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An Indian company seeking to buy 50,000 tonnes of asbestos every year? It's a clear intention to profit out of mass disaster

Jagdish Patel*
‘The Mirror’, a well-known daily newspaper of Zimbabwe reported that Government of Zimbabwe muscling its efforts to reopen the Shabani Mashaba Mines (SMM) a principle supplier of Asbestos. The state-run company was shut down amid financial scandals back in 2004 but is set to reopen at full capacity employing up to 5,000 workers. The efforts have been stepped up because an Indian company has shown a keen interest in importing 50,000 tonnes of SMM’s Asbestos.
It is important to note that, in recognition of its harmful effects asbestos mining is banned in India since three decades but industries exploit the loopholes and import it from elsewhere. Companies continue to import vast quantities of asbestos and produce various products directly increasing public health risks and, definitively, subject its workers to occupational diseases.
Asbestos, when inhaled, causes Asbestosis (an inflammatory scarring of lung tissues which leads to permanent and irreversible damage to the re…

India's 88% policymakers "don't know" women's early marriage rate, 77% maternal mortality rate, 38% UN's SDGs

By Rajiv Shah
That Indian policy makers have had little or no empathy for the social sector and they are more concerned about business interests is widely known. However, a top international survey of five nations has provided convincing data showing that 38% of India's policy makers have little or no knowledge of even the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The report says, as many as 15% of Indian policy makers have no knowledge of SDGs, which is the highest among the five nations surveyed. Further, 23% said have "not much" knowledge about SDGs.

India ranks 131st in procedures, 110th in time taken to start business among 137 countries: WEF report

By Rajiv Shah
Even as pointing out that India has slipped by one rank in the world competitive ranking from 39th last year to 40th this year, after massive upward swing over two previous years, the high-pofile Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) in its new report has found India's ranking extremely poor in providing business environment to investors.

Govt of India uses 16-yr-old data to provide students minority scholarship, RTE group suspects whopping 20% gap

By Our Representative
In a shocking revelation, the Government of India relies on more 16 year old data while calculating the number of minority students who should receive scholarship. A recent Government of India circular says that pre-matric and post-matric scholarship schemes for 2017-18 for the country's minorities is to be implemented by the Government of India is "as per the Census 2001".

Modi as Gujarat CM "encouraged" cow vigilantes, were awarded for raiding "illegal" cattle transportation: Report

By Our Representative
Did Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his chief ministership of Gujarat, encourage the much abused cow vigilantism, which allegedly is terrorizing minorities and Dalits across India? It would seem so, if the new report, “Lynching without End”, published by a civil rights network, Citizens against Hate, is any indication.

Govt of India "ignores" tribal communities while forming mineral policy committee, during consultations: mm&P

By Our Representative
A civil rights organization has taken strong exception to Government of India (GoI) refusing to appoint any representative of the mining-affected communities in its recent committee formed to review the National Mineral Policy. Set up on August 16, the committee, says the advocacy group, has 29 members, of which 25 are government officials, and the rest of the four are representatives of private mining companies.

Darjeeling bandh formally called off as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha "loses" ground, BJP becomes "inconsequential"

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
The Darjeeling hill flames are doused, or are they? Whatever may be the compulsion, after 104 days the bandh has been formally called off by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung in response to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s appeal for talks.

Police lathicharge on BHU girl students is threat to pluralist, democratic, critical traditions sustaining India's higher education

The All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) statement condemning the "vicious" and "lawless" action of the Uttar Pradesh police force in lathi-charging peaceful women students of Benaras Hindu University (BHU) on the night of 23 September 2017:
The girls’ hostel students had for some months been engaged in petitioning the hostel and university authorities against the unconstitutional gender discrimination being practiced by the university. Girls were not allowed use of mobile phones after 10 p.m. and were denied access to WiFi in their hostels. They were not allowed out after 8 p.m. even to visit the library or their families. The girls’ hostel menu did not include non-vegetarian dishes although all these facilities were permitted in the boys’ hostels. The reason given for such absurd discriminatory rules was that women’s sexuality would be aroused in the absence of such restrictions and hence their `safety’ could not be ensured!

The present agitation was pro…

Modi's Saubhagya is old wine in new bottle, "copies" 2005 UPA rural electrification scheme for "willing" households

By Our Representative
Old wine in new bottle -- this is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new scheme, Saubhagya, is being described by knowledgeable circles. The "new scheme", seeking to provide free power connection to what are called "willing households", is called Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya, and is nothing but just a copy of a scheme launched by the then UPA government in April 2005.

Modi "knew" of police attack on Banaras girl students, violence was preceded by varsity's 'private security': NAPM

By Our Representative
One of India's biggest civil rights networks of India, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi very much knew of the Banaras Hindu University girl students' demonstration and the police lathicharge on them well in advance, suggesting he did nothing to stop it.

Naive to assume Modi wasn't aware of Banaras students' protest when he was in town, or ruthless lathi-charge after he left

About 50 prominent activists attached with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) have condemned “state repression” on Banaras Hindu University (BHU) women students, who were demanding a sexual-violence free campus, demanding criminal action against BHU’s vice chancellor for his omissions and commissions in the entire episode. Text of the statement:
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) condemns the Uttar Pradesh government’s violent, cowardly and indefensible crack down on the young women-students led movement in the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus, seeking a university space with equal rights for women and freedom from sexual harassment and violence. That the long standing and quite simple demands of the students were not being addressed and in fact survivors of sexual harassment were repeatedly being shamed by the male proctors, even as the identified perpetrators were being allowed to go Scot-free, compelled the students to embark on a peaceful mass p…

55,000 poor Chennai families to be evicted sans any resettlement plan, online petition floated to stop "disaster"

By Our Representative
Even as more than 400 families have already been evicted, an estimated 55,000 families are facing the danger of being evicted in the name of disaster management and restoration of water bodies in Chennai. Being resettled about 30 km away, this is being done allegedly under the shadow of the Madras High Court’s interim order, which has directed the Tamil Nadu government to take “expeditious steps for early removal of encroachments."

Entry of far right in Bundestag: Assertion of retrograde German nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-Islam

By Sadhan Mukjerjee*
The election results in Germany show a dangerous portent. Though Angela Markel has become the 4th time Chancellor of Germany but her party CDU-CSU has got the lowest vote since 1949. It has lost substantial voter support. The CDU-CSU has won only a 33% vote, aer CDU-CSUH loss of 8.5%.
Similarly, Social Democrats have lost heavily losing 5.2% votes and winning only 20.5%. It leader Martin Schultz has declared that the party will not join the Markel’s government, thus ending the Grand Coalition that ruled Germany. Many in that party felt that the party has not got its due in the coalition and hence it is better to operate as an independent entity.
What is however a dangerous trend is Alternative for Germany (AfD)’s surge, winning 12.6% votes, a gain of 7.9%. This means it will not only enter the Bundestag (Parliament) for the first time but also become the third largest party in parliament.
The German election has been described as an election of joy and despair, joy b…

Despite HC order, Gujarat govt fails to give permanent doctor to island-village off top private port, Pipavav

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government hasn’t yet provided a permanent physician for the “remote” island, Shiyalbet, with a population of about 15,000 off Saurashtra coast, even though it is three weeks past the cut-off date set by the Gujarat High Court for providing a doctor to the sub-health centre in the village.

Narmada canals "caused" massive North Gujarat floods in July, were constructed without eco-assessment

By Our Representative
Even two months after massive floods hit North Gujarat, especially Banaskantha and Patan districts, killing about 220 people, with the Gujarat government subsequently announcing a Rs 1,500 crore package, virtually "no effort" has been made to scientifically assess the reasons responsible for what appears to be a natural disaster, or to reach out to the most needy sections, who have suffered the most.

Dalits alone should elect their candidates: Ahead of Gujarat polls, Dalit rights leader revives Ambedkar's demand

By Our Representative
Taking its campaign to a new level, the Abhadcched Mukt Bharat Andolan (Untouchability Free India Movement): Mission 2047, launched by well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the demand put forwand by Dr BR Ambedkar, made exactly 85 years ago, to provide separate electorate for Dalits.

India's current account deficit unlikely to come down, may reach $40 billion in fiscal 2017-18: Well-known economist

N Our Representative
One of India's topmost economists, Prof Prabhat Patnaik, has predicted that the total current account deficit for the financial year 2017-18 is likely to be anywhere between $30 to $40 billion, as compared to just $15 billion for 2016-17. In an incisive analysis of the state of the country's finances, he says that it is highly unlikely that the recent jump in the current account deficit to $14.3 billion, or 2.4% of the quarterly GDP (April-June) from 0.1% a year ago, will come down.

Arnab Goswami making Republic TV "more about himself than the news", asserts another top right-wing editor

By Our Representative
Calling one of India's most controversial TV journalists Arnab Goswami "prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of the evil forces conspiring against India", yet another right-wing "icon" in journalism, R Jagannathan, editorial director, Swarajya, has accused the former Times Now anchor of "making" his channel, Republic TV, "more about himself than the news."

Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was dropped in 2005: PMO found it would need to be subsidized for ever

By Our Representative
There is strong flutter in the top Government of India (GoI)officialdom on viability of the Japan-funded bullet train project, agreed upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Ahmedabad. As a reflection of this flutter, Delhi bureaucrats are circulating a Facebook post of an ex-GoI official, which tells the internal story of how the costly was considered not feasible in the past.

New round of character assassination of top investigative woman journo "timed" with Gujarat Files' Hindi edition

By Rajiv Shah
Well-known investigative journalist Rana Ayyub, whose book "Gujarat Files", based on her sting operations of Gujarat government officials created a huge stir last year, has alleged that a new vicious round of character assassination against her has begun over the last one week, timed with the release of the Hindi edition her book.

Indian business over-invoicing to shift money abroad, expects rupee to sharply fall: Top US-based economist

By Our Representative
Prof Kaushik Basu, who has worked as chief economist of the World Bank, has said that, given the Indian economy’s massive size and extensive global linkages, “its growth slowdown is a source of serious concern not just domestically, but around the world”, adding gone are the days when India was considered “a poster child for political stability and economic growth among emerging economies.”

Why it is necessary to disprove Modi and his henchmen, who think: Hate, violence, discrimination must to cling on to power

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
In a powerful speech to world leaders on September 19th, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, kicked off the UN General Assembly 2017. We are living in a world in pieces, he warned the leaders; going on to add, "our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing."
Guterres went on to outline seven key threats facing the world, and the major challenges to resolving them: the risk of nuclear conflict, international terrorism, unresolved conflicts and violations of international humanitarian law, climate change, rising inequality, cybersecurity, and the refugee crisis. He concluded with an appeal, "my message to world leaders today: only together, as truly United Nations, can we build a peaceful world and advance human dignity for all."
The words of the UN Chief which revolved around peace and human dignity, could not have come a…

Darjeeling normalising? West Bengal govt feels "insulted": Rajnath Singh meets person with "shady" background

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
Darjeeling Hills are still burning but there are indications that they are slowly cooling down. The fire is not that intense as before. At the same time, it seems that the union government and the West Bengal government are on different wave lengths for the solution of the problem.

Electrocution in India kills 10,000 people annually; casualty includes 350 elephants, 180 flamingos in 5 years

By Nava Thakuria* Understanding the gravity of the situation where India loses nearly 10,000 people to electrocution deaths annually, a civil society group based in Northeast has raised voices for a total rearrangement of the power supply system in the country.

Out of Congress, Vaghela, 77, declares himself Gujarat CM candidate of new non-party outfit, claims "wide" support

By Our Representative
On being ousted from the Congress for voting for BJP candidates for the Rajya Sabha Amit Shah and Balwantsinh Rajput, former Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, aged 77, has suddenly found that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Indian party system, and it has befallen upon him to reform it.

Delhi Muslims vent their anger: Why did Kejriwal want Urdu school running in Eidgah to be closed down?, they ask

By Our Representative
A hostile statement made by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) lawyer, in a proceeding relating to allotment of land and building to a minority Urdu medium institution, does not appear to have gone down well amongst the Muslims of Delhi. A large section this correspondent interacted with asked whether AAP is willing to deliver its promises magnanimously made by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Gujarat authorities try to block Karwan-e-Mohabbat's campaign for peace, speakers notice atmosphere of fear

By Our Representative
Karwan-e-Mohabbat, led by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, reached Ahmedabad on Monday from Rajasthan amidst surprising revelation circles in Gujarat government allegedly pressurised owners of halls across Ahmedabad not to provide a space to hold to an open dialogue with citizens on why it is necessary as never before to bring about rapprochement and peace between different communities.

NGO posts 1 lakh postcards to Gujarat CM, submits plea to 33 district collectors to set up state minorities dept

By Our Representative
A minority rights civil society organization has asked the Gujarat government to set up an independent minorities’ welfare department. Currently, all minority-related activities fall under the social justice and empowerment department of the state government, one reason why, the NGO, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), feels there is no focused approach to ameliorate their plight.

Three BJP chief ministers, 2000 Varanasi priests didn't attend Modi's Narmada dam birthday bash; it failed: NBA

By Our Representative
In a statement issued in the aftermath of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday bash, Medha Patkar, leader of the anti -dam movement Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), has said the "dedication of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) to the nation" on September 17 "was a complete failure", as the chief ministers of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh did not turn up for the grand ceremony.

Japan-India cooperation in conflict mitigation will help respond disaster recovery among Asian communities facing conflicts

By Mehul Pandya and Vandana Chauhan*
India and Japan individually and jointly offer a wide range of capabilities to protect Asia from disaster risks. The ongoing visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India for the Indo-Japan Summit offers an opportunity to enhance this leadership.
In India-Japan Joint Statement during the visit of Prime Minister of India to Japan in November 11, 2016 the two Prime Ministers shared their intention to expand dialogue and cooperation in the defence sector, to cover exchange of observers in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) exercises, and exchange and train personnel in key fields of mutual interest.

The statement acknowledged the importance of the World Tsunami Awareness Day to raise awareness, promote better understanding of tsunami risks and develop tools to address tsunami at least in Asia if not beyond. An MoU was also signed between the Government of Gujarat in India and Hyogo Prefectural Government in Jap…

Gujarat is thirsty, its fields are parched. For whom have Narmada dam's height increased and its gates closed?

0pen letter to the President of India by Prakash N Shah of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat, and Dwarika Nath Rath of the Movement for Secular Democracy:
We the Indian citizens residing in Gujarat are here with submitting this memorandum with much concern and anguish. Of course it is all about the Narmada Project. Since the inception of this Project, Gujarat has passed through various phases, positive as well as negative. But the matter which causes the most anxiety is the present scenario wherein the very objective of the project has been changed. It’s basic objective was to make its water available for drinking and irrigation.
And yet Gujarat is still thirsty and its fields are parched. In that case whom do the height the dam increased and the gates are ready for? Who are going to benefit?
The recent factual details of the Narmada Project in Gujarat:
The main objective of the project was to make its water available for drinking and to irrigate the farm land. That…

70% of Gujarat's resettled Narmada oustees not happy, 54% want to go back, 82% don't have pucca houses: Study

Counterview Desk
A London School of Economics and Political Science research, carried out by two Indian researchers, SA Ayiar, an economic journalist with the Cato Institute, and Prof Neeraj Kaushal of the Columbia University, has suggested 70% of the Narmada dam oustees who were sent packing to resettlement : colonies in late 1980s and early 1990s may still not happy with their living conditions.

Neither Gujarat CM nor PM is sensitive to adivasis, farmers, fishworkers who are compelled to sacrifice for Narmada project

Narmada Bachao Andolan statement on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday bash at Narmada dam on September 17:
The statement by the chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Vijay Rupani on Narmada Dam inauguration, on the eve of the Grand Ceremony planned to celebrate PM’s birthday begins and ends with falsehood. It is full of lies as well as serious mistakes, certainly it doesn’t behove the chief minister of state who has to control, operate and monitor the monstrous project.
We have witnessed about this giant, controversial dam during the last 32 years and once again will experience on this special occasion which needs to be dissected and exposed; the plan is of ‘Dedicating the Dam to the Nation’, hence all the people across the country must know the truth through the response from the people of Narmada Valley.
First and the foremost, how has Rupani calculated a period of 56 years since the laying of the foundation stone for today’s Sardar Sarovar Dam? The foundation stone laid …

Operating in tin sheds from Eidgah, razed during Emergency, give Delhi Urdu school land, building: HC orders

By Our Representative
Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court division bench Gita Mittal has asked the lieutenant governor (LG), Delhi, to restore the Urdu-medium Qaumi Senior Secondary School, demolished nearly four decades ago, during Emergency, asking the Delhi government to find a place for rebuilding it. It is currently being run on borrowed land of the Delhi Eidgah ground in tin sheds.

Gujarat farmers' leader writes to Japanese PM Abe on human rights "violations" in state amidst local protests

By Our Representative
Even as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Ahmedabad after agreeing to fund the Rs 1 lakh crore bullet train and promising huge Japanese investments in the Delhi-Mumbai Investment Region (DMIC), farmers across Gujarat protested against the move, saying the Japanese money would take away their land.

Ahead of Modi's birthday bash, Narmada waters rise to 128.5 metres in valley, enter Rajghat, Nisarpur, other villages

By Our Representative
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes ahead with his unprecedented birthday bash at the Narmada dam on September 17, reports from the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh say the water levels have risen to 128.50 metres, higher than ever before, with waters entering starting to enter Rajghat and Nisarpur villages in Badwani district. Rajghat shot into prominence recently after the state administration tried to "demolish" the Gandhi Samadhi, where the ashes of the Mahatma, Kasturba and Mahadev Desai have been kept.

India ranks worse than comparable BRICS countries in achieving UN development goals, better than Pak, B'desh

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile study, carried out by well-known international health journal, “Lancet”, has calculated that India’s health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ranking is a poor 127th among 188 countries it has analyzed to find out how well are different countries across the globe are doing for achieving the United Nation’s goals.

Madhya Pradesh Narmada dam oustees shave their head to tell Modi: Your governance is "dead"

By Our Representative
In a unique protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday bash, scheduled for September 17 at the Narmada dam, 30 of the dam's oustees shaved their heads in order to tell the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh that, as far as the project affected families (PAFs) are concerned, the governance is "dead". The birthday bash will see Modi dedicating the "completed" Narmada dam to the nation.

Telugu Dalit scholar gets death threats, says: Social smuggling denotes tight caste business encirclement

By Our Representative
Noted Dalit scholar Kancha Ilaiah is again news for his book “Post-Hindu India” where he controversially describes caste economic exploitation as “social smuggling”. While his effigies are being burnt across Telegana and Andhra Pradesh by Arya Vysya Sangam, demanding a ban on the book and his immediate arrest, he has been receiving death threats, too.

Panels at Sabarmati Ashram create the impression: Modi's "work" is natural extension of Gandhi's experiments with truth

By Anand K Sahay*
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, ended his visit to Ahmedabad, with one of the obvious itineraries being Sabarmati Ashram, it is perhaps necessary to record the recent silent move of the Modi government to gatecrash the Mahatma’s sanctum sanctorum in order to gild the PM’s image.
If storming the electoral turf on the Ganga at Varanasi was done in public glare with energy and a rampaging will three years ago, Narendra Modi, now in the avatar of the Prime Minister, chose to insinuate himself into Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad, with practically no one noticing.
On a recent visit, this writer was shocked — and offended — on seeing at the famous ashram expensive looking panels singing paeans to Mr Modi in the guise of lavishing praise on his government’s trademark programmes which, experts believe, have fetched little by way of positive result for the country (in contrast with…