Posted by admin at 1 February 2017

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Two Dalits on indefinite fast, seek justice (2)

VENKATAYAPALEM (East Godavari Dt.): Two Dalits from this tiny village, located about 30 km from the district headquarters, have been on an indefinite fast for the last four days demanding government support to end a legal battle in a case of alleged atrocities.Twenty years ago, the two were among the five persons who were allegedly subjected to brutal harassment. Two of them were reportedly tonsured forcibly by an MLA over a petty issue. Even as legal proceedings were coming to a close in the Special Court, the government ordered withdrawal of the public prosecutor from the case in September last, prompting the alleged victims to stage protests afresh. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s statue here turned into the venue where 43-year-old Challapudi Pattabhi Ramaiah and 46-year-old Koti Chinna Raju sat on fast, while residences of the accused – located a few yards away – were buzzing with New Year celebrations. “We, three Dalit youths, worked for the Bahujan Samaj Party as polling agents in the 1994 general elections, which irked Tota Trimurthulu, who was in the contest as an independent and subsequently won the Ramachandrapuram Assembly seat,” Mr. Ramaiah recalled during a conversation with The Hindu on Sunday. “With the help of the police, the MLA fabricated a theft case against us and two others to settle scores. After several dramatic twists and turns, he and his family members had beaten us severely and tonsured Chinna Raju and Dadala Venkata Ratnam in his backyard on the night of December 29, 1996.” Recollecting that frightful night, Mr. Chinna Raju narrated the experience of getting tonsured in front of the villagers. “I still remember Mr. Trimurthulu saying ‘I have my own law here,’ and never forget that shameful experience,” he lamented.A vernacular daily published the incident prominently, prompting the government machinery to swing into action. Cases were registered against the MLA and nine others under the provisions of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Human rights and civil liberties organisations backed the victims and the first trial had commenced in 1997. “Three days before the scheduled commencement of the fresh trial, the State government withdrew the public prosecutor from the case on September 23, 2016. It is nothing but supporting the accused,” said Mr. Ramaiah, who had done his LLB from Andhra University and was making attempts to enter government service. Mr. Chinna Raju was working with a local private firm, while Mr. Venkata Ratnam joined as a police constable. The two other victims Kanikella Ganapathi and Puvvala Venkata Ramana were eking out livelihood as agriculture labourers.“When the issue came to light first, we were promised housing, agriculture lands and employment. But nothing has happened so far,” Mr. Chinna Raju pointed out. One accused and 13 of the 24 witnesses passed away in the last 20 years and the prime accused was elected again as MLA of the ruling Telugu Desam Party. “We are confident that the court will render justice to us once the fresh trial commences,” Mr. Ramaiah concluded. (The Hindu 1/1/2017)

2. PAAS, dalit leaders threaten to disrupt Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (2)

AHMEDABAD: Conveners of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and dalit stir doyen, Jignesh Mevani, have threatened to disrupt Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) 2017, if fixed-pay and contractual employees were not made permanent by the state government by January 7. The young political Turks were speaking at a meeting of contractual and fixed-pay employees called by Pravin Ram, convener of Gujarat Jan Adhikar Manch (GJAM). Police detained more than 250 protesters trying to convene at the ‘Jan Akrosh Rally’, which was originally planned at Pathikashram Chhavani in Gandhinagar. However, employees led by Ram later started their programme at a parking area of Akhsardham temple, from where they were detained. Pressing for demands of fixed-pay employees, Ram said, “The fixed-pay system should be abolished from a developed state like Gujarat.” “Women working as ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) and anganwadi workers should be given full wages according to norms and unemployed youths should be given jobs immediately,” Ram said. He also gave a memorandum of their demands to the additional collector of Gandhinagar. “We gave the list of our demands to the government representative. If the government does not consider our demands by January 7, then we will not allow VGGS to take place,” Ram said. Thakor, Mevani and PAAS leaders, including Hardik’s close aides, Dinesh Bambhania, Varun Patel and Lalit Vasoya, all endorsed his call.At the meeting, Thakor said that government should focus on the issue of unemployment, and demands of fixed-pay and contractual employees should be accepted otherwise, the much-hyped VGGS will be disrupted. Extending support to Ram’s movement, Mevani said, “If the Rs 60 lakh crore MoUs are really realized and the black money surfaced after demonetization, then the fixed pay and contractual employees should be given Rs 45,000 instead of current pay scale of Rs 4,500.” PAAS leader Varun Patel said, “PAAS supports this movement and we will keep supporting the fixed-pay employees all their public meetings and protests.” A senior police official told TOI that over 250 protesters were detained from the meeting venue because the organizers did not have permission to hold the meeting. All of them were taken to SP office for a while and released later, said the official. (Times of India 2/1/2017)

3. NHRC notice to Gujarat IG-Prisons over victimisation of Dalits (2)

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Gujarat’s Inspector General of Police in charge of Prisons over alleged victimisation of Dalit prisoners by upper caste inmates in Amreli Jail, and sought a report within six weeks. NHRC in a statement today said it has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that prisoners belonging to lower caste are being subjected to “grave injustice and discrimination inside the jail”. According to the reports, carried on January 5, an advocate, who remained in the jail for about 110 days in the Amreli District Jail as an undertrial prisoner, has “revealed the entire story based on his personal experiences”. Even, they (lower caste inmates) cannot drink water from the reverse osmosis (RO) plant installed in the jail. The prisoners are victimised by the upper castes prisoners and complaints regarding this “go unheard” by the Jail Superintendent, the Commission said, quoting the reports. The Commission has also observed that the Constitution states that there should be no discrimination with anyone on the basis of caste, creed, gender and religion. “Therefore, the jails cannot be allowed to remain an exception in this regard,” the statement said. “Reportedly, one of the Dalit inmates, when objected to the harassment, was beaten up so severely that he could not get up for days but the jail staff refused to shift him to the hospital as it would become a medico-legal case.” “The complaints made to the Jail Superintendent are never heard by the authorities. The so-called upper caste prisoners enjoy all facilities including mobile phones and operate their network from inside the jail …,” the Commission said. The contents of the news report, if true, amount to violation of right to life, equality and dignity of the prisoners. It has issued the notice to the IG (Prisons), Gujarat and called for a report within six weeks, the NHRC said. It is stated in the report that the victim, Navchetan Parmar has approached many organisations including NHRC for redressal of the grievances of the Dalit prisoners but nothing is being done, the Commission added. “When fellow prisoners came to know that he was involved in agitation by Dalits, the upper caste prisoners known as ‘Durbars’ started harassing him verbally, with comments about his caste. “He was not allowed to drink water from the earthen pitcher which was kept nearby. The Durbars stopped him and asked him to quench his thirst from the tap in the toilet.” “The Dalit inmates are made to wash clothes of their fellow prisoners and their utensils too. Sometimes, the upper caste ‘Durbars’ would wake up the Dalit undertrials at 2 o’clock in the night and ask them to massage their legs,” the report alleges. (Ahmedabad Mrror 6/1/17)

4. Dalits to protest government action against Navsarjan (2)

RAJKOT: Dalits of Sara village in Muli taluka of Surendranagar will host a protest on January 12 against cancellation of Foreign Contribution Regulation licence of Navsarjan Trust, a leading NGO working for dalit’s rights in Gujarat. They are demanding explanation from central government on the rationale behind the ban. The NGO has been working in around 3,000 villages of Gujarat on various issues of dalit’s rights since last 27 years. Founder of Navsarjan Trust and human rights activist Martin Macwan told TOI, “If central government feels that Navsarjan was engaged in ‘anti-national’ activities, then it should slap sedition charges against me and Navsarjan Trust.” “People from Sara village met and told me that they plan to hold a protest. Villagers have collected funds to support the protest rally on January 12. Government has cancelled Navsarjan’s FCRA licence as it used to raise voice of dalits and other weaker sections of the society. We have been working in Gujarat since last 27 years and we are doing same thing that we used to do in the past. Then, how come suddenly our activity became ‘anti-national?” questioned Macwan. After the ministry of home affairs cancelled the FCRA licence, Navsarjan Trust was barred from receiving funds from overseas sources. “I will put all our activity details before dalits in Sara village and ask them whether it is fair to ban us,” Macwan, a recipient of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, said. “Our NGO has played key role in seeking justice for atrocities against dalits in Gujarat and forced the government to act on various occasions. Navsarjan Trust was the first in the country to file a public interest litigation on existence of manual scavenging practices in 1996. Based on the PIL, the Union government brought a law banning manual scavenging in the country,” Macwan said. Times of India 10/1/2017

5. Caste Hindus break tradition, open temple doors to Dalits (2)

TIRUVANNAMALAI : Ending the two-month long impasse and breaking with century-old tradition, the caste Hindus of Hariharapakkam village near Vambakkam in Tiruvanamalai district have finally agreed, on Wednesday, to let the Dalits into Thulukanthamman temple. The decision was taken at Village Gram Sabha meeting held in the presence of Block Development Officer, Tahsildar and Police Inspector. The meeting saw the participation of nearly 400 caste Hindus. The temple had been remaining closed for two months after the caste Hindus opposed the entry of Dalits. The villagers, in unison, agreed that they would not prevent anyone from entering the temple on the basis of caste, religion or race. The villagers also agreed they would not indulge in any act that would affect the harmony in the village. The resolution, unanimously accepted by caste Hindus,  was read aloud in the meeting by an elderly person of the village. The sealed doors of the temple was opened by revenue department officials in the presence of  police personnel. The issue started snowballing on July 22 last when a group of Dalit youth from Namandi petitioned Cheyyar Sub Collector R Prabu Shankar, seeking his intervention so that they could participate in  Thulukanathamman temple festival held on the third week of Aadi (August). In the peace talks conducted by the officials concerned, caste Hindus expressed their objection in allowing Dalits into the temple. Meanwhile, on October 25, 2016, the Cheyyar Sub Collector had opened the temple for Dalits in his bid to end the century-old discrimination. Around 200 Dalits entered and offered prayers in the temple. But, this stirred up protests from various caste outfits. When the tension started mounting in the village, Tiruvannamalai district administration, on the very next day, had issued an order to close down the temple. Though caste Hindus submitted repeated pleas to District Collector Prashant M Wadnere to reopen the temple, the administration remained steadfast and said, “either the temple will be for all or will be for none.” On January 8, a group of caste Hindus broke the temple lock and entered into the temple to offer worship. Acting on a complaint, police had arrested two caste Hindus aged between 17 to 19 and booked eight persons. Informed sources said, the villagers had decided to end their differences following the arrests. A Mani, a caste Hindu from Hariharapakkam told Express they wanted to conduct the festival and did not want the temple to remain closed. “We don’t want our children to be in jail over the temple issue. That’s why we have decided to end the issue,” he added. However, a college student from Namandi said, even now, they were not allowed to use share autos of caste Hindus to reach Cheyyar – Kancheepuram main road or purchase groceries from their shops. “We need police security for another three months,” he added. Meanwhile, R Prabu Shankar, Cheyyar Sub Collector told Express that the temple was owned by HR and CE and it would function in line with the customs. He also  thanked the villagers for settling the issue amicably and assured them that police would provide security cover to the temple for some more time. (The New Indian Express 12/1/17)

6. Rohith Vemula not a Dalit, belonged to other backward class: Andhra govt (2)

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh is set to give other backward class (OBC) status to Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old PhD student whose suicide at the University of Hyderabad last year triggered a wave of nationwide protests against caste discrimination. The Andhra Pradesh government is preparing to send the report to the Centre before January 17, Vemula’s death anniversary when student groups have announced programmes to commemorate his memory. Revenue officials in Guntur district’s Gurajala village said Rohith belonged to the Vaddera OBC caste and wasn’t a Dalit–as claimed by his mother Radhika Vemula and university students. “The affidavits submitted by Rohith’s father Manikumar and other family members in the village have indicated that he is a Vaddera. We also made inquiries with the other villagers and they, too, confirmed his OBC status,” a senior revenue official told HT. “We have submitted a report to the Guntur collector Kantilal Dande.” If sent to the Centre, the report will mean a reversal of the stand taken last year by the collector, who told the National Commission of Scheduled Castes that Rohith belonged to the Hindu Mala caste, a predominant Dalit community in Andhra. Rohith’s death and protests across universities had pushed the state and Centre on the back foot and given the Opposition, especially the Congress, ammunition to call the government “anti-Dalit”. “Their report is based on the statement of my father. But why didn’t they record my mother’s statement? Let the AP government come out with the report officially. We are going to challenge it in the court,” Rohith’s brother Raja Vemula told HT. Once the government clears the OBC classification, a number of cases filed against suspects under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act will also be dismissed. When contacted, the collector refused to divulge any details. “We have not submitted any report to the government so far. We shall disclose it as and when it happens,” Dande said. The collector’s June 2016 report was based on a field study in the colony where Rohith was born and brought up. “Perhaps, the Guntur officials conducted the study in the Dalit colony where Rohith was staying. But no such enquiries were made in Gurajala, from where his family hailed. We do not know how he got the SC certificate, but his father clearly told us that he is a Vaddera,” the Gurajala revenue official said. A one-man judicial committee headed by former Allahabad high court judge Justice A K Roopanwal last August also declared Rohith as an OBC. The committee felt that Rohith’s mother might have got the SC certificate to claim the benefits of reservation. (Hindustan Times 13/1/17)

7. Mainpuri dalit family beaten, house burnt down for not greeting thakur man (2)

AGRA: In yet another case of atrocity on Dalits in Samajwadi Party’s stronghold of Mainpuri, a dalit family was allegedly beaten up and an animal shed outside their house was burnt by an upper caste Thakur in Daulatpur village, Mainpuri, on Saturday evening, on the trivial issue of them not greeting him. Talking to TOI, the 35-year-old Dalit, Hariom Katheria, said he was working in fields near his house when Chote Lala crossed him. He said Chotte Lala got infuriated as he did not greet him with “Ram Ram”, and started abusing him. “He took off his slippers and started beating me. My wife, Meera, and brother, Shyam Sunder, intervened but they too were thrashed”, he alleged. Hariom said he later went to Chotelala’s house to complain about his behaviour to his family where another altercation happened. “I returned home around 7.30 PM and a little later Chote Lala arrived there along with his associates from nearby village of Bajhera and they again assaulted me and my family”, he said. He alleged that Chote Lala and his associates also fired six rounds in the air and set the animal shed outside his house afire. Talking to TOI, superintendent of police, Sunil Saxena said an FIR has been registered against five people including Chotelala (Daulatpur), Chotu and Sumani (Bajhera village). He said Chote lala’s father Balram Singh, has been arrested and a search is on for the others who are absconding.He said the suspects were booked under various including rioting, assault and attempt to murder, besides Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act. BSP’s Agra mandal coordinator, Deepak Paintar also visited Hariom’s house. He said if the accused are not been arrested within two days, they would launch an agitation against the police.This incident comes five months after a poor Dalit couple, Bharat Singh and Mamta were chased and hacked to death by Ashok Mishra, a Brahmin shopkeeper, in Mainpuri on July 28 as they were unable to repay his debt of a mere Rs 15. The suspect had chased the hapless couple down with an axe and hacked them in front of horrified villagers. On the fateful day Bharat and Mamta were heading towards their field, Mishra confronted them for repayment of Rs 15. Told that they hadn’t been able to organise it, Mishra ran to his house, grabbed an axe and started assaulting Bharat, severing his head in the process. As Bharat lay on the ground bleeding and Mamata begged Mishra to spare her husband’s life, he turned to her and broke open her skull with repeated blows of the weapon. (Times of India 15/1/17)

8. Dalit teenager gang raped in Firozabad (2)

FIROZABAD: A 14-year-old dalit girl was allegedly gang raped by two upper caste men in Nuner Gadi village, which comes under Narkhi police station of Firozabad, on Monday. Police has sent the girl for medical examination. One of the accused was arrested immediately, while another is on run. According to police, the incident took place when the girl had gone to field on nature’s call but was dragged in mustard field by assailants, who sexually assaulted her. One of the accused is her neighbours. The accused have been booked under POCSO Act, besides relevant sections of IPC and ST/SC Act. The accused have been identified as Monu (22) alias Munnesh, a resident of the same village and his friend Rohit (24). Both the accused are married. The survivor’s father works in Noida, while she, a student of class IX, lives in Firozabad with her mother and other relatives. Her family lodged a police complaint after the girl narrated the entire incident to them. SO (Narkhi) Pradeep Yadav said, “The girl was admitted to District woman hospital for medical test and treatment. An FIR has been registered on the girl’s mother’s complaint. Manhunt is on to catch the second accused.” (Times of India 16/1/17)

9. Among dissenting voices, dalit cries echo from grassroots (2)

Dalit activists too echo his view and had even alleged that jallikattu was organised, patronised and controlled by members of a particular community (thevars). Jallikattu as an event espouses caste discrimination, they alleged. “I would never consider jallikattu as part of Tamil culture or identity ,” said Krishnaswamy . “Mattu pongal is celebrated to honour livestock. Ideally , on that day bulls should be given rest as they work hard all year. But jallikattu does the opposite by harassing them more,” he said. The state government has erred by permitting the protests to be carried out for four days without permission, he added. Puratchi Tamilagam founder T Moorthy said there was a history of caste clashes being sparked by events like jallikattu and rooster fights. It says all about the caste discrimination associated with jallikattu, he said. However, several dalit leaders, including VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan, don’t subscribe to this view.Thirumavalavan has been steadfastly supporting jallikattu for years.”Jallikattu is the cultural right of people of Tamil Nadu,” he had said. According to writer Subaguna Rajan, in Alanganallur -the most popular jallikattu venue -the event is organised by members of the naicker caste and 60% of registered bull tamers are dalits. “There are no thevars in Alanganallur. The first bull let out from the vadivasal is the Muniyandi temple bull, the priests of which are dalits. There is no bar on dalits participating in jallikattu,” he said.Likewise, at Palamedu the organisers are nadars, he says. At the same time, Subaguna Rajan doesn’t rule out caste discrimination in jallikattu. Writer Stalin Rajangam says this inclusion of dalits is “tokenism” and does not mean members of the community enjoy equality in jallikattu arenas or in these villages. In fact, in other parts of the state like Sivaganga, even this tokenism is nonexistent and there is discrimination.Others say it would be wrong to view the event through tinted glasses. “Jallikattu is indeed Tamil culture. It is organised by various communities across the state. Even for argument’s sake, if we assume that it is patronised by one community , then it would be like saying Bharatanatyam is never part of Tamil culture because it is practised by a minuscule section of society ,” says T Ondiraj, a jallikattu organiser from Trichy. (Times of India 21/1/17)

10. Six days of unity for jallikattu riddled by casteist injustice (2)

CHENNAI: Over the past one week, jallikattu became the focal point of political and social discourse. But did it manage to become a representative motif of the Tamil identity? Even as the protests raged across the State, a few dissenting voices, especially a section of Dalit intellectuals, pointed to the casteist underpinnings of jallikattu. In fact, demands voiced in early 2000s to ban jallikattu were over the casteist tensions it wreaked in villages, since Dalit youth were hardly allowed to join the sport. Would this massive support and the display of brotherhood during the six-day-long protest would put an end to the casteist divisions in holding the sport? Analysts and intellectuals say it would take more such movements to blur the casteist differences in the villages. A few of them remained sceptical of attempt to erasing the issue under the gloss of Tamil pride. The history of Dalit struggle for participation in the jallikattu is at least three decades old. It started in the early post-liberalisation period of the 1990s, when the Dalit uprising started questioning the practise of untouchability. The protests mainly centred around the question of Dalit participation in temples, festivals, traditions and land ownership. Justice Mohan Commission, appointed in 1997 to study the pattern of clashes between Dalits and Backward Castes, listed jallikattu as one of the main reasons. Dalit voices continued to fight for their rights in this sport. The struggle reached its peak in 2002 when Dalits at the famed Alanganallur village near Madurai refused to play ‘parai’ drums to incite the bull, if they were not given equal rights in participating in the event. However, the caste Hindus just replaced the ‘parai’ drums with loudspeakers. This escalated the opposition for the jallikattu among Dalits further and in 2004, Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K Krishnaswamy sought a ban on the sport openly. The recent protests have toned down the opposition of Dalit political leaders to jallikattu. Thol Thirumavalavan, leader of the largest Dalit party in Tamil Nadu, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, has already expressed solidarity for the jallikattu protests. “It was sickening to see some casteist forces questioning Dalit participation in the protest when they (Dalit) had no connection (to jallikattu),” Thirumavalavan told Express. “This uprising (for jallikattu) is against the Central government, which has been continuously disrespecting Tamils over the Cauvery, fishermen and several other issues. Staying away from this citing caste discrimination will not help Dalits in merging with mainstream politics,” he says, citing his reason for the support. Professor Ramu Manivannan of Political Sciences Department, University of Madras, said that the landed-caste with bulls can no longer establish control over the sport after such social and historic movements and once centrality of ownership gets removed, social changes happen. However, some Dalit intellectuals are not ready to buy this narrative and say that these protests are the expression of dominant castes’ anger over temple festivals in many villages in Madurai and Nagapattinam being put on hold after a clash with Dalits. (New Indian Express 23/1/17)

11. Dalit artist was among earliest victims of jallikattu (2)

MADURAI:  Eighteen-year-old Dalit artist N. Marimuthu of Pudhu Thamaraipatti here had a deft hand and a sharp eye for detail. Those were the reasons why he won every other art competition he attended. However, the promising young artist fell prey to the horns of a bull that gored him to death after barging into the spectators’ gallery when he was sketching a picture of jallikattu at Alanganallur in January 2004.“The incident happened around 10 a.m. but he was admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital here only at 3.30 pm. My father [A. Nagarajan alias ‘Mannennai’ Nagarajan] was crestfallen. Then, we could not do much because deaths in jallikattu was common and there were absolutely no regulations or provision of medical care at the site,” says his elder brother, N. Alagarsamy (38).Mr. Nagarajan felt relieved only after Justice R. Banumathi (now a Supreme Court judge) banned jallikattu, rekla race, oxen race and other such events during her stint at the Madras High Court Bench here on March 29, 2006. Nevertheless, the contentment was short lived as the matter was taken on appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court and a host of other writ petitions, filed against the ban by jallikattu enthusiasts, were tagged along with it. Feeling the exigency to act fast and apprise the court of the danger involved to human life in jallikattu, he made a representation to Madurai Collector on September 8, 2006, to ban Alanganallur jallikattu and also filed a writ petition in the court. Though Animal Welfare Board of India too intervened during the hearing on the appeal proceedings and opposed the move to lift the ban imposed by the single judge, Mr. Nagarajan became the only private individual to argue against the sport through his lawyer Samuel James. After elaborate arguments, a Division Bench of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja passed an interim order on January 9, 2007 permitting jallikattu that year subject to certain regulations. The judges also directed the State government to pay a compensation of Rs.1 lakh to Mr. Nagarajan but the money was not paid to him until the Division Bench passed final orders on the batch of cases on March 9, 2007.. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

12. In this village, Dalits barred from entering public places (2)

BHOPAL: More than 325 members of a reserved community are not allowed a hair cut in a barber’s shop at Naisamand village, which is frequented by upper caste. For them entry in hotels and tea stalls is strictly no-no as it means they will share same chairs and sip tea from same cups used by upper caste members of 12 nearby villages, something which is unacceptable and unbearable for village grandees. The village, barely 70 km from the state capital, has a population of 1,800 people comprising Brahmin, Baniya, Rajput, Yadav, Gurjar and Ahirwar. “We are told we belong to lower caste so cannot use same razor and chair as used by upper castes,” says Lal Singh Ahirwar, a resident of the village in Berasia tehsil of Bhopal district. His community is facing social boycott for past three months. Hard to believe members of Scheduled Caste community are ostracised in a place, which is less than 100 km from the seat of power.Victims of discrimination first tried to lodge a complaint at Nazeerabad police station, but were denied from doing so. Thereafter, they made a complaint on CM Helpline number in December 2015 and received a response almost a year after, in November 2016. “It all began in November 2015 when a few boys belonging to Ahirwar community were denied haircut by a local barber on the basis of caste. They were hurled abuses and were asked to leave the shop. This led to boys filing a complaint against discrimination on CM helpline number,” Jagannath Ahirwar, a local, said. Lal Singh, who lodged the complaint, told TOI, “In November 2016, we were called at AJK police station. Police called up the barber and asked him not to discriminate and asked him to give haircut whenever we visit his shop. He agreed and gave us a haircut the next day.” In December 2016, a panchayat was called at Naisamand for those living in Kanikhedi, Bandrua, Gujartodi, Monakund and other villages. The panchayat allegedly decreed that members of the Ahirwar community would not be allowed to enter any place where members of upper caste and other communities visit. From that time, the community is facing a stigma of social boycott. Dharmchand, an elder from the community, said, “This is an issue of untouchability. We are abused just because we belong to lower caste. Our children in schools are also not allowed to sit with children of upper castes.” “We have complained about the issue to collector and police. But nothing has been done. Who will protect us if something unpleasant happens,” Dharamchand said. Rekha Bai, a local said, “We are not allowed to go anywhere. We are confined to our houses and locality. We can’t even go to well to fetch water. It will be difficult to live if the discrimination does not end. …. (Times of India 30/1/17)

TRIBALS

13. . Naxals, Kerala group instigating Kodagu tribals to agitate (6)

BENGALURU: The ongoing tribal agitation against eviction from forest areas in Kodagu took an interesting turn on Friday with the Karnataka government suspecting the involvement of Naxals and cadres from a Kerala-based organization that has figured in several terror-related probes. Kodagu district in-charge minister M R Seetharam told reporters here on Friday that police reports clearly point to infiltration of Naxals into tribal pockets. Terror elements from Kerala too have joined them. These groups are instigating tribals in Kodagu district against moving out of the forests. The tribals are being provoked to reject the rehabilitation packages being rolled out by the state government.” In fact, the minister’s claim is in stark contrast to the government’s earlier stand that the tribals were being instigated by coffee estate owners who have encroached forest land. The tribal agitation at Diddahalli, in the Devamachchi reserve forest area (which comes in the buffer area of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve), has turned out to be a pain point for the government for the past couple of months, as the tribals have been stalling eviction. The bone of contention has been the numbers: While the government claims that only 199 families are eligible for rehabilitation, tribal activists peg the number at 572 families. The stand-off intensified two weeks ago when a video of a tribal woman running naked in Diddahalli, protesting against forcible eviction, went viral. The government reacted swiftly and convinced the protesters that a solution would be found within three months. Seetharam said: “How can the number of families that are eligible for rehabilitation shoot up suddenly from 199 to 572? We have been telling them to establish their credentials by furnishing an identity card, but not a single person has come forward so far. The tribal protests appear to be orchestrated by Naxals, including a few who surrendered to the government, stating that they are reformed. The tribals have been tutored to jeer at politicians and bureaucrats who come to hold discussions with them, this is not correct.”Quoting police reports, Seetharam said Kodagu will go the Chikkamagaluru way in becoming a breeding ground for Naxalism, if tribal agitation is allowed to continue. The minister said he would convene a meeting with tribal chiefs next week and decide on the number of people to be rehabilitated. He said the government has identified 30-32 acres of land at various places in the vicinity to rehabilitate the evicted tribals. He said the tribal group leaders, Muthamma and Appaji, have been granted land and they have no issues with the moves made by the government. (Times of India 1/1/16)

14.  20 more tribal youths chosen for India tour exchange programme (6)

DHANBAD: At least 20 tribal youths, including girls from Dhanbad district, left for an all India tour of the 9th Tribal Youth Exchange Programme (TYEP) 2016-17 on Monday. The programme is being organized by the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) and Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK). This is the second batch to go on such a tour under the exchange programme. “Creating awareness among the tribal population, especially youngsters, and to educate them on self-growth and development, are among the objectives behind organizing the tour. Interactions with other tribal groups, participation in different activities and visit to places of historical and religious value will broaden their horizon and help in the development of their knowledge,” said Pradeep Singh Kelley, commandant, 7th Battalion.He flagged off the second batch of the 8th Tribal Youth Exchange Program 2016 -17 for Pune. Kelley added that almost 70 tribal youths have to be sent by the end of the programme in the next 3-4 months. “Apart from the different cultural events and career counselling, national level seminars and a symposium will also be organized to help the natives mingle with other tribal youths,” Kelley said. The first batch of 20 youths, including 11 boys and 9 girls, were sent to Vadodra in Gujarat in December. (Times of India 3/1/17)

15.  Kodandaram for safeguarding rights of tribals (6)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana JAC Chairman, Prof. Kodandaram has said that tribals were hit hard with the new land acquisition law introduced by the Telangana Government and also the 123 GO through which it wanted to acquire lands for the irrigation projects. Speaking at a round table conference organised by the Telangana Girijana Joint Action Committee on Sunday, he appealed to the State Government to keep the interests of the tribals in view while taking formulating any new plans. He referred to various issues like enhancement of reservations to tribals as promised by the TRS party. The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president, N. Uttam Kumar Reddy reiterated the party’s support to the key demands of the tribals like recognising thandas as gram panchayats so that they can directly get funds from the Central Government under various schemes.Former Minister and Parliament member, D. Ravindra Naik demanded that the Chief Minister, K. Chandrashekar Rao implement all the promises he made for tribals during the Telangana agitation and also after coming to power. He said the CM failed to enhance reservations and after two years of coming to power was talking about studying its implementation in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Naik said tribals were being forcibly evicted from the forest lands though they were eligible for pattas in the name of improving green cover. Poverty and malnutrition were affecting thousands of tribals across the State but the Government was unmoved. He said a massive rally “Mahashankaravam” will be organised in April to press for their demands. CPI leader, Chada Venkata Reddy and others spoke. (The Hindu 9/1/17)

16. Dist. administration to tap pvt. funds for resettlement of tribals (6)

Kochi: The district administration has embarked on a comprehensive resettlement of landless tribal families while envisaging tapping of private investments over and above the funds available under the tribal development schemes of the government. The resettlement of 99 tribal families at Neriamangalam is but the first step towards the larger goal of the eventual resettlement of 223 landless tribal families identified by the office of the District Tribal Development Officer. “Apart from offering 10 cents each to 99 families, we have set apart 40 cents for future amenities like hospitals, anganwadis, play ground, and community hall. We also plan to leverage private investments like funds available under corporate social responsibility initiatives towards developing these amenities,” District Collector K. Mohammed Y. Safirulla said. The tribal population in the district is mostly focussed around Kuttampuzha in Neriamangalam block and Paravur, while the rest is scattered across the district. The district administration aims at completing allocation of land under the Tribal Resettlement and Development Mission by the end of January. Beneficiaries who were allotted plots based on draw of lots will be issued title deeds for the same plots, while a fresh draw of lots will be held to allocate plots to the remaining beneficiaries at the collectorate conference hall on January 31.The beneficiaries will be given ₹5,000 each as grant for erecting temporary huts. Besides, housing grants to the tune of ₹3.50 lakh each will be given against title deeds to those who want to construct houses. The construction wing of Kudumbasree has undertaken to complete the construction of 19 houses by the end of the month, while the construction of another 38 houses will be taken up immediately and completed in six months. The Public Works Department (PWD) and the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) will draw up estimates for road and water connectivity at the resettlement in the next couple of months. Mr. Safirulla had visited the resettlement site at Neriamangalam last week to supervise the preparatory works ahead of the allocation of plots. (10/1/17)

17. Abstain from poll, Maoists warn tribals (6)

MALKANGIRI:Ahead of the process of filing of nomination papers for the three-tier panchayat elections, the Maoists have warned the tribals of Malkangiri district to abstain from the poll. More than 500 tribal residents of Ralegada panchayat, on the other side of cut-off Chitrakonda reservoir, took out a protest rally and dared the Government to hold elections in the area. The villagers, under the aegis of  ‘Malkangiri Zilla Adivasi Rayat Kuli Sangha’, a frontal organisation of CPI (Maoist), organised a meeting at Ralegada panchayat, which was also attended by top Maoist leader Raman. Shouting slogans against the Government, they protested the BJD’s failure to provide basic needs to the villagers over the years. The Maoist-supported villagers declared to boycott the panchayat election over the issue. The panchayat is functioning at Sarkubandh community centre, about 15 km from Ralegada, and does not have its own building, the Maoist sympathisers said.  The villagers also criticised the Government for its failure to ensure pucca road, drinking water, facilities under public distribution system and extending other basic amenities to the people of the area. At the meeting, which continued for more than an hour, the rebel leaders have threatened that those who participate in the poll process will be punished in a Praja Court. The electorate have been threatened that their thumbs would be chopped off if they dare to go for voting.  Police seized hand-written Maoist posters in Kudumulugumma in which Malkangiri District Divisional Committee of Maoists has asked the people not to take part in the upcoming polls or even contest it. Malkangiri Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Rahul Dev said, “There is nothing new in the threat. The Maoists are used to issue such threats before elections. Police are prepared to foil their attempt of disrupting the polls.” (New Indian Express 11/1/17)

18. Tirkey’s tribal card vs BJD’s development in Birmitrapur (6)

ROURKELA: THE Zilla Parishad (ZP) election in Birmitrapur Assembly segment in the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district has become all the more interesting in the wake of the ruling BJD making all out efforts to decimate tribal strongman and three-time Birmitrapur MLA George Tirkey. Over the last few years, Tirkey has been hostile to the BJD Government and opposing all initiatives taken by it citing tribal land rights. The six ZP seats in Birmitrapur Assembly segment spread over Kuanrmunda, Nuagaon and Bisra blocks have 2,13,507 rural votes. Tirkey is a dominating force and all the three major parties __ BJD, Congress and BJP __ have a direct fight with Tirkey’s candidates. In the segment, Tirkey has three ZP seats, BJD has two and Congress  one. Political observers say the BJD’s success in the ZP poll would be key to removal of Tirkey in the 2019 Assembly poll. The BJD began preparations at least five years ago when it managed to clinch the 11-member Bimitrapur Municipality from Tirkey. In 2014 Assembly poll, Tirkey had retained Birmitrapur by garnering 46,114 votes, while BJP, JMM and BJD candidates had secured 34,167 and 27,849 and 25,158 votes respectively. Tirkey’s confidant Jagadish Agarwal said the ZP election would be fought under the banner of apolitical outfit Sundargarh Zilla Adivasi Mulwasi Bachao Manch (SZAMBM) with the preferable symbol of drum. The common slogan is ‘Party Chhodo. Mati Jodo’ (Leave party and connect to land). Tirkey exuded confidence to achieve a thumping victory in the six ZP seats. Tirkey, through SZAMBM, has been consistently opposing development projects and polarising tribal voters on the issue of protecting tribal land. But, the BJD, led by Rourkela Development Authority (RDA) Chairman and former BJD minister Sarada Prasad Nayak, is unfazed  and said the BJD’s agenda of development would defeat the divisive politics of Tirkey. The BJD is trying to vigorously penetrate into the stronghold of Tirkey through BJD MP and hockey icon Dilip Tirkey, a Catholic, Sports Minister Sudam Marandi, BJD general secretary Prashant Nanda and Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board Chairman Subash Singh. Despite the efforts, Tirkey could do the damage for the BJD as was evident from the result in the by-poll to Kuanrmunda-A ZP seat in September 2015.  Tirkey’s nominee had won comfortably despite an electrifying campaign by a galaxy of BJD ministers.Nayak said Tirkey’s agenda  has not benefited his constituency and the tribal voters are realising that they want development. The Birmitrapur segment, among other things, has seen rapid progress in rural connectivity, distribution of land records among tribals, implementation of social schemes and farm sector development under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He accused Tirkey of misleading the illiterate and gullible tribals for his own political survival. (New Indian Express 16/1/17)

19. Tripura tribal party forum to protest citizenship bill (6)

AGARTALA: Three major tribal political parties of the state launched a common platform, the All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPF), to fight for the protection of the rights of the indigenous people in the state. The formation of ATIRPF, with the coming together of the Indigenous People’s Front of Twipra (IPFT), the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and the National Conference of Tripura (NCT), is being seen as a significant move a year before the state assembly election. Tribals constitute 31% of the population, with 20 seats reserved for them in the 60-member assembly.”ATIRPF will work for the protection of the interests of the indigenous population of Tripura,” senior tribal leader and INPT president Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal said on Monday. The forum has initiated its first step of protest, calling a dawn-to-dusk bandh in the tribal areas autonomous district council on February 8 demanding revocation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Hrangkhwal added. “States in the northeast have long been suffering from the influx of illegal migrants from neighbouring countries,” the INPT president said, adding that the amendment bill was motivated by BJP’s vote bank politics and would only make way for illegal migrants to become Indian citizens. “This will marginalise and dispossess the indigenous people and the process of racial discrimination will continue in their own homeland. The provisions in the proposed bill violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination as well as Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution,” Hrangkhwal said. The ruling CPM, on the other hand, has criticised the forum and said it is aimed at destabilizing amity between the tribals and the non-tribals. Party secretary Bijan Dhar said, “We are also opposing the amendment bill because BJP wants to accumulate Hindu votes, which goes against the spirit of Indian Constitution. But calling a strike in Tripura ADC for this is not acceptable.” (Times of India 17/1/17)

20. Tribal life comes alive at Lalbagh (6)

BENGALURU: The 205th edition of Lalbagh Flower show has something special for the visitors. Artists under the leadership of Yasvanth Kumar, a city-based landscape specialist, have made a replica of the forest, which is drawing a lot of visitors.The presence of 10 tribals from Bedaguli forest, Chamarajnagar, makes the ‘forest area’ at Lalbagh even more attractive. The visitors can talk to these tribals and learn about their lifestyle in the forest. The creation is supported by the Forest Department. It has animal replicas, huts and vessels of tribals, tree house, etc. “While working on the design, we wanted to give a real idea of the forest life to the visitors. That’s why we also decided to invite tribals to the event,” said Yasvanth. However, most of the tribals who were invited for the event, were not very comfortable facing the crowd. For many of them, it was the first trip outside jungles. “The way of talking, dressing, gestures; every thing is different here. Initially, we were scared. Our people are not like this. We collect forest produce, sell them and lead a simple life,” said tribal Jagadappa. Group leader Shivanna said many in the group are scared to face the crowd, especially women and children. They have never been to a city before. “Forest gives everything to us. We don’t need to go out anywhere,” says another tribal Siddagowda. “Interaction with the tribals will break all stereotypes. People from cities treat tribals like aliens. They are humans like us and this flower show gave me a unique chance to talk to them and understand their life and behaviour,” said Suresh M N from Basavanagudi. Along with Yasvanth Kumar, Rishi Nursery and Nice Garden from the city made the creation possible. (The New Indian Express 21/1/2017)

21. Haran Shikari tribals likely to get caste certificates (6)

In a major step towards bringing the ‘denotified tribal community’ Haran Shikari into the mainstream, the Department of Tribal Studies of Hampi University has asked the Mandya district administration to consider issuing tribal caste certificates so that they get benefits of welfare schemes. Around 1,000 people from the 350-odd Haran Shikari families have been living in sheds/huts near KRS reservoir in the district for the last 60 years. They were denied of benefits of social welfare/development schemes owing to non-issuance of caste certificates by the authorities. None of the community members have studied beyond class 9 or joined government service as a caste certificate is mandatory to get admission to class 10 to write SSLC exam. Following a special report in The Hindu in 2015, the Social Welfare Department asked the Department of Tribal Studies (DTS) to conduct a study and submit a report, B. Malathi, District Social Welfare officer, told this correspondent on Sunday. According to Ms. Malathi, DTS professor K.M. Metri submitted a 10-page report recently, in which he states that the members of the nomadic tribal family living near KRS are entitled to caste certificates and benefits of development schemes. “We will soon take measures to provide caste certificate and benefits,” she said. Mr. Metri said over telephone that Haran Shikaris in Karnataka were also known by different names such as Pardhi, Phanse Pardhi, Raja Pardhi, Vaghri Pardhi, Thakanakari, Chigari Betageraru, Neera Shikari, Paschechari, and Advi Chincher. Those living in Mandya had migrated from Bagalkot years ago, he said. The report by DTS will help the Social Welfare Department to take steps to improve their living conditions, an officer of the department said. (The Hindu 23/1/17)

22. Displaced Diddalli tribals will get sites by month-ends, says DC (7)

MADIKERI: Tribals who are temporarily camping near Ashrama School in Diddalli after being evicted from forest areas, will get sites allotted before the month-end, Kodagu deputy commissioner Richard Vincent D’Souza said. He told TOI that 90% of record verification on proof of their origin is completed, and alternative sites identified. The verification process is continuing, and the correct number of beneficiaries will be finalized shortly. While 611 families have sought rehabilitation, a maximum number may get sites, while in some cases no records are given, he said. After 30×30 sqft sites are allocated to each identified family, they have to occupy those places immediately, and the government will take up building houses on those sites, he said. Meanwhile, Kodagu incharge minister M R Seetharam announced that in all, 24 acres of government land are reserved to be allotted to 531 tribal families. The identified land lies in three taluks of the district — 6.70 acres in Basavanahalli, 10 acres in Rampura in Somwarpet taluk and 7.5 acres in Kedamulluru village in Virajpet taluk. Somwarpet taluk panchayat members, at a recent meeting, unanimously opposed allotting land in their taluk for the Diddalli beneficiaries, as Diddalli belongs to Virajpet taluk. The members, headed by president Pushpa Rajesh and vice-president Abhimanyukumar, resolved to oppose allotting land for the tribals. They argued that 1,800 poor homeless persons in the taluk are on the waiting list for allotment of sites by the TP, and should get priority, the resolution says.Maldare panchayat member T R Satish said that Diddalli comes under the Maldare panchayat limits, but 680 poor persons who applied for sites are waiting since 2003. The Diddalli tribals who claim that they encroached land just seven months ago, want land on a permanent basis, he alleged. They have not submitted any applications to Maldare panchayat and did not follow any procedure, he added. The condition of tribals living in their temporary shelter is becoming complicated by the day. After the forest department evicted 577 families, they start living near Ashrama School. Locals and donors were helping provide food and other facilities. After the intervention of the social welfare ministry, Rs 1 crore was sanctioned for the food and other basic facilities in the temporary place. Temporary washrooms are provided, drinking water, sweaters for children, rugs and routine commodities are also being distributed. Due to the mess in this small place, diarrhoea affected 20 inmates who were treated in Siddapur and Madikeri hospitals. One person died after suffering a heart attack. .. (Times of India 24/1/17)

23. Activists, police spat over alleged sexual assault of two tribal girls (6)

NAGPUR: The alleged sexual assault by Maharashtra’s anti-Maoist unit C-60 commandos on two Chhattisgarh tribal girls in Gadchiroli district has resulted in a spat between the district police and some human rights activists. Two tribals girls were “detained” by a team of C-60 commandos on January 20 near Hiddur and Murewada forest after an encounter with the Maoists. According to the police, the girls were asked to stay with the police team at the night “because of security reasons” and were “released next morning”. However, the activists and their lawyer have alleged that the girls were “gang-raped” by the commandos. Tribal activists from Gadchiroli — Ramdas Jarate, and Sainu Gota and his wife Sheela Gota — also led a protest march in front of the Gatta police station over the allegation, after which the girls were brought to the district headquarters for a medical examination. According to Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhinav Deshmukh, the medical examination ruled out rape. The activists claimed that the girls were “untraceable” after the examination, and launched a social media campaign against the police. The police called the campaign “a handiwork of Maoist supporters and sympathisers”.The activists also moved a habeas corpus writ petition, to know the whereabouts of the girls, in the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court through advocate Nihal Singh Rathod, the director of the Nagpur chapter of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). However, policemen in plain clothes “barged into” Mr. Rathod’s office in Nagpur on Saturday and arrested Mr. Gota and his wife. The two girls were also found at the office and were “detained” by the police to record their statements. It claimed that the girls were “forcibly taken to Nagpur by Mr. Gota and his wife,” and a FIR was registered against them in the city’s Sitaburdi police station. The police also arrested Mr. Jarate and some other activists in Gadchiroli for “illegal assembly” in front of the station and “obstructing” the work of officials. Mr. Rathod has alleged that the police took away the girls “illegally” from his office. He moved a habeas corpus petition on Saturday evening, after which a special hearing took place in the chambers of High Court Justice B.P. Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi on Sunday.On the same day, the court ordered that the girls be handed over to Vanita Vikas Gruha (correction home) in Nagpur and produced before a regular court on Monday. It has also barred police from contacting the girls. (The Hindu 29/1/17)

WOMEN

24. Spurt in illegal sex-determination tests in UP, say Haryana govt officials (8)

GURUGRAM:  Haryana government officials have conducted as many as 74 inter-State raids over the past one-and-a-half-years, tracking leads in cases of illegal sex determination and female foeticide. Of these, the maximum (37 cases) were conducted in UP.The officials conceded that with increased enforcement in Haryana, touts were now taking pregnant women to ultrasound centres located outside the State, with UP turning out to be a haven. While touts in Haryana charge ₹35,000-₹30,000 for illegal sex-determination, the rates in Uttar Pradesh are as low as ₹10,000, said an official. Campaign project co-ordinator G.L. Singhal told The Hindu over telephone that government officials conducting raids in UP faced threats and even mobs. “The level of sensitisation in UP is not at par with Haryana. The police are not aware of provisions under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. Even senior officers are not aware of their powers. With a spurt in such cases in UP, we have held a couple of workshops in the State to create awareness,” said Mr. Singhal. Gurugram Drugs Control Officer Amandeep Chauhan, who has been part of a few raids in UP, claimed the team received little support from local officials. “During a raid at Aligarh, we found that the ultrasound centre was registered in the name of a doctor, but was being run by a quack. There are many such cases in UP. Also, the licence of the centre expired 10 months back,” said Mr. Chauhan.Raids have been conducted in UP’s Saharanpur, Shamli, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Aligarh, Bijnor, Bulandshahr and Baghpat over the past year. During a public meeting in Baghpat in December, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had criticised the UP government over the issue of sex-determination cases. He said Haryana government officers had exposed many cases in UP, adding that these would stop only when the State government showed some seriousness. Mr. Singhal said sex-determination and female foeticide was also thriving in Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan. (The Hindu 2/1/17)

25. Only 1 in 100 sexual assaults in Karnataka ends in conviction (8)

The new year’s eve sexual attacks against female revellers in Bengaluru may have generated nationwide outrage, but most such cases end up with no punishment: No more than one in 100 cases registered in Karnataka under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)–“Assault on women with intention to outrage her modesty–” ended in a conviction in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Nationwide, one in 10 such cases ended in conviction, 10 times better than Karnataka’s record. The outrage further grew after the video of a woman being groped and molested on a Bangalore street the same night went viral. In 2015, of 5,112 cases registered under Section 354, only 69 (1.3%) ended in conviction. Of the 9,118 persons arrested in these cases, only 107 (1.2%) were convicted.Across India, 82,422 cases of sexual assault were registered, of which 8,408 (10%) ended in conviction. Of 101,571 persons arrested for these attacks, 11,342 (11%) were convicted. While the number of cases under this section rose by 92% from 42,968 in 2011 to 82,422 in 2015, conviction rates declined from 16% in 2011 to 10% in 2015. Maharashtra reported the most sexual assaults (11,713), followed by Madhya Pradesh (8,049) and Uttar Pradesh (7,885) in 2015. The rise in cases registered can be correlated to the change in laws–which were tightened, possibly leading to higher reporting–after the 2012 gangrape of a physiotherapy student, now widely known as Nirbhaya, which sparked nationwide protests and outrage.In 2015, 8,685 cases were registered in India under Section 509 of the IPC–“Insult to modesty of women”, of which no more than 870 (10%) resulted in conviction, a drop of 33 percentage points from 43% conviction rate in 2011. Under this section, 9,870 were arrested across India, of which 1,108 were convicted (11%).In Karnataka, of 154 cases registered under Section 509 in 2015, no more than seven (5%) ended in a conviction. Of the 163 persons arrested in these cases, nine (6%) were convicted. (Business Standard 5/1/17)

26. Opposed to 33% reservation for women, Naga bodies call for boycott of civic polls (8)

 Guwahati: Election to the urban local bodies in Nagaland, including the Kohima Municipal Council, slated for February 1 is heading towards uncertainty with tribal bodies in the state including the Naga Hoho calling a boycott to oppose 33 per cent reservation for women. And as the process began on Tuesday, only a few nomination forms have been picked up. The tribal bodies including the Naga Hoho – the apex body or all 18 tribes of the hill state – have contended that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would infringe on Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India. The Naga Hoho has also warned the state government that it should not be later held responsible for any “adverse effect” in the future. The elections were notified on December 21 and the process for filing nominations has begun. Article 371(A) inserted in the Constitution when Nagaland state was created in 1963, provides “special provision” saying “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, (a) no Act of Parliament in respect of (i) religious or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, (iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.” The state government however has reiterated that 33 per cent reservation for women did not amount to infringing upon Naga customary law and tradition, because the very concept of urban bodies was new. “Towns and municipalities are ne concepts and have nothing to do with tradition and customary practices of the Nagas,” the state cabinet which met in Dimapur on Tuesday evening, said. The “process of election to the ULBs as notified should be completed,” a cabinet resolution said. Election to the urban local bodies including the Kohima Municipal Council has not been held since Articole 243(T) of the Constitution came into force in 1993, with constant opposition from the Naga Hoho and other tribal bodies. The Hoho and other bodies have recalled a resolution of the Nagaland state assembly of September 22, 2012, which too had opposed reservation for women in civic bodies. Though the Nagaland state Assembly does not have a single woman member, the government had in November 2015 introduced and passed Nagaland Municipal (Third Amendment) Bill 2016, which revoked the September 2012 resolution and set the ball rolling for women reservation in the civic bodies. While the Naga Hoho and other tribal bodies started opposing it, chief minister TR Zeliang said Article 243(T), which has been in force for over two decades, had not infringed upon any Naga tradition and customary law so far. … The Indian Express 5/1/17)

27. DCW notice to Delhi govt over state of beggar home (8)

NEW DELHI:  The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Thursday issued notices to the Delhi government’s Social Welfare Department and the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) after finding the home for female beggars in the Nirmal Chhaya complex in a “horrific” condition.DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal spent Wednesday night at the home, where she said she found 17 foreigners whose visas had expired. She said the foreigners had been facing racial discrimination, besides being made to eat unhygienic food. The women also faced human rights violations, with one of them alleging sexual assault by an FRRO official, said the DCW chief. “Beggar Home foreigners fed unhygienic food made by mentally challenged. Filthy toilets. Pregnant women denied treatment. Its horror house!” tweeted Ms. Maliwal on Thursday. The DCW has now issued notices to the Secretary of the Social Welfare Department and the FRRO, seeking a response within 72 hours. The Commission has also questioned why the foreign women were not provided access to their embassies. (The Hindu 6/1/17)

28. Chhattisgarh Police raped, assaulted 16 women, finds NHRC report (8)

Bastar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has prima facie found 16 women victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by the state police personnel in Chhattisgarh`s tribal Bastar region. The NHRC has issued showcause notices to the state government to explain as to why it should not recommend interim monetary relief of Rs. 37 lakh to them. According to NHRC release, the commission is still awaiting recorded statement of 20 other victims of sexual violence by the security personnel. The monetary relief proposed includes Rs. three lakh each to eight victims of rape, Rs. two lakh each to six victims of sexual assault and Rs. 50,000 each to two victims of physical assault. The NHRC has observed it is of the view that prima-facie human rights of the victims have been grossly violated by the security personnel in Chhattisgarh for which the state government is vicariously liable.The NHRC has initiated suo motu proceedings on the basis of news reports regarding the policemen raping women and indulging in loot in five villages of Pegdapalli, Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru besides sexually harassing and assaulting more than 40 of them in Bijapur district in January last year. (Zee News 8/1/17)

29. Sex ratio in Haryana touches 900-mark for first time in 20 years (8)

GURUGRAM:  Sex ratio at birth (SRB) in the State this past year touched the 900-mark for the first time in almost two decades. “The Prime Minister chose Haryana to launch the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign. The correction of sex ratio in the State was an uphill task, but we accepted the challenge. The SRB in December 2016 was 914. We have to achieve 950, for which we will need support from our neighbouring States. The good news is that Haryana has shown the way and taken the lead in correcting the sex ratio in the country,” said Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in a statement to The Hindu. This improvement was made possible due to effective implementation of the law against illegal sex determination and female foeticide.Convergence of all departments at the district-level, coupled with strong political will and co-ordinated efforts by all districts in the State, helped achieve this goal, said officials. “A special B3P cell was created by the Chief Minister’s Office to monitor the programme. Since convergence of many departments was required, besides the need to deal with the Attorney-General, due to which many cases went to the High Court, it was constantly monitored by the CMO. The Chief Minister held a video-conference with the Deputy Commissioners every month to monitor the progress. A social media group, moderated by the Additional Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, was created to share and exchange information. This forum enabled healthy competition between different districts and helped them learn from each other’s experiences,” said a senior official associated with the programme.As part of its strategy, the State initiated an aggressive drive against female foeticide by ensuring stringent implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, and the Medical Terminal of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. As a result, 391 first information reports were lodged in the State since May 2015 and more than 1,000 offenders arrested. Doctors, paramedics and quacks were found involved in the illegal practice. In a few cases, political leaders were also part of the unholy nexus, including a case each in Karnal and Hisar. The first positive result of the strict enforcement was visible in December 2015, when the SRB touched the 900-mark for the month for the first time. “The results were encouraging and reinforced what we were doing,” said the official. Sex selective abortions are mostly conducted in the fourth month of pregnancy. “We started out in a big way in May and started receiving positive results by December 2015 itself,” the official said…. (The Hindu 11/1/17)

30. ‘Dowry a menace, makes woman’s life hell’ (8)

New Delhi: Stating that dowry demands lead to situations where a woman is considered a “business venture from where profits can be yielded”, a court here sentenced a man to three years’ imprisonment for harassing his wife. The court also awarded one-year imprisonment to the brother-in-law and sister-in-law of the victim for the same offence. It also ordered a compensation of ₹4 lakh to the woman, out of which ₹2 lakh will be paid by the husband, while ₹1lakh each by the other two convicts. “Dowry is a social menace. Every newly married woman enters her matrimonial home with a lot of dreams, hopes and aspirations, but greed for dowry makes her life a living hell,’’ Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Shefali Barnala Tandon observed in her order.The court refused to grant the benefit of probation to the convicts, saying it was not a repetitive kind of offence and must be dealt seriously. According to the prosecution, the man, a resident of Rohini, had married the woman in November 1991, and soon after their marriage, he along with his family members started harassing her to bring more dowry. (The Hindu 13/1/17)

31. Bengaluru has just 606 women cops, Delhi 6,600 (8)

BENGALURU: Premier technology hub Bengaluru with a population about 1 crore has the lowest number of police women on the streets among big metros in the country, and at least two top cities have women cops 8-10 times that of the IT city, a home ministry report has said. The Bureau of Police Research and Development said Bengaluru has 606 policewomen in its jurisdiction, way below Delhi-NCR’s 6,615 and Mumbai’s 4,937 women cops. Pune, which like Bengaluru has a huge chunk of young working population, has 1,595 women cops. Hyderabad, another IT destination, has just 320 women cops. The statistics are part of the police research team’s 2016 report on `Data on Police Organisations in India’. Of the 606 women police personnel in Bengaluru, 502 are constables. Importance has not been given to wom en policing in the recent years and that is the reason behind skewed male-female ratio in the police force. Only verbal assurances have been made with regard to women’s safety in Bengaluru, and the top brass has been oblivious to the falling number of women personnel,” a former police commissioner said. Karnataka has also failed the national average when it comes to representation to women in the police force. While the national average of percentage of policewomen to the total strength force is 7.1, Karnataka clocked a tad lower at 6.14%.The state has 4,354 women in the civil police comprising 70,934 personnel.The 2016 report stresses the need to enlist more women police personnel. “Avail ability of adequate women in police is a possibility to reduce the vulnerability of women becoming victims of crime. If there is an overall shortage of women police personnel, then how can the country meet new challenges in form of increased crimes against women,” the report said. The role of women personnel is vital in handling agitations. “In a majority of the agitations, the policemen resort to highhanded tactics to disperse protesters, which includes women. This not only escalates violence at the spot, but sparks off an outrage on social media. The presence of women police officers eases the situation,” an officer explained. In 2015, Karnataka recorded 3,971 agitations: 1,263 were communal, 285 were student protests, 361were politically triggered and the rest related to labour and other issues. In more bad news, Karnataka has very few women police stations. While Karnataka has 20 women police stations, Tamil Nadu has 200. Home minister G Paramesh wara, who landed in a controversy following his recent comments on the western ways of women, said efforts were being made to increase the number of women in the police force. “We have issued instructions to increase the number of women in the force from the current 5% to 20%,” the minister said. The government is contemplating increasing reservation for women during recruitments from 20% to 33%. India is also witnessing a rise in the induction of women, recording an increase of 10.86% between 2011 and 2015. (Times of India 16/1/17)

32. Thousands gather for Women’s March on Washington (8)

Washington: Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on Saturday on the streets of the United States’ capital to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, which is expected to be one of the biggest demonstrations in US history. Organisers initially said they expected some 250,000 people to participate in defence of diversity, equality and women’s rights, which they said are under threat with the coming to power of new US President Donald Trump, EFE news reported. But that projection was doubled to as many as 500,000 people, according to organisers and authorities in the US capital. By mid-afternoon, organisers had decided the crowd was too big to formally march to the White House, although protesters were already on the move and speakers were still exhorting them to head toward the Ellipse. “They are going to tell the crowd they can go to the Ellipse if they want, but they are not doing the normal parade route, there is too many people,” The Washington Post quoted Chris Geldart, Director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency as saying. Similar scenes unfolded around the country. In Chicago, after a 150,000 demonstrators swamped downtown blocks, officials cancelled the march portion of the event. The Boston transit system added extra trains to accommodate tens of thousands of protesters there. Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, New York and Miami also drew big crowds. EFE observed that metro stations in the Washington metropolitan area were packed early Saturday with people heading for the march, which was promoted by Hollywood stars and other celebrities including Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry, Julianne Moore and America Ferrera. Ferrera, a Honduran native, was one of the first speakers at a rally point set up near the Capitol building, saying it was a sad time to be a woman and an immigrant in the US.”But the President is not America. His Cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay,” she said. … (Business Standard 22/1/17)

33. ‘Dowry deaths down, not number of victims of burn violence’ (8)

CHENNAI: Dowry deaths have come down, but not the number of victims of burn violence, said experts at a U.K.-backed Tamil Nadu State policy roundtable, which aimed at building holistic support for women survivors of burn violence. “Hospital data across Tamil Nadu shows that women are more affected by burns than men. There is also evidence of survivors or their families misrepresenting self-inflicted or homicidal burns as kitchen accidents,” said Prasanna Gettu, CEO, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) while addressing the gathering at Park Hyatt on Saturday. Ms. Prasanna added that every month around 150 women, victims of burn violence, come from across the State come to Kilpauk Medical College hospital, which the organisation also works with to provide psychosocial support to victims. “Medical practitioners develop a close rapport with survivors and have a clear understanding of family and incident history. But the medical records do not always reflect the violence involved,” she said. K. Radhakrishnan, Director General of Police (Civil Supplies CID), spoke about the heavy toll that burn victims, especially acid attack survivors, face after coming out of the hospital. “When a girl’s face and body gets disfigured because of burn injuries the suffering and stigma she faces in society is unbelievable. It’s everyone’s duty to create consciousness,” he said. Since the year 2012, as many as 300 burn violence survivors come and stay at the PCVC rehabilitation centre in Anna Nagar and 2000 have availed their services outside. The organisation is currently preparing a handbook on psychosocial needs for victims of burn violence. “The national burns programme of the Union government does not address their psychosocial needs, which is important,” said Ms. Prasanna. Swetha Shankar, manager, psychosocial intervention, PCVC, pointed out that economic independence was also a major need for the victims.  (The Hindu 23/1/17)

34. 56% girls in 15-19 age-group suffer from anaemia: Report (8)

The discrimination between a girl and boy child leads to greater neglect of girls leading to malnourishment and retardation of growth for female child, explained experts at the Jaipur-based IIHMR University. Experts and academicians from Jaipur-based IIHMR University revealed that as many as 56 per cent of the girls aged between 15-19 years suffer from anaemia, while child mortality (under 5 mortality rate) for boys is 60 per 1,000 births, whereas the child mortality for girls is higher at 69 per 1,000 births.Commenting on the National Girl Child Day, Goutam Sadhu, Dean Incharge, School of Rural Management, stated that some of the major inequities are primarily due to differential care among male and female child; gender inequality exists also due to sex selective abortions and neglecting the female child post birth thus putting them into the risk of malnourishment and retardation of growth. Quoting a report on Working Group on Child Rights for 12th Five Year Plan 2012-2017, he said, “The report highlights anaemia among the adolescents between the age group of 15-19 years. It is seen that only 30 per cent of the boys are anaemic, whereas, 56 per cent of the girls from the same age group suffer from anaemia. While one speaks on immunisation for girls and boys in the age group of 12-23 months, only 52 per cent girls are immunised whereas about 55 per cent boys are fully immunised.” Sadhu further pointed at discrimination among health priorities and treatment given to boys as against girls. There is an increase in government measures to secure the future and health of the girl child across the nation, but there still exist inequities in the growth and development of girl children. Quoting the National Family Health Survey-3, Sadhu revealed that 33 per cent of women who are married between the age of 15-49 years are too undernourished, while 58.7 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. Also, the girls who are less than 20 years of age are at 50 per cent more risk to deliver children who are undernourished and with lower weight at birth. Thus one needs to address many social indicators that can lead to the overall development of the status of the girl child such as reducing the gender gap and differentiation after birth. (Hindu Business Line 26.1.17)

35. Global movement against gender violence comes to city (8)

Bengaluru: One Billion Rising, a global movement in solidarity against exploitation of women, came to Bengaluru on Sunday. Organised by Swaraj Network, GATWU (Garment and Textile Workers’ Union), Amnesty International India, Alternative Law Forum, SICHREM, Samvada, #IWillGoOut (national network), Vimochana – Forum for Women’s Rights, Sangama and several other groups, the event consisted of discussions on public spaces, women-related schemes, poetry readings, dance, music and other forms of artistic expression. Some of the activities took place at Nayandahalli, Bhoo-pasandra and Halasuru before all the participants converged at Cubbon Park. “The One Billion Rising campaign has been happening since 2012 across the globe, and this year, given the spirit of resistance that Bengaluru’s citizens have shown after the sexual assault that happened on New Year’s Eve, we felt it was important to go to different communities to discuss these issues. Today is about celebration and resistance,” said Corinne Kumar, who is associated with Vimochana, one of the organisers of One Billion Rising. The event drew people from different walks of life who expressed their solidarity and support for the cause. Besides women’s exploitation, the campaign also spoke out against the ill treatment of farmers, the landless, Dalits, tribals, the disabled, the LGBTIQA community, women in unorganised sectors (sex workers, garment workers, domestic workers, construction workers, etc), ethnic and racial minorities and other marginalised groups. Christy Raj, a transman and organiser from Sangama, said, “We raised awareness on government schemes for women. I believe it’s important to be part of this movement against gender-based violence.” (Deccan Herald 30/1/17)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

36. 37 tribal children rescued from ‘unlicensed’ home (14)

PUDUCHERRY:  CWC Chairperson Vidyaa Ramkumar on Tuesday told The Hindu that they inspected the Banjara Gypsy Home in December after they received a tip-off and found that they were functioning without a licence. She noted that the Department of Social Welfare had conducted an inspection last February and instructed the staff to provide proper infrastructure and obtain a licence to run the home. The CWC inspection team, which was headed by her and consisted of members and probation officers, interacted with the staff and inmates (children) of the institution. During the interaction, they found that all the children were girls.The report submitted to the Department of Social Welfare after the inspection stated that the place was functioning as a guest house for foreign visitors before it was taken over by the management of the home. The Home continued to provide accommodation to such visitors and the girls were made to entertain them by dancing and singing. The children have also reported physical and mental abuse by some staff of the Home. The report also noted that the home was in a very remote place in Odiampet with no proper building infrastructure and in an unprotected environment. It was functioning without a license and without adhering to the juvenile justice laws. It also stated that the children were not allowed to use the toilets or bathrooms in the home as it was for the visitors. They were not trained to use western toilets and were forced to defecate in the open at neighbouring fields. “These fields attracted miscreants and also had snakes and poisonous insects. No proper food was given to the children and most them went hungry many a times. Food that was donated was not distributed to them,” the report said. It also added that on weekends, the children were made to collect firewood, which involved three to four hours of labour. “They were strictly asked not to wash their clothes during the week. The children were made to walk a far distance to school. And, some had only one uniform and were often made poked fun of by classmates. There were no proper roads and the streets had no lights,” the report said. “The watchman was reported to be in an inebriated condition often not in a position to render his duty. The children were not allowed to study in the rooms and instead were made to site in the corridor, which had minimum light. There were no female staff like a counsellor, warden or social worker to take good care of these children,” the CWC report recorded. …  (The Hindu 3/1/17)

37. 490 children out of school: survey (14)

Mumbai: The Right to Education Act mandates that a child must get admission in a neighbourhood school, one located within three kilometres of the house. The aim of the survey conducted on December 21 was to identify children who were not attending school, find out the problems they were facing and bring them back into the education system. Last year, a similar survey conducted in July found that 1,927 children were not attending school. Another survey to update the number will be conducted in February. The students, when tracked, would be enrolled in the middle of the term and are expected to cover the entire year’s syllabus. BMC’s Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, “As per the RTE provisions, a seven-year-old has to be enrolled only in a class suitable to his age, irrespective of whether he has studied in earlier classes or not. This means that even if he does not know anything, he would be enrolled.” Farida Lambay, founder trustee of Pratham, an organisation that works in the field of children’s education, said, “In 2005, we tracked 78, 000 out of school children. The BMC has come a long way since then.” She said that being in school did not necessarily mean that the child was doing well. “I recall during our earlier survey, that most children who begged on streets, attended school. They would go to school in the morning and then go out to beg for the rest of the day.” Ms. Lambay. feels the numbers do not necessarily reflect the ground situation. “Most teachers miss out on counting working children like those who sell goods in trains. Ideally, the attendance should be done at night after the children return home from work. We would place a tattoo on the children to prevent ourselves from counting them twice.” Mr. Palkar says they would ensure that they do not end up counting the same set of children in the subsequent round of survey as “they should be in school by then.” A teacher said, “Most of these migrant students are found in and around construction sites. Once the work wraps up, the children either shift to another construction site or return to their native villages. How are we supposed to track them? I really wonder if such surveys are really worth it?” In fact, it was to track these missing students that the State hit upon the idea to use Aadhaar cards for the purpose. With the help of the Aadhaar number, it is verfied are if the children have joined some other school within the State. As many poor students do not have proper address or valid documents, Aadhaar-tracking is not easy. The State is now working towards allotting a Aadhaar number to every student. Schools are now doubling up as Aadhaar enrollment centers. A teacher said, “We give their current address as their residential address and then we attest it to enroll them.” The State has put the onus on teachers to ensure that migrant children are not left out of school. A government circular has requested teachers to check if students could stay back with their grandparents or if hostel facilities could be arranged for them. Teachers have also been asked to arrange transportation facilities for students staying at a distance from schools. (The Hindu 4/1/17)

38. Over 400 kids rescued from brick kilns after Operation Smile raids (14)

HYDERABAD: In one of the biggest crackdowns on child labour, the Rachakonda police rescued 411 children, including 35 under the age of six, from brick kilns in 24 hours. So far, about 7,000 children have been rescued from brick kilns, bangle-making units and other hazardous occupations in the city and surrounding districts. Last year, 1,397 children were rescued as part of ‘Operation Smile’. The raids on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the police swooped down on brick kilns in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, were part of the same operation.Most of the rescued children had been trafficked or forced to migrate from tribal communities in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, and made to work under dangerous conditions, often without payment.Only about 10% of the workers in brick kilns across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are Telugus. “The middlemen supplying child labour to the brick industry pay their families in advance. Several of them migrate to Telangana on a seasonal basis between December and June. But often, after they migrate, they are forced to work with no option to quit,” child rights activist Kanchukatla Subhash explained. These children face sexual abuse as well, she said.As of now, the main cause for concern is rehabilitation of the rescued children, which is a tough task, considering the state has only five juvenile homes. Deputy commissioner of police Yadagiri, who led the rescue operation at 17 brick kilns on Wednesday , said a decision on the rehabilitation of the rescued children would be taken after officials from Odisha arrive. “For several years, we have been rescuing children and enrolling them in schools,” said Sunil Kumar, an activist from the NGO Child Rights and You (CRY). Several activists say how the child labour menace has only grown over the years due to the negligence of the authorities. “For 20 years, the government has allotted only around 3% for children’s education and 0.03% for child protection in the budget. Only if they allot more will the rehabilitation scenario change,” activist Murali Mohan said.The police have registered a case after the latest raids and are investigating the matter. They have identified Jawaharnagar, Bhavani Nagar, Chandrayangutta, Kanchanbagh, Kalapathar and Rein Bazaar in the Old City as child labour dens. (Times of India 5/1/17)

39. 199 minors still wait to go home (14)

HYDERABAD: Rachakonda police who rescued around 199 minors including girls who were employed at a brick kiln on the outskirts of the city on January 3 are yet to get clearance from the Odisha government for their journey back home. Most of the minors hail from Odisha. Incidentally, cops had on Friday night arrested 11 persons for employing the children at these kilns. They will soon be produced before a court for further action. “All the accused persons are owners of brick kilns in the Pedda Konduru and Chikatimamidi area. Initially, the owners had employed the parents of these kids but since there are no schools in the vicinity, the parents brought the children to work following which the minors too were employed,” said Rachakonda commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat. Around 155 of the children who were rescued are below 13 years of age and 35 between the age of 13 to 18. “We have contacted the women and child welfare department of Odisha. Now, they are contemplating whether to take the children back to their home state or leave them in the city,” Bhagwat said. All the children who were earlier sent to a government home, have been returned to their parents. “Labour department officials also accompanied us during the rescue conducted under ‘Operation Smile’. The labour department officials are of the view that it was best that the children stay with their parents instead of a home,” he added. In an earlier instance, police rescued 48 teenagers including 31 girls and 17 boys working as labourers at a sweet-making unit in Mailaradevapally area. (Times of India 8/1/17)

40. CRY: Soccer for child rights (14)

Child Rights and You (CRY), an NGO that believes in every child’s right to have a childhood — to live, to learn, grow and play —  have worked with parents and communities to ensure lasting change in the lives of underprivileged children, has kick- started a unique initiative recently. Titled ‘Soccer for Child Rights’, they had organised an exhibition match. Speaking at the event, Suma Ravi, regional director, CRY, said, “Soccer for Child Rights has proved to be more than just a football game. It has motivated children to aim higher by interacting with the top honchos from corporate. We have witnessed transformational change in children, who are inspired to finish schooling and take up challenges for a better future.” Kabali director, Pa Ranjith, who was the guest of honour, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to be a part of this initiative as investing in children’s rights remains imperative in the development of any country. I strongly believe that sport is a means of eliminating various barriers to unite the society for a cause.”  The exhibition match was played between the boys and girls team of CRY’s on ground-partner SCSTEDS (Slum Children Sports Talent Education Development Society). Soccer for Child Rights, which started in 2014, has been conceptualised as a platform for youth and corporate employees to draw inspiration from each other.The Slum Children Sports Talents Education Development Society along with CRY, aims to engage youth who can play an active role in addressing issues that impact children through sports. The project urges the youth in building their sporting potential, re-enrolling children back into school and monitoring malnutrition in the slum. “We work in very critical geographies, in some of the most remote areas in India. We mark places in India where children are most vulnerable and then we decide to work there,” said Suma Ravi. “I believe that sports and art can be used as a tool by the marginalised people to attain their rights and freedom, and this should reach the children of such communities for development. Youngsters are responsible for this change and they should make the maximum use of it,” said Pa Ranjith.  This year, the tournament is being held on the 21st and 22nd of January, where 27 corporate teams will compete with the SCSTEDS team. Over the years, SCSTEDS team has effectively used sports as a medium of empowerment for underprivileged children. Asian Age 12/1/17)

41. Over 20% kids in Rajasthan still out of school: Report (14)

JAIPUR: A high 33% of government-run schools in Rajasthan do not meet norms for student-pupil ratio set by Right to Education Act, 2009. Over 20% of children in the state fall in the out-of-school category. “There is no power supply in 60,000 schools and 23% of schools don’t have separate toilet for girls. State also shows snail’s pace in civil works,” says a report brought out jointly by NGOs Child Relief and You (CRY) and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, which analyzed the situation in 10 states of the country. The report also found high government spend on non-government schools – in UP for instance, half the school education budget of government feeds private schools.Speaking at a discussion on the aforesaid findings in Jaipur on Thursday, Ambarish Rai, convenor of Right to Education Forum said, “Years ago, when Gandhiji met leaders at Wardha, there was a proposal to utilise the tax from alcohol by funding education. Gandhiji rejected the proposal. Governments have always been pleading that they do not have funds for education. Nowhere in the world, however, has universalisation of education occurred without government funds. India cannot have aspirations to be a global player if it has a sick, poor and uneducated population. The government cannot wash its hands of education. There is an education cess – and this now constitutes about 65% of all government funding of education. This shows the priority of our government. Even Nepal spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than India. We are hearing talk of skilling and vocational education, and we witness shrinkage in research. These are dangerous trends.” Rai also commented on the reliability of data generated from government sources – the number of children out of school, he said, was 8.4 crore according to the Census of 2011. By 2013, it was shown to have reduced to 60 lakhs. “How is that possible?” he asked, adding that even if the number of children out of school is estimated to be 60 lakhs which is still a very high number. In Rajasthan, the government has set about shutting down a large number of schools at a time when there are over 20% of children out of school, writers of the report pointed out. Rai also spoke of constant reiteration of the need for information technology in education. “The output from offers like free laptops, for instance, remains not studied,” he said, adding that apart from “skills”, there is also a social purpose to education. “Children must learn of our great diversity. Education is a social concern that should help us in living in harmony with each other.” This goal, Rai said, is being lost in the din around making classrooms “smart”. (Times of India 13/1/17)

42. This man raped nearly 600 minors in past 13 years – Chilling details will make your blood boil

New Delhi: The 38-year-old serial child rapist, who was arrested from east Delhi for targeting minor girls, revealed some chilling details to police during an interrogation. Identified as Sunil Rastogi, the accused is a tailor by profession and hails from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. He came to Delhi in 1990 with his family and started assisting his father at a tailoring shop. In 2004, he and his family were thrashed by locals and were forced to leave Mayur Vihar after he had attempted to sexually assault a child from the locality he lived. Rastogi, who has five children, two of them girls, was also was jailed for six months in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, for a similar offence in 2006. In a startling revelation, the accused admitted having raped nearly 600 children, aged between seven and eleven years, in the past 13 years not only in Delhi but also in Ghaziabad and Rudrapur. A police officer revealed that the accused wore the same set of clothes — a red jacket that he considered lucky for him during the crime. The accused used to come from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi only on odd dates to commit the crime and travelled only on Sampark Kranti Express. He used to lure minor girls by offering them sweets, kidnap and take them to isolated locations, rape them and used to flee the city after the crime. He carried a list of girl schools in his pocket. He would follow a group for a short distance and then target a girl who would stray from others, a police officer told media. According to police, the paedophile was a repeat offender and used to travel to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh every fortnight. The accused told police that after he used to find his prey, mostly school-going girls, he used to mislead her on the pretext that her father had sent some clothes to give her and take her to an isolated place. In another shocking revelation, the accused confessed before the police to rape the minors he used to board a local morning train from Rampur to Ghaziabad. Meanwhile, police team is also trying to reach Rastogi’s daughter as they suspect him of raping them as well. (Zee News 16/1/17)

43. 40% of kids vulnerable: Ministry (14)

New Delhi: The Union ministry for women and child development on Monday shared data, which highlighted the extreme vulnerability of children across the country to sexual abuse. It also decided to set up a National Alliance Against Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The ministry held a day-long meeting to work out the modalities for the “National Alliance”. It will work to bring a common definition of child pornography, including amendment to laws (IT Act and POCSO Act). A secretariat will come up in MWCD with a portal and a hotline for reporting and strengthening service delivery systems. The ministry said Childline alone had received over 4,000 complaints of sexual abuse in eight months. Citing studies, it warned that nearly 40% of the child population in India was vulnerable to sexual abuse and that girls were the primary victims of sexual abuse on internet.Recognising that child sexual abuse needs urgent attention, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights last year launched the POCSO e-box to enable children to approach it by simply registering their email ID and contact number, along with the nature of their complaint. The e-box has received 157 complaints so far. NCPCR chief Stuti Kaicker told TOI, “The complaints are coming from different parts of the country and so far most of the cases pertain to children in the age-group of 12-16 years.” Between 2013 and 2016, DCPCR intervened and sought action taken reports in 356 cases of children who became victims of sexual assault in Delhi. A report by DCPCR in 2015 showed the average pendency of cases registered under POCSO Act in Delhi’s children’s courts during 2013-14 was as high as 85%. (Times of India 17/1/17)

44. Cops rescue 5 kids, arrest 2 suspects in new drive against child labour (14)

The social service branch of Mumbai crime branch has begun a drive to rescue child labourers working in the city illegally. In the past three days, the police have managed to rescue five children and have arrested two people. The children were rescued from Nagpada and Agripada, of which one was rescued from Agripada while the others were rescued from a leather bag shop at Nagpada. According to police, the rescued children were brought to Mumbai from various places like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Nepal to work in factories and shops. In a crackdown on child labour and human trafficking, the police along with other child protection activists from NGO Pratham had surveyed various places in Mumbai where children work. Places such as Dharavi, Madanpura, Shivaji Nagar, Agripada, Govandi, and Nagpada were surveyed. The police along with the NGO identified as many as 500 child labourers where they were forced to work under strict supervision. “It’s a continuous process and we keep raiding places along with Pratham and other NGOs to rescue minors. Three kids were brought from Nepal by their own father. The father is a child trafficker who brings kids from his hometown to work in Mumbai. We have arrested the manager of the leather bag shop in Nagpada, while the owner and father are at large.” said a crime branch officer. “The rescued children who have been rescued are below fourteen, they were working for more than 15 hours a day,” said Kishor Bhamare, Director, Pratham NGO. (DNA 20/1/2017)

45. 23% of child marriages in India happen in Karnataka: Panel (14)

Bengalaru: arnataka registers 23.2% of child marriages reported in the country, according to the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). The state is also among the top 10 in the country in reporting child marriages. Kripa Amar Alva, chairperson, KSCPCR, told reporters on Friday that the state had been either in the eighth or ninth position in the country with respect to child marriage, according to the National Health Mission. She added that child marriage was mostly prevalent in parts of North Karnataka with a majority cases reported from Dharwad, Belagavi, Bagalkot and the surrounding districts. The highest numbers are from Yadgir. She said the practice is prevalent in certain communities and added that a sizeable number of “Gujjar” marriages are also reported in the state.Explaining the practice of Gujjar marriages, she said, “Men from Gujarat and Rajasthan buy out young children by paying families Rs 10,000 in the name of marriage. They take them to their hometowns and abandon them. This could lead to more complicated issues such as trafficking and flesh trade.” Members of the commission added that teenage affairs leading to child marriage are on the rise. “There is a rise in youths eloping. Though parents are aware of it, they make no attempt to stop it fearing it might mar their image in society.” The Commission for Protection of Child Rights will launch a campaign to prevent child marriages at Vidhana Soudha on Saturday by chief minister Siddaramaiah.The commission is also launching a new website ‘Kare’ where complaints on a range of problems from education, visitation rights, child labour, ragging, corporal punishment and others can be filed. The platform serves as a connect between 10 departments including education, labour, women and child welfare and the department of health and family welfare. Complaints lodged on the website are channeled to the departments concerned. Alva said, “For instance, if someone lodges a complaint pertaining the education department, it would be sent to the DDPI. If it is unattended, the matter gets escalated to the DC.” (Deccan Herald 21/1/17)

46. Sexual abuse of minor girls on the rise in A.P. (14)

VIJAYAWADA:   “Out of 702 girls, 357 were rescued from child marriages, 135 from begging, 59 from sexual abuse and 13 girls working in various industries and establishments were saved,” said an officer.Even as the government was making laws to prevent abuse of minor girls, cases of their sexual harassment and assault were on the rise and more than 1,900 sexual assault cases were reported in Andhra Pradesh in the last three years. According to Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Department officials, as many as 1,927 sexual assault cases were reported and 628 cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, from 2014 to 2016. The WD&CW, in association with Labour, National Child Labour Project (NCLP), Police, Revenue and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) rescued 702 girls in raids during the same period in Krishna district. “Out of 702 girls, 357 were rescued from child marriages, 135 from begging, 59 from sexual abuse and 13 girls working in various industries and establishments were saved,” said an officer. Krishna District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman B. Nagesh Rao said 858 girls rescued were produced before the CWC by government departments in 2016. Of the total, 23 were from Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. “We restored 367 girls with their families and 491 victims were referred to various NGOs and institutions for providing education, care and protection,” Mr. Rao told The Hindu.Admitting that sexual exploitation of minor girls was increasing, he said that lack of parental care and the influence of some social media sites were the reasons for the increase. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

47. 80% cases of abducted children resolved in 2016 (14)

NASHIK: Around 80% of the children, who were reportedly abducted were either traced by the police or returned home by themselves in 2016. The figure shows a marginal drop from last year’, which was 88% .The police registered minors below 18 years of age, who went missing as abducted. Last year, the city police registered a total of 188 such kidnappings. Of these, 136 were girls and 52 were boys. By the end of the year, 107 girls were either traced or returned to their families and 43 of the 52 boys were also returned home. A senior police official said that cases of actual abductions were considerably lower. There are also many who registered a case of abduction of their concerned family member, but never turned up to tell the police whether the concerned member had returned home. Assistant commissioner of police Sachin Gore of the crime branch, said, “We held regular drives to trace those who were missing or abducted. Apart from the search operations undertaken across the district and informing the police of the neighbouring city or district about missing persons, we visit the residences of the complainants or call them on their cellphones to check whether the kidnapped person has returned home or if he/she is in contact with them.” The police also said that the maximum number of girls or boys who go missing are the ones in the age group of 13 years to 18 years. A few months ago, the police traced two abduction cases, which were pending since a long time. The police said that by the time, the concerned girls were traced they had turned over 18 years of age and had got married with the boy with whom they had eloped. Since the case of abduction with their boys was registered in the police station, the girls were either sent to the government hostel, while the boys had to be arrested. The officials said that they took an undertaking from the parents that they would do not do anything wrong to the parents. (Times of India 30/1/17)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

48. Mixed response to SC ban on caste politics (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: The CPM and BJP on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court ruling that barred politicians from seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or creed, but the IUML seemed concerned. In his Facebook post, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the “progressive and timely” ruling should be implemented in its true spirit. “The elections should be a secular process. Religion cannot interfere in governance,” he said, adding that, of late, there was an increased interference of religion in politics.BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan termed the ruling “a warning to both the Left and Right fronts who play politics of appeasement. Taking religion/caste as a criterion for finalizing candidates should be stopped,” he said. The IUML, however, raised concern whether the ruling allowed the use of Hindutva. The party’s state general secretary KPA Majeed said the ruling seemed to be a continuation of an earlier order, which observed that Hindutva was a way of life.”The court is silent about its earlier observation that Hindutva is a way of life,” he said. “We have concerns whether the judgment would allow the BJP to raise its Hindutva agenda during elections and restrict parties highlighting the issues of the marginalized sections.” (Times of India 2/1/17)

49. Timely judgment to firm up secular ethos (7)

A constitution bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur passed a landmark judgment on Monday and ruled that seeking votes in elections in the name of religion, caste, race or language would constitute a corrupt practice. The significance of the judgment, which came a day before the superannuation of Mr Thakur, cannot be lost sight of. The constitution bench was revisiting earlier judgments in respect of elections and the misuse of religion (and other social factors, invoking which can be divisive), including one of 1995, in which the then CJI, Justice J.S. Verma had equated “Hindutva” with “Hinduism” and called it a “way of life”, implying that reference to it cannot sully an election. The Monday judgment was on petitions challenging the 1995 position. In that sense, it acquires special meaning since votaries of the political philosophy of “Hindutva” had assumed that appeal to voters in the name of this political creed would not attract a penalty under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act as only a “way of life” was implied and not political communalism. The judgment was passed 4:3. It is true, as the dissenting judges have argued, that for seven decades India has run as a secular state and invocation of religion or particular castes has not played a noteworthy role in elections and, as such, there was no need to amplify the meaning or interpretation of Article 123 of the RPA. However, the minority section of the constitution bench appears to have failed to appreciate the confusion created by the 1995 verdict equating “Hindutva” with “a way of life”. Since the constitution bench led by the CJI was looking at the matter with that point of reference, imagine the malign impact (on the eve of crucial polls in Uttar Pradesh and four other states) if the verdict had kept silent on invoking “Hindutva” or “Hinduism” in the forthcoming election campaign or, worse, implied that this was non-prejudicial and kosher. Seen in this perspective, the majority led by the CJI was not over-reaching and seeking to embark on a course of legislation by the judiciary. Given the country’s bewildering diversities, Indian democracy is a complex project, which has been fairly successful and has been guided by the genius of its people. But the risk of majoritarian tendencies taking hold politically and socially, with the inevitability of this impacting the election process, needs to be guarded against. Already there have been periods when the risk of religion and caste casting a shadow on the poll process has seemed high. The Monday judgment can be framed in this broad context. The judicial relief would help to strengthen the faith of our minorities in our election process. (Asian Age 4/1/17)

50. Centre forms panels to set up five universities for minorities (7)

NEW DELHI: With state polls around, the Centre in an apparent move to showcase its inclusive agenda has formed two panels to look into modalities of setting up five universities for minorities and offer grant-in-aid to madarsas offering mainstream education. Former bureaucrat Afzal Amanullah is the convenor of the 10-member panel, which will submit its report to the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) in two months’ time. The MAEF is an agency affiliated to the Minority Affairs Ministry. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Vice Chancellor Lt General Zameeruddin Shah, Jamia Milia Islamia University Professor Talat Ahmed, ex-Calicut varsity V-C Padmashri Iqbal Hasnain and former Parliamentarian Shahid Siddiqui are prominent members of the panel. The MAEF secretary D Madhukar Naik is the member secretary of the panel. “The Centre is keen to set up the universities to empower minorities educationally. They will have world class institutions to impart education in medical, skill development and other areas. The panel has to lay down the roadmap for the formation of the universities,” said a senior official, who added that the panel has also to offer suggestions to the government in identifying places where the campuses of the varsities will be set up. The panel has also been given the mandate if such varsities should have the minority tag attached to them, added the official. The Ministry of Minority Affairs is looking for around 100 acres of land for each of the varsities, which will impart education in Ayurved, Unani medical education, skill development. “Haryana and Rajasthan have already shown interest to host the campuses,” said the official, while adding that Banker Udayan Bose, educationists Feroze Bakht Ahmed and Qamar Agha and social activist Kulsoom Noor Saifullah are the other members of the panel. (New Indian Express 8/1/17)

51. Ready fund proposals for minority welfare: KCR tells officials (7)

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao today asked officials to prepare proposals for funds to be allocated for minority welfare in the ensuing annual state budget. Rao, who held a review with officials on the welfare of minorities, said the residential schools for minorities should be increased as per need, a release from his office stated. “He (Rao) wanted the district collectors to monitor implementation of minority welfare programmes and suggested that regular health check-ups should be held in the schools. “He also asked the officials to prepare proposals to encourage minorities in the field of information technology and industrial sector,” it said. (Business Standard 11/1/17)

52. Another suspected mastermind in Bangladesh attack arrested (7)

New Delhi: Counterterrorism police in Bangladesh have arrested another suspected mastermind of a July attack on a restaurant in the capital, officials said. The suspect, Jahangir Alam, was picked up on Friday night in a raid in Tangail district, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, said Monirul Islam, head of the Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. Details of the arrest procedures were not clear. The July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, a popular restaurant frequented by foreigners and wealthy Bangladeshis, left 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, dead. Five young men belonging to the domestic militant group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, stormed the restaurant, sprayed bullets and threw grenades, and slaughtered the hostages.The attack by the group, which is thought to be inspired by Islamic State militants, demonstrated the rising threat of radical Islam in the South Asian country governed by largely secular laws. IS claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied that the Sunni extremist group has any presence in the country. Since the July assault, authorities have reinforced a crackdown on militants and killed about 40 suspects, including what they say were other masterminds of the restaurant attack. No major attacks have been reported since July, with authorities claiming success in their drive against hard liners. The restaurant killings followed several years of smaller attacks targeting scores of individuals considered by militants as enemies of radical ideology, including atheists, writers, bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners. The 35-year-old Alam, who also used other names including Rajib and Gandhi, was wanted by police who considered him one of the planners of the attack. Police said Alam had a close connection with Tamim Chowdhury, a Canadian of Bangladesh origin, who was also killed in August in a raid near Dhaka. Police said Chowdhury was the main planner of the group. On January 6, Nurul Islam Marzan, another top suspect in the restaurant attack, was killed in a police raid in Dhaka. Islam said they would interrogate Alam, and a magistrate in Dhaka granted police eight days to keep him for questioning. On Tuesday, the owners of the Holey Artisan Bakery, which had been taped off by police since July, reopened in a different place. (The Indian Express 15/1/17)

53. Cops try to win over minorities, dalits with chai (7)

AHMEDABAD: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his ‘chai pe charcha’ programme to reach out to the masses ahead of the 2014 general election, city police have have also brought out the ‘cutting chai’ as a public relations tool this winter, to break the ice with minorities and dalits and build bridges that were largely burned after the 2002 riots. ‘Paidal Charcha’, the city police initiative that is informally known as ‘chai pe charcha’, was rolled out last week. Police personnel went out to make contact with minorities, dalits and people in OBC dominated areas on foot, and discussed local issues while sipping hot tea along with them. Senior police officials said the initiative will make cops connect with locals, earn their trust, and get tip-offs on illegal activities in a particular area. Joint commissioner of police, sector 1, Piyush Patel, said the aim of ‘chai pe charcha’ is to build bridges between various communities and castes and instil a sense of trust and confidence in the police department. “The initiative, taken up with the help of an NGO, will be a monthly affair now. The cops, led by the police inspector of the area, will reach out to locals, especially women, to understand their issues, domestic troubles and grievances against cops,” added Patel. Most recently, the cops held such meetings with residents of Gomtipur, Shahpur, Karanj and Gaekwad Haveli areas of the city. Social worker Nilofer Mansuri of Jamalpur, who also remains present with the cops during these meetings, said they are focusing on women’s issues, like their domestic problems and eve teasing. “We are also addressing livelihood issues. This initiative has generated so much confidence in the women that they are coming forward to complain about the nuisances in their areas,” added Mansuri. “On Sunday night, police inspector of Gaekwad Haveli police station Jignesh Rathwa and his team came to our area. There were about 35 women, who are involved in rolling chapattis, who spoke of the difficulties they face in earning their living. Rathwa assured them that he would connect them with the self help group (SHG) run by railways, to help them get regular business as vendors,” Mansuri said. (Times of India 17/1/17)

54. After Jan 25, Minorities Commission will be left with just 2 members (7)

New Delhi: The strength of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) will be reduced to just two as against the mandated seven after one more member completes his tenure next week, raising questions over its potential to do justice. Captain Praveen Davar, appointed as a member during the Congress-led UPA-II government, will completes his three-year term on January 25. Four other members had retired between September 9, 2015 and December 1, 2016.The Commission will now be left with a strength of two –chairman Naseem Ahmad and member Dadi E Mistry. Ahmad and Mistry will complete their tenures by March 3 and March 9 this year, respectively. Asked whether the workload has increased with so many posts remaining vacant, Davar said, “The workload has definitely increased. When commitment is there, the efficiency doesn’t go down. But yes, if the full strength is there, the efficiency increases. We can manage work with even five members. But with the strength coming down to three, we can’t do justice as required.” Davar is at present handling flow of complaints from 20 states, besides those from the Union Territory (UT) of Delhi. Ahmad is dealing with grievances coming from five states and two UTs, while Mistry has been allotted three states and as many UTs. “When the Commission’s strength is full, a member handles six-seven states/UTs each… After one of the members, Mabel Rebello’s departure in December last, Davar is left with the job of looking into complaints from 20 states,” a source said. “Ideally, the chairperson does not deal with complaints from states directly. Now, the chairman too has allotted himself a set of states. In such a case, it has become difficult to do justice to the complaints which are piling up,” the source said. Sources said the Commission has handled around 1,500 grievances this financial year. According to a January 17 statement issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the NCM had received 1,288 petitions between April and December 2016. Another flip side of not filling up vacant posts, the sources said, is that the new members will be totally at sea if there are no experienced colleagues around to guide them in the Commission. It takes at least six months to understand functioning of the system. The Ministry of Minority Affairs must take steps and appoint members to Commission, they demanded. The Union government had set up NCM under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis). The Commission has seven members, including its chairperson and vice-chairperson. Further in January 2014, Jain community was also notified as a minority community. Besides NCM, 15 states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam, which are home to sizeable minority populace, have set up commissions at their respective levels. Aggrieved persons belonging to the communities may approach the state minorities commissions concerned for redressal of their grievances or send their representations to NCM after exhausting all remedies available to them. The functions of the state commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures. (The Indian Express 22/1/17)

55. Five Sikhs inducted into US army with religious accommodation (7)

Washington: Five Sikhs have been granted approval to serve in the US army with their religious insignia intact, days after the army issued a new regulation under which servicemen who wear turbans, hijabs or beards can be enrolled in the military. This is the largest induction of Sikhs into the US armed forces after the Department of Defense banned visible articles of faith in 1981. The new rules made public on January 4, eliminate bureaucratic hurdles that had previously discriminated against Sikhs. The new set of rules, issued by Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, allows religious accommodations to be approved at the brigade-level. Previously it was at the level of Secretary. “After a 35-year presumptive ban on observant Sikhs, our nation’s largest employer has taken a vital step in embracing policies that reflect the rich diversity of our nation,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “We look forward to permanent policy change across all branches of the military so that all religious minorities can freely serve without exception,” she said. Private Shabaddeep Singh Jammu, an Infantry Recruit who was born and raised in Elk Grove, California, vowed to follow a path of service after tragically losing his brother in 2013. “The ability to serve my country and faith has been a lifelong goal. I’m now honoring my brother while pursuing a career that serves our nation without compromising my beliefs,” he said. According to Sikh Coalition, the religious accommodations bring the new total to at least 14 Sikh American soldiers now serving with their religious articles of faith in the US Army. Under the previous policy, these accommodations involved a burdensome case-by-case process, were brought up the chain of command to the secretary-level, and were subject to annual review and revocation. Now, they can be granted at the brigade-level and can only be revoked if the Army identifies a specific, concrete hazard. This policy does not apply to the other branches of the US military. The Sikh Coalition and McDermott Will & Emery have led advocacy efforts to end religious discrimination in the US military since 2009.In the last year, the Truman National Security Project has also been an instrumental partner on this campaign, adding critical government connections and policy expertise, a media release said. (Hindustan Times 24/1/17)

56. Telangana’s Republic Day gift to minorities: Reservations & special IT zone (7)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana government is committed to providing reservations to Scheduled Tribes and Muslims in proportion to their population, Governor ESL Narasimhan said on Thursday . Speaking at the Republic Day celebrations at Parade Grounds in Secunderabad, the governor said that in addition to several welfare measures for minorities, the government will soon launch an Information Technology Special Economic Zone in Hyderabad exclusively for the minority industrialists. He said the government launched a series of flagship programmes in the state that have been praised at the national level by several other states and the Niti Ayog.The governor made special mention of Missions Kakatiya and Bhagiratha, which have been designed to revive more than 40,000 lakes and tanks in the state and the other aimed at delivering safe drinking water to every household in 25,000 habitations in the state. He said Mission Bhagiratha was the first of its kind programme in the country that will deliver drinking water to the targeted households by the end of next year. Telangana, the governor said, has emerged a role model for the country with such programmes. An impressive march past was held at the venue with contingents from the 18 Dogra Regiment (76 Infantry Bridage), 6 Jak Li (47 Infantry Brigade), Indian Air Force, 4th Battalion Telangana State Police, Odisha State Police, Telangana State Special Protection Force, NCC boys and NCC girls, among others. The event was attended by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and several other dignitaries. (Times of India 27/1/17)

57. Rich and privileged the only minority in India: Javed Akhtar (7)

Kolkata, Jan 27, 2017 (PTI) Celebrated script writer-poet Javed Akhtar today said the rich and the “privileged” were “the only minority” in the country and they were the ones who ruled it. “This country is ruled by a minority, a very miniscule minority and they are the privileged rich class. They are the rulers,” Akhtar said while speaking at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here. Akhtar, who was speaking on the topic Acts of Faith, said that 58 per cent of the wealth in the country was owned by one percent of its people while the majority mass remained deprived of it. “The rich and the privileged dont want to establish that the society is divided horizontally because they need to make sure that the rich and poor Hindus are one side and likewise with the Muslims. It is the privileged who see to it that the society is constantly divided vertically,” he said. “For the rulers, division should be ensured between communities and not the rich and poor. The only crime in this country is to be poor,” Akhtar said. Even a rich and influential Muslim can get away with murder, he said, adding it would happen because he is a “privileged person”.”I dont want to name people. If you are rich, whether a Hindu or a Muslim, one can get away with murder as the person is priviledged,” he said. “We should become secular because for that is a matter of survival not because we are good people,” he added. Referring to the condition of Muslims in the country, Akhtar said India had “strange relationship” with its minorities which he “cannot understand”.”Out of 53 so-called Islamic countries, 49 countries do not have the kind of laws that we have in India. There is the Muslim Personal Law, which does not exist either in Pakistan or Bangladesh. The teen talaq (triple talaq) is not allowed in most Muslim-majority countries,” Akhtar said. “A woman is not a minority and not an Indian. She is only the property of a Muslim who is an Indian citizen. She is a thing,” he said. (India Today 28/1/17)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

58. Muslims ask govt to clarify stand on quota (7)

Aurangabad: Muslim organizations on Tuesday said that the BJP-led government in Maharashtra should clear its stand on reservation for its community members. Stating that the government has already cleared its stand on reservation for the Marathas considering political equations, the organizations alleged that ruling parties were deliberately silent on the demand for reservation to Muslims. To press its demand for 15% reservation in jobs and education, Muslim organizations have announced a silent march in the city on January 6. Addressing media persons here, Shaikh Masood, one of the organizers of the proposed rally, said various panels constituted by the government have recommended quota for Muslims, besides other benefits. The proposed silent march is part of a series of protests aimed at building pressure on the government for conceding to the demands, he said. The organizers said, barring Shiv Sena, all political parties and different social and non-profit Muslim organizations have extended their support to the rally. The Marathas, OBCs, SCs and STs have no qualms about Muslims getting special quota. We seek 15% reservation without disturbing the existing structure of social reservation, they said. Listing out the major other demands, Abubakar Rahbar, one of the organisers said, the government should not enforce uniform civil code on Muslims and it should protect the waqf properties. We also demand compensation to Muslims acquitted from terror charges, he said. The Muslim organisations have also condemned the practice of banning Muslim personalities. The rally is supposed to start from Aamkhas Maidan at 3pm and conclude at the office of the Aurangabad divisional commissioner. (Times of India 3/1/17)

59. UP assembly polls: BSP nominates 97 Muslim candidates, its highest ever (7)

Lucknow: BSP chief Mayawati on Tuesday announced that her party will field 97 Muslims (a dozen more than in 2012 and the highest ever in its history) along with 113 candidates from upper castes, 106 candidates from backward castes and 87 Dalits in the upcoming Assembly elections, stressing that her party was not partial to scheduled castes, but was open to all sections of society. Reiterating that BSP will have no electoral alliance or understanding with any other party, Mayawati said she will release the names of the candidates once the election dates are announced. “Only those who are weak need alliances. BSP sees the possibility of forming its absolute majority government,” said the former chief minister. Stating that the Samajwadi Party’s Yadav vote base had been divided between Shivpal and Akhilesh camps, she iterated that Muslims should not waste their votes on SP or Congress, adding that the latter was on “oxygen support” in UP. She said the split in Muslim votes will “only benefit the BJP” and that is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention the Yadav family feud during his rally in Lucknow on Monday. “SP’s Yadav vote bank is only 5 to 6 per cent and it plays a decisive role only on 60 to 70 seats. The Dalits have their votes in all 403 Assembly seats and in every seat their numbers are not less than 50,000. In some seats it is even 1 lakh. BSP is getting the votes of Dalits who are 22 per cent overall. In Muslim-dominated areas, votes of only Muslims and Dalits will lead BSP candidate to victory if the minority community’s votes are not split,” she said. In reply to a question about the Supreme Court banning the use of caste or religion to seek votes, she said she welcomed the apex court’s decision. With a marked difference in her party’s strategy of weaving winnable caste combinations, Mayawati has reduced the number of Brahmin candidates from 74 in 2012 to 66 this time. The number of backward caste candidates has also been reduced from 113 in 2012 to 106. The party has chosen 36 “Kshatriya” candidates, three more than last time, and 11 candidates belong to “Kayastha, Vaishya and Punjabi” castes. Launching another attack on the BJP, Mayawati claimed that the prime minister had realised that BJP was not going to win the elections, and hence had said that “this election is not about victory or defeat but about responsibility”. “What responsibility is he talking about? His government has not fulfilled even one-fourth of promises he made in the Lok Sabha elections. He is asking his party workers for responsibility, but he should also think how responsible he himself is,” she said. ….  (The Indian Express 4/1/17)

60. Lakhs participate in Muslim silent march (7)

AURANGABAD: Lakhs of people joined the Muslim silent march in the city on Friday with the participants, including representatives from the Marathas and the Dalits, demanding reservation for the community. A large number of women from different age groups also participated in the march, which started from the Aam-Khas grounds amidst tight police bandobast. According to an estimate by the police, the turnout was being dubbed as the largest-ever in the history of Aurangabad. The Muslim pockets of the city wore a deserted look as shopkeepers downed their shutters to participate in the march. Several school and college students also reached the venue to attend the rally. All the mosques in the city rescheduled their Friday prayer timings to 1pm and 1.15pm to facilitate those participating in the procession. The representatives of Sakal Maratha Samaj along with the members of Dalit communities also helped the volunteers in distributing water and snacks among those participating in the march. Traffic across the city was diverted, including the ones from Delhi Gate area, collector office, Fazilpura, Khas Gate, City Chowk, Buddhilane and Bhadkal Gate, to accommodate the huge crowd that occupied the entire stretch between Bhadkal Gate and district collectorate office apart from the two Aam-Khas grounds. Aurangabad commissioner of police Amitesh Kumar said, “Handling of such large-scale gatherings is always an uphill task. Our men with cooperation from the public managed to maintain peace and conduct things successfully.” As a precautionary measure, several companies of the state reserve police force were kept on standby at the venue. People from neighbouring tehsils of Paithan, Gangapur, Vaijapur, Sillod, Kannad, Soyegaon and Khultabad reached the city in huge numbers. A 14-page memorandum was handed over to the divisional commissionorate, demanding that Muslims should get a chance to stand in the elections in proportion to their population. Implementation of Justice Rajender Sacchar Committee in letter and spirit and also the improvement in the quality of health, education and civic infrastructure and amenities including drinking water in the Muslim-dominated areas were some of their other demands. The memorandum insisted on increasing the number and standard of government-run schools in the areas inhabited by the minority community. It demanded the implementation of the recommendations made by several committees including Justice Rangnath Mishra Ayog, Mehmud-Ur-Rehman Committee, Kakasaheb Kalelkar Committee, VP Mandal Ayog, Gopalsingh Ayog and the survey by the Asian Development Institute. The memorandum detailed about the discrimination done while giving reservation to people from the community. Citing an example, it pointed out that the members of Beldar community are included in the category of OBC, while the others from the same community have been included under NT/VJNT category. Similarly, butchers from Muslim community have been included in OBC, while the others from the same community are included under Scheduled Tribe category. It also demanded harsher punishments to those involved in anti-national and anti-social activities, but requested that Muslims should not be singled out or falsely labelled as anti-nationals. (Times of India 8/1/17)

61. ‘Muslim women face discrimination in government-run healthcare institutions’ (7)

Mumbai: When Behrampada resident Ruhi Fatema (30) delivered her first baby in Bandra West-based government hospital in December 2016, she was shocked when the gynaecologist slapped her during labour pain. No curtains were drawn to offer her privacy, instead she found ayahs ‘pointedly rude’. She says later, when other women who came to see her newborn shared similar experiences, she realised such behaviour was common towards Muslims. “It was humiliating,” she sums up.Two reports, one commissioned by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and second a study by NGO Cehat, have found similar discrimination against women of marginalised community in government healthcare institutions. The Multifactorial development of Muslims report commissioned by the state was prepared by Research Centre for Women Studies, SNDT, after interviewing close to 250 Muslim families and married women in Mumbai slums, where 77 per cent were found to have access government hospitals. The report found that Muslim women felt they were treated badly because they are Muslims, and are at the receiving end of abuses. “Government does not discriminate. But those implementing the services have bias against this community. It is not just hospitals, educational institutes too were found to discriminate against Muslims,” said Parul Khanpada, a member of the research team, adding that women were humiliated most during registration of their newborns, when they are “often taunted for birthing several children”. A similar report from NGO Cehat, which interviewed 85 slum women — 44 Muslims and 41 non-Muslims — observed that there is a triple burden of “being poor, female and Muslim” when it comes to access to healthcare facilities for these women. “Women are made to take off the burqa at gate of the hospital as there have been incidents of children being stolen,” the study said, further adding they were “embarrassed and humiliated by derogatory labels”. Munni, a Kurla resident, decided to give birth to her fourth child at home, fearing she would be taunted by the staff in nearby BMC-run hospitals. She paid Rs 300 to a midwife. “It is less stressful at home,” she said. According to social activist Subarna Ghosh, in a recent programme in Govandi slums, Muslim women echoed their embarrassment on treatment at public hospitals. “Child birth is the most emotional moment for a mother. Muslims are often ridiculed, more than Hindu women,” Ghosh said. Hasina Khan, attached with Bebaak Collective, said these issues have been raised with the state minority commission, but no action has been taken. “In Muslim ghettos, availability of government’s specialised healthcare is missing. Mumbra has no government hospitals, just a maternity home,” she said. Several Muslim women, she adds, have started visiting private practitioners to avoid humiliation. In Bandra East, Reshma Shaikh (34) had visited a BMC-run hospital in 2007 for her third delivery. “I had partial paralysis on my face. I was screaming because of pain, and the lady doctor slapped me on my cheek. I could not tell my family until I was discharged,” she said. Shaikh’s face remained swollen for a week. She claims that the foetus’s heart rate was irregular and she was scared for her baby’s survival, which is why she decided to avoid any complaint against the doctor. Her husband is a taxi driver. After the episode, she visited private clinics for treatment but soon switched back to BMC hospital due to lack of finances. “The general perception of Muslim women in government hospitals is that they give birth to multiple children, are uneducated and use the burqa to steal kids,” Khatoon Shaikh, founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said. According to Dr Padmaja Mavani, professor of obstetrics department at KEM hospital, “There is a strong need of sensitisation, specially amongst trainee doctors” to improve doctor-patient relationship. The Director of medical education, Dr Pravin Shingare, however, claimed that inculcating ethical practices in student’s medical curriculum could help change mindset. The Cehat study found that misbehaviour was common with all economically disadvantaged women. While non-Muslims are made to wait longer and expected to bribe nurses, Muslim women are accused of giving birth to several children and of illiteracy by hospital staff. (The Indian Indian Express 9/1/17)

62. Triple talaq certificate issued by chief kazi not legal: Madras high court (7)

The Madras high court on Wednesday said triple talaq certificate issued by the chief kazi had “no legal authority” and must instead be seen as opinions under the 1880 Kazis Act. A bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice MM Sundresh also announced — pending approval from the Muslim Personal Law Board — no further certificates on triple talaq will be issued. The bench made its judgment in response to a plea by A Bader Sayeed, a former MLA and currently a practising lawyer, who sought directions to restrain the kazis from issuing documents that approve talaq. Her PIL had the support of the Women Lawyers Association of Madras high court. A counsel for the All India Muslim Personal Board and the Shariat Defence Forum said the nature of certificates issued by the chief kazi was only an opinion. The board also said it would examine the format in which talaq certificate could be issued by the kazi so that there would be no further legal ambiguities. The bench posted the matter for hearing on February 21. (The Hindustan Times 12/1/17)

63. Muslim clerics in fight over fatwas (7)

MUMBAI: A week after the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Mosque, maulana Nurur Rehman Barkati, issued a fatwa against PM Modi, the controversial cleric faces a fatwa from a Mumbai-based mufti (one qualified to issue fatwas). In his fatwa, mufti Manzar Hasan Khan Ashrafi Misbahi, chief mufti of Madrassa Darul Uloom Ali Hasan Ahle Sunnat, has not only dismissed Barkati’s “fatwa” against Modi as an outrageous and condemnable political statement, he has also questioned the controversial imam’s credentials to lead namaz or prayers.”Such statement cannot be called a fatwa at all since the statement poses danger to the peace of society. This is his personal and political statement and Shariah doesn’t back such statements. …such a person cannot be an imam,” reads Misbahi’s fatwa, originally penned in Urdu. Misbahi claimed that Barkati is not a mufti (one who has been trained in ifta or a course in fatwa) and should not devalue the sanctity of fatwa by passing off his political statement as fatwas. Barkati disparaged the fatwa, saying, “Who is Misbahi? I have never heard his name. I don’t think one has to pay any heed to such statements. I will stick to all the statements I have made recently as they are for the betterment of society.” Last week, Barkati outraged many when he issued a fatwa offering a reward of Rs 25 lakh to anyone who was willing to “cut off Modi’s beard, shave his head and smear him with black ink”. The meeting where he issued the fatwa was chaired by Trinamool Congress MP Idris Ali at the Kolkata Press Club.Misbahi has slammed Barkati also because the latter had “embarrassed” Muslims by leading funeral prayers in absentia of the liquidated al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 6, 2011. Misbahi said on Friday, “Laden was a known terrorist and a confirmed terrorist cannot be a Muslim. So he didn’t deserve an Islamic funeral prayer. Yet Barkati led a prayer, creating schism among Muslims and bringing a bad name to the community. Muslims should stop offering namaz in his leadership.” (Times of India 14/1/17)

64. Sharp increase in Muslim aspirants for BJP tickets (7)

Nagpur: There was a time when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would not get Muslim candidates for municipal corporation elections, despite intensive search. In fact, this was the case even five years ago before the last NMC elections. This time, people from Muslim community have lined up for BJP tickets for the upcoming Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) elections. As part of the process to select the candidates, BJP had invited nomination forms from party leaders and members. BJP received 3,010 nomination forms. BJP’s 21-member parliamentary board conducted interviews of those submitted the forms. A total of 3,002 applicants appeared for the interviews between January 6 and 14. As per BJP’s data, 65 of these are Muslims. Last time, the number was less than 15. This year’s list of 65 includes Jaitunbi Ashfaque Ansari, BJP’s corporator from Mominpura. Jaitunbi is the second BJP Muslim corporator from the city and was made deputy mayor for first 15 months in the just-concluded tenure of five years at the NMC. She was the first from BJP to win from Muslim-dominated Mominpura ward in Central Nagpur. In 2012 NMC elections, BJP had fielded two Muslim candidates. Lala Qureshi was the other candidate who contested from Mahendra Nagar ward in North Nagpur and got defeated. In the 2007 NMC elections, BJP had only one candidate, Abdul Majid Shola, who won from Hasanbagh in East Nagpur and became first Muslim corporator of the party. He, too, went on to become deputy mayor. BJP’s city unit does not figures about the number of Muslim members among its party cadre. It has a membership of 5.90 lakh in the city. Jaitunbi’s husband Ashfaque told TOI that Muslims voted for Congress for 60 years and but started to realize their importance in BJP as well. “It’s very important for a community to be in the ruling party for development of its people. BJP, under the leadership of union minister Nitin Gadkari, is doing well in the city. This is also a reason behind Muslim people looking towards BJP,” he said. … (Times of India 16/1/17)

65. We will object the reservation for Muslims: Telangana BJP chief (7)

BHADRACHALAM: Targeting the 2019 general elections, BJP state office bearers meeting has decided to strengthen the party from the booth level in the State. The two-day BJP state office bearer’s meeting begun in the temple town of Bhadrachalam under the leadership of party state president Dr K Laxman. During the meeting, it was decided to conduct party mandal and district level executive committee meetings on a regular basis and also complete the process of appointing booth level committees. The executive meeting also discussed upon the party organisational issues and future plans. It was decided that on the occasion of the party founder Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s 100th birth anniversary on February 11, training should be imparted to selected party workers and their services should be utilised for strengthening the party’s base in Telangana. Later in the day, while addressing the meeting, Laxman alleged that the state government is resorting to vote bank politics for which they have brought up the Muslim reservation issue. Laxman stated that the party would object reservations for Muslims legally and politically as it is against the Constitution. Also speaking on the occasion, BJP national secretary P Muralidhar Rao said that the party would win the ensuing assembly elections to be held in five states across the country. Meanwhile, speaking on the issue of demonetisation, Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya described the Central government’s move of scrapping the higher denomination notes as historic decision. Demonetisation would be useful in putting the financial system of the country on the right track. Dattatreya also said that with demonetisation, the economicaly backward, farmers, women and dalit would be benefitted. He said that in the coming days many good decisions would be taken which would benefit the poor in the country. (New Indian Express 21/1/17)

66. No Muslims, no single women: Housing bias turning Indian cities into ghettos (7)

Mumbai: On the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, an Indian real estate company ran an advertisement with the slogan ‘Homes that don’t discriminate’, calling for an end to prejudice in India’s housing market based on gender, religion or caste. While the ad was unusual, the sentiment was familiar to millions of Indians who have tried to rent or buy city homes only to be denied because they were single, ate meat, were of a certain caste or from a certain region. Informal rules and discrimination by Indian landlords to keep out religious minorities and single people are eroding the multi-cultural nature of India’s cities and dividing communities into ghettos, analysts say. “It’s 2017 – and we’re still encountering discrimination,” said Rishi Dogra of NestAway Technologies that ran the ad. “People should be able to move freely and find a living space anywhere in the country,” said Dogra, marketing head for the company founded by four young male graduates after they had trouble finding a home in Bengaluru. Such discrimination has forced many people to the suburbs, making Indian city centres less diverse and cosmopolitan, with high rents already making them unaffordable to poorer workers. Mumbai, India’s financial hub and a magnet for migrants from across the country, has traditionally had enclaves for Catholics, Parsis, Bohri Muslims and others. They set up housing societies, or co-operatives, to help other community members.As the city grew and drew more migrants, powerful housing societies have often denied homes on the basis of religion, caste, food preferences and even professions. The divide grew after bloody Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992-93 and still persists, said Zakia Soman, a co-founder at Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a non-profit organisation for Muslim women. A Facebook group called ‘Indians Against Discrimination’ was set up in 2015 after a young Muslim woman was asked to leave her flat a week after she moved in, because of her religion. “When it comes to living spaces, we have become very insular,” Soman said. “The city is getting increasingly ghettoised as a result, weakening our social fabric and polarising us further. That doesn’t bode well,” she said. Local courts have ruled against discrimination by housing associations in several cases, but there have also been contradictory rulings…. (Hindustan Times 24/1/17)

67. Uniform Civil Code can’t be imposed in rush: Nitish Kumar to law panel (7)

New Delihi: Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar has written to the Law Commission, cautioning against an attempt to “impose” Uniform Civil Code without concurrence of various religious groups, especially minorities, and saying that it is “not a political instrumentality to be hurriedly imposed”. The communication sent by Nitish on January 25, in his capacity as JD(U) president, to Law Commission chairman Justice B S Chauhan notes that while the State must endeavour to bring in the Uniform Civil Code, such an effort, in order to be enduring, must be based on a broad consensus in its favour and not be imposed by a fiat. This is the second communication by Nitish to the Law Commission, which has come in response to the panel’s October 20 letter addressed to him in his capacity as JD(U) chief. Earlier, in response to the Commission seeking the state government’s opinion on the code, Nitish had expressed his government’s inability to form an opinion on the issue in the absence of any specific information about its contours and also due to a lack of consensus among religious groups. The Bihar cabinet had, on January 10, given its nod to the Law Department’s rejoinder on the Uniform Civil Code. JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi told The Indian Express that the second response by Nitish is in his capacity as JD(U) president. He said the party urges all non-BJP state governments to pass cabinet proposals on the issue.“We also appeal to national presidents of all non-BJP parties to clear their response on this issue. We also look forward to work with like-minded parties over the issue in Parliament when the Budget session begins,” Tyagi said. In his letter, Nitish noted that his party is aware that Article 44 of the Constitution states that the State shall endeavour to provide for all its citizens a Uniform Civil Code. “This clause is part of the Directive Principles and not under the section on Fundamental Rights. It is important to always remember that ours is a nation based on a delicate balance in respect of laws and governing principles for different religions and ethnic groups,” he wrote in the letter.“Any attempt, therefore, to impose a Uniform Civil Code, without obtaining through substantive consultations, the concurrence of various religious groups, especially the minorities, could lead to social friction and an erosion of faith in the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion,” Nitish said. The JD(U) president insisted that his party’s view is that such in-depth consultations have not yet taken place with various religious groups. “In the absence of such a process, any attempt at premature or hasty tampering with long-standing religious practices that deal with complex issues of marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and the right to property and succession, would be clearly inadvisable. The enforcement of a Uniform Civil Code would require all current laws applicable in such matters in respect of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Hindus (including Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) to be scrapped,” he said. (Indian Express 27/1/17)

68. Post-order, US-based Indian Muslim cancels home visit (7)

NEW DELHI: Within hours of US president Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim majority countries, the ripple effect of the decision could be felt in India and among US-based Indians. Director of Haji Public School in J&K’s Doda district Sabbah Haji Baji tweeted, “Sister cancels trip home from US because she may not be allowed back in.” She later clarified that though her sister had an Indian passport, she had been advised by her company to restrict travel outside the US because she was Muslim.Observers warn that this could just be the beginning of a fear psychosis among Muslims working or travelling to and from the US. There are already a far higher number of checks placed on people with Muslim or even Muslim sounding names entering US. With the ban on travellers from countries like Syria, Iran, Iraq among others, experts fear that this move could lead to widespread backlash — increasing questioning, arbitrary refusals and ban on travel due to security reasons, despite valid travel documents. This could even affect those working in the software industry. (Times of India 29/1/17)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

69. RSS criticises conversion of tribals to Christianity (7)

Navsari: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday attacked Christian organisations for “converting tribals to Christianity”. He said this at a Virat Hindu Sammelan in Gujarat’s tribal-dominated Vansda taluka, where Christians account for 30 per cent of the population. Bhagwat quoted the Pope “proudly saying” that they “had entirely converted’’ people in Europe, Australia and America to Christianity over 1,000 years and that it was now Asia’s turn. He added that they were eyeing Asia now. “Who would be receptive to them in Asia?’’ he asked. “China is a Communist country. That’s why China calls itself secular. Will it let the Christianisation?’’ He wondered whether West Asian Muslim countries would let them to Christianise. “They would not.’’ Bhagwat added that they think only India is where they can get converts. He said that they should realise that only six per cent have become Christians over 1,000 years despite their attempts over the last 300 years that continue. “They do not have strength and claim that here they are working to spread Christianity.’’ Bhagwat cited auctioning of churches in the US to underline his point. He cited his meeting with an Indian businessman in the US, who told him that a Baptist church had been purchased after an auction and converted into a temple. “One more church was auctioned and a Vishwa Hindu Parishad office has been set up there.’’ Bhagwat asked Hindus to remember “who they are” and that their culture is “superior”. “Hindu community is in trouble. Which country are we living in? Our own country. This is our land… This is the land of our ancestors. Bharat Mata is mother of us all. We have forgotten ourselves. We are all Hindus. Let our castes, languages we speak, regions we come from, gods we worship be different. Those who are sons of Bharat Mata, are Hindus,” he said. (The Indian Express 1/1/17)

70. Nun rape case accused acquitted in Chhattisgarh (7)

RAIPUR: A fast track court in Chhattisgarh has acquitted two youth accused of raping 48-year-old nun at a Medicare centre in Raipur in August 2015-an incident that had sparked protests in the state capital. Both the accused 19-year old Dinesh Dhurv and 25-year-old Jitendra Pathak were acquitted by the fast court judge Nidhi Sharma, due to ” lack of evidence”.As incident came to light in August 2015, police and the administration initially sought to downplay without mentioning the rape survivor as a ‘Nun” and maintained that a “sister” had lodged a complaint that two people forced their entry into the Medicare centre and molested her. Subsequently, amid mounting protests from opposition parties as well as all minority organisations, including various Christian bodies, police interrogated more than 200 people and narrowed down on these accused. Later, the police filed charge-sheet against them. In her complaint to the police, the rape survivor said that she was sleeping at the nursing centre run by missionaries in Raipur when two masked men barged at around 1.30 am and tied her hands and feet before gang raping her. When the nun failed to report for the duty next morning, her colleagues reached her room and found her gagged and tied to the bed. They called the police and she was taken to a hospital and her statement was recorded. The victim, a resident of Kerala, belongs to Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. While state Congress and Chhattisgarh Christian Forum had termed the incident as a “systematic attack on minorities in the state”, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) had also reacted that such incidents posed serious questions on the safety and security of the minorities in India. (Times of India 3/1/17)

71. Hindu Extremists Launch Separate Attacks on Christians in India (7)

A number of Christian individuals and churches in India were attacked by members of a national militant Hindu group around Christmas time in separate occasions, proving that Christian persecution in the country is becoming worse despite laws protecting religious freedom. Earlier this month, some Christians, including women and children, just finished caroling and were about to go home when they were attacked by 20 to 30 Hindu extremists, who beat them with batons and sticks. The attack was unprovoked, according to Saints Peter and Paul Church parish priest Stephen Rawat. The priest organizes caroling activities each year. He said on the night of Dec. 14, as the group walked toward their car on their way home, the mob of Hindu extremists rushed toward them, shouting, “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” which means “victory to Mother India!” The children were able to run for cover, but the men and women, including Rawat, suffered injuries on their backs, hands and legs. The mob reportedly accused the Christians of converting people to their religion. Although the incident was reported to the police, no arrest has been made so far. “Whenever we make enquiries, police merely say that they are still searching,” Rawat said, according to Crux. He believed the attackers could be part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group, because the assault happened on a street where an RSS hostel was found. The RSS is the “parent organization” of the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs. Another group of Hindu extremists attacked a Christian church last week. The angry mob, consisting of about 60 people, rushed into the Full Gospel Church carrying sticks and waving saffron flags. According to the Times of India, they vandalized the church for an hour. AB Lal, the church’s pastor, said the attackers identified themselves with the Hindu Yuva Vahini group. However, HYV denied its involvement in the crime. And while the police confirmed that a report has been filed regarding the attack, they said the church members filed the complaint against “unknown persons.”In Banswara in Western India, eight Pentecostals were beaten by several men who barged into their Christmas worship service. Police superintendent Anand Sharma said the violence broke out when the Hindu extremists near the church were angered by the playing of Christmas songs and hymns over a loudspeaker. Sajan K. George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said that in most of these attacks, the Christians did not do anything to provoke the Hindu militants. On the other hand, the Hindu militants have accused them of forcibly converting people to the Christian faith, which they have denied. India’s population is predominantly Hindu. With only about 30 million people in India who believe in Christ, Christians are a minority in the country. Although religious freedom should be guaranteed by the Constitution, this does not appear to be strictly implemented. (Gospel Herald 6/1/17)

72. A missionary sacrifice blurred in the mists of obscurity (7)

St Francis Xavier and St Joseph Vaz set out from Old Goa to the Far East and Sri Lanka, respectively, and left a blazing route all the way to immortality, but Blessed Dionysius (Dennis) and Redemptus’s itinerary to Indonesia, ending in martyrdom, has remained in the shadows of time for long. The Discalced Carmelites of Goa, as the order based in Margao for 77 years is called, cherishes a dream; that of pulling the first two martyrs of the worldwide order out of obscurity. In the 17th century, the golden age for Asia’s Catholic missions, Old Goa was one of the cradles and launchpads for missionaries from established orders. Xavier and Vaz are examples. Ensconced in the foothills of one of its seven holy hills, the Carmelite’s foundation monastery nurtured Blessed Redemptus, a Portuguese soldier and Fr Dionysius, a French sailor and cartographer, into missionaries of the order. “St Xavier died far away and was brought to Goa. Now, there is so much veneration for him. St Vaz died in the 18th century and his memories were revived and kept alive. But the memory of our martyrs, who died in Sumatra, Indonesia, has almost become extinct back in Goa,” superior of the Carmelite Monastery, Margao, Fr Archibald Gonsalves says. On November 29 last year, the Carmelites visited the ruins in Old Goa’s lesser-known spot, barely one kilometre north- east of the Gandhi circle, to relive the day of Blessed Dionysius’s and Redemptus’s martyrdom. The arches of the Do Carmo church, which was once located in a sprawling, 32,000 sq m monastery complex, still stand tall and imposing like the nearby St Augustine tower. The site where the duo joined the Carmelites and took professional vows, has become an inspirational wellspring for the order worldwide. Two family members, descendants of one of the martyrs from Spain, also visited the site last year. “Carmelites from around the world still visit this site regularly out of emotional attachment, as our first two martyrs were trained here and sent to Indonesia,” Gonsalves says. The Carmelite dream is to re-establish itself at the 17th century foundation site. After the Portuguese ordered deportation of its members to Portugal, after just 90 years, they escaped from Old Goa to Sunkeri, Karwar, in 1709. They also lost their property. After Bishop Aloysius Benziger visited Goa with Fr Maric Joseph and held talks with Goa’s archbishop in 1938, the new foundation was finally set up on March 19, 1939, at Margao. This was just a year after the third centenary of the duo’s martyrdom. In the 1980s, provincial of Carmelites, Goa-Karnataka province, Fr Nemesio Alzola, heard about the site at Old Goa. With the help of a retired bank manager, social activists and history lover Mariano Dias, he dug deep into the history of the foundation monastery.”We have in our possession only 925 sq m, which constitutes the historical ruins of the chapel. This could be considered a silver jubilee gift from our beloved Fr Nemesio, who died in 1995, to our province,” says Gonsalves. The Carmelites are struggling to reclaim the huge monastery and orchard around it. “We have plans to reconstruct the church like Cruz dos Milagros at Old Goa from sketches preserved in our Generalate in Rome,” says Gonsalves. The pilgrimage site for nearly 20,000 Carmelites in Asia also has tombs of prominent royal family members and Carmelite frairs on its premises. “This is the cradle of our Carmelites in Asia and has special significance for our order the world over. There are 80 religious Carmelites in Indonesia and now, it has become a province. We want to make this site a centre of spirituality for Carmelites in Asia,” says Gonsalves. (Times of India 8/1/17)

73. Mumbai to host conference on Christian heritage (7)

Mumbai: The day-long conference on January 14 and 15 will begin at 8.30 am and go on till 5 pm. With an entry fee of Rs 1,000 per person, it can be attended by 300 to 400 people. Over the coming weekend, the city will host a two-day international conference that will focus on the topic of ‘The Material Cultural Heritage of Christianity in Maharashtra’. It will be held at the University of Mumbai’s Kalina campus and is jointly organised by the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai, the Church Association of India (CHAI), and India Study Centre Trust (INSTUCEN), Mumbai. The day-long conference on January 14 and 15 will begin at 8.30 am and go on till 5 pm. With an entry fee of Rs 1,000 per person, it can be attended by 300 to 400 people. Dr Kurush Dalal, assistant professor of Archaeology at Centre for Extra-Mural Studies at the University of Mumbai said, “We have been having such conferences for four years. The first one was about Maharashtra. Later we had one on caves and temples. This time we thought about covering churches. Nobody has ever focussed on the material cultural heritage. People do not know why things are the way they are.” Some of the topics to be covered at the conference include the much-debated advent of Christianity, and the history and modification of churches in the Konkan region. The discussion will trace the modifications made to churches with respect to their design and structure. These churches will include those made by the Portuguese, British and Jesuits among others. The conference will also touch upon the churches that once stood but are no longer around, besides talking about the indigenous influences on church architecture. Attendees will learn about other elements related to Christianity such as stained-glass paintings and church bells that are now a part of temples. “When the first European seafarers came to India at the end of the 15th century AD, they were pleasantly surprised to find Christian communities in India. To protect their trade, they built forts and to preserve their religious identity, they built their own places of worship. The Franciscans were the first to establish churches in Bassein, Salsette, Bombay, Karanja and Chaul,” informed Agnes De Sa, Secretary of CHAI, an ecumenical body of different Christian denominations and co-ordinator of the conference. (DNA 11/1/17)

74. Activists, public clash over inauguration of prayer hall (7)

Hassan: Tension prevailed in Chindenahalli Gadi village in Arsikere taluk on Saturday, following differences between two groups of people over the inauguration of a prayer hall in the village. While Bajrang Dal activists objected to the inauguration of the hall, Dalit Christians maintained that they had a right to have a prayer hall in the village. Shivanna, a Dalit, had converted his house into a prayer hall. He and a few other Dalits in the village had converted to Christianity some years ago. The devotees had also distributed a pamphlet inviting the public for the programme. Pastor Gangadhar S.P. of Hunsur and Pastor Kalanayak of Bengaluru were invited for the programme. A few Bajrang Dal activists barged into the place and demanded that the programme was stopped. They alleged that the organisers had converted a house sanctioned under the Ashraya House scheme into a prayer hall. The organisers and Bajrang Dal activists had a heated argument. Gandasi police, who learnt about the incident, rushed to the spot and took control of the situation. “We are all Dalits, who have faced exploitation in the village all these years. Till recently, we were not allowed to fetch water from a public tap. Fed up with this discrimination, we converted to Christianity. I converted my house into a prayer hall,” Mr. Shivanna told The Hindu on Sunday. Further, he alleged that Bajrang Dal activists assaulted devotees who had gathered for a prayer. He was contemplating filing a complaint against the Bajrang Dal activists. Arsikere Dy.SP Dasharath Murthy told The Hindu, “So far no group has turned up to file a complaint.” (The Hindu 15/1/17)

75. Bishops’ forum against institute for testing (7)

New Delhi: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has raised objections to the Centre’s plan to set up an organisation for conducting nationwide tests for entrance to engineering, medical and other professional programmes. The objections came after a section of media reported that a Group of Secretaries (GoS) in its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has favoured the idea of having a national testing organisation for holding entrance examinations for admissions to all higher educational institutions. HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had recently told DH about the government’s plan to set up a National Testing Institute for conducting all entrance tests. “The problem with the recommendation (of the GoS) is that the rights of the minorities, autonomy of the institutions and the requirements of the students from diverse regions, languages and social backgrounds would tend to be overlooked,” CBCI general secretary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas said. There was also no guarantee that the proposed national testing organisation will not land up in the same situation as “the existing testing organisations are in today,” he added. The 11-member GoS, set up in October last year to look into the problems in the education sector and come up with “new ideas” to push the government’s reform agenda, submitted its report along with recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. In its report, which was yet to be made public by the government, the panel of the top bureaucrats has reportedly recommended for making English mandatory for all students up to Class 10 from April this year. (Deccan Herald 16/1/17)

76. Christians relieved as SC seals law on divorce (7)

MUMBAI: The Christian community is relieved that the Supreme Court on Thursday sealed an existing law that makes it mandatory for Christian couples to procure formal divorce from civil courts. Should they remarry without doing so, they could be charged with bigamy. The Catholic Church says that has always been the case. Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, “A marriage for a Catholic has two effects: A sacramental effect and a civil effect. A marriage in a Catholic church has both these aspects it is both a sacramental marriage and a civil marriage. When a marriage breaks up and the parties choose to go separate ways, both dimensions of marriage need to be addressed. While the sacramental (religious) effect needs to be referred to a church tribunal, the civil dimension needs to be addressed in a court of law.” “Christians who seek to remarry do require civil divorce. Otherwise, it would amount to bigamy. Church annulment alone does not permit remarriage. Those who wish to remarry in church must seek church annulment as well as civil divorce with the earlier spouse,” he said. Church weddings are automatically civil marriages since the Church is the registrar of marriages. A copy of the register is forwarded to the government every few months. Women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes explained the perspective behind Thursday’s judgement. She said, “It is a misconception that the church grants divorce and the marriage is over. The British had promulgated a statute, the Indian Divorce Act in 1869 that orders that only the court can grant divorce to Christian couples. The Christians, in fact, have the oldest divorce law in the country.” In 1996, civil divorce was firmly enacted. “Before that there were misconceptions surrounding Christian divorce. One woman only sought a church annulment as she did not know that a formal court divorce was required. She remarried in church. Later, she fell out with her second husband. His lawyer informed him that he could easily escape responsibility as her second marriage without civil divorce was invalid in any case. Imagine how shocked she was. She could have been charged with bigamy,” Agnes said.In the present case, the 80-year-old petitioner had urged the SC to equate the Christian Personal Law with Muslim Personal Law, tribal personal laws and panchayati laws, where divorce is valid if pronounced by religious or community leaders. He wanted divorce granted by Christian clergy to be similarly valid. “Many Christians and activists like us were opposing the petitioner’s contention throughout,” said Agnes. She highlighted the dangers of such unilateral pronouncements. “There could be a religious leader who may not have the full facts of the case or may not know the religious law properly. Such divorce decrees are subjective and detrimental to individual parties,” she said.  (Times of India 21/1/17)

77. More Christians being attacked in poll-bound states, claims NGO report (7)

The five states going to the polls this February and March recorded a spurt in attacks against Christians last year, said a non-government organisation in a report that could reignite a debate on the alleged rise in persecution of minorities. The Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum in its report, titled Indian Christian Persecution, said Uttar Pradesh registered an almost three-fold increase in cases of violence against people from the religious minority. Less than 1% of India’s most populous and politically crucial state follows Christianity. In Punjab, another state that will vote on February 4 for a new government, violence against Christians increased from just one case in 2014 to 11 in 2016. The report said similar spikes were witnessed in Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, a former Portuguese colony with a sizeable Christian population. NGO chairperson MF Saldanha, who was a judge in Karnataka and Bombay high courts, blamed the NDA government for the spike in attacks on Christians. “The type of repression started now marks a general pattern, of attacking minorities and the backward classes. The idea, I suppose, is to terrorise and subjugate, which is not what is expected in a democracy,” he alleged. He accused the government of “following an ultra-aggressive policy”. The BJP dismissed the allegations, with party leader Siddharth Nath Singh launching a stinging counterattack.“Where was this organisation when it was proved that the rape of a nun in West Bengal was the handiwork of Bangladeshi infiltrators? Initially it was alleged the incident was fallout of the ghar wapsi programme,” Singh said. “They can’t be selective. Instead of creating falsehoods they should strengthen society.” The Hindu right wing has always been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement to their faith. Several Hindu organisations have conducted ghar wapsi or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion. Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said the polarisation and attack on minorities has been the standard operating procedure of the ruling government to “catch votes”. “These attacks on minorities are not a religion-driven but election- driven mechanism.” According to the 2011 census, Christians constitute about 2.3 % of India’s population. Manipur has 34%, Goa 26.7%, Punjab 1.26% and Uttarakhand less than 1%.The hill state of Uttarakhand recorded eight cases of attacks against Christians, Goa seven cases and Manipur two cases last year, the NGO’s report said. The crimes include murder and rape, and attacks on churches. But the incidents are not restricted to the poll-bound states. BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh topped the list of states with the maximum number of attacks, followed by Tamil Nadu, according to the report. (Hindustan Times 22/1/17)

78. Church slams BJP digitalisation agenda in Goa (7)

Panaji: Days after a spokesperson for Goa’s archbishop denied allegations that the influential Roman Catholic Church was indulging in politics ahead of theFebruary 4 assembly polls, its social arm has taken direct pot shots at the ruling BJP, accusing it of misgovernance and corruption and calling the nationwide digitalisation initiative a “disturbing development”.Quoting Pope Francis liberally, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) has officially released fliers that slam several policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and accuses the media of being a “mouthpiece of the government and corporates”.”The shift from the social policy of roti, kapda aur makaan for uplifting the poor sections of society to an emphasis on digital and cashless policy involving smart phones, ATM cards and Paytm apps as the basic requirement for every citizen to avail of government benefits and purchase their basic needs is a worrisome phenomenon,” the flier says. “Selective private business interests being promoted through government policies under the pretext of fostering economic growth, tackling corruption and ensuring transparency through digitalisation are a disturbing development,” it adds. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India push, the BJP state leadership had repeatedly expressed its ambition of making Goa India’s first cashless state. Headed by a Roman Catholic priest, the CSJP works under the aegis of Goa Church and has in the past been vocal about misgovernance, social inequities and the like. Catholics account for nearly 26 per cent of the state’s 1.5 million population. “The undue intrusion and interference of governments in the judiciary or educational and financial institutions cannot be a sign of good governance. The terror unleashed by state and non-state actors to silence dissent or diverse opinions about governance by labelling them as anti-national or unpatriotic cannot be ignored by responsible citizens,” the CSJP says, adding that efforts were being made nationally to “undo the sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic fabric of our nation as enshrined in our constitution”.Alleging “wanton destruction of Goa’s environment and culture” and that voters often elect “insensitive and unscrupulous political representatives” due to “material and formal” cooperation, the flier quotes Pope Francis’ 2013 homily that the people are responsible for the quality of governance. “None can say… I have nothing to do with this, they govern. No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability,” the flier says, quoting the Pope. Slamming the outgoing state government for setting up an Investment Promotion Board to “push projects in villages and towns by undermining the constitutional powers of the (local) self-governments and accusing the central government of forcefully nationalising Goa’s natural resources, the CSJP also said that politicians exploited the vulnerability of the unemployed, displaced and economically backward voters by “luring them with freebies and unrealistic promises of jobs”.Asking citizens to “access other sources of alternative and reliable political information”, the Council also accused the media of being seen as the mouthpiece of the government and corporates. “The print and electronic media, which is considered the fourth pillar of a democracy and is ethically required to maintain autonomy and report factual and unbiased news to the public, is now increasingly seen to be the mouthpiece of the government and corporates, and driven by competition,” the flier says. On January 18, in a statement issued by the Archbishop’s House, a spokesperson had denied indulging in politics ahead of state assembly elections, following accusations made by a local politician, which went viral on social media. (Business Standard 23/1/17)

79. Pakistan: 115 charged with burning Christians’ homes acquitted (7)

Lahore [Pakistan], Jan. 29 : An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has acquitted 115 suspects involved in torching of more than 100 houses of Christians at Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area following an alleged blasphemy incident in 2013. The acquittal was made following lack of evidence, reports the Dawn. A charged mob had rampaged through Joseph Colony and set on fire the houses following alleged blasphemy committed by a suspect named Sawan Masih. Hundreds of residents were displaced following the violence. A court had tried Masih and sentenced him to death in a verdict delivered in 2014. During Saturday’s hearing, advocate Ghulam Murtaza Chaudhry argued that the prosecution had failed to bring even a single piece of evidence to establish the charges against the suspects. He asked the court to acquit them. The presiding judge, Chaudhry Mohammad Azam, accepted the arguments of defence and acquitted the suspects for lack of evidence. (New Kerala 29/1/17)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

80. Myanmar detains cops over Rohingya abuse video (13)

Yangon: Myanmar said on Monday it detained several police officers over a video shot by a fellow policeman that shows them beating Rohingya civilians, a rare admission of abuse against the Muslim minority. Thousands of people from the persecuted ethnic group — loathed by many of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority — have fled a military operation in Rakhine state, launched after attacks on police posts in October. Neighbouring Bangladesh says some 50,000 Rohingya have crossed its border over the past two months. Many have brought accounts of rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s Army or police. Dozens of videos have emerged apparently showing abuses against Rohingya, but this is the first time the government has said it would take action over them. The refugees’ stories have raised global alarm and galvanised protests against Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused of not doing enough to help the Rohingya. Her government said troops were hunting militants behind the deadly raids on police border posts, denying claims of atrocities with a flurry of public statements. However, on Monday, authorities pledged to take action “against police who allegedly beat villagers during area clearance operations on November  5 in Kotankauk village”. Suu Kyi’s office named four officers involved in the operation, including constable Zaw Myo Htike, who looks nonchalantly into the camera smoking as he records the video. “Those who (were) initially identified were detained,” it said in a statement. “Further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat villagers in the operation.” The footage shows police hitting a young boy around the head as he walks to where dozens of villagers are lined up in rows seated on the ground, hands behind their heads. Three officers in uniform then start attacking one of the sitting men, beating him with a stick and kicking him repeatedly in the face. A Rohingya activist said the footage had been verified by a refugee from the nearby camp, Shilkhali. Analyst David Mathieson said the video “brings into question the government’s denials of forces’ abuses in Rakhine”. (Asian Age 3/1/17)

81. Eleven Left parties stage protest against evictions (13)

GUWAHATI: Eleven Left and secular political parties staged a sit-in demonstration here on Monday in protest against eviction drives by the state and the government’s “conspiracy” to include Bengali Hindu migrants in the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The parties – including CPI, CPM, NCO and Samajwadi Party – are firm in their demand for considering 1971 as the cut-off year for the NRC update in Assam and the deportation of illegal immigrants. They also want the state government to stop eviction drives in fertile areas where the landless have settled to earn their living. “The Assam government must stop conducting eviction drives without providing an alternative to the evicted people for earning their livelihood. They must get adequate compensation. The government should, instead, give land rights to families which have settled in various parts of the state for years,” said a memorandum sent to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal by the protesters. The parties also alleged a “conspiracy” is afoot against religious minorities in Assam. They pointed to the extensive eviction drives near Kaziranga National Park, Mayong in central Assam’s Morigaon district and in Darrang district in the last few months.”The government needs to stop its communal prejudice in the name of eviction drive,” the memorandum said. The parties said they were apprehensive of the direction the NRC update process is taking in Assam, to the extent that they wonder if the Centre and the state government want to bring the process to a halt. They urged the government to respect the unanimous decision by the people of the state on the detection and deportation of illegal migrants. “The Centre is keen on passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the parliament before the completion of the NRC update process so that those belonging to religious minorities from Bangladesh can be absorbed into the state. It shows utter disrespect for the common mandate of the people of Assam, who accepted 1971 as the cut-off-year for detection and deportation of illegal immigrants after the Assam Agitation,” said state secretary of CPM, Deben Bhattacharyya. The protesters warned against granting citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh for vote bank politics. “The NRC update process started in Assam with 1971 as the cut-off year. No question arises for relaxing the norms for immigrants on religious grounds,” Bhattacharyya added. (Indian Express 4/1/17)

82. Plans to change Citizenship Act hit Assam accord hurdle (13)

NEW DELHI: The Modi government’s plans to fast track citizenship for minorities like Hindus, Sikhs and Christians fleeing religious persecution has hit a bump with the law ministry pointing out that the proposal runs afoul of the Assam accord. The amendments to grant swifter citizenship to minorities from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is a key promise of the NDA government that argues that India has a duty to help out this section of refugees. The move has a political element as these refugees have claimed to be victims of forced conversions and assaults. But the proposed amendments to the citizenship act have political ramifications for Assam where chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had himself successfully challenged the functioning of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act on the grounds that the tribunals were in violation of the Constitution.The Supreme Court had ruled in 2006 that all cases under the IMDT Act be transferred to the tribunals constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 which defines a person of Indian origin as someone who has been a resident of Assam since January 1, 1966. Thereafter a person who has entered India between January 1, 1966 and before March 23, 1971 and who has been detected to be a foreigner cannot be on an electoral list for a period of 10 years since then. “The proposal to reduce the aggregate period of residence from 11 years to six years appears to be contrary to the Assam accord,” the law ministry said.It has also pointed out that the case is currently being heard by a constitution bench of the SC and this needs to be taken into consideration when framing the bill. “The amendment of the citizenship act makes it clear that the question of determination or detection of a foreigner is governed by the foreigners act, 1946 and foreigners (tribunals) order, 1964,” the ministry has submitted. The non-inclusion of Muslims in the amendment to the citizenship act has been opposed by some political parties as an act of discrimination. The government has argued that the majority communities of these nations do not qualify for special treatment. (Times of India 8/1/17)

83. 160,000 displaced by offensive to liberate Mosul (13)

Bagdhad: At least 160,000 persons have been displaced by an Iraqi army offensive to liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) terror group, a top official announced on Monday. Migration Minister Jasim Mohammed Mohammed Ali Eljaf said most of the displaced people were residing in five camps in the Nineveh and Saladin regions and in Iraqi Kurdistan, Efe news reported. According to the minister, some 20,000 people were able to return to their homes after the army liberated villages in Nineveh and neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul. On October 17, Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched an offensive to liberate Mosul, the IS’ last bastion in Iraq, which the terror group had captured along with large swathes of territory in June 2014. (Business Standard 9/1/17)

84. After posing as kids, Afghan refugees in Austria used £87,000 in social benefits (13)

NEW DELHI: They are accused of defrauding the Austrian government, but three Afghan refugees who posed as children, likely so they aren’t turned away, have shown that the war in Afghanistan is alive and well. The refugees, who pretended to be child migrants, ended up using Austrian social benefits like healthcare and basic care, worth as much as £87,000. They were sent to jail for five-six months, the Daily Express reported. “People said it was better to apply as a minor as then I cannot be deported back. I was afraid that I would then be killed in Afghanistan like my father was,” said one of the three who admitted lying about his age. In the first 10 months of 2016, as many as 16,054 minors, of whom 4,076 were unaccompanied, applied for asylum in Austria, the newspaper said. Authorities brought a case against the three refugees after court-ordered medical reports revealed the men were older than they claimed on their Austria asylum applications.Two of the accused denied the accusation saying that they didn’t know their birthdays and that their parents are illiterate and used the Afghan calendar. The Afghan Solar Hijri calendar, used in Iran and Afghanistan, has six months of 31 days, then five months with 30 days each and then one month of 29 days, the newspaper said.”They knowingly gave false information so they could stay in Austria,” the judge said. (Times of India 12/1/17)

85. Myanmar, Bangladesh to discuss refugee repatriation (13)

Yangon : Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to start consultation for verification and repatriation of refugees, said a statement of the Myanmar Foreign Ministry on Friday. The statement came after the visit of Myanmar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U. Kyaw Tin to Bangladesh as special envoy of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi over the last two days, Xinhua news agency reported. The refugees concerned are those persons who fled armed men in the October 9 attacks on three border posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The Myanmar minister met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali during the state visit. The two sides discussed issues of mutual interest, expressing the common desire to deepen bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries, the statement also added. They also agreed to resume the existing annual bilateral consultation mechanism as well as to hold regular meetings between the two border security forces and army-to-army talks, it said. The Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated her country’s zero tolerance policy on terrorism, making clear that Bangladesh would not allow its soil to be used for terrorist acts against its neighbouring countries. She also sought Myanmar’s cooperation to resolve the border issues through negotiation, according to the statement. (Business Standard 13/1/17)

86. Mamata Banerjee hands over ‘Bonorini’ keys to refugees (13)

KOLKATA: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday handed over the keys of “Bonorini”, the much-awaited Bonhooghly Tenement Project, the PPP initiative by the state Refugee Relief & Rehabilitation department and Siddha Realty Group. Owners of these apartments received the keys from the stage of Yatra Utsab held at Barasat, North 24 Parganas. All the apartments have also been upgraded by providing Tiled flooring instead of Cement finish. All the walls now have Plaster-of-Paris (POP) finish instead of regular whitewash. The lobby and staircase have been made with Kota stone instead of regular Cement finish. All these upgrades have been provided at no extra cost as a part of the CSR initiative of Siddha Group and Eden Realty Group in order to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants. The project was completed on time. “We are very happy to be a part of this unique initiative undertaken by the Government of West Bengal. We have joined hands with Eden Realty and completed the project on time”, said Mr Sanjay Jain, Managing Director, Siddha Group. “The challenge of earning confidence of all families and exceeding their expectations by delivering in record time beautiful homes for them has been the proudest moment of my career. We congratulate the state Government for taking this initiative and reposing faith on us in completing the project. This is the pathfinder for all future redevelopment projects”, said Mr Sachchidanand Rai, Chairman, Eden Realty Group. The Refugee Relief & Rehabilitation Department, Government of West Bengal initiated a project in 2006 to rebuild the dilapidated structures in Bonhooghly Tenement Scheme since they had become unsafe for all families, through a public auction, where Eden Realty was appointed as the PPP promoter and was awarded the project. Sadly, for six years, the project could not take off due to opposition from majority of the inhabitants of Bonhooghly Tenement Scheme. In 2012, the present government led by Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, Smt Mamata Banerjee floated a new scheme for rehabilitation of these inhabitants which was embraced by all of them to pave the way for development of the project. Real estate developer Siddha Group joined hands with Eden Realty to execute this project initiated by the Refugee Relief & Rehabilitation Department to rehabilitate about 800 families living in Bonhooghly Tenement Scheme. Around three years ago when the project was floated the area had around 540 families living in dilapidated conditions with very poor infrastructure and no sanitization. Now the project houses modern four storied building with 34 blocks, each apartments covering 644 sq ft area with modern infrastructure and facilities which has been long overdue to the inhabitants of Bonhooghly Tenement Scheme. Now, each and every family has been rehabilitated here. The government has transferred these flats to the inhabitants free of cost and will not charge stamp duty fee for registration. (Times of India 14/1/17)

87. 180 feared dead in Saturday’s migrant boat disaster in Mediterranean: Survivors (13)

ROME: Four people died and nearly 180 are missing, presumed dead, after Saturday’s migrant ship capsize in the Mediterranean, officials said Tuesday after interviewing a handful of survivors. Humanitarian workers from International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), recounted harrowing details of the latest major tragedy in waters off Libya after talking to four rescued passengers, two Eritreans and two Ethiopians, who arrived on Monday evening in the Sicilian port of Trapani. The survivors, three men and one woman, were described as “traumatised and exhausted”. They said their two-tier, wooden boat had left Libya on Friday with more 180 people packed on board, all of them originally from East Africa. After five hours at sea, the engine cut out and the boat started to take on water. As it slowly sank, more and more of the people on board were submerged under water. One of the survivors described his desperate effort to find his wife, who had taken a spot in the centre of the ship. After hours in the water, the survivors were rescued on Saturday 30 nautical miles from the Libyan coast by a French boat operating as part of the European borders agency Frontex’s Operation Triton before being transferred to another Frontex ship, the Siem Pilot.Siem Pilot, provided by the Norwegian coastguard, arrived in Trapani on Monday evening with the four survivors, four recovered corpses and 34 people rescued from another stricken migrant boat. The latest deaths and rescues follow a record year for the number of migrants trying to reach Europe on the western Mediterranean route from north Africa to Italy.Some 181,000 people were registered at Italian ports in 2016 while the UNHCR recorded more than 5,000 deaths and presumed deaths on all migrant routes across the Mediterranean. Despite the mid-winter weather making crossings particularly perilous, the start of 2017 has brought no sign of departures slowing with some 2,300 migrants already registered in Italy since January 1. (Times of India 17/1/17)

88. No country for refugees: Trump raj begins today, hold on to your rights (13)

Having studied history, one becomes acutely aware of how the universe works in strange ways. And as a consequence of the universe’s bizarre machinations, today, January 20, will go down in history as the day that orange-faced buffoon (as a colleague once called him) took over the presidency of the most influential country in the world. From halfway across the world, it is perhaps a little difficult to take President Trump seriously. His unbelievably mind-numbing statements make it easy to dismiss him as a threat because of his sheer ridiculousness. But as Geroge Carlin had once sagely noted, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” Trump’s election is symptomatic of just that. When Trump proposes to build a wall, or says he wants to jail Hillary Clinton, there is palpable outrage. He can’t really do that, can he? But if, hypothetically, he were to make good on his promises, reality would look like a veritable fascist dystopia at the drop of a hat. Human Rights Watch, in its 2017 report, has already portended the loss of rights under Trump as a legitimate possibility. Kenneth Roth, executive director of the organisation did not mince words when he warned the world that Trump’s presidency bodes ill for various shades of activism. He wrote in the report,    “Trump and various politicians in Europe seek power through appeals to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism. They all claim that the public accepts violations of human rights as supposedly necessary to secure jobs, avoid cultural change, or prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, disregard for human rights offers the likeliest route to tyranny.”The Independent has helpfully put together a list of the positions that Trump holds on various rights issues, which can be found here. This week’s column looks at some of the threats that Trump poses to a selection of rights issues based on his behaviour thus far. (Business Standard 21/1/17)

89. Kashmir birth right of migrants, will ensure their return, says state deputy CM (13)

Jammu: Terming the return of Kashmiri migrants to the valley their “birth right”, Jammu and Kashmir minister Nirmal Singh on Tuesday said the state government was firm on rehabilitating them. “All the people in the House have unanimously passed the resolution and decided that these people (migrants) should be brought back to Kashmir valley and they should be rehabilitated there with honour, dignity and sense of security. Not only the government but the whole opposition is on one page on this,” he said.“Return of Kashmiri Migrants, including Pandits, Muslims and Sikhs is on our agenda as it is part of Agenda of Alliance. We have identified lands at three-four places in Kashmir (for setting up clusters). We are working on that,” the deputy chief minister said. “Kashmir is their birth right since centuries together. It is their birth right to come back and settle in Valley. They are not able to go to their ancestral places because of the security threat so the government has made a plan to rehabilitate them in clusters and finally they shall be able to look after their properties and the left out houses,” he said. The BJP leader ruled out that the state government shelved the plan of setting up clusters for the migrants under the separatists pressure, but maintained that the plan could not be implemented due to Kashmir unrest.“We did not succumb to the pressure (of separatists). On no occasion, the plan was shelved. Definitely due to turmoil (in the state) we could not implement the plan,” he said. Hitting out at separatists for racking up the issue to polarise the situation, Singh said, “It is unfortunate that some people are communalising the issue. On one side, those people keep on harping that Kashmir is incomplete without these displaced people, but on the other hand, there are some who are opposing their return as they were the ones who made them leave in the first place.” (Hindustzan Times 24/1/17)

90. Indian-American lawmakers slam Trump’s immigration policy (13)

WASHINGTON: Indian-American lawmakers on Thursday slammed US President Donald Trump for signing executive orders to reshape the country’s immigration policies, describing the move as “anti-immigrant” that will “tear apart” families. Trump has escalated his anti-immigrants stand with a series of executive orders that will “tear families apart,” while weakening the public safety and national security, said Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American to be elected to the upper chamber of the United States Congress. “Creating a deportation force to target immigrant families who are contributing to our society is not a show of strength. Asking taxpayers to pay for an unrealistic border wall is not a solution. And telling cities to deny public safety, education, and health services to kids and families is irresponsible and cruel,” said Harris. She said that the US was now “less safe” because of the “anti-immigrant” policies followed by the President. “Immigrants will report fewer crimes, more families will live in fear, and our communities and local economies will suffer,” Harris said. Indian-American Seattle representative Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has earlier announced not to attend Trump’s presidential inauguration, slammed the President for moving forward with his “divisive agenda” that will do nothing to solve the real immigration issues. “He has doubled down on his agenda that pits mother against mother, neighbour against neighbour, tearing up the fabric of our communities,” Jayapal said. “We must take on enacting comprehensive and humane reform of our broken immigration system – to support our economy, our communities and our families – but the President offers zero leadership in this area,” she said. “Instead of building walls, we should address the underlying systemic issues that drive immigration and fix our own outdated immigration system. Instead of banning refugees and people based on their religion, we should welcome them with open arms,” she said. Jayapal said that as a world superpower it is US’s moral responsibility to provide a sanctuary to all who need it most. The lawmakers were also joined by Senator Chuck Schumer and Democratic Whip Congressman Steny H Hoyer in opposing Trump’s immigration policies. “President Trump’s plans are based on alternative facts and do nothing to keep us safe or fix our immigration system in a humane, pragmatic and effective way,” Schumer said. (Times of India 26/1/17)

91. Starbucks to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide after Donald Trump’s travel ban (13)

NEW YORK: Starbucks plans to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the head of the US coffee-chain company said on Sunday. “I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise,” Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said in a letter to employees posted on the company’s website. “We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question.” Schultz, a Democratic Party supporter, said that Starbucks had been in contact with employees affected by the new Republican president’s executive order signed Friday. The decree suspends the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The CEO said the refugee hires would be fleeing war, persecution and discrimination in the 75 countries where the company operates. “And we will start this effort here in the US by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support,” he said. Schultz also defended Mexico, which Trump has said will have to pay for a wall along its long and porous border with the United States to deter immigrants, perhaps by the US imposing a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. “Building bridges, not walls, with Mexico,” he wrote, voicing support for the country that has provided Starbucks with coffee for three decades and where nearly 600 Starbucks coffee shops employ 7,000 people. “We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.Schultz is close to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate who lost to Trump in the November election, and supported her during her White House campaign. But he has dismissed persistent rumors that he would seek the highest office in the land. (Times of India 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

92. RTI activist killed, body found in Cauvery river (1)

MYSURU: A day after he was reported missing, RTI activist Srinath’s body was found in the Cauvery river near Srirangapatna in Mandya on Friday evening. “We believe that the perpetrators killed him elsewhere. They rolled up his body in a carpet, and dumped him in the river near the Nimishamba temple. Srinath’s body bore multiple stab wounds,” police said. A resident of Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Srinath worked as an electric contractor. He left home on Thursday at about 7.30pm, accompanied by an engineer, Chandrashekar, and a worker, Kumar, to attend to work in south Mysuru, the family members said. Srinath’s brother Pradeep said that he couldn’t reach the former’s phone after 7.30pm on Thursday. “When he didn’t return home, we filed a missing person complaint at the Kuvempu Nagar police station on Friday morning,” he told TOI. Hours after the complaint was filed, police recovered his body from the Cauvery river. “We hope the cops soon bring the culprits to justice,” Pradeep said. A postmortem was performed on Saturday at the Mysore Medical College and Research Institute, following which Srinath’s mortal remains were cremated.His family members and friends claimed that Srinath had exposed misappropriation of funds in layouts, which were being developed by the workers’ union attached to a central government agency. “He had also informed the anti-corruption bureau about certain officials who had amassed wealth illegally,” his friends said. A senior police officer in Mandya said two teams had been formed to investigate the murder. “We are confident of solving the case soon,” he said.An RTI activist, requesting anonymity, said, “We are trying to help the government, by exposing corrupt activities. His death has left us disturbed.” (Times of India 2/1/17)

93. RTI query throws light on events surrounding Jaya’s death (1)

CHENNAI:  An RTI query on a report sent by Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao to Home Minister Rajnath Singh has thrown light on the sequence of events that followed former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s cardiac arrest on December 4, 2016. A copy of the letter, dated December 7, 2016, was annexed to the response provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the RTI application. Mr. Rao begins his report by setting out the backdrop against which the turn of events took place. He says Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospitals to get treatment for high fever and dehydration on September 22. “Initially she improved, and after a week, her health condition suddenly deteriorated. Owing to the efforts of the doctors for about 50 days, her health condition improved and she was moved from the multi-disciplinary critical care unit to a private room on November 11, 2016 for further treatment,” he says. “On December 4 evening, while I was in Mumbai, I received information that Selvi J Jayalalithaa suffered a cardiac arrest and that her health condition has become serious. I immediately rushed to Chennai and went to the Apollo Hospitals,” he says, adding, “At the hospital, the Chairman and doctors attending to the Chief Minister briefed me. I was informed that the Chief Minister was immediately given high-end resuscitation and that she was put on ECMO, a very high-grade heart-lung function support system. She continued to be in a critical state and was declared dead at 11:30 p.m. on December 5.” Mr. Rao goes on to describe the events that followed, leading up to the election of the next Chief Minister, and for the first time, provides a cogent official version of the backdrop to Jayalalithaa’s death. “Immediately, O.Panneerselvam, treasurer of the AIADMK, called on me at Raj Bhavan and submitted a letter stating that subsequent to the demise of Jayalalithaa, a meeting of the AIADMK legislators was held at the party headquarters, during which a unanimous resolution was passed electing him as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party.” He continues, “I, therefore, appointed O. Panneerselvam as the Chief Minister under Article 164(1) of the Constitution and invited him to form the government. Subsequently, Mr. Panneerselvam submitted a list of 31 MLAs who will form the Council of Ministers headed by him.” The Governor’s report ends with the statement that the swearing-in of the new Ministry was held at 1 a.m. on December 6. (The Hindu 3/1/17)

94. No info on officials who were consulted on demonetisation: PMO (1)

New Delhi: There is no information available about officials whose views were taken before the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, the Prime Minister’s Office has said. The PMO also refused to answer a query on whether views of the Chief Economic Advisor and the Finance Minister were taken before the sudden announcement on scrapping of notes was made, saying the query does not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act. Responding to an RTI query seeking to know the names of officials who were consulted before the decision, it said, “Information sought is not available in the record of this office.” The applicant had also sought to know from the top office if any meetings were held on the issue of demonetisation before the announcement was made and on the preparedness of the government to smoothly exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with newly announced legal tender. He also wanted to know if the government had considered that introduction of new 2,000 rupee notes will need recalibration of ATMs in the country, besides asking if any officer or minister opposed the decision. It had also asked about any estimate on record to show what period of time will be required to convert scrapped notes into new ones. To all these queries, the PMO said these don’t come under the definition of information under the RTI Act. Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India had also refused to divulge such information citing exemption clauses and saying that these queries do not come under the definition of the “information” under the RTI Act. The definition of information in the RTI Act covers “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public”. authority under any other law for the time being in force”. Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record and comes under the ambit of RTI Act.” The PMO transferred to Economic Affairs wing of the Finance Ministry the queries related to steps taken by the government to ensure that people do not face problems after demonetisation. It also transferred the queries to the Economic Affairs wing in connection with the number of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 which were printed before the announcement to scrap the old notes and all the recorded reasons for the demonetisation. (Deccan Herald 9/1/17)

95. Reports on how much black money is in India can’t be disclosed: Institutes (1)

The reports on the quantum of black money held by Indians in the country and abroad cannot be made public, country’s two premier institutes that conducted studies on the ill-gotten wealth on the finance ministry’s directive said. The UPA government had in 2011 asked three institutes — National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), Faridabad — to conduct studies on black money. The study reports of NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM were received by the Ministry on December 30, 2013; July 18, 2014 and August 21, 2014 respectively. Replying to an RTI query, NIPFP and NCAER said they were not authorised to share the reports. “Under the Terms of Reference (ToR) with the Ministry of Finance, we are not authorised to share the report without their concurrence. Such concurrence is not forthcoming and our agreement with the Ministry of Finance prohibits us from disseminating this report,” the NIPFP said in reply to the RTI application. The NCAER, in its response, said: “The primary repository of the report is Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Ministry of Finance” and the matter of sharing it should be dealt by the government. No response has been received so far from the NIFM, which also conducted a study. Earlier, the Finance Ministry had declined to share the reports submitted to it by the institutes about three years ago. “Information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (c) of the RTI Act, 2005 as the study reports received from the three institutes are under examination of the government and the same along with the government’s response on these reports are yet to be taken to Parliament through the Standing Committee on Finance,” the Ministry had said. The Section bars disclosure of information “which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature”. There is at present no official assessment on the quantum of black money in the country and abroad. “The issue of black money has attracted a lot of public and media attention in the recent past. So far, there are no reliable estimates of black money generated and held within and outside the country,” the Finance Ministry had said while ordering the studies in 2011. The different estimates on the quantum of black money range between $500 billion to $1,400 billion. A study by Global Financial Integrity estimated the illicit money outflow at $462 billion. The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the studies included assessment or survey of unaccounted income and wealth and profiling the nature of activities engendering money laundering both within and outside the country. The purpose of study was to identify, among others, important sectors of the economy in which unaccounted money is generated and examine the causes and conditions for it. (Business Standard 9/1/17)

96. Legislators asked to use RTI to serve people better (1)

GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Experts today called upon the State legislators to push for formulation of a three-pronged peace policy to tackle insurgency. They also urged the elected representatives to elicit information related to public interest through use of the right to information, and press the State government to prepare a development strategy by merging Nature with economics. These suggestions were made during the sixth and final phase of the Sabal Bidhayak programme initiated by the Assam Legislative Assembly in collaboration with the Guwahati-based research institute, Centre for Development and Peace Studies. About 30 speakers from different fields from within and outside Assam have addressed the legislators since the Sabal Bidhayak programme was launched on October 2 last year by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Addressing the gathering, that also included several civil society representatives, Chief Information Commissioner Himangshu Shekhar Das said the use of RTI as a tool to seek information in the State is very low – only about one-tenth of the national average. He also disclosed that of the total RTI applications filed, around 80 per cent are moved by 10 to 15 individuals. Das added that very few RTI applications are filed by intellectuals, media personnel and women. He called upon the State MLAs to use RTI in a big way to seek information from government departments to serve the people better. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta, Head, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University said that the government should come up with a peace policy at three levels – macro, micro and district. The macro level, he said, should involve the Central government, the micro level should be initiated by the State government and the district level peace policy should deal with the fragmented militant groups. He emphasised the need to involve the civil society and take their views during peace negotiations and eventual signing of peace agreements. In his address, Dr LR Bishnoi, Additional Director General of Police (BTAD and Railways) said insurgency has come down in Assam, but pointed out that militant groups from the State are active on the Myanmar-China border making it necessary for the security forces to be on guard. He said an effective counter-insurgency strategy could include, apart from consistent joint operations, use of advanced technological gadgets, breaking support network of rebel groups, joint action with neighbouring states, strengthening infrastructure and coming up with rewards and appreciation for security officers. Making a presentation on ‘Assam, Naturenomics, Conservation and Role of Legislators’, Ranjit Barthakur, business leader and founder of Balipara Foundation, said Assam urgently needs to formulate a development plan by merging Nature and economics since the State’s biggest assets are its natural resources. Barthakur said that since six million people in Assam are directly involved in the State’s tea industry, Assam should have a tea ministry. He also cautioned that the tea industry in Assam could be adversely impacted by climate change in the next two decades. Wrapping up the programme, CDPS executive director Wasbir Hussain thanked the legislators for their enthusiastic participation and engagement during discussions with the resource persons. He said some of the best practices suggested by various designated speakers could be replicated by the MLAs in the respective constituencies. Principal Secretary of the Assam Assembly Mrigendra Kumar Deka, in his concluding remarks said the programme was a success and must have benefited the legislators. He thanked CDPS for designing and executing the programme in collaboration with the Assam Assembly. (The Assam Tribune 11/1/17)

97. Jail superintendent fined for delay in providing information (1)

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana State Information Commission (SIC) on Friday slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the superintendent of Kurukshetra district jail for the unjustified delay in providing information under the RTI Act. While handing out the order, state information commissioner Hemant Atri also directed the jail department to ensure that the fine was paid out from the salary of the errant superintendent. An RTI activist Subhash Chand Grover had sought information related to inspection reports of the district judge and judges of the Punjab and Haryana high court. It was in addition to details of some convicts lodged in the Kurukshetra jail. According to information, the application was moved on January 18 last year. The applicant got the information from the jail department in April, which was delayed and incomplete, alleged Grover. Despite direction from the first appellate authority, the Kurukshetra jail superintendent had provided incomplete information, following which Grover filed an appeal before the SIC. The SIC had directed to provide the information by October 6 last year. As the jail superintendent failed to meet the deadline, the SIC had sought an explanation from him, while directing him to provide information by November last year. While issuing the last warning, SIC had fixed Thursday as the last date of hearing in the matter. After hearing both sides, SIC had reserved the order, which was released on Friday. (Times of India 14/1/17)

98. No info on irregularities by district banks: RBI in RTI reply (1)

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision to bar District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCB) in the State from accepting or exchanging demonetised currency notes was not based on factual data, the reply to an RTI query has revealed. The RTI application filed by activist Anil Galgali sought details of irregularities by district and State cooperative banks that RBI might have encountered between November 8, when high-value notes were scrapped, to December 10. In reply, the RBI’s Public Information Officer A.G. Ray said the information sought is not available. Restrictions were imposed on DCCBs after it was found that over ₹5,000 crore had been deposited in 31 such banks within three days of the demonetisation move. New currency was not made available to them either by the RBI, bringing banking operations at DCCBs to a near-standstill. Opposition parties are claiming the move adversely impacted farmers, who mostly bank with DCCBs. The RBI restrictions on DCCBs was criticised by ruling alliance partner Shiv Sena as well, which demanded they be lifted. While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP conceded that farmers have suffered to an extent, he said during the Legislative Assembly’s winter session in Nagpur that the restrictions were imposed to curb malpractices and irregularities, as large amounts of cash were deposited in these banks overnight. The Opposition is likely to highlight the RBI’s reply to Mr. Galgali’s RTI query in the run-up to elections to 25 zilla parishads. “The government’s claims were unsubstantiated, and the [RBI] decision has hit millions of farmers and the rural population, whose only access to formalised banking continues to be through these banks, which have networks in the most remote parts of the country,” Mr. Galgali said. According to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Banks Association (MSCBA), the decision to single out DCCBs was not only unjust, it jeopardised their balance sheets. “There could have been alternate ways to control irregularities in these banks, but these restrictions have hit the foundation of the banks, which has ultimately hit those dependent on it,” said Swati Pande, CEO, MSCBA. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

99. Enact legislation to protect RTI activists from harassment (1)

HYDERABAD: Non-governmental organisations and Human rights activists using Right to Information (RTI) Act as a tool to expose irregularities in government schemes have sought enactment of a special legislation to be protected from harassment and attacks. This after human rights in India (WGHR) in its report ‘Human Rights in India’ mentioned gruesome murders of around 40 RTI activists besides physical assaults against 250 others across the country between 2005 and 2015. Though instances of extreme violences against RTI activists are mostly reported from states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, city based NGOs allege that in Telangana they mostly face more instances of intimidation and harassment. “We have noticed that in several instances, the public information officers started harassing them by directly calling them up,” said S Ashalatha, Mahila Raithula Hakkula Vedika. (Times of India 18/1/17)

100. Government spends Rs 3.09 per Rs 500 currency note: RTI (1)

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) spends Rs 3.09 for each Rs 500 note as cost towards paper, printing and other charges, an RTI query has revealed. The information was given here on Friday to Mumbai Right To Information activist Anil Galgali on his query on the printing costs incurred by the government for printing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. RBI Deputy General Manager P Wilson said in a written submission that the ‘selling price’ is Rs 3,090 per thousand pieces of Rs 500 denomination new currency notes, or Rs 3.09 per note for the current year, 2016-2017. The RBI buys the currency notes from the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt Ltd, its official supplier and printer for currency notes, Galgali said. The BRBNMPL said it did not have information pertaining to Galgali’s RTI query on the Rs 1,000 currency notes — which may be printed in future. However, the RBI declined to provide information on the orders placed for total quantity of (number of) notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, its value, total contract amount, amount released and pending, as it fell under the ambit of RTI Section 8(1)(a). Galgali said it was surprising why the government was not revealing the actual data on the number of the new Rs 500 printed and proposed Rs 1,000 currency notes even almost two-and-half months after demonetisation of the earlier Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8. (Business Standard 21/1/17)

101. 36 suspended revenue officials are back: RTI (1)

MUMBAI: In the corridors of public administration, it seems to be not difficult to be in office and earn a salary despite facing serious charges of corruption. Information obtained under RTI from the revenue department by activist Jeetendra Ghadge has revealed that 36 officials suspended for criminal cases (corruption under the Anti-Corruption Bureau or Indian Penal Code) have been reinstated even when an FIR has been filed against them and prosecution sanction has been given by the Maharashtra government. Activists said this leaves scope for the corrupt to ‘tamper’ with charges and find newer ‘sources’ to route the corruption. But revenue and ACB authorities said the officials have been given non-executive work, away from the public, that will not influence decisions. This ‘backdoor’ entry of officials has been allowed using a bizarre circular of June 31, 2015, whereby after fulfilling certain conditions one-year suspension, prosecution sanction from government, departmental inquiry is on, and charge-sheet is filed officers can be reinstated. Senior ACB and revenue officials said even under suspension, the officials had to be paid 75% of their salaries, which has not only led to loss of money for the government but also affected staff strength, affecting departmental output. Papers obtained under RTI suggested that a proposal for reinstatement of four of the officers was rejected a year ago as no departmental inquiry was ordered against them. Within a year, these officers again sent proposals for reinstatement after a departmental inquiry was ordered against them in the middle of last year. A suspension review committee comprising ACB, home and revenue department officials that decided on reinstating tainted officials based on those conditions recommended the names of the four, confirming their ‘backdoor’ entry. So to get back on the job, a criteria of inquiry was fulfilled as per the ‘controversial’ circular, alleged Ghadge. He said the circular should have made a ‘clean chit’ in the departmental inquiry as a condition to get back on the job. “For this, through the same circular, the government could have suggested steps to expedite and complete inquiries within a time frame by the departments involved. People would have appreciated the government having a stringent condition in the circular which could have also helped it score morally and ethically over previous regimes,” he said. “For the public, it appears that corrupt officials are taking advantage of the circular and are getting departmental inquiries ordered against them to fulfil criteria to get back on the job. Interestingly, as per information on the ACB website, the same committee is delaying prosecution sanction to many other officials of the revenue department who have cases pending with the ACB and making way for only a set of officials,” Ghadge alleged. … Times of India 24/1/17)

102. Cannot disclose preparedness to handle demonetisation crisis: RBI (1)

New Delhi: The quantum of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 printed before the announcement of demonetisation on November 8 cannot be disclosed as it may affect interests of the State, a subsidiary of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) responsible for printing currency, has said. The response of the subsidiary came following an RTI query sent to RBI under the Right to Information Act seeking to know the preparedness of the Bankers’ Bank to handle the cash crisis arising out of sudden announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. The central bank forwarded the query to Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Limited, Bengaluru which is wholly owned subsidiary of RBI to respond to query “how much currency of new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 was printed before announcement of cessation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 as legal tender was made on November 8″.The subsidiary was established 21 years ago with an aim to augment currency printing capacity of RBI “to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for bank notes in the country” with present capacity for its presses of 16 billion note pieces per year on a two-shift basis, as per website of BRBNL. In its response to RTI query, BRBNL said the information cannot be disclosed citing section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act. The section allows declining information disclosure of 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. The Press did not give any reasons to justify as to how giving plain data about currency printed by it before November 8 would qualify in any of the categories given under Section 8(1)(a) to deny the information. Ironically, the RBI in a separate response had said that it had 2,473 million pieces of 2,000 rupee notes on November 8 which had a value of over Rs 4.94 lakh crore. The RBI has not been forthcoming with information about currency situation in the country and its preparedness in the wake of demonetisation citing one exemption or the other. The monetary policy regulator had refused to give reasons, sought under the RTI Act, behind the drastic decision announced by the Prime Minister to demonetise about 86 per cent of currency in circulationIt had adopted silence on whether the views of Chief Economic Advisor and Finance Minister were taken before demonetisation was announced. The monetary policy regulator also refused to give any details about the time it will take to replenish the currency notes. The query is in the nature of seeking future date of an event which is not defined as information according to Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, RBI had said in response to an RTI query. (Business Standard 26/1/17)

103. More than 60 per cent CIC orders flawed: study (13)

More than 60 percent of the central information commission (CIC) orders are “deficient” in terms of “recording critical facts” and “grounds for decision of the IC and the basis thereof.” These findings are part of the study ‘Key findings of research on the performance of adjudicators of the RTI Act: Information Commissions (ICs), High Courts and the Supreme Court’. It was conducted by the Research, Assessment and Group (RAAG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan, which look after the implementation of RTI. That apart, the study also showed that there was gross violation of the RTI Act by the commissions for not fining public information officers (PIO) who do not give information on time as mandatory in the Act. The study was compiled by authors Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, and Shekhar Singh and was published in January 2017. It also mentioned the average waiting period in each state information commission. Maharahtra, as per the study has an eight month waiting period. Some benches in the state have a waiting period of over two years. The study also states that the deficiency remained despite Supreme Court’s clear directives which state that all information commission orders should have critical facts of cases mentioned in the order. 2,000 information commission orders studied stated that 63 per cent of the total orders passed did not have those details. “In some cases, we have seen that even as a lay person, we can see that the court order does not help in providing any concrete information,” said Bhardwaj. (DNA 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

104. 490 children out of school: survey (11)

Mumbai:  The Right to Education Act mandates that a child must get admission in a neighbourhood school, one located within three kilometres of the house. The aim of the survey conducted on December 21 was to identify children who were not attending school, find out the problems they were facing and bring them back into the education system. Last year, a similar survey conducted in July found that 1,927 children were not attending school. Another survey to update the number will be conducted in February. The students, when tracked, would be enrolled in the middle of the term and are expected to cover the entire year’s syllabus. BMC’s Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, “As per the RTE provisions, a seven-year-old has to be enrolled only in a class suitable to his age, irrespective of whether he has studied in earlier classes or not. This means that even if he does not know anything, he would be enrolled.” Farida Lambay, founder trustee of Pratham, an organisation that works in the field of children’s education, said, “In 2005, we tracked 78, 000 out of school children. The BMC has come a long way since then.” She said that being in school did not necessarily mean that the child was doing well. “I recall during our earlier survey, that most children who begged on streets, attended school. They would go to school in the morning and then go out to beg for the rest of the day.” Ms. Lambay. feels the numbers do not necessarily reflect the ground situation. “Most teachers miss out on counting working children like those who sell goods in trains. Ideally, the attendance should be done at night after the children return home from work. We would place a tattoo on the children to prevent ourselves from counting them twice.” Mr. Palkar says they would ensure that they do not end up counting the same set of children in the subsequent round of survey as “they should be in school by then.” A teacher said, “Most of these migrant students are found in and around construction sites. Once the work wraps up, the children either shift to another construction site or return to their native villages. How are we supposed to track them? I really wonder if such surveys are really worth it?” In fact, it was to track these missing students that the State hit upon the idea to use Aadhaar cards for the purpose. With the help of the Aadhaar number, it is verfied are if the children have joined some other school within the State. As many poor students do not have proper address or valid documents, Aadhaar-tracking is not easy. The State is now working towards allotting a Aadhaar number to every student. Schools are now doubling up as Aadhaar enrollment centers. A teacher said, “We give their current address as their residential address and then we attest it to enroll them.” The State has put the onus on teachers to ensure that migrant children are not left out of school. A government circular has requested teachers to check if students could stay back with their grandparents or if hostel facilities could be arranged for them. Teachers have also been asked to arrange transportation facilities for students staying at a distance from schools. (The Hindu 4/1/17)

105. India’s Great School Education Challenge: Crisis In BIMARU States (11)

New Delhi:  By 2020, India will have the worlds largest working population– 869 million — but an IndiaSpend analysis of indicators on literacy, school enrolment, learning outcomes, and education spending across four states — with 43.6 per cent of India’s school-age population between the ages of five and 14 — revealed that India is unprepared to educate and train its young population. Overall, India’s literacy rate has increased 8.66 percentage points to 74.04 per cent between 2001 and 2011, according to Census data, but wide variations exists across states. The crisis in education is especially apparent in the four BIMARU states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP) — with 445.1 million of India’s 1.2 billion population and some of the lowest literacy rates in the country, according to Census 2011. Bihar had a literacy rate of 61.8 per cent, Rajasthan of 67.1 per cent, UP of 67.7 per cent and MP a rate of 70.6 per cent in 2011, lower than the all-India average of 74 per cent. Kerala has a literacy rate of 94 per cent, the highest in the country.In 2014-15, fewer students moved from grade V to grade VI in UP, with a transition rate of 79.1 per cent, when compared to Goa, with a transition rate of almost 100 per cent in 2014-15, according to data from the Unified District Information System for Education. In MP, as few as 34.1 per cent of children in grade V could read a grade II text in 2014, compared to 75.2 per cent in the case of Himachal Pradesh, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014. Similarly, in Rajasthan, 45.9 per cent of children in grade V could “at least” subtract, compared to 87.4 per cent in Mizoram. Currently, only 2.5 per cent of school-age children between the ages of five and 14 live in the four states — Kerala, Mizoram, Tripura and Goa — with the highest literacy in India, compared to 43.6 per cent in the four BIMARU states, according to Census 2011. Any reform in education in the BIMARU states would have the greatest impact for India. Over the next century, 60 per cent of the population increase in India would come from the four states of MP, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, while only 22 per cent would come from the more developed states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, according to a 2003 study published by The Economic and Political Weekly. UP and Bihar will have India’s youngest populations over the next 10 years, as IndiaSpend reported in September 2016, together accounting for 31 per cent of Indians between five and 14 years. ….  NDTV 5/1/17)

106. NGO sets up second tent school for children of migrant labourers (11)

MYSURU: While children of thousands of migrant labourers remain out of school despite Government’s initiatives like Right to Compulsory and Free Education (RTE), a voluntary organisation in Mysuru has made a small beginning by setting up tent schools at construction sites to provide elementary education to these children. The Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), an NGO, on Friday helped set up the second tent school in Mysuru in the last four months. After setting up the first such school for children of construction workers in the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) campus in Manasagangothri in September, 2016, SVYM in association with Inner Wheel Rotary Club of Central Mysuru on Friday established the second such tent school in Police Public School premises in Udayagiri. A tent has been erected in the construction workers colony in Police Public School premises. About 20 children of migrant workers from North Karnataka will be attending the tent school, where a teacher deputed by the Education Department will impart elementary education three days every week. Block Education Officer (BEO) Susheelamma, who was present at the inauguration of the tent school on Friday, has deputed Honnamma, a teacher from a nearby Government school, to teach the children alphabets and rhymes. Similarly, the Education Department has spared a teacher for the tent school. As the migrant workers employed at KSOU campus hailed from Andhra Pradesh, the authorities had arranged for a Telugu speaking teacher to converse with the children. Though most of the children attending the tent school are aged between 5 and 10 years, even younger children accompany their older siblings to the school. “The basic idea of starting a tent school is to motivate the children and their parents to send the children to regular schools,” said Fathima Mary P from SVYM. Books and other stationary items for the children has been provided by the Inner Wheel Club. “We are trying to arrange for uniforms for the children,” Ms. Mary added. The inauguration was attended among others by Mahendra Babu, Administrative Officer, SVYM, Susheelamma, BEO, Mysuru North and Chandrika Sudheer, president of Inner Wheel Rotary Club of Central Mysuru. (The Hindu 6/1/17)

107. Kashmir unrest: Education sector badly affected, says report (11)

The education sector has been badly hit in Kashmir Valley during the five-month-long unrest, causing “irreversible loss” to students, the Economic Survey Report has said. “Due to the closure of schools, the academic session got badly hit to the extent that it caused irreversible loss of study and tuitions to the students. The exams conducted by J&K Board of Secondary Education (JKBOSE) for 10th and 12th standard students covered only 50 per cent of the total syllabus. “However, an option has been given to the students to appear in March (for 100 per cent syllabus coverage) also,” according to the Economic Survey Report, 2016, tabled in the Assembly today. It said 31 school buildings were gutted — 17 fully and 14 partially — during the five-month-long unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter, whereas 15 school buildings were saved by employees of education department and local community from being burnt. In 2016, schooling could be conducted only for a period of four months in Kashmir valley, it said. The 10th class and 12th class exams held in November covered only 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the total curriculum, it said, adding that students of classes 1st to 9th had to be given mass promotion.The exposure to violence and armed conflict reduces the quantity of education attained by children of conflict areas. Main contributories to the lessening of attainment of quantity of education include destruction of infrastructure, fear of sending children to schools, incorporation of youth into armed groups, negative economic shocks to households and forced displacement, the report said. The loss of 50 per cent content of the syllabus will surely have to be covered by the student community itself so that they are able to compete in ensuing entrance exams held at the national level, it said. Around 95 per cent students have appeared in the 12th board exam and 99 per cent students have appeared in the 10th exam in the Valley and decision was taken by the government for relaxing Term-2 examination from classes 1st to 8th. The total strength of the enrolled students in 10th and 12th classes in the Valley schools is of the order of 56,277 and 31,964, respectively, during academic session 2016. In higher education institutes, where the session started in March, class work could be conducted up to July 8 only and from July 9, the colleges have also been closed, resulting in loss of study of 130 days and more, the report said. This has resulted in the delay in the coverage of 1st semester syllabus and also is resulting in the delayed conduct of 1st semester exams, it said, adding that hartals have also badly affected coverage of other semester studies. Similarly, in the universities in the Valley, the class work at Master level remained badly affected. The class work in medical colleges and NIT was also affected badly, resulting in stress to students and their parents, it said. In the academic session 2016-17, 84,811 students are enrolled in all government degree colleges in Kashmir as against the strength of 72,000 in 2015-16. The loss of studies of 130 days and more is “irreparable” and will have to be compensated through conduct of evening classes and additional classes on holidays to make the students have the knowledge in order to enable them to compete with student community at the country level, it said. .. (The Indian Express 10/1/17)

108. Survey conducted by CBGA, CRY says 40 per cent of education budget of Maharashtra is spent on private schools (11)

Mumbai: PRIVATE-AIDED and private-unaided schools dominate the school education system in Maharashtra with a lion’s share of state spending, a study by the Centre for Budget Governance and Accountability (CBGA) and Child Relief and You (CRY) claims. According to the survey, the state dedicates around 40 per cent of its budget towards private-aided and unaided schools, even though 69 per cent of all elementary schools are government-run. The portion has remained almost unchanged for four years. This ‘mismatch’ in budgetary provisions affects quality of education in government schools, claimed the study, adding the situation is worse in secondary schools. With the government running just 7.7 per cent of schools, private-aided schools formed 65.1 per cent of all secondary schools, while private-unaided formed 27.2 per cent.“Owing to the lack of government-run secondary schools and their poor quality of education, students either drop out or are forced to join private schools after their primary education,” said Protiva Kundu, a researcher from CBGA. For every 100 schools in the state, only 21 offer secondary education, out of which two are government-run. Seven of them offer higher education, of which one is government-run. “The deteriorating quality of learning in government schools is a serious issue in public provisioning for the education sector,” read the report, released Tuesday. The researchers had analysed budgetary allocation for education in 10 states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Data from three consecutive years was collected through funds disbursed by the Central or state departments. In 2015-16, Maharashtra had allocated 18.1 per cent of its total budget to school education — highest for the corresponding component among the 10 states. Rs 740 crore were invested in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rs 180 crore towards computer training, along with an outlay of Rs 137.44 crore for quality education to secondary school students. For girls hostels, Rs 50 crore was earmarked. However, teacher training was apparently not a priority for the state as only 0.4 per cent of the school-education budget was earmarked for training. Inspection and monitoring, too, took a backseat with 0.5 per cent allocation. Teachers’ salary formed the biggest component of the budget with 69 per cent. (The Indian Express 11/1/17)

109. Over 20% kids in Rajasthan still out of school: Report (11)

JAIPUR: A high of 33% of government-run schools in Rajasthan do not meet norms for student-pupil ratio laid down by the Right to Education Act, 2009. Over 20% of children in Rajasthan fall in the out-of-school category. “There is no power supply in 60,000 schools, no separate useable toilets for girls in 23% schools. The state also shows slow progress in civil works,” says a report brought out jointly by NGOs Child Relief and You (CRY) and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, which analysed the situation in 10 states of the country. The report also found high government spend on non-government schools – in UP for instance, half the school education budget of the government feeds private schools. Speaking at a discussion of the findings in Jaipur on Thursday, Ambarish Rai, convenor of the Right to Education Forum said, “Even years ago, when Gandhiji met leaders at Wardha, there was a proposal to use the tax on alcohol to fund education. Gandhiji rejected the proposal. Governments have always been pleading that they do not have funds for education. Nowhere in the world, however, has universalization of education occurred without government funds. India cannot have aspirations to being a global player if it has a sick, poorly uneducated population. The government cannot wash its hands of education. There is an education cess – and this now constitutes about 65% of all government funding of education. This shows the priority of our government. Even Nepal spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than we do. We are hearing talk of skilling and vocational education, and we witness shrinkage in research. These are dangerous trends.” Rai also commented on the reliability of data generated from government sources – the number of children out of school, he said, was 8.4 crore according to Census 2011. By 2013, it was shown to have reduced to 60 lakhs. “How is that possible?” he said, adding that even if the number of children out of school is estimated at 60 lakhs, that is still a very high number. In Rajasthan, the government has set about shutting down a large number of schools at a time when there are over 20% of children out of school, the writers of the report pointed out. Rai also spoke of the constant reiteration of the need for information technology in education. “The output from offers of free laptops, for instance, remains not studied,” he said, adding that quite apart from the “skills”, there is a social purpose to education. “Children must learn of our great diversity. Education is a social concern that should aid us in living in harmony with each other.” This goal, Rai said, is being lost in the din around making classrooms “smart”. (Times of India 12/1/17)

110. CBSE asks schools to implement panel order (11)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has directed schools affiliated to it to implement an order of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights banning classes for students from classes 1 to 5 on Saturdays. The direction has been issued by the board regional office in the State capital in a letter to heads of affiliated schools. The child rights commission’s order had been issued earlier on a complaint that a school in Pathanamthitta was conducting classes for students of grade 1 on Saturdays. As per the Right to Education Act, there are 200 working days for students from class 1 to 5 and 220 working days for those from class 6 to 8. Kendriya Vidyalayas in the State and government schools have reorganised their working hours so as to exclude Saturday classes. The school hours have been laid out in the RTE Act keeping in mind the physical and mental requirements of children, as per the commission. Such directions cannot be ignored by schools, it had directed. (The Hindu 15/1/17)

111. NCERT sets goals for elementary classes (11)

BENGALURU:  Can a child in Class 1 associate words with pictures or recognise letters and sounds in the English alphabet? Can a child in Class 3 read simple maps? Would a child in Class 8 be able to fill a First Information Report (FIR) form? These are some of the expected learning outcomes and suggested pedagogic practices developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to define minimal learning levels, grade-wise, in elementary classes. The Ministry of of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is mulling including a set of defined learning outcomes as part of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Once this is done, students of all schools — government, aided and private — will have to adhere to these guidelines in measuring learning outcomes. A document titled ‘Learning Outcomes at Elementary Stage’ has a list of grade-wise learning outcomes in Hindi, English, Urdu, Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Science and Social Science. The document states that the learning outcomes will “provide the checkpoints that are measurable in a qualitative or quantitative manner to assess the progress of a child as per the expected holistic learning for the overall development of a child.” Moreover, it is aimed at helping bridge regional disparities. The comprehensive document also comes with specific guidelines for children with special needs such as modification of a school’s curriculum as it presents specific difficulties, additional time during tests, and more. It also puts the onus on schools and State governments to ensure that tools and aids that would help in creating a better learning atmosphere for these students are provided. V.P. Niranjan Aradhya, fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, welcomed this initiative. “All these years the focus was on more quantitative aspects such as infrastructure. The attempt to focus on qualitative education is a great step forward. This document will help us understand learning levels and accordingly plan our interventions,” he said. The Ministry of Human Resource Development is receiving comments and suggestions to the draft document till January 31, 2017. (The Hindu 18/1/17)

112. Right to Education Act quota admissions kick off in Mumbai (11)

MUMBAI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be creating monitoring committees to ensure that schools follow the timetable for the Right to Education Act quota admissions. The online admission process kick started on Friday with the portal opening for schools to register themselves. This year, the admissions will conclude on April 29, after five rounds of lotteries to allot seats to students. On Friday, BMC officials held a training session for principals of unaided non-minority schools in the city. “All schools will have to register online up to February 3 and then the portal will be open for the parents to apply for admission. This time, parents will not have to upload any documents online and only submit them directly at the school,” said Nisar Khan, BMC education inspector. In the past, the process had been marred by several delays and admissions went on up to the end of the academic year. “The BMC education officer will set up committees for the three zones to ensure that the schools follow the schedule and the portal is updated on time so that we can move to the next round in time,” said Milind Sawant, deputy municipal commissioner. He added that the schools too will have to form committees to monitor the process at their level. At the training session conducted by BMC education officer, Mahesh Palkar, several principals raised concerns over the problems in last year’s admission process. They complained that seats have remained vacant in the past year and they hadn’t received compensation. Grievance redressal mechanisms for both schools and parents will be set up. “The detailed process, the rules and coordinates of the local education officials will be circulated to all the schools where they can be contacted for any troubles or roadblocks,” said Sawant. The government this year announced a detailed schedule to be followed by corporations across the state. The number of guidance centres to help parents fill up admission forms will be increased to 40 for the upcoming admissions. These will be available for parents starting February 5. (Times of India 20/1/17)

113. MP ranked third in ‘out-of-school’ girls (11)

Bhopal: Despite offering freebies like books, bicycle and uniforms along with scholarships among others to enhance enrolment, Madhya Pradesh is among the top three States in the country where the percentage of out-of-school girls is the highest, according to an education status report for 2016. As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, in some States, the proportion of girls (age group 11-14) ‘out-of-school’ remains greater than 8 %. These States are Uttar Pradesh (9.9) and Rajasthan (9.7). Madhya Pradesh joined them at 8.5 %.This report was released recently in New Delhi by Pratham Education Foundation. “The proportion of ‘out-of-school’ girls (drop-outs as well as those who never went to school) in Madhya Pradesh was 6.2 % during 2014. This has now increased to 8.5,” Foundation’s MP Chief Sajjan Singh Shekhawat told PTI. There are about 1.22 lakh schools including 83,962 of primary level, 30,449 middle, 3,849 higher secondary and 4,764 of high schools in the State. This status report has also revealed the condition of poor quality of education and its infrastructure in the State. As far as rural areas are concerned, the report found that 2.9 % girls of 7-10 years of age group were not enrolled in schools. Similarly, 29 % girls in the age group of 15-16 years were out of schools during last year. It was pointed out that 2.9 % of the students of Class VIII in the State failed to even read letters while 13.5 % of them were able to read standard-one level text. Besides, 64.3 % students of Class VIII could read letters meant for class-II but not above. As many as 6.7 % of Class V and 1.6 % students of Class VIII of the State have even failed to recognize the digits from one to nine. Similarly, 8.1 % students of Class VIII even fail to read English capital letters. This percentage is 18.4 for Class V students. The report stated that 80.2 % students of government schools studying in Classes I to V were not attending coaching classes in year 2010. Now, this has reduced to 64.6 %. There were no toilets in 20 % of the schools in the State in 2010. This is reduced to 5.6 % in 2016, the report stated. – PTI (The Hindu 22/1/17)

114. Education protection campaign to be launched on Friday (11)

Thiruvananthapuram: The much-publicised General Education Protection Campaign of the State government will be launched on January 27, Minister for Education C. Ravindranath has said. The State-level inauguration will be done by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Malayinkeezhu school here at 10 a.m. and at Durga Higher Secondary School, Kanhangad, by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, the Minister said. He was speaking after at a workshop on teacher education organised by the State Council of Educational Research and Training here on Tuesday. Mr. Ravindranath said the general education protection pledge was an important part of the programme. All people should get together in their nearby schools to take the pledge to protect and strengthen general education. A human chain will be formed outside all schools at 11 a.m. with the message of protecting general education, the Minister said in a statement.Academic excellence was an important ingredient of the campaign so as to attract more students to public schools. This involved upgrade in physical infrastructure in schools, and preparation of master plans. To make education more comprehensive, change should be introduced in sports and arts education. Talks would be held for this, including on manual revision, he said. He said the workshop was being organised to debate on changes, if any, to be made to teacher training so as to achieve the goal of student-centric education. He also called for training for parent-teacher association members on child-centred education. General Education Secretary Usha Titus said it needed to be determined how to unite teacher training that was conducted by various agencies at present. The campaign aimed at 1,000 hours of instruction for students, but to make this possible conferences convened by AEOs or DEOs should be done online and probably held on weekends. It also needed to be determined when training programmes should be held, whether extended programmes should be truncated, and held in smaller capsules.Later, during the discussion a number of points came up. Focus on learning, capacity building of teachers, liberal atmosphere in classes instead of regimented and draconian ways, taking teaching outside classrooms, impact of teacher education on inborn skills of trainee teachers, need to understand children’s psychology, better focus on multiple intelligence were discussed. It was suggested that a survey be held to elicit teachers’ opinion on the training programmes, and conduct aptitude tests to ascertain if teachers had the inclination for the work they did. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

115. School asks RTE students to pay transport fees, parents approach commission (11)

Bengaluru: The parents of several children admitted under the RTE quota in a city school have been asked by the school authorities to pay the transport fees, as the primary school functioned 14 km away from their pre-primary centre. While the pre-primary centre is at Cox Town, the primary school is at Kadusonapannahalli. A parent of a class one student, who was asked to pay ₹25,000 a year, has approached the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights for intervention. He said his son had been admitted under the RTE quota in Oasis International School. “We admitted our son in the school at Cox Town. But after LKG and UKG, they told us that we would have to pay for transport at the Kadusonapannahalli school. My house is at Chinnappa Garden and I would have to pay close to ₹25,000 as transport fees, which is just not possible given the means that we have.” Sources in the Department of Public Instruction said parents were also initially asked to pay tuition fees for 2017–18 academic year. The reason given was that the Education Department would not be able to provide reimbursement to students under the quota as the process had been centralised. Parents approached RTE task force convener Nagasimha G. Rao who forwarded their complaint to the commission. “If the department does not respond, we will fight this legally on behalf of the parents,” he said.School authorities, when contacted on Wednesday morning, said students would not have pay the tuition fees, but had to pay the transport fees. Later in the evening, they said they would not have to pay transport fees either. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

116. Udaipur division records worst learning outcomes: Report (11)

JAIPUR: The tribal-dominated Udaipur division has recorded poor learning outcomes in reading, comprehension and mathematics, among all seven divisional headquarters. The Annual Status of Education Report-2016 released last week showed that tribal-dominated districts — Banswara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur which come under Udaipur division, had alarmingly poor learning outcomes. The report says that barely 22 students for every 100 students enrolled in class VI were able to solve simple division problems. The state average is 39.7% which is placed in the last 10 states. The highest was recorded by Bharatpur division. It has 57.5% students enrolled in class VI who were able to solve the same set of simple division problems. The report further says that only 43.3% of the students enrolled in standard III can read text meant for standard I. This is among the worst learning outcomes even nationally. Bikaner and Jaipur have attained above average scores with 66.6% and 66.1%, respectively. The actual situation is worse.Notably, some villages in Udaipur division have recorded worst literacy levels in a single digit. The Mahari village with a population of 5,000 has a literacy rate of 19% which explains that most of the students enrolled in the rural areas are first from their families to attend schools. Explaining the reason behind the poor learning outcomes in Udaipur division, Aziz Ahmed, principal of senior secondary school in Mahari in Kotra tehsil, Udaipur said, “The figures may be worst among all divisional headquarters but it is fast improving. Extreme poverty along with early marriages which is a part of the local culture deters the students from attending school.”Another shocking revelation by Ahmed says that tribals living in the interiors have very few words of Hindi in their vocabulary. “I have been taking extra classes to teach students Hindi as 99% of the schools are Hindi-medium in the interiors. Here they speak a mixed dialect of Gujarati and tribal language which makes them feel outsider in the Hindi speaking state,” said Ahmed.The tribal region has 20.6% of students enrolled in the private schools which are again lowest in the state. It explains that poverty in the rural areas has restricted the growth of private schools which have performed better in the learning outcomes at the state and national levels. Bharatpur and Jaipur have highest percentage of students enrolled in private schools with 54.7% and 53.6% students enrolled in the private schools, respectively. (Times of India 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

117.  Bengal, UP, Bihar top in providing LPG to poor (21)

Kolkata: Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and Bihar are the top beneficiary States of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna (PMUY), for giving LPG (cooking gas) connections to the poor. According to IndianOil, in UP – where the scheme was launched in May 2016, close to 46 lakh women from below-poverty-line households availed the scheme to get LPG connections. Though launched much later in August, Bengal already added 19.5 lakh beneficiaries to secure the second position, followed by Bihar (19 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (17 lakh) and Rajasthan (14 lakh). Before the launch, 10 crore out of 24 crore households in India were using low energy smoky fuels like coal, firewood, cow dung etc, causing major health hazards to women and families. Funded through money saved on LPG subsidy by “give-it-up” campaign, the PMUY scheme aims to bring offer efficient energy solutions to 5 crore families in three years, at a total cost of ₹8,000 crore. Of the total 1.5 crore households will get LPG connections this year. Beneficiaries are chosen from the socio economic and caste census 2011. Under the scheme, oil companies have subsidised ₹1,600 a family against security deposit and connection charges. Oil companies further offered low-cost stoves against interest free loan to PMUY beneficiaries. According to RK Mohapatra, General manager and State level coordinator for oil PSUs in Bengal, nationally the scheme has so far helped cover 70 per cent households, up from 61 per cent in May. In Bengal, averages are up from as low as 51 per cent to 63 per cent, since August. A total of nine States including West Bengal, UP, MP, Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and others where LPG usages were less than national average were focus States of the scheme. Nationally, 60 per cent of the beneficiaries have gone for refill so far indicating that the connections are not lying dormant. Mohapatra expects the refill status to improve with time. (Bsiness Line 2/1/17)

118. 51,259 Fair Price Shops in State to go cashless (21)

Mumbai: In an ambitious project, the State government has decided to help 51,259 Fair Price Shops (FPSs) go cashless and provide e-wallet facilities to ration card holders in rural areas. After completing a pilot project this month to turn 84 fair price shops across the State into Business Correspondents (BCs), the government is now ready to roll out end-to-end transaction facilities by March 2017. The shops will now conduct transactions through point-of-sale terminals. The FPSs supply subsidised goods to ration card holders and persons below the poverty line. Senior State officials said that during the pilot project, the software for point-of-sale transcation was successfully integrated with an e-PDS (public distribution software) to test live end-to-end transactions at the shops. The success of pilot project means that a phase-wise roll out has been planned. The first phase will target shops in seven districts and is likely to be finished by January 2017. The second phase will target covering 17 districts by February. The last phase will cover 18 districts by March. Deliberations on the project began in September last year, with representatives of banks and FPS unions, officials said. “The formal process began as part of the government memorandum dated November 8, 2016,” said an official. However, until the POS terminals are installed, cashless PDS will be carried out through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and e-wallet facility. The State has issued a government resolution for compulsory use of USSD at FPSs.The State has been divided into three phases for the roll-out. Each phase will have its own System Integrator Agency. A letter of intent was issued to the agencies on November 24 and the Master Training Agreement with the agencies will be signed on December 24. An official said, “The training of Master Trainers has been held at most locations at the Divisional Level. Fair Price shops owners and ration card holders are also being trained in all districts and talukas.” Once the POS terminals are installed, the Aadhaar enabled cashless PDS will begin, said officials. However, experts have questioned the use of USSD for cashless transactions, saying it is too early implement its use on a mass scale. “The USSD (*99#) is only an unstructured supplementary service. To set up a digital infrastructure in the rural areas, it will take nothing less than three years for the government. They should first lay the groundwork,” said Abhishant Pant, a Mumbai-based fintech professional, who started a campaign for a cashless India. (The Hindu 6/1/17)

119.  Playing pro-poor card, Modi says note ban to lift their life (21)

New Delhi: Playing the pro-poor card, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said they are the focus of his government and projected demonetisation as a long-term tool to fight black money and corruption to improve their lives. Serving the poor is serving the god, he said in his concluding address at the 2-day BJP National Executive meeting in which he invoked a Sanskrit shloka to say that he does not covet power, heaven or second life but longs to end the people’s sufferings. Modi again pitched for electoral reforms and sought a consensus among political parties, asserting that BJP will play a lead role in making political funding transparent as demonetisation and digital economy have ushered in a more transparent era. “BJP will be at the forefront of pushing transparency in political funding. People have a right to know where our funds are coming from,” he said. With opposition parties levelling corruption charges at BJP leadership following the note ban, he asked party leaders to welcome criticism but they should remain unfazed by accusations even as he underlined his humble origins and had lived poverty. Referring to coming assembly elections in five states, including the crucial Uttar Pradesh polls, Modi expressed confidence that the party will win there. He referred to the impressive Lucknow rally he had addressed a few days ago and his interactions with workers in his constituency Varanasi to make the point. The prime minister asked worked to focus effectively on booths, saying the more they work there the more fruits the party will harvest. “The situation is in our favour in the elections,” he said. It was the poor and his government to empower them which was the central theme of his 50-minute long speech. “The poor of our poor country have accepted this historic decision (demonetisation). They have accepted that it is an effective step to end social ills including corruption. “Accepting the hardships which came with the decision, they have welcome this historic step toward a great change,” Modi said, adding that the country has seen society’s strength in the last two months. Some people were concerned about improvement in their life style but priority of our government was to change the quality of the life of the poor, Modi said. Briefing the reporters, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Prime Minister asserted that the poor and poverty are not a tool for winning elections BJP and that it does not look at them through vote-bank glasses. Modi cited a string of government’s measures, including Jan Dhan accounts, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Swachh Bharat, and said the poor have inner strength to overcome poverty and his government has been working to empower them. Sources said he also asked party leaders to not seek poll tickets for their kin, saying organisation will take care of the exerciseExhorting workers to win over the poor, Modi said BJP is blessed with lakhs of selfless functionaries connected to the ground and said they are not swayed by wind but are capable of changing its direction. Apparently responding to criticism that cash did not have a big share of black money, he said it was the source of all forms, like benami assets and gold, of black money. He invoked the party’s ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay, whose birth centenary is being celebrated by the government and the organisation, and said his government’s works are in line with his ‘garib kalyan’ agenda… (Deccan Herald 7/1/17)

120. Odisha should implementsocio-economic programmes: NHRC (21)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said the Odisha government should ensure effective implementation of key socio-economic programmes for the well-being of people. “The effective implementation of key socio-economic flagship programmes of the Government of India are crucial in ensuring the socio-economic well-being of particularly those who grapple with poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities on an everyday basis,” said NHRC Chairperson Justice H.L. Dattu while inaugurating a three-day camp court of the commission here. He said the state government is required to make efforts for improvement of health, education and the socio-economic situation in several parts of the state. The commission said while many positive developments have taken shape in Odisha, there are several areas in which efforts are required to further improve the situation of human rights within the state. “The Commission notes with concern several instances from within the state, of acquisition of land for various developmental projects without adequate compensation or alternative livelihood support to those displaced from their lands,” said Justice Dattu. “To add to this, there are disturbing allegations of police brutality against protesting villagers and even journalists covering such protests,” he added. He said the problem of trafficking of women and girls is indicative of a problem that is not simply related to lack of effective protection for women and girls, but also aspects of poverty, illiteracy and lack of adequate livelihood opportunities. It often compels families to relinquish care of their children, including adolescent girls, to outsiders, such as unscrupulous employment agencies, agents, and even shelter homes, said the NHRC chairperson.”The commission has been deeply concerned about protection of the rights of girls and women. In this context, we would like to know from the authorities about the initiatives taken, particularly with respect to human trafficking, if any, child marriage as well as efforts towards gender sensitisation among police personnel and other public functionaries,” he said. (Business Standard 9/1/17)

121. NHRC seeks report on woman selling her newborn for Rs 2000 due to poverty (21)

 Bhubaneswar:The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought a report from the Kendrapara district magistrate in Odisha on reports of a woman selling her newborn due to poverty. Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports during its camp sitting at Bhubaneswar, the commission directed the district magistrate to submit a report within four weeks along with the list of steps taken or proposed to be taken for relief and rehabilitation of the family. A homeless Scheduled Tribes woman, deserted by her husband, was forced to sell her newly born male child to one of her neighbours, for a sum of Rs 2,000 in Kendrapara district on Monday. The baby boy was born on Sunday evening. Reportedly, the woman took this step due to poverty as she is deprived of benefits of the government-run schemes. She is already mother of two children, said the commission. The Commission has observed that the contents of the news reports, as brought to its notice by human rights activist Akhand, are indeed painful and indicative of violation of right to livelihood and dignity of the poor woman, who was forced to sell her child due to circumstances. (Business Standard 11/1/17)

122. Thousands of Afghan children dying of hunger amid ‘unprecedented’ displacement – UN

New York, Jan 10 : Despite attempts to increase food aid in Afghanistan, children bear the brunt of the country’s nutritional crisis, the United Nations humanitarian arm on Monday reported, warning that the ongoing fighting has also led to record number of children at risk of abuse and exploitation.[NK World] According to the recently-issued Humanitarian Needs Overview, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that 9.3 million people are in need of aid. The UN noted that the number is an increase of 13 per cent over the past year, fuelled largely by a continued deepening and geographic spread of the conflict.Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous, and most violent, crisis ridden countries in the world, the report stated. The fighting killed a record 8,397 civilians in the first nine months of 2016, and displaced half a million by November. More than half of those displaced were children, who, in addition to malnutrition, face abuse and exploitation, including through forced marriage, sexual abuse and harmful child labour. One of the greatest dangers is hunger. More than a quarter of all Afghanistans provinces have acute malnutrition rates above 15 per cent, classifying them above emergency thresholds. Out of the total of 1.8 million people requiring assistance for malnutrition, at least 1.3 million are children under the age of five. As of September 2016, only a quarter-million children had been admitted for treatment, a fraction of those estimated to be in need, according to the report findings. The food situation in the country overall is dire, with crops last year producing less than in 2015, leaving a gap of 1.2 million metric tons. The report noted that while fighting, a sudden increase in returnees from Pakistan and an economic slowdown affected the country, the food gap is also the result of localized floods and dry spells, a locust infestation and wheat rust. (New Kerala 11/1/17)

123. Kerala to implement National Food Security Act from April  (21)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala government would start providing food articles to ration card holders across the state under the National Food Security Act from April one. Process to make the Public Distribution System more transparent had already started and new ration cards would be distributed in March, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies P Thilothaman told reporters on Thursday. He said state would ask the Centre to restore the rice quota of the state to 16.50 lakh metric tonne per annum for distribution under PDS. This would be taken up with the Union Food Minister Ramvilas Paswan during the meeting to be held at New Delhi on January 16, he said.There was a cut in the quantity of rice for the state after National Food Security Act came into force, he said. The state would get only 14.50 lakh metric tonne in place of 16.50 lakh metric tonne which it was receiving, he pointed out. Referring to UDF Opposition criticism that PDS in the state has collapsed, Thilothaman said problems in the distribution of food articles through ration shops has ended. Distribution of ration articles for the last month was expected to be completed by January 14 and supply of articles for the current month has also started, Thilothaman told reporters here. State faced problems in the PDS after there was a reduction in the quantity of food articles following the implementation of National Food Security Act, he pointed out. However, the state was now able to supply rice and wheat, to persons in Antyodaya Anna Yojana list and priority list category and also to non-priority list group, he said. Stating that stern action would be taken against corruption, he said officials recovered nearly 100 tone of spoiled rice kept for distribution under PDS from a private mill in Kottayam. A total of 1.87 lakh metric tonne paddy was procured from 53078 farmers at a price of Rs 22.50 per kg in the first season so far. Out of a total of Rs 420.76 crore due to farmers under this account, an amount of Rs 184.78 crore was disbursed so far, he pointed out. (The Indian Express 12/1/17)

124. Odisha human rights body seeks report from Kandhamal collector on Janaki Parichha’s poverty (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has asked Kandhamal district collector to help a poor woman, Janaki Parichha of Pureipadar under Gochhapada panchayat in the district, who had walked around 100 km to appear as a witness in a rape case before Bhanjanagar court on January 9. The commission said the woman walked the distance because she had no money to travel in bus or in any other vehicle. It shows her abject poverty and the government should help her, it pointed out. The rights body accepting a petition filed by human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo issued a notice on Thursday to the district collector and asked him to submit a report on the action taken, within 15 days. The petitioner said Janaki, a dalit woman, had received a notice from Bhanjanagar court on December 31 last year to appear before the court as a witness in a 17-year-old rape case. She was the witness of her sister’s rape. Keeping the court’s notice in mind, she had prepared herself to attend the court well in advance. Due to lack of money, she had to walk the long distance by crossing hilly terrains. She had started walking since January 1 with her elder son Tika (12) and daughter Labani (7). After eight days of walking she had reached the court. She fed her kids by collecting food from the passerby and locals. She had to spend the bone chilling winter nights of Kandhamal with her kids in order to reach the court. “Janaki, mother of five, lives in a thatched house. Her husband is a daily wager who doesn’t get a job frequently. The family is not able to eat proper meals due to lack of money,” said Kanungo. He urged the commission to direct the district administration to include her family under national food security act, poverty alleviation scheme and provide her destitute allowance. (Times of India 15/1/17)

125. Budget 2017: Government planning national social security system for poor, unemployed

NEW DELHI: The government is considering an ambitious income transfer scheme that could form the basis of a national social security system though opinion is divided over whether it should be a universal basic income or more focused support limited to the most vulnerable. The idea is being discussed as a means of addressing poverty and if a decision is reached, it could be announced in the February 1 budget by FM Arun Jaitley. “There is a thinking… pros and cons of having such a scheme are being examined,” said a government official. Such a programme can have broad implications in terms of delivery as well as the fiscal deficit, said the official, adding that any decision will have to be taken keeping these factors in mind. Providing Rs 1,500 a month to an estimated 200 million poor will cost the government about Rs 3 lakh crore, resources that may be difficult to come by. The debate is between a widely accessible universal basic income that may stretch the social security net too thin and targeting specific groups. The government is committed to lowering the fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of GDP in FY18 though a committee is reviewing that road map. However, if resource generation rises in the wake of demonetisation and the upcoming rollout of the goods and services tax (GST), the government may be in a good position to back such a scheme. … (Times of India 17/1/17)

126. No relief from hunger for city suburb (21)

Around eight per cent of families living in Mumbai’s Shivaji Nagar have at least one member who has gone hungry as many as 10 times in a month. Most of these families also have ration cards but there is still widespread food insecurity, according to ‘Life on the Margin: Charting Realities’, a situational analysis report released by Apnalaya, an NGO that has been working in the area for around four decades now. Of the families who face hunger despite having a ration card, 79 per cent spend most of their money on just water. A total of 6,631 families with 32,881 individuals were interviewed for the study conducted in April 2015. The study highlighted some facts about the ward that the BMC had already mentioned in one of its own surveys, such as that Shivaji Nagar, with a population of over 6 lakh, has no maternity home or secondary hospital. There are other findings, too, like the fact that a worker who came here 40 years ago is likely to be making only Rs 700 more than someone who would settle there now. “This highlights how most of the workers are engaged in basic, unskilled work and come here despite the poor conditions,” said Arun Kumar, CEO, Apnalaya. The report also took the BMC to task for alloting only Rs 164 crore for slum development out of its Rs 31,178 crore budget; of the allotted amount, Rs 45crore remained unspent. Health minister Dr Deepak Sawant who unveiled the report said that while he couldn’t say more since the code of conduct for elections was in place, he cautioned, “When conducting surveys it is important to have a large sample size rather than one where only 20-30 people are interviewed.” (DNA 20/1/17)

127. Chennai: Wasted food will now feed homeless in city (21)

CHENNAI: The city’s homeless may finally be able to have a dignified way to fill their bellies. They may no longer have to scavenge for throwaways or digging dumpsters.A project focusing on managing wasted fresh food will soon hand out proper meals and set up open fridges for the homeless. All this, without a single rupee spent on preparing these meals. The `No Food Waste’ project, a crusade against food-waste that can stave off hunger for several of the state’s homeless inhabitants, will be working with Greater Chennai Corporation to accomplish this. The group will get untouched leftover food from collection points across cities and distribute it to the homeless, with an eye on localities that have quite a few of them. A G Padmanaban, the 23-year-old founder of the project, has sought the corporation’s support for his endeavour. Parallelly, the project will also set up two refrigerators at restaurants bakeries in its initial run to enable a “public take away” system for the homeless. “To accomplish this, we are currently mapping the city for `hunger spots’, areas with several clusters of homeless population,” said Padmanaban, who is looking for not just food donations, but also vehicles and volunteers.The crowd-funded initiative, he said, was also looking to take in donations from corporates and office buildings that account for a large amount of waste. Several IT companies like ZohoCorp, he revealed, were keen on the tie-up.The project which was set to take off in 2016 had met with logistics issues “We have developed this model suited to the city’s neighbouring this time, said Padmanaban. Channelling tonnes of untouched leftover food to the needy , the project currently feeds people across Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Trichy in the state and in the National Capital Region (NCR). (Times of India 24/1/17)

128. Global Goals on poverty and hunger require $265 billion annually – UN conference told

New York, Jan 26 : The world must take urgent action to mobilise the estimated $265 billion a year needed to achieve the first two Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and hunger by 2030, the head of the United Nations agency for financing rural development projects has told an international conference. The need is urgent, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said at last nights opening of a conference, titled Investing in inclusive rural transformation: innovative approaches to financing, held in Rome, Italy on 26-27 January. Despite decades of commitments and considerable effort to end poverty and hunger, nearly 800 million children, women and men still go hungry every day, and an almost equal number live in extreme poverty, he added, stressing the need to be more creative in using public resources and mobilise financing. He also emphasized the need to make it easier for the private sector and philanthropists to invest in rural areas, where rates of poverty and hunger are highest. Speakers agreed it cannot be left up to governments alone. In 2015, Official Development Assistance (ODA) was approximately $192 billion and only $9 billion of that was earmarked for agriculture. President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo F. Nwanze, addresses the opening in Rome of a conference focused on finding innovative ways to finance rural development. Photo: IFADThe conference comes at a critical time with political changes and humanitarian crises such as war, migration and natural disasters reshaping global priorities and potentially diverting money away from development. The majority of these poor and hungry people live in rural areas of developing countries. Investments need to be targeted to transform rural areas into vibrant places that offer all people the opportunity to have decent jobs and lead dignified lives free of poverty and hunger. Nwanze stressed that the financing needs for development are enormous, but so are the opportunities. Agri-food is already a $5 trillion sector, and it is growing, he said. It holds tremendous promise for the private sector and for producers in developing countries. Co-organised by IFAD, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Brookings Institution and the University of Warwick, the conference brings together development agencies, governments, philanthropic organisations, the private sector, academia and farmers organisations to look at innovative ways to mobilise money and smarter ways to spend it. IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, it has provided about $18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. (New Kerala 27/1/17)

129. Karnataka makes most of Railways’ pass for poor under ‘Izzat scheme’ (21)

BENGALURU: If monthly season tickets issued by the India Railways under its ‘Izzat scheme’ are any indication to poverty levels, Karnataka has the highest number of poor people and Chhattisgarh the lowest. Railways issues Izzat tickets to persons certified to be earning less than Rs 1,500 a month. The monthly fee for daily one-way travel of up to 150 km is Rs 25. Workers in the unorganised sector and those categorised as belonging to low-income groups are entitled to the scheme, which Mamata Banerjee launched in her 2009-10 budget as railway minister. A regular season ticket costs Rs 525 a month. South Western Railway, consisting of the Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubli divisions, tops the Izzat chart, according to data sourced by ET from the Ministry of Railways under the Right to Information Act. Within Karnataka, however, while the number of passes issued dropped from 39,511 to 25,305 between 2013-14 and 2015-16, the Mysuru division recorded an increase from 20,536 to 36,736 passes in this period, although officials suspect the authenticity of poverty claims in a large number of cases. According to authorities, the railways lost Rs 9.5 crore in foregone revenues in 2015-16. There are 16 railway zones in the country covering 70 divisions.In 2015-16, these divisions together issued 1.89 lakh Izzat passes, of which Karnataka accounted for the largest chunk of 72,016 passes. The Southeast Central Railway, administering Bilaspur, Raipur and Nagpur divisions, issued the fewest passes —206. What could provide some relief to authorities is that the number of people claiming Izzat passes dropped last year. While 3.19 lakh people claimed these passes in calendar year 2013, the number dropped to 1.62 lakh in 2014-15. The 2016-17 numbers will show whether these numbers are falling further or holding firm. “When I was the railway minister, there were suggestions to discontinue with the scheme,” said DV Sadananda Gowda, minister for statistics and programme implementation. “But, then, we decided to continue since the scheme targeted poor people.” (Times of India 30/1/17)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

130.  State to get additional Rs. 1,600 cr. under MGNREGA (14)

BANGALORE: The Centre has increased allocation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) by Rs. 1,600 crore, from Rs. 2,400 crore to Rs. 4,000 crore for the year 2016-17.Following severe drought in 139 taluks across the State, the Centre has raised the workdays under its flagship scheme from 100 to 150. With this cumulative person-days will increase from 6.2 crore to 10 crore this year, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) H.K. Patil told presspersons here on Monday. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah took an-all party delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought more funds under the MGNREGA to tackle drought. Due to delay in release of funds, the State had released money in advance to beneficiaries under the scheme. In case of delay in payment of wages, authorities have to pay interest of 0.05 per cent to eligible beneficiaries. (The Hindu 2/1/17)

131. Subsidized meal for labourers still on backburner (14)

AHMEDABAD: More than three months after Vijay Rupani’s Gujarat government announced subsidized meals, for Rs 10, for labourers, this scheme is still on the backburner. Dr Anil Patel, chiarman of Gujarat Bandhkam Shramyogi Kalyan Board (GBSKB), said on Tuesday that the state government has been mulling on starting the scheme but nothing has been finalized at present. Patel was speaking to reporters about the achievements of ‘Dhanvantari Arogya Ratha’ – an ambulance service for constructions workers, which began operations on December 25 last year. On whether the tender procedure has begun, Patel said the scheme will be started in the near future but he did say by when subsidized food would reach labourers in the state. It needs mention that the BJP-led Rajasthan government and the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government have already started subsidized meals for the poor.Patel on September 22 had said that construction workers would receive a packed lunch of dal, subzi, roti and chutni at Rs 10 per meal. “We have tied up with Akshay Patra. Each meal costs Rs 42.50. The workers will pay Rs 10 and the government will pay the rest,” Patel had said. About other initiatives of GBKSB, Patel said the state government will give portable tents to labourers employed in construction work on canals across the state. (Times of India 4/1/17)

132. In brick kilns, a life of debt, abuse (14)

HYDERABAD: A day after 411 children were rescued by police and activists from Yadadri area, authorities said most victims from Balangir and Nuapada districts in Odisha narrated tales of despair. From dawn to dusk, Kaya (name changed) and her three daughters lived a life of fear in the brick kilns as any delay in cutting the bricks would lead to wage cuts and physical abuse. Ac cording to child rights activists, sexual abuse and child abuse was rampant in the brick kilns. “Our life runs on debt.We take loans for food, agriculture and now I have the huge responsibility of getting my three daughters married. We can never stop taking debts, we cannot pay them back till we die,” child rights activist Kanchukatla Subhash quoted Kaya as saying. Employers who forced them into labour paid them a paltry weekly wage of Rs 300, police said. After demonetisation, the families struggled to fend for themselves for weeks without any money. “For some time, our parents purchased subsidised rice from the black market and other groceries, but on most occasions, our parents skipped meals to feed us,” said a rescued child. The children told police how they were housed in cramped sheds during their seasonal migration period.Most of these families depend on agriculture for a livelihood and all of them depend on debts to get from one season to the next. The adivasis take debts of Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 every year for their agricultural needs. After their failed attempts at farming, when its payback time, they have to work as bonded labour for the next six months. … (Times of India 6/1/17)

133. 80 lakh tea garden workers to benefit: Dattatreya (14)

SHILLONG, Jan 6 – Over 80 lakh tea garden workers across the country will benefit from the Centre’s proposed amendment to the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, Union Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said here today. “More than 80 lakh workers in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam will be benefited from the proposed amendment to Plantations Labour Act, 1951,” Dattatreya told reporters on the sidelines of a foundation stone laying ceremony of the Regional Labour Institute here. He said the amendments would ensure that employers of tea garden workers provide not only proper wages to them, but also ensure that health, ration, housing and other well being of the workers were taken care of and linked with the schemes provided by respective State Governments.  The Union Minister announced an up-gradation of the ESI Dispensary in Shillong to a six-bedded hospital to cater to the needs of the employees. Dattatreya directed the Meghalaya Government to conduct fresh surveys to ensure that children below the age of 14 were not exploited. “I have directed the State Government that a fresh survey should be made and ensure that all children are in school and their lives as happy as any other children,” he said adding, “No establishments or factory should employ children below 14 years of age.” The Minister criticised the State Government for its failure to utilise the workers’ cess it collected and advised that the amount be fully utilised for the very purpose it was collected. “The construction workers cess amount collected by the Meghalaya Government is Rs 80 crore and they have not spent much of the money. The amount should go to the very purpose of welfare education, scholarship and employment of construction workers,” the Minister said. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 7/1/17)

134. As rural hands return, NREGA demand spikes over 60 per cent (14)

New Delhi: The average daily demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) has recorded an over 60% increase in December as compared to the preceding few months. Officials monitoring MGNREGA works on-site attribute the sudden spike in demand to job losses suffered by migrant labourers owing to the cash squeeze following demonetisation. Records from the Ministry of Rural Development, accessed by The Indian Express, show that between July and November 2016, the average labourer turnout per day under MGNREGA was 30 lakh. In December, the average numbers went up to 50 lakh per day. And on January 7, 2017, the labour turnout for the day was as high as 83.60 lakh — approaching three times the daily pre-demonetisation average of 30 lakh. The reverse migration triggered by mounting job losses for informal workers employed in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has translated in to an increased demand for work provided in rural India under the employment guarantee scheme. According to officials, December — by when much of the rabi sowing is over — usually registers a slight increase in demand, but never to the extent that was witnessed last month. “MSMEs and other sectors did get hit due to demonetisation. In such cases, the labourers go back to their villages and seek work under MGNREGA which is one of the main reasons for the increase,” said an official. Data show that on November 7, the day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement, 38.52 lakh labourers sought work under MGNREGA. The number fell slightly to 35.60 on December 2, but thereafter rose through the month and in January, reaching 78.90 lakh on Thursday and 83.60 lakh on Saturday. The last time MGNREGA numbers were higher was between April and June when the onset of the monsoon was delayed, and drought-like conditions were prevalent over many parts of India. The figures had then touched 1 crore per day. Increased demand for work under MGNREGA — which guarantees 100 days of wage employment (150 days in case of an officially-declared drought in the state) — is usually a sign of rural distress. .. (The Indian Express 9/1/17)

135. 1.98 lakh MGNREGA job cards cancelled in State (14)

GUWAHATI, Jan 11 – Verification of job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have resulted in detection of massive irregularities and led to cancellation of 1.98 lakh such cards in the State. Addressing a press conference here today, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Panchayat and Rural Development Naba Kumar Doley said that MGNREGA job card verification has been started. “Till date 68.48 per cent job card has been verified. Under this verification, 1.98 lakh job cards have been cancelled,” said the Minister. Asked about the reason for cancellation of job cards, Doley said there were issues of complaints of wrongdoing, and also presence of names of people who have already died. He said detailed investigation will be carried out to find out if there were any wrongdoings in this regard. The Minister said that so far in 2016-17, Assam has utilized Rs 1,267.16 crore under MGNREGA, which is Rs 638.68 crore more than the previous year in the same period. “The total number of man-days generated in 2016-17 is 317.92 lakh, which is 8.99 lakh more than the previous year in the same period. Total households provided employment in current year under MGNREGA is 11.70 lakh and total job car issued to employment seekers is 43.89 lakh,” Doley said. He added that 100 per cent payment under MGNREGA has been made through electronic fund management system. “From 2016-17, Geo-MGNREGA has been introduced in Assam. Till date 11,351 assets have been geo tagged and available in public domain,” he said. Doley said that the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) will be launched in the State next week and the target is to provide housing facilities to 1.64 lakh beneficiaries during the current 2016-17 financial year. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will ceremonially launch the PMAY-G on January 19. To address the gap in rural housing and in view of the Central Government’s commitment to provide ‘Housing for All’ by 2022, the scheme of Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) has been re-structured into PMAY-G with effect from April 1, 2016. Doley said that Rs 2,100 crore has been sanctioned under the scheme to the State in 2016-17. “For the financial year 2016-17, housing facilities to 1.64 lakh beneficiaries will be provided, which is 41,000 more than that of last year i.e. 2015-16. Unit cost of the house has increased from Rs 75,000 in 2015-16 to Rs 1.30 lakh in 2016-17,” he said. Selection of beneficiaries is being done as per the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011, said the Minister. (The Assam Tribune 11/1/17)

136. PM must help daily labourers: Gopal Rai (14)

NEW DELHI: Following a spot informal survey of labour chowks across Delhi, the government has concluded that last year’s demonetisation move has particularly affected daily-wage construction labourers. Citing data to show how the number of labourers has nearly halved at many labour chowks since the demonetisaton kicked in on November 9, labour minister Gopal Rai demanded on Thursday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must compensate these people in the Union Budget for 2017-18. The survey shows that on November 9, the number of workers at 55 labour chowks were 13,745. It came down by almost 55% to 6,195 on December 28.However, the survey also found that at several chowks near some of the industrial areas, the number had almost doubled. “We learnt that as workers were laid off by factories following the demonetisation, many of them had landed at labour chowks looking for daily-wage work,” Rai said. The government will get an independent social audit done of the Building and Construction Workers Board to assess its financial management and address the trouble spots to improve the delivery of facilities to the registered construction workers. The board has a corpus of over Rs 2,000 crore to spend for the welfare of such workers. “Even the findings of an earlier CAG audit expressed concerns over the board’s effectiveness. We want to plug the gaps,” said Rai. The minister also announced that the Delhi government would soon formalise a health insurance scheme for construction workers to let them get treated at private hospitals. The scheme will be funded by the board. “Private insurance companies have made their presentations and we will shortlist the best applicants that can give the labourers the best facilities.” Rai added that the selected insurance company or companies would have an agreement with the government. The board will pay the premium of the policy and every registered worker will get a card from the company that he can use to get treated in any of the listed private hospitals, the minister said. (Times of India 13/1/17)

137. Of 5 states which get lion’s share of NREGS funds, only 2 are poor (14)

NEW DELHI: Half of the fund allocation under job scheme MGNREGA goes to five states, but only two of them, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, rank high on the poverty list. The paradox that poor states are not partaking of “distress labour” scheme has been underlined by the Sumit Bose committee set up to analyse welfare schemes of the rural development ministry and suggest ways to prioritise beneficiaries. A break-up of the fund flow under the job scheme between 2013-2016 shows that Andhra Pradesh (AP), Tamil Nadu (TN), UP, Bengal and Rajasthan have accounted for half of the allocations. AP, TN and Rajasthan are low on the list of deprivation or degree of poverty. In contrast, Bihar and Maharashtra are not among the top five states despite having “greater concentration of deprived households”, as mapped by rural household survey socio-economic caste census (SECC). The expert panel’s findings are in consonance with the general understanding that hard labour offered by MGNREGA should have greater demand from states with higher degree of poverty. The Bose panel has recommended that the scheme’s focus should be more on poor regions. Insiders acknowledge the paradox but attribute it to the nature of MGNREGA which is universal and demand-driven. Sources in rural development ministry said the scheme cannot be selectively focussed on poor states as it has to respond to demand whereever it emanates from. An earlier attempt to focus only on 2500 backward blocks kicked up a major controversy in 2015. However, a top official said the skewed relationship between poverty and work demand has been noticed and the ministry is building systems to help poor regions leverage MGNREGA better. Sources said instead of limiting the scheme to poor areas, the ministry has launched a concerted campaign to target families which have reported deprivation under SECC.All gram panchayats have been asked to ensure that deprived households are issued “job cards” so that they are encouraged to seek work. The campaign has a special focus on 2569 poorest blocks, as identified by the erstwhile plan panel. “The labour budget and employment has shot up in Rajasthan, UP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, Odisha in last year. We’ve tried to push up work there,” he said. (Times of India 15/1/17)

138. ‘Upgradation of engg. skills need of the hour’ (14)

HYDERABAD: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday underscored the need for upgradation of skills, especially engineering skills in the aviation sector, if the country is to begin to manufacture fighter jets and battle helicopters. “The biggest challenge is trained manpower,” he said. He was addressing a gathering at the inauguration of the Swarna Bharat Trust, Hyderabad chapter, at Muchhintal village of Shamshabad mandal, Ranga Reddy district. Spread over 10 acres, the Trust plans to provide skill development training in various activities to 300 youth a year with hostel facility free of cost. Its first centre set up in Union Minister for Urban Development M. Venkaiah Naidu’s village of Venkatachalam in 2001 had trained 20,000 youth. Several top industrialists, real estate barons, doctors and others have pitched in with funds, land and infrastructure for the Trust. Mr. Parrikar said: Having an aeronautical engineering degree alone is not enough and it is doubtful if the engineers are ready for the market. There is no scope for errors in aerospace engineering, it has to have zero error. We have a strange problem of shortage of skills among youth and no people to train them. Expressing his amazement of Prime Minister Narendera Modi’s road map for India like the Swacch Bharat, Make in India, Start Up India, skill development and so on, the Minister said if the country could maintain better sanitation and hygiene standards, the number of tourists could increase by three or four-folds. “All these programmes are for the youth of India as they need employment but we have this issue of no shortage of opportunities yet unemployed due to lack of skills,” he said, adding that the upcoming copter fuselage making unit at Adibatla in association with Boeing could kickstart an aerospace ecosystem. Union Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya appealed to the assembled gathering to join the National Career Portal which links the job seekers with job givers. The Government is also spending Rs.1,200 crore for employment generation with Rs.330 crore in Telangana, he said. Earlier, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who inaugurated, urged the Trust to think of reviving Panchayat Raj institutions. “Due to the kind of politics being practised nowadays, and clamour for power, the PR set up has lost its focus over the years,” he said. Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said the Trust was apolitical, does not take Government funds and would be concentrating on uplift of rural women, youth and farmers. Managing Trustee and his daughter Deepa Venkat and others spoke. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

139. Regularise jobs of one crore workers: CITU (14)

Kolar: Hundreds of workers led by district unit of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) staged a protest in front of the taluk panchayat office here on Friday seeking regularisation of workers employed under various government schemes. Around one crore people are working under various schemes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), National Health Mission (NHM), Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Panchayat Sevika. They have been paid very meagre wages and enjoy no facilities, the CITU said. The workers in these sectors, who are instrumental in reaching the government schemes to the masses, particularly in rural areas, are being divested from the equal work-equal wages norms, it alleged. The organisation urged the governments to take steps to regularise their services so that they enjoy all benefits.CITU district honorary president Gandhinagar Narayanaswamy, taluk president Venkatalakshmamma, and secretary M. Vijayakrishna participated in the protest. (The Hindu 20/1/17)

140. Bihar government team reaches Jaipur to take 108 rescued child labourers back home

JAIPUR: A team of Bihar government has reached Jaipur to take 108 child labourers rescued by state government from city. Over the past few years, Jaipur has become a hub for child labour, where children from Bihar and Jharkhand come to work in manufacturing units of bangles, gem polishing and in aari-tari. The children narrated their ordeal they faced in the life. An 8-year-old child labour from Bihar told officials of one stop crisis management centre for children (OSCMCC), which is providing support for sending them back home, that his father has severe respiratory problem. “He told us that his father was ill. So, he took Rs13,000 and send his son to Jaipur for work,” Vijay Goyal said, who is incharge of OSCMCC. He said that there was a 9-year-old boy who was sexually harassed by owner of the factory where he used to work. “A case under POCSO has also been registered in police station,” Goyal said. Others also narrated their plight of being a child labourer. “Majority of them belong to poor family,” he said. There are two children, who lost their mother and father. Their brothers sent them to work in Jaipur taking Rs5,000 from the agents. Now, the state government in support of NGOs and OSCMCC, will help the children in their rehabilitation. The district administration will issue these children certificate of bonded labourers so that they would get the benefits of schemes formulated for bonded labourers. Officials said that the Centre also provided financial help to such children after being certified as bonded labour. Moreover, they will also get the benefit of schemes which are meant for BPL families. Moreover, their education and health will also be taken care of. Among 108 children, 84 belonged to Gaya in Bihar and eight belonged from Samastipur. The others belonged to districts like Patna and Nalanda.Earlier also these children were staying in care homes run by the government and NGOs as well. There are around 21 child labourers, who have been staying in the care homes in Jaipur since September. After four months of the rescue, a team of Bihar government reached Jaipur to take them back home. The state government was in touch with Bihar government for a long time to help the rescued children go back home. These children were rescued between September 2016 and January 2017. But as Bihar government officials did not come earlier, these children spent four months in care homes. The government did not initiate the process of handing over the rescued children to their parents claiming it would affect their rehabilitation. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 22/1/17)

141. Stripped and whipped by employer, two UP workers in Qatar seek rescue (14)

HYDERABAD: Two Indians in Qatar who say they were stripped to their undergarments and savagely whipped with a hunter rope by their employer are pleading to be rescued. The injuries and blood on their backs, hands, thighs and legs, seen in a video sent by them, reveal the beastly treatment meted out to them, allegedly by their employer. Parvez Ahmad (24) of Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, and Mohammed Akram (27), also from Uttar Pradesh went to Qatar about four months ago on a Pune agent’s promise of a decent job there. To their utter shock, when they landed in that country, they were taken to an animal farm and asked to take care of camels and goats in a village on the Saudi-Qatar border. Parvez went on a work visa issued by Qatar that mentions his sponsor’s name as Saada Saleh A A Al-Marri. The agent in India who sent them there is named Mohammed Shafique Khan. Though his visa says he was recruited as a driver and has a residency duration of five years, he was taken to the border village and told to take care of camels and goats. In a voice message, Parvez, a graduate, claimed their employer beats them mercilessly. “Mai Qatar aur Saudi border se 100-150 km door main road par Tohaliya petrol pump se purab ke taraf 20-25 km door hoon (I am on the main road about 100-150 km from the Qatar-Saudi border and about 20-25 km west of Tohaliya petrol pump),” Parvej said. “It is better to be thrown in jail than suffer like we are suffering,” he told TOI in the voice message, adding that they wanted to be rescued.The marks made by the whip and the blood on the back of Mohammed Akram, whose photographs have also been sent, show what Parvez and Akram are being subjected to in Qatar.They live in such fear that Parvez said if their employer learnt they had sought rescue he might shift them somewhere else and tell embassy officials and police they had run away. “The employer should not be believed. He should be pressured to reveal where he has kept us,” Parvez pleaded. (Times of India 27/1/17)

142. Migrant labour avoid cash transactions: Study (14)

HYDERABAD: A study conducted by the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology, established by the Reserve Bank of India, reveals that there are many gaps in the formal banking system for migrant labour in Hyderabad city and Mahbubnagar district. The study that spoke to more than 500 people also found that the existing payment services, offered by the formal banking sector, are not popular as migrants prefer to carry cash or use their social network. A large part (59 per cent) of the total remittances was through this mode (carrying cash) while 27 per cent of the remittances were done through the banking or business correspondent channel. Interestingly, for remittances, the respondents did not use the services of agents, post offices or money transfer agencies. People said that they face many problems in banks for their remittance needs. These include crowded banking access points, transactions taking long time due to huge rush of customers, unsuitable timings and some transactions considered too complicated (largely a consequence of low levels of education among migrants). Crowded access points were cited as the major obstacle to increased use of banking services. Remittances are made mainly for daily needs, education needs, repaying old loans, building or buying houses and health needs of the household. Curiously 42 per cent of the respondents understand that the cost of remitting money is less than one per cent. About 27 per cent of the respondents did not know the cost of remitting money through the payment systems of the banks. The study suggested that there is a large potential for the expansion of banking services by introducing a new suite of banking services that includes doorstep banking, accepting remittances and payout of remittances. Doorstep banking and offering customization of technology solutions are possible in the form of a micro-ATM. They will escalate the scope for electronic payments since it will increases customers among migrant workers. There is great need to expand the scope of mobile usage. (Times of India 29/1/17)

RESERVATION

143. 4 lakh Gujarat govt. staffers warn of stir (25)

AHMEDABAD:  On Sunday, thousands of employees held a rally in the State capital, Gandhinagar, demanding that they be regularised by January 7. Failing this, they will start an agitation to disrupt the Vibrant Gujarat Summit scheduled from January 10 to 13, they said. The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) headed by Hardik Patel, who spearheaded the quota agitation, Jignesh Mewani, who led a Dalit agitation, and Alpesh Thakor, who represents OBC communities, have also supported the cause and accused the State government of “exploiting” the youth in the name of fixed pay. “The Gujarat government is exploiting the youth by hiring them on fixed pay, which is unconstitutional,” said youth activist Pravin Ram, who launched a statewide forum to organise the employees to raise their voice. Their main demand is to abolish the system of fixed pay, he said. In 2012, the Gujarat High Court had slammed the State government for its fixed-pay policy, asking it to regularise all employees and pay the arrears from the date they were recruited on. However, the government, headed by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing the case. After Sunday’s rally in Gandhinagar, Gujarat government on Monday announced that it would soon “take a major decision in favour of employees hired on fixed pay.” “The State government will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the case on January 10. The government is committed to resolve the issue,” Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told the media on Monday. (The Hindu 3/1/17)

144. Korava Samaj Sangha opposes Sadashiva Commission report (25)

HUBBALLI: The Koram/ Korava Samaj Hitabhivrudhi Sangha has opposed the implementation of the recommendations of the Sadashiva Commission report on internal reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities.Speaking to presspersons here on Thursday, sangha secretary Yamnur Gudihal said that the commission’s report was erroneous and if implemented, it would do more harm to Scheduled Castes communities than protecting their interests. Therefore, the government should reject it, he said. The Koram or Korava community continued to be backward and marginalised in terms of social and economic conditions.It was deprived of proper political representation. Of the nearly 13 lakh population of this community, no one has so far been elected to the legislature or Parliament. Their educational level too remained low and one could hardly see any member of this community in the higher positions of administration.Till this day, a large section of this community lives doing menial jobs such as making bamboo baskets, pig rearing, playing musical instruments and others. However, the Sadashiva Commission report has recommended for revoking Scheduled Castes status for this community.The commission has not explained on what grounds it had made this recommendation. It has not replied to queries in this regard. The commission was formed in 2005 but it did not function till 2010 as the government had not provided grants and other facilities. Later, it prepared a report in a hurry without doing any ground work. The entire report is prejudiced, unscientific and against the aspirations of the Constitution. It seems to have been prepared to keep one particular Scheduled Castes community in good humour, he said. The sangha would also urge the government to announce the formation of a development board for the Koram/Korava community in the forthcoming budget, he said. The members of Koram/Korava community along with 99 other Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities, which are opposing the implementation of the Sadashiva Commission report, would organise a protest rally here on on January 9 to bring pressure to bear on the government to reject the report. The protest rally would begin from the settlement area and conclude near the Ambedkar statue, where a public meeting would be held. Later, a memorandum would be submitted to the State government through the tahsildar’s office, Mr. Gudihal added. (The Hindu 6/1/17)

145. Udit Raj makes fresh demand for quota in sports (25)

LUCKNOW: BJP lawmaker and chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations Udit Raj today made a fresh demand for reservation in sports, including cricket, on the lines of South Africa. Addressing a meeting of the UP unit of the confederation, he spoke at length about his demand for reservation in sports and cited the example of cricket in South Africa, where at least six players in the national team should be black. Udit Raj also cited the example of Jammu and Kashmir cricket team, where out of 16, either 7 players are from Jammu and 9 from Kashmir, or 9 from Jammu and 7 from Kashmir and said no such rule however exists in the Indian cricket team. “All players in the Indian cricket team can even be selected from one city or state,” he said, adding the Indian team can be strengthened if participation of Dalits is ensured through reservation. Rooting for reservation in promotions, Udit Raj said Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are divided not only politically, but also socially. They are not ready to support even a leader who is fighting for them, irrespective of party politics. This was one of the biggest reasons why Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are weaker than in other states, he said. “I had put forth a message through the Confederation that we are ready to fight for your rights, with your support,” he said, adding that if he had got the expected support, then the situation in Uttar Pradesh would have been very different from what it is today. (Times of India 7/1/17)

146. Panel to conduct survey of SBCs a farce: Gujjar leaders (25)

JAIPUR: The Gujjar leaders believe constituting a committee under Justice SS Garg and the re-survey of condition of Socially Backward Classes (SBC) is a farce. The high court (HC) had already made it clear that only OBC Commission is entitled to conduct surveys and not just any committee.Shailendra Singh, general secretary and legal advisor of Rajasthan Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti said SS Garg panel is the third committee constituted by the government ever since Gujjars’s agitation in 2005 that sought separate quota from OBC (Other Backwards Classes).Justice (retired) Jasraj Chopra had conducted a comprehensive study of the OBCs. He had come to the conclusion that Gujjars are most backward residing in remote and hilly areas. The survey covered 450 villages in 20 districts and 30,000 families. It was followed by the IS Israni Commission. It was constituted on the directions of the high court to study the condition of OBCs in the state which the high court found as selective and flawed one. Now, another committee has been constituted under Justice (retired) SS Garg, which is planning to conduct survey. “In the last 10 years there have been drastic changes and there is no point in conducting fresh surveys which don’t have legal sanctity. It is nothing but a waste of time and resources,” Singh said. He added that HC in the Rattanlal Bagri case which challenged the notification on January 10, 2000 through which Jats of Bharatpur and Dholpur were granted OBC status had ordered to review the entire 82 castes of the OBC list. This was to be done through a permanent statutory OBC commission backed by an Act and not by any administrative order. Following which the government constituted an OBC commission. He said the government is left with only two options. It has to move the Supreme Court and obtain a stay on the high court order which scrapped the 5% SBC quota which will give a temporary relief and meanwhile work on permanent remedy. The permanent remedy is to categorize OBC quota of 21 % in three categories – backward, more backward and most backward as suggested by the National Commission for Backward Classes so that reservation will not exceed the 50% limit in the state. (Times of India 9/1/17)

147. Jat quota row may hit BJP in U.P. polls (25)

Meerut: Even as the BJP leaders have started election campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in a big way, the issue of reservation to Jats may affect the electoral prospects of the party claimed the leaders of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (JASS), the organisation with a substantial following among Jats in western Uttar Pradesh announced an “all out war” against the BJP for “betraying” the Jats over the issue of reservation. The agitating outfit started its campaign against the BJP early this week with a big rally in Muzaffarnagar from where Jat leaders announced their strategy to boycott the saffron party for “not fulfilling its promise of reservation to Jats”. The JASS organised two rallies in Amroha and Muzaffarnagar and plans to hold many more from January last week in several other parts of western Uttar Pradesh.The head of the agitating outfit, Yashpal Malik asserted that the JASS would openly campaign against the BJP in the upcoming State Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh and said, “We have already started campaigning against the BJP and the mammoth rally in Muzaffarnagar was a part of that. To start with, we will launch pamphlets against the BJP in all the Assembly constituency with a substantial Jat population”. Mr. Malik said that the outfit would organise a series of rallies against the BJP in all the Jat-dominated constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh.“The full-fledged campaign will go on from the last week of January till the Uttar Pradesh elections. Reservation for Jats was cancelled by the Supreme Court in March 2015 as the BJP government didn’t plead the case with the required seriousness,” Mr. Malik said. After the verdict, top BJP leaders met a delegation of Jat leaders and assured that reservation will be ensured to the Jats by law. Lot many things happened in the last one-and-half years, but we didn’t get reservation,” he added. … (The Hindu 11/1/17)

148. Recommendation on quota increase forbackward communities for Centre (25)

VEERAGOTA (DEODURG, RAICHUR DISTRICT): Making it clear that he will not yield to any pressure against the decision taken to increase reservation from 50 per cent to 70 per cent for backward communities, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said that he would soon send a recommendation to the Union government for further action in the matter. He was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the Halumatha Samskriti Vaibhava Samavesha and 12 National Gond Convention organised by Kanaka Gurupeetha, Gulbarga Division, at Tinthini Bridge near Veeragota village in Deodurg taluk of Raichur district on Thursday. The Chief Minister said that his government was aiming at providing facilities to the deprived communities by extending benefits accorded under the Constitution and therefore, it had taken the decision to increase reservation to strengthen them educationally and economically them. “I will not compromise on any issue which is against social justice and shall continue with the principles which I believe in even if I were to lose power,” he said. He lauded the efforts of the seer of Kanaka Gurupeetha, Siddaramanand Puri, who is the peethadhipathi, for his services in the education sector and opening education institutions for those who were deprived of education. The Chief Minister also remembered the difficulties which he himself and others had faced while establishing the Kanaka Gurupeetha in Kaginele near Haveri and said that because of donations from people of te Halumatha community, the peetha could be established. But, a few, including Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council K.S. Eshwarappa, shirked responsibility in setting up such a model religious centre to ensure self-respect to the Halumatha community. However, the people of the community joined hands and established four the Kanaka Gurupeethas in the State, he added. Appealing to the Halumatha community to give quality education to their children citing his own example, Mr. Siddaramaiah said that “I am the only son among the four in my family to have received quality education. That has helped me occupy the chair of the Chief Minister today.” He then asked the gathering to ensure quality education to their children for a better life. “I am ready to sanction a medical college for the Halumatha community if people come forward to invest the required money,” he said when someone among the participants raised the issue. The Chief Minister refuted the allegation that he had directed the Gonda and Rajagonda communities to get Scheduled Castes certificates and said that these communities have already been included in the Scheduled Tribes category in many parts of the country. He had now suggested to the two communities in Bidar, Kalaburagi and Yadgir districts, where the communities are in large numbers, to get such certificates for availing themselves of benefits. (The Hindu 13/1/17)

149. Gujjar case: Rajasthan government moves special leave petition in Supreme Court (19)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government on Sunday informed Gujjar leaders that it had moved a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court. It is slated for hearing on January 23 or 28 and the government would formulate its response based on the apex court’s decision. Gujjar leaders and the ministerial committee have decided to meet again on February 15. Gujjar leaders have been holding talks with the ministerial committee constituted by the government in the aftermath of the Rajasthan High Court striking down their SBC quota of 5% on the ground of violating constitutional cap of 50% set by the apex court. Himmat Singh, spokesman for the Rajasthan Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, said, the Gujjars had objected to the re-survey being conducted by the high-power committee under Justice (retired) S K Garg for the five castes, which formerly came under SBC, and demanded that if such a survey was being conducted it should cover all the 81 castes in OBC. This survey could come in handy later as the high court had found the earlier OBC commission report prepared by Justice (retired) I S Israni flawed. Gujjars have also objected to the exclusion of SBC candidates selected for appointment before the court order came on December 9. The Gujjar leaders have also sought the data of appointment of SBC candidates from October 16, 2015, when the Special Backward Classes Reservation Act came into force, till December 9, 2016, when the high court nullified the act, so that the actual number of beneficiaries could be found out. The government agreed to provide them the data in two days. Gujjars are now demanding a separate quota within OBC so that reservation will not exceed the 50% limit. The government is jittery as it may antagonize the Jats whose inclusion in OBC triggered the Gujjar agitation for separate quota. (Times of India 16/1/17)

150. Hardik Patel to return to Gujarat with mega rally at Himmatnagar (25)

Ahmedabad: With his 180 days exile ending, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor Hardik Patel will mark his return to Gujarat on Tuesday by addressing a rally in Himmatnagar. The Patidar community members have organised a huge welcome with over 500 cars cavalcade at Ratanpur on the border of Patel’s home state, while he will address a rally in Himmatnagar in the afternoon. Patel’s Himmatnagar rally is being termed as ‘GMDC part two’, in a clear reference to his massive rally at Ahmedabad in August 2015. “Himmatnagar rally will be part two of GMDC. Hardik will take up reservation issue and will also demand justice for those killed in police firing during the violence that ensued after GMDC rally. This rally will reignite quota agitation in Gujarat,” Dinesh Bambhaniya, PAAS leader, said. Over 100,000 community members are expected to join the Himmatnagar rally, followed by Patel’s visit to former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel. From there, Patel will depart for Pune where he is supposed to address a student convention. The agitating Patidar community leader after been exiled from Gujarat, had made Udaipur in Rajasthan his base for the last six months. Ahead of his departure from Udaipur, Patel addressed a press conference on Monday, taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government. “If the BJP government cannot kill me, I may be sent to jail for 14 years. But then when I come out at 36, I will have ample time to serve the community,” Patel said. Patel was released on bail by the Gujarat High Court on July 15, 2016. The 23-year-old Patidar leader was charged with inciting violence to force government’s hands into accepting the demands of OBC reservation for the Patel community, causing the death of at least 10 persons and damage to public properties across Gujarat. (Business Standard 17/1/17)

151. RSS propaganda chief calls for ending caste based reservations (25)

New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) prachar pramukh, or propaganda chief, Manmohan Vaidya today called for an end to caste based reservations in jobs and educational institutions, and advocated equal opportunity and education for all. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, Vaidya said that BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, had also argued against unending ontinuation of reservations. But Vaidya justified reservations only for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes, which he said have faced discrimination. Vaidya’s comments suggested that the Sangh does not favour reservations for Muslims and Other Backward Classes, or OBCs, as these would lead to tensions in the society. It is likely that the comments are interpreted to mean that RSS is not just against reservation for OBC castes, like Yadavs and Kurmis, but also to peasant communities that in recent times have demanded such reservations like Patels, Jats, and Gujars. While Jats are an important community in western UP, Patels are equally important in Gujarat. Uttar Pradesh goes to polls in a three weeks’ time, while Gujarat by the end of this year. Patel leader Hardik Patel slammed the comments by the RSS chief. OBC leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Dalit leader Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and also Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also criticised the statement. UP has a sizeable OBC population, that comprises the support base of the Samajwadi Party, while the extremely backwards among these have in the past supported not just the BSP but also BJP. The BJP, which considers RSS as its ideological parent, has reached out to non-Yadav OBCs in the state. Its state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya is a non-Yadav OBC, and BJP has given party tickets in the state to dozens of OBCs. It also hopes to win seats in western UP on the back of Jat support. Vaidya’s statement could impact it in what might turn out to be a repeat of the Bihar assembly polls. … (Business Standard 21/1/17)

152. ‘RSS leader’s remark against reservation unconstitutional’ (25)

Bhopal : Rashtriya Pichhada Varg Sangh national president Jagdish Yadav, national convener Ajay Revanath Chaure and state president Ratanlal Batham have come down heavily on RSS for opposing reservation. Addressing a press conference, they said they strongly oppose the remark made by RSS leader Manmohan Vaidya against reservation during Jaipur Literature Festival. Pichhada Varg Sangh leaders said under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, reservation is provided to scheduled castes and tribes. They said only 27 per cent reservation is given to backward classes although they form 65 per cent of total population. Pichhada Varg leaders further said RSS projects itself as godfather of Hindus but advocates ending reservation, which is against the Constitution. They said it appears Manmohan Vaidya has no faith in country’s Constitution. (Central Chronicle 24/1/17)

153. Post-Jat agitation, sharp dip in girl students’ intake at IIM Rohtak (25)

ROHTAK: Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Rohtak, had celebrated induction of the 2013 batch of post-graduate programme in management (PGPM) when it had got 73 girls against 79 boys, almost matching the 1:1 ratio — highest for institute. Shockingly, for the 2016-18 batch of the same programme, IIM Rohtak got nine girl students against 145 boys, leaving the institute struggling for gender diversity. Sources in IIM Rohtak said last year’s Jat agitation for reservation coincided with their admission process and had left a huge impact on the decision of parents of the girl students. Several of the girls from different states, who were interested in joining IIM Rohtak due to its proximity to New Delhi, had backed out due to the volatile situation, sources added. The admission process in IIMs starts in February. The Jat agitation was at its peak, which started from February 18, 2016, paralysing the state for 10 days leaving many dead. An employee, who is associated with IIM Rohtak, told TOI that parents of the girls, who belonged to other states, were also concerned over the safety after violent scenes shown on electronic media. “Rohtak city also drew lots of media attention for negative reasons in the last couple of years like the infamous gang rape case of a Nepalese woman, honour killings cases and bizarre diktats of khaps clipping the freedom of women,” he said. Jagmati Sangwan,, central executive committee member of All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) who hails from Rohtak, said Haryana was still known as the land of unwanted daughters. “When you see the agrarian state in the national perspective, it is seen as economically forward but socially backward,” Sangwan said. She said the premier institute was at its evolving stage and reputation of Rohtak in suppressing women’s right play in the mind of girls’ parents. She said sustained efforts by the government can only transform the image in securing more females admissions in IIM Rohtak. Experts, however, said boys always perform better than girls in the Common Admission Test (CAT) exam and eventually land up in the IIMs. In a way, it can be said that engineering background was being seen as the qualifying mark for cracking the prestigious CAT exam, they said. In 2016, CAT exam out of 20 candidates, who bagged 100 percentiles, all were boys. In 2015, out of 17 candidates who got 100 percentile, there was only one girl in the list. An IIM Rohtak official said to balance the gender ratio, the institute, which is hosting the Common Admission Process (CAP) for new IIMs, has offered special weightage to girl and non-engineering background candidates. … (Times of India 25/1/17)

154. Protesters clash with police in Jammu (25)

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir police used batons and tear smoke shells on Saturday to disperse people agitating for reservations. The scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities took out a protest march in Jammu to press for reservations. As the protesters demanded that some officials from the government must meet them to address their demands, police erected barricades to stop their march near Indira Chowk. The protesters brought down the barricades after which the police used batons and tear smoke shells. (Zee News 28/1/17)

155. Jats begin stir in Haryana, demonstrations peaceful (25)

CHANDIGARH: Seeking reservation in government jobs for the community, members of Jat organisations on Sunday started their agitation in most districts of Haryana. The call for the fresh stir has been given by some Jat outfits, especially those owing allegiance to the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) headed by Yashpal Malik. Members of the Jat community are staging peaceful dharnas at Ramayan village near the Hisar-Bhiwani railway track, Jolilath village on Sonipat-Gohana road, Jassia village on Rohtak Highway, Rasalwala Chowk in Jhajjar, Umrakheri village near Panipat-Shamli road, Bala village near Assandh road in Karnal, Malik told PTI. “The agitation in Yamunanagar, Panchkula and Mewat districts of the state will begin from January 31,” Malik said, adding “the dharnas are peaceful…we are not blocking rail or road traffic.” Violence in last year’s Jat stir claimed 30 lives and caused huge damage to property in the state. Officials said this time, Haryana has been put on maximum alert. Section 144 has already been imposed in sensitive districts including Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar and at other places as a precautionary measure, they said.The assembly of five or more people in about 500 meters from national and state highways as well as railway stations in the city has been banned, officials said, adding paramilitary forces and state police personnel have been deployed in sensitive areas to maintain strict vigil. “We are fully geared up to deal with any situation. Although the leaders of various agitating organisations have promised to hold dharnas in a peaceful manner, yet the administration is fully geared up to maintain law and order,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said.The Haryana government had sought 55 companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre besides deployment of 7,000 Home Guards in the state. Some companies of paramilitary forces have already reached Haryana, Niwas said. (Times of India 30/1/17)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

156.  Police attacked asylum seekers on Manus Island: rights group (1)

Sydney : Police officers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) physically attacked and arrested two Iranian asylum seekers during new year’s eve celebrations, said refugee advocates on Monday. The Refugee Action Coalition said the two men suffered broken bones in the incident, and supplied photographs showing the pair with cuts and bruises on their faces, Efe news reported. The attack was allegedly launched because the asylum seekers were outside the detention centre. In a statement Monday morning, the NGO reported that the pair were released by police after more than 36 hours in custody. Australian Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, meanwhile, accused activists of using the incident to attack Australia’s immigration policy. The policy includes the processing of asylum seekers in detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, and the island nation of Nauru. “If people have had an interaction with the PNG police on a new year’s eve night, I would wait to see the full facts of that case before I’d make any comment to say that they were targeted because they were refugees or because they were part of the Manus Island population,” Dutton told a radio station here. The Australian government said an investigation into the incident was the responsibility of the Papuan police, but activists believe that such incidents are part of systematic abuse against the undocumented immigrants in Australia’s South Pacific detention centres. Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul urged the Australian government to provide “oversight on the role of the PNG police and the attitude of the PNG police” because it was “ultimately responsible for all the people who are held on the island”, according to Australian broadcaster ABC. The alleged police attack follows the death of a Sudanese asylum seeker, who collapsed in the Manus Island detention centre, shortly before Christmas. The UN and human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the existence of these detention centres and labelled the precarious living conditions as “inhumane”.Many of the migrants detained in Nauru and Papua New Guinea have fled conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. While others have escaped discrimination or the status of being stateless persons, such as the Rohingya minorities in Myanmar and Bedoon from the Persian Gulf region. They were detained before arriving on Australia’s coasts and sent to the offshore detention centres where their refugee applications were processed. (Business Standard 2/1/17)

157. Soundarajan to file human rights case against sports bodies (1)

NEW DELHI: Ten years after she was stripped off a medal for failing a ‘gender test’ during the Doha Asian Games, former athlete Santhi Soundarajan is set to file a human rights violation case against the authorities, including Athletics Federation of India and Indian Olympic Association. Soundarajan, whose silver medal she won in 800m at the 2006 Asiad was taken off by the Olympic Council of Asia, has filed complaints at the National Commission for Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes, National Commission for Human Rights and National Commission for Women. Gopi Shankar, head of NGO Srishti Madurai, said that Soundarajan is now planning to file a petition at either Madras High Court or the Supreme Court. AFI president Adille Sumariwalla, however, said that the federation cannot do much because Soundarajan was banned and medal stripped off by the OCA during the Asian Games.Shankar said due to lack of documents, including the report of the test conducted in Doha in 2006 on the basis of which Soundarajan was banned and stripped off her medal, she has not been able to file human rights violation complaints. “Can you imagine that Soundarajan was not given the report of the test done in 2006 in Doha and it is ten years now? I filed an RTI to get the report, she also filed another RTI but she has not got the report on the basis of which she was banned and medal taken off,” Shankar told PTI from Madurai. “Now she has filed a complaint at the National Commission for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes (in September last) in which Sports Ministry was the party. She has also filed a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission last month that action be taken against AFI, IOA, SAI and Sports Ministry for subjecting to human rights violation during the test in Doha,” he added. “She was left to stand half naked for half a day in Doha and she did not know which test she was undergoing. She was not informed of anything, nor she knew the language of the doctors conducting the test. This is gross violation of human rights of a poor and helpless woman. She was left to be fended by herself with nobody from the Indian authorities coming to her aid,” he said. ….  (Times of India 3/1/17)

158. Found human rights violations at state-run beggar home: DCW (1)

New Delhi: DCW chief Swati Maliwal came across gross violation of human rights during a surprise visit to a government-run ‘beggar home’ here and found over 15 foreign nationals, including a pregnant Nigerian woman, lodged there amid pathetic living conditions, official sources said. The DCW said it found violation of human rights of several inmates. The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief has now issued notices to the Social Welfare Department and Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) — a government agency responsible for regulating the extended stay and movement of foreigners in India — after she spent a night at the beggar home at Nirmal Chaya Complex in Janakpuri on Tuesday. Maliwal sought a reply from the FRRO and Social Welfare Department within 72 hours. “Fifteen women and two children – all foreign nationals — housed in the home… The DCW Chairperson met an Uzbek national who complained of molestation by FRRO officials,” a DCW statement said. The foreign nationals were detained for overstaying in India for different reasons. Women inmates, who said they were wearing the same clothes for days, complained to Maliwal that they were not allowed to make phone calls to their families or embassies due to which they have not been able to contact anyone for legal or financial assistance. The women were worried since their families had no idea where they were, the DCW said. The DCW chief found that only two of the five toilets at the beggar home were fit for use. One toilet was marked ‘HIV’, which no one used due to fear of contracting the disease whereas one was locked for use by staff. Maliwal has since written to the beggar home superintendent to ensure proper medical treatment for the pregnant Nigerian woman and another from Kenya. “The commission Chairperson was shocked to learn from the inmates that their private parts are physically checked by the caretaker before they are allowed entry into the home. When asked, the caretaker on duty admitted to the same in front of inmates,” the DCW statement said. Maliwal found that the Nigerian woman, whose two children were also lodged along with her at the beggar home since December 26, had complained for the past 10 days to the staff that she was no longer feeling any movement in her womb but to no avail. “She alleged no action was taken to help her. She said she begged the staff to allow her to call her doctor but she was denied the same,” the statement said. The Kenyan national said she was taken six times to a doctor in the complex but he did not conduct any test and her medical problem is persisting. (Business Standard 5/1/17)

159.  Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission for relief to kin of Shivpuri sanitary workers

BHOPAL: Taking a suo motu cognisance of the death of two municipal labourers after falling into a 30-feet-deep sewage line in Shivpuri district on May 28 last year, Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) has recommended the state government to give a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of deceased labourers within a month here on Monday. MPHRC has also recommended compensation for violating the rule of prohibition of employment under Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, for not providing safety equipment. MPHRC has also recommended that the state government will have to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of any municipal employee who gets killed while cleaning sewage line or septic tank under section 18C of Human Right Protection Act, 1993. A copy of recommendation has been sent to principal secretary, urban development. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) too had issued a notice to Madhya Pradesh government on the matter on June 8, 2016.On May 28, 2016, two sanitary workers had died of suffocation after falling into a sewage chamber near a meat market in Shivpuri. While cleaning the 30-feet-deep chamber Halka Lal (25) slipped from a step inside on which he was standing and fell down. Kalla Jatav (22), another sanitary worker, too fell in while trying to help him. Both the labourers, hailing from Gwalior district and hired by a private contractor, died due to suffocation before they could be rescued. (Times of India 10/1/17)

160. National Human Rights Commission seeks authority to ‘enforce’ power (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday sought the

authority to ‘enforce’ power without which the apex human rights panel is a toothless statutory body.Addressing the mediapersons at the end of three-day camp court at Bhubaneswar, NHRC Chairperson Justice H L Dattu said there should be some enforcement power in the Protection of Human Rights Act so that the Commission can initiate proceedings against officials ignoring its recommendations. “We are passing recommendations and awarding compensations. But we don’t have that power to take action against the authorities who violate the orders. If that power is incorporated in the Act, we may be in a position to do much more what we are doing today,” Dattu said. On the issue of people sandwiched between Maoists and don’tecurity personnel in different Maoist-hit areas, NHRC said the situation is gradually changing. “The Chief Secretary informed us that the incidents of left wing extremism have come down from 18 districts to only two districts now. The Government is working to improve situation in the affected areas. Gradually, the things will improve,” he said. Asked about the Commission’s observations on the land acquisition problems across the nation, Justice Dattu said a new law on land acquisition has come into force. The new act has appropriate measures. It takes care of the problems faced by the citizen. It is a good move, he said. Since its inception in 1993, the NHRC has provided justice, liberty and equality to many victims of human rights violation. The Commission observed that its recommendation to include human rights in the school curriculum has been accepted by CBSE. “Odisha is also going to include human rights as a subject in the schools from 2018 academic year. The Chief Secretary has assured this to the commission during the camp court,” he said. The Commission has made certain recommendations to the State Government on the issues relating to Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), food security and forest rights acts, rehabilitation of bonded labourers, issuance of case certificates and custodial deaths. The MMR is highest in Kandhamal district and Health Department needs to look at genetic diseases like Hemophilia and renewal of blood bank licenses, the Commission said besides directing the State Government to strengthen the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) by filling all vacancies and developing infrastructure. (The New Indian Express 11/1/17)

161. Release arrested human rights activists: Kalyan Rao (1)

ONGOLE: Revolutionary writer G. Kalyan Rao on Thursday demanded unconditional release of seven members of a fact-finding team arrested by the Chhattisgarh police allegedly under trumped-up charges. He told reporters here that the team, comprising lawyers Balla Ravindranath, Chikkudu Prabhakar, D. Prabhakar, Durga Prasad, an independent journalist and Osmania University research scholars Nazeer, Rajendra Prasad and R. Lakshman, was ”illegally detained” by the Telangana police on December 24 before handing them over to the Chhattisgarh police. He contended that the team members from the Telangana Democratic Front (TDF) were proceeding to that State only to look into the alleged fake encounter cases on a large scale resulting in the death of innocent tribals and had not committed any offence. But they were booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and charged with carrying banned currency notes and Maoist literature, added Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) State vice-president Ch. Sudhakar. (The Hindu 13/1/17)

162. NGO says many women misled into undergoing needless surgeries (1)

New Delhi: A section of doctors – both in the public and private sectors – has instilled a sense of fear among poor and illiterate women in Karnataka, misleading them into undergoing uterus removal operations that were medically unnecessary, public health activists have claimed. The activists, who interviewed several hundred women in Chikkamagaluru and Kalaburagi districts and scrutinised their medical records, found that surgeries were performed without adequate clinical evidence on the need for the procedure and proceeded based on poor diagnostics. Following reports from Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali, a non-government outfit that works on public health, the Karnakata health department too probed why so many hysterectomies were carried out in Kalaburagi district. The government report concurred that many hysterectomies were done with no proper indications and women who could have been treated conservatively, were subjected to surgeries. It was also highly critical of the diagnostic criteria and took serious objection to the fact that barely any specimens were sent for histo-pathology, before the operations. The KJC had the medical records and oral evidence examined by three practising doctors – two gynaecologists and one community medicine expert. They found in 67% cases, the operation was not required and in 27% cases, the available information was too inadequate to form an opinion. Out of the 707 women interviewed by KJC workers in Kalaburagi, an overwhelming 98% underwent hysterectomy in 61 private hospitals in the towns of Kalaburagi, Umerga, Tandur, Zahirabad and Bidar. Four of these 61 private hospitals accounted for 55% of all the cases. All 15 women interviewed in Hebbalagere village of Chikkamagaluru underwent hysterectomy in a government facility, 14 of them in the Birur government sub-divisional hospital. “A medical procedure such as a hysterectomy has morphed into a business strategy in the medical-healthcare market, with poor women’s bodies being trafficked for profit,” three KJC researchers wrote in a report in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Acute shortage of doctors in the government health system compounded the problem. In almost all the cases, the women visited the doctors because of some other complications related to her reproductive health and menstrual cycle. But the doctors had planted the fear of cancer in the women’s minds and this seemed to be driving what the researchers described as the “hysterectomy epidemic”. The procedure costs anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh, depending on whether it was a government or private facility. In both sites, they found serious violation of professional integrity and ethics. Since 2010, an alarming number of hysterectomies were reported from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattishgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat because of a government-sponsored medical insurance scheme that assured payments for surgeries. (Deccan Herald 17/1/17)

163. DDA disability row: NGO holds protest (1)

NEW DELHI: A disability rights group on Monday staged a protest in front of the Delhi Development Authority headquarters, days after the DDA “relieved” an official as director of public relations allegedly on the grounds of his “disability”. Demanding that action be taken against DDA vice-chairman Udai Pratap Singh, the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) stated: “This protest is to highlight the unfair dismissal and repatriation of Dr. Rishi Raj Bhati, a person with disability, who has been a government servant for 16 years and recently joined as director of public relation, DDA. Within two days of joining, Dr. Bhati was handed a relieving letter stating that the nature of the job would cause him inconvenience and that this also would not be in the interest of the organisation. This was done by the DDA V-C on grounds of his disability. This is a gross violation of human rights.” The group noted that the incident comes days after the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, which seeks to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities and to provide them equal education and employment across India. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

164. Give Rs 5 lakh relief to man acquitted of terror charges, says NHRC to Delhi govt (1)

NHRC, delhi government, mohammed amir khan, terror charges, terrorism, terrorism case, indian express news, delhi, delhi news “The victim has been acquitted in 18 of 20 cases by astonishing acknowledgement of lack of evidence,” the NHRC noted. Observing that the actions of the state authorities took away “14 prime and precious years” of a man’s life, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended that the Delhi government pay Rs 5 lakh as interim relief to Mohammed Amir Khan — incarcerated since he was 18 — who was acquitted in cases of terror. In an order dated November 8, 2016, the commission noted that the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Vigilance, had forwarded an inquiry report to the commission, stating that Khan was arrested in cases related to a series of bomb blasts in Delhi and its adjoining states in 1996-1997. The DCP said Khan was convicted in two cases and appeals against his acquittal in two other cases were pending before the Delhi HC.“The reply to the showcause notice is not based on merits. The notice was issued on the point of acquittal of the victim in 18 cases by the courts and long incarceration of the victim in prison. The commission is not concerned with appeals pending in two cases. The fact is the victim had to spend 14 years in prison for no reason, violating his rights. The commission finds no merits in the report of the DCP, Vigilance, and recommends that Rs 5,00,000 as interim relief be paid to him,” the NHRC order said. “The victim has been acquitted in 18 of 20 cases by astonishing acknowledgement of lack of evidence,” the NHRC noted. Khan, who has been trying to stitch his life together since his release in 2012, said if the NHRC’s recommendation is implemented, this would be the first time that he will receive financial assistance from the government. “I welcome the decision. Financial assistance would help rebuild my life. But what I need more is a job to support my family. A job will restore my dignity and respect in society. I once dreamt of being a pilot but I could not complete my studies,” Khan told The Indian Express. “Implicating innocent persons would not only go against justice and the rule of law, but also lead to culprits’ escape. During incarceration, the victim suffered the death of his father. His mother became paralysed due to shock and trauma and later died,” the commission observed. It also took note of the conduct certificate Khan was given by the jailor, District Jail, Ghaziabad. Khan, who married a year after his release and has a two-year-old daughter, works with NGOs to support his family. Commission officials said the Delhi government was asked to submit proof of payment in six weeks. The six weeks were over on December 29, 2016. “We will send a reminder to the government. The matter is likely to come up again this month,” an NHRC official said.(The Indian Express 23/1/17)

165. Release arrested human rights activists, says Kalyan Rao (1)

ONGOLE:  Revolutionary writer G. Kalyan Rao on Monday demanded unconditional release of seven members of a fact-finding team arrested by the Chhattisgarh police allegedly under cooked-up charges. Leading a protest by those sympathetic to the cause of Maoists in front of the Collectorate here, he said the fact-finding team members were ‘illegally detained’ in Khammam district in Telangana last month when they were proceeding to Chhattisgarh to enquire into elimination of innocent tribal people in alleged fake encounters by the police. K. Sirisha, wife of CPI (Maoist) Central Committee member Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK, condemned the undemocratic arrest of lawyers and research scholars from the Osmania University by the Telangana police last month before handing them over to their Chhattisgarh counterparts. Meanwhile, hundreds of victims of Maoist violence staged a counter-protest and said it was unfortunate the so called civil society organisations acted as frontal organisations of the extremists with least respect for the human rights of policemen and their families who sacrificed their lives for maintenance of law and order. “We too have human rights,” said Sridevi, widow of policeman Anjaneyulu killed by the Maoists along with 31 others at Balimela when they were returning after a combing operation in 2008. “Who will take up our case?” asked Prabhakar Varma, son of Assistant Sub-Inspector Prashanth Rao, who had been killed in an encounter with the extremists near Pullalachervu. Meanwhile, family members of three persons, who were allegedly killed by Naxalites, staged a demonstration at the Kurnool Collectorate on Monday. The kin of P.C. Krishna Reddy and K.C. Balasubbanna, both of Vadlaramapuram, and K. Ramayya Achari of Kurukunda village in Kurnool district alleged that the Naxalite attacks wreaked havoc in their families. A. Lakshmi Devi, K. Sravan Kumar, K. Vani and D. Prasad Rao, who lost their dear ones, said they recouped due to the government’s assistance and jobs given to them. Meanwhile, families, who lost their kin in Naxal attacks, took out a rally in Kadapa on Monday. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

166. NHRC questions Maharashtra government on deaths of 500 tribal girls in ashramshalas

MUMBAI: Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports that more than 500 scheduled tribe girls have died under suspicious circumstances in the state-run ashram schools in the past decade, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Maharashtra chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya calling for a detailed report within six weeks. “Reportedly, there have been instances of sexual abuse of the girl students by the teachers and staff of these schools,” an NHRC state ment said.The NHRC observed that the news reports indicate violation of the right to life and dignity of the girls studying in these schools and also highlight the negligence and apathy on the part of the authorities. It further observed that the state government has not taken any initiative to redress the grievan ce, which is a serious matter of concern because it has not submitted a report to a notice issued on October 10, 2016 on a similar allegation that 740 tribal students had died in ashram schools in 10 years. A reminder was also sent on November 26, 2016, the commission added. A probe revealed that the authorities keep menstrua tion records of the girls and conduct urine tests on them to rule out pregnancy, whenever the girls miss their periods or come back from vacations.Last year, when a tribal girl student of one such school in Khamgaon taluka of Buldhana district went home for Diwali, she complained of pain in stomach. She was found to have been sexually assaulted by a sweeper of the school. The school accommodates 70 girls and does not have a female superintendent. Maharashtra has 1100 state-run and aided tribal residential schools, catering to about 1.6 lakh girls and 2.3 lakh boys. According to reports, more than 1,500 students, including 700 girls, have died in these schools in the past 15 years. (Times of India 26/1/17)

167. Rape of a Dalit girl: NHRC takes up gruesome case with Bihar chief secretary (1)

PATNA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has served notice on Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh after the alleged gangrape and murder of a 15-year-old Dalit schoolgirl outside a state-run school. The body of the class ten student of Ambedkar Government Girls High School at Dighi Mazirabad in Vaishali district was found in her hostel on January 8. It was alleged that she was gangraped in the hostel and then brutally killed with sharp weapons. The human rights commission has asked chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh to file a report within six weeks on the status of the investigation and the steps taken by the state government. Members of the National Women’s Commission (NWC) visited the school for an investigation and concluded that the girl was sexually assaulted before being killed. The women’s commission accused the state police of laxity in investigating the allegations. The victim’s mother, Kusumi Devi, had alleged that the girl, who was the school’s sportsperson of the year, had told her that she was being sexually harassed by a teacher. Women who had seen the girl’s body on the hostel premises said there was no cloth on her and that the lower half of the body was full of blood. According to Kusumi Devi, the rapists slashed the girl’s breasts, throat, back and abdomen with a sharp weapon and stuffed an undergarment in her private parts to stop the bleeding. Kusumi Devi also said a senior police official visited her house and offered her Rs 8 lakh to keep quiet. “I refused to accept the money. I am poor, but I am ready to fight for justice for my daughter,” she said. (The New Indian Express 30/1/17)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

168. An exercise in judicial legislation, say dissenters (19)

NEW DELHI: While four of the seven judges in the Supreme Court’s Constitution bench delivered a landmark judgement banning use of religion, caste, community, race or language in electioneering, the other three termed this an exercise in judicial legislation, forbidden by Constitution. The dissenting judgement, authored by Justice D Y Chandrachud for himself and Justices Adarsh K Goel and U U Lalit, said Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act with the fallacy perceived by the majority of the judges had remained in force for more than five decades. “In the meantime, elections have been held successfully, governments have changed and majorities have been altered in the House of Indian democracy,” it said.Referring to the earlier judgements of the SC giving a restrictive meaning to Section 123(3), the Judges said: “There is merit in ensuring a continuity of judicial precedent. The interpretation which has earlier been placed on Section 123 (30 is correct and certainly does not suffer from manifest error. Nor has it been productive of public mischief.” Holders of the dissenting view in the Constitution bench said every system and law could have some or the other imperfection and for that, the judiciary need not don the hat of legislature to virtually amend the statutes by reading expansive meaning into it. Justice Chandrachud said: “No form of government is perfect. The actual unfolding of democracy and the working of a democratic constitution may suffer from imperfections. But, these imperfections cannot be attended to by an exercise of judicial redrafting of legislative provision. Hence, we hold that there is no necessity for this court to take a view at variance with what had been laid down.”Citing the apex court judgement in striking down National Judicial Appointments Commission, especially the judgement written by Justice Madan Lokur who authored the majority judgement giving an expansive meaning to Section 123(3), Justice Chandrachud pointed out that Justice Lokur has abandoned the principle he had adopted to hold that collegium system, devised by two earlier judgements, needed to be followed. Applying those parameters enumerated in NJAC judgement, the SC should adopt the view taken by earlier judgements giving a restrictive meaning to Section 123(3) of RP Act, he said. The dissenting judgement said: “To widen Section 123(3) would be to do violence to its provisions and to rewrite the text. Moreover, it would be to ignore the context both in terms of our constitutional history and constitutional philosophy. The provisions of an election statute involving a statutory provision of a criminal or quasi criminal nature must be construed strictly.” (Times of India 3/1/17)

169.  Suprme Court says won’t entertain privacy concerns on Aadhar card use (19)

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday declined the urgent hearing of a Public interest litigation (PIL) on privacy concerns regarding use of the Aadhar card by each individual. The court had earlier referred the matter to a Constitution bench. In October last year, the court had asked the government to address the most basic questions in a democracy governed by law such as: what are the privacy rights of citizens; are they protected equally with the same justice applied for the rich and the poor alike etc. The Supreme Court also refused simultaneous applications by multiple agencies demanding relief from the court interim order limiting the use of Aadhaar pending the Court’s final decision. Earlier in October, the court allowed use of Aadhaar cards for MNREGA, Jan Dhan Yojana, pension and provident fund schemes. The court had earlier restricted the use of Adhaar cards to public distribution system and LPG subsidies, after which the government rushed to the court for a permission to use it for more services. Later, the court clarified that the linking of Aadhaar for providing these services will only be on voluntary basis and no person shall be deprived of any benefit for want of an Aadhaar Card. The RBI had earlier moved the apex court seeking clarification of its August 11 interim order that asked the government not to link Aadhaar, the unique various identity number, for disbursal of subsidies and other sops under social welfare schemes. (The Indian Express 5/1/17)

170. SC asked to resolve conflict over ‘rape’ definition in two laws (19)

NEW DELHI:  A chink in the colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) condoning sexual intercourse and exploitation of a 15-year-old child ‘wife’ has been brought to the Supreme Court’s attention. An exception to Section 375 (rape) in the IPC allows a man to go scot-free despite having sex with his 15-year-old ‘wife’. This exception ensures that he will not be charged with rape even though child marriage is a crime. Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, through his organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday for help to end this “statutorily-backed” crime against children. In a petition before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, the organisation said an estimated 47 per cent of children in India were married off before they turned 18, according to the United Nations. The illegal practice was a serious deterrence to the physical, social, psychological and moral well-being of children. The petition said the IPC condones the rape of a 15-year-old by her husband despite the fact that the more recent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 qualifies those aged below 18 as ‘children’. POCSO has specific penal provisions against ‘penetrative sexual assault’ and ‘aggressive penetrative sexual assault’ on children below 18. Section 6 of the Act enunciates the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault as rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment. Mr. Satyarthi wants the apex court to clear the anomaly in law. The IPC terms children as those aged under 15 years while POCSO terms children as those aged under 18.“Despite being a child by definition (under the age of 18), provisions of POCSO are not applied. The benefit of a Special Act (POCSO) is not afforded to children when they are in married relationship but over the age of 15. Therefore, a child’s status as a child till she attains the age of 18 is denied to her once she is forcefully or otherwise wed,” the BBA contended. The apex court directed the government to address the issue within four months. The Bench asked Mr. Satyarthi to approach the court on the same grounds for immediate resolution if he is not satisfied with the government’s response. (The Hindu 6/1/17)

171. No more new judges’ positions in high courts this year, decides law ministry (19)

The union ministry of law and justice has decided not to increase the sanctioned strength of judges in high courts, despite an ongoing tussle between the judiciary and the executive over vacant judges’ positions in high courts and a demand from the judiciary for creating new posts. “There will be no new positions of judges created in 2017. It has been decided that the focus should be on filling existing vacancies,” a senior official in the ministry said. The ministry’s decision to keep the number of judges’ positions at the current 1,079 across 24 high courts could lead to more friction between the executive and the judiciary. The previous chief justice of India TS Thakur, who was at loggerheads with the Narendra Modi government throughout his tenure over vacancies in the judiciary, said last December that more judges posts must be created.Speaking at a judicial officers’ conference in Bengaluru on December 19, Justice Thakur said the “delay in sanction of new judges’ posts and filling vacancies of judges in High Courts has rendered the judiciary inadequate in delivering the constitutional mandate.” He retired on January 3 with Justice JS Khehar taking over as the new CJI. The government is of the view that the high courts have enough positions of judges and filling up the positions would take care of the problem of cases piling up. “There have always been vacancies to the tune of 30% in the judiciary,” a ministry official said. The ministry now wants the Supreme Court collegium – a body of five top judges of the country that selects judges for the SC and HCs – to finalise the new memorandum of procedure (MoP) pending with it since August. The government had carried out amendments in the MoP after a bench headed by Justice Khehar called for measures to improve the collegium system and make it more transparent. The Centre believes the appointment of CJI Khehar puts a moral obligation on the collegium to recommend names under the amended MOP which has been pending for approval of the collegium for five months now. (Hindustan Times 9/1/17)

172. Government’s ‘slow’ handling of litigation riles Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court expressed displeasure on Tuesday over the Centre’s “slow” handling of sensitive cases in the highest court and rapped it for seeking “adjournment in almost every case”. There was a string of cases in the morning session in which a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrchud found the Centre seeking more time, saying it was unprepared. In fact, this has been the trend in the Supreme Court, where the central agency under the law ministry handles the distribution of cases among law officers. Most of these officers get the files of cases listed for hearing in the SC late in the day, leaving them very little time to prepare their arguments. Many times, the law officers remain unaware of filing of reply affidavits in a case, hindering their efforts to place the facts of the case properly . In fact, the government started on a wrong foot be fore the CJI on January 4, when the first case listed before the bench headed by Justice Khehar had to be adjourned, as the solicitor general was not prepared with the case. The SG had to apologise profusely on that day , as he had not been briefed properly about the case relating to the Noida-Agra expressway .The law officers often complain about poor briefing by panel lawyers. On Tuesday , the CJI said what had been felt by many for years, yet the situation remains the same in the apex court. Appearing for the Narmada Control Authority and Madhya Pradesh government, additional solicitors general Tushar Mehta and P S Patwalia sought adjournment of hearing seeking to file latest status report. The court asked: “You were aware of the case coming up for hearing today . Why did you not prepare the status report?” The court had no option but to adjourn the case till January 19. (Times of India 11/1/17)

173. Police sub inspector has no power to close down businesses at midnight: Kerala HC (19)

KOCHI: A sub inspector of police has no power to issue an order asking businesses in his jurisdiction, such as restaurants, to close down by midnight, the Kerala high court has held. There is no law that allows the SI to issue such an order and there is no stipulation in the licences issued by authorities that a restaurant should close at night, the court said.The ruling was given by a division bench of the court after considering a petition filed by R Ravikumar, proprietor of Sree Bhadra Hotel at Kavanad near Sakthikulangara challenging an order issued by the sub inspector of Sakthikulangara police station asking him to close down business by 11pm. It was alleged by the SI that thieves and anti-social elements camp near Kavanad junction at midnight and odd hours and that thefts and attempted thefts are rampant in the area. Ruling that the SI’s order is illegal and violates the fundamental right of the restaurant owner to conduct a business, the court said in the judgment, “Running of a hotel is not detrimental to the interests of the public. On the other hand, it caters to the needs of the general public. There is no case for the fifth respondent (SI) that the petitioner committed any offence. No crime is registered against him. That anti-social elements used to visit the hotel is not a ground to direct the owner of a hotel to close down the hotel after 11 p.m. That offences are being committed in the locality by anti-social elements is also not a ground to stop the running of the hotel after 11 p.m. If any offence is committed by any person, it is for the police to investigate and apprehend the accused. The police can also prevent commission of offences. So long as the first respondent has no case that the petitioner has committed any offence or that any conspiracy to commit any offence took place in the hotel premises, he was not justified in preventing the petitioner from running the hotel during permitted hours.” While questioning the SI’s order, the restaurant owner had pointed out that he is running the business after obtaining licences from Corporation of Kollam and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The hotel is situated at a place where business activities related to fishing take place even at midnight. Boats will be taken to sea during midnight and early morning for fishing and the restaurant operates 24 hours a day, the court was told. In the judgment, the court said only the district police chief has the power to impose temporary restrictions on the constitutional right to carry on a business as per Kerala Police Act. Even then, what is fundamental is the freedom or the right and not the authority’s power to impose reasonable restrictions, the judgment said. (Times of India 13/1/17)

174. SC to hear final arguments on PIL on rights of HIV+students (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked petitioners, seeking declaring of HIV-affected children as a disadvantaged group under Right of Education Act to ensure they got education without discrimination, to complete their arguments so that it could take up the final hearing in April. “We are going to fix it for final hearing. You must finish this. This matter is pending since long,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said. As the hearing commenced, the bench told senior advocate Anand Grover, representing petitioner NGO Naz Foundation, to argue the matter if he was ready.“The facts are known. If you are ready, you can argue the matter. The issue is known. You can tell us on the issue as to what limit we can pass an order,” the bench said. “You must keep in mind that on the one hand there is right to education, a constitutional right, but you must appreciate that there are various segments of society….and when we lay down a parameter, we must not in any way harm the other minor children who are not aware about it. We must strike a balance,” the bench observed. The court also granted liberty to Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, representing the government, to place on record the October 26, 2012 and March 26, 2014 guidelines of the Centre related to the matter. In its plea, the NGO has sought framing of guidelines to prevent any kind of discrimination towards students due to their HIV status or that of their parents or guardians. Alleging that children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are denied admission, suspended and even expelled from schools, the petitioner has claimed that such students were also being publicly ridiculed, humiliated and treated unfairly by school authorities. “Moreover, the confidentiality of the HIV-positive status of the children has been routinely breached leading to violation of their right to privacy and the rampant acts of stigmatisation and discrimination that have followed have undermined their human dignity,” the petition has said. It has said that according to a National Aids Control Organisation report, the total number of people living with HIV in India is estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011 and children less than 15 years of age account for 1.45 lakh. (The Indian Express 17/1/17)

175.  WhatsApp case: Supreme Court will examine privacy violation (19)

NEW DELHI: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to examine whether Facebook’s access to details of calls, messages, photographs and documents exchanged by 160 million Indian users of WhatsApp violated citizens’ right to privacy. The court sought responses from Facebook, WhatsApp, Centre and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), and also sought the assistance of attorney general Mukul Rohatgi keeping in mind the constitutional question raised by two petitioners. Taking on Facebook Inc, WhatsApp and Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd are engineering student Karmanya Singh Sareen, 19, and law student Shreya Sethi, 22. In a David vs Goliath litigation, legal luminary Harish Salve argued for the minnows. He said WhatsApp had become a utility service for exchange of messages, calls and documents for a huge population. This warranted a direction from the SC to the Centre to regulate WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, to prevent it from accessing data created by citizens and disseminated through their medium. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was initially hesitant to entertain the petition. “Isn’t WhatsApp free? When the service is free and the user has the option of opting out from using the services, how can they be restrained from accessing the data sent through the medium created by them? It is a facility extended to you free of cost, take it or leave it,” it said.Salve carefully invoked the citizen’s right to speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 and right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and said free messaging, call or video call services provided by WhatsApp had become a public utility service. The unsuspecting population which created the data was the real owner of it. “Can anyone in the name of a free service access private and confidential data?” he asked. The bench said, “What worries us is that private communication must remain private if the service is availed at a cost. We understand a telecom service provider getting penalised for unauthorised snooping on telephone calls or messages sent by the users. But when you take a stand that ‘allow me to use the free service yet protect my privacy’, it becomes a completely different issue.”Salve said the sheer volume of messages and calls made daily through WhatsApp had turned it into a virtual telecom service provider, who would lose its license in case of illegal tapping or accessing of calls or messages. “WhatsApp had promised to protect the privacy of user data when it started in India in 2010. The privacy policy was continued even after Facebook took over WhatsApp in 2014. But suddenly, the policy was changed in August 2016. The government has a constitutional duty to protect privacy and free speech of citizens,” he said. The bench asked Salve to be ready to argue the matter in full during the long summer vacation starting from May 11. The CJI also hinted at the matter being placed before a constitution bench. (Times of India 18/1/17)

176. Christians relieved as SC seals law on divorce (19)

MUMBAI: The Christian community is relieved that the Supreme Court on Thursday sealed an existing law that makes it mandatory for Christian couples to procure formal divorce from civil courts. Should they remarry without doing so, they could be charged with bigamy. The Catholic Church says that has always been the case. Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, “A marriage for a Catholic has two effects: A sacramental effect and a civil effect. A marriage in a Catholic church has both these aspects it is both a sacramental marriage and a civil marriage. When a marriage breaks up and the parties choose to go separate ways, both dimensions of marriage need to be addressed. While the sacramental (religious) effect needs to be referred to a church tribunal, the civil dimension needs to be addressed in a court of law.” “Christians who seek to remarry do require civil divorce. Otherwise, it would amount to bigamy. Church annulment alone does not permit remarriage. Those who wish to remarry in church must seek church annulment as well as civil divorce with the earlier spouse,” he said. Church weddings are automatically civil marriages since the Church is the registrar of marriages. A copy of the register is forwarded to the government every few months. Women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes explained the perspective behind Thursday’s judgement. She said, “It is a misconception that the church grants divorce and the marriage is over. The British had promulgated a statute, the Indian Divorce Act in 1869 that orders that only the court can grant divorce to Christian couples. The Christians, in fact, have the oldest divorce law in the country.” In 1996, civil divorce was firmly enacted. “Before that there were misconceptions surrounding Christian divorce. One woman only sought a church annulment as she did not know that a formal court divorce was required. She remarried in church. Later, she fell out with her second husband. His lawyer informed him that he could easily escape responsibility as her second marriage without civil divorce was invalid in any case. Imagine how shocked she was. She could have been charged with bigamy,” Agnes said.In the present case, the 80-year-old petitioner had urged the SC to equate the Christian Personal Law with Muslim Personal Law, tribal personal laws and panchayati laws, where divorce is valid if pronounced by religious or community leaders. He wanted divorce granted by Christian clergy to be similarly valid. “Many Christians and activists like us were opposing the petitioner’s contention throughout,” said Agnes. She highlighted the dangers of such unilateral pronouncements. “There could be a religious leader who may not have the full facts of the case or may not know the religious law properly. Such divorce decrees are subjective and detrimental to individual parties,” she said.  (Times of India 21/1/17)

177. BJP may use judiciary to scrap Article 370: Omar Abdullah (1q9)

JAMMU: National Conference chief Omar Abdullah today warned the Mehbooba Mufti-led Jammu and Kashmir government that BJP may use judiciary to scrap Article 370 as the “saffron party has understood that they cannot use legislation to scrap it.” “BJP has perhaps admitted on their side that they cannot use legislation to scrap Article 370, which grants special powers to the state. Where they cannot use the legislation (to scrap Article 370), they can use judiciary to do it,” he said in the state Assembly here. “Those who believe that BJP has done a good job on Article 370 and that the party has accepted that the article cannot be tempered with…they are wrong,” he said in the House, where Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who had presented the grants of her Ministries of Home, Planning, GAD, Tourism and others, was also seated. The NC leader warned the PDP-BJP coalition government that the issue may snowball into a major controversy in the future. “You always blame us that we make issues out of non-issues and trigger fire. But I want to tell you that we do not create issues…they are being created by the government. We want to prepare you for a major controversy in the future,” he said. Omar also criticised the way the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFACI) Act was fought in the court of law. The Act allows banks and other financial institutions to auction residential or commercial properties to recover loans. “We were concerned on the SARFACI Act because we thought if you followed the same policy with regard to 35-A, their (BJP) aim to use judiciary will be successful. Where you are using crores of rupees to repair and reconstruct homes, please spend lakhs of rupees to put on job good lawyers to fight this case,” he added.A Supreme Court order last year had said that Jammu and Kashmir has “no vestige” of sovereignty outside the Indian Constitution and its own, while the citizens of the state were “first and foremost” citizens of India. The apex court had said this while holding that provisions of the SARFAESI Act were within the legislative competence of Parliament and can be enforced in the state. (Times of India 28/1/17)

178. No job on compassionate grounds for ‘second wife’ (19)

New Delhi: Under the Hindu law, marriage is a sacrament and not a contract, which can be entered into by execution of a marriage deed, the Delhi High Court observed while rejecting the plea of a woman that she be declared the legally wedded wife of a government servant, now deceased, so that she can get a job on compassionate grounds and avail of the other benefits. The court noted that when the woman got married to the government servant, Hari Ram, he already had a wife and had not applied for divorce. The second marriage, as claimed by the petitioner, was by way of a marriage deed. The petitioner, Champa Devi, had initiated the litigation mainly to get an appointment on compassionate grounds as well as the financial benefits payable to legal heirs of Hari Ram on his death. Hari Ram was a sweeper at GTB Hospital.Champa told the court that she got married to Hari Ram by way of a deed and affidavit in 1990. “Since inception, the contention of the appellant (Champa Devi) had been that her marriage with Hari Ram on June 2, 1990, was performed by way of execution of a marriage deed and an affidavit. It is not disputed by her that late Hari Ram had a living spouse, Phoolmati Devi, on June 2, 1990, and she expired on May 11, 1994,” said Justice Pratibha Rani. In the instant case, Champa applied for appointment on compassionate grounds on demise of Hari Ram. In August 2001, she was offered appointment as safai karamchari on temporary basis at GTB hospital. A month later, she was issued a show-cause notice by the medical superintendent, GTB Hospital, asking her to explain the legality and validity of her marriage with Hari Ram. The notice said that being a government servant, Hari Ram could not have married during the lifetime of his first wife and there was no proof of him having sought divorce from Phoolmati Devi. Champa Devi contended that since she was the only wife alive at the time of the death of Hari Ram on February 15, 1997, she was entitled to all the benefits payable to his legally wedded wife. She said she got married to Hari Ram on June 2, 1990. After the death of his first wife, Hari Ram and Champa got married again in June, 1994, at Delhi and then again before the gram panchayat of Mahabalpur village, Farukhabad district, U.P. The marriage ceremony was performed on December 10, 1994, Champa said.The suit was contested by the Lieutenant-Governor, the medical superintendent of GTB Hospital and the Delhi government. It was submitted that as per office record in 1994, Hari Ram had only one wife named Phoolmati Devi. Hari Ram never gave any intimation about his second marriage. (The Hindu 29/1/17)

179. Rs 88 lakh fine imposed under excise law in Bihar (19)

Section 42 provides for payment of Rs four lakh to family members of those who died after consuming illicit liquor, and Rs two lakh is for seriously injured victims In a first after implementation of total prohibition in Bihar on April 5, 2016, a collective fine of Rs 88 lakh has been imposed on 14 persons accused in the Gopalganj hooch tragedy, which had killed at least 19 residents of Khajurbani village in the district. “The order, passed by the court of Gopalganj district magistrate (DM) Rahul Kumar, directs all accused, who are currently behind the bars, to pay Rs 6,28,574 each to the exchequer within a month, failing which the administration may lodge a case against them,” Gopalganj excise superintendent Priyaranjan told DNA. At least 19 people had lost their lives while six others sustained serious illnesses after drinking spurious liquor in Khajurbani village in August 2016. It was the first hooch tragedy in dry Bihar as officially accepted by the state government. The decision has been taken as per Section 42 of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, which empowers a DM to collect fine from spurious liquor manufacturer or seller in cases of any hooch tragedy and pay it as compensation to the kin of victims. Section 42 provides for payment of Rs four lakh to family members of those who died after consuming illicit liquor, and Rs two lakh is for seriously injured victims. Accordingly, kin of the 19 who died will get Rs four lakh and six who fell sick will get Rs two lakh. The provision of imposing collective or community fine, is among the controversial sections of Bihar’s new and stringent excise law that is termed ‘draconian and Talibani’ by a section of the society and Opposition parties. (DNA 30/1/17)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

180. Custodial death: Human rights panel sends notice to top cop (1)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued a notice to Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Verma over the report of custodial death of a vendor last week. Som Lal, 24, was detained in the Adarsh Nagar Police Station, where, during questioning, he was allegedly thrashed by three constables. “A probe by the SDM has been initiated. Relatives of Som, who hailed from the Indore district of Madhya Pradesh, have alleged that he was beaten up in the custody by three constables, following which he tried to escape. They claim that the policemen then threw him off the terrace,” the NHRC said in a statement, adding that the allegation of death in police custody is a matter of grave concern. Top cop Verma has been asked to submit all relevant documents with his report viz., post-mortem and inquest reports, CD of the post-mortem and the magisterial inquiry report in the matter. Meanwhile, denying all charges, a senior police officer said that presumably fearing arrest after interrogation, Som himself jumped off the terrace of the police station. According to sources, an inquiry has revealed that the SHO of Adarsh Nagar, an assistant sub-inspector and three constables were involved in hushing up the matter. They have all been suspended and legal action has been initiated, an officer said. (DNA 3/1/17)

181. AFSPA extended in Nagaland by 6 months (1)

 NEW DELHI/KOHIMA,:  “The Union Home Ministry in a notification on December 30, extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, in the entire area of Nagaland for another six months, a Nagaland Home Department official said. According to the notification, issued by Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary Satyendra Garg, the Centre was of the opinion that the area comprising the entire State of Nagaland was in such a “disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”. Rights groups, various civil societies and political parties, specially the tribal-based parties in northeastern States described the law as “draconian” and have been demanding its withdrawal as the Act gave huge powers to the Army and paramilitary forces to conduct operations anywhere in the disturb areas without any prior notice. Besides Nagaland, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), some parts of Assam and in several districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Manipur’s Irom Sharmila Chanu was on hunger strike since 2000 demanding the repeal of the Act. She, however, withdrew the strike in August 2016. The Left-ruled Tripura in May 2015 had withdrawn the AFSPA, which gave sweeping powers and judicial immunity to security forces in conflict-hit areas. The law was enforced in the State 19 years ago to curb terrorism. The Central government, various political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, hailed the Tripura government’s decision. The Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) had entered into a ceasefire agreement in August 1997. Around 60 rounds of talks were held to end the insurgency that was said to have claimed 25,000 lives since 1947. – IANS (The Assam Tribune 4/1/17)

182. CRPF refuses to reply to RTI application on use of pellet guns in Kashmir (1)

New Delhi: In the wake of the death of over 90 persons and injuries to over 12,000 from the use of pellet guns during the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, the  Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has refused to give, in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query, details of the number of such weapons and ammunition used. The unrest in Jammu and Kashmir was triggered on July 9 by the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a day earlier in a gunfight with the security forces. In reply to the RTI application, the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the CRPF said: “Security forces, including CRPF, are exempted to provide information, except for information related to the allegation of corruption/violation of human rights.” “In the instant matter, there appears to be no violations of human rights as well as facts of the case do not attract the allegations of corruption,” it said. The reply was given to Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in December last year. The RTI activist sought from the CRPF a clear photocopy of Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) required to be used by the CRPF to disperse stone-pelting mobs in Jammu and Kashmir and a clear photocopy of SoPs required to be used by the CRPF to disperse large assemblages of people other than stone-pelting mobs in the state. The query also sought the name and postal address of vendor(s) from whom anti-riot weapon, popularly known as ‘pellet guns’, and relevant ammunition were procured for use in the state, “and quantum of pellet ammunition actually used in Jammu and Kashmir from 1 July, 2016, till date”.The RTI query demanded details of “rank-wise number of CRPF personnel who suffered injuries while conducting operations in aid of civilian authority in Jammu and Kashmir from July 1, 2016, till date (names are not required); rank-wise the number of CRPF personnel injured during operations in aid of civilian authority in Jammu and Kashmir who have been paid ex gratia or compensation since July 1, 2016, till date, along with the amount of monies paid.” “The rank-wise number of CRPF personnel promoted to higher ranks in recognition of their performance while acting in aid of civilian authority in J&K since July 2016 and erstwhile rank and rank to which each CRPF official or officer was promoted subsequently (names are not required)” were also demanded. Ninety-two civilians have been killed and over 12,000 injured in violence since July 9. Of the injured, around 100 face partial or complete blindness for the rest of their lives. (Business Standard 8/1/17)

183. Chhattisgarh Police raped, assaulted 16 women, finds NHRC report (1)

Bastar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has prima facie found 16 women victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by the state police personnel in Chhattisgarh`s tribal Bastar region. The NHRC has issued showcause notices to the state government to explain as to why it should not recommend interim monetary relief of Rs. 37 lakh to them. According to NHRC release, the commission is still awaiting recorded statement of 20 other victims of sexual violence by the security personnel. The monetary relief proposed includes Rs. three lakh each to eight victims of rape, Rs. two lakh each to six victims of sexual assault and Rs. 50,000 each to two victims of physical assault. The NHRC has observed it is of the view that prima-facie human rights of the victims have been grossly violated by the security personnel in Chhattisgarh for which the state government is vicariously liable.The NHRC has initiated suo motu proceedings on the basis of news reports regarding the policemen raping women and indulging in loot in five villages of Pegdapalli, Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru besides sexually harassing and assaulting more than 40 of them in Bijapur district in January last year. (Zee News 8/1/17)

184. CISF jawan guns down four colleagues (1)

Patna: A Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawan on Thursday opened fire at his colleagues, killing four of them at the premises of the Navinagar Power Generating Company in Bihar’s Aurangabad district. The incident was reported at about half past midnight on Thursday. Superintendent of Police Satyaprakash said the CISF personnel, identified as Balbir, was apparently angry over leave issues and fired at his colleagues, killing two of them on the spot. He was overpowered soon after. Two others injured by him in the incident were rushed to the the Narayan Medical College and Hospital in neighbouring Rohtas district but were declared dead on arrival. The four were identified as Bachcha Sharma, N. Mishra, Arvind Kumar and G.S. Ram. Balbir, who hails from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, has been arrested, Mr. Satyaprakash said. Senior police officials, he added, have rushed to the spot to probe the incident. The CISF has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the incident. CISF has been deployed for security at the thermal power project, a joint venture between the National Thermal Power Corporation and the Bihar government that is under construction. (The Hindu 12/1/17)

185. Five cops held for custodial death in Gujarat (1)

RAJKOT: Five cops, including the police inspector of Thorala police station in Rajkot, were arrested on Thursday in connection with the murder of two persons — Prakash Lunagariya (35) and Shaktisinh Zala (19). The two men were allegedly killed in police custody. All five have been booked for murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. Last week, an FIR was lodged against unknown police personnel after family members of the deceased alleged that Lunagariya and Shaktisinh were killed in police custody. They had also submitted a memorandum to the district collector and organised a rally demanding the arrest of the accused cops. (Times of India 13/1/17)

186.  Release arrested human rights activists: Kalyan Rao (1)

ONGOLE: Revolutionary writer G. Kalyan Rao on Thursday demanded unconditional release of seven members of a fact-finding team arrested by the Chhattisgarh police allegedly under trumped-up charges. He told reporters here that the team, comprising lawyers Balla Ravindranath, Chikkudu Prabhakar, D. Prabhakar, Durga Prasad, an independent journalist and Osmania University research scholars Nazeer, Rajendra Prasad and R. Lakshman, was ”illegally detained” by the Telangana police on December 24 before handing them over to the Chhattisgarh police. He contended that the team members from the Telangana Democratic Front (TDF) were proceeding to that State only to look into the alleged fake encounter cases on a large scale resulting in the death of innocent tribals and had not committed any offence. But they were booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and charged with carrying banned currency notes and Maoist literature, added Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) State vice-president Ch. Sudhakar. (The Hindu 13/1/17)

187. Public meet backs repeal AFSPA call (1)

IMPHAL, Jan 16 : A one day public meeting held today at Pureiromba Shanglen, Andro Bazar, Imphal East on ‘Democracy and Repealing of Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958’ endorsed the popular demand for repealing AFSPA from Manipur. The public meeting was organised by the Human Rights Initiative (HRI). Addressing the gathering, HRI executive director Babloo Loitongbam remarked that democracy exists in India just for name’s sake. Imposition of AFSPA in Manipur which gives unbridled powers to security forces that is warranted only at the time of war or external aggression is a matter of shame for a country like India which claims to be a democracy. Even though India is said to be a republic and elections are held periodically, it remains a big question whether these elections make India a real republic, Babloo said. Although it has been more than 75 days that the National Highways connecting Manipur with other parts of the country have been blockaded, security forces have not been utilised so far to address the misery of the masses. But security forces were quite active when it came to killing people in Manipur under the immunity guaranteed by AFSPA.None of the elected representatives had ever lobbied or voiced a single stand against continued imposition of AFSPA in Manipur. Had there been healthy number of elected representatives who could fight boldly for the cause of the masses, people of Manipur would not have ever lived in such a terrified atmosphere.When it comes to AFSPA, the Central Government is always quick to intervene but they have been refusing to intervene even as a serious humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the State on account of the prolonged economic blockade on the ground that law and order is a State subject, Babloo decried. If India is a true republic, imposition of AFSPA in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir can never be vindicated. However, the Government of India never ever talks about imposition of AFSPA in areas infested by Maoists where violence of much greater scale take place regularly. This is something the people of North East and JK would like to question the Government of India, Babloo continued. … (The Sangai Express 17/1/17)

188. Torture at police station left painter disabled: Report (1)

CHENNAI:  More than a decade after a youth in Chennai was allegedly subjected to third degree investigation in a police station leading to amputation of nine fingers and failure of both kidneys, an inquiry has confirmed the police torture and recommended suitable compensation to the victim. G. Arun Kumar, a painter, was picked up by the police on suspicion in a theft case in 2006. Alleged brutality at the Mambalam police station led to the failure of both his kidneys and amputation of nine fingers. His involvement in the theft was never proved. His pregnant wife was also taken to the police station and allegedly beaten up, resulting in her suffering an abortion. With no resources to pursue a legal battle, the victim was resigned to his fate. After his parents died and his wife left him, Mr. Kumar lives in the debris of a demolished room in T. Nagar. Though justice is in sight after a decade, thanks to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which took up the case in the Madras High Court, the tormenting hours of torture continue to haunt Mr. Kumar, now aged 32. While the Crime Branch CID that probed into allegations levelled by Mr. Kumar found no highhandedness on the part of the police, the Revenue Divisional Officer’s investigation found evidence to confirm torture. In the final status report submitted in the Madras High Court recently, the RDO opined that Mr. Kumar was taken to the Mambalam police station on December 11, 2006 ,on the suspicion that he was involved in a theft. “It has also been found that the fingers of both the hands were individually tied using rope, which led to blockage of blood circulation and subsequent kidney failure, though the medical reports are not available. The responsibility has been fixed on seven police officials for torture and a recommendation made for appropriate compensation to the affected victim from the police department,” the report said. When the matter came up for hearing before the First Bench of the High Court recently, the Public Prosecutor sought time to obtain instructions on the quantum of compensation. The case would come up on February 23. “I was picked up for inquiry and detained in the police station for two weeks. I was subjected to various kinds of torture. With just one finger and failed kidneys, I am finding it hard to do any work now. I will be grateful if the government can provide good treatment and help me find a job. I cannot even afford medicines and the dialysis recommended by doctors,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu on Friday. The Tamil Nadu government will soon announce the quantum of compensation to the victim and action contemplated against seven police officials. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

189. Mysuru jail authorities recommend names of 26 convicts for release on RD (1)

Mysuru: As many as 26 convicts in Mysuru Central Prison are expected to be released from jail for their good conduct on Republic Day. Following an approval by the advisory board, the jail authorities have recommended the names of 26 prisoners — all men — to the government for their release on good conduct. Only those who have served 14 years in jail, including the period of detention, are eligible for release on good conduct. On August 15, 2016, 52 convicts, including 17, women were released. Divyashree, superintendent, Mysuru Central Prison, told TOI that she may get the list of prisoners to be released in a day or two. There are 927 prisoners including 51 women in Mysuru jail , of them 513 are undergoing life imprisonments for various offences including murder and rape. (Times of India 23/1/17)

190. 3 policemen sentenced to life for custodial death (1)

Pune: The Kolhapur sessions court on Friday awarded life imprisonment to two police officers and a constable in the case of custodial death of a 21-year-old youth in August 2014. Additional District and Sessions Judge L.D. Bile sentenced Assistant Police Inspector Sanjiv Ramchandra Patil, Assistant Sub-Inspector Baban Dadu Shinde and police naik Dhanaji Shivajirao Patil to life imprisonment for the death of Jagdish alias ‘Sunny’ Powar. The judge also imposed Rs. 15,000 in penalty on each. A sum of Rs. 25,000 from the penalty amount should be paid to the family of the deceased as ‘compensation.’ According to the official version, a clash broke out between two groups during the Mahalaxmi Yatra on August 23, 2014. Powar and some residents, belonging to one faction, demanded police action against the other and allegedly took part in agitations against the police. A bus of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation was damaged in stone-throwing. Powar was detained and, according to later reports, mercilessly beaten by the accused policemen in the station. He was rushed to the Chhatrapati Pramila Raje Civil Hospital in the city where he was declared dead on arrival. As the news of his death spread, a mob torched police vehicles and stoned the police station. Powar’s elder brother, Jaydeep, filed a complaint against the accused. The case was quickly transferred to the CID, which concluded that the death was “unnatural” and held the three policemen responsible for it. (The Hindu 28/1/17)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

191.  In 2016, 122 journalists killed globally, 5 in India (1)

New Delhi: As many as 122 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2016 globally, 93 of them in targeted killings and others in natural disasters and accidents, while India witnessed death of five scribes and was eighth on a list topped by Iraq, according to a new report. The targeted killings, including murders, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents, span 23 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East and Arab World regions, said International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its annual report released Friday.The IFJ said the number (93 targeted killings) was down from 112 targeted killings in 2015 while Iraq still had the largest number of media killings with 15, ahead of Afghanistan (13) and Mexico (11). These were followed by Yemen (8), Guatemala (6), Syria (6), India and Pakistan (5 in both), according to the statistics published by the largest global federation of journalists’ trade unions. In addition to the 93 targeted killings, 20 Brazilian sports journalists perished in a plane crash over the city of Medellin in Colombia, a country where for the first time in many years no killing was recorded this year, against three in 2015. Nine Russian journalists were killed in a military plane crash. Although the 2016 figures for targeted killings of media professionals are down from the previous year’s, the IFJ has cautioned against complacency citing reports of rising threats, intimidation and self-censorship as evidence that attacks on freedom of expression remain at critical levels. In India, Tarun Mishra, Bureau Chief of Jan Sandesh Times, died on 14 February; Indradev Yadav, Journalist with Taaza TV, on 16 May; Rajdeo Ranjan, Bureau Chief of Dainik Hindustan on 13 May; Kishore Dave, Bureau Chief of Jai Hind on 22 August and Dharmendra Singh, Correspondent of Dainik Bhaskar on 12 November, the report noted. In 2015, India had reported targeted killings of six media professionals, including those from news channel Aaj Tak and Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran, the report states. Noting that India along with Yemen, Pakistan and Syria form a group which saw little or no change in the numbers of killings from 2015, IFJ President Philippe Leruth said, “Any decrease in violence against journalists and media staff is always welcome but these statistics and the continued deliberate targeting of media workers in many incidents causing loss of life give little room for comfort nor ground for hope to see the end of the current media safety crisis.” The IFJ, which claims to represent more than 6,00,000 journalists in 140 countries, has recorded at least 2,297 killings of media professionals in targeted assassinations, cross-fire incidents and bomb attacks till 2015. (The Indian Express 1/1/17)

192. Journalist found dead in Hazaribagh (1)

HAZARIBAG: Mystery shrouds the death of a journalist of a local Hindi daily, whose body was found by Katkumdag police from a field at Kud village near Hazaribag railway station on Monday. SP Bhimsen Tuti said a suicide note was also found near the body. However, the deceased’s father, Jitan Mahato, said he suspected it to be a case of a well-planned murder after his son was reportedly abducted. Mahato, a resident of Noora Mohalla of Hazaribagh town, said his son left home on December 30 but did not return. An FIR has been lodged against one Preeti Agarwal, an employee of the HIV department in Hazaribag Sadar Hospital, and one Md Ismail alias Babloo, who is reportedly in a relationship with Preeti . Mahato said his son was also in a relationship with Preeti. He accused the duo of forcing his son to consume poison. A probe has been ordered in and the investigation will be conducted by a senior level officer of the DSP rank, Tuti said. (Times of India 3/1/17)

193. Greenpeace activist to face defamation case, SC clarifies (1)

New Delhi: Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai will now have to face criminal defamation case filed by a company, with the Supreme Court today disposing of her plea seeking clarification whether a private firm can file a criminal defamation case citing a recent judgement. Pillai, against whom Mahan Coal Ltd has filed a criminal defamation case for allegedly carrying out negative publicity and protests over purported irregularities in mining activities, has said that the company can have a civil remedy but not a criminal recourse. A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said nothing remained in the matter as the judgement has already been delivered in the case. “Nothing remains in the matter. We are disposing of the matter in the wake of the judgement already being delivered on the issue. You have the liberty to persue the remedies as per law,” the bench said. The court also granted liberty to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who sought intervention in Pillai’s plea to file a fresh petition. Pillai, in her petition, had said “a corporate entity cannot be imprisoned for criminal defamation and can only be fined. As such in the interest of Article 14 and equality before the law, it should be able to seek damages, not imprisonment”. She had said she was “the victim of an abuse of justice and process, by which the respondent through Mahan Coal has used the criminal defamation provision in a strategy against public participation, association, discussion and advocacy.” The activist in her plea said that lodging of a criminal defamation case was not limited to this instance alone, but was “part of a pattern of strategic lawsuits against public participation whereby the corporations are using criminal defamation provisions to persecute and limit the discussions and advocacy, and association around issues concerning issues of public interest and participation.” On September 5 last year, the apex court had sought response from Centre saying “it is an important issue. We can’t just let it go. The issue needs to be examined.” The plea said “With the intent of crippling the ability of petitioner, of forests community residents and of members and supporters of Greenpeace India Society, to exercise their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression, the respondent has embarked on a strategy designed to hijack the Indian justice system for its on private ends, using the criminal defamation provisions to file the instant case not only against the petitioner but also against the international executive director of Greenpeace International.” Pillai’s petition said that corporations “do not have the same right or interest to be protected as individual citizen from defamation. “Thus individuals such as directors, being allowed to file for alleged defamations as ‘some persons aggrieved’ in section 199 CrPC for the harm of reputation to a company because he can legitimately feel the ‘pinch of it’, is an unconstitutional restriction on the Freedom of Speech and Association with no compelling reasons pursuant to Article 19(2) of the Constitution.” (The Indian Express 9/1/17)

194. PFI demands revocation of draconian laws (1)

KOZHIKODE:  The national general assembly of the Popular Front of India (PFI) has demanded that the Centre repeal repressive laws including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which are reportedly used against Muslims, Dalits and marginalised sections of the society. Briefing mediapersons on resolutions adopted at the three-day assembly, PFI chairman E. Aboobacker said the misuse of the UAPA was rampant in many States including Kerala, and the law was being employed to harass even religious leaders. The new provisions were used to suppress legitimate political dissent, he added. Deploring the alleged fake encounters at Malkangiri, Bhopal and Nilambur, he said the killings were extra judicial methods to suppress legitimate struggles of the people and also to create fear among the poor, marginalised and deprived sections. The meeting called for the enactment of a special law for immediate prosecution of and disciplinary action against erring officers in encounter cases. The assembly passed a resolution against stray attacks on Muslims and Dalits in the name of ‘Gau Raksha’, vigilante surveillance of minority institutions, communal riots in select cities, continuous persecution of minorities and tribals, State sponsored killings in mineral rich States. Mr. Aboobacker also condemned the move of the BJP-led Union government to conduct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies concurrently on the contention that it would reduce election expenditure. However, the proposal was a “sugar-coated” attempt to undermine federalism and parliamentary democracy in the country. It was a clever ploy to introduce executive presidency projecting one man or party as saviours of the people. Mr. Aboobacker said the exclusion of the Muslim community from the domain of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 was against constitutional provisions preventing discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and language. (The Hindu 10/1/17)

195. Fifth Pakistani social media activist reported missing (1)

ISLAMABAD: A fifth Pakistani rights activist has gone missing, his colleagues said Thursday, as the United Nations raised concerns over shrinking freedoms for campaigners. Samar Abbas, a middle-aged IT worker and head of the anti-militancy Civil Progressive Alliance, disappeared under mysterious circumstances after arriving in the capital Islamabad from the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday, January 7, according to Talib Raza, a colleague from his organisation. “We formed the alliance to protect the rights of minorities. He had launched a struggle against the banned militant outfits’ activities and we together staged protests for the rights of the minorities,” said Raza. “This seems to be an organised attempt to shut the progressive and liberal voices in the country,” he added. Four leftist bloggers were previously reported missing from various cities in Pakistan between January 4 and 7, raising fears of a crackdown on social media, the last bastion of free speech in a country where journalism is increasingly under threat. Human Rights Watch said their near simultaneous disappearances raised concerns of government involvement. The government has denied this, and on Tuesday Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the Senate authorities would soon recover all the missing. Rights groups say Pakistani activists and journalists often find themselves caught between the security establishment and militant groups including the Taliban. The United Nations and Amnesty International have expressed concern for the missing activists.”No government should tolerate attacks on its citizens,” said the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, David Kaye. “By making the investigation of these disappearances an urgent priority, the Pakistani authorities can send a strong signal that they take seriously the responsibility for the life and security of all of its citizens, particularly in cases involving freedom of expression.” Pakistan is also ranked among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, and reporting critical of the military is considered a major red flag, with journalists at times detained, beaten and even killed. In April 2014, unidentified gunmen attacked but failed to kill Hamid Mir, one of the country’s most recognised TV anchors. His employer and his family later accused the director general of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency of involvement. (Times of India 12/1/17)

196. Soldiers using social media for expressing grievances will be punished, warns Army Chief (1)

New Delhi, Jan 15 : Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat on Sunday said actions will be taken against those soldiers who are posting their grievances on social media. [NK India] A few colleagues are using social media in order to draw the attention of the media to their problems. It affects the morale of the jawans, the Army chief said in his Army Day address here. He warned, You can be held guilty of a crime and you can be punished too. Controversy erupted after a BSF personnel, who was identified as Tej Bahadur Yadav, posted a video alleging that near starvation diet served to them at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. In the video, the jawan alleged: We only get a parantha and tea during breakfast. The food is served without any pickle or vegetables. For lunch, we only get pulses which only has turmeric and salt and roti, he said. Yadav alleged that jawans sometimes go to bed on an empty stomach. The videos have went viral on social media. (New Kerala 15/1/17)

197. Why can’t FM stations broadcast news, asks SC (1)

New Delhi: The radio is an inevitable part of the ordinary Indian’s life. From broadcasting crop updates for farmers to soothing jingles to tide over the morning blues and live traffic alerts for the hassled commuter, the radio has been an inseparable friend for many. Now, if the Supreme Court has its way, private FM radio stations will have an essential role to play in the world’s oldest democracy — dissemination of news. They will have to exercise the right to inform with fairness and without prejudice and the right to counter and question the government’s version of news. On Friday, a Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud picked up from a plethora of pending public interest litigation petitions a 2013 one filed by Common Cause for a judicial declaration to end the monopoly of the Prasar Bharati Corporation, which owns and operates All India Radio, over news broadcasting and current affairs programmes. The Bench asked why there should be a continuing prohibition on FM radio stations and community radios from airing their own news and current affairs on a par with private TV channels and the print media.The court asked why the government wanted to control news on radio, which covers almost the entire population, even the rural masses, as per official estimates. The government’s prohibition, Common Cause argued, was in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in 1995 in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting vs Cricket Association of Bengal. The apex court then held that “airwaves are public property to be used to promote public good and expressing a plurality of views, opinions and ideas”. “Policy Guidelines and of the Grant of Permission Agreements framed by the government which prohibit private FM radio stations and community radio stations from broadcasting their own news and current affairs programmes are clearly violative of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. It is submitted that the right to freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to information, which encompasses diverse interpretations of news and current affairs,” civil rights advocates Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal submitted before the Bench in the present case. ….. … (The Hindu 16/1/17)

198. WhatsApp case: Supreme Court will examine privacy violation (1)

NEW DELHI: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to examine whether Facebook’s access to details of calls, messages, photographs and documents exchanged by 160 million Indian users of WhatsApp violated citizens’ right to privacy. The court sought responses from Facebook, WhatsApp, Centre and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), and also sought the assistance of attorney general Mukul Rohatgi keeping in mind the constitutional question raised by two petitioners. Taking on Facebook Inc, WhatsApp and Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd are engineering student Karmanya Singh Sareen, 19, and law student Shreya Sethi, 22. In a David vs Goliath litigation, legal luminary Harish Salve argued for the minnows. He said WhatsApp had become a utility service for exchange of messages, calls and documents for a huge population. This warranted a direction from the SC to the Centre to regulate WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, to prevent it from accessing data created by citizens and disseminated through their medium. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was initially hesitant to entertain the petition. “Isn’t WhatsApp free? When the service is free and the user has the option of opting out from using the services, how can they be restrained from accessing the data sent through the medium created by them? It is a facility extended to you free of cost, take it or leave it,” it said.Salve carefully invoked the citizen’s right to speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 and right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and said free messaging, call or video call services provided by WhatsApp had become a public utility service. The unsuspecting population which created the data was the real owner of it. “Can anyone in the name of a free service access private and confidential data?” he asked. The bench said, “What worries us is that private communication must remain private if the service is availed at a cost. We understand a telecom service provider getting penalised for unauthorised snooping on telephone calls or messages sent by the users. But when you take a stand that ‘allow me to use the free service yet protect my privacy’, it becomes a completely different issue.”Salve said the sheer volume of messages and calls made daily through WhatsApp had turned it into a virtual telecom service provider, who would lose its license in case of illegal tapping or accessing of calls or messages. “WhatsApp had promised to protect the privacy of user data when it started in India in 2010. The privacy policy was continued even after Facebook took over WhatsApp in 2014. But suddenly, the policy was changed in August 2016. The government has a constitutional duty to protect privacy and free speech of citizens,” he said. The bench asked Salve to be ready to argue the matter in full during the long summer vacation starting from May 11. The CJI also hinted at the matter being placed before a constitution bench. (Times of India 18/1/17)

199. Media must stand up to fear, speak out today more than ever:VP (1)

Kozhikode: Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out, Vice President Hamid Ansari said today stressing that press has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to hold power to account. The media should “tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said while invoking Mahatama Gandhi. “Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out. It must not hesitate to tell the powers their errors in commission and omission,” Ansari said at a function here after giving away the C H Mohammed Koya National Journalism Awards 2017, instituted in the memory of former chief minister of Kerala. “It is a fundamental function of the media and a basic requirement for the functioning of a healthy democracy,” he said A healthy, vibrant democracy not only creates the space for a free media, but rather it needs an impartial and independent media for its survival. Journalism as a professional calling is more than a mere job, it is a public good, he said. “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said on the eve of our independence, ‘Freedom and power bring responsibility’. “The media has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said. Ansari said Koya believed in using the media to bring about social awareness and change and his role in advancing the educational infrastructure in Kerala as education Minister is well-known. “In this era of ‘post-truths’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge-out editorials, we would do well to recall one of the greatest journalists that India has ever produced, and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” Ansari said, referring to Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji was associated with six journals, and for two very influential weeklies, he was the editor. He published no advertisement, at the same time he did not want his newspapers to run at a loss. He had gained considerable experience in South Africa, where he had taken over the editorial role of the ‘Indian Opinion’ in 1904 and published it in English, Tamil and Gujarati, sometimes running the press himself.For Gandhiji, the three objectives of the press were– One, to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it; to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments, and to fearlessly expose popular defects, he said. …  (Business Standard 20/1/17)

200. Indian universities under threat, need to foster dissent, freedom of expression: Manmohan Singh

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], Jan. 20: In the wake of the recent unrest being witnessed at Hyderabad Central University ( HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU), former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Friday raised concerns at the attempt being made to suppress the freedom of expression and speech in Indian universities and said it is imperative to guard this freedom “zealously”.  Speaking at the Presidency University, Singh said “I believe every university must give the freedom to pursue knowledge even where the knowledge may be at odds with established intellectual and social traditions. We must guard this freedom zealously.”  “Regrettably independent thinking and freedom of expression at Indian universities are now under threat. Political interference in university and academic appointment is highly short sighted,” he added.  Noting that there is a rise in nationalist tendencies which are responding to populism and directing hatred, Singh said universities have a vital role to play as it is in the universities that would help citizens to distinguish fact from fiction and disregard propaganda. “We must make every effort to protect the autonomy of our universities and to foster the right of our students to express ideas that powerful interest may not always agree with. True nationalism is found where students, citizens are encourages to think freely and speak freely and where dissent is encouraged and not suppressed,” Singh said.  Singh further said there is a greater need for introspection and must think about how one can better one’s willingness to engage with dissent and added that it displays a sign of inherent strength. (India.Com 21/1/17)

201. Press Council issues notice on scribe’s arrest (1)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Justice Chadramauli Kumar Prasad has taken suo motu cognisance of the arrest of Kunal Shankar, reporter of Frontline, during coverage of news at Hyderabad Central University and asked the Telangana Chief Secretary, the Vice-Chancellor and the Superintendent of Police to file a report on the matter. “Press Council of India Chairman … has expressed grave concern over the arrest of Kunal Shankar, Reporter, Frontline, during coverage of news on the campus of Hyderabad Central University and also again imposing restriction on media in the University.“The Chairman felt that prima facie, the action of HCU impinges on the freedom of the press,” said a release from the PCI. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

202. Centre committed to upholding freedom of expression: Prakash Javadekar (1)

Guwahati: The BJP-led government was committed to upholding freedom of expression, thought and writing, because these constituted the very essence of democracy, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said here on Saturday. “Freedom of expression, thought and writing is the very essence of democracy and this government is committed to upholding it,” he said, while speaking at the inauguration of the first Brahmaputra Literary Festival. The three-day festival has been organised jointly by National Book Trust and the Assam government. Recalling the “dark days of Emergency”, Javadekar said the BJP-led government had great respect for freedom of speech. “This government values freedom of speech, thoughts and writings as we believe that this will take the nation forward. Many of us had fought against the dark days of Emergency, went to jail and had it finally revoked,” he said. The minister also described literary and cultural festivals as “major investments” and said these were as important as industrial investments. “I consider literary and cultural investments like this as important as industrial investment. Therefore, the way we hold investment summits in different states, there should also be literary and cultural summits and festivals like these,” he said. Underlining the importance of a campaign to boost reading habit among all sections of people, Javadekar said all kinds of reading — in print, through audio or e-books — must be encouraged at all costs. He also described libraries as the “pride of a nation” and called for making libraries “a part of our lives and set-up in every part of the country”. “India has, since ancient times, had a rich tradition of libraries in Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila, and history has been witness to the fact that invaders have always attacked and vandalised libraries first,” he added. (Indian Express 28/1/17)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

203. West Bengal communal riots: Will life be the same again? (7)

Dhulagari (Howrah) , DNA: That’s what residents of Banerjee Para and Munshipara in West Bengal are asking. It’s 20 days since a communal riot has happened in these areas and many have lost their houses and properties. For around 70 residents in areas like Banerjee Para and Munshipara at Dhulagari in Howrah district, 35 km from Kolkata, the new year was no occasion for celebrations. It is 20 days since their houses were set afire. It all started on December 13, during a procession on the occasion of Milad-Un-Nabi. While the police are tight-lipped, residents are giving two versions. Those who took out the procession say that though it was a peaceful one, stones were pelted on them. “We used loudspeakers during the procession. But they were turned off when we were passing by a nearby temple. Still they insisted we take a detour. When we tried to reason it out, they started throwing stones at us,” Md Ruhul Amin, a local, said. Members of the other community say that they were targeted without provocation. Said Durga Mondal, a local: “There was an an unwritten rule here that people should keep away from other communities’ places of worship during religious processions. This was violated on December 13 and that sparked the riot.” Properties worth lakhs of rupees belonging to both communities were destroyed. Kankan Mallav, a housewife in the fifties, said that she had lost everything after rioters burnt down her two-storey house. She took refuge in one of her relatives’ house in the vicinity but keeps on returning to her place. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing had been spared. I was asked to leave the house on that day, and as soon as I left, people doused it with petrol and set it afire. I didn’t even have another set of clothes to wear. The house was soon engulfed in a huge ball of fire, and by the time firefighters came and brought it under control, shells of concretes started coming off the ceiling,” she told DNA. Neighbours said that Kankan had lost her mental sanity and roams about the burnt house for hours together, muttering to herself. “Her sister-in-law, at whose place she, her husband and son had taken refuge, takes her back. My husband and son are embroiders and are now out of business. I expect people to return soon, demanding compensation,” she said. As many as 24 residential units have been razed in another area. Those were rented out to people who had come to the district from across the state. Naru Gopal Das from East Midnapore district is one. He works at the vegetable market here and had rented a place which was destroyed in the riot. “The experience was spine-chilling. I was staying there alone at that time and left the place in the nick of time,” he said. In Banerjee Para, many have taken shelter in temples and are living on donations from the neighbourhood. “We have helped them with woollen clothes and blankets and have pooled money to provide for food for those who have lost homes and have been forced to live in temples,” said a 50-plus resident here. “Rapid Action Force (RAF) and police personnel are in the area and a fire engine and a water tender have been kept in standby, said Surajit Khanra,” a local and a victim. In Munshipara, some people claim that several factories too were burnt down and that has left many jobless. “My embroidery unit has been destroyed. My total loss is about Rs 10 lakh,” said SK Kamaluddin, a resident. Most shops in the adjacent market are still shut. “I don’t know if I should open my shop. I have set it up with a lot of hard work and now I don’t want it to be a target of any such violence,” said one shop owner. Among those whose property were burnt is Asim Khanra, a member of the Dhulagari Gram Panchayat. “My house was robbed and burnt and my losses are about Rs 8 lakh,” he told DNA. The state government has announced a compensation package of Rs 35,000 to each family. “Since I am a Gram Panchayat member, I cannot even question the government,” he said. He said that he had talked about it to TMC vice-president Mukul Roy when he visited the area. “But he too didn’t do much,” he said. (DNA 2/1/17)

204. Muslims in Ullal herald message of communal harmony (7)

MANGALURU: Murders, attacks on innocent youths, communal tension and hate speeches may have given Ullal the tag of a ‘hyper-sensitive region’. However, the residents of Ullal are doing their bit to set up an example of communal harmony in the area. On Friday, Muslims in Ullal extended festival wishes to the Hindus celebrating the annual festival at Sri Ullalthi Dharma Arasara Temple, Uliya. While the Hindus were busy in celebrations, Muslims welcomes the devotees by offering them fruit juices. The occasion was Prathishte – Brahmakalashotsava and Dharma Nadavali Mahotsava of Sri Ullalthi Dharma Arasara Temple, which is one of the prominent Hindu shrines in the region.The initiative to offer fruit juice and welcome Hindu devotees to the festival was taken up by the management committee of Sayyid Madani Ullal Darga, which is one of the famous Muslim shrines of South India. Minister for food, civil supplies and consumer affairs U T Khader was also behind the initiative, as the region comes under his constituency. The initiative was praised by the people and also by the police department. Usually, the police department is at the receiving end whenever incidents of communal clashes and murders are reported. Deputy commissioner of police M Sanjeev Patil posted pictures of Muslim brethren distributing fruit juices to Hindu devotees at the temple premises. “Better days of Hindu-Muslim unity are here. Muslim friends distributed cold drinks to devotees at Ullalti Amma Temple. A good initiative by Muslim youths in Ullal which should be continued,” said Patil. (Times of India 7/1/17)

205. Memorial to remember 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims to open on January 15 (7)

New Delhi: A memorial for Sikhs killed during the 1984 riots has been constructed by the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) here as a “reminder of injustice” towards the victims.Called “The Wall of Truth”, the structure has been built in an area of 2500 sq mt and at a cost of Rs 2.25 crore at the Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib Complex near Parliament. It will be thrown open to the public on January 15. “The Wall of Truth, which had courted controversy in 2013 with the Congress-backed SAD (Delhi) opposing the choice of venue, is finally completed. It will be thrown open to the public on January 15. “The widows of the victims will lead the event that will be attended by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal,” DSGMC general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said. “The memorial has names of thousands of Sikhs killed in the carnage and people from other communities who laid down their lives trying to save them etched on its walls. We have also given space to the observations of different panels which were set up by the government to probe the riots,” he said. The decision to build the memorial had come in 2013, close on the heels of acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who was facing allegations of perpetrating the riots, by a Karkardooma court in April that year. The construction work had begun in November 2014. Sirsa, who is also the national spokesperson of Shiromani Akali Dal, said the DSGMC fought a long battle against the previous UPA government for making the memorial a reality. “The Congress was dead set against the construction of the memorial. It even moved court against it. Also, the Sheila Dikshit government had in November 2012 scuttled our efforts to name a park in Punjabi Bagh to commemorate the killing of innocent Sikhs,” he said. Sirsa rued that the judiciary has “not been able to put the perpetrators of the massacre behind bars.” “The courts delivered justice in the cases related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. But the anti-Sikhs riots are a blot on the judiciary,” he alleged. He said the DSGMC chose the venue, just a stone’s throw away from Parliament, “to remind the government of its failure to do justice to its people.” (Hindustan Times 8/1/17)

206. EC issues notice to Sakshi Maharaj over communal remarks, seeks reply by tomorrow (7)

New Delhi: The Election Commission has issued a notice to BJP MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj, for his alleged communal remarks against Muslims during a religious event in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and sought his reply by January 11. The notice comes three days after Congress moved the EC on a plea that the MP had violated the model code of conduct that came into effect in the state on January 4. Uttar Pradesh votes in seven phases from February 11 to March 8. In an indirect jibe at the Muslim community, Sakshi Maharaj, at a sant sammelan in Meerut on January 6, reportedly said, “Desh mein samasyaein khadi ho rahi hain jansankhya ke karan. Uske liye Hindu zimmedar nahin hain… Zimmedar toh wo hain jo chaar biwion aur chalees bachchon ki baatein karte hain. (There are problems in the country because of the growth of population. Hindus are not responsible for that. Those responsible are the ones who talk of four wives and 40 children.)” He also said that the money earned from cattle slaughter was being used to fund terrorism.The BJP MP’s remarks come days after the Supreme Court ruled that political parties and candidates can’t seek votes. In a petition to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, the Congress termed the MP’s remarks “communal” and argued that the comments were in violation of the model code of conduct and punishable under law. “The entire statement made by Sakshi Maharaj made be perused and appropriate action may be taken against him and the Bharatiya Janata Party in this regard, in view of the nature of the offending statement,” the petition by the  Congress read. The Chief Electoral Officer of Uttar Pradesh had also sought a report from the district administration on the alleged communal remarks by the BJP MP. Besides, an FIR against him on charges of promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion and caste was also lodged by the Meerut police. (Indian Express 10/1/17)

207. J-K: ‘Sacrilege’ sparks violence in Kathua, four arrested (7)

Jammu : The Jammu and Kashmir Police has blamed vendetta over a failed marriage for “sacrilege”, which triggered communal tension in Kathua district on Monday. Senior Superintendent of Police Pawan Parihar said they had arrested Mohammad Iqbal, Sultan Ahmed, Mohammad Sharief and Mohammad Ali in the matter. Sources said that the four allegedly stole a calf in Hardu Muthi village, slaughtered it and planted its head outside Alam Din’s house in Hariyachak, nearly 15 km away. They wanted to frame Din as his daughter had abandoned Sharief’s son after a failed marriage four years ago. The two families had fought over it several times. A mob ransacked Din’s house after the four allegedly told a local RSS activist that his family had slaughtered the calf. The slaughter triggered violence, in which half-a-dozen people were injured. Additional reinforcements were rushed to the area while the Jammu-Srinagar highway was blocked for five hours. The violence triggered protests in the Assembly, with the opposition Congress and National Conference staging a walkout. “The House can function only when the situation is normal,” said NC legislator Mian Altaf as opposition lawmakers accused the state government of being anti-Muslim. (The Indian Express 11/1/17)

208. Assam: Hajo’s post-Babri Masjid communal harmony march enters 25th year (7)

Guwahati: A harmony march, started as a show of unity among different communities in Assam after the riots following the Babri Masjid demolition, and turned into an annual event, entered its 25th year on Sunday. While rest of Assam was busy celebrating the post-harvest festival of Magh Bihu, hundreds gathered at Hajo, 24km west of Guwahati, to take part in Samanway Sobha Jatra and Monikut Festival. The procession and festival, at the small town considered Assam’s ‘oasis of communal harmony’ is symbolic of how residents of this sacred place have learnt to live in peace. Hajo is home to Hayagrib Madhab temple, a four-century-old popular Vishnu shrine. The area is also considered holy by some Buddhists who believe Buddha attained ‘Nirvana’ here. The Powa Mecca mosque, constructed over 350 years ago, is located few kilometres away. It is believed the structure was made using soil brought from Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site. “The procession started in January 1993 to show unity among followers of different faiths in Hajo after communal riots spread across India following demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992,” Siba Prasad Sarma, ‘doloi’ (chief priest) of Hayagrib Madhab temple said. The move initiated by the local unit of All Assam Students Union (AASU) has continued uninterrupted annually on the first day of Magh month, according to Assamese calendar. “Unlike other places, communal harmony has been a trademark of Hajo for centuries and the annual procession has helped reinforce it,” said Dr Painuruddin Ahmed, former president of Powa Mecca mosque committee. Like every year, on Sunday too, hundreds started the procession from near the Powa Mecca mosque and went till Hayagrib Madhab temple where it culminated in the festival. “Since next year will be the silver jubilee celebrations, we plan to organise it on a much larger scale so that the message of peace spreads further,” said Sarma. He urged the state government to construct a ropeway connecting both religious sites, located six kilometers apart, to reduce distance and also strengthen communal ties further. (Hindustan Times 15/1/17)

209. Submit report on ’84 riots probe: SC (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to file a “comprehensive status report” on the SIT probe into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, especially for reopening cases closed in haste. A Bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi posted the next hearing for February 20 as Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand sought four-week time for the purpose. The Bench was hearing a PIL by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) member S Gurlad Sing Kahlon. Arguing for the petitioner, senior counsel Arvind Datar contended that urgency was required in the matter as the extended tenure of the SIT would end on February 11. Set up two years ago, the SIT was still “thinking of reopening 22 of the 220 cases,” Datar pleaded. ASG Anand, however, contended that “work is in progress” and sought time for the Centre to file a counter responding to the petitioner’s contentions. In the earlier status report, the Centre had said the SIT examined 216 cases and identified 22 for reopening. In his PIL, Kahlon pleaded against further extension to the SIT and for bringing the team under SC monitoring so that there was no further delay in pursuing and disposal of riots-related cases. The Centre had set up the SIT on February 12, 2015, for completing the task within six months, but the panel had already been granted extension for a year. Headed by Pramod Asthana, a 1986 batch IPS officer, the SIT includes former Session Judge Rakesh Kapoor and Delhi’s Additional Commissioner of Police Kumar Gyanesh. Kahlon pleaded that SC monitor the probe as it did in the case of 2002 Gujarat riots to ensure expeditious trial of the accused. The processes designed by the Centre time and again to provide justice for the victims of the 1984 riots were rather being used to suppress it, he pleaded. At least, 10 commissions and committees had so far gone into the riots, “but the reality is that the victims of the massacre are nowhere near justice even after the passage of three decades,” he pleaded. (The Tribune 17/1/17)

210. Judge recuses from Teesta’s quashing plea (7)

AHMEDABAD: Justice J B Pardiwala of Gujarat high court on Thursday recused himself from proceedings on a quashing petition filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad. The judge said “not before me” to Setalvad’s lawyer and commented that he would prefer to stay out of controversy because such a case is widely reported in media, sources said. Justice Pardiwala had denied Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand anticipatory bail in connection with allegations of fraud by former residents of Gulbarg Society. The court had then castigated the functioning of NGOs. In this petition, Setalvad urged the court to quash an FIR filed by Ghatlodia police for her posting on Twitter juxtaposed images of a Hindu deity and journalist James Foley with an ISIS terrorist a couple of years ago. Setalvad was booked in two police stations in the city, as members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena took exception to her posting the two pictures – the ISIS militant and photo-shopped images of Hindu imagery such as Sudarshan Chakra and goddess Kali. The complainant Raju Patel claimed he was offended at seeing the image on his Facebook page. Setalvad was booked under sections 153A, 295A of IPC, and under provisions of the Information Technology Act for the alleged attempt at promoting enmity among different groups and for deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of a class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. (Times of India 20/1/17)

211. Forty communal riots in West Bengal since Mamata came to power: Vijayvargiya (7)

Malda: BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya today claimed that 40 communal riots have taken place after Mamata Banerjee became Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011. Vijayvargiya, the party’s co-observer of the state, however, did not elaborate on this issue while talking to reporters here on the sidelines of a BJP state executive committee meeting. There is no law and order in West Bengal and 40 communal riots have taken place during the Mamata Banerjee’s regime, he alleged. “The police were siding with the rioters,” he said.The senior BJP leader alleged that a section of state government officers were involved in chit fund scam and they would not be spared. Due to these reasons, no investment would come to the state, Vijayvargiya said in reference to the business summit currently being held by the state government in Kolkata. Claiming that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government was importing the culture of Bangladesh in the primary education, he said, his party would soon launch a movement against it. BJP is not getting permission from the administration to organise party programmes, he said. He alleged that the party’s posters and banners outside Town Hall, the meeting venue, were torn by the ruling party activists. The party would soon start a campaign – “Save democracy, save culture, save Bengal”, Vijayvargiya said. Banerjee came to power with a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crore and now it has increased to Rs 3.60 lakh crore, though no development has taken place in the state, he claimed. Earlier, the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh said that the increase in BJP’s vote percentage in the two Lok Sabha by-polls is being discussed in the party’s national level. In the Coochbehar Lok Sabha bypoll held in November last, BJP finished second bagging 3.7 lakh votes compared to 2.1 lakh votes it had secured in 2014 pushing Forward Bloc, a Left Front partner, to the third position. In Tamluk LS seat bypoll held at the same time, BJP got third position but secured 1.9 lakh votes, up from 86,000 votes the party got in last Lok Sabha polls. Many ruling party supporters were joining BJP, he claimed saying the TMC is counting its last days. On Bhangar unrest, he said it was the fallout of TMC’s infighting. TMC had opposed Left Front’s move to industrialisation, and now they were facing the same, he said. (Indian Express 21/1/17)

212. Bal Thackeray stood by Narendra Modi after Gujarat riots, Shiv Sena recalls in Saamna (7)

Mumbai, Jan 23: On the 91st birth anniversary of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the party recalled how he saved Narendra Modi after infamous the 2002 Gujarat riots. In its mouthpiece Saamna, Shiv Sena said Bal Thackeray stood by Narendra Modi when he was accused of sponsoring communal violence in Gujarat in which hundreds of Muslims were killed. Bal Thackeray always believed the country needs a leader like Hitler who put national interest before everything, though he was not completely agree with his ideology, said Shiv Sena. “Bal Thackeray never supported atrocities committed in the name of democracy. Though he wasn’t convinced with everything what Hitler stood for, but he wanted a leader like him who would put national interests before everything,” said Shiv Sena in Saamna. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was planning to sack Narendra Modi after Gujarat riots, but Bal Thackeray convinced him for not doing so. “Modi gaya to Gujarat gaya (If Modi is gone, Gujarat will also slip out of BJP hands),” Bal Thackeray had told L K Advani, recalled Shiv Sena. “Narendra Modi was criticised by everyone, but Bal Thackeray stood by him,” stated Saamna. Shiv Sena said the late founder of the party was always on the hit list of terrorists but it never made him scared. “Bal Thackeray proved Hindutva is the future,” said the Saamna editorial. “Bal Thackeray used to say, ‘I don’t know the BJP. I don’t what is Shiv Sena. I just know Hindutva’,” stated Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray was born in Pune on January 23, 1926. Bal Thackeray died on November 17, 2012. (India.com 23/1/17)

213. ‘Beef’ thrown in temple: Bengal govt worried as communal clashes spread (7)

Alampur, a locality on the western edge of Kolkata’s Metiabruz area, continues to be tense since January 23 after some chunks of alleged beef were thrown into a temple. No arrests have been made so far. Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders disallowing assembly of four or more people in the area that has a mix of slums and high rises. The prohibitory orders also banned workshops after Hindus groups blocked traffic following the alleged desecration of the two temples. Muslims are in majority in the area which also houses a government undertaking – Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers. But, what makes Alampur incident alarming is that it is not a stray incident. There has been a pattern. Ten districts of West Bengal have seen similar such communal incidents since October 2016 which is proving to be a major challenge for the state government. “I will not allow anarchy in Bengal,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday. “Police is dealing with such things with a strong hand. We will soon bring a strong legislation against arson, where anyone setting fire to government or private party will be have to pay. One political party is trying to fan violence,” she said, without naming the BJP.For its part, the BJP had submitted a representation to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on October 21 demanding Central intervention on ground that the government has failed to control law and order. “Attacks on Hindus are going on in different parts of the state. Metiabruz is the latest in the series and the administration has failed to control them,” said Sayantan Basu, state BJP secretary. The Congress and the Left have also claimed that the situation was “getting dangerous” in Bengal. “Trinamool Congress brought in communal politics in Bengal by appeasing communities for political gains. Now things are going out of control,” said Abdul Mannan, Congress MLA and leader of the opposition in the Assembly. Over the past few months incidents of communal clashes have been reported in over ten districts of Bengal. The clashes have eerie similarity with such incidents in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last year. For instance last October, Bihariganj town in Madhepura district of Bihar and Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh saw such low scale communal clashes. “Here is an urgent need for political will and wisdom. They should not show oversensitivity for a particular community who are its loyal vote bank. The ruling party must ensure fair dealings while handling the culprits. On one hand there is a rise of radical Islam and on the other there is an attempt from the opposite section to flare up things. This is an unprecedented atmosphere in Bengal,” said Shibaji Pratim Basu, political analyst. Since October, pockets and villages in Kaliachak, Chanchol (Malda district), Jalangi (Murshidabad), Chandannagar (Hooghly), Bhagabanpur (East Midnapore), Kharagpore (West Midnapore), Hajinagar, Kanchrapara (North 24 Parganas), Sankrail, Dhulagarh (Howrah), Katwa, Jamuria and Kaksha (Burdwan) have witnessed clashes. (Hindustan Times 29/1/17)

COMMUNALISM

214. Uniform code must to ensure unity: VHP (26)

NAGPUR:  The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Saturday passed a resolution at its meeting of the Board of Trustees and Management Committee in Nagpur, urging the Union government to implement the Uniform Civil Code at the earliest. “The Uniform Civil code will ensure unity, integrity in the country and secure human rights of all its citizens. It will also put an end to the oppression of women and make citizens accountable to the Constitution,” said Surendra Jain, International Joint General Secretary, VHP, quoting from the resolution text, at a press conference. It was the only resolution passed during this three-day meet,” he said.“The different personal laws for different communities were brought by the British to create a Hindu-Muslim divide in this country. There is a Directive Principle of State Policy in the Constitution of India which calls for the Uniform Civil Code. Dr. Ambedkar had also advocated it. When there was a talk of the Uniform Civil Code, the members of the Muslim Personal Law Board used objectionable language to oppose it. The attacks on the Hindus has also seen a rise this year. We [Hindus] cannot become refugees in our own country,” Mr. Jain said. Highlighting the additional responsibilities to be entrusted to the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of VHP, Mr Jain said, “The Bajrang Dal will be expanded to every village and town. It has been given two responsibilities — one is to provide ‘Trishuls’ to every Hindu and second is to organise ‘Mahaarati’ (grand prayer) in every area. The Bajrang Dal will also impart martial arts training to Hindu youth. But we will work within the constitutional limits and will not use any kind of violence,” Mr. Jain said. He also denied reports of a “lack of coordination” between the RSS and the VHP. (The Hindu 1/1/17)

215. SC ruling ‘clashes’ with Hindutva verdict, says AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi (26)

Aurangabad : The Supreme Court’s ruling, which says seeking votes in the name of “religion” amounts to “corrupt practice”, “clashes” with the Hindutva as “a way of life” verdict delivered by Justice J S Verma, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said on Monday. In a majority verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday held that any appeal for votes on the ground of “religion, race, caste, community or language” amounted to “corrupt practice” under the election laws.“Justice J S Verma, in the Manohar Joshi case, defined Hindutva as a way of life in 1995. This point has not been considered here and as such parties contesting polls on Hindutva plank can take a stand that they are seeking votes on the basis of (concept of) way of life and not on religion,” Owaisi told reporters here when asked to react on today’s verdict.“The Supreme Court has added a few things under Section 123 of The Representation of People Act but this judgement may clash with the Hindutva verdict as saffron parties can contend they are not seeking votes on the basis of religion,” said the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad. The AIMIM leader, however, clarified he had not yet gone through the entire apex court judgement. Replying to a question, Owaisi said he is not disappointed by the judgement but was expecting the bench to review Justice Verma’s verdict. To another query, the 47-year-old MP said, “Ours is a participatory form of democracy and it is seen that minority representation is not sufficient. For 14 per cent Muslims, there are only 23 MPs whereas the number should be 60.” “Representation should be given to minorities at all levels, including local bodies, Assembly and Parliament,” said Owaisi. On the Rs 3,600-crore memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, the AIMIM leader asked whether people had read about the teachings and policies of the warrior king. “Shivaji was a true supporter of farmers, but in the reign of these people (referring to present BJP led and previous Congress-NCP Governments) more than one lakh farmers have committed suicide,” he said. He dismissed Congress and NCP claims that AIMIM was responsible for the BJP’s victory in the 2014 Assembly polls in Maharashtra. “They (Congress-NCP) are incapable of fighting Modi but are now blaming me and my party (for BJP’s win),” said Owaisi, whose Hyderabad-based outfit bagged two seats in the 2014 polls. (Indian Express 2/1/17)

216. Govt has to take call on citizenship issue: RSS (26)

GUWAHATI: The RSS on Wednesday said it was for the Centre and the state government to decide if citizenship could be granted to “persecuted” Hindus from Bangladesh and other countries living in India. In the same breath, it cautioned that threats to the indigenous people should be given serious consideration by the government. “The Centre has to look into the impact of citizenship for migrants on the indigenous people,” said Ulhas Kulkarni, northeast zone pracharak, RSS. He followed this up with the assertion that India was the “natural home” for persecuted Hindus. “If Hindus are suffering elsewhere, India is the only country they can look to. There is no other place for them,” he said. The ambiguity of the stand was waved off quickly. “The RSS, after all, is a social organization. It is for the government to decide where the citizenship issue will stand,” Kulkarni said.The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has triggered wide-scale protests across the state on the grounds that such a step would open the “floodgates” of illegal immigration into Assam, putting the identity of indigenous people at risk. Recently, Union home minister Rajnath Singh tried to placate those concerned about the citizenship issue, including alliance partner AGP, reiterating the Centre’s commitment to safeguarding Assamese identity and culture by providing constitutional, administrative and legislative protection under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. On the recent controversy over sloganeering by RSS trainees at the 18th century Ahom royal palace Kareng Ghar in Sivasagar district, Kulkarni blamed politics for the row. Congress MLA and leader of the opposition Debabrata Saikia had written to Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma that shouting of slogans at the protected monument was a violation of ASI rules. “Politics is behind this so-called controversy. There was nothing communal about the slogans. Is shouting ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ communal? The question of defiling historical monuments like Kareng Ghar does not arise at all,” the RSS functionary said. (Times of India 5/1/17)

217. Sakshi communal rant: FIR against MP as election commission seeks report (26)

MEERUT: A day after BJP MP from Unnao Sakshi Maharaj blamed a particular community for the population explosion in the country, EC sought a report on the incident from the district magistrate on Saturday. This came even as police acted swiftly and book the leader for making “objectionable and communally charged statements against a particular religion”.Organiser of the event at which Sakshi spoke, the mahant of Balaji temple Mahender Das, had been booked on Friday night itself as he had allegedly held the function without the administration’s permission. The administration has now sent a detailed report to the EC along with the video of the event in which Sakshi made the now-controversial remarks. The BJP MP had said at a sant sammelan in Meerut on Friday that “those with four wives and 40 children are responsible for the rapid population growth in the country. Hindus are not responsible for the increase in population” and that there should be a “strong law” to deal with issues relating to birth control. He then went on to say that money from India’s substantial beef exports was being used to foment terrorism. BJP has, meanwhile, distanced the party from the leader’s statements. Union minister of state for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters in Delhi that “Sakshi Maharaj’s statement, I believe, is not the government’s view and, of course, not of BJP’s. It is wrong to perceive his statement as that of the BJP’s”.Facing severe criticism, Sakshi remained unfazed and went on to defend his controversial speech, saying he did not name any community and that he was “merely expressing concern”. He said, “I did not make any communal speech. It was a gathering of sants during which I expressed concern about population explosion in the country. My speech has been videographed and nowhere did I name any community.” Earlier in the day, Meerut district magistrate B Chandrakala told TOI, “We were asked for a report in the matter by the EC regarding Friday’s event. Following this, city superintendent of police and additional district magistrate were deputed to look into it and produce a report within two hours.”Meerut senior superintendent of police J Ravindra Goud told TOI, “An FIR has been filed at Sadar police station against mahant of Balaji temple Swami Mahindra Das for holding the function without taking proper permissions from the administration. However, after getting evidence that Sakshi Maharaj had made communal statements, he was also booked for violating the model code of conduct.” Addressing a large gathering of ascetics from UP on Friday, Sakshi had said, “There was a time when rivers of milk used to flow in India, but now it is not possible because of slaughter (of cattle) that is taking place in an organised manner. And, the worst part is that the huge amount of money that is coming into the country as sale proceeds from export of beef is being used to foment terrorism.” The MP had two years ago said at the same venue that “every Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect the Hindu religion.” On Friday, he said, “Hindu ghata toh desh banta (if the number of Hindus goes down, the country will get divided).” (Times of India 8/1/17)

218. Election Commission censures BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj over his population control remark

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Thursday “censured” BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj for his controversial remark indirectly blaming Muslims for the population growth. The EC warned that it would take stern action against the BJP MP using all powers available to it if he violates the model code again. The poll watchdog said it did not find the MP’s reply satisfactory, “because in the Commission’s considered view, supported by observations of the Supreme Court, any statement to the effect of promoting enmity between different classes of society in connection with election on the grounds of religion made during electioneering or otherwise is violative of MCC”.The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force on January 4 when the Commission announced schedule for Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. Standing by his remarks, Sakshi Maharaj had told the Commission that the statement was not made in a public or an election meeting but at a saints’ conclave and hence could not be considered violative of the model code. “Now, therefore, the Election Commission hereby, censures you for violating … MCC and Supreme Court decision … and expects that you, being a reputed political leader/MP, shall be more circumspect in your public utterances during election time. “You may also take a note that in case of any violation of MCC in future, the Commission shall take stern actions against you, using all powers available to it,” the order said. The Commission had earlier issued a notice+ to the BJP MP asking why action should not be taken against him for his controversial statement.     The EC in the notice said prima facie the MP from Unnao in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh has violated the model code which came into force on January 4 following announcement of Assembly polls in five states+ , including Uttar Pradesh. Speaking at a sant sammelan in Meerut last week, Sakshi Maharaj had said+ , “Desh mein samasyaein khadi ho rahi hain jansankhya ke karan. Uske liye Hindu zimmedar nahin hain Zimmedar toh wo hain jo chaar biwion aur chalees bachchon ki baatein karte hain.” (There are problems in the country because of the growth of population. Hindus are not responsible for that. Those responsible are the ones who talk of four wives and 40 children.. (Times of India 12/1/17)

219. VHP leader’s car set on fire at Bovikkanam (26)

KASARAGOD: Tension prevailed in Bovikkanam near here where the car of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) district working president Vamanachari was set on fire allegedly by a group of DYFI workers in the town late on Wednesday evening. The tension began after a group of DYFI workers, numbering about 50, were taking out a procession in the town, 10 km east from here, hailing the Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday ordering the authorities to disburse Rs. 5 lakh each compensation to eligible endosulfan victims as recommended by the NHRC. The trouble began as the slogan-shouting DYFI workers manhandled one Bharat, said to be a BJP activist, as he was moving in his autorickshaw in the area around 6.30 pm. In the melee that followed, DYFI workers alleged set on fire the car of Mr. Vamanachari and vandalised his shop in the town, Adur police station sub-inspector A. Santhosh Kumar told The Hindu. Senior police officials led by the Kasaragod Dy.SP. and Kasaragod Cirle Inspector of Police C.A. Abdul Rahim are camping in the locality to maintain law and order, he added. (The Hindu 12/1/17)

220. RSS is not ‘opposed to anybody’, we are working to make Hindu community united: Mohan Bhagwat

KOLKATA: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday said his organisation was working to make the Hindu community united and strong, asserting it is “not opposed to anybody”.Bhagwat also said only the weakness of the Hindus are to be blamed for their oppression in neighbouring Bangladesh. He was speaking at an RSS rally here for which the city police had earlier refused permission. The Calcutta High Court on Friday allowed the RSS to hold the programme. “We have formed this organisation not to oppose anybody, but to strengthen ourselves. The Hindu Samaj has a glorious history in this country,” he said and asked, “Despite such glorious history, is the condition of the Hindu Samaj same, the way it should have been?” “Are the Hindus able to perform their religious rites and activities freely and fairly across India? Are human rights of the Hindus well established in this country?,” he asked. “If the answer is no, then why do you get surprised when Hindus are being oppressed in Bangladesh? The Hindus are only responsible for their own condition. Hindus are facing this situation because they are not united and strong. We should work in uniting the Hindu Samaj, without opposing anybody,” Bhagwat said.In October last year, during the Durga Puja festival, the RSS had complained to state Governor KN Tripathi that the Hindus were not being able to perform their religious rites properly in some parts of the state. In a subtle dig at the state administration, which had opposed the rally, Bhagwat said it is always fun to work and reach the target despite all odds and hurdles.”Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of RSS, despite all odds, had formed this organisation for the unity of Hindus. Many people had opposed us and our work, but we are standing firm,” he said and asked the RSS cadres to increase their activities to strengthen the Hindu community. “We all need to take an oath that to strengthen Bharat, the Hindu Samaj has to unite and spread the message of love. You should spend one-third of your time each day and one-third of your income in the development of the country. You should not stand outside, rather you have to be part of this developmental process,” Bhagwat said. (Times of India 14/1/17)

221. ‘Provoked in the name of religion’: Bombay HC grants bail to 3 murder accused (26)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court recently granted bail to three men who were charged with allegedly murdering a Muslim man after attending a meeting of the fringe right-wing group Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) in Pune in 2014. The high court said the accused did not kill the man over a personal enmity and that they had been provoked “in the name of religion”. The prosecution said that on June 2, 2014, HRS organised a meeting at Hadaspar in Pune following violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons. During the meeting, the group’s leader Dhananjay Desai made a ‘provocative’ speech that allegedly instigated the audience to go on a rampage. The accused went out on the road wielding hockey sticks and spotted Mohsin and Riyaz Shaikh on a bike and started assaulting them. Mohsin and Riyaz, young Muslim IT professionals, were on their way to dinner. Mohsin succumbed to his injuries but Riyaz escaped.    “The meeting was held prior to the assault. The accused had no other motives, such as any personal enmity, against the innocent victim. The fact that the victim belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused, who were clearly provoked in the name of the religion, and thus committed the murder. Eyewitnesses identified the three accused as Vijay Gambhire, Ranjeet Yadav, and Ajay Lalge. The three men were arrested and charged with murder and rioting under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. Their bail plea was rejected by the sessions court in Pune. They then approached the high court. Justice Mridula Bhatkar dismissed the defence that the three had been wrongly implicated in the case. However, she held that a transcript of Desai’s speech and the sessions court order made it clear that the accused had been provoked. “The meeting was held prior to the assault. The accused had no other motives, such as any personal enmity, against the innocent victim. The fact that the victim belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused, who were clearly provoked in the name of the religion, and thus committed the murder,” justice Bhatkar said. Police arrested at least 25 HRS members, including its chief Desai, in the case on charges of murder, rioting, arson and inciting violence, among others. Of the 25 arrested, 17 were charged with murdering Shaikh. (Hindustan Times 17/1/17)

222. RSS plans to double its branches to 1L across India (26)

Nagpur: After replacing its iconic Khaki half pants with trousers, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is now targeting to enhance its number of Shakhas (branches) to over one lakh across the nation. Currently, it has about 57,000 active Shakhas in the country. The plans were revealed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat while addressing an event at Hyderabad last week. He also made a significant statement that the change in society was brought by the activists who were earning and married. He also indicated that the Sangh would take up tasks of water conservation and environment in the future. His statement goes against a general perception that Sangh Parivar usually consists of unmarried men, who dedicate their lives for the organization and its activities. “We’ve taken up the task of complete transformation of Hindu society. We need to enhance the number of Shakhas at least to 1 lakh where committed Swayamsevaks are developed,” he said, while speaking at ‘Udyogi Swayamsevak’s Sanghik’ He also acknowledged that there was a phenomenal growth in the number of Shakhas last year. Though he didn’t specify the actual numbers, RSS functionaries told TOI that there was jump of over 4,500 last year in comparison to 2015. About 51,000 branches were operating in the country from over 33,000 locations in 2015, that increased to nearly 57,000 in 2016, spread across 37,000 locations, which is billed as highest growth since 1925. If data of last six years from 2010 was taken into the consideration, the growth was over 10,000. The RSS chief’s statement assumed added significance in wake of upcoming elections in five states, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, where large number of Sangh cadres are believed to have been working hard since last many years to help its ally BJP wrest power after long time. … (Times of India 18/1/17)

223. RSS holds Hindu Aakrosh rally against govt policies in Jaisalmer (26)

Jaisalmer: RSS, Bajrang Dal and Seemajan Kalyan Samiti along with other Hindu organizations and large number of BJP workers took out a resentment rally in Jaisalmer on Friday over BJP’s appeasement polices and working style of the district administration. Around 5,000 swayam sevaks and workers took out a rally and later organized a meeting at Hanuman Choraha.In the presence of sangh pracharaks, saints and other leaders and workers, speakers appealed to Hindus to stay united and spoke about the double standards developing among Hindus and rising influence of minority community. Surjan Das Maharaj of Ramdwara ashram in Pali, RSS pracharak Ishwar, Bajrang Dal regional convener Indrajeet Singh and Sangh’s Bhagwan Das and others addressed the Hindu meeting. Few communities protested against the rally which created slight tension. After the tension, SP Gaurav Yadav, deputy SP Narendra Dave and STF reached the spot and controlled the situation. On the call of RSS, Hindu Aakrosh Rally was taken out protesting against the government and administration at Jaisalmer. Large number of people from various parts of the state attended the rally that started from Mukteshwar Mahadev temple and reached Hanuman Choraha. In the meeting, speakers condemned the behaviour of administration with hindu community. BJP Pokaran MLA Shaitan Singh, Jaisalmer MLA Chotu Singh Bhati along with other BJP members were present among others. Hindu aakrosh rally samiti district convener Sharad Vyas said issues like cow slaughter, theft from temples, illegal possession of pasture lands, illegal construction of religious places from international border to city’s main road, open support to anti-religious elements to harassing workers demanding justice for hindu community were hurting Hindu sentiments. If all such acts are not protested now, the western Rajasthan border will become violent like Kashmir and northeast states. (Times of India 22/1/17)

224. VHP’s Ram Mahotsav to fuel drive for temple (26)

Sangam (Allahabad): In order to pressure the Narendra Modi government to bring legislation in Parliament for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has decided to launch a decisive campaign, Ram Mahotsav across the country, starting this Ram Navami. This is for the first time that the VHP has set a deadline for starting Ram temple movement.A decision in this regard was taken by VHP’s central decision-making body, ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’, at its annual meeting at Magh Mela in Allahabad here on Tuesday. The saints and VHP leaders were unanimous in their decision for such a campaign. The meeting was presided over by Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and attended by president of supreme governing body of akharas, ‘Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad’, Mahanat Narendra Giri, VHP general secretary Champat Rai and organisation secretary Dinesh among others.”The VHP will pursue Ram Mahotsav agressively at each village and in urban localities to mobilise people for construction of the Ram temple from Ram Navmi this year. This will be our answer to the Modi government if it fails to make a law for construction of Ram temple,” said Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Mahant Narendra Giri said the campaigns would be different from the ‘Ram Shobha Yatras’ which they took out earlier for construction of the temple. (Times of India 25/1/17)

225. Amit Shah releases BJP manifesto in UP, promises Ram temple, free internet data (26)

Lucknow: The BJP promised on Saturday to push for a controversial temple to Hindu god Ram if it won power in Uttar Pradesh, unveiling an election manifesto that appeared designed to appeal to voters along religious lines. The party’s apparent return to an agenda of Hindutva marks a departure from its initial election narrative built around two of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s boldest decisions: The scrapping of high-value banknotes to fight corruption and a “surgical strike” against militants across the de facto border with Pakistan. The change in tack also contrasts with the party’s election plank three years ago when it swept the political bellwether on a promise of development. The BJP’s lurch towards Hindutva comes in the backdrop of an election alliance between the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which are traditionally backed by Muslims, who form a fifth of the state’s population. The party’s election promises included ascertaining opinion of Muslim women over the Islamic divorce practice of triple talaq, closing down illegal slaughter houses and stemming the alleged migration of Hindus from riot-hit Muslim-majority towns in western Uttar Pradesh. The manifesto, released by party president Amit Shah, also made a raft of populist proposals, including waiving off loans for small farmers, abundant electricity, new hospitals and universities, free school education for girls and free laptops to all college students with one 1 GB free internet a month. The party also promised to raise “anti-Romeo” police battalions to tackle crimes against women, a proposal that appeared to ring of a controversial campaign by Hindu groups against love between Hindus and Muslims.But the charter referred to neither the surgical strikes nor the demonetisation move, although Shah told reporters that the vote could be a referendum on the decision to junk 500-and 1000-rupee notes. Instead, the manifesto appeared to talk up a Hindutva agenda to win back power in a state it last ruled 15 years ago. The state votes in seven phases starting February 11.“A BJP government in UP would press for an early solution to the temple tangle within the ambit of the constitution,” Shah said, referring to a disputed religious site that remains India’s most potent communal flashpoint between many Hindus and Muslims. For decades, both Hindus and Muslims have revered the disputed site in Ayodhya town. In 1992, a Hindu mob tore down a 16th century mosque at the location, saying the Muslim ruler, Babar, destroyed an original temple to Ram and built over. Muslim groups then appealed to the Supreme Court, which is still hearing the matter.  (Hindustan Times 28/1/17)

226. 16 years on, RSS takes out route march in Chennai (26)

CHENNAI: Hundreds of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists on Sunday took out a route march in Chennai to commemorate the anniversary of four national figures, namely, Saint Ramanuja, Guru Gobind Singh, B R Ambedkar and Subhas Chandra Bose. Organised by RSS Chennai chapter, the march saw about 2,000 activists from various walks of life gathering at Rajarathinam stadium in Egmore, from where the march was flagged off. While the march was earlier scheduled to take place on Kamarajar Salai (near Marina Beach), the imposition of Section 144 under CrPC prohibiting movement in large crowds there resulted in organisers shifting the venue to Egmore. The activists, dressed in khaki pants, white shirts and black caps, marched from the stadium for a distance of about 1.5 km up to the end of Rukmini Lakshmipathy Salai before returning to the starting point. BJP State president Tamilisai Soundararajan was present during the march. Police were deployed in adequate numbers for security reasons with entry to Rukmini Lakshmipathy Salai remaining blocked for outside traffic. Portraits of the four figures were prominently displayed, with their contribution towards building a prosperous and egalitarian society highlighted. Speaking to Express, an RSS activist said, “We are holding the route march in Chennai after 16 long years. Previous attempts to organise the march were not sanctioned permission by local authorities. Also, another march took place in Salem simultaneously.” Around 200 policemen, including a Deputy Commissioner of Police, one Assistant Commissioner of Police, five inspectors were deployed at Egmore to ensure no untoward situation was reported. (The New Indian Express 30/1/17)

TERRORISM

227. 7 killed in Iraq suicide attack (12)

Baghdad: 12 killed in Iraq suicide attack 14 killed in Iraq suicide attack 5 killed, 24 injured in Iraq suicide attack Iraq: 28 killed in suicide attack in Baghdad Iraq: Triple suicide attack north Baghdad kills 11 troops. The death toll in a suicide attack carried out on Sunday against an Iraqi security checkpoint close to Iraq’s Najaf city has increased to seven, including five policemen, according to the local police command. The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack through its affiliated Amaq news agency, claiming that at least 100 people were killed in an attack that was carried out by five suicide bombers, EFE news reported. According to a security official, a group of armed assailants attacked a security checkpoint and detonated explosive-laden belts they were wearing when the officers tried to repel them. The source said armed assailants had been travelling in a modern vehicle when they carried out the attack on a checkpoint in the district of Al-Qadisiyah, some 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) southwest of Najaf, a Shiite holy site some 240 km from Baghdad. This attack came a day after Baghdad’s double bombing, in which at least 28 people were killed. (Business Standard 2/1/17)

228. Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist nabbed in J&K’s Handwara (12)

Srinagar: In a joint operation led by 21 Rashtriya Rifles and Jammu and Kashmir Police, a Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist was held in Handwara on Wednesday.The security forces recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition. A Pakistani guerrilla from the LeT outfit was killed in an ambush by the security forces at the outskirts of north Kashmir’s Sopore town on Tuesday. Abu Umar Khatab was killed after the army and police laid an ambush in Haritar Tarzoo village on Monday night, a police officer said here. The militants opened fire as they were passing through the area early on Tuesday. But one of them was killed in the operation. (Zee News 4/1/17)

229. Top Lashkar terrorist Muzaffar Naikoo killed in encounter (12)

SRINAGAR: Top Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Muzaffar Naikoo alias Muz Moulvi has been killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir. Muzaffar Naikoo was killed in an encounter with Army and state police in Machu area of Budgam district on Friday. According to police, the security forces launched an operation on Friday morning following an information about the presence of a wanted LeT commander hiding in Gulzarpora village.”The security forces were fired upon after they closed on the house where Muzaffar Ahmad Naiku ali alias Muza Molvi was hiding,” the police said.”Searches are still going on in the area.” The police said the slain terrorist was one of the longest surviving militants and the most wanted militant in Jammu and Kashmir. (Times of India 6/1/17)

230. Demonetisation cuts terror violence by 60 p.c.: Union Minister (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM:  Union Minister of State for PMO, North East, Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh on Monday said November 8 demonetisation had paid rich dividends by slashing terror-related violence by 60 per cent and hawala transactions by 50 per cent. He told reporters on the sidelines of two-day national conference on e-governance here that two printing presses which were thriving on producing counterfeit notes in Pakistan had been shutdown. Stating that the people by and large were happy with the recall of high denomination notes, he said they were ready to bear the inconvenience for some more time as they understood the reason behind the bold decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch a crusade against black money and terror outfits. “There is drastic fall in terror activities sponsored by our enemies mainly in Jammu Kashmir. There is significant fall in Maoist activity. Now the entire world should understand how terror used to be aided and abetted by our neighbours, particularly Pakistan,” he said. “Now we are under transition. Lot of cash has come to the banks enabling us to spend more on developmental activities,” he stated. AP IT Minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy said the e-Pragati project being implemented by the State was aimed at using technologies to make AP among top three States in development by 2020, the topmost State by 2029 and the best State to live in the world by 2050. Union Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & IT Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Department of Department of Administrative Reforms & Grievances C. Viswanath, Senior IAS officers Usha Sharma, K. Vijayanand, IT Advisor J.A. Chowdary and others were present. (The Hindu 10/1/17)

231. Kabul calls for UN action against Islamabad (12)

United Nations: A day after an international meeting in Islamabad to pave way for peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, Afghanistan launched a stinging attack on Pakistan for aiding terrorist groups and asked the Security Council to take action on governments promoting extremist violence. The Security Council could devise a method to identify “elements in some ‘State institutions’ (that) facilitate violence and extremist activities by non-state proxies as a means to advance their foreign policy agenda,” Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative Mahmoud Saikal said Tuesday. Speaking at the Council debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace, he did not mention Pakistan, but it was clear that he was referring to Islamabad’s activities in the region. “The cycle of violence and insecurity in Afghanistan, and our part of the world is inextricably linked to the presence of sanctuaries and safe-havens in the region, from which extremist groups are sustained and enjoy an incessant flow of political, financial, material and logistical support for the continuation of their malicious activities,” he said. On an issue with bearing on the meeting in Islamabad on Monday by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US to facilitate peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, Saikal declared that interactions with “armed groups” active in his country should have Kabul’s approval. He said, “Any kind of talks on the situation in my country has neither any value nor legitimacy without the participation and approval of our government which is the most democratically elected administration in the history of our nation.” Without naming Islamabad, he added, “We have expressed strong reservations in regards to open declarations by some in our region of their contacts with armed opposition groups active in Afghanistan, conducted without the consent of the Afghan government.” (Business Standard 11/1/17)

232. Nations in region using terror as policy: PM Narendra Modi (12)

NEW DELHI: India roundly condemned the terrorist attacks that happened in Kabul+ and Kandahar two days ago, with an official statement pointing a finger at Pakistan without naming it.The ministry of external affairs statement emphasised the “inhumane suffering inflicted on the peace-loving people of the region by the abominable phenomenon of international terrorism, which sadly continues to have its epicentre in our region and is pursued brazenly as an instrument of state policy to achieve narrow political objectives.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wrote a letter to Ashraf Ghani condemning the terrorist strike, particularly the explosions that targeted UAE officials in Kandahar that left both the UAE ambassador to Afghanistan and the governor of the province injured. “India condemns these attacks on Afghanistan, and on its legitimate authority. Such attacks are unacceptable and are aimed at undermining the progress made by the people of Afghanistan against all odds,” he said.Separately, the French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said there should be “decisive action” against Pakistan-based terror groups like LeT, JeM and Hizbul Mujahideen which are “targeting” India and promised to work with New Delhi to get terrorist Masood Azhar proscribed by the UN security council. The Indian response on the Afghanistan terror attacks was aimed at Pakistan –the biggest supporter of the Afghan Taliban — as well as against countries like Iran and Russia which have, by their outreach to the Taliban, granted them legitimacy and undermined the government in Kabul. (Times of India 13//1/17)

233. Gunfight between security forces and terrorists in J&K’s Anantnag (12)

SRINAGAR: An encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, police said on Sunday. Acting on specific intelligence input about the presence of unspecified number of terrorists in Awoora village in Pahalgam area of the district, security forces launched a search operation in the area, a police official said.As the forces were conducting search operation, the hiding terrorists fired at them, he said, adding the security forces retaliated, ensuing in an encounter. The firefight was going on when last reports came in, the official said, adding further details were awaited. (Times of India 15/1/17)

234. Pak. resolution condemns Modi’s statement (12)

KARACHI:  The Pakistani Senate on Monday passed a unanimous resolution condemning the statements of Army chief General Bipin Rawat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism. The resolution, moved by Senator Sehar Kamran from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), stated that India has committed unprecedented acts of violation along the Line of Control (LoC) and has been targeting civilians. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan’s armed forces would respond with full force if India tried to carry out any surgical strikes inside Pakistan. He also said that India’s past claims of surgical strikes were found to be baseless and false. Mr. Asif claimed that Kashmir’s ‘struggle for freedom’, India’s political compulsions, and its avoidance of a composite dialogue were among the reasons for its unprovoked ceasefire violations. He also said that India was making failed attempts to link the ‘Kashmir struggle’ with cross-border infiltration and terrorism and claimed that India’s campaign to isolate Pakistan has failed. He informed the Senate that India had carried out 330 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and 40 along the ‘working boundary’ until December 2016, which killed 45 civilians while 138 others were injured. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

235. We will eradicate radical Islamic terrorism: Trump (12)

Washington: In his first address as the 45th President of the U.S., Donald Trump said his administration would unite the “civilised world” against Islamic terrorism. “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth. Promising to overhaul America’s trade and foreign relations as he has argued throughout his campaign, the President said: “We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.” He went on to add: “But that is the past…We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” Echoing his campaign rhetoric on how the existing U.S. policies have adversely affected the common people, Mr. Trump said: “Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.” He added: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” The transition from a Democratic president to a Republican took place before a crowd of former presidents, dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of people on the grounds of the National Mall. The crowd stretched westward on a cool day of occasional light rain.  (The Hindu 21/1/17)

236. Two soldiers killed in Arunachal encounter (12)

NEW DELHI: Two soldiers were killed and three injured in an encounter with terrorists after an Assam Rifles vehicle was ambushed in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday. Two terrorists were neutralised during the search operations later. The vehicle was escorting a large number of tourists attending the Pangsau festival when it was attacked with grenades along the Assam-Arunachal border. The United Liberation Front of Asom–Independent and the Coordination Committee (CorCom), an umbrella group of six banned underground organisations of Manipur, claimed responsibility for the attack. (The Hindu 23/1/17)

237. India, UAE to coordinate efforts to counter misuse of religion for inciting hatred (12)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a joint statement during signing of agreements between the two countries in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena In a veiled reference on Pakistan, they also condemn efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries. In a veiled reference on Pakistan, India and the UAE on Thursday condemned efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries In a joint statement, they also agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and perpetrating acts of terrorism. Acknowledging the common threat posed by terrorism to peace and security, the two countries reaffirmed their “strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held comprehensive talks on Wednesday on bilateral, regional and international issues after which the two sides signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement and over a dozen pacts in key areas like defence, security, trade and energy.Without naming Pakistan, the statement said, “The two sides condemned efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries. They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’.” Expressing satisfaction at the growing bilateral collaboration on counterterrorism, information-sharing and capacity-building, the two sides exuded confidence that these efforts would contribute to regional and global peace and security. “The two sides emphasised need to facilitate regular exchanges of religious scholars and intellectuals and to organise conferences and seminars to promote the values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and welfare that are inherent in all religions,” the statement said. The Indian side expressed a deep appreciation of the solidarity expressed by the UAE on the terrorist attacks on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016 and on the Army camp in Uri in September 2016. Mr. Modi and Mr. Al Nahyan strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Kabul and Kandahar on January 10, and underscored need to bring the perpetrators to justice, the statement said. Mr. Modi conveyed his condolences at the loss of lives of the UAE and Afghan nationals in these attacks and wished speedy recovery to the UAE diplomats injured in the attacks. Both sides noted the importance of efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement, in accordance with the relevant principles and purposes of the U.N. Charter and international laws.Both sides called for early the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the U.N., the statement said. (The Hindu 27/1/17)

238. NIA arrests two for joining ISIS in Kerala (12)

Kochi (Kerala) [India], Jan. 28 : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two people in connection with the criminal conspiracy hatched within and outside India, with the intention of furthering the objectives of the Islamic State(IS) and for joining and supporting the organization. Accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla, resident of Kasaragod district and Yasmeen Mohammad Zahid, resident of Sitamarhi district, Bihar were booked on Friday under under sections 120-B and 125 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), besides sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967. The NIA probe has established that accused Abdul Rashid was the main conspirator behind the offence of motivating youth, hailing from Kasaragod district to exit from India along with their families, to join the terrorist organisation. According to officials, Rashid had conducted classes at Kasaragod and other places in support of the terrorist organization and its ideology of violent jihad. He motivated another set of 14 co-conspirators, including another arrested accused Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid, to join the proscribed organization and plan for Hijrah to the Caliphate announced by the ISIS. The investigation has revealed that the conspiracy had been in operation since the month of July, 2015. Zahid was intercepted at the New Delhi International Airport on the July 30, 2016 while she was trying to exit India for Kabul, Afghanistan, along with her minor child, with the intention of joining her co-conspirator Abdul Rashid, in the territory under the control of ISIS in Afghanistan. According to the investigation conducted by the agency, it has established that Rasheed had raised funds for the terrorist organization and transferred such funds to Yasmeen, who utilized it for her activities with the intention of supporting the terrorist organization. (New Kerala 28/1/17)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

239. Note ban: Jharkhand naxals suffer loss of Rs 80 crore (12)

RANCHI: Several extremist groups in Jharkhand were reported to have incurred losses to the tune of Rs 80 crore following the demonetisation decision of the Central government on November 8 last and thus suffered a body blow, a top police officer said on Monday. The ultra groups are desperate ever since the Narendra Modi-led government had decided to demonetise Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes from the midnight of November 8 last, which had an adverse impact on the activities of naxal and extremists group in the state, additional director general (ADG), Jharkhand, R K Mallick said. Quoting an intelligence report, he said at least Rs 80 crore cash of the naxal groups has thus been destroyed due to demonetisation. The ultra outfits have weakened as their major economic system was destroyed post-demonetisation, which prompted the naxals to indulge in looting cash in desperation, going against the Maoist ideology, Mallick claimed. However, the state police was prepared to foil all their nefarious design, he said. Responding to a query, ADG said as per an intelligence report, the naxals used to collect Rs 140 crore in the form of levy three years ago but it had come down to Rs 100 crore owing to intensified anti-naxal operation launched by the security personnel during last couple of years. Further quoting intelligence report, Mallick said that the naxal and other extremist organisations had saved around Rs 100 crore for meeting expenditure for one year but the money had suddenly become defunct in the wake of government’s decision on November 8 last. The ultra groups including Maoists, however, were reported to have succeeded in exchanging old currency notes into new currencies worth Rs 20 crore with the help of their over-ground workers and sympathisers as well as by threatening poor villagers and farmers, he said.Elaborating stringent action launched by the state administration to crush naxals in the state, Mallick said the ultras could not exchange majority of old currencies into the new one and they are now conspiring to loot cash vans of banks and post-offices in desperation. He said around 100 incidents would have taken place across Jharkhand, where the ultras had tried to convert the old currency notes forcibly through banks, but could not succeed due to vigilant state police.He said 37 naxals had been killed while 35 surrendered during 1546 special campaign launched against them by the security personnel last year, claiming that the situation had worsened to such an extent at one time that extremist outfits were recruiting poor farmers and villagers forcibly to enhance their strength. A huge resentment was prevailing among the common man dueo their bullying approach, he said, adding the development work being carried out by the government also restricted naxals, who were left with no option but to leave the state. (Times of India 2/1/17)

240. Maoist killed, LMG recovered for first time in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipu: A suspected Maoist has been killed in a gunfight with security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. Officials said that the gunfight took place intermittently for over two days and a light machine gun (LMG) was recovered for scene. They said that such a weapon has been recovered from Chhattisgarh for the first time. Bijapur Superintendent of Police K L Dhruv told The Indian Express that security personnel had gone to the jungles in Jagargunda Terrem to build a road and a camp. “This is a core area for the Maoists, and there is nearly always the presence of Battalion Number One, headed by Naxal commander Hidma, which is the most aggressive of Naxal battalions,’’ he said. “Our forces had gone in two to three days ago and there was intermittent exchange of fire in which one jawan was injured on Tuesday.’’ He said that the jawan was evacuated and brought to the New Terrem camp. The jawan, who received a gunshot wound in his leg, has been airlifted to Raipur for treatment. Fresh exchange of fire was reported near Kondapalli and Puverti on Wednesday. “During checking, the body of a Naxal was recovered as well as an LMG. This is the first time this has happened in Chhattisgarh.’’ Special Director General (Anti-Naxal Operations) D M Awasthi said that the operation was “intelligence based” and the recovery of the LMG was very significant for the Chhattisgarh police. “The parties are still returning but from the information I have at the moment, it is an INSAS LMG,’’ he said. “These weapons are rare even among the police and this is a setback for the Naxals. We have not been able to identify the body yet and that will happen in due course.’’ Officials told The Indian Express that the recovery would bring in “valuable’’ information. “Because this is for the first time we have recovered an INSAS LMG, the bearings on it will give us information of the supply chain,’’ said an official. “For instance, if it has been looted from somewhere that can be found out if it has a registration number.’’ He added that the recovery of the LMG means that this was definitely a battalion with which there was an exchange of fire with. “Among Naxal cadres, these weapons will be very rare.’’ (The Indian Express 5/1/17)

241. ‘160% rise in killings of Naxals in 2016’ (12)

New Delhi: The Home Ministry flagged the operational efficiency of security forces in the Maoist-affected areas as one of its biggest achievements during a presentation before Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. The Ministry informed Mr. Modi that since the NDA government came to power in May 2014, there had been a 45 per cent increase in the efficiency of Central forces in operations against the Maoists. Mr. Modi has been conducting review meetings of 10 groups of secretaries as the NDA government completed two-and-a-half years in office. In a presentation made by Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, Mr. Modi and other officials were informed that the number of Naxal cadres killed in 2016 had been the highest ever in six years. Eighty-four Maoist cadres were killed in 2015 and in 2016, the number swelled to 218, which was an increase of 160 per cent. There was also an increase in the number of police encounters, from 237 in 2015 to 316 in 2016. Home Minister Rajnath Singh told a press conference earlier this week that demonetisation had increased the problems of Maoists and that they had weakened.He also said that Maoist-related violence was down by 40-50 per cent and the Ministry expected the situation to be normal in the next two-three years. After the NDA government came to power, the Home Ministry sent an additional 14 battalions of Central police forces to the Maoist-affected districts. In all, 104 battalions (each battalion has approximately 1,000 men) of Central forces are currently deployed in the affected areas, besides a large number of State police personnel. “We consider the progress made in the Maoist-affected areas as one of the biggest achievements of the Ministry and that is why it was showcased in front of the Prime Minister. There are other areas also where the Home Ministry has performed well but we consider this as the most noteworthy,” said a senior Home Ministry official. The Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) has already given the go-ahead for an ambitious road project in the 44 worst-affected districts. Under this project, the government proposes to construct 5,412 km of roads and 126 bridges and it would cost ₹11,725 crore. (The Hindu 7/1/17)

242. Chhattisgarh: 4 Naxals neutralised, 1 jawan martyred in encounter (1)

Narayanpur: At least four Naxalites were neutralised on Tuesday by the security forces, while one jawan lost his life in the encounter operation near Narayanpur area of Chhattisgarh. Earlier in November last year, at least five Naxals were killed in a police encounter in the forest at Becha in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and seized arms from their possession. The operation was conducted jointly by the Narayanpur police led by Meena and Kondagaon police led by Superintendent of Police (SP) Santosh Singh. The police seized three rifles of 12 bore, one rifle of 315 bore and articles of daily use from the spot. So far, bodies of 15 Maoists of their Military formations have been recovered by the Bastar Police in this month as part of the ongoing ‘ Mission 2016 Bastar’. (Deccan Chronicle 10/1/17)

243. 4 Naxals, police jawan killed in gun battle (12)

RAIPUR : Four Naxals, including a woman, and a police jawan were on Tuesday killed in a fierce gun battle between the ultras and security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Narayanpur district, police said. The skirmish took place in a forest under Chhotedongar police station limits when a joint team of security forces was on a counter-insurgency operation, Narayanpur Additional Superintendent of Police Anil Soni said. A composite squad of District Reserve Group (DRG), Special Task Force (STF) and local police had yesterday launched the operation in core pockets of Abhujmad, considered a Maoist den, located about 350 km from here, he said.As the security men were cordoning off the forest area, they came under heavy fire from a group of armed rebels, leading to a gun battle. Later, during a search, bodies of four rebels, including a woman, and some items were recovered from the spot, he said. “Head constable Bhuvneshwar Mandavi, belonging to DRG, was also martyred in the incident,” Soni said. Further details are awaited as the police party is yet to reach back to its camp, he added. PTI (Times of India 12/1/17)

244. Odisha: Maoists abduct 4 poll officials in Malkangiri (12)

Bhubaneswar: Barely a month before the three-tier panchayat polls in the state are to be held, Maoists are reported to have abducted four officials in charge of elections and a villager from a remote area in the Maoist-dominated Malkangiri district Friday morning. Five local officials had on January 11 gone to Panasput panchayat in a stretch of 150-odd villages bordering Andhra Pradesh but cut off from Odisha mainand by Balimela reservoir, for receiving nomination papers of the candidates contesting different posts in panchayat polls.  The polls are slated to be held between February 13 and 21. Odisha home secretary Asit Tripathy said junior engineer Kaminikanta Singh and panchayat extension officers Purusottam Behera, Lingaraj Majhi, Prabin Soren and Hrusikesh Nayak had gone to Pansaput panchayat on January 11. “They were supposed to return on January 18 after the nomination and scrutiny process. They were last contacted on Thursday 5.30 pm over mobile phone. But there is a rumour in that area they may have been abducted. They were supposed to inform every evening. If we don’t get to hear from them this evening, we will take further course of action,” said Tripathy. The home secretary said DGP KB Singh has been asked to confirm. Majhi, who is in-charge of Jantri panchayat’s election process, reportedly escaped abduction as he had gone to a river for morning ablutions when Maoists arrived at his office. He ram off as he was tipped off by villagers. Early this week, the CPI (Maoist) Malkangiri Divisional Committee has threatened the tribals to neither contest in the polls nor cast votes. The Maoists through posters had warned the tribals that anybody found doing so would be “sentenced to death” in people’s court. The posters also threatened to slice off thumbs of those who would vote. The Maoists also ordered that all developmental works underway in blocks and panchayats be stopped. In 2012 panchayat polls, Maoists had put up their candidates in Malkangiri and a majority of them had won unopposed. The Maoist front of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, which has a considerable presence in Kalimela block, managed to get eight panchayat samiti members elected unopposed. However, a few months months later, Maoists forced around 63 panchayat members to resign on various grounds. The resignations were rejected as they did not bear signatures. In April 2015, over 20 Maoists from Chhattisgarh had abducted 11 people, including a former chairman of panchayat samiti from Mathili block of Malkangiri district. However, they were released a day later following a praja court allowed so. (The Indian Express 13/1/17)

245. Ramaguda encounter being hushed up: Naxals (12)

Visakhapatnam: AOBSZC official spokesman Jagabandhu has charged the AP and Odisha governments and police with hushing up the Ramaguda encounter of October 24 in which at least 31 Naxals were gunned down. In a press note released in Malkangiri in Odisha on Sunday, Jagabandhu said since it was a pre-planned elimination of unarmed Maoists, there will not be an encounter. “Instead of conducting an inquiry, the AP and Odisha governments are busy felicitating the security personnel,” he said. Jagabandhu also gave a call to the people to boycott the panchayat elections in Odisha scheduled to be held from January 11 to February 25. He said the leaders who have run away from the villages due to people’s anger are now trying to contest the elections with support from the government. Such leaders will face dire consequences if they contest the elections, the press note said. (Times of India 17/1/17)

246. 50 new police stations to be set up in Maoist areas of Chhattisgarh: Rajnath (12)

Assuring that the Centre will extend all cooperation to Chhattisgarh in its fight against insurgency, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said 50 new police stations and 35 mobile towers will be set up in Maoist-affected areas of the state. The home minister, however, remained tight-lipped over a query on rape of tribal women in Bijapur. Rajnath Singh made the announcement after chairing a high-level meeting at the official residence of chief minister Raman Singh in Raipur on Monday evening. The home minister said that the Raman Singh government has successfully discharged its responsibilities and the development work being done in Maoist-affected areas has brought a major transformation in the lives of people. He said that 850 km of roads will be built in Chhattisgarh, and road connectivity in Maoist-hit areas will be expanded. Maoists are present in as many as 16 of the 27 districts in the state. Meanwhile, when Hindustan Times asked Rajnath Singh about a notice from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) served to the state government over tribal raped by the security personnel, the home minister remained tight-lipped. Raman Singh responded to the question, saying, “Investigation is going on”. (Hindustan Times 17/1/17)

247. Odisha poll panel postpones election in Chitrakonda due to Maoist threat (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Maoist threat forced the State Election Commission (SEC) to postpone the rural polls in Chitrakonda block of Malkangiri district. The SEC announced it on Saturday based on a report jointly submitted by the district collector and superintendent of police (SP). The report said that adequate security personnel could not be deployed for safety and security of poll personnel in the cut off areas. “The law and order situation in the block is not satisfactory according to a report filed by the district administration. So, we have decided to postpone the elections in Chitrakonda block,” said SEC secretary R N Sahu. The block with heavy Maoist presence has total 222 wards, 18 each gram panchayats and samitis and two zilla parishad zones. Fearing Maoist attack, not a single nomination was filed for the posts of sarpanchs and ward members in the nine panchayats inside the cut-off areas. The announcement to postpone elections came a day after DGP K B Singh visited the cut-off areas and assured full security for peaceful elections. “We are keeping a close watch on the developments and adequate security will be provided in the cut-off area where filing of nomination process was affected due to Maoist threat,” he had said after reviewing the situation there. Last week, the Maoists had released five poll officials after producing them in a praja court (kangaroo court of the Maoists) in the cut-off area. The poll officials were freed with a warning not to come to the area in future for poll-related work.The cut-off areas under Chitrakonda block is surrounded by reservoir water created by the Balimela hydroelectric project. Over 20,000 people of 10 gram panchayats don’t have access to basic needs like road and electricity. The villagers depend on motor-launch to reach to the block headquarters. Taking the physical advantage of the region, the reds have established their presence in the area. In 2008, nearly 38 security personnel were killed by the Maoists when they were passing through the reservoir. The poll panel, meanwhile, announced fresh dates for filing nomination in places where no nomination was filed during January 11 to January 17. The polling in these places would be held according to the pre-announced schedule. According to sources, candidates can file nomination papers from January 27 to January 30 which would be scrutinized on January 31. The final list of candidates would be announced after withdrawal process on February 4. (Times of India 21/1/17)

248. Jharkhand Police to seek custody of naxal leader Ranjit Pal (12)

Ranchi: The Jharkhand Police would initiate the proceedings to seek custody of Maoist Ranjit Pal, who surrendered along with his wife before the West Bengal Police on Wednesday. Pal is wanted in the murder of the then MP from East Singhbhum Sunil Mahato of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in 2007. Besides, he is wanted in at least 16 cases registered in different police station areas of East Singhbhum.Police sources maintained that, while his surrender would have a definite impact on Maoist activities in the area, Pal had, of late, been reported to have been lying low following some differences within the Maoist hierarchy. In April and August last, his squad was involved in an encounter with the security forces in different areas of East Singbhum. During that time, the reports began coming in that he was killed. However, the same was never confirmed. “Now, it appears that he wanted to mislead the police into believing that he had died,” said a police officer on the condition of anonymity. Additional Superintendent of Police (Operations), East Singhbhum, Pranav Anand Jha said: “He was a major functionary of Maoists. A few things about him not being too active are being reported, but the fact remained that he used to be present in East Singhbhum area, along with his squad. It was increasing police pressure from East Singhbhum that ultimately appears to have forced him to surrender. Jha added that the proceedings for seeking his custody, as he was wanted in many cases, including the murder of the then MP, were registered against him.” The police said that there were reports about Pal’s differences with one of the secretaries in the Maoist hierarchy. There were a total of 16 cases against Pal in Ghatshila, Patamda, Bodam and Galudih police station areas. The Jharkhand police had declared Rs 25 lakh reward on his head. On March 4, 2007, Pal and his squad members opened fired at Sunil Mahato during a football match to mark Holi and killed him, besides two guards and another person, at Bankuria village in East Singhbhum. They also looted four INSAS rifles from the spot in Dainmaari area of Jamshedpur. The government had immediately ordered a CBI probe into the incident. In 2008, Pal, who was also said to be the head of the strike squad and a member of the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border committee, killed another JMM leader on August 22 and then, on August 30, killed sub-inspector and 10 other jawans by blowing up a police jeep through landmine in Burudih. In May 2010, he was involved in killing the bodyguard of the then Sub-Divisional Police Officer Anish Gupta, who somehow escaped. (Indian Express 26/1/17)

249. Jharkhand cops to seek custody of Maoist couple (12)

Ranchi: Jharkhand Police will initiate proceedings to seek custody of Maoist Ranjit Pal who, along with his wife, surrendered before West Bengal Police on Wednesday. Pal, a member of the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border committee of CPI (Maoist), is wanted in the murder of JMM leader and then East Singhbhum MP Sunil Mahato in 2007. That apart, he is wanted in at least 16 cases registered in different police station areas of East Singhbhum. Police sources said that Pal’s surrender would have an impact on Maoist activities in the area. Of late, he was reported to have been lying low. (The Indian Express 27/1/17)

250. Chhattisgarh ‘Naxal surrenders’: Screening cleared just 3 per cent in 2016 (12)

Raipur: A screening and rehabilitation committee set up by the Chhattisgarh government held that 97 per cent of the Naxal surrenders it reviewed in 2016 from the affected districts in the state did not adhere to the definition of “Naxal cadre” and were not eligible for benefits under the Centre or state government’s rehabilitation policy. The committee — comprising senior government, police and paramilitary officers and headed by the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau — receives applications from districts of surrenders made to them, and vets each case on the basis of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Over the past three years, surrender numbers have shot up in Bastar, with 1,210 listed in 2016. The committee met on two occasions in 2016. At the first, on May 5, it looked at 135 proposals of Naxal “surrenders” between December 2015 and March 2016. Of these, 126 were sent back to the district superintendents of police, asking them to reassess if they qualified as cadre to be rehabilitated under the scheme, with only nine being kept for “further consideration”. At the second meeting, on August 12, 2016, it was found that district police heads in Bastar had sent back only six of the applications that had been returned to them, with an additional two more for the committee to consider. Eventually, of the nine applications that the committee had initially found fit for further application and the other eight sent to it, it only cleared four as fit for compensation and rehabilitation. D M Awasthi, the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau, and chairperson of the committee, said the purpose of the surrender and rehabilitation policy was to ensure that “top cadre” found it worthwhile to lay down their arms, and it had to concentrate on “top-quality surrenders”. “This has been communicated to the forces several times, and the focus is not on quantity. In any case, if the top cadres surrender, that will break the backbone of those under them. I urge the Naxals to join the mainstream,” he said. Admitting that the purpose of the committee was to carefully go into each case given the benefits extended to surrendered Naxals, Awasthi added, “These include a Rs 1.5 lakh grant for rehabilitation, a monthly stipend and money for weapons as well.” … The Indian Express 28/1/17)

TRAFFICKING

251. Madhya Pradesh police rescue 5 girls sold to brothels, trafficking racket busted (1)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh police have busted a child trafficking racket in Gwalior district, where an average 48 per cent missing children remain untraced. Five young girls stolen from their parents and reportedly sold for brothels have been rescued so far. More girls are likely to be recovered soon, police said. They also arrested key accused, identified as Laxmi, and three other middlemen. She used to move around bus stands and railway stations, targetting girls (aged nine months to 3 years) belonging to the deprived and poor sections. Each girl child was sold for an amount ranging between 20000 and 25000, sources said. Laxmi, 50, was caught, through a CCTV footage, stealing a girl from near Gwalior Sai Mandir road. Initially, she tried to mislead police, but later she confessed to her crime, said sources. Three out of five girls were rescued from an area dominated by sex workers. Police said that Laxmi’s brother lived in that area and there she got in touch with the trafficking gang, said police.In 2011, the state police had busted a similar racket rescuing around 57 girls who were kidnapped or procured from their parents’ immediately after birth and trafficked to a nomadic community in Mandsaur and Neemuch districts. The girls were allegedly fed hormones/steroids to boost their physical growth for an early initiation into prostitution. While around 30 girls were restored to their parents in the last six months, fate of the remaining ones still hangs in balance with police almost giving up hope about locating their origin.Several parents from across the country had visited these two districts in search of their missing girls after this gang was busted six years ago. Police had booked 114 persons on charges of human trafficking, abduction, grooming, sexual exploitation and prostitution at nine police station area in Mandsaur district itself that year. Of them, 85 were arrested and sent to jail. Gang members had hired 49 advocates to fight a legal battle against the police besides reclaiming possession of children and for getting arrested ones on bail…. (Times of India 2/1/17)

252. Tortured maid dies at hospital (1)

New Delhi: The 23-year-old woman, who was found dumped at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital after being tortured by her employer a fortnight ago, died in a private hospital on Wednesday morning. The police will now book the employer and the traffickers, who brought her to the capital, for culpable homicide. Teams have been sent to West Bengal and Bihar to track down the prime accused, Miriam.It was found that in the past three years, Miriam had trafficked more than 200 girls to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, who were either sold off or forced into prostitution.The woman was suffering from tuberculosis. The body will be handed over to her mother after a postmortem on Thursday. “We have approached the West Bengal government to provide the family with necessary support and they have agreed to do so,” said Rishi Kanth from NGO Shakti Vahini, who has been accompanying the woman’s relatives to Delhi. Probe revealed that a trafficking racket was being run by Ganesh Burman, the owner of a placement agency. A case of assault and illegal confinement had been registered against the woman’s employer on the basis of a complaint by Saraswati, who claimed to be the victim’s relative. However, police found that Saraswati was, in fact, Burman’s aide. On December 16, Saraswati took the victim from her employer without informing him. She was confined in a room near Shakurpur. After her condition deteriorated, purportedly because of her TB, Saraswati left her at RML and fled. Police found that Saraswati had registered a similar case against another employer of the woman in Kirti Nagar in order extort money from him. (Times of India 5/1/17)

253. How woman trafficked girls, siphoned their wages (1)

NEW DELHI: Probe into the death of the 23-year-old woman from West Bengal, who was found abandoned at RML hospital, has revealed startling details about a trafficking racket being run by the prime accused, Miriam, who was arrested on Thursday. It was found that Miriam used to contact former Army officers and bureaucrats to employ the girls she trafficked to Delhi and charged hefty amounts for it. Police have found a series of high-value transactions in her bank accounts. Miriam and her associates used to befriend women from the tribal areas of north Bengal and bring them to Delhi on the pretext of getting them jobs. They had tie-ups with placement agencies and the girls would be employed at houses in Karol Bagh, Civil Lines and Mukherjee Nagar. Posing as a relative of the girls, Miriam would ask the employers to transfer the wages electronically into her account. Sources said that most girls did not protest as they only spoke the local dialect or were threatened with dire consequences if they tried to escape. Some of them were made to believe that Miriam would sent the wages to their family. The army officer who had employed the 23-year-old victim had insisted on paying her salary in cash as he suspected foul play by Miriam. However, Miriam managed to threaten the girl and transfer Rs one lakh to her account. Later, she later took the girl away on the pretext of getting her married. The victim was then employed at a house in Mukherjee Nagar where she was beaten up for not being able to do her chores properly. Miriam and the owner of the placement agency, through which the girls were hired, have been sent to judicial custody and charged under sections of trafficking.The girl’s body has been kept at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) mortuary and an autopsy would be conducted by a board of doctors on Saturday. “We have requested AIIMS to speed up the formalities so that the body can be handed over to the girl’s family,” said Rishi Kanth from NGO Shakti Vahini, which has been taking care of the girl’s mother. (Times of India 7/1/17)

254. Gwalior trafficking gang sold over 25 girls to brothels (1)

BHOPAL: Gwalior police that busted the child trafficking racket last week is likely to have sold 25 young girls in the last two years. Cops were able to rescue eight girls on the basis information provided by the gang. Each girl rescued, was stolen from her parents and was sold for Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 to a brothel in the state or neighbouring states. “Our investigations are underway. Teams are being dispatched to different places,” ASP Dinesh Kaushal told TOI. “There were missing persons complaint registered in Gwalior and Jhansi for four girls that we have rescued,” said Kaushal. Investigations revealed this gang developed contacts in red light areas across the country and were picking up young girls. They used to take money in advance and then start hunting for innocent young girls at railway stations and bus stands. Most of the girls were trafficked to Badnapur and Reshampura area. Kinging of the gang – Laxmi and Rammilan Kanjar has been arrested along with six others. Rammilan told police that gang use to abduct girls only after getting an order and some advance. He revealed that lifting newborns and girls as young as 2 to 3 years from deprived parents was easy as the matter mostly goes unreported. Police said their network was spread across Gwalior, Shivpuri, Datia, Dholpur (Rajasthan), Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Allahabad and Kolkatta. “Their call details are being scrutinized. It is clear that they had a well knitted network in UP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal,” said a police officer. The gang busted with the arrest of Laxmi, 49, who was arrested on October 30. She was caught red-handed while abducting a girl from neat Saibaba temple in Gwalior by a constable with the help of a rickshaw driver. Later, on January 2, three middlemen and Laxmi’s son – Raju and Rajesh were arrested. Three girls were rescued from them. Three girls were rescued on their information. Two more girls were rescued on January 3. A key accused Rambali managed to escape with more of abducted girls before police raided his den in Badnapur area. Several teams have been dispatched to different parts of the state. (Times of India 10/1/17)

255. Rs 2,000 notes too being pushed into human trafficking: Kailash Satyarthi (1)

BHOPAL: A day after demonetisation on November 8, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi had said that banning highvalue currency notes would curb child trafficking. But two months later, the child rights activist expressed his disappointment saying, “I’d expected black money-driven human trafficking would be crippled completely following demonetisation.But no significant effort is being seen on ground.” “Demonetisation is a way, and not the end in itself for checking trafficking,” said Satyarthi, who has waged a war on child labour and trafficking through his movement ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’. He lamented there was no comprehensive law in the country to fight human trafficking. “The law should be victim- or survivor-friendly with a proper redressal mechanism,” he added. Incidentally, on December 27, at an election rally in Dehradun, PM Narendra Modi had asserted that demonetisation “had destroyed, in one stroke, terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld”.Celebrating his 63rd birthday in his hometown Vidisha, Satyarthi told TOI that the new Rs 2,000 notes are gradually being pushed into human trafficking. He stressed government agencies to make every effort to guard against this. “Black money, corruption and trafficking is a vicious circle and the scourge needs to be dealt with iron hand,” said Satyarthi. Satyarthi has demanded a crackdown on placement agencies that have been providing domestic servants from Assam and West Bengal. “It’s time citizens came forward and refused services of unscrupulous placement agencies,” he said. (Times of India 12/1/17)

256. Run to help highlight plight of trafficked kids (1)

Navi Mumbai: Residents looking to give to a good cause can run ‘two million steps to hope’ for helping children who are trafficked by participating in the Ultra Marathon Run, being organised from Mumbai to Chennai. The route will cover more than 1,500 km and pass through the Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka. The run is being flagged off from Navi Mumbai on January 16 and will continue for five weeks until February 18. The run, being organized by NGOs Hope Place and the Heart Foundation under its STREE (Smash Tradition, Rehabilitate, Educate and Empower) project, will cover an of 50 km per day. “As per statistics, over 50% of human trafficking victims are children. Human trafficking not only involves sex and labour but people trafficked for organ harvesting,” said Dr Jayakar Ellis from the foundation. He added that although human trafficking is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, researchers estimate that more than 80% of trafficking victims are women “Although the run will be flagged off from Mumbai, it will officially start on Monday from Bharati Vidyapeeth campus in Belapur,” he said. In addition to volunteers from various organizations, there will be three professional marathon runners— John Moriarty and Christopher Joseph Smith from USA and Tharun Kumar from India. Dr Vilasrao Kadam, director of the institute, said with the growing rate of incidences of human trafficking should also be highlighted in schools and colleges. (Times of India 14/1/17)

257. Month-long 1,500-km-run to raise awareness of human trafficking (1)

Mumbai:  A day after thousands ran the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, non-governmental organisations, The Hope Place and Heart Foundation, flagged off an ultra marathon, ‘2 Million Steps to Hope’, to support women’s and children’s rights. The run began on Monday morning from the campus of Bharati Vidyapeeth, CBD Belapur, Navi Mumbai, and will cover more than 1,500 km. It will pass through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and conclude on February 18 in Chennai. Three main runners — John Moriarty from the U.S., Chris Joseph Smith from Australia, and Tharun Kumar from India — will cover an average of 50 km per day. “Although human trafficking is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, researchers estimate that more than 80 per cent of trafficking victims are women. The runners will be spreading awareness on this issue along the way,” said Dr. Jayakar Ellis, president, Heart Foundation. Godfrey Fernandez of The Hope Place, said, “Our mission is not only to create awareness of the adverse effects of child abuse, labour and trafficking but also to create resources to sustain long-term rehabilitation of children through NGOs involved in rescue and rehabilitation.” All the three runners have been participating in various marathons and have been practising for this event. They have been associated with The Hope Place through social activities. “I have been running marathons for about 20 years for fun but six months seriously for this cause,” said Mr. Moriarty. “I am concerned about the epidemic of human trafficking all over the world, especially in India.” Mr. Smith said he always had the desire to work for the betterment of humanity. “I have been doing athletic events for over 30 years for my body and mind, but now I want to dedicate this phase of my life for this heartfelt cause.” Mr. Kumar saw this as an opportunity to make a difference and create awareness. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

258. Shillong trafficking racket: One more arrested, 12 detentions in total so far (1)

Guwahati: One more person – identified as Hussain Ali – was arrested by the police in Shillong on Tuesday evening, taking the total number of persons arrested so far in the Meghalaya sex racket and trafficking case to 12. Hussain Ali (29) was arrested from his residence at Wahkdait, a locality under Madanrting police station in Shillong in connection with the Shillong trafficking case with the police slamming Sections 3(a), 4 and 17 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act against him. Shillong City SP Vivek Syiem told The Indian Express late Tuesday evening that Ali hails from village Mandia under Baghbor police station of Barpeta district. With this, the total number of persons arrested in the Meghalaya trafficking and sex racket case has risen to 12, SP Syiem said. Those arrested earlier include Independent MLA Julius Kitbok Dorphang, Madan Bahadur Thapa, Nirdesh Jain, Elbert Kharlukhi, Kentley Tanglang, W Khongsit, Sandeep Biswa, Usha Debbarman, and three women – Mamoni Parveen, Mary Kharbamon and Monalisa Shangpliang. Police are looking for at least three more persons, including a Shillong-based professor and an Army personnel. Of them Debbarma is a waiter in Marvelene’s Inn, a guest house owned and run by Meghalaya home minister HDR Lyngdoh’s family at Rilbong, a posh locality of Shillong. A 14-year old girl, who had run away from the clutches of a couple – Mamoni Parveen and Sandeep Biswa – on December 16 had in her FIR alleged that she was sexually assaulted in the Inn by a person after the couple had dropped her there the previous evening. Madan Bahadur Thapa, a resident of Jhalupara in Shillong has been arrested in connection the December 15 incident. The police are also investigating the alleged role of owners of several guest houses and resorts in and around Shillong, including the one owned by home minister Lyngdoh’s family, in the trafficking and sex racket that was unearthed after the girl ran away to report the matter to the police. Home minister Lyngdoh, who has been under pressure to quit, has refused to speak on the issue. Meanwhile, B Mishra, officer in-charge of the Madanrting police station, has been transferred out to the CID. It was from a building on the main road at Demthring, hardly 500 metres from the police station that Mamoni Parveen and her husband Sandeep Biswa were operating. Those arrested include W Khongsit, owner of the building, and another woman who is allegedly part of the racket headed by Parveen. (The Indian Express 18/1/17)

259. Anti-trafficking operation uproots four kids from their homes (1)

Four families which accepted lifelong responsibility of unwanted babies and nurtured them for months have been torn apart by a hurried police inquiry into suspicions of interstate child trafficking that have proved unfounded. In December, the Mankhurd police snatched from the families four babies — whose biological parents didn’t have the resources or will to raise them — assuming the infants had been abducted from Mumbai and sold in Goa, Karnataka, and Gujarat. The infants, now aged between 5 months and 10 months, were placed in a government-approved shelter’s care only for cops to conclude that no real crime had been committed: the biological parents had willingly consented to their children being raised in a new family. The realisation came too late as the infants’ immediate future is now ensnared in legal complexities, which do not favour the four adoptive families.As the infants were declared as rescued victims of a trafficking ring, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) will either seek to return them to the biological parents, who didn’t want them in the first place, or put them up for adoption. If the latter option is initiated, the four couples, from Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka, may not necessarily get the custody as they had not signed formal adoption papers with the biological parents. Only affidavit were signed by both parties, a process that is not recognised by the law. It’s a heartbreaking prospect for the couples as they had been raising the children as their own for months, even giving them names. Nearly a month after the children were brought to Bal Anand orphanage in Govandi, some of the couples are still camping in the city with the hope of holding them again. “Divyesh is my son. I held him, fed and bathed him every day for 10 months. I didn’t let him out of my sight even for a minute. Suddenly one day, he was taken away from me?” said 40-year-old Vasanti Gaokar, who brought home Divyesh when he was only 15 days old. The Gaokars live on the outskirts of Ponda city in Goa. “Every day, my mother-in-law, who is 80 years old, asks: ‘Where is my grandson?’ We don’t know what to tell her,” she said. “She sits in the veranda all day waiting for Divyesh,” said Vasanti, who recently returned from Mumbai. … (Times of India 21/1/17)

260. Emigrants protection body meet with NRI dept to curb trafficking (1)

HYDERABAD: The Protector General of Emigrants (PGE), Ministry of External Affairs, and Government of India will visit Hyderabad and meet officials of the NRI department on the measures to be taken to prevent trafficking of women to Gulf countries. “I will be in Hyderabad on February 27 and meet officials of the NRI Department and others to highlight ways to promote safe migrationof emigrants and prevent trafficking of women from Telangana,” MC Luther, PGE, New Delhi told TOI. Sources said, a large number of illegal recruiting agents operate in Old City to trap women and send them to Gulf. There are only six authorised recruiting agencies in the country , including TOMCOM of Telangana, located in Hyderabad. Illegal recruiting agents operate in a chain. A local Hyderabad agent generally works for an agent in Mumbai. This agent has connections in the Gulf countries. The main agent in the gulf country is given an amount of `3 lakh by the Kafil (employer) to get a person to work for him in that country. The money is shared by the three agents. The women who are trafficked are given a rosy picture of life in Saudi Arabia or other gulf countries and offered big amounts as salaries. On landing there, the women who realise that they have been trapped and want to leave are not allowed to by the Kafil. The agent also refuses to help because he has received money in the chain of human trafficking. For this reason, the Embassy of India in Riyadh has issued a reminder of guidelines to people who are seeking employment in the gulf. The Telangana Overseas Manpower Company Limited has also alerted people, especially women, against falling prey to illegal agents. (Times of India 22/1/17)

261. Couple lures girls to Noida with study offer, sells them (1)

GREATER NOIDA: A trafficking racket that lured girls from poor families by promising good education but sold them to customers in Haryana and Rajasthan was busted in Greater Noida on Thursday. Three girls from Gorakhpur, siblings aged 14, 15 and 16, were rescued. Police made a total of five arrests — Arvind Kumar (40), his wife Kamlesh (38) and their son-in-law Yogesh Kumar (25), the trio that ran the racket from Greater Noida, and the two men who had ‘bought’ the girls. Mahesh, a 26-year-old resident of Mahendergarh in Haryana, paid the racket Rs 5 lakh for one of the girls and married her after she was brought to him, police said. Ganesh (26) of Alwar had struck a similar deal and paid Rs 3.5 lakh for the other girl. The youngest of the three sisters was kept in confinement till a “match” was found. A police team rescued her from Bulandshahr, where Arvind, Kamlesh and Yogesh are originally from.The smooth-talking Arvind, investigators said, was the kingpin of the racket. It was he who had convinced the girls’ father to send them to him, promising he would take care of their education. The gullible Gorakhpur resident did. But when he came to the flat in Omicron-1 where his daughters were to have their new lodgings, he would the apartment locked. He also failed to contact Arvind or the three girls. That’s when he went to the police. The girls’ father said he had met Arvind at a hospital. Arvind had claimed he was a wealthy man and could provide good education to his daughters for free. He agreed and sent the girls, who were to be based in the rented Omicron flat. A police case was filed on January 19. Sujata Singh, SP (rural), said police put Kumar’s phone under surveillance and arrested him and his wife from a flat in the same sector. Arvind’s interrogation led them to Manoj in Mahendergarh and Ganesh in Alwar. The youngest girl was with Yogesh in Bulandshahr. It also unearthed a more sinister plan. Arvind told the police he had advised the girls to flee from the houses of the men they were sold to after marriage so that he could sell them again. “He gave a pack of sleeping pills to the minors before they were sold. The girls were told to spike the drinks of their new family with the pills and flee,” a police officer said. The girls were also told to make a call to Arvind after they fled. Arvind’s plan was to use them to strike similar deals with other men. Police said Arvind lived in rented flats and changed his hideouts frequently to evade arrest. A hunt is on for more people who police suspect are involved in the racket. “The accused have revealed that Arvind had trafficked girls from Nepal, Bihar, and UP in the past,” a police officer said. A case of trafficking under Section 372 of the IPC and also under the POCSO Act has been registered against the five accused. The police seized a Mahindra Scorpio and a Toyota Innova from their possession. (Times of India 27/1/17)

262. Anti-trafficking groups release charter (1)

PANAJI:  Anti-trafficking groups in Goa, led by the Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ), on Friday unveiled a charter of demands that they want all political parties in the State to include in their manifestos. These groups want the parties to adopt policies to save women and children from sexual exploitation and trafficking.The groups want, among other things, full-time police officers at the anti-human trafficking police units that should exclusively work on human trafficking cases; establishment of special courts to try traffickers; special prosecutors to handle such cases, a committee against sexual harassment in hotels, massage parlours, casinos, clubs; rehabilitation scheme for sex workers along with a financial provision for it in the State Budget; and steps to improve living conditions and facilities at government protection homes. (The Hindu 28/1/17)

CORRUPTION

263. Graft falls 35% as `cash crunch leaves no money for bribery’ (5)

MUMBAI: Cases of corruption against public officials registered by the Maharashtra anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in November and December 2016 fell by 35% from the same period in 2015. An ACB officer attributed this to demonetisation, saying the cash crunch has left little money for bribery. Overall, cases of corruption and disproportionate assets registered by the ACB in 2016, at 993, are down by almost 20% from 2015, when 1,234 cases were registered. In 2014, a comparable 1,245 cases were filed. If cases of disproportionate assets are looked at individually , from 48 in 2014 and 35 in 2015, they fell to 14 in 2016. ACB officials say corruption has gone down due to their continuous campaign against it on social media and at government offices. Here’s a closer look at the effect of demonetisation. In November and December 2016, the ACB registered 120 offences, down 35% from 184 offences filed in the last two months of 2015. “As people were rushing to deposit old notes of Rs 500 and Rs1,000, there was no black money left with them. Corrupt babus, worried at the situation, in panic disposed off their own black money ,” said an ACB officer. Meanwhile, the state revenue department continues to have the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt, followed by the MMDRA, the police, Panchayat Samitis, the BMC and the education department. In 2016, the ACB booked 223 officials of the revenue department, 224 cops, 109 officials of Panchayat Samitis, 52 officials from the MMRDA, 50 BMC officials and 49 education department officials from all over the state for graft. ACB officials said Pune (186 cases) is the leading city on the state’s corruption chart, followed by Nashik (153), Nagpur (137), Thane (124 ), Aurangabad (116), Amravati (110) and Nanded (104). Mumbai has only 66 of fences of corruption. “Corrupt officials have become smart and are not taking risks. They don’t directly accept bribe. Instead, they deploy middlemen, making it difficult for us,” said an ACB official. (Times of India 2/1/17)

264. Court asks Anti-Corruption Bureau not to arrest officer (5)

BENGALURU: The high court on Tuesday asked the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) not to give effect to the lookout notice and arrest T N Chikkarayappa, suspended managing director of Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Limited (CNNL). He was found in possession of more disproportionate assets than the one detected by the I-T department last month. Justice Anand Byrareddy gave this direction after Chikkarayappa expressed apprehension that he might be arrested based on the lookout notice even before the special court decides on his anticipatory bail application. As per the order, the officer cannot be arrested until the special court takes a decision on his bail plea. Chikkarayappa has agreed to cooperate with the probe being undertaken by the ACB. Earlier, counsel for Chikkarayappa said only Rs 3 lakh was recovered from the house whereas the ACB claimed it is Rs 75 lakh. The agency said it had raided other premises and found wealth worth more than Rs 3.5 crore, much above his known sources of income. The high court on Tuesday granted bail to civil contractor Chandrakant Ramalingam, who was found is possession of Rs 46 lakh, all Rs 2,000 new notes, during the I-T department raids last month. The order will be effective from February 2. Earlier, senior advocate C H Jadhav, appearing for Ramalingam, argued that the CBI still has not arrested two private bank managers who were arrayed as accused much before the petitioner.Moreover, the agency has no jurisdiction vis-a-vis any issues pertaining to private sector banks, he claimed. However, P Prasanna Kumar, special public prosecutor for CBI, said in view of the Banking Regulation Act encompassing even private sector banks under it as they are classified as public servants, the agency can proceed against them. (Times of India 4/1/17)

265. CBI probing links of U.P. politicians with suspended engineer (5)

NEW DELHI:  The Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the role of some Uttar Pradesh politicians and bureaucrats whose names figured in a diary seized from the premises of Yadav Singh, suspended chief engineer who faces charges of corruption and disproportionate assets. The CBI will soon file a second charge sheet involving funds to the tune of ₹ 45 crore. In July 2015, the CBI booked the engineer, his wife, son and daughter and others in two alleged cases of disproportionate assets and corruption. The accused, who was the Chief Engineer of Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway authorities in U.P., was arrested by the CBI in February last year. During searches on his premises, the Income-Tax Department seized a diary that contained names of some U.P. politicians, bureaucrats and about 40 companies. Chits purportedly recommending businessmen for contracts were also found.The Income-Tax Department also collected records of several shell companies that were being used to invest the alleged bribes. The “ill-gotten” money was also used to acquire properties in various names. It turned out that the accused also used to undervalue the land under his jurisdiction to help his contacts pay stamp duty much lower than the fixed rate. The agency is also probing to ascertain whether money was invested or parked abroad.During his tenure, the Noida Authority had awarded works worth ₹ 2,551 crore to builders and contractors. Between 2008 and 2014, he held several sensitive posts and allegedly charged 5 per cent for the job. The agencies initially suspected that the accused had an undisclosed income of about ₹ 130 crore through commission. His subordinate and co-accused Ramendra and an accountant Pradeep Sharma had in their statement to the Income-Tax Department confessed that they would receive illegal commissions. (The Hindu 8/1/17)

266. Mondelez, Cadbury to pay $13 mn to settle with SEC in India bribery probe (5)

Mondelez International Inc agreed to pay $13 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that its Cadbury unit violated a federal anti-bribery law through efforts to expand a chocolate plant in Baddi, India. In a statement on Monday, Mondelez said it was pleased to reach the civil settlement, in which it neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. The accord resolves charges that Mondelez violated the internal controls and books-and-records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the SEC, Cadbury India paid a local businessman $90,666 in 2010 to work with government officials in Himachal Pradesh and obtain licenses and approvals to add capacity at the Baddi plant, which was built in 2005. The SEC said Cadbury India’s books and records did not accurately reflect the nature of the businessman’s services, for which it received five invoices but had no written contract. It also said Cadbury India lacked FCPA adequate compliance controls to ensure how the payments were used. Mondelez ended its relationship with the businessman in October 2010, the SEC said. An SEC subpoena was issued four months later. The settlement also reflected Deerfield, Illinois-based Mondelez’s “extensive” remedial actions, including a review of Cadbury India’s relationships with third parties, the SEC said. Mondelez, known at the time as Kraft Foods, bought Cadbury in February 2010. Some of the company’s other products are Halls cough drops, Milka and Toblerone chocolate, Oreo cookies, Philadelphia cream cheese and Ritz and Triscuit crackers. (Business Standard 10/1/17)

267. SC judgment setback to fight against corruption: Prashant Bhushan (5)

New Delhi: Advocate Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday said dismissal of an application for probe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Birla and Sahara payoffs was a “setback” to the campaign against corruption. “This judgment is very unfortunate and is a set-back to the whole campaign against corruption and for probity in public life. It is also a black mark on the reputation of the Supreme Court, which had recently distinguished itself by directing independent investigation into the coal scam and the 2G scam,” Prashant Bhushan said in a statement. “Today’s judgment shows that though the Court has often said that law is equal for everyone and ‘be you ever so high the law is above you’, but it has betrayed this precept in its judgment today,” Bhushan said. “Supreme Court’s judgment today will leave the cloud of suspicion over all the persons mentioned in these documents. That cloud could only have dissipated if there had been an independent investigation into the payoffs mentioned in these documents,” he added. In a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to probe the alleged payoffs by the Birla-Sahara groups to him when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister. Rejecting a plea by NGO Common Cause, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy said the documents produced to seek an FIR against the Prime Minister and other political functionaries including government officials, had no “evidentiary value”.”If we were to order investigation on the basis of material with no evidentiary value, it would be difficult for constitutional functionaries to function, which would not be safe for democracy,” the Court said. (Business Standard 11/1/17)

268. Jailer, 6 prison staff suspended over corruption charges (5)

MUMBAI: Seven prison department officials including a jailer from the Arthur Road jail were on Friday suspended for their alleged role in corruption cases in the prisons.Those suspended include three constables from the Arthur Road jail and a jailer, and three other constables from the Thane central prison. The action comes after Amit Mishra, a student, carried out sting operations on various jail personnel in different jails. Mishra who was once not allowed to meet a relative lodged in Thane jail later started filming his visits to the jail and had to pay bribe to jail personnel for the meeting. He carried out his sting operations at the Thane Jail, Taloja Jail, Arthur Road Jail and Kalyan Jail. Mishra had earlier alleged that when he approached the jail authorities complaining about the corruption demand for meeting, no one believed him. He had filmed more than half a dozen cases of corruption where some jail staffers demanded bribe to fix his meeting with relatives. In one of the videos shot at the Thane jail, Mishra approached a police constable saying he wanted to take his jailed friend’s signature on bail paper, the constable demanded Rs 2,000 to get the documents signed.Another constable demanded Rs 3,000 for arranging Mishra’s meeting with a friend in jail. Another video found a Kalyan jail constable demanding Rs two lakh from getting an inmate admitted to a hospital. In one such video, an Arthur Road prison jailor was caught on camera demanding Rs two lakh for getting an inmate admitted to hospital. Rajvardhan Sinha,, inspector general of police, Prisons, had ordered the superintendents of all the concerned jails to submit detailed inquiry reports. After the inquiry, the decsion was taken and seven police personnels from two jails have been suspended. (Times of India 14/1/17)

269. Nashik land scam: Temporary reprieve for senior revenue official in Bombay HC (5)

NASHIK: In a reprieve for sub-divisional officer Vasanti Mali, named as an accused in an alleged Nashik land scam case, the police on Monday informed the Bombay high court that it would not take any coercive steps against her for two weeks. The court was hearing a pre-arrest bail plea filed by Mali, who was represented by her advocate Aniket Nikam. The HC has asked the officer to cooperate with the police in the investigations. The Nashik anti corruption bureau had registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act against nine high-ranking revenue officials, including Mali for their alleged involvement in a land scam. The court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on January 31, 2017. The alleged scam had been unearthed following information obtained by an activist under the Right To Information Act. The scam concerned the illegal sale of around 500 acres of land in Nandgaon tehsil. The ACB booked around 23 persons including the nine revenue officials. (Times of India 16/1/17)

270. All universities in Karnataka graft-ridden, says minister (5)

Bengaluru: There is corruption to the tune of Rs 500 crore in 17 universities across the state, according to Minister for Higher Education Basavaraj Rayareddy. Addressing mediapersons on Tuesday, Rayareddy said the reports sent by deputy commissioners, zilla panchayat finance officers and superintending engineers of the PWD regarding the funds availed and spent, bank details of each of the universities and development works had been examined. “There are irregularities in all the universities, including VTU. At the outset, it looks like this amounts to Rs 500 crore. It may be more than this,” he added. “A three-member committee is looking into the reports given by the officers. Those involved in the scams will be held responsible,” he said, adding the report would be submitted to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Speaking about vacancies in colleges, Rayareddy said out of 412 government first grade colleges, only 42 had principals. He said as per UGC norms, existing vacancies would be filled by promoting eligible lecturers by the next academic year. He said the 3,000 posts of lecturers in these colleges were filled recently. There are 500 to 600 posts still vacant. The Higher Education Department would seek Rs 3,500-crore World Bank loan to improve facilities in universities. This, the minister said, would be used to upgrade libraries and other facilities. When asked why the amount could not be availed of from the Central government, Rayareddy said the Centre was reluctant to grant funds. “After Modi government took charge, several schemes have been stopped due to paucity of funds,” he said. Rayareddy said 36% of the foreign students who come to study in the country choose Karnataka. The minister claimed the roadmap to improve the functioning of universities was ready. The valedictory function of the seven-day 154th Vivekananda birth anniversary celebrations would take place at the Palace Grounds in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Rayareddy said close to 50,000 students are expected to participate in the event. The government is spending over Rs 2.5 crore for the event. Buses have been arranged to bring students from across the state to the venue. (Deccan Herald 18/1/17)

271. Second chargesheet filed in nursing recruitment scam (5)

KOCHI: CBI, which is probing a multi-crore scam in connection with recruitment of nurses to Kuwait, has filed one more chargesheet naming Kochi’s protector of emigrants (PoE) L Adolphus as the prime accused. The chargesheet names Mailakkattu Varghese Uthuppu – who used to run the Kochi-based Al Zarafa Manpower Consultants Pvt Ltd, his wife Susan Thomas (then chairman of Al-Zarafa) and two of their employees Jossy and Pradeep K S as the accused. Also, two hawala operatives – V S Suresh Babu of Suresh Forex and Abdul Nasser who runs Malabar Foreign Exchange in Kochi – were arraigned as accused in the chargesheet. CBI sources maintained that the accused entered into a conspiracy to accept an exorbitant Rs 19.5 lakh as service charge for issuing nursing visa to candidates. The candidates were offered jobs with the ministry of health in Kuwait.The accused also entered in to a conspiracy to collect certificates and other valuables securities from the candidates. The accused aimed ‘to obtain undue pecuniary advantage to themselves by corrupt or illegal means,’ states the chargesheet. The chargesheet states that the accused committed offences under IPC sections 120 B, 384 and 420 and sections 13(2) and 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and sections 24 and 25 of the Emigration Act, 1983. Sources said investigating agencies had found that the accused Suresh and Abdul Nazar assisted Varghese to transact Rs 230 crore through hawala channels. The enforcement directorate had conducted raids at offices and residences of the accused based on the information and had booked them under provisions of the Money Laundering Act. The CBI had recently filed another chargesheet in a separate case registered in connection with the scam where Adolphus and Reny Eapen of JK International Manpower Consultants were named as accused. According to the central agency, the recruitment agencies cheated candidates with active collaboration and support from the ministry of overseas Indian affairs’ PoE. (Times of India 22/1/17)

272. Coal scam: SC orders probe against former CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha (5)

New Delhi , Jan. 23 : The Supreme Court on Monday directed to conduct a probe against former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha for his alleged involvement in the coal scam. The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Madan B Lockur and also comprising Justice Prafulla C Pant asked the CBI to go ahead with the investigation for his alleged involvement and hand in glove with certain accused to scuttle the probe in the coal block scam case “Prima facie a case is made out against him for allegedly in conniving with certain accused in the coal block scam case,” the Bench of the Apex Court said in its order. The Supreme Court passed the order after going through in great detailed the arguments put forth by NGO, Common Cause seeking a thorough investigation against Sinha for his alleged involvement and hand in glove with certain accused in the coal block scam case. (New Kerala 23/1/17)

273. India in red zone on transparency list (5)

NEW DELHI: The annual index of Transparency International issued on Wednesday for 2016 placed India with Brazil and China in the 40th position. A major international index of corruption and transparency has placed India on the watch list for its inability to curb mega corruption scandals and petty bribery. The annual index of Transparency International issued on Wednesday for 2016 placed India with Brazil and China in the 40th position. India’s condition showed growth with inequality, it said. “India’s ongoing poor performance with a score of 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption and large-scale corruption scandals,” said Transparency International. The impact of corruption on poverty, illiteracy and policy brutality showed that not only was the economy growing but so was inequality. India’s current ranking, putting it in the high corruption zone, has drawn critical observations from transparency campaigners. Nikhil Dey of People’s Campaign for Right to Information said the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not done enough on the issue of Lokpal and whistleblower protection. “A lot of scams in the previous government were unearthed with the help of the right to information that the government itself allowed. But the present government has done nothing to boost the anti-corruption structure. The demonetisation process is the latest indicator of the lack of transparency in the system, where even the Reserve Bank of India is not able to spell out the exact details of the operation,” Mr. Dey said. “Growth with inequality is disastrous on its own. But in the case of India, such a growth also legitimises corruption,” he warned. South Asia had performed poorly. Bangladesh at 27th and Nepal at 29th positions were slotted in the highly corrupt section. Pakistan, at 32, also came in the red zone. Afghanistan ranked 15th was in the “highly corrupt” list with South Sudan, North Korea and Libya.The organisation recognised China’s recent anti-corruption campaign under President Xi Jinping which had been targeting ‘tigers and flies’ and slotted it alongside India. China’s latest score was an improvement of three points. India, though it improved two ranks, remained in the same red-zone of corruption. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

274. EC pulls up Kejriwal for ‘wild allegations’ (5)

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Sunday pulled up Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for targeting the poll panel and warned of stern action if he abetted bribery ahead of elections. In a strongly-worded letter to Kejriwal, the Election Commission said his remarks against the panel were “baseless”, “scurrilous” and “highly depreciable”.The Aam Aadmi Party leader was asked to produce evidence of corrupt practices instead of making “wild allegations”.The Election Commission, which on January 20 had censured Kejriwal for “abetting bribery”, reiterated it would be forced to take stern action if the AAP leader persisted with his remarks. “Instead of taking the EC’s advisory in the right spirit, you have been persistently indulging in objectionable activity,” it said. (Business Standardf 29/1/17)

275. BSF jawan alleges corruption in force (5)

AHMEDABAD: Even though Army chief General Bipin Rawat has advised soldiers to come directly to him rather than voice complaints on social media, the online medium has become a favoured complaint-box for those posted on the border. After constable Tej Bahadur Singh’s video of burnt rotis and watery dal being served to BSF jawans on the border went viral, another BSF jawan posted in Gandhidham, Kutch, has uploaded a video on social media complaining of rampant corruption in the Border Security Force (BSF). “Money earmarked for the mess is also not spared. If we complain, there is only a one-sided inquiry. In 150 Battalion, liquor bought using the money collected for jawans is sold to outsiders,” alleged the BSF jawan, identified as Navchetan Chaudhary, in the video. “I want to ask the PM when will this corruption end. My DG says that secret complaint are acted upon. However, I have made several complaints but only got transferred frequently,” the head constable claimed. BSF officials said Chaudhary has done his Master of Arts and serves as a head constable- ministerial (clerk) in the BSF at Gandhidham. He was posted at Gandhidham a year ago and is currently on leave in Bikaner.”The jawan has never been deployed on the border and is finding fault with everything since his posting in Gujarat, about a year ago,” said a senior BSF official. “We ordered an inquiry into his allegations. He has also been called back from leave to substantiate his allegations with evidence. An inquiry against the jawan is also pending for his fault-finding attitude and escaping of responsibilities,” said the senior BSF official. The BSF official further said that there seems to be conspiracy to defame the force. “We have an online redressal facility. The jawan should have used it or approached senior officers at the frontier HQ where we discuss issues and problems on Mondays and Fridays,” he added.BSF officials said this is gross indiscipline and the BSF Act does not permit the way jawan has acted. “He has crossed all levels. He should have approached his sub-inspector or the DIG or should have directly approached the director general through the proper channel,” added a senior BSF official. (Times of India 30/1/17)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

276. Air pollution level in Kolkata among country’s highest (9)

KOLKATA: New Delhi may be reeling under severe air pollution, but Kolkata has not only touched the country’s capital city but have also surpassed the city quite a few days in terms of air pollution. A joint study by the British Deputy High Commission, UKAID and Kolkata Municipal Corporation that was released last year had found that the city was already the fifth highest among major cities in the country emitting 14.8 million tons of Green House Gas (GHG) and also the second highest contributor in terms of per capita CO2 emission, producing 3.29 tonnes of CO2 per capita. The major sources of air pollution include automobile exhausts which is about 50%, industrial emissions that is almost 48% and the rest 2% from cooking. The findings have been mentioned in details in the book ‘Roadmap For Low Carbon And Climate Resilient Kolkata’. It was during the visit of the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the city on November 14, 2013 that the UK government had signed a MOU with KMC on low carbon and climate resilient Kolkata. The study also finds that around 70% of the city’s 15 million inhabitants suffer from some form of respiratory problems caused by air pollution. The study specially mentioned that vector borne diseases like malaria and dengue as well as respiratory diseases will rise in the city due to the increasing pollution level. This proved to be true this year, with more than 50 persons have died from dengue and several thousand others affected.The study had come up with proposals as to how to combat and control the increasing air pollution in the city. It had suggested that KMC authorities should work together with the relevant state government departments to establish and enforce auto fuel quality guidelines and emission standards to lower pollution. According to former chief environment law officer Biswajit Mukherjee, a plan should be chalked out to control air pollution. “There was a plan discussed way back in 2011 to do something to prevent air pollution caused by firecrackers but it did not materialise. The issue should be looked into seriously now,” he said. State government officials said that the government has taken up a Green Cities mission stressing on developing low carbon urban township areas with special focus on environment. The plan is to stress on using pollution free solar power, battery and electric run vehicles and LED lights to have a low carbon output. State urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim recently held a meeting with all municipal bodies of the state by the end of this month to discuss on coming up with measures to control air pollution. (Times of India 3/1/17)

277. India emerged as key player on climate issues in 2016 (9)

New Delhi: India positioned itself as a major player in 2016 in the fight against global warming, ratifying the historic Paris agreement and also playing a “constructive” role in the Marrakesh climate summit to ensure actions are based on principles of “equity and climate justice”. Anil Madhav Dave, who took charge of the Environment Ministry in July, led the Indian delegation at the Marrakesh summit and also oversaw the signing ceremony of Framework Agreement on International Solar Alliance, to which over 20 countries are signatories. The ISA was jointly launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande at the CoP21 in Paris. It is an alliance of 121 solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partially between the tropic of Cancer and tropic of Capricorn. Countries including India at the Marrakesh climate change summit agreed to conclude the framing of rules for the implementation of Paris agreement by 2018. India along with more than 170 countries signed the Paris Agreement at the UN General Assembly on April 22, 2016. Apart from this, India also played a very crucial role in another climate summit held in October after it ordered incineration or elimination of HFC-23, a potent greenhouse gas with high global warming potential, after it steered the negotiations on the amendment in Montreal Protocol for amendment for phase down of HFCs at Kigali, Rwanda.India also took the lead on other climate issues with Dave emphasising the relevance of Indian lifestyle and its low carbon footprint at negotiations for phasing down of HFCs in Kigali. One hundred and ninety-seven nations, including India, struck a legally-binding deal after intense negotiations in Kigali to phase down hydrofluorocarbons. India welcomed the pact saying it is a reaffirmation of the global intent to mitigate climate change and exemplifies international cooperation in this regard. On the home front, poor air quality continued to be a concern for the government in the national capital as well as the Centre, as stubble burning in neighbouring states and burning of fire crackers during Diwali night and the week following it, led to quality of air deteriorating to “severe”…. (Business Standard 4/1/17)

278. Rainfall, climate change burning topics at meet (9)

TIRUPATI: There’s one topic that’s taken centerstage at the five-day 104th Indian Science Congress here — climate change and its effect on the human health and also the environment. Scientists and experts, including father of the Green Revolution M S Swaminathan, discussed the impact of climate change on food productivity, pollution, temperature and rainfall, with an eye on the survival of the human species. At a plenary session on food and nutrition security on Friday, Swaminathan called upon researchers to fight the negative impact of climate change and sea level rise. He warned that climate change would throw up new challenges for agricultural productivity and food security.National Biodiversity Authority chairperson Dr B Meena Kumari said climate change has already affected fish production. “Climate change is causing early maturity and changing the spawning patterns in fish. The life cycle of different species of fish has changed in India,” she said, urging scientists to conduct advanced research to find out the impact of climate change on fish and also the fishing industry. Wildlife Institute of India director Dr V B Mathur said climate change is affecting wildlife in the Himalayas. The institute is working on strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on wild species and ecosystems, he said. Dr R Krishnan of the Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology said high-resolution simulation studies of the South Asian monsoons showed increase in temperature due to global warming. He attributed the decrease in monsoon rainfall over India during the last few decades to increased human activity, greenhouse gases, aerosols, land-use changes and equatorial Indian Ocean warming. “A 21st century climate projection using a high-resolution model suggests the possibility of persistent increase of monsoonal rains and prolongation of soil drying,” he said. Professor R Ramesh of the Physical Research Laboratory said rainfall had decreased over the last 200 years. He said proxy records could be used to reconstruct the Indian summer monsoon patterns during the Halocene period or the last 10,000 years. The proxy records were obtained from speliotherms (cave deposits of calcium carbonate), tree rings and ocean sediments. (Times of India 7/1/17)

279. Delhi has worst air quality in India (9)

Delhi leads the list of most polluted cities in the country followed by several in UP , Jharkhand, Haryana and Bihar, a report by Greenpeace India has revealed. The list of 20 most polluted cities in the report, “Airapocalypse -assessment of air pollution in Indian cities“, is, however, significantly different from the findings of several others published by the government and other international organisations. This could be because the authors had to obtain data from RTI for nearly 48 cities out of the 168 assessed. The report has Delhi on top with PM 10 concentration of 268 micrograms per cubic metres, followed closely by Ghaziabad, Allahabad and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh; Faridabad in Haryana; Jharia in Jharkhand, Alwar in Rajasthan; Ranchi, Kusunda and Bastacola in Jharkhand; Kanpur in UP and Patna in Bihar with PM 10 concentrations ranging from 258 to 200 gm3. For most cities, PM 10 data for 2015 were used. For some, however, data for January to December 2015 weren’t available, so researchers conside red a year’s data starting March 2015. PM 10 data for Delhi, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Alwar, Ranchi, Kanpur, Patna and several others had to be sourced through RTI, said the authors. Sunil Dahiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India, said: “Data for all cities are not available in a common format on CPCB or state pollution control websites. Plus, for many cities no data are published online, which is why we had to file RTIs.“ Some data were available online for cities like Delhi, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and others, but again annual averages were not there. “For Delhi, for example, the DPCC website provides data stationwise and, often, there are gaps.So, we sourced even Delhi’s PM 10 average under RTI from DPCC,“ he said. Delhi’s PM 10 average is about 4.5 times higher than the national standard and about 13 times the annual limit set by WHO, with October to February being the very severe months. The report also throws light on areas that were not on the air pollution radar at all. It highlights how as many as 94 cities recorded annual avera ges of higher than 100 gm3 when the national annual PM 10 standard is 60 gm3; 13 cities and towns had an annual average of more than 200 gm3 -more than three times the standard. These include cities in the Indo-Gangetic plains, known to be extremely polluted, and places like Jharia, Kusunda and Bastacola in Jharkhand, located near coal mines. “The report clearly shows that air pollution is not restricted to Delhi. Thus, our pollution reduction strategies needs to be much more ambitious, systematic and with focused targets with clear timelines. Accountability and compliance mechanism should be in place, with no leniency towards fossil-fuel dependent sectors, such as power and transport.“ added Dahiya. WHO’s urban air quality database 2016, which used PM 10 and PM 2.5 data for 2013 and 2014 from various state pollution control boards, listed Gwalior on the top followed by Allahabad, Patna, Delhi, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Khanna, Firozabad and Lucknow.Data for smaller towns and cities were not considered at all for WHO report (Times of India 12/1/17)

280. 1,600 lives fell victim to extreme weather patterns in India in 2016, says IMD report (9)

New Delhi: Climate change is a phenomenon that is under constant worldwide scrutiny and have scientists, environmentalists and conservationists extremely worried. Human tendency to exert a negative influence on ecology has given rise to a rapid increase in burning of fossil fuels, emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, large-scale deforestation, loss of biodiversity, severe land degradation and environmental pollution. Time and again, we are confronted with massive changes around the world that bear testimony to the haunting impact of the ever-changing climate. Now, a report by the Indian Meteorologocal Department (IMD) has made an alarming statement saying that, extreme weather conditions across the country in 2016 has managed to claim 1600 lives altogether. 40 percent of the population fell victim to severe heat wave, with the rest killed by flooding and lightning. The IMD said 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded, globally as well as in India. Phalodi in Rajasthan recorded 51 degrees Celsius, highest ever recorded in the country. January and February were the warmest winter months ever, according to IMD, which records weather patterns since 1901. Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra topped the casualty list with the states contributing 35 per cent of the total. They together recorded 552 deaths due to extreme weather patterns. According to a report by the IMD, 40 percent of the total deaths were due to severe heat wave, which claimed more than 700 lives in the country, with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together recording the maximum deaths, that is, more than 400. Gujarat and Maharashtra registered 87 and 43 deaths due to heat waves respectively.Lightning claimed more than 415 lives and the worst hit were the eastern states of Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Odisha alone recorded more than 132 deaths due to lightning while 43 deaths occurred in Maharashtra. IMD last year started issuing summer and winter forecasts with heat wave and cold wave warnings. After two consecutive droughts, India last year had a normal monsoon, but several parts of the country witnessed heavy to very heavy rainfall, causing flooding in many areas. More than 475 lives were lost in floods and thunderstorms. Bihar alone saw nearly 146 deaths due to flooding between July 25 to September 3. 2016 saw four cyclonic storms in Bay of Bengal, the major being severe cyclonic storm Vardah, which killed 18 people in Tamil Nadu. “We have tried to minimise the loss of lives, especially in large scale events like cyclones and heavy rains. For example, accurate predictions helped minimise loss of lives during Vardah and prediction of heavy rains. But when it comes to events like lightning, it becomes difficult as at several instances it takes places in villages and hamlets. “In such a scenario, mobile companies can play a pro-active role in helping disseminate information in a particular district or hamlet by sending alerts,” IMD Director General K J Ramesh said. (Zee News 15/1/17)

281. Notifications on wetlands baffle green activists (9)

NEW DELHI: Two notifications on wetlands issued by the Union environment ministry on December 14 have puzzled legal activists who have been campaigning for protection of wetlands. One of these notifications is to announce the constitution of Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) -the nodal agency for identification, conservation and protection of wetlands- for a term of just two months.The other notification omits two clauses in the Wetland Rules 2010 on the constitution and term of the CWRA. This notification states that the authority will be constituted under the Environment Protection Act instead of under the Wetland Rules. Under the 2010 rules, the term of CWRA was for 3 years. These developments are significant because the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing an application seeking directions to the government to identify all wetlands in the country as specified in the Wetlands Rules (Conservation and Management) 2010. Environmentalists had filed two separate applications in NGT following a draft notification issued by the Union environment ministry in March 2016 on Wetlands Rules 2016 — a much watered down version of Wetland Rules 2010. In July 2016, NGT, while hearing the environmentalists’ plea, had directed that the CWRA hold meetings with all states and UTs every month to identify and notify all wetlands in the country. Before this order, CWRA had met only thrice since 2010.Again, on December 6, 2016, NGT ordered that CWRA hold a meeting on December 21 with representatives of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh to discuss delineation of wetlands. “Is the ministry going to reconstitute the authority on a temporary basis from time to time? One notification has constituted the CWRA for a period of 2 months only… it seems like the ministry is paving way for finalising the diluted Wetland Rules 2016,” said members of EIA Resource and Response Centre — an NGO focusing on environment impact assessment, in a statement. “Interestingly, in the ongoing litigation in NGT, the tribunal had ordered CWRA to meet every month and submit a compliance report, along with minutes of each meeting. It also seems like a clever ploy by the ministry to manoeuvre around the tribunals orders,” they added. As per the December 14, 2016 notification, CWRA members include secretary of the ministry of environment, representatives from ministry of tourism, water resources, agriculture and social welfare, the central pollution control board (CPCB), senior scientific adviser of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) Asad R Rahmani, ecology expert C K Varshney and hydrology expert E J James. (Times of India 16/1/17)

282. Dipping temperature, high humidity levels worsening air pollution in Mumbai (9)

MUMBAI: As minimum temperatures dipped and humidity levels continued to be high, pollution levels in the city breached the ‘very poor’ quality mark.On Tuesday, the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 307 on Tuesday. An AQI between 301 and 400 is considered ‘very poor’, which, according to SAFAR, means people with heart or lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart disease or ischemic heart disease should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. On Monday, the AQI recorded was 250. Researchers from SAFAR said the increase in pollution levels could be attributed to winter conditions and high moisture levels. “Mumbai’s humidity levels have remained high for the past few days and maximum temperatures are below normal, hence, the pollutants get trapped, making the air heavy. Low wind speeds have also not allowed the pollutants to disperse quickly,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR. Among the 10 locations monitored by SAFAR, six recorded an AQI in the ‘very poor’ category and four remained in ‘poor’ category on Tuesday. Mazgaon was the most polluted at 395 and Worli was least polluted at 220. On Tuesday, the minimum temperatures at Santacruz and Colaba were 16.6 and 20 degrees Celsius respectively, lower compared to Monday. The maximum temperatures were below normal with Santacruz and Colaba recording 29.7 and 28 degrees Celsius respectively—1.5 and 0.7 degrees below normal. The AQI is expected to improve to 302 on Wednesday, but it will still be in ‘very poor’ category. (Times of India 18/1/17)

283. India needs 12 crore toilets, says Sulabh founder Pathak (9)

Bengaluru, India needs over 12 crore toilets to get rid of the tag of the country with most number of people practising open defecation, said Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International. Pathak told DH on Friday that the government alone cannot do it. He termed the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBM) an inspiring initiative but fraught with hurdles due to the bureaucracy and substandard works by contractors. He also doubted the success of the Abhiyan and its goal of making the country open-defecation free by 2019. Pathak said only a network of spirited NGOs can ensure quality infrastructure and suggested non-resident Indians, corporate social responsibility and charity donations as three promising financing models. “The toilets built with subsidy from the Centre do not have two pits, something which will make them unusable within a matter of five-six years. We should focus on durable infrastructure,” he said. His views assume importance against the backdrop of last year’s study by the Centre for Policy Research which found that nearly 40% of the toilets built under the SBM were unusable. Sulabh has 295 restrooms spread across 28 districts of Karnataka. The founder of the country-wide sanitation facility was in the city to receive an award from the New York-based Rocheston Accreditation Institute. (Deccan Herald 21/1/17)

284. NGT challenged for objecting to EIA exemption to real estate (9)

New Delhi: The Union Environment Ministry on Monday challenged the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stating that it does not have jurisdiction to quash its notification exempting certain construction projects from obtaining the environment clearance. The tribunal on January 5, said that the Union environment’s notification — a subordinate legislation — shall not be adhered until further ordersThe Environment Ministry on December 9, 2016 issued a notification exempting big buildings and real estate projects spanning an area of 20,000 sq. m. to 1,50,000 sq. m. from getting environment clearance. The ministry however challenged the NGT, stating that the green court has no power there. “We have taken the preliminary objection as the notification was a subordinate legislation issued by Environment Minister to which the NGT has no jurisdiction to quash. Now its for the tribunal to decide,” Divya Prakash Pandey, Union Environment Ministry’s counsel told IANS. The ministry’s notification rejected by the Tribunal also replaced the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) authority from the state of centre to the local urban authorities like municipalities or development authority. The green court made the observation following the petition of an NGO Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. (Business Stndard 23/1/17)

285. Soon, plants to treat construction waste in 29 Rajasthan cities (9)

JAIPUR: The state government has decided to set up a Construction and Demolition of Waste Processing Plant (CDWP) in 29 cities including state capital, Jaipur. In these plants, construction waste would be processed and recycled to produce bricks, tiles and concrete blocks. “For Jaipur, the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) has completed the tender process. Two companies have shown expression of interest (EOI) to set up this plant. Soon one company will be selected for the same,” said a senior JMC official. In the state capital, 1,300 tonnes per day (TPD) of municipal solid waste is produced. Out of which, 274 (TPD) construction waste material is lifted from the road sides near the construction sites. It is estimated that 941 (TPD) construction waste is produced in the entire state. “In Jaipur the company will set up to recycle 300 (TDP) waste. The estimated cost of the plant will be Rs 6 crore for Jaipur. Nearly 6 acres of land will be required to establish the plant. Land will be allotted near the existing dumping stations,” official said. Construction debris in Jaipur and other cities of the state is choking roads, wetlands and green areas and the problem is becoming more acute every year. Dumped callously wherever there is space, it is rarely recycled on a large scale. Once these plants will be established, the state government will be able to recycle 70- 80% of the construction waste. “We have estimated Rs 48 crore to establish these plants in 29 cities, which will recycle 1050 (TDP) waste,” the official said. As per the proposal, the JMC and local bodies will provide a helpline number for developers, private firms and government buildings to get construction and demolition waste cleared from their sites and disposed of at designated sites. This will put an end to the haphazard dumping of construction debris. “The awarded firm will lift the debris and waste from the construction sites, in return it would charge Rs 150 to Rs 200 per ton,” the official said. (Times of India 26/1/17)

286. Bringing back a biodiversity hotspot to life (9)

AMEENPUR (SANGAREDDY DIST): A catwalk by college girls with face painted and carrying the cut-outs of native bird species added zest to the festivities at Ameenpur lake here on Saturday. The atmosphere at Manohara Ameenpur, a programme organised by the Telangana State Special Protection Force (TSSPF) in association with Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) and Friends of Flora and Fauna (FoFF), was upbeat and the event saw a large turnout of youth, including school and college students, and wildlife photography enthusiasts. The wildlife photographers put on display their photos shot on the location enabling the visitors to identify the species of birds that regularly visit the lake, a biodiversity hotspot. The tank attracts 227 species of birds from different parts of the world. Officials also have identified some local varieties of fish in the tank. “This is one of the important sites that we have to conserve. It is India’s first biodiversity destination identified by the government,” said Aswin Kadiyala, one of the wildlife photographers representing HBP. As part of the programme to conserve the tank, over 5,000 saplings were planted on the bund and its surrounding areas. The TSSPF has adopted the Ameenpur lake system on August 7, 2015, and since then, it has taken up many initiatives to protect the tank and improve the ecosystem. The officials too were successful in arresting the release of polluted water and wastage from polluting industries into the tank. As many as 200 staff of the TSSPF have cleaned the tank for over 100 times so far.Patancheru legislator G. Mahipal Reddy, after participating in the programme, said they have proposed to establish a sewage treatment plant (STP) to clean the tank and said it could be developed as a tourism spot.Director General of TSSPF, Tejdeep Kaur Menon, said they were making efforts for the past two years to keep the tank clean and avoid pollution. She said a meeting with the Government Special Advisor, Rajiv Sharma, was scheduled for January 31 in which various issues would be discussed, including industrial pollution and establishment of the STP. (The Hindu 29/1/17)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

287.  41% rise in suicide in farm sectors in 2015 (20)

New Delhi: The distress in the farm sector claimed the lives of 8,007 people in 2015, a 41% rise from the previous year, with Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka accounting for the maximum number of farmers’ suicide. A total of 4,595 agricultural labourers also took their lives, taking the total number of suicides in the farming sector to 12,602, an increase from the 12,360 in 2014, according to the ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2015’ report. Bankruptcy, debt and farming-related issues alone accounted for 58.18% (4,659) suicides, a trend which was witnessed in the previous years, too. “The highly erratic/inadequate monsoon in the last two to three years has aggravated the problems for persons engaged in the farming sector, manifestations of these in extreme situations can be seen in the form of farmers’ suicides,” the report by National Crime Records Bureau said. The majority of farmers’ suicides were reported in Maharashtra (3,030), followed by Telangana (1,358) and Karnataka (1,197). But if one adds the suicides of agricultural labourers, Karnataka rises to second position (1,569), only below Maharashtra (4,291). An analysis of the figures showed a reversal in the trend in suicides among farmers and labourers. While in 2014, the number of suicides of labourers (6,710) was higher compared to that of the farmers (5,650), it was reversed in 2015. When it comes to the cause of suicides among farmers, Karnataka had more reasons to worry as 79% (946 out of 1,197) suicides were due to bankruptcy or debt. This was also the cause for 42.7% suicides in Maharashtra and 46.5% in Telangana. (Deccan Herald 2/1/17)

288. 322 per cent rise in farmer suicide cases in Andhra Pradesh (20)

VIJAYAWADA: In what could be a chilling indictment of measures initiated by the successive governments to bail out the farmers from deep crisis, the suicides by the ryoths are only growing by each passing year. Notwithstanding the state government’s tall claims on launching several pro-farmers measures including pumping of waters from a slew of irrigation schemes, Andhra Pradesh has bagged a dubious distinction with high rate of suicides of farmers. While the situation in most agriculture dominant states is more or less the same, staggering rise in farmers suicides in AP could be a blot on the state government’s image. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) confirmed the shocking fact of 322 per cent rise in the farmers suicides in the state during 2015 over 2014. NCRB released the country wide data on suicides in farming sector recently in which AP has been listed as one of the top states which are contributing to the high rate of suicides. In fact, NCRB started collecting the exclusive data on farmers suicides only from 2014 keeping in view of the growing agrarian crisis while it used to club the statistics with overall suicides in the past.The suicides in AP went up to 516 in 2015 from mere 160 reported in 2014. It may be a small number when compared to the suicides in neighbouring telugu state-Telangana which reported around 1358 deaths. However, the growth rate of suicides in Telangana is around 152 percent while it was shocking rise of 322 percent in AP. However, the agriculture minister Prattipati Pullarao had strongly denied the report. “To my knowledge, the farmers suicides have come down in AP and it will further come down in future. Our aim is to completely bail out the farmers from all kinds of crises,” reacted agriculture minister Prattipati Pullarao. He, however, could not defend with statistics as he was busy in shuttling from one village to another to attend Janmabhoomi programme in Guntur district on Wednesday. Experts in agriculture sector said that farmers having small land holdings, over dependency on monsoon, insufficient irrigation facilities, cheap credit and insurance are contributing to the most of the tragic decisions by the farmers. Highly erratic and inadequate monsoon in last 2-3 years has aggravated the problems for persons engaged in farming sector, manifestations of these in extreme situations were seen in rise of farmers’ suicides. “Crisis is result of state government’s negligence. Over five lakh farmers from Ananathapuram district have migrated to other states in search of work. How could they say that the there is no crisis,” fumed former ICAR member MVS Nagireddy. He said that instead of seeking central assistance to over the situation state is making false claims about growth rate leading to the large number of suicides. He said that declaration of all the 63 mandals in Ananthapuram as drought-hit by the state government for the three consecutive years itself an example of grave situation. NCRB analysed that bankruptcy, indebtedness and farming related issues as major causes of suicides among farmers. It said that about 4479 out of 8,007 suicides reported chiefly due to the indebtedness. This accounts to a whopping 55.9 percent of the total suicides. Similarly, 2193 out of 8,007 suicides were reported due to farming related issues. This accounts to about 27.3 percent of the total suicides. This means that farming related issues including non-availability of credit and marketing facilities alone contributed to nearly 83 percent of the farmers suicides during 2015. The other prominent causes of farmer suicides were family problems, health reasons, drug abuse including addiction to the liquor. (Times of India 5/1/17)

289. Farmer suicides up 42% between 2014 & 2015 (20)

MUMBAI: Farmer suicides in the country rose by 42% between 2014 and 2015, according to newly released data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 5,650 suicides by farmers and cultivators in 2014. The figure rose to 8,007 in the latest data. Several states across the country battled severe drought in both 2014 and 2015. Some, including Maharashtra, experienced two successive years of drought. With 3,030 cases, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of farmer suicides in the country (37.8%). Telangana was second, with 1,358 cases, and Karnataka third with 1,197. Six states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka accounted for 94.1% of total farmer suicides. In fact, farmer suicides shot up even though as many as nine states and seven Union territories recorded no case at all in the NCRB figures.Aamir Khan aims at making Maharashtra drought-free, launches music video sung by wife Kiran Rao to promote the causeThe states which reported nil farmer suicides in 2015 include Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand. “Highly erratic and inadequate monsoon in the last two-three years has aggravated problems for persons engaged in the farming sector. Manifestations of these in extreme situations can be seen in the form of farmers’ suicides,” the report said. 38 lakh in Maharashtra hit by drought of notes in rural cooperative bankshile the data showed a sharp rise in suicides by farmers, it also recorded a steep 31.5% decline in suicides by agricultural labourers in the country during the same period. …  (Times of India 6/1/17)

290. 28 farmers committed suicide in TN in three months, association says (20)

COIMBATORE: The Tamil Nadu Farmers Association (non-political) on Monday claimed that 128 farmers across the state have committed suicide in the last three months due to crop failure. The association said it is time all the districts in the state are declared as drought-hit. The government must pay compensations to all farmers and the families of those who have committed suicide.The farmers’ association said that though the government refuses to acknowledge it, 128 farmers have committed suicide due to crop failure and the resulting debt. “While a majority of them have happened in the delta region, four of them of have occurred in the Kongu belt,” said association state secretary Dr C Thangaraj. “It is spreading like a disease,” he said. “But the state government refuses to announce it officially as farmer suicides or the exact cause that drove them to suicide,” he said.The farmers’ association urged the government to immediately to declare compensation for the dead farmers’ families. “They have to give a government job to a member of each of the families, a compensation of Rs 25,000 an acre and a one-time compensation of Rs 10 lakh to each family,” he said. “That is the only way the children in the family can study and grow in future,” he said. The farmers’ association submitted a petition to the district administration. (Times of India 9/1/17)

291. 7 states share 87% of farmer suicides (20)

Maharashtra tops the list followed by Karnataka, Telangana, MP, AP, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu.

The New Year has opened up on a rather depressing note. A day after the partying was over, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) released its latest report on farmer suicides. Accordingly, the trend shows a steep rise with 12,602 farmers committing suicide in 2015, the latest year for which data has been collected. On an average, one farmer, ended his own life every 41 minutes somewhere in India. Compiling the farm suicides figures released officially so far, between 1995 and 2015, a period of 21 years, a total of 3,18,528 farmers have committed suicide. This is nothing but a serial death dance being enacted on the farm. Call it by any name, the unending saga of farmer suicides is certainly an outcome of the faulty economic policies being initiated all these years whereby farmers have been deliberately kept impoverished. Agriculture has been systematically rendered economically unviable as a result of which farmers have been pushed into a vicious cycle of indebtedness. Even in Punjab, the food bowl of the country, while farm incomes have remained static, farm indebtedness has multiplied 22 times in the past decade. True to what former Prime Minister Charan Singh had once said (“a farmer is born in debt and dies in debt”), the appalling distress levels have only worsened. Even the latest NCRB data shows mounting indebtedness and farm-related issues to be the primary reason of farmer suicides. The other two main causes – poverty and illness, too can be clubbed in the same category. Both are related directly to declining incomes. And how deeply the farmers are buried under indebtedness becomes evident from a study done by the Chandigarh-based Centre for Research on Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). According to it, 96% of the rural households in Punjab have incomes lower than the expenses. In all, 98% of the rural families remain indebted. With 4,291 suicides recorded, Maharashtra tops the chart. This is a little higher from the 4,004 farm suicides reported a year earlier, in 2014. For two consecutive years — 2014 and 2015 — Maharashtra has been holding the dubious distinction with a third of the total farm suicides reported in the country happening within its borders…. (Deccan Herald 11/1/17)

292.  NE monsoon worst in 140 Years, 144 farmers dead, TN declares drought (20)

The Tamil Nadu government declared a drought on January 10, 2017, after 144 farmers ended their lives (according to media reports here and here) between October and December, 2016. As many as 106 farmers were reported to have committed suicide in one month, according to this notice issued by the National Human Rights Commission to the state government on January 5, 2017. The retreating northeast monsoon—usually unnoticed in India owing to the singular importance of the larger southwest monsoon—in 2016 was the worst ever over the last 140 years, according to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) records, since 1876. “It is an unprecedented situation,” S. Panneerselvam, Professor and Head, Agro Climate Research Centre, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, told IndiaSpend. “It has severely affected 21 of 32 districts of Tamil Nadu.” “Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal on January the 16th,” said Panneerselvam. “It is when the harvest begins, but the yield this time is going to be the worst the state will see.” On January 5, 2017, reservoirs in Tamil Nadu were at less than 20% of their capacity, cited as the worst ever for the state.Record-keeping began in 1871, but a worse northeast monsoon, which sweeps across Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, south interior Karnataka and Kerala, between October and December, was recorded in 1876, making 2016 the year of the second-worst monsoon in 145 years. Overall, the northeast monsoon was 45% short of the average for this period, the state worst hit being Tamil Nadu, where rainfall for the season was 62% short of normal. Although the southwest monsoon–which waters the subcontinent between June and September–was classified as normal across India (3% below average), it was 19% deficient in Tamil Nadu. Hit by shortages from both monsoons, Tamil Nadu, where the winter crop depends more on the northeast monsoon than in any other Indian state, reported a 33% drop in the winter sowing of rice, according to latest crop sowing situation report, updated weekly by the agriculture ministry. (Business Standard 12/1/17)

293. Activists question NCRB data that pegs suicides by women farmers at 5.5% (20)

MUMBAI: There is barely a farm in India without a woman on it. In fact many jobs including preparing the field, sowing and transplanting saplings are overwhelmingly done by women. Yet only 5.5% of the 8,007 farmer suicides recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) are by women farmers. The NCRB’s latest data for 2015 records 7,566 suicides by male and 441suicides by women farmers and cultivators. Even among agricultural labourers, the NCRB records 4,018 suicides by men and 577 by women. Women account for only 12.5% of the 4,595 suicide victims among agricultural labourers in India, according to the NCRB.Critics say this is a drastic under-count, stemming from the fact that most statistics do not sufficiently recognize women as farmers or reflect the number of women engaged in farming in the country . “In the National Sample Survey (NSS), women farmers are typically classified as “unpaid helpers in the family enterprise,” says Jayati Ghosh, economics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University . There is also another category in NSS data for those not even considered to be in the farm labour force, known as Code 93. “This includes those mainly engaged in domestic duties but also involved in other activities like fetching fuel, raising livestock as well as cultivating a vegetable patch on their own land,” she says. The number of women listed in this category has increased in recent surveys, Ghosh points out. NCRB data is even more limited because police stations that compile the number of suicides look for legal proof before aknowledging that the victim was a farmer, says Ghosh. The lack of legal rights on land poses a major hindrance in recording women involved in farm work. “This includes a land title or tenancy agreement in the person’s name and most women involved in farming do not have these,” she points out. Suicides by women farmers are less common but not that unusual, says Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. “They don’t get recorded because women are often landless or the land is not in their name. In some cases, the families themselves don’t reveal it is a suicide, fearing social stigma,” says Tiwari. (Times of India 17/1/17)

294. Farmer commits suicide in N.R.Pura taluk (20)

Chikkamagaluru: A farmer, unable to repay the loans he borrowed from a bank and a microfinance institution, committed suicide by jumping into the Tunga backwaters near Kusuburu in N.R.Pura taluk on Monday. Venkaramana Naika (65) owned four acres and 13 guntas of land. He had borrowed Rs.5 lakh from Syndicate Bank at Muttinakoppa, besides Rs. 58,000 from a microfinance institution. As the yield in his farm was low he was worried over clearing the loans, according to his son Rathish. He plunged into the Tunga early morning on Monday. Later his body was recovered. N.R.Pura police have registered a complaint. (The Hindu 17/1/17)

295. ‘Farmer had cleared bank loan a week before his suicide’ (20)

Chikkamagaluru:  It has come to light that a farmer, who had committed suicide at Kusuburu in N.R. Pura taluk on Sunday, had cleared his bank loan by selling off one acre of his land only a week before his death. His relatives said that he had been under tremendous pressure to clear the loan and this eventually led to his suicide. Venkataramana Naika (65), plunged into the Tunga near his village on Sunday evening. His family learned about the death only after his body was found in the river the next day. He is survived by his wife, Indramma, and two children. Speaking to The Hindu on the phone on Friday, Ms. Indramma said, “Only a week ago, he had sold an acre of his land and cleared the dues in the bank. My son, Rathish, had accompanied him to the bank to clear the loan. The bank officials repeatedly forced him to clear it,” she said. Venkataramana had borrowed Rs. 5 lakh from Syndicate Bank at Muttinakoppa in N.R. Pura taluk. Ms. Indramma said she was unaware of how much he had earned from the sale of the land. However, she was sure that he had cleared the loan. “He was deeply upset because he had to sell a part of his land. Even after this, there were more loans that he had borrowed from people in the village to clear off,” she said. The family had three acres of land.Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Kissan Cell president Sachin Miga met the family members on Thursday and later submitted a memorandum to the senior police officers in Chikkamagaluru to take action against the bank officials. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

296. Farmers urge Centre to reduce tax on cigarette industry (20)

New Delhi: A farmers body on Monday urged the Centre to reduce tax on the cigarette industry to enable tobacco growers to get the right prices for their crop. The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) said the measure was required as the tobacco farmers’ agricultural output was currently in less demand by the cigarette companies. The association– representing millions of farmers of commercial crops in India — said tobacco provides livelihood to 4.6 crore farmers, farm labour, retailers and bidi workers. It claimed that it was witnessing a continued onslaught in terms of punitive and sustained increase in taxation and impractical regulation over the past few years. “We are very disturbed because of the declining off-take from the domestic manufacturers. The Indian tobacco exports are also sluggish and this has resulted in 22 per cent decline in the farmers’ returns,” said Murali Babu, General Secretary, FAIFA. A Regulatory overreach has created panic and strain for the flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco farmers in the country, he added. For the first time in independent India, 22 FCV farmers have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, Babu said. According to the FAIFA general secretary, the suicides of tobacco farmers were a result of the excessive increase in the excise duties levied on tobacco products. There was a cumulative increase of 118 per cent since 2012-13, leading to 22 per cent shrinkage in the legal cigarette volumes, Babu said. “The steep increase in the excise duty has led to smuggling of cigarettes in the country due to the high tax arbitrage,” he said. India is the world’s second largest producer and third largest exporter of tobacco, earning the country foreign exchange of more than Rs 6,000 crore. “Any further tax increase on the already over-taxed legal tobacco industry will only accelerate the process of diversion of tobacco consumption into the illicit and the unorganized tobacco sector,” Babu added. “This would lead to adverse consequences on revenue collection and the tobacco control objectives of the government and serious implications on the farmers livelihood,” he said. (Business Standard 23/1/17)

297. SC favours national policy over farmers’ suicides (20)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday favoured a comprehensive national policy to protect farmers, many of whom have committed suicide due to rising debt and crop failures caused by natural calamities, terming it a “sensitive” matter of public interest and human rights. “It is a sensitive matter of larger public interest and human rights which covers the entire country,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said. The bench, on its own, expanded the scope of the petition which has raised the issue of farmers’ suicides in Gujarat, to entire country. “In this matter, we are of the view that all states should assist and accordingly we implead all state governments, Union Territories, the Centre and the RBI,” the bench said asking them to file their responses in four weeks. The court was hearing the appeal, filed by NGO ‘Citizens Resource and Action and Initiative’ on issues relating to farmers in Gujarat.During the brief hearing, the court said that many farmers were committing suicide because of crop failure and indebtedness and yet there was no national policy to protect them. The PIL which was confined to Gujarat had sought compensation to families of 619 debt-ridden farmers who allegedly committed suicide in the state since 2003. The NGO has also sought a direction to the state to pay compulsory financial aid of Rs 30,000 per hectare to the farmers who suffered crop failure. It has challenged the July 10, 2013 order of the Gujarat High Court dismissing its plea for compensation and alleged that farmers were being neglected by the state government. During the hearing, the court was told that there is another PIL on the issue of farmer suicides pending before it in which the Centre had in 2015 filed an affidavit stating that the number of suicide deaths of farmers had declined since 2009 and there were factors other than agrarian which had led them to take their lives. The affidavit of Ministry of Agriculture had submitted that out of a total of over one lakh suicides in the country in 2013, farmer suicides were recorded at 8.7 per cent. Referring to the data maintained by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) as per which the number of suicides by persons self-employed in farming/agriculture in 2009 was 17,368 which had come down to 11,772 in 2013. It had submitted that as against the total population of 122 crore (estimated) during 2013, the total number of suicides in the country was 1,34,799, of which suicides under the category of self-employed (farming/agriculture) was 11,772 which is 8.73 per cent of the total suicides. Earlier, the apex court had indicated that the suicides may be linked to certain inherent deficiencies in the National Policy for Farmers, 2007, which may be revisited. (Times of India 28/1/17)

298. Farmers demand drought-hit status for affected mandals (20)

VISAKHAPATNAM: With the northeast monsoon failing to impress, farmers of Visakhapatnam district who have planted their second crop of the year are worried about the impact of the dry weather and falling water tables. The second crop in the district, especially in the upland areas and dry plains, are chiefly lentil crops such as sesame, horse gram, black gram and other types of dal.”Though these crops are dry weather crops and require very little water support, they need to be watered at least once every 10 days on an average during the 80-day period and this year we believe that the water table levels have badly shrunk,” said K Ram Babu, a farmer from Eti Gavirampeta, Narsipatnam division. Sources in the government agriculture department disclosed that almost 1,000 water tanks used for small scale irrigation have dried up and so have the hill streams feeding them. Badly hit by demonetisation, the farmers were hoping to make something out of their second crop this year. E Raman Prasad, a farmer from Uratla observed, “Lack of water is a problem in the upland areas of Narsipatnam and Anakapalli divisions. Much of the agriculture in these zones is hence dry crop agriculture. Now, with the northeast monsoon playing truant, the farmers are in for trouble.” Officials said a vast majority of the farmers, however, would not be troubled too much. K Srinivasulu of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra said, “Much of the land in the upland areas of Narsipatnam and Anakapalli plains is either under horticulture such as mango and cashew or timber (Casuarina, Acacia). Hence the loss of crop would be negligible.” He further added, over all not more than 10 mandals should be affected. The farmers, however, maintain that they would face severe losses due to lack of rains and further demanded that the district be declared drought hit. “The authorities cannot claim that farmers will not be affected just because the mango and cashew are in bloom. They must understand that the second crop is equally important, especially for food security. They should at least identify mandals which will be very badly affected and declare them drought hit, if not the entire district, ” Raman observed. (Times of India 29/1/17)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

299. Land Acquisition Act amendments gives Amaravati farmers the jitters (4)

AMARAVATI: State government’s decision to go for amendment of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013-popularly known as Land Acquisition Act, 2013 is creating ripples in the capital city area. The local farmers, who successfully resisted the government’s efforts of taking over the green fields after the announcement of the capital city, are worried that their hopes to hold to the fields might shortly end. The state cabinet on Saturday moved a proposal to study the recently amended Gujarat land acquisition with an ultimate aim to make similar amendments to the state law and go for forcible acquisition. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act, 2013 legislated by previous UPA regime, summarily prohibits acquisition of multi-crop irrigated lands for any purpose including for government projects. In fact, the BJP led NDA government made vain bid to amend the land acquisition Act last year. It issued an Ordinance removing certain clauses from the 2013 Act citing that they are against the development. Following the countrywide uproar and protests even from the BJP’s own farmers wing-Kisan Morcha, NDA government made an attempt to pacify the farmers groups and moved a bill in the parliament. After failing to muster the numbers in Rajya Sabha, the government had finally allowed the Ordinance to face the natural death and gave up the attempt to tinker with the UPA Act. However, BJP national leadership encouraged its own state governments to go ahead with the proposed amendments and get the President’s accent. Gujarat is the first government to go for such controversial amendments to the old Act in last August. The Gujarat government removed section 300 A of the Central Act which it made it mandatory for any government to follow a certain guidelines to acquire the land from the farmers. It also removed section 31 (A) of the Act which prescribed the stringent guidelines for the acquisition. As per the guidelines, the conduct of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is a must for acquisition of land for any project. With the removal of this clause, the state government is empowered to take the land from the farmers by offering compensation without conduct of SIA. “Making such amendments is nothing but disregarding the Act made by the parliament and the democratic process,” alleged farmers leader and advocate Mallela Seshagiri Rao. The Gujarat Act had also done with Chapter II and III which prevented the acquisition of multi-crop irrigated lands. “Acquisition of green fields was prohibited to protect the food security of the nation. Removing such a crucial clause is nothing but acting against the poor and farmers of the country,” said a farmer G Naresh Reddy of Penumaka. Defending the need to change certain clauses of the 2013 Act particularly to take up projects like capital city, agriculture minister Prattipati Pullarao said that TDP government had offered a decent compensation to the farmers under Land Pooling Scheme (LPS). “How reasonable for 0.5 percent people to act against 99.5 percent who parted with their lands for the capital city. The government is left with no option but to go for acquisition in such case,” he explained. The state government acquired nearly 33,000 acres of land under LPS and planning to take over another 6,000-8,000 acres through acquisition mode after making requisite amendments to the Land Act. (Times of India 2/1/17)

300.  Land acquisition compensation: Kochi civic body faces attachment proceedings (4)

KOCHI: Financial burden caused by land acquisition for various projects is likely to cost the Kochi corporation dear. On Tuesday, officials from district court were at the corporation office to attach official cars of mayor, deputy mayor and corporation secretary. This follows the failure of the civic body to comply with a court order to compensate additionally a person from whom land had been acquired for widening the Sahodaran Ayyappan Road. Several court cases have been filed against the civic body demanding additional compensation for land acquired for various projects. Earlier, TOI had carried a story detailing the consequences if the corporation authorities continue to handle land acquisition cases carelessly . In many of the cases counsels employed by them failed to effectively defend the civic body . The civic body will have to shell out at least Rs 20 crore more for land acquired for widening SA Road and constructing Ponnurunni ROB. Additional compensation to be paid to land owners for the solid waste treatment plant at Brahmapuram is around Rs 70 crore. During the 2000-2010 period, land was acquired on either side of Sahodaran Ayyappan (SA) road for widening. Though the land owners were given compensation as per the rate fixed by revenue department, they were not satisfied. Later, the land owners sought additional compensation, but the civic body refused to pay.The land owners then moved the court which gave them a favourable verdict. After the local body failed to pay Rs 1.83 crore to the petitioner, the court was moved again for implementation of the order. The court issued orders to attach the properties of Kochi corporation. Following the move to attach property including official cars, the corporation authorities gave an assurance that they would take immediate measures to pay the additional compensation. “It was while I was leaving my office for attending a function that the officials from the court reached here. I instructed them to contact corporation secretary. The move is in connection with delay in giving additional compensation to one of the land owners whose holding was taken over for a project,” said deputy mayor TJ Vinod. He said that none of the pro perties including the official cars of top authorities were attached on Tuesday. Corporation secretary Haritha V Kumar said that the civic body would start immediate measures to comply with the court order. (Times of India 4/1/17)

301. CBI to probe alleged diversion of compensation funds for land-acquisition (4)

NEW DELHI:  A former district revenue official and some bank officials were allegedly involved in the siphoning of funds. The case has been registered on the basis of a complaint lodged by the State vigilance bureau. It is alleged that the then District Revenue Officer Naresh Kumar Sheokand, the then Punjab National Bank (PNB) Senior Manager Bhim Singh and others had entered into a conspiracy to divert the funds between 2012 and 2015. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) alleged that the bank account opened for the purpose of compensating the farmers showed a deficit of ₹47 crore in June 2015. The land had been acquired for industrial development.The State vigilance department took up the investigation and found that more than ₹37 crore had been released to at least 17 non-beneficiaries. The funds were transferred through RTGS, draft or cheque. It is also alleged that about ₹250 crore was diverted in 2013 and again credited into the account after a month.The transactions, under scrutiny, were conducted through the branches of PNB in Delhi and Panchkula, J&K Bank in Chandigarh, IndusInd Bank in Panchkula, Maharashtra Bank in Yamunanagar, Canara Bank and Central Bank of India in Delhi. The CBI has invoked relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, naming the former revenue official and the then Punjab National Bank Senior Manager as accused. (The Hindu 8/1/17)

302. Gandikota reservoir to displace 9,000 families (4)

HYDERABAD: The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) on Tuesday approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the submergence of six villages in Kondapur mandal of Kadapa district by Gandikota reservoir. The NAPM alleged that the AP government did not follow the “due process of law and rehabilitation as per the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and AP Rehabilitation Policy, 2005.Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is scheduled to formally inaugurate the Gandikota project on Wednesday. NAPM said that thousands of people will be displaced by the project.The state government itself agrees that more than 9,000 families will be affected. “Most people claim they are yet to receive compensation. Notably , there are serious flaws in the land acquisition. Rehabilitation is far from satisfactory . Over the past two weeks hundreds of elderly people, women, men and children have been peacefully protesting on the streets,” the NAPM said in its petition seeking the intervention of the NHRC. (Times of India 11/1/17)

 

303.  Industry, realty eat into farmland (4)

HYDERABAD: The extent of arable land in Telangana has registered a decline due to growth in industry, construction of houses, urbanisation and infrastructure development. This was revealed by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics of the government in its report on agricultural statistics for 2015-16.The report revealed that the land put to non-agricultural uses rose from 8.19 lakh hectares in 2008-09 to 8.92 lakh hectares in 2015-16. The net area sown for the two periods fell from 42.33 lakh hectares in 2008-09 to 41.75 lakh hectares in 2015-16. However, since the net sown area under various crops is also dependent on the vagaries of weather, the data shows a fluctuating trend since 2008-09 with peak sown area of 49.23 lakh hectares in 2013-14. With regard to the subsequent fall to 43.77 lakh hectares in 2014-15 and to 41.75 lakh hectares in 2015-16, the adverse monsoon was found to be responsible. The revelation that increasing extend of land is being so ught for non-agriculture purposes, comes at a time when the state has been facing challenges over land acquisition for various projects. The report said that among the reasons for the fall in the extent of arable land in the state were setting up of industries, urbanisation and infrastructure development.

Latest Comment The government had been fighting a series of battles with the opposition as well as in the courts over its land acquisition plans for various projects, especially in the wake of its efforts to acquire land under the provisions of the now controversial GO 123.The order allows the government to purchase of land from farmers and others for its projects in return for a one-time compensation. The opposition has been criticising this method saying it robs the rehabilitation guaranteed under the Land Acqusition Act. The deficiency in rainfall during 2014-15 and 2015-16 “aggravated the drought conditions in the state hindering the growth of state’s economy in general and agriculture, in particular,” the report said.While 45 mandals recorded 20% deficiency in rain during this period, the fall was by 60% in nine mandals of the Mahbubnagar, Nizamabad and Medak districts. (Times of India 11/1/17)

304.  IFFCO Kisan SEZ ordered to return tank to farmers (4)

NELLORE: After a prolonged agitation, the farmers of Racharlapadu and Regadi Chelika villages near Nellore city could get orders from the district administration in favour of them with regard to the rights over the large village tank spread in an extent of over 60 acres in the Racharlapadu panchayat limits.This tank land has been in the possession of the IFFCO Kisan SEZ (special economic zone) which has taken over this land years ago for using it for the industries and factories to be developed in the SEZ lands. The farmers began an agitation later stating that their livelihoods would be lost totally if the village tank was to be given for industrial development. After years of agitation, the farmers’ leaders approached the High Court and filed a petition saying that their rights were encroached upon with their village tank being taken away by the Kisan SEZ in the name of bringing in industries and factories. The court had directed the district administration a few weeks ago to conduct a full enquiry and order the Kisan SEZ management to ensure justice to the farmers. Following this, District Collector R. Mutyala Raju along with officials from the irrigation, panchayat raj, revenue departments and the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) visited the IFFCO Kisan SEZ and inspected the entire stretch of over 2,774 acres land given to it way back in 1996 itself. Mr. Raju and his team of officials also interacted with the farmers and received their feedback on the status of the 60 acres village tank at Racharlapadu. After considering the details from both sides, Mr. Raju ordered the Kisan SEZ management to vacate and hand over the tank to farmers. “Yes, these orders have been issued already. We have also received a copy here. The SEZ management is expected to take action soon in this regard,” said D. Ramakrishna, Tehsildar, Kodavaluru mandal, in which SEZ lands are located.Since the beginning, the Kisan SEZ has been embroiled in a series of controversies. The initial concept was to develop a huge urea factory in the SEZ centre for which 2,774 acres were acquired in 1996. This comprised patta, government and endowment land. The farmers expected huge benefit if the factory materialized. But the management could not show any progress in regard to the setting up of the urea factory. Following protests from farmers, the government gave up the idea and decided to develop Kisan SEZ in this land, the objective being development of agricultural production related industries. (The Hindu 16/1/17)

305. State notifies land for MRPL expansion; farmers begin protest (4)

MANGALURU:  The preliminary notification issued by the Department of Commerce and Industries for acquisition of 1,011 acres in five villages of Mangaluru taluk for expansion of MRPL (Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd.) has activists and farmers locking horns with authorities yet again.In 2011, the government had withdrawn the notification issued in 2007 for acquisition of 2,035 acres in Permude and Kuthethoor villages, following protests. Of the 1,011 acres notified now, 865.34 acres is private land and 146.43 acres government land. This notification issued under Section 28 (1) of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act 1966, prohibits land owners from obstructing authorised persons from entering the land. It also says that any agreement, lease, change in land use, or any other transactions related to lands cannot be done without permission of the Special Land Acquisition Officer. An officer of Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board, Mangaluru, said notices were being sent to land owners asking them to submit within the next 30 days their objection to the notification. KIADB and MRPL have also filed caveat before the High Court of Karnataka to hear them before passing orders on petitions questioning the preliminary notification. Meanwhile, farmers and activists under the aegis of Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti opposed the move. Lawrence D’Cunha, a farmer from Kuthethoor and samiti secretary, said the notification has been issued without making the social impact assessment as mandated under the 2013 Act. “The present government has failed to follow norms laid down in the Act that was enacted by the UPA government,” he said, adding that nearly 70 per cent of farmers in Kuttethoor and Permude have opposed acquisition of fertile lands. Samiti president Madhukar Amin said: “We (farmers) are already suffering from industries that have come up. We cannot allow more petrochemical units to come up on our fertile land.” (The Hindu 17/1/17)

306. Government plans district-level authorities to handle land acquisition disputes (4)

BENGALURU: With delay in land acquisition hampering key infrastructure projects, Karnataka government has taken steps to set up district-level authorities to facilitate speedy disposal of disputes relating to acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority will be constituted in line with the provisions under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. “Land holds the key for infrastructure development but legal disputes are coming in the way. We are hoping that the new authority will help resolve disputes at the earliest,” said revenue minister Kagodu Thimmappa. According to officials from PWD and water resources department, several ongoing infrastructural and development projects have come to a standstill due to decision paralysis and unwarranted disputes – be it the Information Technology Investment Regions (ITIR) near Devanahalli, or the Upper Bhadra project or the Yettinahole project. “The setting up of an exclusive authority to decide issues within a prescribed time is a step in the right direction. Such disputes should be resolved within 30-45 days on a priority. These corrective measures will help speed up projects,” said a PWD department official.There had been a proposal from some quarters to set up a revenue fast-track court in each district to deal with all revenue land disputes. However, Thimmappa said they cannot take it up now because of monetary and logistic constraints. The setting up of the authority has been mandated under section 52 of the UPA’s Land Acquisition Act-2013. It mandates the authority shall consist of a presiding officer who should be of the rank of district judge or a person qualified as legal practitioner for not less than seven years. The government, in its January 10 notification, had designated first additional district and sessions judge of the district as presiding officer. If there’s no additional district judge, the principal judge would become the presiding officer of the authority. Recently, Karnataka High Court had disposed of a petition seeking directions to implement the 2013 Act after the government submitted a notification appointing the authorities to handle land acquisition disputes. The petitioner had contended that though the 2013 Act was imposed from January 1, 2014, it was not being implemented. He had sought directions to the state government to implement the amended Act. (Times of India 18/1/17)

307. Left Front demands probe into Bhangar killings (4)

Kolkata : A section of Left Front activists on Friday held a demonstration here demanding a probe into the killing of two villagers in West Bengal’s Bhangar over the ongoing anti-land acquisition movement. Led by CPI-M leader Sujan Chakraborty and Kanti Ganguly, the activists blocked the gate of Milan Mela grounds in the eastern fringes of the city where the third edition of the ruling Trinamool Congress-organised “Bengal Global Business Summit” is being held. Holding aloft placards and black flags, the agitators clashed with police in front of the venue on the arterial stretch Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Traffic was halted as several protesters squatted on the road. A section of the demonstrators were held and taken to Kolkata police headquarters in Lalbazar, police said. “Some protesters, including Chakraborty, Ganguly and Anadi Sahoo were held on the spot,” said Supratim Sarkar, Joint Commissioner of Police Headquarters. Chakraborty, also the Left Front legislature party leader, who was at the forefront of the protest, said the government is playing out a “drama” in the name of business summit and demanded a judicial inquiry into the killings at Bhangar. “This government is anti-industry, anti-employment and anti-youth. They have already once destroyed such a prospective investment in Singur. Now they are wasting people’s money in the name of business summit. This is nothing but a drama,” Chakraborty told IANS. “This government is placing common man’s land in the hand of land mafias and killing the innocent farmers. They are helping out the mafias in the name of industry. We demand judicial inquiry into the killing of two innocent farmers in Bhangar,” he added. (Business Standard 20/1/17)

308. Rights of farmers, other land owners will be protected: Deshpande (4)

MANGALURU: The interests of farmers and other land owners will be safeguarded and they will be paid adequate compensation before acquiring land for expansion of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited, Large and Medium Scale Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande has said. Speaking to reporters after visiting the Kadri Manjunatha temple here on Saturday, Mr. Deshpande said adequate precautions were being taken to safeguard interest of farmers and other land owners during acquisition of land in five villagers of Mangaluru Taluk. Apart from monetary compensation those losing land will get jobs in public sector units. Houses too will be provided. There will be no pollution from units that come up here, he said.The preliminary notification for acquisition of 1,011 acres was issued in December. Activists and farmers are questioning this acquisition as this was being done under provisions of Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act 1966 and not under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

309. Tension prevails at Vamsadhara project site (4)

SRIKAKULAM: Tension prevailed for five hours on Sunday at the Vamsadhara reservoir area of Hiramandalam with the locals demanding higher compensation in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act-2013. The agitators set a few vehicles including a police zeep afire in spite of the presence of heavy police force. The agitators vociferously demanded jobs, legitimate compensation and proper valuation of their properties. J. Brahma Reddy, Srikakulam SP, and other senior officials held talks in vain with the local leaders. With the government’s directive to complete the project work by June 2017, the irrigation officials have taken up the work on a war footing in the last two days. The villagers of Padali, Tulagam, Duggupuram, Pedasankili, Barripeta, Korada and others places gathered at the project site and raised slogans against the government. Palakonda RDO R. Gunnayya said the government had announced a youth package recently and it was not correct to take up agitations to obstruct the work. While the locals insist on jobs and financial benefits for all youngsters who are above 18, the government says it is not possible to do so. CPI(M) district president Bhaviri Krishnamurthy and other officials alleged that the government was trying to continue the work with the help of the police force instead of resolving the demands of the local people.Meanwhile, Left parties decided to hold a roundtable on Monday to express their solidarity with the farmers and displaced persons. They also demanded that the contractors stop all the works till payment of compensation was made. CPI senior leader Chapara Sundarlal asked Labour Minister K. Atchannaidu and Mr. Brahma Reddy to find an amicable solution to the problem instead of antagonising them with unwarranted statements. “The displaced persons have waited patiently for many years. They have been agitating for the last few days as they are left with no other option. It is the failure of the government,” he added. A delegation of the CPI(M) would visit Hiramandalam after the roundtable to hear the grievances of the locals.(The Hindu 23/1/17)

310. Villagers protest mining in Gadchiroli (4)

GADCHIROLI: Sixty-year-old Ratia Gunia Tigga, an Urrao tribal from Bande village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, is unsure about the produce from his eight-and-a-half acres of farmland this year. Mr. Tigga, who looks after a family of five, cultivates paddy. He manages to produce around 50 bags every year. “But this year, even 20 bags look unlikely, because there is dust all over my farm,” Mr. Tigga said. His farmland is situated near the road to the Surjagad mining site, where the Lloyd Metals had been extracting iron ore until last month and the trucks carrying the extract spread dust and other particles on his paddy crop. Mr. Tigga is not the only person who is concerned about mining in the area. Over 70 Gramsabhas (village bodies) from Surjagad have submitted a memorandum to the district authorities, opposing to the mining operation on Surjagad hills. The main concern of local tribals is the damage to their religious deity Thakurdev’s shrine, which is situated on one of the Surajgad hills. “We cannot see the displacement of our god. We are also apprehensive about the damage to the forest produce in this area. The mining will also create pollution and our land will be destroyed,” Danu Ichami from Reknar village said. The local tribals have united under the banner of ‘Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan’ (Agitation against Displacement) to oppose mining, which began in April last year, after a gap of eight years. The operations were allegedly ceased due to threats by the Maoists, who torched 81 vehicles of the Lloyd Metals last month, leading to suspension of work again. However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that the project would be completed “no matter what the situation is”. A local activist and a central convener committee member the VVJA, Mahesh Raut, said, “The area is a cultural heritage of local tribals. The legalities do not permit mining here. The PESA Act [Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act] says that Gramsabhas have rights over the forest in scheduled areas. The district officials claim that local people have rights on minor forest produce but not on the complete forest land.” He added that Gramsabhas have to be consulted in connection with land diversion in the area, which has not been done done in this case. “There is confusion over the public hearing about the environment impact assessment of the site. The mining, according to the Lloyd, will provide employment to around 500 local people, but the work is limited to cutting trees and construction of the road. There won’t be any employment to the local tribals in technical jobs. The mine will also destroy three water streams,” he said.The VVJA organised many public protests in different parts of the district last year to mobilise the local tribals against the mining activities. … (The Hindu 26/1/17)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

311. Doctors unaware Japanese encephalitis notifiable disease (3)

PUNE: It has been over three months since the Centre declared Japanese encephalitis (JE) a notifiable disease, but the family physicians in the city are still unaware about the move, primarily due to the lack of sensitization drive on the part of the civic body. The Union health ministry had issued the notification regarding the move on September 21 last year, which makes it mandatory for private medical practitioner to report every case of JE (confirmed as well as suspected) to local health authorities. This is done to ensure that appropriate measures are initiated to contain the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. The issue assumes significance as two students were recently found positive for JE in the city last month. Medical experts said the emergence of JE virus should be looked upon as a warning sign and doctors should keep an high index of suspicion to identify the viral disease. “Most family physicians in the city are not aware that JE has been declared a notifiable disease as the health department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has not taken enough efforts to sensitise them. Barring some neurologists, there is hardly any awareness among the doctors about the move,” senior paediatrician Sharad Agarkhedkar, advisor of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Pune branch, told TOI. Paediatrician Jayant Joshi, president of IAP, Pune branch said, “Every case of fever with encephalopathy (brain inflammation) in Pune should be probed for JE as it has been declared a notifiable disease now. Screening of patients visiting the country’s endemic areas also needs to be done to rule out the possibility of the disease.” When contacted, senior family physician Prakash Mahajan said, “We have no clue that JE has been declared a notifiable disease. We have not received any communication from PMC in this regard.” Family physician Sanjay Wagh, president of General Practitioners Association (IAP), Pune branch, too said he is yet to receive any communication from the local health authorities about the move. S T Pardeshi, chief of the health department at PMC, said, “This is the first time that two persons have been diagnosed with JE in the city. We will initiate measures to sensitize and educate family physicians, paediatricians and other doctors to notify confirmed as well as suspected case of JE to us to contain the disease. Our health staff took up containment measures in terms of spraying insecticides and larvicides in the areas where two cases were reported from.” …  (Times of India 3/1/17)

312. 14.3 children in rural area born in their homes against 0.3% in urban Gujarat (3)

AHMEDABAD: Around 14.3% of the children born in 2014 in rural Gujarat were born at their homes without any medical attention. This is in sharp contrast to the urban mothers who give birth to their children in the hospitals. Only 0.3% children are born at their homes without any medical attention in the urban areas in the city. According to the data released by Sample Registration System (SRS), there were 85.7% women who gave birth to the children either in government hospitals or in private hospitals. The data states that on an average 91.1% children born in the state are born in private or government hospitals. The number of births in urban areas was almost 100% as 99.7% children born in Gujarat are born in private or government hospitals. The SRS data reveals that the percentage of births in hospital have increased by nearly 18% in Gujarat since 2009. The data reveals that around 73.2% babies were born in hospital, which increased to 91.1% in 2014.The data reveals that in the rural areas the improvement was around 22.6% during the same period. In 2009, only 63.1% babies were born in hospital which increased to 85.7% in 2014. State health minister Shankar Chaudhary says that the state has taken several measures to promote institutional deliveries. “The efforts of the state are showing good results and hence, there has been an increase of institutional deliveries in both rural and urban areas.” The SRS-2014 stated that more infant girls died in the urban areas as compared to the male infants. However, the overall rate may have declined by one point, but when it comes to urban areas, the infant mortality rate has increased by one point in 2014 as compared to 2013. The SRS Bulletin reveals that infant mortality rate (IMR) of the state was 35 deaths of infants for every 1,000 live births. The rate was more among girls as compared to boys. The overall IMR in Gujarat was 35, but it was 34 among male infants and 37 among infant girls. It has fallen to 35 in 2014 from 57 in 2003 — a drop of 42.1%. The officials said a lot is to be achieved as the drop since 2012 has been only three points. The drop was only 2.7% as compared to 2013, while in the earlier years — in 2013 and 2014 — it was nearly seven per cent. (Times of India 3/1/17)

313. Fluoride problem accentuates renal diseases in Prakasam (3)

ONGOLE: While lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension trigger renal failure among individuals, fluoride toxicity is leading to increase in number of cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Prakasam district. The fluoride problem is severe in 48 of the 56 mandals in this drought-prone district, according to Ch.V. Satyanarayana, medical officer attached to the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF). Dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis are common in the western parts of the district, as the groundwater in over 1,100 villages has high fluoride content. So is the incidence of fluoride-induced CKD, especially in the mandals of Kangiri, P.C. Palli, Chandrasekarapuram and Pamur, where fluoride contamination is above 5 parts per million (ppm), he said in a conversation with The Hindu. The problem is severe in the villages of Bommireddipalle, Vengalayapalli, Neredepalli, Peddagogulapalle, Vaggampalle, Bandlamudi, Naidupalem, Lakshmipuram, Manchikalapadu, Bodavada, Narsapuram, Dharmavaram, Rajupalem and Balijapalem. Even in these villages, it is the vulnerable section of people who are suffering from CKD, while those taking a nutritious diet and without blood pressure and diabetes are not affected. Diet rich in calcium and magnesium like milk, leafy green vegetables, carrot, radish, raisins, peaches, apricots and dates and tomatoes can make a difference as it helps excrete fluoride through urine and bowel movement, he explains. According to the data available with the district officials, 345 people died of CKD since January 2015, while over 2,000 patients with white ration cards are undergoing treatment under NTR Aarogyasri in different hospitals. Fluoride toxicity increases following malfunctioning of the kidneys causing further damage to the kidneys, bones and other organs, explains Machiraju Ramachandra Rao, Resident Medical Officer at Sanghamitra hospital. Five per cent of the patients need dialysis and their lifespan can be increased by five to six years on an average,” adds S. Sridhar Reddy, consultant nephrologist at the hospital Drinking surface water is advised in view of contamination of groundwater with different types of minerals, says K. Krishnarjuna Rao, Medical Officer at the dailysis centre at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences(RIMS), where 140 patients undergo dialysis twice a week.“A dialysis centre at Kanigiri is our only demand,” says Sk. Mastan from Kangiri, while undergoing haemodialysis at the RIMS here. “Visiting Ongole twice in a week along with an attendant means an additional expense of at least Rs. 4,000 per month for me,” adds another patient M. Kondaiah from Markapur. A dialysis centre at Podili will be easily accessible for patients from Kanigiri, Darsi, Markapur, Marripudi and Chimakurthi, says another patient Srinivasa Rao from Chimakurthi. (The Hindu 7/1/17)

314. Hyderabad-Karnatak region sees rise in deaths due to malnutrition (3)

BENGALRU: Malnutrition-related deaths among children and mothers continue to haunt six districts of the Hyderabad-Karnatak region. According to health officials from the region, 2016 saw 2-3 infant deaths per day in each of these districts on an average. The cheap rice, free milk, nutrition tablets and egg scheme launched to tackle hunger and malnutrition among poor children two years ago in the most-backward districts of this region haven’t quite helped tackle the problem. As a result, the six districts — Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal and Ballari — continue to record high rates of child deaths (less than five years old), and most are suspected to have died from severe malnutrition.In Kalaburagi, for instance, the situation is alarming. According to government figures, around 559 children and nine pregnant mothers died between January and November 2016 due to various ailments. In 2015, 522 children and five mothers succumbed in a span of twelve months. The situation is no different in malnutrition-prone districts of Raichur and Koppal, where infant mortality rate has gone up by 10% over 2015 figures. Most of these children have succumbed to diarrhoea and pneumonia, apart from respiratory problems. Admitting to a marginal increase in infant mortality rate, Kalaburagi district health officer Sajjan Shetty maintained that it was largely due to private nursing homes and hospitals reporting infant deaths. Otherwise, he said, the district was well within the national average as far as infant mortality was concerned (34 deaths per 1,000 children). In 2014, the Karnataka high court constituted a nine-member panel headed by Justice N K Patil, after B L Patil of Vimochana Sangha, an NGO, wrote to former Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen to look into the issue. In his report, Justice Patil favoured providing food to children in anganwadis as per the food habits of the region. The committee also recommended setting up special hospitals in each district headquarters for malnourished children and their mothers. The state government started providing eggs and milk at anganwadi centres and prepared a comprehensive action plan to address the issues by involving anganwadi and Asha workers from rural health centres. However, nothing seems to have changed despite these steps. “Though the government has heeded some of my recommendations, it has failed in effectively implementing and monitoring the schemes started to check malnutrition in the region. There is also a need to implement some of my other recommendations,” said Justice Patil…. (Times of India 11/1/17)

 

315. 80% of all smokers live in low- and middle-income countries: WHO (3)

New Delhi: Nearly 80 per cent of the over 1 billion tobacco smokers globally live in low- and middle-income countries like India, World Health Organisation said on Tuesday and asserted that policies to control its use, including taxation and price increase, can generate revenues for health care and development work. According to a new landmark global report by the WHO and the National Cancer Institute of the USA, published in ‘the economics of tobacco and tobacco control’, around 6 million people die annually as a result of tobacco use, with most of them living in developing countries. “Policies to control tobacco use, including tobacco tax and price increases, can generate significant government revenues for health and development work. Such measures can also greatly reduce tobacco use and protect people’s health from the world’s leading killers, such as cancers and heart disease,” the report said. Left unchecked, the tobacco industry and the deadly impact of its products cost the world’s economies more than $1 trillion annually in health care expenditures and lost productivity, it said. The almost 700-page report examines existing evidence on two broad areas — the economics of tobacco control, including tobacco use and growing, manufacturing and trade, taxes and prices, control policies and other interventions to reduce tobacco use and its consequences and the economic implications of global tobacco control efforts. “Globally, there are 1.1 billion tobacco smokers aged 15 or older, with around 80 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 226 million smokers live in poverty,” it said. The monograph, citing a 2016 study, states that annual excise revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47 per cent or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about $0.80 per pack. Additionally, this tax increase would raise cigarette retail prices on average by 42 per cent, leading to a nine per cent decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers, it said. “The global health and economic burden of tobacco use is enormous and is increasingly borne by low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Around 80 per cent of the world’s smokers live in LMICs,” it said. India has been classified under ‘lower-middle income country/South Asia’ by the World Bank. India has implemented, from April 2016, large pictorial health warnings occupying 85 per cent of the principal display area of tobacco packs and on all forms of tobacco. India is third among countries with the largest pictorial warning on tobacco products, according to a recent report. (Business Standard 11/1/17)

316. India bears 20% of global disease burden, senior economist of the World Bank (3)

AHMEDABAD: India, which accounts for 17.5% population of the world, bears the burden of 20% of global depredation by diseases and it also accounts for 27% of neonatal deaths in the world, every year. A senior economist of the World Bank gave the data while expressing his concern on the second day of Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit-2017. Speaking at a seminar on the subject, ‘Health for Inclusive Development’, Jorge Coarsa, senior economist of the World Bank in India, said, “India has made tremendous progress in dealing with Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). But despite its progress, it (India) which carries 17.5 % population of the world bears 20% of global diseases.” “India still accounts for 27% of neonatal deaths, 23% of infant deaths and 23% of TB deaths in the world,” added Coarsa in the seminar which was attended by state health minister Shankar Chaudhari, Union health and family welfare secretary, C K Mishra, and World Health Organisation (WHO) representative of India, Dr Henk Bekedam. “35% of neonatal deaths are due to lack of nutrition. It is an issue of economics,” he said stressing that under such scenario, it will be hard for India to gain rapid growth. (Times of India 12/1/17)

317. You aren’t alone Delhi, all 22 NCR districts are choking (3)

NEW DELHI: New air pollution data derived from satellite imagery suggests that the severe levels of particulate matter (PM2.5, or respirable pollutants) seen in Delhi are also found throughout the 22 districts of the National Capital Region (NCR). These findings raise alarm about potentially serious adverse effects on the health and livelihoods of NCR residents outside of Delhi and underline the importance of a coordinated response to pollution across NCR. New air pollution data derived from satellite imagery suggests PM 2.5 levels are very high throughout NCR, even sparsely populated rural areas. Till now the focus has been on the pernicious effects of pollution in the major urban centres, but the new data will help shine the light on exposure to contaminated air in rural areas and smaller cities. For instance, Rewari in Haryana, like other relatively sparse NCR districts far from Delhi, recorded annual PM2.5 levels several times higher than the World Health Organization standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metre between 1998 and 2014. And between 1998 and 2014, NCR districts in Uttar Pradesh to the southeast of Delhi — Bulandshahr, Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad — registered pollution levels comparable to or even higher than in the national capital. Rural populations tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on their health and livelihoods since most residents work outdoors, where pollution levels are systematically higher than those indoors. Rural populations also have comparably poorer health and poorer access to health care than their urban counterparts, making them more likely to get sick from pollution exposure and less likely to get better. Moreover, air pollutants associated with particulate matter have been show to harm crops and reduce agricultural yields, meaning that air pollution could contribute to deepening poverty. Until now, analyses of air pollution in NCR have relied primarily on a handful of permanent ground monitors run by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the US embassy, all located in or just outside the capital. The satellite data, in contrast, measure pollution levels for every square kilometre across India. The new data were made available by Aaron van Donkelaar, an atmospheric scientist from Dalhousie University, and coauthors, who produced the estimates based on observations from NASA satellites. The satellite imagery provides a measurement called aerosol optical depth (AOD), which is the degree to which aerosols, or particles in the air, prevent transmission of light in an area and is considered a proxy for air quality. … (Times of India 16/1/17)

318. NGO says many women misled into undergoing needless surgeries (1)

New Delhi: A section of doctors – both in the public and private sectors – has instilled a sense of fear among poor and illiterate women in Karnataka, misleading them into undergoing uterus removal operations that were medically unnecessary, public health activists have claimed. The activists, who interviewed several hundred women in Chikkamagaluru and Kalaburagi districts and scrutinised their medical records, found that surgeries were performed without adequate clinical evidence on the need for the procedure and proceeded based on poor diagnostics. Following reports from Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali, a non-government outfit that works on public health, the Karnakata health department too probed why so many hysterectomies were carried out in Kalaburagi district. The government report concurred that many hysterectomies were done with no proper indications and women who could have been treated conservatively, were subjected to surgeries. It was also highly critical of the diagnostic criteria and took serious objection to the fact that barely any specimens were sent for histo-pathology, before the operations. The KJC had the medical records and oral evidence examined by three practising doctors – two gynaecologists and one community medicine expert. They found in 67% cases, the operation was not required and in 27% cases, the available information was too inadequate to form an opinion. Out of the 707 women interviewed by KJC workers in Kalaburagi, an overwhelming 98% underwent hysterectomy in 61 private hospitals in the towns of Kalaburagi, Umerga, Tandur, Zahirabad and Bidar. Four of these 61 private hospitals accounted for 55% of all the cases. All 15 women interviewed in Hebbalagere village of Chikkamagaluru underwent hysterectomy in a government facility, 14 of them in the Birur government sub-divisional hospital. “A medical procedure such as a hysterectomy has morphed into a business strategy in the medical-healthcare market, with poor women’s bodies being trafficked for profit,” three KJC researchers wrote in a report in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Acute shortage of doctors in the government health system compounded the problem. In almost all the cases, the women visited the doctors because of some other complications related to her reproductive health and menstrual cycle. But the doctors had planted the fear of cancer in the women’s minds and this seemed to be driving what the researchers described as the “hysterectomy epidemic”. The procedure costs anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh, depending on whether it was a government or private facility. In both sites, they found serious violation of professional integrity and ethics. Since 2010, an alarming number of hysterectomies were reported from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattishgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat because of a government-sponsored medical insurance scheme that assured payments for surgeries. (Deccan Herald 17/1/17)

319. 500 TB cases recorded in Telangana last year (3)

HYDERABAD:  A recently conducted study has revealed that more than 500 cases of tuberculosis meningitis (TBM) or brain TB have been recorded in the State in the first eleven months of 2016. A field study on the prevalence and challenges in the management of TBM was undertaken by city-based NGO Helping Hand Foundation, which released the findings on Thursday. According to the report, most of the cases were detected in private hospitals. The number of male patients and female patients was 232 and 210 respectively. The majority of the patients were found to be aged above 30 years. B. Ranga Reddy, president, Infection Control Academy of India (IFCAI), and advisor, Public Health Foundation of India, stressed on the need for more awareness about the medical condition, and appealed to the policy-makers to initiate steps towards its detection at early stages and effective treatment. He also cautioned that MDR (multi drug resistance) and AMR (anti-microbial resistance) are a major issue in the country which can cost trillions of dollars to the government if preventive steps were not taken. Reduce the unnecessary usage of antibiotics in agriculture and livestock and promote newer and rapid diagnosis to render treatment in a focused manner, Mr. Reddy said. Mujtaba Hasan Askari, founder-trustee of the foundation, said, “It is time that the civil society and the medical fraternity take up the fight against TB and mount pressure on the health authorities. Our NGO has been working for the welfare of TB, MDR TB, and HIV patients for a long time now. We see four to five cases of TB and HIV in Hyderabad each month, and the patients basically approach us for financial assistance.” He complained that though they had filed an RTI application with the State Chest Hospital on TB cases, they did not get a reply even after 60 days. (The Hindu 20/1/17)

320. Vaninagar’s victims of endosulfan: 17 years later, no respite (3)

KASARGOD: Sitting on the cold oxide floor with her face cupped between her raised knees, Muthakka Shetty, 69, was sentinelling an oil lamp flickering in memory of her younger son, Shridhar Shetty, 32. She did the same when he was alive, stayed by his bedside. After being bedridden for two years, he died on January 15. The lamp will be kept alive for 11 days, says the frail woman.Her elder son, Kitanna Shetty, 34, is seated beside her wearing a blank look. He is paralysed from waist below.The Shettys of Balike at Vaninagar was one of the earliest families in Enmakaje panchayat to be affected by the 20 years of aerial spraying of endosulfan on cashew plantations. In 2000, Star TV showed visuals of Muthakka Shetty, then 53, with Kitanna on her hips, to break the news to the world that endosulfan has caused congenital deformities, physical disabilities, mental retardation and gynaecological problems to the people of Kasargod. In 2001, Muthakka’s blood sample was among the 25 samples taken by the Centre for Science and Environment to be tested for the presence of endosulfan. In the study report released on February 21, 2001, endosulfan residues were found to be much higher in her blood. Kitanna was born with physical disabilities. Muthakka’s eldest daughter Lakshmi “fell” into a well and died 25 years ago. She was then 22 years old. Her second daughter, Saraswati, 40, is at home. Her right arm is swollen, which she is not able to use. Shridhar, who was seemingly a healthy child, started losing control of his muscles two years ago and soon became paralysed. He was diagnosed with dehydrated discs and compression of traversing nerve roots. The family says the government gave the two sons Rs 1.5 lakh each as compensation. The government even paid a bill of Rs 1.40 lakh to KMC, Mangaluru, for treating Shridhar for 15 days in April 2015, said Sanjeev Shetty, a cousin, who was his caregiver then.Sanjeev says though there was a proposal to upgrade the Vaninagar Primary Health Centre (PHC) to a community health centre (CHC), it has never happened. “In fact, there is no regular doctors or nurses at the PHC now,” he says. Three years ago, a physiotherapist used to visit the patients at home. “Those days, there was marked difference in Kitanna. Now even the post is not there in the PHC,” he says. On December 30, 2010, the National Human Rights Commission recommended the upgrading of PHCs in 11 affected panchayats to CHC, but none were elevated. … (New Indian Express 23/1/17)

321. State IMR, MMR better, thanks to govt spend (3)

PATNA: Thanks to sustained public expenditure in the health sector over the last 15 years, infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Bihar have bettered, and somewhat commensurate with the UN-sponsored millennium development goals (MDG) 2000-15. However, the achievement is still below the national mark. Sources said the state is now readying to enter the new phase of UN- sponsored sustainable development goals (SDG) 2015-30 to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all in all ages” to which India is also a signatory. The SDG was adopted after the completion of work under the MDG 2000-15. According to Central Statistical Organisation, the Centre under the MDG targeted to reduce the country’s IMR from 80 deaths (valid for 1990) to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2015. It was estimated to have reached 39 by 2015. Against that, the Bihar figure stood at 42 in 2013, and has continued to hover around it. Similarly, the country’s MMR of 437 per one lakh live births in 1990 was to be reduced to 109. Against that, the average MMR was 167 in 2011-13, and was estimated to have reached 140 by 2015. The Bihar average of MMR in 2011-13 stood at 208. Incidentally, Bihar, along with UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan contributed 67% of the country’s MMR. Another positive aspect pertaining to Bihar is that the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel at government and private hospitals has been rising steadily and stands at 53.2% of total births. As a result, life expectancy at birth in the state improved to 65.8 years during the 2006-10 against the national average of 66.1 years. The per capita expenditure in the medical and public health sectors in Bihar has gone up from Rs 97 in 2005-06 to Rs 147 in 2010-11. It increased to Rs 295 in 2014-15, and was Rs 305 in 2015-16. However, state finance department sources said, the revenue loss due to demonetisation and prohibition, coupled with the financial burden caused by the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, will make it difficult to sustain the increased expenditure in the health sector. The situation will become clear only from the state budget for 2017-18 to be presented in the assembly in February. The ray of hope is that the Centre has agreed to the World Health Organisation’s proposal to increase the health expenditure to 2.5% of the GDP by 2020, which should also benefit Bihar. (Times of India 28/1/17)

322. Sharp decline in maternal, infant mortality rate: Nadda (3)

Various healthcare schemes and awareness programmes undertaken by the present government have resulted in a sharp decline in the maternal and infant mortality ratio in India when compared to global average, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said today. “The comparison between Sample Registration System’s report released in 2005 and 2015 clearly shows the decline. It is an outcome of various programmes implemented by the new government,” Nadda said at a conference on ‘Healthcare: Commodity or basic human need’, organised by the Tata Memorial Centre on the occasion of its Platinum Jubilee. “We have increased the immunisation scale across the country. Measures like educating people about healthcare, empowering health workers are also supporting the government’s efforts. All these initiatives are benefiting the society,” said the minister. “India is projected to nearly achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5, while the MDG 6 goal to reverse the incidence of Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS has already been achieved. “What is perhaps noteworthy is that India’s mortality rate for age under five and maternal mortality ratio declined at a higher pace than global average. There has been a significant decline in Total Fertility Rate (TFR),” said Nadda. “It is our endeavour to ensure that all persons have access to quality healthcare; however, a lot more needs to be done for achieving universal access to equitable, affordable and quality healthcare services,” he said. “Our country faces twin burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Compared to last century, when communicable diseases were more prevalent, the current challenge is of non-communicable diseases,” he said. “It is more about lifestyle. The socio-economic impacts of NCDs are thus that it attenuates our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government will soon provide a pictorial book educating school students about junk and health foods. “It will also provide primary level information about ideal ratio of body weight and its height, television watching and its impact,” Nadda said. “Cancer control is a major challenge for all of us,” he added. (MORE) (This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.) (DNA 29/1/17)

HIV/AIDS

323. NGO organises marriage consultation for HIV+ people (3)

Surat, Jan.2: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Surat held a marriage consultation fair for HIV-positive people on Sunday.  Gujarat State Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GSNP+), one of the few NGO’s offering consultation services for HIV-positive brides and grooms, has been reportedly organising the fair for the past nine years in Surat.  Hundreds of people, who are otherwise socially ostracized, attended the programme in search of a suitable life partner. “Like every year, we organised the ‘Jeevansathi Pasandgi Mela’ or marriage consultation fair for HIV-positive youths and more than 300 persons have registered for it. HIV- positive people across Gujarat, who are looking for a marriage partner, are present here,” said Project Director of GSNP+, Daxa Patel. Owing to the higher proportion of infected men, prospective brides usually get a greater freedom in choosing their partners.  The men walked up on-stage and formally introduced themselves, talking about their profession and income, in front of an audience comprising mostly of prospective brides and their family members. “We can choose the groom on our own and can talk to them. It is very good. I have also come here for my marriage so that I can get a good life partner and lead my life well,” said a female participant.  India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million. Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations.  The country’s AIDS programme has been largely successful — estimates showed HIV prevalence during 2007-15 declining to 0.26 percent from 0.34 percent among adults, while annual HIV-related deaths declined by more than half to 67,000. (India.com 2/1/17)

324.  Bill Gates invests $140 million in HIV cure (3)

Houston: Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ charity foundation has invested $140 million in the development of HIV-preventing drug implants that could revolutionise the treatment of the life-threatening infection. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing this funding for the groundbreaking new technology which could revolutionise HIV prevention. Currently, prevention drugs are available in the form of a pill that, if taken daily, can reduce a person’s chances of being infected with HIV. The drugs are recommended by the World Health Organisation for use by at-risk groups including men who have sex with men — but are only effective if the pills are taken consistently. There are hopes that implant technology, similar to systems available for birth control, could be used to deliver a consistent supply of drugs, aiding people vulnerable to HIV. According to The Wall Street Journal, their latest investment has placed their backing firmly behind a biopharmaceutical company located in Boston. They believe that this company could yield one of the largest revelations in HIV treatment yet. This treatment takes the form of a pump that was initially designed for type two diabetes patients. It works by continuously delivering medication throughout the body. The pump is reportedly capable of administering drugs throughout the body for as long as 12 months. It could also be easily filled by a clinician annually or bi-annually. Researchers believe that the pump could work similarly, for HIV prevention, in healthy patients. Delivering treatment such as PreP continuously and, therefore, working to prevent HIV and AIDS. PreP is a daily drug that has been critical in preventing HIV infections in sexually active adults. The Gates invested $50 million in equity stakes at Intarcia Therapeutics — the company responsible for the pump. They then provided a further $90 million in company grants towards the goal of developing the HIV preventing device. (Business Standard 4/1/17)

325. Identify TB among HIV  patients, govt tells NGOs (3)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Saturday asked the non-government organisations (NGOs) working in the field of TB and HIV to take appropriate steps to identify tuberculosis patients among the HIV positives and suggest them medication. At the State level HIV-TB coordination committee meeting chaired by Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Department Pramod Kumar Meherda, it has been decided to hold regional multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB-HIV coordination meetings at regular interval. Since the possibility of the rise of tuberculosis infection among the HIV patients is high, the NGOs working in their respective areas would keep a tab on such patients and make them aware about the available treatment facilities. According to the reports, 3,553 patients having tuberculosis symptoms were referred from Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres to TB control centres between October 2015 and September 2016, of which 369 patients have been diagnosed with TB and arrangements made for treatment.   Similarly, 466 patients have been identified under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) during the same period and referred for treatment while 835 HIV positives have been diagnosed with TB and registered at the ART centres. The HIV-TB Coordination meeting, however, highlighted the status of ART and TB centre cross referrals. Meherda said that there is a need for strengthening linkages and referrals among the health staff and partner NGOs to enhance a number of service access and to ensure quality service to the people in need. Data released by the Health Department indicate that 45,814 persons affected with TB have been registered in 2015 among which 33,540 patients have undergone HIV tests and 623 were found to be positive. Similarly, of 36,125 persons detected with TB between January and September 2016, 33,394 have been screened for HIV among whom 472 patients were diagnosed with HIV positive. “A plan of action has been prepared to speed up the identification of patients, strengthen district level cold chain management and train counsellors and nurses engaged at different health facilities including ICTC, ARTC and targeted intervention centres,” Meherda informed. While acknowledging the efforts of District AIDS Prevention and Control Units (DAPCUs) and RNTCP towards prevention and care of HIV-TB, he laid stress on sensitising people and TB patients by carrying out different activities in the districts. Among others, project director of AIDS control society Dr Ajit Kumar Mishra, Additional Mission Director of National Health Mission (NHM) Saroj Samal and Joint Director (RNTCP) of Health and Family Welfare Department Dr Sanjukta Sahu were present. (The New Indian Express 8/1/17)

326. AIDS virus almost half a billion years old: Scientists (3)

New research suggests that retroviruses have ancient marine origins, having been with their animal hosts through the evolutionary transition from sea to land. Until now, it was thought that retroviruses were relative newcomers – possibly as recent as 100 million years in age. “Our research shows that retroviruses are at least 450 million years old, if not older, and that they must have originated together with, if not before, their vertebrate hosts in the early Paleozoic era,” explained Dr Aris Katzourakis from Oxford University’s department of zoology. Furthermore, they would have been present in our vertebrate ancestors prior to the colonisation of land and have accompanied their hosts throughout this transition from sea to land, all the way up until the present day. Retroviruses are a family of viruses that includes the HIV virus responsible for the AIDS pandemic. They can also cause cancers and immuno deficiencies in a range of animals. The ‘retro’ part of their name comes from the fact they are made of RNA, which they can convert into DNA and insert into their host genome.In this study, the researchers unearthed genomic fossils for foamy-like retroviruses in highly diverse hosts, including ray-finned fish and amphibians in which they had not previously been found. “We need to consider the adaptations that vertebrates have developed to combat viruses, and the corresponding viral countermeasures, as the product of a continuous arms race that stretches back hundreds of millions of years,” Katzourakis noted in the journal Nature Communications.The findings will help researchers understand more about the continuing ‘arms race’ between viruses and their hosts. (Times of India 11/1/17)

327. Compulsory HIV screening during pregnancy likely (3)

New Delhi: In a bid to deter transmission of HIV infection from a mother to child, the government is mulling mandatory HIV screening for pregnant women. According to sources, the government is considering making it compulsory for pregnant women to undergo HIV test in the second trimester of their pregnancy. While India’s AIDS epidemic is slowing down, with a 32 per cent decline in new HIV infections (86,000 in 2015) and a 54 per cent decline in AIDS related deaths between 2007-2015, the agenda of the government now is to reduce mother to child transmission. “If we screen all pregnant women free during their routine check up, we will be able to deter the deadly transmission further to the child,” sources said. The government entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions and accredited facilities to absolutely free and no expense delivery including caesarean section. The entitlements include free drugs and consumables, free diet, free diagnostics, free blood, free transport from home to facility between facilities in case of a referral and drop back home. They also get complete and quality antenatal and post natal care. Just like all other tests, the government aims to make HIV screening mandatory too. However, it plans to take all medical associations on board before HIV test is made compulsory. “We want to put this as part of a protocol. Just as other screening tests are important, this should be put in the system. We will soon discuss this with the medical associations and take it forward,” sources further added. According to the NACO Technical Estimate Report (2015) out of an estimated 29 million annual pregnancies in India, 35,255 occur in HIV positive pregnant women. In the absence of any intervention, an estimated (2015) cohort of 10,361 infected babies will be born annually. For the HIV infected, the government’s PPTCT programme aims to prevent the prenatal transmission of HIV from an HIV infected pregnant mother to her newborn baby. The programme entails counselling and testing of pregnant women in the ICTCs. Significantly, the pregnant women who are found to be HIV positive are initiated on lifelong ART irrespective of CD4 count. (Asian Age 16/1/17)

328. Schools show the door to HIV kids, Supreme Court takes up their cause (3)

New Delhi:     According to a report of National Aids Control Organisation, 2.45 lakh children below 15 years are living with HIV in India. Reshma, a class XI-student, went through the worst trauma of being raped, losing a baby and finding out she was HIV positive. But as if that was not enough, she had to face more humiliation and pain when her school in Meerut refused to let her carry on her education. Shattered, she tried to commit suicide. “If I am denied my right to education, what is the point in living? I want to end my life,” she wrote. According to a study by Naz Foundation and Lawyers Collective working for the rehabilitation of victims of HIV/AIDS, there are thousands of students like Reshma in India who are suffering silently. The NGO found that children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are increasingly being denied admission, suspended, expelled and segregated in class room, they are being publicly ridiculed by school authorities. Said senior lawyer Anand Grover, who is a member of the Naz Foundation: “In most of the cases, schools are forced to expel students due to pressure from parents of other children, who fear that their children might contract the condition.” But now, there is some hope for such children as the Supreme Court on Monday promised to lay down guidelines under the Right to Education Act to protect such students. But a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud cautioned the NGOs: “You must keep in mind that on one hand is the right to education. But you must also appreciate various segments of the society. …. (India Today 17/1/17)

329. Drawing youth attention to HIV/AIDS epidemic (3)

CHANDIGARH: Young people are often the world’s strongest advocates researches have shown that they people are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Young People between the ages of 15-24 are the group most affected by HIV/AIDS accounts for 40% of all adult HIV infections. National Youth day was celebrated reminding the crucial role that young people play in the global response to HIV/AIDS.Chandigarh State AIDS Control Society CSACS to mark National Youth Day organized various awareness programmes in collaboration with NSS wing on ThursdayToday in the city schools and colleges. Bikram Rana, State Liaison Officer, NSS inaugurated the programmes organized by Govt. Model Sr. Secondary Schools, Sector-37 B, 37 D & 38 (West) Chandigarh. The main aim of the awareness programmes were to sensitize youth about HIV/AIDS and to make them aware about ways of HIV transmission and prevention. State Liaison Officer, NSS strongly recommended youth to follow “Abstinence” as the main stay of HIV prevention. He asked the students to be leaders in “making a change” in the society and spread their knowledge in the community to educate them. Sunil Kumar Panghal, CSACS delivered awareness lectures on HIV/AIDS GMSSS, Manimajra Town and GMSSS Sector- 20, Chandigarh. He motivated youth to come forwarded for Voluntary Blood Donation. He also aware them towards the life principles of swami Vivekanand whose birth anniversary is celebrated as National Youth Day. An Oath was administered by the students during the programme to inculcate healthy habits, and shun drug abuse. HIV/AIDS awareness rallies were also taken out by the NSS Volunteers in different schools. (Times of India 18/1/17)

330. HIV+ mother, girl thrown out of house (3)

EGRA: An HIV-positive woman and her daughter in Egra were thrown out of their house by her in-laws for protesting against her husband who hid his HIV-positive status before marriage. The woman, who was diagnosed with HIV during a routine blood test, approached an NGO for treatment. There she learnt that her husband was also on the patients’ list and had been HIV-positive before their marriage in 2014. She has filed a case against her husband and in-laws. East Midnapore SP Alok Rajoria said, “We will act if we find evidence that they were tortured and thrown out.” (Times of India 20/1/17)

331. Only 1% of R&D funds for HIV, TB, malaria: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: Investments in health research and development (R&D) are poorly aligned with global public health needs, the World Health Organisation has said, highlighting that merely 1% of the total funding on health R&D was allocated towards neglected diseases like HIV , tuberculosis and malaria which account for over 12.5% of the global disease burden. “Investments in health R&D are still insufficiently aligned with global public health demands and needs,” the UN agency said in its assessment which showed that high-income countries had 352 times more health researchers than low-income ones. According to the Global TB Report-2016, India accounts for 24% of global TB cases. Six countries –India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa account for 60% of the global total. India is also a hub of multi-drug resistant TB with nearly 480,000 contracting it in 2015. India is under international pressure to tackle the TB problem, as it accounts for 1,400 of the 5,000 TB deaths daily. Though the number of TB deaths has come down in the past few years globally and in India, a huge rural population living with poor sanitation and poor nutrition makes elimination of the disease look like a distant dream.The HIV and malaria burden is also significantly high. In 2015, the number of people living with HIV in India was estimated at 21.17 lakh, with 86,000 new HIV cases in that year. India also accounts for the highest malaria burden outside Africa. Around 7.5 lakh cases and 188 malaria deaths were recorded till September 2016. (Times of India 24/1/17)

332. HIV children treated badly in schools: plea (3)

NEW DELHI:  Denial of admission, outright expulsion, segregation, breach of confidentiality to cleaning toilets and classrooms. These are the ways schools treat children living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The treatment meted out to HIV-positive children, whose deaths account for seven per cent of all AIDS-related deaths in the country, is part of a writ petition filed by NGO Naz Foundation (India) Trust in the Supreme Court. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar has sought the government’s response on why — despite the Right to Education being a Fundamental Right — children suffer this way. According to the NACO estimates in 2012-2013, the total number of people living with HIV is estimated at 20.9 lakh in 2011. Children under 15 years account for seven per cent (1.45 lakh) of all infections. “India has a substantial number of HIV-positive children who are of school-going age and need to be in school. Schools can play a crucial role in improving the prospects of children affected by HIV. A good school education can give children higher self-esteem, better job prospects and economic independence and create opportunities for lifting children out of poverty,” the NGO, represented by senior advocate Anand Grover and Purushottam Sharma Tripathi, argued.The petition takes a leaf out of the lives of many HIV-affected children who act as both caregivers and bread winners for their sick parent(s) as well as for their younger siblings.“They are publicly ridiculed by school authorities, humiliated and treated unfairly in schools, to the extent that they have been segregated from other children in schools and have been made to clean toilets and classrooms,” the petition stated.This discriminatory and degrading treatment is a direct assault on the children’s privacy, autonomy and dignity under Articles 21, 21A and 14 , the plea contended. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

333. NLC distributes aid to HIV affected children (3)

CUDDALORE:  Yogamaya Acharya, president Ladies Club and Sneha Opportunity School of Neyveli distributing Poshak Food packets and Sweets to HIV +ve Children during her visit to the Vridhhachalam on 28.01.2017. Also seen are, Shri J. Peter James GM/CSR, Shri Balachandar AEE/CSR and members of Neyveli Ladies Club.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement. The Corporate Social Responsibility team from NLC India Limited, along with Neyveli Ladies Club patrons and members, distributed essentials to children under the care of the HIV+ve Society Vridhachalam in Cuddalore. Yogamaya Acharya, president, Neyveli Ladies Club and Sneha Opportunity School of Neyveli, J. Peter James, general manager, CSR, distributed food packets, a specially prepared nutritious food items to HIV affected children, which contains cereals. Stocks of channa , dates, snacks, soaps and uniforms were also distributed to 75 children and sarees and lungis provided to their parents. NLC has committed its CSR team to provide ₹1.25 lakh worth food packets to 225 children at Puthupalayam and 75 children of Vridhachalam every month. (The Hindu 30/1/17)

 

Posted by admin at 2 January 2017

Category: Uncategorized

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