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Showing posts from April, 2016

Censor Board bans Muzaffarnagar riots film on Home Ministry review; High Court had wanted it be cleared

By Our Representative
In a surprise move, India’s Censor Board chairman Pahlaj Ninalani has followed instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, in order to ban the documentary, “En Dino Muzaffarnagar” (Muzaffarnagar Today), inviting ire from well-known human rights advocate in Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan.

1,600 hectares Uttarakhand forests on fire, timber mafia behind "national emergency", alleges Facebook post

By Our Representative
A Facebook post has created flutter. Poster by Ela Smetacek, who “lives in Delhi", the post talks of a national emergency having overtaken the forests in Uttarakhand. These forests,it says, “Have been burning for over a week now, with no media coverage whatsoever.”

Three-day Narmada oustees' Bhopal fast ends, NBA seeks Jha Commission report on corruption in rehabilitation

By Our Representative
The three-day protest fast by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), ended in Bhopal on April 29, putting up strong demand to make public the Jha Commission report, which looked into corruption in the rehabilitating and resettling (R&R) of the Narmada dam oustees.

Gandhi’s Gujarat retaliates, forms Namak Satyagraha Samiti to fight government move to impose salt tax

By Pankti Jog*
A Namak Satyagraha Samiti has been formed in Gujarat, consisting of agariyas (traditional salt farmers), salt manufacturers and traders, to fight the “unjust” state notification to impose five per cent value added tax (VAT) on salt.
Apart from the recently added VAT, the Government of India and the state government are charging cess and royalty on salt, respectively.

Gujarat officials: Under Modi, govt "did nothing" for construction workers' welfare; 7 of 731 deaths compensated

By Our Representative
In a sharp admission, officials of the Gujarat government have told an NGO-sponsored workshop in Ahmedabad that during Narendra Modi’s tenure as chief minister, the state officialdom did “virtually nothing” in addressing the plight of the construction workers. The workshop was organized on the occasion of the International Workers Memorial Day, which is observed on April 28.

Gujarat No 5 in FDI inflow in India, far from being No 1 in India-China: Official data "contradict" thinktank claim

By Rajiv Shah
A recent Financial Times Group thinktank may have claimed that Gujarat turned into No 1 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination among all Indian and Chinese states (see Counterview, April 22), Government of India’s (GoI’s) own  FDI data show that, far from being No 1 among the two countries, it is No 5 in India.

Australian conservation group knocks Queensland Supreme Court against Adanis' $16 billion coalmining project

By Our Representative
In a surprise move, an Australian conservation group, Coast and Country, has announced it has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Queensland province for a judicial review of the environmental clearance granted to India’s powerful Adani Group’s $16 billion Carmichael coalmining project, proposed to be implemented in the Galilee Basin.

Modi government sitting on 170 high court judges' appointment, lack of judicial reforms: Prashant Bhushan

By Our Representative
Top Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan has sharply criticized the Government of India (GoI) for sitting on 170 recommendations by the Supreme Court collegium for appointments to High Courts over last two months, saying this has come about after the Supreme Court struck down the GoI’s wanting to have a National Judicial Appointments Commission.

UN report says India's foreign funding law being "arbitrarily" used against NGOs to silence criticism, is capricious

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded critique of the efforts by the Government of India (GoI) to use Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) against non-government organizations (NGOs), a United Nations (UN) report has said terms such as ‘political objectives,’ ‘political activities,’ or ‘political interests’ are being applied against NGOs “in an arbitrary and capricious manner”.

NBA to protest Madhya Pradesh "failure" to rehabilitate Narmada dam oustees, cites Gujarat success

By Our Representative
In a major announcement, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by top social activist Medha Patkar, has declared its decision to hold a protest fast (chetavni upvas) from April 27 to 29, 2016 at Bhopal against the Madhya Pradesh government's alleged failure to rehabilitate thousands of Narmada dam oustees.

Oversee industrial corridor funding by World Bank, others: People's groups seek Parliamentary panel intervention

By Our Representative 
Stepping pressure against five major industrial corridors sought to be built by the Government of India -- Delhi-Mumbai, Amritsar-Kolkata, Vizag–Chennai, Chennai–Bangalore and Mumbai-Bangalore, a high-level meeting of several people's organizations have decided to begin a Corridor Virodhi Sangharsh Abhiyaan in October, which will undertake a nation-wide yatra preceded by regional meetings.

Muslims in India "compelled" to leave their homes, migrate to slums where other Muslims live: UN official

By Our Representative
United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Leilani Farha has taken strong exception to “discrimination” against minorities in housing in India's big cities, pointing towards how “private landlords, real estate brokers, and property dealers will often refuse to rent to someone who is Muslim, or impose unfair conditions.”

India's business entry density, indicator of entrepreneurial dynamism, is one of the poorest: World Bank report

By Our Representative
At a time when India’s rulers are basking in happiness that international consultants, Ernst and Young, have pointed to how India has overtaken China in foreign direct investment (FDI), considering this an indicator of the new business climate under the Modi government, a World Bank report has found that the country utterly lacks in dynamism in entrepreneurial activity.

Indian states "neglecting" tribal interests are also highly rated for Ease of Doing Business by Modi, World Bank

By Birendra Nayak*
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on December 4, 2015: “Reaffirmed my belief in equal progress of all states. Strides of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh & Odisha in ‘Ease of doing business’ are great.” This reaction may have come a bit late.

Capt Amarinder Singh denied permission to address Canadian diaspora, terms it "gag order" in letter to Trudeau

By Our Representative
In a surprise development, senior Congress leader from Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, who also happens to be deputy leader of the Congress' parliamentary party, has been denied permission to address Punjabi diaspora in two Canadian cities -- Toronto and Vancouver. Singh says he was informed about this by India's foreign secretary Dr S Jaishankar.

Gujarat "leads" in FDI investment, India replaces China as top destination due to privatization, labour reforms

By Our Representative
Gujarat has “topped” the list of 10 most sought-after destination states for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2015 in a comparison drawn between India and China by a new report by the Financial Times Group's thinktank FDI Intelligence. The report says, Gujarat "attracted $12.4bn and claimed 10% of all capital investment into both countries."

Plea to "transfer" out hydro power units to J&K: Transparency urged in power supply to Punjab, North India

By Our Representative
India's right to information (RTI) activists, in close coordination with those of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state, have made a strong plea for the “transfer”, and not "buyback", hydro power projects put up in J&K to the state, and greater transparently in supplying power to other states.

70% Indian business executives justify corruption to meet financial targets, one of the highest in the world

By Our Representative
Top global consultants Ernst & Young’s (E&Y’s) 14th Global Fraud Survey has found that a high 39 percent of business executives in India believe that “bribery/corrupt practices happen widely in business”, which is one of the highest in the world. Of the 57 countries surveyed, a higher percent of business executives of just 16 countries talked of existence of the malaise.

In desire to control media, Modi envisages journalism univ by ex-propaganda officials: Global media watchdog

By Our Representative
Thanks to what has been described as “global decline” in press freedom, India has “improved” its ranking in the Press Freedom Index (PFI) from 140 in 2014 to 136 in 2015 and 133 in 2016. Ironically, the “improvement” has come about alongside deterioration of its overall PFI from 40.34 in 2014 to 40.49 in 2015, and 43.17 in 2016. The calculation is based the criterion “higher the figure, the worse the situation”

Mumbai slumdwellers not to be forcibly evicted, Maharashtra govt assures top social acivist Medha Patkar

By Our Representative
In what is being interpreted as a victory of sorts for well-known social activist Medha Patkar, the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) of Mumbai, which she leads, has taken “assurance” from the Maharashtra government not to forcibly evict slumdwellers in order to safeguard the mangroves next to the sea shore.

Model Gujarat fails to spend "enough" on social sector, especially education, reveals RBI's state budgets study

By Rajiv Shah
Is Gujarat government refusing to spend enough on social sector in accordance with its capacity, as reflected in its high value of the gross state domestic product (GSDP)? It would seem so, if the latest data, released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its “State Finances: A Study of State Budgets 2915-16”, are any indication.

1,500 Mumbai slumdwellers face eviction without rehabilitation by May first week: Mangroves cell "clampdown"

By Our Representative
A new threat looms large over around 1,500 slum-dwelling families of Mumbai: The Ghar Bachao – Ghar Banao Abhiyan (GBGBA) has claimed that the Mangroves Cell of the Maharashtra forest department is likely to evict around 700 families after April 23 in Cheeta Camp and 800 in Bheemchhaya, Vikroli, Kannamwar Nagar in the first week of May.

Rural Gujarat's 47 per cent people defecate in open, 63 per cent villages don't have drainage facility: NSSO

By Our Representative
Latest Government of India data suggest that, despite the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) cleanliness dive launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2014, 47.1 per cent of Gujarat’s rural population still defecates in the open, which is worse than as many as nine other major Indian states.

Pro-Modi Adani Group "wins" confidence vote of Aussie indigenous group for $16 b coalmining project

By Our Representative
Have the Adanis finally won the battle against the traditional land owners of Australia, seeking to stall the $16 billion coalmining project in the Queensland province? The top British daily "The Guardian" reports that they have "voted in favour of allowing a coalmine to be opened by Adani in central Queensland."

US report notes Gujarat govt "failure" to provide justice to 2002 riot victims, "curb" on Patels' right to agitate

Counterview Desk
Revising the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, the US state department’s new 67-page report on human rights situation in India has expressed “concern” over the Gujarat government’s “failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim.”

Why is there no reservation for Dalit Muslims, Christians, wonders US State Dept's India Human Rights report

By Our Representative
Ignoring Government of India taking strong exception to a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur (SR) report on caste-based discrimination, the United States (US) State Department’s “India 2015 Human Rights Report” has gone ahead and noted “significant discrimination against Dalits in access to services, such as health care, education, temple attendance, and marriage.”

Just 50% compensation under Gujarat land acquisition law; 70% state area "wouldn't need" farmers' consent

By Our Representative
The recent Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed in the state assembly and awaiting the Governor's accent, appears to all set drastically water down the high compensation amount stipulated in the Central LARR Act, passed in 2013 by the former UPA government.

Gujarat's state-owned hospitals take a beating, as people increasingly depend on private facilities: Govt data

By Our Representative Gujarat is all set to “beat” all Indian states in privatization of basic healthcare services, if the latest data, released by the Government of India, are any indication. Based on primary survey, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) data show that just about 24 per cent in Gujarat’s rural areas and 15 per cent in urban areas receive non-hospitalized treatment in government hospitals, while the rest relied on private facilities.

Impose "sin tax" on sugar-sweetened beverages in India: UK, US, Indian, Mexican medical experts to MPs

Counterview Desk
Sixty-odd medical experts from the US, UK, India, Brazil and Mexico have released a statement in support of a sin tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in India. The statement, which has been mailed to key Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministries in India this week, notes that a changing Indian diet is leading to an alarming increase in rates of obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases in India.

Model Gujarat's 'urban lag'? State's 41% households have internet access, as against all-India average of 49%

By Rajiv Shah
Gujarat may be claiming to have provided the widest internet coverage compared to the rest of India through the state-sponsored Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN). However, a recent Government of India survey shows that access to internet in the state’s urban areas is just to 41.3 per cent of its households, which is far below the national average of 48.7 per cent.

To 51.7% women it's"usual" in India for a husband to beat his wife if she leaves home without telling him: Report

By Our Representative
Three senior scholars at the Harvard Kennedy School, US, have said in a recent scrutiny that, while India “boasts superior rates of women serving in political office compared to other emerging economies”, yet the country not only “lags well behind its competitors in its rate of women’s labour force participation” but also letting women to go out of home alone.

Low agricultural demand, poor export, import scenarios "weak spots" in India's growth outlook: World Bank

By Our Representative
Despite the prediction that the Indian economy would grow by 7.7 per cent next year (click HERE), the World Bank in its latest report, “South Asia Economic Focus Spring 2016: Fading Tailwinds” has regretted that “private consumption growth” in the country has been driven “by non-agricultural (largely urban) households, as rural areas have been under stress.”

World Bank steps up pressure, tells India to quickly "reform" economy, lest 7.7% growth not achieveable in 2017

By Our Representative
Amidst continued apprehensions that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not seem interested in his announced neo-liberal "economic reforms" to further open up the Indian economy to world investors, the World Bank has stepped up its pressure saying India can achieve 7.7 per cent rate of growth in 2017 only if it early quickly moves in that direction; lest it would miss the bus.

Pope Francis takes a stand with the refugees of the world, demonstrates it in word and deed

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
Pope Francis has done it again! In a brief but historic visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis demonstrated in word and by deed that he took a stand with the refugees of the world; and by doing so, he merely reiterated his consistent and unequivocal support for the dispossessed of the earth today: the refugees, the migrants, the forcibly displaced, the other vulnerable and marginalized people.
“You are not alone!”, he told the more than three thousand refugees at the Moria camp, on the island. Many of them face deportation under a new EU-Turkey agreement which states that those migrants (mainly Syrians) arriving illegally on the Greek islands after March 20th would be sent back to the country of their origin. Pope Francis acknowledged ‘the great sacrifice’ the people in the camp had made saying that he wished “to draw the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis”. He went on to say, “do not lose hope; the greatest gift we can offer to …

Film on Tehri dam highlights "failure" of judiciary to look into rehabilitation of oustees, ecological destruction

By Our Representative
A new documentary on Tehri Dam, released in Delhi, has strongly raised the pitch in favour of dam free rivers, even as focusing on human and ecological crisis in the Himalayan region after the construction of dams such as Tehri, allegedly ruining the lives and livelihoods of local communities.

Pak Hindus: Poor farmers victims of land grab, girls abducted, forced to marry, says activist Rabia Mahmood

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded defence of the minorities in Pakistan, the country's human rights activist and journalist Rabia Mahmood has said that Hindu girls in Pakistan "are victim of abductions and forced conversions through marriages”, even as pointing towards how poor Hindu farmers are victims of land grab, too.

Cancel Romila Thapar as Ambedkar Memorial Lecture speaker as she "overlooked" caste issues: Dalit body

By Our Representative
In a surprising move, a top Dalit rights organization, Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Collective (DBAC), has taken strong exception to Prof Romila Thapar, one of the foremost historians of India, for the 2016 Ambedkar Memorial Lecture (AML) at the Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD).

Gujarat land acquisition amendments "undermine" communities' right to participate in consultation: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
Amnesty International, one of the most influential human rights organization, has taken strong exception to the amendments passed by the Gujarat government to land acquisition laws, saying they “undermine the rights of communities to participation and genuine consultation.”

Why hasn't India signed 1962 UN convention on minimum age of marriage, registration? asks UNICEF document

Counterview Desk
A recent UNICEF document, “Reducing Child Marriage in India: A model to scale up results?” has sharply criticized the Government of India authorities for failing to sign up a more than five-decades old United Nations document crucial document seeking complete abolition of child labour.

Instead of Gandhi, Sardar, Modi, Gujarat should reflect aspirations of social groups, inequalities: Scholar

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released book by senior Gujarat-based scholar Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, who has served as professor at a top Indian IAS training institute, seeks to make a controversial suggestion: About the need to look at Gujarat not as a land of “Gandhi, Sardar Patel, and, of late, Narendra Modi”.

Land acquisition in Odisha: How lurking gap between R&R policy, implementation is "diluting" pro-farmer law

Counterview Desk
Giving evidence from a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on land acquisition and resettlement processes in Odisha, a recent study has noted serious slips between policy statements and performance on ground, providing enough space to “bolster” dilution of pro-farmer provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (LARR) Act, 2013, recently sought by the NDA government.

India's urban poverty doubles since 1950s, pace of urbanization lower than South Asian countries, China: Study

Counterview Desk
In a new study, apparently carried out from a World Bank perspective, three senior economists have said that in the early 1950s, just about 14 per cent of the poor lived in India’s urban areas; however, they note, “by 2012 this had risen to 35 per cent”, adding, “There is a sign of acceleration in the pace of the urbanization of poverty since 2000.”

"Forced" eviction in Mumbai: Slum dwellers' delegation seeks abolition of "discriminatory" cut-off date

By Our Representative
A Mumbai slum dwellers' delegation, which met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has demanded that the "cut-off date" approach for rehabilitating slum dwellers should be dropped, as it "protects" only limited number of slum dwellers.

Rs 29,000 crore scam? Forty top Indian companies being "investigated" for over-invoicing imported coal

By Our Representative
A top Indian online site analysing global metals and energy indices has created a major flutter by revealing that 40 well-known Indian energy companies are being investigated by a Union Finance Ministry wing for "over-invoicing of imported coal", leading to "artificially higher prices being "passed on to electricity consumers across the country."

Indo-Saudi joint statement on terrorism targets Iran, not Pakistan; Modi "charmed" into receiving Sash honour

By Our Representative
A major “outcome” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent Saudi visit (April 2-3), highlighted by his “spin doctors”, is that the two countries are entering an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination in the security field in the fight against terrorism. Facts, however, have come to light suggesting that the India-Saudi Arabia joint statement seeks to target Iran, and not Pakistan, for terrorism.

After forced to migrate following rape, threat to life, 23 Gujarat Dalits seek internal displacement status

By Our Representative
Twenty three Dalits, belonging to the Rohit community, are sitting in front of the Amreli district collector’s office since early January 2016, seeking a new status for themselves: They want to be declared as forced migrants, as they faced internal displacement following the rape of an 18-year-old Dalit girl and threat from dominant castes to take back the case. The incident took place in Vadali village, situated in Rajula taluka of Amreli district of Gujarat’s Saurashtra region.

Modi's pay back time to UPA’s "wrongs"? Deft hands at work for measured steps to sidestep anti-defection law

By RK Misra*
Past is never past. It returns to haunt the future. See how. And I quote:
“It is a matter of great concern that the federal structure is under increasing strain, merely to suit the whims and fancies of the rulers in Delhi .What we are witnessing today is the systematic disruption of our country’s federal structure both in letter and spirit.

Modi's pay back time to UPA’s "wrongs"? Deft hands at work for measured steps to sidestep anti-defection law

By RK Misra*
Past is never past. It returns to haunt the future. See how. And I quote:
“It is a matter of great concern that the federal structure is under increasing strain, merely to suit the whims and fancies of the rulers in Delhi .What we are witnessing today is the systematic disruption of our country’s federal structure both in letter and spirit.
“Paradoxically, the rulers in New Delhi have repeatedly flexed their muscles in areas where they should ideally be friendly and cooperative with the states. In order to do so they have not spared any constitutional office. There are many instances of states being targeted through the office of the Governor. Several other bodies are also being misused by the Centre to weaken the states ruled by the opposition in order to score political brownie points.
“Chief ministers are not consulted on crucial appointments. Rather appointments are being thrust down violating the spirit of the laws of the land. Why is it that chief ministers cutting acro…

Fading eco-challenge to Adanis' $22 billion Aussie coal project? Nood to mining on 28,000 ha amidst protest

By Our Representative
Australian environmental groups appear to be reconciled that top Indian business group Adani Group's ambitious $22 billion coalmining lease project for Carmichael may finally have its day. This became clear from a statement by top international NGO Greenpeace following Queensland's provincial government minister Anthony Lynham saying the project would continue.

Modi's rupee bond plan for overseas Indians, mimicing China, "falls flat"; not one rupee raised: Report

By Our Representative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious project to raise $1.5 billion from rupee bonds, about which he announced in London last autumn during his visit to London, has fallen flat. Top US business daily “Wall Street Journal” reports, “India’s attempt to diversify and deepen its corporate debt market has fallen flat, thanks to lack of demand and bad timing.”