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Showing posts from July, 2014

Study in Delhi area finds 40% of chickens have presence of antibiotic residues harmful for humans

Counterview Desk A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study, “Antibiotics in Chicken Meat” has found that 40 per cent of the chickens on which it carried out tests have the presence of antibiotic residues, suggesting that poultry farms in India that produced chickens are either “misusing” or “overusing”  antibiotic into chickens . The study says, “The use of antibiotics in food animals poses a major risk for humans due to antibiotic resistance”, adding, “Antibiotic use is related to emergence of resistant bacteria in the animal which later transmits to human through food, environment and direct contact with the affected meat.”

Top campaign bodies accuse Modi govt of "accelerating" policies that undermine social protection

By Our Representative
Ahead of a national level public hearing at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, on August 4, 2014, several campaign organizations have sharply criticized the Narendra Modi government for seeking to “accelerate” efforts made by the previous UPA government during its latter phase to resist “basic social entitlements” for the poor. In a concept note prepared for the hearing, they have said, “We need to address this political context emerging over the last few years, initiated during the later part of UPA-II and likely to be accelerated by the current NDA government.. Just local protests and symbolic mobilisations are not likely to have a significant impact on a deepening policy framework which is corporate friendly and increasingly ‘people resistant’.”

Ahead of July 30 World Bank board meet, world opposition to "relaxation" in safeguards for poor grows

By Our Representative The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of India’s top rights bodies, has released fresh details on rising opposition by civil society organizations around the world decrying a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new policies, which allegedly seek to “avoid” harmful impacts from the development projects that it finances. “As many as 97 NGOs and civil society networks and 17 distinguished individuals from Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe sent a statement to the World Bank’s Board, demanding the draft be sent back and re-written with serious safeguards to protect the land, housing and livelihood the poor" (click  HERE to read), NAPM has said.

Aussie nod to Adani coal mining project: Greenpeace thunders, "Don't assume this is end of story"

By Our Representative
In one of its strongest warnings to the Adani Group, which has got environmental nod to go ahead with the Carmichael coal mining project in Australia, the world’s most influential green campaigners, Greenpeace, has said, “Don’t assume this is the end of the story. The Carmichael mine cannot go ahead without the financial support of one the big four Australian banks. Greenpeace will make sure every Australian knows that any bank cutting a cheque for Carmichael is making possible a monster mine that will endanger our Reef and our climate.”

Dilution? World Bank draft "undermines" appraisal need for project resettlement due to land acquisition

By Our Representative
Several people’s organizations which took a lead in campaign for bringing in the new land acquisition law for India -- Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – have come together to put up a case against new “efforts” by the World Bank to dilute its existing safeguards on Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement. In a letter, they have said that the Bank’s new draft Environment and Social Safeguards Framework on Land Acquisition, Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement threatens to “significantly increase the risk” for the poor people and exacerbate inequality.

Contract workers of a small Gujarat town provide strong proof of prevalence of manual scavenging

By Our Representative
In a sharp rebuttal to the Gujarat government’s dogged refusal to admit the prevalence of manual scavenging in the state, the Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti, Surendranagar, has come up with documentary evidence to demand the the despicable practice, which Mahatma Gandhi called “shame of the nation.” Releasing photographs showing existence of manual scavenging under Dudhrej municipality, the organization, associated with Ahmedabad-based Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust, has demanded from the district collector, Surendranagar, to take “urgent steps to stop the practice and employ them in respectable jobs.”

The New York Times editorial: Censorship back in India "with vengeance", reminiscent of Emergency days

By Our Representative
In a move without precedence, one of world’s most influential dailies, the New York Times, has editorially declared that “press censorship” is back in India “with a vengeance.” But there is a caveat, it suggest. During the Emergency, imposed on June 25, 1975, Prime Minister India Gandhi imposed “strict” censorship, but this time it is “not direct government fiat but by powerful owners and politicians.” Titled “India’s Press in Siege”, the top daily, however, compares it with the censorship imposed Indira Gandhi, recalling how, “with defiant exceptions, much of the press caved in quickly to the new rules.”

"Proof" that Narmada dam oustees' rehab is incomplete: Emergency plan amid dangers of submergence

By Our Representative
The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) has wondered as to why, ahead of heavy rains in the upstream of the Narmada dam, especially in Madhya Pradesh, the state government is gearing up with contingency plans to “save” people from being submerged. An annual affair, the NAPM, which is an apex body of several people’s organizations across the country, it has asked, “If all dam affected persons have been ‘rehabilitated’, then why crores of money is being spent on disaster management?”

Moratorium on India's "most polluted" industrial cluster, Gujarat's Vapi, lifted; "reassessment" ordered

By Our Representative In a major decision, which has raised the eye-brow of senior environmentalists, the Government of India has decided to lift the moratorium on industrial investment in Vapi in South Gujarat, which was found to be “most polluted” in September 2013 by the previous UPA government. Along with Vapi, an office memorandum of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)  has decided to lift the moratorium on seven other industrial clusters -- Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Jharsuguda (Odisha), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru-Bollaram (Andhra Pradesh) and Singraulli (Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh).

"Undue benefits" in Gujarat to business groups Reliance, Adani, Essar under Modi government: CAG

By Our Representative In what may prove to be a major embarrassment for Narendra Modi’s Gujarat model of development, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has sharply criticized the state government for giving “undue benefits” to three of the biggest investors in Gujarat – Reliance, Adanis and Essar. The CAG report, which was tabled in the Gujarat state assembly, has particularly come down heavily on the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) failing to recover “full wharfage rate” between 2008-09 and 2012-13 from the Reliance Petroleum Ltd’s captive jetty in Sikka, Jamnagar.

Dholera SIR challenged: Gujarat High Court bench issues notice to state, central government

By Our Representative
Five years after it was enacted, a farmers’ body of Gujarat has challenged the constitutional validity of the state’s Special Investment Region (SIR) Act, 2009. The Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKU), in a statement issued in Ahmedabad, said that the GKU, in association with “residents of 22 villages of Dholera SIR” -- being set up on 55,000 hectares (ha) of land towards the south of Ahmedabad along the Gulf of Khambhat as a smart city as a Central government project -- have “challenged” the Act and the notification declaring Dholera region as SIR.

World Bank prepares new advisory: Free, prior, informed consent "must" for land acquisition for any project

By Rajiv Shah
At a time when the Government of India is considering to tone down two of the main components of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – social impact assessment and consent – a top World Bank document, leaked to Counterview, has insisted that there cannot be any land acquisition without “free, prior and informed consent.” Pointing towards the need to “strengthen meaningful consultation with vulnerable groups, project-affected communities, and indigenous peoples”, it has added, “Emphasis should be on the need for strong and consistent risk assessment and risk management.”

World Bank begins investigation into eviction of salt-pan workers in Gujarat following NGO complaint

By Our Representative
In an important move, the World Bank has begun investigation into the alleged neglect of the salt-pan workers by the Gujarat government in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). The investigation, which is proposed as a “research study”, follows a complaint by a non-government organization (NGO) Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM), which told the World Bank in April (click HERE) that its multi-crore project for developing biodiversity in the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the LRK is being used by government officials to evict the agariyas from their land. AHRM has been working among the agariyas for the last several decades.

UN support to common civil code? 'Eliminate multiple legal systems of marriage, family affairs in India'

By Our Representative
In what may seem to be a direct support to the NDA government’s expressed “need” for a common civil code in India, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has expressed serious concern over “the coexistence of multiple legal systems with regard to marriage and family relations” in country. It has added, these multiple legal systems “apply to the different religious groups and which results in the deep and persistent discrimination against women”.

United Nations body recalls Gujarat riots, insists on enacting "dropped" communal violence bill

By Our Representative
At a time when the Narendra Modi government is all set to consider dropping it, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has asked the Government of India (GoI) to “promptly enact the draft Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill” as an important step to prevent violence against women. It notes “continued marginalization and poverty of women and girls survivors of the Gujarat riots living in the relief colonies and their precarious living conditions with limited access to education, health care, employment and security.”

Reserve Bank study finds Gujarat has to spend huge funds from coffers to pay up for interest taken on loan

Counterview Desk
A new study, “Debt Sustainability at the State Level in India”, by Balbir Kaur, Atri Mukherjee, Neeraj Kumar and Anand Prakash Ekka of the Department of Economic and Policy Research of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has found that, as of March-end 2013, a huge 17 per cent of the revenue expenditure of the Gujarat government goes into paying up interests on loan taken by it over the years, which is higher than most states.
Suggesting that this is higher all 17 major states taken up for analysis, except West Bengal (20.9 per cent), the data suggest that Gujarat has progressively paid a higher proportion of interest on loan compared to most states ever since 1981.

Gujarat government officials' indifference leads to denial of pension, other benefits to helpless widows

Counterview Desk
A recent spot study, carried out by Gujarat’s premier NGO Navsarjan Trust, has found that majority of widows who were unable to get any job following their husbands’ death, may not be receiving any pension, despite Gujarat government directions on this. Based a focus group discussion (FGD) with tens of widows belonging to 16 villages of Patdi taluka, Surendranagar district, the study says that many of them have not received pension though they applied for it in accordance with a government resolution of 2012. It also found that a few women didn’t apply for pension because, though eligible, they were unaware of any scheme.

Adani-POSCO agreement on sensitive coalmining project in Australia sends "shivers down global investors"

By Our Representative
Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a Cleveland, Ohio, US-based independent research group, has pushed the panic button by saying that top industrial Gujarat-based Adani Group’s latest announcement of agreement with South Korea-based multinational company, POSCO, for joint investment in the Australia’s coal mining project in Queensland province is likely to “send shiver down the spine of global coal investors.” An Adani release said, the two have signed a “binding agreement” to develop a “rail line to open up the Galilee Basin coal reserves in Queensland”, which will “ lead to the opening of the Carmichael mine project.”

Reliance think-tank advises Modi govt: Involve private sector in defence manufacturing in big way

By Our Representative
Close on heels of the Government of India’s controversial decision to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in defence sector to 49 per cent, the powerful Reliance Industries Ltd’s New Delhi-based think-tank has asked the Modi establishment to make “a critical doctrinal shift in the country’s approach to national security”: transform the Indian defence sector by “encouraging the large-scale entry of the private sector into the defence research and development and industrial sectors.” And for this, it indicates, there is an urgent need to increase the country’s defence budget, which is allegedly very low.

Govt of India "subsidy" to corporate houses in 2013-14 could fund rural jobs scheme for three decades

By Our Representative
In a new analysis, titled “Corporate karza maafi at Rs 36.5 trillion”, well-known scribe P Sainath, known for his authoritative reports on rural India, has said that in 2013-14 the former UPA government had “foregone” revenues that could fund the rural jobs scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) for three decades, or the public distribution system (PDS) for four-and-a-half years. He suggests there is no change in this, and the movement towards giving concessions to the big and the mighty continues.

Muslims less likely to benefit from basic services in Kolkata slums, says study by Gujarat-based institute

Counterview Desk A recent study, sponsored out by a Gujarat-based institute, has revealed that religion has been playing an important role in the provisioning of basic services in the slum areas of Kolkata. "The chances of sufficient water supply reduce by at least 16 percent for Muslim households and by at least 26 percent for wards represented by the Muslim councilor”, the study, titled “Political Economy of Water Supply and Drainage Service Delivery in Slums of Kolkata: Implications for Municipal Management", authored by Indranil De of the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), Gujarat,  and Tirthankar Nag of the International Management Institute, Kolkata, points out.

To new ICHR chief, evidence is not important to "fix" historicity of Ramayana, Mahabharata

By Our Representative
Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, new chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), is all set to trigger in a new period of what he calls “real history”, proudly claiming that he has no qualms in declaring his appointment is “political.” Involved in a project to “fix” the date of Mahabharata war, Rao has said, “The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are true accounts of the periods in which they were written”, contesting historians DD Kosambi and Romila Thapar who have seen them only as great epics having different versions added to them for over 1,000 years. To him, they are “myths from a western perspective” alone.

Gujarat Dalits off Somnath protest forcible eviction from the land they were cultivating for decades

By Our Representative
Unrest has gripped Dalit villagers surrounding a fast-expanding town off southern Saurashtra coast in Gujarat, not far away from famous Somnath temple. Thousands of villagers, mainy of them Dalit representatives of Saurashtra, gathered outside the district headquarters of the newly-created Gir-Somnath district at Veraval early this week to protest against the state forest department’s move to forcibly occupy hundreds of acres of land being cultivated by Dalits for more than four decades. A representation to the district collectorate, Somnath-Gir, said, “The forest officials entered the fields illegally and removed standing crop. Worse, these officials, who are responsible to take care of environment, removed 30 years old mango trees the Dalits reared.”

Gujarat minister's "illegal" announcement: Invest in Vapi, Ankaleshwar, Vatva; Centre's moratorium ends

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s senior environmentalist and social activist Rohit Prajapati has complained to Prakash Javadekar, Union minister for environment, forests and climate change, and the ministry’s secretary Dr V Rajagopalan, that his Gujarat counterpart Ganpatbhai Vasava has “made an illegal announcement about the lifting of moratorium on industrial cluster Vapi, Ankleshwar and Vatva.” The moratorium, imposed by the former UPA government, bans any fresh investments in the three clusters along with tens of others in India, because of their high levels.

Arun Jaitley's budget for 2014-15 'ignores' plight of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes: NCDHR

By Our Representative
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) has said the Union budget for 2014-15 has brought “no significant policy for inclusive and equitable growth as promised by the Modi Government.” Saying that it has “belied the expectations of Dalits and Adivasis”, an NCDHR statement said, “The Union Budget 2014-15 should have allocated Plan funds under the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) in proportion to the population shares of SCs (16.8 percent) and STs (8.7 percent). However, the allocation is Rs 50,548.16 crore (8.79 percent) for SCs and Rs 32,386.84 crore (5. 63 percent) for STs.”

Permission denied to hold dharna on plight of real estate workers, citing ongoing Gujarat assembly session

By Jignesh Mevani*
In a recent decision, the Gujarat police refused permission to hold a public meeting to highlight exploitation of construction workers in Gujarat next to one of the biggest real estate projects of the state coming up on way to Gandhinagar. The letter denying the permission to hold dharna issued by the Gandhinagar police reads, “Since the session of Gujarat Assembly is on, we cannot grant you permission, for it can disturb law and order situation in the state.'' The dharna was planned by the Majur Adhikar Manch, which is affiliated with the Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions.

Setback to raise Narmada dam? Jabalpur High Court seeks details of outees' rehabilitation from authorities

By Our Representative
A new development in Madhya Pradesh may knock hard as setback to the Gujarat government, which is all set to raise the Narmada dam from 121.92 metres to 139.64 metres soon after the current monsoon season. The Jabalpur High Court of Madhya Pradesh has sought explanation from the Madhya Pradesh government, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) to explain why shouldn’t the decision to raise of the dam height be stopped till action is taken on the Jha Commission Enquiry Report on large-scale corruption in the rehabilitation of Narmada oustees.

Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor in spot: Protest against move to turn land acquisition law corporate friendly

By Our Representative
The Government of India’s move to amend the new land acquisition law, which makes people’s consent mandatory for any effort to take away farmers’ land, has begun. On July 9, hundreds of farmers from 24 villages of Mangoan, Roha and Tala Tehsil of Raigad district in Maharashtra, under the banner of Corridor Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti and Jagatikikaran Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti marched towards sub-division office (SDO), before the land acquisition authority, against what the two people’s organizations calls “forced land acquisition of 67,500 acres for the Dighi Port industrial areas.”

$55 million "channeled" to Sangh Parivar in 2001-12: US report released by South Asia Citizens Web

Counterview Desk A new report prepared in the US is likely to further fan the on-going controversy around the Intelligence Bureau (IB) accusation that foreign-funded NGOs’ campaign in India has undermined India’s growth rate. The report, “released via South Asia Citizens Web”, has alleged that between 2001 and 2012, five Sangh Parivar affiliates in the US – India Development and Relief Fund, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America, Param Shakti Peeth, Sewa International, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America – “allocated over $55 million dollars to their programme services”, and these funds were “largely sent” to Sangh Parivar groups in India.

Deadly occupational disease silicosis kills 15th victim in Gujarat, highest No of deaths since 2010

By Our Representative
Shantaben Khushalbhai Parmar, 55, has become the 15th victim of the deadly silicosis disease, widely prevalent among workers working in the agate industry of Central Gujarat, particularly in the Khambhat area. She breathed her last on July 8 morning. With the death of Shantaben, the year 2014 has already recorded the highest number of deaths due to silicosis since 2010. She lost her husband of silicosis long back. In December 2011 she lost her eldest son Raju at the age of 35 because of silicosis.

Rangarajan committee report: 11 major states out of 20 have lesser percentage of poor than Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah
Latest report on measuring poverty authored by a committee headed by former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor C Rangarajan, has found that as many as 11 major Indian states out of 20 have fewer percent of poor than Gujarat. Submitted to the Modi government as a plea to come up with a new poverty criterion that takes into account “public expenditure that is being incurred in areas like education, health and food security”, and linking it with consumer price index, the report says that Gujarat has 27.4 per cent below poverty line people (BPL), or 1.69 crore – 1.1 crore in rural areas (31.4 per cent) and 5.89 crore (22.2 pe cent) in urban areas.

Annual Plan: Gujarat govt spent well on infrastructure, industry, neglected rural development, irrigation

By Our Representative
Fresh information disseminated by Gujarat’s independent budget-analysis centre, Pathey, has revealed that the Gujarat government has failed to spend a whopping Rs 5,712.56 crore in the annual plan for the financial year 2013-14, which comes to around 9.68 per cent of the total annual plan allocation, Rs 59,000 crore. Annual plan is the sum total of developmental expenditure a state seeks to incur over the year in order to render different socio- economic services to larger sections of population. Data suggest the state spends well when it comes to industry and infrastructure, but is a poor spender on social sector.

High interest payment, low social sector spending bog Gujarat budget for 2014-15: Pathey

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government has been claiming that its public debt – which is slated to reach Rs 1.69 lakh crore by the end of the current financial year (2014-15) from Rs 1.50 lakh crore in the fiscal 2013-14 – is “well within limits of its paying capacity”, an independent budget analysis institute has brought to focus a disturbing fact: While the principal amount for paying debt has been going down over the years, the total amount payable as interest against the debt taken by the Gujarat government is showing a progressive upward trend. At the same time, the budget analysis suggests, interest as percentage of revenue expenditure of Gujarat is one of the highest in the country, and the state government is increasingly finding it difficult to spend amount allocated for the social sector.

Stoking religious divisions is something Modi "still needs to do" in future: Pulitzer Prize winning journo

Counterview Desk
A New York Times feature (July 5) has said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a campaigner during the elections may have “assiduously avoided religious issues, hewing to the economic growth platform that carried him to a landslide victory”, and he may have "tried to set a conciliatory, centrist tone, and some of his decisions since taking power have disappointed his far-right backers”. But the presence of Sanjeev Balyan in his council of ministers is “a reminder that stoking (religious) divisions remains a way to win votes, something that Modi still needs to do in order to build up a team of regional allies in the coming months and years.”

"Disregarding" Whistleblowers Act, Central govt creates "internal mechanism" for receiving complaints

By Our Representative
A senior civil society activist brought to light an alarming development. Circulating a resolution of the Government of India, issued by the Department of Personnel and Training amending the Public Interest Disclosure Resolution (PIDPI Resolution), the activist has said, the Government of India has sought to create an “internal mechanism” to receive complaints from government employees wanting to blow the whistle on corruption instead of the one that existed earlier. Previously, the whistleblowers could send their complaints directly to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

Gujarat's Movement for Secular Democracy "clarifies": It is not an NGO, does not receive foreign funds

By Our Representative
The Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), a Gujarat-based non-profit organization, has clarified in a letter to to the President of India, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, that it “is not an NGO and does not receive any foreign funds”. The letter comes in the wake of the recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, “Impact of NGOs on Development”, naming MSD as one of the many NGOs which are allegedly involved in anti-developmental activities and are receiving foreign funds.

Top corporate group "invokes" IB report to fight campaign against displacement of 50,000 villagers

By Our Representative
The recently-leaked Intelligence Bureau (IB) report is already turning into a full-blown controversy, with Greenpeace International’s India chapter – which is the target of attack from the powerful corporate circles and the government for being “anti-development” -- all set to launch a strong offensive against it. In a statement on the IB report, influential the NGO has wondered whether to “speak for the 50,000 villagers who will be displaced by Essar’s proposed coal mine” in Madhya Pradesh and other such projects is “anti-development”.

Labour under stress: Gujarat's lag in wages vis-a-vis all-India grows over the years, says fresh study

Counterview Desk
A just-prepared research paper “Labour Under Stress in Gujarat?” by Atulan Guha of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) has noted that huge investments in Gujarat's industrial sector, leading to a high growth rate of the state economy, has failed to translate into “higher wage earnings in Gujarat relative to the rest of India.” Basing on the National Sample Survey Organisation's 2011-12 data, the senior scholar says, the all-India wage rates of urban casual workers were 1.18 times higher, and of regular salaried urban workers 1.41 times higher, than Gujarat.

Study finds scant regard for labour laws in units under Gujarat Industrial Development Corp estate

Counterview Desk A recent case study in one of India's richest districts, Anand, has found the existence of large-scale casualisation of the workforce, with factories situated in a state-owned Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) premises opening flouting labour laws, even as paying scant regard to the laws that make it obligatory to pay minimum wages. Titled “Labour Under Stress in Gujarat”, the study by Atulan Guha of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) says that the GIDC estate in Vallabh Vidyanagar, situated just outside the Anand township of Central Gujarat, only “confirmed” the macroeconomic picture of dormant earnings of the urban workers in Gujarat.