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Eight dead as Dalit protests turn violent

Shops, educational institutions and other establishments remained closed and Class 10 and 12 examinations were deferred in Punjab, which has the highest concentration of Scheduled Castes, constituting nearly 32 per cent its 2.8 crore population.

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Bharat Bandh

New Delhi, April 2 : Eight persons were killed and dozens injured as Dalit protests during a day-long nation-wide shutdown on Monday turned violent in India amid anger against a Supreme Court order that dilutes a law aimed at preventing atrocities against Dalits and Tribes.

The government, in a bid to pacify the agitated activists, said it had filed a petition in the apex court seeking a review of its March 20 order that bars automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of Dalits and others. But the top court denied an urgent hearing of the matter.

Protesters clashed with police in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha — states where normal life was paralysed in varying degrees amid incidences of violence and arson.

The central government rushed 800 anti-riot policemen to violence-hit Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

A Home Ministry official in Delhi said two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) were sent to Meerut and one company each to Agra and Hapur in Uttar Pradesh.

Clashes turned deadly in Madhya Pradesh where six persons were killed and dozens injured, forcing officials to impose curfew in Morena, Gwalior and Bhind districts. Protests were also held Bhopal as agitators blocked roads in the state capital.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made a passionate appeal for peace.

Police said two were killed in Bhind and one in Morena while three died in Gwalior. The dead in Morena was identified as Rahul Pathak, a student leader.

Gwalior District Magistrate Rahul Jain told IANS that at least 65 persons have been injured in violence, including policemen, and the condition of a few injured is said to be serious.

“Three people have been conformed dead in Gwalior,” he said.

A man identified as Pawan Kumar was killed in Rajasthan’s Alwar as violence was also reported from other parts of the state including Jaipur, Ajmer. Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur.

Punjab and Haryana also saw widespread protests.

Shops, educational institutions and other establishments remained closed and Class 10 and 12 examinations were deferred in Punjab, which has the highest concentration of Scheduled Castes, constituting nearly 32 per cent its 2.8 crore population.

Hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shopkeepers and other establishments in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda too shut down.

Protests also took place in Rohtak and other towns of neighbouring Haryana.

In Bihar, activists disrupted rail and road traffic. Mobs shut down markets and shops as well as educational institutions, police said.

Supporters of the Bhim Army and other Dalit outfits halted over three dozen long-distance and local trains, stranding thousands of passengers.

Violence was reported from Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Nawada, Patna and Bhagalpur when protestors clashed with police.

One person was killed and over 100 were injured as violence also erupted in parts of Uttar Pradesh as protesters attacked shops, looted some and pelted stones at police in Hapur, Agra, Meerut, Saharanpur and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.

Maximum violence in the state was reported from western Uttar Pradesh, where the protesters took to the streets and went on rampage. Two persons were critically injured in police firing in Muzaffaranagar, one of whom later succumbed.

More than 450 people, including a former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator, have been arrested.

Many cars were targeted and their window panes smashed. At some places, government property was targeted.

Some people reportedly fired at a police team in Meerut while a passenger bus was set on fire.

Also in Meerut, over 500 Dalit youths targeted the media and broke their cameras as they were trying to photograph the protests.

Gujarat’s major towns and cities also saw protests by Dalits amid reports of vandalism from Ahmedabad and Jamnagar.

Amid widespread anger and violence, the Modi government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court to seek recall of its judgment that ruled that there would be no automatic arrest of an accused following a complaint moved under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The Supreme Court had held on March 20 that police will hold an inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the complaint filed under the act before acting on it.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government “with due respect, does not agree with the reasoning given by the apex court”.

Business

Home loan borrowers can expect fall in rates

Earlier this month, the RBI cut the benchmark interest rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.25 per cent. But PSU and private banks are yet to pass on the resultant benefits to customers.

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Home auto loan

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Taking note that benefits of lower interest rates were not reaching consumers, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das will meet the public and the private sector banks on February 21 to persuade them to pass on the benefits.

“I will meet the private and public sector banks Chief Executive Officers and managing directors on February 21 over this because transmission of monetary policy decisions is important. We will see what needs to be done,” he said after a customary post-budget meeting of the RBI Board with the Finance Minister.

Earlier this month, the RBI cut the benchmark interest rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.25 per cent. But PSU and private banks are yet to pass on the resultant benefits to customers.

The RBI is mandated to see whether banks are cutting lending rates in line with repo rates. For this, the RBI will start linking interest rates to external benchmarks replacing MCLR.

The home loan borrowers have often complained about the opacity of interest rate fixing mechanism, which allows banks to not pass on the rate cut benefits to customers.

As and when the external benchmark rate changes, it will reflect in the change in interest rate of the loan as well.

The RBI had earlier proposed that from April 1, 2019, banks would have to use external benchmarks instead of the present system of internal benchmarks — Prime Lending Rate (PLR), base rate based on PLR, and Marginal Cost of Lending Rate (MCLR) to ascertain the lending rates.

He said the RBI has received several comments on external benchmarks and is examining them.

On the government’s expectation to receive Rs 28,000 crore interim dividend from the RBI, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “the RBI decides independently on the quantum of interim dividend to be paid to the Centre and a central bank committee is examining the issue.”

He said it was the prerogative of the central bank to decide the quantum of RBI’s interim dividend to be paid to the government.

Das said a decision on the issue was yet to be taken and a committee was going into the issue. “Once the matter is decided, it will be communicated. I cannot pre-judge it,” he said.

The RBI’s audit board recently took up the matter. The RBI that follows the July-June fiscal year has transferred Rs 40,000 crore in the current fiscal as interim dividend. The Finance Ministry wants a formal commitment on Rs 28,000 crore interim dividend. If the RBI agrees to pay Rs 28,000 crore as interim dividend, the total surplus transfer to the government in the current fiscal would total Rs 68,000 crore.

Das declined to comment on the RBI scrutiny of two private lenders — Yes Bank and Kotak Bank. He said the Kotak Bank case is sub judice with the Bombay High Court and the issue of Yes Bank is between it and the regulator. It’s RBI’s endeavour to constructively engage with all the regulated enitites for compliance of rules and regulations, he added.

On loans to small businesses, he said the RBI has come out with the restructuring package for SMEs. Now it was up to banks to restructure loans of the eligible MSMEs as per the guidelines, he added.

The Governor said there is some credit growth visible and the aggregate flow of credit to the commercial sector has shown improvement. However, it was not broad based and was not flowing into various sectors the way it should, he added.

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India seeks annulment of Jadhav’s conviction, proceedings adjourned for the day

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Kulbhushan Jadhav

Hague, Feb 18: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on Monday began the four-day public hearing in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing India and Kulbhushan Jadhav before the top court sought annulment of Jadhav’s conviction and a direction that he be released forthwith.

“India submits that military courts of Pakistan can’t command the confidence of this court and shouldn’t be sanctify by a direction to them to review and re-consider the case. India seeks annulment of Jadhav’s conviction, and directions that he be released forthwith”.

Arguing before the court, presided over by ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, India’s counsel stated continued custody of Jadhav without consular access should be declared unlawful .

“It is an egregious violation of the Vienna Convention”, he told the international court.

“Jadhav’s continued custody without consular access should be declared unlawful.”

Salve further said “There is no manner of doubt that Pakistan was using this as a propaganda tool. Pakistan was bound to grant consular access without delay”.

“On 30th March 2016, India reminded Pakistan of its request of consular access (for Jadhav) & received no reply. 13 reminders were sent by India on various dates”.

After hours of proceeding, the International Court of Justice adjourned for the day and will resume at 02:30 pm IST on February 19 for Pakistan’s oral round.

WeForNews

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Opposition demands Nitish Kumar’s resignation over Bihar shelter home rape case

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Nitish Kumar

Patna, Feb 18: The Opposition on Monday created a ruckus in the Bihar Assembly demanding Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s resignation, two days after a special POCSO court in Muzaffarpur directed the CBI to investigate the involvement of Kumar and two IAS officers in the infamous shelter home rape case.

Legislators of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and the Left parties disrupted proceedings in both houses of the Assembly shouting slogans and demanding Nitish Kumar’s resignation.

While RJD spokesperson Bhai Virendra demanded a narco test of Nitish Kumar to confirm his involvement in the case, senior RJD leader and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi, who is also the leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, said, “After the court directed the CBI to probe chief minister’s role in suppressing facts, Nitish Kumar should resign.”

Special POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Court Judge Manoj Kumar had on Friday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the role of the Chief Minister as well as Muzaffarpur District Magistrate Dharmendra Singh and Principal Secretary (Social Welfare) Atul Prasad in the case.

The order came on a petition filed by accused Ashwani, a self-claimed medical practitioner, demanding an investigation into the role of the three.

According to a charge sheet filed in the case, Ashwani used to visit the shelter home to allegedly administer sedative-laced injections to the inmates before they were subjected to sexual abuse.

The Muzaffarpur horror came to light in May 2018 when the Bihar Social Welfare Department filed an FIR based on a social audit of the shelter home conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Following the FIR, police arrested Brajesh Thakur, a journalist-turned-social activist who headed the NGO that ran the shelter home, and other accused including his close aides and some government officials. The matter was handed over to the CBI in July last year.

State Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma was also forced to resign following protests over reports that her husband and former Janata Dal-United legislator Chandreshwar Verma allegedly had close links with Thakur.

Thakur has been shifted to a high-security jail in Patiala following a Supreme Court order, while the other accused are lodged in jails in Patna and Muzaffarpur.

This month, the trial of the case was shifted to Delhi.

Recently, the apex court also directed the CBI to probe allegations of sexual abuse at all such shelter homes across the state.

IANS

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