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Showing posts from January, 2019

Modi's Ujjwala scheme "fails": 96% women find LPG unaffordable, revert to firewood

By Paulomee Mistry*, Prof Hemant Kumar Shah**
The Prime Minister Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is apparently deceiving poor tribal women, as domestic cooking gas cylinders are not affordable to them. Worse, Below Poverty Line (BPL) families get converted to Above Poverty Line (APL) families on getting gas connection, and their access to kerosene is stopped, forcing them revert to firewood.

Financial inclusion? Bank accounts with 80% Indian adults, 53% farmers debt-ridden

By Moin Qazi*
Financial inclusion has been recognised as a key building block which will form the foundation for achieving several of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Access to the right financial tools is a key element in overcoming the hard, everyday realities for those who live in penny economies. It can provide them an opportunity to move out of poverty or build resilience to absorb a financial shock without sinking deeper into debt.

Children enrolled in private schools up from 22 to 30% in 10 yrs, learning levels stagnate

By Our Representative
In a clear indication that the Government of India and state governments have been refusing to encourage government schools, which should be their primary responsibility in the educational sector, the latest Annual Survey of Education Report, released by high-profile NGO Pratham, has regretted that, over the last one decade, “while the productivity of the government school system has declined overall, the effectiveness of the private schools has not changed as dramatically.”

World Bank needs a new perspective on development, not just a new president

By Maju Varghese*
The resignation of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was an unexpected development given the fact that he had three more years to complete his tenure. Resignations at such a high level after bidding for a second term is unusual which prompts people to think what would have led to the act itself.

India's "low" caste women live 15 years less than "upper" caste counterparts: Oxfam

By Our Representative
In India, a so-called low-caste woman can expect to live almost 15 years less than a so-called upper-caste woman. Suggesting that this is an international phenomenon, a just-released Oxfam report says, Life expectancy in one of the poorest parts of London is six years less than it is in one of the capital’s richest neighbourhoods, just a few miles away. Life expectancy in the richest parts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is 79 years. In one of the poorest areas of the city it is 54 years.

How Govt of India "violated" Supreme Court ruling: Information Commission vacancies

Counterview Desk
On January 1, 2019 five vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) were filled up -- serving Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava was appointed Chief Information Commissioner; this apart four retired civil servants were appointed Information Commissioners.

Charges against top intellectual Teltumbde "vilest" post-independence plot by state

Counterview Desk
The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), India’s top education rights organization, in a strongly-worded statement condemning the threat to arrest of Prof Anand Teltumbde, has said that the “fabricated” charge of plotting a Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi  against him by the police, acting at the behest of their BJP political bosses, insisting, “His entire academic career and corporate career of nearly four decades has been an example of integrity of the highest degree.”

Why Indian farmer needed a way out of agriculture, into manufacturing or services

By Moin Qazi*
"Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade; /A breath can make them, as a breath has made; /But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, /When once destroyed, can never be supplied". -- Oliver Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village"
Small farmers are the key to ending poverty and hunger and promoting sustainable development. In India, small and marginal farmers — those who work on less than two hectares (five acres) of land — constitute 80% of all farm households, 50% of rural households and 36% of the total of all households. Sadly, the plight of these farmers is very distressing.

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.

Govt of India "deliberately" undermining selection of information commissioners

Counterview Desk
Protesting against Government of India issuing a second advertisement for the appointment of four information commissioners (ICs) in the Central Information Commission (CIC), several concerned citizens*, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have said, the ad, as also the accompanying notification, suffers from the same defect which existed in the earlier one – it does not mention the salary and tenure of ICs, as specified in the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

India "ignored" UN experts' concerns on sexual violence, religious minorities, activists

Counterview Desk
US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sharply criticized BJP rulers in India for using draconian laws to “chill” free speech, use foreign funding regulations to “target” NGOs, failing to investigate incidences of mob lynching, promoting Hindu ultra-nationalism, inability amend its “discriminatory” citizenship law that effectively keeps the Rohingya stateless.

US war in Afghanistan: Why is Pakistan getting "concerned" with its peace, security

By Syed Mujtaba*
A war extending almost two decades led by US in Afghanistan has implications for the entire region. Pakistan has been a major stakeholder in the war, and now feels it was dragged into it. Undoubtedly, it played the most significant role in in this war, for which it has also paid a price higher than any other nation involved.

Ganges: Urbanites contribute 100 times more microbial pollution than rural counterparts

By David Milledge*, Josh Bunce**
The Ganges is a lifeline for millions of people who live within its catchment as a source of water, transport and food. During the Hindu pilgrimage known as Kumbh Mela the Ganges plays host to the largest human gathering on Earth as 120m people arrive to bathe in the river over 49 days.

19 Indian human rights defenders killed in 2018, as against just 2 in Pakistan: Report

By Our Representative
A new report, “Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2018”, has noted that as many as 19 human rights defenders (HRDs) were killed across India last year, which is the sixth highest among a group of 28 countries for which it has made an assessment. The highest number of HRDs killed was in Colombia, 126, followed by Mexico 48, Philippines 39, Guatemala 26, Brazil 23, and India 19.

New York-based journalists' body seeks release of Kashmir scribe accused of militancy

Counterview Desk
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, which claims to defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal, has accused the authorities in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) of “falsely” implicating Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan on charges of “promoting militancy”.

BJP attempt to polarize North East on communal lines "fails" to cut ice with people

Counterview Desk
New Socialist Initiative (NSI), a collective claiming to be committed to creating a society free of economic deprivation, gender, caste, national and racial oppressions, and ecological degradation, has said that failure to introduce the “communally motivated” Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Rajya Sabha after it was hurriedly push through in the Lok Sabha suggests the ruling BJP’s “game” to communally polarize the North East has failed.

France is "dwarfing" Sweden, Israel in supplying obsolescent technology to India

By Shantanu Basu*
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project is a proposed nuclear power plant in India. If built, it would be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net generation capacity, at 9,900 MW. Construction was to have started in late 2018. At an estimate cost of Rs 1.12 lakh crore ($16 billion) spread over six units of 1650 MW each. The state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India is the implementing and operating agency.

Forward caste inequality-within "higher" than SC, ST, OBC, led to Jat, Patidar protests

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research paper, published the Paris School of Economics’ World Inequality Lab, suggests that the inequality within the forward caste (FC) group in India is the highest compared to what it is among scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes and other backward classes (OBC). The paper, authored by Nitin Kumar Bharti, points out that the inequality “within FC has increased and it is potentially one of the reasons behind uneasiness among certain FC groups in country and their demand for OBC status.”

Govt of India asked to stop extra-judicial killings, threats to UP human rights defenders

Counterview Desk 
The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner (OHCHR) has taken strong exception to “extrajudicial killings” in Uttar Pradesh, pointing out that most of those who have killed are poor Muslims. It has also expressed “serious concern” about family members of victims and human rights defenders working on the cases being “harassed, subjected to death threats from police and false criminal cases” in an attempts to “intimidate them”.

"Shameless" effort to tarnish image of Justice Sikri, who agreed to oust CBI topcop

Counterview Desk
In a scathing attack on the "Indian media", especially the high profile news portal "The Print", former Supreme Court judge Makandey Katju has said in a Facebook post  that the story of the appointment of Supreme Court judge AK Sikri to a "plum post" is nothing but "shameless" sensationalism. Calling Justice Sikri "outstanding, totally upright, extremely competent and hard working judge", Katju adds, "Yet our mostly rotten and shameless media has sought to tarnish him in mud and ruin his reputation."

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Democratic functioning, natural justice scuttled: Topcop on his removal as CBI chief

Counterview Desk
Alok Kumar Verma, a 1979 batch IPS officer of the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories cadre, with over 35 years of experience in the Indian Police Service, was on Thursday shunted out as director, CBI, on Thursday evening in what has been described as an unprecedented twist of events. The development came shortly after a high-powered panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for the second time in two days to take a call on Verma’s fate.

India’s corporate honchos "must invest" in law, admit: Divisive moves hamper growth

By Gagan Sethi*
While it was good news recently that India jumped 23 points to the 77th rank (out of 185 countries ranked) in Ease of Doing Business, the World Bank’s assessment precludes a crucial factor: As it has admitted, its rankings do not “measure all aspects of the business environment that matter to firms or investors”.

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Maharashtra govt invokes "draconian" law to crush BEST strike, pursue privatization

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has protested against the use of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), terming the law “draconian”, against the striking workers of Mumbai’s public transport body, BEST, saying that workers and their families cannot be penalized in such an “inhuman manner”.
Expressing fear that the administration is bringing in privatization through the back door and making a vital public transport service unaffordable and unsustainable, PUCL, in a statement signed by its convener, ad-hoc committee, has demanded that the state government immediately initiate talks with BEST employees.
Text of the statement: PUCL Maharashtra expresses shock and dismay at reports that the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST) administration have chosen to invoke draconian provisions of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against striking BEST emp…

Govt of India seeks to pursue unfinished agenda of "RSS-backed" two-nation theory

Counterview Desk
Three members of Parliament, who are part of the 30-member Joint Parliamentary Committee that compiled the report clearing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016, have submitted their dissent notes, saying that the right to Indian citizenship cannot be religion specific or country of origin specific.

Writers in India are being told: Do as you are told, or your life and your art are not safe

Counterview Desk
Nayantara Sahgal, winner of the 1986 Sahitya Akademi Award and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, was to deliver her inaugural speech at the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan on January 11 at Yavatmal. In a surprise move, on January 6, she was disinvited following the allegation that her speech was “anti-government”.

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Transgender bill seeks to "police, criminalize" a highly vulnerable community: PUDR

Counterview Desk
India’s well-known civil rights organization, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), characterizing the transgender bill – currently pending before Parliament – “draconian”, has said that it “violates” transpersons’ freedom of association in intimate and personal relations by refusing to “recognize ‘families of choice’ among hijras as self-determined arrangements of care.”

Gujarat BJP rulers woo unreserved castes with a pittance: Rs 10 of 500 crore "approved"

By RK Misra*
The caste conundrum has burnt the BJP’s boat in Madhya Pradesh. Now it appears set to singe it in Gujarat, even sink it. As the saying goes, don’t play with fire, it burns. Caught in a cleft-stick following the 2015 Patidar agitation, which saw the ruling party nearly toppled from its power perch in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, successive BJP governments in Gujarat find themselves lost in the reservation alley, sinking further every time it seeks to beat its way out.

Lack of policy concern despite 61% increase in women prisoners in India since 2001

Counterview Desk
A public hearing, to be held on January 18, 2019 at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi by the All India Union of Forest Working People and Delhi Solidarity Group, has been planned on women activists allegedly falsely implicated and are languishing in jails. It will be addressed, among others, by women rights leaders, human rights lawyers, academicians and civil society activists.

Coercion-induced 26% Hindi belt open defecation decline "unlikely" to last: Study

By Rajiv Shah
Sharply contesting the Government of India claim that “open defecation has been entirely or largely eliminated” in the Hindi belt, a recent study, “Changes in open defecation in rural north India: 2014-2018” has found that “between 42% to 57% of rural people over two years old defecate in the open” in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

"Lack of transparency" in appointment of CBI director: Govt of India "evades" RTI plea

By Anjali Bhardwaj*
The term of the current director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will finish on January 31, 2019. The government initiated the process of selection of the next chief in December 2018, as per media reports. The selection committee for the appointment of CBI director consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India (or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him).

Govt of India step to scrap no detention to "dramatically increase" school drop out rate

Counterview Desk
The Right to Education (RTE) Forum has, in a statement, said that scrapping of "no detention" in schools, for which an Bill has been passed in Parliament, would lead to more dropouts, even as diluting the key provisions of the RTE Act. It believes, the "no detention" policy has led to a sharp fall in the drop out in schools at the primary level, and by seeking to drop it, the "innocent children" of backward communities would suffer the most, as repeating children in the same class would impact their psychology adversely.

Govt of India seeks to "water down" social security for unorganized sector workers

By Vipul Pandya* 
Even as the Government of India is planning to come up with Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare Bill, 2018, several Gujarat-based trade unions and NGOs working in different unorganized sectors held a meeting at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, on January 3, 2019, to analyze it’s provisions, pointing towards how it is a step in the wrong direction in the name of labour reforms. Organized by Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS), the on-day consultation suggested that the Government of India is seeking to water down the present welfare schemes for the unorganized sector.

Congress govt appointing "tainted" police official on key post sends "wrong signals"

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh, has protested against the appointment of police officials with "poor record on human rights front" by the newly-formed Congress government in the state. In a statement*, PUCL-Chhattisgarh, objecting to the appointment of SPR Kalluri, controversial former Bastar Inspector General of Police, as head of the Economic Offences Wing EOW) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the state capital Raipur, said the appointment is sending “a wrong message” to the world that the state government “has scant regard for human rights and freedom of speech and expression.”

Mahabharata was about family property dispute, "justified" violence: British Lord

By Our Representative
Making an unusual statement, India-born British economist Meghnad Desai, who is professor emeritus, London School of Economics and a Labour Party Lord has said that Mahabharata was about "property dispute in a family" on who would rule Braj. Desai's statement acquires significance, as he had been praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's style of governance till recently, when he said that "people are disappointed" with Modi and they feel, "somehow, the feeling is that 'acch din ab tak nahin aaye' (the promised good days have not come in yet)".

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.

Demand for mandatory environmental nod for all river port, terminal, jetty projects

Counterview Desk
Fifty-five concerned citizens, including environmentalists, social activists, researchers and professionals from diverse fields, led by development expert Shripad Dharmadhikary of the Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune, have written an open letter to Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC),Government of India, asking him to ensure that Environmental Clearance (EC) process is made mandatory for inland waterways projects.

Debacle to #UrbanNaxals plank? TU activists fighting for workers' rights get bail

Counterview DeskThe recent release of four Reliance workers, first to be  implicated under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged Maoist links for Bhima Koregaon violence a year ago, after the Bombay High Court set aside the extension of time granted to the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) Mumbai to file the chiargesheet, suggests that the charges of “urban Naxals” is beginning to fall apart.

Mineral fund "fails to benefit" people living in deep poverty in India's mining districts

Counterview Desk
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Coal and Steel in its Forty-Seventh Report (Sixteenth Lok Sabha) on "Implementation of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY)", relating to the Ministry of Mines, has regretted that out of of 81,624 projects sanctioned under the DMF, only 22,026 projects worth Rs 4,888 crore have been completed since 2015.

Fisherfolk, tribals come together, rally in protest, siege Midnapore office for hours

By Pradip Chatterjee*
On December 27, 2018 in a first ever joint movement Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) and Adibasi Bikash Parishad (ABP) along with, many other organisations of the tribal people came together and staged a massive protest rally in Midnapore town in West Bengal against the government's insensitivity and bureaucratic inaction regarding their long-standing demands. For hours the district magistrate’s (DM's) office was under siege with about 8,000 fishing community and tribal people blocking its entrance.