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Showing posts from April, 2017

Modi govt rejected anti-graft law plea thrice; Election Commission seized Rs 350 crore in recent assembly polls

By Our Representative
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr Nasim Ahmad Zaidi has revealed that. despite noteban, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had seized over Rs 350 crore during the recently concluded five state assembly elections, which is “three times higher than what was seized in the 2012 assembly elections”, though adding, this is only “tip of the iceberg.”

US climate change scholars to India: Depend on solar, wind, nuclear power to avoid cost overruns, CO2 emission

By Our Representative
Top US-based researchers have warned that average costs for plants coming online in 2020 are Rs 4.40 per kWh (or unit) for domestic coal and Rs 5.15 kWh for imported coal, which is considerably more than the prices for photovoltaic solar and onshore wind power – Rs 2.97 per kWh and INR 3.46 per kWh, respectively, wondering why India consists on having new coal-fired plants.

Gujarat's 49.6% children not vaccinated for immunization, worst in India; setback in M'rashtra, Tamil Nadu, too

By Our Representative
In a major exposure, a top data analysis site has revealed that among larger Indian states, "model" Gujarat has the least percentage of vaccinated children -- 50.4%. Basing on 2015-16 Government of India data, the analysis, carried out by Alison Saldanha, says that other richer states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have also begun to show signs of complicity towards the health of their children.

Modi brand nationalism blamed for India's deteriorating World Press Freedom Index: Pakistan improves by 8 points

By Our Representative Ranking India 136th in World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), the prestigious international non-profit, non-government organization Reporters, Without Borders (RWB) has directly blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politics for the country deteriorating its ranking by three points in a year.

US report: "Nonsensical" to deem Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains to be Hindus, minorities' plight worsens under BJP

By Our Representative
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), operating under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, has asked the Government of India “to amend its nonsensical constitutional provision that deems Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus.” The report underlines, “These three faiths have their own distinctive founders, religious histories, and practices followed by millions of people in India and abroad.”

Occupational hazards took 186 deaths in Gujarat in 2016: Corporate giants blamed for not protecting workers

By Our RepresentativeA new estimate, arrived at by a Vadodara-based civil rights organization working on occupational health issues in Gujarat, has estimated that as many as 186 persons have died in 2016 alone in the state because of various occupational hazard diseases. Sourced on vernacular media of South Gujarat, the organization, People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), believes that the actual numbers should be “much higher”, as the news items published in the dailies are "based on police complaints."

Govt of India terms Green Nobel prize winner Samanata-inspired tribal rights body "Maoist affiliate", invites ire

By Our Representative
In a shocking revelation, the Annual Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, for the year 2016-17 has qualified the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), which has been working under the guidance of one of the topmost tribal rights activists, Prafulla Samantara, a “Maoist affiliate.”

Gujarat Dalits' anti-cow vigilantes protest on May 10 to insist: Death due to plastics must also attract life sentence

By Our Representative
In a unique move, Gujarat’s grassroots activist Natubhai Parmar, who shot into prominence by unloading truckload of cow carcasses before Surendranagar district collectorate during post-Una protests against cow vigilantism last year, has decided collect 182 kg of plastics in a cow prototype to stage yet another protest. Parmar, who heads Navnirman Sarvajanik Trust, a local Dalit rights organization, has issued a leaflet which says that the 182 kg of plastic “signifies” 182 MLAs of Gujarat state assembly.

UP decision to scrap quota to SCs, STs, SEBCs in pvt medical colleges against 93rd amendment of Constitution

Letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath by PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd), Former Secretary to Government of India , Ministry of Welfare; Member, National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities, Government of India: As a person working country-wide for the legitimate rights of scheduled castes, STs and SEBCs during my entire service in the IAS from 1956 to 1990 and before that and after that, spanning nearly seven decades, I request you to consider taking the following measures:  (i) Reverse your Government’s recent decision to implement the order passed by the previous Akhilesh Yadav Government to scrap reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in the post-graduate courses at private medical and dental colleges in the State.
This decision goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act 2005, inserting new Clause (5) in Article 15,…

AAP defeat compounded by solely blaming EVMs for debacle, a charge which is seen as that of an unrepentant loser

By Kamal Mitra Chenoy*
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership, which has refused to read the writing on the wall despite many warnings, weakening its progressive and popular narrative and going in for high pitched confrontations with the Union government, lieutenant governors (LGs), and Arun Jaitley, has paid a heavy price at the hustings. It has compounded this defeat by solely blaming the electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the debacle, a charge which is seen as that of an unrepentant loser, and is unprovable. In any case, political parties have a right to inspect EVMs up to 45 days after the polling. A 'paper trail' would also reduce any chances of rigging, if that is suspected in future polls.
Of course, the "rout" is based on a great mismatch between the vote share of the contending parties and the seats won in the MCD polls. While the BJP's votes share was 36.1% in the MCD 2017, it won a huge 181 wards out of 270, though less than the exit polls predicted. On…

Cyprus President Anastasiades in Delhi to discuss country's reunification, though India is a different story altogether

By Sadhan Mukherjee*In 1963, the then East German writer Christa Wolf created a worldwide sensation when her book Divided Heaven came out. The basic story is that just before the Berlin Wall came up, a couple from East Germany, Manfred and Rita, visits West Berlin, the show piece of the West. Theirs is the story of love as well as sacrifice. The glitter of the West could not convince Rita to stay on in West Berlin and she goes back to East Germany.
But their pathos was palpable. “At least they can’t divide the sky,” says Manfred, who decides to stay on in West Berlin. But Rita chooses her socialist ideals, and East Germany, over a life with him in the West. “The sky?” Thinks Rita, in response, “This vault of hope and desire, love and sadness?” ‘Oh yes,’” she says, “The heavens are what split first.”
The wall came up in 1961 and was demolished in 1989. In 1990 the two Germanys and two Berlins were reunited. How many couples and how many families were divided in world over in wars and th…

Zozan, a refugee, dreams of going back to Syria one day, of imparting skills she has acquired to the less fortunate

By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
There is a steely determination in Zozan. As one listens to this 25-year old woman, one cannot but feel that she will go places. In a very casual way, she shares what she would like to do most in life: to learn new languages and to travel to distant lands.
In some ways, Zozan Hassan Khalil has begun doing both. She has already crossed international boundaries but as a refugee. When the war in Syria became just too bad, together with her parents, brother and sister, Zozan had to flee in February 2013, their native town of Al-Hasakah, in northeast Syria. It was not an easy journey. The vehicle driver who brought them had the ‘right connections’ at the various checkpoints. They eventually made it into the Kurdistan area of Iraq. Then carrying their few possessions they walked through the mountainous terrain right up to Dohuk.It was not easy, but they now felt safer.
Zozan looks back at the days in Al- Hasakah. She was a student doing her engineering studies when w…

Pehlu Khan murder, cow vigilantism signify breakdown of constitution: 1968 batch IAS bureaucrats to Rajasthan CM

Text of the letter, which retired IAS bureaucrats, of 1968 batch, have written to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Rane on the lynching of Pehlu Khan:
We are very disturbed by the lynching and murder of Pehlu Khan in Alwar. He was attacked on April 1st at Behror in Alwar District and died of the injuries a few days later. We are also dismayed by the acts of omission and commission of the government following the incident, including the delay and marked reluctance in arresting all those guilty of the act.
You are aware of the fact that Pehlu Khan and four others were returning to Haryana from Rajasthan with the cows they had bought, and the necessary documents corroborating the fact that the purchase had no relationship with cow slaughter.
Cows of a well-known breed of milch cattle were being transported from a cattle fair in Rajasthan to their village in Haryana. While one may have strongly differing sentiments on the importance of cows, and their slaughter or consumption, the kill…

Rajasthan's banjaras join protest against cow vigilantes in Jaipur, as cattle trade, dairies face economic ruin

By Our Representative
In a development which may prove costly to the BJP-ruled Rajasthan government, the state’s gypsies or banjaras – categorized as other backward castes (OBCs) – have joined hands in the protests in front of the state assembly in Jaipur against cow vigilantism, which began on April 24.

Fascism: Prashant Bhushan identifies malady, but doesn't prescribe remedy; plays an isolationist game

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
Supreme Court Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan’s write-up on Rising Fascism in India (click HERE to read) makes an interesting reading, but I beg to disagree with him on several counts. He hangs his write-up on a single peg of history which does not apply even to all European countries.
Timothy Snyder whom he quotes seems to have an oversimplified approach to history. While he talks of European democracies degenerating into fascism, Nazism and communism, he is trying to use history to suit his choice. Was Czar’s regime in Russia a democracy? What Lenin brought about was socialism, not communism. In fact, communism never reached its working stage anywhere in the world; it remained a utopia.
Fascism also did not originate in Germany but in Italy in 1919. It was adopted by Hitler who further embellished it. Also the basic plank for the growth of fascism was the economic downturn and the distress of common masses caused by the unjust terms of the Treaty of Versailles fo…

Failure of reservation policy? 72% adults in UP, and 52% in Delhi, haven't heard the term "aarakshan", says survey

By Our Representative
A recent “social attitudes and perceptions” survey has surprisingly revealed that though reservation system in India is prevalent in the country ever since the Constitution came into existence in 1950, a whopping 52% of 1,270 adults in Delhi and 72% of 1,473 adults in UP have not heard of the word “reservations” or “aarakshan”.

Green Nobel goes to Odisha's tribal rights leader Samantara for "ousting" UK-based MNC Vedanta from Niyamigiri

By Our Representative
Top tribal rights activist Prafulla Samantara has received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for committing his life in the 12-year-long battle for Odisha’s indigenous Dongria Kondh people against land acquisition sought by UK-based MNC Vedanta in Niyamgiri Hills, where it had planned massive open-pit aluminium ore mine.

Rising fascism in India: Need for counter narrative on secularism in Constitutional democratic framework

By Prashan Bhushan* “In the 20th century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances.
"History can familiarise, and it can warn. Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny.
Now is a good time to do so.”
-- Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

*** Timothy Snyder is his scathing critique of the rise and flourish of fascist regimes in Europe, draws an unspoken parallel to the totalitarian…

ICICI Bank "reluctant" to give details of multiple, fixed deposit accounts closed in 2006 without holder's knowledge

Bharati Sinha, a Delhi-based journalist, earlier with the India Today group, writes on her Facebook timeline on how she is being harassed by ICICI Bank in Delhi. We reproduce the text:
I am an extremely private person and use Facebook strictly as a public platform. I have never used smartphone and am only on the public platform of Facebook. I have used smart phone only for a few months early last year, to know and see how it works.
After almost a full year of running around and investigating the unexplained reasons for very powerful forces trying to ruin my reputation, my financial standing, my credibility, my health, I am coming across some answers. However, each answer is leading to more questions.
Recently, I have come to know that multiple accounts and fixed deposits were opened in my name and against my PAN number AAYPS9407R in ICICI Bank as far back as 2001. I had a salary account (Savings A/C 000701065065) with ICICI Bank’s Phelps Building, A Block, Connaught Place branch. I was…

For Iraq’s Yezdis, forcibly displaced from their lands, their New Year Day wasn’t a day of celebration

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
April 19th was New Year Day for the Yazidis. It was a joy to meet with some of them in Sarsink in the Dohuk District of Iraq on that day, to greet them with a “Jajna ta Piroz”. Each family had a tray laden with several bowls filled with cookies, boiled eggs with their shells colourfully painted), candies and fruits (and for good measure, a packet of cigarettes too!). They happily shared these, with some soft drinks, to those who visited them. It was a similar experience the next day at Sharya-Khadima.
The New Year Day for most people is a day of celebration. Unfortunately, it is not so for the Yazidis, who have been forcibly displaced from lands which they once called home. Many of them had to flee in August 2014 from towns like Sinjar (also known as Shingal) in the Nineveh Province of Iraq, to escape violence and persecution at the hands of the ISIS.
It is believed that more than 5000 Yazidi men were massacred at that time. Many more were killed in the followi…

Senior Kashmir RTI activist, known liberal, threatened; top journo warns, state susceptible to anger from within

By Our Representative
In a development which might further push the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) situation towards the brink, liberal sections of the state, torn apart because of unprecedented violence, have begun to feel threatened. The most recent example cited in this context is of a person considered as the state’s first Right to Information (RTI) activist being “harassed and threatened.”

In midnight swoop, Vidarbha farmers' families "removed" off Modi's hometown, leader nabbed in North Gujarat

By Our Representative
Maharashtra’s maverick MLA Bacchu Kadu, who was set free from South Gujarat after being detained on Thursday at inter-state borders, was again nabbed by the Gujarat police off Mahsana, as he was proceeding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown Vadnagar to stage his protest against the plight of Vidarbha region farmers.

Allow Nitish to take over Congress: Sonia advised by top historian. Modi "capitulated to Hindutva hardliners"

By Our Representative
Ramachandra Guha, renowned historian and biographer, has said that the Congress does not have the “mantle” to take on the BJP under the leadership of the Gandhi family, insisting, an alternative to the saffron party can only emerge if the party is taken over by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has “vision, credibility, integrity and focuses on growth.”

Police arrest Gujarat, Maharashtra farmers, their leaders, seeking to proceed to Modi's birthplace Vadnagar to protest

By Our Representative
The Gujarat police have prevented Aasood Yatra, a non-political farmers’ protest rally, led by maverick independent Maharashtra MLA Bacchu Kadu of Amravati, at the inter-state border immediately after it reached Navapur village, to proceed further into Gujarat.

Protest against vigilantism: Land rights movement warns India-wide agitation if "cow terrorism" isn't plugged

By Our Representative
Bhumi Adhikaar Andolan (BAA), the apex body of tens of land rights organisations of India, has given a call for nationwide struggle against what it claims "terrorism in name of cow protection" by vigilante groups, warning nationwide strike if no action is taken against them.

India suffers US$ 41.17 billion loss due to corporate tax avoidance, or 2.34% of GDP, one of the highest in the world

By Rajiv Shah
India loses US dollars 41.17 billion dollars, or 2.34% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as a result of corporate tax avoidance. While in quantitative terms this loss is the fourth largest in the world, next to the United States (188.8 billion dollars), China (66.8 billion dollars) and Japan (46.8 billion dollars), the loss as percentage of GDP tells a totally different story.

RTI draft rules: Govt of India seeking to "coopt" Central Information Commission, wants to appoint its secretary

By Our Representative
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), whose campaign pushed India towards the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005, has suggested that the recently-proposed RTI draft rules virtually proposes to allow the Government of India (GoI) to coopt the Central Information Commission (CIC), the RTI watchdog of GoI.

Try cow vigilantes for terror crimes, says Swami Agnivesh: Left-civil society Jaipur dharna on Pehlu Khan murder

By Our Representative
Taking part in a day-long dharma in Jaipur, well-known social activist and religious leader Swami Agnivesh has said that the cow vigilantes (gau rakshaks) should be tried for terror crimes and tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, which is directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.

Ambedkar feared Muslim domination, told Dalits not to convert to Islam, said Gandhi condoned Muslim violence

By Our Representative
Did Dr BR Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution and Dalit icon, hate Islam and Muslims, in the same way as he disliked Hinduism? It would seem so, if facts brought to light on his birth anniversary (April 14) by a prestigious site, which claims to “value independence and transparency”, are any indication.

India's social restrictions index involving religion worse than Pakistan, hostility towards Dalits key factor: Pew

By Rajiv Shah
In its new report, well-known US-based Pew Research Centre has said that “among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Russia, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Nigeria had the highest overall levels of government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.”

Pehlu Khan murder: Demand to set up SIT to probe "conspiracy" by Sangh Parivar, role of police in cow vigilantism

By Our Representative
An alliance of Left and civil rights organizations, the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), has decided to organize a mass dharna in front of Parliament on April 19, 2017 to demand setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) under the direct supervision of Supreme Court to probe the role of the police and the Sangh Parivar in the conspiracy which led to the murder of Pehlu Khan in Alwar early this month.

Kashmir doesn't need healing touch, hand over Srinagar to army, send stone pelters to jails: "Unapologetic" major

By Our Representative
As the view  that India is "losing" Kashmir is getting stronger, shrill voices are coming through ex-army ranks to hand over Kashmir to the army. One such demand has come from Major Gaurav Arya (veteran), who calls himself “unapologetic patriot”, in a blog, which says, “Kashmir does not need a healing touch. That bus has left long back.”

Gujarat farmers' leader detained, as Modi launches his high profile roadshow in Surat; no reason offered

By Our Representative
In a move which is not surprised farmers' leaders, prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Surat for road show, the police detained President of Khedut Samaj South Gujarat chief Jayesh Patel (Delat). The detention took place despite the fact that the Khedut Samaj did not plan any protest programmes, nor did it seek any
permission for protest.

Arnab Goswami: Journos shouldn't "serve" proprietors, coopted by politicians; they ought to work "for the nation"

By Our Representative
Even as India’s most controversial journalist Arnab Goswami is all set to launch his new news venture, Republic TV, the former editor-in-chief of Times Now has asked his journalist colleagues across India to “declare their independence from media owners and media organisations.”

Syria continues to be battered, but compassion, courage and commitment of Abouna Frans his spirit lives on!

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
Fr Frans Van Der Lugt was someone special: he was a complete human being. He was warm and compassionate to all; to the youth, he was an inspirer and motivator, who never tired of long walks; to the elderly, he was a friend and mentor; little children loved to cling to his long legs; for Muslims and Christians, he was a bridge-builder, a person who could draw the best out of them; for the spiritually weak and lost, he was a source of strength and a patient listener.
He was a true shepherd, always in the midst of his sheep, who smelled of them. He had the courage of his convictions- he communicated this unequivocally. Everybody loved their “Abouna Frans”. On April 7th 2014, he was brutally gunned down in Homs Syria. Today, three years after his assassination, one thing is certain the spirit of Abouna Frans lives on!
‘Abouna Frans’ was a Dutch Jesuit who devoted his life to the people of Syria; when civil war erupted there in 2011 he chose to remain in the country,…

Gujarat is among 3 Indian states without minorities' commission: Rights group to send 1 lakh protest postcards

By Our Representative
In an unusual move, the newly-formed civil rights organization, Minority Coordination Committee Gujarat (MCCG), has decided to begin a state-wide campaign to press for the demand to form a state minorities’ commission by sending around one lakh hand written post cards to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.

Civil society, Opposition plan anti-saffron "Chalo Lucknow" show on May 10,160th anniversary of 1857 revolt

By Our Representative
Several civil society organizations, in alliance with opposition parties, such as Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, the two Communist parties, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Janata Dal (United) are likely to come together for a show of unity against saffornization on May 10 in Lucknow to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence of 1857.

Zero "funds flow" for Gujarat's poor urban minorities vs allocation of whopping Rs 2,033 crore for housing

By Our Representative
Has the Gujarat government been summarily indifferent towards providing housing to poor urban minorities, whether during chief ministership of Narendra Modi, which lasted till May 2014, or thereafter? It would seem so, if the official figures, released by the Government of India, are any indication.

Official Indian data don't reflect unpaid drudgery by women; result is poor gender budgeting: Economists

By Rajiv Shah Contesting data on poor work rate participation (WRP) among women data, as calculated by the Government of India, well-known Gujarat-based economist Indira Hirway, has said that, if calculated on the basis of latest methodology, men spend 27 per cent, while women spend 38 per cent of their time on work.

"Sexual harassment" in Gujarat institute: IRMA director asked to proceed on 100 day leave after faculty pressure

By Nachiketa Desai*
The board of governors of Gujarat’s prestigious Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), has sent its director RC Natarajan on a forced leave following a complaint of sexual harassment filed against him by one of its senior staff members.

Disclose RTI info sought by murdered Pune activist, it was about poor civic services, not Modi's trips abroad: CHRI

By Our Representative
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an influential Delhi-based advocacy group, has demanded that the Maharashtra’s Right to Information (RTI) watchdog, State Information Commission, must order disclosure of all information sought by RTI activist Suhas Haldankar of Pimpri-Chichwad, Pune district, murdered on April 2, and put all of it in public domain.

Unlike Gandhi-Nehru tradition, the concept of religion in 1857 worked as a uniting, and not a divisive, force

By Amaresh Misra* This is in response to the view that Hindus and Muslims did participate in the freedom movement under Gandhi and fought under one flag in post-independence wars. But never, never did they unite with reverence and respect for each other's religions as in 1857.
The concept of religion in 1857 worked as a uniting, and not a divisive, force. Further, 1857 was the uprising of the peasantry. Even sepoys were all peasants. This is different from the Congress led freedom movement. Middle class, a product of the British education system, dominated the latter.
The men and women who fought in 1857 had roots in pre-British India of indigenous categories and practices. The same cannot be said of those who fought in the post-1857 phase. Where else but in 1857 will you find the Hindu religious peasantry going to Delhi to install a Muslim king? Where else will you find Muslim cavalry placing Nana Sahab Peshwa, a kattar Brahmin, on the throne of Kanpur?
Apart from a brief period du…