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Showing posts from January, 2019

Indian tycoons' profits "double", share of cultivators' income down from 25% to 15%

Counterview Desk
Oxfam India’s recent “India Inequality Report 2018: Widening Gaps”, among other things, points towards how lurking gaps exist not just between the rich and the poor, but also between organized sector workers and unorganized sector workers. Authored by Himanshu, Associate Professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, the report states that the situation is particularly pathetic, as 93% workers come from the informal sector.

Govt of India "not serious" about old age pension, maternity benefit: Economists

Counterview Desk
Sixty eminent economists have written to the Union finance minister an “urgent and modest proposal” seeking to increase the Central contribution to social security pensions from the current measly Rs 200 per month to Rs 500 per month, and providing for maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 per child as prescribed by the National Food Security Act.

Book with 150 Gandhi quotations released in Ahmedabad

By Our Representative
'Gandhi Bolechhe' (Gandhi Speaks), a book containing Mahatma Gandhi's 150 quotations, was released on Wednesday in three languages – Gujarati, Hindi and English. Released by Kumarpal Desai, well-known Gujarati writer and padmashree awardee, and senior social activist Indukumar Jani, the quotations in the book have been chosen by Hemantkumar Shah, principal, HK Arts College, Ahmedabad.
Speaking on this occasion, Desai said that the book was an effort of taking Gandhi’s thoughts to people, while Jani underlined Gandhi’s importance in today’s context, pointing towards how he upheld ideas of equality before law. The book has been published by the HK Arts College with the support of Paragbhai Shah of the Shashwat Trust.
Shah said the book contained Gandhi's quotations on religion, truth, non-violence, economics, democracy, freedom, equality, God, kingdom, prayer etc., and contains the idea of the need to fight against against injustice. He added, Ga…

Govt of India "yet to release" Rs 6,084 crore for NREGA announced in mid-January

By Our Representative
The Government of India is yet to release the additional Rs 6,084 crore for NREGA “promised” on January 15, 2019. Pointing this out, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, in a statement, has said, the promise came after several MPs activists, former bureaucrats, academics and leaders of farmers’ movements wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister to highlight the chronic underfunding of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
By the end of December, the statement said, 99 per cent of the central government’s NREGA fund for 2018-19 was exhausted. “Within a few days of this letter, the Central government announced a supplementary budget of Rs 6,084 crore for the ongoing financial year. This increased the total NREGA budget allocation for the 2018-19 to Rs 61,084 crore”, which was “too little, too late.”
The statement further said, “According to the official NREGA website (nrega.nic.in), the total central release so far is only Rs 53,353 crore. Including the s…

Share of wealth held by top 1% in India is only second to the United States: Oxfam study

Counterview Desk
Basing its analysis on top rating agency Credit Suisse's  Global Wealth Report, Oxfam India has said in a recently-released study, “India Inequality Report 2018: Widening Gaps”, seeking to debunk the view that India’s wealth inequalities are lower than other countries, suggests, the country, in fact, appears to be  competing with the United States on this score. It adds, the “richest in India have made their money through crony capitalism rather than through innovation or the fair rules of the market.”

#UrbanNaxals: Efforts on to "undermine" right to dissent that existed in ancient India

Counterview Desk
Well-known historian Romila Thapar delivered a video message at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris last year on how the Maharashtra government authorities’ effort to discredit five activists as #UrbanNaxals actually undermines the right to dissent in India. This was followed by police action against academic and public intellectual Anand Teltumbde, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, retired professor and poet Varavara Rao, human rights lawyer Arun Ferreira, activist Vernon Gonsalves, and human rights activist Gautam Navalakha,

South Gujarat tribal rights body seeks special state assembly discussion on adivasi issues

By Our Representative
The South Gujarat-based civil rights organization, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), has asked 27 tribal legislators of Gujarat to demand a special discussion in the Gujarat state assembly, whose session begins on February 18. AKSM convener Romel Sutariya, in a statement, has said that the issue has become particularly important following efforts to acquire tribals’ land in Kevadiya colony in order to develop tourism around the Statue of Liberty.
Sutariya said, the 27 tribal legislators associated with various political parties of Gujarat should “show the political strength of tribal society and tribal problems”, regretting, the Gujarat government “is not prepared for a debate on the problems of tribal society.” Asking them to “boycott” the assembly session in case the state’s rulers do not agree, Sutariya added, all the tribal organizations, institutions, youth, the elderly, women and political parties should also seek a special discussion on tribals in t…

Supreme Court "poser": Why appoint only bureaucrats in Central Information Commission?

By Our Representative
The Supreme Court has reportedly taken a “serious note” of the way in which the Government of India has sought to fill up vacant posts of information commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC), even as questioning the additional solicitor general as to why only bureaucrats were being short-listed and appointed as information commissioners.
A note issued by two senior Right to Information (RTI) activists, Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri, following an apex court hearing, said, “The court commented on the government’s propensity to only select bureaucrats for such posts even though the RTI Act provides for commissioners from various fields, only one of which is administration.”
The bench, consisting of Justice AK Sikri and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, wondered why even the search committee consisted mostly of bureaucrats who then short-listed other bureaucrats, the note added. After hearing all the arguments, the bench reserved the judgment.
The court…

Include promise to repeal sedition law in Congress poll manifesto: Chidambaram told

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, the advocacy group South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre’s Ravi Nair has asked senior Congress leader P Chidambaram to include the promise to repeal sedition law, Section 124-A, IPC in Congress’ election manifesto for 2019, even expecting several Congress-ruled or supported states to take “immediate” steps to repeal it through state amendments. The letter comes following Chidambaram, a former Union home minister, condemning the “malicious” charge of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar.
The letter regrets that the sedition law was “misused” during successive Congress governments, too, though pointing out, the present BJP government has used “in a manner that the worst authoritarian anywhere on the planet would find difficult to emulate.” Nair insists, “A formal commitment in the Congress Party manifesto will draw a line under the Congress Party’s past on this important issue.”
Text of the letter: We would like to reiterate the request that the…

NGT imbroglio: Downstream people "to approach" a non-existent Narmada Tribunal?

By Shawahiq Siddiqui*
It was a sad Republic Day for the poor and vulnerable communities in the downstream of the Narmada Basin as their plea for protecting their fundamental and legal right to water and environment covered under right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution goes unheard by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Ironically, this comes almost on the eve of Republic Day when we embark upon celebrating the adoption of the Constitution of India that champions the protection of life and liberty as cornerstones of fundamental rights.

Delhiites protest against proposed expansion of "toxic" garbage power plant

By Our Representative
The Joint Action Committee, which is fighting against the Government of India decision to go ahead with the expansion of the Jindal Garbage Plant in Sukdhdev Vihar, New Delhi, has said that it will “not tolerate polluted air” and continue fighting against “the poisonous plant”. In a statement issued following a massive demonstration against the plant, it said, toxic pollution coming out of the plant has been “recognized” even by the government.
Those who demonstrated were residents of Jasola Heights, Sukhdev Vihar, Johri Farm, Okhla Vihar, Gaffar Manzil, Haji Colony, Shahin Bagh, Butla House, Masihgarh, Badarpur, and Madanpur Khadar. They formed a human chain, which was later converted into a rally. Earlier, opposition to the plant led to the administration and the Delhi Pollution Control Board to a cancel a hearing on the plant’s expansion on January 16.
Insisting that environmental public hearing is a very important constitutional right, the statement said, …

Dams on Ganga are no less than "ticking" time bombs: NAPM

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior activists attached with the top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), have wondered as to how many more sons of Ganga will have to pay with their lives to save “mother” Ganga. Congratulating
Modi for taking the policy decision not to make new dams on the river, the letter, however, regrets, “Presently, three under-construction dams, Tapovan-Vishnugad, Vishnugad-Pipalkoti and Singoli-Bhatwari, are threatening the survival of this holy river adding to the damage already done by a number of existing dams.”
Calling these dams “no less than ticking time bombs”, the letter says, “Swami Sanand fasted for 111 days to draw attention of the powers to be to its cries for survival before he succumbed unheeded. Carrying on the baton, Sant Gopaldas fasted for 146 days when he disappeared under suspicious circumstances unheard and unheeded. Presently the 26 year old young Brahmachari Aatmabodh…

Relevance of Kaifi Azmi's birth centenary year in times of "rising" communal tension

By Sheshu Babu*
The above poem 'Doosra Banvas' by Kaifi Azmi, written in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, reveals the contradictions of the movement that caused it, and is relevant even today. "I was born in a slave India, grew up in an Independent India and would like to die in a socialist India", was his dream. This dream remains unfulfilled as the present system of inequality is growing very rapidly.

Anti-liquor march: Women padyatris "resolve" to occupy Karnataka state assembly

By Abhay, Swarna Bhat*
At a huge public convention held at Siddaganga Mutt on the Republic Day, January 26, 2019, in the presence of Sanehalli Sri Panditaradhya Swamiji, padyatris of the Madya Nishedha Andolana decided to intensify the ongoing liquor ban movement. A resolution passed at the convention, in which thousands of rural women joined in, the marching women declared that on reaching Bengaluru will “occupy Vidhan Soudha” on Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom day, January 30.

Post UN support, Australian natives go ahead with suit against Adani coalmine project

Counterview Desk
The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, who consider themselves “the proud traditional owners and native title applicants of a vast area of land in central-western Queensland”, taking a cue from a letter written by senior United Nations (UN) official to Australia’s UN representative in Geneva to suspend the Adani coalmining project, has declared that it would go ahead with its Federal Court appeal against Adani’s “sham Indigenous Land Use Agreement”.

Suspend Adani coalmine project till natives are consulted: Australia's UN envoy told

Counterview Desk
Noureddine Amir, chair, United Nations Committee (UN) on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in a letter to Sally Mansfield, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN Office, Geneva, has said that, on receiving a complaint from the indigenous people of Queensland province of Australia, it is “concerned” about their land rights, pointing out that the Adani coalmine project in Carmichael and the rail project attached with would displace them.

Screening of "Boys Who Like Girls" to mark campaign on sexual rights, gender justice

Counterview Desk
Delhi-based NGO, Restless Development, in collaboration with Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA),  and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), has launched an advocacy campaign, Youth-led Accountability for SDG5 and FP2020, on the theme, "Engaging men for gender justice and sexual and reproductive and health rights, and understanding the need for sexual health education among college going youth”.

Silence on the part of Indian judiciary on vital aspects of human rights "abuse" is painful

By Stan Swamy*
India has vowed to be a socialist, secular, democratic republic. Sadly, all these values are steadily being eroded in the present political developments. About 20 intellectuals, professionals, activists who are working for the fundamental rights of the poor and marginalized and upholding the above mentioned constitutional values are being labeled ‘urban naxals’ and are being harassed no end either as ‘accused’ or as ‘suspects’. Their premises have been raided, their electronic devices seized, serious cases filed. Some are already in prison, others face arrest anytime.

Sedition a potent weapon with India's rulers: 179 arrests, 112 cases filed, 2 convictions

By Shahana Bhattacharya, Deepika Tandon*
The slapping of sedition charges against writer and academic Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi, leader of the Kisan Mukti Sangram Samiti, and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta on January 7, 2019, and the process of filing charge-sheet in the 2016 sedition case against Jawharlal Nehru University (JNU) students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, and Anirban Bhattacharya, seven Kashmiri students, Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rasool, Bashir Bhat and 38 unknown others, once again illustrate the character of the law on sedition as a potent weapon in the hands of ruling dispensations.

Now young ascetic from Kerala, Brahmachari Atmabodhanand, stakes his life for Ganga

By Sandeep Pandey*
Prof GD Agrawal, formerly of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and known as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand since 2011, died on October 11, 2018 on the 112th day of his fast, demanding a law for conservation of river Ganga, at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh. Forty-years-old Sant Gopal Das, inspired by Prof Agrawal, also sat on fast for the same cause two days after Prof Agrawal began his fast, on June 24, 2018 at Badridham temple in Badrinath, was kept in the Intensive Care Unit of AIIMS, New Delhi after being moved about to different hospitals in Uttarakhand, Chandigarh and New Delhi.

Govt of India, state govts "fail" to redress pathetic condition of 60 lakh welfare workers

By Sheshu Babu*
While major contribution to implementation of social welfare schemes is through social volunteers and anganwadis, nurses, teachers, etc., their economic and social condition remains pathetic. Their problems have not been addressed either by governments or other welfare organizations for many years.

North-East protests snowball as indigenous people feel "increasingly" threatened

By Nava Thakuria*
It was a spectacular rally in the pre-historic city of Guwahati on January 23 last that strongly opposed the Indian Union government’s latest initiative to amend the country’s citizenship Act in favour of religious asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Organized by the All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU) along with 30 indigenous groups at the historic Latashil play ground of Guwahati on the southern bank of mighty Brahmaputra, the demonstration witnessed vivid participation of thousands of people from different sections in the society.

Kashmir students apprised of human rights issues, told to join hands with "common" cause

By Our Representative
Human rights defender Syed Mujtaba, advocate, who interacted with students at the Inspire Academy, Budgam, said that they should play a vital role in the protection and promotion of human rights. The interaction on January 24 was aimed at providing the students first hand information of institutional mechanism for the protection of human rights, even as apprising them with the situation on ground.
Mujtaba sensitized students about various academic and practical issues related to human rights like right to life, right to equality, dignity, liberty and life, right to health, right to education, right to freedom of expression, and rights of other vulnerable sections of society, which formed the central theme of the interaction.
Focusing on the importance of education as foundation for a progressive and knowledge-based society, which should be viewed from human rights perspective, Mujtaba asked students to join hands for a common cause for the protection of human r…

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao? 60% funds used on publicity, 88% schools don't comply with RTE

By Mitra Ranjan*
India is a country which claims to have a culture of respecting women and girls since ages. But reality on the ground is entirely different, rather grim. Presently, girls are fighting for their right to birth and survival. They are deprived of literacy and education. They are forcibly pushed for early marriage and their safety and security have gone for toss.

Hate Hatao app to be on Google Play Store from Jan 30, to collect evidence, monitor hate crimes

By Our Representative
The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) will be launching Hate Hatao, a new mobile app designed to fight hate, that can be used by anyone with a smartphone. To be made available on the Google Play Store from January 30, 2019, CJP says, it proposes to "revolutionise the way you can actively fight against hate of all kinds."
Hate Hatao will enable it's users to report on instances of hate speech, threats and hate crimes, with appropriate evidence, such as screenshot, video or picture. A CJP statement says, it proposes the complaint to "authorities such as the National Human Rights Commission, Press Council, National Broadcasters Association, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms or law enforcement agencies."
It adds, "We will also lodge FIRs and pursue the cases in court if necessary. You will then receive real-time updates on the status of your submitted report."

Conclave #NetizensForDemocracy seeks to "reclaim" internet, empower social media

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
Given the significance of the subject and the urgency which it entailed – it was an event that had to happen! Netizens for Democracy held a day long conclave on ‘Social Media as a Tool’, of Indian netizens who believe in the power of social media and want to use it to bring about sustainable and positive social change. It was held on January 19, 2019 at Fr Agnel’s Campus in Bandra, Mumbai.

Karnataka women begin 12-day march towards Vidhana Soudha demanding ban on liquor

By Our Representative
Madya Nisheda Andolana (MNA) -- an anti-alcohol movement led by grassroots women which came into existence in 2015 when nearly 45,000 women, most of them are rural daily wage labourers and small scale peasants, took to streets in Raichur district for an agitation demanding complete ban on liquor in Karnataka -- has begun a 201 km long padhayatra for 12 days demanding for statewide complete prohibition on sales of liquor.
Led by about 3,000 women and begun on January 19, the marchers will walk about 20 km each day, and pass through Kyadigere, Hosuru, Nityananda Ashrama, Javagondana Halli, Tavara Kere, Sira, Chikkanahalli, Dodda Aladama Mara Cross, CB Temple, Darga Bellavi Cross, Tumakuru, Sidda Ganga Mutt, Adi Chunchanagiri Mutt, Kulavanahalli, T. Begur, Dasanapura, Exhibition Grounds and Yeshwantpur, before ending at the Vidhana Soudha.
Set to reach Bengaluru on January 30, the padyatra was formally inaugurated at Chitradurga with the support of progressive relig…

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.

Govt of India, state govts "stifling" RTI Act: Supreme Court told

By Our Representative
Arguing before a Supreme Court bench on controversial appointment of information commissioners, petitioners Anjali Bhardwaj, Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri have argued that the “Government of India and state governments have attempted to stifle the functioning of the Right to Information (RTI) Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions, in a timely manner”.
Represented through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, Pranav Sachdeva and Rahul Gupta, the petitioners underlined the need for transparency in the appointment of commissioners, insisting, “Lack of transparency in the appointment of information commissioners, and the violation of directions of the Supreme Court regarding the procedure for appointment of information commissioners, is undermining the institution of the information commission”.
Heard by the apex court bench consisting of Justices AK Sikr…

Gujarat govt "reserves" sanitation workers' job only for Dalits: Activists protest

By Our Representative
A Gujarat government advertisement in Gujarati for appointing four sanitation workers in Khambhaliya municipality in Devbhumi Dwarka district of Saurashtra region has said that only scheduled caste (SC), popularly Dalit, candidates should apply for the fixed pay job. The advertisement, signed by top local body officials, has created furor among Dalit rights activists, who wonder whether the state government believes sanitation work is meant only for Dalits.
In a Facebook post, well-known Dalit rights activist from Ahmedabad, Kirit Rathod, citing the advertisement, has said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just reserved 10% seats in government jobs for the economically weaker sections belonging to the dominant castes. Why is Gujarat government shying away from the 10% criterion bypassed here? It seems,  the state government believes, cleaning gutters is the job that only Dalits should do."

Gujarat's 24.9% girls in age group 14-16 out of school, double all-India average: Pratham report

By Our Representative
In a stark revelation, the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER), brought out by the high-profile NGO Pratham, has said that Gujarat's 24.9% of girls in the age group 15-16 are out of school, which is the highest among all Indian states with the sole exception exception of Madhya Pradesh (26.6%). Further, the report shows that the percentage of out of school children in this age group is double the all-India average (13.5%).
Suggesting that most so-called Bimaru states perform better on this score, the data in the report show that, as against Gujarat's 24.9% out of school of girls in the age group 15-16, Uttar Pradesh has 22.2%, Chhattisgarh 21.2%, Rajasthan 20.1%, Jharkhand 11.2%, and Bihar 9.8%. The best performing state is Kerala, with 0.6% out of school girls, followed by 2% Himachal Pradesh.
The report states, "In 2006, the all India proportion of girls in the age group 11 to 14 who were out of school stood at 10.3%. In that year, 9 major sta…

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.”

Tribal civil rights body "celebrates" victory of woman sarpanch in South Gujarat

By Our Representative
Victory of Manjulaben Lalsinhbhai Rathwa in the election of sarpanch of Gram Panchayat in Zer village, Chhotaudepur district, is the occasion to celebrate for the civil rights body working among tribal farmers of South Gujarat, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), AKSM convener Romal Sutaria has said, adding, the victory has come about because AKSM “tirelessly” worked for developmental issues related with education, health, roads and land acquisition.
The victory has also come, claims Sutaria, amidst “false cases” being registered against AKSM workers after spreading “fake news” such as infiltration of red terror in Chhotaudaipur. This was done in order “to hinder the growth of the organization in the region”, he says, adding, however, this did not deter AKSM workers, and they ensured the victory of Manjulaben. The election campaign suggested that AKSM proved to be a medium to uphold the rights of the people and maintain unity.

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.

"Pity", film Accidental Prime Minister ignores book's 80% defence of Manmohan Singh: Sanjaya Baru

By Our Representative
Former media adviser to ex-PM Manmohan Singh, Sanjaya Baru, has claimed that 80 per cent of his book "The Accidental Prime Minister" constitutes "the best available defence in print, even as of now, of the Manmohan Singh prime ministership", regretting, it is a " pity" that the film based on it, starring Anupam Kher and Akshaye Khanna, ignores this huge portion.
In an article in "The Week" titled "Have you read the book?", Baru says, underlines, "The book would have read like a hagiography, an unrelenting paean to the former prime minister, if it had not also contained the 20 per cent of criticism." However, he says, both media and the film which bears the same name as the book, focus on its "controversial parts, rather than the totality of a complex argument".
Directly commenting on the film, Baru underlines, "Now with the book being adapted into a movie, chances are that a larger bod…

Will society wake up for the sake of Ganga, Narmada, other rivers? Wonders NAPM

By Our Representative
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), regrets, despite the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared himself Gangaputra in 2014 and named the ministry of water resources after Ganga, things have not changed. NAPM said, even today, one cannot ignore the condition of Ganga remains difficult. Illegal sand mining, construction of huge dams, and a total contempt of environmental laws continue.
Recalling how Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand, or Prof GD Agarwal, an intelligent scientist who fully understood Ganga, gave his life for the sake of the river, observing hunger strike for 110 days, NAPM says, there is still no sympathy for his demands, nor have rulers engaged in discussion on keeping Ganga clean and serene.
Earlier, another saint, Swami Nigamanand, who was fast in 2013 to stop illegal sand mining, sacrificed his life, and now a 26-year-old young saint, Atmbodhanand, is on fast for 90 days, consuming only …

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.

Ahmedabad not open defecation free, visit slums near Gandhi Ashram to verify: Manav Garima

By Our Representative
Gujarat’s grassroots organization working among the Valmiki community, Manav Garima, has disputed the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) claim that the city has become open defecation free. In a statement, Manav Garima convener Parsottam Vaghela has said that one has only to visit the slum area along the Chandrabhaga Bridge, next to the Gandhi Ashram, to verify whether it is true.
On either side of the bridge, situated in Vadaj area of Ahmedabad, the slums have no working toilet facility, nor is there any drainage connectoin, the statement said, adding, women and men alike go out to defecate in the open. There are public toilets, but they are unusable, as they do not have any doors, and there is no running water connection.
As a result, the statement estimates, about 500 people to out to defecate in the open in the wee hours. “This is not the only spot where the situation is so bad”, it said, adding, “All of it is a mockery of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.”

Activists, workers sit on dharna in Madhya Pradesh for free flow of Ganga, Narmada

By Our Representative
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists and representatives of the workers of Century Mills sat on a day long dharna in Khargone, outside the Century Mills, in support of Swami Atmabodhanand, who is on indefinite hunger strike since October 24, 2018 for ensuring free flow of Ganga river. Atmabodhanand is a disciple of Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand, who died on October last year following his 112 days' hunger strike for the cause of Ganga.
In a letter to Union water resources minister Nitin Gadkari following the dharna, the activists say, Ganga is one of the main rivers of the country on which dams have been built, thus creating hurdle in their free flow of water. Several major dams have been built on Ganga, and about 54 more have been proposed, out of which 24 dams have been stayed by the Supreme Court. If the remaining 30 major dams are built, Ganga will not survive.
As a result of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the letter states, sea water has been gushing 70 km into…

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.

30 bonded labourers freed in Chhattisgarh

By Our Representative
Kanuni Magdarshan Kendra (KMK - Legal Guidance Centre), Raipur, Chhattisgarh, has obtained the freedom for 30 bonded labourers with the help of the police. All of them migrant labourers, they are residents of Balodabazar district. The group includes minor children. According to these workers, they worked in a brick kiln unit, whose owner would threaten them on the point of a gun if they wished to choose elsewhere to go and work.
KMK coordinator Shobharam, said, “All the accused have been booked under Sections 370 and 34 of the Criminal Procedure Code”, adding, “Efforts to free them was continuing since November 24, 2018. On December 31, 2018, they were brought the KMK office n Raipur, following which legal actions were taken against the accused. The workers reached Balodabazar on January 14, 2019. It is a legal victory for KMK, Chhattisgarh, too.”

Only 10% villagers aware of rights of gram sabhas: Village elders' meet in Narmada valley told

By Our Representative
A special conference of panches, sarpanches and representatives from villages of Narmada valley at Arjun Karaj, Badwani district, Madhya Pradesh, held under the auspices of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), regretted that only 10% of villagers were aware of the rights of gram sabhas. Those who participated at the meet included NBA leader Medha Patkar, senior advocate Anil Trivedi, Manvar MLA Dr Hiralal, and Badwani district panchayat president Manendra Patel.
The Constitution has provided more powers to gram sabhas than state assembly or Parliament, asserted NBA activist Mukesh Bhagoria. Villagers pointed out how gram sabhas were being bypassed. A village panchayat janitor takes register to each household, and thumbs impression is sought in order to pass a resolution. This way, gram sabhas are never summoned. Nothing is done to call meetings to solve problems.
If Dr Hiralal regretted that lack of awareness about the rights bestowed to gram sabhas leads governmen…

Minority rights leaders detained in Ahmedabad, had planned protest against Modi

By Our Representative
Gujarat civil society organisation Minority Coordination Committee (MCC) leaders -- Mujahid Nafees, Shakeel Shaikh, Danish Khan, and others, who had planned a protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the VS Hospital -- were detained on Thursday afternoon. They had wished to highlight the alleged failure of the Gujarat government to implement "development needs" of minorities, who form 11.5% of the state's population.
An MCC communique said, the Gujarat authorities were "so scared" of the protest against the Prime Minister, whom MCC members had planned to give a memorandum of demands, that the leaders were picked up for detention from their residence at 3 pm, an hour before the protest was planned. Insisting that the Prime Minister "cannot suppress our voice", MCC claimd, "Our demands are all in consonance with international treaties signed by the Government of India."
Meant for the development and protection of…

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”.

Delhiites force cancellation of public hearing for waste-to-energy plant in a densely-populated area

By Our Representative
In what is being described as a victory in a big war against pollution in Delhi, people of the south-western district of Delhi have forced a scheduled public hearing for expanding a "waste-to-energy" power plant from 16 MW to 40 MW. The Delhi Pollution Control Board (DPCB) and the District Magistrate faced such a situation for the first time, says a civil society statement following the cancellation.
The major reason for people from different societies, including Sukhdev Vihar, Jasola Vihar, Abul Fazal, Haji Colony, Gaffar Manzil, Shahin Bagh and other places was that it was being held in violation of the Environment Assessment Notification dated September 15, 2006, according to which it should have been held near the project site, but it was kept at quite a distance.
Being implemented in an area where more than a million people live and there are several major educational institutions and hospitals, the project would cause pollution in the region, …

Quash FIR against Dalit academic Anand Teltumbde: Petition to Modi

By Our Representative
Karthik Navayan Battula, a human rights activist, has started a petition to be sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to quash the “false” FIR and not to arrest Prof (Dr) Anand Teltumbde, a well-known academic. An alumnus of IIM-A alumnus, IIT Professor, and associated with several top public sector and private undertakings, he is facing imminent threat of arrest as an ‘Urban Maoist’.
The appeal for quashing the false FIR against Dr Anand, filed by the Pune Police was rejected on January 14 by the Supreme Court and gave four weeks to seek pre-arrest bail from the competent court. The petition says, “The arrest under the UAPA can mean years of incarceration.”
“The arrest for him is not simply the hardship of prison life, it is keeping away from laptop which has been integral with his body, from his library which has been part of his life, half-written manuscripts of books committed to various publishers, his research papers which are in various stage…

Jharkhand govt decision to reduce eggs in midday meal to children "shocking"

By Our Representative
The Right to Food (RtF), Jharkhand, has said, it is “shocking” that the Jharkhand government has decided to reduce the number of weekly eggs in school midday meals from three to two. Earlier, the government allotted Rs 4 per egg. With increase in price of eggs, it has revised the allotment to Rs 6 per egg.
“But instead of increasing the total budget commensurately with the inflation in cost of eggs, the government has decided to serve one less egg per child per week”, RtF said, adding, “Introduction of eggs in schools, and later in Anganwadis, is one of the few noteworthy steps taken by Jharkhand Government to improve child nutrition in the state.”
Jharkhand’s children are amongst the most malnourished in the country. According to the National Family Health Survey 4 conducted in 2015-16, 35.8 per cent children were underweight across the country. In Jharkhand, the corresponding ratio was as high as 47.8 per cent.
Currently, eggs are served across 12 states of …

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.”