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Terming Modi's effort to rival China difficult and slim, FT cites closure of Nokia plant in Chennai as example

By Our Representative
In an year-end commentary, premier British business daily, “Financial Times”, has termed prime minister Narendra Modi's dream to redouble “India’s efforts to rival China by turning into a global manufacturing hub” as “important to his country’s future” but insists, it is “difficult to achieve”. Written by James Crabtree in the column “Inside Business” and titled “Modi faces uphill battle in mission to see India rival China”, the commentary arrives at this conclusion by saying that “India’s manufacturing frailty is well documented.”

Action Aid-supported Gujarat study says, despite 10-year campaign one-fourth of widows get govt pension

Counterview Desk
Representing single women, mainly widows and divorced poor women, Ekal Nari Shakti Manch (ENSM), a Gujarat-based non-government organization (NGO), has said that despite its decade-old campaign, just about 27 per cent eligible widows are able to get pension they are eligible to get. Results of a survey of single women in Gujarat by the ENMS – which is supported by high-profile NGO Action Act that has its head office in Johannesburg and branches all over the world – say that of the 1,714 widows it interviewed just 465 get pension.

Govt "indifferent" towards suffering farmers: Modi refused to meet Gujarat ministers on cotton price issue

By Our Representative
Three non-political farmers’ organizations, Saurashtra Khedut Ladat Samiti, Khedut Samaj Gujarat, and Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, have come together to ask the Gujarat government to add “bonus package” to the minimum support price (MSP) being offered to farmers by the Government of India for different farmers’ products, especially cotton, in order to protect them from being ruined. They have declared, if this is not done, they would be forced to "disrupt" the Vibrant Gujarat Business Summit, to take place on January 11-12 in Gandhinagar to attract foreign investment.

Ordinance meant to forcibly acquire 3.9 lakh hectares of land for Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor: NAPM

By Our Representative
The Cabinet decision approving the Ordinance amending the land acquisition Act 2013, even before the law has been actually implemented on the ground, has been described as “completely unacceptable”, reminding one of “the anti-democratic and authoritarian streak of the NDA government”. In a statement, the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the apex body of several mass organisations operating across India, wondered what was the “emergency” for the NDA to take the Ordinance route.

Militants attack cinema halls in Gujarat's business capital Ahmedabad for showing Aamir Khan starrer "PK"

By Satyakam Mehta
Despite recent outcry against “militant” Hindu groups becoming increasingly aggressive after the BJP-led coming to power, and sharp criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to act from international media, there is virtually no let down in aggressive stance of Sangh Parivar factions. In a new development, a group of activists said to belong to the Bajrang Dal violently attacked two cinema halls in heart of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s business capital, to “protest” against Aamir Khan starrer “PK”.

Modi govt has created climate to amend land Act as a developmental need: Medha Patkar-led NAPM

By Our Representative
The apex body of tens of people’s organizations across India, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has termed the Narendra Modi government’s reported decision to come up with an amendment to water down the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Transparency in Land Acquisition Act, 2013 in the form of an ordinance as nothing but an effort push an “anti-poor corporate agenda”. NAPM is led by top social activist Medha Patkar.

Regretting impact of 2002 riots, Tata Institute report talks of high incidence of sexual abuse of Gujarat girls

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, a new report by high-profile NGO Save the Children, Wings 2014: The World of India’s Girls” has said that Gujarat’s 63.1 per cent girls may be subjected to sexual abuse, which is apparently, the highest in India. Pointing out that in the country as a whole there are 47.06 per cent such girls, the report, which has been prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, says that most of these girls suffer silently, and “don’t report to anyone”. The report, significantly, carries a congratulatory message from Najma Heptulla, minorities minister under the Narendra Modi government, among others.

Usurious moneylending prevails more in Gujarat than in other Indian states, suggests latest NSSO report

By Rajiv Shah
In a remarkable revelation, a new National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, released early this month, has found that Gujarat has a higher proportion of indebted households which reported taking loan at very high interest rate – 25 per cent or more. Calculations, based on the data released by the NSSO, suggest that 64.6 per cent of the state’s indebted households took loan at such high rate – which can easily be interpreted to mean usurious moneylenders. Titled “Key Indicators of Debt and Investment in India”, the report has found that there is just one state of 21 whose indebted households may be depending so heavily on moneylenders – Jammu & Kashmir (69.3 per cent).

New York Times blames Modi for failing to rein in Hindu "militants" seeking to reconvert Christians, Muslims

By Our Representative
In one of the sharpest comments in the recent past on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the powerful American daily, "The New York Times," has chose the Christmas (December 25) to editorially declare its opposition to the way in which he has been dealing with the whole issue of conversion. The daily’s editorial has said, “Hope is in danger of crumbling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would rein in the divisive agenda of his militant Hindu-nationalist supporters and allow India to concentrate on the important work of economic reform.”

Modi govt questioned: Researcher calls Malaviya "fringe player" in formation of Banaras Hindu University

By Our Representative
Controversy over the choice of Madan Mohan Malaviya by the Narendra Modi government for the Bharat Ratna award was further intensified when a researcher on Banaras Hindu University (BHU) made it clear, in an interview, that Malaviya was only peripherally involved in the formation of the BHU. Researcher Tejkar Jha, who is finalizing his book the history of the BHU, has said that Malaviya was “at the most a fringe player in the movement that led to the foundation of BHU.” Jha added, Malaviya had “neither had the means to establish a university, nor had the clout to obtain a sanction from the government. He was also not in a position to sell the idea to zamindars and ruling chiefs.”

Gujarat growth rate story busted: Cultivators' net earning less than national average, say NSSO data

By Our Representative
In an important revelation, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), India's most authoritative data collection centre amidst decadal censuses, has said that Gujarat farmers' net income from cultivation is lower than 11 other major states out of a total of 21. The figures, released this month, say, the average net income per household from cultivation was Rs 2,933 per month during the agricultural year July 2012 to June 2013, which was not just drastically lower than some of the agriculturally advanced states like Punjab and Haryana, but also so-called backward states Assam, Chhattigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Top saffron ideologue says Modi helpless, cannot control "autonomous" extreme Hindu groups' ghar vapsi

By Our Representative
Top Narendra Modi man Swapan Dasgupta, long known a powerful right-wing ideologue, has asked the BJP and the Modi government to “discover” effective ways of dealing with what he terms as “Hindu fringe” within the saffron family, but believes it may not be an easy task as they act independently of Modi and RSS. Taking strong exception to the way Hindu Mahasabha, a mere “letterhead that can be used or misused by anyone”, has been behaving, Dasgupta in a significant commentary has said that it was an “outrageous demand by one of its more obscure functionaries to install a bust of Nathuram Godse”.

Slum demolition in Vadodara: Gujarat's cultural capital "fails" Right to Education law for displaced children

Counterview Desk
A recent survey of 118 families, who were “shifted” to Yamuna Mill Pratap Nagar area of Gujarat's cultural capital, Vadodara, after their houses were razed to the ground as part of the city's biggest slum clearance operation, has revealed how the devastation has adversely affected school going children. More than 2,000 slum houses, mainly belonging to Muslim and Dalit communities, were bulldozed in the operation, which took place in the third week of November. While about one third of those whose houses were shifted to alternative housing sites under construction more than 10 kilometres away, others began found solace with their relatives or are just living by the roadside even today, braving winter.

Gujarat recipe to acquire land cheap for industry: Town planning law "overrides" new land acquisition Act

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government is all set to make it official now. A top state document in Gujarati, prepared by the state revenue department, has made it clear that the new land acquisition law – the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR, 2013) – will not be application in areas where a town planning scheme is floated. The document, still in its draft form, and floated as "rules" for LARR Act, 2013, makes it clear, “Wherever a town planning scheme is finalised, there will not be any land acquisition under any other law.”

Father of Assam's floating boats advises Gujarat activists not to accept govt interference in day-to-day work

By Our Representative
Sanjoy Hazarika, brain behind “floating clinics” of Assam, has advised Gujarat-based non-government organizations (NGOs) not to accept any government interference while working for the welfare of the people. Answering a flurry of questions from top Gujarat NGO representatives on “success” of his experiment and relations with Assam government, Hazarika, who currently runs as many as 16 boat clinics in Brahmaputra river in a dozen districts in order to reach farthest of the areas, said, “When the state health minister offered support, my condition was, we would accept government funds only one condition: No interference in our work.”

Recalling his role in 2002 riots, Economist says Modi is follower of Savarkar, an "immensely divisive" figure

By Our Representative
In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a gap of about six months, top British journal, The Economist’s latest issue (December 20) has once again reminded its readers that Modi remains a controversial leader for his “failure” in 2002, when as chief minister of Gujarat, he failed to “avert a massacre of Muslims.” Insisting that the hostility is born of the ideology that militant freedom fighter Vinayak Savarkar "spawned”, the influential British journal says, Modi “has never apologised for the massacre.” Taking a dig at Modi, the journal recalls how he sought to “regret” the riots once – telling a news agency interviewer that he is as sorry for the killings as he is while “seeing a puppy run over in the street”.

The clever ploy of conversion: Hunting with the hound and running with the hare

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
No one can deny that Narendra Modi is very adept with ‘hunting with the hound and running with the hare’ - the latest being the ‘bogey of conversion’ which is raising plenty of heat and kicking plenty of dust all over. A clever ploy indeed!
A peep at some of the actions and utterances done in very strategic ways will provide one with an inkling of their meticulous plans to defocus from the real issues which grip the country and simultaneously target the minorities through systematic denigration.

Kundu committee asks Modi govt to extend reservation to backward Muslims, help them through Jan Dhan

By Rajiv Shah
In a significant recommendation, the Amitabh Kundu committee, which submitted its “final report” on the status of minorities in India to the Narendra Modi government in early October, wants that the recently launched Jan Dhan scheme should go a long way in helping financial exclusion of the minorities. Even as risking of being dubbed for “appeasing minorities”, it wants the programmes launched by the previous UPA government for minorities to be further intensified, going so far to ask the Modi government to extend reservation to the most backward sections of Muslims, identifying them as “Dalit Muslims.”

Mysterious death of Gujarat woman tribal cop: Top activist alleges effort to push the case under the carpet

By Our Representative
Senior Gujarat human rights activist Manjula Pradeep has alleged that frantic efforts are underway to ensure that those responsible for the mysterious death of Vasanti Amarsinh Vasava, 28-years-old tribal woman police constable between November 24 and 26 in South Gujarat go scot-free. In a statement, Pradeep, who heads NGO Navsarjan Trust and was the chief campaigner for the arrest of the main accused in the mysterious death of Vasava, said, “It seems that caste factor is ruling in the Gujarat police department”, and hence one is “not sure that the family members of the deceased tribal woman constable would be able to get any justice.”

Chunibhai Vaidya, veteran Sarvodaya leader and a known critic of Modi-style governance, passes away

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s most well-known Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya passed away on Friday at his residence in Gandhi Ashram premises in Ahmedabad. Born on September 2, 1918 in a small village in Patan district of North Gujarat, Sander, he lived in Gandhi Ashram during the later days of his life. A freedom fighter and variously described as an "old-style" Sarvodaya activist, who participated in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement asking landlords to “selflessly” give away land to the tiller, Vaidya was one of the foremost supporters of Jay Prakash Narayan’s total revolution and was opposed the Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi government.

Corporate fraud: 87% Indian CEOs warn of uncertainty amidst Modi's clean governance "promise"

By Our Representative
A top international consulting firm, Deloitte, involved in “a multi-skilled, multi-disciplined firm, offering clients a wide range of industry-focused business solutions”, has warned of sharp rise in fraud cases over the coming years. Suggesting that, with the rise of new business models backed by new technology, fraud has spawned new variants, a Deloitte report, “India Fraud Survey”, has said, around 56 per cent of 400-odd survey respondents, all of them chief executive officers from across India, believe that “fraud will continue to increase” in the two years, and another 31 per cent said they were “uncertain” about what may happen.

Corporate social responsibility: Behind diamond tycoon Savji Dholakia's success when top honchos failed

By Satyakam Mehta
Meet Savjibhai Dholakia, son of a humble agriculturist from Amreli district of Saurashtra region of Gujarat, now heading an industrial trading empire worth Rs 6,000 crore. At a time when top Indian industry captains are still trying to work out modalities of corporate social responsibility (CSR), seeking consultants' and NGOs' "help" for a job which they think has thrust upon them by law, Dholakia has done it without perhaps having heard about it: He has “gifted” his 1,200 employees cars, houses and jewellery to their wives as Diwali bonus!

Demand for rights of non-tribal forest dwellers in Indian forests picks up: Memorandum submitted in Odisha

By Our Representative
The demand for recognition of forest rights, as per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, is starting to take a new turn in India’s tribal important tribal regions: Apart from the need to ensure tribals their rights over the forest land, human rights organizations have begun to increasingly insist on the need to recognize the rights of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) by “converting” forest and unsurveyed villages into revenue villages. This came to light in a list of demands put forward by Odisha rights bodies on the world human rights day, December 10. In a memorandum it prepared for submission to government officials also put forward several other demands which pertained both for tribal and non-tribal dwellers.

Water supply privatization: Madhya Pradesh govt forced to step back ahead of local polls; but doubts exist

By Our Representative In a clear example of why privatisation of a basic service such as water supply is not an easy option, the Madhya Pradesh government has been forced to take a step backward from its ambitious plan to privatize water supply in different towns and cities of the state, with a top NGO claiming credit for the success. The voluntary organization working in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, which has been in the forefront of advocacy against water privatization, has suggested in a statement, things reached a flashpoint only during the municipal elections held in November 2014.

Special apex court bench hears petition against Central decision on Narmada dam; next hearing on Jan 9

By Our Representative
In an important development, the newly-constituted social justice bench of the Supreme Court has heard the powerful anti-dam body, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA’s) petition challenging the decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) in June 2014 to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 17 metres. NBA leader Medha Patkar, calling the NCA decision “unlawful”, in a statement said the constitution of the special social justice bench was a welcome move, adding, “2.5 lakh Narmada dam oustees await justice and guarantee of no submergence without lawful rehabilitation.”

Saffron outfits' religious conversion is very clumsy, crude, says Madhu Kishwar, feminist-turned-Modi 'bhakt'

By Our Representative
Prominent feminist-turned-Modi 'bhakt', who showed clear signs of getting disillusioned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi by declaring he is under some sort of “black magic”, Madhu Kishwar has now taken strong exception to the recent RSS-Sangh Parivar move to re-convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Commenting on the so-called “ghar vapsi” move being planned by the Sangh on Christmas, December 25, Kishwar, has sharply attacked Hindu groups for being “very clumsy and crude in conversion drives”.

Revealed: In 1974, LK Advani had accused "Garm Hawa" director MS Sathyu of receiving funds from Pakistan!

By Our Representative
“Garm Hawa”, one of the best known films made on the theme of Partition, was characterized by veteran BJP leader LK Advani way back in 1974 as having been funded by Pakistan. Revealing this on the occasion of the re-release of the film last week, its director MS Sathyu said, how political leaders could be “so irresponsible to make such statements without even seeing the film.” Snapped in the backdrop of travails of a Muslim family caught in the midst of Partition, Sathyu also revealed how Shiv Sena pressured him not to release of the film.

India-Australia N-deal under cloud: Ex-Aussie chief nuclear watchdog "warns" agreement lacks safeguards

By Our Representative
The International Business Times (IBT), Australia, has reported that Australia's uranium deal with India has come under severe scrutiny following warning of a former Aussie chief atomic watchdog that the treaty “did not have all the safeguards necessary to prevent India from fuelling its nuclear bombs." The top business paper said, while the treaties committee of the Australian Parliament was "urged" to endorse the deal signed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, enabling exports of uranium to begin, things seem to be changing now.

Gujarat slum policy in action: No toilet, water, power, ration card, voter ID card to Valmiki slumdwellers

By Our Representative
While Gujarat government put in place what it called a “policy for in-situ rehabilitation of slums situated on public land” through a government resolution (GR) on July 18, 2013, latest indications from Ahmedabad reveal that it remains on paper for large sections of slum-dwellers for one-and-a-half years after it was promulgated by the state urban development department. In a glaring instance, as many as 69 Valmiki Dalit households, living in makeshift accommodations for nearly 15 years in the midst of posh Jodhpur area of western Ahmedabad, have been threatened that either they clear the area, or they would forcibly removed, the cost of which would be charged from them.

Narmada project's heavy toll: Canal network breached at 22 spots; shoddy release destroys 450 salt cultivators

By Our Representative
Livelihood of as many as 450 salt-cultivating farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch has been gravely hampered following a “roughshod decision” of Gujarat government officials to release water from Narmada canal --more than its carrying capacity, leading to major breaches -- into Banas river in North Gujarat. Well-informed sources have told Counterview, the the salt cultivating fields got “totally destroyed”, their diesel pumps used for sucking out saline water from underground got “burned-out”, and the temporary shelters they had put up to look after the farms “simply fell apart”, as Narmada waters entered the Little Rann.

Gujarat coal power plants highest polluters of deadliest particulate matter compared to all Indian states

By Rajiv Shah
While Gujarat may have topped Indian states in regularizing power supply to urban and rural areas, data released by a new report, “Coal Kills: Health Impacts of Air Pollution from India’s Coal Power Expansion” suggest this may have led to unprecedented health hazard in the state. The report has found that as of 2014 Gujarat’s coal-fired power plants, with a capacity of 15,900 MW, are emitting in air highest quantity of the deadliest PM2.5, the most dangerous particulate matter (PM), compared to all other state. PM2.5 is known to get absorbed deep in the lungs, causing “aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, lung cancer, cardiac problems, and premature death.”

SBI loan to Adanis: Sharp rise in non-performing debts of public sector banks "pulling down" India's growth rate

By Our Representative
Even as the State Bank of India has said that it would take a final call for the “controversial” decision on Rs 6,200 crore (USD 1 billion) loan to Adani Group in the next couple of months or so in order to fund its costly Australian mining project, already rejected by several of the banks abroad, the prestigious British weekly “Economist”(December 6) has pointed towards how the non-performing debts of India’s powerful public sector banks have risen to disturbing proportions, and may hit India’s overall growth rate.

BJP poster in Jammu & Kashmir polls goes viral on social media: "Colours" lotus in white, BJP in green

By Our Representative
Social media is agog with a BJP poster in which the party's symbol, lotus, is in white and name of the party has been written in green. Says Himanshu Trivedi, who first put the poster on the Facebook, "Proof of the pudding is in its eating -- see the poster with white lotus, BJP written in green ... these people can sell 'whatever' to garner votes under false pretext." Points out Vistasp Hodiwala,"The party symbol goes from saffron to white. The name stands out on a glorious green background. This ingenuous customisation of the party is ostensibly to win the elections in J&K." And observes Sanjeev Bhatt, suspended from services by Gujarat government by refusing to favour Narendra Modi's line on 2002 Gujarat riots: "Truly, have these guys decided at all on the upper limit for political shamelessness? Is there any code they abide by? For I see no evidence of this in their breathless shenanigans every single day."

Tribal woman cop's death: How Gujarat police sought to interpret clear case of sexual abuse as suicide

By Our Representative
The Nirbhaya case helped bring incidents of violence against women sharply into focus, but large number of women activists are starting to wonder why, if the victim is from a vulnerable community, she rarely draws attention. The death of a lady tribal police constable from Rajpipla in Gujarat Vasanti Vasava on November 24 under mysterious circumstances is being cited as an example which should have drawn as attention on lines with UP's Badaun gang rape of May 2014. There is little knowledge in general public about this gruesome incident, even in Gujarat. In in Rajpipla, a small town in South Gujarat in tribal dominated district, Narmada, things changed only after the Gujarat Women Rights Council, a recently floated group by a well-known Dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad, Manjula Pradeep, took up the death of Vasanti as a case of sexual assault and murder when the police was frantically trying to project it as a “simple case of suicide”.

Don't play around with land acquisition Act passed by UPA: Gujarat's people's organisations to state government

By Our Representative
Several people's organisations of Gujarat have asked the Gujarat government to begin public discussion while drafting rules of the new Land Acquisition Act 2013, instead of confining the effort to draft it by a small section. Pointing out that after “many efforts and long deliberations” the previous UPA government passed the Right to Fair Compensation & Transparency in Land Acquisition & Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013 to rectify the past wrongs to farmers, in a statement they have expressed the fear that Act may not be implemented in Gujarat at all.

'Vibrant' Ahmedabad?: Survey shows 78% slumdwellers are without toilet, forcing people to defecate in open

By Rajiv Shah
A recent survey of Ahmedabad’s two slum settlement colonies, Shankarbhuvan and Nagorivad, both of them situated in the old city area, go a long way to expose the loud claims of “clean" or "swachh" Gujarat by the state’s powerful authorities. Carried out by two non-government organizations (NGOs), Manav Garima and Human Development and Research Centre, the survey suggests that in the two slum settlements surveyed, out of a total of 1,447 households, 63 per cent of households (916) do not have toilets.

Crowdfunding, a way to earn fast buck on the net, catches up among IT savvy Gujarati middle class youth

By Satyakam Mehta
Crowdfunding, an internet-based practice of collecting money for small projects or ventures by raising small amounts from large number of individuals, is picking up as a craze in Gujarat’s penny-wise IT savvy youngsters. While many consider it as a way to earn a fast buck, one just needs to upload a project idea on a crowdfunding website, explain its concept, specify the funding you require, and just wait for individuals to transfer money to your bank account.

Gujarat IPS officers involved in fake encounter released to "weaken" the prosecution: State government insiders

By Satyakam Mehta
Well-informed sources in the Gujarat government have told Counterview that “all-out efforts are on” to ensure that cops involved in the fake encounter cases are released on bail one after another. The reason, said the sources, is that they could be “quite effective” in helping “influence” and “work through” the prosecution to ensure that the cases begin losing its importance and fall through. A senior official requesting anonymity, said, “No stone is being left unturned to see to it that the the cases become weak.” He added, if so far three officers have been free – with two of them having been given plum posts – days are not far off when “others may follow suit.”

Flip side of Gujarat's cultural capital: Ousted slumdwellers "pushed" to spot where there's no power, water, food

By Our Representative
Following one of the biggest demolition drives in Gujarat's cultural capital, Vadodara (click HERE to read), some of the displaced slumdwellers of Kalyannagar were moved to a rehabilitation colony in Maneja, about 10 kilometres away, in the outskirts of the city. Ashok Gupta, a concerned Vadodara citizen, was in Maneja on November 28, nearly a week after the demolition drive, and this is what he wrote in a Facebook post: "Displaced from Kalyannagar to Maneja, where they are without electricity, water, food... Their only fault is that they are poor and there is no media, no leader to support them. Citizens of Vadodara give them food, medicines, came to teach their kids. They live in subhuman conditions with uncertain future."

Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra oustees protest Narmada dam at Indore, prepare to leave for Delhi

By Our Representative
Representatives of the Sardar Sarovar dam affected from three states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – thronged the streets of Indore in Madhya Pradesh as part of their six-days yatra to “challenge” the “unlawful” decision of the BJP-led government in Delhi to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by 17 meters. Saying that the Government of India decision “would lead to a watery grave of 45,000 families”, the anti-dam organisation Narmada Bachao Andolan's (NBA's) statement said, adding, “The oustees questioned the false claims of rehabilitation.”

"Take away" gram sabhas' rights in diverting forest land for irrigation, gas pipeline, transmission line projects

By Our Representative
Over and above seeking to solicit "utmost complete faith" in the corporate sector in providing environmental clearance, the Report of the High Level Committee on Forest and Environment Related Laws, formed by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), has asked the Government of India to scale down the role of the gram sabhas in diverting forest land. Released last week, the report, whose copy is with Counterview, says that the “provisions of forest rights Act (FRA), which make it mandatory to seek the approval of gram sabha, should be amended.”

Government of India ready to "reconsider" inter-linking of rivers project if it is environmentally harmful

By Our Representative
Is the Government of India reconsidering its plans for interlinking of rivers? A top non-profit organization – quoting Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti – has said that this may well happen, in case the senior minister sticks to what she said on the last day of the India Rivers Week 2014, November 27. “Government will not proceed with interlinking of rivers if environmental consequences are adverse”, Bharti was quoted as saying. “if we want to save our rivers, the first step is to ensure that no untreated effluent or sewage is mixed with treated water and finds its way into our rivers.”

Indian economic 'slowdown': Big bang reforms fail to take off, Modi magic protagonists should 'rethink' now

By Our Representative
With the Indian economy officially slowing down to 5.3 percent (though experts calculated it earlier at 5.1 percent) during July-September 2014, from 5.7 per cent in the previous quarter, and credit growth hitting a 13-month low in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise to oversee a revival when he swept to power in May is beginning to be questioned. One of the most influential American dailies, "The Wall Street Journal" has said, with India’s economic growth decelerating, doubts have surfaced "about how quickly the country’s new government can deliver on pledges to end a nearly three-year slump and transform the world’s second-most-populous nation into a manufacturing powerhouse."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott "follows" Modi: Accused of buying up Facebook likes in India

By Our Representative
Australian prime minster Tony Abbott is under attack for “following” Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and for strange reasons. He has been accused of springing a surprise by “buying Facebook likes in India”, like Modi has been doing. SmartCompany, which calls itself a “completely free news, information and resource site for Australia's entrepreneurs”, with contributors including Australia's top entrepreneurs, experts and advisers, has reported that a surge in "likes"on Abbott's Facebook page driven by new fans living in India has “prompted social media users to question his newfound popularity.”

Environmental clearance?: Rely on corporate houses' "utmost good faith", Government of India told

By Our Representative
In an important move, the high-powered committee, headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, appointed by the Government of India in order to “review” current environmental laws, has sought to recommend that only those protected areas and forests which have more than 70 per cent canopy would not be disturbed for setting up a project. Taking strong exception to this, environmental activists in a note under circulation says, this is “a problem”, as it means the committee has “excluded wildlife corridors, non-forest habitat types of conservation significance, wetlands, coastal areas and buffer zones.”

Gujarat slum policy in action: 2,000 Muslim, Dalit slum houses razed ahead of crucial High Court hearing

By Our Representative
In one of the most aggressive demotion drives undertaken in the recent past in the name of riverfront development, more than 2,000 houses of slum-dwellers, who were living in Kalyan Nagar area of Vadodara for nearly four decades, have been razed to the ground. According to local people, whose houses were demolished, they were not served individual notices ahead of the demolition. A senior activist from Ahmedabad, who had gone to Vadodara for spot inspection, told Counterview that the only “notice” that was served to them was through a newspaper several weeks ago. Ironically, Vadodara is known as the cultural capital of Gujarat.

Gujarat's lag in higher education is intact, suggest data in new report sponsored by Centre, top industry body

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh report on the status of higher education in India has suggested that, despite a sharp increase in the number of universities and colleges in the recent past, the Gujarat government continues to perform poorly as compared to many other states in ensuring quality education to college-going children. Titled “Annual Status of Higher Education of States and Union Territories in India, 2014”, and sponsored jointly by the Union ministry of human resources and the top industry body, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the report finds that Gujarat government’s per capita spending on higher education (Rs 2,958) is less than nine major Indian states out of 20.

Citing CAG, budget analyst says, Gujarat govt figures on dropout, enrollment in primary schools are "false"

By Our Representative
Contradicting Gujarat government claims – as reflected in a Government of India book, “Elementary Education in India”, of June 2014 – that dropout rate of lower primary schools went down from 2.99 per cent in 2010-11 to 0.74 per cent in 2012-13, latest report of India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) suggests that the dropout rate was, actually, 19.48 per cent in 2013. CAG confines itself to analysing enrollment in government schools over the years, even as surveying as many as 300 schools to identify infrastructure reasons behind poor enrollment.

CRY survey: Implementation of right to education in Gujarat is "still elusive", reality is "grimmer"

By Our Representative
A just-finalized survey sponsored by high-profile NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), in alliance with Buniyadi Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (BAAG), carried out in 243 schools of 17 districts, has found that assertions made by the state government about cent per cent success in implementing right to education (RTE) are false. CRY has said in a report based on the survey, “An analysis reveals that implementation of RTE in Gujarat is still elusive, and in many parameters government’s claim of 100 per cent achievement is debatable… Findings are indicative that reality may be grimmer.”

BJP, Congress politicians got together to deprive farmers of land in Gujarat for constructing Junagadh bypass

By Our Representative
Four years after farmers’ prolonged protests broke out against efforts to divert 177 hectares (ha) of land for the construction of 20-km six-lane national highway as bypass to Junagadh city of Saurashtra in Gujarat, a fact-finding team of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has alleged political conspiracy being hatched while going ahead with efforts to take away parts of farmers’ fertile agricultural for the project. Talking with newspersons, PUCL general secretary Gautam Thakar said, “We found that these politicians, mainly from the BJP, and supported by the UPA government in Delhi, did not want their land to be acquired for the previously planned bypass, which was to be just seven-km long.”