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Showing posts from March, 2016

Land rights group protests Gujarat move to drop consent, social impact assessment for land acquisition

By Our Representative
In a sharp critique of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed in the Gujarat state assembly on Thursday, Jameen Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat (JAAG), a land rights network of civil society organisations, has taken strong exception to "dropping" the consent clause and social impact assessment (SIA) provisions of the Central Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013.

As Modi reaches Washington, top US expert warns: Gujarat's nuclear power project is "financially unviable"

By Our Representative
The US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has raised the alarm that with the type of technology to be used for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL’s) 6,000 MW N-power plant project in Gujarat’s Mithi Virdi region, its actual cost is likely to reach a whopping Rs 6.3 lakh crore to Rs 11.3 lakh crore, as against the official estimate of Rs 60,000 crore.

US legislation wants Indian soldiers to fight "alongside" US forces, reducing "risk" of American citizens

By Our Representative
A controversial legislation, introduced in the American House of Representatives, US-India Defense Technology and Partnership Act, claiming to underline "fundamental changes between today’s political environment", wants Indian soldiers to fight with other foreign soldiers "alongside US forces, thereby reducing the risk to American men and women."

Human Rights Watch asks European Union to tell Modi to "stop harassing" civil society, minorities, Dalits

By Our Representative
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a letter to the European Union (EU), written amidst EU-India summit on March 30, has said that even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks "greater foreign investment in the private sector for initiatives such as Make in India, showcasing Indian democracy and diversity abroad, it uses laws such as the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to restrict foreign funding for civil society groups."

India's public sector banks with huge non-performing assets also saw high rejection of RTI pleas: Study

Counterview Desk
An analysis of right to information (RTI) data in the Annual Report of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has found that the proportion of rejection of RTI applications was quite high in public sector banks that had reported large volumes of net non-performing assets (NPAs) in 2014-15.

British Premier "woos" Gujarati Hindus, Punjabi Sikhs, calls Labour Muslim candidate for London mayor "radical"

By Our Representative
Is Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron following US Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump in allegedly whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment? It would seem so, if a recent report the British newspaper “The Guardian” is any indication.

Ahmedabad's tree cover down to 24% from 46% in two decades, likely to bottom 3% by 2030: Study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study, sponsored by the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangaluru, has said that Ahmedabad's tree cover fell from 46% to 24% over the last 20 years, while the city's built-up area up increased by 132%. It predicts, by 2030, the vegetation cover will go down to 3% of Ahmedabad's area.

Govt of India "refuses" to make public laws, regulations that protect RAW agents abroad, rejects RTI plea

By Our Representative
The Government of India has rejected a right to information (RTI) plea seeking information about “laws, rules and regulations” that explain the nature and the extent of legal protection provided to officers and employees of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), who are engaged in overseas intelligence operations.

Fear grips Ahmedabad residents: Nominal metro rail displacement compensation offered to "occupants"

By Our Representative
A fresh fear has engulfed thousands of residents of Ahmedabad: The high-profile metro rail project, which was taken up a decade after it was supposed to have been launched, will not only displace them. They may not get compensation under the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013, as "promised" by the Gujarat government's special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the project.

Noam Chomsky joins top US, British, other world scholars to condemn "state violence" in Hyderabad

By Our Representative
Over 300 academicians, activists, artists and writers, including well known linguist Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have condemned what they have called "state violence and unlawful detention of faculty and student protesters of the University of Hyderabad".

Child marriage more prevalent among Gujarat's rural rich compared to middle and poorer groups: UNICEF study

By Rajiv Shah
A new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, which seeks to give policy directions to India on how to reduce child marriage, has said that in Gujarat's rural areas, the despicable practice is “strongly associated with caste membership”, and underlines, “Child marriage rates are highest among richer, high caste girls.”

Alleging Facebook censorship, Gujarat rights activist, top Delhi journalist point to temporary "ban" on posts

By Our Representative
Gujarat's young human rights activist and social media campaigner Pratik Sinha has said that Facebook has "banned" him again, this time for three days. Reason, according to him, is a comment on the screentshot of a tweet by well-known Narendra Modi-supporter and commentator Minhas Merchant.

Jaitley's Australia visit starting March 29 amidst continued controversy around $16 billion Adani mining project

By Neeraj Nanda*
India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is visiting Australia on a four-day official when he lands in Sydney on March 29. The visit also takes him to Canberra and Melbourne. He will meet the Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, among others during his visit.

New York journalists' body seeks immediate release of Chhattisgarh reporter, criticizes attack on free speech

By Our Representative
The Influential New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, has “immediately release” of Prabhat Singh, a reporter for the Hindi daily Patrika, who was arrested in the south Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Monday.

Uttar Pradesh Dalit boys feel more empowered than those from "model state" Gujarat, rest of India

By Rajiv Shah
A recent interaction by Counterview with around 50 Dalit youths off Ahmedabad suggested that Dalits from Uttar Pradesh feel relatively more empowered to fight against untouchability and caste discrimination compared to other states. In fact, the interaction showed that blatant discrimination against the Dalits may have become a thing of the past in that state.

UN study: Households in "model" Gujarat less likely to prefer toilets than Bihar, Kerala, North-Eastern states

Counterview Desk
In what could be a major shocker for India’s top policy makers, a United Nations sponsored new study on households’ preparedness to have toilets has found that households in Gujarat, a “model” state for others to follow, are more unlikely to have a preference for toilets than Bihar, Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal and majority of North-Eastern states.

Gujarat Dalits in Surendranagar district's rural areas deprived of Narmada water: Letter to chief minister

By Our Representative
In a letter to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, a well-known Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust’s activist, Prakashbhai Jayantibhai Parmar, has given the instance of two villages of Surendranagar district to point towards how, despite availability of Narmada waters, the Dalits are being deprived of drinking water.

20% Coca-Cola Company-owned plants "closed" in India: Lack of demand as peak season begins?

By Amit Srivastava*
In continued troubles for the Coca-Cola company in India, a press release issued March 17, 2016 indicated that the company has stopped production in another two bottling plants in India – in addition to the three bottling plants that were shut down earlier this year.The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited (HCCBPL), which runs 24 bottling plants in India according to its website, is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta.

Modi's view that India was under slavery for 1,200 is "spurious": Top academic Meghnad Desai takes a U-turn

By Our Representative In a major U-turn, Meghnad Desai, emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics, has taken strong exception to the idea of Hindu nationalism, as pursued by the BJP and the Narendra Modi government, saying, it sharply differs from what the freedom fighter the party reveres the most – Vinayak Damodar Savarkar -- thought.

Demand for unionization: Tata Nano workers detained off Ahmedabad as they protest suspension of colleagues

By Our Representative
Nearly 350 skilled workers of the Tata Nano factory, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought to Gujarat from West Bengal about eight years ago, were detained by the police at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) Gate No 2 in Sanand, a new industrial hub 12 km from Ahmedabad.

UN special rapporteur report wants "urgent, comprehensive" steps to combat caste-based discrimination

By Our Representative
In a development of major policy implication for India, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, chose caste discrimination as the theme of her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council, which she presented at Geneva on March 15, 2016.

Modi's office witnesses 44% rise in RTI pleas, proportion of rejections go up by 22%: CIC Annual Report

By Our Representative
An analysis of the just-released Annual Report of the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Central right to information (RTI) watchdog, has revealed that the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed a whopping 44% increase in the number of RTI applications received in 2014-15 (12,674) as compared to 2013-14 (7,077).

Gujarat flood relief scam: Villagers file 1,000 RTI pleas in a day to protest refusal to part with information

By Pankti Jog*
On October 12, 2015, Harkhabhai Parmar, filed a right to information (RTI) application with the taluka development officer (TDO) of Sui Gam Taluka, Banakantha district, for seeking details of criteria for the selection of families for flood relief, handed over following one of the worst-ever floods that took place during monsoon that year.

Gujarat No 1 in economic freedom, but No 14 in transparency, No 12 in social protection: Study

Counterview Desk
A just-released study, “Public Affairs Index: Governance in the States of India”, has once again highlighted that a state which achieves good level of economic development by inviting industrial investment as compared to other states, such as Gujarat, does not automatically claim to have achieved better levels of social sector indices.
The study has been carried out by Dr CK Mathew, Athreya Mukunthan and Vivek Divekar for the Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore, the study.

Adanis' Australian coalmining project to "release" 121 million tonnes of greenhouse gases: Greenpleace

By Our Representative
Top international environmental NGO Greenpeace has raised the alarm that if India's powerful Adani Group is allowed to go ahead with its Carmichael coal-mining project worth $21.7 billion in Australia, on full production, a whopping 121 million tonnes of greenhouse gas would be released into the atmosphere each year.

Gujarat's smart city project in Dholera SIR faces fresh threat: From Kolis, numercially strong OBC community

By Our Representative
In a development of far-reaching political significance, the powerful association representing the numerically strong Other Backward Class (OBC) community of Gujarat, Kolis, has announced its backing to the farmers' demand to scrap the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), situated in the south of Ahmedabad, along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Striking Tata Nano workers detained in Ahmedabad, police refuse permission to protest at collector's office

By Our Representative Around 400 skilled workers of the prestigious Tata Nano industry, protesting for around three weeks for the formation of union and revocation of their 28 colleagues, were detained in Ahmedabad after they protested against the Gujarat government’s refusal to play the role of an impartial mediator. Along with them, around 12 union leaders were also detained. They were released later.

Central, state ministers are public authority under RTI, must "voluntarily disclose" information

By Our Representative
In an important verdict, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that both Central and state ministers are a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, pointing out, “It is pitiful that a citizen has to file a RTI request to know the timings and process of meeting their chosen minister, which should have been ordinarily provided on their own.”

Sri Sri's World Cultural Festival may "adversely impact" Delhi's groundwater source, Yamuna floodplains

Counterview Desk
While the World Cultural Festival organized by Art of Living (AoL) of well-known spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has ended on the banks of Yamuna, there is no end to the controversy surrounding the alleged ecological damage it may have caused to Delhi. Well-known environmentalist Ravi Agrawal has said, “There is a myopic understanding of nature and its destruction that is on display at World Cultural Festival.”

Leak at Kakrapar N-plant in Gujarat moderately large, may be continuing, apprehends top nuclear expert

By Our Representative
Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has accused Government of India's three arms handling nuclear energy – Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) , Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and AERB – of “total lack of transparency”, allowing experts to conjecture what might have happened at the Kakrapar nuclear power plant, which “leaked” on March 11.

Tata Nano skilled workers' strike: Govt of Gujarat accused of supporting management at workers' expense

By Our Representative
Top all-India trade unions (TUs), including left-wing All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU), Congress' Indian National Trade Union Congress, socialist Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), and others, were joined by  civil rights organizations to sharply criticize the Gujarat government for going out of the way to support the Tata Nano management in the 20-day-old strike by about 450 skilled technical workers.

Facebook "filters" content critical of controversial Art of Living's World Cultural Festival off Jamuna in Delhi

By Our Representative
Facts of come to light suggesting that Facebook, world’s biggest social networking site, has sought block or filter posts critical of well-known preacher and Hindu religious guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, involved in a major environmental controversy for holding World Cultural Festival on the banks of Yamuna in Delhi.

Muslims not recruited as Yoga teachers or trainers as a "matter of policy": Govt of India department

By Our Representative
The Union health and family welfare ministry's AYUSH department, whose job is to promote alternative medicines (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), appears to believe that as a matter of “policy” it should not recruit Muslims as Yoga teachers or trainers.

Arrest Rajasthan BJP MLA who attacked Accountability Yatra: Top RTI activist Aruna Roy at Jaipur convention

By Pankti Jog*
Over 6,000 people gathered from 33 districts of Rajasthan on the culmination of 100 days’ Accountability Yatra, which began on December 1, 2015 at Ajmer. The yatra, led by Magsasay Award winning Right to Information (RTI) pioneer Aruna Roy, attracted national attention in January following a gruesome incident in which a mob led by a BJP MLA attacked activists, injuring several of them.

Gujarat No 1 in Govt of India pushed report? Not in labour, infrastructure, economic conditions, governance

By Rajiv Shah
A report by a top Delhi-based think tank, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), prepared under the direct leadership of Amitabh Kant, ex-secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Government of India, has claims that Gujarat ranks No 1 in the NCAER State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI), though there is a dig.
N-SIPI has been divided into two separate indices. The first one includes five “pillars” based on which the index has been arrived it. These pillars are: labour, infrastructure, economic conditions, political stability and governance, and perceptions of a good business climate. It is called N-SIPI 21, as it includes a survey of 21 states out of 29.

Gujarat officialdom abuzz with a new fight, between a rugged non-IAS babu and a sophisticated IAS bureacurat

By Our Representative
Senior babus in the nerve centre of Gujarat’s powerdom, Gandhinagar, are animatedly discussing a pitched battle being fought between a  rugged ex-non-IAS official of the state government, who had been close to a top Modi aide currently in the chief minister’s office (CMO), and one of the most sophisticated Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrats, heading a well-known bluechip state public sector undertaking (PSU).

Mercury contamination: Rejoicing victory over Unilver, activists say Kodaikanal cleanup norm "3 times lower"

Counterview Desk
In a move that has cheered activists fighting against mercury contamination in the southern tip of India, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has been “forced” to agree to provide ex gratia payments to 591 former workers/association members and their families towards livelihood enhancement projects and skill enhancement programmes.

Ex-BJP chief minister: Why is Gujarat govt afraid of releasing findings of inquiry into corruption under Modi?

By Our Representative
Amidst fresh charges of misappropriation flying high against Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel over giving away land off Gir lions sanctuary in Junagarh at throw away price to partners of her daughter, Gujarat's civil society groups have put up a strong demand to make public findings of the MB Shah Commission, set up in 2011 to investigate into allegations of 14 corruption cases involving state government officials and ministers.

Workers' unrest in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor's Haryana-Rajasthan belt: Demand for unionization at Honda

By Our Representative
The Rajasthan-Haryana border region of the high-profile Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is burning with industrial unrest. Following the unprecedented unrest by Maruti-Suzuki workers at the Manesar plant, workers at the Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd (HMSI) in Tapukara are up in arms against the alleged resistance from the management to allow a recognized union.

Retired IAS babus make beeline to head "toothless" anti-corruption watchdog Gujarat Vigilance Commission

By Our Representative Four retired bureaucrats of the Gujarat government – Haribhai Patel, HK Dash, Rajesh Kishore and SK Nanda – are said to have made the beeline to head a state organization which is long considered toothless, Gujarat Vigilance Commission (GVC). Patel retired from the IAS in 2014, Dash and Kishore in 2015, and Nanda more recently, in February 2016.

Real estate interests in Ahmedabad behind smart city project? Govt of India says Gujarat can choose its "model"

By Our Representative
Much to the chagrin of smart city enthusiasts in the Gujarat government, the Government of India has officially admitted, with specific reference to Ahmedabad, that it does not have any fixed definition of smart cities, which it wants to set up at 100 different urban locations across India.

World Bank team told: False cases being registered against project affected persons of proposed Uttarakhand dam

By Our Representative
Matu Jansangthan, a people’s organization in Uttarkakhand, has taken strong exception to World Bank clearing Vishnugaad-Peepalkoti hydroelectric project on Alaknanda Ganga river, saying, the Bank’s officials are providing “misleading explanation” that the project-affected people’s problems have been resolved and the project could continue without any hurdle.

Supreme Court urged to set up permanent commissioner, monitor hate speeches by top BJP ministers, politicians

By Our Representative
Former judges, IPS officers, jurists, scientists and businessmen – a list that includes Justice PB Sawant and Julio Ribeiro -- has appealed to the Chief Justice and other Judges of the Supreme Court of India that they take suo motu cognizance on the issue of “alarming and threatening statements” allegedly by those in powerful constitutional positions within the Union government or associated with it.

Fate of Yamuna floodplain still hangs in "balance" despite National Green Tribunal rap on Sri Sri event

By Ashok Shrimali*
While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday reportedly pulled up the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for granting permission to hold spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival on the banks of Yamuna, the chief petitioners against the high-profile event Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has declared, the “fate of the floodplain still hangs in balance.”

Agriculture gets 3.5% for 55% farmer population of India, no mention of farm workers: NAPM on Union budget

By Our Representative
In a sharp critique of the claim that Narendra Modi government's 2016-17 budget is “pro-farmer”, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has allocated less than 3.5% to agriculture, when 55% of India’s population depends on agriculture, which is grossly insufficient particularly when farmers are facing drought.

Economic Survey: Gujarat a poor performer in saving account coverage, direct bank transfer preparedness

By Our Representative
The recently released Government of India’s (GoI’s) “Economic Survey 2015-16” has come up with a major revelation: That Gujarat, which claims itself to be the financial capital of the country, has, ironically, one of the poorest saving bank penetration in the country, adversely affecting the GoI’s direct bank transfer (DBT) thrust.

Right-wing scholars petition to "protect" Indian culture from Pollock, top Sanskritist of Columbia University

By Our Representative A group of right-wing intellectual-supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are on a unique mission: They want to “protect” Indian culture from western “takeover” through a petition. And, how they want to go about doing it? By seeking the ouster top Sanskritist Sheldon Pollock as chief editor of the Murty Classical Library of India.