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Centre asks Maharashtra to act against
Togadia for 'hate speech'

NEW DELHI: Amidst demand for action against VHP leader Praveen Togadia for allegedly making provocative speeches, the Centre has asked the Maharashtra government to probe the charges and book the Hindu outfit leader if he is found to be violating laws.

The Home Ministry has asked the Prithviraj Chavan-led Maharashtra government to investigate allegations that Togadia made provocative speeches against the members of a particular community.

"The Home Ministry's advise is clear. Once they have confirmed forensic evidence, appropriate action as per law must be taken against Togadia," an official said.

The Maharashtra government has assured the Centre at the highest level that they will take due legal process.

Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said if Togadia's speech is inflammatory, the state government must take action against him.

The Congress government in the state has reportedly ordered forensic examination of Togadia's alleged hate speech and is now waiting for a detailed report to be able to register a case against him for "inciting communal hatred".

At a public meeting at Bhokar town in Nanded district of Maharashtra on January 22 — details of which are now emerging after a video-recording was posted online — Togadia had allegedly attacked Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi and members of a particular community.

Owaisi was sent to jail on charges of delivering a hate speech at Nirmal town in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh last month.

Demanding swift and stringent action against Togadia, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said no religious leader should be allowed to play with communal accord in the country.

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury has also demanded action against Togadia. — PTI






Child sex victims 'mistreated, humiliated' in India
by authorities: Report

NEW DELHI: Child victims of sex assaults in India often find themselves humiliated by the police and mistreated by doctors when they pluck up the courage to report abuse, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

In a report released amid continuing anger at the handling of sex cases in the wake of
a deadly gang rape in Delhi, the rights watchdog said the authorities had to become more sensitive towards victims.

"Children who bravely complain of sexual abuse are often dismissed or ignored by the police, medical staff and other authorities," said HRW's regional director Meenakashi Ganguly at the unveiling of the report.

"Instead, they subject the victim to mistreatment and humiliation."

The report details how children are sometimes forced to undergo a so-called 'finger test' to determine their sexual history, even though forensic experts say the examination has no scientific value.

It also quotes the mother of a three-year-old girl who was left in severe pain after being seen by doctors examining her alleged assault.

"For six to eight hours after the examination my daughter did not urinate because it was hurting her so much," the mother, who cannot be named, was quoted as saying in the report.

Ganguly said it was this sort of "mistreatment" that needed to be addressed and called for an urgent overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Many of the criticisms contained in the report echo those voiced by protestors in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape that triggered demonstrations across the country and deep soul-searching about the handling of sex attacks.

The number of reports of sexual assault in India, whether attacks on children or adults, are believed to represent only a fraction of the overall number, with victims often too scared to file complaints.

"It is hard enough for a sexually abused child or their relatives to come forward and seek help, but instead of handling cases with sensitivity Indian authorities often demean and retraumatize them," Ganguly told reporters.

"The failure to implement needed police reforms to be more sensitive and supportive to victims has made police stations places to be dreaded."

The 82-page report entitled Breaking the Silence, contains more than 100 interviews on the experience of dealing with government institutions.

Child sexual abuse is common in homes, schools and residential care facilities across India and critics say the authorities have a poor record in bringing offenders to justice.

The most high-profile verdict saw two British men jailed for six years in 2011 for abusing several boys at a shelter they ran in Mumbai -- 10 years after charges were first filed.

Last year, the government enacted the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act which sets out punishments for all forms of sex abuse as well as guidelines for police and courts to deal with victims.

"It is a very good initiative from the government," Ganguly said.

"But government efforts to tackle the problem will fail unless protection mechanisms are properly implemented and the justice system is reformed to ensure abuse is reported and fully prosecuted. — AFP






GDP to grow at 5 pc in 2012-13: Govt

NEW DELHI: India's economic growth rate this fiscal is estimated to be sharply lower at 5 per cent, lowest in a decade, on account of poor performance of manufacturing, agriculture and services sector.

This estimate by CSO is drastically lower than what has been projected thus far by the government and RBI.

"The growth in GDP (gross domestic product) during 2012-13 is estimated at 5 per cent as compared to a growth rate of 6.2 per cent in 2011-12," according to the advanced estimates released today by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).






Diesel under-recovery to end by mid-2015: Plan panel

NEW DELHI: The Planning Commission on Thursday said that the under-recoveries on account of sale of diesel will end by mid-2015 following progressive increase in the price of the fuel.

“Diesel is on a progressive elimination of subsidies and by mid-2015, present under pricing of diesel will be removed,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said in his address at India Energy Congress in New Delhi.

The government recently partially decontrolled diesel prices, allowing oil marketing companies (OMCs) to raise prices by about 40-50 paise per litre every month to recover their loss of about Rs. 10 per litre on selling the fuel at subsidised rates currently.

Ahluwalia said the management of energy resources in a world of scarcity is a big challenge.

“Rich countries can afford to have energy subsidies because it will not prevent them from becoming richer. But poorer countries, that want to get richer, cannot continue with it,” he said.

Ahluwalia said that from a political point, it was a difficult message to convey (to raise diesel prices).

“The (energy) resources are scarce and finite and the capacity for growth and our ambitions are very high,” he said, adding that domestic endowment of energy will not be sustainable without renewable resources of energy.

“We can’t look at energy as an isolated issue. We have to get power, coal, gas all working together. It will not be possible to manage energy demand without energy efficiency.”

Ahluwalia said there is a need to stimulate supply of non-conventional resources of energy as it is a must to have continues supply of energy.

He also said the government is exploring potential such as shale gas, though the initial assessment has not been very good.

Emphasising on the need for raising domestic fuel prices, he said diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), coal and natural gas are under priced in India.

“Indian coal is under-priced, some part of coal is sold through auction and the auction price is 30-40 per cent higher. If this under-pricing is not altered then... Incentives to invest have to be maintained by giving budgetary sops which is simply not feasible.”

He also said India has a lot of potential for solar and wind energy and integrating supplies to the grid require a complex activity. — PTI






Akhilesh Yadav expands Cabinet, includes party loyalists

LUCKNOW: In the first expansion of his ministry after coming to power, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today inducted 12 new ministers, including Vinod Kumar Singh who was dropped after he allegedly manhandled the Chief Medical Officer in Gonda.

Among those who were sworn-in were SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury, considered close to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Vinod Kumar Singh, alias Pandit Singh.

Tej Narain Pandey, alias Pawan Pandey, a former Lucknow University Students Union office-bearer, who won from BJP stronghold of Ayodhya, and was part of Team Akhilesh in the run up to the 2012 Assembly polls, has been given a place in the government as a Minister of State.

Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, who won from Amethi seat defeating Congress nominee Amita Singh, and Manoj Kumar Pandey, who was elected from Unchahar Raebareli, were also sworn-in at a function at the Raj Bhawan in Lucknow.

Nitin Agarwal, son of SP national general secretary Naresh Agarwal, Yogesh Pratap Singh, Ram Sakal Gurjar, Alok Kumar Shakya, Vijay Bahadur Pal and Ram Murti Verma have also found berths in the state government.

Among the ministers are three Brahmins, five from the backward classes, two from the Thakur community besides one each from the Jat and Vaish communities. Of new incumbents, five each belong to east and west UP and two from central UP.

While Rajendra Chowdhury has been given Cabinet rank, Vijay Kumar Mishra has been made Minister of State with independent charge while the other 10 are ministers of state.

Before induction of these 12 ministers, including one Cabinet, there were 46 members in the state's council of ministers.

Now, besides the Chief Minister, there will be 19 Cabinet ministers, five ministers of state (independent charge) and 33 ministers of state.

Of the 48 ministers inducted in Akhilesh's cabinet in March of 2012, two berths fell vacant following the death of sports minister Kameshwar Upadhyay and removal of Revenue Minister Vinod Kumar Singh after his name figured in a case of thrashing of the Gonda CMO.

As per provisions, the strength of council of ministers can go up to 60 members. — PTI






RSS chief backs VHP’s resolution for building Ram temple

Allahabad: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday backed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s resolution for building a Ram temple in Ayodhya, saying its construction is like establishing the “Indian identity”.

“I have said that construction of the temple is like a movement to establish the country’s self identity. It is an identity of our country and we have to establish it,” he said speaking to reporters at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.

The VHP has demanded that a bill be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament so that Ram Janambhoomi land could be handed over to the Shri Ram Janambhoomi Nyas for construction of the Ram temple.

It adopted a resolution at the central advisory committee meeting on Wednesday asking the government in this regard failing which the “Hindu samaj will be compelled to launch a massive agitation”.

When asked to comment on Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s Hindu terror remark, Mr. Bhagwat said Hindus don’t indulge in violence.

“Violence and terrorism have never had a place in the RSS or the entire Sangh Parivar,” he said. — PTI






3 held for online threats to all-girl rock band

SRINAGAR: Another youth has been arrested in connection with the online abuses and threats to the all-girl rock band of Jammu and Kashmir.

Irshad Ahmad Chara, resident of S.D. Colony, Batamaloo, was arrested late Wednesday night during a police raid to apprehend him.

Tariq Khan, was apprehended from Bijbehara, a town in South Kashmir, and Rameez Shah was also arrested from Ganderbal in central Kashmir on Wednesday night, police sources said.

Jammu and Kashmir Director-General of Police Ashok Prasad, who is closely monitoring the case, has directed stepping up of patrolling in the areas where two of the three girls of the band group reside.

Police have started tracking down the Internet Protocol addresses of the 26 users whose comments, out of the total 900 posts on the band’s Facebook page, were found abusive, officials said.

They said the delay of three days in lodging the FIR was due to large number of posts on the Facebook page of Kashmir’s all-girl band ‘Pragaash’ that took time to get scanned.

A case in the matter has been registered under Section 66-A of IT Act and Section 506 RPC (criminal intimidation) in the Rajbagh police station in Srinagar.

A member of the band had on Wednesday said they decided to call it quits as they respected the decree of Kashmir’s grand mufti who found singing un-Islamic.

“We respect the Mufti sahib who said it (singing) is haram. We respect the opinion of people of Kashmir also. That is why we quit,” she said, adding that the band was not disbanded because of online threats.

The DGP has requested all central agencies to extend support to apprehend all those who had hurled online abuses at the band. — PTI




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