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Government has taken many steps for welfare of minorities: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

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Photo: www.tehelka.com

By NewsGram Staff-Writer

New Delhi: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Minister of State for Minority Affairs, said on Monday that the Union government has taken several steps for ensuring the welfare of minorities.

“The government has taken several steps for overall development of underprivileged, poor sections, including minorities,” he said at a book launch function here.

Naqvi said that the USTAAD scheme, which aims at capacity building and updating the traditional skills of master craftsmen and artisans, was one of the important initiatives taken for the welfare of the minorities, especially the Muslim community.

The scheme would be helpful in providing a platform to publicize and showcase traditional skills, arts, and crafts of minority communities, he said.

“This initiative will provide a broad market for arts and crafts of minorities,” the minister said.

Speaking on the occasion, Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla said her ministry would take help from expert knowledge partners like National Institute of Fashion Technology, National Institute of Design, Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, ACCESS Development Services, and Export Promotion Councils in order to make its scheme a success.

Earlier, the book “India’s Creative Continuum – Minority Communities in Craft” was released by Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to empower minorities, Singh said that the focus of the central government was to create employability and employment simultaneously.

“The documentation of traditional arts/crafts of minorities and promoting the masters of the crafts will help in preserving, protecting, and promoting,” he said.

In the ongoing exhibition-cum-sale of traditional crafts and skills, there was a display of 18 traditional skills from various states including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Will India See an end to Haj Subsidy? A Government Panel Recommends Phasing it out in the new Haj Policy

Haj subsidy is given to those who go through the Haj Committee of India and not through private operators. The subsidy amount has in the recent years been between Rs 650-700 crore

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The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22 has been submitted to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. (IANS)

Mumbai, October 8, 2017 : A government-appointed panel for revising India’s Haj policy has recommended abolishing subsidy for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mekkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia besides allowing women devotees aged over 45 to travel in a group of at least four without a male relative.

The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22, submitted to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, has been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court direction to gradually reduce and completely remove the subsidy by 2022.

“It is advisable that the existing reduction plan (phasing out of subsidy) be followed,” according to the recommendations.

In a major reform, the draft Haj policy proposes to partially quash an earlier rule that barred women Haj aspirants to travel without ‘mehram’, a close family member like husband, father or brother.

“Ladies above 45 years of age be allowed in a group of four or more to go for Haj without a mehram,” the panel recommended.

Women below 45, however, will have to be accompanied by a male family member, according to the draft Haj policy that proposes to increase the quota for mehrams from 200 to 500.

Among other recommendations, made by the panel headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah, are bringing down the number of embarkation points from which pilgrims can take flights to Saudi Arabia from the present 21 to nine.

The embarkation points for Haj pilgrims from next year would be New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kochi and Ahmedabad.

The distribution of quota between Haj Committee of India and private tour operators will be in the ratio of 70:30 — almost a five percent hike for the private players.

This year, the Haj quota for India — home to the world’s third largest Muslim population — was increased to 170,025, of which 125,025 was allocated to the Haj committee and 45,000 to the privater tour operators.

ALSO READ After 22 years, India mulling resuming use of Arabian Sea route to ferry Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia

On the long-pending proposal to revive Haj pilgrimage by ship, Naqvi said the Saudi government would be consulted and then it would float an expression of interest to guage the market for such travel.

Independent tour operators say travel by ship would drastically reduce the cost per pilgrim to around Rs 60,000, making it affordable to a larger section of the population.

Regarding the distribution of Haj quota among states and union territories, the panel has recommended that it should be in the ratio of the Muslim population and in proportion to the number of applications received from each state or union territory.

Special quota for Haj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir will be increased from existing 1,500 to 2,000.

The reserved category of applicants in the 70-plus age group and fourth-timers has been abolished and they would go through the normal lottery. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.