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Showing posts from November, 2013

World Bank arm gives clean chit to Tata Mundra project, says it is "committed" to work as partners

By Our Representative
The international financiers of the Tatas’ Ultra Mega Power Plant at Mundra, Gujarat coast, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank arm, has declared that it will not act against the project, as it falls within the World Bank Group’s 2013 Energy Sector Directions Paper on “sustainable energy”. Signed by Jin-Yong Cai, executive vice-president and CEO of the IFC, in the wake of the IFC ombudsman’s adverse audit report on the Tata Mundra project, it claims, the World Bank paper “reflects the latest thinking on global energy needs, climate change, and low-carbon economic development”, which is “forward-looking and not meant to be applied retroactively to projects such as Tata Mundra.”

Women's group demands action in sexual harassment case of a junior woman advocate in Vadodara court

By Our Representative
Well-known Vadodara-based women’s group Sahiyar has demanded urgent formation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee in Vadodara district and sessions court, which, it said, has not been done despite the fact that several representations by “concerned lawyers and citizens” on the matter have been made. In a statement issued by Sahiyar, the NGO has said, not only should the committee be formed but its announcement should be placed at a place where people are able to see that such a committee exists in the court. The statement was made in the context of a case of sexual harassment of a junior advocate by a colleague.

Greenpeace targets Adani Group's $10 billion Australian coal mining project, says it is "uncommercial"

By Rajiv Shah
Top international environmental group Greenpeace in a new report has targeted premier Gujarat-based business group Adanis, saying that one of its overseas operations in Australia for mining coal may have become “uneconomical.” Titled “The Adani Group: Remote Prospects. A financial analysis of Adani’s coal gamble in Australia’s Galilee Basin”, and prepared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Cleveland, Ohio, US, for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the report states, “We view Adani Enterprises’ development of the Carmichael deposit as an uneconomic proposition. The low energy and high ash content are major constraints to the value of the coal.”

ISRO study: Dredging for development of Mundra port and SEZ "completely buried mangroves" in the region

Counterview Desk
A high-level Space Application Centre (SAC) study, carried out by Ahmedabad’s Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), has said that the mangrove vegetation near Mundra in Kutch district is “one of the most impacted mangrove assemblages in Gujarat”. The observation comes close on the heels of a Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoEF), Government of India-sponsored report by a committee headed by top environmentalist Sunita Narain, whose recommendation to the MoEF -- to impose a green restoration fine of Rs 200 crore for “repairing” the environmental damage it has caused to its port and special economic zone (SEZ) projects at Mundra – was recently accepted.

Financial MNC identifies Jaiprakash Associates among top world cos using asbestos, allegedly causing cancer

By Ashok Shrimali*
In its latest research report, “Asbestos: Assessing Exposure of Certain MSCI World Index Sectors”, Citi, the American multinational financial services corporation headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, has identified eight Indian companies as consuming asbestos, a product which it says “is strongly associated with disease including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.”

Impact of Modi's absence from Gujarat: Annual plan spending shows deceleration compared to last year

By Our Representative
Making an all-out effort to win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by campaigning all over India, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s long absence from the state is starting to take a heavy toll on the expenditure on social sector. This is reflected in the spending on annual plan, the funds mainly meant for developmental works, on health, education, social justice and empowerment. Latest figures from the state’s finance department suggest there is a considerable slowdown in the expenditure incurred on the annual plan over the first last six months of this financial year. The spending was Rs 17,217.81 crore in the six months till 2012-13, while in 2013-14 it was Rs 15,738.06 crore.

Gujarat govt's policies are "not in consonance with objectives of international family farming year"

By Our Representative
Three voluntary agencies, Paryavaran Mitra, Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra and Millet Network of India, on the occasion of the International Family Farming Day (November 22) have sharply criticized the main thrust of the Gujarat government, of industrial growth, saying, for this it has “come up with many liberal policies for land acquisition”, putting forth “many circulars like acquisition of government and gauchar land for special economic zone (SEZ) projects and regarding use of wasteland for corporate farming.”

Central Information Commission has "no information" on pendency of cases before January 1, 2013

By Our Representative In reply to a right to information (RTI) query, the Central Information Commission (CIC) – which India’s highest body to hear appeals to RTI applications to the Government of India and other Central authorities – has said that a whopping 24,326 cases were pending to be cleared by before it “as on October 2013”. The reply, sent to an RTI applicant, Kalpeshkumar Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, interestingly, said that “before January 1, 2013, pendency of cases was not maintained by the CIC.” Gupta had demanded “appeals pending for years” before it.

Gujarat's six districts among 42 India's "laggard" districts with very slow fall in under-five mortality rate

By Rajiv Shah
A high-level study, carried out by a group of scholars led by Prof Usha Ram of the Centre for Global Health Research, St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, “Neonatal, 159 month, and under-5 mortality in 597 Indian districts, 2001 to 2012”, has found that Gujarat’s six districts figure among 42 of India’s top laggard districts showing very slow fall in under-five mortality rate (U5MR). Published in Lancet, the reputed international health journal, the study shockingly suggests that two of the six districts has majority tribal population – Dahod and Valsad – while the rest have tribal population but not in majority. Gujarat accounts for nearly 15 per cent tribal population.

Workers' safety, and health security remain unaddressed in South Gujarat factories, says Surat workshop

By Our Representative
A trade union workshop in Surat, in which tens of workers’ leaders and social activists participated, has expressed serious concern over lack of awareness about occupational health hazard not only among large sections of unorganized workers of South Gujarat, majority of whom are migrants, but also trade union leaders, who seek to organize them. A note, prepared on the workshop by Jagdish Patel, a senior social activist from Vadodara, who works on occupational health issues, has said that the situation becomes particularly piquant because about 85 to 90 per cent of the unorganized workers are migrants working in about 400-odd textile processing units and diamond polishing units.

Participants at national seminar apprehend, the new land acquisition Act will camouflage democratic rights

By Madhuresh Kumar
The Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, enacted recently, “will not end the land conflicts, nor will it provide relief to the millions who have been displaced, and hence there is a need to bring urgent amendments to the Act and also give inputs to process of rule making for Act”, social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said reflecting the views expressed at the two day national meeting on “Struggle for Land Rights and New Land Acquisition Act”, where representative several social movements from 10 states took part at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi.

Ahead of 2014 polls, two US Congressmen want White House to "engage" India on religious freedom

By Our Representative
In an unprecedented step, two US Congressmen, Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota, and Joseph Pitts, Republican from Pennsylvania, have moved a resolution in the House of Representatives calling upon the US government to engage the Government of India, as also state governments in India, on issues related with “religious freedom and related human rights” in US-India strategic dialogues. The resolution acquires significance, as it especially seeks to criticize BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi by name for inciting communal riots in Gujarat.

MASS writes to World Bank chief, may agitate if livelihood, environmental concerns are not addressed

By Our Representative
In a letter to World Bank president Dr Jim YongW Kim, Dr Bharat Patel, general secretary of the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), writing on behalf of the “affected communities” of the Tata’ Mundra ultra mega power plant (UMPP) in Kutch, Gujarat, has said, even “almost three weeks” after the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) published its report there is no action on the Tata plant from the Bank’s arm, International Finance Corporation, which is part-funding the project. The letter comes close on the heels of a protest to Dr Kim by several US and European NGOs expressing concern over his failure to act despite CAO raising serious environmental and livelihood issues (click HERE).

Gujarat has higher percentage of households without any assets than national average: Crisil report

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst considerable hallabaloo around top rating agency Crisil’s rating of Gujarat as No 3 – next only to Punjab and Kerala – both in prosperity index and in equity index (click HERE), what appears to have been missed is an important observation in its new Insight report, brought out in November 2013. The report says that, in Gujarat, 18.7 per cent of the households do not have “any assets”, which is less than the national average of 17.8 per cent. For the sake of analysis, Crisil – which bases its data on household survey of the Census of India 2011 – has divided households into two categories, those who have “all the assets” and those who do not have “any assets.”

"Failure" to fix concept of transportation main reason for delay in implementing Ahmedabad metro

By Our Representative
Indecision about the very concept of when, how and why the metro project in Ahmedabad should be implemented has been the main reason for delay in its implementation, said a top state official associated with the project. Well-placed sources in the Gujarat government have told Counterview that, if till August 2013, the concept of metro was transport-led development, "it has changed now.”

Gujarat High Court officials asked to give info under RTI on "casual absence" of judges during hearing

By Our Representative
In an important order, issued on November 12, 2013, Gujarat’s chief information commissioner (CIC) D Rajagopalan has asked the public information officer (PIO) of the Gujarat High Court and the appellate authority (AA), registrar, Gujarat High Court, to provide information regarding the number of leaves given to the court’s judges, as sought by an applicant. A senior social activist, Indukumar Jani, had sought information regarding judges’ leaves in 2010, arguing that people coming from far off areas, especially the tribal belt, often find it that there was no hearing on the appointed date, as the judge hearing the case had gone on leave or were on some other administrative job.

Decade later, Gujarat's ambitious biotechnology mission turns into an eyesore for state policymakers

By Our Representative
Converted into an autonomous body in 2004, the Gujarat government’s Gujarat State Bio-Technology Mission (GSBTM), which is supposed to work in three important areas – gene banking, genomics and bioinformatics – is said to be slowly turning into an eyesore for the top policy makers of the state, thanks to inertia of those running it. The reason for this is not far to seek, sources in the Gujarat science and technology department say. On each of the three sectors, one witnesses not only complete failure to carry out research activities but also inability to follow good laboratory practices.

Top Gujarat PSU "forfeits" its claim of going multinational, withdraws from Egyptian misadventure

By Rajiv Shah
In its first major decision to take the former state blue-chip public sector undertaking (PSU) out of the red, the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has taken a formal decision to withdraw from its most important overseas adventure – Egypt. A well-placed source in the Gujarat government has told Counterview that the GSPC board took the decision to withdraw from Egypt after dilly-dallying on the matter for above a year. “The board met recently. It decided to withdraw following a discussion, in which GSPC managing-director Tapan Ray insisted that withdrawal was essential to bring the GSPC out of the red and also in view of unstable political atmosphere in Egypt”, the source said.

Gujarat govt cites lack of staff, photocopy machines, stationary to refuse information under RTI

By Our Representative
Why do different Gujarat government departments refuse to part information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005? If the information available with Counterview is any indication, the latest ploy of the state officialdom is “lack of staff” and other “administrative difficulties”, including lack of stationary and photocopy machines! This has become clear in replies to recent applications filed under RTI, where the officialdom has doggedly refused to give any legal explanation for refusing information, and instead pointed towards what great difficulties they have been facing while parting any information.

Dreadlocks Story: French anthropologist's docufilm traces Indian origin of Jamaica's anti-colonial movement

By Our Representative
A new documentary, “Dreadlocks Story”, produced and directed by Dr Linda A├»nouche, French freelance research anthropologist with an expertise in cultural heritage and intercultural relationships, has highlighted the little known fact that descendants of people from Indian origin in Jamaica, a Caribbean country, were part of the social movement against slavery, discrimination and colonialism, called Rastafari, which has African roots. It shows how nearly 40,000 Indians became part of forced labour in the sugar plantations in Jamaica carried out by British colonialists between late 19th century and early 20th century. At the same time, it traces the influence of Indian culture, especially “Hindu and Sadhu way of life”, to quote Dr Ainouche, on the Rastafari movement.

Fresh note on data manipulation suggests Gujarat's annual farm growth in 1998-2013 was merely 0.82%!

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh facts have come to light suggesting that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for agriculture and allied sectors in Gujarat during 1998-99 to 2012-13 has been 0.82 per cent, and not “around 10 per cent”, as claimed by the state government. A top note, prepared by a senior state bureaucrat who retired as additional chief secretary, Gujarat government, has said in a note that the analysis is based on taking 1998-99 as the base year for calculating CARG. This was contrary to the “wrongful” practice of the Gujarat government to calculate CARG by taking 2000-01, a drought year, as the base year. The note, prepared by CJ Jose, says, even if the CARG is taken by making 2001-02 as the base year, when Narendra Modi came to power, the CARG till 2012-13 comes to 2.93 per cent!

Prominent citizens of Gujarat ask Government of India to initiate environmental clearance of Statue of Unity

By Our Representative
In a letter addressed to Dr V Rajagopalan, secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, around two dozen prominent intellectuals and activists have demanded a “detailed environmental scrutiny of the Statue of Unity, planned inside Narmada river, 3.2 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam and Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. Proposed as joint venture of the Government of Gujarat and the state-supposed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), the letter wants the top Indian official to “immediately stop all construction activity in the region.”

Top US, European groups oppose World Bank support to power project Gujarat, call it "deadlly"

By Our Representative
As many as 68 groups from 28 countries across six continents have sent a letter to World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim condemning the World Bank Group’s continued support for “a deadly coal project in Gujarat, India”.

Activists insist, World Bank president must act on eco-concerns on Gujarat power project

By Our Representative
Over a hundred prominent organisations and activists have expressed "shock" over World Bank President Dr Jim Kim’s "inaction" on the audit report on the Tatas Mundra ultra mega power project in Gujarat, adding, they condemn such a move and demand that the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) withdraw from the project. In a letter sent to Dr Kim, they said, “People’s movements and their allies in India are shocked that you have cleared the IFC management’s response to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) Audit Report on Tata Mundra Project”.