Days after a child trafficking racket was busted in Jalpaiguri, the district administration has come under fire from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) over alleged procedural lapses in the functioning of the district child protection committee. A two-member team of the NCPCR, which comprised Priyank Kanungo and Yashwant Jain, pointed to how the committee was ad-hoc and questioned “how such a committee could be allowed to function for the last two years.” The officials, who visited four childcare homes during a two-day visit to Jalpaiguri, have now sought information about the District Magistrate under whom the committee was formed.District Magistrate (Jalpaiguri) Rachna Bhagat, meanwhile, told The Hindu that she was “not aware of the matter” and that it would be “premature to comment now”.‘Insensitive officials’The NCPCR team also expressed displeasure over the condition of the four childcare homes in Jalpaiguri. Criticising the officials responsible for running these, the team accused them of “being insensitive towards children.” “They [childcare home authorities] are inexperienced and insensitive towards children. Since the area is considered as the gateway to the Northeast, the authorities should be much more sensitive,” they said.Earlier, two government officials — District Child Protection Officer (Jalpaiguri) Sasmita Ghosh and DCPO (Darjeeling) Mrinal Ghosh — were arrested by the State’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for their alleged involvement in a child trafficking racket. The CID had also arrested the owner of a childcare home, Chandana Chakraborty, and one of her associates. Seven arrestedSo far, seven persons have been arrested in connection with this case, one of whom is Juhi Chowdhury, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) women wing in the State. The party, instead, has accused the Trinamool Congress government of using the CID as a “weapon to malign the BJP”.
With the summer approaching and the scarcity of drinking water hitting the interiors of Odisha, the State government has admitted that piped water supply projects in around 2,000 villages and small habitations have been lying defunct.The State has also identified as many as 1,345 non-repairable projects. Water supply projects have been set up in 37,689 out of 1,56,468 villages and habitations. Apart from this, 4,15,558 tubewells and sanitary wells cater to the villagers’ needs.But, thanks to frequent power outages during the summer, water projects become ineffective. Consequently, villagers turn to unhygienic sources of drinking water.Pending monthly power bills are among the major reasons behind these projects being non-operational, besides damaged transformers and metres, and low voltage. Although the State government had directed power distribution companies not to discontinue power supply to water projects in case of unpaid dues, the order is not followed in most places.With the drinking water crisis worsening, residents of over 20 villages in Khariar block of Nuapada district have resorted to digging percolation pits on the Sundar riverbed. The small river in Nuapada district originates from Sunabeda plateau and flows through the Komna and Khariar blocks.Sand miningSome villagers, in fact, walk up to 3km to get drinking water from the riverbed. The unbridled sand extraction has further hit the riverbed’s water retention capacity. The scene is similar in districts of Bolangir, Sambalpur, Kalahandi, Subarnapur and Sundargarh.But it is not just the villagers who face a crisis. The urban population, especially those in the slums, is also not immune to the problem. “Although water scarcity has forced people to dig percolation pits on the riverbeds, riparian communities still collect water by scooping sand out. In recent times, industries and the government’s water supply agencies have created water storage on the riverbeds in anticipation of the scarcity,” said Ranjan Panda, convenor of Water Initiative of Odisha.Water storage on a riverbed is done by digging a pit into which the water contained in sand percolates. It is then lifted using pumps.“The competition over storing water has already taken away the poor man’s access to water,” said Mr. Panda.The Sambalpur district administration, meanwhile, has started digging sanitary wells on a large scale under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Ahmedabad: Gujarat continues to swelter under a heat wave with the mercury crossing 45 degrees Celsius at many places on Friday. Kandla in Kutch was the hottest with 45.4 degrees Celcius. As many as eight cities recorded temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius, a rise of almost three to five degrees as compared to the figures of the corresponding period in the last two years. “There is no relief in sight till April 19,” a senior State government official said. As per the meteorological department, mercury will be above 43 degrees Celsius in parts of the State for the next few days.The disaster management authority of the State, and civic bodies in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, and Vadodara, have issued an “orange alert”, asking citizens to stay indoors during 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and remain hydrated. Authorities at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation predict that temperatures may soar to 44 degrees Celsius on Saturday.A government official said, “We have asked district administrations to issue alert in their respective districts. The administrations have also set up drinking water dispensing outlets at many places.”
As the food items used for ‘langar sewa’ (free community kitchen) are not exempt from the Goods and Services Tax, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, which manages the affairs of gurdwaras in Punjab, fears that it would have to bear an additional financial burden of ₹10 crore annually. The SGPC has urged the GST Council and Finance Minister Arun Jaitely to exempt all langar purchases from the GST Act.Enjoyed VAT exemption“Earlier, all purchases for langar by the SGPC at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur and Damdama Sahib in Bathinda were exempted from the Value Added Tax (VAT). But with GST, we will have bear a burden of nearly ₹10 crore annually,” SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh told The Hindu.Mr. Singh said the SGPC was not a commercial organisation and hence its activities should be kept out of the GST purview. “We receive money from offerings, which we spent on the free kitchen and other social causes,” he said. Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also raised the issue with the Union Finance Minister. Ms. Badal said the SGPC spent around ₹75 crore annually on food items such as desi ghee, sugar and pulses for the free kitchen. “But with GST, it will have to bear a financial burden of ₹10 crore on these purchases as they fall in the 5% to 18% bracket,” she said.Radical Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa has also supported the demand.
Tejaswi Yadav, the son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, on Tuesday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money laundering probe in the railway hotels allotment corruption case, officials said. The former Bihar deputy chief minister arrived at the central probe agency’s office where it is expected that the investigating officer of the case will record his statement, they said. It had registered a criminal case against the Lalu Prasad family members and others under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), sometime back. The ED had earlier questioned few people in this case including the wife of former UPA Minister P.C. Gupta. Mr. Tejashwi’s mother and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi has been summoned to appear before the ED on Wednesday. The agency had taken cognisance of a CBI FIR in this regard to initiate its own criminal complaint. In July, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a criminal FIR (first information report) and conducted multiple searches against former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad and others. The ED will investigate the alleged “proceeds of crime” generated by the accused, purportedly through shell companies, officials had said. Ms. Rabri Devi, Mr. Tejaswi Yadav, and others will be probed by the agency under charges filed in the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the ED equivalent of a police FIR. The case dates back to the time when Mr. Prasad was the railway minister in the UPA government. Others named in the CBI FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar (both directors of Sujata Hotels), Delight Marketing company, now known as Lara Projects, and the then IRCTC managing director P K Goel. The CBI FIR alleges that Prasad, as railway minister, handed over the maintenance of two IRCTC hotels to a company after receiving a bribe in the form of prime land in Patna through a ‘benami’ company owned by Sarla Gupta. The FIR was registered on 5 July in connection with favours allegedly extended to Sujata Hotels in awarding a contract for the upkeep of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri and receiving premium land as ‘quid pro quo’.The ED, under the PMLA, has powers to attach and confiscate tainted assets and it is expected that the agency will initiate such a move once it makes progress in the case.
Thirty-two people have been killed by wild elephants in West Bengal in the past six months, between April and September 2017. While these figures indicate a decline in the trend of human-elephant conflict for the year 2017-18 when compared with earlier years, the State is still grappling with this jumbo problem.In a reply to a question raised by Rajya Sabha member N.L. Panchariya, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on March 20, 2017, presented figures which made it clear that West Bengal recorded the highest human deaths in attacks by elephants in 2014-15 and 2015-16.During the year 2016-17, 84 people died in elephant attacks, while the number of human deaths in 2015-16 was as high as 112.West Bengal Forest Minister Binay Krishna Barman said that a drop in human deaths between April to September 2017 is a result of a number of steps taken by the State government. On October 13, 2017, Mr. Barman launched four special vehicles named Airawat for tackling human-wild conflict in north Bengal. Four such vehicles, with facilities for tranquillising animals and tracking their movement, are already working in south Bengal. Raman Sukumar, Bangaluru-based elephant expert and Professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc),said that, till the 1980s, there was no elephant population in south Bengal, except in a few border areas. Not a natural habitatThe problem arose with the increase in the elephant population, and conflict mitigation became more challenging, particularly in south Bengal. He added that the fragmented forests of south Bengal are not a natural habitat for elephants.S. Kulandaivel, Chief Conservator of Forests-West Bengal, said that in south Bengal, elephant herds have changed their food habits and now survive on agricultural crops, juicy vegetables and fruit crops. Among a number of initiatives that the State Forest Department has taken to mitigate the conflict, Mr. Kulandaivel lists planting trees like bamboo and sal in the forests of south Bengal as elephant fodder.Monitoring movementThe State Forest Department has also set up an Elephant Movement Coordination Committee (EMCC), where updates on the movement of elephant herds are given via bulk SMS alerts.The data of the State Forest Department reflects some success in districts like Bankura, where 35 human deaths were recorded 2015-16, 13 human deaths in 2016-17, and three human deaths in the first six months of 2017-18. The latest figures provide some hope to forest officials in south Bengal, where, from 71 human deaths in 2015-16 and 36 human deaths in 2016-17, the number has come down to 10 human deaths in the first six months of 2017-18.The situation in north Bengal, however, remains unchanged with 41 human deaths in 2015-16, 47 human deaths in 2016-17, and 22 human deaths in the first six months of 2017-18. “We are hopeful that we can take this success forward. Moreover, the State Forest department has placed a lot of emphasis on sensitising people over the past few years, and now people have become more aware of how to deal with elephants who stray away from herds,” Mr. Kulandaivel said. However, experts like Mr. Sukumar, who have been working closely with State Forest Department and have suggested steps to manage the elephant population in south Bengal, said that there is an urgent need for long-term mitigation plans to contain human-elephant conflict. “I am happy with the outcome but we should not be under any illusion as the elephant population is increasing in West Bengal. If the elephant population continues to rise, we have to try other forms of management like contraception, and capture and relocation of elephants to other States,” he said. West Bengal recorded 682 elephants in the 2017 census. The number of human-elephant conflicts here is much higher than in States like Karnataka, which has 6,049 elephants in the 2017 census, almost ten times the number of elephants in West Bengal.
A scene at Worli shores. Mumbai is experiencing rain since last evening because of the Cyclone Ockhi. Citing a weather bulletin, the poll panel pointed out that the movement of the cyclonic depression over parts of Gujarat is likely to be accompanied by a wet spell over the next three-four days.In a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, the EC said, considering the cyclone alert and the scheduled first phase of polls on December 9, “besides making effective arrangements for immediate relief and rehabilitation, adequate, effective and fool-proof arrangements may also be made… towards the smooth and efficient conduct of the election process.”It said the authorities should also ensure that all the voters are “able to exercise their franchise without any inconvenience.”IMD updateRivers in North Konkan, North Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat State are likely to rise rapidly.Heavy rainfall is likely in north Konkan, north Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat State during the next 24 hours in association with Cyclone Ockhi which is likely to cross the coast near Surat.Under the influence of cyclone Okchi and the likely formation of a depression in Bay of Bengal, with associated heavy rainfalls, in North Coastal Andhra Pradesh and South Odisha on December 7 and 8th.As the path of the depression is not yet well established, sufficient vigil may have to be maintained.Cyclone Ockhi moves closer to SuratCyclone Ockhi on Tuesday moved closer to the southern coast near Surat in Gujarat and is expected to make a landfall around midnight, according to the latest bulletin of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).As per its latest forecast, the cyclone was 390 km away from Surat.The cyclone is approaching Gujarat steadily and now lies centred in the Arabian Sea just 390 km away from Surat. It is very likely to continue moving north-northwestwards, an IMD official said.Leaders cancel election ralliesSeveral leaders have cancelled their election rallies in the poll-bound Gujarat as cyclone Ockhi is eddying menacingly towards the State’s coast.BJP chief Amit Shah’s poll rallies scheduled in Rajula town of Amreli and Mahuva and Shihor of Bhavnagar district have been cancelled, a party release said.Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held a poll rally in Anjar but cancelled three in Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar.BJP MP Manoj Tiwari’s roadshow in Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad was also cancelled due to light showers since early morning. The BJP has also called off rallies and press conferences of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Surat on Tuesday.Former Congress strongman Shankersinh Vaghela, who floated his ‘Jan Vikalp’ front, was also forced to cancel his roadshows and rallies that were to be held in Junagadh, and Mahuva and Palitana towns of Saurashtra. Though Mr. Vaghela was supposed to reach Surat on Tuesday night, he dropped his plan due to the approaching cyclone.No need to panic, says Mumbai corporationThe Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has said the cyclone will have no impact on Mumbai and its suburbs and urged Mumbaikars not to panic. The nomadic Vanzara community migrates to a safe place in Ahmedabad as coastal Gujarat braces for cyclone Ockhi on Tuesday. The IMD has predicted that the cyclone is 230km west-southwest of Mumbai, and is likely to continue to move north-northeastward, will weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and north Maharashtra coast. Hence Mumbai is safe.All road and and rail traffic are running smoothly, the BMC has said.Schools closed in MumbaiAreas around Mumbai should expect moderate rainfall, while heavy rain is expected in isolated parts of the northern Konkan region. Taking no chances, schools in several parts of Maharashtra, including in Mumbai, have been asked to remain closed on Tuesday by Education Minister Vinod Tawde.The BMC has alerted all stakeholders and began coordinating the operations. “We’ve alerted the Navy, Coast Guard and Fire Brigade. We are preparing for the next two days,” Mahesh Narvekar, who heads BMC’s Disaster Management Cell, said. Read moreNDMA asks fishermen not to venture into seaThe National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has asked fishermen in both the eastern and the western coasts not to venture into the sea in the next three days as heavy rainfall is expected in many areas due to Cyclone Ockhi. A dozen beaches along Goa’s 106 km coastline have been affected by rising sea levels caused by Cyclone Ockhi, State Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte said on Tuesday. He estimated the damage to be around Rs. 20-30 lakhs.Those affected by the natural calamity had two days to approach the government agencies with details of the damage caused to their property to avail compensation, he said. “Roughly about six areas in Salcete [a coastal taluk in South Goa], Varca, Cavellossim, Utorda, Benaulim, Betalbatim and Sernabatim and in north Goa, Arambol, Mandrem, Morjim, Keri, Candolim, Anjuna have been affected,” Mr. Khaunte said.These are popular beach villages frequented by tourists.EC directive on Gujarat pollsThe Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday asked poll authorities in Gujarat to ensure that voters in Assembly seats falling in the path of cyclone Ockhi are able to exercise their franchise on December 9 without inconvenience despite inclement weather. Asking people not to panic in case of a cyclone alert, the NDMA said in an advisory that fishermen along and off the Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts should not venture into the sea from December 6 to 8 while fishermen along and off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are advised not to venture into the sea till tomorrow.Fishermen living along and off south Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts too have been advised not to venture into the sea till Wednesday morning.Goa assesses damageThe North Goa district has done a preliminary assessment of the damage caused by Cyclone Ockhi.Also, the shack owners, whose establishments suffered damage following high tide during the cyclone, have decided to approach the State Tourism Department to seek compensation for their losses.“There was no danger caused to human life in North Goa district, as necessary instructions were given by the talathis (local revenue officials) to foreigners, tourists and locals, asking them not to enter the sea waters,”the office of North Goa’s district magistrate said through a release.However, considerable damage was caused to around 50 shacks in Morjim, Mandrem, Arambol and Querim beaches in Pernem taluka. Soil erosion at Anjuna and Baga beaches and damage to the retaining wall at Coco beach in Nerul have also been reported.The State government will appoint competent authorities to assess the damage and losses to beach shacks and other properties. Read moreWestern Railway on high alertThe Western Railway (WR) on Monday said it had taken necessary precautions and made suitable arrangements in view of the warning about Cyclone Ockhi in the coastal areas of Maharashtra.Read more | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked a 15-year-old girl, who is four months pregnant, to come clean on whether she wanted to terminate her pregnancy from an alleged marriage she had with a man after running away from her home.A Bench of Justice S. Murlidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta asked the girl, through her parents, to give a statement in writing on whether she wanted the pregnancy to be terminated. The High Court noted that the girl had made contradictory statements before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), the medical board at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and then before the court.The girl had gone missing since March 31 after she left home following an altercation with her mother. She was recovered from village Narora in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh after her parent moved the High Court with a petition to find her. While the man, with whom she ran away, was taken into custody on November 27, she was sent to Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre as she refused to go with her parents. Later, she went back to her parents.On Tuesday, the girl appeared before the court. The judges had a conversation with her inside the judge’s chamber where she said that she had re-thought her position and wanted to terminate the pregnancy to pursue her studies.
At least nine school children died and 14 injured while crossing the road after school was over in Muzaffarpur district of north Bihar.Among the injured admitted in Sri Krishna Memorial College and Hospital (SKMCH), the condition of four students is said to be serious.“So far, nine deaths have been confirmed,” a senior police official of Muzaffarpur said.Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed deep sorrow over the death of school children and announced ₹4 lakh compensation to the family members of all those students killed in the accident.Police officials said, the students of Dharampur government middle school under Minapur block of Muzaffarpur were crossing road on National Highway 77 when a speeding SUV crushed them leaving as many as nine students dead.The 14 injured students were admitted to the SMCH where condition of four of them are said to be critical. The school is located along with the NH-77.The driver of the SUV, however, fled from the scene after abandoning the vehicle.
Two women athletes were attacked with acid early on Wednesday morning when they were returning home after their practice in Meerut. Both the players — Shalu, a local boxing player and Garima, a wrestler, got seriously injured in the attack and have been hospitalised.According to the Superintendent of Police Man Singh Chauhan said the culprits include a woman who committed the act with her brother-in-law. They attacked both the players when they came out of the stadium after doing their regular practice. Both the culprits fled from the scene after throwing acid on both the players. Shalu’s back has been seriously burnt in the attack.Mr. Chauhan said that a verbal tiff that both the players had few days ago with the alleged attacker, is said to be the reason behind the attack.“We will file a case once both the players in the situation to talk to the police and give us their statement. Meanwhile the culprits seem to be one lady who had a verbal fight with both the players few days ago. Police will soon apprehend both the culprits,” Mr. Chauhan told the media.
In just two weeks, Sukhen Das, 26, has lost 10 kilos. He blames it on his luck and says, “I will never again go out of the country to work.”Mr. Das is back in Bengal after having spent almost a month at a detention centre in Zabrat, a municipal city of Azerbaijan where he landed after responding to an overseas job advertisement. But Mr. Das cannot return home to Swarupnagar in North 24 Paraganas thanks to the ₹3 lakh that he borrowed from agents to go abroad.“Too many people are looking out for me to recover the money,” said Mr. Das, adding that even his mother does not want him home. A history graduate, he feels “thoroughly swindled.”31 victimsMr. Das is not alone in his ordeal. He is one among the 31 men who have returned from detention in Zabrat.While several people leave West Bengal and other eastern States to work abroad, mainly in construction projects, there is no data available either with researchers or the government about the exact number of such blue collar workers. “No such data (of out migration) exists in the 2011 census. So it is difficult to quantify, even if thousands are going abroad to work each year,” said Mehebub Sahana, a research scholar of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, who has studied the problem.”We were received at Baku airport by the recruiting agents’ men — Shakil, the boss and one Alimuddin. They kept 31 of us in a small room and gave us little to eat and never issued the Temporary Resident Permit which they promised,” said Mr. Das. Occasionally the men would be escorted to an oil extraction site and shown a few machines. “There was no one in the site but the agents said that we should sit and observe the giant machines to learn how they work. It was all fraud, we realized later.”Their passports were taken away and eventually they were detained by the police. Life in the detention centre was worse. “It was extremely cold in that under construction centre and we would be woken up at 6 a.m.Failing which the guards used to kick the beds,” recalled Mr. Das. He survived for nearly a month on boiled cabbage, bread and black tea without sugar.Even minor complaints were treated harshly. “Guards used to beat us up with the walkie-talkie,” recollected Das. The team of workers, from Iran, Sri Lanka and Nepal, were engaged in minor construction work in the centre. “We also worked as carpenters without remuneration,” said Das.Saudi situationYet Mr. Das is luckier than Shyamal Pal, 32.Mr. Pal, from Bardhaman district, has been stuck for nearly six months in Ras Al Khafji, a town between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There the blue collar workers occasionally get food and even more rarely, some work. “We are living like animals. Passports have been confiscated by the owner of the company that got us here, so that we cannot return,” Mr. Pal told The Hindu on the phone from Ras Al Khafji. “No one cares,” he said.In Purbasthali block of Bardhaman, Mr. Pal’s wife, Mamani, however, said the family does care. “I moved the (local) court, and the Indian Embassy in Saudi was informed,” said Ms. Pal, who lives with her infant son and 70-year-old, ailing mother-in-law. Following Ms. Pal’s plea, the Indian Embassy “forced” the owner to pay Mr. Pal some of his dues. “After nearly six months we received ₹10,000 and he (Mr. Pal) got some money too. We were starving,” said Ms. Pal.As with Mr. Sukhen Das, Animarani Das, mother of Basudeb Das of North 24 Paraganas district who is staying with Mr. Pal, said creditors were hounding them.“It is a loan of ₹3.2 lakh with a hefty interest and we are questioned frequently for failing to pay,” said Ms. Das. She said the local agent who took the money to send Mr. Das to Saudi Arabia could not be traced. “I heard he is in South 24 Paraganas (adjacent district) but I’m too old to chase him now,” said Ms. Das.Dubious agentsA senior State government official who has handled such cases points to a pattern. “There are dubious agents who usually do not procure a work permit from the respective (country’s) governments but fly workers in huge numbers from parts of India on tourist visas,” he said.Bengal’s blue collar emigrants are “mostly illiterate”, said Mr. Sahana.“In Kerala, Karnataka or Maharashtra they have more than 40 years of international migration experience. But in the case of the Bengali work force, they started going abroad over last 10 years in the declining phase of Gulf migration and international crisis of labour migration,” Mr. Sahana said.Even the Protector of Emigrants (PoE), under the Ministry of External Affairs, in Kolkata, responsible for granting emigration clearance to blue collar workers, does not have a record of the people travelling abroad. The reason is obvious in the Salt Lake office of the PoE. In one corner, a notice mentions the name of the countries “where emigration clearance” is required. Azerbaijan does not figure in the list of 18 countries, whereas Saudi Arabia does.The other reason is explained by a PoE official. “Plenty of job seekers go out of Bengal through agents who are not listed with us and thus it is difficult for us to guess the numbers.” The PoE in Kolkata has managed to “bring back” less than 50 persons in 2017. Moreover, the recruiting agents of Delhi and Mumbai are more “dubious” than the ones in Bengal. “These agencies operate through their fly-by-night middlemen in Bengal’s villages who manage to take people out of the country offering well paid jobs,” the official said. Once they reach the destination they leave the job seekers to “fend for themselves” like Sukhen Das or Shyamal Pal.But that’s hardly any succour to the family members of Basudeb Das or the family members of the rest – nine in all – stuck in Ras Al Khafji, besides many could not even send their video messages to family or officials, narrating their trauma. Video sharing applications spread their plight from villages of Bengal to the Indian Embassies, finally providing some reprieve.May be they will be freed soon, sobs Basudeb Das’ mother. Then she asks, “But what is the point? Even if he comes back what will he do here? We are landless farmers. We want him to be back but the family can’t survive unless he goes out of the district again.”
The Himachal Pradesh High Court Bar Association and a number of other social and political organisations on Monday came out in support of Shimla residents who are facing acute water crisis for more than a week now.While the lawyers abstained from courts, citizens and activists of various organisations staged aggressive protests against the BJP-controlled Shimla Municipal Corporation and the State government.A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan has taken note of the matter and summoned the commissioner and municipal engineer to appear in court on Tuesday.The Bar Association members claimed that there is no shortage of water and accused the municipal authorities of creating the crisis through biased distribution of water in the city. Had there been an actual shortage in water supply, big hotels and VIP areas too would have been affected, said the Bar members.Meanwhile, cases have been registered against councillors and other citizens who tried to reach Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s residence on Sunday night, raising slogans against the government for not resolving the water crisis.Monitoring panelMr. Thakur constituted a high-level committee on Monday to monitor the crisis and appealed to the people not to make it a political issue and instead bear with the acute dry weather this year and save water. The residents, however, are alleging that the municipal staff, in connivance with some councillors, are selling drinking water to hotels and guest house owners.
Bajrang Dal activist Yogesh Raj, who is absconding after being named as the main accused in the mob violence in Bulandshahr, on Wednesday released a video in which he denies he had any role in the violence.A police inspector and a civilian were shot dead in the violence that erupted on Monday over allegations of cow slaughter in a village in Syana area of Bulandshahr. Police have accused Raj of inciting riot in the western Uttar Pradesh district. More than 70 persons, including some with alleged links to groups affiliated to the RSS, have been booked on charges of mob violence.While the authenticity of the video could not be independently verified, the account presented by Raj matches with the incident.Raj, dressed in a pink shirt and now clean-shaven (the last time he was seen on camera arguing with a policeman identified as the now deceased Subodh Kumar near Chingravati outpost, he sported a beard and moustache), introduces himself as Yogesh Raj, district convenor of the Bajrang Dal.“The police are presenting me in such a manner as though I have a big criminal record. I want to tell you all that two incidents took place that day,” he says in the short clip narrating his version of the violence.The first incident, Raj refers in the video, is the alleged cow slaughter in the Mahav village near Syana. He had complained to the police following which a First Information Report (FIR) was filed in the Syana police station.Raj has claimed he was at the police station when pelting of stones and the killing of the police officer and a youth occurred. “When our demands were fulfilled and a case was being registered at the Syana police station, why would the Bajrang Dal stage a demonstration” he asks in the video.“I was not present at the site when the second incident took place. I have no involvement in it. God will provide me justice, I have full faith in that,” he said.Hailed as a “local hero” who has taken up cow protection, Raj “officially joined” the Bajrang Dal only three years ago following which he was chosen to head its district unit.
Several Forest department officials in Odisha are using luxurious vehicles allegedly gifted by mining companies, alleged Transparency International India here on Monday.Biswajit Mohanty, who had obtained the information through the RTI Act, said, “The officials cannot be expected to enforce laws if they use vehicles gifted by mining companies.” “Every Divisional Forest Officer has at least two to three government vehicles. Hence, there is no need for new vehicle,” he added.
As political parties gear up for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll in Punjab, the ruling Congress, despite the fact that it is yet to fulfil many of its poll promises made during the 2017 Assembly election, seems to enjoy an advantage as both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party are riddled with internal crisis, political experts have told The Hindu.In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, Punjab saw an unexpected response of the electorates to the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which secured 24.5% of the vote share and won four out of 13 constituencies. SAD won four seats with 26.4% vote share and its ally the BJP won two seats with 8.6% vote. The Congress with 33% vote share won three seats. However, in 2017 Gurdaspur bypoll, necessitated by the death BJP MP Vinod Khanna, the Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar won the seat. “This time things are different though, AAP is on weaker ground as the founding leaders have left the party over the years. Stricken by factionalism, the party has seen a virtual split. AAP has been trying to get an alliance with the newly formed Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) and with the Congress as well but without any success. To compound its problem, the party has also lost the crucial NRI support,” says Ashutosh Kumar, Professor of Political Science at the Panjab University. Mr. Ashutosh points out that ground situation is not rosy for the Shiromani Akali Dal as well as party’s senior (Taksali) leaders have come out in the open against the present leadership, posing a challenge to its president Sukhbir Singh Badal. Sukhbir’s acceptance among the senior (Taksali) party leaders as their chief has been time and again questioned.SAD blues“The allegations against the party leadership’s complicity in getting the Akal Takht to pardon Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda besides charges of failure to check the sacrilege cases during their (SAD-BJP) regime continue to hurt the party support. Besides, handling of Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing incidents of 2015, which followed the Bargari sacrilege did not go down well with the party ranks and the Sikh Panth. The Congress government has sought to take political mileage out of it by constituting a special investigation team to investigate the charges,” says Mr. Ashutosh.“The loss of the SAD and AAP is advantageous for the Congress despite the fact that the Amarinder government in the State has failed to fulfil many of its poll promises made during 2017 Assembly election,” he adds.Ronki Ram, Dean at faculty of Social Science at the Panjab University, says people in 2014 looked at AAP as a viable alternative to traditional parties like SAD-BJP and Congress but it doesn’t seem to be the case now. “This time there iss no enthusiasm towards AAP on the ground. Also people still look annoyed with the SAD-BJP for the alleged misdeeds during their regime. Even the recent cross-border air strike is unlikely to help SAD-BJP. In this backdrop the ruling Congress in State seems to be the gainer,” says Mr. Ram.
A 58-year-old Delhi Police sub-inspector died after he was allegedly attacked by a bootlegger in the Vivek Vihar area of Shahdara district on Sunday night.The sub-inspector, Raj Kumar, was reportedly filming illegal liquor trade on his mobile phone when the accused, Vijay alias Bhuri, assaulted him following an argument. The accused has been arrested.Police said a PCR call was received at 10.06 p.m. regarding a quarrel at Kasturba Nagar in Vivek Vihar. Both Kumar and Vijay lived in the same area. “Kumar, out on a post-dinner walk, saw Vijay illegally supplying liquor to a person. He started filming the act on his mobile phone,” said a police officer. Vijay saw Kumar recording the video and asked for his mobile phone. “Kumar refused and this led to a scuffle between them,” the officer said.Taken to hospitalKumar felt uneasy after reaching home and left for Garg Hospital nearby with his daughter on his two-wheeler, said the officer. The hospital authorities referred him to Max Hospital in Patparganj instead. Kumar was declared dead on arrival at the second hospital.Meghna Yadav, DCP (Shahdara), said that an examination of the body prima facie revealed “a cut injury below the chin and a blunt injury mark on the chest”. The preliminary post-mortem report suggested that he died of a heart attack; a detailed report is awaited, she said.“We have registered a case under IPC Section 302. The accused has been arrested,” she said.
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