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Showing posts from September, 2014

India dissociates itself from UN Human Rights Council resolution favouring pluralistic civil society

By Our Representative
The day Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched New York, September 26, an important development which missed everyone’s attention took place. While the UN Human Rights Council urged all member-states to adopt a resolution for ushering in a pluralistic civil society, India decided to dissociate itself from any such move. The resolution got more than 66 co-sponsors, and it asks the UN High Commissioner to prepare “a compilation of practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.”

Government of India committee walks out of its "public consultation" on changes in environmental laws

By Our Representative
Ever imagined a top Government of India-appointed committee walking out of a public hearing organized by it to consult influential groups on an important policy issue? This is what happened on September 27 in Karnataka, where the High Level Committee headed by TSR Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change to review environment, pollution control and forest conservation laws, at Vikas Soudha, the high security office complex of the Government of Karnataka.

Vadodara violence spot query: Plainclothes 'cops' gatecrash houses, pick up boys, assault women, smash goodies

By Our Representative
A team of social activists, who visited some of the strife-torn areas of Vadodara, Gujarat’s third big city, on September 27-28, 2014, have taken strong exception to the “role of the police, particularly plainclothes cops, also known as D staff”, during the communal violence which has been continuing in sensitive areas for the last several days. Claiming that they decided to make an on-the-spot inquiry “on the request of the affected people”, the social activists, in a faxed message to E Radhakrishnan, city police commissioner, said, “The police should have prevented violence and arrested those who undertake violence”, but this has not happened.

Gujarat public hearing shows how life for a "Hindu" riot victim of 2002 communal flareup turned for worse

By Our Representative
In what was described by the organizers as a “glaring example” of how Gujarat’s powerful rulers have been treating victims of the 2002 riots belonging to the Hindu community, the Dalit Hakk Rakshak Manch (DHRM) presented at a public hearing at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, a 22-year-old girl Rekha, who has been living as a destitute ever since the gruesome incident took place in which her house was burnt. While Rekha, who was asked to speak, sobbed even before she could tell her sorrowful tale for 12 long years and withdrew, a DHRM volunteer said, “She lost her parents, and was forced to take care of four siblings.”

Gujarat's anti-nuclear protesters' message to Modi: Don't sign deal with US, you don't have our consent

By Our Representative
As previously planned, villagers from Mithi Virdi-Jaspara region of Bhavnagar district in Gujarat on Sunday took part in a well-attended meeting against the proposed 6,000 MW nuclear power plant on 777 hactares (ha) land. The meeting, said a joint statement issued by the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and the Bhavnagar Gram Bachao Andolan, “marked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, where he was expected to agree on an administrative deal to implement the Early Works Agreement signed in 2012 between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the USA’s Westinghouse Electric Corporation.”

"Resettled" Narmada oustees in Gujarat step up protest following govt efforts to take away their land

By Our Representative
Tens of Gujarat adivasis, threatened displacement from their Narmada resettlement site on the basis of the town planning Act for triggering industrial and urban development, sat on dharna on September 28, 2014 following clear indications that the promised meeting with the  district collector, Narmada, would not take place, as promised, for settling their grievances. The meeting was to take place to discuss the implications of the notices being given to the resettled Narmada oustees. "When a team of 15 oustees reached Rajpipla headquarters, they found that the collector was transferred overnight, and hence no dialogue was possible", the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said in a statement.

Narendra Modi's "modest" steps unlikely to bring Indian economy back on track, comments The Economist

By Our Representative
World’s top rating agency Standard & Poor may have lifted India's rating outlook to 'stable' from 'negative', with claims that this shows it acknowledges efforts by the Narendra Modi government to maintain fiscal discipline while reviving the economy and drumming up investment, influential British journal “The Economist” believes not enough has yet been done, and the new government’s “modest policies” will not bring back to nine per cent growth. The commentary comes when Modi is in the US, the stocks have returned following a three-day losing streak and the rupee showing signs of strengthening.

While Modi is in US, back home in Gujarat villagers plan anti-nuclear protest at proposed Mithi Virdi site

By Our Representative
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the US and his supporting NRIs are chanting “Modi, Modi”, back home in Gujarat, tens of villages surrounding the proposed site for the 6,000 MW nuclear power plant are set to stage a major protest rally. To be held in the Mithi-Virdi-Jaspara region of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat on April 28, during the protest, when Modi will have intense discussions in the White House, the anti-nuclear campaigners are likely to insist that the Early Works Agreement signed in 2012 between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NCPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Corporation for the project be scrapped.

National Green Tribunal refuses forest clearance to industry groups Essar, Hindalco, tribals celebrate "victory"

By Our Representative
In a major ruling, National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s quasi-judicial environmental watchdog with powers of a High Court, has declared that the forest clearance granted to Essar and Hindalco’s Mahan Coal Ltd are invalid. This follows the Supreme Court order to de-allocate 214 coal blocks. The NGT’s decision is in response to a petition filed by members of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS), a people’s organisaion, which challenged the coal mine’s forest clearance. According to Greenpeace India’s estimate, the project would have led to the loss of approximately 5 lakh trees and affected the livelihoods of over 50,000 people in 54 villages of Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh.

Anti-Modi activists, minority rights NGOs, Congress, other parties join to discuss Minorities under Attack

By Our Representative
A public meeting, “Minorities under Attack”, has been proposed for September 27 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, day on which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address UN General Assembly. To be held in afternoon, the meeting will see the release of a US NRI sponsored report critical of 100 days of Modi, and those addressing it include Manish Tiwari of the Congress, Ali Anwar of Janata Dal (United), Kunwar Danish of Janata Dal (Secular), CPI’s Amarjeet Kaur, bureaucrat-turned-activist Harsh Mander, ex-Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, anti-Modi campaigner Shabnam Hashmir, Dalit rights activist Paul Divakar, and Archbishop Anil Jt Couto. Muslim and Christian groups, apart from some human rights NGOs, will support the meeting.

Maharashtra polls: Advocacy groups want police reforms, representation to women, SCs, STs, minorities

By Our Representative
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Delhi, and Police Reforms Watch (PRW), Mumbai, will be launching an eighteen-day campaign on September 26 in order to “catalyze” voters in Maharashtra, and especially in the city of Mumbai, to “vote for a representative and a party that commits to and is vested in better policing in the state.” In a statement, the two advocacy groups have said, this is being done ahead of the state elections, scheduled on October 15, in order to “blow the whistle for police reforms in Maharashtra.”

Human Rights Watch wants India's sedition laws amended, as they have jeopartised freedom of expression

By Our Representative
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly opposed “continued efforts” by government authorities in India to use the sedition law against activists and protesters. While the latest incident relates to immigration officials on September 16, 2014 preventing environmental activist SP Udayakumar from traveling out of the country because of sedition cases filed against him for leading protests at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, there is enough evidence why Parliament should act quickly to repeal the colonial-era sedition law, repeatedly misused to harass activists and protesters, it said.

Ahead of Navratri, senior Gujarat activists write to CM Anandiben Patel to protest Love Jihad "terror"

By Our Representative
With Navratri festival all set to begin in Gujarat, several civil rights groups and individual activists of Gujarat have come together to strongly protest the efforts by certain “extremist” forces to create an atmosphere of communal hatred in Gujarat in the name of fighting Love Jihad, saying, the essence of the whole exercise of these forces is to consider women as property of a particular community by considering Navaratri as the private property of a particular Hindutva group. In a strongly-worded letter to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, they have urged upon her to immediately put a brake on their “vicious propaganda.”

Gujarat Dalits refused permission by upper caste to use cremation ground in a village off Godhra

By Our Representative
Dalits of a village in Godhra taluka of Gujarat are up in arm against a gruesome incident in which members of the dominant caste refused to allow them to cremate Nanabhai Kohyabhai Vankar, who died at the age of 75 on September 19, 2014 morning. Pointing out that this has not happened for the first time, Manubhai Rohit, who along with a group of Dalit activists represented to district collector, Panchmahals district, P Bharathi, said, “The cremation ground was constructed from the grant of Prabhatsinh Chauhan, who represented the area in the Gujarat state assembly.”

US-based Ghadar Alliance report says Modi's 100 days point towards an emerging disaster to happen in India

By Our Representative
The newly-formed Ghadar Alliance, a US-based educational watchdog coalition created by activist-scholars calling themselves “concerned citizens”, has released a comprehensive 100-day report of Modi saying they point towards an “emerging disaster” waiting to happen in India on issues of human rights. Titled Fast Track to Troubling Times, the report has been released even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his first visit to the US. Modi’s US tour begins on September 26.

"Revisit" and "reform" India's reservation policy, "provide" entitlements on the basis of vulnerability index

By Our Representative
A few senior Dalit activists, social workers and scholars, who gathered in for a workshop in Ahmedabad to discuss how to “annihilate” casteism from India a few days back, are learnt to have reached an atypical conclusion, which may not go down well with politicians: Drastically reform the present entitlement-based reservation policy, continuing in the country for decades. The activists agreed that while the reservation policy has helped create a new middle class among the Dalits, large sections of oppressed communities have remained outside overall development that has taken place in India.

Gujarat's salt-pan farmers in Little Rann of Kutch served eviction notices citing wildlife conservation law

By Our Representative
The salt-pan farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat are in a state of agitation. Thousand of them, locally called “agariyas”, have been served a strongly-worded notice which wants them to provide “proof” of the ownership of the land on which they have been carrying on salt farming, or "quit". Issued by the range forest officer, Wild Ass Sanctuary of the Little Rann, the notice says that if they do not provide evidence of ownership within a week, cases would be registered against them under the wildlife protection Act, which stipulates fine of up to Rs 25,000 and jail from three to seven years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's Gujarat visit: Why Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel was kept at bay?

By Rajiv Shah
There is a veritable buzz in Gujarat: On September 17, when Chinese president Xi Jinping was in Gujarat, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, who received Xi at Ahmedabad International Airport, was “missing” in action at any of the important ceremonies held for his five hours of stay. While she was “around”, she wasn’t “visible”, or to be more precise, the state propaganda wing ensured that she was not projected at any place – the Hyatt Hotel where Xi was welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sabarmati Ashram where Xi “remembered” Mahatma Gandhi, and the Sabarmati riverfront, where Xi took a stroll with Modi ahead of Gujarati dinner.

Drop "draconian" Rajasthan land acquisition bill, seeking to jail and fine protesters: Demonstrators to CM

By Our Representative
In a representation to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, several people’s organisations have said that the new Rajasthan land acquisition bill, 2014, tabled in the state assembly, was a clear effort of the state government to “undermine democratic and constitutional principles and traditions”, as it contradicts the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, Resettlement Act, passed in Parliament last year. Saying that the bill ignores that it will adversely “impact more than 75 per cent of the population of the state”, it said, it is an effort to change Rajasthan “forever from a farming state to an urban state.”

Case against CBI director: Influential citizens ask Supreme Court CJ to protect whistleblower's identity

By Our Representative
Seven well-known activists and academics, Aruna Roy, Ajit Ranade, Jagdeep Chhokar, Nikhil Dey, Rajni Bakshi, Shailesh Gandhi and Trilochan Sastry, in an open letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India have said that there was a need to ponder if the September 15 apex court order to reveal the name the identity of the whistleblower in the case against CBI director Ranjit Sinha was not against the Whistleblowers’ Act, passed in Parliament. “It is true that the rules for the Act have not been made so far. But the nation and the courts had backed the idea and spirit of the whistleblower’s Act”, the letter insists.

China's "authorized" govt portal calls Modi fundamentalist, says his Japan visit showed he lacks diplomatic skill

By Our Representative
In a curious development, the day on which Chinese president Xi Jinping landed in Ahmedabad, September 17, birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to kickstart his three-day visit, a top English language news and views website site that Xi's visit to India came when India was "transitioning into rule by the Hindu right wing BJP and new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has no qualms about his fundamentalist credentials.” The site, which published its commentary in the Opinion column, emphatically recalls that Modi was “accused of turning a blind eye to the killings of hundreds of Muslims in religious riots when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002.”

Xi Jinping's Ahmedabad visit: Slum areas, including historic Dandi bridge, on way to Sabarmati Ashram covered up

By Our Representative
In an unusual development, the Gujarat government on September 17 morning quickly moved to cover up with long green curtains the entire slum area on the two sides of the road leading to the Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad. Keen passersby noted that even the Dandi bridge, from where Mahatma Gandhi began his famous march towards Dandi for his historic 390-kilometres-long Salt Satyagraha in March-April 1930, was covered up with the curtains, as the slums are situated just next to the Dandi bridge. Only recently, the Dandi bridge was “repaired” and provided a “new look”.

Pro-Narendra Modi think-tank chief praises Gujarat PUCL's latest book for "ignoring" human rights activists

By Our Representative
A well-known pro-Narendra Modi think-tank head, who has lately supported the Sangh Parivar’s controversial campaign against Love Jihad, has strongly defended the Gujarat People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL’s) latest book for “ignoring” contributions by certain human rights activists in its latest book, “Human Rights in Gujarat and Civil Liberties Movement” (1974-2014). Head of Delhi-based India Policy Foundation, Rakesh Sinha has said those ignored in the book by no stretch of imagination can be called human rights activists.

Gujarat's protesting women scavenging workers refuse to relent, three rushed to hospital as they fall ill

By Our Representative
Three of the 71 manual scavenger women from Wadhwan township of Surendranagar district in Gujarat, sitting on dharna outside the collector's office for the last one week to protest against refusal of the Wadhwan municipal authorities to ensure payment of minimum wages, were rushed to the hospital after they fell ill. A statement by the Mahila Adhikar Panch, which is leading the protest, said that this happened because "they were on indefinite protest fast". The women, who protested outside the district collector's office also, have already sent a letter to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, which said that they were paid Rs 150 per day despite working for eight hours, which id Rs 82 less than the minimum wages. The photographs show women shouting slogans a little after three of them were taken on treatment in Surendranagar Civil Hospital, where they were rushed in an emergency van. For earlier story, click HERE.

Modi is "squandering" his strong mandate, in four months multinationals' honeymoon is "nearing its end"

By Our Representative
In a commentary, "Modi allure dims for multinationals awaiting ‘big bang’ in India", the world's one of most influential business papers, the Financial Times (FT), has warned Narendra Modi that "honeymoon is nearing its end for the growing ranks of investors disappointed by the dearth of radical economic reforms." Authored by Victor Mallet and James Crabtree, in a strong critique of Modi's economic policies, FT has said, the Indian Prime Minister's "first four months in office" suggest that he is "squandering his strong mandate".

Gujarat govt begins "grabbing" land allocated to Narmada dam oustees 15 yrs ago invoking town planning law

By Our Representative
In move without precedence, the Gujarat government has begun to evict Narmada dam oustees, settled in resettlement colonies in the state. One such oustee, Bijalbhai, originally from village Shurpan of Dediapada taluka in Bharuch district, was resettled about 15 years ago at a resettlement site called Dabhoinada in district Vadodara. On September 2, officials of Dabhoi municipality told him to vacate from his plot, survey No 1,434 area, an agricultural land measuring 1.37 acres, allocated to him as part of resettlement entitlement.

PUCL book ignores top human rights activists, praises RSS mouthpiece Sadhana's "fearless" journalism

By Our Representative
There is flutter among top human rights activists of Gujarat. A new book by the Gujarat chapter of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India’s premier rights body, has not only undermined the role of Gujarat’s senior human rights activists, it has failed to recall some of the basic human rights issues nagging the state. Brought out in Gujarati, and titled “Four Decades of Human Rights in Gujarat and Civil Liberties Movement (1974-2014), it carries, for instance, just two passing references to top human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, currently the target of powerful state establishment for fighting 2002 Gujarat riots cases.

More protests in Gujarat against manual scavenging; Wadhwan women workers demand minimum wages

By Our Representative
Following successes achieved by the protesting manual scavengers of Dudhrej municipality of Surendranagar district in Gujarat (read HERE to read), women workers of another neighbouring town, Wadhwan, have gone on strike against the despicable practice. Sitting on dharna in front of the Surendranagar district collector’s office with placards such as “manual scavenging continues in Modi’s Gujarat” and “real face of Vibrant Gujarat” in their hand, the women workers, employed through contractor, have demanded that they should be paid minimum wages and provided protective equipment for their work. Earlier, they took out a protest rally.

India wants labour laws to ensure higher investment, ease in doing business, sans social safety net for jobless

By Our Representative
Senior Narendra Modi minister Narendra Singh Tomar has told the G-20 labour ministers’ conference in Melbourne that the Government of India is all set to amend the “labour laws in order to encourage investment, ease of doing business and entrepreneurship”. Suggesting that hire and fire would be the touchstone of the new amendment, the Union labour minister however did not utter a single word on going for social safety net, as it exists in western countries, in case a worker is hired from the workplace.

30 lakh liters of Narmada water to Cola: Why waste water in Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP, asks Patkar

By Our Representative
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has strongly objected to the Gujarat government move to provide whopping 30 lakh litres per day of Narmada water to the proposed Coca Cola plant to come up in Sanand region in Ahmedabad district. In a statement, Patkar has said, the Rs 500 crore Coca Cola plant in Sanand, being set up in an area next to the Tatas’ Nano plant, will be provided with Narmada water over and above 90 lakh litres per day of water which has already been “committed” to be provided to industrialists in Sanand, an upcoming industrial area.

J&K floods: Why Central Water Commission has no flood forecasting mechanism in place, wonders SANDRP

By Our Representative
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), a premier Indian non-profit organization focused on the impact of dams and river water projects on people, has asked a pointed question to the Government of India as to why the body controlled by it, Central Water Commission (CWC), does not have any flood forecasting mechanism for Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), which suffered from one of the worst-ever floods. In a recent article it has posted on its site, it has said, “Shockingly, India’s premier water resources body, CWC, responsible for flood forecasting and providing advisory to the states for tackling floods, has no flood forecast for any place in J&K.”

Government of India may move to remove gram sabha consent clause from the forest rights Act, 2006

By Our Representative
After its decision to water down the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, passed in Parliament last year, the Government of India is said to be considering removal of the “consent” clause from the forest rights Act, 2006 as well. Popularly known as land acquisition Act 2013, which replaced more than a century old law wgucg allowed forcible land acquisition, two of its main provisions which the Centre seeks to remove from 2013 Act are social impact assessment and consent from 70 to 80 per cent of those sought to be displaced by a project.

Tale of a Gujarat bridge, constructed in early 2013, but became unusable in a year after monsoon set in

By Our Representative This bridge near Umreth, part of a state highway leading to Vadodara, the hub of Central Gujarat, was constructed one-and-a-half years ago. Soon after monsoon set in, for nearly three months, it became virtually unusable, with long iron rods rising up vertically all over from the concrete surface. Recent heavy rains made things worse for the surface of the road. Despite complaints by Hamidpura village sarpanch Rohit Solanki, the officialdom gave mere assurances to repair it. Local people closed the bridge after vehicles began getting stuck (in a photograph, one of the motorbike rider shows how this happened). Other vehicles simply failed to steer their way through. Finally, the matter went to the district collector, Kheda, who ordered its repair. Currently, the repair work is on.

VHP's anti-Love Jihad campaign in Gujarat: Aggressive leaflet distributed ahead of ten by-polls

By Our Representative
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), known for its aggressive posturing, has begun distributing a leaflet in one Lok Sabha and nine state assembly constituencies going to by-polls on September 13, asking Hindu girls to be "wary" of well-dressed Muslim boys seeking to “dangerously trap them into prostitution”. Being described as “highly inflammatory” by activists on the social media, the leaflet has already been distributed on a very large scale in two constituencies – Vadodara (Lok Sabha) and Maninagar (assembly) – vacated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In Gujarat's Khambhat region two more die of silicosis: Deaths toll reaches 19, highest in a year

By Our Representative
Two more persons, Kanti Mulji Parmar and Prakash Khushal Parmar, have died because of the deadly occupational disease, silicosis, following long illness. With this, the total number of deaths due to silicosis in Gujarat this year has reached 19, highest in a single year. Revealing this, Jagdish Patel, who has been supporting agate workers’ plight in Khambhat region of Gujarat, says, “Both had may things in common. They stayed in same village, in same area. They were from same caste, Dalit vankar. Both were late thirties. They remained unmarried for the similar reasons -- their elder brothers had also died of silicosis.Both were agate polishers. Both lost their parents and brothers who also died because of silicosis. And, both died in September 2014.”

Gujarat Dalit families forcibly displaced, migrate out of village following threats of economic boycott

By Our Representative
About 17 Dalit families belonging to Timba village of Vadhvan taluka of Surendranagar district in Gujarat have been forced to migrate to several villages neighbouring areas following threats from upper caste Rajputs, accused in fatal attack on Tokarbhai Jagabhai Jitiya, 32, on April 9, 2014. Talking with newspersons, family members of the victim said, “The Dalit families were forced to migrate after they were told they that would suffer in case they supported our effort to bring to book the accused. While six of the accused involved in the murder have been arrested, the main accused, Kanbha Nadoda, is still at large, thanks to his political support from the ruling BJP.”

Bollywood film director Hansal Mehta expresses "serious concern" over RSS' communal, divisive agenda

By Our Representative Well-known film director Hansal Mehta has expressed serious concerns over the overt activities and statements of the RSS and allied organizations, after the recent BJP victory in the general elections of 2014. He has stated that "communal and divisive agenda of the century old rightist organization RSS is now open and public." In an interview, which is part of a series of audio-visual interviews to be released soon, Mehta has sought to compare the way the Government of India is acting with the Emergency days (1975-77), imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Civil society ripple: Social activist Medha Patkar regrets, UPA was accommodative of NGOs, NDA is not

By Our Representative
In what may be seen as a clear refusal to take an equidistant position between the ruling NDA government and its predecessor UPA government, well-known anti-dam activist Medha Parkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has said that the previous regime “consulted” civil society on critical issues, which is not true of BJP rulers. In a recent article, Patkar comments, while the UPA “paranoid about NGOs, especially those challenging big business or inequitable development projects”, it never shied of seeking “NGO input on major public welfare policies such as the right to information, universal education and food security.”

Gujarat's Muslim traders complain of "harassment" before National Commission for Minorities: Reports

By Our Representative
Gujarat may be claiming to have ushered in a new era of communal harmony, pushing the 2002 communal riots to the backdrop. But reports from Gujarat suggest Muslims traders are angry over alleged efforts to close down their business in different parts of the state. This is happening not just around the Jain religious shrine of Palitana in Saurashtra, where meat and egg shops are banned, but elsewhere in the state as well. Palitana, it may be recalled, is situated just about 60 kilometres from Bhavnagar town, where Vishwa Hindu Parishan leader Pravin Togadia offered advice to Hindus on how to prevent Muslims from buying property in areas where they are in the majority.

Civil rights activists from India, neighbours to form South Asia Council, lobby on human rights with SAARC

By Our Representative
A Delhi Declaration adopted by over 100 senior civil rights activists from 20 Indian states, and joined by representatives from Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that a People’s/Citizens South Asia Council would be formed in order to lobby for the formation of a human rights mechanism under the South Asian Association of Regional Countries (SAARC). The declaration— whose text was released five days later -- was adopted at the end of two-day consultations (August 26 and 27, 2014) in Delhi. The council, it said, would reflect “the diversity of the vast region.”

Tale of two Misras: Narendra Modi begins to increasingly rely his Man Friday, PK Misra, retired IAS, Gujarat

By Our Representative
Indications have emerged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “upset” with his principal secretary Nripendra Misra, the person handpicked from what an organization which many believe operates under RSS’ wings, Vivekanand Foundation. Modi has increasingly begun to rely, instead, another Misra, his principal secretary in Gujarat during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, says an authoritative report. Quoting sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the report adds, Nripendra Misra has already been “overshadowed by his subordinate, additional principal secretary PK Misra”.

Don't make use of archaic sedition law to curb freedom of expression: Amnesty on Kerala youth's arrest

By Our Representative
Amnesty International India has sharply criticized the arrest and detention of a 25-year old man accused of sedition for allegedly disrespecting India’s national symbols, pointing out that this suggests "how archaic laws continue to be used to curb free speech in India.” In a statement, Amnesty, a human rights organization with presence in several countries, said, “On August 20, 2014, police in Kerala arrested Salman M for allegedly making catcalls and not standing up when India’s national anthem was being played at a cinema two days earlier.”

Modi move to address schools on Teachers' Day an official intrusion in educational institutions: RTE Forum

By Our Representative
The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRE), consisting of some of the most reputed educationists, has strongly protested against what it has called the Government of India’s attempt to officially “intrude into the calendar of educational institutions.” Calling the Prime Minister’s decision to address all children across India as nothing but “marginalizing the teachers and the students”, the authoritative organization says, “Misfortunes as they say never come alone. Now Chief Ministers are also joining the race to politically indoctrinate the students/ teachers on Teachers Day.”

Gujarat manual scavengers end protest: No assurance to rehabilitate workers from caste-based occupation

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s manual scavengers, belonging to Doodhrej municipality of Surendrangar district, ended their nearly month-long protest against the authorities after the latter handed over a written assurance that their major demands, especially those related to providing them with fair wages and necessary safety equipment, would be met. This, the letter hopes, would take care of the issue that the workers have to manually clean up human excreta. The assurance follows Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust director Manjula Pradeep’s meeting with Surendranagar district collector KB Bhatt, who agreed the manual scavengers’ plight was being “ignored.”

World Economic Forum recipe for Modi to fight poverty: Encourage private investment, achieve high growth

By Our Representative
The World Economic Forum's (WEC’s) latest “Global Competitive Report 2014-15” has alarmingly found that India has slipped by 11 points in global competitive index (GCI) over the last one year. Ranking No 60th in 2013-14, in 2014-15 it ranks 71st, asking the new Narendra Modi government to focus on "improving competitiveness in order to put growth on a more stable footing" on a priority basis. Seeking to accelerate what has come to be known as neo-liberal model, the WEC believes only a high rate of growth, increasing public-private partnership, and global investment would fight poverty.
Refusing to suggest any measures that would end India lag in the social sector, the report states, "At 28th, China stands some 40 places ahead of India, the other regional economic giant", adding, "Despite its immense potential and promise, by many accounts India continues to suffer from poverty. A third of its population still lives in extreme poverty—…

Australian environmental group opposes proposed N-deal with India, says it will further destabilize region

By Our Representative
Even as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, conservative leader who captured power in the last polls, reaches Delhi, the Aussie anti-nuclear lobby has upped the ante against a possible nuclear deal with India. “Abbott’s deal with Indian PM Narendra Modi to sell Australian uranium to nuclear-armed India will further destabilise the region and damage Australia’s international reputation”, the Australian Conservation Foundation (AFC), a powerful environmental group, said in a statement on September 3.

Tata Mundra power plant in Kutch, Gujarat, "fails" to get environmental clearance for the next phase

By Our Representative
In what is being seen by environmentalists and activists as an important success, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has refused to give environmental clearance to the Tata Mundra Ultra Power Project (UMPP). Revealing this, Bharat Patel of the Machimaar Adhikaar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS), which is pitted against the UMPP at Mundra, has said in a statement that the MoEF decision has been reached "citing non-compliance of environmental conditions during the first phase."

Consult leader of largest party in Lok Sabha, appoint chief information commissioner immediately: Modi told

By Our Representative
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), India’s apex body of right to information (RTI) NGOs in India, has taken strong exception to failure of the Government of India to appoint a new chief information commissioner (CIC) in the Central Information Commission of India, ostensibly because of the deadlock over leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. Saying that this may be a requirement to appoint CIC, the NCPRI in an open letter has reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the RTI Act gives clear-cut explanation on this, and there is no ambiguity about it.
In a signed letter

Bihar, Odisha, UP score better than Gujarat in providing digital bank accounts to BPL, says Bill Gates' NGO

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile study has found that Gujarat’s just about 13 per cent of people below the poverty line (BPL) have active digital bank accounts, which is the lowest in India. The study, carried out by the Washington-based InterMedia and sponsored by the world’s one of the most prestigious philanthropic organizations, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of his ambitious Jan Dhan project, requiring bank accounts to about 10 crore poor of the country by January 26, 2015. The Government of India has claims, 1.5 crore accounts were “opened” in just a day.

RTI reply suggests Union Home Ministry destroyed 11,100 files in July casually, without caring for rules

By Our Representative
Even after more than a month of destroying the 11,100 files, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, does not have, in one comprehensive list, details of all files it destroyed in July. Alleging this on the basis of a right to information (RTI) application, senior activist of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Venkatesh Nayak has said, “Having looked at records management practices in some detail during my decade-long career of advocating for transparency in government, I find it surprising that the MHA went about destroying files without even preparing a list of files for review.”