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FCRA licence of 20,000 NGO’s cancelled: Here is what the govt actually said

The government, on Wednesday, said that it has cancelled the FCRA licence of close to 20,000 of the 33,000 NGOs operating in the country after they were found to be flouting certain norms laid out in the Foreign Contributions Registrations Act, 2010.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

The FCRA or Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 is nothing but a regulatory act formed to keep a check on civil society bodies that may be receiving foreign funds in an illegal manner. Therefore, the cancellation of an FCRA licence means that the NGOs in question can no longer take funds from a foreign contributor but they can continue to work on donations given by Indian companies and individuals.

Home Ministry officials said after cancellation of the FCRA licences of around 20,000 NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds.

The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing, official sources said.

Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while Ministry of Home Affairs received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time.

An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA. This means that although these NGOs don’t hold a FCRA licence, they can accept funds from foreign sources by taking prior permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the Home Ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category, while papers of two other NGOs are under examination.

As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 19:12 IST

The persecution of Zakir Naik’s lawyer is both illegal and unjust

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>By no stretch of imagination is Zakir Naik, the founder and head of NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a benign preacher or a saintly figure. There’s no dearth of members of his own religious community who condemn him for hate-mongering and giving Islam a bad name.However, is he indulging in terrorist activities by “radicalising” Muslim youth, as the government claims? Are the lawyers defending him to be held ‘guilty by association’? If that is the case, then no lawyer worth his salt would stop shuddering before taking on the brief of anyone accused of terror offences. Only the most intrepid of lawyers would come forward to fora without fear or favour. And most Muslim lawyers would be all the more intimidated due to the persecution and hounding they might face, for the simple reason that a majority of terror-accused (most of whom finally get acquitted) happen to profess Islam as their religion.Moreover, how judicially sound is the government’s November 2016 decision to ban Naik’s IRF as a terror outfit under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and would it stand the legal scrutiny of the tribunal being headed by Justice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court?
ALSO READ Notice served on legal counsel of Zakir Naik’s NGOThese questions assume prime significance because of Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch summoning Naik’s lawyer SHA Jamati for questioning, and directing him to show cause why his client’s NGO should not be banned, and prove that he is in no way either an aide or an associate in Naik’s activities. It might appear that defending Jamati for fighting his client’s case is equivalent to supporting Naik’s activities, but that is not the case.
ALSO READ Centre transfers bureaucrat who cracked down on Zakir Naik’s NGOIn fact, the two issues are intertwined, and the root lies in the wording of definitions in the UAPA. They are too sweeping in scope and give more than ample and justifiable reasons for the tribunals to pass orders which transgress constitutional principles, as researchers from the think tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy have pointed out in this piece.Moreover, Justice PK Shali, who headed the tribunal in 2012, had this to say: “The language of the provisions of the Act is drafted in such a manner that the Tribunal is required to see only the ‘sufficiency of the cause’ for the Central Government to declare the association to be unlawful and conversely, the onus is put on the association, either as a body of persons or as office-bearers or even as members, to show cause as to why it should not be declared as unlawful.”
ALSO READ Ban on IRF is an attack on Indian Muslims, peace, democracy and justice: Zakir NaikSuccessive reports, available here, here, and here, have exposed in detail how, under the UAPA, the banning regime works in a grossly undemocratic and illegal manner.A Lawyer’s DutyAccording to the law, a lawyer is an officer of the court and owes his duty only to his client and the court. He is not to be subjected to humiliation or any kind of harassment merely and only because he has taken up the case of someone deemed odious by a certain section of society and some members of the ruling government. Legendary British barrister, Lord Brougham, a tireless crusader of civil liberties, said in 1937: “An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes to his client, knows in the discharge of that office but one person in the world — the client, and no other… to protect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to himself is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties… Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them if need be to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences…”Nancy Hollander, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (US), proclaims with pride and devoid of any compunction: “So let me say it: I am a terrorist lawyer, if that means I am willing to defend those accused of terrorism. I am currently defending two men imprisoned in Guantanamo and I defend others accused of terrorism. Contrary to recent attacks by those who claim to be supporters of American justice, my defence of people accused of serious and sometimes horrific crimes is not an endorsement of those crimes. Rather, it is a testament to the strength of my belief in, and commitment to, the American system of justice. Why? Because in my defence of every client, I am defending the United States Constitution and the laws and treaties to which it is bound, and I am defending the rule of law. If I am a terrorist lawyer, I also am a rule-of-law lawyer, a constitutional lawyer and a treaty lawyer.”Sadly, in recent times in India, lawyers taking up cases of those accused of terror offences are also regarded as terrorists and hounded. The trials and tribulations faced dauntlessly by the likes of Mehmood Pracha, Sarim Naved, Trideep Pais, and Shahid Azmi (who was assassinated), who have successfully secured acquittals for those accused as terrorists, can inspire many, but not all, to soldier on. Regardless of the consequences.But, for how long? It requires a Herculean effort to withstand the might of the state and its agencies.Till date, Jamati has remained unfazed and has vowed to take the government head on. Mubin Solkar, a reputed Mumbai-based criminal lawyer, is also advising Naik and has warded off threats and persecution.But, for how long should this legally-abetted thuggery be allowed to continue?

Home ministry cancels FCRA licences of 20,000 NGOs for violating norms

New Delhi: FCRA licences of around 20,000 of 33,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the government after they were found to be allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus barring them from receiving foreign funds.

This was conveyed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh during a review of the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTIUnion Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Giving a detailed presentation, home ministry officials said after cancellation of FCRA licences of around 20,000
NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds.

“The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing. The cancellation of the FCRA licences of the NGOs done over a period of one year,” a home ministry spokesperson said.

Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while home ministry received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time.

An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA.

However, FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the home ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category while papers of the two NGOs are under examination.

As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the home ministry.

A home ministry official said on Tuesday of the around 33,000 NGOs registered under the FCRA, 27,000 were due for renewal this year.

Of these 27,000 NGOs, around 19,000 NGOs have submitted applications for renewal under the FCRA.

And of the 19,000 NGOs, FCRA licences of 15,500 NGOs were renewed.

Among the total 27,000 NGOs, 8,000 have time till February for renewal of their licences under FCRA.

The official said just FCRA licences of just 222 NGOs were cancelled in recent past.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 22:44 IST

Notice served on legal counsel of Zakir Naik’s NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Mumbai police on Monday served a notice received from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, set up to examine the evidence on the basis of which the Centre banned televangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) last month, on the organisation’s legal counsel here.”The notice was received from the registrar of the tribunal and was served on IRF’s legal counsel SHA Jamati at the organisation’s office here,” a police spokesperson said. The tribunal was set up to adjudicate whether or not there was sufficient cause for declaring IRF an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. IRF was declared an unlawful association under section 3(1) of the UAPA, with the gazette notification, dated November 17, stating that the NGO and its members, particularly its founder Naik, had been “encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups”The “divisive ideology” propagated by IRF and its members, including Naik, is “against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India”, the notification had said.The tribunal issued notices seeking responses from the Maharashtra government, IRF and other “interested persons” after its preliminary hearing. The NGO has been granted time till February 6 for filing its response.The Centre had cited Naik’s alleged role in radicalising Muslim youths “to commit terrorist acts”, besides the purported role of the organisation’s “members/associates” in unlawful activities to justify the ban before the tribunal.

FCRA cancellation forces NGO to lay off its 80-odd staff

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing cash crunch after the cancellation of FCRA licence, Gujarat-based NGO Navsarjan Trust, which was working for Dalit rights for the last 27 years, has sought resignation of its 80-odd employees and said that the three schools run by it shall be closed.Managing Trustee of Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan said the NGO was unable to pay for the salaries of its staff after the Centre revoked its licence to get foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).”It is impossible for us to pay salaries of our employees after the Centre cancelled our FCRA licence. We are facing acute cash crunch due to that move. Thus, we have asked all our 80-odd employees to tender their resignations,” Macwan told PTI.Macwan founded this NGO in 1989 to fight for the rights of Dalits and to take up issues concerning them, such as manual scavenging and social boycott.According to him, the NGO needs around Rs 2.75 crore annually to meet various expenses.”We are largely dependent on the funds from foreign sources to meet our expenses, which runs into Rs 2.75 crore per annum. About 85% of that comes from foreign countries. Now, as our FCRA licence has been cancelled, it is impossible to run our operations or to pay salaries from what we get from local sources,” said Macwan.Apart from running various awareness programs for the upliftment of Dalits across the state, the NGO also runs three schools, one each in Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Patan district. Now, these schools, where 102 students of 5th standard to 9th standard, are enrolled, are on the verge of closure, said Macwan.”These three schools, which impart education to 102 students of extremely poor Dalit and tribal communities, are having 12 teachers. Now, we have to shut these schools too, as we are unable to pay their salaries and meet other operational expenses. These teachers will be asked to leave only after the completion of this academic session,” said Macwan.A week back, seven NGOs, including Navsarjan Trust, were barred by the Centre government from receiving foreign funds after their FCRA licences were cancelled following alleged adverse intelligence reports against them.The decision has been taken after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licences were renewed in the recent past.

SC to hear petitions seeking CBI probe into Jayalalitha’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court will on Friday hear pleas seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe or a judicial investigation into former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s death.A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by a Chennai-based NGO and a writ petition was filed by expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa in the apex court seeking a CBI probe or a judicial investigation into Jayalalithaa’s death, who breathed her last at Chennai’s Apollo Hospitals on December 5 where she was admitted on September 22 with fever and dehydration.The NGO has sought the recovery of all medical documents during the AIADMK chief’s stay in Chennai’s Apollo Hospital for more than two months, while Pushpa alleged that Jayalalithaa’s death was ‘suspicious’ as her actual medical condition was not disclosed, no one was allowed to visit her, her funeral photographs showed embalming marks and everything from her hospitalisation to her death ‘was kept under wraps’.A day after filing a petition, Pushpa on December 19 said a proper inquiry should be done as the people of Tamil Nadu want to know the actual reason of Jayalalithaa’s death.”I filed a writ petition at Supreme Court regarding the mysterious death of Amma. Right from the day September 22 when she has been admitted at Apollo hospital stating that she has dehydration and fever and after that when it has been announced that she is dead till that complete judicial inquiry should be done. Initial enquiry is to be done by the CBI. The case has been filed at SC,” Pushpa said.”Tamil Nadu people, entire nation wish to know what happened to the late chief minister. The CM of a state has been foul played like this is a million dollar question. I just want to take this matter to SC to get justice,” she told ANI, adding that it was suspected by Tamil people that her close ally might have done something.”I could not get justice from the Tamil Nadu government so, I directly filed the writ at the apex court stating that we need justice and I have made Apollo hospital and chief secretary as respondents,” she added.

Suf gives identity to Pakistani migrant women

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For 50-year-old Babro Ben, her art is her identity and she never wants to give it up, even though she has lost the sharp vision required for her intricate form of embroidery. Babro ben is among the 100-odd Pakistani migrant women working to preserve their age-old form of embroidery called ‘Suf’ at Kala Raksha Centre. The NGO is located in Sumrasar Sheikh Village of Kutch district in Gujarat. “It takes seven to eight months to complete a Suf-embroidered piece of cloth; a year or more if you are making a saree,” she says. Babro ben belongs to the Maru Meghwal tribe which migrated to Gujarat from Nagarparkar region of Sindh after the 1971 Indo-Pak war.Suf is a complicated form of embroidery, derived from the geometric triangle, usually done on cotton or silk. It originated in Sindh province, and unlike other form of embroideries, the artisans don’t draw the motifs first on the cloth. They conceptualize their designs and then count the number of threads they will compose the triangle in.Among Maru Meghwals, a bride embroiders her own dress and also makes Bokani (a long scarf) for her groom. “Earlier, a girl’s embroidery skills would snag her a good match, but now we make designer clothes sitting here in this village. We have carved out an identity through our art,” says 27-year-old Sheela Ben, who has been embroidering for 15 years. She has been working on a shawl for three months “It will take another three months to complete it,” she adds. “In our community, embroidery is considered a women’s job; no man ever does it. They are farmers. But during off season, our work helps us make ends meet.”For Suf work, artisans require an understanding of geometry and good eye-sight as one has to constantly watch each and every thread on the cloth. “Most women have to stop embroidery by the time they are 55 or 60 years old as they lose their vision,” says 60-year-old Rabari Ben, who now makes patches.According to officials at the NGO, in the last decade, Suf has become highly popular among designers in India as well as abroad. “Several high-end designers, including Ritu Beri, and some highly popular online shopping portals including Jaypore.com have become our permanent customers,” says Ramesh Bhanani, who works at the NGO.The NGO provides the artisans with high-quality textile. “This form of embroidery needs back-breaking labour. We give them high-quality cloth and threads so that they get the money they deserve,” Bhanani said. The NGO also helps them showcase their work in exhibitions and sales in different parts of the country. “We take the artisans to these exhibitions so that they can understand the nature and demand of the market,” he said.

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

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

Home Ministry faux pas: Renews then cancels FCRA licence of Greenpeace India, Teesta Setalvad’s NGO

The Union Home Ministry renewed Greenpeace India’s registration under the Foreign Contributions Registrations Act, (FCRA) 2010 after permanently cancelling its licence in September 2015.

Greenpeace India’s executive director Ravi Chellam, speaking to The Times of India said that they had applied for the renewal of the licence in March 2016 and it was renewed with effect from 1 November, 2016.

Representational image. Image Courtesy: Greenpeace.orgRepresentational image. Image Courtesy: Greenpeace.org

Representational image. Image courtesy: Greenpeace.org

The Islamic Research Foundation’s licence, Zakir Naik’s organisation was also mistakenly renewed in August because the FCRA software doesn’t have a provision to flag pending inquiries or adverse intelligence reports against NGOs under scanner.

Even, the licence of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) was renewed, reported The Indian Express. The NGO was under for alleged misuse of grants.

According to CNN-News 18, the MHA has ordered an enquiry and cancelled the renewal.

According to The Times of India, the ministry only noticed the erroneous renewal of Greenpeace India’s licence after 1 November, 2016.

The organisation was under the ministry’s scanner which cited that Greenpeace India was receiving “mixed foreign and domestic funds” and had “not disclosed the movement of funds properly,” according to a report in The Indian Express.

The Times of India report said that Greenpeace India had cancelled the licence on grounds of affecting public interest and economic interest.

The report added that the MHA had suspended the registration of the NGO saying it had violated norms, alleging that Greenpeace India had opened five accounts to use foreign donations without disclosing it to the relevant authorities. The NGOs bank accounts in IDBI, ICICI and Yes Bank were frozen. Greenpeace India had challenged the decision calling it arbitrary and it was granted relief by the court on 27 May, 2016.

The NGO has always maintained that the suspension was government’s way of controlling dissent. Vinuta Gopal quoted in The Indian Express after the suspension said: “The cancelling of our FCRA registration is the government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent. It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes.”

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 18:47 IST

Curb rising drugs, alcohol abuse in children: SC to Centre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to put in place within six months a national action plan to curb the rising drugs and alcohol abuse cases among school children, observing they are encouraged to become “drug peddlers once they get addicted”.A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and D Y Chandrachud also asked the Centre to conduct a national survey on the substance and alcohol abuse and use of psychotropic substances among children in schools across the country.Issuing a slew of directions, the bench observed “Children are encouraged to become drug peddlers once they are addicted (to drugs).”The bench also favoured a re-look on the curriculum to make school children aware about substance abuse and its ill-effects.The directions were passed on a 2014 PIL filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi.The NGO, in its plea, had sought a direction to formulate a national action plan for children on drugs and substance abuse including all issues of identification, investigation, recovery, counselling and rehabilitation.It had also sought creation of model syllabus on ill- effects of drugs and substance abuse.The NGO, represented by senior advocate H S Phoolka, had sought setting up of rehabilitation and de-addiction centres in each district of the country with a special wing for children.

PIL in SC seeking CBI probe in Jayalalithaa’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Chennai-based NGO has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe in the death of Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, ANI reported.The NGO has also demanded access to the medical documents of the former chief minister.68-year-old Jayalalithaa, who fondly known as ‘Amma’ suffered a cardiac arrest on December 4, and passed away the next day. She was hospitalised since September 22, 2016.At least 470 persons reportedly died of “shock” after the demise of AIADMK party supremo. The party has also announced a relief of Rs 3 lakh each to the families.Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet has decided to recommend late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa for ‘Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian honour of the country, and to propose to the Centre to install her life-size bronze statue in Parliament complex.

Cyclone Vardah brings Chennai’s vulnerabilities to the fore, reminds residents of 2015 floods

For the second time in 10 days, Chennai wears a deserted look, this time it is because of cyclone Vardah. The eerie calm that the city wore when J Jayalalithaa passed away has been replaced by howling winds and the sounds of falling trees and crashing signboards.

Nisthar Ali, a Chennai resident, recalls a cyclone of similar intensity way back in 1962; none in the recent past. To many residents of Chennai, the power cut, the incessant rains since Sunday night and the flooded roads are reminiscent of the December 2015 floods.

In Kodambakkam, a central locality, Hanif (Nisthar Ali’s son) – whose house was flooded in 2015 – has to keep clearing the falling tree leaves so that they don’t clog the stormwater gratings and the water does not stagnate. Chennai has already recorded nearly 100 mm of rainfall and the wind speed has hit 100 km/hour.

After the 2015 floods, reams have been written about the poor urban planning, encroachment of water bodies and blocking of natural water courses by allowing construction of buildings.

A locality in Chennai after Vardah made landfall. Firstpost/Jency Samuel

A locality in Chennai after Vardah made landfall. Firstpost/Jency Samuel

Vardah has brought the vulnerability of Chennai to the fore again. Though the government did undertake de-silting of water bodies and removal of encroachments, they were not full-fledged measures. There is also the reason that some of the encroachments on Pallikaranai marshland and other water bodies are not only by private entities, but also by government bodies for their research institutions and infrastructure projects. In spite of 2015 floods, no strong policies have been effected to future-proof our cities and make them climate-resilient.

Jayshree Vencatesan of Care Earth, who has studied Pallikaranai Marshland (PML) extensively, says that the city’s master plan needs to be reviewed from a hydrological perspective. She adds that the focus should be on the city’s vulnerability because of being on the coast.

Indumathi Nambi, an associate professor at IIT-Chennai, reinforces this, adding that the PML’s water retention capacity has to be increased so that its effective in prevention of floods. “Hydrological and hydro-geological studies have to be carried out to find out how the water retention capacity can be increased. It is also necessary that the cascading eri system, where water from one tank overflows to another and so on till it reaches the sea. Many feeder channels between such tanks remain blocked.

Nambi points out that where possible, the original channels should be revived and new connections established elsewhere. Many residents are now aware of the need to have water bodies, and those in the southern localities have been urging the government to restore the tanks and lakes in their localities.

Ravindra Singh of GIZ (Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) advocates assigning monetary value to the ecosystem services provided by water bodies, mangroves and trees. “Would you equate a vulture to a sedan? The economic value that one vulture does in cleaning carcasses is equal to the value of a sedan. So, if you consider the ecosystem services of a real estate plot near PML and price it accordingly, there won’t be any buyers,” he says.

Vel, a fisherman from Pulicat, also working as a coordinator with an NGO, rues that the sand dunes that acted as buffer against cyclones and tsunamis have disappeared, especially in Kattupalli, where a new port has come up. The same holds true for mangroves.

Stormwater drains were cleared months ago in anticipation of the monsoon. As residents of a low-lying area points out, the silt was not cleared immediately and most of it found its way back into the drains. Even though stormwater drains are necessary, there are not many provisions for the rainwater to seep into the ground to augment the groundwater.

Though the government had initiated Rain Water Harvesting (RWH), not many residents are aware that they should be cleaned periodically for efficient functioning. Sekhar Raghavan of Rain Centre advocates RWH in public spaces too. He cites the example of Besant Nagar where recharge wells on the roads have effectively prevented flooding of roads.

Sundar, employed in a private firm at a distance of 4 km from his residence, had to traverse more than 12 km since all the roads were blocked by fallen branches and uprooted trees. At the time of reporting, he was trying all possible lanes and bylanes to reach home. Shobha Menon of Nizhal – an NGO working to save and enhance the tree cover of the city – rues that trees receive attention only during cyclones because of the loss they cause to lives and property or pose hindrance to traffic. She says that they need to be regularly pruned and maintained, adding that native trees such as neem, pungam, illuppai and marudhu are better in withstanding extreme weather events.

Though the Corporation of Chennai has taken measures such as temporary shelters, health centres for eventualities during Vardah, evacuated people from coastal settlements, deployed motors to pump out water from sub-ways and has NDRM and official machinery on the ready, long-term measures are imminent be it Vardah or any other extreme weather event.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 19:02 IST

Ancient cures for a modern world

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This is how Tribhuvan Singh Kawar, a “village vegetation specialist” from Algidand village in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district, subdues scorpions: “Get the scorpion to smell black musli by breaking the twig between its eyes. This is dangerous so don’t use your hands, but tweezers or something to keep a safe distance. Carefully watch the scorpion’s tail which has all the poison and which it uses to sting. The tail moves constantly but some time after the scorpion has ‘smelt’ the musli, you’ll see that it has stilled. Then gently pick it up in your hand.”Sounds bizarre, does it?Kawar’s audience — founders/senior functionaries of NGOs with long experience in tribal/local health practices, eminent ethnobotanists and public health experts, etc, who have gathered in Jamshedpur for a conclave organised by Tata Steel on ‘tribal health systems’ — listen without any obvious scepticism. Perhaps, they’ve heard many such fantastic sounding claims over the years? Or perhaps, there’s some basis, yet undiscovered, to what Kawar says – and these experts, aware of how little tribal medicine is understood by modern science, know better than to scoff?After all — and I heard this from more than one expert during the four-day conclave — both the cures known to modern science for malaria, still a giant killer globally, have come from tribal medicine — quinine from the Cinchona tree that indigenous tribes in Peru used; and artemisinin, for which a Chinese researcher, Tu Youyou, got the Nobel last year, from Qinghao, a herb well known in traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia.Promoting remediesBut for all that, it’s hard not to be skeptical as one looks around the tables laid out at the conclave venue, laden with an assortment of strange-looking roots, tubers, shoots, leaves, barks, seeds, fruits, branches, etc; crudely packed zip-lock pouches and used plastic jars of all sizes filled with oils and powders, some of them bearing crude hand-written stickers indicating which diseases they should be used for – some, I see, are labelled “cancer”.In a few stalls, the wares look a little more refined — the powders have been packed into capsules and tablets, or filled in specially designed bottles, with printed labels mentioning the name, address and registration number of the manufacturer, along with a list of ingredients, conditions it may be used for and ‘directions for use’. Evidently, tribal medicine, like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddhi and others, is also trying to reach out beyond its traditional market in rural India.To that end, as the banners behind the tables showed, tribal healers in several regions across the country had banded together into associations, often with the support of NGOs or government bodies, in order to promote their remedies.The Apunba Manipur Maiba-Maibi Phurup or the Manipur State Traditional Healers’ Association, for instance, is more than 40 years-old and has around 1,100 members. “Since 2011, we have been working with the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development in Imphal, which is under the government of India’s Ministry of Science and Technology, to validate all our medicines,” says N Tombi Raj, President, Manipur State Traditional Healers’ Association. Similarly, in Gadchiroli, an NGO called Amhi Amchya Arogyasathi has brought tribal healers together to help them process their remedies into packaged medicines sold under the brand-name Aranyak and also cultivate the herbs and plants they use to make their medicines in larger quantities. PALAS India, an NGO which operates in the tribal-dominated forests that line the India-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh runs a similar programme. Deo Chandra Kushwaha, one of the founders, reveals that with unrestrained deforestation, the healers find it increasingly difficult tofind the herbs they need. “They have to go deeper and deeper into the jungles, which means an entire day lost,” he says. PALAS India has also set up several Charak Forest-medicine and Natural Primary Care centres in towns across Uttar Pradesh — Sirsia, Amethi, Ramnagar and Allahabad to name a few — to help the healers earn a steady income.Government affiliationAmong other NGOs doing notable work is Laya, which has been involving the Vaidus or traditional healers of Andhra Pradesh’s East Godvari district, a scheduled area, in healthcare initiatives within their community. Besides, it has set up a network of community herbal gardens and also runs a pharmacy, Vanantharam, to produce and market tribal remedies. Kawar, the scorpion catcher, is himself a member of the Traditional Healers’ Association of Chhattisgarh, which has been marshalling the expertise of these traditional healers — ‘village botanical experts’ they are called — to help improve the health parameters of the state’s tribal population. The initiative, which was honoured with the Equator Prize in 2014, has the support of the state government’s Medical Plants Board, the Centre’s environment ministry and the UNDP. Traditional practitionersFor nearly a tenth of India’s population, the 10.5 crore tribals who live deep inside the forests, the traditional medicine practitioners remain the only recourse for healthcare, says H Sudarshan, a Padma Shri recipient, and founder of Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra. Founded in 1981, the NGO has done pioneering work in the area of healthcare among the Soliga tribals in Karnataka. “Primary health centres (PHCs) are often located 20-30 km away, usually a half day’s journey away. It’s just too far to go unless there’s an emergency. Then again, city-bred doctors and nurses don’t like rural postings, so most PHCs don’t have proper staff or medicines,” he says.There’s also much, says Sudarshan, that modern medicine can learn from tribal practices. “As a young doctor fresh out of a medical college in the 1970s, I was shocked to find that tribal women delivered babies squatting on the floor surrounded by family members. There were no beds and sometimes even the husband helped deliver the child. And now modern science recognises that the squatting position is the most scientifically appropriate for childbirth,” he says. Others like Abhay Bang, renowned public health expert who works in tribal-dominated Gadchiroli district, and is chairperson of an expert group set up by the government of India to work on a comprehensive policy on tribal health, are more circumspect in their endorsement of tribal health practices.“Tribal medicines and other indigenous belief systems must go through the acid test of science,” Bang says. “Undoubtedly, the tribal doctors are close to their patients, they are part of tribal society, their remedies are also appropriate to their culture and accessible. But there’s witchcraft, too, and often exploitative. If a tribal healer comes forward and says he can cure cancer, it is the job of bodies like the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) or CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to screen those claims for plausibility, to conduct clinical trials, test on animal. “This has been missing — a systematic, scientific national effort to identify and understand the mysteries of the tribals’ jadi-booti medicines. There have been a few initiatives in this direction, such as the 16-year long All India Coordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology (1982-1998) to identify and document the wealth medicinal plants and their uses across the length and breadth of the country. “But there hasn’t been much follow up research on our findings since then,” says Prof P Pushpangadan, the scientist who led the research. Part of the reason could also be the healers’ suspicion of modern science’s moves to usurp their traditional knowledge. In Manipur, for instance, the healers’ association only agreed to share their knowledge with the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development after it had signed an MoU specifying that the latter would help them get a patent for their remedies. Pushpangadan himself has showed immense potential in this area with what has come to be celebrated as the Kani participatory model. “I came across the Kani tribals in north Kerala while doing my research. They lived in the Western Ghats region and became tired going over the hilly region. The Kanis however were not. I discovered the secret was a leaf they kept munching on that would keep them energised. They offered me some and I could vouch for its effects,” says Pushpangadan. Pushpagandan had the plant that the Kanis called Jeevani analysed and found that it had amazing anti-stress and immune-stimulating properties, boosted stamina, relieved fatigue, and activated the body’s immune system. The Jeevani plant was then patented, and a drug formulated at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, where Pushpangadan worked. A manufacturer then bought rights to make the Jeevani medicine, and hearteningly, the proceeds from that were shared with the Kani tribals. “This was the first time that the tribals earned from their traditional knowledge,” says Pushpangadan.That was in 1987; there hasn’t been another Jeevani since.

NGO launches exhaustive RTI portal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the state continues to drag its feet on offering a website dedicated to the Right to Information Act, 2005, an NGO has come out with an exhaustive RTI portal. While an official state government RTI portal has been in the pipeline for the past four years, the last update from the government was that it would be launched after the monsoon session.The website developed by the NGO promises to provide exhaustive information pertaining to the filing of RTI applications, RTI rules of various states, orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts, among other related details. The website seeks to provide regular RTI applicants with answers to any queries they may have, as well as initiate a first-time applicant to ways in which an RTI application can be filed.Called mahitiadhikarmanch.ngo – named after the NGO which derives its name in Marathi from the RTI Act, the portal has rules of different states in their respective state languages. The RTI Act itself is available in 10 languages including Marathi,besides English and Hindi, on the website.“A lot of organizations do work on RTI. However, there is no single website that gives the information on all the details about the RTI. On our website, we have put up the RTI Act and even the rules in all languages. There is a link to all information commissions and all organizations that work towards the RTI Act. There are important SC and HC judgments related to RTI Act, motivational songs and talks by various people. Information will also be provided of various workshops on RTI that people can look forward to attend. We are trying to make the website as live as we can make it,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, that has come out with the website.The website will be followed by a RTI vehicle that will educated people on the Act moving from place to place. “In future we will also put up details of all the Acts that relate to or compliment the RTI Act like the Indian Evidence Act, Records Maintenance Act, Services Act and all other Act that co-relate with the RTI,” said Prabhu.

Govt cancels licence of NGO Lawyers’ Collective run by Indira Jaising

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Licence of an NGO run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising has been cancelled permanently by the government for alleged violation of FCRA, an action termed by the organisation as “preposterous” and an attack on “right to free speech” guaranteed under the Constitution.Jaising, who was the Additional Solicitor General of India under the previous UPA government, had violated Foreign Contribution Regulation Act norms by receiving foreign funds between 2006-07 and 2013-14 when she was a government servant, the order said.Reacting to the government’s move, the NGO issued a statement expressing wonder at how an order could be issued on Sunday when all the government offices are closed.”Lawyers Collective has received an order dated November 27, 2016 cancelling its registration to receive foreign contribution…at its registered office at Mumbai.”The cancellation order is on the grounds that LC allegedly has violated the terms and conditions of its registration certificate, violated the provisions of the FCRA, and most importantly, acted against ‘public interest'”, the statement said even as it noted that “strangely enough, the order is passed on a Sunday, when government offices are closed.In June, the licence of Lawyers’ Collective was suspended by the Narendra Modi government for six months for alleged violation of FCRA by using the funds for rallies, dharna with political “hue and colour”, a charge denied by the association which termed it as an act of “vindictiveness”.The organisation has also been put on the list of 25 NGOs found allegedly taking part in activities detrimental to the country’s interest, official sources said.The Home Ministry earlier had said, “It is really surprising how a senior law officer, such as an ASG can simultaneously and for such a long period be on the rolls of a private entity, being paid (out of foreign contribution) for undisclosed purposes in gross violation of rules applicable to law officers of Union of India”. Jaising, who served as ASG between 2009 and 2014, has represented social activist Teesta Setalvad in an FCRA violation case against Setalvad’s NGO ‘Sabrang Trust’ and ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’.Jaising and senior Supreme Court lawyer Anand Grover are the office bearers of the Lawyers’ Collective.Grover was part of a lawyers’ team to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon hours before he was to be hanged.The Lawyers Collective (LC) statement said the order repeats what is alleged in the show cause cum suspension order dated May 31 and “disregards LC’s replies in fact and in law.At the same time, certain new allegations have surfaced such as ‘diversion’ of foreign contribution and utilisation for ‘personal gain’, which are not borne out by the facts or the records, are absolutely false and defamatory.”It is preposterous for the MHA to suggest that LC has no record of work, when the government itself has acknowledged LC’s contributions towards advancing women’s rights, securing access to affordable medicines, protecting the rights of HIV positive people as well as transgender persons and continues to call upon LC for its legal inputs,” the statement said.The statement said the NGO reiterates that the current proceedings under FCRA, including the latest cancellation order, are only a continuation of the harassment and persecution of the organisation, especially of its two trustees and senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover perpetrated by the government, over last one year.”Both Jaising and Grover have been and are continuing to take up sensitive cases, in their professional capacity, against the powerful functionaries of the present ruling establishment,” the statement said.The action is perceived to be a “clear attack on the right to legal representation of persons who need legal services the most and a gross abuse of powers by the government of the day.”It is also a clear attack on the right to free speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The entire proceedings against LC under FCRA are nothing but an attempt to discredit the long-standing credibility of the organisation and that of its trustees, and a part of the larger clampdown on civil society spaces in India,” it said.The NGO termed it as “preposterous to allege that LC has acted against public interest whereas LC has always strived to advance public interest through its pioneering work.”LC is exploring all legal options to challenge the cancellation order, including its defamatory contents, and will take necessary action in an appropriate time,” the statement said.

Govt cancels license of lawyer Indira Jaisingh’s NGO for allegedly flouting FCRA norms

New Delhi: Licence of an NGO run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising has been cancelled permanently by the government for alleged violation of FCRA, an action termed by the organisation as “preposterous” and an attack on “right to free speech” guaranteed under the Constitution.

In its order, the Home Ministry claimed that there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by Lawyers’ Collective in its returns filed with the government. Jaising, who was the Additional Solicitor General of India under the previous UPA government, had violated Foreign Contribution Regulation Act norms by receiving foreign funds between 2006-07 and 2013-14 when she was a government servant, the order said.

Reacting to the government’s move, the NGO issued a statement expressing wonder how an order could be issued on Sunday when all the government offices are closed.

“Lawyers Collective has received an order dated 27 November, 2016 cancelling its registration to receive foreign contribution…at its registered office at Mumbai.

File image of Indira Jaising. Twitter/@IJaising

File image of Indira Jaising. Twitter/@IJaising

“The cancellation order is on the grounds that LC allegedly has violated the terms and conditions of its registration certificate, violated the provisions of the FCRA, and most importantly, acted against ‘public interest'”, the statement said even as it noted that “strangely enough, the order is passed on a Sunday, when government offices are closed.

In June, the licence of Lawyers’ Collective was suspended by the Narendra Modi government for six months for alleged violation of FCRA by using the funds for rallies, dharna with political “hue and colour”, a charge denied by the association which termed it as an act of “vindictiveness”.

The organisation has also been put on the list of 25 NGOs found allegedly taking part in activities detrimental to the country’s interest, official sources said.

The Home Ministry earlier had said, “It is really surprising how a senior law officer, such as an ASG can simultaneously and for such a long period be on the rolls of a private entity, being paid (out of foreign contribution) for undisclosed purposes in gross violation of rules applicable to law officers of Union of India”.

Jaising, who served as ASG between 2009 and 2014, has represented social activist Teesta Setalvad in an FCRA violation case against Setalvad’s NGO ‘Sabrang Trust’ and ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’.

Jaising and senior Supreme Court lawyer Anand Grover are the office bearers of the Lawyers’ Collective.

Grover was part of a lawyers’ team to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon hours before he was to be hanged.

The Lawyers Collective (LC) statement said the order repeats what is alleged in the show cause cum suspension order dated May 31 and “disregards LC’s replies in fact and in law.

At the same time, certain new allegations have surfaced such as ‘diversion’ of foreign contribution and utilisation for ‘personal gain’, which are not borne out by the facts or the records, are absolutely false and defamatory.

“It is preposterous for the MHA to suggest that LC has no record of work, when the government itself has acknowledged LC’s contributions towards advancing women’s rights, securing access to affordable medicines, protecting the rights of HIV positive people as well as transgender persons and continues to call upon LC for its legal inputs,” the statement said.

The statement said the NGO reiterates that the current proceedings under FCRA, including the latest cancellation order, are only a continuation of the harassment and persecution of the organisation, especially of its two trustees and senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover perpetrated by the government, over last one year.

“Both Jaising and Grover have been and are continuing to take up sensitive cases, in their professional capacity, against the powerful functionaries of the present ruling establishment,” the statement said.

The action is perceived to be a “clear attack on the right to legal representation of persons who need legal services the most and a gross abuse of powers by the government of the day.

“It is also a clear attack on the right to free speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The entire proceedings against LC under FCRA are nothing but an attempt to discredit the long-standing credibility of the organisation and that of its trustees, and a part of the larger clampdown on civil society spaces in India,” it said.

The NGO termed it as “preposterous to allege that LC has acted against public interest whereas LC has always strived to advance public interest through its pioneering work. “LC is exploring all legal options to challenge the cancellation order, including its defamatory contents, and will take necessary action in an appropriate time,” the statement said.

Jaising, who served as ASG between 2009 and 2014, has represented social activist Teesta Setalvad in an FCRA violation case against Setalvad’s NGO ‘Sabrang Trust’ and ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’.

Jaising and senior Supreme Court lawyer Anand Grover are the office bearers of the Lawyers’ Collective.

Grover was part of a lawyers’ team to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon hours before he was to be hanged.

The Lawyers Collective (LC) statement said the order repeats what is alleged in the show cause cum suspension order dated May 31 and “disregards LC’s replies in fact and in law. At the same time, certain new allegations have surfaced such as ‘diversion’ of foreign contribution and utilisation for ‘personal gain’, which are not borne out by the facts or the records, are absolutely false and defamatory.

“It is preposterous for the MHA to suggest that LC has no record of work, when the government itself has acknowledged LC’s contributions towards advancing women’s rights, securing access to affordable medicines, protecting the rights of HIV positive people as well as transgender persons and continues to call upon LC for its legal inputs,” the statement said.

The statement said the NGO reiterates that the current proceedings under FCRA, including the latest cancellation order, are only a continuation of the harassment and persecution of the organisation, especially of its two trustees and senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover perpetrated by the government, over last one year.

“Both Jaising and Grover have been and are continuing to take up sensitive cases, in their professional capacity, against the powerful functionaries of the present ruling establishment,” the statement said.

The action is perceived to be a “clear attack on the right to legal representation of persons who need legal services the most and a gross abuse of powers by the government of the day.

“It is also a clear attack on the right to free speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The entire proceedings against LC under FCRA are nothing but an attempt to discredit the long-standing credibility of the organisation and that of its trustees, and a part of the larger clampdown on civil society spaces in India,” it said.

The NGO termed it as “preposterous to allege that LC has acted against public interest whereas LC has always strived to advance public interest through its pioneering work. “LC is exploring all legal options to challenge the cancellation order, including its defamatory contents, and will take necessary action in an appropriate time,” the statement said.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 17:21 IST

SC to hear plea against CBI interim boss Rakesh Asthana’s appointment on Dec 9

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear on December 9 a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of CBI.”Okay. It will come up on Friday,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, mentioned the plea. The petition, filed by the NGO, alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.It has claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee comprising the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the Chief Justice of India, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on December 2.
ALSO READ PIL against government’s decision to appoint Gujarat cadre IPS as interim chief of CBIAsthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as the Additional Director in the agency on December 2 when CBI Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as a Special Secretary.The PIL claimed that the government had “prematurely curtailed” the tenure and transferred Dutta to MHA on November 30 — just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.
ALSO READ Rakesh Asthana to be interim chief of CBI

Delhi HC refuses to hear PIL challenging military service pay for jawans

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday declined to entertain a PIL challenging grant of lesser military service pay (MSP) to personnel below officer rank (PBOR), like jawans and alleged discrimination against them, saying the appropriate forum is the Armed Forces Tribunal.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We are not inclined to entertain the PIL. Dismissed,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal said while noting that “alternative remedy is available under the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT)”.

The order came after the Centre contended before the bench that the appropriate forum was the AFT.

The PIL, by an NGO, had alleged that there was a trend in the defence forces of “sidelining” the PBORs who, according to the petition, comprise 97 percent of the three armed forces.

The NGO Voice of Ex-Serviceman had claimed that all service-related benefits, including monetary, “are hijacked by the officer lobby”.

The petition had opposed the grant of MSP in Seventh Pay Commission to military nursing service (MNS) contending that they are non-combatants.

It had contended that MSP should be paid only to combatants and equally without considering the rank.

As per the petition, under the Seventh Pay Commission while PBORs will get an MSP of Rs 5,200, those in the nursing service and officers would get MSP of Rs 10,800 and Rs 15,500, respectively.

It had contended that despite the jawans facing more hardship, they are given the lowest MSP.

The NGO had also raised the grievance of the PBORs being compulsorily retired before attaining the age of 60 years in the name of keeping the force young.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 15:23 IST

Contention over position of CBI chief: SC to hear plea which claims govt prematurely curtailed tenure of RK Dutta

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear on 9 December a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of CBI.

Supreme Court of India. AFP

Supreme Court of India. AFP

“Okay. It will come up on Friday,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, mentioned the plea.

The petition, filed by the NGO, alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.

It has claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee comprising the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the Chief Justice of India, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on 2 December.

Asthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as the additional director in the agency on 2 December when CBI Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the front-runners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as a special secretary.

The PIL claimed that the government had “prematurely curtailed” the tenure and transferred Dutta to MHA on 30 November — just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 13:44 IST

Indira Jaising’s NGO responds to cancellation of its FCRA license by MHA

In June 2016, the licence of an NGO run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising — Lawyers’ Collective —was suspended by the Narendra Modi government for a period of six months for the alleged violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The NGO was accused of using funds for rallies and dharnas with a political “hue and colour”, a charge denied by the association which termed it as an act of “vindictiveness”.

Six months later, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled the NGO’s FCRA registration permanently, thereby barring the organisation from receiving foreign funds.

File image of Indira Jaising. Twitter/@IJaisingFile image of Indira Jaising. Twitter/@IJaising

File image of Indira Jaising. Twitter/@IJaising

In its order, dated 27 November, the ministry alleged that there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by Lawyers’ Collective in its returns filed with the MHA, reports The Indian Express. The order also stated that Jaising had violated FCRA norms by receiving foreign funds when she was a government servant.

The following is the response by the Lawyers Collective to the cancellation of its FCRA license:

Lawyers Collective has received an order dated 27 November, 2016 cancelling its registration to receive foreign contribution under Section 14, Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, on 29 November, 2016 at its registered office at Mumbai.

The cancellation order is not only mala fide but also incorrect on facts and bad in law. The allegations are basically reiterate what was said in the suspension order dated 31 May, 2016, with no application of mind. It was issued on a Sunday by the undersecretary to the government of India. It is not known who took the decision to cancel the registration. Other organisation in similar circumstances, particularity Greenpeace, have had their registration renewed, whereas our registration has been cancelled and our renewal declined on the basis of unknown “agency and filed reports” indicating clearly that we have been singled out for political reasons by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

LC reiterates that the current proceedings under FCRA, including the latest cancellation order, are only a continuation of the harassment and persecution of the organisation, especially of its two trustees, Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, senior advocates, perpetrated by the government, over last one year. Both Jaising and Grover have been and are continuing to take up sensitive cases, in their professional capacity, against the powerful leaders of the present ruling establishment. This is an attack on the right to legal representation of persons who need legal services the most and a gross abuse of powers by the government of the day. It is also a clear attack on the right of free speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

The entire proceedings against LC under FCRA are nothing but an attempt to discredit the long-standing credibility of the organisation and that of its trustees, and a part of the larger clampdown on civil society spaces in India. LC is exploring all legal options to challenge the cancellation order and will take necessary action in an appropriate time.

LC is proud of its work done in the past on advancing women’s rights, access to medicines and rights of people living with HIV and other marginalised groups, with or without foreign contribution and will continue to do so.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 09:29 IST

Delhi HC seeks MoD’s reply on PIL on private sale of military apparel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expressing concern over private sale of army apparel and gear that have been used by terrorists to strike at military bases, the Delhi High Court today sought the Defence Ministry’s response on what it has done to address the issue. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), saying that “we want to know your response” and listed the matter for hearing on February 3 next year.”Yes, we know it is a serious issue. Otherwise we would not take it up,” the court told the lawyer, appearing for the petitioner NGO, who said the private sale of military apparel and gear was a cause for concern. The Pathankot Air Force base was attacked in January this year by terrorists dressed in Indian Army fatigues, leading to the death of seven security personnel including a Lieutenant Colonel, and a civilian.Last month, terrorists dressed in police uniform had attacked the army’s XVI Corps headquarters at Nagrota in Jammu district, killing seven security personnel including two officers.Advocate K R Chitra, who filed the PIL by NGO Fight for Human Rights, said the court on July 20 this year had asked the ministry to treat the issue raised as a representation and to take a decision within three months. She said that subsequent to the July 20 order, she had again made a representation to the government. However, no response was received and therefore, she has now again moved the court. She contended that the government has not taken any action to stop private sale of military apparel and gear. Chitra has claimed that as per a January 8, 2016 notification issued by the Indian Army, civilians and private shopkeepers have been directed not to wear or sell military apparel and gear. The NGO has sought steps to curb private sale and manufacture of military apparel, like uniforms, shoes, badges and other gear used by the armed forces which were being made by private industries in Ludhiana and Amritsar in Punjab and sold all over the country.One place where such articles are sold is at the Railway Market at Pathankot, the NGO has claimed.The PIL has also sought that MoD be directed to handle with immediate effect the responsibility of manufacturing, stocking and sale of military apparel and gear used by the armed forces, saying private shops do not check to whom they sell such articles.

‘Hearing on curbs on US NGO unlikely to hurt bilateral ties’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The unusual move by a powerful Congressional committee to hold a hearing on restrictions faced by an American NGO in India is unlikely to hold hostage the Indo-US relationship which has seen an upswing over last one decade, sources have said.”Congressional hearing focused on a narrow issue of problems faced by one NGO in India due to noncompliance of rules/regulations will not help resolution of issue. Compassion International needs to ensure due compliance to Indian rules/regulations rather than resort to open hearing route,” an informed Congressional source said here on the condition of anonymity on the eve of the hearing. In its latest blog, Compassion International said in 2011, the Indian government made significant changes to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which is the law that regulates NGOs’ receipt of foreign funds into the country.The Indian Government has denied these allegations and has asserted that its policies initiated in 2011 is not aimed at one particular NGO but is asking them to comply by the rules and regulations of the country.Responding to a question on its impact on India US relationship, sources said it is important to look at the bigger picture of strong bipartisan support enjoyed by India-US relations in US polity and not hold it hostage to one single issue of problem faced by one NGO in India. More than 30,000 NGOs in India are registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) 2010.On violation of FCRA rules, the foreign donor is put under Prior Reference Category, which implies that as and when the foreign donor wants to transfer the money to some recipient association in India, the same needs prior clearance from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), an informed source said.As per available information, until August 2014, Compassion International (CI) was transferring funds to channel partners through two FCRA-registered societies Caruna Bal Vikas (CBV) and Compassion East India (CEI).However, this arrangement was changed after certain taxation issues were raised by IT Department regarding operations of CBV. CI started transferring funds directly to partner organisations and also engaged a consultancy firm Adhane Management Consultants (P) Ltd to oversee its South India operations.On February 19, 2016, CI was placed under Prior Approval Category (PAC) by MHA on the two grounds: First it transferred funds to some associations which are not FCRA-registered and secondly some of the other recipients utilised the funds received for the objectives contrary to the provisions of FCRA 2010. This was done by Compassion International to avoid the tax being levied on their contributions, the source said, adding that the charitable activities of NGOs are exempt from tax whereas religious activities are not.

New Delhi: American national alleges sexual assault by five men in hotel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An American national has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by five men, including a tourist guide, at a 5-star hotel in New Delhi district.The alleged incident is said to have taken place in March this year. The complaint has been forwarded by email after an NGO intervened on Friday. The police is verifying the claims and trying to contact the victim who lives abroad. A case is likely to be registered. ‎

LeT is ‘Pakistan’s best NGO’, Burhan Wani a ‘martyr’: Pervez Musharraf

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A few days before he was killed, Kashmiri terrorist Burhan Wani had reportedly spoken to LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, seeking his blessings and offered to put up a united front against India, according to an audio conversation accessed by CNN-News 18. Hafiz reportedly told Wani: “You people are living in very difficult conditions. But you don’t have to worry. Whatever you need just tell us we are ready for every help. Will be ready for anything. You just have to tell us.”Reacting to the audio conversation, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf claimed that LeT was the ‘best NGO in Pakistan’ and Wani was a martyr. He told News 18: “There is nothing to be surprised that the two are in touch with each other. Hafiz Saeed is an educated man, an engineer. LeT is the best NGO of Pakistan as they did a lot of work during floods.” Musharraf claimed that India had ‘forced’ Burhan Wani to take up arms, and claimed Hafiz Saeed wasn’t a terrorist. He added that if he was President, he would’ve fought Saeed’s case at the United Nations.The former Pak president also claimed that PM Modi was a ‘warmonger’. He told the channel: “PM Modi is a warmonger. The PM can visit Lahore and kiss PM Nawaz as many times as he wants.” As many as 86 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes. J&K police organise counselling session in North KashmirThe Jammu and Kashmir Police organised a counselling session in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district for the youth involved in violent activities, including stone-pelting on security forces, with an aim to find means to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the future.A counselling session was organised today in Dak Bungalow Baramulla for the youth from the town and adjoining areas who have been involved in violent activities for the past some months, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir said. “The session was aimed to build an understanding to find ways and means to prevent recurrence of violent incidents in the future which does no good to anybody but creates chaos and anarchy only,” he said.Mir said many parents and other prominent people of the area also joined the session. The officer said the youth were given a patient hearing and their point of view was heard. “Most of the boys were of the opinion that getting involved in stone pelting was a bad decision on their part and it inflicts irreplaceable damage to the social fabric and increases sufferings of the people,” he said. Mir urged the youth to concentrate on their careers and work hard to make up the loss they suffered in their education for the past over four months. “The youth were advised not to fall prey to propaganda of the people with vested interests who exploit them for their personal gains. Instead, they should channelise their energy in constructive and positive pursuits to contribute in larger social good,” he said. Prominent citizens of the town, who spoke on the occasion, appreciated the initiative by the police and were of the opinion that “exploitation” of youth needs to be stopped, Mir claimed. The SSP said they also suggested to organise such sessions in the future so that “stone pelting is brought to a permanent halt” to save the lives and careers of youth and mitigate the sufferings of the common people.With inputs from PTI

NGO takes national heritage to schools through digital lessons

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A few weeks ahead of the annual function, out come the violins, harmoniums, and tablas, which otherwise gather dust in schools’ music rooms, for this is one time in the year that students get a shot of the “Indian culture”. Delhi-based NGO Routes 2 Roots, however, is working towards plugging that gap through its programme Virsa, which is taking the Indian art and culture to students as far as the Tanga Valley.Virsa, meaning heritage in Punjabi, was conceptualised as a window to classical music-dance forms, and theatre for young students, who have been fed on a steady stream of pop numbers belted out by Honey Singhs and Lady Ga-Gas. With legendary names such as Birju Maharaj, Shovna Narayan, Dr L Subramaniam, and Kavita Krishnamurthy on its advisory panel, the NGO has set up a studio in RK Puram, from where lessons on Bharatnatyam, Kathak, violin and acting are streamed live to schools across the country.”During several exchange programmes in schools across India, we encountered the sad reality of how little this generation knows about our rich cultural reservoir. Their knowledge is limited to the tidbits they learn during annual school performances. We want them to be aware of the riches they have through Virsa,” said Tina Vachani, Co-founder, Routes 2 Roots.The NGO has collaborated with more than 80 schools, which receive the lessons through interactive sessions two hours a day, five days a week. Disciples handpicked by the likes of Maharaj and artists from the Delhi School of Music, Kathak Kendra, and Kala Hetu give lessons on dance, hindustani and carnatic vocals, instruments and so on.”Digital classes spell greater reach and are an ideal way to capture the imagination and attention of a generation that is hooked on to i-pads and mobile phones. We have installed LED screens in schools free of cost and are also paying for the Internet services,” Vachani said, adding that the students in the remote areas have shown “tremendous interest” in the programme.”Contrary to our apprehension that schools in the north east won’t be very forthcoming, we were surprised how keen the students were to learn Bharatnatyam and Hindustani music and dance forms. They are very proud of their Indian roots,” said a visibly pleased Vachani.

Ready to cooperate in any investigation, says Zakir Naik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that he has repeatedly offered his cooperation to Central agencies in their investigations, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) chief Zakir Naik has justified his decision to steer clear of India saying that he was an NRI and that his work kept him away mostly.”I’ve repeatedly offered my cooperation to governmental agencies in their investigations. Till a few days ago, no agency bothered to contact me, ask me questions, send me any notice or even lodge an FIR against me. Till date there’s been no contact and the only FIR lodged against me was done after the ban,” said Naik speaking about the current controversy over his NGO which has been banned by the Indian government.Rubbishing reports of him being granted Malaysian citizenship, the Islamic preacher said he has neither been banned in Malaysia nor does he have its citizenship.”The Indian media has repeated hundreds of times in the last four months that I was banned in Malaysia. Now it takes a somersault and says that I have been given the citizenship of Malaysia. How can a person, who is banned in a country, be given a passport of that country? Both these reports are absolutely false without any proof. I’m neither banned in Malaysia nor do I have its citizenship,” he said.Naik also dubbed the ban on his NGO as ‘unfortunate’ and alleged that this move of the ‘anti-Muslim’ BJP-led NDA Government is politically motivated.Naik said that the ban would be challenged as soon as possible, adding that his legal team in Delhi and Mumbai are considering all options possible.Responding to a poser as to why he blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for the ban and not British Prime Minister Theresa May, Naik said, “I am not banned in the U.K., I have been ‘excluded’, which means I cannot enter UK. A ban would have meant banning my speeches on television, my NGO as well as my books, audio and video CDs. None of that has happened. My organization and my published materials are very much in circulation in UK and doing some commendable work in spreading the message of peace in Islam.”

‘Anti-Muslim’ Modi govt banning IRF is politically motivated: Zakir Naik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) chief Zakir Naik has dubbed the ban on his non-governmental organisation (NGO) as ‘unfortunate’ and alleged that this move of the ‘anti-Muslim’ BJP-led NDA Government is politically motivated. Naik said that the ban would be challenged as soon as possible, adding that his legal team in Delhi and Mumbai are considering all options possible.Responding to a poser as to why he blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for the ban and not British Prime Minister Theresa May, Naik said, “I am not banned in the UK. I have been ‘excluded’, which means I cannot enter UK. A ban would have meant banning my speeches on television, my NGO as well as my books, audio and video CDs. None of that has happened. My organization and my published materials are very much in circulation in UK and doing some commendable work in spreading the message of peace in Islam.”Naik, however, maintained that even the exclusion in the United Kingdom was politically motivated as when the Labour Party was in power the head of Counter Terrorism had sent a senior officer to request him to help them to reach those Muslims whom they felt were misguided.”In fact, for my work spanning over two decades and even after being excluded from UK. in 2010 I have been awarded some of the highest civilian awards by several countries like Malaysia, Dubai, Sharjah and Gambia including the King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam by King Salman of Saudi Arabia which is the most prestigious award of the Islamic World similar to the Nobel Prize for Peace. My talks continue to attract lakhs of people from all communities,” he added.Expressing grief, Naik said that he has been banned in his homeland India despite attracting hundreds of thousands of audience for several years.”Imagine I was invited twice in the last few years before the Modi government came to power to the National Police Academy in Hyderabad which is the most prestigious training institute for Indian Police to address the IPS officers. Most of the officers I addressed may yet be in service. Do you mean to say that this prestigious institution invited a person who promotes terrorism to address the IPS officers’ This ban is truly unfortunate and undoubtedly politically motivated,” he added.Expressing confidence, Naik said he is positive that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would after a thorough research realise that he is far away from promoting terrorism.”In UK. where the Counter Terrorism head disagreed with the exclusion but had to give in to the then Home Secretary… here in India too, I am positive that the officers in NIA and other departments after doing thorough research for more than four months may have surely realized that I am far away from promoting terrorism have no choice but to give in to the political pressures,” he said. “More unfortunately, it is also indicative of the grim state of affairs existing in my beloved homeland since the Modi government took over two-and-a-half years ago,” he added.Escalating his attack on the Centre, Naik stated that one needs to look at these allegations from a political viewpoint, adding it all began when the Modi government took charge. “Most of my statements quoted for banning me have been made by me 8 to 18 years ago. One needs to look at these allegations from a political viewpoint. These allegations started when the current Modi government took over and that says a lot of things,” he added.Responding to a poser whether the BJP-led NDA government is anti-Muslim, Naik said the last decade and a half has several evidences of the Prime Minister’s anti-Muslim behaviour and actions, adding the most recent one is the banning of IRF while the likes of Rajeshwar Singh, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi flourished under him.”I don’t think. I know it is anti-Muslim. But why ask me? Ask the hundreds of millions of Indians who will tell you that Modi is anti-Muslim and that makes him a danger to the Indian democracy,” he asserted.

Skeletons of newborns at Kolkata NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kolkata CID has recovered skeletons and bones of infants from the compound of an NGO, in yet another instance of newborn trafficking, on Friday morning. CID officials raided the Sujit Dutta Memorial Welfare Trust, an NGO in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, which facilitated the selling of newborns. They were led to the NGO by the prime accused in the trafficking case, Utpala Byapari.Officials dug the NGO’s compound and found skeletons and bones of infants. CID sources said that the NGO used to sell the newborn babies to childless couples and would bury stillborn babies on the compound premises itself.“So far, we have found bones and skeletons from this particular compound,” said an official.

‘This is zero material, only insinuation’: SC refuses to go into plea seeking SIT probe on 2013-14 raids

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday refused to go into a plea seeking probe by an SIT into alleged recovery of documents by the IT department in connection with raids on two business houses here in 2013-14 which purportedly showed computerised inventories containing designations of top people having received money.”You take this back. You come when you have some better material. This is zero material. It is only an insinuation,” a bench comprising Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra said. As the bench was not inclined to order any investigation, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the allegations are “scandalous, malafide” and NGO Common Cause, which has filed the plea, was indulging in “kite flying”. The bench said it can only hear the matter if the NGO can come out with “better material” on December 14.”We can’t order investigation only because you name a big person,” it said. “Give us some better material, good material. What is this material? Just because it is a computer entry would you rope in the entire world. We are very clear if the suspicion arouses the conscience of any person, it is a good material. “So far as this material is concerned, it does not arouse suspicion. We are not satisfied at all. These are high public functionaries. If you are bringing this material before us, it is nothing. It is a serious issue. You must give us something on which we can determine,” the bench said. The court did not accept the arguments of senior advocates Shanti Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani that the investigation can be ordered based on the material provided by the NGO.”All these are non-genuine documents. They are all fictitious documents. You are relying on that. We already had held it was all fictitious. Give us something authentic,” the bench said, referring to the material about one of the business groups. When Bhushan referred to another business group, the bench said anyone, anywhere today can make entry of a hundred persons.”There are thousands of unscrupulous persons in the country and can be making entries. Presuming we accept what you say then see how far-reaching impact it can have. We are not shying away from taking any action, but on which material we can order investigation,” the apex court said. “There should be some good material, there should be some supporting material and for investigation, there should be some prima facie material. At present, there is nothing. We can’t order investigation. You can’t have investigation only because you name a big person,” it said.

West Bengal: 13th arrest made in connection with newborn trafficking racket uncovered in state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two days after officials of West Bengal’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) busted a newborn trafficking racket, investigations reveal that it is one of the biggest rackets existing in the eastern India.On Thursday, CID officials made the 13th arrest in connection with the trafficking of the newborns. Police arrested Partha Chatterjee, owner of Shri Krishna Nursing Home. Chatterjee had been running the nursing home for a decade and was involved in the racket for the past three years. This apart, the police have arrested a number of heads of the NGO involved in the racket. “We have arrested as many as 13 people in connection with the racket. All have been arrested under section 369 (kidnapping or abducting child under 10 years with intent to steal from its person), 370 (trafficking) 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC and 34 of CrPc,” said Deputy Inspector General (CID), Bharat Lal Meena.The racket was prevalent in nursing homes in the state capital, Kolkata. Agents would liaison with NGOs and the nursing home staff. The nursing home staff and doctors would declare an infant as ‘dead’ and issue a birth certificate to the parents of the newborn without handing over the dead body.Later, the newborn would be sold off to childless couples through the NGO. While newborn girls with a dark complexion would be sold for Rs 1 lakh and fair babies for Rs1.5 lakh, newborn boys with a dark complexion would be sold for Rs 2 lakh and fair ones for higher than Rs 2 lakh. The racket had been existing for the past three years and involved a dozen of nursing homes in Kolkata.The racket sold newborns not just across the country in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but also spread its arms across the United States and the United Kingdom. “Several NGOs would get in touch with the agents here. Agents, in turn, would get in touch with the nursing home staff and pay them a huge commission. Dozens of nursing homes across Kolkata are involved in the racket. The newborns have been sold in Delhi and Mumbai. Sources are telling us that some have been sold in the UK and USA too,” said a senior official of CID.The network was uncovered on Tuesday when CID officials raided a nursing home at Baduria in North 24 Parganas. Acting on a tip-off, the raid led them to this racket. The police recovered two newborns, wrapped in cotton sheets and placed in a biscuit carton, ready to be handed over to a childless couple.“While the racket began with the targeting of unmarried mothers, who were paid huge amounts of cash, they later moved on to cheating parents of the newborn. We suspect more NGOs and nursing homes are involved in the racket,” added Meena.

Hyderabad: 12 minors escape from juvenile home

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Twelve minors escaped from a juvenile home at Nagole in Hyderabad after allegedly pushing a watchman and injuring him, police said on Thursday.The incident occurred at around midnight on Wednesday when the inmates, aged between 15 and 17, managed to break the main door (grill) lock of the juvenile home run by an NGO.When the watchman tried to stop them, they pushed him aside and ran away, L B Nagar Police Inspector P Kasi Reddy said. “The watchman, who is an old man, suffered minor injuries during the incident,” Reddy said.Following a complaint, a case under IPC sections 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to his lawful apprehension) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) was registered, police said. Further probe is on into the incident.

Zakir Naik’s websites blocked, NIA hopes to suspend social media accounts

Just after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided multiple locations linked to the controversial preacher and televangelist, Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation on Sunday, authorities have also blocked Naik’s websites which were used for publishing controversial speeches and statements.

The IRF shot into the limelight following allegations that Naik’s teachings and speeches had inspired terror strikes, including the terror siege on a Dhaka café in July this year that left over 20 people, mostly foreigners including an Indian woman, dead. Over the past four months, Naik and the IRF are under the scanner of Indian agencies for the alleged misdeeds, spreading or promoting communal disharmony, inciting feelings of enmity between communities and inspiring or supporting terror acts.

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. Image courtesy: CNN-News18Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

According to The Times of India, the NIA will also summon Naik and work towards getting an Interpol “red corner notice” if he continues to elude law enforcement agencies. According to the report, the NIA could also issue a non-bailable warrant against Naik. A red corner notice is usually issued by Interpol to seek the location and arrest of wanted persons — the closest tool to an international arrest warrant. If such a notice is issued, Saudi Arabia (where Naik is allegedly located) will have to hand over Naik to Indian authorities.

The raids continued for nearly 12 hours. DNA reported that electronic evidence — laptops, mobile phones were seized during searches at 12 locations in Mumbai. The Economic Times reported that the NIA seized Rs 12 lakh in cash from Naik’s Mumbai properties. In the evening, the teams searched the residences of IRF and Peace TV office bearers, comprising Naik’s immediately family members and others holding various posts in his NGO and private television channel.

An IRF account in the Development Credit Bank Ltd’s Dongri Branch has also been sealed by the NIA from where the NGO pays salaries of its school staffers and manages other expenses. “CDs and computer data from all IRF offices are being scrutinised. Telephonic and email conversations will be checked. Telecom experts have also been roped in,” an NIA official is quoted as saying in DNA.

Teams of the NIA investigators, accompanied by Mumbai Police, started the raids at around eight locations owned or connected with the IRF and Peace TV, including its headquarters in the congested Dongri area of South Mumbai. Besides the head office of IRF and four other branches, an old office, a women’s centre, and an office preparing content for telecast on Naik’s Peace TV programmes were raided.

Taking over the case from Mumbai Police in mid-October, the NIA raids and search operations were completed around 5 pm. The teams moved to residence searches of Naik’s medico brother Mohammed and their mother, two sisters and others. During the NIA raids, no IRF and Peace TV staffers were permitted inside any of the premises. Peace TV was banned by Bangladesh following the terror strike.

Naik’s social media 

According to The Economic Times, it is proving to be difficult for the NIA to get Naik’s social media presence muted. Authorities might get help from US authorities in getting Naik’s Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube videos which contain “objectionable” content suspended.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 10:41 IST

Zakir Naik saga: IRF ban marks end of an eventful story for Dongri preacher

Not many people outside the Muslim community knew Zakir Naik before he came under the scanner of security agencies and the media in the wake of the 1 July attacks in Dhaka. It may be recalled that on that day, terrorists killed 22 civilians and two police officers before five of them were killed. Immediately after the attack, a report appeared in one of the Bangladesh dailies that some off the terrorists, who participated in the attack, were inspired by Naik’s preaching. The paper later backtracked from its statement, but the controversy it triggered did not die down.

This created waves in India.

The media took this case up in a major way. Naik began appearing in national headlines almost on a daily basis and mostly for the wrong reasons. Even religious leaders from the Muslim community stood up against Naik and asked their members to refrain from listening to his speeches, saying his talks encourage violence and hostility towards non-Muslims. Some supported him too. The media frenzy continued and has not died down since then. Fearing arrest, Naik refused to return to India even when his father passed away recently.

On Tuesday, when the Narendra Modi government banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, Naik’s eventful story of the past two decades seemingly came to an end.

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

How did it all begin?

The son of a physician and educationalist, Abdul Karim Naik, Zakir Naik too is a qualified medical practitioner, who never really practiced medicine.

Instead, his interest was in religious preaching from the very beginning. Naik called himself a student and an expert of ‘comparative religion’ but most of his speeches advocated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik loved to play with words by selectively picking and interpreting religious scriptures to establish how Islam is one true religion and the remaining set of beliefs aren’t pure.

During his several speeches in India and abroad, he justified war against Islam’s enemies and in one instance, even ‘suicide bombing’, saying if there is a need to defend the religion from its enemies, there is no harm in self-sacrifice. The preacher also used his television channel, Peace TV to air his speeches. Naik exhorted that Muslims love their country more than anyone and will follow the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t come in the way of the law of creator. Thus, he put the idea of religion above the idea of patriotism and constitutional responsibility of every citizen to his country.

A closer look at previous speeches by the 51-year old showed certain dangers to the religious harmony of the country.

Naik’s illogical arguments about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but convincing enough to those who believe in Islam’s supremacy. In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vante Mataram”, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.

In another, Naik endorsed Osama Bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued why Taliban and Bin Laden were not necessarily damaging the Islam. In one his videos, Naik says:

If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama Bin Laden. If he is terrorising the terrorist I’m with him. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations is also wrong. I’m with those people who are holding the Quran. Even the full world is against them, I’m with them (sic)”

In short, Naik has been clever in his speeches not to get trapped by investigators by playing with words. But, ultimately, he couldn’t convince the investigators as evidenced by the Modi government’s action.

To be sure, Naik has been preaching for more than two decades. The content of his speeches has been pretty much the same all along. But, there was no investigation against him till recently. As Firstpost has noted before, during UPA rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the Ministry of Home Affairs from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted to the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate action against the Islamic preacher.

The deeper problems

But, it weren’t just his speeches that got Naik into trouble. The alleged links between his organisation IRF and terrorist activities in the country intensified the scrutiny of investigators on Naik and his organisation’s activities. Naik’s name was linked to cases in Kerala in which youths have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State. The Kerala Police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has links with the Islamic State. This raised questions on the way Naik’s NGO has been using funds, especially money coming from abroad in the form of donations. Early this months, the government banned foreign funding for Naik’s organisations. Naik has so far refused to return to the country and has addressed the media only through web conferences and television interviews.

It is unlikely that he’ll return to the country in the near future since that could lead to his immediate arrest.

The story, however, isn’t quite over yet. Banning Naik’s IRF will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years. There is a need to keep continuous vigil. Following the government’s five-year ban, reports suggests that Naik’s lawyers will seek legal recourse against the government’s decision. But, this won’t be easy since government action against the NGO is under the under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be.

But, the government’s action puts an end to the Naik episode, for now at least.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 14:02 IST

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes ban: PM Modi did an outstanding job, Anil Bokil tells Firstpost

Most reports that followed post Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s dramatic announcement on Tuesday evening clamping down on the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes had one thing in common — the role of Anil Bokil and his NGO Arthakranti Pratisthan.

Anil Bokil. Image from FacebookAnil Bokil. Image from Facebook

Anil Bokil. Image from Facebook

The Maharashtra-based organisation claims that it gave a presentation to the Modi cabinet on August 2014 how to remove black money from the system. The cabinet was all ears and reportedly sought more material to convince itself of the positive impact that such a move might create. Following this, one of the core members from Bokil’s NGO on the condition of anonymity, claimed that a senior official from the Prime Minister’s Office was constantly in touch with the office bearers of Arthakranti Pratisthan after the NGO made its presentation to top BJP ministers at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi at the behest of the PM.

No sooner had the move was taken to junk the biggest Indian currency notes, the organisation has been claiming that it was, in fact, their idea which was submitted to the Prime Minister even before he became the country’s premier. Bokil, who is trained as an engineer and as a chartered accountant in an exclusive interview to Firstpost, spoke about his meeting with Modi, the many theories that are popping up on how long he actually met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his thoughts what ails the Indian economy and how the country needs to get over the financial trauma.

When did you first meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

I first met PM Narendra Modi in December 2013 when he was serving as the chief minister of Gujarat along with my team from Arthakranti Pratishtan. After that, we regularly met top BJP leaders including LK Advani. Two years after Modi formed the government at the Centre, I and my team met him again in July 2016. We gave a presentation on how black money could be wiped out from the country to the Union cabinet ministers in August 2014 soon after Modi became the PM.

Actually, since 2000, we have been regularly meeting BJP top leaders like Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Manohar Parrikar among others.

Modi in our first meeting listened to us for around 90 minutes. He had assured us that he will definitely consider our suggestion and now after three years when we first met him, the Prime Minister practically took the initiative to erase black money from the system.

How do you react to the PM’s move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes?

I could only say that it’s a great decision and a great gesture. I personally congratulate Prime Minister Modi for taking this decision fast. All Indians know that our PM is a daring man. It’s a historical decision as it will free the Indian economy from black money. Out of the total currency in circulation, 80 percent notes were of the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Fake currencies are being pumped into India from the neighbouring countries quite easily. It only costs Rs 3 to make a Rs 1,000 fake currency note. That means with an investment of just Rs 3, the neighbouring nations actually put Rs 997 fake cash into our system.

We last met the Prime Minister in July 2016. But the sudden decision was even shocking for us. We also proposed withdrawal of the existing taxation system and replacing it with a single-point transaction tax.

PM Modi took up the challenge and this would strengthen our economy. I am the happiest man in the country today.

Post the currency ban what should be the next step of the government?

To suddenly scrap high-value denomination notes is 50 percent of the job done. But the remaining 50 percent to wipe out all the 56 taxes from the country is going to be a very tough decision. All 130 crore Indians should rally behind PM Modi to get these taxes removed. Eighty percent of the country’s transaction is done by cash and only 20 percent are done through cheques, demand draft and online. So nobody knows about the extent of actual money in our country. Besides that, most of the terror groups, unsocial elements use cash transfer from hawala or fake notes. Whenever we physically exchange the cash, we usually don’t record the cash transaction . So from now on people will be more drawn towards e-payments, cheque, DD etc.

The country’s taxation policy also speaks little about cash transaction. Apart from the terror links that black money is normally associated with, this menace has encouraged corruption and has also increased the rate of unemployment and staggered the growth of the country.

Have you met leaders from other political outfits apart from the BJP?

In 2005, we met Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu for the first time. (Prabhu has now joined the BJP). He was very much impressed by our proposal. He also suggested some important points and when he became a minister in the Modi cabinet. Both Prabhu and Gadkari have encouraged us a lot as I am from Maharashtra. Both the leaders have been helping me and my NGO Arthkranti Pratishtan a lot.

We have also met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and many other Congress leaders as well. Rahul listened carefully to me and my team and then advised us to meet the Congress Core Group ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2014.

We have met all leaders from all major parties on the issue of freeing India of black money. But without a hint the PM did an outstanding job. He showed courage. It’s not a small thing to take such a historic decision. This decision is no less than a major surgery done on a patient.

Did Rahul Gandhi give you enough time?

I really don’t want to indulge in a blame game that Rahul Gandhi gave us less time whereas Modi gave us time more than 10 times than it was actually allotted for us.

How strong is Arthkranti Pratishtan?

There are primary 10 to 15 members of Arthkranti Pratishtan when it was launched in 2000. Now there are lakhs of accountants, engineered and other highly qualified youths who have joined us.

Telangana: Family members raped twin girls with mother’s connivance, taken into custody

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The twin sister rape case in Mailardevpally area took a sordid turn with the investigation revealing that the 8-year-olds were allegedly sexually abused over last few years by different persons, including their elder brother with connivance of their mother. So far, police have arrested mother of the victims, one Jaffar, an auto driver and a factory owner. Jaffar’s 16-year-old son has already been taken into custody.”Investigations done in this case so far revealed that the family had stayed near Budwel railway station here around 5 years back. From there they shifted to Katedan about 2 years back. All through this, the victims’ mother was maintaining intimacy with different adults,” police said.When they were staying in Katedan, the mother of the girls used to send them to sleep in an air conditioned room of one supervisor who “misbehaved badly” with both the girls on many occasions, Mailardevpally police stated in a release on Sunday.According to police, despite the girls refusing to go there, their mother insisted them to sleep in the supervisor’s room only. While staying in Budwel earlier, both the girls were “badly misbehaved” with by three other persons, when they had just started pre-schooling. Police are trying to identify the trio.According to police, one Pradeep Aggarwal, a factory owner, who was maintaining a close relationship with the mother, had “molested” the girls. He was arrested on Sunday, police said. Police, who have already arrested Jaffar and took his 16-year-old son into custody on Saturday, stated that the father-son duo had continuously (sexually) assaulted the twin girls over last 15 to 20 days. “Not only this, Jaffar also got one more auto driver named Shafi who also (sexually) assaulted the kids. All this was happening with the active connivance of the victims’ mother,” police said, adding that both Shafi and the woman were arrested on Saturday.”Further, the elder brother (of the sisters) and one of his friends also started exploiting them very recently as he seems to have witnessed some of the happenings in the house,” police said.The incident came to light after the sisters revealed their ordeal to a senior family member, who approached a city-based NGO working for child rights which in turn lodged a police complaint recently. Following the complaint, a case was registered on charges of rape and trafficking of persons under relevant sections of IPC and other provisions of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, police had said. The NGO had said that the victims hailed from Nepal but have settled in Hyderabad.

Jain girl’s death after fast: No murder charges against parents, only culpable homicide, say police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hyderabad police, probing the case of the death of a 13-year-old girl who died after a 68-day fast, on Sunday said the incident did not attract murder charge as there was no “intention” or “wilful act” on the part of her parents or the community members.Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Lokayukta had called for a report from police regarding the death of the girl following a complaint filed by the child rights NGO Balala Hakkula Sangham.NGO president Anuradha Rao had alleged that the girl’s parents and family members made her undertake the fast for 68 days which led to her death on October 3.On October 9, police registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the parents and other relatives of the girl, a class 8 student.But the NGO had sought the case filed under section 302 of IPC (murder) against the accused.In a report to Lokayukta, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Zone) said, “…neither there is an intention nor wilful act on part of the parents of the child and community members. The act of the child is nothing but a ritual in their community”.Considering these facts, police registered a case under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide) and under Juvenile Justice Act, but it does not attract murder charge, the report said.The probe was on, therefore the petition by NGO may be dismissed, the police said, adding that no arrests had been made yet.The death of the girl due to the fast had caused outrage and triggered a debate across the country about such rituals.As per the police’s preliminary probe, her fast of 68 days ended on October 1, and she was on liquid diet thereafter. On October 3, she suddenly fell ill, and was declared ‘brought dead’ at the hospital.

Hyderabad girl’s death: Jain Samaj president blasts media for twisting facts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expressing grief over the death of a 13-year-old girl in Hyderabad last week after fasting for 68 days during the holy period of ‘Chaumasa’, Jain Samaj president Ashok Kumar Sanklecha on Monday said that she might have died due to some complications, adding that it would not be appropriate to hold the religion responsible for the same.”If someone is no more then it’s definitely sad news. But the manner in which it has been circulated in the media that her death was a conspiracy and a result of blindly following the Jain religion then I must tell you all that the Jain religion is a scientific religion, every step taken by us is scientific,” Sanklecha told the media.”We will prove this in a press conference tomorrow. We don’t force anyone to sit on a fast,” he added.Aradhana, a class 8 student, was admitted to the hospital two days after completing her fast where she died of cardiac arrest. However, certain reports claim that the girl was brought dead.Questions are being raised why the girl’s family allowed her to give up school and sit on a fast. The incident prompted city police to launch an inquiry into the incident after a child rights NGO sought a probe.

Jain teen girl’s 68-day fast death case: Culpable homicide charge brought against parents

Hyderabad: The parents and other family members of a 13-year-old girl, who died after undertaking a 68-day fast as part of a community ritual, have been booked on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for causing her death, police said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Based on a complaint lodged by a local child rights NGO ‘Balala Hakkula Sangham’ (Child Rights Association) with Market police station, the case was registered under section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC and section 75 of JJ (Juvenile Justice) Act,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Zone) P Y Giri told PTI.

In the complaint, the NGO has alleged that the girl’s parents and her other family members made her undertake the fast for 68 days as part of the jain ritual, Inspector M Mattaiah said.

He said that in view of the complainant accusing the girl’s parents and other family members, the case has been registered against them.

“That is the allegation…we have to verify. Based on investigation, it (details) will come out,” the officer added.

He said the girl’s parents, who reside at Pot Bazar of Secunderabad, have already been questioned over her death.

President of the NGO, Anuradha Rao, in her letter to Hyderabad Police Commissioner on Saturday last, had alleged that the minor had died under “suspicious circumstances” on 3 October.

Police had earlier said, “The girl was on a fast for 68 days. It was over on 1 October. She was on a liquid diet for the first two days (after the fast) and on the night of 3 October, she suddenly fell ill and her family members shifted her to a hospital where doctors declared her brought dead.”

The girl was a student of class VIII in a private school.

Political parties can’t use govt funds for advertisement: EC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The EC on Friday directed that no political party would be allowed to use public funds and government machinery to carry out activities that amount to advertisement for it, a move which comes amid allegations that BSP put up statues of elephants, its election symbol, in public places when it was in power in Uttar Pradesh. The Election Commission issued the orders following a judgement of the Delhi High Court which had in July remanded back to the poll panel a plea seeking cancellation of Bahujan Samaj Party symbol ‘elephant’ for alleged misuse of public funds by the erstwhile Mayawati government in installing its statues across the state.”… The Commission has directed that no political party shall henceforth either use or allow the use of any public funds or public place or government machinery for carrying out any activity that would amount to advertisement for the party or propagating the election symbol allotted to the party. It is clarified that any violation of the… directions would be treated as violation of a lawful direction of the Commission,” the EC said.The order of the Delhi High Court had come on the plea of an NGO which had claimed that putting up elephant statues in public places “disturbs the level-playing field” in an electoral contest as it stands on the same footing like the display of a photograph inside an office. The EC had sought views of political parties on the issue. Most of the parties which responded had supported the idea.

Mumbai: NGO steps forward to help young Govinda’s family afford medical treatment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>12-year-old Sujal Gadapkar has paid a big price for being a part of a six-tier human pyramid near his home in Ulhasnagar. The minor who is still recovering from his head injuries he got over a month ago after he fell from the pyramid is now being helped by Hirali Foundation, a local NGO which has stepped forward to help the family raise funds to pay for his medical expenses.Being a minor, Sujal was never supposed to be a part of a human pyramid, let alone of one which was almost 30-feet high, in direct violation of the Supreme Court’s order on heights of human pyramids. The Court had ruled that no human pyramid would be higher than 20-feet and no minor would be allowed to participate as one of the ‘Govindas’.After spending over 20 days in the ICU at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, he is now recovering slowly. While the initial hospital bills were being taken care of by the local Shiv Sena members, the family was still struggling to afford the postoperative care. Making matters worse, Sujal’s father lost his job as a welder since he was irregular at work. The Ulhasnagar based foundation has come to family’s rescue.The founder, Sarita Khanchandani says that instead of giving the family cash they want to give them items that they would need.Speaking about the family’s condition, Khanchandani said, “Due to low income and keeping in mind the tests the child still needs to undergo we are helping his family by supplying basic food stocks and medicines. We will also support his education.”Since Sujal is yet to recover completely, he has not been attending school. The NGO is looking for sponsors willing to help the family as well.”My team and I will be visiting their house every two days to fill up the food materials which they require,” added Khanchandani.Speaking about the family’s financial condition, Umesh Gadapkar, Sujal’s father, said, “Over Rs 5 lakh was paid by a political party as our hospital bills. Since I was in the hospital for more than 20 days along with my son, I lost my job. I am the only earning member of my family. My son is recovering and his treatment is still on.””He has some trouble with walking which will get better with time. There is no long term damage to him. He is fine,” said Dr Dr Ashok Borisa, laparoscopic surgeon at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan who treated Sujal.The two mandals – Radhesham Nagar Govinda and Shiv Tej Mandal have been booked for culpable homicide as they violated the Supreme Court order that restricted participation of minors in making the human pyramid during Dahi Handi.”Case is on and the investigations are being carried out,” said Sunil Bhardwaj, deputy commissioner, Zone IV, Thane police.

Bengaluru’s first female cab driver Bharathi Veerath found dead

A female cab driver was on Monday found dead under suspicious circumstances at her rented house in Bengaluru.According to a news18.com report, Bharathi Veerath​ ​(40) was found hanging in her third floor house in Nagashetty Halli​.The incident came to light when the landlord found the cab abandoned and went to check on her.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharathi, a native of Andhra Pradesh was living in Bengaluru for the past 10 years and was said to be the first female cab driver in the city. She had worked with an NGO before taking up driving as a profession.The deceased was living alone and reportedly wanted to shift back to her hometown. She had also informed her landlord about shifting her gas connection to Andhra Pradesh,” police officials said.While a case of suicide is suspected, no note was left behind by the victim.

Woman arrested for running prostitution racket in Andheri flat

The Versova Police on Sunday arrested a 23-year old woman for running a prostitution racket from a rented Mhada flat in Andheri (West), reported DNA.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

According to The Times of India, the arrest was made after a raid was conducted by a police team with the help of Indian Rescue Mission, an NGO that provided the preliminary information.

“In an apartment located near Lokhandwala Circle, the pimp, a lady, owned a production house named VR Entertainment Event and Production. The firm used to lure aspiring models and actors to come and get a break in Bollywood. The victims were later asked to work as a commercial sex worker (CSW), after which half of the money earned was taken by the pimp herself,” DNA quoted president of the NGO James Varghese as saying.

Acting on a tip-off, Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deven Bharti formed a team — comprising the deputy commissioner of police (Zone IX) Satyanarayan Choudhary, Versova Police senior inspector Kiran Kale and inspector DS Patil — that raided the place after laying a trap and arrested Vaishnav, who claimed herself as the manager of the production house.

According to The Times of India, two officers posing as customers were sent to the flat and Rs 20,000 cash was paid for two women. The place was raided after the duo alerted the team that was waiting outside.

The police learnt through the society that Vaishnav had rented the flat from one Taj Mohammed.

Vaishnav has been booked under Section 370 Indian Penal Code (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and under Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA).

Mumbai: One held, two rescued in high profile sex racket

A high profile sex racket came to light on Sunday after the Versova police raided an apartment in Andheri. The raid was conducted by a police team with the help of an NGO, Indian Rescue Mission, that gave the preliminary information about the illegal happenings.Talking about the incident, president of the NGO James Varghese said: “In an apartment located near Lokhandwala Circle, the pimp, a lady, owned a production house named VR Entertainment Event and Production. The firm used to lure aspiring models and actors to come and get a break in Bollywood. The victims were later asked to work as a Commercial Sex Worker (CSW) after which half of the money earned was taken by the pimp herself.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After confirming the news that two models were kept over there, Varghese contacted Joint Commissioner of Police (L&O) Deven Bharti who instructed the police team to probe the matter and rescue the victims. On Saturday around 10:30 PM, the police team raided the spot with the NGO and rescued the models. The team also arrested the pimp who was dealing with the customers.”We have booked the accused lady under the relevant sections of PITA (Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. We are probing the case and also trying to check whether the sex rackets has any connection to the film industry. We are also checking for how long the sex racket was prevailing in the locality and how many persons are involved behind this.” said senior police inspector of Versova police Kiran Kale.

Mumbai: NBTC asked to create registry for Bombay blood group donors

In order to help Bombay Blood group patients, a rare blood group, Mumbai-based NGO has asked National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) to create a registry of blood donors with this rare blood type. The NGO said that this will help them gather data under one roof and become easy to provide blood to the needy patients.In the last 13 years, Think Foundation had played a major role in co-ordination between the Bombay Blood group donors and recipients from various parts of the country. The NGO had even sent the blood to patients abroad. This NGO also maintain a registry of the rarest blood group donor, provide blood it to the patients and organises blood donation camp across the state.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Every month, the NGO gets 5-6 requests from different parts of the state for this blood type. They have also sent the blood to Bangladesh on couple of occasions. This is an extremely rare ABO group and it gets its name from the fact that it was first discovered amongst residents of Bombay (Mumbai).The blood group is also found among East Indians, Caucasians, Japanese. In Mumbai, 200 people with this blood group have registered as donors with the foundation. Out of the list only 50-60 people are active blood donors while the rest of them have their own reasons for not donating the blood.”This indeed is a serious issue. On the state level, we are also planning to create a registry of Bombay Blood group people. Sometime we start searching for people when we get a request. Thus, it’s better to have a registry. We have taken this subject on the board,” said Dr Girish Chowdhary, assistant director, State Blood Transfusion Council.Recently, the NGO got a request from Dhaka, where a 25-year-old man met with a road accident. For his life-saving surgery doctors four units of Bombay blood group, which was provided by the NGO.”I have given the proposal to the NBTC which stated that to create one dedicated registry for the Bombay Blood group, data will be gathered under the one roof. The NBTC can ask the blood bank donor’s name to create a data for this registry which definitely will help to provide the blood to the needy people,” said Vinay Shetty of Think Foundation.A senior pathologist of BMC-run medical college said: “There is a need for such registry. Every month we get 2-3 requests and its get difficult to find such a rare group of donors.”

Over 31 lakh cases await the next date of hearing in courts, reveals data

New Delhi: Amid the debate on ways to check rising pendency in courts, new data says out of the over 2.20 crore cases awaiting disposal across the country, the next date of hearing has not been fixed for over 14 per cent of them.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

This means that the courts have not yet decided on when these 31,45,059 cases will be taken up for the next hearing.

According to the data available on the National Judicial Data Grid, as on 24 June this year 2,20,75,329 cases are pending in various courts.

Out of these, 31,45,059 (or 14.25 per cent of the total pending cases) have been categorised as ‘undated cases’.

Any case for which the next date of hearing has not been assigned is called an undated case.

The data say that of the over 31 lakh undated cases, 21,75,750 are criminal cases, while 9,69,309 are civil in nature.

Gujarat, according to the data available on the Grid, leads with 20.46 per cent undated cases, followed by West Bengal with 14.96 per cent cases. Madhya Pradesh has 13.13 per cent undated cases and Delhi 3.22 per cent.

At a recent meeting of the Supreme Court eCommittee, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had suggested introduction of “some sort of incentive” for reducing the number of undated cases.

The eCommittee of the Supreme Court was set up in 2004 to assist the Chief Justice of India in formulating a national policy on computerisation of Indian judiciary and advise on technological, communication and management-related changes.

Of the over two crore cases pending, more than 10 per cent have remained unsettled for over 10 years.

Out of the total pendency, 83,00,462 or 41.38 per cent cases are pending for less than two years, while 21,72,411 or 10.83 per cent cases are pending for over 10 years.

Congress attacks Manohar Parrikar over his criticism of NGOs, green activists

Panaji: The Congress on Wednesday slammed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s recent criticism of a section of NGOs and green activists, and accused the former Goa chief minister of interfering in the state administration and matters of policy.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in Panaji, Congress spokesperson Trajano D’Mello said that as Leader of Opposition in the Goa legislative assembly, Parrikar in the past used to encourage NGOs to agitate, which in turn had brought development in the state to a “grinding halt” back then.

File image of Manohar Parrikar. IBNlive

File image of Manohar Parrikar. IBNlive

“The defence minister’s attack on NGOs, that they are objecting every development, is an absolute lie. He should remember that as Leader of Opposition he was encouraging them to agitate, was participating in agitations and brought development to a grinding halt,” D’Mello said.

Addressing a government function in Panaji on Monday, Parrikar said that NGOs backed by vested interests were filing cases in court against government projects and were delaying creation of infrastructure.

“There are some professionals, who regularly file cases against government projects. That is why I urge state officials to take all the necessary environmental and other required clearances before starting work on a project, so that these so-called NGOs do not find the courage to file cases against us,” Parrikar said.

“This constant filing of cases against government projects has become a business. If we are wrong, punish us, but do not stop developmental projects unnecessarily,” he said, adding that such habitual litigants should be “exposed”.

D’Mello claimed that Parrikar was now crying foul because his party is in power.

“When he was doing it, it was to save Goa’s destruction. But now when rampant destruction has started and has been objected to legally, he terms it as obstructing development,” the Congress spokesperson said.

Reacting to another comment by Parrikar about his non-interference in key state issues, like the contentious medium of instruction policy for state’s schools, D’Mello said: “No one believes in Parrikar any more. He is and will continue to interfere in state government affairs.”

Centre cancels registration of Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust

After suspending FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) licence of Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Sabrang Trust, and issuing a show cause in September last year, the Union home ministry on Thursday finally cancelled its registration over alleged violations of the Act.The ministry said in a communication on Thursday, “it was noticed that the organisation received a total donation of Rs 48.42 lakh in 2010-11 and Rs 49.10 lakh in 2011-12, out of which it spent Rs 30.97 lakh and Rs 27.07 lakh during the two years respectively. This comes to 64.23% for 2010-11 and 55.14% for 2011-12 on administrative expenses.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the ministry, as per section 8 (1) (b) of the FCRA, incurring expenses on administrative head exceeding 50% limit required the approval of the Home Ministry, thus making it violation of the Act.The Trust, run by Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, can make a representation against the order within 30 days. However, if the home ministry is not satisfied with the reply of the NGO, its registration will be cancelled.Another NGO run by Setalvad and her husband, Citizens for Justice and Peace, has already been put under prior permission category, thus making it mandatory for the organisation to take permission from the Home Ministry before accepting or utilising any foreign contribution.Following a recommendation of the home ministry, the Central Bureau of Investigation has already registered a case and launched a probe against Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited, a commercial firm run by Setalvad, for allegedly accepting and utilising foreign contribution in violation of FCRA.Setalvad pursued the cases of post-Godhra riots victims in Gujarat when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state.

Woman NGO worker from Kolkata abducted in Kabul

Judith D’Souza (40), an Indian NGO worker stationed in Kabul, was abducted on Thursday night by suspected militants right outside her office. The governments and security agencies in India and Afghanistan were involved in tracing her till the time of going to press on Friday.D’Souza, working with international NGO Aga Khan Foundation, hails from Kolkata. In a statement issued in Kabul, the Foundation said: “On Thursday, June 9, a staff member of the Aga Khan Foundation was abducted. An investigation by the authorities, in conjunction with security officials and various partners, has been launched. Every effort is being made for the safe release of the staff member.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Judith’s father, D D’Souza, told PTI in Kolkata that the family received information that three persons — Judith, a security guard and the driver of the vehicle, were abducted and they received the information at 1.30 am from the Indian embassy in Kabul. Judith was a senior technical adviser and was scheduled to return to India next week.An employee at the Foundation’s Delhi office, who didn’t wish to be named, told dna that D’Souza was hired directly for the Afghanistan assignment and hence colleagues in Delhi had not interacted with her much. She had been in Kabul for a year, said the employee.Ministry of external affairs (MEA) sources in New Delhi told dna: “The Indian embassy in Kabul is in touch with senior Afghan authorities and the government here is in constant touch with D’Souza’s family in Kolkata.”The Indian embassy had issued a security advisory to “all Indians residing and travelling to Afghanistan that the security situation in the country remains highly volatile”. The advisory warned of terrorist attacks and mentioned “the risk of kidnapping and hostage taking throughout Afghanistan”.Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday tweeted that the government was “doing everything to rescue her”. Replying to an appeal through Twitter by the victim’s brother, Swaraj tweeted back: “She is your sister and India’s daughter. We are doing everything to rescue her. Pl take care of your sick father.”

Attempt to tarnish country’s image: Govt slams Australian rights group’s findings on ‘slavery’ in India

Differing with an Australian rights group findings on slavery in India, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya today said the survey methodology of the NGO is “fallacious” and is an attempt to “tarnish” the country’s image.”We have strong disagreement with findings of Walk Free Foundation, which they have released with a catchy caption. At the outset, it is emphatically stated that we don’t have any instance of slavery in its conventional sense,” Dattatreya said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In our view, the NGO has totally failed to develop correct understanding of the Indian society and has arrived at misleading findings. Methodology of the survey itself is fallacious and the so called findings are based on presumptions and surmises.”Last month, the 2016 Global Slavery Index released by the Walk Free Foundation said India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of people globally trapped in modern slavery with 18.35 million victims of forced labour, ranging from prostitution and begging.Explaining further, Dattatreya said: “It is not slavery in the sense, it is understood by modern world. We deplore that an international NGO has attempted to tarnish the image of our country.”India has been taking pragmatic and expeditious steps against a number of social evils since independence. The conventional forms of caste bondage in India are essentially a social system, the Minister added.India has a proven track record in fighting against injustice, inequality, oppression and exploitation of any kind, he said.Forced marriages, caste discrimination, child labour, among others, are not slavery in conventional sense but unacceptable social practices of a modern society, Dattatreya said.”However, we are committed to eliminate all such social practices expeditiously. We have already taken a large number of determined steps in this direction,” the Ministry added.

From Greenpeace to Ford Foundation: Modi govt’s controversial crackdown on NGOs

As the Modi government completes two years at the Centre, one of the major criticisms it has drawn is in its handling of NGOs run by international bodies or funded by them in India.

On Wednesday, senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising’s NGO, Lawyers Collective (LC) was served a notice suspending its FCRA registration for six months on Monday by the Home Ministry. This means that the association is now barred from receiving any foreign funds.

Jaising launched an attack on the government in a televised interview with NDTV. She termed the move as an “intimidating tactic by the government” to clamp down on her NGO. She further said that LC has not yet received a formal notice from the Centre, and that it has only been released to the press. She also pointed out that the first time the notice was mentioned in the press was the day Amit Shah had to appear in court in the Sohrabuddin murder case.

Jaising has actively protested against the decision of the court discharging Shah in the case.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. ReutersHome Minister Rajnath Singh. Reuters

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Reuters

The home ministry headed by Rajnath Singh has cracked down on a number of NGOs which have got foreign funding in the past couple of years, but controversy and criticism have marred many of his  ministry’s decisions.

In 2015, the government cancelled Greenpeace’s registration under Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) for allegedly working against the country’s economic progress.

The decision of the home ministry came five months after it suspended its licence under FCRA for 180 days. It had also frozen its seven bank accounts, alleging that the environmental group was working against the country’s economic progress and public interest.

The government had cited alleged violation of norms by the NGO by opening five accounts to use foreign donations without informing the authorities concerned.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the report cites various incidents including protests against nuclear and coal power plants in the country, and also accuses the organisation of receiving foreign funding in violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act of 2010 (FCRA).

“It is assessed to be posing a potential threat to national economic security… growing exponentially in terms of reach, impact, volunteers and media influence,” it notes. The efforts are focused on “ways to create obstacles in India’s energy plans” and to “pressure India to use only renewable energy”, The Indian Express quotes the IB report as saying.

While suspending its registration under the FCRA, government had also said the NGO under-reported and repeatedly mentioned inaccurate amounts of its foreign contributions.

The government had cited alleged violation of norms by the NGO by opening five accounts to use foreign donations without informing the authorities concerned.

Greenpeace, however, maintained that it did not receive any funding from government bodies or corporates and relied only on individual contributions to fund their campaigns. It termed the government action as an attempt to “silence campaigns”.

In April 2015, the government placed the Ford Foundation, an American charitable organisation on a watch list saying it was funding groups which acted against the national interest.

“Among the violations noticed, it was found that the Ford Foundation had been involved in funding non-FCRA registered entities which amounts to serious violation of the FCRA 2010 law,” a home ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On 15 April, the Gujarat government sought a probe into the role of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO alleging that it misused funds received from Ford Foundation to create ‘communal disharmony’.

“We learnt that the funds which they received, especially from the (US-based) Ford Foundation, were actually used for disturbing the communal harmony and carrying out anti-national propaganda against India in foreign countries,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel told PTI. “We have written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking probe into the role of Setalvad’s NGO (Sabrang Trust) after we found out funds given to the NGO were misused.”

“During the investigation of Gulberg Society museum funds embezzlement case, these things came to light,” Patel said. The Ford Foundation had given more than $500,000 to Setalvad’s NGO, he said.

Setalvad was pursuing legal cases against Modi, accusing him of failing to stop anti-Muslim rioting that killed at least 1,000 people when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Modi denied the charges and was exonerated in a Special Investigation Team (SIT) inquiry in 2012.

A top official at the charity had said the fallout has hit projects that fight child marriage, provide clean water in slums and feed pregnant women.

Around the same time, the government placed the Catholic charity Caritas on a government watch list. The group has been operating in India for more than 50 years and works on health, education and poverty-related issues. A home ministry official told AFP that Caritas had violated India’s foreign funding laws by financing groups that were working “against the country”.

The government in all cancelled the foreign funding licences of nearly 9,000 charities last year.

The Prime Minister has criticised what he calls “five-star activists” and a government intelligence report in 2014 reportedly said they were working with foreign powers to undermine India’s economic growth.

With inputs from agencies.

FCRA licence of Jaising’s NGO suspended; lawyer says victimised for fighting cases against govt, Amit Shah

Eminent lawyer Indira Jaising has termed the suspension of licence of her NGO as a “blatant attempt to victimise” the organisation and an “act of vindictiveness” on the part of the NDA government.The response came after the Home Ministry barred the NGO–Lawyers’ Collective– from receiving funds from abroad and suspended its licence for six months for alleged violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Lawyers’ Collective condemns the blatant attempt of the government of India to victimise the organisation and its office bearers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. This is noting but a gross misuse of the FCRA Act which is being used to suppress any form of dissent.”It is far too well know that both Anand Grover and Indira Jaising have represented several persons in their professional capacity as lawyers in several cases against the government and the functionaries including the President of the BJP party, Amit Shah protesting his discharge in the Sohrabuddin murder case,” the NGO said in a statement.The Home Ministry’s order/show cause notice is a mala fide act and an act of vindictiveness on the part of the government, it said.”This is being done because of the cases that Lawyers Collective (‘LC’) and its trustees, Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, are involved in, including but are not limited to Sanjiv Bhatt, Yakub Memon and Priya Pillai,” the statement said.The association accused the government of leaking the notice suspending the NGO’s licence to media.”The aim is to destroy the credibility of LC by leaking it to the media, before even serving it on LC.LC till today has not received the order purportedly issued on May, 31 2016, though it is available to the press,” it said.The Lawyers’ Collective intends to challenge the order as unconstitutional and required to be set aside, the statement said.”At the outset, LC states that all the foreign contribution received were spent for the purposes received and accounted for,” it said.The Home Ministry, while suspending the licence, asked the NGO to submit its reply within 30 days.

FCRA row: Ex-ASG Indira Jaising claims victimisation for fighting cases against govt

New Delhi: Eminent lawyer Indira Jaising on Wednesday termed the suspension of licence of her NGO as a “blatant attempt to victimise” the organisation and an “act of vindictiveness” on the part of the NDA government.

The response came after the Home Ministry barred the NGO – Lawyers’ Collective – from receiving funds from abroad and suspended its licence for six months for alleged violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Noted lawyer Indira Jaising Twitter @ IJaising

Noted lawyer Indira Jaising Twitter @ IJaising

“The Lawyers’ Collective condemns the blatant attempt of the government of India to victimise the organisation and its office bearers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. This is noting but a gross misuse of the FCRA Act which is being used to suppress any form of dissent.

“It is far too well know that both Anand Grover and Indira Jaising have represented several persons in their professional capacity as lawyers in several cases against the government and the functionaries including the President of the BJP party, Amit Shah protesting his discharge in the Sohrabuddin murder case,” the NGO said in a statement.

The Home Ministry’s order/show cause notice is a mala fide act and an act of vindictiveness on the part of the government, it said.

“This is being done because of the cases that Lawyers Collective (‘LC’) and its trustees, Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, are involved in, including but are not limited to Sanjiv Bhatt, Yakub Memon and Priya Pillai,” the statement said.

The association accused the government of leaking the notice suspending the NGO’s licence to media.

“The aim is to destroy the credibility of LC by leaking it to the media, before even serving it on LC. LC till today has not received the order purportedly issued on May, 31 2016, though it is available to the press,” it said.

The Lawyers’ Collective intends to challenge the order as unconstitutional and required to be set aside, the statement said.

“At the outset, LC states that all the foreign contribution received were spent for the purposes received and accounted for,” it said.

The Home Ministry, while suspending the licence, asked the NGO to submit its reply within 30 days.

Setback for Art of Living, NGT orders to pay balance Rs4.75 crore compensation

In a setback for the Art of Living Foundation, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered them to fork out Rs4.75 crore in a week, the balance of the Rs 5 crore environment compensation they had imposed on the non-governmental organisation for “drastically tampering with the (Yamuna) floodplains”. The Tribunal had passed an order on March 9 in which it said that the preparations for the NGO’s mega-event, to celebrate its 35th anniversary had “drastically tampered with the flood plains, destroying natural flow of river and natural vegetation on the river bed.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While reading out the order on Tuesday, justice Swatanter Kumar said that the Tribunal was dismissing the NGO’s plea to pay the balance compensation as a bank guarantee. While rejecting the plea, the Kumar also imposed a cost of Rs.5000 on the NGO. He slammed the NGO’s plea and said that it “lacked bona fide”. He went on to add, “The order of the court was used to hold the event and then you went back on its commitment. The organizers engaged in multiplicity of litigations to not pay the compensation and thus their conduct is questionable.”The Tribunal said that the NGO should use the union culture ministry’s grant to pay the balance compensation. The union culture ministry has granted the NGO Rs2.5 crore for their World Culture Festival and Rs.1.68 crore has already been disbursed, counsel for Art of Living revealed to the NGT bench on March 11.After the Tribunal imposed an environment compensation of Rs5 crore on the NGO its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. Later, on the day of the event, on March 11, the NGO approached the Tribunal and pleaded for more time to pay the compensation. The NGT, though, asked the NGO to pay up Rs.25 lakh and granted three weeks of time to pay the balance amount. But, the NGO instead pleaded to the NGT that it should be allowed to pay the balance as a bank guarantee.Meanwhile, on the issue of reconstituting the expert body that will inspect the Yamuna floodplains to fix a final compensation, the Art of Living Foundation had moved a plea to appoint new members alleging bias. But, the Tribunal did not entertain the NGO’s plea on Tuesday and said that two more members can be added to the committee on the condition that the NGO withdraw their application. But, the NGO did not accept the condition and has decided to challenge the inspection and constitution of the committee.The expert committee, headed by secretary, union water secretary, will now have to go ahead with its inspection of the floodplains and has to submit its report in a sealed cover to the Tribunal before July 4.

Teesta Setalvad files: Missing MHA officer Anand Joshi found, detained

A home ministry official, who had disappeared four days ago after his Ghaziabad residence was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was detained by the agency on Sunday evening, in connection with a case of alleged issuance of arbitrary notices to NGOs and societies, under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), for financial gains. Social activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Sabrang Trust, was also allegedly targeted by Anand Joshi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Joshi, an under secretary in the ministry of home affairs (MHA), was nabbed by officials in the Tilak Nagar area, CBI sources said. “Joshi’s movements were being monitored ever since he went missing on Wednesday morning. He is currently being questioned at the CBI headquarters,” said CBI sources.Joshi, a resident in the Media times apartment in Indirapuram area of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, went missing after the CBI issued him a notice for summons. Joshi failed to answer the summons after which a second notice was further issued.Joshi, who was recently posted in the foreigners’ division, had access to files relating to the FCRA. According to MHA officials, Joshi was under the scanner for several months. The CBI was informed after MHA officials ascertained that Joshi was taking bribes.On Monday, the CBI filed a case against Joshi for allegedly indulging in corrupt activities and arbitrarily issuing notices to non-governmental organisations (NGO) and societies receiving significant amount of foreign currency. The MHA official was allegedly demanding illegal gratification from some organisations which were laundered through immovable assets and private companies. In searches conducted at four locations including Joshi’s residence and office almost Rs 7.5 lakh was recovered and files from the MHA and ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) were found.The missing files pertaining to the Sabrang Trust were also recovered from Joshi’s residence.In a statement released by the Sabrang Trust, Setalvad clarified they have not committed any violation of FCRA norms. “The ‘order’ dated September 9, 2015, suspending FCRA registration for 180 days had been arrived in an arbitrary manner without application of mind,” the statement read. Setalvad went on to confirm that Joshi was not part of the four-member team that inspected their offices. However, the NGO received an official communication from Joshi dated June 4, 2015, that made certain “observations” concerning alleged violations of FCRA, 2010 and FCR rules, 2011.The CBI has registered a case under sections 13(2) read with 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 120b of the Indian Penal Code.

Will implement SC’s directives on drought situation soon: Centre

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday said it will take immediate steps to implement the Supreme Court’s judgement on the drought-like situation in the country.

“We are studying the judgement. We will take immediate action to implement the directives of the apex court,” Agriculture Secretary Shobhana K Pattanayak told PTI.

As directed by the Supreme Court, the Agriculture Ministry will call a meeting of the officials of Bihar, Haryana and Gujarat in a week’s time to review the drought situation in these three states, he said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In a judgement pronounced on Wednesday in the petition filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, the Supreme Court had asked the central government to set up a national disaster mitigation fund within three months to tackle the drought-like situation.

It had also directed the government to review the drought-like situation in Bihar, Haryana and Gujarat in a week’s time, do the revision of the drought management manual by December 2016, use innovative methods of water conservation and modern technology for early forecast of drought.

The country is facing second straight year of drought because of poor monsoon. As many as ten states including Maharashtra and Karnataka have declared drought in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June).

The Centre has already released more than Rs 12,000 crore assistance to these state governments to address the drinking water, fodder shortage and other problems.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently held a separate meeting to review the drought situation with chief ministers of five states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.

Modi is scheduled to meet the chief ministers of other drought-hit states in the coming days.

Supreme Court pulls up state governments and Centre for failing to tackle drought

The Supreme Court said that if state governments maintain an “ostrich-like attitude” towards disasters like drought then the Centre cannot wash off its hands from the constitutional responsibility as the “buck stops” with it in matters concerning common people. “It (Centre) cannot totally wash its hands off on issues pertaining to Article 21 of the Constitution but at the same time, we do not suggest that the authority of the state government to declare a drought or any other similar power is diluted,” a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Union of India has certainly to maintain a delicate and fine balance between federalism and its constitutional responsibility, and that it must do otherwise it is ultimately the common person who will suffer and be in distress because of a situation not of his or her making,” the apex court said while passing a slew of directions on the issue of tackling a drought like situation.The bench said that if Centre and state governments fails to respond to a developing crisis or a crisis in the making then the judiciary “can and must” consider issuing appropriate directions but “a Lakshman rekha” must be drawn.”Surely, if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India,” the apex court said in its 53-page judgement while citing Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s quote, “The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will.” The bench noted that “lack of will” was amply demonstrated in this matter in which states of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana were “hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states.” The apex court said it was “quite surprised” that neither a National Plan has been drawn nor there is a National Disaster Mitigation Fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.”Evidently, anticipating a disaster such as a drought is not yet in the ‘things to do’ list of the Union of India and ad-hoc measures and knee jerk reactions are the order of the day and will continue to be so until the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are faithfully implemented,” it said while directing the Centre to formulate a National Plan “at the very earliest and with immediate concern.” The apex court, which noted that around one-fourth of the total population of the country was affected by drought-like situation, also directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months. (More) PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS VMNThe bench said that the Centre must insist on the use of modern technology for early determination of drought or a drought-like situation. “There is no need to continue with colonial methods and manuals that follow a colonial legacy. It is high time that state governments realize the vast potential of technology and the Government of India should insist on the use of such technology in preparing uniform State Management Plans for a disaster,” it said. It pulled up Bihar and Haryana for their continued denial of having a drought-like situation but said that towards the fag end, Gujarat has admitted the existence of drought in its five districts.”Under the circumstances, it appears to us that there is more than sufficient material to suggest that there is a perceptible threat of a mild or moderate drought in some districts, tehsils, talukas or blocks of Bihar. The unfortunate part of the exercise undertaken by us is that Bihar is in a state of denial,” it said.Regarding Haryana, the bench observed that disparity in the methodology of assessment of drought or a drought-like situation between it and the Centre was “quite stark”.The court said the system followed by Gujarat, which has declared drought in 994 villages last month, in assessing such situation does not meet with approval of manual or guidelines.”The purpose of an early declaration of drought is preventive, but the route taken by Gujarat is palliative and relief centric. Risk assessment and risk management gives way, in Gujarat, to crisis management,” it said.The apex court also said that it was known in October 2015 that several districts in these three states were facing varying degrees of drought “yet, no preparatory steps appear to have been taken to tackle a possible disaster.” The bench said a final decision to declare drought is of the state but the resources available with the Centre can be effectively used to assist the states in having a fresh look into the data and information and to arrive at a correct decision in the interest of affected people.”Maybe the issuance of advisories is an adequate response to an impending crisis but maybe it is not. That is a call that the Government of India will have to take, but whatever view is taken by the Government of India, it must appreciate that as far as a response to a disaster is concerned the approach of the Union of India should be small-minded in certain respects but financially liberal,” it said.While issuing a slew of directions, the apex court asked the Centre to constitute within six months a National Disaster Response Force with its own regular specialist cadre. The court said there was a need to revise the contents of Centre’s drought management manual as several new developments have taken place since it was published in 2009. “We direct that the manual be revised and updated on or before December 31, 2016,” it said adding that humanitarian factors, such as migrations from affected areas, suicides, extreme distress, the plight of women and children, should be kept in mind while updating and revising it.”In the proposed revised and updated Manual as well as in the National Plan, the Union of India must provide for the future in terms of prevention, preparedness and mitigation,” it said.The bench directed the Secretary, Agriculture Ministry, to urgently hold a meeting within a week with the Chief Secretaries of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana to review the apparent drought situation with all the available data.It, however, clarified that other issues raised by the petitioner NGO, Swaraj Abhiyan, would be dealt in subsequent orders as the issues raised were in a sense quite disparate, though linked to the drought situation.The PIL filed by the NGO had alleged that parts of 12 states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.

SC relief for drought-hit farmers; directs centre to create disaster mitigation fund to tackle crisis

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to set up a Special force under Disaster Management Act to handle drought crisis in the country.The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan seeking urgent implementation of guidelines for areas hit by natural calamity. Earlier, the court had expressed its concern over low compensation paid to calamity-hit farmers and observed that it was leading some of them to commit suicide.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Giving the directions to the centre, the bench said that Centre should revise the drought management manual to provide effective relief to calamity-hit farmers.”Farmers suicide, stress and migration factors should be taken into account while declaring drought in the state,” reported ANI quoting the court.The top court also said that Centre should define time limit for declaration of drought, and directed Agriculture Ministry to convene an urgent meeting within a week with Chief Secretaries of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana over drought crisis.The apex court had earlier pulled up the Centre for not releasing adequate funds to states for MGNREGA and asked it to give details of expenditure on the scheme in drought-hit states, saying relief has to be provided now and not after one year.The PIL filed by the NGO has alleged that parts of 12 states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief

Mumbai: 20 dogs found dead in Mira-Bhayandar, poisoning suspected

In a case of suspected deliberate poisoning of stray dogs in Mira Bhayandar, an NGO on May 6 received information about five dead dogs. After the NGO, Peace for Animal Welfare Association (PAWA)-India, lodged a police complaint, 15 more bodies had been found in the nearby areas. The Navghar police station officers confirmed the incident to dna.”I saw them (dogs) dying in front of me. It looked like they couldn’t breathe. They were running helter skelter. Seven dogs are missing from another area,” said Shubhang Sharma, a resident of a Mira Bhayandar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PAWA president Salim Charania said, “We lodged an FIR for five dogs that we found near the Pill Heights building. We have submitted the CCTV footage of a suspect feeding the dogs. We also found a pesticide bag near the bodies. We have submitted all of this to the police but the police hasn’t arrested him yet.”Charania further claimed that in the last 48 hours, 15 more bodies were discovered. “After we lodged the FIR, we have been finding dead dogs in different pockets of the same area. We have buried those dogs because they had started decaying. In all, we found 21 bodies.”Talking about the suspect, Charania said, “We have found another evidence in the CCTV footage from another society, which clearly shows the same man. We are waiting for the police to arrest him. There are also eye-witnesses, who are willing to confirm that they saw this man in the vicinity, feeding the dogs.”When questioned, senior police inspector of Navghar police station, Shrikant Padule, said, “The investigating officer is on a leave. He is expected to return on Monday. The FIR has been lodged under IPC section 429 and Prevention of Cruelty against Animal Act. The CCTV footage is a little hazy. We have a suspect but it cannot be confirmed. We have sent him a notice for investigation and called him on Monday. We have sent the bodies for post-mortem.”

Top 5 stories from across India: From standoff at Jadavpur University to fire in Mumbai’s Govandi

Fire guts around 80 shanties in Mumbai’s GovandiA fire in the wee hours of the morning gutted around 80 shanties in Gautam Nagar Plot No 4, in Govandi. The fire started in a footwear manufacturing shop at around 3.30 am and spread to adjacent shanties. Read more<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jadavpur University: Standoff between ABVP supporters led by BJP leader Roopa Ganguly and JU studentsA student protest broke out at Jadavpur University over the screening of Vivek Agnihotri’s Buddha In A Traffic Jam. The protest led to a stand off between ABVP supporters and JU students.A scuffle had broken out between Jadavpur University students and ABVP supporters in the evening and several outsiders were chased away by the JU students. While the University’s student union members claim that several outsiders who were accompanying the Agnihotri allegedly molested two students, ABVP supporters claim that they were beaten up by university students. Read moreMushrooming of illegal brick kilns in Cuttack contributing to air pollutionAt a time when Cuttack is reeling under intense heat wave conditions, mushrooming illegal brick-kilns have become a major cause of rising temperature and air pollution in the district, environmentalists have said. Read the full storyThis NGO is collecting flex boards to provide shelter for 1,200 street families in Mumbai before monsoonA Goregaon-based NGO is working prior monsoon to get a shelter for the street dwellers. The NGO – Indian Development Foundation (IDF) is collecting flex boards from people, enough to provide shelter for around 1,200 families living on the streets. Read moreHigh incidence of encephalitis observed in Bihar: Study Bihar leads in reporting the maximum number of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) cases in the country, which is also an endemic problem in the north-eastern state of the country. The revelations have come to the fore in a recent report. Annual incidence rate of AES shows that 1 to 25 persons per one lakh population in each district of Bihar is being affected. Read in detail

NEET conduct: Centre allows states to hold separate exams for MBBS and BDS

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of Thursday’s order to allow state governments and private colleges to hold separate entrance examinations for MBBS and BDS courses for the academic year 2016-17.

The plea in this regard was mentioned by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi before a bench of Justices A R Dave and A K Goel.

The AG suggested that the order passed by the apex court yesterday had allowed holding of a two-phased single common entrance test for MBBS, BDS and PG courses through National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) on 1 May and 24 July but there appear to be some genuine difficulties and there is a need for some change in the order.

He suggested that the first phase of NEET scheduled for 1 May be scrapped and all the students be allowed to take the exams on 24 July.

Rohatgi said there was a need to modify Thursday’s order as there was a lot of confusion arising out of it. The bench agreed to give an urgent hearing to the matter which is likely to be taken up later in the day by the same bench which had passed the order Thursday.

The apex court had on Thursday cleared the decks for the holding of NEET, a single common entrance test for admission to MBBS and BDS courses, in two phases for the academic year 2016-17 in which around 6.5 lakh candidates are likely to appear.

It had approved the schedule put before it by the Centre, CBSE and the Medical Council of India (MCI) for treating All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) fixed for 1 May as NEET-1.

It had said those who had not applied for AIPMT will be given the opportunity to appear in NEET-II on 24 July and the combined result would be declared on August 17 so that the admission process can be completed by 30 September.

The order implied that all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would be covered under NEET and those examinations which have already taken place or slated to be conducted separately stand scrapped.

A bench comprising Justices A R Dave, Shiva Kirti Singh and A K Goel had pronounced the order yesterday after rejecting the opposition for holding NEET by the states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Association of Karnataka Medical Colleges, besides minority institutions like CMC, Vellore which had contended that NEET cannot be imposed on them.

The apex court order had also revived the government’s 21 Decemeber 2010 notification for holding a single common entrance test through NEET with a clarification that any challenge on the issue would directly come before it and no high court can interfere in it.

The court was of the view that since it has recalled its 11 April order, there was no hindrance in holding the single entrance test. On 11 April, the apex court had recalled its judgement scrapping a single common entrance test for admission to MBBS, BDS and PG courses in all medical colleges, delivered by then Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on the day of his retirement.

The petition on which the court passed the order yesterday was filed by NGO Sankalp Charitable Trust. In its petition, the NGO had said that the Centre, MCI and CBSE were dilly-dallying in implementing the court’s order on implementing the National Eligibility Entrance Test.

It had said that in view of April 11 judgement decks were cleared for holding of Common Entrance Examination and there is no impediment in having the test for admission to Medical Colleges for current academic year 2016-17.

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