Posted by admin at 18 May 2015

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DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. “Dalit students forced to clean toilets” (2)

Tirunelveli: Dalit students of an aided high school near Kalakkad in the district were being forced to clean the toilets in the school, the Communist Party of India has alleged. Its cadres submitted a petition to Collector M. Karunakaran on Monday, asking him to direct Kalakkad police that had registered a case on Friday last to conduct a proper enquiry into the issue. The petitioners, led by T. Paulraj, CPI’s East Vadakarai secretary, said the Dalit students of Hindu High School, having a total strength of around 550 students, at Keezhapaththai Pandithankurichi near Kalakkad were being forced to clean the toilets while students from other communities were being spared. “Since there is no watchman or conservancy worker in this aided school , the Dalit students are being compelled to clean the toilets. Though this practice is in vogue for the past several years, the matter came to light only recently after the offended students narrated this practice to their parents,” said Mr. Paulraj. CPI farmers’ wing deputy secretary P. Perumbadaiyar was present. Pressing for a similar demand, two Dalit outfits also submitted petitions to the Collector. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

2. UP: 13-year-old dalit girl gang-raped, ‘set ablaze’ (2)

KOSI: A 13-year-old dalit girl allegedly gang-raped by five local youths in Nagriya village of Mathura was found with more than 70% burn injuries. The girl has been referred to Delhi Safdarjang Hospital where her condition continues to be serious.While the police said the girl had set herself afire, her family members alleged she was set on fire by the accused. Senior superintendent of police Manzil Saini said the five were booked under sections 376 ( rape) of IPC, and 3/4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act. Following a complaint by the girl’s father, the five accused — Vinay, Deepak, Sukhvir, Vikram and Dinesh — were arrested. On Wednesday, the five were presented before a magistrate who sent them to jail. Deputy inspector general Laxmi Singh too visited the village on Tuesday spoke with the victim’s family members. One of the accused, Sukhvir, is said to be the girl’s uncle while the other four are his friends. In her statement to the police, the girl said she had gone to the fields to answer nature’s call on Sunday when two men dragged her to a secluded room. There, three other men were waiting, and the five took turns raping her. She alleged that the men then sprinkled kerosene, before setting her on fire. When she did not return, her family members went out to look for her and found her in the burnt state. Her relatives lodged a police complaint on Tuesday evening. Locals claimed that the delay in lodging the complaint was because the family feared social stigma. Villagers alleged that initially the police were reluctant to file a report and wanted to hush up the matter. It was only when the media got wind of it on April 21 that the police lodged an FIR and the girl was transferred to Delhi for treatment. Kosi station house officer Surendra Singh said all angles are being probed and sections of attempt to murder will be added to the FIR, if the family members’ claims are found to be true. Times of India 22/4/15)

3. With eye on Dalit vote, Modi calls for end to manual scavenging (2)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a major outreach to Dalits by calling for an end to manual scavenging as India celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar. He also announced an international centre in Ambedkar’s name in Delhi and grant of land in Mumbai for an Ambedkar memorial. Regretting the continuance of manual scavenging, Modi sought cooperation from society in the resolve to get rid of this “blot”. “Does it behove us that manual scavenging is still continuing in the country? I have emphasized that we must get rid of this blot in the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. We will not tolerate a situation where any of the poor persons has to engage in manual scavenging,” he said in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme. “We need the cooperation of society. The government will have to carry out its responsibility. I need the support of people to fulfill this endeavour,” he added. The statements assume significance in the context of upcoming assembly elections in Bihar where BJP is hoping to get a sizable share of Dalit votes. In the wake of former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Musahar, having been unceremoniously dethroned by Nitish Kumar, the current CM is on a sticky wicket as far as his ‘Mahadalit’ constituency is concerned. They have significance for UP too, which goes to polls in 2017 but where Dalits have already shown a liking for the BJP in the 2014 general elections. BJP and Sangh Parivar’s attempt to co-opt Ambedkar is in line with its effort to spread its influence among the socially disadvantaged in UP at a time when Mayawati has suffered serious electoral setbacks. Modi said his government has decided to give land in Mumbai for building of a memorial for Ambedkar. The land was in dispute for several years, he said. Similarly, in Delhi, an international centre in Ambedkar’s name would be established where intellectuals from across the world would research his works and get to know his contributions better, Modi said, adding that the foundation stone of this complex had been laid after two decades. “What was not done in 20 years, we have pledged to do it in 20 months,” he said. Invoking Ambedkar, the PM said the architect of the Indian Constitution, throughout his life, kept advocating the need for education for all. “But even today, education has not reached Dalits, oppressed and deprived sections of the society, especially the girls,” he said. “In the 125th birth anniversary year, let us resolve that the daughters of even the poorest of the poor will not remain uneducated in villages, cities or mohallas,” he added. The PM said the government will do its duty and the society should join in this effort so that everyone has the satisfaction. (Times of India 27/4/15)

4. Jaipur: Dacoits scare 300 dalit villagers, rape 2 in Karauli (2)

JAIPUR/ALWAR: Nearly 300 dalit villagers went through the scariest five hours of their lives on Monday-Tuesday midnight. Four dacoits went on a rampage as they raped two women, injured several men and looted houses at Chaud Ka Kalan village in Karuali’s dacoit-infested Chambal ravines, at least 250km from the city. The five-hour long ordeal ended on a horrifying note early on Tuesday when the dacoits opened fire after they got to know that the villagers had called up the police. Local residents told TOI that a dacoit was shot dead in indiscriminate firing by another dacoit. Two villagers also sustained bullet injuries. The condition of one of them is stated to be serious. Several men were injured after they were beaten up with rifle butts. According to villagers, a gang of four dacoits reached the village around Monday midnight. “They were armed with country-made rifles. Taking some villagers at gun point, they started beating them up with the rifle butts. They then barged into various houses and raped at least two married women while their family members were kept hostage at gun point,” said a villager Ramesh Bairwa. Scared villagers bolted themselves inside their huts as the dacoits let loose a reign of terror. Villagers kept dialling the numbers of two police stations, Sapotara and Karanpur, but the landlines were not working. They even contacted the local policemen, on their cellphones, but failed to get any response. Police finally arrived at the spot around 5 am after the intervention of local public representative, said Ganpat Meena, former sarpanch. Meanwhile, when the dacoits came to know that the villagers tried to contact police, “They opened fire indiscriminately. Mukesh Gujjar, a dacoit was shot in his chest and collapsed on the spot. Another dacoit Dhaniram Gujjar was “captured” by the villagers, while two others fled,” said Bairwa. (Times of India 29/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Land under Forest Rights Act: Government to Extend Deadline (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major relief to forest dwellers seeking rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the government has decided to extend the deadline for filing applications seeking land under the FRA to May 30. Addressing the representatives from tribal hamlets at the Kananasangamam on Monday, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said that so far the government had received 32,000 applications seeking land. Of this, decision has been taken on 25,500 applications. The Minister assured that decision would be taken in a time-bound manner in the case of rest of the applications also. Thiruvanchoor hoped that by August, Kerala will become the first state in the country to fully implement the Forest Rights Act. “The department will formulate a special cell to take urgent action in this regard,” Thiruvanchoor said. Of the 510 applications seeking community rights under the FRA, decision has been taken on 52 applications. Decision will be taken in the remaining applications also once the district-level reports are received. (New Indian Express 21/4/15)

6. AP killings: CPI(M) slams govt. for not pressing for CBI probe (6)

DHARMAPURI: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) will lead the fight till a CBI inquiry is ordered into the killing of 20 woodcutters in Sesachalam forests of Andhra Pradesh, said party’s State secretary G.Ramakrishnan. Slamming the Andhra Pradesh Forest Minister’s justification of the killings, Mr. Ramakrishnan, who led a hunger strike here on Thursday demanding the CBI probe, said that Andhra Pradesh had failed to act against red sanders mafia, but went after poor tribals. “It was a fake encounter by all means, and the policemen and their higher-ups should be tried for murder and sacked from service,” he said. In the same vein, Mr.Ramakrishnan criticised the failure of the Tamil Nadu government in prevailing upon the Centre to order a CBI inquiry. A mere relief would not suffice as the families that had lost their lone bread-winners. The families should be given a government job each, Mr. Ramakrishnan demanded. There was an increasing out-migration among educated unemployed youth to Erode, Tirupur, Bengaluru or Mumbai in search of employment as the government here has failed to generate local employment opportunities for the poor, he charged. Referring to the Vachathi atrocities of 1992, Mr.Ramakrishnan said it was the two-decade long fight by the CPI(M) that resulted in justice to the Malayali tribals. “The Communist movement brought it [Vachathi atrocities] to light and moved the High Court to order a CBI inquiry back then.” The two mainstream parties had failed the Dalits and tribals and it was the CPI(M) that had stood by them, Mr.Ramakrishnan said. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

7. Empowering Tribal Women, Increasing Productivity Through NHGs (6)

PALAKKAD: To strengthen the capacity of women and increasing their livelihood opportunities, tribal women in Attappadi are encouraged to undertake cultivation of traditional crops   through the Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) of the Kudumbashree. A total of 506 exclusive tribal women NHGs have been constituted in Attappadi and seeds will be distributed to them before the monsoon sets in. This is being done under the Mahila Kisan Shashakthikarna Pariyojana (MKSP) which is a programme of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). The Rs 50 crore MKSP was one of the schemes announced by former Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as part of the Attappadi package on a visit to Attappadi in June 2013. “There was a co-ordination meeting with the Agriculture Department and it was decided to purchase seeds under MKSP. The list of seeds was collected from women farmers and the purchase is being made from the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and the Desi Seeds Collective which is a network of farmers across the country,” said programme manager of the NRLM and special officer posted in Attappadi, Seema Bhaskaran. In the past two years, we have constituted 150 tribal ooru samithis under Kudumbasree. The ooru samithis have developed a list of 1,100 women farmers (producer groups) interested in cultivation, details of acres to be cultivated, seed preservation methods, means of land preparation, water sources, weeding, harvesting plan, food requirements for the entire year and marketing, she added. “We propose to distribute seeds of vegetables, millets and pulses sourced from the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and the Desi Seeds Collective which is a network of farmers all over the country, said Seema Bhaskaran. In the first year, there will be no sale of produce. The yield will be used merely for the consumption of families and to prepare seeds for the next season. “We do not intend to promote group farming like the ones undertaken by Kudumbasree in other parts of the state.  However, seeds will be distributed only to tribal women.” Says principal agriculture officer K K Shobhana, “We have also submitted another proposal to the state government costing Rs 10.4 crore under a centrally sponsored scheme for developing traditional agriculture in Attappadi.” Added Seema Bhaskaran, “ Under MKSP, we concentrate on reviving traditional farming, cattle rearing and collection of non-timber forest produce aimed at empowering women and attaining nutritional security. The producer groups also consist of community resource persons who will train and guide tribal women to practise traditional farming.” (New Indian  Express 27/4/15)

8. Houses for all in Odisha’s tribal areas (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government has decided to go for universal housing coverage in all, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), habitations across the State. A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary G. K. Pati here on Monday resolved that efforts would be made to ensure one house for each PVTG household. According to A.B. Ota, Director Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Research Institute, there are around 20,000 PVTGs spread over 20 blocks of 12 districts. They reside in near about 542 habitations. All PVTG households would be covered under Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) schemes, sources said. In 2013, the Central government had sanctioned 7,465 additional houses for the vulnerable tribal groups in poverty-stricken Nuapada and Rayagada districts. Then the Ministry had released Rs.20.99 crore over and above IAY allocation as the first instalment for constructing the houses. Apart from housing for PVTGs, it has also been decided that all departments would implement different welfare schemes in coordinated manner with a focus on PVTGs. According to office of Chief Secretary, the State government is looking to spend Rs.1,000 crore in PVTG areas under different welfare schemes in next two years. Although the State government has been emphasising on convergence of welfare schemes to benefit tribals, the plans are hardly translated into action. About two years ago, Rural Development department had on principle decided to provide drinking water through pipe water supply system in all 542 habitations. However, accessing drinking water in many tribal areas remained distant dream. Similarly, Finance Department two-and-a-half years ago had approved several posts to strengthen 17 micro projects which are operating dedicatedly for PVTGs. However, several projects are running with skeletal staff strength. According to an analysis of SC/ST Development department, the rate of poverty was 80.95 per cent in among PVTGs. Deforestation and loss of traditional rights on forests make their living worse. Around 26.43 per cent of PVTGs are landless and homeless. (The Hindu 28/4/15)

9. Dumka tribal outfit gives land rights to woman (6)

Dumka: The Mode Manjhi (conventional body of Santhal tribals) in its meeting at Gujisimal village, under Shikaripara block of the district awarded rights on five bighas of land to one woman, Sonapati Soren. Soren had inherited the land from her late grandfather Mangal Soren but she was denied rights by her two uncles. Under the customary law of Santhal tribals, daughters do not inherit parental property but if they do not have a brother, their husbands are entitled to get their share if they settle in their in-law’s home. Sonapati was living at her parents’ home in Gujisimal village along with her husband and children. However, both her uncles, Rameswar Soren and Misir Soren, had deprived her from the share of the paternal land for long prompting her to approach the traditional body. “I just wanted one-third of the five bighas but I am happy that they have taken a decision supporting a daughter for the first time,” Sonapati said. Sonapati’s uncles plea to continue to inherit the paternal five bighas of land was rejected by the Mode Manjhi as both of them have settled at their in-laws’ homes and have got a share in their wives’ property. “As both Rameswar Soren and Misir Soren have already been settled at their in-laws homes being ghar jamai they can’t avail the rights on their parental property any longer,” said Babudhan Hembrom, the gram pradhan. (Times of India 30/4/15)

WOMEN

10. No brides for 59 lakh men in UP (8)

LUCKNOW: On the eve of Akshay Tritiya, an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar to get married, over 59 lakh marriageable men in UP are without brides. Census data on the marital status of Indian population reveals that most Indian men live in a state of forced bachelorhood. Lesser number of girls due to the high female foeticide rate during the 1970s, 80s and 90s is considered to be the primary cause for the situation. The conclusion has been derived from census data on marital status of Indian population released recently. For 79.56 lakh unmarried men in their 20s, there are just 29.26 lakh unmarried women living. Similarly, there are 9.13 lakh men in their 30s but only 1.95 lakh girls while 3.03 lakh men in their 40s have 59,399 women to choose from. “This had to happen as girls were killed mercilessly inside the womb in those decades,” said Dr Neelam Singh, member, national inspection and monitoring committee on PCPNDT (pre-conception, pre-natal diagnostic techniques) Act. “That was the time sex determination strengthened its roots in India and created ripples in western parts of UP. The scenario will worsen by 2021,” she said. Population sex ratio for UP over the decades explains the gap. In the 1901 census, UP sex ratio was 938 which was 16 points less than the natural sex ratio of 954. It continued to drop until 1961, however, 70s saw the worst sex ratio of 876 (78 units below natural ratio). It picked up marginally in the 80s but slipped again in the 90s. At 908, UP sex ratio is way behind the national average of 940. “Had it not been for the PC PNDT act in the 1990s, many more girls would have died,” said Rohit Kant, a lawyer. Matchmaker G S Kapoor said he often comes across unmarried men in their 40s. “Some of them have compromised on caste and community over the years but to no avail. Subtle rise in the number of anti-dowry families is more due to the ‘unavailability of brides’ than any consciousness,” he said. The disturbed male and female ratio is the root of the many problems girls face in their daily lives. “Crime against women, especially rape and acid attacks are closely linked to this low female ratio” said Madhu Garg, a social activist. (Times of India 21/4/15)

11. 2.3 lakh unmarried males above 40 in Madhya Pradesh (8)

BHOPAL: More than 2.3 lakh men between 40 and 80 years of age remain unmarried in Madhya Pradesh, says a recently released Census 2011 report. Badlands of Chambal, notorious for foeticide and skewed sex ratio, also lead the state in number of unmarried males above 40 years. Activists working for gender equality said figure of never married men is directly proportional to skewed sex ratio leading to availability of lesser number of marriageable girls. Sarika Sinha, senior activist with Action Aid, said, “The larger number of never married men is directly proportional to unavailability of girls due to low sex ratio in those areas. In areas of Chambal, the society is highly patriarchal and practice of foeticide is rampant leading to worst sex ratio and disappearance of girls.” “The balance between number of girls and boys has been disturbed. People, we have observed during our field studies that they have to traffic women for marriage,” she said. Bhind and Morena, the two districts known for lowest sex ratio in the state (838 and 839, respectively) also have largest number of unmarried men in the state. In Bhind district, of 2,28,058 – the count for men above 40 years of age-6.3% have never married. Similarly in Morena, number of such men is 2,35,112. Of these, 5.3% are not married. Barring Indore, four districts, Bhind (14,425) Morena (12,530), Shivpuri (10,337), Gwalior (10,326), home to largest number of never married men, are from Gwalior and Chambal regions, infamous for its feudal mindset and skewed sex ratio. Even Gwalior and Shivpuri districts not only among the top five districts which are home to never married men aged above 40 years, as per the Census data, but with the sex ratio of just 862 and 877 these districts are also among the top five worst districts in terms of sex ratio. Indore is in top five due to its large population as total percentage of never married men aged above 40 years in population of people in same age group is 2.4%.Interestingly, in all four districts of Chambal, number of such women (aged 40 and 80+ years) is quite low compared to such men. Bhind has 1,789 unmarried women compared to 14,425 men, Morena has 1,607 unmarried women compared to 12,530 such men, Shivpuri has only 1,647 women compared to 10,337 such men. Likewise, Gwalior has only 3,272 women compared to 10,326 unmarried men. Tribal districts of state, which have best sex ratio in the state, are again best when it comes to number of unmarried men. Tribal districts have lowest number of never married men above 40 years. Umaria has lowest such men (only 985 such men) followed by Dindori (1,165 such men) and Anuppur (1,244 such men). From the census, it has emerged that 2,31,610 men from same age group have never married against 95,377 unmarried women from the same age group in the state. (Times of India 24/4/15)

12. Maneka seeks 30% women’s quota on board of listed firms (8)

NEW DELHI: After police force will there be reservation for women in corporates? It could be if women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi has her way. The minister has sought 30% reservation for women on the board of listed companies. In a letter to SEBI, Maneka has also expressed concern that the overwhelming number of women nominated on boards are relatives of promoters and work only as figureheads. She has also expressed intention to discuss the issue of increasing participation of women in corporates with the promoters. The capital markets watchdog Sebi had issued guidelines in February 2014 asking companies to appoint at least one woman director on their board by October 1, 2014 which was later relaxed to April 1, 2015. The minister’s letter comes in the backdrop of over 2000 listed companies still not having women on their boards despite the SEBI directive. The latest deadline for this affirmative action was April 15. According to the finance ministry of the 1,624 companies listed on the NSE, 1,361 companies have complied, while 263 companies or 16% have not complied with Sebi’s women director norm while of the 5,305 companies listed on BSE, 3,290 companies have complied with and 2,015 companies or 38% still do not have women directors on their boards. Maneka in her communication said India must conform to international standards and ensure that affirmative action must be met. She has also asked Sebi for a progress report on the issue. Countries like Germany and Scandinavian countries have laid down regulations on the minimum number of women directors. Germany has ruled that 40% of members should be women while Scandinavian countries mandate two women directors on board. Countries like Australia, America and UK have a voluntary compliance. According to the present rules, non-compliant firms will have to pay a monetary fine and can escape further regulatory action if they comply within next six months, till September 30. The listed companies complying between April 1 and June 30 will have to pay only Rs 50,000. Those complying between July 1 and September 30 this year would need to pay Rs 50,000 and an additional Rs 1,000 per day till compliance. The listed companies complying on or after October 1, 2015 will have to pay Rs 1.42 lakh, plus Rs 5,000 per day till the date of compliance. (Times of India 26/4/15)

13. Gulf dreams turn nightmare for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana women (8)

HYDERABAD: Hundreds of women from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are being lured to the Gulf countries with the promise of being employed as maids, but are ending up getting exploited. What has upset the AP Women’s Commission (that is still common to both the states) is that despite requests of taking proactive action made to the TRS and TDP governments, there has been no response from them. “It is difficult to trace many of these women. We wrote to both the state governments few months ago but there has been no response. Now, we are forced to write to them again with the plea that they institute a mechanism to check the organized crime involving a g ents,” Tripurana Venkataratnam, AP Women’s Commission chairperson, told TOI. Sexual abuse by employers, confiscation of passports, confinement to home, physical and emotional abuse, long working hours with no rest time, no holidays, and low wages or nonpayment of wages are the problems reported by most of the women who approached the office of the Protector of Immigrants (IOF) located at Nampally in Hyderabad. IOF is the common body for both the states and it reports to the Protector General of Immigrants in Delhi. According to sources, in the recent months alone, at least 100 women from the two states approached the IOF for help to return to India. “In 20 per cent of these cases, physical abuse of the women is the main reason. While those who go abroad lured by the offer of good money range from the illiterate to degree holders, the majority are those with no or very little education,” sister Lizy Joseph, coordinator for the National Moment for Domestic Immigrants (NMDI) in both the states, told TOI. NMDI is the counselling organisation at IOF for such women. Most women who head to the Gulf nations are from Kadapa, East and West Godavari districts. “Every year, nearly 25,000 women from East Godavari district alone go to Gulf countries” said sister Lizy. In Telangana, the maximum cases of women going to the Gulf are reported from Mahabubngar, Hyderabad and Karimnagar districts. In a new trend, cases are being reported from the AP districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Anantapur. The husband of a 38-year-old woman hailing from Srikakulam town filed a petition recently with the Women Commission’s stating that his wife, who had gone to Kuwait as domestic worker, is being subjected to cruelty by her employers and that he wants help in getting her back.The commission reported the case to the police department who wrote to the Interpol seeking help. Till date, the man has no news of his wife. Kuwait is popularly called Koita in East Godavari, and many women readily opt to go there as domestic help as the agents promise them salary of around Rs 30,000 to 40,000 per month. “In my interactions with several petitioners and others, I found that most women get the visa of one of the Gulf countries like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia but end up in other countries in the re gion,” Tripurana said. In one case, a 40-year-old woman who recently returned to East Godavari district after being held in the Gulf for 10 years against her will said she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. From Kuwait, where she was taken to on a valid visa, she was led to four other Gulf countries. I narrate her hellish experience to potential Gulf-going women in order to dissuade them from going,” the chairperson said. Many women complained that when they insisted on returning to India after being subjected to abuse, their employers demanded monetary compensation claiming they paid huge sums of money to the agents for procuring them. “In fact, these women pay about Rs 50,000 each to agents. The agent, in turn, takes a huge sum from the employer for providing these women as domestic helps,” the sources said. The commission wants that the two states set up a department on the lines of the nonresident Keralites affairs department that exists in Kerala.”Such a board will have the record of every woman leaving the country, the employer details, name of the agent, etc.Together with the labour department and police, this menace can be checked,” Tripurana said. (Times of India 29/4/15)

14. Married women head 4% of families (8)

Among those currently married, barely 4% of all households are headed by women. In sharp contrast, women-headed households constitute nearly three-fourths of those headed by a widowed person, about two-thirds of those headed by separated people and about 60% among those who are divorced. Given the fact that women vastly outnumber men in each of these three categories, that’s not surprising. Among the larger states, the proportion of women-headed households in those who are currently married is the highest in Kerala (9.7%) followed by Himachal and Uttarakhand with 8% and 8.4% respectively. This proportion is lowest in Gujarat, just 2%, followed by Delhi with just 2.3% and West Bengal with 2.5%. This was revealed in the latest census data on marital status, sex and age of household heads released on Tuesday. Over 70% of currently married men are household heads, compared to barely 3% of the married women, the data showed. Even among the women-headed households, a significant chunk could be because the male members have migrated out for work, which would explain why a state like Uttarakhand has such a high proportion, though cultural factors could also be playing a role in states like Kerala and Meghalaya. When households comprising married couples were grouped according to the age of the household head, the data showed an interesting pattern — women-headed households formed a larger proportion among households where the head of the household was below 20 years of age. This proportion was 10.6% at the national level. The proportion of women-headed households kept falling as the age of household heads increased till it touched 3.3% in the 50-59 age group. Beyond 59 years, the proportion of women-headed households rose slowly, till it touched 7% in the 80+ age group. The pattern is repeated in almost every state, though the exact age group at which the declining trend reverses varies from state to state. If smaller states are also counted, Meghalaya had the highest proportion of women-headed households (9.8%), marginally higher than Kerala, among those currently married. Kerala has the highest proportion of women-headed households in the lower age groups. About 24% of households headed by persons aged below 20 years are women-headed. This rises to 35% of households with heads aged 20-29, falls to 22% in the 30-39 age group and then keeps falling as the age of the household head increases. Though the number of widowed men is much lower than widowed women, 70% of widowed men headed their households while only 51.7% of widowed women headed their households. This could mean that almost half the 43.3 million widowed women live as dependents. (Times of India 30/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

15. 65 child labourers rescued from Mumbai, sent back home (14)

Mumbai: In an attempt to curb child labour, the Maharashtra government, along with a non-governmental organisation, helped reunite 65 rescued children with their families. The children were rescued from various establishments last month and sent to shelter homes in a joint operation of the NGO and the state government. “I came here to work… I came here on my own… (was working) in Dharavi… from 10 am to 10 pm,” said a rescued child, Satish Kumar, adding, “I am feeling happy to go back home.” Of the 65, parents of 10 rescued children, picked up their wards from the shelter homes, while the rest were sent to their homes on a special coach of Rajendra Nagar Superfast Express. “Initially we used to rescue around 500 children yearly but now it has come down because these children are sent back to parents who now know that child labour is a crime,” said state Minister For Women and Child Development, Vidya Thakur. (Zee News 21/4/15)

16. 490 Children in Kovai, Tirupur to be Re-admitted to Schools (14)

COIMBATORE:  More than 490 out-of-school children, dropouts and child workers from Coimbatore and Tirupur districts will be admitted to government schools and training centres this year. They were identified through a survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan officials, along with school teachers, teachers of special schools, teacher trainees and Anganwadi workers. The survey, which began on April 1, is being carried out in all 15 blocks in Coimbatore district and all seven in Tirupur. It will conclude on April 30, but if necessary, will be extended to May 15, said Additional Chief Educational Officer (SSA) V Maliga. The child workers were working in brick kilns, textile units, farms, restaurants and houses. They will be admitted to training centres under the National Child Labour Project. There are 21 such centres in Coimbatore and Tirupur. Apart from free uniforms and study materials, the child workers will be given a stipend of `150. They will be educated in these centres for three years and then integrated with the mainstream schools. (New Indian Express 23/4/15)

17. Over 1,200 children to be trained on rights (14)

VIJAYAWADA: In its move to prevent atrocities against children, the district administration is creating awareness among children and women on child laws and rights. The District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) of the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Department is imparting training to children on child rights, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, Juvenile Welfare Department, Juvenile Justice Board and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2006. “The government has constituted Village Level Child Protection Committees, to which students will be admitted. More than 570 committees have been formed,” said WD&CW Krishna District Project Director (PD) K. Krishna Kumar. “The situation is alarming in Krishna district. In some cases, girls aged below 10 years are subjected to sexual abuse and assault. More than 30 child marriages were prevented in the last few months. We are trying to increase literacy rate among girls to prevent atrocities, child marriages and violence against them,” the PD said. “Out of two students, one should be female. The Village Level Child Protection Committees will take decision on filing complaint with the police and recommending for protection and shelter to the victim,” DCPU Officer Ch. Vijay Kumar said. The government paid Rs. 15 lakh financial assistance to victims under the POCSO Act during 2014-15, which was Rs. 40,000 during 2013-14, he added. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

18. 50 per cent of ‘rescued’ minors return to work (14)

Mumbai: NGO Pratham, which has been working since 2014 on tracking children rescued from child labour in Mumbai, claimed that about 70 per cent of children who were unofficially sent back home to UP and Bihar, could not be traced. The NGO also claimed that it was unable to trace nearly 20 per cent of the children who were sent back through government channels. Superintendent of Dongri correction home, Shankar Jadhav said, “Taking help of NGOs to do our work is essential. Pratham has been tracking children rescued from child labour for the past one year.” As per the information provided by Pratham, a task force comprising the Mumbai police, labour department and the NGO rescued about 366 children between April 2013 and March 2014. Another 2,650 children were rescued unofficially through preventive action. The task force had successfully rescued 732 more such child labourers between April 2014 and March 2015 while the NGO has saved 995 more children by taking preventive action. By means of explaining what preventive action actually involves, Navnath Kamble from Pratham said, “As part of preventive action, we meet people who employ minors and inform them that it is illegal to make minors work as labourers and ask them to send the children back home. In such incidents, crime cases are not registered against the employers but we keep a record of the children.” Director of the Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children, Kishore Bhamre who has been working with the NGO for the past 12 years said, “We have started tracking children who were to return to UP and Bihar. Slowly, we will start tracking children in other states as well.” He further added, “Last year, we went through records of children rescued from child labour in Mumbai in the past four years. We short-listed the children whose addresses were mentioned clearly. As per the NGO’s records, they had information on 463 children belonging to Bihar but on visiting their homes, the official found only 232 of the children while the rest had allegedly left their homes and ventured out for work again. Similarly, in UP after the NGO officials visited the homes of the minors, of the total 76 children, 20 children were found while 56 had left their villages. All these children were rescued by the task force in Mumbai. “Some of the parents confessed that their children had gone back to work but the parents who knew they could be prosecuted for being involved in child labour lied that their children were at their relative’s place. About 70 per cent of the children sent unofficially to both Bihar and UP could not be traced,” said Mr Bhamre. To ensure there is no confusion over tracking the rescued children, the superintendent of Dongri correction home said that they have started an inter-state co-ordination programme. “The inter-state coordination is active in Bihar. The Patna CWC will keep a track of the children who have recently been rescued by us. The programme is underway in Uttar Pradesh and soon we will co-ordinate with West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh as well.” (Asian Age 26/4/15)

19. Child labour bitter truths (14)

Ranchi, April 29: Jharkhand is gearing up to observe National Child Labour Day tomorrow, but the truth is that despite taking a series of initiatives and measures the state has failed to curb the social malaise. According to the 2001 census, there are around 4 lakh child labourers in Jharkhand. Over the years, the state labour department conducted a series of raids at shops, dhabas, hotels, mines and stone-crushing units to rescue minor workers. It also implemented pre-rescue, post-rescue and rehabilitation schemes like running National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special schools, bridge schools, linking the rescued to vocational training centres, opening short-stay homes and starting a child tracking system.But truth be told, a few of these initiatives could be sustained for long. As state convener of Bachpan Bachao Andolan Sanjay Mishra points out, rehabilitation of the rescued children had not been complete. “Though NCLP schools have been opened, little effort has been taken to run them successfully. Even Rs 100 as stipend and supplementary nutrition have been stopped,” Mishra said. For example, in Pakur district, where the percentage of child labour is the highest (6.9 per cent) as per the Annual Health Survey (AHS) report of 2012-2013, the state labour department started 19 NCLP schools in 2010. “But today, only four NCLP schools are operational. The rest have been shut due to lack of funds. Besides, the dropout rate in Classes I and II is 40 per cent while from Classes I to V is 70 per cent,” said director of the state labour department Jeet Wahan Oraon. (The Telegraph 30/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. Hindus among multi-religious group of 29 petitioners challenging ‘Hindu law (7)

MUMBAI: In a new petition, a multi-religious, Hindu-Muslim-Christian coalition of 29 Mumbaikars has challenged the new beef ban law, claiming the Maharashtra government’s aim is to impose its version of “Hindu law”. The petitioners who include filmmakers, women’s rights activists, professors, medical practitioners and students have targeted Section 5D of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act that criminalizes possession of beef and, in turn, its consumption. While the state had claimed the law was brought in to preserve cows, bulls and bullocks, the petition claims the ban on possession of even beef imported from outside the state seemed to have another motive. “The obvious and underlying reason for criminalizing the possession of beef, including that slaughtered outside Maharashtra, can only be an undeclared religious purpose,” said the petition. “As it is believed (wrongly) that the Hindu religion does not permit eating of beef, the present amendment seems to have been passed. Thus, the state of Maharashtra has passed a law, which is mainly to implement its version of Hindu law.” The petition claims that the new law violates the Constitutional rights “which requires citizens to cherish the rich composite culture of India”.Bombay high court is scheduled to hear the case of the petitioners, who will be represented by their lawyer Mihir Desai, on Tuesday. The petitioners claimed to have filed the case on behalf of beef consumers across religions. “Apart from Catholics and Muslims, a large number of Hindus, more so the Dalit communities, as well as tribals are known to consume beef as part of their ordinary diet,” said the petition. They contended that even if one were to purchase raw beef or tinned beef products from Goa or US where it is legally slaughtered, into Maharashtra, a person could be prosecuted under the new law and, if convicted, punished with up to one year in jail. “(The law) is an encroachment on the fundamental right to life and personal liberty of the petitioners, their right to eat the food of their choice, food which they have eaten all their lives and is an essential part of their diets,” said the petition. They have also challenged the legality of the law, which was framed in 1995, but the Presidential assent was received 20 years later in 2015, without any study or survey on the changed circumstances. the changed circumstances. (Times of India 21/4/15)

21. Govt working to protect minorities: Rajnath SinghI (7)

NEW DELHI: Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said the government is working for the protection of the minorities. The home minister, speaking in the Lok Sabha also offered to come out with a detailed statement on the number of communal incidents and attacks on places of worship under all regimes. “I can come out with a full-fledged statement on communal incidents… so that the country knows under which government maximum attacks have taken place,” the minister said. (Times of India 22/4/15)

22. Funds lapsed, next instalment missed: IAS Study Centre for minorities remains on paper

Lucknow: Seven months after it was announced, the IAS Study Centre for minority community remains on paper only even as the funds sanctioned as first instalment for the project lapsed at the end of last fiscal. Expressing concern over the dismal representation of the minority community in general and Muslims in particular in civil services, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had in June last year asked the Urdu Academy to set up an IAS Study Centre. Urdu Academy was also tasked with providing coaching services to the minority community students preparing for civil services examination. Taking personal interest, Akhilesh also sanctioned Rs 4 crore for setting up of the project. The first instalment of Rs 1.75 crore reached Urdu Academy in October last year, but the was not utilised and lapsed at the end of 2014-15 financial year and the Academy missed the next instalment. However, chairman, Urdu Academy, Nawaz Deobandi claimed that everything has been put in place and in next week advertisement will be published for commencement of the study centre. “We took time but the IAS Study Centre will be soon a reality. In next week, we are going to start it,” Deobandi said. After Akhilesh’s announcement, Urdu Academy had constituted a committee of retired bureaucrats for guidance on setting up the Study Centre. Several meetings were held for it and the recommendations were submitted to the Academy. Deobandi brushed aside the fact that next instalment for the project has been missed while the first instalment lapsed. “We were doing things and slowly it will take shape. We don’t have a building for the centre still we are starting it, which is an achievement,” Deobandi claimed. Deobandi, however, cited several achievements of Urdu Academy, which include among others reviving awards to Urdu littérateurs after three years, organising mushairas in universities, special mushaira for children and grant for publication of Urdu books. Urdu Academy was set up in 1972 for development of Urdu language. It gives scholarships to students, reprints classic books, gives financial aid to old and needy Urdu poets and holds seminars and symposia for promotion of the language. It comes under Department of Language which is held by the Chief Minister. Urdu Academy does not have a full time secretary as its present secretary Faiz Rehman also holds the charge as CEO of Sunni Central Board of Waqfs and director, Minority Welfare. “We have written several times to state government for a full time officer but have not got one,” Deobandi said. (Indian Express 26/4/15)

23. Won’t tolerate communal activities: Govt (7)

New Delhi: Facing intense Opposition heat on ghar wapsi and frequent incidents of attacks against churches, the BJP government at the Centre on Tuesday asserted that it will not tolerate anything that would disturb communal harmony and asked states to act against such activities. Replying to debate on Demands for Grants, home minister Rajnath Singh also responded to questions in Lok Sabha over conversion, saying the government wants an anti-conversion law but noted that India is the only country where minorities do not seek such a law. “I want to assure, especially the minorities, that government will protect them with all its might,” he said and added that states should take strict action. “How can the Centre intervene…If it in happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the Centre if it is blamed for what happens in states,” he said. Hinting that the BJP government was being targeted for political reasons, he said he had figures to prove his point but refrained from making them public as he was not interested in doing politics over such a sensitive issue. “If I was interested in political gains, I would have tabled all statistics over the issue. It would hurt feelings of many people. But it would create an unnecessary controversy… I appeal to all not to do politics over the issue,” he said. As some Opposition members drew his attention to controversial remark of Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made sometime back, Rajnath Singh was quick to disapprove it, saying “it is wrong”. “Questions are being raised about communal harmony citing ghar wapsi. I will suggest that let us take a decision and if entire House agrees, let us pass an anti-conversion law. In all countries of the world, the minorities demand for an anti-conversion law but in India they don’t demand it,” he said. (The Asian Age 29/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Need law to ensure minimum interference in minorities’ affairs, says, AISPLB (7)

Lucknow: AISPLB, muslim personal law, Indian minorities, Rajiv Gandhi, Shamima Farooqui, Shahid Khan case, lucknow news, city news, local news, lucknow newslineThe All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) on Monday expressed its unhappiness over “repeated interference” by courts in Muslim personal law and demanded that there should be “a law for minimum interference in the issues of Indian minorities”. Speaking about the April 6 Supreme Court order in the Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, where the apex court had reiterated that a Muslim woman is entitled to maintenance by her former husband till she remarries, AISPLB president Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar said while they agree with the judgment, there should also be a law to ensure minimum interference in minorities’ issues. In its judgment, the Supreme Court has reiterated that civil law will prevail over any personal laws, which in essence, helps divorced Muslim women whose right to maintenance was curtailed by Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act-1986 passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the wake of the top court’s Shah Bano ruling. While the SC had ruled in favour of granting maintenance to divorced Muslim women in the Shah Bano case, Rajiv Gandhi — ostensibly under pressure from Muslim clerics — had passed the Act that essentially diluted the SC ruling. However, over the years, the courts, in turn, ruled in favour of women and sidestepped the Act. Mirza said AISPLB has found a middle ground on the issue, as rulings like April 6 lead to “restlessness within the Muslim community”. “On one hand, there is Section 125 of CrPC and the insistence of the top court on its applicability to divorced Muslim women, which entitles them to maintenance pay, during and after iddat period (of three months and 10 days), by her former husband, till the day she remarries. On the other, Islamic shariah law says that a man is entitled to give maintenance pay only for the iddat period… after that he is free of any responsibility… But time and again this issue has been raised, hence, we decided to find a middle ground,” he added. “We had passed a ‘nikahnama’ at our 2007 meet in Mumbai where clause number 17 read that a husband will continue to provide maintenance to his former wife, even after the iddat period, until she finds a means to support herself. We have been careful in our wording, saying that that it should be implemented in view of humanitarian grounds and not religious grounds,” said Mirza. “While our nikahnama itself isn’t compulsory, the SC ruling effectively binds a Muslim man to pay maintenance to his former wife after divorce, till she remarries,” he added… (Indian Express 21/4/15)

25. 32% of undertrials jailed in Maharashtra are Muslims (7)

MUMBAI: A disproportionately high number of undertrial prisoners in Maharashtra are Muslims. Data compiled by the Union home ministry reveals that while Muslims comprise about 12% of the state’s total population, they make up nearly 32% of the undertrial population in prisons. Similarly, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes form 12% and 9% of Maharashtra’s population, but they account for 18.15% and 18.34% of the undertrial population. NCP’s Rajya Sabha member Vandana Chavan, a former mayor of Pune, had sought information relating to undertrials: on whether the government proposed to free them, how many were detained for more than half the prescribed period of imprisonment, the number who were eligible for release under section 436-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and the sectarian breakup of undertrials languishing in Indian jails. Union minister of state for home Haribhai Chaudhary informed Chavan that of the 27,400 inmates in Maharashtra jails (as of December 31, 2013), 19,331 were undertrials. Nationally, of the 4,11,992 prisoners inmates, 2,78,503 were undertrials. As per the statement submitted in Parliament, after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Maharashtra had the maximum number of Muslim undertrials in prisons. The state had 6,182 Muslims, 3,509 from scheduled castes and 3,545 from scheduled tribes among its overall undertrial population behind bars. In Uttar Pradesh, 15,477 of 58,100 undertrials were Muslims and in West Bengal, the figure was 7,730 out of 16,471. Chaudhary said the Centre had initiated several steps in respect of undertrial prisoners to reduce overcrowding in prisons. An advisory was issued on January 17, 2013 to state chief secretaries regarding use of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code to reduce overcrowding of prisons. The said section pertains to the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be detained. It provides that if an undertrial has been in jail for a period which amounts to half of the maximum imprisonment specified for that offence, then he can be released by the court on a personal bond with or without sureties. On September 3, 2014, Union home minister Rajnath Singh wrote to all the chief ministers on the same issue. In addition, all the state directors-general of prisons have been asked to take necessary action as per the apex court order. An advisory was issued on September 27, 2014 to the state chief secretaries on determining half-life of time spent in judicial custody by undertrial prisoners under law. (Times of India 23/4/15)

26. Islamic world should follow India Muslim for peace: Dargah Ajmer (7)

Dargah Dewan of Ajmer, Syed Abedin Ali Khan has urged the Islamic world to follow Indian Muslims for living in peace and concord. While presenting his annual message during Urs in Ajmer, Dewan expressed concern over the growing sectarian violence in many Islamic nations. “The manner in which Shia and Sunni Muslims or Barelvis and Tablighis are living in peace in India has no match in the world,” said Dewan Sahab. He attributed the cohesiveness among different sects of Muslims to the Indian constitution, which has granted every individual all possible right to practice its rituals and traditions responsible for this unmatched harmony. He stated that at a time when Shias and Sunnis killing each other in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh and Afganistan, Indian Muslims which constitute the second-largest Muslim community in the world bears no such trouble. “The level of hatred in these nations is such that they are not sparing Sufi shrines, mosques and places. It always pained us read stories on how during Muharram sectarian violence takes hundreds of lives in countries like Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. India is the only nation where both Sunni and Shia observe Muharram together,” said Dewan, while addressing to the heads of various Sufi Shrines. What could be more enthralling is that in Ajmer both Sunni and Shia community are living in public security and harmony for last 800 years, said Dewan. Does any of the Islamic have such a clean record? Asked Dewan. (Times of India 26/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Minorities unite for Christians’ protest (7)

LUCKNOW: As Christian community prepares to stage a protest on Thursday with closure of all Christian educational and medical institutions to remain closed, members of other minority communities have pledged their support too. Emergency services in hospitals, however, will not be affected. Over 5,000 people representing various minority communities will reach GPO park to observe ‘Black day’ and send a memorandum to chief minister and governor after a peaceful protest. Almost 100 academic institutions of 10 districts, along with Christian hospitals and clinics will remain close on Thursday. The community has also received support from Maulana Kalbe Jawad, Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangimahali and the head of Sadar Gurdwara. The community is protesting alleged apathy of the government towards them with no action against campaigns like ‘Ghar wapsi’ and speeches that hurt minorities. They plan to stage such protests at the state and national level, if their rights are not protected. “The government is not taking adequate and stringent action against the atrocities being committed with the community continuously. Throughout the year such acts have been taking place but police and governments at Centre and the state have both taken no action,” said Bishop Mathais, addressing reporters on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh Masihi Association (UPMA). UPMA claims that 20 attacks on minorities across the state have occurred since July 2014. Speaking to the media, the bishop added, “Christmas was selected as the day for celebrating good governance day, which only set up a bad example. Around Good Friday, the meeting of Chief Justices of India was convened, which Christian justices were forced to attend, undermining their important events. Then they are politicians and their followers who organise Ghar wapsi programmes and give speeches that hurt the community. All this shows that the government is trying to ignore our sentiments, as we are not a vote bank for them.” Suggesting just promises will not be enough for the community Bishop Augustus Anthony said, “Sometime back, at a Christian gathering, PM Modi had assured safety to the community, but even then churches are being attacked. We are Indians and our rights should be protected and we should be treated equally.” Considering the issues of the Christians and other minorities, UPMA secretary Rakesh Chattree said, “There is an atmosphere of insecurity in the entire country. If a community is feeling unsafe in its own country, the government must order a CBI investigation and identify people responsible for such an atmosphere.” (Times of India 23/4/15)

28.  ‘Attacks on religious places must stop’(7)

NEW DELHI: Hearing a petition on security for churches in the Capital, the Delhi High Court on Friday observed that attacks on any kind of religious structures should be stopped as they shake human conscience and were inconsistent with the values of the country’s pluralist society. “We have lived in harmony for thousands of years. India is a pluralist country…If we wish to survive as a country, we have to continue harmony and protect religions,” said Justice Siddharth Mridul, while hearing the plea for a Court-monitored SIT probe into the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. The petition was moved by lawyer Reegan S. Bell, who sought protection of religious rights of Christians and directions for securing churches against attacks and vandalism in future, in addition to the SIT probe monitored by the Court. Justice Mridul turned down the plea for SIT probe and referred the matter for directions to the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice, which adjudicates on public interest litigation. The case was fixed before the Division Bench on April 29. (Indian Express 25/4/15)

29. HC seeks report on church attacks (7)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a response from the government on the measures it had taken for the safety of religious institutions in the Capital. This was in response to a public interest litigation demanding that a special investigation team (SIT) probe the recent church attacks. The PIL had also requested that the SIT has Christian members or members of the National Minority Commission. The PIL before a Bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw had also sought directions to the Centre, Delhi government, and the police to submit a status report on action taken post the attacks and safety measures to prevent such incidents in future. The Home Ministry’s lawyers opposed the motion, stating that the PIL was of a communal nature and that an SIT had already been formed to investigate the attacks. It was argued that all places of worship were vulnerable to attacks and that the petition seemed to be concerned only about churches. The government lawyers said that around 200 temples, 30 gurdwaras and 14 mosques were vandalised along with six churches in the Capital last year. Preference should not be given to one religion only, said lawyers. However, the court specifically asked them whether an FIR had been registered before giving four weeks to all these authorities to file their status report. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. 446 rescued migrants arrive in Sicily port (13)

Rome, April 22 (IANS/EFE) A group of 446 migrants, including 95 women and 59 children, landed on Wednesday at the port of Augusta in Sicily after being rescued by the Italian coast guard. The victims were in good condition and will stay in housing projects reserved for illegal migrants in the southeastern Sicilian town of Augusta. The migrants were rescued on Tuesday when they were adrift on a barge off the coast of Calabria in southern Italy by two Italian navy patrol vessels, according to a statement issued by the Italian armed forces. It is expected that 545 more migrants will arrive on Wednesday at the port in Salerno, in the southern region of Campania, after they were recently rescued. (Business Standard 22/4/15)

31. National Migration Policy Demanded (13)

BHUBANESWAR:More than 700 migrant children in 22 brick kilns located on the outskirts of the Capital City stay under hazardous conditions. The number is much higher when migrant children living with their parents and employed at construction sites and crusher units in and around Bhubaneswar are taken into account, Regional Head, Aide et Action, Umi Daniel said here on Thursday. Daniel was addressing a conference on “Protection of Children in Migration”, organised by an NGO ‘Destination Unknown – Children on Move (DU-COM)’. “In most cases, these children are bereft of potable water, nutritious food and hygienic surroundings. Adolescent females, who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking, are the worst affected in these surroundings and the situation worsens as one moves into backward districts and interior parts of the State,” Daniel added. Addressing the conference, Convenor of DU-COM Umesh Purohit said in recent times, Odisha has been the source, transit and destination hotspot for migration. An upswing in rail linkage has acted as a catalyst for inward and outward movement of wage earners from the State. According to a survey conducted by DU-COM, the major factors which trigger migration in Odisha are poverty, natural disaster, unrest in Maoist-hit districts and communal violence. While only 15 per cent of children move with their parents during transit or migration, the survey indicated that the street children, runaways, missing children and refugees form a sizeable majority of the migrant children population. Minors from the State are engaged at textile industries in Surat, brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh, carpentry units in Kerala and children from Gajapati and Phulbani districts work as domestic helps in Goa. “The State Government is not doing enough to enumerate inter-State and intra-State migrants. There is no proper audit of worksites of the MSME and industries functioning here to check the living standards,” Purohit said. The forum sought a National Migration Policy to be drafted in consultation with migration-prone States and its early implementation. Among others, Bincy Wilson, Programme Officer at Terre des Hommes, Netherlands spoke on the occasion. (New Indian Express 24/4/15)

32. BJP promises Indian citizenship for B’deshi Hindu refugees (13)

Guwahati: BJP national president Amit Shah on Sunday promised protection to Hindus who had immigrated to Assam following religious persecution in Bangladesh. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh will be given Indian citizenship if BJP comes to power in Assam in next year’s assembly polls, Shah said. “Some Hindus have come from Bangladesh due to religious disturbances. BJP will give all of them citizenship once we come to power in Assam next year,” Shah said at a rally here. At a BJP rally here, Shah reiterated PM Narendra Modi’s promise in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls that other states would share the burden of providing shelter to the Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. “I want to assure you that Hindus who have suffered religious persecution (in Bangladesh) need not worry. BJP will give all the necessary protection to them. Assam alone will not have to bear the burden of sheltering the Hindu refugees. Other states will also share the responsibility,” Shah said. Shah’s statement came close on the heels of chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s assurance of giving protection to Hindu refugees from the neighbouring country. At a time when the process of updating the National Register for Citizens (NRC) is under way, the issue of giving protection and citizenship to Hindu refugees has stirred a heated debate among political and non-political organizations. While BJP wanted to include Hindu refugees’ name in the NRC, the All Assam Students’ Union has been maintaining that any foreigner who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, should be deported. However, the issue of giving protection to Hindu refugees has always been an electoral gambit, with BJP and Congress eyeing votes among the community ahead of elections. On the issue of infiltration, Shah said BJP could only solve the problem once it came to power in the state. Shah alleged that Congress did not want infiltration from Bangladesh to end for the cause of vote-bank politics. “The problem of infiltration from Bangladesh has robbed the indigenous people of their rights. BJP has to come to power to stop infiltration for good. Our government at the Centre is very serious about the problem. That is why our government has provided Rs 140 crore to update the NRC to tackle the problem of influx,” Shah added. (Times of India 27/4/15)

33. More than 5,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda in two days: UN (13)

Geneva: More than 5,000 Burundians fled to Rwanda over the weekend following mounting tensions in the central African country, bringing the total number of arrivals in April to nearly 21,000, the UN said Tuesday. “There has been a sharp increase in the number of Burundian refugees arriving in Rwanda,” Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said. “Five thousand people entering the country in two days is quite a significant jump… It is certainly concerning,” she told reporters in Geneva. The Rwandan government has put the number of Burundians arriving in the country since the beginning of April at 21,000, and expects the number could rise to 50,000. Another 3,800 Burundian nationals have meanwhile fled to the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of the month, UNHCR said. Most of the new arrivals in Rwanda are women and children, Rummery said, adding that the refugees had reported facing intimidation and threats of violence linked to upcoming elections. The outflow came as the official list of candidates for Burundi`s presidential elections on June 26 was published at the weekend, with President Pierre Nkurunziza`s bid to cling to power for a third term sparking massive demonstrations. At least five people have died since clashes broke out Sunday after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, confirmed Nkurunziza`s candidacy. The government has banned all protests and deployed large numbers of police and troops to quell the unrest. Some of those killed were shot at close range. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters have been arrested. “The situation is quite chaotic at the moment,” UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl told reporters. “We think that this violence might continue and this fear of violence might continue and that there might be a bigger outflux, particularly to Rwanda,” she warned. Rwanda, which is already hosting more than 74,000 refugees mainly from neighbouring DR Congo, has allocated land in Mahama in the Eastern Province for a new refugee camp, with the capacity to hold up to 50,000 people. UNHCR said it was helping move refugees there in daily convoys of up to 1,500 people. (Zee News 28/4/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. RTI activists to move CIC as govt. blocks details on Land Bill (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has refused RTI requests for information on the decision-making process on amendments to Land Acquisition Bill. On January 17, Chitrangada Choudhury, a Fellow with the Open Society Institute, filed an RTI request with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), seeking documents, file notings and correspondence between the MoRD and other authorities relating to any proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and the NDA’s December 2014 ordinance. Two months later, the MoRD’s Public Information Officer (PIO) sent Ms. Choudhury documents, none of which related to the RTI request. She then filed her first appeal. On April 8, she was shown files with representations to the government from various quarters. The PIO and Appellate Authority denied access to documents related to the drafting and issuing of the ordinance, and she insisted on a written order about the withholding of information. On April 15, she got two letters from the PIO and the AA stating that “part information related to file notings and correspondence relating to the LARR (Amendment) ordinance are exempted from disclosure under Section 8.1 of RTI and is not being provided right now.” Section 8.1 is merely the section of the Act that lists circumstances under which information can be withheld; the response did not state which of the ten exemption clauses had been invoked, nor what documents were being withheld. Simultaneously, Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Access to Information Programme, filed an RTI request with the President’s office on January 5, seeking “all materials on the basis of which [the President] was satisfied that circumstances existed for him to take immediate action by promulgating the [land] ordinance”, and file notings related to this. The request was forwarded by Rashtrapati Bhavan to the MoRD from whom Mr. Nayak did not hear for over 30 days. On February 25, he filed the first appeal and on March 3, he received a reply from the MoRD saying it had no information, and was sending both the request and the appeal to the Ministry of Law and Justice. After that, Mr. Nayak has heard nothing further. Information on Cabinet decisions has been provided in the past, albeit with difficulty. Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi while hearing a second appeal in 2012 ordered the release of a Cabinet note relating to the nuclear safety Bill. “The Act in fact specifically states that documents related to Cabinet decisions will be made public after the decision has been taken,” Mr. Gandhi told The Hindu. Ms. Choudhury is preparing to move the CIC. “Going by the over 30,000 citizen appeals already waiting at the CIC’s doors, it would be heard in late 2016 or early 2017. Given that the government seeks to urgently amend the Act, the appeal will request the Commission for an early hearing,” Ms. Choudhury told The Hindu. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

35. RTI Act: Info Officer Gets Protection (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:Section 21 of the Right to Information Act (RTI), which guarantees legal protection to public information officers has never been invoked in the state or in the country for that matter. In a clear deviation from this, it was invoked for the first time in a case in which a public information officer was victimised by his higher official for giving out information on an RTI query. Highlighting Section 21 of the RTI Act, the State Information Commission observed: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this act or any rule made thereunder.’’ It also pointed out that the public information officer does not have to seek the permission of his higher-ups before disseminating any information. K G Vijayakumar, then an administrative officer of Horticorp and currently, the Director of Printing, Government Press, Thiruvananthapuram approached the State Information Commission alleging that the Principal Secretary of the General Administration Department had ordered a probe against him as the then MD of the Horticorp, Pratapan, had lodged a complaint against him. “My fault was that I have handed over every details sought in an RTI query. I was first transferred to Child Rights Commission,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/4/15)

36. Sexual harassment complaint files have gone missing: NCW (8)

Mumbai: In reply to a query under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the National Commission for Women (NCW) has informed that files containing 1,000 pages in a complaint of sexual harassment have gone missing. This is the second time that documents have gone missing. The complainant, a former director with KPMG, had sought information from the NCW in December 2013. But when she did not receive any information after seven months, she filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). When no order was passed by the FAA, she filed a second appeal before the chief information commissioner (CIC). The NCW informed the commission that the files relating to the case were in the custody of the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission and it would call back the file and provide the information. In a letter to the complainant, which she received last month, the NCW said that in January this year, the central commission had written to the state commission, asking for the files and documents relating to the RTI query. It had also sent a reminder but got no response. “An NCW law officer personally visited the MSWC for compliance of the CIC order and found that the files were badly maintained. No pagination and docketing were done. Around eight files containing more than 1,000 pages were reported as not traceable by the MSWC.” The NCW said that it has taken the issue seriously and the matter will be reported to the Maharashtra chief minister and women and child welfare department for appropriate action. The complaint, relating to sexual harassment at workplace, was filed in June 2007. The case has moved from the NCW to the state commission to the Bombay high court, the Supreme Court and back to the high court, which in 2010, directed the NCW to complete the inquiry. In 2013, following an article in TOI, an enquiry was initiated but was again challenged by KPMG in the high court, which quashed the NCW enquiry on the grounds that findings are not binding or legally enforceable and a criminal case is pending. The accused has now filed a writ petition in the high court, seeking quashing of the criminal case, seven years after filing of chargesheet. (Times of India 25/4/15)

37. RTI activists demand non-political info commissioner (1)

CHENNAI: With the present State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) K S Sripathi’s term coming to an end on Monday, RTI campaigners have urged the state government to appoint an eminent person who is not a retired bureaucrat and affiliated to any political party. The 1977 batch IAS officer, who have made headlines in the recent past for wrong reasons, will have to demit office as RTI rules do not allow a SCIC to hold office beyond the age of 65. In 2010, the previous DMK government appointed him as the SCIC despite several protests from RTI activists. “RTI Act is meant for transparency and accountability and, therefore, at least the new SCIC should be appointed in a transparent manner,” said Siva Elango, an RTI activist, who was arrested for refusing to stand during a hearing at Tamil Nadu State Information Commission headquarters in Teynampet. RTI rules say that information commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life, with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and government. However, activists said that successive governments in Tamil Nadu have appointed their political nominees and retired bureaucrats who favoured them during their services as information commissioners. Section 15 (6) of the RTI Act says a SCIC should not be an MP or MLA, connected with any political party, carrying on any business or pursuing any profession. However, the AIADMK government in 2012 appointed five state information commissioners, including former AIADMK MP V Saroja, former AIADMK women wing joint secretary B Neelambikai and retired police officer Christopher Nelson. “The government considers top babus for the transparency panel because of its vested interests. The retired bureaucrat who gives favours to the ruling parties gets this post as a post-retirement incentive,” said Shailesh Gandhi, a noted RTI activist from Mumbai who was appointed to the Central Information Commission in 2008. When contacted, Sripathi was unavailable to comment. But a source in the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission said he was unable to do much mainly because of limited staff and funds. (Times of India 27/4/15)

38. Growing concern over ‘dilution’ of RTI Act (1)

VIJAYAWADA: Replying to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said that it has no information about the cost incurred on Mr. Modi’s wardrobe. The information was sought by applicant Rohit Kumar who argues that while it has been admitted that the cost of his wardrobe was met by the government, records of the exchequer’s money are not made available. If this is the scenario at the PMO level, one wonders what fate the RTI meets in the states. “Worse, the Public Information Officers (PIOs) appointed by departments to furnish information to RTI applicants don’t even bother to reply in most cases,” says B. Ramakrishnam Raju, convenor of United Forum for RTI Campaign (UFRTI) Taking exception to what they call attempts to dilute this important law, the RTI Commissioners in the State met the Governor last week with a complaint that the PIOs have not been doing a fair job of dissemination information. “A retired IAS officer filed an RTI query on important aspects related to the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) which has not been responded to yet. The delay in bifurcating the Commission is resulting in pendency of cases,” says Mr. Raju. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Education Act fee row under HC scanner (11)

MUMBAI: The refusal of the Centre and the state government to reimburse private unaided schools for providing free education for 25% of poor students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act has come under Bombay high court scanner. A division bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice K R Shriram asked the Centre and the state government to clarify their stand on April 27, 2015. “Whatever is the arrangement between the Centre and the state regarding funds is a different issue. The government cannot argue that there is no obligation,” said the judges. “The consequences (of such a stand) will be huge. The management can then pass on the burden by increasing the fees of the remaining 75% of the students, which may not be permissible,” added the judges. The court was hearing petitions filed by Uran education Society and the Unaided Schools Forum (USF), representing around 148 schools in Thane. The issue relates to provisions of the RTE Act. The legislation’s provisions provide for free and compulsory education for children. Private unaided schools have to reserve 25% of the seats for students belonging to the economically weaker sections. The state has to reimburse the fees—specified by the government—to the private unaided schools. The government agrees that the private unaided schools have to reserve 25% of seats for poor students in pre-primary classes, but disputes whether it should reimburse the fees. Advocate Birendra Saraf, counsel for the USF, argued that the rules provide that the state has to reimburse the fees for pre-primary classes. Advocate-general Sunil Manohar contended that there was no liability or obligation on the state under the RTE Act to reimburse the fees for pre-primary classes. The state reimburses fees for students between Stds I-VIII, as it receives the funds from the Centre for those classes and not for the pre-primary section. Additional solicitor-general Anil Singh, representing the Centre, too said that there was no provision for reimbursing fees for pre-primary classes and it was the state government’s responsibility. (Times of India 23/4/15)

40. RTE Act should be amended, says minister (11)

KOLHAPUR: There is currently no policy on the pre-primary admissions under the 25% reservation of the Right to Education Act. It needs to be amended to avoid confusion between parents, institutions and other stakeholders, said school education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday. Tawde was in the city for the inauguration of the Shivaji University’s newly-constructed School of Nanosciences and the library building. “Under RTE, it is compulsory for a school to reserve 25% of its Std 1 seats for students from the weaker section of the society. However, there are some schools that have different admission procedures for Std 1 and pre-primary classes, which is adding to the confusion,” said Tawde. The government will not reimburse the money for the schools which start admissions in the pre-primary classes. The state’s Rs 44,000 crore is for the teachers’ salaries, however, the government will find a solution by amending the Act, he added. Cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are experiencing this admission problem, said Tawde. Tawde also said that many schools in the state do not comply with the infrastructure norms under RTE and they have to be given time to meet the requirements. To bring uniformity in education levels throughout the country, the RTE Act categorizes classes I to V as the primary section and classes VI to VIII as upper primary. However, the earlier categories of class I to IV as primary, and class V-VII as upper primary are still effective in the state. On reducing the weight of school bags, Tawde said 44 recommendations have been made by the committee constituted under the chairmanship of the directorate of primary education. The recommendation report was published on Friday. “We will ask for feedback on the recommendations from parents and education experts to take a call on this issue,” he said. (Times of India 25/4/15)

41. MPs warn govt against ‘saffronisation’ of education (11)

New Delhi: The ‘saffronisation’ of education, focus on Sanskrit and Hindi and cut in key Central schemes for education were among the concerns expressed by MPs as Lok Sabha began its debate on grants for human resource development. The MPs urged Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani to “battle” with the Finance Ministry to get more funds for education. While Sugata Bose of Trinamool Congress criticised the Centre for making bodies like ICHR “packed by ideologues rather than scholars”, BJD’s Tathagata Satpathy urged the government to encourage regional languages and accept English as the link language. “The link language cannot be any Indian language. English is no more a foreign language,” he said. The Central government must invest money in creating infrastructure… Not buildings, roads and class rooms, but by bringing out books which have no religious tilt or involvement. No religion is greater or inferior to any other religion. It is all the same sham,” Satpathy said. Pointing out that the Minister has been passionate about Hindi and Sankrit, Satpathy said the government should let the children choose the language they want to learn. “Do not dump any language on them. I do not believe that there is any ‘Rashtra Bhasha’…,” he said. Satpathy added that the government should invest more on improving the quality of tools such as books and other education aids. Criticising the NDA government for being “friendly towards corporates and hostile to farmers”, Bose said the PM had promised change. “We are still waiting for the qualitative change particularly in the field of education and human resource development.” NCP’s Supriya Sule wanted the government to consider bringing back examination system instead of continuous and comprehensive evaluation system. Congress’s Sushmita Deb asked the HRD Minister to promise before the House that there will not be any saffronisation of education. (Indian Express 25/4/15)

42. Govt bid to facilitate improved Sanskrit education (11)

LUCKNOW: Imparting Sanskrit lessons through animated tales of the Panchtantra is a step the state government wishes to take towards promotion of Sanskrit in the state. Five Sanskrit schools in the city might soon get virtual classrooms for students where they would learn ‘vyakaran’ (grammar) and correct pronunciation of the language. A toll-free helpline to answer students’ queries on the language might also be provided. Giving Sanskrit the much needed push became a matter of debate after union HRD ministry’s recent efforts to promote the language. With a plan to start virtual classes for Sanskrit, UP government is not one to be left behind. Sanskrit schools would each be provided with a computer and a projector to impart lessons through video conferencing. Besides, CDs containing especially designed study material would play in the classroom in which there are recorded lectures by experts. Efforts to enhance Sanskrit schools with modern classrooms began in August last year. Now, Sanskrit Sansthan, under UP government’s department of languages, has submitted a proposal to the government to start smart-classes for e-learning of Sanskrit in government-aided schools. The study material designed by the institute in consultation with scholars will be developed by UPDESCO. “Idea is to make the classroom innovative and help students learn correct pronunciation through audio-visual medium,” said Jagdanand Jha at Sanskrit Sansthan. Sanskrit schools conduct studies for classes Vi to XII . Children from the government and aided primary schools inclined to learn the language take admission to these schools. Lucknow has five Sanskrit schools of the 400-odd schools run by Madhyamik Sanskrit Shiksha Parishad across UP. “We wish to pick up 10 schools,” said Brajesh Chandra, director, UP Sanskrit Sansthan. Schools with noticeable strength will be picked up first. (Times of India 30/4/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Centre extends food security Act deadline (21)

NEW DELHI: The period for identification of households eligible for coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been extended up to September 30, 2015 through an order issued by the Department of Food and Public Distribution on March 24. Though the law stipulates that any such orders made under the Act are tabled in Parliament, the Centre has no such plans. In response to a Right to Information query filed with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, respondents have noted that the deadline has been extended, for the second time, because States have not yet identified beneficiaries, and also due to lack of preparedness in 25 States/Union Territories for implementing the Act. As per Section 42 of the NFSA Act, “if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central government may, by order, published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty.” But this is upon the condition that “every order made under this Section shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament.” However, government sources confirmed to The Hindu that the orders won’t be laid in Parliament. M.K. Sharma, under secretary to the government, in the Law Ministry, said the March 24 orders were issued after consulting the Law Ministry. Nilambuj Sharan, Director, NFSA, further confirmed that there was no plan to table the orders for discussion in Parliament. Development economist Jean Dreze, an expert on food security, told The Hindu that the delay in release of socio-economic caste Census data to various States had initially posed a challenge in identifying beneficiary households under the NFSA. “The Act itself has no provision on how beneficiaries would be identified. But now that most States have received the SECC data, there is no reason why they should continue to put off its implementation,” he said. He said the Centre was trying to impose certain conditions for implementation, which were not legitimate, such as end-to-end computerisation, in which details of beneficiary households were digitised, complete with information of beneficiary aadhaar numbers etc., which was adding to the delays. The Act aims to provide subsidised food grains to over one billion Indians. It also legally entitles beneficiaries of the Midday Meal Scheme, the Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System, to food. Delays mean legitimate beneficiaries are denied the NFSA benefits. It was signed into law in 2013. (Thew Hindu 21/4/15)

44. World rushes aid to Nepal amid 2,300 deaths (21)

KATHMANDU, April 26 (IANS): Another tremblor measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale shook Nepal on Sunday causing fresh panic as rescuers pulled out bodies from debris, a day after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake left over 2,300 dead and forced tens of thousands to spend the night on the streets. As the world rushed emergency aid to Kathmandu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a high-level meeting in New Delhi after saying: “I can understand what the people of Nepal are going through… My dear brothers and sisters of Nepal, we are with you.” The home ministry put the fatalities from Saturday’s powerful quake at 2,309 and said another 5,850 people were injured. It is the worst quake to hit Nepal after one in 1934 killed some 8,500 people. Fearing the continuing aftershocks, many thousands of people spent Saturday night out in the open. Many lay on plastic sheets or cardboard boxes wrapped in blankets. Most ate instant noodles and cookies to ward off the hunger. Hospitals grappled with soaring number of injuries, the doctors and nurses working non-stop. A UN statement said hospitals were running out of rooms to store bodies and emergency supplies. The government declared a national calamity and closed down all schools and colleges for a week as it tried to come to grips with a disaster which has enveloped 30 out of 75 districts, including the Kathmandu Valley, a tourist paradise. Even as an army of soldiers, police personnel and other officials were frantically engaged in relief work, another powerful tremblor occurred on Sunday afternoon, causing aftershocks again in India, Bhutan and Tibet. The epicentre of Sunday’s earthquake was about 110 km from Kathmandu. It was shallower, at 10 km, compared to the Saturday temblor whose epicentre lay at a depth of 15 km. Saturday’s epicentre lay in Lamjung, about 75 km northwest of Kathmandu. Thirty-five aftershocks have hit the country since the first earthquake. The UN office here said around 6.6 million people have been affected in the Himalayan nation. The quake sparked an avalanche in the Mount Everest area, killing scores of mountaineers. The disaster appeared to spare none, VVIPs included. President Ram Baran Yadav spent Saturday night in a tent with his many guards after the quake caused several cracks in his office-cum-residence. “President Yadav is still in his tent,” an official told IANS. The main entrance to the residence of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who hurriedly returned to Nepal from Indonesia on Sunday, was also damaged. So were several government offices in Kathmandu. Worse, scores of ancient monuments and Hindu temples were destroyed or suffered varying degrees of damage, with one expert lamenting that some of them can never be restored to their original glory. “We have launched a massive rescue and rehabilitation action plan,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Minendra Rijal said. “Our country is a moment of crisis, and we will require tremendous support and aid.” At least 723 people perished in Kathmandu alone while 205 others were killed in Bhaktapur, just 13 km from the capital and 125 in Lalitpur, only five kilometres away, the home ministry said. The government has warned that the death toll was likely to rise. The disaster brought down historical monuments such as Dharhara tower in Kathmandu while Basantapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square were also destroyed. At the Dharahara tower, rescuers found some 80 bodies, officials said. The Kantipur Daily said around 80 percent of the temples in Basantapur Durbar Square had been destroyed. These included the Kasthamandap temple, Panchtale temple, the Dasa Avtar temple and Krishna Mandir. Kasthamandap, which inspired the name Kathmandu, is a 16th century wooden monument. A few other monuments, including the Kumari Temple and the Taleju Bhawani, have partially collapsed. (The Assam Tribune 26/4/15)

45. Poverty-stricken Bihar Parents Send Kids to Work (21)

HYDERABAD:It only takes Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 and some false assurances to hire a child from villages of Bihar and make them work as labourers in the city. Though parents are well aware that their child would be earning a little above Rs 30 per day, low levels of poverty, and lack of work opportunities makes them send their children to work here. These were some of the dismal findings of District Child Protection Units, which function under the Telangana Women and Child Welfare Department, who recently visited some districts of Bihar. Most of the child labourers rescued by the officials here are from Bihar. The children were found working in bangle-making units and leather factories. The four-day study was aimed to find the financial condition of child labourers’ families, social conditions, work conditions of the children and other details. The study was conducted in Agandha village in Gaya district, Saidpur in Nalanda district and four other villages. Brokers specifically target villages where families live in abject poverty. After initial payment of Rs 1,000 or above, brokers assure Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 would be sent to the parents every month. Let alone monthly payment, the children who are made to work for about 16 hours are paid a pittance of Rs 30 per week, said Imtiyaz Rahim, Hyderabad District’s Child Protection Unit officer (DCPO). “While some parents were aware, other children left homes along with friends though their families did not give consent,” he said, adding elders there work for wages of Rs 100 to Rs 200 a day, and most of the parents had five to seven children. “Some families there take loans at 10 per cent interest rate. Probably, they send children for working here to repay the loan,” said K Chaitanya Kumar, Nizamabad’s DCPO. Nalgonda’s DCPO, K Ganesh, was also part of the study. Among the children rescued in Hyderabad from January, about 80 per cent are from Bihar, 10 per cent from West Bengal, remaining are from  Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and other States. (New Indian Express 27/4/15)

46. World Bank: NREGA, the only insurance for India (21)

NEW DELHI: The World Bank said on Tuesday that the spike in ‘unmet demand’ for MGNREGA jobs is an indicator of increasing rural distress. Since the scheme is the only and therefore the best bet India has for mitigating the impact on the poor of the recent unseasonal rains, the government should take steps aimed at arresting delays in wage payments and the rising unmet demand for jobs. “If you are a State hit by the unseasonal rains, now is the time to tell those responsible for implementing the MGNREGA to give their best…it is the only insurance India has…,” said World Bank Country Director in India Onno Ruhl. He was speaking at the release of the Bank’s latest India Development Update which analyses the performance of the scheme in States such as Bihar. The update projects that provided there is a pick-up to 11 per cent in the rate of investment in the economy, growth in the current year would be 7.5 per cent, 7.9 per cent in 2016-17 and 8 per cent in 2017-18. “The government has made progress in several policy areas, and long-term prospects for growth remain bright for India,” said Mr. Ruhl. Continuous strong momentum in reforms aimed at strengthening the business environment and enhancing the quality of public spending will further unleash the productivity that Indian firms need for creating jobs and becoming globally competitive, he said. He stressed the need for reducing the pipeline of stuck projects, especially in the Public Private Partnership space for lifting the investments rate. Balance sheets of both companies and banks, he said, are stressed due to the stuck projects. The analysis of MGNREGA in the update shows that the programme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar is only 1 percentage point as against its potential of reducing poverty by at least 14 percentage points. Among the main reasons why the potential is not being realised, the study says, is that the supply side is too slow to respond to the demand for work from the poor, workers not receiving the full scheme wage and delays in wage payments. “Discrepancies in the stipulated wage rages and the actual wages received by workers are contributing to the gap between potential and realised impacts…payment delays have emerged as a major bottleneck and are a strong disincentive to participating in the programme,” said a statement. “If MGNREGA were to be implemented effectively, its design would ensure that there is no unmet demand for work,” said the study’s author and lead economist at the Bank Rinku Murgai. (The Hindu 29/4/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. Labour ministry may notify new investment norms for EPFO soon (14)

NEW DELHI: The labour ministry may soon notify new investment norms for EPFO allowing the retirement fund body to invest up to 5 per cent of its huge corpus of Rs 6.5 lakh crore in exchange traded funds (ETF). The new pattern of investment may allow investment of about Rs 17,000 crore in ETFs during 2015-16. “The proposal of new investment pattern for the EPFO, which allows the body to invest up to 5 per cent of its corpus in ETFs is under consideration of the labour ministry,” a source said. “The new investment norms will pave the way for up to Rs 17,000 crore investment in ETFs during this fiscal only,” the source said. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which has over 6 crore subscribers, invests primarily in state and central government securities. An ETF is a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund. Unlike mutual funds, an ETF trades like a common stock on a stock exchange. Unionists had opposed any investment in equity or equity related instruments during the meeting of Central Board of Trustees’ — EPFO’s apex decision making body — on March 31. However, after the meeting, a labour ministry official had said: “We will notify the investment pattern soon. Over a period of time, it makes sense to invest in equity. Investment in a basket of portfolio is safe. All over the world, experience is that equity investment has given the highest returns.” “What we are thinking is that we will start with 1 per cent and will go up to 5 per cent. We will review and gradually increase the investment limit,” the official had said. EPFO is expected to receive an incremental deposit of about Rs 80,000 crore for 2014-15. It manages a huge corpus of Rs 6.5 lakh crore. The Finance Ministry has been pitching to park a part of EPFO corpus in the stock market. It has recently notified an investment pattern for non-government provident funds to enable them to park a part of their funds in stock market. The new norms prescribe “investment of minimum 5 per cent and up to 15 per cent of the investible funds in equity and equity-related instruments.” (Times of India 21/4/15)

48. Govt. performs poorly in rural job scheme (14)

NEW DELHI: In the one year since the Modi government assumed power, progress in implementation of some of the rural development schemes has been poor. Documents tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, in response to queries raised by parliamentarians, show that the progress in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the Indira Awas Yojana have been particularly bad. Minister of State for Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat admitted that there has been a decline in the number of person days created under the MGNREGA in 2014-15. Provisional data for 2014-15, shows that only 40 days per household of work was made available to rural households on an average though the law guarantees 100 days of work. In comparison, in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, the average days per household of work given were 46. Among the worst performers in terms of average days per household of work provided are Arunachal Pradesh (12), Puducherry (13), Manipur (20) and Nagaland (21). The best performing State is Tripura (88). Mr. Bhagat further listed out the various irregularities found in the implementation of MGNREGA. Delays in payment of wages or wages below minimum wage levels were reported in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

49. Centre okays Madhya Pradesh’s move in ease of doing business (14)

New Delhi: Factory workers in Madhya Pradesh will soon get the benefit of earned leave after 180 days of service and in the same calendar year. This will apply to a factory with at least 10 workers if it has no power connection or at least 20 with one. At present, employees who have worked for at least 240 days are entitled to annual leave, being able to avail of these in the next calendar year. This is one of 12 proposals of the state government, sent in the form of an ordinance, accepted by the Union labour ministry. The Madhya Pradesh government had in October last year sent proposals to amend 17 labour laws of the state, for approval by the President (needed as the subject is in the concurrent list of the Constitution, where the state may legislate but the Centre has final say). The state is set to send a revised ordinance in a week, incorporating the accepted provisions. Presidential assent is a subsequent step. The Union labour ministry has accepted the state government’s proposal to expedite the process of registration or grant of licences for establishments under the Contract Labour Act, Inter State Migrant Workers Act, Motor Transport Workers Act and Building & Other Construction Workers Act. At present, establishments under these Acts have to apply for a registration or licence and wait till this comes. The approved proposal says if an application is not disposed within 30 days, it will be deemed registered or deemed an approved licence. The Union ministry has also approved a proposal to allow companies in the state employing up to 300 people (up from 100 in the present provision) to retrench workers or shut the establishment without government approval. The notice period before retrenchment or closure has been increased from one to three months and the employees will be compensated with wages of at least three months. In another move, builders will have to pay a considerably reduced cess for their construction work. At present, the government levies tax on construction activities to be paid by builders under section 3 of the Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act. “The cost of construction is open to interpretation. So, the builders or entrepreneurs end up paying a steep cess amount. We want to exclude elements such as the cost of plant and machinery from the ambit of calculation of tax under this Act,” said the official cited above. Along with the actual cost of the plant and machinery, its transportation and other items “as the state government may identify” will be excluded in calculating the tax. “We may also choose not to interest other elements involved in the cost of construction such as bank interest, advertisement expenses, audit fees, etc,” he said. However, the Union labour ministry has raised questions over six proposals. These include excluding micro industries from the ambit of seven central labour laws, permission to prosecute under the Factories Act only with the labour commissioner’s consent, no trade unions in micro industries and increasing the number of working hours in a week. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

50. World Bank: NREGA, the only insurance for India (21)

NEW DELHI: The World Bank said on Tuesday that the spike in ‘unmet demand’ for MGNREGA jobs is an indicator of increasing rural distress. Since the scheme is the only and therefore the best bet India has for mitigating the impact on the poor of the recent unseasonal rains, the government should take steps aimed at arresting delays in wage payments and the rising unmet demand for jobs. “If you are a State hit by the unseasonal rains, now is the time to tell those responsible for implementing the MGNREGA to give their best…it is the only insurance India has…,” said World Bank Country Director in India Onno Ruhl. He was speaking at the release of the Bank’s latest India Development Update which analyses the performance of the scheme in States such as Bihar. The update projects that provided there is a pick-up to 11 per cent in the rate of investment in the economy, growth in the current year would be 7.5 per cent, 7.9 per cent in 2016-17 and 8 per cent in 2017-18. “The government has made progress in several policy areas, and long-term prospects for growth remain bright for India,” said Mr. Ruhl. Continuous strong momentum in reforms aimed at strengthening the business environment and enhancing the quality of public spending will further unleash the productivity that Indian firms need for creating jobs and becoming globally competitive, he said. He stressed the need for reducing the pipeline of stuck projects, especially in the Public Private Partnership space for lifting the investments rate. Balance sheets of both companies and banks, he said, are stressed due to the stuck projects. The analysis of MGNREGA in the update shows that the programme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar is only 1 percentage point as against its potential of reducing poverty by at least 14 percentage points. Among the main reasons why the potential is not being realised, the study says, is that the supply side is too slow to respond to the demand for work from the poor, workers not receiving the full scheme wage and delays in wage payments. “Discrepancies in the stipulated wage rages and the actual wages received by workers are contributing to the gap between potential and realised impacts…payment delays have emerged as a major bottleneck and are a strong disincentive to participating in the programme,” said a statement. “If MGNREGA were to be implemented effectively, its design would ensure that there is no unmet demand for work,” said the study’s author and lead economist at the Bank Rinku Murgai. (The Hindu 29/4/15)

RESERVATION

51. Protest against implementation of A.J. Sadashiva panel report (25)

DAVANGERE: Members of the district unit of Banjara Hakku Horata Samiti took out a procession and staged a dharna outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Monday asking the State government not to implement the recommendations of the A.J. Sadashiva Commission. The protesters took out a procession from the KSRTC bus terminal which culminated outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Instead of conducting a study at the district, taluk, village and hobli-levels, the commission prepared a report by collecting opinion from only some parts of the State. The commission report was completely one sided and transparency had not been maintained while preparing it. “Instead of conducting a detailed survey, the commission made attempts to divide Dalits by differentiating them,” he added. Even decades after the country gained Independence, the Lambami community was suffering from lack of basic facilities and its members were educationally and socially backward. Instead of offering more facilities and reservation to people of the community, the commission proposed to remove them from the list of Scheduled Castes. The agitation was led by the former MLA Basavaraj Naik and agriculture produce marketing committee president Raghavendra Naik. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

52. Disability not a separate category for quota: Rajasthan HC (25)

JAIPUR: Rajasthan high court has today ordered that reservation for the disabled should be given within the caste quota as disability is not a separate category, independent of caste reservation. The division bench of Chief Justice Sunil Ambwani and Ajit Singh today struck down a single bench order of the high court, approving the selection of a candidate from general category in the disabled quota of the OBC on a review petition by one Dharampal Yadav. The court, admitting his petition, said if disability is considered as a separate category outside the caste reservation, then reservation would exceed the limit of 50%. The court observed that general category person, even if he is disabled, cannot be selected in the OBC category for the disabled. The Rajasthan University had invited application for 10 posts of assistant professors for disabled in various departments. Out of the 10 posts three were for SC, two for STs and 5 were reserved for the OBCs. But the university out of the five posts for OBCs, selected one general candidate Mohit Jain in the accountancy and business statistics department, claiming that he was meritorious than the rest of the other candidates. This was challenged by Dharampal Yadav, who said a general candidate could not be selected on the post reserved for OBC. But the single bench of the high court dismissed his petition. Then he filed a review petition in the double bench. The reservation for the disabled should be given within the caste reservation. So, the appointment of Mohit Jain in the OBC quota of the disabled is illegal. But the court said if there is vacancy, the university could accommodate him. (Times of India 25/4/15)

53. Internal reservation among Scheduled Castes opposed (25)

KALABURAGI: A federation of the Banjara, the Bhovi, the Korava and the Korcha communities would stage a protest on Wednesday here expressing opposition to the A.J. Sadashiva Commission’s recommendation to introduce internal reservation among the Scheduled Castes. The former minister Revu Naik Belamagi and the former member of the zilla panchayat Subhash Rathod, addressing presspersons here on Sunday, said that the federation would organise a rally ‘Shoshita Etka Nadige’ from Nehru Gunj to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and submit a memorandum to urge the government to reject the recommendations of the commission. Mr. Belamagi said that the communities which are in small number among Scheduled Castes will be subjected to further marginalisation if the recommendations are implemented. (The Hindu 27/4/15)

54. Govt Raises SC, ST Quota for Students (25)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Wednesday increased the quota for scheduled categories students in higher education, including technical and professional colleges, from 20 per cent to 38.75 per cent. The reservation of seats in Government educational institutions for Scheduled Tribe (ST) students has been increased from 12 per cent to 22.5 per cent while it will be 16.25 per cent from the existing 8 per cent for Scheduled Caste (SC) students. The revised reservation of seats for scheduled categories students will be applicable to all Government educational institution from Plus-Two to Post- Graduation level. This will also be applicable to Government engineering colleges, medical colleges, technical institutions and other professional courses. This will be applicable from 2015-16 academic session, said a release from the Chief Minister’s office. Though there is provision of 38.75 per cent reservation for the ST and SC candidates in Government jobs, the same ratio of reservation was not maintained in education. (New Indian Express 30/4/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. NHRC to take up hearing in Chittoor firing, Telangana encounter today (1)

Hyderabad: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) would take up hearing on Thursday in the killing of 20 people in police firing in Seshachalam forest of Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district and also the killing of alleged terror suspects in Telangana. The two incidents are listed to be taken up for hearing on Thursday by the Full Commission of the NHRC which began a three-day ‘Camp Sitting’ in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana here on Wednesday. The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of the two incidents. The commission had on April 7 issued a notice to AP government seeking a report on the killing of 20 people in police firing near Tirupati, observing that the incident “involved a serious violation” of human rights of individuals. The NHRC issued a notice on April 9 to Telangana government seeking a report on the killing of five undertrials, who were allegedly associated with radical groups in Nalgonda district, while being taken in a police van to a Hyderabad court. Meanwhile, speaking at the inaugural function of the ‘Camp Sitting’, NHRC Chairperson KG Balakrishnan said that about 98,660 complaints from various states were received by the commsission in 2014. Noting that the commission has held similar hearings in different states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, he said the problems of the people are better understood when they visit the states. The commission is aware that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are dealing with issues related to bifurcation, but the rights of the people cannot wait for lack of infrastructure, he said. “We are interested, especially, in those who are at the periphery of the society, whose voice is not heard. They are the marginal sections of the society. So, we are concerned with the rights of those people. Rich people can take care of their rights. But, what about the poor people?” he said. Observing that the NHRC is a “recommendatory body,” he said the governments and government servants need to ensure that rights of the people are protected. (Zee news 23/4/15)

56. NGO plea to NHRC (1)

ERODE: Sudar, a non-government organisation based in Sathyamangalam, has appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to transfer to Tamil Nadu the cases registered by the Andhra Pradesh police against 17 tribal people of Bargur for allegedly cutting red sanders in Seshachalam Forest in 2013. The 17 persons facing cases were among a group of 46 workers from Bargur villages who were taken to Seshachalam forest by two local brokers stating that their services were required for cutting bamboo in Kerala forests. False cases were framed against them. Due to the torture, one among them Madhan had died. Calling for judicial inquiry into the brutal attack, Sudar Director S.C. Nataraj demanded compensation for the victim’s wife, who, he said, was in abject poverty.The need for transfer of the cases from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu had arisen as the 16 villagers, who were also in huge debts due to their borrowings from money-lenders at exorbitant interest rates for legal expenses fear for their lives after the gunning of 20 Tamil wood cutters by Andhra Pradesh police, Mr. Nataraj said in his letter to NHRC Chairman. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

57. Ford Foundation Faces Big Restrictions Now for Funding Indian Organisations (1)

New Delhi:  The government has cracked down on the Ford Foundation, saying the US charity can no longer give money to local organisations without government permission. A Home Ministry order says the foundation has been placed on a “watch list” to ensure funds are used for “bonafide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security”.The move follows a complaint from the Gujarat government over the foundation’s grants to the NGO run by Teesta Setelvad, a long-time critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gujarat has accused Ford Foundation of “interfering in the internal affairs” of India and “abetting communal disharmony” through funding Ms Setelvad’s Sabrang. She is also being investigated over allegations that she embezzled donations meant for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.Home Ministry spokesman KS Dhatwalia said Ford Foundation had been involved in funding charities which are not registered to receive foreign funds. The New York-based Ford Foundation said it was cooperating with a home ministry investigation into its grants but was confident it had complied with Indian laws.”If the government suggests methods by which we can strengthen and improve our grant-making processes, we will take appropriate steps to incorporate them,” it said in a statement. Human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves said the move against the foundation “strikes me as nothing more than a witchhunt”.”Those who are doing work in the nation’s interests (through environmental and human rights work), they are being treated as people who cheat India,” he told NDTV. The move against Ford Foundation comes after the government suspended Greenpeace India’s foreign funding licence this month, accusing the environmental organization of hurting the country’s economic interests. Greenpeace accuses the government of trying to shut it down over its campaigns against mining and nuclear projects. NDTV 24/4/15)

58. 42,273 NGOs Under FIU Scanner (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has shared a list of over 42,000 NGOs with Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to check suspicious foreign funding amid the crackdown on some top international donors for flouting the law of the land. These 42,273 NGOs were put under watch after intelligence reports claimed that several charity organisations are diverting funds for purposes other than the permitted use of foreign contribution. Besides, foreign funds to government organisations, including IITs and IIMs, will also be strictly monitored and antecedents of donors will be thoroughly probed before the foreign funds are transferred into their respective Foreign Contribution (FC) accounts. Each transaction related to foreign funding has to be cleared by the Department of Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Finance. The list handed over to FIU includes NGOs operating in religious, cultural, economic, social and educational fields. For the first time, the government has clearly defined the sectors in which it has listed Christian missionaries, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim religious groups receiving foreign contribution, besides other activities of NGOs in which funds are claimed to be utilised. There is also suspicion that money launderers could use the legitimate route to wire illicit money. “Huge amounts of foreign contributions received for public policy, seminars and people’s agitation will be closely monitored. The government is not against foreign funding but it should be for tangible efforts like building schools, houses, rural development, etc instead of movement and agitation. India is a democratic country and any policy related to governance is cleared by Parliament. Where is the need for foreign donors to interfere in that process?” a senior government official pointed out, clarifying that over Rs 2,000 crore as foreign contribution was received in 2012 for the activities which were not clearly defined by the NGOs. The crackdown on unchecked foreign funding, which started after the NDA II Government came to power in May last year, will also include government entities where foreign donors are suspected to have deep penetration. On Friday, a billboard of Community Radio Facilitation Centre (CRFC) under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was removed by the officials from its Shastri Bhawan office, as it had Ford Foundation logo printed on it. The international donor, which is supporting the programme, was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) watch list on Thursday in the national interest and security of the country. When asked about the Ford Foundation’s role, an official requesting anonymity said the CRFC was launched with support of Ford Foundation during the UPA regime to facilitate radio applicants through various stages of licensing and it liaises with different ministries to expedite the necessary clearances. “OneWorld, an international NGO, manages the CRFC,” the officer said. Tax returns filed by Ford Foundation in the US for 2013 reveal the foundation had granted $137,390 to Oneworld International Foundation UK for CRFC’s capacity building and promoting awareness of community radio in India. After the MHA’s crackdown, the funds for the programme will now be cleared through Department of Economic Affairs. According to the MHA’s latest data, the NGOs operating in the country had received a staggering Rs 11,070 crore during 2013-14, with the US topping the list of donors by contributing over Rs 4,491 crore, followed by the UK which contributed Rs 1,347 Crore. Intelligence reports have indicated that many NGOs registered under Foreign Contribution regulation Act (FCRA) may go missing due to the crackdown started by the government. In March 2015, the MHA had reported that around 510 NGOs from Andhra Pradesh went missing and show cause notices issued by the ministry’s foreigners division returned undelivered. (New Indian Express 26/4/15)

59. NHRC Holds Three-Day Camp To Hear 41 Cases (1)

PUDUCHERRY: The camp sitting of National Human Rights Commission began on Tuesday to look into the pending cases in the Union Territory. Inaugurating the camp, NHRC member and Justice D Murugesan said as many as 41 cases would be taken up for hearing and would also receive complaints from petitioners. He said the Commission takes cognizance of the complaints and makes recommendations according to the merits of the claim.Chief Secretary (in-charge) T M Balakrishnan also addressed the gathering. On Wednesday, the Commission would take up the hearing of cases, visit hospitals and jails in order to ascertain the problems being faced by the patients, jail inmates and State authorities.On April 30, the Commission would hold a meeting with local NGOs from 10.00 am to 11 am and thereafter,  hold discussions with the Chief Secretary and other senior officers on important human rights issues raised by the NGOs. The issues, likely to be taken up during discussion would be: Bonded labour/migrant labour, police atrocities, non- filling of vacancies reserved for SCs, etc. (New Indian Express 29/4/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

60. HC Sets Aside Plea on Rights to Service Act (19)

CHENNAI:  Observing that it is the policy of the State government not to have Right to Public Services Act in Tamil Nadu despite its desirability, the Madras High Court closed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to enforce it in the State. Citing the large number of cases being filed on account of non-disposal of applications in different State government departments, Siva Elango, president of activist organisation, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, moved a PIL seeking direction to the government to enact the Right to Public Services Act in Tamil Nadu. The Act that has been adopted by 19 states will ensure timely public service to the people of the State, he added. When the petition came for hearing before the first bench of Chief Justice S K Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam, the State Chief Secretary submitted an affidavit that in order to ensure efficiency, time-bound delivery and people-friendly administration, the citizen charter approach is being implemented There is no dire necessity to enact the legislation, he added. Moreover, enactment of a legislation is a policy decision of the government, he said, noting that even the Supreme Court has observed that judicial review is not permissible when the matter relates to policy decision of the government. Recording the State government’s reply, the bench closed the petition. (New Indian Express 21/4/15)

61. Law ministry moves file to PMO for meet on NJAC appointments (19)

NEW DELHI: The law ministry has moved a note to the Prime Minister’s Office for convening the first meeting of the high-level committee comprising the PM, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha for selection of two eminent persons for National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). The government has already identified a bungalow at Mathura Road to house NJAC that replaces the Supreme Court’s collegium system of appointments to higher judiciary. The NJAC was notified earlier this month. The law ministry is also ready with the draft rules but is awaiting the high-level committee’s approval. The PMO is likely to call a meeting of the CJI and Cong leader in Lok Sabha who are part of a three-member committee to decide on appointment of two eminent persons in NJAC. The three-member panel will decide on the criteria to be followed for selection of the eminent persons. After a decision is taken on the fields from which the eminent persons would be selected, the government may request both the CJI and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha to come up with their own list of names. The two lists then would be put together with the government’s own list and left to the panel to make the final selection. The two eminent persons may be selected in the second meeting of the committee. “This selection of eminent persons could take at least two to three sittings of the three-member panel and could take up to a month-and-half,” a source said. (Times of India 24/4/15)

62. Abusing in-laws a ground for divorce: SC (19)

NEW DELHI: Abusing in-laws and not allowing them to reside in the matrimonial home by a woman amounts to cruelty to her spouse, ground enough for grant of divorce, the Supreme Court has ruled while allowing an NRI’s plea for legal separation from his wife. A bench of Justices Vikaramajit Sen and A M Sapre said such incidents could not be termed as “wear and tear” of family life as held by Madras High Court which had said that a couple must be prepared to face such situations in matrimonial relationship. The NRI had filed a divorce petition alleging that his wife was abusive to his family members and did not allow his parents and siblings to stay in his house when they visited the US. Referring to an incident, the husband told the court that his wife had once locked him and his sister out of the house and abused them saying they belonged to a ‘prostitute family’. She refused to allow her sister-in-law to enter the house and even lodged a police complaint against her husband. Taking into accounts all the evidence produced by the husband including abusive voicemails and emails he received from wife, while she was in India, the bench said it was a clear case of mental cruelty and husband was entitled for divorce. “If a spouse abuses the other as being born from a prostitute, this cannot be termed as ‘wear and tear’ of family life. Summoning police on false or flimsy grounds cannot also be similarly viewed. Making it impossible for any close relatives to visit or reside in the matrimonial home would also indubitably result in cruelty to the spouse,” the bench said. The apex court upheld the trial court order which had granted divorce on the basis of husband’s plea. The trial court order was quashed by the high court after which the husband approached the Supreme Court. “We have carefully considered the matter, and find that we are unable to uphold the conclusions of the high court. The appellant (husband) had duly pleaded instances of mental cruelty which he proved in evidence and documents. An examination of the divorce petition makes it abundantly clear that various allegations of cruelty were made out and a number of incidents were mentioned therein,” the apex court said. The bench refused to give credence to wife’s allegations that the husband was living a wayward life and her father-in-law misbehaved, after she failed to produce any evidence to substantiate her claims. (Times of India 26/4/15)

63.  ‘Unnatural sex consent immaterial’ (19)

New Delhi: A Delhi court, while convicting a married man in connection with a rape and sodomy case, observed that consent to indulge in unnatural sex was immaterial. The court held the man guilty of raping and sodomising a woman on the pretext of marriage. The court said the man was already married and thus he made false promises. Additional sessions judge (ASJ) Virender Bhat held Noida resident Prashant Kaushal guilty of the offences saying though the sexual relations between him and the woman were consensual, but the victim’s consent was not free and voluntary as she was falsely assured by him that he was obtaining divorce from his wife and would marry her. “The consent is immaterial so far as carnal intercourse against the order of nature between a man and a woman is concerned and therefore, every act of unnatural sex committed by the accused with the prosecutrix is an offence under Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC,” the court said. The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence next week. The court agreed with the submissions of the defence counsel that instances of physical relations between Kaushal and the woman could not have been forcible all the time. It, however, said that it does appear that the woman was having sexual encounters with the man voluntarily but having belief in her mind that he has filed petition for divorce against his wife and is going to marry her at any cost. (Asian Age 28/4/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

64. Kanhar police firing: Fact-finding team alleges harassment (1)

Meerut: A civil society fact-finding team was briefly detained and allegedly harassed on Sunday by the local police when it was on its way to Kanhar in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh to meet the victims of Kanhar police firing. The State police had opened fire on tribal protesters who had gathered at the site of the under construction Kanhar dam to protest against the land acquisition for the project. Tribal leader Akku Kharwar, a resident of Sundari village, and eight others were seriously injured in the firing, besides 35 others who received minor injuries. The fact-finding team, which comprised CPI (ML) leader Kavita Krishnan, activist Priya Pillai journalists Siddhant Mohan, Abhishek Srivastav, and five others, was forced to leave even before it could reach Sundari village where all the victims of the firing hail from. According to Siddhant, they were detained in Baghadau village on their way to Sundari. They were taken to the Dudhi police station where they were allegedly harassed by the police who threatened to arrest them. According to Ms. Krishnan, the local policemen implicitly threatened women members of rape. “ The guy in plain clothes with cops who claimed he is SDM Dudhi told us women, “chale jayiye varna aapki beizzati ho jayegi, ( you better leave or you will be disrespected),” tweeted Ms. Krishnan on Sunday. She said the manner in which they were “intimidated” by the local policemen and the mob which had allegedly its patronage it appeared that the administration was trying to “hide” some thing about the Kanhar firing and construction of the dam which will, as per the claim of tribal leaders protesting the construction of the dam, result in 87 villages getting submerged. “What is the police trying to hide in villages around Kanhar dam ?? y is the fact finding team being harassed ?,” tweeted Priya Pillai. Later on Sunday, a violent mob started protesting outside the Dudhi hospital when the fact-finding team members were visiting the tribals who were seriously injured in the firing last week. “ An aggressive mob of more than hundred people gathered outside the gate of the hospital and started shouting NGO wale wapas jao, vikas virodhi vapas jao, (NGO people go back, anti-development people go back!),”added Ms. Krishnan. “Police told us that Section 144 was in force in Dudhi. But it seemed that it was only for us and not for the violent mob,” she added. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

65. SC-appointed team to probe woodcutters’ massacre (1)

MADURAI/ TIRUVANNAMALAI: A high-level fact-finding team constituted by human rights watch dog, ‘People’s Watch’ to probe into the alleged encounter killings of 20 Tamil Nadu woodcutters by Andhra special task force emphasized the need for a special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to take up an immediate, independent and impartial probe. In an interim report released in Madurai on Wednesday, the team insisted that the SIT must comprise experienced police officers not belonging to either Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu. “The investigation can, under no circumstances, be conducted by the Andhra Pradesh police in light of the national human rights commission’s (NHRC) guidelines to be followed in case of police action, which specifically emphasizes the ‘principle of impartiality’ of the investigating agency,” the report said. Asserting that the incident appears prima facie a case of “illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, custodial torture and extra-judicial killing”, the team urged the NHRC to conduct an independent detailed inquiry into the incident with the services of its own investigation team. The fact finding team also urged the government to book 20 independent cases of murder against all policemen, who were on duty including the deputy inspector general of police (Andhra Pradesh Res Sanders Anti-smuggling special task force) involved in the killing of 20 woodcutters. “Each one of the 20 cases need to be independently investigated to arrive at a logical conclusion,” the report said. The team demanded a probe by a judicial magistrate as mandated by law and ‘not a magisterial inquiry by an executive magistrate’. It also asked the government to register a case under the provisions of the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act, 1989 as 14 of the 20 victims belong to ST community. It sought the NHRC’s forensic expert panel to re-examine all the postmortem reports, viscera and DNA of all 20 victims besides analyzing the details of gunshot residues in all 20 cases to gather vital evidences. It also urged the commission to make a special note of wireless recordings and transcripts. “Wireless transcripts are crucial evidence in the case as prima facie the case appears to be a planned execution,” the report said. It sought the submission of all mobile call records between April 5 and 8 of all the Andhra Pradesh red sanders anti-smuggling special task force personnel, forest officials, district magistrate (Tirupathi) and superintendent of police (Tirupathi) and that of the 20 slain workers to the NHRC. The team pointed to the nexus among the mafia, bureaucracy, law and order agencies and the political class and regretted that there has been no instance of big mafias and middleman convicted for red sanders smuggling. It sought a detailed and thorough investigation to ensure that powerful people involved in the illegal activity were exposed and convicted. The team also sent copies of the interim reports to all Andhra Pradesh officials including chief secretary I Y R Krishna Rao, principal secretary B Prasada Rao and director general of police J V Ramudu giving them an opportunity to refute or clarify the findings before April 28. (Times of India 23/4/15)

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

Gandhinagar: As many as 61 persons died during police custody in the last five years, the Gujarat government today informed the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel said this while replying to Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani who had sought details about custodial deaths. In her written reply, Patel stated that a total of 61 persons have died in police custody in the last five years (as on November-2014). Out of these, thirty died a natural death, while thirty others committed suicide. Surat city registered seven deaths in police custody, including four suicide cases. Others include Banaskantha district (five deaths) Ahmedabad city (four deaths), Anand (three), Morbi (three), Bhavnagar (three) and Kutch-West (three). (Zee news 26/4/15)

67. Man jumps in front of train alleging police harassment (1)

Bengaluru: A 25-year-old sales executive of an automobile company committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train at Chandapura in Hebbagodi police station limits on Tuesday. He allegedly took the extreme step after being harassed by two police officials who demanded money to bail him out of a case in which he was named. The deceased, Deepu N.K., a native of Arkalgud in Hassan district and a resident of Kittiganahalli here, had been summoned by the Hebbagodi police station on Monday after a family from Mangaluru lodged a missing complaint about a girl by name Akshata, who was his colleague. Deepu’s brother, Hemanth N.K, said: “Deepu met Akshatha at the automobile showroom in Bengaluru when she came from Mangaluru. Since she had not brought her phone and did not have an address proof here, she had sought Deepu’s help.” According to Hemanth, Akshata returned the phone and SIM on March 16 and informed Deepu that she was going to Mumbai as she had found a job there. He, in turn, contacted Akshatha’s sister following which the family members came here and decided to file a missing complaint. The ordeal began at the Hebbagodi police station as Sub Inspector Hanumanthraju and Assistant Sub Inspector Siddaraju allegedly harassed Deepu to find out the whereabouts of Akshata, and threatened to arrest him on kidnap charge. Deepu was allegedly detained at the station the whole day before Hemanth came to his rescue. They allegedly demanded Rs. 5,000 to release him. Hemanth claimed that he managed to get Deepu that night after he promised that he would bring Deepu back to the police station the next morning. On Tuesday morning, Hemanth dropped Deepu to work and went to his workplace near Silk Board. When he returned home, he found a suicide note in which Deepu had written that he was ending his life due to the unbearable police harassment. Deepu’s body was found on the railway tracks near the Chandapura junction on Wednesday morning. His body was shifted to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital for post-mortem and a case of unnatural death has been registered. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

68. No proposal to monitor social media: Ravi Shankar Prasad (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has said there is no proposal to monitor social media on the internet and it has not deputed any team to track the new-age platform. “There is no proposal with the government to monitor social media on the internet,” communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. He said however that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 under Section 79 of the IT Act requires that the intermediaries shall observe due diligence while discharging their duties. The Act also stipulates that intermediaries shall inform users of computer resources not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is harmful, objectionable, affect minors and unlawful in any way, he added. He said the government has formulated a framework and other related guidelines for use of social media by government agencies to increase its own presence in the medium. A new media wing, the minister added, has been set up in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to disseminate information through newly emergent social and concurrent media. (Times of India 22/4/15)

69. India ranks second in cyber attacks through social media (1)

NEW DELHI: Cyber criminals are now using social networking sites to target users in India. According to a report from Symantec, a security solutions provider, India ranked second among nations that were most targeted for cyber crimes through the social media in 2014, after the US. “While email remains a significant attack vector for cybercriminals, they continue to experiment with new methods across mobile devices and social networks to reach more people with less effort. India’s growing social media population proved to be a ready base for them,” said Tarun Kaura, Director, Technology Sales (India), Symantec. He said that in 2014, India had the second highest number of social media scams globally and the highest in the Asia Pacific region. Over 80 per cent of these scams were shared manually as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by friends. (The Hindu 22/4/15)

70. Lankan Muslim Intelligentsia Speaks Up For Harassed Writer (1)

COLOMBO: Fifty-seven top Sri Lankan Muslim academics, journalists, politicians, civil society leaders and human rights activists have appealed to the Lankan authorities to bring to book those who have been harassing and intimidating  Sharmila Seyyid for her writings against the Talibanisation of Lankan Muslim society. Seeking a “thorough and fair” investigation into the complaints made on behalf of Sharmila, the signatories through the appeal have urged the authorities to hold those responsible for all the misconduct accountable. They also requested community religious leaders like the Jamaithul Ulema to take steps to “halt the targeting of fellow Muslims based on spurious religious justifications.” The signatories said that there is a “critical need with Muslim community, for developing processes to respond to issues, not through harassment, but through a process of dialogue.”   A single mother, young Sharmila from Eravur in the Eastern Province, is a poet, novelist, journalist and social worker. She has been writing against the institution of purdah and the subjugation of women in Lanka. What triggered the tirade against her was an interview given to BBC’s Tamil Osai in 2012 in which she said that the sufferings of prostitutes could be mitigated if prostitution was legalised. Arsonists attacked the educational institution she was running, and the social media was liberally used to tarnish her reputation. According to the media, this included an audio of a “lustful” conversation she had allegedly had with a top cop in Tamil Nadu and a picture of her battered “dead body” suggesting that death was in store for her. Forced to flee Lanka, Sharmila is still in exile. (New Indian Express 27/4/15)

71. Freedom of media not for tarnishing others: Kerala minister (1)

Thiruvanathapuram: The freedom that the media gets should not be used to tarnish others, said a Kerala minister on Tuesday. State Excise Minister K Babu, 63, who has won every election since 1991, is currently feeling the heat after a prominent bar owner, Biju Ramesh, named him in a statement to a magistrate that the minister demanded Rs 10 crore to reduce the annual bar licence fee. “This statement of Ramesh is baseless. He says this occurred in 2013. If that be the case, when Ramesh first raised the issue of bribes in the bar scam in October last year, he did not name me nor two other Congress ministers. At that time he said it was state Finance Minister KM Mani who was given Rs 1 crore. In March this year, he says, I sought Rs 10 crore in bribe,” said Babu. “After Ramesh spoke about Rs 10 crore, you (media) have been weaving stories based on his testimony. But what you fail to realise is that by airing false and baseless allegations, a reputation that I built over 49 years fell flat. Please do not do this, the best you can do is to find out if there is any iota of truth…,” said Babu trying to control his tears. “I am taking legal action against Ramesh…I know I will be able to bring out the truth, but will you be able to give me back my image that is now being tarnished,” asked Babu. Babu said that the Chief Minister and his colleagues are with him and that he fears no probe. He denied media reports that there is going to be an overhaul of the Kerala cabinet. (Zee News 28/4/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

72. 1984 riots case: Delhi High Court grants interim bail for 10 days to convict (7)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today granted interim bail of 10 days to Balwan Khokhar, one of the three convicts serving life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, on medical grounds and to attend his son’s marriage. A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Ashutosh Kumar said Khokhar will remain on bail for 10 days from the date of his release and listed the matter for further hearing on May 12. Khokhar said in his bail plea that his son’s marriage is scheduled to take place on April 30. The bench granted him bail on the basis of a medical report submitted by Tihar jail authorities pursuant to the court’s earlier directions. On April 15, the court had called for a medical report after it was informed that the convict broke his hand after falling down in jail. The court had on that day refused to grant bail to co-convict Girdhari Lal. Khokhar was held guilty, along with four others, in a case related to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The ex-councillor has also challenged his conviction and award of life sentence by the trial court in May 2013. The trial court had acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the case but awarded life term to retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Balwan Khokhar and Girdhari Lal. The court had also awarded three years imprisonment to two others — former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. The high court had in September 2013 denied bail to Bhagmal. The convicts have filed their appeals before the High Court while Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also filed its appeal demanding death sentence for the trio, saying they were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”. (DNA 21/4/15)

73. Government should deport Kashmiri separatists to Pakistan: RSS (7)

Jammu: The RSS today came down hard on separatists raising pro-Pakistan slogans, saying they should be deported to Pakistan. “Those who are chanting pro-Pakistan slogans, especially the separatists along with their families, the government of India shall not allow them to live on the soil of Indian nation,” Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar said. “This may result in the peace and prosperity of the Kashmiri nationalists. The government of India should deport all Kashmiri separatist leaders to Pakistan,” he said. Kumar, who is also patron of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, expressed his views at a seminar on the “Challenges before the country and the role of the India’s Muslims”, organised by the Jammu and Kashmir unit of Manch. Kavinder Gupta, Speaker, J-K Constituent Assembly, was the chief guest at the programme. Kumar further said that it is goodwill of people and government in India that people who raise pro-Pakistan slogans are allowed to live on its soil but now the limit of tolerance is over. Kumar also advised J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayed to focus on the development and respect the mandate given by the people and the hand of support to the coalition government forwarded by BJP. Government should work for overall development of the state in all sectors…tourism, education, health, peace and development of the state, he said. Kumar expressed his grave concern over the communal riots that have occurred since Independence in the country. He said this has only resulted in the loss of life and property of the common man. He appealed to the Muslim community not to get exploited in the hands of opportunistic groups like Hurriyat Conference factions and other politicians. “These things add misery to the lives of the people and disturbance to the peace process, prosperity, development, education system of Jammu and Kashmir. This also leads to the increase in the gap between rich and poor,” he said. National Convener, MRM, Haji Mohd Afzal also addressed the gathering and said that there have been only Muslim chief ministers in Jammu and Kashmir and everyone has worked only for his personal benefits and gains. “Contrary to this, MRM is working day and night for the welfare of the minorities of India especially of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. (Indian Express 24/4/15)

74. ‘Won’t allow communal harmony to be disturbed’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Under attack over the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign and recent attacks on churches, the government on Tuesday said it would not tolerate anything that disturbs communal harmony and sought to put the ball in the states’ court, saying they should act against such activities as law and order was their prerogative. Responding to questions in Lok Sabha over conversion, home minister Rajnath Singh said the government wanted an anti-conversion law but noted that India was the only country where minorities did not seek such a law. Replying to a debate on demands for grants of home ministry which was passed, he responded to issues raised by the opposition, including concern over attacks on churches, religious conversions, approach towards separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, left-wing extremism and women’s safety. “I want to assure, especially the minorities, that government will protect them with all its might,” he said. Singh, however, said law and order was a state subject. “States should take strict action. How can the Centre intervene? If it happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the Centre if it is blamed for what happens in states.” He referred to the recent attack on a church in Agra and said he was “sad” about it and added that he was not aware of what action the state government had taken on it. The home minister said attacks on religious places had been occurring for long and there were also instances of vandalism and theft at temples. Hinting that the BJP government was being targeted for political reasons, he said he had figures to prove his point but refrained from making them public as he was not interested in doing politics over such a sensitive issue. “If I was interested in political gains, I would have tabled all statistics over the issue. It will hurt feelings of many people. But it will create an unnecessary controversy… I appeal to all not to do politics over the issue,” he said. Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy referred to the church attack in Agra and said, “What to do when one minority attacks another.” As some opposition members drew his attention to the controversial ‘haramzada’ remark of minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made some time back, Singh was quick to disapprove it, saying, “It is wrong, it will not be tolerated.” In an apparent reference to latest Census figures which showed increased share of minorities, Singh said, “India never expresses concern about changes in demographic profile. No country will allow this change to happen.” Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said comments and actions by Sangh Parivar members, including some ministers, continued despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi disapproving them. “Are they not heeding the prime minister? Their modus operandi is such that they say one thing and do another,” he said, questioning why no action was being taken against such people. In his 75-minute reply to the two-day debate, Singh also rejected the charge that the Modi government was soft on separatists. As Kharge referred to hardcore separatist Masarat Alam, the home minister said he was put behind bars immediately after he led a pro-Pakistan protest. (Times of India 30/4/15)

COMMUNALISM

75. Hindutva is symbol of nationalism, says Jharkhand CM (26)

MEDININAGAR (JHARKHAND):  “The RSS have never compromised with the national interest and nationalism as they were the true devotees of Hindutva, which is a symbol of nationalism,” Mr. Das said. He was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the ‘Raja Bhau Memorial Building’ of the RSS. Mr. Das said political parties have divided the society on caste and creed for political benefit but RSS have risen above such lines and engaged in nation building untiringly. Describing RSS as a ‘cultural centre’, Mr. Das said his government would extend all help to set up such buildings in all the districts of the state. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

76. RSS is answer for Christian forces, says Raghubar Das (26)

Daltonganj: Chief minister Raghubar Das and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) senior leader Dattatreya Hosbole on Tuesday inaugurated RSS cultural centre building in Daltonganj. The building will be used as a co-ordination centre by different wings of RSS and the common man. “RSS is the only organisation in the country that can give a befitting reply to the separatist forces present outside the country who want to turn India into a ‘Christian state’,” said Das while expressing hope that similar centres would also come up in other districts of Palamu commissionary. “The role of RSS that stands for patriotism and dedication to the service of the nation has assumed great significance in recent days as the other outfits are creating trouble in the name of religion or regionalism,” the CM said. Dattatreya Hosbole said, “The RSS pracharak should ensure a large gathering of volunteers at Shakhas (morning meetings) and use this centre for co-ordination among like-minded organisations and workers as well as for serving the poor and deprived children.” Health minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi, BJP legislators Radhakrishna Kishore, Alok Chaurasia and Satyendra Tiwary were among some of the prominent leaders present at the occasion. (Hindustan Times 22/4/15)

77. No cow slaughter ban in NE: BJP (26)

Shillong, April 22: The BJP today indicated that the cow slaughter ban would remain alien to the Northeast. It also reassured that every religious community would live with utmost “peace, safety and security” in the country. The assurance came from BJP general secretary Ram Madhav who accompanied party president Amit Shah during his maiden visit to Meghalaya. Shah arrived here amid a 12-hour shutdown called by the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council in Khasi-Jaintia hills and a protest staged by a civil society group in Shillong, to address party workers and hold discussions with representatives from a cross-section of society. After addressing party workers at the State Convention Centre near Hotel Pinewood, he drove to Hotel Polo Towers to meet representatives from churches, non-Congress political parties and pressure groups. Shah refused to speak to the media although some senior journalists attempted to persuade him to address journalists. On the other hand, Madhav reiterated the party’s stand on protecting the rights of all citizens. Reacting to the protest, he said, “It is a democratic country. People can protest. But their reasons for the protest are misplaced. The BJP is committed to the unity and integrity of the country. India is a country of multiple religions. Plurality is at the heart of this country. Every religious community will live in this country with utmost peace, safety and security. The government will ensure that.” The protesters, led by the Thma U. Rangli Juki, staged a demonstration near Raj Bhavan to oppose Shah’s visit as they listed 13 major points of contention against the BJP government at the Centre. The contentions were on the question of banning cow slaughter and the alleged atrocities perpetrated against Christians. Madhav clarified that there was no proposal to ban cow slaughter in the Northeast. “In some states, ban on cow slaughter has been there for several decades now. In a number of states it is there and in a number of states it is not there, including in all the northeastern states because of the demographic situation here. We are not proposing any such thing here,” he said. He said the cow slaughter ban in states like Maharashtra was essentially based on “certain socio-economic reasons”. “Our governments in different states will review the situation and based on that they will take decisions,” he added. On the BJP’s plan to strengthen the party in the Northeast where its presence is negligible except in Assam, Madhav countered, “The BJP has a good presence in a number of states in the Northeast. We are attaching great importance to the development of the entire region.” He said the party was supporting the government’s initiatives to strengthen the economy of the region as well as creating avenues for connection with a number of neighbouring countries. “We are committed to the development of the Northeast. That is why we are here,” he said. (The Telegraph 23/4/15)

78. Jesus would have been ashamed of his followers: VHP (26)

NEW DELHI: Following the revelation of local reasons behind two church attacks in Agra and Navi Mumbai and the arrest of a few Muslim boys in this connection, VHP said that had Jesus been alive, he would have been ashamed of his followers for spreading lies — that church attacks were engineered by Hindu groups — and abolished the religion. It reiterated that violence against other communities was spread by Christians and not by Hindus. Church functionaries, however, maintain that it’s an undeniable fact that attacks on churches increase whenever there is a BJP government. BJP has denied the allegations and called the opposition “irresponsible” for leveling charges against the government without waiting for investigations to be completed. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “Even in the case of church attacks in Delhi, it was proven that they were cases of theft. In a few other cases also, it has now been proved (that no Hindu group is involved). Despite this, when one of their MPs charges in Parliament that it is because of Modi government that such things are happening, it shows they (Christian groups) have no morality.” He added, “It shows they are following principles exactly opposite to the life of Jesus Christ. Had Jesus been alive today, he would have been ashamed to see the conduct of modern day Christians and would have abolished the religion.” Jain said these cases showed that this was not a majority vs minority case. “It is also not in the nature of Hindus to attack minorities. This is something that Christians have been doing for centuries,” he said. BJP, too, reacted to the developments with scorn for the opposition. “The opposition has spoken out of turn and irresponsibly on the church attack issue. They could have waited for the investigations to be complete but they only did political posturing to malign the government. Recent intelligence reports have also pointed to the fact that there were more attacks on churches during UPA rule and the cases did not even reach their logical conclusion.” Father Victor Peter of St Stephens Church in Delhi, who was part of the delegation that had earlier met home minister Rajnath Singh on the issue, however, said church attacks were still a matter of concern. “Directly, we cannot blame any Hindu group. Hindus are our friends. But I am sorry to say that whenever BJP comes to power, this (church attacks) happens. Although we are thankful that government has provided security to prominent churches, I would love to see the day when all communities live in harmony in the country.” In the case of a recent attack on a church in Agra,UP police have claimed that a jilted lover attacked it, while in the case of the attack on a church in Navi Mumbai, it was found that a man running a gambling den attacked it as the church had complained against his activities. Also, according to West Bengal police, infiltrators from Bangladesh were behind the gang-rape of a 71-year-old nun and vandalism of church in the state. (Tmes of India 25/4/15)

TERRORISM

79. ’26/11 accused have set up Karachi-style control room in jail (12)

NEW YORK: Pakistan-based terror group LeT’s technology chief Zarrar Shah and his fellow militants continue to direct terrorist activity from behind bars under ISI’s watch, setting up in jail a control room like the one in Karachi to oversee the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, a report said. A report in Frontline titled ‘The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind the Mumbai Attacks’ says six years after the 26/11 attacks that brought Mumbai and India to a standstill, the masterminds are still “at large in Pakistan protected by the ISI, an intelligence service that is nominally a US ally.” “Even the defendants behind bars are still a threat. Shah, Lashkar’s technology and communications chief, and his fellow militants continue to direct terrorist activity from the prison,” the report quoted current and former Western and Indian counterterror officials as saying. “They’re able to continue operating unfettered there,” former State Department intelligence analyst Tricia Bacon said in the report. “The control room that they once had in Karachi to oversee the Mumbai attacks they essentially now have in the prison in the middle of the military capital in Pakistan ( Rawalpindi),” Bacon said. The report is an update of the documentary ‘American Terrorist’ on LeT operative David Coleman Headley, who had scouted targets across Mumbai that were then attacked by 10 Pakistani terrorists during the three-day siege on Mumbai. The new report details the story of Headley’s eventual capture as well as the secret surveillance of Mumbai plotters that took place before and during the attack. “That’s another reason why Headley’s story is still relevant. Justice has not been done,” the report said. (Times of India 23/4/15)

80. Centre asks J&K to be ready for separatist bandh (12)

New Delhi: As Jammu and Kashmir is simmering under fresh tension once again with separatists planning protests against the slapping of fresh charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA) against Hurriyat leader Massarat Aalam, the Centre has stepped in and cautioned the state government over the separatists’ congregation and their plans for another Srinagar shut-down. The Union home ministry has written to the state government about the dangers of the congregation of the anti-India elements over the re-slapping of the PSA charges against Aalam. The MHA wrote to the J&K government this week advising them to gear up the full intelligence and law-enforcing machinery to ensure public safety and security in the state in view of the separatists’ assembly and their call for a shut-down of the Valley. In its letter sent a day ago, the MHA cautioned that public order must be maintained at all costs without any threat to the common citizens in the state. The ministry has also advised the state government to seek any additional assistance that they may require in view of the above planned events from the Central government as soon as possible. The Jammu & Kashmir government on Wednesday evening booked Hurriyat leader Massarat Aalam under the Public Safety Act (PSA), rendering irrelevant his pending bail plea which was to come up in court on Saturday. Aalam was released last month after being detained for four-and-a-half years under six consecutive PSAs. Aalam was arrested on April 17 for participating in a pro-Independence rally where pro-Pakistan slogans and flags were raised and booked under various Sections — including Sections 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint), 336 (endangering life), 427 (damage to property), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 121 (sedition), 124 (A) (waging war against state) — and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His bail plea bail came before the chief judicial magistrate Budgam on Wednesday, who reserved the decision for Saturday. (Asian Age 25/4/15)

81. Burdwan blast: JMB Indian wing member sent to NIA custody (12)

Kolkata: A city court on Monday sent Ibrahim Sheikh, an alleged leading member of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh’s (JMB) Indian wing, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody till May 8 in connection with the Burdwan blast case. The NIA counsel sought Ibrahim alias Lal Mohammad’s custody saying he was caught with ammunition, firearms and crude bombs. Ibrahim is said to hail from Nabagram in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district and a member of the Majlis-e-shura (central committee) of the JMB. Picked up from Jaharkhan’s Pakur on April 20, and sent to NIA custody there, he was brought to Kolkata on a transit remand. The investigating agencies have alleged that he was the in-charge of the Fatimatul Mukimnagar Madarsa in Murshidabad, which is closely linked to JMB. Police had shut and sealed off the madarsa after the October 2 Burdwan blast. The NIA filed the charg esheet last month, naming 21 people including 4 Bangladeshi nationals. Of the 21 charge sheeted, the agency so far has arrested 13 while 8 others are absconding. The chargesheet claimed that AJMB – a proscribed terrorist organisation in Bangladesh – had hatched the conspiracy to overthrow the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh through violent terrorist acts and replace it with hard-line Sharia-based Islamic rule. The accidental blast took place in a house in Khagragarh in Burdwan district on October 2, killing two JMB militants and injuring another, which brought the conspiracy out in the open. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

82. Bombay High Court allows MCOCA, UAPA together (12)

Mumbai: In a landmark judgment, the Bombay high court on Tuesday held that an accused can be booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a terrorism-related case. The division bench of Justice P.V. Hardas and Justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was hearing an appeal filed by the government of Maharashtra challenging the order passed on August 2, 2014, by a special MCOCA court that had discharged all the accused from MCOCA in Pune’s Junglee Maharaj bomb blasts case. After that, the court had transferred the case to a regular court so that the accused could be tried under UAPA and Indian Penal Code (IPC). The bench set aside the MCOCA court’s order that had said that an accused could not be booked under both the Acts at the same time in a single case because MCOCA deals with organised crime done for pecuniary gain while UAPA deals with terrorism activities and the objects of both are different. Special public prosecutor Raja Thakre had contended that the order passed by the trial court was “perverse and bad in law.” It was argued that the conclusion of the special judge, that the provisions of MCOCA could not be attracted to the act committed in the present case, as they were acts of terrorism, is “erroneous”. The MCOCA court had passed the order while hearing an application filed by an accused Firoz alias Hamaja Abdul Hamid Sayyed seeking discharge from MCOCA saying that he was booked for committing the same crime under MCOCA, a special state enactment, and also the Central UAPA. The ATS had arrested nine accused for allegedly conspiring and planting bombs at two of the six targeted spots on Junglee Maharaj Road. Five of the six on August 1, 2012, leaving one person injured. (Asian Age 29/4/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

83. Rifles, bullets and can bombs recovered during anti-naxal (12)

Sasaram: Security forces today recovered three rifles, two bullets and two can bombs planted under a road bridge during anti-naxal operation in Bihar’s Rohtas district today. Deputy Inspector General of Police Sahabad range Mohammad Rahman said following information about Maoists presence in Oardaja village in forest of Kaimur a joint team of CRPF and state police launched a combing operation. The security forces recovered three rifles and two bullets, the DIG said. While returning, the security forces found two can bombs planted under a road bridge in Alampur road. The can bombs weighed 15 kg and 10 kg respectively, he said. (Business Standard 22/4/15)

84. Maoist courier held with fabric for rebels (12)

Raipur: The Dantewada police have arrested a person who was allegedly carrying fabric to be used for uniforms of the Maoists. Around 220 metre of Raymond fabric was seized from Pukhraj Chandak, a resident of Geedam in Dantewada, yesterday. According to Dantewada SP Kam Lochan Kashyap, Chandak had taken an order from a Darbha-based Maoist Deva, member of the Darbha Division Committee of CPI (Maoist). “Pukhraj brought this cloth from Ahmedabad and was going in his vehicle to deliver it to Deva when he was arrested,” Kashyap said. Chandak had been acting as a Maoist courier and had earlier supplied them medicines, ration, uniforms and other material, said the police. This is the not the first instance that quality fabric was seized by the state police that was allegedly meant for the uniforms of Maoists. In 2007, two Bilaspur-based top cloth merchants were arrested from whom the then spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee had purchased a large quantity of cloth, which was subsequently stitched into uniforms by a Raipur-based tailor. While the cloth traders had admitted to selling the fabric, they claimed ignorance about its end use. Maoists also have tailoring units in Bastar where special units of guerrillas stitch uniforms for their comrades. Considering that Bastar has at least 6000 armed cadres, these units almost regularly stitch uniforms. This correspondent earlier met one such Maoist couple, Kanker-based Naresh and Preeti, who never participated in any ambush as their chief task was to stitch uniforms. Since they live an extremely tough life in forests, they pointed out, their leaders often provide them quality fabric to ensure that the uniforms last longer. (Indian Express 22/4/15)

85. Home ministry finalizing roads to be built in Naxal-affected areas (12)

NEW DELHI: In a move to provide road connectivity to more Naxal-affected areas, the home ministry is finalizing the list of roads and bridges to be built in consultation with security forces and state governments. The home secretary has also informed the road transport ministry that its proposal to earmark Rs 12,000 crore for the second phase of Road Requirement Plan (RRP) is under “active consideration”.Sources said road transport minister Nitin Gadkari has written to home minister Rajnath Singh to take up the earmarking of Rs 12,000 crore for this new set of road network with finance minister Arun Jaitley. Gadkari has written that road development is vital for development and to combat the menace of Naxalism and that the work needs to start without any delay. He has said that his ministry is not in a position to sustain the second phase of RRP from its limited financial allocation as done in the case of RRP-I. TOI on February 8 had first reported how the government is keen to build new roads in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) impacted areas. Government officials said that at least 7,300 km roads would be built under this programme and it would cover more states and districts in comparison to the first leg of this special road development scheme. The Road Requirement Plan II will cover 34 districts in states, including Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Sources said the home ministry is preparing a comprehensive plan and it would be forwarded to the finance ministry soon. (Times of India 25/4/15)

86. Maoist leaders on hunger strike shifted to hospital (12)

BERHAMPUR: Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda and former Maoist mediator during abductions Dandapani Mohanty, who are on hunger strike, were shifted from Berhampur circle jail to MKCG Medical College and Hospital in the city. According to Senior Superintendent of Berhampur circle jail, Raghunath Majhi, both had to be shifted to the Medical College Hospital as their condition deteriorated because of fasting. Sabyasachi had been shifted to the hospital on Sunday, while Dandapani was shifted on Monday. According to the physicians treating both these Maoists, their condition was out of danger. Armed police force had to be deployed to keep watch on these two persons under treatment in the hospital. Sabyasachi had started his hunger strike on April 22 to protest against his solitary confinement and alleged curbing of his basic rights. Earlier he had observed hunger strike for five days from March 31 on the same demands. Then also he had been admitted in MKCG Medical College and Hospital, where he had ended his fast. Dandapani had started hunger strike inside the jail on April 24 demanding status of political prisoner. He was arrested in February 2013 for his alleged involvement in Maoist activities. He had served as mediator for the Maoists during talks with State government for release of abducted Malkangiri collector in 2011 and two Italian tourists in Kandhamal district in 2012. (The Hindu 28/4/15)

TRAFFICKING

87. Accused in human trafficking case held (1)

KOCHI: An accused in a human trafficking case, absconding since 2012, was detained at the Mumbai International Airport. A CBI-issued lookout notice was pending against Siraj of Chazoor, Thrissur, and he was held on arrival at the airport. A team of CBI officers had left for Mumbai, and they would record Siraj’s arrest. He would be brought to Kochi on Wednesday. “He had left the country in 2012, fearing arrest. Later, the CBI issued a lookout circular against him. On Sunday we received information from Mumbai that Siraj had landed at the airport,” a CBI source said. Siraj was one among the 13 against whom the CBI had filed a chargesheet before the Ernakulam chief judicial magistrate on February 25 this year. Siraj was allegedly an agent of K V Suresh of Valapad, the first accused, who ran prostitution rackets in Muscat, Sharjah, Dubai and Ajman. Suresh and another accused, Varghese Raphel of Champakkara, were yet to be nabbed. With the help of other accused, Suresh recruited women from poor families from different parts of Kerala promising jobs abroad and forced them into prostitution. The racket was busted after a 19-year-old woman from Kazhakoottam was detained with fake passport while attempting to go to the UAE. The trafficking was carried out through Nedumbassery and Trivandrum International Airport. Two police officers on deputation to the emigration section at Nedumbassery, Raju Mathew and Prashant Kumar, allegedly helped the accused. (Times of India 21/4/15)

88. Italian PM declares war on human traffickers (1)

Rome: Amid a tragic surge in the number of migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday declared war on the human traffickers organising the perilous boat journeys. “We need to be aware that we are fighting a war against human traffickers,” Renzi told the Italian Senate or upper house of parliament. “There is no similar experience in history to the trading of human meat apart from slavery.” His comments came as European Union (EU) leaders were due to hold a summit on Mediterranean migrant crisis following Sunday’s boat disaster in which as many as 950 people are feared to have drowned when their boat capsized and sank off the Libyan coast. It was one of the worst maritime disasters since World War II and many of the victims, including women and children, were locked inside the hull and the middle deck of the 20-metre boat “like rats in a cage”, according to one of the 28 survivors of the tragedy. The boat’s Tunisian skipper and another crew member were arrested on charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and people smuggling =when they reached Sicily aboard a coast guard vessel. In an earlier address to Italy’s lower house of parliament, Renzi said he was optimistic that the EU would do more to tackle the Mediterranean migrant crisis in the wake of Sunday’s disaster. “We need a political strategy, which means asking Europe to do more than just agree on a budget,” Renzi said. An EU team should manage asylum requests in Libya amid “a strong presence” of international organisations there aimed at deterring migrants from setting sail, Renzi said. More than 1,700 migrants have perished in the last week alone attempting to reach Europe from North Africa by boat across the southern Mediterranean. The number of migrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year is 30 times higher than the same period in 2014,according to the UN refugee agency. “I hope the (EU) summit is not just a learned club of specialist experts who know all the geopolitical dynamics, but forget to give a response to the pain. “The lack of a response will suffocate an entire generation that is fleeing, risking their lives and not just to see new places,” Renzi stated. At talks in Luxembourg on Monday, EU ministers agreed on a 10-point plan to double the resources available to its much-criticised maritime border patrol mission Triton. Further measures were due to be discussed at Thursday’s summit of EU leaders. Police in Palermo arrested 15 people on Monday in connection with a smuggling ring they say was masterminded by an Ethiopian and an Eritrean who have made over $110 million from trafficking migrants in the past two years. (New Kerala 22/4/15)

89. Panel investigating ‘trafficking’ case (1)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on Saturday started investigations as to whether the children rescued from Panjim in Goa were transported from Kolhapur with legal permission. Priya Chorage, chairperson of the Kolhapur Child Welfare Committee said four minors and two teenagers from Kolhapur were rescued from the custody of a British national on April 16. “As none of the Goa authorities contacted either the Kolhapur committee or the local police, we were completely unaware of their condition. We came to know about the incident yesterday and have tried contacting authorities. As per our primary information, the children were either HIV positive or very poor. Prima facie evidence shows that a private company, which was running a hospital in Kolhapur moved them to Goa,” Chorage said. She said no agency is allowed to move children in distress without CWC’s permission. “A Kolhapur resident, who transported them to Goa, said that the children were under his protection till July and since the place where they were treated was shut down in July 2014, he moved them to Goa. It has to be investigated whether it is a case of human trafficking,” she added. The Shahupuri police visited the company office in Kadamwadi. The police are also contacting their Goa counterparts for more information. “We are helping the CWC investigate whether there are illegalities in the case. As of now, we have received no complaints from either parents of the children or from any agency,” A D Choudhari, inspector of Shahupuri division said. (Times of India 26/4/15)

CORRUPTION

90. 50 corruption cases so far this year in Nashik (5)

NASHIK: The Nashik anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has registered 50 cases of bribery in the last three-and-a-half months this year, which is marginally higher than the ones recorded during the corresponding period in 2014. Till April 17, the Nashik ACB has registered 49 cases of traps and one of disproportionate assets. During the same period last year, it recorded did such 47 cases. Among those trapped by the ACB’s Nashik Range are five class I officers, six class II officers, 43 class III, two class IV and eight others. The Jalgaon wing of the ACB tops the chart with 16 cases, followed by Nashik (13), Ahmednagar (8), Dhule (7) and Nandurbar (5). One case of disproportionate assets was reported from Jalgaon. Senior officials attributed the rising number of cases to the general awareness among the citizens with respect to the functioning of the ACB. They also lauded the efforts taken by ACB personnel in spreading awareness at various government departments and public spots, mainly at market places in the rural areas as well as in schools and colleges. Praveen Pawar, superintendent of police of ACB (Nashik range), said, “Our department has also made use of social networking sites and launched a cellphone application for the citizens to report cases of bribes demanded by government servants.” ACB officials said awareness drives would be conducted in colleges and other educational institutes as the younger generation uses smart phones on a large scale. Besides, the ACB also has a helpline which was used by the people to report demands of bribes by public servants. The officials said maximum number of people trapped in bribery cases were those from the revenue department, followed by the police and zilla parishad. Earlier, the Nashik range of the ACB had recorded the highest number of convictions of public servants in bribery cases in the state in 2014. The conviction rate of those arrested by the Nashik unit was 43%, followed closely by Aurangabad at 41%.Among the other ACB units in the state, the conviction rate of those arrested by the Thane unit was 38%, Nanded (36%), Mumbai (31%) and Pune (20%).In 2013, the conviction rate of those arrested by the Nashik unit stood at 16%, while it was a mere 15% in 2012. An ACB official told TOI that the Nashik unit deployed an employee in every court where anti-corruption cases were being heard. This was done to ensure that all documents and material needed to support the chargesheets filed against those booked in the bribery cases were in place, he said. (Times of India 21/4/15)

91. Central Vigilance Commission wants action on 34 senior bureaucrats (5)

New Delhi: In a bid to crack down on corrupt babus in the country, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has advised sanction of prosecution against 34 senior officials of various Central ministries and departments in the last one month alone. The suspected role of these officials is being probed by the CBI in several corruption cases. According to sources, prosecution sanctions have also issued by the competent authorities to the CBI in respect of eight officials, including two IAS officers. Besides, the anti-corruption watchdog has advised initiation of major penalty proceedings against 190 officials of Central ministries and departments in the country. “The concerned departments and ministries will soon initiate penalty proceedings against the officials,” sources said. Recently, the CVC asked chairmen and managing directors of all Central public sector enterprises, including those of navratnas and maharatnas, to hand over cases involving financial fraud to the CBI only. Taking instances of some CPSEs referring cases, involving high-value frauds, to the local police, the CVC instructed public sector undertakings to refer all incidents — involving transactions up to Rs 25 lakh and above — to the CBI. The commission also asked chief vigilance officers (CVOs) of all CPSEs to interact with CBI sleuths on regular basis and share quarterly reports of their respective organisations with the CBI. “The CVOs of the CPSEs are required to interact frequently and exchange information with the CBI on a quarterly basis,” the order issued by the CVC in this regard said. The CVC, in terms of its powers under Section 8(1) of the CVC Act-2003, exercises its function of superintendence over the vigilance administration of the CPSEs. The CVC noticed instances of some CPSEs referring cases — prima facie involving criminal offences, financial irregularities and high-value frauds — to the local police instead of the CBI, sources said. The commission has now advised all CPSEs to strictly adhere to the laid-down procedure and principles as in the special chapter for vigilance management in CPSEs. (Asian Age 26/4/15)

92. Jayalaithaa’s disproportionate assets case: SC terms special public prosecutor’s appointment… (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Tamil Nadu government has no authority to appoint special public prosecutor in J Jayalaithaa’s disproportionate assets case. “Karnataka has the power of being the sole prosecuting agency in the case,” the SC bench added. The SC said that the appointment of Bhawani Singh as special public prosecutor is “bad in law”.Bhawani Singh was appointed as special public prosecutor by Tamil Nadu’s directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC). A three-judge bench, however, said that there is no justification in holding the case afresh. It, however, allowed the Karnataka government and DMK leader K Ambazhagan to file written submission before the HC, which has already reserved its verdict in the case. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said that HC verdict must reflect the court took into account their written submission. The apex court had on April 17 extended Jayalalithaa’s bail till the Karnataka high court disposed of her appeal against her conviction and sentencing. The four others whose bail was also extended were Jayalalithaa’s aides N Sasikala, VN Sudhakaran, and J Elasvarasi. The apex court on December 18, 2014 had extended their bail by four months with a direction to the high court to hear their appeal and pronounce verdict by April 17, 2015. The Bengaluru trial court had convicted Jayalalithaa for possessing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income and sentenced her to four jail terms and Rs 100 crore fine. The case lasted for about 18 years. The case relates to the period from 1991 to 1996 involving Rs 66.65 crore when Jayalalithaa became chief minister for the first time. (Times of India 27/4/15)

93. CVC: No need of our probe in cases where corruption angle is ruled out (5)

NEW DELHI: The Central Vigilance Commission has liberalized a significant part of vigilance administration for cases against senior officials, empowering departments with a major say in inquiries. According to a circular issued on Monday, CVC has said if inquiries by chief vigilance officer (CVO) of a department in complaints against senior officials do not indicate prima facie vigilance angle (corruption) and relate to administrative lapses, the case would be decided by the department concerned. Until now, all reports into inquiries against senior officials had to be referred to CVC even if there was no evidence of corruption. The order would impact vigilance administration against Group A officers in central government and same level of officers in public sector banks, PSUs, insurance companies, financial institutions, societies and other local authorities notified by the government under the CVC Act. A senior official said the CVC on an average receives about 1500 reports of inquiries into complaints of corruption and malpractice in a year. “Of them about 500 do not contain any vigilance/corruption angle and only involve administrative lapses. These 500 can now be decided by departments concerned,” he said. “It has been decided that, henceforth after inquiry/investigation by the CVO in complaints/matters relating to Category A officers as well as composite cases, wherein, category B officers are also involved, if the allegations, on inquiry do not indicate prima facie vigilance angle/corruption and relate to purely non-vigilance/administrative lapses, the case would be decided by the CVO and the DA (disciplinary authority) concerned of the public servant at the level of ministry/department/organization concerned,” the circular said. CVO’s recommendation for administrative or disciplinary action that until now had to be sent to CVC can be decided in the department itself, it said. However, the circular said the liberalized rule would only apply to complaints that CVOs or the department receives. The new rule “would not apply to the complaints received by the Commission and referred for investigation and report to the CVO,” it said. The liberalized rules would also not apply to whistle blower complaints. (Times of India 28/4/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

94. Unscientific sewage disposal threatens Shimla’s environment (9)

SHIMLA: Unscientific disposal of sewage and solid waste is threatening the pristine environment and water sources of the Queen of Hills, as Shimla was fondly called by the British colonial rulers. Its wooded deodars, Raj-style structures and chuckling peaks on the horizon may lure you, but it’s not an easygoing effort as the shortage of water and parking lots here will leave you high and dry. These observations came to light in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that highlights the inadequacies of the Shimla Municipal Corporation. It says that just 13 percent of the sewage generated in Shimla is treated and the rest is left in the open – despite Rs.74 crore ($12 million) being spent for installing six treatment plants. Planned for a maximum population of 16,000, Shimla is home to 170,000 people as per the 2011 census and generates 30.09 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage. The CAG said the utilisation of six sewerage treatment plants was only 4.8 MLD (13 percent) against the installed capacity of 35.63 MLD. Worn-out sewers and non-existence of a sewerage network are the main reasons for non-tapping of sewage. It said the untreated sewage, which remained untapped, is left in the open, affecting the environment adversely. Then, approximately 85-90 tonnes of garbage is generated in the city daily, of which only 70 tonnes is treated. The CAG pointed out that 131,218 tonnes of garbage was generated during 2009-14 against which 124,100 tonnes was collected by the Shimla Municipal Corporation, resulting in short collection of 7,118 tonnes. Only 104,025 tonnes of garbage was transported for treatment and the remaining 27,193 tonnes remained untreated. The municipal corporation’s commissioner, in his reply to the CAG, spoke of limited means to transport the garbage, but admitted that the treatment plant was not utilized to its optimal capacity. Treatment of solid waste is not effective and eco-friendly, the report said, adding: the unscientific disposal of the solid waste had an adverse impact on the environment and water bodies.Official sources said the normal demand is 42 million litres per day, but the availability ranged from 35 million to 37 million MLD. The CAG report says the city is getting water only for 1.2 hours a day against the 24-hour norm. Even the water supplied is less than the prescribed limit of 135 litres per capita per day. From 2009-14, the corporation had supplied 110 litres per capita per day. Moreover, the quality of water supplied could not be certified in the absence of an independent analyst. “During the summer (from May to June), we are getting water supply once in two or three days, and that too only in the morning,” Gian Thakur, a retired government employee who has been long settled in Shimla, told IANS. He said the water shortage problem began in the early 1990s. The state capital remains chock-a-block with vehicles owing to shortage of parking lots, especially during the peak tourist seasons — from May to June and November to January. The government auditor said as of March 2014, there were 20 parking lots with a capacity of 585 vehicles, including 485 four-wheelers. According to tourism industry representatives, Shimla gets 20,000 to 30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak season. The Urban Development Department said that to check traffic jams, the department plans to carve out 49 parking lots that can accommodate over 2,000 vehicles. He said four parking slots, which can hold 1,524 vehicles, are in the final stage of completion, while a Rs.26 crore multi-level parking complex at Sanjauli in Shimla was inaugurated April 9. (Times of India 21/4/15)

95. Air pollution to be in focus at north zonal meet (9)

NEW DELHI: Increasing air pollution in Delhi is to be the focus of the meeting of Northern Zonal Council (NCZ) on Saturday. The meeting will consider the recommendations of a high level committee that was constituted by the city government on air pollution, including adoption of dust suppression methods at construction sites across Delhi and its neighbouring areas and transportation of all building materials and debris in closed trucks. Generation of dust at construction sites has been cited as one of the major reasons of rising air pollution in NCR. The committee has suggested that all states must follow the dust suppression measures. In Delhi, this will be enforced by Delhi Police and pollution control department. Cracking down on this menace, National Green Tribunal (NGT) had recently ordered that dust from construction sites should be completely controlled and the vehicles used for transportation of building material must be properly cleaned before being permitted to ply on the roads. Huge number of real estate projects and other infrastructure works are under progress in NCR. Saturday’s meeting will be chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and will be attended by chief ministers, ministers and top officials from all the north Indian states. The Delhi government is likely to push the need of setting up of air pollution monitoring stations across the region and also fixing display boards at different locations indicating the level of air pollution as it is being done in the capital. TOI has learnt that the issue of delay in construction of two peripheral expressways around Delhi – Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) and Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE) – would come up for discussion in the meeting. Road transport ministry and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will have to explain the delay in awarding contract for EPE. The two expressways are planned to function as bypass for trucks and commercial vehicles that pass through Delhi. Sources said that the feasibility of building U-turns and underpasses at the borders would also be discussed at the meeting. The high level committee of Delhi government has suggested this as the NGT has ordered that no more than 10-year-old diesel vehicles should be allowed to enter Delhi. “You have to have a facility to send them back, else huge number of old trucks halting on the border would choke all the National Highways joining Delhi,” a government source said. (Times of India 25/4/15)

96. Earthquake: 34 people killed, hundreds injured in India (9)

NEW DELHI: At least 26 people were today killed and over 100 injured as a powerful earthquake that originated in Nepal shook large parts of northern and eastern India, damaging houses and buildings and sparking panic among the people. In Bihar, which adjoins Nepal, 17 people died and 48 were injured in incidents of wall and roof collapse as the quake measuring measuring 7.9 on Richter scale and the aftershocks sent ripples across the country around noon. Tremors were felt in almost all states in northern, eastern and northeastern parts of India, including national capital New Delhi, over 1100 kilometres from the Nepalese capital. Three people were killed in West Bengal in the temblor and at least 69 others including 43 school children were injured. In Uttar Pradesh, at least six persons were killed and over a dozen injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the chief ministers of various states and convened a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation. He directed immediate dispatch of relief and rescue teams to earthquake-affected areas of the country as well as Nepal and ordered proper arrangements for evacuating stranded tourists from that country. Six people died in Bihar’s East Champaran and four in Sitamarhi districts which share borders with Nepal, the epicentre of the quake, special secretary to the disaster management department Anirudh Kumar told . Darbhanga reported two deaths, while one death each were reported from Supaul, Araria, West Champaran, Sheohar and Saran, he said adding 48 people were injured in quake-related incidents in various parts of the state, which was hit by a devastating storm that claimed 55 lives on Tuesday night. National Disaster Response Force teams have been rushed to many districts and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is rushing back to Patna from New Delhi. In West Bengal, where a state-wide civic election is on, theree persons were killed in quake related incidents. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said two persons had died in Darjeeling and one in Jalpaiguri district. Sixty-nine people were injuerd in Malda district in three places in roof collapse and stampede like situation as people inside buildings tried to rush out, district authorities said. In Sikkim, the earthquake triggered landlsides in various parts of the mountain state, official sources said. But there was no report of any loss of life so far, they said. In Uttar Pradesh, three deaths were reported from Barabanki district adjoining the state capital, two were reported from Gorakhpur and one from Sant Kabir Nagar. A woman and two children were killed when an under-construction wall collapsed in Basantapur village in Mohammadpur Khala area in Barabanki. In Gorakhpur, two persons, including a two-and-a-half -year-old child, were killed, police said. An eight-year-old girl was killed when a house collapsed in Purwa village in Mehdawal area in Sant Kabir Nagar. The earthquake was epicentred at Lamjung, around 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu. (Times of India 25/4/15)

97. Pashupatinath stands tall amid Nepal earthquake destruction (9)

MUMBAI: Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal shares an astounding similarity with the flash floods that hit Uttarakhand in June 2013. Just as the Kedarnath temple stood firm when all around it collapsed, the shrine of Pashupatinath remains intact although structures in the same complex have crumbled. Both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath are signature temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in their respective hilly regions. Shiva is both creator and destroyer of the Universe. Religious experts are overawed at this miraculous coincidence. Spiritual guru Mukesh Trivedi from Borivli says the fact that both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath stand tall can be partly attributed to their sturdy and scientific construction centuries ago. “Our forefathers prepared the temple layout with vast boundaries so that many square yards around the shrine were left undisturbed. Now new constructions have encroached upon this territory without a care for environmental balance,” he says. Acharya Avdhesh Kumar Pandey of Birla Mandir, New Delhi, says, “Natural calamities become a time for man to introspect. It is humbling to see Kedarnath and Pashupatinath both remain untouched. The intent behind the construction of a temple matters greatly. These days, large trusts build grand temples and install donation boxes with a view to generating wealth. It shocks me to see that even the idol is sometimes installed without ‘pran pratishtha’ (consecration). Some sell tickets even to enter, and charge money for boarding and lodging. In olden days temple trusts welcomed sages and saints with grace, and made provision for langar and dharamshalas for visitors. Now they build factories with temple collections.” Ramesh Gandhi, spokesman of Mumbai’s Babulnath temple, says, “Both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath are ‘akhand’ (indestructible) because these are considered the holy seat of Lord Shiva.” Mukeshbhai says the warnings contained in the Uttarakhand floods have gone unheeded. “Shrines cannot be treated like picnic spots. Excess tourism and commercialization is detrimental to the peace of these temple towns. Lodges and roads are built on fragile rocky ground. Instead of reopening the shrines within months of the disaster to resume earning revenue, the government should regulate visitors and allow online darshan,” he says. (Times of India 28/4/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

98. ‘Only 3 Maharashtra farmers ended life due to unseasonal rain (20)

MUMBAI: A day after TOI reported about 601 farmer suicides in the state between January and March this year, Union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh told Parliament that only three had committed suicide in the state due to unseasonal rains. TOI’s report was based on state government data. The Union minister said that his figures were based on a report from the state government. “I am basing my answer on reports provided by state governments on farmer suicides caused by unseasonal rains and hailstorms. I do not know how credible these are,” Singh told Parliament. The state Congress has accused the BJP-led state government of trying to hoodwink the public and threatened a state-wide agitation. “The BJP government is totally insensitive. Who will believe such low figures,” asked Congress MP and state party chief Ashok Chavan. “We will launch a state-wide agitation seeking total loan waiver and compensation for kin of affected farmers,” he added. Later, state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said there was no contradiction between the figures. He told a TV channel, “There were 601 farmer suicides between January and March, of which 141 were eligible for relief, but only three were linked to unseasonal rains and hailstorms.” (Times of India 21/4/15)

99. Farmer’s suicide at AAP rally: Police to probe role of volunteers, abetment angle (20)

New Delhi: Delhi Police have filed an FIR and assigned the crime branch to probe the suicide of Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan who hanged himself from a tree at an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rally in Jantar Mantar on Wednesday. He was later declared brought dead at a city hospital. The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharging duty) against unknown persons. Describing the suicide of the farmer at his rally venue as “an extremely sad incident”, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the matter. The Delhi government has asked the district magistrate of the area (New Delhi district) to probe the entire incident. Special commissioner of police (law and order) Deepak Mishra confirmed the registration of FIR. He said that an inquiry by an officer of the level of joint commissioner had begun. Joint commissioner of New Delhi range, Mukesh Meena, had been appointed to inquire into the incident. Meena will probe the role of police officers at the spot.Police said the AAP too had flouted rules by getting a gathering of more than 5,000 people. On Tuesday, New Delhi DCP Vijay Singh had written to AAP member Neeraj Kumar asking him to shift the venue of the protest to Ramlila Maidan in view of intelligence reports that their gathering was estimated to be around 20,000. Police said that they had not granted permission to the AAP to hold the gathering at Jantar Mantar. Police said they would take statements of eyewitnesses to probe if Singh was instigated to end his life. Police will probe the role of the volunteers who stopped the officers at the spot from taking the victim in their ambulance.“It was so confusing. The man was hanging from the tree and people on the stage were asking others to maintain order. They seemed to be trying to help, but I just fail to understand why they didn’t end the rally as soon as the man hung himself,” said Pankaj Sharma, a resident of Laxmi Nagar who had gone to attend the AAP’s farmer rally. Even as news of the death of Singh spread, hundreds of people like Sharma wondered why the rally went on despite the sad turn of events. Social networking websites were abuzz with remarks from people who questioned whether political mileage was more important than the life of a farmer. “The man died in front of everyone and yet a group of teachers continued their chants against Arvind Kejriwal and speakers on the stage continued to talk about how sad it was that the farmer had to die. Within minutes, people forgot that a man had killed himself in front of their eyes,” said Nirmal Kanwal, who had come from Maharashtra. Insensitive statements started soon after. Cornered, AAP leaders put their foot in their mouths repeatedly. While senior leader Ashutosh said party members and volunteers were not trained to scale walls and sarcastically remarked that Kejriwal should have climbed the tree to save Gajendra, Sanjay Singh said even the BJP has continued with its rally in Patna despite bomb threats. Party MLA from Malviya Nagar Somnath Bharti tweeted that the suicide was a conspiracy. Later, Ashutosh apologised for the statement and Bharti deleted his tweet. According to party spokespersons, cutting short the rally was not feasible as the crowd was incensed. “Had we ended the rally, commotion would have ensued. We were on the stage managing the crowd. If he hadn’t done that it could have become a stampede,” Singh said. Twitter, however, reacted harshly, rejecting the party’s statement and asking why the party didn’t have a more humane response. The CM, meanwhile, condoled Gajendra’s death and said the matter will be looked into. (Hindustan Times 23/4/15)

100. Crops in 189 lakh hectare damaged due to unseasonal rains (20)

New Delhi: The government on Monday told parliament that crops in 189 lakh hectare have been damaged due to the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms in the country. Responding to an exhaustive debate in the Rajya Sabha on the agrarian crisis, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the data is based on the reports received from the affected states. “The centre took immediate cognisance of the situation and decided to relax the compensation norms for crop damage,” he said. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reduced the eligibility norms for compensation for crop losses from 50 to 33 percent. “Central government also allowed states to disburse 20 percent of amount available with the State Disaster Relief Fund to the affected farmers,” he said. The debate was taken up in the upper house last Thursday after a farmer committed suicide at an anti-land acquisition bill rally of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. However, dissatisfied with the minister’s reply, Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress staged a walkout. Congress also staged a walkout with Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad citing absence of food minister and home minister as a non-serious approach by government. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

101. Farmer’s suicide case: Cops probing who wrote suicide note (20)

NEW DELHI: Cops probing the death of Gajendra Singh at AAP’s rally last Wednesday are coordinating with forensic officials to ascertain whether the suicide note recovered from the spot was hurriedly written on the spot at Jantar Mantar and by someone else. The note had been flashed by AAP functionaries and a TV channel immediately after Gajendra’s death. A source said that initial discussions with CFSL officials suggest that the note was written “hurriedly”. The style of a few letters seems different from the pattern Gajendra usually wrote in. Handwriting samples have been collected from the farmer’s home in Dausa, Rajasthan and sent for forensic analysis. A final opinion on the handwriting analysis is awaited. Police are also probing the account of two witnesses who said that some volunteers instigated Gajendra to climb the tree. On Day One, TOI had reported witnesses saying that some people helping him climb the tree and handed over a broom. Cops are also verifying an alleged witness’s account who came to them at Tughlaq Road police station claiming that Gajendra was seen talking to a senior AAP functionary present on the dais. “Eyewitness accounts and police sources show that Gajendra climbed the tree after being provoked by a group of people. A cop said video footage showed few people giving him a helping hand and also handing him a broom. He is seen waving the broom and people standing below applauding. Thereafter, he is seen tying one end of his gamchha (scarf) to a branch and the other to his neck,” TOI had reported last Thursday. On Tuesday, sources said that forensic experts and witness accounts show that Gajendra, most probably, slipped immediately after tying the knot. Mohammad Shahid, a Naraina resident, who caught Gajendra as he fell, had said that the branch he was resting his foot on was not very wide. Meanwhile, police have scanned and identified the people who Gajendra met on his way after he left Dausa and found no conspiracy. His call records show he visited Kurukshetra for business where he tied pagri to people at marriage functions. One Jindal family had booked Gajendra’s services online through his website. The cops said identifying people who instigated Gajendra to climb up the tree was their priority. They are now trying to identify the people he met at the venue. Also, police clarified that he had not told his sister about a “big thing on TV” but just that he would be in front of cameras at Jantar Mantar. Delhi Police also said they had not shared any probe details with Delhi government or joined their probe. “There have been some letters exchanged between the New Delhi DCP and the district magistrate. This sort of communication is confidential and it will not be appropriate to reveal it,” police commissioner BS Bassi said on Tuesday. (Times of India 29/4/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

102. Narmada erosion a threat to Sardar Sarovar dam: Report (4)

GANDHINAGAR: The large-scale erosion of the left bank of Narmada downstream from Bharuch has not only been causing huge financial losses in the region but also social problems. But what has set alarm bells ringing is the fear that the erosion may change the river’s course and, thereby, create problems for the Sardar Sarovar dam as well as the main canal. This is the finding of the high-level technical experts’ taskforce set up by the state Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar department to study the ‘Problem of Erosion of Left Bank of Narmada River Downstream from Bharuch’. The taskforce has come to the conclusion that the erosion is causing rapidly growing losses in agriculture, cattle, human settlements, agriculture, industries and public properties. In 2013, river Narmada was in spate and floodwaters had increased the discharge to a rate of 47,592 cusec (at its maximum it was 16.2 lakh cusec). The river waters had inundated vast areas and extensively eroded the left bank for about 10 km downstream from Bharuch. Agricultural lands, roads, houses, oil and gas pipelines had suffered extensive damage while industries and urban and rural habitations had faced serious threat of destruction. In its report, the taskforce noted: “During the period 1990-2013, the bank-line had shifted to the left by 125 m to 605 m. Because of two major faults parallel to the Narmada river on either side, the right bank is higher than the left bank by a minimum of 5.89 m to a maximum of 8.03 m.” It further noted that though an evaluation of various kinds of damage was not possible without collection of detailed data, a primary estimate after the 2013 floods suggested that agricultural loss in just 400 hectares of land was around Rs.140 crore. Further, “around 30 lakh people had been directly affected and 13 persons had lost their lives. Total registered loss of cattle was Rs 29.5 lakh….Damage to houses, industrial properties and public property was also substantial,” the taskforce noted in its report. The taskforce had suggested further studies. It had also stated that it’s not possible to come to a conclusion on the likely impact of riverbank erosion on the Sardar Sarovar dam project as construction work is still on and the maximum planned height of the dam is yet to be reached. (Times of India 21/4/15)

103. NBA writes to CM for rehab of Omkareshwar dam hit (4)

INDORE: With deteriorating health condition of jal satyagrahis, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) on Wednesday wrote a letter to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan seeking rehabilitation of Omkareshwar dam project affected people (PAP) as per the guideline of Supreme Court in a time bound manner. Jal satyagraha by Gogalgaon villagers in Khandwa district entered the 12th day. Assuring support to affected farmers NBA urged state government to give minimum of 5 acre of agricultural land and a plot for construction of house to each PAP as per the eligibility. “Government should constitute a joint committee of government officials and protestors for time bound rehabilitation, so that dam can be filled to its full capacity and farmers can get irrigation facility,” said Chittaroopa Palit of NBA, adding, till the rehabilitation process is completed water level of dam should be brought down to 189 metre from 191 metre. Meanwhile, to garner support for Omkreshwar and Indira Sagar dams state government issued full page advertisement in all leading newspapers claiming the dams will irrigates several lakh hectares of agriculture filed in Khandwa, Khargone and Badwani. Along with this state government is also going to organise ‘Vrihad Jal Jan Panchayat’ in Khandwa, were dam affected are on Jal Satyagraha, on April 24 in the presence of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. On Wednesday a team headed by chief medical health officer (CMHO) of Khandwa reached at Gogalgaon for the first time since beginning of protest to conduct health check-up of farmers, who are protesting in waist deep water for last 12 days. “Skin on feet of some of the protestors has started to peel off and blood spots were found on skin,” said CMHO Dr RC Panika, adding, due to continuous presence in water protestors has developed washarmen-foot disease and they need immediate medical treatment. “Health condition of protestors are deteriorating, but they have refused medical treatment,” said Palit. (Times of India 23/4/15)

104. Support for jal satyagrahis swells, 20 more join agitation (4)

INDORE: Extending support to jal satyagrahis, who are in waist-deep water for last 13 days, 20 more farmers joined the protest against increase in Omkareshwar dam height in Ghogalgaon on Thursday. The health condition of protestors has deteriorated further, but they have refused to undergo treatment. Meanwhile, leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and AAP are trying hard to meet union ministers and ministers of state government to find a solution to the vexed rehabilitation issue of Omkareshwar oustees. AAP leader Sanjay Singh along with NBA activists had met union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh in Delhi on Wednesday late evening to draw the attention of central government towards the issue. “Minister assured to talk to union energy minister over the issue,” said NBA leader Chitroopa Palit. The state government has not initiated any dialogue with the protestors yet. Government will organize a ‘Jal Jan Panchayat’ in Khandwa district, where jal satyagraha is in progress. Palit said they are not against dam and they are only demanding rehabilitation of farmers as per Supreme Court guidelines. “Compensation of land against land,” she added. (Times of India 24/4/15)

105. Posco withdrawal fear leads to political war in Odisha (4)

Bhubaneswar: The uncertainties over Posco pursuing its plan to set up a mega steel plant in Odisha after recent changes in mining rules has boiled down to a political war with Odisha unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today questioning the sincerity of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the state to facilitate industrialisation process as per its poll promises and the latter shifting the blame to the doorstep of the Centre citing that changes in the mining policy had created hiccups in grounding the investment. Last Sunday, the steel and mines minister had said that Posco must clarify its intention to set up steel plant as the government was ready to supply raw material to its plant from state-run Odisha Mining Corporation and private miners through its raw material linkage policy. BJP said, the government must say, what decisions it took regarding setting up of industries. “Before Posco makes its stand clear, the state government must clarify what decisions it has taken to facilitate establishment of industries in the state. I doubt whether the government is really serious about setting up of mega industries here as it is engaged in only propaganda, which was evidenced in ArcelorMittal case,” said Bijay Mohapatra, senior leader of BJP state unit at a press conference. In 2013, top steelmaker ArcelorMittal scrapped its Odisha project citing weak economic conditions and difficulties in getting land and mines to push forward the project. Similarly, Posco has been showing lack of interest over setting up a steel plant in the proposed site at Paradip ever since the Union government made it mandatory that every entity intending to own mines lease will have to participate in an auction process. The new rule is contrary to its agreement signed with Odisha government in June 2005, which said, the steel producer would be allotted a mines lease to feed its plant. On behalf of the BJD, two ministers defended the government’s industrialisation initiative. “The state government sincerely wants Posco to set up its plant. However, since the law of the land has been undergone a change since the agreement was signed, Posco must clear its stand what should it do,” said Prafulla Kumar Mallick, state steel and mines minister. The Odisha government has provided all support to Posco for establishing the steel plant, said state industry minister Debi Prasad Mishra. “We have made efforts to create an ease of doing business atmosphere here. As a facilitating department, we have acquired land for Posco’s project. We are ready to address its raw material supply issues. But it (Posco) has not been able to take a decision whether to take forward its investment plan in view of the recent changes in MMDR Act,” Mishra said. Posco’s loathness became evident earlier this month, when it refused to pay Rs 54 crore demanded by the state-run Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) for land acquisition dues and instead demanded refund of money paid for private land acquisition at the project site. (Business Standrd 27/4/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

106. Health Initiative for Poor, Needy Patients (3)

BHUBANESWAR:The Nilachal Saraswat Sangh on Tuesday announced launch of its health initiative Sadguru Swami Nigamananda Healthcare and Consultation Centre to provide free treatment, diagnostic and advice to the poor and needy patients. The centre located near Exhibition Ground here was inaugurated by Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak in presence of Mayor Anant Narayan Jena on Tuesday. The health centre would function from 9 am to noon daily and will have senior medical professionals from different speciality and super speciality disciplines attending to patients. The centre would provide free consultation and medicare services with major focus on non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Diagnostic services including pathological tests advised by doctors will be conducted through KIMS hospital. The organisation would also hold health camps in slums to provide healthcare services at the doorsteps of the poorest sections, secretary Umesh Chandra Samantray said. Among others, association coordinator Sangram Keshari Singh was present. (New Indian Express 22/4/15)

107. 16 infants die in Mumbai everyday: RTI (3)

Mumbai: Some 1,05,735 infants have died in the state between 2008 and 2012, according to a recent Right to Information (RTI) report furnished by the state public health department. The city, despite having the best facilities for infant care, tops the list of mortality in the state, and is followed by Nashik, Thane, Pune Aurangabad and Nagpur. The infant deaths in Mumbai in one year can be equated with the deaths occurring in other cities in a five-year period. Mumbai registered 29,700 infant deaths from 2008 to 2012, while Nashik recorded 8,517 deaths, followed by Thane with 8,167 deaths, Pune with 5,915 and Aurangabad with 3,100 infant deaths. On an average, some 5,500 to 6,000 infants lose their lives in the city every year, which is an alarming 16 infant deaths everyday. Other cities have reported 500 to 900 deaths each year. The details from the municipal corporation and the public health department were furnished by RTI activist Chetan Kothari and the information was provided by Dr Santosh K, Revankar, public information officer. The cities mentioned had the highest rate of deaths in 2008, while it had declined comparatively between 2009 and 2011, rising again in 2012. Pune, for example, had registered 1,822 infant deaths in 2008, which decreased to 913 deaths in 2011. The data also highlighted that more male infants were dying in the state. Doctors see inadequate intensive care unit facilities across the state and lack of awareness as the reasons for behind the deaths. Dr Bhupendra Avasthi, a paediatrician who has worked in Sion Hospital for 25 years, said, “The problem (of deaths) has been constant all these years. The revenue allotted by government for paediatric care is minimal. Most of them either contract infections or suffer asphyxia. We have zero facilities to reduce this.”Dr Anant Phadke of the Jan Arogya Abhiyan, said that extreme poverty, hunger, marriage at a young age and low education had led to the spike in problems. The state health department however said new programmes were helping to contain infant deaths. “With the help of workers we were able to create awareness and transfer better medical care through our home-based and facility-based unit,” said Dr Chandrakala Jaiswal, a member of Unicef for the state health department. National New Born Action Plan, a new scheme introduced by the health department, provides the necessary interventions required for infant care. (Asian Age 26/4/15)

108. ‘16.9 million deaths from conditions treatable with basic surgery’(3)

New Delhi: New estimates suggest that the number of people worldwide who are unable to access basic surgery and anaesthesia is more than twice as high as previously thought. According to a recent study published in the Lancet millions of people are dying from common, easily treatable conditions like appendicitis, fractures, or obstructed labour because they do not have access to, or can’t afford, proper surgical care. The study reveals that five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable surgery and anaesthesia when they need it, and access is worst in low-income and lower-middle income countries, where as many as nine out of ten people cannot access basic surgical care. Significantly, just under a third of all deaths in 2010 (32.9 per cent, 16.9 million deaths) were from conditions treatable with surgery — surpassing the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria combined. “Yet, despite this enormous burden of death and illness — which is largely borne by the world’s poorest people — surgery has, until now, been overlooked as a critical need for the health of the world’s population. As a result, untreated surgical conditions have exerted substantial but largely unrecognised negative effects on human health, welfare, and economic development,” said the Lancet. In India, a nationally representative population-based study of deaths from acute abdominal conditions reported that postal code areas with high age-standardised acute abdominal mortality were more likely to be located further from a hospital capable of providing appropriate emergency surgical care than were areas with low mortality. When the distance to the nearest well-resourced hospital was more than 100 km, the odds ratio of living in a high-mortality area compared with a low mortality area was 16:1. The study suggests that of the 313 million operations done worldwide each year, just one in 20 occur in the poorest countries, where over a third of the world’s population lives. New estimates find that there is a global shortfall of at least 143 million surgical procedures every year, with some regions needing nearly twice as many additional operations as others. It was also found that a quarter of people worldwide who have a surgical procedure will incur financial catastrophe — costs that they can’t afford and which drive them into poverty — as a result of seeking care. The burden of catastrophic expenditure on surgery is highest in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. According to Lars Hagander, one of the lead authors, said, “Too many people are dying from common, treatable surgical conditions, such as appendicitis, obstructed labour, and fractures. The problem is especially acute in the low — and middle-income countries of eastern, western and central sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.” “In the absence of surgical care, common, easily treatable illnesses become fatal,” says Andy Leather, director of the King’s Centre for Global Health, King’s College London, UK, and another of the commission’s lead authors. “The global community cannot continue to ignore this problem — millions of people are already dying unnecessarily, and the need for equitable and affordable access to surgical services is projected to increase in the coming decades, as many of the worst-affected countries face rising rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and road accidents.” (Asian Age 27/4/15)

109. Country’s first urban health centre inaugurated (3)

MUMBAI: The new municipal commissioner, Ajoy Mehta, inaugurated the country’s first urban nutrition, rehabilitation and research centre at Sion hospital on Tuesday afternoon. The centre will not only provide nutritious food supplements for malnourished children but also train doctors from public hospitals across the city. The hospital’s urban health centre in Dharavi also houses a 15-bed, revamped ward where severe acute malnourished (SAM) children will be hospitalized for 15 days and fed nutritious food. “The hospital already has a nutrition rehabilitation centre as mandated by the Union government programme to tackle malnutrition, but this is the first such centre in the country where all three aspects of paediatric nutrition care (rehabilitation, research and training) will be under one roof,” said Sion hospital’s head of pediatric department Dr Mamta Manglani. Around 1,500 children with SAM have been treated at the hospital ward and another 1,000 children are treated through community outreach programmes every year. (Times of India 29/4/15)

HIV/AIDS

110. HIV-infected men more sensitive to alcohol (3)

New York: Men infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS need fewer drinks to feel the effects of alcohol than uninfected men, says a new study. “All else equal, people who have HIV infection have a lower tolerance for alcohol than similar people without HIV infection,” explained Amy Justice, professor of medicine and public health at Yale University. It is not clear, she added, whether HIV-infected individuals are simply more susceptible to alcohol or if they achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood from the same number of drinks. To examine the effects of alcohol on HIV patients, the researchers reviewed data on more than 2,600 men enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, an ongoing multi-site study of veterans. They analysed survey responses from both HIV-infected and uninfected veterans, who were asked how many alcoholic drinks it took for them to feel a buzz or high. The researchers also compared responses from HIV-infected men with unsuppressed or detectable HIV infection versus those with suppressed HIV. The study found that HIV-infected men with detectable virus were more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than both HIV-infected men with suppressed virus and uninfected men. The findings suggest that there is clearly no safe level of alcohol consumption for people with HIV, and that providers should counsel their HIV-infected patients that they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of drinking, the researchers noted. The study was published in the journal AIDS and Behaviour. (Business Standard 21/4/15)

111. Funds scare for AIDS patients (3)

National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has curtailed the funds it used to give to the state for this purpose. Effective from the 2015-16 fiscal, the Naco would provide just Rs 25 crore per annum – Rs 16 crore less than earlier – to Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS), the agency responsible for executing the various welfare steps meant for people living with HIV/AIDS. “All our programmes are going to be affected as the most of the Naco money would be spent paying salary to our field staff leaving little for the works we are supposed to do to the HIV/AIDS patients,” a senior BSACS official, preferring anonymity, told The Telegraph. According to the BSACS data, the state had 78,441 people with HIV and 23,930 AIDS patients till April 21, 2015. The works, which are going to be hit, include free HIV testing, anti-retroviral therapy under which HIV/AIDS patients are given medicines free of cost and running the integrated counselling and testing centre (ICTC) and awareness programmes. At present, 16 anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres, 207 ICTCs, 250 facility integrated counselling and testing centres (FICTC) and 42 STD clinics run under the Bihar State AIDS Control Society. The BSACS runs these centres with the help of the fund provided by the Naco. BSACS project director Rahul Singh, however, claimed that curtailment of funds would not hit the various initiatives having been launched in the past for the HIV/AIDS patients. “As per the new guideline, the state government has to share funds for taking care of the HIV/AIDS patients. So, even if there is funds flow from the Naco, the state government would provide its share which would compensate for the reduction in fund flow,” he said. The exact modalities for fund sharing, however, have not been finalised as yet. Sources said it might be 75:25 or 60:40. Either of the two would be the ratio in which the Centre and the state would share the funds meant for HIV/AIDS patients. BSACS sources, however, suggested that funds flow from the state government was not likely to be smooth which, in turn, was bound to hit the welfare programmes adversely. “The state government takes a lot of time in releasing the funds sent by the Naco for the Bihar State AIDS Control Society. Once it has to release funds on its own, further delay is bound to take place. As we have to deal with patients who need timely medicines and other treatment such delays are bound to hit the functioning of the BSACS,” a source in the BASCS said. People with HIV/AIDS are also scared at the development. “We are going to hugely suffer because of the Naco’s decision to curtail the Bihar State AIDS Control Society funds. Already because of not having funds, the various ART centres don’t have doctors available with them. The Chhapra and Samastipur-based ART centres don’t have doctors because of the fund crisis,” said an AIDS patient who runs Bihar Network for People Living with AIDS, an NGO. (The Telegraph 23/4/15)

112. Improve stock of HIV testing kits in capital, says NGO (3)

NEW DELHI: Over a year after shortage of HIV kits were reported at government hospitals here, the situation still remains the same in the capital. Doctors at some hospitals said it even though kits for patients coming for scheduled tests are available, kits are never available for emergency purposes. The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), a trust fighting for rights for the HIV positive, said they have written to National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) twice in the past 20 days but has not got any response so far. “The situation is worse now than before. The viral load testing kits have not been in supply since May 2014. We have written to both NACO and DSACS. We even met senior health officials to highlight the issue. But there has been no intiative to take stock of the situation,” said Paul Lhungdim, coordinator, DNP+. “There is also a shortage of DBS kits under the PPTCT programme,” said Lhungdim. Dried blood sampling or DBS is an easy way of collecting, storing and transporting blood samples on absorbent filter paper. Infants are tested for HIV under the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission Programme (PPTCT) programme. According to sources, the hospitals are running short of the DBS filter paper. The PPTCT programme aims to prevent HIV among women of child-bearing age and prevent HIV transmission from pregnant women infected with HIV to the child.  A field worker with DNP+ said, “Our ground report shows there is a shortage of kits in centre-run Safdarjung Hospital, AIIMS, state-run Baba Ambedkar Hospital and Deen Dayal Upadhyay, among others for long now. While in some of the hospitals the supply is inadequate, the supply has not started since last May in a few others.” If steps are not taken to redress the situation, those living with HIV-AIDS will have to suffer unnecessarily, the letters written to NACO highlight. “There are no HIV emergency kits available here. In such cases, patients have to get it done from private hospitals,” said a senior resident doctor of Safdarjung Hospital, requesting anonymity. A doctor at Baba Ambedkar Hospital said there is generally a shortage of kits all the year round and the supply is never consistent. (Deccan Herald 24/4/15)

113. First HIV self-test kit on sale in UK (3)

LONDON: The world’s first legally approved HIV self-test kit that reveals results in 15 minutes has gone on sale in Britain. Kits allowing people to test themselves for HIV at home were made legal in the UK last year. The move expects to help 25,000 undiagnosed HIV+ people know their status. The test is a single use, disposable device and uses a single drop of blood from a finger prick. But it may not detect HIV infections that have occurred within three months. The technology is very similar to a human pregnancy test and detects specific antibodies in your blood sample. It has a proven clinical sensitivity (if a person has HIV how often the test will be positive) of 99.7%, which means that on average 997 in every 1,000 positive results will be correct. It has a proven clinical specificity (if a person doesn’t have HIV how often will the test be negative) of 99.9%, which means that on average 999 in every 1,000 negative results will be correct. Experts advise that people who engage in activities that increase their risk of exposure to HIV, they should test regularly. One in four people living with HIV is currently unaware of their infection in England. UNAIDS recommends home testing and says people need to open up to it as fewer than half of those living with HIV knew their status. This is, therefore, a huge barrier to treatment scale up. In India, 40% of the 2.3 million people living with HIV don’t know they are infected with the deadly virus. But India is against home testing for HIV. The country’s National AIDS Control Organization has earlier said it is against allowing finger pricks or mouth swabs to be used by individuals to know their HIV status. (Times of India 28/4/15)

114. Provide insurance cover to all HIV positive patients: Par Panel (3)

New Delhi: A Parliamentary Panel on Wednesday suggested the government to provide insurance cover to all HIV positive patients without any discrimination with a preferably normal rate of premium. “The Committee is of the opinion that all HIV positive people should be provided insurance cover without any discrimination preferably at normal rate of premium or they may be charged slightly higher rate of premium… “…But in no case exorbitant rate of premium should be charged from them for both life and health insurance,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Immunodeficiency Virus And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, said. The Committee also recommended that the Health Ministry should pursue the matter with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for providing insurance cover to all HIV positive people without any discrimination, the panel said. The Ministry has said that although the Ministry and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) was working with the IRDA on the issue for providing life as well as health insurance to all HIV positive people, it was not in favour of giving it at normal rates. “IRDA was not in favour of providing insurance cover to such persons at normal rate of premium,” one of the comments of the report said. In the matter of appointment and functions of Ombudsman, the Committee noted that all matters pertaining to its appointment, qualification and jurisdiction have been delegated to the state government which will lead to “gross” variation and “disparity” from state to state. “The Committee recommends that the Ministry should formulate a set of model guidelines giving strong procedures and systems in the matter for guidance of the states in the form of executive instructions,” it said, while recommending the Bill to be passed with the prescribed changes without any delay. (Zee News 30/4/15)

 

Posted by admin at 30 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. ‘Admin can’t displace Rampur Dalits’ (2)

RAMPUR: The district administration’s attempt to demolish 80 houses of Dalit residents at Valmiki Basti in Topkhana area adjacent to the newly constructed shopping mall by the municipality came to a grinding halt after various delegations of social activists and political parties joined the protest against the move here on Saturday. Police have arrested Congress leader Dr Tanveer Ahmad Khan and five of his supporters from the protest site. Dalits are protesting against the proposed demolition of their houses by the administration and have been sitting on an indefinite dharna outside their houses. On Saturday, the agitationists met with social activists Nutan Thakur and her husband Amitabh Thakur. “It’s a matter of grave concern that the local administration wants to demolish their houses without any reason. We have seen the roads of the colony and they are quite wide. The residents also showed the receipts of their house tax which they had paid to the municipality. The most important thing is that the houses were allotted by the government earlier to these safai karamcharies, as they are also the employees of the state government,” said Amitabh. He said the details about the Valmiki Basti would be submitted before the office of the principal secretary. Nutan Thakur added that, “Prior to the demolition, the administration should issue proper legal notices to the occupants .” The couple assured residents that they would also provide them legal aid. The police have arrested SP leader Azam Khan’s arch rival and Congress leader Tanveer Ahmad Khan along with his supporters for protesting against the administration on behalf of the Dalits for breach of peace. Heavy police force has been deployed into the Dalit colony and section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed in the city. Meanwhile, SP, Rampur, Sadhna Goswami suspended six policemen, including an SI, for allowing Dalits to take out a procession against the minister on Wednesday (Times of India 11/2/15)

2. Economic gap between upper castes and dalits persists (2)

Despite more access to education, better household amenities and increased incomes, the economic gap between upper castes and dalit and tribal communities continues unchanged over the years, according to latest economic data from the NSSO. A comparison of average monthly expenditure of households belonging to dalit communities with upper caste households showed that in rural areas there was a gap of about 38% in 1999-2000 which changed only marginally to 37% in 2011-12. In urban areas, upper caste households reported incomes that were 65% more than dalit households in 1999-2000. This gap reduced to a still shocking 60% in 2011-12. For tribal households, the gap in monthly expenditures increased from 49% in 1999-2000 to 53% in 2011-12 in rural areas and from 45% to 48% in urban areas. Since there is no direct survey of incomes in India, monthly household expenditure is seen as a proxy measure of monthly income for most households except the very rich. The economic stagnation of dalit and tribal communities has not prevented them from seizing the opportunities for better education, perhaps in the hope that education will pave the way for a better life. In urban areas, the proportion of graduates in the 15+ years dalit population increased from 4.6% in 1999 to 9.4% in 2011, while among tribals it increased from 8.9% to 13.4% in the same period. Current attendance rates in educational institutions of various communities are now almost at par at the elementary stage, that is, 5-14 years age group. At the secondary stage, dalit students’ attendance has shot up from 37% in 2004-05 to 57% in 2011-12 while tribal students’ attendance has increased from 36% to 54% in the same period. At the higher education stage, attendance for dalits has increased from 8% to 15% while for tribals it has increased from 9% to 13%. In all these stages, attendance of upper castes is still higher than dalits and tribals but the gaps are fast reducing. So, why does the economic chasm persist? Affirmative action to help dalits or tribals, like reservation in jobs, reaches only a small section of these communities, leaving the vast mass untouched and frozen in backward economic conditions, says Surinder S Jodhka, professor of sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and a long time researcher of dalit communities. “In rural areas, most dalits do not have any assets and are the worst sufferers in the ongoing agrarian crisis. If they migrate to cities, again they enter at the lowest level of the economy, working in informal sector jobs. So it is not surprising that their economic status remains what it is,” Jodhka said. In rural areas, for five-member households, the average monthly expenditure in 1999-2000 was Rs 2,095 for dalit households, Rs1,940 for tribal households and Rs 2,370 for OBC households compared to Rs 2,885 for upper caste households. In 2011-12, the dalit households were having an average monthly expenditure of Rs 6,260, tribal households Rs 5,610, and OBC households Rs 7,195 but upper caste households were spending Rs 7,150. In urban areas, in 1999-2000, the dalits household spend was Rs 3,455, tribal household Rs 3,455 and OBC household Rs 3,675 while the upper caste household’s average spend was Rs 5,025. By 2011-12, the corresponding monthly expenditures were Rs 10,140 for dalits, Rs 10,965 for tribals, Rs 11,375 for OBC’s and Rs 16,210 for upper caste households. “Indian modernization, unlike in the west, has not produced an organized economy. We continue to have remnants of pre-modern economic relations and a huge informal or unorganized economy. Dalits and tribals largely continue to occupy this lowest rung,” Jodhka explained. (Times of India 14/2/15)

3. CPM talks of equality but denies dalits top posts (2)

VISHAKHAPATNAM: CPM’s abysmal record in giving Dalits a place in the party’s top decision-making bodies — politburo and central committee — came to haunt it on Wednesday as general secretary  Prakash Karat demanded a special session of Parliament to discuss inequality as part of commemoration BR Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. Karat was talking about failure to implement reservation for Scheduled Castes and atrocities against them. But when asked why CPM’s politburo — a preserve of upper caste Brahmins, Nairs, Kayasthas with occasional OBCs thrown in —never had a Dalit in the past 50 years, Karat came up with an evasive reply: “You ask me this question on April 19 when the new politburo and central committee is in place.” Karat said he will check the records if there has been a Dalit in the central committee, but he couldn’t remember a single name. For now, there is no chance of a Dalit getting into the politburo since membership to this exclusive club is limited to the 85-member strong central committee. Of the few contenders to the politburo, no one is a Dalit. Among those in the running are Mohammad Salim, Madan Ghosh and Subhasini Ali. It is possible for the central committee to have a Dalit members, especially from Kerala. But even getting into CC is not so simple and needs a proven track record. “It will be a tough exercise. We have few Dalit leaders who are doing good work,” a central committee member told TOI. In its resolution on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, CPM said the condition of Dalits had worsened with more cases of atrocities against them and many laws like Manual Scavengers Act not getting implemented. It also pointed out that Dalit Christians and Muslims are being denied benefits of reservation. (Times of India 16/4/15)

4. Budget cuts, loan problems push Dalits out of education (2)

CHENNAI: Saranya, who took a loan of Rs. 2 lakh to pursue a BE course in a self-financing college in Coimbatore will be completing the repayment of loan by the year-end. A Dalit student, she was denied loan initially. “The manager told me loans are given only to people who come in cars. A friend then helped us get the loan,” says Saranya, now an IT company employee. That was in 2010, when she also received around Rs. 3,000 as government scholarship. Many like Saranya continue to struggle to pay outstanding loans as they are uncertain about the post-matric scholarships that come from the Central government. In the last two years as many as 60,000 students from SC, ST communities have joined engineering courses, but the State government is unable to pay their tuition fee as the Central funding often is delayed. Students in self-financing colleges fret over their future as managements pressurise them to pay the fees. Activists say though recommendations were made in the Sub Plan for SCs and tribal communities for payment of tuition fees, the Union budget has been steadily reducing the funds allotted to the University Grants Commission for the purpose. Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, the allocation for UGC under SC/ST sub plan was cut by 50 per cent. Activists say this could further impact the students’ education as they could drop out for want of funds. R. Christodas Gandhi, founder of Ambedkar Kalvi Centenary Movement, says around 100 colleges that admitted over 50 per cent of the SC students are now putting pressure on the students to pay up. For the year 2014-15, the Central government had sanctioned Rs. 1204.76 crore under the scheme for BE courses. So far, the State has received only Rs. 254 crore but that money had not reached self-financing colleges. K. Srinivasan, convener of Educational Loan Task Force, says: “Every day we get grievances from across the nation and it is the poor students who suffer the most. As of March 2014, Rs. 60,000 crore has been paid out as loans to around 25 lakh beneficiaries across the countries.

Though his organisation has been helping students to get education loans, he recommends that students try to claim eligible scholarships instead of becoming debtors. (The Hindu 20/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Concern over atrocities against tribal girls (6)

KALPETTA: Leaders of various tribal and political organisations have expressed concern over the increasing sexual exploitation of and atrocities against tribal girls in the district. The Ambalavayal police on Friday arrested a man in connection with sexually abusing a minor tribal girl after she was forced to consume illicit liquor with the support of his wife. A few weeks ago, the Mepadi police had arrested 11 men in connection with the rape of three minor girls of a tribal colony. Ramanathan, a tribal activist at Ambalavayal, said many a time minor girls were sexually abused after anti-social elements exploited the addiction of tribesmen to alcohol. Such elements either brewed illicit liquor near tribal colonies or bought low-quality liquor from nearby towns. When such exploitation did come to light, the police tried to pin the blame on the victims, offering the accused opportunities to escape the law, Mr. Ramanathan said. C.K. Saseendran, district unit secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the tendency of the police to treat such incidents as trivial was the reason for the increase in atrocities against tribespeople. Surveillance of vulnerable tribal hamlets by the police was an effective solution. Active intervention of the public had a crucial role to play in curbing such incidents, he said. Kerala Adivasi Forum district president Baby Makkiyad said reconstitution of the special mobile squad of the police department by adding tribal-friendly officials was needed to curb the sexual exploitation of tribespeople. The increasing incidence of sexual exploitation of tribal girls showed the neglect of the tribal people by the police and the Tribal Development Department, Vijayan Cherukara, district secretary of the Communist Party of India said. Awareness programmes to sensitise tribespeople to alcohol abuse and regular monitoring of remote tribal colonies by the police with the support of the public could check the problem to a certain extent, he said. (The Hindu 12/4/15)

6. Indore tribals on ‘jal satyagraha’, protest rise in Omkareshwar dam height (6)

INDORE: Displaced tribals of Gopalgoan in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh have launched a ‘jal satyagraha’ to protest against increase in height of Omkareshwar dam. At least 2,500acres of farmland was flooded after dam height was raised by 91 metre, a month ago. On second day of protest on Sunday, farmers stood in knee-deep water and carried placards urging government to give them land or adequate compensation. In 2012, farmers had organised a similar ‘jal satyagraha’, which lasted 17 days and grabbed international attention. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Chittraroopa Palit, who is at Gogalgaon, said 500 marginal farmers, who own less than five acres of land, were worst hit. “They were given compensation at the rate of Rs 2 lakh per acre in 2006. But, they returned the money after an assurance by grievances redressal authority (GRA) that they would be given land if they returned compensation money,” said Palit. She alleged land given to farmers was either non-productive or alongside a nullah. In many cases, farmers were handed out land already encroached upon. “It’s impossible to cultivate these fields. Now, farmers have no money, no land and the land they own is getting submerged,” said Palit. Sadashiv Rajaram, a farmer, said, compensation given to them was not enough. “Government is not concerned about us. Without visiting the place, how can officials understand our plight? Our existence depends on land. We live with our farms and we will die with it,” said Rajaram. Five acres of his total nine-acre land has been submerged. “All that we are seeking is compensation as per law,” said Suku Bai. She has three children and all illiterate and dependent on farming. Where will they go if our land is submerged?  Another protester, Sukhla Bai, is faced with a threat of submergence of land. “Government fooled us. For a land worth lakhs, it offered us a paltry sum,” she said. Khandwa district collector MK Agrawal termed the protest as unjustified. “Compensation has already been paid. Water is not going to enter their houses, only fields will be submerged,” he said. Refuting allegation of allotting unproductive and encroached land to farmers, Agrawal said rise in water level in dam will help irrigate 60,000 hectares of land through 64km network of canals, which is unused at present. (Times of India 13/4/15)

7. Odisha tribal organisation threatens armed protest against Maoists (6)

BERHAMPUR: Posters against recent abductions and violence by Maoists have come up in remote pockets of Malkangiri district of Odisha in the name of a tribal organisation, Malkangiri Adivasi Sangh. In these posters in Odia, this tribal organisation has threatened to take up arms against Maoists in all tribal villages of the district if the persons abducted by the Naxalites from Mathili block were not released soon. The organisation alleged that the Naxalites were using innocent tribals as their shields during encounters with the police. The Manch has also questioned the Maoists as to if they are fighting for tribals’ cause, then why are they kidnapping and killing the tribals. The tribal organisation has threatened to unite tribals of Malkangiri for a major movement against the Naxalites if non-tribal Maoist leaders from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh did not stop their violent activities targeting them. It may be noted that the Maoist organisation in Odisha is ruled by non-Odia Naxalites, mostly from Andhra and Chhattisgarh. Darbha division of Maoists in Chhattisgarh is suspected to be involved in recent abductions in the Malkangiri district. Till Wednesday evening, there was no information regarding the tribals allegedly kidnapped by the Maoists. The Naxalites have also not come up with any statement regarding these alleged abductions. May be due to fear of ultras, neither family members of the abducted persons nor any other villager has come out to file a complaint. “But the police on its own are continuing intense search operation with increased combing in the area where the incident took place,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yeshwant Jethwa. Ambiguity also continued regarding number of tribals abducted in Malkangiri district. While most put the figure at seven, some local media reports put the number of persons abducted as nine, 10 or a dozen. The police are yet to confirm the number of persons kidnapped. “We are checking out each name of allegedly abducted persons in media to ascertain real number of missing persons and the authenticity behind suspicion of their abduction by Maoists,” said the IGP. (The Hindu 16/4/15)

8. Nallamala tribals begin march to Hyderabad (6)

MAHBUBNAGAR: Chenchus and other SC/ST communities on Saturday started a padayatra from Nallamala forest to the Telangana Secretariat in Hyderabad seeking solutions to their long-pending demands. Approximately, around 100 tribals started their march from Vatvarlapalli village in Achampet assembly constituency. Some of the participants said they had earlier conducted a padayatra to the Mahbubnagar district collectorate seeking rights over cultivating lands, construction of permanent houses, laying of BT roads, education, electrification, medical facilities, construction of check dams, recognizing of chenchu pentas as gram panchayats, employment at Srisailam left canal power generation unit and developing Mallela Thirtham and Akka Mahadevi caves as tourism centres to create jobs for the locals. Some of the Chenchus also said that the government, in the guise of protecting the Nallamala forest, is seeking to relocate them from their hamlets. C Ramulu, president of Chenchu’s Problems Solving Committee, alleged that the government is trying to force them out of their traditional homes in the name of rehabilitation. “We were not ready for vacate our homes. Instead, the government should provide basic amenities and should withdraw its proposal to relocate Chenchus from the forest area, as we have been living here for a very long time,” Ramulu said. Meanwhile Achampet divisional forest officer Venkatramana said that his department has not received any proposal or order from the government on relocating the villages. He said that if any family was interested to shift from hamlets to safer places, the government was ready to arrange better facilities. “We will never force them to vacate their villages,” he said. (Times of India 19/4/15)

WOMEN

9. 11,000 girls in Odisha are mothers before 15: Study (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The 2011 Census has come up with the shocking disclosure that girls below the age of 15 in Odisha have given birth to babies when they should have been going to school. The exact figure, the data shows, of girls attaining motherhood even before 15 is 11,000. The figures point a finger to the failure of social welfare programmes and campaigns to contain early marriages and pregnancies. Of the 59.09 lakh girls below the age of 15, 41,729 girls (0.7%) were already married. Around one-fourth of the married girls (10,685) in the same age group had delivered before celebrating their 15th birthday. While 3,896 (9.34% of those married) had become mothers of at least one child, 6,789 girls (16.27%) had delivered two children. Women and child development minister Usha Devi said, “We need to focus more on creating awareness among parents because that is the only way to prevent underage marriages and pregnancies.” Women’s rights campaigners attribute the early pregnancies to three factors. “Tribals have a tendency to marry off their boys and girls early. Second, economically weak sections don’t wait for 18 years for their girl’s marriage for purposes of social security,” said Namrata Chadha, a women’s rights campaigner. RD Women’s College principal Chitrangada Samanta Singhar said the findings are shocking. “The Right to Education Act envisages education for all children below 14. But it seems many girls in this age group are burdened with children,” she said. “Early pregnancy is dangerous for both the mother and child. This could be a reason behind the high infant and maternal mortality rates in the state,” said gynaecologist R K Purohit. Odisha’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) per 1,000 women is 235 compared to the all-India figure of 178. The infant mortality rate is 57 compared to 44 at the national level (SRS-2012). In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, around 6,400 girls become mothers before 15, while in Jharkhand their number stands at over 12,000. At the national level, 18.12 lakh of the 17.80 crore girls below 15 years are married. Around 4.5 lakh in the age group (around 25% of those married) had delivered; while 1.36 lakh had delivered one child, 3.20 lakh had delivered two. In the age group of 15-19 years, there are 2.90 lakh married women in Odisha. Of them, over 65,000 (22.52%) had given birth to one child, over 12,000 (4.23%) to two children, 4,400 (1.55%) to three children and 5,500 (1.92%) to four children. Out of the total 2 crore women in Odisha reported during the census count, 1.19 crore are married (57.76%) and gave birth to on an average 2.6 children. Of the total 1.19 crore married women, 14.27% have not given birth to any child. While 17.04% delivered one child, 22.93% gave birth to two, 17.74% to three, 12.23% to four, 7.13% to five, 4.10% to six and 4.56% to seven or more. (Times of India 11/4/15)

10. Woman Locked in Room for Two Weeks Rescued (8)

BENGALURU: A 30-year-old woman, who was allegedly locked in a room for two weeks by her husband, was rescued by police from her residence in Panchasheela Nagar on Sunday. The incident was reported in Vijaynagar police station limits. Police said Shobha got married to Venugopal (45), a small-time realtor, around three years ago. The couple, who hail from K M Doddi in Mandya, settled in Panchasheela Nagar near Moodalapalya here. Police said at the time of their marriage Venugopal had claimed to be a BCom graduate who was employed in a nationalised bank. However, after the marriage, Shobha and her family realised that he had lied. He even started harassing Shobha for dowry. The family then approached Vijaynagar police,  who took the couple to a magistrate. In front of the magistrate Venugopal promised to look after Shobha, police said. But two weeks ago, he sent his parents to a relative’s house in his native town and locked Shobha in a room. He allegedly starved and assaulted her. On Sunday, Shobha managed to alert her neighbours, who informed her older brother. He rushed to the house and repeatedly knocked on the door. After a while, Venugopal came out and began to abuse him. Shobha’s brother then called the police and media, who rushed to the spot and saw a badly injured Shoba lying on the floor. They took her to a private hospital. Some of Shobha’s relatives allegedly assaulted Venugopal, who managed to flee. Later, he was admitted to a private hospital. It is said that Venugopal suspected his wife’s fidelity and used to quarrel with her. He used to frequently torture her too. The doctors found grievous injuries on her face and shoulder. Vijaynagar police have registered a complaint against Venugopal, and booked him under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder). (New Indian Express 13/4/15)

11. Panchayat fines groom 75 paisa for cancelling engagement (8)

CHANDIGARH: A community panchayat in Haryana on Monday slapped a fine of 75 paisa on a groom for annulling his engagement nine days before the wedding. The panchayat in Fatehabad imposed the fine after both the parties approached it for compromise. The man was asked to pay the penalty at the local gaushala (cow shelter). Both the sides also decided not to pursue the case further. Police said Mansi, a resident of Ratia township in Fatehabad district, was engaged to Sanjeev Kumar, a resident of a village in Punjab’s Mansa district last January. The families had fixed April 22 as the wedding date. The woman’s uncle, Naresh Sharma, told TOI on Tuesday that after they had made all the arrangements for the wedding and distributed the invitation cards, the man’s family sought a car and other items in dowry. When the woman’s family refused to meet these demands, the man’s family cancelled the engagement. However, the man’s family members denied these allegations. They claimed the man and the woman had decided to call off the engagement during the past year. After the woman filed a complaint with the Fatehabad DSP, the case was referred to the nodal cell and the man sought more time to solve the issue with the panchayat’s help. Following this, a panchayat was convened at the police station and the two parties agreed to compromise. Fatehabad SP Sangeeta Rani said the complaint was filed by the woman and the matter was referred to the crime against women cell. She admitted the two parties later sorted out the issue with the panchayat’s help. “We don’t interfere in panchayat’s decisions, but we generally see the interest and consent of the victim is protected,” she said. “We’re also checking whether the girl was satisfied with the decision or not.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

12. Sex assault drives many teenager boys to suicide (8)

New York: Although most sex assault victims are usually girls, the boys too face such attacks and the resultant stigma, a new study reveals. One in three teenage boys attempt suicide after they’re sexually assaulted, though most incidents usually go unreported, the study found. “The stigma is often not addressed. It’s a silent issue in society,” said lead researcher Laura Anderson. “Very rarely does programming address boys. It’s often presumed to be an issue for girls,” the psychologist from the University at Buffalo added. Anderson noticed in her practice that teenage patients who attempted suicide tended to share the same histories of sexual assault and struggles with weight, media reports said. The study looked at the data of more than 31,000 teens aged 14-18 from 2009 and 2011 in the Youth and Risk Behaviour Survey. Anderson found 3.5 percent of boys with a healthy weight had attempted suicide, while 33.2 percent of boys who had been the victim of sexual assault attempted to take their life. As for girls, the study found 5.8 percent of girls with a healthy weight and no sexual assault history had attempted suicide. That rate jumped to 27.1 percent for girls who were sexually assaulted. “The results highlight the need to educate the public and develop preventive programming and support for male and female sexual assault survivors,” Anderson said. Anderson said under-reporting was common, especially among boys. The study was published in Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour. (Business Standard 15/4/15)

13. Haryana’s Harappa saluted women 5,000 years ago (8)

CHANDIGARH: Given its skewed sex ratio and long list of repressive khap diktats, it is difficult to imagine Haryana as a place which put women on a higher pedestal than men. But when the Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) dug up the Harappan Rakhigarhi site in Hisar, they found in the 5,500-year-old ruins a lifestyle that today’s women activists would have been proud of. The ASI report based on excavations between 1997 and 2003 has pointed out that “female deceased were offered more than double number of earthen wares as compared to opposite sex at the burials found at the Rakhigarhi site”.”Apart from this, to show reverence, the female deceased were invariably offered wares like dish-on-stand, bowl-onstand, beaker and medium sized vases, denoting their status over and above male counterpart” the 396-page report says. The report was submitted by retired DG (archaeology) Dr Amarendra Nath in December last year after 12 years of extensive research. At least 12 skeletons were found during that period and five more have been found last week during an ongoing separate research by Deccan College, Pune. The report also cites size of bangles, found inside burials, to support the fact that women faced no discrimination at that time while doing heavy work at home or outside. “Also, some wide heavy bangles found at different sites show battering marks on them. That means that heavy manual work was also part of the work of these particular women,” the report added. It said that these type of wide shell bangles were never found in any other burials at any Harappan site so far in Asia. A part of the report also dwells upon the “robust build of a female”. It, however, found that widows were denied these burial rites. The report has also mentioned that the people of this civilization strictly followed the Vedic tenets to cremate the dead. A majority of cemetery sites have been found located adjacent to watercourse or river front according to Vedas, it said. “Satapatha Brahmana prescribes that the cemetery be located out of sight of the village and burial be made on salt-free soil, over a level ground, closed to woods where the waters flowing from a southerly direction come to the AR east and stand still without dashing forward. This literary account was compatible geo morphological residuce particularly around mounds of area marked as RGR 7 at the site,” the report said. The report said that process of excavations further spotted sporadic remains of bones of cattle and sheep next to de ceased in consonance with animal offering references in Rigveda and Atharvaveda. The ASI report on Rakhigarhi has also declared it as the biggest Harappan site so far with 350 hectares, leaving behind Pakistan’s Mohenjo-Daro. (Times of India 19/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. Changes to child labour law give erring parents a breather (14)

New Delhi: In an effort to provide a human touch to the Child Labour Prohibition Act, the government has proposed that a parent will not be booked for the first offence under law the in which punishment — both jail term and penalty — is being increased manifold. The proposal circulated by the labour ministry says a parent should not be booked for the first offence and action should be taken for subsequent violations. “A parent may have allowed his child to work, unaware of the law. The same rule cannot apply if he is caught again,” a senior government official said, adding that parents were being given the benefit of doubt. The reason behind the provision is that child labourers mostly hail from extremely poor families where parents are not educated enough to understand the nuances of law. The provision will also check their possible harassment. The government also believes that parents should be given a chance to correct themselves, a view child rights activists say will promote child labour rather than curb it. The amendment bill likely to be introduced in the second part of the Budget session will also increase the fine by over five times from the present Rs 10,000. For the first offence by the employer, the proposed fine is Rs 50,000 which can be increased to Rs 1 lakh for subsequent offences. The government is also proposing an increase in jail term for repeated offenders for up to two years from the present six months. There are also plans to set up a district-level fund to provide relief up to Rs 15,000 to each child labour victim. The government has also prescribed a mechanism to ensure the child secures admission to a school and is rehabilitated. However, those in the field of rehabilitation say unless a system to ensure quick transfer of funds from the state where the child was found working to his native state is worked out, the district-level fund will not do much. (Hindustan Times 12/4/15)

15. Child rights panel seeks reports (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Child Rights Commission has sought reports on the issues of parents marrying off their minor girl to a moneylender in Idukki and also on the instances of sexual harassment of minor tribal girls at Ambalavayal in Wayanad. The commission asked the Idukki District Collector to submit a report on the marriage of a minor girl to a moneylender and the Wayanad district police chief on the sexual harassment issue. They had been told to submit the reports before April 17. (The Hindu 13/4/15)

16. Millions of Middle East children out of school, UN warns (14)

BEIRUT: More than 12 million children in the Middle East are not being educated despite advances in efforts to expand schooling, the UN children’s agency Unicef said on Wednesday. The figure does not include children forced from school by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, who would bring the total not receiving an education to 15 million, the agency said in a new report. The joint report by Unicef and UN cultural agency Unesco’s Institute for Statistics praises the “considerable resources and political capital” devoted to expanding education in the Middle East over the last decade. It notes that “out-of-school rates for primary school children have plummeted, often by as much as half.” “But in recent years, progress has stalled,” it says, with 4.3 million primary-aged children and 2.9 million lower secondary-aged children out of school. An additional 5.1 million children are not getting a year of pre-primary school education, bringing the total number of the region’s children out of school to 12.3 million, the report says. That figure represents around 15% of the children in the Middle East who should be receiving pre-primary, primary or secondary education. The report says a study of nine countries in the region revealed a range of reasons that kept children out of school, including poverty. In many cases, families could not afford costs associated with schooling, including books and uniforms, or the loss of income from a child who could be put to work. “In countries where a substantial group of children remain out of school, they are predominantly from the poorest households in rural areas,” the report says. Gender discrimination also remains a factor. “Girls are undervalued, and since they are not expected to work, their families see no need for them to learn,” the report says, adding that early marriage is also an issue in most countries in the region. Elsewhere, violence is a problem — either inside schools, or in conflict zones like Syria and Iraq, where millions of children no longer have access to education and schools have been caught up in violence. The report says keeping children in school once they enrolled was a key problem, with high drop-out rates at most levels in many countries in the region. It proposes three main recommendations, including a focus on early childhood development (ECD), noting that pre-primary education is an area where the disparity between wealthy and poor children is most stark in the region. “Levelling the playing field in terms of equal access to ECD is a matter of urgency,” it said. It also urges a cross-sector approach to helping children enter school, pointing out that factors from transportation to health can affect whether a child is enrolled or not. Finally, it suggests a focus on “retention,” ensuring that children are not pushed out of education once they enrol because of factors like corporal punishment or falling behind peers. It also notes that special attention must be paid to the situation of children caught up in war, “given the recurring character of conflicts” in the region. “The international community should ensure sufficient funding for education in emergencies and national governments in the region should adopt flexible approaches for accommodating the education needs of conflict-affected children.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

17. ‘Country has failed to protect children from sexual abuse’ (14)

Nagpur: Over the last decade, the number of child rape cases has increased by a whopping 336%, says data recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The bureau’s report for 2013 states that between 2012 and 2013, crimes against children like kidnapping, procuring minor girls and rape have doubled. The average age of sexual abuse victims in the country has been estimated to be around nine years. Despite the serious figures, there is no focus or national discussions on the subject. As a signatory of United Nations convention of Child Rights and a partner in the United Nations declaration on the Rights of the Child, 1959, India guarantees certain rights to its children. These include the rights to protection from abuse, exploitation and neglect among others. However, activists feel that the country has failed miserably in providing the promised rights to its children, who account for 40% of its population. “I believe that children’s rights are often disregarded in favour of women’s rights. The Women and Child Development ministry focuses on women only, forgetting that they are responsible to the children as well. The political leaders also chose not to intervene as children are not a part of their vote bank,” said NGO Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP). The organization is among the many that have together initiated a discussion on the subject in observance of the national child abuse awareness month. “As per the results of a survey conducted by the Women and Child Development ministry in 2007, more than 50% children in the country face physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect of girl child and several such issues,” said writer Yogesh Master, who is also a supporter of the initiative. He believes that despite the figures, there is widespread denial about the existence of child abuse in our society because no one wants to believe that anyone would do something that terrible to a child. Besides, in India, the perpetrators in many cases of child abuse are mostly people known to the children, pointed out child rights activist Sudha Rajashekar. “This means that the child abuse cases are highly underreported. As children are not aware of what inappropriate behaviour means, they don’t even know that they are being abused. Since talking about sex is taboo in our society, the victims end up feeling guilty and don’t even tell anybody about their plight in many cases,” she said. The activists want that children should be given sex education and a mechanism should be created for them to feel safe to report such cases. (Times of India 17/4/15)

18. Child rights activists call for sex education in schools (14)

NEW DELHI: Sex education should be compulsory in all high schools in the country with the focus on explaining what constitutes child abuse, child rights activists said on Sunday. They demanded the setting up of a countrywide child helpline to report cases of abuse, and to train schoolchildren how to use it without revealing the name or identity of the victim and their family. The demand comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s April 17 castigation of the central government for being insensitive towards the protection of child rights and for its reluctance to take effective steps to recover missing children. Blaming the ministry of women and child development for its “casual and insensitive” approach, the social justice bench of the apex court comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit observed that “This is clear indication of the lack of sensitivity on the part of the government and the ministry towards the missing children and its utter disregard for the laws framed by the parliament.” It also asked the Centre to take steps for the expeditious appointment of the chairman and the members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which posts are lying vacant for quite some time now. Bangalore-based child rights activist Kumar V. Jahgirdar told IANS that there is a need for stricter implementation of the existing laws. “There is need for strict implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 by creating awareness at the grassroots,” said Jahgirdar, who is the president of the Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) that is fighting for shared parenting in case of divorce. He said there is also need to promote shared parenting as divorce and separation cases, especially in metros and cities, are on the rise. “There is also need for declaring parental alienation as a crime in the interest of children. In most of the separation cases, the fathers have been denied enough access by their estranged wives to their children. A child needs love and affection from both father and mother,” Jahgirdar said. Quoting the Women and Child Development Ministry figures on child abuse cases, he said those in the age group of 5-12 years have reported higher levels of abuse. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years and protects them from physical offences. It provides for punishment ranging from simple to rigorous imprisonment. Swarup Sarkar, founder of the Delhi chapter of NGO Save Family Foundation, said the schools — both private and government — should be made accountable for child safety. He demanded a separate union ministry for child development as they constitute more than 40 percent of the population. (Times of India 19/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. Hindu Mahasabha leader advocates forced sterilization to restrict Muslim, Christian population

JIND: A leader of Hindu Mahasabha on Saturday stoked a controversy saying Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilization to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers,” vice-president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, Sadhvi Deva Thakur told reporters here. She also exhorted Hindus to have more children and increase their population so as to have an effect on the world. In another controversial remark, she said idols of Hindu gods and goddesses should be placed in mosques and churches. Thakur also came out strongly in support of installing a statue of “patriot” Nathuram Godse in Haryana. (Hindustan Times 12/4/15)

20. PM’s Vigyan Bhavan speech restored minorities’ confidence: Naqvi (7)

New Delhi: Even as the NDA government battles barbs from Opposition parties and a stricture from US President Barack Obama over its handling of minorities, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been on a quiet and sustained outreach to minorities—especially Muslims and Christians who are perceived to be the most embattled—across the country. Naqvi has travelled across nine states since the beginning of 2015—he has been to some states twice—and held over 25 meetings in a bid to build confidence among communities. While the government was fending off Opposition attacks over the status of minorities inside and outside the Parliament, Naqvi was meeting representatives of various communities in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Mahrashtra, Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Kerala. The minister conceded that during the first few trips to Kerala and Telangana in January, he witnessed among people mistrust for the government. “There were a lot of misgivings. There were several statements from people in the government and the party and the minorities were upset. They would not open up about their issues and would simply say, ‘Let us see what work you do’. It was clear that there was a lot of insecurity,” Naqvi said. He added that things changed over the months, dramatically so after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement at a church function in Vigyan Bhawan. At a function to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi had said his government would ensure people can follow the religion of his/her choice “without coercion and undue influence” and not allow any religious group to incite hatred. Naqvi said the PM’s speech started restoring minorities’ confidence. The subsequent meetings, he said, showed a change in their approach as they began talking about issues beyond security, like education, health etc. “I could see the difference between my Kerala visits in January and now. People are more confident about flagging their issues now,” Naqvi, speaking about his recent visit to Kerala where he attended a function of Jamiyathul-Ulama, said. The minister visited Karnataka where, besides holding meetings, he visited Seyyidi Madani Dargah at Mangalore, which is known as the Ajmer Dargah of south India. (Indian Express 13/4/15)

21. Rajnath assures full security, protection to minorities (7)

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday assured full security and protection to minority communities in the country. Interacting with a three-member delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the minister said strict action would be taken against those who disturb communal harmony in the country. “Strictest possible action will be taken by the central government against people who indulge in such acts,” he said in a statement. The delegation thanked the minister for providing adequate security for religious places of the minority communities. (India Today 13/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

22. Shiv Sena faces flak over ‘Muslims’ rights’ remark, complaint filed with minorities panel (7)

Mumbai: A day after Shiv Sena MP and editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, stirred controversy for his remarks that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics, the party is now facing flak from various political parties on Monday. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain slammed Shiv Sena and said that the Constitution of India has given everyone the right to vote. “The BJP believes in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. No one can deprive anyone from casting votes. The Muslims in India consider the country their motherland,” he said. Condemning the statement, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told ANI, “It is a habitual thing for Shiv Sena to do. They always make communal statements.” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi also said that what Shiv Sena is demanding is against the Constitution. “Fortunately, it is not possible to do things that Shiv Sena is suggesting,” he was quoted by ANI. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar accused the Shiv Sena of trying to divide the nation. “India has second largest population of Muslims in the world and in couple of decades we will have highest number of Muslims in the world. We should be proud of it. Shiv Sena is trying to divide the nation, they want to break it into pieces,” Aiyar said. The NCP had also condemned Shiv Sena yesterday with spokesperson Nawab Malik alleging that the Shiv Sena wants to end democracy and bring in the rule of German dictator Adolf Hitler. “To snatch away the right of voting from the Muslims is a threat to the democracy. If voting rights of the special sections are snatched away, it only indicates that they want to end the democracy and bring in the Hitler rule and the people will not accept it,” he told the media. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, has justified his party`s stand and claimed that the condition of the community would never improve as long as the vote bank politics continues in India. “If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had once said to withdraw Muslims voting rights. What he said is right,” an editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece `Saamana` said on Sunday. A complaint was on Sunday filed with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against Shiv Sena MP and editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, for his remarks that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics. (Zee news 14/4/15)

23. Difficult days ahead for Muslims, Azam Khan says (7)

NEW DELHI: Stating that difficult days are ahead for the Muslim community, Samjawadi Party leader Azam Khan on Wednesday said he is ready to leave India if any country offers him shelter. “The circumstances being created suggest that difficult days are ahead for the Muslim community,” Azam Khan said adding, “I honestly say that if any country agrees to shelter me, I will leave India along with my family.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

Shiv Sena wants mandatory family planning for Muslims, Christians (7)

MUMBAI: After stoking controversy with its demand that Muslims be stripped of their voting rights, Shiv Sena on Wednesday advocated compulsory family planning for Muslims and Christians to check their “rising” population. “By only increasing population, one can try and convert the country into Pakistan, but cannot give quality and healthy life to one’s family,” the BJP ally in Maharashtra said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. Sena backed the views of vice-president of All India Hindu Mahasabha Sadhvi Deva Thakur on the issue though it did say that her choice of words may have been wrong.”Sadhvi Deva says that the increasing population of Muslims and Christians is dangerous for the country and they should be, therefore, forcibly sterilized. She should have used the word family planning instead sterilization,” it said. Thakur had on Saturday said Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilization to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers,” Sadhvi had said. Sena today said, “Sadhvi is not as educated as the Owaisi brothers (of AIMIM), thus may have chosen wrong words to convey her message. One can ignore her sterilization words, but the fact is, their (Muslim, Christian) population and family planning remains a problem.” Sena said if All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi is truly concerned about the community, he should support the call for family planning and the cease of burqa-wearing tradition for Muslim women. “Family planning will ensure that one can look after his family properly and provide quality education to children,” it said. The saffron party said by advocating sterilization of Muslims, it wants ‘quality living’ for them. “When we say Muslims should undergo sterilization, our intention is that they should live happily,” Sena said. Sena had earlier courted controversy by demanding scrapping of voting rights of Muslims, saying the community has often been used for vote bank politics, evoking sharp reactions from several political parties which accused it of trying to inflame passions and divide people. (Times of India 15/4/15)

24. Muslims have drifted from faith: Modi aide Sareshwala (7)

Lucknow: A Muslim male remembers Islamic shariah only when he wants to avoid maintenance allowance to his divorcee wife or when he wants to give minimum share of parental property, Zafar Sareshwala, the  Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) said Friday in a statement that is bound to invite sharp reactions from the minority community. “Musalman mard ko shariah ki do baar yaad aati hai ? Ek jab talaq deney key baad aurat ko maintenance na dena padey aur doosra baap key inteqal key baad behen ko kaisey kam hissa diya jaye. These are two grim realities of Muslim community. Males remember shariah on these two occasions only,” Sareshwala said while talking to The Indian Express from Aligarh. Sareshwala, who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was in Aligarh to attend the 76th convocation of Jamia Urdu where he conferred with a honorary doctorate. He also attended four other functions in Aligarh, including at AMU where he is President’s nominee for selection committee of teachers. “The response during these meetings was overwhelming. People here want to discuss the problems faced by the Muslim community,” he added. Sareshwala said Muslims now a days do not “adhere to Islamic principles like giving rights to his neighbours or speaking truth. Muslims have drifted from their faith and religion. A real Muslim is one who has pain for everyone in his heart”. Sareshwala also lashed out at the “demanding nature” of Muslims whether it is for reservation or various concessions. “We had come to give something to this country. We had come to give this country the teachings of Islamic faith. We have left that task of giving and are now demanding things,” Sareshwala – a member of the Tablighi Jamaat – said. (Indian Express 18/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

25. Attack on churches could affect foreign investment: Kirloskar (7)

Industrialist Sanjay Kirloskar on Monday said that incidents like church attacks could affect foreign investment in India. “We are a secular nation and we always have been a tolerant nation but these kinds of things, small incidents, that might take place in Delhi or Mumbai.” “In this age of Twitter and Internet everything goes across very quickly and specially if its churches then people might get upset and we have to understand that most of the investment that we want is from Christian countries,” he told NDTV at the international trade fair in Hannover. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday inaugurated the India Pavilion at the fair in which India is a partner country. Kirloskar, the chairman and managing director of Kirloskar Brothers which is the flagship company of the Kirloskar Group, said the welcome has been very good but there has been “a slight concern that India (should) protect Indian minorities”. “I am sure that the Prime Minister is talking to his people … we have to send the right messages and make sure that this development story doesn’t get sidelined,” he said. The Prime Minister had said that his government is committed to protect the right of every individual to adopt and retain the religion of his choice. Since the beginning of December 2014, five churches have been attacked in Delhi and two convents have been broken into. The Christian community has repeatedly expressed its insecurity and apprehension. (Hindustan Times 13/4/15)

26. Eight Dalit Christians Embrace Buddhism (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI:  A group of eight Dalit Christians embraced Buddhism in Pudukai on Tuesday. They converted their faith on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar due  of the attitude of the Keeranur parish priest Fr L Edward Raj, who had been allegedly discriminating against them for long. Puliyur, a remote sleepy village, about 12 km from Keeranur in the district, has a populations of about 500 Dalit in 125 families. They all worship at the St Xavier’s church. The group embraced Buddhism at a formal ceremony organised by Anbazhagan, a Buddhist priest. They took a pledge in front of the Ambedkar and Buddha potraits. According to Dhammabala, special invitee for the function and managing trustee of “Father of Constitution of India foundation”, told Express that the youth, of Ambedkar Youth Movement, approached Nava Bavudha Sangam, in Tiruchy, with an intention to embrace Buddhism to get self respect and social equality. Their names would be changed after fulfilling official formalities, he said. Meanwhile one of the villagers, Joseph, pointed out that their ancestors converted to Christianity for want of respect. But here, the Keeranur parish priest and other higher authorities do not treat them well. They charged that they use to call them by their caste names. Hence, our youth want to change their identity and decided to embrace Buddhism, he said. The converted youth were identified as Parithi Mozhi, Dhanabal, K Raju, Ilaiyaraja, Ilamparithi, K Pandiyan, Maria  Soosai and Alex. Commenting over the issue Fr L Edward Raj, said, a total of 23 churches have been functioning under Keeranur Vicariate. “We offer various preferences to Dalits. But recently, a few of them wanted to change their religion for want of government jobs as Dalit Christians have been placed in the list of  backward,” He also denied any discrimination against Dalits in churches. (New Indian Express 16/4/15)

27. Agra: Idols vandalised at church by miscreants, triggers outrage (7)

Lucknow: A church in the Rakabganj area of Agra city was found vandalised by unknown miscreants early on Thursday morning, triggering outrage among the members of the local Christian community. Police said two idols of Jesus and one of Mother Mary, encased within glass boxes and placed in the lawn of the St Mary’s Church, were found vandalised in the wee hours. The glass case of a fourth idol was found damaged apparently by a stone, they said. Police lodged an FIR against unidentified persons on the complaint of the church’s priest, Father Moon Lazarus. He informed the police that he came to know about the incident at around 3.30 am when he woke up on hearing some noise. The windowpanes of his car were also found damaged. Briefing about the incident on behalf of the government, IG Traffic Deepak Ratan, told reporters in Lucknow that the FIR has been lodged under relevant sections of the IPC including Sections 295(injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), and 153A(promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race etc). According to Rakabganj police station in charge Nirmal Singh, apart from the three idols that were vandalised, the glass case of a fourth one was found broken. He said a chain tied around the neck of Mother Mary’s idol, which was found lying on the ground. Agra SSP Modak Rajesh Rao said no robbery or theft took place during the incident. “Anything can be said only after investigations are over,” he said. District and police officials reached the church in the morning to review security arrangements, police said. Meanwhile, Christian community leaders in Agra demanded firm action against the culprits within 24 hours. (Indian Express 17/4/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. Australia says Iran should take back failed asylum-seekers (13)

Sydney: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Saturday that Iran should take back its citizens who failed in their bids for refugee status, confirming his government will lobby Tehran on the issue. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is expected to raise the deportation of Iranian nationals when she visits Tehran next week, a move which could ease pressure on Australian immigration camps on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. “It`s important that those who are found not to be refugees go home,” Abbott told reporters in Sydney. “And this is where we will be talking to the Iranian government about taking back people who are… Iranian citizens, because they deserve to be in Iran. They belong in Iran.” Refugee advocates say Iran refuses to take back failed asylum-seekers returned against their will, and have raised questions about their safety if they are returned to their homeland. “Obviously we are looking after those who are found to be refugees,” Abbott said when asked about the possible persecution of Iranians sent home. “But those who are not found to be refugees should go back to their home country, and if their home country is Iran, that`s where they belong.” Iranians make up about 20 percent of the 1,848 people held in immigration detention centres in Australia, according to official figures from late March, and account for many of the 1,707 held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Several thousand more are understood to be living in the community on bridging visas but still awaiting the final assessment of their claims for refugee status. “The key point is, we have a significant number of people in immigration detention at the moment from Iran,” government MP Paul Fletcher told Sky News. “Our objective is ultimately to have those people returned to the country that they came from,” he added, acknowledging this could raise “difficulties and challenges”.The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the issue of returning failed asylum-seekers had already been a matter of diplomatic discussion between Bishop and her Iranian counterpart. “One of the biggest challenges that we are facing with failed asylum-seekers is those refusing to return home,” the unnamed diplomatic source told the newspaper. Refugee advocates say there are about 45 Iranian asylum-seekers in indefinite detention in Australia who have already had their claims for refugee status denied and are refusing to go home. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said sending asylum-seekers back was “going to put the lives of men, women and children at high risk”. Under Canberra`s immigration policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are subject to mandatory detention, and since 2013 have been denied resettlement in Australia, even if found to be genuine refugees, and are instead housed on Nauru or PNG. (Zee News 11/4/15)

29. Eight lakh children forced from homes in Boko Haram violence (13)

Lagos, Nigeria: The children’s drawings show men with guns, a coffin, a car exploding. One picture has stick-like figures of eight siblings missed by their teenage sister. The disturbing images come from some of an estimated 800,000 children forced from the homes by Boko Haram extremists, according to a UNICEF report published on Monday. It says the number of refugee children has doubled in the past year, making them about half of all the 1.5 million Nigerians made homeless in the Islamic uprising. “Children have become deliberate targets, often subjected to extreme violence ,” the report says. The number of children absent from primary school in Nigeria has increased from 8 million in 2007 to 10.5 million — the highest figure in the world, it says. Boko Haram has targeted schools, destroying or severely damaging more than 300 and killing 314 students and 196 teachers, UNICEF says. The nickname of Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, means “Western education is forbidden” or sinful. Called “Missing Childhoods,” it was published ahead of the first anniversary of the mass kidnappings the night of April 14-15, 2014, of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok. Dozens escaped on their own but 219 remain missing.AP (The Hindu 14/4/15)

30. Presumed deaths of 400 migrants among worst recent tragedies (13)

Milan: The UN refugee agency says the shipwreck in the Mediterranean this week, in which 400 migrants are presumed to have died, is among the deadliest single incidents in the last decade. The tragedy comes amid an unprecedented wave of migration toward Europe from Africa and the Middle East. The Italian Coast Guard said it rescued nearly 10,000 people at sea since Friday, which was an unprecedented rate in such a short period, according to spokesman, Cmdr. Filippo Marini. UNHCR Italy spokeswoman Barbara Molinario says 900 migrants have died or gone missing at sea so far this year, part of a phenomenon the agency has been tracking since 2011. In most cases, no bodies are found and the deaths are presumed based on survivor accounts or, when no boats are recovered, reports by family members whose loved ones never arrive in Europe. The UNHCR estimates 3,500 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, up from 600 in 2013. (Zee News 15/4/15)

31. 700 migrants feared dead off Libya (13)

As many as 700 migrants were feared drowned Sunday after their packed boat capsized off Libya in what was described as the deadliest such disaster to date in the Mediterranean. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Italy’s Coast Guard said only 28 people had survived the wreck. Their testimonies suggested there had been about 700 people on board the 20-metre (70-foot) fishing boat, officials said. “It seems we are looking at the worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean,” UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said. The European Union announced an emergency meeting of foreign and interior ministers to discuss what Amnesty International blasted as an avoidable “man-made tragedy”. Coastal authorities in Italy and Malta picked up a distress signal from the stricken vessel around midnight on Saturday, when it was about 126 km off the Libyan coast and 177 km south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Coast Guard instructed a nearby merchant ship to go to the scene and it was when the Portuguese-registered King Jacob arrived at the scene that the fishing boat capsized, most likely as a result of the terrified passengers stampeding to one side in their desperation to get off, the UNHCR’s Sami said. A total of 17 boats scoured the area for survivors on Sunday but only 24 bodies had been recovered so far, the Coast Guard said. The disaster was the latest in a growing catalogue of mass drownings of migrants attempting to reach Europe on overcrowded, unseaworthy boats run by people smugglers who are able to operate out of Libya with impunity because of the chaos engulfing the north African state. The most serious incident prior to Sunday occurred off Malta in September 2014. An estimated 500 migrants drowned in a shipwreck caused by traffickers deliberately ramming the boat in an attempt to force the people on board onto another, smaller vessel. In October 2013, more than 360 Africans perished when the tiny fishing boat they were crammed onto caught fire within sight of the coast of Lampedusa. That horrific tragedy was described at the time as a wake-up call to the world but 18 months later there is no sign of a let-up in the numbers attempting the perilous crossing in search of a better life in Europe. The latest disaster comes after a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead. If the worst fears about Sunday’s tragedy are confirmed, it will take the death toll since the start of 2015 to more than 1,600. More than 11,000 other would-be immigrants have been rescued since the middle of last week and current trends suggest last year’s total of 170,000 migrants landing in Italy is likely to be at least match in 2015. (Asian Age 20/4/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

32. CIC Directs Government to Bring Pvt Hospitals Under RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Centre and state governments to enforce the Right to Information (RTI) Act to ensure that private hospitals provide medical records of the patients on a daily basis. In a petition filed by Prabhat Kumar, Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has asked Fortis hospital to provide all records to the applicant, whose father Kailash Prasad Singh had passed away in 2012. On the refusal of the hospital to provide the records the Information Commissioner said, “This is an undesirable example of defiance by private hospitals and of their indifference towards lives, health and rights of the patients, from whom they charge huge amounts of money.” He also made it clear that the right to medical records was the same in private as well as public hospitals. In fact, this is the second order by the CIC on providing patients their medical records since it is the right of the patients. According to the CIC’s July 23 order, “a patient has a right to his/her medical record,  which is rooted in Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution and the hospital authorities have a duty to provide the same under RTI Act, Consumer Protection Act, Medical Council Act and World Medical Ethics. The Commission said that the applicant’s plea would be looked into under the RTI Act and also under the consideration that the patient had the right to obtain his medical record based on world medical ethics and also as a consumer under the Consumer Protection Act, 1982. It is the duty of the doctor or hospital to develop a mechanism whereby a copy of the patient’s medical record — from his admission to his discharge — be provided to him or his legal representatives even without him asking as matter of routine procedure at the time of discharge as directed by Bombay High Court in the referred case,” the order said. “Forcing private hospitals to provide day to day medical records will help in keeping check on some hospitals from resorting to   extortionist, inhuman and ruthless business of prescribing unnecessary diagnostic tests, unnecessary surgical operations, caesarean section, unwarranted angioplasties, inserting stents, without need, or of substandard nature, or putting low-quality stent while charging the price of high-quality stent, and several such malpractices   amounting to medical terrorism,“ the order said. (New Indian Express 11/4/15)

33.  “It’s challenging to get response to RTI queries” (1)

ADILABAD: Many a disabled person on Monday complained of officials not responding to their pleas or applications in the desired manner. At a review of the welfare activities for the disabled chaired by Forest Minister Jogu Ramanna, they said even their queries under the Right to Information Act went unanswered. The disabled persons also complained about the government not providing the statutory 3 per cent reservation in employment for them. “We also fought for making Telangana State a reality but the government was ignoring their interests, said Madhu, Banayya and Pentaji who spoke during the meeting. Mr. Ramanna and Adilabad MP G. Nagesh asked for a list of the disabled people so that a separate housing colony for them could be built. The demand for a separate colony had come during the proceedings of the meeting. The Minister warned medical officials who delayed in giving disability certificates to the applicants. He also asked RTC officials to ensure that the disabled were able to travel on concessional fares and their seats are left open for them only. (The Hindu 14/4/15)

34. High-level panel on Official Secrets Act to meet today (1)

NEW DELHI: A high-level committee formed by the Union government to look into the provisions of the Official Secrets Act in the light of the Right to Information (RTI) Act will meet for the first time in North Block on Thursday, Home Ministry sources said here on Wednesday. The committee, comprising Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, Law Secretary P.K. Malhotra and Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Sanjay Kothari, was constituted in February, but notified only recently. The meeting will start a long-awaited process to do away with excessive secrecy through amendments in the Official Secrets Act, a law enacted by the British in 1923, official sources said. The RTI Act has been in force for a decade now. Officials said the exercise was aimed at making changes to the Official Secrets Act to complete the transition from the secrecy regime of the past century to a more modern, democratic and transparent regime. “The idea is to do away with excessive secrecy without compromising on national security. On the one hand, we have an act that makes seeking information a right and on the other, there is an enactment that bars sharing information. The committee will look at removing the contradictions between the two,” an official privy to the developments said. The Home Secretary, who will chair the meeting on Thursday, is expected to seek inputs from the Intelligence Bureau and security agencies. (The Hindu 16/4/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. Human rights should be part of curriculum, says HC judge (11)

PATNA: Justice Birendra Prasad Verma of Patna high court on Saturday said human rights should be included as a subject in the school and college curriculum for creating awareness among the youth. Inaugurating a UGC-sponsored seminar on ‘Human rights education’ organized by Patna Training College and Suryasthali Human Welfare Society, Justice Verma said protection of human rights was essential for the existence of humanity. Chanakya National Law University ( CNLU) vice-chancellor A Lakshminath said human rights cover legal or constitutional rights of human beings. He regretted that children of Bihar are still deprived of the basic needs of food and education and their condition is worse than those in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Right to education would have no meaning in Bihar if the system of school education does not improve in the next five years, he said. Patna Training College principal Khagendra Kumar welcomed the guests. (Times of India 11/4/15)

36. SSA starts survey to find schools dropouts in Madurai district (11)

MADURAI: Under the auspices of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a survey to find out the number of school dropouts recently began in the district, which aims to enumerate the children aged between six and 14 who have either dropped out of school or not joined at all. Over a period of 45 days, SSA officials will go from door to door enquiring about the children in the household. Once they are enumerated, officials plan to ensure that these children receive free education up to the age of 14. In connection with the survey, a meeting was held in the district collectorate under the district collector, L Subramanian. Various officials from the education department and SSA attended the meeting. The collector asked them to visit the houses in the morning and evening so family members, especially the ones who go to work, would be present in the house. The SSA works to make sure that all children aged up to 14 years receive education. Besides officials from SSA, district education department officers and 10 NGOs are engaged in the survey. Although the survey started in the beginning of April, the whole process was given a proper push after the meeting at the collectorate, said K Parvathi, chief educational officer, SSA, Madurai. All areas in the district will be covered, but places with high dropout rates would be given utmost importance. Tiruparankundram, Usilampatti, T Kallupatti, Vadipatti and Sedapatti are some of the blocks where the dropout rate is high, officials said. Specific teams have been assigned, with each team responsible for 15 taluks. Assistant education officers and deputy education officers will supervise the survey. Around 1,500 students are expected to be identified during the survey. Their education will be monitored till they become 14 years old, officials said. (Times of India 14/4/15)

37. Terror accused have right to education, says court (11)

MUMBAI: Observing that accused have a right to education, a MCOCA court recently allowed a key accused in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case to attend his LLB exams in Malegaon. The 35-year-old, Sharif Ahmed, a qualified Unani doctor, had applied for his LLB degree last year after the same court granted him permission. “The accused… in this circumstance is entitled to appear for the first and second semester exams,” special judge G T Kadri said in the order passed last week. The judge directed the superintendent of Central Prison, Mumbai, to transfer the accused to Nashik Central Prison well in advance to facilitate his exam attendance at 10am from April 22 to April 27. The court also ordered both authorities to take security and safety precautions and ensure that Ahmed is retransferred to Mumbai after the last exam. The court directed the local arms unit, Tardeo, to supply an escort for transferring Ahmed to Nashik and the Nashik police to provide personnel to take him for his exams and bring him back to Nashik Jail. The application was filed through Ahmed’s advocate Sharif Shaikh. Ahmed had taken admission in the Karmaveer Bhausaheb Hire Law College in Malegaon district. His bail application in the terror case is pending before the Bombay high court. In his examination application, Ahmed told the court that he had already missed the first semester exams, held in December. He said that if he missed the current exams, he would lose a valuable academic year. The first semester exams end on Saturday; the second semester ones will commence the following Wednesday (April 22). The prosecution urged the court to consider security concerns. While it did not deny that the accused was to appear for exams, it denied the date and timings of the exams as mentioned by Ahmed. (Times of India 15/4/15)

38. Alternative schools in remote areas lack facilities (11)

KANNUR: A study conducted by the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) here has found that the majority of the alternative schools, also called Multi-Grade Learning Centres (MGLC) because of the instructional task for different grade-level students, are deprived of basic facilities. Though the MGLCs were started under the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) in 1992 to bring all children in remote areas to school, and later undertaken by the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, they are now under the Education Department. The majority of the students come from socially, economically, and educationally backward families and each MGLC is run by a volunteer-teacher. The study, Functioning of Alternative Schools in the Context of RTE Act, finds that children studying in MGLCs are unable to avail themselves of various facilities under the Act. DIET lecturers M.O. Sunil Kumar, K. Rameshan, and K. Krishna Das randomly selected 12 MGLCs in Malappuram, Kannur, and Kasaragod for the study of over 300 MGLCs across the State with a total student strength of over 5,600. “The study sheds light on serious issues that exist in the MGLCs in the context of the RTE Act which protects child education and breaks all barriers that deny quality education to children,” says DIET Principal C.M. Balakrishnan. It highlights the importance of turning the MGLCs into full-fledged regular schools, he adds.According to the study, the majority of the MGLCs functions in sheds. While the Act prescribes 200 instructional days, half of the MGLCs cannot meet the target. The Act-prescribed facilities deprived to the children in many of the MGLCs include spacious classrooms, ventilation, fresh air, lights, drinking water, and adequate toilet facilities… (The Hindu 19/4/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. 3.5 lakh well-off people have given up subsidised LPGs: Modi (21)

Paris: Around 3.5 lakh well-off people have given up subsidised LPGs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, noting that the money saved on this will be diverted to those who still use wood for cooking. Addressing a congregation of NRIs here, he recalled that he had casually wondered over a week ago why well-off people do not surrender subsidised LPG. “Responding to this, two lakh people voluntarily surrendered subsidised LPG within a week,” he said, adding this encouraged him. “By Thursday last, 3.5 lakh people had surrendered subsidised LPG,” Modi said. The money saved will not go to the government treasury but it will be given to those who still use wood for cooking. “We will transfer this subsidy,” he added. This will also help address the problem of climate change. “Cutting of jungles will continue till people continue cooking using wood,” he said. Referring to Jandhan scheme, the Prime Minister said it was introduced to ensure that the poorest people get a bank account each. He recalled that he made the announcement from Red Fort on Independence Day address last year and the aim was to complete the scheme by Republic Day this year. Modi said the outcome of this scheme was that 13 crore now get direct transfer of subsidy, “plugging leakage” and keeping out the middlemen. He asserted that on the basis of experience of 10 months as Prime Minister, he could say that “there is no reason why India should remain poor.” Talking about his “dream” of making India such a developed country which surpasses even developed nations like France, Modi said there are many possibilities in the country. He said eastern parts of India were still lagging and his endeavor was to make these states like Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha as developed ones. “Some things are left for me to resolve,” Modi quipped. He also said that he was applying pressure on states to develop and use funds for healthcare etc (Zee News 12/4/15)

40. Food Security Act from July 1 in Jharkhand (21)

RANCHI: From July 1, Public Distribution System (PDS) shops in Jharkhand will not only become tech savvy and IT-enabled, but they will start selling rice, wheat, sugar, salt and pulses to 85% of the rural populace and 60% of urban populace at a subsidized rate identified for the scheme by a survey. The Jharkhand government is working on a war footing to achieve the requisite infrastructure-related targets to launch the National Food Security Act (NFSA) within a couple of months. Among the basic works being carried out is physical verification of the households identified by the Government of India through socio-economic survey carried out on the basis of the 2011 Census. State food and civil supplies minister Saryu Rai, who convened a review meeting with the district-level officials engaged in the process of identification and verification of beneficiaries, said there are discrepancies in the data provided by the Centre and the situation on the ground. “While there are families who do not deserve subsidized foodgrain, there are many families running from pillar to post to get their names included as they believe that they would be out of the PDS preview forever if they miss this chance,” Rai said, explaining that the process would be rectified and fine-tuned once it takes off. “NFSA is going to include almost 85% of the rural populace and about 60% urban populace and we appeal to those who can afford to give up subsidy like many have done in case of LPGs. Those not having their names in the GOI list will be included in the future based on a local survey,” Rai said. After completing the survey through district supply officers using the administrative infrastructure up to the level of panchayat and villages, the government has the daunting task of linking all PDS shops through IT so that availability of grains, procurement from FCI, sale figures and all other details are uploaded on the departmental website immediately. “The trucks ferrying foodgrain from godowns will be fitted with GPS and electronic weighing system will be installed at the offtake source and PDS shops,”Rai said. In case of sugar, for which two packets weighing a kg each are to be given to each household, the government has invited tender. “The government has agreed to allow Rs 18.50 subsidy on each kilogram of sugar. Till date, the lower bidder has quoted price of Rs 36.75 per kg, so we are in the process of negotiation to bring it further down,” Rai said, clarifying that packaging cost can be considered, but the supplier would not be given a rate higher than the wholesale market price. The government plans to distribute ration cards to every consumer in the first week of July and has given its nod to the use of old ration card till they are replaced by new one. “Since the Centre will release funds towards NFSA only when the basic and pilferage-proof infrastructure is ready, we all are in electioneering mode to set things in order. We are satisfied with the progress made in each and every district,” Rai said. (Times of India 14/4/15)

41. Jan Dhan Yojna answer to chit fund scams: MJ Akbar (21)

KOLKATA: The Centre’s Jan Dhan Yojna, which has brought the poor into the banking network, will stop people from going to chit fund companies, BJP national spokesperson M J Akbar said here today. “Jan Dhan Yojna is the real answer to Saradha and Rose Valley. That is the answer. Why are the poor going to the chit funds? Because they have no other option,” Akbar said at an interactive session organised by ‘Friends of BJP’ here. He said if the poor are given a bank account, the chit funds will disappear. “That is the brillance of this scheme,” the BJP leader said, adding, as a result the people who support chit funds are against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Stating that it was a matter of shame that 400 million people were still below the poverty line in the country, Akbar claimed that growth during UPA’s time was in the number of ‘jobless’. Since the Modi government came to power, the manufacturing sector has increased from a negative figure to around five per cent, he said. On the issue of declassification of files relating to the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he said the age of truth on the issue is coming. “There has been a conspiracy to stop the truth from coming out. Now the age of truth on Netaji is coming. When it comes out, it is going to destroy a lot of reputations of people who have gone and of the people who are still alive,” Akbar said. (Times of India 16/4/15)

42. Unemployment, root cause of social unrest: trade union leader (21)

MADURAI: The root causes of social unrest in many parts of the world were acute unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and income disparity, said Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary, International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP), on Friday. Inaugurating the 33{+r}{+d}triennial convention of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) here, Mr. Suzuki said that poverty eradication programmes, barring a few exceptions, had not made much impact and unemployment was assuming alarming proportions everywhere. Absence of decent work in their home countries was forcing people to go abroad in search of livelihood. India’s impressive growth rates had not translated into decent job creation. After decades of globalisation and financial meltdown in developed countries, there was no qualitative improvement and inequality was prevailing within and across countries, Mr. Suzuki said. Mr. Suzuki pointed out that trade unions were confronted with hostile attitude from governments and employers and cases of violation of trade union rights had become rampant. Employees were denied the right to work, which was fundamental to economic justice. “Employers now want a global workforce that is powerless and passive,” he said. Jaap Wienen, deputy general secretary, ITUC, felt that Indian politicians did not keep their promises to workers and the government served the employers well, allowing them to be as flexible as they wanted, ignoring workers’ rights. Unfortunately, a “happy few” benefited from India’s tag as an “emerging country” and poor people did not notice any progress. (The Hindu 20/4/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. Centre Mulling Rs 20,000 Hike in Health Cover for Unorganised Labourers (14)

NEW DELHI: The Centre is mulling increasing health insurance coverage for unorganised sector labourers from the existing Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 and a proposal in this regard will be placed before the Union Cabinet soon. The insurance cover under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) will also be expanded to include tertiary care as well, according to a proposal aimed at restructuring the scheme. A senior Health Ministry official said, at present the scheme covers secondary care and hospitalisation expenses up to Rs 30,000. “Apart from that, so far this scheme was run largely through private insurance companies. The Ministry of Health intends to run it through state governments with states moving towards trust or society model. Which means state government organisations will henceforth empanel hospitals, decide packages and settle claims,” the official said. The scheme, launched by the Labour Ministry in 2008 to provide health insurance coverage to families living below poverty line, was transferred to the Union Health Ministry on April 1 this year. The official said, “Over the past decade, health care has become significantly expensive which means households have to shell out more money to access health care services. The aim is to offer a better insurance cover to the poor.” At present, the coverage is extended to five members of a family. Beneficiaries are required to pay Rs 30 as registration fee while the Centre and state governments pay the premium. The scheme has benefited over 3.85 crore families up to March 31, 2014, according to government data. As many as 10,311 hospitals – 6,093 private and 4,218 government – are providing services to the insured persons. The Centre has released its share of Rs 3,738.05 crore under the scheme in the last six years and the allocation in the 2014-15 fiscal stood at around Rs 548.20 crore, the official said. In India, out of the estimated workforce of 47 crore, only eight crore are organised workers while 39 crore are engaged in the unorganised sector, according to an official statement. (New Indian Express 12/4/15)

44. Labour Ministry proposes single Labour Code on wages (14)

NEW DELHI: The Labour Ministry has proposed to come out with a single Labour Code on Wages by amalgamating provisions of various relevant laws. “The Ministry of Labour & Employment has proposed to come out with a Labour Code on Wages by amalgamating the relevant provisions of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, The Payment of Wages Act 1936, The Payment of Bonus Act 1965, and The Equal Remuneration Act 1976,” an official statement said. The Labour Ministry yesterday had held the second tripartite consultation meeting on the draft Labour Code. The meeting was attended by the representatives from central trade unions, employers’ associations, labour department of state governments and central ministries and departments, government said in a release today. In the tripartite meeting, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya briefed the participants about the proposed Labour Code on Wages and invited suggestions from participants in this regard. The Ministry has invited suggestions and comments from the representatives on the Draft Labour Code on Wages by April 20,2015. (Times of India 14/4/15)

45. Varadhi set to be a boon for unemployed youth (14)

KARIMNAGAR: There was an overwhelming response to the awareness programme launched by the district administration under the banner of Varadhi society, a bridge between the jobseekers and employers, with the participation of several hundreds of unemployed youth from various parts of the district in Karimnagar on Wednesday. Several hundreds of unemployed have submitted their applications for the registration with the Varadhi society to secure employment in government and private sector in the district and other parts of the State. Varadhi society is a registered body and its chairman is Collector, members include DRDA project director and District Employment Officer and secretary is retired deputy collector. The Varadhi will send SMS alerts about the employment opportunities and also conduct training programmes for preparation to various competitive examinations. The society will also conduct pre-recruitment training programmes in various skills and trades to provide employment in various private sectors also. The Varadhi would help each registered candidate get maximum of five interviews and written téests opportunities. If the candidate failed to utilise the opportunity after being selected for a job, his registration would be cancelled with the society and no further opportunity would be given. The society will not collect any fees for registrations, training and securing employment from any candidate. Formally launching the programme, Karimnagar MP B Vinod Kumar was all praise for district administration for launching an ambitious programme for the benefit of unemployed youth. He said that he would extend the programme throughout the Telangana State. Calling upon the youth to utilise the opportunity, he suggested that the youth should focus on the civil services examinations and bring laurels to the new State. Collector Neetu Kumari Prasad said that they would help unemployed youth secure employment in the government and private sector and also banking sectors. She said that they would also provide outsourcing employment to the youth through Varadhi society. Superintendent of Police V Shiva Kumar, Mayor S Ravinder Singh, Additional Joint Collector Nagendra, DRDA project director Arunasri, district employment officer Ravinder, Varadhi society secretary Veeranjaneyulu, RDO Chandrashekhar and others were also present. (The Hindu 16/4/15)

46. CPI (M) demands ‘right to work’ be made a fundamental right (14)

New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s congress on Friday passed a resolution to demand that that right to work be enshrined in the Constitution as a fundamental right. On Thursday, the party congress had passed a resolution that called for job reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the private sector. The previous party congress, in 2012, had also demanded job reservation for SCs and STs in the private sector and expressed concern at joblessness, but stopped short of making right to work a fundamental right. The party congress, held once in three years, began on Tuesday to discuss the CPI(M)’s political and tactical as well as its draft political resolution. The congress will conclude on Sunday after finalising the two documents and with the election of a new central committee, a politburo and a successor to General Secretary Prakash Karat. On Friday, the party took up seven resolutions, including on “employment or an unemployment allowance” and making the right to work a fundamental one. It blamed economic policies of the previous 30 years for having contributed to high unemployment. The party demanded lifting of ban on recruitment by central and state governments and public enterprises, a moratorium on abolition of vacant posts and expediting filling of vacancies. It also asked for a stop to outsourcing in government and public sector enterprises, unemployment allowance to registered unemployed persons and an urban employment guarantee scheme at minimum wage. “Instead of increasing public investment to ensure the creation of jobs, the government is relying entirely on the organised private sector, and corporations, domestic and foreign, to invest in India and create jobs,” the resolution said. It said data from the 66th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) showed a dramatic deceleration in rate of growth of employment in India — declining from 2.7 per cent in 2000-05 to an alarming low of 0.8 per cent in 2009-10. “The 2015 Economic Survey points out that, while the annual rate of growth of the labour force between 2001 and 2011 was 2.23 per cent, the annual rate of growth of employment over the same period was only 1.4 per cent,” it said, adding that a disturbing feature of unemployment was that it was much higher among youth in the age-group of 15-29 years. Another resolution criticised the Narendra Modi government for diluting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The CPI(M) congress said the share of SCs and STs in national resources has dwindled. It said the Modi government had further cut allocations for the Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan, with the shortfall being as high as Rs 46,385 crore. The shortfall in allocations for the Tribal Sub-Plan was equally “shocking” at Rs 20,000 crore. “Thus, while the population of Scheduled Castes and Tribes as a proportion of the total population is around 25 per cent, the share of allocations to Scheduled Castes and Tribes, which were at an all-time low this year, was just 10 per cent,” it said, demanding job reservations for SCs and STs in the private sector. (Business Standard 18/4/15)

RESERVATION

47. ‘Can’t keep SC/ST creamy layer out of quota benefits (25)

NEW DELHI: Four years after agreeing to examine whether to bar the creamy layer among SCs/STs from getting reservation benefits, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to look into the issue and said it came within the domain of Parliament. The court, which had issued notices to the Centre and state governments in 2011, said it was not possible for the court to interfere in the matter and it was for Parliament to take a decision. “It is not possible for the court to pass direction. It is for Parliament to decide,” a bench of Justices FMI Kalifulla and V Gopala Gowda said. Senior advocate R Venkataramani, appearing for a PIL petitioner, told the bench that reservation benefits were inequitably distributed among SCs/STs in the last 64 years and only a small group had benefited from the policy. He said benefits were cornered by a handful of communities out of the 1,091 Scheduled Castes and 586 Scheduled Tribes, leaving a vast population of the reserved class out of the social welfare measure. He contended that socially and economically advanced SCs and STs be kept out the policy and referred to the Lokur Committee report which had recommended that certain castes/tribes be excluded. “Ninety nine per cent castes have not benefitted at all during the last 64 years of reservation policy. Rather, it has resulted in creation of a vested interest class among SCs and STs which are behaving like upper castes with extremely backward dalit communities,” the petition, filed by social worker O P Shulkla, said. The bench, however, was unimpressed and asked the petitioner how his fundamental rights were violated by the current reservation policy that led him to file the PIL. “Your prayer is not maintainable. You tell us how your rights are being violated,” it said. The petitioner replied that inclusion of castes/tribes without excluding socially advanced and creamy layer castes/tribes in the SCs/STs list was an abuse of reservation policy and needed to be scrapped. The bench, however, dismissed the case. (Times of India 14/4/15)

48. Haryana CM announces reservation in promotion for SCs (25)

Chandigarh: Presiding over Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations on Tuesday in Rohtak and Kurukshetra, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced that people belonging to Scheduled Castes would get benefit of reservation in promotions. The Chief Minister also said that cases filed against them while they staged protest for this demand in past would also be withdrawn. In another major development, he said that women police stations would be set up at every district headquarters in the state. Recommendations of the Raghavendra Rao Committee would form the basis for the reservation as the state government has accepted and decided to implement it, he said. The government has presented the data on SC population in the High Court and any doubt regarding promotions would come to end by July 2015, he said, adding, the previous government had not presented the population data gathered by Raghavendra Rao Committee when court had given its judgement regarding Reservation Policy 2013. The BJP government has gathered the data of Raghavendra Rao Committee and filed a Letters Patent Appeal (LPA) in the High Court considering which the Court had cancelled its previous judgement and people belonging to scheduled castes got benefit of reservation, he said. (Times of India 15/4/15)

49. ‘Gujjars will give up quota demand if Jats taken off OBC list’ (25)

JAIPUR: The state’s backward communities within the Other Backward Classes (OBC) group appear united against the Jats to demand their removal from the reserved category in keeping with a recent Supreme Court judgment. The Rajasthan Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti has gone to the extent of announcing that it would give up the demand for separate quota if the Jats were taken off the state’s OBC list. The Gujjars, who belong to the OBC category that enjoys 21% reservation in government jobs and educational institutes, have held violent agitations since 2006 to demand that they be either shifted to the ST category or be given 5% separate quota along with four other communities under a Special Backward Classes (SBC) category. Following the statewide agitations and violence that resulted in the death of around 70 people, the state government had to bring in a reservation Act (currently stuck in the High Court) in 2008 to accommodate the Gujjars’ demand. “Gujjars will not demand separate quota in government jobs and educational institutes if the Jats, who were never backward, are removed from the OBC category. The Jat community is very advanced-highly educated and socially as well as financially dominant-but the BJP government clubbed it with the OBCs for purely political motives,” Samiti spokesperson Himmat Singh Gujjar said at a press conference here on Thursday. He asserted that Jats have been pocketing around 70% of the OBC share since they were far superior to the remaining communities. Calling themselves the “Mool” (original) OBCs-those who were in this category much before the Jats were added to it in 1999-these communities have formed an association called the Mool OBC Mahasangh, Rajasthan. To press for their demand against the Jats, the Mahasangh would stage a protest at the city’s Udyog Maidan on coming Saturday. The association has said it would launch a statewide ‘public awareness’ campaign, starting from Sriganganagar on April 27. “As part of the protests, we will hold ‘Raavan dahan’ to burn effigies of PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah,” said Daulat Ram, member of the Mahasangh’s core committee. Speaking at the press conference, he asked, “Jats have maximum number of MPs, MLAs, zila pramukhs, pradhans, up-pradhans, have dominance in bureaucracy, government and private sector jobs and own the largest share in state’s irrigated land. How can this community be called backward?” Former minister Rajendra Singh Ghuda, who too is a member of the Mahasangh’s core committee said, “If Jats are backward, no community in the state can be called well off.” Former civil judge and Mahasangh’s convener, Rajkumar Chhipa said, “The state government included Jats in the OBC category without any survey or recommendation by the OBC commission. The BJP did it and the Congress supported it, as both parties were eying political benefits.” Last month the Supreme Court quashed a union government notification that brought the Jats in the central list of so-called backward classes in eight states, including Rajasthan’s Bharatpur and Dholpur districts. The Modi-government later filed a review petition against it. (Times of India 17/4/15)

50. 30 Dalit Quota MBBS Seats Go Waste an Yr (25)

CHENNAI: The quota for Dalit students in private medical colleges could not be filled for the last four years due to the delay in providing them post-matric scholarship, charged former bureaucrat and activist Christodas Gandhi. Hailing the government’s decision to grant `334.76 crore as post-matric scholarship, he regretted that the delay by officials in granting the funds to eligible Dalit students has resulted in 30 medical seats going waste every year. “Private medical colleges are filling up these vacant seats with other students after taking hefty donations from them. Each seat would have cost `3 lakh for a Dalit student, but now they are being sold for more than `25 lakh,” Gandhi alleged at a media briefing of Dalit Panchayat Presidents Association here on Saturday. Despite having a total outlay of `696 crore, the officials did not release any amount for the post-matric scholarship last year, he said. “This has affected the studies of many poor Dalits who are dependent on the scholarship amount,” he said. The worst affected are the young ones from the community aspiring to be engineers and doctors. “We urge the State government to ensure that all those 120 seats that have not been filled up due to the scholarship issue be filled up,” said Gandhi. As the government has cleared the amount of `334.76 crore for the year 2015-16, he appealed that last year’s pending sum of `696 crore also be cleared. Hailing the role of AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa for her welfare schemes to uplift the downtrodden, he blamed the officials for failing to release the amount at the right time. The federation also urged the government to ensure that the funds under Scheduled Caste sub plan are not diverted to other schemes. (New Indian Express 20/4/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Media interaction on Transgender Rights (1)

IMPHAL, April 11 – Solidarity and Action Against HIV Infection in India (SAATHI), an NGO, along with All Manipur Nupi Manbi Association, a community-based organistion (CBO) is jointly organising an interaction programme with media persons on April 15 at Manipur Press Club, Imphal pertaining to the path-breaking National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) judgement by Supreme Court of India (SCI) which had recognised various rights entitled to the transgender community. The programme is being held with an objective to spell out and discuss about the scope and specific recommendations made by the SCI and the steps taken by Central and State Governments and also to map out a strategy to expedite the steps. The SCI on April 15, 2014 had affirmed the constitutional rights and freedoms of transgender persons including those who are identified as third gender and those who are identified as opposite gender to their biological sex. By recognising diverse gender identities, the Court has broken the binary gender construct of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ that has pervaded Indian law. Filed in September, 2012 by NALSA, the writ petition had sought several directives from the SCI, including granting of equal rights and protection to transgender persons; inclusion of a third category in recording one’s sex/gender in identity documents like the election card, passport, etc., and for admission in educational institutions, hospitals, amongst others. (The Assam Tribune 12/4/15)

52. NHRC told to consider plea for Rs. 25-lakh compensation (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday directed a public interest litigation petitioner who had sought Rs.25 lakh in compensation to family members of each of the 20 Tamil woodcutters shot dead at Seshachalam forest area in Andhra Pradesh on April 7 to represent his case before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Disposing of the PIL petition filed by Madurai-based advocate K. Maharajan, Justices S. Manikumar and G. Chockalingam suo motu included the NHRC as one of the respondents to the case, since the petitioner had impleaded only the Centre besides State governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and directed the commission to consider the petitioner’s representation. In the PIL petition, filed through his counsel W. Peter Ramesh Kumar, the litigant had urged the court to issue a series of orders which included a direction to the Chief Secretary to file a report on the steps taken by the State so far on the alleged encounter besides listing out steps taken by the police to check smuggling of red sanders from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. The petitioner also wanted the High Court to call for all the First Information Reports registered with respect to smuggling of red sanders from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu besides ordering the Centre as well as the two State governments to conduct a combing operation to trace out 40 other woodcutters who had gone missing after the alleged encounter. (The Hindu 16/4/15)

53. With 20,000 complaints a yr, UP tops ‘human rights violations (1)

NEW DELHI: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana police may be facing charges of human rights violations after alleged fake encounters recently, but it’s UP against whose police maximum complaints are filed with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). While Andhra and Telangana face close to 200 complaints against their police every year, for UP it is over 20,000. Next on the list are Haryana and Delhi which receive 2,000-2,800 complaints a year. Curiously, police in the Jammu & Kashmir and the North-east, where alleged excesses of armed forces are regularly highlighted, fare much better with the number of complaints in single digits. However, in most states people with human rights violation complaints against police go to that state’s human rights commission. States away from Delhi are likely to have such lower figures as it cumbersome for people to travel all the way to Delhi to lodge a complaint. Thus it is natural for UP, Delhi and Haryana to be among the top three culprits as far as complaints to NHRC are concerned. However, figures for UP, which almost accounts for over 60% of all NHRC complaints against police in the country, are rather high to be explained solely by geographical reasons. UP’s figures are almost ten times higher than Haryana’s, even though both are adjacent to Delhi. “One would also have to take into account the population and size of the police force which is very big in UP,” said a UP cadre IPS officer. Curiously, in the past three years, complaints to NHRC against Jammu and Kashmir police has crossed the 100 mark only once (126 in 2011-12). Among NE states only Assam accounts for more than 100 complaints every year with all other states clocking either single digit figures or just over 10 complaints. For 2013-14, while Andhra police had 205 complaints against them, Telangana police was at the receiving end in 136 cases. In 2014-15 (up to January 31, 2015) too the states seem to maintain that average with 204 and 117 complaints respectively. (Times of India 17/4/15)

54. SC moved against making Sathasivam NHRC chief (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will look into a petition alleging that the Centre is illegally considering the former Chief Justice of India and Kerala Governor, P. Sathasivam, as the sole candidate for chairperson of the National Human Right Commission. The post is due to fall vacant in May, with the exit of the incumbent, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan. The statute requires a former Chief Justice of India to hold it. The petition, filed by the Bar Association of India, was mentioned before a Bench led by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu. “Let us see,” he responded to the request to take up the petition made by senior advocates S.P. Singh and Adish C. Aggarwala on Friday. The petition said the Centre had ignored “proper procedure” while considering Justice Sathasivam to lead the top human rights body. It said the Centre had already obtained the consent of Justice Sathasivam without considering the other eligible former Chief Justices of India, including Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.H. Kapadia. It alleged that undue preference was being shown to one candidate, who, if selected, would bring to the fore a sense of conflict of interest as Justice Sathasivam is now part of the executive arm. “He is no longer eligible to be appointed NHRC Chairperson. It is submitted that one cannot associate with politics/politicians and still possess the purity of a judge…On the shift from the position of Governor to chairperson of the Commission, he will continue to be seen as a representative of the ruling political party. He will always owe a debt of gratitude to the government for having appointed him Governor,” the petition said. (The Hindu 18/4/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Law is equal for all religions: Man must pay maintenance to wife, kids and parents (19)

The Supreme Court on April 6 allowed a petition by a divorced Muslim woman for enhancement of maintenance from her ex-husband. The thrust of the verdict was that the quantum of maintenance should be such as to enable a divorced woman to live a life with dignity. Indians attach a great deal of significance to any judicial verdict touching Muslim personal law. A leading economic newspaper ran a report with a screaming headline: ‘All the Shah Banos get right to maintenance’. The report said right to maintenance of a woman was absolute and that it applied to divorced Muslim women as well. The Supreme Court has been consistently ruling on these lines for almost 30 years. Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, says a man with means, irrespective of his religion, must maintain his wife, children and parents. The first major judgment defining the secular sweep of Section 125 came in Mohd Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum on April 23, 1985. It rattled the then Congress government by ruling that “a divorced Muslim wife is entitled to maintenance under Section 125″.Wilting to pressure from narrow-minded clergy, the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 enacted Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act and indemnified a Muslim husband from paying maintenance under Section 125 to a divorced wife if he had already paid ‘mahr’. The law stipulated that if a divorced Muslim woman was unable to maintain herself even after the husband paid her ‘mahr’, then she must seek maintenance from relatives who would inherit her parent’s property. If the relatives were not in a position to pay her maintenance, then the duty would shift to the State Wakf Board. Constitutional validity of the complicated provisions of the 1986 Act was decided by a five-judge constitution bench in Danial Latifi vs Union of India [2001 (7) SCC 740]. The court upheld the validity of the Act, but said play of Section 125 could not be erased. It said a divorced Muslim woman in a state of vagrancy could not be expected to run in search of relatives for maintenance to live with dignity. “Provisions of the 1986 Act depriving the divorced woman of such a right to maintenance from her husband and providing her maintenance to be paid by her former husband only for the period of ‘iddat’ and thereafter to make her run from pillar to post in search of her relatives one after the other and ultimately knock at the doors of the Wakf Board does not appear to be reasonable and fair substitute of the provisions of Section 125,” the court said. Four years before the Danial Latifi case, the SC in Noor Saba Khatoon vs Mohd Quasim [1997 (6) SCC 233] had ruled that all men, including Muslims, were obliged under Section 125 to pay maintenance to their children even if they lived with his divorced wife. In Shabana Bano vs Imran Khan [2010 (1) SCC 666], the court held that a Muslim divorced woman’s petition under Section 125 would be maintainable before the family court as long as she did not remarry. “The amount of maintenance to be awarded under Section 125 cannot be restricted for the ‘iddat’ period only.” The consistent ruling of the apex court since 2001 on Muslim divorced women’s right to maintenance under Section 125 was reiterated by a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Vikramjit Sen in Shamim Bano vs Asraf Khan [2014 (12) SCC 636]. The April 6, 2015 verdict in Shamima Farooqui case, also authored by Justice Misra, has followed the much treaded path. In Bhuwan Mohan Singh vs Meena, a bench headed by Justice Misra on July 15 last year had defined whether an unemployed husband was liable to pay maintenance to his divorced wife…..  (Times of India 13/4/15)

56. PIL says illegal speed breakers in Delhi damaging cars, claiming lives (19)

NEW DELHI: Illegally-designed speed breakers are claiming lives and damaging vehicles, a PIL before the Delhi High Court has complained. Recently, a bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva sought replies from the civic agencies engaged in construction of speed breakers, including the three municipal corporations, the PWD and the Delhi government. It has also asked the Delhi Traffic Police, apart from these agencies to file a detailed status report on the condition of speed breakers. HC acted while hearing the PIL filed by an NGO called Guru Hanuman Society of India raising the issue of design of speed-breakers in Delhi on the roads maintained by the Municipal Corporations of Delhi and PWD. The PIL urges the court to remove all the “ill-designed speed breakers constructed on city roads in Delhi since March 2014″ claiming that they were built in violation of the norms set by the Indian Roads Congress. The civic agencies have even disregarded the orders/directions issued by the HC since 2005, the PIL further alleged. It argues that while Indian Roads Congress has given particulars of sharpness, thickness, slope and indicated how many rumble strips must accompany a speed breaker, the civic agencies have not followed it, making it dangerous for commuters using the city roads. “Since 2014, the respondents have constructed 24 such speed breakers” the PIL claims citing RTI replies and argues that these pose a big hazard to not just daily commuters but more so to emergency vehicles. “Unavoidable humps, jerks caused by these speed breakers cause loss of the ‘golden hour’ in many emergency cases when patients need to be rushed to hospital for treatment,” the NGO has submitted, urging HC to order removal of all the unauthorized speed breakers. Even CNG-fitted vehicles sustain grave damage from the speed breakers built in ignorance of the scientific norms, the PIL adds, since the cylinder is not mounted on the chassis of the vehicle but fastened with nuts and bolts to the body of the bus. Seeing merit in the plea, HC has given time to the agencies to file status report by May 20 when it will next take up the case for further hearing. (Times of India 15/4/15)

57. Artistic freedom can’t be used for abusing icons like Mahatma Gandhi: Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said artistic freedom of expression could not be misused to use abusive language against historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. The court said it was no offence to criticize, lampoon and make parodies of the country’s iconic figures but freedom of expression could not be stretched to allow a person to demean them by using obscene language, which was an offence under Section 292 of Indian Penal Code providing for a maximum jail term of two years. “You cannot use abusive words for historical figures under the garb of artistic freedom. There is a complete freedom for ideas but the freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. The Constitution provides restrictions and it is a regulated freedom,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said. The court was hearing a petition filed by a publisher seeking quashing of criminal proceedings against him for publishing a poem on Mahatma Gandhi in 1984. Marathi poet Vasant Dattatray Gurjar’s ‘Gandhi Mala Bhetla Hota’ (I met Gandhi) depicts the Mahatma as the narrator, who uses obscene language in the poem. The bench had no disagreement with the view that boundaries of freedom of speech had been expanding with time but still could not find the artistic portrayal of Gandhi using abusive words compatible with Article 19(1) of the Constitution guaranteeing free speech. “Had it be an ordinary ‘Gandhi’ it would not have been a problem, but using Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is objectionable. Mahatma is not a mythical or imaginary character who can be abused. This work would not come under artistic freedom and would attract provisions of Section 292,” the bench said. The publisher’s counsel Gopal Subramaniam argued that the Constitution lays down impersonal proposition and the law could not be applied differently, depending on the persona of a historical or iconic figure. “Veneration is a personal matter. Constitution does not talk about veneration of historical figures. Time is changing and what was earlier considered abusive has become idiomatic in society. Society should be tolerant,” he said. The bench said it respected artistic freedom but “what troubles us is the attribution of abusive words to Mahatma Gandhi in the name of artistic freedom”.”You can write satire on Gandhi, lampoon him or criticize him but if you put abusive words in his mouth, then it is not permissible,” it said. “Is it not a collective responsibility of society to protect the name of Gandhi and other figures like Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Vivekananda?” it asked. Amicus curiae Fali S Nariman said using the name of historical figures by way of illusion was permissible but an artist must be prosecuted if obscene language was used for them. However, he suggested quashing of the charges against the publisher, who had apologized way back in 1994 even prior to filing of the complaint against him. The court reserved verdict and said it would pass a detailed order on the “very important” issue. (Times of India 17/4/15)

58. Lawyer faces contempt action for accusing judges without evidence (19)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against a city-based advocate, Vinod Brahmbhatt, for levelling false and frivolous allegations against a judge. Brahmbhatt had levelled accusations against judge B S Upadhyay, who was then posted in the city civil court and is now discharging his duty in an industrial court in Rajkot. After receiving the complaint from the lawyer, the high court sought evidence to substantiate the charges. The lawyer could not furnish details and his complaint was trashed. When the lawyer could not furnish evidence, the HC issued a contempt of court notice to him for maligning the image of a judicial officer and thereby undermining the dignity of the court. Brahmbhatt appeared before the court and asked for all case papers. The lawyer never appeared before the HC later. Meanwhile, the high court’s standing committee prepared a report on advocate Brahmbhatt’s conduct. It said, “Advocate Brahmbhatt is habitual in making frequent applications containing false and frivolous allegations against judges working in Gujarat judiciary. In his many applications earlier, he has made false allegations against the said judge along with other complaints against other judges and advocates working in Gujarat judiciary.” Brahmbhatt’s action is dubbed as clear contempt of court, more particularly for scandalizing or tending to interfere with the due course of the judicial proceedings. “The statement made in the compliant (against the judge) is not made in good faith and the same is not in the nature of complaint but is a direct allegation about illegal gratification and corruption, not supported by any proof or evidence of direct or indirect nature and hence, the opponent (Brahmbhatt) has committed criminal contempt of the subordinate court,” reads the report of the committee, which recommended action against him for criminal contempt of court. The next hearing is on April 30. (Times of India 19/5/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Protests in Guwahati against Army after ‘rape’ of minor (1)

KOLKATA: Following the “rape” of a 13-year-old girl and molestation of two women of a family, an umbrella organisation of various community groups has planned a public agitation in Karbi Anglong district, 200 km west of Assam’s capital Guwahati. Local people alleged that on April 6, Army jawans raped the girl and molested the girl’s mother and grandmother when they tried to rescue the teenager. The People’s Coordination Committee (PCC) is expected to block the railway line between Dimapur in Nagaland and Guwahati on Tuesday. In the past two days, massive protests have erupted across the hilly district. The district administration and the Army set up committees for inquiries into the incident. Tens of thousands of Karbis and members of other communities of Karbi Anglong have been protesting for nearly a week, demanding the arrest of the Army personnel. The incident took place in Sarthe Tokbi, a village under the Dokmoka police station, 80 km south-west of Diphu, the Karbi Anglong district headquarters. A village-level worker of the ICDS was “roughed up” by the soldiers, while another three-year-old infant received several blows from a rifle butt. The medical and forensic test reports are awaited. While the communities observed a 24-hour bandh in Karbi Anglong on Saturday, a day before students, youths, various community groups and civil society organisations staged a protest outside the District Commissioner’s office, the local people told The Hindu. “We were shocked when the police opened fire on Friday’s demonstration, when ordinary citizens and schoolchildren were protesting against the rape of the minor and molestation of women. At least eight persons were injured, and this added fuel to the fire,” said Pankaj Teron, an official of the Karbi Human Rights Watch, a representative body of the PCC. “We have decided to block the rail line between Guwahati and Dimapur. We have called a meeting of all the organisations attached to the PCC to decide whether the blockade will continue indefinitely or for a limited period,” he said. The PCC would step up the agitation if the accused were not arrested within the next three days. District Commissioner Mukul Gogoi, however, said the administration had a meeting with civil society groups on Sunday and assured them of “prompt action.” “Citizen’s forums have agreed to call off Tuesday’s blockade as we have done everything from our side,” said Mr. Gogoi. “Additional DC Ms. Hunmili Teronpi is leading the inquiry and will look into the charges registered under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, and Section 376 of the IPC,” Mr. Gogoi said. However, Mr. Gogoi did not deny the police firing. “The crowd burnt down the sentry post of the [Army] camp in Dokmoka. Policemen and Army personnel were also injured, and stones were hurled. So we had to resort to firing to disperse the crowd. Another inquiry by an Additional District Magistrate has been ordered into the firing,” he said. The district officials, including Ms. Teronpi, have visited the spot and recorded the statements of the victims, while Army officers, assigned to investigate the incidents, have reached Karbi Anglong. (The Hindu 13/4/15)

60. Chhattisgarh police books 25 cops for killing minor tribal girl (1)

RAIPUR: Justice seems to be finally prevailing after nearly four years, as the Chhattisgarh police on Wednesday registered cases of murder against 11 policemen in connection with the fake encounter of a minor tribal girl, Meena Khalko, who was killed in cold blood on July 12, 2011. Cases under Sec 34 of IPC (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) have also been registered against another 14 policemen. The police action comes a week after the single person judicial commission, headed by District Judge, Anita Jha, submitted its report casting serious doubts over the police’s claim Meena being killed in an encounter with Naxalites. The report was submitted to the government almost three year after the inquiry was ordered under public pressure in 2012. Confirming the action, ADG, CID, Rajeev Srivastava, told TOI that cases under Sections 302 IPC (murder) had been arrested against 11 policemen and they along with other 14 have been also charged under Section 34 of IPC. Section 34 of the IPC is invoked “when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone”.Srivastava said a five-member committee, which includes the chief investigator and a DSP, has been formed for further verification and investigation of the case. In her inquiry report District Judge, Anita Jha, had confirmed that a police bullet had killed Meena but she had raised doubts about the veracity of police’s claim of an encounter. She had termed the police action as unjustified. Meena was killed in an alleged encounter by a joint team of Balrampur district police and Chhattisgarh Armed Force near Navadih village on July 12, 2011. Balrampur district police claimed that Meena was a Naxalite and had been killed in retaliation after the police party was attacked. The police had also claimed that a rifle and some other items establishing her Naxalite connections were recovered from her body. However, the police’s claim was refuted by not only Meena’s family members but many residents of the Navadih Villager who denied that any encounter had ever taken place on that day. They had accused the police of killing Meena in cold blood and then cooking up a story of an encounter. Following these allegations and protest by human rights activists, the government was forced to send the involved 25 police personnel to police lines and order a judicial probe into the incident. The government had subsequently also announced Rs 2 lakh compensation to Meena’s family. (Times of India 16/4/15)

61. Plea for SIT probe into Andhra Pradesh killings (1)

New Delhi: Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thol. Thirumavalavan has moved the Supreme Court for a probe by a special investigation team headed by former CBI director R.K. Raghavan into the alleged fake encounter killings of 20 labourers from Tamil Nadu by the Andhra Pradesh police on April 7. In a writ petition, Mr Thirumavalavan, alleged that in an undeclared war innocent lives living in and around Andhra and Tamil Nadu border areas were being harassed, arrested and killed in fake encounters. He said in a recent fake encounter 20 woodcutters from the districts of Krishnagiri, Vellore and Tiruvannamalai of Tamil Nadu were killed in a most brutal manner. He said these labourers go to Andhra Pradesh to cut red sandalwood trees in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread over 350 kilometres. At least seven workers were picked up by the police and were kept in the deep forest to give the spin that they were killed in exchange of fire. The killings of poor woodcutters started one year earlier. (Asian Age 17/4/15)

62. CPI(M) passes resolution to denounce killing of five undertrails in Telangana (1)

Visakhapatnam: The CPI(M) has passed a resolution denouncing the “custodian killing” of five undertrials in Telangana’s Warangal district on April 7. The resolution was passed during the 21st Congress of the party last night, it said on . CPI(M) has also demanded a judicial inquiry into the “killings” and arrest of “guilty” police personnel, besides compensation to the families of those killed. Viqaruddin alias Viqar, along with four of his associates, suspected to be involved in various terror activities, were “shot dead by the police” while they were trying to flee from a police van. “The 21st Congress of CPI(M) denounces the cold- blooded custodial killing of the five undertrial Muslim prisoners while being taken to court from Warangal jail to Hyderabad by the police in Telangana,” the party resolution said. Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Telangana government is nothing but “a brazen attempt” to mislead the people and “protect the police” involved in these killings, the resolution further said. Warangal Inspector General of Police V Naveen Chand, hoever, has maintained that the police had to open fire at Viqar and his men due to an “unavoidable situation”.He said that the incident occurred after the terror operative allegedly snatched a weapon from one of the policemen escorting them in a van to a court in Hyderabad from Warangal Central Jail. (Zee news 18/4/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Media attack on me at behest of arms lobby, have briefed PM: VK Singh (1)

NEW DELHI: Union minister VK Singh on Sunday claimed that the media attack on him was at the behest of arms lobby. “It is only an insidious campaign in which the arms lobby is working overtime. They were not able to subdue me when I was the Army chief. They have carried on,” VK Singh said and accused a former senior Army official of being a part of the conspiracy. “I won’t go beyond saying as to what relationships he enjoys with various chaps. There are a lot of people who were paid by him. So, obviously, you have some journalists and others who will write what they are told,” he said. “I have briefed PM Narendra Modi on the orchestrated campaign against me,” he said. Asked if the arms lobby was still active against him, he said that it was very much so. “They did a lot to dole out resources when the elections took place. We know how much money was received by various people. They are active. They are very active. Their sole aim is to how to get me out,” he said. VK Singh had triggered a row by describing the media ‘presstitutes’. The remark was made in a tweet, which was followed a press briefing in Djibouti in which the former Army chief raised eyebrows for saying that visiting the Pakistani high commission was more exciting than conducting rescue operations in Yemen. On Saturday, VK Singh apologized to journalists barring a small section of mediapersons who he said were carrying out a “motivated campaign” against him. “I apologize if the 90 per cent felt bad. I used the word for the 10 per cent and they deserve that word,” VK Singh said, claiming that there have been worst terms used by others for this 10 per cent media including “bazaaru” and “paid”. (Times of India 12/1/15)

64. Chinese journalist sentenced to 7 years for leaking party policy documents (1)

Beijing: A Beijing court sentenced a veteran Chinese journalist to seven years in prison Friday for leaking a document detailing the Communist Party leadership’s resolve to aggressively target civil society and press freedom as a threat to its monopoly on power. The sentence against Gao Yu, 71, comes amid a widening clampdown on free speech that highlights the gap between China’s vision of rule of law and Western notions of civil liberties and judicial fairness. The document Gao was convicted of leaking, deemed a state secret, underpins the clampdown under the 2 {-year-old administration of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. The court verdict appears to confirm the authenticity of the leaked document, which had been reported since June 2013 but never was discussed openly by the leadership. It verifies widely held assumptions about X’s distrust of any social organization outside party control, recently manifested in the more-than monthlong detentions of five women’s rights activists detained after planning to start a public awareness campaign about sexual harassment. Gao’s lawyer Mo Shaoping said Gao was convicted of leaking state secrets by giving the strategy paper, known as Document No. 9, to an overseas media group. The document argued for aggressive curbs on the spread of Western democracy, universal values, civil society and press freedom, which the party considers a threat to its rule. Another of Gao’s lawyers, Shang Baojun, said Gao did not speak during the verdict and sentencing, but told her brother, Gao Wei, that she could not accept the result. “We will definitely appeal,” Shang said. Police patrolled the perimeter of Beijing’s No. 3 Intermediate Court where the verdict was delivered. Journalists and foreign diplomats gathered at the court but were denied entry to the hearing. “We’re obviously disappointed with the verdict,” said U.S. Embassy First Secretary Dan Biers. Gao, who wrote about politics, economics and social issues for media in Hong Kong and overseas, has already served time in prison on state secrets charges more than two decades ago. In a statement, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said that Gao was the victim of vaguely worded and arbitrary state secrets law that is often used against activists to quell freedom of expression. “This deplorable sentence against Gao Yu is nothing more than blatant political persecution by the Chinese authorities,” William Nee, the group’s China researcher, said in the statement. (Indian Express 17/4/15)

65. Mediapersons come under attack in Kolkata civil polls (1)

Kolkata: The media was at the receiving end of abuse and violence all through Saturday during the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls, as those resorting to unethical electoral practices targeted members of the fourth estate to keep their crimes under wraps. Trinamool Congress councillor Ranjit Seal, who is seeking re-election from a ward in Khidirpore, was heard threatening electronic media personnel if they did not ship out from near a booth. “So long I have spoken to you politely. But now go away. Otherwise consequences will not be good,” he said. Camera persons of two news channels were beaten up and their equipment damaged by youths owing allegiance to a political party when they went near a polling station after receiving allegations of booth capturing. In the southern outskirts of Jadavpur, mediapersons were prevented from going to the booths by political party activists, despite having valid identity cards given by the state election commission. A journalist and a photojournalist of a national daily were stopped allegedly by Trinamool cadres when they tried to enter a polling poll in Garfa area of south Kolkata. They were told to “go away” or to “face the consequence” and that the “reporters are not allowed to go close to polling stations”.Two bicycle-borne youths were captured on television footage of issuing a stern warning to mediapersons not to “go to troubled spots”.When mediapersons told Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee of the incidents, he said with a plain face: “That is your perception. I have moved around the entire city. I have not seen any terror.” (New Kerala 18/4/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

66. 21 booked for communal violence in Sihor (7)

RAJKOT: Twenty-one persons, including a Congress councilor, have been booked in a case in which communal violence broke out in Sihor town of Bhavnagar district on Tuesday. Sources said that cross complaints have been lodged in the matter by people from both communities. A petty tiff between two individuals had gradually turned into a communal clash in which three persons were injured. The matter was triggered by a parking row outside the Fashion Cutlery Store on Main Road. Members of the two communities had pelted stones at each other and also damaged vehicles, including those of the police. Sources said that a complaint against 10 persons including Congress councillor Hanif Radhanpura was lodged by Sajan Rabari for assault with knives and swords. Radhanpura’s son owns the store where the allegedly row began. The second complaint was lodged by Yunush Radhanpura against Ashok Rabari and nine others for ransacking shops and looting Rs 1,500. SY Zala, sub-inspector of Sihor police station also lodged a complaint against 12 persons for rioting and vandalizing public property. (Times of India 16/4/15)

67. Police averts communal clash (7)

Bijnor: Timely action by police averted a communal clash at Manjhola Billoch village on Monday evening. Tension sparked off between two communities over an eve-teasing incident at the village.According to sources, the 12-year-old daughter of Kirpal Singh, a resident, was eve-teased by Ashu Khan, 20, of the same village when she was standing outside her house. On hearing her screams, the miscreant fled and she was taken inside the house by her parents. On Tuesday morning, the incident led to an escalation of religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims of the village. Santosh Kumar, station house officer, (SHO), Shivala Kalan police station, said, “We received information about a mob gathering in the village and immediately reached the spot with a large police force. We managed to take control of things before anything untoward could happen.” He further said that a complaint has been lodged by the girl’s father and a case registered against the accused under relevant sections of IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Meanwhile, a large contingent of police force has been deployed in the village as a precautionary measure. Raids to possible hideouts of the accused have been made by the police and he is currently on the run. (Times of India 16/4/15)

68. Clashes erupt in Jammu and Kashmir, 30 injured (7)

Srinagar: More than thirty people, most of them police personnel, were injured as parts of Srinagar and Tral, a township about 42 kilometres south of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, erupted again on Friday afternoon when irate crowds clashed with the riot police at several places, forcing the latter to fire warning shots and teargas canisters and swing bamboo sticks. Srinagar’s Nowhatta area witnessed ding-dong streets battles between stone-hurling youth and the police for hours after the Friday congregation at the nearby Grand Mosque. The police used force including tear-smoke canisters to push the surging crowds back, but in vain, witnesses said. A police statement said that 21 of its men, including a station house officer, and three civilians were injured in the clashes reported from Nowhatta, Gojwara, Malarata and Khawaja Bazaar areas of the city. “However, the situation by and large remained peaceful in the Valley,” it said. Earlier Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric and chairman of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led a protest procession within the premises of the Jama Masjid against the killing of a local youth by the Army during an operations against militants in Tral’s Kamla Woods on April 13 and other alleged human rights violations by the security forces. He termed the youth’s killing as an “extrajudicial murder” and demanded immediate revocation of AFSPA and other “draconian laws”, release of political prisoners, and bringing to justice the Army personnel involved in the killing of the Tral youth. Before the rally, while delivering customary weekly sermon from the rostrum of Jama Masjid, the Mr Farooq said the claims of government’s “zero tolerance” towards human rights violations have proven to be an utter lie. He accused the PDP of “kneeling before BJP’s “extremist agenda on Kashmir”. Tral and its neighbourhood has been on the boil since April 13 when Army during a reported operation against militants in the region’s Kamla woods killed a 24-year-old student Khalid Muzaffar Wani whom it termed as ‘overground worker’ of Hizb-ul-Mujahedin outfit. But while police denied it saying he was a civilian not involved in any militant activities, the slain youth’s family and neighbours had alleged that he was tortured to death in Army custody as he had reportedly gone to the forest area to meet his brother Burhan Wani, the south Kasdhmir commander of the Hizb. The killing of a militant of the outfit identified as Younus during the Army operation was also claimed to be an ‘extrajudicial murder’ resulting in the flare up. The Army had said they the duo was killed in an exchange of fire between it and the militants. Amid widespread protests and violent clashes, the authorities had imposed curfew-like restrictions on Tral and some neighbouring villages which continued on Friday. Also, all roads leading to Tral and other entry and exit points were sealed by police and CRPF reinforcements at dawn on Friday ahead of a rally planned by separatists. Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given a ‘Tral Chaloo’ call but was along with several other separatist leaders and activists placed under house arrest in Srinagar and elsewhere on Thursday night to prevent them from relocating to Tral. Reports from Tral said that soon after the Friday congregations at local mosques and hospices, people came out on the streets to chant pro-freedom slogans. Soon they clashed with police which fired rife shots over their heads and also burst teargas canisters as cane-charge failed to yield desired result. Witnesses said that irate youth in the crowds started pelting rocks and other missiles on the police and CRPF personnel. The ding-dong streets battles continued till reporters last came in. “Already, some people have been injured. I also saw a couple of policemen being removed from a scene of clashes in injured condition,” a local reporter said over the phone from Tral. Reports also said that several separatist second-rung leaders and activists who had managed to reach Tral addressed people at the town’s Khankah-i-Faiz Panah during the Friday congregation. “After the prayers, people began marching towards the home of slain youth Khalid Wani but when the procession reached the Gole Masjid area armed policemen and CRPF personnel came in their way and used force to disperse them which led to the clashes,” a resident said. Meanwhile, Syed Geelani has called for a shutdown in Kashmir Valley on Saturday to protest against what he alleged was ‘cold – blooded’ murder of Tral youth. He also condemned Massarat Aalam Bhat’s arrest and placing him and others under house arrest saying the move was “unjustified and inhuman”. Several separatist outfits and like-minded groups have endorsed the strike call. (Asian Age 18/4/15)

69. Drunken brawl sparks rumours of communal tension (26)

NEW DELHI: A drunken brawl between two youths, followed by rumours and stone pelting between two groups, sparked fears of communal tension in east Delhi’s Trilokpuri on Saturday night. However, cops swiftly brought the situation under control. No one was injured in the clash. Around 10.30pm, a youth, Rahul, got into an argument with a few others at Block 27 over buying chicken. A scuffle ensued and soon turned into a full-fledged brawl when other youths from Rahul’s Block 26 joined in and started pelting stones and bottles at each other. Locals said a few residents informed the Aman Committee members who called the police. “I found a few men from the other side gathering stones from a construction site and asked the youths from our block to stop retaliating,” said Chand Mohammand, a member of the committee from the block. He said that the cops arrived within a few minutes and controlled the youth from both the sides. “When we had reached the spot there was no one except the members of the Aman Committee who told us about the incident,” said a police officer. Joint commissioner eastern range, Sanjay Beniwal and DCP Ajay Kumar reached the spot and held a meeting with both the groups. “We could not find anyone from the clashing groups and cordoned off the area. The situation was brought under control within six minutes,” said DCP east Ajay Kumar. Raj Kumar, member of the resident welfare committee at Block 27 said that the incident had the potential of turning into a communal clash but was prevented by them. “Several such incidents have taken place since October last year and we remain careful that they do not flare up due to such petty reasons,” he said. A youth suspected to be involved in the stone pelting was detained by cops on Sunday morning. “We have been able to identify the others as well and have launched a lookout for them in the area,” said a police officer. “All the youths who were involved in the clash were local ruffians and usually got into regular fights. We have requested the police to arrest them as well,” said Raj Kumar, a member of the RWA. A case under sections of rioting, causing damage to public property and criminal conspiracy has been registered against 8-10 youths. (Times of India 20/4/15)

COMMUNALISM

70. Hindu Mahasabha leader advocates forced sterilization to restrict Muslim, Christian population

JIND: A leader of Hindu Mahasabha on Saturday stoked a controversy saying Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilization to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers,” vice-president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, Sadhvi Deva Thakur told reporters here. She also exhorted Hindus to have more children and increase their population so as to have an effect on the world. In another controversial remark, she said idols of Hindu gods and goddesses should be placed in mosques and churches. Thakur also came out strongly in support of installing a statue of “patriot” Nathuram Godse in Haryana. (Hindustan Times 12/4/15)

71. Sakshi Adds Fuel to Raut Fire on Voting Rights (26)

NEW DELHI: He has done it again. Controversial BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj, who had earlier asked Hindu women to have at least four children, has now advocated a stringent law for family planning to check population and those who do not follow it should be stripped of their voting right. Maintaining that one cannot discriminate between women of different communities, the BJP MP from Unnao said, “Unless we have a common law for everyone, the country will not benefit. So both the government and the Opposition should come together to bring a strict law and those who do not follow it should be stripped of their voting right”. Known for making controversial statements, Maharaj said, “When the Hindus go for sterilisation, Muslims should also opt for it. There should be one law for everyone. There will be no appeasement of any section in our regime.” “I don’t say Muslims and Christians should be sterilised. But there should be family planning and a uniform law for all. When we talk about four child issue, there is a lot of hue and cry and when they have 40 children from four wives no one says anything,” he said. Maharaj had got the ire of the Opposition when he had asked Hindu women to have at least four children and the ruling BJP not only distanced itself from his statement, they also served a show cause notice to him. The party also asked all its public representatives to refrain from making such statements. Earlier, Maharaj had courted controversy by describing Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as a “patriot”. He was later forced to apologise in Parliament. (The New Indian Express 14/4/15)

72. Centre, state should take Kashmiri Pandits into confidence: VHP (26)

Jammu: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here Tuesday slammed both the Centre and the state government for not taking into confidence migrant Kashmiri Pandits before finalising any plan for their return and rehabilitation in the Valley. Patron of the VHP state unit Rama Kant Dubey accused the separatists and other Kashmir-based organisations of not being interested in the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley and also slammed them for making contradictory statements in Jammu, Valley and Delhi. He added that their return was not possible unless  the migrant community was taken into confidence by both the governments while taking any decision about them. He termed separatists as “unholy people’’ who had become “power centre’’ in the Valley. They are neither religious nor political, but pro-Pakistan people acting as “sub-agency of Pakistan’’ in the Valley, he said. (Indian Express 15/4/15)

73. VHP demands probe against Swami Agnivesh (26)

JAMMU: Claiming that social activist Swami Agnivesh’s antecedents were “doubtful”, VHP on Saturday demanded a probe into his activities and asked Arya Samaj to clarify whether he is its leader or not. “We demand a probe by the government into the circumstances in which Agnivesh landed in Kashmir and took part in protests …,” VHP state patron Rama Kant Dubey told reporters here on Saturday. Agnivesh was today detained, along with JKLF chairman Yaseen Malik, when they tried to lead a march towards Narbal in central Kashmir’s Budgam where a youth was killed in firing by security forces during a protest. Agnivesh had joined Malik this morning in a hunger strike against the proposal to create separate settlements for displaced Kashmiri Pandits. The VHP leader said Agnivesh’s identity and antecedents “are doubtful” and a probe must be conducted to expose on whose behest he is working with those who “are triggering anti-Indian violence in Kashmir”.Dubey also asked the “Arya Samaj to clarify whether he is their leader or not. They need to expose this man, who is using a swami’s image to serve his masters”.Earlier in the day, Agnivesh asked Kashmiri Pandits to refuse living in such colonies. “Composite and separate colonies are opposite terms. How can such colonies remain composite? We do not want a division here and Pandits should live together with their Muslim brethren. They will be trapped in these colonies,” he said. The activist said the Pandits should refuse the “fake security” and trust the security provided by their Muslim brothers. (Times of India 18/4/15)

TERRORISM

74. No country should shelter terrorists: PM Modi (12)

On a day Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was released, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday gave a veiled message to Pakistan, saying no country should provide shelter to terrorists but should punish them. “There is a need for global action to deal with terrorism. All nations should commit that they will not provide shelter to terrorists but punish them,” Mr Modi said at a joint press interaction with French President Francois Hollande after their talks here. Mr Hollande said he understands anger in India over the release of a person who is responsible for such a reprehensible act, a reference to Lakhvi who was behind the attack in Mumbai in November 2008 that claimed 166 lives. Mr Modi and Mr Hollande discussed the issue of terrorism in the context of recent attack in Paris and release of Lakhvi and decided to intensify cooperation against the menace. “The world is facing many challenges. There is an upheaval in the world and all are affected… Terror is spreading in new forms in various countries,” the Prime Minister said. (Asian Age 12/4/15)

75. Pak. High Court sets deadline for trial court to conclude Mumbai attack case (12)

Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court on Monday set a two-month deadline for the trial court to conclude the 2008 Mumbai attack case, warning that it would accede to Pakistan government’s plea to cancel the bail granted to LeT operations commander Zaki-ur-Rehman if it failed to do so. A two-member Bench of the IHC headed by Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi gave the “two-month deadline” to the Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court to conclude the case against Mumbai attack mastermind Lakhvi and six others going on since 2009. The Bench was hearing the government’s plea for cancellation of 55-year-old Lakhvi’s bail. After the arguments from the prosecution and defence lawyers, the Bench said: “This court gives two months to the trial court to conclude the Mumbai case and adjourns this case [a plea to cancellation of bail to Lakhvi] till then.” Prosecution chief Chaudhry Azhar told PTI after the hearing here that the judge also said in his order that the court would cancel Lakhvi’s bail if there was a delay on the part of his lawyers. “The court is pending this case for a period of two months till the conclusion of the Mumbai case. If it is reported that the Mumbai case could not be concluded [in two months] because of delaying tactics of the defence lawyers this court will cancel Lakhvi’s bail,” the judge remarked. He was responding to the arguments of the prosecution that the Mumbai case had been inordinately delayed because of the delaying tactics of the defence lawyers. Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq of Lahore High Court on April 9 suspended the detention of Lakhvi under Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) as the government failed to present “sensitive evidence” against him in the court. The government managed to keep Lakhvi behind the bars under the MPO for nearly four months since the trial court granted him bail on December 19 last year. On April 10, Lakhvi was released from the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after the Lahore High Court suspended his detention under a security act. India lodged a strong protest over the release, saying the “negative development” reinforced the perception that Pakistan has a dual policy on dealing with terrorists. Lakhvi, a close relative of LeT founder and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, was arrested in December 2008 and was indicted along with the six others on November 25, 2009 in connection with the case. He and six others — Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum — have been charged with planning and executing the Mumbai attack in November, 2008 that left 166 people dead. (The Hindu 13/4/15)

76. ’2014 saw militants use of rape, sexual slavery’ (12)

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 2014 was marked by harrowing accounts of rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage being used by militants, including the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In a report released on Monday, the U.N. chief expressed “grave concern” over sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups, including those promoting extremist ideologies in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Libya and Yemen. “The confluence of crises wrought by violent extremism has revealed a shocking trend of sexual violence employed as a tactic of terror by radical groups,” Mr. Ban said. The Secretary-General said efforts “to degrade or destroy” the Islamic State group, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda affiliates “are an essential part of the fight against conflict-related sexual violence.” The report focuses on 19 countries engulfed in conflict or trying to recover from fighting where sexual violence including rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and forced pregnancy occurs, mainly against women and girls but also against boys and men. It lists 45 groups in Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Congo, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria that are “credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape” in conflict 13 of them for the first time. “Forced marriage, enslavement and the ‘sale’ of kidnapped women and girls are central to Boko Haram’s modus operandi and ideology,” it said. “Abducted girls who refuse marriage or sexual contact within marriage have faced violence and death threats.” Since mid-2014, the report said, “There has been a significant increase in the number of reported cases of sexual violence perpetrated by terrorist groups,” especially the Islamic State group which “uses sexual violence to spread terror, persecute ethnic and religious minorities and suppress communities that oppose its ideology.” It singled out that group’s abduction of hundreds of Yazidi women and girls in Iraq, some of whom were taken into Syria and “sold” in markets to be used as sex slaves. It said “three cases of forced abortion perpetrated because of the ethnicity of the victim were documented by the government” of Iraq. In Colombia, the report said, “Women working with displaced communities and calling for land restitution have been targeted by armed groups and subjected to repeated sexual assault.” In the Central African Republic, the report said 2,527 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were documented in 2014, adding that “all parties have used sexual violence to subjugate and humiliate opponents.” In Sudan’s western Darfur region, it said the number of displaced civilians has increased over the past year and so have reports of sexual violence. And in South Sudan, it said sexual violence remains prevalent including gang rape, castration, forced nudity and forced abortion, which is “exacerbated by impunity and a militarised society in which gender inequality is pronounced.” On a positive note, the report said Congo’s government took “unprecedented steps”, including prosecuting high-ranking officers for sexual violence and paying reparations to survivors. But at the same time it said 2014 saw a resurgence of violence by armed groups, including an increase in rape. (The Hindu 14/4/15)

77. Burdwan blast: Key suspect Ibrahim Sheikh arrested in Jharkhand (12)

RANCHI: A top Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorist Ibrahim Sheikh alias Lal Mohammad (30) wanted in October 2014 Burdwan blast was arrested from Jharkhand’s Pakur district, state police chief DK Pandey revealed on Sunday. A special Pakur police team nabbed Ibrahim on Saturday night when he was coming out of Tilbhitta railway station near Jharkhand-West Bengal-Bangladesh border in the district.Police recovered a revolver, six live cartridges, four crude bombs and an electronic chip which contains JMB supplied Jehadi materials. “He was the right hand man of Sajid Sheikh, the chief of JMB operations in India. He was sharing a significant part of Sajid’s responsibility after his arrest in November 2014 in connection with Burdwan blast,” Pakur SP Anoop Birthary told TOI. A police officer said Ibrahim used to work as chief recruiter for JMB (in Jharkhand), coordinator in West Bengal and Jharkhand and one of the key links with JMB bosses from Bangladesh. “He was working as the chief of a local madrasa Fatima-ul-Zahra at Musimnagar area of Murshidabad district in West Bengal. He has accepted that many recruits for JMB were trained and radicalized at the madarsa,” Birthary said. Ibrahim hails from Shahebnagar village under Nabagram police station of Murshidabad district and used to frequently visit Pakur and Sahebganj districts of Jharkhand to find recruits. “He has accepted that he has so far recruited over a dozen boys from Jharkhand into JMB,” Birthary said. The National Investigation Agency has been looking for Ibrahim after Burdwan blast after which he was on the run. NIA had in January arrested one Burdwan blast accused Rejaul Karim, 27, from a railway station in Sahebganj district on Jharkhand-West Bengal border. An explosion had occurred in the first week of October (2014) in a house in Burdwan when two suspected terrorists were killed and a third injured. The blast had led to the revelation of an IED manufacturing unit allegedly of JMB and subsequently police recovered 39 powerful bombs from the same place. A total of 11 persons, some of whom are Bangladeshi citizens, have so far been arrested in connection with the case. (Times of India 19/4/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

78. 2nd Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh in 24 hours, 17 trucks carrying ores torched (12)

NEW DELHI: There has been a second Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, a day after seven personnel of Special Task Force (STF) were killed in an ambush. According to Times Now, Naxalites have set 17 vehicles ablaze in Baqrsapur, Bastar. However, there are no reports of casualty in the second attack. On Saturday, seven personnel of Chhattisgarh Special Task Force (STF) were killed and 11 injured in a Maoist ambush at a village near Dornapal in Sukma district of tribal Bastar. (Times of India 12/4/15)

79. 5 security personnel killed, 8 injured as Maoists blow up security vehicle … (12)

RAIPUR: Five security personnel were killed and eight others were injured as Maoists blew up a mine protected vehicle (MPV)near Cholnar in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on Monday. The blast occurred on Cholnar-Kirandul road under Kirandul police station limits when the security personnel were patrolling along a road construction route in the region this afternoon, Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, SRP Kalluri was quoted as saying by PTI. The mine-protected vehicle, with 11 state police jawans aboard, was dispatched from Cholnar camp to ensure security for the construction work underway in the region, located around 450 kms away from state capital Raipur, when the rebels triggered the blast leaving four personnel dead and seven others injured, Kalluri said.  ”Of the injured, two are said to be in a serious condition,” he said. Soon after the incident, reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured personnel were admitted to a local hospital, he said. A combing operation has been launched in the region to nab the attackers, the IG added. This is the fourth major attack by Naxals in the insurgency-hit state in three days. Earlier, seven STF personnel were killed and ten others injured on Saturday when Naxals ambushed them in the forests of Pidmel village in Sukma district. The Naxals yesterday set ablaze at least 17 vehicles engaged in mining work in Kanker district. No one was hurt in the incident, police said. A BSF jawan was killed when a group of ultras opened indiscriminate firing on security personnel, who were carrying out patrolling in the proximity of Chhote Baithiya Border Security Force camp in Kanker district late last night. (Times of India 13/4/15)

80. Maoists abduct seven tribals in Odisha (12)

BERHAMPUR: Maoists allegedly abducted seven tribals, including a former panchayat samiti chairperson, from two remote villages under Mathili police station in Malkangiri district of Odisha near Chhatisgarh border. According to sources, six persons from Kartanpalli including Trinath Bhumia, the former panchyat samiti chairperson of Mathili block and another from adjoining Bara village were abducted by the ultras at around midnight on Monday. But no complaint regarding it from their family members or any one else had been filed with the police till Tuesday evening. Speaking to The Hindu , Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yeshwant Jethwa said security forces had been rushed to the area for combing operations and investigation was on. Security forces are taking utmost precautions as there are chances of ambush in this remote jungle and hilly terrain. Maoists have also not come up with any statement regarding these abductions till evening. Kartanpalli and Bara villages of Malkangiri district are located at a distance of around 10 kilometres from Maoist-infested Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. According to the local people, the armed abductors who were around 20 in number were speaking in Hindi. It hints that they may be part of Darbha division of outlawed CPI (Maoist) organisation, which is active in Chhattisgarh and bordering areas of Odisha. The six persons abducted from Kartanpalli included the former panchayat samiti chairperson of Mathili block, Trinath and village head Sanyasi Bhumia, whose wife is an elected panchayat ward member. Apart from these six, another person was taken away by the Naxalites from nearby Bara village. According to Manjula Bhumia, wife of abducted Trinath, the armed ultras had reached Kartanpalli village at around midnight and forced these seven persons to go inside the jungle along with them to attend a meeting. The Maoists had told villagers that they would release these seven on Tuesday morning. But till Tuesday evening no news of these abducted persons had reached Kartanpalli or Bara. There were no reports of Maoist abductions from Malkangiri district in 2014. On December 4, 2013, the Naxalites had abducted three persons from Gomphakunda of Kalimela police station area. One of them had escaped during an exchange of fire between ultras and police, while the other two had been released after a few days. On December 12, 2013, Maoists had kidnapped six persons including a panchayat ward member in the same police station area and later killed three of them. In April 2013 three tribals had been abducted from Mahupada village under Mathili police station by the Maoists and two of them had been killed. In September 2012, nine persons including a former sarpanch, a naib sarpanch and two village guards had been kidnapped by ultras from cut off area of Chitrakonda reservoir in Malkangiri district. The two village guards were murdered while the rest were freed by the Maoists. (The Hindu 15/4/15)

81. 4 Naxal attacks in 72 hrs: The inside story (12)

DANTEWADA: Fear is the key: This dictum is used by Naxals to hold on to their `territory’ in Bastar whenever they find the ground slipping from beneath their feet. Therefore, it was not without reason that the Reds unleashed a spate of violence through four attacks in 72 hours, killing 13 combat personnel and injuring scores of others. The last of the four attacks, at Kirandul-Cholnar in Dantewada district in which Naxals used 100 kg of explosives and an under barrel grenade launcher (UPGL) to blow up an armoured anti-landmine vehicle on Monday -was intended to send a singular message both to the forces and villagers. Revenge. The reason was the setting up of a police post at Cholnar just two months ago. “The Maoists were agitated ever since the police post was set up in February. This barred them from entering 100 villages which they ruled earlier. They coaxed the locals to take out rallies in protest of the police camp. But in vain,” Dantewada SP Kamalochan Kashyap told TOI. Analysts in Bastar said that while the attacks appeared sudden, they were meticulously planned and executed to the T. “Spot investigations showed that the IED that triggered the KirandulCholnar blast was planted long back but Maoists took their own time to analyse and observe movement of police vehicles. They do their homework well,” said a police official at Dantewada. He added that Maoists took time to dig large crater very near to spot of the blast, hid behind bushes and also selected a small bridge as target, where usually the vehicles slow down. “The slowing down of vehicles gave time to rebels to trigger the blast,” he said. In fact, the KirandulCholnar blast was intended to send a bigger message as SP Kashyap himself could have been the target, according to intelligence inputs.He confirmed to TOI that he had crossed the route and was on his way to Bacheli town to alert forces following an attack on a BSF patrol less than 24 hours ago.He returned within minutes when he heard about the blast. “I returned to the spot in 15 minutes while the firing was still on,” he said. A senior police officer who was earlier posted as IG, Bastar, said that the sudden surge of Maoist violence could be attributed to surrender by a large number of cadres in recent times. “Of late, the Maoists were on backfoot. The surge in violence is meant to boost the cadre’s morale,” he said. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Naxals’ annual Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC), characterised by massive bloodletting from April to early July, kicked off much earlier this year. Additional DGP (Naxalite Operations) Rajinder Kumar Vij told TOI that this time, Naxal violence began in February, much before the summer months. “Certainly, the sudden surge in Naxal violence coincides with the TCOC,” he said. Significantly, the Naxal violence, unleashed just a couple of days before the inauguration of Raman Singh government’s Lok Suraj Abhiyan, was clearly intended to jeopardise government’s mass contact programme in the Naxal-hit areas…. (Times of India 16/4/15)

TRAFFICKING

82. NHRC Seeks Report from State Govt on Child Trafficking (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that it has ordered the State Government to submit a report on trafficking of children to the state to admit them in orphanages within four weeks and about the circular issued by the Social Justice Department to the orphanages on following the guidelines in this regard, and whether these were being complied with. Addressing a news conference here on Friday,  at the conclusion of the three-day camp sitting, Commission chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan, members Justices Cyriac Joseph and Justice D Murugesan said that it also had sought to know whether all the children in the orphanages were orphans and, if not, whether they had the consent letters from their parents. Asked what was the underlying motive behind the massive trafficking of children, the Commission said, in the police investigation, it was found that the children were brought in large numbers to the orphanages to offset the shortage of children and to avoid the loss of foreign funding and government grant. The Commission said it had expressed dissatisfaction over the tardy progress in the setting up of a tribunal to settle the claims of endosulfan victims and asked the government   to expedite it. The Chief Secretary should file a report within 8 weeks on the progress  on the issue along with details of payment of  the remaining amount of relief to the victims as recommended by the Commission. But the government officials during the camp sitting told the Commission that the setting up of the tribunal was awaiting Cabinet clearance. On the migration of tribal women from Wayanad to Karnataka to work in ginger fields, the NHRC said that it had found that the government had failed to provide menial jobs  under various schemes. It asked the State Labour Department to submit a report in two weeks on the steps taken by it for providing menial jobs to the people in Wayanad district. In three of the five cases of custodial deaths – two in Thiruvananthapuram and one each in Kollam, Kasargod and Thrissur – the Commission awarded Rs 2,50,000 each. In one case, not satisfied with the police version, it issued show cause notice asking why monetary relief should not be recommended for the negligence.  (New Indian Express 11/4/15)

83. Neighbour saves girl from being pushed into trafficking (1)

BENGALURU: An alert neighbour helped the police rescue a 17-year-old girl on Tuesday from being pushed into the flesh trade. The victim, a student of Class 10 in a government school, is the daughter of a man with physical disabilities who makes agarbattis in Valmiki Nagar. She was allegedly lured by a woman from New Delhi. The accused, Farhana (47), is a resident of New Delhi. A widow, she had been married to a man from Valmiki Nagar and used to visit her relatives once a year, the police said. She was on a visit to Bengaluru and staying in the neighbourhood of the victim. She befriended the victim and lured her with the promise of a job in New Delhi. Excited about the offer, the victim agreed to go with her following which Farhana took her to city railway station without informing her parents. However, a neighbour of the victim noticed her and alerted her parents. (The Hindu 15/4/15)

84. Convict Receives Longest Sentence Ever in West Bengal Sex Trafficking Case (1)

KOLKATA: A Haldia court made history on Friday by sentencing Naru Gopal Shaw to 13 years rigorous imprisonment for multiple sex trafficking related crimes – the maximum punishment and longest sentencing ever in a sex trafficking case in West Bengal. On April 10, Shaw was convicted under five sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) by the Additional District and Sessions Court, Haldia, Purba Mednipore. What made history, though, is that Shaw was additionally convicted for abetting, or assisting, an already imprisoned brothel owner, for all of these charges. “This case is very significant because he was not the principal accused, but was charged for abetment,” said Amal Ojha, the special public prosecutor assigned to the case. “This proves that even men who are not directly involved, but are helping as accomplices, can also be punished,” added Saptarshi Biswas, advocate for International Justice Mission (IJM), who provided legal counsel to the victims. Shaw was also ordered to pay a fine of 1.53 lakh to be divided between the four victims. This case dates back to an operation in February 2009 in which West Bengal Criminal Investigations Department (CID) together with NGOs IJM and Sanlaap raided a brothel cum hotel in Haldia. The operation was tipped off seven times before finally resulting in the rescue of four victims and the arrest of three perpetrators. Police wrote an arrest warrant for Shaw, and in August 2010, he surrendered before the court. In January 2011, Shaw was granted bail by the High Court, but one of the rescued victims Maya filed a bail cancellation petition, which was granted. Shaw disregarded the judge’s order for surrender and for two years, evaded arrest. The case was divided into two trials, and the first ended in 10-year imprisonments for his accomplices in March 2013. It was only after this that police were able to arrest Shaw. Three of the rescued victims returned to court to identify Shaw and testify about the abuse he inflicted upon them. One victim Meena made the four-hour journey from her home six months pregnant to stand before the court. Another victim Maya testified that Shaw forced them to drink alcohol, stripped them naked, raped, and tortured them. She said he threatened that if they didn’t obey the brothel owner they would face dire consequences. Maya’s hope is that these convictions will send a message to other criminals. “This will bring terror to people who are running brothels or abusing girls,” she said. “When people hear that these men who were very powerful are behind bars they will think twice about doing this kind of work.” (Times of India 17/4/15)

CORRUPTION

85. 1,764 cops were booked in bribery cases (5)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) trapped as many as 1,764 police officials and constabulary from the state police department between 2000 and 2014 i.e. in 15 years. However, they have so far succeeded in convicting only 177 of them while 573 have been acquitted, reveals a RTI reply accessed by The Asian Age. Reacting to it, ACB’s director general Praveen Dixit said, “The conviction rate depends on after how many years a particular case has been heard in the court.” In the past, Mr Dixit had cited the long pending cases in courts as one of the major factors for low conviction rate. Out of the 1,764 cases against the police, 734 are pending in courts. Apart from conviction, acquittal and pending court cases, the rest of the cases never reached teh court due to lack of evidence besides a handful of them that are either being probed or haven’t received prosecution sanction from the concerned government departments. The ACB website states that the police and revenue departments have undisputedly topped the infamous list of allegedly being the most corrupt departments since 2009. Another glaring factor is that the conviction rate for the police department within the same time period is lesser than that of the revenue department, except in Nagpur and Nashik range. Going by the method adopted by the ACB to calculate the conviction rate, which considers only those cases that have completed trial, conviction rate of revenue department is 26 per cent while for the police it is 23.3 per cent. When asked if the conviction rate was comparatively low because the ACB comprises of men who also belong to Maharashtra police force, Mr Dixit said, “Accused from all departments are probed impartially and thoroughly.” Interestingly, about 1,594 officials from the revenue department have been trapped for accepting bribes, which is lesser than those trapped from police. However, the number of accused who have been convicted from the revenue department are more than the conviction rate in the police department. About 609 accused from the revenue department have been acquitted, while cases pertaining to 692 of them are pending in courts. The Washim ACB unit of Amravati range started in 2009 and hence is not included in the given table. Since 2009, the unit has trapped 14 policemen and 13 officials from the revenue department, and from each department nine cases are pending in courts. (Asian Age 12/4/15)

86. Rights panel orders probe into alleged corruption in KWA (5)

ALAPPUZHA: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission has directed the police to probe into allegations of corruption relating to appointment to the post of pump operators in the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). The directive was issued by Commission member (Judicial) R. Natarajan on the basis of a complaint submitted by C.V. Rajan of Nooranad. In his complaint, Mr. Rajan alleged that M.N. Vasukuttan, a retired police official, and K. Ramachandran Unni, an advocate, had collected money from more than 13 candidates promising permanent jobs in the KWA. The complainant also claimed that no action has been taken in the case so far, despite a complaint being submitted to the State police chief. After examining the related documents, the Commission noted that the police investigation in the case, which was registered at the Alappuzha North police station in 2009, was not undertaken in the right direction. It has also been pointed out that the delay in ensuring justice, owing to the influence exerted by the accused persons, was a disgrace for the police force. The District police chief has been ordered to launch an enquiry in the case under the leadership of a DySP. The Commission has also sought a report on the progress of the investigation within a month. The Commission noted that the police investigation in the case, which was registered at the Alappuzha North police station in 2009, was not undertaken in the right direction. (The Hindu 13/4/15)

87. AAP to aid government’s anti-graft battle (5)

New Delhi: In its bid to implement its poll promise of transforming the national capital into first corruption-free city in the country, the Aam Aadmi Party has decided to work in tandem with the Delhi government to weed out graft from the city. Days after the AAP government launched the anti-corruption helpline, the party said it is working towards preparing a blueprint and a comprehensive strategy to tackle corruption, one of the prominent issues on the AAP’s agenda. “We are in the process of preparing the blueprint after launching the 1031 helpline. The war against corruption has started. To give it a more robust shape and to decide on the extent of party’s involvement, a strategy is being worked out,” party’s Delhi unit convenor Ashutosh said. Implementing the measures will give the crusade against corruption “the face of a movement”, he said, adding, “Our commitment is to make Delhi the first corruption-free city and we will take all possible steps in this regard.” The party also took a jibe on the saffron outfit a day after Rohini MLA Vijender Gupta was named the Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, saying that the BJP did not confer the same on any party in the Lok Sabha. “The Aam Aadmi Party believes that all political parties should respect each other and respect the Opposition without whom the government won’t be accountable. We gave the post to the BJP despite having an overwhelming majority in the House. But strangely, the BJP has not taken any step towards this direction even after 11 months of assuming office. They should learn from us and consider our decision as an example otherwise we would wonder whether the BJP has less trust in democratic norms,” Ashutosh said. On the upcoming municipal elections, the Aam Aadmi Party said it was yet to decide on whether its MLAs would take part in electing the mayor or not. (Asian Age 18/4/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

88. NGT seeks pollution report from landfill sites (9)

NEW DELHI: Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation, an NGO, has approached NGT over large- scale methane emissions from the three landfill sites in the capital. On Friday, NGT directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take samples of air quality and groundwater from near the three landfill sites of Okhla, Ghazipur and Bhalswa and submit a report on the next date of hearing. It also issued notices to ministry of environment, forests and climate change, DPCC and the three municipal corporations, asking why further dumping in the three landfill sites should not be banned. The petition alleged that the condition of the sites was pathetic, especially since they were way past their capacity and yet continued to be used for dumping of Delhi’s waste. “None of the three is a sanitary landfill site. Waste is lying in the open because of which leachate is generated during rain and as the waste presses down. We have also learnt from various case studies that the soil around the landfill sites is highly contaminated and toxic,” said the NGO. According to the study quoted by the applicant, the leachate at all three sites has a high concentration of chlorides, and heavy metals like nickel, copper and zinc. Quoting further from the study, the applicant said rotting waste was emitting massive amount of green house gases. (Times of India 11/4/15)

89. Delhi panel denies forest clearance to dams (9)

Itanagar, April 14: Over 2,000 hectares of forestland in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district have received temporary respite from destruction after the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the Union ministry of environment and forest denied clearance for two proposed hydropower projects. The committee had received proposals seeking forest clearances for construction of two 1,000MMW projects on the tributaries of the Siang River. While the project proponent of the Siyom Hydro Electric Project had sought clearance for diversion of 1502.30 hectares of forestland, the developer of the Naying Hydro Electric Project had sought clearance for diversion of 644 hectares of forestland. According to the minutes of the meeting held on March 17, the committee noted that the “proposal will be considered after acceptance of the cumulative environment impact assessment study and its acceptance by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change”.The regional chief conservator of forest in its recommendations to the FAC had noted that the Siyom project would be located close to several biodiversity hotspots, including the Yarde Rabe Supse wildlife sanctuary 30km and around “5km to 7km from Mouling National Park”. It said that “removal of trees, shrubs and ground vegetation will affect the surrounding eco-system” and that the “lower downstream water level will be gradually reduced which will affect aqua species”.Listing its concerns over the large area of possible submergence, it also advised that the flora of the area “will have to be removed completely so that it will not be left to decompose leading to greenhouse effect”.The committee in its concluding remarks demanded that a catchment area treatment plan be prepared and submitted along with detailed resettlement and rehabilitation plan for affected families. It also noted that “there was an issue with a high court order with reference to the forest clearance” and has sought a declaration from the state government. The committee also turned down the proposal for clearance for the Naying project on similar grounds. The Siyom is a major tributary of the Siang river in West Siang district. There are six hydropower projects planned for the Siyom with total installed capacity of 3,346MW. The largest are the Siyom and Naying projects with installed capacity of 1,000MW each while the smallest is the 56MW Taiyong project. (The Telegraph 15/4/15)

90. Yamuna a dead river, says report, even as focus on Clean Ganga (9)

New Delhi: The Yamuna is almost dead, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has said, even as the government single-mindedly pushes to clean the Ganga and overlooks the filthy river at its doorstep. It’s not just the Yamuna, whose water quality is as bad as sewage, but many rivers across the country are reeling under an unprecedented load of urban waste and industrial effluents, says a CPCB report. “These rivers are getting polluted because of the increasing flow of untreated waste water from cities,” said Shashi Shekhar, pollution board chairman and special secretary in the environment ministry. About 66% of stretches monitored during a three-year study of water in 290 rivers have high organic pollution, measured in terms of biological oxygen demand (BOD). The decline in the quantity and quality of water flow has reduced the productivity of many terrestrial, aquatic, and coastal zone ecosystems and led to loss of biodiversity, the report says. This means, 8,400km of these rivers are badly polluted and not fit to support aquatic life. The bad news goes much beyond that: the number of polluted water zones in India has increased manifold over the past two decades. In addition, the pollution load on rivers has been rising constantly. The report says over 370 major towns and cities are contributing to river pollution as the country has the wherewithal to treat only 30% of its urban water waste. The Yamuna is choking to death primarily because untreated waste is flowing into it from several cities along its banks in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The river’s contamination starts in Haryana and continues in Delhi, ultimately making it almost invisible in Uttar Pradesh where it merges with the Ganga in Allahabad. No freshwater flows into the river, though millions of rupees have been spent on sewage and effluent treatment plants without any visible impact so far. Yamuna is not the lone black spot. The Mithi in Mumbai is treading the same path with organic pollution increasing from Powai to Dharavi while the Hindon river is getting the same treatment from industrial waste between Saharanpur and Ghaziabad. The CPCB has put these two along with Sabarmati, Gaggar in Punjab and Umkhrah in Shillong as the most-polluted river stretches in India. “There may not be even a single river in India which is clean throughout its length and the recent years have seen pollution increasing because municipal bodies do not have any plan to clean waste water flowing into the rivers,” a senior CPCB scientist said.India has less than 2% of the world’s freshwater sources, sustaining 5% of the world’s population. The rising pollution has reduced the capacity of rivers to provide water for drinking and irrigation. The CPCB report warns of far-reaching consequences if India fails to enhance its capacity to treat urban waste — which stands at 38,000 million tonnes a day. (Hindustan Times 18/4/15)

91. Bastar crusader’s wand triggers green revolution (9)

BAKAWAND, Bastar: A 67-year-old former sarpanch, who served for 35 years at Sandhkarmari village of Bastar region, has been running a campaign to conserve forests, wildlife and environment in surrounding areas to provide abundance of greenery and forest produce for future generations. Damodar Kashyap has invented ‘thengapalli’ — a stick symbolizing devoutness — which villagers receive for a day to spread awareness. On recommendations of Bastar’s Legal and Environmental Action Foundation (LEAF), he was recently awarded by Switzerland-based Paul K Feyerabad Foundation for promoting cultural and biological diversity. Kashyap hails from Bhatra community in Bastar and was elected sarpanch at the age of 22 when he returned to his native Sandhkarmari village after his schooling in the city. Kashyap refused to travel to Switzerland when he was invited to receive the award. “I told the Swiss foundation they should honour me in my native village and among my people. This would have motivated them further to conserve environment,” Kashyap told TOI. He’s still fondly called ‘siyan sarpanch’ (old sarpanch) among locals and gave up his post after the seat was reserved for women. “While education remains my priority in the village of 3000, I was saddened to see continuing deforestation in the region which has largest number of salphie (local beer) trees. I was worried the next generation wouldn’t see forests,” he said. The movement wasn’t a cakewalk for him. “I seized large tracts of land undergoing deforestation and fought with industrialists, government and contractors.” Kashyap nurtured a village community and launched a tradition of ‘thengapalli’. Holding aloft the stick, locals patrol forests and spread awareness on environment. They take turns to keep vigil and act against those chopping trees. He also deployed guards in seven zones of the village and pays them in form of forest produce. And it’s become a sacred tradition and nobody dares violates rules against conservation. Slowly and steadily, ‘thengapalli’ tradition has become a movement among locals and gained momentum in 15 neighbouring villagers. Talking to TOI, villagers Tilakram and Nandoram said, “The ‘thenga’ gives us a feeling of empowerment. We send out a message that every villager should feel responsible for each tree and punish those destroying forests.” Kashyap managed to convert 370 acres of grove plantation into a forest that can compete with parameters of a reserve forest. He also conserved dense forest of thousands of medicinal plants and salphie trees on 100 acres, linking it to religion by building a temple of a local deity, ‘Maouli mata’. Clad in white dhoti and kurta, Kashyap said villagers now have abundant forest produce for their livelihood. “Demonstrating agility in dealing with pressures from forest department, smugglers and villagers, Kashyap also sought assistance from LEAF. In seventies, he would slap Rs 500 fine for cutting trees and reward Rs 200 to those who would keep vigil,” Arjun Nag, president and founder member of LEAF told TOI. Kashyap, who has been interviewed by journalists from Indonesia, France, Belgium, Holland and England, has planted around 1 lakh trees till date and moves with an air of authority in the forests he nurtured. (Times of India 19/4/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

92. Crop loss claims 8 more farmers’ lives (20)

NEW DELHI: Distressed over crop damage due to the recent unseasonal rain, four farmers committed suicide and four others died of ‘shock’ in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in the past two days. In Usmanpur village in Agra district, Radha lost her husband, 38-year-old Madanlal, who set himself on fire on Monday after incurring losses due to the rain. “We had taken a loan and mortgaged my jewellery for farming 10 bighas of land,” Radha (33) said. “Now I’m left with nothing.” Another distressed farmer, Manavendra Singh (27) from Firozabad, hanged himself from a ceiling fan. His relatives said he had suffered heavy losses after the frequent spells of rain in the past one month. In Punjab, a 70-year-old debt-ridden farmer, whose wheat crop was ruined by the recent spell of untimely rain, committed suicide in Sangrur district on Sunday. Family members said Sukhdev Singh, who had run up a debt of Rs 4.5 lakh, hanged himself at his house in Chatha Nanhera village, near Sunam town. Also in Punjab, Paramjit Singh (50) of Mansa district, who had grown vegetables on his five-acre land holding, was found dead on the railway track near his village, Jawahrke. Family members told police that Paramjit, a father of three, was under Rs 8 lakh debt. “The freak weather continuing since February, especially last week’s rain, badly damaged his vegetable crop, triggering this step,” said Ram Singh Bhainbagha, peasant leader of BKU (Ekta) of Mansa district. Sources said Paramjit was missing from home since Sunday. Four farmers died in Agra and Firozabad after they saw their flooded fields after Sunday’s rain. Relatives of the victims claimed they died of shock. These farmers had taken loans for the crops that now stand damaged in waterlogged farms. According to reports, Padam Singh (56) and Ganpat Singh (60) from Kherda Hajipur village in Agra died of shock on Monday. Kallu Singh (60) from Kesarpura village in Firozabad and Shree Krishna (50) from Shikohabad died of cardiac arrest after taking stock of their damaged crops on Monday. More than 40 farmers have died or committed suicide in the Braj region — including Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, Etah and Hathras — over the past 40 days after unseasonal rain destroyed thousands of hectares of fields before harvest. (Times of India 14/4/15)

93. Farmer deaths in Haryana a non-issue: Ambala MP (20)

YAMUNANAGAR: At a time Haryana has seen five shock deaths of farmers in over a week due to widespread crop damage in the aftermath of the recent spell of unseasonal rains, BJP’s Ambala MP Ratan Lal Kataria dismissed these deaths as a non-issue. Defending the BJP government, Kataria said, “The issue has been blown out of proportion.” He compared the plight of farmers in the state to that of land owners in Vidharbha region of Maharashtra which has seen many farmer suicides. He said, “Congress ke raj me Maharashtra me itne kisano ne suicide kar liya. Aur na jane kitne state hain jaha Congress raj me kisano ki suicide hua hain. Haryana me ika duka mamla hai, yaha to abhi chidiya ko jukam bhi nahi hua (So many farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra under the Congress regime. In many other Congress-ruled states farmers had ended their lives. In Haryana, there are barely one or two cases, so it’s hardly a issue here.” Speaking at a press conference on the birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar on Tuesday, Kataria said, “Government is doing its job seriously and the crop loss as well as the condition of farmers who suffered losses is on our agenda.” He chose to skirt the contentious issue after a few questions and promised to make the Ambala Cantonment railway station into a world-class one with the collaboration of French government. He also listed having a Rail Coach factory in Jagadhri as one of his top priorities. A few days ago, AAP’s Yogendra Yadav had led party workers and farmers to the house of Ambala BJP MP Rattan Lal Kataria in Panchkula to hand over a packet of salt to remind him that he owes the farmers. (Times of India 15/4/15)

94. Farmers’ suicide bid rocks Upper House (20)

Patna: The issue of the starving farmers attempting suicide in districts rocked the Bihar legislative council on Thursday when the BJP members sought special debate on government’s failure to provide compensation to those farmers whose rabbi crops were badly damaged due to the untimely rains accompanied by hailstorm. As soon as the House assembled for the day, BJP member Rajnish Kumar, while moving an adjournment motion, said the government has stopped buying paddy from farmers which has resulted in further damaging the paddy crops. Amid shouting of slogans by BJP members, Kumar said that reports of aggrieved farmers attempting suicide has come to light in various districts due to the non-payment of adequate compensation to these farmers. Displaying placards several BJP members, including Nawal Kishore Yadav, Sanjay Mayukh, Lal Babu Prasad, Suraj Nandan Prasad, Baidyanath Prasad and Krishna Kumar Singh (2) trooped into the well of the House. Despite chairman Awadhesh Narain Singh’s repeated request to raise the issue during question hour, BJP members continued shouting antigovernment slogans. Rejecting the adjournment motion, chairman adjourned the House till lunch break without transacting any scheduled business. Later talking to reporters, leader of the opposition in the council Sushil Kumar Modi said that for the first time aggrieved farmers have attempted suicide in Jehanabad. Quoting a report, Modi said a farmer, in a bid to commit suicide, jumped into “havan kund” (fire pond) in Jehanabad. Modi also said despite Centre’s decision to extend paddy procurement date till April 15, Bihar government has failed to buy paddy from farmers. Despite damage to rabbi crops by untimely rains, Bihar government is yet to provide adequate compensation to farmers, Modi said and added the Centre has increased the compensation amount by one and half time to those farmers whose 33% crops were damaged. Earlier, the percentage of damage was 50% covered under the compensation package. Talking about Centre’s revised relief package to the state, Modi said now the Centre’s share is 90% and the remaining 10% would be given by the state. This has been made applicable from the current financial year. (Times of India 16/4/15)

95. ‘Andhra, Telangana Governments Neglecting Farmers’ (20)

KARIMNAGAR: YSRCP leader and Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy criticised both TS and AP governments for adopting anti-farmer policies and neglecting the welfare of farmers. Addressing the district party meeting here on Sunday, he said Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu forgot their poll promises. During the last 10 months about 600 farmers committed suicide in Telangana but the government did not address their families’ grievances so far, he said. Over crop loss and ex gratia he said that he would raise the issue in the Parliament scheduled to be held from April 20. Speaking about paramarsa yatra, about 30 people died after former chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy died in a helicopter crash and to console their family members YSRCP leader YS Sharmila will tour Karimnagar in May, he said. The party meeting passed some resolutions stating that the district has to be declared  drought-hit and  the project design of Pranahita Chevella  should not be changed. He said that they would ask the Centre to grant Rs 10,000 ex gratia to paddy and maize farmers per acre and Rs 50,000 for commercial crop farmers. ‘‘We will request the Centre to grant funds for the completion of all pending projects in state,’’ he said. (The New Indian Express 19/4/15)

96. Farmers at rally claim land bill pushing up suicides (20)

New Delhi: Accusing the Modi government at the Centre of “betrayal,” most farmers who on Sunday attended the Congress rally against the proposed Land Acquisition Bill said the community was being pushed to suicides as there was lack of empathy towards their plight. According to 52-year-old Jai Bhagwan, a farmer from Haryana’s Rohtak district, recent unseasonal rains had destroyed about 70-80 per cent of his wheat crop. Despite repeated attempts to seek adequate compensation for his loss, Mr Bhagwan said he was denied any financial assistance. “After repeated appeals, when patwaris turn up to take stock of loss, they grant a menial financial help without any proper survey. They seem to be totally disinterested,” he said. Stressing that there was a complete “apathy” towards the plight of farmers, many of whom have also been forced to sell their lands to corporates, another farmer from Rohtak in Haryana said many farmers were now being pushed to commit suicide. “There has been couple of suicides from my village already.” Many farmers claimed that both the Centre and state governments were making anti-famer decisions and alleged that there seem no intention on part of the government to improve the conditions of the country’s agriculture community. Describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “anti-farmer” and “anti-poor,” 46-year old Madan Singh from Punjab said that rather than improving irrigation, financial and educational facilities, the Prime Minister was appeasing the corporates. “Mr Modi recently talked about the menace of drug addiction, but it is this BJP-Akali collation that is rendering farmer unemployed by their anti-farmer moves. What else would they do if they are not in a position to farm?” Echoing similar views, some farmers, including those from rural areas of Delhi, claimed that despite losing 80-90 per cent of their crops this year, they have not received adequate compensation for their losses. Manoj Gujjar, a wheat and mustard farmer from Rajasthan’s Alwar district, accused the Vasundra Raje government of providing less compensation to farmers who had lost most of their agricultural yield this year. “The government is providing compensation to those who have lost more than 50 per cent of their crop. But for even those, the financial assistance is very low — almost a cruel joke.” Subhedar Mahinder Singh Gait from Rajastan’s Chiru district also accused the BJP government of pushing farmers to the brink. The 55-year-old wheat and maithi farmer said that the community has been forced to live in a perpetual fear of banks and mpney-lenders, which is forcing many to contemplate suicides to avoid humiliation. (Asian Age 20/4/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. AAP slams Centre’s land ordinance as anti-farmer and anti-tribal (4)

New Delhi: The ordinance would not only diminish the compensation for farmers but also divert vast farm land to non-agricultural activities in future, said Singh, who is also member of AAP’s Political Affairs Committee. Dubbing the BJP-led NDA government’s ordinance for amending Land Acquisition Act as anti-farmer and anti-tribal, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today said it seeks to benefit big companies, harming the interest of the people. “In its bid to favour big corporate houses, the NDA government opted for ordinance route which seeks to bring anti-farmer and anti-tribal amendments in the land law, ignoring the Parliament,” AAP’s national spokesperson Sanjay Singh said. Stating that the acquisition of land in a forcible manner without conducting proper social impact study to placate big companies would be a severe blow to agriculture, Singh said, adding, measures taken by the Narendra Modi government would destroy farming as well as the environment. The ordinance would not only diminish the compensation for farmers but also divert vast farm land to non-agricultural activities in future, said Singh, who is also member of AAP’s Political Affairs Committee. Referring to farmer-friendly measures taken by AAP government in Delhi, he said the decision to give Rs 50,000 compensation per crop loss per hectare of land was historic. In a bid to safeguard the interests of farmers and tribals and protect their right over land, AAP is organising a rally on April 22 in Delhi in which many workers and activists from across the country would participate, he said. Coming down heavily on BJD government in Odisha, Singh said now people have no alternative as they find the Congress hopeless and BJP unacceptable because of its communal agenda. “However, within a year AAP will strengthen its base in Odisha to emerge as a viable alternative.” On rift in AAP, Singh said it is a democratic party where majority opinion prevailed in its national council. The national council has decided that all differences would be resolved within the party, he said. The AAP leader said the party would strengthen its organisation in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Punjab, Odisha, Haryana and Gujarat. Singh also inaugurated the state party mouthpiece ‘Ama Kranti’ a weekly political news letter, and led a protest march against the land ordinance.  (DNA 12/4/15)

98. Medha Patkar criticizes new land acquisition bill (4)

MYSURU: Social activist Medha Patkar on Tuesday describing “Make In India” slogan as “graze in India” said proposed land acquisition bill is intended to help corporate bodies and deprive the farmers their sustainable livelihood . Talking to reporters here, she said if the present land acquisition bill is implemented in its present form corporate houses like Adani, Ambani and Birla can buy not only farmers land, even they can go on a buying spree of entire districts and even a state . “Bane of our system is government till today has not considered agriculture and its produces as natural resources” she said ,adding that NDA government is determined to deny farmers of their sustainable livelihood and living by snatching their land which has got a value of gold. ” Delhi Mumbai Infrastructure Corridor(DMIC) is the best example where government reserves 150 kms of land on the side of this corridor for industrialists and they can buy the land without seeking any consent from land owners or farmers” she added. She said the present land acquisition bill brought by NDA is nothing but a worsened version of the land acquisition bill being implemented by previous UPA government . Present bill has given more powers to government and buyers with total disregard for farmers opinion. ” Consent of farmer should be made mandatory” she suggested. When pointed out that farmers in many places are ready to hand over their lands if they are provided with a lucrative value for their land , she said it is not the case with all farmers .UPA government . Present bill has given more powers to government and buyers with total disregard for farmers opinion. ” Consent of farmer should be made mandatory” she suggested. When pointed out that farmers in many places are ready to hand over their lands if they are provided with a lucrative value for their land , she said it is not the case with all farmers . In reply she said it was the result of their struggle 1100 farmers got back their land in Narmada dam project . Still 45000 farmers have not got their land , she pointed out and said Narmada valley project has helped only Coco-cola and car producers by assuring them water supply round the clock. It was because of our struggle , government came out with alternative land policy for land losers, she claimed and said they have sustained their struggle because of the support given by farmers,labourers and middle class people. Patkar said corporate bodies and rich are exploiting natural resources and land at their will and wish and they are not bothered about protecting these resources for next generations. At one point of time Patkar lost her cool when a reporter pointed out about she questioning the perfection of politicians and political parties on issues. When a reporter pointed out that activists like her seems to have no clarity and perfection in their thinking on political system and parties in particular and suddenly they find a Messiah in AAP, Patkar seething in anger turned silent on the issue. It may be recalled here that Patkar joined AAP to contest the 2014 parliament elections. (Times of India 14/4/15)

99. NEEPCO hydel project facing opposition (4)

SHILLONG, April 16 – A 240 MW hydel power project of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) proposed to be set up along the Assam-Meghalaya border is facing strong opposition from locals who claim it would affect 1,000 families. Both the State Governments have issued no objection certificates to NEEPCO for the 100 metre high dam on Umiam river near Lamalong. Local villagers said the dam will submerge 600 sq km and in the process over 20 inhabited villages will be hit directly affecting over 1,000 families residing there. Besides human displacement, the dam will also submerge agricultural land, heritage sites and flora and fauna, they said. Last week, over 5000 villagers from both States attended a protest rally at a remote village in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district and demanded that the two governments scrap the contract. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and his Assam counterpart Tarun Gogoi were also petitioned by the activists on the need to consider scrapping off the project. Meghalaya MLA Julius K Dorphang and Assam MLA Mansingh Rongpi have lent support to the anti-dam protests. Rongpi expressed apprehension that the dam will pose a threat to the survival of small tribes comprising Khasis, Lalungs and Mikirs who depend wholely on Umiam river for their livelihood. Dorphang said people residing in the areas need development but not at the cost of their homes and livelihood. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 17/4/15)

100. Thousand of Farmers Protest Government’s Proposal to Ease Land Acquisition (4)

NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of flag-waving farmers rallied in India’s capital Sunday to protest a government plan to ease rules for obtaining land for industry and development projects. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said existing rules, established in 2013 to protect land owners from land grabbing and forced relocation, were creating obstacles that were spooking investors. He and industrial leaders say the rules should be simplified to entice foreign business and boost manufacturing in India. Modi passed an executive order in December doing away with some of the rules. The unilateral move upset opposition parties and rights groups that had long fought for legal safeguards on land acquisition, and they vowed to fight any effort to make the changes permanent after the order expired earlier this month. Rights activists, labor unions and many among India’s hundreds of millions of farmers say the changes effectively trample the rights of the poor. They accuse Modi of catering to corporate interests, and worry changing the law will leave them vulnerable to poor compensation packages or forced relocation from ancestral lands. “With the single-minded agenda of kneeling before the corporates … this government has shown that it simply does not care for the poor and toiling people, for our land, agriculture and nature,” the National Alliance of People’s Movements said in a statement. The opposition Congress party — in power when the 2013 law was passed — has seized on the issue as it struggles to repair its political image following its stunning election defeat last year to Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Both Gandhi family scion Rahul and his mother, party leader Sonia, addressed the rallying farmers at a protest park in central New Delhi on Sunday. Rahul accused Modi of winning the election with funding from industrialists he now needs to pay back. “How will he pay back the loan now? He will do it by giving your lands to those top industrialists. He wants to weaken the farmers, then snatch their land and give it to his industrialist friends,” Rahul Gandhi, speaking Hindi, told more than 50,000 cheering farmers who came to the rally from all over India. Many have questioned how the Congress party planned to counter Modi’s election-winning promise of rapid economic growth. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Modi’s order was intended to hurt farmers’ interests, and Sonia Gandhi accused the government of being against farmers, the helpless and the poor. Just an hour earlier, however, Modi pre-empted the rally by telling lawmakers from his party, “Lies are being spread on the land bill by perverted minds. Some people have decided not to speak, see or hear anything good about our government.” In comments spoken in Hindi and broadcast widely on Indian TV, he said, “All decisions I am taking are for the welfare of the poor.” Meanwhile, in Germany days after Modi visited the country, Indian corporate leaders reportedly urged their foreign counterparts to be patient. “The government has undertaken a number of policy initiatives in the last few months,” Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry said at the Hannover Fair, according to Press Trust of India. “We are very positive about the future, but it will take time.” Critics are most upset about proposed changes eliminating the requirement of land owners’ approval for acquisitions sought for projects in defense, infrastructure, affordable housing or industrial corridors. The changes would also remove the need for assessing the social impact of such projects. Restrictions on buying fertile agricultural land would be removed. Abuses by government employees, now answerable by law, would be exempt from prosecution unless ordered by the government. “The rights which we had before, this present government has taken them away, which is wrong. Now the farmers have to pay the price,” said 47-year-old Babulal, one of a crowd of farmers who came to the rally from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. (New Indian Express 19/4/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Survey of tribal women shows up breast abnormalities (3)

ADILABAD: The high incidence of breast lumps among Adivasi women of Adilabad in Telangana has created apprehension of more serious health impacts for this remote population. Health workers conducting a survey in 10 mandals in the district have so far identified 100 women out of the 6,000 respondents. “Leave alone breast cancer or any other type of carcinoma, even routine mammarian infections were unknown among indigenous people belonging to the Gond, Pardhan, Kolam and Thotti,” points out Dr. Thodsam Chandu, the District Immunisation Officer, himself a Gond. “Such cases certainly warrant a proper study into the phenomenon,” he says. The Telangana Mahila Samatha Society (TMSS), an NGO based at Bellampalli town, is conducting the pilot project of the Breast Cancer Screening Programme in association with Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation, Hyderabad. The study is being done in the mandals of Sirpur (U), Jainoor, Narnoor, Tiryani, Kerameri, Wankidi which have a sizeable population of aboriginal tribes and Bheemini, Nennel, Kotapalli and Asifabad, the last one having a good number of Adivasis. “We have already found 100 women with abnormal breast conditions, though the survey is not yet complete,” reveals Vangapalli Suvarna, the district coordinator of TMSS. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

102. NDA fund cuts put healthcare on the sickbed (3)

MUMBAI: A truncated health budget, recent bureaucratic decisions of shelving the free drugs and diagnostics scheme (under National Health Assurance Mission) and spending cuts in major social sector programmes have ensured that ‘acche din’ in healthcare are still elusive. To make it worse the government has also delayed the implementation of large pictorial warnings on tobacco product packs. The PM, ironically, said on World Health Day on April 7 that his government is working tirelessly to realize the dream of a ‘healthy’ India where everyone has access to affordable healthcare. For a party which gave a big priority to healthcare in its manifesto saying, ‘Health Assurance to all Indians to reduce out-of-pocket (OOP) spending on healthcare,’ the promises have remained just that. “The current situation calls for radical reforms in the healthcare system with regards to national healthcare programmes and delivery, medical education and training and financing of healthcare. The government will initiate the ‘National Health Assurance Mission’ to provide universal healthcare that is not only accessible and affordable, but also effective, and reduce the OOP spending for the common man.” Nearly a year later, not much of a beginning has been made. In fact, the government’s healthcare outlay is stagnant at around Rs 33,000 crore and has not translated to the increase from 1.2% of GDP to 2-2.5% as suggested in the draft national health policy. Public health spending in India at around 1% of the GDP is the lowest when compared to China’s 3% and Brazil’s 4.1%, and well below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 5%.K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, says: “The low level of budgetary allocation to health has been extremely disappointing. It appears the states have to take up more responsibility for adequately resourcing and effectively delivering health services. Health requires commitment and coordination across all sectors of the central government as well as a shared vision that creates synergy between state and central initiatives. That level of commitment and clarity has not emerged. Perhaps the new National Health Policy will provide the platform for articulating that vision. We have to wait for that to emerge, before we can deliver a definitive comment on the government’s record.” An article in the British Medical Journal recently said: “Deep cuts in health spending by the Indian government will lead to continued inadequate health services and delays in achieving universal access to healthcare.” The BMJ says that expenditure on the National Health Mission which supports a network of accredited social health activists (ASHAs) to provide basic services is down by 20%, a similar reduction in budgets for state governments, while the Integrated Child Development Services scheme, which provides nutrition and other services to pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants, received around 10% less than expected. Even the government’s AIDS programme will receive Rs 300 crore less funds next year. The slash in the budget will imply the persistence of huge shortfall of healthcare workers. India has among the worst ratio of doctors and hospital beds population-wise in the world. Leena Menghaney, a lawyer working on public health policy said: “India has a huge burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Millions of people in India each year are driven into poverty and debt as they seek high-cost treatment in the private sector.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

103. Move to bring down IMR from 44 to 20 by 2020 (3)

KOCHI: The Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) will be joining hands with the Centre in implementing various child health activities aiming at bringing down the Infant Mortality Rate from the present 44 to 20 by 2020. The country has already missed the Millennium Development Goals of 2015 and with the present pace of improving health care, the goals could perhaps be achievable by 2025-27, said Dr. S. Sachidananda Kamath, national president of the IAP. “The task on hands is large and difficult but not impossible if expertise, policies and funds converge”, said Dr. Kamath. According to the plan drawn up by the IAP that was submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee, each IAP branch in the country will adopt a village according to the capacity of the branch and will take leadership role in making model villages for child survival. The project will be taken up in association with Members of Parliament in the region. The government has identified 183 high priority districts and 201 high focus districts for interventions. Malappuram and Wayanad are among the districts from Kerala for focus intervention for universal immunisation, said Dr. Kamath. Since there is no single solution to ensure child survival, a holistic approach that focuses on education, clean water, sanitation, food security, health care and community participation will be evolved. The thrust of the project is to look for local solutions and build on community’s practices to deal with problems in child’s survival. Hence the project has been named Gaaon ki baat, IAP ke Saath, Dr. Kamath said. The key thrust areas that IAP is going to focus towards implementing the project are universal immunisation, newborn survival and health, child survival and health, nutrition aiming to address malnutrition and anaemia, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, childhood tuberculosis, environment health, quality facilities in hospitals and quality services rendered. (The Hindu 18/4/15)

104. Centre to screen kids for anaemia (3)

Guwahati, April 18: The Union tribal affairs ministry, with the help of the health department, is planning to cover at least six lakh tribal children in Assam, including those of tea garden workers, under its sickle-cell anaemia screening programme this year. Sickle-cell anaemia is a blood disorder characterised by an abnormality in haemoglobin that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body parts. It is highest among malaria patients. “Fifty per cent of the malaria cases in the country have been found among tribals, who constitute only eight per cent of our total population. So we decided to launch a campaign against the disease among the tribal population. We will try to screen six lakh children among the 60-lakh tribal population in Assam. It is a simple test that costs Rs 2-3,” Hrusikesh Panda, the secretary of the Union tribal affairs ministry, said here today. The ministry had organised health workshops in six states of the Northeast. Meghalaya and Nagaland will be included later. Panda said they would give health cards to those tested. This would help prevent the disease to some extent, as they would be able to keep track of and advise those afflicted. He said if two persons having sickle-cell trait marry, the probability of their children having the same disease increases. “We must prevent the disease as it has no treatment yet,” he added. He said teams comprising doctors, auxiliary nurses and midwives (ANMs) and Anganwadi workers would conduct the tests in schools. Dropouts will also be covered to ensure that 100 per cent tribal children between three and 13 years are covered. The programme has also been launched in Gujarat, Odisha, Bengal and other states. Panda said as part of its employment generation effort, the ministry would launch a project for identification of water bodies with the use of space technology, including satellite imagery. Government engineers and officials of minor irrigation, soil conservation and fisheries the departments will then identify the water bodies where fishery projects can be taken up by the indigenous population under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The workshop was organised here today and representatives from six northeastern states took part.Panda today said reports of the task force constituted for ST status had revealed “historical injustices meted out to tea garden workers in Assam”.Panda, who headed the task force, submitted its report to the Centre in May last year. “They (tea garden workers) were brought from parts of the country to work in tea gardens in Assam, but they had not yet been given tribal status. I don’t want to comment on whether they deserve it or not, but we found historical injustice done to them,” he said. Panda, however, did not elaborate on the injustices as revealed in the task force report. “The report is with the ministry,” he said. Apart from tea garden workers, five other communities in Assam – Tai Ahom, Moran, Muttock, Chutia and Koch Rajbongshi – have been demanding ST status for a long time. The Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on April 6 said in Kokrajhar that the six communities would be given ST status within six months. (The Telegraph 19/4/15)

HIV/AIDS

105. Failed by government, HIV-hit on hunger strike (3)

They came from far and wide. From Muzaffarpur, Saran, Bhojpur, Sitamarhi, Siwan, Vaishali, Sheohar, Madhubani, Patna, Gaya and Begusarai. Some 600 men, women and transgenders affected by HIV. They gathered at Kargil Chowk in Patna, and sat on a daylong hunger strike to draw attention towards the indifference and fiscal mismanagement within the government system. The Bihar State Human Rights Network last Tuesday used the fasting route to tell us that the state government, after announcing grand schemes for PLHA (people affected by HIV/AIDS) such as Antodaya Yojana, Parvarish Yojana and Bihar Shatabdi AIDS Pidit Yojana almost two years ago, has not delivered on those promises. Moreover, official letters issued by departments concerned following the Patna high court directives on essential services to PLHA such as short stay home, care centres, provision of medical services etc, appear to have been ignored. “All these schemes came into effect in 2013-14. According to a reply to our RTI query, the government received applications from 6220 people till February 2015, but not a single person has so far actually received the benefit of the scheme,” spokesperson Sanjit Singh said and added the baseline examination facility as per the NACO guidelines is not available at any ART (antiretroviral therapy) centre in Bihar. Rambabu Ram from Sitamarhi says, “The CD4 count has not been done for PLHA for the past nine months at Sitamarhi. The employees at the centre are sometimes very rude and even throw our ART cards.” A rickshaw-puller from Riga block in Sitamarhi spoke about how ever since his HIV status was disclosed, he isn’t allowed to draw water from the public water source in his locality. Several people from Hajipur and Vaishali district called for a social audit of the state of the ART centres. Facilities meant for patients are misused or nonexistent. “For three months, the water purifier is empty.” “The ART centre employees are indifferent.” “We have to travel to the ART centre, but the centre employees shut down all the facilities by noon.” “The toilets are pathetic, unhygienic.” These were the voices from Vaishali. The stories told by participants are too many to recount here. Shortage of essential medicines; nexus between doctors and local suppliers; refusal by doctors to treat patients; blatant discrimination and disrespect at government run facilities… and so on. “We demand that the government should implement the commitment given to the high court; that short stay facilities be opened at all ART Centres; that the NACO guidelines be adhered to by all ART centres which stipulate that all tests should be free of charge; that all government hospitals be supplied adequate number of universal precaution kits and HIV kits regularly; and that all ART staffers be paid their salary regularly,” Sanjit Singh said, adding one reason for the apathy of the ART centre staff is that they haven’t been paid for three months. “A daylong hunger strike is no big deal for us widows who are facing hunger every day! If the government doesn’t pay heed, it will have to face the next level of protest. We will leave no stone unturned. We will use the court, the RTI and every known method of struggle for our rights,” said Sushila Devi from Ara. (Times of India 11/3/15)

106. Society to adopt 35 HIV- affected children for a year (3)

BELAGAVI: Belagavi city-based Shree Tirupati Multipurpose Souhard Sahakari Ltd. has come forward to adopt HIV-affected children looked after by Nandan Makkal Dham, a non-governmental charitable organisation at Sadashiv Nagar here. Manjunath Bhute, chairman of the cooperative society, said here on Monday that there were 35 HIV-affected children under the care of the organisation, which was finding it difficult to provide adequate food and nutrition to them due to paucity of funds. The board of the society would adopt all the children for a year from Tuesday. He said foodgrains, vegetables, biscuits, edible oil, hair oil, fruits, eggs, chicken and soaps and detergents would be provided. A function would be held at Dhashabhuja Vinayak Mandir at Ansurkar Galli to mark the adoption ceremony. Nandan Makkal Dham president Mahantesh Mali has thanked the cooperative society. (The Hindu 14/4/15)

107. Mentally Challenged HIV Posstive Woman Rescued, Hospitalised (3)

DINDIGUL:An HIV positive 25-year-old mentally challenged woman rescued by the health department officials from the streets of the pilgrim centre of Palani, was sent to the Institute of Mental health at Kilpauk in Chennai on Tuesday. She was found in a corner of the temple town, before being handed over to the health officials. Family members of the young woman on seeing a change in her activities took her to a local hospital in Palani where she underwent treatment for mental illness. However, she turned ferocious seven years ago. As the woman’s father and other members of the family had found it difficult to keep her at home, she started roaming on the streets without dress. She was preyed upon by anti-socials and was declared HIV positive a few months ago to the utter shock of the family, sources said. Meanwhile, Ravikala, Joint Director of Dindigul government hospital, on inspection at Palani government hospital, was approached by the hapless woman’s father to save his daughter. Upon Ravikala’s advice, the father lodged a complaint with the police, who then asked him bring the mentally ill woman home. After a frenetic search, he found her in a corner of the town and pleaded with her to come home for lunch to which she agreed. Woman constable, Renuga, waiting there took her to the Dindigul hospital in a van on Monday. Superintendent of Police Saravanan and DSP Vanitha extended assistance and the health officials admitted her in a private home that night. In the morning she was taken to Kilpauk in a van with police security. (New Indian Express 15/4/15)

Posted by admin at 20 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIBALS

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

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

6. Tribesmen to take protest to Delhi (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOMEN

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

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

11. Sexual harassments on train (8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

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

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

17. Child marriage (14)

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

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

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

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

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

MINORITIES – GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESERVATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

66. Content creators leave cluttered media (1)

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

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

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

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

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

COMMUNAL RIOTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMUNALISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

TERRORISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAFFICKING

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

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

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

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

CORRUPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

88. 59 complaints transferred to ACB (5)

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

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO HEALTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIV/AIDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by admin at 13 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIBALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Tribal forum expresses concern (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

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

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

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

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

29. 57 rescued children sent back home (14)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINORITIES – GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

40. Minorities are patriots: Rajnath (7)

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

41. Minorities panel to visit Mumbai (7)

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

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48. Christians resent restrictions on preaching religion (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

54. Six arrested for MP church attack (7)

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

55. Christian institutions to hire armed guards (7)

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

56. Christian missionary meet attacked (7)

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

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

62. Rijiju visits refugee camp (13)

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

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

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

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

68. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

81. Chhattisgarh PDS Scam: .. (21)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESERVATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

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

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

112. Collegium illegal: Govt (19)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

117. Activists threaten case on Omar Abdullah (1)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

124. TV channel targeted for talk show (1)

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

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

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

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

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

127. Attack on TV channel condemned (1)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

CHENNAI: Newly appointed national spokesperson of the Congress, Khushbu Sundar, on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order that scrapped Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. However, she said there had to be some self-regulation within the social media. “Whether it is celebrities or politicians, or others, they have to draw a line beyond which they should not cross,” Khushbu said here. She was answering questions at her maiden press meet, a after she was appointed as the Congress spokesperson. She defended party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s month-long sabbatical saying, “He is a human being.” “Rahul has taken leave of absence and everybody has to wait till he comes