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QBullet: Silicosis Deaths; Prashant Kishor-Congress Tussle & More

QBullet is your daily compilation of news that has made headlines across the country. 

Updated
India
8 min read
Supreme Court of India directed the Gujarat government to release more than Rs 7 crore as compensation to the families of 238 workers who died due to silicosis.  (Photo: Reuters)

1. Pay Rs 7-Cr Compensation for Silicosis Deaths, Says SC; Pulls up Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

The Supreme Court has issued a bailable warrant against the chief of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), after he did not show up to explain what steps were taken to prevent death of workers due to silicosis in Gujarat. The court also directed the Gujarat government to release more than Rs 7 crore as compensation to the families of 238 workers who died from silicosis, reports The Indian Express.

Representative photo of a mining quarry. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Representative photo of a mining quarry. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhalation of dust containing silica. Most workers in this particular case, have been diagnosed with silicosis due to the exposure to silica dust while working in Godhra’s quartz and stone crushing industries.

Hundreds of people, mostly tribals from Madhya Pradesh, have died due to silicosis while working in Gujarat.

Issuing the order last week, a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman expressed concern over the negligent attitude of the CPCB in addressing the issue.

2. MCD Bypolls: AAP Breaks Into BJP Bastion, Congress Wins Five Seats; BJP Loses Face

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has won in five out of the 13 wards of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for which bypolls were held on 15 May. However, the Congress with four seats and the support of an independent candidate – who won in one ward – levelled with the AAP.

With the BJP holding all the 13 wards in the previous election, the result is a clear indication of rejection for the party which continues to hold the reins of the MCD.

Nine of the 13 councillors in the MCD are now AAP legislators. The other four became legislators on a BJP ticket in 2013, but lost in 2015, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. The AAP has termed the by-polls as a “launchpad” to the “mega final”, referring to the civic polls in the city which are scheduled to take place in 2017.

The Delhi High Court on 29 January directed the Delhi poll panel to conduct the bypolls for all 13 vacant seats within three months.

Also Read:
In Delhi’s Municipal Polls, Congress Finds Hope
MCD Bypoll Results Reflect Some Erosion in AAP’s Popularity

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3. Is Poll Strategist Prashant Kishor Leaving Congress?

Poll strategist, Prashant Kishor may quit his assignment with Congress. According to a report in NDTV, a section within the Congress feels that Kishor is overstepping his brief.

Kishor’s plan of a new team to lead the Congress into the 2017 assembly elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, has not gone down well with many party members, specifically Congress president Amarinder Singh. Singh is opposed to reinstating expelled senior leaders Bir Devinder and Jagmeet Brar.

Strategist Prashant Kishor was helping Congress with the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Strategist Prashant Kishor was helping Congress with the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. (Photo: The Quint)
Sources say Mr Kishor wants a team that includes party stalwarts like Kamal Nath, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sheila Dikshit. This new team, sources say, may be announced by the end of the month, but if it isn’t, it will cause a further strain in ties between Mr Kishor and the party.
Excerpt from NDTV report

Reports suggest that Kishor wants a free hand in deciding what’s going to hurt Congress prospects and what will boost them. However, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have extended full support to him.

Prashant Kishor is seen to be the man responsible for Nitish Kumar’s win in Bihar in 2015. He also engineered Narendra Modi’s campaign during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

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4. For Radicalised Muslim Youth in India, ISIS More Attractive than Lashkar, Jaish: Intelligence Analysts

The Islamic State (ISIS) is fast emerging as the new choice of jihadist-leaning, radicalised Muslim youth in India. ISIS’ strategy of acquiring territory touted as the ‘caliphate’ gives it greater appeal than outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, reports The Times of India.

According to Indian intelligence sources, there is a trend of radicalised Muslims, who till recently gravitated towards Pakistan-based outfits or their Indian affiliates, looking at ISIS with favour. Despite the fact that ISIS’ influence in the South Asian region is not as strong as in Syria, Indian agencies are not taking any chances and are keeping a strict eye on potential recruitments to the terror organisation taking place in India.

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, is an Indian who is facing trial for ISIS terror activities online. (Photo Courtesy: <i><a href="http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/bengaluru-police-file-37000-page-charge-sheet-against-mehdi-masroor-biswas">The News Minute</a></i>)
Mehdi Masroor Biswas, is an Indian who is facing trial for ISIS terror activities online. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
The ISIS’ denunciation of Pakistan army as allied with America and its harsh and uncompromising interpretation of religious tenets threaten to do to Lashkar what the terror outfit did to its rivals: label it as a theologically suspect adjunct of the state lacking the will to recreate a 7th century caliphate.
The Times of India Report 

Top terror masterminds LeT founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed are also worried about the growing influence of ISIS. The ISIS has in the past slammed Lashkar and other anti-India terror outfits as al-Qaeda allies who were “puppets in the hands of an apostate Pakistan army’, which prompted an appeal from JuD to engage in a global effort in dealing with ISIS.

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5. Potential Candidates Videotaped at JNU Entrance Exam

At the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) MPhil entrance examination, candidates were videotaped and photographed at some centres in Jaipur, Kolkata and Delhi while writing the exam, according to a report in The Indian Express.

While JNU teachers have said that such monitoring was ‘unheard of’, according to university authorities, the move was to prevent any unauthorised or fake candidates from sitting for exams. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) had no immediate comment, saying they need to find out independently what this was all about.

About half-an-hour or 45 minutes into the examination, a person walked in with a very large video camera. He went to each student and said ‘upar dekho, camera me dekho’ (look up, look at the camera). He then asked us to show the front sheet of the exam paper to the camera, it had our names and roll numbers. I was very startled, I wasn’t expecting such a thing.I have no idea who that person was, or why he was filming us,” the candidate said. 
Aspiring Candidate, JNU MPhil Examination
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6. Law Against Marital Rape Is Not Used in 99.9% Cases, Says Maneka Gandhi

Most women tend to use the law against marital rape only after the marriage is over and the laws are not being used by women in 99.9 percent of the cases, said Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Gandhi said that the the government cannot intervene in the ‘sensitive’ and ‘complicated’ issue of marital rape and that the buck stops with how women would use the law in a ‘healthy, abusive or a floundering’ marriage.

She asserted this while releasing the draft of the revised national policy for women which marks a shift from a welfare based-strategy to a more rights-based approach and includes issues such as reproductive rights and single-women concerns among others.

Maneka Gandhi has said that marital rape is a sensitive issue, and one in which the government cannot interfere. (Photo:iStock.
Maneka Gandhi has said that marital rape is a sensitive issue, and one in which the government cannot interfere. (Photo:iStock.

The minister’s earlier stance on the issue had created a controversy when, in reply to a question in Parliament, she had said: ‘It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors.’

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7. MEA Says “Map Bill” an Internal Legislation, Asks Pak to Back Off

After Pakistan raised objections against the proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, Vikas Swarup from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said that the Bill is an internal legislative matter of India, as the state of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi in the matter, he asserted.

Pakistan had also raised the matter in the United Nations.

Read The Quint’s report here.

s per the draft Bill, any wrong depiction of the map of India could land violators in jail, with a maximum term of seven years and a fine up of to Rs 100 crore. (Photo: iStock)&nbsp;
s per the draft Bill, any wrong depiction of the map of India could land violators in jail, with a maximum term of seven years and a fine up of to Rs 100 crore. (Photo: iStock) 

MEA has further gone on to stress that India rejects Pakistan’s repeated attempts to impose on the international community matters that India is open to address bilaterally.

Pakistan claims the passage of this Bill would allow the Indian government to penalise individuals and organisations who depict Jammu and Kashmir as disputed territory.

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8. Chanting ‘Om’ Necessary for Yoga? Government Flip Flops on the Issue

The latest edition in the list of controversies, the chanting of ‘Om’ and Vedic mantras has been included in a “protocol” for International Yoga Day sent by the government to offices, schools and colleges. But as the controversy gathered a storm, the Ayush Ministry issued a clarification saying that the rules are not compulsory.

Read The Quint’s report here.

The government had released a Common Yoga Protocol to be followed by participants on 21 June, International Yoga Day. The protocol says yoga exercises should be preceded by a prayer that begins with the chanting of “Om” three times, and ends with “Om Shantih Shantih Shantih”.

However, a letter from University Grants Commission (UGC) Secretary Jaspal S Sandhu sent to vice-chancellors of all universities soughttheir “personal indulgence” in ensuring “wide participation of students and teachers” and made a mention of the Common Yoga Protocol, which led to the controversy, reports The Indian Express.

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9. Opinion | The Punishing Society

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s criminal defamation judgement, Pratap Bhanu Mehta argues that instead of decriminalising more crimes and moving towards civil remedies, India seems to be moving in an opposite direction with criminalisation of more civic violations.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of criminal defamation. (Photo: Reuters)
The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of criminal defamation. (Photo: Reuters)
More and more crimes, from trademark violations to drinking and eating, are becoming criminal violations. We prefer penal over civil remedies. Why is this? Underlying these punitive responses is the large fact of institutional decay and incapacity. As Shyam Balganesh has pointed out in a brilliant article, India is extraordinary in the degree to which it has an underdeveloped tort system. So everything becomes a matter of public rather than private law. The justice system disincentivises tort claims; it is far easier to get the state involved. Second, in the actual functioning of courts, civil remedies take an inordinately long time; civil defamation cases can last decades. So judges implicitly don’t see it as a remedy. Our punitive impulses are an expression of deep institutional failure.
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