Monthly Archives: APRIL 2016

After protests, New PF rules put on hold; Agitators attack police station, torch vehicles
19.04.16 - pt team
After protests, New PF rules put on hold; Agitators attack police station, torch vehicles

Confronted by protests - including a riot in Bengaluru that saw buses and police jeeps set on fire - the government has put on hold for three months controversial new rules on when you can withdraw money from your provident fund, which serves as a savings plan for when salaried workers retire.
In the meantime, massive agitations rocked Bengaluru's Electronic City on Tuesday as factory workers protested provident fund withdrawal norms, news channels reported.
For the second consecutive day, traffic was disrupted on the arterial Hosur Road after thousands of agitators assembled at the Bommanahalli Junction, The Hindu reported. Protesters also pelted stones at the Hebbagodi police station and set seized vehicles which had been parked there on fire, according to a DNA report.
Even as several police personnel were injured in the violence, the police have arrested 20 people, according to a Hindustan Times report.
On Monday, around 15,000 women garment workers on Monday staged a massive demonstration on the outskirts of Bengaluru, protesting change in the Provident Fund Act, which denies the right to withdraw employer's contribution till 58 years.
Dramatic television visuals showed policemen in riot gear beating up protesters and firefighters trying to douse vehicles which were set on flames.
Irate protesters in the city on Tuesday torched two buses on Hosur Road and a truck carrying an LPG cylinder was also set on fire, India Today reported. Police lobbed tear gas shells at protesters in an attempt to quell the agitation.
On Monday, terming the move to deny workers their fair due as anti-labour, Garment and Textile Workers' Union leader K R Jayaram said the amendment to the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, would also make them wait till 58 years to withdraw the employer's contribution though they can withdraw their contribution to PF before turning 58.
Hundreds of women workers from five garment units, including Shahi Exports Ltd., Mohan Exports and Jockey, struck work at noon and marched to the Bengaluru-Chennai National Highway and Bengaluru-Mysuru state highway, blocking vehicular movement and causing massive traffic jams for over four hours.
(Photos courtesy : Kashif Masood/HT Photo)

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Curfew in Modi’s home district Mehsana; Hundreds detained after Patel stir turns violent
17.04.16 - pt team
Curfew in Modi’s home district Mehsana; Hundreds detained after Patel stir turns violent

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home district, Mehsana in Gujarat was brought under curfew and internet services suspended on Sunday after more than two dozen people were wounded as Patidar pro-reservation campaigners demanding the release of one of its leaders, Hardik Patel turned violent, as police fought running street battles with stone-throwing demonstrators and detained hundreds.
The district is the epicentre of the community’s movement for reservation in education and government jobs, which it has been demanding since July 2015.
According to a report of Hindustan Times, angry protesters reportedly threw stones at police and set ablaze an unspecified numbers of buildings and vehicles, including in adjacent Surat district, when authorities stopped them on the way to prison where they wanted to court arrest as part of their "jail bharo” programme.
Offices of ministers Nitin Patel and Rajnikant Patel were ransacked, a bus was set ablaze and police vehicles were damaged by the mob.
"Such agitations keep happening. Our work is to serve the people,” the chief minister told reporters in Dharmpur.
Sardar Patel Group leader Lalji Patel, who was wounded near Mehsana sub-jail, called the chief minister’s statement "irresponsible” while Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela blamed the "government’s inaction” that forced Patidars to resuscitate their stir.
The protesters under the banner of the Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Sardar Patel Group called a statewide bandh on Monday after police charged them with sticks, fired tear gas shells and used water cannons.
The police were prepared as the Mehsana administration on Saturday denied permission to hold the programme, calling it anti-national and illegal.
"Some antisocial elements started pelting stones after which clashes broke out,” director general of police PP Pandey said.
The violence broke out a day before a crucial meeting between Patidar leaders and the government to break the reservation deadlock.
The community had submitted a 27-point charter of demands but after talks failed on April 11.
According to HT report, the government is likely to offer two proposals — reservation to the economically backward section of society and setting up a commission to address the Patidars’ demands.
"The meeting will go ahead as scheduled. What happened today is a law-and-order issue,” said health minister Nitin Patel.
But Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Sardar Patel Group might boycott the meeting.
The Patidars started their stir demanding reservation benefits since July 2015 in the BJP-ruled state.
In August, seven people died and public property worth Rs 40 crore was damaged during clashes with police.
Hardik and three of his aides were charged with sedition and put in jail in October, a move that managed to calm down the aggressive campaign. The stir is considered one of the reasons behind the ruling BJP’s panchayat elections debacle in December.

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Under which law police ‘detained’ the girl: asks High Court
16.04.16 - pt team
Under which law police ‘detained’ the girl: asks High Court

Srinagar: The Jammu & Kashmir high court on Saturday directed the police to cite the law under which they have detained the girl, who was allegedly molested by a soldier in Handwara on Tuesday which led to violent protests resulting in the death of five people.

The mother of the 16-year-old girl, filed a petition before the high court on Saturday seeking release of her daughter and two other relatives from "illegal detention" of police, counsel for petitioner Parvaiz Imroz said.

According to a PTI report, besides issuing notice to the state, Justice MH Attar directed the superintendent of police of Handwara and SHO of the concerned police station to tell the court under which law they have detained the minor girl, her father and aunt since the incident on April 12, Imroz said.

He said the court also directed the police to present the girl before the chief judicial magistrate of Handwara for recording of statement. "The court has also said that father and aunt of the girl cannot be forced to appear before print or electronic media," Imroz said.

He said the case has been listed for next hearing on April 20.

In her petition, through the counsel, the woman pleaded that her daughter, husband and sister have been kept in illegal detention in violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Imroz also submitted before the court that the petitioner apprehends that the life of her minor daughter, husband and sister is in jeopardy.  
Violent protests rocked north Kashmir Handwara town on Tuesday following alleged molestation of the girl by a soldier.
Three people were killed in security forces firing on protesters that day. Another youth was killed on Wednesday at Drugmulla during protests against the earlier killings while another youth was killed during similar protests in Nathnusa area of Kupwara on Friday.
The girl, however, denied that she was molested. The Army released a video of her purported statement in this regard. The mother of the girl on Saturday claimed that she was pressurised into giving the video statement.
Mehbooba visits victims' families
As tension prevailed in Kashmir on the fourth day, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday sought to douse the flames by visiting families of those killed since Tuesday in firing by security forces and assured them of justice amid her assertion that such incidents are "unacceptable".

Mehbooba reached out to the families of the victims in the hour of grief even as curfew-like restrictions continued in certain parts of Kashmir and mobile internet services were snapped throughout the valley.
Mehbooba visited and consoled the family of 18-year-old Arif Hussain Dar who was killed on Friday when the Army opened fire to disperse stone-pelting mobs outside a camp in Nathnusa area of Kupwara, 100km from here.
She visited families of other deceased as well.
"The chief minister met the kin of the victims who were killed since Tuesday in the district. She expressed solidarity with them and assured them that inquiry will be conducted and justice done," said an official who was present.
Mehbooba flew to Kupwara to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. She also chaired a meeting of local officers which was attended by deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, minister for rural development Abdul Haq Khan, Handwara MLA Sajad Lone, chief secretary BR Sharma, DGP K Rajendra Kumar and senior Army officer.
She made it clear that no civilian should be harmed while security forces deal with law-and-order situation.

She said she had a telephonic conversation with defence minister Manohar Parrikarlate last evening and also met Northern Army commander Lt Gen DS Hooda and told them that incidents like the ones at Handwara and Nathnusa are "unacceptable" and come as a major setback to the efforts of the state government in consolidating peace dividends in the state.

"I have told Gen Hooda to exercise maximum restraint while dealing with law-and-order situations," she said, adding the defence minister has assured her of time-bound investigation into the unfortunate incidents that led to the death of civilians during protests at Handwara and Natnusa.

While interacting with the members of the civil society, the chief minister sought their cooperation in restoring peace and normalcy in the frontier district. 

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Journalists Feel Heat Under Modi’s Rule
15.04.16 - Soni Sangwan*
Journalists Feel Heat Under Modi’s Rule

 Indian journalist Malini Subramaniam was forced to leave the restive state of Chhattisgarh after reporting articles that criticized the government.
Journalist Malini Subramaniam knew she was ruffling a few feathers when she published a series of articles criticizing a government shutdown of schools in central India’s Chhattisgarh state.

But never did it cross her mind that she would be forced to leave the Maoist guerrilla-infested region altogether because of her stories published on, she told BenarNews.
She said she paid the price for questioning India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the Maoist belt, where state police are using draconian laws to silence journalists while they weed out armed communist groups.

Subramaniam, 52, is among a growing number of journalists in Chhattisgarh and other parts of India who complain that, under the country’s Hindu nationalist-led government, they have been threatened or jailed by authorities, or harassed in other ways for trying to do their jobs.

On Feb. 7, a mob threw stones at Subramaniam’s house before she, along with her domestic help, were picked up and detained by the police until she promised to leave the state.

"They (the police) want any journalist, who questions their press releases, out. For the sake of ‘Mission 2016’ – to rid the region of Naxalites by the end of the year – they want to silence all questions. Neutral, impartial reporting is not encouraged,” Subramaniam told BenarNews from the south Indian city of Hyderabad, where she lives.

The Maoist or Naxalite movement, which was born in 1969 as a left-wing revolutionary peasant uprising, is an armed struggle against what its supporters call illegal exploitation by the state of the tribal and peasant population in the resource-rich forested regions of central and eastern India.

The crackdown on journalists, she said, was to ensure that anti-government news did not get national and international attention.

"Even those insisting upon freedom of the press are either arrested with trumped up charges or forced to leave the region,” she said.

‘A climate of fear’

A colleague of hers in Chhattisgarh, Hindi-language journalist Prabhat Singh, was arrested on March 21 after he criticized a senior police official on a localized WhatsApp group. He was charged with circulating obscene material. 

Lawyers for Singh, who is well-known in journalistic circles statewide as a fearless reporter who often questions police versions publicly, alleged that police were torturing him.

Singh is one of four journalists from Chhattisgarh to have been jailed over the past year.

Following Singh’s arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based nonprofit that promotes press freedom, slammed the state government.

"The arrests and hounding of journalists and their defenders has given way to a climate of fear that risks turning parts of Chhattisgarh into a media black hole,” CPJ’s Sumit Galhotra said.

India’s National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the state government to explain "the illegal arrest, detention and torture of a progressive journalist,” saying human rights defenders were being "targeted for doing their legitimate work as defenders of tribal rights.”

Alok Putul, a BBC radio reporter (pictured below), who, like Subramaniam, was threatened into leaving Chhattisgarh, told BenarNews: "They [the police] feel that if they are presenting a press release about Naxalites surrendering, the media should simply report their version.
"If we question them on the identities of these so-called Naxalites to find out if they haven’t made scapegoats out of innocent villagers, we are instantly labeled ‘anti-national,’ [and] our reports are dubbed ‘biased.’”

Right-wing thought process

Indian journalists said that the situation in Chhattisgarh was an extension of the kind of pressure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP, which is often criticized for stifling dissent, is exerting across the country to subdue government critics.

"Even previous governments have undermined the freedom of the press, but there has been a lurch to the right-wing thought process in Indian public opinion, and the present government is seeing it and trying to benefit from it,” columnist Ajai Shukla told BenarNews.

In the case of Barkha Dutt, a consulting editor for news channel NDTV, she was called anti-patriotic and subjected to sexually abusive threats on Twitter after she published a column criticizing the recent arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges. 

Despite filing a police complaint, no arrests have been made so far in connection with the threats that were made against Dutt in March.

Similarly, Sindhu Sooryakumar, chief coordinating editor for south India’s Asianet TV, said she had received "more than 2,000 threatening and abusive phone calls” after she hosted her Malayalam-language program "Cover Story,” which sought to debate Kumar’s arrest.

Five men linked to right-wing groups have been arrested for those threats to Sooryakumar.

Sagarika Ghose, consulting editor of Times of India, who has faced several threats on social media, including that of being gang-raped, has filed complaints with the Delhi police twice.
But no action was taken, she said.

"I have nothing against constructive criticism, but the character assassination that happens on social media is clearly intended to damage our credibility so that we stop asking questions – an obvious attempt to muzzle the media,” Ghose (pictured below) told BenarNews.

Media not credible: BJP

The BJP, which came to power in May 2014 following a landslide victory, denied it was attempting to choke journalists.

"If the government was trying to control the media there would not be such venomous and negative reporting,” party spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi told BenarNews, adding that the media had by and large lost its credibility.

"If the media is being called out for its biases and false reporting by the general public, it is the media itself which is to blame. People have seen through the biased and agenda-driven reporting and have grown impatient and increasingly dismissive of journalists, Lekhi added.
Courtesy : *Benarnews

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Heat wave in India: What to expect and how to survive it
15.04.16 - pt team
Heat wave in India: What to expect and how to survive it

A gruelling heat wave, which continues to sweep many parts of India, has claimed 130 lives so far, the Times of India (ToI) reported on Friday.  

With the summer season yet to reach its peak, the astonishingly high number of casualties at such an early stage should be cause for alarm. 

According to a report from April 5, the ongoing heat wave would most likely intensify in the coming days, with day temperatures likely to remain above normal in parts of north-west, central India and also parts of south India.
According to Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology, heat wave conditions would develop over central India during April 2-6, while during the remaining part of the month, near-normal day temperatures might prevail over most parts of country.

Central India comprises Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
What do the next 5 days have in store for the people 
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Friday and Saturday will see heat wave conditions very likely at isolated places over Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gangetic West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Maharashtra, Marathwada, Vidarbha, Telangana and Rayalaseema.

Isolated areas in Tamil Nadu are likely to witness heatwave conditions only on Friday. 

Delhi and Haryana, for their part, will likely see dust and thunder-storm, accompanied by squall, on Sunday and Monday. 

From April 15 (Friday) to April 19 (Tuesday), IMD has forecast no other heat wave warning. 

Overall, according to the IMD, maximum temperatures likely to rise by 2­3 degree Celsius over plains of northwest India & central India and by 1­2 degree Celsius over West India, Telangana and Rayalaseema during next 2­3 days.

According to the ToI report, temperatures might come "down a notch or two" by Sunday as isolated dust-storms and thundershowers might cool the northern plains.
Worst hit areas

According to the ToI report, peninsular India and surrounding regions are unlikely to receive any respite. The report added that, till Friday, 100 people had lost their lives in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh due to the heat wave and sunstroke had caused 30 deaths in Odisha. 

Especially in the case of Telangana, the situation is unlikely to change for the better as heat wave conditions are likely to prevail at most places in the state on Friday and Saturday, including in districts like Hyderabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Rangareddy, Khammam, Medak.

Telangana alone has seen 35 deaths so far due to the blistering heat. 

"Dry weather is likely to prevail over the state with most places likely to record maximum temperature between 42 and 45 degrees Celsius," an release issued by IMD said.

Water scarcity

Water levels in 91 major reservoirs across the country do not look promising. There could be a serious drawdown if the heat wave persists beyond June.

From Central Water Commission (CWC) data, as of March 31, 2016, the level in the reservoirs is a combined 25% of their full capacity.

More than the national average, the regional picture is of greater concern. A severe drinking water, power and irrigation crisis looms in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Levels in the reservoirs of southern and western India are 17% and 21 per cent, respectively, of their full capacity.

Of particular cause of concern is that this is also part of the area which might see a 0.5-1 degrees Celsius above normal temperature in April-June, according to IMD's forecast.

IMD's March-end forecast had said that maximum temperatures in the core heat wave zone, which included the meteorological sub-divisions of Marathwada, Vidharbha, Madhya Maharashtra, coastal Andhra and Telangana, was expected to stay above normal. This could lead to quicker than expected drying of water in regional reservoirs.

The CWC data showed the water level in the Yeldagri and Manikdohi dams of Maharashtra were around 4 and 8%, respectively, of their full levels. Yeldagri is the second largest dam in the state's Marathwada region. The Girna (Nashik), Ujjani (Solapur) and Paithan reservoirs have already gone dry. The Nagarjunasagar reservoir in Andhra is dry. Levels in the Almatti,  Malaprabha and Tungabhadra reservoirs are less than 10% of their full capacity.

As on April 2, 2016, all 12 river basins had water levels less than last year at this time.

"The winter rainfall was less and if the summer turns out to be drier than usual, it can cause severe shortage of water in vulnerable areas as in the next three months demand will peak," Bharat Sharma, coordinator at International Water Management Institute — India Programme, told Business Standard.

He added that there is a serious mismatch between demand and supply of water in Vidharbha, Marathwada, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh as these areas do not have adequate canal irrigation, while the ground water is also falling.

Tips to survive the heat 

According to a ToI report, O Nagendra Goud, a senior meteorologist at IMD Hyderabad, has cautioned people in affected areas to adequately "shield" themselves from the sun between noon and 3 pm as a precautionary measure.
"Owing to the lack of moisture in the air, there is a lot of dry heat, which can seriously affect people. The heat that is prevailing in the city is dry heat, which is dangerous for the body," he said. 

According to the report, officials from the state disaster response force have said that the impact of heat wave on people's health "revolves around dehydration, heat cramps, exhaustion and heatstrokes".

The report added that the signs and symptoms of heat cramps are swelling and fainting, generally accompanied by fever. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps and vomiting.

General measures include staying hydrated and avoiding substances, like alcohol and caffeine, which can act as diuretics.  

Avoid sitting in a parked car for a long time. The inside of a vehicle parked in the sun is likely to be far more stifling, and this can prove especially harmful for children. 
Courtesy : Business Standard
Photo Amarjeet Singh IRIN

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