for the next financial year. The review of work done by the Union Joint Secretary of MGNREGA found that at least 1,45,499 works that started in 2014-15 or before are still incomplete in Maharashtra. The rural development department also slammed the state for slow verification of job cards of workers in Maharashtra. As per the statistics, of the total 78,96,275 job cards in the state, only 13,55,395 (17.2 per cent) were verified till December 2016. Carrying out the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide access to sanitation facilities, the Maharashtra government had a target of constructing 64,015 Individual Household Latrines (IHHL). The state has however managed to construct only 17,723 IHHLs since 2014, which is just 28 per cent of its target. While Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde was unavailable for comment, a government official said, “We are reviewing the implementation and work progress as directed by the union department and the department is working towards achieving the targets.” Aiming at effective implementation of the MGNREGA scheme, union joint secretary (MGNREGA) Aparajita Sarangi has directed state officials to hold a review of projects to point out reasons for the slow progress of the work. Meanwhile, the state government has failed to construct even a single anganwadi for the children of MGNREGA workers. The state was supposed to build 289 Anganwadis this year. (The Indian xpress 26/12/16)

150. Rajasthan: Villagers complain of no work under MGNREGA (14)

JAIPUR: Jagdishpura village in Kishanganj block of Baran district was removed from Rampur Todia gram panchayat and included within Khakra gram panchayat. The change was not updated online on the government website. Villagers feel this might be the reason that they have not been getting work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. There are about 80 families of the backward Sahariya community in this village. All of them would earlier benefit from employment in MGNREGA projects, but that scope of employment has now dried up, they say. Villagers Ranvir, Sona and Balram told social activist Firoz Khan that even work that they had done under NREGA in April has to be paid for. They had dug for a small pond for water recharge during the monsoon, but authorities have still to pay them for it. And fresh work under NREGA appears not forthcoming anymore, they said. A handpump in the village has not been functional for some months. These days, villagers have to tread to another village to get drinking water. Villagers said they had approached government officials seeking work under MGNREGA. There are several families in the village with not even a proper house to live in. At Bilasgarh Ohdi basti nearby, at least 140 people who have worked on MGNREGA projects have still to be paid since the monsoon. Firoz Khan met Gorishwar, Kanya, Kanti, Bharosi and other villagers who complained that in March this year, they had laid a gravel road from Jamunia Khal to Bhadka – about three km; that too has not been paid for yet. “We have approached the local village leaders, but no one has a satisfactory answer for why work that is already done is not getting paid for,” Pannalal, one of the villagers, said. Some villagers said they had been engaged on construction of houses under the Indira Awas Yojna – even that has still to be paid for. In Khapdikheda too villagers complained that MGNREGA had become terribly unreliable as a source of livelihood. … (Times of India 27/12/16)

RESERVATION

151. Ministers oppose internal quota among Scheduled Castes (25)

Belagavi: A section of legislators and ministers on Thursday impressed upon Chief Minister Siddaramaiah not to implement the recommendations of A J Sadashiva Commission, which provides for reservation among the Scheduled Castes. G Parameshwara, H C Mahadevappa, Rudrappa Lamani were among the ministers who met Siddaramaiah at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha. They opined that implementing the panel’s recommendations would open a “Pandora’s box”. The Sadashiva Commission, which submitted its report to the government in June 2012, had recommended that the present 15% reservation for the Scheduled Castes be divided among the Left hand, Right hand, other Scheduled Castes and ‘touchable’ groups in the ratio of six, five, one and three per cent, respectively. (Deccan Herald 2/12/16)

152. Activists hope policy for differently-abled will be cleared soon (25)

MUMBAI: Nearly four years after the draft of a policy for the differently-abled was presented to then Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, activists now hope that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government will clear it in the winter session of the legislature in Nagpur.The draft suggests medical aid, skill development, technical education, social and financial resettlement, government jobs, and reservation for over 25 lakh population in the category. Activists allege that in the absence of a policy, around Rs. 400-500 crore allotted in the State budget was either unspent or diverted. “We have been demanding implementation of the policy for years. Left with no other option, thousands of differently-abled citizens will be staging a demonstration in Nagpur next week,” said Shankar Salve of Disable Rights and Development Organisation. Mr. Salve said the government has sidelined the issue. “Over the past two years, the government has not announced a special award for the differently-abled, which is an annual affair. Unlike previous years, not a single advertisement highlighting the government’s work was published on this year’s World Disability Day.” “The government is delaying the process for some unknown reason,” said Vijay Kanherkar, co-ordinator of Disable Rights and Development Front. Independent MLA Bacchu Kadu, who has been leading several agitations for the rights of the differently-abled, said: “Forget the policy. Let me ask the government whether it is implementing the 1995 Act for the differently-abled. Our Finance Minister had announced a stipend of Rs. 1,000 per month, but it has not been implemented. This government is busy in making announcements, but lacks in implementation.” (The Hindu 4/12/16)

153. No plans for quota to economically weak in general category: Government (25)

New Delhi: The government is not considering any proposal to provide reservation for general category people belonging to economically weaker sections, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. “At present, there is no proposal under consideration to provide reservation for economically weaker sections among general category people,” Minister of State for Social Justice Krishan Pal Gurjar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.The minister’s reply assumes significance as earlier his colleague in the same ministry — Ramdas Athawale — had pitched for reservation to the poor belonging to general category. Athawale had said the reservation limit should be raised to 75 per cent from existing around 50 per cent, giving the additional 25 per cent quota to economically weak people of general castes. However, the change should be made without tinkering with the current reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs, the RPI(A) chief had said. At present, according to the Constitution, 15 per cent seats are reserved for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBCs in central government-funded higher education institutions, jobs and even in elections. (DNA 7/12/16)

154. Now, oppn demands quota for Muslims (25)

Nagpur: Legislators came up with a new demand of reservation for Muslims in jobs and reservations, in the state assembly on Thursday. The demand came from the opposition to counter the BJP-Shiv Sena government’s similar proposal for Maratha community. However, members cutting across party lines displayed rare unity to discuss both proposals, which also included Dhangar, Lingayat, and Koli communities. The first resolution under Rule 293 was by MLA Ashish Shelar from the ruling party on Wednesday. However, the opposition members strongly demanded to include other communities and even Muslims. The speaker then objected to it and even chief minister Devendra Fadnavis advised to bring another proposal, which would also be discussed along with the original one. Accordingly, former CM Prithviraj Chavan, ex-deputy CM Ajit Pawar and others moved another resolution for the inclusion of other communities in the reservation list. Both proposals were taken up for discussions on Thursday.MLAs Anil Kadam, Nitesh Rane and others demanded to set up State Backward Commission as per the recommendations of the Narayan Rane panel. The government is likely to reply to the debate on Friday. Chavan strongly demanded restoration of at least education quota for Muslims, which his government had introduced in 2013 in the form of an ordinance, but was lapsed after the saffron government failed to ratify it. Chavn said he was not demanding reservations on the basis of religion, but on social factors, as the community didn’t progress on many fronts, including education, in all these years. He also demanded a white paper on the alleged misuse of Atrocities Act, which he said should be discussed. “We provided Muslims reservation in education after working on it for over two years. We extensively studied all factors. On the basis of statistical data collected for two years, we decided to provide them reservation in education and jobs. Even the Bombay High Court upheld our decision to provide 5% reservation in educational institutions to Muslims, but the new government only gave hollow assurances without giving them actual benefits,” he said. The former CM warned the government not to take the silent rallies of Marathas lightly, as it may erupt into violence if their demands were not met. “The government must put up a strong side in the high court, which had stayed the quota. We must fight for increasing the quota beyond 50%, just like the Tamil Nadu government. Even the Supreme Court was ready to consider TN government’s plea for hearing. We don’t want to disturb the existing quota for OBCs,” he added. (Times of India 9/12/16)

155. Rajasthan HC strikes down 5% Gujjar quota (25)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan high court scrapped the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (SBC) Reservation Act 2015 that provisioned for 5% quota to five communities, including Gujjars, on Friday.The court struck down the notification of October 2015, saying there were “no extraordinary circumstances” to allow the state’s overall reservation in government jobs and education institutes to go beyond the 50% cap. Following the notification, the overall reservation in the state reached 54%, which was in violation of the 50% cap set by the Supreme Court. The Act had provided 5% reservation in jobs and educational institutes to five communities: Gujjars (Gurjars), Banjara (Baldia, Labana); Gadia-Lohar (Gadolia), Raika (Rebari, Debasi) and Gadaria (Gaadri, Gayari). The division bench of Justice M N Bhandari and J K Ranka passed the 199-page judgement on a writ petition filed by ex-Army Capt Gurvinder Singh, the Samta Andolan Samiti and others. The division bench found fault also with the SBC Commission, which was headed by Justice (retd) I S Israni, which studied the status of 82 OBC communities in the state. The high court said there were many discrepancies in the SBC Commission report, so its recommendations cannot be accepted. It said the SBC Commission failed to consider Article 16(4B) of the Constitution, which forbids reservation exceeding 50%, and used the Indra Sahwney case judgement to arrive at wrong conclusions (Times of India 10/12/16)

156. Sadashiva Commission: CM says decision on implementing recommendations soon (25)

HUBBALLI:  Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said here on Sunday that he was sympathetic to the demands for implementing the recommendations of Justice Sadashiva Commission report on providing internal reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and said that his government would take a decision in this regard at the earliest. Inaugurating a mammoth convention of the Madiga community that has been pressing for providing internal reservation for the SC/ST communities here, Mr. Siddaramaiah said pressure was being mounted on him from different quarters to implement those recommendations and he too was in favour of providing reservation in proportion to the population of respective communities. The caste-based census, whose report would be out in January 2018, has pegged the SC/ST communities in number one position with 24.1 per cent share in the State’s total population. Therefore, they need to be given reservation in proportion to their population, he said. However, when the audience demanded a formal announcement regarding implementing the recommendations of the Sadashiva Commission report, Mr. Siddaramaiah refused to do so saying that it was not possible to make any announcement in this regard without obtaining the approval of the Cabinet. He said this issue need to be discussed in the Cabinet and opinion of all required to be taken. This is how the government functions in a democracy. Earlier, the issue had come before the Cabinet but no decision was possible for certain reasons. “I have told (Social Welfare Minister) Anjaneya to bring the issue before the Cabinet once again and we will take a decision,” he said. But the Madiga community members in the audience began pressing for a formal announcement by the Chief Minister at the convention. When they resorted to sloganeering, the Chief Minister said he was sympathetic to their demand. Even the Constitution supports providing reservation in proportion to the population of the backward communities, he added. Leader of Opposition Jagadish Shettar said BJP was in favour of implementing those recommendations and it would support the government if it implements the recommendations, he said. Earlier, the former Union Minister H. Muniyappa, who presided over the meeting, urged Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shettar to articulate their stand at the convention. The venue Nehru Maidan was fully occupied by the participants. Gathering of large crowd in the city also affected the smooth movement of the traffic and jams were caused at several spots as the participating members went on in procession. The traffic was diverted in a few locations. Leaders of all political parties participated in the conference and pledged their support for the demands of the community. (The Hindu 11/12/16)

157. Karnataka government mulls 70% quota for Dalits (25)

HUBBALLI: The Karnataka government is mulling 70% quota for Dalits and backward classes. Addressing the Madigara Maha Samavesh here on Sunday, CM Siddaramaiah said that Tamil Nadu has already provided 69% reservation for SCs and STs, adding that the state will consult legal experts to make amendments to the existing laws and put forth a resolution in the next Assembly session.The move, however, will need a constitutional amendment by Parliament in view of the Supreme Court verdict, capping reservation at 50%.Emphasizing on social equality, Siddaramaiah said the Constitution’s objective to distribute wealth and power had not been fulfilled yet. “It is shameful that social and economic equality dreamt by Basavanna and Sharanas of 12th century still remains a dream. Visionaries like BR Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram experienced untouchability and tried to elevate the position of such communities in the society. Even after 69 years of Independence, the practice of untouchability still exists,” he said. “Socio-economic development of the region or country will be curbed when a part of the society is segregated from the mainstream. Casteism is still deep rooted. Our Constitution has provided political freedom for the downtrodden, but we have to provide them social and economic freedom,” the CM said. Adequate representation of all the communities is something that’s still to be achieved, he added. Justifying his move for a caste Census, conducted in Karnataka for the first time after Independence, the chief minister said, “We have reserved funds for communities depending on their population. Once the Census report is out, it will be helpful to reserve funds scientifically. According to 2011 Census, Karnataka has 1.04 crore people belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This year, we have spent Rs 19,880 crore for the welfare of SCs,” Siddaramaiah said.Siddaramaiah refused to give an assurance of the implementation Justice AJ Sadashiv Commission recommendations. The CM said that he has asked social welfare minister H Anjaneya to table it in the next cabinet meeting. “I’m personally in favor of its implementation but I cannot announce the same as it has to get the cabinet’s nod,” he said. (Times of India 12/12/2016)

158. Gujjar community members stage protest in Ajmer (25)

AJMER: A group of Gujjars on Tuesday staged a protest at the district headquarters demanding the state government to issue notification for Gujjar reservation in government jobs. They also threatened a massive agitation. Gujjars have once again taken up the reservation issue after the Rajasthan High Court declined special OBC reservation to them. On Tuesday, the community members led a rally to the Ajmer district headquarters and handed over a memorandum addressed to the chief minister, to the district magistrate. “We want that government should act on this issue and bring notification for reservation to Gujjars,” said Hari Singh Gujjar, leader of the community. He said that we are demanding our rights as the community is really backward. Sources said that Gujjars are still undecided on the issue of agitation as the state government has already announced to appeal in the Supreme Court in the matter. Last time too, Gujjars had chosen Pushkar for the massive agitation. (Times of India 14/12/16)

159. Patel quota, Una incident took toll on Anandiben in Gujarat in 2016 (25)

Ahmedabad: The Patel quota agitation and Dalit uprising after the Una flogging incident took the toll on Gujarat’s first woman chief minister Anandiben Patel in 2016, setting the stage for a cliffhanger elections in 2017. Sensing it could inch closer to power in Gujarat after 25 years as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party seems to lack a strong state leader to fill the void after Narendra Modi’s exit from Gujarat, opposition Congress stepped up protests and rallies against new Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, hoping to make inroads, visited the state thrice and during one such visit described Rupani as “rubber stamp” of BJP President Amit Shah. Modi himself visited the state five times in the past as many months as the party believes that winning the elections will be crucial for it to retain power at the Centre in 2019. Trips of Shah also increased. Cow vigilantes mercilessly thrashing Dalit youths in Una town when they were skinning a dead cow led to violent agitation by the community in the state and created outrage in the country. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi visited Gujarat after the Una incident so did Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, Left leaders Brinda Karat and D Raja and Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav. The Dalit agitation continues under young leader Jignesh Mevani, as the community has decided to boycott their traditional work of disposing of dead animals carcasses and are instead demanding land and jobs from the government. Simmering Patel quota agitation led by Hardik Patel continued to be a big concern for the BJP government and its declaration of 10 per cent quota for economically backward among upper caste, was also struck down by Gujarat High Court. Hardik, who was behind bars till June in sedition cases, was granted bail by the high court with a condition that he will have to remain outside Gujarat for next six months. At present he is leading the agitation from Udaipur of Rajasthan and is expected to return to the state in January. The Patel community, which had been a staunch supporter of the BJP, continued to remain up in arms against the state government on its demand of reservation. To pacify the community, the state government declared 10 per cent quota for economically backward among upper caste on April 29. However, the move was struck down by the high court soon, after which the state government approached the Supreme Court. The state government sensing trouble after return of Hardik in January had in November invited agitating Patel community members for fresh round of talks on their demand, but these have remained inconclusive so far. Analysts say mishandling of Patel quota agitation and late action after the Dalit flogging case of Una led to the ouster of Anandiben, who also faced charges of corruption against her family members. She resigned in August after being at the helm for over two years. (Business Standard 20/12/16)

160. Include Gujjars in original OBC quota’ (25)

JAIPUR: The Loktantra Raksha Manch Rajasthan has come out in favour of classifying reservation based on backwardness and including Gujjars within the OBC quota. The Gujjars, whose 5% special backward classes reservation (SBC) was struck down by the high court, has demanded being classified under the OBC quota with 5% reservation within the 50% cap. Addressing the media, Daulatram Pensia , state president of raksha manch, alleged that the inclusion of Jats in the OBC category in October 19, 1999, was illegal and unconstitutional and led to the Gujjar agitation. He said that despite Gujjars having lost 72 lives in the agitation, they were back to square one after the high court ruling. He said the demand of Gujjars for being classified under the OBC quota was an old one. (Times of India 22/12/16)

161. Jat body plans protests for quota from January 29 (25)

CHANDIGARH: All India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJSS), an umbrella organization of Jat bodies demanding quota for the community, on Friday announced to resume its protest for reservation on January 29. A decision in this regard was taken by the organization at a rally held at Garhi-Sampla village in Rohtak district. The rally was organized to commemorate the 114th birth anniversary of former prime minister and Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. AIJASS president Yashpal Malik said from January 29, 2017, peaceful protests would be launched in all districts of Haryana till the demands of Jat community were fulfilled.The demands include inclusion of Jat community in other backward classes (OBC) list for the purpose of government jobs and admissions in educational institutes, and withdrawal of criminal cases registered against some Jat youths in the aftermath of the February violence. Malik said from Friday, a ‘Jat Nyay Yatra’ was launched, which would travel across the state to make people aware of the legitimacy of the community’s demand for reservation. The main grievance of the Jat leaders was that after the Supreme Court quashed the other backward class (OBC) quota for Jats in nine states on March 17, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had invited them and assured to restore the quota after removing the discrepancies left by previous regime while giving OBC status to Jats. On December 16, AIJSS had also submitted a memorandum to Amit Shah in this regarad. AIJASS has already announced to campaign against BJP in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. The Jat stir for reservation, held in February, had turned ugly with more than 30 people losing their lives. (Times of India 24/12/16)

162. ‘11 lakh students from minority communitybenefited from scholarships this year’ (25)

KALABURAGI:  Even 10 years after the Rajinder Sachar Committee submitted its report on educational backwardness of Muslims and its resultant impact on their employment status, it is regrettable that nothing has changed much to empower the community, said Razak Ustad, Academic Council member of Gulbarga University, Kalaburagi. He was addressing a seminar on “Justice Rajinder Sachar Report and Post Sachar: Challenges and Possibilities”, jointly organised by Rehnuma Law Centre and Sahara Hind Forum here on Monday. Mr. Ustad said that out of the 76 recommendations of the committee, three — setting up an equal opportunity commission, quota for Muslims in admission in universities, creation of a new all India officers cadre to manage the Wakf boards and council — were not accepted, and one that recommended giving Arzal Muslims the status of Scheduled Castes had been deferred by the government. The report, which is considered as being a true picture of the social, economic and education conditions of the Muslim community, noted that only 3 per cent of Muslims enrolled for higher education. It said that increased awareness had made them avail of various scholarships and government schemes. Around 38 per cent of the Muslims in urban area were living below poverty line, and it was 27 per cent in rural areas. Mr. Ustad said that the report also recommended steps to raise the employment and education status and economic conditions by providing financial assistance through welfare programmes. Due to lack of desire, community people did not benefit from schemes introduced exclusively for their welfare through Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP), Karnataka Minority Development Corporation (KMDC) in the past. However, awareness about minority welfare schemes has increased over the last four years, which reflected in the increasing number of applicants for scholarships. Around 11 lakh students benefited from scholarship this year, while in 2012, it was only 4.5 lakh students who applied for scholarships, he added. Programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) introduced by the Ministry of Urban development were mainly to facilitate infrastructure development in towns and cities, having a substantial concentration of minority population. Around ₹ 6,000 crore had been allocated under 12th Five Year Plan for infrastructure development in 1,710 blocks and 88 towns with minority population, Mr. Ustad said. Mr. Ustad called upon the leaders of the minority communities and non-government organisations to take steps to ensure that benefits of government schemes reached the needy among the minority communities. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

163. East Bengal may recruit Moghrabi in Asian quota (25)

Kolkata:  East Bengal likely to sign Hong Kong footballer Akande in Asian quota East Bengal’s new recruit Bukenya to arrive for medical on Thursday Sebi initiates process to recruit new executive directors Asian Hotels (East) provides update on scheme of amalgamation Asian Hotels (East) fixes record date for scheme of amalgamation In a desperate bid to rope in a foreign player under the Asian quota, city football giants East Bengal have reportedly shown interest in signing Lebanese striker Akram Moghrabi. East Bengal have discarded their South Korean striker Do Dong-hyun as coach Trevor Morgan did not approve of him. Since then, the red and gold brigade have been on the lookout for a player in this bracket. A source close to the development told IANS on Wednesday that East Bengal are in talks with Moghrabi in order to fill up their Asian quota. Mogharabi has played 26 matches for his country, scoring four times. The 31-year old forward also scored 16 goals in 26 appearances for his present club Nejmeh SC. Mogharabi was a part of the Churchill Brothers team that won the I-League in the 2012-13 season. Churchill have returned to the I-league after a two-year hiatus. He had scored 10 goals for Churchill, including a hattrick against Delhi-based side ONGC. Trinidad & Tobago marksman Willis Plaza, Ivan Bukenya of Uganda and Haiti’s Wedson Anselme are the other three foreigners to join East Bengal so far. (Business Standard 28/12/16)

164. Bihar government approves 50% quota in judicial services (25)

Patna: The state government has reserved 50% seats in subordinate and superior judicial services. The decision has been taken following the Supreme Court order on September 29 in the case of Bihar government versus Dayanand Singh. Briefing reporters after the state cabinet meeting on Tuesday, principal secretary (general administration department) Dharmendra Singh Gangwar said, “The Extremely Backward Class (EBC) candidates will get 21%, Scheduled Caste (SC) 16%, Other Backward Class (OBC) 12% and Scheduled Tribe 1% reservation.” The posts under subordinate judicial services include that of judicial magistrates and munsif magistrates for which examinations are conducted by Bihar Public Services Commission (BPSC) and monitored by the Patna high court. The high court appoints additional district judges and district judges under the superior judicial services.Gangwar said 35% horizontal reservation for women and 1% for orthopaedically-disabled persons would be applicable in all categories. “The decision has been taken in consultation with the BPSC and the Patna HC,” he said. Officials said 27% reservation was already allowed in subordinate judicial services, but there was no quota in superior judicial services.In another decision, the state cabinet approved the State Industrial Investment Promotional Rules, 2016, which envisages the formation of state industrial investment board and a framework for approval of different kinds of investment proposals. Sharing the details of the rules, principal secretary (cabinet secretariat) Brajesh Mehrotra said, “The rules set timeline and empower the authorities concerned to approve the investment proposals of different kinds. For instance, proposals up to Rs2.2.5 crore will be approved by the principal secretary of industries department while those between Rs2.5 crore and Rs10 crore are to be cleared by the minister of industries department. The proposals for investments between Rs10 crore and Rs20 crore have to be approved jointly by the minister of industries and finance department while those above Rs20 crore will require the state cabinet nod.” The cabinet cleared total 14 proposals, including the one from energy department for allocating funds to the tune of Rs228.35 crore to North Bihar Power Distribution Company and South Bihar Power Distribution Company for replacement of defunct electricity meters and installation of smart meters. (Times of India 28/12/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

165. NHRC grants Rs 1 lakh compensation to convict assaulted at jailer’s behest (1)

Bareilly: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has granted Rs 1 lakh in compensation to Gulnawaz alias Gullu, an inmate at Bareilly central jail serving a sentence of 20 years awarded to him by a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court. Gulnawaz was assaulted by another inmate at the behest of deputy superintendent KP Singh in September 2013. A formal complaint was lodged by Gulnawaz, following which a judicial inquiry found Singh guilty in 2015.Speaking with TOI, PN Pandey, senior jail superintendent at Bareilly central jail, said, “Gulnawaz was assaulted at the behest of then deputy superintendent KP Singh. The inmate had received serious injuries and a judicial inquiry, comprising an additional chief judicial magistrate and a senior superintendent from the department of prisons, was set up to probe the incident.” According to the senior superintendent, Singh had admitted to his crime before the probe panel. “In his statement to the probe committee, Singh had said that he took the extreme step against the inmate after he got reports that Gulnawaz had sexually assaulted a fellow prisoner.” Singh told the panel that he assaulted the inmate only after the latter attacked him when confronted on his alleged sexual assault against another prisoner. “The committee later found Singh guilty following which departmental actions were taken against him. His increment and promotion were held,” Pandey said. After the probe panel submitted its report in 2015, Gulnawaz’s family approached the NHRC. Meanwhile, a jail staff claimed that he was shifted to separate confinement within the jail facility. “He continues to be a troublesome inmate for us and his conduct is always under the scanner,” staffer said. (Times of ndia 3/12/16)

166. Rights activists denied access to encounter spot (1)

Nilambur: Forest department officials denied permission to a fact-finding team of human rights activists to visit the spot inside the Karulayi forest, where two Maoists leaders were gunned down by the police on November 24.The team, led by advocate Kranthi Chaithanya of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and advocate D Suresh Kumar of the Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL) arrived at the Padukke forest office at around 11.30 on Saturday and sought permission to enter the forest. They were denied permission by the deputy forest ranger K V Biju who said the human rights team should seek sanction from higher officials. The fact-finding team informed that they had written a letter to the district forest officer (DFO) three days ago but the forest department officials said they have no information about the letter. They also refused to give in writing the reasons for denying the permission. Tension prevailed in front of the forest office for half-an-hour with a section of the local people, led by BJP panchayat committee president, Arumughan protested against the visit of the human rights team. Hailing the Thunderbolts as ‘smart boys’, the BJP leader said the Maoists were robbing rice and provisions from the tribals. The mob turned towards social activist A Vasu when he arrived at the office premises half-an-hour late. A police team that was standing at a distance did not intervene. Kranthi Chaithanya and Suresh Kumar said the entire episode stage-managed by the police. “They wanted to stop us from visiting the spot as the government has something to hide,” they said. Kranthi Chaithanya said CPI and CPM leaders had attended the protest meeting held at Hyderabad against the encounter killings in Malakangiri in the Andhra-Orissa border. “Here the CPM-led government guns down the revolutionaries,” he said. (Times of India 4/12/16)

167. ‘Cashless transaction circular is contravention of human rights’ (1)

Panaji: The Goa State Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the chief secretary, government of Goa, and the commissioner of the commercial taxes to appear in person or through advocate before the commission on December 9 in the case filed before it against the state commercial tax department’s November 30 circular to manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, dealers and other members of the trade to shift to cashless transactions within the next 10 days. The government of India and the Reserve Bank of India have not declared that cash transactions are invalid and when the Central Law recognizes such mode of payment and cash is considered legal tender it is impermissible for a state authority to belittle the central legislation and cause inconvenience to the common man, stated advocate Aires Rodrigues in his complaint. “The commercial taxes department of a state has no jurisdiction to issue such a circular,” he states, adding that, “Banks do not provide free service; a credit /debit card holder has to pay service and other charges. The trader is charged up to 3 per cent on the card. Some unscrupulous ones pass this on to the customer.” The circular starts innocuously disguised as an appeal and goes on to state that commercial tax officers in charge of each ward shall visit the business places of dealers and verify compliance of the circular and submit a consolidated compliance report within a fortnight. “The later part is nothing short of a mandatory directive for compliance, which the department is no way authorized to issue,” states the complaint that prays that the chief secretary and the commissioner of commercial taxes be directed to explain how they have been proceeding so haphazardly in contravention of human rights to use currency which is legal tender. The circular states that even though cash transactions are not being banned, it is in the interest of the state to encourage cashless transactions. It makes an appeal to traders to use other available modes of payment/cash transfers like point of sale machines, QR code recognition and payment devices, swipe card-enabled payment systems. (Times of India 6/12/16)

168. Rajasthan human rights watch dog is struggling (1)

JAIPUR: The state human rights watch dog is struggling to grapple with the large number of cases as the three member body is now left with only its chairman. The government’s antipathy towards the Human Rights Commission (SHRC) could be gauged from the fact that the state human rights watch dog has been headless for more than five years. The commission comprises of a chairman and two members. After the then chairman justice retired NK Jain had relinquished his post in July 2010 there was no chairman appointed to the post till Oct 2015. The functions of the commission were looked after by its two members, Dr M K Devrajan and Dr HR Kuri. The current chairman Justice (retired) Prakash Tatia was appointed to the post in October last year only after the Supreme Court intervention. When finally the commission got a chairman, shortly two of the members’ term expired. Dr Devrajan and Dr Kuri had retired in August this year and the government could not find their replacement till now despite the fact that, the government has now set in motion appointment to many defunct boards and corporations to accommodate party politicians.The state government was forced to appoint chairman and members to the statutory commissions only after the high court took suo motu cognizance of the issue. The court said these statutory commissions are part of the good governance and government should not delay its appointment inordinately. The petition is still pending in the court as the government sought more time during each hearing. Former member of the commission Devarajn said “These commissions are a right medium for good governance. It is unfortunate that the government fails to understand this fact.” Ultimately the credit for good governance and genuine grievance redressal system would benefit the government only, he added. (Times of India 7/12/16)

169. Silicosis patients thank Rajasthan rights panel (1)

JAIPUR: On the occasion of World Human Rights Day on Saturday, groups of silicosis patients across three districts of the state – Karauli, Nagaur and Jodhpur – submitted a letter to the respective district collector and also wrote a ‘thank you’ note to the state human rights commission. In their note to chief Prasad Chand Tatia of the Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission, the patients said that all the relief they had received had been made possible with the intervention of the commission. They say retired member MK Devarajan had understood their plight and ensured that they were given monetary relief by the government. Devarajan retired in August this year. The state human rights commission, which has two members and the chairperson, has been functioning in the past few months with just the chairperson – both members have retired. The silicosis patients in their petition said that since Devarajan had understood their problems and aided the government in coming to the aid of the silicosis afflicted patients, the state must grant him an extension in tenure.In their letters to the district collectors, the patients suggested that as the government set about forming the District Mineral Trust Fund, it must make sure that 50% of the funds allocated to DMFT be set aside for a mine workers’ welfare board. Such boards should be constituted across the state and patients should be encouraged to take charge of the money and make decisions for their own welfare, the letters said.Patients have also sought that data on the number of people diagnosed with the disease, the numbers of Pneumoconiosis Board certificates issued and the names of people and dates on which these were issued should all be out in the public domain, so that there is greater transparency in the distribution of monetary compensation in case of a positive diagnosis or death. Since 2013, the state has been granting Rs 1 lakh to patients of the disease, and Rs 3 lakh to kin of those dead of silicosis.All TB patients in regions where mine work is common should be examined along with their work history again so that those misdiagnosed and being treated for TB can also, if suffering from silicosis, know of their true condition, the petition said. The patients have also sought that the State Human Rights Commission be strengthened to pursue their cause. (Times of India 10/12/16)

170. NHRC prompts Govt to act on sexual abuse in schools (1)

BHUBANESWAR: A spate of cases involving sexual assault on students at the hands of school authorities has prompted the School and Mass Education Department to seek corrective measures to prevent such crime from being perpetrated in educational institutions of the State. The department has written to all its wings, including Directorates of Secondary Education and Elementary Education, Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyaan (RMSA), to chalk out plans to be taken to prevent such crimes by teachers, headmasters and staff of schools. In fact, the department action came after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took serious view of such offences in the State. The rights panel has asked the Chief Secretary to intimate corrective steps being initiated in this regard. In fact, the NHRC had taken cognisance of a case – after a petition was filed by rights activist Subash Mohapatra – over sexual harassment of a 10-year-old girl student of a Government school in Saipriya Nagar of Rayagada by the headmaster in 2013. Following the NHRC’s notice, the SP had submitted a report stating that the headmaster, Panchanan Palak, was arrested. Later, a detailed report of the School and Mass Education Department showed that Palak was chargesheeted and subsequently, convicted for the crime. He was handed out a three-year imprisonment. The victim and her father, however, had shifted from the area to an unknown destination by that time. However, the petitioner submitted a letter earlier this year stating that though the headmaster was convicted, the department had not removed him from service. Similarly, no monetary relief was given to the girl. Mohapatra also alleged that a large number of similar cases has been reported from the State where both boys and girls are subjected to such crimes but no corrective measure is taken by the Government. Expressing concern that custodians of the schools have resorted to such crimes which not only discourage the children but also their parents from sending them to school, the NHRC ordered `1 lakh compensation to the victim and asked the Chief Secretary to intimate what steps have been taken to prevent such crimes in schools. (New Indian Express 13/12/16)

171. NHRC panel notice to Chief Secretary, Collectors on displaced villagers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Chief Secretary and four district Collectors over the delay in rehabilitation and resettlement of villagers displaced due to Indravati Hydro-Electric project. Rights campaigner Radhakanta Tripathy, who brought the plight of landless ST villagers before the NHRC, had requested the rights panel to ensure their proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation. In the petition, he highlighted the displacement of more than 15,000 families, which included Scheduled Tribes, dalits and poor farmers, from over 100 villages in Kalahandi, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada districts, thereby forcing them to suffer helplessly with deprivation of basic necessities of life. ‘’Unknown disease has claimed 18 people during July-November in villages surrounded by waters of Indravati water reservoir project in Kalahandi. Panic spread in 22 villages under two-gram panchayats (GPs) due to the deaths. The deceased belonged to Bhurubhuri, Temera and Barabadi villages under Talanagi GP,’’ he stated. As the villages are surrounded by rivers and there is only one boat ferrying people to the mainland, it has become difficult for the villagers to access primary healthcare, ration and pension. While the villagers are imprisoned by water throughout the year, Tripathy said the State administration remained a mute spectator to the plight of the people. Denial and deprivation of bare necessities of life violate the right to food and right to be rehabilitated and resettled with compensation as per law, he alleged. The petitioner requested the NHRC to depute its Special Rapporteur to study the situation and formulate appropriate recommendations for both the Centre as well as State Government to follow. Considering the petition, the Commission, in its order, asked the Chief Secretary and Collectors of Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Kalahandi and Koraput to submit the report within 15 days. The case will be placed before NHRC at an open hearing at Bhubaneswar scheduled to be held between January 9 and 11. (The New Indian Express 15/12/16)

172. Teach human rights and remedies for violation at school level: NHRC (1)

Puduchery: The National Human Rights Commission Friday said that school children should be educated on human rights and also the remedies available if there are violations, right from their formative stage. “Human rights education should be provided to children right from school level. They should know from their formative stage about human rights and also remedies available in the event of the violation of the rights,” NHRC member Justice D Murugesan said. He was speaking to reporters at the end of an open hearing and sitting here Friday held by the entire NHRC Commission, including its chairman Justice H L Dattu, to listen to grievances of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.Justice Murugesan said the meeting with Scheduled Castes and Tribes in their respective states by visiting their places was in keeping with the method evolved by NHRC to save time. “We take cognisance of the complaints and deal with them in their respective places in the presence of officers and call for reports to redress the grievances,” he said. He said 19 complaints were received from the downtrodden, mostly related to non llocation of land and also ‘failure’ of police to register complaints filed by SC/ST people or non availability of community certificates. “NHRC has called for reports and after perusing them we will come to conclusion whether there is violation”, he said. On the demand that Union Territory of Puducherry, which now has only a Human Rights Committee, have a commission on par with states, he said NHRC felt that UTs should also have separate Commissions as there could be no disparity between them and states in having the commissions. He also said that defenders of human rights should face no trouble as “they are the eyes of human rights”.Justice Murugesan said that whenever there were reports of human right activists facing trouble, “NHRC has never hesitated to take cognisance and will call for reports from the authorities”. The commission also interacted with various NGOs and officials of the Puducherry government. A release said NGO delegates shared their concerns, particularly on certain important aspects of human rights like care and treatment of the mentally ill, bonded labour, child labour, structural discrimination and ‘excesses’ by the authorities. (The Indian Express 17/12/16)

173. Dalit rights NGO’s foreign funding blocked (1)

AHMEDABAD: The Union home ministry has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of one of the oldest Dalit rights organization in Gujarat — the Navsarjan Trust — for activities the government has deemed “C”. The trust had actively participated in protests against the Una atrocity.After granting FCRA renewal on August 3, the Centre has cancelled the order on the grounds that the association “has come to adverse notice for its undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially the harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, and regional groups, castes or communities”. Now the NGO will not be able to receive foreign funds. The Centre had renewed Navsarjan’s FCRA registration on the basis of its application made on February 27. The Una atrocity occurred in July, and like many other NGOs fighting for the rights of Dalits and suppressed classes, Navsarjan Trust had joined the movement and participated in the march from Ahmedabad to Una organized by activists in August. On Thursday, the Centre took a decision to cancel the NGO’s FCRA registration certificate. In its order, it said that when it came to know that the NGO’s activities violated Section 8 of the FCRA, 2010, a need was felt to revise the order in the public interest. “This is a fit case for revision,” the order reads with a comment, “Though the renewal ought to have been refused…the registration was renewed inadvertently by the concerned officer of FCRA Wing of the Foreigners Division.” The NGO’s founder-member Martin Macwan said, “We have not received the copy of the order. We need to study what is the specific charge against us.” He said the decision had been taken without giving any notice or opportunity to explain things. “This is not proper,” he said. (Times of India 17/12/16)

174. Justice Girish Chandra Gupta takes charge at WBHRC (1)

KOLKATA: Justice Girish Chandra Gupta, after taking charge of West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) on Wednesday, said that his main priority will be to set up human rights court in the districts. Gupta, former chief justice of Calcutta high court, said, “We will soon frame rules for the functioning of the district human rights courts and consult National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the same.” The Bengal government had earlier notified about setting up the district human rights courts in 2012, but they are yet to start functioning. “We will create awareness in districts too. A notification has already been issued so that people lodge their complaints with the DM offices, which will forward the cases to WBHRC’s office in Salt Lake.”He also added that there are plans to forward complaints to NHRC if the violation of rights involve personnel of central forces. Gupta mentioned that he wanted to give relief to a rights victim and make sure the violators get departmental proceedings so that they get a chance of self defence.”I need to be unbiased while providing justice to the rights victims. I will oversee whether there is any false complaint of rights violation.” Gupta also plans to be vigilant on the functioning of doctors in government hospitals. (Times of India 22/12/16)

175. Information on drug source: Rights body seeks directions to Punjab police to interview inmates (1)

Chandigarh: Chandigarh-based human rights organisation, Lawyers for Human Rights International, has moved an application before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to take cognisance of the news item published in the Chandigarh Newsline on December 6, and issue directions to the police heads of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali to conduct interviews of inmates in drug de-addiction centres to know source of drugs.Organisation’s counsel Navkiran Singh has attached the news item published in Chandigarh Newsline on December 6, “Drugs sold openly in Manimajra, Joluwal, Pinjore border villages, say de-addiction centre patients”. The news report had mentioned that during the inspection by the Panchkula Chief Judicial Magistrate to the de-addiction centre of Panchkula General Hospital, a patient had told that heroin is being supplied openly in Manimajra and payment is made through Paytm, mobile networking etc. Another patient had informed that drugs were being sold openly at villages like Jalowal, Pinjore, Kalka and border villages of Pinjore.The petitioner organisation has submitted that along with the SSP/DCP of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, there is also a need to issue directions to the Punjab and Haryana governments to take appropriate steps in the case. It has also been suggested that the police of tri-city should form a joint team to close on the network of drugs being operated by the traffickers in the tri-city and the nearby villages. The petitioner organisation has further suggested that it would also be essential that NGOs who are interested and are making efforts to contain the menace of drugs be associated along with the District Legal Service Authorities so that best efforts can be made in this regard. Hence the information which can be obtained from de-addiction centres as well as the inmates of the jails where NDPS crime related accused are being housed can be passed on to the police for breaking the network of the drug mafia.It has been submitted that petitioner organisation’s counsel Navkiran Singh had earlier vitisted the de-addiction centre being run by Red Cross Society at Patiala and on interviewing addicts, they had revealed the sources from where the drugs were obtained by them. The application has been moved by the petitioner organisation in an already pending case wherein the High Court had taken suo motu notice of the drug racket in Punjab and had been monitoring the case. The case would come up for hearing on December 23. (The Indian Express 23/12/16)

176. FCRA cancellation forces NGO to lay off its 80-odd staff (1)

AHMEDABAD: Facing cash crunch after the cancellation of FCRA licence, Gujarat-based NGO Navsarjan Trust, which was working for Dalit rights for the last 27 years, has sought the resignation of its 80-odd employees and said that the three schools run by it shall be closed. Managing Trustee of Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan said the NGO was unable to pay for the salaries of its staff after the Centre revoked its licence to get foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “It is impossible for us to pay salaries of our employees after the Centre cancelled our FCRA licence. We are facing acute cash crunch due to that move. Thus, we have asked all our 80-odd employees to tender their resignations,” Macwan told PTI. Macwan founded this NGO in 1989 to fight for the rights of Dalits and to take up issues concerning them, such as manual scavenging and social boycott. According to him, the NGO needs around Rs 2.75 crore annually to meet various expenses. “We are largely dependent on the funds from foreign sources to meet our expenses, which runs into Rs 2.75 crore per annum. About 85 percent of that comes from foreign countries. Now, as our FCRA licence has been cancelled, it is impossible to run our operations or to pay salaries from what we get from local sources,” said Macwan. Apart from running various awareness programs for the upliftment of Dalits across the state, the NGO also runs three schools, one each in Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Patan district. Now, these schools, where 102 students of 5th standard to 9th standard, are enrolled, are on the verge of closure, said Macwan. “These three schools, which impart education to 102 students of extremely poor Dalit and tribal communities, are having 12 teachers. Now, we have to shut these schools too, as we are unable to pay their salaries and meet other operational expenses. These teachers will be asked to leave only after the completion of this academic session,” said Macwan. A week back, seven NGOs, including Navsarjan Trust, were barred by the Centre government from receiving foreign funds after their FCRA licences were cancelled following alleged adverse intelligence reports against them. The decision has been taken after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licences were renewed in the recent past Official sources had claimed that there were adverse intelligence inputs against these NGOs, ranging from allegedly working against public interest by using foreign funds, painting the government as “anti- Dalit” abroad, besides others. According to Macwan, Centre targeted his organization because it highlighted the recent incident at Una town in Gir-Somnath district, where four Dalit youths were thrashed by cow vigilantes. “It is evident that Centre was unhappy with us after we raised that issue on various platforms. We only tried to highlight the plight of Dalits. That is what we are doing since last 27 years. But, it seems that government wants us to propagate that everything is alright in their rule” said Macwan, who has planned to challenge the order in the court. “We have decided to challenge the Centre’s order against us in the Gujarat High Court soon,” he added. (The New Indian Express 24/12/16)

177. Bastar: Rights advocate writes to NHRC, says ‘threat tactics’ being used (1)

New Delhi: AN ADVOCATE of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, which fights cases of human rights violations in Bastar, has written to the National Human Rights Commission, alleging that “intimidatory and threatening tactics” were being used against her. She also expressed apprehension that false cases may be charged against her. Shalini Gera wrote that she recently got a call from a person claiming to be the Superintendent of Police of Bastar. According to her, the caller said that the police have received a complaint that accuses her of meeting a Maoist commander and exchanging demonetised currency notes. The allegations, she maintained, were made “simply to malign and harass” her. Refusing to give details, a police official confirmed they have received “such a complaint and are looking at it.” In February 2016, Gera and other lawyers of JAGLAGS left Jagdalpur in Bastar alleging harassment by Chhattisgarh Police. In her letter to Srinivas Kamath, national focal point for human rights defenders and joint registrar of NHRC, Gera stated that she is part of the legal team of Kumma Pottam, who has approached the High Court alleging that his 13-year-old son was killed in fake encounter. Gera wrote that they reached Jagdalpur on December 26, after the High Court ordered that the teen’s body should be exhumed and a second postmortem conducted under Bastar Commissioner’s supervision.She alleged that a police team entered the premises and made the accusation that they had been “caught under suspicious” circumstances. A day later, Gera alleged that she received a call from an “unknown number” – from a person who identified himself as Bastar SP R N Dash. Dash could not be contacted for a comment. Gera wrote, “This person wanted to know whether I had been to Palnar Samudayik Bhavan where I had incited villagers against Aadhaar card…. Then, he wanted to know what I had been doing in Matenar…. He then claimed…we were spreading false stories of police atrocities in front of children, and that he has photographs…. This other person then asked me whether any JNU students were present at the meeting…”Gera wrote, “…He said he had received a written complaint against me that I was in Goel Dharamshala [in Jagdalpur] yesterday, exchanging ‘old notes’ for Naxalites. I again denied this and told him that I was in Goel Dharamshala yesterday, duly authorized by the Commissioner of Bastar Division, to follow up on orders of Hon’ble High Court.” Earlier this week, Chhattisgarh Police had charged seven activists, purportedly on way to look into allegations of human rights violations of tribal villagers in the state, with Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. In November, the state police had filed an FIR against a fact-finding team comprising Delhi University and JNU professors Nandini Sundar, Archanay Vijay and other political activists that had visited Bastar in May. (The Indian Express 29/12/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

178. National anthem: Experts slam order, say difficult to implement (19)

NEW DELHI: Constitutional experts severely criticised on Wednesday the Supreme Court’s order that makes it mandatory for the national anthem to be played before the screening of films in movie halls. They termed it a judicial legislation that would be impossible to implement. Former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee, a believer in dynamic constitutionalism, said the SC decision was a judicial legislation that went much beyond the constitutional mandate. “To my mind it is incorrect. This ruling appears to overlook law settled in this regard by the Supreme Court in the Bijoe Emmanuel case. The court appears to have entered the realm of judicial legislation and gone much beyond constitutional mandate.” “How can the court compel a cinema theatre to play the national anthem? Can the cinema hall owners be hauled up for disrespecting the national anthem if some of the patrons did not stand up when it was being screened? There are many questions which are not answered by the court in its interim directions,” Sorabjee told TOI. “The court must also consider the impact of this ruling on the fundamental right to practise and profess any religion,” he added. Constitutional expert Rajeev Dhavan was vitriolic in his criticism. “It seems a very BJP line to take. This is an overreach by the Supreme Court as it seeks to integrate where it should not (by imposing constitutional patriotism). The Supreme Court should not overreach as there will be many people who profess a religion that might prohibit them to bow when the national anthem is sung even though they would be showing utmost respect to the anthem.” Noted senior advocate and former additional solicitor general K K Venugopal said: “Screening national anthem in the cinema theatres is a good idea. It will lead to imbibing a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the country. But, what if some people inside the theatre don’t stand up when the national anthem is played? It will be extremely difficult for the cinema owners to enforce this order.” Venugopal said: “It would have been better had the Supreme Court passed the order as a recommendation to the Union government to make necessary amendments to the Cinematograph Act and Rules, making it obligatory for the theatre owners to exhibit national anthem before screening a film.” Many lawyers asked: Would the national anthem be played prior to screening of the films certified `adults only’ by the central board for film certification? It will be extremely difficult to implement this order in the hinterland. Who will make the crowd that gathers to watch early morning and late night shows to stand up when the national anthem is screened?” (Times of India 1/12/16)

179. Codify Personal law in two to three years, Muslim women (19)

Mumbai: Buoyed by the success of having equal rights access restored at the Haji Ali Daargah in the sense that both men and women will be allowed to the same point, the Bharatiya Muslims Mahila Andolan (BMMA) which had filed a public interest litigation demanded codification of personal law in two to three years and pledged to renew their fight to ban instant triple talaq and nikah halala. The group has also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on the same with the Supreme Court. On Thursday while celebrating a decade of their existence at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh, the group also presented case studies of women who continued to suffer due to them. These included women from across the country who had gathered including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Bangalore and West Bengal among others. While some did not want their identities to be disclosed, others like Shabista Shaikh from Maharashtra did. “My husband one fine day said triple talaq over phone and ended our marriage. He was having an affair. Today I have a son to look after. He goes around telling everyone that I am mad. Was I not mad till the time I had a son?,” said Shaikh reciting her story. While hers was a case of direct divorce, Nagma, one of the members of BMMA from Rajasthan described how a woman in her state was divorced through triple talaq twice after being raped. “She was married and this person raped her and took her pictures. Those were shown to her husband. Her husband divorced her. She was married again but again through triple talaq she was divorced. The police is not even willing take an FIR,” informed Nagma about the case study. Cases studies of women getting to see their children after 22 years after triple talaq and that women’s consent not being considered while divorce were raised in the meet. Neha Khan, another victim of triple talaq who had come from MP said, “My question to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is that when Nikah is conducted, our consent is taken first. Should that not also be the case during divroce. They should tell us that.” “Even though members of All India Personal Law Board call us names, use filthy language to describe us, we will now go ahead with renewed vigour to demand abolition of (instant) triple talaq and nikah halala,” said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-convenor of BMMA…. (DNA 2/12/16)

180. Hindus get 90 days to appeal family court divorce decree (19)

MUMBAI: A warring Hindu couple now has 90 days, not 30, to file an appeal against a divorce decree granted by a family court, a full bench of the Bombay high court has held. The court ruling lays to rest divided verdicts, and means that a Hindu man or woman would now have to wait three months after a divorce decree to remarry. Provided, of course, that within this time, the losing spouse has not already challenged the dissolution of marriage and the appeal is pending.The three-judge bench comprising Justices Naresh Patel, R D Dhanuka and Sadhana Jadhav held that time to file an appeal has to read harmoniously when provisions in two different laws were different and conflicting. The two different laws here were the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) of 1955, which provided for 90 days to file an appeal, as amended in 2003, and the Family Courts Act of 1984 that provides only 30 days. In 2014, the HC had, in a divorce appeal filed in 2013, referred to the larger bench the issue of fixing the appeal deadline, after different benches had earlier given conflicting findings on which law would prevail. The bench held that the Family Courts Act was a procedural law and that its provisions were not intended to “impliedly” repeal provisions of the HMA. (Times of India 8/12/16)

181. Triple talaq cruel, Muslim women suffer bias: HC (19)

ALLAHABAD: Fuelling the raging debate on whether constitutional guarantees extend to Muslim women, the Allahabad high court has said that triple talaq or the practice of Muslim men getting an instant divorce by saying ” talaq” three times is “cruel”.Making an observation while dismissing a petition on November 5, Justice Suneet Kumar said the view that “the Muslim husband enjoys an arbitrary, unilateral power to inflict instant divorce” does not tie in with Islamic laws. These observations were made public on Thursday. Kumar said that personal laws of any community cannot claim supremacy over the rights granted to the individuals by the Constitution that provides for equality and non-discrimination. “Women cannot remain at the mercy of the patriarchal set-up…under the clutches of sundry clerics having their own interpretation of the holy Quran. Triple talaq has been deprecated and not followed by all sects of Muslim community in the country,” the court said, adding that Muslim women “continue to suffer bias”. (Times of India 9/12/16)

182. Tamil Nadu govt sanctions 1,344 judiciary posts (19)

CHENNAI: After many months of delay, the Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned 1,344 additional posts for the state judiciary. The number was proposed by the high court in view of the increase in the number of judges in the higher judiciary in recent times. In an affidavit filed before the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar, home secretary Apurva Varma said the government had issued orders on December 5 creating the additional posts. The file had been sent to the competent authority for approval, he said. Necessary sanction would be obtained this calendar year, he said. The issue of additional posts came up before the bench as a PIL filed by the Tamil Nadu Judicial Ministerial Officers Association, represented by its general secretary S P Rajendran of Chidambaram. saying that the State government should pay compensatory allowance to staff attending Lok Adalats on holidays. The home secretary told the court that the sanctioning of additional staff would bring about an additional burden of 30.18 crore. He said the proposal was not in line with the recommendations of the Justice Shetty Commission for Judicial Officers. As for the allotment of government tenements for judicial staff, the housing and urban development department filed an affidavit stating that the scheme was meant for government servants. This would imply that it would also include judicial staff and thus 15% of it would be reserved for them. After reiterating that priority should be given to judicial staff in allotment, the court posted the matter to January 6, 2017 for further hearing. (imes of India 11/12/16)

183. SC refuses to interfere with Centre’s policy on demonetisation at this stage (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday, in its interim order on demonetisation, refused to interfere with the Centre’s decision firmly underlining that “these are matters of fiscal policies”. The court further restrained all high courts from examining the issue, stayed proceedings there and transferred them to itself. Stressing that the government is the best judge, the court also refused to extend dates for exemption of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes for certain services. After referring questions related to the policy to a five-judge constitution bench, the court said the government should try its best to honour commitment on weekly withdrawal of Rs 24,000 per person. On Thursday, the court had asked the government how people were getting huge amounts of money in new currency referring to the seizures being made across the country. The Centre had submitted an affidavit last week on demonetisation in the Supreme Court, saying it was an attempt to unearth black money stashed over the last seven decades. The Centre in its affidavit told the apex court that demonetisation is a step to reduce ratio of cash transactions, adding the objective is to unearth illegal parallel economy. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had earlier filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court seeking a stay on all pending pleas against demonetisation. (The Indian Express 16/12/16)

184. High Court bans Shariat court in Chennai mosque (19)

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday declared that a Shariat court cannot function from the Makkah Masjid a mosque here, said a senior advocate. The court also ordered the state government to ensure that such a court does not function and file a status report. The court passed the order after hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Abdur Rahman, senior advocate A. Sirajudeen told IANS. The Makkah Masjid is located on Anna Salai, Chennai’s main arterial street. According to the petitioner, the Shariat Council was functioning like a court. The High Court made it clear that religious places are meant to be used only for religious purposes. The petitioner approached the Shariat Council first so that he can live again with his wife. But he was forced to give a divorce and hence he decided to approach the High Court, Sirajudeen said. (Business Standard 19/12/16)

185. PIL on manual scavenging: Notice to Centre, State (19)

MADURAI: A Division Bench of Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan sought the response of the officials authorities on the PIL petition preferred by A. Nagarajan, general secretary of Aadi Tamilar Peravai. The petitioner claimed that the committees were yet to be constituted despite the 2013 legislation containing specific provisions for their constitution in order to end the despicable practice of employing people to clean human waste. ( The Hindu 19/12/16)

186. Advocate can’t enrol temporarily: Gujarat high court (19)

AHMEDABAD: A division bench of Gujarat high court on Thursday quashed a single-judge bench’s order to the Bar Council of Gujarat (BCG) ordering the body to grant temporary enrolment number to an advocate thus entitling her to practice law in courts. This is a case involving a young woman holding a law degree from the MS University, who is seeking licence to practice by enrolling herself with the BCG. The trouble arose when the Bar did not take any decision on her application on the ground that she was technically employed with the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC). However, Desai has been denying that she is an employee with the GIDC. She maintains that she has been engaged as a legal consultant/ legal expert. And hence the provisions of Advocates Act and BCG and the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules cannot prevent her from getting enrolled as an advocate. When the bar council did not take any decision, she moved the high court for direction. With the bar council taking more time to decide her case, a single-judge bench directed BCG on November 18 to provide a temporary enrolment number to Desai. However, on an appeal filed by the BCG and its enrolment committee, the division bench stayed this order on November 18 and it has now quashed the order on the ground that there is no provision to enrol an advocate on a temporary basis. Besides, the bench of Chief Justice RS Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi came to a conclusion that since Desai’s contract mentions that she has to remain present in office full time and she is getting monthly remuneration in form of salary of Rs 25,000, she is to be considered engaged in full-time employment. And the Advocates Act and Rule 49 of the BCI prohibit enrolment of such a person as an advocate for practice before courts. As the petition for permanent enrolment is pending before the single-judge bench, the division bench has asked it to hear the case expeditiously. (Times of India 23/12/16)

187. Lawyers helping poor to  get edge in judgeship (19)

NEW DELHI: To boost legal aid in country, the Ministry of Law and Justice is proposing a mechanism wherein if an advocate voluntarily helps poor litigants, extra incentive will be given to them when they apply for judgeship. The ministry is planning to create a talent pool of willing advocates for pro bono help to the poor, which will be a proposed criterion under consideration for a judge. Under the proposal, if an advocate gets elevated to a High Court or Supreme Court and if he/she has worked for the legal aid too, some extra points would be given to the advocate while zeroing down his selection.The step will also help legal aid services shed the tag of not having a team of best lawyers to pursue the case for poor litigants. Last year too, National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) increased the existing fees paid to lawyers for appearing for the poor and marginalised people so that young lawyers willingly appear for them. Legal aid’s main aim is to ensure delivery of justice aid to the poor with minimum possible cost. (New Indian Express 25/12/16)

188. Law against benami properties to be operationalised soon: PM Modi (19)

Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning. Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetization, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption. Modi sought the cooperation of public in making the “war on corruption” a success and said the wrong-doings of some are being caught only with the support of common people who are coming forward with concrete information about hoarders. “I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war against corruption and black money. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said. The Prime Minister also lamented the logjam in Parliament that evoked displeasure from the President and the Vice President besides all-round public indignation and ire, saying he wanted a good discussion on this campaign as well as on political funding, had both Houses run properly. He said some people who are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all concessions and exemptions “are wrong and all are equal before law” and they have to abide by it. “It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. “Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to,” he said, adding that people who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly. Giving a push to his plea for cashless economy, Modi also launched two new schemes for traders and customers that will dole out 15,000 prizes every day to those making digital transactions. ….. (DNA 26/12/16)

189. PIL in Delhi HC on applicability of Constitutional amendments to J&K (19)

New Delhi: The Non-applicability of any constitution amendment in Jammu and Kashmir without a Presidential order under Article 370 of the Constitution, has been challenged in the Delhi High Court, which has decided to hear a PIL in this regard next month. The petition, which challenges the Constitution Order 1954 that adds a proviso to Article 368 of the Constitution, was listed for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal. The bench said it will take up the matter on January 2 after the winter vacation. The Constitution Order 1954 by the President had added a proviso to Article 368 (power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor), saying “no such amendment shall have effect in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir unless applied by order of the President under clause (1) of Article 370“.Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the State and makes it clear that any law, including Constitution amendments, will not be applicable to the State unless applied by an order of the President under this article. The PIL by advocate Surjeet Singh contends that the Constitution Order was an “encroachment” on the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution and apply it to Jammu and Kashmir. “The impugned proviso added by ‘the Constitution Order 1954’ to the Article 368 is an unconstitutional encroachment on the constituent powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and apply the same to the state of Jammu and Kashmir as well,” the petition says. It also says that the powers conferred on Parliament under Article 368 “in its very nature is one that cannot be delegated and the exclusive conferment of amending power on Parliament is one of the basic features of Constitution and cannot be violated directly or indirectly“.The petitioner has sought quashing of the Constitution Order 1954 to the extent that it adds the proviso to Article 368. (The Hindu 27/12/16)

190. Woman accused in domestic violence case can’t be evicted from house: Court (19)

MUMBAI: A woman accused in a domestic violence case cannot be removed from her house as a relief to the alleged victim, a sessions court has ruled. The observation came in a domestic violence case filed by 63-year-old woman from Parel against her 34-year-old daughter-in-law, alleging torture by starvation and physical abuse. The court refused to evict the younger woman from the flat though the complainant sought her ouster. The court accepted that the Supreme Court has widened the definition of “respondent” under the Domestic Violence Act by striking down the words “adult male” and included women, but pointed out that this definition did not extend to section 19 (1) (b) (directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household) of the Act. It added that this section says no order under the clause shall be passed against a woman. The complainant had moved the sessions court after a lower court, hearing the complaint, had rejected her plea for interim orders. She claimed that after the death of her husband, she and her son got the Parel flat. After her son’s second marriage, the couple began to stay with her. Soon, her relationship with her daughter-in-law soured. She accused her daughter-in-law of abusing her and at times depriving her of food and medicines and even hitting her. On one occasion, she said the daughter-in-law tried to kill her granddaughter – by her son’s first marriage – by keeping the gas on and asking the child to ignite the stove.Her son left as he was unable to “control” his wife’s behaviour. Despite his request, her daughter-in-law refused to join him and stayed on in the Parel flat with the intention of grabbing it, she claimed. Last October, she went to the cops, who took down a non-cognizable complaint. At this point she filed the domestic violence complaint. The daughter-in-law denied the allegations and claimed that the complaint was filed in a bid to harass her and get her out of the flat.Refusing interim relief as well as compensation to the complainant, the court said it cannot be said that prima facie there is any case in her favour. If the incidents had occurred, she would have narrated them to her son or lodged reports with the police, the court said. It added that she also could not mention the probable dates on which the incidents narrated by her had occurred. The son, also an accused, has agreed to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 5,000 to his mother. The court said that it was to be paid until the lower court pronounces the final decision. (Times of India 28/12/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

191. Rights outfits term AOB encounter ‘fake’ (1)

VIJAYAWADA: Members of the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Civil Liberties Committees have alleged that the gunning down of 23 Maoists and nine Adivasis by the police at Ramgarh village in the cut-off area of the Andhra-Odisha Border on October 24 was a fake encounter. They also termed as fake the recent encounters in Kerala, Odisha and other States, and demanded that the government order a probe by a Supreme Court Judge into these encounters and book policemen involved in them under Section 302 of the IPC. The APCLC, in association with Jana Natya Mandali, CPI (M), CPI-ML, Chaitanya Mahila Sangham, Amaraveerula Bandhu Mitrula Committee, Viplava Rachayitala Sangham (Virasam), CPI (ML-New Democracy) and other organisations, on Saturday arranged a meeting at the CPI (M) office and condemned the encounters. Jana Natya Mandali members sang songs criticising the “cruel” acts of the police against the tribals in the forests, and blamed the State governments for not following the directions of the Supreme Court and High Court, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Amaraveerula Bandhu Mitrula Committee leaders alleged that the Andhra and Odisha police violated human rights and disfigured the bodies of Maoists and tribals. APCLC leader Chiluka Chandrashekar presented the observations of the fact-finding committee on the AOB encounter. Former Rajya Sabha member P. Madhu, former MLC Jalli Wilson, and APCLC AP and Telangana convenor N. Seshaiah spoke. Committee State president V. Chitti Babu presided over the programme. The organisers said that the fact-finding committee, which visited Bejjanki forests in Odisha (where the alleged encounter took place), raised many doubts and reached the conclusion that the encounter was fake. (The Hindu 4/12/16)

192. Increase in instances of custodial deaths, torture (1)

New Delhi: The instances of deaths and torture in police custody are increasing in the country, if one goes by the number of complaints reaching the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Already, 88 instances of custodial deaths and 293 cases of custodial torture this fiscal till October have been reported to the NHRC and if the trend continues, it could surpass the figures of the past three fiscals. According to official statistics, there were 140 cases of deaths in police custody in 2013-14, which came down slightly to 130 in the next fiscal. However, the number increased to 153 in the last fiscal. Similarly, the cases of torture in police custody increased from 303 in 2013-14 to 431 in 2014-15 and 493 in 2015-16. A close look at the statistics showed that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have higher number of custodial deaths, while Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana account for the largest chunk of cases of custodial torture. This fiscal, Maharashtra saw the highest number of custodial deaths reported in the country at 14, followed by Gujarat and Assam at eight each. The trend was the same for the previous fiscals also. Totally, 47 people were killed in police custody between April and June this year across the country, while 41 people lost their lives in the next four months. Though all deaths may not be due to torture and several could be due to natural causes, there is a view among activists that in several cases, if people in custody are given adequate medical attention, they could have stayed alive. On custodial torture, Uttar Pradesh has the worst track record, topping the list in custodial torture in all the fiscals since 2013-14. Between April and October this year, Uttar Pradesh has already reported 154 cases of torture, and if this rate continues, it could easily surpass 2015-16 figure of 246 and 145 in 2014-15. (Deccan Herald 4/12/16)

193. Assam cop nabbed for shooting at two civilians (1)

Guwahati: The Assam Police arrested an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) for allegedly shooting at two civilians and injuring them, police said on Thursday. The police said that ASI of Basistha police station, Golap Konwar, fired from his service pistol at the driver and handyman of an excavator — Rakesh Kumar and Rupesh Kumar respectively — around midnight on Wednesday after an altercation and fled from the spot. “The incident took place around midnight on Wednesday when Konwar was on his way home. Eyewitnesses told us that Konwar fired at the driver and handyman and escaped. Based on the FIR, we searched his house on Thursday, seized the pistol and bullets, and arrested him,” a senior official of Guwahati (East) district said. “We have also verified that the bullets that injured the driver and handyman were fired from his service pistol,” the official added. “He was produced in a local court here on Thursday and the court remanded him in police custody. We are interrogating him,” the official said. The locals also alleged that the police officer was inebriated and fired at the civilians without any provocation. Both the driver and handyman of the excavator received bullet injuries on their hands and they were undergoing treatment at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, police added. (Business Standard 8/12/16)

194. Civilian, three militants killed in fresh violence in Jammu and Kashmir (1)

Srinagar: A 24-year-old youth was on Thursday killed by a “stray bullet” near the site of an encounter between militants and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district. The state police said Arif Amin Shah of Sangam village in south Kashmir was killed after a mob threw stones at security forces in a neighbourhood, some distance away from a village where three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants were killed in a six-hour gunfight. An officer told IANS that the slain militants were all Kashmiris and apparently belonged to southern Kashmir where widespread clashes erupted between security forces and civilians after news spread about the militants’ deaths. Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area last night following information about presence of at least two militants in the area, the police official said. He said an encounter broke out between the security forces and militants in the early hours today, which was continuing till last reports came in. “The security forces tried to enter the house where the militants are hiding several times during the day but each time had to retreat in view of firing from the ultras,” he said, as per PTI. Some villagers tried to march towards the shootout site in Arwani village, some 40 km from here, in Kulgam district. They threw stones at police contingents and paramilitary troopers. The police said Shah was hit by a stray bullet but residents alleged he was killed in firing by the security forces. At least a dozen civilians were also injured. One of them was critical, the locals said. Clashes also erupted at a dozen places in Anantnag and Kulgam — the worst hit south Kashmir districts in the unrest triggered by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. In the wake of the unrest since then, some 100 persons died in the months of daily protests and shutdown, which was spearheaded by separatist leaders. The situation in the valley had just started easing. Separatists on Wednesday relaxed for three days — Saturday, Sunday and Monday — their weekly protest calendar. (Zee News 9/12/16)

195. Burhan Wani’s slain brother on relief list (1)

Srinagar: The name of the brother of slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani has figured on the compensation list of the Jammu and Kashmir government. Khalid Wani, 25, was killed on April 13, 2015, in a forest area of the Tral region in Pulwama. The Army then said Khalid was a militant who was killed in a firefight. The youth’s family rubbished the Army report, and alleged that it was a case of custodial death. Speaking to The Hindu, Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, said his department had issued a public notice last week of 130-140 pending cases of victims of subversive activities, especially those militancy-related. “The notice is aimed at inviting individual or institutional response in case of any objections. The process is required because many times the cases turn out to be fabricated or false. In this particular case [of Khalid], we are yet to receive any objection from any side. The office is open to objections and the required follow-ups,” said Mr. Islam. The list of deserving cases for compensation was worked out by the Revenue Department on the basis of the first information reports lodged in the district. “A section of the Revenue Department is supposed to prepare the list of the victims who may have died in a crossfire or in militancy-related activity. The government also looks into the cases of damaged houses during encounters,” said Mr. Islam. The name of Khalid has figured at No. 9 on the list. “We have not distributed any compensation. We still await the objections in the listed cases,” said Mr. Islam.If the case is clarified by the government, Burhan’s family may get an ex gratia of up to Rs. 4 lakh or the next of Khalid’s kin may be given a job.Speaking to a Web portal, Burhan’s father, Muzaffar Wani, said he might not take the money, but might consider a government job for his youngest son, who is a Class 12 student. “It seems just a due administrative process. I don’t think any compensation has been issued. It’s no political issue but an administrative one,” Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s media adviser Suhail Bukhari said. (The Hindu 13/12/16)

196. CBI to check if Sec 377 can be applied in custody death case (1)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to check if Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code could be invoked in a 2014 custodial death case. “Prima facie, there seems to be material to book the officers on other charges,” a division bench headed by Justice Ranjit More said. The CBI filed a charge-sheet under the IPC against 10 Wadala railway police personnel, including a lady officer, for the alleged custodial death of Agnello Valdaris, 25. Agnello and three others, including a 15-year-old, were picked up by the railway police on the night of April 15, 2014, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs60,000. The complaint alleged that the four, including the minor, were forced to perform sexual acts on each other, and they were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. Agnello died on April 18. Police claimed he was run over by a train when he tried to escape. The HC ordered the transfer of investigations to the CBI. The CBI recently booked three railway police personnel under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA). Advocate Yug Chaudhary, counsel for the Valdaris family, said that based on witnesses’ statements, the police officers should also be charged under Section 377 for unnatural offences. CBI counsel, advocate Hiten Venegaonkar, said the agency had charged the police officers under POCSOA; since the police personnel themselves had not indulged in the sexual assault, it was doubtful if Section 377 could be applied in the case. The HC told the CBI to examine if the officers can be prosecuted for the offences, which carries a prison term of 10 years. (Times of India 15/12/16)

197. Protests set us back, can we even talk of AFSPA now, asks J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti (1)

Jammu: THE protests that rocked the Valley since the killing of Burhan Wani in July have set back the process of reconciliation, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said. Underlining that she is “cent per cent convinced” that her party PDP’s alliance with “BJP is full of possibilities to get Kashmir out of this turmoil with honour and dignity for our people”, Mufti has said that the solution to Kashmir lies in making borders “irrelevant” and increasing connectivity to and from PoK, China and Central Asia. In her first interview after taking over as Chief Minister — details will be published in The Sunday Express — Mufti told The Indian Express at her Jammu home that the “basic reason” for her to be Chief Minister with BJP’s support is to achieve “reconciliation so that the (Kashmir) issue is resolved amicably”. “The day I feel that I have failed in this purpose, I will not take even a second to give up,” she said. “I will instead leave politics and prefer to stay at home.’’ Calling the current quiet in the Valley a “fragile calm,” she said: “We have a lot of work to build bridges and mend fences.” About 100 civilians were killed and 1000 blinded in the security crackdown that followed Wani’s killing. Mufti said her government would evolve a “mechanism” to probe the cases of killings, injuries and blindings of people by police and security forces. “I am myself convinced that we need to do something about it (the deaths). It won’t be put under carpet…”Asked why she hadn’t moved on the key elements of the PDP agenda, she said the protests over “five six months have taken us back on many things”. “We stand for each and every word that is in our Agenda for Alliance,” she said. “But there is also time factor, which is important. Can you talk about revocation of AFSPA at this point of time? That is why I am saying that whatever happened during the last five six months hasn’t helped. It has rather had a very adverse effect on everything including the government because we would have been at somewhere else at this time”. Asked what was her response to the massive Azadi groundswell after Wani’s killing, Mufti said that she wasn’t “denying that there is an issue” which needs to be resolved. However, for any reconciliation, “you need to create a conducive atmosphere…(and) there wasn’t enough time given to me so that we could create a conducive atmosphere.’’…  (The Indian Express 17/12/16)

198. Security guard shoots students for clicking selfies in Jaipur (1)

Jaipur: Three engineering students were allegedly shot and seriously injured by a security guard following an argument over taking selfies outside a farmhouse in the Kho Nagoriyan area.The incident took place late on Saturday night. Rohit, Shailendra and Devendra were returning to their hostel after having dinner at a roadside eatery. They stopped outside the farmhouse of a private university owner and started taking selfies, police said. The security guard, Zor Singh, tried to stop them and an altercation ensued. Flying into a rage, Singh opened fire at them with his 12-bore gun. They suffered bullet injuries in their brain, eye and chest and are undergoing treatment at a hospital. Rohit’s condition is critical, police said. A case has been registered against Singh under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

199. HC on Valdaris case: Prima facie material to book cops for murder (1)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday directed the CBI to carry out further investigations in the 2014 custodial death of Agnello Valdaris at Wadala saying prima facie there was material to book the police officers under Indian Penal Code sections 302 for murder and 377 for unnatural offences. A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Anant Badar remarked that the CBI had not “applied its mind” and in its chargesheet did not appear to have invoked correct charges against the police officers. The high court pointed to Valdaris’ post-mortem report and said it could not accept the claim that it was a case of accidental death. The court has asked the agency to carry out further investigations and file a supplementary chargesheet in the case. Twenty-five-year-old Agnello and three others, including a 15-year-old, were picked up by Wadala railway police on the night of April 15, 2014, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that the four, including the minor, were made to perform sexual acts on each other. They were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. Agnello died on April 18. Police claimed he was run over by a train while trying to escape. The high court ordered the transfer of investigations to the CBI. The CBI filed a chargesheet under the Indian Penal Code against 10 Wadala railway police personnel, including a woman officer, for the alleged custodial death. The charges applied, though, were minor, including voluntarily causing hurt and criminal conspiracy. The CBI also recently charged three of the officers under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The high court did not agree and said the CBI should have booked the police officers for the offence of murder, culpable homicide and unnatural sex. The court has also asked the Maharashtra government to implement its 2014 order to install CCTV cameras at police stations so that the entire premises are covered. The high court has directed the joint secretary of the home department to reinspect the 25 police stations where CCTV cameras have been installed on a pilot basis. (Times of India 20/12/16)

200. Incharge Gujarat DGP Pandey files discharge plea in Ishrat case (1)

Ahmedabad: Gujarat’s incharge DGP P P Pandey, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case, has filed a discharge application, which is likely to come up for hearing at the special CBI court on January 12. Pandey, an accused in the case and currently out on bail, has cited his reinstatement and promotion as incharge DGP as one of the grounds, besides claiming that none of the 105 witnesses examined by the court have named him in the case. The officer moved the application that he be discharged from the case when the matter was being heard in the court of special CBI judge S J Raje. The matter could not come up for hearing after judge Raje recused himself around two months ago and is pending. “Two days ago, the Ishrat Jahan case was transferred to the court of special CBI judge J K Pandya who is likely to hear Pandey’s pending discharge application on January 12,” Pandey’s lawyer Paresh Nayak said. In his application, Pandey has said that he should be discharged as he does not have any “direct or indirect involvement in the case.” Pandey has said that since his involvement has not been established, he should not be considered as an accused. He has also argued that he was reinstated in state police and was even promoted by the state government to the post of in-charge DGP after he was let out on bail in connection with the same case. He has pleaded before the court to consider this as one of the grounds to discharge him. Pandey has also pointed out that a supplementary chargesheet filed by the CBI in which IB officials including retired special IB director Rajinder Kumar have been named as accused, has not yet been taken on record by the court. In the first chargesheet filed by CBI in 2013, seven Gujarat police officers were named as accused including IPS officers P P Pandey, D G Vanzara and G L Singhal who are facing charges for kidnapping, murder and conspiracy. The case pertains to a 19-year-old college girl Ishrat Jahan, her friend Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh along with two others being gunned down by the city crime branch officials in an alleged encounter on June 15, 2004 in the outskirts of the city. (Zee News 24/12/16)

201. Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen (1)

Karachi: Pakistan on Sunday released 220 Indian fishermen, a goodwill gesture which comes amid strain in ties after the recent cross border terror incidents. The 220 fishermen released from Malir jail here were arrested for allegedly entering Pakistan’s territorial waters illegally and fishing, jail superintendent Hassan Sehto told PTI. The fishermen boarded a train to Lahore, from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border. “The interior ministry ordered the release of the 220 fishermen while 219 are still in our custody,” Sehto said. The goodwill gesture comes amid strain in ties between the two countries after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Uri in September. Last week, the Pakistan fishermen forum claimed that Indian maritime authorities had picked up dozens of Pakistani fishermen from inside Pakistan’s territorial waters near the Gujarat coastline and taken them away, though the government has not responded to the claim so far. (The Hindu 25/12/16)

202. Ever prepared to deal with any situation: Assam Rifles DG on Manipur violence (1)

Laitkor: Manipur crisis, Manipur violence, Manipur economic blockade, United Naga Council, Manipur-Nagaland, Manipur civil society, India news, Indian Express Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang had sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur governments in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley. (PTI) In the wake of the violence in Manipuar and paramilitary personnel being rushed to the state, the Assam Rifles chief today said the force is “prepared at all times” to deal with any situation. “We are prepared at all times to deal with any situation at any time,” Assam Rifles Director General Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan told reporters at the sideline of National Integration and Youth Leadership Camp here.“The mere fact that Assam Rifles is in Manipur, it means we are assisting them (state government),” he said. Reacting to a query on the present situation in Manipur and the internal security in that state, he said, “Every situation is dynamic and once that situation comes up, we will deal with it…”.Violence erupted Sunday last in Manipur following an economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council since November 1 on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) — that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur. The Centre has rushed over 15,000 paramilitary personnel. The blockade was imposed to protest against the creation of seven new districts in areas inhabited by the tribal Nagas. Indefinite curfew was clamped last Sunday in Imphal East district after a mob torched and vandalised 22 passenger vehicles on the Imphal-Ukhrul road, while an evening-to-dawn curfew was imposed the same day in Imphal West district. Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang had sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur governments in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley. (Indian Express 26/12/16)

203. Kashmir: Encounter breaks out between security forces and terrorists in Bandipora (1)

New Delhi: An encounter broke out between security forces and terrorists at Shahgund Hajin in Bandipora District of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday morning,  ANI reported. Recently, top Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative and an engineering student from the Valley, who recently joined militancy, were killed in two separate encounters in J&K by joint teams of the police and Army. According to Times Now, the militants attacked forces search party in Bandipora leaving 2 army men injured. The search operations on to track down the militants is udnerway. (Zee News 29/12/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

204. PM Modi ‘better’ than Donald Trump, says Kanhaiya Kumar (1)

Mumbai: JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “better” than the US President-elect Donald Trump. Kumar was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘From Bihar to Tihar’ at Times LitFest here. “Despite several differences (he may have with Narendra Modi), Modi is better than Trump. There has been a rise in authoritative sentiment across the world and if you see the kind of language that was used in (US) presidential election, the comments made against migrants and women were unprecedented,” said Kumar, who earlier this year faced a sedition case over ‘anti-national’ slogans at Jawaharlal Nehru University.The student leader quoted the iconic African American leader Martin Luther King, saying “bad people are shouting not because they are more powerful but because the good people are quiet.” Speaking about Najeeb Ahmed, JNU student who has been missing for the past several weeks, Kumar said, “Government is actually doing nothing but throwing some issues before us. It is happening because there is no powerful opposition that would keep a check on this government. The issues of Dadri (lynching by cow-vigilantes), JNU’s anti-national slogans and Najeeb’s missing are being diverted. “In Dadri case, the committee is focusing on whether it was beef or not, in Rohith Vemula case the committee was set up to decide his caste, in JNU’s anti-national slogan case the committee was set up to find out whether footage was doctored or not and there are many other similar cases,” he said. Why no charge sheet was filed in the JNU anti-national slogans case even after nine months if the government was serious, Kumar asked. (Indian Express 2/12/16)

205. Delhi Court gives time to cops to file report on plea against Asaduddin Owaisi (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday allowed the police plea seeking time to file an action taken report on a criminal complaint for registering an FIR against AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi for alleged offences of sedition and causing enmity between different groups. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Munish Markan granted time to Delhi Police and directed it to file the report on March 5 next year.An official of Karawal Nagar Police Station in northeast Delhi had in October filed a plea in the court saying the sub inspector who was earlier assigned the complaint, has been transferred and another officer has been marked in the matter. The plea had sought some more time for further inquiry in the matter. The court had earlier asked the police to file an action taken report on the complaint filed by Brijesh Chand Shukla of Swaraj Janata Party against All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader. The complainant had claimed that he was being pressurised to withdraw the matter. He had told the court that in pursuance to its earlier order, he had provided to the police a copy of recording of Owaisi’s alleged objectionable statement and other documents. The police had earlier filed a status report saying the complainant had not provided a copy of recording of Owaisi’s statement made on March 13. The plea sought a direction to the police to lodge an FIR against Owaisi for alleged offences under sections 124A (sedition) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc) of IPC. It alleged that the act of the Hyderabad MP showed he was “not loyal to India” and was trying to “harm” the country’s reputation and his statement comes under the definition of sedition charge. Shukla, the complainant, had also allegedly thrown ink at Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia outside the Lieutenant Governor’s office. (Indian Express 6/12/16)

206. ‘New media has linked cops, public’

LUCKNOW: Enhanced use of technology in day-to-day policing and focus on use of social media, both by the men in khaki and by criminals, remained the highlight of the conference of senior police officers held as a part of IPS Week celebrations.Presiding over the event, DGP Javeed Ahmed lauded the Special Task Force which cracked 117 cases of heinous crimes like bank robberies, murders and kidnappings in the past year. In his presentation titled `Social Media Management’, IG Lucknow zone A Satish Ganesh highlighted the importance of social media in interacting with the public, quelling rumours and tracking criminals. He also deliberated on how the police should maintain transparent and constructive interaction with the media to improve its image in public. IG PAC (east zone) Ashutosh Pandey in his presentation on `Performance Evaluation of Police Stations’ explained how mapping localities on the basis of crime and deployment of force could help curb crime. (Times of India 9/12/16)

207. 120 writers including Rushdie ask China’s Xi to stop human rights ‘crackdown’ (1)

A group of 120 authors including Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee have written to President Xi Jinping on Saturday, marked as Human Rights Day, urging him to reverse China’s ongoing crackdown on writers, academics and dissident voices. During Xi’s four years in power since 2012, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has hardened its stand against voices perceived to be critical, throwing to jail many activists, lawyers and academics. There is hardly any room for dissenting voices in China, and its vibrant online community – the largest in the world at nearly 700 million – is under multiple layers of censorship. Besides the CPC, China’s top leadership and their policies continue to be among taboo topics for discussion in the second largest economy of the world. Newspapers and television channels are strictly controlled too. In an open letter from Pen International, a freedom of speech group, the authors urged Xi to end the “worsening crackdown”. “On World Human Rights Day, our PEN International community of writers, readers, activists and publishers condemn the Chinese authority’s sustained and increasing attack on free expression and call for an immediate end to China’s worsening crackdown on fundamental human rights,” the letter said. “Where is the voice of publisher Gui Minhai, who disappeared from his holiday home in Thailand and is now being held incommunicado? Where is the voice of Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xiaobo serving an 11-year prison sentence and the voice of his wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for over six years without even having been accused of a crime?,” it asked. “Where is the voice of Ilham Tohti, Uyghur scholar and PEN member, currently serving a life sentence, when his life’s work has been about creating peace and dialogue in China? Where is the voice of veteran journalist Gao Yu, who spent close to two years in prison and is now under house arrest?” The authors said the “rest of the world can only be enriched by these opinions and voices”. “We therefore urge the Chinese authorities to release the writers, journalists, and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions,” they said in the letter. This is not the first time that noted authors have written to the Chinese government about human rights. Rushdie was among those who wrote earlier about Tohti after he was arrested. (Hindustan Times 10/12/16)

208. J&K: Lecturer held for ‘sedition’ after making ‘anti-India’ remarks (1)

Jammu: A lecturer has been arrested for sedition after a section of students alleged that he had made anti-India comments at a college in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bani. Shah Nawaz, the lecturer from Dogripora in Kashmir’s Awantipura, has been sacked. Kathua’s Principal Sessions Judge Vinod Chatterji Koul rejected Nawaz’s bail application on Saturday saying that there were grounds to believe that he had committed the offence. Sources said that Nawaz had made the comments on November 30 following the killing of seven soldiers in an attack on an army camp in Nagrota. Nawaz had allegedly intervened during a discussion among students and commented on gunfights between militants and armed forces. Four students, Manoj Kumar, Tilak Raj, Ganesh Kumar and Subash, filed a police complaint against Nawaz quoting him as allegedly saying: “Pakistani sheron ki tarah aate hein, Hindustaniyo ko marte hein aur wapas chale jatey hein (Pakistanis come here as lions, kill Indians and then go back across the border). There are 150 militants armed with AK 47 rifles in Kashmir for whom I can even give my life and provide all sorts of assistance.’’ The complainants blamed Nawaz’s “anti-national lecturers’’ for “disturbing peace on the campus with Muslim students coming to their classes in Afghan dresses’’. .. (Indian Express 11/12/16)

209. 3 Chennai youths who sat during national anthem bashed up in theatre (1)

CHENNAI: Panic gripped movie buffs in a city theatre on Sunday afternoon when a group roughed up a youth and two students who did not stand up when the national anthem was played before the screening of ‘Chennai 28-II’. Theatres began playing the national anthem following the Supreme Court’s order on November 30 that all the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the anthem as a part of their “sacred obligation”.At 11.30 am, a group of movie buffs was in Kasi theatre, Ashok Nagar, when the national anthem was played. Whi le the audience stood up, nine people remained seated. During the interval, one Vijayakumar grabbed Viji, a freelancing movie reviewer, by the collar and demanded why he did not stand up for the national anthem. In an argument that en sued, 20 people ganged up and rained blows on Viji and two women Sabaritha and Shreela. “We were harassed and manhandled by the men.They issued life threats and assaulted us,” Shreela, a law student, told TOI. “We did not have any intention to show disrespect,” she said. Vijayakumar, a civil service aspirant, claimed that they did not have any personal enmity towards the group.”We felt that they showed disrespect to the national anthem. They were taking selfies and applauding when national anthem was being played, which was not welcome by many of us.” None from the audience came to the rescue of the students. By the time a security guard stepped in, the victims had texted their friends explaining the issue and asked them to come to the theatre. .. (Times of India 13/12/16)

210. Get on social media: Government to educational institutes (1)

AHMEDABAD: The government has asked the colleges and institutes to have a responsible person, who can operate these accounts, as in-charge. The institutes have been asked to identify the person who will be responsible for all the posts through these accounts. The move is a part of the digital India project of the central government. The education department already has an account www.facebook.com/GujEduDept. The department has asked the institutes to ensure that the students follow the page in order to keep themselves updated. The government has stated that the new circular and all other notifications will be posted there. (Times of India 13/12/16)

211. Kerala Governor laments continuing stand-off between lawyers, media (1)

Kochi: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam on Friday lamented that the continuing stand-off between media and lawyers in courts in Kerala was not good for democracy. The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appealed to both the media and lawyers to arrive at a peaceful agreement considering the fact that the two sections have significant duties in a democracy.“I had appealed for a peaceful agreement but sadly the issue still continues. The result is the people are not being informed about what happens in various courts. Even verdicts with wider implications remain unknown.This is not good for democracy,” he said. He was addressing a gathering of journalists after inaugurating the Golden Jubilee Annual Day celebrations of the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ernakulam Press Club here. Batting for free access for journalists in courts, he urged media persons to “maintain dignity and decorum” in courts while carrying out their professional duty. “Whether in a high court or subordinate courts journalists must have a free access.They must have freedom to note down what is happening in Court hall,” the governor said. Describing media persons and lawyers as “two eyes” of the democratic system, Sathasivam said media is the way to take the decisions of the courts to the public. “How many persons will read our law journals? Only lawyers and judges–not others.Or maybe one or two litigants.” “…You are free to visit court hall.When a judge passes an order, you are free to enter his chamber and note down.You have to maintain dignity and decorum in the courts.You should not have any quarrel with anyone including our lawyer friends,” he said. Recalling the steps he had taken to provide basic facilities for media persons, both accredited and non-accredited, covering Supreme Court proceedings, the governor said media persons should be provided a restroom and minimum facilities like washroom to address nature’s call. He said pendency of a case in apex court on the stand-off was not a bar for solving the issue in High Court tself.    The governor said he would try his best to solve the issue by talking to lawyers, judges and media persons.Earlier, Ernakulam MP K V Thomas sought the governor’s intervention to “protect the Freedom of the Press” in judicial houses. Some High Court lawyers had clashed with journalists in Kochi on July 14 on reports about the arrest of a government pleader who allegedly tried to molest a woman. This incident resulted in a stand-off between the media and lawyers in courts in Kerala. (The Indian Express 16/12/16)

212. For a school tale, Kerala writer held for ‘disrespecting’ national anthem (1)

Thiruvananthapuram: MALAYALAM writer and theatre activist Kamal C Chavara alias Kamalsy Prana was arrested by the Kerala Police on Sunday on charges of insulting the national anthem in a Facebook comment. He has been charged with sedition under Section 124A of the IPC. Police said Prana was arrested from Kozhikode on the basis of an FIR registered at Karunagappally police station in Kollam district, following a complaint by a worker of the BJP’s Yuva Morcha. The case was registered two days ago. Inspector M Anil Kumar of Karunagappally police said prima facie there was ground for charging Prana with sedition. “But whether the charges would stay, we can say only after investigation.” They have sent a team to Kozhikode to question Prana, said the inspector.Prana had taken a few sentences from his recent Malayalam novel Smamashanangalude Notepusthakam, and posted them on Facebook. The excerpt talks about a situation at a school where teachers do not allow students to go to the toilet during class. At 4 pm, when class is over, the students recite the national anthem. The novel says that for the children, the national anthem meant they could now go to the toilet. There had been no controversy regarding the novel till Prana’s Facebook post. The writer’s arrest comes close on the heels of police booking a dozen delegates of the International Film Festival of Kerala for not standing up while the anthem was being played before film shows. Slamming the registration of a case against him two days ago, Prana had said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should not become a “Kerala Modi”. “Police are depicting me as a terrorist,” he said. On Sunday, after his arrest, he repeated that the case against him was “illegal”. “I had mentioned in my novel what schoolchildren do when the national anthem is being sung. Dubbing comments in the novel disrespect to the national anthem, police have slapped the sedition charge against me.” CPM Politburo member and former minister M A Baby said the arrest and sedition charge look like a kneejerk reaction from police. “I hope the government will look into the issue in detail and make necessary corrections. Police acted in a hasty manner without applying its mind and proper examination of the details,” said Baby. (The Indian Express 19/12/16)

213. 19 trade unions march against ban on media (1)

KOCHI: “The justices should take initiative to discipline the advocates who do not act in accordance with the instructions of the superiors. It is a disgrace for the country in itself if media is restrained from entering the court. Law and justice is the right of the citizens and the media plays a vital role in the prevailing of the same,” said former MP K Chandranpillai, who was inaugurating the high court protest march by 19 trade unions along with the media fraternity on Wednesday. The protest march that started from Taj Junction saw participation of trade union members and media persons from across the state. The march, which was blocked by the police near the IG office, proceeded to sloganeering on the main road. MLA S Shar ma, AITUC state secretary K N Gopi, BMS state vice-president Unnikrishnan Unnithan, AITUC state secretary P Raju, STU national secretary T Raghunath Panaveli were among those who addressed the meeting. (Times of India 22/12/16)

214. How Modi is trying to rework idea of India I1)

Narendra Modi’s government can no longer be criticised or evaluated in a knee-jerk fashion. He is no longer head of a party desperate to outwit the Congress. Failures of the Congress no longer become plus points of the Modi era. As a party that has been transformed into a regime and as a regime that threatens to stay for another era, one has to evaluate it in terms of a mere fundamental set of trends and possibilities. The Modi government has to be seen beyond struggles of left and right or as a populist chorus against the Congress. It is altering the meaning of Indian society in deep and fundamental ways. Most critically, it is an attempt to “panopticonise” Indian society, combining strategies of culture and governance in pursuit of the idea of a great nation-state. The idea of panopticon, coined by Jeremy Bentham, is one the great concepts of a social science understanding of everyday authoritarianism in an industrialising society. Bentham took the panopticon as an artifact and turned it into an instrument of policy. During the early years of industrialism, when the enclosure movements had destroyed the commons and agriculture as a way of life, there were great migrations of orphans, vagrants, prostitutes, beggars and homeless to the city. They were a threat to law and order and the panopticon was invented as an institution of surveillance and control. The panopticon was a huge room where a sundry assortment of lumpenised citizens worked under the surveillance of an all seeing eye. It embodied one of the beginnings of a techno-managerial control of society. Today, it is part of the everyday mentality of industrialism where the architecture and the architectonic of the asylum, factory, school, prison, and plantation is based on. While the word as a concept remains esoteric, its basic ideas are part of the theories of governance in any modern society. Basically, Mr Modi is attempting to panopticonise India, using the ideas of discipline and punishment to create what he claims would be a more effective society. The panopticon becomes a shortcut to a decisive, successful and competent world. … (Asian Age 23/12/16)

215. Laws in India fail to protect media sources (1)

Mumbai: The law in India is in a precarious state on a vital aspect of freedom of the press: the lack of statutory protection of a journalist’s sources. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression includes press freedom. This covers an entire process from news gathering, editorial judgement, publication and distribution of printed matter. Press freedom covers all four stages. Curb any of them and press freedom is curbed in its entirety. Of them all, the least understood is the scope of the first stage — the collection of news. It is a reporter’s need and duty to protect the identity of the source of his information. Else, vital information of concern to the people in a democracy would be suppressed. The US Supreme Court noted that “without some protection of seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated”. Journalists regard the protection of sources as a matter of professional honour. In 1963, Lord Cyril Radcliffe inquired into a spy ring in the Admiralty. Two journalists refused to answer questions germane to the inquiry because they entailed disclosure of their sources. Their claim to protection of sources was rejected, and they went to prison. On July 6, 2005, Judith Miller, an investigating reporter for the New York Times, refused to divulge the name of a source. She told the judge: “If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press.” She spent 85 days in prison and secured her release only after her informant (I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby) gave her permission to reveal his identity. Three bills were introduced in Congress to provide protection for sources. They were far narrower than the privileges provided by state laws, called “shield laws”. The US Supreme Court had failed dismally. In a leading case, Branzburg vs Hayes, the court was badly split (5-4). Justice Powell’s concurring opinion with the four became the law. It did not suffer from excess of clarity. He let “the balance” of vital interests to be decided in the future “on a case by case” basis. British case law has had its zigzags, but amidst some splendid dissents. In 1981, Lord Salmon said: “The immunity of the press to reveal its sources of information save in exceptional circumstances is in the public interest, and has been so accepted by the courts for so long that I consider it is wrong now to sweep this immunity away… The freedom of the press depends on this immunity. Were it to disappear so would the sources from which its information is obtained; and the public would be deprived of much of the information to which the public of a free nation is entitled.” He relied on a passage from the judgement of Lord Denning, who was in the majority in the same case: “The newspapers are the agents… of the public to collect that information and to tell the public of it. In support of this right of access, the newspapers should not in general be compelled to disclose their sources of information.… Their sources would dry up. Wrongdoing would not be disclosed. Charlatans could not be exposed. Unfairness would go unremedied. Misdeeds in the corridors of power, in companies or in government departments, would never be known.” Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1981, enacted in the UK, reads: “No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court from refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible unless it is established to the satisfaction of the court that it is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.” Some judges relaxed the word “necessary”. A journalist who had lost in the courts in the UK took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled in his favour: “Having regard to the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom in a democratic society and the potentially chilling effect an order of source disclosure has on the exercise of that freedom, such a measure cannot be compatible with Article 10 of the (European) Convention (on Human Rights) unless it is justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest.” Since Article 10 of the Convention is of the same tenor as Article 19 of the Indian constitution — and presumably of similar provisions in other constitutions — the ruling is a highly persuasive authority. It does not, however, dispense with the need for legislation that explicitly protects journalists’ sources while giving the courts power to order disclosure on specified grounds in compelling circumstances. (Asian Age 26/12/16)

216. Now, surveillance on social media in Haryana (1)

GURUGRAM: In a first of its kind, a high-tech monitoring system will keep an eye on social media activities in Haryana. A social media monitoring has been set up in Gurugram with a joint effort of National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and state’s Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department (CBCID). Though the authorities are extremely tight-lipped about the new surveillance system, sources told TOI that the Digital Investigation Training and Analysis Centre (DITAC) has been set up at the third floor of the Traffic Tower in Gurugram’s Sushant Lok. The centre will be inaugurated on Wednesday by chief minister Manohar Lal. DITAC is equipped with highly advanced technology and sensitive equipment that will track the social media activities including widely used Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. DITAC will be a state level monitoring system that monitor any illegal or inflammatory messages or posts that can lead to agitation. The entire project costs a whopping Rs 22 crores, most of this funding has come from the central government. It will have three touchscreens of 100 inches each and a fleet of 22 officials will keep a round the clock watch on what goes on social media all over the state. The centre will track down the origin of any inflammatory message and observe its impact in the law and order situation. The officials will not make the arrests in such cases. Their duties include only the monitoring, identifying the instigators and reporting the matter to the authorities.Notably, this is the first of its kind state-level social media monitoring center collaboration with NTRO in the country. Though Delhi police too has a surveillance system but this is being done by a special cell under crime branch. They do not register any cases and pass on the report to the investigators. Sources reveal that the decision to set up a surveillance center was made after Jat Protests in February this year. It is believed that the posts and messages on Social media played a key role inciting the youth at that time, both Jats and Anti-Jats. The center is expected to play a vital role in controlling such activities this time as next call for the Jat Protests has been announced for January 29. “At that time the government shut down the internet services in many districts during and after the agitation. But that’s not the solution especially now when we are trying to digitize the economy. So a center like this is a viable solution to such problem,” a senior police official told TOI. The center will be supervised by IG (CID) Anil Kumar Rao and the Gurgaon wing will be monitored by IG (Security) Sanjay Kumar. Notably the authorities wants to keep the matter under wraps till it is inaugurated on Wednesday. However, when contacted IG (security) Sanjay Kumar told TOI that “in today’s time social media is a very important tool of communication and we need to know about what is happening on Social media. The youth even in rural areas is involved in social media and there are a lot of societies influencing them”. (Times of India 27/12/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

217. Kofi Annan begins visit to Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state (7)

BANGKOK: Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has begun a fact-finding visit to Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state, where the army has been accused of large-scale violence against members of the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, resulting in destruction of villages, civilian casualties and an exodus of refugees to neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi asked Annan to help find ways to resolve long-standing ethnic and religious tensions between the Rohingya and the country’s Buddhist majority. The area was the scene of intense communal violence in 2012 that left hundreds dead and drove 1,40,000 people into camps for the internally displaced. Suu Kyi on Friday told Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia network that Rakhine’s problems were exaggerated and the focus should be on resolving them. (Times of India 2/12/16)

218. Low turnout at events of both parties in Ayodhya (7)

AYODHYA: Marking 24 years of the Babri Masjid demolition, the temple town of Ayodhya on Tuesday observed ‘Shaurya Diwas’ (day of bravery) as well as ‘Yaum-e-Gham’ (day of sorrow). The day passed off peacefully under tight security arrangements. However, about half a dozen activists of right-wing organization Hindu Mahasbha were arrested as a preventive measure. Faizabad SSP Anant Dev said the arrests were made near the disputed site of Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi to maintain peace and communal harmony.The turnout at both Yaum-e-Gham and Shaurya Diwas meetings was very low. Members of both communities did not show interest in the gathering and spent the day as a routine one. Even senior leaders of communities were missing from the events. Convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee Zafaryab Jilani skipped the Yaum-e-Gham event which he has been attending regularly for the past few years. Likewise, at VHP’s Shaurya Diwas, leaders like BJP MPs Vinay Katiyar, Yogi Adityanath and Lallu Singh were absent. Local Muslim leader Haji Asad Ahmad said, “Today, we have entered the 25th year of the demolition but those who got the Babri Masjid demolished have not been punished. The demolition triggered communal riots in the country in which thousands of innocent people were killed. Leaders who conspired the demolition must be held responsible for those deaths also but the Indian political system is totally dead.” VHP leader Champat Rai, speaking at a gathering at VHP’s headquarters in Ayodhya Karsewak Puram, said, “We will continue celebrating Shaurya Diwas for thousands of years as this day is the symbol of awakening of the Hindus against the psyche of slavery.” (Times of India 7/12/16)

219. Sensitive Fatehpura on the boil again (7)

VADODARA: The fragile peace in communally sensitive Fatehpura was shattered on Wednesday night when heavy rioting broke out between groups of two religions, which left five policemen and at least three civilians injured. Police said that heated arguments between two groups over loud DJ music in marriage procession took an ugly turn after people resorted to heavy stone pelting and hurling pipe bombs at each other. Leena Patil, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), zone 1, suffered a splinter injury on her back after a pipe bomb exploded close to her. DCP RS Bhagora of zone 3 was also hit with a stone on his chest. A splinter also pierced through the leg of the gunman accompanying Patil. He had to be operated upon. Three vehicles were also set ablaze by the mob. Police lobbed over 25 tear gas shells and shot five rubber bullets to disperse the rioters from the lanes of Fatehpura. Six persons have already been arrested and many more are being rounded up by several teams of policemen. “There was some fight between those in the marriage procession, who were from the same area, and the locals. The argument turned ugly and mobs from the adjacent locality also rushed to the spot. People from both groups began pelting stones at each other,” said D J Patel, joint police commissioner.The rubber bullets fired at the rioters from the .12 bore pump gun were similar to those used by the security forces in Kashmir. The City police station has booked a mob of about 250 to 300 persons for rioting. Sources said that during combing operations, the police also found explosive material and ball bearings used for making country-made bombs.”We have gathered CCTV footage and started identifying the rioters. Security has also been beefed up in other communally sensitive areas of the city,” Patel told TOI. Earlier on October 2 also, the area had witnessed heavy stone pelting after people belonging to two communities got into a heated argument when Tazia procession was passing through a locality. (Times of India 9/12/16)

220. Curfew in Gangavati after communal clash (7)

The police had to resort to lathi-charge to quell clashing groups belonging to two communities at Gangavati town in Koppal district on Sunday. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed in the town. The situation is said to be tense, but under control. “Depending on the situation, a decision will be taken on whether to relax the curfew or continue it,” Superintendent of Police, Tyagarajan, told The Hindu. Earlier in the day, tension gripped the town over putting up religious banners and flags for Id Milad and Hanuma Jayanti. The police intervened and asked both the communities to disperse. Later, a large number of members of a community gathered at a place to offer prayers, while members of another community gathered at their place of worship. Trouble began when one group attacked another that led to pelting of stones. At least 50 persons sustained injuries. Mr. Tyagarajan and other senior officers are camping in the town. S. Murugan, IGP, (Ballari range), said additional police have been deployed at sensitive areas. (The Hindu 11/12/16)

221. Communal tension erupts in Malkapur, curfew imposed (7)

NAGPUR: Communal tension erupted in Malkapur town of Buldhana district when police tried to stop an illegaltembeing taken out through a locality dominated by members of a community. Malkapur is about 356 kms from Nagpur and lies on the Mumbai-Howrah railway line. The community had the required permission for their religious procession. The rallyists, however, took out a motorcycle rally. Moreover, the approved procession route did not include Baradari and Salipura, localities dominated by one community. In spite of this, the rally took the unapproved route. When the rallyists raised some objectionable slogans, the police personnel posted on the route tried to stop the rally. The rallyists pelted stones on them. Then local residents retaliated by pelting stones on the rallyists. The route of the religious procession had been a point of contention between the two communities since last few days. Last year too, the Eid rally passing through some localities had created tension. This time a new route was allowed and the main procession passed through this route without any incident. It was the illegal rally that created trouble. As soon as senior police officials received information about the incident, it sent more cops to the spot. However, they too had to face stone pelting. Eight police personnel including the deputy superintendent of police Rajesh Salunkhe were injured. Malkapur MLA Chainsukh Sancheti, municipal council President Harish Rawal and their six to seven supporters were injured when they tried to break peace between the two communities. Around 10 other citizens were also injured in the incident. The situation went out of hand when some of the miscreants set fire to nearby shops and stalls and vehicles parked in the area. About five to six establishments and some vehicles including autorickshaws were damaged to varying extents. The police had to lob tear gas shells and resort to firing in the air to disperse the two mobs. It then imposed a curfew in sensitive parts of the town. District collector Dr Vijay Zade sent the riot control squad and additional police force from Buldhana to Malkapur. Superintendent of police Sanjay Baviskar said in the evening that normalcy had been restored and police were arresting the rioters. The police had rounded up around 25 people till the filing of the report but had not booked anybody. Collector Zade said that the situation had been brought under control by 12 noon. “The curfew has been imposed only in some parts. There is complete normalcy in other areas,” he added. MLA Sancheti, whose right leg sustained a fracture, blamed SP Baviskar for the communal disturbance. “In view of last year’s tension, I had appealed to the SP not to grant permission to the Eid procession or at least limit the areas from where it would pass. Unfortunately, some politicians told the SP that they would take responsibility of maintaining peace during the procession and look what happened,” he said. (Times of India 13/12/16)

222. Curfew in Imphal, mobile internet snapped after violence (7)

Imphal: In the wake of heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were on Sinday brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours over an alleged attack on a church. The curfew was imposed this noon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation here, following three blasts on Friday. The Imphal West District Magistrate issued an order directing telecom operators to shut down mobile data service in the district immediately until further orders. The action came in the wake of tensions following Friday’s blasts and an alleged attack on a church. Major areas of the state capital fall in Imphal West district where the three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening. The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said. The move was preceded by a 24-hour bandh called to protest militants’ attacks on Manipur Police in the last few days in different parts of the state that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured. The militants also snatched several weapons from the IRB personnel. All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said. The capital on Sunday saw violence by protesters who were agitating against the ongoing economic blockade in the state and a series of terrorist attacks. A number of vehicles were set on fire or vandalised.The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since November 1 after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state. The blockade was imposed following the state government’s announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. Tension in the state heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People’s Front on Friday. In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area yesterday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons. (The Hindu 18/12/16)

223. Bhilwara remains peaceful after communal clash (7)

AJMER: Bhilwara remained peaceful though tense on Monday after a communal clash in Gayatri Nagar of the city day before. Internet services were barred to stop spreading of rumours and police battalion from Ajmer range was deployed to handle any worse situation. According to police, pebbles were pelted on a religious rally on Sunday which culminated in a clash between two communities that led to communal riots.”Bhilwara is a major communal sensitive district in the state and therefore, we use our specialist team to control such situation,” said senior police officials. The tension turned so ugly that arsons were reported at many places in the city. Looking to the tension, three Rajasthan Armed Core battalions were called from Ajmer range to take control of the situation. “The whole day was peaceful and we deputed heavy police force in sensitive and extra sensitive areas of the city,” said a police official. SP Mohan Sharma also went to the areas to take stock of the situation. “Tension still prevails in some regions,” added a source. Three incidents of burning vehicles in different localities have been reported last night. “We have detained about 80 people in this regard and also investigating the main conspirators of this incident,” said police. (Times of India 20/12/16)

224. BJP urges Didi to break her silence on ‘communal violence’ in Bengal (7)

NEW DELHI: Seeking to up the ante against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the BJP on Tuesday charged the minority cell of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) with spearheading communal riots in certain regions of the State. The BJP will also reach out to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), while a Parliamentary party delegation will go to Howrah for an on-the-spot assessment of communal violence. BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh asked Banerjee to break her “silence” on communal violence at Dhulagarh area in the State. “The minority wing leaders of TMC led by Lok Sabha MP Idris Ali are targeting Hindus. The TMC is unleashing violence especially in six districts where the BJP graph has shown growth in the recent times,” said Singh, while adding that the State unit of the party has also been asked to move the human rights panel. The BJP leader claimed that “Hindus are being targeted by the minority wing of the TMC for over six days in Dhulagarh in Howrah district. You (Mamata) have not said anything. She must break her silence,” while adding that 100 such communal incidents have happened since the Trinamool came back to power this year. The BJP leader alleged that a fatwa was issued by Shahi Imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Masjid Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati against State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh. “TMC’s minority wing head Idris Ali was with the Imam. The Imam moves around in the State in an unauthorised beacon car. This is a glowing example of her minority appeasement politics,” added Singh. The BJP leader also stated that while Banerjee addresses meetings in Delhi, Patna and Lucknow against demonetisation, she has kept quiet on the communal violence in her State. Referring to incidents of artists and writers returning their awards over the “intolerance” issue, the BJP leader asked intellectuals to speak up against communal violence in Bengal. (New Indian Express 21/12/16)

225. Communal tension grips Bihar’s Vaishali after alleged honour killing of youth (7)

Patna: Communal tension gripped a village in Bihar’s Vaishali district on Thursday after an alleged honour killing of a 20-year-old youth. The youth, Veerchand, was found dead in Sarma village early on Thursday morning, police said, adding that the preliminary investigation suggests the youth was killed over an affair with a girl from a different community. His body was recovered from behind the girl’s house. The girl and her father have been arrested, police said. “We have begun investigation into the case and deployed additional security forces from neighbouring police stations in the village to maintain peace,” superintendent of police Rakesh Kumar said. According to reports, a mob pelted stones at police and the girl’s house, creating panic in the village. In view of the tension, district magistrate Rachna Patil and SP Rakesh Kumar have been camping in the village. Heavy police deployment has been made in and around the village to avoid any untoward incident. “Tension prevails between two communities in the village but the situation is under control,” a local police official said. According to villagers, the victim was seen in the village on Wednesday evening. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

226. Centre rushes 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur (7)

New Delhi: The Centre has rushed around 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur in the wake of violence following economic blockade on National Highways connecting the state. While around 1,500 paramilitary personnel were rushed in to Manipur in last two days, around 2,500 paramilitary were dispatched to the state last week, a senior Home Ministry official said on Tuesday. The security personnel were sent to the Northeastern state keeping in view the security situation in the state in the wake of violence following the economic blockade imposed by the Union Naga Council on two National Highways since November 1. The UNC has imposed the economic blockade on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur. Curfew in Imphal East district was clamped indefinitely on Sunday last after a mob torched and vandalised 22 passenger vehicles on the Imphal-Ukhrul road, while curfew in Imphal West district was imposed from evening to dawn. Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang has sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur government in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley of Manipur. Zeliang in separate letters to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh yesterday drew their attention to the plight of hundreds of Nagas who are stranded in the Imphal valley and claimed that they were prevented from proceeding to their respective villages in the hills after threats to their lives by some valley based organisations. (Deccan Chonicle 26/12/16)

227. Jharkhand: Facebook post leads to communal tension, 5 arrested (7)

Medininagar (Jharkhand) , PTI: The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in Medininagar town. Five persons were on Wednesday arrested by the police here in Palamau district for allegedly attacking people and ransacking shops following a write-up on the social media on animal sacrifice. The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in this town, prompting the police to act swiftly and arrest five persons, including Mohammad Taz who wrote the post, Palamau SP Indrajeet Mahatha said. Mahatha and Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nancy Sahay have gone to the area with an adequate force to restore law-and-order. A police contingent has been posted in the locality. The SP said the situation was now under control. (DNA 28/12/16)

228. WB: Its economy crippled by clashes, Dhulagarh picks up the pieces (7)

 Dhulagarh (howrah): A fortnight after violence and arson brought nondescript Dhulagarh, at the heart of Howrah’s micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) growth story, to national discourse, locked doors, shuttered windows and burnt walls unite the neighbouring localities of Pollepara and Munshipara. They are dominated by Hindus and Muslims, respectively. Of many families that fled after the clashes on December 13 and 14, some Hindus returned this week. Most Muslim neighbourhoods still remain deserted. District officials said more than 100 houses and shops were attacked over those two days. “More Hindu homes and shops were attacked, but the financial damage done to Muslim-owned factories is far more,” an administration official said. Superintendent of Police, Rural (Howrah), Sumit Kumar said, “There have been 56 arrests. Violence took place on December 14 and since then it’s been peaceful. Investigations are on.” About 30 km from Kolkata, Dhulagarh’s MSMEs focus on embroidery and garment-manufacturing. Already dealt a big blow by demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, many units in the area have now downed shutters following the violence. According to local officials and unit owners, equipment averaging around Rs 5 lakh per unit has been destroyed, raw material burnt, and workers left unemployed. dhulagarh, dhulagarh violence, west bengal violence, communal violence west bengal, dhulagarh west bengal, india news, bengal news, indian express news Police posted in riot affected Dhulagarh Purano chowrasta Howrah on Wednesday. The economy of Dhulagarh has been crippled. State government statistics say there are 350 functional units in the Howrah clusters, of which locals estimate about 100 are in Dhulagarh. The Howrah units employ more than 9,000 people, and the average investment in each plant and machinery is calculated at Rs 5 lakh. “I have seen at least 10 factories gutted in the last few days,” said Zakir Sardar. “Most units were owned by Muslims, and were in areas where people from both communities lived in equal numbers. These have been targeted.” Zakir’s factory, which employed 40 people, was destroyed, along with parts of his house. Sheikh Allaudin claimed his factory, surrounded by homes of Hindu families, was targeted on December 14. “We had got new machinery from abroad with loan amounting to Rs 18 lakh per unit. We were hoping to start exports from next year. We have now taken a loss that could touch Rs 1 crore. That essentially puts us out of business.” … (Indian Express 29/12/16)

COMMUNALISM

229. Being ‘Hindu’ and ‘Bharatiya’ means the same: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (26)

Anyone who traces their ancestry to India, irrespective of their language or religion, is a Hindu, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Thursday. Being “Hindu” and “Bharatiya” (Indian) means the same, he said at the launch of a special edition of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpieces Organiser and Panchajanya. Bhagwat said no matter what their ideology or faith, nationalism still tugs at people’s heartstrings. He said people often make the mistake of using Hindu and Hindutva interchangeably. He gave the example of former Tamil Nadu chief minister Natarajan Annadurai who was against the imposition of Hindi in southern states but made a public speech underlining the unity in diversity. “He said that an attack on the Himalayas is an attack on Tamil Nadu,” Bhagwat said. He also sought to refute the allegation that the Sangh did not participate in the freedom struggle, saying they did not have time to publicise their work. (Hindustan Times 1/12/16)

230. Make RSS and BJP’s accounts public: Congress (26)

LUCKNOW: Alleging a large “scam” in the implementation of the BJP government’s demonetisation move+ , Congress commmunication cell chairman Randeep Surjewala said on Friday the Bharatiya Janta Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and all BJP members of Parliament and legislators should make public their account details and the details of all high value transactions between April 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016, when prime minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s decision to discontinue Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes as legal tender.Addressing the first in a series of press conferences against demonetisation in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Surjewala said in Lucknow on Friday that demonetisation was “notebandi ki shakl mein deshbandi” (country brought to a grinding halt in the name of currency ban). Questioning the government’s diktat to limit withdrawals from one’s own bank accounts, the Congress leader also said the Congress party and the entire opposition have demanded an investigation through a joint parliamentary committee to unearth the layers of conspiracy in the government’s decision. Surjewala said, “Demonetisation is the largest scam in this country. On November 7 and 8, BJP’s Kolkata account received deposits worth several crores in old 500 and 1000 denomination. Also, BJP’s social media cell functionaries posed pictures holding wads of new Rs 2000 currency notes when others are still queuing outside banks for money. Do these not show prior knowledge show they had prior knowledge and easier access?” On Friday, the Congress also released bank account details of large tracts of land in Bihar and Orissa, bought months prior to the demonetisation exercise, and allegedly symptomatic of prior knowledge of the demonetisation announcement. “All sale deeds contain the address of the BJP office in New Delhi,” Surjewala said.Among a slew of allegations against the ruling party, the Congress leadership also claimed on Friday that the Modi government had increased, soon after being sworn to power, foreign remittances from India from Rs 75,000 dollar per person, to Rs 1.25 lakh dollars per person first, and then to Rs 2.5 lakh dollars, moving out of India nearly Rs 30,000 crore worth of money from the country. Labelling the demonetisation exercise as a move the BJP used to convert its “own black money into white” Surjewala also said the surge in deposits in the Jan Dhan accounts+ with Rs 5 or less deposited since they were opened also suggested foul play by the government machinery. “We are using this platform to challenge Amit Shah that if he has the courage to be really show himself and the organisation as corruption free, the BJP, RSS and its elected representatives should make all their accounts public from April 1, 2016 to 9 November so that people can see and raise any questions they want to,” Surjewala said. He also said it was unfortunate that the BJP had reduced to the level of thieves, all those who were standing in queues to withdraw their own money from banks. (Times of India 2/12/16)

231. VHP to reach out to farmers: Pravin Togadia (26)

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) will reach out to farmers to help them raise their income, its working president Pravin Togadia said on Saturday, voicing concern over their indebtedness and incidents of suicide. “In the last two years, those farmers who were prosperous in this country have became poor and have been forced to take loan and commit suicide,” Togadia told reporters after meeting agricultural scientists associated with Anand Agriculture University. “These farmers can be made prosperous again by increasing their income. An increase in the farmers’ income by even 10 per cent will change their life,” he said. Togadia, met agricultural scientists from the varsity-both teaching retired-to discuss plans to help farmers become prosperous. He said they discussed ideas by which a farmer’s income can be increased one-and-a-half to two times, adding the VHP will begin a pan-India programme to meet farmers and share with them these ideas. “I am here to discuss how we can take the proposals of agricultural scientists to 70-80 crore farmers across 6 lakh villages in the country,” he said. Togadia said the VHP will train farmers across Gujarat beginning the first fortnight of January. “These farmers will be trained so that they could themselves practise (new techniques) and also teach farmers from 10-20 neighbouring villages. This will help these farmers increase their income using their own intelligence and hard work rather than by remaining dependent on a chief minister or prime minister,” he said. (Indian Express 3/12/16)

232. 155 Dalits convert to Buddhism in Gujarat (26)

Palanpur (Gujarat): As many as 155 Dalits converted to Buddhism here on Tuesday, the death anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, observed as Mahaparinirvan Divas.The District Collector, Banaskantha, said the administration had not given permission for the programme. Dalits from Kutch district too converted at the programme organised by the Banaskantha District Dalit Sangathan at the Ramapir temple here. “The decision to embrace Buddhism was taken after the Una Dalit atrocity case. Members of our community wanted to protest against growing inequality and atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat,” Dalpatbhai Bhatiya, an organiser, said. At Una in the State, cow vigilantes beat up some Dalit youths alleging that they had killed a cow. “After the Una incident, we had intimated the district administration about the decision of 191 Dalits to convert to Buddhism this day,” Mr. Bhatiya said. (The Hindu 7/12/16)

233. Hindutva outfits want ban on Sunburn festival in Pune (26)

Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad protested at Lokmanya Tilak statue in Mahatma Phule Mandai against the festival. Trouble could be brewing for the Sunburn electronic dance music festival as Hindutva outfits in Pune have come together to protest against it claiming that it is against Indian culture, reports The Indian Express. The festival will be held at Kesnand on Pune-Ahmednagar highway this year. It used to be held in Goa for the past nine years. The outfits have claimed that the festival promoted obscene activities and abuse of narcotic substances. The members from women’s wing of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad sloganeered at Lokmanya Tilak statue in Mahatma Phule Mandai and sent out pamphlets. They also started a signature campaign against the festival. “In 2009, a girl died at Sunburn in Goa due to drug overdose… Such events mislead the youth,” said Pratiksha Korgaonkar, state organiser of Ranragini.Sunburn CEO Karan Singh said, “We do nothing illegal…. We work very closely with all government authorities to ensure a safe event.” (DNA 13/12/16)

234. RSS leaders invoke Narendra Modi in call for UP polls (26)

LUCKNOW: Claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked a lot for Hindutva, RSS leaders called upon saffron outfits to gear up for the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. “UP elections are important for the RSS and we should be prepared for the litmus test,” RSS leaders said at a coordination meet held in Varanasi on Tuesday to review preparedness for the upcoming elections.”Come what may, the UP assembly election has to be won at all cost,” a senior RSS leader said, adding “the Modi government at the Centre is a government of achievements.” The main RSS speakers included its joint general secretary and third in the hierarchy Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS-BJP key linkman Dr Krishna Gopal, national organisation secretary Ramlal and co-national organisation secretary Shiv Prakash. The BJP was represented by its UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and state organisation secretary Sunil Bansal, regional presidents of Gorakhpur and Kashi and its organisation secretaries. About 250 representatives of Goraksh prant that includes BJP’s Gorakhpur and Kashi regions, and Sangh’s offshoots like the VHP and ABVP, were also present. Interestingly, Hosabale shifting base to Lucknow from Patna earlier this year has been seen as Sangh pariwar’s focus on UP assembly elections. Hosabale is believed to have been instrumental in mobilising voters during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Similarly, Krishna Gopal, who has been appointed as RSS-BJP linkman, is believed to have been instrumental in ticket distribution in UP during 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At no point of time, however, the RSS coordination meet discussed tickets or probable candidates, a leader privy to the meet in Varanasi told TOI. The meet was held in four sessions. The RSS big guns would have another coordination meeting later, this time with the representatives of the Awadh prant of the RSS administrative structure. (Times of India 14/12/16)

235. Sunburn: Hindutva outfits ask Maharashtra govt to ban fest within 48 hours (26)

Pune: HINDUTVA OUTFITS have demanded that the government should ban the Sunburn Festival within 48 hours. Hindutva activists have also planned a rally on Saturday against the festival, which is proposed to be held on a privately-owned 90 acre land at Kesnand on the Pune-Ahmednagar Highway. In a press conference on Friday, Parag Gokhale of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, an outfit associated with the Sanatan Sanstha, advocate Mohan Dongre of Samast Hindu Aghadi, Anand Dave of Shiv Sena and others said they would launch a severe agitation if the event is not cancelled.“BJP-Shiv Sena government in the state came to power because it assured to work for the cause of Hindutva. It is sad that despite this, Sunburn festival is taking place in Pune,” said Dongre. Gokhale said although the organisers of the festival claim that they are against consumption of drugs, police in Goa have recovered banned narcotic substances from the venue of this festival in the past. “Also, the Goa government banned the festival this year because its organisers did not pay the taxes to the tune of Rs 3 crores. The Maharashtra government should not allow such an event to happen in Pune. Hindtuva activists are taking out a rally from Kasba Ganpati to District Collectorate against this event on Saturday morning,” he said. Chandrakant Warghade of Mahiti Seva Samiti said, “I have filed an application under the RTI Act to know whether organisers of Sunburn festival have taken the necessary permissions from the government offices. It has been 20 days now, and I am yet to get any reply. Local persons have observed that organisers have cut trees illegally. I have filed a criminal and civil suit today against the Sunburn festival organisers. We want to bring a stay on it legally.” Activists said they have given letters to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Guardian minister Girish Bapat, local BJP MLA and also police authorities against the Sunburn festival. Sunburn CEO Karan Singh said, “We do nothing illegal. Sunburn has always practised zero tolerance to narcotics. Our festival policy doesn’t entertain any sort of drug consumption. We believe the youth needs to engage offline too. With the social media, face-to-face interaction has diminished. Sunburn has brought engagement among the youth. We work very closely with all government authorities to ensure a safe event.” (The Indian Express 17/12/2016)

236. No ‘remote control’, RSS wants to build strong nation with Hindutva at its core: Mohan Bhagwat (26)

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the organisation was not a “remote control” and its aim was to build a strong nation with ‘Hindutva’ at its core. “The Sangh’s aim is to build a strong India with the right leader and with Hindutva at its core,” Bhagwat said, addressing the concluding function of a four-day-long meeting of RSS pracharaks from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa here. “There is a need to bring the right kind of change in the society based on the ideology of Hindutva,” he said. RSS will strive to bring about right changes in the society to make the nation strong in the hands of a “right leader”, he said without naming anyone. “RSS is not a remote control,” he said in an apparent reference to the allegation of opposition parties that it dictates terms to the BJP-led NDA Government. “Many misgivings about the Sangh are prevailing in the society for various reasons and people talk about the Sangh without knowing about it or the essence of its activities. “RSS is for peace and solution to all kinds of problems faced by the world and India, and Hindutva is the core of Hindustan, it is its identity,” RSS supremo said. “It is wrong to look at Hindutva as an ideology of a particular religion or community. Sangh does not ask anybody his caste or creed when he joins us after believing in our ideology,” he said. Bhagwat also said RSS does not take any help from the government. “RSS does not beg for financial assistance from anybody,” he said. “RSS is not for those who want to make money…only those whose integrity is not doubtful can become its members,” he said. The world has now begun to recognise the importance of Hinduism, he said. (DNA 20/12/2016)

237. Cabinet likely to restore allotted land to RSS affiliated bodies (26)

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet is likely to approve restoring allotment of land to nearly two dozen organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Wednesday. Though the allotments had taken place between 1998 and 2004, these were cancelled by the UPA government soon after it came to power. Some of the organisations that were allotted land included Samarth Shiksha Samiti, Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bhartiya Kisan sangh, Sewa Bharti and Swadeshi Jagran Foundation. As per the Cabinet proposal, the cancellation orders will be withdrawn provided the organisations withdraw their plea against the cancellation in the Delhi High Court. Sources said, the organisations have already informed the urban development ministry to withdraw their cases. The government has decided to restore the plots after a two-member team found the reason for cancellation as unjustified. The UPA government had cancelled the allotment based on the report of a one-man inquiry committee by Yogesh Chandra, who had found violation of norms in allotment of land during the NDA regime. (Times of India 20/12/16)

238. VHP, Bajrang Dal activists vandalise Bengal vehicles (26)

PATNA: Police are on the lookout for Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists who on Monday allegedly stopped vehicles with West Bengal registration numbers and painted them with slogans shaming CM Mamata Banerjee for her government’s failure to check “atrocities” against a particular community. Sources said the protesters also smeared the drivers’ faces with black paints at Faringola on NH-31 under the Town police station area in Kishanganj. In an act of retribution, workers of Mamata’s Trinamool Congress set afire a private bus with Bihar registration number at Panjipara in North Dinajpur district of Bengal. The Kishanganj police have registered an FIR against 44 people. “Slogans were written on 13 vehicles bearing Bengal registration numbers,” Kishaganj SP Rajeev Mishra told TOI over phone on Tuesday, adding the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had taken permission to stage only a road blockade against alleged violence in the neighbouring state. VHP’s Kishanganj district president Arun Tripathy, however, claimed they had informed the administration that slogans would be written on the North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses. “The FIR has been lodged under pressure from Congress’s Kishanganj MP Maulana Ashfarul Haq and MLA Mohammad Javed,” he said. (Times of India 21/12/16)

239. Ahmedabad: Mohan Bhagwat meets Gujarat CM, doctors & industrialists (26)

Ahmedabad: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat Wednesday met CM, two prominent industrialists and four leading doctors Wednesday. Besides meeting Sanjay Lalbhai, chairman and MD of Arvind Group, and founder of Nirma Limited Karsanbhai Patel on the last day of his four-day visit to Gujarat, Bhagwat interacted with Dr Vikram Shah of Shalby Hospital, Dr Tejas Patel (cardiologist), Dr Kaustubh Patel (cancer surgeon) and Dr Anil Jain (cardiologist). RSS office bearers said that during the meetings Bhagwat “only talked about the works of RSS” and it was part of a routine exercise. A doctor who met Bhagwat said that “it was just a courtesy meeting without any particular agenda. I am an apolitical person and have nothing to do with RSS.” Despite repeated attempts other doctors and the industrialists couldn’t be contacted. A source who was present in these meetings said: “Bhagwatji talked about RSS, its ideology and the work that it has been doing across the country. It was like introducing RSS and its work to someone.” RSS spokesperson Vijay Thaker said, “It was only a courtesy meeting and it is routinely done wherever he visits.” He also met CM Vijay Rupani at RSS office in Maninagar. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

240. ‘BJP is no more a Hindutva party, it has changed its outlook’ (26)

BENGALURU: Former Congress minister V Srinivas Prasad, who came to power riding the wave of an anti-BJP sentiments, on Saturday confirmed his joining the saffron party on Saturday. He is scheduled to officially join the BJP, along with his supporters, on January 2 2017. However, the dalit leader, former Congress cabinet minister and five time MP, Prasad justified his re-entry into BJP by saying the party is no more a Hindutva outfit. “What would have once been their sole agenda, Hindutva, is no more the case. Their outlook has changed. The overwhelming majority it received across the nation by winning 283 seats in the Parliament is proof of this larger acceptance of the party,” justified Prasad. Prasad further went on to add that even the BJP leaders have realised that Hindutva’s hidden agenda cannot appeal to the masses in the country. “As far as I am concerned, I have been in politics for 45 years based on three broad agendas which is eradication of inequality, untouchability and illiteracy. Wherever I am, I have always made it clear that these three will be my credentials,” he said. Prasad told that the same was conveyed to the BJP, to ensure that his self respect is not hurt. He said 2018 elections were not on his mind as of now. “For now, the by-elections are more personal. It is a fight between me and Siddaramaiah. Once this is over, I will concentrate on building the BJP cadre strength in the constituency and the state,” he said. Prasad ruled out any proxy candidate for the by-elections and said he will be the official BJP candidate at the hustings.Earlier, on Saturday morning, BJP sources said both Prasad and the party state president B S Yeddyurappa had a breakfast meeting to cement the re-entry of the former into the party. Prasad was with the BJP in 1999, and was a central minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government.During the course of the meeting, Prasad was told by Yeddyurappa that the BJP will back him to the hilt in the upcoming Nanjangud by-elections where he will be the official party candidate. It is said Yeddyurappa has made it clear to the party workers that apart from Prasad, the BJP is ensuring his personal victory which will be a pre-cursor to the 2018 assembly elections. (Times of India 24/12/2016)

241. Appeal to save Hindus, Indian cow and have 10 children (26)

NAGPUR: The three-day Dharma Sanstrukti Mahakumbh, a congregation of seers backed by RSS, ended up with a ‘Save Hindu’ cry. Calls were made to increase the community’s numbers with Hindus producing 10 children. At the same time, demand for a national population policy was also raised. Firebrand VHP leader Pravin Togadia lamented that a central law on banning cow slaughter still remained elusive — an indirect hint to the Narendra Modi government. Sharing the dais, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat endorsed his views. Vasudevanand Saraswati, the Shankracharya of Jyotir Mutt, said Hindus should have 10 children each. He also called for Modi to take a quick decision on cow slaughter ban, like he did on demonetisation. Sidelined by Prime Minister Modi, Togadia, who was lying low, has been frequently raising Hindutva issues. For the first time in recent past, both Togadia and Bhagwat have come on the same platform. Togadia’s another public meet is planned December 30. The meet was also attended by state chief minister Devendra Fadvnavis, Assam governor Banwarlilal Purohit, and city mayor Pravin Datke, all of who left early. Later, a nearly 4,000 strong procession was taken out from the Reshimbagh grounds till Mahal. “Hindus are asked to switch off loudspeakers by 10pm but they (Muslims) can call aloud at 5 in the morning. If temples are governed by government why not mosques,’ said Togadia in his patent style. He also lamented that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya remains a dream, also reminding of the central law on prohibiting cow slaughter. “Hindus are fast becoming a minority in their own country. Apart from Kashmir, they are also migrating from places like Meerut, Moradabad, and Kerala. The population of Hindus is going down even as that of others going up. The government must have population policy in place,” said Togadia. In a reference to reconversions, Bhagwat said, “Anyone who imbibes the Indian culture is a Hindu. There may be some who have been cut off from the Hindu society. My goal is to bring them back.”The RSS chief also called to work towards resurrecting the cultural icons like birth places of Ram, Krishna and the abode of Lord Shiva. “Discard the two-children norm. Have 10 instead, don’t worry about who will fend for them, god will take care of your kids,” said the Shankracharya. He said there is a need to have more Hindus. “Unless there are more children, how will the country get soldiers, traders and even journalists,” he said. This is not the first time he has spoken about Hindus having more children. The seer urged the Prime Minister to enact a law banning cow slaughter, raising a pitch for the Indian breed of cow. “It’s not the Jersey or other mixed breed of bovine which we are talking about but the Indian breeds like Gir, which should be reared,” he said. (Times of India 26/12/16)

TERRORISM

242. 24 killed in Iraq’s Mosul in IS attack (12)

Baghdad : At least 24 people were killed in an attack by the Islamic State militant group in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday. The news comes a day after IS militants launched an attack using two car bombs on Kanaos village in the south of Qayyarah, killing two soldiers and injuring 29 others, Press TV reported. Iraqi forces recaptured Qayyarah, which lies on the western bank of Tigris river, some 60 kilometres south of Mosul, from IS late in August. Iraqi media reported on Saturday that fierce clashes were underway between Iraqi security forces and the IS near Mosul’s airport. Iraq’s Almada Press website reported that Iraqi forces thwarted an IS assault on the Aden district, east of Mosul, killing 13 terrorists, including the senior commander, Talaat Ahmed Fathi aka Abu Mohammed al-Iraqi. (Business Standard 3/12/16)

243. Amritsar declaration on Afghanistan calls for elimination of terror (12)

Amritsar: An international conference on Afghanistan here on Sunday called for immediate elimination of terrorism to help the war-ravaged country in its political and economic transition. The Amritsar Declaration, issued after the 6th ministerial ‘Heart of Asia conference – Istanbul Process on Afghanistan’ in this Punjab city near India’s border with Pakistan, “recognises terrorism as the biggest threat to peace” and demanded “immediate end to all forms of terrorism”.Citing the declaration, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who chaired the meeting in the absence of ailing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, said: “We remain concerned by high level of violence in Afghanistan caused by Taliban, terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, Daesh (Islamic State) and its affiliates.” “We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, including dismantling of terrorist safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial and logistical support for terrorism.” (Business Standard 4/12/16)

244. Delhi, Dhaka to talk on terrorism, intel-info sharing (12)

NEW DELHI: Anti-terror cooperation, sharing of intelligence inputs and how to jointly check cross-border smuggling will dominate the discussions between home secretaries of India and Bangladesh which begin on Monday. Home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mozammel Haque Khan and their teams will engage in intense discussions for two days to strengthen the anti-terrorism mechanism and sharing of information about terrorists. Growing activities of terror group Islamic State in the subcontinent, increased presence of jihadi groups in Bangladesh and some Indian states and how to jointly tackle them will be discussed threadbare, sources said. Both sides are expected to flag the menace of smuggling of cattle, narcotics and arms through the porous India-Bangladesh border and is expected to find out ways to check them. Bangladesh may press for Indian cooperation in nabbing its most wanted criminals, especially those who were involved in war crimes and assassination of Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Both sides are expected to exchange notes about developments and investigations following the July 1 terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka. Bangladesh has been on the edge ever since the terror attack. India started acting against controversial Mumbai-based Islamic preacher Zakir Naik after he came under the scanner when Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik. Naik is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light. (Times of India 5/12/16)

245. 30 killed, 67 hurt in Nigeria suicide blasts (12)

Abuja : Thirty people were killed and 67 injured in the suicide blasts which rocked a crowded market in Madagali district of Nigeria’s northeastern state of Adamawa on Friday. Badare Akintoye, a military spokesman confirmed two female suicide bombers carried out the attacks, Xinhua news agency reported.The explosions occurred simultaneously at the opposite ends of the local market in Madagali, causing buyers and sellers to run for safety. Sani Datti, spokesman of the country’s National Emergency Management Agency said the 67 injured were taken to the state-run Michika General Hospital for treatment, a statement said. The market at which the attacks took place is a weekly one that sells grains, vegetable and animals every Friday. The blasts occurred at the animal and grains sections of the market, according to Yusuf Mohammed, a senior district official. Adamawa State police spokesman Othman Abubakar said investigation is underway on the attacks. Madagali is located 276 kilometres from the state capital, Yola. In August 2014, the district was one of several towns seized by terror group Boko Haram but it was recaptured by the military in March 2015. Two female suicide bombers who were members of the Boko Haram group killed at least 30 people and 16 injured when they attacked a busy motor park in Madagali on December 28, 2015. (Business Standard 10/12/16)

246. UN condemns suicide car bombing in Somalia (12)

Mogadishu: The UN top envoy in Somalia on Sunday condemned a suicide car bombing at the Mogadishu seaport, which left at least 16 people dead and several others injured. Michael Keating, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, expressed shock at the numerous civilian deaths caused by the bombing, of which the Al-Shabaab terror group has claimed responsibility, Xinhua reported. “This latest atrocity by Al-Shabaab terrorists, taking place on a religious holiday, provides fresh evidence of their disregard for the lives and hopes of Somali citizens,” Keating said in a statement issued in Mogadishu. “The bombing may be intended to signal Al-Shabaab’s rejection of the 2016 electoral process,” he said, pledging not to let terrorism stop the momentum. A spokesman for the terrorist group told media that Al-Shabaab had targeted security personnel assigned to the seaport facility as they “had been trained to provide security for so-called elections.” The group said the attack, carried out by a bomber in a minibus packed with explosives, killed 30 Somali police officers. Most of the victims, however, turned out to be truck drivers and port workers who were having tea in tea kiosks when the bomb went off on Sunday morning. Keating praised the essential role Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) security forces have played in protecting electoral sites around the country while recognising that security in Mogadishu remains the greatest challenge. Most of the voting for the House of the People has now been completed, with 226 of the 275 seats occupied and nearly all remaining seats expected to be filled in the coming week. Somalia’s National Leadership Forum has decided to hold the presidential election by the end of December. (Business Standard 12/12/16)

247. NIA convicts Yasin Bhatkal, four others in Hyderabad twin blast case (12)

Hyderabad(Andhra Pradesh) [India], Dec. 13 : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday convicted five terrorists of Indian Mujahideen (IM), including its founder leader, Yasin Bhatkal for their involvement in the twin blasts in Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar area in 2013.At least 17 people, including a pregnant woman, were killed and 131 were injured in the twin blasts in Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar area on February 21, 2013. Bhatkal was listed on the NIA Most Wanted until his arrest on the India-Nepal border in Bihar on August 28, 2013. Earlier in November, the NIA has conducted the probe and named six persons as accused. Of the six accused, main accused Riyaz Bhatkal alias Shah Riyaz Ahmad Mohammed Ismail Shahbandari is absconding. The agency has split the case and charges were framed against the five other accused Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Yasin Bhatkal alias Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa, Tahseen Akhtar alias Monu, Zia ur Rehman alias Waqas, a Pakistan national, and Ajaz Shaikh under under sections 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 r/w 10, 16, 17, 19, 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, Section 120-B of the IPC r/w sections 302, 307, 324, 326, 316, 121, 121A, 122, 474 and 466 of the IPC. The NIA had also conducted raids at various places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, looking for alleged terror modules. (New Kerala 13/12/16)

248. Azhar trained, motivated Pathankot terrorists for war against India: NIA (12)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed a charge sheet in the terror attack case against four accused persons, namely Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar, Shahid Latif, and Kashif Jan, the main handler of the Pathankot attackers. All four are residents of Pakistan. The four have been charged for commission of offences under sections 120B, 121, 121A, 302, 307, 364, 365, 367, 368, 397 of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, section 25, 27 of the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, in the chargesheet. The chargesheet states that the offences as noted above were also established against one Nasir Hussain, Abu Bakar, Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum (who was the main attacker). Prosecution against these attackers was recommended to be abated since they are dead. A Red Corner Notice (RCN) has been issued by the Interpol for the arrest of Azhar, Asghar and Latif. It was established during investigation that the terrorists entered into a criminal conspiracy to infiltrate into the territory of India and to commit terrorist attack and wage war against the Government of India, said a press release. In pursuance of the conspiracy, the accused persons, their leaders, handlers and co-conspirators including Maulana Masood Azhar, Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar, Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif, set up training camps in Pakistan and the PoK area, for recruitment and training of terrorists, in order to carry out terror attacks on the Indian soil. During the training, these terrorists were made to undergo extensive motivational, physical, military and tactical training regimen, to radicalise them and to prepare them for jihad. JeM sent four terrorists, now all deceased, from across Pakistan on December 30, 2015. They illegally crossed the Indo-Pak international border through the forest area near the Simbal Border Outpost. Empty food packets manufactured in Pakistan and other food articles from Pakistan were recovered from the forest area near the Simbal Border Outpost, during investigation. During investigation, NIA investigators collected evidence in terms of statements of the witnesses to establish that the terrorists had been trained, motivated and radicalised by Maulana Masood Azhar and Mufti Abdul Rauf. The NIA also has legal intercepts and statements of witnesses, which show that Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif had guided, equipped and launched the four terrorists, who carried out the terrorist attack at the Air Force Station. … (Deccan Herald 19/12/16)

249. Hyderabad blasts: 5 IM operatives including Yasin Bhatkal sentenced to death (12)

Hyderabad: On December 13, the court convicted the five members, including IM co-founder Mohd Ahmed Sidibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rahman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar alias Monu and Ajaz Shaikh, who are at present in judicial custody and lodged in the Cherlapally Central Prison here. Eighteen people were killed and 131 injured in two deadly explosions in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, on February 21, 2013. On November 7, the final arguments had concluded in the case before the NIA special court. Since IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, the prime accused in the case, is absconding, the trial was split up against him. The court convicted Yasin Bhatkal and others under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Arms Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The NIA special court, after hearing the defence and prosecution’s arguments, pronounced the quantum of sentence. According to NIA, Riyaz Bhatkal arranged for explosive substances and directed Asadullah Akhtar and Zia-ur-Rahman at Mangalore to receive the same. After receiving the explosive materials and the money sent by Riyaz through hawala and money transfer channels, Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas reached Hyderabad and joined Tahseen Akhtar, who was already hiding there, it had said. Together they prepared two IEDs after procuring the other required materials as well as two cycles for mounting the IEDs from Hyderabad, the agency had said. After preparation of the IEDs on February 21, 2013, the accused mounted two bombs on two bicycles. They had planted them in two separate places in Dilsukhnagar which resulted in powerful explosions, it had said. NIA Special Public Prosecutor K Surender said the court, after going through their record, found the case is based on facts and falls in the category of the “rarest of rare case” (thus inviting death penalty). “As per as investigation…evidence that is placed on record clearly reflects that the five IM members planned and executed the bomb blasts. We sought capital punishment (for convicts) and accordingly the court gave death penalty to them,” he said. The prosecutor described the verdict as a “victory” for NIA’s investigation and the witnesses. The five IM convicts said they will go for an appeal, according to the NIA counsel. All relevant records will be submitted in the high court for confirmation of the death sentence, Surender said. Meanwhile, the counsel for the IM operatives said he will file an appeal before the high court against the conviction of his clients after obtaining a certified copy of the judgement.”I have received instruction to file (an appeal) from them (the convicts) and their relatives,” defence counsel Mahadevan said. (Deccan Herald 19/12/16)

250. India, Kyrgyzstan seek a global pact against terror (12)

NEW DELHI: India and Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday finalised plans for joint military exercises in the New Year, and reiterated the need for a global convention against terrorism. Visiting President Almazbek Atambaev highlighted the common historical heritage, and sought cooperation to deal with current global challenges like terrorism. “Kyrgyzstan is home to the great Mughals of India and Emperor Babur came from the city Osh and even in his memoir, Baburnama, he refers to his place of origin in the mountains near Osh,” Mr. Atambaev said referring to the shared heritage and values of his country and India and laying out a common plan to deal with emerging and contemporary challenges.Following a bilateral summit at Hyderabad House, the delegations finalised plans to hold the annual joint military exercises named “Khanjar-IV” in February-March. The “Khanjar-II” exercises were held in March 2015 in Kyrgyzstan and “Khanjar-III” in March-April 2016 in Gwalior. A joint statement which marked the end of the visit took note of the IT support that India had provided to the Kyrgyz military institutions, including building three IT centres in the past two years. It also noted the high-altitude Kyrgyz-Indian Mountain Training Centre being built in the city of Balykchi, which will be used to train Indian military personnel. The visiting delegation also welcomed India’s proposal for training Kyrgyz forces for U.N. peacekeeping assignments. Addressing the media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The understandings concluded today [Tuesday] will support our thrust in these directions. In a first with the Central Asian region, we had initiated telemedicine links with Kyrgyz Republic last year. We are taking steps to expand this project to other regions of the Kyrgyz Republic.” Both sides reiterated the demand for global counter-terror norms to fight terrorism in Asia, and called for the adoption by the United Nations of the draft Comprehensive Convention on Combating International Terrorism. Mr. Atambaev appreciated India’s support to building the transport network in Iran and Afghanistan and said, “This will increase regional connectivity and help connect Kyrgyztan with Iran, Afghanistan and beyond.” Mr. Atambaev who completed a four-day visit to India also sealed agreements on foreign office consultations, sports, broadcast cooperation and bilateral investment. (The Hindu 21/12/16)

251. NIA names eight in IS module case (12)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency named eight persons on Thursday in a charge sheet for allegedly attempting to carry out a terror strike by using explosive devices similar to those used by Islamic State (IS) cadres during last year’s Paris attacks. The charge sheet was filed before a special NIA court in Hyderabad under various Sections of the IPC, the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The eight have been charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the country by collecting weapons and explosive materials to target public places. Those named in the charge sheet are Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi alias Fahad, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani alias Abu Abdurrahman, Habeeb Mohammed alias Abu Shaibah, Mohammed Ilyas Yazdani alias Abu Mansoor, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan alias Abulhasan, Yasir Naimathullah alias Naimath Ullah Hussaini, Mohd Ataullah Rahman alias Ghouse and Abdul Raoof alias Mohammed Almashrifi. The NIA said that during raids at various premises on June 29, many electronic gadgets, mobile phones, hard discs, semi-automatic pistols, air rifles, pellets, target boards, and explosive precursor chemicals were recovered. These can be used for the preparation of triacetone triperoxide, an explosive material used in the Paris attacks. (The Hindu 23/12/16)

252. Indian priest held by ISIS seeks help (12)

New Delhi: After a video started doing the rounds showing abducted Indian Christian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil — who was earlier kidnapped in Yemen by suspected ISIS militants — purportedly blaming the Indian government and the Vatican for alleged lack of action in securing his release, India on Monday said it was in regular touch with the Yemeni authorities and Saudi Arabia regarding the safe release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest hails from Kerala and was abducted nearly nine months ago from war-torn Yemen. The video of him showed him pleading for help and it became viral. You are aware of the circumstances currently prevailing in Yemen where fighting is going on with no central authority in that country. With regard to the safe release of Father Tom, who was abducted some months ago, we have been in regular touch with countries in the region, especially Saudi Arabia as also the local Yemeni authorities. Efforts continue in this regard,” ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. The priest purportedly said in the video that “several months have gone by and my captors have made many contacts with the government of India to get me released. Honourable President and Prime Minister of India, I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard. Reports have been in news that everything is being done to get me released quickly but in reality nothing seems to have happened.” He added had he been “a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities. I am from India and therefore, I, perhaps, am not considered as of much value”. He also referred to a kidnapped French journalist, who was released and said this had happened because the journalist was from France. Mr Uzhunnalil was abducted from the port city of Aden in March 4 by militant group ISIS. (The Asian Age 27/12/16)

253. Nagrota terrorist attack: Intel shows 3 Jaish fidayeen crossed over LoC (12)

A month after the terrorist attack near the 16 Corps headquarters in Nagrota near Jammu, intelligence agencies have indicated that the three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) fidayeen had infiltrated the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector the night before and carried out the November 29 strike with local help. Seven Indian Army personnel, including two officers, died in the attack. Investigators have not been able to identify the terrorists as they were neither carrying mobile phones nor global positioning system (GPS) devices. They have an eyewitness account, however, of three persons in police uniforms crossing over the LoC in Poonch the night before. Intelligence agencies suspect that the attackers were taken to their target by local supporters of the Pakistan-based terror group in a vehicle. Efforts are on to identify local JeM supporters. “There is no link-up between the tunnel found by BSF near International Border in Samba sector the day after attack and the Nagrota attackers….The attackers have been identified belonging to JeM on the basis of pamphlets recovered from the bodies,” said a senior official. Even though the LoC infiltration has gone down with the onset of winter, 2016 recorded a three- fold increase in Pakistani intruders in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to the past years. There has been no firing on the LoC or the border after new Pakistani chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa took over from Raheel Sharif on November 29. “Even though there is less snow on high mountain passes astride the LoC, not many terrorists are waiting to infiltrate due to severe cold,” said a senior official. Although Indian security forces are maintaining an alert posture on the LoC, New Delhi is diplomatically playing a patient game, waiting for Pakistan to cease terrorism from across the border as a precursor to any bilateral dialogue. While the new Russia-China-Pakistan group on Afghanistan is a matter of concern to India, it is also worried over the beginning of Chinese construction activity in Occupied Kashmir as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). (The Hindustan Times 29/12/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

254. SOG, Maoists exchange fire in Odisha’s Kandhamal (12)

PHULBANI: An exchange of fire took place between Special Operations Group (SOG)  jawans and Maoists near Lankagarh gram panchayat under Belaghar police limits on Thursday. Police said the gunbattle took place while SOG jawans were conducting a raid at a Maoist camp. The firing revived memories of death of five innocent tribals, including a two-year-old, at Gumudumaha in Kandhamal district in July. Inspector General  (SR) Amitav Thakur said acting on a tip off about the  Maoist camp at Lankagarh panchayat, SOG jawans conducted the operation. On seeing the security personnel, around 20-25 Maoists, who were present there, started firing. In retaliation, SOG personnel also fired. The gunbattle continued for about one and a half hours.The SOG jawans seized explosives, arms and ammunition and old currency notes from the Maoist camp. The operation is continuing and more teams have been sent to the area, Thakur added. In July, during a combing operation by the SOG jawans near Gumudumaha village, an auto-rickshaw, carrying more than 10 villagers, came under firing. Five villagers died leading to an uproar in the State. Meanwhile, some Maoist posters, asking people to observe PLGA week from December 2 to 8, were found at Parlimal and Tanla villages of Belpara block  in Balangir district. The Maoist group urged the people to join their ranks in large  numbers and extend cooperation to the outfit. According to reports, the posters have been put up by members of Balangir-Bargarh Mahasamunda division protesting various developmental policies of the Centre. (New Indian Express 2/12/16)

255. Printers warned against Maoist propaganda (12)

COIMBATORE: The rural police called for a meeting with printing press owners and warned them against printing any material or propaganda for Maoists sympathizers. Owners have been told to be wary of people requesting them to print posters with messages sympathizing with Maoists or condemning police action against them. They have also been instructed to inform the police immediately if anyone approaches them to print such posters.Police sources said that after two Maoists were killed in an encounter with police in Nilambur forests, there were a few posters condemning police action in parts of the district. To avoid such a situation in future, police called around 60 printers who own presses in rural areas on Saturday. “The superintendent of police has instructed them not to print or stick posters with messages either sympathizing with Maoists and their ideologies or condemning government action against them,” said a police official. “If someone approaches them with wordings supporting their ideologies or condemning police action, the printers have been asked to note down their contact details and inform the police,” said the official. “They have also been asked to scrutinize wordings of all posters ordered by people and update themselves on Maoist issues, so they can be alert to it,” he said. Last year, four Maoists from Kerala were arrested in Tirupur and have been in jail in Coimbatore since. There have been many reports of Maoists moving into the forests in Nilgiris district through the Karnataka border. (Times of India 5/12/16)

256. Naxal from Chhattisgarh surrenders in Telangana (12)

Bhadrachalam: A CPI (Maoist) ultra surrendered before police in Bhadrachalam district today. Uke Dulaiah, a resident of Sukma district in adjoining Chhattisgarh, worked in various dalams (squads) and allegedly took part in six incidents of exchange of fire with police, a police release said. He also allegedly participated in some other incidents of violence, it said, adding all steps would be taken for his rehabilitation as per rules. (usiness Sandard 7/12/16)

257. CRPF team seizes powerful IED in naxal-hotbed Sukma district (12)

RAIPUR: A powerful pressure IED planted by Naxals was found in Chhattisgarh’s worst insurgency-hit Sukma district today, police said. The Improvised Explosive Device was unearthed by a team of CRPF’s 74th battalion personnel from Chintalnar police station limits while they were out on road security operation, a police official told PTI. The security personnel had launched the operation from their Burkapala camp toward Mukram Nullah, located around 450 km from here.They spotted the pressure bomb hidden by the roadside at around 12.05 pm, he said. The explosive, weighing around 5 kg, was immediately destroyed on the spot by the bomb disposal squad, the official said, adding that the IED was possibly meant to harm the security men during their operation in the area. In view of Peoples’ Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) week being observed by Maoists from December 2 to 8, security has been heightened across the insurgency-hit areas of Chhattisgarh, particularity in Bastar division, as during this period Maoists try to aggravate their activities. In Chhattisgarh, 16 of the 27 districts are Naxal-hit in varying degrees, with significant consolidation in southern part of the state bordering Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. (Times of India 8/12/16)

258. Maoists in Coimbatore prison to observe fast on Dec. 16 (12)

Coimbatore: Maoists lodged in Coimbatore Central Prison will observe a day-long fast on December 16 condemning the recent encounter killing of two Maoist leaders inside the forest in Nilambur district of Kerala.The protest is also to demand that the Kerala Government register a murder case against ‘Thunderbolt’, the anti-maoist squad of the Kerala police, and also to seek a magisterial probe. Sources said the Maoists lodged in Coimbatore Central Prison – Shyna, Roopesh, Veeramani, Kannan and Anoop – will take part in the protest. Suspected Maoists lodged in the prisons in Tiruchi, Chennai, Vellore, Palayamkottai observed a fast on Friday. It was on November 24, CPI (Maoist) central committee member Kuppu alias Devraj, and State-level leader from Tamil Nadu Ajitha were gunned down by members of ‘Thunderbolt’.Meanwhile, posters condemning the encounter appeared at Agali of Palakkad district bordering Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. The posters in Malayalam bore the name of CPI (Maoist), Bhavani base. The posters hailed the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and called for fighting against militarisation. Anti-Maoist squads of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are on vigil following the surfacing of posters. (The Hindu 9/12/16)

259. Four Naxals, three sympathisers arrested in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Four Naxals, carrying a cash reward and three Maoist supporters were arrested from separate places in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said on Saturday. While the Naxals were nabbed from Bedre police station area on Friday evening, three sympathisers were held from Gangaloor police station limits on Saturday. Based on specific inputs that four Naxals had arrived at Karkeli weekly market in Bedre area to conduct reconnaissance of a police camp, local police swung into action, said Kutru sub divisional officer of police (SDOP) Prashant Shukla. Of them, Waale Pallo, 35, head of Chetna Natya Manch (CNM-a cultural wing of Maoists) was a prominent cadre and carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh on his head, he said. Besides, three others – head of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan (DAKMS) of Maoists Doli Majji, 45, militia commander Somdu Tati, 28, another head of DAKMS Karve Majji, the SDOP said, adding, that they all were carrying reward of Rs 1 lakh each. All four were allegedly involved in the incidents of attempt to murder, kidnapping, damaging roads, torching vehicles and attacks on police party. In a separate incident, a joint team of CRPF’s 85th battalion and district force rounded up three Maoist supporters while carrying out an area domination operation to the interiors of Gangaloor police station limits. The arrested were identified as Hemla Budhu, 35, Aytu Kudiam ,30, and Ursa Budhram, 35, he said. (Times of India 11/12/16)

260. Sashastra Seema Bal sends 20 girls from naxal areas on expedition across cities (12)

Gaya: In an effort to introduce Naxalites back into mainstream society, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) recently sent 20 girls from Naxal areas in Gaya on an expedition to Ahmedabad, Dwarka, Jamnagar and New Delhi. “The place from where the girls come from, that is affected by Naxalism. A strong message will go out to these areas and the villagers will get a chance to directly contact the government,” said Gaya District Magistrate Kumar Ravi. “This is the first time people of this place have got such opportunity. This will surely have a great experience and will help to develop our Naxal-hit places,” said Shani Das, the brother of one of the girls selected for the trip. Families of these girls and residents of Gaya are delighted by the step and are looking forward to many more such efforts by the government in the future. (Indian Express 13/12/16)

261. State govt to induct youths in naxal-affected areas as auxiliary police: Jharkhand CM (12)

Ranchi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das on Wednesday said that the state government was planning to start a programme of inducting youngsters in the naxal-affected areas as auxiliary police, who will be later absorbed as regular police. He also said that demonetisation has hit the naxals and other extremist elements hard. Speaking at the inaugural three-day workshop of police officials from 10 Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states conducted by the CRPF here, Das said that development and peace were complementary to each other. The programme, said Das, envisaged inducting the youngsters from these areas as auxiliary and absorbing them as regular police after three years of training. Das also stressed on the need for better coordination and sharing of intelligence between the states. Top officials from security forces – CRPF, SSB, BSF, ITBP and special commando forces – are also attending the workshop. Das also said that demonetisation has hit the naxals hard, as they were not able to implement their nefarious designs against the security forces. He also referred to peace in Jammu and Kashmir after demonetisation, saying the extremists were finding it difficult to operate. K Vijay Kumar, special security advisor to the Ministry of Home Affairs who also attended the conference, advised the officials to ensure that the forces merged well with the local populace in order to gain their support. Lauding Jharkhand’s efforts in anti-naxal operations, Kumar said that the personnel should respect the local traditions and take initiatives for bringing development in those places. During the workshop, the officials from 10 states – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal – discussed ways to share intelligence and make coordinated efforts in curbing naxal movements. They also discussed use of media and social media, besides technology in dealing with naxals. Various other issues, including case studies of successful operations by security forces, will also be discussed over the next two days. (Indian Express 14/12/16)

262. In Gadchiroli: Tribals at crossfire between cops and Naxals (12)

Naxalism set its foot in this area soon after Gadchiroli district was formed carving out Chandrapur district in 1982. “They have opposing all developmental works since decades. A few roads which are laid down in this area have been constructed under police protection.” A number of left wing extremist outfits have been operating in remote and poorly connected pockets under the banner of CPI (Maoist) party. “The CPI (Maoist) is the major outfit responsible for majority of incidents of violence, killing of civilians and security forces,” says a cop.The party has been included in the Schedule of Terrorists Organizations under the Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. However, it continues to operate in the entire red-corridor of the country which spans several states.”The Maoist insurgency doctrine glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures. The Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist), has been created with this purpose in mind,” says a top police official. The absence of development and governance in the entire district offers hot-bed to naxalites since the delivery systems have been extinguished through violence, killings and intimidation. The southern east district of Maharashtra- Gadchiroli-is spread across 14,000 sq km and has over 1,600 villages including some in far flung hilly-forest areas. Only 1,400 villages are electrified, says the statistics of collectorate office. Less than 7% of the district is classified as urban and over 76% is covered by forests. Only, 18.5 kilometers railway route passes through the district. Most of the population relies on farming and forest produce like tendu leaves, bamboo, Mahua etc. Apart from lack of livelihood resources, the district lags behind rest of Maharashtra in almost all developmental and socio-economic parameters. “This is despite the fact that the area has iron, gold and diamond in abundance,” says Ashok Nete, Member of Parliament, Gadchiroli-Shimur. He adds that tough living conditions, poverty, lack of education, missing administration helped naxals to pursue their propaganda wooing/coercing dzoens of youngsters to join naxalism over the years….. (DNA 20/12/16)

263. ‘Time has come to expose Maoists’ (12)

VIJAYAWADA:  AP Intelligence chief A.B. Venkateswara Rao here on Tuesday said that lack of counter argument to the stand taken by the Left Wing Extremists (LWE) among intellectuals of the country, educational institutions and think tanks was a major threat to national security. Mr. Rao was speaking at the national conference on ‘Mapping India’s National Security Challenges-Today and Tomorrow,’ organised by the Andhra Pradesh police and the Centre for Human Security Studies. “Maoists oppose mining citing various reasons which are rhetoric. Communists and Opposition parties do the same and it has become dominant rhetoric in the whole country where people like Arundhati Roy, Prasanth Bhushan, Medha Patkar, Sai Baba and others too say the same. We don’t find the other side of the argument from any of the educational institutions or think tanks. This is a bigger threat to national security that we should consider first,” Mr. Rao said. “Not their sacrifices but what good has been done to society should be seen. This is not being debated and all sections of society, including journalists, educational institutions, IAS officers, think tanks, politicians and others should express their views,” he said. However, one need not worry about the existence of Maoists as the Central and State forces are capable of handling them without hurting any innocent person, he added.“But does the Indian state has the capacity to fight them ideologically? That is the question to which the Indian state has to answer itself. The real victory is when we expose them (Maoists) ideologically and call them by their actual name. The bureaucracy and the criminal justice system should understand that this is more of an ideological war than a military war,” he said calling upon people of all sections of the government and society to work together.Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, PV Ramana said that every political party including TDP, BJP, and RJD, used Maoists for narrow political gain. Mr. Ramana presented a detailed picture of how the Maoists operate and sustain and said that demonetisation had dealt a death blow to them. Vijayawada DCP Koya Praveen underlined the need for understanding tribal economy and markets in order to eradicate extremism (Times of India 21/12/16)

264. Maoists torch 35 trucks in Maharashtra, traders lose crores (12)

NAGPUR: After lying low for a while, Maoists struck again on Friday, torching 30-35 trucks at Surjagarh, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. No casualties were reported at the time of going to press though some of the truckers were injured. Losses to transporters ran into a few crore rupees. Though security forces claimed not more than 35 trucks were damaged, transporters said the number was around 80. Senior cops said that some security personnel managed to visit the arson site, but no intensive efforts were made for fear that the incident might be a Maoist trap to lure them into a minefield. Santosh Agrawal, a contractor, claimed 11 of his trucks were torched. “Another 11and 58 trucks belonging to two other contractors, too, were damaged,” he said. The trucks transport iron ore from the mines. The Maoists have been opposing mining activities in Surjagarh since the project’s inception. Three representatives of Lloyds Metals and Energy Ltd, executing the project, have been shot dead at the site in the past. Around 350 locals are engaged in mining work, but the Maoists claim the mining project will drain the area of its natural resources and pave the way for massive displacement. The Maoists have also called a bandh in the district from December 25 to January 3 to highlight several issues, including their opposition to mining. While police claimed around 20-25 armed Maoists, along with some supporters, had stormed the site where the trucks had been, local sources said they may have numbered about 200. After urging the truckers to abandon their vehicles, the Maoists thrashed some of them, triggering rumours that many had died. Sources also said three supervisors of Lloyds Metals, which owns the mining lease at Surjagarh, were left unharmed. State director general of police Satish Mathur said detailed reports of the incident were awaited. “We are undertaking required strategic precautions,” he said.Gadchiroli superintendent of police Abhinav Deshmukh said the Maoists had compelled the labourers to join the action. “Our forces have already visited the site but the formalities will be completed in daylight,” he said. “Some of the truckers have sustained injuries in the incident as the Naxalites thrashed them with sticks and lathis,” Deshmukh said. The security forces, however, have not yet confirmed which local Maoist outfit carried out the attack. A section of the security forces presumes the Maoists might have approached the site from the northern and north-eastern sides after sneaking into Maharashtra from Narayanpur district of Chhattishgarh. The state government has as yet opened a few police posts in Etapalli taluka to surround the mining site, but the vulnerable north and north-eastern sides remain mostly unguarded. (Times of India 24/12/16)

265. Activists who visited Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh arrested under security act (12)

Raipur/Bastar: The Bastar police on Monday arrested seven people from Andhra Pradesh inside the Chhattisgarh border in Sukma district and claimed that they belonged to intellectual wings of Maoists outfits. Police said they seized four motorcycles they were riding, demonetized currency with face value of Rs 1 lakh, mobile phones and Maoist literature from their possession. All the arrested people were presented before a court after registering an FIR at Konta police station of Sukma district. The court sent them to judicial custody. “The accused were found with old currency notes and some important Naxal-related documents. They were arrested and booked and were produced in court,” said Indira Kalyan Elesela, SP of Sukma said. Elsela said those arrested included social activist Durga Prasad (36) of Hydrabad, R. Laxmaiyya (45), secretary of Adiwasi Tudem Dubba, Khammam, journalists B. Prabhakar Rao (52) and Rajendra Prasad (28) from Hyderabad, high court advocates Ch Prabhakar Rao (48) and B. Ravindra Nath (42) Hyderabad and Mohammad Nazim (27), research scholar Osmania University. One of the arrested people – Ch. Prabhakar said the police action was unwarranted because they were only civilians. Police claimed that the both the journalists used to instigate the people while the advocates had enlarged support to the Maoists in encounters and the research scholar was propagating Maoist line of thinking. The seven men were booked under the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CSPA). The accused claimed they were rights activists on a fact-finding mission related to encounters and atrocities in Maoist-affected areas of Telangana and Chhattisgarh. “They left Hyderabad on December 24 and were detained on December 25 in Telangana. Later, Telangana police handed over the team members to Chhattisgarh police. They were human right activists and the citizen of India and the charges framed against them are unconstitutional,” said N Narayandeo, general secretary of Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana. He said the committee has called for a massive protest on Tuesday in Hyderabad. (Hindustan Times 26/12/16)

266. Maoist movement suffered a body blow (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM:  Ever since the Left wing extremism was initiated by CPI (ML) leader Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal in 1967 through the Naxalbari movement in West Bengal and subsequently spearheaded by the leaders like Vempatapu Satyanarayana (Satyam) and Adibhatla Kailasam in Srikakulam and later by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah in the Telangana region, the Naxalites, now called the CPI (Maoist), suffered the worst blow this year. At one go, 30 of their cadres, including a huge number of leaders were killed in an exchange of fire with the anti-Naxal force of Andhra Pradesh Greyhounds at Ramgarh or Ramaguda in the cut-off area of Andhra-Odisha-Border (AOB) region. Between October 24 and 27, the Greyhounds silenced 30 of the Maoists, who included two State zonal committee members (SZCM) such as Bakuri Venkata Ramana alias Ganesh and Kistayya alias Daya, in Ramgarh. In total, two SZCMs, five divisional committee members (DCM) and eight area committee members (ACM) were killed in the exchange of fire. This was the biggest single strike since the Maoist movement began and most importantly the exchange of fire took place in the Maoist heartland in the cut-off area. According to the Superintendent of Police, Visakhapatnam, Rahul Dev Sharma, the area was considered to be impregnable and the police forces breached it. “The entire Maoist command on the Odisha side of the cut-off area was wiped out and sources say that the morale of the Maoists is badly down and they are still to recover,” he said. It is learnt that Central Committee Member (CCM) Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK was hit by a bullet on the leg in the exchange of fire and is still to recover and the Maoist think-tank is reluctant to send Chalapathi another CCM to the area to set things right, as the Tribal cadres are not keen on working under him for his ‘high-handedness’. This has put the entire AOB region in a state of confusion. After the death of Bakuri and Kudumula Venkata Ramana alias Ravi who died of jaundice in April this year, there are no Tribal leaders in the region and the Maoists are exploring different combinations to fill the vacuum. “Different names such as Kakarla Madhavi, Kiran who is the DCM of Pedabayalu area and Boda Anjayya alias Naveen of Korukonda area, are doing the rounds, but so far there is no confirmation,” said Mr. Rahul Dev. Ramaguda was not the only incident that caused a setback to the Maoist movement in the Agency areas in Visakhapatnam district. The killing of Galikonda area committee secretary Gopal alias Azad and his trusted lieutenants Anand and Kamala in Marripakalu-Palasamudram area in Koyyuru mandal on May 4 also weakened the Maoists, especially the Galikonda area committee, which was once a prominent strike force. “The killing of CCM Kuppu Devaraj and a woman Maoist in Nilambur forests in north Kerala suggest their desperation for newer areas,” said Mr. Rahul Dev. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

TRAFFICKING

267. HP survey shows girls being sold (1)

SHIMLA: The alleged trafficking of innocent girls from Shillai and Trans-Giri areas of Sirmaur district in Himachal Pradesh to Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal under the garb of marriages has started alarm bells ringing. State Women’s Commission chairperson visited Sirmaur district to hold a meeting with officials on the issue, while director general of police (DGP) Sanjay Kumar said reports of trafficking of girls from the area had not been established. Shillai and Trans-Giri area is known for its remoteness and backwardness, where people are debt-ridden due to loans from private money-lenders on high interest rates. Besides, people here still follow age-old practices like polygamy, outdated, and costly rituals. High instances of litigations and mutual conflicts, presence of aristocratic class, and drug and alcohol abuse further worsens the situation here, said sources. A survey conducted though Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) workers in 140-145 villages of Shillai area alone revealed that around 570 girls of the area had been married in the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and West Bengal. They said the maximum number of girls were married in Haryana. Sources said if the areas under Pachhad and Sangrah blocks too are included along with Shillai, then the number of girls married in other states easily reaches 2,500. They said some unscrupulous insiders recently started enticing young girls to marry men from neighbouring states who are overage, physically challenged, widowers, divorcees, or socially proclaimed defaulters, by presenting illusionary green pastures and fairy tales before the girls. There are instances where girls have walked out of such marriages, or were abandoned by their husbands, and had returned home only to live a miserable life. Sub-division magistrate (SDM), Shhillai, Vikas Shukla, said it was during the `Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ campaign of the state government that one instance of a minor girl from Jarwa village of Ronhat sub-tehsil of Sirmaur district being kept in wrongful confinement in Jhandutta tehsil of Bilaspur district by her cousin came to their knowledge. He said that the search warrant under Section 97, read with Section 100 of Cr PC was issued to produce the girl, and local police rescued the girl well in time. He said revelations made by the girl were start ling. It appeared that she was on the verge of being sold. …  (Times of India 2/12/16)

268. Mamata cracks down on child trafficking (1)

New Delhi [India], Dec. 5: Taking a strict note on child trafficking, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said the around 24 people have been arrested and the licenses of three nursing homes will be cancelled for their alleged involvement in the illegal racket.”This racket is spread to far flung areas and linked with different states.” she added. She further said special investigating committee comprising of chief secretary, health and home secretary, DG police will look into the child trafficking incidents and have been asked to submit the report to the state government. The incident came days after police in Burdwan, Kolkata unearthed a child trafficking racket. Earlier, the TMC leader had expressed concern over increasing child trafficking cases in the state and asked the officials to come up with stringent steps to curb the menace.  child adoption process tougher to prevent its misuse. (New Kerala 5/12/16)

269. Govt neglects trafficking survivor’s plea (1)

RANCHI: S unil Toppo (name changed), a 17-year-old tribal boy, is running pillar to post to get financial help for his higher studies. Toppo, a resident of Piska Nagri village near the state capital, is a trafficking survivor who was taken to Delhi to work as a domestic help in 2015 after he completed matriculation. But, there was a turn of events once he reached Delhi. Toppo said, “I was beaten up regularly by my employers and not a single penny was paid to me. Disgruntled with the situation, I ran away a few months later and arrived at Delhi railway station. I was then spotted by members of Child Line who sent me to Ranchi later in 2016.” Before he was sent home, Toppo was first produced at the Child Welfare Committee. With a keen interest to pursue higher studies, Toppo took admission as an under-graduate student with a major in arts, at SS Memorial College, seven kms away from his residence. Due to low income, Toppo was unable to attend college regularly as he found it difficult to meet the travelling expenses. He decided to seek the government’s help. In November, he went to meet welfare minister Lois Marandi, but did not receive any help from the minister. He also tried to meet chief minister Raghubar Das but was not allowed to. “I met the welfare minister and asked her to help me. I even gave her a letter but no one got back to me till date. I then went to the CM’s residence to meet him but instead, I was directed to a project building. I was not allowed to meet the CM,” Toppo said. Meera Mishra of Ranchi child welfare committee recently met Toppo and expressed her disappointment over the futile incidents. “This is just one case and it shows how the government is not serious about rehabilitation of trafficking survivors. If no one helps him, he will fall prey to trafficking again and be exploited,” Mishra said. (Times of india 8/12/16)

270. ‘Victims settling down to new environment’ (1)

Mysuru: A study of 16 trafficked children has revealed that they are settling down into their new environment in two adoption agencies in Mandya and a children’s home in Mysuru, where they had been housed after the Mysuru district police unearthed a child trafficking racket.A mental health specialist, who examined the children, was of the opinion that the children were “well-settled” as they were responding to stimulus and did not appear distressed. A few older children, between three-and-a-half-to six years, may have gone through a traumatic period in the earlier days of the separation, but are also settling down, a member of the expert committee, constituted by the State government to study the condition of the trafficked children, told The Hindu. The mental health specialist, however, has not ruled out a long-term impact on the minds of the older children and hence recommended further psychological counselling. The committee, headed by Deputy Director of Women and Child Development, Mysuru, K. Radha, and comprising child rights expert Nina Nayak, submitted a a six-page report to the State government and Mysuru Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep with individual recommendations for each of the 16 trafficked children. The committee has recommended a background check of all the trafficked children by tracing their biological parents and ascertaining their claim over the children, before releasing them for adoption. The parents of the three children had already claimed them. The committee has also sought a detailed background check of the caregivers, who had purchased the children from the traffickers. “There is a need to check if they have any criminal background,” a committee member said. He added that the CWC, after seeking an exemption from Central Adoption Resource Authority, can consider handing over the older children to the caregivers on “humanitarian grounds” if all perceivable risks to the children are ruled out. Though the report has also taken note of the “bond” between the older children and caregivers, a member of the committee felt that the caregivers had violated Section 80 and 81 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 by purchasing the children illegally. At least six caregivers had allegedly falsified records by including their names as parents in the children’s birth certificate. The district police had blown the lid off a major child trafficking racket by arresting eight alleged traffickers and taking custody of 16 children from their illegal caregivers. (The Hindu 8/12/16)

271. Middleman identified in child trafficking racket (1)

Mumbai: Investigators have identified a Maharashtra-based middleman in the child trafficking racket that was busted on Monday.The lid was blown off the racket with the arrest of Govandi resident Yogita Saale (21), who allegedly kidnapped her relative’s one-and-a-half-year-old son and sold him to a child trafficking ring in Goa. The police went on to arrest Asha Thakur (36), Noorjehan Mulla (40) and Prabhavati Naik (48) from Phonda in Goa, who allegedly bought the boy for Rs. 2.5 lakh. Deputy Commissioner of Police Shahaji Umap, Zone VI, said, “We are on the lookout for a man identified only as Rajiv till now, who is based either in Pune or in Ahmednagar. It was this man who introduced Asha, who is from Titwala in the Thane district, to the other two accused. Further inquiries into this aspect are under way.” Investigations have also revealed that it was Asha who offered to arrange the exchange for Yogita. An officer with the Mankhurd police said, “Asha was aware that Yogita was in serious need of money and told her that she could get a handsome amount if she kidnapped a child and brought him to Goa. She then put Yogita in touch with the other two women, after which a deal was finalised. Yogita was to kidnap a child at her own risk and deliver him to Goa, where someone would be waiting to receive her.” The police suspect that the Goa-based gang intended to sell the victim, Ahmed Khan, into a begging racket either in Goa or some other city. As Asha hails from Maharashtra, Noorjehan from Goa and Prabhavati from Karnataka, the police have not disregarded the possibility of the racket reaching into other States in the country. Officials said there could be more people involved in the racket. The accused are being interrogated to find out the finer details about the gang’s modus operandi. Mr. Umap added, “All the four arrested accused were produced in court on Tuesday and have been remanded to our custody for four days.” The police on Tuesday evening made two more arrests in the case. Mr. Umap said Yogita’s husband Ganesh (27) had been arrested along with a lady from Ulhasnagar identified as Mala Wankhede (40). Mr. Umap said, “Ganesh was in touch with Yogita and Asha when they were taking the victim to Goa. Mala was found to have been in touch with Asha. We have formed multiple teams to ensure speedy investigation.” (The Hindu 13/12/16)

272. 36 minors rescued from human traffickers in China (1)

Beijing: Police in China has busted a child trafficking racket, rescued 36 children and arrested 157 suspects, reports said on Wednesday. The network, led by two suspects — Xiong and Hou, had allegedly abducted dozens of children since 2014 and were operating in several regions in China, Xinhua news reported. In May, police found the first clues to the racket during an investigation of Tan, alleged to be one of the main mediators. The illegal practice continues in China, especially in rural areas, where some families were ready to pay large sums of money to “adopt” a boy. The ministry of public security said in a statement that it would continue to crack down on these networks and promised zero tolerance for child and women trafficking. (Business Standard 14/12/16)

273. Woman using her daughters to run sex racket arrested (1)

Kolkata: A woman has been arrested for running a flying brothel using children, including three of her own. The kids — between 8 and 14 years, were groomed and used in the sex racket that operated out of flats in residential localities in the city and the suburbs. The CID has arrested the mother along with her companion, and two others (one of them a notorious trafficker) from a Sonarpur flat. The gang has been running the brothels in old residential neighbourhoods of Tollygunge and Behala, where they rented flats and feigned to be regular families living with children. The six children, including two 8-year-olds, were rescued by CID’s anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) and NGO International Justice Mission (IJM). They have been sent to a home run by Sanlaap and will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The 35-year-old woman has been accused of running the sex racket, which catches the girls very young. Her daughters — aged 8, 9 and 14 — were also used for prostitution, police said. They also arrested her companion Abhishek Saha, Anil Bhowmik who is known to be trafficker and was arrested in three other similar cases earlier, and Mumbai-based Santosh Lanchekar, who is allegedly involved in the racket.arbari Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge, AHTU, CID, told TOI on Tuesday, “This is a rare case where a mother herself has used her kids for prostitution.” Officials revealed the rates of the younger children were higher. The woman and her accomplices have been charged with letting a string of customers sexually abuse the children and exposing them to men who had complete and unfettered access to the flats. Multiple charges have been slapped on the four arrested. Saji Philip, director of operation, IJM, which is a global human rights organization working for victims of violence, said, “This incident shows that children can’t be safe with even their mothers.”The rescue operation was conducted till late last Wednesday. Madhusudhan Nath, deputy superintendent (special), AHTU, CID, said, “We closed in on the location around 4pm on Wednesday in an operation spanning several hours and rescued five girls at first.” While gathering evidence and interrogating the mother and her companion, the team got word that another young girl was on way to the apartment. CID then mobilized to intercept the sixth victim and her escort. The escort accompanying this girl tuned out to be Bhowmik. The sixth victim is 13 years old; police say she has been abused for a month and taken to several places in India., even as far as Jaipur, under the “tutelage of some madam.” (Times of India 14/12/16)

274. Documenting trail of victim of trafficking (1)

CHENNAI: The US Consulate with the Madras Christian Council for Social Services (MCCSS) on Friday released a short documentary on anti-human trafficking called ` Akhalya’ inspired by the true story of a trafficked child. The 20-minute documentary , funded by the Union ministry for women and child, captures the story of a teen girl aspiring to be a cine star.She was lured by traffickers under the pretext of offering her film opportunities. “The girl hailed from a rural background and it was very easy for others to trap her as she did not have parental or family care either. This was one of the stories that truly touched us and we wanted to share it to raise awareness, especially among young women who are attracted to the glamour world and shouldn’t be conned in their journey ,” said Isabelle Richardson, executive secretary of MCCSS. Akhalya is the second part of the film Kadathal (Trafficked). The council decided to tell the story through the film medium as it felt that films always catch the attention of students. As part of their student awareness programmes, the council will screen the film and distribute CDs in schools and colleges to raise awareness. (Times of India 17/12/16)

275. ‘NGOs wary of taking up scheme for rehabilitation of trafficking victims’ (1)

Chennai: The scheme aims at the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked women and children with their families within the country or across borders. Officials also add that of the organisations that do come forward, most leave the project midway. The scheme funded by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development can be implemented by Social Welfare or Women and Child Welfare departments of a State or voluntary organisations. In the case of the latter, adequate experience in dealing with issues related to trafficking, as well as women and children in need of care and protection is a must. “There are many challenges and risks involved in implementing the scheme, and many do not take it up to avoid conflicts. This affects the vulnerable women and children,” says an official from the department. Isabelle Richardson, executive secretary, Madras Christian Council for Social Services (MCCSS), reportedly the only organisation in Chennai implementing the project, adds: “Every year, we rescue and rehabilitate around 100 women and children. But it’s a big challenge. What is needed is political will. The issue of trafficking must be the top priority for not only the State but society at large.” As per the scheme, the organisations willing to take up the project must first submit a proposal to the State department concerned. The inspecting officer will sanction funds if she is satisfied with the proposal. As much as 60 per cent of the funding is provided by the Centre, 30 per cent by the State and 10 per cent by the implementing agencies.Activists call for greater cooperation between the State and the NGOs, especially when it comes to the matter of security for the women rescued. P. Manorama, founder director, CHES, a collaboration partner of Childline India Foundation, recalls an incident where a young trafficked girl was rescued and rehabilitated, but ended up going back to sex work. “Most of these women are poor or are dealing with substance abuse. They need quality rehabilitation measures. This is currently lacking,” she says. “They are trained in mat weaving, candle making and such. How can they support their families by selling candles or mats? They need something solid which will guarantee them a decent pay once they go out. Else, the chances are high they will return to sex work,” she adds. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

276. Indian authorities rescue 70 trafficking victims (1)

NEW DELHI: Police have rescued 70 victims of human trafficking, including 33 children, in a restive and impoverished region of central India, an official said Thursday. The victims, who had been sold to factories and brick kilns, were being transported on a bus when police intercepted the vehicle following a tip-off from anti-trafficking campaigners in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state on Wednesday. “We have rescued 20 minor boys and 13 girls. Rest of them are adults and were sold as bonded labourers,” Bastar child protection officer Vijay Shankar Sharma told AFP. They were sold for thousands of rupees (tens of dollars) each to factory owners in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Sharma said. Police also arrested a five-member gang on trafficking charges. The children were at a rehabilitation centre and would be sent back to their homes. All the victims are from tribes in resource-rich Bastar and adjoining districts. The area is the epicentre of a decades old insurgency by armed Maoist rebels fighting for land, jobs and other rights for poor ethnic groups. Traffickers lure thousands of vulnerable children from rural areas on false promises of jobs before selling them off to factories, prostitution, forced labour or begging. More than 14 million adults and children are trapped in modern slavery in India, the most of any country, according to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2014 Global Slavery Index. India’s official statistics grossly underestimate the crime with only 5,466 cases of human trafficking reported in 2014. (The New Indian Express 22/12/16)

277. Child trafficking gang busted, 5 babies found (1)

MUMBAI: City police recently busted a major child trafficking racket with the arrest of a gang of six and the rescue of five children who were kidnapped from Mumbai and sold in various other states. Among the five rescued babies, four are boys and one girl, all aged between four months and one year. This is the first time that the city police have managed to bust the racket run by five women and a man. While the police have arrested all six of them, they suspect that at least three to four more women in Goa and Andhra Pradesh may be involved in the racket that is spread across the country. In the past, the police had caught a few people who sold children in other states for begging but had not been able to get to the bottom of the case. Cops are also investigating whether this gang was involved in a few child kidnapping cases in city government hospitals. Those arrested have been identified as Yogita Saale and her husband Ganesh Saale from Mankhurd, Asha Thakur from Ulhasnagar, Prabhav Naik from Andhra Pradesh, and Noorjahan Mulla and Mala Wankhede from Goa. Cops have booked them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 363 and 370 for kidnapping and buying or disposing of any person as a slave, respectively.”The modus operandi of the gang involved kidnapping babies and toddlers from the city and looking for needy couples in other states. They would sell the babies after lying that their parents were impoverished and charge between Rs 2 and Rs 4 lakh,” said Manoj Lohiya, additional commissioner of police (East region). A couple from Goa that had “adopted” such a child said they were told the boy’s father was dead and mother wanted to remarry. The accused made false documents and sold the boy to the couple for Rs 2.5 lakh. The five rescued children have been sent to a rescue centre and will be handed over to their parents post legal procedures, said the police. The racket came to light after Arif Khan, a driver, lodged a complaint that his one-and-half-year-old child had gone missing from the Sathe Nagar slum in Mankhurd. Cops learned that at the same time, a woman from the locality, Yogita Saale, had gone missing too. “Her cellphone location showed she was in Goa. We detained her,” said Sahaji Umap, deputy commissioner of police (Zone VI). She soon spilled the beans on the racket. Police said they are verifying whether the couples to whom the kids were sold had any knowledge about the crime. They are probing whether the Goa couple checked authenticity of the claims during the adoption process. (Times of India 22/12/16)

278. ‘30% of child trafficking in state from Gaya’ (1)

GAYA: In a shocking revelation, an NGO engaged in the prevention of human trafficking, said Gaya district alone accounted for nearly 30% of the child trafficking from the state, mostly to Rajasthan, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.Making a presentation at a programme on human trafficking specially designed for field officials of the police department, at the Circuit House on Saturday, NGO ‘Ek Kiran-Aroh’ convener Manoj Kumar said though detailed statistics were not available, it can be said on the basis of rescue operations conducted in several states that child trafficking from Gaya was as high as 30% of the total from Bihar. Manoj attributed it to the demographic profile of the district, which has a very high population of Mushars, the most downtrodden among the Mahadalits, and most of the trafficked children were from that community. In many cases, child trafficking was done with the consent of the parents, who wilfully allowed their small children to be taken outside the state on account of sheer poverty.”Awareness creation was the most potent weapon in the war against human trafficking,” he said. Subdivisional and police station level officials shared their experience in relation to human traffic prevention. They said in many cases, rescued children and women went back to work as child/sex workers. The officials complained there was near total lack of sufficiently attractive rehabilitation package to retain rescued women/children. (Times of India 25/12/16)

279. Trafficked minors sacrificed at age altar; POCSO eludes culprits (1)

Pune: Minors are being increasingly smuggled into brothels and, when rescued, several of them are being declared as adults, sparing the POCSO rod for immoral traffickers and further spoiling the future of the traumatised children. This came to light recently after Rescue Foundation, an NGO working with sex workers, was able to trace the families of three minors and obtain their age proofs. But, by then, the forensic department at Sassoon General Hospital had declared them as adults, resulting in the handlers getting booked only for immoral trafficking — and promptly securing bail for themselves — as opposed to being charged under the stringent Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which is non-bailable. “The age of the rescued girl makes a lot of difference. If a victim is a minor, then the pimp and those involved in trafficking are to be booked under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) and the stringent POCSO Act, in which bail is difficult. Moreover, at rescue homes, the rehabilitation for minors and adults is different,” shared Shiny Padiyara, superintendent of the Rescue Foundation’s Pune shelter. The foundation has informed the police and also written to the Sassoon authorities about the incident, after which an inquiry has been ordered at the hospital. Anita Wipat, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), said, “I have written to the Sassoon authorities, informing them about repeated incidents of this kind happening at the hospital, and recommending some alternative arrangement for age verification of victims of sexual abuse. We have forwarded these three cases to Aundh General Hospital for a second opinion. But in such cases where there is an ambiguity, we usually wait for documents and get them verified from more than one hospital.” Padiyara explained that in case of adults, repatriation with families happens much faster and, often, the girl lands up in the flesh trade within days of being let off. In case of minors, however, cases are referred to special authorities and victims are kept under supervision or at shelter homes till they come of age. “Most importantly, the case is tried in special courts and the trail gets over faster,” added Padiyara. Rescue Foundation stated that there have been dozens of such cases in the past. The three cases pertain to minors named Swati, Meera and Kajal (names changed to protect their identity), who were rescued from brothels under the jurisdiction of Faraskhana police station this year. Swati was rescued in July, while Meera and Kajal were picked up in September and December respectively. In keeping with the standard procedure after rescue, they were taken to Sassoon hospital, where tests were carried out to ascertain their ages. In every case, the forensic department was quick to conclude that they were above 18 years of age, but below 20 years. … (Times of India 28/12/16)

CORRUPTION

280. Man who disclosed Rs 14,000cr black money goes missing (5)

AHMEDABAD: A businessman from Gujarat has disappeared after disclosing unaccounted earnings+ of Rs 13,860 crore under the Centre’s Income Declaration Scheme+ (IDS). Mahesh Shah, 67+ , lived in a 4-BHK apartment in an old building in Ahmedabad, and was known to take an autorickshaw to work. The billionaire also owed money to neighbours. Shah’s cash disclosures account for more than 20% of the total Rs 65,000 crore declared under IDS in India. However, in his income tax returns for the past 2-3 years, Shah had shown his annual income as Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. Income tax department sleuths carried out searches at Shah’s residence and his chartered account Tehmul Sethna’s office and residence from November 29 to December 1. “The last time I talked to Shah was on November 29 in the presence of I-T officials. Ever since, he is inaccessible,” Sethna, a partner in the 90-year-old CA firm Appaji Amin & Co, said on Friday. Shah, a big-ticket land dealer with business interests in Gujarat, Mumbai and Pune, had declared his income on September 30 -the last date for disclosures under IDS. The first instalment of Rs 1,560 crore, 25% of the 45% tax imposed on his declared income, was to be paid on November 30. However, Shah’s declaration form was cancelled by the I-T department on November 28. Sethna claimed that Shah’s declaration was cancelled after I-T officials, following a search, felt he would not be able to pay the amount. “I-T department suspects the possibility of money laundering through income disclosed by Shah,” he said. The I-T department, however, said there was no co-relation between Shah’s IDS declaration and the search operations. “It was sheer coincidence that premises of Shah and his business associates were among 67 places searched following market intelligence about illegal currency exchange in Ahmedabad after demonetisation. We had no inkling of Shah’s disclosure under IDS, which is being handled by the assessment branch and is confidential. We have seized Rs 40 lakh in cash and jewellery worth Rs 30 lakh from Shah’s business associates,” said a senior I-T officer.Shah and Sethna came into contact in 2013 when the former approached the CA for tax advice in a land deal. “The land deal never materialised but Shah kept in touch. Shah was not a regular client and I have never filed Shah’s income-tax returns,” Sethna said. He conceded that he never doubted Shah’s credentials though the latter possessed huge amounts of cash. He said Shah had contacts with highly influential people, including politicians, and put up only at five-star hotels in Mumbai. (Times of India 3/12/16)

281. I-T department seizes Rs 130 crore cash, jewellery post demonetization (5)

New Delhi: Cash and jewellery worth Rs 130 crore have been seized and Rs 2,000 crore of undisclosed wealth has been admitted by taxpayers post demonetisation, the I-T Department said today, adding that over 30 cases have been referred to ED and CBI for further investigations. The department has carried out “swift investigations” in more than 400 cases since November 8, a CBDT statement said, adding that concerted action is being taken by the department, ED and CBI in detecting malpractices.“Detecting serious irregularities beyond the Income-Tax Act, the CBDT decided to refer such cases to the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI, enabling them to examine the criminal conduct for immediate necessary action. More than 30 such references have already been made to the ED, and are being sent to the CBI,” it said.“More than Rs 130 crore in cash and jewellery has been seized and approximately Rs 2,000 crore of undisclosed income has been admitted by the taxpayers,” it added In a major assault on black money and terror funding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes and asked holders of such currencies to deposit it in bank accounts by December end. It is estimated that over Rs 14 lakh crore of such high value currency notes were in circulation. As per latest RBI data, Rs 8.45 lakh crore worth of such currencies were deposited in banks till November 27. Giving details of various cases which have been referred to ED and CBI, the statement said the Mumbai unit has referred a case where Rs 80 lakh in new high denomination currency notes were seized. The Bengaluru Investigation Unit of the Income Tax Department has sent maximum references (18) to ED. These are cases where undisclosed cash in new high denomination notes was seized by the Department. (Indian Express 6/12/16)

282. Demonetisation: I-T department discovers 44 fake accounts at Axis Bank’s Chandni Chowk branch Over Rs 100 crores was allegedly found in these accounts. (5)

New Delhi: A survey conducted by the Income-Tax department at the Chandni Chowk branch of Axis Bank on Friday lead to the discovery of 44 fake accounts, news agency ANI reported. Over Rs 100 crore was allegedly  found in these accounts. The bank allegedly did not follow KYC norms set by the RBI. The branch authorities are currently being questioned by police. Tax authorities claimed that since the demonetisation of high tender notes, over Rs 450 crores has been deposited into these accounts. “The department is checking the records of the bank as part of a survey operation. There are some instances under scanner where huge deposits have been made post the currency scarp and that is being probed,” officials said.Axis Bank said that strict action will be taken against employees deviating from its model code of conduct. “Axis Bank is committed to following highest standards of corporate governance & has zero tolerance towards any deviation on part of any of its employees from the set model code of conduct. Strict action will be taken against any employee found deviating from the guidelines. We would also like to add that we are cooperating with the investigating agencies,,” said the bank’s spokesperson.The bank’s Kashmere Gate branch had recently come under the lens of the department for alleged irregularities in deposits post demonetisation. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had arrested two Managers of the Axis Bank and another person in connection with its money laundering probe. PM Narendra Modi had earlier appealed to people to not accept money from others to deposit in their account; and those who force them to do so would face consequence. (The Indian xpress 9/12/16)

283. IT Department seizes Rs 24 crores in new currency notes in Vellore (5)

VELLORE: Following the massive raids on the premises of three Chennai-based businessmen, the Income Tax Department on Saturday confirmed seizing Rs. 24 crores in new currency notes in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. The latest haul is the highest number in cash recovery that has been retrieved so far in the form of new currency. During an investigation, the IT department found out that some cash was hidden in a car in Vellore, upon which it was discovered that all currency was in the form of Rs. 2,000 notes in 12 boxes of Rs. 2 crore each. Upon interrogation of those detained in Chennai, a breakthrough was made in the recovery of this cash wherein the IT sleuths laid a trap for the person transporting Rs. 24 crores in Vellore and subsequently seized the currency. Interrogation is currently underway of those who were detained in Chennai which could lead to further recoveries. Following demonetisation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had carried out massive raids in 50 branches of 10 banks across the nation in an attempt to keep a tab on those account holders, who deposited huge amounts at one time. According to sources, the ED also received a strong tip off that several account holders post demonetisation deposited money and changed their black money into white through banks nationwide. At present, the officials have started to check up those accounts that have suspicious transaction post demonetisation and shining bright on their radar are those banks and branches where maximum amount of cash in old currency has been deposited. Meanwhile, Income Tax officials continue to carry out raids on the premises of three Chennai-based businessmen and Rs. 106 crore in old and new currencies and 127kg of gold bars have been seized so far. The seized money included Rs. 96 crore in old notes and Rs. 10 crore mostly in the newly introduced Rs 2,000 notes. The raided premises belong to industrialist Shekhar Reddy who is a contractor for Tamil Nadu state public works department (PWD), his associate Srinivasa Reddy and their agents, including Prem Kumar. (New Indian Express 10/12/16)

284. 3 corrupt ministers will be forced to resign soon: BSY (5)

BENGALURU: BJP state president and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has said three ministers in the Siddaramaiah government would be forced to submit their resignations on the charges of corruption in the next 15 days. Yeddyurappa’s statement comes in the backdrop of the recent raids conducted on two government officials and the detection of unaccounted wealth to the tune of Rs 152 crore, including Rs 5.7 crore in the new Rs 2,000 currency notes. Speculations are rife in political circles about a nexus between the duo and a couple of ministers in the Siddaramaiah cabinet. Speaking to reporters in Shivamogga, Yeddyurappa alleged Siddaramaiah had failed to provide a graft-free government and the most corrupt ministers were from his inner circle. Investigations against a few ministers have intensified and they would face action in the coming days, he said. Yeddyurappa said S C Jayachandra, chief project officer of Karnataka State Highway Development Project, had revealed the names of a few ministers after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act- 2002. Yeddyurappa dared Siddaramaiah to explain why a minister close to him was getting ready to seek anticipatory bail following demonetization-related raids, asked him who received bribe in the controversial steel flyover project and told him to name the people who got kickbacks in the purchase of pipes for the Rs 14,000 crore Yettinahole project.Saying his efforts had failed to bring about transparency in administration, revenue minister Kagodu Thimmappa on Monday said he’s ready to retire after this term. “I was better off as speaker; I could get things done inside the house. But now, as a minister, I feel helpless. Bureaucrats do not respond even after I seek the CM’s intervention. I would like to stay away from politics after this term. I will be happier if I die before that. But I don’t want to return to politics,” Thimmappa said. (Times of India 13/12/16)

285. Rijiju refutes corruption charges (5)

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is in the eye of a corruption scam, refuted the Congress’ charges involving him and a contractor in a hydro-electric project in Arunachal PradeshDenying that he had written to Power Minister Piyush Goyal last November to help his “brother”, he said he had intervened after the local people told him their payments had been held up for two months. Rijiju said he did not have a brother and “anybody can be bhaiyya”. And “those who are planting this news, if they come to where we are, they will get hit with shoes. Is it corruption to try and help your people?” He maintained that the Prime Minister’s Office had not sought any explanation from him. The Congress charged that Rijiju did not disclose in the letter to Goyal that a cousin, Goboi Rijiju, was a sub-contractor attached to the project. Rijiju said Goboi “is not a blood relative”, adding that in tribal communities and villages, “everyone is related to each other in some way”. Rijiju also said that the contracts for the hydro-electric project were decided by the Congress when it governed Arunachal Pradesh and that “most of the payments were also made during the Congress’ time”. Rijiju said his intervention was solely to assist the small-time daily contractors and workers in his constituency. “When I became an MP in 2014, some villagers approached me requesting to get some pending payments cleared as they were small sub-contractors. I forwarded their letter to Piyush Goyal,” he said. “They were small bills pending since 2012, before we came to power, the contracts were awarded when we were not in the government, the payments were made when we were not in the government,” Rijiju said. Asked about reports that claimed the corruption was worth Rs 450 crore, Rijiju said, “The entire project would not be (worth) that much.” “I was not even an MP then,” the Union minister said asking the Congress to apologise to him for its baseless charges. “The Congress had government in the state and at the Centre during that period. They should explain if there was any corruption in the deals or if there were false or inflated bills,” Rijiju said. (Deccan Herald 14/12/16)

286. AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: Ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi’s CBI remand extended (5)

New Delhi: Ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi’s will undergo further custodial questioning for three more days as CBI on Wednesday told a court that AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam was a “very serious” case requiring his interrogation to unearth the larger conspiracy as the “interest of the nation was compromised”.Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar his custody till December 17 along with that of his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie and advocate Gautam Khaitan, also accused in Rs 450 crore chopper deal bribery case. CBI, however, had sought an extension of their custody by seven days, saying, “It`s a very wide and serious case and some accused and firms from abroad were also involved in the conspiracy. Right now we are handicapped due to want of material. “It is a very high-profile case and we need proper material. One part of the crime was committed in India while various other angles are in foreign land,” CBI said, noting that it has received help from various countries including Italy, Mauritius, Switzerland and the UK. The agency said that their further custodial interrogation was required to reach the bottom of the conspiracy. However, the counsel appearing for SP Tyagi opposed CBI’s plea, saying that he was “a decorated war hero of the nation” and “CBI, which was termed as ‘a caged parrot’ by the Supreme Court, is trying to tarnish his image”.”The FIR only says that the ex-ACM ‘also’ received some amount of cash. It is just a vague allegation,” Tyagi’s counsel said. The counsel submitted that SP Tyagi has already been confronted with his cousin and enough confrontation had taken place much before his arrest. “This arrest was made only for humiliation and not for confrontation,” the counsel said. The court had on December 10 sent the three accused to four days’ CBI custody, which expired today, in the case related to procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime. ….  (Zee News 14/12/16)

287. Gujarat: 3 service tax dept officials suspended for ‘corruption’ (5)

Surat: A senior superintendent and two inspectors of the preventive department of Central Excise and Service Tax, Surat were suspended late Friday night for alleged corrupt practices during a raid conducted on the premises of a city-based real estate firm on October 5. Three suspended officials are identified as Pukhraj Singh, senior superintendent), and Manoj Singh and Rajesh Kumar Meena – both inspectors – under the preventive department of Commissionerate of Central Excise and Service tax, Surat 1. Acting on a tip-off, the three-member team led by superintendent of service tax department had raided the office of the real estate firm on October 5. The team allegedly found over 100 brokers were present in Arihant group office with cash for booking of residential and commercial project on Dumas road. However, the team reported to their higher authorities that during their raids they had found some papers related to tax evasion and also seized Rs 1 crore cash from the realtor. The three had allegedly concealed the presence of brokers during the raid. (Indian Express 20/12/16)

288. Sharp fall in corruption complaints in Gurgaon post demonetisation (5)

Gurgaon: Complaints by people of corruption in government departments have fallen more than 60% since demonetisation, according to data available with the state vigilance bureau in Gurgaon. The data shows that these complaints fell sharply in November and December. The bureau’s range office in Gurgaon looks after Gurgaon and Rohtak ranges. The bureau receives an average of 18 complaints per month in each range. In October, the Gurgaon range received 22 complaints, which fell to eight in November and two by mid-December. The Rohtak range received 24 complaints of corruption in October that fell to seven in November and two by the first half of December. Most of the complaints pertained to seeking bribe for clearing files and releasing funds to contractors for completed government works. In contrast, last year the bureau received 16 complaints in October, 19 in November and 18 in December from the Gurgaon range. The bureau entertains complaints against government officials and employees. Investigations, however, often also cover private persons if they are found to have played a role in a matter. “A sharp decline has been noticed in complaints after the demonetisation decision. Since a majority of complaints are related to bribery, shortage of cash seems to have affected corruption also,” said Sheel Madhur, director general of police, state vigilance bureau, Gurgaon. He added that there has not been much impact on raids as they are carried out on the basis of internal information and sometimes on specific complaints. The bureau has been receiving most complaints about the police department, followed by the municipal corporation, revenue department, district administration office, and food and supply department. Complaints are also received about various other departments including education, roadways, housing, public health, and home guards. Complaints are received online, through post, and personal meetings with officials. Many complaints are also received through police headquarters and the chief minister’s window facility. Madhur said the bureau released a new email ID – infosvb@gmail.com – early this month to receive complaints and suggestions from the public. “Being in touch with the public is necessary for the system’s improvement,” he said. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

289. Demonetisation not last action against corruption: NITI Ayog chief hints at more schemes (5)

BHUBANESWAR: Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation+ scheme as a “frontal attack” on black money, NITI Ayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya+ on Thursday said more such actions are in store to curb corruption. “If you are asking that demonetisation is the last step to curb corruption, then I will say no. I think more actions will be taken+ , but in terms of taking action against the existing black money and also in changing the roles, and the policy regime in such a way that future accumulation of black money is also discouraged … So we need to do both,” Panagariya told a local news channel during his visit to the state to attend a function. Stating that he should not speculate on the actions to be taken, the NITI Ayog vice-chairman said the Prime Minister has to decide about this in consultation with his advisors. “We will wait and see…,” he said adding, discussion were on and hopefully some action would be seen in the budget. He said the Union finance minister had already had a commitment to streamline the corporate income tax and hopefully some progress would be made. “Some progress was made last year. Let’s hope more progress in the coming year. So simplification of taxes and reduction in the tax rates should discourage accumulation of black money,” Panagariya said. Replying to a question on the changing scenario in wake of demonetisation scheme, Panagariya said, “There will be some impact in the 2016-17 fiscal+ because of demonetisation. We have only the five months left…. (Times of India 22/12/16)

290. War on corruption: Narendra Modi vows to fix benami properties next (5)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Sunday that the government would soon put in place a strong law to effectively deal with benami properties, saying the move would bolster his “extraordinary war” on corruption and black money. “A benami property law came into being in 1988, but its rules were never framed. It remained dormant for years. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law. We will soon make it operational,” he said. Benami properties are those held in the name of other people and not those who actually finance them. “I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said. In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, the PM also unveiled two reward schemes — Lucky Grahak Yojana for customers and Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana for traders — to push cashless transactions. He said 1,500 people would get daily rewards of Rs 1,000 each. Lakhs of rupees would be up for grabs during weekly draws. A bumper draw on April 14 will have rewards in crores. This will be for those who go for cashless transactions and make a purchase worth more than Rs 50 but less than Rs 3,000 to keep special focus on the poor and the lower middle-class segments.Mr Modi’s announcement to a stunned nation on November 8 that he would scrap 86 per cent of the cash in circulation immediately led to a crippling cash crunch. He had then promised to restore normalcy by the end of the year, but long queues have stayed outside low-on-cash banks and ATM kiosks. Mr Modi defended frequent changes in currency rules after the Centre recalled high-value bills, and said this was done to reduce people’s problems and defeat corrupt. He said that those involved in “this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption” had to be defeated as they were devising “newer wily ways and means” to thwart the government’s efforts every day. “To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively,” he said. The Prime Minister said he was happy that awareness towards online payments was increasing, claiming there had been a 200 per cent to 300 per cent jump in cashless transactions in recent days. He said that businessmen who adopt digital transactions and develop online payment processes in their trade activities would also get income tax rebate. … (Deccan Chronicle 26/12/16)

291. AgustaWestland case: Court questions CBI case against SP Tyagi, gives him bail (5)

NEW DELHI: Granting bail to former IAF chief Shashindra Pal Tyagi, accused of receiving kickbacks illegally in the AgustaWestland case, a special court on Monday observed that the CBI had failed to show when and how much of the alleged bribe was paid to him though the investigation had gone on for almost four years. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also pointed out that the allegation that Tyagi’s properties were linked to the alleged illegal gratification was not investigated in over three-and-a-half years. “During arguments, CBI failed to state as to how much cash was paid to the accused and when it was paid. Admittedly, the CBI has seized the documents regarding properties in the year 2013 and more than 3 years and 9 months have passed, but could not conduct investigation in this regard..” the special court observed. CBI counsel and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had opposed Tyagi’s bail plea, arguing that they had found “new” evidence to build its case against Tyagi. Opposing the bail plea of Tyagi, Mehta has said that the accused could “influence or prewarning” witnesses and “destroy evidence”. The investigation was a “multi-lawyered” one, involving multiple jurisdictions abroad, Mehta had reasoned. Crucially for Tyagi, the court noted that the air chief had retired in 2007 and the CBI’s apprehension of him influencing witnesses does not hold water. “Hence, to my mind, the apprehension of the CBI that he would be influencing the witnesses who has been subordinate to him during the tenure of his service appears unfounded,” the court said. … (Times of India 27/12/16)

292. Fine for holding old notes post March 31, jail likely (5)

New Delhi: Holding “a large number” of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes beyond March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 10,000 or five times the cash held, whichever is higher, as the Union Cabinet approved on Wednesday the promulgation of an Ordinance to make the same a penal offence. Sources said the proposal put to the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also included a four-year jail term for offenders, but it was not immediately clear if it was approved. While there was no immediate clarity on the number of old notes that can be legally held, a news agency report said that their possession would only be permitted for research and numismatics. The notes withdrawn from circulation on November 8 to fight black money and corruption are being deposited at banks till December 30. After that there will be a window till March 31 to deposit them at Reserve Bank of India (RBI) branches. As per the Ordinance, furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount. The Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent. It is expected to be replaced by a law in the Budget session of Parliament, likely to begin by the end of January. The Ordinance would also amend the RBI Act to extinguish the government’s and the RBI’s liability — to pay the bearer of the scrapped notes the value promised. Similar laws were enacted in the past after the demonetisation of Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes in 1978. PM Modi’s announcement of his radical monetary reform to a stunned nation scrapped Rs 15.44 lakh crore overnight. Of this, about Rs 14 lakh crore has been either exchanged or deposited at banks. Some of the remaining scrapped cash in circulation has also been destroyed to escape scrutiny.   While the high-denomination currency ceased to be a legal tender, a mere notification was thought to be not enough to avoid future litigations. The RBI’s pledge on the scrapped currency can be nullified only by legislation after giving due opportunity to everyone to return old notes. …  (The Asian Age 29/12/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

293. Union environment minister urges corporates to allocate budget for waste treatment (9)

GANDHINAGAR: Union minister of state (Independent Charge) for environment, forest and climate change, Anil Madhav Dave urged corporates to spare the money for waste treatment just like corporate social responsibility. He said just like social responsibility, corporates are responsible to environment too and hence they should allocate funds for waste treatment projects. The minister was speaking today at the WASTECH International Summit & Expo organised by Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Confederation of Indian Industry at Mahatma Mandir, Gandhi Nagar. Dave said change in attitude towards waste is the key to waste management. Segregation of waste is the biggest problem in Indian society. Mixed discharge of solid and liquid waste creates a problem in waste treatment. To leave food in dish should be considered as discourtesy towards environment, he added. Minister also emphasized to use a solar energy to reduce waste generation. Chief minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani thanked environment ministry for removing moratorium on industrial clusters in Gujarat and expressed hope that this move will attract investment of worth Rs. 10000 Crore in the state. Union minister Dave along with chief minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani, and environment minister of Gujarat, Shankarbhai Chaudhry, launched ‘Zero liquid discharge manual’, ‘Compendium of SOP for recently amended hazardous waste rules’ and ‘Guidance on best available technique document’ on the occasion. In compliance with the Prime Minister’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign, WASTECH 2016 will be a ‘Zero Waste’ event. Different forms of waste generated during the event will be collected and recycled. (Times of India 3/12/16)

294. Soon, segregation of dry and wet waste will be compulsory all housing societies (9)

MUMBAI: Dry and wet waste segregation will soon be made compulsory for all housing societies in the city. Besides, new constructions will have to mandatorily set up waste segregation and treatment plants inside their premises; this will be one of the pre-conditions for securing building permission. On Monday, the BMC’s improvement committee cleared a proposal to bring about changes in the Development Control Regulations (DCR) 1991 for the twin purpose. The proposal will come up for discussion in the BMC’s general body meeting in the next few days. Following the committee’s clearance, it will be sent to the government for its final approval. Sources said since the BMC has taken the decision based on the Bombay high court’s directions, the general body and the state government will give their sanction to the proposal on a priority basis. The BMC has also made a similar proposal in the draft development plan (DP) 2034, which is under discussion. But by making changes in the DCR 1991, the BMC will ensure that the plan can be implemented immediately after the state government’s approval comes in. “It is a welcome move and the first step in a long process which needs a backup of manpower and infrastructure. The system will not take off if the civic authority does not involve ragpickers in the process of segregating garbage generated in slums. The BMC should also create garbage-segregation points in every ward. Garbage mismanagement damages the seashore and mangroves,” said environmentalist D Stalin. Earlier, the BMC had issued a similar directive, attached as a condition for new constructions. “Builders had an option to challenge the directive. But once it is incorporated in the DCR, they have no option but to follow it,” said an officer. Every day, 7,800 metric tonnes of garbage is generated in the city, most of it unsegregated. The BMC carries it to three dumping grounds at Deonar, Mulund and Kanjurmarg but is unable to process it. Ragpickers sometimes burn garbage to collect usable material from it. A few months ago, a similar act allegedly caused a major blaze at the Deonar dumping ground, which handles more waste than its capacity permits. Officials said waste segregation at the source point will reduce burden on dumping grounds and help them develop a better waste-management system. But there are complaints that the BMC is yet to develop infrastructure to collect dry and wet waste separately for processing. The civic body has proposed that societies segregate waste and set up a composting mechanism within their premises. While explaining the proposed changes in the DCR, deputy municipal commissioner (improvement) Chandrashekhar Chore said standalone buildings which do not have the space to set up such a system in their premises, need to ask their residents to separate wet and dry waste. “The BMC will collect both separately and set up recycling plants in a few wards to treat the collected dry waste,” said Chore. The BMC will recycle dry waste in its decentralized plants and then send it to the waste recovery centres managed by NGOs, which, in turn, will use it according to their requirement. The BMC will take wet waste to the dumping ground to process it and make into compost. (Times of India 5/12/16)

295. Climate change will escalate migration in South Asia in coming year: Study (9)

New Delhi, Dec 8 : Cautioning the South Asian countries, especially India to prepare themselves, a study said on Thursday that migration in south Asia will escalate uncontrollably due to climate change.The study was conducted by Action Aid, Climate Action Network South Asia and Bread for the World. “South Asia region is particularly vulnerable to climate change events like drought, heat waves, cyclones, heavy rainfall, floods etc. South Asian countries need support from developed world. The UN’s Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage must work to ensure legal protection for people who are forced to migrate or are displaced by climate change,” Harjeet Singh, Action Aid’s Global Lead on Climate Change told IANS. He added that in case of escalation of migration, India will have to face the extra burden because it will be the destination. In such cases, experts feel that India should be ready with a plan. “South Asian governments unfortunately don’t see climate induced migration as an issue. SAARC is dysfunctional, India should take a lead,” Singh said. As per International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), between 2008 to 2013 over 46 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters in South Asia. India ranked the highest within around 26 million people displaced in the same period. “The sudden-onset disaster doesn’t include draught, seal level rise,” Singh pointed out. The study pointed out the extreme weather events in South Asia in 2016 and how that affected the lives of people. Some events that study quoted included Cyclone Roanu that in May 2106, affected Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh causing damage worth $1.7 billion. It also pointed how India as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal faced one of the worse drought in 2016, affected over 330 million people in India alone. As per a World Bank report released during COP22 at Marrakech, disasters due to climate change pushed over 24 million people to poverty. Another report released at Marrakech climate talks pointed out that 2016, followed by 2015 and 2014 is the hottest year so far. “We urgently need more cross-border efforts to help people cope with the new normal of climate disasters and protect people who are forced to migrate,” said Sanjay Vashist, Climate Action Network South Asia’s Director. (New Kerala 8/12/16)

296. Health cost of air pollution in India assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP (9)

NEW DELHI: The cost of serious health consequences from Particulate Matter pollution is estimated to be around 3 per cent of India’s GDP, according to a Health Ministry statement in Lok Sabha today.Minister of State for Health and Family welfare Anupriya Patel, in a written statement to the Parliament, cited the ‘India – Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges’ report prepared by the World Bank Disaster Management and Climate Change Unit, which states that the total damage because of environmental degradation amounts to Rs. 3.75 trillion, which is equivalent to around 5.7 per cent of the India’s GDP. “Government is making efforts to control air pollution by formulating environmental regulations, setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality and promoting cleaner production processes,” Patel informed Lok Sabha today.Introduction of alternate fuels like gaseous fuel (CNG, LPG), implementation of Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) norms in 63 select cities, promotion of public transport network of metro, buses, e-rickshaws and phasing out of 15 year old diesel vehicles in Delhi were some other steps taken by the Government to improve the air quality, the Minister said. Meanwhile, Greenpeace India too, in a report, has claimed that total deaths caused due to air pollution in the country are underestimated at least by six lakh people.According to the report, air pollution kills over 1.6 million people in India and China every year due to increasing use of fossil fuels, particularly coal. It adds that out of the 6.5 million global deaths from air pollution in 2015, 3.4 million deaths were in China and India. (Times of India 9/12/16)

297. Research shows effect of toxic pollution on fishes (9)

Washington D.C. [US], Dec.11 : A recent research identifies the genetic mechanism responsible for evolutionary adaptation to toxic pollution observed in wild Atlantic killifish populations.The Atlantic killifish is renowned for its ability to tolerate large fluctuations in temperature, salinity and oxygen levels. However, its rapid adaptation to the normally lethal levels of toxic pollution found in some urban estuaries in the US is unusual, even for such a hardy species. A report by a collaborative team of research institutions including the University of Birmingham, found that some populations of killifish are up to 8,000 times more resistant than others to highly toxic industrial pollutants such as dioxins, heavy metals and hydrocarbons. The team analysed the genomes of four wild populations of pollution-tolerant killifish compared with four non-tolerant populations, to identify the mechanism behind this adaptation. They found that the genes responsible for the trait were those involved in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) signalling pathway, which combined with observations of desensitisation of this pathway in tolerant populations, led them to conclude that the AHR pathway is a key target of natural selection. The team also showed that the potentially negative effects of desensitisation of the AHR pathway were ameliorated through compensatory adaptations in terms of cell cycle regulation and immune system function. This, combined with the diversity of pollutants present in estuaries, results in a relatively complex adaptive genotype in wild populations compared to that of laboratory models. John Colbourne, who oversaw the sequencing of the genomes, said: “This report highlights the complexity of the processes involved in the adaptation of wild fish to lethal levels of environmental pollution. It also demonstrates how the DNA of populations that differ in their susceptibility to pollutants can reveal signatures of the adverse effects of chemicals in the environment.” “The Atlantic killifish seem particularly well-positioned to evolve the necessary adaptations to survive in radically altered habitats, because of their large population sizes and the relatively high level of DNA diversity seen in their populations,” he added. The researchers warn that these findings should not be used to justify the harm caused by human pollution of the natural environment. (New Kerala 11/12/16)

298. 5,844 wells ready to store rainwater as part of Haritha Keralam project (9)

KOCHI: Giving a major fillip to the State Government’s Haritha Keralam project which aims at the expansion of agricultural land, water conservation and cleanliness, the district is ready to store rainwater in 5,844 wells. District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla, in a statement here on Tuesday, said that 622 projects have been mooted aimed at water conservation alone. “As a part of the Haritha Keralam project, 284 ponds have been cleaned so far and are ready to store water. In addition, a 23.65 km-long bund has also been constructed and canals also cleared in 99.6 km in several parts of the district,” he said. As per the official data, the district administration has received 1,338 projects from the grama panchayats for implementation under the Haritha Keralam project. “Of which, 353 projects are for kick-starting cultivation in barren land. 550 projects are mainly for waste management. In addition, there are 419 and 33 projects in municipalities and Corporation respectively,” the Collector added. It was on December 8 that the district-level inauguration of Haritha Keralam was done by Education Minister C Raveendranath. The project took off with vegetable cultivation on 50 cents close to the district panchayat building. (The New Indian Express 14/12/16)

299. Majuli to be India’s first ever carbon neutral district (9)

GUWAHATI: Assam government has initiated a project to make river island Majuli the country’s first ever Carbon Neutral district by 2020. The project titled ‘Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli’ (SACReD, Majuli) has been initiated by Assam’s department of Environment and Forest and was launched by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity and Climate) A K Johari at Majuli on Wednesday. The project, SACReD, Majuli has been initiated to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Majuli Deputy Commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said on Thursday. Jha introduced the importance of climate-based decision making and highlighted the need for low emission development strategy for Majuli to ensure sustainable development. Mitigation through forestry activities and biodiversity conservation will be the starting points for the carbon neutral agenda followed by other interventions over the next three years, Johari said. The project will be designed and implemented in partnership with other departments of the district for which a district level committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner has been constituted. (Times of India 15/12/16)

300. Air pollution: Beijing fights, Delhi sleeps under toxic sky (9)

NEW DELHI: The capital cities of world’s two most populous countries have similar skylines. On ground though, the scenes are contrasting as Beijing pulls out all stops in its bid to bring down pollution levels. In stark contrast, Delhi’s air remains defiantly toxic with no effective measure to challenge it. On Monday morning, Delhi’s air quality was almost twice as toxic as that over Beijing. Around noon, the US Embassy monitoring station showed PM 2.5 levels at 375 micrograms per cubic metre. Around the same time, Beijing’s PM 2.5 level was at 199 micrograms per cubic metre. The safe level for PM 2.5 as prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO) is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, and while residents in both citizens are choking, Beijing has gone ahead and enforced drastic measures. A red alert was issued on Friday and odd-even traffic management rule was enforced for five days. Additional public transportation has been deployed on the roads while city’s education department ordered all kindergartens, primary schools and private training centres to suspend classes. The safe level for PM 2.5 as prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO) is 60 micrograms per cubic metre.Pollution levels in the city have remained alarmingly high for well over two months. While PM 2.5 levels may have come down from apocalyptic-like levels post Diwali, it continues to be several times over what is considered safe globally. No odds. No evens. No offs. “Alarm bells only ring if pollution is visible,” a Centre for Science and Environment official told reporters recently. “What people and authorities in Delhi do not understand is that invisible pollution is equally dangerous and a grim reality of the city’s winter.” … (Times of India 19/12/16)

301. Science meet puts onus on children to fight air pollution (9)

New Delhi: : To mitigate air pollution and come up with scientific models to make a change in the future, the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan organised a competition for school children to tap into their creativity to find a solution. The winner of the ‘Innovation Award’ was a project by Class XI students of Amity International School, Pushp Vihar will now be referred to students at IIT Delhi, who will be given the opportunity to come up with a working prototype of the model. The model was of a ‘self—sustainable’ car that runs using electromagnetic induction. Addressing students at the event, the chief guest JNU Rector Chintamani Mohapatra said that there was a war going on at present to battle a silent killer — pollution. “The war is between those polluting the evironment and those fighting pollution. In this war, students are the best foot soldiers and leaders as it is their future that is at stake.” He felt that the air and water were considered free goods not so long ago but access to clean air and water has now become scarce and it is for children to spread the word and stress on the importance of mitigating air pollution as their voice is stronger than any policy, article or research paper on the issue.Rajiv Chandran from the UNIC said that the competition was a part of efforts to reach civil society and in particular young people to act on achieving the sustainable development goals. He felt that what the students had come up with was more than just a science project and could be implemented in the real world. Apart from the working science model competition, awards were given out for a slogan writing and poster making competition as well as a painting and sculpture competition. The event was jointly organised by United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan, Sonalika Group of Companies, National Progressive Schools’ Conference and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

302. NGT asks Delhi govt to shut hazardous industries in East Delhi (9)

New Delhi: Noting that functioning of industrial units in residential areas is harmful, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Delhi government and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take action against all such units operating without consent. A bench headed by Justice U D Salvi pulled up BSES Yamuna for supplying electricity to industrial units located in the Vishwas Nagar area here and directed it to immediately snap electricity connections to them. “As of today, it is evident that several industrial units are being run unauthorisedly without consent to operate being obtained from the competent authority in accordance with the law in Vishwas Nagar, Delhi. Obviously, their operations are deleterious to the environment generally and in particular to the area of Vishwas Nagar,” the bench, also comprising Expert Member Ranjan Chatterjee, said, adding, “We direct the Delhi government and authorities concerned to take action against all the industrial units operating without consent to operate granted by DPCC in accordance with law.” Advocate Balendu Shekhar, appearing for the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, told the bench that several industrial units in Vishwas Nagar were being run without authorisation in gross violation of the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act and directions of the Supreme Court. However, the association of Vishwas Nagar Small Scale Manufacturing and Traders told the NGT that Vishwas Nagar has more than 70 per cent plots under manufacturing activity and according to the physical surveys carried out by the Delhi government, the area deserves to be declared as an industrial area. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by local resident S N Rohatgi, who had approached the green panel against industrial units operating in the area and had sought their immediate closure on the ground that these industries were causing air and noise pollution. Rohatgi claimed that Vishwas Nagar was a residential area where 70,000 residents reside and there were 13 schools, besides Chartered Accountants Institute and several private coaching institutes. (Business Standard 25/12/16)

303. Delhi: ​Pollution crosses emergency limit, govt sits on action plan (9)

A month after Central Pollution Control Board submits plan, govt sits on it despite pollution level crossing emergency markWhile the air pollution level crossed the emergency mark — 300 mg per cubic meter of PM 2.5 — over the weekend, the Centre’s ambitious Graded Response Action plan was nowhere in sight. The plan is expected to fix responsibility of neighbouring states in reducing emissions that affect Delhi’s air quality. Although a number of agencies are involved in tackling the issue, the lack of detailing as per the said plan is taking a toll on Delhi’s air quality. Almost a month after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) submitted the plan in the Supreme Court, the government is yet to notify other states and agencies involved. The plan involving three neighbouring states, Delhi government agencies, and municipal bodies is stuck in bureaucratic quagmire, sources said. A senior Delhi government official said: “The file is still with the secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). They are finalising the details. While all stakeholders are aware of their role in the plan, still the gazette notification has to come for them to start acting on it.” According to an analysis conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), pollution levels on December 23 and 24 were seven times higher than the prescribed standards. “This spike was seen due to the decrease in temperature, and the wind speed to 1.8km/hour, which does not allow pollutants to disperse,” the report stated. The pollution level at Anand Vihar went beyond 500 mg per cubic meter while in residential areas such as Punjabi Bagh and Mandir Marg, the levels crossed 400 mg per cubic meter and 300 mg per cubic meter, respectively. While there will be some reprieve from the dense fog in the coming days, the air quality is not likely to improve much as nights will remain cold, trapping the pollutants in the air. Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Senior Scientist at CSE, said: “While combustion level has not come down in Delhi-NCR areas, including Ghaziabad and Faridabad, the weather conditions are making additional difference to pollution level. The city cannot depend on weather alone to make the air quality better. There is no reason why the CPCB should delay the notification process now. The air quality in the Capital will only start improving once the emissions in the NCR industrial units come down.” .. (DNA 27/12/16)

304. More than 10,000 hectare forest land diverted in 2016 (9)

New Delhi: The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) on Monday approved proposals to divert over 4,300 hectares of forest land — mostly for mining purposes. With this the total area of forest land approved for diversion in 2016 is 10,000 hectare. Till August, the FAC had recommended diversion of 4,108 hectare; in November it considered proposals to divert 7,419 hectare; while in the latest meeting it approved diversion of 4,377 hectare. The actual diversion of forests, however, is a much larger figure, as these are the projects involving more than 40 hectare of land. Environmentalists, however, are contesting not just the diversion of forests, but also the cat and mouse game involved in doing so. They also point towards lack of transparency in functioning of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The government, according to the non-governmental organisation EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), which monitors and assesses environmental impact assessment processes, the agenda for FAC meetings, which were earlier announced more than a week in advance, are now announced closer to the dates, making it difficult for environmentalists to review the proposals and present the issues, if any. Pushp Jain, Director of ERC, said, “The FAC is trying to be mischievous. Previously they used to put up the agenda 10-15 days before the meetings. Now they put up the agenda on the public platform 3-4 days before the meetings. Further, some major projects are added to the agenda at the last minute without intimation. For example, in November the Ken-Betwa project was added to the agenda at the last minute.” The agendas, when published, also lack information such as document links for the proposals, Jain said. “There were several problems with this agenda (published on December 19). There were 25 proposals but documents links were given for four proposals only. The title of proposals were incomplete (no mention whether it is a renewal of lease or stage I /II clearance already granted or a new proposal),” ERC said in a statement. In its meeting on Monday, 90 per cent of the forest land diversion has been recommended for mining sector, while about eight per cent has been approved for wind power sector. Of the mining projects, the FAC has recommended diversion of 75 hectare forest land for the Mahan-II open cast coal mine in Chhattisgarh. “The question is why is this forest being diverted at all. The government’s own report says there is no need for further coal capacity addition,” Jain added. Environmentalists have also been contesting the Mahan-II mine, which, they say is located in a biodiversity rich area home to several protected species, such as leopards, sloth bears and elephants. (Business Line 28/12/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

305. Debt-ridden pomegranate grower commits suicide (20)

Chikkamagaluru : A young pomegranate grower committed suicide by consuming pesticide at his farm in Vakkalagere, Kaduru taluk on Thursday. The police gave the name of the farmer as Rudresh (26), who had borrowed Rs. 4 lakh loan, including Rs.1 lakh from a bank, to grow pomegranate in his four-acre farm. His father, Neelakanthappa, told the police that Rudresh was taking care of the land. He had drilled borewells in the farm to cultivate pomegranate. Recently, the borewells dried up. Moreover, he had no earnings from the land to repay the loan, which may have been the reason for him taking this extreme step. His family members found him lying on the ground in his farm, with a bottle of pesticide nearby. He was taken to a hospital, where he died later. Yagati Police have registered an unnatural death report. (The Hindu 2/12/16)

306. Uttar Pradesh first state to give relief for demonetisation deaths (20)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh became first state in the country to announce compensation for family of those who died under the impact of the demonetization move after November 8, including those who lost their lives standing in queues in front of banks and ATMs. A press statement from the Akhilesh Yadav government said, “It is unfortunate that people have died after standing in ATM and bank queues in the state because of ‘notebandi’ (demonetisation). The chief minister has announced to give Rs 2 lakh each from his discretionary fund to the families of all such people who were from a poor background.” Officials have been directed to probe all such deaths. According to reports from Aligarh, Razia had set herself ablaze on November 20 after she spent three days to exchange currency notes of Rs 500 denomination but in vain. According to her husband Akbar Hussain, a daily-wager at a lock factory on Gonda Road, Razia she had been trying to exchange old notes worth Rs 3,000 as they had run out of all their money and had only Rs 500 notes left with them. He said Razia had been going to different banks but never got the chance to reach the counter to exchange cash as it always finished before her turn. Akbar claimed they have a Jan Dhan account but there is no money in it. Razia, who suffered severe burns in the incident was rushed by police to the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi where she succumbed on December 4. Keeping in mind the poor financial condition of the victim’s husband and four minor children, Aligarh district administration recommended financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh for the family from the CM’s discretionary fund. Taking note of the incident, the CM not only sanctioned Rs 5 lakh for the family on Wednesday. Reacting sharply to the UP government’s announcement, the BJP has described the move as SP government’s efforts to do politics on miseries of the poor. “Samajwadi Party government is not concerned about the poor and the farmer else they would have probed the hunger deaths and suicide of farmers due to crop failure earlier this year and announced compensation for them as well,” said BJP’s UP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak. Over 40 people are said to have died in separate incidents of suicides, cardiac arrests in long queues, hospital casualties and murder in a fit of rage reported from 16 states across the nation all attributed to demonetisation. In all, as many as 11 incidents were reported from UP and government has now sought a report from administrative heads of each of the districts from where the incidents have been reported. (Times of India 8/12/16)

307. With losses of 60-70 per cent, declining sales, agriculture suffers biggest blow (20)

Pune: A month after the withdrawal of high-denomination notes, agricultural remains one of the sectors hit hardest by demonetisation, as it grapples with major losses. While some farmers have incurred a loss as high as 60-70 per cent, rabi sowing has also taken a hit due to the cash crunch. The business of fruits and vegetables — from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s table — has always been cash-intensive, with barely any use of alternative modes of payment. As cash runs dry in rural areas, this business chain has all but collapsed, with little hope of a speedy revival. Shirram Gadve, president of the Vegetables Growers Association of India (VGAI), said the price of vegetables has dropped by almost 60 per cent across wholesale markets. “Whatever sale is happening right now, it is distress sale, and that’s causing major loss to the farmers,” he said. Annually, the wholesale markets register trade of around Rs 1 lakh crore in the sale of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the months of November and December usually witness 10-12 per cent more consumption of vegetables than other months, due to easy availability and better prices. “On an average, an acre worth of vegetables during this month fetches us Rs 1 lakh, but this year we have received only Rs 30,000 for that… it’s such a loss,” said Gadve. The onion trade also had seen losses, according to trade analysts, of around Rs 50 crore, as cash transactions have all but stopped. The poultry industry has also registered losses worth Rs 100 crore in Maharashtra. (The Indian Express 8/12/16)

308. No drop in farmer suicides this year despite govt efforts (20)

MUMBAI: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s much-touted plan to tackle the agrarian crisis in the state and halt farmer suicides in Vidarbha and Marthwada regions seems to have failed. According to data compiled by the state revenue department, 989 farmers have committed suicide in Marathwada and 1,053 in Vidarbha between January 1 and November 30, 2016. Last year, 1,133 farmers had ended their lives in Marathwada and 1,184 in Vidarbha region. After he took charge in 2014, Fadnavis drafted an ambitious plan, along with bureaucrats of agriculture, revenue, water conservation, finance and public health departments, to tackle the worst-ever drought in the state. He also appointed farmers’ leader Kishore Tiwari to head a special task force to draft an action plan for the 14 drought-prone districts in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. But Tiwari, who was also given the rank of minister of state, admitted that despite a slew of measures taken by the government, they could not curb farmer suicides. “Farmers are indeed in distress, it’s a matter of concern for all of us. The special task force drafted an action plan and it was implemented, but we were unable to halt suicides,” he told TOI. “It appears that our traditional measures to tackle agrarian crisis is not yielding results. Under such circumstances, market intervention appears to be a better option. Government must step in for market intervention.” He added that from his ‘brief experience’ in the government as special task force head, he felt that immediate measures should be taken to provide better healthcare for farmers, basic education for their children and more job opportunities in rural areas. “We expected drastic reduction in number of suicides in the 14 mission districts, but from the 2015 and 2016 records, it was found that there was marginal decrease. We will have to examine if our plan has failed to take off or if it needs a fresh look,” Tiwari said. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said that in view of demonetisation, farmers appear to be in more trouble. “The Modi government should ensure that adequate finance is available to farmers; it should also waive off loans,” he suggested. To bring the situation under control, Fadnavis had secured a massive grant from the Centre, got the employment guarantee scheme norms relaxed to ensure that farmers will be able to secure jobs, made adequate power available for the agriculture sector, granted permission for more borewells and completed on-going irrigation projects. He also took up the ambitious Jalyukta Shivar to provide water to farmers. “Fadnavis left no stone unturned to tackle the situation, but the results were not visible,” a bureaucrat said. (Times of India 9/12/16)

309. Farmer commits suicide in Garo Hills, family blames demonetization (20)

TURA, Dec 12 – A well-to-do farmer, who had recently deposited his entire life’s savings into a new bank account, committed suicide last Thursday, after being unable to pay back an amount of Rs 10,000 he owed a neighbour. A distraught family of the farmer has now sought to move the State Government seeking compensation for the death and even threatening to go to Court if the State Government did not heed their appeal. Wajning G Momin (50), a resident of Sindilgre in South West Garo Hills (SWGH) district, was by profession a farmer, with yearly earnings from his farming running into lakhs of rupees. He, like many in the Garo Hills region had never kept money in banks but preferred to keep the money with him. However, the recent demonetisation forced him, after he was cajoled to do so by his family, to open an account and put his entire life savings of over Rs 50 lakhs into the bank. Momin had just prior to the demonetiation announcement started the construction of a new house. His plans, however, met with a cash crunch road block as labour payments became overdue. “He borrowed an amount of Rs 10,000 from his neighbour with the promise to pay it back in three days. When he went to Ampati town, 19 km away to withdraw Rs 20,000 from his account, lack of cash in the bank led to him being given only Rs 6,000,” said a family member. Unable to bear the shame of not being able to live up to his word, a desperate Momin hanged himself that same evening.“He had never borrowed money from anyone and not being able to repay it drove him into a desperate spot,” said a family member. A visibly angry family of Momin has blamed demonetisation for the farmer’s death. Reacting to the suicide, Local MLA of Salmanpara, Winnerson D Sangma felt there was a need to review the withdrawal limits for the North Eastern State given that the States were Christian dominated and Christmas was around the corner. “While we understand demonetisation, the fact that this is the biggest festival for us (Christians), the Central Government needs to relook and relax the current prohibitions of withdrawal of money,” he said. “We fear there will be repeat of such cases if these restrictions are not relaxed. Families can break up due to the lack of cash as young children will not listen to their families given that it is the festival of celebration,” felt Winnerson. Meanwhile, Meghalaya Pradesh Youth Congress (MPYC) president, Richard Marak has sought for counseling from bank officials as well as State Government to ensure no further loss of life due to demonetisation. (The Assam Tribune 12/12/16)

310. Four suicides a day in terrible 13 months (20)

BENGALURU: An endemic problem, farmers’ suicides have become an everyday affair in Karnataka, and are considered a socio-economic concern of India. In the past two years, though, the spate of suicides has rattled the nation, with crop failure and increasing debt traps driving the ordinary farmer to end his life. In Karnataka, which has faced two back-to-back drought years, the numbers are appalling. The agriculture department has, in the year between June 2015 and July 2016, recorded a whopping four suicides every day, on an average. The revelation comes in the backdrop of a nationwide study conducted by the Union ministry of agriculture across 15 states, by 11 independent agro-economic research centres.In the state, the Agriculture Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC) has taken the lead role in conducting the study for the agriculture ministry and is also the nodal agency for the nationwide study. “Most of the farmers decided to take the extreme measure between July 2015 and October 2015,” said Dr AV Manjunatha, project director for the study. Statistics on suicides during this period also show that 80% of those who ended their own lives were small and marginal farmers. The four major districts of Belagavi, Mysuru, Mandya and Haveri, which were hit relentlessly by this trend, recorded no less than 468 suicides during the same period.The study shows the primary contributing factors were failure of cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco, debt traps by private moneylenders and half the borrowings going towards non-farming purposes. (imes of India 12/12/16)

311. Rahul meets Modi, demands loan waiver for farmers (20)

New Delhi: A Rahul Gandhi-led Congress delegation on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight the plight of farmers in the country and demanded a loan waiver for them. During the meeting, which came in the backdrop of Gandhi’s fierce attack on the prime minister over demonetisation, top Congress leaders presented a memorandum to Modi on demands of farmers including loan waiver, reducing power bills to half and remunerative MSP for farm produce. The delegation included Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, deputy leaders in both Houses Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh and UP Congress chief Raj Babbar. After the meeting, the Congress vice-president said that Modi heard them patiently, but did not commit anything. “We, Congress party delegation, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the plight of farmers of this country. Every single day, a farmer is committing suicide in Punjab. Farmers are committing suicide all over the country. “The government has removed the import duty on wheat. This is a devastating blow. So we went to the Prime Minister to request him on behalf of farmers of this country to waive their loans,” he told reporters. He said the prime minister accepted that the situation of farmers is serious but did not say anything on loan waiver. Sources said the prime minister gave the delegation a patient hearing and told Rahul Gandhi to “keep meeting him”.Gandhi has been targeting the prime minister often, with his latest offensive being on demonetisation. He claimed on Wednesday that he had information about alleged “personal corruption” of the prime minister, but the BJP dismissed it as a “joke”.Gandhi had raised the farmers’ issue during his recent Deoria to Delhi yatra in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. The Congress has collected over 2 crore “Kisan maang patras” from across Uttar Pradesh and over 34 lakh from Punjab which also goes to polls early next year. (Business Standard 16/12/16)

312. Sangrur farmer takes poison at protest near Punjab FM’s house (20)

BATHINDA: A farmer on Monday consumed a poisonous substance during a farmers’ protest near the residence of Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa at Sangrur. The farmer, Darshan Singh, 55, of Saddopur village in Sangrur district was referred to Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, and his condition is stated to be critical. Activists of 13 farm and farm labourer organisations had given a call for staging protests at the residences of ministers against the state government for not conceding their long-pending demands of debt waiver, Rs 5 lakh compensation to suicide-hit farm families and writing off their debts and 5-marla plots to the homeless. Just before he lost conscio usness, the farmer told the media and farmers at the protest site that he was forced to take this step as he was unable to repay the Rs 20 lakh he owed to a bank and money lenders. Farmers held protests at 12 places across the state, including near Nandgarh village on the road to Badal, where they were stopped. They also held a sit-in near agriculture minister Tota Singh’s residence at Moga.Farm organisation BKU Ekta Ugrahan state president Joginder Singh Ugrahan told TOI that after Darshan Singh consumed a poisonous substance at the protest site he was shifted to a Patiala hospital where his condition is stated to be serious. He said by not conceding their demands, the Badal government was pushing farmers to the brink of suicide. This is the fourth case in less than two years when farmers or farm labourers committed suicide at protest sites. Sangrur SSP Pritpal Singh Thind said police was looking into what prompted him to take the step. BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri slammed the SAD-BJP government for not paying heed to their debt waiver demand. BKU Dakonda president Buta Singh Burjgill said, “All the parties are promising us the moon, but we know they will forget all this once they gain power. We have decided to achieve our aim through our own might.” (imes of India 20/12/16)

313. Centre launches e-hub for farming sector (20)

NEW DELHI: The agriculture ministry on Wednesday launched an ICAR data centre -connecting 274 specialised institutions and universities -which will act as an information hub for the farm sector and eventually link the rural population with high speed internet network . The centre will cater to research institutions by providing consultancy , project management, training and other value-added services.”This data centre of ICAR will play an important role in promoting the `Digital India Campaign’ in the agriculture sector. The campaign aims at providing electronic services while reducing the requirements of paper,” said agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh.He said, “Many have expressed doubts about our production data.The new ICAR data centre will provide transparent and accurate data”. His remarks came in the backdrop of doubt over the government’s production data in certain quarters. Traders of farm produce have recently questioned the wheat production estimate of 93.55 million tonnes for 2015-16 crop year, saying the actual output was around 86 million tonnes. (Times of India 22/12/16)

314. Police fear debt-ridden farmer jumped into canal with 3 children (20)

BATHINDA: Believed to be under depression, a farmer is feared to have committed suicide along with his three children by jumping into the canal at Machaki Mal Singh village in Faridkot district. The motorcycle of the farmer Jagjeet Singh (42) has been found from near the canal bank. The district administration have pressed divers into service suspecting that the farmer Jagjeet along with his daughters Harmanvir Kaur (10), Jashandeep Kaur (8) and son Jagsir Singh (7) to have jumped in the canal. No body could be found till the evening. It is learnt that he owed Rs 7 lakh to the bank but it could not be confirmed. Jagjeet’s wife Sukhjeet Kaur had left him nearly four years ago and was living separately. Jagjeet Singh’s old mother Gumail Kaur (70) at her home in village Machaki Mal Singh said, “He was under depression for few days but had not said anything to me about it. Today, he stopped the children from going to school, who were studying in Class V, IV and III. In the morning, he took the three on motorcycle and left home without telling me anything.” She added, “I do know about any debt on him but people say he owes money to the bank.” Faridkot SSP Darshan Singh Mann when contacted said, “Jagjeet owned five acres of land but no record of his owing money has come to light. He was under depression and might have taken the extreme step. The divers have been pressed into service and statement of his mother is being recorded.” Farmer organization BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said state government needs to check how much money he owed and whether he has committed suicide with children due to debt and must compensate the family. Earlier, four members of Faridkot family had committed suicide on September 20 over some clash with neighbours. (Times of India 23/12/16)

315. Farm sector, jobs to top agenda of PM Modi’s Niti Aayog meet (20_

NEW DELHI: Agriculture and jobs will form the focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions on Tuesday with top economists and experts from India and abroad at a time the government has been criticised for the country’s ‘jobless growth’. The theme of the Niti Aayog meeting is ‘Economic policy: The road ahead’, but the PM has asked the premier government thinktank to concentrate on two areas: agriculture and education, skills and jobs. The high-level meeting, to be attended by finance minister Arun Jaitley, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, secretary-level officials and noted outside experts, comes at a time critics of the government’s demonetisation move have argued that the decision has slowed down the economy. Before the meeting with PM Modi in the evening, the economist and experts will have a brainstorming session on the two subjects with secretaries handling ministries like commerce, economic affairs, revenue, rural development and agriculture. With just over a month remaining for the Modi government’s third budget, the PM will also seek experts’ opinion on what it should focus on. “This is part of the annual exercise Niti Aayog has been doing and the purpose is to look ahead at the policy roadmap for the remainder of the present term of the government,” Panagariya told TOI.Among those likely to attend the meeting are Vivek Dehejia, economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada; Pravin Krishna, economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA; former director of NIPFP (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy) Govind Rao; Credit Suisse managing director Neelkant Mishra; Madhav Chavan of Pratham and former finance secretary Sumit Bose. Agriculture experts Vijay Paul Sharma, chairman of commission for agricultural costs and prices (CACP), and Prof Sukhpal Singh, both from IIM-Ahmedabad, will also be present in the meeting along with NK Singh, Surjit Bhalla, Niti Aayog members Ramesh Chand, Bibek Debroy and VK Saraswat and its CEO Amitabh Kant. A senior official said that the discussion is on overall economic policy and there is no specific focus on demonetisation, but the banning of high-value notes, cash crunch and its impact on economy is likely to come up during deliberations. “Demonetisation is likely to be discussed as the budget will be the first policy document to be presented after the government’s note ban move,” said an official. (Times of India 27/12/16)

316. 488 farmers court arrest in Tirunelveli (20)

Thoothukudi: As many as 488 farmers, including 271 women, affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), courted arrest while attempting to lay siege to Tirunelveli Collectorate on Wednesday, urging the State Government to declare Tirunelveli a ‘drought-hit’ district.The agitation was led by P. Velumayil, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association. Owing to failure of North-east monsoon, the farmers suffered severe crop loss, and hence, the district should be declared ‘drought-hit’, the agitators said. Until November end, the district had received only 369 mm of rainfall against the average rainfall of 703 mm. Due to poor rainfall, the area under paddy cultivation in the district had shrunk to 5,685 hectares this year from 28,283 ha recorded last year. Paddy crop on a chunk of the area withered due to lack of water, they said. Rainfed crops such as black gram, green gram, maize and long-term crops like coconut too withered in many areas. Water level in dams came down to unprecedented levels, and wells had no water. This situation had brought agricultural activity to a halt. There was a serious threat to livestock, which did not have grazing land and adequate water to drink. The farmers had also been facing a scarcity of cattle feed, they added. Recently, Dhaveedhu, a farmer from Madathupatti near Seevalaperi, committed suicide due to drought, the agitators said, and demanded a compensation of Rs. 25,000 per acre of damaged paddy crop, Rs. 50,000 for an acre of damaged sugarcane crop and Rs. 15,000 for an acre of rainfed crops. Besides, a compensation of Rs. 10,000 should be given to each farmer, whose land turned fallow, and an equal amount should be extended to the families of each farm labour, they stressed. They also urged the government to waive crop loans taken by the farmers. Cattle feed should be given to them at subsidised rate. Mr. Velumayil said wages for those engaged under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be increased to Rs. 400 and the 100-day programme should be extended to 200 days. K.G. Baskaran, district secretary, CPI (M), participated. In Thoothukudi, the farmers, led by K.P. Perumal, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association, staged a wait-in protest at the Collectorate, pressing for the same demands. (The Hindu 28/12/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

317. Singur deadline ends, cloud over 62 acre (4)

SINGUR: The Mamata Banerjee government is yet to determine the ownership of 62 acre of acquired land in Singur as the Supreme Court’s 12-week deadline for the state’s land return came to an end on Wednesday. The apex court on September 1 directed the state government to return the 997.11 acres of Singur land to its owners. The Hooghly administration has fixed the last and final date of hearing for Singur farmers to ascertain ownership rights for the undistributed land on December 8. What’s more is that the government has also extended the supply of subsidised rations (8 kg rice per household at Rs 2 a kilo) and the monthly dole Rs 2,000 till March 2017.Accordingly, the state food and supplies department on Tuesday evening sent food slips to the three panchayats — Beraberi, Gopalnagar and Kamarkundu-Gopalnagar-Doluigachha — surrounding the Singur land. The reason for the extension becomes quite apparent when one takes a look at the erstwhile Nano compound. JCB excavators are still at work levelling the ground there. While a section of land owners at the Gopalnagar has started farming, vast portions of the acquired land still remain vacant. The situation has prompted land agents to lure landowners having their plots along the Durgapur Expressway with very high rates. Sensing the mood, the Singur block land and land revenue office has stopped doing changes in land mutation.However, a small section of farmers is bothered with the nature of land mentioned in the new record of rights (RoR) issued by the administration. There are hundreds who haven’t got the RoRs till date. “I am getting SOS from anxious land-owners everyday waiting to get the RoRs. There are at least 1,000 such farmers under the Beraberi panchayat area, leave aside the two panchayats,” said Trinamool-run Beraberi panchayat pradhan Dipankar Ghosh. (Times of India 1/12/16)

318. Congress to boycott parliament panel on land acquisition (4)

New Delhi: The Congress members in the joint committee of parliament looking into the land acquisition issues have told its chairman Ganesh Singh that they won’t be able to attend panel meetings as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that states can go ahead with the land acquisition on their own. According to Congress members, the PM said this during his Mann Ki Baat programme on radio. The Congress is miffed that the government was trying to bypass a central law passed by the previous UPA government by asking the states to handle their own land acquisition issues. Earlier, the Congress had led nationwide protests against the government’s controversial land ordinance which had totally changed the provisions of the law passed by the UPA. The Modi government had later dropped the issue as it could not get the ordinance through parliament. (Business Standard 2/12/16)

319. Girijans plan‘Chalo Assembly’ (4)

VISAKHAPATNAM: As the government is not showing any inclination to withdraw its moves to take up bauxite mining in the Visakha Agency area, going ahead with Polavaram project in spite of the threat of displacement of a large number of Girijans and health situation not improving in the Agency mandals of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari district, the Girijana Sangham has decided to organise a ‘Chalo Assembly’ protest programme during the next session of the State Assembly.The State government was silent on the demand from all sections to withdraw GO No. 97 through which it has allotted 1,212 hectares forest land to the APMDC to take up bauxite mining more than a year ago, though it has stopped its implementation which was not at all satisfying to Girijans, State president of Girijana Sangham and former CPI(M) MP Midiam Babu Rao said at a press conference he addressed along with general secretary P. Appalanarsa here on Tuesday. Pattas under Forest Rights Act are not issued to the Girijan farmers in this area and all those opposing establishment of police outposts in Agency area are branded as anti-social elements and arrested, Dr. Babu Rao said.In the case of Polvaram irrigation project, the government has announced that it would be completed by 2018 and on the plea of it stopped all development works in the area and did not bother to implement the relief and rehabilitation package sought by those facing threat of displacement, he said. (The Hindu 7/12/16)

320. Haryana mulling amendments for its new land acquisition policy (4)

Kolkata: Haryana is contemplating to bring some amendments to the new land acquisition policy introduced by the Centre in order to smoothen and expedite the process of acquisition. “The new Land Acquisition Act by the Centre is very tedious for acquisition, and so in line with some states, we may also bring some amendments,” Haryana principal industry secretary Devender Singh told PTI on the sidelines of a CII roadshow organised by the state in the city.He categorically pointed out that the purpose of the amendments was not to bring down compensation, but ease the process of acquisition. Simultenously, the state is also finalising a policy for direct acquisition of land by the industry. The policy may encourage pooling of land if any industrial house wants direct acquisition. The state industry minister Vipul Goel said, “the state government will ensure there was no shortage of land for industry. Ready to use land in industrial parks under construction will have 12,000 acres. We have already developed and sold 15,000 acres of land.” The state will have another two roadshow in Mumbai and Hyderabad with an aim to attract Haryanvi people to invest in their state, getting connected to their roots and encourage them for philanthropy in the home state. (Indian Express 9/12/16)

321. Rs 22,000 cr road development package announced for Manipur (4)

IMPHAL, Dec 11 – In a move to improve connectivity in the land-locked State of Manipur, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari announced a special package of Rs 22,000 crore for road development in the State over a period of three-four years, here today. The package of 19 road projects include two-laning with paved shoulder of both Imphal-Jiribam Road (220 km) and Churachandpur-Tuima-Tuiva (162 km), the busy Imphal-Moreh road (156 km) and 4/2 laning of Imphal-Kohima Road (126 km) besides two-laning with paved shoulder of Ukhrul-Tolloi-Tadubi Road (115 km). Gadkari made the announcement while laying the foundation stone for 17 other road projects in the State at a function here on Sunday. Appealing to the State Government to expedite the land acquisition proceedings and forest clearance, the Union Minister assured that local contractors will be engaged for the construction works. “We are committed about it and I hope Manipur will be changing its infrastructure within a short span of time,” he said. Later, briefing media, he said that his Ministry is taking up steps to utilise the waterways in the NE region as a means of transportation of goods so that the cost of the logistics could be minimised. Earlier, Gadkari laid the foundation stone for the construction of ‘super steel structure’ bridges at Barak and Makru rivers at Imphal-Jiribam Highway at Jiribam bordering Cachar (Assam). In his speech, State Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh highlighted the achievement of the State in health, power and road construction sectors. Expressing unhappiness over the inadequate fund allocation by Centre for road projects in the State, Ibobi requested the Union Minister to convey to the Union Home Minister and Prime Minister that National Highways which are the property of the nation, should not be allowed to be used as a tool for certain demands. (The Assam Tribune 12/12/16)

322. Land acquisition to begin in 29 villages in capital region soon (4)

GUNTUR: Speaking at a review meeting with CRDA personnel here on Tuesday, Dr. Shukla said that a notification for land acquisition would be issued soon after taking into consideration the average land registration values over the last three years. The process however, would take more time as many issues have been left unattended. The CRDA personnel have complained that tech marking has not been done in many villages, while landowners in some villages insist that they should be paid similar compensation as of farmers in ‘jareebu’ lands. Landowners have also not been cooperating with the revenue officials in survey of their lands coming in the way of laying roads, some CRDA personnel said. The JC said that the district administration would deploy more number of surveyors and complete the process of land acquisition by January next year. Legal advisor, CRDA, Mohan Rao and advisor Muralidhar were also present. (The Hindu 14/12/16)

323. JPC on land acquisition Bill gets eighth extension (4)

New Delhi, Dec 14:  ​The contentious Land Acquisition Bill, 2015, which aims to alter the 2013 Act brought in by the previous UPA regime, seems headed for the back-burner with the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) examining the Bill being given an eighth extension on Wednesday. A resolution seeking fresh extension till the last day of the Budget Session 2017 was passed by a voice vote in the Lok Sabha amid noisy protests over the note ban issue after Ganesh Singh, BJP, the panel head, moved a resolution. Congress members including K. C. Venugopal, were heard demanding that the Bill be withdrawn and the committee be scrapped. The JPC to examine the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, was set up in May 2015 after it was opposed by several political parties, including allies of the ruling BJP. The Bill seeks, among other things, to remove the consent clause for acquiring land for five purposes — industrial corridors, public-private projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. Incidentally, the 2013 law had become applicable for national highway projects from January 2015, leading to a number of disputes cropping up as affected land owners were seeking higher compensation. The Bill has been on a roller coaster ride with the Centre thrice issuing an Ordinance. However, after the third ordinance lapsed on August 31, 2015, the government decided against issuing it for the fourth time. Instead, on August 28, it issued a ‘statutory order’ to include 13 Central Acts, such as the National Highway and Railways Acts, to extend benefits to those whose land was acquired under the land law. (Business Line 15/12/16)

324. Locals demand halt to ongoing highway work (4)

MARGAO: Irked by ‘massive destruction and displacement due to the ongoing national highway works,’ affected citizens who have united under the banner of “villagers against destruction due to highways” on Saturday demanded that ‘all ongoing works be halted immediately and that no further works be attempted till detailed studies of their impact upon the villages, environment and communities are carried out with people consulted and permitted in decision making.’Stating that their group has no political affiliations, Navelim-based social activist Harold Pinto expressed deep resentment against ‘the blatant violations in every section of the ongoing construction and the government’s refusal to be factual or transparent indicating that this project is not in public interest’. (Times of India 18/12/2016)

325. Kodandaram to meet leaders of Opposition parties today (4)

KARIMNAGAR: Telangana JAC chairman M. Kodandaram said that he would meet leaders of all political parties on Monday and prevail upon them not to support the proposed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill and also the Private Universities Bill in the State Assembly as they are detrimental to the interests of people. The JAC chairman, who was in town to participate in Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika district general body meeting on Sunday, told newsmen that the JAC leaders would be meeting leaders of all the political parties and explain their opposition to the two bills. Farmers should not lose their rights through the proposed land acquisition bill. The bill should protect land oustees as per the Land Acquisition Act of 2103, he maintained. With regard to the private universities bills, he said already several universities in the State are plagued with several problems without infrastructure, faculty etc. “At this juncture, is it necessary to start private universities in the State,” he questioned. He also reminded that the State tops with 31 per cent gross enrolment ratio in the higher education. Finding fault with the State Government for not taking any action against the contractor who was responsible for the breach of Mid-Manair Dam and causing extensive loss to farmers and the State exchequer, the JAC chairman flayed the government for appointing new contractor for the execution of MMD works at a higher cost than the earlier contractor. Expressing concern over exploitation of natural resources through granite quarry operations in the region, he demanded that the government should stop export of granite and protect the environment for the future generations. He also expressed concern over the sand mafia making several crores of rupees by illegally transporting sand. Demanding the government to implement the Sudheer Commission report, he said that the civil organisations have a responsible role to ensure people’s aspirations in Telangana are fulfilled. He also said that the government should open more underground mines in the Singareni to provide local employment instead of going for open cast projects (OCP). (The Hindu 19/12/16)

326. HC denies relief to farmers who want acquired land back (4)

NEW DELHI:  The farmers of northwest’s Delhi Kanjhawala village were on Tuesday denied relief by the High Court, which dismissed 100 petitions demanding that the land acquired by the Delhi government for a ‘new Industrial area’ be returned to them, A Bench of Justices Badar Durez Ahmed and Jayant Nath dismissed the petitions stating that the farmers had expressly given away all right or title to the land in lieu of compensation.Though the farmers were paid compensation, they have been agitating for their land to be returned saying the acquisition was forced and that their land, contrary to the government’s claim, is not barren. They also said that since the government had failed to take possession of the land five years after acquisition, the Land Acquisition Act calls for the land to be returned.“The key point in this batch of matters is whether the petitioners had any right left to the land… in the undertakings given by the petitioners in 2011, while opting for the Special Rehabilitation Package and receiving additional payments thereunder, they clearly divested themselves of all their rights to the land,” the Bench noted. “Thus, at the time of commencement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 on January 1, 2014, the petitioners had no right, title or interest left in the subject lands. Therefore, they cannot claim any benefit under section 24(2) of the 2013 Act. On this ground alone, the writ petitions are liable to be dismissed,” the court ordered. As per section 24(2) of the Act, if compensation has been awarded five years or more prior to the commencement of the Act but the physical possession of the land has not been taken, the acquisition proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the land deemed to be belonging to the farmers. The government then needs to start all acquisition proceedings afresh. The Delhi government had rebutted the claim of the farmers that the government had not taken over the possession as it submitted that the actual physical possession of the lands in question had been taken by the Land Acquisition Collector. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

327. HC terms land acquisition at Noida village as ‘bad’ (4)

Allahabad: The Allahabad high court on Thursday declared the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) in Niloli Sahpur village of Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) as “bad and not done in accordance with law”. However, the court directed that if YEIDA officials wanted to retain the said land, they must pay at the present market rate to the land owners and also provide them all the benefits of the land under the new Land Acquisition Act-2013, which came into force on January 1, 2014.Allowing a writ petition filed by one Harpal Singh, a division bench comprising Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Sangeeta Chandra observed, “No reasoning and satisfaction was recorded by the state government for the invitation of urgency clause for acquiring the said land and they relied only on the report of the authorities concerned.” Under the urgency clause, the opportunity of hearing provided to the land owners before acquisition of land is dispensed with. Counsel for the petitioner Pankaj Dubey challenged the acquisition, saying that as the plan was for residential purpose, the urgency clause cannot be invoked. YEIDA had acquired 347 hectares of land for Residential Plot Scheme-2009 at the village. The petitioner had challenged it before the court, saying that he was not given an opportunity of hearing before the acquisition of his land as provided under the Land Acquisition Act. (Times of India 23/12/16)

328. Kathputli colony residents allege coercion for relocation (4)

New Delhi: A section of residents of Kathputli colony on Monday demanded the removal of “heavy police force” deployed for the ongoing relocation drive while alleging that they were being “coerced” into giving demolition clearance.A group of residents, assisted by NGOs like NAPM, placed their demands and shared grievances at a press conference here which also saw a few tense moments as DDA started demolishing a wall, claimed organisers. “The wall belongs to DMRC. DDA started demolishing it as soon as the presser started claiming it had the necessary clearance from metro authorities. But DMRC did not take the consent of local people while giving the go ahead. They had to retreat under public pressure,” Amit Kumar of NAPM’s Delhi unit said.Residents said the process through which consent for demolition and redevelopment, was being taken was “opaque” and that laid down norms were being violated. They demanded that police personnel be moved out of the area and the DDA camp moved out of the colony. “Each eviction slip has to be signed by the jhuggi dweller concerned, that person’s neighbour and the pradhan. But in many cases, the neighbours and the pradhan are being kept in the dark,” Mr. Kumar said. PTI (The Hindu 27/12/16)

329. Polavaram evacuees stage rasta roko, traffic disrupted (4)

DEVIPATNAM (East Godavari): The Polavaram project evacuees’ association on Wednesday staged a rasta roko in the submerged mandals of the Agency area, demanding package for the displaced as per the new Land Acquisition Act. The affected blocked the roads in Devipatnam, Chintur, V.R Puram, Yetapaka and Koonavaram mandals in the East Godavari district. They shouted slogans demanding the construction of the project only after paying full compensation according to the 2013 Act. Scores of people had to wait for hours before they could resume their journey.In Anguluru colony of Devipatnam mandal, evacuees blocked the road stopping all the vehicular traffic including jeeps, tourist buses and private vehicles. They warned of agitation in various forms until their demands were met. CPI(M) district secretary T. Arun criticised that the State government had no intention of giving water to farmers though the project had been taken up only to benefit them. He called upon the evacuees to stage rasta roko when the Chief Minister comes to the district to lay foundation stone to the Purushottapatnam Lift Irrigation Schemes on 5 January, 2017. Saying the State government had washed its hands off paying low compensation for the tribals and non-tribals in the past, he demanded the compensation for those affected also as per the new Act. In V.R. Puram mandal, the road blockade under the aegis of MPP Karem Siramayya was peaceful. In Koonavaram, traffic was blocked under the aegis of president of the project evacuees’ association Komaram Pentaiah. In Chintur also, the national highway was blocked under the aegis of sarpanch Madivi Gouramma. Students formed human chain and staged protest on the national highway. The evacuees blocked roads in Tetapaka also. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

330. Infant mortality: K’taka cuts sorry figure (3)

New Delhi: The country witnessed deaths of 1.89 lakh children, including 80,190 girls, in 2014, as per the ‘Vital Statistics of India based on Civil Registration System 2014’ report prepared by the Office of the Registrar General. The number of deaths of infant girls has marginally come down to 80,609 in 2013 while the overall figure stood at 1.87 lakh that year. The all-India figure could rise as Jharkhand has not provided statistics on the registration of births and deaths for 2014. Officials said the report is based only on the deaths registered and there is the possibility of deaths which have not entered the government records. “The accuracy of the vital statistics obtained through the registration system depends much on the completeness and promptness with which events are registered and the correctness of the information in the registration records,” it added. According to the report, around 25% of the deaths go unregistered. But the level of registration of deaths has increased from 70.9% in 2013 to 74.3% in 2014, it said. A district-wise analysis showed that Ahmedabad has the highest number of infant deaths at 4,994 followed by Mumbai (4,883), Malda (2,074), Chandi (2,054), Cuttack (1,940) and Bengaluru Urban (1,906). The whole of Delhi, which has 11 districts, has reported 8,097 infant deaths. The highest number of infant girl deaths were reported from Mumbai (2,177) followed by Ahmedabad 1,627. Four districts of Maharashtra — Nashik (766), Pune (736), Nagpur (735) besides Mumbai — are in the top-ten districts where there are high number of infant girl deaths. Bengaluru urban district has 619 such deaths. The report showed that the share of rural area is 31.4%, up from 31.3%, while that of urban area is 68.6% in total registered infant deaths during 2014.“Non-registration of infant deaths in rural area is a cause (for) concern which may be due to non-reporting of infant deaths to the registrars, especially in case of domiciliary events,” it said. Among the states, Maharashtra (21,349) has the highest number of infant deaths registered followed by Uttar Pradesh (19,642) and Karnataka (17,286). (Decan Herald 2/12/16)

331. Screening finds 1.48lakh kids suffering from diseases (3)

JAIPUR: Over 1.48 lakh children in schools were found suffering from different diseases at the health screenings conducted by the health department. According to health department figures, more than 32.36 lakh children were screened for 30 different kinds of diseases among children. The children have been identified and they will get free treatment for their diseases under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK). Among those found suffering from diseases, there were those children also who were found suffering from rheumatic heart disease. Mission director of National Health Mission (NHM) Navin Jain said that they had constituted 446 mobile health teams to conduct screening of children in schools, anganwadi and madrasas. Children up to 18 years were screened for diseases. He said that those tested positive for diseases, they get treatment in hospitals. If needed, they get treatment in private hospital. Jain said that this year they had roped in AYUSH doctors. The health department recruited 836 AYUSH doctors and they were linked with the RBSK programme for screening of children for diseases. This year, the health department has tested the health of children studying in more than 3,141 madrasas of the state. Earlier, the programme was only implemented in government schools but now madrasas has also been included. The centre had introduced the programme for Child Health Screening and Early Intervention Services Programme under National Rural Health Mission. The programmed aimed at early detection and management of the 4Ds prevalent in children. These are defects at birth, diseases in children, deficiency conditions and developmental delays including disabilities. Among 1.48 lakh children with diseases, there were those children living with developmental delays, hearing defects, vision impairment, neuro-motor disorders, speech and language delay, autism and cognitive impairment. (Times of India 5/12/16)

332. 37.58% in state die between 15 and 54 years (3)

AHMEDABAD: A 2009 report may have noted that life expectancy in Gujarat is 68 years, but the 2014 report on causes of deaths says that 37.58% of the population of the state dies between 15 years and 54 years. In fact, 16% of children in Gujarat are not alive to celebrate their 15th birthday. Alarmingly, the number of infant deaths in Gujarat has gone up compared to 2011. According to data released by Census India, more women than men die in the 15-24 age group. Officials pointed out that even the report ‘Vital Statistics of India Based on the Civil Registration System-2013′ states that 8,612 infant deaths were registered in 2004, but in nine years the figure increased by 44%; in 2013, it was 12,464 infant deaths. Officials said comparing 2012 data on infant deaths with that of even 2013 will show a 51% spike: in 2013, 8,223 infant deaths were recorded. The number increased to 12,464 in 2014. The 2009 report revealed that life expectancy among males was 66.6 years and 71 among females. The life expectancy between 1970 and 1975 was 48.8 years, among both males and females. Despite the fall of 7,000 in the number of medically certified deaths, infant deaths have been rising in the state. According to the report, the number of infant deaths registered a nearly 1.5% increase as compared to 2011 numbers. However, health officials, who did not want to be quoted, said that the number of deaths registered in 2004 was around 2.75 lakh which increased to 3.42 lakh — a rise of 24%. Health commissioner J P Gupta said that infant mortality is tracked by the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). He said that the state government was concerned with the IMR, which according to the state health department was around 30 for every 1,000 live births, dropping from 36 in 2013. “We have set the target of 30 IMR for the year 2030 and we are targeting the IMR to be in single digit,” Gupta said. “There are several reasons for the fall and one is that the number of institutional deliveries has increased in Gujarat. The government has also taken up extensive immunization programmes.” (Times of India 7/12/16)

333. 10,171 children died in MP between July and October (3)

Bhopal, Dec 9 : An average of 82 children died everyday since July in Madhya Pradesh due to various illnesses, data provided by Health Minister Rustam Singh in the state assembly revealed. [NK India] The health Minister informed the state assembly on Friday that from July to October — 123 days in total — 10,171 children died in the state due to pneumonia, diarrhoea, fever and measles, among other reasons. The Minister was answering a question raised by Congress MLA Ramniwas Rawat who asked how many children under the age of six and in the age group of 6-12 had died in the state from July? And due to what illnesses? (New Kerala 9/12/16)

334. India needs to invest more in public healthcare: WHO (3)

Kolkata: India needs to invest more in public healthcare and build a robust health delivery system in all aspects, including infrastructure and human resources, with special focus on rural areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday. “We know that nations need a healthy population to prosper. Stepping up investment in public healthcare is pivotal to sustaining India’s economic growth. Investing in health is investing in India’s growth story,” Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, said. “We, therefore, need to and swiftly advance and accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the health goal,” he suggested. According to Bekedam, though India has made enormous progress in the healthcare sector in recent past, still “60 million people are in poverty through paying healthcare bills, mainly because of the country’s low investment in health, inadequate financial protection and high out-of-pocket expenditure”.He said many more abstain from health services or delay seeking health care due to financial difficulties. In this context, the WHO proposed a few steps for working with the government to position health higher on the agenda, both at the national and state levels. Besides investment, strengthening the systems to detect and respond to outbreaks and new emerging diseases, accelerating effective financial protection to ensure no one goes into poverty as a result of using health services and finally, ensuring that there is a strong monitoring and evaluation system in place are also required, Bekedam said. He also praised India for combating HIV, TB and malaria as well as the avertable maternal and child mortality, saying the country’s major challenge is “safeguarding the population from slipping into poverty due to health care bills”.”All these require increased investments, as has been demonstrated from global experiences with SARS, pandemic A/H1N1, H5N1, Nepal earthquake and Ebola. Strengthening the surveillance capacity is a key step forward. We still have a high burden of communicable diseases. “Adding to this is increased noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and we need to invest more in creating awareness about prevention of NCDs,” Bekedam said. On whether India is ready to face the emerging threat of lifestyle diseases, he said, “The NCD agenda is complex, requires a call for a coordinated multi-sectoral response through a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach. (Business Standard 11/12/16)

335. Rights’ groups rally to pass disability bill in Rajya Sabha (3)

NEW DELHI: Disabled rights groups organised a rally from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street on Monday evening to appeal to parliamentarians and leader of the opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, to pass the Rights for Persons with Disability (RPwD) bill in Rajya Sabha. The disability bill is yet to be passed by both the houses of the Parliament. It recognises 21 disabilities as opposed to the existing seven. With only three days to go until the winter session ends, the disabled people at the rally tried to keep their hopes alive. Children suffering from learning disorders also stand to benefit from the new bill. “The bill will benefit over 70 million people and we are asking for 4% reservation in government jobs as opposed to the existing 3%,” said Javed Abidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP).Shanti Aulakh, a psychologist working with acid attack victims at NGO Muskaan, said that acid attack victims face social exclusion. “Permanent disfigurement ostracises acid attack victims completely. They face similar problems as people with physical disabilities and should also entitled to similar rights for equal representation at the workplace,” said Aulakh. “We are simply advocating for equal rights. Neglect and delay in passing the bill points to the fact that we are not counted as fellow beings,” said Pankaj Kapoor, who is confined to his wheelchair. (Times of India 14/12/16)

336. Maharashtra reports 31,548 child and infant deaths in 17 months (3)

NAGPUR: The state witnessed 31,548 child and infant deaths in the 17 months since April 2015 to August 2016. Woman and child development minister Pankaja Munde in her written reply to a calling attention motion in legislative assembly revealed the data. At the same time, minister defended her department saying that every child death should not be connected to malnutrition issue. “It is a sensitive and important issue. However, it would not be fair to connect every child or infant death to malnutrition. Both issues are different. The reason could be different such as physiological disorder, Pneumonia or other diseases. The state has taken major steps to reduce malnutrition cases and compared to the national infant mortality rate, the state infant mortality rate is low and on third rank, below Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” said Munde. According to her written reply, total 9,563 children died of which 7,868 were infant and 1,695 were children in the five months, from April to August 2017 while in the year of 2015-16, total 21,985 deaths, 17,944 were infant and 4041 were children. Minister also pointed out that the state infant mortality rate in the year 2013 was 24 for every 1,000 births against national infant mortality rate which was 40. While in 2014, the state infant mortality rate was 22 against national infant mortality rate 39. Munde added that the government has formed a Task Force under health minister to tackle the issue and also malnutrition policy has been cleared by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar raised the issue through calling attention motion asking the government to take integrated approach. Another BJP MLA Devayani Faradne demanded that malnutrition issues should be handled by a single bureaucrat instead of three different like public health, woman and child development department and Tribal development. The Minister however refuted the demand and said that concerned department official also has other work to do apart from malnutrition. (Times of India 15/12/16)

337. Health authorities intensify drive against hepatitis A (3)

KOCHI:  Health authorities have now embarked on a door-to-door campaign in the panchayat in Kothamangalam taluk and have covered about 50 per cent of the houses in an awareness campaign which involves handwashing, super chlorination and other personal hygiene issues that need to be taken care of by every household member. District Surveillance Officer (DSO) Dr. Balagangadharan said the number of health inspectors deployed in the panchayat would be doubled on Monday from 21 to 42 to complete the campaign by Wednesday. The Health advice in the panchayat includes not serving ‘welcome drinks’ at wedding parties, using only boiled water for drinking and hand washing using liquid soap.The medical camp conducted on Sunday was attended by 254 people. Blood test results are awaited. Medical camps were held for the past three days in different parts of the panchayat. There was no addition to the existing 314 cases so far, said the DSO. The total number of affected persons, which included people from the nearby panchayats, were 413. Other affected panchayats are: Payipra (22 cases), Kottapady (23), Pindimana (11), Asamannoor (5), Pallarimangalam (7), Kavalangadu (10), Varapetty (14), Kuttampuzha (4), Kadayiruppu (4 ) and Pothanikkad (7). Antony John, MLA, and District Collector Mohammed Y. Safirulla on Sunday reviewed the work done by Health authorities in a meeting held at Kothamangalam. Instructions were given to intensify the campaign to contain the spread of jaundice. An expert team from Manipal had reached here to study the virus that takes an oral-fecal route. Though the infection is generally not fatal, three young people had reportedly died of the infection that spread to more than 300 people within a month. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

338. Over 18000 patients in Punjab receive free treatment for Hepatitis C (3)

New Delhi [India], Dec 22 : Punjab government’s novel initiative to provide free treatment to patients suffering from Hepatitis C has so far benefitted more than 18,000 patients in state within months of launch. [NK Punjab] Punjab government had created a special fund with an initial corpus of Rs. 20 crore called the ‘MukhMantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund’ for this purpose. Under this scheme medical specialists have been trained by the experts of PGIMER Chandigarh to offer free treatment of Hepatitis C. More than 18,000 patients of Hepatitis C have been initiated on the treatment and close to 10,000 cases have already completed the treatment. Punjab is the first state in the country to provide free treatment to confirmed cases of Hepatitis C. The treatment of Hepatitis-C is now available at 25 centers (three govt. medical colleges and 22 district hospitals) in the State. Talking about state government’s initiatives on healthcare, Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal said, “We firmly believe that access to quality healthcare is every citizen’s right. The state government is fully committed to provide the best health care services to the people at affordable costs. We hope that this initiative will go a long way to alleviate the woes of people suffering from Hepatitis C.” With a prevalence rate that could be as high as three percent, there might be up to 10 lakh cases of suspected Hepatitis C. The treatment for Hepatitis C consists of injectable peg-interferon, which is very expensive. This unique initiative has especially come as a blessing for people from economically weaker strata of society. It is noteworthy that Punjab is also the only state in the country, which is providing free treatment to the cancer patients. Excellent infrastructure to combat the menace of cancer has already been put in place by setting up Advanced Cancer Treatment Centers in the Government Medical Colleges in Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot. Besides, hi-tech cancer institute at Bathinda and PGI Satellite Hospital at Sangrur are providing the best treatment to the patients inflicted with deadly disease. Punjab also launched Bhagat Puran Singh Health Insurance scheme covering nearly half of state’s population. It provides cashless treatment covering a cross section of the society including blue cardholders, farmers, traders and construction workers up to Rs.50,000 besides insurance cover of Rs. five lakh in case of death or incapacitation of head of the family. Also, in a major step towards ensuring social security, the Punjab Government has set up 2000 free medicine centers to provide free-of-cost medicines. Out of which 660 centers also provide free medical testing facilities to all patients. (New Kerala 22/12/16)

339. Kolkata tops list of cities with young Indians suffering from lifestyle diseases, finds study (3)

Kolkata: Young Indians in the age group of 20 to 45 are worried about lifestyle diseases and consult doctors, seeking their advice on how to prevent these ailments. About 45% young people in this category are vulnerable to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, depression and so on, a study has revealed.Kolkata tops the list compared with other cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad so far as its young people seeking consultations on mental and sexual health and lifestyle issues is concerned. About 29% people in Kolkata have sought medical advice on their mental health while 27% have sought the same for sexual ailments. In fact, 4.2 million people from this metropolis have used this online platform, Lybrate Healthscape India, one of the largest online doctors consultation platform. The portal revealed this in its latest annual study since January following interactions with around 70 million people of all age groups through queries and consultations with medical practitioners associated with this platform. The data reflected that overall awareness about sexual and mental health has increased among those in the age bracket of 18-24 years across big cities and towns in the country. “India’s youth has become wary of diseases that are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, pushing them to reach out to doctors for help in their prevention and early diagnosis. About 45% young people, in the age group of 20-45 years, actively consult doctors for prevention of diseases that arise out of lifestyle problems while majority of the others reach out to healthcare experts for issues related to either sexual or mental health, said the report. A few of the top lifestyle diseases, the report points out, that young Indians want to avoid are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and hypertension. Interactions about diabetes witnessed a staggering growth of 250% in 2015, followed by cardiovascular diseases (210%), cancer (195%), hypertension (190%), obesity (150%), vitamin/mineral deficiency (150%) and COPD (140%).Majority of the interactions revolved around prevention but there has also been a remarkable rise in interactions on the treatment of these diseases with those who are suffering from them taking part. “The inclination of young people when it comes to preventive health assumes greater significance given the pressure it builds on the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The awareness will bring a huge change in people’s attitude when it comes to health and greatly reduce the cost burden on households and healthcare delivery in the country,” said Saurabh Arora, the founder and chief executive officer of Lybrate, in a press statement on Thursday. He added that their platform has proved how accessibility to trusted doctors and availability of authenticated medical information can help change the mindset of people and immensely improve healthcare delivery in India. The interactions on stress and depression have remarkably increased from these cities in the last one year, showing the stigma attached to these subjects is fading even in small towns and cities of the country. The interactions are defined by the cumulative sum of searches for doctors, lab tests booked, health queries sought, patient-doctor communication and appointments booked. (Hindustan Times 23/12/16)

340. Bridge the huge health gaps between rural & urban india (3)

Despite outpacing its South Asian neighbours in economic development, India lags behind most of them in major health indicators. We have the second lowest life expectancy in the region. Our infant mortality rate is higher than in Bangladesh and Nepal, and thrice as high as in Sri Lanka. Child immunisation rates in India are far lower than those of many sub-Saharan countries. While we need to improve the national health indicators as a whole, we cannot do so without bridging the huge health gaps between rural and urban India. On every measure of health, rural populations in all states compare poorly with their urban counterparts. This reflects causes that undermine health, deny access to needed health care and disempower people from protecting their health. From rural poverty to inadequate supply of potable water and poor sanitation, the social determinants of health are adversely conditioned. Essential health care is not readily available, due to poorly accessible or poorly staffed government health facilities and a marked urban concentration of all categories of formally qualified health care providers. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched in 2005, somewhat improved rural health care infrastructure, introduced village-level social mobilisers in the form of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and placed a strong emphasis on maternal and child health services. While institutional deliveries increased markedly, thanks to schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), there was no demonstrable association with reductions in maternal or neonatal mortality rates. This raises questions on the quality of care available in the institutions which women reach. If the facility does not have trained health care providers who can provide both routine and emergency obstetric care or revive a newborn in distress, merely shifting delivery from home to an institution will not help. If the health care facility lacks 24-hour supply of running water and electricity, the problem gets compounded. Furthermore, the mandate of rural health care has expanded beyond maternal and child health and infectious diseases. Heart diseases and stroke, variety of cancers, diabetes, lung and kidney diseases and mental illness are rapidly rising even in rural areas and warrant attention. This places even greater pressure on the rural health care system which is already constrained for human and financial resources. We need innovative solutions for these issues. Some of these will involve new categories and skill sets among health care providers and others will involve greater use of appropriate technologies. As a solution to the shortage of doctors in rural areas, governments talk of compulsory rural posting for fresh medical graduates. Since majority of medical colleges in India are concentrated in the four southern states and Maharashtra, how will this scheme supply doctors to other states?  To overcome this mismatch, the Central government has to employ fresh graduates in a special cadre under NRHM and post them where needs are high. Even then, fresh graduates who were trained in well-equipped urban hospitals will be like fish out of water when posted in a poorly resourced rural health care facility. Only when medical education is reconfigured to provide a substantial part of training in district and sub-district health systems, will the fresh graduate be attuned to the demands of rural service. (New Indian Express 25/12/16)

341. Japanese Encephalitis to be notifiable (3)

KOLKATA: Bengal health department has decided to handle cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE), a disease spread through mosquito bites, on an emergency war footing. Thus, the disease would be declared a notifiable disease from January 1. This step was taken to counter morbidity and mortality due to JE. It is now mandatory to report early outbreak of the disease. Hospitals or laboratories spotting JE virus from cerebrospinal fluid or serum should instantly report the matter to the health authorities, else they would be penalised. (Times of India 26/12/16)

HIV/AIDS

342. Blot for state: infants born with HIV (3)

Ranchi, Dec. 1: HIV transmission from mothers to newborns has not stopped in the state despite Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS) claiming to introduce the advanced multi-drug anti-retroviral (ART) regimen to prevent it, JSACS data released today on World AIDS Day seems to suggest. According to the data, 82 infants in 2015 were HIV-positive, belying the JSACS promise in 2014 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the virus in 2015 by introducing multi-drug ART. Multi-drug ART, which stops the transmission of the virus from the mother to the child, was introduced in Jharkhand in September 2014. But no one could explain how in that case 82 infants born to HIV-positive mothers in 2015 had inherited the virus. It means the mothers were either not administered multi-drug ART or were not in the loop of JSACS during pregnancy or delivery. However, no one at JSACS admitted to this. Contacted, a JSACS official admitted that the HIV-positive status of newborns in 2015 was a matter of concern. “Firstly, the rate of home delivery among HIV-positive continues to be on the higher side. Secondly, society fails to bring all pregnant HIV-positive women under its scanner on time,” he said. Though Jharkhand is a low-prevalence state as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, there has been a jump in numbers of infants born with HIV. In 2013, there were 36 infants with HIV. In 2014 and 2015, the number rose to 56 and 82. An official said the rise in infant numbers in 2015 might be the outcome of more women coming for HIV screening but he failed to explain why the infants tested positive in that case. This apart, state data shows 50 pregnant women were tested positive of HIV in government-run Integrated Counselling And Testing Centres (ICTC) between April to October 2016. Around 1,076 positive cases were also recorded statewide during this period. Dr B.B. Poddar, additional project director JSACS, however said they did ensure timely interventions. “The JSACS is involved in spreading awareness. Wherever discriminations are reported, we immediately mediate,” he said. (The Telegraph 2/12/16)

343. HIV patients’ data in 43,000 path lab reports leaked online (3)

MUMBAI: About 43,000 sensitive pathology reports, including those of HIV patients, were exposed online by a Thane-based laboratory. The leak, which underscores the vulnerability of electronic medical records, was pointed out by an Australian web security expert who stumbled upon the reports in an open online folder that could be easily seen and downloaded. Tony Hunt shared in his blog that the reports belonging to Health Solutions Pathology Pvt Ltd contained information about “general blood tests to tests for foetal signs of Down syndrome to HIV tests”.He also said the damage could be widespread as the folder had been indexed by Google. “So simply shutting down the site won’t remove the full exposure, Google will need to be scrubbed too,” he wrote. This means that the files could be lurking in the cache folders of search engines. The data was probably lying unsecured for about six months now. The leaked files contained names, ages and gender of patients, besides the tests undergone by them. The laboratory removed the files from the web space on Friday afternoon after a news portal contacted them. Hunt had rued how the laboratory could not be contacted for over two days. “I’ve tried emailing multiple addresses (all bounced) and using the contact form (no reply),” he wrote.HS Pathology Private Ltd issued a statement on Friday saying that their website was “hacked”. The lab said that they were in the process of filing a complaint with the cyber cell of Mumbai police. “We have taken necessary action by deleting all records from the website and it has been shut down temporarily to ensure that none of the private information of any of our patients goes into public domain. While the website has been hacked, none of the confidential information on health issue of any of our patients has been compromised,” said the company’s director, Amit Sharma. The lab has 40 collection centres in Thane, Nashik and Dhule. When TOI spoke to one of the company executives, he said that they were yet to identify the source of the leak. However, it was not the first time the website was being hacked into. “The multiple attempts to breach our site had forced us to migrate to a stronger system. Since our staff was being trained to use the new system, we thought we will complete our processes by January,” said the executive. …  (Times of India 3/12/16)

344. Over 1,300 People Died of AIDS in Mizoram Since 1990 (3)

More than 1,300 people have died of AIDS in Mizoram out of the 13,040 HIV positive cases identified since October 1990, this was informed by officials of Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) on World Aids Day. The officials said the situation in the state is alarming as over 60 per cent of those living with HIV were infected through sexual contact, with many of them not belonging to risk groups. “Unless the NGOs and churches do not make concerted efforts in combating it, the future of the state would be extremely bleak,” they added. It is to be mentioned here that the number of HIV positive people was 1.19 per cent of the states population according to the 2011 census. Adding that the percentage against the number of blood samples tested was 2.35. (Kangla Online 3/12/16)

345. New packaging pushes up condom use, prevents HIV in Dharwad district (3)

HUBBALLI: A central government programme to supply Nirodh condoms in new packings for sex workers has become a huge hit in the district. To push sex workers and the general public towards safe sex, the government supplied condoms in attractive packs to compete with other condom manufacturing companies. Now, these freely available condoms have prevented many sex workers and their customers from falling prey to HIV. The Society for People’s Action for Development (SPAD), an NGO working for the betterment of sex workers and educating them on avoiding AIDS, distributes 16,000 condoms per month. During the festive season, the number increases to 18,000 per month. According to sources, earlier, due to customers’ reluctance, sex workers would not use government condoms, but now they are in demand. Veerappa Tegur, programme manager, SPAD, said 19 peer educators among sex workers are working to educate the fraternity on safe sex. Nine peer educators in Hubballi and 10 in Dharwad are working in the campaign. “In Hubballi-Dharwad, Alnavar and Kundgol, there are 1,489 sex workers, of which nearly half operate from their homes and the rest in the lodges, market area and the bus terminus. Peer educators provide condoms without fail to sex workers,” he said. There is an adequate supply of condoms, and condoms are supplied every three months based on the requirement. In a day, a sex worker uses five to six condoms, Tegur added. Shaila Doddamani, peer educator, SPAD, said initially sex workers were reluctant, but now they use condoms without any hesitation. Sex workers from the city and rural areas of Hubballi, Dharwad, Davanagere, Haveri, Shiggaon, and Vijayapura are engaged in sex work in Hubballi. “We meet each sex worker personally and convince her to use condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. We provide condoms as per their need and every three months, we take them for clinical check-ups and every six months for speculum test and HIV test,” he said. (Times of India 6/12/16)

346. Free travel facility likely to be extended to HIV/AID patients (3)

Thane: A proposal of free travel for the HIV/AIDs patients was pending approval of the state government, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society Project Director Dr Kamlakar Phand said. He was speaking at the inauguration of single window service centre at the Thane District Collectorate for HIV/AIDs patients. Also present on the occasion was District Collector Dr Mahendra Kalyankar, Thane Civil Surgeon Dr B C Kempi Patil, and DHO Dr B S Sonawane. The Collector inaugurated the single window facility at the Collectorate. The centre is being managed jointly by the district health department and the Collectorate. On the occasion 19 patients were given pension under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana. Dr Phand said the single window facility for the HIV/AIDs patients has already started in the districts of Sangli, Solapur and Yavatmal and Thane is the latest addition. A survey by Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres during the period 2007 to 2016 indicated that there were a total of 36,574 HIV positive cases in the districts of Thane and Palghar. The HIV infected patients will get benefits under various schemes like the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Bal Sangopan Yojana, Antyodaya Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Jivdai Yojana, Indira Awas Yojana, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Shravan Bal Yojana, Gharkul Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojana and Senior Citizens Pension Yojana among others at the single window facility, the official stated. (Business Standard 7/12/16)

347. West Bengal initiates fight against HIV/AIDS (3)

Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], Dec.10 : The West Bengal State Aids Prevention Camp Control Society (WBSAPCS) under the guidance of the Department of Health and Family Welfare is planning to involve hoteliers of Darjeeling to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. [NK India] The society’s joint secretary, Dr. Dipendra Narayan Goswami, told ANI, “Targeted intervention programme is basically target towards the high risk group, meaning female sex workers (FSW), truckers, injectable drug users and man having sex with man (MSM) and transgender populations who are basically spreading the virus to the general population.” “Awareness is the only solution to fight it, so, we are trying to involve some intervention with the hotelier association, involving them for general awareness to the tourists and the availability of protective devices,” he added. Echoing similar sentiments, Roshni Chettri, Councillor, Federation of Society for Environmental Protection (FOSEP), Darjeeling, said, “Darjeeling is a tourist spot, many migrants are coming every day, some of them may unprotected or may not be, but to control the HIV its need to aware Female Sex Workers (FSW) about the protective devices.” The struggle against HIV/AIDS is a monumental task. In India, the disease is on a growth path. (AIDS) (New Kerala 11/12/16)

348. 15 percent of people with HIV remain unaware (3)

Washington D.C [US], Dec.12 : In a recent study published in Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, researchers have estimated that some 15 percent of people living with HIV remain unaware of their infection. [NK Health] Despite evidence that HIV incidence rates in the United States are decreasing modestly in recent years, at least 44,000 people are still infected with HIV each year. However, the socioeconomically disadvantaged African American/Black and Hispanic persons are disproportionately affected by HIV and thus over-represented in the HIV epidemic in comparison to their numbers in the general population.”Undiagnosed HIV is a serious public health issue,” said Marya Viorst Gwadz, the study’s Principal Investigator. “At least a third of new HIV transmission events are linked to those with undiagnosed HIV, yet finding people with undiagnosed HIV is very challenging,” she added. Nationally, heterosexual sex is the second most common route of HIV transmission after male-to-male sexual contact, accounting for an estimated 24 percent of newly reported infections annually and is the main route of transmission among women. “Compared with other risk groups, heterosexuals are less likely to be tested for HIV over their lifetimes, and less likely to be tested annually, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends,” noted Charles M. Cleland, the Co-researcher. Adding, “As many as 25% of HIV-infected heterosexuals are undiagnosed – a substantially higher rate of undiagnosed HIV than among other risk groups.” “We are interested mainly in heterosexuals considered at high-risk for HIV because they live in urban geographical areas with high rates of poverty, a primary risk factor for HIV infection, and high rates of prevalent HIV,” said Noelle R. Leonard, another Co-Investigator. Adding, “These ‘heterosexuals at high-risk’ for HIV, who are mainly African American/Black and Hispanic, have serious barriers to regular HIV testing. Many of the barriers are related to race/ethnicity and lower social status, including: fear of HIV stigma; distrust of medical settings; substance use problems; and the sense that heterosexuals are not at risk for HIV compared to other risk groups–such as men who have sex with men or persons who inject drugs.” …..  New Kerala 12/12/16)

349. HIV treatment may take a toll on the brain: Study (3)

Newyork: Antiretroviral drugs have been life-changing therapies for HIV patients, but they can have significant side effects including neuronal degeneration, which can be manifested as forgetfulness, confusion and behavioural and motor changes, says a study. Certain protease inhibitors, among the most effective HIV drugs, lead to the production of the peptide beta amyloid, often associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the study found. “Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities,” said senior author on the study Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, Professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in the US. The drugs prompt an increase in levels of the enzyme that cleaves the amyloid precursor protein, APP, to produce beta amyloid, which is responsible for the damage to neurons. Notably, inhibiting that enzyme, called BACE1, protected human and rodent brain cells from harm, suggesting that targetting this mechanism with a new drug could minimise damage to neurons in patients on antiretroviral therapies. “Our findings may cause us to rethink how we’re using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects,” Jordan-Sciutto noted. To determine whether and how neuronal damage arises from drug treatment and to ascertain the enzyme BACE1′s role, the team investigated the effects of protease inhibitors in two animal models, then probed the mechanism of action in cells in culture. The findings appeared in the American Journal of Pathology. (Business Standard 17/12/16)

350. Diabetes could increase the risk of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (3)

KOLKATA: Based on a report, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013, Metabolic Medicine’s professor Rebecca Reynolds said that India has the highest number of diabetic patients in the World. During MEDICON International 2016, an international conference on advanced clinical medicine in Kolkata, Rebecca Reynolds, Metabolic Medicine’s professor of UK’s University of Edinburgh, said, “Diabetes becomes a global problem, when the number of people with diabetes in the world is 415 million (Reported in 2015) and it could go up to 642 million by 2040.” “There are 78.3 million (Reported in 2015) diabetic patients in South-East Asia and it’s increasing very fast,” Rebecca added. The professor also said that diabetes, which is of two types, could increase the risks of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. “Though we found more diabetic patients in urban zones than rural areas, but poor diet due to poverty is a leading reason of Type 2 diabetes,” the senior professor said. Basing on a health report, Reynolds said that 1/4th population of India was under poverty line, when 1/3rd babies were born in the country with very low weight. “There are three types of diabetes prevention- primary, secondary and tertiary, which are exciting but a challenging job,” the professor said on prevention. “The Indian government has overtaken several strategies to fight it. Two pilot projects- NPDCS (National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovascular and Diseases) in 2008 and NCPDCS (National Programme for Prevention of Cancer and NCDs) in 2010- were conducted in 10 and 21states respectively,” she said.Rebecca said that there was also an expansion of programme with additional diabetes screening and treatment in 2013. However, the UK-based professor said that the NCPDCS project did not achieve much in India in diabetes prevention.”Due to the lack of diabetes specialists across the country and poor awareness about the disease among the people of rural areas, the project could not achieve a huge success,” she added. The two day third edition of MEDICON International conference, jointly hosted by Peerless Hospital, B. K. Roy Foundation and Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, concluded on Sunday. (Times of India 19/12/16)

351. Noida: Man tests positive for HIV, son sent to shelter home (3)

Noida: A six-year-old boy was sent to a shelter home after his father was diagnosed HIV positive. The victim, a mason who hails from Kolkata, West Bengal, had come to Noida to get treated for multiple ailments. However, his relatives in West Bengal allegedly refused to take care of his son as soon as they heard about his condition, thereby forcing the father to send his kid to a shelter home. A local resident, who had gone to meet a patient at the district hospital on Thursday, spotted the boy sitting near his father who was lying on a bed. When he inquired, he found that the man is HIV positive and there is no one to take care of the child. He then informed the police and Childline, a helpline for children. “We received the information from the police team. Our workers went to the hospital and shifted the child to a Noida shelter home. His father was shifted to LNJP Hospital in Delhi where the India HIV Aids Alliance is taking care of him,” said Satya Prakash, programme manager, FXB India Suraksha NGO. The district hospital authorities said that the victim was referred to LNJP Hospital in Delhi after he was diagnosed HIV positive. “The victim had approached the hospital with multiple ailments. After we found out that he was HIV positive, we referred him to LNJP hospital. It is a routine procedure that is followed with all such patients,” said Nagendra Mathur, chief medical superintendent, district hospital. Earlier, the victim was staying at a Noida resident’s place after he was found waiting in the district hospital 15 days ago at the district hospital. “I went to the district hospital to meet a relative who was admitted there. I found this man lying on a bed while his son sat next to him. He told me that he has nowhere to go. I took him to my place,” said Kallu, a resident of Noida. The Good Samaritan of Noida also got him tested at the district hospital. However, he could not keep the child due to the fear that he might run away. “We admitted him at the hospital and got all the tests done. On Tuesday, his reports came and it was found that he was HIV positive. The man is still with us and on Friday he will be shifted to the LNJP hospital. We could have kept the child but we did not want to take any risk,” said Kallu. (Hindustan Tim,es 22/12/16)

352. Prices of 50 essential drugs slashed by up to 44% (3)

NEW DELHI: Prices of over 50 essential drugs including those used for treatment of HIV infection, diabetes, anxiety disorders, bacterial infections, angina and acid reflux have been capped by the government, leading to a price cut in the range of 5 per cent to 44 per cent. The National Drug Pricing Regulator has also fixed the retail prices of 29 formulations. “NPPA has fixed/revised ceiling prices of 55 scheduled formulations of Schedule-I under Drugs (Price Control) Amendment Order,2016 and retail price of 29 formulations under DPCO, 2013 in related Notification /order dated 23.12.2016,” National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) said in a statement. On being contacted about the price reduction, NPPA Chairman Bhupendra Singh told PTI: “The prices have been reduced in the range of 5 to 44 per cent, with the average being about 25 per cent”. As stipulated under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013, NPPA fixes ceiling price of essential medicines of Schedule I.In respect of medicines not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10 per cent annually. The calculation for essential drugs is based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 per cent.The government had notified the DPCO 2013, which covers 680 formulations, with effect from May 15, 2014, replacing the 1995 order that regulated prices of only 74 bulk drugs. Set up in 1997, NPPA has been entrusted with the task of fixation/revision of prices of pharma products, enforcement of provisions of DPCO and monitoring of prices of controlled and decontrolled drugs. (Times of India 23/12/16)

 

353. 3,500 HIV patients in Mumbai have stopped treatment (3)

Mumbai: Around 3,500 HIV-infected patients in Mumbai have abandoned treatment between 2013 and 2016 and nearly 90% have not been traced, says data from the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS). Experts said the trend of HIV patients abandoning treatment — referred to as ‘loss-to-follow-up patients’ — not only results in increased HIV-related deaths, but is also a major public health concern because they can spread the disease in the community. The fact that a majority of these patients are not traceable means the transmission of the virus could be active, said an official from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). When patients drop out, they are no longer monitored by the anti-retro-viral treatment (ART) centres, which distribute the medicines for free. Experts said they will be more likely to transmit the infection in the community. “When an HIV patient stops the treatment, the virus multiplies in their body. This patient will knowingly or unknowingly spread the infection in the community either by unsafe sex or use of common syringes,” he said. Another concern is that if treatment is abandoned mid-way, they could develope drug resistance, making it harder for drugs to work if the patient decides to start medication again. “Stopping the treatment means you are allowing the virus to acquire drug-resistant forms. Treatment options for advanced forms of the infection are largely limited,” said a doctor from Sir JJ Hospital, Byculla. In Mumbai, of the average 30,000 HIV patients taking (ART) — a cocktail of drugs that, while not killing the virus, slows its growth, reducing mortality — 453 had stopped coming for their monthly medicines between 2013 and 2014, according to MDACS. When the government intensified its efforts to find out patients who abandoned treatment, 3,091 cases were reported between 2014 and 2016. Doctors said there were several reasons why patients abandoned medication. “They usually do not disclose their condition to their relatives. Many discontinue the treatment out of the fear that others will find out about their condition,” said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS. “Sometimes patients also stop coming because they face severe side effects from the medicines or they find it to too burdensome to travel to an ART centre each month.” While tracing patients is a challenge, members of VIHAAN, a consortium led by HIV/AIDS Alliance that traces patients who have stopped treatment said the numbers are usually higher in big cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. “These centres usually have a high migratory population. People start the treatment, but go back to their home towns half way through,” said Mona Balani, programme officer, VIHAAN. “They would have given their temporary address and phone number, so it becomes tough to trace them back,” she said. Officials from NACO said they are trying to appoint more people at regional levels to have better coordination with the patients. “Patients dropping out of treatment is a setback to the goal of eliminating HIV from India. We are going to appoint 13 people across India, who will work to bring down the dropout rates,” said the official. (Hindustan Times 24/12/16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by admin at 15 December 2016

Category: Uncategorized

 (News Compilation from November 1 to 30, 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit, ST groups to rally for constitutional rights (2)

KOLHAPUR: Various Dalit and Scheduled Tribe (ST) organisations will hold the Sanvidhan Sanman (Constitution Honour) rally on December 17 here to press their demands before the state government.The groups have been demanding for changes in reservation and the Atrocity Act. Social activist Vidhydhar Kamble said, “The rally is not against any community. We are dealing with our own issues. We demand strict implementation of the Atrocity Act, nationalisation of land, capital punishment for the Kopardi rape case accused and scholarships for backward classes. The government should act upon our demands. The next meetings be at the taluka-level. We are appealing for greater participation.” (Times of India 2/11/16)

2. Temple temporarily sealed as caste Hindus insist on Dalit ban (2)

TIRUVANNAMALAI: An uneasy calm has enveloped Namandi and Hariharapakkam villages under Venpakkam Taluk in Tiruvannamalai district. Ever since the Thulukanathamman Temple in Hariharapakkam was thrown open for the Dalits, a cold war has been brewing, with the caste Hindus allegedly discriminating against the former to express their displeasure. On one hand is the caste Hindu community, reluctant to dilute its age-old custom by allowing non-members entry into Thulukanathamman Temple in Hariharapakkam, while on the other are the Dalits, wanting to cast away the shackles of superstitions. The sparks flying out due to the friction between a penchant for dogmas and an ardent desire for change has transformed these two villages, where the caste Hindus and the Dalits, till a few days ago, led a relatively peaceful co-existence into a tinderbox, with the policemen keeping a watchful eye to keep the simmering tension from spilling onto the streets. Policemen stand guard outside the sealed Thulukanathamman Temple in Hariharapakkam on Wednesday | s dinesh Located seven kilometres away from Venpakkam-Kancheepuram Main Road, Namandi is home to about 160 Dalit families. “There are about 1,800 caste Hindus living in the two villages. The surrounding villages too have predominantly a caste Hindu presence. We Dalits number around 500. These days, every Dalit member walks on the streets in fear,” says a 55-year-old Dalit resident in Namandi Colony. The issue started snowballing on July 22 last when a group of Dalit youth from Namandi petitioned Cheyyar Sub Collector R Prabu Shankar, sought the right to participation in the Thulukanathamman Temple festival, conducted in the third week of Aadi (August). When the officials organised a peace meeting with the caste Hindus of Hariharapakkam, the latter refused to allow Dalits into the temple. The caste Hindus claimed that the century-old temple belonged to members of their community. When after a series of peace talks the parties failed to arrive at a consensus, the officials unilaterally decided to throw open the temple for the Dalits. On October 25 last, the Cheyyar Sub-Collector opened up the temple for Dalits. Around 200 Dalits entered and offered prayers in the temple. (New Indian Express 3/11/2016)

3. TN temple temporarily sealed as caste hindus insist on Dalit ban (2)

TIRUVANNAMALAI: An uneasy calm has enveloped Namandi and Hariharapakkam villages under Venpakkam Taluk in Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. Ever since the Thulukanathamman Temple in Hariharapakkam was thrown open for the Dalits, a cold war has been brewing, with the caste Hindus allegedly discriminating against the former to express their displeasure. On one hand is the caste Hindu community, reluctant to dilute its age-old custom by allowing non-members entry into Thulukanathamman Temple in Hariharapakkam, while on the other are the Dalits, wanting to cast away the shackles of superstitions. The sparks flying out due to the friction between a penchant for dogmas and an ardent desire for change has transformed these two villages, where the caste Hindus and the Dalits, till a few days ago, led a relatively peaceful co-existence into a tinderbox, with the policemen keeping a watchful eye to keep the simmering tension from spilling onto the streets. Located seven kilometres away from Venpakkam-Kancheepuram Main Road, Namandi is home to about 160 Dalit families. “There are about 1,800 caste Hindus living in the two villages. The surrounding villages too have predominantly a caste Hindu presence. We Dalits are around 500 in number. These days, every Dalit member walks on the streets in fear,” says a 55-year-old Dalit resident in Namandi Colony. The issue started snowballing on July 22 last when a group of Dalit youth from Namandi petitioned Cheyyar Sub-Collector R Prabu Shankar, sought the right to participation in the Thulukanathamman Temple festival, conducted in the third week of Aadi (August). When the officials organised a peace meeting with the caste Hindus of Hariharapakkam, the latter refused to allow Dalits into the temple. The caste Hindus claimed that the century-old temple belonged to members of their community. When after a series of peace talks the parties failed to arrive at a consensus, the officials unilaterally decided to open the temple for the Dalits. On October 25 last, the Cheyyar Sub-Collector opened up the temple for Dalits. Around 200 Dalits entered and offered prayers in the temple. However, when the caste Hindus took to the streets opposing the official action, tension gripped the villages, forcing Tiruvannamalai Collector Prashant M Wadnere to issue an order to close the temple doors the very next day. Ever since the October 25 incident, the peaceful relationship the two communities shared was strained. “Four share autos ply in the village, ferrying people to the main road. However, ever since our entry, we are not allowed into three autos operated by caste Hindus,” claims a college student. Another Dalit recalls the friendly relations the community shared. “Some of us own agricultural land and cultivate paddy. Caste Hindus work as daily wage labourer on our lands, attending to all chores and even sharing our food and water. However, they steadfastly opposed our entry to the temple,” he adds. Stating that the Dalits entering their temple was a breach of faith, a cross-section of caste Hindus said that the deity of Thulukanthamman was their Kula Theivam (guardian of their community).  (New Indian Express 6/11/2016)

4. Give quota to dalits in sports to win gold in Olympics: Udit (2)

New Delhi: India will win gold medals at Olympics, if quota is offered to Dalits in sports, a BJP MP from the community claimed today as he made a strong pitch for reservation to the community in line with that given to blacks in US and South Africa. “Reservation should be extended to Dalits in each of the sports. In South Africa, quota is offered in their cricket team. The US too pitches for blacks, who slog, work hard in athletics. There are not many whites in athletics.”…If reservation is offered here in sports, we too will win gold medals,” BJP Parliamentarian Udit Raj said today. Udit Raj made the remarks while speaking to reporters here on the issue of extending quota to Dalits in various areas of private sector including sports.”You go to US, there is a partnership with non-whites in each sector. In South Africa, reservation is given to Negroes even in a sport like cricket. There can’t be more than five whites in cricket team,” he added. To a question, the Parliamentarian, one of the key Dalit leaders of the saffron party, also hit out at BSP chief Mayawati over her criticism of BJP that atrocities against community members have gone up in the states ruled by the NDA major. “Rather, Dalits faced atrocities more during Mayawati’s regime in Uttar Pradesh. Her allegations are unfounded,” he said. Udit Raj insisted on bringing reforms in judiciary and police system to ensure the number of alleged attacks on Dalits goes down. “There have been atrocities against Dalits in the past too. We have flagged the issue in Parliament many a times. Such incidents though will not go down until these reforms happen. We need social reforms too,” he said. The Parliamentarian targeted Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP too for allegedly not keeping promises of regularising contractual community teachers and sanitation workers into Delhi government services and said he will raise the issues among Dalits across the national capital. “They sought votes of Dalits ahead of assembly elections, but kept none of the promises made to the community. I will be fanning parts of the national capital where community populace is concentrated to tell people facts,” he said. At the Rio Olympics held earlier this year, India bagged two medals: a silver in badminton and bronze in wrestling both in women’s category. (Business Standard 9/11/2016)

5. Sangrur clash: 70-yr-old Dalit woman dies in PGI, farmer unions protest outside DCs office (2)

Sangrur: Tension had gripped Jhalur village in Sangrur in October after a clash between Dalits and landlords, which left 30 people injured. The clash took place over the common land between upper caste landlords, allegedly supported by local Akali leaders, and Dalits, who are members of the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee. On Saturday, hundreds of activists of the Sangharsh committee, Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), BKU (Ekta –Dakaunda), Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union and members of some other organisations gathered outside the DC office and raised slogans against the state government and the police. “The landlords with the support of the police and political leaders assaulted Dailt families, but the police have not arrested them. Our around 17 members were arrested. The goons, who attacked Dalits and assaulted the elderly woman, are roaming free, only two persons were arrested,” said a Sangharsh committee member, Gurmukh Singh. He said, “We demand immediate arrest of all the culprits, who attacked Dalits. They should be charged under Section 302 (murder) instead of 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code”. “Senior superintendent of police Pritpal Singh Thind, along with other police officials, who had not performed their duties, should be suspended,” he added. The protesters have decided not to cremate the body of the woman till the arrest of the accused. Around 150 protesters decided to spend night outside the DC office. However, the body of Gurdev Kaur was not handed over to the family till late evening by the PGI authorities. Senior superintendent of police Pritpal Singh Thind said, “Police were not aware of whereabouts of the woman. We didn’t know where she was during the past days but the police have started investigation and the accused will be arrested soon.” (Hindustan Times 13/11/2016)

6. Dalit party to field Rakhi Sawant against Mayawati in UP (2)

ALLAHABAD: Union minister and Republican Party of India chief Ramdas At hawale on Sunday said that his party was hoping to contest the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in alliance with the BJP and considering to field actress Rakhi Sawant against Mayawati if the BSP supremo contests.  Mayawati has, for quite some time, been shying away from herself fighting polls, be it for the state assembly or the Lok Sabha.We would like to see if she is going to change that this time. If she does, we would field Rakhi Sawant who is our women’s wing president, from the very seat the BSP chief chooses for herself,” Athawale told reporters here. The Union minister said his party was “an integral part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and hence we would like to fight the upcoming assembly polls in alliance with the party which is our senior coalition partner”.”But if such an alliance does not materialise, RPI will go ahead and field its candidates in more than 200 out of 403 assembly segments of UP. “We think it is necessary since dalits of Uttar Pradesh have been feeling shortchanged by the BSP and they are yearning for an alternative,” Athawale, who is the minister of state for social justice and empowerment, said. Tracing its origins to the Scheduled Castes’ Federation of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the RPI came into being in the late 1950s and wields considerable influence among the dalits of Maharashtra. However, it has been riven by factionalism leading to formation of several splinter groups. In the recent past, Athawale has succeeded in bringing together all these splinter groups under the banner of RPI (A) with the exception of the faction led by Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar. (Times of India 14/11/2016)

7. Dalit Samiti stages protest, demands facilities for employees (2)

Mandya: The Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (B. Krishnappa faction) has urged the State government to fix minimum wages for Dalits working at gram panchayats and other local bodies. A group of members of the Samiti took out a protest march from the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway to the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Tuesday.According to them, employees of various grades at gram panchayats and urban local bodies (ULBs) were facing insecurity following the absence of minimum wages and other social security benefits. The agitators urged the government to release salaries of all Dalit employees by the fifth of every month. They also demanded pension, health insurance, provident fund and other facilities for Dalit employees. The State government was also urged to implement the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Commission Report, which recommended reallocation of reservation among communities grouped under Scheduled Castes, immediately. Later, they submitted a memorandum to the government through the office of the Deputy Commissioner. (The Hindu 15/11/2016)

8. Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani refuses to seek bail, sent to jail (2)

Ahmedabad: Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and three of his associates were sent to judicial custody after they refused to apply for bail following their arrest in connection with a protest, police said today.Mr.Mewani, who has emerged as the face of Dalit protest after the Una cow vigilante incident, and 19 others were arrested by the police for allegedly trying to block a busy road near the Gujarat University here last evening. They were arrested under IPC sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 188 (disobeying orders of public servant), said inspector G S Bariya. “When we produced them before the court late last night, 16 of them agreed to take bail while Mewani, Subodh Parmar, Dixit Parmar and Rakesh Maheria refused to seek bail. So as per the court’s order we sent them in judicial custody at Sabarmati Central Jail,” said inspector Bariya. Mr.Mewani and other agitators from Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch had gathered outside the University demanding that the under-construction building of its law department be named after Dr B. R. Ambedkar. “To make their demand heard, protesters sat on dharna on road after removing their shirts. When they were produced before the court, Mr.Mewani and three others refused to take bail to register their protest against Gujarat government,” said their lawyer and a key member of city-based NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch, Shamshad Pathan. “Earlier the government had promised to hold a meeting with Dalit leaders on various issues including the Una Dalit flogging incident. As no such meeting has taken place yet, Mr.Mewani and three others decided not to seek bail to register their protest,” added advocate Pathan. (The Hindu 16/11/16)

9. ‘Dalits in Gujarat still tortured’ (2)

MARGAO: There’s so much aggression against dalits that it won’t surprise me if the demand for an independent dalit nation arises, said veteran Dalit activist Martin Macwan, who works in Gujarat.”Dalits in Gujarat are still not considered a part of the Indian society and the ferociousness in the anti-caste feeling has gotten worse after the Una incident in Gujarat, where dalits were publicly flogged by cow vigilante group members. A recent case was the killing of a pregnant BCom graduate, belonging to the chamar community. They are very frustrated,” Macwan said. He was speaking at the panel discussion on ‘Fight Against Communalism’, at the three-day national conference of the Dakshinayan Abhiyan, which is under way at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao. Macwan stated that around 50,000 crimes against dalits are committed annually in India, with two murders and three cases of rape on an average each day, majority of which are not registered under the Atrocities Act of 1989.”Crime is registered under the Atrocity Act only when the person making such a complaint is accompanied by a non-dalit person. This is the case in Maharashtra,” said Abhay Kanta, editor of the Marathi fortnightly ‘Pariwartanacha Watsaru. For the first time in Gujarat as many as 20 young Dalits attempted suicide to express their anger, Kanta said. The Gujarat government in 2003 declared before the Supreme Court that the state was free from manual scavenging, but a study carried out in 2006 showed that there are 2,456 households and 4,333 persons engaged in manual scavenging, where nearly 20% of manual scavengers still carry human excreta in baskets, buckets or handcarts.In around 96% of the villages, people belonging to scheduled castes don’t have access to village burial grounds and don’t get access to common grazing land, Kanta said. (Times of India 20/11/16)

10. Manual scavengers find a voice on the screen (2)

CHENNAI: “Every morsel of food we eat is stained in blood” is how a subject in K Divya’s documentary film ‘Kakkoos’ (Toilet) describes the plight of manual scavengers. The filmmaker, who has uploaded a trailer of the 90-minute film on YouTube, has been receiving positive responses. A law graduate and CPI(ML) functionary from Madurai, Divya told TOI that lack of dialogue in public has kept alive the banned practice of manual scavenging. “In January, I came across a scavenger removing human waste near Chinnakkal in Madurai standing chest deep in sewer water. I filed a complaint with the local police but the inspector laughed it off. He showed me a voucher and said the worker was paid for and returned the complaint letter to me,” Divya said. “Even when I followed the issue up with the Madras high court bench, I felt that the system was not serious. That is when I decided to make the film,” she said. The shoot was done over the next nine months and across 20 districts in Tamil Nadu. In this period alone, there have been around 25 documented scavenger deaths in the state, Divya said. “Imagine, how many would have been covered up,” Divya asked.As she set upon interviewing subjects, Divya realised that scavengers were not willing to open up due to fear of losing their livelihood. “Whenever a photograph of a scavenger cleaning human waste appears in a newspaper, instead of taking action to rectify their outdated ways, government officials who employ these people threaten them that they will lose their jobs,” she said.A lot of emotion was caught on camera as Divya went around talking to people who lost their dear ones to manual scavenging. “Women are affected in this line of work the most. Standing in sewer water for longer hours, they contract vaginal infection. Most of them have had to remove their uterus as a result. But when they convey such information on camera, they are able to do so with a smile. They cover up their pain with humour. It was horrifying and surprising at the same time,” Divya said adding that she was able to crowdfund nearly 2 lakh for the film’s production.Divya expects to release her film by the second week of December. “I am pleasantly surprised by the response that the trailer clip received,” she said.A song clipping featured towards the end of the trailer has also garnered attention. Written by R Thannikodi, the song takes on the society’s ego and the way how it treats manual scavenging as a taboo topic. (Times of India 23/11/16)

11. Demonetisation: Dalits hit in Agra, struggle to feed families (2)

Agra: Ever since the demonetisation was announced on November 8, housewives, especially those of belonging to Dalit households are facing serious trouble managing their households. Most of these women who as labourers at construction sites, footwear or brush factories are suffering as many construction sites have stopped work and the factories have asked most of their auxillary workers to stay home, till the present cash crisis is resolved. With their husbands also out of work due to the inability of the factories to pay, manging daily household affairs has become a struggle. Sheela Devi, a Dalit housewife from the Nagla Chhaua area of Agra told India Today that nearly all women in the area are either sitting at home without any work or are lining up at the banks to convert their old currency notes. Devi added that it is becoming hard to even eat two meals a day, in absence of any employment and there is no money to pay the installment of the housing loan that she had taken to build her house.A large group of these women organised a brief sit-in at the residence of the Agra District Magistrate Gaurav Dayal, so that he ehars their plea. When the DM failed to offer them any reassurance, these women blocked the Mahatma Gandhi Road, causing a two-hour long jam. Bhagwati Devi told India Today that she stitched shoe covers along with her three daughters to run their family, but after the shoe factories closed, the daily and weekly payments from the factories have stopped and meeting the basic necessities has become very difficult. The lenders are demanding payment of loan installments but when there was nothing at home to even buy a few kilograms of flour, how could she pay the lenders? She added that she was being threatened by the lenders that they will send her to jail if she didn’t pay the installment but she had nothing to give them except try to mortgage her house, but even that was finding no takers in these difficult times. .. (India Today 24/11/2016)

12. Dalit families migrate after social boycott (2)

PALANPUR: As many as 37 members of six dalit families have been forced to migrate from their native village Maniyari in Chanasama taluka of Patan following social boycott by upper cast members. The families migrated to nearby village on November 19. Pushpa Solanki a social worker said, “Patels have boycotted the dalits. No one would talk to them or buy goods from their shops. The Patels also did not employ dalits as farm labourers.” Narendra Parmar, who is providing legal assistance to them said of the 37 members 17 are women.Deputy superintendent of police RC Mehta said “We have deployed police in the village. The dalits have already met the collector who has assured them work under MNREGA.” Last month, six Patel members were arrested after a clash with the Dalits in the village. (Times of India 29/11/16)

13. Dalit activist alleges police harassment (2)

THRISSUR: Dalit activist T S Anilkumar, who is under treatment at a hospital at Kodungallur, alleged that the police was harassing him in the name of Maoist connection.The police suspect that he was one of the Maoists who was injured in the Nilambur encounter. However, Anilkumar denied any links with the ultras. Calling himself an Ambedkerist, he said he has been working for the dalits. He was at Kallambalam in Thiruvananthapuram visiting dalit colonies there on November 25 when the police gunned down the extremists. He said had fallen down during the colony visit, following which he sought treatment. Anilkumar said he would take the legal route if the police continued to harass him. The activist said he was earlier admitted to the hospital on November 9. The hospital sources too confirmed that he was admitted to the hospital with a fracture on November 9 and discharged on November 11. He was again admitted on November 26. (Times of India 30/11/2016)

TRIBALS

14. SHRC notice on Vanarmare tribals (6)

PANAJI: The Goa State Human Rights Commission on Tuesday directed the South Goa Collector to provide basic amenities to members of the Vanarmare tribe. The huts belonging to around 15 Vanarmare families were vandalised in Central Goa by local villagers on October 16. The Commission directed the Collector to provide food, water, solar panels and other amenities to the tribals till they were rehabilitated. He has to submit a compliance report within 15 days. (The Hindu 2/11/2016)

15. State women’s commission to visit tribals on Fri (6)

Panaji: The Goa State Commission for Women will visit women belonging to the Wanarmare tribe on Friday to inquire about their situation and address their needs, chairperson Vidya Shet Tanavade told TOI on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the director of civil supplies and consumer affairs has instructed the civil supplies inspector at Ponda to release and distribute five kg of rice and half kg of sugar under the disaster management quota to each of the tribe’s beneficiaries. The inspector has also been directed to collect the required quantity of sugar from the godown of the Goa State Cooperative Marketing and Supply Federation Limited and to make necessary arrangements to distribute the commodity to the affected families immediately. A compliance report will subsequently have to be prepared and sent to the director of civil supplies. Aid for the afflicted Wanarmare tribe continues to pour in from citizens residing within the state and beyond. Sources said people from various walks of life came to the succour of the tribals much before the state government was coerced into action by the Goa State Human Rights Commission. So far, clothes, bedding, food, mobile chargers, solar lights, tables, chairs and various other items have been donated to the Wanarmare families by several individuals. Bio-toilets are also being set up. (Times of India 2/11/2016)

16. Govt mulls amending rules to ease granting of land titles to forest-dwellers (6)

New Delhi” :  Tribal ministry retreats on forest rights, says land can be diverted for mining Ministry changes stance on tribals’ forest rights Taking consent from tribal gram sabha is not practical: Anil Madhav Dave NDA’s forest policy begins to fall into place. To ease the process of granting land titles to forest-dwellers, the government is mulling reducing the strength of quorum for gram sabha meetings that consider the claims of villagers for land deeds under the Forest Rights Act. As per the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 50 per cent of members of a gram sabha should be present to form the quorum for hearing such claims. “It is often difficult to form the quorum, which in turn delays the process of granting forest land to villagers on which they are traditionally dependent. Also, in the process, genuine claimants suffer. So it was strongly felt that the strength of quorum should be reduced,” a senior Tribal Affairs Ministry official said. When the rules were framed in 2007, the requirement of quorum was two-thirds of all members of the gram sabha. As such quorum was often difficult to meet, in September 2012, the rule was amended to reduce the quorum strength to 50 per cent of members. Under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, traditional forest dwellers make claims for forest rights to get the title of the land on which they are dependent. As per the rules, a forest-dweller files his claim for land title to the gram sabha which after examining it, if found authentic, refers to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC). The SDLC further ascertains the veracity of the claims. The functions of the SDLC also include hearing petitions from persons, state agencies, aggrieved by the resolutions of the gram sabhas, raise awareness among forest-dwellers about the objectives and procedures laid down under the Act and in the rules. It also ensures that the gram sabha meetings are conducted in free, open and fair manner with requisite quorum. The SDLC then refers it to the District Level Committee which considers and finally approve the claims. (Business Standard 6/11/2016)

17. Buldhana rape case: 17 people arrested; SIT to question 105 tribal girl students (8)

Buldhana: 17 persons arrested * Main accused Etusingh Pawar brought 50 girls to the school, so that it could avail of tribal grantsThe Maharashtra government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which will question 105 tribal girl students studying at the tribal school in Hivarkheda village in Buldhana district, where 12 teenagers were allegedly raped by school staffers. On Saturday, the local police arrested 17 people from the school. As per the FIR, the accused are charged under IPC Sections 376 (2) (f,i,n), 109 , 2 (N and F), the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the SC and ST Atrocity Act. An investigating officer said that six girls have so far complained about sexual assault. While two of them admitted to being raped, four others admitted to being sexually molested. “If more girls complain of sexual abuse, their medial examination will be conducted and more complaints will be registered,” he said. DNA has obtained a copy of the FIR, which says that the girls were raped multiple times by the accused. The accused allegedly raped them at knifepoint and threatened to kill them if they resisted. Sources said that the main accused, Etusingh Pawar, used to persuade tribal students to join the school. Sources said that he was doing this, so that the school trust could avail of grants and other benefits. Pawar’s job, they said, was to roam around the remote tribal areas and get students for the school. This year, he enrolled 50 students and was given the temporary assistant’s post in return. School authorities also assured Pawar that he would be made permanent if he continued to enroll more students.The SIT is being led by Arati Singh, Superintendent of Police, CID, Nagpur. The other officers in the team comprises Shweta Khedkar (Additional SP, Buldhana), Rupali Darekar (Deputy SP, Khamgaon), Bharati Gurunale (Assistant Police Inspector) and two woman constables. Darekar said that they have already started their investigations. “We have got the list from the school. Most of the tribal girl students are based in Jalgaon, Akola and Buldhana. We have set up multiple teams that will visit their locations to record their statements and obtain other information,” she said. Another woman official said that it would take at least a week to meet all the girls as most of them live in remote and hilly areas where they cannot take their vehicles. “It will take a week or so to meet all the 105 girls. Since we realise that because of fear and social stigma, they may feel reluctant to speak out about the incidents, we are taking along psychologists. Counselling is very important as all girls are minors.” (DNA 6/11/2016)

18. Protect tribal rights: Absu (6)

Kokrajhar, Nov. 8: The All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) has urged the Assam government to immediately implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. It has also demanded protection of all tribal belts and blocks, eviction of encroachers, provision of land rights to landless tribal people and inclusion of the non-panchayat villages of Sonitpur district, as ordered by the governor of Assam, under the Panchayati Raj Act, 1994. The demands were made by Absu general secretary Lorence Islary while addressing a three-hour programme at Nyokum festival ground at Chariduar in Sonitpur today as the chief guest. Hundreds of locals participated in the programme. A memorandum was submitted to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the issues.”It is the right time for encroachers to be evicted to ensure the security of the tribal people and to provide land rights to indigenous landless tribals, which is necessary to provide social security and protect the lands of the tribal people,” the Absu leader said. Islary said chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, has provisions for protection of tribal belts and blocks in the state but it has failed to protect the land of tribal people because of lack of initiative from the state government. The Absu said the people of Sonitpur were deprived of all facilities because of non-implementation of panchayati ra. “Ironically the same people who cast their votes in Assembly and Parliament elections do not have the right to participate in panchayat elections. Hence they are deprived of many government schemes,,” said Bibeka Brahma, president of Sonitpur district committee of Absu. (The Telegraph 9/11/2016)

19. Tribals denied entry into upper-caste crematoriums in MP (6)

Neemuch: A tribal family in Neemuch had to cremate a relative under police protection after being denied entry into the village’s three crematoriums allegedly meant for upper-caste people, underscoring a deep-seated social divide in Madhya Pradesh’s interior areas. The incident happened after 45-year-old Ratni Bai, a Bhil tribal woman, died of heart attack at Kanakheda village, 10km from district headquarters Neemuch, on Wednesday.Husband Shantilal said the tribal do not have their own cremation ground and he was denied permission to cremate his wife in the three crematoriums.Frustrated, the family approached Neemuch police and Bai was finally cremated in a government land. A posse of policemen was on guard in case any unrest flared up. All crematoriums at Kana-kheda belong to upper-caste groups The crematoriums at Kana-kheda belong to the Meenas, Medhwals and Brahmins, all upper-caste groups. There are around 600 households in the village, with 50-odd tribal families. Tribals are often harassed over cremation rights. This was not a one-off incident as tribal people are often harassed over cremation rights. The family of Noji Bai, another tribal Bhil woman, endured a similar ordeal in Ratangarh, Neemuch, on September 2. Family didn’t have money to purchase wood for funeral pyreThe poor family didn’t have money to purchase wood for the funeral pyre and a nagar panchayat official refused help when he was approached. Left with little option, the relatives decided to make a pyre out of garbage. But senior government officials got wind of it and provided wood. The Bhils are the nation’s second largest tribal community and considered the original inhabitants of central India. Caste divisions and rapid urbanization have reduced members of this community, once known as a warrior tribe, into social pariahs in the countryside. Bhils are not even allowed to use crematoriums of other communitiesThe discrimination is so deep that Bhils are not even allowed to use crematoriums of other communities. “We have to hunt for a new place every time somebody dies,” said Banti Bhil of Kanakheda. Radheyshyam Nagda, speaking on behalf of the sarpanch, admitted that the village crematoriums are exclusive to each social group and people from other communities are not allowed. “We have asked for land for a crematorium for the tribals, but it is pending with the administration.”District collector Rajneesh Shrivastava promised to expedite the land allotment process. “This tradition of having separate crematoriums for different castes is not followed in any other village in the area. I will look into the matter,” he said.. (Hindustan Times 11/11/2016)

20. Uniform Civil Code: Law Commission open to suggestions from tribals (6)

NEW DELHI: With a section of the tribal population up in arms against the government’s move seeking opinion of the Law Commission on possibility of having the Uniform Civil Code, the panel said it was “open” to objections and suggestions from the community. “The tribal community should make representation before the Commission. We would also like to know their stand,” Law Commission Chairman B S Chauhan told PTI. He said the Commission considers tribals as a stakeholder in the entire exercise in which representations are coming from various communities. “The tribals can also participate and debate in the entire exercise,” the former apex court judge said. The opposition from a section of the tribal community assumed importance as a group has also moved the Supreme Court contending that the government was making an attempt to impose the UCC which will be against their ethos, customs and religious practices. The Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Parishad, a group that claims to work for protecting Adivasi interests, has filed a petition in the apex court seeking protection of their customs and religious practices, including their right to practice polygamy and polyandry. Further, it has contended that any attempt to impose the Uniform Civil Code would have adversely impact on their distinct customs, culture and heritage. The petition in the apex court claimed the Adivasis (tribals) had their own personal laws and do not come in the category of Hindus as they worshipped nature instead of idols and performed burial of the dead.”In case of Uniform Civil Code, the Adivasis’ right to perform marriage, worship, last rites and other ceremonies would be abrogated,” the NGO said. The petition is likely to come for hearing when the apex court will take up a batch of matters relating to the validity of triple talaq and polygamy in the Muslim community. (Times of India 13/11/2016)

21. Tribals in Sunabeda plateau hit by demonetisation move (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Diju Jhankar, a member of Chakotia Bhunjia, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, waited for months to receive the second instalment for construction of his house under Indira Awas Yojana granted to him in Sunabeda, a dense forested region in Odisha’s Nuapada district. But when he withdrew the amount and was about to resume construction, he was hit by the Centre’s sudden demonetisation move. “There was no problem in depositing the amount and withdrawing the same in future. But, we will forego day’s labour for depositing the amount in a bank, 30 kms away from my village,” said Diju. Diju is not the lone beneficiary of IAY houses sanctioned under the Sunabeda Area Development Programme (SDP). Several tribals in remote Sunabeda and Soseng gram panchayats in Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary would be inconvenienced. Sunabeda plateau is one of the acutely LWE-affected areas in the State. During past few months, most IAY beneficiaries from Sunabeda area had gone to banks several times to check if funds had been transferred to their account. According to reports reaching from different districts, villagers in remote and inaccessible region were clueless about coping with the situation. Meanwhile, in another development the Odisha government announced that line departments were prepared to disburse old age pension in 6,000 gram panchayats on November 15. Pensions will be paid in hand as most panchayats were devoid of banking facilities. As per the State government, Rs 140 crore will be distributed among 35 lakh beneficiaries under different social security schemes. (The Hindu 15/11/2016)

22. Thousands of tribals in Gadchiroli embrace ‘original’ dharma at Dibhna (6)

Gadchiroli: Thousands of tribals returned to the fold of their own ‘original’ faith of nature’s worship in the ceremony held at Dibhna (Mal) in Naxalite-affected Gadchiroli district on Wednesday. Initiator of this move, Dr Vinayak Tumram read out 16-point pledge at ‘Adiwasi Nisarga Dharma- Swadharma Purnarsthapna Samaroh’ and crowd recited it vowing to practise the true traditions and customs of tribal religion henceforth. Several spiritual and social leaders including founder of Shiv Dharm Parishad and Maratha Seva Sangh, Purushottam Khedekar, president of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Shirpad Sabnis, Father Anthony D’souza, sufi litterateur Dr Muhammad Aazam, sikh cleric Milkitsingh Bal, Pandit Rakesh Shastri, and others were present as guests during the programme. Several other political leaders were also invited to the programme but all of them except former MLA Ramratan Raut skipped it. Tumram, who is also president of Adiwasi Dharmanusandhan Trust, Ballarpur, presided over the programme. He explained that tribals did not belong to Hinduism or any other religion, faith or sect. They have had their own culture, traditions, customs, festivals etc. but it was marred by practices taken from others. “However, we have to now re-establish our own religion. This tribal-dharma will have its own identity separate from other religions. This move will definitely bring change into our lives,” he said. Tumram also pointed out that there were different tribes like Gond, Bhill, Kolam, Madiya, Pradhan, Munda, Santal, Urav, Meena etc. He maintained all these communities worshipped nature in their own ways. “This found-again ‘Aadiwasi Nisarga Dharma’ will serve as means to eradicate casteism among tribals and bring entire community on one stage,” he said in his presidential address. (Times f India 17/11/16)

23. Spiritual leaders from different religions laud the move (6)

Nagpur: Thousands of tribals returned to the fold of their own ‘original’ faith of nature’s worship in the ceremony at Dibhna (Mal) in Gadchiroli district on Wednesday. Dr Vinayak Dr Tumram’s book “Adiwasi Aur Unka Nisarg Dharm’ was released on the occasion. Spiritual leaders from different religions lauded the move and welcomed Tumram’s efforts to bring the scattered tribal communities back into their own faith. They said every religion propagated good values and if people followed their own faith in true sense, there would be no disparity. Khedekar claimed that tribals, although having their own culture and practices, never had their own religion in a true sense. Therefore people from other religions like Hinduism, Christianity and Islam lured them into different folds. “Tumram’s move will put a brake on practice of conversion. Now tribals will have their own religion that upholds their values and culture. I am confident this will help stall exodus of tribals to other faiths,” he said. (Times f India 17/11/16)

24. Tribals stage a rally for their rights (6)

BERHAMPUR: The Kui Samaj Samannaya Samiti (KSSS), a tribal organisation in Kandhamal district, on Sunday renewed fulfilment of its long-standing demands at a rally at Phulbani, the district headquarters town of Kandhamal, on the occasion of its foundation day. The demands include restoring the lands belonging to tribal people in the district, action against the non-tribal people, who have allegedly taken advantage from the government by producing fake tribal certificates, implementation of Forest Rights Act and reservation of 50% seats for the students of the district in the BEd college, Phulbani. The tribal outfit also demanded establishment of an agriculture college, a medical college, an engineering school, a computer training institute and a tribal museum in the district. A memorandum containing their demands was submitted to the chief minister Naveen Patnaik through collector (Kandhamal) Reghu G. Hundreds of tribal people from across the district attended in the rally held amid tight security. (Times of India 21/11/16)

25. Cash crunch compounds woes of tribals (6)

BHADRADRI-KOTHAGUDEM: The cash crunch triggered by the demonetisation of high value currency notes has further compounded the woes of people inhabiting the tribal sub-plan mandal of Gundala, which is already suffering due to numerous infrastructure deficiencies including lack of fuel station, proper road network and banking services. People living in the Agency mandal including the mandal headquarters town are reeling under the cascading impact of the shortage of cash due to the pressing need for cash particularly ahead of the crucial rabi season and limited access to banking services. The banking needs of the mandal headquarters town having a population of around 17,000 are being met by a single cooperative bank, which reportedly ceased to dispense cash since Friday for want of replenishment, sources said. Villagers of Gundala and its neighbouring villages are compelled to travel a distance of over 25 km to try out their luck to exchange their old currency notes at the public sector bank at Kachanapalli.Vehicle users especially the tribal farmers, who eke out a living by selling vegetables and milk elsewhere in the division, are hit hard by the shortage of currency coupled with the absence of petrol bunk in Gundala. We are finding it difficult to get even a bare minimum amount to meet our daily expenses, laments Venkanna, a farm labourer of Gundala. Our plight has turned from bad to worse as farmers are showing reluctance to hire our services in harvesting the cotton, paddy and other standing crops due to the cash crunch, he deplores. The local cooperative bank has stopped dispensing cash due to shortage , says Shantaiah, Sarpanch, Gundala major gram panchayat. Our long pending demand for setting up a branch of any public sector bank in Gundala has remained unresolved till date, he laments. It is high time the government extended public sector banking facilities to Gundala for serving the needs of Adivasis of the far-flung tribal sub-plan mandal, he demands. The Girijan Cooperative Corporation’s long pending proposal to establish a fuel station in Gundala is yet to become a reality, rues Ramulu, a farmer of Gundala. The approval of the departments concerned is awaited to set up a fuel station in Gundala, says Ramanandam, District Manager, GCC. (The Hindu 22/11/16)

26. Opposition fails to stop passage of land amendment bill in Jharkhand (6)

Ranchi: The Jharkhand assembly on Wednesday passed without discussion an amending bill to two land Acts which were formulated to protect the rights of the tribal and indigenous people. Land and Revenue Minister Amar Bawri tabled the amendment bill in the house around 2 p.m. amid uproar by the opposition members. The passing of the amendment comes despite reported assurance on the issue by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and stiff protests by the opposition in the state. A total of eight bills, including on the amendment to the Chotanagur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, were tabled even as the opposition shouted slogans. All eight bills were passed without discussion within a few minutes by voice vote. Bharatiya Janata Party sources said the amendment bill was tabled and passed in a hurry to avoid embarrassment as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s alliance partner, the All Jharkhand Students Union, and even some ruling party leaders could have spoken against it. Several amendments have been made in different sections of both the Acts, which were formulated during the British rule to protect the land rights of the tribal and ‘moolwasis’ or indigenous people. After these amendments, agricultural land can now be used for non-agricultural purpose. Earlier, the AJSU had reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi that while addressing an assembly election rally in Dumka in December 2014, he had assured that no amendment will be made in the land laws. Modi had reiterated his stand while speaking at a programme of the tribal people in New Delhi last month. Chief Minister Raghubar Das was adamant on amending the land laws, which was opposed by majority of tribal legislators. “Injustice has been done to the tribals. Their land will be acquired and tribal people will become alien in their own state,” senior Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader and legislator Stephen Marandi said. Opposing the amendment bill, AJSU legislator Vikas Munda said they will move the courts on the issue which, he said, was not in favour of the tribals. Former Chief Minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik President Babulal Marandi said the amendments have been brought to help industrial houses. “This will not help the tribal people.” Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has justified the amendment and said it will help the tribal people. (Business Standard 23/11/16)

27. For Nagarahole tribal community, no high-value notes, no worries (6)

MYSURU: And their society, in a way, may epitomise the cash-less economy that the Prime Minister is pushing for though not exactly. For, none of them had Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes when the demonetisation was announced. Tribal activist Ramu from Shettyhalli told The Hindu that the meagre savings of the tribal community is deposited with the local Mahila Sangha and is removed only during exigencies. “Hence, demonetisation did not affect us,” he said. Besides, most of the tribal people hailing from the jenu kuruba and kadu kuruba communities are daily wagers employed in coffee plantations in the adjoining Kodagu district. “The tribal requirements are minimal and the workers are paid Rs. 150 to Rs. 200 a day, most of which is spent on the same day to meet their daily requirements. So the question of acquiring Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000 notes did not arise nor has its withdrawal affected any of us,” said Mr. Ramu. He pointed out that there are nearly 150 families in the hamlet and none of them are perhaps even aware of the drama surrounding demonetisation. The use of money for their daily requirements is also minimal among the tribals as they receive monthly ration that includes cereals, eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and so on under the tribal rehabilitation project launched by the Centre during the 11th Five-Year Plan to address the issue of malnutrition among the tribals. “Ration is more important for tribals at Shettihalli or Veeranahosahalli than cash,” according to Mr. Prabhu, who works for the uplift of the tribals. “A handful of people, who had saved some Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, have already exchanged it at the Hunsur branches of various banks,” he said. But it is their employers — mostly plantation owners — who are affected and are unable to pay the daily wages in smaller denomination. But November being off-season for plantation works, the tribals are immune to the impact of lack of small denomination notes, which is causing havoc in the rural hinterland. It is the farmers and daily wagers in the agricultural sector who are affected. The shortage of small currency has, however, impacted a section of tribals in one way. “Some of them are finding it difficult to fund their daily quota of liquor,” said Mr. Prabhu. But far from complaining, the family members are apparently happy about the turn of events as it has indirectly addressed alcoholism to some extent. (The Hindu 27/11/16)

WOMEN

28. India lost 2.55 crore girls in two decades to infanticide: Report (8)

New Delhi: Just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi put girls at the centre stage at Haryana’s Golden Jubilee functions, pledging to save the girl child, comes a report revealing that India has lost 2.55 crore girls in the last two decades to female foeticide. In other words, between 1991 and 2011, the country has been losing an average of over 13 lakh girls every year to infanticide owing to sex-determination tests. In comparison, the conviction rate in the cases of sex selection filed under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, was 1 in 1,23,755. These are some of the findings of a report on the Act to be released Thursday (today) by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). The study, ‘The State of the PC&PNDT Act: India’s losing battle against female foeticide’, further reveals that between 1994 and 2014, only 2,266 cases of infanticide under Sections 315 and 316 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and 2,021 cases under the PCPNDT Act were filed. Between 1994 and 2014, only one in 12,614 cases were filed under the PCPNDT Act. Of these, there were convictions in only 206 cases, implying that the conviction rate was one in 1,23,755 cases. In 17 states and six Union Territories, not a single case was registered under the PCPNDT Act. Of the 1,663 cases of foeticide registered between 2000 and 2015, as per NCRB data, Madhya Pradesh topped with 360 cases, followed by Rajasthan (255), Punjab (239), Maharashtra (155), Chhattisgarh (135) and Haryana (131). The PCNPDT Act is one of the key Acts the Centre has promoted since it came to power. Yet, in a review meeting held a year after the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme was launched, 42 of the worst districts saw a decline in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) . Of these, Dibang Valley (Arunachal Pradesh), Lakshadweep and Yanam (Puducherry), saw a steep decline in CSR of more than 200 points. The report also says that the government under-reports the number of missing girls. It cites a report, ‘Children in India 2012 — A Statistical Appraisal’, to quote that increasingly declining sex ratio “led to the missing of nearly 3 million girl children compared to 2 million missing boy children in 2011, compared to 2001.” “This is wrong on two counts. First, it does not take into account that the decadal growth of population – from 1.028 billion in 2001 to 1.21 billion in 2011 – which would have resulted in the birth of more girls between 2001 and 2011 in actual terms. Second, the Census is conducted every 10 years and the CSR covering 0-6 years of age excludes those in the 7-10 years of age group and indeed does not reflect the actual number of missing girls during the decade,” says the report. The failure to implement the PCPNDT Act, the report states, is due to various factors. They include under-utilisation of funds, non-renewal of registration, non-maintenance of patient details, absence of regular inspection, lack of mapping and tracking of equipment. The report states that, as per the CAG report on the Act, under-utilisation of funds led to the allocation of only Rs 7.09 crore (35%) under the projected requirement of Rs 20.26 crore during 2010-14. The CAG report also revealed that in Uttar Pradesh, the inspection of 100 ultrasound clinics revealed that 1,326 cases (68%) did not have registered medical practitioners, while the details of the procedure were not mentioned in 1,110 cases (57%). (DNA 3/11/2016)

29. UCC must focus on gender equality, says women’s body (8)

NEW DELHI: The doors of Lucknow resident Mumtaz Fatima’s matrimonial home shut on her face one day when she returned from work. She had been given talaq over the phone. She filed a case of domestic violence against her husband and sought maintenance for her child in a court of law. That was 2010 and Fatima is still fighting for justice. For hope, Fatima only has to look at Mubina Qureshi from Ahmedabad. Mubina holds a PhD in Islamic Feminism but her education did not prepare her for the injustice meted out to her. Mubina’s demand for ‘khula’ (divorce) to get out of a bad marriage went unheeded under the Muslim personal law by the community and clerics. After years of turmoil, she found justice only when she turned to the courts this year. Today, both Fatima and Mubina are part of the movement led by National Federation for Indian Women (NFIW) that is demanding focus on gender justice and equality. NFIW has demanded abolition of triple talaq in one sitting and stated that it will back Uniform Civil Code if it covers all religions and focuses on the principle of gender equality. The federation’s general secretary Annie Raja has alleged that the ruling NDA government was highlighting the Muslim personal law for political gains in the UP elections next year. NFIW referred to the All India Mkuslim Personal Law Board as “just an NGO” that does not represent the entire Muslim community, adding that it will urge the Chief Justice of India to ensure all stakeholders are heard by court in a case in this regard. “All women are discriminated against by personal laws of all religions. Gender equality and gender justice is not a religious issue; it is a socio-political and legal issue of the country as a whole. Ensuring these as enshrined in the Constitution, is the responsibility of the state and people irrespective of religion and caste,” NFIW has emphasised in a statement. (Times of India 3/11/2016)

30. Spousal violence on women higher in rural areas (8)

GUWAHATI, Nov 6 – Almost a quarter of married women in the State have experienced some form of spousal violence, while around half the women of Assam in the age group of 15-49 years own a house or land and have a bank account. As per findings of the recent National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), 24.5 per cent married women in the State have experienced spousal violence. In the urban areas of Assam, the corresponding rate was 15.9 per cent, while it was 26.2 per cent in the rural areas. However, the total numbers have shown a downward trend since the third round of NFHS in 2005-06 when 39.4 per cent of women ever married in the State had reported similar experiences of spousal violence. NFHS-4 also found that 52.3 per cent of women in Assam in the age group of 15-49 years owned a house or land, either alone or jointly with others, including 45.9 per cent women in urban areas and 53.7 per cent in rural areas. Similarly, 46 per cent women in that age group have a mobile phone that they themselves use. Over 71 per cent women in urban areas of the State and 40.7 per cent in rural areas have their own mobile phones, the survey found. The previous survey of 2005-06 had not covered these two parameters.The percentage of women in Assam having their own bank account has also gone up during the period between the two surveys. As per NFHS-4, 45.4 per cent of women have a bank or savings account that they themselves use. The figure in urban areas was 61.5 per cent and in rural Assam it was 42.1 per cent. The corresponding figure during the third round of NFHS in 2005-06 was only 11.7 per cent across the State. As many as 87.4 per cent of currently married women and in the age group of 15-49 years in 2015-16 reported that they usually participate in households decisions compared to 88.1 per cent in 2005-06. NFHS-4 also found that 17 per cent women who had worked during the last 12 months prior to the survey were paid in cash, as against 25.8 per cent in 2005-06. However, knowledge about HIV-AIDS still remains very low among young women in Assam, the survey found. Only 9.4 per cent women in the age group of 15-49 years had comprehensive knowledge about HIV-AIDS. It was only a marginal increase from the figure of 8.2 per cent reported in NFHS-3 in 2005-06. The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 was the fourth in the NFHS series and it provides information on population, health and nutrition. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had designated the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, as the nodal agency to conduct NFHS-4. (The Assam Tribune 7/11/2016)

31.  ‘Keep birth database to curb female foeticide’ (8)

NEW DELHI: Noting that the “female child is entitled to enjoy equal rights that a male child is allowed to have,” the Supreme Court issued a series of directions to clamp down on the crime of female foeticide, including an all-India database to keep tabs on the number and gender of new-borns. In a judgment, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and S.K. Singh said the menace of female foeticide corroded human values and the constitutional identity of a girl child “cannot be mortgaged to any kind of social or other concept that has developed or is thought of.” “When a female foetus is destroyed through artificial means, which is legally impermissible, the dignity of life of a woman to be born is extinguished. It corrodes the human values,” Justice Misra, who wrote the judgment, observed. The Bench passed 16 directions to ensure immediate and effective implementation of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act and the Rules framed thereunder. All the States and the Union Territories in India shall maintain a centralised database of civil registration records from all registration units so that information can be made available from the website regarding the number of boys and girls being born. “The information that shall be displayed on the website shall contain birth information for each district, municipality, corporation or gram panchayat so that a visual comparison of boys and girls born can be immediately seen,” the Supreme Court observed. It also directed that States and Union Territories, which do not have any incentive schemes for the girl child, shall frame the same. Noting that courts hearing cases of female foeticide should expedite hearing, the court requested the Chief Justices of High Courts to constitute a committee of three judges to periodically oversee the progress of these cases. “The present generation is expected to be responsible to the posterity and not to take such steps to sterilise the birth rate in violation of law … dropping of sex ratio still remains a social affliction and a disease,” the court held. The court passed the verdict while disposing of a PIL by NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab. (The Hindu 9/11/2016)

32. Trump fared well with women voters despite sex assault claims (8)

Los Angeles: Despite sex assault allegations hounding him, fat-shaming a former beauty queen and his controversial abortion stand, a large number of women voters helped put Donald Trump in the White House. Though his rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, clinched 54 per cent of the female vote, Trump was backed by 42 per cent of women voters, which contributed to his stunning victory, according to CNN exit polls. Some 53 per cent of white women voters supported the Republican candidate, CNN said, the majority of them (62 per cent) non-college educated. The results upended predictions that sexist and degrading comments Trump made against women would sway female voters – who accounted for about 52 per cent of the electorate Tuesday – in favour of a candidate that could have broken the glass ceiling. Experts said the outcome is not surprising, and reflects an election in which issues about the economy, jobs and immigration were much higher on all voters’ priority list than gender issues. “At the heart of it is what was driving all voters,” said Diane Heith, professor and chair of the Department of Government and Politics at St John’s University in New York. Heith said although the leaked Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about groping women, and his disparaging comments about a former Miss Universe had made many women cringe, it was not enough to turn them against the candidate. “There was no sisterhood created,” Heith said. “The issue of how he treated women did not overshadow the attitudes these individuals already had – being disaffected and how they had been treated by the establishment elite of which Hillary was absolutely part of.” Still, the real estate magnate’s shock win has left many women struggling to cope with the election of a president whose misogynistic behaviour was disregarded at the polls. “More than half of white women voted for the man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape, who said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v Wade … who has spent 30-plus years in the public eye reducing women to their sexual attributes,” wrote LV Anderson in an article in the online current affairs magazine Slate. “White women sold out their fellow women, their country, and themselves last night,” added the author. “Most white women don’t want to be part of an intersectional feminist sisterhood. Most white women just want to be one of the guys. And we will all suffer for it.” One issue of particular concern for women – both Democrats and Republicans – will be how Trump deals with abortion rights while in the White House. (Deccan Herald 10/11/2016)

33. Newly wed killed over dowry in Muzaffarnagar (8)

Muzaffarnagar: A newly wed woman was killed by her father-in-law over dowry demand in Sikreda village of the district, the police said on Sunday. Sarita’s father-in-law was arrested on Saturday after some villagers complained that she has been missing since Friday, SHO Prakash Mishra said. During interrogation, the accused revealed that he killed her and dumped the body in a drain, he said. The police recovered Sarita’s body with her throat slit from the drain and sent it for post-mortem, Mr. Mishra said. Sarita was married to Rajkumar in April was harassed by her in-laws and husband over dowry demands. Her other in-laws including the husband are absconding. – PTI (The Hindu 14/11/2016)

34. ‘India’s income will go up by 27% with women participation’ (8)

WASHINGTON: India’s national income would increase by 27 per cent if the participation of women in the workforce matches the level of men, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said. Delivering a speech on “Women’s Empowerment: An Economic Game Changer” in Los Angeles, Lagarde said equal pay and better economic opportunities for women boost economic growth and create a bigger pie for everyone to share. “Empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country. For instance, if women were to participate in the labour force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by five per cent in the US, nine per cent in Japan, and 27 per cent in India,” she said yesterday. Better opportunities for women also promote diversity and reduce economic inequality around the world, she added. “To put it differently: if you discourage half the population from fully participating in the labour market, you are essentially behaving like an airline pilot who shuts down half his engines in mid-flight. Sure, your plane will likely continue to fly, but it would be such a crazy thing to do,” Lagarde said. Noting that across the globe women were still facing a triple-disadvantage and are less likely than men to have a paid job, Lagarde said only half of the world’s working-age women were employed. “If they do find paid employment, it is more likely to be in the informal sector. And if they eventually get a job in the formal sector, they earn, on average, three-quarters as much as men- even with the same level of education, and in the same occupation,” she said. Lagarde said governments have a key role to play when it comes to economic incentives that provide women a fair shot in the labour market. “We need to promote affordable childcare, parental leave, and workplace flexibility. We need to increase women’s access to finance and remove legal barriers that still exist in most countries,” she said. “We also need to push for smarter tax policies, including here in the US. Think of tax reforms to help low-income families, which are disproportionately headed by women. And think of the benefits of reducing taxation on secondary earners in households, who are–again–mostly women,” she added. .. (Times of India 15/11/2016)

35. Sexually harassed women of LED factory approach MP Congress for help (8)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Congress will raise the issue of sexual harassment of women employees in a LED and tube lights manufacturing plant in the assembly during the winter session. Senior Congress MLA from Bhind, Dr Govind Singh, told reporters here on Wednesday that young women employees in the factory located in Malanpur are allegedly subjected to discrimination, mental torture and sexual harassment. “Women working in this well-known LED bulb manufacturing company have complained to the local police, administration, women’s commission, even the chief minister’s helpline, but no one will rescue or take action against the company management,” Dr Govind Singh said. Congress claimed 23 women from the factory have come to the Opposition party seeking help from the company management. A young labourer woman consumed a poisonous chemical recently after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by two of her supervisors. “They would refuse payment to the women workers if they did not compromise,” said Kirti Tomar, HR official of the factory who has also come to seek shelter from the Congress party.Kirti Tomar told reporters that she was often asked to “prepare” girls and send them to the management bosses. “These women were helpless and were be mentally tortured and physically assaulted,” Tomar said. “They would come to me for help. Even though I was HR official, I had no authority to help these young women subjected to discrimination, mental and physical torture. When complaints were filed at the local Malanpur police station by Kirti Tomar, the same came back to the factory management the next day. The HR official’s salaries were stopped. If a victim complained, she was immediately branded as a patient with mental disorder.One of the victims who came to the state Congress office, wept profusely as she narrated her story of sexual harassment by her supervisors. She ran from pillar to post for help and was thrown out of the job allegedly because she took the complaint to the police. “I have some dispute with my husband, so I had to work for my living. I have an infant child to take care of,” she said. “I worked in the LED lights fitting department. In the middle of my work, two supervisors would call me at the rear of the factory and after that they used to misbehave. When I couldn’t take any longer, I consumed a poisonous chemical which is used in the factory. They took me to the hospital and I went to the police. They fired me.” (Times of India 16/11/16)

36. Men demand law for protection from wives’ harassment (8)

AURANGABAD: On the occasion of International Men’s Day, a group of men reached out to the city police commissioner Umakant Dangat for his help, claiming to be victim of their wives’ harassment.Dangat was surprised as this was probably for the first time that a group of men had approached him, complaining about their wives. He assured the men of forwarding their demands to the state government. The men were members of Patni Pidit Purush Aghadi, an organization founded by Bharat Phulare 2011. Phulare founded this organization after his marriage ended on a bad note. He got married in 2004 and is now separated from his wife. After his sour experience, he decided to fight for the rights of men in cases where they are harassed by their wives. Also, for any person to become a member of this organization, he should have a case of domestic violence registered against him and should contest a legal case against his wife in the domestic court”All laws constituted in our country are in favour of the women. There is no equality when you reach judiciary in cases of domestic violence or other cases,” said Phulare. Learning from his personal experience, where he was kicked out of his own house, the group has also established a shelter home for such husbands.The group members demanded that there should be a men redressal centre on the lines of women redressal centres and all police stations should also have men safety committee on the lines of women safety committee. The group also demanded that all police stations should have lie detector machines. Rahul Vadhve said, “Domestic Violence Act is there for shielding women from atrocities committed by the husband, but there is no law that protects and shields men from the violence and harassment committed by their wives.”The members of the organization are desperate to the extent that they themselves have prepared a draft of the Domestic Violence Act 2016 that gives protection to harassed husbands. Prakash Kadam, a member of the group, said, “We have prepared the draft with the help of legal experts and have submitted it to the state government. There is an immediate need to address the issue as the law favouring women, just because she is women, is nothing by murder of justice.” (Times of India 20/11/16)

37. Crisis-ridden Nirbhaya homes expect more funds in upcoming state budget (8)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government assures to spruce up Nirbhaya Cell ensuring timely release of funds for prevention, prosecution and rehabilitation measures for the survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking. With that, Social Justice Department (SJD) officials are hopeful that by next year more funds will be allocated in the state budget than this year for Nirbhaya Cell which has submitted a proposal to the government seeking more funds. Yet, currently Nirbhaya Homes continue to reel in financial crisis. Official sources told TOI that the though the state had set aside Rs 12.5 crore as budgetary support in the budget speech last year for Nirbhaya scheme, it has allocated only around Rs 4 crore. “Now, Nirbhaya Cell officials have submitted a proposal to the government for more funds, roughly Rs 13.5 crore which is more than the grant assured in the previous budget speech and the grant release expected is over Rs 10 crore,” SJD officials told TOI. Many Nirbhaya shelter homes are short of funds to meet immediate medical exigencies such as pregnancy related hospitalisation and health care of the pregnant girl inmates and had handled the situation by diverting funds meant for salary of staff. “Since Oct, funds have not been granted to Nirbhaya homes in the state. Even Rs 54 lakh medical and transportation expenditure for the inmates of eight Nirbhaya homes is pending since 2014. When informed to the officials concerned it is retorted with annoyance,” said an official associated with Nirbhaya Homes maintaining anonymity.Nirbhaya Cell director Mini Nair told TOI that by next year more budget grant and funds are expected for the Nirbhaya scheme and a proposal has been submitted to the government for that. Further, she said, “So far, Nirbhaya Cell had been concentrating on protection programmes rather than prevention, but now we plan to focus on prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration programs. As part of prevention campaign, oruma poster designing contest was organised among boy students by Nirbhaya Cell of SJD with Education department to create awareness among boys on how to treat girls and women with respect and honour”.The school level poster design contests were conducted for boy students of class eight to twelve for three days from Oct 26 on the subject ‘ Man’s role in protection of women’ (stree surakshayil purushante panku). In all, 187 boys from 94 schools took part in the school level contest. Two posters from each school were selected by the schools and sent to the concerned district social justice officer. The district level entries were judged at the district level and two posters each from each district were sent to the Nirbhaya cell. … (Times of India 23/11/16)

38. Women bikers take over Delhi, plan to make it national (8)

In an attempt to create awareness about the deep rooted social issues that lead to sexual violence against women, several women bikers in the national capital will take over the streets to fight sexual harassment and reclaim ‘lost’ public spaces on November 27. The all-women bike rally, organised by NGO Breakthrough India and led by The Bikerni, India’s first all-women motorcycle association, will travel to different parts of the city for two weeks and talk about creating safer spaces for women across the gender spectrum. “Women have always been robbed off their share of safe public spaces — where one doesn’t face any gender-based discrimination. It is high time we come together and reclaim those lost places,” says 44-year-old Jyoti Mehta. Several other bikers like Mehta will participate in the rally, which is a part of the #Standwithme campaign in Delhi that advocates gender inclusive safe spaces, thus eventually helping in the mitigation of sexual harassment. “It’s not about biking but breaking stereotypes,” says 30-year-old Neha Bhatia. “Women don’t come out because of social pressure. This is an opportunity for them to break free express their support.” The rally, which will flag off from Mandi House Metro station will engage the youth and the mass. The #Standwithme campaign will also include discussions on the concept of consent, inter-generational dialogues via video vans and street theatre performances. Last year, the NGO organised a similar rally in Rohtak district, Haryana. (DNA 25/11/16)

39. “Sexual abuse cases go up to 1565 in 2014 from 677 in 2011” (8)

MADURAI: If women are not respected, it would reflect badly on the society. Speakers at the inaugural session of the 15-day-long campaign proposed to be conducted in southern districts on the evils of crime against women through street plays and skits, organised by Madurai based Evidence, an NGO, which fights for the Dalit rights, said that if a woman was ill-treated, it would mean shame to the society. When times were changing and women empowerment was talked aloud everywhere, crimes against women were being reported more in the media. “This is shocking. This had to be prevented, at least if not stopped,” said Bernard Fatima of Tamil Nadu Dalit Pengal Iyakkam in her address. Evidence executive director A. Kathir said that harassment of women was on the rise and happened in families. “Every year, in Tamil Nadu alone, 150-170 women were killed by their husbands under some pretext or the other…What was worrying was only a meagre 6 to 7 per cent among the accused were convicted. The police, hospitals, judiciary and administration had to be strengthened, which would discourage offenders,” he said. Moreover, sexual abuses were higher against children. Irrespective of the age of children, they were subjected to abuses. The police were keen on settling such complaints through “Katta panchayats” or by compromise by paying money. The crimes would come to an end, only when such persons were dealt with as per law and put behind bars. Sexual crimes too were on the rise in Tamil Nadu. From 677 cases in 2011, it had almost tripled to 1,565 in 2014. There were as many as 7,000 harassment complaints reported every year, Mr. Kathir said With the message that “every woman is important, and only when a woman is respected, offenders would stop harassing them. The society would be respected…” the troupe would be touring Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari till December 12, he added. The inaugural event was held at the American College here. (The Hindu 29/11/16)

40. Women migrants fearing rape take contraceptives before journey: Rights groups (8)

London: Women migrants fleeing wars, political instability and poverty are taking contraceptives in the expectation of being raped but are so desperate they still embark on the journey, a human rights group said on Wednesday. Women and girls who risk sexual violence as they flee their home countries are getting contraceptive injections as a precautionary measure, said researcher Hillary Margolis from New York-based Human Rights Watch. “For someone to know that they are at such risk of sexual violence, and yet they are determined to continue on that journey,” she told Trust Women, an annual women`s rights and trafficking conference hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. A record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, an increase of 50 percent in five years, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Data shows developing countries host 86 percent of refugees, led by Turkey with more than 2.7 million Syrians. The U.N. children`s agency UNICEF earlier this year said children in refugee camps in France were being subjected to sexual abuse including rape, violence and forced labour daily. The UNICEF report also included cases of young women being subjected to sexual demands in exchange for a promise of passage to Britain and campaigners said this was not limited to France. Amnesty International said it had spoken to women who said they lived in constant fear of sexual violence on the journey to Libya and rape was so commonplace that they took contraceptive pills before travelling to avoid becoming pregnant. Margolis said she met a number of female migrants in Italy who had taken birth control ahead of their perilous sea journey from Libya “because of the high risk of rape”. At least 4,690 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year while trying to reach Europe, compared to 3,777 in 2015. Most have died while crossing from North Africa. “The idea that a woman who is travelling with men is automatically safe is a fallacy,” Margolis said. “There are women who are coerced into travelling with men, who are trafficked, exploited, who may be experiencing domestic abuse.” Joanne Liu, president of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, added that the international community was failing refugee and migrants. Turkey agreed in March to stop migrants and refugees crossing by sea to Greece in exchange for financial aid, accelerated European Union membership talks and other concessions. “In the policy we have right now, where we are deterring people from fleeing for their lives, we are aggravating and exacerbating their vulnerabilities,” she told the conference. “And for women, there is even more hardship because women became the battlefield of war, of abuses. It`s not a new phenomenon and we are not at the end of it.” (Zee News 30/11/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

41. 2,007 child marriages prevented in State (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Notwithstanding the claims by the government in preventing child marriages and providing protection for women, child marriages, sexual assault (rape) and sexual harassment of minor girls were on the rise in the State. As many as 2,007 child marriages were prevented, 1,927 rape and 628 cases of minor being sexually harassed or rape had been reported from 2014 to 2016 (as on date) in Andhra Pradesh. Officials of the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW), Juvenile Welfare and other departments identified about 7,818 children who were in need of care and protection and 427 missing child had been traced. The missing were rehabilitated with their parents and some were admitted to instituions. According to the WD&CW officials, 33 per cent of minor girls are being married (below 18 years) and the number was increasing due to lack of coordination among the Endowments, WD&CW, Police and the Revenue officials, . Speaking to The Hindu , WD&CW Joint Director E.V. Swarna Latha said the government was taking all measures for strict implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. “The Government has appointed Child Marriage Prohibition Officers at the district, divisional, mandal and village level in all districts. Concerned District Collectors, Revenue Divisional Officers, Child Development Project Officers, Tahsildars and Panchayat Secretaries will act as the probation officers in each district.” To prevent atrocities against children and prevent child marriages, 9,871 Child Protection Committees including 9,055 at village-level, 557 urban, 229 mandal-level and 30 railway station level committees had been constituted, she said.The Government is planning to make marriage registrations a must to stop child marriages and take up massive campaign against such weddings. “Officials will explain the health problems if a girl below 18 years is married, and the legal consequences under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,” said WD&CW Krishna District Project Director K. Krishna Kumari. (The Hindu 1/11/2016)

42. Cry to protect child rights in tea gardens (14)

GUWAHATI: Eight-year-old Tilti from the tea-producing district of Sivasagar, loves mathematics but she is not going to school any more. “I stay at home to look after my two-year-old brother Jesoi. My parents work in a tea garden. I fear they may marry me off soon,” she said. Child marriages in tea gardens are common. Hundreds of children living in the 800 or more tea gardens of the state, stare at an uncertain future. A recent study by the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) found that at least 75% of the children in tea gardens are school drop-outs. “Only 10% of the gardens have creche facilities. The elder siblings are usually compelled to leave school to take care of the younger ones,” said ASCPCR chairperson Runumi Gogoi. It’s just not domestic compulsions most often that keep young minds away from schools. Nearly 80% of the tea gardens flout the Right to Education Act along with non-implementation of the Plantations Labour Act. “Teachers stay away, there are no proper toilets. Girls have to go for open defection. The health centre doesn’t have enough medicines. Why can’t we have basic amenities?” asked several children who attended a two-day meet, “National conference on rights of children in the tea-gardens of Assam”, here on Friday organised by ASCPCR in collaboration with the state labour department, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Unicef, Assam.Chief secretary VK Pipersenia said, “The situation is unacceptable. The ASCPCR and NCPCR should come out with an action plan.” (Times of India 5/11/2016)

43. Rehabilitation of rescued children major concern (14)

RANCHI: While the number of successful rescue cases in the last five years is 352, as many as 2,354 children have been rescued by the state police under Operation Muskan since January 2015 till date from across the state of which 1,952 were from Jharkhand. However, rehabilitation of these survivors seems to be a major concern for the state. The rescued minors are reunited with their family after being presented at the Child Welfare Committees. In most cases, these minors are either trafficked again or they leave home in hopes of earning money. Meera Mishra, member of Child Welfare Committee, Ranchi said, “The government is not very thoughtful when it comes to rehabilitation of rescued children. Once the children are restored to their family they have to suffer a lot of humiliation and are forced to leave.” Mishra said that the children, especially girls, are insulted by villagers and looked down upon by boys who think they are easily available. “Many girls, young and adults, who are rescued approach us with these problems. While we send the minors to Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, I try to find jobs for the adult girls at a personal level which helps them earn money with respect.” Accepting that rehabilitation is an issue, MS Bhatia, secretary, social welfare department said, “There is always a chance that the rescued children might again be trafficked or sent away by their own family to earn money.” Talking about the measures taken by the government to solve this problem he said, “The district child protection units and CWCs have been directed to follow up on the children reunited with their families. They have been asked to be in constant touch with these families and provide regular counselling to them and also assure that the children are enrolled in schools.” (Times of India 6/11/2016)

44. Child Friendly Villages to protect rights of kids (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The Government has launched the Child Friendly Village Programme to achieve the millennium development goals to protect child rights. The theme of the programme is to implement the Right to Education Act, 2009, stop child labour, prevent abuse and begging, malnutrition, reduce infant and child mortality and strengthen the community right from village level. “Officials of the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) will conduct awareness programmes in Child Friendly Villages. An action plan will be drafted in the proposed villages and the staff of Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) along with other government agencies will implement the programme,” said ICPS State Joint Director E.V. Swarna Latha. According to the recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the crime rate against children is 2.3 per cent in AP. However, the spurt in crime against them, particularly kidnap, sexual assault and harassment cases are worrying the officials. “In just three years [from 2014 to 2016 as on date] about 628 cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 [i.e. minor rape or sexual harassment] were registered in the State. The figure on crime against children, particularly sexual assault cases, was disturbing,” the joint director said. Under the Child Friendly Village Programme, the ICPS officials, in coordination with other departments’ staff and the local public representatives, will enlighten the villagers on female infanticide and foeticide, breastfeeding, supply of protected drinking water and nutritional diet, enrolment of children in schools and maintaining sanitation.“It is a five-day exercise at the village level which was completed recently. The participants focussed on village mapping, preparing time-line analysis, maintaining sanitation in schools and anganwadi centres and discussing girl child issues. Later, they will develop an action plan to improve the status of children in villages,” said Krishna District WD&CW Project Director K. Krishna Kumari. (The Hindu 7/11/2016)

45. Police officials trained on child rights (14)

SALEM: As many as 250 police officials were trained on child rights legislations during a three-day programme that concluded here on Tuesday. Under the Adolescent Empowerment Programme of UNICEF’s Society for Monitoring and Implementation of Child Labour Elimination (SMILE) project, Deputy Superintendents of Police, Assistant Commissioners, Inspectors, personnel from All Women Police Station, Special Sub Inspectors, head constables, police personnel and Child Welfare Police Officers designated under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, were trained on their role in implementing the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 along with the different child protection mechanisms in Salem District. M. Andrew Sesuraj, State convener, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory (TNCRO) facilitated the entire process that was organised by Varunan Velu, Child Protection Consultant for UNICEF in Salem and Dharmapuri and Sibija Bensigar, Development Consultant. The officials were given case examples and were allowed to share their own experiences in the process of learning the capacity of working for the best interest of the children. A review of the 21 indicators on Child Friendly Police Stations was also held. The law enforcement officials are encouraged to work on strengthening the indicators in their respective police stations and their jurisdictions. (The Hindu 10/11/2016)

46. 44 child marriages stopped (14)

NAMAKKAL: Under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, a training programme for field workers was organised by the Social Welfare Department and District Child Protection Unit here recently. Collector M. Asia Mariam said that the role of field workers is very vital in ensuring that the children in distress are protected. She said that of the 44 children rescued from marriages, 24 were pursuing their studies at special schools while the rest were with their parents. She said that 86 child workers were rescued from various places in the district and 44 were pursuing their studies. Six children were sexually abused and were provided counselling and were continuing their education, she added. Creating awareness among the children and the parents on various child protection laws would help in protecting the children, the collector said. Any children in distress or the public if they come across children in problems can call the Childline at 1098 so that immediate action can be taken in rescuing and rehabilitating them. Under the Sponsorship and Foster Care Approval Committee (SFCAC) assistance for children who lost their parents, 40 children were given assistance in 2013-14 and 41 children in 2014-15. District Child Protection Officer P. Prabhu and District Child Welfare Committee member Jeyabal Sundar Singh provided training to the participants. (The Hindu 15/11/2016)

47. Children are victims of voyeurism: NCRB data (14)

HYDERABAD: The nation celebrates children’s day on Monday but 94,172 children all over the country, including 2,697 children from Telangana and 1,992 children from Andhra Pradesh had traumatic experiences last year. While children have been victims of murder and infanticide, many have been victims of voyeurism, rape, assaults, sexual harassments and attempts were made to outrage their modesty. There have also been cases when an attempt was made to disrobe them. In June this year, a 11-year-old school girl was molested by the security guard of her school and a case was registered against him by the parents with the LB nagar police. Instances such as this continue. In Vizianagaram of Andhra Pradesh, a three-and-a-half year old girl was raped by two minor boys in August 2015. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for the year show children have been victims of voyeurism which is a crime under section 354c IPC). A total of 51 cases of ‘voyeurism’ were registered and figuring among the top two is Telangana. While there were 12 cases in Maharashtra, there were six each in Delhi Union territory and Telangana. There were, in all 56 victims in 51 cases. Children are also victims of stalking. Cases against stalkers are booked under section 354d IPC . While there were a total of 1,020 cases of ‘stalking’ of children , Telangana ranks among the top three. There were 422 cases in Maharashtra, 169 in Delhi Union territory and 135 cases in Telangana.Children have also been pushed into prostitution. As NCRB data shows there were 11 cases of ‘buying of minors for prostitution’ which is a crime under Section 373/372 of IPC, another 111 cases were registered for ‘selling of minors for prostitution’. Some cases of minors being bought for prostitution was also registered in Telangana, apart from Maharashtra, Harayana and Uttar Pradesh. (Times of India 15/11/2016)

48. Children demand ‘surgical strike’ against child marriage (14)

Kolkata: Ahead of Universal Children’s Day on November 20, groups of marginalised children are petitioning the government to end child marriage and child labour like the recent drive against black money. “The way the government has implemented a ban on high value currency, similarly they should also ensure that no child gets married at an early age, every child gets education and no child is employed as labour,” said Baishaki Biswas, who was married off at 14 and became a mother two years later. Early marriage forced her to skip school after Class IX.Along with other marginalised children she is now writing to the authorities with a charter of demands, which includes launching a ‘surgical strike’ against child labour and child marriage. Baishaki is one among hundreds of ‘Child Champions’, led by international NGO Save the Children, who are acting as child activists in the community to ensure that marginalised children do not become victims. Every year the Child Rights Convention (CRC) Week is observed during November 14—20 to mark the global pledge to make the world a better place for all children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The period also includes the celebration of Universal Children’s Day on November 20 calling upon society to contribute in strengthening the social protection of all children of the country. Despite ratifying the convention 24 years ago, India still has 1.2 million children struggling for survival till their 5th birthday, 84 million have never been to school and 7.8 million are engaged in some form of child labour. These groups of kids from Save the Children have now put up a photo exhibition at Nehru Children’s Museum as part of a campaign where they were given cameras to tell their own stories with a series of images. PTI  (The Hindu 18/11/2016)

49. Quality education mooted to protect child rights (14)

CHITTOOR: The week-long International Child Rights Day celebrations by the Rural Organization for Poverty Eradication Services (ROPES) in association with Child Fund Alliance and Child Line concluded at the local High School grounds at Bangarupalem on Sunday, followed by a variety of activities such as public rallies, distribution of leaflets, display of posters in public places and conducting of awareness camps on POCSO Act at schools. Marking the event, the organisers had conducted quizzes, elocution and essay writing competitions to the school children all over district with the themes related to child marriages, child labour and child abuse. The ROPES chairman, K. Dhanasekharan, said that as per the survey conducted by the Child Fund Alliance member organisations, titled “The Small Voices, Big Dreams” in 41 countries, the need for education among the deprived children was felt immensely. He said that some of the premier global agencies were working for the uplift of rural children, particularly in tribal areas, in Chittoor district with an objective to ensure inclusive and equitable, quality education to the targeted group under the safe schools project in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). (The Hindu 21/11/16)

50. High rate of child marriages in state worries rights experts (14)

GUWAHATI: Nineteen-year-old Mala (name changed), a resident of Dhemaji, is a mother of two. Her parents married her off when she was 13. Needless to say, Mala has had little formal education. She is not alone. According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for 2015-2016, at least 32.6% of married women aged between 20 and 24 in the state had been married off before they turned 18. Minors constitute around 41% of Assam’s population. Morigaon district earned the dubious distinction of having the highest number of child marriages in the state last year. It was followed by Dhubri, Barpeta, Nagaon and Bongaigaon districts (in that order).”Around 13.6% of adolescent girls aged between 15 and 19 were pregnant in, or had already given birth by, 2015-2016,” the NFHS report added. Runumi Gogoi, chairperson of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR), admitted the scale of the problem and said, “Child marriage is a common trend in the minority-dominated and tea belt areas of the state. Protection of child rights in Assam continues to be a distant dream.”Non-implementation of the Right to Education Act in most tea gardens was a major reason behind the worrying trend, said experts who took part in a discussion on child rights organized by the ASCPCR and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Sunday, which was observed as Universal Children’s Day. Childline’s Guwahati unit, too, organized a series of street plays and awareness programmes on child rights on Sunday. The organization, which has been rescuing children in distress for years now, called for child-friendly government schemes and proper rehabilitation of those rescued. Nirmal Deka, coordinator of Childline Guwahati, said, “Without proper rehabilitation, children who are rescued from traffickers or rights violators continue to remain vulnerable.” (Times of India 21/11/2016)

51. Children most vulnerable to labour, trafficking: NGO (14)

New Delhi: Children across India are most vulnerable to child labour and trafficking, an NGO report said on Wednesday. “Child labour and trafficking have emerged as the key problems faced by a majority of vulnerable children across India in the state and regional consultations,” a report released by Plan India, a child development organisation, said. “75 per cent reported missing and trafficked children is the third major concern. About 19 states across India reported the issue of child marriage as a major concern. All states in east and northeast India reported on issues of children affected by AIDS while all northeastern states reported the issue of substance abuse,” it added. The report on the situation of vulnerable and excluded children from India comprising 28 states and four union territories was presented at a national conference on ‘Plan for every child’. Representatives from the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), the UN and civil society organisations participated in the discussions before the report was released. The findings in the report were result of consultations held over three months with over 2,000 civil society organisations, including government departments working with children living in difficult circumstances. The panellists suggested that children in difficult circumstances are those living on the streets and working, those affected by AIDS, victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, children of female sex workers and child labourers. The panellists included members of Plan India and WCD Ministry Special Secretary Preeti Sudan, and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chirman Stuti Kacker. Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director of Plan India, said, “Millions of children continue to be denied their basic rights and entitlements such as food, shelter, education, medical care, protection and security because of their circumstances.” Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff, UN Working Group Member, also spoke at the event and said: “Special programmes and project interventions are needed for children who face multiple deprivation and vulnerabilities owing to their circumstances.” In its recommendations, the NGO urged the government and civil societies to place more emphasis on training of all functionaries on basic child rights acts and schemes and their implementation for children in difficult circumstances. (Business Standard 23/11/16)

52. Centre seeks report from Gurgaon police on ‘inflated’ child rescue figures (14)

Gurgaon: The Centre decided on Friday to seek a report from Gurgaon police after an HT investigation found alleged fudging of numbers by the force to show a higher success rate for a nationwide programme to rescue and rehabilitate missing minors. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Haryana government to institute a probe into the malpractices during implementation of Operation Muskaan (smile), a flagship programme of the home ministry launched across the country last year. “We have taken cognizance of the HT report and we are seeking comments from the Gurgaon police commissioner on the issue,” said a home ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media. Gurgaon police records show they rescued 1,057 children in July last year. Twenty-seven addresses of ‘rescued’ children were found to be fake during a random check by HT.As pressure mounted in the government, chief minister Mahohar Lal Khattar promised to come clean on the issue. “I got to know about the matter after (the) HT report and I will ensure an inquiry is conducted and a report is prepared in this regard,” Khattar told HT on phone. Additional chief secretary (home) Ram Niwas said the government will seek facts from the state police. In a letter to the chief secretary, the NCPCR also sought a report from the state government within a month. “We will conduct an inquiry into the entire issue as this is a serious matter. The rescue and rehabilitation of missing children should happen as per the prescribed laws as it is very clear how to take such action, and what should be the methodology,” NCPCR member Yashwant Jain said. NCPCR chairperson Stuti Kacker described the alleged police malpractice as “unfortunate”. “It was shocking to know that there were so many loopholes in carrying out relief and rescue of children…,” she told HT. Director general of police KP Singh rubbished the HT report saying there are “there were no fake entries”. Asked about the letter he had written as DGP (crime) to Gurgaon police commissioner last year objecting to “false information”, he said, “There was a lack of clarity on details of children…There was an internal problem related to accounting. It was a technical issue. There were no wrong entries.” The letter from Singh had said, “The wrong practice has corrupted the whole data and has created doubt about the excellent honest work done by some of the units. I am afraid the Government of India will not attach credence to any such corrupted information uploaded on the portal.” (Hindustan Times 26/11/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

53. Government buys time over stay of persecuted Bangla minorities (7)

GUWAHATI: Both the Centre and the state government on Monday sought time from the Gauhati high court for filing their replies against a PIL seeking the implementation of a government notification allowing persecuted minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh to stay in the country without valid documents. On September 7 last year, the Centre had issued a gazette notification stating that it would exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals from minority communities who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, without proper documents, or those whose valid documents had expired, from being deported on humanitarian grounds. The Union home ministry had said the decision was taken with respect to the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and Foreigners Act, 1946. A PIL, filed by Anil Chandra Dey, a senior advocate from Silchar, had sought implementation of the notification.A huge number of people belonging to minority communities of Bangladesh and Pakistan – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – who faced persecution in these countries and were compelled to seek shelter in Assam and other parts of the country have been subjected to harassment by the administrative authorities, the PIL stated. Advocate Bishwajyoti Purkayastha, counsel of the petitioner, said, “The high court has granted six weeks’ time to both the Centre and the state government to file their replies. The Centre cited the pending status of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, likely to be presented in the winter session for approval.” (Times of India 2/11/2016)

54. Rajnath will raise exodus issue in Kairana rally, says Hukum Singh (7)

BAREILLY: Author of the Kairana “exodus” theory, BJP MP Hukum Singh said on Wednesday that Union home minister Rajnath Singh, too, will raise the issue of migration of Hindu families from the West UP town while addressing the party’s Parivartan Yatra in Kairana on November 7. It was Hukum Singh, the BJP’s Kairana MP, who had first said that some 250 Hindu families had left the town amid fear from members of a particular community. “I, and hopefully Rajnathji also, will be raising the issue of exodus since my stand was also vindicated by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),” Hukum Singh told TOI. While a probe team of NHRC had found that many families had indeed migrated from the area, the national commission for minorities virtually rejected these claims later. Giving details of Rajnath Singh’s schedule in the area, Hukum Singh said, “During his Parivartan Yatra that would be launched at Saharanpur on November 5, Rajnathji will address public meetings at several places in Shamli district, including Kairana. I have already given him a list of the families that left the town and told him about the seriousness of the matter. I will raise the issue again during the rally in Kairana and I strongly believe that Rajnathji will also put forth his views on the issue.” Hukum Singh said he had met the Union home minister several times in the past and had updated him on the issue of the alleged exodus. Meanwhile, BJP’s local functionaries have become hyperactive on social media about Rajnath Singh’s Kairana rally and said they would do everything to make this public meeting a grand success. The convenor of the Yatra in Kairana, Manoj Chaudhary, said, “We have double-checked all the arrangements for the Parivartan Yatra. There are strong possibilities that party’s national president Amit Shah might also accompany Rajnath Singh.” On June 8, the local MP had alleged that Kairana had become a “new Kashmir”, with the exodus of 250 Hindu families after being allegedly targeted and persecuted by another community. (Times of India 3/11/2016)

55. Minority leaders prep up for Mahasangram rally (7)

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the Mahasangram rally of minorities to be held in the capital on November 27, dalit leaders are reviewing the issue of reservation of parliamentary and assembly seats for SC/STs. This was an outcome of the Pune Pact, signed by Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar in 1932, but bore no fruit in reality as the SC/ST MPs failed to represent the minority problems in the House, said a dalit leader. “Recently we have taken to the streets and found our elected representatives (84 SC and 47 ST MPs and hundreds of MLAs) have failed to address our legitimate concerns, demands, and constitutional guarantees. We believe representation through reservation in assemblies and Parliament has thwarted the objectives of Ambedkar and Gandhi both, who signed the Pune pact for ensuring representation of the last man in society,” said the statement from dalit, adivasi and minority leaders.Activists like president of the Gujarat Dalit Samman Sangharsh Manch, Jayanti Bhai Makadiya, C M Pippal, of the Bharatiya Bauddh Mahasabha and Subhash Singh of National Confederation of Dalit Adivasi Organisations and Rameshwar of the SC\ST Board of LIC employees were present at the press meet on Friday to announce the details of the rally. Apart from the activists, some of the dalit and adivasi victims of atrocities and injustice were also present at the meet, where they narrated their personal experiences. Among them were two young men from Una, a young girl and a young man from Haryana with their separate accounts, the brother of a dalit girl who was raped and killed in Rajasthan and tribals from Madhya Pradesh. (Times of India 4/11/2016)

56.  ‘Uniform Civil Code is against India’s secularism’ (7)

MADURAI: Asserting that enactment of Uniform Civil Code will be a blow to India’s secularism and diversity, M. Thamimun Ansari, general secretary of Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi and of MLA of Nagapattinam constituency, appealed to people of all faiths to join the fight against Centre’s proposal to implement UCC. “Please do not think that it is a protest by Muslims to protect their rights. It is a fight to safeguard country’s secularism and diversity,” he said, while addressing a protest meeting organized here on Monday by Madurai Muslim Aikya Jamaat, in which a large number of members and leaders from various Muslim organisations participated. He said a false propaganda was being carried out to project as if Muslims were the only beneficiaries of personal laws based on religions. “However, out of nearly 300 personal laws that were in force in the country, only four were for Muslims,” he claimed. Condemning the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for assuming that they had the backing of Hindus, Mr. Ansari pointed out that the present government had secured only 31 percent of votes. Manithaneya Makkal Katchi President M.H. Jawahirullah blamed the BJP and the RSS for trying to draw a wedge between the majority and minority communities. “If the government goes ahead with UCC, a nation-wide protest, much stronger in magnitude than what was witnessed after the Shah Bano case judgement in 1985, will erupt,” he said. Antony Pappusamy, Archbishop of Madurai Archdiocese, who participated in the protest to express solidarity, blamed the union government for its unnecessary focus on UCC when there were pressing issues to be addressed in the country. “Moreover, government has sought opinion on UCC without revealing what the nature and content is going to be. This is unfair,” he added. K.A.M. Muhammad Abubackar of IUML, who is the MLA of Kadayanallur constituency, K.K.S.M. Tehlan Baqavi, State president of SDPI, A. Basheer Ahamed, President, Madurai Muslim Aikya Jamaat and leaders from various other organisations spoke at the meeting, which witnessed almost equal participation from men and women. (The Hindu 8/11/2016)

57. `Minorities budget hiked to Rs 3,000 crore by Modi government’ (7)

HYDERABAD: The Minorities Welfare Day , which coincided with the 128th birth anniversary of freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, on Friday saw politicians affirming their commitment for the welfare of minorities in the sphere of education even as a couple went to the extent of comparing the vision of Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao to that of Azad, who was the first education minister of independent India. While the CM remained conspicuously absent, the programme began two hours late on account of the Group II examinations at Nizam College, which was the venue. Addressing a gathering of students and staff of the Telangana Minorities Residential Education Institutions Society (TMREIS), among others, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said that the Muslim community is “poor” and that more funds should be spent on education. “I’m from the Centre. It is my duty to get a larger budget for minorities. Modi government has increased the authentic share capital of the National Minorities Development Corporation from ` 1,500 crore to ` 3,000 crore,” he said, adding that Ministry of Minority Affair’s Maulana Azad Education Foundation has been earmarked `120 crore. Eulogising the CM, Telangana Rashtra Samithi legislator Farooq Hussain sought to compare Rao’s schemes for minorities, particularly in the field of education, to those taken by Maulana Azad. He did not hesistate to draw parallels between Rao and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of the Anglo-Mohammedan College, now known as the Aligarh Muslim University. Home minister N Narasimha Reddy reiterated that Muslims were treated in an unjust manner. He blamed previous governments for not taking adequate steps for the welfare of the community even as he appealed that the Muslims support the government. “Let us work together,” he said.Young school students too were not spared. “KCR sir ke har khwaab ki tabeer karengey hum (we will make true the dreams of KCR sir),” they sang. Deputy CM Mahmood Ali congratulated the TMREIS staff. He said that while 71 schools are operational, another 89 would be opened soon. He too eulogised the CM. ACB chief and TMREIS president AK Khan, Minorities Welfare Department secretary Syed Omer Jaleel, TMREIS secretary and vice chairman and managing director of the Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation, among others also spoke. (Times of India 12/11/2016)

58. Uniform Civil Code an attack on freedom of minorities: JUH (7)

NEW DELHI: Jamiat Ulama-i- Hind (JUH) released a declaration at the end of its 33rd general session in Ajmer where it warned the Central government that “if Uniform Civil Code is imposed on the country or interference made in the Muslim Personal Law, then the minority community’s status will cease to be that of a free citizen”.In the declaration the Jamiat also condemned triple talaaq at one go and appealed to every section of the Muslim society to work towards eliminating this “wrong-practice”. Jamiat also announced the launch of a social reform movement against nudity, alcoholism and pornography and propagating Islamic teachings in the country that will take off in 2017 and continue through the year. JUH in another resolution reiterated its long pending demand of enacting an anti-communal violence law and made it clear that the community will not tolerate any meddling in the Muslim Personal Law and will oppose Uniform Civil Code “as it violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution”.In his presidential address, JUH president Maulana Mohammad Usman especially touched upon the sectarian differences among Muslims adding that it is a call of time that every sect should be on a common platform on issues related to the nation and community. In the past, he warned that sectarian differences among Muslims have caused harm to the nation and the Muslim world. Presenting the resolutions in the presence of different faith leaders (including Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Christian) and Islamic scholars, Jamiat Ulama-i- Hind general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani said we would work together to build a new India. On rising communal incidents in the country since the present government came to power, Maulana Madani said the Jamiat has been pressing upon the previous governments to pass anti-communal violence law but “unfortunately they did not heed this demand”. The resolution states, “Jamiat considers communal harmony as the pre-condition for the security and integrity of the country. It regards incidence of communal riots as a blot on the face of the nation and stumbling block in the country’s progress. It is the primary duty of the Government to maintain peace and security in the country. It must not allow communal disturbance. Therefore this session of the Jamiat demands from the Central and the state Governments to enact anti- Communal violence law.” (Times of India 14.11.16)

59. British delegation meets Minorities Commission chairman (7)

HYDERABAD: A high-level British delegation comprising Deputy High Commissioners Alexander Evans (New Delhi) and Andrew McAllister (Hyderabad), on Wednesday called on chairman of the State Minorities Commission, Abid Rasool Khan. They held discussions on the subject of the Commission’s role, its powers and how it worked to protect the Constitutional rights and interests of those belonging to the minorities. Mr. Khan gave them copies of the Commission’s annual reports and a list of its recommendations. The guests enquired about the socio-economic development, educational programmes, welfare schemes initiated by the Governments of India and Telangana and how it was reaching out to help the poorest among minorities. The cases being dealt by the Commission pertaining to the minorities, specially Muslims and Christian minorities, were discussed, including initiatives taken by the Commission to discourage Muslim youth from aligning with terrorists. Discussions included those in the area of Inter-government cooperation and encouragement that could be extended by the British Government in the fields of education, employment and business opportunities for the minorities. The visiting VIPs appreciated the work of the Commission and assured the chairman of their complete cooperation. (The Hindu 17/11/16)

60. My religion is nobody else’s business, says CJI TS Thakur (7)

NEW DELHI: The relationship between man and God is “very personal” and should be “nobody else’s business”, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur said on Sunday as he stressed on tolerance for peace in society. More lives have been lost in religious wars than due to political ideologies, Justice Thakur said during the release of a book on Zoroastrianism, penned by Supreme Court Judge Justice Rohinton F Nariman here. Thakur, while releasing the book titled ‘The Inner Fire, faith, choice and modern-day living in Zoroastrianism’, also said that more destruction, damage and bloodshed in this world has taken place on the account of religious beliefs. “In this world, more lives have been lost in religious wars than on political ideologies. More humans have killed each other because they thought their path is better than his, that he is an infidel, that he is a non-believer. More destruction, damage, bloodshed has taken place in this world on account of religious beliefs. “What is my religion? How do I connect with my God? What kind of relationship I share with my God. It is nobody else’s business. You can chose your relationship with your God,” the CJI said. Relationship between man and God “is something which is very personal and individual. So no one else has any thing to do with it,” he added. “I think the message of brotherhood, tolerance and accepting that ultimately all path leads to one path, one God, will bring world peace, will bring prosperity. In that sense Rohinton has done a great service,” Justice Thakur said. Former Supreme Court judge Justice B N Srikrishna explained certain verses of Gathas (the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself) which dealt with equanimity… (Times of India 20/11/16)

61. 9.2 lakh minorities employed with Centre till March: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (7)

New Delhi: A total of 9.2 lakh minority community members were employed with Central government and its institutions/enterprises as on March this year, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.Replying to a query in this regard, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said 9,20,641 persons belonging to minority communities were employed with 16 central ministries/department in A, B, C and D groups as on March 31, 2016. Of these, 14,644 were employed during 2015-16. “The data on recruitment of minorities in Central government shows steady increase in the representation of minorities from 6.24 per cent in the year 2011-12 to 8.56 per cent in 2014-15 (for 79 Central Ministries/departments),” Naqvi said. There are six minority communities: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains. (The Indian Express 23/11/16)

62. Minority panel asks district magistrate for report (7)

MEERUT: Taking cognizance of news reports on the shocking video that showed a Muslim man and woman being beaten by Bajrang Dal men, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has asked the Bulandshahr district magistrate (DM) to submit a report in the case. “The incident that has come to light in Khurja is very shocking. It was a case of blatant communalism and assault. We received a petition and decided to look into the case,” said Praveen Davar, member, NCM. “I spoke to the district magistrate of Bulandsahr who assured me that action was being taken. We will follow this case through to its conclusion. I have also written to the National Commission for Women (NCW) since one of the victims was a woman who was beaten mercilessly.” AK Singh, Bulandshahr district magistrate, told TOI on Thursday, “We have taken a very strict view of the case. The SSP of the district went to the spot herself and I am being given regular updates about the case. We have arrested every person identified in the video. Five people have been arrested. They have been booked under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).” Singh added, “The main accused, Bajrang Dal district convener Praveen Bhati, is notorious for being involved in similar instances before. We will not go soft on any of the accused.” (Times of India 25/11/16)

63. Dalit, tribal, minorities slam demonetisation (7)

NEW DELHI: As Ramlila Maidan echoed with chants of “Jai Bhim, Jai Bharat” and similar slogans at the ‘Maha Sangram Rally’ of Dalits, tribals and minorities, the demonetisation drive came under criticism for its adverse impact on the socially disadvantaged.The rally, organised by representatives of organisations working with Dalits, tribals and minorities, saw PM Narendra Modi and BJP being criticised with speakers claiming that 75 “tribal districts” were worst hit for they either lacked banks or had severely inadequate banking facilities. The rally saw the launch of a unified campaign against “communal and divisive” forces. Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani and All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Faruqui said minorities would be seen standing with Dalits and tribals wherever atrocities were inflicted on them. Strict action was demanded against “so-called cow vigilante groups” unleashing violence on Dalits and Muslims.The founding chairman of National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) Ashok Bharti cited demonetisation as an example of how governments in the past and present had failed to connect with the concerns of the marginalised. “I want to ask the prime minister about the 75 tribal districts where there are either no banks or the state of banking is dismal. How will people over there cope with the situation?” Bharti asked. He added that while the crackdown on the rich who had black money was yet to come, the common man was queuing up outside banks or depositing their little amounts of cash. (Times of India 28/11/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

64. In caste-riven U’khand region, Muslims ally with Dalits to seek rights (7)

DEHRADUN: Across India, Dalits have been increasingly allying with Muslims, both in states heading to polls, and elsewhere. Uttarakhand’s Jaunsar-Bawar is the state’s most caste conflict-prone area, and was in the news earlier this year for violence over Dalit entry into a temple. Now, accusing district officials of denying them education, health and other services, Muslims have joined hands with Dalits, demanding access to these facilities. In Jaunsar-Bawar, the Chakrata Cantt area, Mohna, Janglaat Chowki, Maath Kangra, Kalsi Byas Neri and Haripur gram sabha together have a Muslim population of over 1,500. Leaders of the community allege that ever since Independence, they had been following the directions of upper caste residents of the area, but it was unacceptable to them now. Muslims in Chakrata said that they had been unable to benefit from central and state government schemes for minorities, or those meant for tribal areas like Jaunsar-Bawar, because they did not get caste certificates. “In four generations of my family, none of us have got caste certificates from the district administration because of political pressure on government officials. Upper castes here prevent us from getting the certificates, saying we are not a part of revenue villages, which is not true. We whole-heartedly support the Dalit movement of Kheda bachao Andolan and will work with them to get our demands fulfilled,” said Inayat Ali, 65, a community keader from Dakra village.Muslims voices began emerging in a significant way after Dalit leader Daulat Kunwar launched Kheda Bachao Andolan, soon after he participated in noted environmental and social activist Anil Joshi’s Gaon Bachao Andolan. Kunwar started his Dalit movement on October 12, and it culminated today with Dalits and Muslims submitting a joint memorandum to the sub-divisional magistrate at Kalsi, addressed to the President. (Times of India 2/11/2016)

65. Muslim women slam AIMPLB on triple talaq (7)

Lucknow: Amid the raging debate over ‘triple talaq’, the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) on Sunday criticised the signature campaign launched by the AIMPLB, dubbing it as a move to “mislead” women from the community. “The campaign is not to empower Muslim women but to mislead them,” AIMWPLB president Shaista Amber told PTI here. Her comments came days after the All India Muslim Personal Law Board carried out a signature campaign against the Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court against ‘triple talaq’ and the questionnaire prepared by the Law Commission regarding Uniform Civil Code. She said it would have been better had the AIMPLB written in its documents that it wholeheartedly supported the provisions in the Holy Koran about ‘triple talaq’. The AIMPLB could also punish those who utter ‘talaq’ thrice in one go, she suggested. Ms. Amber said the affidavit before the apex court smacked of vote-bank politics. (The Hindu 7/11/2016)

66. Attempt to ban triple talaq will be counter-productive: Qamarul Islam (7)

KALABURAGI: The All-India Tahafuz-e-Shariat Conference organised by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the All India Milli Council here on Sunday criticised the moves of the Union government on the triple talaq issue and the uniform civil code. Qamarul Islam, former Minister and a member of the AIMPLB, said that interference in the Muslim personal law would not be tolerated.Accusing the BJP government at the Centre of hatching a conspiracy to impose the uniform civil code in the name of ensuring social reforms and gender justice. Mr. Islam warned that the Union government’s attempt to ban triple talaq and impose the uniform civil code would prove counter-productive. “The government cannot force Muslims to follow the practices of other communities in issues related to personal laws as it will amount to infringement of their fundamental rights. Those demanding a ban on triple talaq and polygamy are a minuscule minority and are not representatives of the Indian Muslims,” he added. Sajjada Nasheen of the Hazrath Khaja Bandanawaz Dargah Sharif Syed Shah Gesudaraz Khusro Hussaini, Maulana Tauqheer Razakhan, Syed Mustafa Rifayi, Khaja Pasha, Shaihk-UL-Hadees, and Mufti Khaleel Ahmed were present. (The Hindu 8/11/2016)

67. RSS calls Gujarat riots ‘shameful’, assures AMU teachers that Muslims won’t face bias (7)

AGRA: At least three Aligarh Muslim University teachers, two of them now retired, who attended a recent meeting of RSS and Muslim intellectuals from across the country that was held in Delhi, told TOI that top Sangh functionaries said the Gujarat riots of 2002 were “shameful” and such incidents “shouldn’t happen again”. The meeting on November 3 at the international auditorium of Pusa agriculture institute was aimed at “clarifying the deeprooted misunderstandings of the Muslim community about the Sangh.”AMU’s associate professor of theology , Mufti Zahid, who along with four other colleagues participated in the meeting that was attended by 110 intellectuals from various universities, including JNU, said, “I raised the issue of the 2002 Gujarat riots during my address and said that Muslims can never forget what all happened there. Reacting to this, RSS joint general secretary (Sah Sarkaryawah) Krishna Gopal Sharma categorically said that the episode was shameful and such incidents should not happen again.” According to Zahid, several other issues, like triple talaq, uniform civil code, unemployment among minorities and education, were also discussed at the meeting where RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale and national executive member Indresh Kumar were also present. Former AMU dean (law faculty) Mohammad Shabbir said, “The RSS leaders assured us that there will be no discrimination against the community. They also added that a Gujarat-like incident won’t ever happen again.”Indresh Kumar told TOI : “Many other things were discussed in the meeting that lasted for over five hours. It was a meaningful discussion on various points. Many contentious issues were taken up during the meeting.”Shahid Akhtar, national convener of RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch, who was also present in the meeting, told TOI , “During the meeting, Sah Sarkaryawah Krishna Gopal Sharma said that dialogues are necessary to ensure incidents like Gujarat don’t happen again” (Times of India 9/11/2016)

68. Triple talaq unconstitutional: NCW to apex court (7)

New Delhi: The National Commission for Women has told the Supreme Court that ‘triple talaq’ and polygamy are unconstitutional as they compromised with the rights of Muslim women. In an affidavit, the statutory body for protection of women’s rights supported the stand of the Union government that the practice of ‘triple talaq’, which subjected women to whims of menfolk, was incompatible with the principle of gender equality and justice enshrined in the Constitution. “Triple talaq, nikah halala (bar against remarriage with divorced husband, without an intervening marriage with another man) and polygamy are unconstitutional because they compromise the rights of Muslim women (or of women married to Muslim men) to their disadvantage, which is detrimental to them and their children. Therefore, these practices should be strictly prohibited,” the women’s body stated. The Commission, which looked into complaints of deprivation of the rights of women and cases of atrocities against them, submitted it has noted that women were at the receiving end of the practice of unilateral talaq. The Union government also contended that these practices cannot be regarded as integral part of the religion. The NCW’s affidavit came in support of the Centre’s stand that the issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy was required to be considered in the light of principle of gender justice and overriding Constitutional principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality. The Union government favoured a batch of petitions, including one by advocate Balaji Srinivasan on behalf of Shayara Bano, for declaring these practices unconstitutional. The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have opposed before the court any proposal to impose Uniform Civil Code and remove triple talaq.When asked about his opinion on the topic that has been in the headlines, Akhtar said he has been vocal against the issue for many years. “I have always spoken against these things. Triple talaq should be banned immediately in any civil society. As far as uniform common civil code is concerned, I am not sure how far this is possible because our country is huge,” he said. (Deccan Herald 13/11/2016)

69.  ‘Centre should not interfere in Muslim personal law’ (7)

Udupi: The Sunni Sanghatanegala Okkoota organised a dharna in front of the Clock Tower here on Friday against, what it termed, the Union government’s move to interfere in the Shariat law. Maulana N.K.M. Shaafi Saadi said it was essential to protect the Shariat law. If the constitutional rights given to the Muslims were curtailed, the community would protest against it. The Union government can curb black money, if it wanted to score political points in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, but it should not interfere in personal laws of the Muslim community. If any attempt was made to infringe upon the fundamental rights, the community would approach the courts, he said. (The Hindu 14/11/2016)

70. Union minister cites Mewat riots, seeks RAF centres in region (7)

Rewari: Union minister Rao Inderjeet Singh on Wednesday cited the communal riots in Haryana’s Mewat two years ago while demanding that a training institute for Rapid Action Force (RAF) be setup in the region to prevent violence in the future. “Log kehte hain jab BJP sattaseen hoti hai toh Hindu bekabu ho jaata hai.. (People say that whenever BJP comes to power, Hindus commit excesses). But when our party formed the government (in 2014), within two months Mewat witnessed riots,’’ he said in Rewari in the presence of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. “The region that has never witnessed strife between Hindus and Muslims saw the fight. But it was not Hindus that attacked Muslims; it was Muslims who attacked Hindus. This is a blot on all of us. We could not stop them,’’ he said, adding that in the past, the two communities have lived in peace and even fought shoulder to shoulder in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Rajnath responded positively to the demand for an RAF institute. “We want a strong and unified India and we will take steps to ensure that,” he said, while agreeing with the proposal. Inderjeet also demanded that an Army recruitment office be opened in the region to make it easier for the youths, who have to go to other district for recruitment rallies, to get recruited. Inderjeet, who claimed that Rewari has the highest number of Army and paramilitary recruits, had organised the Shaheed Samman Samaroh to commemorate the rebellion against the British in the region in 1857 under Raja Rao Tularam’s leadership. Rajnath said it would take a month for the things to normalise following demonetisation. “We agree that people are facing difficulties. It will take a month but bear with us,’’ he said. (Indian Express 17/11/16)

71. All India Muslim Personal Law Board forms women’s wing (7)

In a first, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board on Sunday decided to form a women’s wing to look into burning issues such as talaq, even as it passed a resolution in favour of triple talaq. The resolution passed at the AIMPLB’s three-day convention, which concluded today, stated that the government was infringing into the personal laws of Muslims. The women’s wing would also deal with other issues like family disputes and education, AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jellani told a press conference here after the convention. It decided to launch an all-India Muslim women helpline, a toll free call centre in Urdu, English and eight regional languages to counsel and guide Muslim women on family disputes to go to the Darul-Qaza. “It has been decided for the first time that we will form a women’s wing to go into issues concerning Muslim women and an all-India Muslim women helpline, a toll-free call centre in Urdu English and 8 regional language,” Kamal Farooqi, a member of AIMPLB said. “It seems that the government is bringing up this issue of Triple Talaq and Uniform Civil Code ahead of UP polls in order to communally polarise people and reap political dividends,” he said. The AIMPLB said it wanted to be the part of a discussion with the government, though the government did not bother to hear their views. “It is the opinion of the AIMPLB that the Shariah laws have their origin in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. These Shariah laws are divine laws and cannot be modified changed or altered by any person or authority,” Farooqi said. The point of view of AIMPLB has been explained in detail through the affidavit filed before the honourable Supreme Court, he said. “The moment we came to know that the Central government is going to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court, we approached the Prime Minister and five cabinet ministers through a registered post to get the point of view of the board, which represents all schools of thought in the country, heard. Unfortunately, the predetermined mind of the government did not think it fit to know the AIMPLB’s point of view,” he added. Farooqi alleged that the questionnaire prepared by the Law Commission fell short of professionalism. “The questionnaire prepared by the Law Commission not only falls short of professionalism regarding such a sensitive issue, but smacks of the intention of the present-day government to meddle with professional laws and bringing in the uniform civil code through the back door,” he said. He, however, hoped that that good sense would prevail in the government and it would withdraw its affidavit filed in the apex court. The board has now prepared its own questionnaire and circulated it among Muslims for signatures in support of triple talaq. “Lakhs of Muslim women have supported AIMPLB on its stand on triple talaq and the issue is a tool used by the government to interfere in AIMPLB’s affairs. The government is trying to project Muslim women as suppressed and oppressed, which is wrong,” Asma Zahra, executive member of AIMPLB, said. (DNA 20/11/16)

72. Muslims in Rajasthan village donate abandoned graveyard land for temple (7)

Jaipur: Muslims in Rajasthan’s Sikar district have set a heart-warming example of religious camaraderie by donating land to help build a Hindu temple. Muslims in Kolida donated 2 bighas or 34,848 square feet of land from their abandoned graveyard to the village’s Meels, who belong to the Jat community. The Meels have constructed a temple of local goddess Surjal Mata at the cost of about Rs 50 lakh on the land. “The Muslims had donated 1 bigha land 10 years ago and we had made a small temple. About two years ago, we started expanding the temple and grew short of land. The Muslims then gave another half a bigha at that time. Some six months ago, they gave the remaining half bigha too,” Shivpal Singh Meel, a former sarpanch of the village, said. Meel added that the Jats never asked their Muslim neighbours for the land and they themselves came forward to help them. “There is tremendous brotherhood between the communities here. On the inauguration of the temple too, which took place on Friday, people and leaders from both the communities came,” he said. Mohammed Ishaq, the deputy sarpanch of the village, said that the old graveyard was lying useless since the last 50-60 years. “When we came to know that the Jats were developing the temple further and needed more land, we called a meeting of community elders, who after a discussion, decided to donate the land to the Meels,” Ishaq said. Subhash Mahariya, the former member of Parliament from Sikar who was also present during the inauguration of the temple, said that the village’s minority community has indeed set a fine example. Sikar collector Kunj Bihari Gupta, who came to know about the donation from the local media, appreciated the gesture and said that the two communities have always lived amicably in the district. “Even in the Shanti Samiti meetings that we hold in the district, the pluralistic beliefs of both the communities are evident,” he added. (Hindustan Times 24/11/16)

73. Bulandshahr beatings: Minority panel seeks report from district administration (7)

MEERUT: After a shocking video surfaced, that showed a Muslim man and woman being beaten by Bajrang Dal men, the National Commission for Minorities has taken cognizance and asked the Bulandshahr district magistrate (DM) to submit a report.”The incident that has come to light in Khurja is very shocking. It was a case of blatant communalism and assault. We received a petition from Shehzaad Poonawla and decided to look into the case. I spoke to the district magistrate of Bulandsahr who assured me that action was being taken. I was satisfied by the response of the DM but we will still follow this case through to its conclusion. I have also written to the National Commission for Women (NCW) since one of the victims was a woman who was beaten mercilessly,” said Praveen Davar, member of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM). AK Singh, Bulandshahr district magistrate, told TOI, “We have taken a very strict view of the case. The SSP of the district went to the spot herself and I am being given regular updates about the case. We have arrested every person identified in the video. Five people have been arrested. They have been booked under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A case has also been registered against unnamed accused and we are trying to look for everyone involved. The main accused, Bajrang Dal district convener Praveen Bhati, is notorious for being involved in similar instances before. We will not go soft on any of the accused and ensure that they are made an example of. Violence against women or communal violence will not be tolerated in the district.” In a shocking video that has gone viral, a Muslim man and woman, both in their 30s, can be seen being beaten mercilessly with sticks, allegedly by Bajrang Dal activists in Khurja town of Bulandshahr district. In the video, the group of men can be heard saying, “Tum Hindu mohalle ko ganda karte ho (You dirty Hindu localities).” The incident happened on Sunday, but the clip has come out recently and is being shared widely on the internet. Police confirmed the incident to TOI. The petitioner, meanwhile, likened the Bajrang Dal to “terrorist organizations” and sought a ban. “This is a communal trend that is rising in the country and shows the emboldening of the right wing forces that are undermining rule of law. We have recently seen the lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri over a beef rumour, killing of two people in Latehar (Jharkhand), killing of a young Muslim in Gujarat by cow vigilantes, assault on four Dalits in Una (Gujarat), custodial murder of Minhaz Ansari in Jharkhand, lynching of Zahid and Noman by cow vigilantes in north India and many more cases. The Bajrang Dal and other similar outfits have been spreading terror among minorities all over the country. They should be banned like other terrorist organizations,”. (Times of India 25/11/16)

74. ‘Socio-economic empowerment of Muslims ignored for 70 years’ (7)

HYDERABAD: Concerns over lack of political empowerment of Muslim community were raised at a one-day workshop held at the University of Hyderabad as politicians, academicians and researchers discussed on opportunities and challenges to strengthen the participation of the minority community into law-making agencies. Experts highlighted lack of electoral dividends and representation given to the Muslim population in the city. “Governments over the last 70 years have never been serious of the socio-economic empowerment of Muslims. Equitable budgets and opportunities have not been allotted to the community. Atrocities against Muslims have only increased over the years. As far as political empowerment is concerned, a dialogue needs to begin wherein people are sensitised about voting patterns so that elections are not based on religious sentiments,” said Abid Rasool Khan, chairman of Telangana State Minorities Commission.Concerns were also raised over how the Muslim community has been left in a lurch with poor allocation of budget and opportunities. “Post bifurcation period, political parties made several promises in empowering Muslim community. However, the community did not gain expected dividends. Despite the hue over lack of opportunities, reservation for Muslims in private sector is still at large,” said Dr E Venkatesu from the political science department which organised the workshop. Afshan Shireen, research scholar at UoH said that there has been an attempt to politicise, while creating a tussle between the historical monument of Charminar and some mythological Goddess. Prof Muzaffar Assadi, University of Mysore critically analysed that the present public policy is being formulated against the recommendations of the Sachar Committee recommendations and it will drastically effect the future of Muslim minorities.Prof Afroz Aslam of Maulana Azad National Urdu University brought out findings that the communal riots are taking place just six month before every election. “Therefore, to reduce the communal riots, there is a need to conduct all the elections at a stretch,” said Aslam. Prof Sajjad Ibrahim highlighted the efforts of the government of Kerala for the empowerment of Muslims. Issues such as government bodies looking after minority affairs such as Wakf board, state minorities welfare commission among others being poorly staffed, deficiencies of Muslim representation in law-making agencies etc. were also discussed. (Times of India 30/11/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

75. Pope says he believes ban on female priests is forever (7)

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE: Pope Francis said on Tuesday he believes the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women becoming priests is forever and will never be changed, in some of his most definitive remarks on the issue. He was speaking aboard a plane taking him back to Rome from Sweden, in the freewheeling news conference with reporters that has become a tradition of his return flights from trips abroad. A Swedish female reporter noted that the head of the Lutheran Church who welcomed him in Sweden was a woman, and then asked if he thought the Catholic Church could allow women to be ordained as ministers in coming decades. “St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands,” Francis said. Francis was referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition. The reporter then pressed the pope, asking: “But forever, forever? Never, never? Francis responded: “If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction.” Francis has previously said that the door to women’s ordination is closed, but proponents of a female priesthood are hoping that a future pope might overturn the decision, particularly because of the shortage of priests around the world. The Catholic Church teaches that women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles. Those calling for women priests say he was only following the norms of his time. In August, Francis set up a commission to study the role of women deacons in early Christianity, raising hopes among equality campaigners that women could one day have a greater say in the 1.2 billion-member Church. Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers and must be men. They cannot celebrate Mass, the Catholic Church’s central rite, but they are allowed to preach and teach in the name of the Church, and to baptise and conduct wake and funeral services.Scholars debate the precise role of women deacons in the early Church. Some say they were ordained to minister only to other women, for instance in baptismal immersion rites. Others believe they were on a par with male deacons. (Times of India 1/11/2016)

76. Italy quake flattens historic basilica (7)

NORCIA (ITALY): Italy’s most powerful earthquake in 36 years struck a new blow to the country’s seismically vulnerable heart on Sunday. It measured 6.6 on the so-called moment magnitude scale. Norcia’s 14th-century Basilica of Saint Benedict, built on the reputed birthplace of the Catholic saint, was reduced to rubble. (The Hindu 1/11/2016)

77. Christian churches in India continue to expand despite persecution (7)

Christian churches in India are rapidly expanding despite the increase in reported cases of violence directed against Christians. According to Christianity Today, the estimated number of Christians in the country range from 25 to 60 million, most of whom are Catholics. On a hilltop in the state of Rajasthan, Bhagwana Lal ministers to a one-room church that draws 2,000 people every Sunday. Lal, a member of a tribal group whose members are treated as outcasts from India’s caste system, said that the cracks in the outer walls of the church are a source of pride because it marks the times when the building expanded.F. Philip, a seminary president and editor of an evangelical magazine called Christian Trends, said that the Gospel is well-received by the tribe. His seminary currently trains tribal pastors to minister to 300,000 believers across 1,600 congregations. The growth of Christianity is not limited to the lowest castes. Leaders said that Indians from different social backgrounds are turning to Christ. The staff members of the Research Project on Christwar Movements have accumulated 2,500 pages of interviews with new believers. In August, the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported an increase in violent crimes committed against Christians. The organization documented 134 confirmed cases in the first six months of 2016 while there were 147 reported incidents for the whole year of 2014 and 177 in 2015. P. Singh, a leading scholar at a respected Christian institution, suggested that Christians must take a less direct approach to evangelizing to Indians.”Here people look at churches in a negative way — as only interested in conversions. If we go into the community directly with the gospel, then people will oppose us,” he said.One church movement, Empower Believers Connections (EBC), focuses on making its churches self-sustainable through small enterprises. Some of its churches are running private schools while one runs a brass band that performs at parades and parties. One church runs a youth hostel and another manufactures LCD bulbs. The ministry is the priority, not the business. But the business should support the ministry. And opponents have less to criticize when you are doing social good,” said Mathai Soren, who is leading the efforts of EBC. (The Christian Times 3/11/2016)

78. Talks on marriage laws held (7)

Shillong, Nov. 8: Church leaders today discussed with the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council laws related to compulsory registration of marriages. According to the council’s chief executive member, P.N. Syiem, some pastors came to meet him in their individual capacity and expressed concern over the validity of marriages that were solemnised in various churches in view of the implementation of the Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2012 and Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Rules, 2015. “The pastors were worried that the act may affect the marriages solemnised in churches. According to the act, it is compulsory for married couples to register afresh with registrars of marriages appointed by the state government,” Syiem said. He said the meeting discussed United Khasi Jaintia Districts (Christian Marriage) Act, 1954 where Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 has been adopted by the district council in 1954. “According to the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, that has been adopted by the district council, pastors of churches are recognised as marriage registrars. They have only to forward to the council the certificates of those marriages solemnised in churches for record,” he said. Syiem said during the meeting, discussion was held on various aspects of the marriage act. It was decided to refer the matter to experts to have a better understanding in view of the existence of Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2012 and Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. (The Telegraph 9/11/2016)

79. Christianity not a spectacular fireworks display, says Pope (7)

NK World, Vatican City, Nov 11 : Christianity is not a stunning yet artificial spectacle like a fireworks display but is about cultivating hope, Pope Francis said on Thursday. “The Kingdom of God is not a spectacular religion always seeking novelty, revelation, messages,” Francis said in a sermon as he celebrated mass at the Vatican hotel. “It is not like a firework display that lights up the sky for a moment before fizzling out.” Christians should not be tempted by “religious spectacle” that does not offer real hope, the pontiff said. “Our salvation lies in the hope of the man who sows the grain and the woman who makes the bread: a hope that grows,” he stated. “We must cultivate hope…in this way Christianity gains strength.” (New Kerala 11/11/2016)

80. Visakhapatnam Christians demand new burial ground (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: A large number of Christians took out a rally to the Collectorate here on Saturday demanding the government allot ground for burials as the existing 200 years old Waltair cemetery was not adequate. Space at the cemetery was not sufficient in spite of redigging old graves and performing multiple burials, convenor of the rally Oliver Rayi said. The Visakhapatnam Christian Cemeteries Board organised the rally. A piece of land in Kommadi area was identified for burial ground but was locked in litigation as a person moved the court. The board lamented that the State government was acquiring and allotting large areas of land but failed to find an alternative piece of land for another burial ground. (The Hindu 13/11/2016)

81. Relief to Velim case accused (7)

COLVA: Accused in the Velim church police attack case will heave a sigh of relief as the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) Ram Prabhudessai, on Monday, dropped the Sections attempt to murder (307 IPC) and voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty (333 IPC) on Monday. Prabhudessai also declined to commit the case to the sessions court for trial. Charges were filed against Velim parish priest Fr Roman Gonsalves and others. The case in brief is that on February 25, 2012, the police allegedly entered the Gonsalves’ residence at the Velim Church while he was in prayer. On seeing the police at the church premise, the news spread like wild fire and people gathered at the church. Parishioners were further agitated on seeing central paramilitary force personnel in large numbers near the church. This led to a confrontation between the police and the public with the latter demanding the reasons for trespassing on the church’s premises late in the night.The mob allegedly turned violent and in the confusion members of the public as well as the police personnel suffered injuriesThe police filed a chargesheet against Fr Roman Gonsalves, Patrick D’Silva, Angelo Afonso, Darwin D’Silva, Agnelo Silva, Savio Silva, Nigel Caiero, Nelson Caeiro, Agnelo D’Souza, Marcus Barros, Adolf Fernandes, Tony Rebello, Mario Rebello, Alin Rebello, Atorim Pereira, Anjelo Fernandes, Savio Pereira, Max Colaco, Adlete Mascarenhas, Angelo D’Silva and Louis Fernandes under various Sections 307, 143, 144, 147, 148, 186, 321, 324, 326, 333, 341, 342, 353 read with Section 149 of IPC. Attempts by the prosecution to withdraw the case was struck down by the same court in September this year. On November 14, passing his order, Prabhudessai dropped Sections 307 and 333 charges and declined to commit the case to the sessions court for trial. The court has slated the case for January 6, 2017 for argument before charge.  (Times of India 15/11/2016)

82. A Kerala church donates money to the needy to help during demonetisation crisis (7)

New Delhi: With the PM’s demonetisation announcement that sent shock ripples throughout the country, people have been running amok wanting to exchange the older currency with the new in-circulation Rs 2,000, or better yet a whole bunch of Rs 100 notes. Others have been waiting in long queues, starting from the wee hours of the morning till late night. In Kerala, however, a church has come to help the lesser privileged people in an unusual way. St Martin De Porres church in Ernakulam district in Kerala announced that it would give money out of their offertory box to people who are in dire need of the money, and expect nothing in return. The announcement was made during a recent Sunday mass and is being lauded by many as a generous act, just in time to help people who do not have access to ATMs or even have bank accounts.The church priest Fr Jimmy Poochakkad told The News Minute that people were allowed to take money from the boxes and they can choose to give it back later, after the current crisis is over. The donation boxes were opened at 6am and closed only in the evening, on November 13. Reportedly, about 200 families availed the offer. “There were many Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in the boxes, but these were left untouched. Smaller denomination currency notes were the ones taken. Though no limit was prescribed, none was seen grabbing at the money. All of them came and took according to their needs in an admirably disciplined manner,” Fr Poochakkad had said. Though the government has assured the move is to curb corruption, black money hoarding and other illegal activities, many common people are stranded and helpless across the country, with no money or access to ATMs to pay hospital bills or buy other basic necessities. At such times, news like this come as a whiff of fresh air (Indian Express 15/11/16)

83. Demonetisation: United in faith, divided by cash (7

CHENNAI: With the turn in tides after last week’s demonetisation, the tithes too are in flux at Chennai’s churches. While the Sunday offertory amount has more than doubled in churches populated by people from high income groups, at parishes in poorer neighbourhoods, parishioners who usually tithe or give one-tenth of their income to the church during the first two weeks of the month, have begun cutting back on their offerings. At St Teresa’s Church in Nungambakkam, considered a parish of the posh, the inflow into the offertory last Sunday hit an all-time high of `4 lakh, most of it in `500 and `1000 notes. At the other end, in a Valasaravakkam parish, po pulated by those from poorer neighbourhoods, Sunday collections were at `1,500 –the lowest ever –with the priest even opening up boxes and handing out notes to help members in dire straits.”We were very surprised when we counted the offertory money , the Sunday after the demonetisation announcement,” says Rev Fr Stanley Sebastian of St Teresa’s Church. “Our Sunday offertory is usually around `1.5 lakh but that week, it was `4 lakh. Most of the offertory was in `500 and `1000 notes. And when we were noting down the serial numbers, which is required by banks now to deposit these notes, we found most were in sequential order. So they clearly came from the same bundles,” he adds. Owing to its central location, old world ambience and ample parking space, St Teresa’s Church, says Fr Sebastian, has Catholics from all over the city coming for the Sunday service. “The congregation is cosmopolitan with several businessmen and professionals choosing to worship here. I would assume that is why the offertory has doubled after the demonetisation drive,” he says.At Little Flower Syromalabar Catholic Church in Valsaravakkam though, demonetisation has rendered it more desolate. With the parish members mostly from the lower income group, offertory amounts have dipped by more than half. The offertory, which usually got around `5,000 a week, received only `2000 last Sunday , says Fr Sojo Kannampuzha. “In fact, I am trying to help parish members who don’t have any money by giving them lower denomination notes and telling them they can give it back to the church later. The people need it more now,” says Fr Sojo. “I don’t have much to give, but am helping whoever I can,” he says, and adds that despite most parishioners being from the lower income group, he sees a few hundred rupee notes in the offertory box every week, especially at the beginning of the month. “Last week, there not even one hundred rupee note. It was mostly tens,” Fr Sojo Kannampuzha adds. But for Fr Sebastian of St Teresa’s Church, the problem is over dealing with the cash, “Since most of the offertory is in tender that is no longer legal, I had to consult with the church auditor to make sure it would not be a problem to still accept them. I’m glad it is not, because this money can be put to good use for the church,” he said. (Times of India 20/11/16)

84. SMC probes into ‘discrimination’ case (7)

HYDERABAD: In a case of alleged discrimination against the Christian community, the State Minorities Commission has taken up a case for the second time after officials of the revenue department who have been made respondents failed to comply with the minorities panel order.The commission was dealing with a petition filed by Full Gospel Ministries in which it requested the panel’s intervention. According to the religious organisation’s secretary, R Noble, it was last May that the authorities had demolished a wall encompassing a land parcel of around 1,500 square yards in Nizampet, which has been in its possession.”We filed a petition before the commission, without protesting against the revenue authorities action. Two notices were sent to the joint collector and revenue divisional officer. However, nothing has changed on the ground. Religious symbols were also damaged,” Noble said. Later, treating the case as seriously “affecting the religious rights and sentiments of the petitioner association” and when no action was taken after the notices were sent, the minorities panel ordered the revenue authorities to either construct a boundary wall or pay the organisation by way of compensation. “They are directed to reconstruct the same, or in the alternative, pay compensation after ascertaining form the petitioner association. The commission also directs that the petitioner association shall not be dispossessed from the aforesaid premises without any valid and legal order in future this order shall be complied within three weeks from the date of receipt of the order,” an excerpt from the petition reads. “The petitioner approached us last Friday . We are taking up the case. It is true that the revenue authorities have not taken action after our order, which was issued on August 11. We are yet to hear from the respondents,” commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan said. (Times of India 23/11/16)

85. Pope Francis Likely to Visit India Next Year, Says Archbishop-Designate (7)

Kochi: Pope Francis, Head of the Roman Catholic Church, is likely to visit India next year, a senior Catholic priest said on Thursday. Archbishop-designate Joseph Kalathiparambil, who returned from Vatican on Thursday, said an indication in this regard was conveyed to him when he visited the Pope at his residence. “What I understood is that the Pope wishes to visit India next year. An indication in this regard was given to me when I visited him at his residence at Santa Marta in Vatican,” he said. Kalathiparambil is set to take over as the Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Verapoly in Kerala on December 18. Earlier, there were reports that Pope Francis would “almost certainly” visit India but no dates were specified. Kalathiparambil said he requested the Pope to visit Kerala and Verapoly Archdiocese, and his response was positive. Pope John Paul II is the only Pope to have visited Kerala, where the Catholic community has a strong presence. He had visited India for the first time for 10 days in 1986, and again in November 1999, his 89th Apostolic visit outside Italy, for the occasion of solemnly promulgating in the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia”, in New Delhi. During his India visit in 1986, Pope John Paul II had visited the state to beatify Sister Alphonsa and Kuriakose Elias Chavara popularly known as Chavara Achen. Prior to appointment as the archbishop, Kalathiparambil was serving as the Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People after being called for the assignment by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2011. The 64-year-old bishop replaces Archbishop Francis Kallarakal, who has retired. (News 18 24/11/2016)

86. I-T dept asks Church to submit details of accounts (7)

Panaji: Amidst the demonetization of 500 and 1000 notes, Income Tax (I-T) department, Mangaluru, has sought details of accounts of various institutions which come under the Archdiocese of Goa.Assistant commissioner of income tax (exemptions), Mangaluru, C B Suresh Kumar has sent a letter to the financial reorganization fund of the Archdiocese of Goa and central fund of Archdiocese of Goa and Daman to submit information regarding the cash balance with its institutions. “The central board and direct taxation (CBDT) has directed to collect urgently information regarding cash balance with trust/society etc. Hence, you are required to furnish the details of the cash balance by your trust as well as all institutions and branches under your trust as on November 8, 2016,” Kumar said in the letter.The letter further stated, “You are also required to furnish self-attested copy of the closing entry of the cash book as on November 8, 2016, including a photocopy of the cash book along with the declaration should be submitted to this office by return post and balance as on March 31, 2016′. “As the matter is of utmost concern, scanned copies of relevant pages of cash book and declaration should be emailed to this office by November 21, 2016,” Kumar added. The notice was received on November 21.IT department said that the Archdiocese of Goa is also required to declare the number of notes of the demonetized denominations of 500 and 1,000 held by it as on the day of November 8, 2016. IT department made the request under Section 133(6) of the Income Tax Act. “Any failure or delay in furnishing the information will resulted in penalty proceedings without further notice,” Kumar added. Speaking to TOI, a priest of the Archdiocese of Goa said that they received the notice on November 21, which was the date they were asked to furnish the information. “It’s not possible for us to submit the information within such a quick time as we have almost 100 institutions. We will seek time to furnish the details,” he said, adding that the archdiocese will provide all information as requested by the I-T department. (Times of India 26/11/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

87. Mizoram starts identification of Reang refugees in Tripura (13)

NK More, Agartala/Aizawl, Nov 2 : Amidst uncertainty of repatriation of over 31,000 Reang tribal refugees, living in Tripura for the past 19 years, Mizoram government officials on Wednesday began their identification. “A 30-member team of Mizoram government officials led by the state’s Mamit district Deputy Commissioner Lalbiaksangi arrived in north Tripura on Tuesday, and from today (Wednesday) they started the identification process,” Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Kanchanpur Sub-Division Santosh Deb told IANS over phone. He said: “The identification process would continue till November 21. After that the schedule of repatriation of refugees from Tripura to Mizoram would be finalised.” About 31,300 Reang tribals, who locally call themselves ‘Bru’, have been living in seven makeshift camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions adjoining Mizoram since October 1997 after they fled their homes in western Mizoram following ethnic violence in the northeastern state. Despite several initiatives by the Mizoram government to bring them back, the refugees have been reluctant to go back to their villages unless their demands for food and security are met. Refugees’ apex body, Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), has been insisting that three teams of their organisations want to visit three Mizoram districts — Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib — to see the situation there as the tribal refuges would be rehabilitated in these three districts after the repatriation. “We have sent a letter to Union Home Ministry’s Special Secretary (Internal Security), Mahesh Kumar Singla, on October 18 to ask the Mizoram government to arrange the visit of the MBDPF leaders. “We are yet to get any response from the MHA. How can the refugees return to Mizoram without seeing the local situation in those villages,” MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha told IANS. He said the MBDPF has submitted 14 points demands to the MHA. The demands include allotment of five hectares of land to each tribal family, undertake special development plan for the backward tribals and provide adequate security to the repatriated refugees. The refugee leader said the Home Ministry agreed to give each refugee family housing assistance of Rs 38,500, cash assistance of Rs 41,500, free rations for two years, blanket and utensils, while Mizoram would reimburse their transportation cost. The ministry also verbally agreed to extend Rs 1.3 lakh housing scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to each family, said the MBDPF leader, but added he was doubtful about the repatriation in the near future. Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate said that the Tripura government would provide the logistical support when the repatriation of refugees starts. A high-level meeting held on October 17 at the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi, discussed in depth the repatriation of the tribal refugees. MHA’s Special Secretary (Internal Security) Mahesh Kumar Singla presided over the meeting where senior officials from the MHA, Tripura and Mizoram government and MBDPF leaders were present….  (New Kerala 2/11/2016)

88. 25,000 abandon homes in Jammu and Kashmir as shelling from Pakistan escalates (13)

Jammu: Tens of thousands of border villagers in Jammu and Kashmir have been forced out of their homes to take shelter in makeshift accommodations after shelling from across the border with Pakistan killed at least 19 people, including 11 civilians, in the past few weeks. Some 25,000 villagers are estimated to have left their houses in Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts close to the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan. “Residents of 120 villages along the IB and 47 villages along the LoC have left for safer places,” a divisional administration officer told IANS. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media. However, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal described the migration of villagers as temporary and said they leave their homes during the day and return by night. Kotwal, however, admitted that the civilian authorities have closed, as a precaution, nearly 300 schools in villages and towns along the IB till further orders after Pakistan started targeting civilian areas. The mass exodus comes even as the government has not ordered evacuation despite the tension between the two countries that escalated after 19 Indian soldiers were killed on September 18 in an attack by militants on an Army base in Uri. India in a retaliatory action launched surgical strikes across the LoC, destroying seven terror launch pads and killing an unknown number of terrorists and their sympathizers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Since then the two sides have been regularly shelling each other and violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement to maintain peace at the 230 km border and 740 km of the LoC between them. The raining mortar shells have turned life into a nightmare for these villagers. Many of them told IANS that the army and paramilitary forces have asked them to leave their homes for safety. Jasbir Singh, 40, a medical assistant in a Ramgarh health centre, said he shifted along with his father, an ex-serviceman, to nearby Vijaypur area. “It is suicidal to continue living in our village where fire rains from the sky,” said Jasbir Singh, whose village lies close to the border in Samba district. Satpal Singh Heer, 54, from Nanga village, runs a private school. He said the BSF has erected a watch tower in his village which has made his village “more vulnerable” to Pakistan shelling. He said he had tried to return to the village. But BSF troopers in underground bunkers saved him as he had nearly walked to a place where intense shelling from Pakistan was going on. “I had to return to safety,” he said. The residents want peace so that they could return home and tend their cattle and reap their harvest-ready crop. Gangu Ram, 56, from Raipur village of Kathua district said he has neither tended his agricultural fields nor his cattle in the past three days since he left home. “If I don`t reap my crop that awaits harvesting within the next four-five days, I would lose my entire year`s labour. “I don`t even know whether my cattle are alive. Peace must return to our village soon or else our lives are finished,” Ram said. Authorities, religious, social and voluntary organisations have made arrangements for these border residents in community halls, temples, gurdwaras, schools, stadia and other government buildings. (Zee News 2/11/2016)

89. 1,111 Bru tribals identified as bona fide residents of Mizoram (13)

Aizawl: Officials from Mizoram today identified 1,111 Brus as bona fide residents of Mizoram and cleared them for physical repatriation from the Khakchangpara relief camp in North Tripura. Earlier, 3,849 Brus belonging to 578 families were identified as residents of Mizoram at Asapara relief camp, the first camp where identification was conducted since November 2 and completed on November 5. With this, 4,960 Bru refugees have so far being identified in the two relief camps. Identification of Brus would be conducted at Hamsapara on Wednesday and Thursday. Mizoram government proposed to repatriate around 3,445 Bru families from six relief camps in Tripura and the physical repatriation is scheduled to start from November 30. (Zee News 7/11/2016)

90. Move to educate migrant workers in most literate State (13)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala government will teach them to read and write in Hindi and Malayalam, besides creating legal awareness. The sense of alienation that migrant workers in Kerala feel will come down substantively if the efforts of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) prove a success.The KSLMA is all set to launch a social literacy drive to integrate migrant labourers into Kerala society, by imparting reading and writing skills to them and to orient them to the culture of the State. A large majority of the 25 lakh migrant labourers in the State, many of whom hail from North India, are illiterate even in their mother tongue, according to KSLMA. As a result, they are ignorant in legal, health and environmental matters, resulting in poor quality of living as well as exploitation by their employers. This leads to gaps in their social relations with the locals. “Our effort is to give them minimum language skill so that they are able to interact better with their hosts,” says KSLMA director P.S. Sreekala. The workers, who contribute heavily to the State’s development, were being “ostracised.” The literacy programme aimed at solving this issue by teaching them to read and write in Malayalam as well as Hindi, apart from introducing them to the social and cultural features of the State, and creating legal and health-related awareness, she said. The first phase of the programme will be launched in January 2017 in Perumbavoor, Ernakulam, by undertaking a survey of the migrant labourers living there. Perumbavoor was chosen due to the large number of migrant labourers there. The curriculum will be finalised based on the results of the pilot survey, and the programme expanded to other districts. Local governing bodies, Kudumbasree, the departments of labour and social justice and the State library council will assist KSLMA in implementing the programme, among other agencies. Although a similar programme was mooted in 2013, it was not implemented. KSLMA is initiating three other programmes this year, including a continuing education mission for members of the trans-gender community, an environmental literacy mission and a functional literacy drive, aimed at the coastal areas of Kasaragod, Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram. (The Hindu 9/11/2016)

91. Mizos in Tripura seek rehabilitation package (13)

Agartala, Nov. 12: Nearly 100 Mizo families are seeking rehabilitation in Tripura at a time when the Centre is finalising plans for repatriation of 35,000 Reang refugees living in camps in North Tripura district for over 19 years. Thousands of Reangs had poured into Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura bordering Mizoram’s Mamit district in October 1997 following alleged attacks by Mizo people after a forest guard was allegedly killed by cadres of the now-disbanded Bru National Liberation Front.”The situation in Mamit district had been tense following the demand for a district council by the Reang Democratic Party. The adverse reaction from the Mizos allegedly led to the killing of the forest guard. This triggered attacks and arson on Reang villages and their influx into Tripura,” said L.R. Sailo, president of the Jampui Mizo Convention. He said some Reangs who escaped the attack allegedly started threatening the indigenous Mizo population in Sakhan-Shermoon villages in Kanchanpur subdivision. Some 70 Mizo families subsequently crossed over into Mamit and settled in makeshift huts. Thirty families also took shelter in the Mizo-dominated Jampui hills in North Tripura and were helped by the Young Mizo Association and the village council, which allotted land for their resettlement. “Many would have gone back to Mizoram but those who had government jobs had to stay back,” said Sailo. He said neither the governments of Mizoram and Tripura nor the Centre was doing anything to rehabilitate the Mizo families. “It is good that the authorities are trying to repatriate the Reangs. But what about our people? They must get the rehabilitation package and be allowed to stay in Sakhan-Shermoon and Jampui hills,” said Sailo. He described the 10,000-strong Mizo community in Tripura as the “most peaceful”. “The Mizos had started settling down in Tripura after the three hills were found to be fertile for orange cultivation. But the orchard lands have deteriorated since the early eighties and the Mizos are now facing hardship,” said Sailo. He said the Mizos were surviving by cultivating ginger, bamboo and other crops. “We want the state government and the Union home ministry to look into our problem and ensure appropriate rehabilitation in Sakhan-Shermoon and Jampui hills,” he said. Sailo said unless this demand was fulfilled, they would seek support from other parties and launch an agitation. “If we do not get what we want legitimately, we will be left with no other alternative but to launch an agitation,” he said. (The Telegraph 12/11/2016)

92. US to take in refugees from Australian centres (13)

Canberra: The US will take in refugees from immigrant centres managed by the Australian government in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Sunday. It remains unknown how many refugees the US will accept. The centres are believed to hold more than a thousand people from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Somalia, Efe news reported. “I can now confirm that the government has now reached a further third-party resettlement arrangement. The agreement is with the US,” Turnbull told a press conference. The US Secretary of State John Kerry also announced the agreement from New Zealand’s Wellington where he is on an official visit. Since 2012 Australia has been using the centres at Manus Island and Nauru to process asylum applications of immigrants, especially those intercepted in high seas while trying to reach the Australian coasts. The UN and other human rights groups have criticized these centres calling the conditions in which the detainees live as “inhuman”. (Business Standard 13/11/2016)

93. Catholic bishops ask Trump for humane immigration policies (13)

Baltimore: The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have urged President-elect Donald Trump to adopt humane policies toward immigrants and refugees, as church leaders begin navigating what will likely be a complex relationship with the new administration. Meeting just days after the election, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said yesterday serving people fleeing violence and conflict “is part of our identity as Catholics” and pledged to continue this ministry. “We stand ready to work with a new administration to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. A duty to welcome and protect newcomers, particularly refugees, is an integral part of our mission to help our neighbors in need,” the bishops said. Trump had said during the campaign that he would build a wall on the US-Mexico border and immediately deport all 11 million people in the country illegally, though he later distanced himself from that position. In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he said he would focus on deporting people with criminal records beyond their immigrant status, “probably two million, it could even be three million.” The Obama administration has deported more than 2.5 million people since taking office in 2009, according to the Homeland Security Department. Trump also told “60 Minutes” that his promised solid border wall might look more like a fence in spots. House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected any “deportation force” targeting people in the country illegally. In a speech at the Baltimore assembly, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the bishops’ conference, underscored that protecting refugees would remain a priority. He also highlighted an area where the bishops may find more common ground with Trump. Kurtz noted the importance of conscience rights for people who do not want to recognise same-sex marriage or comply with other laws they consider immoral. Trump has pledged to appoint anti-abortion justices to the US Supreme Court and protect religious liberty. “Don’t allow government to define what integrity of faith means,” Kurtz said. Dozens of dioceses and Catholic charities sued President Barack Obama over the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers provide coverage for birth control. Today the bishops meeting will elect Kurtz’ successor, who will become lead representative from the conference to the Trump administration. After being on the defensive with Obama over abortion, LGBT rights and other issues, some conservative Catholics are optimistic about the chances for a rollback on some policies, such as the birth control rule. Still, they are deeply concerned about the plight of immigrants after a brutal election in which Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and urged a ban on Muslims entering the US although he later watered down that proposal. (Zee News 15/11/2016)

94. Give Bengali-Hindu migrants refugee status, says Sarma (13)

Agartala (Tripura) [India], Nov. 16 (ANI): Bharatiya Janata Party leader and convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma has recently said that the Bengali-Hindu population who are victims of partition should be granted citizenship or refugee status throughout India. He, however, made it clear that the Assamese should get protection under Clause VI of the Assam Accord to protect and preserve their cultural, heritage and existence. “Our country was divided on religious lines so Hindus never wanted to be citizens of Pakistan; they were forced to become citizens of Pakistan. So, if somebody had migrated out of religious persecution, and not only Hindu, even Christian, Sikh, Persian anybody, and if they have been persecuted, and they have come to our country, then we have to give them their due,” he said. “At the same time as far the people of Assam are concerned, we also need protection because we have to make sure that our land, our identity and our culture remains intact. So, yesterday our national general secretary of the BJP he started a new deliberation with the people of Assam on how to take both issues hand-in-hand. You give citizenship or refugee status to the Bengali Hindu population not only in Assam but at the same time give political, constitutional and administrative save guard to the indigenous people of Assam,” he added.The BJP leader, however, avoided speaking on what would be the fate of the migrant Muslim population in Assam. Assam has been one state where the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh is a burning issue for the last few decades. (ANI) New Kerala 16/11/16)

95. India-Bangladesh meeting over disputed enclave in Tripura inconclusive (13)

Agartala: A meeting between Indian and Bangladeshi officials in Dhaka to resolve the dispute over southern Tripura’s Muhurichar — the lone enclave whose fate is yet unresolved between the two neighbours — ended inconclusively, officials said here on Sunday. “The meeting in Dhaka to resolve the dispute over Muhurichar enclave remained inconclusive. The officials of the two countries would submit reports to their respective governments to decide the further course of action,” a top official of Tripura’s Revenue Department told IANS on the condition of anonymity. “Indian officials told their Bangladeshi counterparts that according to the Indira-Mujib accord, the boundary should be the mid-course of the Muhuri river. The Bangladesh officials objected to this logic, saying the course of the river has changed many times during the past 44 years,” said the official. The Indira-Mujib agreement was signed on March 19, 1972 between the then Indian and Bangladeshi Prime Ministers, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to determine various issues of the two countries, including 1971 as the cut-off year to identify the Bangladeshi infiltrators and refugees to India. The official said the seven-member Indian delegation was led by External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Border Management, Sripriya Ranganathan, while the 12-member Bangladesh side was headed by its Home Ministry’s Additional Secretary (Political) Abu Hena Mohammad Rahamatul Muneem.Officials from both sides jointly visited the disputed enclave on Thursday and after that, held a meeting at Majumder Haat in Bangladesh, opposite southern Tripura’s sub-divisional town Belonia.The Tripura official, who was a part of the Indian delegation, said that after the fixing of the boundary along Muhurichar enclave, both countries would construct embankments to protect the respective bordering towns, villages and other important installations…..  (Business Standard 20/11/16)

96. China says 3,000 flee Myanmar after fighting along border (13)

Bejing: China is giving shelter to more than 3,000 people who have fled Myanmar after fighting between the government and rebels, and stray shells have fallen inside Chinese territory causing minor damage but no deaths, state media said on Tuesday. Four ethnic armed groups have attacked security forces in the north of Myanmar, dealing a major blow to leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s top goal of reaching peace with ethnic minorities. China, which has been alarmed by previous fighting along the porous border, has put its armed forces on high alert and called for all sides to exercise restraint.The official China Daily said injured people among the 3,000 Myanmar citizens have been taken to hospital in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which shares a long border with Myanmar.“The Chinese authority has responded swiftly and handled the situation appropriately,” Pan Xuesong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, told the newspaper. Stray shells have fallen in Wanding, an important border crossing, causing some minor damage, state television added.The Global Times newspaper also said a Chinese government building in Wanding had been lightly damaged. China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that at least one Chinese resident had also been injured. The sudden escalation of fighting comes as the Myanmar government grapples with a conflict in northwestern Rakhine that has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, posing a new challenge to Nobel peace prize winner  Previous fighting along the border pushed thousands of people into China. China was infuriated last year when five Chinese people were killed when the fighting spilled over into Chinese territory. (Indian Express 22/11/16)

97. Myanmar pursuing `ethnic cleansing` of Rohingya: UN official (13)

Teknaf: Myanmar is carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims, a UN official hs reportedly said, as horrifying stories of gang-rape, torture and murder emerge from among the thousands who have fled to Bangladesh. Up to 30,000 of the impoverished ethnic group have abandoned their homes in Myanmar to escape the unfolding violence, the UN says, after troops poured into the narrow strip where they live earlier this month. John McKissick, head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in the Bangladeshi border town of Cox`s Bazar, told the BBC that troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh. Dhaka has resisted urgent international appeals to open its border to avert a humanitarian crisis, instead telling Myanmar it must do more to prevent the stateless Rohingya minority from entering. “It`s very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to say the border is open because this would further encourage the government of Myanmar to continue the atrocities and push them out until they have achieved their ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick said. In April 2013 Human Rights Watch said it was conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya — an accusation rejected by then president Thein Sein as a “smear campaign”.But the scale of human suffering was becoming clear on Thursday, as desperate people like Mohammad Ayaz told how troops attacked his village and killed his pregnant wife. Cradling his two-year-old son, he said troops killed at least 300 men in the village market and gang-raped dozens of women before setting fire to around 300 houses, Muslim-owned shops and the mosque where he served as imam. “They shot dead my wife, Jannatun Naim. She was 25 and seven months pregnant. I took refuge at a canal with my two-year-old son, who was hit by a rifle butt,” Ayaz told AFP. …  (Zee News 25/11/2016)

98. At least 10,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh: UN (13)

Dhaka: At least 10,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh in recent weeks after fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar, the United Nations said on Wednesday. An estimated 30,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority living mostly in Myanmar, have been forced to leave their homes since a bloody crackdown by the army in the western state of Rakhine. Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on the border to try to stop them from entering, but last week it said thousands had flooded into the country, many with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. “Based on reports by various humanitarian agencies, we estimate that there could be 10,000 new arrivals in recent weeks,” said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Bangkok. “The situation is fast changing and the actual number could be much higher.” Those interviewed by AFP inside Bangladesh had horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces. Analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed. Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse but has also banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area to investigate. Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has faced a growing international backlash for what a UN official has said amounts to a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Today she vowed to work for “peace and national reconciliation”, saying her country faced many challenges, but did not mention the violence in Rakhine state. Rohingya community leaders in Bangladesh said another 3,000 displaced Rohingya were stranded on an island in the Naf river that divides the two countries, attempting to enter Bangladesh. “They have been stuck in the island for almost a week without sufficient food and clothes,” Abu Ghalib told AFP.But a spokesman for the Bangladesh border guards said the claims could not be verified as the island was not Bangladeshi territory. Bangladesh has reinforced its border posts and deployed coast guard ships in an effort to prevent a fresh influx of refugees. In the past two weeks, Bangladeshi border guards have prevented hundreds of boats packed with Rohingya women and children from entering the country. Nevertheless Rohingya leaders in Bangladesh said the number of arrivals had risen this week. But so far little or no aid has been provided for the new arrivals with Bangladeshi authorities fearing food, medicine and shelter will encourage more to cross the border. Shinji Kubo, who heads the UN refugee agency in Bangladesh, said the new arrivals needed “urgent” help. “Obviously these people have come from Myanmar after terrible experiences and without any belongings. The winter is approaching. So everyone is really worried about their wellbeing,” he said. (Business Standard 30/11/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

99. Info Commission can’t take back its penalty order, says HC (1)

LUCKNOW: In an important decision, Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday ordered that the UP State Information Commission does not have a power to review and change its own orders, including the order of imposing penalty under the RTI Act. The order was passed by the bench consisting of Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Anil Kumar Srivastava-II after hearing suspended IPS officer Amitabh Thakur’s counsel Dr Nutan Thakur and Commission’s counsel Shikhar Anand.The Court made it clear that even after promulgation of the UP RTI Rules of 2015, the Commission has a right to recall only such order in which the other party was not intimated in the hearing or the hearing took place on some another day than the decided one. The court said apart from these situations, the Information Commission cannot take back its orders, including any penalty. The court directed the compliance of the penalty imposed on home department officers in Amitabh’s case in 2010. (Times of India 2/11/2016)

100. HC dismisses plaint against Aam Aadmi Party MLA (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has rejected the petition of an RTI activist that challenged a trial court order in a graft case. The activist had lodged a complaint against AAP MLA Akhilesh Pati Tripathi for allegedly incurring expenses more than the prescribed limit in the 2013 assembly polls. The high court refused to interfere with the findings of the trial court that there was no infirmity with the election law on the spending for the elections, saying there was no substance in the petition. The petitioner, Vivek Garg, had challenged the trial court’s April 29 order rejecting his complaint against Tripathi, MLA Model Town constituency in north Delhi, for allegedly spending over the prescribed limit of Rs 14 lakh. Garg in his complaint filed in 2015 said that Tripathi, in collusion with unnamed officials of the EC, had manipulated the account of expenditure on the campaign and understated it by about Rs 9 lakh. HC, while dismissing his appeal, observed that “no specific allegation against any such officials was made in the complaint.”? (Times of India 3/11/2016)

101. Around 1.9 lakh cases pending in state information commissions: Study (1)

New Delhi:     PDS: Smart ration cards need to be smarter Supreme Court to hear plea against state entry tax Supreme Court to hear Subrata Roy’s plea for extension of interim parole Hearing date of 33 lakh cases out of 3 crore pending cases not fixed Cauvery row: DMK flays Centre for seeking modification of Supreme Court orderAround 1,87,974 cases are pending, which comprise collective backlog in the disposal of appeals and complaints, in the 16 state information commissions (SICs) as on December 31, 2015, and penalty has been imposed in only 1.3% of the cases, a study has found. The study was done jointly by Research, Assessment & Analysis Group (RaaG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS). According to the study, pendency in the Assam SIC went up by 240%, while Odisha and Punjab went up by more than 60%.The pendency in Kerala SIC went up by 49%, while the Central Information Commission (CIC) saw a rise of 43%.”Despite the dictum of the Supreme Court, more than 60% of the IC orders analysed contained deficiencies in terms of not recording critical facts. Rajasthan and Bihar SICs were the worst performers with 74% and 73% of the orders respectively, not describing the information that was sought,” said the study. The study also revealed that in 9 of the 16 ICs for which data was available for 2016, the waiting time for a hearing was more than one year. “The analysis of the IC websites revealed that many of the commissions had not posted their annual reports on the web and very few had updated the information. As the analysis was done in September 2016, it would be reasonable to expect that annual reports up to 2015 would be available on the websites. Yet, 21 out of 28 ICs (75%) did not provide the annual report for 2015, said the study. It also added that the percentage of orders, in which the subsidiary directions were not in compliance with the RTI Act, was more than 65%. (Business Standard 5/11/2016)

102. Respond to every RTI query, Rajnath directs officials (1)

NEW DELHI : Officials must reply to every RTI query irrespective of the kind of information sought, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said here on Monday. During his inaugural address at the 11th annual Central Information Commission (CIC) convention, Singh described the RTI Act as a powerful medium of communication between the people and the government. When people ask for such information, the government gets new ideas for formulating people-friendly policies and reform the governance system, he said. “All of you must understand the ecosystem of information, and without getting influenced by what information is being sought, you must do your duty. The government system should use it (RTI Act) effectively,” he said. “Our system needs to be corruption free, smart, sensitive, transparent and answerable for making all the programmes of the government a success, and RTI can play an important role in it. The RTI Act provides a strong foundation to the feeling of trust and cooperation, which is important for governance,” Singh said. Pitching for active public participation, Singh said more people are now engaged in framing policies, and over 40,000 suggestions were received on the Goods and Services Tax. Singh also inaugurated CIC’s e-court system, which will make the transparency panel go paperless in matters of appeals and complaints being processed by it. “The more the systems go digital, the better will be transparency. There is a need for a digitally strong society,” he said. The CIC has already digitised around 1.5 lakh files. Citizens can check the status of the cases and receive information on the date of appeal through emails and text messages. Singh said the use of video conferencing by CIC will help reduce pendency of cases. “This is a good facility for people living in far-flung areas,” he said. (Deccan Herald 8/11/2016)

103. Meet the RTI activist who anticipated Modi’s denotification move (1)

Bareilly: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes would no longer be legal tender from November 9 might have come as a surprise and shock to most citizens, but not for Mohd Khalid Jilani, a Bareilly-based RTI activist, who had anticipated it in October this year. On October 17, Jilani filed an RTI query with the Union ministry of finance asking whether there was a proposal pending with the government about scrapping notes in the two denominations after the income declaration scheme (IDS) had ended. Jilani had also asked for names and address of those people and organisations who had suggested scrapping of the two notes. The reply to his query is still awaited. Jilani had two more questions for the ministry. In his RTI request, he had asked what were the reasons responsible for domestic black money which had come to light during the review fo the IDS. The final question was about the amount of money the finance ministry had spent on publicity of IDS. Since the RTI Act states that queries must be replied to within 30 days, Jilani is awaiting the completion of the deadline in a week. “By not replying to the query, the finance ministry maintained secrecy about its decision to scrap both currency notes,” Jilani told TOI. Asked what prompted him to file the query, Jilani said, “The Modi government was criticised by everyone for not fulfilling the promise to clamp down on black money made by him before elections. After the last date for IDS ended on September 30 this year, I thought that the Centre could now take some strict action against black money. Civil society has been demanding a ban on circulation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes for a long time. I myself had filed a memorandum in this regard with the finance ministry nearly three years ago.” He added that the Centre’s decision to denotify the two currency notes was delayed because of the festive season, which began when the IDS deadline expired. Welcoming the move by the Centre, Jilani said, “It will impact black money, which is being used for funding terrorism and purchasing votes for politicians. However, the government should adopt a transparent system for exchanging old with new currency and conduct inquiry against persons found to be hoarding unaccounted money. Besides, public should support the government to make the country corruption-free instead of complaining about the inconvenience faced by them for some time.” (Times of India 10/11/2016)

104. HC rejects appeal for info on jailbreak under RTI (1)

Ahmedabad: Gujarat high court on Monday turned down an appeal seeking direction to the Chief Information Commissioner to ask the government to furnish details on the 2013 jailbreak attempt at Sabarmati Central Jail. The HC said the information involved security details that couldn’t be divulged unless bonafide public interest could be established by the petitioner. A division bench of Chief Justice R S Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi upheld a single-judge bench’s decision to slap a fine of Rs 10,000 on the petitioner for insisting on critical information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) without providing any cogent reason, as to why he required the information on the jailbreak attempt. One Sanjay Sharma had filed an application under RTI laws with the state government and sought information on the jailbreak effort that involved digging a 213-ft tunnel by the 2008 serial blasts accused in Sabarmati prison. He was denied information. He failed to convince the information commission also in this regard. Finally he moved the HC complaining that the information officer had rejected his plea without any reason. The HC observed that the information officer could always be justified in examining whether the information demanded is in public interest, or whether the applicant is just interested in the functioning of government. RTI laws aim at bringing more transparency, but the applicant must show public interest as a bona fide reason for asking for such information. If no reason is given, information which is critical to security may be denied by the government. The law says that the government is not bound to supply information which could prejudicially affect the security or strategic interest of the State. moreover, when the case related to the jailbreak effort is pending before a court and a report by the three-member committee could be of use in the judicial process, one cannot insist on such information without any strong reason. The HC also observed that though Sharma “as a citizen may be interested in knowing certain information, but as a responsible citizen, he is obliged to understand the aspect of security and particularly when it is pending judicial process”. (Times of India 15/11/2016)

105. Congress, BJP got Rs 5000 crore from unknown sources in last 10 yrs (1)

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, fighting in Parliament over the right way to tackle black money, need to start at home, it seems. The two national parties accounted for a lion’s share of the thousands of crores of rupees of unaccounted money that the political world has received over the past 10 years. An analysis of the income-tax returns data provided by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) for the past 10 years shows that between 2005 and 2015, these two parties collected a total of Rs 5,450 crore from ‘unknown sources’. The Congress leads the list of six national parties with Rs 3,323 crore, or 83 per cent of its total income from these anonymous benefactors, during the period. For the BJP, the figure was lower, at Rs 2,125 crore or 65 per cent. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), whose leader Sitaram Yechury made a spirited speech in Parliament on the black money issue and demonetisation on Wednesday, came next with Rs 471 crore from such unknown sources. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) earned Rs 448 crore and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party got Rs 243 crore on these accounts.  The contribution statements, submitted by political parties declaring the names and other details of the donors who contribute above Rs 20,000, are the only known source. Provisions of the Income Tax Act require that payments exceeding Rs 20,000 need to be made through the banking channels, facilitating audit trails. However, the parties circumvent this by receiving payments in numerous transactions of lower denomination. There is a lingering suspicion that bulk of this could be unaccounted income that has evaded taxes or, in other words, ‘black money’. For example, the BSP has declared that the party did not receive any donations above Rs 20,000 in the past 11 financial years. Trilochan Sastry, a professor at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and founder member of ADR, said the parties were evading the Right To Information (RTI) Act, despite a ruling by the Central Information Commission, basically because of this money problem. “They have not revealed the source of this money. They have to reveal where they got this money from. They have to put their own house in order first,” Sastry said. …  (Business Standard 17/11/2016)

106. RTI activist installs red beacon atop his car to highlight its illegal use (1)

BELAGAVI: Right to Information (RTI) activist Bhimappa Gadad has installed a red beacon atop his car in protest against its illegal use by political leaders, bureaucrats, police officials and revenue officials in the State. Maritibbe Gowda, Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council; K.S. Eshwarappa, Leader of the Opposition in the Council; Ivan D’Souza, government Chief Whip in the Council; Ganesh Karnik and Sunil Kumar, chief whips of the Opposition in the Council and the Legislative Assembly, respectively; H. Shivashankar Reddy, Deputy Speaker in the Assembly; Jagadish Shettar, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly; and government Chief Whip Ashok M. Pattan are among those who are allegedly using the beacon atop their cars. Deputy Chairman of the State Planning Board C.M. Ibrahim and the State government’s special representative in New Delhi C.S. Nadagouda too were reportedly using it although they were not permitted to do so, Mr. Gadad said at a press conference here recently. “Those who are using yellow beacon or the amber beacon atop their official cars included the Lokayukta, the Upalokayukta, tahsildars, circle police inspectors, sub-inspectors and a few presidents and vice-presidents of zilla panchayats. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leaders are using a green light on atop their vehicles and some leaders of social organisations are using blue beacon,” he said. Quoting an official reply from S. Nagaraju, RTI officer in the Transport Department, Mr. Gadad said that as per the latest circular dated June 5, 2013, in the Karnataka Gazetteer, only Governor, Chief Minister, Ministers, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Chairperson of the Legislative Council, and Chief Justice and sitting Judges of State High Courts had been permitted to use the red beacon as per a Supreme Court’s order in the SLP No.25237/2010. The circular also made it clear that the men in uniform, operational agencies which require unhindered access to roads for performances of their duty; those engaged in emergency duties such as ambulance, fire and emergency maintenance services, etc., and police vehicles used as escorts or pilots or for law and order duties were not entitled to have red light but lights of other colours such as blue, while, multicolour, etc. “The government circular clearly mentions as to who could use the yellow or amber/beacon, such as the Deputy Commissioner and district magistrates, senior police officers, additional deputy commissioners, deputy police commissioners and sub-divisional Magistrates. Yet, there is indiscriminate and open violation of the government circular. If the lawmakers themselves break the law, who will question them?,” he asked. Mr. Gadad said he would not remove the red beacon atop his car unless the government stopped its illegal use. “If it is not possible, the government should relax rules and allow doctors and farmers to use the light,” he added. (The Hindu 21/11/16)

107. CIC wasted Rs. 17 lakh on RTI book, say activists (1)

Pune: City-based Right to Information (RTI) activists have accused the Central Information Commission of indulging in wasteful expenditure in launching a ‘coffee table book’ serenading ‘success RTI stories.’ In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, noted Pune-based RTI activists Vijay Kumbhar and Maj.Gen. S.C.N. Jatar (retd.), have alleged that the CIC squandered an exorbitant Rs. 17 lakh to bring out a coffee table book showcasing RTI stories. They have accordingly demanded that the PMO recover the amount from the CIC authorities who had sanctioned the amount. The 124-page book was launched at the CIC’s two-day annual convention in New Delhi on November 7-8 in the presence of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. In their letter, the activists further questioned the wisdom of the extravagant expenditure, when only six copies of the book were ready at the time of the unveiling function and could not be distributed among information commissioners and others present on the occasion. According to Mr. Kumbhar, over 800 copies of the book are now being sent to the CIC by the Yashavantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) from Pune. “As per figures obtained from sources, logistics of ostensibly sending these copies to dignitaries in Delhi will add another Rs. 4 lakh to this ‘grand souvenir project.’ We don’t even know whether these opulently printed copies will be sent at all,” Mr. Kumbhar alleged. (The Hindu 21/11/16)

108. Information Commissioner wants early disposal of RTI applications (1)

MANGALURU: State Information Commissioner Suchethana Swaroop here on Wednesday asked district officials and police to dispose of applications seeking information at the earliest without any delay, which will bring down the number of appeals to the commission. During his interaction with officers from various departments, Mr. Swaroop said that the number of appeals filed at the commission from Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi were fewer. “If the applications are disposed of at the preliminary and appellate level itself, there will be far more reduction in appeals at the higher level,” he said. He asked officials to spend some time every day in disposing of first appeals and also help the subordinate staff in clearing applications seeking information. Earlier, Mr. Swaroop heard 65 appeals related to Dakshina Kannada at a makeshift court hall in the office of the Deputy Commissioner. (The Hindu 24/11/16)

109. RTI Act: Government officials cough up over 22 lakh as fine (1)

Thrissur: An RTI application has revealed that government officials have paid up over Rs 22.68 lakh as fine during 2010-15 for various misdemeanours connected with the RTI Act. The Public Information Commission revealed the information in reply to an RTI query submitted by P A Satheesh, secretary of ‘Nerkazhcha’, a human rights organisation based in Thrissur. Introduced in 2005, the RTI Act has been considered as a major step towards the empowerment of citizens and to promote transparency and accountability of the government. As per the Act, any public official who deliberately delays or obstructs an application for information or provide misleading information could be punished with departmental actions or penalty, which cannot be exceed Rs 25,000. “Even though many people have been using this Act, there has been serious intervention from the part of bureaucrats to sabotage its purpose. So, information on penalty imposed on government officials for not furnishing the required information or for making trouble to the RTI applicants will be an eye-opener,” said Satheesan, who has been actively using the RTI Act. As per the information furnished by the Public Information Commission, 15,514 appeals were received in 2010-15 in the state. As many as 572 government officials faced departmental action while an amount of Rs 1,26,290 was given away as compensation for the RTI applicants. Thiruvananthapuram district leads with 165 officials facing such penalties, followed by Ernakulam (58) and Kozhikode (41). In Thrissur, 35 officials faced punishment while Wayanad with 12 had the least number of officials fined. (Times of India 27/11/16)

110. Proposal for kin of dead right to information activists rejected (1)

PUNE: The Pune Municipal corporators on Monday rejected a proposal to help the families of Right to Information (RTI) activists who lost their lives for the cause. The proposal could not get through as there was lack of support from corporators at the general body meeting. NCP co-opted member Ravindra Malvadkar had submitted the proposal. “The activists are serving the nation by keeping alive its constitution. Steps should be taken to make sure their families are protected,” he said. He added that facilities like education to children, job to a family member and financial support should be given. Guidelines can be drawn for this and credentials of the activists can be verified before the facilities are provided. “It is really sad that such a proposal has been rejected. It shows the insensitivity of the elected members towards RTI,” said Vishwas Sahastrabuddhe, a Sajag Nagrik Manch activist. He said activists are facing increasing threats. They are fighting in adverse conditions. Those who have lost lives for the cause should get support from the society. It is the moral responsibility of the people and more so of the elected members. As many as 56 RTI activists have been killed in the country since the act came into being. There have been over 311 cases of harassment including physical attacks, murders and threats since 2005, according to Delhi-based advocacy group CHRI. Reports indicate that about 51 murders and five suicides have taken place between October 2005 and 2016. Maharashtra tops the list with 10 alleged murders and two suicides, followed by Gujarat with eight alleged murders and one suicide and Uttar Pradesh with six alleged murders and one suicide. In addition, there have been around 130 instances of assaults including attempts to murder during this period. Maharashtra tops this list too with 29 incidents, followed by Gujarat (15 incidents), Delhi (12), Karnataka (10), Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (9 each). (Times of India 29/11/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

111. Modi govt to reverse UPA-initiated reforms in education shake-up (11)

New Delhi: The country’s education system continues to be in a churn as the BJP-led NDA government appears set on overturning reforms initiated in the past five years. The government wants to introduce an altered form of aptitude test for students of class 10 to help them choose their subjects in junior college. It has reversed a no-detention policy and looking to make the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) optional class 10 board exam mandatory again. These were among a string of reforms that the previous UPA government initiated during its decade-long rule till 2014. Another reform measure that the government has changed was its own. The human resource ministry had planned to set up a national authority for testing (NAT) to screen candidates before the joint entrance exam (JEE). But the IIT Council meeting in August decided that the test will be changed into a pilot programme and a voluntary exercise.The current system of JEE Main and Advanced will continue, though. “India lacks a practical education policy … We need to have a set of wise experts, who can sit down and devise a policy which is rooted in practicality and is interesting as well as useful without being burdensome,” former Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh said. The CBSE was the first school board in the country to introduce an aptitude assessment for class 10 in 2011. But it did not conduct the tests in 2015 and 2016 because the human resource development ministry wants to bring a modified version modeled on the CBSE’s test, sources said. A committee, comprising officials from the CBSE, National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and psychometric experts, was formed to work out the details. But the prototype has yet to take off from the drawing board. Students appreciated the CBSE’s previous version of the aptitude test, which the board is likely to reintroduce next year probably with a few minor changes. A review and a final decision are pending, though. The UPA government had decided to make the class 10 board exam optional for students in schools affiliated to the CBSE. But the NDA government wants to make the exam compulsory again as many schools and parents have complained of dipping quality because people no longer cared for the class 10 finals, which were once considered the stepping stone to higher studies. The no-detention policy under the right to education (RTE) act allows students up to class 8 to be automatically promoted even if they fail to make the minimum grades. The system was introduced in 2010 as part of the “continuous and comprehensive evaluation” (CCE) for overall development of students. But criticism engulfed the policy, prompting the HRD ministry at a recent Central Advisory Board of Education meeting to let the states decide if they want to continue with it. The policy can be revoked by amending the act and an executive order can decide on the class X board exam. (Hindustan Times 3/11/2016)

112. Amnesty slams burning of schools in Valley (11)

Srinagar: Even as rights body Amnesty International condemned the burning of schools in the Valley, three more educational institutions were set on fire by unidentified persons on Thursday, just hours after the government decided to hold the annual examinations of Classes 10 and 12 this month itself. “Schools should be safe spaces under all circumstances. The vicious arson attacks on schools end up denying children their right to education. This disturbing trend must stop. The government should bring to justice those responsible,” said Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty International India. It also asked the government “to shift some of examination centres away from schools occupied by security forces.” Since July 8, when militant commander Burhan Wani was killed, 27 schools have been torched by miscreants. Militants, separatists, political parties and civil society groups have condemned these acts. Three more educational institutes — Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, Government Primary School Dugpora, Gadoora, Ganderbal and Boys Middle School Asthan Mohallah, Naid Khai, Bandipora — sustained minor damage in arson attack on Thursday. Those students who were injured in the ongoing unrest, can opt for helpers provided by the Board.Valley’s leading daily, Greater Kashmir, in a page-one editorial on Friday pleaded for “adequate preparatory time” to students. “…There is a natural consternation among the student community about facing the examination. They have thus sought adequate preparatory time. This has translated into a demand for postponement of the exam to March, something that can be empathised with under the circumstances,” reads the editorial.Meanwhile, Director General of Police (DGP), Kashmir, K. Rajendra Kumar, on Friday discussed security of educational institutions and the arrangements for smooth conduct of examinations. “Miscreants are targeting educational institutions but their nefarious designs will be foiled,” said Mr. Rajendra. (The Hindu 5/11/2016)

113. Community can improve school education (11)

COIMBATORE: Community participation plays a key role in improving school education, and the new National Education Policy will provide thrust to it, Union Minister for Human Resources Development Prakash Javadekar said here on Saturday. Inaugurating Isha Vidhya’s education conference at Isha Foundation, he said communities across the country had supported education, including several instances of building schools and providing houses to teachers. But a disconnect crept in after Independence, and the new National Education Policy looked at restoring the connect. Asserting that improving the quality of education was no longer a political agenda, but the national agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party government, the Minister said he would hold discussions with all stakeholders on November 10 and was open to ideas. In the last 70 years, the reach of education had improved but not the quality. Therefore, this would be a major focus area, he added.Mr. Javadekar said that under the Right to Education Act, the learning outcomes were yet to be defined. His government was engaged in defining learning outcomes and it would release those in the next three months. This would usher in accountability. Isha Foundation founder Jaggi Vasudev said that promoting enterprise and business in education would usher in quality. Policing would not improve education; it would only breed mediocrity.It would not be wrong to make it mandatory that parents spent two to three days a year in their children’s school, as their involvement too would help improve the quality of education. (The Hindu 6/11/2016)

114. 42% of govt teachers in Nagaland untrained (11)

Kohima: About 42 per cent of the present 24,000 government teachers in Nagaland are untrained while 15 per cent schools, numbering 172, are being run by a single teacher, a major deterrent in achieving quality education in the State, Nagaland Minister for School Education and SCERT Yitachu said this. Inaugurating a two-day Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)-sponsored national seminar on “Quality Teacher Education: Issues and Challenges of two year Bachelor of Education (B. Ed)” at Nagaland University, Kohima Campus in Meriema on Monday, the Minister said that the Right to Education (RTE) policy of the Central government has brought immense infrastructural improvements beside opening and upgradation of schools to reach each and every student.However, he regretted that the process has also created a huge gap in imparting quality education to the students, which has led to rise in the number of school dropouts and drop in students’ enrolment in government schools. – PTI (The Hindu 8/11/2016)

115. Aadhar numbers compulsory for RTE admissions next year: Education dept (11)

BENGALURU: Aadhar numbers of parents and the child will now be mandatory information to furnish while applying online for admissions under the 25% quota of the Right to Education act. In a stern move taken ahead of the admission process, Sowjanya, commissioner of public instruction directed that online applications for admissions to unaided minority schools will be received from January 1, 2017. The last date to get the Aadhar numbers would be December 31 for all parents. In case of orphans being admitted to unaided non-minority school, the commissioner has said that the orphanages will have to take responsibility of obtaining the Aadhar number for the child. Furthermore, the list of documents required during the application process include: Aadhar number of the child and one of the parents (guardian), caste certificate (in case of SC/ST/OBC), income certificate (in case of economically backward) and birth certificate of the child. These certificates and documents will have to be mandatorily furnished while submitting the application form. Biometrics will be put into use to authenticate the Aadhar numbers of the parents and child by Aadhar authorities on the spot during application submission. The income certificate and caste certificate will be verified on the spot using the Atalji Janasnehi Kendra database. “Only if the Aadhar number and certificates are found to be genuine, then the application would be accepted. Otherwise, the applications would be rejected on the spot,” said the commissioner. (Times of India 11/11/16)

116. Protest planned against new education policy by Centre (11)

Trichy: The Federation for Protection of Right to Education has planned to table an alternative education policy, instead of the Draft New Education Policy proposed by BJP-led Union government alleging that the draft would take the present education to the age old hereditary education system. Criticizing the policy, the group has also decided to stage a protest in Delhi on November 17, demanding withdrawal the proposed policy. While briefing reporters at a conference here on Saturday, P B Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary of the State Platform for Common School System, alleged that the draft was a preview for attempting to make education a commercial commodity under the World Trade Organisation. The association strongly opposed the draft and condemned the Union government’s over the policy. ” Tamil Nadu government has already opposed the draft during the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meeting held recently in Delhi. The state government should be firm in its stance in opposing the draft. In order to strengthen the common school system, the federation has decided to submit an alternative education policy to the government,” he further said. He quoted the minister for human resource and development Prakash Javadekar as saying that the ministry had not posted any copy of the draft new education policy on the ministry’s website. “Following the widespread opposition against the draft across the country, the minister denied that the ministry had posted any draft on the ministry’s website. If the ministry has not posted any draft on their website, the minister should explain what the undated and authored letter was on the site,” he said. To intensify the stir against the new draft policy, the association will launch a protest in Delhi on November 17. A day long demonstration has been planned where the alternative education policy would be emphasized, he said. (Times of India 13/11/16)

117. Education panel recommends skill training for children from class 3 (11)

New Delhi: A Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) sub-committee on skill and technical education has recommended introducing vocational courses from class 3 to ensure that school students undergo skill training from an early age. The committee also mooted developing laboratories at primary schools to motivate students in this regard. The report was discussed at a meeting of CABE – the highest advisory body on education for the central and state governments – last month.Besides this, the body recommended collating a list of skills vis-à-vis the regions they are required in, and integrating them with the education system. “During deliberations, the sub-committee made a number of suggestions, including the introduction of vocational education from the third standard. Also, it was suggested that state-of-the-art labs be developed even at the primary school level to motivate them,” said a source. Many members also highlighted the need to focus on vocational education pertaining to skill sectors relevant to the states. Other recommendations made by the sub-committee included training teachers, keeping the needs of the industry in mind. It also suggested ways to ensure that training in the agriculture sector reaches the backward sections of society. Sources further said the National Institute of Open Schooling is planning to introduce vocational education in class 12 with three vocational subjects, besides one language and one foundation subject. The committee stressed on the importance of infusing the existing skill education and technical education courses in both school and higher-education levels at academic institutes. It also recommended giving parents a say in picking entrepreneurship training courses for students. “Teachers should play the role of a mentor, and help students pick the learning or entrepreneurship training of their choice in conjunction with their parents at parent-teacher meets,” said a senior official. (Hindustan Times 15/11/2016)

118. Notice to education officials in J&K over school fees (11)

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Wednesday issued notice to Education Department officials on an application seeking direction to prevent private schools from charging tuition and transportation fees for the period of unrest in the Kashmir Valley. Commission chairman Justice (retd) Bilal Nazki ordered issuing of notice to the Principal Secretary of the Education Department and the Director of School Education seeking a report on the matter. The Commission listed the application for the next hearing on December 26. The Centre for Peace and Protection of Human Rights, an NGO, filed the application before the Commission on Tuesday seeking directions to the government to prevent private schools from charging either tuition fee or transportation fees from the parents of students for the period of unrest in Kashmir. The NGO has pleaded that since no academic activity has been undertaken since July 9, the schools should not charge any fees for the period. On a separate application filed by the NGO, the Commission chairman sought a report from the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar over the locking of historic Jamia Masjid in the city where Friday prayers have not been offered since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8. – PTI (The Hindu 17/11/2016)

119. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in 3.63 lakh schools: Prakash Javadekar (11)

New Delhi: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a programme for universalisation of elementary education, has provided 2.04 lakh primary and 1.59 lakh upper primary schools across the country to ensure universal access, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday. Universal enrollment is the first goal of SSA and all efforts are being made to bring all children, including girls, to school, he said during Question Hour in Lok Sabha, amidst noisy protests by the Opposition over demonetisation issue. Javadekar said SSA strategies for promotion of girls education include an opening of schools in the neighbourhood to make access easier for girls, an appointment of additional teachers, including women teachers, free textbooks, free uniforms, separate toilets for girls, teachers sensitisation programmes to promote girls participation, gender-sensitive teaching-learning materials, including textbooks. In addition, the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalays have been opened in educationally backwards blocks where the female rural literacy rate is below the national average to provide residential upper primary schools for girls from SC/ST/OBC/ Muslim and BPL families. The Minister said under the mid-day meal scheme, central financial assistance is being provided to all states and UTs for implementation of the scheme. Under the scheme, all states and UTs were providing mid-day meals to children, including adolescent girls studying in class-I to VIII of government, government aided, special training centres and madrasas and Maqtabs under the SSA. (Business Standard 21/11/16)

120. ‘Enrolment in higher education doubles in 3 years’ (11)

RANCHI: The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in state higher education has almost doubled in three years. The latest data released by higher and technical education department revealed that the higher education GER which was 8.4 in 2011-12 increased to 10.1 in 2013-14 and reached 15.4 in 2014-15.In 2011-12, the GER was less than half of the national GER of 20.4. However, in 2014-15, the national GER was 24.3 while the state GER was 15.4 which is 63.37% of the national GER.The department had started a mass enrolment movement in the academic year 2014-15 which led to an increase in the GER. GSP Gupta, OSD to the secretary of higher education department, Ajay Kumar Singh said, “The principals of institutes have been given the freedom to appoint part time lecturers and the honorarium for lecturers has also been increased. This has led to improvement in the quality of education and thus increase in the number of students.”This apart, various vocational departments across all universities were given the ultimatum that if they fail to get students in the department the course will be scrapped. “This ultimatum had led to the teachers indulging in motivating students to join their courses thus increasing the enrolments,” Gupta said. He added, “Many private institutes in the state have come up with diploma courses in the last three years and the students who earlier used to go out of state for education are now taking admission in these courses.”Department secretary Ajay Kumar Singh said that the department plans to increase the GER to 32 by the year 2022. He said, “We are expecting an even higher GER in 2015-16 as many steps were taken this year to increase the enrolment including starting of classes in second shift, establishment of new colleges and inviting private universities to the state.” In academic year 2015-16, second shift classes were started in every undergraduate and postgraduate colleges and departments. To promote enrolment of girls in higher education, 11 new women’s colleges were started in the state this year.In 2017-18, many new colleges will be started in the state including 12 model degree colleges and 22 polytechnic colleges. “To meet our aim, the process of identification of land for 17 more polytechnic colleges and 38 regular colleges will also begin in the state in the coming session,” Singh said. (Times of India 22/11/16)

121. ABVP for all parties to put education on agenda (11)

LUCKNOW: With elections round the corner in the state, leaders of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, an off-shoot of the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh pledged to participate actively in removing the Akhilesh-led state government for failing to do any good for education in UP.”We have been demanding improvement in education system for the past two years but there is no progress,” the ABVP state convenor Dharmpal Singh said, adding that in days ahead, ABVP would meet the national president of all political parties and would urge them to incorporate a charter on education in the party’s manifesto and vision document. Earlier, addressing a ‘Hunkaar rally’, at Colviin Taluqadar’s College grounds, national organisation secretary of the ABVP Sunil Ambekar said along with pressing for change of the education system, the ABVP would demand change of government in the state. The rally was against commercialisation of the education, he said. (Times of India 24/11/16)

122. Jaitley assures extensive social welfare schemes in education, healthcare (11)

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said that inclusive growth is high on the priority of the government and it would take adequate measures to ensure social security for all especially for the vulnerable section of society. “One of the major priorities of the present government is to make an extensive social welfare system which will focus primarily on better education system and effective healthcare especially for the children, women and senior citizens of the country,” je said at the third pre-budget consultative meeting with the representatives of different social sector groups here. Jaitley said that as the allocation of resources to the social sector by the government is increasing with time, the need of the hour is to bring substantial changes in social sector through better policies and their timely implementation. The major suggestions by the social sector representatives include increasing the allocation to social sector schemes in the next budget and and a mechanism be established to monitor proper implementation of all such schemes. Other suggestions include more focus on healthcare for the workers especially those working in mining sector. It was also suggested that vacancies of doctors, nurses and teachers must be filled so that these public services remain unaffected. “Various suggestions came about increasing allocation on education and healthcare sectors in the upcoming General Budget 2017-18. It was also suggested that all the tobacco products should be highly taxed primarily because of health concerns,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement. The representatives of various social sector union groups who attended the meeting included Amitabh Behar of National Foundation of India, Dipa Sinha of Right to Food Campaign, Manish Sabharwal of TeamLease, Subhas Singh of National Confederation of Dalit Organisations, Ambarish Rai of Right to Education Forum, Ajay Jha of Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India (PAIRVI), Thomas Chandy of Save the Children, Yamini Aiyar of Centre for Policy Research, Rukmini Banerjee of Pratham, Mathew Cherian of Helpage, Nandini Verma of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Bhavana Mukhopadhyay of Voluntary Health Association of India, V.K. Madhavan of Wateraid, Paul Divakar of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Mithun Raj of Mines Minerals and people, Sonali Khan of Breakthrough, Neha Buch of Pravah, Sandeep Chachra of Actionaid, Subrat Das of Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Bulu Sareen of World Vision India, among others. (Business Standard 26/11/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

123. PM Modi pitches for empowerment of poor, links it to Make in India (21)

Raipur: Pitching for empowerment of the poor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday skilled youth can pull themselves out of poverty and help fuel the engine of growth. He also said that states like Chhattisgarh, which have potential for ecotourism, can generate employment by investing little capital in its development. Addressing the 16th anniversary celebrations of Chhattisgarh, Modi said poor youth with sufficient opportunities, training, skills and tools can pull themselves and others out of poverty. Linking skilling with his ‘Make in India’ initiative, he said people with sufficient skills can help boost the country’s economy. “The full stress of our government is on uplift of poor,” he said. Appreciating the concept of jungle safari he inaugurated here, the Prime Minister said states with ecotourism potential can help provide employment to a large section of people. He said others indirectly involved with ecotourism like autorickshaw drivers, fruit sellers and chai wallahs can enhance their earning. At investment far less than what is required for setting up an industrial unit, concepts like jungle safaris can be big money spinners for small states like Chhattisgarh. Referring to the new crop insurance scheme launched by the Centre, he said there is a need to make agriculture more viable so that even a small piece of land can yield more.He said value addition to the produce of farmers was another way to help enhance their earning. On the issue of Centre-state relations, he said the government believes in cooperative federalism where states compete with each other in implementing new schemes. He also said the Centre will not discriminate among states in providing funds for development. (DNA 1/11/2016)

124. 80 cr people will be covered under food security law (21)

New Delhi: With Kerala and Tamil Nadu falling in line, the Centre on Thursday announced full implementation of the national food security law, which provides highly subsidised foodgrain to 80 crore people. Kerala and Tamil Nadu began implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) from November 1, after the Centre threatened to charge higher MSP (minimum support price) rates for foodgrain allocated to the two states under the above poverty line (APL) category. Had they failed to implement NFSA, Kerala and Tamil Nadu would have got rice at nearly three times the rate fixed for allocations under the APL category. The two states argued that they had better public distribution networks than the NFSA and were keen to continue the same. They will continue to get their present allocation of foodgrain at the NFSA rates, ranging from Rs 1-3 per kg. “Kerala will continue to get its allotted 14 lakh tonnes of foodgrain and Tamil Nadu will continue to get 36 lakh tonnes at the NFSA rates,” Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters here. Under the law, the government provides 5 kg of foodgrain per person, per month at Rs 1-3 per kg. Wheat is being supplied at Rs 2 a kilo and rice at Rs 3 per kilo. The NFSA will entail an annual financial outgo of Rs 1.4 lakh crore, he said. Paswan also warned state governments to refrain from taking credit for the initiative as the subsidised foodgrain were being distributed under a Central law. The Centre has digitised the entire beneficiary database in all the 36 states and Union Territories, Paswan said. He said the next target for the government was automation of fair price shops for distribution of food grains through an electronic point of sale device that would authenticate beneficiaries at the time of distribution. Paswan said so far 71% of the ration cards have been linked with Aadhaar and the rest would be done at the earliest. “This has resulted in the deletion of about 2.62 crore bogus ration cards,” he said. (Deccan Herald 4/11/2016)

125. Aren’t tribals being treated as second-class citizens? (21)

Mumbai: The incident of sexual harassment of a 10-year-old child studying at a tribal boarding school in Buldhana district of Maharashtra is shocking. Parents of some other girls, too, suspect their daughters were being sexually exploited at the school run by a private trust with funding from the state government. The police have formed a special investigation team under a woman IPS officer to investigate the entire case. One hopes the monsters who committed this heinous crime get the harshest punishment. As Hindustan Times reported on Monday, the state government had already been cautioned about the possibility of sexual exploitation of children in tribal boarding schools in the state. A panel appointed to recommend measures to prevent deaths of tribal students in such schools had pointed out the possibility of sexual harassment of girls in these schools. After receiving the report, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had twice in October told the state government to monitor the boarding schools by way of periodical visits of teams of officials as a preventive measure. Even before the government could act on Rao’s directives, the unfortunate incident at Buldhana came to light. This is the second incident involving tribals in Maharashtra within a span of less than two months. In September, the state was shocked following the reports of deaths of children in Palghar district due to malnutrition. Although there were strong reactions from all quarters in both the incidents, there are chances that most people will forget these incidents after some time till something happens again. Is it just because tribals are not a majority community and can’t form a strong pressure group and take out rallies to grab attention to the injustice against them? Won’t it be right to say that we are treating tribals as second class citizens? For them, nothing much has changed in decades. Illiteracy, unemployment and poverty are still serious problems for state’s 9% tribal population. Infant mortality is high and periodically there are reports of children dying due to malnutrition. They live in remote areas, making it a standard excuse for poor state of infrastructure there. They have reservation in education and government jobs, but many of them are not even in a position to benefit from it. Some percentage of the tribal population has made progress, but a large number of them are still in bad shape. …  (Hindustan Times 8/11/2016)

126. 4.5 million in Italy living in absolute poverty (21)

NK World, Rome, Nov 9 : A total of 4.6 million people – 7.6 percent of the population – were living in absolute poverty in Italy, the country’s central statistics agency ISTAT said. The number of people living in absolute poverty rose more than two-and-a-half-times from 2006 when it stood at 1.8 million, ISTATE noted. But the number of children in absolute poverty more than tripled since from 2006 to reach 1.1 million in 2015, ISTAT said in a report presented to the Senate. Welfare spending in Italy reached 446.8 billion euros in 2015, of which over four-fifths went on the poorest sections of the population, according to the report. Italy is still struggling to recover from its worst recession in the post-war period. (New Kerala 9/11/2016)

127. 29,000 beneficiaries waiting for Shaadi Bhagya aid (21)

BELAGAVI: The much publicized bidai scheme (Shaadi Bhagya) of the state government has turned redundant due to the inordinate delay in disbursing funds to its beneficiaries. The scheme, announced by the Congress government in 2013 with a much fanfare, is aimed at providing a financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to brides belonging to economically backward minority communities. As per the information sourced through RTI by Bhimappa Gadad, the government owes a huge amount of Rs 147.64 crore to 29,528 beneficiaries ever since the scheme came into being in 2013. RTI activist Bhimappa said many families have landed in debt trap due to the delay in disbursement of money to the beneficiaries. “In the hope of getting Rs.50,000 from the government, many poor families have raised private loans at higher interest rates for marriage of their daughters. Now, these families are struggling to pay the interest on the loan availed, let alone clearing the principal amount,” he said. The situation has also raised serious questions on the state government’s financial health, he said. “Else, how can the government not release funds for its pet scheme? ” Bhimappa added. (Times of India 12/11/2016)

128. 50% kids in Alirajpur, Dhar, Dindori and Jhabua of MP are stunted (21)

CHENNAI: About 50% of children Alirajpur, Dhar, Dindori and Jhabua – the four districts in Madhya Pradesh where tribals constitute 50% of the population – are stunted, according to a new analysis done by Down To Earth magazine (Hindi). According to a press release issued by them, experts are now seriously alarmed by the high incidence of stunting in the state. They believe it is the result of several years of poor diet, chronic hunger, and infection. While the condition of underweight malnourished children can be reversed with good food and care, it is not possible for children who are afflicted by stunting. According to international non-profit Save The Children, Madhya Pradesh tops the nation in the number of malnourished children under the age of six – in 2015, 60% of children there were malnourished, while 74% were anaemic. Analysts with Down To Earth, who have found that stunting is high in all tribal-dominated areas across India, say that it could be indicative of a bigger problem. “Decades of hunger and stunting seem to have altered the stature of tribal people, forever,” says the magazine. It says the vicious cycle begins in the womb – the unborn foetus does not get the necessary nutrients, because most mothers themselves suffer from severe malnutrition. According to the researchers behind this analysis, forests were traditionally the main source of nutritious sustenance – including meat — for tribals, who were able to extract close to 150 different varieties of food from forests. Today, while PDS and cheap food rations do provide food security, nutritional security is still a distant dream for them. With the forests made out of bounds for tribals, their primary source of nutrition has dried up. A 2013 report by the Central government says 72% tribal women never get to eat even one fruit in a week. “Official policies, which have barred our tribal populations from the forests – their traditional source of food and nutrition – seem to be responsible for this severe malnutrition and stunting that afflicts these populations,” says Richard Mahapatra, managing editor, Down To Earth. (Times of India 12/11/16)

129. Can give free food to all under food security Act if states cooperate: Ram Vilas Paswan (21)

New Delhi: The National Food Security Act (NFSA) that provides legal entitlement for cheap grain to 64 per cent of Indians now covers the entire country, with Kerala and Tamil Nadu agreeing to implement it. The Act was passed during the previous United Progressive Alliance government. Food minister RAM VILAS PASWAN tells Sanjeeb Mukherjee that as an expansion of NFSA, his ministry would consider distributing fortified and nutritious wheat and rice through the Public Distribution System (PDS). Edited excerpts: Three years after its launch, the NFSA has become truly national, with all states becoming a part of it. What would be the biggest impact of this on the common man and the poor? The biggest impact or benefit of NFSA and its nationwide coverage is that none can now say he is dying of hunger, as 75% of the rural population and 50% of  the urban population in all states have been covered. The beneficiaries would get wheat at Rs 2 a kg and rice at Rs 3 a kg. This is more than any BPL (below poverty line) list. If state governments are serious, we can give free food to all the 810-million identified beneficiaries, as the Centre is already bearing 91% of the subsidy for distributing cheap wheat and rice to the public through PDS. We have also notified the grievance redressal mechanism provided in NFSA, under which if any beneficiary does not get his due quantity of grain in time, he can claim an allowance at the rate of 1.25 times the MSP (minimum support price) either from the state concerned or the central government, whoever is responsible for the delay. There was a lot of reluctance from states to join the NFSA. How did you manage to convince them? It needed a lot of persuasion and there was public pressure on them as well. That apart, we told them, particularly Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that grain for only the BPL and the Antyodaya Anna Yojana families would be supplied at a subsidised rate from November 1. For Above Poverty Line families, it would have to be purchased at MSP, which made them fall in line. The ministry has also embarked on a massive task of digitisation of ration cards, seeding these with Aadhaar and DBT (direct benefits transfer) as and when possible. How much savings will all this accrue to the exchequer from, say, the next financial year? The subsidy component might not go down by much and can happen only if the number of beneficiaries are curtailed, which is not at all the intention. What is happening is that the subsidy is getting better targeted and befitting the actual poor and needy — like we managed to save around Rs 14,000 crore by weeding out 26.5 million bogus ration cards. This can’t be called saving in the overall subsidy in its true sense, as fresh cards were issued against them. But, what it did was that it minimised leakage and pilferage. … (Business Standard 14/11/2016)

130. Growing deposits may lower rates (21)

MUMBAI: Large deposits in bank accounts is expected to soften bond yields and also lower rate of interest in the economy as banks will be forced to use the extra cash to buy more government papers and rush to lend money to customers, or do both. With people unable to spend due to tight liquidity, this could also lead to slower growth, which would leave enough space for the RBI to cut rates, economists and bond dealers said. Anticipating a strong surge in buying gilts by banks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced withdrawal of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes from the market on November 8 evening, the benchmark yield on the 10-year gilts had rallied 15 basis points to 6.65% following day the. After see-sawing through the week, on Friday the yields settled at 6.72%, still 8 basis points softer before the PM’s announcement. The only trouble that could limit a bond rally is the spike in the US yields, which is also leading to spikes in bond yields in other major economies around the world, economists and bond dealers said. In the last four days, banks have witnessed aggregate deposits of over Rs 1 lakh crore+ , most in savings bank accounts and current accounts, which is boosting the CASA deposits of banks. “Surge in deposit in banking system will create more demand for government bonds and other high-rated bonds in an environment of tepid demand for credit. However, at the same time, a reduction in leakages in systemic liquidity will leave almost no scope for OMO purchases in the coming days,” Soumyajit Niyogi, associate director, credit & market research, India Ratings & Research. “Apart from boosting banking system liquidity, curbing the underground economy and a systematic lowering of the share of cash in economic activity are likely lead to lower inflationary pressures,” said Siddhartha Sanyal, chief India Economist, Barclays Bank. “Dampening the parallel economy — potentially for multiple quarters — will likely have some near-term sobering effect on consumption demand and, in turn, on overall economic growth. This will likely offer greater space for the RBI for monetary easing in the coming months,” Sanyal said. Barclays expects another 25-basis-point rate cut by the RBI in the January-March quarter of 2017. … (Times of India 14/11/16)

131. Poor sleeping peacefully but corrupt troubled: Modi on demonetisation (21)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday justified demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency and said as a result of the move, the poor were sleeping in ease and those who have stashed ill-gotten money are running from pillar to post, buying sleeping pills. Addressing a gathering at Ghazipur, the Prime Minister said had Uttar Pradesh not given such a huge mandate to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there could not have been a government at the Centre which “works with steely determination” for the people of the country. Modi also said there was no dearth of money in the country but it was not there where it should be. He also asked the crowds to endorse demonetisation by raising their hands and clapping. When the crowd did so, he said his mandate was to clear the country of graft and weed out the corrupt and he was merely doing so. The demonetisation move, he admitted, had caused problems to the people but added that they were braving it out for the larger good and progress of the nation. He attacked the Congress and accused the party of “misleading” the people on demonetisation. He also mentioned how the Congress was now shedding crocodile tears though it had once clamped Emergency in the country for 19 months and converted the country into a “big prison”. “It is surprising that people in Congress, their lawyer leaders are asking me under which law have I banned these currency notes, I want to ask them under which law did they ban the 25 paise,” the PM said, while adding how a person did something which befitted his or her stature. “You never went beyond 25 paise and we have done what was of our standing,” he said. He also said the banning of big currency notes was a major step against counterfeit currency which was feeding terrorism and Maoism. “I am trained to make ‘kadak’ (strong) tea since my childhood and I know poor people like this type of tea, while the rich feel its bitterness,” he said in reference to his beginning as a tea seller. Modi said there were politicians who were wearing currency notes and now are trying to spread rumours among the people on demonetisation, and assured the people that days of graft were now over. “Do not pay heed to rumours, every single rupee earned honestly by you will always remain yours, till your brother is alive,” Modi said in an emotional tone. … (Hindustan Times 14/11/16)

132. 1300 bags of foodgrain seized from hoarders (21)

MUNGER: Altogether 1300 bags of rice and wheat meant for distributing through PDS shops among below poverty line (BPL) families were seized on Saturday in different parts of the district. The seizure has unearthed blackmarketing and smuggling of foodgrain meant to be distributed to the poor and weaker sections in the district. On Saturday, police raided the house of one Kailash Rai and seized 120 bags of wheat meant for distribution among the beneficiaries of red card holders of Nishad Tola and Shivkund, through public distribution system (PDS), said Jamalpur marketing officer Kanshi Ram. The house owner, however, managed to give a slip to police during the raid. In another raid, Haveli Kharagpur police on a tip-off stopped a truck-laden with 410 bags of rice and seized it. According to block supply officer-cum-MO, Haveli Kharagpur, Bishwanath Singh, “A truck loaded with rice was on way to Asarganj from Kulhara Mor when a raid was conducted with the help of local police. PDS dealer Babloo Sah was taken in custody for his alleged involvement in blackmarketing of the rice.” Another team led by Haveli Kharagpur SDO Waseem Ahmed and SDPO Surendra Prasad, raided the house of one Shivnandan Prasad Sah in Simpur village and seized 501 bags of rice and 52 bags of wheat, meant for distribution through PDS.Police said all the arrested traders will be booked under various sections of Essential Commodities Act for hoarding and blackmarketing of foodgrains meant for distribution among BPL families. (Times of India 21/11/16)

133. Implementing multiple schemes to address hunger: Govt (21)

New Delhi: India accords high priority to the issue of hunger and malnutrition and is implementing several schemes to improve food situation in the country, Parliament was informed on Monday. “The government of India accords high priority to the issue of hunger and malnutrition and is implementing several schemes to improve food situation in the country,” Minister of State (Independent) for Planning, Rao Inderjit Singh said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. The Minister further said government allocates foodgrains at highly subsidised prices to states and union territories under the National Food Security Act, 2013, covering up to 75% of the population in rural and 50% of the population in urban areas. “Government is also implementing other welfare schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA), National Health Mission (NHM), Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme, Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS), Annapurna Scheme for senior citizens etc,” he added. The Minister’s statement assumes significance as in Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, Indian ranked 97 out of 118 countries. In the GHI report 2015, India was ranked 80th out of 104 countries. Replying to a separate query, the Planning Minister said that NITI Aayog has not recommended divestment of CPSUs (Central Public Sector Undertaking) and its mandate is limited to making recommendations on strategic divestment only. (Business Standard 21/11/16)

134. Nice to see rich people suffer: Jaipur labourers on demonetization (21)

JAIPUR: Over 200 construction labourers with their tools stand and wait for work near the police station at Sodala on Wednesday morning. As the discussion turns to the “note-bandi” – the ban on old notes – opinions are divided. Uparlal Bhagwan, about 40 years old, seems to have had an early morning tipple – he smells of alcohol although it is only 9 o’clock in the morning. “Modi has done a good thing indeed. We poor people are used to hard times, now at least even those who are rich will begin to line up and face some tough times. Look at me, you people can think of getting married, getting your children married. I live a bachelor boy, condemned to it by poverty. Now, even the rich will see some suffering, as all the money they have stashed goes useless. We will all be the same,” he says. Other labourers around him, however, do not agree. Phool Babu, from Bihar, says, “Where will we go if things continue like this? In the past week, I’ve found work only for two days. I have rent to pay and I have to send money home too. If I cannot make ends meet, what will I do?” Babu has been living in Jaipur for about eight years. The work has been reasonably steady, he says, until even those who engage workers have begun to feel the pinch of the demonetization drive. Sagar Kumar, a resident of Nahargarh, says, “It’s not as if we need Rs 2,000 notes. The contractor might pay four of us Rs 2,000 and expect us to divide the sum among us, but where will we go for change? The small notes are hard to come by. I have no bank account. I have never had any need for one – what I earn is spent on the family. I am the sole earning member in my family and there are five of us. What use do I have for a bank? What I earn, I spend. But things are hard now. Can we just write to the PM and ask him to restore the old notes? Why must the government spend money on printing new notes? The old ones were fine.” Many workers complained that they had no ration cards. “Wheat flour was available earlier at Rs 21 a kg, but now have to spend Rs 25 a kg. We earn just about Rs 400 a day, on a good day. There are days when we just come and stand about here and return empty-handed, having got no work at all. We have families to feed,” Kumar said, adding that the government should pay heed to providing rations for the poor instead of making it harder to get work.Bhagwan said, “The government tells us that we can only get our rations if we first have a toilet in the house. They should first come and see how we live – we do not have concrete houses, we have nothing to eat. Is a toilet more important?” Bhagwan is drunk, but what he says strikes a chord with the other workers gathered around him. .. (Times of India 24/11/16)

135. Man dies of hunger in Madhya Pradesh, probe ordered (21)

Tikamgarh (Madhya Pradesh): Tikamgarh district incharge minister Rustam Singh has asked the local administration to conduct an inquiry into the death of an old man reportedly due to hunger. The body of 70-year-old Lakhan Dubey, a resident of Patra village of the district, was found in his house. He used to stay alone and eat whatever he would get from villagers. According to the villagers, Dubey had not come out of his house for the last 10 days. When there was no response to people’s calls, they became suspicious and forcefully entered his house. He was lying dead inside. A villager, Kaushal Kishor, said: “We believe that Lakhan Dubey died due to hunger, as he hadn’t asked for food from us for the last several days. He was unmarried and other member of his family were out to their places of work. He didn’t even have any land.” The villagers informed police about Dubey’s death. They came and got the body cremated without even conducting an autopsy. Tikamgrh Superintendent of Police Nimish Agrawal said he has instructed his subordinates to visit the village to get to the truth of his death. (Business Standard 28/11/16)

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