CBFC Chairperson, Prasoon Joshi issued contempt notice for failure to respond to plea against Padmaavat  

Chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Prasoon Joshi, was issued a contempt notice on 16th January by the Allahabad High Court for not responding to a plea against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, made on court order. The court has granted him a period of three weeks to respond to the petition before the next hearing of the case on February 12th.

The petitioner had filed a Public Interest Litigation seeking a ban on the movie alleging that it promoted the practise of Sati. On November 9, 2017 the High Court dismissed the plea, but allowed the petitioner to approach the censor board wherein the board was required to give a response within three weeks. While a representation was filed before the CBFC on November 13th, Joshi has failed to give a response yet.

This becomes the latest in a series of disputes surrounding the release of the period film which was initially scheduled to release on December 1st, 2017.  Repeated protests and threats of violence by several Rajput groups, led by the Karni Sena, stalled the movies’ certification and release alleging that the makers distorted history.  Despite Bhansali repeatedly denying the allegations, it was claimed that the film had a dream sequence between Rani Padmini and Alauddin Khilji. The movie is finally set to release on January 25th with a few changes as per CBFC’s directive, including the change of its name from ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmaavat’.

Sources: Scroll, Times Now

US withdraws more than half of its UNRWA aid for Palestinians

The US has announced that it will withhold more than half of its funds to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) that supports the Palestinian refugees. This decision comes only two weeks after US president, Donald Trump’s tweet saying that America receives no “appreciation or respect” from the Palestinians in return for its aid of “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

However, the state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that this decision was not aimed at punishing anyone and added that it was directed at bringing about reforms within the agency. She refused to give any details about the nature of the reforms that the US was looking for.

Of the scheduled $125m, the US will provide only $60m to UNRWA. Making it the single largest donor nation, last year the US contributed $370m to the agency that runs various health, social and educational projects for the refugees. The money withheld was part of this year’s first instalment.

Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian chief who now serves as its humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said that the withdrawal of funds could have a devastating effect on Palestinian refugees, especially affecting the thousands of refugee children whose education is funded by the UNRWA.

Israel who is embroiled in a conflict with Palestine over the status of Jerusalem is in favour of the decision and accused the agency of misusing humanitarian aid and supporting “anti-Israel propaganda”. A month ago Trump had recognised the city as the capital of Israel drawing severe criticism from the Palestinians. The declaration was later voted null and void by the UN member nations at the General Assembly.

Sources – CNN, BBC

Sri Lanka revokes ban on women buying alcohol, only to reimpose it a few days later

Sri Lanka’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, on 14th January 2018 reimposed the four-decade-old ban on women buying liquor that was lifted by his finance minister earlier.

A week ago, Mangala Samaraweera, the finance minister had announced his decision to relax the laws on alcohol in an attempt to remove sexist bills from the statute books. Apart from the 1979 law that banned the sale of liquor to women, the one restricting women from working in any place where alcohol was made or sold was also repealed. Further, as per the new measures passed by Samaraweera, bars and pubs were allowed to remain open for a longer period of time. He also pointed out that strict restrictions laid on Sri Lanka’s licensed liquor manufacturers would only encourage a black market for spirits, and deprive the state of much-needed revenue.

However, these annulments were met with a lot of criticism in the Buddhist-majority nation with a population of 20 million. The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection even went to the extent of accusing the finance minister of encouraging drinking and urged Sirisena to intervene and restore the restrictions.

In view of the large-scale resentment, Sirisena ordered the finance minister to reimpose the ban on women buying liquor. “From tomorrow [Monday], the minister’s order will be rescinded,” the president’s office said without offering any explanation for its decision.

It, however, remains unclear whether the decision to permit women to work in the alcohol industry has also been reversed.

Sources -TOI, The Guardian

Four time Olympic winner, Simon Biles, says she was abused by Larry Nassar

Simon Biles, star of the Rio Olympic Games, claimed in a Twitter post that she too was abused by Larry Nassar, the former team doctor of USA Gymnastics (USAG), on the eve before his sentencing for sexually abusing girls under his care.

“I, too, am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” said the 20 year old in a post with the hashtag #MeToo. Biles had joined the US Olympic gymnastics team in 2016 and won the individual all-around for the year.

 The 54-year-old, who was part of the USAG programme from the 1980s until July 2015, was jailed in December for a period of 60 years on three counts related to possession of child sex abuse images on his computer. His case was part of a scandal involving the USAG president, Steve Penny, accused of failing to notify authorities about the abuse allegations.

More than 140 female athletes, including three former US Olympians -Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney- have filed civil lawsuits against the doctor for sexually abusing them under the guise of treatment. Many have said that they were forced into silence by powerful authorities including the USAG.

The group however released a statement saying, “USA Gymnastics is absolutely heartbroken, sorry and angry that Simone Biles or any of our athletes have been harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar.”

Source: CNN, BBC

Trump’s move to revoke DACA program deterred by US Judge

A US judge has stopped US president Donald Trump from ending an Obama administration program which conferred legal status upon children of illegal immigrants

.District judge William Asulp ruled on January 10, 2018, in San Francisco that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be reinstated by the government until a final judgement is passed in the matter. In the 49 page ruling, it was stated that the government is “HEREBY ORDERED AND ENJOINED, pending final judgment herein or other order, to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the rescission.”

 The DACA program authorised by President Barack Obama in 2012 assured protection from deportation to the children who had entered the country as illegal immigrants. The program permitted nearly 80,000 individuals to work and seek education in the US. In September 2017, the Trump administration had decided to revoke the program thus putting at risk thousands of young immigrants who were known as “dreamers”.

Trump and the congressional leaders are currently embroiled in a tense discussion to decide the fate of the so-called Dreamers. He has indicated that he is open to more comprehensive reforms regarding the illegal immigrants if the Democrats were willing to consider the border security matter, including the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

Sources – TOI, The Guardian

Louis Vuitton set to make over Rs 3000 crore investment in Ramdev’s Patanjali

French luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, is likely to make huge investments in Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved. As per reports, the MNC is willing to invest 500 million USD (Rs 3250 crore), almost half its remaining budget for Asia, in the company.

As reported by Economic Times, Ravi Thakran, managing partner of L Catterton Asia, expressed his interest in working with Baba Ramdev if they could figure out a model. He is confident that they can help Patanjali take its products to Europe, US, Japan, China and South Korea. L Catterton is a private equity fund co-owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, commonly known as LMVH or Louis Vuitton.

Patanjali is the fastest growing FMCG that the country has witnessed in recent years. It has given a tough competition to other brands in the herbal and ayurvedic category and forced them to revamp their products.

While the company has maintained that it will not give stake to anyone, Acharya Balakrishna, the Managing Director of Patanjali Ayurved has said that they are open to negotiations with L Catterton. While talking to ET, Balakrishna said, “We won’t accept any money in equity or shares but when the country is using foreign technology for progress and if foreign money comes and gives us on our conditions, we will accept.” The company is currently looking for loans worth Rs 5000 to set up plants in Greater Noida, Assam, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Nagpur, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Source: DNA, Business Today

Students of just 28 schools under the Pune ZP provided an alternative Alma mater

The decision of the Maharashtra government to shutdown schools will turn out to be inconvenient to some students as they will have to be accommodated in schools 7 kms away, said the Pune zilla parishad officials.

The state government had proposed the closure of about 1300 schools across the state due to inadequate number of students. 76 of these schools come under the Pune zilla parishad, out of which 14 were closed in December last year. Officials have said that only the students from 28 of these schools will be accommodated in other institutions within a 1 km radius. This move is set to affect 525 students and 125 teachers altogether.

As per the Right to Education Act students from class I to class V should have a school within 1 km and students from class VI to class VIII should have one within 3 km.

A five member committee has been formed by the ZP to assess which of the remaining 62 schools cannot be shut down keeping in mind the proximity of schools to the students and to find out to which other establishments they can be shifted. The enrolment data for the past three years and other pertinent details are being uploaded by the block education officers on the online portal. State education secretary Nandkumar has said that an action will be taken only after a careful study of all these inputs.

Education experts and activists fear that the move will lead to an increase in the dropout rate especially among the girl students.

Source: TOI