Freedom Under Fire: SC Pulls Up Centre, States on Drought Again; Gujarat Textbook Has Nehru Explaining ‘Bharat Mata’

A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.

File photo of a drought hit area. Credit: PTI

File photo of a drought hit area. Credit: PTI

SC pulls up Centre, states for failing to tackle drought

In a scathing 53-page verdict on the “lack of will” shown by the Centre and states in combating drought and saving lives, the Supreme Court on Wednesday pronounced that the Centre was “washing its hands ” of a national disaster that affected one-fourth of the country, The Hindu reported.

It also pulled up Gujarat, Bihar and Haryana for adopting an “ostrich-like attitude” and delaying declaring drought, driving their own people to suicide, starvation and mass migration. “A candid admission does not imply a loss of face or invite imputations of ineffective governance — it is an acknowledgement of reality. An ostrich-like attitude is a pity. The sound of silence coming from these states subjects the vulnerable to further distress,” Justice B. Lokur wrote.

A bench of Justices Lokur and N.V. Ramana issued a number of directions on tackling the drought situation, answering a petition filed by the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan.

In Gujarat, textbook has chapter on Jawaharlal Nehru explaining ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ 

Patriotism, Bharat mata and Bharatiya sanskriti will find a place in Hindi language textbooks of Gujarat when the new academic session gets under way in June, a report in The Indian Express says. In four textbooks, for students of classes IX and XI, under Hindi first language and Hindi second language, the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB) has come out with a curriculum that includes the song Manushya tu badaa mahaan hai, sung in RSS camps. An exercise in the book also tells students to memorise the song and recite/sing it in class.

And while neighbouring Rajasthan has trimmed the mention of Nehru in its textbooks, the GSSTB book for class XI second language will take on an issue under much debate these days — Bharat mata ki jai. The chapter, a part of his autobiography, has Nehru explaining the idea of Bharat mata to a group of farmers in Rohtak, Haryana.

Molested by six, woman commits suicide

An 18-year-old woman committed suicide at her house in south Delhi’s Kishangarh on Tuesday, The Times of India reported. Her family alleged that she was being sexually harassed by a group of youths of the neighbourhood. A 20-year-old man was arrested on the charge of abetment of suicide.

The woman used to work at a beauty parlour along with her sister. According to her sister, she was being harassed by the man who had moved into the locality a few months ago. On Tuesday afternoon, when she returned home from the parlour, her sister saw that her phone had been damaged. “When I asked her about the reason, she wept and said the youth and five of his friends had dragged her into a nearby jungle and molested her. When she threatened to go to the police, they thrashed her and broke the phone,” she said.

While her family went to file a complaint with the police, the woman killed herself.

Christian transgender people to have equal right on ancestral property

For the first time, transgender people belonging to the Christian community can have equal rights over ancestral property, The Hindu reported.

The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC), after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christians, which consists of 52 religious leaders and professionals, has recommended to the Law Commission to amend the India Succession Act, 1925 and include the third gender in section 44.

In a meeting held on April 21, all members of the Advisory Committee agreed that transgenders should be given equal rights just as men and women. “The entire Christian Committee agreed. We are hopeful that this will be incorporated and the Law Commission clears this recommendation,” said Abraham M. Pattiyani, member of DMC.

No plans to lift AFSPA from J&K, Northeast, says government

The government has no plans to revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

“No, sir,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in reply to a written question on whether government has plans to revoke the controversial law. Chaudhary also said the government had not received any information from its sources about whether the atmosphere prevailing in the states is conducive to lifting AFSPA.

Teesta Setalvad case file was just one of many missing

An accounting of files by Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) division of the home ministry, after the file related to activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust went missing and was traced to undersecretary Anand Joshi, had found some other files missing as well, a report in The Times of India says. According to ministry of home affairs sources, these “missing” files are among the papers recovered during CBI raids at Joshi’s residential and office premises.

The officials did not elaborate on what these files were, stating that CBI’s report on the raids were awaited. “The matter is very serious. Joshi had walked away with crucial FCRA files when he was transferred from FCRA division to parliamentary division, based on complaints and intelligence inputs that he had arbitrarily issued notices to around 60-70 NGOs receiving rich foreign funding,” an officer said.

Udumalpet ‘honour’ killing victim’s wife attempts suicide

According to a report in The Hindu, S. Kausalya, whose Dalit husband V. Sankar was hacked to death in public at Udumalpet recently, attempted suicide at her in-laws house at Komaralingam, near Udumalpet in Tirupur district, in the early hours of Thursday.

Her husband had been killed in public view in March this year for marrying an upper-caste girl. She had also sustained injuries during the attack.

Many Chennai polling booths remain inaccessible, say disability activists

Despite sustained campaigns to make polling booths accessible for all, disability rights activists say many booths continue to remain difficult to get to, a report in The Hindu says.

A sample access audit conducted by the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) has thrown up problems at booths across the state, said Sathya Madurantakam, a volunteer with DRA. “The audit was conducted by nearly 100 volunteers to check for accessibility – from the gate to the booth and at the booth itself. Close to 1,200 booths were audited from mid March to mid April,” he said. “Since mid-April, after we pointed out the problems with the audited booths, a lot of the issues have been addressed by the Chennai Corporation. But still, around 25% of the audited booths continue to have inaccessible ramps, and around 35% have obstacles in the pathways.”

Do you know of any other incident we should highlight in this column? Write to me at [email protected].

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