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Showing posts from February, 2014

Food security: Names of 81% of undernourished children "missing" from ration cards in progressive Gujarat

Counterview Desk
In severest-ever indictment of the the implementation of the right to food dictum in “progressive Gujarat”, a new survey, carried out by the Anna Suraksha Abhikar Abhiyaan (ASAA), a consortium of 18 NGOs focused on right to food, has found that over 81% of severely undernourished and 73.5% of moderately undernourished children of Gujarat do not have their names on their families’ ration cards. “This failure results in both the family and the child being unable to avail of their full entitlements of grain”, a report, based on the survey, whose results were released in Ahmedabad, said. In all, as many as 2,230 children were surveyed across the state.

Fourth victim of deadly silicosis in 2014 fails to wake up Gujarat officialdom to pay up compensation

By Our Representative
Poonabhai Ramabhai Parmar, 59, has become the fourth victim of the deadly silicosis disease -- which is rampant in and around Khambhat town of Central Gujarat -- this year. Parmar breathed his last on February 25 night. Large number of locals joined his funeral on February 26 morning. Informing about his death, Jagdish Patel, senior social activist of the state-based NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, said, “Parmar worked in a textile mill in Khambhat till 1994, and when mill was closed he turned to agate polishing. He was diagnosed of silicosis at Sri Krishna Hospital, Karamsad, in December 2012. He was bedridden for the few months.”

UK members of Parliament agree to an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons "to bring Modi to justice"

By Our Representative
The Awaaz Network and Monitoring Group of the United Kingdom organized a controversial meeting at UK Parliament urging parliamentarians to “bring Modi to justice.” A statement issued following the meeting said, among those who agreed with this view "included" members of Parliament John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) and Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North). This apart, the meeting received messages from British barrister and human rights campaigner and Mike Wood, MP for Balley.

New pressure on Gujarat's Adani group coalmining contract in Australia: Two cos in project area withdraw

By Our Representative
Pressure on Gujarat’s powerful Adani Group -- which is contracted along with few other top international companies to develop one of world’s biggest coalmines in Queensland province of Australia -- does not seem to be abating. Following well-known environmental group Greenpeace’s campaign against coalmining in the region, at least two companies have withdrawn from the Abbot Point coal port. The latest to withdraw is Lend Lease, world’s leading fully integrated property and infrastructure solutions company.

Failure to explain environmental compliance off Narmada: Green tribunal's fresh concession to Gujarat govt

By Our Representative
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s powerful quasi-judicial environmental watchdog, has agreed to a Gujarat government plea for “more time” to replay to the case filed by senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati demanding immediate stay on the construction of Garudeshwar weir, which he has alleged is being constructed without complying with the environmental protection Act, 1985, not to talk of going into formalities such as taking a nod of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA). The weir is proposed as part of the effort to turn downstream areas of Narmada dam into a tourism spot, even as providing water to industries in the belt around Ankaleshwar and Bharuch.

Opposing top Hindutva votary Zadaphia's move to join BJP, ex-Gujarat CM Suresh Mehta inches closer to AAP

By Our Representative
As a step to move closer to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta has declared that he will not side with one of Gujarat’s topmost Hindutva votaries, Gordhan Zadaphia, who has decided to rejoin the Bharatiya Janata Party a little over a year after he became part of the Sangh Parivar rebels to form the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP). Perhaps the most important benefactors of Vishwa Hindu Hindu Parishad’s leader and Hindutva extremist Pravin Togadia, and state home minister during the 2002 riots, Zadaphia till now had been critical of Gujarat chief minister as a “fake Hindutva leader.”

Attack on Wendy's book on Hinduism suggests "casualness of attacks on the arts in India": Rushdie

By Our Representative
The author of “The Satanic Verses”, banned in India just nine days after it was published on September 26, 1988, for alleged blasphemy under pressure from extremist Islamic groups, has taken strong exception to Penguin India’s decision to withdraw "The Hindus: An Alternative History" from market, this time under pressure from Hindu bigots. Coming down heavily against the Penguin decision, Emory University Distinguished Professor Salman Rushdie has said that he fears for the “future of Indian literary freedom in the wake of the controversy over the recall and destruction of a book on Hinduism by an American scholar.”

Known for impeccable reputation, Gujarat IAS babu SR Rao may join AAP, fight Lok Sabha polls from Surat

By Rajiv Shah SR Rao, the 1978 batch Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat who retired from the service in January 2014, is being considered as the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) Lok Sabha poll candidate from Surat, where he shot into prominence after boldly cleaning the city of plague in mid-1990s. Known for his impeccable reputation, Rao once again gained confidence of the people of the South Gujarat city after he fought to clean up the city, engulfed in its worst-ever flood in 2006.

'Persona non grata' for Gujarat, neighbouring MP govt to take Medha Patkar's advice on Narmada canals

By Our Representative Gujarat may have refused to deal with Medha Patkar, well-known social activist and head of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), calling her “anti-Narmada” for her long-time opposition to the Narmada dam, on one hand, even as favouring the tribal oustees. So much so that she was treated as “persona non grata” the last over two decades. However, in a major breakthrough to her, the neighbourng BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has been forced to deal with her over contentious issues related two other big dams built on Narmda river – Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar.

Part of RSS strategy? Modi "offers" rebel leader Gordhan Zadaphia to fight Bhavnagar Lok Sabha seat for BJP

By Our Representative
Is Rashtriya Swayam Sangh (RSS) making desperate, all-out attempt to ensure that its leaders, including RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, are not implicated in the terrorist attack on Samjhauta Express, which took place on February 18, 2007? Being severally quoted as a glaring example of “saffron terror”, in which 68 persons were killed, a top BJP insider has told Counterview that RSS suspects a “file is pending” in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs which links the blast to some of the top RSS men. “Following the revelation that the UPA government may move to implicate RSS men, Bhagwat and others want to do everything in their capacity to remove Congress from power”, the insider said.

Attach property of Rajkot solid waste contractors if they don't pay up Rs 25 lakh to affected farmers: NGT

By Our Representative
India’s powerful quasi-judicial environmental watchdog, National Green Tribunal (NTG), in its order on February 14, has asked the Rajkot Municipal Corporation’s (RMC’s) sold waste management site contractors, Hanjer Biotech Energy, to pay up Rs 25 lakh to the affected farmers without any delay, adding, if the contractors refuse to comply within 15 days, the district collector, Rajkot, should intervene and attach their properties and recover the dues. The order has come as a big boon to the farmers, who had complained that their fields had got damaged as a result of the contractors’ failure to comply by environmental norms.

Gujarat has nearly 4.2 lakh child workers, one of the highest in India, up from 3.9 lakh in 2004-05

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information, calculated on the basis of the worker-population ratio (WPR) provided by the top statistical collection body of the Government of India, National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), has revealed that Gujarat has nearly 4.2 lakh child workers – 3.18 lakh in the rural areas and a little above 1 lakh in the urban areas. The calculation is based on the NSSO’s revelation in its latest report, “Employment and Unemployment Situation in India, 2011-12”, released in January 2014. It points towards the fact that Gujarat has 2.2 per cent child workers in the urban areas and 4.3 per cent child workers in the rural areas in the age-group 5-14, which happens to be one of the highest in India.

Shift focus from "overprotected" organised sector workers to unorganised labour: Top rights activist

By Our Representative
A well-attended seminar organised by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Ahmedabad, in association with the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, a national advocacy group campaigning to include social justice issues in political parties' electoral agenda, has reached the conclusion that there is an urgent need to campaign for building a mechanism to ensure that the existing legal provisions of social protection are implemented, and the focus should be on the unorganized sector. “Several laws guaranteeing people’s needs exist, but they are rarely implemented”, CSJ director Gagan Sethi, a human rights activist summed up the main sentiment.

Narendra Modi "stole" Chai pe charcha concept from Anhad, claims senior activist Shabnam Hashmi

By Our Representative
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's "Chai pe charcha", which began in Gujarat towns on February 12 evening, has made national headlines. It seeks to counter Congress propaganda, which had sought, at one point, to ridicule that Modi, during his youth, worked as a boy selling tea at a tea stall.

Vibrant Gujarat?: Traditional handicrafts village of Kutch under threat from proposed steel plant

By Our Representative
The people of around ten villages surrounding Dhamadka, Anjar taluka, district Kutch, are angry. They are protesting against the proposed steel project, which their leaders believe will mean threat to their livelihood. Reverberations of the protests were first heard during the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) public hearing organized at the village on February 4, 2014. “The gathered villagers were of the opinion that they are already facing a resource scarcity in terms of water and land, and the upcoming expansion of the plant with huge production capacity will destroy their meagre resources”, said Ajitsinh Jadeja, sarpanch, Dhamadka group panchayat.

People not given necessary documents, environmental hearing for Vadodara-Mumbai expressway "illegal"

By Our Representative
Raising strong objection to the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) proposed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in five Gujarat districts -- Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch and Vadodara -- to be held between February 18 and 28 for constructing the Express Highway between Vadodara and Mumbai, senior Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) activist Krishnakant has said in a letter to M Veeerappa Moily, Union minister for forests and environment, that it is being carried out in violation of the basic norms of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

Official indifference: National SC Commission's Gujarat office is non-functional; 3,500 cases are pending

By Our Representative
Why is the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSCs) unable to function normally in Gujarat to inquire into different human rights issues involving Dalits? If NCSC officials are to be believed, it is because it does not have “adequate staff”, or “basic infrastructure”, or even a car, or, worse, a “proper office to function from”. All this and more has come to light in a Right to Information (RTI) reply to NGO Navsarjan Trust’s senior activist Kirit Rathod. The reply revealed, as a result of all this, more than 3,500 complaints has been pending before the NCSC for the last several years.

Gujarat govt's refusal for farmers' rally against Dholera SIR: JAAG: farmers court arrest

By Our Representative
About 1,000 persons from 22 villages, mainly leaders and farmers, gathered on February 9 to publicly register their opposition to the Dholera special investment region (SIR), reiterating their demand for Narmada water for irrigation. Around 100 people under the leadership of Jameen Adhikar Andolar Gujarat (JAAG), which included leaders Pradyumansinh Chudasma, Rajbha Chudasma, Indukumar Jani, Sagar Rabari, Lalji Desai, and many others, were arrested and and taken to the police station, but later let off. JAAG claimed this was an attempt to curb dissent in Gujarat, which has been continuing for the last several years now.

Impact of Vibrant Gujarat business summits: A 225 per cent rise in most pollution industries in five years

By Rajiv Shah
A top Gujarat government insider has disclosed to Counterview that biennial Vibrant Gujarat business summits, sponsored by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, has mainly attracted industries which are in the “most polluted” category. Quoting sources in the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), the state government’s official anti-pollution watchdog, the insider has revealed there has been a massive around 2.5 times rise in “highly polluting” category between 2007 and 2012.

Does Gujarat government believe tribals are not Hindus? A recent official order seeks to say exactly this

By Our Representative
If you are a Hindu, you are not a tribal, or vice versa. This is the gist of a recent order, issued by the Gujarat government, which “denotified” the Rathvas as a tribe “ostensibly because their school records show them to be Hindus”. The little-known fact has failed to attract any attention beyond the tribal belt of newly-formed Chhota Udepur district of South Gujarat, says a recent report in a top research journal (click HERE) by Arjun Rathva, a tribal activist, in association with two Central University of Gujarat scholars – Dhananjan Ray and N Rajaram.

Morgan Stanley "negative" report: Aussie environmentalists say Adanis put on hold $10 billion coal project

By Our Representative
Is Gujarat’s powerful Adani Group thinking of withdrawing from one of its most ambitious international ventures in Australia, the $10 billion Carmichael coal mining project in Queensland, following opposition from the top environmental group Greenpeace? Citing “Hunkering Down; Waiting for Resolution on Adani Power”, a report prepared by investment banker Morgan Stanley, well-informed sources in Australia are learnt to have reached the conclusion that this may well happen sooner rather than later. The Morgan Stanley report specifically says, “While the company expects the environmental clearance to come through in F2H14, it does not plan to spend money on developing the mine until coal prices rise from current levels” (click HERE to download the full report).

Gujarat's "total debts" reach to Rs 1.85 lakh crore, a rise of nearly 13 per cent in a year: Sustainable?

Counterview Desk
Gujarat’s total debts are set to touch Rs 1.85 lakh crore by March-end 2014, highest ever. The latest “State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2013-14”, released last month end, has said that the state’s total debts – which include internal debt taken from the market and other funding sources as also different types of liabilities – has said that the state’s total debts would rise by about Rs 21,000 crore in a year, from Rs 1.64 lakh crore last year as of March 2013. A rise of 12.87 per cent in a year, this is the highest increase in the debts in the last three years.

Underplaying poverty: Gujarat govt thinks earning less than Rs 325 in rural, Rs 501 in urban areas is BPL

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government believes that people with a per capita monthly income of less than Rs 324 in the rural areas and Rs 501 in the urban areas should be treated as “below poverty line” or BPL. The BPL “definition” has been given in the state government website of the food and civil supplies department. Fixing the information in Gujarati, the website (click HERE to see) adds, under this definition, as many as 24.3 lakh families of Gujarat are below the official poverty line, as against 13.1 lakh BPL families identifies by the Government of India. It adds, all these BPL families have the “right” get subsidized food to the tune of 35 kg of foodgrains.

Kejriwal-Modi meeting in 2010: "Reason" behind secularists' lukewarm response towards AAP in Gujarat?

By Rajiv Shah
Does Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal have soft-corner for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi? Though AAP’s unit in Gujarat vehemently denies this, the question is being widely debated among political circles and senior Gujarat activists, who have known Kejriwal ever since he was more of a right to information (RTI) activist about five years ago. The confusion is particularly worst confounded because they are privy to a little-known fact about Kejriwal – he had a two-and-a-half-hour long meeting, which, they recall, took place with Modi in 2010.

Ahmedabad doesn't figure in list of "most attractive cities" in Ernst & Young survey of 502 influential persons

By Our Representative
Latest survey by top international consultants Ernst & Young, “EY’s attractiveness survey: India 2014 – Enabling the prospects”, based on interview with 502 representatives of international and local opinion leaders and decision-makers, has said that 51.2 per cent of the global investors say that Mumbai is the “most attractive” city of India, followed by Bengaluru (37.8 per cent), New Delhi (37.4 per cent), Chennai (14.6 per cent), Pune (13.1 per cent) and Chandigarh (10.7 per cent). Significantly, the EY survey does not find Ahmedabad in the company of these “most attractive cities”.