Posted by admin at 31 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Delhi Cong leader accused of destroying files, chief secy asked to protect public records (1)

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Delhi chief secretary to preserve all files, some of which “can be evidence of corruption”, left by the Congress government. The order comes after Venkatesh Nayak and Maja Daruwalla, two members of international NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, filed a petition with the CIC on Friday following a sting operation by a TV channel. The channel broadcast footage of files allegedly being destroyed in the office of former transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, who is now Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president. Lovely, however, denied the charges. But, the CIC took cognisance of the complaint and instructed the Delhi chief secretary to ensure that public records, an important state property, be protected. “They can be evidence of corruption or innocence of responsible public servants,” the CIC said. The directive was issued a day ahead of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) forming a new government. The AAP, which fought the elections on promises of a corruption-free Delhi, has scored a thumping victory over the Congress in the December 4 polls. The commission also invoked special powers under Section 18 of the Right To Information (RTI) Act which requires public authorities to submit a list of destroyed (legitimately or otherwise) public records (papers and documents) in custody of the government along with the justification for destruction. Using the powers granted under the RTI Act, the CIC instructed the chief secretary to issue necessary directions to record officials and public information officials to “keep safe” files. “The commission also directed the respondents to alert the vigilance officers/any other concerned officers to take all preventive steps to protect the records from destruction,” the CIC said. Information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu also asked the chief secretary to initiate criminal proceedings against any official found to be destructing records as it amounts to serious offence under the Indian Penal Code. The complainants have alleged that the destruction of files would prevent pleas under the RTI and will curb one’s right to seek information from people. (Hindutan Times 27/12/13)

 

2. 3,242 RTI appeals pending at Konkan division till November (1)

NAVI MUMBAI: More than 3,242 Right to Information (RTI) cases are pending under under second appeal till November, as the post of Konkan division State Information Commissioner (SIC) has been vacant since May 2011. Citizens and activists seeking information under the RTI Act demanded the appointment of a new SIC to clear the backlog. The cases are currently being heard by Pune SIC, M B Shah, who attends hearings once a month. “The Act was formulated to ensure transparency. The option of second appeal is the ultimate action in getting information,” said RTI activist Santosh Shukla. According to calculation by activists, until May 2013, the commission had received around 1,400 complaints. out of which barely 41% (563 cases) cleared. (Times of India 29/12/13)

 

3. Maharashtra Should Put Adarsh Report Online: RTI Activist (1)

Mumbai: Mumbai-based RTI activist Anil Galgali today demanded that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan should publish the Adarsh judicial Commission’s report on the Maharashtra government’s website and make it public. “The various facets of the scam will be exposed once the report is made public,” Galgali said. He also expressed surprise over the fact that the state government had not yet prepared a Marathi translation of the report, as is mandatory according to rules of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. The report was tabled in the house. The government has spent Rs 7.04 crore for the Adarsh Commission and has dismissed its report, he said. The government, thus, was shielding the politicians and bureaucrats who were involved in the Adarsh Society scam, he said. Galgali has written to Chavan and Principal Secretary Bhagwan Sahay, General Administrative Dept (Service), pointing out that as per the rules of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, every report should be prepared in both English and Marathi before being tabled. The Ram Pradhan Committee report on Mumbai terror attack was prepared in both the languages but now the government had ignored this norm, Galgali said. (Outlook 30/12/13)

 

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. Online privacy as important as human rights: UN (1)

LONDON: In light of the highly controversial mass surveillance programmes carried out by the US and UK spy agencies, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has said that Internet privacy is as important as human rights. Pillay compared the aggressive reaction to mass surveillance programmes of the US spy agencies with the collective response that helped defeat apartheid regime in South Africa. According to the Guardian, Pillay has been asked by the UN to prepare a report on protection of the right to privacy, in the wake of the revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She said that combined and collective action by everybody can end serious violations of human rights and the issue of internet privacy breaches have implications for human rights and are in violation of traditional national protections. The report said that the UN general assembly unanimously voted last week to adopt a resolution, introduced by Germany and Brazil, stating that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy. Following the leaks by Snowden, who is currently granted temporary asylum in Russia, the US ties with its allies have been soured, especially after allegations that global leaders have also been targeted in phone snooping. (Times of India 27/12/13)

 

5. NHRC directs compensation to 13 students (1)

BHUBANESWAR: National Human Rights Commission has asked Odisha government to pay compensation of Rs. 1 lakh each to 13 students, who were allegedly sexually exploited by their teacher in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Nayagarh district. “Human rights of the students were violated and that too in an educational institution. In the circumstances, the Commission recommends the Government of Odisha to pay a sum of Rs.1lakh to each of 13 victim students of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya,” NHRC said in its direction. The commission asked Chief Secretary of Odisha government to send the proof of payment, within eight weeks. According to Prabir Das, a human right activist and lawyer, who had moved the commission, adolescent boys were subjected to sexual harassment by their computer teacher namely Chandra Sekhar Choudhury for 18 months in the residential school. The accused teacher being the warden of the hostel of the said residential school had taken advantage of his position forcing students to have sexual relation, Mr. Das had submitted. “The matter came to notice of the district administration after the parents of the victim boys approached the collector, Nayagarh in September. An inquiry was ordered. The probe ascertained that allegations were not unfounded. Thereafter the principal of the school lodged a complaint  with police. The accused teacher was arrested on September 23, 2012,” he noted. NHRC in its order said the Commissioner to the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti had submitted that since the victims had expressed their satisfaction for the action that had been taken against the accused teachers and openly said that they had forgotten the incident and had taken up their routine academic works smoothly, compensation might not be imposed on the Samiti to be paid to the victim students. The commission held the State government responsible for lapses in school leading to victimization of students. (The Hindu 27/12/13)

 

6. Bihar human rights commission seeks action taken report in misbehaviour with doctor case (1)

PATNA: Bihar Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Friday directed Muzaffarpur additional SP Rashid Zaman to appear before it on February 11, 2014, with action taken report (ATR) in the case of police misbehaviour with a government doctor. Dr Sanjay Kumar, a medical officer posted at primary health centre (PHC), Minapur, in Muzaffarpur district, recently complained to the commission that he was on emergency duty at the PHC on August 4, 2013 when Minapur SHO Madan Singh brought a person handcuffed saying he had been beaten by public. Singh said since the person was a criminal, he wanted to break his limbs as well. The doctor alleged that the SHO wanted him to give a medical certificate that the person in custody had his limbs already broken. As the doctor refused to do so, the SHO and the police party accompanying him allegedly misbehaved with him and took away the person in custody saying they would get the medical report from elsewhere. Four days after the incident, the medical officer met SSP, Muzaffarpur, in the janata darbar on August 8, 2013, narrating the entire episode. The SSP entrusted the ASP-cum DSP Rashid Zaman to probe into the allegations. Finding no progress in the inquiry, the medical officer approached various authorities but to no avail. Thereafter, he filed a petition before BHRC in the last week of November, 2013. Taking cognizance of the medical officer’s petition, the commission’s acting chairperson Neelmani on Friday said, “Allegations as narrated by the medical officer, if true, are quite serious and call for drastic action.” He told TOI, “Prima facie, the commission found the allegations true. Hence, we decided to seek a report from the investigating officer concerned.” He also directed for sending a copy of the commission’s order to SSP, Muzaffarpur, for necessary action and also to the DIG and IG, Muzaffarpur zone for information. The commission has also asked the medical officer to appear before the commission on the same date for his statement. (Times of India 28/12/13)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

7. NHRC notice to Karnataka DG Prisons on non-release of prisoners (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices, returnable in 15 days, to the Director General of Prisons of Karnataka and the Gulbarga Central Jail Superintendent, seeking reports on the allegations of non-release of six prisoners even after completion of their sentence of 14 years. The Commission was acting on a complaint that the inmates were not released from the Gulbarga Jail. The prisoners are: Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh, Lal Singh, Wariam Singh and Gurdeep Singh Khaira. They were serving sentence for murder charges. (The Hindu 27/12/13)

 

8. Deported Journalist Claims Torture in SL (1)

CHENNAI/COLOMBO: Tamil Nadu journalist Tamil Prabhakaran arrived in Chennai on Saturday after the Sri Lankan Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) handed him over to the Immigration Department for deportation. The TID had apparently concluded after interrogation that he had no terrorist links and had not indulged in terrorist activity, and that the only fault was that he had violated visa regulations. Speaking to reporters at the Chennai airport, Prabhakaran claimed he was psychologically tortured and subjected to probe like a ‘criminal or terrorist’. “I was subjected to psychological torture and repeatedly subjected to investigations like a criminal or a terrorist when I had done nothing wrong,” Prabhakaran said. Prabhakaran, who had gone to Sri Lanka on a tourist visa, was detained on December 25 in Kilinochchi district in the former war zone of North Lanka by the local police. After overnight interrogation, they handed him over to the Terrorist Investigation Division, which took him to Colombo to find out why he was taking pictures of military installations and interviewing Tamil politicians when he was on a tourist visa. While Lankan authorities asserted that he was doing journalistic work while being on a tourist visa and taking pictures of army camps and troops, Prabhakaran categorically denied taking pictures of any military area and said he had only captured a few photographs of certain civil functions. “Even they were taken in the presence and knowledge of Lankan authorities and the arrest came much later,” the journalist said. Officials of the Indian High Commission in Colombo were given consular access to the detainee and they had found him to be quite alright. After investigations, TID told the High Commission that Tamil Prabhakaran had no terror links but had violated visa regulations and, therefore, he would be handed over to the Immigration Department for deportation. In Chennai, he said: “I was repeatedly interrogated and they kept me in handcuffs throughout my detention period, even when I was sleeping. I was subjected to emotional and psychological torture.” Claiming that the Lankan authorities treatment of him was a violation of human rights, Prabhakaran said, “I was given petrol when I asked for water and was subjected to several more types of torture that are a clear violation of human rights. I will release proof for this shortly,” he added. (New Indian Express 29/12/13)

 

9. Nandigram protests: Govt sits on sanction to prosecute police officers (1)

Kolkata: The Trinamool Government, which cashed in on the Nandigram protests in state politics, has not yet given CBI the sanction to prosecute five police officers involved in the 2007 police firing which killed 14 villagers. The agency has now filed charge sheets without giving alleged role of these five state police officers. It has filed two charge sheets recently before the Special CBI court here in the Nandigram firing in which 14 people were killed on March 14, 2007. There was no reason forthcoming as to why the state government is still reticent on not giving the sanction, CBI sources said. Agency sources said the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was also holding the charge of Home Ministry at the time of firing, was not examined by the CBI during its probe as it did not find any evidence against him. In one of the charge sheets, CBI named 132 private persons including some villagers but its request seeking sanction to prosecute two officers sub-inspectors Shambhu Das and Amit Hati and a Doctor, Laxmi Kant Ghosh, all state government officials, CBI sources said. In another charge sheet, CBI has made 37 accused, all private persons, and sought sanction to prosecute Debashis Boral and Satyajit Bandopadhyay, both additional SPs, and Sekhar Roy, sub-inspector Nandigram, sources said. The state government headed by Mamata Banerjee has not given any word to the agency to proceed with charge sheet against officials who were allegedly involved in the firing which killed 14 villagers protesting against acquisition of their land for a proposed special economic zone, they said. The agency has also recommended disciplinary action against then Inspector General Arun Gupta, and then SP G Anil Srinivas, both IPS officers, to the state government. In its charge sheet CBI has booked all those named under Indian Penal Code sections related to rioting (147, 148), unlawful assembly (149), voluntarily causing hurt to deter and public servant from his duty (332) among others. In the absence of sanction of prosecution, CBI cannot charge sheet the accused police officials which are state government officials, CBI sources said. The sources said request seeking the sanction was given to the state government nearly a year back but no decision has been communicated to the agency so far. The Calcutta High Court in June this year had directed the CBI to sort out the issue with the State government so that criminal proceedings could be initiated against the accused police officers, they said. A mob of nearly 5,000 villagers in Nandigram bloc in East Midnapore district had fought a pitched battle with security personnel on 14 March 2007 leading to police firing in which 14 of them were killed and more than 75, including a number of policemen, were injured. The villagers were protesting against a move to acquire their land by the West Bengal government for setting up a special economic zone. The Nandigram firing along with the agitation at Singur in Hooghly district against setting up of a small car plant later pitchforked Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to power in the 2011 Assembly election with a massive mandate. A division bench of Calcutta High Court comprising of then Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh had taken suo moto cognisance of the police firing and had ordered a CBI probe next day of the incident. (Business Standard 29/12/13)

 

10. Govt to send Presidential reference this week for probe against A K Ganguly (1)

New Delhi: Government is likely to send this week a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court for conducting a probe into the allegation of sexual harassment against Justice (retd) A K Ganguly after the Attorney General has endorsed it. The Home Ministry is expected to place a note, for sending a Presidential reference, in the next meeting of the Union Cabinet incorporating the views of Attorney General G E Vahanvati, who has noted that a case can be made out against Ganguly following allegations of “unwelcome behaviour” towards a woman law intern. Sources said once the Cabinet clears the proposal, it will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for approval. The Home Ministry then will send the Presidential reference to Chief Justice of India for conducting a fresh probe into the whole incident. The government is expected to take the initiative after the Supreme Court meets this week after a winter break. The Attorney General’s suggestions came after his views were sought on a letter to the President by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking Ganguly’s removal from chairmanship of West Bengal Human Rights Commission following a woman law intern’s allegation of sexual harassment against the former judge. Justice Ganguly has strongly denied the charge and refused to quit his post. Sources said the Attorney General had been asked to give views on whether any case can be made out on three issues –the allegation of sexual harassment against Ganguly, his visit to Pakistan without informing the West Bengal government and taking an assignment from All India Football Federation despite holding the high post of human rights commission. The Protection of Human Rights Act is clear that a Chairperson or member of the NHRC or a state human rights commission can only be removed “by order of the President of India on the grounds of proven misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by the President, has, on enquiry…reported that the Chairperson or the member, as the case may be, ought on any such ground to be removed.” (Indian Express 30/12/13)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

11. NHRC asks U.P. government to inquire into Kanwal Bharti’s arrest (2)

Lucknow: Mr. Bharti was arrested in August, and soon granted bail, over a Facebook post criticising Uttar Pradesh government for suspending IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. The National Human Rights Commission has directed the Uttar Pradesh police to act on a complaint that sought an inquiry into the arrest of Dalit scholar Kanwal Bharti. Mr. Bharti was arrested in August for a Facebook post critical of the State government and senior Samajwadi Party leaders over the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. He was granted bail soon after the arrest. Writing to the Director-General of Police, the NHRC has said the complaint should be “transmitted to the authority concerned for such action as deemed appropriate.” Nutan Thakur, a social activist of Lucknow, had moved the NHRC for an immediate inquiry and strict action in the case. She said Mr. Bharti’s “arbitrary and hasty arrest” was an “open abuse of administrative power.” His comments were not in any way meant to spread communal animosity but were only an “intellectual assertion” of a sequence of events and administrative acts. Mr. Bharti had been charged under Sections 153 and 295(A) of the IPC, which deal with “provocation with intent to cause riot” and “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” Despite media uproar, the cases filed against him have not been scrapped. He said he was not hopeful of justice from any inquiry by the State government. “If the police can lodge a complaint at [Cabinet Minister] Azam Khan’s orders, how can they hold an unbiased inquiry? The entire machinery belongs to the government.” He has taken the battle to the Allahabad High Court. “I am hopeful of justice from the judiciary, not the State,” he said. Dr. Thakur also prayed that Mr. Bharti be compensated for the hasty manner in which the First Information Report was filed and he was arrested. Since this was a “sensitive human rights matter,” she would “pursue it with the DGP for the sake of justice,” she said. (The Hindu 27/12/13)

 

12. Gram pradhan chops off dalit’s finger (2)

Lucknow: In what exposes the aristocratic mind-set of society and anarchism mushrooming in the state, husband and son of village Rakhiya Buzurg gram pradhan, Ramdevi Tiwari, chopped the fingers of a dalit woman on filing a case against the gram pradhan in Shahjahanpur district. The incident came to light in Sindhauli area, where Gaya Prasad, his son Anil and some of his aides stopped Meera (45) when she was returning home on Wednesday evening. The group objectionable words for the dalit woman and chopped her fingers when she retaliated their action and warned of a police action. The miscreants left the scene unchallenged. The victim reached her home while blood trickling down from her hand and narrated the incident to her family. She was later admitted to a hospital for treatment. The motive behind the attack had its roots when Meera filed a case in the court against the gram Pradhan Ramdevi for contesting elections claiming self to be a dalit. She even had submitted forged documents related to her caste in the elections. The wounded is recuperating at hospital, while the accused were still at large. (Pioneer 27/12/13)

 

13. Dalit villagers allege a local of blocking approach road to Tikkari (2)

Mandi: Members of Dalit community under the banner of Himachal Kisan Sabha (HKS) has submitted a memorandum to Mandi deputy commissioner Devesh Kumar, alleging one Govardhan Das of blocking the approach road to Tikkari village by erecting a wall of his house in the middle of the road. Tikkari village falls under Joginder Nagar sub-division, where nearly 35 families of Dalits are residing. HKS state joint secretary Kushal Bhardwaj, who led the delegation, said: “The road leads to Tikkari village, and has been used by the villagers since the Independence. Above all, many people had donated a part of their land to the Himachal government for widening of the road in 1995-96.” Bhardwaj further said in May 2012, the Public Works Department (PWD) had decided to metal the road and unloaded requisite material at various spots along the road, but due to incessant rain from June to August, the construction work was put on hold. In September 2012, when the PWD decided to restart the metal work, he said, both the PWD officials and Tikkari residents were caught in surprise when they saw a wall raised in the middle of the road to construct a building. Bhardwaj said despite assurances from PWD officials that they would get the wall removed, no action was taken so far. “The villagers are deprived of the road connectivity since then,”he added. Meanwhile, acting on the complaint of the villagers, officials of the revenue department carried out demarcation of the land and found the person guilty of encroachment on the government land, said Bhardwaj, adding even then the PWD officials and police failed to remove the encroachment. Bhardwaj said: “The person who has encroached upon the government land is a government employee and his act against the Dalit community people is a crime.” In the memorandum, the villagers had demanded quick action against the erring person, said Bhardwaj, adding they also warned the administration if their demand was not fulfilled, the residents of Tikkari village would not hesitate to lodge a complaint against the department concerned. (Hindustan Times 28/12/13)

 

14. HC Gives Anticipatory Bail to 27 Dalits in Case of Clash (2)

CHENNAI: Madras High Court granted anticipatory bail to 27 Dalits, including two advocates, in a matter pertaining to a clash over their entry into a temple at Thiruvallur district. The order was passed by Justice KBK Vasuki at a special sitting at her residence here. The judge, who heard three separate bail applications filed by 27 Dalits, directed the two lawyers to appear before the Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore, for 15 days and other 25 accused, named in different FIRs, to stay at Villupuram and sign before the Judicial Magistrate there daily at 11 AM until further orders. Counsel for one of the lawyers said his client enrolled as an advocate on December 21 and returned to his native village Nambakkam at Thiruvallur district that day and was welcomed by friends and relatives. He was taken in a procession to a temple for offering prayers, but was prevented entry, abused and attacked by the villagers, who took exception to their entry to the temple. In spite of complaints to local police and Superintendent of Police, no action was taken against those responsible, though some who accompanied the lawyer were hospitalised, the counsel submitted. He further submitted that instead of taking action against them, police had registered FIRs on the complaints of the rival group. As his client and also the others apprehended arrest following registration of FIRs, counsel for Dalits made a special mention that the anticipatory bail petitions be heard immediately. Hence though today was a holiday, the bail petitions were heard by Justice Vasuki at her residence. (New Indian Express 29/12/13)

 

15. NHRC seeks report from Gujarat over boycott of Dalits (2)

Ahmedabad: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought an action taken report (ATR) from the Gujarat government on the alleged social boycott of Dalits in Dagavadia village of Mehsana district. In its communication to the District Collector and District Superintendent of Police, the Commission has asked them to submit an ATR within four weeks of getting the communication. On November 16, The Indian Express had first reported about the village where Dalits were allegedly ostracised by the locally influential and dominant Chaudhary community members, following a minor dispute between two youths of the two communities. The Commission sought the ATR from the government authorities following a complaint lodged by a member of an Ahmedabad-based voluntary organisation, Kantilal Parmar. Parmar had based his complaint on the report of The Indian Express and sought “immediate” action of the Commission for “human rights violation of the Scheduled Caste people in Dagavadia village”.An assistant registrar of the Commission has asked the District Collector and District Superintendent of Police that “…an Action Taken Report be sent to the Commission within four weeks from the date of receipt of this letter”.Dalits of Dagavadia village, which has a population of 3,000 and is dominated by the Chaudhary community, alleged that following a minor dispute between two youths of the communities, they have been ostracised by the Chaudharys. They alleged that they were not getting labour work in the fields mainly owned by Chaudharys. They also alleged that due to the pressure of the Chaudharys, they were facing difficulties in getting their daily ration from provision stores in the village. Following the report, the Gujarat government had sent a team of officers to the village. In a communication to The Indian Express, Director of Scheduled Caste Welfare, Gujarat – R M Jadav – had said, “The team visited the village and met the sarpanch and other leaders of the village. The team had discussed with them and got positive solution of this matter. The complainant and other Dalits were given entry into the temple respectfully. At present, there is no dispute about ration, hair-cutting and supply of other commodities in the village. Moreover, the Dalits have been provided police protection according to their demand.” (Indian Express 31/12/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

16. State to pilot norms to reduce IMR (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The IAP study had reported that 75 per cent of the infant deaths occurred during the neonatal period The Health Department has drawn up a road map to reduce infant mortality in the State by implementing certain clinical guidelines and quality standards that are expected to change the manner in which neonatal care is practised in major hospitals. The department began this exercise in July with the help of Access International, a not-for-profit organisation that works with governments and provides research and training inputs to improve health care service delivery and processes. Four working groups, including paediatricians, neonatologists, obstetricians, and infection-control experts from major tertiary care hospitals in the State, have been working on the basic premise — based on a study by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) — that the major causes of infant deaths in Kerala were prematurity (34.6 per cent), congenital anomalies (28 per cent), sepsis (9.3 per cent), and birth asphyxia (8 per cent). The IAP study had reported that 75 per cent of the infant deaths occurred during the neonatal period, and that of the total neonatal deaths, 59 per cent of the deaths occurred during the first week of life. The groups have now formulated 13 quality statements relating to antenatal, intra-partum and neonatal interventions, the practice of which is expected to make a significant dent in the neonatal mortality (NMR) in the State. “Kerala’s IMR at present is 12 (per 1,000 live births). With the death of neonates (babies up to 28 days of birth) constituting 75 per cent of the IMR, our goal will be to bring down the NMR by 30 per cent in 24 months in 25 hospitals — six medical colleges, 14 district hospitals, and five private hospitals — which will be participating in our pilot project,” M. Beena, State Mission Director, National Health Mission, told The Hindu. “While we have drawn up the mandatory quality standards that need to be implemented to effectively bring down the IMR, we have to fill the gaps in infrastructure, knowledge, and availability of consumables and manpower in our institutions before we can pilot these guidelines,” Health Secretary K. Ellangovan said. The majority of deliveries in the State continue to take place in the private sector, and hence any quality improvement programme aimed at bringing down the IMR would have to include the private sector, the IAP has pointed out. However, non-reporting of neonatal and infant deaths continues to be a problem. The Health Department has thus decided to strengthen infant death auditing and reporting in the State by creating an interfacing website, with controlled access to private hospitals, where all hospitals can register the institution names and report infant deaths. “The last mile reduction of the IMR is not easy and calls for specific strategies at the micro level. We will need to do two kinds of mapping – mapping of geographic areas or health blocks where IMR rates have been high, and the mapping of institutions providing antenatal and delivery care in these areas, which will then be rated on the basis of the infrastructure, facilities, skills each has. We will also need to develop a system of scoring every antenatal case on the basis of the risks for infants and mothers. The data will have to be juxtaposed and management protocols modified appropriately for vulnerable areas,” Dr. Ellangovan said. (The Hindu 28/12/13)

 

17. IDPD organises seminar on health studies (3)

Ludhiana: Addressing a seminar organised by the NSS at SCD Government College, Dr Arun Mitra, general secretary, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), said that despite the recommendations of the Planning Commission to allocate 5 per cent of the budget towards health, the Government of India allocated only 1.9 per cent towards it. Quoting Amartya Sen, Dr Mitra said that health and education are the basic assets required for development and inclusive growth of any country and society. “Our public health spending is among the three lowest in the world in line with Sierra Leone and Haiti. Therefore, we are likely to miss the millennium development goal (MDG) to bring down infant mortality rate to 27 and maternal mortality rate to 109 by 2015. It is an irony that we spend huge amount on arms because of the perpetual tension between India and Pakistan. Both the nations have nearly 100 nuclear weapons each, which could lead to death of up to 1.2 crore people,” he said. A recent study by Dr Ira Helfand has warned of risk to over 2 billion people because of fall in food production resulting due to climatic changes in the event of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. He called for a mass movement on these issues. Many students asked questions concerning his talk. Present among the faculty members were Prof. Pooran Singh, Prof. Paramjit Singh and Prof Joshi. (Indian Express 29/12/13)

 

18. Hospital sets rules for arrested suspects seeking ‘treatment’ (3)

Mumbai: Keeping in mind the tendency of arrested suspects to try and stay out of jail by getting themselves admitted to hospitals claiming illness, the Civil Surgeon of Thane district has issued a circular laying down strict rules for dealing with such ‘patients’. The circular states that accused who are brought to the hospital as patients will not be admitted for the first six hours, and will be under constant observation since then so that they can be discharged as soon as they recover. The circular, issued recently by Thane district civil surgeon Dr Gauri Rathod, was also marked to the office of the Commissioner of Police, Thane, with a supplementary note saying, “In the past, there have been instances of accused being admitted to Thane Civil Hospital. It has been understood that some people work as agents in this racket. The process of admission to the hospital will now be strictly enforced.” “The patient should be kept under observation for six hours and all tests should be conducted. It is binding to conduct an ICTC test to check for HIV-AIDS. Other tests such as an ECG should also be conducted and experts concerned should be contacted. The District Civil surgeon or the additional civil surgeon should be contacted immediately,” the circular reads. The circular also says that suspects whose health is found to be normal after six hours’ observation period should be discharged. If, after this period, there is a need to admit the suspect, he should be admitted to the casualty ward and should be checked regularly. A committee of experts will then examine the suspect every 24 hours and take a decision on his status. The same committee will take further decisions in case the patient is has to be admitted for more than 72 hours. While Dr Rathod could not be reached for comment, Thane Police Commissioner K P Raghuvanshi said he had not seen the letter yet. (Indian Express 30/12/13)

 

19. Centre asks states to bring maternal mortality rate down further (3)

New Delhi: With India’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropping to a lower level signifying improvement in the health care delivery system, the Central government has now asked the states to further bring down the MMR among pregnant mothers to meet the national target by 2017 . “All states are requested to take urgent steps so that the target of achieving MMR of 100 at the national level may be achieved by the end of the 12th Plan,” Union Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju has told the states in a letter, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald. Thanks to better health infrastructure and more deliveries in hospitals and health care centres, India’s MMR has fallen to 178 deaths per 100,000 pregnant mothers in the 2010-12 period, a significant drop from an MMR of 212 in the previous three years. However, India’s achievement is still far short of New Delhi’s commitment to the UN Millennium Development Goal in which India has a target of bringing down the MMR to 109 by 2015. Kerala has the lowest MMR of 66, down from 81 in 2007-09 and 95 in 2004-06. Assam has the highest of 328, a fall from 390 and 480 in 2007-09 and 2004-06, respectively. UP is a close second to Assam with MMR of 292, down from 440 in 2004-06. The lifetime risk — the probability of death of a woman of reproductive age (15-49) due to child birth — is also less in Kerala (0.1 per cent) while it is the highest in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand at one per cent. The annual decline at the national level of the MMR was 5.7 per cent during 2007-09 to 2010-12 as compared to the annual decline of 5.8 per cent during 2004-06 to 2007-09, Desiraju said. The figures are not that rosy for Karnataka as it has the highest MMR among South Indian states though it also recorded a fall during the 2010-12 period compared to 2007-09, according to the latest figures released by the Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner. Karnataka has an MMR of 144, which is down from 178 in 2007-09 and 213 in 2004-06. At present Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have an MMR of 90 and 110, respectively. Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (87) has MMR below the 100 level. Besides Assam, the worst performing states are from central and north India. The cumulative MMR of these states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — is a whopping 257, much more than the national average of 178. However, the latest figures have shown a significant decline from 375 in 2004-06 and 308 in 2007-09. The four South Indian states on a cumulative level have the least MMR of 105 in the country. (Deccan Herald 31/12/130

 

HIV/AIDS

20. ‘Dip in Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Armed Forces’ (3)

NEW DELHI: There has been a marked decline in number of HIV/AIDS cases in the three armed services, the forces top medical official said Friday. Nobody has died of AIDS in the last year, Director General, Armed Forces Medical Services, D.P. Joshi told reporters here. Efforts are also being taken to reduce stress levels of servicemen by setting up helplines and efforts through the human resources department of the services, said Director General Medical Services (Air) A. K. Behl said. Air Marshal Joshi said the services were also making efforts to preserve blood samples of personnel till they retire and 10 years after that to match in case of any untoward incident like accidents where the body is unrecognizable. “We want to have a DNA bank. We are still in the beginning. It is a major project. We are working out the modalities,” he said. Apart from this, in an endeavor to provide specialist medical care to its clientele, the Armed Forces Medical Services is moving towards an all specialist corps. As part of capability development, there has been continuous effort in training the officers and men to enhance their professional knowledge in all specialties and trades keeping with the pace of advancement in healthcare, a press release said. The Army Medical Corps celebrates its 250th anniversary on January 1. (New Indian Express 27/12/13)

 

21. Rs.2 lakh relief to kin of man who died of AIDS (3)

New Delhi: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed a life insurance company to pay Rs.2 lakh to the kin of an army man who died of AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome). The commission was hearing a revision petition filed by Postal Life Insurance (PLI) challenging the order of the state commission of Haryana, which has granted Rs.2 lakh to the kin of army official Manjeet Singh, a Haryana resident who died after being infected with the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus that causes a patient to contract AIDS. NCDRC presiding member Ajit Bharihoke and member Suresh Chandra upheld the order, saying it did not find any error, illegality or material irregularity in the impugned order of the state commission, Haryana. The insurance company had claimed that Manjeet Singh had concealed the fact that he was suffering from HIV while taking insurance. Singh took an insurance policy in September 2008. He died June 24, 2009. The insurance company placed a record of the hospital, showing that Singh was “detected to be HIV-positive while being screened for fever”.The commission noted that the company had failed to produce the doctors, to establish that the patient had been detected HIV-positive and was informed of his condition. “Since the petitioner (PLI) has failed to produce the best evidence, we are inclined to draw an adverse presumption against the petitioners and conclude that the petitioner has failed to establish that the insured was aware that he has been detected HIV positive,” the national commission said in an order passed last week. Details of the order were made available Saturday. The commission held that the insurance company has failed to prove its case, saying that it cannot be said that Singh had indulged in fraud, misrepresentation or concealment of material fact while obtaining the insurance policy. (Deccan Herald 28/12/13)

 

22. Increase in HIV-infected persons (3)

SALEM: Of the total 1,16,240 people tested at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres in the district in 2012-13, 1,229 were identified with having HIV infections. Officials at the District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit said that according to the HIV Sentinel Surveillance report, 1.5 per cent of the total population was infected by HIV/AIDS.Of the 44,494 pregnant women tested, 51 were found to be infected. As many as 18,367 HIV-infected persons have registered with the Anti Retroviral Therapy centres functioning in the district and 6,350 people were undergoing treatment. This was disclosed during the observation of World Aids Day here on Friday. (The Hindu 28/12/13)

 

23. Karunalayam: A home for the HIV positive (3)

WARANGAL: A three-month-old baby boy wrapped in rags was abandoned on the verandah of Karunalayam around 4 a.m. last year. The morning duty nurse spotted the child at 4.30 a.m. and brought the child in. Father Jyotish tried his best to trace its origin even through the local papers, but in vain. On one Good Friday day, a three-month-old baby girl was left behind on a four-wheeler outside the Church at Karunapuram by unknown people. One of the Churchgoers noticed and informed Father Jyotish. He brought that child too to Karunalayam, the care and support centre for HIV positive people. All these children – those abandoned by unknown parents, referred, adopted – all make up for 94 children, including boys and girls, over the years. “We usually take children above three years of age. But sometimes, we are forced to accept those abandoned by parents,” he explains. Last year, a woman with HIV was brought to Mission Hospital during her advanced stage of pregnancy. The doctors there asked Father Jyotish to accept her. The woman died shortly but the child survived, thanks to the care and support extended by Father Jyotish and his team. Most of the children here survive beyond the expected time – all due to dedication and love. “The children here get a high protein diet, timely medical care, peaceful atmosphere and relaxed environment – play or watch television or are engaged in counselling,” Father Jyotish explains. The Karunalayam care and support centre for HIV-AIDS affected people was set up in 2002 when Father Jyotish, who was working as a pastor in a small church at Thorrur, came forward to accept the challenge. “I was drawn into the mission after seeing the relatives of a boy fighting over whose responsibility the chid was. His parents, afflicted by AIDS, had died. The relatives were interested in the property left behind but not the child as he was also afflicted by AIDS. Then I decided I should work in another direction. With the help of my diocese here, we set up this centre,” he explained. (The Hindu 31/12/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

24. Land-losers launch indefinite strike (4)

BELLARY: Farmers staging an indefinite dharna at Kuditini seeking enhanced compensation as per the new Land Acquisition Bill. Farmers staging an indefinite dharna at Kuditini seeking enhanced compensation as per the new Land Acquisition Bill. Land-losers from Kuditini, Harginadoni, Timmalapur, Veni Veerapur, Kolagallu and surrounding villages in Bellary taluk, launched an indefinite strike under the banner of Bhoo Santrasthara Horata Samiti demanding compensation as per the Land Acquisition Bill for land acquired for setting-up industries. The agitators, along with Bhajana mandal and Chowdaki artistes, rendered devotional songs to draw the attention of the government towards their plight. “About 10,000 acres of land had been acquired from farmers by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board. The compensation fixed was very low,” Ravi Prakash, a land-loser told The Hindu. The samiti urged the Central government to modify a provision in the Bill so as to benefit farmers whose lands have been acquired after 2009. According to Mr. Prakash, the land for steel plants Arcelor Mittal and Brahmani steels were acquired in 2010 and would not be covered under the new Bill. He said the samiti leaders had met Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh and would also meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to demand enhanced price for the land. (The Hindu 27/12/13)

 

25. Nandigram protests: Govt sits on sanction to prosecute police officers (4)

Kolkata: The Trinamool Government, which cashed in on the Nandigram protests in state politics, has not yet given CBI the sanction to prosecute five police officers involved in the 2007 police firing which killed 14 villagers. The agency has now filed charge sheets without giving alleged role of these five state police officers. It has filed two charge sheets recently before the Special CBI court here in the Nandigram firing in which 14 people were killed on March 14, 2007. There was no reason forthcoming as to why the state government is still reticent on not giving the sanction, CBI sources said. Agency sources said the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was also holding the charge of Home Ministry at the time of firing, was not examined by the CBI during its probe as it did not find any evidence against him. In one of the charge sheets, CBI named 132 private persons including some villagers but its request seeking sanction to prosecute two officers sub-inspectors Shambhu Das and Amit Hati and a Doctor, Laxmi Kant Ghosh, all state government officials, CBI sources said. In another charge sheet, CBI has made 37 accused, all private persons, and sought sanction to prosecute Debashis Boral and Satyajit Bandopadhyay, both additional SPs, and Sekhar Roy, sub-inspector Nandigram, sources said. The state government headed by Mamata Banerjee has not given any word to the agency to proceed with charge sheet against officials who were allegedly involved in the firing which killed 14 villagers protesting against acquisition of their land for a proposed special economic zone, they said. The agency has also recommended disciplinary action against then Inspector General Arun Gupta, and then SP G Anil Srinivas, both IPS officers, to the state government. In its charge sheet CBI has booked all those named under Indian Penal Code sections related to rioting (147, 148), unlawful assembly (149), voluntarily causing hurt to deter and public servant from his duty (332) among others. In the absence of sanction of prosecution, CBI cannot charge sheet the accused police officials which are state government officials, CBI sources said. The sources said request seeking the sanction was given to the state government nearly a year back but no decision has been communicated to the agency so far. The Calcutta High Court in June this year had directed the CBI to sort out the issue with the State government so that criminal proceedings could be initiated against the accused police officers, they said. A mob of nearly 5,000 villagers in Nandigram bloc in East Midnapore district had fought a pitched battle with security personnel on 14 March 2007 leading to police firing in which 14 of them were killed and more than 75, including a number of policemen, were injured. The villagers were protesting against a move to acquire their land by the West Bengal government for setting up a special economic zone. The Nandigram firing along with the agitation at Singur in Hooghly district against setting up of a small car plant later pitchforked Mamata Banerjee’sTrinamool Congress to power in the 2011 Assembly election with a massive mandate. A division bench of Calcutta High Court comprising of then Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh had taken suo moto cognisance of the police firing and had ordered a CBI probe next day of the incident. (Business Standard 29/12/13)

 

26. Airport Project Hits Air Pocket (4)

KOCHI: The 2,000-crore project for the first private airport in the country at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district was in the cynosure of controversy from its announcement. It all started with the LDF Government led by V S Achuthanandan giving SEZ status to an area just hours before the end of its tenure. Controversies loomed as the locals of the village which is famed for the unique Aranmula mirror and termed as Heritage village, along with environmentalists rose up in arms against the project alleging the blatant flouting of rules, nearly a dozen. However, the Chennai-based company received a conditional environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest on November 19. There are too many topics under heated discussion regarding the area of the project, the number of evictees, the environmental impact and the status of legal clearances including the date of mutation. While the Chief Minister claims innocence and affirms there was no illegal activity there during the tenure of this government, records prove to the contrary. However, the state government which took a 10 per cent stake in the project reiterates that it will move forward with the project. (New Indian Express 30/12/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

27. Lack of causeway hits farmers at Karumanchi (20)

It is riskier preposition for the farmers of this remote village in Tangutur mandal as they swim across Musi river to carry on farming on the other side at a time when their counterparts elsewhere prefer to quit farming altogether or end up committing suicide unable to cope with farming in the wake of mounting losses. Farmers, with never-say-die, spirit grow among other crops, paddy, Mango, sweet lime and tobacco taking in their own stride the ever-increasing cost of farm inputs and fluctuating fortunes while marketing their produce, explains 70-year-old village sarpanch M. Peramma, who has been running from pillar to post in vain to get sanctioned a low-level causeway. Recounting the farmers’ tale of woes, M. Koteswara Rao member of the first ward in the gram panchayat, told The Hindu ‘more than cultivation of crops, it is lack of logistics that is pushing them into big trouble.’ ‘We bring farm produce across the river using lorry tyre tubes as we cannot afford to take the circuitous route to their village via Tangutur and Surareddypalem,’ says a farmer R.Punnaiah. Farm workers in the village preferred to seek wage employment thanks to the MGNREGS or go for construction work in Ongole instead of working in fields leaving the farmers to fend for themselves, explains another farmer A.Narasamma. ”It is very difficult to judge the depth and pits particularly during the rainy season due to indiscriminate sand mining by sand mafias”, says Ch.Venkatram Reddy, who owns 10 acres of land on the other side of the river. Sk. Basha, who owns five acres of land, says we have been pressing for a low-level causeway to public representatives time and again. ‘The contestants’ promise has turned out to be mere letters written on water,’ adds yet another farmer Sk. Kamansa summing up the villagers long wait for a low-level causeway to take their tractors and bullock carts across the river without hassles. (The Hindu 9/12/13)

 

28. Oppn claims govt-sugar mill owners nexus, walks out of legislative council (20)

Lucknow: The Opposition BSP and BJP members Tuesday walked out from the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council over cane price issue and harassment of BJP MLAs, respectively. While the BSP and others criticised the government for doling out packages to sugar mill owners, BJP took on the state for the wrongful arrest and harassment of its MLAs in the Muzaffarnagar riots. The BSP, Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) members raised the issue of sugarcane farmers through an adjournment notice. Leader of Opposition Naseemuddin Siddiqui alleged that the state government has struck a deal with the mill owners. “The government is favouring private sugar mill owners. Farmers will get only Rs 246 per quintal for their produce,” Siddiqui said, adding several farmers have sought permission from the President to kill themselves and some have already committed suicide. Congress’ Naseeb Pathan said not getting reasonable price for sugarcane, farmers were setting their produce on fire. RLD leader Chaudhary Mushtaq said that sugar mills were yet to clear Rs 2,356 crore in dues to the farmers. BJP leader Vinod Pandey said that delay in crushing has affected the sowing of the next crop. Leader of the House Ahmed Hasan said the government and cooperative mills had cleared their dues and only “private sugar mills need to pay 2,300 crore”.He said of the 123 mills, 100 have started crushing and the rest would start in 15 days. He alleged that Rs 5,700 crore dues were pending from the previous BSP regime and clarified that the farmers who committed suicide did not have any pending dues. Dissatisfied with the reply, BSP, BJP and Congress members walked out of the House raising slogans. BJP members also raised the issue of its two MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana being arrested in false cases connected to the Muzaffarnagar riots “to secure votes of a particular community.” (Indian Express 11/12/13)

 

29. ‘Use groundwater from realty sites for agriculture’ (20)

NOIDA: An expert committee set up to consider various aspects on groundwater extraction beyond its natural levels in Noida has recommended that it should be diverted for agriculture or artificial recharge of water tables. The report, recommending methods for dewatering and control of groundwater at construction sites, was presented by Noida Authority to National Green Tribunal on Thursday. The five-member committee that compiled the report has also highlighted the need to form a special panel at Noida Authority to evaluate and approve ‘dewatering management plans’ before implementation of projects. The committee prepared its report—a copy of which is with TOI — after conducting surveys in Noida. Apart from officials of Noida Authority, the committee also comprised a former member each from Central Ground Water Board and UP Groundwater Department. As part of dewatering plans, the committee has recommended geo-technical investigations and hydrological analysis of project sites prior to commencement of construction to determine soil status and characteristics and exact positions of groundwater level. “Dewatering can be done after purification to designated discharge points, which may be sewers, streams, infiltration or recharge ponds or injection well recharge system,” the expert committee has recommended. The committee compiled the report after the tribunal issued directions to the Authority for preparing a detailed plan highlighting methods for judicious use of groundwater and its recharge in Noida. The tribunal had issued the directions while hearing a case in which it was alleged that indiscriminate extraction of groundwater in Noida is fast depleting its levels, besides threatening shortage in the long term. (Times of India 13/12/13)

 

30. Nearly 10K farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra since 2004: BJP (20)

NAGPUR: Launching a scathing attack on the Democratic Front government over failure to implement Maharashtra Money Lending (Regulation) Act, passed by the legislature in 2010, the principal opposition party BJP said it resulted in suicides by nearly 10,000 farmers since 2004. The entire opposition raised slogans before staging a walkout over the issue as the government failed to set specific time frame for the Act to become a reality. The issue came up for discussion during the question-answer session in Maharashtra council where leader of opposition Vinod Tawde informed that from 2004 to 2009 about 5,000 farmers took extreme step, primarily due to harassment of private moneylenders who exploited them. Since, the government failed to make efforts to implement the Act since 2009, the suicides continued unabated and till date about 4,894 distressed farmers had ended their life. He said though the bill was returned by the centre over loopholes as many as four times, the government failed to make proper amendments. The senior BJP leader called on to lodge offences of murder against the officials who failed to make efforts to get early clearance from the centre. Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe also lashed out at slow pace of progress towards implementation of the Act stating that in last five years, the government had hardly made efforts, completely ignoring the gravity of the situation. Senior BJP leader Pandurang Fundkar questioned on inordinate delay to implement the Act when both assembly and council passed the it unanimously. He charged the government of working under pressure of rich and powerful moneylenders. Admitting the delay, cooperation and parliamentary affairs minister Harshwardhan Patil said, since the Act’s provisions were related to seven union ministries, it was taking time for getting clearances from each of them. He however assured that the government had cleared all obstacles and now only, clearance from finance department was pending. After their green signal, it would go to the President Pranab Mukherjee for his ascent. Home minister RR Patil said they had so far acted again 2,100 moneylenders and even charged one of them with dreaded MCOCA Act. He warned that the government will make all out efforts to return the land acquired by moneylenders through illegal means and informed that they had earlier constituted a panel under industries minister Narayan Rane. (Times of India 17/12/13)

 

31. 12 farmers die within two months in Krishna dt.(20)

MACHILIPATNAM: At least 12 farmers died within two months in Krishna District, including one farmer who had taken his life by consuming pesticide following severe damage of the standing paddy crop, during the ongoing kharif season. Repeated cyclones are to be blamed for the prevailing crisis like situation as well as farmers’ deaths, apart from decrease in the total paddy yield in the above 2 lakh hectares of sown area, said a report. Three fact finding teams on farmers’ deaths from the Andhra Pradesh Rythu Kuli Sangam (APRKS) documented the number and apparent reasons behind the 12 deaths, including one suicide. “Of the 12, one had consumed pesticide. Many of them were declared dead due to cardiac arrest while they were undergoing medical treatment. However, all of them are tenant farmers who bore the brunt from the bad weather conditions,” said APRKS member J. Jagan. On Monday, the APRKS released their report on farmers’ suicides and submitted a copy to Krishna district Collector M. Raghunandan Rao, appealing him to address three major issues. The issues were repairing of drainage system and stop encouraging B.P.T Paddy variety of seed. It was found that the B.P.T variety could not withstand the repeated changes in the weather, both – heavy winds or rain. The teams also revealed that absence of Rabi crop in the large extent of cultivable land for past few years in Krishna District was creating fear among the farmers about the bleak future in paddy cultivation. “Purchasing the discoloured paddy at MSP price and liberalising the guidelines meant for enumeration of damaged paddy crop are the very immediate help that Government could extend to prevent the deaths,” observed APRKS fact-finding team member T. Leela Manohar . (The Hindu 17/12/13)

 

32. Farm sector has lost prominence due to lopsided policies: AIKS (20)

GUNTUR: The farm sector has been booted out of the Indian economy due to the lopsided policies of successive governments, national general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha Atul Kumar Anjan said here on Wednesday. The agricultural sector, which has been contributing 51 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product of the country and providing livelihood to two-thirds of its population, is now staring at its worst crisis with farmers’ suicides, lack of minimum support prices and rising cost of cultivation, Mr. Anjan said at the inaugural of the national seminar on “Farmer Centered Alternative Agricultural Policy,” being organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) here. “The present share of agriculture to GDP is just 13.2 per cent. Market forces have taken hold of the farm sector and though much water has passed under the bridge since 2007 after the M.S Swaminathan Commission report was tabled, the government has not taken any action. More than five lakh farmers had committed suicide during the last 13-14 years,” Mr. Anjan said. District Collector S. Suresh Kumar too shared his passion for agriculture and called for an effective pressure group to bring in policy changes. Mr. Suresh Kumar said that declining agricultural production during the last 20 years had forced many farmers to shift from agriculture to other activities. Vice Chancellor of Acharya Nagarjuna University K. Viyanna Rao said that declining rate of agricultural growth had been a matter of concern. Farmers have been at the receiving end due to lack of effective agricultural policies and new challenges like corporatization of agriculture, which has thrown the farm sector into a crisis. (The Hindu 19/12/13)

 

33. 500 engineers join hands to light up houses of Vidarbha farmers (20)

Pune: In a unique programme that has lighted up the lives of families of farmers who have committed suicide, Pune’s 500 engineers have helped install solar power lamps at some of the remote parts of Vidarbha. Pune-based NGO Apulkee that consists of more than 500 software professionals have installed solar power lamps in the houses of 250 such families . Since last month, Apulkee has been involved in this mission. Sachin Pachpor, member of the group, said they decided to distribute solar lamps to them given the poor electrical connectivity in the region. “The families are located in isolated clusters and face long hours of power cut. Due to the death of the bread winner of the families, it often falls on the women folk to fend for the family. When they come home in the evening, a dark house without power greets them where in they have to prepare their dinner,” he said. Pachpor said lamps would help the women folk of the household and also help the children study,” he said. Apulkee since its formation a year ago has been active in solving issues related to farmers in Vidharbha. The group has many people from Vidarbha’s farmer families. “Through this group we are reaffirming our links and helping the area in our own way,” he said. The idea of the latest venture called Prakashvat, came from their first-hand experience. “Our effort is to light up their lives to some extend,” said the founding president of the group Abhijeet Phalke. The group has dedicated this venture to master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. The group members through their posts in social networking sites announced this venture and asked for donations. Also the group managed to tie up with a manufacturer of solar lamps in Pune who agreed to give the product at a concessional rate. (Indian Express 20/12/13)

 

34. BJP Condemns Arrest of Farmers (20)

BHUBANESWAR: The BJP on Wednesday  condemned the arrest of the agitating farmer leaders and demanded their immediate release. Justifying their agitation demanding bonus of `500 per quintal of paddy, the BJP said that the farmers of the State are in distressed condition following extensive damage to their kharif crops by the twin calamities of Phailin and floods. The special package announced by the State Government for the farmers is nothing but a hogwash. Whatever paddy crop saved from the calamities is not meeting the fair average quality (FAQ) norms. As a result, paddy brought to the mandis are not accepted by the Government agencies. Finding no support from the Government, the farmers are on peaceful agitation from December 9 demanding bonus of `500 per bag over the minimum support price (MSP) announced by the Centre. Claiming that the neighbouring Chhattisgarh Government is providing a bonus of `300 per quintal of paddy, BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to accept the demand of the farmers to mitigate their miseries. Demanding immediate release of the arrested leaders, Sharma cautioned that the BJP will take to the streets if the Government conducts legal proceedings against them. (New Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

35. BJP condemns arrest of farmers in Orissa (20)

Bhubaneswar: The BJP on Saturday strongly condemned the incarceration of 26 frontline activists of Navanirman Krushak Sangahan (NKS), a farmers’ rights forums, and demanded their immediate and unconditional release from the jail. The president of Orissa state BJP Kissan Morcha, Maheswar Sahoo, said the arrest of farmers’ leaders who were holding a protest rally on December 24 demanding `500 bonus per quintal of paddy was blatant attempt to throttle their right to expression and aimed at suppressing the state government’s failure to improve the poor conditions of the peasants. “After huge criticism following the arrest of the farmers’ leaders, the BJD government has announced a paltry `100 bonus per quintal of paddy. When the Swaminathan Comm-ission has recommended at least 50 per cent profit to the farmer on the cost of production of his produce, the `100 relief is just like a lollypop.” (Asian Age 29/12/13)

 

36. Second round of farmer suicide survey held up due to lack of funds (20)

PATIALA: Despite repeated assurances by the Punjab government to conduct a second round of survey to count suicides committed by farmers and agriculture labourers in the state, the state is yet to initiate the process. The second round of survey, which would give the exact number of suicides committed by the tillers and farm labourers till March 2013, could not take off despite a decision to that effect having been taken by the Punjab government around three months ago. Although three state universities – Punjabi University, Patiala; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar – were told to conduct the survey, these institutions are yet to begin the work as the government has not provided them funds. “We haven’t started any survey till now as we are awaiting funds from the state government,” Inderjit Singh, head of economics department of Punjabi University. S S Dhillon, economics department head of Guru Nanak Dev University also said his university was ready to conduct the survey but funds had not been sent by the government. “Although the budget has been allocated to each university, we are yet to receive the funds. We will start the survey immediately after getting the money,” said Dhillon. Sources in PAU also pointed to unavailability of funds for the survey. The data available with the state government – according to which total 6,926 farmers and labourers have committed suicide – is only for the 2000-2011 period. As per the data, number of people who committed suicide included 3,954 farmers and 2,972 farm labourers. It also revealed that 75% farmers committed suicide citing inability to repay the debt. The percentage of labourers who ended their life for the similar reason was 49%. Of the total farmer suicides, 6% were by females while in the farm labourers’ category the figure was 14%. (Times of India 30/12/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

37. World Trade Organization agreement to boost global growth, cut poverty: Leaders (21)

Washington : The first-ever multilateral trade deal in the 20-year history of the World Trade Organization would boost global growth, jobs and cut poverty, and would eliminate red tape andbureaucratic delay for goods shipped across the globe, world leaders have said. US President Barack Obama welcomed the multilateral trade agreement, saying it would eliminate red tape and bureaucratic delay for goods shipped around the globe. “Small businesses will be among the biggest winners, since they encounter the greatest difficulties in navigating the current system. By some estimates, the global economic value of the new World Trade Organization deal could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. The World Trade Organization’s Bali agreement also represents the rejuvenation of the multilateral trading system that supports millions of American jobs and offers a forum for the robust enforcement of America’s trade rights, he said. In the first-ever agreement reached after the launch of the Doha Round of trade talks, ministers from 159 countries approved the Bali package. Overcoming a string of failures over the years, the World Trade Organization reached the landmark agreement that can help boost global trade by USD 1 trillion, while taking on board concerns of countries like India to protect its food security scheme to provide subsidised grains to the poor. Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said the deal would “benefit all World Trade Organization members”.British Prime Minister David Cameron said the “historic” agreement could be a “lifeline” for the world’s poorest people, as well as benefiting British businesses to the tune of more than USD 1 billion. “The breakthrough agreement reached in Bali by the World Trade Organization (WTO) reaffirms the commitment of the international community to an open trade system which boosts global growth and jobs, and cuts poverty,” said Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF. In a statement, Lagarde said she fully support World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo’s determination to use this opportunity to move the broader Doha Development Agenda forward, and overcome the significant challenges that still lie ahead. Influential US Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the successful World Trade Organization negotiations in Bali mark an important first step towards reducing global (Financial Express 9/12/13)

 

38. Food security: Who’ll foot the Rs 750cr bill? (21)

LUCKNOW: The political brouhaha over the food guarantee programme and the blame game between Samajwadi Party government and Congress notwithstanding, making ‘food security’ a reality in UP is a tall order. Who will bear the additional Rs 750 crore the state would need to guarantee food security to its people, Centre or the state? No answers, yet. While the Centre would allocate annual 96.15 lakh metric tonne of foodgrain to UP to implement the programme, food and civil supplies department of the state has assessed the requirement of annual 98.04 lakh MT, which is 1.89 lakh MT more than Centre allocated for UP under the new programme. Whether the Centre is able to meet the demand or not is not clear. Centre was apprised of the roadblocks by UP earlier and a reminder has also been sent by state food and civil Supplies Minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiyya on November 6, but officials are still waiting for the Centre’s response. More than anything else, the biggest roadblock, however, is identification of ‘priority households’ for foodgrain distribution. Centre has instructed to cover 80% of population in rural areas and 65% in urban area. While the Centre has decided the target based on ‘Hunger index’, the state is not aware of the exact parameters based on which the hunger index has been worked out. Whom to identify as a beneficiary and who to leave out is a challenge for the state. UP will have to work out the ‘exclusion criteria’ but what it will be is not known right now. States like Rajasthan and MP have taken annual income as the basis to exclude people from the benefits of the programme. “We would depend on the data of socio-economic and caste census to identify the beneficiaries,” said sources in the government. SECC, however, is a delayed exercise and its findings may not be out soon. In that case whether it will be possible for the state to meet the July 5, 2014 deadline to begin implementation of the programme is to be seen. As per the Act, the programme has to be implemented within 365 days from July 5, when the act came into force, in all the states. Though the state is ready with the preliminary guidelines to be placed before the Cabinet for approval, implementing the programme will be possible only after the contentious issues are resolved. The state has about 15.41 crore beneficiaries under the programme, said special secretary and additional food commissioner Ravindra. Antyodaya beneficiaries will continue to get 35 kg of foodgrains per family per month. But, BPL and APL category will be merged into a new category of beneficiaries called Priority Households, which will be given 5 kg food grain per person per month. While wheat will be distributed at Rs 2 per kg, rice would be given at Rs 3 per kg and coarse grain at Re 1 per kg. The government is trying all things possible to meet the deadline. A steering committee headed by chief secretary has been set up. It has four nodal officers, including principal secretaries/secretaries of women and child development, primary education, medical and health and food and civil supplies. The fact that food guarantee programme is an amalgamation of schemes like midday meal, meals for expecting and lactating mothers and integrated child development services (ICDS) programmes, its ambit is far-reaching. “How lactating and expectant mothers are given cooked meals needs to be planned,” said sources. (Times of India 11/12/13)

 

39. ‘Poverty death’ fuels protests (21)

BOKARO: The death of a septuagenarian, reportedly due to poverty, at Bhaata Tola in Gomia block on Tuesday stoked controversy and led a local MLA to announce demonstration against the distrct administration. Sakina Khatoon reportedly died of poverty as the district administration failed to provide oldage pension to here since last a year. However, administration officials claimed that after knowing about Khatoon’s status, pension money was paid to her. Congress MLA from Gomia Madhavlal Singh alleged negligence on part of the district administration and the state government and announced to stage dharna in the assembly on December 16. Singh said Khatoon was bed-ridden since last month. Her husband, Peer Baksh, had died four years ago. Singh said he and his party workers had approached the administration for oldage pension to her that was due since last year, but in vain. “I had personally called DC, Bokaro, Uma Shanker Singh on Monday 3 pm and narrated the suffering of Khatoon. I demanded him to pay old age pension urgently… But before the administration could provide help, Khatoon died on Tuesday,” said Singh, adding that it was the administration’s negligence. (Times of India 12/12/13)

 

40. Migration of labour escalating into neo-bondage system (21)

KHARIAR (ODISHA) Though the gruesome chopping off of the palms of two migrant labourers has badly shaken the residents of this poverty-stricken region of Odisha, it has not called a halt to others embarking on the journey into the dark alleys of bondage, humiliation and even death. Everybody appears dumbstruck after hearing the horrible incident, but they feel the need was to follow the dictats of the labour contractors which would ensure two square meals a day for their families. Hordes of migrant workers are now busy bundling up their bare necessities and waiting for the signal of labour contractors to start their journeys to brick-kilns of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Jasoda Patel, a 65-year-old resident of Sunarisikwan village under this remote block, and a regular migrant worker till this year, explained as to why administration could not prevent people from being transported. “We have already taken the loan advances from labour agents two months ago. My family members have already spent a big share of the loan while a small amount is left with us. At this moment, we have no other option than following the dictats of the sardar (labour contractor),” said Ms. PatelSix of her family members, including her son and daughter-in-law, are under contract to work in a brick-kiln in Andhra Pradesh. Her fellow villager, Raidhar Sunani, said 70 per cent of families in the village were under obligation to work in brick manufacturing units. Kirikita, a village not far away from Sunarisikwan, has a similar story. Some families have already left while others are preparing to board trains from undisclosed locations.  Labour migration from this poverty stricken region has become a part of life for many years now. For poor families, although migration sometimes proves to be threat to their life, it hands them the crucial cash to spend at festivals and other social events. For labour contractors, the migration makes their cash registers ring. “Conservatively, the worth of labour migration trade touches Rs 70 to 80 crore in western Odisha. The trade flourishes right under the nose of administration as government officials who are supposed to stop distress migration, are bribed at different stages,” said Umi Daniel, head of Migration Information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide et Action South Asia and a researcher on migration. Mr. Daniel said, “slowly and steadily, the migration from western Odisha is turning into a neo-bondage system, wherein labour contractors dispatch thousands of labourers by luring them into debt trap. The work condition of labourers will deteriorate further as in neoliberal economy, money is being pumped into cities and labourers are transported from rural heartlands.” (The Hindu 20/12/13)

 

41. Condition of street children remain worst (21)

GUWAHATI, Dec 21 – Notwithstanding the tall claims made by the government on implementation of the welfare schemes, the condition of street children continues to remains worst in Guwahati. Contrary to the general perception, a survey has found that driven by poverty, nearly 60 per cent of these children flocking the streets, railway station and flyovers of the city are from rural Assam. Conducted in the entire municipal area of the Guwahati city, the survey did a headcount of 5,534 street children in Guwahati. No less disturbing is the number of such children, as the researchers involved in the study are anticipating the existence of many more of them here, who have not been included in the study. ‘Rapid Assessment Survey of Street Children of Guwahati’ conducted by Snehalaya, a centre for child rights, along with Don Bosco Research Centre, Mumbai and National Forum for Young at Risk (YaR), Delhi, was released on Friday, highlighting the urgent need for their rehabilitation. A significant number of such children are involved in rag-picking and other menial activities for income generation, where there is no age restriction. “About 60 per cent of the street-involved childrens’ place of origin was Assam followed by Bengali-speaking children (31.1 pc). The study also found children from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Nepal and Tripura. Majority of such children are from the 12 to 17-year age group,” said Father Fr Luckose Cheruvalel, director of Snehalaya, addressing the media. Children who were from Assam had their roots in neighbouring districts, who migrated from rural to urban areas for livelihood, either alone or along with families. “Though collecting the data related to such children is a mammoth task given the mental blocks among these children not to reveal their identities, we, however, did a random selection of 251 such children from different parts of the study and our experts interviewed them,” he added. Whereas the 10-14 year age group constituted nearly half of children surveyed, the presence of boys (80.5 pc) significantly outnumbered girls (19.5 pc). The lack of action in this matter is evident from the striking revelation that nearly 40 per cent of the boys and girls surveyed have spent six years or more on the streets of Guwahati. The duration of girls’ stay was, however, shorter due to various possible reasons as migration of family, marriage, human trafficking or rescue by NGOs. “The problem of street children in the cities is very complex and it calls for a carefully- designed policy and intervention programmes to bring changes in their lives. Lack of timely intervention is perhaps the biggest cause of law-and-order problems as such deprived and disgusted section of our society might opt for the wrong means very easily,” said Father VM Thomas, head of Don Bosco Society, Guwahati, while releasing the study. (Assam Tribune 22/12/13)

 

42. Socio-economic caste census delayed (21)

New Delhi: The socio-economic caste census (SECC) undertaken by the government in 2011 to gather information on the condition of people across the country is still far from complete. It is aimed at identifying BPL (below the poverty line) households that can benefit from the Centre’s welfare schemes. The survey is being carried out by trained enumerators, who are mostly members of panchayats or village-level MGNREGS secretaries. “The SECC could not be completed as targeted due to various factors. The state of preparedness of all States is not similar,” said a Rural Development Ministry official. The SECC has seven deprivation indicators to rank households on a scale of 0 to 7. Households with the highest deprivation score will have the highest priority for inclusion in the BPL list. Additionally, households without shelter, the destitute, manual scavengers, primitive tribal groups and legally released bonded labourers will have the ‘highest priority’ for inclusion. One of the main reasons for the delay in the exercise is that Assembly and local bodies elections intervened in some States. Besides, enumeration work took more time to complete than anticipated, the official said. More specifically, the procedure of a Verification and Correction module, incorporated into the process to improve the ‘robustness’ of data, is also likely to have resulted in a time over-run. The management information system for the census will be developed by the National Informatics Centre. The SECC database will provide policymakers authentic information on caste-wise population break-up in the country. Based on that, the government can evaluate the performance of its past schemes and update them accordingly. So far, Haryana Nagaland, Daman & Diu have published the draft list. (The Hindu 26/12/13)

 

43. Don’t marry off daughters in houses without toilets: Nitish (21)

Rajgir (Bihar): Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday exhorted people not to marry off their daughters in families which do not have toilets in their houses. Speaking at a function, Nitish said absence of toilets particularly affect women who suffer 90 per cent of their ailments because of attending to the nature’s call in the open. Toilets in homes will not only mitigate health problems of the fair gender, but also ensure their dignity, he said. Don’t marry off daughters in houses without toilets: Nitish said toilets in homes will not only mitigate health problems of the fair gender, but also ensure their dignity. Nitish said the government had been providing Rs 10,000 assistance to above poverty line and below poverty line families for construction of toilets to meet over 90 per cent of the expenditure for the purpose. (CNN-IBN 29/12/13)

 

44. China’s rural poverty dips further to 100 million: Report (21)

Beijing: China still had some 100 million rural residents living in poverty though their numbers dwindled to nearly 67 million during 2010 to 2012, according to an official report. By the end of 2012, there were nearly 100 million rural residents still living in poverty, the report issued by the State Council or China’s cabinet, said. The latest figure was conveyed to lawmakers at a bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament last week. The director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Liu Yongfu said the per capita annual net income in key counties affected by poverty increased from 3,273 yuan (537 US dollars) to 4,602 yuan (753 US dollars) in the 2010 to 2012 period, annual growth of 18.6 per cent. Infrastructure in these areas has constantly improved, said the report. A highway linking Tibet’s Medog County, the last roadless county in China, opened to traffic in October 2013. Rural education has moved forward. At the end of last year, 97 per cent of children at age of 7-15 in key counties had attended school. A development-oriented poverty reduction outline for rural China (2011-2020), which was promulgated in 2011, set the per capita annual net income of 2300 yuan as the new rural poverty threshold, significantly up on the original standard. In 2011, the Chinese central government put 227 billion yuan of into the poverty relief fund, up 40.4 per cent from the previous year. In 2012, the figure reached 300 billion yuan, up 32 per cent year-on-year. Prosperous provinces and cities have shared fiscal funds with disadvantaged provinces and cities to help fight poverty, the report said. However, challenges still exist. Many children in remote areas walk two to three hours a day to school and dropout rates in those areas are high. Medical expenses in poor counties were 60 per cent of the average rural level. Many are unable to see doctors when necessary, Liu said in the report. The poverty stricken areas are usually ecologically fragile, making poverty relief more difficult. Many rural people are dragged into poverty by natural disasters or ill health. A national poverty relief information database will be established to get a better picture of the overall poverty situation and make the work more specific, the report said (Zee News 29/12/13)

 

45. Narendra Modi questions Jharkhand’s poverty

Ranchi: Jharkhand is endowed with rich natural and human resources and yet it has remained poor despite 13 years since the new state came into being, Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said on Sunday. Addressing a public rally in Ranchi, Modi said if a survey report was submitted to the leading economists of the world, they would certainly say that the state would have been among the most prosperous regions in the world, if the resources were properly utilised. “Why is Jharkhand is still poor and poverty is growing even if it has rich resources?” Modi wondered and then gave the answer himself: “I would say the party in whose hands the reins were in since Independence should reply.” He said that the people of the region had been demanding a separate state for a long time to determine their own destiny, but the “sultanate” in Delhi did not hear and rejected the demand. “It was former prime minister A B Vajpayee who understood the aspirations and dreams of the people of the region and created the state along with Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh,” Modi said. “The new state was created accepting that it will be ‘progressive’, but why has it not happened in 13 years?” Modi wondered, comparing the state with Chhattisgarh which, he said, had “sped away on the path of development”.He attributed Chhattisgarh’s “success” to the people’s desire for development and for the BJP. He said the next five years would be crucial for the state. Referring to a sick PSU in Ranchi, he stated how he had revived Gujarat Fertiliser Corporation which was on the verge of closure by ensuring professionalism and technological upgradation and above all putting a cap on unnecessary expenditure. (Indian Express 30/12/13)

 

RESERVATION

46. Demand for women’s quota bill grows louder (25)

VIJAYAWADA: Vijayawada Metropolitan Sessions Judge R. Murali on Tuesday said that implementation of the long-pending Bill envisaging 33 per cent reservation for women in legislative bodies was the only way to strengthen the fair sex. “Our country’s population has crossed 100 crore and women constitute 50 per cent of it. But they have not been given adequate representation in legislative bodies,” he said, addressing a Southern Regional Meeting on 33 per cent Women Reservation Bill. The meeting was preceded by a rally represented by various organisations and students, from Montessori Mahila Kalasala to Vedica near Benz Circle. The event was organised by Vasavya Mahila Mandali (VMM) in coordination with Women Power Connect and the Centre for Social Research, New Delhi. Mr. Murali lamented increasing use of money and muscle power in elections which, he said, provided no scope for women to join the fray. Director and Correspondent of Montessori Educational Institutions V. Koteswaramma said women actually deserve 50 per cent quota. “But we are asking for only 33 per cent. Citing the example of Durgabai Deshmukh, she said education was the key to women empowerment. We need concerted and relentless efforts to realise the long-cherished dream,” she said. Telugu Desam Party’s State general secretary Bonda Uma Maheswara Rao said that it was unfair that a demand like reservation for women had been kept in the cold storage. He said the TDP would do all it could for implementation of the Bill. City secretary of CPI (M) Ch. Babu Rao said that reservation for women in Parliament was a social need. “By implementing it, the government would be lending meaning to Indian democracy. It may not bring about a complete change in the political scenario, but it would certainly be a step ahead in the right direction,” he said amid applause. Former Mayor Tadi Sakuntala urged the media to focus on achievements of women leaders. “We have enough laws to protect and safeguard women but these are not being implemented effectively,” she bemoaned and said men must come forward to share power with their women counterparts. Former MP and VMM president Chennupati Vidya presiding over the session said that women were more organised, hard-working and committed. Former Mayors Mallika Begum, P. Anuradha and M.V. Ratna Bindu, CPI leader Durga Bhavani, Women and Child Welfare Department Project Director Krishna Kumari, former national president of Indian Medical Association G. Samaram, VMM secretary G. Rashmi and others participated. (The Hindu 11/12/13)

 

47. Government Delaying Amendment to Quota Act: Congress (25)

BHUBANESWAR: The Opposition Congress on Wednesday slammed the Government for the inordinate delay in amending the Odisha Reservation of Vacancies (ORV) Act on the basis of the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Congress Government had taken an exemplary initiative by enacting the ORV Act in 1975 to provide job opportunities to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Government services. But the BJD Government is not implementing the Act in its true spirit, Chakradhar Paik of the Congress said, while initiating a debate on the admissibility of an adjournment motion moved by him. In the M Nagarajan case, the Supreme Court had ruled that each State has to examine the backwardness of the Scheduled categories people, find out inadequacy in representation in Government services proportionate to their population and efficiency of the claimants for consequential promotion. The State Government is yet to take any initiative to fulfil the three criteria set by the apex court to ensure reservation in promotion of the SCs and STs in Government services, he rued. Stating that 52 SC and ST legislators cutting across party lines had submitted a memorandum to the Government demanding amendment to the ORV Act two years ago, Paik said the Congress had brought several adjournment motions seeking amendment to  the Act, but to no effect. Alleging that a large number of posts meant for Scheduled categories are lying vacant, he said to make things worse, the Government has enforced catch-up rule which has become a roadblock for promotion of these communities. Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh accused the Government of diluting the reservation issue by exceeding the upper limit to 62 per cent to accommodate people of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). If the Government is so keen on extending  the reservation to OBCs, it should initiate measurers for amendment to the 9th Schedule of the Constitution as the apex court had ordered that reservation should not exceed 50 per cent of the total posts for recruitment, he said.  Strongly opposing the motion, Independent MLA Pratap Sarangi said the creamy layer among the SCs and STs should be excluded from the purview of the reservation. The benefit should be extended to poor families  who are still struggling for their survival. Replying to motion, STs and SCs Development Minister L B Himirika said the Bill to amend the ORV Act introduced in the Assembly has been referred to the select committee. The committee had recommended a few changes, including reservation in contractual appointment by the Government. The revised Bill has been sent to the Law department for its opinion. (New Idian Express 12/12/13)

 

48. Minority colleges to reserve 66% seats for minorities (25)

BANGALORE: The department of higher education on Sunday said minority professional colleges in the state should reserve 66% seats for minority students from Karnataka, in the wake of the implementation of the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, with effect from the academic year 2014-15. Private professional colleges also have to earmark 50% of their seats for SC/ST/OBCs from the state, the department said in a press release, in response to a report on the new system of admission that will kick in in 2014-15, in Sunday Times of India. The department said the SC/ST/OBC seats that remain unfilled in private institutions will be filled by CET students of the respective categories. If the seats remain unfilled, they will be offered to “general merit students by the association of private institutions”.Denying that private colleges will have a free run, the department said the fee would be determined and regulated by a fee regulatory committee headed by a former high court judge, in accordance with law. Similarly, admissions to private colleges will also be overseen by another panel headed by a former high court judge. The department said admissions will be free, fair, transparent and non-exploitative, and there will be no chaos. The release said private colleges will now lose their management quota seats, and will have a quota for NRIs that will be fixed at 15% of the general merit quota. (Times of India 16/12/13)

 

49. Minority hires dip to 6.89% in 70 Union ministries, departments (25)

NEW DELHI: Recruitment of minorities in central government services fell from 11.56% of total hires in 2010-11 to just 6.89% in 2012-13, according to data collected from nearly 70 Union ministries and departments. The government, which released the data in reply to a Parliament question on Thursday, has blamed the falling recruitment levels of minority candidates, which depends on the number of applications received and percentage of qualifying candidates from the community, on absence of minority job quota, their dependence on traditional/religious education, low literacy levels, non-availability of suitable candidates and low scores of minority aspirants in written examination. According to data capturing central government employees appointed across 71 ministries and departments in 2010-11, 2,03,798 candidates were recruited through the year, of which 23,567 belonged to the minority community. The statistics, cited by minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy in his written reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha, show that the maximum number of minority candidates were recruited that year by the ministry of mines (7,802), followed by department of financial services (4,702) and ministry of home affairs (4,539). In comparison, data put out by 70 Central ministries and departments shows that 22,674 minority candidates were recruited during 2012-13, which works to just 6.89% of the total 3,28,723 candidates hired through the year. While the total recruitments increased by nearly 1.25 lakh between 2010-11 and 2012-13, the number of successful minority candidates dipped by 893. The maximum recruitment of minorities in 2012-13 were in the department of financial services (5,844), ministry of railways (4,210), ministry of home affairs (3,518) and Central paramilitary forces (3,483). As many as eight ministries/departments accounted for nil recruitment of minority candidates among the total candidates hired by them in both 2010-11 and 2012-13. In his reply to the Rajya Sabha query, Narayanasamy said initiatives were taken to boost minority recruitment in central government services. These included instructions issued to all appointing authorities on September 17, 2011, making it mandatory for them to include one member each from the SC/ST and minority community in selection boards for making recruitment to 10 or more vacancies. The instructions required the appointing authorities to give wide publicity to appointments in government, public sector banks and financial institutions. Advertisements were to be issued in regional languages, apart from English and Hindi. For Group C posts, information regarding vacancies must be disseminated through schools and colleges, according to the instructions. The appointing authorities were also asked to distribute vacancy circular in local language in areas having a concentration of minority community. (Times of India 18/12/13)

 

50. Reservation issue: Jat leaders thank UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi (25)

New Delhi: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Sunday met a delegation of Jat leaders who thanked her for the decision of recommending reservation for the community in central government jobs. Today’s meeting between the Jat community leaders with Gandhi is considered to be a significant development as the decision of the Union Cabinet is being seen as an effort of the UPA to woo the community ahead of the 2014 General Elections. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, his son, Deepender Singh Hooda, and former speaker Balram Jakhar were among the prominent leaders who called on Sonia. The UPA chairperson, in turn, surprised the crowd which landed up at her gates by stepping outside her residence to greet them. Expressing his gratitude, Deepender said that the doors for the community was closed following a National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) decision in 1999, but added that things looked positive for them with the Union Cabinet’s direction to the former. The Cabinet had on Thursday asked NCBC to take a final call on granting Jats OBC status at the central level. The Cabinet decided that NCBC should reconsider its 2011 decision in which it had rejected the demand for Jat reservation in central government jobs. The demand for reservation for Jats has come from nine states – Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar. Notably, if Jats are included in the central list of OBCs, they can avail benefits of reservation in central government jobs and central education institutions as per the existing norms. (Zee News 22/12/13)

 

51.  ‘Quotas for education helped SCs, but boys alone reaped the benefit’ (25)

NEW DELHI: The first evaluation of the impact of reservations on educational attainment has shown that quotas in educational institutions did indeed improve the education indicators of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), but nearly all of the improvement was among boys only. The SC girls experienced next to no improvement in their education levels as a result of reservations. While there is broad political consensus on the value of affirmative action in educational institutions for children from scheduled castes, the empirical impact of reservations is yet an un-studied phenomenon. What makes it particularly difficult is that no data is available on the educational levels of people before and after reservations came into effect. Guilhem Cassan, an economist and assistant professor at the University of Namur in Belgium, took advantage of a natural experiment which occurred in 1976, when the lists of SCs were harmonised across States for the first time since Independence, giving fresh SC status to 25 lakh more people. Mr. Cassan was thus able to compare the educational levels of those people who had had the SC status since Independence, and those who were of school-going age when they got the SC status in 1976. For educational levels, Mr. Cassan turned to the 1998-99 National Family Health Survey-2, the only large-scale official Indian survey that includes both precise caste group names and data on educational outcomes. Mr. Cassan found that access to the SC status led to an increase of 0.3 years of schooling which may sound small, but is large in statistical terms. “It has to be put in perspective with the average level of education in this population, which is of 4.2 years (for individuals born between 1950 and 1979). Hence, 0.3 years of education is a 7% increase in the number of years of education of this population,” Mr. Cassan told The Hindu. To broaden the understanding of educational attainment from years of schooling alone to measures of skills, Mr. Cassan also looked at literacy levels and numeracy levels. While literacy is measured in a straightforward way, Mr. Cassan constructed an unusual measure of numeracy, by looking at a respondent’s tendency to round off his or her reported age, something that is associated with a discomfort with numbers. Access to the SC status led to an improvement in both literacy and numeracy levels, Mr. Cassan found. However, the findings were extremely uneven across gender, to the extent that most of the improvements in SC educational attainment was among boys alone; reservations had next to no impact on educational outcomes for girls, Mr. Cassan found. For males alone, access to the SC status meant an increase of 0.7 years of schooling on average; a 12% increase for boys, and 0% for girls. “Gender is clearly a dimension that is too often neglected in the reservation debate,” Mr. Cassan said. “However, this issue goes beyond the caste question, as girls in general are discriminated against,” he added. The Scheduled Caste girls face the combined effect of patriarchy and poverty, Sukhadeo Thorat, chairman of the Indian Council for Social Science Research and an economist who has widely published on the impact of caste, told The Hindu. However the newer generation of scheduled castes have begun to increasingly send girls to school and even on to higher education, Dr. Thorat said. A sharp rural-urban gap in female enrolment in higher education remains, he added. (The Hindu 22/12/13)

 

52. Parties in Punjab decry exclusion of Jat Sikhs from reservation (25)

CHANDIGARH: The recent move by the Union government to provide reservation to the Jat community in Central government jobs under the Other Backwards Classes quota has created ripples in Punjab’s fragile political scenario, as “Jat Sikhs” do not figure in the proposal. While reports indicated that the Union government received the demand to include Jats in the OBC list from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Punjab did not send any communication. Jat Sikhs who constitute nearly 25 per cent of Punjab’s 3.6 crore population are considered among the landed affluent and the socially and politically dominant castes in the State. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who heads the All India Jat Maha Sabha, was among the first to protest the exclusion of Sikh and Muslim Jats from the benefit of reservation at several places. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he demanded that reservation for Jats be extended to Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as well. He said the Cabinet decision on the issue was unfair and discriminatory, as national decisions could not be applied selectively. “This is arbitrary and will be viewed as partisan,” he warned. The issue also provided the scion of the Patiala royal family an opportunity to lash out at the ruling Akali Dal for failing to provide reservation to Jats in Punjab, as had been done in other States. “It is surprising that Punjab has not communicated anything to the Centre so far on the issue,” Capt. Singh said in a statement issued to the media. Spurred by the announcement and criticism, the Core Committee of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal demanded the inclusion of the “Jat Sikh Bhaichara” in the OBC list of the Union government. Party president Sukhbir Singh described the exclusion of Jat Sikhs as part of the Congress-ruled Centre’s continued policy of discrimination against patriotic people. While he announced that the party would struggle against the injustice, his father and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the Jat Sikhs had ensured that the country was free from food shortage — by sacrificing natural resources like land and water. President of one of the factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Balbir Singh Rajewal said that on January 1, the organisation would announce its programme to protest this “political discrimination.” Two-thirds of Punjab’s farming community, predominantly Jat Sikhs, were owners of less than five acres of land, while the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) had laid down in 1980 that farms less than 10 acres were no longer viable. He said that in the absence of alternate avenues of economic growth and quality education for their children, Punjab’s farmers were being driven to suicide. “Punjab farmers are the most deserving of any benefit,” he said. Baljit Singh Johal, president of the Jat Sikh Council, has been quoted in the regional media and social network portals as saying that for the last five years, the organisation has been demanding reservation for those members of the community whose annual income was below Rs 4.50 lakh. He alleged that the State government had not taken up the issue with the appropriate authorities at the Centre. President of the Punjab unit of the Sarb Hind Jat Rakhvankaran Sangharash Committee K.S. Bahwra told reporters that the Punjab government had failed to live up to its assurance that it would take up the issue with the Centre. That Jat Sikhs were not included while extending the benefit of reservation to Jats in the neighbouring Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan was grave injustice, he alleged. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

53. Need for reservation in judiciary: Union Minister (25)

Chennai: Minister of State for Commerce and Industry EM Sudarsana Natchiappan on Saturday came out in support of reservation for SC, ST, OBC and women in higher judiciary. “Even Chief Justice of India Justice P Sathasivam has said (favoured it). In High Court and Supreme Court, a reservation policy should be applied,” he said. “If it cannot be brought through a reservation policy, it should be brought in other ways. It is important to bring SC, ST, OBC and women be brought under this,” he told a news agency after delivering the KR Narayanan Memorial Lecture organised by the Ambedkar Academy here. While judges from these communities were more in Tamil Nadu, “Other states have not done so,” he said. “There is no reservation in judiciary so far, except for subordinate judiciary services. It is not in High Courts. We have earlier said in reports that it should be implemented. The Chief Justice of India has also said. So, it has to be implemented,” the Congress leader said. Natchiappan was also the chairman of a Parliamentary Committee, which had earlier recommended reservation for Supreme Court and High Court judges. Contending that the recommendation was within the provisions of the Constitution, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice in its report said the Constitution “has to be read and interpreted harmoniously and holistically” and Articles 124 and 247 have to be read with Articles 14 and 15(4). In his lecture, Natchiappan announced a grant of Rs five lakh for Dr Ambedkar Academy run by the People’s Educational Trust. (Zee News 28/12/13)

 

54. Raise Jat Reservation Issue with Centre: Amarinder to Badal (25)

PATIALA: After writing to the Centre, Punjab Congress leader Amarinder Singh today asked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to take up the issue of Jat reservation in the state with the Union government as it was a “procedural requirement”.  In a letter to Badal today, Amarinder said, “Instead of politicising the issue and as usual seeking to unnecessarily blame the Centre, you as the Chief Minister of the state need to make an official representation to the Union government for providing reservation to Jats in Punjab, whether they be the Hindus, the Muslims or the Sikhs.”  “It is good that you have started appreciating and understanding the need after the All India Jat Maha Sabha raised the issue at various levels,” the former chief minister and president of All India Jat Maha Sabha said.  “I am not sure whether you have been informed about the procedural requirements needed to be done by your government or not.”But I am informing you that you need to make the formal recommendation so that the Central government may proceed further in the matter,” he said.  Amarinder said Jats had presence in 13 states but the reservation was being extended only in 9 states. Earlier this month, he also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to extend it to Punjab and three other states.  He asked Badal to clarify his stand on the issue. “Badal has not done anything, not even said anything, except for blaming the centre that is his usual habit,” he said.  Amarinder said that considering the seriousness and urgency of the matter “Badal will initiate the move and write to the Centre in his capacity as the Chief Minister that Jats in Punjab also deserve to be given reservation in the OBC category as most of the Jats are mainly into farming are marginal farmers only.” “…The minimum you can do is write to the Centre making a proper case for reservation to Jats in Punjab under OBC category. I want to add for your information that other states where the reservation benefits have been extended to Jats had also made due representations to the Centre and you must do it the same way,” he further wrote. The Centre on December 19 took a step forward towards granting Jats reservation in Central government jobs as it asked the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to expeditiously take a call on it.        Considering a proposal of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Union Cabinet held that the NCBC should reconsider its 2011 decision in which it had rejected demands for reservation to the community at the Central level.     The Cabinet asked the NCBC to take an early decision on including Jats in the Central list of OBCs by which the community members could avail themselves of the quota benefits. (New Indian Exprerss 30/12/13)

 

Posted by admin at 30 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

TRIBALS

1. ‘Kasturirangan’s recommendation to evict forest dwellers is unscientific’ (6)

Madikeri: “Forest can be saved only when forest dwellers are allowed to reside inside the forest. Such an initiative has been successful in Tripura. The area under forest has increased in Tripura over the last few years,” said expert U Basavaraju from Mysore. Speaking at a seminar on status of tribals organised by Karnataa Rajya Adivasigala Samanvaya Samithi, at Patrika Bhavana in Madikeri on Friday, he said “the forest dwellers who have been residing inside forest for generations have been given all the basic infrastructure facilities. About 1.70 lakh hectare forest has been divided among 1.20 lakh families. Tripura government had promoted forest based agriculture. Accordingly, horticulture crops were grown inside the forest. By promoting such activities, forest also can be conserved, he added. He said Kasturirangan’s recommendation to evict forest dwellers to conserve Western Ghats is unscientific. Tribals are part of environment and nature. It is not right to conserve forest by keeping him them of the purview of the forest. Basavaraju said “the state government has completely failed to bring the forest dwellers out of the forest and rehabilitate them. Those tribals who had come out of the forest have failed to adopt to the lifestyle and have become prey to bad habits. The rehabilitation schemes aim to convert the tribals into bonded labourers.” He said that tribal men and women are subjected to various kinds of harassment in urban areas. “As a fruit of our fight demanding rights for the forest dwellers, the government had passed Forest Rights Act 2006. However, the Act has not been implemented effectively. Those tribals who enter into the forest are harassed by the officials and criminal cases are filed against them,” he said. “A few Non Government Organisations are functioning in the name of rehabilitation packages for the forest dwellers, for which, they get crores of rupees from foreign countries. However, none of the tribals have seen any development,” he accused. Samithi president Baby Mathew, members K R Vidyadar, P R Bharath, Mahadeva, Kishore Kuttappa and others were present. (Deccan Herald 7/12/13)

 

2. Tribal people seek compensation (6)

NALGONDA: Tribal people of Teldeverapally village of Chandampet mandal who lost their land under Srisailam Left Bank Canal Tunnel Project-II in the district, arrived at the District Collectorate here on Wednesday, demanding that the district administration release compensation to the tune of what was given to Pulichinthala evacuees. Interestingly, these families were rehabilitated twice. Speaking to The Hindu, Mangothu Chakri, a 70-year-old tribal woman, said that they were actually residents of Eleshwaram village in Mahabubnagar district but they were evacuated as their village was submerged under Nagarjunasagar in the 1950s. She said they were accommodated at Teldeverapally village of Chandampet mandal in Nalgonda district by giving them 41 acres of assigned land as compensation, but they had lost it under the Tunnel-II project. The 59 tribal families were given Rs. 36 lakh as compensation when they lost their land. However, they had approached the Principal Secretary concerned, urging him to issue compensation on the lines of what was given to Pulichinthala evacuees. The Principal Secretary recommended that the district administration look into the matter, but the district administration is yet to take a final call on it, the 70-year-old tribal woman has said. They arrived at the Collectorate after travelling almost 150 km to meet the Collector, but he was out of office on official duty and the tribal people presented a memorandum to Joint Collector M. Hari Jawaharlal, asking him to forward the same to Collector T. Chiranjeevulu. Another tribal man, Nunsavath Ramkathi, said the plight of Pulichinthala evacuees and Teldeverapally tribal people was more or less the same except that compensation in their case was inadequate.  (The Hindu 12/10/13)

 

3. Agitation for domicile policy in Jharkhand (6)

Ranchi: Regional parties Jharkhand Dishom Party (JDP) and Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM) have intensified agitation for a domicile policy of preference to adivasi and moolvasi – non-tribal “original inhabitants”- in recruitment to class III, IV government jobs. The demand has resurfaced several times since 2002 when the first chief minister Babulal Marandi had withdrawn a proposal on this. JDP has announced it will go on with its plan to constitute a “domicile sena” in villages by recruiting local youth as it is not satisfied with Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s response of setting up a committee. “It is an eyewash and cheats Jharkhandis who have been denied their rights for over half a century as part of Bihar. Madhu Koda set up a committee as CM which did nothing. In the previous government, a committee was set up under Deputy CM Sudesh Mahto in which Hemant Soren was a member, and now this third committee to bide time,” said JDP president and former BJP MP Salkhan Murmu. JDP has announced it will burn effigies in 500 villages on December 20, 2013 and hold similar protests in 1000 villages on December 30. “Educated SC, ST, OBC youth cannot find employment, even while several departments are severely short of staff. We will mobilise these youth to form “domicile sena” in villages to demand jobs,” he said. JDP has proposed that those with proof of the last land survey, khatihaan, which will vary from year to year in Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana divisons, and knowledge of one of Jharkhand’s nine tribal languages be the key criteria for domicile in Jharkhand. On December 11, responding to criticism by coalition partners Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) and Congress over the government’s decision to start auctioning sand from riverbeds CM Hemant Soren had withdrawn the auction policy and said the right to lift and trade from riverbanks will remain with panchayats. On the same day, he announced a committee with a representative each from three main coalition partners – Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress, RJD – will examine criteria for Jharkhand’s youth to get preference in government employment. Beginning October, Sand Truck-owners’ Association had held protests against the government’s decision to start auctions to lift and trade in sand from riverbeds claiming it would benefit companies from outside Jharkhand. Several Congress and RJD ministers in the government backed the protestors and criticised Mr. Soren for carrying out auctions of riverbeds in seven districts. MLAs Bandhu Tirkey and Chamra Linda, two of seven Independent MLAs who support the government in the assembly, as well as the Akhil Bhartiya Sarna Dharmik Samajik Samanvay Samiti, a coalition of tribal youth led by Sarna religious leaders, had combined the demand of a domicile policy in government employment with rights to sand mining to tribal-majority cooperatives. “CM should have set a time-frame to implement the domicile policy so that locals benefit. We will plan more agitations in January,” said JJP MLA Bandhu Tirkey. (The Hindu 13/12/13)

 

4. Chhattisgarh tribal pockets to get Rs 750 cr (6)

Raipur : The decision of Chhattisgarh government to procure non-nationalised minor forest produce is likely to flow Rs 750 crore in the tribal pockets of the state. After starting his third inning as the Chief Minister, Raman Singh announced to procure Imli, Mahua, lac and other non-nationalised minor forest produce (MFP). The state government had started the process and issued notification to purchase forest produce directly from the people. Chhattisgarh having 44 percent geographical area under forest is very rich in biodiversity because of favourable agro-climatic conditions like good rainfall and comparatively less biotic interference. The forest ecosystems are very rich in these Non wood forest products. The state-run Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce (Trading & Development ) Co-Operative Federation Ltd. Raipur is the organization created with an objective to promote trade and development of minor forest produce in the interest of MFP collectors, mostly tribals. Currently, trade in nationalized MFP is organized and controlled by the Federation. The unorganized trade of non-nationalized MFP/Medicinal plants has led to low collection prices to the collectors and unsustainable harvesting of MFP form forest areas. “As the collectors were getting low price, the government will now directly purchase MFP,” Singh had said after assuming the office. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also included it in its election manifesto. The trade volume of the non wood forest produce in Chhattisgarh is calculated to be of Rs 1500 crore. According to federation officials, the estimated trade of non-nationalised MFP in Chhattisgarh is Rs 750 crore. The officials said the non-nationalised MFP would be nationalised to ensure that non government agencies could not trade. The decision of the state government had political significance also keeping in view the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The BJP had performed poor in the tribal dominated belt of Bastar and Sarguja. This could be one of the reasons why the BJP-led government decided the start the process soon after coming to power. The state government’s  decision would benefit 1.4 million tribal in Chhattisgarh. (Buxsiness Standatd 15/12/13)

 

5. Bill in Lok Sabha to add three communities in ST list (6)

New Delhi: A bill to include a community from Tamil Nadu and two communities from Chhattisgarh in the list of Scheduled Tribes was introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013 was introduced amid din by Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo. The inclusion of Narikoravan, grouped with Kurivikkaran community from Tamil Nadu, and Dhanuhar and Dhanuwar communities from Chhattisgarh in the list of Scheduled Tribes will require a Constitutional amendment. At present, there are 36 communities in the list of STs in Tamil Nadu. The list in Chhattisgarh has 42 communities. (The Hindu 17/12/13)

 

6. Adivasis threaten to boycott poll (6)

Golaghat, Dec. 18: The Adivasi National Convention Committee today iterated its demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the community in Assam at a convention here with a “poll boycott” warning to Dispur. Nearly 10,000 protesters thronged the streets here shouting slogans of “No ST No Vote” before assembling at the District Library, the venue of the convention. The committee, an umbrella organisation of 26 Adivasi groups, in association with the All Adivasi Students’ Association (AASA), the ceasefire faction of All Adivasi National Liberation Army and Assam Adivasi Peace Movement, held the rally. Speakers at the convention accused the Congress government of misleading the community with false promises. The president of the organising committee, Lebanus Minz, said the committee would hold such conventions across the state. “We have been given tribal status in other states but it is only in Assam that we are labelled a tea tribe community. We demand tribal status for our community,” Minz said. The president of AASA, Raphael Kujur, said through the convention, the community wanted to give “a last and final” warning to the government that if its demands were not met, it would boycott the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. (Telegraph 19/12/13)

 

7.  ‘Sort out anomalies in status of nomadic tribes’ (6)

COIMBATORE: Chakravarthy Karthikeyan, a student of Social Work of PSG College of Arts and Science, has been able to motivate a few Domura youth from a settlement near Gobichettipalayam to take up higher education. This, he believes, is the first of his baby steps in empowering youth belonging to certain backward communities of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He, along with the youth he had motivated to study, were at Shri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya College of Arts and Science, to attend a seminar on “Nomadic Tribes and their Developmental Scenario in Tamil Nadu” here on Monday and Tuesday. Organised by the Department of Social Work of the college, the seminar had students, people working for nomadic tribes, tribal welfare, and representatives from some tribal communities sharing their thoughts. While much was said and done for the welfare of the tribal people, there were too many anomalies with regard to who really belonged to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, a tribe and a nomadic tribe. Talking about the various anomalies, C.R. Sathyanarayanan, former Deputy Director of National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes, Head of Office, Anthropological Survey of India, southern Regional Centre, Mysore, points out that even the term ‘tribe’ is a derogatory word. “People do not, in most cases, like to be identified by their own community name. For convenience sake, they try to register themselves under other names that are already in the ST / SC list. They do not realise that the disadvantaged communities based on class / caste have been classified as SC, while the ST have been classified based on their typical and varying sets of cultural characteristics. The ‘Narikuravas’ are an exception who have fought for ST status in their own name. There are more than 70 castes enumerated in the SC list and 36 in the ST list. With the addition of Narikuravas, the ST list will increase to 37,” he said. Giving examples of nomadic communities in Tamil Nadu, such as ‘Narikoravar’, ‘Chaataiyadikarar’, ‘Paambaatti’, ‘Maadari’, ‘Boom Boom Maatukarar’, and ‘Kazhaikooththadi’’, Mr. Sathyanarayanan said that these communities were pan-Indian in nature and hence differed in classification from State to State. “Such anomalies and discrepancies continue to exist in the listing of communities, denying opportunities to the most vulnerable and poor nomadic and semi-nomadic communities to enjoy any benefit of reservation,” he added. Ashok Lunia, secretary of the college, said that the college was offering 25 free seats this academic year to deserving students to mark its silver jubilee. He promised the community representatives that deserving students from the nomadic tribal communities would be extended this concession. M. Premalatha, Head, Department of Social Work, speaking on the objective of the seminar, pointed out that it was essential to take the knowledge gained in college to the field to the real beneficiaries. She expressed the hope that the sharing sessions by community representatives would get the message across better to the students of social work. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

8. Tribal families seek intervention of revenue officials (6)

BERHAMPUR: Despite getting land patta from the State Revenue Department, 18 tribal families in Gajapati district are unable to take possession of the provided land to construct their houses. These tribals are from Panchaamba village under Labhasingh mouza in Gajapati district. This village falls in the area in Gajapati district where Tibetan refugees had been settled during the sixties of last century. As per the aggrieved landless tribals of Panchaamba village, it is an irony that government is not providing any support to them to take over the land for which patta was provided to them, while the Tibetan settlers continue to hold illegal possession on government land in the area. These 18 tribal families have received support of the organisation Adivasi Dalit Vikas Samity (ADVS) which is continuing agitation against alleged land grabbing by Tibetan settlers in Chandragiri area of Gajapati district. The ADVS alleged that this incident hinted at the fallacy of the State government’s claim regarding provision of land to the landless tribals in the State. Speaking to The Hindu regarding the issue, adviser of the ADVS, Jagannath Mishra said as per the old revenue records a patch of government land near Panchaamba village had been earmarked for tribal homes. But it was never in the possession of the local tribal families. The ADVS had raised the issue and impressed upon the government and Gajapati district administration to give provide pattas to the landless families of the village. Due to it, the government was forced to direct the revenue department to provide patta for the patch of land to 18 landless tribal families of the village, said Mr Mishra. The tribal families got the patta five months back. But till now they have not been able to take possession of the land for which they got the patta to start construction of their houses. These tribals allege that when they tried to take possession of the land for which they had the patta, they did not get the support of the local revenue officials. The revenue officials only demarcated their plots and did not prefer to provide physical possession to the tribals. “Irony is that when the tribals tried to build their houses on the land for which they had the patta, they faced harassment at the hands of the local police as well as principal of a school for Tibetan settlers in the area,” said Mr Mishra. The ADVS has demanded the State revenue department to intervene in the matter so that the landless tribals with the patta provided to them could take physical possession of the land provided in their name as early as possible. Unless they get the land early, it would not be possible for them to construct their houses by the start of next monsoon rains, the ADVS leaders said. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

9. Tribals get platform to sell forest produce (6)

KORAPUT: The Koraput Forest Development Agency (KFDA) on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dabur India Limited to procure minor forest produces (MFP) from tribals for 2013-14. This will help tribals in getting a correct price for their products. “Earlier, middlemen used to exploit the tribals. Agents roamed in the rural areas and procure MFP from tribals at a very low price and sell those to companies at a much higher price. Now the tribal will sell it directly to companies and there will be no role of middlemen,” said chief operating officer of KFDA-cum-DFO Koraput Bijaya Kumar Panda. According to the officer, Dabur will procure at least 5,000 kg of Amla (Rs 43.25 a kg), 3,000 kg of Dhatki( 18.75 a kg) , 2,000 kg of Harida (20.50 a kg) , 5,000 kg of Satavari (83.75 a kg), 4,000 kg of Bahada (Rs 15.50 a kg) from at least 40 vana surakhya samiti’s (VSS) of the district in the next one year. “The price for various MFP which has been fixed is 50% more than the price at which the tirbals had sold the MFP last year. As many as five VSS of Laxmipur forest range has been selected as nodal VSS for collection and marketing of MFP after collecting it from other VSS,” he said. “Dabur has agreed to provide advance payment of Rs 50,000 to each of the five nodal VSS and also impart appropriate training to VSS members about how to collect and store the MFP so that there is minimum loss,” he added. The National Medicinal Plants Board had facilitated the MoU and will be providing Rs 10 lakh to each of the five nodal VSS for construction of godowns and drying yards. “If any other company agrees to procure the MFP at the fixed price or at a higher price could also considered,” Panda said. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

10. ‘Bid to Alienate Tribals from Hindu Religion’ (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Taking a serious note of the efforts at converting the members of the tribal community to Christianity and “alienate them from the Hindu culture,” Kerala Vanavasi Vikas Kendram has called upon the Hindus to take up the cause of the tribals and fight for their birth rights. Delivering the key-note address at the cultural meeting organised as part of the birth centenary of Balasaheb Deshpande, the founder of Akhila Bharatheeya Vanavasi  Kalyan Ashram, Seema Surakha all-India joint organising secretary A Gopalakrishnan said  here on Thursday that it was from the days of East India Company that the Western Christian missionaries had started the efforts to  convert the tribals on a massive scale. He said attempts by Pentecostal missionaries to convert the tribal people from Hinduism to Christianity in Agasthyarkoodam forests, Wayanad and Attappadi had been going on unchecked. However, he said, the activities of the Vanavasi Vikas Kendram had started showing results. Two books were released at the function by Narayan Dev (Vanavasi Kalyan Akhila Bharatheeya Karyakari member) and K K Balaram (Pranta Saha Sangha Chalak, RSS).Mithraniketan director K Viswanathan, Mohan Triveni (Adivasi Mahasabha), Sivamritha Chaithanya, Mallan Kani, Reshan Master, P K Bhaskaran, Lakshmi Amma, C K Rajasekharan, Narayan (novelist) and others were honoured. (Times of India 27/12/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

11. Christian organizations to hold silent prayer march (7)

MUMBAI: Christian Organisation of Mumbai will hold a silent prayer march (candle light procession) from St Xavier Church, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai to the Holy Cross at LIC Building Compound, Santacruz on Tuesday at 7pm. On Sunday, it was noticed that some antisocial elements/miscreants had vandalized the statue of Jesus Christ from the holy cross which is almost 200 years old, said advocate Godfrey Pimenta. “The entire Christian Community was aghast at this dastardly act, which was done to foment trouble and hurt the religious sentiments of the community. However, the tense situation was brought under control by the seniors of the community,” he said. On Monday Cardinal Oswald Gracias visited the site and blessed the holy cross and offered prayers. Pimenta said in June, the police had issued an advisory in the western suburbs that states the possibility of terror strikes in the vicinity of religious structures. “The CCTV footage must be stored for 30 days. Round-the-clock private security guards must be posted, the structure must be fully secured and no valuables must be kept here. Any suspicious person must be handed over to the police. Keep an eye on new-comers in the vicinity of the religious place,” said the advisory. The community has appealed to its members to maintain peace. As a mark of forgiveness, the community would pray for the person who damaged the Holy Cross. “As the season of Christmas is fast approaching we want the Mumbai Police to beef up the security for all religious structures including all churches and Holy Crosses in the city. We request the Mumbai Police to maintain the visit diary of their visits to all shrines,” said Pimenta. (Times of India 16/12/13)

 

12. Cabinet clears communal violence Bill (7)

New Delhi: Years after it was first mooted, the proposed legislation to prevent and tackle communal violence and punish its perpetrators received the clearance of the Union Cabinet Monday. However, with the government having realised that it would be almost impossible for it to get an earlier, more-stringent version passed in Parliament, the new Bill — re-named the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013 — is without a number of clauses which were objected to by the Opposition, particularly the BJP. It is likely to be introduced in Parliament Tuesday. Among the clauses that the revised Bill doesn’t have is the one that had placed the onus of riots on the majority community, with victim of communal violence essentially being a person belonging to “religious or linguistic minority”.However, after a lot of protests by the BJP and some other parties, this provision has been removed in the revised Bill. The Bill cleared by the Cabinet at a specially called meeting also replaces the two authorities — one at the Centre called National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation and the other in each state — with the NHRC and the state human rights commissions. Under the new Bill, the NHRC and the state human rights commissions oversee functions related to maintaining communal harmony. The NHRC would also have power of superintendence over bureaucrats and would also have the power to punish them for dereliction of duty. One important change in the present Bill is that the responsibility of public servants in cases of breach of command and failure to exercise control over subordinates is applicable only when they are under his or her “direct command”.The powers of intervention of the Centre in the event of riots have also been diluted in the revised Bill as a result of which the Union government will not have any perceived overriding powers anywhere. (Indian Express 17/12/13)

 

13. UPA to splurge on minority education (7)

New Delhi: The UPA government will substantially raise funding for a school-to-PhD level national scholarship programme for minorities, committing Rs. 10,000 crore over the next four years, as it tries to ratchet up its minority agenda ahead of the general elections. The Cabinet approved the allocation after discussions took place between the K. Rahman Khan-led minority affairs ministry, the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office. Enhanced funding will help target 45.2 million students, potentially covering virtually every minority child from low-income households.  BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi has been opposed to the minorities-only scholarships on principles of “equality”. The Gujarat government has shunned the scheme on grounds that the state had a universal scholarship programme for all school children. In March 2009, the Gujarat high court upheld the minority scholarships as constitutional, and the matter now lies before the SC. Many Muslims, India’s largest minority, say they see educational opportunities as the key to overcoming disadvantages faced by them. The 2006 Sachar report found Muslims made up only 4% of undergraduate students and had high dropout rates, largely due to financial reasons. According to a 2012 report by the New Delhi-based Centre for Equity Studies the “single most important contribution” Muslims wanted from the government was education. Welfare schemes administered by the minority affairs ministry, a creation of the UPA government, would be a key plank of the Congress in the elections. The decision to pump Rs. 10,000 crore for scholarships was taken in view of the “programme’s success”, an official said. Currently, the applicants outnumber funds available. This scheme has helped over three million Muslim students stay enrolled between 2007 and 2012, according to government data. Girls have landed more high-school scholarships than boys. (Hindustan Times 18/12/13)

 

14. Muslims support Opp. on Sec. 377 (7)

Several Muslim leaders on Friday echoed the RSS and BJP’s sentiments on the Section 377 issue with some even warning the UPA government that it would be taught a lesson in the 2014 polls over its move to file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict against homosexuality. Rahul Gandhi is dictating the Congress agenda for his personal reasons, against the majority opinion within Congress. Muslims are with BJP and RSS on this issue and there is no question of secularism and communalism in the matter,” said Ilyas Azmi, former MP and a member of the AAP core committee. Mr Azmi further said that in a civilised society, one cannot define freedom as absolute. He said, “This can only happen in jungles. Do UPA leaders want to make this country jungle for the personal interest of one leader?” Welcoming the apex court verdict upholding Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, Qari M.M. Mazhari, editor of Secular Qayadat, said that same sex marriage was against the tenets of not only Islam, but all major religions of the world. “By going for a review petition, the UPA Cabinet is digging its own grave,” he said.

Arshad Khan, president of the National Loktantrik Party, said that all Muslim institutions and social and political groups would unite to teach Congress a lesson in the Lok Sabha polls were the party to go ahead with its intention of reversing the SC verdict. “Muslim organisations are united in extending their support to BJP on this (Sec. 377) issue… It is not a matter of politics or secularism,” said Dr. M.J. Khan, convener of the Indian Muslim Relief and Charities. Meanwhile, the BJP on Friday suggested that its stand on SC judgment on the Section 377 issue was still open with the party noting that the debate over the same was not over yet. “If you look at the issue, I don’t think the debate is over… (SC) has upheld the validity of Section 377. What is covered under the Section and what is not, there is ambiguity. So let the government go and exhaust that,” the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said here on Friday. BJP chief Rajnath Singh and several party leaders had earlier welcomed the SC order saying they would not support anything “unnatural”. Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said the Supreme Court’s verdict removes apprehensions about invasion of western culture and disintegration of family system. (Asian Age 21/12/13)

 

15. Christian outfits support Jaya, say she will reach Delhi soon (7)

CHENNAI: A Christmas event organised by the ruling AIADMK on Saturday saw the heads of various Christian outfits rallying behind Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. With the AIADMK chief making her aspirations for a national role for her party clear, the Christian leaders hailed her goal and expressed confidence that it would become a reality. Setting the ball rolling was CSI Bishop, Chennai diocese, V Devasahayam, who endorsed the AIADMK chief’s secular credentials. “She has turned the party into a Red Fort Express and will soon take a flight to reach the destination successfully,” he said, alluding to the chief minister’s speech at the recent general council meeting that the AIADMK Express would chug into Red Fort soon. The AIADMK general council had, in a resolution, said the time was ripe for a Tamil to lead the country. The CSI Bishop Devasahayam hailed the initiatives of the Jayalalithaa government, including the welfare measures for the poor, besides its ambitious Vision 2023 for the development of the state. “Amma is a decisive leader, and she alone can lead the nation and Tamil Nadu on the path of development,” he said. Participating in the celebrations, Jayalalithaa said that having religious faith was important and miracles could happen to those who had such beliefs. “Those who lose faith will never win in life,” she said. Leaders of parties like CPI, CPM, All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, Republic Party of India and the All India Forward Bloc also participated. (Times of India 22/12/13)

 

16. Pope denounces discrimination, violence against Christians (7)

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Thursday denounced discrimination against Christians, including in countries where religious freedom is in theory guaranteed by law. He delivered his traditional noon prayer and address to thousands of people in St Peter’s Square on the day the Roman Catholic Church commemorates St Stephen, its first martyr. The 77-year-old Argentine pope asked the crowd for a moment of silent prayer for “Christians who are unjustly accused and are subjected to every type of violence”.Francis, celebrating his first Christmas season as pope, said “limitations and discrimination” against Christians was taking place not only in countries that do not grant full religious freedom but also where “on paper, freedom and human rights are protected”.”This injustice should be denounced and eliminated…,” he said. Francis did not name any countries but the Vatican has long urged Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam’s holiest places, to lift a ban on Christians worshiping in public. This year there have been a number of incidents of intolerance and attacks against minority Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and other countries where their rights are guaranteed by law. Francis, departing from his prepared text, said he was sure that Christians suffering from either discrimination or violence were “more numerous today than in he early times of the Church”.In the past, the Vatican has also expressed concern over what former Pope Benedict called “sophisticated forms of hostility” against Christians in rich countries, such as restricting use of religious symbols in public places. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

17. Minorities committee moved for action against SP chief Mulayam (7)

LUCKNOW: Even as Ittehad-e-Millat Council (IMC), an ally of Samajwadi Party, on Thursday threatened to severe ties with the ruling party over neglect of relief work in Muzaffarnagar, social activist Shehzad Poonawalla filed a petition before the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) demanding action against SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for his “false and offensive” statement against riot survivors. The petition includes details of over 25,000 survivors living in around 10 camps and a list of 31 children who died due to cold in one of the camp. Mulayam had said on December 23 that most riot survivors had left relief camps and those still living were Congress and BJP conspirators. Reacting to this, IMC president Taukir Raza Khan, who enjoys status of state minister, told reporters, “SP has lost faith of Muslims and its supremo has hurt humanity by terming riot survivors living in camps as conspirators.” The IMC has one MLA Shahjil Islam, Bhojipura constituency in Bareilly, and is supporting the SP government, which is already in majority with 224 seats in the 406-member assembly. Khan, who is advisor in the handloom industry department, said he had given conditional resignation on December 5 to press for redressal of problems of Muzaffarnagar riot survivors and other problems of the community but he had not got any reply so far. “I will give one week’s time to the government to redress the problems. SP is not taking right decisions and its statements are also not correct,” he said. Khan, considered a big leader among Barelvi Muslims, said IMC would hold its executive meet on January 5 in which it would decide whether to continue support to SP or not.On the other hard, Poonawala, claimed there is enough evidence to establish that inhabitants in relief camps are those who have lost their homes, lands, livelihoods and family members in the riots. Many have not got any compensation and most don’t want to go back to their native places out of fear. These survivors have also not received any help from the government required to combat biting cold. Poonawala submitted a list of 10 camps in Muzaffarnafar and Shamli housing at least 25,000 survivors of which 50% are of 0-18-year age group. The state government had earlier claimed that only 4,783 persons were left in the camp. The state government had also denied reports of death in the camps, but after Supreme Court took cognizance of media reports on deaths, it admitted that 11 children died. Poonawala said, however, that he found that 31 children died in the Malakpur camp alone. He said Mulayam and state government should apologise. Besides issuing notice to Mulayam and UP government on “false statement”, the petitioner has asked the NCM to direct the government to make a fresh and honest assessment of the victims living in all camps and of those who lost their lives due to the cold. It has also sought directions from the NCM for the UP government to provide basic relief material including ration, milk, warm clothes and blankets to every relief camp at the earliest. (Times of India 27/12/13)

 

18. Enact law to protect Muslims, President urged (7)

HYDERABAD: Chairman AP State Minority Commission Abid Rasool Khan on Thursday urged President Pranab Mukherjee to introduce legislation to check the growing sense of insecurity among the minorities. Speaking with mediapersons, Khan said that the proposed legislation should be on the lines of the Prevention of Atrocities on SC and ST Act. “In fact, the commission has got the draft of the bill prepared by noted lawyer Shafeeq Rahman Mahajir, had it whetted by other legal experts and submitted to the President in a recent meeting,” he said. “The president gave us a patient hearing and asked us to present the draft bill to the governor which we did,” he informed. The draft bill will also be given to chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, he said. The commission is of the view that since Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill will take some time to become law, Andhra Pradesh could lead in enacting the Minorities, Dalits and Other Marginalised Sections (Prevention of Atrocities) Bill soon. The objective of the commission is that the draft should be debated and supported by citizens, he said. (Times of India 27/12/13)

 

19. 34 kids died in camps for riot victims, admits UP govt (7)

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday admitted that 34 children — all below 12 years — died at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts between September 7 and December 20, 2013. The death toll was confirmed by the high-powered committee constituted by the government to look into the deaths of infants as reported by the media. The panel submitted its report to the government on December 25 and the findings would now be placed before the Supreme Court which is hearing petitions related to different aspects of the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in which 61 persons were killed and over 50,000 got displaced. Briefing newsmen about the findings of the panel, Principal secretary (home) A K Gupta said, 4,783 people were still living in five camps including one in Loi in Muzaffarnagar district and another four at Madarsa Taimul Shah, Malakpur, Barnavi and Edgah in Shamli district. He said most of the children who lost their lives were the ones who had been taken outside the camps for treatment by their parents or were referred to government hospitals, Gupta said. “The cause of the death of all these children was different. Four of them died of pneumonia while some breathed their last due to dysentery. One infant died due to premature birth,” Gupta added. The officer also admitted that that all those living in the relief camps were displaced people. The response came to question whether there were conspirators living there as claimed by the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Initially the state government had outrightly denied any deaths at any of the camps in Muzaffarnagar and had even submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court with similar claims. However, following sustained media campaigns, the court asked the UP government to verify the facts. Thereafter, the state government formed a panel on December 13, 2013 to look into the specifics. The committee was headed by the Commissioner, Meerut Division, Manjit Singh. The district magistrates and chief medical officers of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli were nominated as its members. The committee initially confirmed the death of 11 children. The same committee has now confirmed that 34 children had died at the camps. Gupta however denied that any of the victims had died of medical negligence or incapability of the doctors. “They had got medical attention,” he said. The committee has also recommended that better medical facilities should be provided at the relief camps and the victims living there should be given more blankets and clothing to keep themselves warm in winters. (Times of India 27/12/13)

 

20.  ‘Inequality’ blot on minority scholarships (7)

HYDERABAD: They are intended to provide a level-playing field to minority youth in a highly competitive world. But, obtaining scholarship and tuition fee reimbursement from the A.P. State Minority Finance Corporation (APSMFC) is nothing short of a Herculean task. Take the case of Syed Afreen of Tandur whose application for fee reimbursement has been pending with the district officer for the last one year. She applied to the APSMFC in December, 2012, when joined MSc (Organic Chemistry) at Sri Sarda PG College. Now, she is in the final year. Afreen is among scores of poor students pursuing education against all odds. They have taken admission at good colleges in the hope of getting their tuition fee reimbursed. But, with the process dragging on, it appears they may have to pay the fee themselves. Sadaf Fatima applied for post-matric scholarship during 2010-11. Since then, she has completed Intermediate and is now in her B.Sc first year. But, she has not received the scholarship. In yet another instance, the application status of Ayesha Sultana shows it is sanctioned, but the amount has not been released. Sultana is a BSc student at St. Pious Degree College for Women. This is not all. There is no parity in the disbursal of scholarship and fee reimbursement. There are instances where students doing the same course in the same college are granted different sums. Roohina Nusrath, a student of BA at University College for Women, Koti, got just mess charges and tuition fee, while her classmate Ruhi Sameena got special fee reimbursement. Again, the tuition fee paid by the two differs. While Nusrath was paid Rs. 840 as tuition fee, Sameena got Rs. 930. Interestingly, Sarikonda Mounika, a BC student at the same college, was given mess charges, tuition fee, exam fee and other fee. “Officials have no explanation for this,” says Prof. Mohd. Ansari, president, Minorities Right Protection Committee, who has brought the inconsistency to the notice of the APSMFC. According to him, students of private colleges get paid under five categories – mess charges, tuition fee, exam fee, special fee and other fee – while their counterparts at government colleges mostly get mess charges and tuition fee only. “The government claims of providing scholarship and fee reimbursement to minorities on par with the SCs, STs and BCs. But, it is not the case in practice,” says Younus Parvez, president, Minority Students Organisation. Many feel the government ought to remove the disparity in payment of scholarship and fee reimbursement and also do away with age limit for availing scholarships, since the idea is to empower minorities through education. (The Hindu 29/12/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

21. Shortage of six lakh teachers in the country, says Pallam Raju (11)

There is a shortage of six lakh teachers in the country and initiatives are being taken to fill the gap as the focus is to provide quality education, Union Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju on Saturday said. “We have made strides with regard to infrastructure development, teacher recruitment as well as enrolments including that of girls and minority boys in school but need to focus more on quality education,” Raju said. Initiatives are being taken to fill the gap as the focus is to provide quality education in the country, he told reporters. Asked about the reports of violation of Right to Education Act, the minister said the act will be effectively implemented. “We have made progress in infrastructure development, students enrolment as well as quality education since the RTE was implemented,” he said. Asked about the report to be submitted by the probe committee looking into the Chapra mid-day meal incident in Bihar, the minister said, “We have the facts and all state governments have been instructed to ensure adequate safeguards to implement the mid-day meal scheme in schools across the country”.Besides, a National level Monitoring committee has been formed to oversee the implementation of the scheme and to ensure such incidents do not recur, he said. Over 20 children died after consuming contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district of Bihar in July last. (CNN IBN 7/12/13)

 

22. RTE Act not meant to subsidise education for the rich: Delhi High Court (11)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition by a non-government organisation challenging charging of fees from students of Class I to VIII by Kendriya Vidyalayas running in civil and public sectors across the country. A Division Bench of Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Manmohan dismissed the petition saying that the Right to Education (RTE) Act is not meant to subsidise the education of the wards of rich and influential parents. The petitioner, Social Jurist, through its counsel Ashok Agarwal had opposed the charging of fees from these students arguing that it violated the Fundamental Right to Life and the RTE Act. Counsel for the Kendriya Vidyalaya clarified to the Court that 25 per cent of the total seats in Class I were filled by the wards of weaker sections of society and they were not charged any fees as per the RTE Act. Dismissing the petition, the Bench said: “In our opinion, if the petitioner’s argument is accepted, it would amount to violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which clearly mandates that the unequal cannot be treated equally.” “In our view, all the children do not require ‘free and compulsory education’. Certainly not the ones who belong to the privileged section of society…. They are already getting much more than the minimum required by others who are not so privileged or favourably placed in life,” the Bench said. “In our opinion, if the petitioner’s argument is accepted, it would amount to violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which clearly mandates that the unequal cannot be treated equally,” the Bench stated. We also do not find any merit in Mr. Agarwal’s submission that all children should be given free elementary education irrespective of their socio-economic background. In our opinion, if this submission were to be accepted, the Government would have to reimburse fees to students of rich parents studying in private unaided schools,” the Bench further said. “The intent of the RTE Act is to ensure that all children have access to elementary education… is not to subsidise the wards of the rich and influential parents. Its main objective is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all,” the Bench clarified. “Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate Governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on Government funds…,” the Bench said. (The Hindu 15/12/13)

 

23. Elementary schools not up to mark: Report (11)

New Delhi: Education to all, the goal of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, seems to be a distant dream though it is nearly four years since the legislation came into force, according to a new government report. The report has found most of the elementary schools falling short of attaining the level of progress expected from them though the stipulated that they should provide infrastructure and facilities needed for quality education during 2012-13. About six months after the three-year deadline for the schools to meet the RTE standards got over, the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) looked into the data provided by states to it and computed elementary educational development index for the year 2012-13, only to find that none of the schools could achieve the EDI value of 1.00. It is for the first time that the NUEPA, which periodically releases reports on the progress of school education, has come up with Educational Development Index (EDI) of primary schools of the country. The Union Territory of Lakshadweep secured the highest EDI value of 0.716, followed by Puducherry 0.696 and Tamil Nadu 0.683, ranking first, second and third, respectively, in terms of their progress in achieving the goals of the RTE Act compared to others. Karnataka was given fifth position in the EDI ranking for 2012-13.  “However, it was a climb down for the state as the NUEPA placed it at second position for its performance during 2011-12, indicating that the state needed to make more efforts to bring its schools in a position to achieve the goal of education to all stipulated under the RTE Act. “No state could be considered perfect. The ranks given to them on computation of EDI are just relative. “A state’s rank has gone up only because others could not do better than it under various parameters used to compute the EDI. There is scope for more progress in each of the state,” an NUEPA official told Deccan Herald. As many as 1.5 million schools imparting elementary education were covered by the NUEPA for computation of EDI on the basis of data provided to it by states and Union territories, a HRD Ministry official said. The report was released at a meeting on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan on Thursday. It was presided over by Human Resource Development Ministry M M Pallam Raju. “A set of 24 indicators have been used in computing the EDI which are re-grouped into four sub-groups: Access, infrastructure, teachers and outcomes.  They include gross enrolment ratio, drop out rates, ratio of girls enrolment and participation of children belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribes and Muslim community,” an NUEPA official said. Schools in Jharkhand came out to be the worst performing with the NUEPA giving it 35th position in the EDI ranking of the country, followed by Uttar Pradesh ranking 34, Goa 33, Assam 32, West Bengal 31, Bihar 30 and Tripura 29. Andhra Pradesh ranked 23 in EDI, followed by Kerala 14, Delhi 11 and Maharashtra 8, according to report. (Deccan Herald 15/12/13)

 

24. 2006 Act curtails right to education, say students (11)

Mysore: Students owing allegiance to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) staged a protest outside the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Wednesday, against the State government’s decision to implement the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fee) Act 2006. The students alleged that the Act would deny social justice and curtail the right to education. “Poor meritorious students would be affected the most with this decision. The 2006 Act would pave way for private professional managements to fleece students during admissions,” they alleged. They said if the Act was implemented, private professional college managements would have the power to charge exorbitant fees in medical, dental and engineering colleges. As much as 45 per cent of the engineering seats, 40 per of medical seats and 35 per cent dental seats in private professional colleges under the government quota would revert to private managements. Also, there would be no government quota in private unaided professional colleges, leaving students to write the common entrance test (CET) only for seeking seats in government professional colleges, they alleged. Consequently, the CET would hold good only for 21 of the 210 engineering colleges and 10 of the 32 medical colleges, involving around 5,000 seats. Rest of the available 75,000 seats would be filled by COMEDK exams. Additionally, all students would have to write UGET conducted by the COMEDK to secure admissions in private professional colleges, they said. (The Hindu 19/6/13)

 

25. CBSE to Set up Regional Centre in Gulf Region (11)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: CBSE will set up a regional centre in West Asia to cater to the needs of 150 odd schools in the region, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said here on Saturday. Tharoor was speaking at a programme organised by the Kerala CBSE School Managements Association to felicitate the Minister who played a key-role in setting up the ninth regional centre of the CBSE here. The regional centre was inaugurated on Saturday by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. “There are around 150 CBSE schools in the Gulf region and a majority of them are run by Keralites. For administrative matters, officials of CBSE schools in the Gulf have to come to Delhi. The proposed regional centre in the Gulf will begin functioning within the next one or two months,” Tharoor said. Tharoor clarified that the term “appropriate government” mentioned in the Right to Education (RTE) Act means the Central Government in case of schools affiliated to the CBSE. “The question is who is the authority for CBSE schools. Since the rules and regulations come from the Centre, it is the Centre which has the authority over CBSE schools,” Tharoor later told Express on the sidelines of the function. CBSE schools in the state had sought clarification from the Centre as to whether the State or Central Government has power over the functioning and syllabus of CBSE schools. Kerala CBSE Schools (New Indian Express 22/12/130

 

26. RTE survey detects several violations by schools (11)

As authorities have drawn up a calendar for the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act for 2014-15, a survey shows it was a flop show in Karnataka in the past two years. The root cause of the problem is that many private schools are not even aware of the rules. The survey was conducted in nine districts by the RTE Task Force set up by the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory. Poor implementation has been the bane of the RTE Act. While nearly half the 25% seats reserved in private schools for the poor under the RTE Act remained unfilled during 2012-13, the first year of implementation, the next year it was more than one-third. The survey covered 83 schools, including 14 aided, 33 unaided and 36 government schools. It found that 10 aided and 14 unaided schools did not provide even a single seat under the RTE quota in 2012-13, 24 were unaware of the basic rules, while the faculty of only 58 schools participated in RTE workshops conducted by the government. The survey also detected several other violations. Three dozen schools did not form School Development and Monitoring Committees, while only a few held special training for dropouts who had returned to the classroom. Conducted over 15 days a few months ago, the survey found there is a shortage of teaching staff in 30 unaided and 24 aided schools. Half the schools didn’t have ramps for physically challenged students. Nagasimha G Rao, convener of the RTE Task Force, said teachers are exposed only to a section of RTE rules at workshops. “They have to be taught all the rules in detail. We have submitted our recommendations based on the survey findings to implement RTE effectively to the Child Rights Commission.”.. (Times of India 25/12/13)

 

27. Unaided minority schools exempted (11)

The Bombay High Court has ruled that unaided minority schools which do not get direct monetary grants from Maharashtra government do not have to reserve 25 per cent seats mandatory under the Right to Education Act. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Revati Dere was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by minority schools from Pune challenging a Zilla Parishad order staying admissions for the year 2013-14. The ZP said the schools had not adhered to provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which mandates that schools keep 25 per cent seats for students from poorer sections of society. The schools while challenging the ZP order relied on a 2012 Supreme Court judgement which said that the RTE Act was not applicable to unaided minority institutions.PTI (The Hindu 26/12/13)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. Tibetans pray for the Dalai Lama (13)

As many as 40 families of Tibetan origin, who are in Dhanbad to trade in woollen garments, organised prayers on Tuesday to commemorate International Human Rights Day and awarding of Nobel Peace Prize to their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The rituals, which were organised at the woollen market at Kohinoor grounds and also on Railway Station road, began at around 8am with the Tibetans lighting diyas and chanting hymns in praise of the Dalai Lama. The prayers continued till 9.30am after which sweets and chocolates were distributed among children. Among the 40 families, 25 have set shops at Kohinoor grounds and the remaining on Railway Station road. While the former hail from Mysore in Karnataka, the 15 families on Railway Station road are from various parts of the same state and Himachal Pradesh. Vice-president of Tibetan Refugee Sweater Sellers’ Welfare Association, Railway Station road, Phuntsor said they commemorated the day as a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s peace efforts. “The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel on December 10, 1989, for his tireless peace endeavours. On this day, we pray for the health of our leader, who has been fighting for the rights of Tibetans all his life,” he added. Phuntsor further said that on December 10 every year, the small Tibetan community lit 108 diyas, symbolising the 108 beads in their prayer mala. The diverse socio-economic backgrounds of the Tibetans attending the prayer meet were no less interesting. Karnataka-based Tenzong (50) is a retired Indian Army soldier, who claims to have fought in the Kargil War. “I joined my family in the woollen garment business after retiring,” he said. Jyurme (40) from Mysore sells woollens for four months and goes back to farming for the rest of the year. (Telegraph 10/12/13)

 

29. Illegal immigrant from Myanmar to be shifted to Delhi’s Tihar jail (13)

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court Thursday directed the state government to transfer Myanmar national Johura Begum from Dumdum Central Jail to Tihar Jail so that she can meet her husband in Delhi. Johra, a Myanmarese Muslim, has been in jail since April 2009 even though her jail term was over June 2010. In April 2009, Johra was arrested by East Bidhannagar police along with her seven children for entering India illegally through the Bangladesh border. While Johura was sent to Dumdum jail, her seven children were shifted to a government-run home. The court was hearing a plea seeking her transfer to Delhi so that she can meet her husband, Mohammad Yakub, who had also illegally entered the country before her and was granted asylum with the assistance of the United Nation High Commission for Refugees. According to her counsel advocate Debasish Banerjee, Yakub met her in the Dumdum jail last year and got the custody of their seven children from the Child Welfare Board. He now lives in Jammu with their children in a refugee camp. Meanwhile, counsel of Centre Advocate Sanjay Bardhan told the court that the central government is considering her request for a refugee status. (Indian Express 13/12/13)

 

30. Lankan Tamil refugees arrive by illegal boat service, one held (13)

Rameswaram: A Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, who arrived here on Sunday by an illegal boat service, has been taken into custody for questioning and a massive hunt launched for other refugees, police said. DSP Vijayakumar said the refugees had arrived at Arichalmunai near Dhanushkodi from Sri Lanka and police with the help of the Coast Guard managed to nab a person, Santhan, who confessed that he had come along with some others by paying Rs one lakh as ferry charge. Others are absconding, police said. An official said they were interrogating Santhan, but were not sure how many had arrived with him. Santhan told police that others, who had come with him, had left long back and he was not aware of their whereabouts nor did he inquire with them about their destination, sources said. Police said they had launched a massive hunt for other refugees as they suspected that they could be Sri Lankan militants. (Zee News 15/3/13)

 

31. 842,000 Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: UN (13)

BEIRUT: The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached 842,000, a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Monday. It charged that the aid agencies and the Lebanese government had pledged $1.7 billion to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees, but it has so far only received $842 million, reported Xinhua. The report also said that the northeastern Bekaa region in Lebanon witnessed a large influx of Syrian refugees due to the intense battles ongoing in the border areas there. Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Monday called on the international community to continue its support to the Beirut government and pleaded for an additional $1.85 billion to help his country shoulder the burden of the refugees. (New Indian Express 17/12/13)

 

32. Afghan refugees in India refuse to return fearing violence (13)

As US forces’ drawdown from Afghanistan looms, Afghan refugees living in the national capital refuse to return to their homes fearing violence. Refugees from the war-torn country thronged Lajpat Nagar, an affluent suburb of the South Delhi, in 1979, following the invasion by the then Soviet Union. And, a large number of Afghans continued to migrate to India after their country was taken over by the Taliban. There were more than 18,000 refugees in India as of 2011, according to the External Affairs Ministry. And about 10,000 Afghan refugees are registered with UNHCR at present. Their is pervasive fear among Afghan refugees here about returning home mainly due to continued violence and the threat of Taliban’s ascendancy once the US-led ISAF troops leave Afghanistan. Sher Mohammad, 35, came to India about an year ago, escaping the threats of Taliban which “abducted his younger son, Amir (11), to employ him as a laborer”.”They let him go after I negotiated with them. We came to India immediately after the incident. They would have killed us all,” he said. Mohammad, who fled from Ghazini province, is one among the thousands of Afghan refugees living in India. He is reluctant to return to his country, fearing threat to his family from Taliban. “If I return, they will not let us live. They will kill us. Sab Khatam…(Everything ends),” he said. Mohammad and his elder son Hamid, 15, run a fastfood stall in the chock-full market of Lajpat Nagar. Both his sons study in Don Bosco school in Alaknanda. After school, Hamid comes to his father to help him make burgers and rotis. “This is not a big business but it is ok. It feeds us. It is better than being maimed at the hands of Taliban,” said Hamid. Though living in Delhi is expensive and he is hardly able to earn enough to pay his rent and eat, Mohammad said his family is at-least safe this way. Sulaiman, 26, an Afghan graduate, from Kabul, shares the same concerns. “The situation in Afghanistan is still bad. There is no sign of peace. People fear that once they (NATO troops) return, the country will be in hands of Taliban again. This is not the safe time to return,” Sulaiman said. He, however, is not sure whether US would withdraw by next year as ambiguity looms over signing of the bilateral security agreement. “The security pact is yet to be signed. Who knows when they will go back or stay for longer. The situation, however, remains hostile. Refugees are returning though but they continue to live on the edge as there are no jobs or money. As such, a large number of them do not want to go back,” he said. (DNA 22/12/13)

 

33. Riot-hit Muslims left in lurch as administration forces closure of relief camps (13)

MUZAFFARNAGAR (U.P.): Amid heightened political tempers over the plight of riot victims in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, administrations in two districts are trying to wind up at least half-a-dozen relief camps where displaced Muslims are braving the chilly weather while battling with poor conditions. The State officials, for whom camps are “officially” over since they have completed the formality of distributing compensation, are now reportedly pressuring villagers and organisations helping these displaced people to persuade them to vacate camps and return to their villages. The glaring example of this official callousness is clearly visible in Bassi Kalan village where hundreds of Muslims, who were forced to leave their village Kutba-Kutbi, and who had taken refuge inside a madrasa, were “forced” to leave the place a day before the National Human Rights Commission team came for inspection. “There is no camp running now in Bassi Kalan … We have settled almost all cases of compensation there,” Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told The Hindu on Tuesday. But village ‘pradhan’ Mursalim has a different story to tell. “The district administration forced madrasa people to get the camp vacated as the NHRC team was coming for a visit to our village. But the fact is that affected villagers have now started living in shanties under open sky … So far they were at least getting some relief material from voluntary organisations, which has also stopped now. We have been asking them to return to their villages; but they have categorically stated that if pressured they will go to some other place but never return to their village,” he noted. While Mr. Sharma claimed that only one camp was running in the district at Loi, where around 1,800 people have taken refuge, Mr. Mursalim said that apart from Loi, there were at least two other places where camps were being run — Jaula and Malakpura — where hundreds of Muslims are too apprehensive to return. “Both in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, the district administration officials are under tremendous pressure from the State government to ensure that no one remains in camps … Instead of taking care of compensation issues and providing health and sanitation facilities for displaced people, they are putting pressure on camp managers to ask people to leave,” said Shandar Gufran, social activist and educationist. But the Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate refutes all claims of poor management of camps made by media and NGOs. “We have now sought the help of religious groups and NGOs in convincing these people to at least move to government buildings so that they could be provided proper facilities. There are at least 76 pregnant women living in the Loi camp, some in advanced stages. We have been urging them to move to a proper camp or nearby hospitals but to no avail … We are helpless as these people have launched a kind of civil disobedience movement,” Mr. Sharma said. Noting that almost all cases of compensation have been cleared, including 901 cases of those who are not ready to go back to their villages and were given Rs. 5 lakh each, Mr. Sharma said they had received 925 new applications for Rs. 5 lakh relief each. “The new demand is that all married persons having kids should be considered as a separate family and given money … We did a fresh survey and found majority of cases to be untrue as all such claimants used to live under one roof. We cannot go against the rule,” he said. (The Hindu 25/12/13)

 

34. 34 children die in relief camps, says panel; trashes Mulayam’s ‘conspirator’ theory (13)

Lucknow: At least 34 children below the age of 12 years have perished in the relief camps for people displaced during the riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, according to a high-level committee constituted by the UP government to look into the reported deaths. The deaths occurred between September 7 and December 20. According to the report, 4,783 people are still living in five camps including one in Loi (Muzaffarnagar) and Madarsa Taimul Shah, Malakpur, Barnavi and Edgah (all in Shamli). To a question on whether there are any “conspirators” in the camps, Gupta said that the committee has said that “only displaced people are living in the camps”. The president of ruling Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, had created controversy recently stating that “conspirators and political activists” were living in the relief camps. “Most of the children who lost their lives are the ones who had been taken outside the camps for treatment by their parents or were referred to government hospitals for treatment,” Principal Secretary (Home) A K Gupta told reporters here. He was quoting the report of high-level committee set up by the UP government to go into the factual details of the deaths of children as reported in the media. “The cause of the death of all these children is different with about four dying because of pneumonia while some others died because of dysentery and one due to premature birth,” Gupta said adding that the report was submitted to the government on Thursday. The official said that all the children had got medical attention and “it cannot be termed as medical negligence or incapability of the doctors”. On the conclusion of the report, Gupta said that it has been recommended that the quality and facilities in the camps should be improved, and steps should be taken for early return of the people living in the camps to their homes. (Asian Age 27/12/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

35. Labour Department Rapped for Laxity (14)

BANGALORE: The High Court warned the Labour Department that it will initiate action against it for its laxity in the enrolment of unregistered workers. Hearing a suo motu petition, the court had earlier directed the department to inform it about the steps taken to enrol unregistered construction workers in the State. The amicus curiae submitted that there are over 20 lakh construction workers in the State, of whom only 3.4 lakh were registered with the department. Appearing for the government, the Labour Secretary submitted that the department is unable to initiate any measures to enrol unregistered construction workers as many posts in the Department are vacant. Unsatisfied with the explanation, the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice D H Waghela asked, “What was the department doing since the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act was enacted in 1996?”. The High Court on Monday directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to specify its stand on taking over the crisis-hit Amanath Bank and repaying its depositors. A group of depositors of Amanath Bank had approached the court to request it to intervene in ensuring the repayment of their money. The bank reportedly owes an estimated `430 crore to its depositors. Counsel for the RBI submitted that the bank was deliberating the takeover of Amanath Bank and sought more time to spell out its stance. The next hearing of the matter has been posted for December 18. Hearing on Cane Price Adjourned. The High Court adjourned a writ petition filed by Renuka Sugars, requesting the court to direct the State government to reconsider the minimum support price of sugarcane. The government had recently decided on `2,500 per tonne of sugarcane procured in the State. Justice A S Bopanna directed the registry to club the petition with similar matters and post it for hearing on Wednesday. (New Indian Express 10/12/13)

 

36. Last-mile attempt to re-energise MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The initial phase of Kaam Maango Abhiyan, an awareness campaign the Ministry for Rural Development launched on December 6 to increase the demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), has shown significant promise. The campaign is focussing on six districts: Sitapur (Uttar Pradesh); Nashik (Maharashtra); Raichur (Karnataka); Katihar (Bihar); West Singhbum (Jharkhand); and Sundergarh (Odisha). It will create a model for a nationwide campaign to be launched on February 2, which is celebrated as the MGNREGA Day. It will involve training of officials, mass awareness drives through padyatras and institutionalising the monthly Rozgar Diwas in every panchayat for people to register their demand and grievances. The Abhiyan has made an immediate impact in Nashik, where 98 per cent of the gram panchayats have shown a rise in person days of work demanded as of December 8, compared with the Management Information System data on November 18. The highest rise is in the Surgane, Tondwal, Chandori and Devdongari gram panchayats. Especially in Devdongari, it is 813 per cent higher than what it was 15 days ago. “Kaam Maango Abhiyan is a last-mile attempt to re-energise the MGNREGA. This momentum and energy shall hopefully sustain itself,” a Ministry official told The Hindu . In Uttar Pradesh, in just three weeks, 700 gram panchayats have demanded work. “We have observed that the demand under MGNREGA is not being registered. The system is not efficiently acknowledging this demand. Thanks to the Abhiyan, the State governments are focussing on understanding demand,” the official said. Incidentally, the Uttar Pradesh government has been running a simultaneous campaign in all districts, called ‘Kaam Lo Abhiyan.’ In the first phase of padyatras, 30,000 applications for work have been registered across seven blocks of 132 gram panchayats in Bihar. Sources say Bihar has effectively mobilised people, and volunteers have been stopping off at panchayat bhawans, putting out information about MGNREGA. Odisha has registered 37,000 work applications across 250 gram panchayats. “This indicates the reach of the Abhiyan to the most isolated areas. All demands for work must be accepted and are monitored by the Centre every day. We are learning lessons from each district. MGNREGA is not dead; the system stopped responding. This is the key message,” the official explained. (The Hindu 11/12/13)

 

37. Rights of workers in unorganised sector highlighted (14)

ERODE: Representatives of major trade unions, including All India Trade Union Congress, Indian National Trade Union Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Labour Progressive Front, and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, participated. They demanded that a minimum of Rs. 10,000 be fixed as monthly remuneration for daily labourers in the wake of escalation in the wake of price rise. They urged the Union Government to take effective steps to stem price rise and ensure a pension of Rs. 3,000 each for workers in this sector. They wanted the Centre to abandon the policy of economic liberalisation. District secretary of AITUC G. Venkatachalam, the district unit vice-president of CITU, and representatives of various trade unions spoke. (The Hindu 13/12/13)

 

38. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangha to stage dharna (14)

BELLARY: The district unit of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangha has decided to stage a dharna outside the City Corporation office on December 20 to protest against the inordinate delay in permitting wayside hawkers, vendors to do their business. Wayside vendors were evicted by the district administration around eight months ago and were assured of an alternative place, K. Vijayakumar, general secretary of the sangha, told. Over 2,000 hawkers, vendors, as per the instructions of the Deputy Commissioner, had submitted applications but no development had taken place till date. The sangha has urged authorities to take steps to issue permissions, to allot space for nominal rent, and to provide houses under various schem (The Hindu 15/12/13)

 

39. Unorganised sector workers stage demonstration (14)

ERODE: Over 200 workers in the unorganised sector who assembled here on Tuesday morning for staging a demonstration in front of the Welfare Board Office to assail shortcomings in implementation of benefit schemes by the welfare boards were arrested by the police. Police sources said permission was not given for the demonstration, which was organised by the district unit of CITU. A total of 226 arrested workers, including 96 women, were released later in the day. The workers raised slogans slamming the welfare boards for not convening meetings regularly and for making the process of registration of membership with welfare boards and renewal of membership a cumbersome process. They wanted a stop to the system of securing signature of Village Administrative Officers to apply for membership in the welfare board. The forms for membership must be routed through recognised trade unions, they said. Other demands included timely payment of benefits, monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 for men workers over 60 years and women workers above 50 years, Rs. 2 lakh relief for family of accident victims, and enhancement of the benefit amounts on a periodic basis in accordance with price rise. In Salem about 500 labourers, including women, in the unorganised sector staged a demonstration in front of the Labour Welfare Department office here on Tuesday. They said the government should end to all the alleged irregularities in the offices of the welfare board and conduct regular review meetings to check the functioning of the board.A total of 83 trade union members affiliated to Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged an agitation in front of the Labour Welfare Office in Dharmapuri on Tuesday. The protestors urged the Government to reform the operations of various labour welfare boards. They demanded that officials should not insist on VAO certificate for enrolment of new members and wanted the old system of enrolment through trade unions. Monetary benefits to members of the welfare boards should be disbursed through cheques, labourers from unorganised sectors should not be insisted to open a bank account on enrolment, they said. The members raised slogans in support of their demands. P. Arumugam, district president, presided. C. Nagarajan, district Secretary of CITU, and other office-bearers spoke at the agitation. The arrested trade union members were released in the evening, police sources said. (The Hindu 18/12/13)

 

40. CITU demands social security for women (14)

Mandya: Activists of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), took out a march here on Saturday urging the Union and State governments to initiate steps to provide social security for working women. They marched from Silver Jubilee Park to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and staged a demonstration. The rally disrupted traffic on the busy highway. The participants raised slogans demanding social security for workers in the unorganised sector. They demanded toilets and baby care centres for women at workplaces, minimum wages, maternity leave and social security cover for the working class across the country. (Te Hindu 22/12/13)

 

41. MGNREGS fails to halt exodus of workers to other States (14)

KHARIAR: Distress migration from western Odisha, which is evoking concerns all around, has brought into sharp focus how Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has failed to attract rural people in this poverty-stricken region of Odisha. Administration officials in Nuapada district say delay in payment of wages is main reason behind people turning down job offers in MNREGS while activists maintain non-participation of people in the flagship employment guarantee programme is far more complex than it appears. Prior to implementation of MGNREGS, unavailability of works was a major trigger behind exodus of people from this region. Post MGNREGS, it was hoped that the trend would reverse. However, there is no halt in migration of people in search of work. The trend of migration shows villagers in the 15 to 49 age-group are opting for jobs in brick-kilns in other States while elderly members are left behind to guard the houses. Elderly villagers stay back in homes in temptation of old-age pension and subsidised rice. “We are ready to provide jobs to anybody who would demand. But not many people show interest in the NREGS job. The major bottleneck we are encountering in the scheme is delay in payment. Banking procedures and internet connectivity were causing the delay in payment,” said Pradipta Kumar Nayak, Project Director of Nuapada District Rural Development Agency. He said 1 lakh to 1.10 lakh bank accounts were needed to be opened in Nuapada district, but only 56,000 accounts could be opened. “Bankers are hardly cooperating for smooth opening of accounts.” There were instances when payments could not be made for months on account of unavailability of banks, the PD DRDA admitted. Mr. Nayak said the district administration conducted a survey of approximately 6,000 households. “Of the 6,000 families, 4,000 accepted job offers under MGNREGS while 2,000 did not accept. It showed that a major section of people are habituated with migration and availing loan advances from labour contractors,” he said. Ajit Panda, Khariar-based activist, said labour contractors’ budget for recruiting migrant workers was bigger than government’s labour budget under MGNREGS. “Annually, Nuapada sends 60,000 labourers to other States. If each worker is paid Rs. 10,000 as advance loan, contractors invest nearly Rs. 60 crore, whereas this year’s MGNREGS budget for Nuapada district is Rs. 40 crore,” Mr. Panda explained. It needs to be mentioned that district administration has failed to utilise the MGREGS fund last year, although rate of utilisation has improved this year. He elaborated that if 100 days works are guaranteed to all 60,000 workers, the administration would need a budget in excess of Rs. 100 crore, which indicates MGNREGS could bring down the number of workers intending to migrate, but the scheme is not the solution. Moreover, the capacity of manpower existing in panchayat level would not handle the workload, if MGNREGS were to deliver a full 100 and plus days employment, Mr. Panda said. (The Hindu 22/12/130

 

42. Employment Scheme, a Failure in Balangir (14)

BALANGIR: Lalit Bhoi of Badbanki village in Turekela block in the district has decided to migrate in search of job as he is not able to get work even after applying for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Similarly, Surdas Pradhan of Bijamal village in Muribahal block feels that he would migrate if he would not be able to get work under the flagship scheme soon. Bhoi and Pradhan are not solitary instances of poverty stricken people unable to get the benefits of MGNREGS. In fact, the MGNREGS, aimed at providing employment to rural poor, has miserably failed in the district. According to sources, 2,72,527 households in the district have been issued job cards. Out of them, 61,339 households applied for works in 2013-14 and 47,393 households have been provided work till now. While in the present month, 5,904 households are engaged in work, 2,086 households have completed 100 days of work. Among those who completed 100 days of work, 463 households were linked to the housing schemes like Indira Awaas Yojana. According to latest estimate, about 68.2 per cent of the budget for the scheme has been spent till now including labour payment and construction work. The major road blocks in implementation of MNREGS are non-payment and delayed payment of wages to the labourers and shortage of field staff for preparation of muster rolls. Sources said people are not getting work during lean period. They also alleged that the officials were providing work as per their whims and caprices. As per a conservative estimate, more than one lakh people have migrated in search of livelihood from the district to other places in and outside the State. The district has also more than 1,000 certified bonded labourers. According to a survey of Western Odisha Migration Network (WOMN), a network of civil society organisations and academicians working in the district, more than 80,000 people from Bangomunda, Turekela, Belpara, Muribahal, Saintala and Khaprakhol blocks have already migrated. “Balangir is a poor and migration prone district. MGNREGS has all the ingredients to address labour migration due to acute poverty and unemployment. However, to realise the same, the administration needs to identify the vulnerable people and implement MGNREGS during the lean period. But it has failed to provide timely works as well as the payments,” said Jatin Kumar Patra, an activist working on the issue. Project Director of Balangir DRDA Pabitra Mandal said the administration is taking steps to provide work in all the revenue villages. “We are preparing plans and very soon the works will start,” he said. (New Indian Expres 24/12/13)

 

43. Poverty forces kids to work illegally in job scheme (14)

Tehatta, Dec. 25: Many minors in Nadia’s Tehatta are working under the central 100-day job scheme in violation of rules, using the job cards of their guardians. The revelation comes days after Nadia topped the list of districts in implementing welfare schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The Tehatta panchayat said action would be taken against rural-body appointed project supervisors if they were found guilty of allowing children to work under the NREGA. Panchayats distribute and supervise work under the scheme. The children, aged between eight and 14 years, are building roads, digging earth and carrying loads on their heads. The minimum age of getting work under the NREGA is 18 years. The kids said they had no option but to work to augment the income of their impoverished families. Some have left school. In Keshabkhali-Duttapara, around 30 children are engaged in building a village road a stone’s throw from the office of the Tehatta sub-divisional officer. A 12-year-old boy said: “Work begins at 6.30 in the morning and continues till 11.30am. Under the scheme, each worker has to dig 80 cubic feet of earth. We skip school on days we work as classes begin at 11am.” The boy’s father, a rickshaw-puller, does not have an NREGA job card. The child uses the card of his uncle. “My uncle works elsewhere. So I use his job card. I earn Rs 151 a day, which is useful in running my family,” the boy added. A 13-year-old boy in the same locality said he had dropped out of school to work. “What my father earns by selling shoes by the roadside is not enough to run the family. I will not get a job card till I turn 18. So I use my father’s card.” In Rudranagar village, a 12-year-old boy said he had “no alternative” but to work. “My father is a poor farm labourer. Any extra income is always welcome. So I have opted out of school and am working,” he said. The two panchayat-appointed supervisors at the Keshabkhali-Duttapara site — Abhijit Mandal and Saddar Sheikh — said they knew that engaging children in manual labour was a violation of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. But they said they allowed the kids to work “because they come from poor families”. “I do not want children to work, but their parents send them here. I have told them several times that they should do the job themselves instead of sending their children,” Abhijit Mandal said. “These people are poor and this extra income helps them.” Panchanan Haldar, an elderly labourer, alleged that the supervisors never stopped the children from working. “The kids’ studies are getting hampered. Besides, the children should not be made to do such strenuous work,” he said. A 14-year-old boy from Rudranagar said poverty had forced him to take up odd jobs. “My father died when I was a year old. Since then, my mother has been working as a domestic help. She has no job card. I use the card of my grandmother,” he said. The boy’s mother said: “I feel sad for my son. But what do I do? The money is essential to run the family.” The Congress pradhan of the Tehatta panchayat, Chaina Mandal, said she was not aware of children working under the NREGA. “I have issued standing instructions to supervisors not to allow children to work at NREGA sites. Engaging children as labourers is prohibited. The supervisors will be held responsible if the kids are working,” Chaina Mandal said. She said she would seek an explanation from the two supervisors. “They will be punished if found guilty.” A district official said the maximum punishment for violators under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was one year in jail and a fine of Rs 20,000. Tehatta SDO Arnab Chatterjee said: “If children are being employed, action will be taken against the supervisors concerned.” “We will also try to convince the parents not to make their children do manual labour,” he added.(The Telegraph 26/12/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

44. Ray of hope for school dropouts at Chilabandha (14)

JAMUGURIHAT, Dec 7 – Bipul Bhakta (15) of Bhuyanpaar in North Naduar, Bijit Tosa (14) of Uttar Itakhola, Dikorai, Gautam Basumatary (14) of Bhalukpong, Nabla Basumatary (16) of Chengelia, Dhananjoy Daimari (15) of Bhalukpong, Chalan Basumatary (16) of Dakshin Bogijuli, Gormora, were school dropouts and were engaged in various households as child labourers. These six boys were brought to the Residential Special Training Centre (RSTC) at Chilabandha in Jamugurihat in between 2008 and 2010. This centre was started in 2008 by Sarba Siksha Abhijan under Naduar Elementary Education Block for boys. Having imparted them formal education, these boys will now appear in the ensuing HSLC examination from Bhalukpong, Chen-gelimar, Nagsankar and Dikarai high schools as regular candidates. Along with imparting formal education, this centre provides physical as well as sports training also. Dhananjoy Basumatary from this centre had participated in the all-India maithai competition at Bengaluru in 2010 and won prizes. This year also, another 11 boys are preparing for the ensuing HSLC examination. Such achievements of the centre have been lauded by the conscious section of local citizens. (The Assam Tribune 8/12/13)

 

45. Child rights activists slam SC judgment as ‘retrograde’ (14)

NEW DELHI: Child rights activists on Friday expressed solidarity with the LGBT community and described the Supreme Court order upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as a “retrograde and regressive judgment”. Their stand was in sharp contrast to former chairperson of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Amod Kanth who has welcomed the judgment calling it a protection from bestiality against children. Distancing themselves from Kanth’s statement, organizations including CRY, Haq: Centre for Child Rights, AfD Pratidhi, Save the Children India, Aangan, Ankur, Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) Delhi unit, Leher, ChildFund India, Butterflies and Campaign against Child Trafficking (CACT) issued a statement saying they respected people of alternate sexuality. The DCPCR was the only government organization which challenged the Delhi High Court 2009 order. Its former chief Kanth had said banning homosexuality was the key to ensuring children’s normal development and protecting their rights to family, and that Section 377 was the only protection for sexual offences against a male or a male child. The statement by the child rights organizations said, “We believe that the rights of one section of society cannot prevail at the cost of another. Sexual relations between consenting adults is a private matter and poses no threat to children’s safety or development. Any attempt to conflate the issues is disingenuous, dangerous and has no basis in fact. We now have a gender neutral law that deals specifically with the abuse of minors (POCSO Act, 2012) and it is incorrect to state that the draconian and archaic Section 377 of IPC is the only protection against sexual abuse of minors.””We believe that our stand on this issue must be clarified and it is imperative that the voice of that individual in the media not be taken or be confused for the voice of the child-rights sector at large,” the activists said. (Times of India 14/12/13)

 

46. Girls come out in force against child marriage at conference (14)

RAICHUR: As many as 1,000 girls between the age of 11 and 18, who had come from different villages and towns across the district, said a firm no to child marriage in a girls’ conference against child marriage organised at Pandit Siddarama Jambaladinni Auditorium here on Tuesday. The conference was jointly organised by district administration, zilla panchayat, Departments of Public Instruction, Women and Child Welfare, Labour, Police, National Child Labour Project, Janachetana, Jana Shikshana and UNICEF child protection programme. The event, right from the welcome speech to the vote of thanks, was conducted by the girls themselves. Except the Deputy Commissioner S.N. Nagaraju, all the resource persons and speakers were women and girls. Delivering her introductory speech, Anuradha, an activist associated with the Sindhu Girls’ Organisation, formed by the district administration in association with Unicef child protection programme, explained the role played by different organisations across the district in stopping child marriages. “With the mission statement of ‘organisation for development’, 212 girls’ organisations in 46 gram panchayats of Devadurga taluk and 35 wards of Raichur city are functioning. There are around 6,000 members. These girls serve as informers to law enforcement agencies and have so far prevented 42 child marriages by bringing them to the notice of authorities,” she said. They also play active role in the government’s community awareness programmes, she added. “The activists have been successful in bringing back 630 children, who had dropped out of school for various reasons, to classrooms. As many as 68 drop-outs associated with these organisations have taken SSLC exams as private candidates,” she said. Anuradha explained that the organisationsalso held periodical meetings to chalk out awareness programmes in their respective areas. “These girls spread awareness among other girls about child rights, child labour, child marriage, human trafficking, health, education and other issues,” she said. The organisations also provide skill development programmes for girls, she added. “As many as 382 girls, who have gotten tailoring training, have started earning after purchasing machines and 208 girls have completed basic computer training,” she said. Mr. Nagaraju advised the girls not to deviate from their path and objectives. “The long lasting solution to atrocities against women is getting women educated and empowered. These organisations will play a major role in overcoming the culture of downgrading women and infusing self respect,” he said. He stressed the need for creating an atmosphere where women get equal opportunities and lead a life with dignity and equality. The girls took an oath of commitment for eradicating child marriage. Mr. Nagaraju released a brochure about child marriages. Veena Pallaki, president of District Child Welfare committee distributed certificates to the girls. (The Hindu 18/12/13)

 

47. States’ apathy on child laws irks Supreme Court (14)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has slammed states and Union territories for adopting an “utterly callous attitude” in enforcing path-breaking laws enacted by Parliament to protect children from sexual exploitation and to ensure them their rights including right to education. The court had on January 3 issued a series of directions asking states and UTs to implement three laws: Protection of Rights of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012; Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009; and the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. It had also asked them to set up necessary implementing agencies prescribed under the laws. A bench of Justices S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla on Monday said these orders were to be implemented in three months, but most of the states had failed to do so. It directed the chief secretaries of the defaulting states to give details in eight weeks about the steps taken to implement the three laws. “In many states, chairman of the commission has not been appointed and in some other states, even members have not been appointed. This apart, necessary rules and regulations have also not been framed. This, in our opinion, would be sufficient justification for this court to take a serious view and initiate appropriate proceedings for contempt of court against the defaulting states and Union territories,” it said. “We have been pained to notice the utterly callous attitude adopted by the states and UTs. We, therefore, have no option at this stage but to issue some further mandatory directions to ensure that the exploitation of the children in all spheres of life is brought to an end with utmost expedition,” the bench said. The court directed the chief secretaries of the defaulting states to give details in eight weeks about the steps taken to implement the three laws. (Times of India 19/12/13)

 

48. Monitor residential schools for child rights violation: Activists (14)

MADURAI: Residential schools are known for high disciplinary standards and stringent academic norms. The efforts taken for excellent academic results may bring them under the radar of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) as there are allegations that such private schools harass children to boost pass percentage or raise their academic performance. Participants at a state-level meet here on Saturday have urged CWCs across the state to closely monitor such schools. During the round-table discussion on child participation in juvenile justice system, D Geetha, a child and human rights activist, urged the chairpersons of the CWC to take action residential schools if they are found violating child rights. As mark-producing factories residential schools kill students’ childhood, she said. While CWC has the right to intervene in a family to uphold child rights, it should bring erring residential schools to the light, Geetha said during her address to the members and chairpersons of CWCs and representatives of various non-governmental organisations working for child rights in the state. Continuing her speech on legal rights and issues pertaining to CWCs, the activist suggested CWC should create voluntary groups comprising students from social work and law streams to keep an eye on residential schools. “Schools force children to study between 5am to 8pm, thereby spoiling their childhood. Socialisation of children’s is affected as they are not even allowed to play. CWC can at least expose violation of child rights and warn schools,” said Geetha, who is also a lawyer at the Madras high court. The voluntary groups can also be utilised for follow-up action such as providing medical help, counselling and protection to child victims, Geetha proposed. While speaking on adolescent offenders, the activist-lawyer said children are forced to commit crime. Vindicating her statement, S Selvaraj, who is the chairman of CWC in Theni district, said a large number of children are forced into crime in Theni and other southern districts. Describing a specific incident in Vadakkupatti near Cumbam, he said a 17-year-old was forced to peddle marijuana by his parents. They used the boy since no one would suspect any wrongdoing, Selvaraj said. Though, the teen was forced into the sale of contraband, he was arrested and sent to juvenile home when he was caught red-handed, belying the hope of his parents that he will go scot-free being a minor, he said. (Times of India 22/12/13)

 

49. 3,027 out-of-school children identified in Nalgonda (14)

NALGONDA: The district administration has identified as many as 3,207 out-of-school children including the dropouts from 52 mandals and eight municipalities in the district. The survey to identify the children those are out of school in seven mandals is underway. The identification of the out-of-school children was taken up by the district administration as part of the ‘Mana Kosam Manam’ programme to improve eight social indicators including literacy rate and child labour. Speaking to The Hindu, Collector T. Chiranjeevulu said that they had hired some local NGOs to conduct the survey. Stating that the survey in the remaining seven mandals would be completed in next couple of days, he said that they would admit the children in local residential schools. “The children will be mainstreamed as per their age and performance from the next academic year,” he said. Interestingly, of the 3,207 identified children, 22 per cent were identified in eight municipalities (urban) while the remaining were from rural area. Thipparthy, Shaligouraram and Nalgonda rural mandals have no out-of-school children according to the survey, while Chandampet mandal, with a major tribal population, has the highest out-of-school children. Observing that the district was lagging behind in literacy rate when compared to the national and State’s average, the Collector also set mandal-wise targets of making 2 lakh people literate . The literacy rate of district stands at 65 per cent against the State and nation’s 67.77 per cent and 74.04 per cent respectively. Under the Saksharatha Bharath programme, about 1 lakh people were enrolled at adult education centres across the district. The Collector averred that they would meet the target of enrolling 2 lakh illiterate adults in adult education centres in a month. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

50. 12 Child Labourers Rescued in Delhi (14)

New Delhi: Twelve children working as labourer in shoe and bag manufacturing factories were rescued from Nangloi area in West Delhi and five persons arrested, police said today. The children were rescued yesterday by a team of city police, SDM Punjabi Bagh, Child Labour Department and NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Police arrested Avdesh Yadav, Pramod, Mujib Alip, Shahnoor Khan and Abdul Majid and registered a case under relevant sections of Child Labour Act and Juvenile Justice Act. “During investigation, it came out that nine children were from Uttar Pradesh and three children from Bihar. All of them were engaged as labourer on wages ranging from Rs 3,000 to 4,000 per head,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Ranvir Singh. The rescued children were produced before the Delhi Child Welfare Committee which sent them to Aradhya Shelter Home in Rohini for their rehabilitation, said police. (Outlook 26/12/13)

 

51. Police trace missing children who went out to ‘explore’ city (14)

New Delhi: A case of alleged kidnapping of six minor children, which sent police into a tizzy, ended in relief for the parents after all of them were found following what was an outing by them to “explore” the city on their own. Police on Wednesday said they had rescued six minors in a span of 12 hours, after the children had gone missing from their homes in Uttam Nagar, West Delhi. Police said on Tuesday six cases of kidnapping had been registered at the Uttam Nagar police station on Tuesday, when they were informed about the children going missing. DCP(West) Ranvir Singh said police had followed the standard operating procedure and uploaded the photographs of the missing children on ZipNet — police’s online database. Police said teams had been sent to bus depots and railway stations with photographs and asked to look for the missing children. “Our teams looked for the children in marketplaces, temples and schools. One of our team members found a missing child in the Tilak Nagar market. The child helped us trace other missing children, who were in the same area. They had stepped out of their house to visit malls and got late. So, they were afraid to go home. They spent the night in a local park and had food from a gurdwara,” Singh said. All the children belong to families staying in Uttam Nagar. They used to play together and had left their homes on Monday night to see malls, cinema halls and other places of interest in the New Delhi area. Earlier, five teams from Uttam Nagar police station were constituted to find the children with the search operation closely monitored by senior law enforcement officials. “Details of the children were shared with the Missing Persons Squad, National Crime Record Bureau, State Crime Record Bureau, District Missing Persons Unit and everybody was requested to help in the search,” Singh said. (Indian Express 27/12/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

52. Supreme Court says gay sex illegal, govt hints at legislative route (19)

New Delhi: A two-judge bench struck down a landmark Delhi high court ruling in 2009 which found that Section 377 of the Indian penal code prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” infringed the fundamental rights of Indians. The decision four years ago to decriminalise gay sex emboldened the still largely closeted homosexual community which has since campaigned publicly against widespread discrimination and ignorance. But the Supreme Court bench, headed by GS Singhvi on his last day before retirement, found the high court had overstepped its authority and that a law passed by the British in 1860 was still constitutionally valid. “It is up to Parliament to legislate on this issue,” Singhvi said in the judgment which crushed the hopes of activists who had fought the case and led to tears outside the court in central New Delhi. (Indian Express 11/123/13)

 

53. Don’t Blame Judiciary for Outdated Laws (19)

The Supreme Court’s verdict that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not suffer from any constitutional infirmity as held by the Delhi High Court in a 2009 judgment has evoked a furious debate over the desirability of sticking to moral values of the Victorian era imposed by British colonialists in India of 2013. A vociferous bunch of self-styled liberals and their political patrons have rushed to dub the verdict “regressive” and cynically accused the apex court of dealing a body blow to liberal values and human rights and abdicating its proactive role as the defender of fundamental rights. In a statement, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is also chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance that rules at the Centre, has expressed her “disappointment” with the Supreme Court’s view and hoped that parliament will address the issue and safeguard the constitutional rights of those affected by the verdict. Unfortunately, such a reaction has generated more sound and fury than light. A careful reading of the verdict shows that the judges have confined themselves to the constitutional validity of the provision. In fact, during the hearing, they had pulled up the Centre for its “casual” approach on the issue of decriminalisation of homosexuality and also expressed concern over the parliament not discussing such important matters and blaming the judiciary instead for its “over-reach”. For those who disagree with their interpretation, the legal remedy by way of a review or curative petition is available. However, the tendency to intimidate the judiciary selectively for verdicts that go against a section of the society must be condemned as it poses a threat to democratic institutions. The Supreme Court has rightly suggested that the parliament must take the final call on the desirability and propriety of Section 377 of the IPC. Instead of faulting the judges, civil liberty and rights activists must mount pressure on the UPA and other political parties to change the law. (New Indian Express 13/12/13)

 

54. Lokpal Bill passed by Lok Sabha; Anna Hazare celebrates (19)

The Lokpal Bill, passed Tuesday by the Rajya Sabha, was also passed by Lok Sabha today with clear majority on Wednesday. The Samajwadi Party opted to walk out of the House in protest over its passage. “No clerk will sign any files… there will be anarchy and no work will get done,” claims Mulayam Singh Yadav. “In a democracy, the people’s representatives are supreme.This bill will allow a cop to come and heckle us.” It will now be sent to the President for his approval. Anna Hazare who had been fasting for a stronger anti-corruption bill, celebrated the passage. A satisfied Hazare breaks his fast.  He has thanked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his “commitment” towards the passage of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament. “All parties who supported this Lokpal Bill for the benefit of the society and the country, I thank them,” he said in an address at  his fast venue in Ralegan Siddhi. “The poor will get justice. 40-50% of the corruption can be controlled through this Bill,” claimed Hazare. “Lokpal must now become a law before the Lok Sabha elections,” he urged. “We will form a watchdog body to oversee enforcement of the Lokpal law.” “The country awaits a strong Lokpal,” Hazare had said in a letter to Rahul. Hazare said, “I accept it completely. The Bill will help the poor people of this country.” (DNA 18/12/13)

 

55. Bill to reduce stamp duty for women introduced in Himachal Pradesh (19)

Dharamshala: Himachal government on Wednesday introduced a bill which provides reduced stamp duty for women in the state, a move seen to encourage registration of land in the name of women. Himachal Revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur introduced the Indian Stamp Himachal Pradesh (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the Assembly seeking to amend clause 23 of Indian Stamp Act 1899 to provide for reduced stamp duty for women. The Bill seeks to reduce the stamp duty for women from 5% to 4% and from 5% to 6% for men. Another bill, seeking to curtail the powers of Commandant General Home Guards to make recruitments was also introduced by the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. The bill  Entitled as HP Home Guards (amendment) bill, makes it mandatory for the CG Home Guards, Himachal, to seek prior approval from the government while making any recruitments. While there was a opposition from the BJP, including former Chief Minister P K Dhumal, the bill was later passed by a voice vote. (DNA 18/12/13)

 

56. PIL in HC against road blocks during marathons (19)

Ahmedabad: Challenging the authorities’ step to block large portions of city roads during events like marathon and cyclothon, an Ahmedabad-based human rights organisation has moved a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Gujarat High Court (HC). With that, the petitioner demanded a direction to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to change its plans for the upcoming marathon and cyclothon scheduled on January 5 and January 19 respectively. Acting on the PIL, a division bench, comprising Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala, has asked AMC’s counsel to get the related instructions. The court kept the case for further hearing on Friday. According to petitioner Yogkshem Foundation for Human Dignity, the AMC has planned marathon on January 5 and cyclothon on Janaury 19. Citing the previous instance of a cyclothon in the city on January 27 this year, the petitioner has stated that AMC, with help of the Ahmedabad city police, had blocked key city roads, stretching over 105 km, from 6 am to 1 pm, causing immense difficulties to the people of Ahmedabad. Many missed their flights, while ailing people failed to get to hospitals in time, and students missed their exam timings. The petitioner stated that the AMC authorities have planned such events this year as well with plans similar to the previous. The authorities have also not replied in clear terms to the petitioner’s letters, asking the former to address the road blockage issue, it said, adding that this is in clear violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Ahmedabad as they will be barred from using some key roads for around 7 hours each day. The petitioner has also demanded that the AMC be directed to either hold the events in places like stadiums or the Sabarmati Riverfront or they be organised in such a manner that one stretch of any road is reserved for the event while the rest is kept open for public traffic. (Indian Express 20/12/13)

 

57. Changing Sec 377 Requires Political, Not Judicial, Will (19)

The Indian lawmakers seem to have abdicated their constitutional responsibility by not accepting the Supreme Court’s suggestion that Parliament should change Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code if it thought decriminalising same-sex relationships by consenting adults was good for society. Instead of doing so, as Congress President had promised in her first reaction to the Supreme Court’s verdict on the provision, it has tried to shoot from the apex court’s shoulders by filing a review petition. The Supreme Court’s judgment is quite clear. It did not find Section 377, which makes sex against the order of nature a punishable offence, unconstitutional. After all, it has been on the statute book for over a century. What it struck down was the Delhi High Court’s verdict which decriminalised gay sex. In doing so, it made it abundantly clear that it was for Parliament to decide whether the law should be retained or not. The history of criminal law enforcing social norms is complex. Many social norms that the law tolerated in the past have been declared punishable offences. Others that were once considered abhorrent are getting legitimised. The final call as to how the law should be shaped should be with the legislature and not the judiciary. That is exactly what the government wants to avoid.  Whatever be the stand of a section of our Westernised liberal elite on homosexuality, a large majority of the people in India consider it abominable and against the ethos of Indian culture. Most religious organisations and some political parties such as the BJP are opposed to any tinkering with Section 377. Even in the ruling Congress, a large section is opposed to decriminalisation of gay sex. The voices for legalising consensual homosexuality are not new. When they got loud enough in the 1960s, the government had referred the issue to the Law Commission. In its report to the government on June 2, 1971, the commission said: “It appears to us that, in the highly controversial field, the only safe guide is what would be acceptable to the community. We are inclined to think that Indian society, by and large, disapproves of homosexuality and is strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offence even where adults indulge in it in private.” The commission had recommended that the punishment for offences under Section 377 be reduced to a maximum of two years. Successive governments slept over this recommendation. This view started changing gradually. In its 172nd report dated March 25, 2000, the commission recommended changes in Section 375, IPC and scrapping of Section 377.  “In the light of the change effected by us in Section 375 IPC, we are of the opinion that Section 377 deserves to be deleted. After the changes effected by us in the preceding provisions (Sections 375 to 376E), the only content left in Section 377 is having voluntary carnal intercourse with any animal. We may leave such persons to their just deserts.” The fact that successive governments have failed to change Section 377 for 13 years after the Law Commission’s categorical recommendation only highlights their lack of political will. The Supreme Court can’t be faulted  for believing that this shows that “Parliament, which is undisputedly the representative body of the people of India, has not thought it proper to delete the provision”.  Such a conclusion is only strengthened by the ruling Congress party’s reluctance to push a bill deleting Section 377 IPC in Winter Session of Parliament. (New Indian Express 22/12/13)

 

58. Cabinet nod for constitutional status to proposed judicial appointments commission (19)

NEW DELHI: Amid demands by jurists and BJP, government on Thursday gave the go ahead to grant constitutional status to a proposed commission for appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary to ensure that its composition cannot be altered through an ordinary legislation. A parliamentary standing committee which examined the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill, 2013 had also made a similar recommendation. There were demands that the composition as well as the functions of the proposed judicial appointments commission should be mentioned in the Constitution as a safeguard against future changes. The decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting held here on Thursday. According to the proposal, while new Article 124 A of the Constitution will define the composition of JAC, Article 124 B will define its functions. At present, the composition of the proposed panel is defined in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013 which was introduced along with a separate constitutional amendment bill in Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session. The constitutional amendment bill says there will be a JAC but does not say it will be headed by the CJI or mentions the composition. While the constitutional amendment bill — an enabling bill — was passed by the Upper House, the main bill — the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013 — was referred to the standing committee. The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill defines the establishment of the proposed body to recommend appointment and transfer of judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts. “We have made compromises to make the bill palatable to all. We have satisfied all demands … The bill with official amendments will be tabled in the Lok Sabha now,” law minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here. While a constitutional amendment bill requires two-third majority for passage in a House, a normal legislation just needs a simple majority. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

59. Hindu married to non-Hindu can’t get divorce under Hindu Marriage Act (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has held that a Hindu married to a non-Hindu in accordance with Hindu rituals cannot seek divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. Accordingly, a bench headed by Justice VK Tahilramani upheld a family court order which rejected a petition filed by Niranjani Roshan Rao, a Hindu, seeking divorce from husband Roshan Pinto on the ground that he was a Christian at the time of marriage and was professing the same religion till today. As the family court rejected her petition, she moved the high court, which, on December 24, rejected her appeal and upheld the lower court order. “We are of the view that an order passed by the learned judge of the family court is perfectly legal and calls for no interference in exercise of appellate jurisdiction,” said the bench while dismissing the appeal. The appellant had filed the petition in family court seeking a decree of nullity of marriage and alternatively claimed divorce on the grounds of cruelty. She said, on January 13, 1999, she was married to respondent as per Hindu rituals. At the time of marriage, she was a Hindu while the respondent was a Christian. After their marriage, they continued to profess their respective religions. Even at the time of filing of the petition, they continue to practice and follow their respective religions. The appellant-wife argued that their marriage was null and void as it was in contravention of essential condition of valid marriage provided under section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, i.e. both the partners should be Hindus at the time of marriage. The family court rejected the petition in exercise of powers under Order 7 Rule 11 of CPC, as the petition did not disclose any triable cause of action. In other words, the family court said the petitioner had no right to file such a petition under the Hindu Marriage Act and as such cannot seek any relief. Both were not Hindus at the time of marriage and hence do not fulfill the conditions laid down under the act. The high court observed that the appellant herself has stated that the respondent was not a Hindu at the time of marriage or thereafter. “If this condition is not fulfilled and there was no contravention of provisions under Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the family court was right in saying that she had no right to file such a petition”, the bench said. Moreover, provisions of Hindu Marriage Act can be applied in cases when both the spouses were Hindus and their marriage is performed as per Hindu rites and rituals, the judges said. (Times of India 28/12/13)

 

Posted by admin at 27 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

TRAFFICKING

1. Engineer held for human trafficking (1)

NEW DELHI: A major interstate trafficking racket has been busted and four traffickers—three women and an engineer—arrested. Two of the four persons trafficked, whose inputs are available with police, have been rescued. “Radha (30) was arrested from Meerut and Sonia arrested from Kotla Mubarakpur in south Delhi. Sapna Gaur (25) and Gaurav Gaur, who has a degree from Punjab Technical University, have been arrested from Patel Nagar in west Delhi,” said a senior official with the anti-human trafficking unit. A West Bengal CID team led by Sharbari Bhattacharya and NGO Shakti Vahini began operations on Friday. One of the rescued persons, who is just 15 years old, managed to call up her parents from Meerut using a mobile phone belonging to one of her customers. They gave her the number of a police officer from the anti-human trafficking unit to whom she narrated her ordeal. “On Friday, Delhi Police and our team rushed there and rescued her with help of local police,” Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini said. The girl was brought to Delhi and she gave police several leads. A raid was carried out and Sonia was arrested. Police then began to work on another input about a young woman holed up in G B Road. On Tuesday afternoon, a trap was laid in Patel Nagar in which a decoy was to hand over a girl to a pimp. Sapna and Gaurav were the arrested and they spilled the beans regarding the whereabouts of the woman in G B Road. A raid was conducted with help of Kamla Market police and she was rescued. While the teenager was traded for Rs 40,000 to the traffickers, Sapna and Gaurav received Rs 60,000 for this woman who was also from West Bengal and was 23 years of age. During interrogations, the Gaurs revealed the two were part of a deal arranged by their contacts in Kolkata. They were supposed to get a third woman as part of this deal. Members of the NGO added that the teenager was traded to Sonia who took her to Meerut and gave her to Radha, who runs a brothel there. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old was kept in the Patel Nagar house of the Gaurs for a few days before being taken to the brothel in G B Road. “I was made to do housework during my stay at their house since Sapna was pregnant at that time. I would be beaten and made to drink beer by Gaurav if I refused,” she said in her complaint to police. Two more contacts, identified as Rajesh and Anuradha Sardar, were arrested in Kolkata a few days ago and they had provided police with tips regarding the network. The 15-year-old had fallen in love with Raja(24) who was from her village in Khargachi in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas. He had promised to marry her saying he worked at a big firm in the capital. “I was attracted by the way he carried himself and the promises he made,” she said. The girl said her father owned a small business and her mother was a housewife. They both trusted Raja and let her accompany him to Delhi. But Raja, who had trapped and trafficked at least 50 girls and women from the state, left her in the hands of the Gaurs in July and disappeared. Sapna would thrash her whenever she asked to go home. “You have been sold here and you cannot speak of it,” she said. She said that a few days later she was sent off to Meerut where she was sexually abused. (Times of India 11/12/13)

 

2. Four arrested for trafficking minor girl (1)

New Delhi: After rescuing a 15-year-old girl, a team from the West Bengal Anti Human Trafficking Unit has busted a trafficking and prostitution racket being run between Bengal, Delhi and Meerut. Between Sunday and Tuesday, raids were conducted in Meerut and Delhi and four persons were arrested. Two women, including the 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped eight months ago, have been rescued. According to Rishikant of the NGO Shaktivahini, the girl had contacted her family in Bengal through a mobile phone several days ago. Police said she told her family members that a man from the village had forcibly brought her to Delhi after luring her with the promise of ice-cream. From Delhi, she was sent to Meerut and kept in a brothel. Policemen from Bengal and Delhi Police conducted a raid in the Kotla Mubarakpur area of South Delhi on Monday arrested a woman. The woman confessed that the “main traffickers” were an IT engineer living in Patel Nagar and his wife, who had allegedly worked in GB Road brothels before her marriage. On the basis of the information, police personnel posed as customers and contacted the accused in Patel Nagar. The decoy team asked the couple to meet at the Shadipur Metro station, and arrested them from the spot. A 23-year-old girl was also rescued from a house in Patel Nagar after the couple’s arrest. “We believe that we have broken a trafficking ring and are confident that more arrests will be made soon,” a member of the West Bengal police team said. According to sources, the rescued girls have informed them about other kidnapped women. Police are trying to rescue them. (Indian Express 12/12/13)

 

3. Four arrested for trafficking minor girl (1)

New DelhiL: After rescuing a 15-year-old girl, a team from the West Bengal Anti Human Trafficking Unit has busted a trafficking and prostitution racket being run between Bengal, Delhi and Meerut. Between Sunday and Tuesday, raids were conducted in Meerut and Delhi and four persons were arrested. Two women, including the 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped eight months ago, have been rescued. According to Rishikant of the NGO Shaktivahini, the girl had contacted her family in Bengal through a mobile phone several days ago. Police said she told her family members that a man from the village had forcibly brought her to Delhi after luring her with the promise of ice-cream. From Delhi, she was sent to Meerut and kept in a brothel. Policemen from Bengal and Delhi Police conducted a raid in the Kotla Mubarakpur area of South Delhi on Monday arrested a woman. The woman confessed that the “main traffickers” were an IT engineer living in Patel Nagar and his wife, who had allegedly worked in GB Road brothels before her marriage. On the basis of the information, police personnel posed as customers and contacted the accused in Patel Nagar. The decoy team asked the couple to meet at the Shadipur Metro station, and arrested them from the spot. A 23-year-old girl was also rescued from a house in Patel Nagar after the couple’s arrest. “We believe that we have broken a trafficking ring and are confident that more arrests will be made soon,” a member of the West Bengal police team said. According to sources, the rescued girls have informed them about other kidnapped women. Police are trying to rescue them. (New Indian Express 19/12/13)

 

4. ‘Abject poverty root cause of women trafficking’ (1)

Bhubaneswar: The incidences of women trafficking and subsequent exploitation are shockingly increasing, and this social menace has to be wiped out from the society, several noted persons strongly contended here on Friday. “In most of the times, financial instability forces a woman to get involved in certain things completely unacceptable to the society. The problem of women trafficking and exploitation has assumed an alarming proportion in our country,” lamented Advocated General Ashok Mohanty while addressing a State-level consultation on “Breaking the trafficking and prostitution Chain: call for united action”. Mohanty said the root cause of such growing menace is abject poverty. In districts like Sundargarh and Phulbani, many families are unable to meet their daily requirements, and hence arranging a marriage for their grownup daughters are a dream for them. Being lured by some agencies, they opt to be hired for domestic help and subsequently get exploited, he pointed out. DGP Prakash Mishra said there has been enormous pressure on police to handle the menace sternly. He said extra manpower in police is required to make some impact as early as possible. Besides, he called upon the general public to cooperate the police. According to the CBI, there are three million women and girls trapped in prostitution in the country, of which 1.4 million are girls. On the situation in Odisha, Institute of Social Development (ISD) director Subhashree Das said cases of women trafficking have gone up in the State. In the name of marriage and job assurance, women and girls are being trafficked to places mostly like Mumbai, Delhi and Punjab via West Bengal. Districts like Baleswar, Malkanagiri, Nayagarh, Kendrapada, Ganjam, Koraput, Puri, Nabarangpur and Rayagada are the most affected in this regard, she added. The consultation was organised by national anti-trafficking NGO Apne Aap Women Worldwide (AAWW) in collaboration with the ISD. Among others, member of State Women Commissioner Snigdha Panigrahi, AAWW director Abhilasha Kumari and ISD president Namrata Chadha spoke.  (Pioneer 21/12/13)
5. NCW recommends special legislation against human trafficking (1)

NEW DELHI: NCW has recommended drafting of a special legislation against human trafficking which includes the UN definition of the crime, besides setting up of a central nodal authority to curb all such activities. Taking note of increasing cases of human trafficking in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the National Commission of Women (NCW) has sent a list of recommendations to the ministries of Home Affairs and Labour to prevent such crimes. It has recommended drafting of a special legislation to combat human trafficking, especially that of women and children, by including its definition as per Article 3 of UN Convention 2000 and protocol with the term “abuse of position of vulnerability”, which is missing in Section 370 of the IPC. The body also recommended extending the jurisdiction clause for any offence or contravention of human trafficking committed outside India. NCW’s inquiry committee said the special act should also have a provision for police training and information exchange by law enforcement, immigration or other relevant authorities. The training should focus on methods used in preventing such cases and protecting the rights of the victims along with stepping up of security and control of identity documents. The committee also suggested setting up of a National Nodal Authority to coordinate all anti-human trafficking activities and said steps need to be taken to ensure that the issues of missing persons are linked up with trafficking. In its recommendation to labour ministry, NCW said a national policy for domestic workers needs to formulated which ensures their rights, including maternity benefits, can be exercised comprehensively. (Times of India 22/12/13)

 

6. 7 agents booked for labour trafficking (1)

Bhubaneswar: Five of the seven persons involved in illegal trafficking of labourers through Nuapada district on Thursday and Friday have past records of similar crime. Police on Saturday said they have continued manhunt after the labour department lodged a complaint on Friday. The seven persons booked for trafficking are Bali Rana, Dinesh Sahu, Budhankar Sahu, Nilakantha Chandrakar, Kruparam Chandrakar, Mukesh Chandrakar and Tolly Sahu. Except Dinesh and Tolly, the rest five were earlier arrested for their alleged involvement in trafficking of workers in October 2012, Khariar Road police station IIC J K Patnaik said. Trial is on in the case and the accused are out on bail, he said. All the seven agents are natives of Nuapada district while the workers trafficked were from Bargarh and Nuapada districts of Odisha and neighbouring Chhattisgarh. Police have registered a case under Section 374 (unlawful compulsory labour) and Section 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc) and Section 34 of the IPC. The labour department, meanwhile, has found that all the 619 workers had reached their native places. After 333 of the group were trapped for a second time by labour agents, there was apprehension about whereabouts of others. “It was found that the 333, who were re-captured were those who stayed at Khariar Road till late on Thursday for verification. Others had left for their native places by then,” said district labour officer Niranjan Kumura. He said the government has kept a strict vigil on the transit points as the agents may try to re-send the workers as they have already received part payment for sending them to Uttar Pradesh. (Times of India 23/12/13)

 

7. Indian-origin man jailed for UK sham marriage (1)

London: An Indian origin man was among a gang of five people jailed for trafficking women into the UK, forcing them into prostitution and forcing one of them into a sham marriage to avoid immigration restrictions. Ramesh Mali, 31, was sentenced at the Wood Green Crown Court to two-and-a-half years after being convicted of being part of a conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration into the UK. Other members of the gang jailed were Sandor Jonas, Anita Viktoria Maule, Victor Maule and Chika Ike Michael. Scotland Yard said that the police were contacted earlier this year by a woman who stated that she had been trafficked into the UK from Hungary in March 2010 by an organised criminal network. Following inquiries by the police’s Human Trafficking Unit, those individuals were identified as Jonas, his girlfriend Anita Maule and her brother Victor. The victim was being forced to work as a prostitute at a massage parlour in London without being paid and being regularly beaten by Sandor in an attempt to keep her under his control. As part of her exploitation she was also forced into a sham marriage with Mali, and made to open a business and bank accounts in her name. Solicitor Ike-Michael assisted in arranging the sham marriage on behalf of the group. British police officers travelled to Hungary and identified a second victim of the gang who had been trafficked into the UK in 2005 and held until 2010. Detective constable Natalia Barrett said, “The defendants were part of a highly organised criminal network who deliberately targeted vulnerable young women in the hope they would be too scared to contact police, or if they did, would not be believed.” (Hindustan Times 24/12/13)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS  

8. Chhattisgarh Journalist’s Murder Flayed (1)

HYDERABAD: The Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has condemned the murder of senior journalist Sai Reddy in Chhattisgarh on Friday. Reddy, working for Hindi daily Deshbandhu, was hacked to death when he went to a market in Basaguda in Bijapur district on Friday.  Police suspect Maoists to be behind the incident. In February, another journalist Nemi Chand Jain was killed in Sukma district. In a press release here on Monday, Amar Devulapalli, secretary general of IJU, appealed to the Maoists to refrain from killing journalists on duty,  saying such acts would not serve their cause. (New Indian Express 10/12/13)

 

9. Diversity of opinion missing in media: Jaipal Reddy (1)

NEW DELHI: Union Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy on Tuesday rued the absence of diversity of opinion in Indian media despite the proliferation of media houses. While he did not favour government control of the media, self-regulation had not succeeded either, the Minister said addressing a function here after awarding the International Press Institute-India Award to television anchor Karan Thapar. Former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand also articulated concerns at commercialisation and sensationalisation, besides the growing absence of objectivity in reportage. According to Mr. Reddy, the media does not live up to the guiding principles of journalism — “comment is free, but facts are sacred” — laid down by the then Editor of The Guardian, C.P. Scott, over nine decades ago. He acknowledged that social media did provide some relief from the “stark uniformity of print and television media.” Lamenting the erosion of the role of the editor in a newspaper, the Minister said that while the other three pillars of democracy — executive, legislature and judiciary — might not be in the pink of health, they were in a better shape than the media. Justice Anand sought to drive home the fact that while freedom of the press was crucial, it should be used responsibly. Apart from dwelling on the abuse of the freedom by the media, he warned against the rise of fanaticism and intolerance. Referred to as “the hero of the day” by IPI-India chairman and Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ravi, “Devil’s Advocate” Karan Thapar acknowledged the contribution of his colleagues in his bagging the award. He joined the others in lamenting the state of the media. After an anecdotal flashback about his early days in journalism, Mr. Thapar admitted that today ratings were more important than content to Indian television channels. (The Hindu 11/12/13)

 

10. 71 journalists killed in 2013 around the world (1)

New Delhi: Asia topped the list with 24 deaths of newspersons in connection with their work, said the report by the international media group. Seventy-one journalists were killed across the world, including in India, in 2013, Reporters Without Borders said in a report Wednesday. Asia topped the list with 24 deaths of newspersons in connection with their work, said the report by the international media group. It said 39 percent of the deaths occurred in “conflict zones”, including Syria, Somalia, Mali, Pakistan’s Balochistan, Russia’s Dagestan and “the Indian province of Chhattisgarh”.It said the killings dropped by 20 percent in comparison to 2012 which witnessed 88 killings of newsmen. The Middle East and north Africa reported 23 deaths of journalists each, the report said. It said Syria, Somalia and Pakistan retained their position among the world’s five deadliest countries for the media. While 826 journalists were attacked, 2,160 were threatened or attacked in 2013. (DNA 18/12/13)

 

11. Scribes Threaten Boycott over Curbs at Assembly Media Point (1)

Hyderabad: Tension prevailed for some time at the Media Point on the state Assembly premises on Tuesday also, but this time for an altogether different reason. The place had seen elected people’s representatives from Telangana and Seemandhra almost coming to blows on Monday following Seemandhra MLAs tearing up  copies of the draft of the AP Reorganisation Bill, 2013 and some even burning it. Mediapersons staged a protest demonstration, vehemently condemning the curbs imposed on them at the Media Point.  Following  heated arguments between some journalists and legislators belonging to YSR Congress on Monday, police set up barricades dividing the place with the podium on one side and the platform for  camera crew on the other but without any place for mediapersons to sit and listen to what legislator would say there. Taking  a serious view of the restrictions, mediapesons almost decided to boycott and removed their cameras from the platform. After lunch, MLAs of different parties arrived at the place one by one, and condemned the curbs imposed on mediapersons at the Media Point and demanded that the speaker intervene and address the issue. The first to condemn the curbs were YSRCP MLAs led by B Karunakar Reddy. However, the MLAs on both sides of the divide, who went at one another’s jugular on Monday, were seen greeting one another near Media Point in a cordial manner and even sharing lighter moments. When the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting was concluded and the House got adjourned for the day, they waited in an informal queue to address the mediapersons. Since morning, MLAs of the opposition parties have chosen to confine their speeches to demanding commencement of the discussion on draft Telangana bill and criticise the ruling party for the way it  handled the whole affair of tabling an all- important bill in the House. Addressing mediapersons after the House got adjourned for the first time in the morning, Lok Satta Party legislator N Jayaprakash Narayan said that the draft bill was incomplete and said there was no explanation under the Financial Memorandum on the last page of the bill. He wondered why the Centre wanted the Assembly to discuss the incomplete bill blindly. TDP’s Errabelli Dayakar Rao said that Telangana bill was almost finalised and there was no turning back. He said his party president N Chandrababu Naidu was not against statehood for Telangana and had not spoken a word against it till date. Rao wanted the discussion on the bill  expedited. TDP MLAs Palle Raghunath Reddy and Linga Reddy said in the afternoon that they would not allow the discussion till a resolution on Samikyandra was moved. They said the draft bill was full of mistakes. Linga Reddy described it as work a of the leaders at the Centre who had no work following Italian formula. He went at length as to why the bll was not possible without constitutional amendments. TDP’s Galli Muddukrishnama Naidu and others said rules and regulations were being given a go-by in haste to see that the debate on bill was is completed post-haste. They  accused the chief minister of having a deal with AICC point man Digvijaya Singh and backstabbing the ‘United AP’ movement by keeping silent.  YSRC leaders, on the other hand, demanded that traditions and provisions that had been followed during creation of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh be adhered to. (New Indian Express 19/12/13)

 

12. ‘Media should be more responsive to kids’ rights’ (1)

Bhubaneswar: But child right is one of the most neglected issues. Child right issues were being given less priority even in the media. To make media more responsive in highlighting child right issues, a two-day media meet was organised by ‘Save the Children’ at Puri on December 13 and 14. Journalists from six eastern region States including West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Assam participated in this. Save the Children facilitators discussed on child right issues and media, guidelines for reporting on children, guidelines for reporting on children in conflict areas, methods and practices of interviewing children with participant journalists on the first day of the event. Short film ‘Champions of Resilience’ was applauded by the journalists. The following day, participant journalists visited Basudevpur village in Puri district to meet the child club members to understand the child participation in child rights governance process. “Children need media to be their voice to help them capture the attention of those people who can effect change in their lives. While, in recent times, there has been an increased coverage of child rights issues in the media, we at Save the Children are keen to partner with media across the country to support media persons with technical inputs, trainings and field visits so that the awareness of a wide ranging issues related to the education, health, protection and humanitarian assistance of children is increased. The regional media meet being held in Puri was focused on journalists from eastern India,” remarked Save the Children national manager Devendra Tak. (Pioneer 20/12/13)

 

13. DCB president tells scribes to ‘get out’ of board meeting (1)

Pune: Journalists covering the Dehu Road Cantonment Board area have sent a complaint against the board president to the Ministry of Defence, Press Council of India and the Southern Command for allegedly insulting them and violating the CantonmentAct. The complaint, sent two days ago by the Maharashtra Rajya Patrakar Sangh, has sought action against DCB president Brig S P Goswami and demanded that their “democratic rights being trampled by the board” be restored. Goswami has not been allowing scribes to attend the board meetings for last five-six months. Journalists have accused him of insulting them by asking them to “get out” from the December 10 meeting. The journalists argued that they have been attending monthly board meetings for years, but the “sudden and arbitrary decision” by the board president has baffled them. Somnath Deshkhar, president of the Maharashtra Rajya Patrakar Sangh, Pune unit, said, “On December 10, a delegation of around 20 journalists had gone to the board office to meet the president and submit a letter protesting against his refusal to allow them to attend board meetings since July. The president sent a message that the letter should be put in the postal box.” Deshkar said when they went to the meeting hall, the president shouted. “He said… andhar mat aana…get out from here,” said Deshkar. Photo journalists took snaps of Goswami gesturing them to get out. Another journalist Umesh Ovhal said it all began on July 25 when the board was supposed to discuss an illegal construction by a corporator whose suspension from DCB was on the agenda. “The president asked us to get out of the hall. From then on three meetings were held, but we have not been allowed,” he said. Journalist Mukund Parandwal said the board has cited Section 44 of the Cantonments Act, saying the president wanted to discuss some important topic, therefore, the journalists have been kept away. (Indian Express 21/12/13)

 

14. Advocates, media question arrest of Captain TV editor (1)

CHENNAI: A day after the midnight arrest of Captain TV’s news editor Dinesh Kumar on charges of harassment of a woman co-worker, questions are being raised about the manner in which he was arrested and if it was warranted. Lawyers and media representatives wonder if the allegations against the editor merited his sudden arrest in the wee hours following which he was charged with a non-bailable offence under section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998. The editor can file a plea for bail only on December 26 in a vacation court. The complainant was firm in her allegation that the treatment meted out to her by the editor, since she began working for the channel from October 2, was “inappropriate and unpardonable”. The woman said the editor repeatedly passed lewd remarks at her and she had warned him when it went “beyond tolerable limits”. Later, she had gone to meet the company managing director to discuss certain issues relating to her salary. “Perhaps, he thought I was complaining about him, because since then I was harassed at work. I even had to fight to get my salary, for November,” said the complainant, who stopped working for the channel on November 27. The police complaint said on her last day at work, the editor had thrown papers at her face as she had argued with him. “The management was unapproachable, so I gave a police complaint,” she said. The 26-year-old editor’s colleagues in Captain TV, a channel backed by the DMDK, say the Maduravoyal police foisted the case on him and planned his arrest. “The complaint was registered 20 days after the alleged incident. But, he was arrested without proper investigation. He can’t get bail for a week. This makes us believe the arrest is motivated,” said A Selvam, reporting team in-charge, Captain TV. On December 2, Dinesh Kumar had spearheaded a protest in front of the Maduravoyal police station, demanding action against a group that assaulted three employees of the channel. “There was no specific reason for a midnight arrest. We have investigated and gathered details,” Senthil Kumaran, assistant commissioner of police, Koyambedu. “The arrest has a political motive aimed at Vijayakanth”, said Nakheeran editor R Gopal. “Such midnight arrests are not uncommon under the AIADMK regime,” said Gopal. A Kumaresan editor of CPM organ Theekathir said the publication stood for justice for women, but, at the same time police action must be genuine. “Police could have summoned him in the morning. The speed with which he was arrested and remanded is questionable,” said Kumaresan. “The incident should not raise doubts about harassment complaints when women are only now coming forward to report.” “The midnight arrest was definitely unjustifiable. He could have been arrested after an enquiry, as only investigations will reveal what has transpired in this delicate issue,” said K Vaidyanathan, editor of Dinamani. “Unless, there was a possibility of the accused tampering with evidence or fleeing, the situation does not warrant custodial investigation,” said advocate Sudha Ramalingam. “It’s heartening to see that the police have taken a complaint against a senior media person seriously. But the situation does not warrant a midnight arrest,” she said. (Times of India 24/12/13)

 

15. PUDR condemns killing of journalist (1)

Raipur: The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) condemned Wednesday the killing of journalist Sai Reddy by Maoists in Bijapur district of Bastar region earlier this month. In a statement, the PUDR slammed the subsequent admission by Maoists that Reddy was killed because he “played an active role against the people’s movement in Basaguda and Usur in the last two decades”.PUDR secretaries Asish Gupta and D Manjit noted: “Ironically, Sai Reddy not only wrote against Salwa Judum but was arrested by the police in 2008 and charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act for allegedly being a Maoist supporter. “PUDR is convinced that the death sentence meted out by CPI (Maoist) cannot be defended because all death sentences are arbitrary, subjective and irrevocable.” The PUDR also noted that in February, Maoists had killed another Bastar-based journalist Nemichand Jain in Sukma, and later apologised for the killing saying it was “a miscalculation and result of narrow-mindedness of the lower committee”.”Such an apology falls short of the obligation that all sides in an armed conflict have towards civilians in general and journalists, doctors, teachers and other non-combatants. First, an apology after killing does not necessarily commit the Party (CPI-Maoist) to put a stop to carrying out death sentences, as evident from the more recent killing of Sai Reddy. The irrevocability and finality associated with a death sentence apart, as seen in Nemichand’s killing, such conduct is in defiance of humanitarian laws that govern armed conflicts/wars,” the PUDR statement said. Highlighting the growing indiscipline in the CPI (Maoist), the PUDR questioned whether the rebels are serious about implementing their own constitution. “The killings were carried out without complying with the provision of their own constitution which obliges the local committee under Article 5(h) of the ‘policy programme of Revolutionary People’s Committees’ to seek approval of higher instance,” the statement noted. (Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

CORRUPTION

16. CPI (M) demands CBI probe into Saradha scam (5)

New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Saradha scam in West Bengal, saying probe by state agencies would not be impartial as top Trinamool Congress leaders have been named in the ponzi scandal by their party MP Kunal Ghosh, currently under arrest. “Since top Trinamool Congress leaders, including the chief minister, have been named by Ghosh, it would not be proper if the inquiry is done by state government agencies. The probe will not be impartial. That is why we are demanding a CBI probe under Supreme Court’s supervision,” senior CPI (M) leader Basudeb Acharia told reporters here. “It is quite surprising that when (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee was in opposition, she used to demand CBI probe on the drop of a hat, even on a small incident. Why is she so afraid of CBI probe now,” he asked. Mr. Acharia said the demand for such a probe was also justified as the scam had “extended to several other states including Assam, Odisha, Tripura and Bihar. Governments of Odisha and Tripura have already recommended CBI probe”. “No action has been taken by the state government in the past six months since the scam surfaced nor have Saradha’s properties been confiscated,” he said, adding that over 20 lakh small depositors have been hit hard. “The money, hard-earned savings of the poor, has been looted by some political leaders. The state government should compensate these depositors by confiscating Saradha properties and auctioning them, but not through the public exchequer,” he said, giving the example of a similar scam during the Left Front rule earlier when the state government had taken over the properties and auctioned them to pay off the victims. Suspended Trinamool MP Ghosh, CEO of Saradha Group’s media arm, was arrested on November 23 in Kolkata in connection with the scam and charged with cheating and conspiracy. Earlier, CPI (M) leaders had said that more time was being given to the Saradha chit fund company by the state government “to siphon off its assets and relocate them”. They had also said the CBI could be asked by the courts to take up the issue for investigation or it could take up the matter on its own also. The CPI (M) leaders have earlier met the President, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister and submitted detailed memoranda on the issue. (The Hindu 10/12/13)

 

17. Court relieves 3 ex-Army officers in Coffin scam (5)

New Delhi: A city court on Wednesday discharged three former Army officers, who were chargesheeted by the CBI in the 2002 ‘coffin scam’ of Kargil war, citing lack of evidence. Special CBI Judge Poonam Bamba let off the then military attaché in the Indian Embassy in the US, Major General (retd) Arun Roye, Col (retd) SK Malik, the then Col. — FB Singh — as the court did not find prima facie evidence to proceed against them in the case. The CBI had filed the charge sheet in August 2009 against four persons, including US-based private person Victor Baiza, the vendor who had supplied the casket. Baiza, the then President of Buitron and Baiza caskets and Funerals Supplies, did not appear before the court here. The CBI had not named the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, who had come under the scanner following allegations that poor quality of aluminium caskets were bought from the USA at “exorbitant rates” after the Kargil war. During the arguments in the court, advocate Pramod K Dubey who appeared for Roye, had contended that his client had never dealt with Baiza personally and had no role to play in the purchase of the caskets. Similarly, the other accused had also denied the charges levelled against them by the CBI. The Government had in June 2005 asked the CBI to conduct a thorough investigation in the case and the agency had lodged a case on June 28, 2006 under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) of the IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The agency, in its charge sheet, had alleged that accused along with other unknown persons had abused their official position, and had “cheated and defrauded” the public exchequer by way of purchase of sub-standard aluminium caskets and body bags from an unapproved US-based vendor Buitron and Baiza at exorbitant rates. The CBI had alleged that accused subverted the procedure of “procurement and thereby caused a wrongful loss to the tune of $1,87,000 (Rs 89.76 lakh) to the Government of India and corresponding wrongful gain to the foreign supplier.” (Pioneer 12/12/13)

 

18. Adarsh scam report tabled in Maharashtra assembly after cabinet rejects it, BJP cries foul (5)

Mumbai: A two-member judicial panel’s report, which pointed to involvement of politicians and bureaucrats in Adarsh housing scam and was rejected by the cabinet for exactly these reasons, was tabled in Maharashtra assembly on Friday. The two-member judicial commission had in the report said the 31-storey tower in Colaba enjoyed political patronage of four former chief ministers of Congress—late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ashok Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar—and two NCP leaders Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope. It has further indicted Chavan, former Speaker of state assembly Babasaheb Kupekar and five others for quid pro quo while granting various permissions  to the society in exchange of flats in the society. The commission has also taken very strong view of the `benami’ (shell) owners of 22 flats in Adarsh and has asked the government to probe the same. These include nine flats financed by a company owned by Abhay Sancheti, brother of a BJP MP. It said out of the 102 approved members of Adarsh, 25 were ineligible, including the one owned by the Indian diplomat currently in the eye of the storm, Devyani Khobragade. The commission also indicted 12 bureaucrats including former secretary to chief minister Subhash Lalla, former urban development secretary Ramanand Tiwari and former chief secretary DK Sankaran for violation of service conduct rules.  The Maharashtra government, however, rejected the findings in the final report of the commission saying it did not agree with the same. It, however, accepted the first report of the commission tabled in the assembly in April, which concluded that the controversial plot of land under Adarsh belonged to the state government and not the ministry of defence. It also said that the land in question or membership of Adarsh was not reserved for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan tabled the report in the state legislature after his cabinet decided to reject the final report of the commission. The Bharatiya Janata Party accused the government of shielding those who had a hand in the scam. “The JPC buried the 2G scandal. The Maharashtra cabinet buries the Adarsh fraud. Can truth be ever buried?” tweeted leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley. Minutes after the report was tabled, the entire Opposition stormed into the well of the House, demanding a discussion on it, but speaker Dilip Walse Patil rejected their plea citing House rules. Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse wanted to know why there was no talk about the commission’s interim report. He also sought explanation from the government on newspaper reports that governor K Sankarnarayanan has denied permission to CBI to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who has been chargesheeted by the agency. CBI is conducting a separate probe into the scam which came to light in 2010 when Chavan was the CM. The report deals with 11 terms of reference largely revolving around the legality of the sanctions given to the 31-storey tower and the role of bureaucrats and politicians in this. The Adarsh scam had grabbed national headlines after it came to light that politicians, bureaucrats and senior army officials colluded to corner flats in this Colaba tower, originally meant for army officers, war heroes and widows. In 2010, then chief minister Ashok Chavan had to step down from the top job after it was revealed that his relatives owned three flats in this tower. His predecessors late Vilasrao Deshmukh and Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde were also under scanner in this scam. There are at least 12 senior bureaucrats who owned flats in the tower out of which five were named in the FIR by the CBI. The final report of the two member judicial commission led by justice (retired) JA Patil has looked into the following 11 issues… (Hindustan Times 20/12/13)

 

19. Andhra Pradesh cops to snoop on corrupt like CBI (5)

Hyderabad: A team from the Anti Corruption Bureau led by an officer of the rank of deputy inspector-general of police is visiting the Central Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Delhi to study the methods of the premier investigating agency. ACB director-general A.K. Khan said that the team will study the gadgets and equipment used by the CBI’s anti corruption wing as well as their method of keeping tabs on corrupt officials. The ACB will be training the chief vigilance and vigilance officials of various state government departments to spot corrupt practices within the departments. Khan explained that this will ensure that there is “strict vigil at the first level and we will be stepping in wherever needed.” The ACB has been using voice recorders and video spy cameras to nab corrupt public servants. This year the ACB has caught a record 300 corrupt officials accepting bribes. Khan said more surprise checks will be conducted across the state. e said that in the case of personnel booked for corruption for the second time, as in the case of raids at the RTA checkposts recently, the supervisory officers will also be booked.

The ACB had recently conducted searches in seven districts and unaccounted cash of more than Rs. 10 lakh was recovered from these places. The RTA, forest, excise, commercial taxes and other department officials at check-posts have been found giving free passage to inter-state transport of goods without checking if they have valid commercial tax payment receipts. (Asian Age 23/12/13)

 

20. Irked Anna writes open letter on babu transfers (5)

The anti corruption crusader Anna Hazare has warned the state government against trying to retain ministers’ powers to transfer officials. He has published an open letter saying that if the state government tries to amend the law on transfers, he will start a statewide protest against the government. The state government had passed the “Maharashtra Govern-ment Servants’ Regulation of Transfers & Prevention of Delays in Discharge of Official Duties Act 2005” in 2006. The aim of the bill is to prevent corruption in transfer of officers, state government employees falling under category A, B and C. In his letter Mr Hazare has mentioned that there was huge corruption in transfer cases and some of the honest officers have become victims of irregular transfers as they refused to abide by the corrupt practices. Hence, the law of transfer was drafted and passed by the state legislature in 2006. The law has been enacted after eight years of continuous demands and protests. “Now some of the ministers of the state want to amend the rule only for their personal interest. Ministers are pressurising that the law be amended,” said Mr Hazare in his letter. The rule of transfer has stated that for all IAS officers and Group A, B and C state government employees, the normal tenure of posting is three years. The chief minister has the authority to transfer IAS officers. The minister of the department that the officer belongs to has the power to transfer class B and class C officers on the condition that he consults with the secretary of the appropriate department. However, there are hushed whispers that the state is mulling amending the three-year tenure to two. According to Mr Hazare, the state is under pressure from the ministers to amend the rules. “If the state government does it, I will protest across the state,” Mr Hazare has written. Bhavesh Patel, convener of Bhrashtachar Virodhi Janandolan, Mr Hazare’s outfit to fight corruption said, “Annaji was shocked to hear this news of amendment in the transfer act which will transfer the power of transfers to the ministers’ hands. So, Anna is going to dash off a letter to the chief minister and chief secretary,” adding, “If the transfer powers go into the ministers’ hands, it will be a big setback in the fight against corruption. Transfers will be made based on the convenience of ministers and honest officers will be punished.” (Asin Age 26/12/13)

 

21. ‘AAP determined to pass Jan Lokpal Bill in 15 days’ (5)

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister designate Arvind Kejriwal today said corruption was a big issue for his Party and his government, to be sworn-in on December 28, was determined  to introduce and pass a Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days. Asked whether it would be difficult for him to pass a  Jan Lokpal Bill within the next 15 days, he told reporters  that the Delhi State Assembly had the right to pass all  laws except those which may come in conflict with Central  laws. He said Transaction of Business Rules was amended in 2002  to ensure that all state governments would have to take the Centre’s permission to pass any law which was wrong. During British rule, all administrative decisions had to be sent to London for approval, he said.     ‘’We are now an independent country and do not have  to follow this,’’ he added. He said there were hurdles in the process but expressed determination that AAP would tackle all issues and pass  the bill. He, however, admitted that the AAP did not have  answers to all the issues but said that the AAP would  work with the people.  ‘’…Common man has all the answers…,’’ he said. (Central Chronicle 26/12/13)

 

WOMEN

22. Anti-dowry event gets huge response (8)

HYDERABAD: Lending support to a noble cause, scores of youngsters attended an event held in the city aimed at discouraging the practice of dowry. Unmarried prospective brides and grooms from various walks of life interacted with each other and discussed the evils associated with the dowry practice and vowed to fight against this system. Parents, citizens and activists were also participated in the “idontwantdowry” event. The organizers expressed their happiness over the huge response to the event. “We have been organizing this event for the past eight years. However, the response this year has been tremendous and we are hoping more number of people will participate in this event next year around,” said Satya Naresh, founder of idontwantdowry.com.  ”This response only shows that people are not slowly shunning away this evil practice which has been a part of the society for a long time. We were surprised to see there was more number of guys than girls in this event.” The members who attended said there was need for more such initiatives. “When I heard of this event, I immediately registered myself because I was always against dowry. It was nice to meet people who share the same views. I hope to find a partner through this event,” said a 31-year-old working professional. The accompanying parents too took to stage to express their feelings. “We have been trying to get my daughter married for three years now. It has been struggle despite of the fact that my daughter is well educated. The reason being almost every prospective match we met demanded huge dowry. We are lower middle class family and this experience made me feel that poor families cannot marry off their daughters,” said a senior citizen at the event. (Times of India 9/12/13)

 

23. ‘State govt is unable to protect rights of women’ (8)

KANPUR: International Human Rights day was marked by several processions, meetings and communal gatherings here in city on Tuesday. Both the residents and NGOs expressed their dismay on rising crime cases in UP and poor law and order management of the government. In the series of events, a procession along with protest was taken out from Shikshak Park area on Tuesday. Taken out by members of Akhil Bharitiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti, the procession traveled through the areas like District court, Collectorate and VIP Road. Lead by former MP, Subhashini Ali, the procession attracted the locals and passerby. The women raised slogans against government as for them the state government failed to protect rights of women and even of the weaker sections of the society. The members in the procession laid special emphasis in checking female foeticide, which is rising with every passing day. Holding banners and placards in hands women tried to make people aware against female foeticide. “The common man has no safe environment to live. We are only struggling for survival, especially women and people in power are enjoying. This is high time to check it,” said a member of Akhil Bharitiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti. Meanwhile several students along with locals actively participated in Dharna observed on World Human Rights Day at Phoolbagh. The dharna was staged under the banner of Manav Insaaf Sanstha. The participants of dharna rued over the deteriorating condition of social and political values in the country. “Today a child is victim of sexual abuse, torture, war, violence, poverty, bonded labour, deprivation and denial. The only way to help younger generation is to give a proper framework of human rights,” said Anuj Kumar, a volunteer of Manav Insaaf Sanstha. In an another event, female members of Akhil Bharitiya Pragatishel Mahila association, also staged dharna at Bada Chauraha. “It is ironical that in this age and time when humanity has made great strides in the technological, medical and scientific fields for adding to the comfort of living, we witness an almost total neglect of the rights of the people,” said Shanti Devi, a demonstrator. Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December. The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations. (Times of India 11/12/13)

 

24. Dowry is Social Anathema, Must be Dealt with Firmly: SC (8)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today expressed concern over growing dowry culture in the society saying it isa “social malaise” which must be dealt with firmly. Holding dowry as a disgraceful and distressing reality, a bench of justices T S Thakur and Vikramajit Sen at the same time also said the penal provision against dowry harassment is being abused. “Judges cannot be blind to the disgraceful and distressing reality vis-a-vis dowry, which prevails in some sections of our society. What we find extremely disconcerting is that this social malaise is spreading amongst all religious communities. The demand of dowry is a social anathema, which must be dealt with firmly,” it said. The bench also said that courts should not quash proceedings on a complaint of a woman in dowry harassment case merely on the ground of delay in filing the case. It said the bride endures the ill treatment and taunts knowing that the marriage would be undermined and jeopardised by running to the police station. “It would be idle and in fact illogical to contend that law expects that on the first demand of dowry, prosecution under Section 498-A (harassment by husband or in-laws) has to be commenced. “In the Indian idiom, where it is oft spoken that on her marriage a daughter ceases to be a member of her parents’ family and may return to it only as a corpse, the reality is that only when it is obvious that the marriage has become unredeemably unworkable that the wife and her family would initiate proceedings,” it said. “We must hasten to add that a malpractice is now widely manifesting itself in that lawyers invariably advise immediate commencement of Section 498-A proceedings employing them as a weapon of harassment. Courts however, are aware and alive to this abuse of otherwise salutary statutory provision.” The court order came on an appeal filed by a man and his family members seeking quashing of proceedings against them in a dowry harassment and abetment to suicide case lodged against them by his in-laws after his wife committed suicide. The bench dismissed the plea and allowed the proceedings against them. (New Indian Express 13/12/13)

 

25. Where are our missing girls? (8)

Activists fear that most cases of missing children go unreported. The numbers are scary. Around 24,663 cases of missing girls were registered in Karnataka from 2010 to November 2013, states recent government records. Activists working in the field of child rights fear that most cases of missing children (mostly girls) go unreported. The numbers which find a place in the government records is just the tip of the ice-berg, fear activists. “Nobody seems to be concerned about the missing children. This is the irony,” stated a bench of the Supreme Court, earlier this year. According to the figures available with Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an NGO working with underprivileged children, over 1.7 lakh children had gone missing across the country between January 2008 and January 2010. Are parents partly responsible for the large numbers of missing children being untraced? Activists say parents in India are an ignorant lot, and fail to report cases of missing children at police stations. “The issue of missing children (especially girls) is a big issue, which both the government and society at large have been ignoring for a long time. Most cases of missing children across India go unreported. Mostly parents don’t register complaints. Many parents, those from rural areas, think that it is a stigma that their daughters have gone missing from their homes,” says NG Rao, nodal supervisor of Childline. “Awareness is the need of the hour. Parents need to be sensitized that if their kids go missing, the first and foremost thing to do is to go to the police station and file an FIR. Every police station has a special junior police and child welfare officer to assist parents to file FIRs,” he adds. Childline, a country-wide NGO helps children in times of emergency, through its toll free number 1098. Most of the missing children are either runaway children or trafficked by child trafficking gangs. Experts say most of the missing children end up either as child labourers or commercial sex workers (CSWs) (girls). According to unconfirmed reports, there are close to 800 organized child trafficking gangs across the country. “Traffickers target children from the lower income groups, where the families do not have the financial strength or the political connections to pursue their cases with the authorities. Most of the missing children turn into child labourers or CSWs. Large numbers of children are also being trafficked for their vital body organs, which are sold at a huge price in the illegal organ trade market,” says Vasudev Sharma, convenor of Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO). (Times of India 17/12/13)

 

26. NCW for CBI Probe into Tikiri Case (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recommended a CBI probe into the death of a school teacher at Tikiri in Rayagada. The teacher was allegedly burnt alive in November after she levelled charges of sexual harassment against the school sub-inspector. The NCW also sought immediate suspension of the Collector and Superintendent of Police of Rayagada district for serious dereliction of duty. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the district administration and police authorities had overlooked the repeated pleas of the victim for her safety and their inaction led to her killing, it noted. In a 320-page inquiry report, the NCW made a scathing attack on the conduct of both the state government and Crime Branch in the case. Even after 45 days of the incident, the Crime Branch has failed to even trace the assailants. It has not even been able to issue a sketch of the killer nor crack the conspiracy behind it. The way the probe has been undertaken raised serious doubts on the intention of the state probe agency. “The victim had repeatedly mentioned involvement of some powerful people from the ruling establishment in her letters to the state and district authorities. In view of the facts and the failure of Crime Branch till now, the state government should issue a notification handing over the case to the CBI,” the NCW report said. A two-member NCW team comprising Hemlata Kheria and Manasi Pradhan had inquired into the killing. They had visited the spot and recorded statements of all witnesses, administration and police authorities. Odisha Chief Secretary, DGP, Chairperson of State Commission for Women and Secretary of School and Mass Education Department had also appeared before the team. Acting on their report, the NCW has also asked the government to immediately convene a meeting of all its state and district-level officials to fix responsibility on them over issues of women safety. Police should be instructed to be sensitive and also to take swift and adequate action. The Chief Secretary has been asked to file an action taken report on the basis of the inquiry findings within seven days. (New Indian Express 18/12/13)

 

27. Atrocities against women: tougher punishment sought for culprits (8)

VIJAYAWADA: A two-pronged approach is necessary to check atrocities and sexual harassment of women—change of attitudes at home and pressure on institutions meant to protect women—said speakers at a roundtable on the protection of women conducted jointly by AIDWA, CITU and SFI here on Thursday. Senior advocate Sunkara Rajendra Prasad said that attitudes that paved the way for men to commit atrocities were cultivated at home. He said superstitions were being promoted even in these modern times and cited the example of a popular pilgrim centre in Krishna district where a woman who committed “sati” was given the status of a deity. Mr Rajendra Prasad said statutes alone were not sufficient and asked activists to constantly agitate for the implementation of laws and also promote awareness among women. Former IMA Vijayawada chapter secretary V.Sridevi stressed the need for women to unite and take to task individuals and institutions showing laxity in protecting women from atrocities or in responding to complaints of atrocities. She said several women do not even know that they were being subjected to sexual harassment. She said the punishment to those convicted of atrocities against women should be more stringent so that it acted as a deterrent to such offences in future. She said the punishment given to those convicted in the New Delhi gang-rape case was very light. She said 95 per cent of the doctors opposed female foeticide. Foeticide could be completely wiped out if couples were counselled properly. (The Hindu 20/12/13)

 

28. Medha seeks 50 per cent reservation for women (8)

Kozhikode: Social activist Medha Patkar has asked for 50 per cent reservation for women in every sector, including the law-making bodies, and wondered who set the limit of 33 per cent and on what basis. “Even after all the practices such as female foeticide, we are still around 50 per cent of our population, then why only 33 per cent reservation for us,” the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader asked to a round of big applause from the audience at the inauguration of the 20th anniversary of the Anweshi women’s forum on Monday. Earlier, inaugurating the anniversary observation at the Town Hall in Kozhikode, Ms. Patkar said justice was hard to come by for women before equality was ensured to them. “Be it a riot, a natural calamity or an act of aggression by the authorities, women are the worst hit in every instance,” she said. Talking about the challenges in taking ahead the struggles for justice for women, she said the dignity of women was always under threat. “From a justice in Supreme Court to a magazine editor, she is always looked upon by men as a ‘women’ and not as a human being,” she said. The renowned social worker also said there was an increasingly severe need of communication between human beings even when there was a visible surge in the communication media in different forms. According to her, what really mattered was direct communication between the people who were suffering and those who can fight for those who suffer. “Anweshi led by Ms. Ajitha was doing a great role here,” she said. The Magsaysay Award winner said as she spoke news was coming to her from Mumbai of hundreds of slums being demolished by authorities leaving thousands of disadvantaged and most deprived sections in the society in endless trauma. “When each shelter is demolished, they are also brutally demolishing the dignity of the women inside it,” said an emotional Ms. Patkar. She urged women’s organisations to work for new laws for the betterment of society. But even while taking up the struggles for justice for women, they should be careful not to be captives of any isms including feminism, Ms. Patkar said. “When isms come, you are likely to bring in dogmatisms too, which can obstruct our sight,” she cautioned. Anweshi president K. Ajitha presided over the function. Noted writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair, writer and social critic M.N. Karassery, social activist C.R. Neelakhantan, and tribal activist C.K. Janu among others spoke on the occasion. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

29. Man accused of raping children in southeast Delhi held in Bihar (8)

NEW DELHI: With the arrest of a man accused of several rapes, the police claim to have solved at least three cases of sexual assault on children in Govindpuri, southeast Delhi. Azad Khan, 27, allegedly lured young girls from nearby slums, took them to Tughlaqabad Fort and raped them under the influence of cannabis, police said. He later left them on the roadside. Khan was a resident of Tughlaqabad Extension and lived with his wife who is seven months pregnant. On December 4, police started investigations when a minor was sexually assaulted in the area. They found the case strikingly similar to other such incidents that had not been solved. By then, Khan had fled to his hometown in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. A special team was formed comprising special staff from southeast district to solve the case. They took help from locals to gather information about Khan. The cops also analyzed the FIRs filed in the previous cases. The scene of crime (the fort) and the modus operandi to lure girls in every case also had similarities. The cops also questioned the survivors of the various incidents. They gave a similar description of the man. During investigations, a survivor told cops that Khan had got a call on his cellphone when he was assaulting her. The police then took out a list of mobile numbers active in the area at the time of the incident and analyzed each of the 2.5 lakh numbers. Finally, one number was found to be active in the area on the dates when the crimes had been committed. The cops traced the number to Muzaffarpur. A team of officials, led by inspector Rajesh, was sent to the place and they managed to nab him. “We are interrogating him to ascertain his role in other cases,” said P Karunakaran, DCP, southeast. A case of rape under Section 376 IPC and sections of POCSO Act were registered against him. To complete all legal formalities, Khan will be made to appear before a magistrate, police said. Police said Azad had been working in and around Delhi for the last seven years as a labourer. He was employed in factories around Tughlaqabad for the last two and a half years. (Times of India 25/12/13)

 

30. Widening Gender Gap, A Cause of Concern (8)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as tribal districts are posting an increase in child sex ratio, coastal districts have emerged a major cause of concern due to the fast widening gap between boys and girls. While the Government has decided to open Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) centres in all the districts, actual implementation of the laws to prevent female foeticide requires concerted efforts from all, Health Minister Damodar Rout said here on Tuesday. The Health Department has started an exercise to sensitise district authorities and motivate them towards taking strong measures to curb the menace. In a step towards this direction, a State-level workshop on PCPNDT was organised on Tuesday with district collectors, tehsildars and executive magistrate ranked officials of more than 25 districts attended. Rout emphasised, along with effective implementation of the Act, proper surveillance and monitoring mechanisms should be developed at the grassroots level to strike against perpetrators in time. Those caught in the act should be accorded fast and strong punishment, he said. As per the 2011 Census, Odisha has  sex ratio of 941 against the National ratio of 919 girls for 1,000 boys. However, the State has posted an alarming dip in the ratio which fell to 941 from 953 in 2001 Census. The coastal districts have been the major culprits with the ones like Nayagarh, Dhenkanal, Angul, Ganjam and Cuttack revealing disturbing drop at 855, 877, 889, 908 and 914 respectively. Nayagarh, Dhenkanal and Ganjam had a ratio of 904, 928 and 937 respectively as per 2001 Census. On the other hand districts like Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Boudh, Keonjhar, Gajapati, Nuapada, Puri and Jagatsinghpur have shown encouraging signs of increasing their child sex ratio. Among others National Health Mission Director Rupa Mishra, special secteraty Health Dr N Das and Director Family Planning Dr B Das Mohapatra took part. (New Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

31. Kerala Government revokes order on Ghats panel (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government has withdrawn the order it had issued on Wednesday asking officials at the local level not to refuse various services to people citing the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations. The government has decided to issue a fresh order after receiving the recommendations of the three-member expert committee headed by Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) chairman Oommen V. Oommen which is currently taking evidence from people in the 123 villages coming under the ambit of the Kasturirangan committee recommendations. In Wednesday’s order, the government had asked officers at the grassroots not to refuse to accept land tax or reject requests for registration of documents, title deeds, and permits for collecting firewood citing the order issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on November 16. Information and Planning Minister K.C. Joseph told reporters at the venue of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s mass contact programme in Alappuzha on Saturday that the Chief Minister had issued instructions for withdrawal of the order in view of ‘certain concerns’ about the ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) and the need for greater clarity on the related issues. The government had issued Wednesday’s order in view of lack of clarity about the implications of the Kasturirangan committee report, he said. A press note issued by the Chief Minister’s office here later in the day said the government wanted the officers concerned not to take any action till the government issued fresh orders on the issue. The Chief Minister, it said, had already apprised the Centre of the State’s concerns about the Kasturirangan panel’s position on ESAs and sought exclusion of densely populated areas from its ambit. The Ministry’s order of November 16 had imposed a bar on mineral mining, quarrying, river sand-mining, establishment of thermal power projects, construction of buildings having a floor area of 20,000 sq.m. or above, establishment of townships covering 50 hectare area and constructed area of 1,50,000 sq.m. or above, and ‘red’ category industries. This, Wednesday’s State government order had stated, would not cause any difficulty to ordinary people or farmers. The government felt it necessary to withdraw the order since a committee appointed by it was still at work and the order itself could be seen as contradicting the MoEF’s order, the press note said. (The Hindu 8/12/13)

 

32. Expert Committee on Kasthurirangan to Submit Report Soon: CM (9)

THODUPUZHA (KERALA): The Expert Committee set up by the Kerala government to look into the Kasthurirangan panel report on Western Ghats preservation would submit its report in two or three days, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said today. “The Expert Committee has completed its hearing and evidence taking… they will submit the report in two to three days time, he said. Chandy was speaking at the ‘Jana Samparka Paripadi’ (Mass contact programme) here. The Committee, headed by Oommen V Oommen, Chairman of State Biodiversity Board, was formed to formulate the state’s stand on panel report’s recommendations. The committee was tasked with evolving a consensus among people and creating awareness at grass root level on the recommendations in the light of protests and agitation by settled farmers in high range areas of the state. Chandy assured people living in the high ranges that government is committed to protect farmers’ interests. He said the state had clearly stated that demarcation of whole villages as Ecologically Sensitive Area was not acceptable to it. There should be clear cut demarcation between populated area and forest and plantations while defining Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA), he said. (New Indian Express 9/12/13)

 

33. Recycle all solid waste generated in Bangalore: Expert (9)

MANGALORE: All solid waste generated in Bangalore city should be recycled and converted into manure, said TV Ramachandran, senior scientific officer IISC, Bangalore. He was speaking after inaugurating the two-day UGC sponsored national seminar on ‘trends in environmental biotechnology and its application’ organised by the department of Botany and Biotechnology of St Aloysius College here on Tuesday. He spoke on the importance of preserving the environment and the role of bio technology in effective waste management. “Solid waste, which is dumped at present, should be recycled to produce manure for agriculture purpose. Let us learn from nature how to live our lives,” he added. Further speaking on preserving our immediate environment he said “I had an opportunity to work in Western Ghats, which is a heaven. Even students should go to the forest for a couple of days and explore nature.” Rev Fr Denzil Lobo, the rector and registrar AM Narahari were the guest while Rev Fr Swebert D’silva SJ, college principal, presided over the programme. Ramachandran released a book titled ‘The Book of Abstract’ authored by Shashi Kiran and Aleefa on the occasion. (Times of India 10/12/13)

 

34. World experiences hottest November in 134 years: US (9)

WASHINGTON: The month of November was the hottest experienced on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The finding was based on globally averaged land and ocean surface temperatures last month, NOAA said in a statement. “The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2013 was record highest for the 134-year period of record,” NOAA said. The average temperature was 0.78 Celsius (1.40 Fahrenheit), above the 20th century average of 12.9 Celsius (55.2 Fahrenheit), NOAA said. It was also the 37th November in a row with worldwide temperatures above the 20th century average. In fact, the last 28 years have been warmer than normal, NOAA added. “The last below-average November global temperature was November 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985,” the agency said. Many parts of the world had warmer than average temperatures last month, while record warmth was seen in parts of Russia, India and the Pacific Ocean. “Russia observed its warmest November since national records began in 1891,” said NOAA. There were no parts of the world with record cold temperatures last month, but parts of Australia and North America were cooler than average. (Times of India 18/12/13)

 

35. Activist moves court to stop garbage burning on Maidan (9)

KOLKATA: Environment activist Subhas Datta has filed a PIL against the burning of garbage and leaves on the Maidan and use of fossil fuel in the canteens of several clubs that have tents there. There is a long-standing ban on burning of leaves in Kolkata and the high court in 2007 barred eateries in a 3km radius of Victoria Memorial Hall from using coal or kerosene. Datta, in his application, stated that on December 16, he found a large quantity of garbage dumped at the southeast corner of the Mohun Bagan ground, adjacent to East Bengal club’s main entrance. He also found garbage being burnt and took photographs of the smoldering mound of rubbish. He has submitted these along with his application to the court. The matter will be heard on Thursday. “Burning leaves and garbage is prohibited in Kolkata, especially in the eco-sensitive zone of the Maidan through a notification by the state environment department in 2004. The Maidan is the largest sports hub of the country where thousands of players and athletes gather daily. Due to burning of leaves and garbage, the air has become vulnerable,” Datta says in his petition. He has submitted two photographs showing a layer of smoke in a playing area to the north of East Bengal ground. The activist observed that eateries of clubhouses use coal ovens or kerosene stoves . Among the clubs he visited are Kolkata Police Club (Sergeant Institute), Central Excise Athletic Club, Taltala Institute and Calcutta Referees’ Association. “In the backdrop of the fact that when the air quality in the Maidan is four or five times adverse to the safe limit and the lungs of the city as well as Victoria Memorial need to be protected, there is no reason to allow the sports clubs/tents situated in the Maidan area to use fossil fuel and add to the pollution,” Datta reasoned. (Times of India 19/12/13)

 

36. Uttarakhand’s action plan to minimize effects of climate change (9)

Smarting under the effects of an unprecedented natural calamity in June, the Uttarakhand government is working on a Rs 9,000-crore action plan to minimize the impact of climate change in the state. The plan was presented on Tuesday by the State Council for Climate Change to chief secretary Subhash Kumar, who approved it and asked officials to give final touches to it within ten days, with inputs from all departments. It will be then sent to the Centre for approval, official sources said. Under the plan, Rs 80 crore would be spent on works in the agriculture sector. This will involve improvement of soil health in the plains, and conservation of soil and water in the hills. Integrated farming, rained agriculture will be promoted, and “Village Knowledge Centres” will be established for a group of villages, they said. There will also be pre- and post-harvest management, crop insurance, marketing and technical support, they said. To promote forest and bio-diversity, Rs 832 crore will be spent on increasing the number of trees, improving the condition of degraded forests and increasing their density, along with management of human-wildlife conflict. Work will be done to increase fodder availability for animal husbandry, 19 nurseries would be set up, and quality of veterinary hospitals would be improved. As part of disaster management, Rs 369 crore are needed for study of climate parameters, community-level planning, threat perception, management of all important water reservoirs, rehabilitation of endangered villages and study of socio-economic conditions in remote areas. A sum of Rs 104 crore will be spent on human resource related issues such as green buildings, integrated behavioural change, increase in mobile emergency vehicles and skill development. Under urban development, all urban bodies would be provided solid waste management facility, sewage treatment, pollution control projects, along with planned development and rainwater harvesting. Rs 108 crore will be spent on water resources under which a state water policy would be formulated, along with catchment area treatment, flood control and preventing misuse of water. Studies will be conducted on bearing capacity of tourist destinations, responsible and balanced tourism development, as well as people’s involvement. Similarly, work would be done in areas of energy, roads and transport in the backdrop of environmental change. (CNN IBN 25/12/13)

 

37. Slum households in urban areas decreasing: NSSO report (9)

NEW DELHI: The latest National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report shows that the number of slum households in urban areas is coming down. The survey, conducted between July and December 2012, projected total slum dwellings at 88 lakh, compared to 1.3 crore households in 2011. The survey findings showed that across the country, 70.8% of households cited better accommodation as the main reason for which they moved out of slum/squatter settlement whereas 11.7% identified proximity to the place of work as the main reason. The report showed that while Maharashtra had the maximum share of 38% of the country’s slums households, Andhra Pradesh had 18%.The sample survey has estimated that there are about 33,510 slums located in urban areas. While 41% of these slum colonies are notified by the local authorities, majority are yet to be notified. The NSSO date projects that most of the slum household have come up in the notified colonies. The NSSO covered 881 slums in a total of 3,832 urban blocks across all states and Union Territories and found that at an all-India level, the average slum size was estimated at 263 households. A slum has been defined as “any compact settlement with a collection of poorly built tenements, mostly of temporary nature, crowded together, usually with inadequate sanitary and drinking water facilities in unhygienic conditions, provided at least 20 households lived there.” While the survey findings point to how government agencies have a huge task ahead to make these residential blocks livable it has indicated how the ground situation has improved to some extent with the improvement in power supply, drainage, garbage disposal and other facilities. The report says that 93.5% of slums have power supply and 71% have access to drinking water. Similarly there has been improvement in drainage, sewerage, garbage disposal, primary education and medical facilities ranges between 15% and 45% compared to what it was five years ago. Pointing to how big the sanitation issue is in the case of rural areas, the NSSO data projects that as many as about 60% rural households do not have access to toilet facilities. However, the record is better when it comes to urban India where only less than 9% of the population still lack the facility. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

TERRORISM

38. It is up to leadership of states to clean up terrorism: Rice (12)

New Delhi: Terming terrorism emanating from Pakistan as “embedded”, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Saturday said it is up to the leadership of that country to clean it up. “There are states within states. There are some countries dealing with that problem. And then I take a chance to say (as) the (state) leadership you do not have an option to allow this to continue within your institutions..Clean up! she said. Rice was speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here during a seminar on “USA and India: Building Stronger Ties”.She said it was the “goal” of the United States, in terms of the region, that if there are officials of any country working with or connected with a terrorist group, the state should take up the responsibility. “While talking to Pakistanis I have always said extremism will affect Pakistan. They were extremists who killed Mrs (Benazir) Bhutto. So that’s how one has to deal with the problem of embedded terrorism within the states,” Rice said. The US has “stepped in” at various junctures and after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the issue was taken up with then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Rice said. Noting that the US’s war on Iraq was a “right decision” as it could not have allowed someone like Saddam Hussein to continue, Rice rued the US also made a few wrong decisions while rebuilding that war-torn country. “Saddam Hussein needed to be pulled down. Imagine Middle East with Saddam Hussein trying to chase nuclear weapons along with Iran. In rebuilding of Iraq, we have violated few principles. The problem was the tribes were natural and we made a mistake of not sharing (the responsibilities to rebuild Iraq) with others,” she said. On the breakthrough in nuclear deal with Iran, Rice said the danger with the deal was that country had all the capabilities of building a nuclear weapon and the “capping” was happening at a “crucial stage”.She added that vital installations have to be dismantled which would not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons. (Zee News 7/12/13)

 

39. Charges framed against 23 alleged IM members (12)

MUMBAI: Five years after the Mumbai police arrested 23 alleged members of the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen for sending emails to media houses and government before bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, a court here on Monday framed charges, paving way for their trial. All these serial blasts had taken place in 2008; in Surat, police had found unexploded bombs. The emails owning responsibility, purportedly sent by IM, were sent from Mumbai. Judge AL Pansare of the special court for Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court framed charges against the 23 arrested accused and the five absconding ones including Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal on 29 counts. After the judge explained them the charges in Hindi, all the accused pleaded innocence. Charges were framed for “waging war against the country”, under IPC, for being a member of IM under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for sending emails “containing malicious and vitriolic material primarily of waging war against India”, and under provisions of Arms Act, Explosives Act and Information Technology Act, apart from the MCOCA. Afzal Usmani, one of the accused, had given police the slip on September 20 from sessions court here. He was recaptured, but the MCOCA court was then shifted to Arthur Road jail. Usmani is accused of involvement in stealing four cars which were used to transport explosives to Ahmedabad and Surat. He is also charged with planting bombs. (Times of India 10/12/13)

 

40. Bihar Police have no proof against six ‘terrorists’ (12)

NEW DELHI: In the first week of November, Bihar Police arrested over a dozen people accusing them of being a part of an illegal fund transfer racket involving Pakistan that was suspected to be case of “terror funding”. Media reports from Patna, quoting police sources, said that the accused could be linked to ISI and Indian Mujahideen (IM) and could have even funded Patna blasts. There was even speculation on “Hindu terror” as four of the accused were Hindus. A month after investigations, Bihar Police is yet get any evidence linking the accused to any terror outfit or even the fund transfers to any act of terror. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating two blast cases in Bihar, has not even bothered to question the accused in custody. The Central security establishment, including the home ministry, is unhappy with the way Bihar Police has handled the case, which looks more of illegal fund transfers rather than a suspected case of terror funding. A senior home ministry official said, “They have made some claims which are thin on evidence. The case should have been handled more cautiously and in a better way.” A senior security establishment officer added, “As yet we have not found any link of the accused to terror funding. The funds have largely come from Saudi Arabia and certain Gulf countries. Much of the money has gone to certain mosques and madarsas. It would be wrong to call them terror funding unless someone can establish that from these madarsas the money has gone to certain terror outfit. The accused have been paid commission for the transactions and are completely unaware of the use the money is being put to. Such transactions from the Gulf are common. Suspicion of the police was raised only because of telephone calls to Pakistan.” NIA, which also has a dedicated terror-funding cell, has not touched the case even though Bihar Police has claimed that it conducted the operation on an “NIA tip-off”. A senior NIA officer said, “We have nothing to do with this operation. We will look into it as and when a terror angle emerges. As of now we are not aware of any such thing.” On November 9, Lakhisarai police in Bihar arrested four youths, identified as Gopal Kumar Goyal, Pawan Kumar, Vikash Kumar and Ganesh Kumar, for being part of this alleged racket. Days later they arrested a Muslim couple, Ayesha Bano and her husband Zubair, from Mangalore charging them along with Mohammad Faiyaz and Mohammad Kismet Ansari alias Dawood Ansari, who are on the run, of being the racket’s kingpins. Police recovered dozens of ATM cards, passbooks and SIM cards from the accused and claimed that they were in constant touch with one Ibrahim Khan in Pakistan. Police also found evidence of over Rs 1.5 crore transacted through the accounts held by the accused in the past few months alone. Most of the accused, including the Mangalore couple, are poor, said sources. Though Bihar Police has officially maintained that it has not got any evidence linking the accused to terror outfits, Bihar DGP Abhayanand was quoted in the media as saying “terror funding” in the case could not be ruled out. Media reports quoting police sources have repeatedly mentioned ” ISI-links” and “IM funding” in context of the case. (Times of India 11/12/13)

 

41. Terror cases cannot be withdrawn by UP govt: HC (12)

The Uttar Pradesh government cannot withdraw prosecution in terror cases under the central acts without the permission of the Centre, the Allahabad high court held on Thursday. The ruling was given by the high court’s Lucknow bench of justices Devi Prasad Singh, Ajai Lamba and Ashok Pal Singh on questions raised by a two-judge division bench on a PIL filed by Ranjana Agnihotri and five other local lawyers. The PIL had sought a direction for quashing the order of the UP government for withdrawl of cases against people accused of terrorist activities and serial blasts. “Prosecution under central acts cannot be withdrawn without permission of the central government,” the three-judge bench said. “For offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and Arms Act and the offences falling in Chapter VI of IPC or alike offences the executive power of the Union of India extends, hence the permission of the central government with regard to withdrawal of prosecution shall be necessary,” it held. The bench also said that the prosecution cannot be withdrawn without assigning reason. “If an application is moved for withdrawl from prosecution in a case relating to terrorism and waging of war against the country, specific and special reason has to be assigned,” it said. On June 7 while staying the state government’s order to withdraw cases against people accused of terror activities, a division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Mahendra Dayal had referred the matter to a larger bench. The ruling was given by the high court’s Lucknow bench of justices Devi Prasad Singh, Ajai Lamba and Ashok Pal Singh on questions raised by a two-judge division bench on a PIL filed by Ranjana Agnihotri andal government,” the three-judge bench said.”For offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and Arms Act and the offences falling in Chapter VI of IPC or alike offences the executive power of the Union of India extends, hence the permission of the central government with regard to withdrawal of prosecution shall be necessary,” it held. The bench also said that the prosecution cannot be withdrawn without assigning reason. “If an application is moved for withdrawl from prosecution in a case relating to terrorism and waging of war against the country, specific and special reason has to be assigned,” it said. On June 7 while staying the state government’s order to withdraw cases against people accused of terror activities, a division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Mahendra Dayal had referred the matter to a larger bench. The two-judge bench had questioned whether the state government could issue an order for withdrawl of cases without there being any request from the public prosecutor. It had also raised the question whether the prosecution of offence relating to the central act may be withdrawn without taking permission from the central government. It had further asked, “Whether the state government after giving sanction for prosecution review its own order by issuing orders for withdrawl of the cases.”  The larger bench comprising the three judges while answering the questions directed that the case be listed before the appropriate bench.”We answer the questions referred by the division bench accordingly. Let the case be listed before appropriate bench forthwith,” it directed. The larger bench said that the state government has got power to issue instruction or pass order even after sanction for prosecution has been given in a pending criminal case. “Subject to condition that the prosecuting officer has to take independent decision with due satisfaction in accordance with the law on his own, before moving the application for withdrawal from prosecution in the trial court,” it said. It said that the state government could issue an order or instruction for withdrawal from prosecution without the request from the public prosecutor incharge of the case. “It is subject to the rider that the public prosecutor shall apply independent mind and record satisfaction before moving an application for withdrawl from prosecution,” the three-judge bench said. (Hindustan Times 12/12/13)

 

42. ‘LeT planned terror strike around Delhi polls’ (12)

New Delhi: Banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was planning a terror strike in the capital around the Delhi Assembly elections held on December 4, police claimed on Friday. The terror attack, which the police claimed was foiled, was allegedly being masterminded by a Pakistan-based LeT commander identified as Javed Baluchi. The LeT militants had planned to target some of the crowded markets in the city, police said. This disclosure, the police claimed, was made by a “suspected LeT operative” who was arrested from Haryana’s Mewat on December 9 (a day after the counting of the polls) by a team of the special cell of Delhi police. The arrested accused, one Mohammad Shahid, 31, is said to have been working as a maulavi at a local mosque in Choti Mewli village in Mewat. Shahid was arrested from his home following information that he was allegedly in touch with Baluchi’s close accomplice, who had been asked to plan and execute the attack either during the election campaigns or on the day of polling, said a special cell officer. Baluchi’s close accomplice, who police say is suspected to be the head of LeT’s Mewat module, is a resident of Mewat and he reportedly runs a madarsa in the same region. As many as five teams of the special cell are looking for him and his three of his aides who were part of the alleged conspiracy. According to the officer, Shahid’s arrest came following intelligence input received from the central intelligence agencies that Baluchi has been constantly in touch with his close aide in Mewat and they together were conspiring to carry out a terror strike in Delhi. “The information was further developed and it was learnt that a member of the Mewat module was frequently shuttling between Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. After collecting evidence to prove his involvement in the conspiracy, Shahid was arrested,” said the senior officer. Police said during interrogation Shahid disclosed that he had joined the present module of LeT about seven months ago and since then, was being looked after by his by local Mewat based handlers. “Shahid told us that he had met his immediate handlers at the local mosque. The responsibility entrusted to Shahid was to arrange logistics and communication for the terrorist attack,” the officer said adding, Shahid had never been to Pakistan for any sort of terrorist training. (Hindustan Times 13/12/13)

 

43. Three held guilty under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (12)

Amritsar: In a first-ever conviction under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, in Punjab, a court in Amritsar on Tuesday convicted three persons in a case dating back to July 25, 2010 registered by State Special Operations Cell (SSOC) where two AK-47 rifles and a huge quantity of ammunition was seized followed by the recovery of 15 kg of RDX. The contraband was allegedly smuggled into India from Pakistan through the Ramdas sector. The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Navjot Sohal held Makhan Singh, Pal Singh and Gurmukh Singh guilty. The quantum of punishment will be announced on Thursday. The accused were held guilty under Section 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 that deals with punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation where any person who is a member of such gang or organisation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to life. According to the police, the accused were associated with banned terror outfit Babbar Khalsa International. The three were was also convicted under Section 25 (1) A of Arms Act. “This is the first conviction under the Act in Punjab,” Public Prosecutor R K Salwan told The Indian Express. Salwan said that “to book a case under the said sanction required permission from Union government or state government.” The SSOC first arrested Kulwant Singh, a resident of Varpal village, and Gurmukh Singh alias Gana of Pandori Mehma in Amritsar with AK-47 rifles and huge cache of ammunition at a check point on GT road near Vallah on July 25, 2010. Later Jagtar Singh of Thoba village in Amritsar district, Darshan Singh Dhadi of Dhaliwal and Pal Singh of Dhandowal village in Jalandhar were arrested. Their interrogation led to the arrest of Pal Singh. (Indian Express 17/12/13)

 

44. M.P. cops seize live explosives in Maharashtra (12)

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS), in concert with its Maharashtra counterpart, claims to have seized three live explosives, more than 70 gelatin sticks and 100 detonators in Sholapur on Tuesday. Inspector General (ATS) Sanjeev Shami said two persons who were guided by the ideology of Islamist conglomerate Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is in violent confrontation with the Pakistani State, have been arrested in Sholapur. “They wanted to target important personalities with the explosives,” Mr. Shami said. However, he refused to specify who these targets are. Mr. Shami revealed that the police received a tip-off on Monday that the six escapees of the Khandwa jailbreak on October 1 may meet Khalid Ahmed— one of the three arrested after a gun battle in Sendhawa, 350-km from here on Tuesday— in Sholapur, Maharashtra. “We had information that they may converge on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border, so the Counter Terrorist Group and the ATS met at Sendhawa. Field units also went to Sholapur. Based on information from those arrested, we searched, along with the Maharashtra ATS, three locations in Sholapur, and recovered three ready explosives. Two men, Sadiq and Umer Hafiz, associates of Khalid, were arrested,” Mr. Shami said. In the Sendhawa raid, Abu Faisal—linked to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Irfan Nagori and Khalid were arrested. Faisal is being probed for his role in the July 26, 2008 blasts in Ahmedabad and the Manappuram Gold Heist in Bhopal in 2010. He allegedly led the jailbreak by SIMI men in Khandwa. Mr. Shami said the police are trying to ascertain if the other four arrested belong to any insurgent group. (The Hindu 26/12/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

45. Naxals hack scribe to death in Bastar (12)

Raipur: Constantly living under threats from both Naxals and the police for the past half-a-decade, a senior journalist of Bastar was finally eliminated in a brutal manner by suspected Maoists at Basaguda in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district on Friday. According to the police, a group of four “sangham (armed militia)” members of the CPI (Maoist) surrounded 51-year-old Sai Reddy, a local journalist, when he was on his way to the weekly market in Basaguda and attacked him with sharp weapons in full public view. He tried to flee, but fell on the ground after being hit by axes hurled by the insurgents. The assailants went on assaulting him even as he lay in a pool of blood. He died on his way to the district headquarters hospital at Bijapur. “Prima facie, Mr Reddy was killed by Naxals. But a probe is still on to confirm the hand of Maoists,” a senior district police officer told this newspaper on the phone. Reddy was the second journalist killed by Maoists in the conflict zone of Bastar. In February this year, senior journalist Nemichand Jain was killed in a similar brutal manner by Maoists in Sukma district. The rebels, however, tendered an apology for his killing one-and-a-half months later. The trend of killing journalists by Maoists, witnessed recently, has deeply disturbed the journalist fraternity. (Asian Age 7/12/13)

 

46. Alleged Naxals arrested in Bihar (12)

Patna: Three alleged Maoist ultras, including a woman, and two Maoist sympathisers were arrested in Bihar on Friday. The Jamui police arrested Savita Murmu, Jharkhand resident, and Brahmadeo and Buddhan Bhulla, Bihar residents, from Janakpur village, Jitendra Rana, superintendent of police (SP), Jamui, told The Hindu. “We had information that a military wing of the Naxals was to arrive in the village. Accordingly, we sent a search team. The woman is part of the military squad. We also recovered explosives, detonators, uniforms and Maoist literature,” Mr. Rana said. (The Hindu 7/12/13)

 

47. Despite BJP win Cong dominates Chhattisgarh’s worst-hit Naxal area (12)

Raipur: The killing of Mahendra Karma earlier this year by Left Wing Extremists proved costly for Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh as Congress bagged 8 of the 12 seats in worst-hit Naxal areas spread over six districts. The region saw Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi campaigning aggressively as this part of the state is always considered as key to power. BJP had won 11 seats from these districts last time. The wife of slain Karma, Devati, won from Dantewada Assembly seat defeating his BJP rival Bhimaram Mandavi by a margin of 5,987 votes. Her husband, who was killed on May 25, along with 25 others which included Pradesh Congress Chief Nand Kumar Patel, had contested unsuccessfully from this constituency and stood third while the BJP’s Mandavi bagged the seat by defeating Manish Kunjam of CPI. BJP could manage to retain only four seats — Antagarh, Jagdalpur, Bijapur and Narainpur — where all the four sitting MLAs Vikram Usendi, Santosh Bafla, Mahesh Gadda and Kedar Nath Kashyap respectively won. However, the winning margin for the four BJP candidates fell considerably this time. Bastar constituency saw Lakeshwar Bagel emerging as winner unseating Subahoo Kashyap of BJP by a margin of 19,168 votes. The results in 2008 elections were exactly opposite with Kashyap defeating Bagel by a margin 1,201. Konta seat was retained by sitting Congress MLA Lakhma Kawasi who defeated Dhani Ram Barse by a margin of 5,786 votes. Kawasi had barely managed to win it last time by 192 votes. Congress also recorded its win in Bhanupratappur, Keshkal and Kondagaon. (Hindustan Times 8/12/13)

 

48. 10 Naxals surrender in Bijapur (12)

Raipur: Ten hardcore Naxals have surrendered to Bijapur Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal apparently after being rather impressed by  the Government’s rehabilitation policy, informed SP here on Tuesday. The Naxals said that the leaders from Andhra Pradesh have discriminated against the Chhattisgarh Naxals. They narrated various incidents of violence against women, assault, anti-development approach, killing of innocents by the Naxal leaders. Agrawal said each of the ten surrendered Naxals have been given a sum of Rs10,000 and will be given benefits of Government schemes. He appealed to the Naxals that they shun the part of violence and work toward Bastar’s development. According to the police sources, they surrendered after they were disillusioned and hurt by the approach of Naxal leaders in the camp. Those surrendered are Sonu Korsa, wife Bodhi Korsa, Joga Madkam, Budhri Madkam, Budhram Hapka, Arjun Telam, Kosa Korsa, Mahadev Gawde, Vijay Majji, Deva Midiyam. (Pioneer 11/12/13)

 

49. Bastar journalists decide to boycott Maoists (12)

BASAGUDA (BIJAPUR): In response to the December 6 killing of journalist Sai Reddy, about 200 journalists, mostly from the seven districts of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, have decided to boycott news related to Maoists. They convened a protest meeting on Saturday and unanimously decided to stop publishing and broadcasting Maoist press releases, unless the outlawed CPI(Maoists) clarified its position in respect of the death of Reddy, 51, at Basaguda market, 500 km south of Raipur. While the police and the journalists claim that he was killed by the Maoists, the rebels are yet to own responsibility. Maoists normally accept responsibility for killing anyone important. The journalists demanded an explanation from the Maoists. “A few months ago, when another journalist Nemichand Jain was killed, Maoists accepted responsibility. They said they would not attack or assassinate journalists any more. They have violated the agreement, and we must stop releasing their publicity materials immediately,” said Ganesh Mishra, one of the conveners of the meeting The meeting was organised within a few hundred metres of the spot where Mr. Reddy, who reported for a Hindi daily from Bijapur district, was hacked to death. The market is within a hundred yards of the police station and the battalion camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Journalists were surprised that security personnel were reluctant to fire even blanks from the watchtowers manned round the clock. They also questioned the unethical business practices of media houses in the State. “Bastar journalists are not paid properly and exploited by their organisations. Now, they do not even have any security…Maoists are killing them without any warning, and no one cares, including the management,” said Anil Mishra, a senior journalist from Raipur. Many other journalists later said lack of support from the employers was jeopardising the lives of those reporting from the partially Maoist controlled areas of south Chhattisgarh. “It is often said journalists take favours from the local administration to write reports. While it is true, let me also ask why newspapers or television channels never pay salaries to their employees in Bastar,” a senior said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The journalists demanded that both the Union and State governments play an active role in safeguarding the “salary and security” of journalists working in the conflict areas of Bastar. As a follow-up action, the journalists are expected to arrange for a meeting between Reddy’s family and the Chhattisgarh Governor within a week. (The Hindu 15/12/13)

 

50. Two C-60 jawans hurt as firefight erupts with Naxals (12)

NAGPUR: Two Commando-60 jawans were hurt, one of them through a bullet, during an exchange of fire between police force and Naxalites in the outskirts of Rengawahi village of Etapalli division on Monday in south Gadchiroli. Dasru Pungati, piloting the C-60 squad, suffered the bullet injury on his left knee while commander of the unit Koko Narote suffered a fall and hurt his left elbow in the gun-battle. It has come to fore that a C-60 squad, leaving Etapalli police station, was heading towards Rengawahi village after learning about presence of a sizable group of Naxals in the adjoining forested regions.Deputy inspector general of police, Naxal range, Ravindra Kadam stated operations were already underway in Etapalli and adjoining localities for the last four days. “Police force had been fanning out in the jungles and villages of the entire region in the last few days . The latest encounter was fallout of a specific intelligence input,” he said. Kadam said that the encounter was not an ambush laid by the Naxals but more of an unexpected meeting of rival sides. Pungati and Narote were flown to Nagpur by a chopper and rushed to Kunal Hospital. Dr Shishir Shrivastava informed TOI that Pungati had been already operated upon. “The jawans are out of danger,” he said. Sources from Gadchiroli police stated that C-60 jawans had left the village and were also in the process of crossing a hillock when the exchange of fire took place. The jawans were heading up when the Naxals opened fire spotting the advancing cops. Pungati was first to get hit while Narote received injuries after suffering a fall while taking position. The jawans were rushed back to Etapalli police station after firing ceased from both the sides. DIG Kadam said Naxals were better positioned due to their location on the upper side of the hillock. “The formation of the Naxals that attacked the jawans is yet to be identified but we feel it could be the Kasansoor Local Organization Squad (LOS),” said Kadam. Superintendent of Poilice of Gadchiroli Mohammad Suvez Haque is learnt to be camping near the place of the encounter where he had reached with other senior officers. Gadchiroli Police is slated to launch a search operation in the adjoining areas to look for any materials left behind by the Naxals or any blood stains. (Times of India 24/12/13)

 

51. Naxals focusing on strengthening cadre in Bastar (12)

RAIPUR: Naxals have focused more on strengthening their cadres instead of consolidating base in the Bastar region comprising seven districts of Kanker, Kondagaon, Bastar, Narayanpur, Bijapur, Dantewada and Sukma this year, according to experts. Spread around 40,000 sq km, tribal-dominated Bastar has witnessed a string of deadly attacks in past 10 years that has left about 2093 people including 710 security personnel dead, but the well-planned May 25 attack on the Congress convoy reflected a new strategy of rebels who were apparently enraged over frequent visits of politicians to their stronghold. The current phase is also marked by a conscious attempt to militarize the armed component of the party – the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA)- with a view to launch attacks on the state apparatus, they said. Like every year in the recent past, the human loss due to Naxal-related incidents in Chhattisgarh reached close to the three digit mark in 2013. Till November, 97 people including 41 security personnel, two assistant constables, a homeguard and 53 civilians, were killed in Naxal-related incidents, as per official statistics. In 2012, the causalities were 108 including 41 security personnel, four assistant constables, a homeguard and 62 civilians. On the other hand, 32 left wing guerrillas were killed in 138 encounters between security forces and Maoists this year in comparison to the previous year number of only 37. This year began with a setback for the state police when a court on January 7 acquitted for lack of evidence, all the 10 arrested accused in the 2010 Tadmetla Maoist attack case in which 75 CRPF personnel and a police jawan were killed in Dantewada district. Maoists also attempted to execute a major incident by unleashing a bullet attack on Indian Air Force helicopter, when it was on a casualty evacuation mission in restive Sukma forest. A wireless operator was injured in the incident. Then April brought success in an anti-insurgency operation when the joint team of security forces from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh gunned down ten Naxals in Sukma district. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

HINDUTVA

52. FIR launched against Haque in killing of VHP leader (26)

Lucknow: The ruling Samajwadi Party legislator Azimul Haque alias Pahalwan is among the four named in the FIR for sensational killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ram Manohar Gupta on Wednesday night. Communal tension gripped the sensitive town of Tanda in Ambedkarnagar district once again following the murder. The VHP activists already staged a strong protest over the killing which is second of senior VHP leader. Taking the situation seriously, police directorate already dispatched additional companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) along with Rapid Action Force (RAF) and civil police in Tanda and other places of the district in view of the tension. While Superintendent of Police(SP) Sunil Kumar Saxena was camping in the area to avert any further trouble.Government also directed sleuths of Special Task Force to assist the Ambedkarnagar police in cracking down the case at earliest. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader was sprayed with bullets by two motorcycle-borne criminals on Wednesday night. The town was abuzz with rumours entire night as the kins of the slain leader kept his body on the road in protest. The VHP activists were more agitated as  the town was placed under curfew inJuly last when Babu Ram Gupta, uncle of Ram Manohar, was shot dead allegedly by the same group.    The family members of Ram Manohar Gupta had accused the local MLA for the crime. Meanwhile, the divisional commissioner of Faizabad Sanjay Prasad and DIG Faizabad range  B D Paulsan had reached the spot to monitor the situation even as no arrest was made so far. ADG (law and order), Mukul Goel claimed that adequate force has been provided to Ambedkarnagar to check any clash. He said that probe is on in the matter and guilty will be not spared. (Pioneer 6/12/13)

 

53. Modi Asks Chief Ministers to Oppose Communal Violence Bill (26)

Ahmedabad: BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi today wrote letters to some Chief Ministers urging them to rise above political affiliations and oppose the Centre’s proposed Communal Violence Bill, alleging it was “a blatant intrusion upon the powers” of state governments. “It is important for all Chief Ministers to rise beyond political affiliations and come together to oppose the Bill, which is nothing but a blatant attempt by the Centre to interfere with and intrude upon the powers of elected state governments,” Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister, said in the letters to the CMs. The Bill, he said, would polarise the society and would introduce the idea of differential application of criminal law to citizens based on religious and linguistic identities. It would also demoralise public servants and impact how the state government can deal with law and order situations in future, Modi said. The recipients of today’s letter include Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra), Okram Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and Mukul Sangma (Meghalaya) among others, officials said. Modi’s letters to the CMs came a day after he written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue, terming the Bill as “recipe for disaster”.The UPA government plans to introduce the ‘Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013′ in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. In his letter, Modi has called upon his counterparts in other states to discuss the issue and oppose the Bill. (New Indian Express 7/12/13)

 

54. VHP Wants Modi to Clear Stand on Ram Temple Issue (26)

BAREILLY: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Tagodia said that his party would support BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi only after the Gujarat Chief Minister clarified his stand on the Ram Temple issue. “VHP will support only those parties, which talk of construction of Ram temple. The party would also have to put it in its manifesto. Modi should clarify his stand on the issue, if he wants VHP support,” Togadia told reporters on Thursday evening. “Its deplorable for him (Modi), if he does not include the Ram Temple-issue in his speeches,” he said, adding that in forthcoming Lok Sabha elections the issue will hot up. (New Indian Express 20/12/13)

 

55. Hindutva is backdrop for Modi in UP (26)

Varanasi: For the first time since Narendra Modi began his Uttar Pradesh campaign two months ago, the BJP’s agenda of Hindutva came to overwhelmingly dominate an election meeting on Friday. The rally that the party’s prime ministerial candidate addressed in Varanasi was replete with words, gestures and imagery of Hindutva, and suggested that he might have decisively shifted gears as the campaign approaches the home stretch. It is essential that the BJP does well in UP, which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, if it is to have a realistic chance of leading the next government. The backdrop to the dais at the rally ground was provided by several pictures of temples and Dashashwamedh Ghat where serial blasts took place in 2005, and two of Lord Shiva in his tandav pose. On top of the stage were three replicas of Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is one of the 12 jyotirlingas of Hindu mythology. Modi, accompanied by party president Rajnath Singh and other leaders, visited the Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples before coming to the rally in the Raja Talab area on the outskirts of Varanasi. They spent about 20 minutes at each temple. Shankhs (conch shells) were blown as Modi climbed the dais. Sounds of the shells kept ringing in the audience as he spoke. “I have come from the land of Somnath to seek the blessings of Baba Vishwanath,” Modi told the 1.5 lakh strong crowd. For some 20 minutes of his 45-minute speech, Modi spoke on the Ganga, the lifeline of Varanasi. He targeted the UPA government for not checking the pollution in the river, and declared that if the Sabarmati could be cleaned up, so could the “Ganga maiyya”.He exhorted the voters of UP to help usher in Ram rajya. “Ram rajya does not require money. It requires a culture that the people of UP have inherited from their ancestors,” Modi said. “But the problem here is that you have chosen wrong governments and wrong leaders.” (Indian Express 21/12/13)

 

56. BJP to alter poll strategy, focus on Hindutva, Modi factor (26)

New Delhi: Falling short of majority after the Assembly polls, the Bharatiya Jananta Party has decided to fall back on its Hindutva roots. Buoyed by the fact that the party was able to keep its core voters in the Assembly elections, the BJP has decided to go all out during the Lok Sabha polls next year, using the Hindutva plank and the popularity of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to woo voters. Besides these factors, the party, which doesn’t have any representative in the Lok Sabha from Delhi, will also woo voters with the promise of a corruption-free and pro-development agenda. The Delhi BJP, which expects mid-term polls in the national capital, will over the coming months hold mass religious contact programmes to resurrect the Hindutva plank. On the occasion of the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP plans to organise a recital of Sunderkand, one of the books in the Ramayan. Blankets will be distributed to the poor on the occasion. The event will be attended by Nitin Gadkari, Dharmendra Pradhan, Vijay Goel, Vijendra Gupta and Ramesh Bidhuri. A similar event will be organised on a grand scale in January, which is likely to be attended by several RSS leaders. Preparations for the event are being done on a large scale. According to sources, the recital from the Ramayan will be projected on LED screens. “The digitisation of the event is aimed at making youths aware of their roots. The entire event has been planned keeping youths in mind. We will not distribute copies of the Ramayan. The idea is to narrate the epic to youngsters in a modern and digital format. It will be organised at the Ramlila Maidan,” the leader said. (Indian Express 25/12/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 26 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. NHRC notice to Union Food Secy (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent a notice to the Union Ministry of Food and Public Distribution Secretary over the issue of spiraling prices of food items and the failure of Government in controlling the situation. The apex human rights panel registered a case based on a petition filed by activist-lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy. The price rise has been continuing basically due to the nexus of politicians and hoarders that control the rural credit system, on which farmers are dependent. Farmers who challenge the nexus are deprived of credit facilities. This compulsion makes farmers slaves of the system, Radhakanta had contended. He pointed out the existence of hoardings and cartels, the APMC Act and a recent Competition Commission’s report on the 2010 highlighting the issue of cartelisation of trade and the traders’ grip over the credit system. The Competition Commission report, however, clearly notes that only few farmers gain even when prices go through the roof. High price of vegetables and other food items has been continuing for months together making it impossible for poor and BPL families to buy for consumption. The Government has failed to keep control over such price rise, despite various reports. At this juncture, the inaction of the Government in controlling the price rise of onions amounts to deprievation of food and denial of basic human rights, Radhakanta had alleged. He had requested the NHRC to take immediate action on the issue and send a team of officials to visit Nasik and other places to check the hoardings and cartels and direct the Central as well as State Governments to take certain steps to control onion prices immediately to ensure the poor people’s right to food is not breached. The NHRC sought a report on food and public distribution within eight weeks. (Pioneer 7/12/13)

 

2. ‘Delayed justice is also a violation of human rights’ (1)

PANAJI: A mere two years into its functioning, the Goa human rights commission has recorded a whopping 1,466% increase in complaints. For a state that is often perceived as socio-economically advanced, the acceleration in complaints from 18 in 2011-12 to 264 up to November this year is telling. The complaints vary from custodial deaths and complaints from jail inmates to food poisoning cases reported in schools. Interestingly, of the 335 complaints filed to date, 53 were taken up suo motu by the commission. A complaint that grabbed headlines this year was the custodial death of central jail inmate Mahadev Goankar. He was serving his sentence when the Aguada prison suffered a cholera outbreak in August. Gaonkar, according to Jowett D’Souza, a human rights activist, allegedly died because there was a delay in his hospitalization. D’Souza, who has filed two complaints of custodial death with the commission, says what hurts is the delay in the delivery of justice. Social activist and advocate Satish Sonak, who is currently appearing in two cases before the commission, says the investigating wing of the commission should be given more manpower so that investigations are speedier. Nishtha Desai of Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), an organization that deals with human rights issues pertaining to children says, “Children are often victims of domestic violence. There is a need for special mechanisms to address their plight.” Child labour, she adds, is both, widely prevalent and a violation of children’s rights. “Child beggars are often rounded up and placed in the government-run children’s home, but their traffickers get away scot free. There is an urgent need to identify traffickers and to take serious action against them,” she stresses. Arun Pandey of Arz, a Vasco-based NGO involved in combating trafficking, claims “discrimination on the basis of class is highly evident when people approach authorities for justice”.Citing as an example, he says Sushma Hebbare has been hunting for her four-year-old son who was abducted two years ago. The police initially did not act even when there are clear Supreme Court guidelines on how to proceed in such cases. “We had to move the commission to compel the police to intensify their efforts to track the boy and get a complaint of abduction registered,” he recalls. “It is only after directions were issued by the commission that the Vasco police circulated information about the boy and pasted his posters at bus and railway stations and at other places,” says Pandey. Commenting on human rights violations in Goa, Desai says delayed justice is a serious issue and is a grave violation of children’s rights. “Presently, the children’s court has just one sitting a week even as cases have been piling up for over five years. In a few cases, the children have grown up, married and are about to start their own families, yet they are unable to move on from the abuse they suffered as the court proceedings are still on,” she says. Commission members refused to comment, telling TOI they are not allowed to speak to the press. (Times of India 10/12/130

 

3. ‘Female feticide is also violation of human rights’ (1)

NAGPUR: Education, class, creed or religion are no guarantee that human rights will be upheld, since even educated and upper middle class communities resort to female feticide, which shows up in the skewed sex ratios. In fact, underdeveloped and uneducated regions like Gadchiroli have a much better child sex ratio, said experts at a symposium on ‘Save the girl child’ as part of World Human Rights Day celebrations on Tuesday. The programme was jointly organized by International Council for Human Rights (ICHR) and Nagpur Obstetric and Gynaecology Society (NOGS). NOGS secretary Dr Alka Mukherjee said the crack down on doctors helping in sex selection in past 2-3 years has led to the state’s child sex ratio improving from 919 to 946 from 2011 to 2013. In 1991 census, child sex ration was 946 girls per 1,000 boys, which dropped to 917 in 2001, and increased to just 919 in 2011 census. This ratio has improved in the city this year to 950. Dr Mangala Ghisad blamed doctors, patients and their families equally for killing girl child in the womb. She pointed out that educated and affluent South Mumbai saw more female foeticides than uneducated tribal populations in Gadchiroli, which had the best ratio in state. CBI superintendent of police Sandeep Tamgadge said they had been created to combat corruption, but had also been drafted in to tackle other crimes, including violations of human rights. Tamgadge, an IPS officer of Nagaland cadre and investigation officer in Ishrat Jahan fake counter case, said, “CBI has handled extra-judicial killings in Punjab, including mass graves of people killed in the names of tackling terror. It has also brought justice to victims of Pathribal massacre in Jammu Kashmir, where 16 people were gunned down as terrorists.” He added that CBI was also targeting human trafficking in Nepal and the north east. Mudhoji Raje Bhosale, former chairman of Maharashtra Human Rights Commission Justice CS Thool and ICHR national president Arup Mukherjee also addressed the gathering. (Times of India 11/12/13)

 

4. Sonia disappointed over SC verdict on gay rights issue (1)

New Delhi: Amid an uproar over the Supreme Court verdict on gay rights issue, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said she was disappointed that the apex court had reversed a previous Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising homosexuality and hoped Parliament would address the matter. “I hope that Parliament will address the issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by the judgement,” the UPA Chairperson said. Ms Gandhi said that she was “disappointed” that the Supreme Court has reversed a previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights but also noted that the Supreme Court also suggested another course. She was obviously alluding to the option of legislation. “The high court had widely removed an archaic repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in our Constitution. “This Constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism and openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind,” the Congress President said in a statement. She said, “We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one”. In a big blow to the LGBT community, the Supreme Court had on Wednesday set aside the landmark high court judgement decriminalising gay sex and threw the ball in Parliament’s court for amending law. (Asian Age 12/12/13)

 

5. NHRC Asks Government to Modify Section 377 (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Saturday appealed to the government to make all necessary legislative modifications in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to ensure that no one is deprived of human rights, following the Supreme Court’s verdict on gay sex. “The NHRC is of the view that all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity should be able to enjoy their human rights,” the commission said in a statement. “The commission appeals to the government to urgently take all necessary legislative treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity so that no one is deprived of their human rights.” In 2009, the Delhi High Court held that Section 377 which criminalises consensual sex between adults of the same gender was violative of Article 21 of the Constitution that says no one shall be deprived of life or personal liberty except according to law. The high court was of the view that Section 377 grossly violated the rights of people who are lesbians, gays, bisexual or transgender. The view was reversed by the Supreme Court. (New Indian Express 14/12/13)

 

6. Rights body seeks report on torture of 2 Odisha labourers (1)

Bubaneshwar: Taking serious note of the torture of two labourers by a contractor in Odisha, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a detailed report from the state government on the issue.

A contractor and his accomplices on December 15 chopped off the right hands of two migrant labourers. The NHRC on Wednesday enquired about the steps taken against the accused, and medical facilities provided to the sufferers and the plans for their rehabilitation. “If this report is true, it appears that a most brutal and savage crime was committed. …The victims are from among the most vulnerable strata… and will need immediate and continuing support from the Odisha government,” the NHRC said in its proceedings in New Delhi. The rights body also asked the state government to probe if the contractor had the required licenses and permissions. The police have so far arrested five people, including the contractor, in connection with the case. Jialu Nial and Nilambar Dhangdamajhi were subjected to the brutal treatment after refusing to work at a brick kiln in Chhattisgarh. Altogether 12 residents of Kalahandi district were paid Rs. 14,000 each by the contractor to work in Andhra Pradesh. All of them opposed the change of destination. Ten members of the group managed to escape on December 9. Nial and Dhangdamajhi were captured. Their right hands were chopped off and they were dumped on a road. The duo reached a government hospital about 500km from state capital Bhubaneswar on Sunday night. Thousands of poor labourers migrate from Odisha in search of jobs every year, falling prey to traffickers who force them to work at brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. (Hindustan Time 19/12/13)

 

7. Communal Violence Bill in present form will increase burden: NHRC (1)

New Delhi” The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said on Thursday that if the Communal Violence Bill is passed in Parliament in its “present form”, it will increase the NHRC’s burden. NHRC chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan said, “If the Act, as in present form, is passed by Parliament, NHRC has to share a huge burden. With the present structure and the facilities available with the Commission, it would be almost impossible to carry out these functions.” He added though that there was no question of the Commission shying away from its responsibilities. The Bill was cleared by the Cabinet on Monday. Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC is a recommendatory body as per the provisions of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 but its recommendations are respected by the governments and implemented in most of the cases. He said the NHRC had taken suo motu action in 300 cases of serious nature based on media reports this year while speaking at the workshop ‘Media and Human Rights: Issues and Challenges’, jointly organised by NHRC and the Indian Law Institute. try, he singled out malnutrition and said, “Malnutrition is another serious concern that the media should take up. The statistics show that one in three children in our country is affected by malnutrition.” (Indian Express 20/12/13)

 

8. Pakistani rights body opposes draft law on detentions (1)

Lahore: Pakistan’s top human rights watchdog on Fria expressed strong concern over a proposed law that aims to legitimise “prolonged detention of individuals” and give blanket impunity to security agencies. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement: “The proposed law contains 12 recommendations, one of which classifies enforced disappearances as a criminal offence. “The bill adds that despite it being a criminal offence, security forces and intelligence agencies require additional time to be able to thoroughly interrogate suspects. The draft law will allow detention of suspects for even longer than 90 days.” The bill states that complete immunity will be given to security forces if they are able to present evidence against a person detained without charge. Such steps, presented to the people under the guise of additional and requisite security measures, simply “exacerbate the problem of enforced disappearance, deny due process and rather than improving investigation methods incentivise detention without charge and torture in custody to extract confession and evidence”, HRCP contended. The rights body said such a law will fail to curb enforced disappearances and undermine the struggle of families of missing persons and civil society, “who have long battled to put an end to disappearances and the associated impunity”.The proposed law “seems to side not with the victim but with the perpetrator of this reprehensible violation of rights”.HRCP further said: “The proposed law, if adopted, will simply legitimise disappearance.” HRCP said perpetrators of acts of terrorism had not been brought to justice in Pakistan in recent years because of inadequacies in the judicial process, “poor and no investigation” and the way in which security agencies operate. Victims of disappearance should not be expected to pay for a broken criminal justice system or lack of professional investigation, it added. “HRCP is disappointed that rather than breaking with the past and saying no to disappearances, such a legislation was thought of. Curbing terrorism is of utmost importance but the rubric of national security must not be used to deny the basic rights of citizens,” the statement said. (Indian Express 20/12/13)

 

9. Forum wants Ganguly removed from WB Human Rights commission (1)

Kolkata: A group of lawyers and retired judges on Tuesday took out a protest march demanding that retired Supreme Court judge A K Ganguly, accused of sexually harassing a law intern, be removed as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. “Ganguly must resign immediately to respect the institution of Human Rights Commission. If he doesn’t resign, he should be removed by the President who has the power to do so,” said Joydeep Mukherjee, Secretary of the All India Legal Aid Forum, which took out a protest march to the retired judge’s office said. He also demanded that the Delhi Police register a suo moto FIR in the alleged incident which took place at a Delhi hotel on the night of December 24, 2012. A meeting was held at Mayo Road before a procession was taken out to Justice Ganguly’s office. It was attended by retired judge of the Gujarat High Court and former Lokayukta of Gujarat S M Soni and president of International Council of Jurists Adish C Aggarwala, besides lawyers. (The Hindu 24/12/13)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

10. Implement RTI Act in full spirit: Govt (1)

AHMEDABAD: The panchayat and rural housing and rural development department has issued a notification demanding that the provisions of Section 4 (1) (a) of the RTI Act be implemented in full spirit (i.e., with proactive disclosure by government offices). It has also asked that a monthly monitoring mechanism be ensured by different departments concerned regarding implementation of provisions. “Proactive disclosure includes all information that introduces the public office and its functions to the citizens. This also includes details of officials and their individual responsibilities. Besides these, details of project works and grants and many other details regarding budgets and statutory duties should also be disclosed,” said Pankti Jog, member of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehel. The notification also points out that fines which were imposed on officers by the state information commission are, in many cases, yet to cut from the officers’ salaries. “This is a serious issue,” claims the notification issued by the deputy secretary of panchayat department, UU Pathan. The notification has also demanded a regular review of the deduction of penalties and also that a review report be sent to the district development officer, taluka development officer and even the secretary of the department. The notification has further ordered that all officers be present for hearings when summoned by the state information commission. It further states that the department will take the implementation of the Act seriously. It is eight years since the Act came into effect but the provisions are yet to be implemented in the right spirit, the notification says. For more than 18,000 villages in Gujarat, this government notification was a candid admission that the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act were not being implemented in right earnest in grassroots institutions. Every day thousands of applications lie unattended in various panchayat offices and this was reducing the faith of people in the RTI Act. (Times of India 7/12/13)

 

11. Action demanded against six parties for not responding to RTI queries (1)

NEW DELHI: The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and RTI activist Subhash Agrawal have filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) against six national political parties — the Indian National Congress, the BJP, the CPI, the CPI(M), the Nationalist Congress Party and Bahujan Samaj Party — for not responding to Right to Information queries. The ADR has appealed to the CIC to take action against the six parties for not appointing Public Information Officers, as directed by the CIC. The Commission in its full bench verdict had held that six national political parties were public authorities under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Commission had further directed them to appoint Public Information Officers within six weeks of the order, to respond to existing RTI queries within the next four weeks. “The six parties have not complied with the CIC even after more than six months. By doing this they are defying the decision of a statutory authority which is akin to contempt of court. Such nonconformity by these national parties can be precarious to our democracy and interest of the public at large,” the ADR said in a statement on Wednesday. (The Hindu 11/12/13)

 

12. Political parties do not come under RTI Act: Parliamentary panel (1)

New Delhi:  A Parliamentary standing committee has agreed with the government that political parties do not come under the Right to Information or RTI Act. The landmark transparency law, passed by the UPA I government in 2005, is often flaunted by Congress Number 2 Rahul Gandhi as a precursor to the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, currently being pushed by the government in Parliament. All political parties barring Odisha-based Biju Janata Dal and the Communist Party of India supported the panel’s move. Nominated Rajya Sabha member and businesswoman Anu Agha gave a note of dissent. Deposing before the committee, India’s Attorney General GE Vahanvati had said that the amendments to the Act go against the provisions of the constitution and so, may not stand the test of the law. It all began with the Central Information Commission issuing an order in June this year that six national parties – Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party – have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and were required to appoint public information officers as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act. Currently, political parties have to declare details of donations of more than Rs. 20,000 to the Election Commission. They argue that since they are already answerable to one body, there is no need for another regulator. (NDTV 17/12/13)

 

13. Parliamentary panel all for amending RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has differed with the opinion of the Attorney General G.E Vahanvati over the proposed amendment to The Right to Information Act to exclude political parties as ‘public authorities’ and has held that the government was right in mooting the amendment. The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 seeks to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 order to nullify the June order of the full Bench of Central Information Commission that brought six national parties under the act’s ambit. In its report on the Bill, the committee contended that the CIC order was based on “misinterpretation of law.” The Bill, introduced in the last session of Parliament, was referred to the committee for closer examination. “The Attorney General of India was apprehensive that this law would not sustain the test of judicial scrutiny as it was creating a class within a class without having any consideration to the principle of intelligible differentia having reasonable nexus with objective of the Act, whereas the Law Secretary was of the view that it was quite sustainable since Parliament has legislative competence to override the CIC decision. The Committee, however, subscribes to the opinion expressed by the Law Secretary,” panel chairman Shantaram Naik told journalists. In his opinion to the Committee, Mr. Vahanvati also said: “Political Parties are foundation of democracy and need to be given sufficient protection from malicious and motivated application for which safeguards already exist under Section 8 of the Act.” The parliamentary committee maintained that the aspects of transparency in financial matters of political parties were fully covered under existing laws and mechanisms. These include direction from Election Commission to the parties asking them to submit their accounts within 90 days after general election, inspection of accounts of candidate of political party and obtaining the same from the EC on payment of nominal charges, and declaration of assets and liabilities to the Ethics Committee of House by MPs. (The Hindu 19/12/13)

 

14. Activists slam exclusion of political parties from ambit of RTI Act (1)

NEW DELHI: RTI activists strongly condemned the parliamentary standing committee report excluding political parties from the ambit of the Act, describing it as an act of “arrogance” and “tragic”.The parliamentary committee in a report has said that political parties did not come under the definition of “public authorities” and so could not be brought within the Act’s ambit. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) representatives described the report “tragic and sad”. It was ADR’s application with the Central Information Commission (CIC) that had prompted the June 3 order mandating that six national political parties, including Congress, BJP, CPI, NCP, BSP and SP, come under the RTI Act. Speaking to TOI, ADR’s Prof Jagdeep Chhokar said, “When the whole country is moving towards transparency, the Rajya Sabha committee is making recommendations against transparency. We hope that parliament in its wisdom will turn it down. The committee has not taken the sentiments and views of the people in to account.” His colleague Prof Trilochan Sastry called the report “unfortunate”. “Providing wholesale exemption to political parties is unfortunate. If parties had genuine concern they could have exempted internal party strategy or discussions but their real fear is that their sources of funding will be disclosed. Over 75% of funding for political parties is from unknown sources. We will definitely challenge it if this bill is made law,” he said. National Campaign for People’s Right to Campaign to Information (NCPRI) convener Anjali Bhardwaj said that the report was ridiculous. “This is a case of complete arrogance. Political parties make a law but when it comes to a question of their own transparency, they keep themselves out of it. Anyone who is performing a public function, uses substantial public funds and holds information in public interest comes under the RTI act and political parties fit in all these parameters. The bill goes against the spirit of the law and the Constitution,” she said. Following the CIC order the government had brought in an amendment to the RTI taking parties out of the Act’s ambit. The amendments were tabled in the Lok Sabha but keeping in view vociferous criticism from various sections of society the bill was referred to the standing committee. (Times of India 20/12/13)

 

15. RTI activist murder case: BJP MP named in CBI chargesheet (1)

Ahmedabad: BJP MP from Gujarat Dinu Bogha Solanki has been named in the CBI chargesheet filed on Saturday in a court here in connection with murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa who had waged a crusade against illegal mining in Gir Forest of the state, the last home of Asiatic lions. Jethwa has been charge sheeted under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 320 (murder) of Indian Penal Code, official sources said. The charge sheet was filed in a special CBI court here. Solanki, Lok Sabha member from Junagarh, was arrested on November 5 in connection with the case. Gujarat Police had arrested six persons, including Shiva Solanki, nephew of the BJP MP, and sharp shooter Sailesh Pandya who had shot at Jethwa outside the Gujarat High Court. All of them were questioned by CBI inside a jail after taking permission from the designated court. Jethwa was an RTI and environment activist who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region. He was shot dead on July 20, 2010. The BJP MP was earlier given a clean chit by Crime Branch of Gujarat Police prompting the father of the deceased to approach the Gujarat High Court. Gujarat Police’s crime branch had ruled out any involvement of Solanki in the murder. Terming the probe conducted by the Gujarat Police “far from fair, independent, bona fide or prompt”, the High Court had transferred the case to CBI. The killing had sparked an uproar among RTI activists across the country who raised concerns over the safety of such whistleblowers. In his plea before the High Court, Jethwa’s father Bhikabhai has alleged the state police had not properly probed the case and the state government was shielding the BJP MP. The court had said the probe in the case was “far from fair, independent, bona fide or prompt”.”It has come on record that Shiva Solanki and DB (Dinu Bogha Solanki) were living together in a joint family and no investigator could have been easily satisfied with the statements that they did not interact in respect of the conspiracy to commit a capital crime,” the court had said. Jethwa had filed several petitions in the Gujarat High Court, including a Public Interest Litigation, in connection with illegal mining in Gir forests in Junagarh district which is a protected area and last home to Asiatic lions. (Zee News 21/12/13)

 

16. Information sought by slain activist now on website (1)

MUMBAI/BHIWANDI: State chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad has ordered the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation to disclose on its website all the information sought by slain RTI activist Abrar Shaikh on illegal constructions. The murder, for which the police arrested a third accused, Waseem Khan (40), from Thane on Saturday, was the fallout of a complaint made to the civic body by Shaikh against the construction of an illegal structure in which a corporator was allegedly involved. Soon after Gaikwad’s order on Friday, the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation complied with it. The move came after much lobbying by social activists for the suo motu disclosure of all information sought under the RTI Act by activists who were attacked or killed for the information they had applied for. Such a move virtually defeats the purpose of attacking an RTI activist. Shaikh had determined the illegality of the structure using the Right to Information Act and was allegedly murdered by the corporator, Hasib Khan of the Samajwadi Party, and the other three accused. The previous two arrests in the Shaikh murder case are Mohammed Sherkhan alias Sheru (40) and Nasroolah Ansari (45) alias Bahatar, while the accused corporator is still on the run. On Saturday all three arrested men were produced in court and remanded in police custody till Wednesday. (Times of India 22/12/13)

 

17. Rising backlog and official apathy affect efficacy of RTI Act (1)

Pune: Unlike most other areas that witnessed growth in 2013, the year was marked with many lows when it comes to the Right to Information Act. High volumes of pendency, delay in garnering information and official apathy towards the Act has left many in Pune disillusioned. With 5,500 pending cases, the Pune bench of the State Information Commissioner (SIC) tops the list. This implies that people going for second appeals have to wait for years to get justice. The minimum waiting period for applicant now is two years. Such a long waiting period is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of RTI users. Of late some disturbing pratices have also affected the RTI cause. Complaints under Section 18 of the RTI Act that deals with failure of the public authority in implementing the Act are not entertained by the Pune bench. This move of the SIC is based on the interpretation of a SC judgment. Also, the SIC decision to revert the second appeals to the first appeallate authorities with instructions that they rehear the cases had attracted a lot of flak from RTI users. Pune SIC M H Shah had justified his decision citing precedence of higher courts sending back cases to lower courts. However, activists had said that this move was wrong as it was like sending back the case to square one. The city, which played a vital role in the struggle to get the RTI enacted, this year also saw a sad spectacle of government officials shirking their responsibilities towards the Act. In fact, the RTI cell of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA), received no response from public authorities when it sought applications for good practices. Applicants asking for information regarding granting of licences, copies of memorandum of understanding between private and government bodies were unnecessarily put in risk when their original application was being forwarded to private bodies. The city, which had witnessed the brutal murder of Satish Shetty, continues to see such action by public authorities, which goes against the spirit of the law. (Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

18. ‘Investigate Custodial Deaths in Last 2 Years in TN’ (1)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Friday ordered notice to the government returnable in two weeks in a PIL that sought a judicial enquiry into the custodial death of 71 prisoners in 2012 and 2013 and an order directing interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased. In his petition, K Kesavan of Anna Nagar said 1,095 custodial deaths have taken place in central prisons in Tamil Nadu between January 2,000 and February 2013. The deaths would not have occurred had the respective departments provided speedy medical treatment to the detenues. The prisoners were dying, the petitioner alleged, due to “gross negligence” of the prisons administration. Further, the petition alleged no judicial enquiry had taken place on the deaths of the prisoners and their kin were also not informed before their burial. Therefore, apart from other prayers, the petition sought 24-hour hospital facility in all prisons in Tamil Nadu and enquiry into the deaths that had taken place between 2012 and 2013. The plea also wanted the court to usher in a process where a custodial death would be compulsorily enquired by a District Judge and a report be sent to the government. (New Indian Express 7/12/13)

 

19. AFSPA to stay till 2014-end in J&K (1)

The Centre has finally decided not to withdraw the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu and Kashmir till the end of 2014. Highly placed government sources said even the possibility of a partial withdrawal of AFSPA from some districts as suggested by the state government has also been ruled out. The government has agreed with the contention of security and intelligence agencies that India should wait for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in 2014 and see its impact on Kashmir before taking any decisions related to the Valley. The issue of withdrawal of AFSPA from the Kashmir Valley had led to considerable tussle between the state government and security forces, particularly the Army. Citing considerable improvement in the Valley’s security situation the Omar Abdullah Government was pushing of lifting AFSPA from the valley. It had even suggested that on an experimental basis the controversial Act should be withdrawn in two or three districts of the state. But this too was strongly opposed by the Army at various levels, including the Srinagar based Unified Command. But despite security agencies expressing their strong reservation over lifting of AFSPA in the state had left the final decision to the Centre. The security and intelligence agencies in their assessment reports to the Centre had clearly mentioned that withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan will have a direct impact on Kashmir’s security scenario. The intelligence agencies had mentioned that the focus of terror organisations will shift to Kashmir from Afghanistan by 2014 and withdrawing of AFSPA at such crucial time could prove to be detrimental to functioning of security forces the Valley. The Centre too agreed with the assessment of security forces and putting to rest all speculation over the issue has conveyed to the state government to wait till the end of 2014 when international forces leave Afghanistan. The issue has finally been settled and hopefully the state government will also not raise the matter any further. Its because of AFSPA that security agencies have been able to achieve so much success in the state. No doubt that in the valley this is a huge political issue but we hope the state’s political leadership will see logical reasoning behind the decision,’’ a senior home ministry official said. (Asian Age 8/12/13)

 

20. In 20 years, 124 Army men held guilty of rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir (1)

JAMMU: As many as 124 Army personnel, including 41 officers, have been found guilty of human rights violations and awarded exemplary punishments in the past 20 years in Jammu & Kashmir. “As many as 124 personnel, including 41 officers, found guilty of these violations were expeditiously tried by Army courts and awarded exemplary punishments ranging from dismissal from service without any service benefits to imprisonment (during last over 20 years),” PRO, ministry of defence, Northern Command, Lt Col Rajesh Kalia said on Monday. During the past 20 years, 1,524 allegations of human rights violations against Army personnel serving in Northern Command have been received, Lt Col Kalia said. “Each and every allegation was enquired into by an independent and autonomous body and 42 of these allegations were found to be true,” he said. In his message on the eve of Human Rights Day on Monday, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, GOC in C, Northern Command directed all troops in Jammu & Kashmir to ensure Zero Human Rights violations during conduct of counterterrorist operations. The Indian Army has one of the finest record for ensuring that human rights of its citizens are protected and the importance given to human rights is evident from the fact that a human rights branch at the Army headquarters has been functioning since March 1993 and such branches exist in formations up to Brigade and Sector level. “There are a few ongoing cases which are being closely monitored, ensuring Rule of Law and proceedings as enunciated by the Army Act,” Lt Col Kalia said. “Anyone found guilty shall face the law. This amply demonstrates that all cases of alleged human rights violations are thoroughly investigated and personnel found guilty are promptly punished,” the defence PRO said. (Times of India 9/12/13)

 

21. Tripura Govt Decides to Extend AFSPA for Six More Months (1)

AGARTALA: Tripura government has decided to extend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, (AFSPA) in 34 police station areas of the state for another six months from January 1 to contain insurgency, official sources said today. The decision to extend the AFSPA, also known as disturbed areas act, was taken in the meeting of the state level coordination committee (SLCC) headed by the Chief Secretary S K Panda recently, the source said. Though insurgency has largely been contained in the state it’s remnants still existed and the tenure of the AFSPA was extended for another six months so that it can not come back in future, they said. Earlier the AFSPA was operational in 40 police station areas but now reduced to 32 police station areas as the insurgency has come down. The state has 70 police stations altogether. The act was first imposed in Tripura in 1997 when the insurgency was at its hight. However, the opposition Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), tribal based largest party in the state has criticised the state government’s decision as ‘ridiculous’. “When the government claims that insurgency was crushed in the state, then where is the logic to extend the operation of the act. The state government took the decision to increase its duration only to torture the tribals of the state because this act is operational in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) only,” INPT General Secretary Jagadish Debbarma said. The tribal council area constitute two third of the state territory and is the home to the tribals which forms one third of the state population. The state has 856-km-long border with Bangladesh and according to Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is also the Home Minister of the state, camps of insurgents of the state still existed in the neighbouring country. (New Indin Exprewss 14/12/13)

 

22. Singrauli tense, one person dies in police firing (1)

BHOPAL: Waiden town in Singrauli district was tense on Friday after one person was killed in police firing and two others injured over an alleged custodial death. Police opened fire after a mob set the district collector’s car ablaze and tried to storm into the office of the superintendent of police. Prohibitory orders have been clamped in four police station areas and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. Residents turned violent after the body of a youngster detained by cops was found dumped in a well. Protesters alleged he was killed in police custody. Tension gripped the town after the body was found on Friday morning and rampaging mobs torched four vehicles and tried to forcibly enter the SP’s chamber. Protesters said Akhilesh Sahu, a resident of Bilaoji area, 3 km from district headquarters, was detained on December 5 for questioning on the whereabouts of his cousin, who was wanted in a criminal case. On Thursday night, Sahu’s body was found in a well. The man killed in police firing has been identified as Nakeem Ahmed Siddiqui. (Times of India 14/12/13)

 

23. ‘More human rights violation cases filed against cops’ (1)

MYSORE: Human Rights Commission member C G Hunugund, a former judge of high court, on Saturday said that about 60% of human right violation cases are against police department in Karnataka. Speaking to STOI after releasing a 2014 calendar of Law Guide Association at Patrakarthara Bhavana here, the former judge claimed that Bangalore tops the list of districts with regard to the violations. “Majority of cases is against police, and the remaining 40% are against civic authorities and officers of other departments,” he added. The commission will accept complaints from aggrieved parties or from members of NGOs or take suo motu cases based on newspaper reports on human rights violations. In Mysore, the number of cases is rising year after year, he said, giving the break-up: 52 cases in 2007, 236 in 2008, 333 in 2009, 485 in 2010, 494 in 2011, 416 in 2012, and 313 in 2013 (up to October). The commission is addressing the complaints with attention, he claimed. To a query, Hunugund said that the commission is sensitizing police officers because more number of human rights violation cases is related to them. The former judge claimed that he has so far visited about 12 districts in Karnataka for inspection. After releasing the calendar, Hunugund appealed to lawyers to show compassion to poor litigants. Project Tiger field director C Srinivasan released Law Guide diary. Senior public prosecutor Sudeep Bangera was felicitated on the occasion. ‘Law Guide’ magazine chief H N Venkatesh and district judges were present.  (Times of India 15/12/13)

 

24. Maharashtra beats UP, Gujarat in custodial deaths (1)

MUMBAI: Progressive Maharashtra has achieved a dubious distinction when it came to deaths in police custody. A week ago, when the issue of was raised in the parliament, minister of state for home R P N Singh informed that maximum number of deaths in police custody were registered in Maharashtra. “The national human rights commission has submitted a comprehensive data on custodial deaths. In last four years, maximum deaths were reported from Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh,” the minister told the Rajya Sabha. From the data tabled in the parliament, between 2010 and 2013, out of the 528 custodial deaths, 85 were from Maharashtra, 55 from Uttar Pradesh, 33 from Gujarat and 24 from Bihar. Out of the 85 cases from the state, 54 cases are still pending before the national human rights commission, while 17 cases have been disposed of. In 37 cases of custodial deaths, the NHRC has awarded a compensation of Rs 93.5 lakh, while in three cases, it has recommended disciplinary action and only in one case, it has asked the state government to initiate criminal proceeding against the erring official. Neighbouring Gujarat paid a compensation of Rs 57.5 lakh in 33 cases, but neither disciplinary action was taken nor criminal proceedings were launched against erring officials. A senior bureaucrat said, in 2010, 31 cases of custodial deaths were registered in Maharashtra, followed by 20 each in 2011 and 2012 and 14 in 2013 (up to November 15). “Indeed it’s shocking. For a prolonged period, Maharashtra never led the list of states with such a large number of custodial deaths. States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh were ahead of Maharashtra. We will have to take corrective measures,” he said. The bureaucrat said, prima facie it appears that the stringent guidelines prescribed by the national and state human rights commission were not implemented in letter and spirit, as a result, there was spurt in custodial deaths. Even before the national or state human rights commission steps in, the home department must suo moto probe the cause of death in the police custody. From the report tabled in the parliament, it appears that out of 37 cases examined by the national commission, disciplinary action was taken in only three cases, while, in only one case, criminal proceedings were initiated against the erring official. Significantly, quiet a large number of cases of custodial deaths are pending before the state human rights commission. “Cases of custodial deaths have been accumulated, since there was no commission since last two years. Now that a commission has been set up, we expect to dispose of all the cases of custodial deaths in a time bound period,” the bureaucrat said. (Times of India 20/12/13)

 

25. 3 cops held in custodial death case (1)

MUMBAI: The crime branch arrested three policemen attached to the Vanrai police station on Tuesday in the case of custodial death of a 20-year-old suspected thief. The arrested men were head constable Chandrakant Kambale, police naik Kiran Pingale and constable Umesh Gosavi. The deceased, Manoj Salve, a Kurla resident, and his accomplice Prakash Chavan (30) were caught by the public at a fire safety exhibition on the Nesco ground in Goregaon (E) on October 26, said the police. Crime branch insiders said the two suspected thieves were beaten by the people present and the three policemen also joined the public in the thrashing. After the suspects were taken to the Vanrai police station, their questioning was commenced, during which Salve fell unconscious. Salve was taken to Cooper Hospital in Juhu, where doctors declared him dead at the time of arrival. When Salve’s family heard about his detention and subsequent death, they demonstrated at the police station. Calling it a murder, they demanded the arrest of the policemen responsible. At the time, the police registered an accidental death case, but the post-mortem report stated that Salve died of external injuries. The crime branch, which had begun an investigation, submitted its report and stated that the preliminary inquiry had found three policemen guilty. The inquiry team also examined the CCTV footage of the exhibition centre and saw people beating the suspects. The three policemen did not rush the two suspects to hospital, instead taking them to their police station. Based on the report, the three policemen were arrested on Tuesday night. The accused were produced before a court and remanded in police custody till Monday. (Times of India 26/12/13)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

26. Minister Nanda accused of grabbing Dalit land in K’put (2)

Bhubaneswar: Jeypore MLA and School and Mass Education Minister Rabi Narayan Nanda courted  fresh controversy after several Dalits brought an allegation against him that he grabbed over 12 acres of their land at Patraput under Jeypore tehsil in Koraput district. Demanding a high-level inquiry and appropriate action against Nanda for encroaching private and Government land along with pasture in Patraput, the members of the Dalit families of Leli Pangi, Daimati Pangi, Hari Pangi and Krushna Pangi villages staged a dharana in front of the residential office of the sub-collector at Jeypore on Tuesday. “The Minister has snatched away our land which was owned by our ancestors. When we yield crops, the Minister’s people forcefully take it from us. We have complained before many officials about the matter, but nobody is paying heed to our concerns,” said complainant Hari Pangi. Later, the family members handed over a memorandum to the Governor through sub-collector Birendra Karkara, requesting appropriate action against the Minister. In the memorandum, they said the Minister and his wife Indira Nanda encroached over 12 acres of private land at Patraput owned by their ancestors. Even the Minister constructed walls on the encroached Government land and land for grazing in the same village. The family members had complained before the tehsildar, sub-collector, District Collector and Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) regarding the issue, but no action was taken against Nanda. It was a clear violation of Section 42 of the SC, ST Act which stated that Dalit and tribal people’s land cannot be purchased by non-Dalits or non-tribals. The Supreme Court has also recently given a ruling on the matter favouring the Dalits and tribals. According to the Act, the State Government should hand over the Dalit land after evicting encroachers which was not followed here, cited the victims. “If the State Government does not take any appropriate action in the case, we will stage a dharana in front of the State Assembly demanding justice,” warned Pangi on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Nanda rubbished the allegation, claiming it as baseless and false. (Pioneer 12/12/13)

 

27. In Gujarat, thousands of Dalits choose Buddhism for a ‘new identity’ (2)

Rajkot: Thousands of Dalits from the state gathered at Patapar village near Junagadh and converted to Buddhism with an aim to “walk on the path of Truth” on Sunday. Eyewitnesses said that around 5,000 Dalits from Saurashtra and Kutch and other parts of the state attended “Chalo Buddh Ki Aur” event and converted to Buddhism in the presence of Bikhhu Sanghasena, the founder of the Mahabodhi International Medication Centre (MIMC), and leaders of Mahabodhi Society from Sri Lanka. Jaydev Bapa, a revered figure here, was among the Dalits who converted to Buddhism. “We seek to walk on the path of Truth. Buddhism preaches equality, brotherhood and non-violence. This change would help develop the community,” Deven Vanvi, convenor of Buddha Diksha Mahotsav Samiti (BDMS), an umbrella organisation of Dalit associations, said. “We all know what is happening in the society. This will change our identity as individuals. If someone asks us who we are, from now on we shall say we are Buddhists, forsaking the term ‘Harijan’ coined by Mahatma Gandhi for us and uncomfortable feelings associated with it,” Vanvi further said. Tushar Shripal, a member of BDMS, said, “This is a matter of self-respect. Being a Dalit is like living in a constant state of humiliation. The change will give people self-respect and self-pride.” The organisers claimed that the event was largest of its kind in the state. Dalits from Kodinar, Manavadar, Keshod and Junagadh talukas attended the event with entire community. “We took inspiration from Dr B R Ambedkar and had been planning the event since this February under the guidance of Jaydev Bapa,” Vanvi added. Dr Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution, had converted to Buddhism along with scores of his community members in protest against caste prejudice. (Indian Express 14/12/13)

 

28. Gujarat orders probe into conversion of Dalits (2)

The Gujarat government has ordered an inquiry into the mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism at Dungarpur village in Junagadh district on Sunday. Junagadh district collector Alok Pandey told The Indian Express: “I have ordered a probe into the event and asked the Superintendent of Police and sub-divisional magistrate to inquire into the issue and submit a report at the earliest.” Pandey said that though he had prior knowledge about the event, it was mandatory for the organisers to take prior permission on the conversions, under the new anti-conversion law. “The organisers had informed the administration about holding the event. But they went ahead with the programme without obtaining proper permission,” Pandey told this newspaper. He said that the administration had procured videos of the five-hour event and would conduct a thorough probe to see if there was violation of the law. Under privisions of Section 5 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Rules, 2008, a proper and prior permission of the district magistrate was mandatory before any religious conversion. Any violation amounted to an offence and invited action. Devendra Govindbhai Vanvi of the Baudh Diksha Mahotsava Samiti, an umbrella organisation of Buddhists and Dalits in the state that organised the event, however, claimed that he had secured prior permission. “The village panchayat provided its ground for the event. Mamlatdar and other officials gave us permission for using a microphone, provided us ambulance and other facilities,” claimed Vanvi. “Why should the administration allow the event and provide facilities for it if the event was illegal,” he stated. Vanvi alleged that a probe into the event seemed to have been ordered under political pressure. Why did Dalits convert to Buddhism? Vanvi said that Dalits were embracing Buddhism to seek “emancipation” from the Hindu caste system that had virtually made them “social slaves” for centuries. Former minister Dinesh Parmar, who had attended the event, said that large-scale conversions of Dalits to Buddhism were planned to be held at all the district headquarters in the state in days to come. (Indian Express 16/12/13)

 

29. 41 Dalit students boycott classes (2)

DHARMAPURI: Forty-one Dalit students of the Panchayat Union Middle School at Veppamarathur village near Bommidi in Dharmapuri district boycotted the classes on Monday alleging that they were being discriminated against, and maintained that the water in the overhead tank in the school was poisoned to cause harm to them. Ten of these students and their parents submitted a petition to District Collector K. Vivekanandan, demanding an end to the discrimination. They also sought a compound wall and a new building for the school. It was alleged in the petition that trouble began ever since caste-Hindus announced a boycott of the family of S. Sudha, a Dalit who got married to G. Suersh, a Vanniyar (caste-Hindu). P. Sekaran, the leader of the Dalits at Veppamarathur Colony, the students and their parents recounted how three students P. Sakthi (13), M. Sakthivel (9), and S. Karthika (7) were taken ill after consuming water from the school tank. The Collector assured the students and the others of appropriate action in two days. When contacted S. Nagarajan, District Elementary Education Officer told The Hindu that the main school building had two classrooms and the dilapidated building on the opposite side had two classrooms. The district administration was taking efforts to survey the land behind the school for construction of new building with toilet, drinking water, and other basic amenities, he said. The Collector also ordered an inquiry by the Revenue Divisional Officer on a petition submitted by Dalits of Kondampatti Colony at Naickenkottai Village that they were being discriminated against ever since Ilavarasan, a Dalit youth of Natham Colony married Divya, a caste-Hindu girl in 2012. More than 250 houses of Dalits were attacked on November 7, 2012. Ilavarasan was later found dead along a railway track after Divya wanted to live with her mother. The Dalits alleged on Monday that hate speeches were being made against them and hair dressers, grocery shops and flour mills were turning them away. (The Hindu 17/12/13)

 

30. Return used mining areas to villagers: Dalits, tribals (2)

Bhubaneswar: During an interface with Revenue Minister Surjya Narayan Patro at a meeting organised by the Development Initiatives here, displaced dalit and adivasi people of mining areas on Tuesday suggested him to take steps to return the lands after finishing of mining in the acquired land. Patro while releasing a study report on ‘Mining and Land Rights of Dalits and Marginalised communities in Odisha’, hailed the suggestion and said that he would try to induct it in future during signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) with any corporate houses. “Usually the acquired land lying unused after mining and it is a good idea to reuse the land by the villagers in farming after filling soil and sand within it,” the Minister added.   The dalit and adivasi leaders said the company should fill the hollows with soil and sand after mining and return it to the displaced people. Which would be a good corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the companies, they added. Development Initiatives secretary Manas Jena, head of the research team that conducted the study covering ten mining tehsils of eight districts, said that one lakh hectares of land have been given in lease to 600 companies within last 50 years. Out of the total lease land, 50 per cent have been allotted to the Central and the State Government, while the rest of the lands have been given to private companies. Most of the mining areas are situated in the tribal and dalit dominated areas in the State as a result thousands of SC and ST people are migrating every year due to industrialisation. “The State Government didn’t take the problems of displaced people seriously for which reason the landless people are living in miserable condition,” Jena said. He further said the State Government failed to implement Vasundhara Scheme and the Orissa Government Land Settlement Act, 1962 in true spirit. Different industries have been continuing their business here even encroaching lands of common people, he said, adding, “The companies should restrict their operations within the lease area and in cases where the land is indirectly affected due to mining; it should be compensated and covered under land reclamation programme.” (Pioneer 18/12/13)

 

31. Dalit body slams Govt for silence on atrocity plaints (2)

Bhubaneswar: Coming down heavily on the State Government for its lackadaisical attitude towards atrocities on Dalits, hundreds of people under the banner of the National Confederation of Dalit Organisation (NACDOR) on Wednesday staged a demonstration in front of State Assembly demanding immediate Government intervention in the issues. “More than 200 Dalit employees working at Bhubaneswar Infosys are being subjected to both mental and physical tortures since last 15 years by Infosys Regional Manager Vaibhab Patel and others. Though an FIR was lodged at the Infosys police station in this regard, the police instead acting against Patel are forcing the complainants to withdraw the complaint,” rued NACDOR State president Ashok Kumar Mallick. Giving an instance of police inaction, Mallick said though a complaint was registered against some villagers of Patana Sahi under the Lingaraj police station for attacking a Dalit boy, Jitu Kandi, and his sister on December 5, the police are yet to arrest them. “It is seen that political persons like Ministers, MPs and MLAs belonging to the present party in power in the State, besides influential persons and even police personnel are involving themselves in heinous atrocities against Dalit people,” said Mallick. Seeking Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s intervention, the organisation urged him to directly look into the matter, thereby ensuring a normal life with full dignity to Dalit people in the State as per the provisions in the Constitution. (Pioneer 19/12/13)

 

32. Prejudice, injustice against Dalits still exists: President (2)

Kochi: Prejudice and injustice against scheduled castes still exists in India, President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Friday. Kicking off the celebrations on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of renowned social reformer Ayyankali here this evening, the President pointed out that the change in status and living conditions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes since the adoption of the Constitution was enormous, yet “far from sufficient”.”Disabilities have been removed in law. But, unfortunately prejudice, inequality and injustice still persists vis-a-vis Scheduled Castes in our country. We must invest our energies to remove all vestiges of disabilities from the lives of SCs, STs and BCs,” he said. “We must create a society in which minorities can live in peace and not have to fear or suffer deprivation.” Noting that inclusion and equal opportunity for all communities was the foundation of free, progressive and modern India, Mukherjee said members of all castes, religions and regions were equal partners in the nation-building. Paying tribute to Ayyankali, the President said his life was an “incessant struggle” and he could be called the first labour leader of India. Like Jyotiba Phule and B R Ambedkar, Ayyankali dedicated his life to the struggle against casteism and to achieve equality among all people. It was because of reformers like Ayyankali and Sree Narayan Guru that people of Kerala were able to develop their progressive outlook, which is admired across the country today, he noted. Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, Union ministers Vayalar Ravi, K V Thomas, MLA Ramesh Chennithala and others were present on this occasion. (Zee News 20/12/13)

 

33. Naxalites eye educated but unemployed Dalits (2)

NAGPUR: State Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) cell has issued a confidential message to all the police units, including Mumbai and rest of western Maharashtra, across the state alerting them regarding a massive countrywide plan of the rebels to revive their movement with the help of Dalit, especially targeting the educated but unemployed youths in their community. ANO, referring to Naxal’s ‘Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution’, underlined the rebels’ ultimate goal of destroying country’s existing political, economic and cultural fabric to replace with system embodying their ideology. The ANO alert, a copy of which is in possession of TOI, states that Naxalites are aiming at rebuilding their strengths and form bases across cities like their jungle strongholds following the setbacks they suffered in the recent times from the aggressive operations of the central and state forces. The Naxalites have expressed concern over their receding manpower owing to recruitment crunch and government strategies. The Naxalites, in their ninth unity congress, have urged their cadres to use the Dalit base to boost the movement across country in order to achieve their party’s ultimate goal – to overthrow central government. The ANO alert quotes several decisions undertaken at the rebels’ secret conference held at Abujmarh in 2007. The Naxal strategists have urged their cadres to exploit the incidents of atrocities on Dalits to fuel sentiments using it as a trigger to form frontal organizations at various levels of the society, ANO has alerted police units. The director of the Maharashtra Police Academy at Nashik and principals of Regional Police Training Schools (RPTS) of Marol in Mumbai, Khandala, Nanviz, Solapur, Jalna, Akola and Nagpur too have been alerted by ANO. ANO stressed on the fact that Naxalites have started seeking various avenues to rope in displeased segment of the Dalits especially their educated-but-unemployed youths from cities and suburbs. The Naxal strategists have also asked their cadres to induct supporters from across the society to agitate on the issues of Dalit exploitations. The alert message, which includes names of several Naxalites over ground cadres including ones from Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and other places, highlighted how the rebels are planning to exploit the sacrifices of likes of Bhagat Singh, philosophies of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and such personalities to attract the sentiments of the youths. ANO has cited several instances of the past where frontal organizations have tried to provoke the Dalits by highlighting the atrocities on Dalits in the incidents like that of Khairlanji killings in Bhandara district, firing at Mumbai’s Ramabai Ambedkar slum and such places by distributing inflammatory literature, delivering speeches and making such propaganda through documentary films and cultural programmes. ANO has urged the police units across the state to send its feedback on the programmes organized by such frontal organizations involving labour union, youth organizations, rights bodies comprising literary persons, journalists, advocates and such intellectual groups pro-actively spreading Naxal ideology. (Times of India 22/12/13)

 

34. Dalit attempts suicide after rape accused let off by UP panchayat (2)

Lucknow: Depressed over panchayat’s diktat awarding just five slaps to an accused who tried to rape her, a 19-year-old Dalit  girl allegedly tried to commit suicide in Pahasu area of Bulundshahr on Monday. According to reports, a powerful resident of Sohi hamlet of Pahasu in Bulundshahr had called a village girl to work in his fields on Sunday. When the victim reached for work, the accused calledher and tried to pull her in a secluded place to rape her. Luckily, the victim somehow released her from clutches of the accused and rushed towards her house and informed the incident to the family members. Reports further said that the family took the matter to the village panchayat on Monday but instead of taking serious cognisance, the sarpanchs  tried to bail out the accused after they  awarded just five slaps to the accused. Disturbed over the incident the girl tried to to commit suicide by jumping into a canal here on Monday. However, she was rescued by passersby. Local police claimed that they took cognisance of the matter and were trying to arrest the accused. Meanwhile in another incident reported from Gorakhpur, a woman was allegedly attacked by a man for opposing  lewd comments. Reports said that on Monday evening, the accused passed lewd comments on a woman when she was going to a bank with her mother-in-law in Sumersagar area of Gorakhpur. When she opposed, he pushed down the woman to ground and tore her clothes. When the victim’s  mother-in-law raised an alarm, the accused left the woman and absconded. Following the incident, the victim’s brother-in-law reached the accused’s house but he rang up the police and lodged a fake complaint against her kin. When the victim came to know about her brother-in-law’s  arrest, she reached the SP city’s office and narrated the entire episode only then his brother-in-law was released. It may be mentioned that on Sunday also, in another such incident in Gorakhpur a girl was beaten-up by miscreants in Khorabar police station area for resisting their teasing bid. (Pioneer 25/12/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

35. Doctor arrested for medical negligence (3)

Mumbai: The police Thursday arrested a doctor with a private hospital in Sion after a patient’s family complained of negligence. According to the police, the doctor allegedly cut off the patient’s ventilator off saying there was a slim chance of survival, though the patient’s son found him still breathing two hours later. The arrested doctor was identified as Atul Chirmale, employed with Atharva Hospital in Sion. The police said on Wednesday, Sion resident Chandrakant Gangurde (59) was admitted to the hospital with complaints of chest pain and laboured breathing and was put on ventilator support. A doctor at the hospital said the left side of the patient’s body was paralysed and that he had a history of fever. “His condition was very critical and it was difficult to judge whether he would survive,” the doctor said. On Wednesday evening, Chirmale examined Gangurde and told his family there was a very slim chance of survival. The family subsequently signed a consent letter and ventilator support was discontinued, after which he was shifted from the intensive care unit (ICU) to another room. “Around two hours later, Gangurde’s son found him still breathing and brought it to the attention of the hospital authorities. He then came to the police station and filed a complaint, saying his father could have died in the two-hour period without the ventilator support,” said senior inspector Baburao Gavit of Sion police station. Chirmale was taken into custody late Wednesday night and arrested Thursday morning. He has been booked for endangering life due to rash and negligent behaviour under section 336 of the Indian Penal Code.  Gangurde was later shifted to Kohinoor Hospital in Kurla. Meanwhile, the administration at Atharva hospital claimed there was no medical lapse. “The consultant doctor has 35 years of experience. He cut off the ventilator support only after the relatives signed a consent letter,” said a junior doctor with the hospital. (Indian Express 12/12/13)

 

36. 27% rise in Centre’s funds to states for free drugs (3)

There is a quantum jump of 27% in the first seven months of the current financial year in government’s funds for free drugs and supplies to states. This was stated by Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha. Azad said from a total of Rs 1,540.39 crore of central funds to supplement states’ efforts in providing free drugs and medicines, the government has provided Rs 1,961.64 crore to states under the scheme upto October in the current fiscal 2013-14. “To supplement efforts of states, government of India has been providing free drugs/funds for free drugs to states/UTs under the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) and National Disease Control Programme for Tuberculosis, vector-borne diseases including malaria, leprosy and HIV/AIDS etc. Government is also encouraging the states/UTs to provide universal access to free essential medicines in public health facilities by providing funds and incentives under the National Health Mission (NHM),” said the Minister. While the maximum funds to the tune of Rs 294.27 crore were approved for Maharashtra, followed by Rs 262.21 crore to Uttar Pradesh, the Centre provided Rs 186.94 crore to Rajasthan, that had gone to polls recently, during the first seven months of the current fiscal. Rajasthan was given only Rs 50.67 crore during 2012-13. However, these do not include the cost of drugs of tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, HIV/AIDS and vaccines under routine immunisation and pulse polio immunisation procured by the Centre for supply to states on which a total of Rs 1,000 crore are spent, Azad said. (DNA 13/12/13)

 

37. Freedom from fluoride-contaminated water for 140 villages in seven districts (3)

BANGALORE: Consumption of safe and potable drinking water has become a reality for residents of seven districts of the State, a change from the fluoride-contaminated water that had been imbibing. A drinking water project, funded by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in Bijapur, Davangere, Gadag, Tumkur, Chitradurga, Mandya and Raichur has made drinking water shortage a thing of the past in 140 villages of the seven districts. Today, drinking water is available round the clock in villages. The project is being implemented on PPP model by SMAAT India Private Ltd., a Hyderabad-based firm and the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Department of the State. Both the private firm and the RDPR are sharing the cost equally. NABARD granted 6.3 crore to the private firm to implement the project for 10 years. NABARD Chief General Manager G.R. Chintala told The Hindu that the purpose of the project is to ensure supply of clean and potable drinking water to all villages of all seven districts. “Over 30 per cent of the people of the selected districts were consuming non-potable or chemically contaminated water and in many villages. The fluoride content is more than five times the permissible limit which is not suitable for drinking purpose,” Mr. Chintala said. Officials of the SMAAT said they are charging 20 paise a litre of water and village residents have to buy daily for consumption of potable drinking water. The people have been collecting water in cans and vessels as per their requirement. Minimum requirement for a family per day is 20 litres (drinking and cooking),” he said. The firm will handover the project to the RDPR after 10 years. It will charge 20 paise a litre for the first three years, 30 paise for the next three years and 40 paise in the last four years of the project. The firm has installed 180 plants equipped with water purification technology (reverse osmosis-RO). Over five lakh people residing in 140 villages in seven districts are benefiting from the project. Depending on the village population, the firm has installed 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 4,000 litres-capacity plants in villages identified by the RDPR. The cost of each plant ranges from Rs. 2.78 lakh to Rs. 5.78 lakh. (The Hindu 15/12/13)

 

38. Now, threat of diarrhoea outbreak in Muzaffarnagar relief camps (3)

Malakpura Refugee Camp, Shamli district:  A line of anxious parents crowd the makeshift medical tent at the Malakpur refugee camp. Each of them carrying children, some as young as a few months complaining of chronic cold, fever, and, increasingly, upset stomachs. Already, the bitter cold has proved fatal, claiming the lives of several children in the camp. (Donate blankets and dry ration) But inside the tent, a team of volunteer doctors from Kerala warn of a new menace. Dr Samir Zainal Abedin told us that he has seen 10-15 cases for diarrhoea. He says this figure might go up. In a worrying conclusion, he says “a senior medical officer has come and told us that this is a kind of viral diarrhoea and can spread very fast.” He says “the main cause is unhygienic surroundings, environment. Mainly flies, water mainly.” Everywhere in the camp, there are swampy, garbage infested pits. Not far from them, children sift through the dirt looking for tiny pieces of firewood that will help them stay warm. The few sources of clean water for a thirsty camp come from hand pumps, in one case, not too far from a stagnant pool. To service a camp of 3,000 people, a single tanker is sent by the government. It is parked unattended, as children drink from it directly. It is in keeping with the state government’s policy of keeping an arms-length distance from these camps, which it sees as encroachments. The government claims there is no threat any more in the villages, and that those living in camps must return. Only people from nine villages, worst-hit by the riots of last September, are allowed to not go back. But they have been given a compensation to shift out of the camps and find residence elsewhere. The people of the camps contest this, saying there is still an atmosphere of tension in their villages, and they will not return. In the absence of the government, the Islamic charities running the Malakpur camp say they have been stretched to breaking point. Its convenor Gulshad Choudhury says they need a full time government doctor, clean water, and waterproof tents.  With a new diarrhoea outbreak looming, the icy cold, which has already claimed lives of the very young, still remains a threat. One of the last visitors to the medical tent was a four-month-old baby, crying in distress. “She has severe chest infection,” Dr Abedin told us. “It is not looking good.” (NDTV 21/12/13)

 

39. India to strengthen fight against tropical diseases (3)

MUMBAI: Leading the global fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), India is moving to strengthen efforts to eradicate the neglected tropical diseases such as dengue, visceral leishmaniasis (Kala azar), soil-transmitted helminths, among others that affect millions of Indians every year, especially children. In a recently held meeting of experts on NTDs, the Global Health Progress, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), and International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) decided to join hands to eradicate NTDs from India. The launch of this initiative, called ‘Partnering for Success – Reducing India’s Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases’ was followed up with a landmark report, launched on Monday, on the current status and action plan to fight NTDs in India. The meeting and subsequent report, are global milestones that emphasized on the partnerships between the Government of India, research organizations, pharmaceutical companies, donors, health professionals and civil society that have contributed technical knowledge, delivery of services and drugs and research funding for NTDs in India. Anshu Prakash, joint secretary, union health ministry said, “India has supported the London Declaration of 2012 and has joined other member nations at the World Health Assembly this year to adopt a resolution for controlling, eliminating and eradicating 17 identified NTDs. The India government is working with all stakeholders and the community towards meeting these objectives.” “For India to achieve its ambitious NTD goals, we must work with other sectors to ensure communities have access to clean water, sanitation, improved living conditions, vector control and stronger health systems in endemic areas. Pharmaceutical companies are already doing a lot to prevent and treat NTDs in India and it will be crucial to provide ongoing incentives to ensure production of new tools for the market. We must support R&D through partnerships and provision of funding to find next generation treatments and interventions for neglected diseases,” said Ranjana Smetacek, director general, OPPI. (Times of India 24/12/13)

 

40. Blood banks yet to adopt modern test for infections (3)

Bangalore: If you know that the blood that you have received from a private blood bank is not that of a person infected by HIV/Aids, it is time to put the question: Could that be the blood of a carrier? While all samples from the government blood banks and hospitals in the City undergo the Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) process to check for carriers of HIV, HBV or HCV, most private blood banks in the City are still adhering to the archiac Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA) test which does not check for carriers.  While, on an average, the ELISA, a test conducted on the anti-body takes a minimum of 15 days to give the results, the new NAT, which is a test at the molecular level, takes a maximum time of six days to reveal the results. NAT reduces the window period significantly and can detect HIV1 within six days after infection, Hepatitis C virus within four days after infection and Hepatitis B virus (HBV) within 15 days.   Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, which is the only public hospital having the NAT facility, examines over 350 samples a day. This, despite its efficiency to examine over 1,000 samples at any given point in time. Manjunath, Technical Director, NAT, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, said that all samples that come from the government blood banks undergo the test. “We see at least 350 samples a day. This is from the government hospitals alone,” he said. “We see more of HBV infected samples than those of any other,” he remarked. He said that they were in talks with three renowned private hospitals in the City to encourage them to adopt NAT as the standard testing procedure. Manoj Tripathi, project director, Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society(KSAPS), said that while the norms of the Medical Council of India made it mandatory for the ELISA test to be done before any transfusion, NAT was not compulsory. “Price may be a concern for the reduced number of those opting for the test,” he said.  Dr Geeta Nyamagoudar, director, Department of Health and Family Welfare, said that considering that NAT was more effective, the department would co-ordinate with KSAPS and guide the private centres to adopt the same. She said they would bring down the NAT charges if private blood banks and hospitals were willing to use the facility. Presently, private institutes have to pay Rs 1,000 per sample for NAT. There are 172 blood banks in the State, including the government and private ones. However, NAT is better as the time taken for confirmation is less, said Dr Riyaz Basha, professor, Department of Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College. He explained that as the infrastructure and apparatus needed for the test was too costly, it would be difficult to have it in many centres. The apparatus for NAT, Procleix TIGRIS used in Bowring Hospital, has been imported from the US. It is a high-end device that performs much better than any other method, said the technician at the hospital. (Deccan Herald 25/12/13)

 

41. ESI faces allegations of negligence after death of a patient suffering from rare disease (3)

Chandigrah: A labourer’s family from Ramdarbar has complained of negligence by authorities of ESI Medical Hospital, who as per the complainant, delayed treatment allegedly worsening the condition of Kamlesh Devi who died on Tuesday. Kamlesh Devi (35) was suffering from a rare disease called Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria (PNH) in which the number of red blood cells and haemoglobin levels keep falling. Her husband Prem Chand is a labourer and a member of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESCI). Despite being a regular member, he said he had to fight with ESI authorities to get proper treatment, available at select medical institutes only, for his wife. “After several requests, ESI medical hospital referred my wife to Fortis Hospital, Mohali, for closure of the external ileostomy pouch. The operation was successful and she was discharged on December 13. After six days, doctors at Fortis recommended some blood tests and CT scan as my wife had high fever,” said Prem Chand. “It was 10 am and I rushed to ESI authorities for written approval of tests that would cost Rs 17,000. Despite my wife’s critical condition, they made us wait till 7 pm. ESI doctors then referred us to two different hospitals and not Fortis, where the treatment was underway. At 9 pm, I got the CT scan reports that showed excessive internal bleeding in the brain,” he added. According to Chand, “The Medical Superintendent (MS) of the hospital never co-operated with us and delayed treatment every time. It was only due to media intervention that he referred our case earlier and now,” said Prem Chand. However, Dr N K Taneja, MS at ESI hospital waved off the allegations. He said, “The family is making false allegations. ESI hospital has treated the case of patient Kamlesh Devi on a priority basis. As the patient was suffering from a rare and complicated disease, she was shifted to Fortis hospital for treatment.” (Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

42. Court allows girl rescued from a brothel to abort her pregnancy (3)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday allowed an HIV positive teenager to terminate her pregnancy on the ground of her ill health and that she had conceived against her will at a brothel.Acting swiftly on the plea of the rescued teenager, who was 19 weeks pregnant, justice Sunita Gupta directed the Delhi government to take her to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital here and get her pregnancy terminated within three days.The HC passed the order after the hospital’s medical board, which was earlier directed to ascertain the condition of the 19-year-old girl, gave its nod for the termination procedure. Justice Gupta accepted the girl’s submissions that she was from the poor strata of the society and it was a forced pregnancy amounting to rape at the brothel. The girl had petitioned that the police had recovered her along with some other girls from the brothel during a raid and had been kept at Nari Niketan, shelter home for destitute women. The girl had informed the authorities about her pregnancy and asked them to allow her to abort the foetus.But her request was turned down because the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act prohibits abortion of a foetus which is more than 12 weeks old. She had moved the HC after the authorities asked her to first get clearance from the court for aborting the pregnancy as she was in the protective custody of Nari Niketan. Girl’s counsel Nandita Rao had argued the state had a legal obligation to provide medical care to the girl as she was HIV positive and in bad health.The HC further directed the government to ensure the girl got proper medicines and diet during the treatment.Rao told HT the HC was very “sensitive” in dealing with the case and adjudicated the matter in three days without any unnecessary delay. (Hindustan Times 6/12/13)

 

43. Care and support centre for people living with HIV starts in Nagpur (3)

NAGPUR: Vihaan, a care and support centre for HIV patients was inaugurated on the eve of World AIDS Day by the NGO Sanjeevan Bahu-Uddeshiya Samaj Seva Sanstha. The aim of the project is to link People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to the many government and semi-government schemes that will help bring them into the mainstream. It was inaugurated by Dr Megha Nawade, senior medical officer at the ART centre of GovernmentMedicalCollege and Hospital. District programme officer for District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit (DAPCU) Tanuja Fale was also present. “Vihaan is one of the 35 projects started under the aegis of Network of Maharashtra by PLHIV with this aim in mind in Maharashtra as well as Goa. To achieve our aim, we would be working towards removing the stigma faced by PLHIVs at workplaces, schools and public places,” said president of Sanjeevan Babita Soni. Treasurer of the organization Sunil Mhaiskar said that similar support will be extended to family members of the patients as well. “We would be working at district, city as well as village levels,” he added. Vihaan will be jointly run by Sanjeevan Bahudeshi Samaj Seva Sanstha, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), DAPCU, Goa State AIDS Control Society, NMP + and Alliance India. (Times of India 7/12/13)

 

44. Criminalising homosexuality may impact Aids programme (3)

New Delhi, The Centre’s plan to expand its Aids control programme to include more transgenders and people from the men having sex with men (MSM) community may hit a roadblock thanks to the Supreme Court verdict that set aside a previous high court judgement decriminalising same sex conduct among adults and consenting individuals. “Criminalising men having sex with men is not healthy. It prevents the (sexual) minority community from coming out in the open and seeking health care service,” Lalit Dandona, a research professor at Public Health Foundation of India, who worked on the HIV/Aids scenario in India, told Deccan Herald. The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) informed the apex court that the prevalence of the human immunodeficiency virus infection among the MSM community varies between 6.54-7.23 per cent, which is the second most vulnerable community after injection drug users. India had an estimated 25 lakh persons in the MSM community, out of which 10 per cent was at risk from contracting HIV infection. But a 2010-11 NACO annual report puts the MSM number at 40 lakh.

 

“NACO provided inclusive health care service for gay men and transgenders, who came out to seek health care services after the Delhi High Court judgement. We are now gone back by 30-40 years,” said Ashok Row Kavi from Humsafar Trust, Mumbai, who is India’s first gay rights activist. Even though transgenders and hijras are vulnerable, there was hardly any effort on the part of the health ministry to reach out to them. With support from the United Nations Development Program and National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai NACO, for the first time, identified 5,821 transgender sites – 1,664 sites in rural areas and 4,157 in urban areas – in 17 states. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have the highest concentration of transgenders, where NACO plans to reach out in the fourth phase of the National Aids Control Programme in the next four years. One of the objectives of the NACP-4 was to reduce “stigma and discrimination” against transgenders and hijras for creating a conducive environment for the welfare of the community. This, activists say, would not be possible is people from the queer community still face harassment from the authorities because of the law. The Indian Penal Code was written by the British in another era. They changed the law in their country. Homosexuality is dubbed criminal only in very few countries. Some countries are even allowing same sex marriage. At least, it should not be made criminal in India,” said Dandona. (Deccan Herald 11/12/13)

 

45. Convict moves Supreme Court for compensation for acquiring HIV in jail (3)

New Delhi: A murder convict serving life imprisonment today moved the Supreme Court for his release and compensation of Rs 75 lakh for having contracted HIV and another infection allegedly during his stay in jail. His appeal against the dismissal of his plea in the Punjab and Haryana High Court was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam which posted the matter for hearing before an appropriate bench on December 17. He approached the apex court after his appeal challenging his conviction was dismissed in August last year by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In his plea filed through advocate Manohar Singh Bakshi, the convict has submitted that he has been lodged in a Punjab jail since 2007, when the offence was committed, and during his incarceration he contracted HIV and then HCV (Hepatitis C). He has also challenged his conviction and sentence in the murder case by the trial court and later upheld by the high court. In his petition, he has blamed the “faulty system, arbitrary working and negligence” of the jail authorities for his afflictions and has also sought a investigation into how he contracted the diseases while in prison. He has also sought issuance of guidelines in the interest of other convicts and undertrials lodged in central jails, saying the matter is of a serious nature and “may lead to disaster if not examined and stopped”.He has alleged inaction on the part of the authorities for not acting on the pleas of his wife who had filed applications seeking better treatment for him when he tested positive for HIV and later when he was afflicted with Hepatitis C. He was registered as a patient in ART Centre, Medical College, Amritsar on February 4, this year, he has said. His petition also alleges that the jail authorities apart from not providing proper treatment were also ignoring the abuse, threats and inhuman behaviour meted out to him by other inmates ever since they came to know about his afflictions. (DNA 13/12/13)

 

46. TANSACS gathers evidence of HIV funds going into wrong hands (3)

MADURAI: The district unit of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) has gathered evidence to “expose” a couple of non-governmental organisations which are misusing funds allocated for HIV-AIDS prevention activities. After a preliminary scrutiny of funding records of the last 10 years, a senior district official has concluded that “there is enough evidence to recommend blacklisting of a couple of NGOs in Madurai district which have been amassing government funds meant for HIV-related activities, but they were nowhere to be seen utilising them”. “My final report will be submitted to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the Vigilance Department,” M. Kalirajan, District Programme Manager, TANSACS, told The Hindu here on Saturday. Time had come to expose them (the erring NGOs) since it involved government and NACO funds, he said. Dr.Kalirajan said he would also take up the issue with Madurai District Collector soon. “Some NGOs operate in two or three districts and they have multiple funding sources. But, the records clearly show they were way behind the given targets in (executing) HIV-AIDS programmes,” he noted. According to him, each recognised NGO is getting funds to the tune of Rs.25 lakh on an average every year, whereas the fieldwork done by some in tracing new HIV positive cases, and conducting awareness programmes on sexually transmitted diseases, health camps, condom promotion, HIV screening tests or follow-up of positive persons were not up to expectation. Dr.Kalirajan said the documents available with TANSACS district office showed that the performance of NGOs in counselling and providing treatment for commercial sex workers was also equally bad despite the huge funds received by them year after year. “I will submit the report to funding agencies and government authorities after another round of thorough evaluation of the records of all the five NGOs functioning in the district in the field of prevention and control of HIV-AIDS,” he added. (The Hindu 15/12/13)

 

47. New treatment cuts several HIV positive cases among newborns (3)

TRICHY: The number of HIV positive babies born to AIDS-infected mothers has come down drastically thanks to the new type of treatment at anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres. In 2013, 38 babies born to HIV positive mothers tested negative in Trichy. Since the beginning of this year, ‘Nevirapine’ tablets were administered to HIV-positive mothers 76 hours before delivery while babies were administered Nevirapine syrup from the time of their birth at all ART centres. Though that type of treatment was useful to bring down the number of births of HIV-positive babies, the Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society (TANSACS) that decided to eradicate it completely, made a change in the treatment method. As per the new method, the Nevirapine tablets should be taken by HIV-positive mothers for 14 weeks during pregnancy and the babies should be given Nevirapine syrup for at least six months. Dr Manivannan, medical officer of the ART centre in Mahatma Gandhi memorial government hospital (MGMGH), Trichy said that the new regimen of treatment was proved to be effective to ensure the birth of HIV-negative babies born to HIV-positive mothers. “We work towards achieving the target of nil birth of HIV-positive babies in 2015. We hope it will be possible to reach the target with the present mode of treatment to the HIV-positive mothers. With this method, we can bring down the rate of possibility of babies getting affected to one to two percent from the previous rate of 20 per cent,” he said. In 2012, 45 babies were born to HIV-positive mothers. However, only one baby tested positive and the rest of them tested negative. It is unfortunate that in most of the cases the HIV-positive mothers are victims of marriage with HIV-positive men. At the time of marriage, women are not made aware whether their partners are HIV-positive. On the other hand, the men are also lethargic to go for HIV test before marriage. “When it is found during pregnancy check-up that a woman is HIV-positive, it comes as a shock to them. But many of the uneducated people from rural areas are not bothered about it. At the same time, the educated people from urban areas completely collapse. So, we have to provide counselling to them to give morale booster,” said Dr Manivannan who appealed to all the married women to undergo HIV test. The blood of the new born baby is tested through dry blood sample (DBC) method at the Tuberculosis Centre in Chennai. Normally, the presence of HIV virus can be confirmed only after 18 months of delivery. However, Dr Manivannan said that the results through DBC method would almost be the same as the results that come after 18 months. (Times of India 17/12/13)

 

48. SC Verdict Upholding Section 377 Takes the Rubber off the Fight Against HIV (3)

KOCHI: The Supreme Court verdict that upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises homosexuality, could prove detrimental to the fight against HIV infection among Men having Sex with Men (MSM), considered a high risk group. The court verdict will lead to a situation where the HIV affected will remain reluctant to come out in the open. The initiatives lined up to prevent HIV among MSMs could flounder as they will stop turning up for preventive treatment against HIV, fearing penal action, health experts have warned. Sunil Kumar, Joint Additional Director, Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS), said that the authorities will have a tough time dealing with the grave issues of MSMs, if the scenario continues. Unlike other high risk groups such as sex workers and drug addicts, identifying MSMs is a tough task, said Joseph Mathew, president, CPK+, an NGO working for HIV patients. “Even before this verdict, identifying MSMs used to be a herculean task. And with the the Supreme Court verdict, all efforts in this direction are likely to fall flat,” he said. Experts feel that the verdict of the apex court has put a spanner in the works for the mission to bring this section of people into the mainstream. “The ground realities are being blatantly ignored by those in authority. Homosexuality would not cease to exist because of a court ruling. On the contrary, it will lead to a situation where the affected will remain reluctant to come out in the open, thereby raising the chances of STD,” he said. In most of the national programmes charted for such people, emphasis is laid on counselling on ways to prevent HIV, identification of STD symptoms and treatment. “But if the government treats homosexuality as a crime, then how can these people be expected to reach out for help,” he said. Dr C J John, consultant psychiatrist, Medical Trust Hospital, Ernakulam, said that it is medically proven that homosexuality is not a disorder. “The modern diagnostic manual has dismissed the notion that it is a disorder and most importantly, it will be foolish to search for conventional criminal dynamics behind it. The SC verdict will surely disrupt the efforts being made to fight HIV among homosexuals, especially MSMs,” he said… (New (ndian Express 23/12/13)

 

49. Activists: Ruling on Gays Hurts HIV Fight in India (3)

New Delhi: Gay-rights activists and health workers in India are warning that a new Supreme Court ruling criminalizing homosexuality will undo years of progress in fighting AIDS by driving gay and transgender people underground. They say HIV services expanded and gay and transgender people became more likely to seek them out after a landmark 2009 ruling decriminalized same-sex acts by throwing out a colonial-era law. India’s top court revived the law Dec. 11, saying it is up to the country’s lawmakers — not the court — to change it. Activists fear the ruling will make gays and transgender people too fearful to seek treatment or counseling, driving HIV infections up. Indian health officials said last year that annual new HIV infections among adults had fallen 57 percent over the previous decade. The reinstated law calls homosexuality an “unnatural offense” punishable by 10 years in jail. Criminal prosecutions were rare when the law was previously in force, but police used it to harass people and demand bribes. “This law has made us all criminals,” said Lakshmi Tripathi, a transgender activist who added that the law will stop many people from approaching doctors or health clinics for prevention or treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “How can I go to an HIV/AIDS clinic?” asked Tripathi. “If I did, I can be hauled into jail for my lifestyle, for violating the law.” Health activists say that before the law was overturned in 2009, nongovernmental organizations that ran AIDS intervention centers faced the threat of police raids. In 2005, police raided an HIV outreach center in the Indian capital and forced it to close, said Shaleen Rakesh of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance. “This happened in New Delhi,” he said. “The situation in small towns and in the rural hinterland is much worse.” UNAIDS said in a statement this month that the number of organizations providing HIV services to gay and transgender people rose more than 50 percent while homosexuality was decriminalized. “After the 2009 ruling, we saw a jump in gay men, bisexuals and transgenders coming to public health centers on their own, seeking medical advice or treatment. They felt it was safe to do so,” said Ashok Row Kavi of the Humsafar Trust, a group working with the gay community. “Our big worry now is that they may stay away from health centers out of fear,” he said. India’s reversal comes as gays and lesbians worldwide rack up significant victories in their quest for marriage equality and other rights. Same-sex marriage has legal recognition in 18 countries, 18 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Parts of Asia appear to be growing more tolerant of homosexuality. China is increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians, although same-sex partnerships are not recognized. A law against “hooliganism” that used to target gays was eliminated in 1997 and homosexuality was removed from China’s list of mental disorders in 2001. Thailand has no laws against homosexuality and is generally tolerant of gays, lesbians and transgender people. It is the only country in Southeast Asia to have a government-sponsored tourism campaign — “Go Thai. Be Free” — that is aimed at gay and lesbian travelers. But in much of the world, homosexuality remains deeply taboo. According to international human rights groups, more than 70 countries have laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, with India by far the most populous. Over the past decade, homosexuals have gained a degree of acceptance in parts of India, especially its big cities. Many bars have gay nights, and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues. The last few years have also seen large gay pride parades in New Delhi and other big cities. Still, being gay is seen as shameful in most of the country, and many homosexuals remain closeted. Gay rights activists in India had hoped the 2009 decision would usher in greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, but now fear the stigma they face in India’s deeply conservative society will prevent them from disclosing their sexual orientation and openly accessing health care programs. The social stigma faced by young gay men meant that they are forced by their families into marriage, putting their wives too at risk of contracting HIV. HIV prevalence in the general population in India is around 0.31 percent, according to World Bank figures. According to the AIDS control organization, in 2010-11 the rate was 4.4 percent for gay men and 8.8 percent for transgendered people. The rate for gay men has been going down, but Rakesh of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance warned that the court ruling could change that. “India is sitting on an HIV time bomb,” he said. “If India does not address this situation immediately, not only the gay and transgender community, but the rest of the population is also sitting on the same time bomb.” (New Indian Express 25/12/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

50. Children worst affected by displacement: study (4)

Mumbai: After getting rehabilitated in the eastern suburb of Mankhurd, Rajan Aiyer’s two sons failed their annual examinations in school last year. The children could never make it in time to school, more than a kilometre away in Chembur. The road connecting their home and the main road was dug up and barely functional. “Life was better in the slum we lived in south Mumbai before being shifted out to make way for an infrastructure project,” he says. The Aiyer family was one of 20,000 people to have been displaced to make way for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). Children have apparently been among the worst and most silent sufferers of the Project, showed a study conducted by the Tate Institute of Social Sciences. The study, authored by researcher Simpreet Singh, was undertaken over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013 and aimed to see the impact of MUTP of children. The most direct impact has been on children’s education, according to the study, with a vast majority of children (66 per cent) shifting their school after relocation. The distance between their new homes and the original school was anywhere between one and five km on an average. More than half of the children spent over Rs. 500 a month on commute. They were exposed to risks like crossing highways or railway track on their way to school. The MUTP was conceptualised during the period 1994-2002 with a vision to meet the increasing transport demands of Mumbai. Most people were rehabilitated in the eastern suburbs’ most polluted areas and near a dumping ground leading to 73 per cent of them saying cleanliness was worse than before. “It is expected that with the shift from ‘slums’ which have poor environmental conditions to pucca buildings that are more hygienic, there would be a reduction in illnesses and lesser expenditures on health care. But that did not happen,” said Mr. Singh.Sixty seven per cent people spoke of the absence of health facilities near home. Fifty six per cent fell sick at least once since relocation, one-fourth of them due to poor quality of water and 10 per cent due to lack of hygiene in their environment. Another intangible effect of resettlement was that about 57 per cent of the parents felt that they were unable to take care of their children because they spent most of the time travelling to work. While water in most homes came only for half an hour, almost every girl child said that she had to accompany her mother to a far spot to carry water on her head. The study highlighted the importance of safeguarding the rights of children. (The Hindu 7/12/13)

 

51. Posco to get balance land after lifting of NGT stay order (4)

Bhubaneswar: The state government will hand over the required land for the start of first phase work of an integrated steel plant proposed by Posco in Jagatsingpur district after the lifting of the stay order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on cutting of trees on the acquired land. “The company has informed us to start construction work for an eight million tonnes capacity steel plant on 2,700 acres of land in the first phase,” said state steel and mines minister Rajanikant Singh in a written reply to the state assembly. The government has already handed over 1,703 acres to the company through the land acquisition agency, Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (Idco) and the balance land will be given after the lifting of the stay order put by the NGT, he added. In May 2013, the NGT had ordered a status quo on tree felling on the site of Posco’s steel plant in Odisha until a decision is taken on its lapsed environmental clearance. “It is contended before us now that large number of trees are being felled/cut by the Project Proponent without permission of any competent authority. In the facts and circumstance aforesaid, we direct that the status quo in regard of cutting of trees as of today shall be maintained”, NGT said in its order. Meanwhile, Posco-India has started construction of boundary wall at its plant site earlier this week ahead of the visit of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, scheduled in January 2014.The construction work was followed by stone laying ceremony on December 6. As per a MoU signed with the state government in June, 2005, Posco intended to set up a 12 million tonne steel plant at a cost of 12 billion dollar. It required 4004 acres land for the project. But with protracted agitation over land acquisition delaying the project, the company had later proposed to start work on at least 8 million tonne steel capacity in the first phase if it is provided 2,700 acres of land. The company said, it would expand the capacity to the intended 12 mtpa as and when it received the rest of the required 4,004 acres. It may be noted the state government’s MoU with Posco has lapsed in June, 2010. With the state law department opining against renewal of the MoU after expiry of the pact, it is decided to sign a tripartite agreement involving the Odisha government, Posco India and its parent firm- South Korean steel behemoth Posco. (Business Standard 13/12/13)

 

52. Land Acquisition Act to come into force from January 1 (4)

New Delhi: The new Land Acquisition Act to provide just and fair compensation to farmers will come into force from January 1, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said today. He said that the rules of historic legislation replacing a 119-year-old act have been approved by the Law Ministry. “They (rules) will be put into the Gazette tomorrow and the Land Bill will be notified as of January 1, 2014,” the minister said. The new law, passed during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, received the assent of the President on September 27. The bill was brought as the archaic act of 1894 suffered from various shortcomings including silence on the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by acquisition of land. (Deccan Herald 16/12/13)

 

53. Villagers protest Posco boundary wall construction (4)

Bhubaneswar: Angry villagers of Nuagaon today protested the construction of boundary wall of proposed steel plant of Posco-India in Jagatsinghpur district, along with some project supporters, who took part in the agitation separately demanding early redressal of compensation claims. The villagers of Nuagoan, which lies on the road to Posco site, created barricade at the entry point of the project site to prohibit entry of the construction contractors. However, when the workers of the contracting agency tried to resume construction by forcibly entering the area, irate villagers ransacked the boundary line pillars. Local police expressed its ignorance about the incident saying no complaint was filed from either side. “Police is unaware about today’s incident because no one has yet lodged FIR about the ransacking of boundary line pillars of Posco project”, said Anirudha Routray, Inspector In-charge of Abhyachandpur police station. In a separate agitation, hundreds of pro-Posco activists under the banner of Sidha Gumpha Forest Committee, assembled at the construction site and demolished the boundary line pillars in Nuagaon. Later, they planted aloe vera plants at the spot to create barricade to restrict the entry of the contractors. The boundary wall construction work began there on December 6 this year. “Contractors had started the construction work without taking the consent of the villagers and fulfilling our demands like compensation, rehabilitation, employment and other issues. So we were forced to erect the barricades by ransacking the pillars to protest the Posco related work”, said Dhirendra Pallei, a pro-Posco leader and head of Sidha Gumpha Forest Committee.  The villagers of Gadkujang led by former sarpanch Nakul Sahu today met Arabinda Padhee, Revenue Division Commissioner (RDC), Central Range, at Jagastinghpur and sought his intervention to stop the construction work until their demands are fulfilled. In a memorandum submitted to the RDC, they have demanded payment of compensation to 30 villagers of Noliasahi who have been ignored during acquisition of their betel vines, announcement of the rehabilitation packages and construction of colony for displaced families, award of contract to local contractors for the construction work etc They have threatened to intensify the stir unless their demands are not fulfilled. Padhee assured the agitating villagers to solve their issues through discussion. He also told them that the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting for the project will be held soon to solve their long standing demands. (Business Standard 17/12/13)

 

54. New bill to give land to Mayem residents: CM (4)

PANAJI: Chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday announced that the government will introduce and pass a bill in the forthcoming assembly session that will give residents of Mayem the ‘benefits of total liberation’. A draft bill will be placed in public domain within a month for public comments, Parrikar said in his liberation day speech at Campal, prompting the Mayem Nagarik Kruti Samiti ( MNKS) to withdraw its chain hunger strike in Panaji. The new legislation will empower the state to acquire land in Mayem and hand it over to the people with a clear title. Parrikar said most of the land in Mayem stands in the name of the government. He said the problem arises as some people claim ownership over it as it has been in their family even before the Portuguese came to Goa, and the people of Mayem claim that their land was given to the Conde de Mayem. “I am not going into that…land is in the name of government, except some of it, that land which is in the name of government will be acquired,” Parrikar said. He said the land acquisition is so as to handover a clear title to the property to the people of Mayem. “Some people may fight cases against those who get that land, so I am clearing the title before the land is given,” he said. “Any claim of anyone on that property will be wiped out with the law and the land will become of the government. Then we can allot the land to the people of Mayem as compensation,” he said. With this the people of Mayem need not fight cases in court over any counter claim as any claim will have to be made with the government and the government may settle it either directly, through the court or reject the claim. The chief minister said there would be a mechanism in place, such as a tribunal, where Mayem residents will have to stake their claim once the law comes into force. Parrikar said even after 52 years of liberation from Portuguese rule, residents of Mayem are still deprived of their rights as their land comes under the Evacuee Property Act. (Times of India 20/12/13)

 

55. Property owners cry foul over the misuse of Land Acquisition Act (4)

HYDERABAD: Property owners whose land was taken over for various purposes in the city, are crying foul over misuse of powers by officials and intentionally dragging them to courts. They also allege harassment by the authorities against those who had approached courts seeking more compensation under the existing Land Acquisition act. The owners have started demanding their cases be considered under the new Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which will come into effect from January 1, 2013. Consider this, the Hyderabad district administration had acquired an eight acre prime land near ESI hospital at Sanatnagar in 2000 and till date the land owner had not received full compensation amount. He has been fighting against the meager compensation in the court. The owner approached court as the Land Acquisition Officer offered only Rs one lakh per acre as compensation considering the land as agricultural land (change of land use was not done) while the land value was Rs 20,000 per square yard in 2000 in that area. The sad part of the story was no government agency had given requisition for land acquisition. When a land owner feels the compensation was not sufficient and injustice was been done, he/she could take the amount “under protest” and approach court under section 18 of the LA Act. “It is a herculean task for property owners to collect details of prevailing market value in the area and sale deeds registered in that area. It is also a problem to bring the witness to court, who got higher value in the same area,” I Nalinikanth, a property owner, said. Under the new Act, preliminary notification for land acquisition should be issued by the authority by giving details like nature of public purpose involved and reasons necessitating the displacement of affected persons and summary of social impact assessment study report. The government agencies have to take over only minimum area of land required for the project. Similarly, property owners claim the land acquisition wing authorities had been depositing compensation amount in court under section 30 of the present Act where there were more claimants for compensation or title dispute and not submitting documents. “The Hyderabad Metro Rail and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) have been denying compensation on flimsy grounds like non-submission of certain documents and depositing the amount in courts under section 30. This has been happening in some cases especially where owners refused to give consent to the town planning wing for taking over land for road widening and metro rail project purposes,” N Vikram Reddy, a resident of Kukatpally, said. The GHMC acquires land by invoking compulsory acquisition and urgency clause in the Act. Under the new Act, compulsory acquisition provisions should be used for public purpose or public private partnership projects where the public purpose is involved and not for private sector companies for private purposes or commercial purposes. Meanwhile, the GHMC and HMR have speeded up notifying properties and awarding compensation under the existing Act as the new law comes into force from January 1. Sources said both agencies were expected to notify or clear acquisition of 500 properties in the next few days. Once the new law comes into force, the GHMC and other agencies have to cough up more compensation and solatium, but also follow several procedures to complete land acquisition process, the sources said. (Times of India 23/12/13)

 

56. Moily Allays Displacement Fear in Western Ghats (4)

KARWAR: With new Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily ordering a review of the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats, which stressed on conserving the bio-diversity rich region, it has brought some relief to the people of Uttara Kannada district who were worried about being displaced. People living in and around 600 villages will be affected if the report was to be implemented. Now with the Minister assuring people living in protected zones of the forest range that they would not be displaced and it would not affect their day-to-day activities including agriculture, village committees have hailed the decision. “We have been living in the forest range for more than two decades. If we are asked to leave, we would find it difficult to survive outside. I hope the district administration and the state government will submit their version soon,” said Elisha Elakapati, an activist fighting for the rights of forest dwellers. The ministry had stated that decisions on the report’s recommendations will be taken after due consideration of the suggestions and objections of the six states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. – comprising the Western Ghats region. A group headed by S Kasturirangan, had recommended a ban on mining, quarrying, setting up of thermal power plants, large townships and building projects and polluting industries in the ecologically sensitive zone. The Karnataka government had expressed concern about large-scale displacement in Uttara Kannada, Kodagu and Shimoga districts.  Karnataka accounts for 27 per cent of the Western Ghats. Of this, an area of 14,551 sq km has been earmarked in the report as ecologically sensitive. (New Indian Express 26/12/13)

 

Posted by admin at 6 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

TRIBALS

1. Adivasis move CM over ST status (6)

Guwahati, Dec. 1: The Adivasi groups in Assam have urged chief minister Tarun Gogoi to take up the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status issue with the Centre and speed up the process. A 33-member delegation of Adivasi National Convention Committee and its constituent organisations met Gogoi last evening urging him to expedite the process of granting ST status to the 36 Adivasi communities. The delegation headed by the committee’s president, Romanus Horo, also urged for extension of the Adivasi Development Council for all Adivasis living across the state for better socio-economic, educational and cultural development of the community. Adivasis have been living in the state since they were brought from Bihar, Odisha and Bengal to work in tea gardens during British rule. More than 60 lakh Adivasis are still associated with the gardens. But the groups have been complaining about discrimination by the government to accord them land rights, ST status and other benefits. On Saturday, leaders of five Adivasi militant groups in ceasefire, during a tripartite meeting with joint secretary (Northeast) of the Union home ministry, Shambu Singh, and Assam government officials expressed displ-easure over “tardy progress” in according ST status. They said the government was dilly-dallying the process despite their demands since 1967. A government statement said Gogoi assured the delegation that he would consider their demands as enlisted in the memorandum, which included rehabilitation of all cadres of Adivasi ceasefire groups within a time-frame and enacting of a law to protect the land of the Adivasis. The delegation included organisations like Adivasi Council of Assam, All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, All Santhal Students’ Union, Kharia Mahasabha, Saora Sahitya Sabha, Adivasi Seva Samity and five militant groups in ceasefire — Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam, Birsa Commando Force, All Adivasi National Liberation Army, Santhali Tiger Force and Adivasi Peoples’ Army. (The Telegraph 1/12/13)

 

2. Tribals protest alleged gang rape, murder of woman in Odisha (6)

Malkangiri: Demanding a CBI probe into the alleged gang rape and murder of a tribal woman, tribal members of political parties on Sunday demonstrated outside the residence of the Malkangiri collector here. Alleging that the victim’s husband was behind the crime along with three of his friends on November 24 at Kudumulguma in the Orkel police station area, they accused police of trying to suppress the incident. In a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik through Collector M Muthukumar, the protesters alleged that S Ray had married the woman about five years ago and perpetrated on her physical and mental torture. Ray, along with his three friends, had repeatedly raped her on November 24 and administered poison after tying her legs and hands, the memorandum alleged, adding she was then taken to the public health centre at Kudumulguma in a serious condition and died soon after. Instead of conducting post-mortem, the body was sent to her parental place Bandiguda for burial, it claimed. The memorandum demanding a CBI probe into the incident alleged that the FIR filed by the sister and mother of the victim was not accepted at the Orkel police station. Instead, police had taken thumb impression of her mother. After the inspector in-charge of the police station ignored their request to conduct post-mortem or register a case, the leaders approached the sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) after which an inquest was done on November 27 digging out the body. Denying any laxity, police said a case was registered on November 26 and efforts were on to nab the husband of the victim, who was absconding after the incident. Signatories to the memorandum included zilla parishad chairperson Padmini Muduli of BJD, ex-chairman Manas Madkami of BJD and ex-zilla parishad chairman Ganghdar Buruda of Congress besides many district, block and panchayat level people’s representatives. After the Collector promised prompt action if culpability was established, the protesters said they would withdraw the agitation, but would resume unless action was taken against the guilty within seven days. (Zee News 2/12/13)

 

3. ‘Real tribes’ move BJP (6)

New Delhi, Dec. 2: The state BJP has urged the Prime Minister’s Office and Union tribal welfare ministry to include Khetauri, Ghatwal, Bhuiyan-Ghatwal, Perivar and Kedar, largely found in Santhal Pargana, in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, it perhaps does not take a mind reader to figure out that the state BJP wants to steal JMM’s thunder as far as tribal concerns go. In a recent letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, on behalf of the BJP state party unit, pointed out these are “real tribes” of Santhal Pargana and their names got omitted from the list in 1950 due to a “clerical error”. “I raised the issue earlier too, but in vain. In 1912, British officer R. Carstairs, a collector of Santhal Pargana (then called Sonthal Pergunnahs), had written in his book — The little world of Indian district officer — that the five communities were aboriginal tribes. And, Santhals, now the majority in the region, came only around 1820. I arranged a copy of this historical record from the library of California University, the US, and sent the details to the Union government for consideration,” Dubey told The Telegraph. He alleged these “real tribes”, whose population collectively stands around 25 lakh, were denied their rightful place in the state. Dubey claimed the government was all set to include these names in 1950 when the list of Scheduled Tribes was being notified, but their names got omitted due to a clerical error — a blunder never corrected. “These people are being denied their rights because of politics, lack of foresight and people’s reluctance to re-examine history for fear of the truth,” Dubey said in his letter to the PM. According to sources, these tribes are extremely backward and lag behind in all development indices. One of them, Bhuiyan-Ghatwal group, is recognised in the Scheduled Caste category. Sources in the Union tribal welfare ministry said the Centre had asked the Jharkhand and Odisha governments to send their views on the issue of incorporating these tribal groups in the SC/ST list after Dubey had raised the issued in Parliament in 2009. The states did not respond. (The Telegraph 3/12/13)

 

4. Tribals Protest Setting of Firing Range in AP (6)

Hyderabad : Tension prevailed in a hamlet of Andhra Pradesh’s Nalgonda district when a group of tribals including women held angry protests against the visit of an expert team and obstructed them from holding an awareness meet on setting of Rachakonda Field Firing Range (RFFR). Some of the protesting tribals poured kerosene on themselves and also on one official of Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) during the protest at a hamlet of Narayanpur mandal in Nalgonda, even as village elders immediately intervened and pacified them, police said. The protesters also damaged window panes of at least two vehicles, they said. The lathi wielding protesters raised slogans and threatened to immolate themselves, if the BDL and government officials visited their hamlet again, a police official said. There has been a long-pending proposal to set up the firing range in Rachakonda hills. However, the tribals, fearing displacement, have been opposing it. A team of scientists from the BDL today visited the Rachakonda hills with a view to create awareness and explain the local tribals and educate them that the RFFR will cause no harm to them. They were accompanied by Narayanpur tehsildar M Jayamma, Nalgonda Revenue Development Officer M D Zaheer and other authorities. However, following the angry protests and strong opposition, the BDL and district authorities had to return without holding any awareness programme. The Andhra Pradesh government had recently issued an order transferring over 5,500 hectares of forest land from the Army (which was earlier leased to Army) to BDL for setting up of the proposed RFFR. (Outlook 4/12/13)

 

5. Nod for bill preventing diversion of funds meant for SCs, STs (6)

Belgaum: The Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed a bill which aims to ensure that funds allocated for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not diverted for other purposes in violation of the budget. If an official willfully neglects his duties as prescribed under the bill, he will have to face disciplinary action including imprisonment up to six months and offences will be non-cognizable. The Karnataka Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Bill, 2013, once its becomes an Act,  Karnataka will be the second state in the country, after Andhra Pradesh, to have such exclusive law to earmark a portion of the state plan outlay for the SCs/STs under various plans in proportion to their population. The bill is designed by and large on the lines of the Andhra Pradesh law which gives statutory status to SCs/STs sub-plan. Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya, who piloted the bill, termed it as a historical one as it puts an end to diversion of funds meant for SCs/STs. It also has made provision for putting in place an institutional mechanism for preparation, implementation and monitoring of sub-plan as approved in budget.  The bill was welcomed by all the parties though various suggestions were made by the Opposition to improvise upon it. Now, there are complaints that though successive governments have been releasing crores of rupees to various departments for the welfare of SCs/STs, the benefits have not reached the target groups due to non-implementation of the plans, diversion of funds, non-cooperation/indifferent attitude of officials to implement the schemes. Hence, the status of socially, educationally and financially oppressed  classes has not seen the desired improvement. In case of money allocated for the two groups is unspent in a particular financial year, the same may be added to the next year’s allocation, but will not be carried further beyond that year. Once the new law is enacted, the minister said, a single window agency (nodal agency) will be established to channelise funds for schemes under various departments. Funds will be pooled in through the Agency. The social welfare department will be the nodal department under which the nodal agency will function. The social welfare minister will be the chairman of the proposed agency. “Stringent action will be taken against those officers who fail to utilise the funds for the welfare of SCs/STs within the stipulated time. Criminal cases will be filled against them,” Anjaneya said. The proposed Nodal Agency will evaluate, appraise and review plans of departments which have schemes for welfare of the two groups and, thereby ensure transparency in expenditure at various levels. It will also facilitate annual social auditing of expenditure. The Agency will submit annual report on its assigned work to the legislature. The bill envisages setting up of a state level council for the development of SCs/STs, which will be headed by the chief minister. It will include ministers, legislators and officials. It will advise the government on all the policy matters. There will be a monitoring committee in each district for implementing the schemes.  MLAs and zilla panchayat presidents will be special invitees on the panel.  There will be an exclusive cell in the finance department for budget implementation and fund allocation.

Earlier, YSV Datta (JD-S), B S Yeddyurappa (KJP), Jagadish Shettar (BJP) and a host of other MLAs said that the bill was progressive in nature. But, the government must ensure that the most oppressed and marginalised among the SCs/STs should get the maximum benefit.  For no reason, the funds meant for the welfare should be diverted to civil works, they said. (Deccan Herald 6/12/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

6. Shaadi Bhagya scheme to remain for minorities (7)

BANGALORE: The Shaadi Bhagya scheme, under which poor girls from the minorities will get financial help from the government at the time of marriage, will henceforth be known as Bidaai (farewell). The state government has decided to stick to its plan to extend the scheme to the minorities. Pushing ahead his Ahinda agenda, chief minister Siddaramaiah told the assembly the government has an open mind on extending the Bidaai scheme to all communities. As Siddaramaiah remained firm on his pet scheme, BJP members called the Congress “communal”. The CM hit back by calling the BJP “fascist and communal”.In its present form, the scheme will be applicable to 1,000 girls from religious minorities. The government has earmarked Rs 5 crore for it. Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, who staged a 27-day dharna demanding the scheme be extended to all, staged a walkout followed by the BJP. The government didn’t respond to Congress member KR Ramesh Kumar’s suggestion to table a resolution that elected representatives, civil servants and businessmen should desist from attending marriages where there is a vulgar display of wealth. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

7. National Christian Council’s Chennai Chapter Launched (7)

Chennai: The National Christian Council’s (NCC) Chennai chapter was launched by its Tamil Nadu president Prema Sundarraj, in the city recently. Launching the chapter, Prema said that it was essential for Christians to stay united, so that the information on various welfare measures from the State and Centre besides other issues could be shared. She also said that NCC would provide an identity to the Christians. It is primarily a bridge between the government and Christian minorities in the country. Y John Nicholson, DIG, extended his greetings at the formation of the chapter, which has 16 wings including women, prayer, legal, children, SC, ST, media and Differently Abled. The newly-launched chapter’s president, M Muthu, also a senior pastor of  New Life Blessing Churches, India, said that together everyone could achieve more. “NCC collaborates with all like-minded individuals and organisations that are serving various communities in their specialisation. NCC is committed to the followers of Jesus Christ and his mission towards humanity and also secularism and for preserving Indian democracy. It will strive to reach to all with the benefits of true secularism and ensure fruits of vibrant and good democracy reach everyone,” he said. “NCC will strive to propagate the rights of the individuals as enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the United Nation’s Instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, coupled with the duties that go alongside the rights so that no one is infringing upon others’ rights,” he added. During the launch, Muthu also proposed the names of the presidents for each of the 16 wings, which were accepted by Prema who dedicated them for the respective wings. Cardinal President of Apostolic Churches of India SM Jayakumar and Bishop C Ebenezer Raj Kishore, Anglican Churches of India, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, were among those present during the launch. (New Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

8. 108 Muslim Candidates in the Fray in Delhi (7)

NEW DELHI: A total of 108 Muslims are contesting the Delhi assembly elections, a slight increase from five years ago. Although Muslims account for 11 percent of Delhi’s population of 16 million, the capital has only five Muslim legislators. Among the major political parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party have put up the highest number of 11 Muslims. The number of candidates in Wednesday’s balloting to elect a 70-member legislature is 810. The figure of Muslim candidates has risen from 92 (out of 875) in 2008 to 108 now. Okhla will see the maximum number of 11 Muslim candidates in any one constituency. More than half a dozen of the 70 constituencies in Delhi are home to 30-40 percent Muslims. These include Okhla, Mustafabad, Seelampur, Ballimaran and Matia Mahal. Of the five legislators, four are from the ruling Congress. Political expert Sanjay Kumar explained why Muslim representation in legislatures was low. “It is not just Delhi but in all the state assemblies of the country Muslims have lesser representation,” Kumar, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and author of the book “Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi”, told IANS. Increasingly, particularly from the 1980s, most political parties tend to give ticket to Muslims only in constituencies where the community lives in large numbers. In Delhi, the Congress has fielded six Muslims while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has only one Muslim contestant. “We give representation to all communities including Muslims. In 2008 we had six Muslim candidates, this time 11,” BSP’s Delhi in-charge Ram Achal Rajbhar told IANS. Samajwadi Party’s Delhi president Usha Yadav said: “We have fielded 11 Muslim candidates this time.” On par with the Congress is the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal which too has fielded six Muslims including Shazia Ilmi, a former TV journalist and a prominent face of the party. Ilmi is pitted against Congress legislator Barkha Singh in R.K. Puram in south Delhi. The BJP’s lone Muslim candidate is Mohammad Nizamuddin, an advocate from Matia Mahal. Another key Muslim face in Delhi is four-time legislator Shoaib Iqbal, who in October quit the Lok Janshakti Party to join the Janata Dal-United. The BJP has its own reasons for avoiding Muslims while selecting candidates. Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel told IANS: “We don’t see the religious factor while picking candidates. We see the winnability of the candidates. We give ticket to those who are deserving.” Among the best known Muslim faces in Delhi’s politics is Congress minister Haroon Yusuf who is seeking a fifth term from Ballimaran in the Mughal-built Walled City or Old Delhi. Yusuf reasoned that it was the “absolute secular credentials” of the Congress which fetches it Muslim votes. “The Congress is a secular party and it wins elections not because of the religion of the candidates but the work done by them,” Yusuf told IANS. Asif Mohammad Khan, the legislator from Okhla who recently joined the Congress after dumping the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), said the Congress had given him ticket “due to my chances of winning”.His candidature has, however, caused heartburn in the Congress ranks. Some in the party are upset because Khan reportedly faces several criminal charges. But Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is known to be backing him — politically. (Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

9. Muzaffarnagar riots: International help sought to nail fake video sharers on Facebook (7)

LUCKNOW: The UP government has requested the government of India to send a letters rogatory for judicial international assistance to investigate who uploaded a fake video clip related to killings in Kawal that allegedly played a major role in vitiating the atmosphere in Muzaffarnagar, resulting in communal riots which claimed 62 lives. Issued in October by the chief judicial magistrate Muzaffarnagar as per the international norms, the letter was addressed to the office of international affairs, criminal justice division, department of justice, US. It was to be sent to the GOI to pursue it with the US government for seeking details from the owners of the Facebook accounts from which the fake video was uploaded. However, the matter remained pending for one-and-a-half months and now it has been forwarded to the central government. Principal secretary Anil Gupta confirmed that the state government has recently written to the central government and the matter is being pursued seriously. Regarding the affidavit submitted by the state government in the Supreme Court in response to the PIL demanding a CBI probe into the riots, he said, “Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had earlier said that CBI inquiry is not required because he has already constituted a commission under a retired high court judge to probe the violence, besides a committee of legislators headed by senior minister Shivpal Yadav. We have reiterated the position in the affidavit filed in the apex court.” On allegations of denying that Kawal killings led to riots, he said that the chief minister had also said that Kawal incident and misuse of social media after that led to communal tension. “Our opposition is mainly on the parallel drawn by the petitioner between 2002 Gujarat riots and Muzaffarnagar violence and the demand to form a special investigating team of the CBI to probe Muzaffarnagar riots as it was done in Gujarat.” The video was of two men being lynched by a mob at Sialkot in Pakistan in 2010. However, it was morphed and uploaded by one Shivam Kumar on Facebook on August 29 claiming it to be the video of two boys killed in Kawal town of Muzaffarnagar by a mob. (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

10. Toned down, but communal violence bill still a hard sell (7)

New Delhi: A last-minute attempt by the UPA government to revive the eight-year-old communal violence bill is headed for trouble despite a move to tone down controversial provisions that give the Centre the power to intervene. Pushing for the bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday the government would try to evolve a consensus on issues which are of “great” legislative importance. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi dubbed the bill a recipe for disaster. In its new form, the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, restricts the Centre’s role to that of a coordinator if a state calls for help during an outbreak of communal violence. The home ministry has dropped provisions relating to the majority and minority community.  Targetting people on grounds of religious and linguistic identity has been defined as communal violence in the new provisions. The bill redefine communal violence as now describes communal violence as the one targeted at talks of violence targeted at people on religious and linguistic identity The government would bring the bill during the winter session, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said. The session that opened on Thursday is possibly the last chance for the UPA to conduct legislative business ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. New provisions were religion-neutral, a home ministry official involved in drafting the legislation told HT. The changes give the district administration and police the powers to take all possible steps to prevent and control violence, said the official who didn’t wish to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. But the officials will also face jail terms – ranging from two to five years — if they fail to do their job. Senior officers can also be jailed if personnel under their charge fail to take necessary steps. Modi, who joined CMs of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu on Thursday to oppose the bill, argued that such provisions belittled the security forces and painted them “as communal as large”. The bill was on the agenda of UPA-1 in the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat riots and an earlier version has been pending in the Rajya Sabha since 2005. It was shoved into the cold storage after activists tried to push the Congress-led coalition to include provisions allowing the Centre to intervene if the state government fails to respond to the crisis at hand. Modi questioned the UPA’s timing of reviving the legislation “just a couple of months” before the announcement of the 2014 general elections. “It makes the move look very suspicious,” he said. The Centre’s timing were a “giveaway” that political considerations dictated by vote-bank politics rather than genuine concern for preventing violence dictated the move, the Gujarat strongman said. (Hindustan Times 5/12/13)

 

11. SC orders trial court to deliver verdict in Kandhamal nun rape case (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the trial court to deliver its verdict in a case involving rape of a Christian nun allegedly by religious fanatics during the 2008 Kandhamal riots in Orissa within three months while asserting that the courts must adopt a “belligerent approach instead of a wooden one.” The court had in February last year stayed the trial on a plea by the victim nun, who challenged the prosecution’s failure to cross-examine a judicial magistrate, failure of which she claimed helped the accused persons. As per the victim, the magistrate had withheld some of the accusatory statements she had made against one of the accused person when he took the witness box. A bench led by Justice S S Nijjar allowed the nun’s appeal, argued through senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, and set aside the orders passed by the trial court and the high court. The lower courts had held that she had no right to seek recalling a witness for cross-examination and that she must have faith in justice delivery system. The apex court however reproached the lower courts for a “casual approach” and said it would certainly cause a “serious miscarriage of justice” since the magistrate’s version would influence the outcome of the case. “We are convinced that the grievances as projected by the appellant as a victim, who was a victim of an offence of such a grotesque nature, in our considered view, the trial court as well as the High Court instead of rejecting the application of the appellant by simply making a reference to a CrPC provision in a blind folded manner,” said the court. The bench reminded the courts that “in criminal jurisprudence, while the offence is against the society, it is the unfortunate victim who is the actual sufferer and therefore, it is imperative for the State and the prosecution to ensure that no stone is left unturned. It is also the equal, if not more, the duty and responsibility of the Court to be alive and alert in the course of trial of a criminal case and ensure that the evidence recorded in accordance with law reflect every bit of vital information placed before it.” (Indian Express 5/12/13)

 

12. Modi trying to protect Godhra riots perpetrators: Minority minister (7)

New Delhi: Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan Thursday accused BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of trying to protect the perpetrators of the violence during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat by opposing the Communal Violence Bill. “The people who Narendra Modi represents, they are the people who will probably be affected because they are the perpetrators of communal violence and will be punished,” the minister said in an interview to Times Now news channel here. “He knows that the perpetrators of 2002 Gujarat riots will be punished and that is why he is opposing it,” he said. “Why should he come in between? This law does not target any particular religion,” he added. His reaction came following Modi’s tweet opposing the Communal Violence Bill — the official nomenclature of which is the “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill”.The objective of the bill is “to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and religious minorities in any State”.The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader has also written to the prime minister, urging him to seek wider consultations on the bill. Khan also rebuffed Modi’s assertion that the bill was a violation of the federal structure and said that it was just like any other central government law. “This law doesn’t infringe on the rights of the state. It is a law enacted like any other law, like the CrPc (Criminal Procedure Court), or the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” said Khan. Condemning the “negative attitude” of the BJP, union Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the government was “open to dialogue”.”They have a very negative attitude towards the bill. The bill is important as communal harmony is important in our country,” said Moily. The Communal Violence Bill is likely to be taken up in the winter session of the parliament that started Thursday. (Indian Express 6/12/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

13. Vocational, higher education are a priority: Pallam Raju (11)

Bidar:  “Development of vocational and higher education are priority areas for Union government,” M.M. Pallam Raju, Union Minister for Human Resource Development, has said. Dr. Raju was speaking after laying the foundation stone for the satellite campus of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University here on Saturday. With the implementation of the Right to Education Act, enrolment in primary sector had gone up significantly. Now, the focus was on strengthening the reach and improving the quality of vocational and higher education, he said. The government would make special efforts on making vocational and higher education accessible to communities and groups that had been historically deprived of opportunities for learning. The ultimate aim of the government was to universalise education and make the youth employable. The Union government was planning to provide training in vocational skills to 50 crore people by 2022, he said. The Maulana Azad National University had a mandate to develop Urdu language and offer quality education to Urdu-speaking people. A team, led by Mohammad Miyan, Vice-Chancellor, had identified clusters of Urdu-speaking people across the country. The team members were setting up regional and satellite centres in those clusters. This process would continue till all clusters were covered, he said. N. Dharam Singh, MP, said that the State government had transferred 10 acres of land to the university in Solpur, near Bidar. Dr. Miyan, announced that the Bidar centre would consist of Central school in Urdu medium, an ITI and a teachers’ training institute. The first batch of these institutions would be started from next academic year, he said. R.V. Deshpande, Minister for Higher Education, said that the State government would provide support to the university. (The Hindu 1/12/13)

 

14. RTE ignored in party manifestos, rues Delhi education forum (11)

New Delhi: A city based education forum said it is regrettable that major political parties failed to include effective implementation of Right to Education Act in Delhi in their manifestos for the December 4 Assembly polls. “While the parties talk about a few dimensions of the RTE, the manifestos failed to provide strategies to improve quality education and ensure the right is well implemented in the state,” Annie Nammala, one of the conveners of the Delhi Right to Education Forum said today. “Party manifestos are silent about setting up of School Management Committees (SMCs) and providing adequate budgets for the schools to effectively implement RTE,” she said. The forum demanded proper implementation of the RTE ACT and expanding its scope to include children from 3-18 years. It further said that school availability and infrastructure needs to be increased and enhanced specially in the urban peripheries, unrecognised colonies, resettlement colonies and jhuggi-jhopri clusters and urban villages. Special attention is needed for migrant children, SC, ST children, Muslim children, children with disability, children engaged in rag-picking and children whose parents are engaged in stigmatised occupations, forum members stated. “There is urgent need to address discrimination and corporal punishment in schools. The private sector in education needs to be regulated with respect to recognition process, fee structures and curriculum. “The distance criteria of 1 km for admission under 25 per cent reservation needs to be removed and laadli scheme extended to all girls regardless of their birthplace,” said another forum convener, Bharat Singh. The forum had recently also held ‘Vote for Education’ campaign demanding serious attention towards improving the quality of education in the state. (Deccan Herald 2/12/13)

 

15. State of government schools: Lower caste students face acute discrimination (11)

While the government may celebrate implementing Right to Education and Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, ‘exclusionary and discriminatory’ practices are still prevalent in schools in some states which poses a greater threat to long-term education policies and reforms. A study commissioned by ministry of human resources development, conducted in six states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam and Rajasthan — has revealed widespread ‘discrimination and exclusion’ on the basis of caste, community and gender, with Rajasthan being one of the worst hit. The study, covering 120 schools, explores the ‘blatant, subtle and hidden practices’ that influences the ability of children to learn, grow and become confident. This includes sitting and eating on the basis of caste during mid-day meals, girls cleaning toilets of the schools and cooks preferred from particular caste or community. “Caste-based discrimination in schools of Rajasthan is explicit as many children from forward castes also attend government schools,” was one of the insights principal investigators of the study, Vimala Ramachandran of National University of Education Planning and Administration and Taramani Naorem of MHRD mentioned. Even perception among teachers in all the six states was found out to be skewed against the children from deprived social groups. The common misconception among teachers was that they are poor in academics, while in reality the study found that they were performing well. However, regular attendance was issue among children from poor and extremely marginalised communities, mostly due to poor health, migration of parents for work, recurring illness and taking on household responsibilities. In Rajasthan, forward caste students in most of the schools, drank water or cleaned mid-day meal dishes before the SC and ST children. In another school of the state, water pitcher was not available to SC and ST students. Even in some schools in Andhra Pradesh, ST and SC students stay away from hand pump and wait for others to pour water. The study found that in some schools in Madhya Pradesh, girls from general category and OBC were practicing untouchability, arguing that their parents have asked them to conform to the prevalent social norms. Similarly, in MP and AP girls mostly from SC community had to help in cleaning toilets and girls also cleaned toilets of teachers in many schools. In Rajasthan and Bihar, most of the toilets were unusable and locked, as prevalent thought is that children, ‘spoil and dirty toilets.’ Ironically, some children in Andhra Pradesh even prefer to go out in fields rather than cleaning a toilet after use. “Democratic practices were not the norm in any sample school, while dealing with participation of students in school activities and tasks. It all depends on prevailing social norm or perception of teacher, not the personal assessment of student,” the study reveals. The seating arrangement in the classes reflected the discrimination and exclusionary practices. In almost all the states children were separated by gender, caste and community.  “Taking constitution as the guiding spirit, teachers, administrators and community leaders need to be told that any violation of the right to equality and the right against discrimination will invite strict penal action,” the investigators suggested. (DNA 3/12/13)

 

16. Education missing from party agendas: Activists (11)

NEW DELHI: Members of Delhi RTE Forum wish political parties contesting the coming assembly election had gone beyond “sadak-bijli-paani (road-power-water)” in their campaigns. Civil society organizations, parents and children who form the forum have found that, while their manifestos promise still more “populist schemes”, they lack a roadmap for implementation of the Right to Education Act. The forum had launched the 15-day ‘vote for education’ campaign starting November 11 and collected one lakh token votes from the public. The group also met party members and noted their “lack of seriousness.” “All of them said ‘ho jayega’ or ‘kar denge’,” says Bharat Singh of Bal Vikas Dhara, an RTE forum convenor. “They are clearly not thinking about this as seriously as we are.” The activists would argue there is enough reason to be worried. As Singh points out, there are over two lakh kids still out of school. “The issues we had three years ago still continue,” says Rajeev Kumar of NGO Pardarshita and another forum convenor. He adds that School Management Committees-put together in a rush this year as the RTE Act implementation deadline was approaching-don’t function the way the act envisioned. “Neither principals, nor community members, nor teachers know what exactly the functions of SMCs are,” says Kumar. And, as the forum’s national convenor, Ambarish Rai points out, after the deadline for RTE implementation was up, no new “roadmap” was drawn. Decisions taken by the authorities currently in charge do not bode well. One move that’ll be most strenuously resisted by this group at least will be any attempt to “privatize” government schools through public-private-partnership projects as the South Delhi Municipal Corporation proposes to do. “The poor can be educated only through a public system,” observes Rai . There’s a shortage of 20,000 teachers, most of the training for teachers is in the private sector and should be closely monitored and they should increase the budget for education.” The other matter for concern is the go-ahead given to private schools to start second shift. “Why should there be a second shift in private schools?” asks Annie Namala, another convenor. (Times of India 4/12/13)

 

17. ‘Income not the sole criterion for admitting students under RTE quota’ (11)

COIMBATORE: The annual income ceiling is only one of the several criteria for students to qualify for admission in private schools under the quota created for ‘disadvantaged groups’ and ‘weaker sections’ by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Chief Educational Officer A. Gnanagowri told The Hindu here on Wednesday that G.O. No. 174, dated November 8, 2011, which outlined the State Governments’ rules for admitting students under the quota, included several groups in these two categories. The ‘disadvantaged groups’ were defined to also include “a child who is an orphan or affected by HIV or a transgender or a child of a conservancy worker” in addition to the definition given in the RTE Act. ‘Weaker sections’ were defined as those with parents or guardians whose annual income was lower than Rs. 2 lakh. Further, the Central Government had already included in the ‘disadvantaged groups’ category the children belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes besides socially and educationally backward classes having a disadvantage owing to various social, cultural, economical and other factors. She said that the income ceiling would not apply for the disadvantaged groups. The Chief Educational Officer said that many parents were unaware of documents that had to be submitted. Refuting the allegations that the Department of School Education had not verified the documents of students admitted in private schools, she said that the documents were scrutinised at the beginning of the academic year. As this was the first year of full-fledged implementation of the legislation, there were bound to be some shortfall. (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

18. RTE axe awaits schools (11)

Private schools like the DPS or Gyan Niketan could face a one-time penalty of Rs 1 lakh and daily fine of Rs 10,000 for not complying with the Right to Education Act, 2009. The education department diktat has come at a time when the schools are gearing up for the admission process of primary classes from the first week of January. The Section 18(5) of the act stipulates that establishing or running schools without the certificate of recognition as mandated by the act would be considered an offence. Ram Sharnagat Singh, joint director (primary education) and education department spokesperson, told The Telegraph on Thursday: “The department, through a letter (dated December 3) has issued a public notice stating that running any private school without recognition under the RTE Act, 2009, would be considered an offence from now on. Consequently, the offenders would be liable for a one-time penalty of maximum Rs 1 lakh and daily fine of Rs 10,000 as well. The director (primary education) has been appointed the competent authority for imposing penalty on the offenders.” The Union government notified the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, commonly known as the Right to Education Act (RTE) on August 26, 2009, and it came into effect in the whole country except Jammu and Kashmir from April 1, 2010. The state government had initially asked all private schools to get the mandatory certificate of recognition under the act by September 30, 2011, which was later extended to November 12 the same year. “Two years have passed since the deadline but the rate of registration of private schools under the RTE has not been satisfactory. For instance, though the largest number of application (1649) for the certificate of recognition has been received from Patna district, only 67 have been granted it as the rest do not fulfil the norms and standards prescribed by the RTE Act. In all, 609 schools have been served notices for improving conditions for satisfying the criteria for recognition at the earliest,” said a senior official in the education department. According to Section 19(2) of the act, a school established before the enactment of this act, can take a maximum period of three years from the date of commencement of the works to fulfil the norms and standards for being granted the certificate of recognition. Sources in the education department claimed that the tendency of taking steps for meeting the criteria for certificate of recognition is more in the smaller schools compared to the well-established ones. “The Patna district education officers has served several notices to around 25 well-known schools, including DPS, Krishna Niketan and Gyan Niketan among others, for taking necessary steps for meeting the criteria for the certificate of recognition but no response has been received from them yet,” said Singh. The Private School Association has denied the claim of schools having been sent any notices for getting recognised under the RTE Act. “We condemn the education department order. The education minister (P.K. Shahi), in a meet of our association at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Patna on February 12, 2012, had said all schools would be given the recognition under the act and no fine would be imposed on any school. I also agree that the minister had asked the schools to improve their infrastructure at the earliest. However, it is extremely ironic that officers in his own department have made a mockery of his promises,” said Shamael Ahmed, the president of the Private Schools and Children Welfare Association, Patna. Some private schools, which are facing charges of running the institution without a certificate of recognition, have claimed that the laxity has been on the part of education department. “We received a form from the education department for applying for the certificate, which we had duly filled in and submitted back to the department last year. However, we neither received any reply from the department nor have we been granted the certificate,” said S.M. Jha, media-in-charge, Gyan Niketan. Christian minority and unaided schools have been kept out of the purview of the RTE Act according to an order passed by the Supreme Court on April 11, 2013. (The Telegraph 6/12/12)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

19. Deport Chakma-Hajong refugees from Arunachal: President urged (13)

ITANAGAR: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has urged President Pranab Mukherjee to arrange for deporting Chakma-Hajong refugees and all foreign nationals from Arunachal Pradesh to protect the indigenous culture of the state. ‘Illegal’ settlement of Chakma and Hajong refugees has resulted in marginalization of indigenous tribes like Noctes, Wangchow, Khamtis, Singphos and Tsanga in the eastern part of the state, the AAPSU said in a memorandum submitted to Mukherjee here on Saturday. “In the western part of the state, the Tibetans, Bhutanese and Nepalese have dominated over the indigenous Monpas, Sherdukpens, Akas and Mijis,” it said. In central Arunachal Pradesh, a “floating population of Bangladeshis” was creating tension among tribes of Nyishis, Adis, Galo, Apatani and Tagins, AAPSU said. The apex students body of the state urged Mukherjee to expedite the dialogue process to find a permanent solution to the Chakma-Hajong refugees problem to protect the state’s indigenous culture and its people. AAPSU also requested the President to solve the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and take up with the authorities the matter of China issuing stapled visas to people of the state. Sportspersons from the state failed to take part in events in China because of the stapled visa, the memorandum said. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

20. Tough times for Delhi’s Myanmar Chin refugees (13)

New Delhi: Chin refugees who fled to New Delhi from Myanmar to escape rights abuses committed by the military live in poverty and face discrimination, sexual harassment and exploitation, a new study has revealed. “Chin refugees have been living in Delhi for the last 10 to 12 years. Their condition is far from satisfactory as far as their safety, financial security and education is concerned,” said Fr Joseph Xavier of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) South Asia, which conducted the study. The study, conducted in the Indian capital from January 2012 to October 2013, aimed to “give these people visibility, a face,” Father Peter Belleis, the organization’s international director, told reporters at the launch of the report in the Indian capital on November 29. Fr Belleis said more than 110,000 Chin have taken refuge in India. Most are in northeastern Mizoram state, but New Delhi is home to some 6,000. Few are registered with the UNHCR. People in Delhi harass and discriminate against them, including in hospitals and schools, said Father Xavier. “These people face exploitation at the hands of their employers as they lack training, an education and are unable to communicate because they don’t know the local language,” the Jesuit priest said. Poverty, migration and discrimination in government schools force Chin children to drop out. Sometimes the children are physically abused, he said. Most refugees work in restaurants, are laborers or are self-employed, which has a direct impact on their income and standard of living. More than half, about 58 percent, have a monthly income of less than 5,000 rupees (US$80). Van-laltan, a Chin refugee who has been living in Delhi for the last two years, said people are reluctant to talk to him. “Women face sexual harassment in the workplace and on the streets, as ours is a very open society, and they dress the way they want which makes people think they are easy targets,” he said. As for myself, “I have to work to support my family and I can only earn 3,500 rupees per month,” he added. India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN convention on refugees, which means the UNHCR has to help support the Chin refugees. The JRS in its report recommended the Indian government to sign the convention and adhere to a well-defined framework for refugees. It also called on the UNHCR to conduct workshops and help coordinate efforts among NGOs to help improve quality of life for Chins in New Delhi. More than 3.5 million people from Chin state in western Myanmar have fled or been displaced over the past four decades to escape ethnic, political and religious persecution. (Ucanews 2/12/13)

 

21. Syrian refugees in Lebanon exceeds 832,000 (13)

Beirut: The number of Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Lebanon has reached 832,000, according to the latest UN report. There are over 758,000 Syrian refugees registered with the agency while more than 73,000 are waiting for their registration process to complete, Xinhua cited from the UN refugee agency report issued Monday. During his recent visit to Lebanon, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees lauded the country’s “massive generosity” in playing host to more than 800,000 Syrian refugees, and urged donor countries to supply financial assistance to Lebanon and to the refugees. (Zee News 3/12/13)

 

22. Capital’s migrants in queue to vote for opportunity (13)

New Delhi: Sadhna Pathak is many things. She is a Purvanchali who grew up in Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh. She is a migrant who came to Delhi 30 years ago, looking for a means of living. She is a domestic help, who works in homes in RK Puram. Over the past few weeks, as politicians visited her locality with increasing frequency, she was constantly reminded of these identities. One politician celebrated her for being Purvanchali. Others promised her dignity of labour and a permanent residence. But as she stood in a queue outside a polling booth in Sector 6, R K Puram, on Wednesday — mindful that unwashed utensils were waiting for her — only one identity mattered. Sadhna Pathak was poor. And all she wanted from the next government was food and water. “For me, corruption is not an issue. Each party pitted one against the other on the issue of corruption. For me, it’s the rising cost of basic commodities like rice and vegetables that matter. Electricity matters. Water matters. When we stand in queues waiting for a DJB tanker to fill our buckets, fights break out. Where does the government disappear then? They promise us something each time. But nothing happens,” says the 52-year-old, a resident of KD Colony in Sector 6, RK Puram. Pathak is one among the lakhs of Purvanchalis, migrants from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who constitute about 40 per cent of the total voters in the capital. “I came here 30 years ago after my marriage. I have two sons now, both are drivers. They are earning their living, but just about. We still stay in these slum clusters. I have moved from one basti to another over the years and there seems to be no way out. We have been promised many things but nothing has been done so far,” Sadhna says, adjusting her ghunghat… (Indian Express 5/12/13)

 

23. 63% of migrant workers’ children in Chennai suffer illnesses, finds study (13)

Chennai: About 63 per cent of the children of migrant workers suffer from various diseases with fever being the most common ailment. This was one of the findings of a study by Aide et Action, an non-governmental organisation, in the construction sites and brick kilns around Chennai. Lack of immunisation, proper nutrition and health facilities at the worksites were some of the reasons for the frequent illness of the children. About 650 children aged up to eight years belonging to 506 migrant families in construction sites and brick kilns were covered under the three-month study. It was also found that 33 children are still engaged as part-time or full-time labourers. On the study released in the city on Tuesday, K. Sivagami, regional manager, Aide et Action, said that nearly 95 per cent of the children were living in polluted and dusty localities. Nearly 99 per cent houses did not have proper ventilation or sewerage facility. Half of the children do not have access to immunisation or basic first aid owing to lack of services at the worksite. Similarly, on the education front, only half of the children of migrant workers have access to the primary education. However, much needs to be improved to provide access to anganwadis, she said. S. Martin, programme officer of Aide et Action, said most children are confined to the working site and do not have much access to recreation. “We are planning to set up 15 early childhood care and education centres in worksites,” he said. Besides providing affordable health care in the vicinity of the work places, the study recommends a detailed mapping of the migrant families and sensitisation of the owners to provide basic amenities to the families. Responding to the study, C. Gnanasekara Baburao, additional director, Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health said that a separate wing to implement Building and Other Construction Workers Act is being formed in the directorate. Once it is set up, surveillance on construction sites would be increased (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

24. Medha Patkar demands dignified livelihood for poor (14)

Kolkata, Nov 30 : Social activist Medha Patkar on Friday demanded the uplift of the status of domestic workers with a standard pay structure and benefits enjoyed by organised sector employees. She made the statement in the 2nd Annual Convention organised by Nabo Jagoran Mancha here on Friday.  The convention highlighted the issue of dignified livelihood in which 5000 urban informal labourers assembled to put forward their rights and reiterated their demand to be recognised as workers. “The objective of the convention is to highlight the demand of the urban informal labourer,” said Reshmi Ganguly of Actionaid, one of the several NGOs that have lent their support to the movement. “The objective is also to make visible their demand to be recognized as ‘workers’ which help them to confront the unequal societal and economical system. We also aim to submit a charter of demand of the people engaged in informal labour economy to the State Machinery,” she said. In the present neo-liberalised economy millions of people are moving from the rural areas to the metros and other urban areas in India. This class comprise the poor in the informal sector, the hawkers, the rickshaw pullers, domestic workers, waste pickers, the petty shop keepers and others with their meagre livelihoods are under attack. With almost no regulations on working conditions or social security at the work place and no legal protection of job, workers in the unorganised sector live in abject poverty, excluded from the impressive gains from the economic reforms and liberalisation, that ushered in from 1992-93. Since 2009, Nabo Jagoran Mancha has been providing the much needed platform to the poor people to unify and take initiatives to place their demands for housing and citizenship rights before the state government. The first Annual Convention of Nabo Jagaron Mancha in 2012 translated into tangible changes like recognition of homeless people through distribution of Antodaya Ration Card and formulation of first homeless policy of the state on shelter. Speaking on dignified livelihood as a demand, Madhumita Das of Kolkata Nabo Jagoran said “The condition of the women and girls is the most vulnerable, the women being primarily engaged in domestic work and rag picking involves them in long hours of labour with a very low return.” “We want rag picking to be recognised as labour and the child rights to be given to the homeless children,” she added. ‘A Rapid Assess Survey, undertaken by the NGOs jointly with the state government in February 2011, highlighted the magnitude of the problem of homelessness. According to the 2011 census of India, the rural population has declined from 72.19 percent to 68.84 percent, while the urban population has increased from 27.81 percent to 31.16 percent. Lack of structural reforms in the agricultural sector can be identified as the main factor that has forced people dependent on agriculture to migrate to the cities. It is estimated that 600 million Indians would reside in the urban areas by 2020. Besides Patkar, several other activists Samita Sen (Ex-Director, Women’s Studies, JU), Samar Bagchi, Mihir Bandhopadhyay and Monoj Bhatt addressed the convention. (New Kerala 1/12/13)

 

25. Migrant workers lead in spreading awareness (14)

Kozhikode: : At sharp 10 a.m. on Sunday, 680 migrant workers and their families took out a rally from the Central Library premises in Mananchira Square to commemorate World AIDS Day. The multi-coloured placards they held were in various languages, from Oriya to Bengali to Hindi. Though the languages varied, the message was the same. ‘Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from AIDS’. One of them, Veerendra Pratap Singh, aged 25 and a native of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, led the rally. He has been working with the State government’s Suraksha Project for AIDS awareness for the past three years. A skilled construction worker from Taliparamba in Kannur district, Mr. Singh had taken the morning passenger train to attend the rally. “I lost about Rs.1,000 today as my daily wages. But never mind. I wanted to come. Attending this rally is important because we have to spread the message of AIDS awareness among the migrant population as well as the local population,” he said. Mr. Singh says he had signed up as a Suraksha volunteer during a medical camp held by the project in Taliparamba. “At first it was tough convincing those amongst us to take the warnings seriously. But look, today people came for our rally from all over the place. This means they have started to believe. They came because they believe in awareness,” he said. Mohammed Abdul Khader, Suraksha project manager and a staffer with OISCA, which runs the project in the district, calls Mr. Singh an “old, trusted friend”. “Today we had 600 migrant workers attending the rally. These 600 people will communicate the message of the rally to the other 50,000. We have distributed pamphlets. ,” Mr. Abdul Khader, Suraksha project manager, says. (The Hindu 2/12/13)

 

26. Construction labourers want Rs 500 daily wage (14)

AHMEDABAD: Construction labourers have threatened to shut work if their demands, including increasing their daily wage to Rs 500 per day, are not fulfilled. A convention of construction labourers, organized by the Majur Adhikar Manch, was held in the city on Monday. A charter of demands was raised at the convention. Labourers have not only demanded that wages be increased, but also that there should be a registration for labourers. The convention urged labourers to get registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. The convention demanded that as most of the workers engaged are migrants, the state government should ensure that they get rations at affordable prices. The convention demanded that the government and corporation, not only have proper sanitation and drinking water facilities at ‘kadia nakas’ but the government also set up home sheds in labour camps. The meeting was attended by over 1,000 construction labourers. The leaders came down heavily on builders and government for not addressing abominable working conditions, low wages, lack of social security, as well as absence of health, childcare and education facilities. The secretary of Majur Adhikar Manch, Ashok Samrat, later gave a memorandum to the labour commissioner’s office. He said if the government failed to address these issues, labourers will be forced to resort to an indefinite strike. (Times of India 3/12/13)

 

27. 195 construction labourers have died in five years: Minister (14)

BELGAUM: As many as 195 construction workers have lost their lives in 185 construction-related incidents in the State in the last five years. This was disclosed by Minister for Labour P.T. Parameshwara Naik in his reply to an unstarred question by K. Govindaraj of the Congress in the Legislative Council. He also said over 19.67 lakh labourers (88.146 labourers in Bangalore city) are engaged in construction in the State. While admitting that enrolment of construction workers in welfare schemes is small, the Minister said a massive campaign would be launched to enrol all construction workers in the State. He said over 4.81 lakh workers were enrolled under the Swavalamban, Karnataka State Private Commercial Vehicle Drivers Accident Benefit, and Karnataka Building and Construction Workers Welfare Board schemes. “The target of the government is to enrol over 6 lakh workers,” he said. The government pays Rs. 2 lakh as compensation to the family of diseased construction workers. He directed the authorities concerned to pay compensation to those injured during duty hours. As much as Rs. 2,170 crore available in the Karnataka Labour Welfare Board would be used for opening residential schools for children of construction workers, he said. (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

28. Kaam Mango Abhiyan to cover 11 districts in State (14)

Bidar: The Ministry of Rural Development has launched Kaam Mango Abhiyan to streamline schemes under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 11 districts of the State, including Bidar. The campaign, which began on December 1, will be taken up in select districts in six States. Raichur was initially selected for the abhiyan by the Ministry. The other 10 districts were added by the State government. The campaign will include creating awareness about the Kaam Mango Abhiyan among village residents, identifying high-risk areas for migration, automatic enrolment of beneficiaries and tracking them at various levels to ensure that they found work and their wages were paid on time. Officials will also visit houses in villages for on-the-spot enrolment of workers. Other initiatives such as training of officials and organising padayatras and street plays to create awareness will be taken up. Monitoring committees will be set up at the district levels to provide feedback to implementing officers. (The Hindu 6/12/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

29. School still a dream for 30,000 kids (14)

PUNE: More than 30,000 children from the state, between five and nine years of age, have never been to school, a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by System Correcting Movement (Syscom), a city-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), stated. The RTI reply also showed that in urban areas, over 5,000 children, including child labourers, street children, beggars, wastepickers and children of sex workers have never been to school. The figures were from 2011 to 2012. The NGO said the information given by the state government did not reflect the reality as the numbers would be much higher. Rajendra Dharankar, president of Syscom, said, “We filed an RTI application to know about the children who should have been in standard I to IV. From what we received, it can be said that the records are either not up-to-date or there are some discrepancies.” The RTI reply revealed that 30,844 children in this age group had never been to school. In the remote areas of the state like Gondia (18), Bhandara (17) and Washim (35) very few children had not been to school where in Pune, the figure stood at 1,705. At 9,339, Thane district had the largest number of students who never went to school. “The 2001 census showed that there were seven lakh children involved in child labour whereas the government’s reply put the figure at 1,490 children in 2011 and 2012,” said Dharankar. A recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) revealed that more than one lakh children are living on the streets of Maharashtra. Dharankar said the government’s reply to the RTI query stated that only 1,400 children are living on the streets. “A little difference in the figures provided by Unicef and those by the state government can be understood, but there is a wide gap in the data of the two organizations,” he added. Sunil Kurhade, education officer of the Pune Zilla Parishad, explained the difference as, “There is a possibility that some children may not have been registered during the survey as many of them are migrants. The survey is conducted at regular intervals and the numbers keep changing due to migration of the families.” Activist Matin Mujawar said, “The numbers stated by the state is far from the actual figures. A mechanism should be developed so that the monitoring is transparent and without any discrepancy.” (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

30. 5 children rescued from forced labour (14)

HYDERABAD: Five children employed as child labourers were rescued by the Labour Department officials in raids conducted at L.B.Nagar and R.K.Puram areas here on Monday. The children were identified as Mahesh and Munna, both 13 years old, working at Ganesh Bike Point at Telephone Colony, K.Ramana (12) working at Nagalakshmi Swagruha Foods at R.K.Puram, K.Raju working at Jayaram Reddy Sweet Shop at L.B.Nagar and Andesh, employed at Bangalore Aiyengar Bakers at L.B.Nagar. The rescued children were sent to the State home for children in Saidabad, for production before the Child Welfare Committee, informed Deputy Commissioner of Labour S. Naresh Kumar, who led the raids in association with Andhra Pradesh Balala Hakkula Sangham. Prosecution will be launched against the employers under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, and claims for difference between minimum wages and actual wages would be filed, he said. Keywords: child labourers, Labour Department, raid, L.B.Nagar, R.K.Puram, State Home in Hyderabad, Saidabad, Child Welfare Committee, Andhra Pradesh Balala Hakkula Sangham, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (The Hindu 3/12/13)

 

31. Why was cake in midday meal, child rights commission asks (14)

MUMBAI: The child rights commission on Tuesday heard the midday meal food-poisoning case where more than 400 students of an Andheri school fell ill after eating cupcakes last week. The commission emphasized on the school’s role in making midday meals available for students. The students of Anjuman Noor-ul-Islam High School in Saki Naka had to be admitted to neighbouring hospitals after they complained of uneasiness and nausea. “Cake has never been part of the midday meal scheme, then why did the school allow such an item to be provided to children?” asked A N Tripathi, secretary of MSCPCR. The commission took suo motu cognizance of the matter. “The midday meal scheme clearly states that it is the principal’s responsibility to not just provide midday meals to students, but also ensure the quality of food,” said Tripathi. He added that each school should put in place a team led by the school principal, a teacher and a parent to check the quality of food everyday and taste it themselves before giving it to children. The commission said the principal cannot wash his hands of this case. For the next hearing, summons have been sent to police officials as well as officials at various hospitals where the students were admitted. (Times of India 4/12/13)

 

32. Orphanage owner gets life for sexual abuse of mentally challenged kids (14)

Mumbai: A sessions court on Thursday sentenced an orphanage owner to life imprisonment for sexually exploiting 18 mentally challenged minor boys and girls at the institution in Shahpur, Thane district. The court also convicted his wife for abetting the crime, and four others for rape, sodomy, assault and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Observing that Pundalik Gole, the owner of Kavdas, had indulged in a ‘barbaric act’, sessions judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi convicted him under several sections of the Indian Penal Code for rape, unnatural offences, culpable homicide not amounting to murder and others. Gole’s wife Sakshi, a teacher at the orphanage, was sentenced to seven years. Salim Sayyed was sentenced to five-year rigorous imprisonment (RI). Sikandar Pinjri was awarded 10 years in jail and Jitendra Chavan was sentenced to seven years. Ramkrishna Bhagwan, who was held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, was also sentenced to five-year RI. The judge observed that there was no question of showing any leniency towards Gole, who was the “guardian and a parent figure to the children”.”Gole has broken the trust and faith… It was not a single incident, but continued for years. The children were mentally challenged and trusted him (Gole),” the court said. The case came to light in 2010 after a Child Welfare Committee made a surprise visit to Kavdas. A case was registered following the Bombay High Court’s direction in August 2010. The trial commenced in January 2012. Mid-way through the trial, after three of the four victims who deposed before the court spoke of five children dying after they were assaulted, the court introduced murder charges in the case. However, the charge was not proved. Special public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade examined 36 witnesses, and another eight were called by the defence lawyers. “The accused would force the victims to have alcohol, beat them up brutally, and sexually assault them. There were strangulation marks on the children’s necks. The witnesses narrated the incident before the court,” Bagade said. (Indian Express 6/12/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

33. Modi hasn’t diluted stand on Article 370, say Jaitley and Swaraj (19)

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in favour of scrapping Article 370, which, among other things, allows the border state a separate constitution. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, “It is wrong to say the BJP has gone soft on Article 370. Modi has just asked if there has been any gain from this provision.” Another top leader Arun Jaitley said, “J&K’s integration with India is an essential part of the ideology of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and now the BJP. “The BJP believes in Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s (Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder) vision of J&K’s integration with India.  The Nehruvian vision of a separate status has given rise to aspirations for the pre-1953 status, self-rule and even Azadi.” In a Facebook post, Jaitley held that “the journey of a separate status has been towards separatism and not towards integration”. Jaitley, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, also backed Modi’s assertion that women in Jammu and Kashmir did not enjoy the same rights as men. “Can J&K CM Omar Abdullah ignore a dubious track record of his party on the issue and indulge in discourteous tweets on the subjects?” Jaitley said Jammu and Kashmir high court had in October 2002 re-interpreted a law in the state and by a majority judgment held that a woman marrying outside the state would not lose her status as a permanent resident. “But the NC (National Conference) government’s advocate general, MA Goni, opposed the plea of women. The NC government moved the Supreme Court against the judgment. “The PDP (People’s Democratic Party) government, supported by the NC, passed the Jammu and Kashmir Resident (Disqualification) Bill 2004, which attempted to statutorily nullify the progressive majority view taken by the high court.” Jaitley said when Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister, suggested a solution should be found to this problem, the PDP and the NC linked it to the upholding the special status of the state guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.   (Hindustan Times 2/12/13)

 

34. Activists seek passage of accountability legislations (19)

NEW DELHI: With Parliament’s winter session to start on Thursday, civil society activists under the aegis of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) pushed for the passing of accountability legislations including the Lokpal bill, whistleblowers bill and the grievance redressal bill. The department of personnel and training has assured the members that the three bills will be taken up in the winter session. Anjali Bhardwaj of NCPRI said it was critical that Parliament pass these accountability legislations. She said various rights-based legislation passed by the government would be rendered ineffective unless the government ensured time-bound redress of complaints on non-delivery of entitlements and ensure the protection of people exposing corruption in government schemes. “Members of Parliament and political parties should ensure that the accountability regime in the country is strengthened by passing these critical bills. If the grievance redress bill is not passed by this Parliament, the bill will lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014, which will be a huge loss. Parliament must pass these critical accountability legislations rather than trying to amend the Right to Information Act, which has been owned and used by people across the country to demand transparency and accountability from the government,” she said. NCPCRI held a day long dharna at Jantar Mantar on Monday to demand that the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011 and the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 be discussed and passed by Parliament in the upcoming winter session. (Times of India 3/12/13)

 

35. Inquiry panel finds merit in law graduate’s accusation against Justice A K Ganguly (19)

NEW DELHI: Contrary to West Bengal Human Rights Commission chairman Justice A K Ganguly’s straight-faced denials, a three-judge fact-finding committee has found merit in the law graduate’s sexual harassment charges against him. According to sources, the conclusion of the fact-finding committee comprising Justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai, after examining statements of both the law graduate and the retired judge and going through evidence tendered by her, supports the complainant’s version. The girl, who graduated this year from National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata, in her signed blog post on November 6, had alleged sexual harassment at the hands of the retired judge at a hotel in Delhi in December last year at a time when the city had erupted in protest against the Nirbhaya gang-rape case. She had followed it with a detailed interview to a website ‘Legally India’ on November 11, which made headlines. Chief Justice P Sathasivam took prompt action by setting up a three-judge inquiry panel, which completed its fact-finding exercise within 15 days and submitted its report. The CJI, who received the report on November 29, is expected to take a decision this week. In his speech at the Law Day function in Supreme Court on November 26, Justice Sathasivam had assured that “justice in all aspects” will be done in the case. Justice Ganguly, who retired on February 3 last year as a Supreme Court judge, had expressed shock and dismay over the allegations and questioned the motive of the law graduate in leveling the charges nearly a year after the alleged incident. Denying the charges, he had said the accusations had left him shattered. The allegations and the inquiry committee set up by the CJI has sparked an intense internal debate, the moot question being: Should the conduct and actions of retired judges be inquired by an in-house committee comprising sitting judges? A section of judges feel that the CJI being the head of the judiciary was duty bound to ensure that the dignity of the institution was not sullied by a ‘black sheep’ and justified the action taken in the law graduate’s case. Others do not question the process adopted by the CJI but feel there are too many retired judges scattered across the country and it would be impossible to inquire into every allegation about their alleged misdemeanour/misconduct. Moreover, the in-house inquiry committee, after all, was an institutional mechanism meant to look into charges against a sitting judge, they argue. Amidst the battling cross-arguments, it would be interesting to see what course of action the CJI takes in the coming days on the fact-finding report, especially since it has found merit in the law graduate’s sexual harassment charges against Justice Ganguly. (Times of India 5/12/13)

 

36. Milk adulteration should be punished with life in jail: SC (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday called for life imprisonment for those making and selling adulterated milk, asking states to make changes to laws. At present, food adulteration invites six months in jail or a fine of Rs. 1,000. The court said it was not enough and cited examples of West Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, which have changed the law and increased the punishment to life in jail. “We feel that the punishment in Section 272 IPC (Indian Penal Code) is not sufficient. We want other states to make similar amendments,” the bench said in its order. Urea, detergent, caustic soda, refined oil and white paint were being used for adulteration, posing a serious threat to health, a group of citizens, led by Swami Achyutanand Tirth of Uttarakhand, have said in their public interest litigation. (Hindustan Times 6/12/13)

 

37. Understanding Article 370 (19)

Article 370 was and is about providing space, in matters of governance, to the people of a State who felt deeply vulnerable about their identity and insecure about the future. At the Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent Lalkar rally in Jammu, its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, called for a debate on Article 370. This is encouraging and suggests that the BJP may be willing to review its absolutist stance on the Article that defines the provisions of the Constitution of India with respect to Jammu and Kashmir. Any meaningful debate on Article 370 must, however, separate myth from reality and fact from fiction. My purpose here is to respond to the five main questions that have already been raised in the incipient debate.. Why it was incorporated – First, why was Article 370 inserted in the Constitution? Or as the great poet and thinker, Maulana Hasrat Mohini, asked in the Constituent Assembly on October 17, 1949: “Why this discrimination please?” The answer was given by Nehru’s confidant, the wise but misunderstood Thanjavur Brahmin, Gopalaswami Ayyangar (Minister without portfolio in the first Union Cabinet, a former Diwan to Maharajah Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir, and the principal drafter of Article 370). Ayyangar argued that for a variety of reasons Kashmir, unlike other princely states, was not yet ripe for integration. India had been at war with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir and while there was a ceasefire, the conditions were still “unusual and abnormal.” Part of the State’s territory was in the hands of “rebels and enemies.” The involvement of the United Nations brought an international dimension to this conflict, an “entanglement” which would end only when the “Kashmir problem is satisfactorily resolved.” Finally, Ayyangar argued that the “will of the people through the instrument of the [J&K] Constituent Assembly will determine the constitution of the State as well as the sphere of Union jurisdiction over the State.” In sum, there was hope that J&K would one day integrate like other States of the Union (hence the use of the term “temporary provisions” in the title of the Article), but this could happen only when there was real peace and only when the people of the State acquiesced to such an arrangement. Second, did Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel oppose Article 370? To reduce the Nehru-Patel relationship to Manichean terms is to caricature history, and this is equally true of their attitude towards Jammu and Kashmir. Nehru was undoubtedly idealistic and romantic about Kashmir. He wrote: “Like some supremely beautiful woman, whose beauty is almost impersonal and above human desire, such was Kashmir in all its feminine beauty of river and valley…” Patel had a much more earthy and pragmatic view and — as his masterly integration of princely states demonstrated — little time for capricious state leaders or their separatist tendencies. But while Ayyangar negotiated — with Nehru’s backing — the substance and scope of Article 370 with Sheikh Abdullah and other members from J&K in the Constituent Assembly (including Mirza Afzal Beg and Maulana Masoodi), Patel was very much in the loop. And while Patel was deeply sceptical of a “state becoming part of India” and not “recognising … [India’s] fundamental rights and directive principles of State policy,” he was aware of, and a party to, the final outcome on Article 370…. (The Hindu 6/12/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

38. Sugarcane farmers’ statewide protest intensifies (20)

LUCKNOW: The impasse over delay in cane crushing by sugar mills continued to spill over to various districts in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, a day after a cane farmer committed suicide that led to violent protest in Lakhimpur Kheri. In Muzzafarnagar, a group of cane growers thronged the Mandsaur sugar mill and began token crushing. The farmers have been sitting outside the mill for the past 25 days in protest of the delay in crushing of sugarcane. Agitated farmers brought in a ‘kolhu’ (mill) and started crushing cane. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) added fuel to the ongoing protest when a group of workers from BJP’s farmer wing, Bharatiya Kisan Morcha, staged violent protest in Meerut. In fact, one of the worker tried to immolate himself outside commissioner office. The agitation was led by BJP state president Laxmi Kant Bajpai, an MLA from Meerut. In Lakhimpur, where a farmer Satyapal Singh committed suicide on Friday, a group of 12 more farmers wrote a letter addressed to President of India seeking permission to commit suicide. The spurt in incidents came a day after the impasse over non-starting of sugar mills led to violent protests across the state with farmers staging demonstrations demanding re-opening of mills. The private millers, however, have been refusing to do so till their demand to rationalise sugar prices was met. On Friday, security staff in Balrampur sugar mill in Khiri opened fire on sugarcane farmers when they were protesting against suicide by a farmer on Friday. In response, the farmers pelted stones at the sugar mills and demonstrated with the body of Satyapal Singh, who hung himself from a tree giving in to a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh. Retaliating to the protest, security staff of the mill opened fire to disperse agitating farmers and also used water cannons. Similar violence was also reported from Shamli district in west Uttar Pradesh where activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) demonstrated in front of a sugar mill demanding payment of dues and to start the crushing. Farmers in the western Uttar Pradesh district of Muzaffarnagar too staged protest against mill owners for not purchasing their produce at the price fixed by the state government. Significantly, Congress and BJP have both been holding the UP government for violence outside sugar mills. Congress has already announced that party workers will hit the streets and agitate if all sugar mills in the state did not start crushing by December 7. “‘The government is insensitive towards farmers’ issue and is indulging in politics,” said UP Congress committee president Nirmal Khatri. State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai too criticised the UP government for delay in start of the crushing season and alleged unholy nexus between the Samajwadi Party government and the private sugar mill owners adding to the woes of cane farmers. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

39. Rajnath seeks PM’s intervention for relief to sugarcane farmers (20)

New Delhi: BJP president Rajnath Singh Sunday sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to get pending payments of sugarcane farmers released and ensure that sugar mills get on with crushing in cane producing states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In a letter to the prime minister, Rajnath Singh also accused the United Progressive Alliance government of not helping farmers who had committed suicide in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region this year. The Bharatiya Janata Party chief also said that government should not agree to “peace clause” at the WTO ministerial meeting at Bali later this week as India needs to protect its subsidies on a permanent basis for meaningful food security for its people. He said that sugarcane farmers were facing a huge crisis due to “anti-farmer government policies and insensitivity towards the farming community”, and had been staging protests in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka for the past many days. In UP, farmers have been forced to sell sugarcane at throwaway prices and a farmer had committed suicide, he said. “The Uttar Pradesh government has compounded the problems by not clearing the previous year’s overdue payments of Rs.2,300 crore,” he said and noted that crushing had not begun in more than 60 sugar mills in the state, as well as a majority of sugar mills in Maharashtra and Karnataka. “The central government needs to act fast and intervene to provide necessary relief to farmers, ensure that sugar mills start crushing and farmers are paid their dues,” he said. Referring to the data of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) on wheat and rice, the BJP chief argued that MSP has increased nominally compared to the cost of production. On the WTO ministerial meeting at Bali, he said the proposed “peace clause” would exempt subsidies “in excess of 10 percent of limit for a period of just four years”.Total subsidy under the Food Security Act may exceed the 10 percent limit in the very first year, he noted, adding that the total subsidy basket would further go up as MSP and procurement cost rise in the coming years. If India does not protect food subsidies on a permanent basis, the food security programme would be exposed to punitive action under the agreement for subsidies and countervailing measures, he said. “The much hyped promise of food security to Indians would eventually come to naught if the clause is acceded to. The peace clause is not in our interest. Therefore, India should persist with a demand for a Food Security Box,” he said. (Deccan Herald 2/12/13)

 

40. 10 lakh compensation to deceased sugarcane farmer’s family (20)

BELGAUM: Marginal farmer Vittal Bhimappa Arabhavi committed suicide during a farmers’ protest in front of the Suvarna Soudha on November 27 The State government on Tuesday paid a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the family of marginal farmer Vittal Bhimappa Arabhavi who committed suicide during a farmers’ protest in front of the Suvarna Soudha here on November 27. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had announced the compensation following the incident. Excise Minister and district in-charge Satish L. Jarkiholi handed over the cheque to Arabhavi’s family at Kankanwadi village of Raibag taluk. Raibag MLA Duryodhan Ihole, MLC Veerkumar Patil and Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram were, among others, present. (The Hindu 4/12/13)

 

41. Sugarcane farmer commits suicide in UP (20)

Lakhimpur Kheri: A sugarcane farmer of Pakaria village here has allegedly committed suicide, officials said Thursday. Chhotey Lal (50) hanged himself in the village under Neemgaon police station area on Tuesday night, they said. While his brother Chiraunji stated family dispute as the cause behind Lal’s suicide, Opposition parties alleged that he took the extreme step due to the ongoing sugarcane crisis.

 

Additional District Magistrate Vidya Shankar Singh who carried out the preliminary probe into the farmer’s death said the deceased had no pending loans to any bank. “No cane dues of the deceased farmer were pending nor did he have any loan of any bank or society,” he said. District Magistrate Gaurav Dayal also said as per records the farmer owed no loan or cane dues to any bank. District cane officer J C Yadav said, “the price of the cane supplied by the deceased farmer had been transferred to his account in January 2012 and in April 2013.” However, Opposition parties attributed the farmer’s death to the ongoing sugarcane crisis and alleged that UP government’s cane policy is responsible for farmers’ deaths in UP. On Nov 28, fed up of heavy debts and prolonged illness, a sugarcane farmer Satyapal Singh (40) has hanged himself to death in Bastauli village here. (Zee News 5/12/13)

 

42. Family dispute, not cane dues, led to farmers’ suicide: UP govt (20)

LUCKNOW: The state government on Thursday clarified that the death of two cane farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri had nothing to do with the pending arrears. The clarification came on the day winter session of state assembly went underway and the opposition sought to take on the ruling Samajwadi Party on the controversial issue. Principal secretary Cane Development, Rahul Bhatnagar, said inquiry by cane officer into suicide by Chhotey Lal revealed that the farmer took the extreme step following a family dispute. Bhatnagar said Chhotey Lal owned 0.452 hectares of land and supplied 22.77 quintal of cane on December 25, 2012 and 24.55 quintal on March 16, 2013 to Kumbhi sugar mill. Against this, the farmer got full payment in his bank account in Bank of Baroda in Neemgaon branch. While the first installment of Rs 6,176 was provided on January 28, 2013 the second installment of Rs 6,767 was paid on April 27, 2013. “This proves that there were no outstanding dues to be received by the farmer,” Bhatnagar said. “The information that came across (pertaining to suicide) was completely faulty,” he added. The state government also set aside cane dues as the reason behind suicide of Satyapal Singh. Bhatnagar said an inquiry was conducted by district magistrate Lakhimpur kehri into the death of Satyapal Singh. Singh too, claimed Bhatnagar, committed suicide because of family dispute as there was nothing to substantial to prove that the farmer took the extreme step because of cane arrears. “Such information create confusion in the society,” Bhatnagar said. The death of two farmers had snowballed into a political crisis for the ruling Samajwadi Party with the opposition accusing it of not paying heed to the problems of the cane farmers. In fact, the incidents had given opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal chance to bay for SP blood. On Tuesday, BJP national president Rajnath Singh and RLD state president Munna Singh had visited the aggrieved family members of Satyapal Singh. The parties, while blaming the state government for the suicide of the farmer, demanded compensation for the family as well as government job for any of the family members. While Rajnath gave a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to the aggrieved family from party coffer, the RLD promised scholarship for the son of Satyapal from the RLD trust. While the BJP and the RLD have been carrying out demonstration against the state government, Congress had decided to launch a statewide agitation against the UP government from December 7. (Times of India 6/12/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

43. At WTO meet, India looks for support on food security (21)

Ahead of the WTO ministerial conference, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is trying to drum up support for India’s position on public stockholding and food security. Sharma has also expressed disappointment that many developed countries were paying only “lip service” to other serious concerns on trade and export subsidies that are a part of the so-called Bali package. “There have been two key disappointments at the G-20 -that on tariff rate quota (TRQ) and on export subsidies,” he told reporters on Monday. Trade ministers of 159 countries are set to meet for the Ninth WTO conference in Bali from Tuesday to give a shot at revival of the 12-year old Doha Round of global trade talks. The WTO “package” at Bali includes proposals on TRQ administration, export competition, agriculture subsidies, streamlining trade facilitation and packages for the least developing countries. The three-nation bloc of India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) are also slated to meet on Tuesday on the sidelines of the WTO talks. Meanwhile, addressing the ministerial meeting of the G-20, Sharma expressed disappointment over proposals for agro export competition issues and on TRQ administration, which he termed as “well below expectations”.”On export competition, it is merely a political declaration, devoid of any substance. On TRQ, some developed countries can even benefit from a reverse S&D by opting out of the already weak commitment,” he said, stressing that the current impasse in the Doha Round is a matter of serious concern. G-20 countries had in the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong in 2005 decided to eliminate export subsidies by 2013 but now plan to pursue it as a top priority only after the Bali negotiations. The minister who is heading India’s 30-member strong delegation at the Indonesian island also spent the day trying to build consensus amongst developing nations on public stockholding of food grains. ..(Indian Express 3/12/13)

 

44. India refuses to trade food security at WTO (21)

New Delhi: India on Wednesday rejected a proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference that can potentially harm the country’s small farmers as ministers battled to end a deadlock over negotiations to set up a rule-based global trade regime. Developing countries want a deal to allow them to raise ceiling on food subsidies above what is permissible currently as well as a package for least developed countries. Developed nations have shown support for a “peace clause” that would agree to developing countries’ demands on food security for a period of four years. India, however, wants guarantee for further exemption until a permanent solution is negotiated. But developed countries are against any such move. “A trade agreement must be in harmony with our shared commitments of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food. These are an integral part of the global Millennium Development Goals,” commerce minister Anand Sharma said at the plenary session of the 9th WTO ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia. For India, food security is non-negotiable, he said. Need for public stockholding of foodgrains to ensure food security must be respected, and to this end, WTO rules must be updated, he added. “The due restraint provision, in its current form, cannot be accepted. It must remain in force till we are able to agree on a lasting solution and provide adequate protection from all kinds of challenges,” the commerce minister said. WTO member countries, he said, have a shared responsibility in preserving the credibility of the WTO as a trade negotiating forum, and that India has remained constructively engaged in the negotiations as he expressed disappointment at the agricultural package describing these as mere statements of intent for least developed countries (LDCs) and several unresolved issues in the trade facilitation agreement. “Bali package must be substantive and historical imbalances in trade rules must be corrected  in order to ensure a fair and equitable order,” he said. He also said that in view of inherent imbalances, “ we consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive trade facilitation agreement.” “We must agree on a firm post-Bali work programme to conclude the DDA. Let Bali be remembered for bringing development back into focus,” Sharma added. As many as 25 nations including Nigeria, Argentina, Kenya, Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, South Africa and Bolivia are said to have strongly supported India’s view that a permanent solution is must for the smooth implementation of the food security programme. During the meeting, which went for about two-and-a-half hours, about 25 out of 55 members, supported India’s stand on the food security issue. Addressing the media, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell said that during the long meeting in afternoon some members supported India’s stand. “Some African and Latin American countries have supported the India’s position on peace clause.” In the absence of a broad-based agreement on the Doha round of trade talks that started in 2001, member-countries are making a last-ditch attempt to work out areas where consensus can be reached for laying down the rules of global trade. (Hindustan Times 4/12/13)

 

45. Cash transfer scheme for girls helps curb poverty in Odisha (21)

New Delhi: Conditional cash transfer schemes are fast becoming a measure of enhancing the efficiency of delivery of government programmes. The Odisha Girls’ Incentive Programme (OGIP) launched last year has already had effects on a wide range of domains – including increased access to financial resources, improved schooling outcomes and reduction in dropout rates. Under OGIP, all girls from Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) joining class 9 for the session 2012-13 received an annual cash incentive amount of Rs. 2,000 in 10 monthly instalments. The money was transferred to the bank or post office savings accounts opened in the names of the girls. There is a monthly attendance conditionality of 75 per cent for receiving the money. The scheme is likely to benefit nearly 2.5 lakh SC and ST girl students in the State. “For students who cannot even afford proper breakfast or lunch, the scholarship is a great lure to make them attend school. Scholarship money is reducing financial burden of poor parents. As attendance in school is leading to a financial benefit, parents think twice before engaging their children as child labour for small daily wages,” said Sushant Baidya Bhusan, project coordinator, Rayagada district. The programme is the collaborated effort of the Odisha government and is funded by the Department of International Development and the technical assistance is provided by IPE Global. The programme is being implemented across the 30 districts of the State, covering around 4.2 lakh SC/ST students (in 2013-14) studying across approximately 8,900 high schools. Further, bank accounts for almost 4.15 lakh students have been opened. “About 256 girls dropped out between classes 8 and 9 during the pilot year. This is about 50 per cent less than the number for the previous year,” said Ashwajit Singh, managing director, IPE Global. Early indications were that the focus on improving quality was bearing results. Preliminary analysis of the data collected revealed a 40 per cent reduction in dropout rates owing to the programme. Further, the overall mean attendance rates also showed an improvement of around 10 per cent when compared to the attendance of the students in their previous class (class 8). “Sensitisation of headmasters as well as students studying in class 8 is a major factor in this scheme. Sensitisation of probable beneficiaries for the session 2014-15 has started,” said Pradyumna Kumar Dash, welfare officer in Rayagada district. “This scheme has increased attendance of SC/ST girl students. Now these students are trying hard to keep their attendance above 75 per cent,” confirmed Mochiram Baliarsingh, a headmaster of Government Girls’ High School, Gudari. Another encouraging anecdote is of a girl who got married in Class 9 was convinced by the programs’ coordinators to re-join school after much resistance from her in-laws who were opposed to her education. This incident has stood as a towering example encouraging several others. (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

46. RTE depriving students of right to food: Panel (21)

BHOPAL: Two years after Right to Education Act came into force, 45 per cent seats in private schools in the state reserved for children below poverty line (BPL) are still vacant. Members of Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child rights attributed the unavailability of mid-day meal scheme at private schools as a big reason for the vacancies. MPSCPCR members Vibhanshu Joshi and R H Lata have written to the Union ministry requesting amendments to the Act to ensure right to food for students studying in private schools under RTE Act. “The flaw is defeating the purpose of both RTE and the Food Security Act. The situation is like, either children get proper education or proper nutrition,” Joshi told TOI. “The condition is same all over the country. If just Madhya Pradesh is taken into consideration, 1.75 lakh seats were reserved for children belonging to BPL families under RTE, but only 95000 seats have been filled,” he said. “Non-availability of mid-day meal is one of the major reasons behind nearly 80,000 seats remaining vacant. For rest of 95,000 children they are being deprived of their right to food as Section 5 (1) (B) of Food Security Act ensures free meals for children studying in government schools, but forgets to mention BPL children studying in private schools under RTE,” Joshi said. This is the situation when RTE is just 2 years old, the numbers are likely to rise in coming years, he said. (Times of India 6/12/13)

 

RESERVATION

47. Chief Minister Convinces Dalit Faction to Go Soft With Protest (25)

TUMKUR: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has reportedly averted an agitation planned by a section of dalits by promising to consider the implementation of Justice Sadashiva Commission’s recommendation for internal reservation. Dalits, especially Madigas (SC-left) who had planned to picket Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belguam, are now thinking of staging only a symbolic protest on the penultimate day of the current legislature session. The Chief Minister held discussions with one of the leaders of the community, where he reportedly promised to take up their demand for internal reservation at the State cabinet meeting after the session. Some of the dalit ministers and ideologues close to him helped the Chief Minister in persuading the agitators not to be as aggressive as they were during the previous BJP government. During the last legislature session in Belgaum when the BJP was in power, they had gathered in large numbers there resulting in a police lathi-charge. Pavagada Srirama, leader of one of the Madiga Dandora factions, said they have not yet decided on staging a demonstration as the Chief Minister responded positively to their demand to implement the commission’s report. The report, which was submitted to the Sadananda Gowda-led BJP government, recommended that of the 15 per cent reservation for scheduled castes, 6 per cent should go to SC (left), 5 per cent to SC (right), 3 per cent to touchable dalits such as Bhovis and Lambanis and the remaining 1 per cent to the other 101 groups in the SC category. However another group led by former MLA Gangahanumaiah clarified that it will go ahead with a day-night dharna from Tuesday. (New Indian Express 1/12/13)

 

48. Govt keen to push bills on women’s quota, Lokpal in winter session (25)

NEW DELHI: Even as results of assembly elections due on Sunday hover over the winter session of Parliament, the government declared its intent to push a bunch of contentious bills on women’s reservation, Lokpal and prevention of communal violence. Though all three bills face serious hurdles, the government looks keen on a politically significant agenda. The Lokpal bill is pending before Rajya Sabha after a select committee examined it and made several suggestions. If the bill is passed by the upper House, it will have to be sent back to Lok Sabha as it will have been amended and the changes will need fresh ratification by the lower chamber. The women’s reservation bill has the support of Congress, BJP and Left but faces serious opposition from the vocal Samajwadi Party and others like Bahujan Samaj Party and RJD. But having ensured its passage in Rajya Sabha in May 2010, the government might take a stab at pushing it in Lok Sabha to score a significant political gain. With women voters seen as increasingly decisive in elections and Congress on the lookout for winning issues after a perceived slump in fortunes, the women’s quota bill could prove handy in scoring with an important section of voters. Adopting a progressive agenda may help Congress beat back the impression that it has rapidly run out of ideas and energy ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, feel party managers. However, the fate of the bills may well depend on the results of assembly elections to four key states this Sunday. A good performance by Congress may embolden it to take on BJP while a dismal show could put it on the defensive. The communal violence bill has gained additional traction after the Muzaffarnagar riots with Samajwadi Party demanding the bill be prioritized in the winter session beginning on Thursday. BJP and some regional parties like AIADMK are dead set against the bill, arguing that it protects the interests of one community and is an intrusion into the domain of states. But Congress could consider the bill in order to address the grievance among minorities over inaction on the proposed legislation although the party remains apprehensive that BJP could turn it into a polarizing issue. SP raised the pitch at the all-party meeting called by Speaker Meira Kumar on Tuesday, demanding the bill be tabled in Parliament and threatened to disrupt proceedings if its views were not accepted. In the dock over the Muzaffarnagar riots that left thousands of Muslims stranded in camps, SP is raising the stakes on the bill. Sources said it was a tough decision to take for Congress. While there is pressure from within to act on its flagship promise – vetted by the National Advisory Committee headed by party chief Sonia Gandhi — to enact a law to deliver justice to victims of communal violence, there is a worry that BJP may project it as an “anti-Hindu” law. The concern would have heightened after BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s sharp attacks on the government and Congress for playing to “secular” vote banks. (Times of India 4/12/13)

 

49. Maharashtra politics still caste in stone (25)

Years ago, when I was a college student in Nagpur, an old Brahmin came knocking at our doors. “I am poor. My son needs to get into  medical college. We do not have any government help because we are Brahmins. But as Brahmins we are allowed to beg and so I have come here to ask for whatever you can give me towards paying my son’s fees. I do not want him to end up a pujari like me and face the same problems later in life,” he said. We gave him generously but the people in that building also dined out on that story for years. My uncle insisted this was an anomaly of Independence — the poorest house in any town or village anywhere in the country would usually belong to a Brahmin, he said. Years later, when I made the acquaintance of former Prime Minister VP Singh and recounted this story to him, he was not impressed. “A poor Brahmin will still be better off anywhere than a poor Dalit. That priest came begging for his son’s fees and you helped him. Under similar circumstances, a Dalit would have been asked to leave empty-handed and would have been banned from entering the building again,” he said. I have always wondered then how much reservations really benefit the targeted sections. I have always been an advocate of reservations on the basis of economic backwardness — that is only fair and just — alongside that for other deprived classes. Now some Maratha groups in Maharashtra, among the most privileged in the state, have been agitating for reservations for their community. Many of them are neither deprived nor backward by any yardstick. Most of them continue to be modern-day rulers — Maharashtra’s ruling dispensation is almost always peopled by Marathas ever since Independence. Even the less fortunate among them are landed people who cannot be labelled as deprived by any measure. But with elections around the corner, Vinayak Mete of the NCP has revived his agitation for Maratha reservations. This time he has thrown the gauntlet at party president Sharad Pawar who, as a progressive socialist, was always against reservations for Marathas. As the chief minister of Maharashtra at the peak of the Mandal agitation, Pawar had categorically declined to place Marathas in the OBC category saying they were socially and financially well-off. However, the fight here now seems to be between blue-blooded Marathas and Kunbi Marathas (Pawar belongs to the latter) who are mostly farmers and may, in substantial numbers, come across as poor in comparison to their royal country cousins. Socially, Kunbi Marathas are far better off than Dalits for whom reservations were introduced in the country. Dalits, even six decades after Independence, continue to be a deprived class throughout the country. I am not sure then if such well-off farmers (there are poorer ones in other communities) deserve to cut into reservations meant for people who need to be socially uplifted and may not even have the political awareness to agitate against the attempt to cut into their share of the cake. In any case, it is interesting to see that the issue deeply divides the NCP — a party which has a strong Maratha base. While Mete is putting leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, an OBC along with Pawar, on notice, Gopinath Munde of the BJP, who is a fellow OBC, is also opposing reservations for Marathas along with Bhujbal. The government is already studying the demand but I wonder if in this global world where government jobs have lost their premium and market forces reign supreme, people should be entitled to reservations on the basis of their caste alone. No one should be deprived of opportunities just because of poverty and like VP Singh said, most of them might not be as fortunate as that old pujari in successfully collecting alms for their children’s education. Nevertheless, what happened to the pujari was deplorable and it should not happen to anyone else in progressive India, Dalit, Brahmin — or even Maratha! (Hindustan Times 4/12/13)

 

50. ‘Income not the sole criterion for admitting students under RTE quota’ (25)

COIMBATORE: The annual income ceiling is only one of the several criteria for students to qualify for admission in private schools under the quota created for ‘disadvantaged groups’ and ‘weaker sections’ by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Chief Educational Officer A. Gnanagowri told The Hindu here on Wednesday that G.O. No. 174, dated November 8, 2011, which outlined the State Governments’ rules for admitting students under the quota, included several groups in these two categories. The ‘disadvantaged groups’ were defined to also include “a child who is an orphan or affected by HIV or a transgender or a child of a conservancy worker” in addition to the definition given in the RTE Act. ‘Weaker sections’ were defined as those with parents or guardians whose annual income was lower than Rs. 2 lakh. Further, the Central Government had already included in the ‘disadvantaged groups’ category the children belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes besides socially and educationally backward classes having a disadvantage owing to various social, cultural, economical and other factors. She said that the income ceiling would not apply for the disadvantaged groups. The Chief Educational Officer said that many parents were unaware of documents that had to be submitted. Refuting the allegations that the Department of School Education had not verified the documents of students admitted in private schools, she said that the documents were scrutinised at the beginning of the academic year. As this was the first year of full-fledged implementation of the legislation, there were bound to be some shortfall. (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

51. Bill for effective implementation of SC, ST sub plan passed (25)

Belgaum: A bill that provides for imprisonment of officials upto six months for willfully neglecting their duties under the SC, ST Sub-plan was passed by the Karnataka Assembly here on Thursday. Karnataka SC, ST Sub-Plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Bill ensures effective implementation of the guidelines issued by the Planning Commission to utilise funds earmarked for SC and ST communities. The bill provides for earmarking a portion of state plan outlay for SC and ST sub-plan in proportion to the population of the two communities and would ensure an institutional mechanism for preparation, implementation and monitoring of sub-plan, Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya said. The bill provides for an exclusive cell in the Finance Department for implementation and allocation of SC, ST Sub-Plan budget. Welcoming the bill, Opposition JDS Deputy Leader YSV Datta said it will ensure proper utilisation of funds meant for Dalits. BJP Floor Leader Jagadish Shettar said it will provide a provision to carry over unspent funds to next year. BS Yeddyurappa, KJP Floor Leader, stressed the need to implement Justice A J Sadashiva Inquiry Commission report that looked into equitable distribution of reservation facilities among Scheduled Castes and had recommended internal reservation among the castes by broadly reclassifying all the 101 castes into four groups. The bill was passed unanimously. (Zee News 6/12/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 5 December 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1.  ‘Give more powers to Human Rights Commissions’ (1)

BANGALORE: The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), Karnataka Chapter, has demanded that the government grant more power to the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions. Besides, the NCHRO has sought the appointment of a chairperson for the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission, a post which has been vacant since May 2012. Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on media and protection of human rights, Ramesh Nagaragere, State president of NCHRO, said the commission at the Centre and States should be given more powers. “The commission does not have any teeth at all. There is a need to give them more power,” he said. Meanwhile, Reny Ayline, national coordinator, NCHRO, said the media would often “fabricate” news which affects the rights of minorities, particularly Muslims. Stating that there was a need for reporters to examine various angles of the story, Mr. Ayline said there was a need to look beyond the police version. Referring to the exodus when persons form the northeast left the city in panic, he said, “The media reported that they left the city as they were getting threatening messages from various Islamic organisations. Parts of the media said the reports were coming from the National Cyber Security Cell. A simple Google search would have revealed that there is no cell by that name.” Adding to that, Abubakkar, advocate of NCHRO, said with the increase in the number of media houses, media houses were losing social responsibility. “Media organisations, particularly the electronic media, are obsessed with the breaking news phenomenon, which often leads to inaccurate news,” he said. Mr. Nagaragere also highlighted the need for journalists not to pass value judgements in news reports and said there was a need for self regulation for the media. (The Hindu 2/12/13)

 

2. A K Ganguly ‘undecided’ on quittng as rights panel chief over intern’s allegation (1)

Kolkata: Former Supreme Court judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly, accused of sexual harassment by a young woman law intern, on Tuesday said he was “undecided” on whether to resign from the chairmanship of West Bengal Human Rights Commission. “I have not decided. I am undecided,” Ganguly said. “Time has not come to think about it,” he said when asked about his future course of action in view of demands for his resignation as the chairman of West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) from certain quarters, while he has received support from some other sections. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had on Monday night demanded the resignation of Justice Ganguly, saying “not only Caesar’s wife but Caesar too must be above suspicion”.Asked if Ganguly should step down from the postof chairman of WBHRC, former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir recently said, “One automatically does not resign on the basis of allegations. I know he had said that he was shocked and shattered. I never ever would believe that this is possible.” (Indian Express 3/12/13)

 

3. Police complaint against Ganguly (1)

Kolkata: With clamour for resignation of Justice A K Ganguly growing, a Kolkata-based NGO Bharat Bachao Sangathan filed a police complaint in a city police station on Wednesday. Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress MP and the party’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, also demanded the same on micro-blogging site Twitter the same afternoon. “Justice Ganguly should step down as chair of WBHRC…” tweeted Derek on Wednesday. While his party colleague Kalyan Bandopadhyay made the same demand on Tuesday, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in Delhi also wanted Justice Ganguly to resign from the rights body earlier in the week. Expressing his party’s concerns and reservations against Justice Ganguly to continue as head of the WBHRC, Derek posted on Twitter, “The Trinamool Congress has noted with anxiousness and concern the charges of sexual harassment against Justice (retired) Ashok Kumar Ganguly, chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC). The charges cannot but leave an impact on public perception of his current role as chair of the WBHRC. The Trinamool Congress has followed an approach of zero tolerance when it comes to safety and dignity of women in the workplace and the toxic phenomenon of sexual harassment.” He further wrote, “It is for those in senior positions in public life to act as role models not just in upholding standards of conduct with female colleagues but also in responding expeditiously and with sensitivity when they themselves face charges of this nature. As such, it would be wholly incumbent upon Justice Ganguly to step down from his position as chair of the WBHRC and restore the sanctity of the office he currently holds. Public propriety and a sense of decency demand this. I therefore urge Justice Ganguly to resign as chair of the WBHRC.” While political parties demanded his resignation, NGO Bharat Bachao Sangathan lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against Justice Ganguly with the police. They decided to file a general diary after the police refused to accept an FIR. Volunteers of the NGO also demonstrated outside his office in the city. (Deccan Herald 4/12/13)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

4. Amendments to RTI Act will make it more effective: CIC (1)

If amendments to the RTI Act are brought in, it will be much more effective, says State Chief Information Commissioner K.S.Sripathi. The legislation had improved the art of science of governance to a very large extent. “This is a fledgling Act..evolving Act.” Some amendments were required to the law. If they were introduced, the Act will be much better, he said during a question-answer session on the “RTI Act” at a meeting of the South India Hire Purchase Association (SIHPA) and Finance Companies’ Association (FCA) (India) here on Saturday. Mr.Sripathi, a retired Chief Secretary to the Tamil Nadu Government, provided an overall glimpse of the origin of the Act and its provisions. This simple Act for the common man went a long way in ensuring transparency in governance, a reasonable amount of openness and also accountability. Of course, there were instances of people posing questions to the Commission to which it did not have answers. For instance, a retired DSP said that he had sought Pongal bonus. But he was abused by the authorities. Hence, he posed nearly 600 questions to the Commission. In another case, a person wrote that he was not received well by a Sub-Inspector. So, he fired a volley of questions to the Commission, such as when the police station was constructed and about the furniture there, Mr.Sripathi said amid peels of laughter. Such instances were coming down now, he said. There were certain nebulous areas in the Act. For instance, one area related to “substantial funding” of NGOs. What was substantial funding was a subjective interpretation. (The Hindu 1/12/13)

 

5. Landmark order puts RTI applicants under Consumer Protection Act (1)

KOCHI: In a landmark order, the Ernakulam Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has said when information is denied to an RTI applicant, it will be considered as deficiency in service and the applicant will be entitled to compensation under the Consumer Protection Act. The directive came on a petition filed by D.B. Binu, general secretary, Human Rights Defence Forum. He had filed an RTI application at the Kochi Corporation seeking to know the names of the councillors who failed to convene ward sabhas once in three months. But the Public Information Officer of the Corporation failed to give him the information. Mr. Binu then approached the forum seeking a directive on the issue and compensation. The complainant said the rejection of his application without any plausible reason amounted to deficiency in service on the part of the corporation. The forum, while quoting a verdict of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, observed: “The remedy under the RTI Act would take care of disciplinary action and penalty against the competent authority in not furnishing the information, but no remedy is provided under the Act to an applicant seeking information if information sought is not provided resulting in deficiency in service on that count.” It also pointed out that there was no provision in the Act to claim compensation for deficiency in service. The corporation said that if the complainant was not satisfied with its reply, he should have approached the appellate authority under the RTI Act. It added that the information sought was with the coordinators of the sabhas in 74 wards in the Kochi Corporation. However, the forum said this contention was not sustainable as the coordinators were supposed to send a copy of the proceedings of the sabhas to councillors within five days. The case of the complainant would fall within the scope and ambit of Section 2(i) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act, which states that service means service of any description which is made available to potential users that include purveying of news or supplying of other information. The forum said the Information Officer failed in his duties, which amounted to deficiency in service. It directed the officer to pay the complainant Rs.5000 as compensation and Rs.1000 towards the cost in 30 days. The landmark order was passed by the forum comprising its president A. Rajesh, members Sheen Jose and V.K. Beena Kumari. (The Hindu 2/12/13)

 

6. Activists seek passage of accountability legislations (1)

NEW DELHI: With Parliament’s winter session to start on Thursday, civil society activists under the aegis of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) pushed for the passing of accountability legislations including the Lokpal bill, whistleblowers bill and the grievance redressal bill. The department of personnel and training has assured the members that the three bills will be taken up in the winter session. Anjali Bhardwaj of NCPRI said it was critical that Parliament pass these accountability legislations. She said various rights-based legislation passed by the government would be rendered ineffective unless the government ensured time-bound redress of complaints on non-delivery of entitlements and ensure the protection of people exposing corruption in government schemes. “Members of Parliament and political parties should ensure that the accountability regime in the country is strengthened by passing these critical bills. If the grievance redress bill is not passed by this Parliament, the bill will lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014, which will be a huge loss. Parliament must pass these critical accountability legislations rather than trying to amend the Right to Information Act, which has been owned and used by people across the country to demand transparency and accountability from the government,” she said. NCPCRI held a day long dharna at Jantar Mantar on Monday to demand that the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011 and the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 be discussed and passed by Parliament in the upcoming winter session. (Times of India 3/12/13)

 

7. RTI activist seeks protection from Haryana Minister (1)

GURGAON: Haryana Aam Aadmi Party executive council member and RTI activist O.P. Katariya has sought police protection against State Sports Minister and Gurgaon MLA Sukhbir Kataria and his henchmen. Mr. Katariya has filed a complaint with the Gurgaon Police Commissioner. It was based on Mr. Katariya’s complaint that a local court had this past month directed the police to register an FIR against the Minister and five other people, including a police officer, in a case pertaining to bogus votes. Another FIR was registered earlier this week in a similar case. Mr. Katariya, in his complaint to the police on Tuesday, said the Minister and his henchmen could implicate him in a false case as part of a conspiracy. He said he had exposed them and demanded strict action. As per the complaint, which gave details of several incidents over the past few months, unidentified men had cut the tyres of Mr. Katariya’s car, which was parked outside his Sector 12-A house on July 24 this year. The rear glass of his car was broken a week later. On August 26, a window pane of his first-floor bedroom and the windscreen of his car were shattered by stones. On November 30, two men allegedly trailed Mr. Katariya at the court premises. He made a call to the Police Control Room and the two were detained, but let off after questioning. Later in the evening, unidentified men broke into the Aam Aadmi Party office and ransacked it. On Monday, Mr. Katariya was again trailed by half-a-dozen men inside the court premises and also pushed while he was entering the courtroom. In the latest incident, Mr. Katariya spotted four men, including a relative of the Minister, in a Sports Utility Vehicle outside his residence on Tuesday morning. According to Mr. Katariya, the Minister’s relative was talking to someone over the phone and pointing towards his house. Gurgaon Police Commissioner Alok Mittal said: “We have received the complaint. The Station House Officer concerned and the Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) are directed to verify the facts and submit a report. We will decide on police protection based on the report.” (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

8. Complaint system a must to make cops answerable (1)

MUMBAI: When a policeman turns delinquent, who does the aam aadmi turn to? The question has come into sharp focus after a woman complained last month that a politician blackmailed her into withdrawing a sexual harassment FIR at the Bandra police station. She sent a letter to the police commissioner about the incident, but even after three days, nobody at the office knew of it. The case highlights the absence of a body dealing with grievances against the police. A 2006 Supreme Court order made it mandatory for all states to have police complaints authorities (PCAs). But a recent report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) shows that only 15 states have them. Maharashtra is not among them. On the Bandra case, CHRI director Maja Daruwala said it highlights the dire need for police accountability. “They witnessed a criminal act of intimidation and were bound by law to arrest the person involved.” Many police officers are sceptical of being accountable to a layer of bureaucracy in addition to bodies such as the state human rights commission, women’s commission and SC/ST commission. Daruwala said each body has a specific jurisdiction and one has to fight through a system of disrepair to get to them, while PCAs serve as single windows for complaints against the police. But former central information commissioner and police reforms campaigner Shailesh Gandhi has little hope from PCAs. “They are filled with old men, some of whom are too old to talk or walk. They say they have no money or power to do anything,” he said. Instead, he proposes an independent body to register complaints, one that is delinked from the police force. “This will ensure all complaints are recorded, including those against the police,” he said. (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

9. ‘Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ (1)

PUDUCHERRY: Speakers sought repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) citing the dangers, due to the act, evident in Manipur and North Eastern states, which could spread to other parts of the country. Speaking at a state level seminar on AFSPA organised by INSAF-Puducherry, R N Ravi, former Director of Intelligence Bureau of North East, said that the Santosh Hegde committee, appointed by the SC to investigate encounter killings in Manipur, has methodically exposed the legislation’s failure to tackle insurgency in the State. Despite the commission’s report to Supreme Court, indicting the army as guilty of fake  encounters in the first six cases, the AFSPA continues to exist. Lack of political will has led to the survival of AFSPA. Out of 552 Lok Sabha members, only 24 are from NE States and these are not enough to initiate withdrawal of the act. Despite the reports on the incidents of harassments including fake encounter and sexual harassment of women, every year the AFSPA is renewed, with State government and Army pressing for it. While the army personnel get incentives like military decorations, the State government finds it convenient to be complacent and slide the responsibility on the shoulders of the army.  Unless the rest of India starts voicing the unacceptability of the act, it would not be withdrawn. The insurgency could be handled by deploying other paramilitary forces, said Ravi.   (Indian Express 3/12/13)

 

10. Article 370 unites J&K with the rest of the nation, says Omar Abdullah (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that there was a lot of confusion among the masses regarding Article 370. He said the law unites J&K with the other states and it serves as a bridge between the state and the rest of the country. Abdullah was in conversation with Rahul Kanwal at Agenda AajTak 2013, a two-day conclave in Delhi which began on Wednesday. On Modi’s recent statement on Article 370, Abdullah said he had nowhere said in his tweets that there should not be a debate on the law. However, he warned that a mishandling of the law could destabilise the relations of the state with the rest of the country. On the controversy arising out of the confusion regarding the law if women lose property rights if they choose to marry a person outside the state, Abdullah admitted that his own party’s stand on the law was this until 2002, but it changed later. On the contentious issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the J&K CM reiterated his stand that Army was not required in many districts. When told that as the CM of the state he has the powers to overrule this, the CM said it would not be proper to do. Abdullah said he runs a coalition government where he does not have absolute powers. However, he added that he had tried to convince the cabinet committee on security on this. When asked about the problems he faced as the CM of J&K, Abdullah quipped he would not trade his chair with that of Andhra Pradesh CM. He said CMs of many states face a lot more problems than he does…. (India Today 5/12/13)

 

TRAFFICKING

11. Awareness given on child, women trafficking (1)

MYSORE: Nearly 100 women from five associations enrolled to be a part of an awareness programme wherein women and child trafficking issues were highlighted. Mahila Samakhya Karnataka Mysore (MSKM) organized the programme in its premises at Kuvempunagar here on Friday. Shivamma R, who was a native of Jinnahalli in HD Kote taluk, said that her brother-in-law, on the pretext of getting his wife a job in a garment factory, pushed her into prostitution in Bangalore. “We have lodged a complaint about the incident. But the authorities have not taken any action so far. She has been missing since January 3 last year,” she added. Rajamma K P and Shanthamma T R, who hail from Periyapatana taluk, said that many people abandon their girl children in a forest near their place. “This keeps happening as people think their future is secure only if they have boys.” Another participant Jayalakshamma S, who had come from Hunsur, said that the authorities should act soon after receiving complaints about women and child trafficking. “Any delay will help miscreants get away,” she added. Speaking on the programme, MSKM district co-ordinator Lochana B said that many women, especially those in rural areas, are becoming victims of trafficking. “Their relatives are afraid of lodging complaints. This programme should prompt them to come forward and lodge complaints,” Lochana said, adding: “Women should be strong enough to face any situation. They should also call the police or helplines in case of problems.” As a part of awareness programme, the women members of different organizations took out a procession and submitted a memorandum to additional deputy commissioner (ADC), seeking government’s intervention to stop child trafficking. The women were members of Mahashakthi Mahila Samakhya Mahasangha (Hunsur taluk), Kapila Mahila Sangha (Nanajangud taluk), Kaveri Mahila Mahasangha (Periyapatna taluk), Viajayalakshmi Mahila Mahasangha (KR Nagar taluk) and Chaithanya Mahila Samakhya Mahasangha (HD Kote taluk). Receiving the memorandum, ADC M S Archana said that she will meet the demands, which included creating awareness programmes about women and child trafficking and identifying people involved in human trafficking. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

12. ‘BJP Govt answerable for girls’ trafficking in State’ (1)

Raipur: A girl from Jashpur, who was kidnapped eight years ago, has now returned home. So far, she has been under captivity in a house in Delhi. A total of 21 other girls are still in captivity there. This startling revelation was made by 13-year-old Phutun alias Phulvanti of Jaminiyapath village under Sanna Police Station area in Jashpur district. She said that 25 other girls were there under captivity. In 2005, when she was only 5-year-old, Phutun was kidnapped. Police, after casual inquiry, handed over the girl to her parents in the presence of the Superintendent of Police, allegedly leaving aside all the facts the girl narrated them. Reacting on the issue, Congress medial cell president Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said that former State Congress president late Nandkumar Patel, present party president Dr Charandas Mahant and Leader of Opposition Ravindra Choubey had continuously raised the issue in the State Assembly, but the BJP Government during these years casually dealt with the issue of the minor girls. He said that the Phutun issue has made it clear that the allegations that the Congress leaders had made continuously were true. “The gross negligent attitude of the BJP Government towards the issue of Phutun and thousands of other girls has been unraveled,” he added. In its chargesheet, the Congress had said that the honour of women in Chhattisgarh is not secured in the BJP Government. Every alternate day a woman becomes victim of rape. Girls are not secure even in the Government ashrams and hostels. Children of 5-13 years in the tribal girls ashram in Jhaliamari were being victimised. Every third day incidents of rape and gang rape are happing and women are being smuggled in the State. According to a UN report, the honour of Chhattisgarh is being sold in Mumbai and Delhi areas while the Raman Government has become mute spectator of these issues, he said. The Congress said that girls were not secured even in the Government ashrams of the State. The BJP Government in is answerable for this shameful situation of the women in the State, he said. (Pioneer 2/12/13)

 

13. Trafficked R’kela tribal girl flees back home (1)

Bhubaneswar: A tribal girl here managed to run away from the clutch of a broker from Rajasthan while another is still in captivity, said sources. Mayalan and Ratni Lakra of Gopabandhupalli area under Plant site police station were staying with their mother after the death of their father. Their financial condition was very bad. Taking advantage of it, Prem Prakash of the same area lured them to West Bengal, promising that he would employ them in a brick kiln with attractive remuneration on September 25 last. When the girls brought it to the notice of their mother, she rejected the offer and told the duo not to move out. However, without obliging, the two girls fled home the same day. A missing complaint was lodged in Plant Site Police station by the mother of the girls. But the police had failed to trace out the girls. However, suddenly, a few days ago, Ratni arrived here after managing to escape from the clutch of the broker. As she narrated to police, they were taken to Delhi instead of West Bengal by Prem Prakash and handed over to an old couple there. Despite their request, the couple did not let them off. Rather, the couple took them to Rajasthan. While Ratni was engaged as a maid in the couple’s house, Mayalan was sold at Sajanpara and later her marriage was held forcibly. She also told that the broker had sold them at `1 lakh. The police are planning to move to Rajsthan to rescue Mayalan, said Additional SP SK Mohanty. It is to be mentioned here that girl trafficking has become an epidemic problem in tribal dominated Sundargarh district. Though an anti trafficking cell is in the office of the IG (WR), Rourkela but the police action against the brokers is not up to the mark, alleged many social activists of the city. Even it is alleged whenever a parent goes to the police station to lodge any complaint on a missing case, instead of showing sympathy, police never cooperate. So stringent police action and rapid social awareness is required to check the trend, said noted social worker AK Azad. (Pioneer 4/12/13)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

14. Social media emerging as contributor to suicides: Psychiatrist (1)

KOLKATA: Highlighting the importance of being a “non-judgemental listener” to people with suicidal tendencies, a consultant psychiatrist said here that social media is emerging as a contributing factor to youngsters taking their own lives. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder of Sneha, a suicide prevention centre in Chennai and a member of WHO’s International Network on Suicide Prevention and Research, said that lack of “real-life friends” and being snubbed online leads to suicides among youngsters. Speaking on the sidelines of the 16th National Befrienders India Conference organised by the Lifeline Foundation here, Vijayakumar said: “Youngsters are cultivating virtual friends and not real life friends. When they want to talk to someone, they don’t have real friends for support.” “Secondly, many can’t handle rejection on the cyber platform well. Cyber bullying has gone up…yes, social media is emerging as a reason.” Lifeline Foundation, a suicide prevention helpline, has brought together 50 volunteers and helpers from 13 Befrienders India centres besides ten people from Sri Lanka at the three-day conference that began Friday. Vijayakumar said there is a strong similarity between the neighbouring countries in terms of reasons and methods of committing suicide. However, suicide rates are going up in India whereas the island nation is seeing a decrease. “This is probably due to the loss of traditional support systems like family. In both countries the reasons are mainly family problems and the methods are use of pesticides.” According to WHO estimates, every year almost one million people commit suicide, a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than actual suicides. Although suicide rates have been highest among elderly males, suicides by young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now at highest risk in a third of countries, both developed and developing. “The suicide rates in India have increased so much that it is at par with the developed nations,” the expert said. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

15. Two arrested for molesting journalist (1)

MANGALORE: Two youths have been arrested for allegedly molesting a 25-year-old reporter at Bendoorwell on Sunday night. Around 9 p.m., when the reporter was heading home, Jackson D’Cunha (20) and Denver D’Souza (21), unemployed youths of Naguri allegedly followed her on a bike. When they tried to molest her, the woman shouted for help, said the Mangalore East Police. This attracted the attention of passers-by and the duo attempted to flee. They were caught at the entrance of the narrow lane (being a dead end, this was the only way out) and were taken to the police station at Kadri. The two have been booked under IPC 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), IPC 341 (wrongful restraint) and IPC 34 (act done by several persons with a common intention). The two have been remanded in judicial custody till December 16. (The Hindu 3/12/13)

 

16. Two-thirds of women journalists face abuse or harassment (1)

Bangkok: About two-thirds of women journalists have experienced abuse, harassment or threats at work, according to first global survey on violence against women working in the news media. The survey by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation and the London-based International News Safety Institute included 822 women media workers interviewed between July and late November this year. It found that the majority of threats, intimidation and abuse directed towards women media workers occurred in the work place and were committed by male bosses, supervisors and co-workers, according to a press release. “It is shocking to see that more than half (64.48%) of the 822 women journalists who responded to our survey have experienced some sort of ‘intimidation, threats or abuse’ in relation to their work,” said Elisa Lees Munoz, Executive Director of the IWMF. The survey found that the majority of women who are harassed do not report what has happened to them, despite the fact that more than half of them confirmed that the experience had a psychological impact, the release said. Of the respondents, 82% were reporters with 49% working in newspapers, 24% in magazines, 21% in TV and 16% in radio. Almost 29% of the respondents worked in Asia and the Pacific, over 21% in North America, 19% in Europe, about 13% in Africa, 11% in Latin and South America, and 5% in Arab states. The survey was carried out with funding from the Government of Austria and supported by UNESCO. (Hindustan Times 3/12/13)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

17. State govt, NGO teams probe Dalit ostracisation in Mehsana village (2)

Ahmedabad: Two separate teams, one from the government and another led by a human rights NGO, conducted separate inquiries into the Dalit ostracisation issue at Dagavadia village in Mehsana district, following a report published by The Indian Express on November 16. The Indian Express had reported that a minor dispute between two youths of the village had resulted in a clash between Dalits and the locally dominant and influential Chaudhary community in October, leading to the Dalits being allegedly ostracised by the Chaudharys. Local Dalits had alleged that the Chaudharys were not providing them labour work on their farms and that their entry into the village temple was prohibited. The Dalits also alleged that the local barbers were not cutting their hair and local provision stores, barring a few, were not providing them daily ration. Following this report, the Mehsana collector was asked to look into the matter. A rejoinder from the Director of Scheduled Caste Welfare, Gujarat State, R M Jadav said, “The Mehsana collector had instructed the joint team consisting of (1) Mamlatdar, Vijapur (2) Taluka Development Officer, Vijapur, (3) Police Sub Inspector, Vasai and (4) District Backward Class Welfare Officer, Mehsana, to inquire into the matter.” The government also said, “The team visited the village and met the Sarpanch and other Leaders of the village. The team had discussed with them and got positive solution of this matter. The complainant and other Dalits were given entry into the temple. At present, there is no dispute about ration, hair-cutting and supply of other commodities in the village. Moreover, Dalits have been provided police protection according to their demand,” the release said. Meanwhile, a retired judge of the Gujarat High Court and former Lokayukta of Gujarat, S M Soni, who runs the NGO for human rights, Justice on Trial, also visited Dagavadia to conduct an independent inquiry. “I have visited the village and met some of the concerned parties. And we are trying to persuade them to arrive at a compromise,” Soni said. (Indian Express 1/12/13)

 

18. Dalit family beaten, house burnt in Berasia (2)

BHOPAL: A dalit and his family were beaten up and their house was burnt by a group at village Birah Shyamkhedi in Berasia on the outskirts on the state capital. The incident had taken place on Saturday evening. Police said the dispute was over a piece of land on which the victim and accused parties are claiming stakes. The accused are yet to be arrested. Victim, Kaluram, 38. had erected a shanty on an elevated land area in the village after his small piece of land submerged in a dam project. However, accused Arvind Singh claimed the land to be his. Police said the situation turned violent when Arvind along with his brothers Rajendra, Santosh Singh and a relative Beer Singh attacked Kaluram and his family, including his wife Narayani and daughter Sarju. After beating the family, the accused torch their house and escaped. The police have registered a case under the relevant sections and said the efforts are on to nab the accused, adding that the nature of injuries sustained by the victim side is not serious. Police said the land in dispute between the two parties is a government land. (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

19. Dharmapuri Dalit Parents Attempt Suicide Over Inter-caste Marriage (2)

DHARMAPURI: Tension prevailed for sometime at the collectorate here on Monday after a dalit couple attempted to set themselves ablaze alleging police harassment over their son’s marriage with a caste Hindu Girl. Sources said that around 12.15 pm, K Aathimooalam and his wife A Muthulakshmi of Mullipatti village, came to the collectorate and doused themselves with kerosene. While they were about to set fire to themselves, revenue officials overpowered and foiled their bid. On information from officials police came to the spot and held talks with the couple. RDO P Ramar told the police to look into the grievances of the couple and provide them protection. Meanwhile, speaking to Express, the couple said that they belonged to Arunthathiyar community. Their son Ramesh (20) had married a caste Hindu girl, Sangeetha (24), in May this year. Fearing retribution from the girl’s family, Ramesh, along with Sangeetha, escaped from the village. Subsequently, Sangeetha’s mother lodged a complaint against Ramesh. The couple claimed that despite their not knowing the whereabouts of their son, police had been harassing them. “We really don’t know where Ramesh is. Despite our repeatedly telling the police so, they have been harassing us. I don’t even know whether he is alive or dead. ,” said Aathimoolam. Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police Asra Garg told Express that police would look into the matter and if any official was found guilty of harassing the dalit couple, stern action would be taken against him/her. (New Indian Express 3/12/13)

 

20. Eight of Dalit family attacked (2)

DHARMAPURI: Eight members of the family of a Dalit woman who married a Vanniyar were injured in an attack allegedly by the Caste Hindus in Veppamarathur village near Bommidi in Dharmapuri district on Wednesday evening. G. Suresh, husband of S. Sudha, told The Hindu over phone that about 20 men led by the panchayat president Ranganathan attacked the family members with stones and wooden logs and also abused them on caste lines. Suresh, his wife, father Gopal, mother Palaniammal, younger brother G. Ramesh and three others were injured in the incident. He said the attack took place immediately after the Revenue Divisional Officer, P. Menaka, the Harur Deputy Superintendent of Police, V. Sampath, visited the house to inquire about an application of Ms. Sudha for licence to possess a firearm. Mr. Sampath said the clash erupted after the panchayat president was allegedly attacked by Ms. Sudha and her family members in the presence of two policemen. It was also alleged that the policemen were attacked by Ms. Sudha and others when they tried to resist the assault on Mr. Ranganathan. The panchayat president and a few others who were reportedly injured in the attack were taken to a hospital. Meanwhile, the police picket was increased in the area and further reinforcements were being rushed, Mr. Sampath added. Ms. Sudha had submitted a petition to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in Chennai on November 28, seeking its help to obtain a gun licence. In her complaint, she alleged harassment and repeated threats to her life even as the district administration had provided her police cover. She complained of constant harassment which increased after the attack on Dalit colonies in Naikkankottai after the Ilavarasan-Divya marriage in 2012. Her family was not allowed to draw water from the common tap and even prevented from entering the temple. Ms. Sudha lodged a complaint with the Bommidi police, who registered a case under the provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Since no action was taken against the accused, she filed a petition in the Madras High Court, which directed the Dharmapuri distinct administration to provide adequate protection to the petitioner. (The Hindu 5/12/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

21. 80% of medicines not covered by price control order (3)

About 38 million people in India (which is more than Canada’s population) fall below the poverty line every year due to healthcare expenses, of which 70% is on purchase of drugs. Yet, the much-awaited drug price control order (DPCO) 2013, meant to control the price of medicines does not cover over 80% of the medicines in the market. Many drugs crucial for India’s disease profile have been left out, which means people are unlikely to see any significant reduction in expenditure on medicines. In 2003, the Supreme Court, while hearing a case on the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, had directed the government to formulate appropriate criteria to identify essential and life saving drugs and ensure that they came under price control. It took over a decade for the government to announce the DPCO in May 2013. By the government’s own admission in an affidavit filed in court, the market value and share of medicines covered by DPCO is just 18% of the country’s pharma market. Many life-saving medicines including anti-cancer drugs, expensive antibiotics and drugs needed for organ transplantation have been left out. The government merely lifted the entire National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011, comprising 348 medicines, and placed it under price control. “The literal translation of the NLEM into DPCO 2103 has been done without a thought of its implications. The companies have been provided a convenient escape route. A 500 mg Paracetamol tablet is under price control but its 650 mg strength is not; individual anti-TB drugs are under price control but their combinations which outsell single ingredient preparations are not. This undermines the entire objective of making essential medicines more affordable to Indians,” explained Dr Anurag Bhargava, associate professor at the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences. He stressed the need to expand the scope of price control to include all dosages and combinations, as was the case in the previous DPCO of 1995. With the current DPCO not covering combinations of drugs, a lot of drugs for diabetes and hypertension and many other conditions will move out of price control as they are used in combination. The combinations not covered under NLEM account for Rs 31,866 crore or almost 45% of the total pharma market of Rs 71,246 crore in 2012. An independent evaluation of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID) for a forthcoming report explains why it is important to expand the scope of price control. According to their evaluation, the market value of anti-infectives under price control is Rs 4,636 crore, just 6.5% of the total market. Anti-infectives, which include antibiotics, have the biggest chunk of India’s pharma market… (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

22. Concern over number of infant deaths in HK region (3)

BELGAUM: Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader on Monday admitted in the Legislative Council that as many as 2,476 infant deaths were reported from the six districts of Hyderabad Karnataka region from April to September this year. While Raichur recorded the highest number of 480, Yadgir registered the lowest with 261 infant deaths. In Koppal, while 722 prenatal and 921 neonatal deaths were reported last year as many as 341 prenatal and 439 neonatal deaths were reported from April to September 2013. Replying to Achar Halappa Basappa and Amarnath Patil of the Bharatiya Janata Party during Question Hour, Mr. Khader attributed infant deaths in the HK region, especially in Koppal, to absence of experts at district hospitals. While the sanctioned strength in Koppal district hospital was 82, only 48 were officially functioning. Though, the government was prepared to pay a good salary to specialists, no one was coming forward. On learning about infant mortality rate in Koppal district, he had visited the district and directed the Deputy Commissioner to take necessary steps to address the problem. The plight of victims of endosulfan in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts was echoed in the Upper House. Mr. Khader, in his reply to Ganesh Karnik of the BJP, said that a Rs. 20-crore package would be announced to find a solution to the life of victims. It has been planned to increase the grant of Rs. 50 lakh given to two endosulfan day care centres functioning in affected areas to Rs. 1 crore. The government was considering the proposal of increasing monthly disability pension from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000. It is also proposed to have an understanding with private hospitals to provide medical care to endosulfan victims. “Those capable of leading an independent lives would be taught skills at the rehabilitation centres at Kokkada and Koila,” he said. The government had earmarked Rs. 5 crore for improving health of endosulfan victims in the three districts and Rs. 3.75 lakh was released to the Kasturba Medical College for conducting research on the impact of endosulfan. Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Dinesh Gundu Rao said that 96.87 Below Poverty Line families were benefitting from the Anna Bhagya scheme. Over 32 lakh new applications for BPL cards was received and 14 lakh applications verified. “Verification of cards would be completed by January 2014,” he said. (The Hindu 3/12/13)

 

23. Unrealistic compensation impacting medical profession, says MLAG (3)

Chandigarh: The Medicos Legal Action Group (MLAG) held a meeting to discuss the issue of quantum of compensation awarded in cases of medical negligence. The doctors felt there have been recent compensations of exceedingly high amounts which are unrealistic and have serious implications on the functioning of medical fraternity. The MLAG is a non-profit trust registered at Chandigarh by a group of allopathic doctors from all over the country who legally engage the Government of India regarding its various policies concerning medical profession, training, working conditions. In a statement, MLAG  requested the Government and  the Law Commission to   remove doctors from the ambit  of Consumer Protection Act as  the summary nature of proceedings is harmful for healthcare delivery in our country. At  the very least they asked for a cap on compensation which  can be claimed and awarded. Dr Rajender Sharma from  Hoshiarpur and a trustee of  this group said compensations  of exceedingly high amounts  are unrealistic and have serious  implications for medical professionals and patients alike. Dr Sandeep Dhavan from Chandigarh said unreasonable compensation would adversely affect the doctor-patient relationship. Dr Anil Kumar  Secretary of this Group said if  a doctor today has to cover  himself against a claim of Rs 11.5  crore he will have to charge Rs 53 over and above his regular consultation fee to cover just for paying this premium. (Pioneer 5/12/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

24. India should shift focus to migrants in AIDS fight: UN (3)

India has been “fairly successful” in fighting AIDS by targeting key affected populations such as intravenous drug users, transgendered people, sex workers and homosexuals, but it’s focus must broaden to high-risk mobile communities to keep the disease under control, the United Nations said. Policies focused on prevention and a huge social mobilization have allowed India to reduce new infections of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, by as much as 57 percent in 10 years; and more than 650,000 people living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number in the world by country, according to UNAIDS. There are about 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, with an estimated 130,000 new infections per year. While focus on the “core” communities has helped keep the disease in check, authorities must “follow the epidemic” and target internal migrants and truckers to widen the scope of prevention efforts, two UNAIDS officials said in an interview with India Insight ahead of World AIDS Day, which is observed on Dec. 1. “Internal migration is a concern in India. You see changes and patterns of the epidemic in association with migration/mobility,” said Oussama Tawil, country coordinator, UNAIDS. Focusing on the mobile population is important because many clients of sex workers are known to be single male migrants and truck drivers. While prevalence of HIV does not go beyond 2 percent among migrants and truck drivers, applying that figure to about 7 million people means that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are HIV positive, said Taoufik Bakkali, senior strategic information adviser at UNAIDS. And many of them will pass on the disease to their wives or their future wives in other places, thereby changing the pattern of the epidemic. “Whatever infection happened beyond the (core) group happened. And now it’s leaking, it’s showing up somewhere else, so it has to be controlled. The lesson from India is that we should not only look at these groups but look beyond,” said Bakkali… (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

25. HIV Patients in Pondy to Get Monthly Aid of Rs 1,000: CM (3)

PUDUCHERRY: The state administration would shortly take steps to give a financial assistance of Rs. 1000 per month to HIV-infected persons in the Union Territory, Chief Minister N Rangasamy announced this while addressing the gathering at the World AIDS Day function following a suggestion from the Project Director of Pondicherry AIDS Control Society (PACS), Dr D Gurumurthy, here on Sunday. Stressing that his government was committed to provide all assistance to improve the health of the people, Rangasamy said that the incidence of AIDS cases has come down drastically after the sustained efforts of the government. The awareness about the dreadful disease was created among the people over the years, he said, and added the aim of the administration was “Getting to Zero”, the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day. Referring to suggestion of Dr Gurumurthy, the Chief Minister, pointing out that some states were giving financial help to the patients, said the government would also provide a financial assistance of Rs. 1000 per month to the HIV-infected persons along with quality medicines. Dr K V Raman, Director of Health and Family Welfare, said that due to efforts of the administration the AIDS cases have shown considerable decline and the UT has recorded zero per cent in AIDS prevalence in ante-natal mothers. He added that the aim is “Getting to Zero” – achieving zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination for patients in society and zero AIDS- related deaths. Dr Gurumurthy, Project Director of PACS, said free legal cell would function at the Government Hospital within a month to help HIV- infected patients. He said the court authorities had been contacted and they have agreed to provide a lawyer to give legal assistance in the cases of property disputes, discrimination in schools etc. Explaining with the data of the Sentinel Surveillance report in 2010-2011, Dr Gurumurthy said due to effective measures taken by the PACS, AIDS had shown a decline in the Union Territory. It has “shown a decline in prevalence of HIV among ante-natal mothers (low risk group), from 0.25 per cent in 2004 to 0.13%  per cent in 2010-11,” he said, and added that it stands at zero per cent in January 2013, as per unofficial figures available. In High Risk Groups (HRG), it has declined from 1.94 per cent in 2004 to 1.21 per cent in 2010-11 among Female Sex Workers (FSW) and it was 5.22 per cent in 2004 and it declined to 1.21 per cent in 2010-11 in Men having Sex with Men (MSM) group. In the case of STD clinic attendees, it was 6.31 per cent in 2004 and came down to 2.02 per cent in 2010, he said. Dr Gurumurthy said that among persons tested in Integrated Counselling and Testing Centers (ICTC) the number of positive persons came down from 761 (1.25 per cent) in 2010-11 to 699 (0.98 per cent) in 2012-13. Earlier, Rangasamy flagged off the mobile publicity van, which will carry the HIV/AIDS awareness message and will cover the four regions – Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. (New Indian Express 2/2/13)

 

26. 1,163 HIV positive people in Meghalaya (3)

SHILLONG, Dec 2 – Health authorities in Meghalaya yesterday said the number of people living with HIV/AIDS virus has increased many folds since 2007 when only 14 persons were tested positive. Now, 1163 persons are living with the virus and authorities believed there could be more who are yet to come forward to test. For a small State with a population of about three million people, the number is staggering and the trend is increasing every year with as many as 79 positive people having succumbed to the virus. The international watchdogs on HIV have categorised the State as ‘low prevalence but high risk.’ “The cumulative figures till October this year is 1,163 positive cases in the State,” Meghalaya Aids Control Society (MACS) director F Kharkongor said. The MACS chief said that only 527 positive persons have turned up for treatment at the three Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centres set up in the State even as she expressed concern at the low turn out of the patients at the designated hospitals. The first tests were started in 2007 in which 14 persons only were tested positive, she said, adding that the figure increased every year – 54 in 2008, 131 in 2009, 245 in 2010, 452 in 2011, 731 in 2012 and 1008 till March 2013. The number of deaths has also increased every year since 2008 when only one patient died, four in 2009 and eight in 2010 taking the cumulative figure to 12, Kharkongor said. The cumulative deaths in 2011 increased from 12 to 22 and then 37 the following year, she said, adding that the number of victims increased almost doubly during the period from March 2012 to March 2013 with 25 deaths. From March to October this year, the number of deaths recorded stands at 17, also the highest during the same period in the past six years, the official said. According to a data compiled by the MACS, 43 per cent of the victims are of the age group from 25 – 34 and mostly are the active inject drug users. However, the female sex workers working in the coal belts and along the National Highways in the State also constitute a huge chunk of those people living with the HIV virus. The others are men who have sex with men and children born out of positive parents. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 3/12/13)

 

27. HIV patients face discrimination in rates (3)

VISAKHAPATNAM: A 26-year-old HIV positive pregnant woman Y Sandhya (name changed) was shocked when she was asked to cough up Rs 50,000 for a normal delivery, which usually costs around Rs 10,000, by a private nursing home. When the bewildered woman enquired about the variation in rates, she was told by the hospital staff that “treatment and cost of surgery for HIV positive cases are a tad ‘higher’ than ordinary patients.” The woman, who is from a poor background, went to the state-run King George Hospital (KGH) for the delivery, where it took place free of cost. Besides the stigma, HIV or Hepatitis-B patients often have to put up with discrimination when it comes to treatment and surgical expenses at several private clinics. There’s no patient-friendly law to regulate the charges. The medical staff is also, at times, reluctant to take up HIV positive cases for surgery and refer them to government hospitals. On the difference in rates, additional district medical and health officer Dr Ronanki Ramesh (AIDS and leprosy) said, “It has come to our notice that for some private centres charge several times the usual rates for treating or operating HIV positive or Hepatitis-B cases. Instead of charging Rs 10,000 or so for a normal delivery, they sometimes ask for Rs 50,000-60,000 as part of risk coverage and for using special disposable gear.” “Citing patients’ confidentiality, the labs and nursing homes shy away from sharing data, patient details and the rates charged with the district health administration. Further, private hospitals just conduct one test to ascertain the HIV status of a patient whereas three different tests are conducted in government centres for the same.” Not only delivery cases, differential pricing is perceptible in case of all other surgeries in many corporate hospitals and private clinics, pointed out Padmasri Dr Kutikuppala Surya Rao, a renowned general physician, who had been treating HIV cases since the 1990s at a nominal cost. “Most hospitals are reluctant to treat such patients even now and there have been instances when for a simple fracture or surgery, an HIV positive patient has been asked to shell out Rs 50,000-1 lakh in the name of risk coverage. There needs to be some kind of a price ceiling for rates of surgeries and ethical guidelines must be framed, besides sensitisation programmes, so that doctors think twice before burdening HIV patients with such exorbitant rates of treatment,” he averred. The Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) is, however, helpless in controlling differential rates for treatment of HIV cases by private clinics. Dr Jayachandra Reddy, joint director, basic services, APSACS, stated, “We can just regulate the treatment and safety protocol and fix the price of per unit of blood but can’t take any action for charging more because it depends on the whims of the private centres. That’s why we encourage patients to get operated or treated in government hospitals, where per month on an average, 200-250 deliveries by HIV positive mothers take place free of cost.” (Times of India 4/12/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

28. Farmers Demand Fair Deal in Land Acquisition by Singareni Collieries (4)

KHAMMAM: Farmers in the Sattupalli constituency are demanding that the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) pay compensation to them as per the new land acquisition law – The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which is expected to come into force from January 1, 2014. The SCCL is planning to acquire about 1,000 acres owned by 200 people, most of whom are farmers belonging to Kistram, Kommanapalli, Jagannadhapuram, Lingapalem and Rejerla in Sattupalli Assembly constituency, for open-cast mining. A draft notification has also been released for acquisition of some of the land. But the farmers are reluctant to lose their lands to the state-owned mining company stating that the compensation offered as per the existing law was too low. While the SCCL is offering Rs 5.23 lakh per acre, the farmers are demanding that the compensation be paid as per the market value. N Kanta Reddy of Rajerla, a land owner, said: “We are demanding that the organisation pay market value but it is trying to acquire our lands at cheaper prices.” However, he said that the farmers had requested the SCCL to wait for the new land acquisition act to come into force in January, 2014. Once the new law took effect, the organisation would have to pay Rs 12 lakh per acre as the government could pay up to four times the market value of the land, he added. “I shall lose my entire land of 25 acres in the second open-cast mine but the market value of the is between Rs 9 lakh and 10 lakh per acre but the organisation has offered only Rs 5.23 lakh per acre,”  said a farmer Ch Venkatarami Reddy of Rajerla village. Meanwhile, Sattupalli MLA Sandra Venkata Veeraiah said that the demand of the farmers was genuine and the SCCL should pay at least Rs 15 lakh per acre and added that they would launch an agitation if the SCCL try to acquire land forcibly. SCCL chief general manager, M Mallesham, said they were proceeding as per law and added farmers were refusing to lose their lands to SCCL at the price offered. (New Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

29. Mopa farmers to approach Supreme Court (4)

PANAJI: Farmers affected by the land acquisition for the proposed Mopa airport and further aggrieved by an order of the high court that dismissed their petition, have decided to approach the Supreme Court challenging the government’s move to acquire their land. Briefing mediapersons, Sandip Kambli of the Mopa Vimantall Piditt Xetkari Samiti, said that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, does not apply to the farmers or to the land as they are absolute owners of the land and not by rights granted by the state government. In a press release, Kambli said that their petition before the high court challenged the “use of fraudulently framed and maintained records of right by the state government, when the land is not held under state grant and the notice in terms of Section 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, stands issued by making use of such forged documents”.Kambli said that the aggrieved farmers will explore all three options before them. One is to urge the high court to review its petition, the second option is to file a new suit and third option is to approach the Supreme Court. He said there are 56 petitioners in the three villages of Chandel, Casarvarnem and Varkhand, and that they will follow the legal process. Kambli said that the farmers will neither vacate their land nor accept the compensation money from the government. (Times of India 3/12/13)

30. SAD govt not passing on benefit of Central laws to people: Tewari (4)

Ludhiana: Lashing out at the Akali-BJP government for either not passing on the benefit of various people-friendly laws to the people of Punjab or packaging various welfare schemes as its own, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari on Tuesday said the government’s intent to deny the benefit of the new land acquisition law to the farmers of nine Ludhiana villages was a classic example of this. The minister warned the Punjab government against circumventing the farmer-friendly Land Acquisition Act by trying to forcibly acquire the farmers’ land in nine Ludhiana villages under the archaic 1894 Act, which stands repealed. “I won’t let you build your castles after devastating the farmers by forcibly acquiring their land,” the minister said. Addressing a series of workers’ meetings in the Dakha Assembly segment organised by former MLA Jassi Khangura, Tewari said it was shocking to learn that the Akali government that claims to be pro-farmer had decided to acquire the land of the farmers under a 120-year-old Act when the new law had been enacted in Parliament recently. “Let us not forget that the 1894 Act was enacted by the British and was aimed at snatching away the farmers’ land in India,” he added. He said when he spoke to the state government officials in this regard, he was told that the law would come into force in the state from January 2014. He asked even if it was so, why the state government cannot wait for a month. “But the government’s intentions are not genuine as it does not want to provide benefit to the farmers as it wants to snatch their land for peanuts,” he added. The minister said while the government was denying the farmers the benefit of the new Central law, it was presenting various welfare schemes like the Food Security Act and Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojana as its own. (Indian Express 5/12/13)

 

CORRUPTION

31. Lokpal bill: Anna Hazare seeks Arun Jaitley’s help (5)

PUNE: Anna Hazare on Saturday urged BJP’s Arun Jaitley to ensure passage of the Lokpal bill in Rajya Sabha. In a letter sent from Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare said he was disappointed with Jaitley. “You are considered a good lawyer. You are a good orator too, but I feel that you did not play the role of an opposition leader in a proper manner,” Hazare said in the letter. Hazare said that Lok Sabha passed ‘a sense of the house’ resolution on Lokpal bill and displayed a sincere effort. “The Lok Sabha sent the bill to Rajya Sabha and the ball is now in your court. I had hoped that you would put pressure on the government to pass the bill but you did nothing,” Hazare said. “When the government is not strong the role of the opposition party becomes even more important. But I feel that as a leader of opposition, you have not done your duty towards the people of this country which is why the Lokpal bill could not be passed,” Hazare said. The Gandhian said Jaitley should make the government table the Lokpal bill in Rajya Sabha and if it still fails to do so, he as the leader of opposition must put pressure on the government and demonstrate why an opposition party is important in democracy. (Times of India 1/12/13)

 

32. CWG scam: PMO refuses info on Shunglu recommendations on CAG (5)

New Delhi: The PMO has refused to disclose information on action taken on suggestions made by the Shunglu panel, which probed alleged irregularities in 2010 Commonwealth Games-related projects here. To an RTI query, the Prime Minister’s Office said it was being examined by a Group of Ministers (GoM) and hence exempted under the Right to Information Act. The PMO, in reply to a query whether the government was considering to make Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) a three-member body on the basis of the committee’s suggestion, said “information regarding future course of action” cannot be accessed under the transparency law. The High Level Committee (HLC) led by former CAG V K Shunglu had in March 2011 written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting changes in the country’s top auditing body, Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Controller of Accounts under Delhi government, Central Vigilance Commission and Delhi Development Authority. “The said letter dated March 29, 2011 from V K Shunglu, former CAG and Chairman of High Level Committee, has been referred to a Group of Ministers… to look into issues relating to the reports of the High Level Committee and consider the views expressed on the findings and recommendations by the concerned ministries or departments,” the PMO said in reply to an RTI query. It cited an exemption clause of the Act to deny information sought in the plea. “In terms of rule 6 (4) of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, a Group of Ministers is an ad hoc committee of the Cabinet. “As such, the information sought is exempt from disclosure in terms of Section 8(1)(i) of the Right to Information Act,” the reply said. The Section bars disclosure of information on Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers. A GoM headed by Defence Minister A K Antony is looking into six reports submitted to the government by the HLC pointing out alleged omission and commission by officials and lack of oversight by the government in executing CWG-related projects. (Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

33. NRHM scam: CBI reopens Sachan death case (5)

LUCKNOW: The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) have reopened an investigation into the death of deputy chief medical officer Y S Sachan whose body was found in an under construction toilet inside the Lucknow jail on June 22, 2011. The CBI in its earlier report had concluded that Sachan had committed suicide. The court questioned the CBI report on the basis of questions raised by Sachan’s widow Malti. The re-investigation is being led by CBI deputy superintendent of police A K Misra. Sources in the CBI said that investigators will relook the scene of crime and examine thoroughly the note that was supposedly scribbled by Sachan days before his death. In its initial investigations the CBI had used this note to support its suicide hypothesis. Malti had questioned the authenticity of this note insisting that the writing was not Sachan’s. “The suicide note is not in Sachan’s handwriting,” she said on Tuesday. “As far as I know the suicide note was written inside the office of the then inspector general of prisons and the person who was made to write this suicide note is still posted in the same office till date,” she said. Sachan was arrested in Lucknow following his alleged role in the murder of chief medical officer Lucknow Vinod Arya and his successor BP Singh who in turn had figured as the two main accused in the multi-crore-rupee National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam. Both were gunned down outside their homes. The police had said that Sachan in connivance with BP Singh’s successor AK Shukla had arranged the hired assassins. Though after investigations into the NRHM case were handed over to the CBI, Shukla was arrested but released on bail after the investigators failed to establish his link with the assassins. “Court has not been very convinced with the CBI investigations in which the agency had concluded that Sachan had committed suicide. In its detailed order the court had even stated that the manner in which the agency had proceeded with the investigations suggests the investigators were following a preconceived notion that Sachan had committed suicide,” said Malti’s lawyer. (Times of India 4/12/13)

 

WOMEN

34. NCW Asks Goa Cops to Act Against Madhu Kishwar (8)

New Delhi: Acting on a complaint of Congress Youth wing NSUI, National Commission for Women today wrote to Goa police to act against activist Madhu Kishwar for “revealing” the name of the woman journalist who has accused Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal of sexual assault. Hasiba Amin, president of the Goa unit of NSUI and NSUI national secretary Angellica Aribam today wrote a complaint letter to NCW against Kishwar alleging she had revealed the names of the victim in the Tehelka sexual assault case on social media websites Twitter and Facebook. Holding that it is an act punishable under section 228 A of IPC, they said maintaining the privacy of the victim in such cases, particularly with a case of such high media attention, is highly essential. “With more than 40 thousand followers on Twitter and about 3000 followers and an equal number of friends on Facebook, the name of the victim is bound to be seen by enough people to make the victim’s identity public…Kishwar had tweeted the full name of the victim on November 22, soon after the Tehelka episode came to light,” the NSUI said in the complaint. (Outlook 2/12/13)

 

35. Sharp dip in domestic violence cases thanks to new FIR rule! (8)

AHMEDABAD: On the face of it, there has been a sharp drop in domestic violence against women in Ahmedabad in recent days. Only two FIRs have been filed under IPC section 498, which deals with dowry complaints, in the last two weeks, down from an average 150 FIRs a month till October. But that does not mean more couples have discovered marital bliss overnight. Instead, a quirky decision of the city police, taken earlier this month, seems to have camouflaged rising crime against women. The cops have decided that all dowry complaints will be handled by the city’s only ‘mahila’ police station at Mithakali. Victims of domestic violence could go to any police station earlier and lodge a complaint under Section 498A. Since November 10, the mahila police station has filed FIRs only after counseling the complainant. Often, women don’t file FIRs after a counseling session. Ironically, the mahila police station has received 249 complaints of matrimonial disputes falling under Section 498A since November 10. Take Harshida Patel (35) approached Naroda police station on November 12 and filed a complaint of domestic violence and harassment for dowry against her husband and in-laws. Two hours later, she was taken to the mahila police station which did not register an FIR and advised her instead to prepare for counseling. Despite this, Harshida is keen to file an FIR but the cops have remained adamant. Her lawyer, Anand Brahmbhatt, said the cops are violating a recent Supreme Court order directing the police to register an FIR immediately. Women’s rights activist Ilaben Pathak of AWAG said, “Ahmedabad is a large city and there is no point in having just one police station for accepting complaints. Women should be free to lodge complaints at the nearest police station irrespective of jurisdiction. Besides, how can the police provide counseling?” (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

36. Health centres take up study on domestic violence (8)

BANGALORE: While India and the US may be worlds apart on the development index, there’s little difference on one front: domestic violence. US Consul General Jennifer McIntyre, who on Monday visited Wilson Garden maternity home where a study is on to track domestic violence against women, said: “I find no difference between the US and India when it comes to domestic violence. The only way is to educate the public.” Terming domestic violence an “epidemic spread across borders”, McIntyre said, “Gender-based violence is a global issue that cuts across borders. No society is immune to its pernicious effects. One in three women around the world experiences some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime, and in some countries, that number is as high as 70%,” added McIntyre. The Research Triangle Institute, US, in collaboration with BBMP and St John’s Research Institute, has taken up ‘Soukhya’, a project against domestic violence. It involves nurses in the city’s BBMP maternity homes, who collate data on domestic violence which their patients are subjected to, when they come here for antenatal and perinatal check-ups. So far, 400 women have been screened. The project includes a mobile application, which the nurses use to record data about domestic violence experienced by women patients, not just from husbands but also their families. At the health centres selected for the study, data about each woman is fed into the mobile application, which is developed by Dimagi Inc. The nurses have been trained to use the application, through which they can protect the rights and identities of the women. This facility is available in 113 BBMP health centres. The US Agency for International Development ( USAID) recently announced a $500,000 grant for the implementation of Soukhya. The team is led by Dr Suneeta Krishnan, a social epidemiologist attached to Research Triangle. “The women’s suffering is traced by the nursing staff who have been trained to spot signs of violence. Our team offers counselling and legal help to the affected women and makes them aware of their rights,” said Dr Suneeta said. (Times of India 3/12/13)

 

37. Winter Session too short to bring up Women’s Reservation Bill (8)

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja said he doubts if the government will take up the Women’s Reservation Bill as it is a shortest session. “Whether government will take up these bills is not sure, as the session, it is the shortest session. Besides that there are many other important issues that need to be discussed like the price rise, deteriorating economic situation, farmer’s distress and increase in the price of petrol,” he said. Congress leader Rajeev Shukla, commenting on the Samajwadi Party (SP) being against the passing of the bill, said the issue will be sorted out through discussion. “We will try to take up whatever issue is important and needs to be discussed with all the political leaders and make sure that the important ones are passed,” Shukla said. Congress party leader Harish Rawat and NCO leader Tariq Anwar said that fighting is not a solution to anything. “If the Samajwadi Party is opposing the Women’s Reservation Bill it is also because of many technical reasons. So, this issue will be discussed with all members and we will try to find a solution to it,” said Rawat. “The attitude is wrong. They should not create a fuss about it. It is a democratic country and there should be a vote on such issues rather than trying to stop a discussion or create a mess,” said Anwar. CPI leader Gurucharan Dasgupta said it is good news that they are bringing up the Women’s Reservation Bill issue and if they bring it, we shall definitely look into it. (Business Standard 4/12/13)

 

38. Narayan Sai must get maximum punishment: Rape survivor (8)

SURAT: The arrest of Narayan Sai has kindled hopes of justice for the 30-year-old woman from the city, who lodged a complaint against him. The woman, who was preparing for her first semester law exam, said, “When I got a call from a friend informing me about his arrest, I did not believe it. I called up DCP madam and she confirmed. I am very hopeful of getting justice now.” “Such people must be given severest punishment under the law to set an example,” she said. Talking to TOI, she said that she was very scared of Asaram’s followers but managed to garner strength after he was arrested in Jodhpur. “Truth can be distorted, but it can’t be defeated,” she said. “I was scared that if I came out against Asaram and Sai, no one would believe me. People would caste aspersions on me,” she said. She said that she used to go to Asaram ashram since the age of 12 with her parents. She alleged that she was also a victim of unnatural sex. A commerce graduate, she was married to a businessman four years ago. She decided to study law and got admission two years ago. “I want to fight for myself and other women like me who are victims of such abuse,” she said. Her husband, who never went to Asaram ashram, was stunned when she narrated him her trauma. “She revealed everything to me after Asaram was arrested. I was shocked initially as I was unaware for four years. But, then I realized that in our country people do all kinds of things under the guise of religion and it is no fault of my wife that she became a prey,” he said. (Times of India 5/12/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

39. Activists seek end to agitation (9)

Kozhikode: A group of social activists and environmentalists have called for an end to the agitation against steps aimed at protecting the biodiversity of the Western Ghats. The signatories to the statement include writers K. Satchidanandan, Sara Joseph, C. Radhakrishnan, M. Mukundan, O.V. Usha, M. Gangadharan, and K.P. Ramanunni, and social critics Civic Chandran, Hameed Chennamangaloor, N.P. Hafiz Mohammed, and A. Achyuthan. They said that besides being a world heritage site, the Western Ghats were recognised as one of the eight biodiversity hot spots of the world. The Ghats had a direct influence on the very existence of six States, including Kerala. Their protection was vital for the survival and well-being of future generations. The statement said it was antithetical to the social and cultural sensibilities of Keralites to resort to agitations and whip up false fears about measures necessary for the protection of the Ghats. The activists appealed to the Union government to go ahead with transparent measures to protect the Ghats taking into consideration only the just demands of farmers and ignoring all other factors. They urged the media, political parties, and religious groups not to support the agitations aimed at diluting actions to protect the ecosystem of the Ghats. (The Hindu 1/12/13)

 

40. Unite to save Mother Earth: Akhilesh Yadav (9)

LUCKNOW: Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, on Sunday, said change in the lifestyle is required to protect the environment from being polluted. Yadav who was speaking during a programme, ‘Ek Sur Ek Taal’ organized by the secondary education department, at KD Babu Singh stadium said, “It’s our social responsibility to save Mother Earth. To protect the environment, unity and brotherhood is needed.”On the occasion, nearly 10,000 students sung songs in unison to promote value education and awareness. The event aimed at sending message about the perils of global warming and climate changes, thus creating awareness on environment protection, population control and eradication of social ills. Appreciating the efforts of the students, Yadav said there was another stadium but the previous government bulldozed it. In fact, the Mayawati government did nothing for environment protection, he said. (Times of India 2/12/13)

 

41. Plastics dangerously harming marine ecosystems (9)

Washington: Up till now it was unknown to researchers whether ingested plastic transfers chemical additives or pollutants to wildlife, but a new study has shown that toxic concentrations of pollutants and additives enter the tissue of animals that have eaten microplastic. Lead author Mark Anthony Browne, a postdoctoral fellow at NCEAS, had two objectives when the study commenced: to look at whether chemicals from microplastic move into the tissues of organisms; and to determine any impacts on the health and the functions that sustain biodiversity. Microplastics are micrometer-size pieces that have eroded from larger plastic fragments, from fibres from washing clothing or from granules of plastic added to cleaning products. They are then consumed by a variety of animals, beginning with the bottom of the food chain. These tiny bits of plastic act like magnets, attracting pollutants out of the environment to attach to the plastic. The study showed that large accumulations of microplastic have the potential to impact the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. Browne ran laboratory experiments with colleagues in the United Kingdom in which they exposed lugworms (Arenicola marina) to sand with 5 percent microplastic (polyvinylchloride) that also contained common chemical pollutants (nonylphenol, phenanthrene) and additives (triclosan, PBDE-47). Results showed that pollutants and additives from ingested microplastic were present in the worms’ tissues at concentrations that compromise key functions that normally sustain health and biodiversity. “In our study, additives, such as triclosan (an antimicrobial), that are incorporated into plastics during manufacture caused mortality and diminished the ability of the lugworms to engineer sediments,” Browne said. “Pollutants on microplastics also increased the vulnerability of lugworms to pathogens while the plastic itself caused oxidative stress.” The pollutant nonylphenol from microplastic or sand suppressed immune function by more than 60 percent. Triclosan from microplastic diminished the ability of worms to engineer sediments and caused mortality, each by more than 55 percent. Triclosan, an antibacterial additive, has been found in animal studies to alter hormone regulation. Microplastic also increased the worms’ susceptibility to oxidative stress by more than 30 percent. The study was published in journal Current Biology. (Zee News 3/12/13)

 

TERRORISM

42. Gunfire exchanged between LeT terrorists, security forces in J&K’s Handwara (12)

Jammu: Fierce gunbattle exchanged between three Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists and joint forces at Handwara town in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. IG Abdul Gani Mir said the security forces have launched search operation and the area has been cordoned. Earlier in the day, a police officer was killed and other cops were injured when militants attacked at police party outside Chadoora police station in Budgam district of Kashmir. Two Army soldiers were injured in July in a gunfight with militants in Handwara area. (Zee News 2/12/13)

 

43. High Court seeks NIA response on bail plea of blast accused (12)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from NIA on a bail application filed by Wasim Akram Malik, who is facing trial for the September 2011 Delhi High Court blast. A bench of Justices P K Bhasin and V P Vaish, directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) agency to submit its reply by January 22 next year. Malik has sought setting aside of the trial court order dismissing his bail application in September this year. “The accused (Malik) seeks setting aside of the impugned order dated September 26, 2013, wherein Special Court NIA has unjustifiably and erroneously without appreciating the law as prescribed by the enactment Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, dismissed the application of statutory bail under Section 167 (2) CrPC as filed by the appellant,” Malik’s counsel Mehmood Pracha argued. He claimed that his client was falsely implicated and arrested in connection with a vague FIR on October 6, 2011. The special NIA court had framed charges against Malik for various offences including that of waging war against India. The blast had left 15 people dead. The court had framed charges under Sections 121 (waging war against country), 121-A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the state), 122 (collecting arms with intention of waging war against government) and 123 (concealing with intent to felicitate a design to wage war) of the IPC against Malik. Earlier, the trial court had declined NIA’s plea to prosecute Malik under stringent charge of waging war against India which entails maximum punishment of death penalty, but the Delhi High Court had ruled otherwise. (Indian Express 3/12/13)

 

44. Terror attacks often launched from across borders: Shinde (12)

New Delhi: Terror attacks are often launched from across sovereign borders to disrupt peace, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Wednesday and called for enhancing internal security through strategic partnership between India and the US. Inaugurating the India-US police chiefs’ conference here, Shinde said the two countries were at the forefront in countering terrorism and international crime. “We are also, unfortunately, the leading targets of such trans-national terror groups and crime syndicates. All too often, attacks are launched from across sovereign borders in a manner calculated to cause the greatest disruption of peace. It will have to be the endeavour of all countries to fight this menace in all its forms through partnerships based on genuine and result-oriented cooperation,” Shinde said. He said the conference was a key element in the expansion of India’s bilateral cooperation with the United States. “As strategic partners, the more we can work with each other to enhance internal security, the more meaningful our partnership becomes to the ordinary citizen,” he said. Shinde said India-US Homeland Security Dialogue was an important element of the bilateral security architecture. He said major terrorist attacks typically target large and densely populated urban areas. “Both our countries have lived through such terrorist carnage, during 9/11 in New York and during 26/11 in Mumbai. Cooperation in megacity policing is intended to enhance capacity to provide an integrated security umbrella to megacities and large urban centres,” he said. The minister said an efficient megacity policing system must serve as an effective deterrent against terrorists and their masters who launch targeted attacks on the nerve centres of a country. “Our objective must be to make our cities, and, therefore, our countries safe by reducing our vulnerability to such challenges.” Shinde said technology was a key input for policing and the US has consistently led the world in deploying technology in the service of its people. “There is much that we can do together as partners to enhance the use of appropriate technologies for our police forces,” he said. The minister said India was committed to working as a partner with the US in bringing and applying state-of-the-art technologies to crime prevention, crime detection, forensic analysis and traffic management to make cities safer. “I urge technology partners from both countries to join hands with each other and with law enforcement agencies to deploy innovative technologies and enhance research in various fields of homeland security,” Shinde said. (Zee News 4/12/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

45. Maoists ambush Inter-City Express in Bihar, 3 GRP jawans killed (12)

Patna: Three GRP jawans have been killed in a Naxal attack on a Sahebganj Inter-City train near Jamalpur station here, an official said on Saturday. The incident took place when the Sahebganj-Danapur Inter-City train was passing through Munger, killing the three Government Railway Police (GRP) men onboard the train, besides looting five rifles from them. According to a news report, a group of 08-10 Maoists ambushed the Inter-City train. A group of 8 to 10 Maoists, which was travelling in Sahebganj-Patna Inter-City Express, opened fire in a ladies compartment as the train was between a railway tunnel and the the bridge at Ashikpur barely 900 yards away from Jamalpur railway station at around 1745 hours, Railway Superintendent of Police Amitabh Kumar Das said. The Naxal attack left three escorting members of Bihar Military Police dead and two others injured, he added. Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector General Sudhanshu Kumar said that the Sahebganj-Patna Intercity train was attacked by a group of armed Maoists between Jamalpur and Ratanpur. The attack occurred around 200 km from Patna. It was not immediately clear how large the group of Maoists who attacked was. The Maoists looted three INSAS rifles, a sten gun and an AK-47 besides 460 rounds of ammunition from the dead and injured personnel who were from the BMP-12 unit at Bhagalpur, Das said. The Maoists escaped from the train at Passikhana after pulling the chain, where another group of Maoists was waiting beside the tracks, he said. The three dead BMP personnel were Hawaldar Ashok Kumar and constables Bhola Thakur and Uday Singh. The injured were Md. Imtiyaz and Vinay Kumar, Das said. Injured policemen Md. Imtiyaz said in Jamalpur that eight to ten Maoists were on the train. When the train slowed down after the chain was pulled, the group of Maoists waiting beside the tracks stabbed him and another BMP man and snatched away and fired from their weapons, Imtiyaz said. Munger Range DIG Sudhanshu Kumar went to the spot with security forces and launched a search operation. The bodies of the slain BMP personnel were taken out of the train when it reached Jamalpur and the two others injured were hospitalised. The ladies coach, in which the Maoist attack took place, was detached from the train which left at about 2030 hours. In an another Naxal attack incident, two policemen were killed in a gunbattle with Maoists in Odisha’s Nuapada district. The gunbattle took place when the rebels ambushed a team of policemen on Friday in Sunabeda sanctuary area, about 550 km from state capital Bhubaneswar. The personnel of CRPF, District Voluntary Force and special police officers retaliated who were carrying out an operation in dense forest near Datutola and Dhekunpani villages last evening. (Zee News 1/12/13)

 

46. Bihar attaches property of 21 Maoists (12)

Patna: In a crackdown on Maoists, Bihar government has attached the property of 21 ultras, mostly in naxal-affected Aurangabad district, under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. A total of 39 cases were prepared by the state police headquarters for seizure of properties under the Act, out of which state government’s go ahead order was given in 21 cases. Prominent among those was the wife of top Maoist commander Arvind Jee, a member of ultra outfit’s central committee, who owned land worth Rs 25 lakh, DGP Abhyanand said. The seizure/attachment of proceeds of illegal activities included land, vehicles, cash, bank deposits and laptop, he said. The initiative, considered a brainchild of the Bihar DGP, is probably the first of its kind in the country. “There is shift in paradigm in dealing with naxal problem, from person to property,” the DGP told PTI. After meticulous scrutiny, the police surveyed movable and immovable property of the Maoists and prepared a list under Abhyanand’s supervision under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. As per provisions of the Act, which was amended in 2011-12, an appeal could be filed with the state police chief against details of properties to be seized within 48 hours of the issue of notice, after which it would be sent to the Home Secretary who was the designated authority for government’s approval in such cases, the DGP said. At the Home Secretary-level, show cause notices would be issued and a proper hearing would be given before passing order for seizure of properties of the ultras earned through unlawful activities. Once the property is attached after following due process, an appeal can be filed only with the District Judge, he said. (The Hindu 3/12/13)

 

47. Maoists kill 7 cops as property axe looms (12)

Patna, Dec. 3: A Maoist blast killed seven policemen including a station house officer in Bihar this afternoon, the state police chief linking the recent spurt in attacks to a move to attach 21 absconding rebel leaders’ properties. A landmine blew up a police jeep on a highway in Aurangabad district, at a spot 140km southwest of Patna, killing all the seven occupants: five Special Auxiliary Police jawans, a home guard and Tandawa station house officer Ajay Kumar. The powerful blast shredded the bodies, twisted the vehicle beyond recognition and left a five-foot-deep crater. Dhruv Kumar, the local station house officer at Nabinagar, was surprised at the rebels’ boldness in targeting the police on a highway rather than in the interiors. Some police sources suspected a Maoist retaliation to the arrest of local commander Pradeep Yadav last month. Director-general of police Abhayanand, however, linked the attack to the recent state government initiative to confiscate the property of 21 senior and middle-rung rebel leaders from Bihar, including central committee member Arvind, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Sources said this was the first time such a measure was being tried in the country and it could involve a lengthy court process, but added that the families of these Maoists had already been served with notices. Several of these rebel leaders are from Aurangabad and neighbouring Jehanabad. A statement by Maoist leader Prahar said the attack was a warning to the government to stop the so-called Operation Green Hunt against the outfit. Bihar is officially not part of the operation. The state has witnessed several Maoist strikes since June 16, when the ruling Janata Dal (United) snapped ties with the BJP. On Saturday, the rebels killed three policemen and injured two before fleeing with their automatic weapons in Munger. The same evening, they attacked a passenger train that shuttles between Jharkhand and Bihar, and snatched the security guards’ weapons. Today, however, five police rifles lay at the blast site. “These rifles were damaged so badly that the Maoists probably thought they were useless,” a police source said. The BJP was quick to attack the “minority” Nitish government’s “soft attitude”, alleging it had given “Maoists and terrorists the upper hand in Bihar”. Earlier, the Centre had accused the Nitish government of being soft on the Maoists. Of Bihar’s 38 districts, 21 are categorised Maoist-affected and 15 of them “worst affected”. Nitish today summoned police chief Abhayanand to his residence to discuss the Maoist threat. The 4.30pm blast took place as the police team was returning to Tandawa from a routine meeting convened by Nabinagar circle inspector Bhup Narayan in his office. (The Telegraph 4/12/13)

 

HINDUTVA

48. Ensure voter lists include all Hindus: RSS to cadre (26)

New Delhi: The RSS has directed its cadres to ensure that no eligible Hindu voters are left out as electoral rolls are revised before the Lok Sabha elections. Following the directive at a three-day meeting in Kochi in October, RSS cadres have been targeting voters in states where the revision of lists is on, as well as where it is going to commence in December. The cadres have also been told to ensure that every vote is polled from their area on voting day. Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat had earlier told cadres at his Vijayadashmi address (on October 14 this year), “First and foremost ensure that names figure in voter lists.” Prachar pramukh Manmohan Vaidya admitted that swayamsewaks have been told to ensure that “every eligible citizen” is accounted for. A senior pracharak said, “Hindus are not as concerned about their votes as other religious groups. We’ve decided this considering that.” As a follow-up to the Kochi conclave, the RSS held a three-day meeting in Ghaziabad earlier this month of around 300 pracharaks, including 30 who reportedly work in the BJP. Such a meeting was organised after five years. (Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

49. Country can’t have two Constitutions, Article 370 has to go: VHP (26)

Allahabad: In an apparent disapproval of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s attempt to soften the party’s stand on Article 370 of the Constitution, VHP on Monday asserted that “a country can not have two Constitutions and any provision which allows this has to be abolished.” “The Article 370 enables the state of Jammu and Kashmir to have its own separate Constitution. That is tantamount tothe notion of having a separate country within Bharat. This cannot be accepted at any cost and the Article must be abolished without dithering,” VHP international working president Pravin Togadia told PTI over phone from Gujarat. Togadia also sought to revive the issue of a uniform civil code, which Sangh Parivar hardliners have often accused the BJP of having ignored under pressure from its political allies. “There is a separate civil code in place for Muslims of the country. This too is not acceptable. Muslims living in India are as much the citizens of the country as others and hence it is imperative to have a civil code which is applicable to members of all communities,” he said. Modi at a rally in Jammu yesterday had said it should be debated whether the constitutional provision has been beneficial for the state and even hinted that it (BJP) might give up its demand for abrogation if such a view emerges. (Indian Express 2/12/13)

 

50. Modi must reposition BJP from a party of the Hindu right to a modern centre-right entity (26)

An alluring facet of Narendra Modi’s promise as BJP’s PM candidate is his call to revitalise governance, growth and development across India. In his ‘lalkar’ rally in trouble-torn J&K, it’s therefore praiseworthy that he focussed on these progressive tropes rather than predictable attacks on Pakistan, terrorism and separatism. He talked about bringing back films, tourism and trade to the state. He tried to connect with youth with talk of setting up high-quality educational institutions like IITs and IIMs. Most notably he called for a debate on whether article 370 has been beneficial for the state. Modi significantly softened BJP’s traditional stand, which calls for an unequivocal abrogation of special status for J&K. To call for a debate, instead, is a much more sensible and desirable position. Although Modi committed one of his habitual factual errors by claiming that Kashmiri women married to non-Kashmiri men will lose their domicile rights – that was the case in the past but has been rectified since – article 370 does imply substantial restraints on people from the rest of India getting jobs, education, property, etc in the state. Meanwhile there are no restraints on security forces empowered by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from pouring in. It can be argued that these restraints and excesses together create an extremely anomalous situation and another dispensation would work better for the state. Changing the dispensation on J&K would require building bridges to other parties as well as getting views from the many regions within the state, where Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh represent great diversity. Modi invoked Vajpayee and the latter’s invocation of Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat. Vajpayee put BJP’s divisive manifesto promises on the backburner when he was PM. In the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi must make it clear that he will do the same. Till BJP distances itself from backward-looking obsessions like building a grand temple in Ayodhya after having destroyed a long-standing mosque there, reasonable propositions like debating Article 370 and ushering in a uniform civil code will be wastefully compromised. Modi’s strongest card as PM candidate lies in his development credentials and proposing a vision of India as a modern economy and society. He must not let go this historical opportunity to reposition BJP from a party of Hindutva to a centre-right entity. (Times of India 3/12/13)

 

51. Communal tension in Tanda after VHP leader’s murder (26)

FAIZABAD: Communal tension gripped Tanda town of Ambedkarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday night after a local VHP leader was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Keeping in view the simmering tension over the murder, a heavy contingent of security forces including PAC jawans was deployed in the town. According to official sources, three unidentified gunmen came to the chemist shop of the VHP leader Ram Mohan Gupta in Tanda town and fired three bullets from point blank range. Locals immediately took Gupta to the district hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival. After the killing, activists of VHP and Hindu Yuva Vahini blocked traffic on Tanda-Akbarpur road. The activists raised anti-government and inflammatory slogans, locals said. In March this year, Ram Mohan Gupta’s uncle, Ram Babu Gupta — also a VHP leader — was killed in a similar fashion. After the killing, sporadic communal clashes were reported from some villages in Tanda, forcing the administration to keep the areas under curfew for over a week. (Times of India 5/12/13)