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Reporters Without Borders red-flags India over killing of journos

Press Trust of India

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London, July 4: India may slip further from its current 138th place in the World Press Freedom Index as four journalists were murdered in less than six months amidst a sharp rise in hate speech, a global media watchdog warned on Wednesday in its first report on the country.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had come out with a report exclusively on India in view of the “increase in breaches of press freedom” in India in the past six months.
In the 2018 Index, published in April this year, India was ranked at the 138th position out of 180 countries, two places lower than in 2017, and the situation has continued to deteriorate.
“As a result, the Abuses and Environment indicators, which contribute to the country’s evaluation for the Index, show a negative trend and point to another decline in its ranking in the 2019 edition unless the authorities take steps to rectify the situation,” it said.
On July 3, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling him that the first Incident Report had been issued in relation to press freedom in the country, the media watchdog said in a statement.
“In the first six months of 2018, at least as many reporters were killed as for the whole of 2017, while hate speech directed toward journalists has increased massively, causing serious concern for their safety,” the letter noted.
The recent killings of the journalists took place amidst a sharp rise in hate speech.
On June 14, Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the renowned Kashmir-based newspaper ‘Rising Kashmir’, was shot dead as he left his office in Srinagar.
Sandeep Sharma, who had been investigating illegal sand mining, was crushed to death by a garbage truck in Madhya Pradesh on March 26.
A day earlier, two other journalists, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, subeditors with the daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’, were deliberately run over and killed by an SUV in Bihar, the statement said.
This kind of intimidation, which affects journalists expressing even the mildest criticism of the current government, creates a harsh climate of self-censorship and even propaganda, it said.
The RSF said it was introducing the ‘Incident Report’ procedure for cases where it has observed a deterioration in one or more of the indicators used to determine the positions of the 180 countries ranked in the World Press Freedom Index.
The RSF is an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.


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At Live Wire: Lack of training, safety gear bringing more deaths to PDD employees

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Sep 22: Lack of training and reluctance to use the safety gear is bringing more deaths to the Power Development Department (PDD employees by electrocution in Kashmir Valley.
Official reports reveal that since 2014, more than 70 PDD employees and contractual labourers died on-duty due to electric shocks.
More than 25 people have become disabled and while 30 others have sustained severe burn due to electric shocks in the same period.
In the last two weeks, two deaths have been reported in Anantnag district alone.
On September 2, two employees of PDD where repairing a snapped conductor in the morning when it came into contact with a live, overlying feeder due to which one person died on spot and other received burn injuries.
In yet another incident on September 14, a 29-year-old man in Anantnag district was installing an electric transformer when he got electrocuted, and the person assisting him received burns.
An official in the PDD, who wished to be anonymous, said the main reason of the accidents was the department’s recruitment policy.
“The department is hiring men on contract based for installing poles and LT (Low Tension) and HT (High Tension) lines. They do not have proper training of the field due to which the incidents occur,” he said.
Earlier, he said, the department used to give proper training to the men responsible for field work.
The other reason was the unavailability of safety tools for the men working on poles, he said.
The department provides compensation to the families of electrocuted and injured workers from the welfare fund but that is not enough for them, he said.
The workers who suffer serious injuries at work may be unable to bear the medical expenditure, even as many have become permanently disabled.
The president of the PDD employees association, Zahoor Ahmad, said, “A daily wager from Eidgah area lost both his arms due to electric shock. He has to live with a lifelong disability.”
“The LT poles that are installed by the department should have only LT network, but unfortunately one pole have two to three feeders installed that is life threatening.”
He also claimed that department does not provide sophisticated equipment to the workers.
“No worker will risk his life and go without wearing safety equipment, if is available,” he said.
Chief Engineer PDD, Qazi Hashmat, said, “Sub-divisions are well equipped with safety gear like helmets, gloves, and boots, but having them in our division is not enough. We have to build among our employees the culture of actually using them.”
“People get very casual and take chances, and the accidents happen.”
He said they have made people well aware of fatal deaths due to electric shocks. Moreover they have shown them how people die due to electrocution so that they would get to know about it.
“We are working very hard to bring the culture of wearing proper safety measures. We are also trying to train our employees.”

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JK MLAs are among most paid legislators in India

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Sep 22: The average annual income of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Jammu and Kashmir is nearly Rs 13 lakh, a study by National Election Watch (NEW) and Association of Democratic Reforms stated.
The sum is more than what the legislators in, at least, 11 other states get including New Delhi, where the annual income of an MLA is Rs 9.3 lakh.
As per the study, the data collecting NGOs have analysed the annual income of almost 57 MLAs in the state. The remaining 30 have not revealed their income.
The total annual income of the MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir adds up to Rs 7.25crore.
Karnataka, as per the study, has the richest MLAs in India, with its 203 MLAs having an annual income of Rs one crore each.
The average annual income of MLAs in India is Rs 24.59 lakh.
Sixty-three MLAs of the Chhattisgarh Assembly have the lowest annual income of about Rs 5 lakh.
The states where the MLAs have lower income compared to Jammu and Kashmir include Bihar, Jharkhand, Odhisa, Uttarakhand, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Tripura, and Pondicherry.
The study has also mentioned about the valley’s two MLAs including National Conference leader Nazir Ahamd Gurezi and Peoples Democratic Party’s Noor Muhammad Sheikh, who have an income of below Rs 60,000 per month.
Government recently in June doubled the salaries and allowances of legislators (both MLAs and MLCs) from Rs 80,000 per month to Rs 1.6 lakh per month.
It included a massive hike in the salaries of the Chief Minister, Ministers, and Ministers of State.
It also increased pension of former legislators from Rs 28,000 per month to Rs 50,000 per month, which too was close to the 100 per cent hike.
The erstwhile report of NEW in January this year mentioned that former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah owned property worth less than Rs 65 lakh.
While Mufti has declared her movable assets of worth Rs 10,96,854 and Rs 45,00,000 immovable assets, Omar assets include Omar assets include Rs 1.10 lakh in cash, bank balance and deposits worth Rs 46.59 lakh, gypsy and motorcycle valued Rs 3 lakh and jewellery worth Rs 15 lakh.

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Govt seals 170 illegal clinics across Kashmir

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Srinagar, Sep 22: On the directions of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan, Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) has sealed 170 illegal and un-authorized clinics across the valley.
Consequent upon the daily reports received by the Divisional Commissioner office, regarding the operating of un-authorized clinical establishments in different areas across Kashmir Division, the Divisional Commissioner had already directed all Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) to constitute teams comprising of members from Health Services and Revenue department to conduct daily inspection of all clinical establishments and diagnostic labs across the valley including Leh and Kargil districts.
He had also directed them to take necessary action against such establishments which are operating in violation of rules, norms, laws and without licenses or run by incompetent persons in all districts.

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