Posted by admin at 9 September 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. 40-year-old Dalit woman gangraped by 10 men in Uttar Pradesh

Bareilly: A 40-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gangraped by ten persons who committed the crime after assaulting and overpowering her husband and son in the Cantonment area here, police said today. The incident took place late last night when the family, while returning from its field, was overpowered by the accused hiding in a jungle, it said. The accused tied up the victim’s husband and son and gangraped her. They assaulted the family members on resistance, police said. The medical report of the woman today confirmed rape. Senior Superintendent of Police J Ravindra Gaud said an FIR has been lodged against 10 persons in this connection. He said he has directed action against personnel of the Cantt police station, who allegedly did not take any action after getting information about the incident. (DNA 21/8/14)

2.  ‘Court has failed to safeguard interests of Dalits’ (2)

Kolar: Dismissal of the plea to conduct a retrial in the Kambalapalli Dalit carnage case by the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday has caused dismay among those working for the welfare of Dalits. Seven Dalits, including a family of four, were burnt to death at Kambalapalli in Chintamani taluk in the then undivided Kolar district on March 11, 2000. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS) stuck to their stand that a retrial was necessary to provide justice to the oppressed class. Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Bagepalli, the former MLA and CPI(M) State Committee Secretary G.V. Sriram Reddy alleged that the judgement by the sessions court itself was fraud. It has now been repeated by the High Court, he said. “Our party had been consistently demanding that the State government should come forward seeking a retrial in the case,” he said. Mr. Reddy recalled that the CPI(M) had conducted a jatha from Chintamani to Bangalore in support of their demand. The courts take into account technical aspects instead of reality, he alleged. While stating that weakness on part of successive State governments had resulted in not delivering justice for the Dalits, the former State convener of DSS N. Venkatesh said he had great trust in the Siddaramaiah-led government in this regard. Mr. Venkatesh, who was actively involved in the legal battle, remarked that the court in Karnataka had failed to safeguard the interests of Dalits. “The High Court worked in favour of the upper caste Hindus,” he alleged. The Dalits would have got justice if a judicial inquiry or a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation was conducted, Mr. Venkatesh felt. (The Hindu 22/8/14)

3. Marry outside caste to raise your numbers, Bihar CM tells Dalits

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi has raked up fresh controversy by suggesting that Dalit youths should marry people from other castes and increase their population to become a “political strength”. Addressing a function at a welfare hostel in the state capital on Thursday evening, he said, “I would like to advise scheduled caste youths to go for more and more inter-caste marriages. If we take our population from 15 to 22 per cent, we will become a political strength. Any party that gets 22 per cent votes comes to power. What I am saying has political meanings.” The comment drew sharp reaction not only from Opposition BJP, but also from his own party JD(U) with several leaders questioning him for speaking against “spirit of national population control policy”. BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi told The Indian Express: “How can a state chief minister speak like this? Though we welcome inter-caste marriages, but what it has to do with population increase. Manjhi has spoken against population control policy.” He also said the the CM’s statement was “bereft of logic as Dalits already have good fertility rate”. “When the country is talking about population control, Manjhi is talking of increasing it for political purpose,” said Modi. Taking exception to the CM’s statement, party national spokesperson K C Tyagi said: “Though we laud the CM’s statement on inter-caste marriages, something promoted even by Mahatma Gandhi, we do not subscribe to his opinion on population increase.” The statement is being seen in context of “ultra Dalit politics” that culminated in Nitish Kumar offering CM chair to Manjhi, a Mahadalit. JD(U) government has been embarking on over a dozen dalit welfare programmes and takes 16 per cent Dalits as its major constituency. This is not the first time Manjhi has forced his party on a backfoot. A fortnight ago, Manjhi had ended up attacking much-touted development model of his predecessor by saying that “Nitish might well have brought manifold progress to Bihar, but failed to curb corruption”. Manjhi had conceded that even he had to pay bribe to reduce his inflated electricity bill. JD(U) sources said the more the party had been wishing to bring Nitish on forefront, the more Manjhi “would come to limelight with some controversial remarks”. (Indian Express 23/8/14)

4. Dalit farmers still in search of land allotted to them

RAICHUR: These landless Dalit families are still searching for their land allotted under the Land Ceiling Act. Paramesh, a Dalit farmer from Dongarampur village in Raichur taluk, has been running from pillar to post for the last one year in Raichur to find his 2.26 acres of land that his father Jambappa had been allotted under the Act about a decade ago. He is yet to succeed in his endeavour. The problem started a year ago when officials of the Forest Department evicted Paramesh and two other farmers from the land that they had been cultivating for the last seven years or so, believing that the land was allotted to them under the Act. They realised that something was wrong only when the Forest Department asked them to vacate claiming that the land was not the one that they had been allotted. As per the documents The Hindu has secured, an excess land of 9.27 acres in survey number 84 and 0.39 acres in survey number 82 of Dongarampur village have been confiscated from a village landlord who earlier owned it, and allotted to Janglappa, Jambappa, Burrala Savareppa, Kareppa and Mahadeva, all Dalit and landless farmers of the village. The order of Assistant Commissioner issued on June 14, 2004 confirmed the transaction. Even the related land records downloaded from the government’s website a few days ago confirmed the ownership of these five families over two acres of land each. Yet, they are not in possession of the land. “The village landlord had shown us uncultivable and barren land beside the hill as the one that had been allotted to us. We believed him and started cultivating it. Since the land was insufficient, only three of the five beneficiaries started farming. The other two did not take up farming on their own but continued to toil as agricultural labour. One fine morning, after almost seven years of cultivation, the Forest Department evicted us claiming that the land belonged to it,” Paramesh said. Paramesh has alleged that the landlord forged documents, sold the land allotted to him and others without their knowledge to the district administration for construction of Aasare houses for the 2009 flood victims. “The district administration, in turn, handed over the land to the Mata Amritanandamayi Trust that latter built houses for the flood victims on the same land,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the farmers. As per a court order, we have handed over excess land to the government which has, in turn, allotted it to landless Dalit farmers. Now, we are not responsible if they don’t know where their land is,” Venkatarama Reddy, original landowner, said. “Thousands of Dalit farmers across the State, particularly in the Hyderabad-Karnataka area, face the same problem. In many cases, the original owners are still enjoying the excess land that had been confiscated and allotted to landless peasants by the State government,” Kumar Samatala, State committee member of Karnataka Janashakthi, said. He was in the forefront of a struggle by beneficiaries of the Land Ceiling Act whose allotted land continued to be enjoyed by the original owners for the last 30 years. He demanded that the government conduct a comprehensive survey of land distributed under the Act to find out whether or not beneficiaries are actually enjoying the land. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

5. HIV+ dalit couple harassed for 2 years

KORAPUT: A dalit HIV positive couple, who have been living a nightmare for the past two years because of repeated harassment and assault by fellow villagers, have turned to the Rayagada district collector for help. Not only have the villagers stopped them from using the village pond and tube well, they even tied up Sushant Naik (name changed) to a tree, beat him up and threw human excreta at him on one occasion. The couple’s sorry plight came to light on Monday, when Naik and his wife, of Bhairagada village located about 70 km from the district headquarters town of Rayagada under Muniguda block, met collector Sashi Bhushan Padhi at his grievance cell and told him about their experience. The couple were diagnosed HIV positive in 2012 when their blood samples were examined during the woman’s pregnancy. “On the advice of doctors, we immediately started taking medicines and my wife delivered a son at Koraput hospital. By the grace of God, our son is not affected by HIV,” said Naik. However, the dalit couple’s happiness over the birth of their child didn’t last long as the news about their disease reached the village. The villagers soon started ostracizing the couple and placed several restrictions on the family. (Times of India 27/8/14)

TRIBALS

6. Tribals’ Protest Rally against Decision on Bauxite Mining (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The tribals of Agency areas in the district have launched a massive protest against the Telugu Desam government’s decision on the bauxite reserves. Thousands of tribals from various villages in GK Veedhi mandal, including Darakonda, Duppilavada and Gummarevula, took out rallies against chief minister N Chandrbabu Naidu’s announcement to lift the bauxite reserves. The tribals also observed a day-long bandh in the villages. The Maoists, who are eagerly waiting for a chance to win the confidence of the tribals, have announced that they would support any agitation against bauxite mining. Interestingly, tribals in the GK Veedhi mandal said that they welcome the support of any organisation including the Maoist part to their agitation against bauxite mining. The tribals raised slogans against the government’s decision and warned that they would never allow any mining activity to lift the bauxite reserves. They pointed out that participating in the International Tribal Day celebrations, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced an anti-tribal and anti-environmental activity. The tribals also pointed out that there was no difference between the Congress and the TDP government which were trying to kill the green environment in the Eastern Ghats and causing harm to lakhs of tribal lives. During his recent two-day visit to the district, the CM announced that the bauxite reserves would be lifted by involving the tribals in the project. In fact, during Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure between 1995 and 2004, the bauxite mining proposals were raised but were severely opposed by all political parties, NGOs and several other national-level environmentalists. The Congress government, led by late YS Rajasekhara Reddy in 2007, signed an MoU with two companies – AnRak and Jindal. The government, while entering into an MoU, assured the two major players – Jindal South West Aluminium Limited and Anrak Aluminium Limited – that bauxite will be supplied through AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC). “The government has not consulted the Public Sector Unit NALCO which has shown much interest in setting up alumina refineries. According to the MoUs signed with AnRak and Jindal, neither the government nor the local tribal community stand to gain from the deal. It is true that both the companies will loot bauxite and leave the much-polluted mud here,” a senior IAS officer said, and wondered why the state government was not consulting NALCO and why it was inviting private companies. Protesting against the CM’s announcement, the Left parties and NGOs have already warned that they would launch a massive agitation against bauxite mining. In the past two days, a large number of tribals, led by local leaders, staged dharnas and took out rallies. “When the TDP was in the opposition earlier, it had assured us that it would support the agitation against former chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy’s action against bauxite mining. After coming to power, Naidu is eyeing the bauxite mines. We are thankful to former Union minister Kishore Chandra Deo who had educated us on the issue. The agreements with AnRak and Jindal companies are illegal. We shall go ahead with our agitation come what may,” some sarpanches in GK Veedhi mandal warned. (New Indian Express 21/8/14

7. Tribals yet to receive full benefits of development: President

Kolkata: Lamenting the displacement of tribal communities due to the need to exploit mineral and forest resources, President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said the communities are yet to receive the full benefits of development. The path of development was faced with dichotomy, he told people after inaugurating the Daya Duar Mini Hospital at a function held in the Catholic Church of Palsanda in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. “Our path of development faces a dichotomy. We need to exploit our mineral and forest resources but often that results in displacement and uprooting of our tribals, who are the best protectors of these resources,” he said. “Tribal communities lag behind the general population in maternal and child mortality, access to education and size of agricultural holdings. They are yet to receive full benefits of development despite tribal sub plans under our Five Year Plans and allocation of substantial funds. “This is because of problems in our delivery mechanisms. Lack of development leads to discontent, extremism and resort to violence. Such violence is against the spirit of our constitution and desire of god,” he said. The tribal population in India is 104 million as per the 2011 census and accounts for 8.6 percent of the country’s total population. He said land belonging to the tribals were “alienated” from them due to ignorance of the community and greed of non-tribals. “Law and order problems arise when there is a feeling that proper compensation has not been paid and rehabilitation packages provided. “The constitution guarantees that land belonging to the tribals should not be alienated but sadly it still happens due to the ignorance of the tribals and greed of non tribals,” he said Lauding the efforts of the Church at Palsanda, which is working for the upliftment of tribals in the area, he said: “It is good that missionaries are working to spread all round development and not just education.” “Christian teachings such as ‘Service of humanity is God’s service’ and ‘Love the neighbour’ reinforce India’s core civilisational values,” he said. (New Kerala 24/8/14)

8. Tribals threaten to contest 82 Maharashtra assembly seats

NASHIK: Tribal people, who gathered in the city on Sunday to participate in a meeting to discuss the strategy to oppose reservation demands by the dhangar community, said they would contest 82 seats in the upcoming assembly elections if political parties failed to respect their stand. The tribals have decided to fight against any attempt to include any tribe or caste in the quota reserved for 47 tribal communities. They said their candidates would contest the elections from those constituencies in the state having strong tribal population to ensure the defeat of the established politicians for their anti-tribal stand. “The recent happenings show that all the political parties are siding with the Dhangar community, which is seeking reservation from the ST quota under the pretext of small spelling mistake. We have no objection to reservation to the community outside ST reservation quota. However, the political parties seem to have taken an anti-tribal community stand. We are not going to allow anybody to take us for granted. Hence, we will challenge the political parties for their illegitimate stand,” said Ashok Bagul, leader of Kokna-Kokni tribal in the district and co-ordinator of the meeting. (Times of India 25/8/14)

9. Railways to expedite project in Red-hit Bastar

RAIPUR: Ministry of railways has asked South East Central Railway (SECR) to expedite second phase of construction of Jagdalpur-Dallirajhara and Rowghat railway line, an ambitious project pending for nearly three decades?since the time of undivided Madhya Pradesh. The project costing up to Rs 3,500 crore will facilitate easy movement of iron ore and could trigger development activities in the mineral rich areas of tribal Bastar region. SECR deputy general manager RK Agrawal told TOI that Rs 654 crore Jagdalpur-Raoghat project is a joint venture of Railways, state government and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). He said at present the work of construction of line from Dallirajhara to Raoghat?a joint venture project of Railways, state government and Steel Authority of India (SAIL)?is underway. “Now the ministry has initiated steps to start construction of second phase project so that it could go simultaneously with the first phase of the project,” he added. Agrawal said SECR has written to district forest officer Narayanpur and Bastar collector for land acquisition while other steps were being taken to float tenders. “Maoist problem in the 140km stretch is much less as compared to that of Dallirajhara to Rowghat. The work could begin by next year,” he added. Rowghat mines are crucial for iron ore needs of public sector Bhilai Steel Plant, owned by SAIL, which sources iron-ore from Dallirajhara mines. As iron reserves at Dallirajhara is fast depleting, SAIL decided to develop a mine in Naxalite-affected area of Rowghat to produce iron ore of about 7MT. The new mining project involves extensive deforestation in an area of over 2,030 hectares in Kanker and Narayanpur districts, both Naxalite hotbeds. The new railway line will thus pass through dense Maoist zones of Bastar region. Being a Maoist insurgent patch, need for security personnel was a must for which Railway has asked the state government to bear expenses of security deployment. Chhattisgarh government had earlier said it can’t spare out the security for the project, but later in a recent meeting it was decided that Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and the Chhattisgarh Armed Police will be deployed. SECR officials said railway board also directed to consider the project as top priority and has also set deadline to introduce train services for passengers from Dallirajahara to Dondi. Work on first phase of proposed project of 235km-long rail line is underway from Dallirajhara to Rowghat and railway services between 0-17km from Dallirahara to Dondi may begin from February 2015. Rowghat project has been in news for it witnessed threats from Maoists and protests by local tribals over land acquisition, resettlement, rehabilitation and deforestation. Maoists have repeatedly stated that they would attempt to disrupt the project. (Times of India 27/8/14)

WOMEN

10. State women’s panel to visit Gujarat University (8)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat State Commission for Women will visit Gujarat University (GU) on Thursday. The commission will inquire into the various media reports on harassment of women, including the recent incident relating to lewd letters allegedly written by Prof Sarman Zala. Commission chairperson Leela Ankalia said they would also visit the Women Police Station and inquire about the progress made by the police in the case. “We will meet GU vice-chancellor M N Patel, women professors and students. We will also meet the three women professors who had complained about sexual harassment against Zala,” said Ankalia. Commission officials said there had been various instances where incidents of sexual harassment were reported in the media but no official complaints were made. “We will figure out why official complaints are not being made. What are various committees formed for women’s welfare doing in the university?” added Ankalia. Ankalia said they would submit a report of their findings to the state government. “We will also meet the women complainants at the Women Police Station and try to ascertain whether proper attention was given to women,” said Ankalia. (Times of India 21/8/14)

11. Women activists don pink sarees a la Gulabi gang (8)

FIROZABAD: Taking inspiration from Gulabi gang’s method of ‘vigilante justice’, a group of over 50 women clad in pink sarees stormed into a house in Ganesh Nagar area in support of a married woman who alleged that she was asked to leave her husband’s home for not fulfilling dowry demands. Women activists of Bhartiya Mahila Vikas Samiti (Agra) reached Ajay Kumar Porwal’s residence along with the alleged victim and asked the family to take her back and not to force her to leave. According to information, the woman got married to Ajay’s son Gaurav in July 2013, but after six months of marriage, they had started living separately. The woman claimed that Gaurav left her at her parents’ house at Agra and never came back. She also alleged that Gaurav’s family was demanding Rs 50 lakh from her parents which they could not shell out, and as a punishment, she was abandoned by them. Despite being pressurized by the women activists, Gaurav’s family was not ready to take her back blaming her querulous behavior. Hearing the commotion, a large number of people gathered at the spot to enquire about the incident. Subsequently, the matter reached the police station, where policemen asked both parties to resolve the matter amicably. (Times of India 22/8/14)

12. POW opposes amendment to Section 498(A)

KARIMNAGAR: The Progressive Organisation for Women (POW), Karimnagar district unit, has opposed the proposed amendment to section 498(A) of the Indian Penal Code (protection to women from dowry harassment) in the name of misuse of the Act by some people. Talking to newsmen here on Friday, POW district president K. Jyothi and general secretary E. Padma said that in the organisation’s first general body meeting held here recently passed several resolutions, including the one opposing amendments to the Act. They demanded that the government strictly enforce the Acts dealing with domestic violence and dowry harassment. The POW in the town elected a 19-member committee. Prominent members of the new body are: K. Jyothi (president), E. Padma (general secretary), M. Vanaja and Choppari Jagadeshwari (vice presidents), Anjali (assistant secretary) and Sayakka (treasurer). (The Hindu 23/8/14)

13. Abortion deaths a cause for concern

NEW DELHI: The city has reported over a lakh medical termination of pregnancy and 32 registered deaths due to abortions in its government hospitals since 2008. This has been revealed in a Right to Information reply that confirms that over 50 termination of pregnancy is carried out daily in the Capital. While there is no data on how many of those undergoing abortions are minors or unmarried women/girls; deaths during abortions – carried out in government hospitals – have never dipped to anything less than four women a year since 2008. The applicant, R. H. Bansal, in his query to the Delhi Health Department had asked about the number of abortions happening in the State government hospitals year-wise since 2008. He also sought information on how many of the abortions performed were legal, where those who got the abortions were married, unmarried or minors, and the number of deaths caused due to abortions. While Health Department said that they “did not have information on the martial status and age of those who got abortion done at its hospitals”, they have given data on the number of abortions and deaths caused since 2008. The data reveals that the number of the legally-terminated pregnancies in government facilities has remained in thousands each year and from 2008 to 2014 over a lakh abortions have been carried out. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is legal and it allows abortion on medical grounds, including abnormalities in the foetus, contraceptive failure, and risk to the mother’s physical and mental health. Rajhans Bansal, the activist who filed the RTI, warned that while the number of the legal abortions taking place in government hospitals is high, “the government should put in place checks and balances to ensure that people should not use medical grounds as an alibi for sex-selective abortion”. City doctors said that for MTP patients the most common reasons cited include medical complications, limiting family size, and spacing pregnancies. But, they said sex determination could not be completely ruled out as a reason. “We cannot rule out that sex-selective abortions happen in small clinics in the city and nursing homes which operate illegally,” said Delhi Medical Association member Anil Bansal, who has been campaigning against quacks in the city. He said that government-run institutions cannot carry out illegal abortions. “There are several checks and balances at every level to prevent or encourage such practice,” he added. The Medical Council of India has, meanwhile, through a notice, stated that the general public as well as those working in the area of medical care should inform the medical council concerned in case they come across any unethical act or medical misconduct (commission/cuts/advertisements/illegal abortions/unnecessary investigation, and nexus with drug companies). “Medical councils should immediately approach and lodge a complaint with the appropriate medical council,” the notice said. (The Hindu 24/8/14)

14. Man, Relatives Booked for Harassing Woman Demanding Rs 50 Lakh Dowry

VELLORE: A 33-year-old woman filed a complaint with the All women Police Station here on Tuesday against her husband, his family members and friends alleging that they were harassing her demanding a dowry of `50 lakh. The complainant, Kavitha Devi, of Virupachipuram in Vellore said, she was married to one Kanagaraj (37) of Tiruttani on February 10, 2014. The marriage was held in Vellore. She alleged that two weeks after their marriage, her husband started to harass her demanding a dowry of `50 lakh. She further said, her mother-in-law Padmavathi, sister-in-law Kanagalatha and her husband Thirunavukarasu, besides relatives Chandra Banu and Velu had also been harassing her. She stated that Kanagaraj and his mother took away 17 sovereigns of jewels from her and forced her out of the house on August 8. Kanagaraj also reportedly threatened Kavitha Devi that he would murder her, if she returned home without the cash. Acting on the complaint, the police filed a case against Kanagaraj and five others under section 498 (a) (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation) of PIC read with 4 (penalty for demanding dowry) of The Prohibition of Dowry Act 1961. The police said, they would transfer the case to their counterpart in Tiruttani for further probe as the incident had occurred in Tiruttani. (New Indian Express 27/8/14)

15. Activists press for CBI probe into child prostitution case

PUDUCHERRY: A host of organisations on Tuesday submitted a petition to the Lieutenant Governor, demanding that the child prostitution case that surfaced in May be transferred to the CBI. Organisations, including the National Federation of Indian Women, the All India Democratic Women’s Association, the All India Youth Federation, the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the All India Students Federation and the Students Federation of India, have expressed concern over the lack of safety for women and children in Puducherry. Activists said the law and order situation had deteriorated with cases of sexual abuse and harassment being reported in schools and colleges. The petition demanded setting up of anti-harassment complaint committees in all educational institutions and workplaces, and activation of the State Women Commission in Puducherry. The child prostitution surfaced in May with the rescue of four minor girls, including two who were ‘children in conflict with the law.’ The case was being handled by the CBCID. The police had arrested some, including a 70-year-old woman. Activists, however, alleged the involvement of police officials and politicians in the case. The activists marched up to the road leading to Raj Nivas and were stopped by police personnel, leading to some altercation. In the counselling sessions held with the victims, the girls revealed anger, guilt, fear and anxiety, according to Vidyaa Ramkumar, chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Puducherry. The girls felt cheated that those around them, including authorities, did not warn or support them and turned a blind eye, she said. (The Hindu 27/8/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. 34 children rescued in separate raids in Delhi (14)

New Delhi: Thirty-four child labourers were rescued in two separate raids in North and Central Delhi in a joint operation of Labour Department, Delhi Police and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) on Thursday. The kids were rescued under the supervision of Sub-Divisional Magistrates in two simultaneous raids in Adarsh Nagar (North Delhi) and Karol Bagh (Central Delhi) on the complaint of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. 19 children have been rescued from jewellery making units and 11 employers were arrested and 9 units were sealed in Karol Bagh, police said. The children were between the age group of 12-17 years and were promised handsome salary along with education. After counselling the children it was found that most of them belonged to villages of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and were brought here by agents from same village. None of them got wages and it was only two bowl of rice that they were surviving on. “I was exposed to extreme conditions and had to work among poisonous gases for the past 3 years. We used to take gas out of the cylinder and polish the stones continuously for 16 hours a day. We had to wash our hands properly before eating as the gas was extremely dangerous. The owner didn’t allow me to move out of the premises,” BBA quoted a 15-year-old boy as saying. In another rescue operation conducted in Adarsh Nagar and Jahangirpuri, 12 children were rescued from hotel/dhabhas and restaurants. The children were in the age group of nine to 15 years and belonged Uttar Padesh and Bihar. Most of them worked for more than 12 hours a day and were found clad in bare minimum clothes. During the operation, five employers have been arrested by the police. Children have been sent to Mukti Ashram, a short term rehabilitation centre of BBA by the order of the Child Welfare Committee. (Zee news 21/8/14)

17. Abolition of Child Marriage Will Take 50 Years More: UNICEF

KOLKATA: India has witnessed a decline in child marriage in the last two decades, but going by the slow pace it will require another 50 years to abolish the practice from the country, according to UNICEF. “Child marriage has been declining at a rate of one per cent per year in the last two decades, but at this rate it will be eliminated in 50 years or so,” UNICEF Child Protection Specialist in India Dora Giusti told PTI. “This is way too long and millions of girls will have married by then,” she warned describing the scenario in the country as “alarming”.”A study among married women currently aged between 20-24 revealed that 43 per cent of them were married before 18 and two out of every five women during the survey said they were married as children,” Giusti explained. Incidentally, a United Nations report in July said that India has sixth highest prevalence of child marriage, with one in every three child brides living in the country. Stressing that the practice of child marriage was still prevalent in certain communities and groups in the country, the UNICEF official held deep-rooted superstitious beliefs as responsible for its slow elimination. “Child marriage is still a widely accepted practice ruled by social norms and gender roles. Girls are still seen as a burden and not worthy of investing on. For generations, once girls hit puberty, their parents have married them off in the false belief that this will also protect them from violence,” Giusti explained. “Often communities are resistant to welcome changes. Furthermore, there are other factors, such as poverty, high costs of marriage, lack of education and other opportunities for girls that undermine change the practice,” she elaborated. Asked if the India government’s cash transfer scheme as incentive to encourage retention of girls in school has helped in containing the practice, she said: “A recent study showed that the scheme has helped keep girls in school and therefore delay child marriage, but it did not have a long-term effect as it does not contribute to changing parents’ mental set-up. According to the official, a ‘political will’ was needed to eradicate child marriage completely from the nation. “Child marriage can be eliminated completely from the country only if there is a political will at all levels and concerted efforts are undertaken to systematically address it through education, opportunities for girls, better income for families, and continued awareness raising programmes,” Giusti stated. “As child marriage is rooted in ancestral practices and traditions, it is very hard to change the mindsets and community rules… Addressing child marriage requires a long-term process of awareness of raising and behavioural change,” she added. Talking about UNICEF’s plan to counter child marriage in India, Giusti said: “UNICEF India is continuously collecting evidence to see what works best to accelerate the pace of change. For more or less a decade we have addressed the issue more aggressively. Targeting child marriage means addressing many other violations of children’s rights, such as health, education and protection from violence.” “Overall our strategy is based on raising awareness on the harms of child marriage, mobilising communities and leaders to end with the practice, enhancing capacity for law enforcement and empower girls through life skills,” Giusti added. (New Indian Express 26/8/14)

18. Child rights panel directs officials to probe suicide

VISAKHAPATNAM: A day after suicide by a tribal boy following denial of admission, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) on Monday directed the District Collector, Project Officer of the ITDA and SP to initiate detailed inquiry into the incident and submit a report by August 30. The Commission which took up the case suo motu, stated that it had registered a case on the issue of denial of admission into Tribal Welfare Ashram High School at Killoguda of Dumbriguda. “This is a serious case of child rights violation under Child Protection Laws CPCR 4 of 2005 Act, Right to Education Act-2009. Section-14 (1) (2), 8c, 9c, 5 (3), Section 17 (1) (2) 2a (2) (g), Clause – (i), Section (2) of the Persons with Disabilities Act 1996 (equal opportunities, protection and full participation),” commission member S. Balaraju told The Hindu. He said the commission had asked the officials concerned to submit a preliminary action taken report at the earliest. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

19. Seven teenage labourers rescued in Trichy, sent to children’s home

TRICHY: Seven teenagers who were employed by four different establishments in the city were on Tuesday rescued following a joint raid conducted by the child protection officials. With Tuesday’s rescue, the number of children rescued from April this year has touched 93. The raid was conducted by officials of the Child Labour Effective Elimination and Eradication Society (Cheers), child line, district child protection unit (DCPU), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and police department. They rescued seven boys employed as labourers in a metal showroom, a garment shop on NSB Road, a sofa showroom on EB Road and an electrical goods shop on SRC College Road. All of them were in the age group of 15 to 17 years. However, the officials could not file cases against the establishments for employing the child labourers as the law permits to register a case only if children below the age of 14 years are employed. “As per the instruction from the district collector, we have been conducting raids in commercial establishments, and rescuing children below 18 years of age. In today’s (Tuesday) raid, we rescued seven children. Since they are above 14 years of age, we did not file cases against the commercial establishments. However, we warned them not to employ such children in the future,” said Pearline Selvakumar, project officer, Cheers, Trichy. The rescued children had reportedly dropped out of school after studying up to Class 8 and 10 and were made to work for Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 salary a month. Later on Tuesday evening, the children were produced before the child welfare committee (CWC). The committee made inquiries with the children about their family background and provided them counselling. Later, they were sent to a children’s home in the city. “We have told their parents to enrol them in schools so that they pursue their studies. Their children will be handed over to them only after they submit the admission papers to us,” said S Indira Gandhi, chairman, CWC. The child care protection team has rescued 93 children from April this year in Trichy alone. Most of them were above 14 years of age and forced to work due to family poverty. “We found that poverty in their families forced them to leave their education and join such commercial establishments. The parents should realise that the habit of sending their minor children for work will spoil their future,” said Pearline. (Times of India 27/8/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. Minority panel wades into Plus Two batches’ row in Kerala

KOTTAYAM: A new front has opened in the war over the new higher secondary batches with the State Commission for Minorities demanding that the government expedite steps to ensure more higher secondary seats in the Malabar region so that candidates from minority communities can continue their studies without hindrance. Addressing presspersons here after the commission’s sitting on Wednesday, chairman M. Veerankutty said it had come to the notice of the commission that even meritorious students in the region could not find seats to continue their studies in the existing situation. Stopping short of issuing a full-blown warning, Mr. Veerankutty said love and care for the minorities should not end up merely as lip service. “We at the commission are not bothered about the controversies over the sanctioning of the higher secondary batches. Whether the batches were sanctioned in compliance with the recommendations of the Higher Secondary Director, or whether underserved elements were benefited during the sanctioning process do not come under our purview,” he said. “Whatever be the case, we urge the government to take urgent steps to ensure a conducive condition for the higher secondary candidates from minority communities in Kannur, Kozhikode, and Malappuram districts to pursue their studies,” Mr. Veerankutty said. If there were any major obstacles, alternatives should be explored, he said. In what appeared to be an explicitly political statement, Mr. Veerankutty said the commission had full faith in Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had promised that his government would take steps to ensure admission to higher secondary classes for all deserving candidates. He said the pending remuneration for the 1,000-odd Minority Welfare Promoters would be disbursed before Onam. The promoters were appointed nearly a year ago to ensure that various Centrally sponsored schemes aimed at minority welfare were effectively utilised. “We have discussed the matter with the Chief Minister and the Minister concerned,” he said. Mr. Veerankutty said the commission would also take up the issue of the Finance Department’s move to deny sanction for the creation of 30 supernumerary posts of staff nurses under the No Candidates Available (NCA) category in Thiruvananthapuram district. He said the commission had entrusted V.V. Joshy, member of the commission, to look into the issues concerning the backward sections among the Christian community. (The Hindu 21/8/14)

21. Minister pushes for empowerment of minorities (7)

SHIMLA: Social justice and empowerment minister Dhani Ram Shandil has requested the Centre to include Himachal Pradesh under multi sectoral development programme for welfare of minorities in the state. He raised this demand with minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla in New Delhi on Thursday. He informed the minister that Himachal Pradesh had not been included under this programme being implemented by the central government and as a result of this, minorities in the state were not able to take benefits of this. He said that the state had around 4.5% population of minority communities. Shandil also demanded opening of at least two residential schools in the state for children from minority communities so as to facilitate them in getting higher education. He also requested for strengthening of HP minorities community financial and development corporation so that loans on minimum rate of interests could be provided to more youth. He also requested enhancement of financial assistance to kids under vocational training. (Times of India 22/8/14)

22. Pakistani set to demolish temple in Rawalpindi

Islamabad: The Pakistani authorities are set to demolish a historic Hindu temple in Rawalpindi, the twin-city of Islamabad unless a court stops it. The 82-year-old temple belonging to the Hindu minority is being demolished to construct barracks. According to the plan, the adjacent Hindu graveyard will also be demolished to give way to a housing scheme. At present, there are 60 Hindu families residing in the city, however the continued intolerance and disrespect is forcing them to consider the idea of migration. Majority of the Pakistanis, some 97 per cent, are Muslims while the rest of the 3 per cent represent all the minorities. Christians and Hindus are the largest minorities. Built in 1935, the temple named “Maharishi Walmeck Sawami Jee Temple,” famous as “Balaknash Temple” is situated in Gracy Lines and is not only the hub of religious activities of the Hindu community from Rawalpindi but also enjoys historic value. The decision to demolish the temple has caused panic and anger, among the community (Asian Age 25/8/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

23. Muslims, activists slam ‘monster’ ISIS (7)

MUMBAI: Representatives of several Muslim organizations as well as activists strongly condemned the atrocities against minorities in Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), calling the radical group a “monster”.Addressing the media on Tuesday at Islam Gymkhana, the activists said persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria has shocked Indian Muslims as the “monster” ISIS was doing this in the name of Islam. A press note, signed by 82 prominent Muslims and members of groups from across India, was released, showing solidarity with the targeted minorities. “We feel agitated and ashamed that the barbaric attacks are being carried out in the name of Islam. We stand with the Christian and other minorities who are being targeted by the ISIS,” said Muslims for Secular Democracy’s general secretary Javed Anand, adding a parallel meet was organized in Delhi too. Anand also condemned senior cleric Maulana Salman Husaini Nadvi’s reported “greetings” to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his proposal to the Saudi Arabian government to prepare an army of five lakh Indian Sunni Muslim youths to fight against Shias in Iraq. Islamic scholar Zeenat Shaukat Ali debunked Baghdadi’s proclamation as the Caliph of Muslims. “The Caliph is selected and not self-declared as Baghdadi has done. The ISIS has damaged the values of Islam,” said Ali, citing an event from the life of the Prophet Muhammad when he provided security to the minorities. “Islam condemns violence and jihad is not war-mongering. Jihad means to strive, to struggle against the evils within. ISIS activities are against the Islamic principles of peace,” she said. St Xavier’s College principal Father Fraser Mascarenhas said humanity was wounded if violence was perpetrated against a section. “It is our duty to protect those who are vulnerable. We must remember that war against violence cannot be won unless we realize that violence breeds from injustice,” said Mascarenhas. Activist Feroz Mithiborewala pointed out a majority of Muslims condemned ISIS. “The crisis may hit India and it should be seen in the crisis of Judeo-Christian and Islamic civilizations’ context,” he said. Bombay Catholic Sabha ex-president Dolphy D’Souza suggested a joint movement by all secular forces be launched. “I am overwhelmed by the solidarity Muslim friends have shown with minorities in Iraq,” he said. (Times of India 21/8/14)

24. Muslim religious leaders dismiss ‘love jihad’ talk

Lucknow: Muslim religious leaders and scholars have dubbed as “false propaganda” the issue of ‘love jihad’ raised by BJP and other right wing outfits, saying that Islam does not allow forced conversions. Taking strong exception to the campaign by saffron outfits on the issue, they stressed it was only an attempt to gain political mileage and the entire community “cannot be put in the dock” over a few incidents. “Jihad is the movement launched for some good cause and anything such as love jihad is both un islamic and condemnable,” member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahalli said, ‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by some Hindu groups for alleged efforts to get non-Muslim girls to convert to Islam through love affairs. The issue had come up during the state BJP’s working committee meeting in Mathura this weekend but was dropped from the resolution at the last minute following allegations that the party was out to fan communalism. Farangimahli and other scholars and religious leaders stressed that forced conversion are not acceptable in the eyes of Islam. “There is no no movement such as love jihad being carried out by Muslims…, there had been a couple of incidents of conversion for marriage but the entire community cannot be put in the dock over them…. love jihad is a wrong propaganda. We take it that this so called campaign is only to gain political mileage which would also weaken communal brotherhood in the country,” Farangimahali said. “We are against a Muslim girl or boy forcing a person of any other religion to convert for marriage .. this leads to negativity in marriage”, he said. Farangimahli’s contentions also find support in the fatwas issued from time to time by the renowned Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband. In separate fatwas issued on March 8, 2012 and March 22, 2012 to queries by different people, Deoband has said that embracing Islam only for marriage was wrong and it is better not to enter into such a matrimony. (Indian Express 25/8/14)

25. Now, BJP regrets raking up Love Jihad

Lucknow: Some within the party are calling it a self-goal. And more than one party leader admits it was a mistake raking up the issue of “Love Jihad” in politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh. Several leaders now say that Uttar Pradesh party president Laxmikant Bajpayi went overboard in propagating the concept before the leadership in New Delhi gently pulled up the state unit. With byelections due Sep 13 to 11 assembly seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party was a divided house when its state executive met in Vrindavan. Party sources say while it is fine to consolidate Hindu votes, one must be careful raking up issues that can communally polarise the state, and in the process alienate the politically uncommitted Hindu. On the first day of the Vrindavan meet, party leaders upped the ante on “Love Jihad” — allegation by Hindu outfits that Muslims marry Hindu women and then force them to embrace Islam. BJP leaders like Vinay Katiyar and Bajpayi discussed and debated the topic in the party forum and insisted it should figure in the political resolution. Union minister Kalraj Mishra, who represented BJP president Amit Shah at Vrindavan, played along and appeared to be convinced that the slogan was a vote-catcher. The tempo was scaled down only after a nudge from the national leadership — read Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reliable sources say the central leaders were so miffed at the “Love Jihad” nomenclature that Home Minister Rajnath Singh flew to Assam, giving a slip to the Vrindavan conclave. Meanwhile, Congress and Samajwadi Party leaders trained their guns on the BJP, accusing it of spreading communal poison. BJP leaders now blame Mr. Bajpayi for being “overzealous” in public utterances. “Bajpayi has a penchant for melodramatic words in public discourse which should be avoided at all costs because they harm the party’s prospects,” a party leader said. Added another leader: “This ‘Love Jihad’ is a non-issue. It will have no takers outside the fringe.” Others pointed out that the BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in May while harping on issues of good governance and economic development. “Going overboard communally can lead to reverse polarisation,” a party leader said, adding that worried Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh would then rally behind one strong non-BJP party in every constituency. A state executive member from western Uttar Pradesh pointed out that a woman party leader had herself embraced Islam to marry an already married man years ago. Both are from Bollywood. While the state unit of the BJP continues to claim that there is increasing sexual assaults on Hindu women by members of another community, the “Love Jihad” concept has gone underground. It will be left to groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to take up the issue. On its part, the BJP will focus on development as it trains its guns on the ruling Samajwadi Party. Saanya, a young woman from Rae Bareli who married a Muslim seven years ago, says she finds the “Love Jihad” accusation disturbing. The resident of Indira Nagar here said that she coaxed her husband, Ali Hasan, to vote for the BJP in this Lok Sabha polls and now feels let down. “Why are they raising such issues?” she asked. Like her, many others have raised the same question. Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali, a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, says there is no such thing as “Love Jihad”. “There have been stray incidents where conversions have been done for marital purposes but for that the entire community cannot be held guilty,” Mahali said. “The BJP only wants communal polarisation.” (The Hindu 27/8/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

26. Prohibition not Congress’s internal issue: CSI Bishop

KOTTAYAM: Joining issue with Congress leaders on the issue of closed bars, Church of South India (CSI) deputy moderator and Head of the Madhya Kerala diocese Bishop Thomas Oommen has said that prohibition and closure of bars cannot be taken as an inner party problem of the Congress. He has warned that any move to bring back the culture of liquor will draw popular ire. In a statement here on Wednesday, the Bishop said an issue that ensured welfare of and peace in thousands of homes should not be handled as an inner party issue. With the fall in sale of liquor, there had been a marked fall in the incidence of vehicle accidents and in the crime rate. “This cannot be taken lightly,” he said, adding that no one could measure the happiness and peace experienced by such families. Bishop Oommen, who is also the president of the All Kerala Joint Christian Temperance Movement, the umbrella organisation of various Christian denominations working for the anti-liquor campaign, said the government’s actions during the past many days had increasingly made it clear if it was indebted more to the bar owners or the people. Taking a critical view of the just-launched inspection of the closed bars by the Excise Department, the Bishop said it was an eyewash. (The Hindu 21/8/14)

27. Christians in Kerala can opt for cremation (7)

KOCHI: In a far reaching move, the bishops’ synod of Syro-Malabar Church (SMC), the most powerful Catholic rite in Kerala, has decided to permit cremation of bodies instead of only burial. The synod now in session here vested the bishops with powers to sanction cremation if relatives of the deceased requested for it. Cutting across denominations, churches in the state, including Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthoma and Church of South India, are facing the problem of shrinking space in their graveyards. Fr Paul Thelakat, official spokesman for SMC, said the church’s move was not a direct consequence of the burial space crunch. “Both cremation and burial present problems. While burial requires space, consigning bodies into flames can cause environmental problems if carried out in private places. Only public crematoriums have facilities to conduct such last rites without environmental consequences,” said Thelakat. Thelakat said cremation of bodies was permitted in the Canon laws in exceptional cases although burial is the most accepted form of last rites in Christianity. “The practice has been in vogue in Europe for the last couple of years after coffins became very expensive. There were some rare cases of cremation performed by some church followers in Kerala also in the past,” he said. The synod, however, has reminded Church followers to ensure that last rites should not anyway affect the Christian faith in after life. “The esteemed Christian practice of offering prayers for the deceased should be preserved,” the synod said in a communication. (Times of India 22/8/14)

28. Activists demand SIT for inquiry into police’s role

NEW DELHI: Human rights activists belonging to different organisations and leaders of various Christian groups on Monday observed ‘Kandhamal Day’ at Jantar Mantar here and demanded setting up a “high-level” special investigation team to inquire into the roles of the administration and the police machinery during the violence against Dalits, tribals and Christians at Kandhamal in Orissa six years ago. It was on August 25, 2008, that the Kandhamal district in Orissa witnessed “anti-Christian, anti-Dalit and and anti-tribal violence”, a release on behalf of the protesting organisations said. The protesters also demanded release of all victims facing allegedly fabricated charges and appropriate legal action against the culprits who were involved in the violence. People and institutions affected by the violence should also be duly compensated, the protesters demanded, adding that the faith, culture, language, values and religions of the Adivasis in the district should be ensured protection. The National Peoples Tribunal recorded that over 56,000 children, women and men, all of them Dalits and tribals, were displaced and forced to flee into the forests as the mobs burnt down their houses, churches, schools, hostels and medical centres. The protesters bemoaned that the criminal justice system and the relief and rehabilitation operations had failed the victims of the violence. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

29. Sikh volunteers ready to perform sewa in Afghan gurdwaras (13)

AMRITSAR: Sikh groups here have volunteered to perform ?sewa’ at gurdwaras in Afghanistan after the recent spate of migration of the community following their persecution by Taliban. “Sikhs are leaving Afghanistan. We have several historical gurdwaras there. Who will take care of them? So, we have decided to send Sikh jatha to Afghanistan to perform sewa in gurdwaras,” said Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha president Swaran Singh Gill on Thursday. Thirty-five Afghan Sikhs, including 13 children, were recently found in a shipping container in UK’s Tilbury docks. The Sikhs from Afghanistan were forced to leave their country following harassment by Taliban. Gill said he had written to both home ministry and Afghanistan embassy urging to grant permission to send an 11-member Sikh jatha to Afghanistan before they leave for Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November. Acting president of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Bishan Singh told TOI over phone from Lahore on Thursday that there were historical gurdwaras in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghzani in Afghanistan. During his way back from Mecca, Guru Nanak Dev had traveled through Afghanistan and had held discourses with Muslim holy saints in Kabul. He said the migration of Sikhs was due to their discrimination and persecution. He said around two decade ago, there were more than 2.25 lakh Sikh population in Afghanistan which has now come down to a few thousands only. There was a sizeable number of Sikhs in Ghazni but many of them had migrated to Pakistan or India. Gill also said he would also meet officials of home ministry and Afghanistan embassy in Delhi to expedite the matter. (Times of India 22/8/14)

30. Compensation for displaced people

 GUWAHATI, Aug 22 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said that the State government would provide adequate compensation to the displaced people who were hit by violence along the Assam-Nagaland border, said an official press release issued this evening. The Chief Minister said that the State government would take every care of the affected people and rehabilitate them at the earliest. He said that the government has taken steps to augment security to instil confidence among the affected people. Gogoi said that he has personally taken up the matter with the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister and sought additional companies of CRPF for rapid deployment in the disputed area/belt along with new security pickets in the affected villages. Gogoi further said both the two States have had fruitful talks at the Chief Ministerial and official levels to restore peace and tranquillity near the border areas. The Chief Minister announced Rs 5 lakh each as ex-gratia to the next of kin of those killed in police firing and Rs 50,000 to those who sustained serious injuries. He also announced Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of Ajit Tanti, who died after being run over by a speeding truck while fleeing police lathicharge. (The Assam Tribune 23/8/14)

31. Central team to visit Bru refugee camps in Tripura

Agartala/Aizawl: A central team arrived here on Monday to take stock of the condition of Mizoram`s displaced Reang tribals, locally called `Bru`, living in refugee camps in Tripura, an official said here. About 35,000 Reang tribals are staying in seven camps in Tripura for about 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official. “The union home ministry has recently constituted a seven-member committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, the ministry`s additional secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps,” Swapan Saha, Tripura`s relief and revenue department secretary, told IANS. “The central team arrived here today (Monday) and they would visit the refugee camps tomorrow (Tuesday),” Saha said. He said the central team, also comprising officials of the human resource development ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry, Tripura government and representatives of three NGOs from New Delhi, West Bengal and Assam, will submit its report to the union home ministry and the Tripura High Court by Sep 12. The central team was constituted following a directive from the Tripura High Court, which passed an order June 24 after a lawyer filed a petition on the alleged miserable conditions of the refugees and the camps they are living in. “The central team would oversee the sanitation, health, educational and other facilities there,” Saha added. Meanwhile, Tripura Governor Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya visited the refugee camps Sunday and told them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent him to see the conditions of the displaced people. “Do not be upset, good days are ahead for you. Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre would resolve all the problems of all of you,” the governor told the refugees while addressing gatherings of migrants in different camps. Refugee leader and Mizoram Bru Displaced People`s Forum (MBDPF) general secretary Bruno Mesha submitted a memorandum to the governor. The memorandum contains 10 demands which included providing all facilities to the refugees like Kashmiri Pandits and Tamil refugees, allotment of lands to all the repatriated tribals, creation of model villages in Reang tribals` inhabited areas, ensure better security and sanitation, health and education to the tribals in Mizoram. Acharya, who is the governor of Nagaland with additional charge of Tripura, promised the refugees to take up their matter with the central government. The Mizoram government recently asked the union home ministry to take up with the Election Commission the issue of deleting from the electoral lists the names of those refugees, who are unwilling to leave Tripura camps and return to Mizoram. “Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla earlier this month held a meeting with Home Secretary Anil Goswami in New Delhi and requested him to take action over deleting the names of those refugees who are not willing to return to Mizoram,” an official of the Mizoram government told IANS in Aizawl. “Lal Thanhawla apprised Goswami that while the state government has done its best to take back the refugees from Tripura camps, the state government`s efforts have often been opposed by a section of refugee leaders,” the official said. The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking the central government to take steps to repatriate the 35,000 tribal refugees to Mizoram. Only about 5,000 Reang tribal refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. (Zee News 25/8/14)

32. Money disbursed to 173 Bru families

AIZAWL, Aug 25 – Mizoram Government has disbursed money under rehabilitation and resettlement package to all the 173 Bru families who returned to Mizoram from six relief camps in neighbouring North Tripura during June 17 to 21 last year. State Home department officials today said that Rs 80,000 was disbursed to each family for rehabilitation and resettlement expenses while free ration would be given for a year. The officials said that repatriated Bru families were resettled in 24 different villages in Mizoram-Tripura-Bangladesh border Mamit district after being verified as bonafide residents of Mizoram. Meanwhile, hundreds of Bru families, who refused to return to Mizoram, stayed behind in the relief camps. A Sawibung, president of Mizoram Bru Displaced People said that Bru people, did not want to return to Mizoram unless their demands were met. The MBDPF has been demanding, among other things that the rehabilitation and resettlement package should be increased from Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh per family and that the free ration to be provided to the repatriated families should be extended from one year to two years. – PTI (Assam Tribune 26/8/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

33. Won’t hear RTIs of personal nature: central information commissioner (1-2)

New Delhi: The central information commissioner (CIC) has directed that the Right to Information (RTI) applications seeking personal details to settle personal scores on frivolous grounds should not be entertained. Information commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu said since there was no provision in the law against persons who misuse the RTI in such a brazen manner to settle scores with their disputants, the commission was helpless in making such order, but thinks it proper to advise such persons to desist from misusing the RTI. A senior government official said that the order, which would act as a deterrent against frivolous RTI applicants, has been circulated to all the principal secretaries, secretaries, heads of departments and heads of local and autonomous bodies. The commission had passed these directions on an appeal related to a RTI seeking information about Delhi government employee Ramesh Chander Gupta and his family in March 2012. The RTI, filed by Mr Gupta’s brother, had sought information related to his date of birth, his appointment in the city administration, details of movable and immovable assets held by him, his mother, his wife and children, details of his bank accounts, his source of investments, medical expenses claimed by him in his office and details related to the properties developed by him by virtue of will. In response to the RTI, the principal information officer had delivered copies of three annual returns to the applicant. When the applicant demanded a copy of the gift deed mentioned in one of the returns, the PIO denied the same to him. The commission observed that there was no public interest in the RTI application which was being used to harass the applicant’s brother for personal reasons. (Asian Age 21/8/14)

34. Amend your RTI rules: CIC tells Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the Delhi High Court to amend its RTI fee rules for local courts bringing them in conformity with the provisions of the Right to Information Act. The case reached Central Information Commission after Patiala House court demanded Rs 50 from an applicant for filing first appeal against the reply provided by its Central Public Information Officer under the RTI Act. The Delhi High Court while exercising its power under Section 28 (1) of the Right to Information Act made the Delhi District Court (Right to Information Rules, 2008) under which which Rule 11 deals with the provision concerning charging of fees during First Appeal. According to the RTI Act, fee can only be charged at the stage of filing of the RTI Act. The transparency law does not have any provision of levying fee at the stage of first appeal within a department or second appeal before the Commission. “Imposing a fee of Rs 50 as mandatory requirement at the first appeal level is not in consonance with the fee structure prescribed by Act and Rules by Central Government. Except Rs 10 fee at the stage of filing request for information with the PIO, the law does not prescribe any fee at any stage including at the second appeal level at the Information Commission,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order. The Commission recommended Delhi High Court to amend the rules to bring it in conformity with RTI Act, for effective provision of access to information and to bring uniformity with the rules made by DoPT which are also followed by the Supreme Court. “Right to information can be culled out from fundamental right to life and liberty under Article 21 and from freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) which was more specifically guaranteed by Right to Information Act,” Acharyulu said. (Zee News 24/8/14)

35. RTI activists urge TN to follow Bihar helpline model

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu may claim to top in fields like healthcare and Public Distribution System (PDS), however, it lags behind several other states when it comes to transparency in governance. To overcome this, RTI activists have urged the state to follow a Bihar model where citizens submit RTI applications by dialing a helpline. Citizens in Bihar just have to make a call to the Jaankari helpline, launched in 2007, to file RTI applications. The telephone operator receiving the call drafts the application and sends it to the concerned Public Information Officer (PIO) for providing the requisite information to the applicant. The applicant also gets a reference number of the application. In case information is not provided by authorities, the applicant is entitled to file appeals through the helpline. A 10 RTI application fee is added to the telephone call charge. “This model would empower people and bring transparency as well as accountability. It will also help people get government services without paying a bribe,” said RTI activist Senthil Arumugam. “Under the RTI Act, every citizen has the right to know about the status of ongoing projects and reasons for delay. The dial-to-information facility will make procedures easier.” Madras high court advocate V S Suresh said the Jaankari project would help even illiterate citizens use RTI. “It will help senior citizens and the disabled obtain data under the Act without any hassle.” The Bihar Information Commission has also started an online system to register complaints against errant PIOs for delaying and denying information under the RTI Act. It has also introduced an online appeal filling system on its website for the applicants. Tamil Nadu, however, is yet to introduce an online filing system despite repeated petitions. Chief information commissioner K S Sripathi was unavailable for comment. (Times of India 25/8/14)

36. RTI activists take to street for quicker replies

COIMBATORE: A group of 100 members of RTI Activists’ Association held a protest to complain about the lethargy of RTI officers at Gandhipuram on Monday evening. They said public information officers failed to provide information on their petitions filed more than two years ago. Under the Right to Information Act, public information officials should maintain all records and provide data sought by people within a reasonable time. “As these officers delay answering our petitions unnecessarily, we are appealing to the government to take action and let us know why we are being denied information we seek,” said M Selvaraj, head of the association. The members of the association have filed several RTI applications with the corporation, commissioner’s office and taluk offices. More than 60 petitions have remained unanswered. “According to the act, the information should be given within 30 days. When that did not happen we appealed to the senior officials who could again take 30 days’ time to respond. But they have not responded either. We also appealed to the state-level officers. These officers also seem to delay the process,” said Manoj Arun, a member of the association. “At least, let us know the reason behind this delay,” he added. The association said shortage of officers might be a reason for the delay. “Where 10 officers should be appointed only four have been appointed,” he said. (Times of India 26/8/14)

37. Cops probe if RTI activist had faked his death

GREATER NOIDA: Three months ago, the charred body of RTI activist and Aam Admi Party member Chandra Mohan Sharma was found in Greater Noida. But police are now investigating if this was a case of the 38-year-old activist faking his own death. Police said they had received information that Sharma had been spotted in Karnataka and near the Nepal border and that he could be living with another woman. “On receiving the information, several teams were formed and they were sent to Nepal, Karnataka and Haryana,” said Preetinder Singh, senior superintendent of police (SSP), Gautam Budh Nagar. “While the team from Haryana has returned the other teams in Karnataka and Nepal are still investigating the information about Sharma,” Singh said. “So far, there is no confirmation that Sharma is alive and living in another city. We are still awaiting evidence,” he added. Adding fuel to the speculation is Savita Sharma, the activist’s wife. She told TOI that she had been hearing rumours of Sharma being alive for several days. She claimed the police had got suspicious after scanning Sharma’s cell phone call details. “There was a young woman whose frequent calls had figured on my husband’s phone,” Savita said. She claimed the woman lived close to their house and had gone missing about a month after Sharma’s ?death’. But if there’s any merit in the speculations, a key question needs to be answered first. If Sharma is alive, then whose body was found in the car? The charred body was found in Sharma’s gutted car barely a kilometre from his residence in Greater Noida, on the night of May 1. The police had said that it appeared to be an accidental death, but family members had alleged foul play as they said the victim and his family had been receiving threats to life for over a year. Greater Noida police had sent the body for DNA examination but even after three months the result is awaited. The autopsy report had said the victim had died due to asphyxiation and there were no external injuries on his body. Sharma’s family had at the time alleged that they suspected the local police were manipulating the case details and had demanded a CBI probe. A team of forensic experts had also visited the spot and examined Sharma’s car to get some leads in the case. Cops had also summoned experts from Chevrolet to examine the burnt car (an Aveo). The experts had said the fire probably started at the dashboard. Though Sharma’s family named five people for his ?murder’, the police had not made any arrests in the case. (Times of India 27/8/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

38. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India vision to boost education, healthcare sectors (11)

NEW DELHI: One can’t make available thousands of medical specialists or school teachers to the remotest corners of the country, but one can make their services available through broadband at multi-service centres in every village. That, in essence, is the vision of Digital India initiative that the Cabinet cleared on Wednesday. Digital India, which promises to transform India into a connected knowledge economy offering world class services at the click of a mouse, will be implemented in a phased manner by 2019 at an estimated cost of about Rs 1,13,000 crore, including ongoing enabling projects run by telecom and electronics and IT departments, officials said. At the end of the day, it promises to change the life in rural India, according to some bureaucrats who helped ET piece together Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Digital India. “Common service centers (CSC) in villages will serve as critical pivots around which most goods and services will be delivered. Once connected to broadband, an entire village’s requirements of goods can be placed through these service centers and people can use these service centers as onestop shop for all their e-needs,” said a senior official at the telecom department. Another official said e-medical facilities will ensure specialist services on a dial. “A patient at the health center in a village can be connected to any medical specialist hundreds of miles away and diagnosed online,” the person said. Thus, various government or private specialists will be able to diagnose and treat people who otherwise don’t have access to specialist medical facilities. The same will go for schools. “We obviously can’t ensure the quality and quantity of teachers but we can deliver world class education to children through massive online open courses,” the first official said. He added that subject modules prepared by the private sector could be delivered online to the CSC which can be accessed by children. Despite making right to education a fundamental right, India struggles to fill its schools with teachers across the hinterland, leading to poor quality of education and innumerable dropouts. Rakesh Kaul, executive director, government and public sector, at PwC India, said Digital India has the potential to transform existing public service delivery system, improve productivity, create jobs and induce economic activity in areas that are not digitally connected. “All this is possible by overcoming barriers of soloed implementations, non-availability of robust last mile connectivity, processes improvements, capacity constraints, efficient operational models and by leveraging the emerging technologies like cloud, social media, analytics and mobility,” he said. According to information released by the government on Wednesday, Digital India envisages making India a leader in digitally delivering health, education and banking services. (The Economic Times 22/8/14)

39. We want school dropouts to get back, graduate: HRD minister Smriti Irani

Union minister Smriti Irani has said the government wants to get school dropouts back to studying and even complete graduation up to the doctorate level. Addressing students at the Vivekanand Education Society in Chembur on Saturday, the minister of human resources and development said: “By December we will roll out a plan where if you have to drop out in the eighth standard because you are compelled to work, we will facilitate your coming back. We are making a framework for such students to get back and train for a vocation, even up to the PhD level.” Irani said the government had already launched the “Ishan Vikas” programme for students of northeastern states, in which those with the calibre to become researchers or scientists would be picked to visit top-notch educational institutions in the country. “In Ishan Vikas the best 2,200 students from class 9 to 11 would be selected and groomed. They will visit IITs, IIMs and other technical institutions and get an orientation there,” she said. The minister also informed that 1,400 most underprivileged students attending CBSE schools, but whose annual family income is less than Rs50,000, have been identified and they will be mentored to enter the best institutions after they complete school. Responding to a question by a student from a Kashmiri migrant family on the limited quota for the community (just one seat per course or branch), the minister said the government was committed to support Kashmiri migrants. “Prime minister Narendra Modi has announced a Rs500 crore package for Kashmiri pandits, to support migrant families returning to Kashmir. I can assure you that there would be no ambiguity in granting admission,” Irani said. She said her ministry was open to suggestions for other special schemes. When an engineering student described reservations in higher education and jobs as discriminatory, the minister explained the need to support the underprivileged. “When it comes to education women, children from scheduled castes and other backward castes are not economically empowered to study further and so many of them drop out. I too could not continue with higher education because I didn’t have money,” Irani said. On the matter of gender discrimination, the minister lauded men who supported women in the family and in the workforce, but admitted that society at large has yet to see a significant change. “Girls outshine boys in school examinations, but when it comes to technical and management studies, very few are women as the families don’t want to spend more on girls. There are only 22 per cent girls in IITs and very few who are scientists,” she said, and urged students to respect their sisters and become agents of change. The minister also said the government was drafting a new education policy for which all stakeholders were being consulted. “The existing policy was prepared in 1986. The people’s aspirations have changed since then. The new education policy will help to make students productive… to emerge as citizens of this country.” (DNA 24/8/14)

40. Free college education for 1.25 lakh more girls

BANGALORE: As many as 1.25 lakh girl students will get free education in degree courses as the government has extended the scheme of providing free education for girl students to aided colleges too. Earlier, the scheme was being offered only in government colleges. Announcing this at a press conference in Bangalore on Monday, Higher Education Minister R.V. Deshpande said girl students would be exempted from paying tuition and laboratory fees. This will cost the State exchequer an additional Rs. 25 crore a year. He reiterated that 1,298 lecturers would be recruited for the government degree colleges through Common Entrance Test system and recruitment would begin by September 15. When asked if the Higher Education Department had decided against giving the responsibility of selecting candidates to the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) following the recent controversy, the Minister said the main reason of choosing CET system was to bring parity among the candidates of all the universities. He said the biometric attendance system for lecturers, in use in 310 government degree colleges, would be extended to all degree colleges by October this year. In addition, the Education Monitoring Infrastructure System would also be used to track the syllabus covered by each college on a daily basis. Following the demand for new courses, he has directed officials concerned to give permission to government and aided degree colleges to commence 15 new courses this year, if colleges have the required infrastructure. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

41. 78 villages get nod to start schools

KOLHAPUR: The secondary education department of the Kolhapur Zilla Parishad (ZP) has appealed to interested private educational institutes to apply for starting schools at 12 villages in the district on a non-grant basis. The villages are from Shahuwadi, Shirol, Bhudargad, Hatkanangale and Chandgad taluka of the district. On August 13, the education department issued a circular stating that the state government has included 78 new villages in its master plan and the institutes can apply for starting new schools till September 5 at the secondary education office, Kolhapur ZP. The school education and sports department had created a master plan in June 2012 for proper implementation and reach of education under Right of Children To Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 across the rural and remote areas of the state. Under the master plan, the state government had given authority to start 2,372 new private schools in the rural parts, especially the ones with less population and natural obstacles like mountain, river and wild animals. The master plan approved formation of new primary school within one km, secondary school within 3 km and high school within 5 km of the village limits. The Kolhapur division, which includes Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, got approval to start around 108 schools in the remote areas in the earlier master plan. Z(Times of India 27/8/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

42. Govt hopes to reduce food subsidy burden by Rs 23,400 crore annually (21)

NEW DELHI: The government expects to reduce the food subsidy burden by Rs 23,400 crore annually after the Food Corporation of India (FCI) cut its wheat stock substantially by 1.3 crore tonnes in the past two years. At present, the estimated carrying cost of FCI, which includes storage and other expenses, is Rs 43.8 crore per lakh tonne of foodgrains, meaning the reduction of 1.3 crore tonnes of surplus foodgrain under central pool will translate into nearly a saving of Rs 5,694 crore per annum. “Taking average subsidy burden of Rs 150 crore per lakh tonne of wheat and Rs 200 crore per lakh tonne of rice, the savings on extra burden of subsidy are estimated to be Rs 23,400 crore,” said an official. The subsidy would reduce further if the state governments – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – stop giving bonus to farmers over and above the minimum support price. Even the move to reduce percentage of levy imposed on rice will also reduce the subsidy burden, sources said. Government officials said the details of steps taken to contain food subsidy was recently presented at a meeting with rating agencies, convened by the finance ministry. Food ministry’s estimate shows that the government’s food subsidy bill would reduce substantially in the current financial year because of decline in wheat procurement and its move to sell excess wheat stocks in the open market. “Through appropriate pricing policy under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), the government has tried an atmosphere where private bulk purchasers, roller flour millers have been encouraged to buy wheat from farmers directly in mandis during harvesting season,” a ministry official said. This has brought down procurement of wheat and it is getting optimized in the range of 20-28 million tonnes in comparison to procurement of 38 million tonnes in 2012-13. As a result, the overall stock of foodgrain with FCI has reduced by 13 million tonnes. While as on July 1, 2012 it was 80.5 million tonnes, this year it was 67.5 million tonnes, primarily on account of wheat stock. Last year FCI had sold 5.8 million tonnes of wheat under OMSS and this year it has set the target to sell 10 million tonnes from its excess stocks to bulk buyers. Sources said the ministry recently issued directives to states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan against offering bonus to farmers to restrict the quantity of grain procurement by FCI. Such excess procurement is about 14 lakh tonnes of rice in MP and Chhattisgarh and another 14 lakh tonnes of wheat in MP and Rajasthan. “If this is done, the total check on subsidy burden would be Rs 1,225 crore per annum towards carrying cost and Rs 4,900 crore on sale of foodgrains,” an official said. The official said the government move to restrict levy rice procurement to only 25% from the next procurement season commencing October, 2014 is also expected reduce rice purchase by three-four million tonnes annually and thereby savings of around Rs 6,000 crore on food subsidy front. (Times of India 21/8/14)

43. Hunger rampant at Naxal birth place

Kolkata: Four decades after the Naxalabari uprising, a large section of population is still suffering from chronic hunger and dying of malnutrition at the very place where the movement had its beginnings, civil rights activist Binayak Sen said here on Friday. Dr. Sen was referring to the situation in the closed and abandoned tea gardens of north Bengal which he had visited a few months ago as a member of a human rights group. The Naxalbari uprising, reported in April 1967, began from Naxalbari village in the Darjeeling district of north Bengal. Addressing a gathering at the launch of the book, ‘The First Naxal: An Authorised Biography of Kanu Sanyal’ by Bappaditya Paul, Dr Sen said the members of the human rights group found that over 60 per cent of workers had a body mass index (BMI) less than 18.5, which is a sign of chronic hunger. “On 12 June this year, in response to reports on death due to chronic hunger of tea garden workers in north Bengal, a human rights group of which I was a member went to Jalpaiguri and Raipur Tea Estate,” Dr Sen said. Of the 222 workers surveyed there, 167 workers (more than 60 per cent) had a body mass index below 18.5, he added. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) says if 40 per cent of a community has a BMI less than 18.5, that community should be regarded to be in a state of famine,” Dr Sen said Stating that the situation in the region “is a measure of what prompted the suicide of Kanu Sanyal” in 2010, the activist called for examination of serious theoretical issues thrown up by the Naxalbari movement. He said the issues were relevant in the present times when the Left forces were on the decline not only in the country but across the world. Justice (Retd) Asok Kumar Ganguly, who was present at the book launch, wondered how Mr. Sanyal would have reacted to his presence at the launch as he is part of the establishment and judiciary which imprisoned the likes of Dr Sen. The retired Supreme Court judge said that very few revolutionaries live a humble and transparent life like Kanu Sanyal. (The Hindu 23/8/14)

44. Houses for poor: Delhi government asked for account

New Delhi: The union government has asked the Delhi government for details about the flats allotted to the the poor under the previous UPA dispensation’s flagship Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM). The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has written to the Delhi government asking it to furnish the number of flats allotted to people belonging to the economically weaker sections of society. The government was to construct 67,784 flats under the Basic Service to the Urban Poor – a sub-mission of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) scheme launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. A Delhi government official said of these, only 4,000 have been allotted, and data is being collated to send a formal reply to the ministry. The deadline for building these flats was March 2014. “These flats are divided into 17 projects, of which only six projects have been completed,” an official in the Delhi government’s urban development department told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have to gather the exact number of allotted flats and send it to the ministry,” he added. Asked why the number of allotments was low, the official said: “The problem is of identification. Many people have been identified, but they don’t have documents like ration cards required for allotment of a flat.” Interestingly, of the 67,784 flats, the Delhi government wants to drop the construction of 9,000. This is in addition to the 3,600 that were scrapped a few months ago. In July, the Delhi government had written to the ministry to whittle down 9,060 units from the original 67,784. If the central government accepts the Delhi government’s fresh proposal, the number of dwelling units will come down to 55,124. The move came in the wake of the ministry’s direction in June after reviewing the progress of the housing projects, which it found to be “sluggish”.The ministry had asked the Delhi government to either speed up the ongoing projects or curtail those which have not yet started. Several agencies like the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board, the Delhi Development Authority and the New Delhi Municipal Council have been entrusted with the task of construction. (Zee News 24/8/14)

45. Govt to make dream houses easier for widows, eunuchs

NEW DELHI: Widows and transgenders may get government backing to own a house in urban areas with a plan proposed to ease the interest burden. At present, only women, SC/ST, minorities and differently-abled persons get such a preference. Learning from the experiences of Rajiv Rinn Yojna (RRY), an instrument to address the housing needs of the economically weaker section (EWS) and low income groups (LIG) through enhanced credit flow, the housing and poverty alleviation ministry has now proposed to replace it with a new scheme. It would be named as Home Owners’ Mortgage Equity Subvention Scheme (HOMES) for urban poor. The ministry has targeted to extend this scheme for 35,000 dwelling units. (Times of India 26/8/14)

46. Modi govt faces huge challenge in giving bank accounts to all

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put a pledge to give bank accounts to all Indians on a war footing, but experts say taking banking to rural areas where many people have no identity papers will be a huge challenge. In developed nations, bank branches are everywhere. But banking services in India leave out nearly half the 1.2 billion population, putting poor people at the mercy of moneylenders who charge usurious interest for emergency loans for sickness or routine purchases such as buying seeds. “Why are our farmers committing suicide? It’s because they have to take money at huge interest rates from the moneylenders,” Modi declared in his first Independence Day speech. Just 145 million of India’s 247 million households have access to a bank account, census figures show. According to the World Bank, 73 percent of farmers have no formal source of credit. While the drive for universal banking access dates back decades, India is still far from its goal. Now Modi is taking a personal stake in the quest. “We want to integrate the poorest of the poor with bank accounts,” Modi said in his August 15 speech, remarking that while there has been a telecommunications revolution in India, there has been no similar banking revolution. “There are millions of families who have mobile phones but no bank accounts. We have to change this scenario,” said Modi, who aims to provide bank accounts to 75 million more households by 2018, and to have two account-holders per household. (Times of India 28/8/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. 1.35 lakh labourers yet to be paid under MNREGA (14)

Mandya: With the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme facing fund crunch, about 1.35 lakh labourers of the district have not been paid wages since several months. As many as 1,35,602 people have worked for the months of May, June and July. Each worker has to be paid Rs 191 per day. It has become a routine for these workers to visit gram panchayats every day with a hope of getting paid. Apart from the wages, bills amounting to Rs 2.17 crore for the materials procured for the construction of toilets and other works are also pending and has left the shopkeepers fuming. The labourers claim that as per the norms, wages have to be paid within 15 days of completion of works. Agriculture Labouers Association district unit president M Puttamadu said the pending bills under MNREGA in the State was Rs 600 crore. Mandya district had an arrears of Rs 16 crore yet to be disbursed. Around 30 labourers of Basaralu gram panchayat in Mandya taluk have not been paid since five months. Several works to be taken up under MNREGA have been stalled, especially with the labourers hesitating to volunteer to take up the job, says Puttamadu. Yashodamma, one of the workers said that she had worked under the scheme for desilting of Thimmanakatte lake for a month, but she was yet to be paid. She complained that around 28 people had applied for the work on February 7, but they had not received any response. “The officials have been assuring that we will be paid soon,” she said. Zilla Panchayat CEO Rohini Sindhuri said that the matter had been brought to the notice of the higher officials. There was confusion over the continuation of the scheme by the new government in the Centre and there was delay in releasing funds. However, funds would be released soon, she added. (Deccan Herald 21/8/14)

48. Social Security for Migrant Labourers

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government has decided to cover migrant labourers under social security schemes, currently being extended to construction workers in organised and unorganised sectors. The Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, at its 14th board meeting, gave its nod to the proposal. As per the plan, migrant labourers will be registered and issued identity cards which can be renewed on an annual basis. The labourers, who migrate to different States in search of work and livelihood every year, will be entitled to all the social security benefits that construction workers are eligible for. This includes `2 lakh ex gratia in case of accidental death, `1 lakh for natural death, medical benefits in mishaps and educational benefits for their wards, among others. As many as new 21 activities such as brick kilns, crusher units, sewerage work and electricity have now been included for expanding their coverage. The Board will employ District Labour Offices (DLOs) for bringing migrant labourers under the plan. “We will also hold awareness drives at district-level, railway stations and bus stands so that the labourers can register themselves before shifting to States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi or Gujarat,” Chairman of the Board, Subash Singh told mediapersons here on Friday. So far, the Board has enrolled at least 3.6 lakh construction workers for the social security benefits and plans to get another 2.25 lakh under its ambit. Currently, however, there are no statistics available on the exact number of labourers migrating to other States but the Board is hopeful that awareness drives can bring them on board. However, the welfare measures will be meant only for people migrating to different parts of the country, and not to those who go abroad. To extend its reach to grass-root levels, the board has requested the State Government to engage a village labour inspector at each block. Singh said, during 2013-14 the State Government had sanctioned `7.83 crore to take up welfare measures for construction workers which will rise to `40 crore during this fiscal. (New Indian Express 23/8/14)

49. HC constitutes monitoring committee for metro workers

BANGALORE: The Karnataka high court has ordered for constituting a monitoring committee which will function till completion of all construction work relating to Bangalore Metro Rail Project. The committee has been asked to meet at least once in a month and also to assure strict enforcement of legal provisions in various labour laws. A division bench headed by chief justice D H Waghela then disposed off a PIL filed by one Samuel Sathya Seelan, a social worker. The petitioner had complained that no one is taking care of BMRCL workers or about their living conditions and authorities are only indulging in blame game and the attitude of the officers is very casual. He further complained that the work conditions at work place are inhuman and the migrant workers are in a helpless condition and the norms under building construction workers act is violated. (Times of India 25/8/14)

50. Contract employees seek regularisation of services

VIJAYAWADA: Contract employees on Monday staged a demonstration in front of the Sub-Collector’s office here, demanding that the government regularise their services. The protesters, who were backed by the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), raised slogans denouncing the government’s “negligence” in resolving their long-standing issues, including regularisation of services and payment of a monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 to those working in the unorganised sector. The protesters wanted the government to ensure ESI, gratuity and provident fund facilities for all the workers and to fill up the vacant posts of Assistant Commissioner of Labour and Deputy Commissioner of Labour in the Labour Department. They demanded that the government set up Workers’ Welfare Board for the benefit of ‘hamalis’ and auto-rickshaw workers and added that the government should pay salaries to Anganwadi teachers and ayahs in accordance with the Central pay scale. Meanwhile, A.P. State Housing Corporation Outsourcing Employees Union submitted a memorandum to the Sub-Collector requesting her to ensure job security for them. As many as 2,600 outsourcing employees have been working as work inspectors and data entry operators since 2006. “We request the government to regularise our services keeping in view the problems facing the employees,” said Union president E. Vijay Kumar. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

RESERVATION

51. ‘Courts sure to nix quota as it violates equality law’ (25)

MUMBAI: After reservations for Marathas and Muslims in education and jobs, the Congress-NCP-ruled cabinet is aiming to win more hearts by taking such populist decisions but may fall flat in legally securing them. Secretaries in Mantralaya had refused to even present the proposal for a 5% policemen’s quota before the cabinet, dubbing it unconstitutional. But on Wednesday, the entire cabinet, including home minister R R Patil and CM Prithviraj Chavan, disregarded the absence of legal backing for their decision. “Such desperation indicates defeated minds,” said a Mantralaya source while pointing out that the reservation was sure to be shot down in the courts. “The police department too know that the proposal will not stand legally. Such proposals have been refused by the HC and the SC as they violated the law of equality. Home, law and general administration secretaries besides the chief secretary have already termed it legally untenable,” a Mantralaya official said. While chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya refused to comment on the issue, Patil was not available for his views. The proposal offered 3% reservation for policemen’s wards in general, and 2% for children of those who meet sudden deaths. “Such a reservation during the 2011 police recruitment was challenged with the Maharashtra Administration Tribunal rejecting it outright. Later, even the HC refused to sustain it. Ditto with the SC,” said sources. Meanwhile, the home ministry has decided to distribute Rs 1 crore cash among 82,000 cops so that they can themselves purchase quality uniforms instead of buying poor quality uniforms in bulk at the office-level. (Times of India 21/8/14)

52. Dhangars plea to be included in ST community

MARGAO: The 25,000 strong Dhangar community in Goa have appealed to the state government to include their community in the list of Scheduled Tribe communities. The Gomantak Dhangar Samaj mandal will be celebrating its anniversary on August 24 and they will be passing a resolution that the Dhangar community needs this reservation given their socio-economic condition. While addressing mediapersons on Friday, Quepem MLA Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar added that chief minister Manohar Parrikar will be attending their anniversary function on Sunday where the delegation will put forward their demands before Parrikar. Kavlekar added that the community is grateful to the chief minister Manohar Parrikar for extending all facilities enjoyed by the ST communities to the Dhangar community by way of government schemes. He added that they were also hoping that the benefits would be extended in terms of reservation of jobs and seats in educational institutions to the Dhangar community. “The community does not want to indulge in politics over the issue. Our only demand is justice to the community by including it in the ST list,” said Kavlekar. Kavlekar said a professor of Dharward university has even replied back to the Registrar General of India on why Dhangars from Goa deserve inclusion in the ST list. The community does not want to indulge in politics over the issue. Our only demand is justice to the community by including it in the ST list (Times of India 23/8/14)

53. KVS meeting put off following differences over reservation

DHARWAD: The special general body meeting of the Karnatak Vidyavardhak Sangha (KVS) was put off following heated arguments between members over providing caste-based reservation in its administrative body, here on Sunday. The meeting was convened to discuss the amendments to the bylaw. A section of members contended that as KVS received government grants, reservation should be provided for those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women in the executive committee. Another section demanded reservation for the backward classes and minorities. However, some others opposed caste-based reservation. KVS president Patil Puttappa said the sangha was launched to work for the cause of land, language and culture. It was not correct to bring in casteism here. Religious maths, the Kannada Sahitya Parishat and the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, too received government grants. But, they do not provide reservation in their administrative bodies. This issue could be considered if the State government issued specific directions, he added. Member Satish Turamuri said KVS was not launched with government funding. After several years of its inception, the government on its own sanctioned grants. “If we need to provide reservation just because we receive government grants, let us give it up. Kannadigas will take care of the organisation,” he said. However, members Mahadev Doddamani, Lakshman Bakkai, Vishwantah Chintamani and others continued arguing for reservation. There was a hue and cry over this issue for nearly an hour. When efforts to calm down the members failed, Mr. Puttappa put off the meeting. Earlier, the meeting approved amendment to membership norms that fixed minimum educational qualification to SSLC and enhanced membership fee to Rs. 750. But these norms can be relaxed in special cases, the amended rules said. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

54. Govt. urged to give retrospective effect for extending SC benefits

PUDUCHERRY: Bolstered by Supreme Court ruling, the scheduled caste community is now demanding that the Puducherry government not show any discrimination while extending reservation benefits. They want the government to extend reservation benefits to around 85,000 persons with retrospective effect. Last week, the Supreme Court stuck down orders of Puducherry government extending reservation benefits only to those who settled on or before 1964. In 2005, the government issued two orders extending reservation benefits only to the scheduled community people who settled on or before 1964 while others were excluded to enjoy those benefits. The Puducherry government orders stated that the reservation benefits in promotion, employment to Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ posts, education and welfare should be extended only to the Scheduled Caste ‘origins’ of the Union Territory as notified in the Constitution (Pondicherry) Scheduled Castes Order 1964. From 2005, the authorities insisted to produce a proof of origin to substantiate. Those who submitted such proofs were given SC certificates and allowed to enjoy reservation benefits while others were categorised as ‘SC Migrants’ and denied such benefits. Under those circumstances, Puducherry SC People’s Welfare Association challenged the government orders in the Madras High Court initially and later before the Supreme Court. Quashing the Puducherry government’s orders, the apex court pointed out that orders were not being in conformity and consonance with Presidential order issued in 1964. The Bench also said “the interpretation of ‘resident’ in the Presidential Order as ‘of origin’ amounts to altering it.” It also said such order could not be altered by Puducherry government and the Parliament alone has the power to alter it. Representatives of the Puducherry SC People’s Welfare Association met Chief Minister N. Rangasamy at his office on Monday and urged him to extend reservation benefits with retrospective effect. M. Panchatcharam, president of the association told The Hindu , “We submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister who assured us of looking into it and do the needful. We request the government to give retrospective effect as several thousand people will benefit from such a gesture.” P. Veeramani, general secretary of the association said around 85,000 SC community persons were deprived of reservation benefits after government issued orders in 2005. About 40,000 were not able to produce any document even though they were origins of the Union Territory of Puducherry. Meanwhile AIADMK MLA A. Anbalagan asked the government to spell out its stand. He said the government should find out a solution to the issue as expeditiously as possible. (The Hindu 27/8/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. Gujarat govt nod to bridge after NHRC issues notice (1)

Vadodara: Days after The Sunday Express reported about school children from 16 villages in Sankheda being forced to swim across the raging Hiran river to reach their school in Utavadi village in Narmada district, the Gujarat government has finally cleared the long-pending proposal for the river bridge. The confirmation from the state government comes after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) slapped a notice on the chief secretary of Gujarat Wednesday, taking cognizance of The Sunday Express report and demanding a report. On Wednesday, hours after the NHRC sent a notice to the Gujarat government seeking an explanation on the “violation of human rights and rights to education” of the 125 children in Chhota Udepur, Gujarat government spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Nitin Patel claimed that the state government had approved the proposal of the district administration for the construction of the river bridge on August 14. He also said that the government was all set to float tenders and begin construction of the bridge at the earliest. Patel told The Indian Express, “We have already sanctioned the bridge on the river on August 14. The necessary procedure for the same and the floating of tenders will be done soon.” He added that a tender of Rs 8 crore would be floated to construct the bridge. However, he denied having any knowledge about a notice from the NHRC. On Wednesday, the NHRC had sought an official report from the Gujarat government, stating, “The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that in the absence of a bridge, about 125 students of five villages…have to swim across the Hiran river to go to their government school… The villagers have been requesting for the construction of a bridge over the river for a very long time, but in vain. The report also carries a photograph of the children swimming across the river. The commission has observed that (it) raises serious issues of violation of right to life of the children…and the right to education of those who are not able to go to school due to this problem. Accordingly, a notice has been issued to the chief secretary, government of Gujarat, calling for a report within four weeks.” A day after the report in The Sunday Express, on August 4, Chhota Udepur collector Jenu Devan had written to the state government to expedite its approval for the construction of the bridge, pending since March 2014, when the district administration had first presented its proposal to construct the bridge at a cost of Rs 13 crore to connect Chamarwada in Sankheda taluka of Chhota Udepur to Kareli in Tilakwada taluka in Narmada district. Last week, villagers of Sajanpura turned down the offer of the district administration to accept a boat to ferry students across the banks and demanded immediate approval for the bridge. (Indian Express 21/8/14)

56. PUCL’s prison report: Sour stories

A fortnight ago, an undertrial prisoner from Samastipur jail was brought to Patna Medical College Hospital in a comatose condition, apparently the result of severe beating. The jail authorities said the prisoner was “beaten up by police officials” when he was trying to escape, while the IG (prison) held that he was assaulted for theft by people before his arrest. The prisoner, 35-year-old Amarjeet Rai, was arrested by the GRP on the charge of stealing railway scrap and was taken to Samastipur jail after being produced in court, jail superintendent Manoj Kumar had told the media. He said the policemen who escorted Rai to the jail beat him up when he tried to escape. About 10 days ago, police foiled an attempt by prisoners to take control of the divisional jail in Sitamarhi. They fired about 50 rounds to bring the situation under control even as the prisoners pelted stones and broke the windowpanes of SP Nawal Kishore Singh’s vehicle. Sashastra Seema Bal and CRPF personnel were rushed to assist the district police. The SP said two jawans were injured in brickbatting and at least four prisoners were injured in the firing. The riot was triggered off by prisoners who were resisting the move to shift hardcore Maoists, Santosh Jha and Samrat Choudhary, from the prison to Buxar and Gaya, respectively. Bihar has 56 jails at present that includes eight central jails, 31 district jails and 17 sub-jails. These jails have a capacity to house 33,119 prisoners, and even though one comes across the occasional positive human interest story in these prisons, there are several indications that all is not well. A PUCL report on Prisons in Bihar, published by the Bihar state unit, attempts to provide a picture of the state of Bihar’s prisons from a human rights and civil liberty perspective. One plods through the 60-page publication by Jitendra Choubey and Manish Kumar, which attempts to tackle several issues but doesn’t get around to much, partly because of the pontification. “The fact that the prisoners, convicted or otherwise, are citizens of India entitled to fundamental rights did not make any difference to the rulers of the Indian republic who stepped into the shoes of the colonial rulers and continue to treat the prisoners with contempt as their foreign predecessors,” write Choubey and Kumar. It’s a sour, dour vinegary book that makes some telling points: Bihar prisons are the worst nightmares. The inspectors general of prisons (IGPs) avoid conducting inspections. The IGPs conducted only seven inspections during 2005-2010 in a sample of 15 prisons, when there should have been 101, had the rules been followed. The jails lack adequate toilets, drinking water facilities and sanitation. Overcrowding varied from 100% to 600%. “Not only are the prisoners denied proper food to which they are entitled, they are denied even sleep at night due to lack of space in their wards. In the overcrowded jails, only those who enjoy the patronage of the ?dabang’ of his ward has the privilege of lying down and sleeping. The others have to manage somehow or the other: sitting and dozing,” say the authors. Medical facilities are dismal, with only 28 serving doctors for 107 posts, 7 compounders against 101 posts, and 12 ?dressers’ against 101 posts. Some 518 prisoners died in different jails of the state between 2005-2010. The report dwells on the outdated prison manual, but ignores an important fact: The Bihar government on December 11, 2012 approved a new jail manual, replacing the existing 88-year-old prison guidelines formulated in 1924. Perhaps they relied too much on archives, and gathering information via the RTI route, even as prison reforms, no matter how limited, were unfolding around them! (Times of India 25/8/14)

57. Low castes’ still forced to clean human excreta, says Human Rights Watch

New Delhi: Hundreds of thousands of impoverished “low caste” Indians are being forced to clean human excreta from dry toilets and open drains, despite a ban on the discriminatory and undignified practice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. India has since Independence in 1947 enacted laws aimed at ending the practice of manual scavenging, which include commitments to modernise sanitation to end the manual disposal of faeces as well as outlawing employing anyone to do so. But centuries-old feudal, caste-based customs have allowed manual scavenging to persist, with communities facing barriers such as threats of violence, eviction and the withholding of wages if they try to leave the practice, said a report by HRW. “Successive Indian government attempts to end caste-based cleaning of excrement have been derailed by discrimination and local complicity,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Caste-based discrimination known as “untouchability” was banned in 1955 in India. In September 2013, parliament went one step further and outlawed employing anyone to clean human excrement. The “Cleaning Human Waste: Manual Scavenging, Caste, and Discrimination in India” report said not only do people continue to collect and dispose of faeces, but they are often not paid cash wages – instead given leftover food, grain, old clothes, or access to land for their livestock and firewood. Local authorities are often complicit, said the report, citing examples of government village councils and municipalities such as Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karoli in Rajasthan and Sikandra, Mathura, Fatehgarh in Uttar Pradesh which still recruit low caste people to clean open defecation sites. Many people remain unaware of the law and their right to refuse to clean human waste, it said. Those who do refuse, face social pressure, including threats of violence and expulsion from their village, often with the support of local officials. The report, which surveyed more than 100 current and former manual scavengers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, said most of those employed were “Dalits” – a community which traditionally occupies the lowest place in caste system. In March 2014, Supreme Court confirmed however that it is “abundantly clear that the practice of manual scavenging continues unabated.” Although there are no official figures on the number of people who are forced into the practice, the International Dalit Solidarity Network estimates there are 1.3 million manual scavengers in India, most of whom are women. Women usually clean dry toilets, men and women clean excrement from open defecation sites, gutters, and drains, and men are called upon to do the more physically demanding work of cleaning sewers and septic tanks. Human rights groups say not only is this a matter of dignity, but also that the repeated handling of human excrement without protection is a serious health hazard. It can cause constant nausea and headaches, respiratory and skin diseases, anaemia, jaundice, trachoma, and carbon monoxide poisoning. The HRW report called on authorities to enforce laws outlawing caste-based discrimination and banning manual scavenging and put in place specific rehabilitation measures to support those who lose employment. Groups representing the Dalit community welcomed the report, saying that it showed the lack of political will in combating manual scavenging. “This report serves as an illustration of one of the worst manifestations of caste-based discrimination in South Asia, inflicting human rights violations in all spheres of life including work, health, education and safety,” said Rikke Nöhrlind, Executive Director of the International Dalit Solidarity Network. “The report also shows how the Indian government and officials must step up to the plate to end this practice as far too little has been done.” (Deccan Chronicle 26/8/14)

58. Woman delivers outside hospital: NHRC issues notice to Haryana govt

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission today issued a notice to Haryana Government following media reports that a woman delivered a baby at the entrance of a government hospital due to unavailability of wheel chair. According to an official statement released here, a notice has been issued to the Chief Secretary of Haryana calling for a report within four weeks. The notice was issued after the commission took suo motu cognisance of media reports that due to unavailability of wheel chairs or trolleys at Bahadurgarh General Hospital in Jhajjar district of Haryana, a woman delivered a baby at the entrance of the hospital before she could be taken inside. NHRC has observed that the content of the news reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the woman and the newborn. The hospital being a government facility should have enough wheel chairs or trolleys for the patients. (Zee news 28/8/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

59. Lawyer body challenges judicial panel in SC (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association on Thursday filed a petition in the apex court challenging the validity of the constitutional amendment to set up National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) for appointing judges to the higher judiciary. It alleged that NJAC was an attempt to intrude upon judiciary’s independence and requested the court to strike down the proposed commission, terming it an attempt to introduce political influence into the selection of judges. Though two PILs by advocates M L Sharma and N Rajaraman have already been filed challenging the validity of the new mechanism, the advocates’ association petition brings seriousness to the proceedings as it has been settled by senior advocate Fali S Nariman. However, all three petitions did not take into consideration that the constitutional amendments to Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the Constitution are yet to receive the President’s assent as well as ratification from states before coming into force. Referring to the six-member NJAC, the association said even if three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the CJI, agreed on a name, it could be vetoed by the other three members – the law minister and two eminent jurists. A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said the petitions would be taken up for hearing on Monday. The apex court is sure to scrutinize whether the petitions can be heard before the constitutional amendments come into force. The association, through its secretary Vipin Nair, said the amendments taking away the power to appoint judges from the judiciary violated the inviolable basic structure doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court in Keshavananda Bharati case in 1973. Blog: Judiciary-executive court battle looms over issue of appointment of judges It sought a declaration from the apex court that the constitutional amendment bill as well as the NJAC bill violated the basic structure of the Constitution. It also requested the court to restrain the Centre from seeking ratification of the constitutional amendment from states. The association traced the development of the law, through interpretation of Article 124(2) and 217(1) by the Supreme Court, relating to appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts. It said after a government policy in the 1990s came to light intending to appoint “committed” judges to the higher judiciary, the association had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which in its judgment in 1993 by a 7-2 majority set up a collegium headed by the CJI to recommend names for appointment as judges. The 1993 judgment had put the caveat that if the government did not accept the recommendation of the collegium (CJI and two senior-most judges of the SC), it would be presumed that the government had not acted bona fide. But after the 1993 judgment, it was felt that “recommendations by a succession of collegiums were not made in the spirit in which the new doctrine had been propounded by the bench of nine judges in 1993 – since the collegiate of the then three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court could not see eye-to-eye in the matter of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary”.The association said in 1998, when the apex court took up the Presidential reference on judges appointment, the government of the day – NDA government with BJP majority – had given an undertaking that it would not seek a review of the 1993 judgment and the opinion given by the court would be binding. In 1998, the apex court had expanded the collegium to five judges including the CJI who headed it to initiate the process for appointment of judges to higher judiciary and recommend names to the President. In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, headed by former CJI M N Venkatachaliah and including many eminent jurists, had said the executive should also participate in the process for selection of judges to the higher judiciary and proposed that there should be a collegium giving due importance and providing effective participation of both the executive and the judiciary in appointment of judges. NCRWC had proposed a National Judicial Commission comprising the CJI, two senior-most judges of the SC, law minister and an eminent jurist. The Narendra Modi government has provided for an additional eminent jurist making the NJAC a six-member body, composition of which was identical to the one proposed by the UPA government in 2013. (Times of India 22/8/14)

60. Coal Minister backs Supreme Court judgement on coal blocks

New Delhi:, Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said investors should be pleased with the “finality’’ on the issue. Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday said the Supreme Court judgement on coal blocks should be seen as a big plus for the Indian economy while dismissing apprehensions about the 14 per cent dip in metals stocks. Terming the closure of the dispute after several years of litigation as a “big plus’’, Mr. Goyal said the bourses and investors should be pleased with the “finality’’ on the issue. The Indian economy can now move rapidly rather than be circumscribed by the shadow of uncertainty, he added. Scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the evening, the Minister said the “clarity in policy transparency that Modi is famous for, for which he has been elected, has been respected by the Court. ‘’ “Clarity of law and policy and certainty about the future are the hallmarks of a good economy and the judgement will be liked by the economy,’’ he told newspersons hours after the Supreme Court cancelled all allocations made between 1993 and 2010 as they were not done on the basis of competitive bidding. At the same time, the Minister pointed out that the Court had set September 1 as the next date when it will consider the consequences arising from the verdict. Asked about the fate of companies left without coal blocks, Mr. Goyal told newspersons, “I think you missed the point. It is important there is finality to the dispute. Whatever the Supreme Court decides will be respected. The question is thus hypothetical. Irrespective of the decision, it will be in the interest of the country.’’ “Last five years, the production of coal has not kept pace with the generation of power. This has caused much distress leading to stranded assets, banking non performing asset and people crying for power. I think will be in interest of India,’’ he added while terming the Court judgement as “tremendous, very long and detailed.’’ On the way ahead, Mr. Goyal said this is a new Government that has just come into office with fresh thinking and an open mind. “We will consider all options. The Government is prepared to act quickly once the final decision is made. To serve people with adequate power, we need more coal. Decision will be taken expeditiously to increase indigenous production of coal,’’ he observed. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

61. PILs on judicial bills ‘premature’

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected as premature a bunch of PILs challenging a law proposing to replace the collegium system with a National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC)) to appoint Supreme Court and high courts judges. On challenge were the 121st Constitutional Amendment Bill that proposes to alter Articles 124(2) and 217(1), and the NJAC Bill, both of which were passed by Parliament. While senior advocate Fali Nariman argued that the bills compromised judicial independence, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the petitions were premature as the NJAC Bill would be sent for President’s assent only after states cleared the Constitutional Amendment Bill. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected PILs challenging the NJAC Bill and the ) to appoint Supreme Court and high courts judges121st Constitutional Amendment Bill.While the latter awaits states’ ratification (it will fall through if more than half of the state assemblies do not clear it) and President’s assent, the NJAC Bill will be sent to the President only after the other bill goes through, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court on Monday. What turned the tables before a bench of Justices A R Dave, J Chelameswar and A K Sikri was the AG’s statement that “presidential assent to the NJAC Bill will be sought only after the Constitutional Amendment Bill receives it”. Before this, senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, had passionately argued that the bills seriously dented judicial independence by proposing a six-member body which had only three judges – the Chief Justice of India and two senior-most judges whose proposals could be overruled by two non-judicial members. He said the bills attempted to do the legally impermissible – tinker with independence of judiciary which is part of the basic structural doctrine propounded by a nine-judge bench in Keshavananda Bharati case. Nariman, adopting the arguments of another petitioner advocate M L Sharma, also questioned the legality of passing the NJAC Bill which introduced Article 124A providing for a new mechanism for selecting judges to the higher judiciary even when the bill amending the Constitution was yet to become a reality. “This is illegal practice,” he said. “What will happen tomorrow? The new mechanism is a reality. But the enabling constitutional amendment is still in the process of becoming a law. Can the CJI still head the collegium and select judges for appointment to the Supreme Court and high courts? It is essential that the apex court pronounce on whether a bill can be challenged in court when it is feared that it is going to seriously alter independence of judiciary,” he said. The bench said, “We are of the view that we should not entertain the petitions at this stage as they are premature.” However, it asked the petitioners to keep their powder dry to fire once the bills became law. Apart from the advocates association, other petitioners were M L Sharma, R K Kapoor, Biswajit Bhattacharya and R Krishnamurthy. The bench said it was aware of the importance of the challenge to the bills. “We are not oblivious to the gravity of the situation. We are also not shying away from it,” it said before allowing the parties to raise all grounds while mounting fresh challenge to the bills once these receive presidential assent and become law. The AG also informed the court that the Constitutional Amendment Bill had not been sent to the states for ratification yet. “Suppose it is not ratified by more than half of the states, then it (the constitutional amendment) will not become a reality. It could also be reconsidered on the suggestions of the states. What will happen if the Supreme Court takes up the present petitions? Can the court restrain a government from enacting a law? It will lead to chaos. It will amount to interference of judiciary in legislative and executive domain,” he said. (Times of India 26/8/14)

62. SC clears scope of revisional power of High Courts

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the scope of revisional power of high courts in rent laws by holding that they “cannot re-appreciate evidence” and perusal of evidence is confined “to find out legality, regularity and propriety” of the order impugned before it. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said “the consideration or examination of the evidence by the high court in revisional jurisdiction under these acts (rent control laws of different states) is confined to find out that finding of facts recorded by the court/authority below is according to law and does not suffer from any error of law.” The issue was referred to the Constitution Bench as there was conflict in the two decisions of the apex court with one maintaining that the revisional court is not entitled to re-appreciate evidence while another holding that the expression “legality and propriety” enables the revisional court to reappraise the evidence while considering the findings of the first appellate court. Giving an authoritative verdict, the bench said, “We hold, as we must, that none of the above rent control acts entitles the high court to interfere with the findings of fact recorded by the first appellate court/first appellate authority because on because on reappreciation of evidence its view is different from court/authority below.” The five judges were unanimous in saying that “revisional power is not and cannot be equated with the power of reconsideration of all questions of fact as a court of first appeal”. “Where the high court is required to be satisfied that the decision is according to law, it may examine whether the order impugned before it suffers from procedural illegality or irregularity,” the bench, also comprising justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and S A Bobde, said. The bench said, “A finding of fact recorded by court/ authority below, if perverse or has been arrived at without consideration of the material evidence or such finding is based on no evidence or misreading of the evidence or is grossly erroneous that, if allowed to stand, it would result in gross miscarriage of justice, is open to correction because it is not treated as a finding according to law.” “In that event, the high court in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction under the above Rent Control Acts shall be entitled to set aside the impugned order as being not legal or proper,” the bench said. The apex court said the high court is entitled to satisfy itself the correctness or legality or propriety of any decision or order impugned before it but “to satisfy itself to the regularity, correctness, legality or propriety of the impugned decision or the order, the high court shall not exercise its power as an appellate power to reappreciate or reaccess the evidence for coming to a different finding on facts”. To find out the scope and extent of revisional jurisdiction under the Rent Control Acts, the apex court explained the differentiation between ‘appellate jurisdiction’ and ‘revisional jurisdiction’… (Indian Express 28/8/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

63. Panchayat chief’s kin booked for chopping off youth’s hand

VIRUDHUNAGAR: The husband of a woman panchayat president and his relatives chopped a part of the left hand of an 18-year-old construction worker on Tuesday evening for sitting cross-legged in front of their house near Tiruchuli the previous day. The police have booked M. Krishnan, 45, husband of Devi, president of the Alagapuri panchayat in the Narikudi union; his brother M. Kannan; and another relative Kumar. “Krishnan picked a quarrel with R. Karthik for sitting cross-legged in front of his house at Siruvanur on Monday,” Tiruchuli DSP N. Perumal Ramanujam said. The youth had been to his friend’s house, next door to Krishnan, earlier on Tuesday when they quarrelled again. Wishing to get away from the village, Karthik boarded a bus to Coimbatore in the evening. But Kannan and Kumar followed him on a two-wheeler and intercepted the bus. They pulled him out of the bus between Sirvanur and Arunagiri, attacked him with a machete and chopped the lower part of the left hand. (The Hindu 21/8/14)

64. In reports by inquiry panels, tales of AFSPA abuse in Manipur (1)

New Delhi: In what is bound to add intensity to the struggle of activist like Irom Sharmila against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), inquiry commission reports submitted by the Manipur government in the Supreme Court have revealed at least 10 killings in alleged fake encounters by the armed forces. Some of these people were killed because the personnel were angry and frustrated, the reports have stated. The reports, submitted on court orders, have stated that people were killed by several security forces such as the CRPF, Assam Rifles, Manipur Police Commandos and Thoubal Police Commandos. The Manipur government, which has been defending the armed forces personnel in the court, had been directed to adduce the reports of inquiry commissions instituted on the orders of the high court or on its own. As per the reports, there have been instances when people were picked up for allegedly being extremists and killed on the spot. In other cases, civilians were killed in a fit of rage by the personnel. As per one report, Yumnam Robita Devi was waiting at a bus stop on April 9, 2002 when she was killed, allegedly because CRPF personnel decided to vent their anger on civilians after their convoy was attacked by extremists who fled. Soubam Boucha and his friend Salam Gurung were allegedly killed by a joint team of Manipur Commandos and 23 Assam Rifles in December 2009, while L Satish and Pebam G Singh were allegedly killed by Assam Rifles and Thoubam Police Commandos in their custody in cold blood, according to the reports. Notably, all the inquiry commission reports given to the court have found the armed forces guilty of abusing their powers and killing people in the name of encounters or extremism. In one case, the inquiry commission was wrapped up by the state government after the family of the deceased requested that the state and the police wind up the inquiry. In August 2013, The Indian Express had reported about six other cases of extra-judicial killings in the state, quoting from a court-mandated panel. The report of the panel, led by former judge Santosh Hegde, had said the six sample cases considered by it were “not genuine encounters” and that “maximum force” was used. (Indian Express 22/8/14)

65. No indictment despite city police facing repeated charges of custodial torture

Bangalore: The alleged suicide of a 27-year-old cab driver Pradeep following allegations of torture by the police is not an isolated case in which custodial torture charges have been made against the city police. Two persons — a shopkeeper and a domestic help — committed suicide last year allegedly because of police excesses. At least six cases of custodial torture were reported in 2013 to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) and the Lokayukta. However, despite complaints being filed and the officers being suspended, no one has been indicted so far. City-based advocate and human rights activist Narasimha Murthy, who is handling many custodial torture cases, claimed that police officers enjoy immunity and the support of their department despite the gravity of the allegations. Despite a Supreme Court direction for strict punishment, usually senior officers drag an inquiry for a long period of time and the case fades away, he alleged. Refuting the charge, a senior police officer said that cases had been booked against the officers allegedly involved in custodial torture. Citing an example, he said a criminal case had been booked against the then Vidyaranyapura police inspector B.P. Prasad and a charge sheet filed in a 2013 case, he said. Mr. Murthy said that a police officer suspended in such case would get 50 per cent salary till the end of the case and there was no provision for providing financial assistance to the family of the deceased. “We have moved the court to ensure that compensation is given to the victim and the money is deducted from the salary of the police officer facing the charge,” he said. Taking a strong exception to the Saturday’s incident in the city, KSHRC member C.G. Hungund said he had asked the officials concerned to trace the inquest report and the follow up of the investigation for the next course of action. The department should book the accused officer under Section 306 of the IPC, but instead they conduct a departmental inquiry and suspend him for a few months. “This time, we will take up the issue and take it to its logical end,” he said. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

66. Judges’ reports reveal Manipur’s AFSPA scars

NEW DELHI: A 15-year-old girl carrying lunch for her father to his workplace, a mother putting her baby to sleep at home, a woman waiting for her bus at a busy marketplace and spectators at a volleyball match are some of the innocent victims of rape and revenge killings by services personnel under the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. The details of the crimes allegedly committed by the Army, the CRPF and police commandos were revealed in a series of inquiry reports filed by serving and retired district judges, adding impetus to the cry for justice and repeal of AFSPA by activist Irom Sharmila. On August 8, 2014, the Manipur government handed over the reports to a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The Bench is hearing a PIL petition filed in 2012 by the Extra Judicial Executions Victims’ Families Association, through senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, seeking a Special Investigation Team to probe almost 1,590 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and disappearances in the State since the 1980s. These inquiries, commissioned by the State government and the Guwahati High Court, date back to 1985. One report by M. Manoj Kumar Singh, District Judge, Imphal East, is about the rape of a 15-year-old schoolgirl committed by two Army personnel of the 12th Grenadier on October 4, 2004. The victim committed suicide the same day. The judge noted that “crimes against women, more particularly relating to sexual harassment, committed by armed forces, are now increasing at least in some States like ours.” The report said: “They [armed forces] think themselves placed at the elevated status of impunity by the legislation and think wrongly they are given licence to do whatever they like.” Another report by C. Upendra Singh, a retired district judge, investigated the death of Amina, a young mother shot by CRPF personnel while putting her baby to sleep at home. The report said she died when a CRPF party, in pursuit of a man, entered Naorem village, surrounded Amina’s house and fired indiscriminately. Similarly, Judge Manoj Kumar Singh investigated the shooting of Yumnam Robita Devi, 52, on April 9, 2002 as she waited for a bus at Pangei Bazar. A passing convoy of CRPF personnel was ambushed by insurgents. In retaliation, the report said, the personnel turned to the civilians and fired indiscriminately. Ms. Devi, who ducked on the floor of the market, was spotted and shot dead. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

67. Reformist journalist freed on bail in Iran (1)

Tehran: An Iranian journalist who covered parliament for pro-reform media has been released on bail almost three months after being detained, her lawyer said on Thursday. Saba Azarpeyk was freed late Wednesday on bail of two billion rials ($65,000), set by prosecutors overseeing crimes related to media and culture, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaie told the official news agency IRNA. She is accused of “propaganda against the regime,” the lawyer said. Azarpeyk was arrested on 28 May at her home. She reported on parliament for several pro-reform outlets, including the prominent Etemad newspaper. Azarpeyk was among 18 journalists for reformist media who were arrested in January 2013 for allegedly working for the Farsi-language services of foreign media deemed hostile by the authorities. She was freed several weeks later. The BBC’s Persian service, Voice of America and the Iranian branch of Radio Free Europe have all been accused by Tehran of participating in a Western “plot” to destabilise the regime. President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, has promised greater tolerance on social, cultural and media issues — a pledge that helped him defeat conservatives in last June’s election. But the fledgling opening has been opposed by traditionalists and ultra-conservatives who hold sway over several key institutions. Conservative newspapers as well as reformist ones have faced temporary bans from the conservative-controlled judiciary since Rouhani took office but three pro-reform titles are under continuing bans. United Nations human rights experts have expressed alarm at a recent flurry of arrests and harsh sentences inflicted on journalists in Iran. Last month, three journalists — including the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent — were arrested. On Monday, an official said they were being held for security reasons. Observers say they fear the journalists’ arrests could undermine the thorny negotiations between Iran and the West for a comprehensive nuclear deal that world powers are seeking to reach by November 24. (Zee news 21/8/14)

68. Ahead of polls, students’ bodies take to social media campaigning

Chandigarh: While Panjab University is yet to announce the dates for the student council elections, the prospective candidates have taken to social networking tools like Facebook and WhatsApp to reach out to a larger student population. The students’ organisations believe that social media campaigning is extremely important to win any elections, especially during the days when the university does not allow to hold campaigns within the campus. “Facebook and Whatsapp are the best mediums to get in touch with the students who are not much interested in student politics,” said Vikas, one of the senior leaders of Hindustan Students’ Association (HSA). Be it National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) or Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU), Students’ Organisation of India (SOI) or Students’ Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU), all the 11 other parties can be seen equally active on social media. The online medium helps in flaunting their achievements, posting day-to-day activities, animated slogans, initiating debates on particular issues, criticising other parties and the PU authorities for their failure to consider the students’ demands, asking for suggestions and feedback from the supporters and helping students to find admission-related information. NSUI Chandigarh has three official accounts namely, NSUI PU Chd, NSUI Panjab University and NSUI PanjabUni. One of their statuses read, “All other accounts are fake and if found, please report them.” The profile picture of their official page says, ‘Keep Calm and Support NSUI’. The activities and the photographs posted on their pages will be accompanied with interesting details such that nobody misses out on the election news. The parties have also made several groups on WhatsApp to let the students know about the events and dharnas taking place on the campus. One of the university students, Vanshika Sharma, said, “Surprisingly, some students are more active on social media than they are on campus. Being a hosteller, we do not get to know much about their whereabouts but through Facebook and WhatsApp groups, we keep getting hundreds of notifications daily about their activities and check-ins.” Vicky Middhukhera, one of the leaders of SOI, who could be easily found on several SOI facebook pages including SOI Zindabad, said, “Since online campaigning is allowed, why not utilise it in a way that every student in the university gets to know about the candidates and their roles. Then, it is upto them to decide whom to vote for.” “This off-campus campaigning also paves a way to share our ideas and suggestions about bringing reforms to the university in the easiest way possible. The students who are not a part of politics rather come up with more ideas, which is interesting,” said Amninder Mann, a presidential candidate for the student council elections, whose party takes care of the page-SOPU Panjab Uni (PU Campus). Meanwhile, the facebook page of the Students’ federation of India (SFI) will have more ideology-based statuses and instead of the party candidates, Shaheed Bhagat Singh will be found in the display picture. (Indian Express 24/8/14)

69. OUJ slams Govt for apathy towards scribes

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Union of Journalists (OUJ), Baleswar chapter held its biennial conference here on Sunday with senior journalist and All India General Secretary of the NUJ Prasanna Mohanty and Baleswar MP RK Jena attending the meeting as guests. Highlighting various problems, several scribes alleged that they are suffering due to the apathetic attitude of the both the State and Central Government. “The demands of journalists have been pending for years. While the wage issue is yet to be settled, the scribes are not covered under any kind of Government insurance scheme,” rued Mohanty. Lamenting that the genuine demands of the scribes were overlooked, MP Jena assured that he would try to raise the issue of Journalists’ security in the Parliament. OUJ president Shankar Mishra demanded permanent relief measures towards the problems. On the occasion, the union felicitated MP RK Jena and three other persons of various walks of life for their contributions to the society. Besides, elections of the members of the body were held. Sisir Das and Ramnarayan Satpathy were elected as president and secretary, respectively. (Pioneer 26/8/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

70. Muzaffarnagar riots: 800 accused still absconding

MUZAFFARNAGAR: A total of 800 accused found involved in riot cases here last year are still absconding, Special Investigation Team (SIT) officials said on Thursday. The SIT probing the Muzaffarnagar riots had found the involvement of 1550 accused in different cases. While 750 accused have been arrested so far, 800 are still absconding, Additional SP, SIT, Manoj Jha said on Thursday. Court has initiated attachment proceedings against 400 absconding accused, he added. The SIT had completed its investigation in 370 out of 510 riot cases. Investigation in the 131 cases is pending as attachment proceedings have not been initiated against the accused, Jha said. The remaining nine cases including that of fake video uploading case involving BJP MLA Sangeet Som and journalist Rajesh Verma murder case, are under investigation, he added. The communal violence, which had broken out in September last year in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining towns, had claimed over 40 lives and rendered above 50,000 people homeless. (Times of India 21/8/14)

71. Activists slam cops for communal polarization (7)

Jaipur: Civil right activists are up in arms against what they describe “manipulation of facts and mischievous game plan” for communal polarisation by the Rajasthan police for accusing a group of Muslim industrialists of luring “poor Hindus” to sell off their properties adjoining Muslim areas for the construction of mosque. Led by People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), which claimed to have obtained a letter written by U.R. Sahu, additional DGP (Intelligence) to Jaipur’s civic and police authorities, alleging that a group of Muslim industrialists have been funding construction of mosques in Hindu dominated slum areas of the Pink City by “luring” poor land owners to sell them off for construction of mosques. Demanding withdrawal of the letter, the PUCL has alleged that the it was deliberately “leaked” around the Independence Day and Janamashtami to create communal hatred and damage the Muslim businessmen named in that letter as well as Jamait-Islami-Hind. Mr Sahu had apparently named Dr Iqbal of the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind and prominent Muslim industrialists Habib Garnet, Sriaj Takat, Haji Rafat, Naeem Quereshi, Pappu Ouereshi, Gaffar Bhai Tent Wala, Sohrabuddin and Bilal. The money to buy houses and properties of the Hindus in Hindu bastisas per the ADGP’s letter is being facilitated through a fund. Dr Iqbal is caretaker of the fund,” he alleged. “These people meet clandestinely on a monthly or weekly basis at Darbar Hotel in order to plan activities for the above agenda,” Sahu said to have alleged this in the letter as per the PUCL. Fearing that rightwing groups may use this as an excuse to stoke communal violence, the PUCL conducted its own investigation into these allegation and released a “fact-finding” report on to contest the police claim. The PUCL fact finding team observed that “the situation on the ground is very different compared to what has been stated in the letter of ADGP. “Nowhere did it seem a situation of sale due to incentives by the Muslim community to the poor Hindu,” the PUCL report claimed. (Asian Age 22/8/14)

72. Tension Prevails in UP Villages After Communal Clashes

LUCKNOW: Tensions prevailed Monday in the two Uttar Pradesh villages where communal clashes had erupted a day earlier, police said. There was heavy deployment of police personnel in Kanpur’s Ghatampur area and Mainpuri’s Bhogaon area, an official told IANS. However, no untoward incident has been reported since Sunday night. In the first incident, violence had broken out in Ghatampur’s Bhetargaon village Sunday after two communities clashed and over two dozen shops were set on fire. One person was killed and over a dozen, including three policemen, were injured in the clash over a minor theft case. District officials said five policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty. In the second incident, two communities clashed with each other in Alipur Kheda village of Mainpuri after reports that a girl of a community was raped by a boy of another community surfaced. A mob tied the youth to a tree and tried to set him on fire. When the sub-divisional magistrate rushed to the crime scene and tried to save the youth, villagers attacked his vehicle and stoned the police party accompanying him. Police fired blanks to disperse the unruly crowd.Police, however, trashed the rape charge and said two were in a relationship. Alipur Kheda was singed with similar violence July 23 when a girl from one community had eloped with boy of another community. (New Indian Express 25/8/14)

73. Communal incidents continue, but minorities panel slows down

New Delhi: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote the epitaph of the Planning Commission in his Independence Day speech, there has been a perceptible slowdown in the activities of another body — the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) — in the past four months. Incidentally, while all other commission heads were given feelers to step down immediately after the government came to power, NCM was left untouched.  The commission has had just two hearings in the four months since the Modi government came to power. In 2013-14 it had 24 hearings, about two per month. Despite the country and Parliament reacting sharply to rising incidents of communal violence lately, the commission’s interventions have been few and far between. It made one follow-up visit to Muzaffarnagar in late June to find out what happened to its recommendations in the aftermath of the riots in September last year. Earlier this month, it met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to talk about media reports on rising communal violence in the state. The matter of NCM recommendations on last year’s riots in Muzaffarnagar was also taken up. A two-member team of the commission had visited Saharanpur in July. The report was given to Akhilesh during the meeting. The commission took suo motu cognisance of one incident — the death of a Pune techie on June 2. Almost three months later, a team is currently visiting Maharashtra and has appealed to the chief minister to ban Hindu Rashtra Sena, the right-wing group allegedly responsible for the incident. “There have been quite a few hearings, I do not remember off hand how many, but they are not the only yardstick of the commission’s activities. Routine activities are happening as are visits. Files are being cleared regularly,” NCM chairman Naseem Ahmed said. Asked how many incidents the commission had taken suo motu cognisance of, secretary Surjit Chaudhary said, “We did it in the Pune case. All tour reports of members are available on our website.” Apart from the visit to Lucknow to meet Akhilesh and the follow-up visit to Muzaffarnagar, the commission has undertaken three other visits in the past four months. One visit was to Araria in Bihar on May 28 to settle a matter between villagers of Bhajanpura and a company called Auro Sundaram. Another was to Faridabad to look into the issue of illegal encroachment of a graveyard in village Rajpur Phulera. One NCM team is currently in Maharashtra. Among the members, the only one who has undertaken a visit since the new government assumed office is Farida Abdullah Khan, who visited Jammu and Kashmir — a state which does not come under the purview of the commission — between May 26 and June 8. The visit had been cleared during the UPA tenure… (Indian Express 28/8/14)

COMMUNALISM

74. RSS wants all post-1947 secret files made public (26)

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) wants all official papers of Independent India to be declassified, saying it’s time to open up — a demand that is likely to make the government uncomfortable. In an interview to HT, Balmukund Pandey, all-India organising secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, the Sangh’s history wing, said, “We ask the government to declassify all documents. No papers since 1947 have been opened up and this must change. It’s time to learn from our past.” Recently, the BJP-led NDA government refused to declassify a report on India’s worst military defeat at the hands of China in 1962. When it was in the opposition, the BJP had asked for the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report, which clinically analyses reasons for India’s humiliation, to be made public. It was a “top-secret report” and its release would not be in “national interest”, defence minister Arun Jaitley had said. Successive governments have stubbornly turned down demands to make public the report submitted in 1963. But the RSS, the BJP’s ideological parent, is not buying the “national interest” argument. “History is neutral. We must learn lessons from history and teach everything — from the defeat to China to the victory in Kargil,” Pandey said. “Using security as an argument to keep it secret is wrong. Understanding our mistakes is important.” The Sangh is of the view that all official papers – on domestic politics and statecraft – and not just those related to foreign policy, should be in public domain.

“Be it the emergency or Sanjay Gandhi’s role in it or Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, we must know what really happened,” Pandey said. Indian Council of Historical Research’s new chairman YS Rao has been associated with ABISY. In the UK, official papers can be declassified after 30 years. The ceiling is 25 years in the US for most documents. In rare cases, the US keeps documents secret for more than 50 years. India doesn’t have a stated policy.  The norm was to release documents after 30 years, author-historian Srinath Raghavan told HT. Ministries were expected to declassify documents and send them to the National Archives but it wasn’t being done, he said. The ministry of external affairs, however, had tried to do it in recent years, but there was almost nothing from the PMO, ministries of defence, home and finance, Raghavan said. The backlog was a problem and most ministries didn’t have the ability to cope with it, he said. Early August, when news reports talked about possibility of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose being awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, his family demanded that the documents about his disappearance be made public. The right to information law allows citizens unfettered access to documents older than 20 years but the government often invokes a security exemption to block requests. Academics, especially historians and political scientists, have been calling for the government to open up its secret files’ cabinet. They now have an ally in the RSS. (Hindustan Times 21/8/14)

75. ‘Soft Hindutva’ plank for 2016 polls in Kerala

Thirvananthapuram: The sizeable vote-share gains in the parliamentary polls have infused the BJP with optimism about its political fortunes in Kerala, a state where it is yet to open its account — both in the 140-member assembly and the 20 Lok Sabha seats. With the 2016 assembly election as its next key target, the party has set its sights on the backwards classes and scheduled castes, which it plans to lure with “soft Hindutva”. This is in sync with the efforts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that has considerable presence in the southern state but has failed to convert this into votes for the BJP. As the Congress-led United Democratic Front and CPM-driven Left Democratic Front compete for minority votes, the BJP plans to draw the Hindu voters, a large section of whom has been a loyal supporter of the Left. With this in mind, seemingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of social reformer and renowned Dalit leader from Kerala Ayyankali on September 8 in New Delhi. In April, Modi addressed the annual spiritual discourse of Sivagiri Mutt, founded by Narayana Guru who was born in the backward Ezhava community of God’s Own Country. Two months earlier, he had also spoken at a meeting by Kerala Pulayar Mahasabha, a group of scheduled caste citizens.  BJP chief Amit Shah will attend a meeting of the state executive on September 1 in Thiruvananthapuram, where he will also have a closed-door meeting with the heads and general secretaries of the party at the panchayat-level. “The Muslims League’s dominance in the state’s politics has antagonised several people. Hindus in Kerala have started realising that they need an alternative to LDF,” BJP’s Kerala chief V Muraleedharan told HT. Muslims constitute about 26% of Kerala’s population. Christians are nearly 18%, while Hindus comprise 55% — about 30% OBCs, and SCs at almost 10%.BJP leaders in Delhi say even Christians, who they maintain are also getting uncomfortable with the Muslim League’s ascendancy, have changed their outlook towards the party. An outsider in the state’s stagnant bipolar politics so far, BJP’s vote share rose to 10.3% in the Lok Sabha election from 6.4% in the previous edition. But there are enough signs of encouragement. While BJP’s O Rajagopal lost to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram by over 15,000 votes, he managed a lead in four of the seven assembly constituencies. Determined to take the next leap forward, the BJP has called a state convention of alliance partners on August 24. Muraleedharan says the party now aims to secure the Thiruvananthapuram municipal corporation, for which elections will be held in October 2015. Going by the Lok Sabha poll outcome, BJP has a lead in 63 of the 100 civic wards. The state’s unique population ratio and four-decade-old coalition politics always makes the BJP an also-ran. But, now the party is planning to occupy the space relinquished by left-wing outfits, readily admitting disgruntled communists and others into its fold. (Hindustan Times 22/8/14)

76. Ram temple issue will be raised in 2015: VHP

Jaipur: Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday indicated going soft on the Ram temple issue for now, saying the “permanent temple” would take shape in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court verdict. The Hindu outfit, however, asserted that it has not given up Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue and would raise it during its “Ramostav” celebrations in March-April next year. “We have not given up Ram Mandir issue. We will not leave this issue, though during VHP’s golden jubilee celebrations, VHP is busy on other social issues too,” VHP’s senior functionary Vinayak Rao Deshpande told a press conference here. “Kacha (temporary) Ram temple is there very well in Ayodhya. Permanent Ram temple’s shape would come up after the Supreme Court judgement. “However, the High Court had given its verdict in Hindus’ favour. VHP will hold Ramotsav from March-April, 2015 to raise it voice for Ram Mandir,” the outfit’s joint general secretary said. When questioned on BJP’s move tp raise the issue of ‘love jihad’ in Uttar Pradesh, VHP functionary said, “We welcome BJP’s step. This issue affects over one lakh girls every year in the country. “VHP has saved over 10,000 girls after counselling in the past, and many of them got remarried with Hindu boys.” Deshpande said there was a need to inculcate “Hindu” values in the youth and raise awareness on the issue. “This problem needs a better awareness programme and ‘hindu sanskar’ should be inculcated in growing kids,” the VHP functionary said. ‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by some Hindu groups for alleged efforts to get non-Muslim girls to convert to Islam through love affairs. He said Vishwa Hindu Parishad will hold a three days “World Hindu Congress” to focus on an agenda of women and youth empowerment, media, education beginning from November 21 to 23 in Delhi. Over 3000 delegates including 1000 from abroad will take part in the three-day congress to be held at Ashok Hotel from November 21, Deshpande said. Issues like women and youth empowerment issues, role of media, education, Hindu economy to attract businessmen from abroad, and Hindu politics would be taken up for deliberations, Deshpande said. To coincide with VHP’s golden anniversary year celebrations, VHP would hold five national level meets in Mumbai, Bangaluru, Bhopla, Kolkata, and Delhi during November to February, 2015, he said. VHP will also hold blood donation camp at 1000 places, he said, adding the outfit would ask its activists to pledge their eyes to help over two crore blind people. Environment conservation programme will be launched in July 2015 which will include planting saplings specially of Tulsi in each house, he said. (Indian Express 24/8/14)

77. VHP activists vandalize cars, shops in Ranchi

RANCHI: Members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and several Hindu organizations, which have called a daylong bandh in Ranchi to protest against the alleged love jihad and attempt to forceful conversion Tara Shahdeo to Islam, went on the rampage on Monday. Police personnel, who were deployed to control the law and order on Monday, were outnumbered by protesters, who went berserk and vandalized several shops and roadside stalls, damaged vehicles and attacked drivers. Police had to resort to lathi-charge. Activists of VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Nari Sena and other Hindu organizations hit the roads around 9am brandishing wooden sticks. Though most of the vehicles were off road and most shops were closed, some took the risk of coming out of the house only to invite protesters’ rage. The protesters clashed with cops at Albert Ekka Chowk, Sujata Chowk and Birsa Chowk. “The bandh was largely peaceful during which we also detained several bandh enforcers. They were released later,” said city SP Anoop Birthary. VHP activist Pramod Mishra said police was “barbaric in their way of suppressing protestors”. “One of our activists is admitted in RIMS and more than half a dozen were injured,” said Mishra. VHP in a letter sent on Monday sought intervention of Union home minister Rajnath Singh in the case. VHP state general secretary Ganga Prasad Yadav said: “Tara Shahdeo case is the second case of love-jihad reported recently in Jharkhand. Two months ago one case of love-jihad was reported in Jamshedpur. We have requested the home minister to intervene into the matter and save the Hindus.” (Times of India 26/8/14)

TERRORISM

78. Indian Mujahideen planned to send poisoned letters: Police

New Delhi: Indian Mujahideen was planning to send letters soaked in poison to their targets in order to kill them, the Delhi police told a court in a chargesheet filed against six suspected members of the terror outfit in a case of allegedly setting up an illegal arms factory. In its supplementary chargesheet, the special cell of the Delhi police claimed that during interrogation, suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives, Tehsin Akhtar and Mohd Waqar Azhar, had disclosed that they had made efforts to make poison with the help of available chemicals. “During their interrogation, accused Waqar and Tehsin had disclosed that they had made efforts to make poison with the help of available chemicals such as magnesium sulphate, acetone and castor seeds. “Their purpose behind making poison was to attempt target killing by sending letters soaked with poison. These chemicals have been recovered from Waqar,” the police said in its chargesheet filed before additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh. In the supplementary chargesheet, the police has named suspected top Indian Mujahideen operatives Tehsin Akhtar, Zia-Ur-Rehman, Mohd Waqar Azhar, Mohd Maroof, Mohd Saquib Ansari and Imteyaz Alam as the accused. They all have been arrested. They have been chargesheeted for various offences punishable under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and the Indian Penal Code. In its chargesheet, the police alleged that Indian Mujahideen members had conducted recce of historic Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in Agra to carry out bomb blasts and Bharatpur in Rajasthan was also one of their targets. “During investigation on April 18, 2014, accused Saquib Ansari, pursuant to his disclosure, led the police team to a hotel in the name of KGN in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where he along with Barqat (suspected IM operative) had stayed on March 7, 2014. They had gone to Agra on the directions of Riyaz Bhatkal to conduct a recce of Agra Fort, Taj Mahal etc. for causing blasts,” the police said. (Asian Age 21/8/14)

79. IM used social networking sites: Delhi Police

New Delhi: Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives extensively used social networking sites like Facebook and other e-mail chats to communicate with each other, including with its co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal, to execute their terror plans, Delhi Police has told a court in New Delhi. “The accused persons disclosed a number of Nimbuzz IDs, Yahoo IDs, Paltalk IDs, Gmail IDs and Facebook IDs used by them over the previous months/years for communication/chat and to receive and sent encrypted files and fake documents at different times at different locations….,” it alleged. In its supplementary charge sheet against six suspected IM men in connection with a case relating to allegedly setting up an illegal arms factory here, Special Cell of Delhi Police claimed these accused were using e-mails and chat messengers to communicate with the absconding Bhatkal. The police also claimed that these accused were “often using proxy IPs” and were installing proxy softwares in their computers to hide their actual locations. It also said Nimbuzz, a mobile-cum-computer application for free messaging and calling, was the “preferred mode of communication” among the IM operatives. The police has disclosed this in its supplementary charge sheet in which suspected IM operatives Zia-Ur-Rehman, Tehsin Akhtar, Mohd Waqar Azhar, Mohd Maroof, Mohd Saquib Ansari and Imteyaz Alam have been arrayed as accused. They all have been arrested. They have been listed in the charge sheet for various offences punishable under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and the IPC. The charge sheet was filed in connection with a case of allegedly setting up an illegal arms factory here from where a huge quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered. The police had in November 2011 busted the illegal arms factory located in Meer Vihar area of Nangloi in Outer Delhi and had claimed that a huge quantity of IEDs, explosives materials, arms and ammunition were recovered from the factory. In its charge sheet, the police also claimed that IM operatives were planning to send letters “soaked with poison” to their targets to kill them. During interrogation, Tehsin Akhtar and Mohd Waqar Azhar disclosed that they had made efforts to make poison with the help of available chemicals, it claimed. The police had earlier filed charge sheets against IM India chief Yasin Bhatkal, his aide Assadullah Akhtar and various others, including suspected IM operative Quateel Siddiqui who had died inside Pune’s Yerawada central jail in June 8, 2012, in connection with the case. Tehsin was arrested from near Kakarvitta Indo-Nepal border in Darjeeling district of West Bengal on March 25. Zia-Ur-Rehman was arrested outside Ajmer Railway Station on March 22 and his three associates — Maroof, Azhar, both residents of Jaipur, and Ansari, a resident of Jodhpur, were arrested by the police on March 23 and thereafter, brought to Delhi. (The Hindu 24/8/14)

80. Two jawans, four militants killed in Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Two soldiers and four militants were killed in two gun battles along the Line of Control in Keran and Kupwara in north Kashmir on Sunday. The Army said it stepped up counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir keeping in view the rising number of infiltration incidents. “In the last 24 hours, two of our soldiers — Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh of 57 Rashtriya Rifles and Grenadier Rahul Kumar of 23 Grenadiers Battalion — were killed while fighting terrorists in northern Kashmir,” an Army spokesperson said. The first encounter was in the Keran sector on Saturday night. The Army said soldiers intercepted a group of militants, resulting in exchange of fire. While the militants escaped unhurt, one soldier was killed. “The militants took advantage of the darkness in the dense forest and escaped from the site of the encounter,” the spokesperson said. The second gun battle started on Sunday morning in the Kalaroos area of Kupwara district. “We had information that some infiltration had happened earlier this week. Our troops today came across five-eight terrorists in the forests in Kalaroos and an intense gunfight ensued. We killed four of the militants and one of our jawans was also killed in the operation and another wounded,” Lieutenant Colonel N.N. Joshi said. The Army said it found the bodies of the militants and recovered four AK-47 rifles from the encounter site. A hunt has been launched for the rest of the militants. “We are carrying out a cordon and search operation for the remaining terrorists,” Lt. Colonel Joshi said. The Army said the militants belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

81. Cabinet nod for mobile towers in Naxal belts, to cost Rs 3,216 cr

New Delhi: The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the long-pending proposal to install mobile towers in nine Naxal-affected states by BSNL at cost Rs 3,216 crore that will be borne by the government. “The Cabinet has approved setting up of 1,836 new base transmission towers (BTS) in Left Wing Extremist affected districts. People in these areas and security forces have asked to improve the mobile connectivity in these districts,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after a Cabinet meeting. He said 363 towers under the project have already been set up for which subsidy will be given from the Universal Services Obligation Fund. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been pushing for installation of mobile towers in Naxal-hit areas since 2010. “The project implementation cost through the open tendering process is approximately Rs 3,568 crore against the revised cost estimate of approximately Rs 3,216 crore,” Prasad said. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been pushing for installation of mobile towers in Naxal-hit areas since 2010. The absence of mobile services has made it tough for security forces to operate and get timely help in critical situations, leading to loss of lives in some incidents. Soon after a Maoist attack at Bastar in Chhattisgarh in which 27 people, including some senior Congress leaders, were killed, the then Cabinet in June 2013 had approved setting up of mobile towers at a cost of around Rs 3,046 crore in nine states affected by the naxal violence to improve communications. The project to install mobile towers at 2,199 locations was to be completed by June but its progress was stuck due to difference in actual bids and project cost approved by then UPA government. The government has identified areas in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. (IBN Live 21/8/14)

82. CRPF jawan injured in face-off with Naxals in Chhattisgarh

Raipur: A CRPF jawan was injured in a gun-battle between security forces and ultras in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said on Sunday. The jawan received bullet injuries in the face-off that occurred in the restive Lingapur forest under Basaguda police station limits late last evening, a senior police official said. A team of paramilitary forces was mobilised from Bijapur for an anti-Naxal operation in the interiors of Basaguda in south Bastar. When they reached Lingapur forests, around 450 kms away from the state capital, the Naxals opened indiscriminate fire on them leaving a constable injured, he said. However, the rebels retreated into the dense forests when the forces retaliated, the official said. The injured constable, Sibu Siyas, was airlifted to Jagdalpur hospital for treatment, he said adding that his condition was stated to be out of danger. Soon after being informed, reinforcement was rushed to the spot and combing operation has been launched in the region to nab the attackers, he said. (Zee News 24/8/14)

83. Maoist links: Bombay HC quashes Saibaba’s bail plea

Nagpur: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has rejected the bail application of Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, under arrest since May for his alleged Maoist links. Justice Sunil Shukre , while rejecting the argument of Saibaba that he couldn’t be branded a Maoist or even a sympathizer only on the basis of the resemblance of his social activism with Maoist ideology, said a prima facie case exists against him for involvement in Maoist activities and for his being a prominent and important Maoist leader, according to Government Pleader Bharti Dangre. Saibaba also cited his physical disability as ground for bail. That too wasn’t held valid by the court, according to Dangre. His lawyer Surendra Gadling said, “we argued that mere resemblance of social activism to Maoist ideology isn’t ground enough to brand him a sympathiser or a Maoist. Also, we said the police don’t have sufficient material to substantiate their claim.” On court’s rejection of the disability ground, Gadling said, “the court accepted the police argument that he was being provided adequate assistance, facilities and medicines.” Saibaba was arrested by Gadchiroli police in May on the basis of the case they claim to have made out against him for involvement in Maoist activities. Saibaba’s arrest followed interrogation of the two earlier arrested alleged Maoists Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, who, the police claim, led them to Saibaba. The court granted bail to Prashant Rahi, who has been in jail since September 2013. Rahi, originally from Nashik, has been allegedly working for the urban front of the Maoists in Uttarakhand for past few years. A lot of material, pen drives and hard disks were recovered from Saibaba’s house by the police that, they claim, contain clear evidences of his involvement in Maoist activities as one of its prominent leaders co-ordinating urban and international activities of banned organisation CPI (Maoist). Confined to wheel-chair, Saibaba is currently lodged in Nagpur’s Central Prison. (Indian Express 25/8/14)

84. Two Naxals involved in Jiram valley attack arrested

Raipur: Two dreaded Maoists allegedly involved in last year’s ghastly Jiram valley attack which killed 31 people including some Congress leaders, were on on Tuesday arrested in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar district. A cache of explosives was also recovered from the ultras, police said. Acting on specific inputs, the cadres were apprehended by a joint team of district force and Central Reserve Police Force from a mobile check post under Darbha police station limits this evening, Bastar Superintendent of Police Ajay Yadav told PTI. During the interrogation, the arrested rebels, identified as Sukhdev Naag (31) and Manjhiram Kashyap (32), natives of Tongpal police station limits in bordering Sukma district, revealed that they were among the cadres who targeted Congress convoy in Jiram valley, Yadav said. As per their statements, Sukhdev was in the group of armed rebels, who gunned down senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma and other Congressmen, while Manjhiram passed on crucial information regarding the movement of Congress convoy and security forces in the region ahead of executing the attack to military platoon of CPI (Maoist), the SP said. Manjhiram also acted as an informer in dispensing key details about the movement of security personnel ahead of Tahakwada attack under Tongpal police station limits killing 15 security personnel and a civilian in March this year, he said. Notably, based on the statements of three ultras, including two women, who surrendered yesterday in Jagdalpur, the security personnel intensified its combing in the region to catch those local cadres who were involved in attack on Congress convoy in Jiram valley of Darbha. Meanwhile, Sukhdev and Manjhiram were nabbed while they were riding on a bike along with explosives between Darbha and Jiram camp of security personnel during checking of the vehicles, he said. (Zee news 27/8/14)

TRAFFICKING

85. Police Arrest Alleged Kingpin of Human Trafficking (1)

New Delhi:  Police have arrested the alleged kingpin of a trafficking racket who sold hundreds of poor tribal girls for domestic slavery in the country’s capital, an officer said on Thursday. Police accused Baba Bamdev of posing as a spiritual guru and social worker to trick the often illiterate girls into travelling to New Delhi in the hope of a better life. Police were currently preparing charges against Bamdev who was in custody after his arrest in eastern Jharkhand on the weekend, said Aradhna Singh, officer in charge of the state’s anti-human trafficking unit. “He used to run a fake non-profit group and pretended to be a saviour of poor and illiterate tribal girls,” Singh said. “But in fact he is the kingpin of an organised inter-state human trafficking syndicate. He had been evading arrest for a long time but he’s finally in our net now.” Police fear some of the girls were sexually assaulted before they were sold to placement agencies in Delhi often as maids for middle-class households, Singh told AFP. Bamdev allegedly headed a 35-strong gang which supplied girls to some 250 placement agencies in Delhi, according to police. Experts say sprawling cities such as Delhi are thriving hubs for human trafficking with thousands of girls sold into prostitution, domestic service and other labour every year. Some are kidnapped from their villages and towns, while others are tricked into travelling with traffickers in the belief they can earn money for their families. They are then often held against their will or paid no or minimal wages. Police officials regularly break up trafficking rackets but accept that they are at times overwhelmed by the scale of the crime. A local non-governmental agency working with police on trafficking accused Bamdev of pretending to be a guru to win the confidence of tribal parents with daughters in impoverised Jharkhand. “Bamdev (also) used to organise fairs every year on Christmas Eve in Delhi where he would show that he was working for the upliftment of tribal girls,” social activist Baidnath Kumar, who helped police with the arrest, told AFP. (NDTV 21/8/14)

86. Nab Traffickers, Rather Than the Trafficked

The arrest of a self-styled guru involved in trafficking in girls from tribal areas last week is just a tip of the iceberg. That it took quite some time to arrest him shows the kind of clout he wielded. His operations extended over a vast area and he headed a network of traffickers. His protestations of spirituality helped him to hoodwink the parents of poor, illiterate girls who thought he was offering them a better life and opportunities for growth. What he was doing was forcing them into menial jobs that did not fetch them even minimum wages or into prostitution with no chances of return to normal, family life. Trafficking in girls and women accounts for the third largest revenue after narcotics and gun-running. According to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, India has emerged as the top destination for human trafficking in South Asia. There is no clear data on the number of girls pushed into prostitution rackets in the urban areas. A large number of girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are also sucked into such rackets, which are not possible without the tacit support of the police. Occasionally, photographs of women caught by the police are published in the media, while the men behind go escape scot-free. This is a reflection of the police attitude. There is need to change the orientation of the police, who should go after the sharks who have their network of collaborators, rather than pick up some women from brothels and expose them to public ridicule, which only hardens them. The state should evolve a zero-tolerance policy towards trafficking in girls, particularly children and teenagers who should be in schools. It should be possible for every panchayat to keep a register of all the girls who had left the village in search of jobs and at whose instance. If anything untoward happens to them, the police should be able to nab the one who took them away on false promises. They should also be dealt with severely if they are unable to fulfil their promises. (New Indian Express 25/8/14)

87. Girl gangraped, brought to city for trafficking

Mumbai: A teenaged girl, found roaming alone at Goregaon station on Sunday, narrated a horrifying story to the cops of being gangraped in Uttar Pradesh and brought to Mumbai for trafficking. An FIR has been registered by the Borivli GRP and her family in UP has been informed. The 16-year-old is a school dropout and resides with her family at Kalwar in UP. She told the cops that she was at home on August 17 when a group of five to seven youths kidnapped her from the porch. After driving for several hours, they took her to Lucknow and confined in a room where she was gangraped between August 17 and 19. From Lucknow, the group brought her to Mumbai. “She cannot recollect at which station they alighted in Mumbai. For a few days, the men roamed around, taking her along. She said they planned to push her into flesh trade. On Saturday, she managed to give them the slip,” said a GRP official. She boarded random local trains as she did not know how to travel back to UP. She somehow reached Goregaon station where the cops found her on Sunday. “We offered her some food as she was starving and sent her for a medical examination. Reports have confirmed rape. Her cousin is on his way to Mumbai,” said DCP Deepak Devraj, GRP (WR). An FIR has been registered. (Times of India 25/8/14)

88. Human trafficking racket busted, 4 held

ONGOLE: Police on Monday busted a human trafficking racket involving six Sri Lankan Tamils by taking into custody four racketeers including a fisherman from the island nation when the job-seekers moved towards the coast at Surareddypalem, near here, on Monday, according to Superintendent of Police Ch.Srikanth. The four racketeers including a Sri Lankan national and two from Chennai had brought to Ongole the six Sri Lankan Tamils with a promise to send them to Australia in a cargo ship from Prakasam coast after taking US dollars worth Rs. 5 lakh from them, the SP said. Those taken into custody were identified as Shanmugha Lingam (47) from Sri Lanka, Barnabas (51) and his wife Anjali (46), both from Chennai, and Bhaskar (45) from Ongole. The six Sri Lankan Tamils were moving under suspicious circumstances and on questioning they spilled the beans, the SP said, adding that they were promised to be sent to Australia by sea without valid travel documents first by country boats up to 200 nautical miles and then in a cargo ship coming from either Kakinada or Visakhapatnam. The six were being produced before an Executive Magistrate to record their confessions, the SP said. The six Sri Lankan Tamils had come to Chennai by air with valid travel documents from the island nation and were staying in Ongole for a week, DSP P. Joshua said. (The Hindu 26/8/14)

89. Trafficked Nepal teen alleges gang rape by six men in Mehrauli

New Delhi: A 19-year-old Nepalese girl has alleged that she was gang-raped by six men in south Delhi’s Mehrauli. She also claimed she had been trafficked from the Himalayan country and was forced into prostitution by a couple, the police said on Monday. The victim came to India from Kathmandu and went to Haryana’s Panipat district where she worked as a domestic help. In her statement, she told the police that she met a couple named Ranju and Amit in Panipat two months ago. “They allegedly told the girl that they could help her get better jobs in Delhi,” said a police officer. The girl came to the Capital with the couple and started living with them at south Delhi’s Khirki Extension. The couple allegedly forced the girl into prostitution. The victim claimed that on Sunday she was asked to go to the house of a man named Subhash in Saidulajab area near Mehrauli. At Subhash’s house, she was forced to consume alcohol after which he and five others allegedly took turns to rape her, the police said, quoting from the victim’s complaint. “She was not allowed to leave the house on Sunday and managed to escape only the next day after her assaulters were fast asleep. She then rushed to the local police station and filed a complaint,” a police officer said. The police took her to AIIMS where she is undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the sexual assault. Her medical examination has also confirmed consumption of alcohol. A case under appropriate sections of the Indian Penal Code was registered at the Mehrauli police station. Ranju and Amit have been arrested. (Hindustan Times 27/8/14)

CORRUPTION

90. Corruption a disease, sin, says Prime Minister (5)

Mouda: Terming corruption as a “disease and sin”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said his government was committed to banishing it from the country.“Corruption has destroyed the country… For some, it has become a way of life. This disease has to be banished, we have to get rid of this sin,” he told a gathering after dedicating to the nation the 1000 MW Mouda Super Thermal Power Project Stage-1 in poll-bound Maharashtra. The function was boycotted by Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is upset over having to stop his speech midway due to chants of “Modi! Modi” at a function in Solapur last Saturday when the Prime Minister inaugurated a National Highway project. Describing the Solapur incident as “unfortunate”, Mr Chavan had on Wednesday said he had decided to skip Mr Modi’s functions in Nagpur. Governor K. Sankaranarayanan was, however, present. Mr Modi said providing electricity to everyone across the country is the topmost priority of his government. “For any country to progress, priority has to be given to infrastructure. If we can deliver durable infrastructure, possibilities of development increase. Among all kinds of infrastructure, power is the most important as it is critical to bringing about a change in the quality of life of the people,” he said. Resolving to provide “power to all”, Mr Modi referred to the stress he had laid on hydropower during his recent visits to Bhutan and Nepal as also Jammu and Kashmir. He said the aim of his government is to tap all sources of energy with emphasis on clean energy like solar power and stressed upon the need for power and water conservation for sustained development. (Asian Age 22/8/14)

91. Railway bribery case: trial to start from September 15

New Delhi: A special court in New Delhi on Friday fixed September 15 for commencement of trial in the Rs. 10-crore cash-for-post railway bribery case in which former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla and others, including a suspended Railway Board member, were chargesheeted by CBI. Special CBI Judge Swarana Kanta Sharma, who was scheduled to commence the trial from Monday, deferred it for September 15 as CBI’s prosecutor was on leave. Paving the way for the trial, the court had on March 11 framed charges against all the accused under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC read with provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. Congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had resigned as Railway Minister after the case came to light, has been arraigned as a prosecution witness by CBI in the case. The court had framed charges against Mr. Singla, then Member (Staff) of Railway Board Mahesh Kumar, Managing Director of Bangalore-based G. G. Tronics India Pvt Limited N R Manjunath, alleged middlemen Ajay Garg and Sandeep Goyal and co-accused Rahul Yadav, Sameer Sandhir, Sushil Daga, C. V. Venugopal and M. V. Murali Krishan. The court, while framing charges against the accused, had observed that they had prima facie entered into a criminal conspiracy to get Mahesh Kumar appointed as Member (Electrical) in the Railway Board and for that Mr. Singla was to be paid Rs. 10 crore as illegal gratification. It had observed that as per the records placed before it, Rs. two crore was to be paid immediately and Mr. Kumar had instructed Mr. Manjunath to arrange the bribe of Rs. two crore through other co-accused. CBI had filed a charge sheet on May 2 last year against the 10 accused. The probe agency had alleged that Mr. Singla had demanded Rs. 10 crore from Kumar for his appointment to the post of Member (Electrical) and it was decided between the accused that Rs. 5 crore will be paid before the appointment and the rest after the job was done. It had claimed first tranche of around Rs. 90 lakh was given to Mr. Singla who was apprehended while accepting the money. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

92. New Lokpal rules to be notified soon: Govt

New Delhi: Government will soon notify new rules for modifying mandate of Lokpal search committee, tasked with recommending names for appointment of chairperson and members of the anti-corruption body. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is finalising the new rules in consultation with the Law Ministry, official sources said. The search committee is likely to get power to recommend people for chairperson and members of Lokpal from outside the list, to be provided by the DoPT, for consideration of Prime Minister-led selection committee, they said. As per the existing rules, an eight-member search panel is tasked to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee. The search panel has to choose these persons from among the panel provided by the DoPT. A committee headed by Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi had also submitted to the Centre its report on amendments in the Lokpal search panel rules. The committee was formed to look into any legal complications for bringing in changes in the search panel rules, which were formed by the last UPA government. The committee’s report has been examined by the DoPT and the new rules are likely to be notified soon, they said. The government will go ahead with appointments of Lokpal only after the amendments are carried out in the rules, the sources said. In a related development, the DoPT has recently renewed delegation of power to decide on matters handled by it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will decide on all matters relating to Lokpal, CVC and anti-corruption legislation under newly-formed delegation of powers on works handled by the DoPT. The UPA government could not go ahead with the much- touted appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal due to BJP’s objection to the selection procedure. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Lokpal selection committee, led by the Prime Minister, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member. (Zee News 25/8/14)

93. Coalgate: Supreme Court’s order puts accused in a tight spot

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court’s declaration that all coal block allocations since July 1993 were illegal has possibly knocked down the first defence – that there is no irregularity in the allocations hence no case made out under Prevention of Corruption Act — of the accused in coal scam cases when the trial court commences proceedings. Once the SC holds that the allocations are illegal and arbitrary, the trial court will think twice before entertaining this defence of the accused. This defence lost its legs when a bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said, “The screening committee has never been consistent, it has not been transparent, there is no proper application of mind, it has acted on no material in many cases, relevant factors have seldom been its guiding factors, there was no transparency and guidelines have seldom guided it. On many occasions, guidelines have been honoured more in their breach. There was no objective criteria, nay, no criteria for evaluation of comparative merits.” Just putting a why before each of the sentences in this paragraph of the judgment would make one understand the anxiety of the accused. Why was the screening committee not consistent? Why was it not transparent? Why was there no application of mind? Why did it act without material basis? Why was it not guided by guiding factors? Why did it violate guidelines? Why did it not evaluate comparative merits of applicants?  Answers to these would possibly lead to a prima facie inference that there was some wrongdoing on the part of the allottee to influence the decision. Thus, it could take away the primary defence of the accused against framing of charges by the trial court if the CBI brings a charge-sheet against him. In a little over two years, this is the second instance of the SC finding illegalities in the allocation of natural resources, faulting the government for not following guidelines and maintaining transparency. In February 2012, the court cancelled 122 spectrum licences allotted in January 2008 by the UPA government during the tenure of A Raja as telecom minister. The fast-track trial in the irregular allotment of 2G spectrum is nearing the end, yet the accused continue to complain that the SC’s watchful eye on the investigation and the trial proceedings have gravely prejudiced their defence. In an uncanny similarity, the SC on Monday declared as illegal allotment of over 200 coal blocks since July 1993, many of which were de-allocated by the UPA government during pendency of the case before the apex court. It said the allocations were illegal as they were done arbitrarily, resulting in unfair distribution of natural resources. In the 2G scam cases too, the apex court had termed the spectrum allotted for mobile telephony licences as precious natural resources and warned that the desired way of allocation was through public auction. Like the 2G case, the coal block allocations too put question marks on many bigwigs. During the hearing, questions were raised about the alleged arbitrary allocations of coal blocks during the period former PM Manmohan Singh was heading the coal ministry.

(Times of India 26/8/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

94. Vijayawada to get hotter, warns UNDP (9)

VIJAYAWADA: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned of an increase in average temperature in Vijayawada if urgent environmental steps such as massive tree plantation are not taken up immediately. The temperature in the city is likely to go up by 1.25 degrees C in the next 35 years and by 2.8 degrees C by the end of this century, it said. The UNDP, which had earlier identified Vijayawada among the emerging global cities in the world, released the report at the ongoing conference on ‘Habitation’ in the city. According to UNDP experts, rise in temperatures even by one degree Celsius is a major cause for concern. “Rise in temperature by one degree Celsius means 10% less rainfall and 15% drop in agriculture production,” said agriculture scientist Prof A Satyanarayana. The UNDP report said it used global climate change scenarios to analyze the impact in Vijayawada and surrounding areas. Spatial distribution patterns in maximum and minimum surface air temperature and rainfall over Vijayawada were developed using satellite data. The analysis indicate the likely shifts in spatial changes of temperature and rainfall during 2040s (2026-2055) and 2080s (2061-2090) with respect to baseline time period (1961-1990). The report also expressed concern over rise in night temperatures. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report concluded that climate change would have adverse impact on human health,” said UNDP coordinator Shaik Sattar, adding that the rise in temperature can be arrested by taking up suitable environment measures like improving green cover. (Times of India 21/8/14)

95. NGO demands national pond development authority

Ghaziabad: The Aranya-Eco NGO Saturday submitted a memorandum to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti for constituting a national pond development authority. The NGO organised a demonstration here on this and submitted that due to increasing pollution of river water, traditional water resources must be developed on priority basis. Aranya-Eco secretary Sanjay Kashyap said that apart from being water resources, ponds are significant in view of conservation of bio-diversity and environment. Therefore, the need to establish a national pond development authority is a must. (Business Standard 23/8/14)

96. Monitoring of factory waste to go online

NEW DELHI: After launching online green clearance systems for industrial and infrastructure projects, the government is now keen to kick-start a similar system to strictly monitor treatment of industrial waste – both effluents and emissions – by March 31 next year. The idea is to reduce human intervention and bring transparency in the process of monitoring which has, so far, failed to stop discharge of untreated industrial waste into various rivers across the country. Under the new system, the industries are required to install “continuous effluent and emission monitoring devices” at their ends (discharge outlets). The sensor-based devices would be linked online with State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) offices in state capitals and with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) headquarters in Delhi. It will allow the central pollution watchdog to monitor the discharges from the industries on real-time basis. The time-frame to set up the ‘online monitoring system’ was discussed in a meeting between water resources and river development minister Uma Bharti and environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday. Javadekar is learnt to have told Bharti that his ministry was working on launching this system within six months which will go a long way in not only stopping discharge of untreated industrial wastes into Ganga but also in other rivers across the country. “The SPCBs have already been asked to issue directions to all 17 categories of highly polluting industries to not only install online effluent quality monitoring software and hardware but also upload it with emission and effluent monitoring data in a time bound manner so that the new system can be launched latest by March 31, 2015″, said an official who attended the meeting. He said the online system would end the existing inspection mechanism which had been abused by many polluting industries in collusion with inspectors in the past. (Times of India 23/8/14)

97. Govt plans to ban harmful pesticides

New Delhi: Calling for increasing the use of bio-pesticides, Kumar said his ministry proposes to recommend to the Department of Agriculture banning a pesticide that is harming bees, and is already banned in the US and some other countries. The registration of pesticides, their standards and residue levels are governed by the Insecticides Act, 1968, which requires major changes to address the various issues affecting this segment, said Kumar while addressing the annual Agrochem Conference  organised by Ficci here. “The Pesticides Management Bill 2008 has been introduced in Parliament to replace the extant Insecticides Act, and the government will take all possible action to pass the Bill expeditiously so as to accelerate the growth and development of this sector,” said the minister.  In India, about 250 insecticides are registered on regular basis for use in the country. There are more than 60 technical-grade pesticides being manufactured indigenously by 125 producers and more than 500 pesticide formulators spread over the country. (Deccan erald 26/8/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

98. Villages need power supply to stop farmer suicides: PM (20)

Nagpur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said India’s rural areas need adequate electricity supply to increase productivity and in turn prevent farmer suicides. “We have to bring a qualitative change in people’s lives in rural areas and have to begin with providing them adequate electricity. We must ensure that villages have access to 24-hour electricity,” Modi said. The prime minister said it was sad that farmers were forced to commit suicide because of inadequate power supply affecting their productivity. “For a nation to develop, the focus must be on infrastructure,” he said. (Business Standard 21/8/14)

99. BJP slams TRS for being ‘indifferent’ to farmers’ concerns

Hyderabad: BJP president G. Kishan Reddy lambasted the TRS government for being indifferent to the growing unrest among farmers on the power front. Suicides were on the rise in districts like Nizamabad, Adilabad and Medak where TRS got huge mandate. “But the government is least bothered to address their problems,” Mr. Reddy told presspersons here on Sunday. As against the power demand for 165 million units per day, the government is supplying only 125 million units with the result that farmers are getting hardly three to four hours of supply. The Chhattisgarh government had agreed to supply power but there was no response from the Telangana government. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao ought to visit Delhi to resolve the issue, Mr. Reddy suggested. He criticised the Chief Minister for his plans to turn Hyderabad into Singapore and Karimnagar into London while several important issues were hanging fire. The BJP had not launched any agitation considering that the government was just three months old. “The TRS should realise that it is at a responsible position now and no more a party of agitations,” Mr. Reddy remarked. The Osmania University students, who played a key role in the success of the TRS, were agitating for jobs. But there was no response from the government, he regretted. Earlier, Mr. Reddy announced that K. Dilip Kumar, MLC and Telangana Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, would join the BJP. In fact, he had merged his party into BJP. “It is like homecoming to me,” Mr. Kumar remarked. To a question, the BJP president said the party candidate for the Medak Lok Sabha seat was not finalised yet. “We are not seeking any support from the TDP since it is our own seat,” he said. (The Hindu 25/8/14)

100. Farmers Unite in Protest Against Govt for Power Relief

ADILABAD/KHAMMAM/WARANGAL/KARIMNAGAR/NALGONDA: Agitated with the increasing number of power cuts which are adversely affecting their crop yield, farmers of Sarangapur mandal in Adilabad protested in front of the substation at mandal’s headquarters, demanding seven hours of uninterrupted power supply to the agriculture sector.  Police were brought into action who managed to stop the protestors. According to sources, this demonstration is in solidarity with last week’s protest at Nirmal, Mudhole, Khanapur, Mancherial area substations. Farmers alleged that they are receiving only three hours of power supply per day which also tends to be erratic. “When the estimated power supply is 5.5 million units, the farmers are receiving only 3.878 million units,” said, S Ashok, Northern Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) district superintendent engineer. According to officials, power cuts in district headquarters are for six hours, in municipalities for 8 hours and villages face blackouts from six am to six pm. Agitating against the severe power supply shortage that has been continuing in Khammam, farmers in Sadasivunipet and Errupalem staged a dharna on Monday in front of Transco sub-station. Over hundred farmers  gathered in front of the sub-station and lay siege to it. Farmers said Transco officials are not supplying adequate power even for two hours a day. Due to lack of power we are facing tremendous problems to supply water to their fields, they rued. In Warangal district so far 52.1 per cent deficit rainfall has been reported. Ground water went below 30 meters at 194 villages in 34 mandals. Due to interrupted power supply, farmers are angry with the government as they are unable to bear the loss of their crops. They attacked power sub-stations and staged protests against the government. Nearly 40 hectares of maize crop dried up in the district. Another farmer, B Chokya from Sankariyathanda of Mahaboobbad mandal cultivated maize in 3 acres of land, but due to lack of water all the crops dried up completely. As is the case elsewhere in Telangana, erratic power supply and frequent power breakdowns coupled with wide fluctuations have become a bane for the farmers in Nalgonda district too forcing them to stage agitations at the electric substations and other electricity offices and grill the officials concerned frequently. The Nalgodna district has 11.77 lakh electricity services. Of these, 7.52 lakh are domestic, 3.11 lakh agriculture, 85,400 commercial and 25,400 others. The present demand for power is 22.6 million units a day, but the supply is only to the extent of  17.6 million units – leaving a deficit of 5 million units. The agriculture sector is getting power through 728 feeders. Presently, the farmers in the district are cultivating various kinds of crops in 1,38,941 hectares as against the normal 2,66,126 hectares. And farmers in 72,000 hectares are depending on borewells for crop cultivation. Thus, frequent   and prolonged (three to four hours) power cuts are creating problems to them as they are not able to operate the pumps to draw water from the borewells. The farmers, who are cultivating the crops with water from the borewells, are forced to undertake their agricultural operations at night times when the power supply is mostly uninterrupted. In this backdrop, the farmers are left with no option but to stage agitations and confront the electricity officials.  Recently, the agitated farmers staged a ‘rasta roko’ at Choutuppal. Telangana Rytu Sangam staged a dharna in front of the District Collectorate and Transco office two days back. BJP activists also staged a dharna in-front  of the Transco SE’s office and submitted memorandum to the electricity officials seeking uninterrupted power supply to the agriculture sector. The CPM, led dhanas by  farmers at  Valigonda, Suryapet and Kattangur substations recently. “We are not able to operate pumpsets due to the power cuts every one hour,” A Ramulu, a farmer of Kothagudem village. In Karimnagar district, 50 per cent deficit rainfall has been reported so far. Farmers are staging protests on the roads, venting their anger against the government. M Srinivas Reddy from Kothapalli used to cultivate cotton in 2 acres of land, but due to shortage of rain this year, seeds failed to germinate. Due to overload of power and erratic low voltage, 3,995 transformers got burned within a period of 80 days which considerably increased the number of black hours. “9.14 million unit quota is allotted daily to the district but the usage of 2 million units is higher than quota, so we are enforcing power cuts throughout the district in various domestic, industrial and agricultural sector”, said authorities of NPDCL. (New Indian Express 26/8/14)

101.  ‘Govt. should declare State drought-hit’

WARANGAL: Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA Errabelli Dayakar Rao has demanded that the government declare the State as drought affected. Inadequate rains and power supply pushed the farmers into deep distress and the standing crops were withering away. The MLA visited some villages in Wardhannapet, Rayaparthi and Parvathagiri mandals here on Tuesday and interacted with the farmers. As there was no power supply, those who opted for paddy under the open and bore wells were forced to depend on oil pumps to save their crops. It is proving costly to them. “We will raise the plight of farmers in Assembly. The State government should come out with some steps to save the farmers immediately,” he said. Each farmer on an average has spent around Rs 10, 000 per acre but they were not in a position to get back even their investment. The TDP MLA alleged that due to financial burden and crop crisis the farmers were forced to commit suicide and in all 190 farmers ended their lives in the past three months. But the chief minister and his ministers were not bothered to address the issue. They were not speaking out on the much promises loan waiver too. He wanted the government to ensure atleast eight hours of power supply else his party would mobilise the farmers to draw the attention of the government to the plight of farmers. (The Hindu 27/8/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

102. Acquired land to be given back if not put to intended use in 5 years (4)

MUMBAI: Land acquired under the new Land Acquisition Act, if lying idle for five years, will be returned to the original owner. In such cases, the state government will first issue a public notification asking if any government agency wants the land for a project. In the past the government has failed to return acquired land even decades after it failed to set up the project for which the land was acquired. Often such land has been sold to a private enterprise. These and other rules for implementing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, were approved by the state cabinet on Wednesday even as the Centre is contemplating amendments to the act. A significant aspect of the rules is that consent, once given, cannot be withdrawn, said officials from the revenue and forests departments. Under the rules, a social impact assessment (SIA) in an area identified for a project will be done before seeking consent of the local residents. The government will draw up a list of accredited NGOs and training institutes that can carry out the SIA. The SIA report will be scrutinized by an expert group comprising the secretary, land acquisition, NGOs and members of the gram panchayat.Before starting the exercise for taking consent of residents for a project , the list of project-affected persons will be drawn up and made public. Consents will be digitally thumbed, as in case of the Aadhar card. (Times of India 21/8/14)

103. ‘Land Acquisition, Rehab,Major Concerns of Steel Sector’

VISAKHAPATNAM: Land acquisition and rehabilitation of oustees are the two major problems ailing industrial growth, particularly the steel sector, felt P Madhusudan, chairman-cum-managing director of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited. He inaugurated the two-day international conference on Indian Steel Industry Vision-2025, organised by the publishers of the ‘Steel and Metallurgy’ magazine of Kolkata, here Thursday. Delivering the key-note address, the CMD said that India was endowed with rich resources like land, manpower and low cost of labour, but execution and coordination were the main hurdles. The execution needs a quick and fast approach, Madhusudan added. He said that an environment-friendly approach was also needed since for every tonne of steel produced, 5 tonnes of raw material were used. This would impact the environment. The steel factories must protect ecological balance, he added. Madhusudan was optimistic that the steel companies would achieve the target of production of 300 million tonnes by 2025. He suggested the delegates and stakeholders to focus on issues like development of infrastructure relating to road, rail and ports. On the Visakhapatnam steel plant, spread over 1,900 acres and having produced 6.3 million tonnes of steel in the current year, the CMD said that the VSP would surpass production of 7.2 million tonnes by 2016-17. Stollberg India Private Limited managing director Bimal K Sarkar said that in the last convention, they fixed a target of 110 billion tonnes of steel by 2020. The current production is around 90 billion tonnes. The target can be easily achieved, Bimal said. Steel consumption was very low when the target was fixed but it has increased by leaps and bounds now. He hoped that the manufacturers would not only reach the next target but also surpass it. On the manganese alloys in India, Sarda Metals and Alloys Limited director (International Business) Manish Sarda said that with the best use of technology, India tops the world in the export of manganese alloys. He discussed some major issues relating to the productivity of these alloys in the country. He suggested the delegates to use higher grades of metals for making alloys. RINL director (Operations) DN Rao said that steel industry in the country was facing many challenges. He felt that while expansion was needed, the environmental and social issues should be taken care of as well. Rao foresaw a bright future for the RINL. Y Siva Sagar Rao, former CMD of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, hoped that the target would be reached with proper execution of works. Steel and Metallurgy Editor Nirmalaya Mukherjee and chief freight traffic manager of South Central Railway Raveen K Reddy were present. (New Indian Express 22/8/14)

104. Andhra Pradesh frames land rules

The Andhra Pradesh government has, in principle, decided to fix the cap on acquisition of land by private parties at 5,000 acres to avoid attracting the provisions of the new Land Acquisition Act 2013. At a high-level meeting held on the assembly premises on Saturday, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu gave the nod to officials to formulate the rules by fixing 5,000 acres as the upper cap for acquisition of land by private parties. Once the rules are finalised, any private firm or individual, who wants to acquire land, can do so up to 5,000 acres even if there is displacement of people and loss of livelihood. Though the government had considered the proposal to fix a higher cap of 10,000 acres, the chief minister curtailed the limit to avoid large-scale displacement of people. Officials said that with the new rules, the government may ask private parties to first acquire land and then enter into an agreement under the PPP mode with them. Meanwhile, the state government has also decided to fix the compensation in rural areas at 1.25 times the market value of the land. It will be 1.5 times the market value in scheduled areas. Apart from this, the state government has also decided to fix the percentage of total cultivated land to be acquired at 10. Officials felt that fixing district-wise percentage is not ideal for Andhra Pradesh as it has most of the land under cultivation. “Ten per cent will be applied across the state but not on district-basis,” said a senior official. The CM has asked officials to frame the new rules and prepare a draft notification for discussion in the next cabinet meeting. The new Act specifies that the notification should be publicised to gather people’s reactions. (Times of India 24/8/14)

105. Medha Patkar opposed to amendments to new land act

BHUBANESWAR: : Social activist Medha Patkar on Tuesday came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government over a move to amend key provisions in the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Addressing a press conference here, Ms Patkar said, “The consent and ‘social impact assessment’ (SIA) provision of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency was introduced to do away with the anomalies in the colonial Act, since farmers and those dependent on the land were never consulted or made a participant in the process of development planning. Huge tracts of fertile land were acquired at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name public purposes.” “It will be a retrograde step if we were to go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition with no regard for impact of land acquisition on the people, environment and democratic institutions that need to be consulted and their consent taken in the process of SIA,” Ms Patkar said. The social activist said the new land acquisition act was a result of mass movements against forcible land acquisitions across the country, but the new government seemed to be in a hurry to facilitate land for industrial houses by trampling people’s resistance and ignoring forests and wildlife. Ms. Patkar, who is adviser of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), called upon people to stake their claim on their properties, which were acquired in pen and paper on basis of old Land Act, but was still under their possession. NAPM Convenor Prafulla Samantara informed that people resisting land acquisition would be made aware about their rights under the new Act. “No government could bulldoze people’s opinion,” said Mr. Samantara. (The Hindu 28/8/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

106. 15 districts in Assam await Elisa Kit for JE diagnosis (3)

Guwahati: Japanese Encephalitis has so far claimed more than 100 deaths in the state, but the government is yet to provide the essential medical aid for diagnosing the disease, Elisa Kit, to laboratories in 15 districts. Only 12 laboratories in Assam can diagnose JE. They are in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Golaghat, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Kamrup, Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Silchar, Barpeta and Nagaon. An official of the health department said the kit is supplied by the National Institute of Virology and the state government is trying hard to get the kit for the remaining districts. “In a few months the laboratories in the remaining districts should get them,” he said. On Thursday, the total number of people with positive Acute Encephalitis Syndrome touched 1,880 with 319 deaths. There were 704 positive JE cases on Thursday with 147 succumbing to it. Health department officials said they had not anticipated the outbreak to be so severe. “Of the 27 districts, 26 were affected. The kits were provided according to the prevalence of the disease in each district. Now the state government is thinking of providing the kit to the rest of the districts,” the officials said. Assam first recorded an outbreak of JE in 1978 in Lakhimpur district. Since then, many deaths have occurred in the state in subsequent outbreaks but they could have been prevented with the adoption of effective measures and methodology for treating the disease,” said an official. (Times of India 22/8/14)

107. NHRC notice to Haryana over infant mortality

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notice to the Haryana government over the increase in the infant mortality rate in the state due to deficiency of iron and poor nutrition among pregnant women, a statement said here Friday. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report, which stated infant mortality rate increased to around 50 from 44 for every 1000 births in Karnal district during 2013-2014. Reportedly, of the 34,000 infants born, 1,692 didn’t survive. Deficiency of iron and poor nutrition among pregnant women was one of the major reasons behind such deaths. The commission observed that the contents of the report, if true, raise serious issue of violation of right to life and health of the newly born and their mothers. The notice has been issued to the chief secretary of the state, calling for a report within four weeks. (Business Standard 22/8/14)

108. Centre keen on reducing maternal mortality in state

JAIPUR: Rajasthan is one of the four states, which collectively account for 66% of maternal deaths. The other three states are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Dr Himanshu Bhushan, deputy commissioner, maternal health, ministry of health and family welfare, pointed out about the state’s dubious distinction. He talked about the importance of reducing the maternal deaths in the four states, which would eventually bring down the maternal mortality rate of the country drastically. He was speaking on the final day of world conference on “journey towards safer pregnancy”, organized by the federation of obstetric and gynecological societies of India (FOGSI), in Jaipur on Sunday. Dr Bhusan pointed out that the government is putting its efforts to help reduce maternal mortality ratio in Rajasthan. He informed that the Centre has provided funds to set up 22 modern maternal and child health units with 100 beds and 105 maternal and child units with 20 beds in the hospitals. While elaborating the efforts being made by health ministry in reducing the maternal deaths, he said that soon “skill labs” would come up in the entire country, where the doctors and nurses would be trained. He also pointed out that a lot of work has to be done as every eight minutes there is a death due to complications related to pregnancy. Dr Ritu Joshi, the organizing secretary of the event said that the speakers during sessions talked about the importance of proper hand wash by the healthcare staff as it could prevent 20% of the cases of infections among the patients. (Times of India 25/8/14)

109. Put healthcare top on agenda, activists tell political parties

MUMBAI: Pointing out that Maharashtra spends much less than Goa does on healthcare, activists on Monday urged political parties to put the issue high on their agenda and work towards introducing universal healthcare (UHC) to all. “A common person spends an average of over Rs 2,245 annually on healthcare, which is nearly four times the amount that the state government spends,” said Dr Ravi Duggal of the Maharashtra UHC Group. The UHC group, comprising 12 healthcare activists and doctors, has worked out a detailed plan of UHC for Maharashtra. The central idea of the scheme is to provide cashless healthcare facility to every person, irrespective of the economic status and capacity to pay. “With the polls around the corner, we wanted to highlight the need to increase public health financing in Maharashtra. We will submit our detailed plan to the new state government,” said Dr Abhay Shukla of NGO SATHI. “If we compare Maharashtra to Brazil and Thailand, the state definitely has adequate manpower, financial and healthcare resources to successfully implement UHC,” he added. (Times of Indi 26/8/14)

HIV/AIDS

110. Health Ministry justifies merging Aids control body with NRHM

New Delhi: Amid public concern that winding up the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) would compromise on controlling the spread of HIV, Health Ministry officials have given their assurance that the programme will not be curtailed and will continue with the same efficacy. “There will be no change in the programme and its budget. The Aids control programme will run under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) like the tuberculosis or malaria control programme. It is only an administrative step,” Union Health Secretary Lov Verma told Deccan Herald. The department’s budget has been increased to Rs 1,785 crore from last fiscal’s revised estimate of Rs 1,500 crore. In the first step towards the merger with the NRHM, department of Aids control secretary V K Subburaj was shifted to the National Commission on Schedule Caste a week ago. Subsequently, an additional secretary was given charge of the department. “It used to be like that traditionally,” Verma said. Activists, however, are crying foul apprehending the merger, saying it would mean a shift in focus from the HIV/Aids programme. At present, the country has an estimated 21-lakh HIV-infected patients. “India has been able to make progress on HIV because of this exclusive programme. If the department of Aids control is dismantled at this juncture, the decision will boomerang and HIV can come back severely,” said Manoj Pardeshi from the National Coalition of People Living with HIV. Since the national Aids control programme began in the 1992, it was managed by NACO, which got a separate department a decade ago and remained an autonomous body under the Health Ministry. In 2012, however, the Planning Commission, in a steering committee report for the 12th plan, proposed NACO’s integration with the NRHM. The move to merge the NACO with the NRHM is considered to be in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda of “minimum government and maximum governance”. “It gels with the Narendra Modi government’s idea of convergence in the government, just like the department of overseas affairs was brought under the Ministry of External Affairs,” an official said. (Deccan Herald 21/8/14)

111. Step up AIDS control measures: U.N. official

CHENNAI: Emphasising the need for stepping up the HIV/AIDS control programme in certain areas in India, U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for AIDS for Asia and the Pacific J.V.R. Prasada Rao said, “Although there has been a reduction of 56 per cent in new infections, its rate has increased in some populations, like injecting drug users and men having sex with men.” “The main areas where this increase has been seen are in Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi. It is important that the HIV/AIDS control programme focuses on these groups,” he told The Hindu on the sidelines of the Dr. N.S. Murali Memorial Lecture held here on Wednesday. On the Sustainable Development Goals to be discussed at the United Nations General Assembly, he said, “In healthcare, there will be a number of important goals, including the ending of AIDS. “The idea is to reduce the number of new infections by 90 per cent, a 90 per cent reduction in deaths because of AIDS and also an improvement of the legal environment. Various countries will contribute their suggestions to attaining these goals,” he said. (The Hindu 22/8/14)

112. Man who adopted 12 sons, all of them HIV+

MEERUT: Everyone knows the “house of the many kids” in Ganganagar, a busy locality in Meerut. Ring the bell and a young boy, let’s call him Vivek, opens the door and cheerfully greets visitors with folded hands. Vivek is one of the 12 adopted sons of Ajay Sharma. And like the 11 others, he, too, is HIV positive. The children, between 7 and 17, all have a similar story to tell. Each of them was born to parents with AIDS. They lived in their homes for as long as their parents survived and were later abandoned and shunned by their relatives. But unlike thousands of other such children who have to deal with poverty and ridicule, apart from the burden of carrying the deadly disease, these 12 kids were lucky. They found a dad who rescued them and brought them home. Sharma dotes on them. “I have a dozen sons and each one of them is precious to me,” he says, smiling. In 2004, Sharma suffered a brain haemorrhage and slid into coma for 15 days. After experiencing a close encounter with death, he says he “understood the importance of being alive and decided to dedicate my life for the cause of underprivileged children”. He relinquished his job at the Government Inter College, Phalawada, and began teaching kids in the slums. … (Times of India 23/8/14)

113. Stock-out hits HIV treatment across India

MUMBAI: Treatment for HIV patients across India has taken a hit, especially in Delhi and Mumbai, due to severe stock-outs of life-saving medicines reported at government-owned centres. Shortage of first-line (initial), second-line (advanced) and paediatric HIV drugs, besides crucial diagnostic kits, has prompted patient groups to send a legal notice to the government, pointing to the scarcity, gaps in procurement and supply of these drugs. The treatment and control of HIV, including dispensing drugs and testing, is handled by the government-run public health programme through its 355-odd centres. Of the over two million HIV-infected people in India, four states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu — account for 53%. More than one-third of them, or 7.5 lakh patients, are on the public health programme this year. While the medicines are available in the retail market at a cost, the ones dispensed at government-owned centres come free. At certain centres in Mumbai and Delhi, partial doses of treatment are being provided to patients for a few days, forcing them to return frequently. Alternatively, drugs are being substituted. Hospitals such as AIIMS, Safdarjung and LNJP in Delhi, and Nair, KEM, Siddharth and Sion in Mumbai have been grappling with shortage of these drugs. Prices of first-line HIV drugs in the retail market has come down now substantially due to affordable generic medicines. The treatment costs lakhs of rupees for advanced therapies for certain patients. While, retail first-line drugs cost Rs 5,500 a year, the advanced and complex therapies come at around Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 lakh a year. In a legal notice to the health ministry sent on August 22, the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), representing HIV patients, has sought emergency procurement and relocation of stocks to government-owned centres experiencing stock-outs of ARVS, particularly in Mumbai. They have also sought strengthening and streamlining drug forecasting, procurement and supply chain mechanism to prevent future shortages. Stock-outs have hit centres in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Manipur the worst, Vikas Ahuja of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, South Asia, told TOI. Drug supply has been erratic over the past few months, Ahuja said. Bureaucratic delay in tendering, procurement and supply has been cited as the reason, besides the mechanism not being planned proactively and in a streamlined way. As per NACO guidelines, patients adhering to the treatment should get the medicines for at least a month. Industry experts say shortage of second-line therapy has existed in certain centres since 2012, and that of diagnostic kits since last year. (Times of India 26/8/14)

114. HIV+ dalit couple harassed for 2 years

KORAPUT: A dalit HIV positive couple, who have been living a nightmare for the past two years because of repeated harassment and assault by fellow villagers, have turned to the Rayagada district collector for help. Not only have the villagers stopped them from using the village pond and tube well, they even tied up Sushant Naik (name changed) to a tree, beat him up and threw human excreta at him on one occasion. The couple’s sorry plight came to light on Monday, when Naik and his wife, of Bhairagada village located about 70 km from the district headquarters town of Rayagada under Muniguda block, met collector Sashi Bhushan Padhi at his grievance cell and told him about their experience. The couple were diagnosed HIV positive in 2012 when their blood samples were examined during the woman’s pregnancy. “On the advice of doctors, we immediately started taking medicines and my wife delivered a son at Koraput hospital. By the grace of God, our son is not affected by HIV,” said Naik. However, the dalit couple’s happiness over the birth of their child didn’t last long as the news about their disease reached the village. The villagers soon started ostracizing the couple and placed several restrictions on the family. (Times of India 28/8/14)

 

Posted by admin at 28 August 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. No haircuts for Dalits in this K’taka village

Bangalore: In a bizarre incident reported from Karnataka, out of fear of upper caste people, saloons in village Koliwad near Hubli have been shut for more than a month not allowing the Dalits to have a haircut. The closure of haircutting shops by people of Savita Samaj (barber community) not allowing Dalits to get their hair cut is an evident fact of discrimination of Dalits that is still prevalent in this part of the country. The haircutting shops have been closed out of fear of backlash by the other community people. Even today over 100 Dalit families living in this village fear caste discrimination and are seeking help from the Government. In fact, a team of revenue officials have, on Saturday, visited the village and took a stock of the situation. The Dalits who live in Ambedkar Colony in the village are scared that this incident might turn into a major controversy where upper caste people might force them to leave the village. A Dalit youth on the condition of anonymity told that he was threatened when he went to have his regular haircut. He said that he was forced out of the shop on behest of some influential people who belonged to upper caste. He said, “We live in Ambedkar Colony and all the haircutting shops have been closed forcibly by some influential people who belong to upper caste. They are not allowing us to have haircut in the shop and we are forced to leave the shops. We have appealed to the Government and some officials have taken a stock of the situation. We want to live amicably in the village.” According to sources in the district administration, The problem started when some dalit youths went to have a haircut a few weeks ago. this was objected to by some of the villagers belonging to upper caste and the owners were forced to close the shops. According to Hubli Tahsildar HD Nagavi, the Savita community members in the village had not given haircut to anyone in the village since a month and efforts are on to help them resume work. A reconciliation meeting on the issue will be held soon. The Dalits feel only upper caste people were given haircut in the village saloons and when a few Dalits sought the service, the shops were closed. The hair cutting shop owners feel they have closed the shops as a preventive measure to avert any clash between two communities in the village. Meanwhile, many Dalit organisations have urged the administration to get justice to Dalits in the village. (Pioneer 11/8/14)

2. Dalit Author’s Family Ostracised Over Book (2)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Caste Hindus have forced people belonging to the Dalit community to ostracise one of their families as a youth from the family had published a book describing the atrocities of caste Hindus of the village and its vicinity. Duraisamy (65) son of Silamban, a resident of  Kulathiranpattu (East) near Karambakudi lodged a petition with ES Uma, District Superintendent of Police. He stated that his son, Guna, wrote and published a book titled Oorar Varaindha Oviyam (art painted by villagers) and it was released on July 12 at Gandhi park in Karambakudi. Since then, various unknown persons made threats to him and his family members including Guna and his wife. Later, on August 5, a section of Dalit residents including village panchayat president Thangaraj, Pilakurichi village panchayat vice president P Ganeshan, Manickam, Sasikumar and Sankaran, all belonging to Dalit community, came and asked him to vacate the village. They said that the caste Hindus were angry about his son’s book. They wanted to send Duraisamy’s family from the village, he said. They are reported to have further said, “The caste Hindus  dismissed  ten Dalits of the village from a quarry owned by a caste Hindu and barred Dalits from grazing cattle in their farm lands. The Dalits further told  Duraisamy that the Caste Hindus said no Dalit should come to the village bazaar to buy anything and the caste Hindu shop keepers of the village also refused to do business with Dalits. “Kulathiran pattu Dalits threatened us with dire consequences if your family does not leave the village immediately,” the Dalits told Duraisamy. Following the threats of the caste Hindus and the representation from the Dalit community, Duraisamy said he had been staying in the outskirts of Karambakudi for the last five days and his daughter-in- law and grandsons were staying at their maternal grandparents’ house, fearing for life. He urged police to take severe action against the Dalits who forced him to leave the village and the caste Hindus, who were behind the act. His petition was directed to Alangudi, Deputy Superintendent of Police, for investigations into the entire issue. Guna, writer of the book told Express, “Now I am in Chennai to make a living. Police should take severe action against caste Hindus who forced the Dalit residents to ostracise members of my family.” (New Indian Express 13/8/14)

3. Satyagraha to end discrimination: 200 Dalits to march into Hanuman temple in Parbhani

Mumbai: As the country celebrates the 68th Independence Day, about 500km from Mumbai, the Dalits of Thhole village in Parbhani district have resolved to end caste-based discrimination through satyagraha. Denied access to grocery shops and primary health-care centres by the upper castes, 200 Maaang and Matangs have decided to march into the local Hanuman temple on August 15. It all began on July 26. Marathwada, which falls in the rain shadow region, has seen even scantier rainfall this year. The Matangs felt appeasing the deity in the Hanuman temple would help. “We knew we would not allowed inside. So, we smashed a coconut on the steps outside to pray for rain,” says Atam Narayan Uphade. “And its not like the rains would benefit only Dalit farmers.” According to an FIR lodged at the Daithana police station, as word of the “gods being defiled by Dalits” got around, upper-caste youths went to the Dalit settlements, beat up the people, destroyed their properties and food grains and molested the women. Furious that the Dalits had “dared” to go to the police, the upper castes held a meeting on July 27 where they swore to “ex-communicate the Dalits and teach them a lesson.” The Dalits were denied access to grocery shops, barbers and flour mills. “We have also been restrained from taking our cattle to the common grazing ground of the village,” points out Angad Uphade, 28, who has fled with his family to a relative’s home in the neighbouring village of Indewadi. “I was roughed up and threatened with dire consequences because my goats went to the grassland. I had no option but to flee,” he said. In all 13 families have migrated from the area in the last few days, fearing violence. The village headman, Gangadhar Bhagwan Bele, an upper-caste Maratha, terms the Dalit allegations exaggerated. “They should know their limits. This is a village and we live by certain rules. If they try to break them, people will get angry,” he said defending the violence and ex-communication. While admitting to the problem, Parbhani district collector Sachindra Pratap Singh told dna, “I’ve visited the village with the Superintendent of Police. The tehsildar and I thought the problem had been resolved. I will find out whether tension is still brewing. While the administration will take strict actions against anyone practising discrimination, we also have to take preventive measures to ensure that the situation doesn’t spiral out of control.” Activist Ganpat Bhise of the Dalit rights advocacy group Samajik Nyay Andolan charged the administration with inaction. “Why should Dalits be refused entry into the premises, frequented even by stray dogs and cats of the village?” he asked and added, “People have resolved to enter the temple to see if god, too, discriminates against them. Even after so many years of independence, we are still treated as pariahs,” he said. (DNA 15/8/14)

4. Dalit writer ostracised for short story

PUDUKOTTAI: A Dalit writer of Kulathiranpattu in Pudukottai district has been ostracised by the villagers after his short story sparked a controversy. Durai.Guna said he was ostracised by a group of villagers who held a meeting on August 5. Trouble began after Mr. Guna released the book Oorar varaintha oviyam at a function at Karambakudi on July 12. While the writer said the story was about social justice, villagers objected to its contents, especially a few references to illicit relationships between some men and women of different communities in the village. They argued that the claims were contrary to truth. Mr. Guna said he was now staying at his friend’s house in Coimbatore. He left the village after the book release and was staying in Chennai for some time. He said his parents were being intimidated and his father Duraisamy moved the Superintendent of Police for protection to the family. Village panchayat president Thangaraj said the story caused ripples among the upper castes and oppressed communities. The writer defamed individuals, he said, explaining the reason for the villagers’ action. Superintendent of Police E.S. Uma said preliminary enquiry was under way and no case of intimidation was established. The parents of the writer were still in the village. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

5. ‘Nanded village dalits facing boycott’

AURANGABAD: City-based Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti on Monday alleged that dalits have been boycotted for over three months at Nevri village in Hadgaon taluka of Nanded district. The samiti has demanded action against those allegedly involved in the boycott. The samiti members, accompanied by some dalit villagers from Nevri, alleged that the police were yet to arrest the main accused involved in the attack on Buddha Vihar and houses nearby on March 3. However, the Nanded police claimed that they have already arrested 15 people in connection with the alleged attack on dalit homes. They said they have launched a manhunt for two or three more accused. Mukunda Parghane, a member of the Nevri gram panchayat, said, “Other villagers have stopped talking to us. Some goons have warned the other villagers of fines and dire consequences if they talk to us or conduct any business with us.” D B Kamble, deputy superintendent of police (Hadgaon), told TOI that the police have not received any such complaints about the boycott of dalits by other villagers. “I will look into the matter and action will be initiated immediately after ascertaining the facts. To my knowledge, the situation is peaceful,” he said. Kamble said efforts were being taken to nab the remaining suspects so that a chargesheet is filed. “We have intensified the search for the remaining accused,” he added. Though a part of Nanded district, Nevri village is part of the Hingoli Lok Sabha constituency. The village has a population of 1,400, including 400 dalits. The samiti members and the villagers said the conflict started with the installation of a board naming the village square as Shivaji Maharaj Chowk, right in front of Buddha Vihar’s entrance 3. “The Vihar management objected to this and asked for the board to be shifted a little distance away. The villagers informed the police, who rushed to the spot and tried to bring the situation under control. Police bandobast was then deployed in the village,” said B H Gaikwad, lawyer and member of the samiti. Gaikwad alleged that on May 15, a group of about 150 people from Nevri and those belonging to neighbouring villages attacked Buddha Vihar. “They ransacked the place and nearby houses. They also torched the house of one Ramesh Parghane and looted goods worth thousands of rupees from the Vihar. The police arrested a few people from both sides. However, the main accused is roaming freely in the village,” he said. “Even though 90 days have passed since the incident, the police have not filed a chargesheet yet. This has denied the affected dalits of the assistance they are entitled to receive from the social welfare department,” said samiti secretary Buddhapriye Kabir. The samiti members warned of a state-wide agitation if the police and the administration did not take action against the alleged boycott of dalits in the village. The samiti has already made a representation to the divisional commissioner urging him to look into the alleged boycott. “We have also demanded that the divisional commissioner rehabilitate the dalits at Nanded if the police and the administration cannot ensure an end to the boycott,” Gaikwad said. The samiti members warned of a state-wide agitation if the police and the administration did not take action against the alleged boycott of dalits in the village. The samiti has already made a representation to the divisional commissioner urging him to look into the alleged boycott. (Times of India 19/8/14)

TRIBALS

6. Tribal families yet to get promised land

KALPETTA: As many as 218 Mullakuruma tribesmen at Nellarachal in Wayanad district are yet to get compensation or land as promised by the State government in the 1970s. The government had acquired 100 acres of paddy for the Karapuzha irrigation project. Revenue officials had then promised our parents a handsome compensation, land, and a rehabilitation project, N.K. Babu, a tribal leader, told The Hindu . The Revenue list had listed 218 families as beneficiaries of the proposed project. The government had only provided a compensation of Rs.5,000 per acre, he said. The government had set up a housing project to rehabilitate 82 families and gave away 75 cents of land each a decade ago at Koyilamkunnu. Most people left their houses due to lack of basic amenities, N.K. Ramanathan, a social activist, said. Later, the government gave 75 cents of land to 66 families but no housing project materialised. Nearly five years ago, the then Water Resources Minister, N.K. Premachandran, had announced that the Tribal Welfare Department would execute a housing project. But, that too had not materialised, he said. Revenue officials said they were unable to identify the legal heirs of the remaining 70 tribal families, who were yet to get any incentives, sources said. If the officials conducted an adalat, the legal heirs could appear before the officials, Mr. Babu said. This apart, 500 families in the Paniya, Kattunayakka, and Ooraly tribes were yet to get any assistance from the government as they had no deeds to prove their rights on the land. They were mostly tenants of wealthy farmers, he said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

7. M’giri tribals to observe Aug 15 as Black Day

Bhubaneswar: Around 500 people gathered at Marigeta village under the Kalimela police limits in Malkangiri district on Monday hoisting black flags and raised slogans against the Government protesting its tyrannical attitude. The tribals said they would observe the ensuing Independence Day as Black Day. The people staged a rally at the village and discussed about six major issues including police atrocity in the name of anti-Maoist operations in their areas. In the protest meeting, the leaders said the police have arrested several innocent tribals implicating them in false cases. The leaders released the list of innocent tribals who are languishing in different jails. Some of them were Gangi Kummi and Podiyami Debba of Bidigeta village, Budra Madhi, Joga Madkami, Podiya Madhi and Joga Madhi of Tekaguda village, Ganga Kabasi and Ganga Madhi of Kuru village and Irsa Podiyami of Marigeta village. The tribals participated in the meeting said the revolutionary people should be released and the police should not torture their family members. “If the State does not take any step, they will continue their fight to get their right and basic necessities,” said tribal man. (Pioneer 13/8/14)

8. Delay in grant of education aid costs tribal girl’s life

BERHAMPUR: : The delay in sanction of financial assistance by Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) for pursuing B.Sc. Nursing course allegedly led to the suicide of Sunita Raita, a tribal girl at R. Udayagiri in Gajapati district of Odisha, on Wednesday. It is an irony that as per claims of officials, ITDA of Gajapati district had approved the sanction of the money on Tuesday. But the news had not reached her. The girl, who hailed from a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family, had hanged herself in her home. According to police sources, investigation is on to ascertain the real cause of the suicide. People blocked the Mohana-Paralakhemundi road for several hours when the news of suicide spread around. The district administration has declared payment of Rs. 20,000 to her family for the funeral. Speaking to The Hindu , the Project Administrator (PA) of Gajapati ITDA said the district collector has also promised to take up the matter with the State government for more compensation to her family. Apart from it, the ITDA is also planning to sponsor the education of the sister of the deceased. The deceased along with another girl of R. Udayagiri block, Sujani Raita, who faced a similar problem, had met the Gajapati collector during his grievance hearing held at R. Udayagiri on August 11. The collector as well as the PA of ITDA had promised the girls to solve their problem as early as possible. According to sources, Sunita and Sujani who had passed higher secondary had been selected by the ITDA in 2013 for the provision of financial assistance to study Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) course. But these two girls had got themselves admitted in the B.Sc. nursing course instead without proper permission of the ITDA. Later they had urged the ITDA to provide them financial assistance to which the ITDA had agreed with the clause that it would be provided only after ascertaining the affiliation of the nursing institute in Bhubaneswar where they had got admitted. But the process got delayed and recently authorities of the nursing institute had barred these two girls from appearing for examination as their fees had not been deposited. It had worried the girls. On August 11, following the complaint before the collector the documents related to affiliation of the nursing institute where the girls were admitted had been verified. As the institute was found to be credible, on Tuesday, the Gajapati ITDA had decided to transfer the fees of these two girls via e-transfer to the institute account. But before this news could reach the girls, one of them committed suicide… (The Hindu 14/8/14)

9. PWD fares poorly in works for tribal development

Pune: The State Public Works Department (PWD), which has drawn fire for incomplete work of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, has been found equally wanting when it came to construction of buildings for the tribal development department. While 49.21 per cent of the work that was undertaken for the tribal development department was completed in 2011-12, only 24 per cent of the work undertaken for the year 2012-13 was completed by the PWD. Tribal Development Minister Madhukar Pichad told this paper that discussion with PWD officials have failed to get the desired results. The lacklustre performance of the PWD was seen to be in sharp contrast to its performance in completion of projects for other departments. In 2011-12, the work completed by the PWD for departments other than the tribal development department ranged from 88 to 109 per cent (exceeded target). When it came to departments like social justice, it was 107 per cent of the target, which means the work surpassed the target that was initially set. Documents accessed under Right to Information show the budget of the tribal development department was one of the highest amongst ministries. In 2011-12, for construction of 63 buildings, an amount of Rs 163.30 crore was sanctioned. In 2012-13, of the targeted 83 buildings, only 20 were constructed by the PWD. The slow pace of construction was noted during a customary audit of the PWD undertaken by the Auditor General (AG) of Maharashtra. “The construction works executed with funds of the Tribal development department, through the PWD, are for giving more benefits to tribal people by way of construction of hostels for tribal students, construction of ashramshalas etc. The non-achievement of target during 2011-12 shows that the tribal people were deprived of such benefits. Further, it was noticed that during 2012-13 (upto January 2013) the target achieved ranged from 0 per cent to 50 per cent in the first nine months of the financial year,” were the AG’s observation about the pace of work. Pichad expressed his disappointment at PWD’s slow pace of work. Pointing out that the department itself does not construct the buildings, but awards the work to contractors, he said that PWD officials told him that they were finding it difficult to get contractors to execute works in tribal areas. “This explanation was not tenable as they get contractors in the same region for other department’s work,” he said. Pichad said that the tribal development department was hampered by its inability to have its own construction wing and has to depend on the PWD to get its work done. (Indian Express 17/8/14)

10. Poor Progress of Tribal Areas: State to Study Cost Challenges

BHUBANESWAR: To understand the slow pace of development in tribal dominated pockets, the Odisha Government has proposed to undertake a study on the factors that inhibit or delay projects in the Schedule Areas of the State. The study “An Empirical Study on Cost Disability in Hilly and Scheduled Districts of Odisha” will look into the additional cost incurred due to endowment factors, issues relating to constitutional and legal obligations. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) which has submitted a proposal to the Finance Department in this regard seeks to develop a Cost Disability Index for various sectors so that demand for additional funds can be placed when projects are chalked out. Currently, the tribal population in the State stands at 96 lakh, about 22.8 per cent of State’s population. In eight districts, the tribal population comprises 50 per cent or more whereas in another six, it is more than 25 per cent. The proposed study is expected to have a direct impact on the policies devised for this populace whose poverty incidence has risen despite a host of schemes and projects in the past. In fact, the study will be an extension of the rankings issued by Planning Commission based on Geographical Area Disadvantage Index and Infrastructure Deficit Index including the Hilly Terrain and Flood Prone Area component. Since cost of projects undertaken in the hilly areas are likely to be higher than their corresponding costs in non-forested areas, the Government suggests that a model for compensation must be estimated through developing a Cost Disability Index. Since various sectors provide different services, the cost disability varies given their priority and focus. The study will look at the effect of geographical factors on development or under-development of the tribal-dominated districts. Similarly, transaction cost,  taking into account the topographical factors, will also be computed to arrive at the index. “The study will enable us to understand the unit cost of services or projects for plain and hilly areas on actual basis. Similarly, differentials in the project implementation periods will also be known,” said official sources. Cost of legal adherence such as tribal laws and environment clearances, infrastructure facility and gap will also be ascertained. Critical sectors such as health, education, women and child development and welfare services such as pension distribution will be covered by the study. Similarly, a comparison of infrastructure projects meant for rural and urban areas will also made. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

WOMEN

11. Sonia Vows to Fight for Women’s Quota Bill

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has said that UPA would continue to mount pressure on the new Government at the Centre to pass the  Women’s reservation Bill by using its majority in the Lok Sabha. Inaugurating the 16th state annual  conference of Kudumbashree State Mission here on Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi said during the UPA Government’s tenure several  legislations were enacted and schemes introduced to empower the women and protect  the women and children from harassment and exploitation. “Today 40 per cent of people’s representatives in the the local bodies  in the country are women. Here in Kerala 50 per cent of the representatives are women.  We had passed the Women’s reservation Bill  in the Rajya Sabha when the UPA was in power to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in state Assemblies and Parliament. We will continue to mount pressure on the NDA Government to pass the   Bill in Lok Sabha where it has a majority,’’ she said, to the applause of the hundreds of Kudumbashree workers attending the annual conference.  She pointed out that women had a greater role to play in the emancipation of women. “You have done it in Kerala.  Kerala is once again showing the way for the country. Now you are celebrating the anniversary of Kudumbashree under the theme of ‘Resistance against  poverty and social injustice’. Others have to learn from your experience’’ she said. She said Kudumbashree self-help groups could empower lakhs of women from the weaker sections of the society. Lakhs of self-help groups have associated with banks to provide scholarships for girl students, pension for widows. New laws have been enacted to prevent sexual harassment in workplace, domestic violence  against women and children. Sonia said she was apprehensive about the increase in violence against women. “Kerala has implemented the Nirbhaya, a tangible project to secure the life of women. I inaugurated the scheme early this year in Kochi. Government’s initiatives are essential for women’s empowerment. But massive support from the people is also needed’’ she said. Presiding over the function, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that Kudumbashree’s achievements had earned international acclaim and become pride of Kerala. “Ashraya scheme has been providing great help to persons who have no one to rely on. Our Government adopt such people,’’ he said. He said the government was looking forward to bring the Kudumbashree products under a common brand to the market. Finance Minister K M Mani, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty, Health Minister V S Sivakuamr, Shashi Tharoor MP, former Union Minister O Rajagopal spoke. Local Self-Government Minister  M K Muneer welcomed the gathering  and Kudumbashree executive director K B Valsala Kumari proposed a vote of thanks. (Indian Express 13/8/14)

12. Only ‘Hi-fi Girls’ Raped, Says School Official

BANGALORE: Sexual assaults take place only in affluent schools, B S Jayaramarao, secretary of Adarsha High School, said on Wednesday. He was speaking at a conference organised for over 60 school managements to draw up safety measures to prevent sexual assaults on children in the Malleswaram assembly constituency. “Rapes and sexual assaults take place only in high-end schools, not in schools like ours. Just because something happened in a school, all schools should not be punished,” said Jayaramarao, whose school is located in Yeshwantpur. The discussion was moderated by Malleswaram MLA C N Ashwathnarayan. Over a hundred people — headmasters and representatives of government, aided and unaided schools — took part in the meeting. Jayaramarao went further to say sex crimes take place only against “hi-fi” women and girls. “Hi-fi” is a slang word used commonly in Bangalore, approximating to ‘fashionable’ and ‘high society’. “Nobody looks at children living in slums. The problem is that girls don’t dress appropriately. We need to bring a dress code for girls,” he said. Later, when reporters asked how a dress code was relevant for a six-year-old girl, Jayaramarao did not have a coherent answer. Ashwathnarayan, who did not respond to Jayaramarao’s comments during the discussion, later told reporters he did not endorse such a view. “I did not respond then as I wanted members of the audience to share their opinions,” he said. Management representatives at the conference described various problems they faced from police, education and transport officials. (New Indian Express 14/8/14)

13. Women activists cold to PM homilies

New Delhi, Aug. 16: The Prime Minister’s prescription to reduce rapes and female foeticide, delivered in the form of homilies to parents in his Independence Day speech, appeared to impress some in the audience but left activists and victims unmoved. “Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions but have any parents ever dared ask their son where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are?” Narendra Modi asked. “After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son,” he added, suggesting “every parent… impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters”. To Meera Deshmukh, a 45-year-old mother of two girls, it sounded like the “absolute truth”. “His speech was something every parent can identify with. It was unusual for a PM to pick such a routine topic and make it a point to ponder over,” she said. On female foeticide, Modi made a “request” to doctors “not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets”. He told mothers not to “sacrifice daughters”, who might look after them in old age whereas sons might not. Mitu Khurana, a paediatrician who had taken her husband to court for pressuring her to kill her female foetus, said Modi’s “speech will not change a thing”. “Will people who rape change themselves because Modiji said so?” she said, stressing the need for strict laws. “Which mother doesn’t worry about where her son is? Can a mother or a doctor alone stop foeticide?” Acid attack victim Parvati said Modi’s “nuggets of wisdom” were just “rhetoric” that would achieve nothing. (The Telegraph 17/8/14)

14. Women bank staff can choose branch

New Delhi: As part of the women friendly policies of the Narendra Modi government, the finance ministry has advised PSU banks to formulate women-friendly transfer policies so that they can get transfers at places where their husbands are working or parents are living. “It has been brought to the notice of this department that female employees of the public sector banks (PSBs), married or unmarried, when placed or transferred away from their husband or parents, as the case may be, to distant locations face a genuine hardship and develop a feeling of insecurity,” said a circular of department of financial services. The circular said that it has been decided to accommodate as far as possible “placement/transfer of married employees, on her request, at a place where her husband is stationed or as near as possible to that place or vice versa.” In case of unmarried female employees, the banks have been asked to accommodate them “at a place where their parents” are stationed or as near as possible. PSBs have been advised by the finance ministry to frame a policy on the subject with the approval of their boards suitably incorporating these and take immediate action for implementation and compliance. “Pending requests ( of the female employees for suitable postings) may also be considered under these guidelines,” said the finance ministry. There are 27 PSBs, including the latest Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Of the nearly 8 lakh employees in PSBs, about 2.5 lakh are females. The previous UPA government had set up the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as part of its women empowerment policy. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

15. Jharkhand: Woman paraded naked on orders of panchayat

Ranchi: In an inhumane act, a panchayat in Jharkhand’s Gumla district on Sunday evening punished a young tribal woman, for allegedly having illicit relation with her brother-in-law, by parading her naked and tonsuring her in public. The incident took place in the Itkarihath Adar village under the Ghagra-police- station area, around 100 km west of Ranchi. Malti Oraon (name changed), 29, a mother of three, on the panchayats orders was also pelted by villagers, while some of the woman folk kicked and beat her. The victim was admitted to the Ghagra primary health center by the police. In her statement to the police, Malti said, “I was dragged, stripped and beaten. Then I was paraded. I had close bonding with my brother-in-law, Sibu Oraon. My husband and villagers put it in the panchayat as an illicit relation.” “They were not satisfied and alter pelted stones at me,” said Malti. An FIR was lodged by the victim at the Ghagra-police-station against her husband, Suresh Oraon and six others on Monday. Police said that villagers accused that Malti had developed an affinity towards Suresh as they both worked in the same brick kiln. “She has been housed in the police station. The six accused, including the panchayat members, are on the run,” said Ghagra sub divisional officer, Deepak Kumar. This is not the first time in Jharkhand that a woman has been stripped and beaten. Each year, as per police records, there are at least four such incidents in the state’s tribal heartlands. Chairperson women’s commission, Mahua Manjhi, could not be reached for a comment on the case. In most cases woman blamed for having illicit relations are banished from the village or osterized. (Hindustan Times 18/8/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. At 240 million, India has a third of child marriages in the world (14)

A recent United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)report said 720 million women around the world, alive today, were married before 18 years compared to 156 million men. One-third of these are in India – about 240 million. The report focussed on child marriages and women affected by the practice. (The UNICEF report has done a two-fold level analysis of child marriages below 15 years of age and child marriages below 18 years of age, which is also the legal age of marriage in most countries. But for the purpose of this report, we have taken the data together for all marriages under 18 years of age.)  IndiaSpend had earlier reported on child brides in India. India is ranked 6th among the top 10 countries based on high rates of child marriages among women. The table below shows the percentage of women in the age group of 20 and 49 years who were married before 18 years. The corresponding female-to-male ratio of Human Development Index (HDI) 2012-13 is also given in the table. If we compare countries with high child marriage rates, their female HDI ratio is lower than the world average except in Burkina Faso. The data clearly brings out the correlation between child marriage and lower development of women. The report, however, concludes that the trend of child marriages has been declining globally, especially the trend of marriages below age 15. But the report has some serious implications for India. There is an interesting finding of the Unicef study: one-third of the child brides of the world are from India. That could well be the fact given the high population of the country and greater proportion of population living in rural areas with low levels of literacy. Unicef had earlier released a report in 2012 on child marriages in India. Early marriage, other than lower level of educational attainment, is also the cause for poor maternal health and higher infant mortality rates. Child-bearing at a young age is detrimental to the health of both the mother and the infant. National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3) shows the rate of child bearing in girls aged 15-19 years. Data shows that 16% or one in six girls in that age group have started bearing children. This is the reason why child marriage affects women more than men other than the fact that men are less likely to be getting married as children. Let us now look at maternal and infant mortality ratios and reduction targets from the latest Census reports. Maternal mortality rate (the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births) has declined only marginally from 254 in 2006 to 212 in 2009. The target set by the Government for next year i.e. 2015 is 109. … (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

17. Punish parents for forcings kid into child labour, HC told

New Delhi: The Delhi High court has sought a response from the central government on a plea seeking directions to prosecute parents who force their minor child into the labour market. A division bench of Justice G. Rohini and Rajiv Shah Endlaw issued notice to the labour ministry and ministry of woman and child welfare and fixed Oct 29 as the next date of hearing. The court was Wednesday hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocates Anu Mehta and Rubinder Pal Ghumman seeking formulation of guidelines for handling cases of child labour to ensure that every offender, including a delinquent parent, be dealt with sternly. The plea said guidelines were required to create a state of ‘zero tolerance’ to stop child abuse. “Children are immature, tender and incapable of guarding in situations of economic   and physical exploitation as they lack the understanding, maturity and strength to protest against exploitation wrecked at the hands of parents,” it said. It also sought measures and comprehensive mechanisms to deal with child-related laws and crime against children as, the advocates claimed, there was an inherent flaw and lacunae in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and Children (Pledging of Labour) Act. No punitive action was directed against erring parents who actively exploit their children, the advocates contended. “State mechanism must be created to investigate the role of parents in child abused otherwise the government will not be able to reach the root of the problem and the recovery of children subjected to trafficking will be re-routed to the erring parents,” the plea said. It said it has been seen in a growing number of cases that parents actively push their minor children into the labour market, acting with collusion with exploiters and child traffickers and thus have “active role in participation in perpetrating crimes towards their own children”. (Deccan Herald 16/8/14)

18. Two lakh street children lured into substance abuse in Delhi

NEW DELHI: There are around 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh street children in the Capital and almost 80 per cent of them are involved in substance abuse, a study by Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), an organisation working for the cause of children, has found. Even if the children earn Rs.50 per day, their major money goes into buying white fluids, cannabis and tobacco for inhalation. The study by CHETNA also concludes that the street children buy substances worth Rs.27 lakh per day in the Capital from various illegal sources available to them. The areas in Delhi where drug abuse among children is the highest include Nizamuddin, Nehru Place, Govindpuri, Taimur Nagar and under Okhla flyover. A similar study conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) from 135 sites in 27 States has thrown light on the widespread substance abuse across the country. According to the study, nearly 85 per cent of the street children who are into substance abuse are from urban areas, 58.8 per cent of them were not studying and only 22.9 per cent went to regular school. Among the substances the children are addicted to, tobacco was found to be the most widely used, followed by alcohol, inhalants and cannabis. Peer pressure is the most important factor that drives the children to substance abuse. The susceptibility of street children, however, is much higher than those living with their families and going to school. According to the study, the main reason for school going children and children living with their families taking to drugs is the influence of another family member who uses drugs, followed by family fights and abuse. The NCPCR in its study has also made some recommendations to prevent drug and substance abuse by children. Providing life skill methods and education to children is one of them. CHETNA, which works for the rehabilitation of street children, also works for the cause of children addicted to drugs. The organisation runs a shelter home for such children in Nizamuddin area. Its founder Sanjay said: “Imparting education to children is the most effective way in which we try to get their mind off drugs. However, there are a number of challenges that we face. Most children complain that they are not able to keep away from drugs because it is available everywhere. They tell us – stop the sale of drugs and we will not buy it.” “It is not in our hands to stop the sale of drugs, the government should do something about it,” added Mr. Sanjay. “Lack of parental support is also the reason that many young boys relapse. We take care of them for the time they are with us but once they go back home, there is no one to see what they do,” he added. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. No fixed reservation for religious minorities in central police force: Govt

New Delhi: Government today said there is no reservation fixed on the basis of religion in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told Lok Sabha in a written reply that while the Assam Rifles had 16.16 per cent of minority representation in their ranks, the corresponding figures for Border Security Force stood at 11.69 per cent, Central Reserve Police Force 9.24 per cent and Central Industrial Security Force 9.14 per cent. The representation in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police stands at 6.18 per cent while in the Sashastra Seema Bal it is 7.02 per cent of the total force strength, the Minister said. “There is no reservation fixed on the basis of religion in CAPFs and ARs,” he added. (Business Line 12/8/14)

20. Black day, say Valley pandits

Srinagar: While July 13 is observed as “Martyrs’ Day” in Jammu and Kashmir at official and unofficial levels and on both sides of the Line of Control as well as by Kashmiri Muslim expatriates elsewhere, it is a black day for sections of Kashmiri pandits and their outfits. On Sunday, groups of displaced Kashmiri pandit including Panun Kashmir and Kashmir Vahini in Jammu and elsewhere chose to hold small rallies to mark the occasion. Their plea is July 13, 1931 also marks the beginning of the “persecution” of the minority Hindus in the Valley by the Muslim majority. “Not only the day witnessed mob vandalism against Kashmiri pandit community in different Srinagar localities but 14 members of the minority community were killed, nine of them in central district of Budgam in reprisal,” said a Kashmiri pandit leader. A joint forum of Kashmiri pandit outfits held a protest outside the Press Club of Jammu. The community leaders while speaking on the occasion repeated the charge that it was subjected to “loot, arson, murder and mayhem on a large scale in the Valley” on this day in 1931. They also said that the observance of the July 13 as “martyrs’ day” by the political structures of the state “tantamount to rubbing salt to the festering wounds of the minority Hindu community of Kashmir.” said Dr Agnishekhar, convenor of Panun Kashmir. He added: “The process of genocide of the Kashmiri pandits began in 1931 and culminated in 1990 with the mass exodus of the entire population of our community.” Dr. Khema Kaul of Kashmira Vahini said that the Kashmiri pandit community “cannot forget the wounds of history and it is important to put the facts in correct perspective for the future generations.” She alleged the attitude of the state government towards Kashmiri pandit community and other minorities of the state “is reflective of the mindset of 1931 Muslim Conference mindset against the minorities.” Kashmira Vahini, a frontline displaced Kashmiri pandit women organisation, also separately held a rally at Jammu’s Sanskriti Bhawan at which the speakers vowed to lend their massive support to ongoing fight for separate homeland. (Asian Age 14/8/14)

21. Centre urged to pursue 4.5 p.c. quota for minorities in SC

HYDERABAD: Deputy Leader of the Congress in Legislative Council Md. Ali Shabbir has urged Centre to pursue the 4.5 per cent minorities sub-quota case in the Supreme Court. At a press conference here on Sunday, Mr. Shabbir said he had received a letter from Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptullah where in she expressed happiness over the successful implementation of Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh since 2004. He said Ms. Heptullah had assured that the Centre would take a view on the Muslim reservation policy after the judgement of the Supreme Court. Welcoming Centre’s stand on the quota, he urged the Union Minister to direct Attorney General of India to follow up the case in the apex court with regard to 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities announced by Centre in 2013. The Congress MLC said minorities sub-quota by Centre and separate reservation by the States would ensure educational, social and economical development of Muslim community across the country. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

22. Muslims rally against ‘comments’ on social media

Ahmedabad: Muslims took out rallies in Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar districts in protest of alleged objectionable comments posted on a social networking site by a man from Mahuva in Bhavnagar districts two days ago. The community members condemned the incident and demanded action against the accused by submitting separate memorandums. In Wadhwan town of Surendranagar, Muslim youths reportedly forced closure of a few shops in Muslim-dominated Dholi Pol and Geban Shah Pir area in the morning to gather support for their protest against the Mahuva incident. However, police soon intervened and opened the markets. “A group of youths forced closure of four to five shops. Police intervened and convinced Muslims to refrain from such acts. Eventually, they took out a rally and submitted a memorandum to mamlatdar of Wadhwan,” Surendranagar district superintendent of police (DSP), Rajendra Asari said. Meanwhile in Rajkot, Muslims also took out a rally and submitted a memorandum in the office of city police commissioner. Similar rally was taken out in Amreli and a memorandum was submitted to the district collector. On the other hand, Muslims in Savarkundla town of Amreli took out a silent rally and submitted a memorandum to local mamlatdar condemning Israel’s attack on Palestine and social media comments “hurting feelings of Muslims.” “Isarel’s attack is killing Muslims in Gaza Strip. We can’t go there to protest and therefore are expressing our solidarity with them through this rally. We also condemn the objectionable comments posted on a social media site which is insulting our faith,” Faruq Kadri, member of working committee of All Muslim Jamat Association of Savarkundla, said after the rally. Local leaders of BJP and Congress also joined the rally in Savarkundla. “We understand the concern of Muslims about objectionable comments about their faith and therefore express our support. At the same time, they should not blow an issue out of proportion,” Manglu Khuman, vice president of Savarkundla taluka panchayat and a local BJP leader said. Muslims in Talaja town of Bhavnagar had also given a bandh call the previous day but it remained peaceful. “There are no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere. Talaj is completely peaceful,” Bhavnagar SP Dipanker Trivedi told The Indian Express. Hordes of Muslims had gathered outside Mahuva police station Saturday evening after comments forwarded by Mehul Valaki (20), an embroidery worker based in Ahmedabad started doing the rounds and news spread that he was brought there. Salim Bamusha, a trader of Mahuva had lodged a complaint in this regard and Valaki, originally a resident of Kalsar village in Mahuva taluka, was arrested from Ahmedabad. (Indian Express 12/8/14)

23. Muslims Pledge to Make Mumbai Drug-free

MUMBAI: In a unique initiative, Muslim clerics, intellectuals and social activists Friday pledged to make Mumbai drug-free, especially the city’s minority-dominated areas, on the occasion on India’s 68th Independence Day. The special event was organised at the Islam Gymkhana where a debate was conducted between police and the public on how to tackle the growing menace of drugs among youths and eradicate it from society. Prominent cleric Hazrat Maulana Syed Moin Miyan expressed alarm at the increasing use of psychotropic drugs among youngsters, and said it was spreading like an infection among all sections of society. “This infectious wave has rattled thousands of homes, including many from the minority community. In fact, there is evidence to show that the use of such drugs is rampant in Muslim-dominated areas in the city, which is a matter of great concern,” said Hazrat Maulana, president of the Jamia Qadariya Ashrafia. He said there is a large number of drug peddlers in the minority areas, an estimated 200, plus those who surreptitiously sell the killer drugs and trap the youths. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority chairman Yusuf Abrahani termed the drug menace “a real challenge for all Mumbaikars, especially the minorities, and police”.”Despite spreading awareness about the dangers of drugs, its consumption seems to be increasing and youngsters are becoming addicts,” he said. Calling for intense efforts to step up policing, Mumbadevi legislator Amin Patel said conscious citizens who attempt to curb these illegal activities have been brutally attacked by drug peddlers and the mafia in south Mumbai. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Anti-Narcotics Cell) Namdeo Chavan and police inspector of Azad Maidan police station Suhas Gokhale assured full cooperation to the citizens in curbing and eradicating the drug menace, especially from minority areas. (New Indian Express 15/8/14)

24. Markandey Katju: hindus, muslims must change mindset

If Hindus and Muslims want to become “real Indians”, they must change their mindset, Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has said. In his latest blog posting, the former judge of the Supreme Court said, “Hindus will become real Indians when they stop regarding SCs as inferior, and marriages between non-SCs and SCs take place on a large scale.” the former chief justsice of India said.“Muslims will become real Indians when marriages between the so called ‘upper caste’ Muslims and ‘lower castes’ take place on a large scale, and when a large number of Muslims demand abolition of the unjust Muslim Personal Law which treats women as inferior. “….So it must be abolished (just as the old Hindu Law was abolished by the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955 and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956).” (Asian Age 18/8/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

25. Dalit Christians, Muslims demand Schedule Caste tag

Bhubaneswar: Dalit Christians of Gajapati District joined Mulanivasi Mancha in observing ‘Black Day’ demanding acceptance of Christians as Schedule Caste (SC). Members of Churches, Mulanivasi Mancha, college and school students with common mass pinned a piece of black badge on their shirts and held mass rally and presented a memorandum for the Prime Minister through the local Tehsildar. The Constitution in 1950 allowed only Hindus to become SC while an amendment in 1956 allowed Sikhs and Buddhists to be included in the category. But the Muslims and Christians were long ignored, the Mulanivasi Mancha convenor said. As the order is against fundamental rights of the Dalit Christians and Muslims, the Black Day (Kala Dibas) was held to mark a protest, he explained. The Constitutional provision delayed us in their missions to convert Scheduled Caste people like the Dalits as they ceased to enjoy the status once they converted to Christianity, Thomas Michel-General secretary of Gajapati Christian Council said. He lamented that the Central Government was not implementing the recommendation of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, which had told that consideration of SC status be delinked from religion. More than twelve State Government and Union Territories and also several leading political parties have recommended to the Centre for granting SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims but in vain, said Zilla Parisad Rashmee Rathan. While observing the Black Day on Aug 10, we earnestly pray to the Government to implement the justice Ranganath Misra Commission report, said Bishop of Brahmapur Diocese. (Pioneer 12/8/14)

26. Iraq Christians fleeing jihadists long for exile

Ainkawa, Iraq: Iraqi Christians who fled a jihadist onslaught and are packed several families to a room in a church in Kurdistan have lost hope in their country and long to emigrate. “This is our country. We have suffered before, but the attack by the Islamic State (IS) has been the worst,” said Salwa, a 40-year-old civil servant and grandmother. “I want to leave Iraq,” she said. Speaking to AFP in the garden of Ainkawa’s Saint Joseph church, on the outskirts of Arbil, Salwa is among the tens of thousands of Christians who have in recent weeks sought refuge near the Kurdish capital. She said most of her extended family fled Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh last week, as attacking jihadists offered them a bleak choice. Iraqi Christian children, who fled with their families the violence in Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh, pose in a room of Ainkawa’s Saint Joseph church in northern Iraq. “They said either we convert or we flee,” said Salwa. “Only a few stayed behind, because they were too sick or old to walk. They are locked up in the houses.” Salwa said she held little hope her lot would improve with the US air strikes on jihadist positions in the area. “The IS has attacked Christians three times in the past three months alone. We are vulnerable here, we have no real guarantees. And I want safety for my children,” she said, clad in a blue jalabiyah (traditional robe) as she sat at the entrance of the pre-fab shed she now calls home. Her 22-year-old daughter Sarah, who is pregnant with her fourth child, echoed her despair. “We fled the (jihadist) shelling on Qaraqosh with nothing except the clothes on our backs. We walked for hours in the dark, the children wailing with hunger,” said Sarah, forcing a smile as she described the terror. A 74-year-old nun, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, was also among the displaced. “I have seen many wars in my lifetime, but I have never seen anything like this. I understand that people want to leave Iraq, even though it is our home,” she said, clothed in a white robe with a wooden rosary hanging from her pocket. In an open letter published Sunday, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon said there are 70,000 displaced Christians in Ainkawa alone. “The level of disaster is extreme,” wrote Louis Raphael Sako, who also heads Iraq’s Catholic bishops assembly. “Something should be done to save this people who have their history in this land from their beginnings.” .. (Hindustan Times 13/8/14)

27. Pope tells Asia’s communist nations not to fear Christians

South Korea: Pope Francis, in remarks clearly intended for communist-ruled countries such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, said on Sunday that Asian governments should not fear Christians as they did not want to “come as conquerors” but be integral parts of local cultures. Francis made his comments, some of them unscripted, in an address to about 70 bishops from 35 Asian countries gathered in the town of Haeme, south of Seoul, on the next-to-last day of his trip to South Korea. He told them the Church was committed to dialogue with everyone, saying: “In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all.” Francis then added, in unscripted remarks, that he was talking of “not just political dialogue but also fraternal”. He added that “Christians do not come as conquerors” who erase national and cultural identities but wanted to “walk together”.The pope’s words were applicable to several nations in Asia where the Church is associated with colonialism, particularly China, which has had no formal relations since shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949. “It’s an offer, an openness, a readiness to engage in dialogue for the well-being of the Church and the people in these different lands,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters. “Good Catholics can also be good citizens. The authorities do not have to fear the Holy See as something that exercises power in their land. It is religious.” The Catholic Church in China is divided into two communities: an “official” Church known as the “Patriotic Association” answerable to the Communist Party, and an underground Church that swears allegiance only to the pope in Rome. (Hindustan Times 17/8/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. United Nations says Sri Lanka violates international refugee law

Geneva: The UN refugee agency on Tuesday accused Sri Lanka of breaking international law in its growing campaign to kick out Pakistani asylum seekers without a fair hearing. “Fundamentally, this is a breach of the principle of no forced returns. That’s a clear violation of international law,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). Sri Lanka has deported 88 Pakistanis since August 1, despite claims that they could be at risk in their homeland, Edwards said. Starting with men who had been placed in detention, the country has widened the net to cover whole families, he told reporters. “We are very concerned at the continued deportations that are happening. We want deportations stopped.” In all, there are now 11 women and eight children among the deported, said Edwards. “Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week. They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan,” he said. He added that UNHCR staff had also heard of families being separated — including a man sent home over a week ago and whose pregnant wife remains in Sri Lanka. Hundreds of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution have been arriving in Sri Lanka in search of a haven. Sri Lanka has defended its crackdown, saying a state’s responsibility under international law had to be “nuanced and balanced in the context of domestic compulsions”.Edwards could not immediately give details about the background of the deportees but said UNHCR guidelines stipulate that asylum claims from Pakistan’s Christian, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Shia Muslim minorities should be given particularly careful attention. He said UNHCR also wants access to 157 asylum seekers — including 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and two Iranians — who remain in detention in Sri Lanka. “These recent developments have heightened anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka. Many are afraid to leave their homes for fear of arrest, detention and deportation,” Edwards said. (Zee News 12/8/14)

29. Still 4,000-5,000 Yazidis on Iraq mountain: Pentagon

Washington: There are still 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidi refugees sheltering on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Thursday, after President Barack Obama said the siege of the range had been broken. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said US special forces had found that not all of the Yazidis, a religious minority under attack from Islamist extremists, planned to flee. “A number of them — perhaps 2,000 or so — reside there and may not want to leave. It’s home to them and they won’t be necessarily looking to leave,” he said, downplaying calls for a rescue mission. “That’s our best estimate based on the assessment teams,” he said, referring to the 4,000-5,000 number. Earlier, Obama said the United States was withdrawing the special forces units that conducted the assessment mission to Sinjar after concluding that the Yazidis were no longer in mortal danger. He said the US air strikes that were launched last week to protect the refugees and the Kurdish city of Arbil could continue, but only if US personnel or facilities were in danger. “We believe that the threat to the mass violence on Mount Sinjar has passed, largely passed,” Kirby said. “That said, we’re not going to take our eye off and we’re going to be watching,” he said, adding that humanitarian aid drops had continued. “We still have several thousands left on that mountain and many of whom may want to leave, and so we’re mindful of that, which is why we did another airdrop last night.” (Zee News 15/8/14)

30. Survey brings migrants back to Telangana

Hyderabad: The Intensive Household Survey has indeed provided an opportunity of reunion with their family members for those migrated to far off areas in search of livelihood in Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts. Reports indicate that a large number of migrants are returning to their native places in these three districts. In Medak district, an estimated 50,000 people mostly hailing from Siddipet, Dubbak and Gajwel have settled in Bhiwandi, Surat, Sholapur, Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. Most of them hail from the weavers’ community and work in power looms. After announcement of the survey by the government, most of them booked their tickets in trains to reach Hyderabad and those who could not get train reservations were depending on bus services. Some of them were even stated to have contacted the TRS MPs requesting for arrangement of special trains so that they could reach their villages in time to participate in the survey. “It was expected that more than 20,000 people staying outside may come on August 19 to participate in the survey. Many are not ready lose the chance,” said L. Ravi, who earlier worked as a supervisor in a power loom industry in Maharashtra. “We have information that large numbers of people are returning to their native places on that day to participate in the survey. However, we do not have information on the exact number,” said Medak District Revenue Officer Dayanand. In Karimangar distrit, power loom weavers from Sircilla textile town migrated to Bhiwandi, Sholapur and Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra are returning now. Sensing that their ration cards and housing schemes could be cancelled, the power loom weavers have been returning for the last two days. Power loom Weavers Trade Únion leaders say that more than 3,000 weavers had settled in Bhiwandi, Sholapur and other parts of Maharahstra. Another 2,000-odd families, who had also settled down in Bhiwandi and Sholapur regions were running their own powerlooms. “Following the media coverage and the officials’ statements, people fear that their ration cards would be cancelled if they are not present during the survey,” said Samalla Mallesham, AITUC leader of Sircilla textile town. Muninder, a powerloom weaver and native of Siiclla and presently settled in Bhiwandi, said: “I don’t have any identity proof such as Aadhar card or ration card in Sircilla. But I own a house. I was told to come back to native village to participate in household survey. But, I am worried about enrolment of details in the survey as I do not have any identity proof in the district.” A majority of people living in neighbouring Maharashtra come in trains and alight at the Kamareddy station and board RTC bus to reach Sircilla. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

31. Months Needed to Repair Facilities in Gaza: UN

TEHRAN: United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said today on a visit to Iran that it will take months to repair damage to the UN’s infrastructure caused by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. “Damage to hospitals, schools and UNRWA shelters where people displaced sought refuge will take months to rebuild,” she said, referring to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. Amos was speaking to reporters at the start of a two-day visit for talks with Iranian officials on the humanitarian crises wreaked by conflicts in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq. “The UN response continues including deliveries of food, water and households goods. Medicines and fuel are being delivered to hospitals,” she said. A total of 97 UNRWA installations, including health and food distribution centres as well as schools, have been damaged in the war since July 8 between Israel and the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip. The conflict, in which an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire has taken effect, has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers. Amos noted the United Nations had made “strong statements” about “the violation of international humanitarian laws and human rights laws by all parties in Gaza”.Turning to Syria, she said that 11 million people were in need of humanitarian aid, including 241,000 living in areas under siege. “Insecurity, fragmentation of armed groups and administrative obstacles imposed by the government hamper the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” she said. Amos welcomed the role played by Iran, a key ally of the Syrian government, and other countries with influence on the warring parties to gain access to conflict zones. “This remains a work in progress because we still have substantial numbers of people that we are unable to reach,” she said. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

32. UNHCR launches humanitarian aid programme in Iraq

Geneva: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday launched a major humanitarian aid scheme for Iraq’s nearly half a million internally displaced people. Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UNHCR, told a press conference that the air, road and sea operation, due to start Wednesday, will begin with a four-day airlift using Boeing 747s from Aqaba in Jordan to Erbil in northern Iraq, Xinhua reported. The agency will also send road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days. The initial aid shipments included 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets, and 16,500 jerry cans, said Edwards. The major focus of the aid operation was to improve living conditions for the displaced in the region, particularly people without shelter or housing, the UN agency said. Some 200,000 Iraqi people have made their way to Iraqi’s Kurdistan since early August, when the city of Sinjar and neighbouring areas were seized by armed groups, according to the UNHCR. The Islamic State militants in past few weeks have stormed towns in the northern part of the country. Thousands of civilians – many of them from the ethnic Yazidi minority – are trapped in the Sinjar mountains where they took shelter and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance after fleeing attacks. According to the the agency’s estimate, in all there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 700,000 in the Kurdistan region which already hosts some 225,000 Syrian refugees. (Zee news 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

33. With no leader of opposition, govt in a spot over appointment of CIC

NEW DELHI: The absence of a leader of opposition could put the Modi government in a spot with the appointment of a new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) likely to come up soon. The present CIC Rajiv Mathur retires on August 22 leaving the position vacant. According to the RTI act, the CIC is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the appointments committee that includes the PM, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and one union minister nominated by the PM. However, with the government adamant on not allowing Congress the position of LoP, the appointment could be delayed. Sources said the government is looking at options provided in the rule book by which the process can be completed without the presence of a designated LoP. The RTI Act does provide for the exceptional case when there is no LoP. Section 12(3) of the Act says, “The leader of the single largest group in opposition of the government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition.” A former director with the country’s spy agency, Intelligence Bureau, Mathur has had a short 3-month tenure as CIC. He was appointed as information commissioner in March 2012. Other information commissioners including Vijai Sharma and Basant Seth are the senior-most after Mathur. Traditionally, the government has appointed the senior-most IC as the CIC even if they have a short tenure. This time, however, there is a buzz that the government may chose to ignore precedents and appoint Yashovardhan Azad as the chief. Currently, there are seven information commissioners including Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, M A Khan Yusufi and Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu besides Sharma and Seth. The Commission is supposed to have a strength of 10. (Times of India 13/8/14)

34. RTI ‘warriors’ to take on the corrupt

VIJAYAWADA: The United Forum for Right to Information Campaign (UFRIC) is grooming a strong force of ‘RTI warriors’ to demolish red-tapism and the ‘firewalls’ that usually shield the ‘evil forces’ eating into major chunk of the public funds. “We want to have a strong network in every nook and cranny of the State and we intend to put them on the task of scrutinising expenditure of each government department bringing transparency into public domain,” says the Forum convenor B. Ramakrishna Raju. District-level RTI committees are being formed and in places like Karimnagar, Srikakulam and parts of Warangal and Khammam, the forum has formed mandal-level panels as well. The Forumhas been relentlessly working to spread awareness on this crucial law. (The Hindu 16/8/14)

35. Centre sits on Whistleblower Act as toll soars

NEW DELHI: More than 40 whistleblowers have been threatened, attacked or murdered so far, but the government continues to drag its feet on the Whistleblowers Protection Act which got Presidential approval in May and awaits notification of rules. “Since the time the act was passed by Parliament, at least three more people have been allegedly killed for exposing corruption. These whistleblowers could have been afforded protection had the act been enforced,” Anjali Bhardwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) member said. The NCPRI has now written to the PM and minister for personnel, public grievances and pensions Jitendra Singh urging that the issue be taken up with urgency. The NCPRI has even drafted model rules for the act which was passed in Parliament in 2014 after a sustained campaign by the NGO and families of slain whistleblowers. Activists fear that any further delay could endanger more lives. *Seventy-year-old RTI activist Mangat Tyagi, was allegedly murdered in April 2014 in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh for exposing corruption in public works. He had filed around 14,000 requests for information under the RTI Act in a bid to expose corruption and was shot dead outside his village by three assailants. *Chandra Mohan Sharma, aged 38, had filed over 300 requests for information regarding encroachments on government land, costs for building government roads, the functioning of residents’ welfare associations and allotment of land by the government. His body was recovered from his car near his house in Greater Noida in May 2014; both he and the vehicle were badly charred. *RTI activist Sanjay Tyagi was shot dead in Meerut on May 25, 2014 following which a case of murder against unknown persons was registered… (Times of India 17/8/14)

36. RTI activist demands inquiry against Himachal minister for wrong information

SHIMLA: Alleging that health and revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur has concealed vital information in his affidavit filed during assembly election, an RTI activist has wrote a letter to chief election commissioner seeking an inquiry on the issue. In his complaint to chief election commissioner, RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya has alleged that minister has concealed some information about the plots owned on lease by him at housing society in Heeranagar in Shimla. He said that while the lease rule says that no commercial activity could be carried from the land given on lease, the minister has rented out the premises which amounts to commercial activity. To substantiate his allegation, Bhattcahrya has also enclosed the copy of lease deed with his complaint. He said that in his affidavit filed during the assembly election the minister has termed the building as commercial while as per the rule the building was to be used only for residential purpose. (Times of India 19/8/14)

37. TN info panel puts up annual RTI reports, but only till 2008

CHENNAI: Nine years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into effect, the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (TNSIC) has uploaded annual reports on its website (www.tnsic.gov.in). Disappointingly, however, is that the latest reports are of 2008. TOI had carried a series of articles about the delay in uploading annual reports of the information commission on its website. RTI activists had been demanding the same. But the commission had so far been reluctant to upload annual reports even once though Act came into effect on 2005. An annual report of a commission is to declare the number of RTI applications received by public information officers (PIOs) of government departments, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs by the commission for violation of rules under the RTI Act. According to the annual report for 2008, the commission received 41,520 letters from applicants, of which it had issued orders on 18,016 appeals in 2008. “Show cause notices were issued against PIOs in 355 cases. It had recommended disciplinary action against public authorities in 90 cases and imposed penalty in respect of 28 public authorities,” said the report. The commission’s annual report shows that the revenue department received the maximum number of RTI applications – 27,178 – among all government departments in the state, followed by school education (11,714) and home, prohibition and excise department with 10,365 applications in 2008. The commission had imposed maximum fines against public authorities in revenue department (2.27 lakh) for delaying and denying information to applicants. It is followed by PIOs of rural development department and housing department, which were penalised with 1.24 lakh and 1.13 lakh in fines. Many RTI activists welcomed the commission’s move, but said they were disappointed with the delay in updating information. Vijay Anand, coordinator of 5th Pillar, an NGO, said: “Ideally, information commission should set an example for other departments by making proactive disclosures. But it is re yet to update its own information. We hope remaining reports will be updated.” Asked why the revenue department tops in RTI application, Anand said: ‘Every individual is a victim of the department because of the delay in getting services.” A survey by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found that Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura have failed to table reports of their RTI cases in the assembly or put them online, which is mandatory under the RTI Act. State chief information commissioner K S Sripathi recently pleaded helplessness over the information not being made public, saying his department had sent reports till 2010-11 to the government, which tabled reports only till 2006-07 in the assembly. (Times of India 20/8/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

38. HC Tells Government to Work With NGOs to Cover More Dropouts

BANGALORE: The High court on Tuesday asked the State government to take the assistance of non-government organisations (NGOs) and formulate a plan to cover more kids who have dropped out from school over socio-economic issues. A division bench headed by Chief Justice D H Waghela was hearing a suo motu case regarding more children being deprived of education despite the state enforcing the Right to Education Act. The government submitted that after the order of the court, the government has identified around 1.68 lakh kids who have been deprived of education and, with the help of various agencies, it has already admitted around 99,000 children to schools. The state also submitted that it is also working on various schemes. In order to find solutions to the root cause for children not being able to attend schools, the state has constructed adequate number of day creches in all wards to take care of children of contract workers. The state further submitted that the funds from Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board will be utilised. Moreover, the government has also started a website where people can upload details of dropouts. However, NGOs alleged that the state has not taken adequate steps and many more kids are still deprived of education. The High Court has now asked the state to hold a meeting with these NGOs and work out a better plan with their help and cover as many children as possible. (New Indian Express 13/8/14)

39. Cases of schools harassing students on rise

BHOPAL: State’s child’s panel has received as many as 169 Right to Education (RTE) Act violation complaints in the last two years. Most of the complaints are related to mental and physical harassment of students by schools. School-related complaints dominated the state commission for protection of child rights (SCPCR) bench on Tuesday as well with as many as seven cases of private and missionary schools across the state up for hearing. Chairperson Usha Chaturvedi told TOI, “We have received as many as 169 RTE violations complaints in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Violations are under Section 17 of the Act that prohibits corporal punishment. What is worrying is that they are on the rise. In many cases, the school has been given a stern warning and if repeated, action has also been taken as per the provisions of the Act.” Commenting on the private and missionary schools being the subject of most of these complaints, she said, “Missionary schools may be exempt from providing 25% seats to underpriviledged children but they are covered under the RTE in all other aspects. They have to abide by it.” “The need right now is to make teachers accountable as well as schools in case of such complaints,” she added. TOI had reported on August 11 that SCPCR had written to the state government expressing concern in the matter. On Tuesday, cases of discrimination, physical beating and insensitivity towards a special child came up before the commission. Among the Bhopal schools, cases were heard against Red Rose School, Trilanga, St Francis School Jehangirabad, Shree Bhavans Bharti Public School, St Thomas School, Mother Teresa Senior Secondary School, Kolar and Government Naveen Girls School, Nehru Nagar. The other schools whose complaints were heard were Emmanuel Mission High School, Morena and Angel’s Abode Public School, Tikamgarh. Besides, a complaint against Naandi foundation, Indore was also heard where worms were found in the mid-day meal of a student. Besides Chaturvedi, members Vibhanshu Joshi and R H Lata were also present. (Times of India 14/8/14)

40. More kids dropped out of school in 2012-13

PUNE: Four years ago, the Right to Education (RTE) Act promised all children the right to education. But the state has many miles to cover in primary school education as the drop-out rate has increased from 0.58 % in 2011-12 to 0.97 % in 2012-13 as per statistics released by the Union ministry of human resource and development recently. On an average about 10 lakh students enrol for Class I each year, and by the end of primary education, at Class IV 9,700 students dropped out in 2012-13 and about 5,600 students dropped out ithe previous year. At the upper primary level (Class V to VII), the drop-out rate in Maharashtra fell from 1.88 % in 2011-12 to 1.74% in 2012-13. The statistics were part of the annual report of the Union government called the Unified District Information system for Education (U-DISE) for 2013-14. The statistics revealed that the drop-out rate of girls in both the sections was very high when compared to boys. As per the flash statistics, the drop-out rate of Maharashtra at the primary and upper primary levels is much lower than the national average which is 4.67 % at the primary level and 3.13 % at the upper primary level. Puducherry had the lowest drop-out rate, whereas Mizoram recorded the highest drop-out rate. Mahavir Mane, state director of education (primary) said, “We need to do a grade-wise study on where the rate of drop-out is high and then arrive at a conclusion on the percentage increase. The increase, though, is not very high and can be taken care of in the current year.” Mane added that the Maharashtra State Council of Education Research and Training (MSCERT) has been asked to design a syllabus for dropped-out students who come back into the education mainstream. This will help reduce the drop-out rate.”The implementation of RTE has been poor in the state. The RTE admissions are not smooth, neither is there efficiency as far as compliance of RTE parameters by schools is concerned. Despite introducing the law in the state almost three years ago, it is disappointing that students are still leaving schools. A detailed study must be carried out by the education department to find out what led to the increase in students leaving schools and appropriate measures must be taken,” education activist Matin Mujawar said… (Times of India 17/8/14)

41. Opposition raps government over student suicides

BERHAMPUR: Opposition political parties hit out at the government for three girls committing suicide in southern Odisha in the last one-and-half months after their parents failed to meet their education costs. “The series of suicides by tribal girls has exposed the poor delivery system of the government,” the leaders said. “The government’s policies are only on pen and paper. It is clearly proved from the frustrations of these girls,” said former Union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahu. “Since the delivery mechanism has completely failed, government assistance did not reach students to help them continue their studies,” alleged senior BJP leader and former deputy speaker of the assembly Ram Chandra Panda. He said these suicides should be inquired upon by the house committee. “The condition of poor tribals is very critical. They are unable to afford the education of their children. We think the government is not functioning,” alleged senior CPM leader Ali Kishor Patnaik. Three girls allegedly committed suicide in Ganjam, Gajapati and Nabarangpur districts after failing to pay the education fee or buying study materials. The latest victim was Kanakadei Bhatra, 16, of Nabarangapur’s Kutiguda village on August 14. Kanakdei, a class X student of Ghataguda UG High School, set herself ablaze on July 23 after her parents failed to pay an annual fee of Rs 148. She died of burns at SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack. On August 13, Sunita Raita, 21, a student from R Udayagiri in Gajapati district committed suicide by hanging herself in her house after the district administration could not provide the financial assistance through Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) to pursue her studies in nursing. Similarly on June 25, a Class VII student Banita Nayak of Aska in Ganjam district died as she had allegedly set herself ablaze when her parents were reluctant to buy her books and pencil. The administration had not provided her the annual stipend for the last two years. “In all three incidents, one thing is common. The administration failed to provide them financial assistance to pursue their study,” said former state president of Bharatiya Janata Yuba Morcha Bibhuti Jena. (Times of India 17/8/14)

42. Apex Court Team to Review RTE Act Implementation

VISAKHAPATNAM: A team of the Supreme Court officials will visit the district for two days from Tuesday to inspect the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The team will verify whether basic amenities especially the toilets are available at the schools. According to collector N Yuvaraj, the team would visit various government schools on August 21 and 22. He held a review meeting with RDOs and MDOs Monday and informed them that a route map was been prepared for the team. However, there was no confirmation on whether the SC team would follow the route map.  The collector alerted the officials concerned to take steps to ensure toilets were built at every school in the district. Yuvaraj said the administration had already sanctioned 1,738 toilets to about 1,000 schools. He  directed the officials to complete the works in the next three days. He directed the officials to replace the existing contractors wherever the works were not completed. (New Indian Express 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Tea owners running ‘closed’ gardens at Rs. 35-a-day wage in Bengal

Siliguri: At least 100 people died of malnutrition at the six locked out tea gardens in the area since January this year. Although one of the gardens — Raipur Tea Estate where five people died of hunger in June — has reopened, the fate of the other five, with 4,000 workers, is still uncertain. When HT scoured the area to find out the reasons for closures and the perennial sickness of the gardens, workers said lockouts were often a ploy. The owners first engineer labour unrest by denying the workers statutory and fringe benefits and defaulting on provident fund deposits. Then local politicians and influential people are brought in to form operating management committees to run the officially closed gardens, as tea bushes need regular plucking. The arrangement helps the owners, as they continue to sell the produce to factories, while the workers have to accept whatever they are offered. “A few prosper while we suffer and the government loses revenue,” a labourer at Red Bank garden said. The Dooars branch of Indian Tea Association, the owners’ body, however, said prolonged closures would be disastrous for both the industry and the workers. The Trinamool Congress government, like its Left predecessor, is underplaying the deaths. “The situation has improved. Doctors are visiting the garden four days a week and workers are getting five kilos of rice and wheat per month at `2 a kg,” said local TMC leader Jagadish Roy. But the story of Parvati Oraon, 55, tells a different tale. Malnutrition accentuated the tuberculosis and leukaemia she is suffering from as Dharanipur garden was locked out for 10 years before reopening in 2012, only to be closed again a few months later. “We had no money to continue the treatment at a faraway hospital,” Parvati said. And hunger is slowly eroding her family. “Only death can end her suffering and let the rest of us live longer on insufficient subsidised food,” her son Sanjay, 35, said. The story of Fulumoni Rawatia of Dheklapara garden is even crueller. She gets neither subsidised food nor the Rs. 1,500 monthly dole under the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked out Industries. The reason: The upper age limit for recipients of the central scheme is 58 years. Rawatia is 62 years old. Her son earns Rs. 35 a day by plucking leaves at Dheklapara garden — officially closed since 2002, but run by an operating management committee. Normally, a worker earns Rs. 100 a day, plus subsidised ration and healthcare. Fulumoni wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on November 8, 2012, seeking death rather than starvation. The letter made the state machinery rush aid. But it continued to attribute subsequent deaths to various diseases, and not hunger. The official cause of the death of 16 people in Dharanipur and of 30 others in Red Bank garden was not hunger. For instance, Sekhar Nagarsi, 40, was reported to have died of alcohol-induced jaundice and Bina Pradhan, 40, officially died of Japanese encephalitis. Bidyut Das, a doctor with an NGO running the Dharanipur garden hospital said, “Malnourishment makes children as well as adult workers susceptible to diseases.” Even children from operating gardens get admitted at the Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre at Saptibari in Jalpaiguri district, said child development officer Sandip Kumar Dey. Although Pritha Sarkar, Jalpaiguri district magistrate, said, “We are doing our best to provide relief in the closed tea gardens,” hunger refuses to leave the prosperous Dooars. (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

44. India wants final solution to food security issue in WTO

NEW DELHI: India Wednesday clarified that its decision not to ratify WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is aimed at ensuring that the country’s efforts to ensure food security remain consistent with its international obligations. “The stand taken by India is aimed at achieving a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes so that the country’s efforts to ensure food security remain consistent with its international obligations,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply. India’s stand is that without such a permanent solution, public stockholding measures in developing countries will be hampered by the current ceiling on domestic support at 10 percent of the value of production. Such support is considered as a trade-distorting subsidy to farmers under existing WTO rules. During the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013, WTO members, including India, agreed on a Bali Package comprising an agreement on Trade Facilitation and on issues relating to agriculture and development. “While there was progress on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, other decisions including one on public stockholding for food security purposes and other development issues were sidelined,” Sitharaman said. Since its decision not to ratify the TFA, India has followed up with suggestions on how to ensure time-bound delivery of an outcome on public stockholding for food security, she added. (The Economic Times 14/8/14)

45. Low growth, high inflation not acceptable: Jaitley

MUMBAI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the current situation of high inflation and low growth has to be reversed to achieve sustainable GDP expansion along with improvement in price situation. “If inflation is high then you begin at a point where growth is low. We need to change this situation. And, I believe that unless we find out the reasons which have led us to such a situation, it is difficult to solve it,” he said. Jaitley was speaking at a BJP forum meeting here, his second engagement in the nation’s financial capital after becoming the finance minister. He attributed the reasons for the current predicament to policy paralysis and the populist measures of the previous UPA regime. “Some of the populist schemes like free medicines in Rajasthan did not help the then ruling party to come back to power,” the finance minister said. Stating that the Narendra Modi government inherited very low growth, Jaitley said GDP grew at 4.5% and 4.7%, respectively in 2012-13 and 2013-14. “The manufacturing sector for one year was flat and another year it was negative. When manufacturing growth becomes negative, the customs and excise duties come down, revenue of government also comes down, forcing it to borrow more,” he said. Calling for eradication of poverty, the Minister said one of the challenges for the nation is to remove poverty and to increase the pace of development. “People are not ready to accept that the pace of development is slow and we are not able to remove poverty,” he said. (Times of India 16/8/14)

46. There should be a transparent process to select housing beneficiaries: Madhwaraj

Issues such as housing sites for the poor, destruction of agriculture fields by wild animals, and implementation of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) figured at the tri-monthly Udupi taluk Karnataka Development Programme (KDP) meeting here on Monday. Chairing the meeting, Pramod Madhwaraj, MLA, sought to know the extent of land available for distribution of housing sites to those under poverty line and the procedure for providing them. T.G. Guruprasad, Udupi tahsildar, said there were 25 acres of government land available at Yellur near Kaup, and 200 persons had been selected to be given sites on five acres. The remaining 20 acres would be given to people from the neighbouring village. Sites were distributed only after it was cleared by the gram panchayats and a committee headed by the local MLA. Some sites remain undistributed because they were not sent in the proper format and due to objections raised in villages, he said. Mr. Madhwaraj said there should be a transparent process for selecting beneficiaries. Village accountants and panchayat development officers should be directed to survey government land available in panchayat limits. A list of these sites and the beneficiaries should be sent to the taluk panchayat and the committee. After the beneficiaries were chosen, the list should be again sent back to the gram panchayats for their approval. If any beneficiary was wrongly added, he/she could be deleted by the gram panchayats. “Sites should be given to the poor living in rented houses,” he said. In Udupi city, instead of sites, four-storey apartment blocks should be built so that 78 beneficiaries could be accommodated in each block. Such an exercise had been done in Kanakapura in Bangalore, he said. When the issue of MNREGA came up for discussion, officials said the response to it was poor because of the low wage of Rs. 191 a day. Mr. Madhwaraj directed the officials to encourage people to take up individual works. People could be told to take up field cleaning work, and construction of cow sheds, hen sheds, wells and roads. There should be proper publicity for individual works. Udupi district ranked the last in the State in the implementation of MNREGA works, he said. On the destruction of fields by wild animals, officials of the Forest Department said a compensation of Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 was given per acre of land destroyed. Mr. Madhwaraj said they should take more steps to send back wild bisons, monkeys and leopards to forests. Complaints of fields being destroyed by wild bisons and monkeys were increasing, he said. (The Hindu 19/8/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. MNREGA ‘irregularities’ in UP, ED files 8 money laundering cases

New Delhi: In a first, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today filed as many as eight money laundering cases into alleged financial irregularities in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh. Reuters file photo. For representation purpose In a first, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today filed as many as eight money laundering cases into alleged financial irregularities in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh. The central probe agency registered a criminal FIR (called Enforcement Case Information Report) by taking cognisance of the CBI complaint in this centrally-sponsored scheme which guarantees a minimum number of days of employment to an individual in a rural area. This is the first time that the ED has registered a criminal complaint in this social welfare scheme aimed to benefit the poor across the country. The probe period, by the ED, is between 2007-10 in six districts of the state — Balrampur, Gonda, Mahoba, Sonebhadra, Sant Kabir Nagar and Mirzapur. During this period BSP leader Mayawati was the Chief Minister. “Eight separate FIRs have been filed by the agency under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A number of government officials have been charged. Notices for questioning will soon be issued,” sources said. The ED, sources said, will look into the “proceeds of crime” of the laundering amount of Rs 12 crore which the CBI has alleged to have been fraudulently utilised in lieu of implementation of the MNREGA in these selected districts. CBI after registering the cases early this year had carried out searches at numerous locations in UP, documents of which the ED would now be obtaining from its sister agency. (Deccan Herald 12/8/14)

 

48. Changes in labour law will affect half of all factories

New Delhi: More than half the factories across the country may be exempt from the restrictive provisions applicable under the current legislative framework, with the Factories Amendment Bill, 2014 proposing to revise the definition of a factory by effectively doubling the threshold of the number of workers employed in such a unit. The move is expected to ease the labour law burden on most of the existing factories by freeing them from complying with the numerous provisions of the Act that relate to safety, working conditions and welfare of the employees, as well as filing lengthy compliance reports to the government. The original Act identifies a factory based on the number of workers employed. At present, units where power is used for manufacturing must employ 10 workers or more in a year to be identified as a factory, while units that do not use power must employ at least 20 workers in a year. Under the amendment, the minimum number of workers in a factory is sought to be doubled to 20 for units with power and 40 for non-power units. State governments will be empowered to prescribe the number of workers up to this limit that a unit must employ to be defined as a factory. Data from the Annual Survey of Industries — the most comprehensive official exercise on the industrial sector — reveals that about 1 lakh, or 58 per cent, of the 1,75,710 factories reported to be operating in the country in 2011-12 employed up to 30 workers. While 63,568 units employed 0-14 workers, another 18,763 factories employed 15-19 workers and 20,541 units had 20-29 workers on their payrolls (see chart). This is backed by the Labour Ministry’s data based on returns submitted by factories under the Factories Act, 1948. The statistics reveals that in 2010, of the 67,508 factories that submitted returns (except from Orissa), 52.5 per cent, or 35,208 units, had employed less than 20 workers. However, the number of workers employed by these units was just 3,78,970 workers, as compared to the total 44.96 lakh workforce in factories. But trade unions as well as experts have opposed the amendment, arguing that it could lead to greater violations by factories. “There have to be more discussions with the Labour Ministry on the proposed amendments to the Factories Act. In effect, these factories will be out of the purview of the government and working conditions will not be regulated,” said A K Padmanabhan, president CITU. Michael Dias, secretary, Employers’ Association of Delhi, and a member of the Council of Indian Employers, concurred with the view, while arguing that there also has to be some modicum of control. “This will bring out smaller units from the purview of the Act, though most violations are done by them. It will also lead to unhealthy competition amongst small manufacturers while not helping out bigger factories,” he said. (Indian Express 14/8/14)

49. Data of staff excluded from PF norms sought

NASHIK: The employees provident fund organisation (EPFO) has asked employers to give detailed information on employees drawing over Rs 6,500 per month as basic salary and DA and who were excluded from the PF privilege. The ambit of provident fund scheme is being increased to cover more employees as the government has said that monthly wage ceiling will be increased to Rs 15,000 from the existing Rs 6,500. As a result of the decision, several workers, who are currently in the unorganised sector, will also be covered. The basic payment of a labour is around Rs 7,000 going by the minimum wages given in the industry. But employers often do not deduct the mandatory 12% contribution in anything over Rs 6,500. For large numbers of people, the EPFO that includes the employees and employers’ contribution, is the source of income in their old age and hence the increase in cover will benefit these people. “Since the government has announced its decision, the office is planning to garner data of employees who may be included in the PF privilege after revision. Hence, we have asked for the photocopies of the salary certificates for the month of June of all the employees of the various establishments and have asked them to fill in the form as well,” said Jagdish Tambe, regional provident fund commissioner, Nashik region. The form asks for the summary of all the employees in the company, the number of employees paid monthly salary of Rs 6,500 per month, those being paid higher than Rs 6,500 per month and those receiving salary up to Rs 15,000 per month, the officer said. The employers have to present the data to the office at the earliest so that it can calculate the possible number of beneficiaries for any new decision of the government. “As of now, we have not received any orders on the issue. But we are trying to keep things ready so that the moment the decision is announced, we would be in position to clear the cases and ensure speedier execution of the norms,” Tambe said. (Times of India 15/8/14)

50. RBI: Hike in MSP up rural wages

Mumbai: Reserve Bank Governor Ragh-uram Rajan has dismissed the notion that the rural employment guarantee programme is behind the massive spurt in wages in rural areas. “On the NREGA, there is clearly a lot of sense that this has increased rural wages tremendously. I would argue that clean, trustworthy studies say that the effect was may be 10 per cent,” said Mr Rajan. There are other factors such as rise in minimum support price of food items, better realisations for food commodities in the international markets, shift of labour to the building industry due to a spurt in construction activity, coupled with a gradual withdrawal of women from the workforce due to a myriad of reasons, have caused the spike in wages, Mr Rajan added. “Women instead of working in fields at the younger end have gone to schools and at the older end moved back into households. That is not an entirely bad development; in fact that reflects the greater wealth in rur-al areas,” he said. (The Asian Age 18/8/14)

51. India ranks poorly in labour-employer relation: Morgan Stanley

MUMBAI: India ranks poorly in employee- employer relations standing at 61st position, which is far behind countries like Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines, according to a report by Morgan Stanley. “On the metric of cooperation in labour-employer relations India ranks at 61, behind Mexico (44), Thailand (37) and the Philippines (34),” according to the report titled ‘What’s Holding Back India’s Labour Market Environment? Part II’ by Morgan Stanley. China is just ranked ahead of India in this regard at the 60th spot, it said. India’s demographic trend is likely to be one of the best among large countries in the world, however, the country’s track record of converting this development into an opportunity is mixed so far, the report said. The country’s track record in terms of creating productive jobs has been slow so far. “One of the key issues stifling productive job growth is labour market regulations in the country apart from other factors such as inadequate physical infrastructure,” it said. The most contentious issue with regard to labour regulation in India is flexibility to lay off workers if a firm employs more than 100 workers, because it needs to notify and take permission from the concerned government administration, it pointed out. Looking at labour laws across countries, most other nations do not have such a stringent requirement of prior approvals and consultations, apart from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the report said. “Indeed, according to the World Bank’s index on hiring and firing practices, Bangladesh ranks at 25, China at 28, and Pakistan at 35 compared to India’s rank of 52,” it added. In labour market efficiency ranking among 148 countries, India is placed at 99th spot compared to China (34), Brazil (92) and Philippines (99), the Morgan Stanley report said. It said, India needs to amend provisions which allow outsiders to be office bearers. Currently, one-third of the office bearers or five can be outsiders. “India also needs to introduce a strike ballot such that a strike can be called only if it is supported by a qualifying majority,” it said. On contract labour, it said, there is a need to allow free use of contract labour while ensuring that the rights of contract labour are protected. Though countries such as China, Malaysia and Vietnam do not prohibit the use of contract labour for permanent tasks, other Asian countries prohibit the use of fixed-term contract labour for permanent tasks – such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. (The Economic Time 19/8/14)

RESERVATION

52. OBC quota for Jats not with eye on polls: Govt

New Delhi: Ahead of the Haryana assembly elections, the  BJP-led NDA government on Monday told the Supreme Court that including the Jat community in the central OBC list was not a politically motivated act. In an affidavit, the Centre supported the UPA regime’s decision to provide reservations to Jats. The SC would hear the petition challenging Jat reservation on Tuesday. The apex court had on April 9 rejected a plea to stay the Centre’s poll-eve notification to include Jats in the OBC list. “It is respectfully submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” the 28-page affidavit said. The Centre said it rejected the view of National Commission for Backward Classes and took into account the findings of a report of Expert Committee constituted by Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) before taking the decision. It added that nine states have already included Jats in their lists of OBCs. “Cabinet was of the view that the Commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities and therefore…decided to include Jat community in the central list of OBCs for the nine states namely Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (Bharatpur and Dhaulpur), Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi,” it said. (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

53. UGC schemes for empowerment of SCs, STs, minorities

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) is implementing a number of schemes for educational empowerment of SCs, STs and minorities that include setting up of equal opportunity cells and scholarships. HRD Minister Smriti Irani informed Lok Sabha today that educational empowerment schemes like setting up of residential coaching academies for minorities, SC, ST and women in central universities, deemed to be universities, establishment of equal opportunity cells for SC, ST and minorities are being implemented by the UGC. Other UGC sponsored schemes are post-doctoral fellowships for SC, ST, Rajiv Gandhi national fellowships for SC, ST, setting up of Centre for Studies in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, remedial coaching schemes for SCs, STs, OBC and minorities, scheme of career oriented courses in universities and colleges, construction of women’s hostels for colleges. Irani said during Question Hour that Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission Act) 2006, which came into force with effect from January 4, 2007, provides for 15 percent, 7.5 percent and 27 percent reservation in admission of students belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs respectively in central educational institutions established, maintained or aided by the central government. The HRD Minister said the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs in 2009-10 were 11.1 percent and 10.3 percent in comparison to 15 percent of all category. In 2010-11, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs were 13.5 percent and 12.9 percent in comparison to 19.4 percent of general category students and in 2011-12, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs were 14.5 percent and 10.8 percent in comparison to 20.4 percent of general category students. Irani said in order to expand educational opportunities in 374 educationally backward districts, the central government had in 2009 launched the scheme of setting up of 374 model degree colleges in districts having Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for higher education less than national average. “The Centre has recently launched Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) which intends to incentivise the states for developing higher education with equity and inclusion. The MDCs scheme has now been subsumed in RUSA. There is a special component of equity in RUSA,” she said. (Zee News 13/8/14)

54. NCP backs reservation for Dhangar community under ST category

Pune: NCP president Sharad Pawar on Saturday announced his party’s support to the demand of Dhangar community for reservation under Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. “The demand of Dhangar community is justified and we support it,” he told reporters here. Stating that there appeared a “misunderstanding” regarding NCP’s stand on the issue, Pawar sought to clarify that the party wanted reservation for Dhangar community without compromising on existing reservation quota meant for the Adivasis. Maharashtra has been witnessing a sustained agitation launched by Dhangar (shepherd) community to press for their demand. A “chakka jam” protest stir was organised this week at various places in the state subsequent to a hunger strike undertaken by their leaders at Baramati recently. Mahadeo Jankar, one of the leaders spearheading the agitation, had alleged that Congress-NCP coalition government in the state was apathetic to their demand for reservation under ST list. In reply to a question, Pawar said, “Decision on giving the Assembly (elections) tickets to the candidates who lost the recent Lok Sabha elections in the state would be taken after fixing a criterion by the party’s Parliamentary Board. This issue is yet to be considered.” (Business Standard 16/8/14)

55. Centre urged to pursue 4.5 p.c. quota for minorities in SC

HYDERABAD: Deputy Leader of the Congress in Legislative Council Md. Ali Shabbir has urged Centre to pursue the 4.5 per cent minorities sub-quota case in the Supreme Court. At a press conference here on Sunday, Mr. Shabbir said he had received a letter from Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptullah where in she expressed happiness over the successful implementation of Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh since 2004. He said Ms. Heptullah had assured that the Centre would take a view on the Muslim reservation policy after the judgement of the Supreme Court. Welcoming Centre’s stand on the quota, he urged the Union Minister to direct Attorney General of India to follow up the case in the apex court with regard to 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities announced by Centre in 2013. The Congress MLC said minorities sub-quota by Centre and separate reservation by the States would ensure educational, social and economical development of Muslim community across the country. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

56. All UT Scheduled Castes Entitled for Quota: SC

PUDUCHERRY: The Supreme Court has set aside two orders passed by the Puducherry Government extending benefits of reservation in promotion, employment and professional courses only to Scheduled Castes (origins) of the Union Territory, on the grounds that it was not in conformity and consonance with the Presidential Order, 1964, and cannot be sustained in law. The order was delivered by a three-member bench including Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph on August 7. The two government orders passed on Nov 2005 and Dec 2005 are with regard to extension of reservation benefits in promotion and employment to Group C and D posts and in professional courses, to SC families living in Puducherry prior to 1964 and their descendants. Those who had come to Puducherry after 1964 or living here after 1964, and their descendants are denied the benefits of reservation. “It is important to bear in mind that it is by virtue of the notification of the President under Article 341(1) that the Scheduled  Castes came into being. The members of Scheduled Castes are drawn from castes, races or tribes, attain a new status by virtue of Presidential Order. Clause (2) of Article 341 empowers Parliament alone by law to include or exclude from the list of Scheduled Castes specified  in a notification issued under Clause (1) by the President. By no executive power, the amendment, modification, alteration or variance in the Presidential Order is permissible. It is not open to the Executive to do anything directly or indirectly which may lead to any change in the Presidential Order. Once Presidential Order has been issued under Article 341(1) or Article 342(1), any amendment can only be made by Parliament by law as provided in Article 341(2)  or  Article 342(2), as the case may be, and in no other manner. The interpretation  of ‘resident’ in the Presidential Order as ‘of origin’ amounts to altering the Presidential Order,” the Bench observed in its order. “The 15 castes listed in the schedule of the Presidential Order on castes, races or tribes or parts of groups within castes, and races are deemed to be Scheduled Castes for the purposes of the Constitution in relation to the UT of Pondicherry so far as regards members thereof are residents in the UT,” the bench observed. The Puducherry Scheduled Caste People Welfare Association moved the Supreme Court against the UT Government after two writ petitions against the Puducherry Government’s order was dismissed by the Madras High Court  on July 21, 2008. (New Indian Express 20/8/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

57. Kaushal invited to join int’l panel

Dehradun: Dehradun-based human rights activist and chairperson of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) Avdhash Kaushal has been invited by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to join the international panel of experts attached to the presidential commission investigating wartime disappearances and charges of war crimes against the Sri Lankan armed forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In a statement issued to the media by RLEK on the development, Kaushal stated that the offer had reached him after the consent of the Government of India. He said, “I have conveyed my acceptance to be a member of this prestigious and challenging panel. I have trained a number of Sri Lankans, including Tamils from Jaffna, in human rights. More than 20 Sri Lankans have so far attended the 10-month course in human rights at RLEK in Dehradun.” According to Kaushal, who is also a Padma Shri recipient, “An effective national, regional or sub regional human rights mechanism must satisfy several major criteria including members who have the experience and competence in the field of human rights; mandate to promote human rights and investigate complaints of human rights violations and sufficient resources to perform the tasks. These criteria are also important in ensuring the independence of a national, regional or sub regional human rights mechanism”. It is pertinent to mention here that RLEK is a Dehradun based NGO with special consultative status with Economic and Social Council of United Nations for having special competence in empowering indigenous groups, marginalised population, women and children in claiming their entitlements. The Sri Lankan government has formed the international panel of experts on the advice of the Japanese government with the names of other panel members from Japan and Pakistan expected to be announced soon. Legal expert of RLEK, Mamta Thappa said that Kaushal’s inclusion in the international panel is not only another feather in the cap of RLEK but also an honour for the State of Uttarakhand. (Pioneer 12/8/14)

58. Respect for human rights crucial for true independence: Amnesty International India

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government must keep its human rights promises and reiterate its commitment to protecting and upholding basic freedoms, Amnesty International India said on the eve of India’s 67th Independence Day. “Real freedom can come only with respect for human rights. India’s Prime Minister has repeatedly said that his government will uphold the Constitution of India. The government must honour this pledge and defend the constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality and dignity,” said Shashikumar Velath, deputy chief executive, Amnesty International India. “As an emerging power that hopes to shape global politics, India needs to show its commitment to human rights at home and abroad. The government must now deliver on the promises it has made on various issues,” added Velath. In a press statement issued by Amnesty International India, it stated that violence against women remains widespread and pervasive in India. Modi, in his first speech in Parliament in June 2014, said: “Respect and security for women should be a priority for all people”. Amnesty International India urges the Prime Minister to implement the far-reaching institutional reforms needed to end violence against women. “After the 2012 gang-rape case, some positive legal reforms were undertaken but there has been little done since. There are still gaps in the law. The government must accept the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations to criminalize marital rape and remove the effective immunity that security forces have for crimes against women,” said Velath. “Police and judicial reforms are necessary to ensure that all complaints of violence against women are effectively investigated and prosecuted. The death penalty should not be used as a ‘quick-fix’ solution.” The organization stated that Modi has stated that his vision for India involves development for all people. However, changes to some environmental and forest policies around approvals for development projects have weakened mechanisms for consultation with affected communities, including Adivasis, and could undermine their rights. “Statements made by the Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram that decisions on the use of Adivasi land must be taken with the concurrence of Adivasi communities recognize the right of indigenous communities to free, prior and informed consent in decisions that affect them,” said Velath. “Land acquisition and environmental safeguards set up under Indian law are vital to upholding the rights of people affected by development projects, and must not be weakened. Development must be development for all people, and not just for a few at the cost of the rights of vulnerable groups.” Recent events in Iraq have highlighted the risks of serious human rights abuses faced by Indian migrant workers in West Asia. Exploitation of migrant workers can originate in India when workers are cheated by visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents about jobs, wages and work conditions. Amnesty International India urges the government to protect migrant workers’ rights by regulating recruiting agents and ensuring access to remedy…. (Times of India 14/8/14)

59. NHRC, Chavan must stop eviction: Activist

MUMBAI: An activist from Varanasi has taken up the cause of mentally challenged inmates of a workshop in Bandra. He has written to the National Human Rights Commission and CM Prithviraj Chavan seeking intervention. The managing committee of Ben Mar Society near Mehboob Studio had written to the BMC seeking the closure of the Happy Hours workshop located in the compound. The centre imparts vocational training to around 50 adults with varying mental disabilities. Residents complain that the inmates’ cars speed into the compound and one of them broke the windscreen of a new car. The centre denies most allegations. A social worker who lives in Ben Mar brought the matter to the attention of Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of the Varanasi-based NGO People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights. Raghuvanshi is a member of the NGOs Core Committee of the NHRC. “Lenin has visited our building and is aware of the issue,” said the social worker. (Times of India 15/8/14)

60. Activists seek end to two-child norm before local polls

JAIPUR: With panchayat and municipal elections drawing nearer, the demand for removal of the two-child norm has intensified. Civil rights activists claim that the two-child norm has given rise to female feticide and violates various other human rights. The norm was analyzed by a large number of civil rights activists from within the state and outside during a strategy meeting held at the Indira Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sansthan in Jaipur on Sunday. During the recent budget session of the assembly, senior BJP legislator Mohan Lal Gupta had raised the issue demanding that the government should do away with the two-child norm. He went on to claim that the two-child policy was one of the reasons for female infanticide in the state. Though Gupta found several supporters in the state, the government, however, ruled out any amendment saying such statements were their personal opinions. The activists claimed that the two-child norm is a target-oriented family planning and population control policy. It advocates “penalizing” couples who have more than two children as it disqualifies men and women from contesting in panchayat level elections or get a job in government departments and ineligible for promotions. According to a government circular, a candidate having more than two children on or after June 2002 is ineligible for appointment in government services. Moreover, the circular also states that a person shall not be considered for promotion for five recruitment years from the date on which promotion becomes due, if he/she has more than two children. The Centre for Health and Social Justice and the National Coordination Against Two-Child Norm programme officer Nibedita Phukan, who came from Delhi, said, “We held a strategy level meeting to develop a shared understanding of the two-child norm and coercive population control policies, to brainstorm on ways to work on an advocacy strategy in Rajasthan to remove the norm from government policies, to shortlist intervention towards the removal of two-child norm and to draw up a possible time line for advocacy.” Pointing out the ill-effects of the policy, Rajasthan Bal Adhikar Samrakshan Sajha Abhiyan representative Vijay Goyal said, “In a gender discriminatory society, the two-child norm gives rise to female feticide.” He demanded withdrawal of the norm saying that it violates human rights. Other participants presenting evidences from Himachal Pradesh said districts with the highest juvenile sex ratio have had highest disqualifications compared to districts with lowest sex ratio in terms of getting jobs or fighting for civic body elections. There are studies showing that there is adverse impact of the policy on the health and security of families, appointment and promotion of teachers and government employees and an increased likelihood by fathers to abandon their families as a means to be left undocumented in their career documents and to hide their children. The activists further pointed out that protests from women’s movement, people’s health movement and civil society organizations resulted in withdrawal of the norm from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh but Rajasthan still has the two-child norm. Incidentally, Rajasthan was also the first state to implement the policy. Members of the Women Association for Multifarious Activities (WAMA) also demanded that the norm should be deleted. (Times of India 18/8/14)

61. Amnesty International Hails Indian Rights Activist Irom Sharmila

NEW DELHI: The release of Indian rights activist Irom Sharmila is a legal and moral victory following her 13 year-long hunger strike, Amnesty International India said Tuesday. Earlier in the day, a Manipur court asked the state government to release Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on indefinite fast for 13 years demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the northeastern state. The court ruled that the authorities had failed to establish that Irom Sharmila had intended to commit suicide, and stated that her protest was a “political demand through a lawful means”.”This welcome but long overdue judgement recognises that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is a powerful protest for human rights and a peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression,” Shailesh Rai, programme director at Amnesty International India, said in a statement. The human rights watchdog quoted India’s National Human Rights Commission where it noted that Sharmila was a “Prisoner of Conscience” who was being detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs. Last year, Amnesty International India garnered the support of over 18,000 people from across the country calling for the unconditional release of Irom Sharmila. Rai is of the view that all other charges against Sharmila must be dropped and instead the authorities must pay attention to the issues the activist is raising. Sharmila, 42, better known as the “Iron Lady”, has been on an indefinite fast since Nov 4, 2000, demanding repeal of the AFSPA after the killing of 10 civilians allegedly by the para-military Assam Rifles near Imphal airport Nov 1, 2000. “A hunger strike is a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our constitutional jurisprudence’,” Amnesty International’s statement quoted the Indian Supreme Court as observing in its landmark ruling on the New Delhi incident in February 2012 in which she was charged with attempting to commit suicide. Under this charge, she can be kept in custody for a year at a stretch. In view of her ill health, Sharmila is currently lodged in a special ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal where the one room where she is confined has been declared a sub-jail. Sharmila is released and re-arrested every year (as the law allows detention only for 364 days) and force-fed a diet of a mixture of liquefied carbohydrates and proteins through the nose thrice a day. (New Indian Express 20/8/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

62. Tamil Nadu assembly passes bill to end restriction on dhoti

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill making enforcing dress code and banning entry of persons wearing ‘dhoti’ in public places a cognisable offence punishable with jail term. The House adopted the Tamil Nadu Entry into Public Places (Removal of Restriction on Dress) Act 2014 after chief minister J Jayalalithaa moved it for consideration and passing. It empowers the state to cancel the licences of such clubs, recreation associations, trusts and company or society denying entry to any person wearing a ‘vesthi’ (dhoti), traditional attire of men in the state. The legislation, enacted against the backdrop of denial of entry to a Madras high court judge and two advocates recently by a prominent cricket club here, also seeks to declare any regulation or by-law made by any organization imposing a dress code as “null and void”. The violators of the act will attract penal action, including cancellation of licence after notice, besides punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with a fine upto Rs 25,000. No dress code restrictions can be imposed for entry into public places like recreation clubs, hotels, theatres, malls, halls, auditoriums, stadiums and such other places as may be notified by the government, where people including members congregate in connection with any function, event, entertainment, sports or other activity. The imposition of restriction on persons for entry into public places on the ground that their dress does not conform to western culture would amount to continuation of the Colonial imperialistic attitude, one of the provisio of the bill stated. At the height of the controversy over denial of entry to the Judge last month, Jayalalithaa had asserted that a bill banning such dress code would be introduced and passed in the current budget session of the assembly itself. (Times of India 12/8/14)

63. Parliament passes bill ending 20-year-old collegium system of judges

NEW DELHI: Parliament on Thursday cleared a Constitution amendment bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system which has been under severe criticism. A day after passage in the Lok Sabha, the Constitution Amendment Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 179 votes in favour and one abstention of noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani. The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 high courts. The bill will come into force after ratification by 50 per cent of the state legislatures. The process could take up to eight months. After ratification, the government will send it to the President for his assent. With the passage of the bill, the collegium system of judges choosing judges is set to be changed in the coming months. The Constitution amendment bill will grant constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition. Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the law minister will be the other members of the proposed body. The prominent people, one of whom will belong to either of SC/ST, OBC, minorities or a woman, will be selected by a panel of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lower House… (Times of India 14/8/14)

64. Judicial Appointments Panel Bill Runs into Legal Challenge in SC

NEW DELHI: Two days after the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill was passed by both houses of Parliament, a public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging it. In their petition, advocates R  Krishnamurthy and N Rajaraman assailed the Constitution Amendment Bill that would confer constitutional status on the proposed NJAC. They argued that the Bill passed in Parliament in its present form violated the independence of judiciary, basic structure and concept of separation of powers. The petitioners stated that the Bill was withdrawn and new bills introduced in haste without any effective consultation with the judiciary and the State governments. The entire manner of legislative initiation was violative of the concept of federalism in S R Bommai’s case and defeated the concept of independence of judiciary, a basic structure of the Constitution, they claimed. The petitioners also expressed concern that the rules and regulations regarding the shortlisting of candidates and the recommendation of candidates had not been provided in the Bill. The PIL demanded a declaration that the two bills were unconstitutional and a direction that the appointment of judges be done only on the basis of consultation with the Collegium of judges. (New Indian Express 17/8/14)

65. Motor Vehicles Bill in Next Session of Parliament: Gadkari

NEW DELHI: The government will introduce Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill in the next session of Parliament and once enacted it will end malpractices in regional transport offices (RTOs) across the nation, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari today said. “The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, being prepared in sync with practises in six advanced nations – USA, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and the UK – will be introduced in the next session of Parliament. This will overhaul the sector bringing to an end the corrupt practises in RTOs,” Gadkari said on the sidelines of a meeting of Indian Roads Congress. The Act has become obsolete in the present context and needs overhaul, he said, adding the new law is designed in a way that will provide permits online besides slapping fines on violators of traffic rules on the basis of recordings in camera. “The new law will provide a corruption free and transparent system with a proper record of driving licenses. Data would be utilised in e-governance. International norms are there for vehicle design, pollution control on the basis of prevalent laws in six advanced nations – US, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and UK,” he said. “I have firm faith that the new law will end corrupt practises in RTOs through e-governance,” he said. Earlier, addressing the Indian Road Congress meeting, the Minister said he had committed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Transport and Shipping sectors would contribute at least 2 per cent to the GDP of the country in next two years. Admitting that the Highways sector was passing through a rough patch and 21 out of 51 road widening projects had to be dropped in absence of any bidder, Gadkari said developers dropped projects worth about Rs 50,000 crore in the absence of lack of land acquisition and delays in green nods. “Not a single kilometre of highway network could be added in July which is not good but the Ministry has resolved to build 30 kms of highways a day in the next two years,” he said Gadkari said all efforts were on to bring the highways sector back on track and hurdles related to land acquisition were likely to be removed in a month’s span as he was heading an inter-ministerial group in this regard as per the directions of the PM. “Seventy-five to eighty per cent of the projects stuck for green nods have been cleared and land acquisition process and clearances from Railways and Defence are being expedited,” he said urging officials to fast-track decision making process as delays amount to Rs 15 crore loss a day. He said detailed project reports (DPRs) were being prepared in such a fashion that they overlooked vital security aspects like provisions of overbridges and underpasses in the name of economic viability, leading to higher number of road fatalities. “Gone are the days when Planning Commission used to do planning for our roads and now the Ministry will prepare its own DPRs,” he said. India amounted to a high 1.31 lakh death per annum, he said adding that he has asked officials to fix responsibility and accountability on builders and contractors. He said his Ministry was also exploring ways to generate additional revenue through laying of optical fiber, power transmission, gas and iron ore slurry pipelines across the length of about one lakh km of National Highways. Also it is proposed to set up road side amenities like restaurants, clubs, hotels, shops and parks on every 50 km stretch for commuters and drivers. He said trees would now be transplanted in case of road construction. The Minister also urged the Indian Roads Congress to lay emphasis on research and development for international standard road specifications and stressed the need for setting up an institute for the road sector for skill development. (New Indian Express 19/8/14)

66. PILs filed in Supreme Court over judges bill

New Delhi: Three PILs have been filed in the Supreme Court for declaring the National Judicial Appointments Commi-ssion Bill unconstitutional, days after Parliament passed two bills to scrap the collegium system for appointment in higher judiciary and to provide a new mechanism in its place. The PILs have been filed by former additional solicitor general Bishwajit Bhattacharya, advocates R.K. Kapoor and Manohar Lal Sharma. The lawyers in their pleas submitted that the 121st Constitutional Amendment Bill and the National Judicial Appointments Comm-ission Bill 2014 passed by Parliament is unconstitutional as it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. “The Constitution recognises a demarcation separating the judiciary from the executive under Article 50 of the Constitution which is the underlying strength for a sound judicial system… It would be relevant to point out here that Article 50 of the directive principles of state policy under the Constitution is not only applicable to the lower judiciary but is also applicable to the higher judiciary as the doctrine of separation of power was an immutable feature of the Constitution,” R.K. Kapoor had said in his plea. (Asian Age 20/8/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

67. Special unit for northeast people got 416 complaints, Delhi HC told

New Delhi: A special unit set up to register complaints from northeast people residing in Delhi submitted a status report in the Delhi High Court Monday where it said 416 complaints have been received by it from these people on Whatsapp, email and a helpline number. A total of 330 complaints were received on the helpline number 1093, that was started by Delhi Police after continued attacks on people from the northeastern states residing in Delhi. On Whatsapp, 33 complaints were received from Feb 2, the date the special unit was set up, till Aug 6. A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S Endlaw took note of the status report of the special unit and posted the matter for Aug 20. The special unit filed the report in a case where the court took suo motu cognizance of media reports about the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania, and monitoring the issue of safety and security of northeast citizens. The status report submitted by the deputy commissioner of police, special unit for north east people, said it has received 25 complaints through email, 18 complaints by SMS and five complaints by post. On the basis of these 416 complaints, Delhi Police registered 84 cases, said the report. “In view of the importance regarding safety and security of the people from the northeast, a nodal officer of the rank of joint commissioner of police Robin Hibu, posted as chief coordinator for northeast people, will be available on email and Whatsapp number 9810083486 for receiving complaints,” it stated.  A Facebook page “Delhi Police For North East Folks” was launched May 5, said the report. The helpline number 1093 has been functioning to receive complaints, and is being monitored by the deputy commissioner of police. It, however, added that the unit was neither authorised to register any case on crimes against northeast people nor prosecute the culprits. “The staff posted there is only monitoring the complaints made by northeast people received from the helpline number 1093, Whatsapp, emails etc. And coordinate the same with the authorities concerned… rest of the action like registration of cases and investigation thereupon is being taken by concerned district police.” In a separate status report, Delhi Police told the court that there was sufficient evidence against two lawyers who allegedly abused and assaulted people from the northeast inside the Tis Hazari court premises in May. The report filed by the SHO of Subzi Mandi police station said the lawyers were thoroughly interrogated and were released on bail after their arrest. (Business Standard 12/8/14)

68. India lost 340 defence personnel in 3 years: Govt

NEW DELHI: India, without going to war, has lost over 340 military personnel in the last three years. Counter-insurgency operations and cross-border firings, road accidents and warship mishaps, have all contributed to the numbers. Defence minister Arun Jaitley, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Tuesday said the Army had lost 217 soldiers inside the country and 14 outside (in UN peace-keeping operations) from 2011 to 2013. The Navy suffered 90 casualties and IAF 19 in the same time period. In a separate answer, Jaitley said 27 soldiers had been killed along the Line of Control with Pakistan from 2004 to 2013. “The government is fully seized of the safety of the Indian soldiers and requisite measures are taken on an ongoing basis for their safety as per the threat envisaged,” he said. (Times of India 13/8/14)

69. Omar hopes those opposing revocation of AFSPA will see reason

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday those opposing the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state will come around as the situation has improved significantly over the past six years. “Those who oppose revocation of the AFSPA will see reason as the situation has improved in the state,” he said in his Independence Day speech at Bakshi Stadium here. The Chief Minister said he has been questioned about raising the AFSPA issue time and again when he has not been able to convince the Centre on its revocation. “Failure should not stop us from trying. We might fail once and twice but when we keep trying, we will succeed,” he said. Omar made a special reference to the improvement security situation in the state during the last more than five and a half years, saying that there has been 80 per cent reduction in militancy-related incidents. He said all schools and hospitals have been vacated from occupation of security forces. Omar said 1000 private buildings, 300 government buildings, 40 hotels and 30 industrial units have also been cleared from the occupation of security forces. On the rehabilitation policy for those youth who had gone to Pakistan or PoK for arms training but renounced violence, he said 350 youth have returned under this policy so far. “Although there are designated routes for return, once they reached home we have helped them in rehabilitation,” he said. The Chief Minister said the passport policy has been made people-friendly and no objection certificates have been issued to three lakh applications. Omar said 1850 youth have been benefited under the Amnesty Policy for those involved in law and order cases. He said warrants under Public Safety Act have been brought down by 40 percent in the last about six years from 2500 in 2008 to 1420 by now. (Zee News 15/8/14)

70. Manipur court orders Irom Sharmila’s release

IMPHAL: An Imphal sessions court on Tuesday ordered human rights activist IromSharmila’s release, accepting her plea that she did not attempt suicide by fasting unto death. Sharmila has been on a fast for 13 years, demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to armed forces in disturbed areas. She had moved the sessions court (Manipur East), challenging an earlier order on June 4 which had pronounced her guilty under Section 309 of the IPC (attempt to commit suicide). Sharmila is currently being forced-fed through her nose in the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here. Noted rights lawyer Khaidem Mani, who appeared on her behalf, said she did not attempt suicide, but was protesting against the AFSPA in a democratic manner. Judge A Guneshwar Sharma said no evidence pointed to Sharmila trying to fast unto death. He added such allegations have found place in the FIR and chargesheet against her and in uncorroborated news reports. “Since the petitioner is not refusing force-feeding, it cannot be said she is fasting unto death,” said the judge, while dismissing the earlier order. He said the state government may take appropriate measures to ensure her health and safety, such as force-feeding, in case she decides to continue with her fast. Amnesty International chief executive G Ananthapadmanabhan said Sharmila should not be punished for exercising her constitutional rights and be released immediately. He said over 16,000 people have so far supported their campaign for her. Nov 2, 2000: Assam Rifles soldiers allegedly kill 10 civilians in Imphal West after a rebel attack, prompting Sharmila to fight against AFSPA Nov 5: Sharmila begins her hunger strike demanding removal of AFSPA from Manipur. Few days later, police arrest her on the charges of attempt to commit suicide Nov 2004: The centre constitutes five-member committee to review AFSPA as it agrees to consider idea of replacing it with a more humane law June 2005: The committee recommends AFSPA repeal (Times of India 20/8/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

71. Trai on media ownership: Restrict political parties, corporate

NEW DELHI: In a bid to check influence on news and views, Trai on Tuesday suggested barring political parties from entering into broadcasting space, while it recommended several restrictions on the corporate houses in this regard. “Ownership is a huge concern… how do you know that a TV channel operated out of Bhopal owned by a local MLA or MP is conveying the truth rather than tinted version of the truth. This is one problem with political ownership,” said Trai chairman Rahul Khullar while releasing recommendations on ‘Issues Relating to Media Ownership’. About corporate ownership, the regulator said, it has to be seen as to how much independence is enjoyed by the editorial team in a media house owned by them. “…to what extent the editorial is actually independent and how thin is the line between the newsroom and the boardroom. Second problem with media corporate ownership is this business of advertorials, private treaties… I am sorry to say it has reached scandalous position… You cannot carry on by passing out advertisements as news,” Khullar added. Trai also recommended that in case of “advertorials”, a clear disclaimer should be mandated, to be printed in bold letters, stating that the succeeding content has been paid for. Commenting on corporates entering media, Trai said: “On grounds of the inherent conflict of interest, the Authority recommends that ownership restrictions on corporates entering the media should be seriously considered by the government and the regulator.” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) suggested that entities including ‘political bodies, religious bodies, central and state government ministries and government funded entities be barred from entry into broadcasting and TV channel distribution sectors’. The regulator even suggested that even surrogates of such entities “should be barred from entering into the sector”.Trai has suggested enactment of a new legislation through a executive decision for it. It has also suggested that an exit route option should be provided in case permission to any such organizations have already been granted. In the recommendations, Trai relies heavily on media articles and TV documentaries to illustrate how political parties own channels in various states and how they and newspapers black out news that are adverse to their interests. (Times of India 12/8/14)

72. Markandey Katju asks media to take leadership against feudalism, poverty

BHUBANESWAR: Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice (retd) Markandey Katju on Monday said that the country had been passing through a very painful and agonizing phase and exhorted the media to take leadership to combat feudal mindset and superstition in the society. “India is now neither feudal nor modern industrial society. It is passing through a very painful and agonizing phase which is likely to continue for another 20 years. The media needs to combat all these social evils,” Katju told the National Council meeting of All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation. “Besides giving information to the people, the media needs to give leadership to people in realm of ideas based on scientific and modern thinking,” he said. Stating that the country is facing massive problems like poverty, unemployment, and superstition, the PCI chairman said though feudal powers in the form of kings and aristocrats had become weak, these elements still existed in the country and people would have to create new organ devoid of feudal authority. Media has to give leadership to the people in creating such a body to fight feudal authority and superstition, he said, citing examples of Europe where thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau played a major role in transforming the then feudal society into modern society. Katju said people were still reluctant to allow inter-caste marriage and there is a need to bring about a change. (Times of India 18/8/14)

73. MNS chief lashes out at social media

Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday criticised social media for not being responsible about information sharing. The comment came after a section of media reported that industrialists Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani would release the party’s much-hyped blueprints for the Assembly polls. Irked by the news, Mr Thackeray said, “I did not know if Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani were coming for the blue print release. Be aware of social media. It has no responsibility about its information.” Raj was speaking at a function in Thane. He also said that the medium itself is not bad, but information goes viral without users knowing the originator of the news. Party sources said that the issue of the blueprints is very close to Mr Thackeray and he was very upset about the stories and information that was circulated through social media. After announcing that he would contest the Assembly polls for the first time, Mr Thackeray remained tightlipped. Party leaders have been saying that the MNS chief was busy making blue prints for the state, but, the party has yet to release them. Asked about his silence, he replied, “It’s not true, we are working on a few things.” There is curiosity among party workers as to the seat from where Mr Thackeray is going to contest. However, Mr Thackeray said, “I will let you know at the right time.” (Asian Age 18/8/14)

74. 20,000 rally in Bangladesh against media crackdown

Dhaka: At least 20,000 opposition supporters rallied in the Bangladeshi capital on Tuesday to demand the abolition of a new government policy that critics say would muzzle independent television and radio stations. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 19 allies staged the rally as they launched a string of fresh protests aimed at forcing early elections. The protests come just months after the ruling Awami League party won parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the opposition. Between 20,000 and 25,000 people, defying driving monsoon rains, attended the rally in the capital’s historic Suhrawardy Uddyan garden, police inspector Sirajul Islam told AFP. Senior opposition leader Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the new broadcast policy was “anti-people”, “anti-democracy” and aimed at allowing the government to stay in power forever. “Mass media comes under attack whenever Awami League comes to power,” Alamgir said, charging that the broadcast policy was designed to silence dissent and conceal government misdeeds. The government approved the new policy early this month following a string of media reports alleging government corruption. The Bangladesh chapter of anti-graft group Transparency International has said the policy clashes with the country’s constitution as it bans the broadcast of any programme that undermines or ridicules the armed forces, law enforcement agencies or officers. “The policy conflicts with the country’s constitution, democratic norms and values, human rights and Right to Information Act,” its chief, Sultana Kamal, said last week. The government has rejected charges that the policy goes against the constitution. Tuesday’s rally was the first major protest by BNP-led opposition parties since they boycotted the January 5 polls, alleging they would be rigged.  (Pioneer 20/8/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

75. Communal violence bill: Sonia Gandhi vows to fight BJP’s divisive politics

New Delhi: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday held Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meet over the communal violence bill that is going to be debated in Parliament later in the day. During the meet, Sonia Gandhi said: “It is a challenging time. Our numbers have reduced in Lok Sabha but not in Rajya Sabha.” She reiterated that there has been an increase in sectarian violence since the new government took over. Hitting out at the NDA, Gandhi said that Narendra Modi-led government hasn’t broken new grounds. “It imitated our schemes,” added the Congress chief. Noting that “narrow political considerations cannot take predominance”, Gandhi told the CPC members to forget internal differences, be together, and work hard to get party back to power. She also warned that the moment the BJP behaves in a dictatorial way, “we will stand up and fight”. “We’ll fight divisive and authoritative politics of BJP and bounce back.” Meanwhile, the party has given notice of adjournment motion in Lok Sabha to discuss the issue. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, earlier in the day, hit out at the Centre, saying his party wanted a discussion in Lok Sabha on rising communal violence in the country, but the government was not responding. On Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi attacked the Narendra Modi government, saying the communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra were “created deliberately to divide our society”. The government rubbished the charges, and called them “baseless”.Her attack on the Modi government came after her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi slammed the Centre on the issue. He held an unprecedented noisy protest and also trooped to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s podium on August 06, demanding a debate on rising communal violence in Uttar Pradesh. In the meantime, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee targeted the BJP without naming it, saying some political parties were trying to cause a communal divide in the state and warned that her party will take strong action against those fomenting riots. (Zee News 13/8/14)

76. BJP not taking communal violence seriously: Congress

NEW DELHI: The issue of “communal violence” was taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday after the Congress protested in the morning over the delay in slotting it despite being listed in the business for three days running. Even after the Speaker agreed to discuss it soon after the passage of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, the issue forced an adjournment as neither the Home Minister nor the Minister of State for Home were in the House when Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was called to initiate the discussion. Their absence was cited by the Congress as testimony to the fact that the government was not taking the issue seriously. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath attacked the Congress saying tears were shed by the party and those who call themselves secular over the attacks on minorities but not when Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their native place. Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Mohd. Salim said an attempt was being made to impose majoritarian opinion on the country. Nationalist Congress Party leader Tariq Anwar said given the apprehension that the minorities have about the BJP, it was important that the government set them at rest by dealing with all people with an even hand. AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi wanted to know if the government would keep as much of an eye on Hindu fundamentalist organisations as it did on Muslim organisations with extremist ideologies. He also wanted to know whether the government thought all citizens of India were Hindus. “If so, then change the Constitution,” he said, while PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti sought to remind Mr. Adityanath that both Hindus and Muslims were killed in the violence in Kashmir. (The Hindu 14/8/14)

77. UP report claims BJP MP incited Saharanpur riots

Lucknow: A war of words erupted between the BJP, Samajwadi Party and others after a report commissioned by the Akhilesh Yadav government into the recent Saharanpur riots on Sunday pointed the finger of blame at a BJP MP, besides noting “administrative lapses” by local officials. The BJP dismissed the report as “politically motivated” and an attempt by UP’s Samajwadi government to hide its “failures”. The five-member committee headed by senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle, submitted its report to the CM on Sunday, in which it questioned the BJP’s role in the clashes. It accused the party’s local MP, Raghav Lakhanpal, of inciting clashes and provoking rioters who torched shops and damaged public property, highly-placed sources said. It also pointed to some laxity by the administration, and recommended stern action against the officials responsible for allowing clashes to take place in order to send out a clear signal to the bureaucracy. “The administration became active only after the violence began and could have taken prompt steps to prevent this,” the report says. “The administration should not have allowed any construction at the disputed site or members of opposite community to assemble. The holy month of Ramzan was on, and adequate preventive steps should have been taken,” the report says. Trashing the allegations, Mr Lakhanpal said the report reflected the “low-level politics” of the SP, that was trying to “appease” one community ahead of Assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. “It is politically motivated. I have been praised for my efforts to end to the violence and restore peace. The government should have thanked me instead of levelling false allegations,” the MP said in Saharanpur. The five-member committee also included Shivakant Ojha (minister for technical education), Arvind Singh Gope (minister for rural development) and SP leaders Ashu Malik and Haji Ikram Qureshi, who is also its district president in Saharanpur. Dismissing the report, UP BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said while one hand it blamed administrative failure, on the other it pointed to an individual (BJP MP). “When there is an administrative failure, how come the BJP is held responsible? What else do you expect from the SP, which has been blaming the BJP repeatedly to conceal its own failures,” he said. Union home minister Rajnath Singh said he would not comment as it was a “report of a political party” and he had not seen it. BSP supremo Mayawati, meanwhile, targeted both the SP and BJP, alleging the two parties were “hand in glove” in fanning communal violence in the state. She said the “actual facts” were buried and the report had little meaning. “The BJP and SP are hand in glove. The report has not put forth the actual facts. It has little meaning. We do not accept the report,” Ms Mayawati said. Violence had erupted in Saharanpur’s Kutubshahr area on July 26 when members of two communities clashed for several hours over a land dispute. The violence had claimed three lives and left over 35 people injured. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

COMMUNALISM

78. Cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says

CUTTACK: If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, came a poser from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday. “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture,” Bhagwat said while speaking at the ‘Golden Jubilee’ function of an Odia weekly here. The RSS chief further went on to say that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all. Referring to Vivekananda, Bhagwat said not worshipping any God is not necessarily an atheist rather the one who doesn’t have faith in self is sure an atheist. He said the world has now realised that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says that Hindutva is a way of life. He, however, expressed concern saying that some in India are not realising it and whenever a discussion on it takes place, the protagonist are wrongly branded as communal. Speaking on the current world scenario, the RSS leader said there is darkness everywhere and the world at large is looking at India for solace because India still marches on the path of righteousness. “As long as dharma exists in India, the world will continue to respect this country. But once dharma is gone, no force on earth can stop the country from crumbling,” the RSS leader warned. (Times of India 11/8/14)

79. VHP to reach out to public in golden jubilee year

NEW DELHI: In an effort to expand its base and increase its connect with the community, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is planning a host of programmes as a part of its golden jubilee celebrations over the next 12 months. While the year-long celebrations will begin with shobha yatras across the country including the national Capital on upcoming Krishna Janmashtmi, VHP’s Delhi unit will host a Virat Hindu Sammelan early next year, the office-bearers said. “The celebrations are being organised to reach out to the people with our achievements over the last 50 years. We will also reveal programmes which we plan to execute in future for community welfare. We have set a target to induct 25,000 dedicated members in the golden jubilee year to strengthen the Hindu community,” said regional VHP president Rikhab Chand Jain. The saffron unit will also organise blood donations camp with a target of getting 10,000 blood units and will also undertake tree plantation. It will also distribute tulsi plants in all the households. On whether other wings of the Sangh Parivar including the Bharatiya Janata Party would be participating in these celebrations, Delhi VHP secretary Ramkrishna Srivastava said: “This is the Golden Jubilee celebration of the VHP. So it would be held solely by us.” (The Hindu 13/8/14)

80. VHP to focus on preventing conversions

MUMBAI: In the next 25 years, the VHP will work to spread its base to “every village” and “corner of the cities,” said senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia, speaking at a ceremony to celebrate 50 years of the right-wing organisation. Apart from the awareness campaigns, ‘Hindu Sammelans’ will be organised in each district, including a major one in Mumbai in December. The VHP also gave hints that the issue of conversions would rank high on its agenda. Pointing out that the VHP had ensured the return into Hinduism of seven lakh Christians and Muslims and prevented 40,000 Hindus from converting, Mr. Togadia said the organisation would now work to ensure that no Hindu was was converted. Sharing the stage with the VHP and RSS leaders was the former Indian Space Research Organisation chairman Madhavan Nair, who drew parallels between spirituality and science. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

81. Hindutva is the identity of our nation, RSS chief says

MUMBAI: Stoking yet another controversy, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today said India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity.”Hindustan is a Hindu nation…Hindutva is the identity of our nation and it (Hinduism) can incorporate others (religions) in itself,” he said. Last week, Bhagwat had said in Cuttack, “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture.” If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, he had posed. Bhagwat was in Mumbai today on the occasion of Krishna Janamashtami to attend the inauguration programme of the golden jubilee celebrations of the VHP, that was founded in Mumbai on August 29-30, 1964. He said the goal of VHP in the coming five years would be to ensure equality among the Hindus of the nation. “For the next 5 years we have to work with the aim of bringing equality among all the Hindus in the country. All Hindus should be drinking water at one place, should be praying at one place and after their death, their bodies should be burnt at the same place,” he said. (Times of India 18/8/14)

82. Mohan Bhagwat statements under attack

Mumbai: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement terming India as ‘Hindu nation’ has sparked a controversy in the political circle on Sunday as Congress, CPI-M and Samajwadi Party launched a scathing attack on him. “Hindutva is the real identity of our country and Hindustan is a Hindu nation,” Bhagwat had said on Saturday while attending a golden jubilee function of the VHP in Mumbai. The comment has attracted lot of flak from the Congress leader Anand Sharma calling Bhagwat as ‘Hitler’. Sharma said equating Hindu and Hindutva is “belittling” the philosophy and richness of Hinduism. Congress general secretary leader Digvijay Singh tweeted “I thought we had one Hitler in making but it seems now we have Two! God save India!” Observing that various statements made by Bhagwat on the issue militated against the secularism, the CPI-M Politburo said, “Hindutva is a majoritarian concept which is part of the narrow and divisive agenda of the RSS.” “These provocative statements are designed to impose a majoritarian Hindu concept of the nation. The RSS and its various outfits are making a plethora of such objectionable statements ever since the BJP formed the government,” the CPI(M) said. Coming down heavily on Bhagwat, Samajwadi Party accused the Sangh of practising politics of “hatred and separatism.” “They use such words and language to fan social tension,” SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said. Maharshtra unit of Aam Admi Party has termed the statement by Bhagwat as dangerous. “Statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva can assimilate other religions into it, is a dangerous indication of things to come. It is sad that the BJP and the RSS are dividing the society on communal lines to get political mileage in upcoming assembly elections, but the damage that they are inflicting to the secular fabric of Indian society will remain forever,” it said. The VHP programme was attended by VHP leader Praveen Togadia, Jagtguru Madhavacharya Swami Shri Vishweshwar Tirthani Maharaj, Mahamandaleshwa Swami Shri Vishwashwar Nandgiri Maharaj, ISRO’s former chief Madhavan Nair. A new symbol was the VHP unveiled in the programme. (Asian Age 19/8/14)

TERRORISM

83. Arya Samaj Market blast case: All 4 accused acquitted

PATIALA: All four accused, whom the prosecution had termed as members of the terror outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), were on Monday acquitted by a local court in the Arya Samaj Market blast case. The accused were arrested by Patiala police around a month after the blast at Arya Samaj Market – a busy market area in the interior Patiala city – near popular Satyanarayan temple in April 2010. During the trial, the cause of blast remained a mystery and police failed to prove that the accused had planted any bomb near the temple. The explosion took place on April 20, 2010 and police suspected that the accused had planted an explosive substance under a water cooler installed outside the religious place. Seven persons, including two policemen, were injured in the blast. All four accused – Jaswinder Singh, Manjinder Singh and Gurjant Singh, residents of Patiala district, and Harminder Singh of Ludhiana – arrested under Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sections 4 and 5 of the Explosives Substances Act, were acquitted after the defense picked several lacunae in the prosecution theory. “Interestingly, it took the police eight days to register an FIR in the case. Police recorded statements of the eyewitness after 15 days who alleged that he had seen the accused wandering in the locality days before the incident. Statement of another eyewitness was recorded after four months on August 11, 2010. Prosecution failed to convince the court why eyewitnesses took so long to record their statement,” said defense counsel Brijinder Singh Sodhi. Sodhi said another loophole in the prosecution theory was that police didn’t conduct any identification parade of accused to testify their presence in the area from independent witnesses. (Times of India 12/8/14)

84. UN Security Council blacklists Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council took aim at Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday, blacklisting six people including the Islamic State spokesman and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the insurgents. The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken the Islamic State — an al-Qaida splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate — and al-Qaida’s Syrian wing Nusra Front. Islamic State has long been blacklisted by the Security Council, while Nusra Front was added earlier this year. Both groups are designated under the UN al-Qaida sanctions regime. Friday’s resolution named six people who will be subject to an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo, including Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, an Iraqi described by UN experts as one of the group’s “most influential emirs” and close to its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State’s swift and brutal push to the borders of Iraq’s autonomous ethnic Kurdish region and toward Baghdad has sparked the first US air strikes in Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. The Security Council resolution “deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of ISIL (Islamic State) and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It also blacklisted Said Arif, a former Algerian army officer who escaped house arrest in France in 2013 and joined Nusra Front in Syria, and Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al-Charekh of Saudi Arabia, dubbed “a leading terrorist internet propagandist” who heads Nusra Front in Syria’s Latakia district. Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali and Hajjaj bin Fahd al-Ajmi, both from Kuwait, were sanctioned for allegedly providing financial support to Nusra Front – Ajmi’s fundraising includes at least one Twitter campaign, according UN experts – while Abdelrahman Mouhamad Zafir al Dabidi al Jahani of Saudi Arabia was named because he runs Nusra Front’s foreign fighter networks. Britain initially aimed to adopt the text by the end of August, but accelerated its plan after a surge by Islamic State, which poses the biggest threat to Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2003. The resolution condemns the recruitment of foreign fighters and expresses readiness to blacklist people financing or facilitating travel of foreign fighters. It expresses concern that revenue generated from oilfields captured by both groups is being used to organize attacks. Islamic State militants are selling oil from oilfields in Iraq and refineries they control to local communities and smugglers, augmenting their existing ample finances, US intelligence officials said on Thursday. The resolution condemns any direct or indirect trade with Islamic State or Nusra Front and warns such moves could lead to sanctions. It asks UN experts – charged with monitoring violations of the council’s al-Qaida sanctions regime – to report in 90 days on the threat posed by Islamic State and Nusra Front, and on details of their recruitment and funding. The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes it legally binding for UN member states and gives the council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force. However, it does not mandate military force to tackle the insurgents. (Times of India 16/8/14)

85. RBI bars 6 ISIS men from holding accounts

New Delhi: Taking a cue from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposing a global travel ban and asset freeze against six leaders in the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) and its allied organisations for recruiting or financing foreign fighters, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has promptly followed suit. An RBI notification dated August 14 says: “…it should be ensured that the name/s of the proposed customer does not appear in the list. Further, banks should scan all existing accounts to ensure that no account is held by or linked to any of the entities or individuals included in the list.” “As far as freezing of funds, financial assets or economic resources or related services held in the form of bank accounts of the designated individuals/entities are concerned, action should be taken as detailed…”The six additions to the list of terrorists who either recruited foreigners or helped raise finance to perpetrate acts supporting ISIS’s terror activities include Al-Adnani, the group’s spokesperson. The group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi already has a $10 million US bounty on his head. RBI’s list already includes Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted terror mastermind. Another interesting name that figured in the list is that of Bahaziq who was born in undivided Indian and led the Lashkar-e-Taiba ranks in Saudi Arabia. The five latest additions to the list are Al Jahani, Said Arif, Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi, Al Charekh and Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali. The first four recruited foreigners for ISIS or helped raise finances for Jabhat al-Nusra. While al Adnani, ISIS spokesperson, has been blacklisted for financing and perpetrating acts supporting ISIS, Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali has been blacklisted for helping finance both al-Nusra and ISIS. ISIS’ ranks is said to have an estimated 14,000 foreign fighters hailing from south-east Asia to Europe to Canada. Indian intelligence reports speak of at least 22 Indians in ISIS ranks. “The main problem is the havoc these fighters are capable of creating after their return to their own countries,” said Ajai Sahni, a counter terrorism expert. (Hindustan Times 17/8/14)

86. Munger arms link to terror outfit

Hizbul Mujahideen, a dreaded terrorist outfit, has got route to Bihar’s infamous Munger-made illegal arms trade. The startling fact came to the fore during preliminary interrogation of alleged arms suppliers — Arun Kumar Singh, Jamshed Alam and Surendra Paswan — arrested from Munger’s Mirzapur Bardaha village last week. Four pistols, six mobiles and Rs 45,000 were found on them. The three alleged gunrunners revealed to the anti-terrorism squad and the officials of the intelligence agencies that they used to provide Munger-made weapons to the operatives of Hizbul Mujahideen and other terrorist outfits. The consignments were mostly sent by trains through Punjab. Both Munger superintendent of police Varun Kumar Sinha and additional superintendent of police Sanjay Kumar Singh refused to share information on the pretext of the case being highly sensitive in nature. “The entire operation was carried out by the sleuths of the state’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS). We only cooperated with them,” Singh said. A senior officer with the intelligence agency said Jamshed Alam, a native of Mirzapur Bardaha village in Munger, was in the illegal trade for long. Arun, a resident of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested when he had come to receive the consignments from Jamshed in Munger on August 12. The officer said Arun alias Vikku, was associated with the Azamgarh module of the Indian Mujahideen, the outfit purportedly responsible for both Patna and Bodhgaya serial bomb blasts. “We have come to know that Arun was earlier arrested by the UP police,” the officer said. Arun was arrested after the ATS intercepted his telephonic conversation with the Munger-based arms dealer, Jamshed. Jamshed (22) is learnt to have admitted links with terrorist outfits, including Hizbul and other gangs operating outside Bihar. “The militant outfits prefer to purchase weapon from Munger for its low cost and better quality,” the intelligence officer quoted Jamshed as saying. (The Telegraph 18/8/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Gadchiroli special forces kill two Naxalites in gun battle on hill (12)

Mumbai: C60 commandos and Special Action Group of the Maharashtra police gunned down two Maoists in the Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district on Tuesday morning. The Gadchiroli police said that both the men were actively involved in violence and two weapons have been seized from them. According to the police, the incident took place around 8 am at Devgad hill in Khobramendha village in Kurkheda tehsil. Acting on a tip off, 40-odd men from the two special forces of the police department went in search of Naxals in the hills when they got caught in the crosshairs of around seven to eight extremists. In the ensuing gun battle, most of the Naxals fled but the forces shot down two of them who succumbed to their injuries. They were armed with a self-loading rifle and a .303 rifle (a gun used during the British Raj). Both weapons have been recovered and the police suspect they might have been stolen from their armory. The dead have been identified as Sonu and Krishna. Their bodies have been sent for an autopsy. A few men from the force have suffered minor injuries in the incident. The forces have intensified their long distance patrolling. The Maharashtra police has been aggressively taking on Naxalism. Its anti-Naxal operation in 2013 saw the killing of 26 Naxals in police encounters. According to government records, this is the highest figure since 1980. Incidentally, the number of Naxals being arrested has come down in the last year. (Asian Age 13/8/14)

88. Naxals trigger IED explosion, one CRPF jawan injured

RAIPUR:A CRPF jawan was on Friday injured in an IED explosion triggered by naxals in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The incident occurred in the restive Tadmetla forests under Chintalnar police outpost limits when the paramilitary personnel were on an operation to cordon off the region, Sukma Superintendent of Police D Shrawan told PTI. A squad of Central Reserve Police Force was on an area domination exercise in Chintagufa forests, located around 500 kms away from Raipur, early this morning. When they reached near Tademtla, naxals triggered a land mine blast and opened indiscriminate firing on security forces leaving one of them injured, the SP said. However, when security forces launched retaliatory attack Maoists fled to the core forests, he added. Soon after being informed, reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured jawan was admitted to a local hospital, he said. A search operation has been launched to nab the attackers, he added. (Times of India 15/8/14)

89. Four Maoists killed in Bastar encounter

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police on Saturday claimed to have killed “at least three to four Maoists” in Narayanpur district of South Chhattisgarh. “A police team carrying out area domination exercise near Horna village came under fire from the Maoists. When police returned the fire, the Maoists managed to escape into the forest. But at least three to four of them must have been killed in the encounter because our Jawans saw them (Maoists) dragging wounded bodies into the forest,” Narayanpur District Superintendent of Police (SP) Amit Kamble told The Hindu. “We have recovered a country made gun, some detonators and secret Maoist literature from the spot of the encounter. From the blood stains on the spot and the secret documents which they (Maoists) usually never leave behind, we can claim that many of them were fatally wounded in the encounter,” added the SP. However, the police couldn’t recover dead bodies of the Maoists. (The Hindu 16/8/14)

90. Naidu Commission Asks Maoist Leader to Depose

BHUBANESWAR: Justice AS Naidu Commission has issued notice on Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda to record his statement before it by September 5 in connection with the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and the communal riots that ensued in Kandhamal district in 2008. The notice has been served on Sabyasachi through the Home Department. He has been given the choice of recording his statement before the Commission in person or through his lawyer. Only after the statement is recorded the panel will take a call on cross-examination process, Justice Naidu told mediapersons. Sabyasachi is currently in the custody of Berhampur SDJM after the completion of remand by the Crime Branch of State Police in connection with the attacks on Nayagarh district police armoury in 2008. The Crime Branch, which is also probing the Laxmananada Saraswati murder, has submitted petition for Sabyasachi’s remand. The remand petition has been filed before Baliguda SDJM Court. On August 11, Baliguda SDJM Court had directed Kandhamal SP to produce Sabyasachi on August 13 but in view of Independence Day arrangements, the District Police had expressed its inability to provide necessary security to the Maoist leader’s production process. There are over 20 cases pending against Sabyasachi in different police stations of Kandhamal. He is stated to be the brain behind Saraswati’s murder that unleashed communal violence in the district six years back. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

91. Three Cobra jawans injured in encounter with Naxals

Raipur: Three Cobra jawans were on Tuesday injured in a gun-battle between paramilitary forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Dantewada district. The encounter took place in the forests of Kodanar under Aranpur Police Station limits when security forces were returning after an anti-Naxal operation in the region early this morning, Dantewada Superintendent of Police, Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI. A squad of Cobra’s (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action), a specialised unit of CRPF, 201 battalion was mobilised from Jagargunda (Sukma) for anti-Naxal operations since Monday. On their way back to their camp when security forces reached Kodanar forests, a group of armed Naxals opened indiscriminate firing on them leaving three jawans injured. However rebels fled to the core forest, when the jawans retaliated, the SP said. Soon after being informed, reinforcement was rushed to the spot, he said, adding the injured personnel are being retrieved from the forests. (The Hindu 19/8/14)

TRAFFICKING

92. Girl’s rescue in Delhi exposes trafficking racket in Bengal

Kolkata: The rescue of the 16-year-old girl, haling from Haroa in North 24 Parganas, from a red light area in Delhi last week, seems to have busted a trafficking racket. North 24 Parganas police have arrested Sk Sabir alias Rohit, the main accused, who kidnapped and trafficked the girl. “The investigation has revealed that the accused is a habitual offender and we are probing whether he has trafficked other girls out of the State,” Bhaskar Mukherjee, Additional Superintendent of Police, North 24 Parganas, told The Hindu on Monday. Mr. Mukherjee said that another woman Tanjina Khatum, an accomplice of the main accused, who used to befriend young girls, has also been detained. The police said they have rescued another minor from the custody of Khatum. Meanwhile, the police have learnt that Sabir was in touch with two more young girls and was trying to lay a trap for them. It has also been learnt that the main accused is a resident of Purba Medinipur and operated in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts. Sabir was arrested on August 9. During a joint raid by representatives of a non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, West Bengal police, and the Delhi police, a 16-year-old student of class X was rescued earlier this month. The girl was abducted in June and her brother and other relatives went to Delhi to rescue her. A trafficker identified as Roshni, and hailing from the State was arrested in Delhi and brought to the State. Rishi Kanta, an activist with Shakti Vahini, said the development points to a trafficking racket operating out of the State. “Since the source trafficker has been arrested he believed that he is involved in other cases of trafficking and it requires attention of a special agency,” he said, adding that the organisation will be writing to the State Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. The activist added that there is a need to expand the ambit of investigation and bring those operating in Delhi in the purview of investigation. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

93. App tries to combat child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: It an ongoing dilemma for Delhiites how to help children begging at red lights and on streets? Now, there is a solution to deal with this tricky situation. Two techies have created a mobile application that uses technology to help combat child trafficking and kidnapping. Called Helping Faceless, the new app has been developed by Shashank Singh and Amol Gupta, computer engineers based in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. The mobile app is available on the Android platform. The idea is simple Click a picture of the child you see and upload it on the app. With the help of these pictures, a search process is initiated in order to match them with the previous records. All of this is handled by the app itself. If a match is found, the app forwards this information to non-profit organisations who then help connect these children with their respective families. While there are several legislations and enactments in place to fight child trafficking, it is an evil that fails to die. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 1986 (amended in 2006), Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986, Sections 361, 363-A, 367, 369 of the Indian Penal Code (deal with kidnapping of minors) are present to provide relief to such children and their families. However, the menace of child labour and begging have not been curbed as yet. This app tries to address the woes of the families that lose their children and lack any aid from the authorities. Shashank Singh, the app creator, told this newspaper that he and his partner have received quite a few offers from national and foreign organisations to help them locate the missing children. “It is fairly recent work, we are still working to tieup with NGOs to take up our initiative at a national level. The project is only a few months old, but the results have been fairly impressive. The app has been able to locate three children. It is the idea behind the cause that drives us to work for it,” Mr Singh said. Explaining the details of the project, Mr Singh said that it is not an easy task to locate and match the missing children. “How long does it take to match the children varies from one situation to other. The time ranges from 10 minutes to a few days. We have some unmatched photos that are waiting for counter-photos from our volunteers. So there is a chance that one of you will upload a photo of a child who needs help and we will get a match in these un-matched photos, effectively getting us into action.” (Asian Age 16/8/14)

94. Trafficking kingpin reveals nexus with politicians, PLFI

Ranchi: Trafficking kingpin Baba Bamdev alias Baba Ramji Maharaj, who was arrested on Saturday night, has told police that traffickers have links with Maoist splinter group People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and also with top politicians of the state, sources said. During interrogation, Bamdev also named two members of the PLFI who were in touch with him and also had the address and contact numbers of these two rebels. Interrogating officer Aradhna Singh, who is the coordinator of Khunti police’s anti-human trafficking unit, said, “Bamdev confessed to having links with Panna Lal and Keenu Munda, members of PLFI, who were well known traffickers before joining the outlawed outfit. He said he used to move around in the state with Panna Lal and also gave us his address.” Singh said Bamdev had admitted to giving shelter to PLFI members when they used to flee to Delhi during search operations in Jharkhand and also supplied girls to them. He also confessed that these PLFI members also used to provide him shelter in Jharkhand and help him with his “business”.Bamdev ran several NGOs in Delhi and organized fairs and gatherings on behalf of his NGO ‘Native Adivasi Development Seva Sansthan’, in which tribal girls from Jharkhand who worked as domestic helps in Delhi participated. Baidynath Kumar, member of Diya Seva Sansthan, which played an important role in the arrest of the trafficker said, “The fair is organized by Bamdev every year with girls from all placement agencies that runs under his aegis are brought together. A team of Jharkhand CID had raided the fair at Punjabi Bagh area of Delhi, where his NGO is also situated, on December 25, 2012, and rescued 84 girls who were drugged or locked up in various rooms on the fair premises.” As per Bamdev’a statement, there are 4,000 placement agencies in Punjabi Bagh and 10,000 across Delhi. During interrogation Bamdev also reportedly confessed to having links with various top political leaders of Jharkhand. Bamdev had also used a photograph of another former chief minister in the banners of the fair he used to organize in Delhi. Singh said, “He said a former chief minister of Jharkhand had once participated in his fair. He also claimed to have good relations with an MLA and had also visited the Vidhan Sabha with him in his car.” However, on being contacted, the MLA denied knowing any person named Bamdev and said, “I do not know him, nobody sits in my car with me other than the driver and a guard.” Meanwhile, secretary of Diya Seva Sansthan, Sita Swansi, has received three threat calls since the arrest of Bamdev. Baidynath said, “The caller said ‘you are behind his capture, so be prepared to face the consequences’. We will be writing to CID and DGP about these threat calls,” Baidyanath said. Bamdev is in Latehar jail and a special team of Delhi police will soon be arriving to take him to Delhi, where four cases of trafficking and rape are registered against him. (Times of India 18/8/14)

95. Mysorean booked for trafficking in human

MYSORE: A Mysorean was arrested for trafficking in human and a teenage girl was rescued from his custody by city cops recently. The girl is from Brahmavara in Udupi district. Vijayanagara cops said Sunil, a Mysorean, was arrested after his neighbour tip-off cops about his unlawful business on Sunday. He had allegedly paid Rs 8000 to Sameer, also from Udupi, and had taken the girl into his custody few days ago. Cops say quoting the girl that Sameer had abused her for few weeks in Bangalore and Chennai before handing her over to Sunil. Police say we have taken up a case of trafficking against Sunil and search is underway for Sameer. (Times of India 19/8/14)

CORRUPTION

96. Jaipur Municipal Corporation CEO removed following corruption case filed against him

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government on Tuesday removed IAS officer Lalchand Aswal from the post of Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) CEO, a day after the Anti Corruption Bureau registered an FIR against him. Aswal who was to retire from the service next month has been accused of running a corruption racket in the civic body. The ACB had earlier arrested executive engineer Purushottam Jeshwani with Rs 15 lakh unaccounted money. During interrogation Jeshwani allegedly implicated Aswal and said that he was taking the money to the CEO. ACB officials said that they are moving ahead in their investigation against Aswal. “We on Tuesday quizzed over 15 employees and officers of the JMC’s accounting and records section. They are being quizzed to ascertain as to how the payment was released to contractors and the CEO’s intervention in these matters,” said an ACB officer. The officer said that the agency is also studying the 46 files seized from Jeshwani in front of Aswal’s house on Sunday. “If the files were to be handed over to CEO for release of payment to few contractors who would pay the commission for awarding the work, we are trying to find these favours in the files,” said the officer. The CEO’s post has been taken over by Gyan Chand, an RAS officer previously posted as joint secretary in PHED in Jaipur. The officer added that after corroborating the evidences with what came up during preliminary investigation they would send a notice to Aswal. Purushottam Jeshwani arrested with unaccounted money in front of Lalchand Aswal’s house on SundayFIR lodged against Aswal under Prevention of Corruption Act and 120B of IPC on Monday. Aswal is accused of taking commission from contractors to issue work orders and payments Aswal removed from post on Tuesday. ACB quizzes JMC employees and seizes record suggesting Aswal allegedly used to issue orders verbally for release of payments. (Times of India 13/8/14)

97. CBI gets custody of two accused in censor board bribe case

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday obtained a five-day custody of the two accused who have been arrested for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs. 70,000 on behalf of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief executive officer Rakesh Kumar. Although Mr. Kumar has not been arrested yet, CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad said, investigations against him are under way. The agency’s anti-corruption unit on Thursday conducted searches on the Mumbai premises of Mr. Kumar following allegations that he had demanded and received bribes for issuing certificate to a Chhattisgarhi film. The CBI initially received a complaint from an authorised agent alleging that Shripati Mishra, another authorised agent for censor certification, had demanded Rs. 70,000 on behalf of the CBFC CEO for urgently issuing a certificate for regional language Chhattisgarhi Mor Dauki Ke Bihav. The film was scheduled to be released on August 15, 2014. Based on the complaint, the agency laid a trap and arrested Shripati Mishra and Sarvesh Jaiswal, Advisory Panel member, CBFC-Mumbai, for allegedly accepting the bribe amount. Both the accused were produced before a court that remanded them to police custody of the CBI till August 20. (The Hindu 15/8/14)

98. Mumbai: ACB to upload photos of corrupt on FB

Mumbai: In a bid to check corruption and embarrass the offenders, the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) is planning to launch a page on a popular social networking site where it would upload the pictures of those caught for taking bribes. “In a bid to intensify our action against corrupt and reach out to people, we are planning to use the popular platform of Facebook in a week time,” said director general of police (ACB) Pravin Dixit. The Facebook page, if started, will have the pictures of the accused, besides the details of the bribe amount the accused took, valuables and other documents recovered from him/her during searches at office and home, police said. The ACB, which has laid as many as 744 traps so far this year, a 114% jump from the same period last year, has been for the past two months publishing pictures of those caught in the act on its own website. During the 744 traps till August 16, it has arrested 1009 government employees and their associates, who are private individuals. In the same period last year, 348 traps were laid in which 452 were arrested. “The reason why we are considering this idea is that it will damage the image of the arrested accused and it will deter others from accepting bribe,” said another official. If the pictures and other details are uploaded on the social networking site, the accused would be embarrassed in front of their family and friends and they may not indulge in such acts in future, if reinstated in their service, police said. (Hindustan Time 17/8/14)

99. Antony panel blames inflation, corruption for Congress debacle in Lok Sabha poll

NEW DELHI: Putting the blame for Congress’s defeat on the Manmohan Singh government, an in-house inquiry is learnt to have found inflation as the reason for the party’s worst-ever performance in Lok Sabha elections. The AK Antony panel is also learnt to have listed indiscipline, corruption and media as the factors that contributed to the Congress collapse. Price rise, which dogged the entire tenure of UPA-2, drove voters away from Congress, the panel is learnt to have said. Almost every leader from states that the probe panel interacted with is learnt to have told the Antony panel that persistently high food prices neutralized the effect that Congress campaign was supposed to have on its supporters and the middle class. The picking on inflation, a direct indictment of the government, comes alongside the panel calling the defeat a collective failure and absolving key party campaigners of responsibility. According to sources, there is also stress on how the perception of corruption against the UPA killed its chances with voters. The three-year-long NDA campaign over various scams, especially 2G, dented the credibility of the Congress regime beyond repair. While inflation and corruption are known reasons for the rout that blew away the ruling party, sources said the Antony panel has also pointed out that indiscipline cost the Congress dearly. The split between chief ministers and party presidents and general factionalism in state units prevented the party from pulling in one direction. Infighting was a feature of UPA government in the form of turf wars among central ministers that virtually jammed policy-making and presented UPA-2 as a divided house… (Times of India 19/8/14)

100. CBFC CEO received Rs. 30 lakh for out-of-turn certification, says CBI

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation has said that Rakesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Board of Film Certification, has made over Rs. 30 lakh by issuing film certification out of turn during the seven-and-a-half months he had been in office. The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry suspended Mr. Kumar. The Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Film Society of India has been given additional charge as CBFC head. Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar ordered that steps be taken to make the film certification process transparent. Seeking permission for his custodial interrogation, the CBI told a special court here on Tuesday that Kumar used to demand up to Rs. 25,000 for screening of a feature film within seven or eight days and up to Rs. 1.5 lakh for screening within three or four days instead of the routine 15 days. The rate was Rs. 15,000 for screening of a short film within a day and early certification. The certification was done within three days for a short film, promo, trailer or ad film if Kumar was paid Rs. 2,000, though three days were normally required. The rate was Rs. 10,000 for certification on the same day of application, the agency said. The court remanded Kumar, arrested on Monday on cheating and corruption charges, in CBI custody until Friday. A senior officer privy to the investigation said all movies, short films and ad films cleared during Kumar’s tenure were under the scanner. They included two big-banner Bollywood movies released recently. The case came to light after an agent approached the CBI saying he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs. 70,000 for getting certification for the release of his regional movie, Mor Dauki Ke Bihav, on August 15. The CBI said that of the 15 to 20 authorised agents associated with the CBFC, Kumar had a coterie of four or five and used to clear only those movies routed through them. “If any producer or director approached Kumar through agents outside his coterie, he used to deny certification. He then used to contact the producers and directors and ask them to get in touch with his set of agents,” a senior CBI official told The Hindu. “Another accused, Sarvesh Jaiswal, used to demand the bribe on Kumar’s behalf. The bribe was then delivered at his South Mumbai home. (The Hindu 20/8/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

101. World Bank to fund ecologically safe power projects

KOLKATA: A World Bank economist has said that the lender will fund only those hydropower projects where safeguards are in place to prevent any adverse impact on the environment. “We are prepared to support only those good hydro-power projects in India which make economic sense as well as take socio-environment safeguards very seriously,” Michael Toman, lead economist on climate change in World Bank told PTI here during a visit to the city. “The impact in terms of environment, relocation of people, and availability of water to farmers should be minimum. We want all these environment and social factors to be taken care of,” he said when asked to comment on protests against power projects in states like Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. World Bank lends money to a number of development projects in India, including power projects. Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on energy security organised by research body CUTS International, he said large grid-connected power projects have the advantage of being cheaper through the economies of scale. “You also have the benefit of large storage capacity so that electricity is made available throughout the year,” Toman, who is also the manager of the Energy and Environment Team of World Bank, said. Various environmental groups in India have raised concerns over safety of large power projects. Last year’s catastrophic flood in Uttarakhand was also blamed on hydro projects for intensifying the magnitude. Hydropower projects are generally made to generate electricity by making dams and reservoirs to provide hydraulic head and release water through turbines on a schedule that matches energy demands. It is estimated that there are 79 million households in India that have no access to electricity and the country imports 28 per cent of its net energy consumption. Toman said off-grid clean energy projects at a home scale level are important to improve energy access. Praising the government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which aims to create 10,000 MW of clean energy by grid-connected solar power plants during the 12th plan, he said the country going is in the right direction. “India is making a lot of progress steadily to generate electricity,” Toman said. (Business Line 11/8/14)

102. Tibet’s glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years: Report

BEIJING: The Tibetan plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, were warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report. Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research. “Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level,” it said, according to the report on the website of Science and Technology Daily, a state-run newspaper. Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to several of Asia’s main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China’s Yellow and Yangtze, India’s Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in Southeast Asia. In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15 percent – around 8,000 square km (3,100 square miles) – over the past 30 years. The new report said a combination of climate change and human activity on the plateau was likely to cause an increase in floods and landslides there. However, rising temperatures had also improved the local ecosystem, it said. The scientists urged the government to work to reduce human impact on the region’s fragile environment. But Beijing is building a series of large hydropower projects there, with construction of several mega-dams expected to start by 2020. China has built thousands of dams in the past few decades in a bid to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. India, too, is planning a number of hydro plants along the Brahmaputra river – more than 100 proposals are under consideration – as the country strives to boost electricity generation. (Times of India 14/8/14)

103. At least 53 killed in Nepal floods and mudslides

Kathmandu: Flash floods and mudslides following heavy rains have killed at least 53 people in Nepal over the past three days and cut off remote communities in the mountains, the government said on Saturday. The landslides and flooding were triggered by annual monsoon rains since Wednesday, causing rain-soaked earth and rocks to crash down on homes while rivers swelled and washed away low-lying villages. Nepal’s Home Ministry said 75 people were unaccounted for and 36 others were in hospitals and medical centres. It was not immediately clear if the missing people were trapped in their damaged homes, washed away by floods or out of contact due to snapped communication links, officials said. Video clips on television showed people wading through waist-deep water carrying belongings as well as submerged houses. Officials said more than 25 percent of Nepal’s 75 administrative districts were hit by landslides or floods. “More than 200 houses are destroyed while hundreds of other homes are completely under water,” the government said. About 3,500 people have been rescued and housed in school and community buildings, official Punnya Dhakal said. In 2010, British climate consultancy Maplecroft rated mostly mountainous Nepal along with Bangladesh, India, Madagascar and Mozambique as among most vulnerable to climate change impact over the next 30 years. Experts say climate change was causing excessive or scant rains, droughts, floods and landslides. Rains are crucial for impoverished Nepal, which depends on farming. But heavy downpours cause death and destruction every year. Early this month, a massive landslide near Kathmandu buried a village and killed 156 people. It blocked the Sunkoshi River forming a dangerous build up of water prompting authorities in Bihar in east India to evacuate thousands on flood fears. Last year, heavy rains flooded towns and villages, killing thousands in Uttarakhand in neighbouring India while dozens died in Kanchenpur and Darchula districts in west Nepal. (Hindustan Times 16/8/14)

104. People’s Climate March in Delhi Sep 20 to seek action

New Delhi: Ahead of the Summit on Climate Change in New York next month, a “People’s Climate March” will be held in the national capital Sep 20, to show political leaders that there is a strong force of concerned citizens demanding action on climate change. The Summit is scheduled for Sep 23. “September 20th will prove to be a critical moment in the coming few months. It is an immense opportunity to show our political leaders that there is a strong force of concerned citizens demanding action on climate change. The government has so far only given us mixed signals on its commitment to tackling this issue,” said 350.org India in a tweet. 350.org is a part of a global organisation that is building a grassroot movement to address the challenge of climate change. “Giant models of windmills and solar panels, inflatables of power plants, masks, banners, placards and thousands of people will adorn the streets of the capital city,” added the tweet from 350.org India. The march is a global movement with participation of college students, kids, other civil society allies, young professionals, rights groups, resident welfare associations and farming communities. The group is using the social media to create awareness about the march and to increase people’s participation. (Business Standard 18/8/14)

105. Panjab University professor to work on climate change effects on crops

CHANDIGARH: Plant biologist and Panjab University (PU) professor Harsh Nayyar has entered into formal scientific collaboration with Morocco-based International Centre for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) to work on effects of climate change on crops in dry areas. Nayyar specializes in environmental stresses and has been working in the department of botany at PU. Nayyar has earlier entered into scientific collaboration with international organizations like University of Western Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia, International Crops Research Institute for Semiarid Tropics, Hyderabad and World Vegetable Centre to work on effects of climate change on agricultural crops. As part of the collaborations, Nayyar and his team will work to identify new sources of stress resistance and development of varieties of pulses with higher resilience for changing climatic conditions in the near future that will be beneficial for the collaborating countries. Nayyar’s focus of work for the past several years has been to develop cold, heat, drought and salt-tolerance on leguminous crops (pulses), so that they are able to withstand the adverse environmental conditions due to rapidly changing climate. He has brought joint research projects with these organizations, some of which are also funded and monitored by them. He also has research programmes with agricultural universities of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Nayyar’s work has been jointly published with scientists from these organizations in high-rated journals. Nayyar has given the credit to team of his hard working and dedicated students as well as the university for efficient handling of his projects. His team’s work has been highly appreciated at various national and international forums. (Times of India 19/8/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

106. High Court directs Agriculture Secretary to act on former MLA’s plea (20)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday directed the State Agriculture Secretary to consider former MLA M. Appavu’s representation that crop insurance benefits should be extended to individual agriculturists in case of crop loss. A decision should be taken within two months. Mr. Appavu said there should be no condition to assess crop damages at firka or taluk level while sanctioning insurance claims to farmers. The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.Sathyanarayanan, said the decision taken should be duly communicated to the petitioner within a week. A three-time MLA, representing Radhapuram constituency in Tirunelveli district from 1996, Mr. Appavu claimed in view of the losses in cultivation and enforcement of recovery of agricultural loans by banks, nearly 86.50 per cent of suicides by famers occurred. However, the governments did not take any action to protect farmers. A mere waiver of agricultural loans alone would not be a permanent solution and a multi-pronged strategy was needed. The former MLA said the Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme was disappointing. It was only a formal scheme and there was no real benefit to farmers. As per the scheme, the Tamil Nadu government paid 50 per cent of the premium and remaining was paid by agriculturists. Insurance reimbursement was being shared equally by the State and the Centre. The petitioner’s grievance was that agriculturists would get the benefit only if the crop loss was total in a revenue firka (five villages.) There was no insurance cover for the loss sustained by individual agriculturists. The number of farmers benefitted under the Agricultural Insurance Scheme in Tamil Nadu from 2008-09 to 2011-12 and the sum distributed during the period clearly showed that the insurance scheme did not actually reach the poor families. While in 2008-09 the number of farmers who registered themselves under the insurance scheme was 9.98 lakh, only 5.51 lakh got the benefit. In 2011-12, 8.48 lakh insured themselves and only 97,000 were benefited. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

107. Over 300 Vidarbha region farmers protest over long pending demands (20)

Nagpur: More than 300 farmers of the draught-affected areas of Vidarbha region staged a protest in Yavatmal district demanding the state government to take steps to provide relief to farmers. The farmers gathered at the Pandharkawada tehsil office of Yavatmal district, around 150 kms from here, yesterday, and raised their various demand like to waive off loan, fresh allotment of crop loan, loans for tribals etc. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Conveyor Kishor Tiwari said that they have also submitted a letter to Maharashtra chief minister, through tehsildar, stating if their demands are not met by September 5, farmers in their respective villages in the Vidarbha region will go on hunger strike. He said more than one lakh farmers have signed the letter. “Government is not taking care of farmers in the draught affected areas. We have already raised our long pending demands like loan waiver, fresh allotment of crop loan but government is not paying heed,” he said. (Zee news 16/8/14)

108. Organic farming in State by 2016

Kozhikode: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said organic farming will cover the entire State by the end of 2016. He was inaugurating the State-level Farmers Day celebrations at the Marine Grounds here on Saturday. The government also planned to organise a global agro meet on November 6 and 7 in connection with this for tapping the opportunities of national and international agriculture sector, Mr. Chandy said. He exuded confidence that through the proposed agro meet, the State would be able to utilise the technology and technical know-how of foreign nations. Besides, steps would be taken to put into practice the results of the agriculture research centres in the country. The Chief Minister said the government procured paddy at Rs.19 per kg. The Centre had fixed the price at Rs.13.20 per kg but the State government provided an additional amount of Rs.5.80. The government had requested the Centre to hike the price to Rs.20, he said. Mr. Chandy said the government had already issued orders giving sanction to farmers for producing neera from coconut. More steps would be taken for protecting the interests of coconut farmers, he added. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister K.P. Mohanan presided over the inaugural session. Actor Manju Warrier was the chief guest on the occasion. Minister for Panchayats and Social Welfare M.K. Muneer and Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and Youths P.K. Jayalekshmi, M.K. Raghavan and M.I. Shanavas, MPs; C.K. Nanu, K. Kunahamed, K.K. Lathika, C. Moinkutty, Purushan Kadalundi, P.T.A. Rahim, A. K. Saseendran and V.M. Ummer, MLAs; district panchayat president Kannathil Jameela, District Collector P.T.A. Rahim, Animal Husbandry Department Director N. N. Sasi, and Agriculture Department Director R. Ajithkumar participated. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

109. FAO official lauds T.N. model of managing irrigation tanks

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu model of providing primacy to the views of farmers in the management of irrigation tanks has been lauded by an official of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who is heading a team to review tank projects in India. Conventionally, the tank management has been governed by the water engineering-centric approach. But, in Tamil Nadu, “the focus is on farmers, their needs. And, that’s the way it should move,” says Jim Hancock, Natural Resources and Livelihoods Officer at the Investment Centre, Asia Pacific Service of the FAO. After observing the execution of the World Bank-funded Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water-Bodies Restoration and Management Project (IAMWARM) in Kancheepuram and Villupuram districts last week, Mr. Hancock told The Hindu that another feature that impressed him and his team was the way the existing institutions were working together, from the State down to the village, to address water issues. In this context, he referred to the creation of single window information and knowledge centres at the community level, which were functioning as platforms for officials and farmers to discuss issues and find solutions. He called the facility a “very interesting innovation.” As for the role of tanks in the southern States of the country, he said: “The cultural, rural, dry southern India is centred on tanks.” Pointing out that tanks had a wider purpose, he said they served not only the requirements of agriculture but also those of drinking water, sanitation, livestock, horticulture and fisheries. This was why they were important to the development of the States. Asked to list the areas of improvements in tank management, Mr. Hancock said sustainability of water management, operation and maintenance of tanks was a matter of concern to many States of the country. As for tanks, there were several questions that needed answers. “What is the water balance? Where is water going? Who needs water? Eventually, you have to ask yourselves: should we have to allocate water for the urban sector and to the poorer and better-off users? To what degree, the community together with the government should fund the maintenance of a tank system?” He said one had to get the facts first before taking any decision on the approach to be adopted to the management, operation and maintenance of tanks. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

110. Displaced tribals landless and poor: panel

Bangalore: Majority of the displaced tribal families of the Rajiv Gandhi (Nagarahole) National Park area in three taluks of Mysore and Kodagu districts have become landless agricultural labourers and pushed to poverty, a three-member Karnataka High Court committee has said. The committee, headed by Muzaffar Assadi, professor at University of Mysore, noted that only 24.54 per cent (838) of the displaced tribal families owned land. The small size of landholding had failed to alleviate them from poverty. A majority of the tribals were left in the lurch,” the committee report said. The Nagarahole National Park was renamed Rajiv Gandhi National Park in 1992 and was declared Nagarahole Tiger Reserves in 2001. Following this, many tribals had to leave the core park area. The committee was asked “to look into the actual number of families and persons displaced or forced to leave their original habitat on account of establishment of the park”. The committee said that tribals such as Jenu Kurubas, Soligas, Yeravas, Betta Kurubas and Paniyara Yeravas were most affected by the displacement. The panel in its 130-page report titled ‘On the tribal issues of Rajiv Gandhi (Nagarahole) National Park Area’ (July 2014), which was submitted to the High Court and the State government, revealed that families cultivating land have not been able to obtain formal credit owing to allotment of bagair hukum and gomal land. Many families had been denied ownership of land as it lies with the government. Denial of formal credit has forced the tribals to “fall back on private lenders for loans in the form of seeds and fertilizers. This might lead to perpetual indebtedness,” the report said. Under project tiger, the State had spent only 70.37 per cent of the Rs. 24.39 crore sanctioned by the Centre during 2007-08 to 2013-14. Under the tribal sub-plan and special component plan of the State, only 53.56 per cent of the Rs. 32.69 crore was utilised. The panel recommended granting of fertile lands for displaced tribals, construction of quality houses and inclusion of the families into the below poverty line list. It suggested that the government provide basic facilities such as hospitals, drinking water and electricity in relocated villages. (The Hindu 11/8/14)

111. Odisha plans 50,000 acre land bank for industries

BHUBANESWAR: With land acquisition posing a major hurdle in rapid industrialization, plans are afoot to develop a land bank of at least 50,000 acres as a key initiative for development of industrial infrastructure in Odisha. The Industries department along with the Industrial Development Corporation Limited (IDCO) and Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Limited (IPICOL) has been directed to carry forward the initiatives in a time bound manner, an official said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, according to an official release, chief secretary G C Pati, while reviewing the activities of Industry Department at a high level meeting on Monday, directed the officials to develop a land bank of at least 50,000 acres for public and industrial purposes. The department has also been asked to work out definite work strategy for land acquisition in the light of the new Land Acquisition Act, it said. Stressing on streamlining of single window mechanism, Pati directed that IPICOL single window meetings be held more frequently to address the pending issues of cleared proposals. The chief secretary has sought focus on development of downstream and value addition industries in clusters. He indicated that all the steel plants should be asked to promote downstream industries and at least 25 per cent of the steel produced in Odisha should be put to value addition in downstream industries. The department has been asked to deploy dedicated teams for each industrial cluster with firm date lines for milestones to be accomplished. Odisha has been one of the top three states which attracted investment in the last decade. Capacity addition in various key sectors in the last decade has ranged from 3 to 12 times, it said. At present IDCO is facilitating around 226 industrial projects in the state. Around 106 industrial estates/parks have been initiated. The industrial parks like Infovalley-IT & ESDM Park Bhubaneswar, Electronic Hardware Manufacturing Park Bhubaneswar, INFO park, Bio-Tech Park Bhubaneswar, Aluminum Park Angul, Mega Food park at Rayagada, Plastic Cluster at Balasore and Paradeep, Sea Food Cluster at Deras, Kalinganagar Steel Hub, PCPIR, Paradeep and Special Investment Region at Dhamara have been launched, it said. (Times of India 12/8/14)

112. 900 crore disbursed to DMIC beneficiaries

AURANGABAD: The district administration has so far disbursed altogether Rs 900 crore of the Rs 1,314 crore as compensation to the beneficiaries under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The administration has acquired 2,263 hectares of land at Bidkin in the second phase of land acquisition process. District land acquisition officer, Ravindra Pawar, said,”The second phase of land acquisition process in five villages at Bidkin for DMIC project had begun two months back. Of the total 2263.39 hectares notified for acquisition, 1558.99 hectares has been acquired and Rs 900 crore has been disbursed to the beneficiaries.” He said, “The administration is expecting an additional Rs 100 crore from the government by Thursday. The fund distribution and land acquisition process will move parallel.” “The administration would receive Rs 1,314 from the state government which would be disbursed to around 666 beneficiaries under the Land Acquisition Act. The state government had approved Rs 23 lakh per acre as land rate,” said Pawar. In the first phase 555 hectares of land at Karmad was acquired in October 2012, in which the beneficiaries were offered Rs 23 lakh per acre. After completing the first phase of land acquisition under the DMIC project, the district administration started the process for the second phase. Land acquisition in the second phase was carried out in five villages ? Bidkin, Banni Tanda, Bangal Tanda, Nilajgaon and Nandalgaon. In Phase-I, the DMIC project — which is rated as the largest infra project — will see development of seven new industrial cities namely Dadri-Noida-Ghaziabad Investment Region in Uttar Pradesh, Manesar-Bawal Investment Region in Haryana, Khushkhera-Bhiwadi-Neemrana Investment Region in Rajasthan, Pithampur-Dhar-Mhow Investment Region in Madhya Pradesh, Ahmedabad-Dholera Investment Region in Gujarat and Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park city and Dighi Port Industrial Area, both in Maharashtra. Plans for all these cities have been finalized and work on the Dholera and Shendra-Bidkin investment regions is likely to begin this year. The deadline for the first phase is 2019. Once the state government completes land acquisition for a city project, DMICDC will incorporate SPVs to set up base infrastructure or trunk infrastructure ? such as water, power connections, drainage system, broadband network, roads and so on. Later, industry will be invited to invest in projects. The DMIC in Maharashtra covers Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Nashik, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Pune, Dhule & Nandurbar Districts and influences 18% of the total area of the state. Of all these cities covered, Aurangabad is part of the DMIC Early Bird project which includes Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park and International Convention centre and has been proposed over an area of 8,340 hectares. The project, to be completed in three phases, will see the opening of many industries with players from national and international market joining the league. But with the process getting delayed it is feared that the deadline for the project will get extended. (Times of India 14/8/14)

113. Tough reforms needed to make India a manufacturing hub: CEOs

Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to launch a new manufacturing policy could transform India into an international manufacturing hub, giving tough competition to China. However, to realise this goal, reforms in labour laws, special economic zone policy, foreign direct investment rules, taxation policy, and land acquisition policy are very crucial, say CEOs. Though India has missed the bus, the country can still make an impact on the global manufacturing sector through innovation and reducing costs, they say. A M Naik, chairman, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), says India has virtually killed the manufacturing sector and to revive it is a multi-year task. “Modi has given his wish and vision and we hope he will simplify procedures. The government has been there for two months; give him at least a year. The whole sector has gone down badly, as today our manufacturing is less than 17 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product), while in China, it is 50 per cent, and in Malaysia, it is 40 per cent.” Sunil Sikka, president of Havells India, says the labour arbitrage between India and China is gone. Chinese labourers are 50 to 60 per cent more productive than Indians but the wages are also higher by almost 70 per cent. “You cannot replace China as manufacturing hub, but India can certainly be an alternative in industries where application of skill is higher than assembling competencies.” CEOs say the Chinese and Indian economy were almost similar during the 1980s. But China took a giant step forward by making its manufacturing sector the main engine of its economy. M S Unnikrishnan, MD and CEO, Thermax, says Modi’s intention is very good but there should be action now. “Indian companies have inherent advantages against the rest of the world. We will have one of the largest workforces by 2025 and also the biggest market after China. With the consumption base for market place, it has the advantage of becoming an export hub for exports as well,” he adds. Harshpati Singhania, director, JK Organisation and MD of JK Paper, was all praise for the prime minister’s Independence Day speech. He says “An inspiring speech. Encouraging to see that the prime minister wants to involve all citizens, including the corporate sector in nation building. We promise to do our best.” The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) says issues related to taxation, including introduction of a goods and services tax, easy land acquisition, faster approvals and trade policy need to be addressed to boost the manufacturing sector. “CII is happy to see high importance attached to manufacturing and investment. As PM said manufacturing is necessary for employment and for trade expansion,” says Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, CII. Sidharth Birla, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), says, “He (PM) gave importance to job-creation and tried to bring attention to all topics, such as cleanliness, women’s security.” (Business Standard 16/8/14)

114. Madras HC dismisses PIL against Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project

Chennai: The Madras High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation challenging the land acquisition process for the proposed 4,000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Cheyyur, stating that the plea of the petitioner to stay the process as the environmental issues related to the project are pending before the National Green Tribunal, is not permissible. The Rs 24,200-crore Cheyyur ultra mega power project in Tamil Nadu is reportedly India’s first coastal power plant to be bid out with an attached captive port. The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan observed that the acquisition proceedings for the project started in May, 2010, and the land owners have been called upon to appear and collect the compensation in September, 2013 and 31 persons have already received compensation. The Court said, “In view of the aforesaid position, the plea of the petitioner that in larger public interest, the acquisition proceedings cannot go (which are substantially complete) on the ground that the issue of location of the Power Project inter alia is before the National Green Tribunal could not be permissible, nor in our view, a Public Interest Litigation in this form be entertained by a person who does not even have any interest in the land in question sought to be acquired.” The dispute related to the environmental issues of project is pending with the the National Green Tribunal. The Court observed that the petitioner, K Saravanan, is not the land owner but claims to be an activist in the area. The acquisition of land in the present case is governed by a Special Act being the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997, where Chapter-II contains the Scheme for Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes. Notice of acquisition is to be given to a person interested in such land in terms of sub-section 2 of Section 3 of the said Act. Section 18 ousts the jurisdiction of a Civil Court to pass injunctive orders against the acquisition proceedings, said the Bench. The petition was to declare all the proceedings for identification of land, land acquisition commenced, notified and proceeded with by the respondents for the 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project in regard to the villages Cheyyur, Vedal, Chittarkadu, Gangadevankuppam, Vilangadu and Kokkaranthangal, Panaiyur in Cheyyur Taluk for the establishment of the Plant and Ash dyke and also the captive port are grossly illegal and invalid, ultra vires and void…. (Business Standard 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

115. Rotavirus can reduce 26,985 deaths in India

Kolkata: The central government’s decision to introduce rotavirus vaccine in India’s Universal Immunization Programme can reduce as many as 26,985 deaths annually due to rotaviral diarrhoea, a study said. It also said the vaccine can also lead to 2,91,756 fewer hospitalizations. Rotaviral diarrhoea is the common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children. The study by Vaccine journal “estimates 11.37 million episodes in India annually”, according to a statement. “Introduction of rotavirus vaccine in the Universal Immunization Programme in India at current coverage would result in 26,985 fewer deaths, 291,756 fewer hospitalizations and 686,277 fewer outpatient visits annually in India assuming no indirect effects for the vaccine,” the statement said. The supplement released on Aug 11 and has 33 papers on rotaviral diarrhoea. The paper ‘Rotavirus Gastroenteritis in India, 2011-2013’ pointed out the latest disease burden. It said: “There are over 78,000 rotavirus-associated deaths annually, as well as more than 8,72,000 hospitalizations and over 3.2 million outpatient visits each year.” The authors noted: “Beyond such deaths, there are an additional 8,72,000 hospitalizations and 3.2 million outpatient visits each year, collectively resulting in an economic burden of Rs.4.9 billion and Rs.5.38 billion, respectively. “Each of these numbers individually is less than the estimated Rs. 4.47 billion it would cost to fund a rotavirus immunization programme.” To prevent one rotavirus-related death, 743 children need to be vaccinated while vaccinating 69 children would prevent one rotavirus hospitalization, the report said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

116. Organ donation makes destitute immortal

LUCKNOW: Abandoned by parents because of her mental illness, Uma was exploited sexually till a policeman rescued her and admitted her to a hospital. She was adopted by an orphanage but had to be hospitalized again for treatment of tuberculosis, to which she ultimately succumbed. But, through donation of her anatomy to King George’s Medical University, she became immortal. Her eyes were donated by the NGO which took her responsibility. In the past two years, the body and cornea of 12 destitute persons have been received by KGMU. “The trend and system facilitating it is an inspiration for many,” said AK Srivastava, head of anatomy department, KGMU. On Tuesday, the body of a 16-year-old mentally challenged Puja alias Lovely living at a shelter home run by the Drishti Samajik Sansthan was donated to KGMU. Retired head Ashok Sahai, who is behind the initiative, said, “Very few body and eye donations take place because of superstitions and myths in the society. We need to make people aware that organ donation is actually a noble and pious act.” KGMU has been facing acute shortage of bodies for academic purpose since 1995. Against the requirement of 45 bodies per year, the number available was in single digit til 2009. Following awareness, numbers have improved but are still less than required. SS Dhapola who runs one such NGO stated that he started donating the body of destitute persons because he found some of them healthy enough to help someone in need. (Times of India 13/8/14)

117. Low risk of Ebola transmission in air travel: WHO

Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterated Thursday that the risk of transmission of Ebola virus during air travel remains low. “Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne,” Xinhua quoted Isabelle Nuttall, Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response, as saying. Nuttall noted the deadly viruses can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease. She said while there is just a small chance that someone on the plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. “Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” Nuttall said. On Aug 8, WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa constitutes an international public health emergency and provided advice to countries to help contain the current Ebola outbreak. As Aug 11, the cumulative number of cases attributed to Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone stands at 1,975, including 1,069 deaths. (Business Standard 15/8/14)

118. Silicosis swallows mine workers in Rajasthan

Karauli (Rajasthan) : For 10 years, Ghanshyam underwent treatment for tuberculosis (TB) as his persistent coughing and chest pain refused to go away. But in 2011, the stone quarry worker was told that he is in the last stages of silicosis – an insidious and incurable lung disease that has claimed the lives of many mine workers across Rajasthan. Twenty-five years of working in the sandstone mines of Karauli district in Rajasthan and inhaling the silica dust have reduced Ghanshyam, 50, to a skeleton. On a liquid diet for the past many months, the father of two cannot stand and always moans in pain. “There is no hope for us now. We are in debt as around Rs.4 lakh has been spent on his treatment. Had he been diagnosed with silicosin (silicosis) on time, life wouldn’t have come to this,” Dayabai, Ghanshyam’s wife, told a visiting IANS correspondent. Karauli is one of the 19 districts in Rajasthan where thousands of mine workers are battling with silicosis caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica. Ghanshyam is not the only botched-up case of misdiagnosis in Aarampur village of Karauli in the eastern belt of Rajasthan where sandstone is found in abundance and has been used in building the historical Red Fort and the palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Many silicosis-affected patients in this village, in fact in several adjoining districts, have died mistakenly thinking they had TB,” Vikas Bhardwaj, secretary at Dang Vikas Sansthan – a non-government organization – told IANS. Legal mining of stones in this backward district dates back to 1920, but the first official case of this deadly disease was detected only in 2011, said Bhardwaj. “It was only as late as November 2011 that we realised that the people were in the grip of silicosis,” said Bhardwaj. Sribai, 50, a gaunt-looking silicosis patient, said she lost her husband to the disease a few years ago. According to locals, Balram, 60, is the eldest male of this village of 3,000 people. The disease has sapped away the lives of several men, mostly in their middle age, leaving behind their widows. “No one survives here till 60. Despite having silicosis, Balram is still alive,” remarked Prabhu Dayal, a silicosis patient himself. Rajasthan has no accurate data on silicosis, thanks to the poor health infrastructure to diagnose the disease and unchecked mining and quarrying in the state. Rajasthan has 32,000 mines where over two million labourers work and only seven Pneumoconiosis Board centres to diagnose silicosis. Located in seven state-run medical colleges, each centre has a team of three doctors who examine the cases only on weekends. At present there are 244 registered silicosis patients in Karauli, but Bhardwaj says their numbers run into thousands. “At least 13,000 mine workers have got themselves registered with the Dang Vikas Sansthan. All have pain in their chests and want to be diagnosed for silicosis,” Bhardwaj said. The nearest Pneumoconiosis Board centre for patients in Karauli is located in Jaipur, around 200 km away. The other six are situated in far-flung areas of Rajasthan. For patients like Mishra Lal, whose name figures last in the list of 13,000 suspected patients, their wait to get diagnosed at the Jaipur centre means that they will possibly have to wait for 27 years, according to Varun Sharma, programme coordinator at the Association for Rural Advancement through Voluntary Action and Local Involvement (ARAVALI). “And by that time he would have died. The Pneumoconiosis board centre in Jaipur can see only 40 people in a week which works out to 480 cases in a year,” Sharma told IANS. Established by the Rajasthan government, ARAVALI is working in collaboration with the Dang Vikas Sansthan in the livelihood sector… (Business Standard 17/8/14)

119. No standard treatment for Ebola, says expert

MYSORE: People will have to be careful and protect themselves from diseases like Ebola as there’s no standard treatment for it and patients receive only supportive therapy, M S Basavaraj, deputy chief health officer of University of Mysore (UoM), said here on Monday. Delivering the keynote address on ‘Emerging viral diseases: a new threat to mankind’ organized by Mysore chapter of the Association of Microbiologists of India (AMI) at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) here, Basavaraj said usually viruses cannot survive outside a host body for long time; but Ebola virus has been found to have survived for weeks even on dead bodies. It is also difficult to handle the Ebola-hit dead bodies, he said. (Times of India 19/8/14)

HIV/AIDS

120. All villages in Goa have HIV cases: Minister

PANAJI:  “Goa does not have a single village unaffected by HIV,” Minister for Health Services Laxmikant Parsekar stated in the Assembly on Monday. Replying to a question on the number of HIV cases in the State, tabled by Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Nilesh Cabral during the question hour, Mr. Parsekar disclosed that there were nearly 15,000 people living with HIV, which was one per cent of the State’s population. He went on to say that there was not a single village in the State without HIV cases. The coastal tourist State has a population of over 14 lakh and more than 300 villages. Replying to a supplementary question, the Minister said the number of people with HIV had gone down in recent years. Annually, the number had gone down by almost half since 2009. Between 2003 and 2008, the State recorded around 1,000 cases annually. But since 2009, the number had gone down to about 550 cases annually. He attributed the decline to awareness measures taken up by the State government in association with NGOs. In 2013, Goa reported 532 new cases. In the current year so far, 246 fresh HIV cases were reported. “We are aiming at taking this trend to zero in the next five years,” the Minister said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

121. More than 9,100 HIV positive patients in Assam: Govt

GUWAHATI: Over 9,100 people in Assam have been detected with HIV positive virus at present, the state Assembly was informed on Wednesday. Replying to a query by AIUDF MLA Swapan Kar, state parliamentary affairs minister Nilamani Sen Deka said the state has 9,110 people with HIV positive cases as on March 31, 2014. Deka, who replied on behalf of health and family welfare minister Nazrul Islam, said Kamrup Metro district, which mostly comprise the Guwahati city, tops the list with 3,570 affected persons. It is followed by Cachar district with 1,866 victims, he said. Some other districts with high numbers of affected people are Dibrugarh (630), Nagaon (418), Golaghat (304), Karimganj (272), Sonitpur (252), Bongaigaon (228), Karbi Anglong (207) and Jorhat (207). Deka said Chirang district does not have a single case of HIV case so far. The districts with comparatively lower number of HIV patients are Baksa (11), Udalguri (22), Hailakandi (23), Dhemaji (39), Morigaon (50), Lakhimpur (57), Dima Hasao (59), Nalbari (65), Darrang (66), Sivasagar (70), Kamrup Rural (86) and Goalpara (93). Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Tinsukia and Dhubri districts currently have 150, 127, 124 and 114 HIV positive patients respectively. The minister informed the House that Assam State AIDS Control Society is implementing the National AIDS Control Programme as per the Department of AIDS Control’s strategic plan to prevent spread of the disease. Talking about Japanese Encephalitis, Deka said 122 people have lost their lives till August 6 this year across the state. “Also six persons have died this year in Malaria,” he added. (Times of India 13/8/14)

122. No separate floor yet for HIV patients at Nair Hospital

Mumbai: Many HIV patients complained they had to huddle outside a small room allotted to them and were constant victims of snide remarks from the public. The authorities have, however, turned a blind eye, they said. Earlier, the two-floor ART building which was the centre for HIV patients was closed after being declared a dangerous structure by the civic body. It’s been a year and a half since then and no arrangement for at least a suitably big room or floor has been made for the HIV patients who do want their identities to be revealed to the general public. “When the department was shifted, we were promised relocation to a new floor within a month. But it has been more than a year now,” said an employee at the HIV department. After The Asian Age reported the case last month, an assurance was given by the authorities that the department would soon be reallocated to a new place, but so far no step has been taken. “We have written letters to the authorities but they have not replied to it,” said the employee. The patients meanwhile continue to be mortified by the arrangement. “People think the virus floats in the air. They treat us as outcastes. I cannot even change my hospital now as it is a long procedure and I will have to travel far,” said a patient. Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of Nair Hospital, said that a ward would be allocated for patients after the renovation. However, some hospital staff said there were many areas in the hospital that were vacant and could easily be used. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

123. Andhra Pradesh has highest No. of pregnant HIV women

HYDERABAD: Undivided Andhra Pradesh reported the highest number of pregnant mothers testing positive for HIV in 2013. According to recent data from the Union ministry of health and family welfare, 1,330 pregnant women of the nearly seven lakh carrying mothers screened in AP last year, tested HIV positive. The ministry data shows that in neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, where a larger number of women were screened, the percentage of women testing positive was significantly lower. It has been estimated that a mother has 30 per cent chance of transmitting the virus to her baby during pregnancy. The mortality rate among children with HIV is much higher compared to adults owing to their under-developed immune systems. However AP fared better or equally well in treating mothers to prevent transmission to children, as evinced by the data which shows that 1,142 HIV positive pregnant women were put on treatment. To reduce the numbers of baby transmissions, AP government in a first launched a new regimen of medication and treatment modality in 2012. The new treatment modality requires mothers to start treatment 14 weeks into pregnancy as against earlier practice of taking medication at the time of delivery. The medication now comprises a combination of three drugs as against one compound that was given earlier. Babies now are also given the same medication after birth. Additionally, under the new treatment practice, babies are screened every six months after birth until 18 months of age, when a concluding diagnosis is made about their infection. According to P L Jayachandra Reddy, additional project director of AP State Aids Control Society, more than 90 per cent of the first batch of pregnant women in undivided AP, who were put on the new treatment modality in 2012, delivered babies without infecting them. “The transmission rate has come down to about five per cent. It has not been eliminated completely owing to drug resistance some of the women developed during treatment or due to delay in starting the treatment,” Reddy said. A team comprising members of World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) established this during a study of AP’s implementation of the new treatment modality in March this year, 18 months after the first batch of women mentioned by Reddy, gave birth. Buoyed by AP’s success, the WHO-NACO team has recommended that the new treatment modality be taken up in other states. (Times of India 19/8/14)

 

Posted by admin at 20 August 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Apex court issues notices to accused in Tsundur dalits’ massacre case (2)

Hyderabad: The country’s first-ever special court set up for trying a case under the SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, had delivered the judgement in August 2007 by sentencing 21 accused to life imprisonment and 35 others to one-year rigorous imprisonment and penalty of Rs 2000 each in the case. The special court had acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused and in the case of 41 accused, the court had not found any evidence, while 62 of them were released on benefit of doubt. The other 20 were let off due to omission of evidence or having only single witnesses. While acquitting the case, the HC Bench had pointed out that the prosecution had failed to prove the exact time and place of death and the identity of the attackers. Following a massive protest from Dalit organisations, the Andhra Pradesh Government has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s verdict of acquitting the 56 accused in the Tsundur massacre case. A special team of legal counsels comprising senior designated counsel M.N. Rao, senior counsel A. Ramesh, assistant senior counsel V. Raghunath, advocate on record, Supreme Court, Uday Sagar and senior counsel Bojja Tarakam and HC advocate V. Raghunath has been appointed as special prosecutors to argue the case before the apex court. The government, in its appeal, had contended that the High Court had failed to appreciate the grounds, which the special court had relied upon to convict the accused. The government argued that certain simple lapses from the side of the prosecution in probing cases of high magnitude should be overlooked in the interest of justice. The apex court stayed all further proceedings in the cases related to the Tsundur massacre, including the appeals by the accused before the High Court and the cases by the family members of the victims challenging the judgement of the special court in acquitting certain accused from the cases and also challenging the non sufficient punishment issued by the special court. The Supreme Court stayed further proceedings in the case for four weeks and issued notices to the accused and others related in the case. (Deccan Chronicle 31/7/14)

2. TN: Man Ordering Dalit Boy to Carry Footwear on his Head Sentenced (2)

MADURAI:  A district court today sentenced a caste Hindu youth to one-year imprisonment for forcing a 13-year old Dalit boy to carry his footwear on his head while crossing a caste Hindu area at Vadugapatti in the district in June last year but acquitted two others. The Third Additional District Judge (Protection of Civil Rights) C Kumarappan also slapped a fine of Rs.1000 on the youth Nilamalai. The prosecution case was that Arunkumar, a school boy, and his friend Muthuvasanth were strolling through the caste Hindu area in Vadugappatti on June 3, 2013. While Muthuvasanth was barefooted, Arunkumar walked on the street forgetting to remove his chappal as he was engaged in a conversation. Nilamalai (27), his father Pathivuraja and brother Agni, accosted Arunkumar and asked him whether he was not aware that he should not walk with chappals on in that area. They then ordered him to carry the footwear on his head till the end of the street. The boy did so and even after crossing it carried the chappals under his arm-pit. Curious about her son carrying the chappals under his arm-pit, his mother questioned him and he narrated what happened, following which she lodged a police complaint against the three persons. Police filed cases against the trio. While Nilamalai was found guilty, the other two were acquitted. In another case, the Judge sentenced a woman to 15 days imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 1,500 on her after she and her husband allegedly poured “fecal mixed” water on a Dalit woman after a verbal duel on September 22, 2003. Police had registered a case on a complaint by the Dalit woman. The judge also slapped a fine of Rs 500 on the man. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

3. BJP SC Morcha demands interest-free loans for Dalits (2)

BANGALORE: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national Scheduled Castes (SC) Morcha president Sanjay Paswan demanded the State government provide interest-free loans to Dalits to help them become entrepreneurs. Speaking to presspersons after the inaugural session of a two-day executive committee meeting of the State BJP SC Morcha here on Saturday, Mr. Paswan suggested that the State government should encourage Dalit entrepreneurs to flourish in Bangalore, a city which has huge business potential. Accusing the Congress government in the State of being “anti-Dalit”, he alleged that the conviction rate under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was very poor when compared with other States. He reiterated his demand for confining reservation benefits for Dalits to three generations. Similarly, MPs and MLAs who have been elected from the reserved constituencies for three terms should not be allowed to contest from those constituencies again, Mr. Paswan said, adding that he had already discussed the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP State SC Morcha president A. Narayanaswamy said the morcha would launch a State-level protest to press for the demand. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

4. Dalit farm labourer gang-raped in Gwalior district (2)

BHOPAL: Two farm owners barged into a house of a dalit woman and allegedly gang-raped her at Shekhpura village in Gwalior district. The survivor was alone in the house at the time of incident, which took place on Friday night as her husband had gone to his parent’s house after the two had argument over some issue. Taking advantage of situation, accused Ghamandi Baghel and Tulsi Gurjar, also residents of Shekhpura, gang-raped her, police said on basis of statement of the survivor. The survivor and her husband work as farm labourers, tending agriculture field of accused, police said. After the incident, the survivor went into shock and could not muster courage to report the matter. When her husband returned on Sunday evening, she told him about the incident and the two reached police station to file a complaint about it. Besides rape, accused, now on the run, have also been booked under SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities’ Act. (Times of India 5/8/14)

5. Police drop attempt to murder charge against 16 dalits (2)

SANGRUR: Taking a U-turn in a controversy involving cases registered against dalits of Balad Kalan, the Sangrur police on Tuesday dropped attempt to murder (Section 307) charge against 16 dalits of the village, saying the injuries inflicted on cops by the protesting dalits were not “life threatening in nature”.Apart from taking a U-turn from its month-long stand by giving technical logic of nature of injuries, the police also said that Section 307 was dropped as they wanted to amicably resolve the issue with a “sense of brotherhood”.The police had slapped Section 307 against 16 of 41 dalits who were arrested in June when they were protesting against alleged irregularities in auction of village common land in Balad Kalan village. Police changed the stand a day after the dalits, currently lodged in Sangrur jail, started a relay hunger strike. Cops had earlier claimed that at least 11 cops, including eight women, had received serious injuries in the clash. Meanwhile, deputy superintendent of police G S Dhindsa said in a meeting held in Bhawanigarh on August 3 that it was decided that the issue should be settled with “sense of brotherhood”. (Times of India 6/8/14)

6. Crimes against dalits rise 245% in last decade (2)

CHANDIGARH: Crimes and atrocities against dalits in Haryana have gone up by about two-and-a-half times during 2004-2013, compared to 1994-2003 period. Figures complied by National Confederation of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR) from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports suggest amanifold increase in the number of cases related to assault, murder and sexual assault of Dalit women, especially incidents of gang rapes, over the past four years. According to data released by NACDOR, a total of 3,198 cases related to atrocities on dalits have been registered between 2004 and 2013 as against 1,305 from 1994 to 2003. Haryana DGP S N Vashisht admitted to the increase in crime against dalits. “But this is not a reflection of increase in crime or atrocities against a particular community. Rather, it means that every incident is reported and cases are registered. Secondly, there had been amendments in Acts related to atrocities on dalits, which also result in registration of more cases. Timely challans against the accused in the court and strong prosecution are basic ingredients for speedy justice and conviction,” Vashisht said. On the contrary, Dalit leaders termed the increase as an outcome of accused-friendly policing, leading to lopsided investigations and poor prosecution and poor follow-up of cases. Some organizations working for Dalit welfare even termed atrocities as a ploy of upper caste sections to deprive the socially backward from getting good education. Ashok Bharti, national convener, NACDOR, said, “This has forced us to start an awareness drive. We have been raising this issue with Congress leaders and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.” Kalyani Menon Sen, an activist attached with NGO Women against Sexual Violence and Repression (WSS), justified her allegations saying, “Dalit children going to government schools in villages are the first layer of victims. They stop going to school after any girl falls victim to such a crime. They are not rich enough to go to any other school. Hence, they will remain educationally backward. Once they are educationally backward, they will not be able to compete with upper caste or those socially superior to them. Hence, sexual offences against dalits are being used as a tool now.” Rajat Kalsan, an activist of National Human Rights Law Network, elaborated on the incidents where they had to fight for justice for dalits. Kalsan had pleaded the cases related to Dabra and Baghana rape victims. (Times of India 9/8/14)

TRIBALS

7. Odisha tribal village chief killed in Maoist explosion (6)

Malkangiri (Odisha): A tribal village head was killed and his wife critically injured in an explosion triggered by Maoists in Odisha’s Malkangiri district on Tuesday. The village head of Darbaguda in Kalimela area was returning home along with his wife from a nearby forest when the explosive device planted by Maoists on the road went off, Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh said. While Bira Padiami (50) died in the blast, his critically injured wife was taken to the nearby hospital by the villagers for treatment, Singh said. Police said the ultras were believed to have planted the explosive device, probably a pressure bomb, targeting the security personnel as a BSF camp is located near the site. Condemning the act of killing the innocent, the SP said combing operation has been stepped up in the area where security had already been tightened as the observation of martyrs’ week by the Maoists began on Monday. Maoists observe “martyrs” week from July 28 to August 3 every year to pay tribute to their leaders and cadres who lost their lives. Normal life was affected to some extent in rural pockets of Malkangiri district as passenger buses and other vehicles stopped plying since Monday at many places fearing trouble, police said adding shops and business establishments also remained closed in areas like Kalimela, Padia and Motu. In other Maoist affected South Odisha districts including Koraput, Rayagada, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Nabarangpur and Gajapati, the situation was normal amid tight security measures, police added. (The Hindu 29/7/14)

8. Toto language more endangered than tribe (6)

Kolkata: When scientists of the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) set out to conduct a study on language of the primitive Toto tribe, whose population has dwindled to 1,536, they did not realise that the language is more endangered than the tribe itself. During their study they recorded the vocabulary, folklore, and even some songs in Toto language, and realised that the language has no script. For centuries, the language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of Indian languages, has survived in the small community completely orally without much research, Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay, research associate, Linguistics (AnSI), one of the prominent members of the research team, who visited the hamlet of Toto tribe, told The Hindu. “Being a small community, we found that the Totos communicate among themselves in their own language, but the moment they leave their hamlet of Totopara in Madarihaat block of Alipurduar district, they prefer to not communicate in the language even among themselves,” Mr. Mukhopadhyay said. Researchers and even the members of Toto community admit that the language is under threat and influence of others languages, particularly Nepali and Bengali, is increasing day by day. Interestingly, despite the language lacking a script, members of the community, whose literacy rate as per a sample survey carried out in 2003 was just 33.64 per cent, have penned books and poems in their language albeit in the Bengali script. Dhaniram Toto, one of the members of the community, has written two books in Toto language over the past two years. Mr. Toto claims his book, Lokeswar, is about the folk culture of Totos and his other book Uttar Banga Lokpath is about folk tales of the community. “Since our language does not have a script, I have to take help of the Bengali script,” he says, adding that there is an urgent need to develop a script for the language. Mr. Toto, who is employed in West Bengal’s Backward Class Welfare Department, says there are others in the community such as Satyajit Toto, who write in the language taking the help of scripts of other languages. Their aim is just to keep the language alive. “We carried out this study to keep record of the language. It may happen in a few decades that the language may get extinct. The study of the Toto language is essential to understand the overall cultural ambit of the primitive tribe,” said Kakali Chakraborty, head of office, Eastern Regional Centre of (AnSI). Totos, one of the primitive Himalayan tribes in the country, usually work as day labourers and porters carrying oranges from Bhutan to the local market in north Bengal. Despite the geographical isolation of Totopara, the members have started laying emphasis on education, resulting in about half a dozen of graduates, which includes girls. But the elders point out that despite a number of schools being present in the locality, there is no one to teach the children in their own language, and as a result, the children are losing touch with their culture. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

9. “Public hearing for expansion of Vedanta facility illegal” (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Terming the public hearing conducted for Sesa Sterlite’s (formerly Vedanta Alumina Limited) expansion of its Lanjigarh facility in Kalahandi district as ‘illegal’, activists and members of different political and social organisations staged protest here on Thursday. “When tribal people have given their verdict through Gram Sabha resolutions, the company has lost legal as well as ethical ground to stay-put in Lanjigarh,” said Mahendra Parida of CPI (M-L) here. Mr. Parida said Vedanta group currently do not have any dedicated bauxite reserve to feed Lanjigarh facility and under such circumstances, holding public hearing for expansion has obviously come under suspicion. “Tribals in Niyamgiri Hill range and those living in proximity of Lanjigarh feel threatened thinking of intent of the company,” he said. Activists demanded that the State government should immediately severe all its ties with Vedanta group. According to reports, the public hearing held for proposed expansion of refinery from one million tonne per annum to 6 mtpa witnessed riotous scenes when tribals under the banner of Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti barged into the venue near Lanjigarh on Wednesday. They alleged that Odisha State Pollution Control Board and Kalahandi District administration were rushing through the process denying participation to those who would be directly affected by the project. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

10. Sickle-Cell Anaemia spreading among tribals (6)

VIJAYAWADA: Tribal population is prone to SCA because of malnutrition. Genes N Life Health Care Private Limited tested over 12,000 tribals from hamlets in Jeelugumilli, Buttaigudem and Polavaram mandals in West Godavari district. There is no problem if two individuals with white cards marry. The colours of the other cards are yellow and red. White card holders can marry yellow and red cardholders, but a yellow card holder cannot marry another yellow card holder. The cards will be the future match-makers of tribals living in West Godavari district. A project sponsored by the Department of Bio-Technology, Government of India, in West Godavari district revealed that 10 per cent of tribals were affected by Sickle-cell Anaemia (SCA). SCA is a hereditary blood disorder, in which the red blood cells (RBC) of the afflicted are sickle-shaped instead of the normal round shape. The “sickling” decreases the flexibility of the RBC and results in a variety of life-threatening complications. The sickling occurs because of a mutation in the gene responsible for the formation of haemoglobin in the RBC. Individuals with one copy of the mutant gene produce a mixture of both normal and abnormal haemoglobin (carriers). Genes N Life Health Care Private Limited tested over 12,000 tribals from hamlets in Jeelugumilli, Buttaigudem and Polavaram mandals in West Godavari district. V. Durga Rao, chief scientific officer of the company, said that the survey had revealed 10 per cent incidence in Koya and Konda Reddi Tribes. “If this serious health problem is not tackled immediately, the tribal populations in these three mandals would suffer from severe complications associated with hemoglobinopathies (destruction of blood cells) and with marriages within the communities the incidence can grow at a rapid pace,” he said. Individuals who are normal are given white cards, those with SCA traits yellow cards and the affected are given red cards. “If two individuals having SCA traits get married half their children will be affected by SCA, a quarter of them will be carriers and only a quarter will be normal,” Dr Rao said. The cards are therefore essential to prevent carriers from getting married. Tribal population were prone to SCA because of malnutrition. A marked relationship had been established between genetic mutation and malnutrition, Dr Rao said. He said Gujarat which has a tribal population of 80 lakh had already screened 20 lakh people for SCA. (The Hindu 6/8/14)

11. Abused and Exploited Tribals Facing High HIV Risk (6)

KALPETTA: The tribal population in Wayanad is fast emerging as a HIV/AIDS high-risk group because of lack of awareness regarding unprotected sex and rampant sexual abuse of their womenfolk. According to volunteers working in tribal regions of the district, the rise in detection of HIV positive cases calls for a targeted intervention. As per the data provided by the Vihaan Care and Support Desk under the Council of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kerala (CPK+), out of the 123 registered HIV positive cases in Wayanad, 21 patients belong to the tribal community. They include 13 females, five males and three children. Of the 13 female patients, seven are widows, whose partners had succumbed to AIDS-related illness. The data reveals that there is a sharp increase in reported cases of HIV/AIDS since 2012. Taking into account the fact that the indigenous people make up only about 17 per cent of the total population in the district, these numbers are alarming, the volunteers said. Moreover, the actual numbers could be higher than what is being reported. The problem is compounded by the practice of polygamy among many of the tribal sects and the increase in the number of sex workers. Tribal women constitute about 40 per cent of the total female sex workers in the district who are registered with the Targeted Intervention (Suraksha) Programme, a project supported by Kerala State AIDS Control Society. “There could be more tribal persons living with HIV. Of the 21 patients, many came to us when the disease was at an advanced stage. They were being treated for diseases such as TB and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, before being diagnosed with HIV,” said an HIV positive volunteer with Vihaan, who did not wish to be identified. She said vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child and positive cases among pregnant women were also on the rise. “A large section of the tribal population is ignorant about HIV/AIDS. Recently, we advised an infected couple not to conceive, but they did not heed the warning. The woman is now six-months pregnant, placing another life at risk,” she said. District Medical officer O Neetha Vijayan said the situation requires a comprehensive investigation. “We have been conducting multi-specialty medical camps in tribal belts across the district. “Out of the 300 tribal TB patients, only two were found to be HIV-infected. Data to authenticate the exact number of cases are unavailable as forced HIV testing is a violation of human rights,” she said. In July alone, six cases of sexual abuse of tribal girls was reported from different parts of the district.“Tribal women are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse by tribals and outsiders. “Also, tribal men who migrate to agriculture fields in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu indulge in unsafe sex. Their spouses get infected when they return to their native places,” said Mary Signie, district programme coordinator of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society. According to her, instead of reporting the incident, victims of rape are often ostracised by their families and villagers. “The government agencies should create more awareness among the tribal community about the dreaded disease and help the affected patients receive treatment immediately,” she said. “A large number of sexual abuse cases come under the category ‘breach of promise to marry’. Unfortunately, most of these cases go unreported, or the victim turns hostile during her deposition. Thirteen of the total 17 sexual abuse cases that had went to trial recently resulted in acquittals,” said DySP K B Jeevanand. Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Youth Affairs  P K Jayalakshmi said that she will ask concerned authorities to examine the issue. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

12. Steps Taken to Bring Tribals to Mainstream, Says Minister (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Minister for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development Lalbihari Himirika on Saturday said the State Government has initiated several steps to bring Scheduled Tribes to the mainstream even as participants at a seminar observed that tribal language was not used in competitive examinations and technical studies. Addressing a convention here on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the Minister said language is an important part of one’s identity and culture and mother tongue is the foundation of all languages. Organised by the Odisha Adivasi Manch (OAM) and the Campaign on Mother Tongue based Early Childhood Education, people’s representatives and tribal leaders exchanged views on tribal culture, tradition, issues and the need for proper implementation of different schemes. Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Sudam Marandi and Transport Minister Ramesh Chandra Majhi maintained that while some schemes meant for tribals have been successful, several others have failed. Both the Ministers called for concerted efforts by OAM, NGOs and other voluntary rganizations for effective implementation of the schemes. The participants alleged that tribal youths suffer while competing with others for jobs and underlined the need for inclusion of indigenous languages in competitive examinations. Several other issues including the poor infrastructure and amenities in the tribal-dominated districts in important areas such as water and irrigation, education, transport and communication were raised. The event was attended by around 200 tribal leaders from 15 districts of Odisha. (New Indian Express 10/8/14)

WOMEN

13. Marriage sites behind marital strife: NCW chief (8)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women chief has blamed online matrimonial websites and advertisements for troubled marriages advocating a return to “tradition”. NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said in recent years a growing number of complaints came from “internet marriages”. “I receive so many complaints of broken marriages and about 25% are those who have found their partners through internet matrimonial sites or advertisements,” Sharma said adding that such couples did not know each other and their families well enough and ended up tying the knot in haste. The commission received 39 complaints of divorce in 2012 which increased to 59 in 2013. The number of complaints has already reached 48 in six months of 2014. While the divorce complaints are not significant, Sharma said the increasing number of cases of dowry harassment and domestic violence were also because of this growing phenomenon. “We might be as modern or western as we want but I think we should respect some old customs and traditions. In earlier days the families got to know each other before the marriage…now the boy claims to be qualified but turns out to be a drug addict. This misrepresentation leads to a lot of problems,” she said. Slamming the “conservative” attitude of the commission, a women’s rights activist said, “How can matrimonial sites be the only reason for such cases? There needs to be systemic change in society to ensure that crimes like domestic violence and dowry harassment are curbed,” she said. According to complaints received by the commission, the number of dowry harassment cases has doubled from 814 in 2012 to 1542 in 2013. The commission has already received 844 cases in the six months of 2014. While domestic violence complaints had come down from 4568 in 2012 to 3971 in 2013, this year the number of cases reported with the commission has already reached 3187. (Times of India 29/7/14)

14. Bihar to connect 1.5 crore women through 10 lakh SHG (8)

Patna: To bring women working in the unorganised sector under one umbrella, Bihar government is aiming at establishing 10 lakh Self Helf Groups (SHG) and connect 1.5 crore women through them, former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Friday. “Connecting 1.5 crore women to 10 lakh SHGs will affect over six crore persons in the state. We also aim to make the SHGs sustainable for making the women self-dependent. This is an ambitious project,” said Kumar. “Women empowerment is closely connected with awareness, self-dependence and self-confidence. We are paying attention to these three aspects for the welfare of women,” he added. Kumar was speaking at a workshop on ‘Women in Informal Economy in Bihar’ at Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) here. He also released a report prepared by SEWA Bharat, which is an All India Federation of Self Employed Women’s Associations. The report reveals that 1.3 crore women are working in the informal economy of the state, which involves animal husbandry, agriculture related works, bidi making, tailoring, household work and a wide variety of household industries. “The role and contribution of unorganised women workers in the growth of the state is not accounted for properly. Their work is taken for granted. The GDP also does not consider many things done by women. It they are considered, then GDP will go up naturally,” said Kumar. The former CM asked the secretary of Labour Resources Department Sanjay Kumar to ensure skill development of girls and women in the state as it is “a panacea to all ills”.Talking about the burgeoning population, Kumar said with rising education and the plans to open higher secondary schools in all panchayats in the state, the population would stabilize in 25 years. As the report on women in informal economy cites Census 2011 figures to point out that 77 per cent households in Bihar do not have access to toilets, the highest number in the country, the former chief minister said toilets and prohibition were the priority areas for the state government and grants were being given under various schemes for the purpose. (Zee News 1/8/14)

15. Crime against women higher in Delhi’s peripheral areas (8)

NEW DELHI: More than 24,000 cases pertaining to domestic violence and sexual violence have been registered based on the calls made by the city’s women to the 181 Women’s Helpline in the last year and a half. Incidentally, over 66,000 calls have been received by the helpline with regard to domestic violence and nearly 20,000 calls on sexual assault since its inception in late-December 2012. Preliminary analysis of data going as per FIRs registered in different police stations following complaints made to the helpline has shown a trend that domestic violence, sexual assault and cases relating to kidnapping and abduction follow a pattern, said Human Rights consultant Khadijah Faruqui, who also heads it. “We have received nearly 10 lakh calls since the helpline was set up and this is not a small number. If we club all the sexual crimes in one category and look at the cases registered per police stations, the maximum cases seem to be registered in areas in the peripheral parts of the city. For domestic violence, more or less the same police stations show up as places were maximum cases have been registered,” she says. “Peripheral parts of the city seem more crime prone.” Ms. Faruqui cautions, however, that this is just the preliminary analysis and she has requested information from the Delhi Police and the women’s cell to have a better understanding. “I also plan to meet SHOs and speak to women who phone in. For now, I find that the crime prone areas encircle the city.” Parts of West Delhi such as Uttam Nagar, Nangloi, Dabri and Tilak Nagar feature prominently as places were maximum number of cases have been registered in these two categories. Burari and Jahangirpuri in North Delhi and parts of Outer Delhi such as Sultanpuri, Narela and Vijay Vihar see a spike in cases. In all, the 181 Helpline that runs over three shifts, with at least six people working in each shift, has received up to 9,79,594 calls between December 31, 2012, and July 27 this year. Of these, 6,76,542 calls have been answered which range from calls pertaining to acid attacks, missing persons, dowry violence or just women calling in for some advice. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

16. NCW’s outgoing chief calls for more funds, strengthened role of the Commission (8)

New Delhi: National Commission of Women (NCW) chairperson Mamata Sharma on Friday called for a strengthening of the commission, welcoming the amendments proposed to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. “The JJ Act must be amended, because a child of 14 years is much more aware of his or her surrounds today; there is a lot to absorb from the internet or the TV. The age should be lowered to 16 years,” said Sharma, adding that the amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act is also welcome as it deals with domestic violence. “There are two aspects to the debate, legal and sociological, and there must be proper debates with experts,” she said. Sharma’s comments came on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the end of her three year old tenure at the Commission. There has been no official word on who might succeed her. Sharma said that even though she welcomed the changes to the NCW Act, she was not supportive of the idea of a retired judge heading the commission. “The commission must be headed by someone who has a background of work with women, and knows the problems women face. A retired judge is not recommended simply because of the atmosphere they have functioned in, which is not conducive for a position like this,” she said. On asked whether she thought if the tenure in the commission should be extended from the existing three years, she said that it was important to do so. “I think the tenure must be extended to five years, just so that projects can be implemented,” she said. Sharma also said that a lack of funds have also affected the functioning of the commission over the years. “If the government cares for women’s issues, there must be more funds for the commission to function,” said Sharma. “We are vested with the power of simply summoning. Unlike the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), we have no actual powers. The proposed changes are important.” (DNA 2/8/14)

17. Women Naxal cadres sexually exploited: Govt (8)

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said instances of sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres by senior Naxal leadership have been reported in various Left Wing Extremism affected states. Many instances of exploitation of tribals by the Naxalites/Maoists have come to the notice of the government. Such atrocities primarily include sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres in the Maoist camps which have been disclosed in statements of several surrendered women CPI (Maoist) cadres of Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. “This has been widely reported in the media also from time to time. Such instances of sexual exploitation include rape, forced marriage and molestation by senior male CPI(Maoist) cadres,” he added. Rijiju said that the government has information that some female cadres had to undergo abortions too. “In Chhattisgarh, some surrendered tribal CPI(Maoist) male cadres have disclosed that they were forced by the senior leadership to undergo vasectomy operations as a pre-condition for marriage with women cadres. There are allegations that women cadres of CPI(Maoist), who become pregnant, are forced to undergo abortion against their will,” the Minister said. The surrendered women cadres have also disclosed that even if they are married to male cadres, they are not allowed to have children since the senior leadership of the CPI (Maoist) feel that it impairs their fighting capability and mobility. “Further, forced recruitment of children from families of poor and marginalised segments of the society, including the tribals, by the Maoists has also come to notice. In order to instill a sense of fear in their areas of dominance, the Naxals also kill civilians after branding them as police informers,” Rijiju said. Out of 4,955 civilians have been killed by the Maoists since 2004 till July 15, 2014, the Minister said, the “overwhelming majority are tribals.” “The Maoists have in reality killed thousands of innocent Adivasis, whose cause they profess to espouse. This tragic reality is glossed over by the Maoist front organisations and their apologists in towns and cities who have launched a propaganda war against the Indian state and project Maoists as the champions of Advisasis,” he said. The Minister said the Naxals have recruited “minors” from the tribal belts of LWE affected areas in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha. “In Bihar and Jharkhand, these children are enrolled in ‘Bal Dasta’ and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha the children’s squad is known as ‘Bal Sangham’. The idea behind recruiting tribal children is to wean them away from their rich traditional cultural moorings and indoctrinate them into Maoists ideology. He said that it has been reported that children recruited in ‘dalams’ are not permitted to leave. “They face severe reprisals including killing of family members if they surrender to security forces.” Rijiju said a number of central and state government schemes were being run in these areas to “bring stability in the lives of children” and to ensure that all their entitlements to protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, education and safety were fulfilled through government action. (Zee news 5/8/14)

18. SC scan on abortion limit (8)

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there’s an immediate threat to the would-be mother’s life. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, allows abortions only till the 20th week of pregnancy for reasons such as severe foetal abnormalities or a grave risk to the pregnant woman’s health. (See chart) Today, the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M.Y. Eqbal admitted a petition moved by an NGO, Human Rights Law Network, challenging the 20-week limit on the behalf of two women identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y. Medical experts and women’s activists have for years been recommending that abortions be allowed beyond 20 weeks in case of a risk to the pregnant woman’s mental or physical health — even if it is not life-threatening — or severe foetal abnormalities. This is in line with the law in most countries where abortions are legal. Doctors had told Mrs X at her first antenatal check-up that her foetus had severe abnormalities and would not survive more than a few hours after birth, the petition says. Mrs X was 26 weeks pregnant and could therefore not legally obtain an abortion. She was forced to continue the pregnancy, visit the hospital regularly and participate in social events to celebrate the impending childbirth — all the while carrying a foetus she knew would not survive. After three days of excruciating labour pains, Mrs X delivered a baby that died less than three hours later. In her affidavit, Mrs X states: “The whole process was extremely painful. In normal circumstances a mother goes through all the discomfort just for the joy of giving birth…. However, in my case, there was no joy as I was aware of the poor outcome (of the birth). All this could have been avoided if my pregnancy was terminated in time.” As for Mrs Y, doctors had told her in the 19th week of her pregnancy that her foetus may be missing some brain tissue and that additional test results would not be available until after the 20th week. Under the limits imposed by the abortion law, Mrs Y was forced to make the excruciating decision to terminate her pregnancy without full knowledge of her foetus’s medical condition and prognosis. Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves today argued on the NGO’s behalf that the National Commission for Women, Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India, women’s groups and the international community agreed that the 20-week stipulation was irrational, outdated and a violation of women’s rights to equality, health and life. In April this year, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre and the Maharashtra government to respond to the petition, which challenges a Bombay High Court order upholding the current abortion restrictions. Today, the apex court admitted the petition. According to the NGO, 2-3 per cent of the 26 million babies born in India every year have severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. New technology allows many of these abnormalities to be detected — but only after 20 weeks. Time bars on abortion are usually based on the perceived link between the medical fact of a foetus’s viability — its ability to survive outside the uterus — and its legal right to be counted as an individual. However, there’s no sharply defined point in a foetus’s life when it attains viability, and the period may vary from case to case. (The Telegraph 6/8/14)

19. Women Activists March to Venue (8)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The inaugural ceremony of the shelter for the disabled women witnessed unusual scenes as members of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association district unit took out a march to the venue calling for the safety of the inmates of the ‘Nibhaya’ home against the backdrop of two inmates found missing recently. The women protesters led by district president S Pushpalatha reached the ‘Social Justice Complex’ (Samoohika Neethi Samuchayam) at Poojappura, where Mahila Mandiram Nirbhaya home, a shelter for women and girls who were subjected to sexual harassment, are located, by 11 am. It is on the same compound that the new shelter has also been built. They raised slogans against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy ‘’for failing to ensure the safety of women’’ and demanded an investigation into the alleged crimes taking place at the home. The agitators shouted slogans at Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer, who was sitting on a makeshift stage. They  reached within 100 metres of the stage, still shouting slogans. The police team present had no women police personnel and sub-inspector, Poojappura, R Rajesh and his colleagues had a tough time preventing the women from reaching the Minister. Later, Assistant Commissioner, Cantonment, Safudheen reached the spot with women police personnel and controlled the situation. The women protesters then moved to the main entrance of the complex and sat there for around an hour. Journalist R Parvathy Devi inaugurated the sit-in protest. (New Indian Express 8/8/14)

20. Women’s commission to press for reservation to victims of crimes (8)

MYSORE: Karnataka State Commission for Women is considering to ensure model reservation policy in all state universities for victims of sexual harassment, human trafficking and their children on the lines of University of Mysore (UoM). Commission chief Manjula Manasa told STOI that she has sought details from the authorities of all authorities before proceeding further in this regard. This follows an appeal by Odanadi Seva Samsthe, a city-based NGO working for the welfare of victims of trafficking and their children, to provide reservation to victims of various crimes and their children. Odanadi director Stanley said that the trauma faced by the victims of trafficking and acid attacks is inexplicable. “Most of them depend on their families, relatives or friends. But if the government comes forward to support them, either by providing education or jobs through a reservation policy, they too can overcome their agony, and shape their lives on their own,” he added. “Many victims suffer the stigma or fear of rejection by society,” he claims, adding that the provision to promote educational and economic interests of poor people is enshrined in the Constitution. UoM is perhaps the first institution in the country to reserve seats for survivors of sexual harassment and victims of human trafficking and also to their wards. Since 2012, it has been offering benefits to the inmates of Odanadi. Nearly four dozen survivors and their children have pursued UG and PG courses. Some of them are working in different sectors, including NGOs. According to Stanley, the university has made a provision under a special quota called ?Out of intake’, wherein it has reserved two seats for each UG course and one seat in each PG course for the inmates of Odanadi. It had also issued notification to its constituent colleges and PG centres. The students are also getting 50% concession in tuition fees. “This is a real boon for them,” Stanley explained. Manjula said that the commission will write to the government, seeking reservation to rape survivors and victims of acid attacks. (Times of India 10/8/14)

21. Suffering in Silence from Sexual Abuse (8)

CHENNAI: While Tamil Nadu can take pride in the induction of a large number of women into its police force, sexual abuse of the women personnel by senior male officials continues to be a major concern. The abuse faced by women police hardly gets reported. But it is still widely prevalent and victims are especially women serving at the constabulary level. “If you ask my opinion, I would say it is better for a woman to keep quiet and forget them,” says a women sub-inspector when queried about the prevalence of such abuse in the force. While senior police officers strive hard to maintain a squeaky clean image of the department by sweeping such incidents under the carpet, it is common knowledge inside the police force that such abuses are prevalent and there is little that a victim police woman can really do against the perpetrators. Recently in Chennai, a woman police constable offered to resign alleging that she was assigned unusually long hours of duty by an Assistant Commissioner of Police after she refused to entertain his advances. She was finally offered a transfer to another district. “She was reporting to that ACP and after she said a clear ‘no’ to his advances, she started getting duty assigned for more than 12 hours every day and was made to run from pillar to post. Not able to bear it, at one point she put in her resignation letter. That was when the abuse got the attention of senior officers,” a police source said. Every police district in the State has, on paper, a Vishaka committee to investigate sexual abuse at the work place. Yet, victims offer to resign, perhaps indicating that the committees hardly inspire confidence. Given that the hierarchical system is strongly entrenched in the police department, it is not uncommon that the victims are dependent on the perpetrators even to get a transfer or salary incentive. Erode constable S K Valli, who opened the can of worms in 2011 when she filed a Public Interest Litigation alleging widespread sexual abuse of women police by male officers, says she is still being “tortured” by the officers. Last December, she was suspended for accepting a bribe of `100 from a woman when she was posted in a government hospital. “I was not investigating any case and I was in no decision-making authority. Then who will give me bribe money? The officers were prompt in suspending me for taking `100 when corruption is entrenched at every level in this department,” says Valli about the incident. Immediately following the filing of the PIL, her son Neelakandan was allegedly threatened by a policeman and members of a political party. They allegedly warned him not to meet his mother and support her. They also reportedly tried to malign Valli’s image. Ever since she came out in the open about the abuse of women police, she alleges, a planned effort at “character assassination” is on. Activists say the present system in the police department gives plenty of opportunities for senior male officers to abuse their women colleagues. “There are plenty of cases of abuse in the department, but victims will not come out in the open and complain. This is due to the absolute lack of an independent and a professional mechanism to investigate such grievances. Until such a mechanism is evolved, the instances of abuse will never come out,” says activist Henry Tiphagne of People’s Watch. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

22.  ‘Delhi child labourers sweat out more than 8 hours with no rest day’ (14)

NEW DELHI: India continues to host the largest number of child labourers in the world with more than half of Delhi’s working children forced to work more than 8 hours a day without a single day’s rest. This was found in a survey done and released in New Delhi on Wednesday by child rights non government organisation Child Rights and You (CRY) (in partnership with Philips). The survey which is released on the closing of CRY’s Click Rights Campaign `Open Your Eyes and help make India Child Labour Free’, is an attempt to sensitise citizens- and duty-bearers- out of their inertia, to open their eyes to the grim reality of child labour. To substantiate the grim reality of child labour, a rapid assessment of the knowledge, attitude and practice of 300 employers of child labour in the unorganised sector was done. The findings point to apathy, absence of any form of regulation and illiteracy amongst employers themselves. Also through photos clicked by CRY volunteers, interns, eminent photographers, and most interestingly working children themselves, the survey has tried to take stock and find out where we stand, as a country, after having made a commitment to progressively eliminate child labour, a quarter of a century ago. Speaking about the survey, Soha Moitra, regional director (north) CRY said: “ This is a vicious cycle where employers themselves are illiterate and have at some point been child labourers; the lack of education forces them into the unorganised sector which is unregulated and exploitative.’’ “Children, the most vulnerable segment are the ones who are worst affected by this as they can work long hours, at a very low cost and have absolutely no safety nets,’’ she added. Meanwhile, the last leg of the campaign was marked by a photo exhibition in different parts of the city and launch of a photobook capturing the dreams and realities of children in labour, which consists of photographs clicked by child labourers and photographers. This was showcased here on Wednesday as part of the survey release. (The Hindu 30/7/14)

23. 76% of rescued child labourers went back to work: study (14)

Mumbai: Over 76 per cent of child labourers rescued in raids conducted six years ago in Mumbai went back to work, according to an NGO working for children’s rights. This highlighted in a study commissioned by CRY in Mumbai with research partner CARE. The study, ‘Developing a New Perspective on Child Labour – Exploring the aftermath of the Mumbai raids conducted from 2008 onwards’, was aimed at exploring what happened to children who were rescued during the raids conducted in 2008, after the rescue and rehabilitation process. Before the children were rescued, 83.53 per cent worked for more than 10 hours and nearly half of the children were treated badly by employers, a CRY release said. Almost 25 per cent of the children were released by the police to the parents or other persons related to them from the police station itself. No FIRs were filed for these children who never came into the system post the rescue and these children were never presented before the child welfare committee (CWC), it said. Altogether 76.47 per cent children were found to be working full time post rescue process, whereas 18.82 per cent combined work and education. Only 4 out of 85 children were found not working, it said. Top three sectors where children were found working before as well as post rescue are hotels, leather factories and zari workshops. In all, 77 FIRs were filed against 366 establishments, it said.PTI (The Hindu 2/8/14)

24. Govt urges effort to protect child rights (14)

NEW DELHI: Delhi government’s social welfare and women and child development department on Saturday called for a collective effort of all agencies and stakeholders to ensure protection of child rights. “Reaching out to every child in need of immediate intervention, care, respite and rehabilitation is the prime objective of the program which calls for the collective efforts of all agencies, stakeholders, civil society, service delivery structure and communities,” said Satbir Silas Bedi, principal secretary (social welfare and women and child development), Delhi government. The department suggested prevention of child sexual abuse through effective audio visual aids and stressed on the need for dissemination of message on a massive scale to address the issues. “Creating mass awareness on the subject, keeping in mind the preventive aspect is very important. The family, school teachers, and community, stakes holders need to be sensitized on the issue of child abuse and how it can be prevented,” said Bedi. She said State Child Protection Society has initiated a number of welfare programs related to creating awareness and dissemination of information on issues of child care schemes, legislations and services available for children in difficult circumstances. SCPS is working towards developing Information Education and Communication programmes. (Times of India 4/8/14)

25. New Bill lets minors be tried as adults for heinous crimes (14)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 that gives powers to the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if a juvenile above 16 years, involved in heinous crimes like rape, would be tried in an adult court. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had told Parliament that the new Bill aimed to act as a deterrent for juvenile offenders committing heinous crimes and protect the victims’ rights. The new Bill comes in the backdrop of outrage after a minor convicted in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case was handed a three-year term in a reform home. Activists, however, have criticized the move saying that India moved from penal law to reformative law by repealing the 1989 JJ Act and enacting the JJ Act 2000. Lowering the age or having any provision to deviate children from the juvenile justice system to criminal justice system is not acceptable, said activists. However, the Bill lays down that in no case a juvenile involved in a heinous crime will be sentenced to death or life imprisonment either when tried under the provisions of JJ Act or under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Some of the new provisions involve children in conflict zones. Recruiting child soldiers by militant groups is an offence in the new Bill, punishable with up to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment or Rs 5 lakh fine or both. Besides, the draft widens the definition of corporal punishment by including physical and verbal abuse. The draft Bill proposes stringent punishment for those who subject “a child to corporal punishment causing hurt and emotional distress for the child”.If the offender is an employee of an institution dealing with children, he can be dismissed from service for repeat offence. Even the management of such institution can be sentenced to up to three-year jail and Rs 1 lakh fine for non-compliance or non-cooperation in any probe. Ragging of students within or outside an institution is punishable by up to three years in jail and up to Rs 1 lakh fine. Anybody found to abet or propagate ragging can land up in jail, too. The proposed Bill also provides for facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) would be a statutory body with powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matter. The Bill also makes it mandatory for all child care institutions to register or face stiff penalty for non-compliance. (Times of India 7/8/14)

26.  ‘Amendments against the basic philosophy of Juvenile Justice Act’ (14)

BANGALORE: Kushal Singh, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), has condemned the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act that were approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 that was approved by the Cabinet will allow the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if those in the 16 to 18 age group can be tried as adults in case of heinous crimes. On the sidelines of a workshop to discuss safety concerns in schools here, Ms. Singh said the amendments were against the fundamental philosophy of the Juvenile Justice Act. “These amendments need wider consultations and should be based on more research and discussions with stakeholders. It should not be amended in this manner,” she said. She also said that the commission had sent its recommendations to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. “Now, it [the amendments] has to be decided in Parliament,” she said. Ms Singh also said that the amendments could lead to increase in crimes rather than decreasing them. “If a child is treated like an adult and if the child comes out of prison as a 26 or 28 year old, the child with a criminal record is more likely to commit such crimes,” she said. The chairperson also said that she would write to the Chief Justice of India recommending faster trials, particularly in cases of sexual assault against children. “It has been over a year since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 came into force. Although it is so progressive, it is not implemented in the true spirit,” she said. (The Hindu 8/8/14)

27. Child protection panels in 125 village panchayats meet (8)

PERAMBALUR: The village level child protection committee meeting was held in all the 125 village panchayats in the district on Friday. Josia Rajan, District Child Protection Officer, who addressed the villagers in Perali village panchayat, said the objective of the meeting was to check the nuisance caused by child marriage, prevention of sexual harassment of children, elimination of child labour and bonded labour system. Rehabilitation of affected children and ensuring educational opportunities as part of protection of child’s rights also formed part of the agenda. He appealed to the village panchayat presidents to ensure that children accommodated in private homes were properly cared for. Anti-trafficking of children should also be ensured. He suggested that villagers coming across any violation of child’s rights could contact toll free 1098 service to register their complaints. He also underlined the importance of creating awareness among the rural masses in this regard. An official release issued here said that the meeting adopted a resolution to guarantee child’s rights. A large number of volunteers belonging to various service organisations, anganwadi workers, village health nurses and police officials participated. Duraikannu, Perali village panchayat president, assured of adequate cooperation. (The Hindu 9/8/14)

28. Tamil Nadu Tops in Enforcing Child Rights: NCPCR (14)

TIRUCHY: Tamil Nadu has been emerging as the first State in the country to implement child rights, said Kushal Singh,chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR),at the Raksha Bandhan celebration here on Sunday. Over 60 children and people affected with HIV, took part in the Raksha Bandhan celebration, organised by Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Network for Positive People in Tiruchy (NPT+).Addressing the participants, Singh said, children affected with HIV have equal rights like others and there should be no discrimination. The initiatives of the State government on the welfare of children is appreciable, Singh added. “Education alone would help the children with HIV to raise their social status,” Singh said. “The issue of child abuse is on rise all over the country and steps would be taken to control it. We would recommend other States to establish Child Rights Club in schools like that of in Tiruchy district to protect the kids from abuse,”  Singh said. Earlier, Singh tied rakhi on the wrists of children affected with HIV/AIDS. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

29. Why victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra only from minorities, Bombay HC asks (7)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court observed on Thursday that the victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra appear to be only from the minority community. A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode made the remark after they informed advocate Yug Chaudhry of their decision to appoint him as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in a case where a 23-year-old resident of Nalasopara (East) mysteriously died in Thane Central Jail. Observing that custodial deaths are occurring routinely, the high court added, “It seems to be happening only against certain persons from the minority community.” Chaudhry agreed: “I have done my research and it shows that the cases are mostly of Muslims and Dalits.” The court questioned why such deaths are happening in Maharashtra. Referring to the case at hand, it said, “It is not reported as a custodial death but as a natural death.” The number of such cases is unknown, the court noted… (Times of India 1/8/14)

30. 25% of city’s schools have minority status (7)

Chandigarh: With three more private schools in Chandigarh recently granted the minority status by National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes (NCMEI), the number of school with minority status has increased to 17 out of 69 recognised private schools. The spurt in schools with minority status in UT has been witnessed soon after the apex court directions in 2012 which ruled that schools having the minority status are not bound to reserve 25% of their seats in entry level classes under RTE Act. Since then, six local schools have managed to get the desired minority status including Kids-R-Kids School, Sector 42, Ajit Karam Singh International Public School, Sector-41 and Sector 45, which were recently granted Sikh minority status by NCMEI The number is set to swell further as case of Vivek High School, Sector 38 and St. Kabir, Sector 26 is already pending before the commission and will come up for hearing next month in September. Another school- Guru Nanak Public School, Sector 36 is also in the race of getting minority status after its name was recently recommended to the NCMEI by the education department. Major  implication of all those schools with minority status is that they are no more under compulsion to comply with the directions of the RTE act or the education department. Even they are at their will to decide their own admission criteria and further fee structure that might conflict with the larger public interest, who are already not satisfied with the level of transparency during the time of admission. City based RTE activist Pankaj chandgothia said that all schools, who sought or were granted minority status after Supreme Court judgement, only aimed at exemption from the applicability of RTE Act, rather than seeking minority status per se. “If they were minority, why did not they seek that status soon after they were established? It raises the moot question of their intention,” he said. Paramjeet Grewal, manager of Kids R Kids, which came up in 2002 and recently got the minority certification, opposed this argument and said that their school was minority from the day it established. However it was just recently that they were certified minority by the NCMEI. He rubbished the claimed that schools were applying for the minority status to be exempted from RTE act. Many however feel that education has also failed to oppose the grant of minority in Minority in NCMEI court, paving the easy way for them. The department filed the reply in case of Vivek High School, Sector 38 and St Kabir School, Sector 26 but other schools had easy run in securing the minority certificate from the NCMEI. When contacted, DPI (s) Kamlesh Kumar, he said that it was not healthy move seeing so many schools being granted the minority status. It will affect the future of under-privileged children, who will not get admission in these institutions by virtue of their minority status. “I would be happy if the management of such schools come forwards generously and help the poor students (Hindustan Times 5/8/14)

31. SC says no status quo on Haryana gurdwaras law (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to order status quo on a law passed by Haryana wresting control over gurdwaras in the state from the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC). A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha agreed to hear on Thursday the petition challenging legal validity of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner Harbhajan Singh, a Haryana resident and SGPC member, sought urgent hearing of the matter, pointing out volatility of the situation. He urged the court to order status quo as the matter related to the state of affairs of about 10 to 12 gurdwaras. The bench, also comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph, expressed their readiness to examine the matter, saying nothing was going to happen in the meantime. “There is duly-elected government in the state to take care of law and order situation. Whatever state does, it would certainly never allow law and order to be disturbed. Every state is obligated under the Constitution to maintain the law and order,” the court said. The counsel said that Haryana passed the law without taking leave (permission) of the Centre as the matter had inter-state repercussions. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi agreed to clarify stand of the Union government after taking due instructions. (Deccan Herald  (7/8/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

32. Tamil Nadu 12th in recruiting Muslims as cops (7)

CHENNAI: Muslims constitute 5.56% of Tamil Nadu’s population, but the community accounts for only 1.82% of the state’s one lakh-odd strong police force, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau statistics. Tamil Nadu ranks 12th among states in providing employment to Muslims in police force. Top of the list is Jammu and Kashmir, where 54% of police personnel are Muslims. In the undivided Andhra Pradesh, second on the list, 9% of police personnel are Muslims. Tamil Nadu had passed a legislation to give 3.5% reservation to Muslims in its police force. But it is yet to implement it in letter and spirit, said a senior police officer. Of the 1.01 lakh police personnel in the state, only 1,846 are Muslims. Sikkim is last on the list with just nine Muslims in its 4,279-strong police force. Tamil Nadu has been fortunate not to have any major communal flare-up since violence broke out in Coimbatore in the wake of the serial blasts there in 1998. Nevertheless, there have been several communal murders in the state. In the last two years alone, 14 Sangh Parivar leaders were killed for communal reasons. Al-Umma, which gained notoriety with the Coimbatore serial blasts, is said to be involved in all these murders. “The special investigation division (SID), which is part of the Special Branch CID (SBCID) wing and the anti-fundamentalist wings attached to law and order police in various cities and districts have been busting terror networks,” a police officer said. Some experts are of the view that recruiting more Muslims into the state police would help counter the influence of extremists on Muslim youth. “Providing reservation in police force is a welcome move. It will help the force in fighting terrorism,” said R Ramrajan, retired inspector general. Following a DGPs’ conference in Delhi in 2012, a high-level committee comprising DGPs of Tamil Nadu, Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh and a senior IB officer from Mumbai was formed to study the role of minorities (Muslims) in police force. Maharashtra DGP Sanjeev Dayal, who led the committee, submitted the report at the DGPs’ conference in November 2013. It discussed ways to handle issues concerning minority communities. Among the issues that were raised was the inability of many Muslims to join police force as they do not study any regional language in school. They study only Urdu, and that does not help them join the force in many states. “The recommendations of the high-level committee have been forwarded to the Centre for its consideration,” said a senior police officer. (Times of India 31/7/14)

33. Activist files PIL over religion’s name in forms (7)

Mumbai: A Nashik-based social activist has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court, seeking that the registrar general and census commissioner should be restrained from carrying out the census survey and declaring the results of survey conducted for 2011-12 because, in several cases, the word “Muslim” and not “Islam” was filled in the “religion” column. The petitioner also prayed that corrections be made in the forms of census already conducted before declaring results. Petitioner Aziz Abbas Pathan’s lawyer Akhlaque Solkar, who is appearing along with advocate Afroz Siddiqui, told this newspaper that the contention of petitioner is that those who practice Islam are called Muslims, but the name of religion is Islam, not Muslim; so the “religion” column in census forms, birth certificates, leaving certificates and other forms should bear the word “Islam”. He further said that the petitioner has collected documents through the right to information (RTI) which shows that many census forms were bearing the name of the religion as Muslim, and many educational institutes were issuing leaving certificates with the religion “Muslim” and their petitioner is seeking rectification. The petitioner has attested copies of documents collected through the RTI to support his claim and through this PIL he has challenged the census survey carried out by government i.e. the Socio Economic and Caste/Religious Survey-2011. According to Mr Solkar, the census guideline manual, in illustrative examples for filling in the entries of religion, shows “Muslim” in the column of religion, and this is wrong and, so, the correction should be made to the public document. A division bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice A.S. Chandurkar has admitted the petition for hearing and expedited it for final hearing. However the judges said since the work of census survey of the year 2011-12 has been substantially completed therefore no interim relief could be granted, as sought in the petition. (Asian Age 4/8/14)

34. BJP to Oppose Any Move by Telangana Govt on Muslim Reservation (7)

SANGAREDDY: BJP will oppose any move by the Telangana government to provide 12 per cent reservation to Muslims as had been promised by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), led by K Chandrasekhar Rao, in its election manifesto, BJP state unit chief G Kishan Reddy said here today. “BJP is against providing reservation on religion basis and would not accept communal reservations. Moreover, this is a move of appeasing Muslims rather than a welfare activity,” Telangana state unit BJP president G Kishan Reddy said here while addressing a meeting.   He alleged that TRS government was not fulfilling its electoral promises and creating unnecessary hurdles in welfare schemes. “Last year’s pending reimbursement of fees to students is still not cleared. Now, the issue of nativity of students is being raked up. It is very difficult to prove the nativity and it would cause huge loss to Telangana students,” he said Reddy said Telangana government should work towards realisation of its electoral promises.  “BJP will not tolerate injustice to any eligible student in Telangana,” he added.    He was reacting to the decision of the Telangana government last month to fix 1956 as the cut-off year to determine the nativity of Telangana students. According to the decision, only students whose families were natives of Telangana prior to 1956 will be eligible to avail fee reimbursement and scholarships for professional courses from this year.On poor power supply in the newly-formed state, Reddy said, “Is this the Telangana state we had dreamt in which farmers are beaten up by police in lathi charge. The government should realise the situation and make necessary arrangements to ensure uninterrupted power supply to farm sector for at least six hours,” he added. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

35. Muslims forced to flee Gurgaon village (7)

GURGAON: Around two dozen Muslim families, operating small enterprises such as barbers shops, and tailoring and scrap units were thrashed and forced to flee Basai village in Gurgaon earlier this week. Confirming the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sangeeta Rani told The Hindu that five persons, including prime accused Amit, have been arrested and a case registered under Sections 148, 149, 323, 427 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. A senior police officer said the attackers suspected the involvement of the scrap dealers in petty theft. He however, said that only four to five families were targeted. Earlier this year, Mewat saw an escalation of communal tension over cattle smuggling which resulted in the death of a Hindu youth. Several Muslim youth have been arrested for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling, but members of the community argued that most of the victims of last week’s attack were natives of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have been running their shops for nearly a decade. They alleged that the attack was aimed at polarising the two communities to seek political mileage. Haryana is one of the two States which will go to polls later this year. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

36. NBCC condemns ‘witchcraft’ atrocity (7)

Kokrajhar: National Bodo Christian Coordination (NBCC) expressed deep shock over an incident at Sapkati in the Udalguri district in which a highly educated woman was branded a witch and forced to leave the district. The Christian-dominated village decided to exile the woman after an ailing youth alleged she was practising witchcraft. Dwimu Roje Goyary, NBCC general secretary, said the move goes against the teachings of Christianity. He added that nothing but blind faith in evil practices can result in the belief that witchcraft exists in rural areas. NBCC officially called upon the villagers to adhere to Christian principles and not believe in superstitions. Goyary encouraged local leaders, social workers and local organizations, particularly church leaders, to help solve the problem and bring back the victims to their native villages. He hoped that the problem would be solved through knowledge and understanding. Promod Boro, the president of All Bodo Students Union (Absu), also criticized the incident and explained how ABSU has been working to erase such superstitions from society by providing education to people in the rural areas. He said that witch hunting and victimization of innocent people has been on the decline in recent years. However, the incident at Sapkati has come as a shocking reminder that superstitions have not been fully eradicated from people’s minds. (Times of India 1/8/14)

37. Bishop calls for prohibition, decries rights panel order (7)

PATHANAMTHITTA: The order of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) that those bars meeting two-star criteria should be opened has kicked up a controversy with prohibitionists coming down heavily against it. Talking to The Hindu, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Metropolitan of the Niranom diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church, said the common man could not comprehend the SHRC order. Mar Coorilos, an active prohibitionist and moderator of the Mission and Evangelism Commission of the World Council of Churches, said no human rights issue was at stake in the closing down of 418 bars across the State. The government could easily rehabilitate those who were rendered jobless following the closure of the bars, he said. The bishop said the common people could never be blamed if they questioned the credibility of the SHRC which is supposed to ensure their right to live and protection from the social evils of alcoholism and drug abuse. The SHRC should have acted against the menace of alcoholism, he said. Kerala has been identified as one of the top liquor-consuming States in the country. A more alarming official revelation was that the average age of liquor consumption in the State has come down to 13 years, exposing the growing trend of alcoholism among children, he said. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had stated that Kerala could forgo the hefty revenue from liquor. He should show the political and moral will to stick to his words and introduce prohibition in a time-bound manner taking its heavy social cost into consideration, Mar Coorilos said. According to him, Left parties have failed in fighting social evils like alcoholism and drug abuse. He called upon the womenfolk to declare a war on liquor as they are at the receiving end of the social malady. The bishop said the churches should take a lead role in the crusade against liquor. Recently, Mar Coorilos had issued a pastoral letter urging the faithful to keep off alcoholics from key posts of church bodies. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

38. Benefits sought for SC converts to Christianity (7)

Hyderabad: The demand for extending non-statutory concessions to converts from Scheduled Castes to Christianity is rising among both clergy and layman in the Christian community. In spite of change of religion, the SC converts also suffer from the same social disabilities as the SC Hindus and therefore should be provided similar benefits, it is said. The A.P. State Christian Minority Finance Corporation (APSMFC) has sent a proposal to both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments in this regard. In fact, there is already a GO (341) in this connection issued way back in 1977. But it is gathering dust with the result the Christians, a majority of whom are SC converts, are deprived of the benefits which they would have otherwise enjoyed. This GO was issued when the noted civil servant S.R. Sankaran was the Secretary, Social Welfare Department. The main thrust of the GO is that mere change of religion should not become a bar to SCs from securing benefits which they would have been eligible to before conversion. The GO was issued in the light of the recommendations made by the State Harijan conference and the government resolved to extend the benefits to SC converts to Christianity and Buddhism. However, the SC converts will not be eligible to statutory concessions such as reservations in educational institutions and public services. Presently the Industries Department and the Social Welfare Residential Society are implementing the GO while other departments have chosen to ignore it. Recently, the government has announced the Kalyana Laxmi scheme which seeks to provide Rs. 50,000 at the time of marriage to SC and ST girls and three acre land to landless SC families. Christians too can benefit from these schemes if the GO is implemented, it is said. “The Telangana government is giving special focus on SCs and it is only appropriate that it implements this GO in letter and spirit,” says Navin Nicholas, managing director, APSCMFC. For availing of scholarships, the income ceiling limit for SCs and STs is Rs. 2 lakh per annum while for Christians and minorities it is just one lakh. Similarly there are schemes like Best Available School, Toefl and GRE training and overseas scholarships for SCs. “If the GO is implemented all these schemes will be applicable to Christians also,” Mr. Nicholas said. (The Hindu 7/8/14)

39. Pope Francis to send cardinal to Iraq (7)

Vatican City, Aug 8 (IANS/EFE) Pope Francis will send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to northern Iraq to express his proximity and solidarity with the people, especially Christians, who are enduring attacks from Sunni jihadis, the Vatican press office said Friday. The former nuncio to Iraq and current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is set to arrive in Iraqi Kurdistan within the next few days, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. More than 120,000 Christians have fled to Kurdistan from their homes in the northern Iraqi towns of Qaraqosh and Telkif, which have fallen under the control of militants of the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group. Lombardi said it was too early to know whether the pontiff’s envoy will visit those areas. The IS has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria to create an Islamic caliphate and has warned Christians they should convert to Islam or leave. The Vatican press office Thursday said the Pope had received with “concern” the “dramatic news coming from northern Iraq, where the most affected are Christian communities which must leave their villages because of the violence in the region”.In a statement, Francis urged the international community to put an end to this “humanitarian crisis and protect those threatened by violence”.”I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations,” Pope Francis posted Friday on his official Twitter account. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

40. Baptist Church demands Schedule Caste status for Christians (7)

Aizawl: Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) on Sunday joined National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in observing ‘Black Day’ demanding acceptance of Christians as Schedule Caste. Members of the Baptist Church pinned a piece of black cloth on their shirts and held mass prayers in all the local churches in the morning services. In a message distributed to the local churches, BCM General Secretary Rev H Lianngaia said that Indian Constitution in 1950 allowed only Hindus to become Scheduled Caste while the amendment in 1956 allowed Sikhs and Buddhists. “Christians and Muslims were not allowed to be given Scheduled Caste status,” he said. The Constitutional provision hindered missionaries in their missions to convert Scheduled Caste people like the Dalits as they ceased to enjoy the status once they converted to Christianity, he added. The BCM described the provision as biased and against the spirit of secularism. (Zee News 10/8/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

41. 28,131 illegal Bangla migrants deported from State (13)

GUWAHATI, July 29 – There were 28,131 illegal infiltrators deported to Bangladesh up to March 2014, said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in reply to an RTI petition filed on July 23 by RTI activist Rohit Choudhury. Choudhury in his petition sought all copies of the correspondences, communications, letters and Office Memorandums made and received among the MHA, MoEA and the PMO since April 1, 2004 on the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh identified in Assam and their deportation. The MHA said that the powers to identify and deport the foreign nationals, including the Bangla nationals, illegally staying in Indian territory have been delegated to the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations under Section 3(2) (c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946. Detection and deportation of such illegal immigrants is a continuous process. Thirty six Foreigners Tribunals are set up for detection of foreigners/illegal immigrants in Assam. Besides, additional 64 Foreigners Tribunals have been sanctioned by the MHA in June, 2013 for speedy disposal of cases pending with the Tribunals. Detected illegal migrants or illegal Bangla nationals are deported to Bangladesh. In order to ensure speedier disposal of cases pending in the Foreigners Tribunals, in April 2012, Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 was amended, which envisages that the cases shall be disposed of by the Tribunals within 60 days from the reference received from the competent authority. The MHA reply stated that the matter of detection and deportation of illegal Bangla nationals/ foreigners staying in India are dealt by it. Highest priority has been attached to control illegal migration from Bangladesh and also detection and deportation of Bangla nationals staying illegally in the country. Such issues are discussed regularly among the Central Ministries concerned and there are no specific correspondences among the MHA, Ministry of External Affairs (MoEA) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) available, said the MHA in its reply. (The Assam Tribune 30/7/14)

42. Australia sends 157 Lankan refugees to Nauru detention centre (13)

CHENNAI: Australian government has transferred the 157 asylum seekers, a majority of whom are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from India, to a detention centre in Nauru, a south pacific island country, overnight for offshore processing, after the immigrants refused to meet with Indian consular officials, minister for immigration and border protection Scott Morrison said. The asylum seekers set sail from Puducherry, 160km from Chennai in June, to reach Australian shores illegally. Taking a hardline on to prevent “people smuggling ventures” getting to Australia, all 157 were transferred to detention centre in Curtin. Morrison expressed disappointment that after having had access to their legal representatives on July 29, all 157 IMAs coincidentally chose not to talk to Indian consular officials. “The Australian government created a rare opportunity with the government of India for many of the 157 people who were on that voyage from India, including up to 50 children, to go back to where they had been living in safety in India, where they have family and friends, rather than go to Nauru,” Morrison said in a statement. Left with no option, the Australian government made arrangements to transfer all detainees at Curtin to Nauru at the first available opportunity for offshore processing, consistent with government policy under Operation Sovereign Borders. Morrison said these transfers were undertaken overnight on three separate flights and all 157 have now arrived in Nauru. All detainees, previously living in India would now be unable to take advantage of the humanitarian offer being made by the Indian government. “There will also now be around 50 more children on Nauru, many of whom, if not all, could have been going back to India,” Morrison said, processing and resettlement in Australia was never an option of the government. “The Tony Abbott government will always do all within our powers to prevent people smuggling ventures getting to Australia,” Morrison said. There has been just one such venture in more than seven months. That is in stark contrast to the more than two hundred that occurred over the same time period last year, he said. (Times of India 2/8/14)

43. 10 dead in Israeli airstrike near Gaza UN school (13)

RAFAH: A United Nations school sheltering displaced people in the southern Gaza Strip was hit on Sunday by what a U.N. official said appeared to be an Israeli airstrike, as the military struck the Hamas-ruled territory despite signalling a possible scaling back of its 27-day offensive. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded after the strike near a boys’ school in the town of Rafah. Robert Turner, the director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary findings indicated the blast was the result of an Israeli airstrike near the school, which had been providing shelter for some 3,000 people. He said at least one U.N. staffer appeared to be dead. “We don’t have confirmed details yet but the initial report says that there was some kind of airstrike in a street outside one of our shelters,” Mr. Turner said. Witnesses said the attack happened while people were waiting in line for food supplies. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. In a chaotic scene inside the compound of the U.N. school, several bodies, among them children, were strewn across the ground in puddles of blood. Bloody footprints stained the ground where people had rushed the wounded into ambulances. “Our trust and our fate is only in the hands of God!” one woman cried. Some of the wounded, among them children with bloody head bandages, were transported to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in what seemed to be a makeshift clinic underneath a tent. Several dead bodies, wrapped in white cloth, were lined up on the floor. At least six U.N. facilities, including schools sheltering the displaced, have been struck by Israeli fire since the conflict began, drawing international condemnation. In each case Israel has said it was responding to militants launching rockets or other attacks from nearby. In nearly four weeks of fighting, more than 1,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed as well as nearly 70 Israelis, almost all soldiers. Israel launched an aerial campaign in Gaza on July 8, 2014 to try to halt Palestinian rocket fire that has reached major cities, and later sent in troops to dismantle a sophisticated system of cross-border tunnels built by the militants in order to carry out attacks. Israel struck several targets in Gaza on Sunday. Artillery shells slammed into two high-rise office buildings in downtown Gaza City and large explosions could be heard seconds apart, police and witnesses said. Mr. al-Kidra said 30 Palestinians were killed on Sunday, including nine in a single strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel said it carried out 180 strikes on Sunday. While fighting continued, several Israeli tanks and other vehicles were seen leaving Gaza. In a televised address late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess operations after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down. At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu warned the territory’s Hamas rulers that they would pay an “intolerable price” if militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table. The Israeli military death toll rose to 64 after Israel announced that Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old infantry lieutenant feared captured in Gaza, was actually killed in battle. Three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side since hostilities began. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon revealed on his Facebook page on Sunday that he is a distant relative of Goldin. Israel had earlier said it feared Goldin had been captured by Hamas militants alongside two other soldiers who were killed Friday near Rafah in an ambush that shattered a cease-fire and was followed by heavy shelling that left dozens of Palestinians dead.Large swaths of Gaza have been destroyed and some 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the war began on July 8. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

44. Islamic State extends gains in north Iraq, Christians flee (13)

Iraq: Islamic State militants extended their gains in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening a foothold near the Kurdish region in an offensive that has alarmed the Baghdad government and regional powers. The advance forced thousands of residents of Iraq’s biggest Christian town to flee, fearing they would be subjected to the demands the Sunni militants made in other captured areas – leave, convert to Islam or face death. The Islamic State, which is considered more extreme than al- Qaeda, sees Iraq’s majority Shi’ites and minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community, as infidels. The militant group said in a statement on its Twitter account that its fighters had seized 15 towns, the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris River and a military base in an offensive that began at the weekend and would continue. Kurdish officials say their forces still control the dam, Iraq’s biggest. On Thursday, two witnesses told Reuters by telephone that Islamic State fighters had hoisted the group’s black flag over the dam, which could allow the militants to flood major cities or cut off significant water supplies and electricity. The Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces in the weekend sweep, prompting tens of thousands from the ancient Yazidi community to flee the town of Sinjar for surrounding mountains. Some of the many thousands trapped by Islamic State fighters on Sinjar mountain have been rescued in the past 24 hours, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, adding that 200,000 had fled the fighting. “This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” spokesman David Swanson said by telephone. Many of the displaced people urgently need water, food, shelter and medicine, he said. A spokesman for the U.N. agency for children said many of the children on the mountain were suffering from dehydration and at least 40 had died. Yazidis, seen by the Islamic State as “devil worshipers”, risk being executed by the Sunni militants seeking to establish an Islamic empire and redraw the map of the Middle East. Gains by the Islamic State have raised concerns that militants across the Arab world will follow their cue. The Sunni militants have fought in Lebanon. The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in areas of Iraq and Syria it controls, clashed with Kurdish forces on Wednesday in the town of Makhmur near Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone. Witnesses said the militants had seized Makhmur, but Kurdish officials told local media their forces remained in control there and television channels broadcast footage of peshmerga fighters driving around the town. The mainly Christian town of Tilkaif, as well as Al Kwair, were overrun by militants, according to witnesses. The Islamic State poses the biggest threat to Iraq’s integrity since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Its fighters and their Sunni allies also control a big chunk of western Iraq. The group has deepened sectarian tensions, pushing the country back to the dark days of a civil war which peaked in 2006-2007 under U.S.-led occupation. Bombings, kidnappings and executions are routine once again in Iraq, an OPEC member. Religious and ethnic minorities that have lived in the plains of the northern province of Nineveh are particularly vulnerable. Sunni militants have been purging Shi’ite Muslims of the Shabak and ethnic Turkmen minorities from towns and villages in Nineveh, and last month set a deadline for Christians to leave the provincial capital Mosul or be killed. The death toll from car bombings in crowded markets in Shi’ite areas of Baghdad climbed overnight to 59, with 125 wounded, security and medical sources said. The Islamic State’s gains have prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, to order his air force to help the Kurds, whose reputation as fearsome warriors was called into question by their defeat. There were several air force strikes on Wednesday, including one the government said killed 60 “terrorists” in Mosul, but they did not appear to have broken the Islamic State’s momentum. The militants’ capture of the town of Sinjar, ancestral home of the Yazidi ethnic minority, prompted tens of thousands of people to flee to surrounding mountains, where they are at risk of starvation. The Islamic State sees the Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, as “devil worshippers”. They are spread across a large area of northern Iraq and are part of the country’s Kurdish minority. Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein’s troops tried to crush the Kurds. Some were taken away by the executed former dictator’s intelligence agents.  (Zee News 7/8/14)

45. Mizoram CM discusses refugee issue with home secretary (13)

Aizawal: The Mizoram government has asked the union home ministry to take up with the Election Commission the issue of deleting from the electoral lists the names of those refugees who are unwilling to leave Tripura camps and return to Mizoram, an official said Friday. “Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla Wednesday held a meeting with Home Secretary Anil Goswami in New Delhi and requested him to take action over deleting the names of those refugees who are not willing to return to Mizoram,” an official told IANS here. He said, “The chief minister asked the home secretary to approach the Election Commission to take appropriate steps to remove the names of refugees from the Mizoram electoral rolls who are reluctant to return within a specific period.” “Lal Thanhawla apprised Goswami that while the state government has done its best to take back the refugees from Tripura camps, the state government’s efforts have often been opposed by a section of refugee leaders,” the official said. The home secretary told the chief minister that a committee would soon visit Tripura refugee camps to take note of the situation, the official said. About 35,000 Reang tribals are staying in seven camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following clashes with the Mizos. The Election Commission in April made arrangements for the refugees in six of the seven relief camps to cast their votes for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram through postal ballots. The poll panel decision angered some NGOs and students groups. They called for a three-day shutdown and an election boycott in Mizoram. The NGOs and the students groups demanded that the refugees must return to their villages and cast their votes in Mizoram. The Election Commission later deferred the April 9 Lok Sabha polls in Mizoram to April 11 due to the stir. The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking the central government to take steps to repatriate the 35,000 tribal refugees to Mizoram. Swapan Saha, Tripura’s relief and revenue department secretary said: “The home ministry has constituted a seven-member committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, the ministry’s additional secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps.” The central committee, comprising officials of the human resource development ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry, Tripura government and representatives of three NGOs from New Delhi, West Bengal and Assam, will submit its report to the home ministry and the Tripura High Court by Sep 12. The central team was constituted following a directive from the Tripura High Court which passed an order June 24 after a lawyer filed a petition. “The central team will visit the refugee camps before Aug 31 and supervise the sanitation, health, educational and other facilities there,” Saha added. Only about 5,000 Reang tribal refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

46. Government to draft 1500 officers to update citizens’ register (13)

GUWAHATI: The state government will engage 1,500 officers of gazetted rank as Local Registrars of Citizens Registration (LRCRs) in the state for updating the National Register for Citizens here. The government stated that it expects to complete the updating by December, 2016. The decision to update the NRC of 1951 was taken at a meeting among Aasu, the Centre and the state government in 2005. The notification for starting the work, based on the NRC of 1951 and electoral rolls up to 1971, was issued in December, 2013 in consultation with the ministry of law and justice. The Assam Accord of 1985 makes NRC upgrading mandatory for identification and deportation of illegal migrants to their places of origin, mostly Bangladesh. The process started after June 1, 2010, when the Registrar General, Citizens’ Registration, notified two pilot projects for updating the NRC of 1951 in Chaygaon revenue circle (Kamrup district) and Barpeta Sadar revenue circle (Barpeta district). A pilot project for updating the NRC was started on July 24 in the same year in Barpeta and Kamrup, which was called off after four persons protesting the modalities of updating were killed in police firing in Barpeta. “The process of NRC updating in Assam has made progress as per schedule and is expected to ensure final publication of the updated NRC within December, 2016,” a source of the state political department said. He said citizenship being a subject matter of the Union list of the Constitution of India, Centre’s approval is essential in all aspects of NRC updating process. “Powers to take decisions on operational issues, however, have been delegated by the Registrar General of India (RGI) to an empowered NRC committee of the state government on June 17, 2014. However, the decisions taken by this committee would be subjected to vetting by the RGI,” the source said. He said updating work would be carried out simultaneously across the state. “The state government has created 1,199 posts for project implementation at the state, district and circle level and also started the process of recruitment for these posts. A few crucial positions like additional project director, community project manager, and MIS (Management Information Expert) expert have already been filled up at the NRC state office, which is called the state project management unit (SPMU),” he said. This NRC office will be made operational by August, he said, adding, “All officers to be engaged for NRC updating have been identified for notification.” (Times of India 10/8/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

47. CBI to seek shield against RTI for its graft-tainted officials (1)

NEW DELHI: The CBI wants to stop disclosing details of allegations of corruption against its own officials under the RTI Act, something the agency currently provides under the transparency law. The agency will challenge before the Delhi high court an order of the Central Information Commission directing it to disclose information about its officials Vivek Dutt and Rajesh Karnatak who are facing allegations of corruption. RTI activist Subhash Agrawal had sought to know details of allegations against these officers who were part of CBI’s probe in the coal scam and were arrested by the agency while allegedly taking bribe to favour a businessman. “This is to inform you that CBI is going to file an appeal before the Delhi high court against the order of CIC,” DIG Arun Bothra said in a communication to Agrawal. CBI, a central investigating agency, was exempted from the transparency law by the UPA government which was facing serious allegations of corruption probed by the agency. The UPA government had brought it under Section 24 of the RTI Act which lists security and intelligence agencies exempted from provisions of the RTI Act. The section, however, makes it clear that such exemption from RTI Act shall not be applicable if any material sought by an information seeker and held by a public authority pertains to “allegations” of corruption. CBI had said the agency was exempt from making disclosures under the RTI Act. Rejecting the CBI’s arguments, chief information commissioner Rajiv Mathur held that Section 24 of the RTI Act had exempted certain organizations from the purview of the RTI Act including CBI. “However, information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations have been excluded,” Mathur said in his order. (Times of India 30/7/14)

48. Govt amends RTI Act to correct names of 2 exempted intel units (1)

New Delhi: Nearly nine years after the Right to Information Act came into force, the government has made changes in the Act to correct the names of two intelligence organisations exempted from providing information under the transparency law. The ‘Aviation Research Centre of the Cabinet Secretariat’ and ‘Special Frontier Force of the Cabinet Secretariat’ have been incorporated in the list of exempted organsations under the RTI Act, as per the amendments notified by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) late last month. Earlier, the names mentioned in the Act were Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and Special Frontier Force (SFF). Though the DoPT did not offer any clarification as to why the Act was amended, sources said the changes have been made to rightly show allegiance of the two organisations to the Cabinet Secretariat. Both the ARC and SFF are among over 20 intelligence and security agencies including IB, RAW and CBI exempted from providing information under the RTI Act to any citizen. “The ARC and the SFF do not have dedicated websites. Except for a mention about their inclusion in the list of notified organisations under Schedule 2 of the RTI Act in reply to a query in the Lok Sabha in 2005, no other question has been asked about these organisations in Parliament during the last 15 years,” said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO. According to the 2012-2013 annual report of the Central Information Commission, the Cabinet Secretariat is said to have rejected only 18 RTI applications under Section 24. “It is not clear whether ARC and SFF received any RTI applications at all last year,” he said, raising questions on the government move to amend the RTI Act about nine years after it came into force. The ARC is the air wing of external intelligence agency RAW. The SFF is said to have been raised at the end of the Indo-China war in 1962. (Zee News 3/8/14)

49. Mass RTI against builders in Greater Noida (1)

NOIDA: Around 100 flat buyers have decided to submit an RTI application against builders with the Greater Noida Authority to learn about the status of their ongoing projects, in the coming week. Indris Gupta, co-founder, Noida extension flat owners welfare association said individual buyers have not only been evaded by builders, but also the authorities have not always “satisfactorily” answered their queries. “We have been pursuing individuals for information. Most of them dodge queries from buyers directly, so now, we have made a list of builders from whom we request information about change of design, construction plans,” said Gupta. “We are getting together close to a 100 buyers who have decided to come forth and take the issue to a bigger level of protest in Noida and Greater Noida. We really hope that this application would be paid heed to. We are also seeking an appointment with the Greater Noida Authority Chairman so that gives our grievances a fair hearing” Gupta added. (Times of India 4/8/14)

50. Graft information can be sought from CBI under RTI: Govt (1)

New Delhi: Information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations can be sought from CBI under the Right to Information Act as exemption given to the organisation does not cover such records, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minister of state for personnel and training Jitendra Singh said CBI has been included in the Second Schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005, thereby exempting it from the purview of the Act except in respect of information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations. In a written reply, the minister said some representations have been received objecting to the inclusion of CBI in the second schedule of the RTI Act, 2005. “The government decided to include the Bureau in the Second Schedule after satisfying itself that it qualifies to be included in the schedule as a security and intelligence organisation and that it is necessary to do so in the interest of the security of the state,” the minister said. Organisations listed under Section 24 of the RTI are exempted from disclosure under the Act except when information held by them pertains to allegations of corruption or human rights violation. In such cases, disclosure would be judged by provisions of the RTI Act. Former chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra had clarified in one of his decisions that if any information held by an exempted organisation pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violation is sought by an applicant, its disclosure would be judged by the RTI Act and the exemption will not apply. (Hindustan Times 6/8/14)

51. Sports bodies receiving 10 lakh and above to come under RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: The government of India has declared today that all sports bodies receiving a grant of Rupees 10 lakh or more annually will come under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) act. “Government has declared all National Sports Federations (NSFs) receiving grant of Rs.10 lakh or more in a year as Public Authorities under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI), Act 2005,” said a Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry release. “Further, as per the provisions under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, 2005 it has been made incumbent upon all the public authorities to suo-moto disclose information on the various activities carried out by them. This is the requirement of good governance and transparency in sports bodies,” the release added. The government has also directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the NSFs to place a detailed information of all their ‘spendings’ and regulations on their respective websites by August 20. Complete details of officials, who were sent to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by IOA/NSFs along with the amount paid such as air fare, boarding and lodging, local transportation, daily allowance etc. has to be shared on the website. List of players (along with support personnel) who actually participated in the CWG will also be needed. Further, the IOA and NSFs have been asked to post all the detailed information on their website with regard to all international events to be held in India and abroad. From the details of coaching camps organised to the list of participants, support staff and coaches, the selection criteria of such events and the performance criteria which formed the basis of selection will all be required to be listed on the website as per the new government guidelines. (Times of India 7/8/14)

52. Homebuyers file 100 RTI pleas on 34 projects in Gr Noida (1)

NOIDA: Homebuyers in Greater Noida and Noida Extension came together on Friday to file 100 right to information applications on projects of 34 builders. The common theme in most RTI applications was the date of completion and handover of apartments in the housing projects. The buyers also inquired about the quality of material being used by builders, safety measures undertaken, changes in layout plan, if any and the floor area ratio. The ‘mass RTI’, as the homebuyers chose to describe it, was filed at the office of the Greater Noida Authority. “We have expedited the RTI submission and have requested the Authority to give us a speedy response,” said Shweta Bhatri, general secretary of the Noida Extension Flat Owners’ Welfare Association. One of the buyers, Arvind Kumar Singh, told TOI, “I own a house in a 21-floor project in Greater Noida. Though people are now residing in the apartments, the project has till date not received a completion certificate from the Authority. There are no safety measures and all our lives are at stake, but because the buyers are scared of not getting their flats, they have moved in. I am one of them.” Aditya, another buyer who participated in the ‘mass-RTI’ exercise, said, “We are scared that in a rush, the builders are using sub-standard material. We need to know what material is being used. If layouts are being changed, we should be made aware.” Harish Verma, assistant CEO, Noida Authority, said, “We will respond to they buyers’ queries, but it is important that the buyers pose their questions to the builders directly at the time of buying their apartments. They should be fully aware of the fine-print before making an investment.” (Times of India 9/8/14)

53. Give department-wise details of whistleblowers complaints: CIC to CVC (1)

New Delhi: The department-wise details of whistleblowers’ complaints of corruption in government departments can be made public, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held. Exercising his Right to Information, Venkatesh Nayak had sought from Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) details of complaints against government servants received under the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers (PIDPI) Resolution, also known as whistleblowers resolution. The CVC in its reply had maintained that PIDPI data is maintained as per the names and designation of officials concerned or organisation-wise to which the officials belong. ive department-wise details of whistleblowers complaints: CIC to CVC According to an official data, CVC had received 698, 804 and 901 complaints under the PIDPI Resolution during 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. “The information sought by the appellant may be available in the individual files of the Commission and culling and compiling from all the files pertaining to PIDPI complaints would involve deployment of additional manpower and would disproportionately divert the limited resources,” the CVC had said while disposing of the application and appeal. Aggrieved over the rejection, Nayak had moved CIC. “The Commission directs the Central Public Information Officer to provide the information to the appellant,” CIC said in its order. According to an official data, CVC had received 698, 804 and 901 complaints under the PIDPI Resolution during 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. “CVC disposes of most of the PIDPI cases saying ‘requiring no action’ and gives no explanation. The public in general and most importantly, the whistleblowers themselves, have the right to know the reasons for this kind of disposal,” said Nayak, who works with NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and demanded more transparency in disposal of these cases. The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011, which provides a mechanism for protecting the identity of whistleblowers — a term given to people who expose corruption — got the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee in May this year. The Act also provides for a system to encourage people to disclose information about corruption or willful misuse of power by public servants, including ministers. As per the law, a person can make a public interest disclosure on corruption before a competent authority, which is at present the CVC. (CNN IBN 10/8/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

54. Govt. to revisit proposal to bring all schools under education Act (11)

BANGALORE: The State government will revisit the proposal by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to bring all schools under the ambit of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983. Initially, the Act had stated that schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) would not be under its purview. However, in 2011, the High Court of Karnataka had said that CBSE and ICSE schools would come under the Karnataka Education Act and had quashed the relevant section. Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammad Mohsin said that an amendment would bring more clarity to the Act and bring in more accountability. Despite the High Court order, officials in the Education Department said that CBSE and ICSE schools were not obeying several circulars and guidelines issued by the department. “Several times, when we try to initiate action against schools for violating sections of the RTE Act, the schools, particularly CBSE and ICSE schools, say that the State government cannot regulate them. This even though we issue no objection certificates to the schools,” a source said. The Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012 also state that the State government could initiate action against schools if they violated RTE Act norms. (The Hindu 29/7/14)

55. Reply to RTE Act PIL, Bombay high court tell Maharashtra govt (11)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has sought the presence of state advocate-general Darius Khambata to address the court over certain serious issues raised in a PIL, which has questioned the government’s failure in the Right to Education (RTE) Act’s implementation in Maharashtra. A bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice Amjad Sayed on August 1 said “considering the importance of primary education in the state, certain issues in the state’s July 31 affidavit require clarification.” The issues before the court now are the financial implication on parents and students from disadvantaged and weaker sections, who are admitted under the 25% quota and on the institutions that admitted these students. The other question that was raised by Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti and that the court is now hearing is “effective timely steps be taken by all concerned to achieve the 25% target in every school in the state”. “What is the purpose of keeping unfilled seats vacant”, the court also asked. The HC will now hear the matter on August 4. The PIL hearing has uncovered the state’s failure of the much touted “online admission process” for the 25% seats reserved under the RTE Act. The online allotment letters merely “entitle the student to approach the earmarked schools with necessary documents for verification.” This leaves the door open for the schools to reject the application or simply deny admission without specifying any reason, said activists. The third round of “online admissions” is expected to start from Monday. (Times of India 2/8/14)

56. RTE quota: out goes ‘free’ education (11)

BANGALORE: Unable to control private school managements from extorting fees from parents of children admitted under the RTE quota, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has removed the word ‘free’ education and retained only the word compulsory from the advertisements issued by the department to raise awareness about the Act. This comes months after the RTE task force submitted a complaint to the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) stating that the ads issued by the department were misleading as private unaided schools were charging fees for parents whose children were admitted under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education reservation quota. This, even as the department issued a circular to private unaided schools stating that extorting fees from parents of students admitted under the RTE quota is not acceptable. The department had roped in Kannada actors — Puneet Rajkumar and Radhika Pandit — to raise awareness about the RTE Act. The new advertisements appearing in newspapers and on various television channels mentioned that compulsory education is mandatory for children between 6 and 14 years. However, it has left out the word ‘free’ that was used in earlier advertisements and the central legislation itself. Condemning the move, RTE task force convener Nagasimha G. Rao said it was extremely irresponsible on the part of the department to remove the word ‘free’ from advertisements. “In stead of making sure that private schools do not exploit parents of children admitted under the RTE quota, the department has washed away its responsibility and removed the word ‘free’.” The government reimbursement ceiling to private schools is fixed at Rs.11,848 a year for a child admitted to Class 1 and Rs. 5,924 for a child in pre-primary class. Private school managements had contended that the amount was not adequate. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

57. NGOs bat for revival of ‘dal-bhaat’ scheme (11)

RANCHI: Right to food campaign, conglomerate of NGOs working for implementation of Food Security Act (FSA), had demanded the state government to restart ‘dal-bhaat’ scheme under which special outlets were opened by the state government to provide ‘dal-bhaat’ at cheap rate. The campaign activists convened their state-level meeting here on Sunday to discuss various aspects of the FSA and draw a comprehensive plan to intensify their stir, aimed at implementation of the scheme in state on time. Presenting a report on the ‘anda-abhiyan’ (egg campaign) taken up all over the state on July 3, state convener for right to food, Gurjeet Singh, said that the state was not in a mood to include eggs in mid day meal being given to students in government schools. “During the ‘anda-abhiyan’ 10650 students of 17 government schools were served eggs and a pressure was mounted over the state machinery to include eggs in the menu of MDM,” he said. Keeping under consideration the success of the campaign, the activists have decided to launch ‘daal-bhat’ campaign on August 22 when ‘daal-bhaat’ would be distributed across state to create awareness among the beneficiaries and government agencies so that the scheme is reintroduced. The members of the campaign also decided to write post cards to chief minister Hemant Soren, requesting him to include eggs in MDM of school kids. State president, right to education forum, AK Singh emphasized that MDM is not just linked to right to food but serves bridge with right to education of children as well. “We are going to include egg-campaign in further activities of RTE as well,” he said. Chairing the meet, Supreme Court appointed advisor to commissioner on implementation of right to food, Balram, said that egg-campaign was nothing but a symbolism to make the government agencies responsible for children’s right to food and education. “Government is drawing a formula to decide inclusion and exclusion of beneficiaries of the FSA for which campaign members would extend their suggestions,” he said expressing disappointment over the fact that universal PDS was not accepted by the union government, as was demanded by the campaign from onset. (Times of India 4/8/14)

58. Court raps government for withholding students’ books (11)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday criticised the city government over its “failure” to provide free books and uniforms to economically weaker section (EWS) students studying in unaided private schools in the city. The court also was displeased with the status report filed by the city’s Directorate of Education and asked for a fresh report within two weeks. The status report filed by the Delhi government had revealed that only 303 schools in the city have provided free books and uniforms to EWS students. “We are not happy with the status report filed by the Directorate of Education, it is very vague and does not provide requisite information,” said the court, and asked the director of education to submit an affidavit detailing the total number of students in the EWS and disadvantaged group (DG) categories. The DoE has also been asked to file separate information on government schools, private unaided schools and the schools not in these categories. The court has also wants details of the total number of students, who have received free books and uniforms. The court was hearing a petition of filed by a NGO, Justice for All, which alleged that students of unaided private schools in the EWS and DG categories were deprived of free books, uniforms and other study material. “A division bench of this high court had directed the Directorate of Education (DoE) to come out with guidelines in February 2011 but the government failed to do so and schools have been violating the provisions of RTE Act,” the plea said. The petition has alleged that these schools are “grossly” violating provisions of RTE Act and the Delhi RTE Rules. It has also claimed that though these schools were receiving reimbursements from the government, they were not providing the same to the students. (Asian Age 6/8/14)

59. Teachers to hold protest to press for their demands (11)

Mumbai: As per State Principals Union, at least 60,000 teachers are on the verge of losing their jobs due to improper implementation of RTE. Should the Act be implemented properly, more than 1 lakh posts can be created. Around 14 different associations are coming together to speak out against some rules that are affecting not only the teachers, but also the students. The associations have also decided to shut down schools after August 15, if corrections aren’t made to some of RTE rules. After knowing that 60,000 teachers may lose their jobs – especially those from unaided schools – the associations have decided to protest on August 11. Around 14 organizations of trustees, principals, teachers, students and parents across the state are coming together to protest the improper implementation of the RTE Act in front of the Director of Education office in Pune. Prashant Redijj, head of the State Principals Union, said, “The most affected in this are Marathi-medium schools whose staff and students are joining the protest. The RTE says that standards 6, 7 and 8 should have 1 teacher for 35 students. If class 5 has 30 students, then that one teacher will become surplus and those 30 children will be merged with another class of 35. Even in the offline staff selection, many are going to lose their jobs. We are protesting to withdraw some of these rules.” (DNA 8/8/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

60. Hunger deaths stalk Bengal tea country (21)

JALPAIGURI/ALIPURDUAR: The picturesque tea estates of North Bengal hide a gruesome truth – malnutrition deaths. Nearly 100 people have reportedly died in five closed tea gardens since January, with 10 deaths reported this month. It’s a chilling reminder of the starvation deaths in Amlasole, West Midnapore, 10 years ago following which Supreme Court had ordered an inquiry. But just like the Left Front government then, the Mamata Banerjee administration refuses to categorise them as malnutrition deaths. The Godhulibazar North East Society for Empowerment of Public, an NGO working in tea belt, says the number of deaths has touched 100. “Seven people have died in Redbank and Raipur tea estates alone,” said society coordinator Md Azhar on Monday. Over the past decade and a half, more than 1,000 garden workers and their family members have died in the sprawling but decaying tea estates of Dooars, say NGO workers. Though many gardens that were closed a decade ago have since reopened, deaths continue to stalk this belt. This month, six persons have died at Redbank Tea Estate. Many more are emaciated and vulnerable to disease and death, say sources. The closure of once flourishing tea gardens has dealt a staggering blow to the Dooars economy. Tea workers were never a happy lot, with low wages, poor quality rations and inadequate medical facilities. But things have turned worse now with death and disease becoming a part of daily life in the ‘Coolie’ lines. “Tuberculosis is rampant. So are other ailments. We don’t have electricity and had planned to boycott the election this time but couldn’t coordinate the effort. There is hardly anything to eat. The rice we get through public distribution system is unfit for human consumption. Though doctors visit the garden thrice a week, we don’t have money for medicines or tests. I’ve been told I need a surgery but can’t afford it,” says Anup Oraon, a worker in Redbank. Two more gardens in Jalpaiguri are shut: Surendranagar and Dharanipur. And in the adjoining Alipurduar district, two gardens – Dheklapara TE and Bandapani – have been shut for years. These five gardens account for nearly 15,000 workers and 45,000 dependants. Though they get a few days work under NREGA, payment is irregular… (Times of India 29/7/14)

61. Students from Muslim families form major chunk of school dropouts (21)

MYSORE: The rate of school dropouts is high among children from Muslim community in Mysore city. Education officials attribute it to “poverty, illiteracy among parents and local environment”.S Chandrapatil, deputy project coordinator at Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), claimed that the north education block has the highest number of dropouts. Here, majority of the students are from Muslim families. As many as 1,338 students studying in Class VI, VII and VIII have quit learning to work as per a joint survey report made by the members of an NGO and the education department. The main cause is said to be “poverty and local environment”.The other findings of the report: children stop going to school once they step into teenage and jump to work. Reasons vary depending on individual cases. Some have quit studies to support their families, a few others follow their neighbhours who go to work, and others because of pressure from their parents to work. On turning 13-14 years, they think of working instead continuing education. “Once they start earning, it will be difficult for us to bring them back to school. We are trying our best by roping in the services of NGOs,” the official claimed. The dropout rate in SC/ST students is also high in the district. About 26% of 5,921 dropouts belong to SC/ST community. Majority students, belonging to scheduled tribe from HD Kote and Hunsur, don’t show interest in studies. Poverty, migration and illiteracy among parents are known causes for scheduled caste students to drop out of schools. Muslim students alone account for 21% of the dropout rate,” he claimed. Girl students stop learning because they are forced to work as caretakers of their siblings or to work as domestic help. As per the latest stats, 5,921 students have left schools in the district. Of them, 2,153, including 949 girls, have resumed studies, thanks to the efforts of education authorities and NGOs. “Government has set up Kasturba Gandhi Balika residential schools in five taluks to facilitate dropouts to continue education. At present, 377 have enrolled in those schools,” claimed Chandrapatil. Corporator K C Shoukath Pasha said that poverty could be a reason for Muslim boys to discontinue education. “But if the government improves facilities at government schools, the dropout rate will surely come down. Government schools in north education block lack benches and qualified teachers,” he added. (Times of India 2/8/14)

62. Poverty figures in Chhattisgarh, MP are highest (21)

New Delhi: The expert group headed by former PM’s Economic Advisory Committee chairman C. Rangarajan, which was assigned the task of determining fresh criteria to identify the poor in the country, has revealed that two BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh (44 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (47.9 per cent), have among the highest incidences of poverty in percentage terms. Incidentally, even in Gujarat (27.4 per cent), which was showcased by the BJP as a model state in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the percentage of the poor is fairly close to the national average of 29.5 per cent. The expert group, which recently submitted its report to the government, a copy of which is with this newspaper, revealed that smaller states like Goa (6.3 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (10.9 per cent), Kerala (11.3 per cent) and Haryana (12.5 per cent), are among the better-off states, having the least poverty, and are far below the national average. In terms of absolute numbers of poor people, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at the top of the list, as these two states have a high density of population. With 80.9 million people living below the poverty line in Uttar Pradesh, and 43.8 million in Bihar, the poor in the two states together account for over 10 per cent of India’s population. But in percentage terms, they (Bihar 41.3 and UP 39.8) are below the BJP-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The ruling BJP has always boasted about Gujarat’s development model, and used it to the hilt in the Lok Sabha polls. But a close look at the figures provided by the expert group reveals that of the total population of the state, the number of poor is as high as 16.8 million, that is 27.4 per cent, that is very close to the national average of 29.5 per cent, leaving a question mark on the “inclusiveness” of growth in the state. Incidentally, in West Bengal, that is currently reeling under a huge debt burden, with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress government pushing hard to get some relief from the Centre, the poverty figure is astonishingly quite close to the national average. At a time when the national average is 29.5, in West Bengal only 29.7 per cent of people are poor. Among Union territories, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the least poverty, with only 6.0 per cent of its people poor, whereas the highest incidence of poverty is in Dadra and Nagar Haveli (35.6 per cent). (Asian Age 4/8/14)

63. Conference to Chalk Out Ways to Feed Eight Billion People in 2025 (21)

CHENNAI: Commemorating the UN International Year of Family Farming, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), in partnership with several international agencies, will hold a regional consultation to discuss ways to achieve “Zero Hunger.” The four-day meet will witness participation of ministerial delegates from 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific Region and more than 200 participants representing international and national organisations, farmers’ producer groups and academicians in the city from August 7 to 10. Announcing the details of the event at a press conference here on Monday, MSSRF founder and chief mentor M S Swaminathan said there was a need for a shift from ‘food security’ to ‘nutrition security’ in the current context. “Family farming offers an effective and economic solution to help meet the challenge of making sure that each person has access not just to calories but to nutritious food. With an estimated 500 million family farms across the world, we are looking at the role two billion people play, in achieving this nutrition security.” The agriculture expert said family farming included all family-based agricultural activities such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture. Managed and operated by a family, it was predominantly reliant on family labour including that of women. “Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector,” he pointed out. Swaminathan said the event would be held at the MSSRF campus in the city in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Development Research Centre, Canada, World Food Programme, International Fund for Agriculture Development, Department for International Development UK, UN Women, Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium and other national and international agencies. “With an estimated eight billion mouths to feed by 2025, we must think more precisely about a solutions for reaching zero hunger. This conference, which will culminate in a Chennai Declaration, hopes to do precisely that,” Swaminathan added. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

64. PM’s WTO remark against UPA false: Congress (21)

New Delhi: Refuting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion that the UPA government had compromised on the issue of food security at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Congress has said it will raise the matter in Parliament on Monday. “The statement of Mr. Modi, his claim of standing up for food security in the interest of farmers by taking up a stand in opposition to the one taken by the UPA government is misleading and given with the objective to confuse the people,” former Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in a statement. Mr. Sharma said the Prime Minister’s remarks that India had disregarded the interests of farmers and the right to food security at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial were “astonishing, factually incorrect and false.” He said that on the issue of the WTO, Mr. Modi, in his address to the BJP’s National Council meeting on Saturday, had contradicted statements that Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman made in Parliament last week. Mr. Sharma is the Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha and had led the Indian delegation at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial meet. “When both the Houses are in session, it becomes a question of privilege of the members to know what the truth is. Which of the two is true?” Without naming the UPA government, Mr. Modi on Saturday said “those who sought votes in the name of food security, signed the agreement [sacrificing the interests of poor people].” He said the NDA government “chose” to take a tough stand in the recent WTO talks to protect the interests of the poor people of the country rather than to look for good publicity in the international media. Mr. Sharma said the “Prime Minister needed to be reminded that it was India’s strong and uncompromising stance that forced the issue of procurement of food grains for public stock holding and livelihood countries on the Bali WTO agenda despite stiff opposition from the U.S., European Union and other developed countries.” He said India had succeeded in forming a coalition of developing countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, forcing the developed countries to cede ground and agree to negotiate a permanent solution to change the dated WTO rules which India rejected at Bali as inherently flawed and unjust. “India also secured for itself and other developing countries protection from any challenge at the WTO for any breach until a negotiated permanent solution was put in place,” Mr. Sharma said. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

65. India accepts ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ (21)

CHENNAI: India has agreed to the “Zero Hunger Challenge” set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director general for Asia-Pacific for FAO. We got an official confirmation from the Union minister of agriculture. Now, the next step would be to formulate a country-specific action plan to eradicate hunger in our life time,” he told TOI on Sunday. He was in the city for a four-day conference by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. “Countries have promised to set aside at least 10% of their national revenue for this cause,” he added. The “Zero Hunger Challenge” comes at a time when the number of hungry people has not reduced substantially, despite progress in agriculture production. At the end of Second World War, about one in six people were hungry. Today, one in eight people go to bed hungry. For successful family farming, women should also be given equal access and rights to resources. (Times of India 11/8/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

66. Cabinet nod for labour law reforms (14)

NEW DELHI: The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to three archaic labour laws aimed at easing regulations which have acted as an obstacle to faster growth and hurt employee interests. Sources said the cabinet had approved amendments to the Factories 1948, the Apprenticeship Act 1961, Labour Laws (Exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining of registers by certain establishments 1988), a bold reform move expected to help attract investments and improve the ease of doing business in the country. The amendments to the Factories Act 1948 is expected allow women for night duty with adequate safety and provision for transport after work. This is expected to help several sectors such as textiles and garments. It also aimed to raise the overtime hours from the current ceiling of 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours per quarter. The amendment also proposes this limit to be increased to a maximum of 125 hours per quarter in public interest with the approval of state government. The amendments also seeks to ensure safer work environment for employees in hazardous environment as well as provision of canteen facilities in respect of factories employing 200 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 250 workers. It also provides for shelters or restrooms and lunchrooms in factories employing 75 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 150 workers. The amendments to the apprenticeship act 1961 is expected to help in skill development and training. The move is aimed at providing flexibility to firms on hiring apprentices and removing restrictive clauses for employers. The Narendra Modi administration has vowed to revive the economy and the manufacturing sector to create jobs and experts said the reforms in labour laws is expected to usher in investments and deepen industrial activity. “This sends a very positive signal about the government’s intention to attract investment. It is the first step and is perhaps the biggest reforms in nearly 44 years. It is a huge step,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice president and co-founder of staffing firm TeamLeas. But she cautioned that there should not be any complacency and the government should put in place mechanisms to oversee the implementation of the new reforms. (Times of India 31/7/14)

67. CITU to Protest Against Raj Govt’s Bills Amending Labour Laws (14)

JAIPUR: The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) today announced to hold massive protests from August 13 against three labour reform bills passed by Rajasthan Assembly on July 31. “Workers of various unions affiliated to CITU in Rajasthan will hold demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins at all district headquarters on August 13 and submit a copy of demands to the Governor through collectors,” Ravindra Shukla, CITU state president said at a press conference here. All trade unions reject the bills passed against labour and their unions in the House recently, he said. Contract labourers of various unions will also hold demonstrations outside Labour Commissioners and officers on August 25, demanding ‘majdoor card’, Shukla said. The legislative Assembly of Rajasthan passed Bills amending four important labour laws– on Factories Act, 1948, the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Apprenticeship Act, 1961. (New Indian Express 3/8/14)

68. NHRC to Take up MGNREGA Case in State in First Sitting (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will take up the issue of non-payment of wages to people who have availed work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the State as the first case during its sitting in Bhubaneswar to start from August 19. While the State Government will submit its response on the matter, affected labourers will also present their cases before the single member bench of SC Sinha. The Commission had earlier taken note of the failure of the Government to comply with its directions and submit a detailed report on complaints over non-payment of wages to workers in different districts. It had issued a final reminder to the Government calling for the report and warned of initiating coercive action under Section 13 of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 if the order is still not complied with. The Commission had acted on the basis of a complaint filed by activist Akhand drawing attention towards irregularities in implementation of MGNREGA in Odisha. The Government was not paying wages to lakhs of poor people who had toiled in different projects under the scheme, the petitioner alleged. As per rules, wages have to be paid within a fortnight but the workers are receiving payment after months. Further, it has been stipulated that overdue wages should be paid with compensation proportionate to the delay. The petitioner had alleged that more then 40 per cent of the dues to the tune of `216 crore had not been paid within the 15 day period. Over `19 crore in wages was paid after two months. This has posed immense problems for the rural poor, he alleged. He had appealed to the Commission to direct the Government to strictly adhere to the rules and make all payments within the stipulated time. Those not paid in time should be adequately compensated. The Commission had issued notice to the Chief Secretary and sought a report in the matter. The three-day camp of the Commission to be held at Odisha State Guest House would end on August 21. The Commission is scheduled to hear 82 cases. Sinha will also hold discussion with Chief Secretary along with other senior officials of the State Government, NGOs, activists and people on August 21. (New Indian Express 4/8/14)

69. 600 Women Join Stir at Kaniyambadi (14)

VELLORE: Nearly 700 villagers, including around 600 women, from 17 panchayats in Kaniyambadi union gathered in Kaniyambadi on Wednesday, to highlight the anomalies in implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme. District secretary of CPM, Vellore, A Narayanan and State president of All India Agriculture Workers’ Union (AIAWU) and MLA of Periyakulam A Laser, led the protest. The workers enrolled under the scheme are not paid properly. Job cards to workers have not been issued for the last 20 days,” said Narayanan. Collector R Nanthagopal had allegedly ordered not to issue job cards to beneficiaries until they built individual latrine, he said and criticised that it was not the right way to implement a scheme. He said,“We approached the proper channel for permission for the protest five days before. But the police informed us at 3 am on Wednesday that we can’t protest in front of the BDO office,” Narayanan added. (New Indian Express 7/8/14)

70. Govt introduces two labour reform Bills in Lok Sabha (14)

New Delhi: Moving full steam ahead with its reform agenda, the government on Thursday introduced two crucial labour reform Bills — Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, 2014 — in the Lok Sabha. The two Bills that were approved by the Union Cabinet last week, were tabled by Vishnu Deo Sai, minister of state for labour and employment, according to an official release. Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar had earlier said that these changes would benefit workers and create jobs in a big way. “The Acts have to consider both the interests of workers as well as businesses. The proposals will benefit the workers,” he had said last week. The long pending Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 aims to improve safety and health of workers as well as allow women to be employed for night shifts in factories and also increase the limit for overtime hours by workers. The Bill also seeks to lower the criteria for annual leave with wages to 90 days from the current 240 days as well as provide canteen facilities to factories employing 200 workers. Meanwhile, the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill aims to attract more youth to join apprenticeship training by introducing new courses, opening up the field to non-engineering graduates and diploma holders and giving more flexibility to the industry. At present, there are just 2.82 lakh apprentices undergoing apprenticeship training against 4.90 lakh seats. While the government is hoping to get the Bills enacted in the ongoing session of Parliament, Opposition parties and trade unions are unhappy over its progress. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Factories Bill, which it will affect crores of workers in the country, was being done in haste and its introduction should be deferred as it had to be examined. Meanwhile, trade unions too have said that they were not consulted by the government on these Bills. “Even if we are not opposed to these proposals, but there should have been some consultations with us rather than rushing them through like this,” said the leader of a central trade union. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions had also written to Tomar raising concerns over the Cabinet approval to these draft legislations. (The Financial Express 8/8/14)

71. Ensure minimum wages to tea garden workers, govt. told (14)

Kolkata: Representatives of trade unions and activists under the Right to Food Campaign, who visited five abandoned and closed tea gardens in north Bengal last month, have urged the State government to ensure minimum living wages to the tea garden workers. “The State government needs to ensure payment of a minimum living wages in the tea sector to avoid starvation deaths and deaths due to poverty in the long run. This is possible if instead of the present wages of Rs. 95/90, the State government plays a positive role in the present wage negotiations or if it declares a living wages as the minimum wages in the tea sector,” a report submitted to the State’s Chief Secretary said. The representatives pointed out that immediate help is needed for the aged people in the tea gardens. “People in peril other than the elderly need to be identified by the State government and NGOs and aid should be given to them. Community kitchens under the SAHAI scheme need to be started,” Fr Irudaya Jothi, one of the members of the team, told The Hindu on Saturday. The representatives also suggested special supervision at the ICDS centres and immediate arrangements for drinking water. Other than extending work under the MGNREGA and ensuring its payment on weekly basis, if it is not possible on a daily basis, the representatives have said that measures need to be taken to sort out legal hurdles to reopen the gardens immediately. “The team recorded 65 deaths in four closed and abandoned tea estates in less than a year. While not all these deaths were due to starvation, not all deaths were in natural course or due to old age either,” Debjit Dutta, another member of the team and spokesperson of United Tea Workers Forum, said. He said that deaths were because of causes associated with malnutrition, hunger, and diseases associated with poverty such as tuberculosis. Though the 12-member team said that they were somewhat satisfied with the relief in the gardens they agreed that relief could not be a solution to the crisis. In the five tea gardens – Dheklapara, Bundapani, Red Bank, Surendranagar, and Raipur – the team visited they have compiled the number of workers to 3,780. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

RESERVATION

72. Community to protest at Azad Maidan on August 1 (25)

Mumbai: After a week-long agitation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Dhangars turned violent, members of the community will hold a protest march on August 1. While a State Transport bus was burnt during the agitation, the protest at Azad Maidan will be peaceful. Dressed in the traditional attire of the community, its members will come to Mumbai with their goats and sheep for the event. The march will begin from Byculla and culminate at Azad Maidan, a release from the Dhanagar Arakshan Kruti Samiti said. “We have decided to vote for the party which ensures us the ST status,” Lalit Bandgar, the Samiti leader, said. Dhangars from various walks of life will participate in the protest.BJP core committee members state president Devendra Fadnavis, leader of Opposition in the Council Vinod Tawade, senior leader Madhav Bhandari and MLA Pankaja Munde have visited the protest site to extend their support. The government also has a sympathetic view of the backward community; however, the tribal leaders are opposing the demand. The Dhangar community claims a significant presence in 78 of 288 Assembly seats, including Baramati and Madha. The community’s demand for inclusion under STs was intensified after the government sanctioned 16 and five per cent reservation for Marathas and Muslims respectively in government jobs and educational institutions. Maharashtra’s Dhangars now get reservation benefits under VJNT (Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes), which they say, is not enough. The chief minister recently said that the state government would have to consider the views of all community leaders before taking a call. Tribal legislators under the leadership of NCP minister Madhukar Pichad have threatened to resign en masse if the Dhanagars are included in the ST category. (Asian Age 30/7/14)

73. Remove ‘Creamy Layer’ Concept, Suggests BJP MP (25)

NEW DELHI: A strong plea for removing the concept of ‘creamy layer’ while giving reservation to Other Backward Classes was made by a BJP member in the Lok Sabha Friday contending that such a course of action would help backwards. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Rajen Gohain wondered as to why “a division was created between ‘creamy layer’ and non-creamy layer”.He wanted to know on what basis this concept had come into existence and wanted to do away with this “injustice” at once. It was instantly supported by his party colleague Hansraj Ahir, who also wanted direction from the Centre to Maharashtra to give a fair deal to students belonging to OBC communities on the issue of fees and scholarships. He said “injustice” is being done in this regard to students in Yavatmal, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

74. SC notice to centre, states on extending SC/ST legislative quota (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday issued notice to the central and state governments on a petition challenging the constitution’s 95th amendment extending the period of reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years upto Jan 26, 2020. By the said amendment, the representation of Anglo-Indians too was extended by the same period. A constitution bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice S.A.Bobde issued notice after it was told that 79th amendment extending this period of reservation has been over-ridden by the 95th amendment that has increased the period till January 26th 2020. The constitution bench Tuesday took up for hearing petition filed in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007, challenging the earlier extension of period by 79th amendment. Senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan, who appeared for a number of petitioners, urged that notice may be issued to the political parties but it did not find favour with the court. He said that political parties may be permitted to implead themselves if they so intended. The 95th amendment of the constitution that was passed by the parliament in 2009 was given presidential assent on Jan 19, 2010. Originally the reservation for seats in scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Lok Sabha and State assemblies was upto 1960. But it was successively amended by 8th, 23rd, 45th, 62th and 79th amendment of the constitution’s article 334 to extend this period of reservation. Article 334 of the constitution provides for reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and Anglo-Indian community in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. (Business Standard 5/8/14)

75. Muslims urged to take part in survey (25)

HYDERABAD: The AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) on Wednesday sent letters to district collectors in Telangana urging them to spread awareness about the Integrated Household Survey to be taken up on August 19. “We have urged the collectors to hold awareness programmes from August 10 to August 18. This survey will be significant for all minorities as it will help them avail various benefits and reservations in education and other fields. We urge members of these communities to actively participate in the survey,” APSMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan said. The commission has written to chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, urging him to set the wheels in motion for setting up a Muslim university on the lines of Aligarh Muslim University in the state. It can be located on the land endowed to Dargah Hazrat Maqdoom Biyabani in Ranga Reddy district, it suggested. According to APSHC officials, around 1,264 acres are endowed to the dargah. “The Telangana government has said that it is serious about protecting wakf properties. By setting up the university, the issues of protection of wakf land as well as giving impetus to education of Muslims would be addressed,” Khan said. Meanwhile, after obtaining a joint survey report of revenue and wakf officials in the murky dealing of land endowed to Dargah Hazrat Shah Ali Abbas in Kukatpally, the APSMC has recommended that the Rs 1.84 crore handed over to one Syed Arifuddin Qadri be retrieved. It was in June last year that the then chairman of the AP State Wakf Board Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani initiated criminal proceedings against Qadri for embezzling the money. (Times of India 7/8/14)

76. Punjab wants Centre to relax MBBS admission criterion (25)

Chandigarh: The Punjab government has urged the union government to relax the admission criterion for MBBS course for the Scheduled Caste (SC) students. Punjab State Scheduled Castes Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha Thursday said 71 seats of SC quota in medical colleges in Punjab were still vacant. The Punjab government wants the central government to lower the admission cut off marks from 40 percent to 30 percent for SC students to secure admission in medical colleges of the state. “It has come to the notice of SC commission that 71 seats of SC quota are still vacant, which could not be filled due to the strict admission norms of the union government. Many SC organizations have also given representations in this regard,” Bagha said. He said the cut-off percentage was reduced to 26 percent in the 2013-14 admission session to fill up the medical seats. (Zee News 8/8/14)

77. ‘Form committee to identify genuine tribals’ (25)

The State government will work towards identifying genuine tribal communities in the State, so as to provide them with reservation and other facilities accordingly, said Revenue Minister V Sreenivas Prasad, here on Saturday. He was speaking during the World Tribal Day celebrations, jointly organised by Karnataka Adivasi Rakshana Parishat, Department of Kannada and Culture, and Karnataka Janapada Academy. He said that needy sections among tribal communities had not benefitted from the reservation meant for Scheduled Tribes. “The scope of reservation meant for tribals has been weakened, to reap electoral benefits. Communities who are not Adivasis are benefitting from the reservation meant for STs,” he said. The list of Scheduled Tribes has continued to grow since independence. The Central government should form a commission to identify genuine tribals and provide reservation and other facilities for them accordingly, he said. He said that the State would write to the Centre seeking the formation of such a Committee. “Day by day, the objectives of tribal welfare programmes is being weakened, and tribals continue to remain backward,” he said. Cooperative minister H S Mahadeva Prasad said that Project Tiger and other similar schemes had adversely affected tribal communities. Collection of forest produce and visiting places of religious importance of tribals inside the reserves had become difficult. Apart from this, tribals continue to be harassed in various forms, he added. An attractive rally, which saw the participation of several tribal art groups, was taken out in the city, as part of the celebrations. More than 10 tribal teams from various parts of the State, displayed their dance and other cultural forms during the rally. The rally, which commenced at Kote Anjaneya temple, concluded at Exhibition Grounds in the city. Teams of tribals from Jenu Kuruba, Soliga, Malekudiya, Betta Kuruba, Siddi, Yerava and others took part in the rally. MP R Dhruvanarayan said that Soliga tribe should be included under ‘Original Inhabitants’ list for getting more funds from both the Central and State governments. He was speaking after inaugurating the World Tribal Day celebrations, organised by Jilla Budakattu Girijana Abhivrudhi Sangha, at Pete Government Primary School, in Chamarajanagar, on Saturday. He urged the researchers to recommend to the government about bringing Soligas under ‘Original Inhabitants’ for their benefit. (Deccan Herald 10/8/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

78. NHRC notices to DM and SP, Mathura in a case of sexual assault (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a teenage Dalit girl was allegedly gang raped by six youths in Pingri village of Mathura District, Uttar Pradesh, on July 19 this year. Reportedly, she had gone to a temple to attend an overnight religious event. When she went to relieve herself at a nearby field, she was abducted and sexually assaulted. The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim and issued notices to the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, calling for a report in the matter within two weeks. (Zee News 1/8/14)

79. Rights panel notice to DM on girl’s suicide bid (1)

CUTTACK: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) taking cognisance of a petition pertaining to the alleged self-immolation bid of a Class X tribal girl has issued notice to the Nabarangpur district collector asking him to submit a report in this context within four weeks. Admitting the petition of human rights activist and advocate Prabir Kumar Das, the Commission on Friday issued the notice, informed Mr. Das on Saturday saying that he has urged the Commission to order for a high-level enquiry into the shocking incident. Kanakdei Bhatra (15) is currently undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College and Hospital here with over 95 percent burn injuries. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

80. Tamil Nadu Government Planning to Amend Human Rights Act (1)

CHENNAI: The State government is proposing to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act to make a retired judge of the Madras High Court eligible for appointment as the chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission, Advocate-General AL Somayaji told the First Bench of the High Court on Monday. When a contempt application seeking to punish the officials concerned for failure to appoint a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, as directed by it earlier, came up, Somayaji told the First Bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan that no retired Chief Justice was available to fill the post of SHRC chairman. Effective steps are being taken to amend the Act and make a retired judge of the High Court eligible for the post, the AG said and prayed for eight weeks more to do so. Originally, advocate T Sundaravadanam filed a PIL praying for a direction to the government to fill the post of SHRC chairman, which was lying vacant from August 2011. Disposing of the PIL, the First Bench headed by the then Chief Justice MY Eqbal in November 2012, directed the government to fill the post, as quickly as possible, preferably within three months. As this was not complied with even now, the petitioner filed the present contempt application. (New Indian Express 5/8/14)

81. ‘No Recognition for Any Rights Body’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala State Human Rights Commission chairman Justice J B Koshy has stated that no human rights organisation  in the state has the recognition of the commission.  Justice Koshy stated in an order that no organisation in the state should claim that it had the approval of and protection from the commission. ‘’In case of any organisation collecting money, misleading or cheating the people  in the name of rights bodies the affected parties can approach the police. In case of receiving complaints from such people,   the police should initiate an inquiry as per law,’’ the commission said in its order.  ‘’As per the Human Rights Protection Act, the commission conducts the enquiry using its investigation wing or employing an official not below the rank of a Gazetted officer. The commission has not engaged any agency to conduct any investigation’’  Justice Koshy’s order said. The commission’s ruling came on a complaint by K S Sudheeran, Sudhendran,  Noushad K Thekkazhikath against Kadakkavoor Vikaraman, secretary of an organisation called ‘’Kerala state  Human Rights protection council’’ which has been  claiming that it had the recognition of the commission.  The commission said such organisations should not use the names, boards on vehicles or use letterheads which could appear like that of the State government. The commission pointed out that it had noticed that some organisations had beenusing names similar to that of the commission. This is illegal. No organisation can function as part of the commission. And human rights organisations should not give membership in the style of money chain, the commission said.  Some organisations are collecting money  claiming that it had the approval of the SHRC. There is no right for the commission to give membership to the organisations as per the Human Rights Act. Lok Ayukta has also made it clear that such organisations had no recognition of the Lok Ayukta.  Some of the organisations are claiming that they had the powers of even the Chief Justice, Justice Koshy said. (New Indian Express 7/8/14)

82. Civil society calls for peace in Gaza (1)

New Delhi: Members of several civil society organisations Friday condemned the killing of innocent Palestinian children in the month-long Israeli offensive in Gaza. They also called for an extension of the ceasefire and halt to the attacks, restoration of essential services and reconstruction of Gaza under the initiative of the United Nations. They also called upon the Indian government to work with other countries to pursue recourse to all possible international mechanisms such as sanctions and criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Israel accountable for its carnage in Gaza. The members include Ambarish Rai of Right to Education Forum, Alex George of ActionAid (a division of Child Rights Focus), Annie Namala of Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, Sanjeev Rai of Save the Children. (Business Standard 8/8/14)

83. NHRC Notice to Govt on Maoist Killings (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Odisha Government over killing of two innocent tribals at the hands of Maoists in Malkangiri district in July. The Commission has asked the Chief Secretary GC Pati and Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik to submit reports within four weeks. The Commission issued the notice after rights activist Subash Mohapatra filed a petition alleging that police were aware that the two tribals were targets of Maoists but did not provide security to them. The victims – Deba Padiami (30) and Ganga Madkami (45) – were engaged in community development work in their village. However, they were being suspected as police informer and the Maoists had set their sights on the two. Police have, however, denied that the two deceased were police informers. In his petition, Mohapatra said, families of the deceased have not been provided any assistance from the administration. There is discrimination and delay in granting the compensation to the victims of Maoist menace, he added. The Commission took cognizance of the case and registered the complaint before hearing the matter. The killings had taken place in Badaliguda village under Kalimela police limits in the wee hours of July 25. Badaliguda is a Maoist-affected village and inhabitants have been requesting for security despite the fact that they are cooperating with government programmes. The Border Security Force has set up a camp three km from the village since 2013. (New Indian Express 11/8/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

84. Law panel chief opposes judicial bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah has opposed the government’s proposal to bring the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, saying this would have a “debilitating effect on judicial independence”.Shah told TOI the bill was against constitutional safeguards to the higher judiciary which “doesn’t allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person”. The proposed bill allows complaints from the public alleging misbehaviour on the part of a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge which can ultimately result in impeachment. “Article 124(5) of the Constitution empowers Parliament to only make laws to regulate the procedure for presentation of address of impeachment and for the investigation and proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge. It does not allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person,” Justice Shah said. Such complaints, if made incessantly, and their mandatory consideration by the oversight committee, could have a debilitating effect on judicial independence, the Law Commission chairman said. Justice Shah had raised this issue at Monday’s deliberations where the law ministry had invited top jurists and former CJIs A M Ahmadi and V N Khare among others for consultations on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. Justice Shah is not the first to raise concern at the executive’s attempt to gag the judiciary. Earlier, the higher judiciary had expressed concern when the government proposed to include a clause in the bill banning judges from making comments on constitutional authorities in open court. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was passed by the UPA government in Lok Sabha in 2012 but it has lapsed with the constitution of the 16th Parliament. Clause 3(f) of the bill provides that no judge shall “enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters”. This, the Law Commission chairman said, was a wide restriction and considerable litigation could be expected, including by losing litigants, on the connotation of “views expressed” and “political matters”.”In no other country in the common law world are such standards statutory, they are usually contained in an internal code of conduct and thereby not subject matter of complaints in court,” he said. Justice Shah said vendetta litigation was a very likely possibility given the vast number of dissatisfied litigants who already file complaints in high courts despite there being no established statutory procedure for doing so. “Questions surrounding the constitutionality of such a complaints mechanism and its effect on judicial independence will have to be studied more closely before such a bill is introduced,” he added. The law panel chairman also raised suitability issues of the oversight and the investigation committees proposed under the law. “It is widely recognized that impeachment cannot be seen as a one-size-fits-all punishment for all judicial misbehaviour – there is a need for minor disciplinary measures for misbehaviour that may not warrant impeachment,” he said. (Times of India 31/7/14)

85. Katju objects to Justice Dave’s statement on Gita (19)

New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju on Sunday objected to a Supreme Court judge’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be taught in schools, saying this is against India’s secular feature and Constitution and will do it “great harm.” Supreme Court judge Justice A R Dave had on Saturday said Indians should revert to their ancient traditions and texts such as Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita and they should be introduced to children at an early age. “Somebody who is very secular… so called secular will not agree… Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry if somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere,” he had said in Ahmedabad. Mr. Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, “I totally disagree with Justice Dave’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be made compulsory in schools. “In a country of such diversity as ours, nothing of this kind should be compelled or imposed, as that is against our nation’s secular feature and Constitution,” he said in a statement. He said Muslims and Christians may not want their children to be taught these books and questioned if their children yet be forced to read them. “Some people say that Gita only teaches morality and has nothing to do with religion. But Muslims may say that only the Quran teaches morality, Christians may say that only the Bible teaches morality, Sikhs may say that only the Guru Granth Saheb teaches morality, Parsis may say only the Zend Avesta teaches morality, etc,” he said. In his opinion, he said, such compulsion or imposition will do great harm to the unity of the country. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

86. Law panel head questions judicial Bill, advises a new one (19)

New Delhi: The Law Commission of India has come down heavily on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2012, asking the government to come up with a new Bill, one that “ensures judicial accountability in an effective manner while not adversely affecting judicial inde-pendence at the same time”. In a note sent to the Union Law Ministry, Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah covered all the important clauses of the Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha in March 2012, and raised issues of constitutionality of the proposed law. In the note, Justice Shah termed the definition of misbehavior in clause 2(j) of the Bill as “over-inclusive and under-inclusive at the same time”. Elaborating, he said that the definition was over-inclusive because even a “minor infraction” would constitute misconduct, an act for which impeachment has been given as available remedy. It was also under-inclusive, the note adds, since the definition was very expansive. “Though it has a residuary clause ‘conduct which brings dishonour or disrepute to the judiciary’, this definition is so vague so as to be redundant,” he said. The former Delhi High Court chief justice also takes exception to the Bill aiming to lay down statutory judicial standards. “The statutory laying  down of judicial standards, thereby making the non-observance of such standards justiciable, opens a Pandora’s box of litigation. For example, Clause 3(f) provides that no judge shall ‘enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters’. This is a widely worded restriction and considerable litigation can be expected to ensue, including several cases of vendetta by losing litigants, on the connotation of ‘views expressed’, ‘political matters’, etc,” his note says. The previous UPA Government had introduced the Bill which, among other things, provides that judges be required to declare their and their kin’s assets, lays down judicial standards, and establishes processes for removal of members of the higher judiciary. It also proposed establishing a National Judicial Oversight Committee, a Complaints Scrutiny Panel and an investigation committee to go into complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. The Law Commission Chairman is not enthused with this plan too, saying “very little discretion” is vested in the Oversight Committee. “Besides, the composition of both the Oversight Committee and the Scrutiny Panel is preponderantly judicial. It is unclear why two bodies are required, a set-up that has significant potential to delay the entire process of scrutiny and oversight. Besides provisions relating to tenure, re-appointment (Indian Express 4/8/14)

87. SC scan on abortion limit (19)

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there’s an immediate threat to the would-be mother’s life. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, allows abortions only till the 20th week of pregnancy for reasons such as severe foetal abnormalities or a grave risk to the pregnant woman’s health. (See chart) Today, the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M.Y. Eqbal admitted a petition moved by an NGO, Human Rights Law Network, challenging the 20-week limit on the behalf of two women identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y. Medical experts and women’s activists have for years been recommending that abortions be allowed beyond 20 weeks in case of a risk to the pregnant woman’s mental or physical health — even if it is not life-threatening — or severe foetal abnormalities. This is in line with the law in most countries where abortions are legal. Doctors had told Mrs X at her first antenatal check-up that her foetus had severe abnormalities and would not survive more than a few hours after birth, the petition says. Mrs X was 26 weeks pregnant and could therefore not legally obtain an abortion. She was forced to continue the pregnancy, visit the hospital regularly and participate in social events to celebrate the impending childbirth — all the while carrying a foetus she knew would not survive. After three days of excruciating labour pains, Mrs X delivered a baby that died less than three hours later. In her affidavit, Mrs X states: “The whole process was extremely painful. In normal circumstances a mother goes through all the discomfort just for the joy of giving birth…. However, in my case, there was no joy as I was aware of the poor outcome (of the birth). All this could have been avoided if my pregnancy was terminated in time.” As for Mrs Y, doctors had told her in the 19th week of her pregnancy that her foetus may be missing some brain tissue and that additional test results would not be available until after the 20th week. Under the limits imposed by the abortion law, Mrs Y was forced to make the excruciating decision to terminate her pregnancy without full knowledge of her foetus’s medical condition and prognosis. Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves today argued on the NGO’s behalf that the National Commission for Women, Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of India, women’s groups and the international community agreed that the 20-week stipulation was irrational, outdated and a violation of women’s rights to equality, health and life. In April this year, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre and the Maharashtra government to respond to the petition, which challenges a Bombay High Court order upholding the current abortion restrictions. Today, the apex court admitted the petition. According to the NGO, 2-3 per cent of the 26 million babies born in India every year have severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. New technology allows many of these abnormalities to be detected — but only after 20 weeks. Time bars on abortion are usually based on the perceived link between the medical fact of a foetus’s viability — its ability to survive outside the uterus — and its legal right to be counted as an individual. However, there’s no sharply defined point in a foetus’s life when it attains viability, and the period may vary from case to case. (The Telegraph 6/8/14)

88. Cabinet clears amendments to Juvenile Justice Act paving way for harsher punishment (19)

NEW DELHI: A proposal which will empower the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether a juvenile above 16 years involved in heinous crimes such as rape is to be sent to a observation home or tried in a regular court is learnt have been cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. With all central ministries giving their approval to the amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the proposal was placed on the agenda for cabinet meeting today. The proposed changes in the law come against the backdrop of outrage over the lighter punishment of three years in a reform home given to a minor convicted in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. However, according to the bill, in no case will the juvenile involved in a heinous crime be sentenced to death or life imprisonment either when tried under the provisions of JJ Act or under the provisions of IPC. The proposed amendments also included facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes. The women and child development ministry intends to make the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) the statutory body, which means it will have powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matter. (Times of India 6/8/14)

89. SC to check validity of wife-harass law (19)

New Delhi, Aug. 6: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine whether the controversial Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, dealing with harassment of a wife, is valid or not following a claim that the law was repealed in 1988. “If that is so, are we convicting and prosecuting people under an invalid law?” a bench headed by Justice H.L. Dattu asked, directing solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to respond to the claim. Kumar sought two weeks’ time. The bench, which also included Justices P.C. Ghose and Arun Misra, listed the matter for August 14. Section 498A, which provides for punishment of a husband and/or his relatives for subjecting a woman to cruelty or harassing her, has been the subject of controversy following claims that it was being abused by some women to get back at estranged husbands and in-laws. The apex court, which recently ruled that no person accused of an offence punishable with imprisonment up to seven years should be arrested without proper investigation, had specifically mentioned that Section 498A was sometimes being used as a “weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives”. On Monday, senior counsel Pandit Parmanand Katara, appearing for the petitioner, Ravindra alias Ravi, told the court that Section 498A could not be invoked in the country because it was repealed in 1988. Ravi is challenging Uttar Pradesh police’s decision to invoke the section against him and his family members on the basis of a complaint by his estranged wife. The petitioner has alleged that the provision is being misused by his wife, whom he has accused of adultery and of extorting Rs 11 lakh from him with threats of false complaints of harassment. The couple were married on February 24, 2012, in Mathura district according to Hindu customs and rites. The wife filed the case under Section 498A on January 18, 2013, following which Ravi and his family members were arrested. They are now out on bail. According to the petitioner, Section 498A of IPC, inserted in Chapter XXA of the IPC after the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983, on December 25, 1983, vide Act No. 46 of 1983, was repealed “as the whole” by the Repealing and Amending Act, No. 19 of 1988, on March 31, 1988. As such, it cannot be treated as law, Katara told the bench. The lawyer said that since the provision had been repealed, its application by police and consequent judicial proceedings were arbitrary, unconstitutional, void in law and hence violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 20 (prohibition against conviction for violation of any non-existent law) and 21 (right to liberty) of the Constitution. It is mandatory for any law or amended provision to be notified in the official gazette after the presidential notification. Any subsequent repealing act is also notified in the gazette. Katara told The Telegraph he was in possession of the notification relating to the repealed act. “Yes, I have copies of the repealed notification. I had given three copies to the bench. It is now for the government to rebut my assertion,” he said. The counsel, however, admitted that the repealed act is not reflected in the official gazette. But he said it was for the government to explain. Sources close to the solicitor general said the government does not have any material to show the act was repealed. “We are examining the matter further. But, for the moment we do not have any material to say that the act was repealed. Just wait and see when the case comes up for hearing,” a top law officer said. (The Telegraph 7/8/14)

90. Judicial Appointments Bill may be junked by Supreme Court, fears govt (19)

NEW DELHI: Despite the Union cabinet discussing the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014, fears in government linger it may not pass judicial muster. The celebrated Kesavananda Bharti case, where the Supreme Court laid down basic structure of doctrine for Constitution, is being studied minutely by the government as it feels that despite the bill being a constitutional amendment, it runs the risk of being struck down by the judiciary on the basis of principles enunciated in the landmark verdict that enshrines separation of powers and independence of judiciary. The Judicial Appointments Commission provided for under the proposed bill seeks to replace the collegium system of appointment to higher judiciary with a proposed body to be headed by the CJI. But apprehension in certain quarters in government remain on how the Bill will be received by the judiciary in case a challenge to the amendment lands up before the SC on the ground that it violates basic structure of the doctrine. The Kesavananda Bharti verdict firmly established the judiciary as the ultimate arbiter of which provision/law/act violates the Constitution and which will pass muster. On Thursday, sources in government hinted they are not keen to rush through the amendment in Parliament and wish to study each clause point by point to reduce chances of it landing in a legal soup later. This, even when the cabinet has given its “in-principle” approval to the “broad contours” of the proposed act. Speaking to TOI, former secretary general of Lok Sabha and noted constitutional expert Subhash C Kashyap explained, “Under Kesavananda Bharti case, SC has said even a constitutional bill is subject to judicial review from the point of view if it violates basic features of Constitution. One may agree or disagree if the apex court has the power and it is debatable but they have certainly assumed that power and exercise it.” Last year, the Bar Council of India was one of the first influential voices that attacked the proposed bill. “The bill is an attempt to change the basic structure of the Constitution, and hence it will adversely affect the independence of the judiciary. It is trying to usurp the judicial appointment powers and vest them with the executive,” the BCI had said in a statement. (Times of India 8/8/14)

91. In keeping with Modi’s poll promise, govt to repeal 36 archaic laws (19)

NEW DELHI: The government is likely to introduce the Repealing and Amending Act Bill, 2014 on Monday to scrap at least 36 antiquated and redundant laws. These include Foreign Jurisdiction Act, Indian Fisheries Act and Sugar Undertaking Act, sources said. At least 32 of them include the various amended laws that have no relevance anymore as they are already part of the principal bill. The Foreign Jurisdiction act was enacted in 1947 and provided for the government to acquire jurisdiction in relation to areas outside India, which has no relevance anymore. “This is part of an ongoing exercise being undertaken by the law ministry as part of the poll promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance,” a law ministry source said. Soon after taking over, Modi had told a meeting of secretaries that “there may be rules and processes which have become outdated, and instead of serving the process of governance, they are leading to avoidable confusion”. He had called upon the departments to “identify and do away with such archaic rules and procedures”.Sources said law secretary PK Malhotra at the instance of the minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has written to all ministries to identify and recommend repeal of all such antiquated laws. Meanwhile, a comprehensive list is also being drawn by the Law Commission for repeal of all such redundant laws. That exercise is likely to take a couple of months, sources said. The Sugar Undertaking (taking over of the management) act, 1978 provided for the temporary takeover, in public interest, of the management of certain sugar undertakings in certain circumstances. The Indian Fisheries Act was enacted in 1897 and has since lost relevance. (Times of India 10/8/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

92. Bihar human rights commission orders probe into prisoner suffering burns (1)

PATNA: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Monday directed the IG (prisons and correctional services), Bihar, to probe the incident of an undertrial prisoner suffering severe burn injuries in Nawada jail on Sunday and submit a report to the commission by August 14. The victim, Rupesh Paswan (40), died at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) on Monday morning. “Post-mortem has been done and the report sent to the investigating officer,” PMCH administration told TOI. On Sunday, when Paswan was rushed to Nawada sadar hospital, doctors said he had suffered 80% burns and referred him to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Taking suo motu cognizance of newspaper reports on Monday of the alleged custodial atrocities in Nawada jail, the commission also directed the Nawada DM and SP to submit a joint report to the commission by August 14, when the case is listed for next hearing. According to reports, Rupesh blamed the jailor and his accomplices for the incident, whereas the jail authorities informed the Nawada DM that the victim attempted suicide, BHRC member Neelmani said, adding the DIG, prisons (administration), had rushed to Nawada to investigate the incident. Neelmani added, “Paswan was lodged in Nawada jail for the last four years in connection with offences under the Arms Act. He had alleged that the jailor and two jail inmates first beat him up and then poured kerosene oil on him and burned him, though the jail authorities claim it to be a case of suicide attempt.” A copy of the BHRC order was sent to the IG (prisons and correctional services), Bihar, Nawada DM and Nawada SP for necessary action. (Times of India 29/7/14)

93. Maharashtra HC clubs cases of custodial deaths (1)

Mumbai: Observing that Maharashtra accounts for a large number of custodial deaths and that most of the victims belonged to the minority community, the Bombay High Court has said that it would take stern measures to curb such atrocities. As a first step, a bench of justices V M Kanade and P D Kode yesterday clubbed all the petitions alleging custodial death and appointed senior lawyer Yug Choudhary as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist in the matter. The bench observed that it had noticed that most of the victims of custodial death belonged to the minority community and added that the court would step in to prevent this. The bench was hearing a petition filed by mother of a 23-year-old resident of Sion here claiming that her son had died under mysterious circumstances two years ago. The matter was adjourned by a fortnight. Police said it was a natural death while the petitioner claimed her son had died under mysterious conditions. The petitioner said her son was arrested in a theft case on February 21, 2012. He was sent to Thane Central prison from police custody. On March 24, 2012, he died there. Choudhary, the amicus curiae, said it had come to his knowledge that in most cases of custodial deaths, the victims were either Dalits or Muslims. He said according to National Crime Record Bureau statistics, 34 persons died in police custody in Maharashtra last year. In 2012, custodial deaths numbered 20. (Zee News 1/8/14)

94. Retired judges powerless to render “real service” to human rights: SC (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said retired judges appointed to head human rights commissions are provided every comfort, but are powerless to render any “real service” to human rights. “Retired judges when appointed are given house, office, everything… but when it comes to real service to human rights, they are powerless,” Justice T.S. Thakur observed. The Bench criticised the efficacy of the commissions, even asking “what purpose they serve.” The three-judge Bench was hearing a three-decade-old petition filed by a former judge of the Calcutta High Court, Justice D.K. Basu, seeking directions against custodial deaths. In the court on Tuesday, amicus curiae Abhishek Manu Singhvi said custodial deaths still continue with impugnity. Minorities and Dalits are the “worst sufferers” of this crime committed by the guardians of law, he submitted. Mr. Singhvi suggested that a way to curb custodial deaths would be to set up human rights commissions in States which do not have one and fill up vacancies in existing ones. But the Bench received the suggestion with some scepticism. “These human rights commissions, are they doing some work? What power do they have?” Justice Thakur asked. To this, the amicus replied that the commissions remain toothless. Noting that it cannot go on hearing this case forever, the Bench directed the States to file their responses on steps taken to curb custodial deaths in four weeks. It asked Mr. Singhvi to collate the information from the States and submit a report by October 14. (The Hindu 5/8/14)

95. CISF Officials Sensitised to Human Rights (1)

CHENNAI: Get sensitised to human rights while discharging your duties. This was the message conveyed by the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) Chennai Port Trust Unit Commandant Shaik Abdulla to the officials who participated in a two-day workshop of CISF here on Tuesday. During the workshop, the Commandant said the CISF was entrusted with the task of sensitising the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to human rights by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He said the force had also organised a debate on the topic- ‘Security forces become ineffective without respect for Human Rights’. Revathy, head, Human Rights, Dr Ambedkar Law University and resource person of the inaugural session, elaborated on the evolution of human rights on par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Explaining the rights of the prisoners, V Rukmani Priyadharsini, Additional Superintendent, Puzhal prison, said “Prisons are the only place where human rights are practically implemented. Most of the prisoners are victims of and circumstances, only 20 per cent of them are regular offenders.” She added that the bakery at the prison makes a turnover of ` 50,000-`70,000 per day and that the Prisons Department would open a beauty parlour shortly with 15 inmates of Puzhal prison. The workshop was attended by 46 officers including Rekha Nambiar, Group Commandant, CISF, Headquarters, Chennai. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

96. 3 SHOs sent to lines over rape case (1)

New Delhi: Three station house officers (SHOs) were sent to police lines after a rape victim complained that three police stations in West Delhi had refused to register her case.According to sources in the Delhi police, the incident came to light when the victim approached the Punjabi Bagh police station on Monday morning, alleging that she had been raped. However, as the SHO was not present, she was asked to go to the Nangloi police station instead. When the victim reached there, the Nangloi SHO sent her to Aman Vihar police station. “The victim’s ordeal didn’t end at Aman Vihar as she was told to go to Kanjhawala police station,” said the sources, adding that “when the victim got absolutely hopeless and frustrated with the lax attitude of the police personnel at three police stations, she made a PCR call from outside Kanjhawala police station after which her case was registered.” The sources said that the victim mentioned her ordeal in the complaint she made at the Kanjhawala police station. When senior police officers came to know about the incident, they decided to take action and sent Punjabi Bagh, Aman Vihar and Nangloi SHOs to police lines. A departmental inquiry was also initiated. (Asian Age 7/8/14)

97. Rs 36 lakh for victims of police atrocities (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Police ‘atrocity and negligence’ have cost the state exchequer dear in the last couple of years, if statistics of Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) are any indication. The home department was asked by the commission to pay compensation/relief to the tune of nearly Rs 36 lakh to victims of alleged police atrocity in different districts in 2012-13, OHRC data revealed. In 2011-12, the home department had coughed up Rs 9.55 lakh compensation. Of the total 43 petitions, relating to negligence by different government departments, which ended in announcement of compensation, 35 were of harassment and atrocity by Odisha police. “In all cases, the state government complied with our recommendations of giving compensation to victims or their families. We thoroughly probed the complaints against police and found violation of human rights by them,” an OHRC officer told TOI. In most cases, behaviour of police came under OHRC scanner. In a case in Subarnapur, the commission on January 24, 2013, asked the home department to pay Rs 40,000 to Sushil Suna with whom a constable allegedly misbehaved on September 7, 2012. On May 18, 2012, the commission asked the department to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to widow of Katru Huika, who was allegedly shot dead by policemen during an anti-Maoist combing operation in Koraput in April 2009. The allegations of police harassment included 12 custodial deaths in which the commission awarded compensation between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2,00,000 in 2012-13. Police said the OHRC often awarded compensation on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. “Police were not at fault in some cases. In the case of Katru Huika, police retaliated after he opened fire on them during an anti-Maoist combing operation,” said a police officer. “Still, we do not disregard the OHRC. Steps are being taken to improve the attitude of our personnel. They are being trained to behave politely with complainants and visitors to police stations,” the officer said. In Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, the commissionerate of police recently started a training programme for cops to improve their social behaviour. They were taught yoga and meditation. (Times of India 8/8/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

98. NHRC Notice on Cop Assault on Journalist (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show cause notice to Odisha Government asking why monetary compensation should not be paid to journalist Subhakant Padhiary who was assaulted by police near Naveen Nivas last year. Examining the reports submitted by police, the rights panel observed that the scribe’s human rights have been violated. Padhiary was assaulted by the policemen while he was covering an agitation on March 25 last year. The Commission perused the medical examination report and found that Padhiary suffered injuries in the assault. An order of Bhubaneswar DCP, who was present at the spot, suspending two personnel of 6th India Reserve Battalion who had assaulted the public and Padhiary without any order from the competent authority was also taken note of. The panel observed that human rights of Padhiary have been violated by the public servants for which the State must bear the liability. The Commission issued a show cause notice to the State Government through Chief Secretary asking why a monetary relief of `25,000 should not be recommended to the victim. Response has been sought within four weeks. (New Indian Express 29/7/14)

99. Media barred from covering NALSAR convocation (1)

Hyderabad: In the end, it turned out to be a big faux pas. Media persons who were invited to cover the 12{+t}{+h}annual convocation of the NALSAR University of Law here on Saturday were left in the lurch. They had to return without attending the programme as the authorities refused to allow them. A communication slip up between the University authorities and the security of President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, who was the chief guest, caused the problem. A large number of scribes turned up for the convocation but they were barred from entering the campus. “You are not permitted,” was the terse reply of the gun-toting cops. Display of invitations issued by the University and the media accreditation cards given by the State government had no effect. There was no media coordinator from NALSAR either. Enquiries revealed that in the advanced security liaison done, the presence of media personnel at the programme was not taken into account. Obviously, NALSAR authorities failed to inform the Presidential security wing on the press coverage. The University also goofed up in arranging transportation for the media. (The Hindu 3/8/14)

100. Sena defends ‘Saamana’ edit on IPS officer accused of rape (1)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena today defended the controversial editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ about rape accused IPS officer Sunil Paraskar, saying the party was being defamed without understanding its stance on the issue. “We agree that rape is heinous but it is also equally reprehensible to make (baseless) allegations of rape,” an editorial in ‘Saamana’ said. “What we have said is clear, the rape victim should lodge the complaint immediately. If complaint is lodged after six months or a year, the medical evidence in such cases is invalid and the case assumes a different colour,” the editorial said. Claiming that the controversial Marathi editorial was distorted in translation, ‘Saamana’ said, “now, it is just a one-sided attack by those who don’t want to understand what someone said or wrote.” “Some TV news channels and print journalists are now ‘raping’ journalism and neither the Press Council nor the courts can curb this,” the editorial said. “There is no reason for controversy on our view that there should be no media trial in rape case while the matter is in court and police investigation is in progress,” the editorial said. “Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and NCP president Sharad Pawar faced such media trials,” it said. The Sena mouthpiece also mentioned rape allegations against Bollywood director Madhur Bhandarkar, where he was acquitted of rape charge after a model filed a case against him. “He was saved as he had a letter from the complainant warning him that she will file rape charges if he does not give her a job in films,” it said. (Business Standard 4/8/14)

101. Modi govt’s use of social media illegal: Govindacharya (1)

NEW DELHI: Former BJP leader and ideologue K N Govindacharya has accused the Narendra Modi government of breaking the law by its official use of Twitter and Facebook accounts. Appearing before Delhi high court, which is hearing a PIL filed by him, Govindacharya alleged that the Modi government was violating the Public Records Act by relying on social media websites that have foreign servers. A bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul had last week directed the former Sangh ideologue to file an affidavit detailing his allegations and said it will hear the issue. Representing Govindacharya, advocate Virag Gupta said even the use of private email accounts for official communications violates the Public Records Act, as per which “no person shall take or cause to be taken out of India any public records without the prior approval of the central government”.Gupta contended that the servers of these social networking sites are outside India. So, the nation’s official data is transferred to other countries. “Nineteen ministries are officially on Twitter, five ministries opened their Facebook accounts from private email ids. The Prime Minister is on Twitter and Facebook. Most of the ministers have their Twitter account,” the petitioner said. Meanwhile, the central government informed the court that it was in the process of finalizing a national email policy for official communications. The committee of secretaries met on July 15 for this purpose. Additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain told HC that the email policy is ready to be placed before the Cabinet for final approval after which it will be implemented. Govindacharya’s PIL has sought a direction to the central government to formulate an email policy for government officials in consonance with the Public Records Act in order to avoid transfer of data to a server outside the country. The bench also asked the central government to file an affidavit stating that the revenue department was in the process of recovering taxes on the income of Facebook and Google from their operations in India. (Times of India 5/8/14)

102.  ‘Media should be more socially responsible’ (1)

Udupi: Delivering a special lecture, Dinesh Amin Mattu, senior journalist, said the late Kadengodlu Shankar Bhat had made immense contributions not only to the field of literature, but also to journalism. It was essential to bring out a volume on his editorial pieces to benefit the younger generation. Mr. Mattu said if any government help was required for this, he would approach either the Karnataka Madhyama Academy or the Department of Kannada and Culture for funds. “About three decades ago, journalists and journalism in the country exhibited social concern and responsibility. The commercialisation of the media in the last two decades is a cause for concern,” he said. As long as journalism was a profession, it had social responsibility. But, once it became a business, social responsibility became the first casualty. The advertising section now had prominence over the editorial section in the media. The line between news and advertising was getting blurred. The ‘paid news’ phenomenon reflected corruption not at the journalists’ level, but at the level of media owners. The trend of politicians entering the media and owning newspapers and television channels was a dangerous one. Even old newspapers, which stood for values, were now giving more importance to business aspects, he said. “The social media is gaining ground. This was best illustrated by the recent Lok Sabha elections. The social media was even breaking news, but faceless journalism could be dangerous. “There is a crisis of honesty, credibility and professionalism in the field of media now. Readers too should strive to have an independent and responsible media,” Mr. Mattu said. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Nadig said he was delighted to receive the award. Poetry should unite people and create more compassion among them. Poetry was getting lesser space in Kannada newspapers and journals because of the corporatisation of the media, he added. A. Lakshminarayana Alva, writer; Kusuma Kamath, principal of MGM College; K.S.Bhat and Eashwar Bhat, sons of Kadengodlu Shankar Bhat, were present. (The Hindu 10/8/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

103. Saharanpur communal riots: 20 arrested, curfew ‘strictly implemented’ (7)

SAHARANPUR/LUCKNOW: An uneasy calm prevailed in violence-hit Saharanpur on Sunday where 20 people were arrested even as curfew and shoot-at-sight orders remained in force following clashes between two communities over a land dispute. Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (law and order) Mukul Goel said, “No incident has been reported since on Saturday. Curfew is in force and is being enforced strictly.” He said steps were being taken to normalize the situation at the earliest. “It has been directed that action should be taken against whosoever is found guilty,” he said in Lucknow. Saharanpur district magistrate Sandhya Tiwari, who toured the violence-hit areas, said, “The situation is better than yesterday. I have to just impose law and order in the city and the situation is quite normal now.” She said 20 people have been arrested in connection with the violence. On the land dispute, Tiwari said, “I’m not going into it … The construction is on hold.” Three people were killed and 19 others, including policemen, injured in the clashes on Saturday as mobs indulged in arson after which curfew was clamped and shoot at sight ordered. Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC have been invoked in the district and curfew was clamped in six areas, according to Tanveer Zafar Ali, commissioner, Saharanpur. Meanwhile, a political blame game has begun over the violence with Congress accusing the UP government of “administrative lapse” while BJP alleged that Samajwadi Party was indulging in “vote-bank politics”.Reacting to the charges, Samajwadi Party said there was an effort to “disrupt peace in the state” and that there was “no place for communalism, anti-social elements”.SP leader Rajendra Chaudhary said that if the opposition tried to do politics on the issue, then the law will take its own course. Blaming the local authorities for “administrative lapse”, Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that if it was a fact that there was a court judgment on the issue and police help was sought by one side, then it was the responsibility of the officials to find a solution by making both sides understand that the court order must be implemented. BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The UP government has completely failed to run the administration in the state. The people ruling the state themselves want that there is communal tension so that they do vote-bank politics. “BJP wants amity and peace. Every person has the right to worship and nobody has the right to interfere in that. But Akhilesh Yadav’s government is weak on every front. A message has gone that there is nothing called government in the state. Whenever there are such tense situations, the government proves to be incompetent.” ..(Times of India 28/7/14)

104. Curfew in Jharkhand after communal riots, one dead (7)

RANCHI: Violent clashes broke out in Ranchi district of Jharkhand over a land dispute between two communities on Tuesday coincidentally when the state celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. DIG Ranchi range confirmed that one person succumbed to his injuries while around 20 of them sustained injuries during clashes in Chanho block, 40 km from here, in rural Ranchi. Including Ranchi SP (rural) S K Jha around 10 policemen sustained minor injuries when they tried to control the mob. Over 500 security personnel with all protection equipment were deployed in the area where tension continues to prevail. “One person has succumbed to his injuries while 20-odd have been injured. All injured have been taken to RIMS for treatment. Curfew has been imposed in affected parts of Chanho block and security personnel are conducting marches to ensure peace,” said DIG Praveen Kumar Singh. A group of people from a community had gathered at a disputed land in Chanho to offer prayers which was opposed by another group of people. One group claims that the land belongs to them. Another group claims that the other group has unlawfully encroached the land. Bitter arguments between them were followed by stone pelting between the two communities in which several people were injured. Commissioner for South Chhotanagpur division K K Khandelwal said: “We are keeping a close watch on the situation. Now it is under control. Senior officers are camping here to ensure that the situation does not flare up.” (Times of India 29/7/14)

105. Express investigation part-I: Over 600 ‘communal incidents’ in UP since LS results, (7)

Moradabad: A third of all “communal” incidents recorded by police in Uttar Pradesh in the 10 weeks following the Lok Sabha election results have occurred in — or on the fringes of — 12 assembly constituencies that are scheduled to go to polls over the next few months. If a larger circle is imagined — covering broadly the region around these constituencies — this proportion rises to two-thirds, police records scrutinised by The Indian Express show. The records show a running strand of attempts made by an aggressive BJP, a desperate SP, and a flagging BSP to turn every clash involving individuals from the two largest religious communities into a communal issue. There is also clear evidence of provocation in areas where Dalits and Muslims live together, leading to communal polarisation. Between May 16 — when UP delivered a spectacular tally to the BJP in the Lok Sabha — and July 25, 605 low-key clashes took place which police identified as “communal” in nature. Nearly 200 of these occurred in or around the 12 constituencies, and another 200 in the broader region. MLAs at these 12 assembly seats contested the Lok Sabha elections and have become MPs. Polls to the vacant seats are due within six months. Five of these seats — Saharanpur Nagar, Bijnor, Kairana, Thakurwada and Gautam Buddh Nagar — are in Western UP, where the largest number of 259 communal incidents were recorded. Fifty-three incidents took place in Awadh, where the Lucknow East assembly seat will go to polls. In the Terai, Eastern UP and Bundelkhand regions, each of which is home to two of the 12 seats, 29, 16, and 6 incidents respectively were recorded. Records of more than 400 communal incidents in and around the constituencies show that tensions arose out of broadly six issues. The most common were construction activities involving masjids, madrasas and kabristans (graveyards); and the use of loudspeakers for prayers (120 instances each). Issues of land led to communal tensions in about 70 cases; alleged incidents of cow slaughter in 61 cases; and alleged incidents of elopement and eve-teasing or harassment involving men and women of different communities in 50-odd cases. Minor accidents triggered communal incidents in some 30 cases. In mid-July, in Bijnor’s Keeratpur area, a delegation met the district administration to demand that the construction of a gate on the Bijnor-Haridwar highway be stopped because the top of the gate was beginning to resemble an Islamic “minar”. The administration has now stopped work on the gate, but at a local mandir barely 10 metres away, a practice has begun of weekly recitals of Hanuman Chalisa, at which the gathering is told of the construction. Septuagenarian Jakhir Ahmed, who has kept a small shop next to the gate for three decades, said, “Construction had been on for months. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, protesters showed up, demanding its demolition.” A senior official of the district administration, who didn’t want to be identified, said, “There is a constant pressure from one group to keep issues burning. We get daily complaints about issues, many of which are old. But they are being pursued on a day-to-day basis. And wherever possible, politics is being introduced.” On June 20, in Rampur village of Bijnor’s Nagina region, Muslims objected to a DJ playing music in the community hall of the village. The music was turned off, but the following day, a clash broke out between Hindus and Muslims. Police and local people are still not sure how the trouble began. Five days later, in Noorpur Chiperi village 50 km away in the Sherkot area of the same district, residents objected to music beign played at a birthday party for the nephew of pradhan Mahavir Singh. Here too, the music was turned off, but some local dailies reported that Hindus and Muslims had clashed. The following day, the police arrested a Muslim man for allegedly intruding into a temple and damaging the mandir’s property. When The Indian Express visited Noorpur Chiperi, a Dalit-dominated village, the pradhan brushed aside the incident. “It was a misunderstanding based on wrong information. We have no problems.” Not far away, in the Gulabbadi area of Moradabad town, where Dalits and Muslims live in almost equal numbers, police have begun to receive anonymous calls about the construction of a minar in a masjid. The masjid in question is deep inside a narrow street, lined by buildings standing cheek-by-jowl, and crisscrossed overhead by a thick jumble of hanging power cables. On July 1, four loudspeakers on the second-floor roof of the mosque were raised to a height of three feet for Ramzan. The calls to the local police and district administration have, however, been complaining of “attempts to raise a new minar, leading to the setting of a precedent”. Only a fortnight earlier, police and protesters had clashed in Kant, 35 km from the town, after the administration brought down a newly set up loudspeaker in a Dalit temple. According to a senior police official, the incidents “reveal how closely communities are keeping a watch on issues that have potential for communal clashes”. The loudspeakers of the Moradabad masjid have been returned to their original height. DIG, Moradabad Zone, Gulab Singh, said, “Even small issues like motorbike accidents involving Hindus and Muslims is leading to mobs gathering. No one seems willing to see reason.” (Indian Express 5/8/14)

106. Dalits, Muslims clash as tension builds in Azamgarh viilage (7)

Allahabad: Tension gripped a village in Azamgarh’s Deogaon police station area when a minor issue led to a violent fight between Dalits and Muslims Monday. Around a dozen persons were injured, three of whom had to be referred to Varanasi. The police have registered cross FIRs on the basis of complaints from both sides. No arrest has been made so far. PAC has been deployed in the village. This is at least the third incident in a week in the eastern region of the state in which arguments over minor issues have led to law and order situations threatening to take communal overtones. The police, however, said all these incidents were isolated and localised. According to the Azamgarh police, the incident occurred Monday morning at Katauli Kala village under Deogaon police station area. “The fight began over increasing the width of a chak road going through the fields of the two groups belonging to Dalit and Muslim communities. There is no history of previous fights over the issue. PAC has been deployed. The situation is calm now. The condition of three of the persons, who were referred to Varanasi, is also reported to be stable,” said Superintendent of Police (City) Vinod Kumar. (Indian Express 6/8/14)

107. Day after Rahul’s attack, Modi links UP riots to vote-bank politics (7)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BJP’s political opponents have refused to learn appropriate lessons from their drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls and are persisting with ‘vote-bank politics’, a remark which appeared to be aimed at the Congress. Speaking a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reportedly said that communal riots in UP have been “artificially and deliberately engineered”, Modi told members of the BJP national council: “There have been some small incidents in certain parts of the country. Even a single instance of violence is unacceptable to BJP because we believe that peace, unity and brotherhood are essential pre-conditions for growth and, so, there will be no compromise on this. However, those who have suffered massive defeat have not learnt any lesson and are persisting with their vote-bank politics posing great risk to social harmony .” The PM said the BJP workers had the responsibility to remain cautious and foil the threat, in keeping with the “sabka saath, sabka vikas” motto Modi’s charge came after the new BJP chief Amit Shah had blamed the spike in communal tension in UP on SP government’s “politics of vote bank and appeasement”. Coming a day after Rahul’s attack that the riots in UP were being organized as part of an agenda, the remarks of Modi and Shah have set the stage for the escalation of tension over the communal situation in UP. Rahul Gandhi who stormed the well of Lok Sabha last week to insist that Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allow a debate on “rising communal violence”, was quoted saying that the recent riots had been planned to divide the poor. “Communal conflict is being artificially and deliberately engineered in our country, especially in UP. This is a deliberate strategy to divide the poor of this country and pit brother against brother; to prevent people from uniting to fight the true enemy — inequality, poverty and lack of opportunity,” he said. Although Rahul did not name any party, he and his colleagues have blamed BJP and SP, in that order, for growing incidence of communal tension in UP. Delivering his acceptance speech at the meeting of the national council called to ratify his appointment as BJP chief, Shah blamed the communal violence in UP on SP government’s politics of “vote-bank and appeasement”. “It is the partisan conduct of the state government which is responsible for the situation. Law and order machinery works on the basis of religion”, the newly-appointed BJP chief said. Shah called upon BJP workers to exercise restraint, but exhorted them to launch a statewide awareness campaign on the issue. The strong riposte from Modi and Shah to the charge from Rahul and other political opponents was part of the aggression that was on display. After a short spell when it appeared to be holding its fire in the face of accusations from rivals, Modi, Shah, finance minister Jaitley and home minister Rajnath Singh came out all guns blazing in an effort to shift the battle to the opponents’ terrain. “We are being blamed for not doing within 60 days what they themselves could not accomplish in last 60 years,” said Modi. He and Jaitley accused Congress of compromising the interests of farmers and jeopardizing the food security scheme by succumbing to the pressure from developed countries to cap the expenditure on subsidies. The new-found confidence was also on vivid display when Shah called upon members of the national council to finish the job of ridding the country of the Congress by defeating it in the coming state elections, and to make BJP’s ideology the dominant viewpoint in the country. (Times of India 10/8/14)

COMMUNALISM

108. Saffronising education: Harsh Vardhan’s sex education ban to Batra’s books (26)

New Delhi: India appears to be witnessing a renewed battle to win the minds of the next generation of students. From Health Minister Harshvardhan’s reservations about sex education to Dinanath Batra’s books being introduced as supplementary texts in Gujarat; from efforts by Sangh Parivar to ‘correct’ the study of the past to intensifying polarization among academics, the politics of pedagogy is back. In the past, the BJP accused school books being driven by ‘Marxists’. When Murli Manohar Joshi became the HRD minister, a key critique of the left and liberal intelligentsia was that NDA was ‘saffronising education’. These groups subsequently lobbied with the UPA regime to revise the curriculum. Many considered this a fair and rigorous process but it came under attack by the right-wing. Subsequently, Dalit groups objected to a cartoon depicting B R Ambedkar in the new books, which led to the government apologizing. With the NDA back in power, the Sangh Parivar is reported to have already set up a body to push the saffron agenda. Aniket Alam, a left-leaning historian who is now executive editor of Economic and Political Weekly, told HT that this is not unique to India. “In US, there is a debate on whether to highlight creationism or evolution theories about the origins of life. In UK, there is a debate on how to look back at the colonial era.” He added that what may be distinct in India is that many cultural battles are still being fought. “In US, no serious scholar will say racism or slavery is good. But in India, you still have people claiming caste is good.” Rajiv Malhotra, a US-based author with strong sympathies for the Hindutva agenda, says it is only right that there is contestation because history-writing has always ‘been controlled by those in power’. “Even when the facts cited are valid, there is subjective choice in selecting what gets included, the priorities assigned, and the interpretive lens that is used.” This was rampant, he alleges, ‘in the secular era of power…as part of political manipulation of votebanks’. But Alam points to the remarkable diversity in curriculum in India – there are NCERT Books used in central and CBSE schools, a fraction of which is written by Marxists; there are ICSE schools; and then there are the majority of schools following curriculum of different state boards. “In the new NCERT books, in Class 6, my daughter was introduced to caste through a letter written by a man to Ambedkar narrating a personal experience of discrimination. What is Marxist about it? It is very creative.” The real issue is academic merit. Alam agrees that textbooks need to be periodically reviewed by experts and the issue is not about ‘left or right narratives’, but ‘battling irrationality’. Malhotra too accepts that any revisions must be ‘subject to due diligence in public forums and debates among experts, in order to filter out any chauvinistic claims’. He adds that a ‘larger diversity of perspectives can be included rather than just one absolute view’. Ultimately, the battle obscures the fact that the books need to be a product of collaboration between ‘experts in the subject and experts in children’s pedagogy’. It ought to open up children’s minds, make them inquisitive, show them ways to look at the world, and ask critical questions. Unfortunately, political parties see education merely as a tool to make people more amenable to their worldview. (Hindustan Times 30/7/14)

109. Katju objects to Justice Dave’s statement on Gita (26)

New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju today objected to a Supreme Court judge’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be taught in schools, saying this is against India’s secular feature and Constitution and will do it “great harm”.Supreme Court judge Justice A R Dave had yesterday said Indians should revert to their ancient traditions and texts such as Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita and they should be introduced to children at an early age. “Somebody who is very secular… so called secular will not agree… Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry if somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere,” he had said in Ahmedabad. Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, “I totally disagree with Justice Dave’s statement that Gita and Mahabharat should be made compulsory in schools. “In a country of such diversity as ours, nothing of this kind should be compelled or imposed, as that is against our nation’s secular feature and Constitution,” he said in a statement. He said Muslims and Christians may not want their children to be taught these books and questioned if their children yet be forced to read them. “Some people say that Gita only teaches morality and has nothing to do with religion. But Muslims may say that only the Quran teaches morality, Christians may say that only the Bible teaches morality, Sikhs may say that only the Guru Granth Saheb teaches morality, Parsis may say only the Zend Avesta teaches morality, etc,” he said. In his opinion, he said, such compulsion or imposition will do great harm to the unity of the country. (Deccan Herald 3/8/14)

110. RSS criticizes minority status to Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists (26)

BHOPAL: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has strongly criticized categorization of Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as minority communities and termed it a conspiracy to divide Hindu society. On the third day of its think-tank meeting at Thengadi Bhavan here, RSS debated philosophy of Hindutva during which orators pointed out that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists cannot be considered minority communities because they are part of the Hindu society. About 25 organisational ‘pracharaks’ made presentations on Saturday after which RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international working president Praveen Togadia addressed the gathering of 190 saffron thinkers. Addressing the gathering Bhagwat said RSS does not consider Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as different from Hindus. He argued Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life and concept of Hindu ‘rashtra’ (nation) and nationality comes from our ancient culture and tradition. He, however, pointed out that Hinduism has always bonded with other cultures and accepted different traditions. Hinduism teaches to bond with people. While Bhagwat’s address was stately and exalted, Togadia gave a fiery speech. His discourse stretched from Indo-Pakistan relations, terrorism, Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya to the promises made in BJP manifesto. Once a close friend and now bete noire of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Togadia reminded BJP manifesto promised construction of a Ram temple, revoking article 370 from Kashmir and uniform civil code. He said he trusted the new government and the party will fulfill these promises. Later, RSS national campaign chief Manmohan Vaidya called a press conference on Saturday afternoon stating that activists from not just RSS but allied saffron organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), VHP, BJP were also participating in the six-day meet. He said the next meet of the RSS intellectuals is scheduled for Lucknow before Diwali. (Times of India 4/8/14)

111. RSS gets ready to tackle religious conversions (26)

Lucknow: The conversion and alleged rape of a woman inside a Meerut madarsa has angered the Sangh Parivar, which directed its cadres to ‘spot and report’ all such activities whether mutual or forced across Uttar Pradesh. The exercise to collect ‘data and details’ is underway and the saffron outfit is planning to strike back with ‘shuddhikaran’ — an exercise aimed at winning those converted into either Islam or Christianity back to Hinduism.  The RSS’s dharm jagran vibhag would soon launch mass awareness campaigns across UP, especially in western region where the Parivar has spotted an increase in religious conversions. The vibhag would also organize ‘homecoming’ ceremony of those youths it has rescued on December 25. A volunteer of Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) said, “In places where there are strong Hindu leaders like Yogi Adityanath in Gorakhpur, who is an MP and mayor Shakuntala Bharti in Aligarh, religious conversions are markedly less. But with a favourable government and police, one has to remain vigilant 24×7 as newer ways are being developed to convert Hindus.” Another saffron activist said, “In January 2013, we took out a Hindu Jago yatra after there were a series of incidents of love jihad. Back then, many madarsas in Meerut and Hapur had been reported for dubious activities but police remained indifferent.” (Hindustan Times 7/8/14)

112. Indian descendants of Hindu culture: RSS chief (26)

CUTTACK: If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, came a poser from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday. “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture,” Bhagwat said while speaking at the ‘Golden Jubilee’ function of an Odia weekly here. The RSS chief further went on to say that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all. Referring to Vivekananda, Bhagwat said not worshipping any God is not necessarily an atheist rather the one who doesn’t have faith in self is sure an atheist. He said the world has now realised that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities. He, however, expressed concern saying that some in India are not realising it and whenever a discussion on it takes place, the protagonist are wrongly branded as communal. Speaking on the current world scenario, the RSS leader said there is darkness everywhere and the world at large is looking at India for solace because India still marches on the path of righteousness. “As long as dharma exists in India, the world will continue to respect this country. But once dharma is gone, no force on earth can stop the country from crumbling,” the RSS leader warned. (Times of India 10/8/14)

113. RSS groups to resolve Muslim-linked issues (26)

LUCKNOW: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is using its senior functionary Indresh Kumar to bridge the gap between the pariwar and Muslim community. Kumar, who is also the chief patron an organization called Muslim Rashtriya Manch, told TOI on Sunday that the manch will soon form five working groups to resolve the contentious issues related to minorities like uniform civil code, Article 370 and Ayodhya temple issue. He said that the working groups will consist largely of Muslim scholars, writers, intellectuals, officers apart from some Hindus as well. In Lucknow for the past two days, he attended a ‘Raksha Bandhan’ celebration with Muslim women and also addressed a gathering of Christian Community. Although his Muslim Rashtriya Manch is not directly linked to the RSS, in the past also Kumar has been working among the minorities to spruce up the anti-Muslim image of the Sangh Pariwar. The state’s intelligence sleuths keeping a close eye on his movements disclosed to the TOI that he was holdings talks and indoor meetings with Muslim leaders across the country. An engineering graduate, he camped in Varanasi for months before the Lok Sabha election to win over a large population of Muslim voters in favour of the BJP. Political observers say that his efforts resulted in a perceptible change in the opinion of a section of Muslim community about the saffron party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Elaborating on the new strategy of his manch, Kumar said that the first working group would be for holding talks with the Muslim community on solving the issues related to Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura shrines. He said that the some conservative and hardcore Muslim leaders and pseudo secularists had been holding the custody of the entire community which was full of moderate and liberal people and the working group would directly hold talks with the liberals so that a permanent solution could be achieved in the cases related to the three shrines . The second working group would be for thrashing out a uniform rule of law or code without disturbing the internal and inherited legal framework provided by their caste, creed or religion. “If some communities have their internal rules and guidelines which they have inherited since the beginning of their religion, the idea is that they would not be disturbed but an overall uniform law would be framed which is the need of the hour so that in case of a dispute between two communities or the sects the law could guide them for some solution,” he said. The third working group to be constituted is aimed at holding dialogues with all the stake holders on the relevance of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that it was the time for the review of Article 370 and a consensus be developed for annulling it. The fourth working group would be to ensure and guarantee education and employment to Muslims so that poverty and backwardness of the community could be addressed. The fifth working group would be working on the ways to make the country free from communal riots and violence, he said. By focusing on the main socio-religious issues of the Muslims and committing to solve the problems of backwardness, illiteracy and the unemployment, the community would be free from the clutches of the pseudo secularists and the self -styled custodians from, Kumar . When asked about the Gujarat riots and alleged involvement of the then chief minister Narendra Modi ,he said those whoever talks in such manner is indulging in contempt of court as all investigating agencies and the courts have given him a clean chit. (Times of India 11/8/14)

TERRORISM

114. SIMI ban to continue for 5 more years (12)

New Delhi: A special tribunal on Wednesday upheld the ban imposed by the Centre on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for another five years. SIMI allegedly has links with Pakistan-based terrorist outfits including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front, Indian Mujahideen. The Union home ministry had in February this year issued a notification renewing ban on SIMI in a effort to curb the outfit’s activities, which it said could threaten the integrity and security of India. SIMI was declared outlawed in 2001 when it came to light that the outfit was involved in terrorist activities. However, this is the first time that ban on SIMI has been extended by five years. The last extension, notified in February 2012, was for two years. Justice Suresh Kait of Delhi High Court, who heads the tribunal, validated the Centre’s February notification saying that there was valid reasons to ratify the ban imposed on the outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Though SIMI had challenged the government’s move in various courts and also before the special unlawful activities (prevention) act tribunals on a number of occasions, it did not get any relief. (Hindustan Times 31/7/14)

115. Jihadis force govt to set up counterterrorism academy (12)

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of global terrorism knocking on India’s doors, the government is working on a proposal to set up India’s first ‘Counter-Terrorism Academy’ with an aim to redirect security establishment’s focus on training, research and forensics. “The proposal is in the works. The academy would have a training wing, a centre for excellence in forensics and a think tank which would focus on research in internal security issues. We have no credible think tank in the country that focuses on internal security,” said a senior home ministry official. The move is part of government’s larger effort to recalibrate counterterrorism efforts in the face of challenges from outfits such as al-Qaida and ISIS apart from ever metamorphosing domestic outfits such as Indian Mujahideen and SIMI. Sources in the ministry of home affairs said the proposal is being seriously thought over by the incumbent government and a series of meetings have already taken place. A proposal encompassing this and several other measures that include massive investment in intelligence and data analytics infrastructure has also been sent to MHA by National Investigation Agency (NIA. Touted as a ‘vision document’ by the agency, the proposal has drawn up a future plan for counterterror apparatus in the country in general and NIA in particular. It has demanded a total of 10 NIA centres with new ones proposed at Delhi, Jammu, Patna and Bhopal. Most importantly, in an attempt to chart a new course in terror investigations on the lines of US agencies, it has demanded significant investment in tools for database analysis, mapping terror trends, CCTV analysis and use of UIDAI in tracking domestic terrorists. The agency has also demanded that transnational organized crime, such as fake currency and drugs smuggling, be brought under scheduled offences as they all are connected to terrorism. It has also asked for Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) to be enacted under a special law as is the case with many developed countries. (Times of India 1/8/14)

116. Almost 100 killed during attacks in China’s Xinjiang last week (12)

BEIJING: Almost 100 people were killed during attacks on a police station and government offices in China’s far western region of Xinjiang early last week, state media said Sunday, giving fresh details on one of the worst incidents of unrest in years. The official Xinhua news agency said 59 ” terrorists” were gunned down by security forces in Shache county in Xinjiang’s far south, while 37 civilians were killed in the attacks on July 28. State media had reported the incident a day later, saying dozens of people had been killed when knife-wielding attackers had staged assaults in two towns in the region. It is unclear why the government waited so long to announce detailed casualties, though bad news has sometimes been covered up or delayed in the past. “Police confiscated long knives, axes as well as the terrorists’ banners that exhorted ‘holy war’,” Xinhua said. Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence which the government blames on Islamist militants or separatists who it says want an independent state called East Turkestan. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest – a claim Beijing denies. The attack took place at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which officials had tried to get Muslims in Xinjiang to ignore, in an indication of what rights groups say is discrimination targeting the Uighurs. Hundreds have been killed in Xinjiang in the past year and a half, and the last week saw a series of deadly incidents, including the murder of a prominent pro-government imam at a major mosque in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar. (Times of India 3/8/14)

117. ATS awaits sanction from govt to prosecute IM terror suspects (12)

JAIPUR: Already having missed the deadline for filing chargesheet after busting Indian Mujahideen’s terror module, the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is now awaiting prosecution sanction from the state government to complete the legal formalities and have the trial begun against the terror suspects. Under the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and Section 121A of IPC (waging war against nation), the state government provides the prosecution sanction, but even almost two weeks after the ATS sent the request, the government is yet to give sanction. Now the extended deadline for filing the chargesheet is August 19. A Jaipur court gave ATS two more months’ time after the agency failed to file chargesheet against Rajasthan-based alleged IM members within 90 days of their arrest. The police have to file chargesheet in this period after making an arrest, but ATS failed to conclude the investigation as two top IM operatives, Monu alias Tahseen and Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas could not be taken on production warrant from Delhi. Sources said that under the Explosives Act, the ATS had sent request for prosecution sanction to district collectors including Jodhpur and Jaipur from where alleged members of terror module were arrested. The agency has received the sanction from the collectors for terror suspects’ trail under the Explosives Act, but yet to receive the same for the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and 121A of IPC. The ATS has been instrumental in dismantling the IM network in the state and possibly averted a terror strike with the arrest of over a dozen suspects in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Sikar. The network was exposed on March 22 when three engineering students were rounded up from the city’s Jhotwara and Pratap Nagar localities. Monu was arrested from the Ajmer railway station on the same day. More arrests followed in Jodhpur and Sikar. The ATS was to file the chargesheet in 90 days, but it got delayed because the agency could not get custody of Monu and Waqas from Delhi. The duo’s interrogation was important for the state agency to gather intelligence inputs on terror activities specific to Rajasthan. Sources said firstly the ATS could not get custody of Monu and Waqas due to their being constantly quizzed by various national agencies and the police of other states. (Times of India 6/8/14)

118. 2 acquitted of terror charges (12)

Mumbai: A sessions court in Mumbai on Friday acquitted two persons from charges of terrorism, but convicted and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for three years under the Arms Act for possessing firearms in a notified area of Mumbai. However, the accused have already spent almost four years in jail, so they will be released as soon as they pay the fine and jail formalities are over. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on November 15, 2010 arrested the accused Mohammed Sharif and Mohammed Ishaq from Thane district. The investigating agency alleged that the duo were members of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and were planning to target important establishments including BARC, offshore installations of ONGC and other targets in the city. The police also alleged that they brainwashed two persons and sent them across the border to get training of terrorist activities and invoked relevant sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, IPC and Arms Act on them. (Asian Age 10/8/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

119. Anti-Naxal operatios: Government deploys 1,000 fresh BSF personnel in Chhattisgarh (12)

NEW DELHI: Government has deployed a fresh contingent of about 1,000 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in Chhattisgarh to bolster anti-Naxal operations in the state. The specially trained contingent of the paramilitary will be inducted to operate in Kanker district of the state, situated in the southern part of the state just above Bastar. BSF already has seven similar units in the same district for these operations. “The troops will also undertake some special operations along the state borders once they are fully inducted,” a senior officer said. Recently, a similar strength of troops drawn from paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police was sent to the state’s Rajnandgaon district. Chhattisgarh already has over 32,000 personnel of various paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force, BSF and ITBP to undertake these operations. The deployment of the squad was also discussed during the recent meeting of Left Wing Extremism states which was chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his office few weeks back. The BSF, country’s largest border guarding force with close to 2.5-lakh personnel in its ranks guards crucial Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. (Economic Times 30/7/14)

120. 493 civilians killed in Naxal-hit Maha districts in 3 decades (12)

Gadchiroli: Naxals, who set up a base in Maharashtra in the early 1980s, have killed as many as 493 civilians in the worst-hit Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia districts of the state over the last three decades, police said. According to a release issued here by the anti-Naxal Cell of Maharashtra police, an overwhelming number of victims of Naxal violence were from Gadchiroli district alone (451). These civilians were killed between February 1985 and July 2014. The remaining victims were from Gondia (33) and Chandrapur (9), it said. The ultras usually target those suspected to be police informers, as well as private contractors, ‘sarpanchs’ and other office-bearers of various local bodies like Zilla Parishads, government officials, among others, the release said on Friday. The civilian victims in these three districts included 206 suspected naxal informers, 188 ordinary citizens, 24 police patils, ten sarpanchs, five former ‘police-patils’ and 14 surrendered rebels. Naxal activities first found ground in Maharashtra at Gadchiroli. The left-wing ultras entered Lankachen village of Sironcha tehsil by crossing the Godavari river from Andhra Pradesh and formed ‘Sironcha dalam’. According to police, 17 to 19 ‘dalams’ of Naxals, comprising 260 cadres are at present active in the Gadchiroli district. Ten civilians have been killed by Naxals in Gadchiroli since Janaury this year, officials said, adding the recent encounters with police had depleted the ultras’ strength to a considerable extent. The ultras, who crossed over to Maharashtra from Andhra Pradesh, are currently observing ‘martyrs’ week. (Indian Express 2/8/14)

121. Maoists warn timber mafia in Koraput (12)

Koraput: Maoists have put up posters and banners in Odisha’s tribal district Koraput warning timber mafia against felling of trees in the district. The rebels have put up posters and banners at several places under Lamataput block alleging indiscriminate felling of trees by the timber mafia in connivance with officials in Lamtaput forest range, Superintendent of Police (Koraput) Awinash Kumar said. “We have asked them to stop their illegal activities, failing which they will be punished. Forest officials who are hand in gloves with the timber mafia will also be taken to task,” read a Maoist banner put up at Gunaipada on Saturday, the sixth day of the Martyrs’ Week being observed by the Maoists since July 28. The Maoists have asked villagers too not to cut trees and alleged that tribals were being harassed by security men and warned of retaliation. The depleting forest cover has turned to be a major concern for them as without the thick forests they find it difficult to hide and organise camps. Kumar said the Maoist banners and posters have been seized and no untoward incident was reported. “Putting up of posters and banners is the handiwork of some local Maoist supporters. At present the situation is under control. Our men are on high alert and all required security arrangements have been made to avoid any untoward incident during their Martyrs’ Week,” he said. Maoists observe the week from July 28 to August 3 every year to pay tribute to their dead leaders and cadres. (Zee News 3/8/14)

122. Women Naxal cadres sexually exploited: Govt (8)

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said instances of sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres by senior Naxal leadership have been reported in various Left Wing Extremism affected states. Many instances of exploitation of tribals by the Naxalites/Maoists have come to the notice of the government. Such atrocities primarily include sexual exploitation of tribal women cadres in the Maoist camps which have been disclosed in statements of several surrendered women CPI (Maoist) cadres of Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. “This has been widely reported in the media also from time to time. Such instances of sexual exploitation include rape, forced marriage and molestation by senior male CPI(Maoist) cadres,” he added. Rijiju said that the government has information that some female cadres had to undergo abortions too. “In Chhattisgarh, some surrendered tribal CPI(Maoist) male cadres have disclosed that they were forced by the senior leadership to undergo vasectomy operations as a pre-condition for marriage with women cadres. There are allegations that women cadres of CPI(Maoist), who become pregnant, are forced to undergo abortion against their will,” the Minister said. The surrendered women cadres have also disclosed that even if they are married to male cadres, they are not allowed to have children since the senior leadership of the CPI (Maoist) feel that it impairs their fighting capability and mobility. “Further, forced recruitment of children from families of poor and marginalised segments of the society, including the tribals, by the Maoists has also come to notice. In order to instill a sense of fear in their areas of dominance, the Naxals also kill civilians after branding them as police informers,” Rijiju said. Out of 4,955 civilians have been killed by the Maoists since 2004 till July 15, 2014, the Minister said, the “overwhelming majority are tribals.” “The Maoists have in reality killed thousands of innocent Adivasis, whose cause they profess to espouse. This tragic reality is glossed over by the Maoist front organisations and their apologists in towns and cities who have launched a propaganda war against the Indian state and project Maoists as the champions of Advisasis,” he said. The Minister said the Naxals have recruited “minors” from the tribal belts of LWE affected areas in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha. “In Bihar and Jharkhand, these children are enrolled in ‘Bal Dasta’ and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha the children’s squad is known as ‘Bal Sangham’. The idea behind recruiting tribal children is to wean them away from their rich traditional cultural moorings and indoctrinate them into Maoists ideology. He said that it has been reported that children recruited in ‘dalams’ are not permitted to leave. “They face severe reprisals including killing of family members if they surrender to security forces.” Rijiju said a number of central and state government schemes were being run in these areas to “bring stability in the lives of children” and to ensure that all their entitlements to protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, education and safety were fulfilled through government action. (Zee news 5/8/14)

123. CRPF jawan killed in encounter with naxals in Chattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: A CRPF jawan was killed today in an exchange of fire with naxals in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The incident took place at Murdanda village under the Avapalli police limits when a CRPF patrol team from 168th battalion were proceeding for a road-opening, and naxals opened indiscriminate fire leaving one jawan dead, DIG, SIB of Chhattisgarh police Dipanshu Kabra told . The security personnel also fired in retaliation. The face-off continued for a while following which jawan Jignesh Patel was killed on the spot. Meanwhile, additional forces have been rushed to the spot and anti-naxal operations have been intensified in the Maoist-infested area following the incident. (The Economic Times 9/8/14)

124. New Surrender Scheme for Naxals Under Consideration: Patil (12)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government is considering a new surrender scheme for naxals and a proposal in this regard would come up for the state cabinet approval, Home Minister R R Patil said here today.             The revised scheme envisages increased compensation amount for surrendered naxals, the minister said, adding that a provision of Rs 2.41 crore will be made for the purpose. The new scheme would help in ensuring that more naxals will surrender and would also be useful in speeding up development work in the naxal-affected region, he said. (New Indian Express 10/8/14)

TRAFFICKING

125. Central Pat for Steps on Human Trafficking (1)

CUTTACK: Odisha’s efforts to crack down on human trafficking and the consequent reduction in such crimes has been taken note of by the Centre. The Union Home Ministry has extended its appreciation of the work done in the field by the State police, particularly the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit headed by IG Crime Branch YB Khurania recently. The State has, in fact, recorded significant improvement in tracking human trafficking cases in the last couple of years. The rate of tracing and rescuing missing children has gone up from 18.6 per cent in 2011 to 75.35 per cent in 2013. According to CB/CID sources, the success has been achieved by formation of a dedicated specialised unit to deal with the crime in the State. As many as 12 Integrated Anti-human Trafficking Units (IAHTUs) have been formed to tackle the menace. The units have been engaged in surveillance at vulnerable places like bus stands and railway stations and are taking action on all suspected persons. The police have also started treating all missing child cases as kidnapping or trafficking. Police stations have been directed to treat every report of missing with high importance and register cases of kidnapping and trafficking. Investigations should be taken up immediately on receiving a report. While human trafficking has taken the shape of a serious problem across the globe, Odisha is also affected by it. While July 31 is observed as International Anti-Human Trafficking Day, the Crime Branch is hosting a two-day State-level training of trainers programme on the issue here starting on Friday. Along with experts, all range IGs and DIGs, officers of IAHTUs, NGOs, social welfare officers and labour welfare officers from districts and public prosecutors will take part in the programme that would be inaugurated by DGP Sanjeev Marik. (New Indian Express 1/8/14)

126. Human trafficking: Australian High Commissioner sends firm message (1)

PUDUCHERRY: The Australian High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling on Friday sought to send out a firm message to discourage human trafficking attempts from the regional coastlines, by unequivocally stating that “we will never allow people who come here illegally by boat to settle in Australia”. “People should not trust the words of human trafficking agents and seek to come to Australia by boat,” said Mr. Suckling, who is in Puducherry for discussions with Chief Minister N. Rangasamy and other key Government officials, after it emerged that 157 asylum-seekers, including Sri Lankan Tamils, had left by boat for Australia from the coast of the Union Territory in mid June. “We want to curb this menace and we are taking steps in this direction,” he told The Hindu. If unchecked, the influx of illegal immigrants could potentially led to criminal activities, he added. According to Mr. Suckling, the Indian Government has been extending cooperation in curbing the “menace” of illegal asylum-seekers, India had stopped over 20 boats carrying asylum-seekers to Australia in 2012 and 2013, he noted. Mr. Suckling sought to blame the previous Government led by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for relaxing immigration rules and triggering a “dramatic increase in the number of boats carrying illegal asylum-seekers to Australia over the last few years.” “We are currently engaged in discussions with the Government here on returning the group of 157 asylum-seekers to India,” the High Commissioner said. Mr. Suckling is slated to meet the Chief Minister in the afternoon. (The Hindu 2/8/14)

127. ‘Skill development’ to prevent human trafficking! (1)

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh Government has implemented a unique ‘skill development’ scheme which prevents local women in Surguja district from becoming victims of the murky human trafficking trade of unscrupulous agents who lure them by promising jobs in big cities. A scheme of providing tailoring business training to more than 800 women of Surguja district and deploying them to operate small garment units has now become an important tool for women to become financially self reliant in the district.The scheme was launched under the guidance of Collector Himshikhar Gupta with the efforts of District Programme Officer Chandraves Singh Sisodia, with the objective of making women financially self reliant  and thus preventing them from becoming victims of human trafficking. Several women have availed benefits of this scheme to become financially self-reliant, officials informed.The Women and Child Development department has already provided training to 35 women at the Tailoring Centre in its District Office and after the 3-day training session, these women were provided employment in the same organization. District Programme Officer Chandraves Singh Sisodia said hat it is important to create better employment opportunities to stop human trafficking.Keeping in view the need, a hi-tech Tailoring Centre has been established and needy women were provided training in the skill of tailoring. They were also provided employment after completion of the training session, he said. Presently, the group of 35 that has been deployed at Jashpur Tailoring Centre, have manufactured dresses worth Rs1.70 lakh in only 45 days. This includes 5,000 shirts, 1,970 pants and 3,434 tunics. This group of 35 has earned around Rs82,000 as net profit, and hence each of the women gets 2,333 as her share in the profit, Sisodia informed. This women group has achieved 80 per cent of the target of manufacturing school uniforms to be distributed at government schools. As on 1 August, 71.50 per cent of the stitched uniforms have been already distributed in the schools.Sisodia informed that human trafficking victim women and girls of villages  Potenga and Lokhandi are being provided training in tailoring skill by Women Garments Industry. This scheme is significantly contributing in prevention of women and girls of the district from falling into the trap of human trafficking. Efforts are being made to implement the scheme in the entire district so that the women may work from home and financially support their families, he added. (Pioneer 6/8/14)

128. Distress migration major concern in Sundargarh (1)

Bhubaneswar; Distress migration of a large number of tribal youths is a regular affair and has been a cause of concern in the tribals-dominated Sundargarh district. The vulnerability of the tribal youths to the promise of various brokers, who have formed a trafficking racket, has given rise to human trafficking in the district. Recently, a racket was busted by the Sundargarh police who rescued as many as 93 youths while being taken to Goa and arrested 12 brokers. Considering human trafficking as major concern in Sundargarh district,  recently the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) has kicked off a pilot project to ascertain the reason of trafficking from the district and find out its remedies. Although exploitation of migrant labourers is going unabated, but there has been no halt in the exodus as the tribal youths as they continue to get lured by the false promises of the brokers and look for greener pasture in far-off places. Activists blame lack of adequate work due to closure of mines and related private sector units as the reason behind the large-scale migration. They argue that since the avenues for the persons looking to be engaged as unskilled labour have been squeezed due to sudden closure of about a dozen of mines and many private units, these persons have no other option than to move to far off places to work as migrant labourers, even though they are aware of the hardships. “Most importantly, the traditional tribal livelihood opportunities like income from forest produce and agriculture are on the wane in the district, which have been a major reason of migration from the district,” said NGO activist Subhashree Ray. At times the youths are considering migration as an opportunity for their career growth. “During interrogation of the rescued youths, we came to know that maximum of them were quite keen to move to Goa, as they consider this as good opportunity,” said Sundargarh SP Dayanidhi Gochayat. “They confessed that they get better respect in their villages and even better marriage proposals, when they return from places like Goa,” Gochayat said, adding, “Although they have heard of exploitation of the persons, who have gone earlier, they ignore those, expecting a better deal with them.” The DRDA’s pilot project will go a long way to ascertain the reason of trafficking from the district and find out its remedies. The process has started. As a part of the project, a team of experts will conduct a detail survey in trafficking prone Balisankara block of the district and accordingly recommend remedial measures to address the issue,” informed DRAD Project director UN Das. (Pioneer 7/8/14)

CORRUPTION

129. VVIP chopper deal: Prosecutors shelve proceedings against Finmeccanica (5)

Rome: In a new twist in the scam-tainted VVIP chopper deal, prosecutors Tuesday shelved proceedings against Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, in the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore deal, Italian news agency Ansa reported. “The prosecution found the company had nothing to do with the alleged corruption. AgustaWestland has agreed to pay a fine, while reiterating it knew nothing about the alleged bribery,” the agency quoted Finmeccanica as saying in a statement. Prosecutors earlier this month had sought that former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi be sentenced to six years and former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini get five years in prison for allegedly paying the bribes. AgustaWestland’s Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the IAF has been scrapped by the Indian Government over the charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents. The government had cancelled AgustaWestland’s contract on January 1 and began the process of encashing bank guarantees of the Anglo-Italian firm worth around Rs 2,200 crore deposited in banks of Italy and India. Orsi has denied any wrongdoing, telling a preliminary investigations judge that all his actions were “motivated by the exclusive interest of Finmeccanica and all its subsidiaries”.He also denied knowing the family of former IAF chief S P Tyagi. Prosecutors alleged that members of Tyagi’s family received bribes paid by Finmeccanica to secure the contract for 12 VVIP choppers for the IAF. (Deccan Herald 30/7/14)

130. RTI application reveals graft cases against 157 IAS officers in past 10 years (5)

New Delhi: As many as 157 IAS officers have alleged corruption cases registered against them in the past ten years while sanction of prosecution has been issued only against 15 of them, according to an RTI reply. In reply to a query under the Right to Information Act, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said a total of 157 officers have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The charges against these officers range from corruption, taking bribe, causing financial loss to the government, possessing disproportionate assets, irregularities to involvement in various scams. Sanction for prosecution is still awaited against 142 officers for their alleged involvement in graft cases, the RTI reply said, adding, cases against 71 of these bureaucrats are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Among theses officers, two were allegedly involved in the cases related to irregularities in Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, two others were booked in Adarsh Housing Society scam, 12 have been charged of having disproportionate assets. A few others have also been booked in high-profile cases. Hisar-based RTI activist Ramesh Verma had sought details of bureaucrats against whom there were serious charges. (DNA 3/8/14)

131. Cheat and teach: Meet Bihar teachers who got their B.Ed before they were born (5)

Patna: L B Singh, a teacher at a Bihar government school in Saharsa, was born in January 1986. But he got his Bachelor of Education degree in 1979 — seven years before he was born. Indu Kumari of Saran got her B.Ed degree seven years before her birth, while Shivnarayan Yadav of Madhepura and Priti Kumari, Tarkeshwar Prasad Singh of East Champaran achieved this distinction three years and five years before they were born, respectively. There are at least 95 other such teachers among the 32,127 appointed by Bihar in March-April 2012, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s 2010 order to appoint 34,540 teachers, who got their B.Ed degrees either before their birth or before the likely age of 21. The vacancies were advertised by the Staff Selection Commission in 2003 but not honoured by the previous RJD government. The number of those among the 32,127 who could have got jobs on fake or forged degrees is above 3,000, sources in the Bihar Human Resource Development Ministry told The Indian Express. Since an inquiry began in June 2012 following numerous complaints by candidates who were not selected, 306 of them have been sacked. The minimum qualification to get the job of a regular teacher at a Bihar government school (Classes I to VIII) is graduation followed by a B.Ed degree. Between two similarly qualified applicants, whoever has got a B.Ed degree earlier is preferred for the job. A regular teacher gets Rs 32,000 a month. Bihar Primary Education Joint Director R S Singh said: “Of the 306 regular teachers terminated so far, 39 each are from Vaishali and Gopalganj, followed by 36 from Kaimur. We have already intensified the degree verification process for both regular and contract teachers.” The Indian Express had reported in June that 20,000 of the 1.42 lakh contractual teachers appointed during a mass recruitment drive between 2006 and 2011 had been selected on the basis of forged educational or professional degrees. Chief Minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi had ordered an inquiry into the appointments after The Indian Express reports. The state government that put in place a Teachers’ Eligibility Test in 2012 for contract teachers has also decided to make the appointment process more transparent through amendments in existing norms. These new findings are concerning regular teachers. A senior HRD official admitted that they were yet to take action against most of these teachers due to the “lackadaisical pace” of inquiry. (The Financial Express 7/8/14)

132. Anti-corruption agency to keep an eye on Corp’s wards (5)

KOCHI: The Anti-Corruption People’s Movement (Kerala), will open branches in all the 74 divisions of the Kochi Corporation, with the aim of assessing the ward-level performance of the Corporation authorities, and to make the administration corruption-free. “The ward-level activities of the agency will be launched with a survey of various issues faced by the people. A committee will be formed for the purpose. The information gathered through the survey will be compiled, and future activities designed accordingly. The primary aim is to set a background for creating a corruption-free environment and to pave the way for a loyal society,” said  Anti-Corruption People’s Movement general secretary-in-charge P S Sivankutty. The fund required for the working of the committee will be collected from people. The youth, women and senior citizens, who are willing to cooperate with the Movement, will be selected on the basis of the answers given to a questionnaire. After an interview,  membership will be given. “Training will be given with respect to functioning of the various departments of the Corporation; the Civil Rights Act; the Municipality Act; the Right to Information Act; the anti-corruption rules; and the working of the anti-corruption and vigilance wing and the Vigilance Court.  Trained volunteers will lead the ward-level activities,” he said. (New Indian Express 9/8/14)

133. SIT on black money to study Syndicate Bank case (5)

NEW DELHI: The alleged bribery case involving Syndicate Bank chief SK Jain may come up for discussion in the meeting of the special investigation team on black money, as it is a “classic” case of how proceeds of corruption were transferred through hawala channels, sources said. The CBI has found that a layered approach was adopted through which alleged bribe of Rs 50 lakh, for not declaring bad loans of Bhushan Steel as non-performing assets, was handed over to two businessmen who were also Jain’s relatives, thus covering the money trail. Senior officials handling the case claimed that the alleged bribe was handed over to a middleman, who is a businessman, to give it the colour of legitimate business transaction. They said this amount was allegedly further handed over to Puneet and Vineet Godha, both relatives of Jain. Sources said by such a chain, no actual delivery of bribe money to Jain was made. Sources said they had recovered documents related to five valuable properties from Jain’s residence and the agency suspects they could have been bought through similar transactions in the past. Justice MB Shah heads the special investigating team formed by the Modi government to probe cases involving black money and money laundering. “This is a classic case as to how people are now hiding money trail of ill-gotten money. We may provide input of this and such cases during the next meeting of SIT to show how tracks are being covered by culprits,” a senior official said. The special investigation team, under chairmanship of former Supreme Court judge Justice MB Shah, also comprises CBI director, revenue secretary, deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India, directors of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)… (Times of India 11/8/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

134. Panel on Western Ghats had warned against landslips (9)

MUMBAI: The landslide that buried an entire village near Bhimashankar should come as little surprise. A 2011 central government report on the Western Ghats by internationally-acclaimed ecologist Dr Madhav Gadgil predicted landslides in the area which could be triggered by large-scale deforestation for a windmill project along the hillside. Gadgil’s 2011 report was as good as buried by the government, which later came out with another set of findings diluting Gadgil’s recommendations for the protection of Western Ghats. The award for the construction of windmills went to an Indo-German company. While official data said around 28,000 trees were cut for the project, unofficial figures put the count around 3lakh. “By calling wind-energy green energy, those constructing wind-mills are given a free hand to do what they please without any regulation or monitoring. Near Bhimashankar, they have built roads from the base of the hill to the top of the hill where the windmills are installed. Roads were constructed in the shoddiest fashion without any care given to landslides in the region. The rubble from the roads entered farmers’ fields,” Gadgil told TOI in a telephonic interview from Pune. “The government first tried to suppress our report. When it was finally out, the Maharashtra government put up a Marathi summary on its website which twisted our report. In a bid to put the local people against us, the summary said we were imposing all sorts of restrictions on rural folk. In reality we said the environmental damage taking place along the Western Ghats can only be controlled if local people are fully involved in planning for and monitoring the development in the region. We cannot rely on government machinery to protect the environment,” said Gadgil. “Apart from substantial forest destruction, the windmill project has triggered large-scale erosion and landslides through poor construction of roads with steep gradients, all this rubble ends up on fertile farmland and in reservoirs of tributaries of the Krishna,” the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Gadgil says. “It’s clear from field inspection and Google Earth images that the hills where windmills have come up are tracts of high rainfall and biodiversity-rich evergreen forest, contiguous with that in the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, and home to Maharashtra’s state animal, the Malabar Giant Squirrel…The local range forest officer had recorded these facts and recommended that the windmill project should not be sanctioned. He was overruled by his superiors who cleared the project by patently misrepresenting facts,” the report adds. Environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali has written to PM Narendra Modi, environment minister Prakash Javadekar and CM Prithviraj Chavan, pointing out that the report had mentioned the danger of landslides, after noting the deliberate destruction being caused to the area. (Times of India 1/8/14)

135. Wetlands are being destroyed: TERI report (9)

NAVI MUMBAI: A report released recently by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board ( MPCB) states that there is phenomenal increase in pollution levels of the water bodies in Navi Mumbai. The report also points to high levels of pollution in mangroves at Kamothe, marshes near Khandeshwar station, Wadale lake and Owe dam in Kharghar. The report also mentions the changed pH levels of the water bodies in Navi Mumbai. The observations were made as part of the annual wetland trail project, Jaltarang trail, wherein samples of several water bodies were taken and tested. According to the report, construction activity occurring around the wetlands is leading to the accumulation of a lot of industrial waste, including harmful chemicals. The report states that the discharge of chemical and industrial waste by factories and mills is responsible for the excessive pollution of the water bodies. Even the release of domestic and organic waste by villages around the wetlands has drastically changed the pH levels of the water bodies. According to the report, the highest level of coliform (a commonly used bacterial indicator of sanitary quality of food and water) was reported in the mangroves at Kamothe, where debris is dumped frequently. The marshes near Khandeshwar station were found to be full of domestic waste and Wadale lake saw an accelerated rate of eutrophication (increasing aging process) due to temple offerings being dumped into it. Even Owe Dam in Kharghar, which can be used for irrigation, now has quarrying occurring all around it. The only saving grace for Navi Mumbai is the Central Park in Kharghar, which has an artificial pond created for the purpose of irrigation, which has reported no increase in pollution levels. “We aim to create awareness in every community and educate people about the importance of the wetlands and how they are deteriorating,” said Swati Tomar, a research associate from TERI. Environmentalists said that wetlands are a storehouse of biological diversity and they provide water and productivity for species. However, they feel that some of the existing wetlands are being destroyed for a purpose. “In Navi Mumbai, we are very much aware that land mafia is grabbing wetlands and destroying mangroves and the town planning body is an integral part of this land mafia. To say truthfully, nothing can be done,” said Avijit Nag, member, Jaltarang trail. Environmentalists also fear that if the wetlands do not get the appropriate care and treatment in the next few months, the levels of pollution will continue to increase, leading to poisoning of the waters. (Times of India 2/8/14)

136. NGOs protest wildlife board reconstitution (9)

NEW DELHI: Several non-governmental organisations and individuals have protested against the reconstitution of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), which has only two non-official members in place of 10 and one quasi-government organisation in place of five independent NGOs. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and officials, organisations such as Kalpavriksh and South Asia Network for Dams Rivers and People, expressed concern over the new NBWL notified on July 22. The term of the previous NBWL and its standing committee ended in September 2013. There was no NBWL and a standing committee for more than 10 months and the country expected that the government would constitute a proper Board honouring the letter and spirit of the Wildlife Protection Act and the need to protect wildlife and biodiversity in protected areas, the letter said. The notification is not even available on the Ministry of Environment website and is in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act in letter and spirit and is not in the interest of the wildlife, biodiversity or protected areas in the country, the activists have said. The Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2002 states that there should be five persons to represent NGOs but the new Board has only one member, from the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation at Gandhinagar, which is a Gujarat government organisation and not an NGO. Its website says it has been “set up in 1982 by the Forests and Environment Department, government of Gujarat” and the Chairperson of its board is the Chief Minister of Gujarat while a majority of the board members too are from the State government. (The Hindu 6/8/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

137. RSS outfits oppose GM crop trials, Government says no decision yet (20)

NEW DELHI: Two RSS-linked outfits today met Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and claimed the clearance given by biotech regulator for field trials of genetically-modified crops has been put on hold but the government said no decision has been taken. Representatives of Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bhartiya Kissan Sangh met Javadekar and sought a ban on field trials of GM crops of certain varieties of rice, brinjal and cotton among others. They apprised him about their concerns over the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) clearing earlier this month 15 proposals for confined field trials for rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton. They claimed the minister has assured them that the decision about field trials of GM crops has been “put on hold”.”The Minister assured the delegation that the decision about the field trials of GM Crops has been put on hold by the government,” All-India Co-convener of the Manch Ashwani Mahajan said. When contacted, Javadekar confirmed the meeting but asserted that the government has not taken any decision on the contentious issue. “Government has not taken any decision on the issue. Government will not take any decision in haste,” he said. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had earlier this month cleared 15 proposals for confined field trials for rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton. The delegation reminded the Minister that Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report on GM food crops – prospects and impacts, tabled in Parliament on August 9, 2013 has clearly recommended the ‘stopping of all field trials under any garb’. The Manch and Sangh members told the Minister that it is “not advisable” to allow GM crops without proper scientific evaluation about their probable long-term impact on human health and soil. They said, “the technology, which involves introducing a ‘foreign’ gene, is dangerous because once introduced, it is irreversible…. Once you have a GM crop, you cannot reverse the process if you find that it is causing harm.” They contended there is no scientific study to prove that GM technology does increase productivity, as is claimed by the promoters of the technology. They also pointed out that environmental costs might outweigh any benefit that introduction of such a technology brings. The delegation told the Minister that there is a major issue of food security of the nation attached to this issue. The Manch urged the Minister that government should not rely on the biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among the industry and institute enquiries about the likely impact of GM food crops on soil, human and other species’ health to ensure that no harm is done to traditional gene pool and biodiversity of the nation, soil, food security and health of the people of India. The two organisations are closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). (Economic Times 30/7/14)

138. Tenant farmer suicides on rise (20)

KOLLIPARA (GUNTUR DT): The narrow cement lane in the Dalit colony in Kollipara leads to the house of Nakka Sudha. The yet-to-be-plastered ‘Indiramma’ house has grills but no windows to protect Sudha and her children. Her husband and a tenant farmer Nakka Sudhakar committed suicide in December 2010 unable to bear the sight of submerged paddy in his two-acre farm. The family has already been reeling under a debt of Rs. 2 lakh then. “My husband never told us about the debt. He was optimistic that one good yield would give him enough to pay his debt. But, as years rolled by, the yield was becoming less and the debt kept on piling,” says Sudha holding back her tears, clutching her two school-going children. Sudhakar is one among 27 farmers whose names have been entered in revenue records in Tenali division under farmer suicide category during 2004-2014. Out of them, 11 farmers died before the age of 50 years. Most of the farmers are tenant farmers, whose name has changed to licensed cultivators, after the A.P. government brought in an ordinance in 2011 to provide bank credit to tenant farmers grouped in Joint Liability Groups (JLG). Tenant farmers were also given loan eligibility cards so that they avail institutional credit. But all these measures have not been able to stop suicides in the fertile Krishna western delta where alluvial rich soil and ever flowing canals help farmers raise three crops a year. Tenant farmers continue to be at the mercy of private money lender as institutional credit is still out of reach for many of them. The Agriculture department claims that during 2013-2014, 2,223 JLGs were given Rs.16.15 crore bank loan, a pittance considering the fact that tenant farmers cultivate about 85-90 per cent of land. The revenue department has issued 23,512 Loan Eligibility Cards during 2013-2014, sanctioning an amount of Rs.26.54 crore. The plight of tenant farmers has been taken up by various organisations. Communist Party of India plans to organise a series of demonstrations demanding an affirmative action to bail out debt ridden tenant farmers. “Every tenant farmer should be given Rs.10,000 immediately to allow them buy seed. We also demand that all loans availed by tenant farmers should be waived off unconditionally and banks should be asked to step up finance,” CPI state joint secretary Muppala Nageswara Rao said. (The Hindu 1/8/14)

139. Sustainable farming need of the hour for parched Jharkhand (20)

RANCHI: Agriculture experts in the state have swung into action with rains having been far below average this monsoon. They are working overtime to devise sustainable agriculture practices for Jharkhand, which been long been suffering owing to erratic rainfall . Though the state meteorological department has predicted more showers in the next two to three days, agriculture experts are concerned about the plight of farmers, who are a worried lot. If it doesn’t rain soon enough, they may have to seriously rethink the future course of action. Ten districts of the state – Garhwa, Gumla, Palamu, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Ramgarh, Ranchi, Simdega and Dhanbad-have received scanty rainfall and are heading towards a drought-like situation. Such is the state that chief minister Hemant Soren has asked the state agriculture department officials to monitor sowing of seeds. He has also directed officials to draw up a plan for augmenting cultivation of kharif crops. Accordingly, Birsa Agriculture University (BAU) has chalked out a number of contingency plans to help farmers survive and sail through this situation. A Wadood, agriculture scientist and agro-met advisor at the Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), said: “Jharkhand received 50% deficient rainfall in June. They are issuing periodic advisories every two to three days. Details of these are disseminated through the community radios.” The only way to achieve sustainable agro activities is to promote rainwater harvesting, said Wadood. “BAU has time and again advised the state government to build dams, check-dams and borewells to preserve water when there is heavy rainfall,” he added. The farmers should start preserving rainwater on field surface, adding that this is a form of rainwater harvesting. Unfortunately, the state has only 12 to 15% land which can be irrigated. Eighty-eight to 85% of the land harvest crops, which are rain dependant, said Wadood and added that the state is handicapped in terms of irrigation. “For upland and medium land, we advise farmers to sow seeds of crops that grow fast like hot gram, niger till July end,” he said. For low lands, paddy transplantation is the only option, but for that too good amount of rainfall is required. The problem with the state is that the rainfall is not evenly distributed. “We have advised the farmers to wait till July 31. According to the Met department predictions, rain is expected to recover from August 1,” Wadood added. July is considered as the appropriate time to sow seeds of mainly kharif crops like paddy, maize, oil seeds pulses. “The land lying fallow should be utilized to harvest medium and short-duration crops like maize, pulses and oil seeds,” Wadood added. This apart, direct seeded crops come in handy for upland and medium land areas on a vast scale. “For that stagnant water is required and these seeds can be planted in areas with irrigation facilities,” he said. The state will review the rainfall trend till the first week of August after which it will draw up a series of action plans for bailing out the farmers. BAU will bank on the contingency plans to improve the farming scenario. “We are hopeful of torrential rainfall in the first week of August will boost the farming activities,” he added. “I recommend organic farming to improve the soil fertility. Organic fertilizers will help produce crops that require less water. Hence, even during drought, the farm yield will be sustainable. Short duration crops should be harvested,” said director, state horticulture department. (Times of India 3/8/14)

140. Govt not against science but sensitive issues to be handled carefully: Javadekar (20)

New Delhi: Dropping hints that free trials of genetically modified (GM) crops can be given a go-ahead, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said the government is not against science, but it is only treading carefully on sensitive issues. “We are not saying no to science. We have to take proper caution and proper action,” said Javadekar during the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report here on Wednesday. However, when asked if the decision on GM trials has been put on hold, he refused to comment any further. This comes a week after the Centre had reportedly put the field trials of GM crops on hold following pressure from two pro-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) outfits — Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), which had opposed the move. Javadekar said a country that does not believe in science lags behind and the government “will not leave the path of science”. The National Democratic Alliance government (NDA) had come under immense pressure from the RSS after it had given nod to field trials of 13 GM crops, including mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chick pea. This led to the RSS bodies’ intervention and representatives from SJM and BKS met Javadekar last Tuesday and they were given the assurance that the decision would be put on hold. (Business Standard 7/8/14)

141. Effective steps needed to stop farmers’ suicides,say activists (20)

AURANGABAD: Expressing concern over the recent case of a farmer’s suicide in Karmad in the district, social activist and president of Shetkari Karjamukti Andolan (Maharashtra) Vishnu Dhoble on Saturday urged the government to take effective steps to support farmers. Baliram Jijarao Shejul (37) had committed suicide on August 6 in his farm in Naigavhan village in Aurangabad district after he lost cotton crops in the current season. Shejul had sown twice in the season, but scanty rainfall had foiled his attempts. Shejul had availed a loan from a society. After visiting the family members of the deceased farmer on Sunday, Dhoble said that the condition of many farmers in the region remains worrisome. “Farmers have lost their crops and are now struggling for survival. The suicide cases may have already touched 400 in Marathwada in the current season and the figure may go up further. Farmers are in deep trouble due to poor rainfall, but the preventive measures and relief measures initiated by the district administration are inadequate. We need elaborate measures to support the affected farmers,” Dhoble said. “The drought situation of 2013 in Marathwada had already put a heavy financial burden on many farmers. Apart from this, crops were severely damaged in the unseasonal rain and hailstorms in February-March 2014. Now, the scanty rainfall is making things more difficult for them. The government had announced relief measures for farmers, but it is not enough,” he said. Dhoble and other members of the organization said the state government should immediately declare Marathwada a drought-affected region and announce a special financial package for it. “The situation of farmers in Marathwada and their counterparts in other rain-deficient regions is quite different. Farmers here are persistently facing water scarcity and thus they need special schemes. It is not only financial support that would stop the suicides here; the government should initiate steps for improving agriculture production,” Dhoble said. (Times of India 10/8/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

142. Anti-globalization Action Committee opposes changes in land acquisition Act (4)

PUNE: The Anti-globalization Action Committee (AAC) will launch a mass agitation on August 7 in protest against the central government’s move to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The members of the committee, which was formed to protect farmers’ rights, met here on Wednesday to decide on the future course of action. Ulka Mahajan, one of the conveners of the committee, said the AAC will launch the agitation on August 7 at Gorai, near Mumbai, and will also stage a dharna in Mumbai on August 13. The AAC is mainly against the proposed amendments to two key provisions: ?Consent’ and ?Social Impact Assessment’ of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. “The Act came into force after a long struggle by farmers. It may not be the best, but it is definitely better than the one drafted during the British rule. Huge tracts of fertile land have been acquired in the past at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization. The existing Act helps farmers to protect their land. However, the first step the Modi government has taken is to amend it to facilitate industrialists and capitalists,” Mahajan said. She asked the government to come out with a policy precisely stating how much land should be kept ?under agriculture’ to feed the nation. “The government is eager to acquire land and devastate farmers. We are going to oppose any move that aims to grab farmers’ land,” she said. Questioning government’s plan to build 100 smart cities, she said: “The government should make it clear as to who will benefit from these cities.” AAC members said it will be a retrograde step if we were to go back to the colonial process of land acquisition with no regard to the impact on people, environment and democratic institutions. Another member, Suniti Su Ra, said the AAC will approach other organizations in the country to launch a comprehensive agitation in future. (Times of India 31/7/14)

143. ‘Land acquisition challenge is against public interest’ (4)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha High Court has commenced hearing of challenge of acquisition of land by the State Government for the Idco for Sahara Power. The challenge has been made by a group of villagers involving around 38 acres of land. In the process, the entire acquired land, despite grant of sublease, has not been handed over by the Idco to the power infrastructure company. Appearing for Sahara Power, Senior Advocate Jayant Das, assisted by advocate Aditya Das, contended that the challenge is not maintainable and is motivated because none of the petitioners had raised any objection in accordance with law under Section 5A of the LA Act. Secondly, the acquisition of the entire area has been completed; the land has vested in the State; the State has granted the lease in the Idco’s favour, and the Idco, in turn, has granted sublease in favour of the company. Thirdly, all other points raised by the petitioners regarding colourable exercise of power have been repelled by the High Court in a recent judgment relating to another power infrastructure project, Das argued. Das also relied upon the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Swaika Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure Corporation and Diamond Bar in Prativa Nema. He wanted to proceed to argue on merits. The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Pradeep Kumar Mohanty and Justice Biswajit Mohanty expressed the opinion that it would be appropriate to deal with the preliminary objections regarding the maintainability of the writ petitions. The counsel for the petitioners wanted to examine the judgments relied upon by Das, including the recent one of the High Court. The matter has been adjourned to be called after a week for further hearing and final disposal. (Pioneer 3/8/14)

144. Rights Panel Directs Govt to Pay Compensation to Land Losers (4)

BALASORE: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the State Government to rectify the mistakes and illegalities committed during the execution of Reba and Kapali river renovation project following a report submitted by the Special Rapporteur. The apex human rights panel in its recent order has recommended to the Chief Secretary to ensure that all the land losers are paid compensation with interest and land revenue is not collected from them. Besides, socio-economic survey should be held to determine their entitlement for rehabilitation and alternative livelihood support. The Commission has also directed the Government to appoint a technical committee to examine the quality of renovation work with regard to river bank erosion, accumulation of rain water, flooding of villages due to gap in embankments, provision for sluice gates, construction of check dams, approach roads and bridges. Earlier, NHRC had issued a notice seeking a detailed report from the Chief Secretary while acting on a petition filed by rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy. In the petition, Tripathy had stated that the executing authorities of the Government flouted the laws relating to land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement and environment without conducting socio-economic survey. On gram sabhas of the affected villagers, Tripathy had mentioned that the villagers, who had lost their land, standing crop and trees, were not heard by any Government official. Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, NHRC deputed Special Rapporteur Damodar Sarangi to investigate the matter. Sarangi visited the affected areas in December last year and interacted with the victims besides seeking clarification from the Government over the large-scale human rights violation. In his comprehensive report, he stated that the quality of renovation work is of poor standard and sluice gates, approach roads are not being constructed for which flood water enters to the villages. Though a committee constituted by the State Government for inquiring into the complaints found that the executing agencies had damaged private land without due process of law, no compensation has been provided to the victims so far. The NHRC took a serious view after considering the report submitted by Sarangi. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

145. Scrapping key UPA measures: Rajasthan drafts biz-friendly land acquisition Act (4)

JAIPUR: After radical changes in labour laws, the Vasundhara Raje-led Rajasthan government is firming up plans for a new land acquisition Act that seeks to facilitate speedier acquisition of land for industry and government by scrapping some key measures, notably those requiring consent of landowners, that form part of legislation passed by UPA last year. While relaxing the consent provisions, the desert state’s version of the law will hike the quantum of compensation to incentivise purchase of land from owners. According to senior officials involved in the drafting process, the new law will get rid of a provision requiring consent of 70% to 80% (in case of private projects) of land owners and a requirement to carry out a Social Impact Assessment Study ( SIA). These relaxations will apply to “Core Infrastructure Projects” such as roads, power lines, bridges and pipelines regardless of whether these are being implemented by the public or the private sector. However, to incentivise owners to part with their lands, the quantum of compensation will be increased from two to two-and-a-half of the prevailing rates for urban areas and from four to four-and-a-half for rural areas. “We are not against farmers or land-owners at all. We are against processes which increase delay in acquiring land. By enhancing compensation, we will ensure land owners get a better deal as well as the project proponents who, under the current law, will otherwise have to wait for 4 years and 10 months, which is a huge delay and adds to costs. The burden of these high costs is eventually borne by the consumers, so why let that happen?” a senior official argued. Rural Development Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who headed a three-member ministerial group which vetted the proposed legislation, said the draft was sent to the CMO late last week and it is now for Raje to take a call on which measures to approve. “We have proposed to clarify the urban and rural boundaries more clearly to help identify lands better. The minimum expectation is that owners should get more rates than what is mentioned in the DLC. We have also proposed a ceiling on the quantum of land which can be acquired by one project proponent in both rural and urban areas — for the former it is 1000 hectares and for the latter it is 200 hectares,” Kataria said. Industry has been critical of the consent and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) clauses of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which is currently in force. While the industry has sought reducing the percentage of landowners whose consent is required from 70% to 60% or 50% and limiting the SIAs to only large projects (more than 500 acres in area), a higher quantum of compensation may not be to their liking. The complete doing away of these contentious measures is also certain to invite criticism from farmers groups and other organisations fighting against forcible land acquisition. The senior official cited earlier said that a draft of the proposed legislation will be uploaded on the government’s website soon after the Chief Minister’s Office clears it, which could be on Monday or Tuesday. (The Economic Times 11/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

146. Chicken alert: Antibiotics found in city’s poultry samples (3)

New Delhi: Seventy chicken samples from Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), tested by the Centre for Science and Environment, were found to be carrying traces of five antibiotics. Largescale misuse and overuse of antibiotics in chicken has lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken itself. The CSE report claimed that these bacteria were then transmitted to humans through food or environment. The CSE also warned that eating small doses of these antibiotics through chicken could also lead to development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. The report, which was released on Wednesday, is based on the chicken samples picked up from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. “Three tissues muscles, liver and kidney were tested for the presence of six antibiotics widely used in poultry oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and doxycycline (class tetracyclines), enrofl-oxacin and ciprofloxacin (class fluoroquinolones) and neomycin, an aminoglycoside,” the CSE said. CSE director-general Sunita Narain said the poultry industry was using antibiotics as a growth promoter. “Chickens are fed antibiotics so that they gain weight and grow faster. The study found residues of antibiotics in 40 per cent of the samples of chicken that were tested.”The tests done by the CSE showed the presence of antibiotic residues in the range of 3.37-131.75 ug/kg. “Of the 40 per cent samples found tainted with antibiotic residues, 22.9 per cent had residue of only one antibiotic and the remaining 17.1 per cent samples had residues of more than one medicine. In one sample purchased from Gurgaon, a cocktail of three antibiotics oxytetracycline, doxycycline and enrofloxacin was found. This indicates rampant use of multiple antibiotics in the poultry industry, the CSE said in its report. To ascertain the linkage between overuse of antibiotics in poultry farms and antibiotic resistance in humans, the CSE researchers are said to have reviewed 13 studies conducted by various government and private hospitals between 2012 and 2013 across the country. The researchers found that the resistance was very high against ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and tetracyclines. These were the same antibiotics that have reportedly been detected in the chicken samples.The report said there was a growing evidence that resistance to fluoroquinolones, such as ciprofloxacin, was rapidly increasing in the country. “Treating fatal diseases like sepsis, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) with fluoroquinolones is becoming tough because microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly becoming resistant to fluoroquinolones.” Replying to a question in Parliament recently, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had said that the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR)-TB cases in the country had increased five times between 2011 and 2013. Studies show that one-third of MDR-TB cases are resistant to fluoroquinolones, which are critical for MDR-TB treatmen (Asian Age 1/8/14)

147. Japanese Encephalitis vaccination not effective during transmission: Experts (3)

GUWAHATI: The ministry of health and family welfare and health experts have advised the state government against application of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccines during the transmission phase of the disease as the exercise will not be effective. More than 100 people in the state have died of JE and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) so far. According to state health officials, over 24 districts have been affected by JE. The disease has severely affected Barpeta, Nagaon, Baksa, Darrang, Sonitpur, Nalbari and Bongaigaon where such cases were not many in the previous years. With the vaccination process now put on hold, chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday instructed the health department to step up the preventive measures to check the spread of JE and AES especially in some districts of lower and upper Assam. To make the conditions worse, there is shortage of vaccines in the state and at least three to four months would be needed to procure more vaccines. The chief minister’s office said Gogoi, who held a review meeting here on Friday, was told by the health officials that vaccination drive would be conducted from November and a proposal would be submitted shortly. The CM’s office stated, “Principal secretary, health and family welfare department, Sanjeeva Kumar met the Union secretary of health and family welfare department, Lov Verma and apprised him of the situation. The health ministry officials including the experts are of the view that during the transmission phase of the disease vaccination will not yield the desired results. Moreover, the minimum time required for procurement and supply of the vaccine is three to four months, which means that the JE vaccination is expected to start only by November, subject to availability of vaccines.” Gogoi gas also instructed the health authorities to procure medicines so that there be no shortage. “The CM has instructed the health authorities to spread bleaching powders, conduct fogging at the piggeries and hold awareness campaigns. He also enquired about the quantity of medicine available in the hospitals and health centres and instructed the health officials to procure medicines in advance to meet shortages, if there are any,” the CM’s office said. (Times of India 2/8/14)

148. Encephalitis toll in North Bengal touches 121 (3)

Kolkata: With two more deaths due to “different types of Encephalitis” reported in north Bengal in the last 24 hours, the toll from the disease in north Bengal rose to 121 on Sunday. “Two deaths have been reported in north Bengal and four new cases have also been reported in the state,” West Bengal Health Services Director Biswaranjan Satpathy said. Taking into account the death of 20 persons from other states in north Bengal due to Encephalitis, the toll was 141 since January this year. Claiming that the situation in the seven districts of north Bengal was under control, the medical officer said there has been no trace of the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus here in the city. (Zee News 4/8/14)

149. Right to food crusade takes poll vault (3)

Ranchi: To mount pressure on the state government to implement the National Food Security Act (2013) in a full-fledged manner, a few civil society organisations, crusaders of the state chapter of Right to Food Campaign and NGOs have decided to make this their top demand during the upcoming Assembly elections. More than 60 representatives — who assembled from across the state at HRDC Hall in Ranchi on Sunday to attend a daylong state-level meeting of Right to Food Campaign — said they would soon start signature and postcard drives to demand proper implementation of the Act. The crusaders also demanded that the daal-bhaat scheme be revived. Under the scheme, which has remained unofficially suspended since 2011, meal was available at Rs 5. Balram, the state adviser to Supreme Court appointed commissioners on Right to Food cases, along with Gurjeet Singh and Jawahar Mehta — both members of Right to Food Campaign — conducted the meeting. Divulging details of their plans, an official said that schoolchildren would be encouraged to write postcards to the chief minister, asking him to ensure eggs on their mid-day menu at least thrice a week while panchayat samiti members would be requested to sign petitions, demanding implementation of the Act. The National Food Security Act 2013 was enacted by the Centre on July 5 last year and was supposed to be implemented in all states on the same day this year. The Union government granted laggard states three months’ extra time. “Under the Act, a nutritious meal is the right of every child (aged between six and 14 years) at school or anganwadi centre daily. It also has provisions of Rs 6,000 for every pregnant woman. Further, 86 per cent households in rural Jharkhand are to be covered under the public distribution system,” said Balram. As a part of a number of agitations to press for full-fledged implementation of the Act in Jharkhand, the crusaders of Right to Food Campaign had launched an Anda Abhiyan in all government schools on July 4. They had further organised a rally of villagers at Manika in Latehar district and even opened a dialogue with MLAs on the issue in Ranchi on July 31. (Telegraph 4/8/14)

HIV/AIDS

150. 41 students have left Rivona school (3)

MARGAO: The situation at Fatima High School, Rivona, has returned to normal even as 41 students have left the school due to differences with the school management on how they handled the entire HIV related episode. Sources confirmed that the number of students that had applied for leaving certificates and left the school rose to 41. The strength of the school has been reduced by 1/4th its original strength and this could lead to problems such as surplus teaching staff. Parents of students who have left the school have admitted their children in schools within 8km of the Rivona institute. The parents were upset with the school over admissions to 37 students, including 13 HIV positive, from a community care centre. (Times of India 1/8/14)

151. AIDS scare grips village after murder (3)

LUDHIANA: Four days after an AIDs patient of Rakba village in Mullanpur Dhaka allegedly killed her mother-in-law after she objected to her illicit relationships, it is being feared that she may have transferred the HIV virus to many persons. The AIDS patient was arrested on Monday for the murder of her mother-in-law, 75-year-old Tej Kaur. Police sources said during the course of interrogation, she reportedly named some villagers with whom she had illicit relations. They said there are chances of her having transferred the virus to them. Sources said police officials and village residents are worried that her partners may have infected their families as well. The police rounded up around 10 to 12 persons named by the accused. SSP, Rural Ravcharan Singh Brar said the accused murdered her mother-in-law as she had come to know about her illicit relations. He said investigations are on. Police also said the names of people she had affairs with could be shared with the health department to check the spread of disease. The accused herself was infected by her husband. (Times of India 2/8/14)

152. Orphaned & homeless, HIV girls find healer in businessman (3)

SURAT: Over a year ago, 36 girls from across Gujarat, mostly aged between two and 16, had nowhere to go in the Diamond City. As if the trauma of losing their parents to HIV/AIDS at a tender age was not enough, neighbours had closed their doors on these HIV-positive orphans. Facing protest and discrimination from neighbours, the girls had to vacate their special home — an apartment in Puna area of the city. This is when a city-based businessman extended a helping hand — Mahesh Savani of PP Savani Group offered his plush farmhouse to accommodate these girls. Today, these girls, whose number has grown to 49, not only enjoy their accommodation at the farmhouse but also pursue their education in a school near by. Since last one year the girls have not suffered from any infection, which was otherwise routine for them. “HIV/AIDS medicines of six girls have been discontinued as their CD4 counts have improved and they are in a better condition. These girls now believe that they are not just patients but also human beings,” says Savani. He has even named his farmhouse ‘Janani Dham’. CD4 cells, also known as T-helper cells, are a type of white blood cells that fight infection. At their previous shelter, these girls were banned from playing in the residential campus. Following objections, Gujarat State Network for Positive People (GSNP+), the NGO taking care of the girls, was forced to relocate the girls. But with limited budget they had no other option than to ask government for accommodation facility. After Savani offered his farmhouse, these girls have a sprawling garden and a play area equipped with a couple of rides for their recreation. “Living in a lush green area has helped create positivity among them and it has improved their health. No major infections as well as improvements in CD4 count reflect their healthy condition. They can now access good education and meet other citizens regularly,” says Daksha Patel, vice-president of GSNP+.Savani is now planning to accommodate HIV+ widows at the same farmhouse. “If things move ahead as planned, we will soon support HIV+ women by offering them home at ‘Janani Dham’. I believe it will improve life for both the women and the girls,” says Savani, who owns a chain of schools in the city. (Times of India 4/8/14)

153. Abused and Exploited Tribals Facing High HIV Risk (3)

KALPETTA: The tribal population in Wayanad is fast emerging as a HIV/AIDS high-risk group because of lack of awareness regarding unprotected sex and rampant sexual abuse of their womenfolk. According to volunteers working in tribal regions of the district, the rise in detection of HIV positive cases calls for a targeted intervention. As per the data provided by the Vihaan Care and Support Desk under the Council of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kerala (CPK+), out of the 123 registered HIV positive cases in Wayanad, 21 patients belong to the tribal community. They include 13 females, five males and three children. Of the 13 female patients, seven are widows, whose partners had succumbed to AIDS-related illness. The data reveals that there is a sharp increase in reported cases of HIV/AIDS since 2012. Taking into account the fact that the indigenous people make up only about 17 per cent of the total population in the district, these numbers are alarming, the volunteers said. Moreover, the actual numbers could be higher than what is being reported. The problem is compounded by the practice of polygamy among many of the tribal sects and the increase in the number of sex workers. Tribal women constitute about 40 per cent of the total female sex workers in the district who are registered with the Targeted Intervention (Suraksha) Programme, a project supported by Kerala State AIDS Control Society. “There could be more tribal persons living with HIV. Of the 21 patients, many came to us when the disease was at an advanced stage. They were being treated for diseases such as TB and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, before being diagnosed with HIV,” said an HIV positive volunteer with Vihaan, who did not wish to be identified. She said vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child and positive cases among pregnant women were also on the rise. “A large section of the tribal population is ignorant about HIV/AIDS. Recently, we advised an infected couple not to conceive, but they did not heed the warning. The woman is now six-months pregnant, placing another life at risk,” she said. District Medical officer O Neetha Vijayan said the situation requires a comprehensive investigation. “We have been conducting multi-specialty medical camps in tribal belts across the district. “Out of the 300 tribal TB patients, only two were found to be HIV-infected. Data to authenticate the exact number of cases are unavailable as forced HIV testing is a violation of human rights,” she said. In July alone, six cases of sexual abuse of tribal girls was reported from different parts of the district.“Tribal women are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse by tribals and outsiders. “Also, tribal men who migrate to agriculture fields in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu indulge in unsafe sex. Their spouses get infected when they return to their native places,” said Mary Signie, district programme coordinator of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society. According to her, instead of reporting the incident, victims of rape are often ostracised by their families and villagers. “The government agencies should create more awareness among the tribal community about the dreaded disease and help the affected patients receive treatment immediately,” she said. “A large number of sexual abuse cases come under the category ‘breach of promise to marry’. Unfortunately, most of these cases go unreported, or the victim turns hostile during her deposition. Thirteen of the total 17 sexual abuse cases that had went to trial recently resulted in acquittals,” said DySP K B Jeevanand. Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Youth Affairs  P K Jayalakshmi said that she will ask concerned authorities to examine the issue. (New Indian Express 6/8/14)

154. HIV positive patients made to run in circles (3)

PATNA: A National Aids Control Organistion (NACO) ad has caught attention of many: A five-year-old’s HIV positive mom is lying unattended at a hospital. The boy rushes to the doctor’s chamber, takes his coat and runs back. The doctor and nurse rush behind him. Back with mom, the child says he resorted to the ?theft’ just to bring his mother’s case to the doctor’s notice. Has the message percolated down to the doctors? Apparently not. A 45-year old HIV+ woman died at the PMCH after being denied surgery to remove intestinal obstruction in September last year. Amid much hue and cry, the state health department promised a slew of reforms to ensure people with HIV were not denied healthcare for their other ailments, but they seem to have remained on paper. Even the Patna high court’s prods in this regard have gone in vain. Had it not been so, 45-yr-old Ram Kumar would not have been made to run from pillar to post ? from IGIMS to NMCH to PMCH, to be precise ? to get his urethra dilated. More than ten visits to these government healthcare facilities notwithstanding, Kumar remains untreated. It was on August 4, 2009 that Kumar visited the IGIMS’ urology department for the first time. Investigations were conducted on him. “However, when it was discovered that I am HIV positive, I was told to go away. As my condition deteriorated, I visited the hospital again after four days. They again said it was not possible to operate me at the IGIMS,” he said. As the complications increased, Kumar visited a private doctor. He prescribed treatment for a year but the surgery became a must. Kumar went to the NMCH in December 2013. He was refused surgery there too and was instead “referred to PMCH/IGIMS.” To try his luck for the third time, the patient went to the IGIMS again and found history repeating itself. “The machine through which the operation is done is not functional,” Kumar quoted the same doctor as telling him this time. In July this year, Kumar went to the PMCH which referred him to the IGIMS. “I have lost all hopes. The private doctor says it is high time I got operated upon. If I die, who will be responsible for my death?” Kumar asked TOI on Friday. The doctors Kumar visited have written “HIV+” in bold letters on the top on his prescriptions despite the fact that the treatment protocol prohibits such ?announcements’. All that the doctors can write on such prescriptions is ?PLWHA’ which stands for people living with HIV/AIDS….  (Times of India 9/8/14)

155. 26 migrants test HIV positive in Kolhapur (3)

KOLHAPUR: A total of 26 seasonal migrants involved in sugarcane harvesting work have been found to be HIV positive during the country’s first HIV prevention pilot project launched in Kolhapur six months ago. Out these, only one male was a known case, while the remaining were found positive during the project. As many as 22,650 migrants travelling from various parts of the state, mainly Beed, Osmanabad and Latur districts, to Kolhapur were screened between October 2013 and May 2014. Around one lakh workers arrive in Kolhapur during this period. The National Health Mission, along with the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), has implemented the project in Kolhapur, where 20 sugar factories have been identified. (Times of India 10/8/14)

 

Posted by admin at 11 August 2014

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit Men Flee Houses Fearing Action by Police (2)

VILLUPURAM: Two days after the clash between Dalits and caste Hindus in Aasur village near Tindivanam, all the men in the Dalit colony fled from the village fearing police action. Following this, the Dalit women on Thursday morning, picketed the Villupuram Collectorate demanding justice. The men fled from their homes on Wednesday night after police officials, who were deployed in the Dalit area, threatened that they had received special orders from a higher official to arrest all the Dalit men in the hamlet. However, local sources said no such threats were made by the police officials, but panchayat chairman Ealumalai, who is a Vanniyar, was forcing local police to threaten the Dalit residents. After facing harassment at the hands of the caste Hindus and police, Dalits demanded that  the district administration settle them in a separate village. On Thursday morning, a group of Dalit women from Aasur village picketed the Collector’s office and demanded justice. They threatened to return their ration cards if the district administration failed to take action on their demands. Speaking to Express, Gowri (32) a Dalit, said, police officials are showing partiality in the matter. The clash was well planned by PMK members and executed by the local caste Hindus, she said. She pointed out that even the parents of the couple that eloped were not involved in the clash. She said, although  Dalits were the victims in the attack, police officials had filed false cases against them in order to conceal the truth. Sources insisted that some PMK members were the ones that sparked off the clash. Local sources said, so far no action had been taken against the caste Hindus who were involved in the attack. Four people were arrested just for a eye-wash, the woman said. The attack that took place on Monday saw at least 50 Dalits, including children, seriously injured. They were undergoing treatment in several hospitals. Gowri (12) a class VII Dalit student of Aasur Government High school, who was also attacked by the caste Hindus said, the people entered the houses of Dalits and attacked them. They also used abusive words and damaged the houses as well as household articles. As the school was located near the caste Hindu area, about 60 Dalit students have been skipping classes in fear of being attacked again by the caste Hindus. The Dalit residents demanded protection for themselves and their property from the caste Hindus. Collector V Sampath directed police to take immediate action. A special team was formed to deal the problem, police officials said. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

2. Tamil Nadu dalit woman beaten to death by non-dalit husband, in-laws (2)

CUDDALORE: A 28-year-old dalit woman was beaten to death and buried by her non-dalit husband and in-laws at a village near Bhuvanagiri in Cuddalore district. The murder took place on June 3 but it came to light recently. Police on Saturday exhumed the body and sent it for postmortem. Police said P Seetha from Aathivarahantham village and Saravanan got married on May 5 this year after a brief love affair despite strong objections from Saravanan’s family. The couple started living in Keerapalayam. But the relationship turned sour after the marriage and Seetha had been complaining of abuse by her husband and in-laws. Seetha went missing on June 3. Her parents, after failing to get details on her whereabouts from Saravanan and his family members, lodged a complaint with Bhuvanagiri police on July 8. Saravanan surrendered before Panruti judicial magistrate on July 16 and confessed to murdering his wife with the help of his mother Selvi, sister Sakunthala and brother-in-law Venkatesan. Police arrested Selvi, Sakunthala and Venkatesan on July 17 and produced them before a local court which remanded them in judicial custody. Preliminary inquiries revealed Seetha, who was invited by Saravanan to his parents’ house in Kadavacheri, was beaten to death by him, his mother, sister and brother-in-law. They later set her body on fire and buried it near their house, police said. Various dalit rights organizations, while condemning the brutal murder, have asked the district police to book all the accused under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and ensure stringent punishment to them. The activists also demanded that the postmortem examination be videographed and be performed in the presence of two members from dalit community. (Times of India 20/7/14)

3. Officials Ignorant of SC/ST Sub-Plan Act: Ravella (2)

VIJAYAWADA: Minister for social welfare Ravella Kishore Babu has alleged that there is no awareness among the officers concerned on the SC/ST Sub Plan Act – 2013 and observed that there is an urgency to spread awareness on the law as nothing significant has been done in the past 15 months. Speaking to the reporters here Sunday, Kishore Babu said that the reschedule of loans was a part of farm loan waiver scheme. In view of the current kharif season, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu was making plans to waive the farm loans at the earliest.  “The CM has asked the agriculture minister to find all possible ways to waive farm loans if the RBI refuses to reschedule the loans,” he said and urged the farmers not to worry about the loans as they had asked the bankers at the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) meet not to cause inconvenience to farmers. Kishore Babu clarified that the state government was ready to take up the process of admissions for students and expressed disappointment over the Telangana government for the delay in admissions for students who were eligible for fee reimbursement. He also came hard on Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao for not responding to the letters from the AP chief minister regarding the fee reimbursement. “Due to the delay in admissions, the students will only be deprived of further education,” he said and added that they were planning to visit Delhi to exert pressure on the Centre to find a solution on the admissions issue. He also said that they would approach the Apex Court on the denial of fee-reimbursement scheme to students studying in Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. “Basing on the verdict of the Supreme Court, plans will be made accordingly,” he added. Speaking about the SC-ST Sub Plan Act, Kishore Babu criticised the Congress government for not framing rules in the Act. “However, this government will implement the law in letter and spirit,” he said and stressed the need to reduce the gap in development and literacy rate between the rich and the poor. Kishore Babu praised the efforts of Chandrababu and said that AP would turn into a logistical hub as the CM had already designed plans as part of his desire to develop AP. (New Indian Express 21/7/14)

4. 2 cops suspended after Dalits beaten to death (2)

ALIGARH: Three Dalits of a family were killed allegedly by some upper caste men in Veerpur village of Lodha, Aligarh over a land dispute, following which two police officials were suspended on Thursday for alleged negligence of duty. On Wednesday, a clash broke out in the village over a piece of land claimed by the Dalits and members of the upper caste family reportedly used lathis and other sharp weapons to kill the Jatavs. They also dragged the victims to a field and even tried to bury them alive, police sources said. The assailants beat up Babulal (55), Basanti Devi (60) and Kailash (30), all of whom succumbed to injuries. “Two weeks ago, there was an argument between two families over SDM Khair’s order to probe the case of dispute over the ownership of four bigha land property. The issue has been simmering since 2002. The land of Jatavs was claimed by the upper caste family and has ever since been the reason of the clash,” said Udaiveer Malik, police spokesperson. An FIR has been registered against seven persons by the kin of the victims, he added. DIG Satyender Veer Singh said, “This was a civil matter. The case went out of hand because the Dalit family had called some relatives home and the upper caste family thought this is being done to build an army to attack them. They reacted without any apparent provocation.” The area is under police surveillance after the clash and the situation is now under control, police said (Times of India 24/7/14)

5. Migration Changed Khariar Dalits’ Lives (2)

KHARIAR: Labour migration from this poverty stricken undivided Kalahandi district has become a part of life for many years now. Unlike other seasonal migration, Bankapur village’s tale is different. About 110 dalit families of Bankapur have left the village in Khasbahal panchayat of Khariar block of Nuapada district in search of greener pastures across the country for good. The village wears a deserted look and 30-odd members of 10 families left behind said the dalit families periodically migrated in the last 40 years. In the absence of repair and maintenance, the houses of migrated villagers are crumbling down. With no land holdings, the dalit families had little option but to leave their village to eke out a living. The families are now settled in Assam working in tea gardens in Bailadila famed for iron ore deposit, Durg, Bhilai and Raipur in Chattisgarh besides Punjab where they work as agricultural labourers, said the local sarpanch,  Dulamani Mahanand. With the new destinations offering ample livelihood opportunities, they are now leading a decent life far from their village where they had to struggle amidst poverty and hunger for several years. One dalit Gopal Mahanad managed to bag a government job in Assam, informed Mahanand. He said the State Government should make efforts to bring the migrated families back to their village and rehabilitate them by providing sources of livelihood. (New Indian Express 25/7/14)

6. Govt urged to free tribals, Dalits jailed on false charges (2)

Bhubaneswar: Hundreds of tribals, Dalits and innocent people, who faced police atrocities while raising voice against anti-people activities in the State, staged a rally at the Lower PMG here on Sunday, protesting the State Government’s undemocratic attitude leading to arrest of hundreds of poor tribals and Dalits on false charges. Following the rally and a street protest, the protesters attended a convention organised by the Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC). Debating on ‘Repression on Dissent Voices’, CAFC convener Narendra Mohanty said that charges have been framed against rights activists, leaders of mass movements and workers of different political parties on fictitious grounds. “The State Government has been targeting its own citizens while facilitating appropriation of the natural resources by the corporate sector. Repression, deception, threat and fabricating false cases are some of the sadistic tricks being used by the Government to crush stir by the public,” alleged Mohanty. Referring to the deceit by the Government, Mohanty said that the people’s movement in Narayanpatna had been suppressed by declaring Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) leader Nachika Linga as the ‘most wanted’. Similarly, while Viswa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed by some Maoists in Kandhamal, seven innocent tribals and Dalits were sent to jail, he added. On the occasion, the convention put forth a seven-point charter of demands, including withdrawing several false cases registered against democratic leaders and organisations for their battle against displacement and immediate provision of justice to the imprisoned tribals, Dalits and other innocent people by taking trials of their cases in a special court. Besides, it also demanded that all the prisoners and convicted persons, who have been charged in political cases for staging various people’s movements, conferred with status of political prisoners and the Government initiate discussions with the protesters of displacement instead of suppressing their voice. Several victims of displacement, including Shiney Shoy of Bisthapita Birodhi Mancha Kalinganagar, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti president Abhay Sahu, Niyamagiri Suraksha Samiti member Raj Kishore Sunani, Lower Suktel Movement leader Satya Banchor and Nissan magazine editor Lenin Kumar shared their anguish. (Pioneer 28/7/14)

TRIBALS

7. SC/ST amendment bill referred to Parliamentary panel (6)

NEW DELHI: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014, which seeks to replace an ordinance was referred to the standing committee by Lok Sabha amid protests by Congress MPs. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan referred the bill to the committee amid disruptions from opposition members from Congress, RJD and RSP demanding immediate statement from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed. When the House returned to order following a statement from Swaraj, leader of the Congress in the House Mallikarjun Kharge objected to the bill being referred to the standing committee. Another Congress MP KH Muniappa insisted that the issue involved 23% of the population in the country and they wanted to have their say in the matter. Supporting their contention, MP Shashi Tharoor raised a point of order saying it was not proper to take a decision when the House was not in order. But Mahajan overruled all the objections. The bill states that if a public servant, who is not a member of SC or ST, willfully neglects his duties required to be performed by him under this Act, he or she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term from six months to one year. (Times of India 18/7/14)

8. Landless ‘Yanadi’ tribes need a helping hand (6)

NELLORE: Landlessness, poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and illiteracy are among the many concerns that continue to trouble thousands of ‘Challa Yanadi’ tribal population living in various parts of the coastal mandals in the district. Since there is no change in their living standards, the government has been urged to confer the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) status on the tribe, and it is expected to help the authorities put in place several special mechanisms to support their livelihoods. Tribal communities such as Chenchus, Koyas, Kondas, Yerukalas and Challa Yanadis are present in considerable numbers in A.P. According to 2001 Census, 89 per cent of these tribes were living below the poverty line. “It is against this backdrop that more concrete support needs to be extended to these communities. The PVTG status is one of the important steps in this direction,” said Sk. Bhasha, director of the Association for the Rural Development (ARD). He has been working with tribal groups for their uplift with the help of various governmental initiatives. The Challa Yanadi tribe, which is predominantly present in coastal mandals like Kovur, Gudur and Sullurupeta, are found to be vulnerable to various factors in the modern context. Lack of awareness on health issues is causing danger to their lives. More than 8 lakh Yanadis are living in A.P. (The Hindu 19/7/14)

9. Fearing evacuation due to project, tribals occupy forest land (6)

WARANGAL: Even before the government is to take a decision on the proposed Kanthapanapally project across river Godavari, hundreds of tribals are attempting to occupy the virgin forest, fearing evacuation. In the process, they began felling trees to relocate their villages. A forest official, V.Lingam, who tried to prevent them from felling trees was beaten up so severely that he fell unconscious on June 12. Officials say about 100 tribals from Buttaigudem and Munepally reached Kondai hamlet and began felling the trees near Puredipalli cheruvu. Forest beat officer V Lingam who rushed to prevent them was attacked. Authorities say trees in at least a hectare of forest land were cut by the tribals, who wish to relocate their villages in the belief that their displacement because of the Kanthanapally project is imminent. The forest clearance took place near Kondai hamlet. The tribals of Sarvai, Tupakulagudem, Chityala, Gangaram, Bhupatipur, Buttaigudem, Eturu, Mupanapalli and Kanthapalli have identified rich and beautiful forest areas all along the Devadula pipeline bordering Karimangar and Warangal districts for relocating their villages. There are approximately 500 tribal families in these hamlets abutting river Godavari in dense jungles of Eturu Nagaram mandal. A case was registered against the tribals and the issue was brought to the notice of the district Collector G. Kishan. “We have scaled up the security and vigilance all over the mandal. Serious threat to forest is all along the Devadula pipeline where the entire stretch of forest is marked for felling and raising settlements by the tribals,” explains DFO (Wildlife) Ch Ganga Reddy. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

10. NGO petitions against Jarawa tourism in the Andamans (6)

NEW DELHI: Snaking queues of vehicles on the Andaman Grand Trunk Road has prompted a furious petition by Survival International, which has managed to get over 7,000 signatures so far against Jarawa tourism. In 2002, the Supreme Court had ordered that the road be closed. Survival International, a global movement which works for tribal rights, said hordes of tourists continue to travel through the road, a part of the Jarawa Reserve, to spot the fast dwindling tribe. A recent statement by the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from the Andaman Islands Bishnu Pada Ray has added to fears that the road could be widened for tourism. Sophie Grig, senior campaigner at Survival International said, “Over 7,000 people have already joined Survival’s petition and pledged not to visit the Andaman Islands over their outrage at the degrading ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa tribe. Yet, MP Bishnu Pada Ray has now announced a major investment in the road through the tribe’s reserve. Why is the Indian government investing in this road when the alternative sea route would provide a faster, cheaper and more comfortable means of transport? It’s time to let the Jarawa live in peace in their forest without the daily intrusion of hundreds of vehicles through their land.” Ms. Grig explained that the alternative sea route would enable people to travel north or south in the islands without invading the Jarawa’s reserve. “But the plans for its implementation are moving forward at a snail’s pace and are being stalled at every stage. It appears there is no political will to push it through. Instead of protecting the rights of his most vulnerable constituents, the local MP is pushing crowd-pleasing policies such as widening the road and mainstreaming, which would be disastrous for the Jarawa,” she said. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

11. NHRC to Probe Jharkhand Surrender Scam (6)

NEW DELHI: The NHRC will probe the alleged surrender scam in Jharkhand in which adivasi youths were asked to pose as Maoists and surrender for jobs, a commission official said Wednesday. “The commission has directed its director general (investigation) to depute a team to conduct a thorough inquiry in the matter and submit a report within four weeks,” said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) official. “The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that a surrender scam was allegedly perpetrated by a former Military Intelligence officer with the knowledge of CRPF officers to lure tribal youths in search of jobs in Jharkhand to pose as Naxalites desiring to surrender,” said a statement. It added: “In exchange, some of them had to sell their personal belongings like motorcycle, land to arrange for money which could secure them a job in army, paramilitary or state police through illegal means. But not everyone allegedly conned was rewarded. The media report cited examples of 18 victims of such a scam.” (New Indian Express 23/7/14)

12. 75% malnourished children in Adilabad affected by Pica (6)

UTNOOR (ADILABAD DIST.): About 75 per cent of malnourished kids in Adilabad owe their condition to Pica, an eating disorder characterised by a craving for dirt or chalk, or to short pregnancy spacing followed by their mothers. Though efforts are being made to address the issue of malnourishment, not much has been done in terms of creating awareness on controlling Pica or encouraging parents to follow the ideal pregnancy spacing. “Creating awareness on these aspects is the most important step towards curbing malnutrition among children,” says Raj Pratheepa, Medical Officer at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), Utnoor. The NRC handles 130 to 160 cases of child malnutrition as outpatients every month while 30 to 40 cases are admitted for treatment, with over 20 being in the category of Severe Acute Malnourishment (SAM), considered to be on the higher side. Since January this year, as many as 161 SAM cases out of a total of 218 inpatient malnourished children were treated at the NRC. “Children of poor tribal people need special care as they easily take to eating dirt when their parents are away in the fields especially during the agriculture season. Awareness on superstitious beliefs on raising a male child should be created so that women do not go on delivering babies until a boy is born,” Dr. Pratheepa observes. Meanwhile, the NRC has come to benefit poor tribal people having cured difficult cases through curing eating disorders in addition to providing nutritious food to malnourished children. “The treatment is decided based upon the result of an appetite test,” says NRC dietician Kumbam Aruna. “Seven-month-old Bhudevi was brought here 28 days back when her weight only 2.1 kg. She now weighs 3.1 kg and looks more healthy,” the dietician continues, citing an example of a difficult case. “We also treated three severely anaemic kids brought to the NRC a few weeks back with their haemoglobin percentage being just 2 gm. They have now made a complete recovery,” the Medical Officer adds. (The Hindu 25/7/14)

13. Campaigns planned on rights of tribals (6)

Bangalore” The Karnataka Aranya Bhoomi Hakku Horatagarara Vedike has decided to hold public campaigns in 19 districts across the State to mobilise public opinion on the rights of tribals and traditional forest-dwellers. The campaign will begin in Shimoga on August 7. The vedike said that the problems of tribals could be redressed under the existing laws. Addressing presspersons here on Saturday, vedike chief convener A. Ravindra Naik said that over 14 lakh tribal families of forest-dwellers, under 260 different categories, in the State feared that they would be evicted following court orders. Mr. Naik said these dwellers were cultivating over two lakh hectares of forest land without title deeds for their livelihood. (The Hindu 27/7/14)

WOMEN

14. Woman branded witch, beaten to death in Bihar (8)

Motohari: A woman in a village of East Champaran district in Bihar was beaten to death on charges of allegedly practicing witchcraft, police said. Saraswati Devi, 45, succumbed to her injuries at Motihari sadar hospital after she was badly beaten by her co-villagers, on Saturday. “The villagers also forced her to consume human excreta,” police said. In a statement to the police, the deceased’s husband Kailash Prasad accused 14 villagers of dragging and thrashing the woman to death. The two sons of Saraswati —Himanshu and Ramsurat —  also sustained injuries when they tried to save their mother. “After recording the statement, the case was sent to Madhuban police station,” said Priya Ranjan, police inspector. In separate incidents in June, more than eight women were assaulted and subjected to humiliation, in which 27 persons had been made accused. But not a single arrest has been made so far in these cases. However, ASP PK Mandal claimed, “Police have been told to adopt zero tolerance against such incidents and take prompt action whenever reported to the police stations”. (Hindustan Times 20/7/14)

15. Protests against rising rape cases (8)

Dharwad: The BJP Mahila Morcha on Friday staged protests in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in various districts, condemning the State government’s alleged failure to provide proper security for women. In Dharwad, the protesters alleged that the government’s claims of efforts to provide security to women had remained only on paper. Home Minister K. J. George was incapable of handling the Home Ministry and should resign, they said. During the protest in Belgaum, BJP Belgaum district (Mahanagar) president Ujwala Badavanache said the as many as eight cases of rape had been reported from different parts of the State during the last 24 hours, which showed that persons with criminal tendencies did not fear the police. She said increasing incidents of sexual assaults had created a sense of insecurity among women. The absence of male members of the BJP in the protest drew flak from the onlookers. In Raichur, students protesting under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad alleged that the State government was trying to protect the perpetrators in the Bangalore rape case. They demanded capital punishment for Nasir Hyder who allegedly abducted and raped the student in Frazer Town on Wednesday night. They also demanded the government to dismiss the Inspector for his “deliberate” delay in registering an FIR. Activists of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike burnt an effigy at Super Market circle to condemn the laxity in dealing with sexual assault cases. Ashok Kumar Jain, district president of the organisation, demanded death sentence for the rapists. (The Hindu 20/7/14)

16. India’s child sex ratio drops: UN report (8)

New Delhi: India needs to take urgent action following a sharp fall in its child sex ratio, a United Nations report said Tuesday. The study named “Sex Ratios and Gender-Biased Sex Selection: History, Debate and Future Directions”, says the child sex ratio in India has deteriorated from 976 girls to 1,000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001 and to 918 girls in 2011. The report has been constituted by the United Nations Women with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UN Women is the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It also says India is among the few countries where the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for girls is worse than boys. The other countries are Nepal and Bangladesh. Speaking at the report launch, Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said: “Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how our society values girls and women.” “The deteriorating child sex ratio demonstrates the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” she added. The report offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment and institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection. “India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender-biased sex selection. The report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India,” said Frederika Meijer, representative of UNFPA to India. The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns. (Zee News 22/7/14)

17. ‘Agnipariksha To Prove Chastity’: Woman Asked To Hold Hot Iron Rods in Front Of Village (8)

Indore:  A court in Indore ordered cases to be registered against four people, including a woman’s husband and mother-in-law, for allegedly forcing her to “prove” her “chastity” in front of a community panchayat by holding red-hot iron rods, if she wanted to live with her husband. The complainant was allegedly asked to “prove her “chastity” by holding red-hot iron rods with her palms (“agnipariksha”) over which leaves of plants coated with oil were kept, her lawyer Santosh Khoware told PTI in Indore on Wednesday. The court ordered registration of the case under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the woman’s husband, mother-in-law and their two close relatives, the complainant’s lawyer said. The complainant, who belongs to the Kanjar community, got married in 2007. After some time, her husband and her in-laws allegedly demanded Rs. 2 lakh in the name of dowry and started harassing her physically and mentally, her lawyer said. Later, they “suspected” her “character” and demanded that she “prove” her “chastity” in front of the local community panchayat. When she and her parents refused to appear before the community panchayat which her in-laws called, panchayat heads asked their community to socially boycott them from all functions, the complainant said. Her complaint stated that she and her family were socially boycotted since February and nobody invited them for any function nor came to her parent’s house. Meanwhile, Kanjar community’s Madhya Pradesh head, Shashi Khatabia termed the allegations levelled against the panchayat as “hollow” and added that it had “nothing” to do with it. She claimed that practices like “agnipariksha” were already “a thing of the past” and such traditions had “no relevance” in “modern” society. (NDTV 24/7/14)

18. Govt mulls amendments to anti-dowry law (8)

New Delhi: Keeping in view the rising number of complaints regarding the misuse of anti-dowry law, Centre is mulling to introduce penal provisions in the act that will ensure punishment or penalty to those who make false charges. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is also contemplating giving more teeth to the Dowry Prohibition Act by strengthening the existing provisions and widening the definition of ‘dowry’. “Recently, a rise in the incidents of misuse of the anti-dowry law has come to the notice of the ministry. In some cases, women falsely implicate their husbands and in-laws for various other reasons. “If the allegations turn out to be false, the case gets closed. So there are discussions going on about changing some provisions under which the misuse of the act may invite punishment or penalty,” an official in the ministry said. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments to instruct police “not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498A of IPC (dowry harassment) is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41 of Criminal Procedure Code”.While giving the direction, the apex court had expressed concern over the misuse of the anti-dowry law by “disgruntled” wives against her husband and in-laws and noted that the act was being increasingly used to harass in-laws. According to ministry officials, the amendments may include widening the definition of ‘dowry’ by changing the words ‘in connection with marriage’ to ‘given before the marriage, at the time of marriage and at any time after the marriage’. The officials said that there was also “a proposal to link certain provisions of the Domestic Violence Act to the Dowry Prohibition Act to provide quick relief”. Notifying the list of gifts exchanged during the wedding may also be made a mandatory and failure to do so could invite heavy penalties including a three-year jail term not only to the bride and the groom but also to their parents. “Notification of the gifts during the wedding will help in checking any claim from being made later that they were part of dowry,” the officials said. In addition to this, a new clause may be incorporated which will provide an aggrieved woman the opportunity to file her case either at the place where the offence was committed or where she permanently or temporarily resides, they said. The National Commission for Women (NCW) had also proposed recommendations to amend the Dowry Prohibition Act in 2009. (Zee Newa 27/7/14)

19. Khaps support Dhankar’s ‘Bihari wives’ remarks (8)

Jind: Having faced flak for his “Bihari wives” remarks, Haryana BJP Kisan Morcha president Om Prakash Dhankar today received support from unexpected quarters with Bihar Jat Sabha coming in his defence, saying there’s nothing wrong in inter-state marriage alliances. Blaming the media for misrepresenting Dhankar’s statement, Bihar Jat Sabha president Shiv Pratap Singh today said that Dhankar never suggested paying money for Bihari brides. On the contrary, Dhankar merely suggested formalising and registering such inter-state marriage alliances, Singh said, adding that he will extend full support to Dhankar in this endeavour. Singh’s statements were supported by various Khap Panchayats of Haryana and also by famous Hindi writer and former chairperson of Social Welfare Board Mridula Sinha. “Whole of India is a village and there’s nothing wrong in such marriage alliances,” Sinha said, while speaking at a function organised by Samajik Jagriti Manch, wherein various social issues such as unmarried youths, female foeticide, inter-state marriages, human trafficking and rising crime were discussed here. Speaking on the occasion, Dhankar expressed concern over the falling sex ratio in Haryana and suggested connecting all ultrasound centres in the state to a common server to check their misuse. Earlier this month, Dhankar had suggested that if BJP comes to power in Haryana then all the bachelors in the state will get Bihari girls for marriage. (Zee News 28/7/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

20. About 70 kids rescued from Taloja factory (14)

NAVI MUMBAI: As many as 70 children were rescued from a Taloja factory on Friday. The kids were employed by a fisheries company, Ulka Seafoods. The cops, tipped off by an NGO, raided the factory at 8pm. “Around 300 workers, comprising men and women from Assam and Orissa, were employed. The workers included 70 children — 60 girls and 10 boys. These labourers had been brought here by a recruiting agent. Both, the adult and child labourers, were given the job of cleaning and packing,” said Sanjay Singh Yenpure, DCP (zone 2) He added that factory inspectors should have regularly inspected the factory to ascertain if there were any children employed. Indian Rescue Mission, an NGO, had told the police about the factory. “We had received a call from the parents of one of the girls, alleging that her daughter was being forced to work there without pay or proper accommodation.We complained to the police and the crime branch team raided the factory,” James Verghese, president. (Times of India 19/7/14)

21. Over 4,300 child labourers rescued in Delhi since 2009 (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour Department sends Rs.25,000 to District Magistrates annually for the welfare of each rescued child, but do not get utilisation certificates. Of the 4,310 child labourers rescued from different areas of the Capital since 2009, only 19 were from Delhi and 99 per cent belonged to other places across the country. The Delhi Government’s Labour Department has taken steps to repatriate these children to their native places and rehabilitate them. Stating this in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court earlier this week, the Department sought directions for streamlining the rehabilitation of rescued child labourers. For children belonging to Delhi, the Social Welfare Department must be directed to ensure that they are admitted to the MCD schools, it stated. The matter related to a writ petition moved by non-government organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, on which the Court has been issuing directions to the authorities since 2009 to take steps to rescue and rehabilitate child workers. The matter came up on Wednesday before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R. S. Endlaw. The Labour Department sends Rs.25,000 to District Magistrates annually for the welfare of each rescued child, but do not get utilisation certificates regularly from them, stated the affidavit. It also pointed out that there was no effective tracing and tracking mechanism. The affidavit pointed out that instances of sexual abuse of girls trafficked for child labour were regularly reported in Delhi and sought the High Court’s directions to the Resident Commissioners of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh to cooperate with the Department for rehabilitating them. The Court asked the Delhi Government to consider suggestions made by the NGO to ensure the rescue of child labourers from factories, industrial units, hotels and other places. Posting the matter for hearing on September 1, the Bench asked the respondents to consider the proposals to be submitted by the petitioner within a week. Bachpan Bachao Andolan counsel H. S. Phoolka regretted that only 4,310 children had been rescued so far. He pointed out that it will take the next 36 years in getting all child workers released from the places where they were being exploited. “Labour Inspectors know the places where children are illegally employed, but they are slow in taking action,” Mr. Phoolka added. The Court also asked the Department authorities to randomly visit places where they detect the possibility of children being forced to work. (The Hindu 21/7/14)

22. Child rights panel seeks report over blind students’ caning (14)

New Delhi: The national child rights panel Monday sought a report from the Andhra Pradesh government on the brutal beating up of blind students by their teachers. “It is definitely brutal. It is something which all of us need to be ashamed about,” National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Kushal Singh told IANS. “NCPCR has asked for a report from the state government in the matter,” she said. Kushal Singh said the commission has issued guidelines for corporal punishment which were circulated by the human resources development ministry to all states. The director and principal of a school for blind in Andhra Pradesh were Monday arrested for beating up their students. The arrests were made after parents of the children protested and attacked the Greenfield residential school for blind at Thimmapuram near Kakinada in East Godavari district. The district collector has ordered a probe into the incident, which came to light after four days. Video clips of school director K.V. Rao and principal Srinivasulu caning the blind children were released to the media Monday, leading to an outrage. The director himself is blind and was seen mercilessly caning the children with the help of Srinivasulu, who was holding the students. The clips showed the children pleading to spare them but the duo showed no mercy. (Business Standard 22/7/14)

23. Over 10,000 kids working in Goa (14)

PANAJI: Goa may pride itself for its high human development indicators, but the latest statistics of Census 2011 released on Wednesday do not bear good news on this front. A total of 10,009 children in Goa, aged between 5 and 14 are employed and shockingly 6,920 of these children are working as ‘main workers’ or have been employed constantly over a prolonged period of time. Despite implementation of the Right of Child to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which makes schooling mandatory for children up to the age of 14, there are 5,351 male children and 4,658 female children who have seemingly become victims of child labour in Goa. Other than the 6,920 children employed for over six months, 2,902 have worked as marginal workers for a period ranging from three to six months. Of these, around 1,300 have worked as manual workers. Additionally, 187 children from the state have worked for a period of less than three months. As per the statistics, of the 10,009 child workers in Goa, 4,738 children are available in the job market ‘seeking work’. “The figure of 6,920 children employed as main workers may be a small percentage of the total main workers in Goa of around 4.40 lakh and Goa’s figure may not be too large when compared to the numbers in other states, but it is shocking that nearly 7,000 children in Goa are working at an age when they should be studying in schools. This figure should be more worrisome for authorities as so many children are out working despite the RTE Act coming into being,” assistant professor at the department of economics of Chowgule College of Margao, Rupali Tamuly, said, presenting the statistics on Wednesday for the directorate of census operations. Experts in the field of economics, urban development and statistics present at the session analyzing the latest Census data, said that though statistics are unable to reveal the nature of employment, generally a majority of these children appear to be employed as domestic help in households, as waiters in small eateries and as help along with parents in manual labour jobs. What also comes as a surprise is that 119 of the children working in Goa are disabled, suffering from mental retardation, hearing and speech impairment, blindness, physical disabilities and multiple disabilities. Officials said they are unable to state if disabled students whose products crafted in vocational training schools are also accounted for in these statistics. (Times of India (24/7/14)

24. Over 8 lakh malnourished children in Gujarat; Vadodara records highest numbers (14)

Ahmedabad: There are over 8 lakh malnourished children in Gujarat, the state legislative assembly was informed. According to figures tabled in the state legislature on Friday, there are over 8.44 lakh children who are underweight as per ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services), as on December 31, 2013. Of these, 62,500 children are severely underweight, informed the state government in a written reply to an unstarred question by Congress MLA Tejashree Patel. Strangely, Vadodara had the highest number of children — over 65,800 — who are underweight as per the ICDS norms for malnourishment. The district also has an additional 5900 children who are severely underweight. The tribal district of Dahod along with the state’s most urbanised district of Ahmedabad have the second and third highest number of underweight children, respectively. While Dahod has 56600 under-weight and 3500 severely underweight children, Ahmedabad has 55,500 underweight and 5700 severely underweight children, the state government figures reveal. There are similar high number of malnourished children in some of the districts like Banaskantha (55,400), Sabarkantha (53,300) and Panchmahal (55,000). The reply also talks about the various state government schemes like Mission Bal Sukham that is being run to address the grave issue of malnutrition in the state. The government has also been providing “Nutri-candy”, fruits (twice a week), to children between the age groups of 3-6 years in anganwadis. Children in tribal areas are also given milk twice a week, the reply added. (Indian Express 26/7/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

25. Minority schemes list no beneficiary in many states (7)

New Delhi: Eight years after the Centre launched the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for welfare of minorities, some of the key schemes are yet to see the desired results, with many states/ union territories listing zero beneficiaries. Citing data on the allocation of funds by the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC), the ministry has told parliament that as many as nine states/ union territories did not provide assistance to any minority entrepreneurs in 2013-14 under the term loan scheme. This is a part of the 15-point programme. Under the term loan scheme, NMDFC disburses loans through designated state channelling agencies to support self employment and for income generation projects of up to Rs 10 lakh. Loans covering up to 90 per cent of the project cost are given at an interest rate of 6 per cent per annum. The nine states/UTs that did not give any term loans are Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Orissa and Tripura. Data for the last three years also shows that many states are irregular in doling out money for self-help groups, especially to minority women, also funded by the NMFDC. In 2013-14, no loans were granted under the microfinance scheme in Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Orissa. Over the last three years, Gujarat granted loans under this scheme only in 2012-13, to 89 people. In contrast, Tamil Nadu gave loans to 14,666 people and West Bengal to 44,889 people under the scheme in the same year. In 2013-14, 15 states/ union territories listed zero beneficiaries under the free coaching and allied scheme for minority students. Under this scheme, assistance is provided to candidates belonging to minority communities who are appearing for competitive examinations — for government service, private sector or admissions to reputed institutes. The 15 states/ union territories are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Sikkim, Tripura, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. The data for urban employment of minorities is equally dismal. In 2013-14, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan did not give employment to anybody under the Swarn Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana, which is also a part of the 15-point programme, though they had to meet a target of 1,004 and 915 beneficiaries respectively. In yet another scheme under the programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, 13 states/ union territories did not sanction any projects last year for towns/ cities having a substantial minority population. These are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Pondicherry, Sikkim, Tripura and Mizoram. (Indian Express 20/7/14)

26. Alwar police action rocks R’than House (7)

Jaipur: The opposition on Monday boycotted Assembly proceedings amidst uproar over alleged police atrocities on the minority community in Alwar district. The state government rejected the allegations and supported police action, saying it was taken against hardcore criminals and the opposition was misleading the House with false information. Independent legislator Hanuman Beniwal raised the issue in Zero Hour. He alleged that the special Cobra Team constituted by Alwar SP barged into the houses of the Meo community on July 14 and bashed up people, including children and women. He alleged that the team members were drunk and misbehaved with women and hit children. The drunk policemen later entered mosque in Ismailpur area and picked up people offering prayers, he said. The allegations evoked strong response with ruling ruling BJP legislators alleging that the opposition leaders were backing criminals. Supporting Alwar SP Vikas Kumar’s action, the legislators said Ismailpur was a crimine-prone area and the SP has shown courage to pick up goons from there. The Speaker tried to restore order but independent MLA Kirori Lal Meena, along with the opposition leaders, came into the well of the House, alleging that the opposition was not being allowed by him to speak. They raised anti-government slogans. Later, cabinet minister Gulab Chand Kataria gave a factual report on the case and tabled documents related to the police action. He said all people who were lifted from there by police were hardcore criminals with several cases registered against them in the past. He alleged that a few MLAs coming from eastern Rajasthan were giving protection to criminals in their areas. MLA Om Prakash Hudla accused Kirori Lal Meena for his involvement in an abduction case in his constituency. He alleged that a criminal Hansraj Meena abducted a girl and stayed in the house of Kirori Lal Meena. He alleged that girl was kept at Meena’s house for a week. BJP MLAs accused Meena of disturbing peace in eastern Rajasthan and giving protection to criminals. Irked over the allegation, the entire opposition boycotted the proceedings. Outside the House, while addressing the media, Kirori Lal Meena and Om Prakash Hudla entered into a spat and used abusive words for each other. (Deccan Herald 21/7/14)

27. Minority Commission Turns Heat on Wakf Property Encroachers (7)

HYDERABAD: Alleged encroachment and land grabbing of Wakf properties in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has come under the scanner of the Minorities Commission which has found 35-40 alleged cases of irregularities involving property worth Rs 30,000 crore. Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Commission (APSMC) said it has come across alleged irregularities in management of Wakf properties in the two states to the tune of estimated thousands of crores of rupees at current market value. APSMC Chairman Abid Rasool Khan said the Commission has over a period of last one year received more than 100 complaints alleging large scale encroachment of Wakf lands with the tacit support of Wakf Board officials or the ‘Muthawalis’, who are custodian of the property, that they have sold these properties or leased them away flouting rules. “Prima facie in about 35-40 cases, Wakf officials joined hands with land grabbers and not protected the properties. As per the market value, Rs 30,000 to 40,000 crore worth properties of the Wakf have been eaten away by the encroachers,” Khan told PTI here. “People have been occupying (some of these properties) for more than 20 years, but the Wakf Board has not taken any steps to evict them. We took up inquiries into the complaints. In 35-40 cases, we have found fault with the Muthawalis and the Wakf Board officials in transferring the properties. Even legal advisers have not done their duties properly. We are preparing a report on these complaints,” he said. “Now we are in the process of compiling a detailed report on the irregularities. We are in process of obtaining valuation certificates from registrar offices. Once the report is ready within the next one week, we will be writing to the Centre, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments seeking a CBI probe. Separate reports will be handed over to AP and Telangana respectively,” Khan said. According to rules, Wakf property cannot be sold under any circumstances. There can be lease for a maximum period of three years which was also recently amended, making it mandatory for renewal every year. Wakf lands and properties are given to Wakf Board to generate income and spending for the benefit of the poorest of the poor section by way of giving pension to the needy and development and betterment of the community. Khan said there were two reports – one by Parliamentary Committee and the other by the State Legislative Committee – that delved on irregularities in Wakf Board. “The finding of these committees will form part of our report,” he said. As per a survey conducted by Wakf Survey Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh region has 15,400 properties and Telangana region 64,500 properties which are notified and registered by the Wakf Board, ranging from 100 yards to 1,000 acres, according to Khan. “However, 70 to 80 per cent among these properties are in possession of land grabbers…including government agencies. Along with documentary evidence, we are putting up these details in the report seeking CBI inquiry,” he said. “We will seek that all the resolutions, transfers of Wakf properties over a period of last 15 years should be put under the scanner of CBI which will expose illegal sale, transfer and lease and also misappropriation of funds and grabbing of Wakf properties for the past 15 years in AP and Telangana,” Khan said. (New Indian Express 23/7/14)

28. Minorities Commission gets step-motherly treatment (7)

Hyderabad: The A.P. State Minorities Commission is a classic case of government’s indifference. It has not even a shoe-string budget to boast off, leave alone salaries for the staff. If the Commission is discharging its duties as mandated under the Act, it is all because of its chairman, Abid Rasool Khan, who keeps pumping in money from his own pocket. The last time he received his salary was four months ago. Same is the case with the six member staff allotted to him as a Cabinet rank Minister. If the OSD, office assistants and others are working regularly it is because their salaries are being paid by the chairman himself. Every month he is shelling out Rs. 69,000 towards their salary. This is apart from Rs. 1.70 lakh incurred on office maintenance, stationery, telephone bills and other day to day expenses. This pathetic situation persists even after bringing it to the notice of the Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Finance Secretaries of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. A statutory body, the Commission has 5 other government staff on deputation. However, their salaries pose no problem as their respective departments pay them. When the Commission was shifted from Secretariat to its new premises beside the Lake View guest house recently, a sum of Rs. 3 lakh was incurred. This again remains to be paid by the government. “It’s a clear case of step-motherly treatment. What the Congress government did in the past, the new government is also doing the same”, rues Mr. Khan who has completed one year in office. For the year 2013-14, the Commission was allocated a budget of Rs. 69.31 lakh on March 24, at the fag end of the financial year. The Commission hurriedly prepared the bills and submitted in time. Yet bills amounting to Rs. 15.60 lakh were not cleared as the process of checking the same took time. “These are the expenses I personally incurred for running the Commission,” says Mr. Khan. After its reconstitution, the Commission is busy addressing the grievances and intervening in cases of discrimination against the minorities. But surprisingly it is not able to address the discrimination against itself. (The Hindu 28/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

29. Confidence of Muslims in BJP increasing: Najma Heptulla (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister Najma Heptulla claims that confidence of Muslims in BJP is increasing because of its “development-for-all” agenda, as she expressed optimism that “vote-bank politics” syndrome will now be a thing of the past. “Muslims have voted for the BJP (in recent Lok Sabha elections) and they are slowly getting their confidence in voting for the BJP because it’s for the first time in the history of India that any leader has focused on development in a national election and talked about inclusive development, both for majority and minority in the entire nation and Muslims are included in it,” she said. “He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) talked about everybody. And when he talked about development, minorities, specifically Muslims, have voted for him. (Muslims) may not have voted 100 per cent but they have voted and slowly the growth (in voting for BJP) will increase as the confidence increases,” the minister of minority affairs told PTI here in an interview last evening. Irrespective of caste, religion, region and language considerations, people have voted for Modi, the former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha said, adding that she is “very confident” that the concept of “vote-bank politics is not going to be there” in future. Without naming the Congress, she attacked it, saying the previous governments only paid “lip-service” to the issue of minority welfare and they have not actually cared for them. Sachar Committee and other reports on minority development and welfare have “exposed” them (the Congress that not much had been done for minorities).” Asked if she thought Narendra Modi should visit Pakistan to improve bilateral relations, Heptulla said it’s for him to decide, but pointed out the Prime Minister has already gone a “step further” by inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony. “I feel that now it’s time for Pakistan to show some consideration and extend a hand of friendship towards India and stop supporting the terrorists because it’s not good for either country (India and Pakistan). No body, No body, I emphasise, should support any terrorist activities,” the Minister said. “We cannot tolerate terrorism,” she stressed. “Actually, the Prime Minister has shown large heartedness by inviting all the Saarx leaders for his swearing-in ceremony. That include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives…four countries represented by Muslim leaders. So, that sends a very good message to them that he wants to be friendly with everybody… all the neighbouring countries,” she said. (Times of India 20/7/14)

30. Pravin Togadia reminds Muslims of Muzaffarnagar riots (7)

Trust Pravin Togadia to create controversies at regular intervals. Days after another Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal’s remarks against Muslims, Singhal issued a veiled warning to the community against the backdrop of violence at a base camp of the Amarnath Yatra. The VHP leader on Saturday said Muslims may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. According to reports, he invoked the Ramayana to drive home the point, “If you set Hanuman’s tail on fire, Lanka will burn.” About 40 people were injured in clashes between security forces and protesters in Baltal base camp of the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir. “Aap Gujarat bhul gaye honge, par aapko Muzaffarnagar yaad hoga,” a daily has quoted Togadia as saying. Togadia said this Indore, at a press conference on the World Hindu Congress Summit scheduled to be held in New Delhi in November this year. Togadia has reportedly said that while Gujarat riots followed the Godhra incident, the alleged rape of a Hindu girl led to the Muzaffarnagar riots. Togadia has a central team to probe the matter, while holding the Jammu and Kashmir government responsible for the violence. Todagia’s statement come on the heels of VHP patron Ashok Singhal’s remarks about Muslims. A few days earlier, he had termed result of Lok Sabha elections 2014 a “setback to Muslim politics”. The 88-year-old RSS leader said said that polls in India could be won without the support of Muslims, asked the minority community to learn a lesson and respect Hindu sentiments. (India Today 20/7/14)

31. Shiv Sena MP force-feeding Muslim: Activists protest in Jaipur (7)

Jaipur: Muslim activists on Thursday staged protests here against Shiv Sena for force-feeding a fasting Muslim employee at Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi last week. Strongly condemning the incident where a Sena MP forcefully fed a Muslim catering supervisor at Maharashtra Sadan making him break his Ramzan fast, the activists demanded immediate arrest and disqualification of the accused MP. “We strongly condemn Shiv Sena MP for force feeding a Muslim employee in Delhi. The accused should be arrested and their membership from Parliament be cancelled,” Mohammad Iqbal, secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said. Members of various organisations like Welfare Party of India, PUCL, Students Islamic Organisation of India and Rajasthan Samagra Seva Sangh participated in the protest at statue circle here. The activists also raised voices against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia for his controversial remaks regarding Muzaffarnagar riots, and demanded his arrest. (DNA 24/7/14)

32. Government delays aid to society for destitute Muslim women (7)

CHENNAI: A couple of years ago, B M Khadeeja approached the Muslim Women Aid Society (MWAS) in Tuticorin for a grant to buy a sewing machine. Her husband didn’t have an income and she had to work to take care of the family. More than two years later, Khadeeja has still not received help. Formed in 2008 to help destitute Muslim women and girls in the state, many MWAS units are not functioning due to lack of government support. As per the order, the government would sanction a matching grant of a maximum of 10 lakh a year to each unit, equivalent to the donations collected by the unit. During Ramzan, there has been an attempt to activate many MWAS units by seeking donations from Muslims across the state. “Lack of support from the government is the main problem. In some places, collectors are not even aware of the MWASs in their districts,” says S Syed Ahmed, general secretary of the Federation of District Muslim Women Aid Societies (FeMWAS) in Tamil Nadu. The aim of MWAS is to provide financial assistance and self-help training to the destitute Muslim women and girls to improve their livelihood. The government had issued seed money of 1 lakh each to every district to establish office for MWAS, which comes under the minorities welfare department of the state. There have been instances where women have been awaiting grants for more than five years. Jameela’s husband died in 2009. Since he was the sole breadwinner of the family, Jameela had a tough time taking care of her two children after his death. Even though she approached the Dharmapuri MWAS, she didn’t get any help, as the MWAS there was waiting to get the matching grant from the government. Delay in releasing the grant from the government is another reason behind the mal functioning of many MWASs. “The government is yet to release the matching grant for the amount we mobilized during 2012-2013. A few MWASs have been waiting for the matching grant for more than three years,” says Ahmed. According to Ahmed, the delay from the government in a way discourages the donors who donated to the MWASs to donate again. “Many who donated will not donate it again because of the delay. This makes generation of new donations difficult. So it’s a long wait for the applicants, particularly those who applied for educational scholarships,” he says. (Times of India 28/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

33. Police complaint against Subramanian Swamy for anti-Church comments (7)

Panaji: A police complaint was filed Friday accusing BJP leader Subramanian Swamy of “attempting to create and promote enmity against the Catholic Church” by posting on his Facebook page that the Church in Goa does not love HIV positive children. The complaint was filed by Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat. “The said person has put up a post on his page June 17, 2014, and tried to give a communal and political twist to a very sensitive issue by trying to portray the Church in Goa as not sensitive towards HIV+ve orphans,” Kamat said in his complaint. The conflict between the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) and the management of the Fatima High School in Rivona village, located 55 km south of Panaji, over admissions to 13 HIV+ve children and 23 suspected HIV+ve children has grabbed the attention of the state. While the Church-run school under pressure from the PTA had transferred 13 HIV+ve students to another school last month, the school authorities have now stood behind 23 other students, whom the parents want dropped from school claiming they too are HIV infected. The Church has claimed that the 23 students are not HIV+ve. Both the 13 HIV+ve students and the 23 non-HIV students live in a Church-run orphanage also located in Rivona village. A poster allegedly uploaded on Swamy’s page, which was submitted as evidence by the Congress to the police, says: “In Goa, the Church loves everyone except HIV+ve kids.” It also says: “Church-run school in Goa expels 13 HIV+ve orphans.” While accusing Swamy of allegedly giving the issue a communal twist, the Congress has defended the Church. “We would like to bring to your notice that the orphanages where these kids are being taken care of are also run by the Church,” the complaint says. A police spokesperson confirmed receipt of the complaint and said that preliminary investigation has started. “An FIR has not been registered yet. We will commence a preliminary investigation into the complaint soon,” the official said. (Zee News 18/7/14)

34. Devil worshipers invade Church, place Jesus Christ statue upside down (7)

SHILLONG, July 18: In another evidence of devil worshippers growing presence and activities in Khasi Hills, suspected satanic worshipers on Friday broke into a Church located at the Catholic Church Cemetery, Bellefonte at Lumshyiap, and took the statue of Jesus Christ and placed it in front of the gate with the cross upside down. According to police, during one of the inspection led by East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner in some of the cemeteries it was found that several graves were desecrated with obscene graffiti and liquor bottles strewn all over. Despite Section 144 CrPC already in place prohibiting assembly of people in and around the graveyards, in certain cases it was found that miscreants had even lit bonfires using wooden crosses extracted from the graves. The East Khasi Hills district administration had sent letters to elders of localities and church groups within the state capital soliciting their co-operation to maintain vigil, and to share inputs on the alleged practice of devil worshiping. The locality elders and church groups were also assured of support from the district administration in case help was required to tackle the alleged practice. The localities were particularly urged to keep a close vigil on graveyards, as the alleged devil worshippers are believed to be using the cemeteries for their rendezvous. In the month of May, five alleged “devil worshippers” were arrested and later released from Tura, West Garo Hills. (Meghalaya Times 19/7/14)

35. UN condemns Christian persecution in Iraq (7)

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned Sunday the persecution of minorities in Iraq by the Islamic State (IS) and related armed groups. The UN chief is “particularly disturbed” by reports of threats against Christians in Mosul and other IS-controlled parts of Iraq, including an ultimatum to either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face imminent execution, Xinhua quoted spokesperson of Ban as saying in a statement. Ban stressed that any systematic attack on the civilian population, due to their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, adding that those responsible must be held accountable. All armed groups must abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control, Ban said. He added that the UN will continue to help meet the urgent humanitarian needs of those displaced by the conflict and the terrorist threat in Iraq. Hundreds of Christian families and individuals fled their homes in the militant-seized city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, by Saturday afternoon, a deadline declared earlier by the IS militant group for the minority to convert to Islam, leave the city, pay tax or die. IS, formerly ISIS, is not formally recognised as a state and viewed as a rebel group. It is composed of Sunni insurgent groups and was thought to have significant ties to Al Qaeda. But the latter formally dissociated itself from IS in February. (Zee News 21/7/14)

 

36. Government taking all efforts to bring back priest, Sushma tells family (7)

MADURAI: Family members of abducted Jesuit priest from Sivaganga Fr Alexis Prem Kumar who met Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Thursday evening said that they were assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing him soon and it was taking all efforts to bring him back. Kumar’s 77-year-old father A S M Antonysamy, brothers Albert Manoharan, John Joseph, sisters A Elizbeth Rani and Sahaya Selvi who met Sushma Swaraj submitted a petition to the minister seeking to intensify efforts to find him. “The minister assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing Alexis Prem Kumar and was taking all diplomatic efforts to bring him back,” said Fr Francis Jayapathy, who had accompanied the family members. The 47-year-old priest from Sivaganga district who went to Afghanistan as country director of Jesuit Refugee service, a catholic charity organization in 2012 was abducted by suspected Taliban militants on June 2 this year from Herat province in Afghanistan. It has been nearly two months since his abduction but there was little information about his whereabouts. “We don’t know where he is being kept or what efforts were being taken by Afghanistan authorities to rescue him. But the only factor that keeps our hopes high is the assurance from the Indian embassy officials that he is safe,” said a family member. Within days after the abduction of Kumar when he was on the way to a village school, there were reports that three men suspected to be behind the kidnap were arrested and that the priest was traced to a village. But there were no further developments and no militant group claimed responsibility for the abduction. “The minister assured that she was personally pursuing the case. She gave a patient hearing to us and assured of all efforts by the Indian government to rescue Prem Kumar,” said Jayapathy. The family was knocking all possible doors from the state government to external affairs ministry to save Kumar. A spokesperson from the external affairs ministry had called the family on July 16 and informed about the minister granting appointment to them. Subsequently, they left for Delhi on Wednesday. Antonysamy has been battling depression ever since his son was abducted, though he displayed grit and determination. The meeting with Sushma Swaraj has raised the spirits of the family and gave fresh hope on rescue of Kumar. (Times of India 25/7/14)

 

37. “Christian-Hindu” comment is heresy: NCP (7)

Panaji: The NCP Saturday charged Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza with “heresy” and demanded that the Goa church seek an explanation from him about his claim of being a “Christian Hindu”.”D’Souza has committed heresy by claiming he is a Christian-Hindu. You can either be a Christian or a Hindu. The Church should demand an explanation from him and if he fails to explain this term, then he should be ex-communicated from the religion,” Nationalist Congress Party leader Trajano D’Mello told a press conference at the party’s state headquarters Saturday. D’Souza had sparked off a national controversy on Friday when he said, “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I – I am a Christian Hindu.” D’Souza is one of the seniormost minority members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)in Goa. D’Mello claimed that the deputy chief minister had been brainwashed by the BJP. “What he has said is nothing less than sacrilege and an insult to all Christians. We are all proud Indians, but you cannot mix two religions for political purposes,” said D’Mello, a Christian himself. (Zee News 26/7/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

38. Jihadist ultimatum sparks Christian exodus from Iraq’s Mosul (13)

KIRKUK, Iraq: Thousands of Christians abandoned their homes and belongings to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday following an ultimatum by jihadists who overran the region last month and proclaimed a caliphate. As militants attempted to break government defences in strategic areas and edge closer to Baghdad, Christians joined hundreds of thousands of Shiite and other refugees into Kurdistan. Their flight to the safety of the neighbouring autonomous region coincided with the expected homecoming of Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, after 18 months of treatment in Germany. The Islamic State group running Mosul had already demanded that those Christians still in the city convert, pay a special tax or leave but messages blaring on mosques’ loudspeakers appeared to spark an exodus. An earlier statement by Mosul’s new rulers had said there would be “nothing for them but the sword” if Christians did not abide by those conditions before noon (0900 GMT) on Saturday. “Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil” in Kurdistan, Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, who heads Iraq’s largest Christian community, told AFP. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.” Most Christians in the northwestern Nineveh province fled in terror after jihadist-led militants enforcing an extreme version of sharia — or Islamic law — launched an offensive on June 9. But many of the poorest families returned when the fighting stopped and IS started administering the city. Sako put the number of Christians who were still in Mosul on Thursday at 25,000. The mass displacement was the latest in six weeks of turmoil which the have forced more than 600,000 people from their homes, left thousands dead and brought Iraq to the brink of collapse. Talabani’s return to his native Kurdistan on Saturday was likely to spark celebrations among supporters from his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. He is widely celebrated as a skilled negotiator, who enjoys good relations with both the United States and Iran and has repeatedly mediated between Iraq’s fractious politicians in recent years. But some observers warned that there was little the avuncular 80-year-old head of state could do to ease spiralling ethno-sectarian violence and rhetoric and roll back the Islamic State’s expansion. “I really do think this is a post-Talabani era. I’ve stuck my neck out there, but I haven’t heard any Iraqis talking about him in any way being president,” said Toby Dodge, director of the London School of Economics’ Middle East centre. Federal forces collapsed, in some cases abandoning uniforms and weapons in their retreat, when fighters under the command of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi launched their assault. The army has since regrouped, received intelligence, hardware and manpower from Washington, Moscow and Shiite militias, but nonetheless struggled to regain lost territory. Security analysts have said Baghdad remains too big a target but the militants have in recent days repeatedly attacked targets that would expose the capital if captured. On Thursday night, a jihadist commando stormed the Speicher air base north of ex-president Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, sparking a fierce battle. “Last night, gunmen infiltrated the base. There were snipers and suicide bombers among them, they managed to reach the runway,” an intelligence officer who survived the attack told AFP. He said the pilots managed to fly all but one of the base’s aircraft to safety but a statement posted on jihadist Internet sites said many were destroyed. Many, including within his own Shia alliance that comfortably won April elections, now see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s departure as essential to national reconciliation efforts. In a Friday sermon delivered by one of his spokesmen in Karbala, the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric — appeared to lean in the same direction. “The new government should have broad national acceptance and be capable of solving the crisis in the country and correcting the mistakes of the past,” he said. Parliamentary blocs have until Sunday to submit nominees for the post of president, whose election is the next step in what has been a protracted and acrimonious process to renew Iraq’s leadership. Despite his unexpected return, there is little expectation that Talabani, who has been president since 2005, will seek another term. (Times of India 19/7/14)

39. More than 100,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza: UN (13)

Gaza City: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza to escape a two-week-old Israeli offensive on the enclave has soared to more than 100,000. “This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict,” climbing to above 100,000, the agency’s spokesman Christopher Gunness said in a statement. UNRWA says it has opened 69 shelters in the war-torn Gaza Strip to cope with the rising numbers of displaced people, as Israel rains down air strikes, tank and artillery shells on homes, offices and other targets in its campaign to stamp out militant rocket fire. The conflict, the bloodiest since December 2009-January 2010, has killed more than 570 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, including two civilians. The death toll and number of displaced has risen rapidly since Israel began a ground offensive late Thursday, after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment. (Zee News 22/7/14)

40. India accepts Australia’s request to probe 157 boat refugees (13)

NEW DELHI: India gave Australia a bit of a breather by agreeing to investigate whether some of the 157 boat refugees confined to their boat on Christmas Island are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from a camp in Puducherry. Australia has asked the Indian government to provide consular services to the refugees to see if India can take them back. The refugees are held as prisoners in a boat and only let out during meal time. Scott Morrison, Australia’s embattled immigration minister on his first visit here, told foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and home minister Rajnath Singh that according to Australian investigations, the controversial boat with 157 asylum seekers set out from India. The government had earlier approached Sri Lanka, but Colombo blew them away. This is the first high level visit from Australia after the Modi government took office. The case of the 157 Tamil refugees has created a major storm in Australia. The Australian government does not want them in their country. It has argued that since the Tamils were intercepted outside Australian territorial waters, Canberra had the right to return them to the country they came from. According to international law, Australia is obliged not to send back refugees to the country they left. Faced with a growing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and even Indonesia who float their way to Australia, the Australian navy now regularly scouts for boat people outside Australia territorial waters. Australian media reports said they had recently sent back 41 boat refugees to Sri Lanka. The present case involves Lankan Tamils who, Australia says, came from south India in June. Morrison told a radio programme, “The report is that the vessel did come from India, we’ve got a very good understanding of where this vessel has come from and we’ve been having some dialogue with the Indian government to work through these issues.” The case is now pending in the high court, which will decide whether the Australian government has the right to send the boats back. This is part of the Australian government’s policy, called ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, by which they send back boatloads of refugees. This was touted as a big success by the Tony Abbott government earlier this year. Indian government sources said it was only very recently that Australia had reached out to India on this issue. India wrestles with its own illegal immigration problem with Bangladesh. It is unclear how this case will play out. (Times of India 23/7/14)

 

41. India seeks access to Tamils from Australia (13)

Chennai: Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison revealed that the 157 Tamil asylum seekers on board a customs vessel have been brought to Australia and he reiterated that none will settle in the island continent. Mr Morrison said in Sydney that the decision was to send back the Sri Lankan refugees who came out of India, back. He made the announcement after negotiations with the Indian government, which has now sought consular access to the Tamils with a view to facilitate their return to India. Mr Morrison, who is handling border protection issues, met Union home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi last week and discussed issues relating to illegal migration. During the meet he told the minister that a boat with 157 persons on board was seized by the Australian authorities during the last week of June. The announcement from Sydney comes in the wake of assurance of the Indian home ministry that India, as a matter of policy, does not support any kind of illegal migration either into its own territory or illegal migration of its citizens to foreign territories. The Indian side also sought consular access and emphasised the importance of handling such cases in a legal and humanitarian manner ensuring that no harm befalls upon anyone, especially minor children. Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister G.L. Peiris had also pleaded with Tamil refugees in Australia who fled the Island nation during war to return home. Lankan external affairs minister G.L. Peiris had told media that Sri Lanka is now perfectly stable, with an economic boom in the once devastated northern Tamil regions. “Sri Lanka is today a land at peace, it is a perfectly stable society. The northern province is developing at about 22 per cent, when the average population of the country is between 6 or 7 per cent,” Professor Peiris said. It may be noted that Mr Peiris called on his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in Delhi mid July and discussed issues related to asylum seekers. It is believed that the controversial vessel left Puducherry on June 11 and was intercepted by Australian border patrol on June 29. (Asian Age 28/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

42. CIC upholds PMO’s refusal to declassify three Netaji files (1)

Kolkata: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has upheld the Prime Minister’s Office’s contention of keeping, as classified, three files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, on grounds their declassification would adversely affect foreign relations. Researcher Chandrachur Ghose in April last year filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking copies of documents contained in three PMO files relating to the widow and daughter of the nationalist leader. But the PMO turned down the request contending the disclosure of the documents would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries and as such they were exempt under the RTI Act. When Ghose’s appeal was too turned by the PMO director, he took the matter before the CIC which Thursday upheld the PMO’s stand of refusing the declassification of the files. “It is not for us to substitute our judgment on the applicability of exemptions to that agency duly authorized to determine such issues. “In view of the above, and Central Public Information Officer’s submission that due diligence has been exercised, we uphold the decision of denying the information,” CIC Rajiv Mathur said in his decision. Ghose was represented by author and researcher Anuj Dhar at the hearing before Mathur. Ghose and Dhar are part of a group called “Mission Netaji”, which since 2006 has filed several RTI applications concerning Netaji. (Business Standard 19/7/14)

43. Rs 17.60 lakh spent on Modi’s oath-taking ceremony (1)

An expenditure of at least Rs 17.60 lakh was incurred on the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, an RTI reply has found. The reply provided by the President’s Secretariat said approximate cost incurred on the arrangements of the oath-taking ceremony, attended by 4017 guests, related to tentage, stage, furniture and other allied items is Rs 17.6 lakhs. In its response to activist Ramesh Verma, the Secretariat said that it does not maintain the records of expenditure function-wise. “Hence the information sought for cannot be provided. It is informed that the expenditure on functions in incurred by the spending units from the annual budget allotted to respective head of accounts,” a reply from CPIO Saurabh Vijay said. The activist had sought to know from the President’s Secretariat “head-wise” details on the expenditure incurred on the oath-taking ceremony of Modi and total number of persons who attended the ceremony. Modi took oath of office on May 26 at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan which was attended by Presidents, Prime Ministers and senior leaders of the SAARC countries among other dignitaries. (DNA 20/7/14)

44. No plans to bring co-operative societies under RTI: Govt (1)

New Delhi: Government is not planning to bring any amendment in the Right to Information Act to include co-operative societies under it, Lok Sabha was informed Wednesday. “No” was the response of Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh to a question from a member seeking to know whether the Government is planning to amend the RTI Act and bring the co-operative societies within the ambit of the transparency law. (Zee News 23/7/14)

45. RTI activists demand dismissal of info panel (1)

CHENNAI: Continuing their protest against the indifference of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission, RTI activists from across the state staged a day-long hunger strike at Valluvar Kottam here on Wednesday. The protesters planned to take out a rally to the TNSIC headquarters at Teynampet and lock the gates of the office at 5pm but police arrested 52 activists at the venue of the fast. They were later released. During the protest, more than 200 activists, including senior citizens, demanded the dismissal of the TNSIC and urged the Tamil Nadu government to table the pending RTI annual reports before the assembly. They also wanted an online facility to check the status of appeals filed before the commission.

“The governor should dismiss this inactive commission functioning against the RTI Act. This sleeping commission is a waste of tax payers’ money,” said Siva Elango, president of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, which organised the protest. Satta Panchayat Iyakkam general secretary Senthil Arumugam said the decision to strike received an overwhelming response. “Not even one RTI applicant is satisfied with the commission. There are complaints that commissioners are misbehaving with applicants.” V Gopalakrishnan, who had filed more than 1,000 RTI applications, said he had stopped filing second appeals. “Replies are either vague or incomplete. But commission disposes appeals without providing any information. It never imposes fines on PIOs.” C Duraisamy, a 70-year-old who travelled here from Coimbatore to take part in the strike, said it was no surprise that all government departments were rejecting RTI applications without any basis. “PIOs know the commission will not take any action even if they don’t provide information to applicants.” RTI activists have been conducting a series of protests since 2010 when K S Sripathi was appointed state chief information commissioner. (Times of India 24/7/14)

46. Patients have a right to their medical records, says CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Patients have a right to get their medical records from hospitals, both public and private, Central Information Commission has directed, ordering disclosure of information to a former RAW official. Nisha Priya Bhatia, a former official of Research and Analysis Wing, sought her medical records from Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences where she was admitted on the orders of Delhi High Court. These records were refused to her as the institute cited Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act which allows an authority to withhold information which would impede an investigation. Rejecting the contention, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said patients have a right to their medical records which is rooted in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and respondent hospitals have a duty to provide it. He said information commissions can enforce this right to information of patients against both government and private hospitals, whether they are public authorities or not, as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. The commissioner said hospitals have a duty to provide the same under Right to Information Act, 2005, Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the Medical Council Act, 1956 and world medical ethics read with constitutional rights. Bhatia had alleged before the commission that her superiors got antagonized against her for no reason, started withdrawing her privileges as an officer, gradually and ultimately her chair was also removed leaving her with no place to sit and work. She alleged a “deliberate conspiracy” and attempt to depict her as a mentally sick person just because she had filed complaints against her superiors. (Times of India 25/7/14)

47. Air Force sports complex comes under RTI Act, says CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Air Force Sports Complex is a public authority under the Right to Information Act, a full bench of the Central Information Commission has held rejecting its contention that it was a private body. AFSC had argued that it was a private body which was not substantially financed by the government and hence it was not liable to provide any response to RTI applicants. A full bench comprising chief information commissioner Rajiv Mathur and information commissioners Sharat Sabharwal and M Sridhar Acharyulu rejected the arguments as it found that the government had given the complex substantial land which was a kind of indirect funding. Documents supplied by the Defence Estate Officer showed that according to their records, IAF authorities were in occupation of 126.948 acres of ministry of urban development land at Air Force Station, Race Course. According to DEO, out of 100 acres allotted to defence ministry for construction of race course area, 52.80 acres was formally transferred to defence ministry on which the complex is located. It also came to the notice of the commission that top defence officers were in control of the AFSC management. (Times of India 28/7/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

48. Rs.2,482 crore allocated to education sector (11)

NEW DELHI: With nearly one lakh students enrolling in Delhi Government schools each year, the city requires around 500 new schools to meet the demand as per norms under the Right to Education Act, noted Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the Delhi Budget on Friday. The Centre, however, earmarked Rs.350 crore for construction of just 20 new schools in the coming financial year. Last year, the Sheila Dikshit government, while presenting the Budget, had stated that construction of five new government schools will begin in 2013-14 and 34 new school buildings will also be completed. In all, Rs.2,482 crore has been allocated to educational sector in the Delhi Budget, which is approximately 14.8 per cent of the plan outlay. The allotment was Rs.1,901 crore in the previous financial year. Mr. Jaitley said currently there are 380 senior secondary schools in the Capital exclusively for girls across 68 Assembly constituencies and schools will be opened in the remaining two Assembly constituencies as well. “Special emphasis will be laid on improving sanitary conditions in government schools and necessary measures will be taken to construct, repair and set up fully functional and clean toilets in all schools in the current financial year,” he said. As many as 20,318 teachers will undergo training at the State Council of Educational Research and Training in a bid to improve the quality of education in schools, the Minister said. The focus will also be on course content, teaching skills and creating a better teaching environment in government schools, he added. “Delhi inhabits a lot of linguistic communities and has four academies of Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi and Hindi. It is proposed to take up project-based financial support to these academies in the current financial year.” More teachers will be enlisted to promote languages like Urdu, Punjabi and Sanskrit in government schools. Interestingly, the Minister announced that a Skill Development Centre is proposed to be setup under a PPP model, for which 37 acre was announced by Ms. Dikshit in her Budget speech last year. This centre is expected to train nearly 15,000 students each year in various trades. Mr. Jaitley also announced the setting up of a new School of Planning, Architecture and Design at a cost of Rs.285 crore in East Delhi by Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.(The Hindu 19/7/14)

49. Language Barrier for Primary Education (11)

DHENKANAL: Primary education in Dhenkanal  faces  challenges, be it lack of language teachers, books,  infrastructure and even lack of communication facilities for students to reach the schools. Of the 44 schools in rural parts of the district, students of 19 suffer from learning disability in the absence of multilingual teachers. Most of the children in these schools speak ‘Juang’, ‘Munda’ and ‘Santali’ dialects and do not understand Odia. Owing to the communication barrier, teachers have expressed their inability to impart lessons. The tribal children find it difficult to understand the subjects as most teachers posted here are not fluent in the former’s mother tongue. Learning Odia, in fact, has become a daunting task for them. In Kashipur Project UP School at Sadangi in Gondia block, nearly 80 per cent of the students belong to ‘Munda’ community. With Odia being the only mode of teaching, students fail to understand the lessons taught. Students are neither able to follow the lessons taught nor are they able to read from the Odia books provided to them. “They would have taken interest if the subjects were explained in their language for better understanding. As a result, they grapple with Odia terms unable to comprehend some expressions,” said members of school managing committee of Kashipur Project UP School. Other schools in Jambi and Gamara too face similar challenges. Apparently, some schools are located within forests. Both students and teachers have to cross nullahs, forests and even elephant paths to reach the schools. A case in point is Manidevi High School in Odapada under Hindol. Students from Sorat village have to cross five km of road through dense forest and three nullahs to reach this school. Similar is the plight of students of Rathiapal Primary School in Odapada block and Kharmul Primary School in Hindol. The situation worsens during monsoon. District Project Coordinator of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, S Sahoo, said as there is a shortage of multilingual teachers, a proposal has been sent to the State Government for posting of 19 more multilingual teachers, particularly in ‘Munda’ and ‘Juang’ languages. (New Indian Express 20/7/14)

50. Madurai registers record 70% admission under RTE Act (11)

MADURAI: The number of admissions under Right to Education (RTE) in Tamil Nadu has gone up from 49,864 in 2013-14 to 74,127 this year, announced school education minister K C Veeramani in the current Assembly session. This is nearly a 50% jump over the last year. Officials in charge of RTE admissions said Chennai and Coimbatore were the big contributors. Madurai district has also seen a drastic improvement with nearly 70% enrolment under RTE this year. Officials and child rights activists said the increase in numbers was encouraging and attributed it to increased awareness campaigns in target areas and regular threats issued to schools warning them against turning away children from underprivileged backgrounds seeking admission under the 25% reservation clause of the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act. Meanwhile, the district educational department has performed well this academic year to improve the number of students under RTE quota. While only 50% of the total seats were filled last year, efforts taken by the department have borne fruit and the number has improved to about 70 per cent. The last-minute intensity shown by officials has yielded fruition as they considerably increased the enrolment. In the last one month alone a total of 560 seats from private schools were filled under the RTE quota. RTE Act says that all private schools have to allocate 25% of the seats to poor students free of cost. The priority should be provided to students hailing from three km radius. However, schools run by minorities do not come under the Act. At the end of May there were only 1,153 students admitted under the quota. It was half the target of filling 100% seats. The officials who wanted to utilize the quota the most, extended the last day for RTE admission, which was supposed to be over by May 30, to one more month. The extension ended on a positive note as they were able to push 560 more poor children into private schools. According to officials, there are 192 private schools in Madurai district. Among the schools seven have been closed in the last one year. The 21 minority institutions and one residential school were also among the 192 schools which do not falling under purview of the Act. The Act would be applicable in the rest of 161 schools. Almost all the schools have provided seats under RTE this year. Compared to last year this year has been good. Last year, 11 schools did not provide seats. They were given special attention to extract seats, officials from the inspector of matriculation schools’ office said. Govinda Rajan, inspector of matriculation schools, Madurai said the district administration has been very keen on improving the number of students admitted under RTE quota. They were very stern in implementing the Act. They kept in touch with private schools and ensured that they fill the seats. Officials said that awareness on RTE is yet to reach the people in rural areas. They could have admitted more children had they received applications. They would improve the admission percentage more in the time to come. (Times of India 23/7/14)

51. Schools blame parents, RTE for std IX failure mess (11)

NAGPUR: After TOI reported on the side effects of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act’s no-fail policy, many state board schools called up to confirm that the failure rate in std IX was increasing. They said apart from the fault with RTE policy, the problem also lied with parents who had become completely oblivious to their kids’ actual capabilities. A school principal said, “Parents refuse to accept their child can fail. When we show them the answer sheets they turn the argument around blaming us for the poor academic performance.” Another senior principal said, “We try to reason with them that their kids were passing earlier only because of RTE policy but they refuse to accept that.” A popular school in the heart of the city had around 30 failures this summer in std IX and the affected parents created a ruckus. The principal recalled, “They gheraoed my office in first week of May and forced me to conduct a re-exam. We then conducted an exam in June and even in that only four passed.” Owner of a school who has both state board and CBSE school said parents had entered into a make-belief world. “RTE has lured them into a false understanding that their child is exceptional. For last couple of years they have not heard the word failure even if their child hardly studies. They feel their child is so brilliant that even without studying he can pass. It is shocking to see how they cannot realize what the reality is,” said the school’s owner. An old co-ed state board school which sees major admission demand too was not spared. The principal told TOI that after a student was failed the parents straightaway filed a complaint with the education department. “The child can barely recite basic tables, so it is no wonder he failed. What can the school do in such cases? Parents are just not ready to listen and want their child to be promoted,” the principal said. Another principal from an east Nagpur school added that handling parents was a tougher job than handling teenagers in school. “The rudeness which some parents show while talking to us is shocking. I have had mothers coming in and shouting at teachers and blaming them for not teaching their kids. When the kid sees this they are reinforced with the illusion that their failure is indeed the teacher’s fault. It is a disastrous situation we are heading towards in the next few years. Parents are getting empowered and misusing their assertiveness. Their kids too follow the same and disparage teachers,” the principal said. (Times of India 24/7/14)

52. Delhi Government school denies admission to two Muslim girls (11)

New Delhi: Not just college, getting admission in a government school in the city too seems to have become an impossible task. Take the case of the two sisters — Kulsum and Yasmin – whose father has been trying to secure them a berth in one of the government schools in Raghubir Nagar since April without any success. Having failed to get his daughters admitted to any school in Delhi, their father Irshad, who is a tailor, then approached advocate Ashok Agarwal (working in the field of Right to Education). The advocate now claims to have “sent a legal notice to the Directorate of Education in the matter”. Elaborating on the case, he said: “Kulsum and Yasmin have been denied admission in the Government Girls Secondary School No. 3, M Block, Raghubir Nagar for Class IX and XI respectively.” Irshad, a resident of R-535, Raghubir Nagar, has been trying to get his daughters admitted in a proper school. “The school authorities are giving excuses such as being over-crowded. But they cannot take away from any child the right to education,” said Mr. Agarwal. “We feel that the girls are being harassed. The delay in giving them admission in these crucial classes is also taking away education time from them making it difficult for them to catch up and complete their syllabus,” said Irshad. Stating that the schools should take a humanitarian view in this case, Mr. Agarwal said: “These girls come from a very poor background and are keen to finish their education. To harass them is not fair on these children.” The family has been trying to get these girls admitted in any of the government schools since April but has been unsuccessful so far. “We will file a case in the Delhi High Court,” said the lawyer. Meanwhile, the two sisters who were earlier residing in Delhi were forced to move to Uttar Pradesh with their father who had to go there for work. “After my work got complete we returned to Delhi and sought admission in the nearby government schools. However, each of the three schools that we approached denied admission to both the girls. We have written several letters requesting admission; all of them went unanswered,” said Irshad. “I have the valid transfer certificates of my daughters, which have been counter-signed, as well as their mark sheets. There are no grounds for denying the admission and I feel that the school’s actions are arbitrary and unjust. This act of the school will most severely damage their career and lives,” added Irshad. The advocate added that the girls have been forced to stay out of school despite directive by senior officials in the Education Department of the Delhi Government asking the schools to accommodate them. “Despite the Delhi Education Department repeatedly asking head of schools to admit the girls there has been no positive outcome,” he said. (The Hindu 26/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

53. Panda Anti-poverty Crusader: Opposition Leader (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Leader of the Opposition Narsingh Mishra on Friday created ripples of sorts by observing that dreaded Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda fought for eradication of poverty even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced in the Assembly the rebel’s arrest by the police last night from Berhampur.  People should not be elated by arresting the symptom instead of  the disease, Mishra said.  The State Government should not be overjoyed over Panda’s arrest. The Chief Minister should have instead given more time to bring down poverty, starvation deaths and migration from the State, he said and added that the Government has completely failed in tackling such social evils. Mishra, however, said the Congress never supports the means adopted by Panda to achieve his goals which were illegal. “Who ever violates law has to be punished and I have no objection to law taking its own course,” Mishra said and alleged that the Government has also violated law by not tabling commission reports along with action taken reports (ATRs) in the House. The Mohanty Commission report on regional imbalances and Naidu Commission report on hooch tragedy are yet to be tabled in the House despite demand from the Opposition members, he said. Responding to several BJD members, who were trying to interrupt his speech in the House, the Leader of the Opposition said even former chief minister Biju Patnaik had announced that he was a Naxalite. Besides, the Chief Minister had also said in the House that increasing Maoist activities relate to socio-economic problems, besides law and order. Cautioning the Government, Mishra said those who think that a movement can be stopped by arresting its leader have not learnt anything from history. Leaders come and go, but the movement continues till its goal is achieved, he said. Announcing Panda’s arrest in the House, the Chief Minister congratulated  the police personnel, particularly the Intelligence wing and Berhampur police, involved in the operation. He announced that the State Government will reward police personnel for the spectacular achievement. “I also take the opportunity to appeal to the Maoists to shun violence and join the mainstream,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

54. Rights panel member visits Attappady (21)

Palakkad: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member Cyriac Joseph on Monday began a four-day visit to Attappady to take stock of the welfare measures initiated by the Central and State governments to counter poverty and malnutrition. Mr. Joseph visited a model residential school and its hostel at Mukkali and interacted with staff and students. He visited primary health centres at Padavayal and Puthur and collected details on the medical care available in the region. Mr. Joseph also interacted with Deputy District Medical Officer Prabhu Das and police nodal officer V. Krishnankutty. They stressed the need for reviving the traditional agricultural practices of the tribal people in Attappady. apart from steps to protect the area from deforestation. Mr. Joseph said he would submit his findings to the commission chairman for affirmative action. (The Hindu 22/7/14)

55. Bogus cards used to avail PDS benefits (21)

New Delhi: As many as seven lakh bogus ration card holders in the city, who fall under the Above Poverty Line (APL) category, are suspected to be availing of benefits under the city government’s Public Distribution System (PDS). These card holders are either claiming their entitlements illegally or these cards were being fraudulently used by the Fair Price Shop owners to increase their quota of foodgrains. It is learnt that the city administration has stopped providing subsidised rations to about one-third of these card holders from July. These startling revelations came to light within months after the food and supplies department deactivated about 1.65 lakh bogus ration cards issued under the Below Poverty Line (BPL), Antyodaya Anna Yojna, Resettlement Colony Ration Cards and Jhuggi Ration Cards in April. A senior city administration official said that by plugging leakages to the suspected bogus card holders, the government could easily save crores of rupees every month. Under the APL stamped category, card holders get rice at the rate of `9 per kg and wheat for Rs 7 per kg. Sources said about 11 lakh households in the city were being covered under the APL category. “But only four lakh card holders have applied for the Food Security Card so far. As the applications had been invited long back, there are clear indications that the rest of the seven lakh card holders are bogus. That’s why we have stopped providing ration to about 2.3 lakh card holders,” a senior city administration official told this newspaper. As far as 5.7 lakh stamped card holders are concerned, entitlements for only half of them have been released in July. “We may further reduce it by another 25 per cent in the coming months. If they do not apply for the Food Security Cover and fail to establish their authenticity, we will definitely deactivate these cards from September,” a senior official said. (Asian Age 23/7/14)

56. World Bank to provide $18 bn aid to India in three years (21)

New Delhi: The World Bank Wednesday said it will provide financial support of $15-18 billion to India over the next three years to help accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty. Talking to media persons after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim said the Indian government has outlined a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty and return to over nine percent economic growth trajectory. “The new government would like India to return to growth rate of nine percent a year. The World Bank group fully supports this goal,” he said. “It is vital that India achieve these levels of growth to reduce poverty more quickly and to boost shared prosperity among its people.” Kim said the World Bank was impressed by the Modi government’s commitment to accelerate growth. Kim, who is on a visit to India July 21-25, also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and several other ministers and senior government officials. “From my discussions with Prime Minister Modi and minister Jaitley, it is clear that they are committed to increasing India’s economic growth,” he said. “I assured them that the World Bank Group will bring to bear all possible knowledge and financing to help them in this task. A large proportion of the world’s poor live in India and we will give all our support to the government as it strives to create jobs and build prosperity for its people.” “The World Bank Group will be ready to provide financial support worth $15-18 billion over the next three years,” Kim added. India is the largest recipient of the World Bank’s aid with a current portfolio of 85 projects having a commitment of $24.12 billion. This includes $12.86 billion aid from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), $11.16 billion in active projects from the International Development Association (IDA). India also constitutes the largest single portfolio exposure of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, with commitments over $4.5 billion. Between July 2013 and June 2014, the World Bank Group offered financial assistance worth $6.4 billion to India. On his talks with Modi and other ministers and officials, Kim said discussions focused on the government’s plans to re-ignite growth by investing in infrastructure to create jobs, providing quality education and skills training to eight million young people who enter the labour force each year, and better equipping the 10 million people who leave rural areas for towns and cities each year for jobs. “The government is committed to introducing key reforms, which are critical to India achieving its full economic potential,” he said. “They have identified infrastructure development and job-oriented skill development as the deep drivers of growth. The World Bank Group is ready to support these development initiatives with financing, as well as knowledge and capacity building,” he added. Kim also apprised the government of recent collaborative efforts between the Government of India and the World Bank Group to ensure that India continues to receive high levels of financial assistance from its various units. (Business Standard 24/7/14)

57. 3,600 EWS flats off list, Delhi government seeks to scrap 9,000 more (21)

NEWE DELHI: Realizing that it could not meet the deadline set by the Centre for building houses for the poor, the Delhi government wants to drop the construction of 9,000 flats. These EWS flats are part of some 68,000 low-cost flats sanctioned by the previous UPA government under its flagship Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) scheme. The estimated cost of these projects was Rs 3,244 crore. Fifty per cent of the amount had to be borne by the central government. While the construction of 3,600 such flats has already been dropped, the Delhi government has written to the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to whittle down another 9,060 such units of the total 67,784. If the Narendra Modi government accepts the Delhi government’s proposal, after 3,600 flats already junked, the number of dwelling units will come down to 55,124 from 67,784. “While the construction of 3,600 flats at Kanjhawala was dropped, a proposal %has been sent to the ministry to reduce more numbers,” a Delhi government official said. Under the basic service to the urban poor, the Congress-led UPA government had approved the construction of some 68,000 flats as part of 17 projects for the economically weaker sections of society. Most of these projects are on the outskirts of Delhi. After reviewing the progress of 17 low-cost housing projects in June, which it found “sluggish” , the ministry had asked the Delhi government to either speed up the ongoing projects or curtail those which have not started yet. (Times of India 28/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

58. Over 3,500 Indians back from Iraq in last 30 days (14)

New Delhi: Over 3,500 Indians have been evacuated from conflict-hit Iraq in the last one month even as nearly 50 Indian nationals still remain in the conflict zones of the war-torn country including 39 construction workers who are in captivity in Mosul. While 2,500 tickets have already been utilised to bring back the Indians, an additional 1,000 tickets by the employers for the Indian workers have been facilitated by the mission, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said. He said the ministry was making all efforts to secure release of 39 Indians who are in captivity of Sunni militants ISIS in conflict-hit Iraq. The government has been in touch with all the neighbouring Gulf countries for the release of the workers. Meanwhile, official sources said there were “hold-ups” and despite best efforts some of the Indians were not ready to leave. There were about 10,000 Indians before the start of the serious strife between government troops and Sunni militants backed by al Qaeda in Iraq. With MEA facilitating the departures, it is estimated that there are about 6500 Indians in the non-conflict zones left. Most of these Indians are in Kurdistan and Basra which are non-conflict zones. (Zee News 20/7/14)

59. ‘MGNREGS works to focus on firming up rural infra’ (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Allaying fears that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) would be downsized, minister for panchayati raj Ch Ayyanna Patrudu said that while no such plans were under consideration by the Centre or state government, the scheme would be re-jigged to firm up rural infrastructure and ensure that those employed under the scheme were gainfully employed and empowered. “The government will take a target and asset linked approach to the scheme, which will now focus on productivity and asset creation. A committee has been formed at the Centre and information is being collated. We too are taking feedback from those involved with the implementation of the scheme,” said Patrudu. “People can no longer complain that NREGA workers simply dig holes and cover them up. They will be involved in building infrastructure like irrigation tanks, roads and buildings. We have also realised that the number of units (hours spent) on the job will translate into an asset. In such a case there can be little room for playing truant.” Sources in the rural development department said that the social audit scheme, which had been quite successfully implemented, would have to be re-hauled. “Re-hauling and re-evaluating the social audit scheme is a must as no auditing system remains relatively foolproof for long. More importantly, there has to be greater coordination between state officials and auditors at the grassroots level,” said a senior official of the department on condition of anonymity. (Times of India 22/7/14)

60. Forum to approach Kerala high court on women’s right to sit (14)

KOZHIKODE: Asangatitha Meghala Thozhilali Union (AMTU), a collective forum of workers in the unorganised sector, have decided to approach the Kerala high court over woman’s right to sit down occasionally during their work hours. The forum has decided to begin the second phase of statewide protests till the authorities take steps to grant their right. They had staged protest on May 1. The decision was taken after the labour department expressed reluctance to act against shop owners citing that the labour law doesn’t have provision to do so. The agitation demanding the right to sit was started by Penkoottu, an organisation for women in Kozhikode after observing that women working in the textile shops were forced to stand during the working hours, which stretches from 9am to 8pm without any rest. The forum, which approached the Kerala Sate Human Rights Commission and labour minister, started uniting the sales women under the banner of AMTU by giving membership to launch second phase of their agitation statewide. It is planning to file a public interest litigation in the HC for the right of women workers in the unorganised sector to sit down. A discussion in this regard has already been started with the legal experts and necessary action will be taken in the coming days. The women working in textile shops across the state have also started approaching pledging support for their agitation. P Viji, secretary of the Penkoottu said the increasing prices of essential commodities and living standards have been forcing the women to go for work. “It is not possible to lead a family life with husband’s income only, which is forcing many women to opt for work. But when they arrive for work, they are subjected to exploitation for being a woman, forced to work in long stretches for less payment and without providing adequate facilities comprising drinking water and toilets. The labour officer told me that the labour law don’t have provisions to provide right to sit. The shop owners are discouraging the sales women who participated in the stir threatening to transfer them to textile shops in other districts,” she said. “Many women working in the textile shops have been facing health issues due to standing long hours without break,” said Viji. (Times of India 23/7/14)

61. Govt actively considering amendment to labour laws (14)

New Delhi: Government today said it is “actively” considering amendments to various labour laws for which tripartite consultations are in progress. “The government is actively considering amendments in Child Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1986, Factories Act 1948, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Apprenticeship Act 1961 and Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act 1988. The inter-ministerial/public/tripartite consultations are in progress,” said Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Vishnu Deo Sai in a written reply in Rajya Sabha. He said amendments in labour laws are considered keeping in view the socio-economic changes in the country as well as other parts of the world with an intention to improving economic wellbeing of the workers and the need to provide a safe, decent working environment harmonised with the need of the economy to be productive and competitive. Replying to another question on whether the Centre has taken note of the recent reforms enacted by Rajasthan government in labour laws by offering more flexibility to companies, Mr. Sai said his Ministry has not received any “formal” proposal from Rajasthan government for amending various labour laws. On a question whether trade unions are of the view that more than 40 central labour laws, which are inconsistent with each other, need to clubbed, Mr. Sai said no such proposal has been received by his ministry from Central Trade Unions. Replying to yet another question, he said to promote participation of women in craftsmen training, state governments have been advised to implement recommendations of National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT) to reserve 30 per cent seats for women in general Industrial Training Institutes. He said under state sector, vocational training facilities for Craftsmen Training Scheme (CTS) are provided through a network of 11,001 ITIs spread across the country with a seating capacity of 15,52,452. “According to information available, 1013 ITIs (both government and private) have women wings to offer training solely to women. Further 418 are exclusively for women (Women ITIs) including both government and private. The total seating capacity of both the women wings and women ITIs is about 82,390 training seats,” Mr. Sai said. (The Hindu 24/7/14)

62. Construction workers in Gujarat deprived of welfare, says CAG (14)

Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Government failed to conduct any survey to identify or register construction workers which led to a situation where they were deprived of welfare schemes, a recent report by the CAG said. The CAG report was tabled before the Gujarat Assembly on Friday. “The Gujarat state government did not take adequate measures to secure registration of all eligible workers. As against 12 lakh (March 2012) construction workers in Gujarat state, only 69,971 workers (six per cent) were registered during the year 2008-13,” the CAG report said. The state government had constituted the ‘Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board’ in 2004, ten years after the Supreme Court’s direction to all states to form a board to ensure security to construction workers. However, the board failed in its duty to construction workers, the CAG report said. “The Board had no information about the number of workers who renewed their registration after completion of one year of registration. Non-identification or non-registration of construction workers resulted in denial of intended benefits to workers,” the CAG report said. The CAG report observed that out of the total cess of Rs 540.88 crore collected during 2006-2013, the Board incurred an expenditure of Rs 9.92 crore, including Rs 4.12 crore spent on welfare schemes. “Actual benefit received by workers was only 0.76 per cent of the total cess collected. Only 12,193 (17.43 per cent) out of 69,971 eligible workers were extended assistance under various welfare schemes,” the CAG report said. The report criticised the Gujarat government for not providing financial assistance to families of workers who died at their work places. (DNA 27/7/14)

RESERVATION

63. Six-month Deadline to Fill up SC/ST Vacancies (25)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court directed the TN government to fill up the vacancies in SCs/STs categories in the State, within six months. The first bench of Acting Chief Justice SK Agnihotri and Justice MM Sundresh gave the direction on Friday while disposing of a PIL from S Karuppiah, founder of Central & State Government SC/ST Employees Federation in Perungalathur. Earlier, the government submitted that to make sure that 18 per cent reservation for SC and 1 per cent for ST candidates in employment, a high-level committee had been constituted to review and ensure shortfall vacancies. The committee will finalise the programme and have discussions with secretaries of each departments. Thereafter, the report will be sent to the government for issuing orders, it added. In view of the specific stand taken by the government, the bench said it was directing the high-level committee to finalise the programme and arrive at the shortfall vacancies for SCs and STs. Thereafter, the committee will have to send the report to government. (New Indian Express 19/7/14)

64. Apex court upholds validity of reservation for SC/ST in promotions (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has upheld the Constitutional validity of the provision allowing the government to make reservation in promotion for SC/ST candidates by quashing a 1997 notification omitting such a relief. A five-judge Constitution bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha held the 1996 apex court verdict in S Vinod Kumar vs Union of India case as per incuriam (not good law), which had prompted the government to issue such an memorandum. “In S Vinod Kumar, this court relying upon Indra Sawhney (judgment) held that provision for lower qualifying marks/standard of evaluation was not permissible under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India in view of Article 335. Though Article 16(4A) had been brought into Constitution by the Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995, with effect from 17.6.1995, S Vinod Kumar did not take into consideration this constitutional provision. In our view, S Vinod Kumar is per incuriam,” the apex court bench said. Article 16 (4A) stated that nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation (in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class) or classes of posts in the services under the state in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the state, are not adequately represented in the services under the state. (Deccan Herald 20/7/14)

65. Hike in Quota Demanded (25)

BHUBANESWAR: The members of Samajika Nyaya Abhijan Mancha (SNAM), a platform for dalits and tribals, presented a memorandum to Governor SC Jamir seeking increase in reservation for SC/ST, OBC and minority communities in Government jobs and education sector. They urged the Governor to direct the State Government to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations and increase reservation for OBC up to 27 per cent in the above mentioned sectors. Similarly, reservation for SC/ST communities in these sectors has been limited to 20 per cent which should be extended to 38 per cent, stated the charter of demands. The minority community does not have an apt representation in Government jobs. An appropriate reservation policy should be formulated so that members of these communities are represented adequately, said president of SNAM Akshay Kumar Mallick. (New Indian Express 22/7/14)

66. Minister says state govt never discriminated on basis of caste (25)

CHENNAI: Refuting charges of Puthiya Thamizhagam legislator Krishnasamy, TN ministers on Tuesday said the AIADMK government had never discriminated in respect of any caste. Minister for Adi dravidar and tribal welfare N Subramanian and higher education minister P Palanisamy said CM J Jayalalithaa had been taking many initiatives for dalit welfare. Speaking on the demands for Adi dravidar and tribal welfare department, Krishnasamy alleged that the government had not appointed a single dalit as vice-chancellor of any university or as member of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission. In reply, higher education minister P Palaniappan said the selection of VCs was done by a search committee and the reservation policy would not apply to VC postings. “For the posts like vice-chancellor, only the search committee will select eminent and experienced candidates. If there is a qualified candidate in the community he or she will be elected,” Palaniappan said. Finance minister O Panneerselvam pointed out that Jayalalithaa has allotted a medical seat for Krishnasamy’s daughter. When Krishnasamy alleged that the pass percentage in Adi Dravidar Welfare Board schools was lesser than other government schools, minister Subramanian said the pass percentage in Adi dravidar schools has increased in the past three years of AIADMK government. The minister also refuted Krishnasamy’s allegation that the government has not appointed any dalit as Assistant Public Relations Officer(APRO). (Times of India 23/7/14)

67. SC notice to Centre on Muslim quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Union government on a plea for transfer from Delhi High Court to itself a PIL which challenged the Rajinder Sachar committee report advocating reservation for Muslims. A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha issued notice after the petitioner said this was an important constitutional issue which needed an authoritative pronouncement from the Supreme Court. It said the Sachar committee had shut out the views that were politically inconvenient. The petitioner ‘Patriots Forum’ traced the history of India from the period of Muslim rule to British rule and presented a stand that was quite apart from the general view. “The committee has deliberately downplayed the huge advantage accruing to the Muslim community by virtue of their degree of urbanization, the community has a whopping advantage of 10% over the Hindus, the respective averages of the two communities being 36% for Muslims and 26% for Hindus.” The forum said it had done extensive research on the subject but its repeated representations were ignored by the Sachar committee. It requested the court to declare the report submitted by Sachar committee to the prime minister on November 17, 2006 as “illegal, arbitrary and violative of Constitution”.It sought a direction from the court to the government not to act on the Sachar committee recommendations saying it was impermissible under the Constitution to single out a religious community for reservation. (Times of India 26/7/14)

68. Gujjars remind BJP of their promise to 5% reservation (25)

JAIPUR: Demanding to implement the poll promise of granting 5% reservation to Gujjars in the state, Rajasthan Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti (RGASS) has presented its 13-point demand to chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Reiterating its position on the reservation issue, RGASS urged the state government to expedite the process of giving promised reservation to Gujjars. Until the reservation is not granted, the samiti has asked for proper compliance with the existing 1% reservation to the community. “We will strongly protest if our demands that BJP government promised to fulfill are not met. We want that budget of Dev Narayan Board package to be increased from Rs 500 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. The government must monitor its expenditure and should spend on time,” said Himat Singh Gujjar, spokesperson of RGASS. Among other demands, the samiti has also asked for quick disposal of the cases against those who participated in the Gujjar agitation. A demand of compensation of Rs 5 lakh and government job for a family member of 70 Gujjars, who died in the agitation has also been put forth. Meanwhile the samiti accused both Congress and BJP of playing politics over the reservation issue. “No positive step has been taken so far for our demands. Both parties have made false promises to garner votes,” said the spokesperson. He added that both BJP and Congress have made the matter so complex that it is stuck in court. Pointing at the Gujjar’s support to the BJP in the assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections, Singh mentioned that 8 months have passed after Rajasthan elections but no concrete steps have been taken by the present government. (Times of India 28/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

69. Steep rise in breach of women’s human rights (1)

GANDHINAGAR: The report of Gujarat State Human Rights Commission (GSHRC) for the year 2010-11 says that there was a four-fold increase in the number of complaints alleging violation of women’s human rights between 2006-07 and 2010-11. The commission received a total of 55 complaints in 2006-07; this had increased to 200 in 2010-11. In 2010-11 alone, a whopping 11,478 cases of crimes again women were registered in Gujarat. Of these, 297 were cases of murder, 428 of rape, 1,394 of abduction, 97 of attempt to murder, 910 were of molestation, 534 of abetment of suicide, 270 of causing grievous hurt, 496 of normal injury and 6,999 were cases of harassment for dowry. (Times of India 19/7/14)

70. NHRC seeks report on Thane tribal teen’s custodial death (1)

Thane: Taking suo moto cognizance of media reports that a 16-year-old tribal teenager was tortured in police custody in Thane during interrogation and died June 21, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday sought a report from the Maharashtra government. The NHRC has served notice to the state’s principal secretary (home) to submit a detailed report on the shocking incident within a month. According to reports, the tribal victim, Babu Thakre was detained and tortured in police custody by the police in Bhiwandi town of Thane district last month. His detention followed a tip-off to police that a man named Babu had stolen two kg gold. However, instead of nabbing the criminal Babu living in the same neighbourhood, police swooped on the tribal boy Babu and subjected him to torture during interrogation. Later, he was summoned by police for further questioning and June 21 tried to hang himself, and later died in hospital. “The contents of the newspaper report, if true, raise a serious issue of human rights of the teenager and next of his kin,” NHRC said in its communication to the state government. (Business Standard 22/7/14)

71. India votes in favour of UNHRC resolution on Gaza (1)

New Delhi: India on Wednesday voted in favour of a resolution condemning violence in Gaza at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Urging for an “immediate ceasefire”, India called on Israel and Palestine to start a process of “peaceful dialogue”. New Delhi’s position on Wednesday marked the continuity of the policy adopted by the Narendra Modi government, in tune with the previous governments. The resolution which came down heavily on Israel — and was co-sponsored by Pakistan among other countries — was adopted by 29 votes in favour, 17 abstained and the US was the only country which voted against. Along with India, countries that voted in favour were Pakistan, China, Maldives, Russia, South Africa and Brazil among others. UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea were among the 17 countries which abstained. In its statement at the 21st special session of the Human Rights Council on the “Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, the Modi government said, “We are deeply concerned at the human rights situation… as also at the violence by non-state actors in the region which have the effect of serving as avoidable obstacles to the peace process, as well as to the  realisation of the legitimate aspirations of both the peoples to co-exist in peace and security.” The Indian statement also called upon all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid taking actions that may further exacerbate the situation, and threaten peace and security of the region.” “India is deeply concerned at the steep escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, particularly heavy airstrikes in Gaza and disproportionate use of force on ground, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives, especially women and children and heavy damage to property. The Government of India is closely monitoring the situation unfolding and supports all efforts for an immediate ceasefire between the parties involved,” the statement by the Permanent Mission to the US in Geneva said. (Indian Express 24/7/14)

72. NHRC issues notices on bonded labour (14)

HYDERABAD: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi on Friday issued notices to various state, including Telangana on the issue of rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labour. Notices were issued to collectors/district magistrates of Nalgonda, Khammam and Mahbubnagar in Telangana, Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, districts Bengaluru (Rural), Bengaluru (South), Bengaluru (North) and Gulbarga in Karnataka, and district Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu. They have been asked to submit a report within four weeks. “We did rescue two bonded labour in Bhuvanagiri area who were working in brick kiln units,” Nalgonda collector T Chiranjeevulu told The Times of India. Explaining the process of He said release certificates are issue to the bonded labour. If the rescued bonded labour belongs to the state, he or she is given Rs 25,000 and also provided loans to set up something on their own for their livelihood. If the rescued bonded labour is from another state, they are paid Rs 1,000 among other procedures that are followed. The collector, however, said he was not aware of the NHRC notice. The NHRC took cognizance of a complaint from two NGOs that 239 labourers, released from bondage, having release certificates, had not been rehabilitated by the Government of Odisha. Allegedly, the rescued bonded labourers had not been even provided primary assistance for their survival which might lead them to go back to the bondage. According to the NGOs, Janjagarn Dadan Sangha and Solidarity Group on Abolition of Bondage and Migration in Odisha, most of the labourers who were rescued from different parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh belong to the tribal belt of Odisha. They demanded criminal proceedings, among other actions, in Special Fast Track Courts against the perpetrators of violence against bonded labourers and migrants. The complainants said villagers had migrated to the cities to work in bondage condition in brick kilns and construction sites. The complainants suggested various preventive measures to check exploitation of migrant labourers by ensuring action and procedures as per the law. The NHRC also issued notices to the chief secretary and principal secretary, labour and employment, Government of Odisha to submit reports within four weeks about the action taken to monitor the conditions of inter-State bonded migrant labourers from Odisha to other States and issues of their wages and children’s education and future. (Times of India 26/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

73. Uproar in Parliament over Justice Markandey Katju’s charge of corruption in judiciary (19)

NEW DELHI: AIADMK on Monday forced adjournment of the Rajya Sabha twice during Question Hour over former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju’s reported allegation that political pressure during the previous UPA regime had led to elevation of a judge despite charges of corruption against him. Ruckus created by AIADMK members seeking suspension of Question Hour to discuss the issue of “political interference in judicial appointments” led to the house first being adjourned for 10 minutes and then till 1200 hours. No sooner had Ronald Sapa Tlau, the newly-elected member from Mizoram, taken oath, AIADMK members were up on their feet displaying copies of The Times of India that carried an article by Press Council of India chairman Katju on the appointment. “You will not show newspaper here, Dr Maitreyan,” chairman Hamid Ansari said referring to AIADMK leader who wanted the Question Hour to be suspended to discuss the issue. V Maitreyan said this was an important issue. “You can’t do this… nobody is listening to you,” Ansari said as AIADMK members moved into aisle raising solgans. He then adjourned the house for 10 minutes. When the house reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed with AIADMK members insisting on suspension of Question Hour. “If you have an issue to raise, raise it through appropriate procedure. This is not the way. You are disrupting listed business,” Ansari said warning members that he would name them if they continued to display newspaper. “I will have to name you for display of newspaper,” he said as unheeding AIADMK members continued to shout slogans. Maitreyan wanted to know if former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was seated in the House, was aware of the allegation against the judge and if his ally DMK had put pressure on his government to elevate him. (Times of India 21/7/14)

74. Ways to mend India’s misfiring judiciary (19)

In a signed piece, published in The Times of India, retired Justice Markandey Katju has alleged that a former additional judge of the Madras High Court was not only retained in his position after being found guilty of graft by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), but later elevated to a full judge of another court. Three chief justices of India as well as the Congress party, then leading the UPA coalition, stand implicated in this sorry episode. A powerful Tamil party, presumably the DMK, an ally of the Congress in government, is also tarred, because this party patronised the allegedly crooked judge, and apparently threatened to bring down the Manmohan Singh government if he were to be sacked or punished. Several things emerge from this. The first is the cravenness of the Congress, which chose to favour power over probity in public life. Keeping a few crooked judges in hock was apparently a small price to pay to serve a full term in office. Second, Katju’s allegations, if true, cast the three successive chief justices — Lahoti, Sabharwal and Balakrishnan — in very poor light. At least two of them knew what the IB’s findings said about the crooked judge, but chose to overlook it, presumably to curry favour with the ruling government. So much for the independence of the judiciary from the executive. After this episode, it is clear that this independence exists mostly in the breach, and serving judges facing retirement are prone to lean the way of the government to ensure plum post-retirement posts for themselves. Third, why did Katju wait so long to make his accusations? If he had known about this episode 10 years earlier, why keep mum for so long? Finally, we have to reform the system by which judges of the high courts and Supreme Court are appointed. The former are selected by a panel of the top three Supreme Court judges; the latter by the top five. To bring transparency, the names recommended by the collegium along with the executive must be ratified by a multiparty parliamentary panel, which should debate the credentials of each candidate openly. (The Economic Times 22/7/14)

75. Law intern wants trial outside Delhi (19)

NEW DELHI: A law intern, who had leveled sexual harassment charges against a former Supreme Court judge now heading an important tribunal, on Monday sought transfer of his defamation suit from Delhi high court to either Bangalore or any other HC saying she might not get justice in Delhi. Appearing for the intern, senior advocate Indira Jaising told a bench of Chief Justice RM Lodha and justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman that the law graduate now worked with an NGO in Bangalore and was hard pressed for resources. She had approached many senior advocates here, but all declined to take up her case. “And look at the appearance of a string of senior advocates, most of whom are law officers now including Mukul Rohatgi, who is now the attorney general and Maninder Singh, now an additional solicitor general. Look at the inequality of fight. She has just lost her father. Her mother is in Kolkata. The NGO is giving her support. But still she needed someone to lead her by holding her finger. But no senior advocate is ready to appear for her,” Jaising said. The bench said there was no unequal fight once Jaising appears for a litigant. It issued notice to the former judge on the intern’s petition seeking transfer of his defamation suit and asked him to file his response in four weeks. The court suggested that it could be an in camera trial of the defamation suit filed by the ex-judge in Delhi HC, which has already restrained the media from publishing the name of the judge. The court said, “For a judge, it does not matter who stands before him. But when a litigant apprehends that she would not get justice, then we have to see whether her apprehensions are well founded. We adopt the principle – justice should not only be done but also seem to be done. A transfer could be done if it helps dispensation of justice. But a transfer cannot be done to satisfy the litigant’s ego.” (Times of India 22/7/14)

76. PIL seeks Leader of Opposition status for Congress in Lok Sabha (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court was moved Saturday seeking that Congress leader in Lok Sabha be conferred the status of the leader of opposition as it is the largest party in the opposition as provided under the 1977 law on salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in parliament. Contesting the opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the petitioner, advocate M.L.Sharma, contended that the question of the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha could not be mixed up with the statutory provision which says that party securing 10 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha could only be accorded the status of the recognized opposition party in lower house. Rohatgi in his opinion to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said that Congress leader in Lok Sabha could not be treated as leader of opposition as the party does not have minimum of 55 seats that it should have to get the status of recognized opposition party. To back up his position, Rohatgi has referred to the first Lok Sabha Speaker G.V.Mavlankar who had said that to hold the proceedings of the house, minimum of 10 percent members of the total strength should be present and that should also be the strength of the main opposition party to be recognized as principal opposition party and its leader as leader of opposition. “The criteria of the leader of opposition has to be read in conformity with the Section 2 of the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 and cannot be substituted with the concept of the recognized of the parties as advised by the Attorney General,” said Sharma in his PIL. The PIL said that the leader of the opposition could not be read to mean the leader of the recognized main opposition party. Sharma said that in the committee for the selection of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and some other posts, there is a provision for the leader of opposition and not that of leader of the recognized opposition party. The PIL said that since leader of opposition plays an important role in the functioning of the parliament, thus it incumbent upon the speaker to appoint the same in the public interest. (Zee News 27/7/14)

77. Government to seeks jurists’ views on judicial bill (19)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government will seek the views of eminent jurists and former judges on the proposed Judicial Appointments Commi-ssion Bill it plans to bring in Parliament soon to replace the present collegium system. Union law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will consult top jurists and former judges on Monday to elicit their views on the bill, sources stated. The minister had last week written to leaders of major political parties seeking their support for the bill. The leaders have also been asked to give their views on the issue. The bill, prepared during the UPA-2 regime, is set to be revived after the allegations of Justice Markandey Katju (Retd.) stating that the Central government and three Chief Justices of India had colluded in appointing a tainted judge to the Madras high court. Under the current collegium system in higher judiciary, appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. The practice of judges appointing judges started after 1993, replacing the system of government picking judges for higher judiciary comprising the Supreme Court and high courts. The move to set aside the 1993 Supreme Court judgement, which led to the collegium system, requires a constitutional amendment. It is learnt that the NDA government is not averse to the previous UPA government’s plan to put the composition and functions of the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill in the Constitution. It is also understood that the NDA government is planning to rejig the composition of the proposed panel, sources said. Sources stated the NDA government has found “certain infirmities” in the UPA version. The UPA bill had proposed that the commission be headed by the Chief Justice of India with two senior judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent persons and the law minister as its members. And the secretary (justice) was to be the convenor. The UPA had proposed that the two eminent persons on the commission be selected by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the CJI and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. (Asian Age 28/7/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

78. Custodial torture can’t be tolerated: Court (1)

NEW DELHI: Cases of custodial torture in the capital have been increasing over the years due to the insensitivity of jail officials and ineffective implementation of court directives. This was observed by a trial court while hearing two cases of custodial violence. The court rapped the authorities and said the judiciary must show zero tolerance in such cases. In the first case, the jail authorities did not even report the matter to court. Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau found out about the incident when one Sanjay, an inmate of jail number three of Tihar Jail and facing trial in a dacoity case, was produced before her and she noticed his physical condition: his left hand was fractured; there were stitches on his left leg and swelling in both legs; and bruises and scratches on his entire back. Following this, the court asked Sanjay about his condition and he alleged that he was assaulted by prison staff and that there was an attempt by jail authorities to cover it up. The court ordered an inquiry into the incident and forwarded the complaint to the chief metropolitan magistrate. An FIR was registered against constable Praveen and Durga (head wardens) and undertrials Vinod, Sunny and Veeru on Sanjay’s complaint. The court directed the jail superintendent to preserve all the CCTV footages of September 14 and 15 and also the relevant records relating to duty rosters of the jail staff. “I may observe that custodial violence in any form is a serious issue and the courts are required to exhibit zero tolerance for the same being violative of human rights as well as the statutory rights of a person in custody. The manner in which the incident has been concealed raises a doubt in the mind of the court,” the judge said. The court also took serious note of another case of custodial violence reported by an undertrial named Anil, also lodged in jail number 3. The court forwarded the complaint to chief metropolitan magistrate. Anil claimed that he was beaten up in jail by two inmates, who did so on deputy superintendent Jitender Bhargav’s instructions. Anil alleged that Bhargav wanted to extort Rs 30,000 from him and when he refused, he was beaten up. On being produced before the court, it was noticed that there were injuries on his head and neck. Around 12,000 people have died?either in jail or in police stations?in the last five years, and 3,532 cases of custodial violence have been reported between 2007 and 2012. Last year, Supreme Court had come down heavily on the authorities for ineffective implementation of its directions to curb such incidents. As of now, Delhi has no special court to try such cases. for allegedly subjecting Sanjay to custodial violence and causing injuries to him. FIR was lodged under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 308 (attempt to culpable homicide), 34 (common intention) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. (Times of India 18/7/14)

79. Police not responsible for most custodial deaths: CM (1)

CHENNAI: Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday told the Assembly that judicial probes into most of the custodial deaths had come to the conclusion that policemen were not responsible for those untoward incidents. Replying to a special calling attention motion on the death of gangster Gopal Duraisamy at the Kodungaiyur police station, she said Inspector Baskaran and Sub-Inspector Pandiaraja had been suspended for not taking precautionary measures while dealing with a person in custody. Further action would be taken after the magistrate concluded the inquiry into the death of Gopal, who was picked up by the police on a complaint of attacking a person. Gopal was secured on Tuesday night and he died on Friday at a private hospital before being produced in the court. The Chief Minister said that between 2013 and 2014, as many as 20 persons died in police custody and all the deaths were properly inquired into by magistrates.“In most of the cases, the deaths have been caused by heath conditions and officials have been suspended for being careless.” These incidents could not be called as custodial deaths as some died while being taken to police stations, others committed suicide and some others died due to health reasons after being let off by the police. “If judicial inquiry finds fault with police personnel, action is taken against them,” she said. (The Hindu 19/7/14)

80. Manipuri man’s killing: another attacker sent to police custody (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi court Wednesday sent another youth, arrested in connection with the killing of a 29-year-old Manipuri BPO employee, to one day’s police custody. Metropolitan Magistrate Ashok Kumar allowed police to interrogate Azad Choudhary alias Bhola, 24, till July 24. Justice Kumar Tuesday sent three youths – Sanjay Basoya, 24, Shakti Basoya, 21, and Rajiv, 25 – to police custody till July 24. Akha Salouni was beaten to death Monday following a spat with the youths while he was going to a friend’s house in south Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur area. Police told the court that the fifth accused Lokesh, who is on the run, could be traced with Choudhary’s help and sought his custodial interrogation. Choudhary, a driver by profession, was arrested Tuesday. According to police, all four belong to Garhi area in south Delhi but were picked up from various other places in the capital. (New Kerala 23/7/14)

81. ‘65 p.c. of prisoners in India are undertrials’ (1)

Bangalore: No less than 65 per cent of prisoners in India are undertrials, making the country one of the world’s 10 “worst” in terms of the proportion of undertrials languishing in its jails, said former Right to Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi at a press conference on Tuesday. India’s prisons have 2.5 lakh undertrials, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), and many of them are detained indefinitely because the prison system fails to comply with laws that mandate their release after a specified period, based on their offence, G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India, said at the press conference, organised by the NGO. The prison system often violates the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 436A), which states that undertrials must be released if they have served half the maximum period of imprisonment that their offence warrants [unless their crimes attract a death sentence], he said. The burgeoning number of undertrials is also overcrowding prisons, said Mr. Gandhi. Several lapses contribute to the extended detention of undertrials, said Mr. Ananthapadmanabhan. The NGO found that in Karnataka, for instance, several prisons were not aware of undertrials’ rights prescribed in section 436A. Karnataka’s prisons had 8,940 undertrials in December 2012, constituting 68 per cent of its prisoners, according to NCRB. Of these, 51 have been detained in prison for over five years. Undertrials were also trapped by a lack of legal aid. For instance, out of 11 lawyers nominated to provide legal aid in Bangalore Central Prison in January 2012, five had not visited the jail once in these two-and-a-half-years, Amnesty International found. There were also delays in producing undertrials in court owing to the lack of police escorts and ineffective videoconferencing facilities. The Undertrial Review Committee in districts is “non-functional,” despite a November 2013 notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs. (The Hindu 24/7/14)

82. Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah kicks up AFSPA revocation row again (1)

Srinagar: “The talks on AFSPA revocation with New Delhi is still on,” Abdullah said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function in Srinagar. “Certain people [in New Delhi] were so much in love with the AFSPA,” Abdullah said, adding “that even if the state government makes all the guns fall silent, they will suggest the AFSPA withdrawal is not appropriate”.”I don’t know what parameters they [the central government] want for that appropriate time. If they tell us what those parameters are, we will try to fulfil those,” Abdullah said. “Whenever we tell them it is the appropriate time, they say ‘not this year, next year’ and next year they widen the goal post again.” Abdullah hoped that the mindset of those in New Delhi would change and the process to revoke the AFSPA would start soon. This is not the first time Abdullah has talked about the revocation of the AFSPA. Earlier, he had taken up the issue with the Army top brass, former defence minister A.K. Antony and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Last year, Abdullah had said that graph of militancy-related violence in the state has come down to 70 per cent during the past five years. “I had earlier said the gradual revocation of AFSPA will begin from my government’s tenure and the same will happen,” Abdullah told the Assembly on Thursday evening. AFSPA was enforced in Kashmir after the outbreak of militancy in 1990. The law was extended to Jammu in 2000. The Act gives the armed forces immunity from prosecution while operating in the militancy-hit areas. During the election campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, Abdullah and his father Dr Farooq Abdullah had accused Opposition PDP’s patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed of enforcing AFSPA in the state in 1990 when latter was the Union home minister in the V.P. Singh-led government. “Mufti brought AFSPA to Jammu and Kashmir and after that he never talked about its revocation, not even when he was the chief minister. But once he is out of power, he plays politics over it,” Abdullah had said. The PDP has been accusing Abdullahs of not taking any steps to get AFSPA revoked. (India Today 25/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

83. Myanmar jailing of reporters sends ‘wrong message’: US (1)

Washington: The United States has condemned tough jail terms handed down on five Myanmar journalists for publishing a story about an alleged chemical weapons factory. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was concerned about the jail terms of 10 years with hard labour given to reporters from the Unity Weekly News under the former junta-run country’s official secrets act. “The sentence sends the wrong message about Burma’s commitment to freedom of expression, including for the press,” Psaki said, using Myanmar’s former name. “The Burmese government has made tremendous progress in the last three years, working to develop an environment conducive to free, fair, independent media,” she told reporters. “This is a critical element of a vibrant and well-functioning democracy and we urge the government of Burma to continue that trend and respect the right of all journalists.” The jailed men, who include the paper’s chief executive, were arrested in February just days after the article alleging that the country’s military was operating a chemical weapons factory in the town of Pauk in the central Magway region, under the instructions of former junta chief Than Shwe. Unity Weekly quoted testimony from local people and workers, and included pictures of the alleged military facility. In January 2013, Myanmar denied accusations it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in the northern state of Kachin, with government spokesman Ye Htut saying the military “never” deployed them. (Zee News 19/7/14)

84. Media space shrinking under Narendra Modi govt., says civil society (1)

MUMBAI: The space for independent journalism and debates is fast shrinking under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government at the Centre, several eminent social activists, academicians and artists noted here on Tuesday. “We are witnessing market censorship and it is difficult to get objective television coverage,” said documentary film maker Anand Patwardhan while accusing the BJP of trying to implement its idea of cultural dominance through power. Mr. Patwardhan’s reference was to the overtaking of media firms by various corporate giants. “The media is not telling us what is happening in the world. Media is completely silent. The government knows that it can stay in power through censorship,” he said in the background of the government denying Parliament a discussion on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. The autonomy of the media was high on the list of concerns of many eminent personalities who spoke at the “round table on the “Idea of India” held in Mumbai. Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, said that the space for “democratic dialogue” was decreasing under the new regime. Social activist Teesta Setalvad said after the coming of the new government the right-wing ideology was infiltrating into the institution