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Showing posts from January, 2014

Above 1,700 projects remain pending because of failure to form Gujarat environmental clearance body

By Our Representative
A Right to Information (RTI) application, filed by senior activist Kirit Rathod, has revealed that the Gujarat government has refused to form a State-level Environmental Appraisal Committee (SEAC), which is supposed to provide environmental clearance to Category B projects not requiring Government of India nod, for the last six months. The result is, if the reply to the application is any guide, exactly 1,739 projects, most of them of the small entrepreneurs, have remained without being cleared since July 2013, when the former SEAC’s three-year term expired. The SEAC mainly consists of ex-bureaucrats and experts, who look into environmental issues, and examine whether a particular project would require to undergo public hearing or not.

NGO alert: EU report wants caste-based discrimination be included in donors' funding norm

Counterview Desk
In a fresh move that will have a major impact on the way international donors support NGOs in countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the European Union (EU) has suggested that funding agencies should be sensitive to caste-based discrimination issues while disbursing humanitarian aid. A new EU-sponsored report, “Equality in Aid: Addressing Caste Discrimination in Humanitarian Response”, authored by Katherine Nightingale, has advised “international donors” that they should “ensure accountability” of NGOs in addressing “caste-based discrimination in all the programmes they fund, with a particular emphasis on supporting measures to address caste-based discrimination.”

Mangrove forests of Gujarat degraded due to construction of dams upstream, industrialisation: Official site

By Our Representative
A Gujarat government website has said that the state has witnessed “considerable degradation of the mangroves”, and big dams in the upstream are one of the major reasons behind this. The website, http://www.geciczmp.com/, owned by the state forest department’s Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, being implemented by the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), has explained that “reduction in natural regeneration and death of the rich mangroves” has taken place “because of decreased influx of fresh water into the mangrove areas due to construction of dams, both small and big, in upstream areas.”

Following R-Day protest off Narmada, tribal women ensure stoppage of "illegal" work on Garudeshwar weir

By Our Representative
Protest against the construction of the Garudeshwar weir across Narmada river, about 12 kilometres downstream of the Narmada dam, took a new turn on the Republic Day when senior activists of the environmental group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara, and women’s NGO Sahiyar succeeded in convincing the affected villagers about the need to intervene and stop the work which has begun. The result was, following a village-to-village campaign on January 26, on January 27 a team of women from several villages reached Narmada river along the Garudeshwar village and succeeded in ensuring a stop on the ongoing work.

Invitation to Modi for 100 years of Kerala Pulaya Mahajana Sabha would erode great legacy: Senior scholar

By Our Representative
A senior Kerala researcher, Meera Velayudhan, currently working as fellow, Council for Social Development (CSD), Hyderabad, has argued that the recent invitation forwarded to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to address a mass rally in Alwaye in February 2014 to commemorate 100 years of the founding of the Pulaya Mahjana Sabha, Kochi, is “shocking” and “a travesty of history”, because in 1993, the Kerala Pulayar Mahajana Sabha, which was founded in the early part of the 20th century in its fight against casteism, had protested the demotion of the Babri Masjid as “an attack on India’s secular fabric” and called for “protection of religious rights and harmony”.

Opposition to weir on Narmada picks up: Green tribunal issues notice, villagers to stage protest on R-Day

By Our Representative
The Sitter Gaam Adivasi Sanghathan (SGAS), an organization of 70 villages formed to oppose the proposed Garudeshwar weir being constructed 12 km downstream of the Narmada dam for promoting tourism, has decided to hold a protest rally on the Republic Day at Indravarna, one of the villages to be affected, saying, the rally will start immediately after flag-hoisting ceremony. In a statement, SGAS has said, the weir is being constructed in violation of the state environmental laws, and construction of the weir be immediately stopped.

Anti-Modi campaigner alleges funds meant for cultural ties with NRIs being misused to "propagate" Gujarat

By Our Representative
A senior human rights campaigner has alleged that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is misusing Gujarat government’s NRI funds to “export” ministers, police officers, IAS bureaucrats and senior government functionaries to other Indian states in order to “propagate” Gujarat’s progress. Well-known anti-Modi crusader Shabman Hashmi, in association with several Gujarat-based activists Mahesh Pandya, Hemant Shah, Manan Trivedi and Gautam Thakker, said this while releasing documents which state that the government's NRI funds, meant to establish cultural ties with non-resident Gujaratis living abroad, are being illegitimately used for Modi poll propaganda.

Aam Aadmi Party fever catches up with NRI supporter of Modi, imitates AAP for his "corporate" campaign

By Our Representative
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) virus appears to have taken over, among others, non-resident Indian lobbyists for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the US. California-based Mahesh Patel, who introduced himself as chairman of the Indo-American Farmers’ Coalition (IAFC), who met Modi a few days back at a farmers’ event in Gujarat, wore a cap similar to the one put up by AAP all over India while addressing Gujarat mediapersons at Hotel Harriet in Ahmedabad, even as expressing the hope that his efforts to reestablish linkages with Gujarat farmers would begin after meeting Modi in the next couple of days.

After World Bank, Asian Development Bank to Investigate Tata Mundra: Finds "primafacie evidence" of non-compliance with policies

By Our Representative
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is learnt to have decided to investigate its own "policy violations" while financing a 4000 MW mega power plant at Mundra, Gujarat. It is learnt, the Board of Directors of ADB has approved the recommendation of its accountability mechanism, the Compliance Review Panel (CRP), for full investigation, as published in its Eligibility Report.

Gujarat govt plans to take away 50% of land from Dholera SIR farmers, claims it's "not land acquisition"

By Our Representative
There is flutter among farmers of the Dholera special investment region (SIR). Farmers across 22 villages, with a rural populace of around 60,000 in the south of Ahmedabad, have been served notices citing the Gujarat SIR Act, 2009, depriving them of 50 per cent of their land they have been owning it for generations. Ishwarbhai Bhavabhai, who owns 22,663 sq metres of land in Ambli village in Dhandhuka taluka, has been told he has been allocated a different piece of land instead of the one he owns which will be 11,331 sq metres. Bhivabhai Bhawabhai of the same village, who owns 26,912 sq metres of land, has been told he has been similarly allocated 13,456 sq metres of land.

Poor educational standards in Gujarat? It's because private schools are not "encouraged" enough

By Rajiv Shah
Why is Gujarat so “backward” in education? Blame it on government schools, and promote private schools. This is the new mission sought to be put forward by one of the most high profile education advocacy groups, Pratham, which has stolen the limelight all over India for its work with policy makers for the last about eight years. This, apparently, is the only reason why, it indicates (but does not say so directly referring to the state), that Gujarat’s educational standards are so poor. And, it seems to believe, it is not government schools which can come to the children’s rescue but only a rigorous emphasis on private schools.

Preparing to protest land acquisition for Maruti Suzuki, maldharis of Mandal-Becharaji SIR lathicharged

By Our Representative
The cattle rearing population of Hansalpur village and surnding areas of North Gujarat region, where the state government has handed over 699 acres of land to the Maruti-Suzuki Ltd to set up a new auto manufacturing unit, was restrained from taking out a protest rally from Hansalpur to state capital Gandhinagar. A statement issued by Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) said, when at around 10.00 am, with 500 cows, the maldharis were about to begin their march, “the police resorted to unprovoked and sudden lathicharge”.

Medha Patkar-led NAPM decides to "ally" with AAP, says members are free to join the party

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), apex body of several to civil rights groups across India, has decided in favour of “allying” with the Aam Admi Party (AAP). The decision came at a high-level dialogue between NAPM leaders, led by Narmada Bachao Andolan’s Medha Patkar, with several AAP leader-intellectuals, including Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Ajit Jha. In a statement issued at the end of the deliberations held in Delhi on January 16-17, NAPM said, its individual organizations and members will be free to “intervene into electoral arena” through AAP.

Gujarat farmers' anti-land acquisition organization announces cattle rally to Gandhinagar on Jan 18

By Our Representative
Fresh trouble is starting to brew for the Mandal-Bechraji special investment region (SIR) of North Gujarat, which was scaled down by the Gujarat government recently under pressure of a powerful agitation launched by the farmers under the leadership of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG). The Gujarat government’s refusal to provide alternative land to the farmers who lost their land against the area acquired by it for the Maruti-Suzuki plant in the SIR is all set to blow into a major point of contention between it and JAAG.

Put up boards barring Gujarat officials seeking to enter villages in Dholera SIR area: JAAG to farmers

By Our Representative
The Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), which is seeking to emerge as the apex body of people’s groups wanting to fight against the “anti-farmer” land acquisition policies in dozen-odd special investment regions (SIRs) of Gujarat, has decided to replicate the “successful”, “tried” and “time-tested” actions used against Mandal-Bechraji SIR in North Gujarat elsewhere, too. In a statement issued in Ahmedabad, JAAG said, which forced down the state government to scale down the Mandal-Bechraji SIR’s area from 44 to 36 villages, said, it will agitate against the Dholera SIR, being planned on 900 sq km area in Ahmedabad district off Gulf of Khambhat, in the same intensive way as it did in the North Gujarat SIR.

Gujarat's anti-Modi topcop Sanjiv Bhatt says may not join AAP, wants it to come clean on secularism, Modi

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s topcop Sanjiv Bhatt, who was suspended for taking up cudgels against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, may not join the Aam Admi Party (AAP), which has begun to attract influential sections of civil society in India and Gujarat. Taking part in an internal discussion in Ahmedabad, Bhatt told a senior AAP activist that there is still “no clarity” in AAP’s ideological leanings, especially on issues of secularism and communal riots. “I have yet to hear AAP taking a stance on the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, though they took place after the party was formed. It uttered no word about it during the Delhi elections”, he said.

Boost to Arvind Kejriwal? Top civil rights group NAPM, led by Medha Parkar, announces support to AAP

By Our Representative
In a major boost to the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM), which is the apex body of tens of civil rights organizations of India, has decided to extend support to AAP. In a statement issued in Mumbai, NAPM, which is led by top social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NAPM), said, “A number of attempts by small and large parties and fora to create an alternative to the mainstream politics, creating space for those at margins by the power holders, have played a role in the past. Once again and with a difference, the concern of the masses has led to the formation of AAP, reflecting a need for changing the political cultures and system.”

Narmada dam oustees told: They would be offered land against land, instead of cash, as compensation

By Our Representative
In a major breakthrough for the Narmada oustees of Madhya Pradesh’s Alirajpur district, the state government has agreed to hand over land to them instead of paying compensation in cash to those who lose land because of the Narmada dam, currently stationary at 121.92 metres in Gujarat. The Gujarat government wants the resettlement issue of the Narmada oustees to be solved urgently in order to take the dam's height to the full reservoir level (FRL), 138.64 metres, at the earliest.

Vibrant Gujarat? State industries' net value added slips into the negative for two consecutive years

By Rajiv Shah Gujarat industry’s net value added (NVA), which is calculated by deducting all the depreciation charges – including consumption of fixed capital such as on raw materials, power and other inputs – has suddenly gone into the minus, surprising many an economist. The latest Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) data, put out in the first week of this month, suggest that NVA, which economists consider as “indicating the actual investment potential of a sector of economy”, has gone into the negative for two consecutive years continuously. It was minus (--) 0.64 per cent in 2010-11 and, again, minus (--) 1.72 per cent in 2011-12. The ASI is the principal source of data on various aspects of registered industrial establishments. They are part of the annual exercise by the Government of India’s Central Statistics Office’s industrial statistics wing.

Human Rights Defenders calls for urgent action in favour of Teesta, others facing arrest due to "malicious" FIR

By Our Representative
The Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDAI) has sounded an urgent appeal for action against the Gujarat police registering an FIR against well-known social worker Teesta Setalvad and four other human rights defenders, who are fighting for justice to Gujarat riots victims. Expressing “grave concern” regarding the latest round of “vindictive” actions against human rights defender Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizen's for Justice and Peace (CJP) and others, against whom the Gujarat Police Crime Branch has registered a “false FIR” on “malicious grounds of cheating”, the HRDAI has said, action is particularly needed as they face “the threat of arrest.”

Gujarat govt's "cash for land" format for Narmada oustees boomerangs, protests break out in Alirajpur

By Our Representative
Fresh indications have emerged that the cash-again-land scheme, “worked out” for the Narmada dam oustees of Mahdya Pradesh (MP) as rehabilitation package by Gujarat government a decade ago allegedly to get over the “scarcity of land” problem in MP, has boomeranged. The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of tens of civil rights groups across India, has informed that “hundreds of adivasis and farmers, representing the oustees affected by the Sardar Sarovar and Jobat dam projects in the Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh stormed the office of collector NP Deheria and engaged in a day-long protest, demanding the immediate of 40 adivasis, including six women.”

Dalits again forcibly displaced in Gujarat: Families of a Porbandar village "coerced" to migrate out

By Our Representative
In a fresh incident of forced migration, Dalit families of Bhodadhar village of Ranavav taluka, Porbandar district, were coerced to leave their place of living, following upper caste persons destroying their houses. Bringing the incident to the notice of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is also chairman of the SC-ST monitoring committee of the state government, senior activist of the Navsarjan Trust, Kantilal Parmar, has alleged the house were destroyed with the “malicious intention to force the Dalits out of the village.” He added, “The houses were destroyed with by using JCB machines, and the reason was -- the Dalits had refused to take back their police complaint under the anti-atrocities law.”

Dholera SIR public hearing held "without hearing all sides", was therefore "illegal": Environmentalists

By Our Representative
Two environmental groups, Paryavaran Mitra and Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), have written separate letters to the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the Union environment and forests secretary, respectively, saying that the environmental public hearing (EPH) held for the proposed Dholera special investment region (SIR) at Dholera on January 3, 2014, should be declared null and void, as it violated the Environmental Impact Assessment notification of 2006. The SIR is proposed as a modern industrial township on about 900 sq km land in the south of Ahmedabad city, next to the Gulf of Khambhat.

Gas 'dreams': Failure to get eco-clearance for submarine pipeline costs Gujarat PSU another Rs 760 crore

By Our Representative
Failure to get forest and environmental clearance for laying down Rs 826 crore submarine pipeline to tap the gas found off Andhra Pradesh coast has cost former bluechip public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), dear. Latest information available from an internal note has suggested that the GSPC will have to shell out a total of around another US dollars 123.66 – which comes to around Rs 760 crore – as “standby” or “idle” charges to Punj Lloyd Ltd (PLL), the top multinational contractors who were hired in an international bid, to lay down the submarine pipeline in 2011.

Compliant against us filed with "malafide" intention to undermine justice to Gujarat riot victims: Teesta

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of the Ahmedabad crime branch registering FIR against well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and her colleagues for “breach of trust, cheating and conspiracy” by refusing to convert the Gulbarg society into a riots museum, Setalvad has accused the FIR “a deliberate campaign to vilify the efforts to procure justice for the victims of the carnage of 2002 that has been sustained and supported by vested powerful interests in Gujarat.” The Gulberg society massacre saw murder of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and tens of others who lived in the colony on February 28. In a statement, Setalvad said, the FIR has been filed with “mala fide attempts to embroil us in false cases before the Gujarat police.”

No need for communal violence Bill, amend IPC to make officials criminally responsible: ex-Gujarat DGP

By Our Representative
Former director general of police (DGP) of Gujarat, PGJ Nampoothari, better known as human rights champion, has stirred the hornet’s nest by sounding a different chord from the civil society by declaring that “there is no need” for a separate anti-communal violence Bill, which the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has been contemplating since 2004, and whose draft was made public for discussion in 2011. Known as the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, Nampoothiri believes that, instead of introducing the Bill, all that one needs to do is to “make government officials in charge to be made criminally responsible for failure to control riots.”

Government now considering to use force, allegedly to cow down tribal protests against weir across Narmada

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government, sensing a sharp rise in tribal opposition to the Garudeshwar weir being built across the Narmada river to create a new reservoir 12 kilometres downstream of the Narmada dam, appears all set to clamp down on the protesters. As an early indication, the state administration tried to deploy state reserve police (SRP) jawans, who were brought to village Indravarna, which has become epicentre of protests against the weir. The cops had complete with tents, rifles and other equipment. Brought in contractors’ trucks, the villagers, especially women, protested, forcing the jawans to leave.

Environmental public hearing for Dholera SIR "illegal" as it fails to address issues of climate change, say activists

By Our Representative
In a letter to the Union secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEoF), two senior environmental activists, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara, have said that the environmental public hearing (EPH), on January 3, for the proposed special investment region (SIR) in Dholera region, situated south of Ahmedabad, “is illegal” and “anti-constitutional”, as it has failed to take into account issues of climate change, which will take place two to three decades from now, when the SIR will develop.

World Bank recipe for urban infrastructure: Sell off public land, collect Rs 54,000 crore in Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
The World Bank has advised the Gujarat government to begin raising resources for building urban infrastructure in major cities by selling off public land to private developers. In a recent policy research study, “Inventory of Public Land in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India”, it has said in Ahmedabad alone huge financial resources “could be generated by monetizing public land” to the tune of Rs 54,000 crore which implies per capita availability of fiscal resources amounting to Rs 97,000. This is double the amount estimated by the state government’s High Powered Expert Committee (HPEC) at 2009-10 prices – Rs 43,386 “for the entire range of physical urban infrastructure for the next twenty years”.