Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2014

SAARC's Kathmandu summit in November should form human rights mechanism: Civil rights groups

By Our Representative
Nearly 100 civil society organizations and individuals from across 20 Indian states have asked the Government of India to work with other South Asian countries to establish a regional human rights mechanism to solve crucial issues nagging vulnerable sections of population in the region. Sponsored by Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR) and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Delhi-based advocacy groups, the consultation of civil rights groups took place in Delhi on August 26-27 as part of the regional initiative for a South Asian human rights mechanism, begun four years ago.

Gujarat govt wants industries dept to "handle" pleas to appoint manual scavengers as temple priests

By Our Representative
In what should appear as a weird development, the Gujarat government wants the state industries department to handle applications with pleas for appointing the lowest category of Dalits, Valmikis, involved in manual scavenging, as priests in temples. This has come to light in a letter from the chief minister’s office (CMO) to senior Dalit rights activist Rajesh Solanki, who wanted Gujarat chief minister Anandibecn Patel to make the important change. Solanki had pleaded that Valmiki Dalits should be appointed priests in major Gujarat temples.


Gujarat government move to "revive" the SIR pruned last year, which houses site for Maruti-Suzuki plant

By Rajiv Shah
Move is underway in top corridors of power of the Gujarat government to “revive” the high-profile Mandal-Bechraji special investment regions (MBSIR), which houses the proposed Maruti-Suzuki plant, which was pruned to nearly one-fifth of its original size -- from nearly 50,000 hectares (ha) to 10,172 ha. The MBSIR in North Gujarat was proposed a major auto hub. It had to be pruned following a long-drawn-out farmers’ protest last year led by Jameen Adhikar Anadolan Gujarat (JAAG). JAAG has emerged as a powerful farmers’ group campaigning against dozen-odd SIRs coming up in Gujarat.

Financial inclusion under Jan Dhan? Gujarat under Modi a poor performer compared to all-India average

By Rajiv Shah
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched his ambitious Jan Dhan project by “enrolling”, according to an official claim, about 1.5 crore Indians as new bank account holders. But what is most interesting is that during his stewardship as chief minister, Gujarat remained a poor performer vis-à-vis several major states in financial inclusion – which is what Modi is seeking to "promote" by targeting around 10 crore people across India as new account holders by the next Republic Day. A report by the top consultants, Crisil, prepared in alliance with American agency Standard & Poor, released in January 2014, said Gujarat’s financial inclusion (Inclusix) index was below national average.

Gujarat's annual agri-festival krishi mahotsav helped big farmers more than small ones: Survey results

Counterview Desk
Two Gujarat based scholars, Amita Shah and Itishree Pattnaik, in a recent study, “High Growth Agriculture in Gujarat: An Enquiry into Inclusiveness and Sustainability”, have found that the Gujarat government’s high-profile annual event Krishi Mahotsav, meant to intensify agricultural growth, was high on propaganda, but low in providing help to the marginal sections farmers. Forming part of the new book, “Growth or Development: Which Way is Gujarat Going”, edited by Prof Indira Hirway and others, the study, based on survey of 876 households in 15 Gujarat districts, found that 16.6 per cent of the large farmers benefited from subsidies, as against 8.3 per cent medium farmers, 7.2 per cent small and medium farmers, and just 1.3 per cent of the landless.

Influential NGOs on Congress Lok Sabha flopshow: It was defeat of progressives to provide alternative

By Our Representative
Several well-known people’s organizations, which had campaigned heavily against the previous UPA government, have declared that the results of the 2014 general elections are “not only a defeat of the Congress”, but also “a defeat of various progressive forces which were unable to provide any coherent alternative.” Pointing towards the need to “learn from the experiences during the UPA regime”, a note prepared by them says, “In the last few years, we were often preoccupied with specific issues and demands, while there was less emphasis on working together for broader socio-political goals.”

Former tea seller's son, Modi is "proximate" to influential, wealthy and business groups: Forbes commentary

By Our Representative
A top commentary, appearing a journal run by an influential US media business group has sharply criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that despite his “oft-repeated campaign mantras about the tea-seller’s son”, he is “proximate to the influential, wealthy and business groups”. Elucidating, the commentary, written by Satyajit Das, a former banker and author of 'Extreme Money and Traders Guns & Money", says, the BJP under Modi "spent an estimated $500-700 million on its election campaign, presumably financed by its supporters in expectation of favourable policy decisions.”

Top environmentalist attacks NDA government for "dismantling" environmental regulatory system

By Our Representative
Top environmentalist Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, has raised alarm over the Government of India’s being “too busy dismantling the environmental regulatory system in the country”. In an editorial in the top environmental journal, Down to Earth (August 26), Narain has said, reports suggest how over the past two months projects ranging from mining to roads have been cleared on “fast-tracked”. She has said, “While the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has not been updated in August, in the two months till July end, forest clearance was granted to over 92 projects, which will divert some 1,600 hectares of forest.” She adds, “More recently, the National Board for Wildlife has processed many projects located near or in sanctuaries and national parks.”

Human Rights Watch to Modi: Work to rehabilitate manual scavengers, show willingness to support community

Counterview Desk
Welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement that building toilets before building temples as suggesting commitment to develop modern sanitation system, the Human Rights Watch in its new report has insisted the he should simultaneously try to demonstrate “willingness to support communities seeking to leave manual scavenging, including by intervening when communities seeking to do so face discrimination and violence”.

Delhi meet to network regional human rights issues in South Asia, implementation of UN conventions

By Our Representative
The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), an influential Delhi-based advocacy group, is all set to set up a regional mechanism in order to ensure “effective" implementation of international human rights norms and standards in South Asia. Led by senior activist Henri Tiphagne, WGHR will be deliberating on the crucial issue on August 26-27 with several rights bodies across India at a workshop. A concept note for workshop participants said, though the region comprises over one-fourth of the world population, human rights violations in the region have met with “a stubborn stand on state-centred view of national sovereignty, insisting on the principle of non-interference.”

Narmada oustees in Madhya Pradesh are "rightful owners" of land acquired from them under new law: NBA

By Our Representative
In what may be termed as the first major meet in favour of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013 in its present form, India’s well-known anti-dam movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), held a well-attended public meeting at Badwani, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, situated about 190 upstream of the Narmada dam. The rally made the strong demand that land acquisition of the Narmada dam in Madhya Pradesh should now be held “afresh” in the backdrop of the new Act.

RTI applicant alleges Gujarat CM didn't reveal in 2012 poll affidavit that she was company director

By Our Representative A right to information applicant has suggested that Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, one of the closest confidantes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, did not declare her position as director in a non-profit company in the affidavit she filed before the Election Commission of India ahead of the December 2012 Gujarat state assembly elections. The company, according to the RTI applicant Roshan Shah, who brought this to light, was registered as a section 25 company under the Companies Act with the registrar of companies (RoC), making it a non-profit organisation.

Activists' "fact-finding" tour of MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra to survey plight of 2.5 lakh Narmada dam oustees

By Our Representative
About 150 supporters from 15 states across India began their three-day Narmada Adhikar Samvaad Yatra, interacting with hundreds of Sardar Sarovar affected from Khalghat, Chhota Barda and Pipri. They observed “flawed backwater levels, corruption and lack of rehabilitation” against the backdrop of the decision of the Government of India to raise the Narmada dam. The anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said in a statement that the the intensive fact-finding tour will go to “various Sardar Sarovar Project affected villages in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat” and made a declaration at the end.

Workers sacked in Gujarat for protesting against manual scavenging, called "national shame" by Gandhiji

By Our Representative
In what is being seen as a gory case of official high-handedness by voluntary organizations working on Dalit rights issues, as many as eight cleaning contract workers, who were being forced to manually clean up human excreta at public places, have been sacked from their jobs for staging a protest on Independence-day eve. Working as manual scavengers under the Dudhrej municipality of Surendranagar district, Gujarat, these workers’ fault was that they took part in a fairly representative rally, followed by a dharna, against the despicable practice, which Mahatma Gandhi once called “shame of the nation.”

Contradictory winds?: Subramanian, who opposed India's WTO stance, to be Modi's chief economic adviser

By Our Representative
Contradictory winds appear to be blowing in New Delhi, which does not seem to known which policy directions to take after India’s dogged refusal to sign World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) trade agreement. One clear indication of this is Government of India’s decision to appoint Arvind Subramanian, Dennis Weatherstone Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, as its next chief economic adviser. Recommended by finance minister Arun Jaitley, Subramanian declared that India was going the “wrong way” in rejecting the WTO deal.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan: Gujarat fails to achieve target in constructing toilets in schools, anganwadis

By Our Representative
A just-released report, the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation has found that Gujarat has faltered in meeting annual implementation plan (AIP) target for the constructing toilets in schools in rural areas. The report, which is actually a detailed agenda note for review meeting with state principal secretaries/ secretaries in charge of rural sanitation, scheduled for August 25, has said that in the financial year 2013-14 Gujarat achieved just 24.3 per cent of the AIP target as against cent per cent by Kerala and Rajasthan, 60.5 per cent by Karnataka, and 51.6 per cent by West Bengal. The all-India average for meeting the AIP target was 48.4 per cent.

Women's empowerment?: Gujarat police wants women not to come come out of their home in T-shits and jeans

By Our Representative
It is not just primary schools where the Gujarat government appears to be seeking to introduce dress code for teachers. Posters put up by the Gujarat police in Porbandar, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace, have said that women should be “appropriately dressed” while coming out of their residence. The posters carry a photograph of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel at the top, in sari, advocating “women’s empowerment”, and down below is shown college girls from a foreign university in “inappropriate dress” – T-shifts and jeans.
As part of the women’s empowerment week of the Gujarat government, the state officials have long been toying with the idea of having “appropriate” dress code for women. While opponents of the Gujarat government call such a move as an effort to implement the “RSS fatva”, and social media carries comments ranging from “Hindu Taliban” to the suggestion as to why is there is discrimination between men and women, the move comes several weeks after…

Gujarat Dalits' long wait for alternative land site for continuing hereditary occupation of tanning

By Our Representative
Six families belonging to the Rohit community, a Dalit sub-caste, making their living by removing dead animals and tanning leather retrieved from them, have been forced to approach Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel following official indifference to provide them with alternative piece of land, despite official nod, in order to continue with their hereditary occupation. Living in Wadhwan, a town 94 km west of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s business capital, these families do their current tanning job on 300 sq metres plot under tremendous stress.

BJP mouthpiece quotes Modi to say Batra books, criticized for spreading fundamentalism, are "exemplary"

By Our Representative The BJP’s Gujarati mouthpiece, “Manogat”, has quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as justifying Dinanath Batra’s controversial nine books, which have been officially introduced as “extra readings” in the state’s schools by the Gujarat State School Textbook Board, as exemplary. The monthly, in its latest August issue (click HERE to download), quotes Modi congratulating Batra for his books first published as Prarnadeep series in Hindi, calling them “exemplary", and adding, he “admires” the effort, and “hopes” that Batra’s “commendable literature” inspires children and teachers.

Modi's all-rhetoric-no-reform shtick is becoming all-too-familiar in Asia, says Bloomberg View columnist

By Our Representative
Top-level Bloomberg View columnist William Pesek has termed much of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the Independence day as rhetoric, phrasing it as a “loud hissing noise you hear coming from India is the air escaping from the Modi bubble.” Pesek, who won the 2010 Society of American Business Editors and Writers prize, regrets, “Since taking office, Modi has scuttled a global trade deal, sidestepped much-needed subsidy cuts, and refrained from letting foreigners hold majority stakes in key domestic sectors. He remains vague about the broader structural reforms partisans hoped he would inaugurate.”

Architects, urban planners ask Gujarat authorities not to repeat Sabarmati riverfront "model" in Vadodara

By Our Representative
Expressing serious concern over the proposed Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project (VRDP) in Vadodara, Gujarat’s cultural capital, on lines of the Sabarmati riverfront project in Ahmedabad, showcased as urban model for other states to follow, prominent citizens of the city have come together to demand “a thorough and immediate re-look” into it and “reconceptualize” it. “A major problem with the proposed plans and designs is that they fail to recognize that Vishwamitri river is not like the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, or Tapi in Surat”, they say.

CRY survey suggests Gujarat government "manipulated" data on toilets, drinking water in primary schools

By Our Representative
Contradicting the Gujarat government’s loud claims, a recent survey, sponsored by high-profile NGO working on child rights, Child Rights and You (CRY), in 249 schools has shown that while 97 per cent primary schools do have toilets, as many as 204 (or nearly 82 per cent) of them are used by both boys and girls, suggesting utter lack of girls’ toilets at the primary level. In fact, if the survey results are to be believed, only four out of 249 schools surveyed have separate functioning toilets for girls, and in most cases girls and boys must use the same toilets.

Japanese daily attacks Modi's 'intransigent, contradictory' views, and 'disavowed' parochialism

By Our Representative
The Japan Times, Japan’s largest-circulation English-language newspaper, has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a man of many contradictions”, who is “frequently criticized for being a Hindu chauvinist”, and is armed with “disavowed parochialism.” Presenting himself as “a leader for all Indians”, Modi, says the daily -- which was founded in 1897, and has a tieup with the New York Times’ international edition -- appears to be actually guided by narrow nationalism. And for this, it gives India’s refusal to sign a World Trade Organisation (WTO) accord as the most prominent example.

Gujarat police case against Teesta Setelvad is an effort to "discredit" human rights defenders: PUCL

By Our Representative
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said that the case filed by Gujarat police against human rights activist Teesta Setelvad and her colleagues of the Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ) is nothing but an effort to “discredit human rights defenders in the public eye thereby making their task as human rights defenders more onerous and difficult to discharge.” In fact, it is an effort to “undermine” the UN Declaration of protecting human rights defenders adopted by UN general assembly in 2013, which acknowledges “legitimate role of human rights defenders and the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

High profile Indian NGO joins world counterparts, protests Govt of India, others' "deep interest" in seabed mining

By Our Representative
Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), a high-profile non-government organization in India, has joined Greenpeace as also NGOs from Australia and Canada to declare that deep-sea mining is coming up as “the newest assault on the world’s oceans”. In a statement, Sreedhar Ramamurthi, chairperson, MM&P, India, has said, “The issue of deep sea mining is not just for scientists and mining companies, the debate has to be much bigger. Is it morally viable? Is it environmentally sustainable? What is going to happen to the waste? What are the economic, social and cultural impacts on local populations in the areas they want to mine? They are the same questions whether you are mining in the deep sea or on land.”

Global Peace Index: Ranking India 143rd of 162 countries, study warns Maoist insurgency is biggest challenge

By Rajiv Shah
A top international non-profit think-tank, based in Sydney, New York and Oxford, has ranked India a poor No 143rd in global peace index among 162 countries it surveyed on the basis of the data sourced from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the World Bank, various UN Agencies, peace institutes and the EIU. The only consolation for India is, Pakistan ranks 156th, Israel 149th, and Russia 152nd. The best performer is the tiny Nordic country Iceland, ranking No1. Japan ranks No 8th, the US 101st, and the UK 47th.

Gujarat's huge privatisation of education is "not inclusive". It hasn't generated jobs or improved quality

By Our Representative
A top Gandhian educationist has come down heavily on the Gujarat government’s movement over last nearly a decade towards privatizing higher education, saying it does not reflect in any way the state’s movement towards inclusiveness. Prof Sudarshan Iyengar, vice-chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, in a recent research paper has said, “There has been a rapid expansion in the number of seats in professional courses or courses having better employment prospects. Most of these are ‘payment seats’. The poor cannot access this facility easily.” Further, “the returns are not commensurate with the expenses.”

Protesters against proposed N-power plant in Gujarat fear Central move may accelerate land acquisition

By Our Representative
After a gap of nearly six months, a series of protests seemed to once again shake the sleepy Mithi Virdi village, not very far from Gujarat’s south Saurashtra coast, where the Government of India has proposed a 6000 MW nuclear power plant. Led by Vadodara-based environmental organization Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), the protesters feared that recent efforts to water down the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 might only aggravate the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd’s move to acquire land near Mithi Virdi.

Union leaders sacked for protesting "illegal" practice of manual scavenging in small Gujarat town

By Our Representative
Manual scavengers of a small town in Gujarat, Dudhrej of Surendranagar district, are on warpath. Following the refusal of the state government authorities to heed to their demand to regularize them, the scavengers – who mostly work as contractors workers under the local municipality – took out their maiden rally in Surendranagar to protest against the “discriminatory attitude” of the authorities. They allege, instead of rehabilitating them in respectable jobs, they are forced to manually clean up human excreta, or else quit the job.

Gujarat's growth story: Per annum net value added 22%, job generation 3%, tax collection 3%, R&D 1%

By Rajiv Shah
In one of the most significant critiques in the recent past, Gujarat’s well-known industry consultant Sunil R Parekh has said that though Gujarat’s industries may have grown faster than most states, this has failed create matching jobs, generate enough taxes for coffers, and provide safe environment. Worse, he finds Gujarat’s performance in the area of innovations discouraging. Despite 17 per cent of industrial output of India, in patent filing, Gujarat accounted for less than 1 per cent of national filings; “Maharashtra, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu, together contribute 60 per cent of national filings.”

Hazardous pesticides in tea: MNC Uniliver, Modi favourite Tatas, top Gujarat brand Wagh Bakri blamed

By Our Representative
An investigation carried out by top international environmental NGO Greenpeace has found “residues of hazardous chemical pesticides” in a majority of samples of the main brands of packaged tea produced and consumed in India, including MNC Uniliver subsidiary, India’s powerful business group Tatas, and Gujarat's favourite tea brand Wagh Bakri. “Over half of the samples contained pesticides that are ‘unapproved’ for use in tea cultivation or which were present in excess of recommended limits”, a Greenpeace report, based on research carried out by its team in India, insisted.

Gujarat govt's largesse to mega investors: Just 2% of Rs 54,000 cr industrial subsidies went to small sector

By Our Representative
A research paper, “Political Economy of Subsidies and Incentives to Industries in Gujarat: Some Issues”, by scholars Indira Hirway, Neha Shah and Rajeev Sharma, has calculated that the total subsidies given to industries and infrastructure projects during 1990–2011 was a whopping Rs 56,538 crore, of which the maximum share is of sales tax subsidies (Rs 54,303 crore), followed by Rs 1,677 crore of capital subsidies and Rs 370 crore of interest subsidy.” Of this, the paper points out, “Rs 1,150 crore or a mere 2.03 per cent subsidies have gone to the small scale industries/ micro, small and medium enterprises (SSI/MSME)."

Sharp rise of whistleblowers' complaints to Central Vigilance Commission; drop in investigations

By Our Representative
Replying to a right to information (RTI) plea, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has revealed it received 470 complaints up to in 2014 till June-end under the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection for Informants (PIDPI) order of the 2004 Government of India (GoI). The GoI’s PIDPI order was meant to encourage whistleblowers in government departments and public sector undertakings (PSUs) to file complaints about corruption and mismanagement of public funds and facilitate investigation. The resolution was passed after two young professionals employed in PSUs were murdered because they tried to expose corruption.

Fresh directions on Narmada dam oustees' corruption case: MP high court refuses to hear Gujarat petition

By Our Representative
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has said that it may have to “proceed against” those state officials who have failed to comply by the Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry into large-scale corruption in the payment of cash in lieu of land acquired from thousands of Narmada dam oustees. It simultaneously dismissed the petition filed by the Gujarat government to not to allow the outees’ corruption case come in the way of raising the Narmada dam from 121.92 metres, where it is stationary today, to the full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.64 metres, saying it would not hear it, as the matter is pending with the Supreme Court.

Manual scavenging in Gujarat: Human Rights Commission intervenes, seeks report within four weeks

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking serious view of safai kamdars of Dudhrej municipality of Surendranagar district of Gujarat being forced to work as manual scavengers, has sent notice to the district magistrate to explain why is the despicable practice, called by Mahatma Gandhi “national shame”, continues unabated in the township. It has sought report from the senior Gujarat official within four weeks. The NHRC response comes in the wake of top Dalit rights organization Navsarjan Trust’s complaint taking strong objection to continuation of the practice in the township. The complaint was forwarded on the basis of www.counterview.net report.

Controversial Adani coal-mining project, uranium supply top on agenda during Modi's November Aussie visit

By Our Representative
Following India’s sharp differences over the World Trade Organisation’s plea to sign an international trade deal, found reflected in US secretary of state John Kerry telling Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India’s stance has sent “wrong signal”, Modi has found a new friend – Australia. Aussie news portal http://www.southasiatimes.com.au/ has reported that Modi is will be on an official visit of Australia on November 15-16. He will be attending the G-20 summit, which is to take place in Brisbane. It adds, “Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Australia, after Rajiv Gandhi came here in 1986, i.e. 28 years ago”. Modi last visited Australia as Gujarat chief minister in December 2004 to campaign for the Vibrant Gujarat investment summit of January 2005.

Demand for CBI inquiry into Rajasthan government's "fraudulant land grab" of Gandhian institution

By Our Representative
Prominent Gandhians and civil society activists have taken strong exception to the Government of Rajasthan’s recent “forcible acquisition” of the land belonging to the Rajasthan Samagra Sewa Sangh (RSSS), a well-known Gandhian institution in Jaipur, terming it “atrocious” and “fraudulent”. Saying it signifies how the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government is involved in a major land scam, larger than Mumbai’s Adarsh scam, a statement issued in Delhi said, “This is, no doubt, an attempt to towards land grabbing. It is an assault on the Gandhian ideology, for which active cadres for which the BJP and the RSS, are known for”.

Stay granted on eviction of cattle breeders of Aliyebet, proposed as Narendra Modi's El Dorado in 2010

By Rajiv Shah
In a major relief to 101 families residing at Aliyabet village, situated in the vicinity of the industrially-hyperactive Dahej region of South Gujarat, the state High Court has stayed the state forest department’s 14-year-old order to evict them from their land, calling them “illegal encroachers.” Claiming to be using the land for cattle breeding, their only occupation, for the last 60 years, the villagers received a major relief following Justice CL Soni order granting “interim protection” to the affected persons, asking the authorities “not to evict petitioners from the land till the final disposal of the civil suit pending in the civil court, Bharuch.”

World Bank seeks to "modernise" environment safeguards, NGOs say it is "reversing generation of gains"

By Our Representative
Amid widespread objections from civil society activists across the world, including India, a World Bank board has cleared its policy draft to “modernize” policies seeking to “safeguard people and the environment in the investment projects Bank finances.” Taking strong objection to the clearance, the Bank Information Centre (BIC), an independent apex body of NGOs advocating with the World Bank, said, the board has cleared “a weak new set of rules to replace its existing environmental and social safeguard policies.” The policies, it adds, “Reverse a generation of gains by weakening protections from harm for the poor and the environment in Bank-funded projects.”

Amnesty International asks chemical giant Dow to come clean on 1984 Bhopal gas catastrophe

By Our Representative
Amnesty International, one of world’s prestigious human rights organizations, has asked the Dow Chemical Company to “stop dodging its responsibility towards the survivors of the Bhopal disaster” and take full responsibility for “the catastrophic 1984 gas leak which left thousands dead and many more with chronic and debilitating illnesses”. In a statement issue from its London headquarters, Amnesty said, “The time has come for Dow to appear in an Indian court and account for the failure of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide, to respond to the criminal charges against it.”

Gujarat's rural model? Water logged village, dilapidated school building, inedible grain for midday meal

By Our Representative
In a glaring instance of negligence of Gujarat’s rural areas, a local social worker from Surendranagar district of Gujarat has sought top state officials’ intervention regarding the entire approach road to village Dholi of Limdi taluka having been water-logged due to monsoon rains, with no way to drain it out for days together. In a letter he wrote to Limdi taluka mamlatdar, the revenue official responsible for the state of affairs, Natubhai Lakhabhai Parmar, also points towards how the school building of the village is unfit to study and the midday meal offered to children is of hopeless quality.

Government of India all set to further relax environmental clearance norms, give more power to states

By Our Representative The Government of India is on way to take more steps towards “easing” hurdles on way to environmental clearance for developmental projects. Minister of state for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar has already said he is working for “streamlining” environmental clearance (EC) process by delegating more powers to the State level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs). Meanwhile, officials under him are seeking to categorise anew the type of projects to be cleared in states, adding several sectors whose authority for environmental clearance is with the Government of India.

"Setback" to Govt of India on cases of corruption in land allotment to Narmada dam oustees: NBA

By Our Representative
In a significant development, a two judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, has refused to entertain a Petition filed by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to transfer a seven year old public interest litigation (PIL) from the High Court of Madhya Pradesh to the Supreme Court. Chaired by the secretary, Union water resources ministry, NCA is the decision-making inter-state body with powers to take a final call on all major contentious issues related with the Narmada project, including raising of the dam.

Disillusioned? Top pro-Modi economist wonders if, like Raja Bhoja, NDA govt believes it is omniscient

By Our Representative
One of the top-ranking economists, known to have gone extremely close to Narendra Modi after being forced to quit the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2005 for ranking Gujarat No 1 in economic freedom index, has begun showing signs of disillusionment with the Modi style of governance. Bibek Debroy, professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, first expressed his reservations soon after the Union budget was presented in early July saying, it has missed the “big picture of tax and expenditure reforms”. Now, he has declared, the new NDA government is nothing but the same UPA regime “with better implementation.”

Showcased as urban model by Modi, Sabarmati riverfront has "worsened" life for uprooted slumdwellers

By Our Representative
In a scathing attack on Gujarat’s Sabarmati riverfront project, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has showcased as a glowing example of “inclusive growth”, the Los Angeles Times (LAT) has said all that the $200-million public project offered to thousands of uprooted slumdwellers is a life which is “worse off than before”. Ahmedabad’s city officials have “failed to find them alternative housing as promised”, it says, adding, many “families are stuck in a temporary housing site, living in tumbledown shacks made of plywood and plastic sheets that fall apart during the heavy summer rains, miles from city services or decent jobs.”

Arundhati lecture: Anti-caste publisher releases video, transcript which termed Gandhiji a "false Mahatma"

By Our Representative
Well-known writer and Booker prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy has created flutter once again, this time by calling Gandhiji a “false Mahatma”. Delivered as Ayyankali Memorial lecture Kerala University, Trivandrum, on July 17, 2014, the lecture evoked such sharp reaction that Speaker of the Kerala Assembly G. Karthikeyan said Roy’s views on Gandhiji must “hurt anyone who was born in India”. Now, Navayana, which claims to be the only publishing programme “focusing on case from an anti-caste perspective programme”, has hit back: “We think many of Gandhi’s views should hurt a lot of people—irrespective of where they are born.”

Gandhiji quoted as saying his anti-untouchability view has little space for inter-dining with "lower" castes

By Our Representative
A senior activist close to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar has defended top Booker prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy’s controversial utterance on Gandhiji that “his doctrine of nonviolence was based on an acceptance of the most brutal social hierarchy the world has ever known, the caste system.” Surprised at the police seeking video footage and transcript of Roy’s Mahatma Ayyankali memorial lecture at the Kerala University on July 17, Nandini K Oza in a recent blog quotes from available sources to “prove” that Gandhiji indeed believed in “removal of untouchability within the caste system.”

Gujarat-based NGO finds serious human rights violation in J&K during its campaign for Right to Information

By Our Representative
Gujarat-based NGO Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel’s (MAGP’s) recently-concluded people’s contact programme in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has found serious human rights violations by the army and the police in the northern-most Indian state. While campaigning for the right o information (RTI) Act on RTI on Wheels, a specially designed vehicle, with the supported by Sangharsh RTI Movement-J&K, MAGP activists heard the tale of woe from an old man in Gurvet village of Badgaon district who said how the army came to their house, fired at his wife and daughter-in-law, and took away his son.

"Economist" shocker: Mukesh Ambani's Reliance is rotten role model, secretive, national embarrassment

By Our Representative
The influential British weekly “The Economist”, in its latest issue dated August 2, has sought to trigger hornet’s nest by calling top tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) a “rotten role model for corporate India”, insisting, “When it comes to governance this secretive and politically powerful private empire is not a national champion but an embarrassment”. The title of the comment itself is enough to raise eye-brows: “An unloved billionaire: Why Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, needs to reform his empire.”