Independent charge eludes Disabilities Commissioner

Two years after the Parliament passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the state is yet to appoint an independent Commissioner for Disabilities, who is saddled with three other portfolios.

Commissioner for Disabilities Kumar Rahul is also the Secretary-cum-Director, Mining, and Secretary, Home Affairs, Justice and Jail. He was appointed in February. Before him, the post was vacant for several months.

Disability activists demand an independent Commissioner for Disabilities as they claim their grievances go unaddressed.

As per the 2011 Census, the state has 6.54 lakh persons with disabilities.

The state government is yet to notify policies to implement the 2016 Act.

Amarjit Singh Anand, a member of the Punjab State Advisory Board for Disabilities, said: “The Commissioner is pre-occupied with other portfolios at the cost of the disability sector. Until the policies for the disabled are notified, the Act can’t be implemented. The state needs an independent Commissioner for Disabilities for that.”

He cited a few unaddressed issues: non-disbursal of pension for disabled persons for more than six months and no meetings of the advisory board ever since the Congress came to power. “In the name of a meeting, the advisory board had organised an introductory session with disability activists,” Anand said.

Disability activist Vivek Joshi said, “I had sent repeated complaints to the Commissioner on harassment of disabled persons, but none was addressed. Every time we call, he is busy or in a meeting. I complained about disability students not allowed to appear for their exams and mistreatment meted out to me by Air India staff. This is not all. The 2011 Census data has not been revised.”

Minister for Social Security Aruna Chaudhary said, “Several officials have been sent to Chhattisgarh for the Assembly elections. Some of them will return on December 17, after which policy issues of the disability sector will be taken up. The state will get an independent Commissioner for Disability within a few months. This will be done before the code of conduct for the 2019 General Election is enforced. Anganwari workers will be deployed to collect data on persons with disabilities.”

Commissioner for Disabilities Kumar Rahul dismissed the view that the additional portfolios were affecting his work. “I have been regularly responding to grievances. As for students not allowed to take the exam, we did intervene, but we will look into the matter as to why the issue was not addressed. Other issues will be addressed once the policy is notified. The government is working on that.”

Irregularities lead to closure of 539 children homes.

 

The crackdown on Child Care Institutions (CCI) violating the
norms has resulted in 539 children homes being shut down across states.
Besides irregularities, the failure of the homes to register with the state as
per the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 is one of the major reasons for the
ministry of women and child closing these. Of the 539 homes 377 are in
Maharashtra followed by 78 in Andhra Pradesh and 32 in Telangana. In
Uttar Pradesh where the shocking cases from Deoria have been in the
news, 20 homes have been shut down. As many as 21 homes have been
closed in Karnataka.
The Supreme Court had set a deadline for December 31, 2017 for all
unregistered CCIs to register. In an attempt to ensure compliance in the
WCD ministry kept on giving the states repeated reminders to ensure compliance. However, after cases of abuse came to like
in a home in Muzzafarpur in Bihar and then in Deoria, the WCD ministry stepped up action to crackdown on non-compliant
unregistered homes. “The children who were living in those CCIs have been safely shifted to other child institutes,” a senior
official at the WC ministry said.
The WCD Ministry had asked the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to conduct a social audit of all the
CCIs and also directed the unregistered institutes to register themselves within two months. The minister had also said that the
district magistrates and district collectors should take the responsibility of monitoring adoption programmes which are implemented at the district level.
TOI had reported in August that over 1300 homes child care institutions, most of them in Kerala where the matter is in Court
were still out of the registration framework. To bolster the monitoring mechanism the government has also asked state
commissions to fill up vacancies in Child Welfare Committee and set up these critical committees that hold magesterial powers.
The parliament was informed in the monsoon session that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has
reported that it has registered 43 complaints regarding child abuse and neglect of children in CCIs during the last three years
upto June this year. Out of the 43 complaints, 38 have been closed and the remaining 5 cases are still pending.

NGOs to appear before senior officers!

NGOs under the scanner were found to have allegedly violated several regulations, according to reliable sources.

Under the FCRA rules, an NGO, once its FCRA licence is cancelled, cannot use any unutilised foreign contribution in its custody without prior approval of the Centre.

 

Already facing heat after cancellation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have now been told to appear before the Additional Chief Secretary or Principal Secretary (Home) of the state where it is located, after the Union Home Ministry designated both as “competent authorities” under section 15 of the Foreigners Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

The move, officials said, is an outcome of cancellation of FCRA licences of more than 13,000 NGOs in the last three years. Earlier, a charity commissioner of a state used to look after assets and bank accounts of NGOs whose FCRA licence had been revoked.

“A charity commissioner was independent of the central government and was seen as a neutral body,” a senior official said.

Under the FCRA rules, an NGO, once its FCRA licence is cancelled, cannot use any unutilised foreign contribution in its custody without prior approval of the Centre. “Only up to 25 per cent of the unutilised amount may be spent, with prior approval of the Centre, for declared aims and objects for which the foreign contribution was received,” the official said.

In an order issued on November 5, Joint Secretary (Foreigners) Anil Malik stated: “…the Central government hereby prescribes the Additional Chief Secretary or Principal Secretary (Home) of the concerned state government or Union Territory (where the assets of the person whose registration has been cancelled under section 14 of the said Act are physically located), as competent authority for the purpose of section 15 of the said Act.”

Former additional solicitor general, Indira Jaising, whose NGO Lawyers Collective’s FCRA licence was revoked by Home Ministry in 2016, has described the move as “dangerous” and said there should be a judicial tribunal and an open court to deal with the matter.

“The Secretary (Home) does not perform judicial functions. The function of determining disputes is a judicial one, not political. The Secretary Home (of the state) is neither impartial nor a judicial tribunal. Hence, it is a wrong move intended to bring about a political outcome,” Jaising told The Indian Express. In January 2017, the Bombay high court ordered de-freezing of Jaising’s NGO domestic accounts after they were seized on the orders of MHA in 2016.

A Home Ministry official, however, said the decision to designate Additional Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary (home) as “competent authorities” under the FCRA, 2010, was taken due to non-availability of charity commissioners in states and UTs.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video sued in India over unregulated “vulgar, sexually explicit” content

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video sued in India over unregulated “vu...

 

The one thing that makes content on streaming services attractive is the lack of censorship or unwarranted and unnecessary cuts that take away from the story of a film or TV Show.

Now, a Delhi-based NGO named Justice for Rights has reportedly filed a petition with the Delhi High Court to remove so called vulgar and explicit content from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others, stating that the streaming platforms offer “vulgar, sexually explicit, pornographic, profane, virulent, religiously forbidden and morally unethical content” to increase subscriber base and gain profit.

Do we need judicial intervention in every custom or practice in our society? We take matters like what the youngsters should wear, schools should not allow cold drinks and junk food, restrictions on worship for women, right to love someone inside or outside the cast system, etc. Is it civil society activism or un – necessary judicial intervention?

Social activists in India, need to ponder!!!

The one thing that makes content on streaming services attractive is the lack of censorship or unwarranted and unnecessary cuts that take away from the story of a film or TV Show. In 2016, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting specifically said that it will not censor online content and any following attempts to do so have been met with strong opposition from the media industry in India. Now, a Delhi-based NGO named Justice for Rights has reportedly filed a petition with the Delhi High Court to remove so called vulgar and explicit content from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others, stating that the streaming platforms offer “vulgar, sexually explicit, pornographic, profane, virulent, religiously forbidden and morally unethical content” to increase subscriber base and gain profit.

Advocate Harpreet S. Hora appearing for the NGO sought guidelines and regulations for streaming services in India which currently do not come under the same ambit that censors sexually explicit content in theatrical releases. Unlike movies that release in theaters or TV shows that air on television channels, streaming platforms in India have the liberty to provide uncensored content on their platforms. The NGO’s plea challenges the same and on Wednesday, the Delhi High Court sought the Centre’s response on the matter of removal of explicit content from streaming services in India.

In an earlier interview, Hora explained that one of the key arguments the petition puts forward is that there is no committee or guideline to review streaming content in India. This, according to Hora, violates the current Cinematograph Act of India, which for now, does not apply to streaming services. Hora has called out shows like Sacred Games, Spartacus, Game of Thrones, Vikings and others, saying that these shows are very popular among school goers and teenagers, and that the violence shown in these shows should be regulated or should have some viewing guidelines.

Unlike streaming platforms, OTT (over-the-top) services like iTunes and Google Play Movies upload only those films in India that have been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

IANS reports that a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao have listed the matter for further hearing on February 8, 2019

India’s richest woman and convicted former CM getting Pension from Government.

Indian National Lok Dal supremo Om Prakash Chautala addresses a press conference in New Delhi. File Photo.

 

A businesswoman figuring on the Forbes list of top ten richest Indians and a former Chief Minister currently in jail after being convicted in Junior Basic Trained teachers’ recruitment scam and the son of a former Chief Minister are among the 262 beneficiaries of the Haryana government’s pension scheme for former MLAs with an annual expenditure of ₹22.93 crore, an RTI reply has revealed.

Former Haryana Congress MLA Capt. Ajay Yadav draws the maximum pension of ₹2,38,050 per month, followed by Indian National Lok Dal supremo and former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala (₹2,22,525), Chandravati (₹2,22,525), Sampat Singh (₹2,14,763) and Balbir Pal Shah (₹2,07,000), stated the reply to an RTI application by P.P. Kapoor, a resident of Panipat.

Mr. Chautala was charged with corruption in the recruitment of 3,206 Junior Basic Trained teachers in Haryana in 2000. A Delhi trial court in 2013 convicted him and the Supreme Court later upheld his conviction.

Jindal Steel and Power Limited chairperson Savitri Jindal, the richest woman in India, also draws a monthly pension of ₹90,563 per month.

Mr. Yadav told The Hindu that the pension to the ex-MLAs was in recognition of their round-the-clock service to the society and not all former legislators were well-off. He added that the government must review its decision to discontinue pension to its employees.

Mr. Kapoor said the minimum monthly pension of the former MLAs had been increased from ₹20,250 to ₹51,750 over the past five years. He added that as per the RTI, as many as 161 former MLAs were drawing a monthly pension of ₹51,750 and 39 former MLAs were drawing ₹90,543. Mr. Chautala’s son Ajay Chautala, who is a convict in the JBT recruitment scam, gets ₹51,750 per month.

Besides, the Haryana government also spends ₹3.15 crore annually on pension to the widows of 129 former MLAs.

Former Chief Minister (Late) Bhajan Lal’s wife Jasma Devi draws a monthly pension of ₹99, 619 per month under the family pension scheme and another pension of ₹51,750 in her capacity as former MLA.

‘Burden on exchequer’

Mr. Kapoor said that the pension for government employees was discontinued after 2006 and there was no such provision for the farmers and workers, but all former MLAs, despite being resourceful, were drawing huge pensions causing burden on the exchequer.

He demanded that certain terms and conditions be fixed for the pension to the ex-MLAs as there were for all government schemes such as social security pension schemes.