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29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

Lok Sabha nod to 'regressive' whistleblower bill: Complainant against Government functionary required to pass 32 tests

By Our Representative
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the controversial Whistleblower Protection Amendment Bill, 2015, which, say critics, would require a whistleblower to go through as many as 32 different tests before a complaint is opened up for inquiry by the "competent authority" in government. Says top right to information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak, the bill's "regressive proposals" would "effectively prevent most whistleblower complaints from even being inquired."
In fact, he says, most people may not even come forward to the blow the whistle on corruption or wrongdoing for "fear" of prosecution by the government under the archaic Officials Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. This is because the bill takes away the "immunity from prosecution of genuine whistleblowers", as a result of which, "any whistleblower inside or outside government is in danger of being prosecuted under the OSA."
According to Nayak, even on the "slightest doubt" about whether the whistleblower complaint attracts the grounds mentioned in Section 4(1) -- containing information exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act, 2005 -- it would be referred to an "authorised officer" in the department complained against.
This would put the complaint to a "32-way test", and only after the the authorised officer certifies that any of the grounds mentioned in Section 4(1) are attracted, "he/she may issue a certification which will effectively bar the chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) from even launching an inquiry.
"Given the track record of the CVC, it would not be surprising if it would send every whistleblower complaint to the concerned department for vetting before launching an inquiry, saving itself the trouble of applying the 32 tests", Nayak said.
Giving details of the 32 grounds under Section 4(1), Nayak says, seven are relating to national security, three to courts, two to Parliament and State Legislatures, three to trade secrets and intellectual property rights, six to law enforcement, three to fair investigation and trial procedures, three to Cabinet papers, three to privacy of a natural person, one each to fiduciary relationships and foreign relations.
The Opposition Congress MPs walked out of the House after its demand to refer the bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for detailed deliberation was rejected. The bill was approved through a voice vote. Now it will go to the Rajya Sabha for approval in July-August.
The Union minister of state for personnel, reasoning in favour of the bill, said it was a measure of "increased transparency" if the Prime Minister as a 'competent authority' is required to take clearance from a bureaucrat to inquire into a whistleblower complaint against a minister. Nayak comments, this in fact is "probably the first instance anywhere in the world of a government undermining the authority of its own head to inquire into whistleblower complaints against his own colleagues."
In effect, he says, the bill takes away a whistleblower's power "to complain about acts of corruption, willful abuse of power or willful misuse of discretion or offences committed by the Prime Minister (at the Centre) or any of the Chief Ministers (in the States)", adding, "There must be a mechanism for this in the manner provided in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act."
In such scheme of things, Nayak -- who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative -- underlines, the Lokpal (the national level apex anti-corruption and grievance redress agency), to be established under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, "will have no role to play in protection of whistleblowers unless the Central and State government notify them as competent authorities."

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India failing to dictate diplomatic preferences of Nepal, Bhutan, is unfairly blaming Beijing: Chinese daily

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded editorial, a top Chinese media outfit, described by BBC as state-run, has said, commenting on India's foreign relations with its neighbours, that "speculation and suspicion" is "certainly not diplomacy". Published in "China Daily", the largest circulating English Monday-to-Saturday newspaper with branches across the world, the editorial notes (September 20) that "several recent events" in Nepal and Bhutan, are "gnawing worrywarts in New Delhi".
The editorial -- which comes close on the heels of a sharp critique of India's foreign policy in a state-supported Russian media outfit, Sputnik International, calling India's anti-Pak diplomacy as having "gone awry" following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "half-baked" push for anti-terror drill down "others' throat" -- says, the " worrywarts" include "Nepalese troops taking part in a joint…

Ahmedabad, GIFT, Adani city get 1.68 lakh acre ft Narmada water; Gujarat's rural areas just 4.27 AF: Letter to CM

Counterview Desk
Well-known farmer rights leader Sagar Rabari, in an open letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, has demanded a transparent account of Narmada water, saying, while he has received a "routine reply" from him to his earlier, the data emerging from his RTI application show huge quantity of water being directed to Ahmedabad, the 10 km stretch of Sabarmati for the Ahmedabad riverfront, and nearby elite urban areas, including the Adanis' Shantigram township and GIFT City.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

17 lakh Jharkhand elderly, widows, differently abled do not receive pension: Public hearing told, aadhaar is a hurdle

By Our Representative
Hundreds of elderly, widows, single women and differently-abled persons from different districts of Jharkhand gathered near the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi for a public hearing organized by the Jharkhand Right to Food Campaign and Pension Parishad demanding the right to universal social security pensions ahead of World Elderly Day on October 1.

Ethnocide in Caribbean island filmed following award winning docufilm on Jamaica's anti-colonial Indian roots

International awards winner for Best Feature Documentary Linda Aïnouche for “Dreadlocks Story” (2014), which shows how Indians are entangled in the Jamaican society, and how Hinduism was a source of inspiration for the Rastafari movement, is all set to release her new documentary, “Marooned in the Caribbean”, which aims at documenting the awful desolating living conditions that Raizal people, the native inhabitants of San Andres Archipelago, endure.
Sons of slaves, these islanders have fallen prey to what the Colombian government calls Colombianization. “It’s a process”, according to her, “which kills the Raizal culture; it’s the killing of the Raizal soul. Colombianization subjugates Afro-descendants of San Andres to an ethnocide.”

Explorer, director and producer, Linda Aïnouche writes exclusively for Counterview: ***
Nobody escapes from blood and thunder in Colombia, and definitely not in the archipelago of San Andres, situated closer to Managua and Kingston than Bogota. The Raizal p…

India to deport Rohingya refugees, as the world moves towards prosecuting Myanmar for genocide

By Tapan Bose*
Seven Rohingya Muslims refugees who were held at a detention centre in Assam since 2012 will be handed over to Myanmar. The Supreme Court of India has refused to stop their deportation. The new Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gagoi said, "We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken".

An elite Kutir set up by Modi far from the "madding" crowd: This Gandhi museum is formal, unapproachable

By Rajiv Shah
Have you ever heard of a Gandhi museum, sough to be projected as the “largest” on the Mahatma, yet totally inaccessible, in sharp contrast to Ahmedabad’s humble, approachable and unassuming Gandhi Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati, set up by the Mahatma during the heydays of the freedom movement? It exists about 30 kilometres away, its idea was conceived by none other than a person who has today become even more inaccessible than he ever was: Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister.

Accused of being RSS plant, Modi man, Hyderabad Urdu varsity chancellor asks President to probe "irregularities"

Counterview Desk
Refused entry in the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), the central university's newly appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who claims to be grand nephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, has, in a letter to the President of India, said that MANUU vice-chancellor (V-C) Dr Aslam Parvaiz has accused him of being an RSS plant and a Modi man, whose sole aim is to "interfere in the working of the university".

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

History less known: Kasturba's role as an independent woman and a freedom fighter in her own right

By Nandini Oza*
Even the most deserving of women do not find a place that equals their worth in history. Kasturba is one such woman whose contribution to India’s struggle for freedom has been exemplary, and yet, it has not received the recognition it deserves. Kastur Makhanji Kapadia was born in the year 1869, the same year and in the same town of Porbandar in Gujarat as Gandhiji. In fact she was older than Gandhiji by a few months.