updated 12:51 PM UTC, Oct 10, 2018

Reservoir restored in Rajasthan village

Jaipur: Soda village in Rajasthan now won't go thirsty as a reservoir has been restored in partnership with a company and an NGO.

Chhavi Rajawat, village council head of Soda village in Tonk district, has adopted a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to solve the water problem of the village, over 60 km from the state capital Jaipur, and adjoining villages.

Perseverance of Chhavi brought Soda Panchayat and Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. and World Vision India, an NGO, together to address the water problem.

The village has been able to restore “Shivra Taal”, a reservoir, which is the lifeline of Soda and neighbouring villages.

“Shivra Taal” was dedicated to the community on Monday, a day after World Water Day.

“With restoration of this reservoir we hope to ensure better availability of water to over 950 households of Soda and neighbouring villages for next over 18 months even if there is scanty rainfall in next one year or so,” Chhavi told IANS.

Chhavi has studied in top Indian institutes and even has a business management degree. But instead of choosing a corporate career, she likes to be a village council head in Rajasthan.

“My desire to serve my village and restoration is only a part of it. I want to do more for my people," said Chhavi.

Kalyan Ranjan, associate vice president, public affairs and communication, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd., in a statement said: “We understand the importance of the precious natural resource. We are delighted to have been a part of this Shivra Taal restoration initiative envisioned by the Soda Panchayat. World Vision India has been a valuable partner in implementing this project.”

NGO CPIL seeks probe into political-bureaucratic-corporate nexus

New Delhi: NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe by an SIT or the CBI into the political-bureaucratic-corporate nexus wherein corporates extend all kind of favours to politicians and bureaucrats to push their business interests.

The PIL follows the latest exposure revealing the Essar Group allegedly influencing and cultivating young law-makers, the bureaucracy, police and the media for advancing its business interests.

The CPIL in its PIL said that it seeks a court-monitored investigation by an Special Ivestigation Team or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the "high level of political-bureaucratic-corporate nexus wherein corporates use their money power to change public policies, plant questions in parliament, get access to internal government documents/cabinet papers, grant favours to politicians and bureaucrats for receiving benefits in return, and plant stories in news media".

Referring to the recent exposures, the PIL said that the entire "matter is crying out for a thorough court-monitored investigation by an SIT or CBI since the same is necessary to uphold democracy, the rule of law and rights of the citizens under articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution".

"The prevailing corruption in the country in high places seriously impairs the right of the people of this country to live in a corruption-free society governed by rule of law. The right to life guaranteed to the people of this country also includes in its fold the right to live in a society, which is free from crime and corruption," it contended.

It also argued the conduct of the journalists and media organisations in taking favours from corporates and in carrying out planted stories was in violation of journalistic norms and ethics.

It demanded the government "withdraw the privileges like subsidized land, newsprint, houses etc. that have been extended to media organisations and journalists who are indulging in paid news, or publishing news reports to favour corporates, or who are taking favours from corporates".

NGO working on AIDS gets $350,000 aid

New Delhi: Global NGO, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), has received a grant of $350,000 from leading pharmaceutical and healthcare firm Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) to support implementation of the Human Vaccines Project that seeks to transform disease prevention across the world.

The GSK grant is aimed to help the NGO establish the project's global consortium and plan its research programme.

"For all that we have achieved with vaccines, there are still far too many diseases that we can't prevent and which have a devastating impact, particularly in the developing world," said Emmanuel Hanon, senior vice president, vaccines research and development, GSK.

"The more we can do - both individually and collectively - to overcome the current scientific challenges the better. We are very pleased to support the Human Vaccines Project and we encourage others to join us in this potentially ground-breaking initiative," he added.

The project aims to address the common scientific obstacles preventing development of vaccines against major and emerging infectious diseases and cancers and complement ongoing disease- specific vaccine development efforts.

ASI, NGO collaborate to save Agra blackbucks

Agra: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with support from Uttar Pradesh forest department and an NGO Wild Life SOS Saturday launched a research project to study and translocate wild jackals from Akbar's Tomb area in Agra to save blackbucks.

A forest department official said the long term plan is to shift around three dozen jackals to a nearby forest area in Bainpur range after alarming reports suggested decrease in the number of black bucks whose young ones are being preyed on by jackals, following which the ASI sought the help of other agencies.

Wildlife experts said blackbuck fawns were being killed by the jackals whose number has increased severalfold as there are no natural predators in the area to keep their numbers in check.

"As a result, the jackals were preying on the fawns of the blackbucks, whose population has come down to just about 100 from several hundred a decade ago," the official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The official said the traps to capture jackals would be camouflaged and those trapped would be translocated to a natural habitat. The operation could take three to six months.

Baiju Raj MV, a wildlife biologist from an Wildlife SOS who is also the officer in charge of the Agra Bear Rescue Facility said: "We will be deploying a combination of indigenous and scientific techniques to translocate the jackals. The entire project is designed in a way to ensure safe and successful translocation of the jackals to a safe and alternative habitat."

Rupak De, IFS - Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh said "This is a first time effort as previously we have translocated spotted deer and sloth bears. Very efficient and advanced technology will be used by Wildlife SOS to relocate the jackals back in their natural habitat."

H.V. Singh, director, Archaeological Survey of India, said: "We are very happy to collaborate with Wildlife SOS for the Jackal Translocation Project as they have adequate experience to implement this initiative successfully."

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder, Wildlife SOS said: "Jackals play an important ecological role and are valuable for the health of a habitat."

"The translocation process will involve conditioning of the jackals using feed source to a safe enclosure after which they will be contained using smart traps scientifically designed with automatic triggers that will not hurt the animals," he added.


UN applications of five Indian NGOs put on hold

United Nations: Applications from five Indian non-governmental organisations for special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were put on hold Monday after Pakistan raised issues with their requests in three cases and India in two.

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations recommended 16 organisations for special consultative status -- none from India -- and deferred action on the status of 17 others.

Consultative status gives NGOs access to the ECOSOC and related organisations to the UN's human rights mechanisms and to special events organised by the president of the General Assembly. Over 4,000 NGOs have consultative status.

Pakistan raised questions about the funding and income statements of Eurasia Reiyukai, which according to its website, is headquartered in Siliguri in India and promotes the teaching of Buddha and the Reiyukai movement, which originated in Japan. It also operates in Nepal.

Another organisation that faced questions from Pakistan about its funding was the Disease Management Association of India. Based in Mumbai, the NGO says on its website that it brings together all the stakeholders in healthcare on one platform. It lists Associated Chambers of Commerce of India among its partners.

Pakistan questioned why Akhil Bharatiya Sanskrutik Sangh had registered itself as an Indian national organisation and asked for more information about its monitoring and evaluation. The Pune-based NGO says on its web site that it works on cultural and educational activities for children and youth and runs "global integrity development" programmes.

According to a UN summary of the committee meeting, India questioned whether the Human Rights Sanrakshan Sansthaa was a national or an international organisation and asked for clarification about the role of government officials in its functioning and about its membership. The organisation says on Facebook that it is based in New Delhi.

India also questioned whether The India Water Foundation had undertaken any activities in neighbouring countries. On its web site, the foundation says its goal is to create "a heightened public awareness" about "the vital role water plays in our daily lives". It says its head office is in New Delhi and also has a regional office in Varanasi.

NGO Let's Vote gets award for voter awareness

Hyderabad: NGO Let's Vote has received the National CSO Award for its contributions towards voter awareness, education and enrolment drives during the 2014 general elections.

The award was presented during the fifth National Voters Day celebrations in New Delhi Sunday.

Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam gave away the awards at the function presided over by Chief Election Commissioner H.S. Brahma.

Let's Vote national convener K. Subbarangaiah, founder J.A. Chowdary, and member P.V. Raghavendra Sarma were present on the occasion, a statement said here Monday.

Subbarangaiah said the wide participation of enthusiastic volunteers and support from various patrons made it possible.

He thanked all the volunteers for their dedication and tireless efforts.

Bhanwarlal, chief electoral officer for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, received the Best CEO award, while Cyberabad police commissioner C.V. Anand was given the award for best electoral practice.

Rahul, Preeti celebrate Makar Sankranti with NGO kids

Mumbai: Actors Rahul Sharma and Preeti Chaudhary, who play the lead couple in the popular show “Ek Rishta Aisa Bhi”, celebrated Makar Sankranti with children from Save The Children India NGO at a hotel here.

Various hues adorned the sky when Rahul and Preeti along with children got together to perform the kite flying ritual. They also savoured a specially cooked meal.

Other artists from the show joined in the fervour too, and they participated in a kite-making workshop with children from the NGO.

The event was organised by Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel.


When Sandhya made Mrinal cry

Actor Mrinal Dutt had to shoot an emotional scene for "Private Investigator", and he had to shed tears. He says at first he was hesitant about how he would pull it off, but he says his co-star Sandhya Mridul helped him.

Mrinal, who portrays the role of Raffe Roy Chaudhary in the show, said: “I and Sandhya Mridul, who plays my mother, were shooting for a scene in an open park. It was an emotional confrontation scene where I question her on our identities.

“Sandhya started crying and I had to do the same. Initially, I wasn't really sure if I will be able to pull this scene off and we had five retakes as well. But I share an amazing tuning with Sandhya and the moment I saw tears in her eyes, I started crying and completed the scene."

Mrinal says the experience was unforgettable.

“When the director said 'cut', I turned around to see that my entire crew and the onlookers in the park were also crying. This, for me, was a moment I don't think I can ever forget,” Mrinal said.

“Private Investigator” is currently being aired on Star Plus.


Remarriage time on 'Hum Hai Na'

It's time for two remarriages in popular TV show “Hum Hai Na”!

The show will witness a unique twist, where the lead couple Bunty and Saagarika will take the seven wedding vows again, and so will, Bunty's parents Ammaji and Babuji.

As per the sequence, Bunty (Kanwar Dhillon) and Saagarika (Pratyusha Banerjee) were asked to provide their marriage certificate by the police when Saagarika accidentally hit a constable.

However, they were not able to show it. Not just that, even Bunty's parents were also not able to show their marriage certificate. Hence, in the forthcoming episodes, they will be seen getting married once again.

“It was fun shooting for the scene and dressing up again like bride and groom. It rarely happens that mother-father and son-bahu (son's wife) register their marriage together. We had a great time shooting the sequence,” Kanwar said in a statement.

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'Paddington' screened for underprivileged kids

Mumbai: Before making its way into India, the “Paddington” bear brought smiles on the faces of underprivileged children at a special screening here.

The screening, which was arranged for children from NGO AngelXpress, at Sunny Super Sound in Juhu here Friday, was hosted by Avinaash Jumani (Film Acquisitions, PictureWorks).

Along with the underprivileged children, some celebrity offsprings were also spotted at the venue. However, Jumani asserts that the screening acted as a test to know the movie's impact on children.

“We arranged this screening mainly for children a week prior to the India release as a test screening to see the response from our target audience,” Jumani said in a statement.

Directed by Paul King, the film follows comic misadventures of a young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British. The bear travels to London in search of a home. It is then the adventure starts as he begins to realise that city life is not all he had imagined -- until he meets a kind Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven.

The film is based on internationally adored series of children's stories by British author Michael Bond and is produced by David Heyman of "Gravity” and the "Harry Potter" series fame.

The film is set to release in 120 screens across India Jan 16.

Panel hears experts on report about environment laws

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel Friday heard views of experts and NGOs on the report of a panel on various laws relating to environment amid reports that there was "disquiet" on some of its recommendations.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest met eight organisations to consider their views on the T.S.R. Subramanian panel report which has been submitted to the government.

The panel took note of the views of experts and environment groups in view of apprehensions that some laws could be weakened.

Ashawni Kumar, chairman of the standing committee, said there has been "disquiet" about some recommendations in the media.

He said the panel will hold extensive consultations and will take views of other organisations.

"The MPs are entitled to apprise themselves (of views of) opponents and proponents," he said.

He did not divulge view of the experts who met the parliamentary panel.

Kumar said that the committee had taken cognisance of a media report that pollution was leading to discolouration of Taj Mahal.

He said the panel will meet officials of Uttar Pradesh Pollution Board, environment ministry and other agencies responsible for conservation of the historic monument.

The panel will also visit Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai Jan 31 and meet experts to assess the progress in generation of civil nuclear energy.

The committee will also be visiting some big cities to assess the "impact of rapid and unplanned urbanisation on environment."

Satyarthi backs 'Save the Girl Child' initiative

Mumbai: Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi will throw his weight behind the 'Save the Girl Child' initiative of NGO MedScapeIndia which works for the upliftment of women and children.

Radiologist and MedScapeIndia chairperson Sunita Dube met Satyarthi and Child Rights Commission member Yogesh Dube and discussed possible endeavours for the betterment of children and women, particularly their health and well being.

Dube invited Satyarthi for the 'Save the Girl Child' campaign to be held Jan 24, to mark the Save the Girl Day.

Lauding the initiative, Satyarthi - whose Bachpan Bachao Andolan has grabbed attention worldwide - expressed happiness over taking part in the upcoming event in Mumbai.

Last year, the 'Save the Girl Child' campaign was supported by Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

Launched in 2011 by Aryan Medical and Educational Trust, MedScapeIndia creates a common virtual platform for the medical community to network, share and receive wide ranging reliable medical news and reports.

It is supported by 21 medical councils and associations, including the Maharashtra Medical Council, branches of physiotherapy, gynaecology and obstetrics, neurology, dental, ayurveda, homoeopathy and other major organisations.

'Tevar' stars named brand ambassador of NGO Prayas

New Delhi: Actors Arjun Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha and Manoj Bajpayee, stars of the forthcoming action thriller "Tevar", were Monday named brand ambassadors of NGO Prayas, which provides unprivileged children basic needs including food, shelter and education.

The “Tevar” cast also visited the Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society to promote their film and they spent some time with the children, who looked anxious to meet and greet their favourite stars.

Commenting on her association with the NGO, Sonakshi said: “My father used to tell me what Prayas is about. Although I never got a chance to visit them earlier, now I have witnessed it myself and I'm really happy that there are such people who are working for a noble cause.”

Sonakshi's father Shatrughan Sinha is currently serving as the president of Prayas and has been associated with it for the last 20 years.

Manoj said: "I respect the effort that they are putting into the welfare of the young Indian generation. I would love to help them in any way."

During their visit, the trio strolled around the NGO campus and posed for the shutterbugs with the children.

Arjun, who donned a casual outfit for the event, looked happy throughout his visit and said since his profession takes up a lot of his time, he's hardly able to devote time to the country's social concerns. However, his experience at Prayas left him overwhelmed.

“All the people who are working with Prayas are the unsung heroes of India. Everybody should try to take some time out from their personal lives and spend it with these unprivileged ones, who need it desperately,” he said.

Talking about the trio's association with the NGO, Amod Kanth, general secretary of Prayas, said: “All of them share a good relationship with Prayas. Sonakshi is the daughter of this organisation. Manoj has been visiting our organisation since it was formed. As of Arjun, his uncle Anil Kapoor has also visited here. So all three of them know everything about us very well.”

“Tevar” will hit the theatres across India Jan 9.

MHA orders probe into leaked IB report on NGOs

New Delhi:  The home ministry Wednesday ordered an inquiry into the leakage of an IB report that claimed some NGOs and their international donors are planning to target many fresh economic development projects.

A ministry official said Delhi Police will probe and submit their report to the home secretary about the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report leak in the media.

"Impact of NGOs on Development", a report prepared by the IB was sent to the Prime Minister's Office, the home minister, the national security adviser, the finance minister and others. The report created uproar after it appeared in the media in June.

The report claimed the NGOs work for stalling development projects along with agitations against nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants and hydel projects.

In a section related to protests against coal mines and coal-fired power projects, the report alleged NGO Greenpeace, an international campaign group present in 40 countries, expanded its activities to oppose coal-fired power plants and coal mining and received Rs.45 crore from abroad in the past seven years.

"It is using foreign funds to create protest movements under 'Coal Network' umbrella at prominent coal block and coal-fired power plant locations in India," the report said.

Reacting to the charge, Greenpeace said instead of destroying India's forests to access coal underneath, it believes India should embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency to meet rapidly-increasing energy needs.

Following the IB report, the ministry, in a letter dated June 13, directed the Reserve Bank of India that all foreign contributions originating from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation - two principal international contributors to Greenpeace India Society - must be kept on hold until individual clearances are obtained from the ministry for each transaction.

After worms in mid-day meal, court refuses to revive NGO's contract

New Delhi:  The Delhi High Court, taking a stringent view of an incident of worms being found in a mid-day meal leading to illness of children in the capital, has refused to revive the contract given to an NGO which had supplied the cooked meals.

Justice Manmohan, passing the order, said: "Since the presence of worms in the mid-day meal supplied by the NGO has been confirmed, this court is of the view that there is no patent error or illegality in the order passed by the government."

The Delhi government Jan 4, 2103, cancelled the contract given to the People Welfare Society on account of contaminated supply of cooked meals to a government school here on Sep 5, 2011.

All students, who had taken the meal, had complained of stomachache and uneasiness as a consequence of which they were taken to hospital by the school for medical treatment. Eight students had suffered from food poisoning.

The city government, while cancelling the contract, said the NGO had a past history of supplying "contaminated/unhygienic" mid-day meal as earlier also worms were found in the meals supplied by the society on July 18, 2011, and July 21, 2011, to another government school here.

After the incidents of illness of children due to the consumption of mid-day meals, FIRs were lodged against the NGOs which have been providing food in these schools, including the petitioner in the present case.

On the other hand, the NGO contended that the sample test report found the meal supplied by it to the school to be fit for human consumption and that the children had suffered only mild pain in their stomach.

It said though there were other instances where cockroaches and dead lizards were found in cooked food supplied by other NGOs, the government did not take any action against some of them.

In the recent order, the court said: "This court is of the view that though it is correct that the report of Sri Ram Institute for Research states that the sample sent to it was fit for human consumption, yet it clearly states that the samples did not meet the requirement laid down for cooked meals."

"A perusal of the paper book also reveals that the hospital where the eight students were admitted had opined that they suffered from food poisoning," it added.

The court, however, clarified that the finding given by it in the case would not prejudice any of the parties during the criminal trial which is pending against the NGO.

Punjab teachers told no NGO work without leave

Chandigarh:  Taking a serious view of government school teachers remaining absent from duty in the name of doing work with NGOs, the Punjab government Tuesday directed the teachers that they can work with NGOs only after taking proper leave.

Punjab Education Minister Sikandar Singh Maluka said that absentee teachers and other staff of the government schools indulging in activities of NGOs and other voluntary organisations were hampering teaching in the government schools.

He said that necessary directions have been issued to concerned authorities to check the rising trend among teaching staff of shirking work.

"It is unfortunate that the teaching community is involved with one NGO or the other and remain absent from work," Maluka said, adding that concerned officers in districts have been told to initiate action against absentee teachers.

"If anybody wanted to be associated with NGOs and voluntary organisations, then prior sanctioned leave from the higher authorities was required so that the working of the institution was not hampered," the minister said.

Protect violence-hit children of Assam: NGO

New Delhi:  An NGO working for child rights Wednesday urged the government to provide protection to about 800 children in Assam affected by violence and living in relief camps.

"We urge the Assam government to take urgent steps to ensure that children who have been orphaned are staying in a place of safety with their relatives and only when there is no other recourse, should these children be sent to children's homes," said a statement from NGO Save the Children.

According to the NGO nearly 800 children are currently taking shelter along with their families in tents of different relief-camp in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of Assam.

Violence erupted in Assam's Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) May 1 and 2, when armed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres attacked villages in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts killing at least 37 people.

Further, of 169 children in a particular camp, 64 are between 0-6 years of age and many of them have already lost their parents.

"The government should also ensure children affected by the mindless violence are able to continue their studies in an environment of safety and care, and that the children living in the camps are provided with psycho-social counselling along with safe drinking water and nutritious food," added the statement.

Issue of malnutrition not included in manifestos: NGO

New Delhi: Despite every second child in India being malnourished, the issue of malnutrition does not find a mention in the manifestos of most of the political parties this election, a CRY analysis said Thursday.

NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), which analysed the manifestos of 10 major political parties including the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (SP), said that only five parties have mentioned the issue in their manifestos.

"The resounding promises to tackle the issue of malnutrition in the country have not been reflected or even gained a mention in the manifestos of most of the political parties this election. Despite the grim statistics of nutritional status of our children, we face every second child being malnourished in the country and the situation being called a national shame by the prime minister," said a statement by CRY.

It said while parties like Congress, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have spoken about measures to reduce malnutrition, and the BJP committing itself to eradicate it on a mission mode, parties like AAP, AIADMK, DMK and SP have not mentioned anything about tackling an issue as grave as malnutrition.

"Children constitute one third of the country's population, yet they remain one of the most neglected segments by our political parties, because they do not form a vote bank. It is disappointing to see that grave issues like malnutrition do not even gain an adequate mention in the manifestos," said Puja Marwaha, chief executive officer, CRY.

While it is good to see some parties including a separate section for children, it is disappointing that there is no clear understanding of child rights on the whole, she said.

Marwaha said children needed to be viewed not just as beneficiaries of specific schemes, or falling within the purview of specific ministries, but as living entities that are affected by steps, big and small, taken or not taken by various state functionaries, departments and ministries.

The NGO said issues like corruption, development, good governance, women empowerment and safety find priority on election agendas but children's issues seem to be on the "back burner" yet again.

"While the weightage given to children is better than 2009 manifestos, the issues that we have recognized remain essentially the same," the statement said.

It said child rights issues constitute only 11 percent of the content of the manifestos on an average.

CRY has presented a charter of demands to political parties and urged them to put emphasis on child rights issues in their manifestos as a part of its election advocacy campaign 'Vote for Child Rights'.

The organisation also met over 170 representatives of various political parties and imparted their demands.

NGO demands tobacco-free polling booths

Panaji:  Poll authorities in Goa should emulate Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar and ban smoking in polling booths in the state, an anti-tobacco group demanded Wednesday.

"It is requested that all election booths be declared tobacco free zones, by installing anti-smoking signboards - both inside as well as outside the booths," Shekhar Salkar, general secretary of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), said in a memorandum to the Goa chief electoral officer.

Salkar said election authorities in Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar have already taken the step to formally ban tobacco use in polling booths.

Goa's two parliamentary constituencies go to the polls April 12.

NGO demands fast trial of rhino poaching cases

Guwahati: A wildlife and biodiversity conservation organisation has appealed to the government to bring the rhino poaching cases in Assam under fast track courts and settle them within a year.

The organisation, Aaranyak, has also requested the government to put more emphasis on nabbing the poachers and the trading kingpins and to put them behind the bars through conviction using the existing laws.

A total of 70 rhinos were killed in Assam in the last two years, including 21 in 2012, 41 in 2013 and eight in 2014. Most of them were killed in Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site declared by the UNESCO.

"If the government brings the rhino poaching cases under fast track courts, the conviction will be done within one year and this might lead to reduction in poaching of the species. The government must also convict the poachers using the existing laws," said Bibhab Talukder, general secretary of the Aaranyak.

"Analysis of researchers working on wildlife trade indicate that the international gang of rhino poachers, who are mostly operating in South Africa at present may be allured to spread their area of operation to Assam soon, being encouraged by the present situation," he said.

He added that the rhinos would vanish from the state if the protection and legal measures remain weak.

Talukder also said the government should provide combat training to forest staffs and range officers to build their mental and physical capabilities so that they can face the poachers, who are armed with sophisticated weapons.

"We also urge upon the government and the members of the legislative assembly to put rhino protection high on the agenda and ensure safeguard to remaining rhinos to the best of our capabilities," he said.

The organisation also appealed the Lok Sabha election candidates from Assam to make their stands clear on wildlife and forest conservation.

Set up monitoring committee for mid-day meals, NGO urges PM

New Delhi:  Several school children and activists Saturday protested here demanding strict action against those responsible for the death of 23 children in Bihar after eating a contaminated mid-day meal.

The activists also wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to form a monitoring committee.

Organised by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and its partners, the protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar and said that the scheme posed a grave risk to the health of several children.

"There is enough proof that criminal negligence, widespread apathy and deep rooted corruption are prevalent in the mid-day meal scheme. Complaints related to insufficient quantity, nutrient value and hygiene are most common, but children have no say at all," said BBA in a statement.

Kailash Satyarthi, founder of BBA, said a complete overhaul of the system was the need of the hour.

"Such appalling treatment is not even meted out to animals the prime minister is tight-lipped as usual, and politicians are busy in the blame game, because the public has a short memory. We call for a complete overhaul of this scheme."

BBA submitted a charter of demands to the prime minister underpinning the constitution of a high power judicial committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court with a time-bound mandate to inquire into the lapses in the mid-day meal scheme.

It also demanded compensation of Rs.5 lakh each for the families of victims.

On July 16, nearly 50 children were admitted to hospital in Chhapra, Saran district of Bihar, after taking ill soon after eating their free lunch at school, provided as part of the government's midday meal scheme. Of the sick children, 23 died. The food is suspected to have contained chemicals found in insecticides.

NGOs using innovative mobile applications awarded

New Delhi:  Four NGOs which have developed innovative mobile solutions to drive social empowerment were awarded Rs.1 million each at the third edition of Mobile for Good Awards Friday.

Vodafone Foundation organised the award under the framework of mBillionth Award, instituted by Digital Empowerment Foundation.

The four winners were selected from 77 NGOs and social enterprises using mobile phones and developing innovative mobile applications for the community.

"With over 860 million mobile phone users in our country, the potential of using mobile technology to improve people's lives is tremendous," said Rohit Adya, director, external affairs, Vodafone India.

Women Mobile Lifeline Channel, Mobile Kunji, Project Leapfrog and Swara Platform Mojolab are the mobile apps being used to work for women health, educating health workers, helping tea-growing adivasis of Tamil Nadu and for the tribes of Chhattisgarh, respectively.

"There is a rising trend among NGOs using mobile phones and its diverse features and functionalities to meet evolving demands of the communities," said Osama Manzar, founder, Digital Empowerment Foundation.

The NGOs awarded have been working in the fields of health, education, governance and business inclusion.

--Indo-Asian News Service