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Showing posts from June, 2013

Gujaratis' purchasing power has been rising at a much slower pace than most states: Official data

By Rajiv Shah
New data released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), in the report “Key Indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure in India”, released in June 2013, have suggested that the purchasing power of the people, as reflected in the monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), has been rising at a much slower pace than most states of India. As a result, Gujaratis, on an average, are forced to spend a higher percentage on food items, as against non-food items, which are a secondary priority of people. Non-food items, according to the NSSO, include transport, fuel, light, clothing, footwear, education, medical bills, entertainment, paan and cigarettes or bidis, and durables.

Decision to raise height of Narmada dam is "political conspiracy" and is "illegal", alleges NAPM

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded statement, the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) has said that the Central authorities "cannot permit drowning of two lakh population without rehabilitation". The Narmada Bachao Andolan, led by top activist Medha Patkar, is one of the NAPM's major partners. The decision to permit raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from the present height of 122 metres to the final height of 138.68 metres was taken by the Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) on June 26.

Gujarat farm leaders join hands and decide to fight the bill meant to legitimize genetically modified seeds

By Our Representative
Farmer leaders of Gujarat have come together in solidarity to express in one voice that they oppose the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill. They have asserted that under no circumstances they can afford to lose their freedom and sovereignty and risk the takeover of their food, farms and livelihood by multinational companies like Monsanto. The meeting was attended by farmer leaders such as Badribhai Joshi of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, Prafulbhai Senjaliya of the Organic Farming Cell of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, and Sarvadaman Patel, president, Organic Farming Association of India and Kapil Shah of the Jatan Trust.

Wages in Gujarat are one of the lowest in the country, say National Sample Survey data, released last week

By Rajiv Shah
The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data have suggested that Gujarat's regular wage earners, salaried classes and the casual workers are being paid one of the lowest wages as compared to most Indian states. While Gujarat may claim to have the highest pace of urbanisation in India, shockingly, as against the all-India average per day earning of urban regular wage earners and salaried persons of Rs 450 per day, in Gujarat it is a poor Rs 320. This, if the NSS, which carried out its survey in 2011 and 2012, is to be believed, is the lowest compared to anywhere else in the country.

Access to maternal healthcare services eludes poor women in Vibrant Gujarat irrespective of caste group

Counterview Desk
A Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)-sponsored study has found strong discrimination against poorer sections of women -- irrespective of whether they belong to scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (T) or general category -- in the delivery of maternal health care services in Gujarat.

Gujarat's high growth trajectory has meant development of corporate sector, neglect of poor: Economist

By Our Representative
In a recent analysis, Shipra Nigam, consultant economist with the Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, has said that “there is little that is new in Gujarat’s developmental model.” Quoting extensively from a book, “Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat”, published this year, Nigam says, “Gujarat’s market led growth operates within the new-liberal paradigm that has for some decades been touted by the IMF, World Bank and inc as the panacea for all ills in developing countries. It is a frame that has been widely contested, critiqued and discredited for its abysmal failure in bringing in sustainable, equitable and participatory growth within the developing world.”

The iron pieces collected from farmers cannot be used for building the Sardar statue, "clarifies" top Modi aide

By Rajiv Shah
In a major setback to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's proposal to collect iron from farmers all over India to build the Statue of Unity in the name of Sardar Patel in the downstream of the Narmada dam, a a top aide of the Gujarat CM has said that the iron from the farmers “cannot be used for constructing the world's highest statue.”
The aide, who wanted not to be named, told www.counterview.net that the “iron collected from the farmers will obviously be of different types and suspected quality. Some of it may be simply scrap or junk. Obviously, it cannot be used for constructing a quality Sardar statue.”

Institutional delivery: Despite of basic infrastructure, health centres show inertia towards using it

Counterview Desk
In a major critique of the much tom-tommed Chiranjeevi Project, which seeks to provide institutional delivery to Gujarat’s rural population, a recent study, “Infection control in delivery care units, Gujarat state, India: A needs assessment” by senior scholars Rajesh Mehta, Dileep V Mavalankar, KV Ramani, Sheetal Sharma and Julia Hussein has said that “simply incentivizing the behaviour of women to use health facilities for childbirth via government schemes may not guarantee safe delivery.”

Caught between Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Gujarat govt, agariya children are "refused" midday meal

By Our Representative
With the schooling season having begun, activists of the Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch (AHRM), who are active among saltpan workers of the Little Rann of Kutch, have expressed strong apprehension that children or around 14,000 saltpan workers, who propose to shift to the Little Rann to produce salt in September, may turn into out-of-school kids. While the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a Central scheme, runs makeshift schools for these children, the kids are not offered any normal facilities which primary school kids should get.

JAAG rally warns government against forcible acquisition of land in Bhechraji-Mandal special investment region

By Our Representative
The Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) -- which on June 18 led a well-attended farmers’ rally starting in North Gujarat’s Bhechraji region, and ending at the state capital Gandhinagar after passing through Sanand town and Ahmedabad city -- has warned the Gujarat government against any attempt to forcibly acquire 50,885 hectares of land in order to set up special investment region (SIR) in the region. In a memorandum submitted to state revenue minister Anandiben Patel, JAAG has said, “Bhechraji-Mandal SIR notification dated May 14 is in our hand. The map of the notification suggests that more than one lakh people of 44 villages of four talukas will be adversely affected because of SIR. We are not going to take it lying down.”

'Smaller Kalpasar unviable; proposed Bharbhut weir will carry five per cent of Narmada water into reservoir'

By Rajiv Shah
Top technocrat Dr Anil Kane, who gave the ambitious project for damming the Gulf of Khambhat the now popular name of Kalpasar more than two decades ago by conceptualising it, has heavily come down on the Gujarat government for making the entire project “unviable and unworkable.” Talking with www.counterview.net, Dr Kane said, a major factor that will make the project redundant is that, under the new project design, the Narmada river has been removed from the Kalpasar reservoir. “From where will you get water if Narmada river is not made part of Kalpasar?”, he wondered.

Integrated Child Protection Scheme fails to take off, children falling prey to petty crimes remain neglected

By Our Representative
A recent workshop, held under the auspices of the Dalit Hak Rakshak Manch (DHRM), an Ahmedabad-based NGO working on child rights issues, has found that the Gujarat government is showing "gross indifference" towards the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), a Government of India scheme floated in 2009 for the vulnerable sections of children, who, finding themselves in certain special conditions, are victims of abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation from family.

In face loss to govt, Gujarat Information Commission orders release of CEPT University study on untouchability

By Our Representative
In a major loss of face for the Gujarat government, the State Information Commission has ordered the state social justice and empowerment department to hand over a copy of a report on untouchability in Gujarat's villages within a month. About a month and a half ago, giving a strange explanation, the state government declared 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.”

Ahead of a crucial meeting, JAAG wants govt to answer queries on land acquisition in Bhechraji-Mandal SIR

By Our Representative
Ahead of a crucial meeting with a Gujarat government representative, a statement issued by the Jamin Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat (JAAG), signed by Sagar Rabari and Laljibhai Desai, has warned the Gujarat government it is “unhappy with government’s lies on the issue of Mandal-Becharaji special investment region (SIR)". Wanting the government to answer JAAG's several of the queries, a meeting of the Campaign Committee of the Mandal-Becharaji SIR at village Vanod, suggested that the people would by the explanation by the government that no land was being acquired.

Women and girls facing caste-based discrimination need special protections, says UN official

By Kantilal Parmar*
The United Nations member states should focus urgent attention and decisive action to improve conditions for Dalit women, four international non-governmental organisations said today. The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape, forced prostitution and modern forms of slavery. This was recognized at a high-level UN meeting in Geneva on June 7.
“Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination,” said Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women in a written statement in Geneva. “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.”

Union government writes to Gujarat governor, other governors to safeguard tribals from illegal mining

By Ashok Shrimali*
The Union government has finally recognized that the scheduled V areas, where forest dwellers live, should be handled with utmost care, instead of allowing industrial and mining activities which may infringe upon the tribals' rights. A strongly worded letter by Union tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo to Gujarat governor Dr Kamala says that it is “a main challenge that is staring at us today” with “explosive situations prevailing in the Schedule V areas of our country”. He has also forwarded the letter to all governors, telling them that they should constitutionally safeguard the tribals' rights over the natural resources where they live.

"Refined" analysis by top economist says Gujarat ranks 16th in health, 12th in education and 11th in infrastructure

By Rajiv Shah A new Planning Commission-sponsored study, “Refining State Level Comparisons in India”, by Pranjul Bhandari, economist at the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, and a chief brain behind the Economic Survey 2012-13, says that her “refined” analysis has found that Gujarat stands 16th in health index, 12th in education index and 11th in infrastructure index among 21 major Indian states. Bhandari has arrived at these figures on the basis of a new methodology she adopts by “refining” raw data in order to find out how well do states perform in the context of the resources at their disposal.

Suicide by Dalit students in premier institutions: NHRC notice to the Union government

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development on the basis of reports alleging fierce caste-based discrimination and violence in the hostel of Dalit students at several places in India. The Commission observed that the news reports, if true, reflects “widespread prevalence of discrimination towards Dalits in the educational institutions driving them to take extreme steps”, adding, “The state has the responsibility and duty to ensure that an atmosphere is created in educational institutions wherein everyone, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, can pursue studies. The Constitution of India has also elaborate provisions to stop discrimination against the Dalits.”

World Environment Day: First to create climate change department, Gujarat now has no use of it

By Our Representative
Gujarat's civil society has taken strong exception to failure of the Gujarat government to have a State Action Plan, a requirement for every state under a Government of India direction. In statement, two NGOs, Paryavaran Mitra and Janvikas, on the eve of the World Environment Day, which falls on June 5, have said that not only is there no climate change website of the state government despite the fact that it claimed to be the first to have a separate department, it has not yet prepared the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) to submission to the Centre for further action. Worse, the state government has still not set up Climate Change Trust Fund, which was announced two years ago and even finances were set aside for it.

Study finds major lapses in implementing safety norms in factories in the Ahmedabad region

Counterview Desk
A recent study, titled, “Health, Safety and Welfare of Industrial Workers in Ahmedabad”, in the and around industrial areas of the city – Naroda, Asarwa, Narol, Ramol, Vatva, Dholka, Bavla, Kharaj and Kalol – has found that 67 per cent of factories do not have any safety committees, which are mandatory as an internal arrangement and whose main job is hazard identification, accident investigation, record keeping and evaluation. These committees are meant to examine safety and health issues, and recommend policies; conduct periodic workplace inspections; and evaluate and promote interest in the safety programme, particularly education and training.

RTI campaigner uncovers failure of Gujarat govt's welfare schemes for the rural poor

By Our Representative
The right to information (RTI)) helpline, run by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, recently got a strange query. One Devjibhai asked Pankti Jog, who handles the helpline, that there were four widows in his house, yet no one got any support under the housing scheme. “Did you ask officials in the panchayat has any department whether their forms were rejected, and what reason did they give you?” Jog asked him. After all, the Gujarat government had been giving full page advertisements about its great achievements under housing schemes.