Unnao rape case: BJP MLA booked for minor’s rape, probe handed over to CBI

The UP home secretary said the state police would continue the probe until the CBI took up the case, adding that the investigation agency would take a call on Sengar’s arrest.

New Delhi: BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, was booked Thursday for rape, with police also invoking the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the FIR.

The case will now be handed over to the CBI.

Uttar Pradesh home secretary Arvind Kumar confirmed the FIR at a press conference with director general of police O.P. Singh. “We…are handing over the probe to the CBI for further action. The reference to CBI will be sent today,” Singh said.

However, Kumar clarified that the state police would continue the investigation until the CBI took up the case. He added that the CBI would take a decision on whether to arrest Sengar. “We are not defending anyone. Since the case will now be given to the CBI, they will decide on the arrest,” he said.

Police have recorded the statements of both the MLA as well as the victim. “The rape survivor said she did not name the MLA earlier because she was scared,” Kumar said.

The victim’s family will now be given a security cover.

Family expects quick arrests

The FIR has been registered on a complaint filed by the teenager’s mother, and names as accused Sengar and Shashi Singh, a girl identified as an acquaintance of the victim who allegedly took her to the MLA’s house on the day of the alleged rape.

“It was on the night of 4 June 2017 that one Shashi Singh took the daughter of the complainant to the house of MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar,” states the FIR.

“Sengar… took her to a room and raped her. When the girl resisted, he threatened to eliminate her entire family and dump their bodies,” it adds.

According to the FIR, Shashi was present outside the room, in the verandah, while the teenager was being raped.

“Following the incident, the victim and her family gave several complaints in this regard but a case was not registered,” it says.

The teen’s uncle said they were happy the government was “finally taking action in the case”. “We now expect quick arrests and a fair probe in the matter. Had the authorities taken action earlier, my brother would have been alive,” he said.

His brother, the alleged victim’s father, died this week, succumbing to injuries allegedly sustained in an assault by the MLA’s brother Atul and their associates on 3 April. The attack was reportedly a bid to scare the family to withdraw the complaint.

Two complaints were filed in the aftermath, one against the teenager’s family and the other against the suspected assailants. However, while the father was booked and arrested, Atul wasn’t.

Doctors suspended

Questions have been raised about the subsequent conduct of the staff at the Unnao district hospital, where the father was taken for treatment after the alleged assault. As ThePrint reported earlier this week, despite several visible injuries, the doctors there administered simple first aid and ruled the father fit for custody.

As a result, two doctors — chief medical officer and chief medical superintendent D.K. Dwivedi and emergency medical officer (EMO) Dr Prashant Upadhyay — have been suspended for laxity in giving proper medical care and treatment to the father, both before he was sent in judicial custody and later, when brought to the hospital on the jail’s referral. Disciplinary proceedings have also been initiated against three others, orthopaedic surgeon Manoj Kumar, surgeon G P Sachan, and EMO Gaurav Agrawal.

Meanwhile, a separate inquiry report has been submitted by deputy inspector general (prisons) Love Kumar on the role of the Unnao jail administration while the teen’s father was in custody.

Source : The Print


Uranium mining: Andhra activists denied permission, detained for protesting against rising pollution levels

In what is being described as violation of their democratic rights, activists of two well-known advocacy groups, the Human Rights Forum and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (HRF-NAPM), were denied access to the venue of a public meet in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh and detained when they tried to protest against pollution caused by “excessive mining” of uranium from the Tummalapalle mine.
Estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world, and catering to fuel requirements of nuclear power plants, according to HRF-NAPM, the mining has adversely affected the villagers of Mabbuchintilapalli, KK Kotala, Bhumayagaripalli and Kanumalavaripalem, residing barely 6 kms away from the mine and processing plant at Tummalapalle.
The protest was organized against the backdrop of local people of the area pleading about high pollution levels to the Government of India-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which operates under the Department of Atomic Energy, headed by the Prime Minister, complaining of plummeting underground water levels due to relentless pumping and drastic increase in sodium and uranium, leading to air, soil, ground and surface water contamination.
Reportedly, this pollution has been happening due to poor lining for the tailing pond, causing seepage. The cumulative impacts of the plant operations in the form of damage to agriculture and standing crop, water, health of local population (skin allergies, ulcers and kidney problems) and livestock (illnesses ad pre-mature deaths).
Quite a few villagers have had to ‘vacate’ their houses, due to these impacts. There is also the widespread fear in the region of the long-terms implications of radiation.
In an email alert, HRF-NAPM says, it has “learnt that water samples collected by local farmers from their tube wells and tested at the labs of Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), an autonomous scientific body under the Government of India, produced results indicating significant increase in uranium and sodium levels, much higher than the permissible and standard level.”
“Besides”, says the top advocacy groups, “In December 2016, researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Anantapur, analysed samples of water and soil and noted increased levels of barium, arsenic, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, lead, vanadium and yttrium, which could impact crop productivity and local environment.”
Pointing out that this study has been published in the “International Journal of Advanced Research”, HRF-NAPM says, “It is now well-established that heavy metals, if consumed in large quantities, may lead to severe health issues, including cancers, respiratory and kidney complications.”
HRF-NAPM says, “Instead of addressing all these concerns, the UCIL recently issued an advertisement in newspapers claiming that a ‘few individuals and NGOs are spreading wrong information against the organization’, in a way indicating that all is not well with its operations.”
Pointing out that despite all this the activists were denied permission and detained for hours when they tried to protest, HRF-NAPM underlines, “Clearly, such a public announcement, detention and denial of access to civil society activists, is more a measure to discredit and muzzle voices that are raising uncomfortable and important questions, in public interest.”
The team that was detained on their way to the UCIL (where the meeting was called) was taken to Vemula police station included septuagenarian Dr Babu Rao, eminent scientist and environmentalist (HRF-NAPM), Adv Jayasree Kakumani of Human Rights Forum and Rajesh Serupally, NAPM.
Following intense protest by the activists and villagers and an immediate letter by EAS Sarma, former secretary, Government of India to the district collector, Kadapa, and Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, that Dr Babu Rao was allowed to participate in meeting with nuclear scientists and officials from UCIL and BARC.
However, other activists were kept in detention and released only late into the night at around 9 pm. All of them were made to sign papers stating that they would not indulge in such ‘anti-social activities that disturb peace’, which they did, under protest signatures. Media entry to the meeting site was also restricted.
While UCIL obtained clearance from the Centre for uranium mining in 2006, mine operations began around 2012. Locals allege, land acquisition for the plant was done in a coercive manner and public hearings before the environmental clearance witnessed protests and police action against villagers.
HRF-NAPM says, UCIL’s operations in Kadapa, is yet another classic case of weak post-clearance monitoring by the authorities, especially the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
The advocacy groups have demanded that UCIL must ensure full disclosure of all necessary information in the public domain and in a manner discernable to the local population. It must immediately comply with all conditions stipulated at the time of project clearance including payment of full and fair compensation for all forms of losses and impacts incurred by the local population due to UCIL operations.
It adds, PCB and MoEF must undertake an immediate visit, comprehensive assessment and rigorous monitoring of the present status of environmental compliance (or lack of it) and conduct a post-clearance public audit and hearing. These monitoring authorities should also be ready to issue and impose orders of cessation of operations, if violations are found.


Toxic pesticide “killed” 50 in Vidarbha in 2017: Maharashtra govt report blames it on farmers, fails to ban it

A Maharashtra government-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) report has shockingly blamed farmers and farm labourers for a massive outbreak of contact poisoning by inhaling a toxic chemical cocktail during the intensified spraying of pesticides on cotton plants in order to fight the increasing menace of pests in the Vadarbha region.

While the SIT, in its report made public recently, also recommends a complete ban on monocrotophos, an organophosphate that deploys systemic and contact action on crops, which is banned in many countries due to its toxic effects on humans and birds, the Maharashtra government only complied with a limited-period ban.
Effected in November, prohibiting its sale and marketing for 60 days, the state government ban, says an investigation by the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), set up by well-known rural journalist P Sainath, was “not enforced”.
Pointing out that “the central government has the power to ban monocrotophos in the country under the Insecticides Act”, the investigation by Jaideep Hardikar, a PARI member, says that “states too can suspend the licenses of pesticide manufacturers and sellers, or stop issuing new licenses or renewing them.”
Thus, Punjab has done this – at the end of January 2018 it decided to not issue fresh licences for 20 pesticides, including monocrotophos, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation classifies as “acutely hazardous.” Kerala banned monocrotophos a while ago. And Sikkim, a fully organic state, “does not allow the use of any chemical pesticide.”
SIT was set up to probe into pesticide-related deaths and illnesses in Yavatmal and other parts of Vidarbha. Constituted on October 10, 2017, and headed by Piyush Singh, the Amravati divisional commissioner, other SIT members included Dr. Vijay Waghmare, in-charge director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, and Kiran Deshkar from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Faridabad.
The SIT report, in Marathi, submitted in December 2017, was made public only after the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked the state government to do so in January 2018, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by social activist and former Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker, Jammu Anand.
PARI investigation regrets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, has sought to underplay the tragedy caused by the pesticide, saying Maharashtra “saw 272 deaths due to pesticide poisoning in the last four years – implying that the 2017 phenomenon was not unusual”.
However, it adds, government hospital data had a different story to tell. “Going by Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) data and the accounts of the doctors who attended to the patients during the 2017 spraying period, Yavatmal had never seen accidental pesticide poisoning of that magnitude”, a PARI article says.

It adds, last year farmers into hospitals “complaining of vision loss, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, partial paralysis, panic and other symptoms”, with “at least 50 died, over 1,000 became sick, some for months.”
Giving the example of Bandu Sonule, a farm labourer, aged 40, who collapsed on his employer’s cotton field in Amdi village on September 19, 2017, after he sprayed he sprayed pesticides on cotton plants in scorching heat, PARI says, he was first admitted in a local hospital, but was later shifted to GMCH in Yavatmal in an ambulance, died on September 23.
Pointing out that most of the pesticide poisoning patients come to GMCH in Yavatmal for treatment, PARI says, those who come early and on whom the crucial cholinesterase test to detect organophosphate compounds in the blood is performed, are saved.
Things are different for others, who become sick during the July-November 2017 spraying period, and remain without test and antidote to this poisoning. For several weeks, says the report, doctors continue to treat farmers and labourers “symptomatically”, but the “crucial blood tests” are “not done at all.”

Kathua and Unnao: Handling of these two rapes makes a mockery of Nirbhaya protests

The past few years have been a barrage of incident after incident, defeat over defeat.

December 2012 was a pivotal month for a lot of Indians of my age. The violent rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey commonly referred to as the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case, caused the country to boil over. The protests weren’t just for show. The anger, the hurt, the anguish of people translated itself to the Justice Verma committee that took public suggestions into account, sifted through over 80,000 inputs, and eventually lead to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Did the amendment work? Not demonstrably, no. The Justice Verma committee report, filled with fantastic ideas on how to make cohesive policy changes to help improve the terrible condition of women’s safety in India was never implemented in its whole spirit.

I wonder where that spirit died down the line.

The date 8 April 2018 seems like a rather innocuous date, but we’re going to look back at it and realise that it was the day when whatever remained of India’s ability to be human died an undignified, sordid death. Two incidents, one in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, and the other in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh struck at the core of all that India supposedly stands for.

The bar association of Kathua tried to obstruct the police from filing the chargesheet in the horrific rape and murder case of an 8-year-old child from the nomadic Muslim tribe of Bakherwal. The investigation of this crime was already marred by political interference, with BJP ministers and MLAs, Chowdhary Lal Singh, Chander Prakash Ganga, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj attending a rally in support of the accused. The lawyers stalled the chargesheet filing for 6 hours, making a mockery of the judiciary, due process, and the idea of justice itself.

Just a few states south of Jammu & Kashmir, Unnao saw another Shakespearean tragedy unfold. A Dalit woman and her family who had accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his accomplice of raping her tried attempting suicide outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence. As the police prevented them from doing so, they took her father into custody. He’s dead now. Justice, with the S.K. Mahajan judgment, might be a dim dream for this family. In the middle of the furor this death caused, a smiling Sengar on his way to meet the CM said, ‘Arrey wo nimn star ke log hain, apradhiyon ki saazish hai.‘ – ‘These are people of a lower standing, and this is a conspiracy against me.’

Both these incidents should have upended the country. India has always had a shameful history of waging its ideological wars on the bodies of women, but these cases were especially rankling. A child from a vulnerable minority and a young Dalit woman were both let down by the system designed to protect them. If only the mainstream media paused its breathless coverage of the Indian National Congress members eating chhole bhature before their ‘symbolic fast’ against the atrocities faced by Sikh minorities in 1984. The ruling party’s representatives found time to lambast the opposition for ‘lack of sensitivity’, while somehow managing to keep completely mum on these rape cases.

As this mockery of what India promised its minorities unfolded, I wondered if this is apathy or simple exhaustion. The past few years have been a barrage of incident after incident, defeat over defeat. As the powerful have consolidated their positions, the vulnerable populations of India have never been as disenfranchised as they are now. Public discourse has mutated into one that distorts facts, realities, and harsh truths, rendering them ineffectual against a wave of toxic jingoism and hatred. I wonder if people are simply tired of the kind of anger and helplessness they feel and are now choosing the easier way of lulling themselves into complacency with the promises they know deep down are never going to be fulfilled.

This is a failure of not just the media and the state machineries because those have been on their juggernaut towards failure for years now. This is the diminishing of the ‘indomitable’ spirit of empathy and humankind that we simply assumed would continue to flourish, irrespective of us feeding it or not. Turns out, hope dies too, and it does so quietly. The people who once took to the streets to take back agency over their basic rights have been reduced to sceptics with very little faith left in them.

Poet Dylan Thomas once wrote, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ The night we’re entering is not a good night. It’s a dark, dreary place of abuse and suffering. Sadly, we’ve become passive travellers on this journey, and I don’t know if we’re capable of turning back.

Source: The Print


CJI will decide allocation of cases, constitution of benches: Supreme Court rejects PIL

A week earlier, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court for clarification on the administrative authority of the chief justice of India (CJI) as the ‘master of roster’.

Dismissing a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for allocation of cases and constitution of benches, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Chief Justice of India is “first among equals” and has the constitutional authority to decide the same.  A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud dismissed a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for rational and transparent allocation of cases and constitution of benches to hear them.

Referring to constitutional schemes, Justice Chandrachud said, “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches”.

A week earlier, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan had filed the PIL in the Supreme Court for clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the ‘master of roster’ and seeking laying down of principles and procedures to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to benches.

He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan, who also wrote a letter to the apex court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes CJI Dipak Misra.

The PIL said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in CJI alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion” and such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with senior judges.

This petition assumes significance as on January 12 four senior-most judges – J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – of the Supreme Court had called an unprecedented press conference and had said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things had taken place.

They had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before “junior judges” of the apex court.

Source by: Indian Express

International community, including UN, has begun to recognize: India is a dangerous place for journalists to work

By Nava Thakuria*

India continues to be a dangerous place for working journalists as the largest democracy in the globe has lost three journalists in mysterious accidents within the first three months of this year. Even UN secretary general Antonio Guterres came out with a strong condemnation against the journo-killings and let the world know about India’s degraded index on safety and security of professional scribes.
In fact, within few hours the central Indian provinces of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had lost three scribes on March 25-26, 2018. Sandeep Sharma (35), a dedicated reporter of Bhind locality of MP, was mowed down by a truck in the morning hours, following which the television reporter of News World died in the hospital. Sandeep reported against the local sand mafia, even received threats, and though he informed the police about it, this did not help him survive.
On the previous night, two scribes, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, were hit by a luxury vehicle in Bhojpur locality of Bihar and died on their way to the hospital. Navin, who used to work for “Dainik Bhaskar”, and Vijay, who was associated with a Hindi magazine, were riding on a two-wheeler when the accident took place.
The bygone year witnessed the killing of 12 journalists. The tiny northeastern state of Tripura contributed two casualties. India thus emerged as one of the hazardous places for media persons following Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia etc. India’s troubled neighbour Pakistan lost seven professional journalists and a media student to assailants in the year.
On the other hand, its other neighbours namely Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives, witnessed the murder of one scribe each in the last year. However, there were no casualties in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, which is under Chinese occupation.
Last year, India witnessed the killings of Hari Prakash (January 2), Brajesh Kumar Singh (January 3), Shyam Sharma (May 15), Kamlesh Jain (May 31), Surender Singh Rana (July 29), Gauri Lankesh (September 5), Shantanu Bhowmik (September 20), KJ Singh (September 23), Rajesh Mishra (October 21), Sudip Datta Bhaumik (November 21), Naveen Gupta (November 30) and Rajesh Sheoran (December 21).
On an average India loses five to six journalists annually to assailants, where the perpetrators normally enjoy impunity as public outburst against ths murders remains lukewarm. However, the horrific murder of Kannada editor-journalist Gauri Lankesh at her Bangaluru residence sparked massive protests across the country. As the news of her murder by unidentified gunmen spread, it immediately caught the attention of various national and international media rights organizations.
Everyone condemned the incident and demanded actions against the culprits. Even the Communist leader and Tripura’s immediate past chief minister Manik Sarkar was influenced by the protest-demonstrations. He personally joined in a rally in Agartala demanding justice over Gauri’s brutal killing, but when he young television reporter (Shantanu) from his State fall prey to the mob violence, he preferred to remain silent.
Tripura-based journalists, while strongly condemning the murder of Shantanu, had to demand a response from Sarkar. Later one more journalist (Sudip Datta) was murdered by a trooper belonging to the state police force, which put Sarkar, who was also in charge of the state home portfolio, in an embarrassing position.
Otherwise popular for his simplicity, Sarkar also received brickbats for the murder of three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) together in 2013. Amazingly, within this period, no other northeastern states reported journo-killing.
As usual, central states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana etc. remained the killing field of journalists for many years and most of the journo-casualties in the country were reported from the zone. Shockingly, most of the cases were not resolved legally and the victims’ families continue crying for justice against their irreparable losses.
India was ranked 136th among 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index (2017) of Reporters Sans Frontiers and the country was just ahead of its neighbours Pakistan (139), Sri Lanka (141) and Bangladesh (146). Norway topped the list of media freedom index, whereas one party-ruled North Korea (180) was placed in the bottom. India’s other neighbours, Bhutan (84), Nepal (100), Maldives (117), Afghanistan (120) and Myanmar (131), ensured better press freedom.
Pakistan lost seven journalists namely Muhammad Jan, Taimoor Khan, Abdul Razzaque, Bakshish Ellahi, Haroon Khan, Samar Abbas and Utpal Das along with a novice scribe (Mashal Khan) to assailants last year. Bangladesh witnessed the murder of rural reporter Abdul Hakim Shimul and Maldives drew the attention of international media with the sensational killing of Yameen Rasheed, a journalist and human rights defender. Relatively peaceful Myanmar reported one journo-murder (Wai Yan Heinn) in 2017.
According various international agencies over 95 media persons spread in 28 countries were killed in connection with their professional works last year. This year already there are 10 casualties as of March-end. The statistics were dangerous in previous years (120 fatalities in 2016, 125 in 2015, 135 in 2014, 129 in 2013, 141 in 2012, 107 in 2011, 110 in 2010, 122 in 2009, and 91 in 2008 etc.).
The situation got deteriorated in Mexico (14 incidents of journo-killings), Syria (12), Iraq (9), Afghanistan (8), Yemen (8), the Philippines (6), Somalia (5), Honduras (4), Honduras (4), Nigeria (3), Russia (3), Turkey (3), Yemen (3), Guatemala (2), Peru (2), Dominican Republic (2), Colombia (2) etc. The year also witnessed 262 journalists sent to jails in different countries with slight improvement than in 2016 when 259 media persons got imprisoned worldwide.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey topped the list of detainees in 2017 with 73 scribes behind bars followed by China (41), Egypt (20), Eritrea (15), Vietnam (10), Azerbaijan (10), Uganda (8), Saudi Arabia (7), Bangladesh (4), Myanmar (3), Cambodia (2), Pakistan (2), and India (2).
In 2016, India witnessed targeted killing of six working journalists, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. In 2014 only two scribes were murdered, as against 11 in 2013, including three in the northeast.
The vulnerable media community of the one-billion nation has for long sought a national action plan to safeguard media persons on line of military, police and doctors on duty. Their arguments are loud and clear: If the nation wants journalists to do risky jobs for greater interests, their security along and justice must be ensured.


Dalit village in U.P. plans conversion after ‘police atrocities’

Villagers of Shobapur allege false cases by police after Bharat Bandh protests

Dalits living in Shobhapur village of Meerut protested against “police atrocities”, alleging that the local police had filed false cases under serious charges of the IPC after their protests on Bharat bandh on April 2. The villagers on Monday threatened to convert to Islam on Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14 if the “police atrocities” continue.

Many of them have been booked on charges of attacking and torching a police post and attempt to murder of a policeman during the violence which ensued that day.

An atmosphere of fear pervaded the village after a Dalit leader Gopi Pariya was identified and gunned down by members of the Gujjar community on April 3. While the local police denied an exodus of Dalits, members of the community said many had left Shobhapur and were scared of returning in the wake of the police action.

‘Being framed’

At a meeting on Monday, Dalits from Shobhapur held declared they were “being illegally framed and harassed by the police for raising their voice against injustice”.

“No one from the administration is listening to us and our problems. False cases have been slapped against our youths who are scared of returning the village. It seems that we no longer are Hindus or even citizens with equal rights. We are being treated as outcasts so what is the point of being a Hindu any more,” said a villager, at the meeting, requesting anonymity as he feared police action.

“Over four dozen Dalits attended the meeting. We have decided that we will renounce Hinduism on the birth anniversary of Baba sahab Ambedkar, April 14. Many more Dalits will join us in coming days,” he added.

Village abandoned

“Most houses are locked. The lanes remain abandoned. The market in the Dalit area of the village remains shut and so are schools. People have left the village because they are scared and silent because they fear police action,” he claimed.

However, Superintendent of Police Man Singh Chauhan told The Hindu the police was not aware of such plans for mass conversion . He rejected the allegations of police “atrocities” and said there was no discrimination in the functioning of the SIT, constituted to probe the violence during the Bharat bandh. Two people were killed, many others injured and several public properties were torched in the violence which occurred during the Bharat bandh on April 2.

Source: The Hindu

Transgenders to be recognised as independent gender category in PAN form

CBDT issued a notification on Monday that provides a new tick box for the transgenders to apply for the PAN.

The government has amended Income Tax rules that will now allow transgenders to be recognised as an independent category of applicants for obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for their tax-related transactions.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which frames policy for the department, issued a notification on Monday that provides a new tick box for the transgenders to apply for the PAN.

The notification, issued under sections 139A and 295 of the Income Tax Act, specifies the new application process for obtaining a PAN number by an individual.

So far only male and female gender categories were available to be chosen on the PAN application form.

A senior official said the notification amending the tax rules was brought out in view of some representations received.

“Individuals from the transgender community were facing hassles in obtaining a PAN card and this problem was further magnified as Aadhaar had the third gender category but not PAN. “Hence, they were notable to link their PAN with their Aadhaar due to this anomaly,” the official said.

The amendment will now be reflected in Form 49A (PAN application form for Indian citizens) and 49AA (PAN application form for individuals not a citizen of India), the official added.

PAN is a 10-digit unique alphanumeric number alloted by the I-T department to individuals and entities.

The government has now made quoting of Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as obtaining a new PAN.

Section 139 AA (2) of the Income Tax Act says that every person having PAN as on July 1, 2017, and eligible to obtain Aadhaar, must intimate his Aadhaar number to the tax authorities.

As per updated data till March 5, over 16.65 crore PANs, out of the total about 33 crore, have been linked with Aadhaar. The deadline to link these two has been extended recently till June 30 by the CBDT.

Source: The Hindu

A Way out of Hell – Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do

There is a scene towards the end of Richard Attenborough’s 1982 movie, Gandhi, where the late Om Puri, playing the role of a Hindu man whose son had been killed by Muslims, bursts onto a terrace where Gandhi, weakened by weeks of fasting, is lying on a bed.

The man throws a chapati at Gandhi and shouts, “Eat! I’m going to hell but not with your death on my soul.”

“Only God decides who goes to hell,” the Mahatma responds quietly.

“I killed a child. I smashed his head against a wall!” the man screams.

Gandhi winces and asks, “Why?”

The man’s eyes well up with tears, “They killed my son, my boy. The Muslims killed my son.”

“I know a way out of hell,” Gandhi whispers. “Find a child. A child whose mother and father have been killed. A little boy about this high; raise him as your own. Only be sure that is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”

The man backs away slowly, with a crazed look on his face, stops, and then turns around and falls at the Mahatma’s feet, sobbing like a child.

I, like countless others, have watched this movie many times over the decades since it first released – sometimes on DVD and sometimes on YouTube, but most often on television when it is shown on October 2. I just realised, however, that I have probably watched it more in the four years since the BJP came to power than in the 32 years preceding it, probably because of the concerted and unabashed way in which powers that currently be, are trying to consign the Mahatma to oblivion, dismantle his legacy and reduce him to a pair of glasses and a logo for an abhiyaan that is attempting to make Bharat swachh.

It is now easier than ever to mock Mohandas and more fashionable than ever to make fun of his foibles. Unfortunately, it has also become easier than ever to question the relevance of the satya and ahimsa he taught in 21st century India. That is, till someone comes along and practices what Gandhi taught and also “shows a way out of hell” by their life and actions.

Consider Imam Rashidi of Asansol, whose son was killed in the communal violence that recently gripped the city. The murder of a 16-year old – and that too the son of a religious leader – is the kind of thing that can envelop a town in communal flames and then burn it to the ground. But the Imam did something completely unexpected. He appealed for peace. A father feeling the greatest pain a human can feel – the loss of a child – did not give in to the desire for revenge.

Instead, he said, “I want peace. My boy has been taken away. I don’t want any more families to lose their loved ones. I don’t want any more houses to burn… I will leave Asansol if there is any kind of retaliation… If you love me, you will not raise a finger. I have been an Imam for the last 30 years. It is important that I give the right message to the people – a message of peace. I need to get over my personal loss.”

The Imam’s response brought tears to my eyes, as it did, apparently to the eyes of those gathered at Eidgah Maidan in Asansol to hear the Imam speak. He showed us a way out of hell.

Earlier this year in New Delhi, Yashpal Saxena, whose only son Ankit Saxena was murdered by the family of the Muslim girl he loved, displayed the same fortitude of spirit when he refused to let the incident become communalised. Of this incident, activist and author Harsh Mander wrote, “By affirming that he bore Muslims no ill will, Yashpal Saxena, whose only son Ankit Saxena was murdered by the family of the Muslim girl he loved, demolished one of the most widely used rationalisations for communal hatred… (He) rejected what I call the Doctrine of Vicarious Guilt… the idea that an entire community must collectively carry the guilt for crimes – real or imagined, committed now or in history – which any of its members may have perpetrated.”

Yashpal Saxena too, through his grief and pain, has shown us a way out of hell.

And who can ever forget that most brutal of murders fifteen years ago when Graham Staines, a missionary in the jungles of Orissa was burned alive along with his two sons by members of the Bajrang Dal. His bereaved widow, Gladys Staines, in what must have been the most difficult decision of her life, managed to look past her own grief and responded with, “I have forgiven the killers and have no bitterness because forgiveness brings healing and our land needs healing from hatred and violence.”

Her words, published and broadcast far and wide in newspapers and on TV channels, Indian and otherwise, gave us all pause. Her act won genuine respect and deep admiration from many.

As Christians around the world celebrate Easter, homilies will be given on peace. Christ’s forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who carried out his crucifixion, will be remembered: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” What is perhaps not that well remembered is that about 60 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Apostle John (one of Christ’s disciples who was originally a fisherman and who died of old age and not martyrdom like his contemporaries) said:

If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John Chapter 4, verse 20)

A simple, yet profound check and balance for those who are driven by religious fervor and ‘love for God’, so-called.

It is heartening to see while there are those in India like Dara Singh, Babu Bajrangi and Shambulal Regar (not to mention the state machinery which not-so-tacitly and sometimes even tacitly encourages the spilling of blood), there are also those like Gladys Staines, Yashpal Saxena and Imam Rashidi who have transcended their anger and chosen to be peacemakers. For the latter, we are forever grateful, for they show ordinary folks like the rest of us that in the face of the most blatant provocation to stoke hate and retaliate, we always have a choice.

SOURCE: thewire.in

After Long Struggle, Dalit Man Will Be Able to Take His Baraat Through UP Village

“I am very happy this has happened. This is a victory of all of us fighting for equality,” he has said.

New Delhi: A Dalit man in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj who has been fighting for his right to take out a baraat or procession on his wedding day has finally been successful.

For almost a month now, Sanjay Jatav has been struggling to convince the local administration and ‘upper’ caste population that he cannot be denied permission to carry out the procession – which is a part of most north Indian Hindu weddings  – simply because him and his fiancé (Sheetal) are Dalits. While the local administration had earlier denied permission, it changed its mind on Sunday, NDTV reported. The Kasganj administration reportedly convinced Thakurs in the area to allow the baraat to cross their homes. The route that the procession will take has also been negotiated, the channel reported.

“I am very happy this has happened. This is a victory of all of us fighting for equality,” Jatav, a law student, told NDTV.

According to the couple, Thakurs in Sheetal’s village Nizampur had said they would not allow the baraat to cross their homes, saying that a Dalit baraat had never gone through the area. “The Thakurs came here and told us the baraat will not pass through the village.They are telling us it if we go ahead with this, then it will not be good. They say this is our government and no one will listen to you,” Sheetal had alleged.

Sanjay Jatav. Credit: NDTV screengrab

Jatav has spent the last few weeks trying to convince the authorities to intervene and ensure that the baraat can take the route in question. He wrote to UP chief minister Adityanath on his online portal, repeatedly visited police stations and even filed a petition in the Allahabad high court. The court had then told him that only the police could help him. He had then reportedly considered taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

The district administration then seemed to agree with the Thakurs’ explanation on why they would not allow the procession to go past. “In Hindus, marriage is a ritual and not a contract, and we can’t make it a procession – it’s as straight as this,” R.P. Singh, Kasganj’s district magistrate had said. “The local police officer has reported that a procession of this community has never been taken out. So have local intelligence inputs. A new tradition cannot be started.”

Because Section 144 has been imposed in Kasganj, the administration reportedly told the groom’s family to be careful not to say anything that may go against other communities during the event, and asked them to ensure that people whose presence may disturb the peace in the area are not party of the baraat.

Source: thewire.in

Is Justice Chelameswar’s outspoken approach helping or harming the judiciary?

At a recent event, Justice Jasti Chelameswar said that serving judges can talk to the media about issues relevant to the judiciary without violating guideline number 9 of the Judicial Code of Ethics.

He and three other judges had held a press conference in January to air their concerns about the need for transparency, accountability and independence of the Indian judiciary.

ThePrint asks: Is Justice Chelameswar’s outspoken approach helping or harming the judiciary?

Justice Chelameswar’s remarks may be forthright, but they are a symptom of a deeper institutional problem

Alok Prasanna Kumar
Senior Resident Fellow, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

The remarks of Justice Chelameswar, outspoken as he may seem to be, are also a symptom of a deeper institutional problem. One must keep it in mind that in the past, a sitting judge speaking out in public about problems within the judiciary has been a rare phenomenon and for good reason — the institution must not be seen to be a house divided against itself.

However, that doesn’t mean a false front of unity must be projected at all costs. Any robust judiciary has internal mechanisms where dissent can be aired and addressed openly. A successful chief justice (whether of the Supreme Court or at the high court level) is one who manages opposing views and opinions in a frank and open manner that inspires confidence among his brethren and sistren.

That we are seeing judges (not just Justice Chelameswar alone) come out in public and express unhappiness with the way the judiciary is being run suggests that either the internal mechanism of dealing with disagreements is not serving its purpose or that the manner in which it is being conducted does not inspire confidence among the judges. We have yet to see or hear of any concrete steps being taken by CJI Dipak Misra to address the institutional concerns raised by the judges in their press conference.

It’s foolhardy to believe that silence will, in any way, serve the judiciary or address the concerns being raised. Every day of inaction on this front from the CJI only erodes the credibility of the institution even further.

Justice Chelameswar’s remarks have resulted in an open spat between the judiciary and executive 

Mohan Parasaran
Senior advocate, Supreme Court and former Solicitor General of India

At the outset, let us make one thing very clear– judges are not supposed to talk to the press as per the memorandum of procedure governing their conduct while holding office. But in this case, they decided to go to the media. Whether what they did was right or wrong, I’m not going to comment upon and it’s a larger issue.

Now Justice Chelameswar has spoken out for the second time. I’m not questioning his motives. He might be acting in the larger interest of the institution. He is one of the outstanding judges.

However, some of his observations have resulted in the executive taking up cudgels with the judiciary and issuing a rejoinder. They have resulted in an open spat between the judiciary and the executive, possibly affecting the image of the entire institution.

Therefore, in my personal view, this was uncalled for. When you are occupying one of the highest judicial offices in the country, especially considering the advancement in technology, one should avoid going to the press. You never know how your views could be twisted.

Justice Chelameswar is still occupying the office, he is a sitting judge. What he has done is not a good precedent to set. Hypothetically speaking, reform can be ushered in from the inside as well. He has been part of the institution for so long now. Why has he spoken so late?

I’m concerned about the embarrassment that may be caused to both him and the judiciary. People inimically disposed towards him will try to take advantage of this. In the long run, such an approach doesn’t augur well.

Justice Chelameswar’s recent actions have only harmed the judiciary as an institution

Raghav Pandey
Senior Fellow, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay

The actions of Justice Chelameswar have of late only harmed the judiciary as an institution. The judiciary, unlike the other wings of the government, is an even more trust-based institution where the traditions and practices play as major role as a written law.

Justice Chelameswar has decided to act explicitly against the written letter of law by interacting with the media on such a regular basis and more so has violated the long held traditions of the court. The Supreme Court in 1997 had itself adopted an ethical code of conduct, ‘The Restatement of Values of Judicial Life’, which prohibits a judge from speaking to the press.

One can still attribute a benevolent intention to a single press conference. However, the problem is that it wasn’t backed by any action. The allegations against the CJI were very grave. I was expecting that these four judges would resign in protest, or at least Justice Chelameswar would, who didn’t have much time on the bench, before his retirement, if what they regarded as right wasn’t not happening in the court. That didn’t happen. Instead Justice Chelameswar is now regularly interacting with the media and has even met a politician, D. Raja from the CPI. These actions certainly don’t merit his office.

Coming to the issue he is addressing, if he feels that his biggest fear will come true if Justice Gogoi isn’t made CJI, then it begs the question: what is he doing about it? Why is he still serving in the court? Will he advise Justice Gogoi to resign too, in the event of him not being made the CJI?

The judiciary showed its mettle twice, when senior judges were superseded. Each time the seniors resigned from the court. I fail to understand why it isn’t the case this time.

The attempted politicisation of the judiciary is certainly detrimental to the long-term interests of the judiciary.

Instead of washing dirty laundry in public, it would have been better to follow institutional methods

Virag Gupta
Advocate, Supreme Court

Justice Chelameswar’s hard talk in answer to veteran journalist and ‘devil’s advocate’ Karan Thapar could well harm the judiciary. The press conference he held with three other judges of the Supreme Court was a never-seen-before event in the Indian judiciary. However, he may be given credit for publishing minutes of collegium meetings and the interviews of candidates for judgeship. His declaration of not taking a post-retirement job is a fine example for other judges. Chelameswar’s dissenting judgment in the NJAC case is a benchmark as it highlights concerns over the opacity in the system.

It is interesting that Justice Chelameswar was senior to Justice Dipak Misra as a high court judge, but became his junior because Justice Misra was made the chief justice of a high court earlier. In this scenario, it is also worth wondering whether we would have half the action if Chelameswar was the present Chief Justice of India. His comments on the prospects of Justice Gogoi becoming the next Chief Justice of India were also not warranted.

The problems in the collegium system are institutional, and the matter should not be marred by personal allegations. One does not know if, as high court chief justice, Chelameswar shared his work as ‘master of roster’ with other senior judges of the court. His intervention regarding the oppressive inquiry against a district judge did wonders. So why should he not take similar steps for other issues plaguing the judiciary? Instead of washing dirty laundry in public, it would have been better to follow institutional methods of asking for a full-court reference or meeting the President of India.

Keeping quiet doesn’t always help solve problems, you have to stick your neck out, like Justice Chelameswar has done

N.S. Boparai
Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court

What Justice Chelameswar has done is very brave.

We need to consider what circumstances prompted him to speak out his mind. He probably reached a threshold where he thought it was better to speak out, than not. Every system has to keep evolving consistently. The changes have to come from within. When all internal processes fail, only then you reach out for external intervention, like Justice Chelameswar has done.

Moreover, he is talking about accountability, transparency and independence of the judiciary. These are things that can help improve the judicial process. He is trying to change the system for the better.

It’s not like he is talking about judicial cases, he is addressing the flaws in the system to bring about improvement. There is nothing incorrect about that.

He has been a part of the system for a very long time. He is nearing retirement, and probably thought it was necessary for him to spell out the advances that the system requires. Justice Chelamsewar is not in this for personal gain. He is attempting to make a positive change that only benefits our judiciary and ultimately, our democracy.

Keeping quiet doesn’t always help solve problems. You have to stick your neck out if you think something is wrong. Justice Chelameswar going to the press is certainly a precedent that others who feel that there something ailing the system are at liberty to follow.

It’s not dangerous for Justice Chelameswar to speak, but the precedent he’s setting is

Apurva Vishwanath
Special Correspondent

Of course, judges have a right like any other citizen to express their views. But the answer to whether they should be doing it, and what issues they should be talking about, is a more complicated one. The question has been asked several times before, in India and in other jurisdictions. In 1955, the BBC had approached Lord Chancellor Kilmuir and a number of senior judges in the UK for interviews on former judges who had left behind a legacy. Kilmuir’s refusal came to be famously known as the Kilmuir rules. He said, “Every utterance which [a judge] makes in public, except in the course of the actual performance of his judicial duties, must necessarily bring him within the scope of criticism.”

In India, sitting judges have spoken when invited to deliver memorial lectures or to be on panels on legal issues. What’s unusual is them talking about matters of the court. This is the generally accepted position — keeping the judiciary insulated from the controversies of the world is necessary to protect the integrity of the institution.

That highly protected rule is set to be broken for the third time in as many months by Justice Chelameswar. Last week, he also defended his right to speak out in public on any issue that does not include his judgments. In the 90-minute conversation, Chelameswar strayed from his own stance. First, when he said he didn’t understand why the CJI felt it necessary to overrule his order in the medical college case. Then he spilled the beans on the disagreement in the collegium.

The dangerous thing is not that Chelameswar spoke, but the fact that this sets a precedent.

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint.

Impeaching chief justice isn’t the solution to crisis in judiciary: Justice Chelameswar

The judge who has questioned the decisions of CJI Dipak Misra says there must be institutional mechanisms to deal with complaints against judges.

New Delhi: Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court, has said that impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is not the solution to resolve the crisis in the judiciary.

The comments by Chelameswar, who, along with three other most senior judges has questioned the decisions of the chief justice of India, comes in the aftermath of moves by some opposition parties to consider impeachment of Misra over allegations of wrongdoing.

“We must have institutional mechanisms to deal with complaints against judges. Impeachment has just become a buzzword this season,” he said.

Speaking on the “Role of judiciary in a Democracy”, Chelameswar said that his main concern about democracy is that there are “doubts about the integrity of the judiciary”.

The judge, who is due to retire at the end of June, was in conversation with journalist Karan Thapar at an event organised by the Harvard Club of India in the national capital Saturday. This is his second public engagement after the historic press conference on 12 January with three senior brother judges.

Chelameswar mostly spoke on the judicial crisis and explained what prompted the four senior judges to go public with their grievances against CJI Misra.

In an embarrassment to the CJI, he indicated that the government’s position on the memorandum of procedure (MoP) may have not been shared by Misra with other members of the collegium.

When asked about the government’s July 2017 suggestion to include a screening committee to recommend names for appointments, the apex court judge said he was “not aware of any such communication”.

When he was asked to explain how “sensitive cases were assigned to preferred benches”, he said that the disproportionate assets case against the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa was one of them.

“If you see, the judgment was reserved a year ago and was delivered only after she died. Is this not a case where the allocation failed?” he said.

The judge, however, refused to explicitly answer many questions, including why the collegium had not yet reiterated its decision on appointing Justice K.M. Joseph of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Supreme Court.

When asked whether he refused to answer these questions as it would embarrass the CJI, the judge said it is “embarrassment for me as well, not just him”.

Thapar said he would interpret the judge’s “articulate silence” as confirming many doubts raised on the CJI’s conduct.

To a question why Chelameswar decided to speak out publicly, he said judges are ethically prohibited from speaking in public only about their judgments and not otherwise.

“I have been saying this on record and I will say it again when I have some 28 working days left. I will not take up any job after retirement under any government. What could possibly be my motive,” he said.

Chelameswar is due to retire on 22 June but effectively his last working day will be 18 May since the court will break for summer vacation.

Source : theprint

Farewell, Rammohan: The tough top cop who supported tribal rights in insurgency-hit areas

E.N. Rammohan | Rajya Sabha TV/Youtube

E.N. Rammohan was popular for his handlebar moustache, discipline, leadership skills, and a no-nonsense attitude that took him far in the police establishment.

New Delhi: E.N. Rammohan, a celebrated IPS officer and former director general of the Border Security Force, passed away early Sunday morning at the capital’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences at the age of 77.

Rammohan, a 1965 batch IPS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was admitted to AIIMS after an accident at home that fractured his ribs. He was also suffering from prostate cancer.

Rammohan belonged to Kerala and finished his school education from the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School in what is now Chennai.


Known for his handlebar mustache, discipline and leadership skills, Rammohan was appointed head of a fact-finding probe panel by the home ministry to look into the lapses that took place during the 2010 Naxal ambush in Chhattisgarh, in which 76 security were killed.

Rammohan earlier served as the Superintendent of Police (SP) in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, and apart from serving in the Assam Police, had stints in various central armed police forces, including the Central Reserve Police Force, the National Security Guard and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, earning experience of fighting insurgency in Assam as well as Nagaland.

He headed the BSF between December 1997 and November 2000.

Supporter of tribal land rights

Rammohan was a strong proponent of the 5th Schedule for tribal rights, and believed that the denial of land rights was what was fueling insurgency.

“He always maintained that empowerment of tribals was a necessary step, or else attacks on the forces would continue. He used to say that the tribals were helpless; they had been evicted from hundreds of acres of land and their empowerment was a necessary step,” said Chandrashekhar Bhattacharyya of Delhi Defence Review, a close friend of Rammohan.

“He was always in his army combat boots, a crew cut, and maintained his famous handlebar moustache well. Rammohan was a man of simple taste, deep conviction and moral courage,” Bhattacharyya said. “He never interacted with many people. During his postings, influential persons called and made requests for many things, but he never entertained any of those and always turned them down.”

During his tenure as the SP of East Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, he was widely appreciated by the locals for his goodwill.

A stoic, no-nonsense cop

Rammohan wanted to join the armed forces but his parents refused, as he was their only son. He then sat for the civil services examination and became an IPS officer.

Later in life, he encouraged his son to join the forces, and ultimately lost him in a Cheetah helicopter crash during an operation in August 2008. “He lost his son to the nation. During that time as well, he remained stoic and took it bravely,” Bhattacharyya said.

“He was a complete no-nonsense cop who never minced his words. He often referred to politicians as ‘monkeys’.”

Source: theprint.in

More Indians are being diagnosed with lung cancer, and it’s not because they’re smoking

Pollution masks

Studies suggest that air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is linked to rising lung cancer cases among non-smokers, particularly the young & women.

New Delhi: Lung cancer cases are on the rise across India, and shockingly, it is the type least linked with smoking whose numbers are increasing faster.

This suggests a link with air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, experts say.

“The number of non-smokers with lung cancer is going up by 30 to 40 per cent. There could be other factors like obesity or drinking, but what is glaring is air pollution,” says Dr Shyam Aggarwal, chairperson of the Department of Medical Oncology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.

Data and studies from the major cancer treatment centres across the country as well as case specific evidence from specialists suggest a clear link, although there is no nationwide data yet to confirm this increased incidence.

In Delhi, for instance, the number of lung cancer cases reported at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has more than doubled from 940 in 2013-14 to 2,082 in 2015-16, coinciding with a time of increased air pollution in the city.

Graphic showing rise in non-smokers who are lung cancer patients

Dr Randeep Guleria, one of India’s top pulmonologists and director of AIIMS, says there is plenty of data indicating a link between lung cancer and indoor pollution, especially coal and biomass burning, and that similar links could be drawn with the possible impact of outdoor air pollution, although more robust data would help establish the link more clearly.

Changing face of lung cancer

Specialists say increasing numbers of non-smokers, often young, are being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The nature of lung cancer cases being reported is changing too. For instance, more cases of adenocarcinoma, linked with a mutation in genes caused by a range of environmental and other factors, are being reported.

Historically, the types of lung cancer found among smokers differ from those among non-smokers. ‘Small cell lung cancers’ almost always occur in smokers, while ‘non-small cell lung cancers’ occur among smokers and non-smokers alike, and adenocarcinoma is among the latter type.

More adenocarcinoma cases are being reported elsewhere in the world too, but not at the same speed as in India. This has alerted researchers, who are studying this new trend in cancer hospitals across India.

One critical question they are asking is: is the polluted air Indians breathe in many parts of the country leading to increased lung cancer cases, especially among the young and non-smokers?

Is pollution to blame?

The association between air pollution and lung cancer has been well established for decades.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization, classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans in 2013, citing an increased risk of lung cancer from greater exposure to particulate matter and air pollution.

Red tape and lethargy ensure Delhi remains a gas chamber
Women try to protect themselves from heavy smog and air pollution in New Delhi | Source: PTI

Since fewer people smoke nowadays thanks to the worldwide anti-smoking sentiment, the increase in the number of lung cancer cases has to have another reason, says Dr M.S. Kanwar, senior consultant for respiratory medicine and pulmonology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi. He adds that air pollution is also implicated in oral and throat cancers.

Confirming a rise in reported cases of lung cancer among non-smokers, Aggarwal explains: “Adenocarcinoma is related to certain mutation in genes linked to air quality and pollutants. The incidences of adenocarcinoma are clearly on the rise. Younger patients between 30-40 years, more females and non-smokers are coming to us with advanced cancers.”

Among non-smokers with lung cancer, external environmental factors cannot be ruled out, says Dr Sameer Kaul, surgical oncologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi. “It is hydrocarbons and carcinogens which have played havoc in human lungs,” he says, adding that genetics and external triggers “cooperate” to cause disease.

Dr S.K. Chhabra, head of the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Delhi’s Primus Super Speciality Hospital, has been tracking the changing nature of lung cancer since 1998. “We found those living in more polluted areas had a 5 per cent decrease in lung capacity. They were non-smokers, and there was no other factor that could be established other than pollution,” he said.

Outdoor and indoor air pollution contribute equally to lung cancers as both have the same carcinogen content, says Dr Rajinder Prasad, founder and vice-president of the South Asia Association of Allergy, Asthma and Applied Immunology and the Indian Society for Study of Lung Cancer.

Not just a Delhi phenomenon 

Although most experts ThePrint spoke to are based in Delhi, India’s most polluted metropolis, the story extends far beyond.

A 2012 study by Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital found that 52.1 per cent of lung cancer patients had no history of smoking. The study contrasted this with a Singapore study that put the number of non-smoking lung cancer patients at 32.5 per cent, and another in the US that found the number to be about 10 per cent.

The Tata Memorial study found that 88 per cent of female lung cancer patients were non-smokers, compared with 41.8 per cent of males. It concluded that in the case of non-smokers, environmental and genetic factors were implicated.


An infographic showing sources of pollution causing lung cancer
Graphic by Siddhant Gupta

In January 2017, researchers at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, published a demographic profile of lung cancer in eastern India, which found that 48 per cent of patients had not been exposed to active or passive smoking; 89 per cent of women patients had never smoked, while the figure for men was 28 per cent.

A ‘clinico-pathological profile of lung cancer among smokers versus non-smokers’ published in January 2017 by the United CIIGMA Hospital in Aurangabad noted that between 10 to 25 per cent of lung cancer patients had never smoked, and that their number was rising.

And this is not an exclusively urban phenomenon.

Tata Memorial’s 2012 study found that among patients from rural India, indoor air pollutants such as cooking oil fumes and coal-stove smoke could be contributing factors. These are, in fact, suspected to be key factors behind more non-smoking women being diagnosed.

The study also found that 42.55 per cent of lung cancer cases in rural India were among non-smokers, and that the maximum number of patients were diagnosed at stage 4, the last.

Limited understanding

From available research, very little is understood about lung cancer among non-smokers in India. “We need more robust data to identify how strong is the risk and link,” Guleria of AIIMS says.

A 2016 study by Tata Memorial on ‘Lung cancer in the Indian subcontinent’ had observed that the “alarming rise” in non-smoking lung cancer was yet to be completely understood. It had blamed the “limited understanding of the impact of factors such as the presence of indoor air pollution, the use of domestic or biomass fuel exposure, the presence or lack of micronutrients in our diet, occupational exposure, and the possible contribution of infectious pathogens.”

The Aurangabad study had highlighted another challenge – most patients had reported at the advanced stages 3 or 4, when treatment is difficult and death nearly certain.

A cancer patient receives radiation treatment at a government cancer hospital
A cancer patient receives radiation treatment at a government cancer hospital

In addition to wider and more in-depth research, experts are unanimous that India needs greater awareness to encourage patients to visit a doctor when early symptoms show up — persistent cough, coughing with blood in sputum, chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing, hoarseness, weight/appetite loss and shortness of breath, among others.

Early detection is all the more crucial as lung cancer at stage 1A has a five-year survival rate of 49 per cent as against 5 per cent at stage 3B, according to the American Cancer Society.

Source: theprint.in

Cracks appear in Modi-Shah’s Hindu consensus as caste begins to overpower religion again

BJP overpowered caste divisions to sweep 2014. But the Dalits are angry and the divides are back in play, spelling trouble for 2019.

Muslims are just about 15 per cent of the Indian electorate. They don’t vote for the BJP. Even in the post-1989 politics when Congress lost its heartland vote-banks, Muslims joined Yadavs, the most dominant among the Other Backward Classes (OBC), and occasionally Mayawati’s Dalits to keep the BJP out. Frustrated by the arithmetic, BJP leaders would often say that Muslims have a veto on who will rule India.

Narendra Modi changed that in 2014. He junked all symbolisms of political correctness and hypocrisies. If Muslims insist on not voting for us, let them be, there are enough votes elsewhere, was the argument. To his credit, he was quite clearheaded: no special dispensation for minorities, just that all-encompassing “sabka saath, sabka vikas.”

Muslims didn’t vote for him. He swept the polls nevertheless. He won 282 seats without one Muslim MP. This was repeated in the state elections. The BJP didn’t field one Muslim in Uttar Pradesh, which has a 19 per cent Muslim population, and won 77 per cent of the seats. The voodoo of the Muslim “veto” on who rules India was fully broken. He and the BJP responded by not accommodating Muslim names sideways, not bothering to create a new, friendly Muslim political elite. You don’t vote for us, don’t expect us to share power with you.

It happened because his appeal cut across Hindu social groups which had been wary of the BJP so far, or were loyal to their own caste leaders. A large-scale non-Yadav OBC shift to BJP is a 2014 reality. Further, if Mayawati drew a blank out of 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and won just 19, less than 5 per cent in the assembly elections in 2017, it is logical to conclude that a sizeable enough number of Dalit voters shifted to the BJP too. BJP’s 282 MPs in the Lok Sabha included 40 Dalits who won from reserved seats—another six belonged to allies LJP and TDP. This is the reason the BJP could win so handsomely despite being out of the race for 15 per cent of the vote.

The last few months have brought new questions on this as Dalit anger and assertion are rising across the country. It started much earlier, with Rohith Vemula and Una. But with the rise of young and articulate Dalit leaders, mostly out of student and grassroots politics, and Bhima-Koregaon onwards to the latest protests over the Supreme Court’s order on the atrocities against scheduled castes and tribes act, the post-2014, never-mind-the-Muslims, we will contest in a pool of 85 per cent voters approach is looking tricky. Because, continued Dalit anger threatens to reduce it to a perilous 70 per cent. This is the message from three of the party’s Dalit MPs in Uttar Pradesh who’ve complained publicly.

In an article in Deccan Chronicle (31 Aug 2016), Sanjay Kumar, leading psephologist at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), confirmed that the BJP had got more Dalit votes in 2014 than ever before. “Over the last several Lok Sabha elections,” he wrote, “roughly 12-14 per cent Dalits voted for BJP.” But in 2014, this number doubled to 24 per cent, putting the BJP’s Dalit vote share ahead of the Congress (19 per cent) and the BSP (14 per cent).

The recent Dalit impatience threatens these gains. It is complicated further by the alliance between the SP and the BSP. How potent this can be was evident in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls. An important fact also is that the BSP, not contesting, was able to transfer its vote.

The three UP MPs who complained are reflecting this new insecurity. New images are also emerging to add to the earlier ones, from Vemula to Bhima-Koregaon, notably that of an upper-caste man firing at a crowd of Dalit protestors in Gwalior. The fact is the government hardly had a role to play in the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act. Nor, on a careful reading of the order, does it seem like a dilution of a good law. The sharp, nationwide Dalit reaction and protests show a pent up anger brimming over.

This, the prime minister and Amit Shah cannot overlook, or presume that, come 2019, ‘Modi magic’ will subsume everything. They cannot afford to lose any of the 24 per cent Dalit vote of 2014. Their overall party tally was 31 per cent and without a fourth of Dalits again voting for them, it will be impossible to maintain that percentage. The party you’d presume has already maxed out with the upper castes. That is the reason the prime minister spoke out so strongly on reservations and the well-publicised Amit Shah meal at a Dalit home in Odisha.

The latest phase of Dalit assertion is essentially different from the past. With many more going to school and college, and easy availability of internet, it is a much more aware generation. Its aspirations are not limited to physical protection, food, shelter and preservation of traditional avocations. The young Dalit now wants to break out of that trap. Social media and WhatsApp are also enabling them to network across states. A young leader and first-time MLA such as Jignesh Mevani could attract a sizeable crowd almost anywhere in north, central and western India. This Dalit rise is also more ideological than in the past. The tone and tenor is distinctly Left, and therefore compulsively anti-BJP.

Until 1989, the BJP believed that it wasn’t able to win because of caste divisions in Hindu society. L.K. Advani first acknowledged it and embarked on a project (through Ayodhya) to use religion to re-stitch what caste had divided. It worked to a great extent. But, it ran its course and caste loyalties did not remain subdued for long. As a result, in the entire heartland, BJP got power only patchily. In Uttar Pradesh, where it once had a majority, Mayawati and Mulayam/Akhilesh took turns to be chief minister eight times, including Mayawati and Akhilesh getting two full terms.

The combination Modi-Shah employed in 2014 was more potent than Advani’s a quarter century earlier. They brought in unapologetic Hindutva nationalism, combined with Modi’s magnetism and the “achhe din” promise that looked convincing because of his Gujarat record. This again overpowered all caste-based parties as the BJP made a spectacular sweep of the heartland. This would not have been possible without sizeable votes coming in from unlikely sections of Hindu society — OBCs and Dalits.

The latter is under threat now. As the caste see-saw shifts yet again, disaffections of anti-incumbency, lack of jobs, rise of a powerful upper-caste chief minister in Uttar Pradesh (the first upper caste in 15 years) have all combined to bring caste back in the equation. The BJP has been quick to realise this, Modi and Shah are speaking. But they have three problems: first, that they do not have any prominent and convincing Dalit voices. Second, while in the past BJP had produced a star-cast of OBC leaders including Modi and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the post-2014 phase has seen the rise of upper castes, notably in large states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. And third, they may have left it too late, with their party and intelligence machinery failing to pick up the rising Dalit frustration early enough.

The party, however, has joined the issue now. How much damage control it can do will have a crucial bearing on the numbers in 2019.

Source :theprint.in

UP encounters: One ‘mistaken identity’, another killed after ‘raising hands in surrender’

Cities in Delhi’s neighbourhood have seen 3 encounters in the last 5 months, and locals say each of the slain gangsters was frequently visited by the police.

Noida/Meerut/Baghpat: Not far beyond the glitz of national capital New Delhi lie the badlands of western Uttar Pradesh, where the Yogi Adityanath government’s encounter drive is in full swing like in several other parts of the state.

Three encounters reported from three cities — Noida, Meerut, and Baghpat — stand out for their inconsistencies and raise doubts about their genuineness.

In all three cases, the ‘gangsters’ who were shot dead were allegedly picked up from a location different to the one mentioned in the police case files. One of them, in fact, gave a dying declaration that he was shot despite putting his hands up to surrender.

Despite grievous injuries to the gangsters’ vertebrae and scalp and various fractures, the magistrate inquiries into these cases did not find any of them worth a probe.

The locals in these areas also said that police frequented the houses of these alleged gangsters, asking for money to prevent the issuance of a warrant or the announcement of a reward against them. They also alleged that the police tried to force these men to turn informers and approvers.

Were these men killed as a result of the sweeping powers given to the cops by the government? That’s a question relatives and neighbours ask.


Missing for over three days before encounter, brother alleges mistaken identity

Name: Sumit Gurjar (22)

Time and place of death: 9 pm, ATS Crossing, Noida

Date: 3 October 2017

Cases against him: 8 — Robbery, extortion, Arms Act violations, Gunda Act. Reward of Rs 50,000 on his head.

Injuries: One bullet wound in the left side of the chest measuring 1.5 x 1 cm, another bullet outside the chest cage, a third bullet in the abdomen; abrasion on the right shoulder, damaged kidneys, two severely damaged vertebrae, injuries on the arm and neck.

Sumit, a resident of Chirchita village near Baghpat, had been working as a carrot farmer for two months. He had apparently stepped out to buy some fertilisers at around 10 am on 30 September, and went missing.

When Sumit did not return home that night and his phone was switched off, his father, Karam Singh, got worried and went to the market to look for him. A tea stall owner told him that Sumit was abducted at gun point by a few men who arrived in a Toyota Innova.

The father of Sumit Gurjar
Karam Singh, Sumit Gurjar’s father

“On 1 October, I went to the police station and submitted a complaint stating that my son had been abducted, but no one took note. Then, someone from Sumit’s circle told me he had been taken to either Noida or Delhi and that the police planned to kill him in a staged encounter,” Karam Singh said.

On 2 October, the bounty on Sumit’s head was doubled to Rs 50,000.

At around 2 am on 3 October, a group of policemen reportedly went to Sumit’s house in plain clothes and asked his father to hand over his Aadhaar card, PAN card and other ID proofs.

“When I asked them what it was for, they started talking among themselves on how my son will be soon gunned down. When I begged them to spare my son, they asked for Rs 5 lakh. All I have is these cows and this kachcha makaan (mud house) that does not even have a gate. How could I arrange for Rs 5 lakh?” said Singh.

Fearing the worst, Singh registered a missing person complaint with the district magistrate and even the Chief Minister’s portal (at 12.55 pm on 3 October), a copy of which is with ThePrint. “I thought if the police are not taking my complaint, at least the DM or the CM will. But I was wrong,” he said.

According to the case file, information was received on 3 October at around 8 pm that four men who had committed a robbery will approach the ATS Crossing in a Maruti Swift Dzire. A picket was put up, and at around 9 pm, the Swift Dzire was spotted and asked to stop, but it fled. After a brief chase, the car lost balance and collided with the gate of a residential society. When the police asked the men to surrender, they opened fire. Retaliatory police firing killed Sumit, while the other three managed to escape. A bullet also grazed a policeman’s back, and like in most cases, two constables were saved after bullets hit their bulletproof jackets.

While the FIR mentions that the men were trying to flee in a Swift Dzire, the photos released of the recovered car are of a hatchback Maruti Swift, not a Dzire sedan.

Sumit’s post-mortem was conducted in Noida, and the report showed he sustained abrasions on his scalp, multiple fractures, and spinal cord injuries. The entry wound of the bullet measured 1.5 x 1 cm, suggesting he was possibly shot at from a close range.

“They beat him up mercilessly before killing him. They kept him in Noida police station for two days. We ran from pillar to post to save him. Despite knowing that he will be gunned down, we could not do anything,” Sumit’s brother Parveen Kumar said.

He also said this was a case of mistaken identity. “The man the police wanted to shoot is another Sumit, who stays nearby. They picked up my brother thinking it was that Sumit, who has several criminal cases against him. We wanted to explain that to the policemen, but no one gave us a chance to present our case,” he said.

The area Station House Officer, however, countered: “We are not so unprofessional as to have killed the wrong person. A family will never accept that their son was a criminal, but he was a notorious gangster.”

Sumit’s family has now moved court, and also filed an application with the National Human Rights Commission.

“It is a clear case of a fake encounter and we have all documentary proof, statements of the witnesses who saw those men abducting Sumit. We want a CBI inquiry in the matter. A few days ago, a policeman came to us asking us to withdraw our application and settle the matter in exchange for money. Why are they scared now?” Karam Singh said.


Killed for ‘not turning informer’, rode a bike and ran with a broken foot

Name: Noor Mohammad alias Haseen Mota (28)

Time and place of death: 11.33 pm, Meerut

Date: 29 December 2017

Cases against him: 23 — One case of murder, the rest are of robbery, theft, and burglary. Reward of Rs 50,000 on his head.

Injuries: Three bullet injuries, multiple fractures, head injuries, knee fracture.

Just a week before Noor Mohammad alias Haseen Mota was gunned down in Meerut, he fractured his foot after falling from his bike while trying to avoid a dog in the street. His mother arranged for Rs 10,000 for a surgery, but before he could get it done, he was shot dead.

However, according to the FIR, Haseen was on his way to commit a crime along with an associate when he was stopped at a check post. Instead of stopping, he turned the bike and sped, but after covering about 700 metres, the bike skid and he fell. He then tried to run, but since he was surrounded by the pursuing police, he opened fire. The police’s retaliatory fire hit Haseen, but his associate managed to flee. The usual .32 bore pistol and a 9 mm pistol were recovered.

“How could he ride a bike or run with a fractured foot? I have medical reports and X-rays to show that he could not even walk properly, let alone ride a bike or go for a robbery,” Haseen’s mother, Shakila Begum, said.

Police records also showed the bike to be a stolen one, but Shakila claimed that it was his own, and she had valid documents to prove that.

Mohammad Ibrahim, his father, alleged that the policemen were forcing Haseen to turn informer, but he had refused. “They tried to lure him with money, tried force, but since he did not agree, they gunned him down,” he said.

“A few days before the encounter, the police came home and told us that they are putting a reward of Rs 50,000 on Haseen as he had failed to appear before the court twice, but if we paid them Rs 4 lakh, they wouldn’t, and would pass off the warrant as untraced.”

The police officer investigating the case said that Noor’s was a family of criminals. “Why would we force someone to become an informer when we pay most our contacts in exchange for information? Haseen was a dreaded gangster and these reports of him having a fractured leg are all concocted,” he said.

Haseen was to appear in court on 3 January, but he was killed before that, said Shakila. “Twice, I myself had made him surrender. This time too, I had met the lawyer and asked him to get the papers ready for Haseen’s surrender,” she said.

Two years ago, Haseen was also arrested in a case of murder, and was only released a year later after a probe found that someone else was the killer. “This too is a fake case, but where do we go for justice now? The policemen tell us that he was a criminal and deserved to die of a police bullet, but for me, he was my son,” she added.

Haseen is survived by two sons aged eight and six years and a two-year-old daughter.


Shot despite ‘putting his hands up to surrender’

Name: Deepak Kumar (21)

Time and place of death: 9 pm, Baghpat

Date: 1 February 2018

Cases against him: 16 — One case of murder; the rest of robbery, theft, and burglary. Bounty of Rs 15,000 on his head.

Injuries: Three bullet injuries — one each on the chest, back and abdomen.

Sitting in his clinic, Deepak’s father, who runs a TB centre, is busy writing prescriptions. Deepak’s brother is sitting in a corner with a text book on the Indian Penal Code.

Neither of them is ready to speak about what happened on the night of 1 February, but Deepak’s mother breaks the silence.

“My son has been murdered by the police. His last words were that he was shot at even after he put his hands up and announced his surrender. Even a nurse at the hospital who was on duty said that Deepak was crying, saying why was he shot when he surrendered?” Baby, Deepak’s mother, said.

However, an investigator countered: “If that was the case then why did no one from the hospital give a statement? It is easy to put the blame on the police.”

Deepak Kumar’s mother

The police gunned Deepak down in Baghpat, when he was allegedly trying to flee. He was then taken to a hospital in Meerut, where he died during treatment. Deepak’s family was not informed by the police, but they found out about the encounter through television news.

“All I knew was that he had been shot. No one told us where or which hospital he was in. I shuttled between Baghpat and Meerut, till I was told that he was admitted in Meerut,” Baby said.

“While he was in hospital, I tried to ask him what had happened, but a policeman was always by his side, and he could not say much.”

Deepak worked at an automotive parts factory in the area, and had earlier been arrested by the police in a case of murder. He stayed in jail for over a year and was released only a few months ago.

His brother Naveen is preparing to join the UP Police. “My brother fell into bad company, but the police made things worse for him. They kept asking him for money; whenever he refused, they falsely implicated him in a case. I want to get into the system to clean it up,” Naveen said.

“This is not a case of encounter but an extra judicial killing. The policemen took a bribe from one of Deepak’s associates, with whom he had had a fall out. Just a day after Deepak’s death, that man came to our house bragging that he gave Rs 4 lakh to the police officer to eliminate Deepak and then pass it off as an encounter,” Naveen said.

Source : theprint.in

On World Health Day – India’s politicians need to wake up and see the malnutrition crisis

A child with his mother at a doctor's clinic.

Unfortunately and shockingly, health has not been in the forefront of political debate in India and hence has never been the govt’s priority.

In the din and disruption that has held the recently concluded Budget Session hostage, it is easy to forget the serious ongoing challenges that India faces. Complex realities of India’s continuous nutrition woes, for instance (we are a country that hosts a third of the global 2 billion that suffer from malnutrition), are lost in the frenzy of parochial politics, leaving stakeholders and other solution providers justifiably miffed at the paralysis within the current government.

Today, the occasion of World Health Day offers an opportune moment to review our interventions to address India’s malnutrition quagmire, an issue that I have been working closely with several stakeholders to address.

In India, our understanding of improving nutrition is commonly limited to increasing access to food. But while access to food is an integral aspect of ensuring nutrition, it is only a part of the solution. Let us not forget that by definition, malnutrition broadly includes not just ‘undernutrition’—which comprises stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficiencies—but also overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, which are on the rise in India.

While the government has acknowledged the underlying causes and consequences of malnutrition, government programmes and investment have tended to restrict themselves to ensuring availability of food. Understanding the impact of micronutrient malnutrition on other aspects of development and broadly on the country’s economic growth is critical to build a cohesive narrative and recognise food fortification as a long-term strategy. It is a sustainable and cost-effective measure, which has successfully addressed micronutrient deficiencies in many countries worldwide. And we know it works, having made initial experiments as early as 1953, for instance, to fortify vanaspati: I recall the Dalda tins in my mother’s kitchen when I was a child, each fortified with Vitamin A.

In order to address these vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the focus of our government has largely been on mass supplementation programmes. Yet, more than half our population consumes less than 50 per cent of their daily micronutrient needs— and the existing gap in implementing sustainable and long-term national policy solutions has not helped.

With the launch of the National Nutrition Policy in 1993, the government recognised food fortification as a policy instrument to improve nutrition in the country. However, the policy was not translated into action and fortification was not prioritised as a key strategy towards ensuring nutrition. Since then, efforts towards fortification have been scattered, and largely focused on salt iodisation.

In 2017, positive developments at the national level have shown some promise of creating a conducive environment towards fortification, with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launching guidelines for food fortification, which were subsequently followed by the ambitious National Nutrition Mission (this has set a target of reducing under-nutrition and low birthweight by 2 per cent each year). In a similar development, the Niti Aayog launched the national nutrition strategy, recommending food fortification as part of a comprehensive strategy to address micronutrient deficiencies, especially vitamin A deficiency disorders.

But in our federal model of government, implementation of fortification is a state subject and measures undertaken towards food fortification have largely been fragmented and poorly coordinated. Moreover, in India, varied nutrition interventions have been housed under different ministries, leading to an unclear division of roles and responsibilities within the bureaucracy. This is not just an administrative concern: it creates obstacles to policy formulation, implementation and accountability.

I have been working very closely with decision makers at the national level to raise awareness about fortification. In particular, I have met twice on this issue with Ram Vilas Paswan, union minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution. But our system means that though we are indeed talking about food, the Indian consumer and public distribution, there are two other ministers whose consent Paswan needs before a food fortification policy can be adopted. With encouraging responses from him and J.P. Nadda, minister of health and family welfare, as well as Maneka Gandhi, minister for women & child development, I am confident that we will get there, through coordinated efforts between concerned ministries.

Having said that, the narrative around micronutrient malnutrition will not change unless it is made a political priority, at the centre and in the states. The truth is that it is not. How many elections have been fought and won on health issues? Our public and our politicians tend to think of health as a specialist subject for experts to deal with; voters don’t question them on it or oppose them because of their indifference to it.

In a country with the second largest population (and one of the most youthful ones at that) in the world, our people are our greatest asset. But this demographic dividend can very easily become a demographic disaster. Our people cannot be productive if they are malnourished and burdened with micronutrient deficiencies. Unfortunately– shockingly– health has not been in the forefront of political debate in India and hence has never been in the forefront of the government’s efforts and initiatives towards holistic development.

No country can achieve its potential for growth and development until nutrition deficiencies and related disorders are eliminated. This will require both urgent and long-term measures. There is considerable interest and recognition of the urgent need to scale up efforts for food fortification. I urge our government to strengthen food safety-net schemes like the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and Mid-Day Meals (MDM), which have the potential to reach over 800 million of our most vulnerable men, women and children. We must implement fortification, ensure accountability and move towards political prioritisation of health so that every citizen has the chance to lead a healthy, malnutrition-free life.

Source : theprint.in

Move to stop Teesta Setalvad going to US, Canada to lecture on human rights, as Gujarat police books top activist

In what is being interpreted as an effort to prevent well-known social activist Teesta Setalvad from going abroad to deliver lectures on human rights issues, she and her husband, Javed Anand, have been booked for what the Ahmedabad crime branch has called “fraudulently” securing Central government funds worth Rs 1.4 crore for her NGO Sabrang Trust between 2010 and 2013.
One of India’s topnotch human rights defenders who has fought and won several 2002 Gujarat communal riots cases, just as in previous cases against them, in the latest attempt, too, the original complainant is a former employee of another NGO she heads, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Rais Khan Pathan.
Calling the attempt to book her as “nothing short of a coercive method to prevent Setalvad from going on a long planned trip for human rights lectures abroad”, an official statement by CJP says, she has been invited to Canada by Sikhs of Indian origin to commemorate the 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
The statement, sent as an email alert, says, she was chosen because “Setalvad’s great grandfather, Chimanlal Setalvad, was part of the committee that cross-examined and interrogated General Dyer after the massacre.”

After visiting Canada, Setalvad is scheduled to deliver lectures at Harvard and several other cities of the United States.
Booked under various IPC sections, including misappropriation of property and criminal breach of trust, the accusation includes the NGO seeking to “mix religion with politics and spreading disharmony through the curricular material prepared for the erstwhile UPA government.”
Giving details of the project, Khoj (innovation), for which she had sought government funds, CJP says, it dates back to 1994, when Setalvad and Anand started a programme for school children which was christened as ‘Khoj: Education for a Plural India’.
A project of Sabrang, Khoj evolved educational modules which were implemented in both privately run and civic corporation-run schools in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra over the years. The project involved the crucial area of education policy, especially democratization of the social studies and history syllabus and text-books.
Part of the team constituted by Parliament in 2004, Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), during her decade-long association with CABE – which involved preparing textbooks in government schools not using the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) syllabus, including those run by religious and social organizations – Setalvad came to know of a grant by the Ministry of Human Resource Development under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan.
“On behalf of Sabrang, Setalvad submitted the proposal for grant from the Ministry of Human Resource Development to then Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development on March 8, 2010”, the statement says, adding, after approval of the proposal, the NGO was disbursed Rs 58,72,500, Rs 26,66,570 and Rs 54,20,848 in fiscal years 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively.
“The project benefited 192 schools through direct teaching and teacher training programmes. Ten libraries were set up across Maharashtra and most of the books for the libraries were procured from Government publishing houses”, the statement adds.
This apart, says the statement, “Seven short films were made and one book was conceptualized and published as curriculum for 5th standard students. Through this curriculum, which was a child centric pedagogy, India’s constitutional values and pluralism were imparted to around 6000 students across Maharashtra.”

Bombay HC order not to arrest Setalvad

Meanwhile, in a setback to Gujarat police, the Bombay High Court has ordered that Setalvad and Anand should not be arrested till May 2 in case in the criminal case lodged against them by it. A bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere gave the two interim protection from arrest on their plea for “transit anticipatory bail”, filed on Wednesday. While allowing their plea, the bench asked them to appear before the probe agency on Friday for recording their statements and later, as and when required.


New Govt of India panel to “regulate” news portals, online content, infotainment media, digital broadcasting

Following the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) “decision” to withdraw a circular issued by the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry seeking suspension or cancellation of media accreditation issued to journalists if found guilty of fake news, the Government of India is all set to work out new ways to “regulate” media. This time, however, the focus is on digital media.

If the PMO intervention on what was supposed to be a clampdown on fake news came close on the heels of uproar among journalists against the circular, in a fresh order, the News Media Cell of the I&B Ministry has constituted a “committee for framing regulations for online media, news portals and online content.”
The order, dated April 4, a day after the PMO acted against the I&B circular, says that the “content telecast on private satellite TV channels and transmitted/re-transmitted through the Cable TV are regulated” under the Programme and Advertisement Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (CTN) (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
It says, “TV channels are required to adhere to the Programme & Advertising Codes mentioned in the CTN ACT and there exists a well-settled mechanism for dealing with any violations thereof. Similarly, there is an autonomous body, Press Council of India (PCI), which has its own norms to regulate the print media.”
However, it regrets, as “there are no norms or guidelines to regulate the online media websites and news portals including digital broadcasting like entertainment/infotainment & news/ media aggregators”, a newly-constituted committee would “frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media/ news portals, including digital broadcasting and entertainment/ infotainment sites and news/ media aggregators.”
To be chaired by secretary, l&B as convener, other members on the committee include secretaries of the Ministry of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP); CEO of the MyGov programme, a citizen engagement platform of the Government of India; and representatives of the Press Council of India (PCI) the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), and Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF).

The new Govt of India order

The order gives the I&B Ministry secretary the power to include as members “any other Department/ organisation deemed fit”.
The order’s Terms of Reference (TOR) are three-fold. First of all, it seeks to “delineate the sphere of online information dissemination which needs to be brought under regulation, on the lines applicable for print and electronic media”.
Secondly, it would “recommend appropriate policy formulation for online media/ news portals and online content platforms, including digital broadcasting, which encompasses entertainment/ infotainment & news/ media aggregators, keeping in mind the extant FDI norms, Programme & Advertising Code for TV channels, norms circulated by PCI, code of ethics framed by NBA and norms prescribed by IBF.
And finally, it would “analyse the international scenario on such existing regulatory mechanisms with a view to incorporate the best practices.”
Keen media analysts say, the order suggests that under scanner would be not just online portals, which have acquired a strong anti-establishment stance, but even online social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Youtube, and blogging platforms.
Meanwhile, a media report says that the Press Information Bureau, the Government of India’s nodal body for official communication, is working on a new proposal to track the movement of journalists at government buildings and offices through radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards.
While RFID cards are voluntarily given to journalists in Gujarat, considered a “model” state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi all his moves, there are indications that these would replace the current accreditation cards issued by PIB to those covering the Government of India.
According to the report, PIB wrote to the Union home ministry in January asking if the accreditation cards it issues to journalists could be replaced with RFID cards and the home ministry is said to be “considering the proposal”.


Crimes against Dalits rose 746% in 10 years & the police are half as likely to help

In March, the Supreme Court ruled there shall be no immediate arrest without prior permissions for crimes registered under the the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 

Mumbai: Over the decade to 2016, the rate of crime against dalits rose more than eight times (746%); there were 2.4 crimes per 100,000 dalits in 2006, rising to 20.3 in 2016, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 2016 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the latest available.

The rate of crime against adivasis or scheduled tribes grew by over 12 times (1,160%)–from 0.5 in 2006 to 6.3 in 2016.

However, cases pending police investigation for both marginalised groups has risen by 99% and 55% respectively, while the pendency in courts has risen by 50% and 28%, respectively. The conviction rates for crime against SCs and STs have fallen by 2 percentage points and 7 percentage points, respectively, to 26% and 21%, from 2006 to 2016.

On March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court expressing concern over the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, ruled there shall be no immediate arrest of a citizen or public servant without prior permissions for crimes registered under the Act. It also introduced the provision of anticipatory bail if the complaint was found to be malafide.

This triggered widespread protests by dalit and adivasi organisations across the country and the Bharat Bandh protests held on Monday, April 2, 2018, turned violent in RajasthanUttar PradeshBiharGujaratOdishaPunjab, and Madhya Pradeshresulting in the death of 11 persons. During an urgent hearing of the Centre’s review petition on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, the SC refused to stay its order, asserting that it is only meant to protect the rights of innocent people without affecting those of the marginalised communities.

Dalits, or schedule castes, comprise 16.6% (201 million) of India’s population, up from 16.2% in 2001, according to Census 2011. Adivasis form 8.6% (104 million) of the country’s population, up from 8.2% over a decade.

As many as 422,799 crimes against dalits or scheduled castes (SCs) have been reported between 2006 and 2016. The highest increases in crimes were recorded in eight states–Goa, Kerala, Delhi, Gujarat, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Sikkim–where rates rose over 10 times. Meanwhile 81,322 crimes against adivasis have been reported from 2006 to 2016, with the highest increases in crime rates recorded in Kerala, Karnataka and Bihar.

Delivery of justice decelerates in crimes against dalits, adivasis

While the reporting of crime against dalits and adivasis has risen over the decade, there has not been an equivalent rise in the rate of disposal of cases by the police and courts, as we said.

Pending police investigation: Cases of crimes against SCs pending police investigation have nearly doubled (99%)–from 8,380 cases in 2006 to 16,654 cases in 2016. And Bihar, with 4,311 cases, fares worst among the 36 states and union territories (UTs).

In the case of crime against STs, pendency of investigation has risen 55%–from 1,679 cases in 2006 to 2,602 cases by the end of 2016, with Andhra Pradesh reporting the highest pendency (405 cases)

False cases: The number of crimes against dalits registered and found to be false at the investigation stage by police has remained the same (less than 6,000 cases) and has actually declined in the comparison to the rise in reporting. Of 5,347 cases found to be false across India, nearly half or 49% of false cases were recorded in Rajasthan alone (2,632 cases).

Crimes against STs registered and found to be false have further declined by over 27% from 1257 cases in 2006 to 912 cases in 2016.

Pending trial in court: In courts, crimes against dalits pending trial have risen by 50% over the decade–from 85,264 to 129,831 as of 2016.

In 2016 alone, 40,801 new crimes against dalits were registered under the Prevention of Atrocities Act; less than 15,000 cases completed trial that year. The number of trials completed in court has dropped by 28%–from 20,495 in 2006 to 14,615 in 2016. UP with 33,455 such cases pending fared worst.

For adivasis, trials completed in a year has nearly halved (by 49%) since 2006–from 2,895 to 4,317 in 2016–while those pending trial has risen by 28%. Madhya Pradesh, with 4,839 pending trial cases, held the worst record.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau
Note: 2014 and 2015 data for pending trial not available.

Conviction rate remains less than 30% over a decade

Among the crimes that do get disposed of in court, about a quarter lead to convictions in crimes against dalits. As of 2016, this conviction rate–calculated by dividing the number of convictions in a year by number of cases completing trial in a year–stood at 26%, a 2 percentage point decline from the rate a decade ago (28%).

Accused persons in the rest 74% of cases completing trial in 2016 were acquitted, which again is a rise from 2006 when 72% of cases led to acquittals.

As of 2016, Madhya Pradesh (43.4), Goa (43.2), and Rajasthan (42), held the highest crime rates against dalits. Their conviction rates were 31%, 8% and 45% respectively.

Conviction rates in Sikkim, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat, Telangana, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are particularly low–less than 10%. Delhi reported the highest rise (67%) in acquittals over the decade.

The conviction rate in cases of crime against adivasis, at 21% in 2016, is even worse, showing a 7-percentage-point decline from 2006 (28%) with the rest 79% acquitted.

Kerala reported the highest crime rate (37.5) against STs, followed by the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (21) and Andhra Pradesh (15.4). Their conviction rates were 8.2%, 0%, and 1.1% respectively.

A ‘zero’ conviction rate was reported in 2016, by the Andamans & Nicobar Islands and six states–Gujarat, Karnataka, Tripura, Uttaranchal Pradesh, West Bengal, and Delhi.

Late registration of complaints, delays in spot investigation, lack of protection for the victims and reluctance to register crimes under the relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities Act–these are some of the chief reasons for low conviction rates, according this 2017 study of reports by civil society organisations and parliamentary committees by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, an NGO based in Mumbai.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau

With data inputs by Angel Mohan

(Saldanha is an assistant editor and Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

Published by special arrangement with IndiaSpend. 

Tougher isn’t better

Since the punishment for rape and the punishment for murder are now the same, a rapist will have no incentive to spare his victim’s life, especially since her testimony would be the most important piece of evidence against him. 

death penalty for rape

Reactionary law reform has always been an easy way for governments to appear tough on crime, and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 is no different. It betrays a lack of thought on the likely impact, and only serves to endanger the lives of future victims.

The five state reports of the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore (CCL-NLSIU), on the functioning of special courts under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 have demonstrated that one of the main causes for the low rate of conviction under the Act is the appalling lack of infrastructure and manpower in the criminal justice system. Most districts continue to try cases of child sexual abuse in regular sessions courts, designated as “special courts” for the sake of compliance, and most such cases are tried by “special” public prosecutors who are simultaneously trying cases under the NDPS Act, or, in some cases, anti-terror legislation. Investigations are regularly botched up by an understaffed, poorly trained, overburdened police force which has little to no forensic support, and is often sympathetic towards the accused. Instead of addressing these issues which prevent the proper implementation of the law, as it exists, on the ground, the ordinance has, instead, added to the burden of a dysfunctional system.

CCL-NLSIU’s reports have demonstrated that the timelines for completion of the investigation, for recording of evidence, and for completion of trial are never adhered to because functionaries in the system (police, prosecutors and judges) find them impractical given their case load and the facilities they have to work with. In fact, these timelines were found to have been adhered to only in cases where the accused was acquitted because the victim and other witnesses turned hostile. The rate of conviction was highest in cases which took over two years to complete, because, practically, it takes that much time to record the evidence of all the witnesses. In light of this, the fact that the ordinance reduces the time given to the police to file a chargesheet, and to the court to decide appeals against sentencing, displays a complete lack of understanding about the issues on the ground and a disturbing disregard for whether a law is implementable.

The POCSO and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (CLAA) changed the sentencing regime for sexual offences by introducing mandatory minimum sentences, thresholds a judge did not have discretion to breach even if she felt there were mitigating circumstances that warranted it. As a result, an “anchoring effect” is seen, whereby even if there are aggravating circumstances, judges award only the mandatory minimum sentence. For instance, minimum sentences were awarded in 54.94 per cent cases in Delhi, in 75 per cent cases in Assam, 72.05 per cent in Maharashtra, and 39.39 per cent in Andhra Pradesh. Another effect of high mandatory minimum sentences is that judges, in order to avoid awarding what they view to be a disproportionate sentence, prefer to acquit the accused. Therefore, enhanced mandatory minimum punishments in the ordinance are likely to be counterproductive.

Along the same lines, the ordinance has anchored its enhanced mandatory minimum sentences and death penalty on age, without considering the issues that arise with age determination. The reports of CCL-NLSIU have shown that given the unavailability or unreliability of age-related documents in most parts of the country, reliance is placed on ossification tests to prove the age of the victim in cases under the POCSO. Since an ossification test cannot pinpoint an exact age, and operates with a margin of plus/minus two years, a majority of judges add two years to the upper age limit to conclude that the victim is not a minor. For instance, if the ossification test states that the victim was 14-16 years old, judges ordinarily add 2 years to 16, and conclude that the victim was 18 years old at the time of the incident, and therefore acquit the accused. The same issue is likely to arise when considering whether the victim was below the age of 16 or 12, especially if the judge does not believe the enhanced sentence (or the death penalty) is warranted.

But most importantly, the introduction of the death penalty for the rape of children under the age of 12 is likely to put future victims (and there will be future victims because the death penalty has been shown to be no more a deterrent than a life sentence) at grave risk. Since the punishment for rape and the punishment for murder are now the same, a rapist will have no incentive to spare his victim’s life, especially since her testimony would be the most important piece of evidence against him.

The government needs to invest in combating the rape culture that condones and encourages rape — by age-appropriate sex education at all levels, by aggressive advertisement campaigns to increase awareness and stimulate conversations about gender bias, everyday sexism, misogyny, stereotypes, consent and equality, and by making concerted efforts to change the way society raises its sons and daughters. Unless we, as citizens, can tie these issues to the goals and gains of electoral politics, no political party will invest in these long term, and potentially expensive, efforts.

Source: Indian Express

Opposition parties meet Vice-President, give notice for impeachment of CJI

Seven Opposition parties — CPI, CPI(M), NCP, SP, BSP and IUML — have agreed to the motion.

Opposition parties, led by the Congress, on Friday met Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu handed over a notice for impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

The CPI, CPI(M), NCP, SP, BSP and the IUML have agreed to the motion.

In a press conference, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We have moved a motion for impeachment against the CJI, on five grounds of misbehaviour. According to the Constitution, a minimum of 50 members are required to agree to the motion.” Mr. Azad claimed to have 71 members supporting the motion.

“We wish that this day had never come. As representative of the people we are entitled to hold the CJI accountable just as we are accountable,” said Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal.

The leaders of opposition parties met Mr. Azad in his chamber in Parliament earlier in the day. After the meeting, he confirmed that the leaders were moving the notice for impeachment.

The Opposition has been working on bringing various parties on board for a larger consensus on bringing the impeachment motion against the CJI.

While the Left parties, the NCP and the Congress are on board for moving the impeachment motion, some parties that have already signed the petition have backed out.

Source: The Hindu