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Showing posts from February, 2015

Gujarat riot victims: Teesta held our hand when even relatives refused

By Our Representative
About 40 victim-survivors from some of the most-affected colonies of Ahmedabad and other towns during the 2002 Gujarat riots – Naroda Patiya, Citizen Nagar, Ekta Nagar, Faizal Park, Visnagar and Gulberg Society – on Saturday raised a strong voice supporting well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, saying the Gujarat government is harassing her because she stood by them during their most critical times, and ensured 126 convictions.

Rise in income gap between upper and lower castes "reduces" crimes against Dalits, tribals

By Rajiv Shah
Taking a strange view, a senior researcher of the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, Smriti Sharma, has reached the drastic conclusion that crimes against the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled castes (STs) by the upper castes would go down with the rise in the income levels of the latter. The scholar reaches her controversial conclusion on the basis the analysis of the officially-available data of 2000s.

Gujarat Information Commission raps SSNNL: Provide information in 48 hrs

By Our Representative
In an order major policy implication, Gujarat's chief information commissioner (CIC) has said that officials of the Gujarat government must respond to a right to information (RTI) query involving “question of life and liberty” within 48 hours, instead of keeping things pending. And, the CIC added, if the entire information is not there, “the available information should be provided within 48 hours” while rest of it could be “furnished expeditiously.”

Modi govt shouldn't "disrespect" farmers by saying land Act would sabotate national security

By Our Representative
Top human rights activist Medha Patkar has accused India’s BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “misleading” farmers by making “false interpretation and unjustifiable argument” by saying that if social impact assessment (SIA) and consent clauses are allowed for land acquisition, Pakistan would be able to “sabotage” the country’s proposed projects.

Gujarat a growth engine? 2014-15 data show state GSDP will grow lower than most Indian states

By Rajiv Shah
Latest budget papers, just released by the Gujarat government in the state assembly, have revealed that, much against the claims of “double digit rate of growth”, Gujarat's gross state domestic product (GSDP) at constant prices (calculated by deducting inflation) rose by 8.76 per cent in the year financial year 2013-14, and is unlikely cross the 7 per cent mark in 2014-15. At current prices (without deducting inflation), they suggest, state's growth rate is one of the poorest in India, putting a question mark of Gujarat being India's growth engine.

Pinstripe politics and the deadly design: How "fixed match" was played to sell Modi suit

By RK Misra*
Celebrities can raise stakes to sell suits but a feather-light fabric often betrays a deadly design. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pacesetter pinstripe suit may have fetched palpitation-inducing Rs 4.31crore – and it might help cleanse the sinfully polluted River Ganges, as is projected. But those who watched the exercise undertaken to the drumbeats and cymbal sounds over three days in Surat -- the commercial capital of Gujarat -- know for sure it was a fixed match. The suit that cost the BJP the Delhi gaddi, and Modi his sheen, was put under the hammer in a desperate bid to reclaim the remnants of a tattered ego.
Put up along with 400 other gifts received by Modi after taking over as PM, the suit remained the focal point of attraction for the rich and the famous as well as the poor and the bunched. In the fray were textile magnates and diamond merchants and even a school teacher. Was it a mere coincidence that many of these who went around with cheque in hand had figured …

Pinstripe politics and the deadly design: How "fixed match" was played to sell Modi suit

By RK Misra*
Celebrities can raise stakes to sell suits but a feather-light fabric often betrays a deadly design. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pacesetter pinstripe suit may have fetched palpitation-inducing Rs 4.31crore – and it might help cleanse the sinfully polluted River Ganges, as is projected. But those who watched the exercise undertaken to the drumbeats and cymbal sounds over three days in Surat -- the commercial capital of Gujarat -- know for sure it was a fixed match. The suit that cost the BJP the Delhi gaddi, and Modi his sheen, was put under the hammer in a desperate bid to reclaim the remnants of a tattered ego.

Protest action against land ordinance: Call to end "corporate loot"

By Our Representative
More than 350 organizations and networks of farmers, workers, and tribals from all the states of the country, represented by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the All Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), the All India Kisan Sabha, the Narmada Bachao Andolan NBA), the Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union, Delhi Solidarity Group and others, participated in a well-attended protest action in Delhi against the Land Acquisition Ordinance, introduced in Parliament for enactment.

Impact of 2002 Gujarat riots: Sharp rise in revivalistic tendencies in Muslim resettlement colonies

By Rajiv Shah
A new research work by a Gujarat Vidyapeeth scholar, Dr Damini Shah, has said that, thanks to ghettoisation of Muslims following the 2002 Gujarat riots, there has been shocking rise in religious obscurantism in the Muslim colonies, most of which were set up by Islamic non-government organizations in order to provide security to the riot victims.

Fifty farmers arrested in Gujarat: Bhavnagar collector refuses to accept memo to PM citing swine flu

By Our Representative
In an unusual development, about 50 Gujarat farmer activists, who had gone to the district collector, Bhavnagar, to lodge their protest against the new Land Acquisition Ordinance, were arrested for seeking to create “trouble.” Belonging to the Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GSM), the activists were led by Virjibhai Jasani, Damuben Modi, and Bharatsinh Vala, the memorandum was not accepted citing the prevalence of swine flu in Gujarat as the reason.

Gujarat farmers to protest land ordinance by presenting memorandums to mamlatdars

By Our Representative
The Khedut Samaj Gujarat, which has lately emerged as a major farmers’ body in the struggle against land acquisition for industrial development, has declared its intention to join the national-level struggle if the Government of India decides to call a joint session of Parliament to convert the ordinance into an Act.  In a statement, the farmers’ organization’s leader Sagar Rabari regretted, “The Gujarat model of governance through government resolutions (GRs) has been adopted at the national level.”

Human Rights Watch demands: Stop politically-motivated intimidation of Teesta Setalvad

By Our Representative
Top US-based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has asked the "authorities" in India to immediately end "politically motivated" intimidation and harassment of activists who have been pursuing justice for victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state. In a statement, HRW said, "While all NGOs should fully adhere to financial regulations, the Gujarat police has been acting to "undermine the human rights work of the activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand."

NAPM to provide support to Anna Hazare for agitation against land ordinance if it's not withdrawn

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which is behind several agitations across India against the controversial land acquisition ordinance, has said there cannot be any compromise on the demand for repealing it. Pointing to media reports that the NDA government is “rethinking” on the ordinance ahead of the budget session starting Monday, the NAPM has said, “There is no question of any compromise. The ordinance takes away safeguards to farmers and project affected families by removing the key provisions of consent and social impact assessment”.

India's rulers making desparate attempt to "date" Mahabharata, Ramayana: Romila Thapar

Counterview Desk
Well-known historian Romila Thapar has said that the function of a public intellectual is to make knowledge accessible and protect it from distortion, “hence it is essential that knowledge advances through questioning”. Talking with human rights activist Teesta Setalvad in an interview, Thapar has added, “The need of the hour explore the real history of science in order to explore real achievements from early India.”

Jayram Gamit's arrest under PASA in Gujarat: Several thousand tribals turn up to protest

By Our Representative
Several thousand tribal farmers of South Gujarat's Vyara town on Friday took out a major protest against the arrest of Jayram Gamit, a senior activist in Chhotaudepur and Tapi districts, under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act. Gamit was arrested on January 31 and taken to Rajkot, where he is under police lockup ever since. Taken out under the leadership of Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), a statement issued by its leader Romel Sutariya ahead of the rally said, “A reign terror
prevails in Chhotaudepur district. The forest department officials have been forcibly occupying land allocated to the tribal farmers.”

OECD to India: Provide social, labour protection to workers irrespective of status, size, activity of firms

By Our Representative 
Even as seeking removal of existing “barriers to formal employment” and abolition of “the most restrictive provisions" of the Industrial Dispute Act that require "prior government permission for employment termination and exit decisions", the apex body of European nations has asked the Government of India that any new changes in labour laws should aim at providing “a minimum floor of pay and social and labour protection conditions” for all workers, “irrespective of the status, size and activity of the firm.”

OECD chief economist supports RBI governor's Make for India view, insists, integrate it into Make in India

By Our Representative
Catherine Mann, chief economist of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has come out in sharp defense of the view taken by Reserve Bank of India governor Dr Raghuram Rajan, who stirred controversy late last year-end by declaring Make for India was a better policy option to follow as against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India campaign. Talking with newspersons in Ahmedabad, Mann said, it would be better if India’s focus on “Make in India”  includes the “Make for India” concept of Dr Rajan.

Gujarat PUCL comes down heavily on media for "inflating" misappropriation charge against Teesta Setalvad

By Our Representative
In what may seem to be a surprise move to many, Gujarat unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) made the occasion of a press conference called in “defense” of well-known human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand to sharply attack the media for allegedly blowing Gujarat police accusations against the two activists on misappropriating NGO funds "completely out of proportion". Addressing mediapersons, Gujarat PUCL chief Gautam Thaker, who led the attack, said, “It was shocking to see such unprecedented interest in the media. Some papers went so far as to make eight column headlines.”

Top Assam BJP leader quits citing "undemocratic" and "arrogant" style of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah

By Our Representative
In a clear indication that rebellion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice of Amit Shah as BJP president is being questioned following the party’s defeat in Delhi, a well-known party face in Assam Prodyut Bora has resigned from the national executive and the primary membership of the BJP, saying, the North-East is “on the periphery” in the mind of the leadership. Addressed to Shah, Bora’s four-page letter said, after 10 dismal years under Congress, people really bought into the idea of “acche din” but after nine months, one wonders “if acche din are really around the corner, especially in Assam.”

Greenpeace India activist wonders if it's crime to raise voice against UK-listed company with British MPs

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs declaring in a court affidavit that it “prevented” Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace India activist, from boarding a flight to Britain in January, because her visit was alleged to be “prejudicial to the national interest” and would “hurt” India’s image abroad, the top activist has wondered whether it was a crime to raise the voice against Essar Energy, a London-based company. Headed by Indian tycoon Shashi Ruia, Essar Energy plc is incorporated in UK, and has its registered office in London and its head office in Mauritius.

Gujarat CM wants corporate social responsibilty funds in state coffers, officials say it's just not possible

By Rajiv Shah
Contradicting the recent announcement by Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, declaring that April 2015 onwards state-based enterprises will have to transfer two per cent of their profits towards the corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund of the Gujarat government, a top state insider said this is “simply not possible”. The insider, requesting anonymity, said, there is “no law in the state or India which makes it obligatory for the companies to hand over CSR funds to the government. The corporates will not agree as it is as it is against their interest.”

Teesta case: Gujarat police "did not even know" memorial for riot victims got just Rs 4.5 lakh as donation

By Satyakam Mehta
Two days ahead of the Supreme Court's bar on the Gujarat police to arrest well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and and her husband Javed Anand ends, eminent advocate Mihir Desai has said that the police charge that Rs 1.5 crore for the memorial for the victims of the 2002 riots were “embezzled” suggests how casually the investigators have looked into details. Desai told this correspondent, “They were not even aware about the extent of donations for the purpose. We informed them with proper documents that Rs 4.5 lakh was collected.”

Boost to Teesta: Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib protest Gujarat cops' "politics of vendetta"

By Our Representative
In a major boost to well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad – whom Gujarat police craving to arrest for allegedly “misusing” NGO funds meant for riot victims – more than 200 prominent individuals led by Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most well-known philosophers, have expressed solidarity with her. Voted the "world's top public intellectual" in 2005 and considered father of modern linguists, he along with top historians Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar have called the Gujarat police's intention as a “clear case of the politics of vendetta.”

Tribal farmer "attacked" in South Gujarat following protest against cops, forest officials on afforestation spree

By Our Representative
Even as the arrest of Jayram Gamit, a tribal farmer leader from South Gujarat, under certain controversial provisions of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act, remains a major cause of concern for human rights activist, reports from the region suggest fresh incidence of violence following an alleged effort by the forest department officials to forcibly carry out tree plantation activity on the land allocated to a tribal farmer under the Forest Rights Act. A tribal farmer activist was badly beaten up and taken to a big local hospital for treatment.

Centre plans to seize 3.9 lakh hectares land from farmers, alleges NAPM, plans rally on February 24 in Delhi

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) has estimated that the new Ordinance amending the 2013 Land Acquisition Act will lead to the "seizure" of 3,90,000 hectares (ha) of agricultural land from farmers for the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Calling upon a rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on February 24, the NAPM has added, the Ordinance was introduced by the BJP government “so that industrialists, Indian and foreign, and builders can construct industrial corridors, open mines and accumulate real estate profits in the name of building cheap housing for the poor by grabbing farmers’ lands.”

Gujarat tribal leader's arrest under PASA: Civil society unites to demand "immediate release"

By Our Representative
In a rare show of unity, several civil society organizations, operating in Gujarat, have for the first time come together to condemn the recent arrest of Jayram Gamit, a well-known tribal farmers' leader of Tapi and Chhotaudepur districts of Gujarat, under what many human rights activists interpret as “draconian misuse” of Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act. Demanding his “immediate release”, a joint statement by them qualified the arrest is “unconstitutional” and “based on false charges which have already been set aside by a local court.”

Ex-IAEA chairman throws spanner on Aussie-India N-deal, says India could use enriched uranium for armaments

By Our Representative
Seeking to throwing a spanner on India-Australia nuclear deal for the supply of uranium, which was clinched during Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s India visit in September 2014, former chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ronald Walker, has “warned” the Aussie authorities that the agreement to sell uranium to India “drastically changes longstanding policy” on safeguards, and risks playing “fast and loose” with nuclear weapons.

Teesta Setalvad case is part of emerging scenario of India's ruling govt "targeting" rights defenders

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of people's organizations and NGOs across India, has demanded withdrawal of “false cases” against Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand and their associates in the by now famous Gulbarg Society Case. Demanding “justice for riot victims and survivors and space and security for human rights defenders", the NAPM, in a strong statement, said, it is “deeply disturbing” that the Gujarat High Court has refused the anticipatory bail applications of rights activists Setalvad and others.

Smart City: Modi govt lacks clarity, is yet to work out basic conceptual framework, says top expert

By Our Representative
One of India's topmost urban experts, Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, has taken strong exception to the Government of India's decision to go ahead with building 100 smart cities, as separate greenfield entities, as isolated islands away the existing towns and cities, without any notion about what they should look like. Ahluwalia, who was closely associated with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), one of previous UPA government's flagship programmes, and continues to advise the Narendra Modi government on urban issues, insisted that there is lack of clarity on the concept of smart city in the Government of India.

Controverial Gujarat arrest of tribal leader under PASA: Civil society bodies asked to flood protest letters

By Our Representative
The Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), a fast-growing people’s organization of South Gujarat, has asked all civil society bodies across Gujarat and India to flood letters to the Gujarat government to “remove” the charges under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act, which led to the controversial arrest senior tribal farmer leader Jayram Gamit in January-end. Gamit was taken to Rajkot, about 400 km away, soon after the arrest. The AKSM’s appeal comes close on the heels of a belated statement by dozen-odd senior Gujarat activists led by Indukumar Jani, a Gandhian, “condemning” the arrest and calling it “unconstitutional”.

Gujarat activists finally "condemn" arrest of tribal farmer leader under PASA after a lapse of over 10 days

By Our Representative
After the lapse of 10 days of the arrest of Jayram Gamit, Gujarat's tribal farmer activist, under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act, from the South Gujarat district of Tapi, two dozen Gujarat activists finally decided, at a meeting in Ahmedabad, to “condemned” the arrest, calling it “unconstitutional and illegal”. The arrest was made in late January, ahead of the planned protest and sit-in by the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM) on February 2 in the neighbouring Chhotaudepgur district against indiscriminate sand mining in the area.

Kiran Bedi half-bent before Modi: Top activist asks ex-IPS officer to retrospect as she has ample time now

By Our Representative
A day before the results for the Delhi assembly elections are to be announced, well-known human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi has, in an open letter to Kiran Bedi, the BJP's chief ministerial candidate, wondered what made the ex-IPS officer-turned-politician “half-bend” in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One who has taken up the cause of Gujarat's 2002 riot victims, Hashmi said, she saw a photograph where Bedi was half bent and was looking at Modi, asking him something. “The expression on your face is of helplessness and wanting approval from him”, she said.

Modi's "deafening" and "dangerous" silence on religious intolerance invites New York Times' wrath

By Our Representative
In an unusual move, one of the most influential American dailies, The New York Times (NYT), has editorially hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, advising him to "break his deafening silence on religious intolerance." An unsigned article approved by the NYT's editorial board, titled "Modi’s Dangerous Silence", wonders, "What will it take for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities?"

Adani's Aussie coalmining project: Greenpeace, 350.org, finance body seek probe into ownership allegation

By Our Representative
At least two prestigious and high-profile international environmental bodies -- Greenpeace and 350.org -- and a research institute,Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), have sought complete clarity and investigation into fresh allegations by Fairfax, Australia's leading media company, about doubtful ownership of the Adani Group's $10 billion Australian coal-mining project. A report in Australian daily "The Age" says Fairfax has raised serious objection to the "use of offshore, low-tax jurisdictions in relation to its Australian operations, and the apparent uncertainty about ownership."

No need for panchayat, gram sabha nod to carry on mining work in non-scheduled areas: Gujarat government

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government believes it can go ahead and mine any part of Gujarat if it is not a scheduled area, and it does not need any permission or consultation from the village panchayats or the gram sabha under which a proposed mining area comes. This has been revealed in a state government document, which provides replies to a large number of social and economic issues raised by the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), which has been active in the tribal areas of Gujarat for the last nearly a decade.

India-US nuclear deal: "Complex" legal issues suggest it wasn't a breakthrough, says Washington Post

By Our Representative
Premier US daily "Washington Post" has quoted American officials, analysts and experts to say that the claimed nuclear deal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arrived at during President Barack Obama's recent India visit, cannot be characterised as a breakthrough, as "legal issues remain so complex that private US companies may continue to shy away from new deals in India, despite the developing country’s fast-growing and dire power needs."

Jayanthi Natarajan "never stood by tribals' rights" in MNC Vedanta's move to mine Niyamigiri Hills in Odisha

By Our Representative
The Odisha Chapter of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), which played a vital role in the struggle for the enactment of historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 has blamed former Union environment minister Jaynaynthi Natarjan for failing to play any vital role to defend the tribals' rights in the forest areas during her tenure under the former UPA government. Countering her recent statement that she rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta, the top UK-based NMC, despite tremendous pressure from her colleagues in Cabinet and huge criticism from industry, and the claim that her decision was “upheld by the Supreme Court”, the CSD said this is simply not true, and actually she "disrespected" FRA.

Forest Rights Act "threatens" forests, existence of tribal societies, is of limited significance: British scholar

By Our Representative
Well-known British scholar Felix Padel -- great grandson of Charles Darwin, a social anthropologist who has made India his home for the last three decades -- has termed the Forest Rights Act (FRA) "a stop gap" arrangement against "appalling" projects threatening tribals. In an interview published in "Sanctuary Asia" (February 2015), Padel, also known for his activism on tribal rights issues, however, believes that the Act, with its emphasis on individual rather than collective rights, "threatens not just the continued existence of India’s forests, but also the continuance of all that is best in tribal societies."

Vigilante groups, non-state actors seeking to impose censorship through hooliganism: NAPM

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of people's organisations across India, has noticed sharp upsurge of “hate and fundamentalism” and “outright suppression of the right to free speech and expression” in the new year, 2015, pointing towards how “vigilante groups and non-state actors” are seeking to impose “censorship through hooliganism and assertive fundamentalist voices in the name of nationalism with the tacit support of the state.”

Modi government adds a bureaucratic layer in rural jobs guarantee scheme: Barefoot engineers

By Our Representative
After deciding to slash funds for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Government of India (GoI) has come up with an idea to insert a new bureaucratic layer of those seeking to implement the scheme, tom-tommed by the previous Congress-led government as one of its flagship programmes meant to alleviate poverty. The GoI wants to have as many one "barefoot engineers" in 2,500 blocks where the NREGS is being implemented in order to "assess" the work that is given to those employed under the national rural employment scheme.

India-US nuclear deal will allow MNC Westinghouse to supply "untested, expensive" technology to Gujarat

By Our Representative
A major danger awaits Gujarat, if two senior physicists are to be believed. Suvrat Raju and MV Ramana, who have worked as scholars in the US, have said that the “most baffling feature” of the recent nuclear deal between the US and India is that it would allow Westinghouse, the top US company which has entered into an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), to supply two nuclear reactors for the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant in Gujarat which are “expensive and untested”.

Warning "terrorist activities", Gujarat government imposes curfew on tribal district ahead of protest movement

By Our Representative
In a curious move, the Gujarat government has imposed curfew under Section 144, prohibiting assembly of more than ten people in the predominantly tribal district of Chhotaudepur, till February 14. The order, dated January 31, 2015, says that it has been “imposed in order to prevent terrorist activities in Chhotaudepur town and all the talukas of the district”. The order adds that it has been necessitated to “ensure law and order, peace and security”, and “no procession or gathering” could be held during the period.

South Gujarat tribal activist "picked up, detained" under PASA, taken to Rajkot, ahead of planned protest

By Our Representative
Reports from the tribal belt of South Gujarat have said that a senior tribal farmers' leader, Jayram Gamit, has been "mysteriously picked up” by the cops from Tapi district under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA Act) ahead of a major protest the organization he and another senior activist, Romel Sutariya, lead were going to launch and the land mafia. Talking with Counterview from Chhotaudepur, Sutariya said, the district collector, Ranjeet Kumar, was under “tremendous pressure” from the local ruling party politicians to arrest Gamit following their campaign against efforts to hand over large tracts of tribal land to land tribals, particularly those who were mining the area surrounding the river.