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Archives for : May2018

India – A triple blow to job guarantee scheme- NREGA

A triple blow to job guarantee scheme

A lack of sufficient funds, rampant payment delays and abysmal wage rates are to blame

The ₹11,000 crore fraud that diamond merchant Nirav Modi is said to have created is a figure that needs to be put in perspective. The total amount of wages pending under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural EmploymentGuarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme for the whole country (2016-17) was around ₹11,000 crore too. This sum is a fifth of the MGNREGA budget announced for financial year 2018-19.

MGNREGA stands out in its worker-centric legislation and stated emphasis on transparency and accountability. Several potentially progressive measures such as a real-time management information system have been put in place. The scheme is meant to be demand-driven in the sense that the government is mandated to provide work within 15 days of a worker seeking work. Otherwise the worker is entitled to an unemployment allowance. A second key provision of the Act pertains to payment of wages within 15 days of completion of work, failing which a worker is entitled to a delay compensation of 0.05% per day of the wages earned. However, both these provisions have been routinely violated. There is an ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court (Swaraj Abhiyan v. the Union of India) concerning these violations. We look at three ways in which a lack of funds has led to a subverting of these provisions in letter and spirit.

First, budget allocation over the years has been insufficient. While there has been an increase in the nominal budget in the last two years, after adjusting for inflation, the budget has actually decreased over the years. The real budget of 2018-19 is much lower than that of 2010-11.

Further truncation

Second, even this low budget allocation has undergone various kinds of curtailment. By December of each year, through a bottom-up participatory planning approach, every State submits a labour budget (LB) to the Centre. This contains the anticipated labour demand for the next financial year. The Centre, on its part, has been using an arbitrary “Approved Labour Budget” to cut down funds requested by States (using the National Electronic Fund Management System, or Ne-FMS), making this a supply-driven programme.

Ne-FMS guidelines issued in 2016-17 say the Management Information System (MIS) “will not allow” States to “generate more employment above the limits set by Agreed to LB”. This meant that the work demand of workers was not even getting registered and the MIS was being used as a means to curb work demand. Thus the “approved labour budget” puts a cap on funds. So, for 2017-18, for example, if one aggregates the requested LB of all States, the minimum budget requirement adds up to ₹72,000 crore. However, the initial allocation was only ₹48,000 crore, which is in synchrony with the approved LB (as on the first week of April 2018).

Because of the ongoing PIL, the Centre was forced to rescind guidelines that enabled the use of the MIS to constrict demand for work. The Centre releases an Annual Master Circular (AMC) each year that serves as a guide to the programme implementation of MGNREGA. The most recent AMC suggests the setting up of an Empowered Committee (EC) to this effect.

The lack of payment of wages on time has meant a violation of the second key aspect of the Act. By analysing transactions (over 90 lakh in 2016-17 and over 45 lakh in the first two quarters of FY17-18), a study on wage payment delays has highlighted how the Centre has completely absolved itself of any responsibility of a delay in the release of wages. Only 21% of payments in 2016-17 and 32% of payments in the first two quarters of FY17-18 were made on time.

In response to the first phase of the study, the Ministry of Finance issued an office memorandum. Acknowledging the validity of the study’s findings, the memorandum also said that the principal reasons for payment delays were “infrastructural bottlenecks, (un)availability of funds and lack of administrative compliance”. The study findings and this memorandum are at odds with the Centre’s dubious claims of 85% of payments having been made on time. The situation worsened in the last six months of FY17-18. Around 25% of the funds transfer orders (FTOs) pertaining to worker wages from January to April this year are still to be processed by the Centre. Last year, the Ministry froze the processing of FTOs (over ₹3,000 crore) due to a lack of funds. In August 2017, the Ministry of Rural Development demanded a supplementary MGNREGA budget of ₹17,000 crore, but the Ministry of Finance approved only ₹7,000 crore, that too in January 2018. The poor are paying a heavy price for this throttling of funds by the Centre.

Stagnating wages

The third point is about stagnating MGNREGA wages. Delinking of MGNREGA wage rates from the Minimum Wages Act (MWA), 1948 has contributed to this. MGNREGA wages are a less lucrative option for the marginalised, being lower than the minimum agricultural wages in most States. As primary beneficiaries of the Act, women, Dalits and Adivasis could be the most affected and pushed to choose more vulnerable and hazardous employment opportunities. Such contravention of the MWA is illegal.

MGNREGA now faces a triple but correlated crisis — a lack of sufficient funds, rampant payment delays, and abysmal wage rates. What this reflects is not only a legal crisis created by the Centre but also a moral one where the fight is not even for a living wage but one for subsistence. One hopes for a just order from the judiciary.

Rajendran Narayanan teaches at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. Madhubala Pothula is an undergraduate student in the same institution

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Bullet train project: investigate ‘illegal detention’, say activists

Bullet train project: investigate ‘illegal detention’, say activists

Allege attempt to stop questions on ‘uncomfortable’ issues during consultation

Mumbai: Activists protesting against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project have condemned the “illegal detention” of farmers and activists just minutes before a consultation for the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited was held in Surat on Monday.

The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and Shoshit Jan Andolan, organisations based out of Maharashtra and Gujarat, have written to the National Human Rights Commission, demanding an investigation into the detention of Krishnakant Chauhan, an elected local panchayat member, and Jayeshbhai Patel, a senior activist, among others. They have demanded urgent action against those found responsible.

The detainees were released on Monday evening.

‘Violation of rights’

Mr. Chauhan, an activist of Prayavarn Suraksha Samiti, said, “We were picked up without being given any reasons just before the start of the consultation, and taken to Umra police station in Surat. This was to stop us from creating any more awareness about the project.”

Brian Lobo, who is spearheading the organisations fighting for farmers and tribals affected by the project in Maharashtra, said the detention was to ensure that the activists would not raise “uncomfortable” issues during the consultation. “This is in violation of basic human and democratic rights. The administration, falling prey to pressure from the Central government, is trying to muzzle the voices of dissent of those who are fighting to protect their livelihood,” Mr. Lobo said.

Tribal rights activist Ulka Mahajan had earlier said that stakeholders were not given any time to prepare for the previous consultations. “Now, the NHRC must inquire into this detention and take action against all those responsible,” she said.

Project impact

Last month, farmers from the neighbouring states had gathered at a joint meeting in Surat to oppose land acquisition proceedings for the project. About 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up their land, while 7,974 plots belonging to the forest authorities and Railways will have to be acquired for the project.

Geotechnical investigations, hydrological survey, utility mapping have already been halted on a 90-km alignment in Palghar due to the protests. Activists have also warned of the potential loss of green cover. “In Palghar alone, the impact of the major highway, freight corridor and bullet train project is going to be massive, both in terms of loss of forest and land,” said Mr. Lobo.

The high speed train, with a capacity for 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km/hr and 350km/hr and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the present eight. The project is expected to be completed in seven years.

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India – NGO Network Opposes Ex-NIA Chief’s Proposed Appointment as NHRC Member

Former NIA chief Sharad Kumar allegedly closed many terror cases involving right-wing outfits. In a letter to President Ramnath Kovind, group says move to appoint him would send “wrong signal”, violate international principle

All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI) has submitted a memorandum to the President of India expressing its serious concerns with regard to the recent news[1]of the possible appointment of Former National Investigation Agency (NIA) Director General Sharad Kumar as the Member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

AiNNI in its memorandum has mentioned that the appointment of Mr. Kumar at a juncture when most of the cases handled by the NHRC are against police and security agencies would send a wrong message to the people of India. The memorandum mentions that Mr. Kumar as the NIA Chief has come under severe questioning as during his term all terror cases by right-wing Hindutva outfits associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were closed and almost all resulting in acquittals of the accused.

AiNNI has expressed its serious concerns as this news comes at a juncture when the NHRC team is assisting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the extrajudicial killings in Manipur and also a series of cases are pending regarding serious human violations by security forces in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir etc.

The memorandum further mentions that the appointment, if done, will be contrary to the universally accepted human rights standards evolved under the aegis of the United Nations and will be against the recommendations of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GA-NHRIs) through its Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) in their reports in 2011, 2016 and 2017 raising concerns regarding representatives of security agencies on the NHRC.

AiNNI requests the President of India to urgently intervene in this matter through his powers of assent and accordingly direct the Appointment Committee to ensure that due process of appointment to NHRC is followed. The Appointment Committee should respect international principles and should take into consideration the contributions to human rights made by each of the eligible candidate being considered for this post. As required by the Paris Principles and highlighted by the SCA and GANHRI, the appointment process should broadly publicize the vacancies to maximize the number of potential candidates from a wide range of societal groups and educational qualifications; promoting broad consultations and/or participation in the application, screening, selection and appointment process; and, assessing applicants on the basis of pre-determined, objective and publicly-available criteria.

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People’s Movements to Challenge AIIB’s Infrastructure Financing

Over 80 CSOs and Social Movements to Organize Events Parallel to AIIB’s AGM in Mumbai


Raising the serious issues of social and environmental costs in infrastructure projects, its economic burden on public and financial non-viability, Civil Society Organisations and social movements are set to  organize a three day convention on Infrastructure Financing from June 21 – 23rd in Mumbai parallel to the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank’s third Annual Governors Meeting slated for June 25-26 in the same city.

The movements and CSOs will hold the Convention under the aegis of  Working Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs), which include over 80 people’s movements and other CSOs, including National Alliance of People’s Movements, National Hawkers Federation,National Fishworkers Forum, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Bano Andolan, Soshit Jan Andolan, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan; Environment Support Group; North East Peoples Alliance, and others.

During the Convention, various discussions will be held on urban development, transportation, coastal protection and coastal communities, sustainable energy and equity, privatization, monitoring financial institutions and their policies and projects in the country. The registrations for the workshops have started.

The Peoples Convention intends to demand accountability from the development financial institutions, particularly AIIB which lacks robust policies on environmental-social safeguards, transparent public disclosure and a complaint handling mechanism. While the detailed information about the programme will be shared later, you can know more about the AIIB’s projects and Peoples Convention here.


Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the two-year-old multilateral bank, is investing in all major sectors, including energy, without robust policies on environmental-social safeguards, transparent public disclosure and an accountability/complaint handling mechanism. Out of the total 24 projects, it has financed, USD 4.4 billion has already been approved. India is the biggest recipient from AIIB with more than 1.2 billion USD supporting about six projects including Transmission lines, Capital City Development at Amravati, rural roads etc. with another 1 billion USD in proposed projects.

About Us: 

WGonIFIs, a network of movements, organisations and individuals to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), and joining the celebration of the people and communities across the world in resisting them. A list of the network is available here.

Last year, when the Asian Development Bank completed 50 years, the WGonIFIs observed it by holding actions of protests in over 140 locations spread in over 21 states in India against the investment policies of ADB and other International Financial Institutions.

For further details, please contact: 

Working Group on IFIs | [email protected]


Concept Note:


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What do Avengers, Black Panther and Wonder Woman have in common?  The Abuse of Women

Just like Wonder Woman and Black Panther before it, Avengers: Infinity War is showing substantial muscle at the box office crossing the $1 billion mark in record time. But there is another, more problematic, use of force present in each of these comic adaptations – the consistent abuse of women.

In the fantasy realm of comics and film, superheroes capture our imagination and embody our notions of what it means to be good.  Yet time after time, whether they be lead or bit players, female characters have been the subject of intimate partner and family violence within the DC Comics and Marvel worlds.

Wonder Woman was a blockbuster extraordinaire that girls and women – including me – had been waiting for their entire lives.  But underneath the bad-ass costume and amazing stunts, Diana Prince is just like too many women.  Globally, one in three women have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the course of their everyday lives – most often at the hands of a male partner or family member.

In the film’s epic battle, Wonder Woman faces off against her nemesis – her own brother – mimicking the violence experienced by women at the hands of family members.  According to UNFPA, at least 5,000 women die per year as a result of honor killings and nearly two million are forced to undergo female genital mutilation, often at the behest of family.

Like the millions of women who came forward during the #MeToo movement, Wonder Woman is also subject to sexual harassment. Verbal abuse is cloaked as humor; nearly every male character in the film has some commentary on Diana’s physical appearance or her mere presence.

She is objectified, and mansplaining is used to maintain power and control over her.  Nearly half of women experience this form of abuse, which may be more harmful than overt psychological aggression. “Emotional abuse is worse. You can become insane when you are constantly humiliated and told that you are worthless, that you are nothing” stated a participant in the WHO multi-country study on violence. Despite being hailed for its feminism, gender-based violence pervades Wonder Woman sending a strikingly sexist message:  This is the treatment that even the most wonderful of women deserve.

Black Panther was similarly widely anticipated and unique in its intersectionality; positive images of black women are admittedly far too rare.  Wakandan women are portrayed as warriors: fierce, intelligent and beautiful.

Yet there is only one African-American female character in the film and as scholar Jonathan Gayles pointed out, few people can name her.  She is Linda, the girlfriend of Killmonger, who is murdered by him in an act of unfettered violence.  Even in the Afro-centric vision of Black Panther, where Wakandan women are treated with respect, this African-American woman is discarded.

The pattern continues in “Avengers: Infinity War.”   Spoiler alert: The film’s villain, Thanos, kills his daughter Gamora.  Sadly, parents are most often responsible for child murder; 56.5% of child homicides can be attributed to parents.  For those who survive abuse, the outcomes are nearly as troublesome.  Women who experience childhood trauma and family violence are more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a partner over the course of their lives.

Some might say that these films are fantasy, or simply a reflection of reality – and that’s true.  But particularly in the superhero genre they also represent the world as we hope it will be:  one where good triumphs over evil.

The little girls and boys looking for role models in these stories have them – and they include troublesome narratives of family and partner abuse.  They set the stage for what girls and women can expect from parents, siblings and partners; they also demonstrate to boys what being a heroic man looks like, and how to treat women – including the perpetration of violence against them.

Nearly 40% percent of rapes occur among college-aged women, who along with adolescents make up a large target audience for superhero flicks.  What is the message then when after sharing a battle victory and romantic dance, Steve Trevor walks Diana Prince to her room for the night?  As he starts to close the door, Diana makes eye contact.  Assuming her consent Steve enters the room, closing the door behind him. Viewers assume that a sexual encounter comes next; but there is no explicit consent.  The idea that consent is at best ignored, and at worst misses a key opportunity to model how boys and men can engage in stopping forced sex.

If Diana had invited Steve to her room, the message would have been about female sexual pleasure and power.  Instead her power is taken from her.  Rather than smashing the patriarchy, these films embed patriarchal power even more deeply in the minds of young viewers.

As a little girl I emulated Lynda Carter and cried when my Wonder Woman Underoos were stained with peanut butter.  Those formative impressions have impact today – my office is scattered with Wonder Woman notepads and coffee mugs, and I still strike a power pose before big meetings.

I am a lifelong and unabashed Wonder Woman fan; I am not a film maker, media critic or Marvel SuperFan.  But I have seen enough superhero movies to be a realist. I know these are action films and there will be violence.  I just never expected that so many films, including those heralded for girl power, would include so many kinds of abuse against women, especially at the hands of loved ones. Some viewers, like those involved in Gamergate’s threats against women who enter a perceived male realm, might like to keep it that way.

One thing is certain about the future of superhero films.  There will be more.  A Black Panther sequel has been confirmed, as has the next installment of the Avengers series.  Wonder Woman 2 is set for release in June 2019.  Gal Gadot, the actress playing the superheroine, has already leveraged her star power to ensure that Brett Ratner — a director facing allegations of sexual assault –won’t be a part of the film.  Now, others involved with the development and production of these films need to do their part to change the violence against women narrative.

The rest of us will be waiting, and watching, for the sequel.

Dabney P. Evans, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Public Health at Emory University and a Ford Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.

What do Avengers, Black Panther and Wonder Woman have in common?  The Abuse of Women 

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India – Cabinet approves establishment of National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation at Bhopal

The Union Cabinet Chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the establishment of National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) at Bhopal as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. The estimated cumulative cost of the project is Rs. 179.54 crore in first three years. This includes non-recurring expenditure of Rs. 128.54 crore and recurring expenditure of Rs. 51 crore.
The Union Cabinet has also approved the proposal to create three Joint Secretary level posts, which include one post of Director of the Institute and two posts of Professors.
The main objectives of the NIMHR are to provide rehabilitation services to the persons with mental illness, capacity development in the area of mental health rehabilitation, policy framing and advanced research in mental health rehabilitation.
The Institute will have nine Departments/Centres and will conduct 12 courses to offer diploma, certificate, graduate, post graduate, M.Phil degrees in the area of mental health rehabilitation. Within a span of 5 years, the student intake of the institute in various courses is expected to be over 400.
Government of Madhya Pradesh has allocated 5 acres of land in Bhopal for setting up of this Institute. The Institute will be established in three years in two phases. Within two years, the civil and electrical work of the institute will be completed. Simultaneously, during the construction of building, the Institute will run in a suitable rented building in Bhopal to conduct certificate/diploma courses and also OPD services. Subsequently, the Institute will provide complete set of rehabilitation services for persons with mental illness and conduct courses upto Master’s degree and M.Phil.
NIMHR will be the first of its kind in the country in the area of mental health rehabilitation.  It will serve as an institution of excellence to develop capacity building in the area of mental health rehabilitation and also help the Government to develop models for effective rehabilitation of persons with mental illness.

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India – Globally-renowned Warli artist Jivya Shoma Mashe dead #RIP

The 87-year-old popularised the tribal art form and won a host of international awards

Jivya Soma Mashe was fascinated with tribal art since the age of 11.
Jivya Soma Mashe was fascinated with tribal art since the age of 11.(HT)




Making tribal life popular through Warli art, he epitomised ‘simple living, high thinking’

Padmashri Jivya Soma Mashe, who pioneered the Warli art movement, is no more and I am experiencing his loss just like the rest of his family and the countless people whose lives he touched.

I still remember the first time I met him almost 15 years ago. I had organised a trip to Dahanu for some Italian gallerists who wanted to meet the legendary ‘other master’. They wanted to try and convince him for a show. We drove down to the picturesque Dahanu village and found Jivya picking runner beans in his backyard for lunch. I’ve never met an artist so down-to-earth and barely aware of his immense talent and the effect it had on people.

That day a bond was forged between us and he agreed to present a show in Italy. Not only did he provide his works, he also agreed to be there for the opening and demonstrate as well. While the Italian guests were dressed in their fashionable formal best, Jivya was in his usual trademark white shirt and cotton half-trousers, completely at ease with himself and unaffected by the adulation that was being showered on him. He sat down on the ground with his canvas that had been prepared with a coating of cow dung and started painting using the special needle-like twigs of the ‘taad’ tree that dots the landscape of Dahanu.

Indeed, this is how I will always remember him – crouched over his paintings while sitting on the floor, a pose in which I often found him whenever I visited Dahanu.

Over the years, I assimilated in his family. In a sense, I was their link to the outside world – a trusted friend to whom Jivya, his sons Sadashiv and Balu and grandsons would turn to if they needed advice on dealing with an art dealer or gallery. I would be the person they would turn to when there was a show planned abroad and they needed to get their documentation in order. I am honoured to have been made a part of their inner circle, being given a glimpse into their lives and, at times, sharing their simple meals comprising bakhri and vegetables grown in his farm and humble home.

There was never any doubt about his talent and genius; there wouldn’t have been so many collectors queuing up to buy his works, both in India and abroad, if he did not have that special spark. His most famous works include ‘The Fisherman’, ‘Birds’, and ‘Ants’. With simple formatting and life subjects like ‘Wedding’, ‘Farming’, ‘Diwali’, ‘The Warli Gods’, his art was equally popular among the art lovers and collectors. We were all thrilled when he received the Padmashri; indeed a well-deserved honour. He was even generous in the teaching of his art; there are many young artists, mentored by him, practising Warli art. Though he taught them the folktales and how to render them on canvas, his unique style of painting remained his own till the end.

His sons and grandsons carry on the legacy. As time took its toll on Jivya, he became more of a recluse, sending his children for art workshops and exhibitions abroad. But his doors were always open for me. I will cherish his memory forever. The world has lost not just an exceptional artist but also a wonderful human being who epitomised the words ‘simple living; high thinking’.

Born on March 13, 1931, Mashe was fascinated with the tribal art of living and decided to propagate the rich tribal life through Warli paintings, which is the traditional tribal form of painting.Since he was 11 years old, Mashe was particularly fascinated with tribal weddings and would portray scenes from weddings through his paintings, said Narendra Patil, a social activist who knew Mashe. His paintings adorn the drawing rooms of fans spread across Russia,Italy, Germany, Japan, China, UK, Belgium and many other countries,said Patil.

In 1975, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told Bhaskar Kulkarni,a senior member of the Crafts Board, Delhi, to find a traditional painter who could depict the tribal way of life, Patil said. Kulkarni came across Mashe’s paintings and presented him before the late PM, who was fascinated with his work, and encouraged him to spread Warli paintings worldwide, Patil said. In 1976, the then President of India Fakruddin Ali Ahmed allotted 3.5 acres of land to Mashe in the then undivided Thane district to propagate Warli art. However, Mashe got the land only after 35 years, in 2011, after the intervention of then Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

When Mashe was 7 years old, he lost his mother and was rendered speechless for a few years due to the trauma. Due to the tragedy, Mashe and his family shifted from Dhamangaon in Talasari to his present home in Kalambipada in Ganjad, said Ramakant Patil, another social worker who knew Mashe. When he was speechless, he would communicate with people by drawing images on paper and on the sandy ground,Patil said.

Mashe’s work was highly acclaimed and he won a host of awards. Navnath Zare, resident district collector, Palghar, said Mashe was awarded the Padmashri in 2011 for propagating the Warli art form. In 1976, he received the National Award for Warli art. In 2002, he received the Shilp Guru award, a Government of India award given to master craftsmen. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Prince Claus Award fro Warli tribal painting, said Zare. The Prince Claus Awards are presented by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development to honour ‘artists, thinkers and cultural organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean,’ whose artistic and cultural work makes a positive contribution to the social development within their country. Mashe was also given a cash award of Rs17 lakh by the Queen of Belgium for his traditional Warli painting skills and was felicitated by Tokio Hasegave, the founder director of Mithila Museum,Tokamachi, Japan.

He is survived by two sons, Sadashiv and Balu, who are carrying on the legacy of their father, and a daughter

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Punjab – SGPC objects and demands action against RSS for distortion of Sikh history

AMRITSAR SAHIB—Taking strong notice of the distortion of Sikh history in books published by RSS’ Nagpur based Sri Bharti Parkashan, the SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal has asked the Indian government and Maharshtra government to take action against the responsible authorities. Warning the RSS to put control over its anti-Sikhism actions, Longowal has asked them to immediately withdraw the books from market and seek an apology from Sikhs.



AMRITSAR: The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has demanded strict action against the people responsible for allegedly distorting the Sikh history in the books published by Shri Bharati Prakashan from the RSS’s headquarters in Nagpur.

In a release issued here on Tuesday, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said they had written to the Union human resource development (HRD) minister and Maharashtra chief minister expressing their displeasure over alleged distortion of the Sikh history and facts relating to the Gurus.


Longowal has also demanded an immediate withdrawal of the controversial book and also cautioned the RSS to restrain from indulging in such activities. The SGPC chief said he would soon form a committee comprising Sikh intellectuals, educationists and lawyers on the issue of Sikh historical books.


the SGPC president S. Gobind Singh Longowal informed that he has written letters to the Union Human Resource Development Minister Sri Prakash Javadekar and Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Sri Devendra Fadnavis seeking action against the RSS backed publishers.

Longowal has said that the Sikh community respects every religion but it doesn’t mean that the other religions are allowed to portray Sikhism as part of their religion. He added that nobody would be allowed to distort Sikh history at any cost. “The SGPC is going to constitute a panel of Sikh intellectuals, Sikh educationalists and Sikh lawyers to tackle such attacks on Sikhism” he maintained.

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Rajasthan – Meet the first visually impaired judge #disability #Goodnews


  • 31-year-old Brahmananda Sharma, who lost his eyesight due to glaucoma at the age of 22, always wanted to be a judge and did not once think of giving up his dream.
  • Sharma, who hails from Bhilwara and studied in a government school, appeared for the 2013 Rajasthan Judicial Services Examination and cleared it in the first attempt, securing 83rd rank.

Brahmananda SharmaBrahmananda Sharma

AJMER: Like any other judge, 31-year-old Brahmananda Sharma refers to the court proceedings several times over. However, like them, he does not read through the notes. The first visually impaired judge of Rajasthan, instead, listens to the recorded proceedings.
A civil judge and judicial magistrate of Sarwar town of Ajmer district, who lost his eyesight due to glaucoma at the age of 22, Sharma always wanted to be a judge and did not once think of giving up his dream.”I even approached a coaching centre but they refused to help me. It is my family which helped me all through. My wife, who is a teacher at a government school, read out the books and we maintained a recording of the readings, which I listened to frequently,” he says, speaking to TOI. Sharma, who hails from Bhilwara and studied in a government school, appeared for the 2013 Rajasthan Judicial Services Examination and cleared it in the first attempt, securing 83rd rank. The Rajasthan High Court recommended a year’s training for him, after which he joined the service in 2016. His first posting was in Chittorgarh, from where he was recently transferred to Sarwar.Hundreds of advocates come to the court and Sharma claims, he can recognize them all by their footsteps. “Many a times, I sense that advocates and their clients are skeptical and even wonder if a visually impaired man can ensure justice. They seem to forget that even the eyes of the woman of justice are covered. I do justice weighing the facts and merits of a case, just the way it should be,” a confident Sharma says.

Sharma uses an e-speak device connected to a computer, which converts and records the notes made by the reader into speech. “When an advocate approaches my court with a petition, I ask him to read the plaint as well as the attached documents. His voice is enough for me to judge his authenticity,” says the judge.

He listens to the recorded arguments made by advocates and statements made by witnesses and clients several times over. “I have to be sure that I don’t miss out on anything, which might be crucial for the case,” he says.

“The use of technology should be increased in the judicial system so that people who are illiterate can also understand what actually is being done by the court. It will also bring transparency as the illiterate witnesses can later hear their statements given to the court,” adds the judge. Managing the staff is a little tough, he accepts, but he does it by evaluating what his reader or clerk is doing or speaking. Sharma says that he is happy that he not only maintained his self-esteem but also proved that nothing can stop a person from fulfilling his dream. “I have no remorse for my disability,” he adds.

Meanwhile, In 2009, T Chakkaravarthy, he created a judicial history by probably becoming the first visually impaired judicial officer in Tamil Nadu to hold court.In March 2009, when the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) included him in the list of 180-odd candidates for the subordinate judiciary, Chakkaravarthy’s 17-year dream to enter the judicial service was realised. Born at Thimiri village near Arcot in Vellore district, this 41-year-old lost his eye sight at four, when he was down with small pox. He is now the proud occupant of III additional district munsif’s chair in Coimbatore.

On his first independent day in court on Monday, Chakkaravarthy heard cases on his own. Though he said he had struggled a lot to reach the position, and indicated that he might require the services of an assistant, he did not wish to elaborate on that. He said that being a judicial officer he would require permission from the High Court Registry to speak about himself and other related issues. Perhaps to assist him in his work, Chakkaravarthy’s wife Thilaka is studying LLB now.”This candidate did not require any special arrangements during his training and induction programme,” said S Vimala, district judge and former director of the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy. Noting that Chakkaravarthy had cleared all requirements before his selection, Vimala said chief justice HL Gokhale met him during the induction training and assured him of the higher judiciary’s all moral support to him.

The issue of visually impaired persons seeking to break into the judiciary is not new in Tamil Nadu. In 2003, authorities rejected a visually disabled candidate’s application for a subordinate judiciary post. He had to file a writ petition seeking a direction to the authorities to permit him to write the examination. Though he managed to be short-listed from out of thousands of aspirants, the candidate stumbled at the interview stage, said a jurist who argued for the candidate.
The case, however, had triggered a serious debate on the issue, with questions such as what is handicap?’ Referring to the half a dozen outstation judges, who were on transfer from other states, the jurist had argued that language was a barrier/handicap to those judges, and that they had to take the help of either a co-judge or the court staff for translation or interpretation.

When the bench, headed by justice Jayasimha Babu, asked as to how would the disabled person look into the eyes of the accused and assess the demeanour, the jurist argued that it was an old technique as “looks are deceptive nowadays.” The bench relented finally and allowed him to write the examinations.

The jurist had also to point out the fact that justice Zakeria Mohammed Zak Yacoob became judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa despite his blindness. In West Bengal, Sadhan Gupta was made advocate general in 1986-87 though he too was visually impaired.

The district munsif only needs to listen to chief examination and cross-examination before dictating his verdict to a steno, he said.

Times of India

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