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Showing posts from April, 2014

Social activists protest against "violation" of model code of conduct by Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad

By Our Representative
It is not just political parties who strongly protested against Gujarat chief minister for allegedly violating the model code of conduct. Top environmentalist and social activist from Vadodara, Rohit Prajapati, has asked VS Sampath, chief election commissioner, India, to “initiate exemplary action against Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP for “violation” of the model code of conduct of the Election Commission of India in Ahmedabad after casting his vote on April 30, 2014.

Failure of rural job plan? "Pro-Modi" economist finds deep urban-rural differentials in Gujarat, other states

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research work by a well-known pro-Narendra Modi economist, who many say is one of the key contenders for an authoritative posting in the Government of India in case the Gujarat CM becomes India’s next prime minister, has found that while urban Gujarat has seen a sharp rise in worker-population ratio (WPR) compared to any other part of India, the rural counterpart has suffered. Prof Ravindra Dholakia drawn the conclusion in a recent research paper, “Urban – Rural Income Differential in Major States: Contribution of Structural Factors”, co-authored with two Gujarat government officials.

Probe into killing of 3 Dalit youth in 2012 hasn't progressed as cops were sent with Modi to Mumbai, Meerut

By Our Representative
Why could the officials investigating into the death of three Dalit youths on September 22, 2012 in police firing at Thangadh in Surendranagar district in Gujarat fail to go ahead with their job though three and half years have passed following the gruesome incident? If a recent report submitted to Gujarat’s home department by inspector general of police, CID (crime) Anil Pratham is any indication, one of the major reasons behind it has been “lack of staff”, which got busy in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s variegated security concerns!

Gujarat govt unwilling to pay heed to manual scavengers: Only 3 of 101 who died "qualified" as gutter workers

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information gathered by Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust on the basis of a right to information (RTI) plea suggests that a total of 101 persons, mainly belonging to the Valmiki community, died in Gujarat as a result “accidental deaths” while working as safai karmacharis between 2005 and 2014. Out of this, in as many as 46 cases no compensation has been paid so far, while in rest of the 55 cases Rs 58 lakh was paid up. Significantly, the RTI reply suggests, only three of the 55 safai karmacharis who have  are been paid compensation were found to “qualify” themselves as having died while working as gutter workers in manhole.

Despite "serious issues" with Narmada dam safety, Gujarat govt is "indifferent", reveals activist's RTI plea

By Our Representative
Replies to a right to information (RTI) application filed by senior environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar have revealed that the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, found serious issues with the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s safety way back in May 2011, yet till now, “there is still no news that the damage has been repaired, even as the monsoon of 2014 is about six weeks away”. Suggesting this shows how serious the Gujarat government towards the dam’s safety, Thakkar said, “It took Gujarat government 30 months just to organize a dam safety meeting”.

Refusing to make it mandatory, Gujarat government "fails to spend" Rs 10,000 crore meant for Dalits

By Our Representative
Two senior Ahmedabad-based Dalit rights activists – Kirit Rathod of Navsarjan Trust and Vasudev Charupa of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) – have alleged that the Gujarat government has “failed” to spend a whopping Rs 10,008.89 crore since 2001-02 for the welfare of the state’s scheduled caste (SC) population. In a statement, the two said, “We have calculated this on the basis of (1) refusal to budget funds for the Dalits in proportion to the SC population, as required by Planning Commission, and (2) failure to spend even the allocated funds under the SC sub-plan of the budget.”
Gujarat's Dark Island This is a documentary on the so-called Dark Island in the midst of Kaneval lake in Anand district of Gujarat. Just 100 km from Gujarat capital, the island is perpetually dark – it has no power. The government has not cared to construct a road. Sponsored by Charotar Rural Development Trust, the documentary welcomes the viewers to life on the island, where you can't go to school if you can't row or swim. You must row for 20 minutes to charge your mobile. You have no hospital or school, no water supply, and no electricity...

Press for "comprehensive accountability" for Gujarat riots with future PM: Human Rights Watch to US govt

By Our Representative
The Human Rights Watch, top New York-based rights body, has insisted that the United States should press for “comprehensive accountability for the 2002 events in Gujarat” before any future Indian government that may take over in May 2014. In a recent statement, John Sifton, who works as Asia advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch, said that this is particularly significant against the backdrop of the fact that Narendra Modi is “now a top candidate to be India’s next prime minister", predicting "his BJP party" may lead in in the polls.

Is Modi chaiwallah only for the Ambanis, the Tatas,and the Adanis? Top sociologist Shiv Visvanathan wonders

By Our Representative
In an open letter to the BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant, one of India’s topmost sociologists, Shiv Visvanathan, has asked Narendra Modi to clarify whether as future PM he is going to be the “chaiwallah for the Ambanis.” Influential Gujarat circles know how Visvanathan, as professor at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT), Gandhinagar, was forced to quit in 2012 following Modi’s plea to the younger Ambani to sack him. Sitting just six kilometers from Vasvanathan wrote several scholarly pieces on Modi’s behavioral patterns.

In another case of social boycott, Dalits of North Gujarat village seek security to return to their house

By Our Representative
In a stark example of what may happen in a traditional Gujarat village in case a higher caste girl falls in love with a Dalit and marries him, a recent complaint to the Banaskantha superintendent of police (SP) suggests how deep casteism is rooted in the state’s rural areas. The complaint, a copy of which is with Counterview, is about Kishorkumar Hemji Pandya, a resident of Harijan Vas in Khimanwas village of Vav taluka of Banaskantha district. Pandya married Vimlaben Prajapati on December 13, 2013 in Vadodara.

In a scramble to go close to Modi, "future" PM, top PR firms start making important personnel changes

By Rajiv Shah
Well-placed sources close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi are happy – that, even as Modi is fighting a “winning battle” in the Lok Sabha polls to become India’s next prime minister, already, several public relations (PR) firms have begun to line up, even are closing ranks, and are vying with each other to be close to circles around the PM aspirant. According to these sources, they are making an “unprecedented effort” by recruiting persons who they believe have had access to Modi’s inner circles in Gujarat.

Why are poor people unable to get BPL card in Gujarat? Because there isn't enough assessing staff!

By Our Representative
Why are many sections of the poor people in Gujarat deprived of a below poverty line (BPL) ration card, which would enable them to buy foodgrains at subsidized rate? If government officials are to be believed, this is because there aren’t enough government staffers available to “assess” whether those who have applied for obtaining BPL card should get these or not. This is what came to light when an NGO-led delegation reached the district food controller’s office in Ahmedabad for submitting a memorandum.

In high profile Parliamentary constituency, Vadodara, workers' safety, health take a back seat

By Our Representative
Even as the campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections is going on in full swing, Workers Health and Safety Net (WHSN), Vadodara, has sought answers from the two main warring parties as to why some of the basic issues related to workers’ safety in this industrial city remain unresolved, despite several representations. Led by four senior activists, Bharat Pathak, Rohit Prajapati, Jagdish Patel and Kantibhai Mistry, and accompanied by workers, a group of representatives from the WHSN visited the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Hospital in Vadodara to find out whether their earlier representation to improve situation with regard to workers’ safety and health had made any impact.

In a fresh Opinion piece, New York Times calls Modi sectarian, unapologetically divisive

By Our Representative
Continuing with foreign newspapers’ barrage of attack on Narendra Modi, the New York Times’ Opinion Page has carried yet an article (April 18, 2014) regretting, “As candidate for prime minister, Modi has not given up his sectarian ways.” Written by Basharat Peer and titled “Being Muslim under Narendra Modi”, the article sidesteps the illusion being created around Modi being a tea seller who has grown to become “brave and just” (as pictured in a widely circulated comic book “Bal Narendra”). It underscores, “If anything Modi’s public record paints the picture of a leader unapologetically divisive and sectarian.”

Forest rights Act "promotes" privatisation of land, would "undermine" tribal rights, "help" capitalist clique

By Our Representative
The forest rights Act (FRA), enacted in 2006, may be a major campaign tool of "pro-tribal" NGOs and political parties, as it seeks to provide land title to adivasis. But three well-known scholars – Felix Padel, Ajay Dandekar and Jeemol Unni – in a recent book have triggered Hornet’s nest by declaring that it spells "death" for the idea that forests are a community resource whose ownership should remain with tribals. The book, “Economy Ecology: Quest for a Socially Informed Connection”, published by Orient BlackSwan, claims to be a critique of “adverse effects of resource utilization – water, metals, power, land – on adivasi communities.”

"Pro-Modi" consultant APCO Worldwide behind NDTV India giving clear majority to NDA, alleges top scribe

By Our Representative
In a major critique of top channel NDTV India, well-known scribe Seema Mustafa has alleged that the top channel gave 230 seats to the BJP and majority to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as part of an international consultant’s effort to promote BJP's Prime Ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi. Writing in thecitizen.in, she has said, “The recent poll by NDTV giving 230 seats to the BJP and a full majority to the NDA was conducted by Hansa Public Relations, whose former CEO Tushar Panchal is currently head of Services to Government practice for APCO Worldwide", which is “widely credited for not just creating and pushing the Vibrant Gujarat project but also promoting and marketing brand Modi.”

Poll goof-up? Tens of thousands of duplicate voters galore in Ahmedabad, amidst 25,000 pending applications

By Rajiv Shah
Even as Gujarat prepares to vote on April 30, well-informed sources have told Counterview that the state administration, currently operating under the Election Commission of India (ECI), has “completely messed up” the entire process of registration of voters. Giving one example after another, these sources, quoting senior officials in charge of poll management, have said, in the Ahmedabad district alone there are a whopping 45,000 “duplicate voters”, and there is still no “foolproof system which would ensure that they are deleted”.

Gujarat government's eviction notice to saltpan workers to "adversely affect" World Bank's biodiversity project

By Our Representative
The Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM), which works among poor saltpan workers in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), has represented to the World Bank against recent eviction notices served on them by the Gujarat government officialdom. Sent to the Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project (BCRLIP) head of the World Bank, Anupam Joshi, who sits in the bank’s New Delhi office, the AHRM letter says, the “drastic step of eviction warning without community consultation will lead to serious impact on the well being and livelihood of large population from 150 villages on the periphery of the LRK”.

Top US panel wants danger to religious freedom be part of India-US dialogue; Sangh Parivar smells rat

By Our Representative
With opinion polls showing that Narendra Modi-led NDA is all set to register a clear majority in Lok Sabha polls, the United States’ powerful Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), a Congressional arm meant to “develop congressional strategies to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms”, has begun to take a serious note of the alleged danger to religious freedom in India. While the US has considered human rights as part of its US-China strategic dialogue, a hearing held at the TLHRC tried to assess whether it should now become part of the the US-India strategic dialogue framework, too.

In "developed" Gujarat, rape, kidnapping against Dalit women rise manifold, says Dalit rights NGO

By Our Representative
The Buniyadi Adhikar Andolan Pahel, an NGO run by a Dalit rights activist, Rajesh Solanki, has claimed that in the “BJP’s model state of Gujarat”, at a time when slogans on good governance are proliferating, number of incidents of kidnapping of Gujarati women has increased double fold and numbers of rapes on Dalit women has increased 63 per cent in the last two decades. Solanki also runs Dalit Hak Rakshak Manch (DHRM), which fights for the cause of Dalits in Gujarat.

Election Commission asks Gujarat govt to immediately Implement new SC-ST anti-atrocities ordinance

By Our Representative
The Election Commission of India has asked the Gujarat government to immediately start implementing the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014. The ordinance was promulgated on March 4, 2014, and the Gujarat government was refusing to take any action for implementing it, say Dalit activists. This forced Kirit Rathod, senior activist, Navsarjan Trust, to write a letter to the Gujarat governor to ensure that the ordinance was put into action without any delay.

Novelist Salman Rushdie joins academics, artists to say, Modi as PM would "abode ill for India's future"

By Our Representative
Top British writer and author of the controversial novel “Satanic Verses” Salman Rushdie has joined a group 27 prominent individuals, many of them academics and artists based in England, to declare that if Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, “It would bode ill for India's future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities.” In a letter to British daily “The  Guardian”, the letter says, Modi’s ethos is “incompatible” with India’s “secular constitution”.

Goa CM spreading "misinformation" on Fr Cedric Prakash's critique of Gujarat's anti-conversion law

By Our Representative
In a surprise move, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar has sharply criticized Gujarat-based Jesuit human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash, wondering why the latter should go to Goa and address people there, telling them about lack of religious freedom in Gujarat. Invited by the Catholic Association of Goa (CAG) and others about three weeks ago, Prakash has hit back saying that he is a “free citizen” therefore has “the right to travel anywhere in the country and speak or address any group.”

Calling it BJP money-festo, top activist alleges it ignores issues of workers' living wages, health, safety

Counterview Desk Senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati has said that the BJP Modi-Festo accepts the ‘Price-Rise’ as crucial issue and tom-toms about it, but “its Money-Festo does not discuss or seeks to raise the wages of workers and is silent about demands of workers for ‘Living Wage’ (Real Wage) and social security for all workers.” He says, on Page 4, BJP Money-Festo declares it will “strategically develop high impact domains like Labour-Intensive manufacturing (viz. textile, footwear, electronics assembly etc.) and Tourism.”

Demand for reservation to Dalits in private jobs, private education, capital market and services

By Our Representative
A Dalit Election Manifesto 2014, worked out by a group of human rights organizations working among Dalit and tribal people across India, who gathered under the umbrella of “National Coalition for Strengthening of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, has said that the “rise of dominant caste people to power at the cost of the Dalits and the consequent deprivation of rights and privileges suffered by the latter”, even after 65 years of Independence, remains a “major issue of debate today in India.”

BJP manifesto: Why shouldn’t social, environmental audit be compulsory for industry?, wonders top activist

By Our Representative
In a scathing critique, top Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati has said that the BJP’s manifesto has mentioned the word “environment” formally and casually at seven places (pages 2, 11, 29, 33, 34, 35, and 36), and the emphasis is on “decision-making on environment clearances” in a “time-bound” manner. The environmentalist believes, “The word ‘time-bound’ is clearly reflects that Modi’s main concerns is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment.”

Change of purpose? Sardar Statue, tourism project on land acquired for Narmada dam, says official document

By Our Representative
Is the Gujarat government set on a developing high-profile tourism spot, which would include the 182-metre high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on the land acquired for the Sardar Sarovar dam – signifying a change of purpose? It would seem so, if you goes by a right to information (RTI) query is any guide. The statue is proposed as the highest bust on earth, with the cost of Rs 3,000 crore. The RTI query was filed with a Gujarat government revenue office by senior activist Kirit Rathod, who demanded official documents concerning land acquisition for the Sardar statue project, including orders, if any, regarding this.

Modi to "adopt" Thatcherite agenda, will rollback UPA's welfare schemes, privatise public sector cos

By Our Representative
With analysts predicting that Narendra Modi will become the next Prime Minister of India in the Lok Sabha polls, economists close to him have begun to declare that he is sure to bring an end to the welfare programmes initiated by the UPA government. Bibek Debroy, a prominent Indian economist, has been quoted as saying that “the Hindu nationalist leader shared his market-driven policy platform and opposed handouts.” He adds, "It is essentially a belief that people don't need doles, and don't need subsidies". Instead, Modi would focus on “building infrastructure to ease poverty”.

Top Catholic leader says attempt being made to tarnish Gujarat human rights activist Father Prakash

By Our Representative
In a statement, Dolphy Dsouza, former president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, and spokesperson of Save Our Land (SOUL), which recently protested against the “unjust” land acquisition notices issued to various churches and church-run schools in Mumbai, has strongly protested against “disinformation” being circulated about the address by senior human rights activist of Gujarat, Father Cedric Prakash, at the Catholic Sabha at Mt Carmel's in Bandra, Ahmedabad.

Gujarat OBC Muslims' 1.9 per cent poverty in 2011-12 is based on NSSO's sample size of five households!

By Rajiv Shah
In a major goof-up, the Government of India’s National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) chose just about five households as a sample in order to assess monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of OBC Muslims of rural Gujarat. While a senior Gujarat-based activist has characterized this as a “deliberate statistical fraud”, what has made the matter particularly serious is, overlooking the small sample size, top economist Arvind Panagariya of the Columbia University has calculated that rural Gujarat’s poverty levels came down to 7.7 per cent in 2011-12 from 31 per cent in 2004-05, and the reason for this is high rise in the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).

Gujarat riots: Participants in Ahmedabad meet decry effort to harass human rights activist Teesta Setalvad

By Our Representative
A meeting of survivors of the 2002 Gujarat riots and citizens, organised at the Mehdi Jung Hall Paldi, Ahmedabad, by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Ahmedabad, saw participants in the jam-packed hall calling for social boycott of those who are posing themselves as witnesses to the case filed against top human rights activist Teesta Setalvad in a Gujarat court for alleged misappropriation of the funds of the NGO she is heading for purposes other than fighting cases of riot victims.

Preferring Rahul Gandhi, 'The Economist' advises NDA partners to ensure Modi doesn't become PM

By Our Representative
In it’s a scathing criticism of BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi, the powerful British weekly “The Economist” has editorially said Modi that “will probably become India’s next prime minister” but “that does not mean he should be”. In an editorial commentary titled “Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?”, “The Economist” has said, “If Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has.”

Provide documentary evidence or vacate Rann of Kutch: Gujarat government notice to salt-pan workers

By Our Representative
After a lapse of three years, the Gujarat government has once again revived its plan to begin eviction of the salt-pan workers, or agariyas of the Little Rann of Kutch. Earlier, the notice was served on them in April 2011 (read HERE). The latest notice served on the agariyas reads, "You have been asked to submit documentary proof regarding salt making activity in the Little Rann of Kutch.” Quoting the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, amended in 2002, the notice, given to thousands of agariyas, says that any activity in the sanctuary area of the Little Rann of Kutch “is termed prohibited and is liable to punishment from three to seven years of imprisonment, plus Rs 25,000 penalty.”

National PUCL objects to its Gujarat office bearers support to Congress candidate against Modi in Vadodara

By Our Representative
The People's Union for Civil Rights (PUCL), top civil rights organisation, has taken strong exception to some of Gujarat office bearers' participation in a forum formed to support Congress candidate Madhusudan Mistry, fighting against the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from the Vadodara parliamentary constituency. A statement issued by V Suresh, PUCL general secretary, and distributed by well-known Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, who is also a Gujarat PUCL office bearer, has said, "It is the stated policy of PUCL (both national and state units) not to align itself or support in any manner whatsoever any political party."

Why file defamation case against TV channels, why not against me? Arvind Kejriwal asks Mukesh Ambani

By Our Representative
Aam Aadmi Party leader Mukesh Arvind Kejriwal has taken strong exception to top tycoon Mukesh Ambani sending a defamation notice to a number of TV channels for their “crime” that they aired the press conference held on October 31, 2012 and November 9, 2012, by Prashant Bhushan and him, live. In their press conference, they had alleged how Ambani “illegally” pressurized the government into increasing gas prices. They further alleged that Ambani's associates and companies had accounts in Swiss banks where black money had been stashed away.

Corporates backing Modi as Congress wasn't "sufficiently ruthless" against growing resistance movements

By Our Representative
Booker prize winning writer and social activist Arundhati Roy has expressed the fear that in case Narendra Modi becomes India’s prime minister, he will be “ruthless” against “growing resistance movements” against different types of corporate-based oppressions. In an interview with Vancouver-based “online source” www.straight.com, Roy has asserted, the corporate India is backing Narendra Modi as the country's next prime minister “because the ruling Congress party hasn't been sufficiently ruthless against the growing resistance movement.”

US fact-tank "finds" two-thirds support BJP, yet 65% are "satisfied" with personal economic situation

By Our Representative
Is Narendra Modi-led BJP heading for a two-thirds majority in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls? It would seem so, if a recent survey carried out by a US-based “nonpartisan fact tank” in Washington, DC, Pew Research Center, is to be believed. Beating all opinion polls, which give BJP around 200 seats – a little over one-third of the Lok Sabha strength – Pew claims BJP has the support of 60 per cent of urban and 64 per cent of rural India, saying, “New poll finds Indians are disgruntled about the state of their nation, deeply worried about a range of problems facing their society and supportive of new leadership in New Delhi.”

Narendra Modi must be Prime Minister to be automatically eligible for US diplomatic visa: Congressional report

By Our Representative
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi must become Prime Minister of India in order to get a diplomatic visa for the US. This is the crux of the new Congressional Research Service memorandum “Visa Policy: the case of Narendra Modi”, written by Ruth Ellen Wasem, specialist in immigration policy, made public on March 18. In her categorical statement, Wasem says, “If Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for A-1 (diplomatic) visa as head of state, regardless of the purpose of his visit.”