The Statesman – RSS leader’s killing: Punjab is still under ‘jungle raj’, says Khaira

Chandigarh, 18 October 2017. A day after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Ravinder Gosain was killed by unidentified gunmen in Ludhiana, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday said the law and order in Punjab is no better than the 10 years of “jungle-raj” perpetrated by the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bhartiya Janata Party ( SAD-BJP).

He accused the Amarinder Singh government of pursuing the legacy of Badals by politicising the Punjab police for personal whims and fancies.

After visiting the the house of slain RSS leader at Ludhiana, leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Singh Khaira said, there have been repeated incidents of political murders during the last six months but the police is acting as a mute spectator.

Khaira said Congress ministers and legislator have started getting their henchmen posted to plum field postings, who in turn are taking their orders from their political bosses rather than their superior police officers.

Severely condemning the killing of Gosai and failure of the police to nab his killers, Khaira said it was not a first case of political murder in Punjab. He said couple of months back Sultan Masih a pastor was killed similarly by motorcycle assailants.

He recounted the brutal murders of Mata Chand Kaur of Bhaini Sahib, Jagdish Gagneja another RSS leader of Jalandhar, the murderous attack on Sant Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwala, but he said the police has completely failed to crack any of these crime.

He also criticised Amarinder for failing to ensure justice to the two innocent Sikh youth killed in the Bargari police firing, a promise he had made to the people while in opposition.

Khaira said it was sad to note that two years have passed since the killing, but no justice has been rendered to the families of those youth.

He said the tall claims of industrial investment being made by the Chief Minister Amarinder have fallen flat, as no business house would invest in a state like Punjab, where prominent people are being murdered, gang wars and incidents of bank robberies are happening daily.

Khaira urged the CM to pull up his socks and direct the police to solve cases of political murders as top priority and in future prevent such killings. He also urged him to depoliticise the police and allow it to function without interference from politicians.


The Tribune – UK Sikhs seek recognition as ethnic group

Sujinder Singh Sangha

The recognition of Sikhs in Britain as a minority ethnic population and its monitoring, would provide a mechanism to analyse how Sikhs are faring in view of racial discrimination and hate crimes.

– Discrimination against Asian Black and Minority Ethnic (ABME) people is rooted in prejudice relating to the colour of skin, visible appearance, religion, culture, attire, language or origin

– Ethnic data influences the public decision-makings related to employment and services, the reliability of census data on the ABME people is essential for equality monitoring.

– Only a targeted counting and monitoring of Sikhs as a minority religious as well as ethnic population could enhance the census data.

– Some believe it may result in alienation and under-counting of Sikhs, as many may declare their ethnicity as Indian, Punjabi or another which may worsen the numerical position of Sikhs.

– The bid in Britain for Sikh ethnic identity and monitoring should be seen as integral to the Indian/ABME drive for social justice.

The Sikhs in Britain have relentlessly campaigned since the 1960s to have their basic rights established as a distinct religious minority. A natural next step for them is to seek recognition as a minority ethnic population by the census mechanisms of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS is being convinced to introduce an ethnic category for Sikhs, in addition to the religious one which already exists. The ONS is in the process of consulting and testing the 2021 national census questionnaire for approval by the parliament.

The national census data provides a count of all people and households every 10 years to enhance the provision of population statistics that allows a comparison of different groups of people.

The national population statistics are used to carry out research and assessment to develop policy, strategy and resourcing to address the changing needs and expectations of the stakeholding population. The nature of data influences the decision-making related to employment and services.

So, the reliability of census data on Asian Black and Minority Ethnic (ABME) communities is essential for equality monitoring. The evaluation of monitoring of outcomes indicates the effectiveness of equality measures applied to improve social justice.

The Sikhs have requested the ONS to amend the census questionnaire by adding the Sikh ethnic category alongside the religious one to enhance the provision of data. They have also mobilised the parliamentarians to support them.

A news report in The Tribune, Chandigarh (“100 UK MPs back non-Indian ethnic identity move for Sikhs”, September 20, 2017) noted “New Delhi is unlikely to be amused if the demand (for Sikh ethnic identity) is granted; which means such an outcome has the potential of seriously impacting bilateral relations between India and Britain.”

This view takes the issue to a different level as outlined by the newly elected MP Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi: “The Office of National Statistics (ONS) gave guidance in 2003 and 2011 to public bodies — including education, health service, local authorities and police — to only use ethnic group categories in the census for the monitoring purposes.

Hence, the community’s focus on getting a Sikh category…would be useful for stakeholders, such as those concerned with Sikh identity, discrimination and hate crime…Sikhs are a legally recognised ethnic group (Mandela V Lee, 1983) protected from discrimination under law.”

MP Preet Kaur Gill, who chairs the resurrected All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs (APPGBS), has written to the ONS, hoping for a positive response on the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.

She has alerted the ONS that failing that, the Sikh community may resort to legal redress or seek a change when the parliament is asked to approve the census 2021 questionnaire.

The ONS, 2017, has carried out an ethnic question test involving the Sikhs in Wolverhampton and Hounslow. The indications are that the response level was a low 11.2% and 15.5%, respectively.

There is no indication that the religious affiliation and ethnic group questions are capturing different populations. All respondents who selected Sikh ethnic group also selected Sikh as their religious affiliation.

However, no one would like a re-run of the 1980s. Had the House of Lords not accepted the appeal for overturning Lord Denning’s ruling, the Sikhs would have had to take up the matter politically to seek an amendment to the Race Relations Act 1976… Section (3) which defines a racial group by reference to colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins.

The impact of Lord Denning’s ruling and press publicity gave many employers an unfair advantage and discriminatory expectation that the turban-wearing Sikhs can be asked to remove turban and not wear a beard.

The House of Lords 1983 ruling rejected the High Court’s verdict and made any discrimination against Sikhs on the grounds of wearing a turban illegal.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), of which Lord Indarjit Singh is the director, believes that the campaign for ethnic identity is misguided. It may result in alienating many and could cause an under-counting of Sikhs in Britain as some may declare their ethnicity as Indian, Punjabi or another which may worsen the numerical position of visible Sikhs.

The Sikh Federation of UK (SFUK), whose activists are campaigning for the inclusion of Sikhs as a separate minority ethnic community, disagrees with the NSO.

Lord Singh argues that to call Sikhs a distinctive ethnic minority would be against the Sikh Gurus’ teachings that all humans are of the same race, man-made divisions based on caste or ethnicity are divisive and false.

He also points out that the monitoring could give legitimacy to discriminate against turban-wearing Sikhs, as large employers could pass the ethnic test with a few Sikhs.

However, the academic and functional definitions of ethnicity qualify Sikhs in Britain to be a minority ethnic population for counting and monitoring purposes, especially in view of over 50 years of campaigning against  discrimination and unfairness.

The ethnic identity and ethnic monitoring is a mechanism of assessing the effectiveness of affirmative actions, or analogous programmes by recording the ethnic background of the recruits.

The recognition of Sikhs in Britain as a minority ethnic population and its monitoring, would provide a mechanism to analyse how Sikhs are faring in view of racial discrimination and hate crimes.

Only a targeted counting and monitoring of Sikhs as a minority religious as well as ethnic population could enhance the census data and the eligibility for monitoring.

The writer is former principal & chief executive of a leading UK Further Education College
I used to work with Sujinder Singh when he was Principal of Stockton Riverside College and I was the national development officer of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (FBFE)

Braemstraat – Bloemekenswijk

08 October 2017

Evi: Dried mushrooms

Profundo programme
Moskee Tevhid Camii
09 October 2017

9 am at the Mosque

Students in the prayer hall of the mosque

Posing for the picture !

Group photo

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Indian Christians beaten ‘with rods and sticks’

World Watch Monitor, 17 October 2017. A Christian man involved in church work across ten villages in the southern Indian state of Telangana was severely beaten earlier this month, a source told World Watch Monitor.

The victim, known as Pastor Seviya, “was attacked by five Hindu extremists with rods and thick sticks … until he became unconscious”, the source said.

The pastor was “in a critical stage for many days” in hospital because of head injuries sustained during the attack on 5 October. He had blood clots on the brain and bleeding from his ears, added the source.

A similar incident on 13 October left another church leader “bleeding profusely” and later hospitalised and needing 12 stitches to his head.

Pastor Khel Prasad Kurre was attacked by Hindu extremists in Chhattisgarh state on his way home after visiting a member of his church, a source told World Watch Monitor.

Kurre said three or four men called out to him while he was riding his motorcycle. When he stopped, the men rushed towards him and started beating him with sticks. Kurre shouted for help, and when people from the village arrived, his attackers fled, also stealing his phone.

When Kurre later reported the incident to the police, he was informed that his attackers had earlier visited the station to report that he was converting people to Christianity.

Kurre said police officers threatened to arrest him on charges of luring people into Christianity and that this put him off filing an official complaint against his attackers.

Chhattisgarh is one of eight Indian states to have passed so-called ‘anti-conversion laws’, which ostensibly seek to eliminate forced conversions from one set of beliefs to another, but in reality dissuade all conversions.

Five of these states are led by the BJP – the Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In Jharkhand, the most recent state to pass the law, senior church leaders recently called on the prime minister to help control the “ideological hatred” of the state’s BJP chief minister, who, a day before the bill was passed, published advertisements in daily newspapers using pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and a quote ridiculing missionaries carrying out “fraudulent conversions”.

In two states ‘anti conversion’ laws are not active, while in a third, Himachal Pradesh, parts of the law were repealed after a court challenge was brought by the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

The Hindu – Feeding a billion: Evaluating India’s progress at eliminating hunger

Rohan Abraham

New Delhi, 17 October 2017. While food production is still not insulated from the vagaries of nature, which can vacillate between extremes, ranging from the floods which ravaged parts of Northern India this year, to the extant drought in the South, anthropogenic factors are holding back India’s quest to attain food security.

On the occasion of World Food Day, which is celebrated on October 16 to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is fair to say that a Malthusian prophecy has been averted, but catastrophe of another kind looms large.

Thomas Malthus’ prediction that an exponential growth in population would outpace agricultural production, has to an extent, been contained, but migration, war, natural calamities have contributed to rendering scores of people, especially in strife-torn areas without access to food.

The theme for this year is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”. According to a report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, India ranks 100 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index.

It is outperformed by countries in the neighbourhood such as China, Nepal, and Myanmar, which are ranked 29, 72, and 77 respectively.

The methodology used to prepare the index takes into account malnutrition, stunting among children, wasting, and the mortality rate of children under the age of five. By assigning weights to these variables and standardizing the component indicators, the index value is calculated, and subsequently sorted to arrive at the overall rankings.

Here are some of the reasons exploring what ails India’s quest to attain food security.

Crop cover is getting denuded

Source: Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

According to a reply furnished by Radha Mohan Singh, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, in the Lok Sabha on 2nd August 2016, the average area under cultivation has been steadily on the decline. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare data reveals that 12.25 lakh hectares of land which was under cultivation in 2006/07, has been diverted for non-agricultural use.

Rajasthan leads the pack with 2.55 crore hectares under cultivation, an area roughly four times the size of Sri Lanka.

Food imports touch Rs 1.4 lakh crore

Source: Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

As per Census data, 176 million, or 56.6% of India’s working population are engaged in agriculture or allied industries. Despite an overabundance of farm hands, India’s food bill has seen an unprecedented spike from Rs 56,196 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 1,40,268 crore in 2015-16, marking an increase of 149.6%.

Given the fragile nature of foreign exchange, an import bill of this enormity, is a setback in the government’s efforts to reducing the fiscal deficit. However, in relative terms, India’s food import bill accounts for only 5.63% of total national imports in 2015-16.

Agricultural productivity is declining

Despite having large tracts of land under cultivation, Rajasthan doesn’t stack up with other states in terms of agricultural productivity. According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s Statistical Yearbook on Agriculture – 2016, the net yield for Rajasthan was 1,535 kg/hectare.

Punjab and Haryana were on top with 4,144 kgs/hectare and 3,772 kgs/hectare respectively.

The national average of 2,070 kgs/hectare is well below the productivity levels of the farm sector in developed countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, which enjoy yields of 7,638 kg/hectare and 7,697 kg/hectare respectively, according to data compiled by the World Bank, in association with FAO in 2014.

The bumper yields of farmers in the Middle East present a point of contradiction, since the topography and weather of the region pose hurdles in optimizing agricultural produce. Agricultural productivity in the United Arab Emirates was 41,908 kg/hectare, while that in Kuwait was 21,845 kg/hectare.

Land holdings are shrinking

The average size of operational holdings has come down to 1.15 hectares in 2010-11, from 1.33 hectares in 2000-01, Agriculture Ministry data shows. As profit margins blur into operating losses, small farmers end up in a debt trap, since the cost of cultivation often overshadows the market price of their yield.

Despite migration to urban centres, hidden unemployment is also rampant in the agriculture sector.

Commercial farming has increased agricultural productivity in parts of the developed world. According to data compiled by the FAO, the average area per holding in North America is 117.8 hectares, while the global average is 5.5 hectares.