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Showing posts from August, 2013

Land bill will mean four times compensation, "adversely affect" real estate, industry projects: CRISIL

Counterview Desk
The CRISIL Research -- which has made a quick assessment of the impact of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012 (formerly known as the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011) on real estate,  infrastructure and industry -- has said that the Bill will lead to “increase in the gestation time of projects and overall costs.”
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on August 30, 2013. The bill, which replaces the century-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, proposes a unified legislation for acquisition of land and adequate rehabilitation mechanisms for all affected persons.

New land acquisition bill will nullify food security, legitimise land acquisition for corporates, says NAPM

By Our Representative
The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), which is the apex body of more than a dozen mass organisations operating in different parts of India, has said that the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011, passed in the Lok Sabha, seeks to provide legitimacy to land acquisition for 'private profit' in the name of public purpose. By introducing the Bill, “the UPA is hiding behind the poor and this brazen push for the land acquisition for the private companies will threaten food security and livelihood of millions”, NAPM has said in a statement.

Vadodara building collapse: What is there to investigate? File FIR against builders and officials, say NGOs

By Our Representative
In a sharply worded letter, a group of Vadodara-based NGOs has asked state urban development secretary GR Aloriya, Vadodara district collector Vinod Rao and Vadodara police commissioner Satish Sharma, to take “immediate steps” against the builders responsible for constructing the collapsed buildings at Ataladara, leading to 11 deaths, as also officials who granted permission for its construction. “Immediate step must be taken to file an FIR instead of wasting time on inquiry commission set up on the collapse”, the NGOs have said.

Gujarat Social Watch asks governor to ensure state assembly becomes 'meaningful' for democracy

By Our Representative In a representation, the Gujarat Social Watch, a network of civil society organizations and citizens to monitor the institutions of governance, has asked the Gujarat governor to urgently take steps to ensure that the number of days for which the state assembly meets in Gujarat should not be just for the sake of formality. Providing a table which demonstrates a decline in working days of the state assembly, the representation said, as a result of the refusal to discuss vital issues, “The table itself suggests that democracy in the state is being adversely affected.”

Social activist Aruna Roy seeks urgent discussion with Sonia Gandhi to defer amendment to RTI Act

By Our Representative
Prominent social activist Aruna Roy has written to Sonia Gandhi, UPA chairperson, asking her to urgently hold discussions with right to information (RTI) activists on contention issues on amending the RTI Act before going ahead the proposed amendment which seeks to keep political parties out of the RTI ambit. Enclosing a letter from the co-conveners of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), she said, “The proposed RTI Amendment Bill should be referred to a Standing Committee for further discussion”, instead of passing it in Parliament.

Performance appraisal of National Rural Health Mission suggests Gujarat's inertia in health care

By Our Representative
A recent analysis of the way different state governments have been handling rural health suggests that Gujarat is one of the three major states in India which have slowed down their expenditure on various programmes being implemented under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the Government of India’s largest public health programme. Launched in 2005, a breakup of expenditure for two consecutive years, financial year (FY) 2010-11 and 2011-12, suggests wide gap between states in implementing it.

Green Tribunal puts Pipavav Port's expansion plan in abeyance, rejects environmental clearance by MoEF

By Our Representative
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), which is supposed to settle disputes arising out of environmental clearances (EC) granted to developmental projects, has set aside the environmental clearance (EC) granted for expansion of the Gujarat Pipavav Port Ltd, one of the two major private ports on Gujarat coast. EC was given by the Ministry Environment and Forests (MoEF) following a report by the Expert Appraisal Committee (AEC), which operates under it. The NGT has asked the MoEF to make a complete reassessment of the expansion project and complete all the formalities afresh.

Madhya Pradesh yet to pay up over Rs 3,100 crore as share of Narmada Project: Gujarat government to NCA

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial statement, the Gujarat government’s powerful arm implementing the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), has said that Madhya Pradesh has yet to pay up a whopping Rs 3,159.88 crore against the nieghbouring state’s share of expenditure in the SSP, followed by Maharashtra’s Rs 1,437.50 crore and Rajasthan’s Rs 471.70 crore. The statement is an “update” as on May 12, 2013 of the “Status Report on SSP”, sent by the SSNNL to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) – the Government of India-appointed inter-state authority to give a final nod to the project’s various components – in December 2012.

Payment of compensation under atrocities Act: Gujarat govt fails to move despite murder of Dalit in Bhachau

By Our Representative
Top Gujarat human rights organization, Navsarjan Trust, has protested against the Gujarat government’s failure to pay compensation to the nearest kin of Premjibhai Palabhai Dafda, a Dalit farmer of Bhachau in Kutch district, aged 46, who was murdered in broad daylight on August 11. Senior activist Kantibhai Parmar, who rushed to Bhachau on hearing the gruesome murder, told www.counterview.net that under the prevention of the atrocities Act, Dafda’s family should have been paid 75 per cent of the compensation they are entitled to – which is Rs 5 lakh in case of the murder is of an earning family member.

Inertia on Central report on eco-destruction prompts Adanis to say ship recycling "not in eco-fragile zone"

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s most powerful industrial house, Adani Group, has declared that the proposed ship recycling facility to be set up next to the Mundra Port does “not fall in any eco-fragile zone”, nor has it received any instructions from the Government of India regarding objections raised by the committee headed by top environmentalist Sunita Narain’s report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which has charged the Adanis with serious violations of environmental norms by the group along the sea coast of Mundra in the recent past.

Citing industrial pollution, top environmentalist asks Centre not to lift ban on new industrial units in South Gujarat

By Our Representative
In a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), top Gujarat-based environment group,  Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, has urged the Government of India to ask industrial units of the Panoli Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) estate to bear the cost of Sanjali pond decontamination following dumping of industrial effluents, and pay for setting up two pollution-monitoring stations in village Sanjali and next to the National Highway. The letter has also asked the Centre to "strong steps" against units in Ankleshwar GIDC estate, for not doing enough to stop effluent contaminated rainwater from gushing from Amla Khadi towards Piraman, Ankleshwar and Diva villages.

Farmers' leaders arrested for alleged of violation of prohibitory orders imposed in Mandal-Bhechraji SIR

By Our Representative In a late night development, two Jamin Adhikar Andolan -- Gujarat (JAAG) leaders, who have launched an agitation against the special investment region (SIR) to be put up on the Mandal-Bhechraji area, were arrested on August 17 allegedly for violating prohibitory orders by holding a rally on the Independence Day to say that their victory was "limited" and the agitation would continue. The agitation made it clear that the farmers' protest against Maruti-Suzuki project would continue, as all of the JAAG demands were not met.

Environmentalists reiterate, CRZ nod to N-plant is "casual", demand time from Central officials to explain

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded letter, Krishnakant, Rohit Prajapati and Swati Desai of the Praryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have told Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, that that they has still not received heard from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited on the "non-serious, casually submitted CRZ clearance / recommendation for CRZ clearance given to the proposed NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) of Mithi Virdi by the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA)."

Gujarat govt's Sagarkhedu project "fails" to alleviate plight of vulnerable communities of the coastal areas

By Anupama Vijayakumar*
In a recent mapping of issues in coastal areas, the Centre for Social Justice has found that in four districts in South Gujarat and four districts in Saurashtra the communities living in coastal areas in Gujarat remain largely neglected, making them highly vulnerable. The main issues that these communities are faced with include, developmental issues, pollution, lack of basic amenities and governmental neglect on a larger level. Even though schemes are in place under the Sagar Khedu Yojana, the benefits that they derive from them are almost nil. The vulnerable communities living in coastal areas include, fishermen, saltpan workers, farmers and tribals.

In a resurvey, Navsarjan counters Gujarat govt study claim that untouchability in state is a matter of perception

Counterview Desk In a scathing reply to the Gujarat government-sponsored study, “Impact of Caste Discrimination and Distinctions on Equal Opportunities: A Study of Gujarat”, carried out in five of Gujarat’s villages to “prove” that there is no wide-scale practice of untouchability in the state, a “resurvey” in the same five villages has found it prevails in all its manifestations.  Carried out by Navsarjan Trust, a state human rights organization, the “resurvey” says that in every walk of life – whether it is temple entry, social or cultural festivals, or access to basic necessities – untouchability is widely prevalent, something the government-supported study has sought to "undermine".

Govt announcement to "withdraw" 36 villages from Mandal-Bhechraji SIR is a "limited victory" for farmers: JAAG

By Our Representative
Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari of the Jameen Adhikar Aandolan – Gujarat (JAAG) have in a statement said that Gujarat government announcement of removal of 36 villages from the Mandal-Bhechraji special investment region (SIR) is an "incomplete victory" for the farmers agitating against the SIR for the last four months. In a press conference, state finance minister Nitin Patel declared that the state government had decided to remove 36 villages from the SIR, but would retain eight villages.

Proposed amendment Bill gives "undue freedom" to state govts to decide on acquiring irrigated land: NAPM

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of the Government of India announcing its intention to place the Bill amending the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, during the current session of Parliament, National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), in a statement, has regretted that it may have some “positive points” like seeking majority consent, conducting Social Impact Assessment, an expanded definition of project affected persons, return of land in some cases to land owners. However, on the whole, it seeks to increase the role of the state in land acquisition. Saying that the bill is “tilted towards facilitating land acquisition”, the statement adds, this is one of the major reasons why “consensus on the bill has eluded for long and it has been under the discussion for seventh year now."

Withdraw SIR status to Bhechraji-Mandal, clear Maruti-Suzuki of the area, else face agitation: JAAG to Modi

By Our Representative
In a strong statement, Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari of the Jameen Adhikar Aandolan – Gujarat (JAAG) have reiterated that they would expect Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the status of the special investment region (SIR) granted to the Bhechraji-Mandal area. They have simultaneously demanded that the Maruti-Suzuki company “should removed from the area” and “the Narmada canal areas that have been de-commanded be brought back into the command area”.

Govt admits SC, ST conviction rate in Gujarat is very low, 'decides' to hire low paid lawyers to overcome lag

By Rajiv Shah
In a major admission, the Gujarat government has said that government pleaders are so preoccupied with their jobs that they are “unable to address” and give “enough time” to fight cases related with Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. A government resolution (GR) issued by the state’s social justice and empowerment department with the specific intention of raising the conviction rate of atrocities cases has said that in the recent past the state government has witnessed a sharp fall in the ability to take up atrocity cases.

RTI amendment bill tabled in Parliament "violates" principle of right to equality and equal treatment

By Venkatesh Nayak*
A preliminary analysis of the RTI amendment Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday suggests several things. At first glance the amendment Bill only seeks to exclude political parties from the purview of the RTI Act and will have retrospective effect if enacted in this form. So it effectively nullifies the CIC's order of June 2013 declaring six political parties as public authorities. Clearly, the amendment Bill violates the right to equality and equal treatment to all persons guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 14.

The Forest Rights Act 2006 is "not relevant" for Arunachal Pradesh, believes state government

By Ashok Shrimali*
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA 2006 in short) was passed by the Indian Parliament in December 2006. This is the first time in the history of the post independent India that a Government (the UPA Government) brought in a forest related legislation to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights were not recorded.

RTI application reveals, a small village in Jamnagar district suggests a huge toilets scam is taking shape in Gujarat

By Our Representative A huge scam is suspected to be taking shape in Gujarat -- the scam to build toilets on paper. The first signs of the scam were visible in a small village in Jamnagar district, Nandana, situated in Kalyanapur taluka. "Things would have never come to light had a casual worker not filed a right to information (RTI) application in order to find out how many persons of the village had applied for grants to build individual toilets in their houses and how many of them were approved by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) under Government of India's total sanitation programme", said senior activist Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), a state-based RTI NGO.

In a somersault, Gujarat govt says it never wanted CEPT University to "review" NGO study on untouchability

By Rajiv Shah
In a complete about-turn, the Gujarat government has asserted that it never asked the CEPT University to review or refute an NGO study by Navsarjan Trust on wide prevalence of untouchability in Gujarat's rural areas. The NGO study titled "Understanding Untouchability", carried out in 2010, was based on a survey of about 1,600 villages. The statement is in total contrast to what the introduction to the CEPT report says -- that the state government had sponsored it in order to "review" the NGO study and find out if there was such wide prevalence of untouchability as the study claims. It is not known what has prompted the state government to make a change in its stance.

Gujarat govt has denigrated the office of Lokayukta, how can I join?, wonders Justice RA Mehta

By Our Representative
Even as declaring that he is unwilling to take charge as Gujarat Lokayukta, in a strongly worded letter to Gujarat governor Dr Kamla and Gujarat High Court chief justice Baskar Bhattacharya, Justice RA Mehta (retired) has declared that he is doing so because the Gujarat government has gone of the way to “denigrated” the high office. Justice Mehta’s appointment, which went controversial after Dr Kamla took a suo motu decision to appoint him as Lokayukta following the Gujarat chief minister’s reluctance, was cleared by the Supreme Court recently. The apex court dismissed the BJP government's curative petition against Lokayukta appointment in July third week.

Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti calls Gujarat govt's CRZ clearance to Mithi Virdi N-plant "unconstitutional"

Counterview Desk
Three senior environmentalists, Krishnakant, Rohit Prajapati and Swati Desai of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, in a statement have alleged that the recent move of the the Gujarat government's department of environment and forest giving coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance to the proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) at Mithi Virdi "is an act of endorsing the illegal and unconstitutional act of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Engineers India Limited (EIL)."

"Displaced" employees of diamond sponsors of Vibrant Gujarat write to CM, seek CBI inquiry into "fraud"

By Our Representative In a letter to the Gujarat chief minister, representatives of 1,400 "displaced employees" of Sai InfoSystem (India) Ltd (SIS), which was a Vibrant Gujarat 2013 sponsor, have sought the CM's intervention in Gujarat's largest IT company's move to ease out more than 400 employees and their respective families in Gujarat, alongside 1,000 plus employees and their families across the country. "This ill-fated organization was incidentally the diamond sponsors of Vibrant Gujarat Summit held in the month of February 2013", the letter reminds the CM.

People of Odisha have not yet given up struggle against Posco, which has "acquired" 2,700 acres for steel project

By Kanchi Kohli*
The battlelines have been drawn like never before. While the Odisha state government and Posco India Ltd have made categorical statements that they have acquired 2,700 acres for an eight million tonnes steel project, the agitations in Gobindpur and Dhinkia continue. Each day there are incidents of a tussle when efforts are made to forcibly cut betel vines and dig trenches to construct a boundary wall for the Posco project. There are emphatic statements that land acquisition has been completed, all permissions are in place and construction work will begin soon.

Nuclear project at Chutka, Madhya Pradesh: Government forced to postpone public hearing amidst protest

By Lokesh Malti Prakash*
The people of Chutka and adjoining villages in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh won victory against the Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) Nuclear Power Plant, being imposed on them by Congress-led Central government in active collusion with BJP-led state government. The government was forced for the second time to postpone its public-hearing on the project that was scheduled on July 31. After a sustained protest by people of the region that was actively supported by almost every section of left-democratic forces in the state and beyond, the district administration called off the public-hearing on July 29.

Unicef does a balancing act, removes a few of the negative remarks on Gujarat's social sector from its website

By Our Representative
In a sharp about-turn, the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, has changed its Gujarat profile of Gujarat following a www.counterview.net report, which had highlighted how the top UN body had criticised the state's social sector indicators, providing detailed figures on health, education and malnutrition (click HERE to read the report). The new profile on Gujarat, which it has put on the web, does underline that Gujarat has "miles to cover in ensuring that the economic growth trasnlates into improved human development", but removes all the negative figures which had shown Gujarat social sector in poor light.

Gujarat govt "violating" right to education through pilot project on admitting poor children to private schools

Counterview Desk
Can there be a pilot project on how to implement the Right to Education Act, which was passed by India’s Parliament four years ago? While this would look strange to any sensible person, particularly when a law has been passed and has also begun being implemented all over India, senior activist-turned-politician Sukhdev Patel believes that this is what the Gujarat government has tried to do in order to put to practice a government resolution (GR), which decided to set aside just about 5,300 seats all over Gujarat among the non-granted privately-run primary schools for children of the poorer sections.