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Showing posts from 2019

Union budget: Rs 81,341 crore 'shortfall' in allocation for Dalits, Rs 52,884 for Adivasis

By PS Krishnan (IAS, retd)*
Well before the full-year Budget 2019-20, I wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, giving her a list of schemes/programmes required for the scheduled castes (SCs) and (STs), and also socially and educationally backward classes (SEdBCs), for which adequate outlays need to be provided in order to fulfill the Constitutional mandate as well as to translate the weighty pronouncements of the Prime Minister relating to SCs, STs and SEdBCs in his various speeches.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

TISS Hyderabad: Burden of funds cut falls on students from 'marginalized' sections

Counterview Desk
Top activists associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a civil society network, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Dr Binayak Sen, and Prafulla Samantara, has protested against the decision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) administration for “sine die” closure of TISS, Hyderabad Campus, even as “denying” hostel access to Dalit and Adivasi students.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

EVM manipulation? Only circumstantial, but no direct evidence exists: Congress leader

Counterview Desk
In an open address to his party colleagues, Congress leader Salman Khurshid, senior Supreme Court advocate and former foreign minister, has said that at a time when “honest views” of the party are being “maligned” by suggesting that the party lacks “patriotism and religious impartiality”, it would be “less than fair” to claim that the party has not been “forced” to retreat from its “outspoken defence of freedom and right to equal protection and concern for every democratic view.”

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

Modi's move to reform top babudom? 'Real problem' is grassroots administration

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Delhi is abuzz that Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to unveil a slew of administrative reforms to make India’s creaking public administration apparatus more responsive to the citizenry, more effective in the delivery of services and more accountable. To this start with he has just inducted  a few joint secretary level officers -- domain specialists on five-year contract -- into the central bureaucracy.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

Mumbai wall collapse killing 29 a state-induced disaster: Fact-finding team

Counterview Desk
On July 1, 2019, following an unremitting downpour, a 2.3km boundary wall that ran alongside Ambedkar Nagar and Pimpripada in Malad area of Mumbai collapsed at two places on the homes of the residents. Malad had received as much as 183 mm of rainfall in a short span of 3 hours between 10 pm on June 30 and 1 pm on July 1.

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.

To what extent is European picture about India distorted? How democratic is its polity?

By Lucrezia Lancia*
“Asia’s giant, India holds a net advantage over China in terms of political climate. In fact, India is the world’s most populated democracy where even the groups that occupy the lowest caste have the right to vote and secure representation in the battle for social mobility and real equality."
Don’t you think this is a naïve representation of a much more complex situation?

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

NREGA: Economic Survey ignores large-scale exclusions, chaos, is 'politically motivated'

Counterview Desk
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Sangharsh Morcha and the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) have said in a joint statement that not only has the Government of India’s allocation in the Union budget for the flagship rural job guarantee scheme gone down, its claim that the integration of NREGA with “Aadhaar Linked Payments” system in 2015 “streamlined” the wage payment system is based on incorrect assumptions.

Campaign 'victory': Bihar considers ban on asbestos, carcinogenic to humans

Counterview Desk
In a major victory for anti-asbestos campaigners, the Bihar government has said that it is considering an immediate ban on use of asbestos&based products of all kinds in the state. Speaking in the state assembly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar insisted on the need to taking a strong policy decision against carcinogenic asbestos factories.
A communication, meanwhile, has been forwarded  to the health secretary by Kumar, referring to concerns of Dr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) "on hazardous asbestos factories to the health department." Krishna said that the health department should looking into the demand for the creation of a register of victims of asbestos related diseases.
He added, the government should also create a register asbestos laden buildings and products in general and a probe on the health status of workers, their families and communities linked to and in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories…

Lack of representation: Indian Muslims may end up as 'new political untouchables'

By Basant Rawat*, Kausharali Saiyed**, Sandeep Pandey**
Indian Muslims are a deprived community with very low participation in the functioning of the world's largest parliamentary democracy. This despite the fact that followers of Islam in India are the single largest minority -- they're about 17.22 crore, i.e., 14.2 % of total population of the country, according to the 2011 census figures.

160 Kashmir civilians killed in 2018, highest in decade: UN body 'contradicts' Govt of India

By Our Representative
A UN human rights report on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) State and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) from May 2018 to April 2019 has claimed that the number of civilian casualties reported over the 12-month period may be the “highest in over a decade”, regretting, “Neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier UN report.”

Union budget: New stage in making women more vulnerable to corporate 'sharks'

By Malini Bhattacharya, Mariam Dhawale*
In her budget speech the Finance Minister quoted Swami Vivekananda to state, “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing”. She boasts that her government has provided adequate opportunities for women to develop and provide livelihood opportunities.

Union budget 2019-20: 'Ritualistic' reporting of 30% gender component in all schemes

By Nesar Ahmad, Mahendra Singh Rao*
The agriculture sector in India contributes 16% of GDP and employs 49% of the total workforce of the country. Public expenditure towards the agriculture sector has been poor; however, the Union government has promised the farmers' income would be doubled by 2022.

Put up 'credible' defense of forest dwellers in Supreme Court: CMs, Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), an alliance of more than 300 mass-based organizations working for forest and land rights across the country, has written a letter to several state chief ministers and the Union  minister for tribal affairs, urging them to put forward "credible defense" of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Supreme Court so that the order seeking the eviction of 11.5 lakh adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers is "annulled."

Decline in Union budget for eradicating child labour, encouraging girl child schemes

By Our Representative
A child rights civil society organization has regretted that though 37 per cent of the country’s population are children, Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s first full-time woman finance minister, did not refer to children at all in her speech in Parliament. Worse, said the Haq Centre for Child Rights (HCCR), the share of budget for children (BfC) in the Union Budget “has not been increased.”

At current rate of groundwater extraction, Punjab 'will soon be' a desert state

By Sunaina Kumar 
On the morning of February 21, 2018, Manvir Singh, 32, a farmer from Andana village in Sangrur district of Punjab, left early from home for his farm. When Manju, his wife, went to the farm at noon to collect fodder for the cattle, she found he had hanged himself. Two years ago, Singh had taken a loan of Rs. 400,000 to drill a tubewell for his field and had been under pressure to pay it off.

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai*
Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech. The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Satellite data 'identify' Gujarat's Mundra among 6 of India's top air pollution hotspots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study, which analyzes data between February 2018 and May 2019, obtained from Tropomi, a satellite instrument on board the Dutch Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, has warned that coal-fired power plants and industrial clusters are India’s “worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) hotspots” contributing hugely to air pollution in Sonbhadra-Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher in Odisha, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Mundra in Gujarat and Durgapur in West Bengal.

People from marginalised, low income families left out of Assam NRC list: CJP team

Counterview Desk
Following the National Register of Citizens (NRC) authority declaring on June 26 that an additional over one lakh names of people had been excluded from the NRC draft list, the Mumbai-based human rights organization, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), which is currently working in Assam, took a delegation of senior lawyers and journalists to assess ground realities and devise a strategy to "help genuine Indian citizens", especially from poorer sections, to navigate through the tortuous claims process before Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT).

Gujarat agate workers use potentially low preventive practices to 'evade' deadly silicosis

By Rajiv Shah
A decade ago the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) may have come up with a Global Programme for the Elimination of Silicosis by 2030. However, a new research paper co-authored by Canada-based scholars in association with senior Gujarat activist Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, suggests that the goal may not be easy to achieve, given the refusal of agate workers to believe in the efficacy of preventing the deadly disease.

India 'refuses' to ratify UN convention on torture despite 19% rise in custodial deaths

Counterview Desk
A European Commission (EU)-funded report, “Campaign against Torture in India: Prevention, Accountability and Rehabilitation”, has regretted that, despite a sharp rise in deaths caused by torture, the Government of India has failed to frame a law on custodial torture and inhuman treatment, even though India is a signatory to the United Nations’ convention on torture.

Demise of Election Commission? 2019 poll mandate thrown into serious doubt: Ex-babus

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner, and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, 64 retired bureaucrats have castigated the Election Commissioner for its alleged partisanship during the recent Lok Sabha elections, insisting, this emboldened Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his second in command Amit Shah, as also other leaders, to blatantly misuse “jingoistic fervour and channel it in favour of the BJP.”

Slogan ‘Land to the tillers’ has changed to ‘Land to the corporates': Delhi consultation

Counterview Desk
A two-day national consultation in Delhi, organised by the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan with the participation of 200 representatives from India's well-known civil rights and people's organisations from 22 states, has decided to hold a series of protests actions, asking the Government of India to withdraw the Forest Amendment Act and effectively implement Forest Rights Act. The protests will culminate into a mega rally at the Sansad Marg, New Delhi on November 28.

If people had strength then these guys won't be sitting on top of us...

By KP Sasi*
Sometimes, I would prefer to be bitterly frank. These days, I feel that people get what they deserve. You have a Prime Minister whose credentials in Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat violence and many other issues are well established. You have a Home Minister whose credentials are also well established.

Half of India's coal power plants don't comply by 'limits' set on water use: RTI reply

By Shripad Dharmadhikary, Sehr Raheja*
It is almost a month since the normal onset date of the monsoon, and headlines have been dominated by situation of drought and water scarcity over large areas of the country. Under the circumstances, it is a matter of serious concern that many thermal power plants – heavy water guzzlers and the largest industrial user of water – are failing to comply with the legally binding limits on how much water they are allowed to use.

Justice for Sanjiv Bhatt? With 'right' political connections, you can get away with murder!

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The controversial and self-proclaimed ‘godman’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan is currently serving a life-term in at the Sunaria jail in Rohtak after being convicted in two cases of rape and the murder of a journalist. Recently, he applied for parole asking for 42 days of parole to "look after his fields in Sirsa district".

Shadow economy threat: NPAs not turning around, banks 'wrote off' Rs 5.56 lakh crore

Counterview Desk
The Financial Accountability Network (FAN) India, a collective of civil society organisations, unions, people's movements and concerned citizens, set up to raise the issue of accountability and transparency of the national financial institutions, has contested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) claim that non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks have been reduced over the last few years.

In a severely congested 'smart' city, what are PSUs, Western Railways, BSF doing in Delhi?

By Mohan Guruswamy* 
One of the early text books I read on political economy started with a scenario set in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city with huge traffic problems in the 1970s and 1980s, with a traffic jam at a major crossing on a hot summers day, that turns into a gridlock, and then leads to people abandoning their cars unable to bear the severe heat, only aggravating the problems.

Fresh FIR? Rajasthan govt isn't enquiring into 'false' lynching deaths since 2015: PUCL

Counterview Desk
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of India's top human rights organizations, taking strong exception to "false FIRs" and "fabricated charge-sheets" against late Pehlu Khan and all other dairy farmers booked for cow smuggling, has said latest FIRs show, the present government, led by senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, has still not bothered to enquire into false cases or in any of the lynchings that took place since 2015.

Under attack from Govt of India, Greenpeace praises Gujarat solar 'model'

By Rajiv Shah
In a surprise move, a new report by Greenpeace India, the environmental NGO whose Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) license was controversially cancelled in December 2016, followed by an Enforcement Directorate (ED) freezing its bank accounts in October 2018, has showered praise on a scheme to solarize agriculture launched in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, Gujarat.

Religious freedom? US seeks to 'nail' India on anti-conversion, foreign funding laws

Counterview Desk
Is the United States all set to make the alleged lack of religious freedom in India a major plank during future negotiations? Not only has US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched upon this  during his recent visit to New Delhi, insisting upon the need to "speak out strongly" in favour religious freedom.

Triple talaq Bill: Will Modi, his govt 'address' the plight of Tabrez Ansari's widow?

By Adv Masood Peshimam
Those on campaign trail to justify persecution and atrocities never want any opposition to arise against them. Efforts are made to ensure that any murmur of protest against those who unleash incidents of violence against the weak and the feeble is nipped in the bud. Not without reason, Muslims find themselves as political orphans in India today. Today, they are tasting the bitter fruits of a hostile social and political climate.

Indian Railways 'plans' privatisation amidst lackadaisical attitude towards general class

By Sandeep Pandey, B Ramakrishna Raju*
It appears that finally it is here. Soon after Union minister for railways Piyush Goyal said in a press conference that there are no plans to privatise Railways, either now or ever, it has been revealed that government is thinking of inviting private operators to run passenger trains on low congestion and tourist routes.

Limestone mining in Bhavnagar to 'impact' livelihood, water bodies, Asiatic lions

By Our Representative
The Khedut Ekta Manch – Gujarat (KEMG), a non-profit farmers’ organization based in Ahmedabad, in a representation to the High Court-appointed committee to study the impact of limestone mining in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, has that there are “very serious issues" would emerge in the wake of the decision to sanction of mining lease in the area "without the prior informed consent of thousands of families and people, who are to be divested of their livelihoods.”

Narmada dam stands like statue, not satiating Kutch-Saurashtra thirst: Medha to Modi

Counterview Desk
Commenting on the Prime Minister's recent speech in Parliament, top Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and her colleagues* have said that Narendra Modi's statement on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on Narmada river is "rootless and proofless", insisting, the Madhya Pradesh government’s stand on the issue, of inability to provide more water to the dam, is "rational and realistic".

Foreign funding law 'misused' to target civil society: Amnesty, Human Rights Watch

Counterview Desk
Two top rights groups with presence in several countries, including India, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have said that the “criminal case” against the Lawyers Collective, a Delhi-based high profile NGO with some of the most well-known Supreme Court advocates as its office bearers, is the latest example of how the foreign funding law is being used by the Indian authorities to “harass outspoken rights groups”.

The monster Indira Gandhi 'unleashed' in June 1975 plagues us even today, unabated

By Shantanu Basu*
June 25, 1975, 1400 hours: St Columba’s, Delhi, was on summer vacation. Its swimming pool was however, open, and I had the 1400-1600 hours slot. I would cycle from Shahjahan Road to school (GPO), about 5 km away. Traffic was far lower those days and cycling was very safe. As I wound my way down India Gate, Ashok Road, Windsor Circle, et al, traffic seemed to have disappeared from roads altogether.

What is to be done? 'Elected' authoritarian regimes replace 'kings' as rulers

By Sheshu Babu
"People have always been and they always will be stupid victims of deceit and self- deception in politics", wrote VI Lenin in "State and Revolution", a treatise leader of the Russian Revolution wrote in 1917. With the spread of authoritarian tendencies of rulers almost in every part of the world, a revision of Lenin's approach may give some idea of how to deal with the situation.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Planned effort to 'wind down' Mumbai's BEST bus service step by step: Report

Counterview Desk
The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), a civic transport and electricity provider public body based in Mumbai, was originally set up in 1873 as a tramway company called Bombay Tramway Company Limited. The company set up a captive thermal power station at Wadi Bunder in November 1905 to generate electricity for its trams and supply electricity to the city, and re-branded itself to Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways (BEST) Company.

Jharkhand mob lynching: Adivasis protest police 'inaction', FIR against victims

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM), a civil rights network, on Monday sponsored a protest against the police action against the Adivasi victims of the lynching which took on April 10, 2019, in Jurmu village of Dumri block in Gumla district of Jharkhand. The incident led the death of Prakash Lakda, aged 50.