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Showing posts from May, 2013

Representation to Gujarat governor takes strong exception to mining activities in scheduled areas of the state

By Our Reprsentative Several grassroots organizations of Gujarat under the banner of Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P) have represented to state governor Dr Kamla against continued mining of the tribal areas of Gujarat, saying this is happening “against the Constitutional provisions, which prohibit mining of any natural resources that come under the tribal areas, whether it is water, land or forests.” The representation underlined, “It is illegal to allow mining in the tribal areas without prior approval of the gram sabha.”  Those who represented included Ashok Shrimali from MM&P, and social workers from affected tribal villages of South Gujarat. There were Namikaben Chaudhury, who is also sarpanch of Mordevi village panchayat, Bhupendrabhai Chaudhary, of Kosambia village, Manendrabhai Chaudhury or Bahej village, and Lalsinhbhai Gamit of Valod village.

Villagers surrounding Kevadia colony at Narmada dam oppose tourism projects, say give us water first

By Our Representative
Several villagers surrounding the Kevadia colony, the place where the Narmada dam is situated in South Gujarat, have come together to launch struggle under the banner of Kevadiya Area Development Authority (KADA) Virodhi Manch to oppose implementation of the notication, issued eight years ago, for developing water park, hotels, golf course, camping grounds, trekking trails, boating facilities, sunset viewpoints, resort clubs, etc in the region. "Originally this was planned on the lands of 16 villages. Now this has been expanded to be built on lands acquired from 70 villages", a KADA Virodhi Manch statement issued in the wake of a meeting on May 27 at Kevadia colony said.

Neoliberal growth in Gujarat has intensified social and economic inequalities, says new Save the Children report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, “Reducing Inequality: Learning Lessons for the Post-1015 Agenda. India Case Study”, by Save the Children has regretted that “the rapid economic growth that Gujarat has experienced over the past decade has been of the nature of exclusionary growth where goals like social equality, sustainable livelihoods, access to education and health, justice and peace have been abandoned in the race for high-speed growth.”

Survey reveals internally displaced minorities in Gujarat remain socially vulnerable even a decade after riots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh survey, carried out by Ahmedabad-based rights group, Centre for Social Justice January between January and March 2013, and sponsored by Action Aid, has revealed that thousands of victims of Gujarat riots, who still remained displaced a decade after the holocaust, are unable to return to their original habitat as they fear they will not be protected. Carried out among 464 internally displaced persons (IDPs), a term coined by the United Nations to identify those who are forced to leave their habitat because of violent situations, as many as 364 of the surveyed IDPs continue living in rehabilitation camps, and another 100 IDPs live in alternative housing provided to them in different towns in eight districts of Gujarat.

Dalit students not being paid scholarship they are entitled to, reveals RTI reply received after three years

By Our Representative
In a major exposure of the working of the Gujarat government, a right to information (RTI) reply to a senior activist has revealed that as many as 3,125 Dalit undergraduate students of Ahmedabad district alone have not been paid scholarship despite the fact that they were entitled to it. "The matter came to light after earlier attempts to get information through RTI on scholarship to Dalit students failed to yield result", said Kirit Rathod of the Navsarjan Trust, a Gujarat-based human rights NGO.

Study for Skoch Foundation debunks claim that Gujarat agriculture growth intensified during last decade

Counterview Desk
A recent study, titled “Are Disparities In Indian Agriculture Growing?”, by Gursharan Singh Kainth, Director, Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies, hsas glaringly exposed the “high growth” story of Gujarat agriculture. The senior academic has found that growth rate in productivity of agriculture, at constant prices of 2004-05, has actually gone down in the state over the two decades. It was 4.7 per cent in 1990-91 to 1999-2000. But it went down to 3.4 per cent in the next decade, 2000-01 to 2009-10. Kainth has further said that the growth rate per hectare agricultural productivity at constant prices (2004-05), too, went down from 5.07 per cent in 1999-2000 to 2.09 per cent in 2009-10.

Senior activists wonder how can Kalpasar start when no environmental or CRZ clearance has been obtained

By Our Representative Senior activists of Gujarat have alleged that the Narendra Modi government wants to begin work on the controversial Kalpasar project, which seeks to dam the Gulf of Khambhat, despite the fact that it has not yet complied with the Government of India's Environmental Impact Assessment Notification on September 14, 2006. The project falls under Category ‘A’, 1 (c), i.e. a river and valley project which requires prior environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on the recommendations of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) constituted by the GoI.

At international meet, India blocked a decision against "harmful substances" asbestos and paraquat

Counterview Desk
Jagdish Patel, senior Vadodara-based activist of the People's Training And Research Centre (PTRC) has informed www.counterview.net how India in the second week of May became one of the countries which blocked a decision at a top international meet to oppose action against the use of asbestos and paraquat. A report on the meet, "Joint Chemical Conference Disappoints Those Seeking Action on Asbestos, Paraquat", by Daniel Pruzin, Bloomberg BNA, Daily Report for Executives, Geneva, has the details:

As Gujarat agriculture slips into a deep negative in 2012-13, state rulers begin playing drought politics

By Rajiv Shah
Cat is finally out of the bag. If early estimates in the top corridors of the Gujarat government are any indication, during 2012-13, or the last financial year, the state’s agricultural growth rate slipped into the negative after an average of the last five year plan (2007-12) showed it had already been pushed to a single digit (4.8 per cent). “Soon it will be announced that the agriculture slipped to around minus ( -- ) 13 per cent in 2012-13. In certain places in Gujarat, especially Saurashtra, agricultural growth slipped to minus ( -- ) 22 per cent”, senior state bureaucrat said, adding, “Already, crop failure on account drought during 2012-13 has been assessed to be around 50 per cent.”

State terrorism against civil society?

By Rathin Das
Several NGOs and other activists in Gujarat and elsewhere are up in arms against the Union Home Ministry’s (HMA's) order suspending the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of over 700 NGOs involved in grass root activities.
In an order on April 30, 2013, the Ministry of Home Affairs has suspended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of the INSAF, apparently for its involvement in what the Government considers ‘political’ activities like ‘Dharnas’ and rallies.

Gujarat slum policy proposes authority to "manage" slums, permits Swiss route to private developers

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government is all set to form Gujarat Affordable Housing and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (GAHSRA), with sweeping powers, under the chairmanship of the the state chief minister to “manage” and “develop” state slums in the state's urban areas. Draft of the Gujarat Slum Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Policy, 2013, in possession of  www.counterview.net, at the same time, seeks to add yet another bureaucratic ladder at the local urban self-governing level under the chairmanship of municipal commissioner in municipal corporation area, chairman of the urban development in the urban development authority area, and the district collector in municipality area. The new structure would be called Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA)..

Women in Gujarat can’t hold ration card in their name unless male family member gives consent

By Our Representative An anti-woman government resolution (GR) remains in currency in Gujarat for two years, yet nobody seems to to care. The Gujarat government issued this surprising GR two years ago, which seeks to undermine the authority of the woman as head of the family. The GR, issued on May 6, 2011, yet remained unnoticed for so long till a right to information (RTI) application was filed on December 25, 2012 by Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat’s RTI NGO. Jog says, “The surprising GR comes from the department of food and civil supply. It says that woman can hold ration card in her name only if a male member of the family expresses his willingness.”

Dalits' death in police firing: Gujarat's top cops indifferent towards gross rights violation, alleges senior activist

By Our Representative
Has the Gujarat government adopted a "go slow" tactic vis-a-vis the gruesome incident in Thangarh, Surendrangar district, which took place in September last year, in which three Dalit youths died in police firing? Senior Dalit activist Kirit Rathod of NGO Navsarjan Trust appears to think this is very much the case, "While the Gujarat Human Rights Commission (GHRC) directed, on March 23, 2013, that the director-general of police (DGP) and the CID crime, who sit in Police Bhawan in Gandhinagar, to immediately provide a complete report on the firing incident, even a month after the order the state's top cops have not act", he has said in a statement.

In an open letter to CM, top environmentalist wonders why is Gujarat govt silent on danger of chemical disaster

By Our Representative
In an open letter to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, senior Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti has wondered why is the CM so shy of providing answers to permanent resident Gujaratis (PRGs), who have repeatedly asked him certain questions on issues related with people’s concerns. The letter has been written against the backdrop of the CM’s address satellite-based to non-resident-Gujaratis (NRG), who live in the US, as he did on May 12. The letter following questions Prajapati wants Modi to answer:

Failing to implement its order, Gujarat govt may "withdraw" GR to pay compensation to silicosis victims

By Rajiv Shah
After failing to implement its own government resolution (GR) on paying Rs 1 lakh as compensation to those who die because of silicosis, a deadly lungs disease which is common among agate polishing units in Khambhat town and taluka of Gujarat, the Gujarat government is now planning a new one to "amend" its error, which allowed insurance companies to cover only those under group insurance scheme who die in an accident. While nobody in the government has any idea of what this new GR would be and whether it would be able remove the "technical hitch" which supposedly is the chief reason why the year-old GR could not be put into action, voluntary organisations working with the silicosis victims believe, the year was "lost" because of official indifference.

Top Right to Information NGO regrets slow implementation of RTI norms, recommends quick proactive disclosures

By Our Representative
The Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat’s foremost Right to Information (RTI) NGO, has revealed that there is a whopping 41.2 per cent violation of RTI norms by the first appellate authorities (FAAs), who happen to be Gujarat government officials, which leads to a large number of cases piling up with the Gujarat Information Commission. Last year, it has said in a statement, there were in all 30,491 RTI appeals or complaints, out of which 19,130 could be disposed of.

Ahead of his satellite address, US-based NGO asks Gujarat CM to look into plight of salt-pan workers

By Our Representative
Ahead of his proposed address to 18 US cities via satellite, scheduled for May 12,  Association for India's Development (AID), a US and Canada-based NGO, has asked Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to have a closer look at how vulnerable sections of society are suffering in his own state. In a letter to Modi  and state revenue minister Anandiben Patel, 54 AID volunteers, who support civil society efforts in India have asked him, in a signed letter, to urgently look into the plight of the salt pan workers in the Little Rann of Kutch. "You must already be aware of the recent untimely and heavy rainfall in the Little Rann of Kutch and surrounding areas", the letter reminds the CM.

Top Gujarat PSU faces fresh environmental hurdle in commercial production of gas "produced" off Andhra coast

By Rajiv Shah 
The Gujarat government’s powerful state public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Public Corporation (GSPC), has faced a major environmental hurdle, putting its Rs 2,030 crore project to go in for commercial production of the gas it claims to have found in the KG Basin, off Andhra coast, in jeopardy. Asking the GSPC to “defer” the project till certain conditions are fulfilled, sources in Gujarat’s energy and petrochemicals department said, the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union ministry of environment and forests has refused to give blanket coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance for laying down underground gas pipeline, optical fibre cable (OFC), an effluent disposal pipeline – all of which is proposed to pass through CRZ area of Yanam-Puducherry, along the Andhra Pradesh coast – as also the proposal to set up an onshore gas terminal off Mallavaram and a process-cum-living quarter platform at offshore in KG Basin, Andhra Pradesh.

Setback to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's effort to undermine Gyan Shala experiment among slum children

By Our Representative
The Gujarat High Court, taking a serious view of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) School Board for failing to implement the right to education (RTE) Act provisions for 8,449 slum-dwelling children, has said that the board is “not following” the order and advice of the State Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) authorities to implement RTE norms. It ordered “immediate implementation” of RTE norms for these Gyan Shala children, who faced the predicament of becoming school dropouts only because the local body authorities refused to provide them a general register (GR) number, which would enable them to get admission in any school of their liking, government or private.

What's Rs 90 lakh worth for top Rly Board post? A babu "collected" Rs 50 lakh to buy placement in early 90s

By Rathin Das
“Just Rs 90 lakhs ?! That’s not a big price to get such a high post in the Railway Board”, many in bureaucracy would scream. They know Indian republic has a long history of having price tags for several posts that involve interactions with contractors -- first awarding them projects and later clearing their inflated bills, to say the least. The payment made for procuring the post is recovered through kickbacks received from contractors and suppliers, the beneficiaries of the projects at the cost of the exchequer.
No questions are asked about the source and destination of the slush money as the bureaucracy-contractor nexus has for long perfected the system of ‘regulating’ the flow of public money back to the coffers of the officers. In this case of Rs 90 lakhs paid to the nephew of the Railway Minister for securing the coveted post, the officer must have relied on the contractors who would be returned the favour by way of speedy payments of over-rated bills.

Senior BJP leader threatens top rights activist of legal action, objects to Netherlands NGO's support to minorities

By Our Representative
Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Purshottam Rupala has threatened that he will take top human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi, founder of NGO Anhad, to the court of law for “defaming” him. In a statement posted to www.counterview.net, he has said, “Hashmi has leveled a very serious charge of forging the documents against me, which I deny. My letter to the Prime Minister was based on facts. I call upon Hashmi to retract her statement and issue an apology, immediately, failing which I will not hesitate to take a legal actions against her.”

Economic discrimination plagues rural Gujarat's scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households, suggests NSS report

By Rajiv Shah 
Fresh indications have emerged which go to suggest that the latest economic reforms, under the “neo-liberal” guise, have not in any way worked in favour of the disadvantaged sections of the rural population in Gujarat. The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data, put out by the Government of India, show that only 1.2 per cent Gujarat’s scheduled tribe (ST) households and 2.7 per cent of the state’s scheduled caste (SC) households owned more than four hectares (ha) of land. This is in sharp contrast to a huge 17 per cent of higher castes owning more than four ha of land. The figures find their place in “Employment and Unemployment Situation among Social Groups in India”, published in September 2012.

Narmada R&R: Australia-based researcher finds project affected persons rate NGOs' role better than govt's

Counterview Desk
A recent research paper, “Involuntary displacement: An analysis of the role and contribution of non-government organizations to the Narmada project affected communities in Western India” by Hinal Pandya of the School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, Australia has found that 56 per cent of respondents were “satisfied” with the NGOs’ assistance in rehabilitating the victims of the project, while only 39 per cent appreciated the government’s assistance.

Involve locals to offset environmental damage in Mundra SEZ and port region, says letter to Natarajan

By Our Representative
In a letter to Jayanthi Natarajan, Union minister of state for environment nd aforests, New Delhi, several Gujarat-based environmental groups have demanded early implementation of the recommendations of the committee for inspection, which looked into environmental destruction on the part of the Adani Port and Special Economic Zone, Mundra, Gujarat. The letter wants urgent steps to be taken to involve local people in restoring environment, destroyed while implementing the project in the area.

Rights group alleges BJP leader forged documents to divert attention from fight against communal forces

By Our Representative
Making a serious allegation, top human rights NGO, Anhad, founded in the wake of the communal riots in Gujarat, has said that senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Purshottam Rupala "forged documents" to defame the organisation. In a statement, it has said, Anhad has been under "concerted attack" for the last few months, and the attack is lead by Rupala, who has written letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against Anhad, even as leaking "half-baked information against Anhad to various small time websites assumingly supported by them."

Senior tribal human rights activist reminds President he is custodian of tribal people, must protect them

By Ashok Shrimali*
In a strongly worded letter, Gladson Dungdung, general secretary, Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM), Ranchi, has asked the President of India to either "protect the rights of the Scheduled Tribes (Indigenous People of India) or to shoot all of them at once rather than excluding, discriminating, exploiting, torturing and making them landless, resourceless and beggars by alienating them from the natural and livelihood resources in the name of growth and development." The letter has been written in wake of persecution faced by tribals who were refused representation to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee on April 30, during his inauguration of a power project of the Jindal Steel & Power Ltd at Sundarpahari, which comes under Godda district of Jharkhand.

Top note investigates how Gujarat govt fudged farm growth rate figures to showcase double digit success

By Rajiv Shah
Has the Gujarat government manipulated figures of agricultural growth? Latest information available from informed sources say this might well be so. According to an authoritative note, prepared by a retired IAS bureaucrat and mean for circulation among influential quarters, the “fudged figure” found its reflection in various ways, but more so in the form of total area under cultivation during Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's speech before the Planning Commission in Delhi a year ago.