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Post-Balakot 7-9% voters shifted to Modi; not BJP or Amit Shah: An Ahmedabad view

By Rajiv Shah
Elections were over, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already won a landslide, yet the poll fever seemed to continue unabated among the middle classes of Ahmedabad. Ordinary citizens of Ahmedabad, called Amdavadis, are quite sparing when it comes to bets. They ensure that they do not splurge. One of the bets that I came across on the D-day, May 23, was to tell the most correct number of seats the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win.

Proposed amendment to Indian Forest Act may "displace" traditional forest dwellers

By Santosh Gedam*
Reserve and protected forest ideas evolved during colonial period to allow British government unfettered access to further its interests by trampling rights of forest dwellers.
Forest governance has an interesting history in India from British East Indies Company trying to capture it for timber from the Malabar region of west coast after impressing Britain Royal Navy with Malabar timber warship in the eighteenth century to British government taking over its control to serve colonial projects.

NDA win decisive, but "questions" remain: Joblessness, farm crisis, lower GDP

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury
It is a decisive win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP and NDA. And we need to explore the reasons too. As for the Congress-led UPA, the situation appears only a little better than what it hitherto was. And as for the regional parties, they seem to be on the decline, except for the YSR Congress in Andhra, the BJD in Odisha, the TRS in Telengana and the DMK in Tamil Nadu (largely in South India). The Left is totally left out.

2019 polls: Why just blame EVM? Why not probe if non-political Left, Bahujans can ally?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
India has ultimately 'decided' as what kind of government we want. Our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru truly lost today as Narendra Modi was actually fighting election against him. Throughout the campaign BJP did not give any 'hisab' of its governance but spoke about the past of Gandhis.

Vadodara river development projects to further "aggravate" waterlogging, flooding

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Gujarat government officials, including state chief secretary, and senior officials responsible for urban development and environment and forests, a group of concerned citizens* led by senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati have sought urgent action to prevent anticipated disasters, flooding, and water logging due to deliberate negligence regarding the reclamation of ravines in Gujarat's cultural capital Vadodara.

Eerie quiet in North Gujarat village where Dalit groom was stopped from riding horse

By Rajiv Shah
As one reaches Lhor, one can sense an atmosphere of unease gripping one of the five villages where Dalit wedding processions was recently blocked by non-Dalits in this small medium-sized North Gujarat village, barely 30 kilometres off the seat of the state's political power centre, Gandhinagar. Despite punitive steps, the village remains as divided on caste lines, just it was before the incident which shot into prominence after May 6, when the bridegroom Mehul was not allowed to ride a horse in a wedding procession on the main village street.

EVM-VVPATs: Micro-controller used not OTP type as claimed by Election Commission

By Venkatesh Nayak*
All seven phases of voting to elect members of the 17th Lok Sabha have been completed. The votes will be counted on May 23, 2019. Soon after the last phase of polling ended, pollsters had a field day with their exit poll findings about the likely performance of political parties and pre-poll/post-poll alliances. So did the bulls in the stock market the next day.

Thoothukudi firing: A year after no FIR registered against cops, rights groups targeted

Counterview Desk
People’s Watch, a human rights organisation, in its new report, “A Year After Thoothukudi Burned”, has said it is "surprised" by the silence of the National Human Rights Commission, the CBI and the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of inquiry over the police firing on peaceful protestors in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, "brutally" killing 11.

Punjab's farmers, except big ones, earning less than what they are forced to spend: Study

By Rajiv Shah
Rural Punjab may be richer compared to the rest of India's rural areas, but a recent study has raised the alarm that, except for big farmers, all other categories – marginal, small, semi-medium and medium in accordance with their farmsize – are forced to spend more than what they actually earn. Titled “Levels of Living of Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab”, the study insists, the result is, “Large sections of the farm households have been facing a great deal of distress and increased debt burden.”

Post-Pulwama anti-minority, Islamophobic WhatsApp messages "up" from 24% to 41%

By Our Representative
A new research has shown that if between November 14 to February 13, 2019, as many as 23.84 percent the percentage of messages on WhatsApp groups were allegedly “anti-Muslim, Islamophobic, and deeply inflammatory with an intent to create disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between Hindus and Muslims”, these sharply went up after the Pulwama attack on February 14.

Eviction threat "looms large" over Odisha tribals' 1.45 lakh forest land rights claims

By Our Representative
A workshop organized jointly by the Mayurbhanj Adivasi Bikash Manch (MABM) and the Mayurbhaj Jala, Jungle, Jamin and Jana Adhikar Manch (MJJJJAM) on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchati Raj Extension to Scheduled Area (PESA) Act has been told that a total of 1,45,750 individual forest rights (IFR) claims out of 6,17,935 filed at the gram sabha level in Odisha have been rejected and are under "serious threat" after the February 13 Supreme Court (SC) eviction order.

Why fruits of India's new found prosperity haven't flowed to low income layers

By Moin Qazi*
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
One of the most significant goals of inclusive and equitable development is poverty elimination. Although India has made rapid progress in several fields, its impressive economic growth has not trickled down to the larger population. India's millions still continue to face mounting daily challenges and are struggling to meet the bare basic necessities of subsistence; education, health, housing, employment and adequate food.

Jignesh Mevani: Why are non-Dalit social workers shy of fighting untouchability?

By Our Representative
Senior Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, raking up a major controversy, has wondered why non-Dalit social workers and civil society activists, who have been working among the poorer sections of society such as maldhari cattle breeders and factory workers, environmentalists and farmer rights activists have not cared to raise the issue of untouchability in Gujarat society.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Modi's cloud theory: Why do intellectuals, elites "support" such irrational thinking?

By Sheshu Babu*
"The backward classes have come to realise that after all education is the greatest material benefit for which they can fight....' -- Dr BR Ambedkar
Past few years have seen the rise of many 'educated' persons supporting statements of politicians who propagate irrational and/ or unscientific ideas. Whether 'pushpak vimaan' being discovered long before present planes or 'Rama setu' bridge, despite questionable scientific explanation, many academicians and scientists have been supporting and trying to 'logically' prove their correctness in every way possible.

Transparency? Modi govt "refused" to divulge information on Lokpal selection process

Counterview Desk
The National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), in a letter to the Lokpal Selection Committee, which consists of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson, and members, chief justice Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and eminent jurist Shri Mukul Rohatgi, has taken strong exception to alleged lack of transparency in the selection of chair and members of the Lokpal.

With power cuts happening under Congress in MP, past woes "haunt" state again

Counterview Desk
Amidst apprehensions that Pragya Singh Thakur -- whose BJP candidature from Bhopal was justified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his "symbolic answer to all those who falsely labeled the rich Hindu civilization as terrorist" -- might prove costly for the saffron party, the question that is being asked is: Will the Congress be able to take advantage of the situation?

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Top African academic "questions" Ghana varsity decision to remove Gandhi statue

Counterview Desk
In December 2018, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was removed from the University of Ghana’s campus in response to protests from students and staff. They argued that Gandhi was a racist who denigrated black Africans. Here, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, who was the university’s Vice-Chancellor when the statue was erected, he explains why the university under him made the decision to accept the statue, a gift from the Government of India in 2016.

Adanis' Myanmar port investment "not linked" with Australian coalmining project

Counterview Desk
In a rejoinder forwarded to Counterview, the Adani Group has said that its Myanmar investment in port “does not breach Australian, US, UN or other international sanctions.” Reacting to the story headlined “Adanis tieup with Myanmar army ‘involved’ in Rohingiya genocide: Aussie rights alarm”, quoting a “Guardian” report, the rejoinder said, “Adani rejects the insinuation that Myanmar investment is unethical or will compromise human rights”.

“Revolt” of Bengal’s lumpen bhadrolok against Muslims, Bahujanised lower castes

By Kuriakose Mathew
From famines to partition violence to political killings to colonial witch-hunt to confessional riots, millions of Bengalis have died unnaturally. The famines of 1770 and 1942 killed around 1.3 crore people. Preventable diseases and poverty too have killed millions of Bengalis. One does not even know how many have died in the partition of Bengal. One also does not know how many have been killed in Mughal, Maratha, and British wars! Natural death has been a luxury in lower Gangetic plains.

Adanis tieup with Myanmar army "involved" in Rohingiya genocide: Aussie rights alarm

By Our Representative
In a fresh round of controversy following the recent environmental hurdle to its decade-old dollars 16.5 billion coalmining project in Australia’s Queensland province, the country’s human rights groups have accused India’s powerful Adani Group of entering into a deal with Myanmar military-linked company, reportedly accused by UN investigators of committing genocide and crimes against humanity.

Dalit wedding processions row: Rights leaders question Gujarat CM's silence, cop inertia

By Our Representative
Addressing media in the wake of a series of incidents -- in which dominant rural castes stopped Dalit wedding processions to pass through village streets --  rights leaders Jignesh Mevani, an independent MLA of Gujarat state assembly, and Martin Macwan, founder of Gujarat’s biggest Dalit rights organization, Navsarjan Trust, have accused the state administration’s alleged indifference towards what they described as clear examples of untouchability prevailing in a state, whose rulers claim to have overcome discriminatory practices.

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".

2019 polls: India's free for all vs Singapore's state controlled campaign, style, content

By Atanu Roy*
In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect do mention about a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.

$16.5 billion Aussie mining project: Adanis blame anti-coal crusaders, officials for delay

By Our Representative
India’s powerful industrial house, Adani Group, is said to be terribly upset over what it calls further delaying tactics adopted by the Queensland government in finalizing an ecosystem management plan for groundwater management and an environment plan to protect an endangered bird species, black-throated finch, for kick-starting its controversial 16.5 billion dollar coalmining project in Australia. The project has been languishing for a decade due to environmental hurdles.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

BJP "ignores", Congress "downplays" land distribution to Dalits, Adivasis, Backwards

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Almost all analysts who have commented on political parties' manifestos have ignored the scheduled caste) SC, scheduled tribe (ST) and socially and educationally backward class (SEdBC) aspects. Rare exceptional analysts have referred to SCs, STs and SEdBCs briefly without being able to deal with important specificities. Even self-adulatory articles of party leaders and propagandists share this blindness.

Shyamaprasad Mukherjee had "supported" Kashmir autonomy, opposed Quit India

By Our Representative
A new book by Subhash Gatade, "Hindutva's Second Coming", published by Media House, has revealed that Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, considered by BJP as one of the main Hindutva ideologues, who died in 1953 under "debatable circumstances" after being arrested for opposing the special status to Kashmir, had "initially accepted" the inevitability of Article 370, which provides autonomy the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.

Top Govt of India institute told to withdraw report calling onion, garlic, eggs "tamasik"

Counterview Desk
A group of signatories -- 10 organizations and 94 individuals* -- including activists, academicians, lawyers, doctors, journalists and researchers, have sent an open letter to scientists of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), asking it to withdraw its report submitted to Government of Karnataka regarding the appropriateness of the food being supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) as part of Mid-day Meals scheme.

AAP's Atishi being shamelessly attacked, but why was Vishwas' "sexist" view ignored?

By Nandini Oza*
The recent abusive-sexist attack on Atishi, Aam Admi Party (AAP) Lok Sabha candidate for the parliamentary elections, 2019, is most deplorable. I condemn the same in strongest words first as a woman and then as a person in public life. I truly hope the Delhi police will book the perpetrators and soon. This is the least the Delhi police could do. This episode also shows the extent to which women are vulnerable to abusive and sexist mindset prevalent in the country.

Why is this Gujarat BJP "heavyweight" so upset with state High Court?

By RK Misra*
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine. This is what is hoped in the case of Gujarat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, whose election victory in 2017 by a mere 327 votes was challenged in the Gujarat High Court by his Congress rival Ashwin Rathod. As the case winds down, all eyes are on the judgment that will come out.

Loot of people’s money by banks? RBI "fails" to issue guidelines on charges

Counterview Desk
The Financial Accountability Network (FAN), a collective of civil society organisations, unions, people's movements and concerned citizens to raise the issues of accountability and transparency of the national financial institutions, has said that India's banks should "stop imposing bank charges on poor for flourishing the rich in India".

Will Universal Basic Income replace a string of welfare subsidies for India's poor?

By Moin Qazi*
Universal basic income (UBI) is an old idea that is gaining traction as governments look to revamp their social safety nets. India is the most serious new aspirant. India is actively weighing the idea and the main opposition Congress has already promised that it will implement a variation of a universal basic income (UBI) targeted at 50 million families if it wins the country’s upcoming national election.

Govt of India shouldn't use FCRA to target missionaries, human rights groups: USCIRF

Counterview Desk
The just-released United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF’s) “2019 Annual Report” has said that India is one of the dozen-odd countries where USCIRF has found “deteriorating religious freedom conditions” as also “increased securitization and politicization of religion.” In India, it adds, “It is increasingly difficult to separate religion and politics, a tactic that is sometimes intentional by those who seek to discriminate against and restrict the rights of certain religious communities.”

Will BJP maintain its advantage over first-time voters? Congress keeps fingers crossed

By Mahesh Trivedi*
Polling in five of the seven phases in India’s crucial general elections has been wound up, yet political parties still don’t have the foggiest idea whether young voters, who form two-thirds of India’s 1.3-billion population, will tilt the scales in their favour. In each of the 543 parliamentary constituencies has a significant 10 to 15 per cent electors aged under 35 years who have the power to swing the vote in any direction.

Jharkhand witnesses 9% decline in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme jobs

By Debmalya Nandy
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) functionaries were recently out of duty for nearly two-and-a-half months, as they were protesting and demanding for better remuneration and facilities. The result was, its implementation across the state came to a standstill during a period which happened to be the major working time after the paddy harvesting was over.

As Gujarat govt denies industries discharge polluted water, environmentalists write to PM

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government’s environmental watchdog, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has denied the strong allegation levelled by two top environmentalists, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, that industrial units of Vadodara are polluting groundwater by discharging untreated wastewater. Belonging to the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), based in Vadodara, the environmentalists took samples of groundwater early this year with the help of GPCB officials in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by GPCB laboratory in Gandhinagar.

Atmosphere of "fear" in Gujarat institutes bogs all: School teachers to varsity professors

By Prof Hemantkumar Shah*
The present education system is a matter of great concern. There is an increase in the establishment of universities since 2001. Currently, there are more than 50 universities, whereas in 2001 the count was only 15. The concern with these newly established universities is there affiliation as private universities.

Report provides testimonies of "systematic" onslaught on higher education in India

By Anil Chaudhary*
The report “Indian Campuses Under Siege”, released by the People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space in India (PCSDS) simultaneously nationwide from different states/regions, records the emerging trends in the educational institutions across the country and the situation of crisis faced in education. This is even more relevant in the context of the increased criminalisation and marginalisation of students in the last few years.

Dismay over Karnataka govt supporting view that eggs, onion, garlic "promote" negativity

Counterview Desk
In a letter to the Karnataka chief secretary, a group of 20 top civil society representatives and experts* has taken strong exception to the manner in which the state government has allowed the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) to “impose" of its religious beliefs in midday meals in schools, allegedly in complete violation of the “prescribed” menu. The signatories have taken exception to APF refusing to provide eggs as also use onion and garlic in the food supplied because it considers these foods as ‘tamasik’ --  denoting "a class of foods that are thought to promote pessimism, ignorance, laziness, criminal tendencies, and doubt."

2019 polls "witnessing" juggernaut of hate, venom: Will the chariot of destruction stop?

By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
The fifth phase of General Elections 2019 was over on May 6. As one looks back to the run-up, the campaigns and the election days itself, one can safely categorise it as the season of hate and venom. For the votaries of the ‘Hindutva’ ideology, it has been ‘no holds barred’ as they spewed venom and falsehoods on the minorities, particularly the Muslims and Christians and in their desperate attempt to seize power by hook or by crook and move towards their one ambition of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

Vicious assault on Nehru’s memory by small men who "confuse" Taxila with Patna

By Mohan Guruswamy*
In the recent months a vicious man called Narendra Modi and his Sancho Panza, a genuinely disagreeable man called Amit Shah, have been hurling all manner of abuse on the pre-eminent founder of modern India - Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964). To paraphrase Varun Gandhi, these two are not even fit to untie Nehru's shoelaces.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

"Pathetic" parallels drawn between Shivaji’s heroic deeds and Savarkar's surrender

By Shamsul Islam*
Myth: Savarkarites argue, “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit”.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Jamshedpur: Abject deprivation of Sabars, a PVTG, finds no place in poll discussions

By Siraj Dutta*
A recent visit to a few Sabar villages in Jamshedpur Lok Sabha constituency’s Ghatshila block exposed the “double-engine” claims of the BJP. Raghuvar Das does not tire harping about how the state is developing under the BJP-led state and central governments (“double engine”). One of Jharkhand’s particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG), the Sabars, continues to live in hunger and extreme deprivation. Both the MLA and MP of this area are from the BJP.

Zee News told to "take down" inflammatory, violence inducing content: NBSA order

Counterview Desk
The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) -- an independent body set up the News Broadcasters Association, a private association of top current affairs and news television broadcasters in India in order to "consider and adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts" -- has ruled that the powerful TV channel Zee News should "take down inflammatory and violence inducing content" broadcast in June 2018 during its show Kya Kehta Hai India.