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DU students and professors protest against amendment to Article 370; question legality of government’s move

Members of students’ organisations stage a protest against the amendment to Article 370 by the Centre, at the DU Arts Faculty on North Campus on Thursday. Shiv Kumar Pushpakar SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Delhi University students and professors gathered at the Arts Faculty on North Campus on Thursday in protest against the Centre’s move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.

Criticising the government’s move, third-year students from Jesus and Mary College — Shraddha Rai and Divyakriti Singh — said, “They [government] are sitting in their pretty offices in Delhi, deciding for a group of people who have no representation. The least you could do is consult their erstwhile leaders. I know the Opposition is weak, but people are not.”

Remarks condemned

Organised by student activist groups, including the All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Pinjra Tod among others, the protest was dominated by women students who took the lead in raising slogans supporting Kashmiri women.

Amidst chants of “Kashmir ki auratein, hum tumhare saath hain(Women of Kashmir, we are with you)”, those protesting condemned the statement made by a BJP MLA who had earlier said that BJP workers are now at the liberty to marry “gori” [fair] Kashmiri women.

A Kashmiri student from Miranda House, while addressing the gathering said, “They’ve murdered my choice. They’ve murdered my self-respect,” referring to the MLA’s remark. She added, “If the move is welcomed in Kashmir, then why is it under curfew? These people are hungry for power”

Arfat Jaffri, a resident of Poonch added, “People were ready to go home for Id, but now we do not know if we will be able to leave or come back.”

While the legality of the government’s move is being questioned, Nandita Narain, former president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association said, “The Presidential order states that support of the J&K Assembly was secured, except there is no Legislative Assembly. Consent was given by the Governor, a representative of the President. Essentially, the President took permission from himself.”

Heavy militarisation

For Nabila Ansari, a second-year student of St. Stephen’s College, it is important for the government to hold a referendum.

“If they truly believe that the move will benefit people then a referendum should be held. Let the people decide. The government has taken the current decision with such heavy militarisation. Clearly, they have an agenda and it does not look good at all,” she said.

Armed BSF personnel and Delhi Police forces maintained vigil as students marched on shouting slogans of “370 waapas lao” and “Kashmir hum tumhare saath hain”.

Chief Minister says 11,000 hotspots will be set up in the first phase of the project

Arvind KejriwalR_V_Moorthy

The Delhi government on Thursday approved a proposal which will allow residents of the city to avail of free Wi-Fi services across the Capital within the next three to four months.

A proposal to instal 1.4 lakh more CCTV cameras was also given a go-ahead.

15 GB data for free

Announcing these decisions approved by the Delhi Cabinet at a press conference here, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said people will also be able to use up to 15 GB free data every month as part of the Wi-Fi project, which envisages the setting up of 11,000 hotspots in the first phase.

“Every user will be given 15 GB data for free, which is, I think, the single biggest initiative of a government anywhere in the world. We will learn from the experience of the first phase of the project and will create more hotspots, if required, later,” Mr. Kejriwal told the media.

“In the next three-four months, the Delhi government will start providing free Wi-Fi to people. Our government will allot ₹100 crore annually for the project,” he said, adding that with this, the AAP-led Delhi government fulfilled its major electoral promise of providing free Wi-Fi in the Capital.

According to the Chief Minister, the 70 Assembly constituencies in Delhi will have 1,000 hotspots, totalling to 7,000 such hotspots spread across these Assembly segments, each, while 4,000 hotspots will be set up at bus queue shelters as part of the project that will be executed under a Public-Private Partnership model.

Wi-Fi services with 200 MBPS internet speed will be available within a 50-metre radius of the hotspot which will cater to connectivity for around 200 people at a time. The government also said that the Wi-Fi hotspots will be connected with CCTV cameras being installed under the AAP government’s ambitious project in this regard.

In addition, the Chief Minister said, while the Delhi government was already in the process of installing 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras across the 70 Assembly segments – 2,000 per constituency – the Delhi Cabinet cleared a proposal to procure an additional 1.4 lakh such cameras for installation in the city.

“Delhi has become the first city in the world where the government is installing nearly three lakh CCTV cameras in one go to ensure women’s safety and to provide a major push to infrastructure. This was a major commitment of this government to the people. Whatever we can do towards ensuring women’s security is being done,” the Chief Minister said.

Mr. Kejriwal, however, added that while public response in relation to the project had been “overwhelmingly positive”, 2,000 cameras in each Assembly constituency “may not suffice”.

“Today, the Cabinet has approved the purchase of 1.4 lakh more CCTV cameras. The tender process will now follow and the additional 1.4 lakh cameras will also start getting installed in the next three-four months,” Mr. Kejriwal said, adding that a total of 2.8 lakh CCTV cameras will be up and running by the end of the year.

Students’ union condemns ‘constitutional coup’ to amend Article 370, demands consultations

Students holding a silent protest on AMU campus. Special arrangement

Kashmiri students studying in Aligarh Muslim University protested against scrapping of special status for Kashmir on Wednesday. At a meeting, the students called for a national debate on the subject.

Around 1,000 students from Jammu and Kashmir study in the university; there are many Kashmiri teachers as well. Around 40 students participated in the silent protest wearing black bands on their arms. The protest happened in the presence of the university proctor and the participants didn’t allow it to be videographed.

Shafey Kidwai, university spokesperson, said, “As the summer vacations have just ended, there are around 270 Kashmiri students on campus. The biggest concern of the students was their inability to get in touch with their parents because of the lockdown in the Kashmir Valley.”

Proctor’s assurance

Proctor Afifullah Khan said the administration reassured them of their security and told them not to leave the campus without informing the authorities.

In a statement, the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union has also condemned the “constitutional coup” to amend Article 370 of the Constitution. Union president Salman Imtiaz said no power centre should decide the fate of people without their consultation.

“The trust deficit between Delhi and Kashmir has reached a new low,” he said.

The relationship between Kashmir and AMU goes back a long way. Former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah, popularly called Papa Mian, was an important cog in the team of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. “He was instrumental in propagating education among Muslim women. He opened a madrasa for girls which later became Abdullah College,” said Prof. Kidwai. Sheikh Abdullah, popularly called Sher-e-Kashmir, also studied at AMU. According to Prof. Kidwai, his “progressive views” took shape in AMU.

“In the last decade, the number of Kashmiri students has swelled because of disturbance in the Valley. It is not just AMU, Kashmiri students are spread across the State. It shows the importance a common Kashmiri gives to education,” said Mirza Asmer Beg, who teaches political science. He said Article 370 was already reduced to a shell and was only of “emotional value” to both the parties.

‘Not in spirit’

“The bifurcation of J&K might look maintainable in letter but not in spirit and the Supreme Court could question it on grounds of constitutional morality,” Prof. Beg said

On Thursday, the university organised a seminar on Kashmiri language and literature.

Karnataka agrees to release five lakh cusecs of water from Almatti dam following Fadnavis’s request to Yediyurappa; 67,000 hectares of crops damaged in Kolhapur

Rising to the occasion: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with ministers (from left) Girish Mahajan, Chandrakant Patil and Eknath Shinde during an aerial survey to take the stock of the flood situation in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts. Special Arrangement

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday assured the people in flood-hit regions in Sangli and Kolhapur districts that rescue operations are proceeding apace, and that there is no need as yet for a declaration of national emergency.

“The situation in Sangli is very serious. I have requested Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa to release five lakh cusecs of water from Almatti dam to ease the plight of the Sangli residents,” the CM said, adding, “Our priority is to first evacuate pregnant women, children and the sick.”

Meanwhile, Karnataka agreed to release five lakh cusecs of water from Almatti dam, located downstream on the Krishna river, an official from Mr. Fadnavis’ office said. This will help bring down the water level in the flood-affected areas in Western Maharashtra, he said.

Mr. Fadnavis was speaking in Kolhapur after conducting an aerial survey of the flood-affected zones in Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts. He reviewed rescue work at Shivaji Bridge and visited affected people at a transit camp in Kolhapur district. While four persons in Kolhapur have lost their lives in rain-related accidents in the last few days, the CM said there have been no casualties owing to the floods so far in the district.

Mr. Fadnavis said 67,000 hectares of crops have been damaged in Kolhapur owing to the deluge, which has also destroyed 3,813 houses while rendering 390 water supply schemes dysfunctional. “If the situation demands, we will declare a national emergency. As of now, the government is carrying out relief efforts comparable to one,” the CM said.

Explaining why he was compelled to take an aerial survey, the CM said he attempted to land his helicopter in flood-hit Karad but was unable to get permission owing to inclement weather.

Responding to accusations of tardiness in responding to the crisis, Mr. Fadnavis said he had cancelled his ‘Mahajanadesh Yatra’. “Maximum evacuation will be carried out by the end of Thursday. Water levels in Karad are going down. The rescue teams are conducting operations at full throttle.”

Mr. Fadnavis said the challenge is to tackle the petrol and diesel shortage in Kolhapur and Sangli districts.

Vigil stepped up after triple murder in neighbouring Anantapur district

Left in ruins: Police inspecting a stone structure ravaged by treasure hunters in Chittoor district.Special Arrangement

Folklore serves as the map as they dig around dilapidated temples to find brass vessels laden with jewellery -- but cops aren’t amused by such adventures.

After the gruesome murder of three elderly people, including two women, inside a village temple in Kadiri mandal of Anantapur district three weeks ago, the police in the western mandals of Chittoor have stepped up vigil against such “treasure hunters.”

Police reject theory

The triple-murder case is yet to be solved, but it is widely viewed as the handiwork of “treasure hunters” who wanted to appease spirits to guide them to the hidden gold. The theory, however, has been rejected by the police.

In a span of a few days, police in Kalakada in Chittoor district have taken 13 persons into custody in two cases of “treasure hunting”, while search is on for four other absconders. Looking for hidden treasures is a bailable offence, but following the triple murder police are now seeking to tackle the menace with non-bailable sections.

Acting on a tip-off, police sub-inspector (Kalakada) B. Ravi Prakash Reddy and his team rushed to an old Siva temple in the forests abutting Kona panchayat on Tuesday midnight.

A six-member gang was nabbed when they were busy uprooting some stone blocks near the temple zone. According to folklore, the temple with a history of over 300 years was the favourite haunt of a local king and his concubine.

The king bestowed her with dominion over a vast stretch of land, which included the surrounding villages. In his last days, when he was suffering from a mysterious disease, the king came to the temple and settled with his concubine. After his death, the woman hid the jewels and valuables in safe spots in the temple zone before leaving.

Because of this legend, the temple has remained a target for “treasure hunters” over several decades. Most recently, Kalakada police caught a seven-member gang while digging in the fields abutting a forest. They said the gangs were active in luring innocent people in rural areas with the promise of a share in the find. Some advances would be collected from them for conducting of rituals like animal sacrifice and occult worship.

Police have now intensified vigil at some of the old and abandoned historical structures in the western mandals of Anantapur.

Some villages in Rayachoti and Veeraballi mandals of Kadapa district are also considered vulnerable to such clandestine digging.

“We are leaving no stone unturned to pin down the treasure hunters,” sub-inspector Reddy said after the triple murder in Anantapur district. An awareness campaign would also be taken up in the vulnerable areas seeking public cooperation to provide information about the “ treasure hunters”, he added.

It was ferrying 30 people stranded in flooded village

Rescue mission: Soldiers moving villagers from flooded areas near the Pune-Bangalore highway on the outskirts of Kolhapur city on Thursday. Abhijeet GurjarAbhijeet Gurjar

At least nine people, including seven women and one child, were killed while four others are feared drowned when a boat ferrying more than 30 people stranded in Sangli’s Brahmanal village capsized on Thursday.

District authorities said that nine bodies had been recovered, while a search is on for the missing persons. Fifteen people have been rescued, said officials.

The incident is believed to have occurred when the residents of the village, cut-off by rising floodwaters, attempted to head for safety on their own.

“The boat, which belonged to the Brahmanal Gram Panchayat, was not part of official relief operations being conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Army personnel,” said Pune Divisional Commissioner Dr. Deepak Mhaisekar.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced compensation of ₹5 lakh for the kin of the deceased.

“According to information I have received, it appears that the boat was overloaded. The machine of the boat got entangled in the branch of a tree which caused the mishap,” said the Chief Minister, appealing to those who were marooned to be patient and not venture out on their own.

Residents of Brahmanal accused the district administration of apathy, stating that the authorities had forsaken them by not sending them help when they sought it.

“The water here has now crossed 20 feet…when the sarpanch of Brahmanal had urged the administration to provide boats, the latter had turned a blind eye to our plight, thus forcing villagers to take their own initiative and make this hazardous journey to safer quarters,” said Sandeep Rajoba, a resident of Brahmanal and an activist of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana.

President approves NMC Bill

Harsh Vardhan clarified that it was the final year exam that had been converted into the national exit test.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday approved the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019, paving the way for the establishment of the country’s new regulator of medical education and certification.

“We are happy with the development and are aiming at framing rules and constituting the National Medical Commission in the next six months,” Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, confirming Presidential assent for the Bill.

The Minister described the NMC Act as a “progressive” legislation that would help reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down costs of medical education, simplify procedures, help to enhance the number of medical seats in India, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people for quality healthcare.

“It is a game-changing reform of transformational nature,” Dr. Vardhan said.

Licensing exam

Elaborating on the exit exam, NEXT, Dr. Vardhan said: “Even in the current system, every student has to appear for a final year examination. Under the NMC Act, this final year exam has been converted into a nationwide exit test called NEXT. This single examination will grant a licence to practise medicine, an MBBS degree, and [serve as an] entrance to postgraduate courses.’’

A ‘singular’ feature of the NMC Act is that it provides for the regulation of fees and all other charges in 50% seats in private colleges as well as deemed universities.

“Nearly 50% of the total MBBS seats in the country are in government colleges, which have nominal fees. Of the remaining seats, 50% would be regulated by NMC. This means that almost 75% of total seats in the country would be available at reasonable fees,’’ he said.

Allays fears

The Minister also elaborated on the provisions relating to Community Health Providers and sought to allay apprehensions voiced by some medical professionals of a dilution in the standards of healthcare services.

“Doctors are a scarce resource in our country and need to be optimally utilised,” Dr. Vardhan said. “The only area where other health professionals can supplement them is preventive and primary healthcare. We are providing for mid-level health providers.”

He also sought to dispel an impression about the NMC being dominated by Central government nominees. “There will be 10 Vice- Chancellors of State health universities and nine elected members of State Medical Councils in the NMC. Thus, 19 out of 33 members will be from the States.”

One out of every four Bills attacks the federal structure laid down by Constitution, says Trinamool MP

Derek O’ Brien

A day after Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu hailed the recent parliamentary session for clearing 32 Bills, the highest in 17 years for a session, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said many of them had violated the federal values of the Constitution.

“One out of every four Bills passed attacks the federal structure laid down by the Constitution and dilutes the powers of the States,” he said. The Opposition parties played a constructive role, but the government was not cooperative, he said.

Many regional parties had opposed the Bills to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Right to Information Act and the NIA Act, among others. The latest amendments to the UAPA Act empowered the Home Ministry to declare any individual a terrorist and attach his property without consulting the police.

The amendments to the RTI Act will enable the Centre to decide the terms and conditions of employment of even the State Information Officers under the pretext of uniformity. The changes to the NIA Act mean the police need not be informed before arrests or raids.

Women’s quota Bill

Mr. O’Brien also asked why the government did not bring in the Bill to reserve 33% seats for women in Parliament or the one for data protection.

“It depends not on how many hours you spend with the tutor, it depends on the mark sheet and the quality of college you get into,” he said of the quality of the legislation passed without parliamentary scrutiny. No Bill was sent to a select committee or a standing committee this session.

In the 14th Lok Sabha, 60% of the Bills were sent to standing committees and in the 15th Lok Sabha, it was 71%. In the 16th Lok Sabha, during the first government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, only 26% of the Bills went through this process.

He, however, demanded restoration of Statehood for Jammu and Kashmir

As Congress leaders continued to speak in different voices on Jammu and Kashmir, party veteran and former ruler of J&K Karan Singh on Thursday said he supported the Centre’s move to remove Article 35A and make Ladakh a Union Territory. He, however, stressed that the decision should not lead to any communal tension and J&K should be restored as a State as soon as possible.

“The drastic measure, however, appears to enjoy the overwhelming support of Parliament as well as around the country, including Jammu and Ladakh. I have been pondering deeply over the issue. Personally, I don't agree with a blanket condemnation of these developments. There are several positive points,” he said in a statement.

“Ladakh’s emergence as a Union Territory is to be welcomed. In fact, I had suggested this as far back as 1965 when I was still the Sadar-i-Riyasat of J&K and had proposed the reorganisation of the State,” he said and suggested retaining the Hill Councils of Kargil and Leh.

“The gender discrimination in Article 35A needed to be addressed as also the long-awaited enfranchisement of lakhs of West Pakistan refugees and the reservations for the Scheduled Tribes, which will be welcomed. There will be fresh delimitation, which for the first time will ensure a fair division of political power between Jammu and Kashmir region,” he noted.

His statement comes just two days after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) adopted a resolution deploring the move as “unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic”.

Dr. Singh, who has been a special invitee to the CWC, seemed undeterred even as he urged the Centre to start a dialogue with mainstream political parties of J&K to normalise the situation.

“Communal harmony should be maintained and violence should be eschewed... With my lifelong involvement in J&K, my sole intention is to further the intention of all sections of the State,” Dr. Singh added.

The party has convened a meeting of the heads of all State units and Opposition leaders on Friday to brainstorm and explain the nuances of its position.

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