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Showing posts from October, 2014

National Alliance of People's Movements insists on "united action" against "neo-liberal communal onslaught"

By Our Representative
The tenth biennial conference of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of several grassroots organisations and NGOs spread all over the country, has called for “united action” in the face of “neoliberal onslaughts”. Held against the backdrop of continued political advance of the Narendra Modi-led BJP, which is seeking to amend “positive features” of the new land acquisition Act, water down environmental and forest rights laws and the rural jobs scheme, participants at the NAPM meeting said it is the “need of the hour” to come “together to challenge the neoliberal communal onslaught.”

Pandian chosen as Gujarat's next chief secretary, setting aside his senior SK Nanda's claim for the top post

By Our Representative
D Jagatheesa Pandian, additional chief secretary, industries, has been chosen by Gujarat government to take over as new state chief secretary, setting aside the claim of No 2 in the bureaucracy, Sudip Kumar Nanda. Belonging to the 1981 IAS batch, Pandian will take over as chief secretary on November 1, 2014. Officials said, Nanda’s Congress past played a major role for dropping him. Currently additional chief secretary, home, Nanda has been sent to head the Gujarat State Fertilizers Corporation (GSFC), a state public sector undertaking (PSU) in Vadodara. More recently, during Navratri, Nanda overturned Vishwa Hindu Parishad move not to allow Muslims to enter garba venues. He barred use of identity cards to take part in garbas.

Tallest statue to be built sans eco-clearance, peer review of seismic activity off Narmada dam: Activists

By Our Representative Two senior Gujarat-based environmental activists, Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, have asked the Government of Gujarat to submit an application for environment clearance to the concerned authorities before kickstarting the construction of 182 metres high -- tallest in the world -- statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, planned about 3.2 km downstream of the Narmada dam. Asking the state government to immediately stop the construction, and suspend all activities related to it, they said, the proposed decision to go ahead with the project is “illegal”, and against the spirit of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of September 2006, as also and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Black money controversy: Treaties with foreign nations "undermine" Parliament, judiciary, right to know

By Our Representative
Top Right to Information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak has alleged that Government of India’s Double Tax Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with foreign countries “curb” independence of judiciary, undermine laws made by Parliament, and curtail the scope of the people’s right to know under the pretext of protecting the privacy of high net worth individuals (HNIs), firms and corporations who may be tax evaders. Objecting to the secrecy clause signed with over 100 countries since 1965, involving governments of all dispensations, Nayak said, the fact is, none of the DTAAs were ever ratified in Parliament.

Prominent citizens to Modi: Withhold decision to raise Narmada dam, respect democratic, human values

By Our Representative
Thirty-eight prominent citizens have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withhold the decision to raise the height of the Narmada dam further by erecting 17 metres high gates, to the full reservoir level, i.e. 138.68 meters, saying this will affect “44 additional village communities and one whole township”, and stretching up to “214 km long area in the Narmada basin.” Asking him to do this in the name of “a new democratic initiative, respect law, democracy, human values and human rights”, the letter warned, in case the height is raised, “45,000 families will be displaced.”

Human Rights Watch to Modi govt: Enact anti-communal violence law, prosecute anti-Sikh riots culprits

By Our Representative Sharply criticizing “successive Indian governments” for failing to prosecute those most responsible for killings and other abuses during the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, influential human rights body, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has asked the Narendra Modi government should “enact a law against communal violence that would hold public officials accountable for complicity and dereliction of duty.” Saying that independent civil society inquiries have found “complicity” by both police and leaders of the Congress, HRW underlined, “Three decades later, only 30 people, mostly low-ranking Congress supporters, have been convicted for the attacks that resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries.”

Conservative compulsion forces higher percent of Gujarat women to do domestic work than most states

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst the big talk around Gujarat women being more secure than most Indian states, what is perhaps forgotten is that many of them are unable to come out of the socio-religious constraints, which ties them to their domestic work full time, even as forcing them not to do any full-time job. A just-released National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report, “Participation of Women in Specified Activities along with Domestic Duties”, has found that a much higher percentage of Gujarat women are driven by the conservative socio-religious framework compared to most Indian states in doing domestic work.

Gujarat model 'revealed': Social security benefit, paid leave, written contract elude majority workers

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh data released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), India’s premier data collection centre between decadal censuses, have revealed that, far from being a model for the country to follow, Gujarat under the years under Narendra Modi as chief minister (2001-14) failed to take care of the workers’ plight in the huge informal sector which is shaping up following the state’s fast-growing industrialization. According to the NSSO, the informal sector workers make up nearly 75 per cent of the state’s workforce employed in the non-agricultural sector (both rural and urban), and the workers in this sector particularly have massively failed to get any social security benefits, including paid leave. With wages one of the lowest in India, the workers in this sector suffer even more.

CPI-M politbureau member says there's no reason for Left to shed equi-distance between BJP and Congress

By Our Representative
India’s main Left party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), may have noted that in the new dispensation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi the neglect of India’s poor has intensified, as seen in the “targeted attack” on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), implemented by the previous Congress-led government. This is being "effected" by putting "a cut on the budgetary outlays", it says. However, the party does not think this is reason enough to drop its earlier stance of maintaining equi-distance between the Congress and Modi-led BJP, which snatched power by decimating the Congress in the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Expert objects to new Love Jihad formula, says pro-Modi campaigner Madhu Kishwar is legitimizing it

By Our Representative
Noted feminist and political scientist Nivedita Menon has said that far-right Hindutva groups, caught on the back foot by the humiliating backfire in their fantastical Meerut claims of ‘gangrape and forcible conversion’, have arrived at a new formula: That the anxiety over ‘Love Jihad’ has also been expressed by the Church in Kerala and the Akal Takht, hence “there must be some fire generating all the smoke.” Menon adds, the votaries of the new formula – who include feminist-turned-pro-Narendra Modi campaigner Madhu Kishwar -- claim that as the dangers from Love Jihad are real, quoting investigations by police and court directions.

Wary of being accused of treading differently, Gujarat CM meticulously follows Modi's ways and schedule

By Our Representative
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel is learnt to have instructed her office not to entertain any requests for special favour from her family members, including her son, daughter and son-in-law. The instructions are learnt to have come following wild -- some would say unsubstantiated -- accusations by a young activist, Roshan Shah, seeking to find out whether the non-government organisation (NGO) run by her son-in-law Jayesh Patel and daughter Anar Patel, Manav Sadhna Trust, played any role in “selling off” some land assets once owned by the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad.

It's now official: Gujarat's 65% of the common village land encroached upon by vested interests, corporates

By Our Representative
It is now official. A recent survey, quoting Gujarat government sources, has found that, despite loud claims, Gujarat would be suffering from a shortage of a whopping 65 per cent of the common village land, meant for grazing of cattle. Carried out by a team of activists working under the Maldhari Rural Action Group (MARAG), an Ahmedabad-based non-profit organisation, the survey was carried in 90 villages in three districts – Kutch, Patan and Surendranagar. The survey uniquely juxtaposed the spot analysis in each of the villages and the government data on gauchar – as the grazing land is identified – and found that there is not much difference between the two.

Eerie quiet in South Gujarat's sugarcane tribal farmers, as allegations fly high over refusal to pay huge dues

By Our Representative
An eerie quiet prevails among tribal farmers of South Gujarat. Information emanating from activists working in three districts, Surat, Tapi and the Dangs, suggests that thousands of tribal farmers have “not been paid” their dues on purchase of sugarcane they produce in their fields. Expressing concern over their plight, the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, which claims to represent tribal farmers in the three districts, has said, the Ukai Pradesh Khand Udyog Sahkari Mandali, the cooperative with the rights to buy up sugarcane in order to pass on the crop to the local sugar producing units, has “not paid its dues between 2006 and 2014.”

Right to information online: A "good step", but activists warn it would make whistleblowers "vulnerable"

By Our Representative
Controversy has broken out among India's right to information (RTI) activists over the latest order of the Government of India's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), released on October 20, 2014, which allows all ministries and departments to "facilitate uploading of RTI applications and appeals" on their respective websites, even as providing links of replies through a URL. Suggesting that it was being implemented by the DoPT on a pilot basis, and has proved successful, the order says, however, that the "RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed if they do not serve any public purpose."

Concern over religious fundamentalism, sectarian violence in Vatican's Diwali greetings to "Hindu friends"

By Our Representative
In an usual message titled “Feast of Deepavali 2014“ from Vatican City, which is the seat of power of the Roman Catholic Church, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has expressed dismay over “the negative effects of globalization” which are starting to “impact on religious communities throughout the world.” In its greetings message to the “Hindu friends”, the message says, “Globalization has contributed to the fragmentation of society and to an increase in relativism and syncretism in religious matters, as well as bringing about a privatization of religion.”

US study on Reliance's UMPP termed part of "malafide intention" by foreign NGOs to "malign Indian cos"

Counterview Desk
Strongly defending the Reliance Power Ltd’s Sasan ultra mega power project (UMPP), under attack by a group of American NGOs for “neglecting” people’s livelihood and environment, a pro-UMPP blogger, Prof Satish Rai, has said this seems to be “part of the efforts by foreign NGOs/ foreign funded NGOs to stall development work in countries like India.” Citing the latest study (read HERE) by NGOs led by Sierra Club, top US environmental group, Prof Rai calls it just an “extension of the malafide intentions by foreign NGOs to malign the image of Indian companies and large scale infrastructure projects.”

Reliance Power's Sasan plant: US taxpayers' $900 million "used to support dirty, dangerous coal project"

By Our Representative
In a move that would create flutter in India’s corporate sector, several influential independent organizations based in the US -- Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Pacific Environment, and Friends of the Earth US -- have released a new report detailing what they call “catastrophic human rights, labour, and environmental violations at Reliance Power’s Sasan coal-fired power plant and mine in Singrauli, India.” Available details suggest, the main reason behind releasing the report is that the US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) financed over $900 million for the project, “using" American taxpayer dollars to support the "dirty, dangerous coal project.”

Coalmining scam: Activists demand withdrawal of cases on those who protested against scrapped projects

By Our Representative
A public gathering at Dumka, Jharkhand, saw senior activists campaigning against indiscriminate permissions to coalminers without taking into account people’s livelihood needs demanding withdrawal of all cases against protesters in all coalmining projects, especially those coal blocks whose licenses were cancelled by the Supreme Court on August 25, 2014. “Cases should be immediately withdrawn and all the injured and killed by police repression and firing should be appropriately compensated”, a statement issued at the end of the meet demanded.

Gujarat government to Centre: Change "disastrous" law which delays, creates hurdles in land acquisition

By Our Representative
In a move that may raise eyebrows of senior Indian activists and experts who contributed heavily in drafting the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, the Gujarat government has told Government of India that LARR in its present form will “delay” and “create hurdles” in land acquisition for industrial projects, with “massive potential for misuse” by agriculturists. The pro-industry suggestions – in all about two dozen – are learnt to have been mooted under the direct guidance of additional chief secretary, industries, D Jagatheesa Pandian, a top aspirant of Gujarat chief secretary’s post.

Alang shipbreaking industry rep says, every industry has accidents, may be due to worker negligence

By Our Representative
In an unusual statement, a top ship cycling industry representative has sought to justify large number of deaths due to accidents occurring at the Alang shipbreaking yard, on south Saurashtra coast in Gujarat, saying, “Every industry has accidents”. Talking to a news portal, KB Tayal, vice president of the Ship Recycling Industries Association (India), Alang, said, “Some (industries) might have more (accidents) than others. Even though it happens, it might be due to negligence of workers, or of the machinery. When it happens, no problem. We pay compensation to workers and a penalty to the government.”

Congress' "cyber war" dream collapsing in Sonia Gandhi adviser Ahmed Patel's home turf, Gujarat

By Our Representative
In less than a year of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel announced that he would create a a "cyber army" to take on the BJP's 'onslaught' on the social media, the exercise has starting to collapse in his home turf, Gujarat. Things have come to such a pass that those claim to be running the cyber show for Congress are using the social media to blame the party high command for “lack of interest”. What is worse is that, of all persons, a senior Congress Umakant Mankad has said that the “herculean task” of running the IT cell of the Congress has become the victim of “authoritarian decisions” of a few leaders.

London meet says RSS, Islamic State, Taliban, European far-right "using religion for political supremacy"

By Our Representative
A two-day International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights held in London on October 11-12, 2014, has bracketed Hindutva, with particular reference to “Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in India”, as one of the many important far-right groups across the globe who are “using religion for political supremacy”. Likely to raise many an eyebrow, especially in India, where the RSS has direct support from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the conference said, “This rise (or far-right) is a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism and the social policies of communalism and cultural relativism.”

Well attended NBA-led rally of Narmada dam oustees in Bhopal demands: Return "illegally acquired land"

By Our Representative
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which led a well-attended rally of Narmada dam oustees of Madhya Pradesh in Bhopal, has triggered a hornet’s nest: In a letter submitted to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan demanding justice to outees of the Narmada dam, the NBA has sought his intervention to implement the crucial section 24 of the new land acquisition Act – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – which says that any acquired land, if lying idle for five years, will be returned to the original owner.

Modi's Australia visit in Nov: Diplomatic mission chooses Hindu body for public reception, diaspora unhappy

By Our Representative
In what may be interpreted as a clear indication that diplomatic missions in abroad are starting to bow to the saffron heat, the Australian high commission in Canberra is all set to allow the Hindu Council Australia to hold public receptions for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visiting the country for the two-day G-20 summit starting on November 15. Already, an Indian diaspora-run site has reported that unhappiness has gripped diaspora over the Indian high commission in Canberra and Sydney consul-general Sanjay Sudhir’s “decision” to get Hindu Council Australia to organize community reception for Modi.

Ebola fear?: "Economist" qualifies Modi's decision to set aside biggest-ever India-Africa summit "clumsy"

By Our Representative
Well-known British weekly “The Economist” has qualified India’s decision to cancel the biggest-ever India-Africa summit, which was to take place in December in Delhi, as “clumsy”. It said, this will now be a “thorny task” for India’s foreign policymakers to recoup the lost ground. While the cancellation of the summit was because of the fears of the deadly disease, Ebola, prevalent in three small West African countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the weekly insisted, “Trying to isolate Africa will not help prevent a pandemic.”

Environmental clearance: Seeking "additional information" will delay projects, Centre to expert committees

Counterview Desk
In a fresh concession to corporate sector developers across India, a new office memorandum, one the many in a series issues by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, has told Indian and state environmental authorities not to seek any additional information before providing environmental clearance. The memorandum states, “it has been brought to its notice” that Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs, Central authorities, giving environmental clearance to bigger projects) and State Expert Appraisal Committees (SEACs, giving environmental nod to smaller projects) have been seeking “additional studies which do not form a part of terms of reference”, adding, the authorities should stop the practice.

Gujarat human rights activist Cedric Prakash's office burgled mysteriously; aim: to look for PC data

By Our Representative
In an unusual development, senior Gujarat-based human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash’s office was burgled on the night between October 7 and 8, 2014, and those who broke in took with them only his desktop personal computer, a hard disk, the keyboard with all connections meticulously cut. In a statement, Prakash said, “The intruders seemed to have moved around in several places of the office (some footprints evidence this) but were careful not to have disturbed /upset anything else.”

New investments: Gujarat pushed to eighth position, even UP and Rajasthan overtake "India's growth engine"

By Rajiv Shah
It is not just in investments completed that Gujarat is lagging behind several states (click HERE to read). The situation has turned worse for new investments in the state, regarded as “growth engine of India”. Analysis carried out by a researcher with India’s premier independent research body Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) suggests that while Tamil Nadu tops the list of states with new investments in the quarter ended September 2014, Gujarat ranks eighth, with six other states performing better – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana.

Gujarat ranks fifth in investment completion for quarter ending Sept 2014, lowest in four years, says CMIE

By Our Representative
Latest analysis of the data collected by the Centre for Monitoring Economy (CMIE), India’s premier independent economic research body, has busted the myth that Gujarat is the "growth engine" of India, as claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even as releasing facts suggesting that there has been a “steep decline in commissioning of projects” in India, lowest since December 2006, CMIE researcher Pradnya Deo has said, Gujarat is "in the fifth spot with investment completion at Rs 18.1 billion", which is “the lowest amount of investments completed in Gujarat in the past four years.” The researcher added, “Of these investments, Rs. 14.1 billion “belonged to the manufacturing sector.”

Senior scribe and consultant asks Government of India not to “bribe” Pak with gas when India needs it most

By Our Representative
This has come from one of the most influential scribes on economic affairs of India. Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, who is consulting editor of the Economic Times and has been a consultant to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, has revealed that the Government of India is all set to come up with a “ridiculous proposal” — of supplying Pakistan five million units of imported gas per day, enough for two large power plants, at a time when India is “desperately short of gas”. He advises Government of India not to “bribe Pakistan with gas” when we need it more.

Human Rights Watch to World Bank: Include local communities’ priorities when designing projects

By Our Representative
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the World Bank Group's proposed policy on environmental safeguards, currently being discussed in Washington DC, is "a setback" from its previous rights-based approach, insisting, "Development cannot succeed if it harms communities." In a statement, HRW has said, "Indigenous peoples’ recommendations to strengthen World Bank standards and bring them into line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have fallen on deaf ears", adding, instead the World Bank has pledged on a ‘no-dilution’ of existing policies."

Vadodara communal violence: Complaint to NHRC says, cops, plainclothesmen attacked women, children

By Our Representative
A report submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Vadodara-based senior activists of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has squarely blamed the cops for acting in a high-handed manner during the communal violence, which took place when the Navratri celebrations were on in Gujarat in September. Basing themselves on interaction with people of several localities, the fact-finding team said the attacks were by the “police and not by any community”. Quoting individuals, the PUCL said, “There was no trouble in the Yakutpura area", yet the "police entered in Minar Masjid falia, Patel falia-1 and Patel falia-2 and suddenly started breaking vehicles.”

Electoral reforms: Introduce proportional representation for 70% of Lok Sabha seats, demand activists

By Our Representative
The Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), a network of NGOs working on electoral reforms and related issues, has put forward the demand which has been in air for quite for decades now. It wants proportionate electoral system (PES) to be implemented as the main cornerstone of electoral reforms in India. In Delhi, the event was organised at Mandi House, where activists formed a human chain. A CERI statement claimed, it had been “campaigning with this demand for the last seven years”, adding, “A similar human chain putting forward the demand was also formed in six other cities of India.”

Silicosis deaths: Gujarat govt agrees to pay compensation starting with 2006, but refuses to raise amount

By Our Representative
Bowing to the pressure from voluntary agencies fighting for the cause of the deadly occupational disease, silicosis, mainly found among agate workers of Khambhat in Central Gujarat, the Gujarat government has finally agreed to pay up compensation to the family members of those who died because of it with effect from January 1, 2006. The decision sets aside the earlier announcement, made through a government resolution (GR) of January 2014, which said the compensation would be paid to the fatal victims of silicosis death with effect from January 1, 2014. However, the GR issued does not change the amount – Rs 1 lakh – despite representations.

Detention of civil rights activists in Vishakhapattanam "a threat to constitutionalism, rule of law": PUCL

By Our Representative
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has strongly condemned “arbitrary and illegal” detention of civil liberties activists and human rights defenders in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on October 9, 2014 when they were trying to hold a press conference at the Civil Library, Vishakhapatnam, to announce a meeting on October 12 to protest against Operation Green Hunt. “The hostile and intimidatory action of the police was supported at the highest level in the state government”, said PUCL, adding, this was clear “when the Vizag police arrested five other human rights activists who had gone to the Camp Office of DIG, Vishakhapatnam Range, to bring to his notice the illegal arrests of their colleagues.”

International meet in North Gujarat village: Top civil rights groups seek local solutions to regain lost land rights

By Our Representative
Agreeing that it was impossible to work out a common strategy for farmers and pastoralists to fight for land rights, participants at a meeting of the International Land Coalition (ILC), a global alliance of civil society organizations, stressed on seeking “viable local solutions” to “rampant” privatization of land taking place in different countries of Asia in the name of setting up developmental projects. The meeting was held in a North Gujarat village in Bechraji taluka, Gopnaad, where land prices have zoomed by three to four times following the top car manufacturers, Maruti-Suzuki’s decision to set up shop about 25 kilometres away.

Setback to Ahmedabad's urban model? City malls witness 48% decline in footfalls, one of the highest in India

By Our Representative Are Ahmedabad’s malls, tom-tommed as an “example” of the city’s urban model, set to further lose their charm? It would seem so, if one goes by top industries body Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) report, which says that Ahmedabad’s malls has seen one of the highest declines in “footfalls” in India, next only to Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). As per an ASSOCHAM survey, Delhi-NCR recorded the highest decline in footfalls at city malls (49.5%) , followed very closely by Ahmedabad (48.2%).

Modi asked to clarify: Why is the Government of India seeking to "dilute" national rural jobs scheme?

By Our Representative
In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several top intellectuals and activists have strongly objected to the efforts to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), saying he should immediate intervene in the matter and the stop the move. Pointing towards several disturbing “impending moves” towards diluting MGNRGS, they said, any such effort would undermine the “support” being extended to the rural poor. In fact, according to them, any such dilution would mean setback “to crores of vulnerable rural families”.

Gujarat fails to treat nearly 98 per cent of the municipal solid waste it generates in the urban areas: Report

By Our Representative
At a time Gujarat government expectedly went in massively into Swachh Bharat campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Gandhi Jayanti day, facts have come to light which show that the state is the worst performer when it comes to treating municipal solid waste (MSW). A Planning Commission report, prepared in May 2014, has said that while Gujarat’s urban development authorities may be collecting most of the MSW – 7,378 out of 8,336 tonnes per day (TPD) – they are able to treat just 118 TPD, which comes to a mere 1.57 per cent of the total collection.

Gujarat N-power plant: Citing poor radioactive data, top panel orders revision of environmental report

By Rajiv Shah
In an important breather to farmers of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat protesting against the proposed nuclear power plant near Mithi Virdi on South Saurashtra coast, the Expert Appraisal Committee (Nuclear) of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to “revise” and “resubmit” its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project, as it lacks clarify on a large number of issues. The panel, simultaneously, criticized the NPCIL for an important delay – for taking three long years to submit proposal for environmental clearance following “site clearance” of the project by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

Modi's smart cities: Top urban planner wonders if one can have islands of prosperity amidst ocean of poverty

By Our Representative
Veteran town-planning expert MN Buch has questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of building 100 smart cities across India, saying in spite of decades of knowledge in urban planning, he has failed to find any clarity on the subject. “I spoke to high officials in the Ministry of Urban Development and they told me that they too are not very clear about what is meant by smart city, even as they are trying to work out the parameters of such a city”, Buch, former vice-chairman of the National Commission on Urbanization, said.

Race for Gujarat chief secretary: Nanda's Congress past is a hurdle for his claim to head administration

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government is learnt to have made an unlikely move – it has "approached" the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for finding out possibilities of a third extension for the incumbent chief secretary Varesh Sinha. Well-informed sources in the state bureaucracy have revealed that while the reason being offered for seeking Sinha’s third extension is the need of his “indispensable” services for the forthcoming Vibrant Gujarat investors’ world business meet, to take place in on January 11-12, 2015. “Sinha is already deep into preparations. His services have become necessary for the next summit”, a top Sachivalaya source said, quoting officials close to Sinha.

Gujarat Dalit villagers devoid of water connection for 24 yrs, what if Narmada pipeline is next to locality?

By Our Representative
In an overt case of caste discrimination in rural Gujarat, a Dalit locality, a kilometre from Vakhatpar village of Sayla taluka of Surendranagar district, set up about 24 years ago as part of the government’s “affirmative action” schemes for scheduled castes, even today does not have any drinking water facility, individual toilets, viable approach road and street lights. While a pipeline carrying Narmada river waters passes through the Kapelidhar area, where the Dalit locality is situated, the Gujarat government not provided any water connections. Nor is it connected with the huge overhead overhead tank, situated just 100 metres from there.

Participants at UN experts meet in Geneva insist on need for lasting mechanism to monitor caste discrimination

By Our Representative
A high-level interaction in Geneva, United Nations (UN) experts and civil rights activists stressed on the need to move towards a “more structured mechanism against caste-based discrimination” in countries like India and its South Asian neighbours. During the interaction, in which UN special rapporteurs, civil society groups and independent experts participated, there was sharp focus on the need to usher in a formal UN mechanism to end caste-based discrimination in a year’s  time. This mechanism, it was suggested, could monitor caste discrimination and suggest ways to overcome it. Before the mechanism is worked out, experts could move around different countries to see how effectively are laws to end caste-based discrimination being implemented.

Swachh Bharat campaign: Women manual scavengers in Gujarat put to work to "clean up" open defecation

By Our Representative
The attached photographs, forwarded by activist of the Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust Natubhai Parmar to Counterview, show that manual scavenging in Wadhwan municipality of Surendranagar district, Gujarat, continues, despite the authorities’ promise last month that the despicable practice would end. The photographs were taken on October 2, 2014, Gandhi Jayanti Day, during Swachh Bharat, the all-India campaign launched Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Parmar said, the women were asked to “manually clean up human excreta” during the campaign. Last month, they protested and went on hunger strike against manual scavenging, and a compromise was struck following intervention by by the district collector, Surendranagar.

India's environment is at risk under Narendra Modi govt, heed to reason, advises New York Times editorial

By Our Representative The day on which Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Delhi from his five day tumultuous tour of New York and Washington and a claimed successful dialogue with US president Barrack Obama, the New York Times (NYT) has, in a sharply worded editorial titled India’s “Environment at Risk”, authored by its powerful editorial board collective, has declared that the Government of India’s (GoI’s) effort towards “gutting environmental protection laws and demonizing citizen groups that raise legitimate concerns are no way to move the nation forward.”

Gujarat declares communal torn Vadodara "disturbed", bans sale of real estate property between communities

By Our Representative
Vadodara, the cultural capital of India, is now a "disturbed area" for another five years. The Gujarat government move declaring it a "disturbed area" comes following communal clashes, which began last week and continued unabated for five days. The communal clashes were preceded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) distributing "Love Jihad" leaflets in Vadodara which warned Hindu parents to ensure that their daughters do not fall in the trap on "well-dressed Muslim boys." The clashes have seen several stabbings, and large-scale loot and arson incidents, in "sensitive areas". Women's organisations have accused plainclothes cops of breaking into minority households with iron rods in hands, picking up boys, and attacking womenfolk.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act extended in Arunachal Pradesh, rights activists want to know reason

By Our Representative
In a move that has raised the eyebrows of human rights activists, Government of India has extended the labeling of the districts of Tirap, Changlag and Longding in Arunachal Pradesh as 'disturbed areas' under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) for a further period of six months with effect from October 1, 2014. The Ministry of Home Affairs notification dated September 20, 2014 claims that the law and order situation in these districts has been “reviewed” and “violent activities of insurgents” were to have “remained unchanged.” AFSPA has long been regarded as “draconian”, as it does not protect citizens from “atrocities” by security forces.

Modi "agrees" to US demand to change Indian nuclear laws to allow American companies to supply uranium

By Our Representative
President Barrack Obama is learnt to have extracted a major concession from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reportedly agreed to bring about a major change in india’s nuclear policy, which America believes is the key to reluctance of American companies to supply uranium to Indian nuclear power plants. If the policy changes, Gujarat’s proposed nuclear plant may be among the first “gainers”. An agreement to set up 6,000 MW nuclear power plant between US’ Westinghouse Corporation and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) at near Mithi Virdi along the Saurashtra coast remains unimplemented because of inability to sort out “administrative” issues.

J&K activists' Gujarat consultation: Despite RTI plea, govt refuses to give details of 8,000 "missing" persons

By Our Representative
A senior activist from the Right to Information (RTI) Movement, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), has claimed that neither the Government of India nor the J&K government is refusing to reveal any information about more than 8,000 persons who have gone “missing” over the quarter of a century. Dr Ghulam Rasool, a physician by profession, told a consultation organized by three Gujarat-based voluntary organizations, Janpath, Movement for Social Democracy and People’s Union for Civil Liberties, that these persons were “picked up” by security forces, never placed before courts, and there is no information about their whereabouts.