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Showing posts from August, 2018

Pretending these aren't ‘dark times’, situation isn't serious will mean encouraging fascists, fundamentalists

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
August 28, 2018 will easily go down as one of the most infamous days in the country’s history. In a pre-dawn swoop, the Pune police raided the homes of several human rights activists across the country; these included Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, Arun Ferreira in Thane; Gautam Navlakha in Delhi; Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad; Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy in Ranchi; Varavara Rao and his family members, Kranti Tekula and Naseem in Hyderabad; Anand Teltumbde in Goa.

'Targeting Modi' a repeat of Gujarat in early 21st century, narrative changed from 'Jihadi' to 'Urban Naxal': NSI

Counterview Desk
The New Socialist Initiative (NSI), which calls itself "collective committed to regeneration of revolutionary socialist politics" and is spread in several states, has said that the recent arrests of human rights defenders and public intellectuals is the “BJP's McCarthy moment”, reminding people that it is similar to the type of witch-hunt happened in the US regime in late 1940s and early 1950s against writers, scholars and activists “alleging Left leanings”.

A leaf from history: Rajpipla State defeated Aurangzeb in 1705, its rulers were precursor to Narmada dam

By Dr Hari Desai*
The Rajpipla State of Gujarat is better known, even abroad, for its gay Prince, Manvendrasinh Raghubirsinhji Sahib. But there are other reasons, too, why the history of the Princely State of the Gohil dynasty should be made known. There are several records, which show Rajpipla as an area of resistance to the Sultans, Mughals, Marathas, and the Gaekwad of Baroda. The records suggest, the king of Rajpipla was always able to regain his independence, and maintain a relative autonomy from regional and sub-continental powers.

Activists' arrest in "Mussolini’s footsteps", in reaction to Dalit groups publicly declaring BJP govt New Peshwai

By Battini Rao*
Pune police under the BJP government in Maharashtra arrested five well-known left leaning intellectuals and activists under UAPA on 28thAugust. Eighty years old Varvara Rao is a famous Telegu poet. Sudha Bhardwaj is general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and a leader of Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha. Gautam Navlakha is a journalist and has been associated with the “Economic and Political Weekly” and People’s Union for Democratic Rights. Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves are lawyers.

Activists' arrest across India is an "attempt" to create prejudice against those working for the poor

Counterview Desk
Former National Advisory Council member under the UPA government, Aruna Roy (ex-IAS), and senior activists Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), have said that the activists arrested across India, following raids, should be immediately released, calling the BJP rulers' move as nothing but “motivated hounding of human rights defenders”.

Arrests, raids on activists diversionary tactic to hide "terror activities" of Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti: WSS

Counterview Desk
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), condemning the arrest of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, has called it a "targeted attack on democratic rights activists", calling them "blatantly retributive actions of Maharashtra Police", even as demanding their "immediate and unconditional release." The statement has been signed by WSS conveners Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini. 

Police acted against me as though I was a dreaded terrorist or a criminal: Top scholar Prof Anand Teltumbde

Counterview Desk
Dr Anand Teltumbde, senior professor and chair, Big Data Analytics, Goa Institute of Management, Goa, is one of the top Indian intellectuals, whose house was raided on August 28 for his alleged involvement in Maoist activities. He has issued a statement on police action against him, pointing towards how draconian laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are being used to terrorize people into silence by targeting select intellectuals and activists.

Where did 4.28 MAF Narmada water disappear after Dec 2017 assembly polls? Farmers' leader writes to CM

Counterview Desk
Sagar Rabari, general secretary, Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS), has in an open letter to chief minister Vijay Rupani, sought what he calls "transparent account of Narmada water", flowing from the Sardar Sarovar dam into the main canal, suggesting how it may have been misused for political ends during the December 2017 Gujarat state assembly elections.

Detained "without charges", Allahabad HC orders police to produce adivasi women rights activists by Sept 7

By Our Representative
In a major breakthrough, the Allahabad High Court has directed the superintendent of police (SP), Sonbhadra district, to produce adivasi human rights defenders, Sukalo and Kismatiya Gond, detained for more than two months now, in the court on September 7.

Raids, arrest of India's top activists, writers: Will political parties, international rights bodies speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The morning news on August 28, of raids and arrest of five activists from different parts of the country by the Pune police, was a chilling reminder that talks of political dissent and human rights are a crime, and those who are lynching people in the public, threatening people that they would be sent to Pakistan, or openly threatening writers and journalists, are roaming about free and are being awarded by the political leadership of the ruling party, even following them on social media.

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Kuldip Nayar's last message: Fight hasn't ended, there are issues "more serious" than Emergency

By Sanjay Parikh*
On June 26, 2018, human rights organizations had assembled at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi, to remember the dark days of Emergency. This was an annual affair and Kuldip Nayar was a regular speaker in these meetings. This time, too, he came and spoke. But his speech was different; it came from his heart and was quite moving.

Constituting 88% of total trips, public transport in Kolkata, Mumbai has led to lower vehicular pollution: Study

Counterview Desk
A new study of urban vehicular  pollution has said that Kolkata and Mumbai “emit least among six megacities due to high usage of public transport and walking”. According to the study “Kolkata ranks sixth among all the 14 cities, but it wins among the six megacities”, and does better than Pune and Ahmedabad, because “the average distance travelled by different modes in Kolkata is lowest among all megacities.”

Pope Francis "seeks" pardon for abuses committed in institutions run by religious members of Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The World Meeting of Families, which began on August 21 in Dublin, Ireland, concluded on  the evening of August 26 with a Eucharist presided over by Pope Francis. The meeting had for its theme, ‘The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World’, underlying the importance of the family in our world today.

Saint-engineer stakes his life to save Ganga before an “insensitive” government and society

By Sandeep Pandey*
Matre Sadan, on the bank of river Ganga, is no ordinary Ashram in Haridwar, and Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, fasting since June 22, 2018, demanding a law for conservation of Ganga, is no ordinary sadhu. Earlier Swami Shivanand, head priest of the Ashram, his disciples Nigmanand, Dayanand, Yajnanand and Purnanand have observed long fasts to prevent illegal mining in Ganga in Haridwar.

Vajpayee cultivated liberal ethos, triggered peace with Pakistan, yet failed to step out of hardline Hindutva

By Adv Masood Peshimam*
It was late Prime Minister IK Gujral who had the charm of Urdu poetry. He had a lot of fondness for couplets of Ghalib, Mir, Iqbal, Majrooh and others poets. He could recite Urdu couplets during his talk with ease. Urdu literature, liberal and cosmopolitan, particularly Urdu poetry, had impacted his personality. Urdu literature, which was promoted by the progressive movement in pre- and post-Independence era, was left leaning.

Centre's decades-old Flood Plain Zoning directive ignored: Gujarat, other states may face Kerala-type devastation

By BN Navalawala*
Incessant rainfall and heavy flooding have caused devastation in large parts of Kerala which now faces the ravages of the worst monsoon floods in 94 years, with 373 dead and more than 1.2 million in relief camps after 2,378 millimetre (mm) of rain over 81 days between June 1 and August 20, 2018 – 42% above normal or three times more than the Indian average for that period, according to data from the India Meteorological Department(IMD).

India's trade union density lower than Brazil, South Africa; there is tendency to victimize unionized workers: ILO

By Rajiv Shah
In what might sound as music to India's corporate honchos and their political supporters, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has calculated that the trade union (TU) density in India among wage workers, both casual and regular/salaried, has fallen since 1993–94, by 3 percentage points to 13.4 per cent. Worse, the top Union Nations (UN) body, headquartered in Geneva, has further notes, the “density among regular/salaried workers has fallen precipitously since 1993–94, by 17.7 percentage points to 28.8 per cent.”

Amendment to anti-atrocity Bill comes as, at ground level, impact of BJP-NDA has seriously affected Dalits

By Ram Puniyani*
Recently anti-Dalit atrocity laws were first diluted inserting the clause of anticipatory bail. Following this there were serious protests all over. In these protests, the anti Dalit nature of present ruling dispensation, BJP led NDA was highlighted. Under the pressure of the protests, the government had to bring in a bill to restore its previous provisions.

Rahul Gandhi's message to Modi from Hamburg: You can't fight hate with hate, it would return with more force

By Buddhdev Pandya in London
President of the Indian National Congress Rahul Gandhi, addressing delegates from over 25 countries at the Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday, August 22, spoke of Gandhian values, saying, if we respond to violence with violence it just can't produce solution; it would eventually come back. This was his generic message to world leaders, as well to those in the position of strenght in different capacities. He said, it is most important to 'listen to the people' if we are to tackle challenges of the 21st century.

Kerala gets only 25 paisa for each rupee it earns for Centre: Why are BJP rulers "playing politics" over funds?

By Sheshu Babu*
Floods are a common occurrence in India, as imbalance in climate every year causes lot of variation in rainfall geographically. But the floods in Kerala have not only caused havoc on unprecedented scale, but also politics has taken the upper hand over humanitarian aid to the victims.

Why can't you grant amount equivalent to Sardar Statue for Kerala flood rehab? Medha Patkar asks Modi

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Kerala floods following her visit to the affected areas, top social activist Medha Patkar has wondered as to why is there shirking of responsibility on the part of his government and hesitation to declare it as a national disaster.

Kerala floods: Need for policy shift on damming rivers, coping illegal or legalised occupation of floodplains

Counterview Desk
A team of senior social activists, including Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and convener, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), CR Neelakandan, Vilayodi Venugopal, Kusumam Joseph, Vijayaraghavan Cheliya, Arul Das (NAPM, Tamil Nadu), and Inamul Hasan of the Khudai Khidmatgar, following its visit to Kerala, has said that while a shift from relief to the rehabilitation phase is a challenge following worst-ever floods, there is need to work out concrete policy shift.

Aadhaar's image makeover? Govt of India "refusing to divulge" info on amount being spent by UIDAI

By Reetika Khera*
Why is the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) refusing to divulge its advertising expenses? Two attempts were made recently to obtain information from UIDAI on advertising expenditure.
1. Right to Information (RTI) query
On November 15, 2017, the following RTI request was filed with UIDAI:

Protests rock India, Bangladesh, oversees following arrest of top photographer-activist Dr Shahiful Alam, students

By Nava Thakuria*
Bangladesh is a land of (read mostly negative) happenings. As the populous country is approaching the next general (national) elections by the end of this year, we can expect more public chaos, protest demonstrations, media outburst followed by government crackdowns and international outcries.

Indian nation should forget supremacy of Vedas, Puranas: Savarkar quoted by Dabholkar, victim of "Hindu terror"

By Rajiv Shah
What Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the BJP's Hindutva icon, said about religious books should completely shake those who think that scriptures are a gospel truth and shouldn't be criticized, and there is nothing beyond them. Quoted by Narendra Dabholkar, a Pune-based rationalist who was shot dead allegedly by a Hindu fanatic on August 20, 2013, Savarkar had said, “The Vedas, the Avesta, the Bible and the Koran are but man-made tomes and should be studied accordingly...”

"Dangers" of privatizing public sector banks loom large, even if Govt of India may have withdrawn FRDI Bill

Counterview Desk
A public statement, released jointly by Soumya Dutta of the All-India Bank Officers’ Confederation, Priya Dharshini of the Centre for Financial Accountability, Madhuresh Kumar of the National Alliance of People’ Movements, and Gautam Mody of the New Trade Union Initiative, has argued that, while the Government of India has withdrawn the controversial Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, only a batter has been but won the “war looms at large”.
Text of the statement: On August 7, 2018, a year after its introduction, the BJP government withdrew the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill. Aimed at destroying public sector banks and endangering the public interest, FRDI was introduced last year on August 10.
Its withdrawal was achieved after strong opposition from trade unions, especially those of the financial sector, people’s movements, civil society organisations and sections of the middle class. This is a major defeat for the BJP gove…

Rallies, hunger strike, demand for self-rule in Narmada Valley villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra

By Our Representative
Following demonstrations and meeting in several villages of Madhya Pradesh protesting against the alleged failure to rehabilitate Narmada dam oustees, top anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), in a statement, has regretted that the state government’s top functionaries, including the chief minister and his ministers, appeared to think that the World Indigenous Day, which it celebrated a week ago, was a religious festival.

Bullet train: Govt of India "ignores" Japanese investor JICA's guidelines on social, environmental impact

By Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant*
The Japanese government investors, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of India (GoI) for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Project (MAHSR), popularly known as Bullet Train Project, in its documents has repeatedly stressed on environmental and social impacts, which must be followed for ensuring assistance in the form of technical cooperation, loan, or grant aid for the projects funded by it.

India’s farm sector accounts for 90% of total water drawn, but contributes only 15% to the country’s GDP

By Moin Qazi*
India has long undervalued one of its most precious resources – water. The country’s chronic mismanagement of water is staring at it now. The country breaks out in a cold sweat every time the monsoon is delayed. Despite these alarming signals we continue to abuse and use water so profligately.

Redefining India’s freedom: Observing Justice Sunday, Church needs to address internal injustices, too

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
Social media was clogged with messages, images and videos on 15 August, the day on which India celebrated the 72nd anniversary of her independence. Many of course were greetings. However, one image, which will remain forever, etched in one’s memory: that of a little street girl fast asleep on a pavement clutching some unsold plastic tricolours in her hand.

Ahmedabad metro: No salary slip to 82% workers, 65% paid less than Rs 350 a day, no social security to 98%

By Rajiv Shah
A new study carried out by the Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS), Gujarat’s biggest non-government organization (NGO) working for the welfare of construction workers in the state, has found that none of the workers working for the high profile Ahmedabad metro project, currently being implemented across the city, has been registered with the Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers’ Board.

It wasn't difficult for Imran Khan to win World Cup, but would he show the same acumen in Pak politics?

By Gautam Thaker*
Results of the general elections held in Pakistan were somewhat unexpected and surprising. Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehark-E-Insaaf (PTI) got victory with the highest number of seats. As against 137 seats for absolute majority, his party secured 115 seats.

"Largest" healthcare scheme? Modi remained mum on how Dr Khaleef Khan of Gorakhpur hospital was framed

By Sheshu Babu*
While speaking on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced launching of the world's largest healthcare scheme (Ayushman Bharat Yojana), but refused to mention anything about the pathetic medical facilities in hospitals in the country. Recent Gorakhpur incidents are still fresh in peoples' memories.

Who bought and sold electoral bonds to political parties? SBI refuses to divulge under RTI for second time

By Our Representative
State Bank of India (SBI) has once again refused to divulge details, sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, of the Electoral Bond (EB) sale data of donors and recipient political parties, even though admitting that whatever little information it had was “goofed up” while handing it over to senior RTI activist, Venkatesh Nayak, during his earlier appeal.

Delhi High Court decriminalizes begging, but are Indian authorities ready to rehabilitate 4 lakh beggars?

By Mahesh Trivedi*
About four lakh beggars of India must have heaved a sigh of relief with the Delhi High Court ruling that seeking alms is not a crime, even as blasting the government for turning a blind eye toward the most vulnerable and downtrodden section of society. The landmark verdict decriminalizing begging would also please policemen, who can now shift the responsibility of handling the homeless have-nots from the men-in-brown to the authorities accountable for their woes.

India's household savings slowed down in fiscal 2012-17; to adversely impact GDP growth: Rating agency

By Our Representative
India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra), the top Indian subsidiary of the Fitch Group, a global leader in financial information services, believes if the declining trend of household saving continues, it may pose a "serious challenge to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth and macroeconomic stability."

Industrial waste in Sabarmati river off Vasna barrage: The other side of "prestigious" Ahmedabad riverfront

By Jatin Sheth*
We, myself and two volunteers, visited our holy river, Mother Sabarmati. As per our Hindu culture, rivers have been given the status of mother, since it provides water for our drinking and agricultural needs. And, certainly, we are proud of our culture.

"False" cases like waging war on Indian state continue for three decades: Whither independence for Adivasis?

By Rahul Banerjee*
There are provisions in the Indian Constitution, in its Fifth and Sixth Schedules, for Tribal Self Rule in accordance with their own indigenous genius. These have mostly been honoured in the breach by the Indian Central and state governments, which have intensified the colonisation of Adivasi areas after independence in pursuit of resources for modern industrial development, starting from where the British left off.

Rise in US border arrests of Indians: Detainees seeking asylum "cite" politico-religious persecution in India

By Rajiv Shah
An explosive report by the US newspaper “Los Angles Times” (LAT) has revealed, quoting Federal Bureau of Prisons figures, that of the 680 migrants detained in early August at the federal prison in Victorville, California, a state in south-western US, a whopping 380 were Indian nationals. LAT adds, about 40% of the detainees at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Imperial Valley facility, also in California, are Indians, and nearly 20% of detainees at ICE Adelanto processing centre, again in California, too, are Indians.

A gentle communist versus a fanatic inquisitor: Somnath Chatterjee was a democratic socialist and a humanist

By Bhaskar Sur*
An age came to a close when Somnath Chatterjee (b1929), the eminent parliamentarian and former speaker of the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of Indian Parliament) breathed his last. Chatterjee had an elite, conservative background. His father NC Chatterjee was the general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, the progenitor of the present-day BJP, the fundamentalist party in power. Hindu Mahasabha was conservative, but not really a fundamentalist organization.

Define limitations of media channels promoting "They vs Us" psychosis: Minority rights activist writes to Modi

Counterview Desk
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani, a Gujarat minority rights activist, who is editor of the fortnightly Gujarati newspaper, "Gujarat Siyasat" and and news portal "Siyasat" in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Independence Day, has said that the “us versus them” psychosis, currently being promoted by the powers-that-be, will only make matters worse for the country, and that dividing people into specific groups inevitably leads to divided lands.

"Solving" Assam's foreigners problem: Why not issue work permit visas to doubtful voters, declared foreigners?

By Sandeep Pandey*
Through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party government is trying to communally polarise a state, which doesn't have a history of any major communal incidents except for the 1983 Nellie massacre. The six years agitation launched by All Assam Students' Union (AASU) demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants which culminated in the 1985 Assam Accord with Rajiv Gandhi was against all Bangladeshis, not just Muslims.

Save Constitution yatra to campaign against Modi's "undeclared" Emergency starting Oct 2 at Dandi

Counterview Desk
The National Alliance of People’s Movements’ (NAPM), one of India’s top civil rights network led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, has organized what it has called Samvidhan Samman Yatra, starting at Dandi, Gujarat, on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, and ending in Delhi on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

Ruling BJP "using" taxpayers' money to promote its chances of winning forthcoming assembly, Lok Sabha polls

By Sheshu Babu
'Beware of false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance... Democracy is a device that insures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve' – George Bernard Shaw
Even before the official announcement of dates of elections in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, or elections to the Lok Sabha, campaigns, rallies and advertising have already started. Politicians are already beginning to woo voters. Parties have begun to promote fake news and disseminate false information with contrived statistical data to convince people. Huge money is being spent on advertisements.

"World class" RORO terminal Modi inaugurated: Filth in neigbhourhood, herds of cows on way, service suspended

By Nandini Oza*
The people of the country may recall the inauguration of the RORO (roll-on/roll-off) ferry by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Ghogha, Gujarat, just before the state elections last year. The RORO ferry service connecting my hometown Bhavnagar to Surat was launched with a lot of fanfare by the PM himself, calling it the first of its kind. Ever since, I have been wanting to visit the place and I finally did so today.

Anti-Sikh riots campaigner asks Rajnath Singh to stop using 1984 genocide to justify lynching incidents

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Sanam Sutirath Wazir, a top human rights campaigner fighting for justice to the survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s death, and is the project lead for Justice for 1984 Sikh massacre at the Amnesty International India, has asked Union home minister Rajnath Singh to stop using 1984 to counter every incident of lynching.

Mr Gadkari, check your facts. Huge govt vacancies exist in educational, health, railways, police and other sectors

By Gautam Thaker*
According to Union Labour Ministry statistics, the situation of unemployment in India is worrisome. As per its report, every day, 550 jobs are being eliminated. By tht count, 12 crore people have been being sacrificed at the altar of unemployment.

Flutter around "Muslim" activist's exit from top NGO, whose foreign funding was cancelled by Modi govt

By Our Representative
There is a huge flutter in India’s top civil society circles around the sudden resignation of a 'Muslim' rights activist, Ovais Sultan Khan, from a highly acclaimed campaign voluntary organizations, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), founded by well-known social worker Shabnam Hashmi. Formed in the after the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, it was supported, among others, by top bureaucrat-turned-activist Harsh Mander and leftist historian KN Panikkar.

Higher education quality turning poor because Modi govt "undermining" existing institutes: IIT-B students

By Our Representative
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay's (IIT-B's) 56th convocation ceremony, admitted  that India's engineering institutes were incapable of providing quality education of the type provided by IIT, insisting that many of the 700,000 students engineering graduates “are not equipped with the skills for solving real problems”, a scathing statement by IIT-B students has wondered what were the contributions of his government towards providing quality education.