Bihar: Upendra Kushwaha to take out ‘padayatra’ in protest against AES deaths


Charging the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar with having “failed” to control the AES outbreak, RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha Sunday announced that he will take out a ‘padayatra’ from the worst-affected Muzaffarpur district in protest, later this week.

The Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak has claimed the lives of more than 150 children during the month.

Addressing a press conference here, a day after he visited Muzaffarpur where 134 children have died since June 1, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief said, “our padayatra will have the theme, Nitish hatao, bhavishya bachao (oust Nitish from power, save the future of Bihar).”

The ‘padayatra’ will commence at Muzaffarpur on July 2 and conclude here on July 6, he said.

“Nitish Kumar will be completing 15 years as chief minister next year. Had he paid adequate attention to providing basic health care to the people of the state, so many children would not have died. We also get an impression that efforts are on to pass the buck so that Kumar is not held accountable,” Kushwaha alleged.

Kushwaha’s alliance partners such as the RJD and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhis Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) have been demanding the resignation of Health Minister Mangal Pandey, a senior BJP leader.

“It is not my concern whether Kumar retains Pandey in his cabinet or removes him. But, my point is he did not fight elections in the name of his cabinet colleagues. He won on the plank of his claims of ‘sushasan’ (good governance). Now that the falsity of the claims lay exposed, he must take the blame,” Kushwaha a former JD(U) leader who quit and floated his own outfit in 2013- said.

The RLSP started off as an NDA ally and won all the three seats it contested in 2014, riding the Modi wave while Kushwaha himself got a ministerial berth at the Centre.

He quit the BJP-led coalition in 2018 after the saffron party apparently offered him only two seats in order to make way for the JD(U) headed by Kumar, who had returned to the NDA, a year earlier.

Kushwaha thereafter joined the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ comprising Congress, RJD, HAM and budding Nishad leader Mukesh Sahnis VIP.

The opposition alliance was trounced in the recent general elections, with only the Congress among the constituents winning a seat. The RLSP, which had fought five, lost all including two contested by Kushwaha himself.

Jharkhand man stabs girlfriend to death for refusing to fetch water


JAMSHEDPUR: A 21-year-old college student was stabbed to death allegedly by a man, stated to be her boyfriend, after she refused to fetch water for him in West Singhbhum district, a police officer said on Sunday.

While the woman died on the spot, her roommate suffered serious injuries in the incident at Mahisabeda village under Sonua police station on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Indrajeet Mahatha said.

The accused used to frequent the rented house of the woman and the two had gone out for shopping on Saturday evening.

After returning, the accused asked her to fetch a bucket of water from a nearby tube well as he wanted to take bath.

When she asked him to get it, an altercation broke out, following which the accused took out a knife, attacked her and her roommate before escaping, the SP said.

The injured roommate (22) was rushed to a hospital in Chakradharpur, around 20 km from Sonua. The police recovered the woman’s body and sent it for post-mortem examination on Sunday morning. The police questioned the man’s father to find out his whereabouts, the SP said.

Ashish Vidyarthi to address youths as part of a “skills


Bollywood actor Ashish Vidyarthi will fly down to the city next week for delivering a pep talk to young men and women of Bihar as part of World Skill Youth Day celebrations.

Vidyarthi made the announcement to this effect in a short video clip uploaded by Bihar Skill Development Mission (BSDM), which is organizing a three-day Skills Carnival as part of the celebrations, on its Facebook page.

Set up in 2010 by the Bihar government, the BSDM aims to empower the youth by empowering them with requisite skills to fuel the growth of the state. The mission’s primary roles are to establish a wide network of training centres for the youth and to provide them with employment opportunities.

“It was, however, only by 2016 that the Mission gathered momentum as the preceding year saw Chief Minister Nitish Kumar returning to power on the Saat Nishchay (seven resolves) plank – the first one of which was aarthik hal, yuvaon ko bal – aiming at imparting skills to high school dropouts under the age of 25”, Dipak Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, state Labour Resources department, told PTI here.

Vidyarthi is scheduled to address the participants on the inaugural day of the function on July 13.

In the nearly two and a half minutes long video clip, Vidyarthi – best remembered for playing a cold-blooded terrorist in Govind Nihalani-directed “Drohkaal” that fetched him a National Award for the Best Supporting Actor – strikes a chatty and informal note.

“When we come face to face, we shall talk of dreams, of ways to make our futures better and try to improve our understanding, our capabilities and our skills”, Vidyarthi says in the video.

“The youths of Bihar are second to none when it comes to talent, hard work and perseverance. These traits have to be nurtured and resolute steps taken for onward progress”, the actor says in chaste Hindi.

“So, see you all on July 13. Hope you will come. And won’t you treat me to littis (a Bihari delicacy). I badly want to taste these”, signs off Vidyarthi with a mischievous smile.

Schoolgirl cycling back home gang raped in Bihar


Patna: A grade 12 girl was dragged by youths into a car, gang raped in the moving vehicle and then thrown along a road in Bihar.

The police have arrested one person but four others are absconding.

The incident took place in Saran, the Lok Sabha constituency of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Saran is a north Bihar district around 80km from Patna, the capital city of Bihar.

Police said the 17-year-old was returning home after school on her bicycle on Friday afternoon when the youths kidnapped her. She had gone to school to receive her grade 12 mark sheet and other documents for admission in higher classes.

After the kidnapping, the youths drove the car around the locality and raped her until she lost consciousness. According to the victim, five men were in the car. After committing the crime, they threw her along the road and fled the scene.

Late in the evening, villagers noticed the unconscious girl on the road with her school documents by her side. They called up her father using a contact number written on the school documents. The victim was then admitted to hospital where her condition is said to be critical.

“We have arrested one person based on the information provided by the victim while raids are already on to nab the other absconding accused persons,” the local Saran district superintendent of police Hari Kishore Rai told the media on Sunday.

The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal slammed the state government for the fast-deteriorating law and order situation in the state. “This is one more example of worsening law and order in Bihar,” RJD spokesperson Mirtunjay Tiwary said.

Last week, three incidents of gang rapes were reported from various parts of the state.

In one case from the Sitamarhi district, two sisters were kidnapped from outside their home in the night and allegedly gang raped by eight men.

After the incident invited wide outrage, former parliamentarian Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav, announced a cash reward of Rs100,000 (Dh5,316) to anyone who kills the rapists.

“If the government can punish the rapists, the society too holds the right to teach a lesson to the outlaws,” Yadav told the media after meeting the two girls last week.

According to an official report, more than 6,200 incidents of rape have been reported in the past five years of the ruling Nitish Kumar government in the state. This year, as many as 353 cases of rape have been reported until March, indicating at least four girls are raped every day in Bihar.

Slums in Jharkhand to get Mohalla Clinics like Delhi


Ranchi: Taking a cue from the Delhi government, the Raghubar Das government plans to start “Mohalla Clinics” that will offer free medical care to people living in slums in Jharkhand.

“These clinics will be like primary health centres and will offer free diagnostics facilities, treatment and medicine for minor ailments. These are being started for the benefit of daily wagers, who lose a day’s salary if they visit a regular hospital for treatment. The clinics will open every day in the morning and evening. Serious patients would be referred to bigger hospitals for treatment,” state Health Minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi told IANS.

Every clinic will offer OPD, vaccination, maternity, post natal and family planning services, along with tests for malaria, tuberculosis and other small ailments. Doctors will be paid for the number of patients they treat in a clinic.

A Health Department official said: “Every slum will get a Mohalla Clinic on a population of 15,000. Based on the number of slums, some 25 temporary Mohalla Clinics have been planned in the state.”

Chandravanshi said the clinics will also function as Awareness Generation Centres for diseases that mainly affect poor people mainly living in slums.

Give loan or get bullet: Bihar bankers face difficult choice


Last Wednesday, when Milind Kumar Madhur, a 28-year-old assistant manager of Canara Bank, was stabbed to death by a gang on a running train in Bihar’s Lakhisarai district, the incident only served as a rude reminder about the risky conditions that bankers regularly face in Bihar.

Milind, who lived in Bettiah in East Champaran district, was returning from Gaya to Jamui by Gaya-Jamalpur passenger train after attending a meeting with the senior officials of the Canara Bank. The victim’s belongings including his wallet were found intact, which clearly indicated that the criminals were sent to kill the bank official. Police investigations are yet to yield significant breakthrough.

Incidentally, Milind is not the first Bihar-based bank official to have faced attacks. In October 2018, the police had recovered the body of Jaiwardhan, a branch manager of Regional Gramin Bank. His body was found floating in a Telaiya dam of Hazaribagh district in neighbouring Jharkhand.

In May 2018, Alok Chandra, Arwal branch manager for the Bank of Baroda, was shot dead. In July 2018, the police arrested six persons, including two-wheeler showroom owner for killing Alok Chandra. Chandra was killed because he objected to diversion of Rs 1.5 crore loan taken by the showroom owner Brajesh Kumar.

“Who wishes to refuse loan applications and get killed? Many managers have compromised after a reality check,” says a Punjab National Bank Branch Manager posted in Patna district. The manager carries a gun to his office; but he does not mind issuing loans as dictated by local strongmen.

“Every bank manager in a rural branch releases loans worth Rs 5 crore every year. The middlemen fetches you good money if you release according to their whims. You might get a bullet if you don’t. The choice is simple,” he says.

More than a decade ago, Bihar was known for its Gunda banks. Groups of thugs had then transformed local money-lending operation into an organised business to pocket exorbitant rates of interests. A marked improvement in law and order and lucrative earning opportunities in the shape of bank loans, later provided a safer and much attractive career shift to these goons.

Today, local strongmen, criminals and politicians double as loan facilitators. As a strategic move, these loan-mongers usually facilitate only Kisaan Credit Card (KCC) and other agriculture loans; the disbursal of which are a priority of both government and the banks and hardly anything is done to recover the amount.

“A majority of rural branches of various nationalised commercial banks in Bihar have become a double-edged sword that cuts the in-charge bank officer both ways—one can either follow the middlemen-and get cut money in return– or get thrashed or worse; killed for disobeying the local criminals,” said a retired Punjab National Bank manager in Patna.

The intermediaries have developed a vice-like grip on banks. They operate upfront-arranging or forging eligibility papers for the loan-seekers to making the bank manager release funds-while bagging a king’s ransom a large slice of take from each loan released.

As vested interests are involved in loan disbursal, recovery of loans in Bihar has left a lot to be desired in Bihar. A total of 580408 certificate cases were pending for disposal in Bihar as on December 31, 2018, which involve a total amount of Rs. 4069 crores.

“Rising NPAs, which have escalated from 9.39% as on March 31, 2017 to 10.6% as on March 31, 2018 and further to 12.35% on September 30, 2018, is a matter of concern,”,” said a senior member of State Level Bankers committee (SLBC) in Patna.

According to SLBC figures, against a total amount of loan of Rs 1,25,070 crore sanctioned till December 2018, Rs 14, 078 crore or 11.26% has turned out to be Non-performing assets for Banks in Bihar. As many as Rs 272 crore loan has been written off in Bihar.

Hawkers’ hub in Ranchi to become no-vending zone


From Monday, vendors will not be allowed to put up stalls on 1.5-km stretch from Kutchery Chowk to Sarjana Chowk, known as hawkers’ hub, as Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) has declared the stretch no-vending zone.

The vendors would be shifted to the newly-constructed Atal Smriti Vendors’ Market built at Kutchery.

The shop allotments process has already been completed. However, a section of vendors have decided to protest against the RMC’s move, alleging irregularities in the allotment process.

The stretch – comprising Kutchery Chowk, Saheed Chowk, Albert Ekka Chowk, Sarjana Chowk, part of main road — is a major hawkers’ zone in the city. More than 1,000 hawkers earn their livelihood in the stretch.

Deputy municipal commissioner Shankar Yadav said, “The notice has also been given to vendors. They will now put up their stalls at the newly constructed multi-storied building.”

Atal Smriti Vendors’ Market, a four-storied building, was built on 2.94 lakh sqft area at the cost of Rs 54 crore. The market has 472 kiosks for street vendors on ground and first floors. On the second floor, 108 shops have been built. Further, 23 offices are on the third floor and a banquet hall for marriage, anniversary and other purposes on the fourth floor.

Chief minister Raghubar Das had inaugurated the building on November 16 last year.

“A total 752 vendors had been identified on the stretch in a survey. However, 569 hawkers were found to be genuine. Around 150 vegetable or fruit sellers were excluded from the list of shop beneficiary, as perishable items such as vegetables and fruits were not allowed inside the market,” Yadav said. Cemented platforms were being constructed for them, he said.

However, Jharkhand Sikshit Footpath Dukandar Mahasangh (JSFDM) has cried foul in distribution of shop allotment. “Many hawkers who are not genuine got shops here,” said JSFDM central president Ishtiyak Ahmed.

NIA arrests engineer in Ranchi for connection with PLFI


The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday arrested an engineer from Ranchi, Jharkhand, for his connection with banned group Peoples’ Liberation Front of India (PLFI). Sources told Zee Media that the arrested engineer identified as Jitendra is an associate of PLFI chief Dinesh Gope. NIA said that Jitendra has been arrested in connection with terror funding and he has been remanded to judicial custody till July 3. Jitendra was arrested from his residence at Ranchi’s posh Prem Nagar area.

NIA sources said that Jitendra used to invest the levy money which was illegally collected by PLFI members. Meanwhile, Jitendra’s brother had rejected the NIA’s claim and said that his brother has nothing do with the PLFI. Sources told Zee Media that Jitendra belongs to a high-profile family.

It may be recalled that in February this year the NIA had conducted raids at 10 locations in Jharkhand and West Bengal in connection with a terror funding case involving the PLFI. At that time, the NIA had raided the residences and offices of close aides and companies associated with Gope in Ranchi, Gumla, Khunti and Kolkata.

The NIA had seized cash approximately Rs 3.41 lakh, incriminating documents pertaining to payments/investment by PLFI chief/cadres in various firms and immovable properties, fake PAN cards and fake identity cards, bank accounts details and fixed deposits, documents showing payments made to the various shell companies, 40 mobile phones and other digital devices containing incriminating information during the raids.

Brick kilns ruin 6,000 acres of land in Bihar every year: Study


Red brick kilns in Bihar destroy about 6,000 acres of land every year, according to the results of a study released recently. This is a big and alarming number for a state whose economy is largely based on agriculture, and where environment management has become of paramount importance in the face of a large-scale water crisis.

The study was conducted by Development Alternatives (DA), a research institution working for sustainable development. Quoting 2017 data from the mines and geology department, DA said that there were 6,364 registered brick kiln units in Bihar that produced 19,000 million red bricks and consumed around 53 million tonnes of soil. The total geographical area of the state is 94,163 square km.

In 2018, as per data from the mines and geology department, the number of brick kiln units was 6,291 (73 less than in 2017). Of all the districts, Gaya has the highest number of brick kiln units in Bihar. The district, having a geographical area of 4,976 sq. km and facing an acute water crisis, had 442 brick kiln units in 2018. The second highest number of 325 units was in Saran district, followed by 310 in Patna.

Vice-president, DA, Soumen Maity, said, “When the top soil of a [plot of] land is cut, the humus is lost, making it barren or [resulting in] massive loss of its fertility. The land around the brick kiln also becomes barren because of the enormous heat generated from the furnace of the unit. Even the water table of the area starts falling due to evaporation of the underlying water.”

Maity said that the figures of the mines and geology department only showed the brick kilns that paid royalty, but there were many that were unregistered and illegally run. He added that a lot of water — an estimated 25% of the water available in an area — was used up in the making of red brick.

The study has been done by DA in association with Bihar State Pollution Control Board. Commenting on this situation, BSPCB chairman Ashok Kumar Ghosh said, “The red brick kilns are destroying the agricultural land and depleting the groundwater also. Many have switched to clean technology, which is not the solution to save the agricultural land. The Centre is now stressing on the manufacture of fly ash bricks, using fly ash generated from thermal power units. We have suggested that brick kilns should be given some time to switch to fly ash units, so that they recover the cost they put into switching to green technology.”

Brick kilns are the fourth largest contributors to the wealth earned by the mines and geology department. In 2018-19, the department collected Rs 4,144.11 lakh from the brick kilns.

The DA study said that in 2017, Bihar lost 6,176 acres of agriculture land owing to brick kiln activity. To arrive at this conclusion, the study assumed that 1 metre of topsoil was cut from agriculture fields for making bricks. However, the mines and geology department grants permission to cut top soil up to 3 metres or slightly more than 10 feet. “There are reports that rules are hardly followed when cutting the soil. In many districts, soil has been cut beyond 10 feet,” said Maity.

In 2018, the mines and geology department had issued a notice stating that soil was a “minor mineral” and under the Bihar Minor Mining Act 2017 (Rule 28-2), it was necessary for both sellers and buyers to take permission by registering themselves with the mining and geology department. “However, only one or two people are taking permission before the sale of soil to brick kiln owners in Gaya,” said Rajkishore Sharan, district mining officer, Gaya, pointing to the extent of illegality.

Water conservationist Rajendra Singh, popularly known as the ‘Waterman of India’, said that the brick kilns sliced the top soil, which had the capacity to store water and recharge the aquifers. “Their [large] numbers will definitely affect the water table of the particular area where they are operational,” said Singh.

Bihar: Woman’s relatives claim newborn stolen from hospital, vandalise property


Relatives of a woman in Islampur of Nalanda, Bihar, pelted stones at a primary health centre and vandalised property after alleged theft of the woman’s newborn.

On Friday night, the pregnant woman’s family had come to a primary health centre in Islampur for the delivery of the child.

However, the infant was stolen by another woman from the hospital, media reports said.

Following which, aggrieved family members of the woman resorted to violence by pelting stones and destroying the health centre’s property.

The video of furious relatives pelting stone at the health centre is being shared on social media.

In the video footage, the woman’s family members were seen throwing stones at an ambulance that was parked outside the hospital.

Commenting on the matter, Vaibhav Chaudhary, SDO, Hilsa, Nalanda, told news agency ANI that the woman was brought to the health centre on late Friday night and she gave birth at 9 am on Saturday.
He further said that the police is looking into the matter and an investigation is underway.
However, he said, the situation was soon brought under control.