Bureaucrat-turned-politician Manish Gupta is the Trinamool Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha election scheduled later this month.The decision was taken on Wednesday at the party’s core committee meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Mr. Gupta, a former Chief Secretary of West Bengal, joined the Trinamool in 2011 and contested from the Jadavpur Assembly constituency against former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. He defeated the CPI(M) leader in 2011 by a margin over 16,600 votes. He, however, lost in the 2016 election to CPI(M) nominee Sujan Chakraborty.
School-going students of Kashmir valley are an overburdened lot. An official study claims that 75% to 85% students carry bags that weigh above the recommended limit, which is 10 % of a student’s bodyweight.The department of Social and Preventive Medicine (SPM) in Srinagar, in its study, observed 2,000 school-going children over four districts of Kashmir in March this year.“The SPM’s community medicine conducted a study about the burden of school bags among 2,000 school-going children and found that 75% to 85% of the school bags weigh above the recommended 10% of the bodyweight of the child,” said Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan, head of the SPM department.The results of the study show that 10 to 25% of the bags weighed more than 20% of the bodyweight. “It’s much higher than the recommended weight of bags and could prove hazardous,” said Dr. Khan.The department of Social and Preventive Medicine is planning to submit a report to the government along with recommendations to reduce the weight of school bags. “We are collecting details of teaching methodology in schools in other cities. We will look also into the means and ways to reduce weight of school bags,” said Dr. Khan.Health issues Dr. Gazanfer Mushtaq, a physiotherapist, warns of long-term health issues due to heavy bags. “The constant additional weight on children’s shoulders impacts their gait, which can look very droopy and humpy. Prolonged exposure to heavy weight can in fact induce orthopaedic issues besides stress,” warns Dr. Mushtaq.According to the State education department, Kashmir zone, there are around 16 lakh students enrolled from Class I to XII, who are exposed to heavy school bags.
In response to the allegation by journalist Ataharuddin Munne Bharti, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on the sidelines of his weekly Lok Samvad programme in Patna on Monday, said, “Such acts will not be tolerated at all in the State and we are keeping a close watch on this.” Mr. Bharti, a programme coordinator with NDTV India, had written in his blog, and tweeted tagging the Bihar CM and others, that he had been forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ by a group of men who had also threatened to set the vehicle occupied by his aged parents and wife on fire. The incident allegedly took place on a national highway in Muzaffarpur.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) to identify and install sewage treatment plants (STPs) at major sources of pollution in the Kali river, a tributary of the Ganga, as part of the latter’s clean up. Following the direction, the UPPCB has identified 26 large sewage lines in six districts of western U.P. which empty into the Kali. Inspection soonAccording to Atulesh Yadav, a local officer with the UPPCB, “The NGT has asked the UPPCB and Jal Nigam to jointly work to prevent pollution in the Kali river. It will be done as part of the Prime Minister’s Namami Gange project. Twenty-six big sewage lines, which do not have STPs, have been identified in Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh and Kannauj. The process will soon start to inspect these sewage lines,” he said. Kali river originates from Antwada village of Khatauli block in Muzaffarnagar and joins the Ganga in Kanpur after passing through Meerut, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Aligarh and Kannauj districts. According to Raman Tyagi, whose petition in the NGT about pollution of the Kali river led to the Tribunal directive, over two decades ago, the Kali used to be a clean river and its water was used for drinking by villagers living on its banks.Mr. Tyagi has been monitoring the pollution in the Kali, Krishna and Hindon and other tributaries of the Ganga in western U.P. Industrial effluents“But industrial effluents from paper and sugar mills, and slaughter houses, with unhealthy chemical wastes, besides untreated sewage over the last two decades has made the river poisonous. It has become so poisonous that no living organism is found in the water. “It not only pollutes the Ganga but the poisonous water has contaminated drinking water through the seepage in thousands of villages located on its banks,” said Mr. Tyagi, founder of Neer Foundation which works on the issue of water and renewable energy in western U.P. Seal handpumps“Our investigation showed that water in villages has been seriously polluted and is manifest in medical problems for villagers who consume the drinking water from hand pumps. We requested that these hand pumps be sealed and the government arrange for clean drinking water in those areas. We also prayed that the NGT should ensure serious measures to prevent pollution of Kali, as it was a tributary of the Ganga and its pollution becomes the pollution of Ganga,” he told The Hindu.
The Supreme Court on July 21, 2017 sought response from the Gujarat government on a plea alleging that two police officers, accused in separate encounter cases, have been re-inducted in the force after superannuation. “Issue notice returnable in two weeks,” a bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.The bench was hearing a petition filed by former IPS officer Rahul Sharma alleging that the two police officers — N.K. Amin and Tarun Barot — have been re-inducted as Superintendent of Police at Tapi district in Gujarat and Deputy Superintendent of Police in Railways, respectively.The petition further alleged that Mr. Amin has faced trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing cases and Mr. Barot was accused in the Sadiq Jaman and Ishrat Jahan encounter cases. Mr. Amin, however, has been acquitted in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. Both the men have been re-employed on contractual basis with the police force.
The CEO of a business venture run by Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda has been arrested in connection with the violence that erupted following the conviction of the sect’s head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case on August 25, the police said on Tuesday.A Bathinda-based woman and her son were also arrested on Monday for allegedly providing shelter to the sect head’s adopted daughter Honeypreet Insan when she was evading arrest, they said.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined pleas to extend the date for the final publication of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam by two months from May 31 to July 31 of this year.A Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi stressed that the ongoing work should be completed by May 31 without “any interference from any quarter”.The NRC is being prepared to identify illegal migrants residing in the north-eastern State.The court took exception to a submission made by the Centre and the State coordinator for the NRC that the process would be completed by July 31, instead of May 31.Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal submitted that a status report from the State Coordinator showed that the verification of around one crore persons in the State was yet to be done and this exercise would take till July 31.State coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted that the verification process involved house visits and a mop-up operation was required. “You push it up. We are not going to push it down. Do it by May 31, not a day later,” Justice Gogoi made the court’s stand clear.When Mr. Venugopal said the May 31 deadline was an impossible one, Justice Gogoi observed: “ Our business is to make the impossible, possible and we will do it.”The court posted the matter for hearing on March 27.
The Judicial Commission set up by the Odisha government to probe the alleged gang rape of a minor girl near Kunduli in Koraput district and her suicide a few months later, made an on-the-spot inquiry on Sunday.The Judicial Commission team headed by District Judge of Koraput, Bidyut Kumar Mishra, included Koraput District Court Registrar, H. K. Biswal, and Public Prosecutor Prabhakar Patnaik. The team visited Musaguda village under the Pottangi police station limits, where the victim committed suicide inside her home on January 22.The Commission members interacted with her family members and reached the spot near Kunduli where the girl was allegedly gang-raped on October 10, 2017. She had alleged that four persons dressed in combat attire of security personnel had sexually exploited her.Parallel inquiry On November 8, 2017, the Odisha government ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident by a sitting district judge. Parallel inquiry by the State Crime Branch was also ordered.In February this year, a five-member team of the National Human Rights Commission had also reached Koraput district to make an on-the-spot inquiry into the incident.But on November 7, 2017, the Human Rights Protection Cell of the Odisha police had remarked that as per medical reports the victim had not been raped. The next day, the Odisha government ordered an inquiry by a Judicial Commission and the State Crime Branch into the incident.
The Gujarat government has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of 111 newborns in five months at the Adani Education and Research Foundation-run G.K. General Hospital here.As per data released by the hospital, 111 infants died in the first five months of 2018, ending May 20.While the hospital management cited reasons, including delayed admission or malnutrition for the deaths, the government has formed a team of experts to conduct the inquiry.Experts’ team at work“We have formed a team of experts to probe the reasons for the deaths. We will take appropriate steps after the team submits its report,” Gujarat Commissioner of Health Jayanti Ravi said.According to data shared by hospital superintendent G.S. Rao, out of 777 newborn babies (both admitted post-birth and those born in the hospital) between January 1 and May 20, a total of 111 did not survive, which shows a mortality rate of 14%. ‘Situation improving’In 2017, a total of 258 infants died, while 184 and 164 infants died in the hospital in 2016 and 2015. “The percentage of deaths against admission was 19% in 2015, 18% in 2016 and 21% in 2017, which was relatively higher,” Mr. Rao told reporters here.“Since the mortality rate is 14% this year, I think it is less than the previous years. And the way we are working, it will remain the lowest at the end of this year,” he added. He said the delay in referring children to the hospital was one of the reasons for the deaths, as crucial time is wasted in travelling to Bhuj from the interior parts of Kutch district.“One of the reasons for death is premature births. Another reason is malnutrition as the mothers may not have taken a proper diet, which helps the baby to gain weight inside the womb. Delayed reference is also one of the reasons,” said Mr. Rao.“If a family comes here travelling 250 km, the delay would certainly affect the chances [of survival]. Our staff regularly discuss these issues, and we are working to reduce the deaths,” he added.
The Union Aviation Ministry on Thursday decided to discontinue baggage identification by passengers at the Jammu, Srinagar and Leh airports in Jammu & Kashmir.“Furthering our mission of enhancing citizen convenience, we have done away with mandatory baggage identification by passengers at Jammu, Srinagar and Leh airports. We remain committed to making your journey delightful and hassle-free,” wrote Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Twitter.Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the Centre’s move: “Thankful to Mr. Prabhu. This decision will go a long way in lessening the inconvenience and enhancing the travel experience. I would also request him to look into airline ticket pricing to J&K to ease the burden for budget travellers.”
Facing criticism in the wake of the death of a woman in Giridih allegedly due to starvation, the Jharkhand Food Department on Thursday proposed that the State government set up a foodgrain bank of varied capacity at block and panchayat levels.State Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs Minister Saryu Roy said his department has written to all district administrations to conduct a post-mortem if any suspected case of starvation death is reported.“I have proposed that the government set up a foodgrain bank of 10 quintal capacity at block level and one quintal capacity at the panchayat level,” Mr. Roy told reporters. The Minister said that the bank could be managed either by his department or Rural Development or by Social Welfare Department.Two suspected casesThe Jharkhand government has drawn flak for the death of 58-year-old Savitri Devi, who allegedly died of starvation in Mangargadi village of Giridih district after being denied foodgrain at ration shops. However, a probe report made public by the State government has has ruled out starvation as a cause for her death, citing ₹2,375 in her bank account.Another suspected starvation death of a woman in Itkhori block of Chatra district has been reported in the media. Mr. Roy said the woman hailed from Barachatti in Bihar and had come to Itkhori about a fortnight ago.“However, a post-mortem was conducted on the directive of the district administration and we are awaiting the autopsy report to know the exact cause of her death,” he added.The Minister cited the probe report in the Giridih incident to trash the Opposition attack and accused them of running a campaign against the government over the issue to “defame” it. “Why didn’t JMM MLA Jagannath Mahato, who was present at her funeral procession, ask for a post-mortem if she had died of starvation,” the Minister asked.On JPCC president Ajoy Kumar’s demand that he resign taking moral responsibility for the death of Savitri Devi, Mr. Roy said Mr. Kumar, who himself is a doctor, should have tried to find out the details before asking for the resignation.“The demand is nothing but a conspiracy to target the government,” he said.
Shortly before the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 497 of Indian Penal Codem, which defined adultery as a punishable offence, the Rajasthan High Court upheld a man’s conviction under the law. This was probably the last conviction under the legal provision described by the apex court as “manifestly arbitrary” in its September 27 verdict.Section 497, which no longer exists in the statute book, punished a man for having physical relationship with the wife of another man without his consent. It exempted the wife from punishment and stated that the wife would not be treated as an abettor. After the Supreme Court verdict, adultery stands decriminalised, though it will be grounds for divorce.In its judgment delivered on September 20 on the appeals filed by convict Devaram, a resident of Jaipur district, and two others, the High Court held him guilty of adultery, as he was cohabiting with Shakuntala, wife of Heera Lal, but acquitted him of the rape and conspiracy charges. He was facing rape charges in connection with the suicide by Shakuntala’s daughter in 2010.Justice Pankaj Bhandari at the High Court’s Jaipur Bench stated in his 19-page judgment that there was “every possibility of false implication” of Devaram in the rape case by complainant Mr. Heera Lal as he had enmity with him.Devaram, the State president of Ambedkar Vichar Manch, had given an affidavit in a criminal case lodged by Ms. Shakuntala against her husband Mr. Heera Lal for treating her with cruelty in 2005. Mr. Heera Lal lodged a complaint that Devaram was having illicit relations with his wife in his absence and his wife, along with their daughters, had later started living with him.When one of the daughters of Ms. Shakuntala killed herself, an allegation was made that she was pressurised to have illicit relations with a boy. Though Devaram was convicted of rape by the Sessions Court, the High Court did not find the statement of another daughter of Ms. Shakuntala reliable in this regard.The High Court acquitted Devaram and another man Basram from the rape and conspiracy charges and Ms. Shakuntala from the charges of abetment of her daughter’s suicide under Section 306 of I.P.C. The Court partly allowed Devaram’s appeal by quashing his conviction under Section 376 (2)(g) (gang rape) of I.P.C. and upheld his conviction under Section 497.Sustaining Devaram’s conviction for adultery, the Court said that an owner of a house had deposed that he rented his house to Devaram in 2010 when he showed Ms. Shakuntala as his wife, and her daughters as his daughters. One of the daughters also deposed that Devaram and her mother were living as husband and wife.“Appellant Devaram has been rightly convicted for offence under 497 of I.P.C. by the trial court,” the judge observed and ordered that if the convict had undergone the sentence of five years imposed under Section 497, he would be released forthwith.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday prayed at temples in Ayodhya and visited a Dalit family, prompting the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to complain to the EC that he had violated the EC order barring him from campaigning. The Election Commission had on Monday barred Mr. Adityanath from campaigning for 72-hours starting 6 a.m. on Tuesday for his communal remarks. The BSP, however, claimed that a crowd of about 500 people had gathered at the village where the Chief Minister had lunch with the Dalit family that had benefited from a central government housing scheme. In his complaint to the poll panel, BSP Faizabad district president Mahendra Pratap Anand alleged that the Chief Minister had campaigned in the village which was a violation of the ban order imposed on him by the poll panel. During his visit to the home of 60-year-old Mahaveer in the Muslim-dominated locality of Sutahti, adjacent to the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, Mr. Adityanath had a chapati with some bottle gourd and okra subzis. A beneficiary of the Pradhan Mantri Aawaas Yojna (PMAY), the Dalit family had received ₹2 lakh from the Union government for the construction of their home. Mr. Adityanath also met Ram temple movement activists including Ram Janambhoomi Nyas president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Digambar Akhara Mahant Suresh Das and Vishva Hindu Parishad spokesperson Sharad Sharma. Another BSP leader termed the meeting as an effort to mobilise Hindu voters. ‘Met religious leaders’“The Chief Minister met many Hindu religious leaders and he campaigned for the BJP and mobilised them. He has violated the election commission’s orders,” BSP’s divisional coordinator Pawan Kumar said.. Mr. Adityanath also visited the Sugreev Qila temple and Hanumangarhi temple in Ayodhya and performed ‘Aarti’ on the banks of the river Saryu. In the evening, he drove to Devipatan, a temple dedicated to goddess Durga in Balrampur district and after offering prayers, met BJP workers.
White-nose syndrome, a fungus that has decimated bat populations across eastern North America, may be spread primarily by female bats. That’s the conclusion of a new study from Pennsylvania, which tracked the genetics of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus, pictured above), a species hit particularly hard by the disease. The plague began sweeping through eastern Pennsylvania in January 2009, but western corners of the state remained disease-free for another 2 years. It has spread hundreds of kilometers from this pocket in the northeast Appalachian Mountains, while some parts of nearby western Pennsylvania remain untouched even today. The scientists examined eastern hibernating colonies positive for white-nose syndrome in 2009 and western habitats that were negative through 2011 to 2012, according to a report published in the May-June issue of the Journal of Heredity. By comparing mitochondrial genes, which are maternally inherited, versus nuclear genes passed by both parents, the team could assess how both sexes traveled through Pennsylvania. Traits in the nuclear DNA did not significantly vary, suggesting males freely move and mate across the state. Maternal traits, in contrast, segregated between eastern and western sites. The researchers were surprised that female movements also paralleled the intensity of how white-nose syndrome coursed through the state. Studies show that female little brown bats tend toward philopatry—sticking around their place of birth. But if they do leave home, the results suggest that they follow geographical landmarks, such as the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. Maternal traits flowed along the state’s eastern mountains into an additional colony in West Virginia, but receded at the Appalachian Plateau in western Pennsylvania. The results don’t peg female bats as the primary carriers of white-nose syndrome, but simply suggest they influence the timing and pattern of spread, given the disease map matched that of maternal traits. 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Katrina. Irene. Sandy. Hurricane names help to make public safety messages memorable, but new research shows that the choice of name may influence how people react to evacuation orders. Although the World Meteorological Organization assigns the storms alternating male and female names (recent Pacific hurricane Amanda is pictured), historical records show that those with more feminine names had higher death tolls. Could people be avoiding evacuation because they assume that female-named storms will be gentler? Researchers tested this idea with written scenarios that described an upcoming storm and asked respondents how dangerous they expected the storm to be and whether they would follow a voluntary evacuation order. No matter which names they used—Victor/Victoria, Christopher/Christine, or selections from the upcoming hurricane name lists—respondents who read about male-named hurricanes judged them as riskier and said they would be more likely to evacuate than people who read about hurricanes with female names, the investigators report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For example, fictional Hurricane Danny rated an average 2.1 on a 1 to 7 scale where 1 represents “certainly will follow” evacuation orders. Its counterpart Hurricane Kate only rated 2.9. The researchers say that this may reflect an “implicit sexism” that gets in the way of understanding and responding to public safety messages. A new naming system perhaps based on animals or objects may be in order, they suggest—and perhaps we should stop referring to hurricanes as “he” or “she.”