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Showing posts from April, 2013

Is Gujarat CM seeking to manipulate GSDP figures to inflate growth rate? Ex-babu warns this happened earlier, too

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information, available from authoritative sources, has suggested that Gujarat's growth rate at constant prices (arrived at reducing inflation) for 2012-13 – for which the figures have still not been officially released – is down to seven per cent. Well-informed official sources said, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, disturbed by the figure, has held as many as four meetings to “dress up” and finalize the gross state domestic product (GSDP) figure for the year 2012-13. “So far he has not been satisfied with the numbers generated by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics and wants better numbers from them”, said an insider, adding, this is “notwithstanding the economic gloom in general and the poor agricultural scenario brought about by the first serious monsoon failure of his regime.”

Protests against environment assessment report on N-plant by unaccredited body yields result

 By Our Representative
Representations and protests against the environment impact assessment (EIA) report by an unaccredited body, of the proposed nuclear plant at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district in Gujarat, are starting to have an impact. The Union ministry of environment and forests, taking cognizance of the representation from the Parayavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, Gujarat, against the project, as also from other "persons, organizations, institutions", has sought clarification from PB Rastogi, director, expert appraisal committee (EAC), Nuclear Power Projects. It wants "necessary action" be taken in case the environmental public hearing (EPH) for EIA was held on March 5.

Millions deprived of HIV/AIDS treatment as Indian pharma industry amass huge profits abroad from drugs

By Dr Aseema Sinha*
India is home to one of the world’s largest populations living with HIV/AIDS after South Africa, the worst affected nation in the world. The first case was detected in 1986 and since then HIV/AIDS has rapidly spread throughout India. India’s infection rate is nearly twice that of Brazil and India is home to 2.5 to 3.8 million reported HIV cases, the highest in South Asia and, again, third, after South Africa and Nigeria.24 Given India’s population and its youthful character, the HIV/AIDS crisis, if unchecked, could have serious domestic consequences and gravely affect the global effort to curb the epidemic.Despite a fast brewing HIV/AIDS crisis, state capacity, as well as indigenous pharmaceutical capability, the Indian state’s response has been slow, fragmented, and ineffective.

India might slip into fascism if Gujarat's neo-liberal model is imposed on India, warn top scholars

By Our Representative
A well-attended seminar “India’s descent into fascism: How can we stop it?” saw two senior scholars, Anil Choudhury of the Indian Social Action Forum, Delhi, and Prof Ghanshyam Shah, an eminent Gujarat-based social scientist, presenting diametrically opposite view on the reasons behind possibilities of India slipping under a fascist rule. While both agreed that things had become increasingly difficult for working classes across India to fight for their rights, and this was a clear sign of how the danger of a fascist rule might take over in the country, Choudhury believed that the race to push India to eight per cent rate of growth is forcing the movement towards fascism.

Dalits 'refrain' from entering temples in the interest of rural peace and harmony, believes Gujarat govt

By Rajiv Shah
In a strange explanation, the Gujarat government has said that providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on prevalence of untouchability in the state will lead to “a sharp rise in incidence of enmity in the rural areas of Gujarat.” The explanation comes in reply to an RTI application, filed by top NGO Navsarjan Trust's senior activist Kirit Rathod, who had wanted to know details of a report, titled “Understanding Untouchability”, prepared by the Centre for Environment and Town Planning (CEPT) University, commissioned by the Gujarat government on October 22, 2010.

Anti-mining movement picks up in South Gujarat, tribals demand early implementation of PESA provisions

By Ashok Shimali* Anti-mining movement is gearing up in South Gujarat. The main slogan of the movement is, "Save river, save forest, save nature, save minerals and save our life".
At the bank of Purana river in Kosambai village near Valod town in Tapi district, more than 10,000 peoples started an impressive agitation against rampant mining activities in Purna and Valmiki rivers. People gathered under the banner of the Adivasi Ekata Parishad. Mainly local tribals, they began an indefinite agitation on April 17, which converted into eight representatives of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad going on hunger strike, which began on April 22.

High growth of gross national product cannot be panacea for development, argues senior economist

By Rajiv Shah 
At a time when the so-called Gujarat model is being touted as the sole panacea for India’s economic ills, a recent book by Kamal Nayan Kabra, Malcolm S. Adisheshiah chair professor, economics of development and decentralized planning, Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi, has sharply argued against this type of “growth orthodoxy” which propagates that rate of growth of gross national product (GNP), as determined by the market forces, is the sole criterion of development. Such a GNP-centric model, he says in his book, “Appropriate Development: People First”, published by ISS, is based on the assumption of “trickle-down processes” which could be achieved by “increased public revenue as a fallout of higher GNP”, which would help run “state-led anti-poverty programmes.”

Wastewater irrigation along polluted Sabarmati river in the downstream adversely affects crop quality: IWMI study

By Our Representative Latest study carried out by five experts -- P Amerasinghe, RM Bhardwaj, C Scott, K Jella and F Marshall -- “Urban Wastewater and Agricultural Reuse Challenges in India”, for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, has identified Gujarat as one of the three states which has “some of the most polluted rivers”, adding crops irrigated with wastewaters discharged into Sabarmati in the downstream have adversely affected crop quality along the river.

Museum of conflicts takes shape in communally-sensitive Ahmedabad to usher in era of interaction

By Our Representative
In a move without any precedence in India, Ahmedabad has hosted a Museum of Conflicts, Conflictorium. Opened on April 14, three voluntary organizations, working on human rights issues, Center for Social Justice, Janvikas and Navsarjan, have come together to launch it in Gool Lodge, Mirzapur. Inspired by top Turkish Nobel laureate novelist Orhan Pamuk, who faced persecution at the hands of right-wing nationalists, Conflictorium seeks in some way to follow Museum of Innocence, established by him in Istanbul in 2012, where a collection evocative of everyday life and culture of Istanbul during the period of his novel “Museum of Innocence” (1970s) has been displayed.

Unique Shobhayatra, highlighting common legacy of Gandhi and Ambedkar, culminated into rally on April 13

By Our Representative 
Finally, a unique event, organized by Gujarat’s human rights organizations, meant to make people understand that BR Ambedkar is not just a Dalit icon but one who stood for equality of all who had much in common with Mahatma Gandhi, came to its conclusion on April 13, on the eve of his birth anniversary. A Shobhayatra was taken out, starting at Anand Ashram, Sarkhej, Ahmedabad, at 10 in the morning. Taken out in the form of a procession, it  passed through Sonal Cinema Char Rasta, Boot Bhavani Temple, Vejalpur, Jivraj Park, APMC Char Rasta, Mahalaxmi Char Rasta, National Institute of Design, and will culminate at Sanskar Kendra, Paldi in the afternoon.

'Recognize polyacrylate and musculoskeletal, prevalent in chemical and auto units, as occupational diseases'

By Our Representative
In a sharp demand, the People’s Research and Training Centre (PTRC), the Vadodara-based NGO working on occupational health issues, wants the Government of India and Government of Gujarat to come up with an amendment in schedule III of the Employees’ Compensation Act, in order to include polyacrylate and musculoskeletal in the list of occupational diseases. In separate letters to the Gujarat labour minister and director-general, ESI Corporation, Jagdish Patel, who heads PTRC, has said that while polyacrylate is a serious lung disease rampant among Gujarat’s pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry, musculoskeletal is a debilitating injury to millions of workers in a wide cross-section of occupations, against which workers of a state-based car manufacturing company represented before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

UNICEF-sponsored study says untouchability a major factor in health delivery in rural Gujarat, Rajasthan

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as a recent survey report, prepared jointly by the US-based East-West Management Institute, and Navsarjan Trust, a human rights NGO, has found that nearly 20 per cent of Dalit children aged 2-5 in rural Gujarat “miss” the anti-polio dose, thus failing to be immunized, a top study sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), based on on-the-spot inquiry, has found that untouchability is the most important factor in failure in health delivery to Gujarat’s (and Rajasthan’s) Dalit children. Based on primary data and personal interviews, the study, done a couple of years ago, has surprisingly gone largely unnoticed.

Procedural lapses prevailed supreme at environmental public hearing for N-plant, says authoritative letter to GoI

By Our Representative
Fresh information is now available on how procedural norms were violated while conducting the environmental public hearing (EPH) on March 5, 2013, for the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant, to be built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) in Gujarat. Senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati has said, the EPH, in the light of this information, "violates" the Union ministry of environment and forests’ (MoEF’s) own Office Memorandum dated December 2, 2009 which  states that “that no environmental impact assessment (IEA)/ environmental management plan (IMP) reports prepared by Consultants who are not registered with NABET (National Accreditation Board for Education and Training)/ QCI (Quality Council of India) shall be considered by the Ministry after June 30, 2010.”

Over 20 per cent of Dalit children are not immunized in rural Gujarat, says EWMI-sponsored study

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study sponsored by US-based organization, East-West Management Institute (EWMI), in alliance with Gujarat’s human rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, has found “dramatic differences in the delivery of immunization services between Dalits and non-Dalits.” Carried out among 2,308 children ages 5 and under from 77 villages in eight Gujarat districts in consultation with Dr Dileep Mavalankar of the Public Health Foundation of India, and Dr Ankur Sarin of the Public Systems Group, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the survey says that 20.4 per cent of Dalit children, age 2-5 years, were unvaccinated for the poliovirus in Gujarat’s rural areas, and this rate was “more than twice as high as non-Dalits in comparable geographic regions.”

Upsurge in industrial activity in Gujarat would lead to mining of ecosensitive zones: Report

By Our Representative A recent report by two civil rights groups, Samata and Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), has expressed serious concern over possibilities of sharp rise in mining in eco-sensitive zones of Gujarat, expeciall because lately construction activities are all set to see a drastic upsurge in the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region and other special investment regions of the state. The report, titled “Sharing Summary of Experiences in Mining Regions of India with Legislators, Decision Makers and Civil Society”, expresses the fear that “the demand for construction materials is going to rise, which is seeing large scale illegal mining in rivers as well as undermining common property resources to set up industrial units.”

Advocacy groups storm into World Bank consultations on environment, say its purpose is to help corporates

By Our Representative Senior activists of several advocacy groups stormed into the civil society consultation, being held to “review” and “update” the World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies organized by the World Bank at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

Displacement of Maldharis from Gir would harm biodiversity, argues top Geneva-based sociologist

By Rajiv Shah 
A top Geneva-based researcher has sharply contested the application of international norms of biodiversity conservation on the Gir forest, which consider the establishment of uninhabited ‘protected areas’ as an effective way to protect nature. Writing in “Asia and Europe Bulletin” of the University of Zurich, Prof Shalini Randeria, who currently chairs the anthropology and sociology department at the prestigious Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, says, “The ideology and practices of new regimes of environmental governance in Gir forest” have merely continued the (post)colonial practice of “displacement, dispossession and the curtailment of the rights of forest-dwelling communities.”

All-round indifference prevails towards proposal to provide scheduled caste status to Nats

Counterview Desk
In a recent blog, Umesh Solanki, documentary maker and writer, has highlighted little-known fact about a community in Gujarat which is treated as untouchable but is deprived of being treated on par with other sections of Dalits. In his report, “Untouchable but not Dalit”, Solanki gives the instance of Mangabhai Parmar from Lathi in Amreli district, hardworking man, to prove his point. Maganbhai is one of the 10,580 persons who belong to a very small community called Nat, a Nomadic tribe. To him “sweat is natural to the body, and this nature has derived from the social tradition, or let me say, caste system”, underlies Solanki.

Proposed amendment to Odisha's immovable property regulation has grave implication for India's tribals

By Ashok Shrimali* 
In an important development, the Odisha government is coming up with a new amendment to the Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (by Scheduled Tribes) regulations, 1956, which seeks to undermine the fifth schedule of the Indian constitution. The fifth schedule gives special rights to tribals over natural resources, including land, in tribal areas. The amendment, if pushed through, will be the first of its kind in India where the fifth scheduled tribal area land will be easily alienation to non-tribals. The land will be allowed to be sold to a mining company or a corporate house. The implications are grave: The amendment, if passed, will prompt other states too to follow the Odisha “model”.