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Showing posts from September, 2013

Fifty-two villages around Kevadia colony off Narmada threatened: Give away land for tourism or face action

A replica: Urbanising Kevadia? By Our Representative In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the chief executive officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Narmada dam that they had better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face dire consequences. The four-line letter was sent to the village sarpanches on March 6, 2013, but strangely it never became an issue till now, when the threat of their eviction from their land became even more apparent.

Work on Garudeshwar weir, which is part of Sardar Sarovar project, begun "without necessary clearances"

By Our Representative Has the work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Narmada dam, begun without necessary environmental and social impact assessment clearance of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA)? It would seem so, if one looks closely at the letter written by a senior member of the NCA to its chairman. The letter states, the weir would adversely impact downstream fishing activities as also the environment, about which “no assessment” appears to have been made so far.

New IPCC report warns of extreme climatic conditions, heatwave, uncertain monsoon and rise in salinity

By Our Representative Expressing deep concern over the findings of the first assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Climate Action Network, which is a network of 850 NGOs across the world, has said that it is more than certain than ever before that human activities are responsible for climate change. The first installment of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was signed off by nations after its summary was negotiated line by line in Stockholm last week. Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, said in a press release that though global warming “requires immediate action”, polluters have failed to make “equitable allocations and concrete actions” to fight the danger.

New Act allows govt manual scavenging temporarily under certain conditions

By Jitendra Rathod* The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 received assent of the President on September 18, 2013 and it was published in the Gazette of India on September 19, 2013. There is a general view among civil society organizations and like-minded individuals that the Act would eradicate the most inhuman practice of manual scavenging from India. After going through its provisions, it is not possible to support such a view. In fact, one is prompted to raise certain concerns and suggest that the Act is ineffective in addressing the issue of manual scavenging. It appears incapable of ending the practice of manual scavenging, which would continue to prevail in large parts of India, like before.  Following is point-by-point critique of the Act: Section 2 (1) (d) of the Act says that “hazardous cleaning” by an employee, in relation to sewer or septic tank, means its manual cleaning by such employee without the employer fulfilling his obl

Manual scavenging: Neglect of smaller towns evident, says NGO survey

By Rajiv Shah  Despite the law against manual scavenging, which was made more stringent by Indian Parliament recently, new facts have come to light which go to suggest that Gujarat’s smaller towns are some the worst victims of the despicable age-old practice of manually removing excreta, imposed upon the valimiki community for generations. A recent case of Dholka town, situated around 50 kilometres from Ahmedabad, suggests that despite repeated reminders by NGOs fighting against manual scavenging, the state officialdom has failed come out its slumber, the practice continues till date. The matter first came to light after a petition was filed by Manjula Pradeep, director, Navsarjan Trust, a Gujarat-based human rights, before the National Human Rights Commission (HHRC) in January 2013. She drew attention of the NHRC about “lack of basic facilities in Dholka town”, alleging, “The situation of public dry latrines and vaada toilets is very pathetic. There is no water facility in the toilets

Gujarat Forum, apex body of clean technology NGOs, asks Centre to withdraw Adani Power's eco-certificate

By Our Representative The Gujarat Forum on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is an apex body of several environmental bodies and individuals, has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, to withdraw the approval letter granted to the Adani Power for its CDM project – grid connected energy efficient power generation – installed in the coal fired power unit in the Mundra special economic zone (SEZ) in order to earn carbon credits from the international market. In a letter to Dr A Duraisamy, director and member-secretary, National CDM Authority, the Gujarat Forum has said that the registration to the Adani Power cannot continue after a high-level committee headed by top environmentalist Sunita Narain, appointed by the MoEF itself, found "serious environmental violations" by the Adani Power.

Gujarat net gainer from the new backwardness index worked out by committee headed by RBI governor

Dr Rajan By Rajiv Shah While much is being made out from the latest “Report of the Committee for Evolving a Composite Development Index of States”, prepared under the chairmanship of Dr Raghuram R Rajan, new Reserve Bank of India governor, making some states happy while others unhappy, it has something which has gone totally unnoticed. Even as clubbing Gujarat as a “less developed state”, if the recommendations of the report are accepted, Gujarat is likely to get a higher Central allocation than is the case today. Submitted to the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the report recommends that Gujarat should be allocated 3.69 per cent of the Central share as against what was allocated by the Finance Commission – 3.12 per cent, which includes grants and share in Central taxes.

Modi-Shivraj nexus raising "bogus issues" related with delayed benefits of Sardar Sarovar project: NBA

By Our Representative The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), top anti-dam organization, has disputed claims by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Bhopal that the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) has helped both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in a big way, and gains would have been much greater had the Government of India helped raise the Narmada dam’s height to the full reservoir level. The NBA said, Modi, along with Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has “begun playing the same old SSP card, knowing pretty well that the project, which the Planning Commission estimates to cost more than 70,000 crores as on date, is ten times the initial sanctioned cost, and has not lived up to its tall political claims and paper promises.”

Senior Gujarat occupational health activist appeals to Madhya Pradesh CM to intervene for silicosis victims

Rally in Panna for silicosis victims By Our Representative Expressing concern over failure of the Madhya Pradesh government to work out any schemes for the deadly silicosis victims of the state, senior activist Jagdish Patel, who is director, Peoples Training And Research Centre, Vadodara, and has been fighting for the silicosis victims of the Khambhat region of Gujarat for quite some time, has written a strongly-worded letter protest letter to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh chief minister. Wondering the veracity of the CM's claims through advertisements in dailies which say that he has transformed the state from Bimaru to a developed state, Patel says, "We strongly feel that development without social justice to the working class people is development with destruction”.

Official inertia alleged as heavy rainwater mixed with untreated chemical effluents spread to villages

By Our Representative Top environmental group, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara, in a statement, has alleged that the Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd, which is supposed to treat industrial effluents and dispose it of in the sea via a channel, has been releasing untreated chemical effluents, polluting large number of villages, including those which are situated 56 kilomtres away, right up to Jambusar taluka in Bharuch district. The environmental group has said, “This came to light soon after heavy rains lashed in Vadodara and South Gujarat this week. Things have reached such a point that, mixed with rainwater, effluents reached up to Nondhana and Sarod villages of Jambusar taluka passing through Jaspur, Luna, Ekalbara, Chokari, Tithor, Karakhadi, Dudhvala, Kahnava and Viludara villages.”

Caste-based discrimination should be part of "future EU human rights policies, strategies and action plans"

By Our Representative In a major setback to India, the elected representatives of half a billion Europeans in 28 countries have decided to come up with a resolution on October 9, which considers caste discrimination an important human rights issue that warrants a coordinated action by the European Union system. The resolution asks all EU countries to "carry out a systematic assessment of the impact of trade and/or  investment agreements on groups affected by caste discrimination, and to address these issues with the industry representatives, governmental authorities and relevant civil society organisations."

Farmers sign affidavits against N-plant in Mithi Virdi, ask PM not to enter agreement with US or Westinghouse

By Our Representative In an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sarpanches of several villages in Bhavnagar district have taken strong exception to the way the Government of India pushing for the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. Asking him to refrain from signing any agreement with the US government or other corporations and agencies on the proposed N-plant during his visit to the US, the letter says, "The Government of India has reportedly initiated moves to further dilute the Nuclear Liability Act to seal the nuclear deal with the US government. Intervention of the Cabinet Committee on security is being sought to override nuclear liability for Westinghouse."

Higher agri price influenced Gujarat agriculture to grow by 10 plus per cent in 2001-2011: Senior economist

Prof Dholakia By Rajiv Shah Amidst sharp controversy raging among top scholars on whether high agricultural growth rate of Gujarat agriculture is being cited by a section of economists by choosing one of the worst drought years as the base year (2000-01) (click HERE to read), a senior economist of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, has said come up with a new explanation of the allegedly high growth rate. He has said that a higher price for agricultural product has been the main reason why Gujarat’s agriculture grew at a higher than 10 per cent per annum between 2001 and 2011. IIM-A’s Prof Ravindra Dholakia, who is one of those who has been criticized for choosing a bad drought year as the base, has in a recent paper, “Inter-sectoral Terms of Trade and Aggregate Supply Response in Gujarat and Indian Agriculture”, has said, “Inter-sectoral terms of trade” played a major factor ”in determining the growth performance of agriculture in Gujarat and all India”, whether it wa

Madhya Pradesh government indifference towards silicosis victims prompt workers to launch a wave of protests

Patthar Khan Mazdoor Sangh demonstration led by Yousuf Baig By Ashok Shrimali* Workers in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh are up in arms against the state government indifference towards silicosis, the deadly disease rampant in sandstone mining. Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) coordinator Mohit Gupta in a statement has said this has happened because workers in these mines are suffering from silicosis for long, “yet, the owners have failed to provide any facilities or protective equipments to them, as is common in the country.” Worse, “they have not even been issued any ID cards, and they have no knowledge either about the name of the owner or the mine for which they are working for.”

Ban on industrial activity reimposed on Vapi, continues for Ankaleshwar and Vatva. Ahmedabad is spared

By Our Representative In a major setback to Gujarat’s efforts to overcome pollution in its environmentally critical regions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has decided to re-impose ban on industrial activity on the industrial cluster of Vapi in South Gujarat, even as continuing with the ban imposed by it in 2010 on the industrial clusters of Ankaleshwar, also in South Gujarat, and Vatva, which is off Ahmedabad. The MoEF order, while re-imposing the ban on industrial activity on Vapi, has said that its Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), as assessed this year, has failed to show any tendency towards implementing an action plan to end pollution.

Gujarat agriculture fluctuates yet again: Oilseeds dip by 42.54 pc, wheat by 23.5 pc, cotton by 16.34 pc

By Rajiv Shah Latest data obtained from sources in the Gujarat government have revealed that state agricultural production sharply dipped during the fiscal 2012-13 compared to 2011-12, such it would suggest that the state farm sector remains highly volatile, despite claims to the contrary by the state officialdom and a group of the economists. The figures show that the foodgrains production in Gujarat dipped by a whopping 22.87 per cent, cotton production by 16.34 per cent and oil seeds production by 42.54 per cent. The dip has come against the backdrop of claims by economists Prof Tushaar Shah and Prof Ravindra Dholakia, who have tried to prove in their respective studies that improved farm techniques and decentralized irrigation practices like checkdams and watershed projects have largely mitigated the impact of drought in Gujarat.

Correlation between groundwater depletion in North Gujarat and intensity of migration

By Rajiv Shah  A new research paper, released in August 2013, “Groundwater Depletion, Adaptation and Migration: Evidence from Gujarat, India”, prepared by three scholars Ram Fishmany, Meha Jain and Avinash Kishore, published by International Growth Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science, has suggested how in northern Gujarat, which is one of the most groundwater-scarce regions of India, the gradual depletion of this vital resource has resulted in “shrinking of agriculture and increased migration rates by young males“, especially “those from the dominant land-owning caste”. The study is based on collection of primary data from two of North Gujarat’s talukas, Vijapur and Mansa. Significantly, it does not find no evidence that scarcity of water has led to higher investment in human capital, or in improvement in water use efficiency, despite the existence of technical potential. The scholars comment, “Given the widespread and ongoing depletion of groundwater acros

Patkar regrets "concessions" in land acquisition bill, passed in Parliament, were in the name of Sardar Sarovar

Dam-induced submergence in Chikhalda village, MP By Our Representative Welcoming the recent statement by Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh that there would be no more Sardar Sarovar like projects in India, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar has said that “the reasoning and the rationale that such gigantic projects lead to massive displacement of not just families, but whole communities, following forcible acquisition of generations-old land and properties is understandable and acceptable. Although delayed, it is definitely one that shows a realization of the reality of such large project and their impacts. Not only inter-state conflicts, but also other conflicts between the state and its citizens are reasons for review of such conflict-ridden projects”.

Farmers decide to involve townspeople of Bhavnagar to oppose N-power plant, tell them: You too will suffer

Panic near Mithi Virdi because of the proposed N-power plant Counterview Desk In a move to launch a fresh campaign against the proposed nuclear power plant by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) in the very midst of the lush green area of Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district, the anti-nuclear plant organization, Bhavnagar Gram Bachao Samiti, has how worked out a fresh strategy – to involve citizens of Bhavnagar city. In a statement issued in Mithi Vidri, the Samiti – in association with a dozen other voluntary organizations – has said, “If the rural areas of Bhavnagar district will suffer, the townspeople will not be far behind.”

Whither empowerment? Failure to make Gujarat women rightful owners of land

By Rajiv Shah  A recent study, “Contextualizing Women’s Rights and Entitlements to Land: Insights from Gujarat”, by Meera Velayudhan, senior policy analyst, Centre for Environment and Social Research, published in “Social Change”, a Sage Publication, has said that lack of asset ownership has curtailed women‘s bargaining power in Gujarat, even as depriving them from the benefits of development programmes. This deprivation, it points out, is particularly evident when government schemes for development of land are scrutinized. “These schemes relate to irrigation, land development (watershed) or agricultural credit where possession of land is mandatory”, it says, citing the instance of a survey in Ahmedabad of a lift irrigation scheme requiring an average investment of Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000, which revealed that 100 per cent beneficiaries in six schemes were men. The study underlines, “Since women lacked ownership of land in their namesake they are unable to gain benefits a major part of t

Financial inclusion eludes large sections of backward caste migrants in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah  A recent study, “Remittance Needs and Opportunities in India”, sponsored by GIZ, or the German Society for International Cooperation, and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), and carried out by Dr YSP Thorat and Dr Howard Jones, has found that formal financial institutions, including nationalized banks, may have taken take firms roots in Gujarat, but when it comes to serving the poor migrants seeking to transfer their remittances, these have failed to deliver. Estimating that “average annual remittance amount is about Rs 20,000”, the study says, even today, “informal remittance channels are pervasive and attractive due to the multiple functions they can serve.” In fact, on-the-spot survey of Rajasthani migrants in Gujarat suggests around 90% of the respondents “carry cash themselves or send it through others.” Pointing towards reasons, the study says, “Most migrants do not have bank account at the destination point where they are working. Th

Nirbhaya case: Amnesty says death sentence to gang-rape convicts will not tackle violence against women

By Our Representative In a controversial statement, Amnesty International, one of world's foremost human rights organisations, has said that "far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India". Amnesty was referring to to the death sentence awarded to the four men, convicted of the December 2012 gang-rape by a court in New Delhi. The statement may trigger debate over validity of death sentence and whether it was awarded under the pressure of public sentiment.

Hurdles in women’s participation in mass agitations in Mundra, Mahua

By Rajiv Shah  Lack of information and data which analyze and document women’s participation in people’s movements remains a grey area at a time when their visibility during mass actions is found to be continuously increasing. Clearly, women’s participation has been on the upswing, and the latest example of this is the fight against the Bhechraji-Mandal special investment region (SIR), in which women made a big difference in the fight against efforts by the Gujarat government to go in for large-scale land acquisition in 44-odd villages, involving 55,000 hecteares. Thanks to women’s intervention, the movement forced the Gujarat government to denotify the SIR’s in 36 villages, confining it to just eight villages of the region. Women have similarly played an important role in the fight against the environmental destruction being cause to their respective regions by the Nirma cement plant near Mahua, the proposed nuclear power plant near Mithi Virdi, both in Bhavnagar district, and the Mun

Study reflects on economic pattern during communal violence in India

By Rajiv Shah  In an astounding revelation, two scholars, Anirban Mitra of the University of Oslo, and Debraj Ray of the New York University, have in their research paper, “Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India”, have found that “a one per cent increase in Hindu per-capita expenditure is predicted to decrease casualties (during communal violence) by anywhere between 3–7 per cent, while the same increase in Muslim per-capita expenditure increases casualties by 3–5 per cent.” While putting these findings in a perspective, the scholars reach the following conclusion: “The fact that Muslim expenditures display a significant and positive connection with later conflict, while Hindu expenditures have a negative link, suggests that Hindu groups have been largely been responsible for Hindu-Muslim violence in India.” The scholars clarify, “We do not mean to suggest that aggression is an intrinsic quality of Hindu groups while inevitable victimization is t

Gujarat relegated to fifth position in investment, says latest Reserve Bank of India study

By Rajiv Shah The latest Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study , “Corporate Investment: Growth in 2012-13 and Prospects for 2013-14”, prepared in the Corporate Studies Division of the Department of Statistics and Information Management, has found that Gujarat has been pushed to the fifth position in investment destination. Analysing on the basis of capital expenditure intentions of the companies in private and joint business sector, the study has found that four states have overtaken Gujarat – Odisha, which is No 1 investment destination, with 27 per cent of all investments, followed by Maharashtra (19.1 per cent), Punjab (10.5 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (5.6 per cent) and Gujarat (5.4 per cent).