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UNSG concerned by child casualties in Kashmir

There were 10 other child casualties in Pakistan in occupied Kashmir, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for which “responsibility could not be attributed”.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, June 16 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over the child casualties in Kashmir but noted a decline in the recruitment of children by Maoists in Jharkhand due to the government”s efforts in his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict.

The report released on Monday said that the UN has verified the killing of eight children in Kashmir and the maiming of seven by the Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT), shelling across the Line of Control and by the security forces.

The report did not give details beyond attributing 10 incidents to the security forces, one to the LeT and another to “unidentified armed elements” — usually a euphemism for terrorists.

It said three incidents happened during cross-border shelling.

Guterres said in the report that the casualties in Kashmir occurred mainly due to “torture in detention, shootings, including from pellet guns, and cross-border shelling”.

The report said that attacks on nine schools by “unidentified elements” had been verified.

Guterres said that he was concerned about the detention of 68 children between the ages of nine and 17 on national security-related charges with one of them held for allegedly associating with “armed groups”.

He asked the government to take preventive measures to protect children and to ban the use of pellet guns against them.

He said that he was concerned about the arrest of children at night, and their internment in army camps, “torture in detention” and detention without due process as he urged the government to end these practices.

His report said that “in Jharkhand State, approximately 10 children were reportedly rescued by Indian police from Naxalite insurgency groups, who allegedly abducted them or used them in support or combat capacities”.

“I note the decline, as a result of government efforts, in the number of reports of child recruitment and of the killing and maiming of children relating to the Naxalite insurgency,” Guterres added.

Around the world, Guterres” report said the UN verified over 25,000 grave violations against children and there was a 400 per cent increase in “the denial of humanitarian access to children with 4,400 verified incidents”.

His Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), Virginia Gamba, who said, “The childhood of these boys and girls has been replaced by pain, brutality and fear while the world watches. Parties to conflict neglect to protect children in the conduct of hostilities and deny them the vital aid they desperately need.”

In his report Guterres said that 39 child casualties in Afghanistan happened due to “cross-border engagements at the border with Pakistan” and one school was attacked during cross-border shelling from Pakistan territory.

He said that Afghanistan was the deadliest conflict zone for children with 3,410 verified incidents — an increase of 67 per cent — affecting 3,245 children.

Ten children were killed or injured in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir “during armed clashes or by shelling or targeted fire across the Line of Control”, according to the report. Two schools there were “reportedly attacked across the line of control”, it added.

Guterres called on the Pakistan government to protect children, especially around the LoC, and health workers in the campaign against polio, which recorded 660 attacks.

There were 10 other child casualties in Pakistan in occupied Kashmir, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for which “responsibility could not be attributed”.

A controversial aspect of the report was the omission of Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen.

Gamba, who spoke to reporters at the release of the report, attributed the omission to “sustained and significant” decrease in child casualties due to air attacks from 1,700 five years ago to 171 last year.

Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had removed critical mention of the Saudi coalition from the report in 2016 under Saudi threat to withhold funds, but Guterres had included it the following year.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])

India

Rajnath to open 43 bridges in 7 states, launch Tawang tunnel work

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Rajnath Singh

Guwahati, Sep 24 : Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will on Thursday inaugurate, via video conferencing, 43 bridges in seven border states and Union Territories and lay the foundation of an important tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, a defence official said on Wednesday.

Defence spokesman, Lt Col Harsh Wardhan Pande said of the 43 bridges constructed by the Border Roads Organisation, 10 are in Jammu and Kashmir, eight each in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, seven in Ladakh, four each in Punjab and Sikkim, and two in Himachal Pradesh.

The Defence Minister would also lay the foundation stone of Nechiphu tunnel to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The tunnel is expected to shorten the travel time to Tawang, 448 km northwest of state capital Itanagar and bordering China.

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India

Naidu’s warning ahead of Rajya Sabha’s adjournment sine die

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Rajya Sabha VP Naidu

New Delhi, Sep 24 : Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, in his valedictory remarks ahead of the house being adjourned sine die on Wednesday, made some serious observations about Sunday’s ruckus in the Rajya Sabha that got eight MPs suspended.

“For the first time in this history of this august House, a notice of motion for removal of the Hon’ble Deputy Chairman has been given. It had to be rejected for the reasons I have elaborated while doing so,” Naidu said, calling the “developments” “unprecedented” and “painful”.

“I don’t want to go into details of those unpleasant turn of events. All that I like to do is to appeal to all of you from the depth of my heart to kindly ensure that such unseemly behavior is not repeated,” he urged.

Calling the ruckus “unpalatable”, he reminded: “To protest is the right of the opposition. But the question is how should it be done?”

“But if boycott is done for a longer period, it amounts to leaving the very platform that enables you to effectively convey your ideas and contesting those of others. I request all members to keep this in mind.”

However, there were high points too. Naidu said that 25 Bills have been passed and six Bills have been introduced in this very short span of time in the upper house.

The productivity of the house during this session has been 100.47 per cent, he informed.

“(As much as) 22 hours 3 minutes time has been spent on discussing the government’s legislative proposals during these 10 sittings. This comes to a record 57 per cent of the total functional time of the House during this session,” an otherwise upset Naidu said with visible happiness.

Meanwhile, 1,567 unstarred questions were replied to in writing by the government during these 10 sittings.

Members also raised issues of urgent public importance through 92 Zero Hour and 66 Special Mentions.

Both houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die on Wednesday — eight days before their scheduled end on October 1 — due to increasing Covid-19 cases.

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Cities

Gujarat assembly passes Gunda and Anti-Social Activities Bill

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Vijay Rupani

Gandhinagar Sep 24 : The Gujarat assembly passed the Gunda and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Bill, 2020 on the basis of majority during the ongoing five-day Monsoon session.

The proposed bill will facilitate for setting up of Special Courts for the purpose, but these courts won’t be able to take cognizance of any offence without the prior sanction of the state government.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Pradeepsinh Jadeja proposed the new Bill on Wednesday.

The new Act proposes strict legal action against Goonda elements indulging in illegal acts like bootlegging, gambling, cow slaughter, dealings in narcotic substances, human trafficking, sexual harassment of children, spurious drugs manufacturing, land grabbing, usury, kidnapping, selling illegal weapons and other.

According to the proposed legislation, the definition of Goonda elements includes individuals or groups who threaten violence or who damage public order. The accused will face a maximum imprisonment of 10 years and a minimum imprisonment of seven years. They will also be facing fines of up to Rs 50,000.

Additionally, if any government employee abets or aids these Goonda elements in such illegal acts will also face a jail term not less than three years which may go up to 10 years.

Special courts will be established under the provisions of the new legislation. For every special court, the state government will shall appoint a public prosecutor and appoint one or more assistant public prosecutors or additional public prosecutors.

According to the provisions of the Bill, a prior approval of the concerned range Inspector General of Police or Police Commissioner will be mandatory for registration of any offence under it.

The new legislation includes many provisions included in previous legislations like the illegal consumption, sale, transport, production of intoxicants, taking possession of immovable properties in violation of legal provisions, raising false claims of ownership of an immovable property or to produce fake documents in that regard, offences related to immorality, offences involving the protection of children, offences under the ambit of the Gambling Act, resorting to violence to disturb social harmony, extortion, illegal transport of livestock, violation of the Arms Act, etc.

The legislation also provides protection of the witnesses from the state government. Further, names and addresses of witnesses will be kept confidential.

Under the provisions of the Act, the properties of the Goonda elements will be liable to be attached by the concerned district magistrate. The district magistrate will also have the liberty to, if necessary, appoint administrators for such a property.

“Looking at the provisions of the new Bill, one will think that currently there is no law and order prevailing in the state and that’s why the government had to bring in this Bill,” said Paresh Dhanani the Leader of Opposition Party.

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