REPORT ON PAGES 4 & 5
T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
INDIA’S TOP COURT
NO LONGER A CRIME
Singapore-based S. Vijay Kumar is leading a feverish initiative to retrieve India’s looted treasures
Indian Jones fights idol thieves
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India launches world’s largest
state-run healthcare programme
INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra
Modi has launched the Ayushman
Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya
Yojana, hailing it as the “world’s
biggest state-run healthcare scheme”.
He said the intended beneficiaries
outnumber the total population of the
European Union or that of the United
States, Canada and Mexico put
together. He added that the scheme
will be a subject for research for
medical and social scientists and a
model for the world to follow.
It aims to reduce patients’
hospitalisation expenses, fulfil unmet
needs and improve the access of
families to quality inpatient care and
Sikkim gets its first airport
SIKKIM got its first airport at Pakyong
on Monday, nine years after its
foundation stone was laid about 33km
from the city of Gangtok in 2009.
The first commercial flight from
Pakyong will take off on Oct 4.
SpiceJet will operate 78-seater flights
to and fro Delhi, Kolkata and
Guwahati every day thereafter.
The airport, spread over 201 acres,
is located on top of a hill above
Pakyong village. It was constructed at
an estimated cost of Rs605 crores and
is an “engineering marvel” for its soil
reinforcement and slope stabilisation
Mushairas to commemorate
Mahatma’s birth anniversary
THE Minority Affairs Ministry will
organise “mushairas” (social
gatherings at which Urdu poetry is
read) across the country as part of the
150th birth anniversary celebrations of
Mahatma Gandhi. Minority Affairs
Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said
that poetry at such events would be
related to teachings and principles of
Gandhi such as social harmony,
national integrity, democratic values,
non-violence and global peace.
The first “mushaira” will be held on
Oct 6 in Delhi, where several
renowned Urdu and Hindi poets will
participate. Similar events will be
organised in Mumbai, Lucknow,
Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru,
Ranchi and other cities.
India accounts for 37% of global
A STUDY published in British medical
journal The Lancet has reported that
India’s share of global suicides is rising.
More than a third of the global female
suicides occur in India.
Indian women are also three times
more likely to commit suicide than
their counterparts in countries with
similar socio-economic indices, added
India’s contribution to global female
suicide deaths increased from 25.3 per
cent in 1990 to 36.6 per cent in 2016,
and from 18.7 per cent to 24.3 per cent
The number of suicides in India rose
from 164,404 in 1990 to 230,314 in
2016, a rise of 40.1 per cent.
The statistics have led the authors to
call for a national suicide prevention
Rajasthan self-styled godman gets
life term for rape
FALAHARI Baba, a self-styled godman
from Rajasthan, was sentenced to life
imprisonment on Wednesday by
Alwar’s Additional District and
Sessions judge Rajendra Sharma for
raping a female student from
He was arrested on Sept 23 last year
after the victim accused him of sexually
assaulting her at his Alwar-based
ashram on Aug 7.
The court has also imposed a fine of
Rs1 lakh on him.
The rape survivor had visited the
godman’s ashram on Aug 7 to offer him
her first salary from an internship.
The godman asked her to stay for the
night and raped her.
Gujarat forms 64 teams to look for
sick lions in Gir forests
THE Gujarat Forest Department has set
up as many as 64 teams to scan the vast
Gir forests to identify sick and weak
lions and shift them to rescue centres in
view of the recent deaths of 11 big cats
in the region.
A central government team of
wildlife experts has also flown in to the
state to find out the reasons for the
sudden deaths of the lions between Sept
11 and 19.
The viscera samples of the animals
have been sent to the National Institute
of Virology in Pune.
According to forest officials, the lions
died while fighting each other for
territory and after contracting infection.
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Women’s train coaches in Mumbai
gets fresh coat of paint
THE Western Railway has painted the
interiors of two ladies coaches in the
suburban trains with scenic views.
They were painted in the first and
second-class coaches under a project called
“Hamara Station-Hamari Shaan” (My
Station, My Pride) to make the local travel
experience more pleasant.
The paintings show birds singing on trees,
dolphins jumping out of the water, a land
mass with coconut trees, lush greenery and
Earlier, the compartments were painted a
distinctive green with the image of a smiling
woman to make it easy for women
commuters to identify.
A Western Railway spokesman said its
suburban stations are also undergoing a
beautification process with artistic paintings
on staircases and foot-overbridges, giving
commuters a more vibrant travel experience.
DULTERY is no longer a crime, India’s top
court ruled yesterday, declaring a colonial-era
law that punished the offence with jail time un-
constitutional and discriminatory against women.
The more-than-a-century-old law prescribed that
any man who slept with a married woman without
her husband’s permission had committed adultery.
Women could not file a complaint under the ar-
chaic law nor be held liable for adultery themselves,
making it solely the realm of men.
The crime carried a five-year prison term in the
A petitioner had challenged the court to strike
down the law, describing it as arbitrary and discrimina-
tory against women.
“Thinking of adultery from a point of view of crimi-
nality is a retrograde step,” unanimously declared the
five-judge bench of the Supreme Court.
The court said it deprived women of dignity and in-
dividual choice and “gives licence to the husband to
use women as a chattel”.
“It disregards the sexual autonomy which every
woman possesses and denies agency to a woman in a
matrimonial tie,” said Supreme Court Justice D. Y.
“She is subjugated to the will of her spouse.”
It was the second time this month the court over-
turned Victorian-era laws governing the sexual
choices of India’s 1.25 billion citizens.
Earlier this month, the court struck a ban on gay
sex introduced by British rulers in 1861.
The bench argued that Section 377 had become “a
weapon for harassment” of homosexuals and “his-
tory owes an apology to the members of this commu-
nity and their families”.
On adultery, government lawyers argued that it
should remain a crime as it threatens the institution of
marriage and caused harm to children and families.
But, in its ruling, the court said extra-marital affairs –
while still a valid ground for divorce – were a private
matter between adults.
Mr Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer in the Supreme
Court, said watershed decisions on gay sex and adul-
tery had shown the judges’ “adherence to liberal val-
ues and the constitution”.
“Another fine judgement by the SC,” he tweeted
after yesterday’s ruling.
In 1954, the court upheld adultery as a crime argu-
ing “it is commonly accepted that it is the man who is
the seducer and not the woman”. But in their ruling
yesterday, the judges said this narrative no longer ap-
plied, noting also that Britain did away with its own
laws penalising adultery long ago.
“Man being the seducer and women being the vic-
tim no longer exits. Equality is the governing princi-
ple of a system. Husband is not the master of the
wife,” the verdict added.
Court on Wednesday
upheld the validity
of a controversial bio-
metric identity sys-
tem, but flagged pri-
vacy concerns and
reined in a govern-
ment push to make it
mandatory for every-
thing from banking to telecom services.
The ruling was cheered by critics of the system,
known as Aadhaar, which has already provided bio-
metric ID for more than a billion people, making it
the world’s biggest biometric identity project.
Critics had expressed fears it could spawn a surveil-
lance state and smooth the way for companies to pro-
“This is a fabulous judgment,” said lawyer Kapil
Sibal, a member of the opposition Congress party.
“It takes care of citizens’ rights and it ensures we
don’t have a surveillance state in place. It ensures that
our privacy is not intruded into and, at the same time,
it protects the rights of the marginalised.” A majority
ruling by a panel of five judges cleared the use of Aad-
haar for welfare schemes, saying it empowered the
poor and marginalised.
Among other objectives, Aadhaar – which has a
unique number tied to an individual’s fingerprints,
face and iris scan – aims to block theft and leakage in
India’s US$23.6-billion-a-year food welfare pro-
longer a crime
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