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BJP condemns Hurriyat leaders, says will continue to support the west Pakistani refugees

Jammu: BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the west Pakistani refugees(WPRs) residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.

“Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups on Friday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said.

He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.

“It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said.

“It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.

“This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said.

Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh.

“Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.

“The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.

“It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said.

He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.”

Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.

“He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.

It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate.

“The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.

“Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said.

The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

“The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.

“It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said.

He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.

“He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.

It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate.

“The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.

“Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said.

The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 17:56 IST

Will continue to support the rights of West Pakistani Refugees: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the West Pakistani Refugees residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.”Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups yesterday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said. He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.”It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said. Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said. “It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.”This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said. Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh. “Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.”The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state. “It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.”He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said. It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces.There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947. “The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.”It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said. “He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

West Pakistan refugees row: Jitendra Singh accuses NC of politics of convenience

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Slamming separatists and National Conference over their stand on West Pakistan refugees issue, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Saturday while separatists are doing politics of “convenience not conviction”, the mainstream parties too toe their line when out of power.Terming the opposition to the issuance of identity cards to West Pakistan refugees (WPRs) as a “needless controversy”, he said it is “inhuman” to resist any help to refugees who have been languishing without any livelihood for past 70 years. He said that refugees who chose J-K as their home cannot be held to ransom, “while some their counterparts in rest of the country have become Prime Ministers like Inder Kumar Gujral and Dr Manmohan Singh”.Accusing separatists and NC of “politicking” on the issue, he said, “Separatists lobby of Kashmir are separatists due to their convenience and not because of conviction.” “Similarly the so-called mainstream politicians tend totake the separatist line because the moment they take to power they swear that J&K is integral part of India and when they are shunted out of power, they overnight start questioning the status of Jammu and Kashmir,” Singh told reporters here. The Minister of State in PMO was replying to questions about opposition by the separatists and National Conference to issuance of identity certificates to WPRs.”This is politicking which is happening by some who are devoid of conviction and ideology.”It is the duplicity of these elements to hoodwink the innocent masses of Jammu and Kashmir but the saving grace is that youth of the state is wiser than before,” Union Minister said. Singh, while replying to other questions on the issue, said, “It is meaningless controversy. It is avoidable controversy”. “They (refugees) can not be held to ransom for the simple reason that they chose their residence in Jammu or Jammu and Kashmir after partition.”Therefore the nation owes a dignified livelihood to them. This politicking which has just started for past two days is primarily motivated by considerations of Kashmir- centric constituencies,” he said.Singh said it is time for all, regardless of political affiliations and ideologies, to take a holistic view regarding the issue. He said those raising their voice against the step include many who failed to address the issue despite being in power during the last seven decades. “This set of activists are unable to digest it,” he said. While separatists have alleged that the move is aimed at changing the demography of the state, the NC claimed that the step will dilute Article 370 on special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Decrying the “false and contrived” impression being created regarding the change of status of WPRs, Jammu and Kashmir Government had on Thursday made it clear that such reports are deliberately being circulated to destabilise the situation and hit the political and economic interests of the people. “It seems an orchestrated and misleading campaign has been launched to create an impression that the Government is changing the status of the WPR and they are being provided domicile certificates,” Minister for Education and state government spokesman Naeem Akhtar has said in a statement on Thursday.To facilitate them to get jobs in paramilitary forces and other central government establishments, the Government has issued them identity certificates which is in the same format as exists in the voter list for Parliamentary polls, Naeem said.”Issuance of Identity Certificates does in no way change the status of the West Pakistan Refugees and they continue to be non-state subjects,” he said. Several political organisation including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party and refugee organisations have hit out at opposition parties and separatists for opposing identity certificates to West Pakistan refugees.

Two more RBI officials held in currency exchange fraud, arrests a big blow to regulator

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two more officials of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday for their alleged role in currency conversion fraud cases.The arrests, coming in less than a week’s time, have caused much discomfort for the central bank, which had maintained that the one arrested earlier was a junior-level functionary. The fresh arrests put into question the role of its officials involved in currency exchange process, initiated following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s note ban announcement on November 8.The two accused—identified as Sadananda Naika and AK Kavin—are posted as Senior Special Assistant and Special Assistant RBI’s cash department in Bengaluru. The first to be arrested, K Michael, was a Senior Special Assistant in the Issue Department of RBI’s regional office.Elaborating on the arrests, a CBI official said the accused fraudulently gave away new currency notes to unknown RBI officials and others in replacement of demonetized notes to the tune of Rs 1.99 crore, in violation of the currency exchange limits imposed by the RBI.”It is alleged that both the accused and other unknown officials of RBI, Bengaluru entered in criminal conspiracy with unknown others,” said the official. Among several sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code, the duo was slapped with charges of criminal conspiracy, fraud, criminal breach of trust and so on.The arrests come after the RBI, earlier this week, claimed that “elaborate instructions” had been given to bank managements to keep in check untoward transactions.It was the arrest of Parashivamurthy—a cashier of the State Bank of Mysore in a branch in Chamarajnagar district for allegedly exchanging demonetized notes to the tune of Rs 1.51 crore with Rs 100 notes—that led the agency to Michael. Further probe revealed the role of more officials.In another incident, CBI registered case against KL Bhoyar, Assistant Commercial Manager, Central Railway, CST Mumbai. The agency said Bhoyar allegedly exchanged demonetized currency worth Rs 8.22 lakh (approx) with new Rs 2,000 notes and legal tender of Rs 100 notes at booking counters at CST, Mumbai and Kalyan in Thane district. The agency also recovered Rs 2.2 lakh cash—in denomination of Rs 100—in subsequent raids.

Maratha reservation: Can Devendra Fadnavis maintain his hard stance on Atrocities Act?

The Maratha rallies, demanding reservations for the community, which literally swamped each and every town and city with unprecedented attendance without a slogan being shouted and without an untoward incident so far, is yet to storm Mumbai. Though promised and planned, it has been on hold because of demonetisation.

The rally is now scheduled for Tuesday in Mumbai.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTIMaharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

However, the issue was taken to the state legislature by elected representatives in its winter session of the state Assembly at Nagpur to hear assurances from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that the community would get its due, and that the issue would be tackled efficiently at every level. On one demand, however, he held firm: no dilution of the Atrocities Act.

This as unambiguous a stance as it was in October when he had ruled out its abolition. This time, he also ruled out any dilution either. The Act, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is an enactment of the Parliament, and if Maharashtra were to seek any softening of provisions, it is unlikely to be agreed to by the rest of the country.

The Act of 1989 had been amended, but only to strengthen it, and came into force only recently. The Centre had communicated to all states that complaints and allegation of atrocities “despite provisions of an enabling Act” was a “matter of concern”. The strengthening of the Act by a bill of 2014 was to make provisions “more effective”. New crimes were added which leaves Fadnavis no room to plead with the Centre.

Known popularly as the Atrocities Act, the Maratha community has been insisting, that the Dalits use it to harass them, including by threatening its use. He appears to have taken a middle course by assuring that in consultation with all parties, he would set up a committee of legislators to find ways to ensure that the Act was not misused. He has referred to the fears of the SCs and STs about the consequences of tinkering with the Act.

Also Read: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis woos Marathas, promises them reservation, hostels

Ramdas Athavale, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, himself a Dalit leader, had spoken of a “relook” around the same time. If the state government succeeds in pointing out “some shortcomings (in the Act) which need a re-look (at) to stop its misuse, it can be considered by the Centre”. Ramdas too had underscored the “unanimity” of the opinion that the Act should remain and serve its stated objective to protect the rights of Dalits and tribals”.

It can be now clearly understood that Maharashtra may not seek any softening, but it is quite likely that the committee Fadnavis is intending to set up would necessarily take a while before it comes up with the ways to ensure that the Act was not misused. In the meanwhile, because the Opposition walked out, implying that the political pot on the issue of Maratha reservations and other demands would be kept simmering.

Fadnavis did concede that between 1,400 t0 2,000 cases using the Atrocities Act are filed in Maharashtra but compared to other states, they were on the lower side. On the other hand, there have been other voices with differing views, which pointed to the decline in the number of cases registered, from 4,756 in 2010 to 2,206 in 2014, and till August 2016, 1,554 cases were filed. If they were barely used, how could anyone say they were used? A top official who heads a cell collating date on crimes against SCs and STs had told The Wire, “We can’t say if misuse of the Act exists or no.”

Though the Dalit leaders have often said that unless in the gravest of cases, the machinery avoids even registering cases, leave alone investigate and bring to book alleged perpetrators of such crimes despite complaints taken to police stations. Obviously, statistics are one thing, and a perception is another. Fadnavis has tried to keep both sides calms, but the issue is not going to be so easily settled unless the reservations are announced for the Marathas.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 21:44 IST

Triple Talaq: HC ruling valid, but hyped and smacks of politics, says Flavia Agnes

The Allahabad High Court on Thursday called triple talaq or the practice of Muslim men getting an instant divorce by saying the word ‘talaq’ three times as ‘unconstitutional’. The high court said that ‘no personal law board is above the Constitution’, in effect reiterating the Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court recently.

But according to Flavia Agnes, a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre, the judgment, though a boost to Muslim women’s rights, is hardly ‘historic’ as it simply echoes previously held views on the matter.
In an interview with Firstpost, Agnes reflects on the ‘hype’ around Thursday’s judgment and narrows down on the finer details of the triple talaq debate.

The Allahabad High Court’s judgment is being seen as a major step towards safeguarding Muslim women’s rights. What are your views on it?

I do not understand why such a big hype is being created around the judgment in the media. The Supreme Court, in the Shamim Ara case of 2002, had already established the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional and had set a proper procedure for pronouncing the talaq. Since then, many high courts have endorsed the same view. The matter is already sub-judice in the Supreme Court, and in that sense, the high court’s judgment is not historic by any means.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

But, at the same time, because of the current hype around the issue of triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code, any judgment on the issue is bound to picked up by the media, which in turn will help spread awareness among Muslim women about their legal rights. In that sense, it can serve as a positive step.

You said that the judgment reiterates previously held views. Why then, according to you, was the view echoed by the Allahabad High Court especially since it is not legally binding as a precedent?

If you consider recent developments abroad, with Angela Merkel proposing a burqa ban in Germany and France banning the hijab, you can perceive that there is a rise in Islamophobia globally. As a result, a false perception is being spread that everything Islamic and the Islamic culture, the Muslim law in particular, is anti-women.

In India, judgments questioning triple talaq have been passed since 1981 – the Guwahati High Court and the Bombay High Court have repeatedly questioned the Muslim divorce procedure. Then finally, the 2002 Shamim Ara judgment upheld the high court judgments. But back then, no hype was created around the judgment.

What is the reason behind this hype?

Now, any criticism of Muslim law is being highlighted, which is clearly a propaganda by the right-wing government. Anything to do with Muslim women becomes news now and is blown out of proportion.

Clearly, there is a political context to this judgment and that is the reason behind the hype around it. The judgment on its own is proper, but the bashing of the Muslim community as a whole is upsetting. This is absolute propaganda being driven by some people, which directly feeds into the right-wing government’s agenda.

Since the issue of triple talaq is limited to Muslim women, what other approaches can be adopted to prevent the bashing of the community as a whole?

Women’s right to maintenance and shelter are governed by the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, which is a common law for everybody, regardless of their religion. We need to question why Muslim women are not using the laws meant to protect them. Instead of making the issue communal, we should identify the problems being faced by all women and should focus on making the safeguards more accessible.

And it is not as if Hindu women do not face any problems. They face dowry harassment, they are killed for dowry, they are victims of domestic violence, they are victims of desertion, and face many issues that are similar to the ones faced by all women, regardless of religion. We need to understand that even if a Muslim man invokes triple talaq, the woman’s rights are not extinguished; she is still protected under the Domestic Violence Act. We need to stop criticising the religious practices of a particular religion and should focus on safeguarding the rights of all women instead. The problems are not religion-based, they are based on the social conditions prevalent in the country.

You talked about the social conditions prevalent in the country that dictate such practices. Can you elaborate on that?

The social set up that we live in defines the practices that exist here. For example, a Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia will not face the problem of dowry harassment. She will be in a much stronger position to stipulate the terms and conditions of the marriage to which a Muslim woman is entitled, like Mahr (a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid to the bride at the time of marriage, that legally becomes her property). Whereas in India, the husband determines the dowry amount, how much money should be spent on the wedding, and how much money the girl’s parents should spend, which is non-Islamic. This practice is inherently Indian and originates from the Hindu-culture. Therefore, we need to identify these conditions as all women need to be protected from discrimination.

So what, according to you, needs to be done to curb this issue?

We need to take a broader approach when it comes to safeguarding women. We need to recognise the strength that is offered by the secular laws which are applicable to Muslim women, to Hindu women and to all other religions as well. We cannot continue to categorise Muslim women as the only ones that are suffering.

Organisations like the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) are instrumental in portraying a false situation where only Muslim women are suffering. It’s not true that only Muslim women face problems with their religious practices or laws. When you don’t use existing law, when you deliberately do ignore Constitutional safeguards like the Domestic Violence Act and then you make it out like only a Muslim problem.

Organisations like the BMMA are propaganda-based and only highlight the plight of Muslim women, thus reinforcing the Islamophobia prevalent globally and the anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. This perfectly fits into the right-wing communal agenda.

More than any other reform, we need to ensure that women’s civic rights are protected and that safeguards like the Domestic Violence Act are implemented properly.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 08:31 IST

OROP suicide: Kejriwal claims Modi govt ‘not allowing’ Delhi govt to pay Grewal Rs1 crore compensation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “not allowing” the Delhi government to compensate the family of ex-serviceman Ram Kishan Grewal. He said the AAP government’s plan to give Rs 1 crore compensation to the family of Grewal, who committed suicide in the city last month over the OROP issue, has been hindered as Lt Governor Najeeb Jung has sought a report on the issue from the ruling dispensation. The Chief Minister, however, vowed to provide the compensation “at any cost”.He also sought to know why the Central government had not given Rs one crore to the families of soldiers, who were martyred in Uri terror attack, on lines of the Delhi government’s policy.”They (BJP) go to seek votes in the name of surgical strike, but when the time comes to help families of martyrs, Modi ji neither gives compensation nor allows us to do it,” Kejriwal said.Under the AAP government’s compensation policy, the families of martyrs, who are residents of Delhi, are given Rs one crore. Kejriwal has been urging the Prime Minister to implement the same across the country.The Chief Minister said the Cabinet has decided to compensate the Grewal family and there was “no need to seek LG’s consent on the issue.””There is no need to seek LG’s approval on the Cabinet decision. Cabinet is supreme and it can give compensation.Grewal did not commit suicide for himself. He did it for the country’s soldiers.”He committed suicide so that the country’s attention move towards soldiers and we recognise their sacrifice,” he said. Kejriwal, however, clarified that he was open to meet the LG on the issue and convince him about the Cabinet decision if he had any reservations about it. “LG has sought a report on this issue, saying that he will not give approval on it. But, we will request LG. Deputy CM will meet the LG and request him to allow us to release the compensation,” he said. The AAP leader added that Delhi Chief Secretary was preparing the report that will be submitted to the LG office soon.Ram Kishan Grewal, 70-year-old ex-serviceman, had consumed poison in the lawns behind Jawahar Bhavan, which houses some offices of the Ministry of External Affairs, on 1 November. His suicide had snowballed into a huge political showdown in the capital.

Madhya Pradesh Assembly: Congress MPs allege BJP govt of corruption in Kumbh mela

Bhopal: Congress MLAs created ruckus in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly today demanding discussion on their adjournment notice on the alleged corruption in the month-long Simhastha-Kumbh mela held in Ujjain this year following which the House was adjourned till 3 PM.

The Congress members including, acting Leader of Opposition Bala Bachchan and others, had given a notice for discussion on the alleged Simhastha scam and demanded constitution of a joint committee of MLAs to probe it.

Congress MLA Jitu Patwari raised the issue during the Question Hour and continued with their protest in Zero Hour also. The party legislators rushed to the well of the House and raised slogans against the government and Speaker Sitasaran Sharma on the issue.

They alleged that the government has provided different figures related to budgetary allocation and expenditure on Simhastha and it smacks of corruption.

Patwari said the previous session of the Assembly was told on July 19 this year, that the total budgetary allocation for Simhastha was Rs 2,771.65 crore whereas the total amount spent was Rs 2,000.93 crore.

Representational image, Kumbh Mela. PTI

Representational image, Kumbh Mela. PTI

“However, in reply to my today’s question on the same issue, the House was told that the budgetary allocation for Simhastha was Rs 2,344.28 crore, while the expendture was Rs 2,150.63 crore,” he said.

“This means there is a difference of Rs 427.37 crore in the budgetary allocation and Rs 149.7 crore in expenditure,” Patwari said and demanded a discussion on the issue.

To this, the state Home Minister and the in-charge minister for Simhasta, Bhupendra Singh said if the Opposition has any evidence regarding corruption in Simhastha, it should table it in the House, instead of creating ruckus.

The Urban Administration and Development Minister Maya Singh said all information related to Simhastha was already given to members.

“It (Simhastha) had been organised in such a good manner that it was lauded by the people at national and international level,” she said.

However, Patwari alleged that even the government has given different figures in Parliament on the issue and insisted that a discussion should take place on the matter.

When the Speaker did not budge and asked them to come to his chamber to discuss the matter, Congress members rushed to the well of the House raising slogans against the government and the chair.

Amid uproar, the Speaker first adjourned the House for 10 minutes and later when the same situation prevailed during the Zero Hour, the chair adjourned it till 3 PM.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:10 IST

Embassies get assurance on cash

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A high-level committee headed by an additional secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs is still grappling with the issue of shortage of cash experienced by the diplomatic missions, expatriate Indians, foreign tourists, and money changer associations abroad.Responding to the concerns raised by the Russian Embassy here that the cash crunch was affecting itsfuctioning, the government said the issues were at the advanced stage of being resolved.Earlier, the Dean of Diplomatic Corps stationed in Delhi had also raised the issue on behalf of all the missions.Earlier on Tuesday, in a letter, Russian Ambassador Alaxander Kadakin raised the issue of his diplomats not being able to withdraw enough money thus hampering the normal functioning of the mission. He sought intervention of the External Affairs Ministry so that the withdrawal restrictions for diplomatic staff are lifted. “We are awaiting a reply from the MEA and hope that this is resolved quickly. Otherwise, we will be forced to explore other options which may include raising the issue in Moscow with your Embassy by summoning Indian Minister Counsellor,” a senior Russian embassy official said here. He also warned that options may also include restriction on the cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia. There are approximately 200 staff members in the Russian mission here.After the demonetization process last month, MEA had said it approached the Department of Economic Affairs over three or four types of requests, including those related to maintaining sufficient flow of funds to diplomatic missions. Official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said a committee under an additional secretary that includes officials from finance and the MEA has been set up to look into the issues. The committee has met several times over the past few days to resolve the issue.It is also understood that some other countries such as Pakistan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also sent letters to the MEA. Pakistan High Commission had threatened a tit-for-tat action and starve the Indian mission in Islamabad of cash against the policies of a private Indian bank which had refused to release salaries of its employees.According to the Pakistani mission, the bank has imposed additional conditions for withdrawal of salaries. These conditions, which came into effect only last week, make it mandatory for Pakistan officials to fill up additional forms specifying their expenditures and also that they exchange their dollars with the same bank. The officials are upset because the exchange rate is much lower than that offered by the bank. Pakistan has told MEA that the bank in question had chosen to target its mission specifically and not imposed similar conditions on other missions. Sources said after the government’sintervention, the issue between the private bank and the Pakistani mission was resolved.The MEA has has received four types of different requests on the issue of demonetization, the first concern being the diplomats who are based in Delhi. “Some of them have told us that diplomatic missions require more funds and the existing limits are insufficient for them. They have requested thatthose limites should be increased for diplomatic missions,” said Swarup. The second set of issues involves NRIs having cash in Indian currency currently abroad. The committee is looking into the issue . The money changers’ associations abroad are also asking what they should do with the stacks of Indian currency they have or how to exchange them.

Uniform Civil Code debate is more about values existing within communities: Tufail Ahmad tells Firstpost

The issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is more about values existing within communities and not about their lifestyle and identities – is what Tufail Ahmad, executive director of Open Source Institute, a Delhi-based think tank, feels.

Ahmad, who proposed a draft UCC on Wednesday to initiate a public debate, told Firstpost:  “This draft UCC is the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion. It is necessary to emphasise that the issue of UCC is not about the lifestyles and identities of Indian citizens but to ensure that certain fundamental rights to equality and liberty are protected for them by the Indian state. It’s more about values existing within communities.”

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

It has been observed that UCC despite being a good idea, whenever a debate takes place on this issue, gets into a controversy and gets a religious colour as the focus is on Muslims. A section within the society feels that instead of making the debate Muslim-centric, the debate should first be within the communities and why it shouldn’t begin with Hindus.

“It’s a misleading argument. The move for UCC has predominantly been opposed by a section of Muslims, clerics and their institutions, and not by other religious communities. Other groups are open to change. Unlike a class of liberals which believes that this change comes from within, I strongly feel it comes from an external source. Like Raja Rammohan Roy opposed the practice of Sati and it was an outcome of his interactions with foreign scholars and ideas,” said Ahmad, a former journalist with BBC World Service.

Stating that his draft UCC is the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion, Ahmad said, “At present, no draft UCC exists that could enlighten the people of India regarding the specifics that would constitute a code.”

“This UCC is drafted within a broader context of a Universal Bill of Rights for the Indian citizen (Ubric). In the name of secularism, often a biased stand is taken. This discriminatory identity divides communities. Even the judiciary, including some judges of the Supreme Court, often fails to understand that Right to religion and beliefs is available to Indian citizens and not to communities and religious organisations. As a result, while hearing cases of individuals – say a case related to a Muslim woman, they allow Islamic institutions to be a party in it,” he pointed out.    

Ahmad, the author of ‘Jihadist Threat to India – The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim’, in his 12-clause document – a blueprint for the UCC – said, “The issue of UCC has emerged into India’s political discourse recently because many Muslim women, affected adversely by the personal laws have begun knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court to uphold their fundamental rights to equality and liberty, in keeping with constitutional provisions. Gradually, a realisation is gaining ground that UCC will protect the constitutional rights of Indian citizens.”

The 16 clauses in the draft UCC highlights the importance of fundamental right to education; religion and beliefs; unhindered freedom of thought and speech; application of rule of law to every citizen; any child born throughout the territory of India, including Gilgit Baltistan (which being the part of J&K) should have an automatic right to be citizen of India; use of words (like bhangi, chamar, kafir, etc) that describe an individual or groups in a discriminatory and hateful manner shall be a criminal offence; etc.

“We appeal to the members of Parliament to enact this Bill as Law in fulfilment of the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution and in particular Article 44 that says — The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India,” added Ahmad.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 19:35 IST

Demonetization: ED & Delhi Police say they are unaffected, CBI reserves comment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Demonetization will have no impact on investigating agencies which possess a huge cache of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, seized over the years as case property, with their officials saying the cash was “government accounted money” and could be deposited in respective bank accounts till December 30.While the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Delhi Police said they would have no problem in depositing the cash in the banks, the CBI preferred to reserve its comments by maintaining that the issue was “under examination”.Agencies like CBI and ED deal with huge cash amounts which are recovered or seized during raids and investigation of their cases. Both the agencies deal with high-stake financial frauds and ED is a specialised agency handling money laundering matters as well. ED and Delhi Police said the confiscated cash lying with them would be deposited in their designated bank accounts by December 30, the deadline fixed by government, to deposit old currency notes.On being asked about the impact of demonetization on cash recovered by them during probe, Delhi Police’s Joint Commissioner of Police (South-Western Range) Dipendra Pathak said the cash stored in the ‘malkhana’ (warehouse) would be deposited in the banks and it can be done till December 30 as the money is “government accounted”. He, however, said that though all the money is accounted for, it is difficult to tell the number of high denomination currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. He said police officials have been instructed to move concerned courts and seek direction on how to go ahead with each case where the case property involves cash.Similarly, a senior ED official said the move has “not affected” the agency as according to procedure, the seized money is either deposited in the designated bank accounts or converted into fixed deposit receipts (FDRs).When asked about the steps being taken by CBI to deal with the issue of demonetization as the agency stores the currency notes seized during raids, an official said the matter was “under examination and we are not going to make any comment on it”. In his comments, Pathak said “the government has given time till December 30 and we can deposit the cash by then. The confiscated money can also be converted into FDRs through the concerned court’s permission. It depends on case to case”. “Investigating Officers will move concerned courts and it will be decided only by the court as to how we have to go about it. I have already instructed the officials of my range to move courts on this issue,” he said.Pathak said that in cases where a person has been arrested red-handed with huge amount of cash, the police can take the photograph of original currency notes recovered from him to prove its case in the court. “We can also take photograph of the currency notes and keep it with us and then get the notes deposited in banks,” he said.Asked if they have received any specific notification from the government regarding the process to be followed on seized cash of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 denomination, Pathak said no separate notification has been received for the probe agencies. The ED officer said it was not in his knowledge. On being asked about how ED is dealing with this issue, the official said, “demonetization has not affected the ED at all. The government has given time till December 30. So if any cash is lying with the ED, it will be deposited in designated bank accounts and we do not need to get it exchanged”.

PM will intervene as & when required: Naidu on demonetization debate in Parliament

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> With the Opposition seeking Narendra Modi’s participation in the debate in Parliament over demonetization, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu today said the Prime Minister will intervene in the issue “as and when required” and appealed to rival parties to resume the discussion.Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned for the day as the Opposition locked horns with Treasury benches over demonetization and demanded Modi’s presence during the discussion on the issue. “Some of the Opposition parties are making issues out of non-issues. The Prime Minister is very much there in Parliament. He will come to the Houses and intervene as and when required,” Naidu said. The Opposition initiated the debate, but they soon realised they had to escape it. They then brought the Prime Minister into it, unnecessarily, he alleged.The minister appealed to the rival parties to allow the debate on the issue in Parliament, saying that disruption will ultimately hit the common man. “I hope that our friends in the Opposition allow resumption of the debate in the House. Please debate, discuss and decide. Do not disrupt because the sufferers of disruption will be the common man,” he said.The Prime Minister is “very keen that debates take place in the House”, he said and urged the Opposition not to “spoil the positive narratives which ultimately benefit the people”. Meanwhile, CPI(M) has sought legal opinion on moving a contempt notice against Modi for announcing policy matters like demonetization outside Parliament, but not coming to the House to explain it to them.”If the Prime Minister makes a major policy announcement outside Parliament, particularly when it has been summoned by the President, it is incumbent that he comes to both the Houses to explain the issue. This has not been done,” party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said.

Have an opinion on demonetization? PM Modi wants to know

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid ongoing uproar over demonetization and demand by certain political parties to roll back the decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked citizens to rate the government’s decision of currency-ban on various parameters on his aap.Modi posted a link of his mobile application on the micro-blogging site Twitter, asking people to take the survey.”I want your first-hand view on the decision taken regarding currency notes. Take part in the survey on the NM App (tp://nm4.in/dnldapp),” Modi tweeted.Do you think that black money exists in India. Do you mind the in convenience faced in our fight to curb corruptipn, black money, terrorism and counterfeiting currency, are some of the questions asked by Modi in the survey. Modi also asked if they had any suggestions over the issue.The Prime Minister’s move to gauge the views of the people comes at a time when the opposition has escalated its attack on the issue of demonetisation.Opposition parties joined hands to stall pre-noon proceedings in Rajya Sabha demanding Rs 10 lakh compensation to the kin of each of the 70 persons who lost their lives post demonetization and the presence of Prime Minister during the debate on the issue.The rare unity in opposition parties brought Congress and TMC as well as SP and BSP together as their slogan-shouting members trooped into the Well of the House, even as treasury benches countered them demanding resumption of the debate on the issue.

Simultaneous polls need legal framework, logistics: Law Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong pitch for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, the Law Ministry has suggested consideration of the issue from the legal and logistical angles separately.The legal angle would involve constitutional amendments that would be required to be passed before the idea could be implemented on the ground.The ministry has, in a note sent to the “highest level” of the government, split the issue into two parts for consideration.Following the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law in December last to hold the two polls together, the Law Ministry had sought the views of the Election Commission.The Commission, while supporting the idea, had made it clear that it will cost a lot and the Constitution will have to be amended to curtail or extend the term of certain state assemblies.Now, after analysing the report of the standing committee and the poll panel, the Law Ministry has split the issue into two parts — one dealing with legalities involved and the other regarding logistics, infrastructure and finances.In its reply to the Law Ministry in May, the Commission said it supports the proposal but cost involved will be to the tune of over Rs 9,000 crore.Deposing before the parliamentary panel which gave its report on ‘Feasibility of holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies’, the Commission had expressed similar “difficulties”.The Commission has told the government as well as the committee that simultaneous conduct of elections would require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.”For conducting simultaneous elections, the Commission expects that a total of Rs 9,284.15 crore will be needed for procurement of EVMs and VVPATs.”The machines would also need to be replaced every 15 years which would again entail expenditure. Further, storing these machines would increase the warehousing cost,” the Parliamentary panel had said quoting EC.While as per electoral law, elections can be held six months prior to the end of the term of a House, the term of the House cannot be extended except during proclamation of Emergency. Ensuring that the term of houses in states are either extended or curtailed to match with that of the Lok Sabha will require amendment to three to four articles of the Constitution.President’s Rule in states and ‘no confidence motions’ against governments are situations which may occur. The government will have to see how to deal with such situations when it wants all states to have elections along with the Lok Sabha, official sources said.The production of sufficient number of EVMs by two PSUs — BEL and ECIL will also have to be considered as they need time to procure new machines.Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a public debate earlier this month on the issue as frequent elections cost a lot and the election-time code of conduct disrupts governance.”Leaders from various parties support simultaneous polls in private but do not speak out publicly … it warrants a public debate in which media can play vital role,” said Modi at a post-Diwali function at the BJP office here.The issue is likely to be discussed in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing winter session as some parties want the issue to be debated following demonetisation.On March 19, Modi had told a meeting of BJP office-bearers that state elections coupled with local-level polls, spread across virtually every year, often “hinder” execution of welfare measures. He was keen on holding simultaneous elections once in five years.The government feels that while one-time cost in holding simultaneous polls would be high, the exercise may bring down expenditure involved in ‘election bandobast’ such as deployment of central forces and poll personnel.

Demonetization: Congress wants debate under Rule 56

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has said the Narendra Modi government announced the demonetization of high-value currency notes without any preparation and the Opposition wants a serious discussion on the issue under the rules that entail voting. “The decision was taken in haste, without any preparation. This has hit people at the lower level. 60 people have so far died in queues outside ATMs and banks,” he claimed. Kharge said Congress was willing to debate the issue under Rule 56, but the government wanted to discuss it under Rule 193, which does not entail voting. “It is merely a formality. The government is evading questions,” he alleged.Asked if the Opposition will allow Parliament to function tomorrow, Kharge said, “The government should agree to a debate on demonetization under Rule 56. All parameters of a debate will be met under the rule.”Attacking the government for failing to bring back black money stashed abroad, he said, “The Modi dispensation has completed two-and-a-half years in office, but has failed to come out with the list of people having accounts in Swiss banks.” He claimed that a few BJP leaders were also against the way the decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was taken. “The entire House is on the same page in this regard,” he said.The Opposition will also try to pin down the government on the issue of One Rank One Pension scheme, the Jammu and Kashmir turmoil and surgical strikes, Kharge added.

Set up SIT to ensure speedy justice for 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court issued a notice on Tuesday on a plea seeking relief including setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to ensure speedy justice for the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “Issue notice. Counter affidavit on behalf of respondent No.1 (Centre) and 2 has already been filed…Rejoinder affidavit, if any, be filed within four weeks thereafter,” a bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and DY Chandrachud said.It asked senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing S Gurlad Singh Kahlon who has filed the PIL on the issue, to file a rejoinder affidavit and fixed the case for final hearing. Kahlon, a member of Delhi Gurudwara Management Committee, had sought the court’s directions for the setting up of the SIT to ensure speedy justice to the riots victims.He had also sought a direction to the Ministry of Home Affairs to complete the task within six months and give reports on the progress of investigation in all criminal cases relating to the massacre from time to time till the filing of charge sheets. The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to file a status report on the SIT probe into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.The petitioner said the SIT was formed by the government on February 12, 2015 for fresh probe into the 1984 riot cases and had got an extension for a year. However, there was inordinate delay in prosecution of the cases and further delay would prejudice the trial, he had pleaded.The MHA had set up a three-member SIT for re-investigation of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases, mainly in Delhi and other states. It was to look into all serious criminal cases relating to the riots, examine evidence and even re-open cases and file charge sheets in concerned courts.The SIT is headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch and has Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge and Kumar Gyanesh, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police in Delhi Police as members. Anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

Demonetization debate likely to hot up Winter Session, Didi to knock on President’s door

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Congress-led opposition came together seeking to pin down the government on the demonetisation issue in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning on Wednesday but a consensus eluded on TMC’s proposed march to Rashtrapati Bhawan for meeting the President. The leaders will meet again today to finalise the strategy on the issue agreeing at the meeting to use “all parliamentary tools including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account.On its part, TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her party will go ahead with its plans to meet the President tomorrow. Representatives of the National Conference and AAP are likely to accompany the TMC delegation.At a meeting of 13 opposition parties including arch rivals TMC and CPI-M, besides BSP, SP, JD-U and DMK, opposition leaders unanimously concluded that it was too early to visit the President on the issue which must first be raised adequately in parliamentary forums. Various parties have separately given adjournment notices in Lok Sabha and for suspension of proceedings in Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue and highlight the plight of the common man.”So far as the march is concerned, there was unanimous decision by everybody that the march tomorrow is too early. As an opposition party, we must have a march in due course of time, but not on the very first day. On first day of Parliament, we must hold a discussion inside the House.”There was an overwhelming consensus that there is no need to rush to Rashtrapati Bhawan on the very first day before bringing this issue before Parliament,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting. Azad said had the Parliament not been in session, the opposition would have gone to meet the President, but as the two Houses were meeting from tomorrow the issue should first be discussed and raised there. He said whatever the opposition members demanded if those were not not fulfilled other options can be used. Azad also sought to corner the government by alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had disclosed the move to his partymen and not adhered to the principle of confidentiality. He claimed it was a “big scam” which needed to be probed.CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said government will have to allow the common people to use old currency notes for all white transactions till the time alternative arrangements are made. He also dubbed the move as “Tughlaq raj” (dictatorship), while taking a dig at the Modi government. He replied in the negative when asked if the TMC’s proposal for a march to Rashtrapati Bhawan was taken up at the meeting.His colleague Mohammed Salim alleged that there have been huge transactions in cash by leaders of BJP since April and termed it as a “currency scam” that needs to be probed.”We will unearth this currency scam and taken on the government. Prime Minister’s step of trying to help them is actually insulting the common man, including his mother who had to stand in the queue (to withdraw money),” Salim said. Asked about the opposition’s strategy for taking on the government on demonetisation, Salim said, “We will seek all alternative tools in a democracy, including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account”. Yechury earlier said, “We are not demanding withdrawal of the move, but it should not be rolled out in this manner. We will raise this issue tomorrow as crores of people are being put to trouble and inconvenience. We are told some 25 people have committed suicide. We are telling the government that till alternative arrangements are made, all white transactions be allowed in old currency.” Yechury said the Left governments in Kerala and Tripura have already written to the Centre for allowing the states to transact in old currency till December 31.He said government should do something so that the people get some relief and are not harassed. JD-U’s Sharad Yadav said leaders of all parties will again meet tomorrow to further finetune their strategy on the issue.Among those who attended the meeting included Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and Anand Sharma, CPI-M’s Mohammed Salim, P Karunakaran and Yechury, NCP’s Tariq Anwar, RJD’s Prem Chand Gupta and Jaiprakash Narain Yadav, CPI’s D Raja and JD-U’s Sharad Yadav. Others present included TMC’s Nadimul Haque, SP’s Dharmendra yadav, BSP’s Satish Chandra Misra, DMK’s Kanimozhi and JMM’s Sanjeev kumar, besides RSP’s N K Premchandran.

Demonetisation looms over Winter Session: Modi govt braces for rough start tomorrow

New Delhi: Government is bracing itself for a stormy Winter Session of Parliament beginning on Wednesday with the Opposition presenting a united face in seeking to corner it over the demonetisation issue calling it a “currency scam” that needs to be probed.

The Opposition also has a string of other issues like the surgical strikes across LoC, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, One Rank One Pension (OROP) and the plight of farmers to rake up during the session that will last a month. A demand for constitution of a JPC to go into the demonetisation is also on the opposition agenda.

Ahead of the session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met opposition leaders and sought their cooperation in the fight against black money and corruption for which, he said, the demonetisation exercise was undertaken.

Winter Session of Parliament starts Wednesday. PTI

Winter Session of Parliament starts Wednesday. PTI

In his concluding remarks at an all-party meeting on the eve of the Winter Session, Modi spoke in support of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls. He pitched for state-funding of elections and asked parties to debate the issue.

The government is willing to discuss all issues and answer the questions raised by the opposition, Modi said, hoping for a fruitful session as he recalled the passage of the GST Bill in the last session with the cooperation of all parties.

“We have launched a crusade against corruption, black money and fake currency, which is also behind cross-border terrorism. All parties should come together on this issue of national interest,” he said.

However, an unrelenting opposition decided to step up its fight against the government during the session. Presenting a united face, arch rivals TMC and Left parties and SP and BSP, got together at a meeting convened by the main opposition Congress to formulate a joint strategy.

There were some reservations in the opposition over TMC’s proposal for a march to Rashtrapati Bhawan tomorrow to petition the President against demonetisation.

The majority of the parties did not want to exhaust the option of going to the President on the very first day of the session and instead wanted to keep it for a later stage.

An unfazed TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, asserted that she would go ahead with around 40 of her MPs to the President.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged the decision to invalidate Rs 1000/500 currency notes was leaked in advance to some people, including BJP leaders, and called it probably the “biggest scam”.

He, however, added that his party is not for a rollback of the drive.

Perhaps for the first time since the Modi government came to power, a large section of the opposition led by the Congress has came together ahead of a session as its seeks to pin down the government on the demonetisation issue.

Congress, the Left parties and some others alleged that the demonetisation of Rs 500/1000 currency notes was a “big scam” and accused the Prime Minister of “leaking” information to BJP members in advance.

At a meeting of around 13 opposition parties including arch rivals TMC and CPM, besides BSP, SP, NCP, JD(U) and DMK, their leaders unanimously concluded that they will go all out to take on the government on the issue.

They, however, felt it was too early to approach the President and the matter may first be raised adequately in parliamentary forums.

The leaders will meet again tomorrow to finalize their strategy on the issue while agreeing at the meeting to use “all parliamentary tools including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account”.

Various parties have separately given adjournment notices in Lok Sabha and for suspension of proceedings in Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue and highlight the plight of the common man.

“There was an overwhelming consensus that there is no need to rush to Rashtrapati Bhawan on the very first day before bringing this issue before Parliament,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said government will have to allow the common people to use old currency notes for all white transactions till the time alternative arrangements are made. He also dubbed the move as “Tughlaq raj” (dictatorship), while taking a dig at the Modi government.

His colleague Mohammed Salim alleged that there have been huge transactions in cash by leaders of BJP since April and termed it as a “currency scam” that needs to be probed.

Asked about the opposition’s strategy for taking on the government on demonetisation, Salim said, “We will seek all alternative tools in a democracy, including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account”.

“We will unearth this currency scam and taken on the government. Prime Minister’s step of trying to help them is actually insulting the common man, including his mother who had to stand in the queue (to withdraw money),” Salim said.

He said government should do something so that the people get some relief and are not harassed.

Earlier in the day, top Congress leaders discussed the strategy for the session, where it is likely to forcefully take on the government on the manner demonetisation was implemented and other issues.

At the all-party meeting, Modi, while speaking about simultaneous polls said, “A crucial problem is how to make political funding transparent. How to implement state funding of elections. Let all political parties debate it and come to a conclusion. Let’s remove the question mark which exists against those in public life.

“Polls happen separately. Let there be one election, simultaneous elections,” he said, seeking a consensus on the issue.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 20:51 IST

West Bengal: Third standard student ragged for ‘stealing chocolate’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A third standard student, Atif Niswan in Shantiniketan’s Viswa Bharati Patha Bhawan (school) was allegedly ragged by students of the fourth standard of the same school. Niswan suffered minor injuries to his face, when he was beaten up by the senior students of the school. Niswan claims that as many as four students ragged him on suspicion of stealing a chocolate. The parents of Niswan sought help from the interim vice-chancellor Swapan Dutta, who reportedly refused to help them. Parents claim that the hostel authorities and the vice-chancellor are trying to cover up the issue and allowing the accused students to go scot free. “It is very sad that students of fourth standard do not fear anyone and rag juniors openly. It is even sadder that the school authorities are covering up the issue. If the school authorities do not punish the accused, such instances will be repeated,” said mother of Niswan. On the other hand, the parents have filed a complaint with the police demanding punishment for the accused. When DNA tried to contact the interim the vice-chancellor, he refused to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, the victim student was given first aid and is presently taking rest at home. However, he refuses to go to school fearing that he would face ragging yet another time.

Army Veteran’s suicide: Ex-serviceman’s son, Rahul Gandhi, Manish Sisodia detained

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An ex-serviceman allegedly committed suicide over the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, triggering a political row, with Rahul Gandhi and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia rushing to the hospital, where they were prevented from seeing the Army Veteran’s body.Gandhi was not allowed to enter the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where 70-year-old Ram Kishan Grewal’s body was kept, while Sisodia was detained outside the hospital. The ex-serviceman’s son was detained for allegedly contacting the political parties.Grewal from Haryana’s Bhiwani district ended his life in the lawns behind the Jawahar Bhavan, which houses the Ministry of External Affairs, on Tuesday evening.”Naya Hindustan ban raha hai bhaiya… this is Modiji’s India, I am certain that I will meet Grewal’s family,” a disgruntled Gandhi said.Police said that Gandhi was detained for trying to enter the hospital despite being advised against it. “It’s a hospital and not a place for demonstration. Rahul Gandhi was detained for trying to enter the hospital despite being advised otherwise,” Delhi ACB chief MK Meena said.”Democracy doesn’t mean creating obstruction. Leaders must also understand that a hospital is not the place to hold any demonstrations. No politician is allowed in the hospital as they were causing disturbances,” he added.Meena also said that the family members were also detained as they are contacting political leaders and holding a demonstration at the hospital.The police said Grewal, along with three of his companions, had come to the city apparently to submit a memorandum to the Defence Ministry over the issue of OROP.Meanwhile, the ex-serviceman had been holding protests at Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s designated site for protests, to demand changes in the OROP. The protesters say four of their primary conditions have not been met by the government yet.Meanwhile, a group of ex-servicemen, which has been leading the protest at Jantar Mantar over the OROP scheme, distanced itself from the Grewal’s suicide and said that the issue should not be politicised.They also said all the politicians, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has tweeted on the issue, should stay away, and the government should sort out the OROP “mess”.”The suicide did not take place at Jantar Mantar. His friends had informed the police about the suicide bid but it was too late. He was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital from where they wanted to bring the body to Jantar Mantar, which we refused,” Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement (UFESM), told PTI.

UCC row: Don’t tinker with Shariat, Mayawati warns Modi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSP supremo Mayawati on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his stance on the issue of triple talaq, saying he should not “force his opinion and decision” on the believers of any particular religion by “following the RSS agenda”.Accusing the BJP and the Centre of tinkering with issues related to Shariat, she said such matters should be left to the Muslim community and not raked up with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections in some states for political gains. “BJP and its central government led by Narendra Modi has now started a new controversy over Muslim personal law, triple talaq and common civil code before the Assembly elections in some states to serve its petty politics. BSP strongly condemns it,” Mayawati said in a statement.”The prime minister and central government instead of interfering in the issue of triple talaq should better leave it to the Muslim community to form a common opinion,” she stressed. Modi had yesterday denounced the practice of triple talaq among Muslims and deprecated attempts to politicise the issue.The BSP chief said it is not right for the prime minister to “force his opinion and decision on the believers of any particular religion by following the RSS agenda”. “It is not in national interest that BJP and prime minister indulge in petty politics in the matters of Muslims and their Shariat, especially before the coming Assembly polls in some states,” she added.

AIMPLB mobilizes support against UCC, says no reform without consensus

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) garners support amongst the scholars, maulanas and Ulema in Delhi on the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) being pushed by the government. The board is mobilizing the stakeholders to keep the movement against UCC on.The board sees UCC as another attempt by the government to further isolate the community. The members of the board alleged that in the past two years, the government has stirred issues ranging from love jihad, beef ban, removal of minority status of Aligarh Muslim University and the recent crises in Kashmir. “These are attempts to isolate Muslims. We have taken a blow on our social, economic, and educational status, but we cannot allow the government to play with our religious sentiments and faith,” said Mufti Ejaz Arshad Qasmi, member of the board.AIMPLB, on Saturday, had called about 500 Imans from Delhi and NCR to explain the real situation of the issue. The plan is, if the government fails to understand their position, the Imans will spread awareness about the Islamic divorce proceedings. “The Imans will make people understand the real concept of triple talaq,” said Maulana Mohammad Wali Rahmani, general secretary of the board.AIMPLB also plans to begin a signature campaign, which will be signed by Muslim women demanding no interference from the government in the Sharia law.Law Commission has sought opinions from various stakeholder on the issue of UCC. It is seeking opinion on putting an end to several religious practices. While the commission calls it a nationwide consensus building, the Muslim community feels that it is questioning Muslim practices. “We respect the Indian democracy. But reforms cannot take place without keeping the stakeholders in the loop. It should come with the consensus of the community,” added Qasim.The Saturday meeting was a befitting reply to Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu’s remark on Friday, when Naidu criticized the AIMPLB for playing politics over the issue, rather than coming on board to discuss the real issue.

BRICS 2016: India, China discuss terrorism; push NSG issue for second round

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India made some plain speaking to China on Saturday on the lines that countries cannot afford to have differences on the issue of tackling terror and put forward its concerns over Beijing blocking UN designation of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.The Indian position was conveyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting in Goa that came against the backdrop of China putting on hold India’s move to get Azhar, the brain behind the Pathankot attack, banned by the UN. The bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit to be held on Sunday saw Xi disclosing that a second round of dialogue between the two countries will be held soon on India’s bid for membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in which New Delhi hopes “differences” will be narrowed down. Xi said the dialogue would be helpful.On the issue of terrorism, Modi told Xi that “Both India and China are victims of terrorism and the region was suffering from the menace. The Prime Minister said no country is immune from terrorism and on this issue, we cannot afford to have any differences,” MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters after the meeting. “In particular, India and China must increase their coordination in context of UN 1267 committee and look for common ground,” he said.India has been upset with China when it put on technical hold New Delhi’s move to designate Azhar as a global terrorist by UN. Recently, China extended the hold by few months. Swarup said both sides recognised that terrorism as a “key issue” with Xi asserting that the two sides should strengthen the security dialogue and partnership. “Both India and China have been victims of terrorism which was a scourge afflicting the entire region,” Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale quoted Modi as saying while referring to terror incidents in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.Swarup said India was in dialogue with China on enforcing a UN ban on Azhar. “We expect China will see logic in it.” The Prime Minister said India and China must increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism and look for a common ground and a long-term road to tackle the menace.Xi said India and China must step up counter-terrorism efforts and strengthen security dialogue and partnership. It was announced that Yang Jiechi will meet his Indian counterpart NSA Ajit Doval soon. Asked whether China has been provided with any evidence in the pursuit of obtaining China’s support on the Azhar issue, Swarup said “no evidence”.He said Indian side has not spared any effort to convey that to Chinese and it hopes that they “see logic”. To another question, he said China condemns all forms of terrorism and a counter-terrorism dialogue has taken place with it. “This will be discussed in the next round and our expectation is that China will take all steps… (to check the menace).” Replying to questions whether China has softened on its stand on India’s NSG membership, Swarup said, “This shows there is dialogue, a good strategic dialogue. Of course this will narrow differences.”Asked whether China reiterated the position that membership of the NSG was by consensus among parties, he replied “no”. Last month, a Chinese delegation led by Director General of Department of Arms Control Wang Qun had visited India for talks on the issue with Indian officials.In the June Plenary of NSG in Seoul, despite strong American support, China stonewalled India’s bid to get entry into the group on the grounds that it was a not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).Swarup said Chinese leader clearly acknowledged increasing threat of terrorism and condemned all forms and manifestations of terrorism. President Xi said terrorism and violent extremism were on the increase and alluded to the threat from ISIL while pitching for stepped up bilateral counter-terrorism efforts, Swarup told reporters.Xi also said the two sides must maintain strategic dialogue on the counter-terrorism. The two leaders also noted the upcoming visit by Chinese State Councillor Yang who will hold talks with National Security Advisor Doval where the dialogue will continue.India and China held their first high level dialogue on counter-terrorism and security in September. “The Chinese side is very well aware of our concerns, need for us to ensure that globally notified terrorists are designated by the UN. There is a close coordination between India and China on this issue and that particular dialogue will continue,” Swarup said.He also said that there was a brief discussion on the NSG issue. On the economic side, both leaders noted the progress made in sector with Xi talking about various to address the trade deficit in favour of China.

Uniform Civil Code: Govt slams AIMPLB for ‘politicising’ the issue, says don’t link triple talaq and UCC

New Delhi: Government on Friday rebuked the All India Muslim Personal Law Board for trying to “politicise” the law panel’s move to seek feedback on uniform civil code and said it should not be linked to ‘triple talaq’, where the core issue is gender justice and ending discrimination against women.

Calling for an “enlightened debate” on Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the “real mood” of the country was to end triple talaq and some people were trying to create confusion over the two issues.

“You (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) join the debate. Let there be enlightened debate you put forth your point of view. Let a consensus be evolved. Why are you trying to bring in the name of Prime Minister and call him dictator,” Naidu told reporters.

Venkaiah Naidu in a file photo. AFPVenkaiah Naidu in a file photo. AFP

Venkaiah Naidu in a file photo. AFP

Government’s sharp reaction came a day after All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and various other Muslim organisations announced that they will boycott Law Commission’s process to take views on the contentious Uniform Civil Code. They said the move amounted to the Modi government declaring “war” on their religious rights and that UCC will “kill” India’s pluralism.

Naidu said some people were confusing the issue of triple talaq with Uniform Civil Code. “The real mood of the country is that people want this triple talaq to end. People do not want any discrimination on basis of any religious faith agianst women. As I told you the issues are gender justice, non-discrimination and dignity of women,” he said.

Criticising AIMPLB, Naidu even said, “If you are so interested in making political comments you can as well join any political party of your choice. This is not expected from Muslim Personal Law Board and other religious leaders.

“You have to confine yourself to the issue and the issue is put forth for discussion by the law commission,” he added. Naidu said the Law Commission wants a thorough discussion
on UCC and if the AIMPLB does not want to participate in the
debate, it was their choice.

“If you don’t want to react, do not want to respond, it is your choice but you do not pose yourself as you are the champion and other’s views have no relevance. Do not try to convert this into a political debate,” he said.

About the issue of triple talaq, he said the Law Commission wanted the views of all stakeholders. “They wanted this issue to be debated, discussed and all the religious leaders, social workers, prominent public personalities need to acknowledge the basic principle of equality of all human beings — men or women and work in that direction.

“Instead of misleading people some people are trying to confuse the issue of triple talaq with the common civil code,” said Naidu.

He further said Uniform Civil Code is enshrined in Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the Constitution and not brought in by NDA government or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“There is nothing wrong in discussing about it (UCC) and nothing is going to be forced on people. If something is done, then it will on the basis of consensus and agreement within the community,” he said.

He further added, “The government definitely wants a debate across the country. There are three basic issues gender justice, non discrimination and third is dignity of women. In democracy, everybody has got a right to express their views.”

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, the AIMPLB members and representatives of Muslim organisations had contended that the the UCC, if implemented, will paint all people in “one colour” which will threaten the country’s pluralism and diversity.

Trashing government’s stand on the issue of triple talaq, the outfits claimed the community has reported lesser number of divorce cases vis-à-vis other communities, especially the Hindu community which, they said, has reported higher divorce ratio according to Census 2011.

Indian Air Force 84th anniversary: We will not talk, just deliver, says IAF chief Arup Raha

Hindon: Asserting that the Indian armed forces are prepared to take on any challenge, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Arup Raha on Saturday said there has been enough discussion on the surgical strikes across the LoC, but the forces will not talk about it.

“There has been so much discussion on this issue in the country; every section of society is giving an opinion on this issue. … the armed forces are supposed to deliver the result that the nation expects. We are not going to talk about it; we will just deliver,” Air Chief Marshal Raha said at the Hindon air base on the 84th Air Force Day.

Raha is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Responding to a question on the surgical strikes and politicisation of the issue, Raha refused to comment on the Indian Army action across the Line of Control on the night of September 28-29 and related issues.

The surgical strikes had come in the wake of the September 18 terrorist attack on an army camp in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers were killed.

In his speech at the Air Force Day function earlier, Raha mentioned both Pathankot and Uri attacks in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir respectively.

“Terrorist attacks at the Uri (army camp) and Pathankot (IAF) base show the troubled times we are living in,” Raha said.

Asked to comment on the issue later, the Air Force chief said India is learning lessons every time something happens.

“We are getting smarter and smarter; we are learning lessons every time something happens. I think we are very well prepared now to face any such contingency,” he said.

“The armed forces are well prepared to take on any sub-conventional threat. We have had one or two cases… a determined terrorist can always get the better of people but the aim is to prevent it… the deterrence. We should be able to detect any such attack right in the beginning so that we can neutralise them (terrorists) before they cause any damage,” the IAF chief said.

Raha, in his speech, said that India is being seen as a “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean region.

The Air Force Day commemorates the establishment of the armed force on October 8, 1932.

Centre to take tough stance against triple talaq, calls it ‘unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre is likely to take a tough stance against triple talaq in the Supreme Court on the plea that according sanctity to it under Sharia is “completely misplaced” and it is “unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory” as many Islamic countries have regulated matrimonial laws.The Centre is also of the view that the issue is not to be seen from the point of view of Uniform Civil Code, but be treated substantively as an issue of gender justice and that of fundamental rights of women. These views are likely to be articulated by the Centre before the Supreme Court in the triple talaq case that will come up before the Court sometime next week. “A practice – unfair, unreasonable, discriminatory, has always given way before a humanising Constitutional principle, particularly under Chapter 3 of the fundamental rights. This whole plea of sanctity under Sharia is completely misplaced. There are nearly 20 Islamic countries in the world who have regulated their matrimonial laws, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and some Arabic countries like Saudi Arabia,” a senior government functionary said.
ALSO READ Triple talaq is not mentioned in Quran, it tortures women: Muslim clericsThe official said, “This issue is not to be seen from the point of view of Uniform Civil Code at all. The issue is only and substantively the issue of gender justice.” The plea to be taken by the Centre, that supports the petitioners in the triple talaq case in Apex Court, will highlight the issue of non-discrimination towards women and the dignity of individuals which permeates the entire scheme of fundamental rights as articulated under Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21 of Constitution.”The issue is if regulating the matrimonial law in an acknowledged Islamic country is not considered as contravening Sharia, how can this be treated like this in a secular country like India where Constitution is supreme,” the official said. The government’s views came out at last week’s meeting of Group of Ministers formulated on the issue.Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi met last week to deliberate on government’s possible stand to be taken in Supreme Court on the Muslim practice of triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat).They also deliberated on the Muslim practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ (a practice where divorced women, in case they want to go back to their husbands, have to consummate a second marriage).The Law Ministry will file a consolidated reply on the issue in the apex court by the end of this month. The issue is being deliberated upon at inter-ministerial level which includes ministries of Home, Finance and Women and Child Development apart from the Law ministry.

Centre sets up team to decide on usage of machine to prevent disclosure of voting pattern

New Delhi: A team of ministers has been constituted to take a call on using a new machine which prevents disclosure of voting pattern during counting to enhance voter secrecy.

The move comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court asking the Centre to decide on the issue by next month.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The five-member team headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh was set up on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office to recommend to the Union Cabinet on whether the machines can be used.

The other members include Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Election Commission had in 2008 proposed to use ‘totaliser’, which prevents disclosure of voting pattern during counting to enhance voter secrecy, and has received the backing of the Law Commission.

The issue was pending with the government. On 5 August, a Supreme Court bench, while hearing a writ petition, gave the Centre eight weeks time to take a “final decision” on the issue and post the matter for further hearing in February, 2017.

“The writ petition has been coming up for hearing during the last two years in the Supreme Court, and the court has been pushing hard for taking a view in the matter at the earliest,” a Law Ministry note on the issue said.

The Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the poll body.

The poll panel is of the view that with the use of totaliser, a further level of secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved. It said the machine will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station.

The law panel, in its report on electoral reforms submitted to the Supreme Court on March 10, 2015 had supported the use of the new machine.

It has recommended amendment to the Conduct of Election Rules to give EC powers to use totaliser for mixing of votes where it apprehends intimidation and victimisation of electors in a constituency.

The Law Ministry is of the view that no electoral law will have be amended to introduce totalisers. Amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 “would suffice”, it had said.

The rationale behind EC’s proposal was that the current system revealed the voting trends in each polling station, thus leaving the voters in that vicinity open to harassment, intimidation and post-election victimisation.

“Prior to the introduction of EVMs, ballot papers could be mixed, wherever it was considered absolutely necessary under the Conduct of Election Rules in light of apprehended intimidation and victimisation of electors. However, EVMs do not permit this,” the law panel noted in its report.

Uniform Civil Code: Owaisi says govt wants to form ‘Hindu Rashtra’, Cong claims BJP eyeing UP Elections

Government has asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of implementation of a Uniform Civil Code, a move welcomed by the BJP and opposed by the Muslim Majlis and some activists.The Department of Legal Affairs has asked the Commission, a recommendatory body, to submit a report on the issue that has always been dear to BJP and the sangh parivar The move assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider public debate before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government is likely to inform the Supreme Court of its decision to refer the matter of the common code to the Law Commission when the matter comes up in September. Reacting to the government decision, the BJP favoured a uniform civil code saying that it has been opposed due to vote bank politics despite finding a mention in the Constitution.
ALSO READ Modi government considering implementing Uniform Civil Code: Sources “There should be an open debate over it. The Constitution calls for it and those who oppose it only shows their intolerance to the Constitution. We have always advocated it. There should be uniform civil code. It has been opposed due to vote bank politics,” party’s National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said. Implementation of a uniform civil code is one of the core issues of BJP and the sangh parivar but the NDA governments in 19989 and 1999 and the current dispensation headed by Narendra Modi have put the contentious issues like scrapping of Article 370 and construction of Ram temple on the back burner. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi dubbed the decision of the government as a move to turn the nation into a “Hindu Rashtra”. “I challenge the government to impose total prohibition. If the government is serious about the civil code, it should withdraw the tax rebate extended to Hindu Undivided Families in the next session of Parliament,” he said. He claimed that the government is diverting the attention of the people as it has failed to provide employment and fuel the growth of the economy.Shaista Amber, who had been fighting for the cause of Muslim women, said the Commission should hold wider consultations before reaching at a conclusion. But senior advocate K T S Tulsi said the issue of a common civil code is related to equal rights for both men and women as enshrined in the Constitution. He wondered why only men have thew right to give a triple talaq. “That right should be with Muslim women also,” he said.Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda had earlier said that the issue could be referred to the Law Commission for examination. Gowda had said “wider consultations” will be held with various personal law boards and other stakeholders to evolve a consensus and the process may take some time. “…Even the Preamble of our Constitution and Article 44 of the Constitution do say that there should be a Uniform Civil Code…it needs to have a wider consultation,” he had said. A decision “cannot be done in a day or two. It will take its own time”, Gowda had said. Congress today accused the Centre of deliberately raking up the issue in view of the 2017 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, saying it was “cheap politics” of BJP for creating communal polarisation. Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said that when election in a major state advances, divisive atmosphere is sought to be created deliberately and it is “cheap politics of BJP” aimed at polarisation.He said it was a “fact” that whenever elections approach, issues like Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 of the Constitution granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir and building of Ram temple in Ayodhya are raised to create an atmosphere of communal polarisation. “And after gaining power, they are put on the back burner,” he said. Singhvi said the way the matter has been raised could not be seen as a “genuine” move aimed at arriving at a consensus on the issue of Uniform Civil Code by talking to all concerned. “If it is political stuntbazi, we condemn,” he said.

I will not interfere in Goa’s Medium of Instruction issue: Manohar Parrikar

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said he would not interfere in the ongoing controversy about the Medium of Instruction (MoI) in elementary education in Goa.”The Chief Minister (Laxmikant Parsekar) will talk to them (the agitators). The issue is of the state and I will not interfere in it,” the minister told reporters today after inaugurating a sewage treatment plant here. The issue of MoI in the state has been going on for many years, with different organizations favouring different languages. Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) has demanded the state’s mother tongue Konkani to be the medium of instruction.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They have also sought withdrawal of grants given to English medium schools. “The Chief Minister has received a memorandum from the BBSM, which enlists their demands. He has to decide when to meet them and discuss the issue,” the former state Chief Minister said. “He (Parsekar) has to find out a solution to the problem. He will be speaking to the agitators. I am not the one who would decide on the issue,” he said, adding his role is restricted to party level.Parrikar said the stand of BJP and BBSM is not contravening, except on stopping of the grants to English medium schools. “The government wants to withdraw the grants but due to administrative reasons they can’t do so,” he said. The Defence Minister also said that the alliance of BJP and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) would continue during the Goa Legislative Assembly elections of 2017. He said the decision on seat-sharing would be taken later. BJP and MGP had fought the 2012 state Assembly polls together, in which the former had won 21 seats, and the latter got three seats.

National Conference, Congress protest in Jammu and Kashmir assembly over price rise

Opposition National Conference and Congress legislators on Saturday protested in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly over the issue of price rise and staged a walkout.As soon as the House met this morning, Congress MLAs raised the issue of rise in prices of essential commodities in the state and were joined by the NC legislators as they demanded a statement from the government. The MLAs raised the slogans of “sarkar ke hai achche din, baki sab ke bure din (good days are for the government, others have bad days)” and “Mehbooba ke raj mein, ration paani mehenga he (in Mehbooba Mufti s government, ration is costly)”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They also accused the government of diverting ration to poll-bound Anantnag Assembly constituency where the chief minister is in the fray. However, as Speaker Kavinder Gupta did not pay any heed to them, the protesting members tried to enter the well of the House but were stopped by Assembly marshals. They continued their protest for a while but when Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan asked the members to raise the issue in a proper manner rather than resorting to sloganeering and creating noise in the House, the opposition members staged a walkout.”Let them raise the issue, we will answer. Why raise slogans? We want the opposition to raise issues here and that makes us happy,” Khan said as the opposition members walked out of the House.

Parrikar holds parley with industry representatives on defence manufacturing

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday held discussions with industry representatives who presented their concerns and recommendations on strategic partnerships that the government plans to enter with private firms in critical sectors of defence manufacturing.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Parrikar met with the five-sub groups that were set up to have a focused discussion on the subject.

They gave their presentations before the minister and the ministry will now study the recommendations in detail before going in for more meetings, defence sources said.

The five sub-groups are focused on armoured fighting vehicles (AFV), aircraft and helicopters, submarines,
ammunition and macro process management of issues.

Former DRDO chief VK Aatre had earlier this year submitted a report to the defence ministry recommending guidelines for selecting domestic private firms for strategic partnership.

However, Indian private defence industry is divided over the issue with some big players batting for it while others pushing to delay it by at least next five years.

Parrikar has already held a round of talks with the industry chambers over the issue.

The feeling among several private industry players is that only the big firms will benefit out of this move.

However, many large firms are not open to the idea since they feel they would be restricted to just specific fields
and, therefore, their overall investment and plans will get affected.

PTI

Manohar Parrikar to meet industry representatives to discuss strategic partnerships

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet with industry representatives on Saturday to carry forward the discussion on strategic partnerships that the government plans to enter with private firms in critical sectors of defence manufacturing.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The meeting will be the first one with a sub-group that has been created to have a more focused discussion on it, sources said.

Former DRDO chief V K Aatre had earlier this year submitted a report to the Defence Ministry recommending
guidelines for selecting domestic private firms for strategic partnership.

However, Indian private defence industry is divided over the issue with some big players batting for it while others pushing to delay it by at least next five years.

Parrikar has already held a round of talks with the industry chambers over the issue.

The feeling among several private industry players is that only the big firms will benefit out of this move.

However, many large firms are not open to the idea since they feel they would be restricted to just specific fields and, therefore, their overall investment and plans will get affected.

Jammu and Kashmir: State govt committed to return, settlement of Kashmiri Pandits

Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vohra on Wednesday said the PDP-BJP government was committed to the return and settlement of displaced persons, including Kashmiri Pandits. “The government is committed to the return and settlement of displaced persons, including the Kashmiri Pandits who are a part of the ethnic diversity and must be rehabilitated in a manner which fully addresses their sense of insecurity,” Vohra said in his joint address to the legislatures which marked the beginning of five-week budget session.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On the issue of refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Vohra said assistance has been received from the Government of India for providing humanitarian relief to them. “The issue has been hanging fire for the past six decades. The modalities for the distribution of this relief are being finalised in consultation with the Government of India,” he said.In the case of West Pakistan refugees, which is another serious humanitarian issue, a committee is presently deliberating on the possible measures which can be provided to them for sustenance and livelihood support, the Governor said.

Arvind Kejriwal tacitly hits out at BJP, puts out Delhi statehood bill

Firing a fresh salvo at the BJP-led central government, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday released a draft bill on granting full statehood to Delhi.If accepted by the Centre, it would bring police, land and bureaucracy under its control. Releasing the bill on the Delhi government website just a day after the MCD by-poll results, the AAP government has sought suggestions from the public on it till June 30 on ‘[email protected]’ and ‘fullstatehood. [email protected]’.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tacitly hitting out at the BJP by quoting from old manifestos of the party between 1993 and 2014, where it had promised full statehood to Delhi, Kejriwal said the BJP has struggled on the issue and have always raised it. “We are just taking their resolve forward by inviting public opinion on this draft,” Kejriwal announced in a press meet.”Through its passage, we seek to fulfill the dreams of Congress and BJP. We should rise above party lines,”he said.The AAP government have had frequent turf wars with the Centre, given Delhi’s complex status. Power wise, the capital has been more of a union territory with an assembly. Most of Delhi’s powers lie with its administrator, which is lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung in this case.The AAP leader also quoted statements made by its leaders including Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju.”Kiren Rijiju spoke in favour of statehood in 2006. L K Advani had tabled the Delhi Statehood Bill in Parliament in 2003. It was referred to a Standing Committee chaired by Pranab Mukherjee which had backed the suggestions. But for some reason it got lapsed,” Kejriwal said.He added, “Even Congress has spoken out for statehood in the past. VK Malhotra raised the issue in 2011. In its 2013 national executives, BJP reiterated its resolve in this regard. On May 25, 2014 Harsh Vardhan had said that the first issue he would raise with the new Prime Minister would be statehood,” Kejriwal mentioned.He said an all-party meeting will be held on the issue, adding that after June 30, the final version of the draft bill – which keeps the NDMC area out of Delhi’s jurisdiction – would be prepared and a resolution would be passed by the Delhi Assembly in a special session to this effect.”We will forward the resolution to the Centre which in turn will have to bring Constitutional Amendment,” he said, adding that he will write letters and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to get their support on the issue.Election promiseAs the AAP gears up to fight the Punjab and Goa assembly elections and the MCD polls next year, granting full statehood to the national capital is one of the major electoral promises of AAP. Last year, AAP had planned to hold a referendum on the issue, which was later shelved after experts said anything of that sort would be unconstitutional.

NEET row: We will decide on medical admissions in 2 days, says Centre

New Delhi: Legal consultations are being held over implementation of Supreme Court-ordered NEET as the sole entrance test for admissions to medical colleges following opposition by several states and there will be a decision in two days, the Centre said on Wednesday.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda. AFP

Union Health Minister JP Nadda. AFP

“Very soon we are coming out with a solution. Phase-1 of NEET is over. Phase-II will take place. Three issues are there–the issue of ongoing examinations, syllabus and language. These need to be addressed.

“We are going in the right direction. We are going for legal consultations. In next day or two, we will arrive at the course which needs to be taken over this issue. Solution will be reached through talks only,” Union Health Minister JP Nadda told PTI.

He said the reason behind bringing National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admissions to medical and dental colleges across the country was to tackle the corruption and malpractices and the government has moved in that direction already and things will be clear within two days.

Nadda’s comments came against the backdrop of reports that the government is mulling bringing an Ordinance to defer by one year the implementation of NEET.

Sources in the government had said that the Ordinance could be brought to “postpone the effect of the Supreme Court judgement by 12 months”.

Observing that the consensus in the government is that issues which have been raised should be addressed, Nadda said that it is only after arriving at a consensus with the persons concerned in the government that the Health Ministry is going forward in this direction.

“Second phase (of NEET) will happen on 24 July,” Nadda asserted and said “All processes are on,” when asked whether the government will take a legal route on the issue.

Major political parties and several states have favoured deferring implementation of the apex court verdict by one year. The Centre has already kicked off consultations on the issue, asserting the matter was essentially in “executive domain”.

Congress protest in Rajya Sabha over CAG report on Gujarat Petrocorp issue

The issue of CAG listing irregularities in Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation’s KG basin gas project again reverberated in Rajya Sabha on Friday with a Congress member seeking government’s reply on the issue.Raising the issue at the start of the Question Hour, Jairam Ramesh said “it’s one week since I have been asking this question every day. This is a matter of national importance” and sought an answer to the CAG findings of alleged regularities running into several thousand crores in the matter.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2005 had announced that GSPC had struck 20 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in its KG basin block. But recoverable reserves had proved to be one-tenth of that and GSPC’s borrowings shot up to Rs 19,716.27 crore as of March 31, 2015, according to CAG report.Congress had raised the issue in the Upper House on Monday as well.The government had then said CAG reports are examined by Public Accounts Committees (PACs) of state assemblies and there was no convention to discuss those in Parliament.It had also then alleged that Congress was trying to divert attention from AgustaWestland helicopter deal.Chairman Hamid Ansari, however, insisted that Question Hour should be allowed and wondered what is the point in “disrupting” the Question Hour.As sloganeering continued, Kurien adjourned the House again for 15 minutes.Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha was adjourned briefly towards the end of Zero Hour in the pre-noon session as Congress members raised slogans against the government and trooped into the Well.

VVIP Chopper Scam: How Subramaniam Swamy got ‘sensitive’, confidential documents, asks Congress

A day after Rajya Sabha discussed the AgustaWestland helicopter issue, Congress member Anand Sharma on Thursday sought to know from the Government how BJP member Subramaniam Swamy had got access to sensitive and confidential files of CBI and ED in the matter.Raising the issue through a point of order, Sharma said during the discussion on Wednesday, sensitive documents of CBI and ED were referred to.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The House “must know how an honourable member or rather less honourable member” was given access to sensitive and secret files, which he has refused to authenticate and place on the table of the House, he said.
ALSO READ VVIP chopper scam: PM Modi lauds Parrikar’s speech; says he rose above politics & placed factsDeputy Chairman P J Kurien said if Swamy had not complied with his ruling that all documents he was quoting must be authenticated by him and placed on the table of the House, rule will take its own course.”It (the ruling) has to be complied with,” Kurien said, adding he had given a ruling yesterday that whatever documents are quoted should be authenticated and placed on the table.
ALSO READ VVIP chopper scam: Arun Jaitley claims he blacklisted AgustaWestland, not UPA”That has to be complied with,” he said.As Congress members protested, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi stated that Swamy had authenticated and placed the documents he had quoted on the table of the House. Swamy had taken care of issue, Naqvi said.
ALSO READ VVIP chopper scam: Govt rejects demand for a Supreme Court monitored probe in AgustaWestland payoffsEarlier, Pramod Tiwari (Cong) said a TV channel was showing how government agencies were creating the pressure of religious missions to get the Gandhi family implicated.Raising the issue through a point of order, he alleged that “some traitors are taking money from other countries to create disorder here … and destablise the country.” Kurien said this was not a question of point of order and disallowed. But Tiwari continued to speak on the matter, also saying that “some traitor” were working to destabilise the countr. However, Kurien did not allow the issue to be taken up.

DCW plans research to give proposals on ‘triple talaq’

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has undertaken a research study on the issue of unilateral triple talaq, also known as Talaq ul biddat, presently being discussed in the context of women?s rights due to an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of Shayara Bano versus Union of India and others challenging this practice along with that of Nikkah Halala and Polygamy.The DCW Act, 1994, under Sec.10 (i) (a,b,c) mandates the DCW to investigate and examine all matters relating to safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and give recommendations for the effective implementation of those safeguards for improving the conditions of women in the capital. The DCW is of the opinion that the issues raised in the Shayara Bano case is of pertinence to the lives of Muslim women in India.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The DCW would be exercising its mandate and giving recommendations in this regard. The DCW, which wishes to formulate its recommendations through a consultative and evidence-based process, is undertaking some steps in this regard. It is holding consultation sessions with experts in Sharia and Islamic jurisprudence as well as with legal experts.The DCW is seeking a copy of all the laws pertaining to unilateral triple talaq, marriage, divorce and polygamy in existence in the Islamic nations across the world as well as in nations with a significant Islamic population in order to study these laws in-depth and understand the existing best practices on the issue across the globe.The Commission is formulating a research project to understand the existing condition of Muslim women in Delhi with respect to this issue. It is also planning to hold a public consultation on this issue.The DCW has called for recommendations and suggestions from the people.

VVIP chopper scam: Sonia Gandhi meets Congress leaders

With AgustaWestland chopper issue coming up for debate in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Congress President Sonia Gandhi held a strategy meeting with senior leaders this evening.The consultations were significant in view of the fact that BJP member Subramanian Swamy had dragged her name in the issue in the Upper House last week amid sharp protests from Congress members. A section of party leaders have been emphasising on a foolproof strategy so as to send home the message that the party was all for debating the issue but at the same time would not countenance muck-raking at the leadership.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Jyotiraditya Scindia said that the party was all for debate on the issue in both Houses of Parliament to clear the air on the matter. In the Lok Sabha too, Congress has given notices for a short duration discussion on the issue as also for a calling attention notice. Congress’ strategy of attacking Modi government over the Italian marines issue during the debate came to the fore with the party today coming down heavily on the Centre in the matter. AICC alleged that Modi government “entered into a conspiracy” to “falsely accuse” the party leadership in AgustaWestland chopper case and made a “weak defence” in the Italian marines case as “quid pro quo”. “Recent order of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague confirms the claim that Modi government has entered into a conspiracy to falsely accuse Congress leadership in AugustaWestland case in return for a weak defence in Italian marines case,” Scindia told reporters.In the past one week, the party has raised several questions for the Prime Minister in the matter and declared that it has nothing to hide. Former Defence Minister A K Antony, who was in poll-bound Kerala, returned here today to participate in the discussion.Besides Antony, Congress’ Deputy leader Anand Sharma and party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, who is a senior advocate, are expected to participate.

Forest fires: NGT issues show cause notices to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh

New Delhi: Voicing concern over the forest fires raging in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday said it was shocked that everybody was taking the issue “so casually” and issued show cause notices to both the states.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as to what they have done in the matter to control the situation.

Uttarakhand fire. PTIUttarakhand fire. PTI

Uttarakhand fire. PTI

“What have you (MoEF) done regarding the fire? It shocks us. Everybody is taking it so casually,” the bench said.

Responding to the query, the counsel appearing for MoEF said that entire team of officials concerned was working on the issues and choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF) have also been deployed in the ongoing firefighting operations.

To this, the bench asked Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh state governments, “What is your preparedness to prevent such incidents?”

The bench, however, asked the advocates for these states to take instructions on this issue.

“Issue notices to the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to show cause about the forest fires that have occurred in both the states,” the bench said, adding that the concerned secretaries would file their affidavits in this regard on the next date of hearing on 10 May.

The green panel also directed them to inform it about the preventive steps taken by them prior to the fire incident and also about the forest management plans.

“We want to know the cause of fire,” the bench said.

The observations came while the NGT was hearing arguments on the petition filed by an NGO against alleged “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh and other areas on the banks of river Ganga.

Massive forest fires have engulfed a large part of areas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

In Uttarakhand, two IAF choppers and over 10,000 personnel have been deployed in the firefighting operations. The Centre has claimed that situation in the state was “under control”.

Forest area of over 3000 hectares have been blighted in Uttarakhand due to the fire.

India, Pakistan should have direct talks on Masood Azhar: China

India and Pakistan should resolve the issue over Masood Azhar through “direct” and “serious consultations”, China on Tuesday said, weeks after blocking India’s bid in the UN to ban the JeM chief that generated negativity in bilateral ties. “We encourage all parties related to the listing matter of Masood Azhar to have direct communication and work out a solution through serious consultations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a written communication to PTI here on the issue which drew serious protests from New Delhi over Beijing’s last minute move to block its bid to slap a UN ban on Azhar. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Replying to a question about whether there is any change in China’s stand on the issue after a number of top Indian officials conveyed India’s strong concerns over the move, Hua said as per the rules of the UN Committee on counterterrorism, the relevant countries should have direct talks. In addition to Hua’s comments, Chinese officials expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved as Beijing is also in touch with Islamabad on the issue.Her comments came as Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan held talks in New Delhi today, in which India raised the Azhar issue. While External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issue with her counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of Russia, India, China (RIC) Ministers meet in Moscow on April 18, it was raised by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with his Chinese counterpart the same day in Beijing. The issue was subsequently raised by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi during the just-concluded 19th round of India-China border talks.China – one of the five veto-wielding members of the 15- member UN Security Council, which plays a leading role in banning terrorist outfits through the 1267 committee on counterterrorism issues – was the only country that put a technical hold on India’s bid to ban Pakistan-based Azhar in March. The move was criticised by India’s Permanent Representatives to UN Syed Akbaruddin as “hidden veto”. Hua, however, once again defended China’s move to put technical hold, saying that Beijing’s move is in line with the UNSC rules and procedures. “On the listing matter of the (UN) Security Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1267, I want to point out that China has been fairly dealing with the matter in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and relevant rules of procedures on the basis of facts,” she said.”It is in line with the Security Council resolutions and 1267 committee’s rules of procedure for China to place a technical hold on the listing of Masood Azhar,” she said. Stating that the relevant rules are in the public domain of the UN for all to verify, she said “in accordance with the rules of procedures of the 1267 Committee, the Committee encourages communications between countries that ask for the listing and countries where individuals and entities in the listing come from and live in.”Stating that China and India are victims of terrorism and have similar stances on the issues of counterterrorism, she said “the Chinese side supports the central coordination role of the UN in the international cooperation against terrorism and takes active part in this regard”

After vetoing India’s bid in UN, China says India should talk with Pakistan over Masood Azhar

Beijing: India and Pakistan should resolve the issue over Masood Azhar through “direct” and “serious consultations”, China said on Tuesday, weeks after blocking India’s bid in the UN to ban the JeM chief that generated negativity in bilateral ties.

“We encourage all parties related to the listing matter of Masood Azhar to have direct communication and work out a solution through serious consultations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a written communication to PTI here on the issue which drew serious protests from New Delhi over Beijing’s last minute move to block its bid to slap a UN ban on Azhar.

File image of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar. AFP

File image of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar. AFP

Replying to a question about whether there is any change in China’s stand on the issue after a number of top Indian officials conveyed India’s strong concerns over the move, Hua said as per the rules of the UN Committee on counterterrorism, the relevant countries should have direct talks.

In addition to Hua’s comments, Chinese officials expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved as Beijing is also in touch with Islamabad on the issue.

Her comments came as Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan held talks in New Delhi on Tuesday, in which India raised the Azhar issue.

While External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issue with her counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of Russia, India, China (RIC) Ministers meet in Moscow on 18 April, it was raised by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with his Chinese counterpart the same day in Beijing.

The issue was subsequently raised by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi during the just-concluded 19th round of India-China border talks.

China – one of the five veto-wielding members of the 15-member UN Security Council, which plays a leading role in banning terrorist outfits through the 1267 committee on counterterrorism issues – was the only country that put a technical hold on India’s bid to ban Pakistan-based Azhar in March.

The move was criticised by India’s Permanent Representatives to UN Syed Akbaruddin as “hidden veto”.

Hua, however, once again defended China’s move to put technical hold, saying that Beijing’s move is in line with the UNSC rules and procedures.

“On the listing matter of the (UN) Security Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1267, I want to point out that China has been fairly dealing with the matter in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and relevant rules of procedures on the basis of facts,” she said.

“It is in line with the Security Council resolutions and 1267 committee’s rules of procedure for China to place a technical hold on the listing of Masood Azhar,” she said.

Stating that the relevant rules are in the public domain of the UN for all to verify, she said “in accordance with the rules of procedures of the 1267 Committee, the Committee encourages communications between countries that ask for the listing and countries where individuals and entities in the listing come from and live in.”

Stating that China and India are victims of terrorism and have similar stances on the issues of counterterrorism, she said “the Chinese side supports the central coordination role of the UN in the international cooperation against terrorism and takes active part in this regard”.

Shiv Sena’s alliance with BJP is for Hindutva, not power, says Uddhav Thackeray

Shiv Sena’s alliance with BJP has been forged on the issue of “Hindutva” and not for sharing power, party President Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said.”Shiv Sena has made alliance with them (BJP) on the Hindutva issue and not for power,” he said.Uddhav was speaking at a gathering of office-bearers, people’s representatives and workers of the Sena from Nashik division. Sena is part of the BJP-led ruling alliances at the Centre and in Maharashtra.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”You (BJP) may be taking advice from NCP chief Sharad Pawar but we don’t take advice from him,” Uddhav said, claiming that some BJP and NCP leaders share close ties.Speaking on current drought in large parts of Maharashtra, the Sena leader said nobody should play “politics” on the issue.

Sushma Swaraj raises Masood Azhar veto issue with China

Moscow: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday strongly raised with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the issue of China blocking its bid to have JeM chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist by the UN.

Swaraj took up the issue with Wang at a bilateral meeting in Moscow on the sidelines of the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting of their foreign ministers.

Official sources said the issue was raised by Swaraj besides deliberations on a range of issues.

Earlier this month, China stopped UN sanctions committee from designating Azhar as terrorist, maintaining that the case “did not meet the requirements” of the Security Council.

Sushma Swaraj meets China's External Affairs Minister Wang Yi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndiaSushma Swaraj meets China's External Affairs Minister Wang Yi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Sushma Swaraj meets China’s External Affairs Minister Wang Yi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

This is not the first time China has blocked India’s bid to get Pakistan-based militant groups and leaders proscribed by the UN.

The UN had banned the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2001 but India’s efforts for slapping sanctions on Azhar after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks also did not fructify as China, that has veto powers, did not allow it apparently at the behest of Pakistan.

Last July, China had similarly halted India’s move in the UN to take action against Pakistan for its release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, saying its stand was “based on facts and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness” with Beijing again claiming at the time that it was in touch with New Delhi.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar last week had said in New Delhi that India has taken up at a “fairly high level” with China the issue of Beijing blocking its bid to have Azhar designated as terrorist by the UN but the issue will not “overflow” into other areas of bilateral ties.

China had defended its decision, saying that it acts on such issues based on facts and rules in an “objective and just manner”.

After the attack on the airbase in Pathankot on 2 January, India had in February written to the UN calling for immediate action to list Azhar under the UN Sanctions Committee.

The Indian submission was considered by the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) for technical aspects of the evidence provided.

The technical team then with the support of the US, the UK and France had sent it to all the members. All were told that if there are no objections, the designation will be announced after the expiry of the deadline but just hours before the deadline, China requested the UN committee to keep on hold the designation.

Earlier this week, India had slammed the use of “hidden veto” and demanded accountability, saying the world body’s general members are never informed of the reason for not acceding to requests for sanctioning terrorists.

West Bengal Elections 2016: Will corruption charges become TMC’s bugbear?

As Bengal goes to the polls, the issue of corruption has taken center stage in the election campaign for the first time since Independence. Post Saradha scam in which lakhs of investors had been duped and Narada sting operation, which has purportedly shown some leaders of TMC accepting bribes, the issue of corruption has evolved as the main poll plank for the Congress-Left Front alliance, apart from “restoration of democracy” in TMC ruled Bengal.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The six-phase election will begin in West Bengal tomorrow.”Never before has there been a such a corrupt government in power. During emergency we had fought against the Siddharth Shankar Ray government on the issue of restoration of democracy and democratic rights. But there was never ever such a huge scale corruption by leaders of ruling TMC,” CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra told PTI.”Saradha scam to Narada sting operation, corruption is a major issue in this poll. Restoration of democracy, unemployment are there but corruption is the biggest issue as people of Bengal are fed up with the corrupt government. Have you ever seen a Bengal minister arrested for involvement in corruption,” Mishra said, referring to former state sports Minister Madan Mitra, who is behind bars after he was arrested by CBI for his alleged involvement in Saradha scam.Elections in Bengal since Independence have always been fought on the basis of ideologies, policies of the government, restoring rights of the opposition parties, development, industrialization, unemployment and food security. But never before there have been large scale allegations of corruption against the present government.The Trinamool Congress has countered the allegations of corruption by stating that Saradha scam is the “sin” of the erstwhile Left Front regime and Narada sting operation is a ‘doctored sting’ to malign TMC before polls.”Chit Funds like Saradha are sins of erstwhile Left regime, it is our TMC government which has shut down those Ponzi firms and arrested their bosses. And the sting operation is a doctored video to malign us. TMC is the most honest political party in the country,” TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said.Remarks by veteran TMC MP and former railway ministerDinesh Trivedi, who had prescribed that party colleagues purportedly caught in the scandal should “sit at home” till they “come out clean” in a probe, have brought out the contradictions within TMC over Narada sting out in open.dimension to the Bengal politics and added to the woes of TMC.That the issue of corruption has taken a center stage can be gauged from the fact election rallies and political wall writings have been marked with campaigns, slogans and counter slogans on corruption.The recent flyover collapse, which had claimed 26 lives, too has raised the issue of corruption on the state PWD department.State Congress president Adhir Chwodhury, who has been going hammer and tongs against the TMC government, has demanded immediate probe and arrest of ministers and TMC leader involved in the flyover scam.”In Saradha, the TMC had claimed that the Chit Funds have started during Left regime. But what about Madan Mitra and TMC MPs being behind bars on the issue of corruption. The Narada sting and the collapse of the flyover itself has proved that the entire TMC is involved in corruption. The people of Bengal have never ever witnessed such a huge level of corruption,” Chowdhury alleged.TMC vice president Partha Chatterjee, however, refuted allegations of corruption and claimed that the opposition has run out of issues and was trying to malign TMC.”They are trying to malign the TMC and they are out of issues as there has been so much of developmental work throughout Bengal in the last five years,” Chatterjee told PTI.The Trinamool Congress is highlighting various social security projects such as ‘Kanyashree (aimed at stopping marriages of minor girls and inspiring them to complete school education) and ‘Khadya Sathia’ (providing subsidized food grain at Rs. 2 a kilo to a large section of the population), scholarships, bicycles for girl children, to counter the allegations by the opposition.

Chhattisgarh Assembly witnesses uproar over journo’s arrest

) Arrest of two journalists by police in the insurgency-hit Bastar region rocked the proceedings of Chhattisgarh Assembly on Monday with the main opposition Congress alleging that the scribes are being falsely implicated for writing against government and police, a charge denied by the government. The House was adjourned twice on the issue following a ruckus created by the Congress members who expressed dissatisfaction over government’s reply on the issue.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior Congress MLA and party’s state unit president Bhupesh Baghel raised the issue after Question Hour and sought a discussion on the alleged harassment of journalists by police in Bastar by moving an adjournment motion notice in the House. He was supported by 35 legislators of his party on the issue. Subsequently, Speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal informed that 36 Congress MLAs have submitted the adjournment motion notice on the issue and read it out.Reading out the notice, Speaker said, “Under the democratic system of the country, it is the fundamental right of the citizens to express their opinion freely but police are dictating in the state. “The fourth pillar of democracy ‘Press’ and journalists are being deliberately targeted under a conspiracy. Journalists are being harassed and implicated in false cases in Bastar region,” he said quoting the notice. As per the notice, “On March 21, a Dantewada-based scribe, Prabhat Singh was picked up by police clad in civil clothes in evening and later taken to Parpa police station where he was thrashed. He was booked under section 66, 67 and 67 (A) of the Information Technology Act”.”In this line, another journalist of Dantewada, Deepak Jaiswal was arrested by Geedam police. Notably, Jaiswal had exposed cheating during an examination in Geedam high school. “Later the examination centre head lodged a case against Jaiswal but he was arrested suddenly after several months of the case registered against him which clearly indicates that it was preplanned action against him,” the notice stated. The notice stated that National Human Rights Commission has sought a reply from the state government over the arrest of Singh.”Similarly on February 7, a so-called social organisation had pelted stones at the house of journalist Malini Subramaniam in Mahaveer Nagar of Jagdalpur branding her as a naxal. “Despite 24 hours of the incident, the report was not lodged by the police,” it added.However, the government dismissed the Congress’ charge.

Award Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar to ‘shut up’ Congress: Uddhav Thackeray

Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on Monday demanded Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar to “shut up the Congress permanently” over the revolutionary leader being targeted by the Opposition party recently.Uddhav, in a statement here, asked the BJP-led Government at the Centre to present the top civilian honour to Savarkar, a revered figure in Maharashtra.Separately, a Sena leader said the issue would be raised by the party in the Maharashtra Assembly tomorrow. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, taking part in a debate in the Lok Sabha earlier this month, had said while BJP runs on ideals of Savarkar, his party follows the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi. The Opposition party again targeted Savarkar last week when it tweeted that “Bhagat Singh waged war for Freedom from British Raj, VD Savarkar begged for mercy, to be a slave in British Raj.” BJP had asked Congress to apologise or face protest.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Joining the issue, Uddhav said there will be no need to organise protests if the NDA Government awards Bharat Ratna to the right-wing ideologue. “The Modi Government should bestow the award on Savarkar. Shiv Sena has raised this issue several times in the past. We are still fighting for Savarkar, but BJP is keeping distance from Shiv Sena over the issue,” Uddhav said. “The Congress has insulted not only Veer Savarkar, but all other revolutionaries. The Government must immediately announce Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar and shut up the Congress permanently,” he added.The Uddhav-led party, a key ally of BJP, will raise the issue in Assembly and push for Bharat Ratna demand. “We will ask the Government (in Maharashtra) to recommend to the Centre to bestow Bharat Ratna on Savarkar.BJP is in power both at the Centre and in the State and it can take a decision,” said Pratap Sarnaik, a Shiv Sena legislator. “We will not allow the House to function till we get a firm assurance from the Chief Minister,” he said.

Consumer Affairs minister Paswan pushes for stricter food safety practices; pitches for ‘not healthy food’ warning on junk food

New Delhi: Pushing for stricter food safety practice, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday pitched for a statutory warning ‘not healthy food’ on junk food packets like chips on the lines of cigarette packs.

The Minister said he will write to the Health Minister on this issue.

Paswan also announced that the government will introduce e-warranty system to protect consumers in case they misplace warranties/ guarantees in physical forms.

“In some countries, it is written on the label if junk foods are healthy or not. We do not. We have received suggestions if cigarette pack can carry a warning ‘it is injurious to health’, then why not ‘not healthy food’ warning on junk foods,” Paswan said after announcing “antibiotics’ off the menu” as theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day.

A file photo of Ram Vilas Paswan. ReutersA file photo of Ram Vilas Paswan. Reuters

A file photo of Ram Vilas Paswan. Reuters

Since the issue is related to health, the Minister said, “I will write to the Health Ministry on this issue. We will see if something can be done in this area.”

Expressing concern over content of labels being written in tiny letters, Paswan said, “The letters on labels and their size is so small that no consumer can read. We have been thinking on this issue for last two years. We need to increase the size of the label.”

Though the state officials are required to keep a check on such matters, but the industry can self regulate and follow ethical business code of conduct, he said.

On e-warranty, Paswan said once the new Consumer Protection bill, which is being vetted by a Parliamentary
panel, is passed in Parliament, it will pave the way for introduction of e-warranty for products sold to consumers.

This will help in global tracking of goods and consumers need not keep the documents related to warranties and
guarantees in physical forms. Rather the industry will maintain stock of warranties on behalf of each and every
consumer in digital format, he added.

On UN’s revised guidelines on consumer protection, the Minister said that a committee would be set up to implement the guidelines in the country.

Paswan further said that passage of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) bill is another major step forward in empowering the central government and BIS to promote culture of quality product and services through the enforcement of mandatory and voluntary compliance with Indian standards through conformity assessment schemes.

Talking about ill effects of antibiotics in foods, the Minister said, “Antibiotic resistance infections are already
spreading all part of the world. Urgent action need to be taken to stop use of antibiotics in farming and foods.”

Paswan said he would speak to agriculture and health ministries on this issue.

Both the government and industry on Tuesday signed an agreement and pledged to implement self regulation code of ethical business covering six broad principles including ‘never indulge in unfair trade practices’, ‘marketing products ethically’ and ‘respond to consumer complaints promptly’.

PTI

EC takes up issue of hate speech, provocative ads with parties

The Election Commission on Saturday flagged the issue of “hate speeches” and plunging standards of political discourse during campaigning with the parties, in the backdrop of personal attacks by leaders in the recent assembly polls.At the closed-door meeting, the political parties agreed that the issue had to be addressed. But most of the six national parties and the 49 regional parties opposed the suggestion of the poll panel to hike security deposit for contesting candidates and seeking a ‘no dues’ certificate from parties operating from government accommodations. At present, a candidate has to deposit a security of Rs 10,000 for assembly polls and Rs 25,000 for Lok Sabha polls which is forfeited in case the contestant gets less that one-sixth of the votes polled.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There were also divergent views on the use of ‘totaliser’, a machine with mixes votes from various polling stations and which EC feels would further protect voters’ identity during counting of votes. At the closed-door meeting, the Commission also took up the issue of ‘indirect campaigning’ in areas which go to polls in a multi-phased election. “This (hate speech) is one of the issue that we had flagged for the ongoing assembly polls in five states.”All political parties have supported and have suggested and have committed that they will ensure that the upcoming elections are conducted with highest standards and decency and with decorum. The Commission is assured by all these political parties. We have also urged and appealed to them,” Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi later told reporters.The EC had also taken up the issue of “provocative advertisements” in newspapers in an apparent reference to certain BJP ads which appeared in Bihar newspapers during assembly elections there.On the issue of ‘indirect campaigning’, EC said there have been instances when election rallies that are being held in areas where campaigning is on are beamed live to areas where voting is underway. There is no technology to jam TV signals in a particular area.Smaller parties said speeches by ‘star campaigners’ being beamed live spoil the level playing field. They asked EC to devise a system to ensure that such telecasts are not used by bigger parties to their advantage. Some parties such as the BSP and the CPI also supported the idea of ‘proportional representation’ instead of the ‘first past the post’ concept at a meeting organised by the Commission here to discuss issues of electoral reforms and improving standards of campaigning.Under proportional representation, seats are allocated on the basis of the number of votes each party receives. In first past the post, voting takes place in single-member constituencies. The electorate votes for their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins.On the issue of security deposit, several parties said it would create difficulties for candidates of smaller parties and those coming from humble background. There were suggestions that other means can be used to check “dummy” or “bogus” candidates. The Delhi High Court had suggested to EC that political parties functioning out of government accommodations should give a ‘no dues’ certificate to prove that they have cleared all electricity and water bills.But parties said this was not practical suggestion. Some said the no dues certificate introduced for candidates since last month even if they had occupied a government accommodation in the past decade is also leading to corruption as bribe is being asked to give such a certificate. The poll panel also demonstrated ‘totaliser’, a new machine to enhance secrecy of votes during counting which prevents disclosure of voting pattern. EC has approached the Law Ministry with a proposal for the introduction of these machines.The poll panel is of the view that the use of ‘totaliser’ will bring more secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved, which will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station. While some like CPI’s Atul Anjan and BSP’s Satish Mishra supported the idea, most were of the view that knowing the voting pattern was the “right” of a candidate. They said voting pattern also helps political parties to improve on their strengths and work on weak areas.At the end of the deliberations, Zaidi told the delegates that based on their feedback, the Commission will approach the Law Ministry to change electoral rules wherever required. The meeting was organised as the Law Ministry had asked EC to consult parties before rules can be changed to further reform the electoral system.

BJP shies from taking stand on 377, even as RSS opposes criminalising gay sex

Two years ago when Ram Madhav, then in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had said criminalising homosexuality was questionable, his comments had created a flutter. The BJP was silent then, as it is again now when its ideological mentor has openly said that homosexuality was not a crime.RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, who was reported to have said on Thursday that homosexuality was not a crime as long as it did not affect the lives of others, tried to couch his views by calling it “socially immoral”, a day later. In a series of tweets on Friday morning, he opposed gay marriage but maintained that homosexuality should not be a crime.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Homosexuality is not a crime, but socially immoral act in our society. No need to punish, but to be treated as a psychological case,” he tweeted. He also said gay marriage was institutionalisation of homosexulality and should be prohibited.Hosabale also tweeted that in the approach to homosexuality there should “no criminalisation; no glorification either,” a view which Ram Madhav, now a BJP general secretary echoed.”I have been maintaining that there should be neither criminalisation nor glorification of homosexuality,” he said.Hosabale’s remarks had brought hope that the BJP and its government at the Centre may at least mull over scrapping 377, which criminalises homosexuality. For the RSS to even take a stand against criminalisation of homosexuality was a big step, sources said. However, the BJP is still evasive on the issue, apparently reluctant to shed its inhibitions on expressing support for decriminalising it.”Hosabaleji has clarified his stand on the issue,” party spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said. However, he refused to spell out the BJP’s stand on the issue.Other party leaders have spoken in different voices, some taking finance minister Arun Jaitley’s line, opposing criminalisation, and others that of home minister Rajnath Singh who said the party cannot support such “unnatural acts”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have been silent on the issue.BJP sources said there has been hardly any debate within the party on the question of 377 and that the Supreme Court had overturned the Delhi High Court verdict that it was unconstitutional. The party is apparently uncomfortable about taking a anti-377 line, given that Indian society was still divided on the issue, they said.”In my personal opinion, homosexuality is a crime. It saddens me that it is even being debated in the country. Playing with nature has always cost humanity,” said BJP spokesperson Bijay Sonkar Shastri.Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, whose private member’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality, was struck down by the BJP at the introduction stage in Lok Sabha last week, tweeted on Friday morning that Hosabale was speaking sense on homosexuality.

Ram temple: RSS to counter ‘disinformation’ on social media; Swamy to brief volunteers

Raising the pitch on Ram temple issue, RSS will now train its volunteers and sympathisers so that they can check the alleged “disinformation campaign” on the social media.BJP leader and former Union Minister Subramanian Swamy, who is actively pursuing the Ram Janambhoomi movement case in court, will provide perspective on the entire issue to RSS sympathisers at a seminar on February 20 here for handling social media like Twitter and Facebook. The seminar on ‘Sri Ram Mandir: Emerging Scenario’ will be organised at the Deendayal Research Centre at RSS office in Jhandewala.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”BJP leader Subramanian Swamy will provide the right perspective and put forth facts over Ram temple construction in Ayodhya to RSS volunteers and sympathisers, who in turn, will help stop the disinformation campaign on the issue on social media,” Delhi’s RSS media incharge Rajiv Tuli told PTI.He said the issue has to be resolved either through an Act in Parliament or through court and it cannot be resolved by any other means. He alleged that there is a disinformation campaign over the issue on social media and “there is no question of going ahead with temple construction without court consent”. RSS has also called for early construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya and its chief Mohan Bhagwat had also made a call to this effect sometime ago.The Ram Temple construction issue also came to the fore in the wake of death of VHP chief Ashok Singhal, a key leader of the movement. Tuli said RSS holds such sessions for its volunteers every month and this time it would be on Ram Temple. Similar sessions on intolerance debate and Article 370 have also been held earlier.Swamy recently held a seminar in Delhi university on the issue, which had sparked a major controversy. Similar seminars will be held by a VHP affiliate organisation elsewhere in the country.

New draft wildlife action plan calls for demarcation of wildlife corridors

Identifying wildlife corridors of large mammals and restricted their land use, bringing clarity on mercy killing of old and infirm wild animals, preventing siting of infrastructure projects in forests and a new Doordarshan channel on nature conservation. These are some of the crucial elements in the draft national wildlife action plan (NWAP) of the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change that will serve as a road-map for wildlife conservation between 2017-2031. The country got its first NWAP in 1983 and the second one began in 2002 and ended in 2016. The union environment ministry has now sought suggestions and comments on the draft from the experts and public at large.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In May 2014, a 14-member committee was formed to review the implementation of the previous NWAP and to develop a new NWAP. In the new draft document, the ministry’s expert committee has stressed on landscape based conservation centred around apex wildlife species. As part of its recommendations, identifying and demarcating wildlife corridors is a crucial one. Outside the network of protected areas, there exist several wildlife corridors of carnivores such as tigers, leopards and large mammals such as elephants.The draft asks for securing of these wildlife corridors after they proper demarcations and restrictions on changes in their land use. It has often been noted that infrastructure projects cut through these wildlife corridors affecting the movement of tigers and elephants. On wildlife health, the NWAP has broached the issue of euthanasia among wild animals, that it has described as a ‘sensitive subject’ as it amounts to hunting under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The new draft has recommended that there is an urgent need to define the terms of euthanasia and mercy killing when it comes to terminally ill animals.For the first time, the NWAP has also touched upon the issue of threats to wildlife due to free ranging feral dogs. It has called for formulating a strategy to manage free ranging domestic and feral dogs, cats in wildlife habitats.Dogs are known to be the source of canine distemper and other viruses that prove fatal for big cats such as tigers and leopards who prey on dogs around protected areas. In fact, in and around Panna national park, dogs were collared in a survey after a sterilization drive to prevent cases of tiger deaths due to canine distemper.Dogs are also known to prey on turtle eggs while cats are found preying on nesting birds. On these issues, the draft has suggested that multiple agencies need to come together and check their population.

Maneka Gandhi’s child sex determination plan is a minefield of a proposal

By Sonal Matharu

Civil society groups working on the issue of female foeticide in India woke up to a rude shock this morning.

Women and child development minster Maneka Gandhi said in Jaipur on Monday that the results of child sex determination test during pregnancy should be made known to the parents and if the child is a female, the delivery should be tracked and recorded. Through this, it can be ensured that the foetus is not aborted.

By Tuesday afternoon, the ministry was quick to term this as a “point of view which has often been brought up by stakeholders before the [WCD] ministry” which the minister reiterated at the conference and asked for media persons’ suggestions on the same.

Maneka Gandhi. AFP

Maneka Gandhi. AFP

Her statement, however, has caused a stir in the circles of those social activists and doctors who have been trying to save the unborn girl children in the country. Their experience tells them that whatever efforts have been put into this issue so far will be reversed if the ban on sex determination of the foetus is lifted.

Their first concern is how the pregnancies will be monitored and tracked. The union government currently tracks pregnancies through its army of Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHAs) and anganwadi workers. Under the National Health Mission, Union Health Ministry’s flagship programme for maternal and child health, the pregnant women have to register at the nearest anganwadi centres and with the ASHAs who can then ensure that they are immunised and taken for delivery to a hospital.

But there is still a fraction of women who do not approach hospitals either for per- or post-delivery care or for deliveries. Home deliveries are very much a reality in all states in India and these may not be registered or monitored by the ASHAs. Besides, the flourishing private health sector, which falls under the purview of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 that checks sex selective abortions but do not have to report every delivery or abortion to the government,may provide a safe haven for sex selective foeticide.

The latest National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16) data that has released provisional figures for 13 states and union territories show that in Haryana almost six percent of total deliveries are conducted at home by skilled health attendants. There is no data on the home deliveries conducted without any birth attendant present.

Also, only 52 percent institutional deliveries (out of 80.4 percent) are conducted in public facilities in the state and mere 19.5 percent women complete the ante-natal care required, indicating that women may not be constantly connected to the health system between their pregnancies and deliveries. The data is no different in other states.

But why pregnancies should be tracked at all, asked Ranjana Kumari from Centre for Social Research. She contended that tracking women’s pregnancies goes against their reproductive rights. A Delhi-based social activist who has worked on the issues across many states felt that tracking pregnancies will have a negative impact on a woman’s legal right to a safe abortion.

The PCPNDT Act makes disclosing the sex of the foetus punishable. It often clashes with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 that gives women right to safely, medically abort the foetus.

Another issue which may be completely overlooked if the sex determination is allowed is the mushrooming of the ultrasound centres. “You will give a free hand to people for the work that they are doing discreetly till now,” said the Delhi-based activist.

The sex of the foetus can be known in 12 weeks, during which time many families do not even disclose the pregnancy. “The technology develops very fast in this field and now with new scanners, one can know the sex of the child in six to eight weeks. By legalising sex determination, we are only encouraging newer, faster technology without any monitoring mechanisms in place,” the activist added, stressing that the move will not address the issue of female foeticide at all.

Gandhi’s statement also completely overlooks the discrimination women face in households and how little control they have over their reproductive rights. Kumari felt that the situation for women will become worse when the family will find out that she is carrying a female foetus. “The kind of pressure she will have from the husband and the in-laws will be immense.” And it will not come as a surprise, given the patriarchal society we live in, if the women carrying female foetuses are fed less in homes.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time that the government is considering this move of making sex determination mandatory, the civil society members say, but it is the first time a Union minister has put this idea in the public domain. They are surprised that Gandhi made a statement public when the PCPNDT Act is not even a mandate of her ministry. The Act falls under the purview of the Health Ministry.

Dr Jignesh G Thakker, who is a member of Indian Radiology and Imaging Association (IRIA), said that the association had suggested the same to the Union Health Ministry five to six years back. But alongside, he wants the private health sector regulated where one can be sure that ultrasounds are conducted by qualified radiologists. “The radiologists can then keep the government informed who can track the required pregnancies and prevent female foeticide. This way the issue of unreported pregnancies can also be checked. The PCPNDT Act will have to be scrapped,” said Thakker.

The civil society is demanding a social impact study to show what kind of impact this move will have.“In our society, girls are not respected either inside the house or outside. The impact of the move should first be studied for at least five years before making such a statement,” said Dr Tajinder Pal Singh, a radiologist from Punjab.

The minister’s statement comes at a time when the NFHS 4 data shows some of the states with past history of poor child sex ratio with better numbers in the latest data. For instance, in 2005-06, Haryana with sex ratio at birth at 762 is at 836 in 2015-16. However, there are states like Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Karnataka that have seen a drop in the sex ratio in the latest data.

There are also unexplainable trends in the latest survey that question how foolproof the system of tracking pregnancies is. Take, for example Sikkim, which has 94.7 percent of all deliveries in health care institutions (institutional delivery in public facility: 82.7 percent). However, mothers who received full ante-natal care during pregnancy is a mere 39 percent. The case of Sikkim is peculiar because it has seen a drastic fall in child sex ration from 984 in 2005-06 to 809 in 2015-16.

Female-sex-ratio-at-birth_Governance-Now

Gandhi, in the past, has made similar ‘suggestions’ questioning the channel being followed in providing food to the anganwadi centres across the country. She had suggested that the food should be produced at a centralised kitchen, despite a 2004 Supreme Court order that says that children should be fed hot cooked meals prepared at decentralized kitchens prepared by local women’s self-help groups and mahila mandals.

“Instead of giving it to anganwadis to make food, mothers to make food, villagers to make food, why don’t we have it made at a central place by a company – whether government or not – and put into measured cups of whatever we intend to feed them [children] at whatever stage? And in them come the micronutrients – iron, folic acid – into millets, noodles made of millets and ragi. We change this everyday so that we get clean, machine made, proper, basic food. I am sure we can make the food good,” Gandhi had said at the launch of India Health Report by International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI) and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in December.

Parliament may amend law to award harsh punishment in child rapes: Supeme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday said Parliament could consider amending the penal provisions to award harsh punishments to persons convicted of raping a girl child and also define the term ‘child’ in respect of rape as the offence.The court, which refused to entertain a plea of a women lawyers’ body seeking castration of those convicted for raping toddlers, left the issue for the legislature to dwell upon and decide. “Parliament may think of making such provisions in the IPC and it may also think of defining the term ‘Child’ in the context of offence of rape,” a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It, however, agreed with the contention of the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) that kids, up to the age of 10, cannot be equated with other minor girls for the offence of rape and said the legislature could change the law. The counsel for the lawyers’ body said that considering the pain of a toddler rape victim, “there has to be a fear psychosis among the culprits.””The law should never be made sentimentally and emotionally,” the bench said, while concurring with the view of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the court should not “suggest a particular punishment”. Rohatgi said the demand for castration of rape convicts is “more due to the passion rather the rational thinking”.The court rejected the submission that it can pass directions on lines of the Visakha case and said in the present case, there is no void as the law is very much there. “Issue a direction…to the Union of India to consider to impose castration as an additional punishment for child sex abusers and child rapists,” the plea had said.

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