Book AIADMK cadres: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday asked Tamil Nadu Police to book AIADMK supporters who pierced cheeks of children as part of a ritual for speedy recovery of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

The directions, which included seeking a report from the state government on steps taken to stop such rituals, came after the Chennai Police Commissioner confirmed that such an incident took place on 3 October 2016.

The NHRC also wanted to know from police about the disciplinary action taken against “erring” policemen, who were present at the site and “did nothing to stop the criminal act”.

The police came in for severe criticism from the NHRC after the Commissioner suggested that children participated in the event with the approval of their parents and were not forced to do so. However, the officer accepted that the incident was a gross violation of child rights and that the police personnel who were at the spot “had been severely warned”.

Rebuffing the Commissioner, the NHRC said that it “fails to understand” how the consent of the parents or that of the children for the ritual “can justify the criminal act of piercing children’s cheeks” with rods. “Admittedly, the police officials, present at the site of the incident did nothing to stop it. Therefore, a simple warning to the erring police personnel is abysmal considering the gravity of the incident,” it said.

Armed with the police report, NHRC said AIADMK supporters forced around 20 children to pierce their cheeks with two metre steel rods as part of a ritual for the then ailing Jayalalithaa’s speedy recovery.

The children were made to walk from Murugan Temple in R K Nagar to Seniamman Temple in Tondiarpet by the supporters of AIADMK and that the children were “very small” and their cheeks were forcibly pierced,” it said.

“A photograph reveals that the children were made to wear a cap with a photograph of Jayalalithaa and with slogan written on it — ‘long live Amma’. One girl is seen caught by some persons for the purpose of piercing her cheeks. The incident makes it a clear case of violation of human rights of children,” it said.

The NHRC directed Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) in North Chennai to register the case under sections of criminal conspiracy, common intention, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and wrongful restraint against AIADMK supporters who organised the programme.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

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Inaction led to BHU protests

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought a report from UP government and the Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor over “inaction” on a complaint of eve-teasing and harsh police action against agitating students.

The NHRC felt that students, who were protesting the eve-teasing and inaction by security guards, were subjected to “inhuman treatment” by police personnel and it amounted to violation of their human rights.

“The university authorities should have acted sensibly as the matter related to the dignity of a woman. The police authorities resorted to rather harsh steps than the situation, perhaps, warranted,” an NHRC statement said.

Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports, the NHRC asked the Chief Secretary and the Vice Chancellor to submit reports within four weeks and provide details about action taken against miscreants and precautionary measures taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future.

The NHRC said the media reports are “indicative of lapses” on the part of the university authorities, including the security guards. Instead of taking a quick action into the complaint of eve-teasing, it said, they allegedly indulged in sarcastic comments towards the victim girl.

Students were lathicharged by police on Saturday night after they protested against an eve-teasing incident and response of BHU authorities to it.

Quoting media reports, the NHRC siad when the matter was brought to the notice of Hostel Warden, she instead of taking up the issue with her superiors, asked the girl why was she returning late to the hostel.

This response angered the students who sat on a protest at the main gate of the university demanding round-the-clock security, making security personnel accountable, adequate lighting on roads to girl’s hostel, CCTV network and proper checking at the gates.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

Citizens’ group for dialogue on JK

Taking a cue from latest statements from government and BJP on Jammu and Kashmir, a high-profile citizens group led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday urged the government to initiate dialogue with stakeholders.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) said they are reading the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP leadership with “much hope” as there is a “positive change in policy towards Kashmiris.

While it is looking forward to a “concrete follow up” on these statements, the CCG said it wants the government to “clearly identify” the stakeholders and announce the name of an authorised interlocutor to “operationalise the well-intentioned statements” that have “so eloquently been made”.

The statement, signed by former National Minorities Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao among others, also wanted the government to set a time-frame for the beginning and conduct of the dialogue process and start it as soon as possible.

“Despite deep scepticism that has taken hold of their minds, the encouraging statements by the Prime Minister, Home Minister and others hold promise for the Kashmiris. The present opportunity should not be wasted. And, therefore, it is our fervent appeal to the government to quickly act definitively on the sentiments expressed in a time-bound manner,” the statement said.

Other signatories include Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, former Special Secretary V Balachandran, academicians Badri Raina, Ramchandra Guha and Zoya Hasan, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist John Dayal.

In his Independence Day speech, Modi had said that Kashmiris need a hug not abuses or bullets while Singh had undertaken a visit to Kashmir recently. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav has said that government is ready to hold dialogues with every stakeholder, including separatists.

Last month, a CCG delegation had visited Kashmir and said “simmering anger” over Article 35(A) is leading to an “increasing distance” between Kashmiris and the rest of India and the “sense of dismay and despondency in the people had grown” compared to their previous visits.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

‘Modi has a modest rise in assets’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assets grew by around Rs 27 lakh in 2016-17 compared to previous fiscal, according to assets details made public.

Besides Modi, only 16 of the 76 ministers in the Union Council of Ministers have submitted the details of their assets so far though the deadline set by the Prime Minister has passed on August 31. Of these, nine ministers were sworn in earlier this month only while six had quit following reshuffle.

According to the details, Modi has assets a little above Rs two crore as on March 31, up from Rs 1.73 crore reported in 2015-16 and Rs 1.41 crore in 2014-15.

He has Rs 1.49 lakh as cash in hand while his fixed deposits rose by around Rs 39 lakh in the last fiscal. His savings account showed a decline from Rs 2.09 lakh to Rs 1.33 lakh.

An interesting disclosure is that the Prime Minister did not earn a single penny as royalty on books in the last fiscal compared to Rs 12.35 lakh he earned in 2015-16. Otherwise, his jewellery collection (four gold rings weighing 45 grams) remained the same.

The assets details of spouse Jashodaben is marked “not known”.

** Modi did not get royalty for any books in 2016-17

** Ashok Gajapathi Raju still owns a 1982-model jeep

** Sadanand Gowda has licenced weapons

**Ramvilas Paswan’s family owns a petrol pump in south Delhi

Asset details of several senior ministers like Rajnath Singh (Home), Nirmala Sitharaman (Defence), Piyush Goyal (Railway), Ravishankar Prasad (Law), Ananth Kumar (Chemicals and Fertilisers) and Smriti Irani (Information and Broadcasting) are yet to reach the public domain. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was one the early birds in declaring assets.

Most of the ministers have invested in jewellery with Jaitley reporting that he and his wife own jewellery worth around Rs 1.5 crore. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj owns jewellery worth Rs 27 lakh while Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has gold and silver worth 52 lakh.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju still owns a 1982-model jeep now valued at Rs 15,000 and a Nano car of Rs 1.30 lakh while his cabinet colleague Sadanand Gowda has declared that he has licenced weapons. Gowda in one of his earlier declarations had said that he has a .32 revolver he bought in 2002 for Rs 55,000 besides a gun he bought for Rs 5,000 in 1989.

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, a doctor, has shown his clinic’s assets at Rs 9,399 while Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan has said that his family owns a petrol pump in south Delhi. 

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 24, 2017)

Ritabrata may face the axe

CPI(M) may further shrink in Parliament as the party is mulling disciplinary actions, including expulsion, against Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee for his latest remarks against a section of party leadership.

The West Bengal party Secretariat is meeting on Wednesday to take a “call” on Banerjee’s remarks in a TV interview that included the description of a committee led by Polit Bureau member Mohd Salim to look into allegations against him as a “kangaroo commission”.

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Following complaints of a series of misconduct, including his lifestyle, Banerjee, a 38-year-old MP, was put under three month suspension from June 2 pending enquiry. A Commission led by Salim had recommended his demotion to district committee from state committee pending approval from the central leadership.

If party decides to expel Banerjee, its numbers could come down to seven in Rajya Sabha as he can remain in the House as an unattached member. Even if he resigns, the CPI(M) does not have the strength in West Bengal Assembly get its own member elected to the Upper House.

Last month, the party was reduced to eight in the Upper House after General Secretary Sitaram Yechury term ended and was denied a third term though Congress offered support to get him re-elected.

When contacted, a defiant Banerjee told DH that party is not the fiefdom of anyone. Asked if CPI(M) takes any action against him, he said, “I will remain as a Left voicing the demands of the Left. Red, till I die.”

Banerjee has angered the party with his interview to a Bengali channel in which he said he had been victim of jealousy in the party since he was vocal and very active in Parliament.

“I cannot forget the judgement of the kangaroo court which found me guilty. The commission was set up three months after my suspension by the party. I was punished before the judgement. It was nothing but revenge against me, as on occasions I spoke the truth,” he was quoted as saying.

On speculation about him hobnobbing with BJP and Trinamool Congress leaders, he said, “Time will tell about my future plan.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 13, 2017)

Local police should be trained in disaster management: study

Local police personnel are the first to reach any disaster site but there is no clarity about their role in such a scenario, a government-sponsored study has said.

Citing the example of Karnataka where there is no official document that indicate a specific role given to the police, it has suggested that local police should be given specialised training in disaster management.

The study ‘Role of Police in Disaster Management’ also suggested that the Disaster Management Acts and policies, Police Acts and police manuals should be amended to include disaster management as “one of the core function of police” like the way Bihar and Kerala has done.

“Police organisation has to see itself as a major player in disaster management. It will continue to have the first responder role given its proximity to the incident site and relationship with the people. Therefore it has to bring about change in its approach. It has to adopt disaster management function as a one of its primary functions,” the study authored by Additional Director General of Police (Railway) in Bihar Paras Nath Rai said.

The study is primarily based on Bihar but also covers Karnataka, Odisha and Assam, which are known to have well established structures and practices.

However, the states have no policy document on involving police. Assam police has not started training its police forces while there is little training of police.

“More or less similar situation existed in this state too…Discussions with the officials, including the secretary (Revenue who responsible for disaster management) showed that there is no document which can indicate specific role given to the police. Moreover, police is not being given any kind of specialised training for response in natural disasters,” the study said on Karnataka.

State and district level authorities cannot afford to wait for response specialized forces such as NDRF all the time and on many occasions, it might not be advisable or feasible to deploy armed forces and NDRF.

“Hence state police must be prepared as response force. The local police must be trained, equipped and supported with legislation and logistics so that they find themselves capable to support the victim in the golden ‘hour’,” it said.

(Appeared in Deccan Herald website on Sep 13, 2013)

Overtime, irregular eating all adds upto police’s stress

Almost half of the personnel in Bengaluru City Police suffer from moderate to severe stress owing to a variety of reasons from prolonged working hours to irregular food habits, a government-sponsored study has said.

The study ‘Stress Levels and Associated Diseases in Bangalore City Police Personnel’ also said male personnel were at a higher risk for increase in cholesterol levels, obesity, gastritis, heart diseases as such as the early onset of cardio-vascular diseases (CVD) in comparison to women personnel.

Policemen keep watch during a protest rally organised by various trade unions in Mumbai

Using responses from 605 personnel in 12 divisions of the city police, the study said both operational and organisational issues are contributing to the stress levels of personnel.

According to the study conducted by Dr B G Sudarshan, Associate Professor and Medical Officer of Bengaluru-based R V College of Engineering, overtime demands and irregular food habits are causing operational stresses while prolonged working hours, inadequate pay scales and promotional policies are causing heartburns on organisational front.

Stress Level of Bengaluru City Police personnel

Stress Level %

% of Bengaluru City Personnel

Age Group 35-45 years

<38

30.1

30.89

38.1-44

23.1

18.17

44.1-50

15.5

15.80

50-62.5

21.8

22.91

>62.5

9.4

12.84

“More than 47% of the respondents suffered from stress levels of more than 44%, suggesting that close to 50% of the personnel are under the influence of moderate to severe stress. This calls for a serious mitigation process to overcome the same,” the study conducted for the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) said.

While 15.5% of the respondents had a stress level of 44-50%, which is considered moderate, 31.2% had a score of more than 50% indicating that they suffer from severe stress.

Inadequate pay scales, problems related to coping with superiors and prolonged working hours are of “greater concern” in male personnel police compared to their female counterparts. “As these are the stressors for organisational stresses, it calls for behavioural corrections,” the study conducted over a period of three years recommended.

Stress related to operational issues were lower in female personnel than that in male, which is mainly because of less overtime demands from the women.

“Comparative picture of organisation stresses between male and female police suggest that while promotional policies equally caused stresses in both, inadequate pay scales, problems related to coping with superiors and prolonged working hours are of greater concern in men police than that in women police,” the study said. 

On the health front, the study noted that women personnel are more prone to CVD when heart rate variability was considered as an independent risk factor for CVD. “Around 57% of unarmed police were found to be at high risk for CVD as compared to 6.8% in armed police,” it added.

Incidence of OPERATIONAL Stresses based on the stressors in %

Division Irregular Shift Overtime Demands Irregular Food Habits Mean
Bengaluru South

40

75

82.5

65.83

Bengaluru Noorth

60.65

73.7

78.7

71.01

Bengaluru East

57.14

85

100

81.3

Bengaluru West

42

81

91.3

71

North East

70

79

97

80

South East

40

70

95

68

Central

65

83

87

78

Traffic East

25

48

76

50

Traffic West

52

60

83

65

CAR HQ

44

53

73

57

CAR South

57

77

77

70

CAR North

31

52

64

49

Incidence of ORGANISATIONAL Stresses based on the stressors in %

Division Promotional Policy Inadequate Pay scales Coping with Superiors Prolonged working hours Mean
Bengaluru South

78

63

55

90

72

Bengaluru North

64

57

43

90

64

Bengaluru East

86

93

64

93

84

Bengaluru West

57

39

48

88

58

North East

65

53

65

85

67

South East

73

49

51

92

66

Central

74

57

65

91

72

Traffic East

55

38

42

63

50

Traffic West

42

42

33

65

46

CAR HQ

51

45

32

64

48

CAR South

44

45

31

53

43

CAR North

57

38

36

77

52

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 12, 2017)

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