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Discharge from Gujarat chemical estates' effluent treatment plants is "much higher" than norm

By Our Representative
The latest figures released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggest that the levels of industrial effluents discharge through the common effluent treatment plants (CETP) in chemical industrial estates across Gujarat continue to remain “high” and “worrisome”. Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti’s Rohit Prapati and six other environmental activists in a statement, quoting CPCB figures, have alleged, “More worrying as the situation has not changed much after the problem of industrial pollution first came to light in the nineties.”

Forcibly displaced from their village due of upper caste attacks, Gujarat agariyas face government wrath

By Our Representative
The Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch (AHRM), an NGO working among the saltpan workers of the Little of Kutch in Gujarat, has strongly protested against a demolition drive carried out by the local administration against a settlement of 78 houses of agariyas bordering the Rann. In a statement, AHRM has said, “On December 27, 2013, the block revenue officer of Patadi taluka, district Surendrangar, got bulldozer and police to a demolish settlement of 78 agariyas. When people started lying down in front of the bulldozer, police forcefully made them sit in vehicles, and then started demolition.”

NHRC asks Gujarat authorities to submit action taken report on social boycott of Dalits in four weeks

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking cognisance of the social boycott of Dalits of Dagavadia village in Mehsana district of North Gujarat, has sought a complete action taken report (ATR) by the state authorities of the Gujarat government on what has been done to assuage feelings of caste discrimination in the village. The report, the NHRC has insisted, should reach its office “within four weeks” on receipt its notice. The NHRC, which sent its notice to the district magistrate, Mehsana, on December 20, said action taken by the state authorities should be “appropriate.”

Investments in realty sector declined by 20% in a year in Gujarat as against by 6% nationally: ASSOCHAM

Counterview Desk
Predicting that the realty sector will continue to bleed till the first half of 2014, an Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) survey has found that the situation in Gujarat is likely to be particularly bad, if the current trend is any indication. In a statement, the apex industries body said, “Outstanding investments attracted by the real estate sector in Gujarat have plummeted from over Rs 2.37 lakh crore as of September 2012 to about Rs 1.90 lakh crore as of September 2013 thereby registering significant drop of about 20 per cent”.

Silicosis deaths: Gujarat govt indifference forces NGO to write to chief secretary to implement NHRC order

By Our Representative
In a clear case of “indifference”, the Gujarat government has ignored a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) advice, sent in the form of a “recommendation”, to pay up Rs 5 lakh each to five workers who had died of the deadly silicosis disease about three years ago. The state-based NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, in a statement, said the NHRC had acted on its complaint in 2011 and arrived at the conclusion that the Gujarat government had failed to ensure safety standards in stone cutting units, operating in Godhra, Gujarat, where these workers were employed, but as it has refused to act within six weeks, given by the NHRC, making PTRC to write a letter to Gujarat chief secretary Varesh Sinha to enforce NHRC recommendation.

Dalit rights activists demand Baba Ambedkar's statue should be higher than Sardar Patel's

By Our Representative
Senior Dalit rights activists in have Gujarat declared that, while they do not oppose Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s decision to build the world’s highest statue in the memory of Sardar Patel, they would want that Dr BR Ambedkar’s statue should be even higher. Making the announcement amidst a huge applause by the Dalits from several villages that had come to attend a non-political meeting at Badarkha village, south of Ahmedabad, senior human rights activist Martin Macwan, founder of Navsarjan Trust, said, “Dr Ambedkar’s contribution stands taller as he fought casteism in all its manifestations and created a constitutional framework for India providing equality to all.”

National Green Tribunal thinks the "polluter pays" principle should be applied selectively on industrial units

By Our Representative
Does the National Green Tribunal (NGT) believe that the well-known polluters pay principle should be applied in exceptional cases only? It would seem so, if a recent judgment it delivered is any guide. Giving its order in a case filed by Gujarat’s environmental body, Paryavaran Mitra, against Hanjer Biotech Energies Pvt Ltd (HBEPL), contracted to dispose of solid waste by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), the NGT has reluctantly said the principle be applied on HBEPL. In an order delivered on December 20, it said it believes that the “polluter pays principle” ought to be applied in “peculiar circumstances” alone.

Industry should return subsidies provided by Central, state govts for pollution control: Environmental body

By Our Representative
Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed jointly by the top Gujarat-based environmental body, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), and the Farmers’ Action Group (FAG), the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the chief secretaries of 19 Indian states, including Gujarat, seeking response on the demand by the petitioners to implement the prescribed pollution control norms, even as ensuring implementation of the “polluter pays” principle in its real spirit,  instead of providing huge subsidies in the name of controlling pollution.

Gujarat govt "undermines" fifth schedule while seeking to acquire tribal land for Garudeshwar weir

By Our Representative
The tribal body opposing the construction of Garudeshwar weir, about 12 kilometres downstream of Narmada dam, the Sitter Gaam Adivasi Sangathan (SGAS -- Tribal Organisation of Seventy Villages), has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government’s offer of a “rehabilitation package” to seven villages – Gora, Vasantpura, Nana Pilariya, Indravarna, Garudeshwar, Gabhana and Kevadia – which it has alleged will face unprecedented adverse impact of the Rs 400 crore project.

Silicosis deaths: Gujarat govt failed to "ensure" safety measures in stone cutting units, says NHRC

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sharply criticized the Gujarat government for failing to ensure that stone cutting units operating in the state complied by the “standards of safety” and were taking “steps for diagnosis and treatment” of those who suffered from the deadly silicosis disease. Referring to a complaint filed by Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, seeking the NHRC’s intervention in payment of compensation to five workers employed in stone crushing factories in Godhra town, who had died because of silicosis, the NHRC said, “The state cannot escape the liability to compensate the families of the deceased labourers.”

Child rights: AAP takes on civil society for being "too weak" on demands from established political parties

By Our Representative
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which created a flutter by grabbing 28 of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi recently, has come down heavily on Gujarat’s struggling civil society for being “too soft” towards government authorities. Speaking at a workshop organized by high-profile non-profit advocacy group Child Rights and You (CRY), meant to ask political parties to include child rights issues in their election manifestos ahead of the 2014 polls, AAP’s Gujarat convener Sukhdev Patel said, “The 10 demands you have identified are very weak. You do not aggressively insist that child rights be included in manifestos. Your tone seems suggest you are, as if, begging from them.”

Gujarat's Group of Ministers has "no time" to finalise the route for Ahmedabad metro, complain insiders

By Our Representative
Long wait for metro rail in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s business capital, is now bogged into yet another indecision – a group of ministers (GoM) appointed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is unable to finalize the route in order to put afloat the Rs 22,000 crore project for three months now. Well-placed Gujarat Sachivalaya sources say, the ministers are so busy in such "non-issues" like collecting iron all over India for the Statue of Sardar Patel, planned in the midst of Narmada river, that they have "no time to look into the metro project."

Opposition to land acquisition in Gujarat picks up, with JAAG expanding its wings towards Dholera SIR

By Our Representative
Movement against “indiscriminate” acquisition of land for industrial use has come to Ahmedabad’s footsteps. Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), the state body which led a campaign against Mandal-Becharaji special investment region (SIR) in North Gujarat, forcing the Gujarat government to remove 36 of the 44 villages from the SIR area, held its first meeting to give vent to “people’s anger” against the formation of Gujarat’s biggest SIR – in Dholera region in Ahmedabad district.

RTI on Wheels: Rural folk, urban poor come forward to ask simple questions to indifferent officials

By Our Representative
The RTI on Wheels, a state-wide campaign launched by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) for making right to information (RTI) Act as an important took to gather information from government circles on issues of public concern, has claimed huge popular support in the two districts of Gujarat it has visited so far – Bahaskantha and Sabarkantha. Already, the RTI awareness campaign has gone around 110 villages, where over one lakh pamphlets are said to have been distributed, with people coming forward to get help from activists on RTI on Wheel on drafting RTI applications.

World Bank president "evasive" towards environment, livelihood concerns of people in Mundra, Gujarat

By Our Representative
Participating at the national consultation in New Delhi, organized by India's civil society network National Alliance of People's Networks (NAPM), experts and politicians “expressed extreme” concern over World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim’s “evasive” attitude towards the environmental and livelihood concerns over the Tatas’ decision to expand the ultra mega power plant at Mundra in Kutch district, Gujarat. Organized jointly with the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangthan (MASS), which has been protesting against the UMPP's alleged environmental damage and adverse impact on people's livelihood, the consultation criticized the World Bank for ignoring its ombudsman’s views on the subject.

Will the Sardar statue withstand Narmada water current of 20 feet per second? Top state insider doubts

By Rajiv Shah
Apprehensions about viability of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s pet Rs 2,500 crore project, to built as the world’s tallest statue in the memory of Sardar Patel, are now coming from unexpected quarters, albeit “off the record.” One of the topmost government officials, known to be close to Modi, told Counterview on condition of anonymity that several “issues” about practicality of the project – which is part of the overall Modi drive to turn the area surrounding the Narmada dam into a major tourist attraction – have “yet to be resolved”.

"Illegal" release of unused Narmada waters to help North Gujarat rich farmers harms saltpan workers

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government’s failure to develop the Narmada canal network to take irrigation waters to the footsteps of the farmers’ fields in North Gujarat and beyond has begun to harm hundreds of saltpan workers in the Little Rann of Kutch. According to the latest information available from the Rann, the Narmada waters, considered the lifeline of Gujarat, are allowed to flow relentlessly into the Rann’s wide expanses via Banas river without taking into account whom is it may harming. In fact, government officials’ explanation is, in case they do not release the unused waters into the Rann, it might “harm the canal” – hence they have “no other option but to release them.”

Gujarat CM office offers "evasive" reply to query on environmental clearance to Statue of Unity

By Our Representative The Gujarat government, especially the chief minister’s office (CMO) appears  to be feeling shy of coming up with details on environmental clearance, if any, provided to the Statue of Unity, planned as the highest statue in the world in the memory of Sardar Patel. Instead of giving a written reply on the crucial issue to senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati and other experts and activists who had sought in writing details of environmental clearance, a letter sent by the CMO to him evasively wants him to “contact” an additional secretary in the water resources department to “clarify” the state government’s position on the matter.

Asad Sheikh becomes ninth victim of deadly silicosis disease in Gujarat, even as govt remains indifferent

By Our Representative
Asad Shekh, age 35, has become the ninth victim of the deadly silicosis this year in Gujarat. Sheikh, who died of the disease on December 12, 2013, at his home in Pirajpur village in Khambhat taluka, was under treatment for the last two years and was bed-ridden for the last four months. Last he was having treatment at the clinic of People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadadara. Sheikh worked as agate worker forthe last 15 years, said Jagdish Patel, who runs PTRC, an NGO fighting for the cause of silicosis victims in Gujarat as also neighbouring states.

Rich farmers of Mandal-Becharaji area "regret" taking part in agitation against special investment region

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government may have gone on the back foot by excluding 36 of the 44 villages from its proposed special investment region (SIR) in the Mandal -Becharaji area of North Gujarat, but now there is enough reason for it to "cheer". Sharp rise in the land prices in the eight villages that will now be included in the newly-formed SIR – Bhagapura and Shihor of Detroj taluka, Hansalpur-Becharaji, Sitapur, Udhroj, Udhrojpura and Ukardi of Mandal taluka, Chandanki village of Becharaji taluka – is leading to a situation where a section of the rich landowners of rest of the 36 villages are said to be regretting why they protested against SIR.

National Green Tribunal asks Gujarat government not to allow destruction of mangroves without its nod

By Our Representative
In what is being described by the Conservation Action Trust (CAT), a non-government organisation, as a "landmark judgment", the National Green Tribunal (West Zone) has, in an order dated December 9, 2013, barred the Gujarat government to allow destruction of mangroves in any part of the state without the prior approval of the tribunal. The tribunal order came in response to the CAT’s application No 35 before it to prevent unprecedented mangroves destruction it found was being carried out in Gujarat in name of industrial development.

Gujarat govt's programme to reduce maternal deaths, infant mortality failed to deliver, says WHO study

Counterview Desk A high-profile study, carried out by half-a-dozen scholars associated with the Duke University, Rand Corporation, World Bank, Stanford University and Stanford Medical School (all from US), and Sambodhi Research and Communications Pvt Ltd (New Delhi), has come to the drastic conclusion that the Chiranjeevi yojna of the Gujarat government, launched to reduce infant and maternal deaths in rural areas, has been largely unsuccessful. Published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO), it suggests that the samples collected by the scholars have put a question mark on the project’s aim of encouraging mothers to deliver in private hospitals, with the government subsidizing the costs.

Gujarat govt "drops" its own plan to develop Bhavnagar port to help Dholera SIR off Gulf of Khambhat

By Rajiv Shah
In a major decision, the Gujarat government has dropped its plan to develop Bhavnagar port as an alternative to the Dholera port in the Gulf of Khambhat. It had had given up Dholera port following its decision to go ahead with the Kalpasar project as a huge sweet water lake by damming the. The state government had offered the top state industrial group, Adanis, to develop Bhavnagar port as alternative to Dholera port, which the Adanis were to develop in association with the JK Group, to provide Dholera special investment region (SIR) a major boost. Dholera SIR, to be developed south of Ahmedabad district, off Gulf of Khambhat, is proposed as a modern industrial-urban centre. To be developed in three phases, each of 10 years, so far no investors have shown interest in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's ambitious SIR.

Letter to Narmada collector invokes fifth schedule of the Indian constitution, says Garudeshwar weir "illegal"

By Our Representative
Giving a fresh twist to its opposition to the Narmada project, the Sitter Gaam Adivasi Sangathan, representing 70 villages around the Narmada dam, has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government going ahead with the Garudeshwar weir, being constructed about 12 kilometres downstream of the dam, without any approval from their gram sabhas. It has invoked Schedule V of the Constitution of India, under which approval from the gram sabhas is a must before going ahead with any major project that may affect their livelihood.

Finding Modi may well drive BJP to power, US now appears to think that Gujarat riots are no more an issue

By Our Representative
Finding that the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi may well help the party return to power, the US has given fresh indications (click HERE to read earlier report) it may change its policies towards Modi, whom it denied visa in 2005 for failing to uphold religious freedom in the wake of Gujarat riots. Talking to Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate on the CNN-IBN channel, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the Gujarat riots were no longer a contentious issue and that the US would work with Modi if he became the Prime Minister.

RTI campaign reveals tribal woman waited for three months to get her thumb impression approved

By Our Representative
Do the tribal people of Banaskantha district in Gujarat have to face official indifference towards getting simple formalities done for getting their subsidized ration from fair price shops? It would seem so, if impressions gathered during the latest campaign by the premier Gujarat body propagating the right to information (RTI), Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), are any indication. Currently on a tour of Gujarat’s eastern tribal belt for making RTI popular, the MAGP found exactly this when the RTI on Wheels reached the mamlatdar office at Bhabhar taluka in Banaskantha district, where tribals live.

Is electronic voting machine not foolproof? 'Switch over to ballot box', says People's Union of Civil Liberties

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of massive setback to the Congress in four states’ assembly elections, top human rights organization, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which claims to “preserve the democratic values”, has made a controversial observation: That the electronic voting machine (EVM) is “not foolproof for free and fair polling process” and there is no sense in “rigidly sticking to it in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections”. Opining in favour of returning to the old ballot box voting system, the PUCL said, if this is not possible then it is not necessary to organize the forthcoming elections with the dual system of polling – voting through the EVM and the ballot box.

Pointed question by senior legal expert: Would Modi want armed forces special powers Act dropped?

By Our Representative Will Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi seek to drop the current provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act – under which Central forces are stationed in several states like Manipur, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir etc. for maintaining public order – in case he comes to power in Delhi? Senior Gujarat High Court advocate Mukul Sinha has obliquely suggested that this should happen logically if one agrees with the legal objections Modi has raised to the prevention of the communal violence Bill, which is proposed to be placed in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.

Top sociologist accuses govt-sponsored CEPT Univ study for supporting chaturvarna, ignoring untouchability

By Our Representative
A top Indian sociologist has accused a recent Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University report for seeking to legitimize the chaturvarna social order as a “positive aspect towards life”. The CEPT report, titled "Impact of Caste Discriminations and Distinctions on Equal Opportunities: A Study of Gujarat" (2013) was prepared in order to question the findings of a top NGO, Navsarjan Trust, “Understanding Untouchability” (2009), which found widescale prevalence of untouchability in 1,589 Gujarat villages it surveyed. Criticizing the CEPT report, Prof Ghanshyam Shah says, it is guided by the “perspective” which “facilitates harmony or samras in society”, adding, “Such perspective contradicts the principles laid down in the Constitution.”

Gujarat PSU laying down cross country gas pipeline sans tieup, banking on LNG terminal off Andhra coast

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) – the foremost subsidiary of the state’s former bluechip public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) – is not sure about the source of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) which should flow into the 4,000 km long gas pipelines it is currently involved in laying down between Kakinada, off Andhra Pradesh coast, and Bhatinda in Punjab and beyond. A well-placed source in Gandhinagar Sachvivalaya has told Counterview that the GSPL, which is laying down the pipeline at the cost of Rs 13,700 crore, “as of now has no captive gas to bank upon that could flow right up to Punjab.”

US House Resolution supporting visa denial to Narendra Modi may never be taken up, says NYT

By Our Representative A former campaigner for denying visa to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who worked with the Amnesty International and in the United States Congress, has said the recent bipartisan Congressional resolution (click HERE) introduced in the House of Representatives calling on the US government to continue the policy of denying him visa may not go through. In a New York Times (NYT) article, Zahir Janmohamed says,  House Resolution 417, which urges the United States government to continue to deny Modi a visa, with 28 co-sponsors, majority of whom are Democrats, “is not expected to pass, partly because India is not seen as a priority in American foreign policy at the moment.”

Gujarat's net enrollment ratio is worse than Bihar, Odisha, UP, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, says GoI report

By Our Representative Gujarat’s net enrollment ratio, as percentage of the enrollment data of grade one (2008-09) and grade five (2012-13), including enrollment in unrecognized schools, is one of the worst in India, despite the loud talk of the annual celebration of the Kanya Kelavni school enrollment drive. This has been revealed in the new Flash Statistics of the 55-page report, “Elementary Education in India”, released by the Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India (GoI). According to the report, Gujarat’s net enrollment ratio at the lower primary level stood at 83.99 per cent as against the national average of 90.78 per cent, suggesting poor enrollment drive for the children of school-going age.

Pressure on World Bank rises, as civil society gears up for national consultation on Gujarat power project

My Our Representative
One of India's biggest civil society networks, National Alliance of People's Networks (NAPM) has decided to hold a national level consultation at the Constitution Club in New Delhi on December 16 in order to raise its voice against World Bank support to the Tatas' ultra mega power plant (UMPP), whose expansion is now on cards at Mundra, Kutch district in Gujarat. To be held jointly with the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangthan (MASS), which has long been protesting against the UMPP's alleged environmental damage and adverse impact on people's livelihood, the discussion is likely to focus on how the top international bankers have ignored the plight of the local people while funding projects in India.

What if Modi comes to power? Workers may have to further tighten their belt, social security net may be diluted

By Rajiv Shah
In case Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi comes to power and takes over reins of Prime Ministership, which many believe is most likely, India’s working class should be prepared to further tighten its belt under an aggressive liberal economic regime. Also, few of the social security steps, such as for guaranteeing rural employment, taken by the Government of India in the recent past, albeit to “woo” the electorate, would start losing their sheen, and may even been dropped. And if proof is needed for this, say informed sources, one finds an outline of this happening, as reflected lately in the views expressed by two well-known economists known to be close to Modi.

Ahmedabad construction workers show signs of unrest, unite to demand higher wages, social protection

By Our Representative
In what seemed to be their first-ever show of strength, representatives of Ahmedabad’s construction workers, over 1,000 of them, came together to demand a sharp rise in their wage from around Rs 200 to Rs 250, which they get now, to Rs 500. Organized by the Majur Adhikar Manch, which claims to represent them, the demands included provision of basic amenities, including livable shelter for eight to nine months of the year they work in Ahmedabad, proper sanitation and drinking water facilities, apart from better working conditions, health facilities, school and anganwadi (creche) for their children near their workplace.

Scientists warn of sharp rise in asbestos use in India, whose imports rose by 186% between 2006 and 2012

By Ashok Shrimali*
In a letter to three Union ministers – Ghulam Nabi Azad (health), Sis Ram Ola (labour and employment) and Jayanthi Natarajan (forests and environment) – over 200 scientists and 100 labour and health organizations from 36 countries have expressed their “deep concerns” regarding efforts currently underway to promote the use of chrysotile asbestos in India, despite its known adverse impact on health. The letter has been written ahead of a pro-asbestos meet organised in Delhi on December 3-4.

Modi finds support in non-voting US Congressman, is advised not to accept White House invite

By Our Representative
Eni Faleomavaega, 70-year-old non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives from American Samoa's At-large congressional distric -- among the first top US dignitaries to meet Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar way back in 2010 -- has advised Modi not to accept any invitation to visit US in case he becomes Prime Minister. Faleomavaega said, In case Modi becomes Prime Minister of India, he should decline a visit to the US “unless the State Department takes a stand now and informs him in advance of whether or not a visa would be granted should he apply”.

Green Tribunal goes soft on Ambuja Cement, says pollution board made "covert attempt to subvert legal process"

By Our Representative
Even as taking serious note of a complaint by 44 agriculturists of Kodinar against the Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd’s south Saurashtra plant about an accident on May 1, 2011, which allegedly led to “poisonous dust and powder” spreading to the nearby areas, the National Greens Tribunal (NTB) has rejected the applicants’ claim for compensation, saying it was being "disposed of". The agriculturists, who filed their complaint against one of the biggest cement plants of India last year, had said that the “accident was so severe that poisonous gas, cement dust had spread over the nearby area and destroyed all the agricultural products grown in the nearby vicinity of the cement company.”

World Bank arm gives clean chit to Tata Mundra project, says it is "committed" to work as partners

By Our Representative
The international financiers of the Tatas’ Ultra Mega Power Plant at Mundra, Gujarat coast, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank arm, has declared that it will not act against the project, as it falls within the World Bank Group’s 2013 Energy Sector Directions Paper on “sustainable energy”. Signed by Jin-Yong Cai, executive vice-president and CEO of the IFC, in the wake of the IFC ombudsman’s adverse audit report on the Tata Mundra project, it claims, the World Bank paper “reflects the latest thinking on global energy needs, climate change, and low-carbon economic development”, which is “forward-looking and not meant to be applied retroactively to projects such as Tata Mundra.”

Women's group demands action in sexual harassment case of a junior woman advocate in Vadodara court

By Our Representative
Well-known Vadodara-based women’s group Sahiyar has demanded urgent formation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee in Vadodara district and sessions court, which, it said, has not been done despite the fact that several representations by “concerned lawyers and citizens” on the matter have been made. In a statement issued by Sahiyar, the NGO has said, not only should the committee be formed but its announcement should be placed at a place where people are able to see that such a committee exists in the court. The statement was made in the context of a case of sexual harassment of a junior advocate by a colleague.

Greenpeace targets Adani Group's $10 billion Australian coal mining project, says it is "uncommercial"

By Rajiv Shah
Top international environmental group Greenpeace in a new report has targeted premier Gujarat-based business group Adanis, saying that one of its overseas operations in Australia for mining coal may have become “uneconomical.” Titled “The Adani Group: Remote Prospects. A financial analysis of Adani’s coal gamble in Australia’s Galilee Basin”, and prepared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Cleveland, Ohio, US, for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the report states, “We view Adani Enterprises’ development of the Carmichael deposit as an uneconomic proposition. The low energy and high ash content are major constraints to the value of the coal.”

ISRO study: Dredging for development of Mundra port and SEZ "completely buried mangroves" in the region

Counterview Desk
A high-level Space Application Centre (SAC) study, carried out by Ahmedabad’s Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), has said that the mangrove vegetation near Mundra in Kutch district is “one of the most impacted mangrove assemblages in Gujarat”. The observation comes close on the heels of a Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoEF), Government of India-sponsored report by a committee headed by top environmentalist Sunita Narain, whose recommendation to the MoEF -- to impose a green restoration fine of Rs 200 crore for “repairing” the environmental damage it has caused to its port and special economic zone (SEZ) projects at Mundra – was recently accepted.

Financial MNC identifies Jaiprakash Associates among top world cos using asbestos, allegedly causing cancer

By Ashok Shrimali*
In its latest research report, “Asbestos: Assessing Exposure of Certain MSCI World Index Sectors”, Citi, the American multinational financial services corporation headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, has identified eight Indian companies as consuming asbestos, a product which it says “is strongly associated with disease including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.”

Impact of Modi's absence from Gujarat: Annual plan spending shows deceleration compared to last year

By Our Representative
Making an all-out effort to win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by campaigning all over India, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s long absence from the state is starting to take a heavy toll on the expenditure on social sector. This is reflected in the spending on annual plan, the funds mainly meant for developmental works, on health, education, social justice and empowerment. Latest figures from the state’s finance department suggest there is a considerable slowdown in the expenditure incurred on the annual plan over the first last six months of this financial year. The spending was Rs 17,217.81 crore in the six months till 2012-13, while in 2013-14 it was Rs 15,738.06 crore.

Gujarat govt's policies are "not in consonance with objectives of international family farming year"

By Our Representative
Three voluntary agencies, Paryavaran Mitra, Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra and Millet Network of India, on the occasion of the International Family Farming Day (November 22) have sharply criticized the main thrust of the Gujarat government, of industrial growth, saying, for this it has “come up with many liberal policies for land acquisition”, putting forth “many circulars like acquisition of government and gauchar land for special economic zone (SEZ) projects and regarding use of wasteland for corporate farming.”

Central Information Commission has "no information" on pendency of cases before January 1, 2013

By Our Representative In reply to a right to information (RTI) query, the Central Information Commission (CIC) – which India’s highest body to hear appeals to RTI applications to the Government of India and other Central authorities – has said that a whopping 24,326 cases were pending to be cleared by before it “as on October 2013”. The reply, sent to an RTI applicant, Kalpeshkumar Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, interestingly, said that “before January 1, 2013, pendency of cases was not maintained by the CIC.” Gupta had demanded “appeals pending for years” before it.

Gujarat's six districts among 42 India's "laggard" districts with very slow fall in under-five mortality rate

By Rajiv Shah
A high-level study, carried out by a group of scholars led by Prof Usha Ram of the Centre for Global Health Research, St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, “Neonatal, 159 month, and under-5 mortality in 597 Indian districts, 2001 to 2012”, has found that Gujarat’s six districts figure among 42 of India’s top laggard districts showing very slow fall in under-five mortality rate (U5MR). Published in Lancet, the reputed international health journal, the study shockingly suggests that two of the six districts has majority tribal population – Dahod and Valsad – while the rest have tribal population but not in majority. Gujarat accounts for nearly 15 per cent tribal population.

Workers' safety, and health security remain unaddressed in South Gujarat factories, says Surat workshop

By Our Representative
A trade union workshop in Surat, in which tens of workers’ leaders and social activists participated, has expressed serious concern over lack of awareness about occupational health hazard not only among large sections of unorganized workers of South Gujarat, majority of whom are migrants, but also trade union leaders, who seek to organize them. A note, prepared on the workshop by Jagdish Patel, a senior social activist from Vadodara, who works on occupational health issues, has said that the situation becomes particularly piquant because about 85 to 90 per cent of the unorganized workers are migrants working in about 400-odd textile processing units and diamond polishing units.

Participants at national seminar apprehend, the new land acquisition Act will camouflage democratic rights

By Madhuresh Kumar
The Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, enacted recently, “will not end the land conflicts, nor will it provide relief to the millions who have been displaced, and hence there is a need to bring urgent amendments to the Act and also give inputs to process of rule making for Act”, social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said reflecting the views expressed at the two day national meeting on “Struggle for Land Rights and New Land Acquisition Act”, where representative several social movements from 10 states took part at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi.

Ahead of 2014 polls, two US Congressmen want White House to "engage" India on religious freedom

By Our Representative
In an unprecedented step, two US Congressmen, Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota, and Joseph Pitts, Republican from Pennsylvania, have moved a resolution in the House of Representatives calling upon the US government to engage the Government of India, as also state governments in India, on issues related with “religious freedom and related human rights” in US-India strategic dialogues. The resolution acquires significance, as it especially seeks to criticize BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi by name for inciting communal riots in Gujarat.