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When even Sushma Swaraj couldn’t help an individual

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday expressed inability in helping a British woman charity worker of Iranian origin who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a court in Odisha on charges of causing death of a tribal child due to negligence.Swaraj had sought a report from Odisha government on the case involving 28-year-old Narges K Ashtari.She said she cannot help the woman due to the court order. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week has said that Iran will use all its capacity to secure Ashtari’s release. “I have received the report from Government of Odisha. The trial court has convicted Narges K Ashtari to one year imprisonment and Rs 3,00,000/- fine.”She has filed an appeal before Sessions Court which is pending. The appellate court has released her on bail pending appeal. This is a judicial order and the matter is sub judice.Therefore, I am unable to help in this case @BorisJohnson @JZarif,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets. She also tagged Zarif as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in her tweets. Ashtari, who runs an orphanage through her NGO Prishan Foundation in Rayagada district of Odisha, was found guilty by a court in the case relating to causing death to a child due to negligence. She faced the charges after the disappearance of the child in 2014, who is feared drowned.An online petition by social activists has recently sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in seeking justice for Ashtari saying she has dedicated her life in serving orphan and abandoned children around the world. Earlier this week, the Iranian Foreign Minister had said “The Foreign Ministry considers it its duty to protect Iranian nationals residing abroad, including students, elites and businessmen… and will use all its capacity to support them and restore their rights.”He said the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iran’s embassy in New Delhi are following up on her case though diplomatic, consular and legal channels. Born in Isfahan, central Iran, Ashtari’s parents moved to the UK when she was four years old.

Gujarat govt takes custody of 220 fishermen released by Pakistan

Vadodara: The officials of the fisheries department of Gujarat Government took custody of 220 fishermen who were handed over by Pakistan to Indian agency, late on Monday night, a senior official said.

“These fishermen were released from the Landhi jail in Karachi on 25 December as a goodwill gesture and were handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) at the Wagah Border on Monday,” Ashok Patel, superintendent of the fisheries department of the Gujarat government told PTI.

“The team (of fisheries department) has been camping in Amritsar to make arrangements for bringing these fishermen back to Gujarat,” he said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Talking to PTI from Amritsar, Ramesh Makwana, one of the released fisherman, who hails from Tad village in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district, said, “We never expected release of 439 fishermen by Pakistan at one go and it came as a surprise for all of us. Another batch of 219 fishermen will be released on 5 January, 2017.”

“The Edhi Foundation a Karachi based non government organisation made arrangements for bringing us to Lahore from Karachi by a special train,” said the released fisherman.

He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani among others for taking up the issue for their release with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in turn took up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Makwana, while describing the harsh conditions in which they stayed in Pakistani jail, said, “They had to face lot of hardships as about 100 fishermen were kept in a single room in the prison and had to face mosquito menace.”

He said they realised that they had entered into enemy territorial waters only after Pakistani Marine Security Agency (PMSA) nabbed them. “Most of us are sole bread earners of our family,” said Makwana.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 19:07 IST

DNA Evening Must Reads: PM Modi lays foundation stone of Shivaji Memorial; Ranji Trophy; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Demonetization: People who benefited for 70 years trying to scuttle move, says PM ModiPM Narendra Modi is in Maharashtra today for foundation stone laying ceremony of Shivaji memorial, Mumbai & Pune metro train project. Catch the live updates of PM Modi’s visits here.2. Dhulagarh riot: BJP central team stopped from entering violence-hit villageA team of central leaders of BJP were stopped from entering the village at Dhulagarh, Howrah on Saturday afternoon, where communal clashes erupted last week.Read more here.3. PM Modi lays Foundation for Rs 3,600-crore grand memorial for Shivaji MaharajPrime Minister Narendra Modi laid the Foundation for a Rs 3,600-crore grand memorial for Shivaji Maharaj off the city coast on Saturday, an event that comes a few months ahead of the civic polls and amid tussle among parties to claim the legacy of the 17th century warrior king. Read more here.4. Sixth grader sues Pak President House officials for ‘plagiarising his speech’A sixth grader in Pakistan, through his father, has sued officials at the President House at the Islamabad High Court, accusing them for plagiarising and using his speech without his consent. Read more here.5. Ranji Trophy: Top Indian stars bite the dust as Karnataka humbled by Tamil Nadu in 2 daysKarnataka had two Gen-Next superstars of Indian cricket but a Tamil Nadu pace attack, with a cumulative experience of 35 matches, did the star turn to script a stunning seven-wicket victory inside two days in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final in Visakhapatnam on Saturday. Read more here.6. Dangal vs Sultan: Aamir Khan or Salman Khan – who won the first day box office battle?When Aamir Khan and Salman Khan both decided to do a wrestling film each, comparisons were bound to happen. Salman’s Sultan released last July and it did a business of over Rs 300 crore at the box office. Has Aamir been able to beat Salman’s record? Read here

Hundreds resist eviction from Delhi slum as new housing falls short | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hundreds of residents in a New Delhi slum are resisting eviction by city officials and police in the third such protest this month in India’s capital city, as anger mounts over a shortfall in housing for the urban poor, campaigners said.Evictions began this week in Kathputli Colony, home to 3,500 families of street performers and puppeteers, after authorities marked it for development as part of a plan to upgrade the city.City officials say residents were notified of the plan which involves moving them to a temporary location while a private builder constructs modest high-rise homes for a nominal sum.They say more than 500 families have already moved to temporary accommodation.”Residents were given sufficient notice. The police are on hand to maintain law and order,” said J.P. Agrawal, a principal commissioner with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).But some residents said they were not given the option of relocation, and that they received no notice of the eviction.

“No one told us it would be this week. Suddenly one morning we woke up and found hundreds of policemen in the colony,” said Dilip Bhatt, head of an artistes’ cooperative in the settlement.”We are surrounded by the police like we are criminals, and they have cut off water and power,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Television images showed police in riot gear, holding assault rifles and shields as residents gathered around them.

About a third of India’s 1.25 billion population lives in cities, with numbers rising every year as tens of thousands of people leave villages to seek better prospects. Many end up in overcrowded urban slums.A government plan to provide housing for all by 2022 is meant to create 20 million new urban housing units and 30 million rural homes.But the slow pace of implementation is leaving thousands homeless, according to advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN).

More than 33,000 families living in urban areas across India were forcefully evicted since January 2015 to make way for redevelopment projects, HLRN said on Thursday. In rural areas, more than 75,000 people were displaced.Only 2,776 houses were built in urban areas under the housing plan from June 2015 to August 2016, HLRN said.In several evictions, violence and arbitrary detentions have been reported, and there has been little or no consultation, advance notice, consent or compensation, HLRN said.”It is a sad irony that despite claims of providing ‘housing for all’, the government has destroyed many more homes than it has built over the last two years,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of HLRN. (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 18:50 IST

Killings in Indian police custody go unpunished, says rights group | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Senthil Kumar’s mother saw him being dragged off by policemen on charges of extortion. Standing outside the Vadamadurai police station in Tamil Nadu, she heard him scream for mercy. The next day she was told her son was dead.”He didn’t die, he was killed,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, recalling the events of April 2010.”And I know the name of every policeman who did it.”Kumar is one of the 591 people who have died in police custody in India since 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, calling for the strict implementation of existing laws on arrest and detention.Citing government data, the report said 97 people died in police custody in 2015 alone, and there was not a single known case in the past five years in which a police official had been convicted for a custodial death.”In almost all cases, the police passes off these deaths as suicide or a heart attack,” said Jayshree Bajoria, author of HRW’s report.”And the brotherhood kicks in to shield the guilty, who are their own colleagues. The entire system collaborates to protect the guilty policemen instead of taking action against them.”

K S Dhatwalia, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, the government department responsible for police, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday the ministry would “look into the report and take necessary action”. The report examines investigations into 17 deaths in custody between 2009 and 2015. In each case, the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse, Bajoria said.Leonard Valdaris trusted the policemen who wanted to talk to his son about a theft in the neighbourhood in April 2014.But when he walked into the Wadala railway police station in Mumbai the next day, the report said, his son was “crying bitterly” and told him the police had beaten him all night and would kill him.

Three days later, Agnelo Valdaris, 25, died, HRW said.”When I saw my son in the hospital, there everything changed,” Valdaris was quoted as saying in the report. “There I saw the reality. He had been beaten black and blue with a belt.”Forms of torture recorded in the report include severe beatings with boots and belts and sometimes suspending people from their wrists. Autopsy reports examined by HRW show injuries consistent with blunt force trauma.

India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.According to the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure policemen are expected to prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest, ensure a medical examination is carried out on the accused, inform the family of the arrest and present the suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours.According to government records, in 67 of the 97 deaths in custody in 2015, police failed to present the suspect before a magistrate or the suspect died within 24 hours of arrest.”If police follow the rules designed to deter torture and mistreatment, deaths in custody could be prevented,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch.”India can only boast of rule of law when those charged with enforcing it are held accountable.” (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:44 IST

‘Uberisation’ of India’s domestic work market has benefits and risks | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A booming digital market matching Indian domestic workers with employers may offer benefits for some housemaids but won’t end low wages and discrimination and may exclude the poorest women who don’t have smartphones, according to new research.Domestic help in India is relatively cheap, and demand for cooks, cleaners and babysitters is growing as incomes rise and more women work full-time.Domestic workers, who are generally women, typically have little or no education, and the market is almost entirely unregulated, with no fixed wages or benefits for workers.On the back of the popularity of taxi-hailing mobile apps such as Uber and home-grown Ola, a handful of companies have launched apps that offer domestic workers on demand.”This ‘Uberisation of domestic work’ can offer some benefits, (but) it also risks further entrenching a culture of low incomes, insecurity and discrimination,” according to a study by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI).A typical middle-class Indian home may have a part-time cook and a part-time cleaner. Some households have a full-time worker, while wealthier households may have a live-in helper.Workers are typically hired by word of mouth. Most do not receive health insurance or retirement benefits.While on-demand technology can increase workers’ access to opportunities, it is “not automatically empowering, and there is a great risk that marginalised groups will remain excluded,” ODI said in the report released last week.DECENT WORK
Women make up about 80 percent of an estimated 67 million domestic workers globally, according to ODI.

In India, many domestic workers, most of them women, are forced to work up to 18 hours a day and face dire living conditions, abuse and violence.A draft domestic workers’ bill in 2015 had proposed a minimum salary of 9,000 rupees ($133) per month for skilled, full-time household help, along with benefits such as social security cover and mandatory time off. That bill was not passed.On-demand domestic work companies including MyDidi (sister), BookMyBai (maid) and TaskBob say they are helping meet demand for reliable help, while also enabling workers to secure better wages and conditions.”The workers are trained, they know what they are getting paid, they get regular hours and greater flexibility,” said Anupam Sinhal, co-founder of BookMyBai and NanoJobs.But campaigners say there is no oversight of agencies working to match domestic workers with employers and complaints of exploitation, trafficking and enslavement abound.

“There is no regulation or monitoring of agencies or these new companies that provide on-demand services,” said Shalini Sinha at WIEGO, a lobby group for informal women workers.”Do they really ensure fair conditions for the workers? Do the workers get paid on time? What we need is a law to protect these women, and regulation and monitoring of these agencies.”FIXED SALARY
ODI’s study of the on-demand model in South Africa showed that it disproportionately benefits employers. For the workers, it meant low wages and discrimination, it said.India’s on-demand domestic work companies are expanding by up to 60 percent month-on-month, according to ODI.

The model is different from Uber’s: BookMyBai gives workers on its payroll a fixed salary of 16,000 rupees ($235) a month, as well as health insurance and some benefits, regardless of how many hours they work, said Anupam Sinhal.Also, it is the company that designates a maid to a household, as many workers don’t have smartphones, he said.More than half of India’s domestic workers are illiterate, and few own smartphones or have bank accounts, making it harder for the women to navigate the platform themselves.MyDidi opens a bank account for each worker, while another company sends a text message to the husband of the worker every time she is assigned a job, so he knows her whereabouts. “The demand-supply gap is so huge, that we need these services to help address it,” Sinhal said.”The system gives the worker the benefits of a more formal economy, despite the challenges now.”($1 = 67.7347 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:24 IST

Man who travels on wheels is opening doors of hope for many

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 2012, Nipun Malhotra was studying at the Delhi School of Economics, after graduating from St. Stephen’s College, when he appeared for campus placements. Despite a good academic record, he was not hired by any of the eight companies he applied to.His world came crashing down when he realised the stumbling block between his dreams and his abilities, had nothing to do with him and in a perverse way, everything to do with him. Nipun is born with a rare congenital condition, Arthrogryposis, which led to a lack of muscles in arms and legs, forcing him to commute with a wheelchair.“One recruiter told me that he did not think I could sit in a wheelchair and work for eight hours. Another told me that they did not have a disabled-friendly restroom. To the first, I responded that I have studied and commuted on my wheelchair all my life. To the second, I replied that I could hold my bladders for eight hours,” says Nipun, now 29, seated in his swank office at Gurgaon’s Park Centra. “My parents had given me all the best opportunities in life. I was a country topper in business studies. I thought all of that had gone waste. For three months after that I was very depressed. I stopped going to college,” says Nipun. He decided that it was futile to mull over the placements debacle and joined his family business, Nipman Fasteners, a company that manufactures automotive fasteners, where he is now executive director.He also founded the Nipman Foundation to work with persons with disabilities. And in a fitting reply to the companies which looked past his abilities, Nipun instituted the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunities Awards, now in its third year, to recognise companies that employee persons with disabilities.The Nipman Foundation partnered with Ernst and Young who took care of the task of auditing the companies and the two entities set up an independent jury to vet the applicants. The application form asks questions like ratio of disabled employees in the company’s workforce, the challenges the company faced in employing disabled employees, and the metrics used to evaluate the success of the initiative like productivity level, career growth and attrition rate. 21 companies from across India applied for the 2016 awards and the winners were ANZ (Bengaluru hub), IBM (Bengaluru centre) and Sunrise Candles (Maharashtra).At ANZ, PwD staff was more than two per cent of the total workforce. All the 2,280 employees at Sunrise Candles, a Mahabaleshwar-based candle making company, were visually impaired individuals.An E&Y executive, who coordinated the application and audit process, said the auditor also conducted field visits to verify the claims made by the companies. She said that more and more companies were realising the importance of equal opportunity practices.“The companies I visited which have equal opportunity practices was an eyeopener. They treat the disabled employees as one among them. At one place, I met a man without both hands. He would use his leg to write but he had the most beautiful handwriting. All the company had to do to accommodate him was to arrange a shorter desk,” said the E&Y executive.Nipun credits his mother Priyanka Malhotra for driving him towards taking up the cause of persons with disabilities. Priyanka was a homemaker who was focused on ensuring that all of Nipun’s needs were taken care of.“Then as a child he asked me, ‘Mamma, what about all the other Nipuns in the world,” says Priyanka.That set her on the course of activism and she was a consultant with the Delhi Metro and the DTC on accessibility issues. “She would tell me to become so important that people inviting me for events will stage them only at those venues which are accessible to me,” says Nipun.The 29-year-old is also passionately involved in another project, “Wheels for Life”, which connects people willing to donate wheelchairs with those who need them.

Shock continues for home ministry, as renewal of more NGOs tumble out

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More shock was in store for the union home ministry on Thursday when it discovered that cancelled foreign funding licenses of three more NGOs were renewed earlier, in addition ot the three it had discovered on Wednesday. Top home ministry were taken aback on Wednesday after finding that ministry’s online process was compromised to renew FCRA licenses of three NGOs – activist Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust and Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Greenpeace India.The scrutiny of online data led to the discovery that cancelled license of Gujarat based Navsarjan Trust, Delhi based Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) and one other Gujarat based NGO Rural Development Research Centre were renewed in the month of August 2016.All the renewals that have come to the light so far, incidentally, were done in the month of August this year, the period when televangelist Zakir Naik’s now banned NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) license was also renewed. The blunder had led to the removal of the then joint secretary, G K Dwivedi and suspension of three junior officials.The ministry has shot an express circular revising the renewal order of all the in question NGOs and declaring the renewal as non-est-ab-initio meaning null and void.Highly placed sources said, the ministry has taken the goof up very seriously and has already instituted an inquiry to find out the guilty, as such glaring mistakes, despite putting red flags, can only happen when an insider is compromised.Besides, the ministry has also tasked the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) to find out if the online renewal system was hacked or compromised. Besides, ordering re-vetting of all the 13,000 odd NGOs whose licenses were renewed before March 31 and October 31, the ministry has also asked the national informatics centre (NIC) to make the online system more secure by making the red flagged NGOs as read only file for all the officials below the level of joint secretary official.“This would allow only the joint secretary to give nod for the renewal of red flagged NGOs,” said sources.

Corruption, caste keep poor from owning land in northern India | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

KACHHIDIH (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For decades, Kunta lived in a hut outside Kachhidih village in Uttar Pradesh, enduring the insults of higher-caste villagers who claimed her land – which she did not legally own – for grazing cattle.She dreamed of owning just a small piece of land for her family who belong to the traditionally low-caste Dalit group.Six months ago, Kunta got her wish when the state allocated her family and eight others small plots of land a few kilometres (miles) away from their old home, after months of delays.Kunta was finally a landowner with her name on the title.Reached by a dirt track through a field, the land is some distance from the highway. There is one solar lamp post and a hand pump spewing muddy water. Huts cobbled together with straw, mud and plastic offer scant protection from the winter chill.Yet Kunta, who goes by her first name, is hopeful.”The place we lived in before was our home for many years, but it did not belong to us. The villagers harassed us and officials asked us for bribes in exchange for titles,” she said.”This is our land; perhaps we can save some money, plan for our future, for our children. No one can chase us away because we own this land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Landless Dalits like Kunta are at the bottom of India’s age-old social hierarchy, denied land ownership and facing slights and discrimination every day from upper-caste Hindus.Despite evidence linking landlessness and poverty, and laws to help people secure small plots of land on which to build a home and eke out a living, roughly 56 percent of India’s rural households — about 100 million families — remain landless.Most belong to low-caste or indigenous communities.”The main issue is not non-availability of land, it is corruption and caste,” said Ramesh Sharma, a senior official at rights group Ekta Parishad, which has lobbied the government for years for land for the landless poor.”Getting land allocated is in itself a challenge, then local revenue officials often ask for bribes to release the titles. High-caste villagers may object and delay it further because they just don’t want these people to get land,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state, with a population of about 200 million. Dalits make up more than a fifth of the state’s population, but wield little power.India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, but centuries-old attitudes persist, and lower-caste groups including Dalits are among the most marginalised communities.But Sarnath Prajapati, a revenue officer of the state, denied that caste is keeping Dalits from getting land, or that there are long delays and corruption in land allocation.”We have allocated land to the maximum extent possible. It is a priority for the state,” Prajapati said.”Sometimes, the land that is allocated may be in use by someone. Then we talk to them, and that takes time. Sometimes we have to bring the police to resolve the situation,” he said.Activist Jignesh Mevani is leading a campaign for land, asking that states give 5 acres (2 hectares) of land to each landless Dalit family so they can earn a living.The previous federal government had drafted a National Rural Homestead Bill in 2013 to provide plots measuring about 4,400 square metres (47,361 sq ft) each to landless families.

But the draft bill was never presented in parliament for approval. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014, met Ekta Parishad officials earlier this year and assured them that the bill remained a priority, Sharma said.A few states including West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka have drawn up their own laws for land allocation, giving government land and excess private land to the landless. Homestead plots, measuring just one-tenth of an acre, can deliver “significant economic and nutritional benefits”, with space to grow food, build a home, keep small livestock, and for other livelihood options, according to land advocacy Landesa.But in India’s fast growing economy, demand for land for industrial and development projects is increasing, and land allocation is beset with challenges, Landesa said.”Identification of the landless is challenging, available land for distribution is often encroached upon by dominant interests and land management committees are often not functional,” said Shipra Deo, Landesa’s Uttar Pradesh director.”Above all, caste is a big factor and very difficult to overcome, as it is so entrenched and so sensitive,” she said.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district, landless Dalits bear the brunt of this ancient caste discrimination.In Kachhidih village and Tardih village, Dalits are not allowed to work or live close to higher-caste people. In Kachhidih, one Dalit man was beaten up so badly after his goat entered someone else’s land that he is now bedridden and cannot work, Kunta said.Land allocated to Kunta and her neighbours was not handed over for months as other villagers argued over the proximity of the land to their fields, said village headman Madhukar Dwivedi. More than 100 families are still awaiting their titles for land that has been allocated to them, he said.”In our society, there are good people and bad people. Some people don’t want these people to get land, they just want them to live under them, in their control always,” Dwivedi said.”I want to give the titles, but I have to get the backing of the village council. There is a system, and not everyone in the system supports giving them titles,” he said.It is the same situation in Tardih, where members of the semi-nomadic Nat community who lived for decades near the village, faced harassment and delays in getting their land titles, said Najma Ahmed, one of the oldest residents.Five families recently received titles to small plots of land some distance from the village, and have built rickety huts a few metres from a stagnant pool covered in green slime.”The villagers said we were living on their land for free. But they wouldn’t let us work there,” said Ahmed, who like other women in this Muslim community wears glass bangles and a red sindoor on her forehead like married Hindu women do.”At least here we can build homes, give them to our kids. It isn’t much, but where else can we go? This is all we have.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 21:14 IST

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies – report | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”

In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.

The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.

The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell; @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:03 IST

Hunt begins in campuses for India participation in Hult Prize 2017 award

It is time for Hult Prize 2017 and the hunt is on for the most innovative ‘change the world’ concept. The Hult Prize Foundation is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from the world’s universities. Named as one of the top five ideas changing the world by President Bill Clinton and TIME Magazine, the annual competition for the Hult Prize aims to create and launch the most compelling social business ideas—start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people. Winners receive US $1 million in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community.

The Hult Prize came to India in 2016 as a National Program with over 50 campuses initiating the Hult Prize as an on campus event. The Hult Prize foundation partnered with Aravindam Foundation in India to create Hult Prize India dedicated to enhance participation from India and help generate more winners.

Courtesy: HultprizeCourtesy: Hultprize

Courtesy: Hultprize

The Hult Prize 2017 is about creating scalable and sustainable startup enterprises to reawaken the potential of displaced people (refugees). This year has also been a water shed year for Indian campus participation. The Aravindam Foundation in India partnered with the Hult Prize foundation and rapidly built upon existing resources to take participation to over 50 campuses. Abhimanyu Abrol (IIT KGP), Ewelina Janus (Poland, Founder Director, Aravindam) and Dr.Lokesh Abrol (Doctor, Social Entrepreneur) together spearheaded the Hult Prize India with support from a nationwide team of volunteers.

The Hult prize
Founded in 2009 by Ahmad Ashkar and sponsored by Bertil Hult, Swedish entrepreneur and Education First founder, Hult Prize is the social game changer. Today, it has a massive over 650 universities representing more than 150 countries and spends over 2 million man-hours on solving the world’s most gripping issues. In the current year itself eight of the ‘Forbes Top 30, Under 30, Entrepreneurs Changing the World’ were individuals who, founded their companies as part of the Hult Prize annual accelerator.

Teams from India have been participating in the Hult Prize since 2011 as standalone applicants. In 2014, campus-level events were held in four campuses in India. In 2015, it grew to 11 campuses, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi, IIT BHU, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Calcutta, IIM Indore, ISB Hyderabad, IMT Ghaziabad,Jadavpur University, BITS Pilani and Sri Ram College of Commerce.

Hult Prize is about social enterprise ideas and startups in a university environment. With 761 universities, a vibrant educational environment and a vast population below poverty line, India is a natural laboratory and fertile ground for Social enterprise, says Lokesh Abrol, Director, Hult Prize India. “The scale, the opportunity and the talent pool available are simply immense. We will not be surprised if Hult Prize in India becomes larger than the global parent in coming years,” he said.


The Hult Prize is present in over 650 universities in 130 countries in the world and is growing by the year. It is rapidly becoming a community of motivated, inspired and passionate students around the world, united by a common idea of doing good in a sustainable and profitable way.

The prize is open to students from every campus in all countries of the world. The launch of a National Chapter depends upon the readiness of the ecosystem in the form of extent and quality of participation and availability of local sponsors and high calibre teams.

Process, selection
Action starts with recruitment of campus directors who are university students who apply online in June/July. Selections are done by telephonic or Skype interviews of shortlisted candidates. Those with demonstrable organisational skills are preferred.

Last year, the challenge was related to crowded urban places and how one can better connect people to goods and services, says Abrol. The objective was to double the income of one million people by 2020. Magic Bus from Earlham college, USA won it.

The Magic Bus founders – Iman Cooper, Sonia Kabra, Wyclife Omondi, and Leslie Ossete are from– USA, India, Nairobi, and Kenya. Not many people from poor communities had smartphones, so the team came up with the idea of an offline service that would use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) gateway and SMS service to help people book their seats on in-city buses, know the time of arrival of the buses, fares, etc. They reduced the time spent in waiting for buses in Kenya, from several hours every week to minutes and enhanced productivity.

The prize money is US$ one million, which incidentally is the biggest ever prize money for any student award. One of the highlights of the Foundation is that former US President Bill Clinton is the Hult Prize Partner. He announces the challenge of the competition each year and hosts the Hult Prize Global Finals.

India focus
This year has seen a 400 percent increase in participation with over 50 top campuses taking part. After selection of campus directors, they are supported with planning, information, webinars, competition modules and mentoring. The Campus Directors spread the word, gather teams, organise seminars and discussions on the problem statement, lead fund raising, reach out to prospective judges of exceptional calibre and hold the campus event for teams that register on the Hult Prize India website.

Each campus needs to have at least ten competing teams with each team having 3 to 5 members. One team from each eligible campus advances to the National event. There is an additional avenue of application for teams that do not have a campus event or want to give it a second chance. the campus Directors can also use this avenue after their campus event has been completed. Online applications are scrutinised by a central panel of judges for shortlisting.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 13:35 IST

Getting children into school is not like going to Pluto, says Julia Gillard | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world is facing a crisis if countries do not increase their education budgets and get more children into school, warned Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global education funding agencyThere are 260 million children and adolescents out of school globally, says the Education Commission, a global organisation of former prime ministers, academics and business leaders set up last year to campaign for investment in education.This is attributed largely to poverty with parents unable to afford to send their children to school but also other factors such as discrimination based on ethnicity, caste or religion. Education Commission data forecasts that by 2030, half of the 1.6 billion young people in the world will not have secondary level skills, and will not be easily absorbed into a job market which is demanding higher skill levels.Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, said this was a crisis not just for the individual child who misses out on school, but also at the global economy level. “One of things we have learned is that we can overcome these problems if we try

The post Getting children into school is not like going to Pluto, says Julia Gillard
| Reuters
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Activists criticise govt’s move to cancel Indira Jaising’s NGO’s licence

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Some of the leading activists on Friday criticised the Centre’s decision to cancel licence of ‘Lawyers Collective’, an NGO run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising.Condemning the Centre’s decision, Anjali Gopalan, Executive Director of Naz Foundation, said, “What is shocking about the order served on the Lawyers’ Collective is the statement that they have done nothing for women’s development and empowerment.” Uma Chakravarti, historian and social activist alleged that the move by the central government was a “new witch-hunt of our times.”Expressing solidarity with the NGO, JNU Professor Ayesha Kidwai lauded the ‘Lawyers’ Collective’ for the “resolute fight for justice they have put up through the years”.Ministry of Home Affairs cancelled the licence of ‘Lawyers’ Collective’ permanently, alleging violation of FCRA, an action termed by the organisation as “preposterous” and an attack on “right to free speech” guaranteed under the Constitution.

NIA plea to conduct lie-detector test on IRF member rejected

Tue, 6 Dec 2016-11:50pm , Mumbai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A special court on Tuesday rejected the National Investigation Agency’s application seeking a lie- detector test on the guest relationship manager of Zakir Naik- led Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) who was arrested for allegedly indoctrinating youths into joining ISIS.The NIA, which had taken Arshi Qureshi into custody on November 30 along with two others, moved the court yesterday seeking its permission. However, Qureshi did not give his consent to the procedure. “The court has rejected the NIA application’s after Qureshi did not consent to it and as per the Supreme Court guidelines, no tests can be conducted without the permission of the accused,” said his lawyer Ishrat Khan.Qureshi was sent to NIA’s custody last week till December 7. He along with Rizwan Khan and Mohammed Haneef were booked based on a complaint made by Abdul Majid Abdul Kader – the father of Ashfaq, one of the 22 youths who had allegedly joined ISIS. Mumbai-based IRF was banned by Union government last month for a period of five years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

In Ladakh, protecting wildlife in the name of God

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>No trip to the mountains of Ladakh can be complete without a glimpse of its colourful prayer flags and Buddhist monasteries. The religious fabric of Ladakh, however, is not monochromatic. Almost half of the population practises Islam, and is mostly located in Kargil, while Buddhist communities are located largely in Leh.The, the two districts have a lot in common landscape-wise. Both are strongholds of large and threatened wildlife such as the snow leopard and the wolf. Jammu and Kashmir has the largest share of potential snow leopard habitat in the country, most of which is within Ladakh. In our 15-month study, we found that mercy/compassion was common to both faiths though roles and responsibilities of each faith with respect to wildlife were interpreted differently.In a nutshell, Mahayana Buddhism postulates the theory of dependent origination in which sentient beings (including humans) can function only in relation to others around them and therefore, do not have an independent existence. Empathy, compassion and non-violence toward all sentient beings are morals important to attract good karma.Islam (as practised in Ladakh) propagates the idea of an all-powerful creator (Allah) who has made human beings trustees of the earth. Humans are called upon to have mercy on non-humans, and use His creations responsibly. Such overlaps and differences can be used to design conservation and awareness programmes that can highlight the importance of compassion, non-violence and empathy for sentient beings.Our interviews with local communities in both Leh and Kargil districts revealed that individuals generally exhibited less negative attitudes toward snow leopards than wolves. Dislike for wolves is a universal pattern, which has been attributed to the wolf depredation on livestock, cultural biases, for example negative framing of wolves in folk stories; wolf behaviour – they howl, move in packs, all of which is perceived to be unpleasant. Overall, attitudes were not influenced by whether one was a self-identified Buddhist or Muslim. They were influenced instead by the gender, level of education and the extent of awareness of wildlife laws. One pattern stood out in the Buddhist villages where there was significant correlation between religiosity (i.e. the level of religious activity) and attitudes toward snow leopards and wolves. This means that Buddhist individuals who claimed to be ‘more religious’ had more positive attitudes toward the two carnivores. No such pattern was observed in the Muslim sample.This is the first study that has attempted to examine religiosity along with religion in the context of carnivore management. And while the scale needs refinement, future research could further this line of thought, and find means to improve upon the measurement indices of our study.For more, visit: Bhatia works with Nature Conservation Foundation. The 15-month study—funded by Whitley Fund for Nature-Fondation Segré Partnership Fund—was undertaken by Bhatia, Dr. Stephen Redpath, Dr. Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi and Dr. Charudutt Mishra

Ahead of civic polls, residents prepare report cards for councillors

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of of resident welfare associations (RWA) has come together to rate the local councillors, ahead of the 2017 municipal corporation polls. The United Residents Joint Action (URJA), an umbrella body of over 2,500 RWAs in the Capital, released the report cards in an event organised on Monday.The members shared their feedback on the work done by the councillors in each of the 272 municipal wards across the Capital. The report cards took into account several parameters, including utilisation of budget, number of issues raised in the House, attendance in committee meetings, educational qualifications, criminal records and income tax reports.”We also took inputs from the residents and considered the works done in each area. There were instances where works, such as laying of roads, were done again and again, so that the funds were pocketed, while the issues of real importance were neglected,” said Amit Agarwal, URJA coordinator from Vasant Kunj.The municipal corporations — North, South and East — are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The residents’ body had tied up with NGO Praja Foundation to prepare the report cards.”The objective of the exercise was to rank our elected members and to have a fair idea of their work before the next elections. The data collated over the year shows that many of the issues raised by the municipal councillors were not relevant to the complaints made by the people,” Aggarwal said.Mehrauli RWA President Sandeep Bali said: “There are a number of issues — delayed digging of roads and collection of garbage and sewage, to the stray animal menace. Many councillors did not even pay regular visits to their areas in the last one year.”The only commendable project this year, he said, was the installation of open gyms in parks, even though some of the equipment was not functional. “It is only now, a few months ahead of the polls, that the councillors have gone on an inauguration spree. Random projects such as naming of a park to relaying a road, one can spot them almost everyday in the field,” he said.According to the report, between April 2015 and March 2016, all corporations received a total of 20,239 complaints regarding the nuisance created by stray animals, but the issue was raised in the House only 372 times.”As many as 10,286 complaints were filed on the issue of mosquito-breeding but it was raised in the House only 247 times,” the report stated.

We don’t give out citizenships automatically: Malaysia on Zakir Naik’s nationality

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Malaysia has dismissed media reports that controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik had been granted citizenship by the country, saying it takes decades to become a Malaysian citizen. “We don’t give out (citizenships) automatically unless the person was born in the country to Malaysian parents,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said on Sunday, rejecting media reports that the Islamist preacher had been granted citizenship by the country.”There are many processes to follow and it takes decades to become a Malaysian citizen. Besides, Naik is not an important religious personality for the Southeast Asia region as we should have our own moderate model of Islam which fits the soft culture of the people here,” Nur was quoted as saying by the Star online.However, an ethnic Indian NGO, Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), said Home Minister Zahid Hamidi had denied Naik was given citizenship, but he was silent whether he was given a Permanent Resident status. HINDRAF alleged in a statement that Naik had been provided with immunity and support by the Malaysian government and allowed to continue his preaching that “clearly fostered the spirit of separateness and reinforced prejudice towards the Non-Muslim community in Malaysia.”Muslim majority Malaysia has a 25% ethnic Chinese who are mostly Buddhists and Christians and 8% ethnic Indians, a majority of whom are Hindus. HINDRAF president Wayathamoorthy alleged that thousands of Malaysian Indians still continued to live in a “stateless manner.”The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in India has charged Naik and banned his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), besides various sections of anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

When Textile Minister Smriti Irani stitched a bond with a cobbler with her generosity

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Union minister Smriti Irani paid Rs 100 to a cobbler here for getting her slippers repaired and the latter, who had demanded only Rs 10 for the job, happily put in additional stitches on it with the incident going viral on the social media. The Union Textile Minister’s slipper strap had snapped as she alighted from a flight to address a session at Isha Foundation here, BJP sources said.She was looking for a cobbler and found one near Perur, around 16 kms from the airport, on her way to Isha Foundation. Irani, along with Tamil Nadu BJP general secretary Vanathi Srinivasan, got off the vehicle. She handed over the slipper to the cobbler and sat on a stool. The cobbler asked for Rs 10 for the stitching job. Irani placed a Rs 100 currency note near his cash box and said, “Change venda (change not needed),” repeating what Vanathi told her. The cobbler put in a few additional stitches on the Union minister’s slipper.The incident has gone viral on the social media with the netizens appreciating Irani’s gesture.

‘Communal’ Zakir Naik believes no religion is better than Islam BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Welcoming the Centre’s decision to ban the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) run by Zakir Naik, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday asserted that the controversial Islamic preacher believes no religion is better than Islam. BJP leader and former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh said Zakir Naik is communal from the very beginning. “He believes there is no better religion in the world than Islam. He, who himself is communal, sees everyone to be the same. The government’s decision is a welcome stand. It should have taken place earlier,” the Baghpat MP said.Naik’s counsel Mobin Solkar said earlier this month that the case filed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) against his client under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is illegal, as the Supreme Court had earlier granted a stay in a similar case and hence any fresh complaint on the same grounds would stand void. Solankar maintained that from 2012 till date, Naik has not given any lecture which can be a cause of action for filing a fresh FIR against him.He, however, conceded that the investigative agency is entitled to search and visit the premises of the IRF owned by Naik and the organisation would comply with all investigative processes carried out by the NIA.Earlier, the authorities blocked the websites of IRF for allegedly spreading objectionable contents, speeches and videos. As per reports, the NIA will also raise the issue of suspension of videos on YouTube and Facebook pages with the US since the servers are located there.The NIA had earlier on November 19 carried out searches at 10 premises of the banned IRF in Mumbai after registering a case against its founder Naik and others under an anti-terror law.

High Court orders release of prominent Kashmiri human rights activist | Reuters

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A court in India’s restive state of Kashmir on Friday ordered police to release a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist arrested two months ago on charges of involvement in activities against the public order, saying authorities had no evidence.Khurram Parvez, 39, coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) has long campaigned against human rights violations committed by state forces in the volatile Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir.His arrest in September was condemned by human rights groups, as well as the United Nations, who said Parvez’s detention was a deliberate attempt by Indian authorities to obstruct his work.The Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed the detention order against Parvez saying police had exploited their position and did not have enough evidence to detain the activist.”What emerges is that the detention of (Parvez) is not only illegal but the detaining authority has abused its powers in ordering his detention,” said an order by Justice M.H. Attar.

Police officials declined to comment on the court order and were unwilling to confirm if they would release Parvez. The JKCCS has published research into the role of Indian security forces in containing a separatist insurgency in India’s Kashmir state that first flared a quarter of a century ago.Parvez was stopped by authorities at New Delhi airport on Sept. 14 when he was on his way to Geneva to attend the U.N. Human Rights Council.

He is currently being held in preventive detention under the highly controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for people to held for up to two years without judicial intervention.But the court said that allegations such as that he was inciting people who were coming out of a mosque to shout slogans were not backed up with any proof.

Dozens of civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in months of clashes between protesters and security forces in Kashmir state, sparked by the killing of a leading separatist militant in a joint army and police operation in July.The unrest is the worst in the Muslim-majority region for six years, and critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the protests.India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence in 1947. Both claim the territory in full but rule it in part. (Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar. Writing by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 22:59 IST

Hurriyat leader slams Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for comments on Kashmir

Srinagar: Separatist Hurriyat Conference on Thursday hit out at chief of Art of Living Foundation Sri Sri
Ravi Shankar for his statement on Kashmir, terming it as “ridiculous and hilarious”.

At a peace conference in Jammu on Wednesday, Sri Sri had said, “The (Kashmir) conflict has become the cash cow for some people. They don’t want to put an end to it. This has become a source of earning for them. But the common people are facing the brunt of it. They need to come forward and isolate those people.”

Reacting to this, a spokesman of hardline Hurriyat Conference led by

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. File photo. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. File photo. AFP

said, “It (Sri Sri’s comment) is far from reality and the remarks regarding the present freedom movement and resistance leadership are baseless and illogical.”

Advising the spritual guru “to go through the history and equip himself with the facts” before commenting, the spokesman said in a statement that “this deceitful rhetoric has no takers” in the valley.

Referring to Sri Sri’s statement regarding the type of “freedom”, the Hurriyat spokesman said “before asking this question, he should have gone through the pages of history and resolutions of United Nations and promises made by his own political stalwarts….”

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 21:58 IST

More trouble for Zakir Naik: NIA asks banks to freeze IRF’s accounts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Seeking to starve controversial preacher Zakir Naik and his organisation of funds, the NIA today asked banks to freeze accounts belonging to him and his Islamic Research Foundation, which has been banned under the anti-terror law. Official sources said all the banks, where Naik’s and his organisation’s accounts were in operation, have been asked to immediately freeze those till further directions.NIA had registered a case against Naik, IRF and unnamed office bearers of the foundation under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), besides various sections of anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.Following this searches were conducted for three days at 20 premises during which details of bank accounts and other financial activities related to Naik and IRF were seized.The sources said the move to block his bank accounts was taken after the NIA claimed to have seized documents which showed ISIS recruit Abu Anas had received Rs 80,000 from the IRF as scholarship in October 2015.Anas, an engineer and a resident of Tonk in Rajasthan, had quit job in a Hyderabad-based company when he was arrested by the NIA in January for allegedly planning to carry out a terror strike ahead of Republic Day.The NIA claimed the probe into the IRF’s funding and distribution of money showed that Anas, who was among 16 people arrested for ISIS links at that time, had received Rs 80,000 from IRF as scholarship.NIA has also written to Union Home Ministry for banning the webiste run by the IRF and as well as suspending its online activities which inlcudes videos of speeches on social networking sites, the sources said.The Home Ministry will pass on the request to Information Technology ministry for blocking the Universal Resource Locator (URL) of the website. The NIA has been conducting searches since November 19 and raided at least 20 premises in Mumbai which are connected to the proscribed IRF or its trustees. During the search operations, video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches, documents related to property and investment, financial transactions, foreign and domestic funding to IRF as well as its associated companies, and electronic storage devices have been recovered. The NIA alleged that IRF, which was banned by the government last week under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), had close connections with some companies dealing in media, perfumes and some other sectors.

Parents support Naik’s school mgmt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of parents, teachers and staff of the Islamic International School (IIS), which was run by controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, approached State Education Minister Vinod Tawde on Tuesday demanding that the school management remain unchanged. The meeting comes days after authorities froze the school’s bank accounts after the Home Ministry banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and declared it an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The National Investigation Agency filed an FIR against Naik and others for promoting enmity between religious groups.According to a statement issued by a spokesperson for IIS, students’ parents have spoken out against the school’s bank accounts getting frozen. A letter signed by parents, teachers and the school principal, was handed over to Tawde and circulated to the media, said the school has helped students achieve academic excellence. “By changing the school’s management, or handing it over to another body, will strip it of its basic essence. The school will not only lose its identity and purpose, there is a high chance that parents will no longer see it as the place they originally envisioned for their children. The esteemed education institution will die an unnatural death. This would probably be the first time in modern India that an educational institution would be shut down in an undemocratic manner,” the letter stated. “We, the parents and teaching staff of Islamic International School, strongly oppose change of ownership and/or management as being implied by recent media reports. We choose to remain with the current management and any attempts to change the ownership of the school is totally unwelcome,” the letter said. A press statement from IIS said Tawde assured them that the school will not shut down before the end of the current academic year. It also claims that if the Union Government does not seal the school premises, the state does not have any plans of a takeover. On the ownership, Tawde asked the parents, principal and staff to approach the Home Minister or the court to re solve the matter.

Two premises of Zakir Naik’s IRF raided by NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On the fourth day of its crackdown on banned Islamic Research Foundation, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out raids and search operations at two more premises of controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s outfit on Tuesday.So far, raids have been carried out at 20 premises in last four days, an NIA official said. A team of NIA officials is deciphering ‘hate’ speeches of Naik by listening to audio and video records, he said. NIA has seized some incriminating documents and some files in Tuesday’s search operation also, said the official.The analysis of documents on financial transactions of IRF including foreign funding and documents related to property details of Naik is in progress, he added. A team of IT experts from NIA headquarters in Delhi is analysing seized documents, the official said.
ALSO READ NIA wraps up raids in 17 Zakir Naik’s IRF premisesDuring the search operations, video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches, documents related to property and investment, financial transactions, foreign and domestic funding of the proscribed IRF as well as its associated companies, and electronic storage devices have been recovered, a NIA release said.The investigation has revealed that the proscribed IRF has close connections with Harmony Media Private Limited, Longlast Constructions Private Limited, Right Property Solutions Private Limited, Majestic Perfumes Private Limited and Alpha Lubricants Private Limited. Documents pertaining to inflow and outflow of foreign and domestic funding, which have been recovered during search operations, are being scrutinised, it added.

NIA removes online content of Dr Zakir Naik’s IRF including his hate speeches

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The National Investigation Agency began the process of removing the online contents of banned Islamic Research Foundation, including alleged hate speeches by its founder Zakir Naik, even as it continued searches at the IRF’s premises, an official said. “As part of investigation, all actions that need to be taken against a proscribed organisation, including banning of its online activities, are being undertaken,” an NIA spokesperson told PTI.After the Centre recently banned IRF for five years, its website was blocked by authorities.”We have started our process to remove online content which is available on internet, social media sites related to IRF which includes hate speeches of its founder and Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik,” the official said.Search operation is still going on at the IRF offices and premises as well as that of Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, from where the programmes were being aired on Naik’s Peace TV, the official said.However, he declined to divulge further details.The NIA had on Saturday (November 19) carried out searches on 10 premises of the IRF in Mumbai after registering a case against Zakir Naik and others under an anti-terror law. The agency had seized Rs 12 lakh cash and incriminating documents, files as well as electronic storage devices, during searches on various premises, including IRF’s head office. The NIA had earlier registered an offence against IRF founder-president and controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his associates for “promoting” enmity and hatred between religious groups through his public speeches and lectures on various platforms.As per a statement released earlier, Naik and his associates were responsible for inciting Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts.

Vultures feed and breed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the dwindling numbers of vultures are a cause for concern, an initiative by the state forest department to ensure that these endangered raptors get to feed on carrion has led to their population rising in the Left wing extremism- affected district of Gadchiroli.The ‘vulture restaurant’ model has led to a rise in the numbers of species like Gyps indicus (Indian Vulture or Long-billed Vulture) and Gyps africanus (White-backed vulture) in a tribal dominated district in Vidarbha. Out of total 23 vulture species found globally, India has nine in the wild. While helping dispose of carcasses which would have otherwise been a public health problem, these birds act as natural scavengers.“In the vulture restaurant model, we ask villagers to take the animal carcasses to these restaurants located away from villages instead of burying or burning them. The carcasses are kept in an enclosed area with a raised platform to attract vultures in the vicinity who feed on them while making food available exclusively for vultures, it keeps away competition. This has led to an increase in vulture population,” said P.Kalyankumar, chief conservator of forests, Gadchiroli.The vulture conservation effort was launched in 2012 from Gadchiroli and Kamlapur. The platforms prevent the raptors from being disturbed by other animals like dogs when they feed on the carcasses.He added that the number of these winged scavengers stood at around 800 compared to less than 100 when they started off with the idea in 2013. Most of these birds are from the resident population and some vultures also come from neighbouring Chhattisgarh to feed.The department pays villagers Rs 500 per dead cattle to serve as an incentive to deposit carrions at the 25 such vulture restaurants in the district. “The sightings have improved and gone up around these villages. The number of nesting sites has also increased,” said Kalyankumar, adding that these restaurants had been selected in areas with water sources and trees for these raptors to nest.“We have appointed gidhad mitras (friends of vultures) for villages with a vulture restaurant. They have been given binoculars and a camera and have been trained in conservation. They count the number of birds and inform our nodal officers,” he explained, adding that now, they were mapping nesting sites and asking farmers to preserve huge canopy trees. “The actual enumeration of nesting colonies has been started. We are surveying these nesting sites in minute details and taking their GPS locations. This will help us map their nesting patterns, behaviour and locational preference,” said Kalyankumar.The use of painkiller diclofenac for treating livestock and the resulting presence of the drug in animal carcasses which vultures fed on, led to these birds dying of kidney failures. In 2006, the veterinary manufacture of the drug was banned. Environmentalist Kishor Rithe of the Satpuda Foundation noted that this would tide over the food shortage faced by vultures due to farmers selling off aged, dying livestock to traders for culling. However, Vibhu Prakash of the BNHS Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, noted that their studies showed the vultures did not face a problem of food availability. Prakash said the main problem for vultures was diclofenac, the presence of which in a carcass would kill several birds. “Human formulations are available in the market and are used for treating cattle,” said Prakash, adding that their 2013 carcass sampling survey had shown that around five to six percent carcasses had traces of the drug, when it should be less than 1%. “However, prevalence of diclofenac has come down,” he noted, adding that the Centre had banned multi-dose vials last year.

NIA searches 12 premises of Zakir Naik’s IRF

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After filing an FIR against controversial televangelist Zakir Naik under Sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday morning searched the offices of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and residences of his associates.NIA sources said electronic evidence in the form of laptops and mobile phones as well as many documents were seized during searches at 12 locations in Mumbai.After the IRF was banned by the Centre for five years as an unlawful association under UAPA, the Mumbai Police had on Thursday served a copy of the notification at the organisation’s Dongri office.NIA’s Mumbai unit on Friday registered an offence against Naik and others under UAPA Sections 10 (Penalty for being a member of an unlawful association), 13 (Punishment for unlawful activities) and 18 (Whoever conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites or knowingly facilitates the commission of a terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act) and Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony).”On November 19, nine NIA teams have conducted search operations at 12 premises connected to the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai simultaneously and seized incriminating documents /files, electronic storage devices and about Rs 12 lakh in cash. The recovered documents relate to various activities including financial transactions and property details of Zakir Naik and the IRF. To assist the search teams, a team of IT experts was flown in from the NIA headquarters in Delhi to Mumbai. The searches are still going on and are likely to continue till late in the night,” an NIA spokesperson said. The search operations were photographed.On Saturday, around 5 am, a team of NIA officers and the local police searched the IRF’s head office at Tandel Street in Dongri and a few other places related to the NGO, including IRF Ladies Wing, Islamic Books International, Global Education and Harmony Media Pvt Ltd.According to sources, the agency had initially searched 10 places and two more places were searched later. The locations searched, which include office complexes of IRF, residential premises of Naik and his close associates and office-bearers of his trust are located in and around Dongri.Sources said that electronic devices, including mobiles and laptops, have been seized. They added that several storage devices were found in Harmony Media’s office. Financial documents and other documents were also being scanned by the NIA. A team is sifting through the documents and will seize only those documents relevant to the investigation, sources said.”Around 4.30 am, we received a call from an NIA officer and were told toopen the offices. We were told that they wanted to search the premises of IRF. The searches are still on and are likely to continue till late night,” an IRF employee, who did not wish to be named, told DNA.”CDs and computer data from all IRF offices are being scrutinised.Telephonic and email conversations will be checked. Telecom experts have also been roped in,” said an official. Around 30-40 Mumbai police team members have been deployed at all IRF premises where the searches are on.The Maharashtra police’s anti-terrorism squad had earlier arrested IRF members for allegedly radicalising youths to join the terrorist organisation Daesh.The Mumbai police, too, had registered an offence against IRF members for motivating group of youths from Kasargode in Kerala, who left thecountry to join Daesh on a complaint from the father of Ashfaq Majid, one of the youths in the group, at the Nagpada police station. After a few days, this case was transferred to the NIA.Naik allegedly transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches by Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV.An educational trust run by Naik has already been prevented from receiving foreign funds and agencies are looking into its activities.Bank accounts of school frozenThe bank accounts of Islamic International School (IIS) in Mumbai, run by Zakir Naik, have been frozen. The school, which has around 165 students (89 boys and remaining girls) has pre-primary, primary and secondary levels and imparts education in the IGCSE curriculum, Quranic and Arabic.”Our administration informed us that the accounts were frozen on Thursday evening,” said Imran Qureshi, principal of IIS. “Daily activities like providing mid-day meals to pre-primary students, snacks to the staff and daily chores are affected. Today I managed expenses from my pocket but I request thegovernment and everyone that the teaching and learning process not get disturbed. It is their exam time right now,” said Qureshi.

NIA’s FIR against Zakir Naik is illegal, says his counsel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mobin Solkar, the counsel for controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, on Saturday said the case filed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) against his client under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is illegal, as the Supreme Court, earlier granted a stay in a similar case, and hence, any fresh complaint on the same grounds would stand void.”Earlier in the year 2012 an FIR was registered by the office bearers of some organisation against Zakir Naik under section 153 A and in response we filed a petition in the Supreme Court and the court granted stay to all those proceedings in the FIR. So fresh FIR for the same offence is not maintainable in law so they cannot be two FIR for one offence,” Solkar told ANI.Solankar further maintained that from 2012 till date, Dr. Naik has not given any lecture which can be a cause of action for filing a fresh FIR against him. He, however, conceded that the investigative agency is entitled to search and visit the premises of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), owned by Naik, and the organisation would comply with all the investigative processes carried out by the NIA.”The NIA, irrespective of the legality of the FIR, is empowered to investigate the matter and they are carrying out their investigation and we are ready to cooperate as far the investigation is concerned. IRF has been a law abiding trust and we are ready to fully cooperate with the investigative agency,” Solankar said.Teams of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), along with the Mumbai Police, early this morning, launched raids on 10 premises of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) run by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. NIA spokesperson told ANI that the premises were raided at 6 a.m. with the help of local police. “We are searching a few residential premises and a few office premises of Zakir Naik,” said the spokesperson.The NIA had on Friday registered a case against Naik and others under sections 10 (Penalty for being member of an unlawful association) and 13 (Punishment for unlawful activities) and other various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), said a spokesperson.The Union Government had on Tuesday declared the IRF as an “outlawed organisation” under the anti-terror law for its alleged terror activities, following which the Maharashtra Government said it would keep a close eye on locals and organisations funding the IRF and would be treated as “anti-social elements”.

Zakir Naik case: NIA files FIR against controversial preacher, raids 10 centres of IRF

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out searches at 10 places in a case registered against controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai.

The searches began on Saturday morning with the help of local police after a case was registered by the NIA’s Mumbai branch last night under 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion…and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On Friday, Mumbai Police handed over a copy of the central notification banning IRF for five years to the office-bearers of the city-based NGO.

The Union cabinet had approved a proposal to outlaw the IRF on Tuesday for its alleged terror activities.

In a gazette notification, the home ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.

IRF came on radar of investigative agencies after one of the terrorists in Dhaka attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.

Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.

Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join the Islamic State.

The speeches of Naik, who is currently out of the country apparently to evade arrest, are banned in the UK and Canada as well as in Malaysia.

Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV.

An educational trust run by Naik has already been prevented from receiving foreign funds and agencies are looking into their activities.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 10:15 IST

Zakir Naik case: Police hands over copy of Central notification to IRF

Mumbai: Police have handed over a copy of the Central notification banning Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years to office-bearers of the city-based NGO, promoted by controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

“After receiving the copy of notification from Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, the Mumbai Police served it to IRF office-bearers (in their office at Dongri in Mumbai),” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ashok Dudhe told PTI on Friday.

The Union cabinet had approved a proposal to outlaw the IRF on Tuesday for its alleged terror activities.

In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.

IRF came on radar of investigative agencies after one of the terrorists in Dhaka attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.

Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.

Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join the Islamic State. The case is under investigation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Naik is currently out of country apparently to evade arrest, sources said.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:32 IST

From praising Bin Laden to promoting hatred: Reasons behind ban on Zakir Naik’s NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has been extolling Osama Bin Laden, proclaiming that every Muslim should be a terrorist and claiming that if Islam had indeed wanted 80 per cent of Indians would not have remained Hindus, government said justifying the ban imposed on his NGO IRF.In a gazette notification, issued two days after the Union Cabinet decided to ban Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Home Ministry said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its President Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities. “The central government has received information that the statements and speeches made by Zakir Naik, the President of IRF are objectionable and subversive in nature as he has been extolling the known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, proclaiming that every Muslim should be a terrorist and claiming that if Islam had indeed wanted, 80 per cent of Indian population would not have remained Hindus as they could have been converted “if we wanted” by sword, justifying the suicide bombings, posting objectionable comments against Hindu Gods, claiming that Golden Temple may not be as sacred as Mecca and Medina and making other statements which are derogatory to other religions,” the notification said.The Home Ministry said through speeches and statements, Naik has been promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups and inspiring Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts. It said such divisive ideology is against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India and thereby making it an unlawful activity. “Statements of some terrorists arrested in the terrorist attack incidents or arrested ISIS sympathisers revealed that they were inspired by the fundamentalist statements of Naik, clearly indicating the subversive nature of his preachings and speeches,” the notification issued by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Sudhir Kumar Saxena said.The Central government is of the opinion that the aforesaid activities of the IRF and its President Zakir Naik are highly inflammatory in nature and prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between various religious groups and communities, the Home Ministry notification said. “…if urgent steps are not taken there is every possibility of many youth being motivated and radicalised to commit terrorist acts leading to promoting enmity between different religious groups. “The Central government, having regard to the above circumstances, is of the firm opinion that it is necessary to declare the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an unlawful association with immediate effect,” it said.

Maha govt to keep a close watch on locals who fund Dr Zakir Naik’s NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A day after Centre outlawed for five years Islamic Research Foundation promoted by controversial preacher Zakir Naik, Maharashtra government has decided to keep a close watch on those locals and organisations who continue to fund the NGO and would treat them as “anti-social elements”. “Banning IRF has dealt a strong blow to the organisation. Its anti-national activities can now be controlled. Though it (IRF) cannot receive funds from international organisations, there is a strong suspicion they will continue to receive funds from locals,” state’s Minister of State for Home, Deepak Kesarkar, told reporters here. The Union government yesterday declared IRF as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for its alleged terror activities. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kesarkar said the state government was keeping “very close watch on local people and organisations who continue to back IRF. They will be treated as anti-social elements and will be booked accordingly.”The minister said the government wanted to send a strong message to other local organisations, which might be discreetly engaged in “anti-national” activities, that they are under the scanner and would face “serious consequences” if even a slight evidence is found against them.nHe said the government was also simultaneously monitoring Naik’s school here to check if it is carrying out any indoctrination activities.IRF Educational Trust of Naik-runs Islamic International School (IIS) at Mazgaon in South Mumbai and also has a branch in Chennai.”We have to make sure children are not being taught what the IRF is known for. The curriculum being taught to students should be as prescribed by the government. Children cannot be allowed to be radicalised in the school,” the Minister said.Meanwhile, Education Minister Vinod Tawde tweeted the ban on IRF would not affect the students studying under the ambit of the organisation and that measures for rehabilitation of students will be taken.Tawde had earlier said the government will consider transferring the reigns of the school to respected foundations like Anjuman-i-Islam that have been working in education field for long.

DNA Evening Must Reads: RS debate on demonetization, Jaitley clarifies Mallya’s loan write off ‘only in books’ and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1) Demonetization: Congress likens PM Modi to Hitler, Mussolini and Gaddafi; Naidu calls comparison ‘atrocious’With frustration over the cash crunch mounting, debate on the issue of demonetization began in Rajya Sabha, with Congress leader Anand Sharma demanding Modi’s apology for mocking people standing in queue to withdraw money and exchange old currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. Read more…2) Arun Jaitley clarifies Vijay Mallya’s SBI loan write off ‘only in books’Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has clarified in the Rajya Sabha that Vijay Mallya’s State Bank of India loan has been written off ‘only in books’ and the government will still pursue the case. A DNA Exclusive story titled ‘SBI writes off loans of 63 wilful defaulters’ said that a part of Mallya’s loan along with 62 others’ was written off or added to the Advance Under Collection Account (AUCA), meant for toxic loans. Read more…3) Dhaka cafe attack: 3 terrorists involved were admirers of Zakir Naik, says govtThree terrorists, involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, were admirers of Zakir Naik, founder of Islamic Research Foundation, which was banned by the government, Rajya Sabha was informed today. “The three terrorists involved in the attack were reportedly admirers of Zakir Naik,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said in a written reply. The Minister said as per the available information, although the mandate of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is educational and social, it is also involved in other activities. “Noticing certain violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the IRF has been placed under the prior permission category”. Read more…4) PMLA court issues letter of request seeking Lalit Modi’s transfer from UKThe special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) ​court on Wednesday issued a letter of request (LR) to the UK competent authority to execute a non bailable warrant issued against former IPL chairman Lalit Modi and bring him back to India. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday in its application had pleaded the court to issue the LR for the execution of non bailable warrant. The court presided over by judge PR Bhavke, said that it would pass the orders on the issue on Wednesday. Read more…5) Sushma Swaraj admitted to AIIMS, undergoing tests for kidney transplantExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is admitted at AIIMS, is undergoing treatment for kidney-related ailment and is likely to remain in the hospital for a few days. “I am in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Presently, I am on dialysis. I am undergoing tests for a kidney transplant,” she said on Twitter. Read more…

Modi govt bans Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation for 5 years

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday decided to declare an NGO promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for five years for its alleged terror activities.

The decision has been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Cabinet approved a proposal to declare Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for five years, a Home Ministry official said.

Zakir Naik. Reuters

Zakir Naik. Reuters

A formal notification will be issued by the Home Ministry soon.

The move comes after investigation by the Home Ministry found the NGO was allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism, the official said.

According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.

Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, officials said.

Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, they claimed.

An educational trust run by Naik have already been prevented from receiving foreign funds and agencies are looking into their activities.

He came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.

The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.

He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher who is abroad, has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 20:46 IST

‘H-1B visa ‘potential area of conflict’ between Indo-US under Donald Trump’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Donald Trump’s administration would build on progress made in Indo-US ties and be less tolerant of Pakistan’s “dual policies” on terror, but the issue of H-1B visas could be a potential area of friction with New Delhi, a noted US expert on South Asian issues has said.”It seems likely that a Trump administration will build on the marked progress made in US-India relations over the last couple of years,” Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, a top American think-tank said.She said there is bipartisan recognition in the US that India plays an important role when it comes to achieving American objectives in the Asia Pacific, namely ensuring a rules-based international order and free and open seaways.”President-elect Trump made several positive comments about India on the campaign trail, which seems to reflect his support for bolstering the partnership,” said Curtis, who at The Heritage, focuses on US national security issues and regional geopolitics.Curtis said Trump’s tougher stance on terrorism, in general, will find favour among Indians, who are wary of attacks by Pakistan-based terrorist groups.”It is expected that a Trump administration will work more closely with India on combating terrorism in the region and will be less tolerant of Pakistan’s dual policies toward terrorism,” Curtis said.However, H-1B is a potential area of conflict between the two countries, she noted.”One area of potential friction could be over the H1-B visa issue. It is still unclear how Trump’s global business background will impact on his commitment to protect American workers,” she said.”He has both acknowledged the importance of allowing high tech companies to access global talent, while also pointing out potential flaws and misuse of the H1-B visa program. His administration may seek some changes to the H1-B visa requirements but is unlikely to do away with the program completely,” Curtis said.

Factory blaze kills at least 13 Indian garment workers as they slept | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At least 13 garment workers were killed after a fire broke out in a factory on the outskirts of the Indian capital, police and witnesses said on Friday.The blaze, which started in the early hours of Friday as the workers slept inside the leather factory workshop in Uttar Pradesh state, also critically injured eight more people.Police investigating the cause of the fire in Ghaziabad district said preliminary findings suggested it may have been sparked by an electrical short circuit.”We are reason to believe that it may be linked to an electrical short circuit, but we are still looking into it,” Deepak Kumar, Ghaziabad’s Senior Superintendent of Police, told reporters.”Everyone worked together to rescue the people inside the building. These included local residents, police, fire and ambulance services.”Police said they were also investigating the possibility the factory, was illegal and did not have a license to operate in the congested residential area.

Television pictures showed large crowds outside the gutted three-storey building, located in a narrowed-laned area lined cheek-by-jowl with similar structures in Sahibabad.The fire, which started at around 4 a.m. local time, spread from the ground floor housing the stitching unit to the upper two storeys, where the labourers were sleeping, said witnesses.Fire engines were rushed to area and managed to rescue 16 workers, said witnesses, many of whom were taken to a nearby hospital suffering from burns and respiratory problems.

Activists say the incident is one in a series illustrating the neglect of workplace safety in South Asia’s industrial sector, even in the wake of Bangladesh’s 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, in which more than 1,100 garment workers were killed.The Rana Plaza tragedy, where an eight-storey building housing several garment factories supplying global brands collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, was one of the world’s most deadly industrial accidents.In India, as well as Bangladesh, such accidents are common.

Eight people were killed in October in an explosion at a firework factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, while in May 2014, 15 others were killed in a similar accident in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.Campaigners advocating for better living and working conditions in the textile and garment sector said the incident showed the plight of workers were still being ignored.”Despite the many disasters we have seen before, and the great amount of attention to the dangerous working conditions in the South Asian garment industry, factories there largely remain unsafe. These workers were killed because they were sleeping in the factory,” said Carin Leffler of the Clean Clothes Campaign.”The deep tragedy that took 13 peoples’ lives in Sahibabad this morning shows that there is still a long way to go before workers can feel safe.” (Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Nov 11, 2016 21:00 IST

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 ban: Move to curb black money will break back of traffickers, says Kailash Satyarthi

New Delhi: Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has welcomed India’s overnight move to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes from circulation to crack down on corruption and counterfeit currency, saying it would also to help curb human trafficking and child slavery.

The shock currency move, announced late on Tuesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to bring billions of dollars worth of unaccounted wealth which people are hoarding, or “black money”, into the mainstream economy and curb corruption.

Kailash Satyarthi. ReutersKailash Satyarthi. Reuters

Kailash Satyarthi. Reuters

From midnight on Tuesday, the highest denomination bank notes ceased to be legal tender for transactions other than exchanging them at banks for smaller notes.

Banks are meant to alert the Reserve Bank of India and tax authorities of any unusually large sums being exchanged – which may be the product of ill-gotten gains.

Child rights activist Satyarthi said human trafficking and child labor were amongst the largest sources of black money.

“I commend the boldness of the step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to put an end to black money and corruption,” he said in a statement on late on Wednesday.

“Every single rupee earned by the traffickers and slave masters is black money. This move will break their backbone.”

India alone is home 40 percent of the world’s estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Thousands of children, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to cities every year by gangs who sell them into bonded labor or hire them out to unscrupulous employers.

Many end up as domestic workers or laborers in brick kilns, roadside restaurants or small textile and embroidery workshops. Many women and girls are sold into brothels.

Modi came to office in 2014 promising a war against the shadow economy, winning him support from middle-class Indians who accuse politicians and businessmen of cheating the system.

The abolition of 500 and 1,000-rupee notes came with virtually no warning. The old notes will be replaced with new ones in a move which is also designed to stop anti-India militants suspected of using fake notes to fund operations

Satyarthi, whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 enslaved children, said billions of illicit dollars was being made from the buying and selling of children.

“I have come across innumerable incidents where the agent or middle man earned at least 5,000 rupees ($75) for the placement of young boys in bonded labor and in cases of girls sold for prostitution and child marriages, this amount was around 200,000 rupees ($3,000),” he said.

“This announcement will go a long way in fighting exploitation of children and corruption in an organized manner. It is a positive step towards creating a more prosperous India for the future generations,” added Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai.

Agents of India’s ‘migration express’ sell one-way ticket to debt bondage | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

KANTABANJI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nijam Khan was on a recruiting spree. All through the autumn, he drove to villages around the town of Kantabanji in India’s eastern Odisha state looking for labour.He zeroed in on poor families, jobless men and desperate couples. He gave them cash to buy food and clothes ahead of the local harvest festival. In return, they gave him their freedom.”There are no jobs here,” Khan said, sitting in the office of his self-styled transport company in Kantabanji, a railway town in the drought-prone district.”The people will starve if we don’t give them these loans and jobs.” What Khan describes as “loans and jobs”, rights groups call debt bondage – the most prevalent form of forced labour in a country where an estimated 18 million people live in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index by Walk Free Foundation.In Kantabanji, population 22,000, it’s so prevalent that every second person seems to be a “sardar”, or labour agent.”The booming economy of Kantabanji is like an oasis in the otherwise desolate, poor landscape of Balangir district,” said Umi Daniel, a migrant rights activist with Aide et Action in Odisha.”The railhead thrives on the labour of migrant workers who are sent with the promise of better wages. But the only people making profits are the labour agents sending them out.”Agents prey on the tens of thousands of families who leave their villages in western Odisha each autumn to seek work across India in a mass movement of people called the “annual migration”, which lasts until the spring planting season.Most are duped into offering themselves for work as security against a loan they have taken or debt inherited from a relative, rights activists say. They then spend the next six months – or more – working to pay it back. In 90 percent of cases, they are trafficked by labour agents to brick kilns to feed India’s construction industry.SMUGGLED PAST OFFICIALS
The agents, most in their 30s or early 40s, have found ways to bypass the law, pay off officials and keep up the steady supply of cheap labour. Illegal recruitment is an industry worth $150 billion a year, campaigners say. Alongside the sardars are the so-called muscle men who settle scores with defaulters and bribe officials.These enforcers sneak bonded labourers past authorities by disguising them as marriage parties or splitting families into smaller groups, senior police officer Ashish Kumar Singh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Around 230 agents received licences in 2015 to recruit workers legitimately in Balangir district under legislation on the inter-state movement of labour, government data shows. They registered and sent out 17,998 workers to brick kilns nationwide.This year, 170 agents have been granted licences and more than 13,000 labourers have been registered, all scheduled to leave their homes in November.Those figures are dwarfed by the actual number of migrants who leave the district every year – around 500,000, according to activists and agents in Kantabanji.”They are going illegally, which means they are being trafficked,” district labour officer Madan Mohan Paik said. “But we don’t have ways and means to check this effectively. It has been like this for a very long time.”

The exploitation begins with an “advance” of 20,000 rupees ($300) – a welcome sum in a region where poverty is dire. The workers have to pay back the loan after six months.Kilns typically pay 300-400 rupees ($4-6) per 10,000 bricks, which means workers need to make almost 700,000 bricks to pay off the debt.In addition to getting back their advance, agents receive a commission for every worker they send out. They also get 20 rupees (30 cents) for every 1,000 bricks the workers make.Rescued workers say there is often no documentation of loans taken or how much debt has been cleared.”Even before I left my village, I had worked up a debt of nearly 30,000 rupees,” Umesh Mahanand, 17, said. “But I thought I would work hard and repay it quickly. I didn’t realise that the amount can technically never be repaid.”THE NEW NORMAL
It’s all said to have started in the 1970s with a man named Dashrath Suna, known as a champion brick maker. He was one of the first men to migrate from Balangir, one of the poorest districts in western Odisha.”I was very good and could make 6,000 bricks a day,” Suna told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at his home in Belpada village, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Kantabanji.”The brick kiln owner was happy and asked me to bring in friends to work the next time. I did and slowly it became a business.”Suna would cycle to far-flung villages, offering small loans around the festive time of Nuakhai in September, when farmers celebrate the rice harvest.

“Everyone needs a little extra cash around Nuakhai, to buy clothes, cook a good meal, drink a little and celebrate,” he said.So he convinced families to migrate out of the drought-prone region, where reliable employment is rare.”I was able to convince them and the labour market was built on the trust between the brick kiln owner, the agent and the labourer,” the octogenarian said.As the labour market grew, so did Suna’s fortunes. Over the years, he built a two-storey house in Belpada, where he lives with his children and grandchildren.His success spurred others to become labour agents.”Everyone in this village has profited from migration,” said his son, Ruku Sona, a popular singer in the region.”Even the labourers have benefited. Every home will have a motorcycle now. It wouldn’t have been possible if labour wasn’t sent out. Nobody should really be complaining.”In the bylanes of Kantabanji, Suna’s name is whispered with reverence. But Bablu Khan’s is uttered with fear.One of Suna’s men in the early days, his job was to pay off labour inspectors and railway police and fight other agents to ensure the workers Suna had picked made it onto the “migration express”.Once he’d learnt the ropes, he started out on his own.

Bablu Khan soon became the biggest player in the market, sending out more labour than any other agent and quickly changing the ground rules of migration in Kantabanji.”The market became brutal,” said one sub-agent, declining to be identified. “People were herded like cattle and sent on trains. Many survive the journey and the hardships at the brick kilns. Many others don’t.”In 2013, the brutality of the business hit global headlines when agents chopped off the hands of two labourers for trying to escape debt bondage. The case is still on at a court in Odisha.RAILHEAD TO MISERY
Nijam Khan keeps a tidy desk at the Khwaja Garib Nawaz Transport Office, with two biscuit tins in one corner and a picture of his father. He arrived dressed in a crisp white shirt and blue jeans, preceded by two henchmen who told half a dozen labourers sitting on a bench outside to wait in an alley nearby.Inside, Nijam Khan showed off his labour agent licence and the lists he keeps. They show who has been sent where and how much each worker has been paid in advance.”My father had a licence to send 1,400 labourers and we renew it religiously,” he said. “Everyone is an agent now and everyone is sending a few hundred people out. It’s a way of life here.”Police officials, requesting anonymity, said Nijam Khan sends thousands more workers than his licence allows. Khan denies that he exceeds his legal quota.The proceeds from migrant labour account for 50 percent of the region’s economy, said Haji Mohammad Ayub Khan, Kantabanji’s elected representative in the state assembly. His own brother was one of the bigger labour agents in town.”Government schemes are not reaching remote villages, leaving people with practically no options. If migration is stopped, people will turn criminals. They will take to stealing to stay alive.”To make the process more efficient, he has asked the railway ministry to increase the number of trains heading out of Kantabanji.Politician Khan’s brother, labour agent Haroon Khan, keeps a close eye on goings-on at the Kantabanji railway station.He sat on a chair on the pavement outside his office, reluctant to talk about a “dying business” he says he had given up.But in the next hour, over cups of sweet tea, he talked about “the glorious days when business comes to town”.”The hotels would be full and brick kiln owners would hand over large suitcases of money to be distributed as advances,” he recalled as it got dark. “There would be a certain air of festivity.” ($1=66.723 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj; editing by Timothy Large; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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BJP government misusing foreign funding law to harass charities, say human rights groups

New Delhi: India’s refusal to renew foreign funding licences of 25 charities is a violation of their right to freedom of association, and appears to be a move to quell criticism, two rights groups said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s right-wing nationalist government has tightened surveillance on non-profit groups regulated under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) since sweeping to power more than two years ago.

Demonstrators attend a protest organised by India’s ruling BJP. ReutersDemonstrators attend a protest organised by India’s ruling BJP. Reuters

Demonstrators attend a protest organised by India’s ruling BJP. Reuters

“The home ministry’s decision to prevent NGOs from receiving foreign funding without sound justification is mystifying. The ministry has an obligation to show how these restrictions are necessary and proportionate,” said Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement.

Home ministry officials were not immediately available to comment.

More than 10,000 civil society groups in India have had their licences to receive overseas donations cancelled or suspended since 2014, impairing their ability to work in areas ranging from health to the environment.

The government has previously said that the groups had violated FCRA by not disclosing donation details or by using foreign funds to engage in “anti-national” activities.

Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the latest group of charities to be affected included the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns, a prominent human rights group also known as People’s Watch.

A statement on the FCRA website did not give any reason.

This is not the first time People’s Watch has been targeted. In 2012 and 2013, the previous government suspended its FCRA licence three times and froze its bank accounts. People’s Watch challenged the move and the Delhi High Court ruled in its favour.

Other charities, such as the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Sanchal Foundation, which work in areas including land and housing, health, education and governance, have also not had their FCRA licences renewed, Amnesty and HRW said.

In July, a group of UN experts said they were stunned by the way India was applying the law to stymie its critics, adding that the FCRA was “overly broad” and activities deemed political or against the economic interest of the state were vague.

There is no official number of charities operating in India, but the government estimates at least two million non-profit groups work in areas like the environment, climate change and minority rights. A 2013 home ministry report said some 43,500 groups were registered as charities that received foreign funds, but slightly less than half provided details.

Home ministry officials have said they are enforcing the FCRA to make the non-profit sector compliant and transparent and ensure charities are not engaging in illegal political or anti-national activities.

But Amnesty and HRW urged the government to repeal the FCRA or amend it so that is not misused to restrict charities’ work.

“While India is actively encouraging foreign investment in key industries, it is trying to deny funding for efforts to assist the most vulnerable and marginalised,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director. “The government should engage with those seeking rights reform and empower these groups, instead of treating criticism as a threat to be quashed.”

Delhi the least noisiest metro this year: CPCB

CPCB, an autonomous pollution watchdog under union environment ministry, assessed noise levels at 70 locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow Bangalore and Hyderabad on October 30. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Firecrackers may have worsened Delhi’s air-quality levels, but metros across the country were comparitively less noisy since last year, according to Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) noise monitoring study. CPCB, an autonomous pollution watchdog under union environment ministry, assessed noise levels at 70 locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow Bangalore and Hyderabad on October 30. CPCB’s data has shown that across cities noise levels is largely on the decline with the exception of a few spikes. The assessment puts out a 24-hour average decibel (dB) level categorised into day and night time periods as both have separate noise limits as per the Noise Rules, 2000.The 24-hour average noise levels range between 54dB and 88dB. Each year, schools, colleges and civil society groups initiate awareness drives in the days leading up to Diwali to reduce noise levels and air pollution. In Mumbai, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in partnership with non-profit organizations such as Awaaz Foundation carry out noise tests of firecrackers. The noise limit of a single firecracker is 125dB while that of a series is 110dB. Usually, the rassi bomb is found to be the noisiest along with the 1000 series ladi.

India is my home: Bangladeshi writer Tasleema Nasreen

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Noted Bangladeshi writer Tasleema Nasreen on Saturday said India is her home and she has no alternative but to live in exile for rest of her life.”I have been living in exile since 1994. I know I have no other alternative but to live in exile for rest of my life. I feel I have nowhere to go or country to return to. I say now India is my country, India is my home,” the 54-year-old writer told the gathering at the “India Ideas Conclave 2016″, currently underway in Goa. The Conclave is organised by India Foundation.”How much more we have to suffer at the hands of fundamentalists and their political allies for daring to articulate the truth. Even after all that has happened, I still believe, that sincere honest truly secular part of the continent, India is the safe refuge, only refuge,” said the writer.”They must understand that Islam must go through enlightenment process similar to that other religion that has gone through by questioning the inhuman, unequal, unscientific and irrational aspects of the religion,” she said referring to the fundamentalists.”The narrow minded and the political (people) will forever throw society into the darkness, quiet a handful others will always strive for betterment of society and good sense prevail. It is only few special people who seek to dream about change, that is how it has always been,” Nasreen, the writer of much acclaimed book “Lajja” said.Talking about Bangladesh, she said, “I truly hope that the secular movement in my country will begin and turn into positive political movement for true democracy and secular state. The state which will govern on equality and educational system that is secular, scientific.””People must know that Islam must not be exempted from the critical scrutiny that applies all other religions as well,” said the writer.

Won’t go ahead with steel flyover now: Bengaluru Development Authority to Karnataka HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bengaluru Development Authority on Thursday gave an undertaking to the Karnataka High Court that it would not go ahead with construction of a steel flyover in Bengaluru “as of now” after the National Green Tribunal had granted an interim stay on the controversial project.The southern bench of NGT had recently restrained the BDA from proceeding with the project for four weeks and posted the matter to November 25 for further hearing.The tribunal had granted interim stay on petitions from Neelaiah, Citizen Action Forum and others, which opposed the project on environmental grounds.The Rs 1761 Cr project of BDA is to construct a 6.72-km-long, six-lane steel flyover between Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal to decongest traffic, but it has run into rough weather as it involved felling of an estimated over 800 trees. Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) had filed a petition before the high court, seeking a stay on the construction after raising questions about the constitutionality of the project. NBF also claimed that the tender for the project was called in March, but a public consultation was held only in June.As protests mounted against the project, Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George had dismissed it as a ‘political gimmick’ and said the government had taken the decision after consultations with experts and due diligence. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had defended the proposed construction of the steel flyover, calling it “totally transparent” and claimed the project was proposed in 2010 and announced in the 2014-15 budget.The project has also come in for resistance from social activists and several civic groups, mostly on environmental concerns.

Forced by tradition to give up inheritance, Indian women embrace property ownership | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

CHAKSU, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Days before she was married 18 years ago, K. Bina Devi and her sister were called to the living room of the family home where they lived with their parents and four brothers.There, in a short ceremony witnessed by village elders, she and her sister signed a piece of paper giving up their share of the family property to their brothers. Sweets were distributed and everyone congratulated her and her sister.The custom of “haq tyag”, or sacrifice of right, entails a person – usually a woman – relinquishing their claim on ancestral property. It is widely practised in the Indian state of Rajasthan despite a 2005 national law that gave women equal inheritance rights.While haq tyag is voluntary, women come under enormous pressure to comply, activists said.”If we don’t do it, our family will boycott us,” said Devi, 36, her head covered with the end of her green saree.”Our relationship with the family will break, and people will speak ill of us,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Chaksu village, about 30 km (19 miles) from Jaipur city.Haq tyag is justified on grounds that the father pays for his daughter’s wedding, and therefore only the sons are entitled to a share of the family property.Also, once she is married, a woman is seen as belonging to her husband’s family with no claim on ancestral property.In a bid to address the imbalance, Rajasthan and other states now offer lower rate mortgages and cheaper registration when a property is registered in the name of a woman.”Haq tyag is a tradition, and it is voluntary,” said Rajendra Singh Shekhawat, a joint secretary in the state government.”In some cases, it may not be voluntary. But how can we check if the woman is signing willingly or not? That is why we have laws that encourage property ownership by women,” he said.

One of India’s poorest states, Rajasthan is known as much for its beautiful palaces and majestic forts as for its centuries-old traditions of honour and chivalry.This is the state where the custom of sati, where widows threw themselves into their husband’s funeral pyre, prevailed long after it was declared illegal in the 19th century. The law was strengthened in 1987 following the death of a young widow in Rajasthan watched by thousands.Across India, only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to census data.Amendments in 2005 to the Hindu Succession Act, which governs matters of inheritance among Hindus who make up about 80 percent of India’s population, made women’s inheritance rights equal to those of men.Yet some state laws run contrary to the legislation, and in states such as Rajasthan, women are made to forgo their claims.

Haq tyag itself is rooted in misogynistic customs and traditions, particularly in India’s villages. These include limited education for girls, early marriage, financial dependence, and denial of the right to property.”It is a deep-rooted patriarchy that tells women they are okay only as long as they have the protection of a man,” said Varsha Joshi, an associate professor at the Institute of Development Studies in Jaipur, who has studied property ownership among women in rural Rajasthan.”Women have no security, no guarantee of a roof over their heads. And it is assumed they will never go against their families or go to court over being denied their right to property,” she said.FINANCIALLY LITERATE
Increasingly though, women in Chaksu village and elsewhere in the northwestern state are having to tend to the land as their husbands migrate in search of work.

With their names missing from property titles, women are often unable to take loans or access government subsidies. They are in danger of being thrown out when the husband dies, as the property then goes to the sons or the husband’s brothers.Rights activists are raising awareness of the law among women, and encouraging men to take advantage of the perks.”We have to be respectful of customs: we can’t just go tell women to claim their rights, they will be ostracised if they do,” said Kavita Mishra, head of the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON).”Having a financial incentive is a great way to make the men see the benefit of registering property in the name of the women,” she said.Women are also becoming more independent and financially literate. Once confined to their homes and dependent on their husbands, women in villages are running small businesses with the help of microfinance, and working in state welfare programmes that provide 100 days’ employment to rural families.”They now have bank accounts and some financial independence. That has given them the ambition and the confidence to own a home or a plot of land,” said Mishra.In Chaksu, Devi belongs to a self-help group that sews camel-leather slippers for sale to a retailer in Jaipur, and helps members source loans to buy property.”It’s important that we women have something in our name. Otherwise we have no security,” said Manju Devikumar, who heads the 10-member group.”Things are changing. Laws give us equal rights even to own property, which we could never dream of,” she said. (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s father passes away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik”s father Abdul Karim Naik, a physician and educationist, passed away at his home here early this morning after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 87. “He suffered a cardiac arrest at 3.30 AM at his home in Mazgaon and could not recover from that. Abdul had been keeping unwell from sometime. He was laid to rest at a graveyard in the same area,” an associate of Zakir Naik said.Born in Ratnagiri in coastal Maharashtra, Abdul Naik, a doctor, served as the president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society, a private organisation of mental health professionals, in 1994-95. He had also been active in the field of education. Zakir Naik, who extended his stay abroad after running into controversy following allegations that some of those involved in the July terror attack in Dhaka drew inspiration from his speeches, is likely to visit the city soon to pay respects to his father, the associate said.Asked about Zakir Naik skipping the funeral, his aide said, “He wasn’t able to attend. It was too short a time. He will soon be here to pay respects to his father.” Zakir Naik”s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), too, is under the radar of security agencies and will be soon banned under the anti-terror law.According to an official source in the Union Home Ministry, IRF will be declared an ”unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act after investigations by the Home Ministry found it to be allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel accused of propagating terrorism.

Maharashtra sees rise in buffalo population

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Underlining the importance of involving local communities in wildlife conservation, a reserve located in a region affected by intense Maoist violence has shown a marked turnaround in numbers of the endangered Asiatic wild buffaloes (Bubalusarnee).Four years after the Maharashtra government launched a project to monitor and protect wild buffaloes at the Kolamarka Conservation Reserve at Sironcha in Gadchiroli and develop their habitat using locals, the numbers have shown a gradual rise. Now, the state government is considering a proposal to upgrade Kolamarka to a wildlife sanctuary or a tiger reserve for a higher degree of protection.This was discussed at the meeting of the Maharashtra state wildlife board which met under chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday. Experts said once the numbers were increased to a comfortable level, captive breeding at the proposed Gorewada international zoo could also be considered. These buffaloes could also be used to improve the quality of domestic breeds as buffaloes form a major share of milk production in India.P.Kalyankumar, chief conservator of forests, Gadchiroli, said that the numbers of these wild buffaloes had risen from around 16 in 2015-16 to 22 now. The 180.72 sq km area was declared as a conservation reserve in 2013.The global population of wild buffaloes is estimated to be 3,800 of which 3,500 are in India. Of this, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh account for 200 individuals, including Gadchiroli and the Indravati tiger reserve located across the state’s boundary with Chhattisgarh.“This is one of the core areas affected by Naxal violence. Even then, we managed to turn things around with the involvement of the local community,” noted Kalyankumar, adding they had managed to convince people by pointing to how the animal was unique to the area and the tourism and employment generation potential in the future. The people were involved in developing water resources and the habitat and hunting was prevented.“This is a unique initiative involving community participation,” said Kishor Rithe, president, Satpuda Foundation, noting this conservation model involving people as stakeholders differed from the management of tiger habitats where these big cats could not co-exist with humans. He pointed to how the conservation effort in the wild had yielded better results than a captive breeding project in Chhattisgarh.Rithe, who is a member of the wildlife board, and was involved in the effort, said based on policies for eco-development committees around protected areas and joint forest management committees, they started by involving four villages in water conservation and protection. This was expanded to around 12 settlements on the periphery. The community hunting of these animals was also stopped.“The major focus was on water conservation as lakes had silted. This benefited both domestic cattle and wild buffaloes,” he added, stating that experts would be involved for the cultivation of grass eaten by these bovines.“We started village development works which brought people closer to the department… Since going to Naxal areas for population monitoring is a challenge for our staff, we involved local youth in an enumeration,” said Kalyankumar, adding that volunteers were paid an honorarium for collecting information from deep forests and inaccessible areas.The locals were involved in plantations and harvesting timber and bamboo. “These are genetically pure breeds… available in very limited pockets,” said Kalyankumar, adding that the presence of these animals in Indravati helped maintain genetic diversity.Shree Bhagwan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF-Wildlife) who is the state’s wildlife warden, said they would examine the sanctuary proposal.Kalyankumar noted that these breeds could come handy for preserving genetic diversity and cattle breeding and improvement programs considering its ability to survive in the high temperatures in the Vidarbha terrain.

Banning Zakir Naik’s India for maligning IRF is right decision: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic-preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) maligning India, and therefore, it is correct to ban it, said Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affair Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday.”If any person tries to malign society, tries to divide it, create tension between the people and hamper peace in the country then the government and people always will take strict and sever action against them,” Naqvi told ANI.Naqvi said it has become important to restrict such kind of organisations or people and not provide them much freedom.The government is in the process of declaring the IRF unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2011. Naik came under the scanner after the Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ revealed that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook that said he was inspired by Naik to carry out the crime. Naik is banned in both the UK and Canada for his alleged hate speeches aimed against other religions.He is among the 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is also accused of radicalizing and attracting youth for terror acts and has come under the scanner of the security agencies.

Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation to be declared ‘unlawful association’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An NGO promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik will soon be banned under the anti-terror law, with the Home Ministry preparing a draft cabinet note for it. Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will be declared an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act after investigations by the Home Ministry found it to be allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism, an official source said.According to the draft note, which is also based on the inputs from Maharashtra Police, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, a source said.Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, sources claimed. Two educational trusts run by Naik have also come under the scanner of the Home Ministry and agencies are looking into their activities.The draft note will soon be placed before the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for its approval, sources said. Naik is accused of radicalising youths into terror and receiving foreign funds and spending those to lure young people into terrorism. He came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.Naik in a lecture, aired on Peace TV, had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”. The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

Ban children from dangerous religious rituals, says child protection commission | Reuters

Ban children from dangerous religious rituals, says child protection commission | Reuters

Updated: Oct 26, 2016 20:57 IST


By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India’s child protection agency has appealed to parents not to let children take part in religious rituals that could be dangerous, following a teenager’s death after a 68-day fast.The appeal follows public outcry over the death of 13-year-old Aradhana Samdhariya from the minority Jain community in the southern city of Hyderabad.Samdhariya died due to cardiac arrest on Oct. 3, a day after her family held a procession in which she rode on a chariot dressed in bridal finery to celebrate the end of the ritual of surviving only on water.”We are appealing to all communities to ensure that they do not adopt customs and rituals like fasting or self flagellation that will harm their children,” Stuti Kacker, chair of the National Commission for the Protection of Child’s Rights, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”There is an urgent need to change mindsets.” The commission has drawn up a plan to raise awareness about religious rituals that it says children shouldn’t be involved in for their own safety. These range from self-flagellation and festivals in which tongues, cheeks and skin are pierced to walking on embers and child marriage.

Kacker said spiritual leaders would be called upon to help make sure such incidents don’t happen again.Child rights activists have called for the arrest of Samdhariya’s parents on charges of murder, saying they likely coerced her into participating in the fast.Her parents, devoted followers of Jainism, a religion that celebrates acts of renunciation, have denied they forced her to fast during the holy period of Chaumasa, observed from July.”The parents should have known better,” said Achyuta Rao of child rights charity Balala Hakkula Sangham, which filed a police complaint.

“In cases of hunger strike also, the police shift people to hospitals after a few days to make sure they don’t die. This was just a 13-year-old girl. How can parents get away by saying the fast was voluntary?”The Communist Party of India has also written to the Supreme Court, asking them to “take appropriate measures to stop this absurd orthodoxy”.Police have registered a case of culpable homicide against the parents. They are also seeking legal advice on whether to arrest them given that the body has been cremated without a postmortem.

“Her parents are in deep sorrow. No parent wishes this on their child,” said Lalit Gandhi, president of the All India Jain Minority Cell.”Many of our children go on short fasts of 10 to 20 days. It is a normal ritual. This incident was very unfortunate but certainly not intentional.”Gandhi added that the incident has started a debate within the community on whether children should be allowed to go on fasts at all. “We are discussing it with our spiritual leaders,” he said. (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj; editing by Timothy Large; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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PM Narendra Modi warns of action against those who ‘snatch’ tribal rights

New Delhi: Natural resources in forests should not be exploited at the cost of tribals living there, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said, favouring stringent action against those who “snatch” away their land and rights.

Inaugurating the first national tribal carnival at the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium, Modi said his government has initiated a number of measures for tribal welfare and launched a campaign for providing land rights to them. Insisting that development and preservation of forests can go hand in hand, the Prime Minister called for economic development of tribal areas by setting up a web of over 100 rurban (rural-urban)centres across the country.

He also called for modernising mining techniques to help preserve forests and reduce pollution, while economically empowering the tribals through effective marketing of their produce. “For generations, tribals are protecting forests and fending for themselves while farming on small pieces of land. Neither do they have any document nor lease deeds (to show their ownership), they are living off what their forefathers have given them. But due to changing rules, tribals are now sometimes facing problems.

“Government of India with the support of states is running a campaign and providing land to them. Tribals should get their rights and this is our priority. No one in this country should have the opportunity or the right to snatch their land…the government favours stern action in this regard,” he said. Modi said natural resources are mostly in forested areas which are inhabited by tribals and, while pursuing development goals, mineral resources should not be extracted in a way which is detrimental to their interests.

“There is need to extract iron ore, coal but it should not be done at the cost of tribals,” he said. The Prime minister said, in the past, while iron ore and coal were extracted, tribal people of mineral bearing areas never benefited from it. He said following the introduction of a scheme to impose cess, the money so collected is now being utilised to expand facilities, including infrastructure, to benefit the tribals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

The government, Modi said, is now pushing for advanced technology which ensures that the environment is not severely affected in the process of mining. He favoured use of modern technology in mining besides gasification of coal at underground excavation sites to help control pollution and damage to the health of the people in surrounding areas. The Prime Minister, who witnessed an enthralling carnival parade, said it was the first time tribal groups from across the country would be in Delhi on Diwali. He said the tribal carnival would showcase the capabilities of the tribal communities.

The Prime Minister said India was a land of great diversity and the carnival offered a small glimpse of that. “India is a country full of diversities. In a vast country like ours, preserving diversity and presenting it as India’s unity will help strengthen the nation,” he said. The prime minister said the life of tribals was marked by intense struggle, yet they had imbibed the ideals of community living and of living cheerfully despite troubles.

“Tribals have a lot of potential and this needs to be recognised and promoted. We need to help strengthen the economic power of tribals,” he said. Modi said he was fortunate to have done social work among tribals in his youth. He recalled that it is difficult to hear a complaint escape their lips and exhorted those living in urban areas to draw inspiration from them.

He said it was former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who created a separate ministry of tribal affairs in the central government. “Through various pro-tribal welfare schemes, our government is working in the direction of taking care of the needs of tribals,” he said. The prime minister said change could not come for the tribal communities through a top down approach. He said it was necessary to make the tribal communities real stakeholders in the development process.

Modi also pitched for start-ups to brand and export tribal goods to domestic and foreign markets. He said once people start buying goods manufactured by tribals, it would help in their economic empowerment. He complimented the tribal communities for their role in conservation of forests and said most of our natural resources and forests were found in the same parts of the country, as tribal communities. He said while resources had to be harnessed, exploitation of tribals cannot not be allowed.

Modi said the District Mineral Foundation, envisaged in the last Union Budget, would help channelize funds for the development of the tribal communities. He said this decision would unlock huge amounts of money for development of the mineral rich districts.

India must release Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, U.N. experts say | Reuters

India must release Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, U.N. experts say | Reuters

Updated: Oct 19, 2016 22:17 IST


By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Indian government must immediately release a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist arrested last month on charges of involvement in activities against the public order, a group of United Nations experts urged on Wednesday. Khurram Parvez, 39, coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCSS) has long campaigned against human rights violations committed by state forces in India’s volatile Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir.In a statement issued by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), four Special Rapporteurs said Parvez’s detention appeared to be an attempt by the government to stop his work. “Mr. Parvez is a well-known and outspoken human rights defender who has had a long-standing and positive engagement with the U.N. human rights mechanisms,” said the U.N. experts on arbitrary detention, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and enforced disappearances. “His continued detention following his arrest just a few days before his participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggests a deliberate attempt to obstruct his legitimate human rights activism.” Government and police officials in Kashmir declined to comment on the statement by the U.N. Special Rapporteurs Michel Forst, Sètondji Adjovi, Maina Kiai and David Kaye.

The JKCCS has published research into the role of Indian security forces in containing a separatist insurgency in India’s Kashmir state that first flared a quarter of a century ago.At least 78 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in more than two months of clashes between protesters and security forces, sparked by the killing of a leading separatist militant in a joint army and police operation on July 8.The unrest is the worst in the Muslim-majority region for six years, and critics have accused Indian forces of heavy-handedness as they struggle to contain the protests.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence in 1947. Both claim the territory in full but rule it in part.Parvez, who is also the chair of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was stopped by authorities at New Delhi airport on Sept. 14 when he was on his way to Geneva to attend the U.N. Human Rights Council. He was detained on Sept 16, released four days later and then detained again the same day.

The experts said they were concerned Parvez was still in preventive detention under the highly controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for people to held for up to two years without judicial intervention.India had so far provided no clear details on the exact nature of the charges against Parvez, and the government’s rationale relied “mainly on vague accusations of alleged ‘anti-India’ activities” to disturb public order, said the statement.”In a democratic society, the open criticism of Government is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression of every person,” the experts said.”We are seriously concerned that the arrest of Mr. Parvez may represent a direct retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and the exercise of his fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and association.” (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Additional reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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Declare emission, noise levels, car makers told

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All automobile manufacturers will have to furnish vehicle emission and noise level details of their vehicles from April 1 next year, the government announced Tuesday as concerns mount over the impact of indiscriminate honking and vehicular pollution levels.Vehicle manufacturers will have to compulsorily state the sound level for horn and pass-by noise values in the Form 22, the amended version of which will also include the brand, chassis number, engine number and emission norms of a vehicle,The ministry of road, transport and highways said in a statement that Form 22, under the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1989, had been amended. Unlike the earlier Form 22, which merely certified that the vehicle complied with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and rules, including the relevant emission norms, the revised form will also seek the emission and noise level details of each vehicle.The amended rules will apply to all vehicles run on petrol, CNG, LPG, electric, diesel and hybrid, including agricultural and construction vehicles, as well as e-rickshaws and e-carts.”This is bound to act as a selling point for vehicles since more people are likely to buy those adhering to the specified emission norms and standard noise levels,” a senior official from the ministry said.Welcoming the move, environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali, said giving information on noise and emission in a government document will not only make such details more accessible to the public but also create more awareness among buyers about vehicles.”However, different bodies such as the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have different set standards for noise. These standards should be brought in line to the lowest decibel level; there is also a Bombay High Court order upholding this,” Abdulali, who is convenor of the Mumbai-based Awaaz Foundation that works against noise pollution, added.Ideally, the sound level of the horn should be 10 decibels more than the standard noise of the vehicle that includes the engine and exhaust sound, she said.Delhi govt strengthens drive against imported firecrackersThe Delhi government on Tuesday resolved to strengthen its drive against imported firecrackers ahead of Diwali, ordering inspection teams formed in this regard to check markets and godowns more frequently. In a review meeting attended by senior officials of DPCC, Police, SDMs and Deputy Commissioners among others, Environment Minister Imran Hussain directed that strict action be taken against those found violating the norms. “The 11-district-wise inspecting teams of area SDMs and Executive Engineers (DPCC) constituted to check availability of imported firecrackers in the market should enhance their field inspections. The team(s) of officers from Licensing Unit constituted to check godowns randomly for availability of imported firecrackers in the market should augment their vigilance and field visits,” an official statement said.

Slumscapes: How the world’s five biggest slums are shaping their futures | Reuters

By Paola Totaro

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the United Nations prepares a 20-year plan to cope with the challenges of booming urbanization, residents of the world’s five biggest slums are battling to carve out a place in the cities of the future.Home to more than 900 million people worldwide – or nearly one in every seven people – the U.N. says slums are emerging spontaneously as a “dominant and distinct type of settlement” in the 21st century.Today one quarter of the world’s city dwellers live in slums – and they are there to stay. The U.N.’s 193 member states are set to adopt the first detailed road map to guide the growth of cities, towns and informal settlements, ensure they are sustainable, do not destroy the environment and protect the rights of the vulnerable.Held once every 20 years, the U.N.’s Habitat III conference comes at a time when, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than rural areas.In 2014, 54 percent of the global population lived in cities but by 2050, this is expected to rise to 66 percent.”We live in the urban century … when planned, built, and governed well, cities can be massive agents of positive change,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a recent statement.”They can be catalysts for inclusion and powerhouses of equitable economic growth. They can help us protect the environment and limit climate change. That is why we need a new vision for urbanization.”The U.N.’s policy document, titled the New Urban Agenda, says there has been “significant” improvement in the quality of life for millions of city residents over the past two decades, but the pressures of population growth and rural-to-city migration are increasing dramatically.Billy Cobbett, director of the Cities Alliance partnership for poverty reduction and promoting sustainable cities, said urban growth in many parts of the world, particularly Africa, is not driven by rural migration alone but by population growth.The U.N. plan stresses that providing transport, sanitation, hospitals and schools is imperative but city strategies must also “go beyond” physical improvements to integrate slums into the social, economic, cultural, and political life of cities.Experts say this policy represents a significant shift in thinking among city planners and authorities who have historically seen bulldozers as the answer to slum settlements.High-density communities geared to pedestrians along with properties that mix business with housing can offer lessons for management of future growth, they say.Today, unchecked population growth and migration in many world cities – from Kenya to Mexico to India – mean slums and the informal economies and communities created around them must increasingly be seen as an important part of the wider city.SECURITY FIRST
The U.N. roadmap highlights that a critical impediment to upgrading informal settlements and sustainable redevelopment is the lack of tenure or ownership of land or property.In 2003, 924 million city dwellers were estimated to be without title to their homes or land and this number, according to the United Nations, is expected to have grown “exponentially”.This is a particularly pressing problem in Africa where more than half the urban population – or 62 percent of people – live in shanty towns and 90 percent of rural land is undocumented.Living without secure tenure means living under constant threat of eviction. Slum dwellers who have no way of proving ownership of assets also have no access to credit, further eroding any motivation to improve homes and neighbourhoods.For governments, particularly in poorer countries, slum areas without title are a particularly vexed problem as the great majority are not mapped, little is known about demographics or spatial use, and the way residents have settled is often so dense that housing and services are hard to fit in.The lack of basic information also means they cannot use the most commonly used official land registration systems.ROADS BATTLE IN KENYA
Nairobi’s vast Kibera settlement – coming from the Nubian for forest or jungle – is described as Africa’s largest slum and comprises more than a dozen villages from Soweto East to Kianda.A mix of ethnic groups make their home there although nobody knows exact numbers. According to the last Kenyan census, the population was 170,070 in 2009 but other sources, including the UN, estimate the settlement is now home to anywhere between 400,000 and one million people. Much of Kibera’s employment comes from the nearby industrial area of Nairobi but an estimated half of Kibera’s residents are jobless, surviving on less than $1 a day.Only 27 percent of Kibera’s 50,000 students attend government schools, with most attending informal institutions set up by residents and churches, according to the charity Map Kibera. Violence, alcohol and drugs are rife and clean water scarce.Kibera’s residents also struggle with no garbage services, free flowing sewage and the slum became infamous globally for the so–called ‘flying toilets’ – throw away plastic bags used by residents forced to relieve themselves outdoors.Yet amidst the squalor there are many residents like Peter Nyagasera and his family who have worked tirelessly to improve their neighbourhood.Nyagasera and his wife Sarah Oisebe up part of a former dump site in Kibera to create a playground for the resident-run school and a children’s centre for orphans. For these children, he says, school is the only place they receive a hot meal each day.But despite all their hard work, the community has been forced to mount a court challenge to stop construction of a road planned to cut through the area and demolish the school – and this community is not alone.A second group of residents from the marginalised Nubian group are also without formal titles and fighting for ownership to protect their homes, many recently marked with red crosses for demolition to make way for the highway.Their case will be heard in Kenya’s High Court in November but residents are despondent.”Children will suffer,” said Nyagasera.

One of the toughest and most vulnerable aspects of life in the slums is the battle to find regular work. Cities are job hubs and proximity to employment has long been a major driver of slum development and expansion.Globally, according to the International Labour Organization, 200 million people in slums were without jobs in 2013 while UNESCO estimates that more than a quarter of the young, urban poor earn little more than $1.25 a day.Despite this, in many developing economies, the engine room of job creation is found in the heart of informal economies like those in the favelas of Rio or the bustling hives of activity in big Indian cities like Mumbai.Author Robert Neuwirth spent four years researching his book, ‘Shadow Cities’, which looked at informal economies in global shanty towns. He believes these unlicensed economic networks are vastly under appreciated in scope and power and estimates they account for some 1.8 billion jobs globally.”It’s a huge number and if it were all together in a single political system, this economic system would be worth $10 trillion a year. That would make it the second largest economy in the world,” he said.In Mumbai, where an estimated one million people live in the bustling Dharavi slum, resident-owned small businesses – from leather workers and potters to recycling networks – have created an informal economy with annual turnover of about $1 billion.Residents live and work in the same place and are now campaigning actively to ensure that any redevelopment of their homes or construction of new housing takes into account the need for home-based ground floor workspaces.”People think of slums as places of static despair as depicted in films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’,” said Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist and writer, referring to the Academy Award-winning movie that exposed the gritty underbelly of Dharavi.”If one looks past the open drains and plastic sheets, one will see that slums are ecosystems buzzing with activity… Creating neat low-income housing estates will not work unless they allow for many of the messy economic and social activities that thrive in slums,” he said.Rahul Srivastava, a founder of Mumbai’s Institute of Urbanology, said the biggest impediment to upgrading informal settlements is their “illegitimate” status due to the absence of title.Settlements that are home to fifth-generation migrants cannot be classed as “informal”, he says, and it is high time the narrow perception of these neighbourhoods is changed.DYING FOR A PEE
In Cape Town, the shanty towns of Khayelitsha stretch for miles, a grim brown sea of ramshackle wood and iron shacks that confront visitors arriving at the airport but are out of view of the city’s glass towers or the leafy suburbs on nearby hills.Khayelitsha’s population, according to the 2011 Census, is 99 percent black.Jean Comaroff, a Harvard professor of anthropology and African Studies, said despite “valiant efforts” from city authorities and activists in recent years, Cape Town itself still offers little room for its slum residents beyond “servitude” – work as domestics or in the service industries.

“It is poised on a knife edge and the differences between the beauty of the city itself and what you see on the Cape flats is the starkest you will ever see in the world.” she said.In Cape Town, city authorities are not only struggling with providing housing and sanitation for a burgeoning population but face the task of trying to reverse the apartheid era engineering that built the spatial segregations that still exist today.Experts say that not only is there not enough new affordable housing but what has been built remains distant from employment, forcing long commutes for those who are lucky enough to work.Inside, however, residents are struggling – and at times losing their lives – due the absence of the most basic service – toilets.According to the Social Justice Coalition’s Axolile Notywala, using a toilet can be one of the most dangerous activities for residents and a major problem for women and children.A Commission of Inquiry into Policing in the shanty towns in 2012 found that 12,000 households have no access to toilets and the link between violence, particularly against women and children, and the need to walk long distances at night was highlighted by researchers and activists.A mathematical model built by Yale University researchers last year concluded that doubling the number of toilets to 11,300 in Khayelitsha would reduce sexual assaults by a third.”Higher toilet installation and maintenance costs would be more than offset by lower sexual assault costs,” lead researcher Gregg Gonsalves told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.DIY SERVICES
Across the world in Pakistan, Orangi Town in the port city of Karachi is believed home to around 2.4 million people although nobody knows exactly as the last census was in 1998.Widely cited as Asia’s largest slum, it sprawls over 8,000 acres – the equivalent of about 4,500 Wembley football pitches.Known locally as “katchi abadis”, the first informal settlements emerged in the wake of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947, which led to a huge influx of refugees. Unable to cope with the numbers – by 1950 the population had increased to 1 million from 400,000 – the government issued refugees “slips” giving them permission to settle on any vacant land.The settlement’s population really exploded in the early 1970s when thousands of people migrated from East Pakistan after the 1971 war of independence, which led to the establishment of the Republic of Bangladesh.Since then, land has also been traded informally, usually through a middleman who subdivided plots of both government and private land and sold them to the poor.Unlike many other slums worldwide the lack of services – not housing – is the major problem.Communities have built two and three-room houses out of concrete blocks manufactured locally, say activists. Each house is home to between eight and 10 people and an informal economy of micro businesses has emerged as people created livelihoods.In the early 1980s, however, some residents within the enormous slum decided they’d had enough of waiting for governments unwilling or unable to fund sanitation and so embarked on building a sewerage project on a “self-help” basis.

Now globally renowned, the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) has helped residents design, fund and build their own sewerage systems and pipelines and, since 1980, has brought latrines to more than 108,000 households in a project continuing today.To date, say OPP statistics, 96 percent of the settlement’s 112,562 households have latrines with residents footing the bill of 132,026,807 Pakistani rupees ($1.26 million) – all DIY.”In fact, people in the town now consider the streets as part of their homes because they have invested in them and that’s why they maintain and clean the sewers too,” said OPP’s director, Saleem Aleemuddin. BOTTOM UP DEVELOPMENT
Jose Castillo, an urban planner and architect in Mexico City, says that Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people, should serve as a model for other blighted urban areas and slums.Short for Nezahualcóyotl, Neza sits on the bed of Lake Texcoco which was slowly drained in a bid to combat devastating flooding over a century and more.However the dry land ended up being too salty for farming and was slowly picked up by developers who laid out a grid of streets and sold off boxy parcels, most without proper titles.The settlement really grew in a burst of urban migration in the mid-20th century when new arrivals to Neza set up shacks of wood and cardboard, living without electricity, a sewage system or running water, schools or paved roads. Old timers remember in the early days they’d be lucky if a bus came every two hours.Victoria Gomez Calderon, 82, moved to Neza from eastern Mexico as a young woman, and remembers clearly the putrid remains of the lake just a half block from her tiny home.”It was a pure wasteland,” she said.In the early 1970s, residents banded together to demand services and a government programme to formalize ownership and provide land titles.Neza’s reputation as the world’s largest slum, coined when its population was combined with two other blighted areas decades ago, no longer applies, they said.Today, despite its severe problems from continuing poor access to transport and schools to high crime rates, Neza’s development holds lessons in growth and resilience for others.Planner Castillo says Neza is teeming with micro entrepreneurs working from home or sharing spaces in what would be called co-working in trendier places.”My argument is let’s stop asking what urban planning can do to fix the city and let’s focus on understanding where we could also learn from those processes,” he said.”There’s a strong sense of pride in place. It’s a community based on the notion that jointly these people transformed this territory.”Priscilla Connolly Dietrichsen, a professor of urban sociology at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, agrees.”The story isn’t, ‘Oh dear, dear, what a terrible slum.’ In a way, it’s a success story, in spite of the present problems,” she said.SLUMS ARE CITIES
The 23-page draft document up for adoption at Habitat III in Quito is the result of months of closed-door negotiations, held in several nations, including Indonesia and the United States.Some critics are disappointed the policy framework contains no tangible targets and will be non-binding on member states.”It’s easy for governments to sign something that is not enforceable,” said Michael Cohen, a former senior urban affairs official with the World Bank, who has advised U.N. Habitat.”It doesn’t have much bite. It talks a lot about commitments but has no dates, places or numbers.”Supporters, however, argue the New Urban Agenda will not only focus attention on the urgent need for holistic planning of cities but also work to fundamentally change the way urban growth is debated and discussed both nationally and globally.Important drivers of planned growth are a well-oiled system of land ownership, title and tenure which then paves the way for governments to collect revenue to pay for new services.Equally important is the need for concerted planning approaches so new hospitals, bus services, and schools are placed where they are needed with thought given to future growth and employment opportunities.There has, however, also been some criticism of the U.N.’s shift from a traditionally rural focus to a city driven, urban one and its failure to link the New Urban Agenda to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and climate change benchmarks.Shivani Chaudry, executive director of the Housing and Land Rights Network in India, said the bias away from rural interests in the New Urban Agenda will leave many people behind.She said many countries had argued forcefully for the adoption of goals and targets, for example a reduction in numbers of the homeless, increases in housing for the poor or a drop in forced evictions, but nothing was agreed.”Rural populations have not been adequately represented: farmers, forest dwellers, indigenous and coastal communities – all suffer the consequences of uncontrolled urbanization,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”There is so much exploitation of these people and our fear is that so many have been left out.” (Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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?Let Muslim women lead the debate on gender equality

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There was one Muslim lady, Shehnaaz Sheikh, who came out and spoke on court for Muslim women’s rights. She is the first woman who went to the Supreme Court. The court asked her how many women are there with you who want their rights. She then started an organisation named Awaz e Niswan. I worked in that organisation for 23 years. Around 5 years ago, we started Bebaak Foundation. I am working with Muslim women for Muslim women fore for two decades now. We are working on communal and sexual issues. At that time All India Muslim Personal Law Board made a lot of chaos. Now, the board says we aren’t ready to bring in changes, be it the triple talaq or any other issue. But, many women are speaking out. The strength is growing day by day. We need jobs, education, security and equal rights which we aren’t getting. We are strong to challenge these religious institutions. Our motive is to remove gender inequality, be it polygamy, triple talaq, or property rights.—Haseena Khan, Bebaak FoundationWe have to come out in a different way. This is our fight. We will be suppressed in different ways. It is up to us how we take it and come out of it. We have to put our words, speak out and talk more in order to get our rights, which we deserve.—Yasmin Aga, Aawaz-e-Niswan”Almost all religions are grounded in patriarchy and Islam is no exception. Across religions, people follow a variety of social norms that often involve repressing, restricting or objectifying women, whether it is triple talaq, kanyadaan, female genital cutting or the range of menstrual taboos we have been brought up with. It goes without saying that there is no place for such discriminatory practices anymore. And in order to rid ourselves of them, we need, more than anything, to work within communities and empower both women and men to create and adopt alternative traditions based on equality.”- Aarefa Johri, journalist and anti-FGC activist

Paani Foundation to join hands with Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana for anti-drought campaign

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Film actor Aamir Khan’s not-for-profit organisation Paani Foundation has decided to join hands with the Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) to participate in the initiatives of the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA), the state government’s flagship anti-drought programme. The first meeting of more than 700 volunteers of the BJS is slated to be held at Pune’s Modern College hall on Sunday (Oct 16).The BJS, in partnership with Khan, wants to increase their participation in the JSA from the present three talukas to over 30 talukas by next year.Paani Foundation is a not-for-profit company set up by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao in early 2016 in order to work towards creating a drought-free Maharashtra. The Foundation’s team comprises of the core team members of Khan’s television show Satyamev Jayate. The CEO is Satyajit Bhatkal (director of Satyamev Jayate) and the COO is Reena Dutta.Khan, along with Bhatkal, would present the entire plan for the next year during the Pune convention.The plans of Paani Foundation include training five persons per village in 30,000 drought-prone villages in Maharashtra to work on watershed management. It will also create a digital platform that will enable people to access technical information from peers and from experts, access funds through crowd sourcing, access help from the government, and access mentors and volunteers.The JSA is one of the country’s most ambitious projects to make the state drought-free. It involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds. The project aims to make 5000 villages free of water scarcity every year.

Mumbai Marathi school introduces spoken English classes to save itself from shutdown

Mumbai: Every year around 30 Marathi medium civic schools shut down in Maharashtra posing a serious threat to the state-aided education system. But amidst the gloom, one school may have given a ray of hope to hundreds of Marathi schools in the state.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The senior officials of the directorate of education seems to be quite taken by a unique experiment conducted in one of state’s oldest schools — DS High School, run by Shiv Shikshan Sanstha in Sion, Mumbai. The school recently tied up with Bhakti Shah, a linguistic expert based in Boston, to create a curriculum for its teachers in spoken English.

Teachers, in group of five, spend two hour each week to attend spoken English classes.

“The method uses phonetics with focus on accent neutralisation. Around 35 teachers attend these classes each week and the change is visible,” says Rakesh Damania, a linguistic expert who has been conducting the training programme devised by Shah. “The enthusiasm to learn conversational English in the senior teachers is very high. We start with small phrases, then sentences and we also used a skit format for everyone to perform,” he explained.

DS High School has 2,750 students in its Marathi division (largely from Sion-Dharavi area), but the aspiration level is very high.

The project aims to ensure that teachers start conversing with the students in English and ultimately teach some subjects in English. “We have informed the parents about the project and the response is amazing. Our admissions have not been affected at all. Today, even the poorest parents want their children to learn and speak in English. It is one singular reason for students to opt out of Marathi schools. So, we decided to work on it with the best linguistic expert for our teachers, who will eventually start speaking in English with students,” explains Rajendra Pradhan, president, DS High school.

With Marathi medium schools failing to attract kids, the schools are facing the inevitable conclusion – a shut down. The decline in enrollments has crossed a whopping 60 per cent mark. More than 30,000 students have dropped out of civic schools in the past five years, according to a report by Praja Foundation, a non-governmental organisation. This is despite the fact that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has a mid-day meal plan and very low fees.

The message is clear – change or perish. As expected, the politicians in the area have merely offered lip service but no real help. All parties have and will yet again play the Marathi pride card (civic elections in Mumbai are slated in Feb 2017), but offer no solution even as Marathi medium aided schools are shutting down fast.

Pradhan, an ex-student himself, is taking some path-breaking decisions — get the school’s global alumni together, approach corporate companies to get funds under CSR to ensure the school survives the private English school onslaught, but also help other Marathi-aided schools nearby.

The management’s decision also prompted the school’s principal, AM Mahadik, to join the spoken English class. Mahadik, a winner of many state awards in education, admitted that it was tough for him to communicate in academic conferences as he is unable to speak in English. “I’m attending the classes, and I want this project to work,” he told Firstpost.

History teacher Kalpana Patil stated that the stress on spoken part of the language rather than tough grammar is working for her as well as many teachers. “I’ve started speaking to students in English. It is a good beginning,” she said.

On the other hand, Anagha Bhiwandkar, an English teacher herself told us, “The truth is that teaching the English textbook comes natural to me, but even I’m unable to converse in English. I’m glad that the school is giving us the opportunity to train ourselves and learn the language,” she said.

So, will all this eventually work? “Frankly, we have no option. The teachers have to bring in the change in them and pass it on to students. Today, spoken English is a key element for all kids to find a job and progress. We are doing it and yet protecting the Marathi culture,” added Pradhan.

Smita Deshmukh is a senior journalist and communications expert based in Mumbai. You can follow her on twitter @smitadeshmukh

Doctors delegation from Pakistan unable to get Indian visas for global meet, say organisers

New Delhi: A doctors delegation from Pakistan which was scheduled to attend a four-day global meet on cancer care beginning on Wednesday could not do so as its members were unable to get visas, organisers said. Pakistani sources termed it as “unfortunate” while Indian officials were not immediately available for comments.

Representational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

The conference, organised by International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies (IFHNOS) and Foundation for Head-Neck Oncology (FHNO), is being attended by doctors from around 15 foreign countries. When asked at a press conference if there were delegates from Pakistan, the organisers said, “They were scheduled to participate but could not make it as they could not get the visas.”

Organising Chairman of the conference Dr Alok Thakar said, “Some of the doctors were to present papers at the conference.” Pakistani sources said that the delegation comprised 25 doctors, while another organising committee member put the number at 8-10 delegates. Relations between India and Pakistan have hit a low after a bitter war of words in the wake of Uri attack and subsequent surgical strike by Indian army across LoC in Jammu and Kashmir targeting terror launchpads.

Thakar, a professor of otorhinolaryngology and head-neck surgery at the Aiims, said the conference brings head and neck cancer experts from around the world and will share developments in the field during the four-day-long meet beginning on Wednesday.

“We have oncologists from Germany, the UK, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, among other countries,” he said. IFHNOS is a global organisation established through cooperation of national and regional societies and organisations in the specialty of head and neck surgery and oncology with membership from national and regional multidisciplinary organisations, representing 65 countries.

“Doctors in India have also done a lot of research in the field of cancer and for two days they would be sharing the data and during the rest two days, the foreign delegates would share their data,” Thakar said. “Head-neck cancer, unfortunately, is among the most common cancers in the Indian subcontinent and the FHNO has been at the forefront of educational and advocacy activities in this realm,” he said.

FHNO represents head-neck medical professionals from India and is among the largest head-neck societies which constitute the IFHNOS.

Things are changing rapidly at the international level: Baloch leader hails PM Modi for highlighting their plight

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Baloch nationalist leader Naela Quadri Baloch, who arrived in India, believes things are changing “rapidly” at the international level since Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the plight of the people of troubled Balochistan province of Pakistan.Her son Mazdak Dilshad Baloch is already camping in India. She was supposed to address an outreach organised by the RSS-backed India Policy Foundation earlier this month but could not do so for failing to secure visa on time.”Things are changing rapidly at the international level. You have seen in the United Nations…other countries are coming forward to support the Balochistan issue,” Prof Baloch, who lives in self-exile in Canada, told reporters after arriving at the IGI airport.Mazdak, who is also a prominent Baloch activist, said Prof Baloch will be in India for the next one week or so and address a number of seminars and meetings.”She was not denied visa. It just got delayed so she could not address the October 1 event. Now, both of us will be attending events both in and outside Delhi for the next one week or so,” he said.The Baloch cause for freedom has received a major diplomatic push since Modi brought up Pakistani atrocities on people of Balochistan and PoK in his Independence Day speech.Another prominent exiled Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti, had approached the Indian Embassy in Geneva seeking asylum in India last month.

Indian female taxi driver documentary hopes to inspire, embolden women | Reuters

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Selvi was 14, she was married off to an abusive husband who forced her into prostitution. Over a decade later, her escape and journey to becoming one of India’s first female taxi drivers are the subject of a documentary film, “Driving With Selvi”, that aims to inspire women to break out of traditional roles, its director said.”Many girls in small villages or marginalised communities in India never learn to dream,” filmmaker Elisa Paloschi said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”I think that Selvi’s (story) shows that you can dream and will inspire people to think about their future.”India is home to a third of the world’s child brides, and around 50 percent of India’s women were married before turning 18, according the U.N. children’s agency. Early marriage makes it more likely that girls will drop out of school, and campaigners say it also increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth.

“My life was over,” Selvi, whose surname is not given, says in the film, explaining how her violent marriage pushed her towards suicide.”I thought it was better to kill myself than to stay. But then I realised that if I were dead I wouldn’t be able to prove myself. That’s why I ran away”.Selvi found her way to a girls’ shelter in the southwestern city of Mysuru, where she learned how to drive.A few years later, as she was about to set up what has been described as India’s first female taxi company, she met Paloschi who was fascinated by her charisma.

“You can tell she has some greatness in her,” the filmmaker said.Eleven years in the making, “Driving With Selvi” opened in London on Friday and is to premier on U.S. television to mark the International Day of The Girl Child on Tuesday.The documentary has won praise from human rights activists.

“It tells so powerfully that when these girls are given the chance to be empowered, are given skills, care and support, they can change their circumstances and that’s incredibly inspiring to see,” UNICEF UK’s deputy executive director, Lily Caprani, told filmgoers after a screening in London on Friday.Paloschi is now planning to embark with Selvi on a bus tour of southern India to bring the movie to small communities as part of a campaign called “Save Her A Seat” that aims to challenge the marginalisation of women.Women are among the most excluded groups in India, with almost 43 percent of working-age women confined to domestic work, according to a report published in March.”This film has such an incredible power to create social change and I think that Selvi is a great spokesperson for that,” Paloschi said. (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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Dengue, Chikungunya rampant in India, need attention: Experts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dengue and Chikungunya are widespread diseases that require close attention in India, eminent scientist and an international expert on Ebola, Peter Piot has said. Though India was not at risk of an Ebola outbreak, there have been many such outbreaks in the past, including bird flu and swine flu, Piot, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus and Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said during his lecture at the Indian Institute of Public Health-Hyderabad (IIPH-H) here last night. “There is a need for countries to build better and more responsive health systems and services. This calls for synergies among NGOs, communities, inter-governmental coalitions for a more systematic approach. Overall, if we focus more on preparedness and human rights, we will accomplish more,” a release from IIPH quoted Piot as saying. The lecture highlighted the threat of viruses may be “exacerbated” by the current context of ecological change, climate change, global mobility, international travel and trade, human demographics and behaviour, agricultural and environmental pollution, it said. While the mode of transmission varies from one virus to another, stigma and misinformation are common threads that determine how swiftly the epidemic is controlled, Piot said. “He also shared that media attention has the power to make a significant difference in perceptions. In 1976, when the first Ebola outbreak took place, only a few short articles made it to international news, whereas in the age of 24 hour news channels and social media, connectivity should quicken the pace of reaching out to the public with “risk communication messages”, he said. Noting that technology to tackle these emerging threats may be more advanced, he said the socially explosive situation that accompanies viruses needs to be tackled in equal measure. President of Public Health Foundation of India K Srinath Reddy also spoke on the spread of infections and other issues.