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Showing posts from March, 2019

Increase in NREGA wages by Re 1 to Rs 17 Modi govt’s "surgical strike" on workers

Counterview Desk
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has, in a statement, taken strong exception to the Government of India decision to raise NREGA workers' wages by a mere Re 1 to Rs 17, calling it "anti-workers decision". The top civil rights network has demanded an increase in the NREGA wage rate to Rs 600 a day, which it says is in consonance with the Seventh Pay Commission recommendation of Rs 18,000 as the minimum monthly salary for Central government employees.

Amit Shah's choice for Gandhinagar: Will ex-CM Anandiben Patel "play" a spoiler?

By RK Misra*
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Amit Shah as a replacement for BJP veteran LK Advani from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency for the 2019 general elections, it was more to recreate the Atal-Advani visual imagery in governance than anything else.

"Failure" of a Modi campaign: 51% Gujarat men tobacco addicts, higher than 14 states

By Rajiv Shah
While the Gujarat government may claim to have decided to begin a “tobacco free Gujarat” campaign in 2011 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state chief minister, yet, latest available data suggest that as many as 51.4 per cent of men and seven per cent of women in the state use any form of tobacco – it can be smoking cigarettes, bidis, cigars pipes, or hookas, chewing pan masalas with or without tobacco, use of gutkha or pan masala with tobacco, or use of khaini or snuff.

Indian women paid 34% less than similarly qualified male workers for same tasks: Oxfam

Counterview Desk
Top international non-profit, Oxfam, has said, its new report "Mind the Gap -- State of Employment in India", called the second India Inequality report, has sought to approach structural inequalities in India’s vast labour market with a particular focus drawn on gender disparities.

Need for a manifesto for 'non-voters', who aren't discussed either by politicians or people

By Sheshu Babu*
A child miseducated is a child lost -- John F Kennedy
While all the mainstream parties are busy issuing statements of promises to various sections of society, there is little concern for the children who are clearly outside the electoral process. These 'non-voters' are being neglected and the potential of 'future' voters is not being discussed either by the politicians or people adequately.

Indo-Gangetic plain: Winter fog reduces crop yield, affects tourism, impacts millions

Counterview Desk
The just-released study, “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People”, a collection of papers by a large number of scholars, by the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP) of the the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), has said tha tair pollution in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is on the rise and regional air quality has worsened in the past two decades.

Invasive alien species pose "serious" eco-challenge to Kailash Sacred Landscape

Counterview Desk 
A new voluminous study, “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People”, published for the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP), which is a science-policy initiative coordinated by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), has sought to debunk the view that the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region remains pristine, citing water and air pollution as examples.

Sabarmati for120 km stretch is dead, releasing industrial effluents, sewage in Arabian sea

Counterview Desk
Several civil society organisations led by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, in close coordination with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board have released reports'on joint investigations by pollution levels in the prime water source of Ahmedabad District, Sabarmati river, finding their condition disastrous.

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

2019 polls: Actionable plan to end corruption, generate jobs discussed with political parties

By Our Representative
A civil society-sponsored Jan Manch organised in Delhi, where what are claimed to be “peoples’ issues” for the 2019 elections were discussed with representatives of political parties, has been told that the BJP rulers came to power on the anti-corruption plank of a Bhrastachar Mukt Bharat, but the government “systematically weakened and destroyed the anti-corruption framework.”

Distressing: For 41.34% voters cash, liquor, gifts an important factor for voting

Counterview Desk
An all-India survey on governance issues and voting behaviour 2018 by the civil rights organization, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), claiming to be the largest-ever voter survey in any country, has said that the top voters’ priorities were employment and basic amenities (like healthcare, drinking water, better roads etc.), and governance issues (including terrorism and strong defence/military).

Modi's campaign, Congress reaction "political gimmick", won't improve chowkidaars' lives

By Sheshu Babu*
"Dekh raha hai kya kya sapna raat ko sone waala /Ho sone waala/  Yeh na jaane aankh khule to kya hai hone waala/ Haa hone waala -- 'Yeh duniya nahi jagir kisi ki...' by Rajender Kishan in 'Chowkidaar' (1974). (What dreams the person sleeping might have been dreaming/ O! That sleeping person/ It is unknown what would happen when eyes are open/ Yes! What would happen)

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Amend "discriminatory" law, give reservation to Dalit Muslims, Christians: Parties told

By Our Representative
The Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has come up with a 14-point demands list for inclusion into political parties’ election manifestos for the 2019 polls. To be sent to political parties and their candidates shortly, these demands seek obligatory formation of minority commissions in every state and having a minority department in each state by promulgating law in Parliament.

Why India needs to emulate Oscar Romero as untruth, injustice, divisiveness "gain ground"

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On October 14, 2018, Pope Francis canonised Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his homily during the ceremony, the Holy Father lauded Romero for leaving "the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to live his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters".

How Balasaheb Deoras was made to believe: He was "foolish" to follow Bhagat Singh

By Shamsul Islam*
March 23, 2019 is the 88th anniversary of the martyrdom of three great revolutionaries, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were hanged at Lahore for working to overthrow the British rule in India. The British government like any other colonial power thought that with the physical elimination of these freedom fighters their ideas and dreams of a secular and egalitarian independent India would also dissipate.

Ex-IIT, IIM scholar threatens: Would sit on indefinite hunger strike to "save" Ganga

By Chandra Vikash*
As already reported, a United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues team visited  Haridwar in support and solidarity with 26-year old Sant Atmabodhanand, who hails from Kerala. He is fasting for making River Ganga Aviral (free-flow) and Nirmal (pollution-free).

Skill India? 80% of engineers "not employable", no change in last nine years: Report

Counterview Desk
“The National Employability Report: Engineers”, prepared by a high-profile consultation firm, Aspiring Minds, with offices in India, US, China, The Philippines Dubai, has expressed concern that low employability of engineering students of India “is a stubborn issue that has shown little or no macro improvement over the last seven years.”

Govt of India labour reforms would make unorganized workers "more vulnerable"

By Manohar Chauhan
A senior women's rights leader, Parilata Mohapatra of the Swarozgari Mahila Sangh, Odisha, has expressed concern that though 94% of the domestic workers in the state work in the un-orgainsed sector only 6% work in the organized sector, the Government of India (GoI) decision for coming up with new labour codes, repealing 44 labour laws, would make them even more vulnerable.

Winnability "not important" for Cynthia Stephen, Karnataka civil society candidate

By KP Sasi*
The debates on the forthcoming elections have already started. Activists and people's movements who have been contributing actively without the representations in Parliament have started discussing on strategies. The usual debates are on. All these debates have been repetitions of the debates we have heard for decades. Some will decide to opt out.

If implemented, Supreme Court order would "threaten" conservation, climate, tigers

Counterview Desk
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of more than 200 organizations dedicated to advancing the forestland and resource rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and rural women, has said in statement issued from Washington DC that evicting millions of indigenous and local peoples from their forest homes – as ordered by Indian Supreme Court – might prove to be “highly detrimental to conservation in India”.
Pointing out that “conservation organizations and rights groups agree: the decision threatens conservation, climate, and tigers”, RRI, quoting UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, regrets, “This is a phenomenon seen around the world. Indigenous peoples and local communities are treated as squatters when in fact the lands belong to them, and they have protected and stewarded their holdings for generations.”
Text of the RRI statement: The Indian Supreme Court decision in February to remove mil…

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

A courageous journalist who was committed towards sustained ecological growth

By Sheshu Babu*
Very few journalists stood by peoples'rights and dared to expose atrocities committed by corporates and government. One such fine committed journalist was Darryl D'Monte who inspired younger generation. He passed away on March 16 in a Mumbai hospital.

India's party-based democracy has created a "self-perpetuating" political aristocracy

By Mohan Guruswamy*
With the seventeenth Lok Sabha elections fast approaching, we increasingly hear them described as a Celebration of Democracy! It very well might be, but for who and how still remains to be seen.
This reminds me of a tale from the Mahabharata, when many years after their victory in the great eighteen-day war, King Yudhishtra decides to perform the Ashvamedha yagna at Hastinapur.

Ganga depletion leading to loss of indigenous livelihoods: Fasting saint tells activist

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Ramnath Kovind, President of India, Chandra Vikash, who is convener of the civil rights organization Global Academy for Indigenous (Dalit) Activism (GAIA), Delhi, has expressed the apprehension that crores of indigenous (Dalit) livelihoods would be affected if the Government of India fails to ensure “free-flow” of River Ganga and other rivers, making them “pollution-free”.

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Hindutva rulers discussing China to "divert" attention on who handed over Azhar to Pak

By Shamsul Islam*
The present RSS-BJP rulers are using every dirty trick to hide the fact that blood thirsty criminal, perpetrator of the Pulwama massacre, Azhar Masood is roaming free thanks to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which was ruling India in 1999.

Fascist danger? 2019 election campaign "might witness" communal and hate speeches

By Sheshu Babu*
As the country is preparing for elections, all politicians are trying to outsmart each other in promises and rhetoric. Amidst of statements of leaders, some are really very disturbing. For instance, Sakshi Maharaj, MP, Lok Sabha said that the upcoming elections will be fought in the name of the country and there will be no elections after that.

Confront gravity of threat to democracy: 73 intellectuals to India's opposition parties

Counterview Desk
As many as 73 intellectuals -- including academics, artistes, social workers and writers -- in an appeal to non-BJP opposition parties regarding 2019 elections have said, since the threat to democracy from Narendra Modi and BJP is real, they should not only "rise above political competition" but also come up with a minimum programme suggesting their firm commitment in democratic institutions and the Constitution.

Gujarat government bravado and "slow death" of agriculture in the state

By SagarRabari*, Persis Ginwalla** 
Why is Gujarat, an otherwise ‘developed’ state, with an agricultural growth rate ostensibly much higher than other states of India, as claimed repeatedly by the Government of Gujarat (GoG), reeling under the anger of farmers? If the GoG’s claims of development are indeed true, then why is the average monthly farm income at a mere Rs 3573? And why is Gujarat at number nine in the country in terms of farmers’ incomes?

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Operation All Out? Ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in J&K part of "ongoing repression": PUDR

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a civil liberties and democratic rights organization based in Delhi, believes that there aren’t sufficient grounds for banning Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), insisting, the ban has been instituted as part of the “ongoing repression” in the Kashmir Valley. Seeking revocation of the ban, PUDR says, the ban suggests the “cavalier attitude” of the Government of India, which has “ignored” provisions of law and Supreme Court judgments.
Text of the statement: PUDR draws attention to the illegality behind the decision of the Central Government-ruled Jammu and Kashmir to ban Jamaat-e-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir on February 28, 2019. While attention has been focussed on the escalation and de-escalation of tension between India-Pakistan, the Central Government has intensified repression in the state. The J&K administration has picked up hundreds of persons and booked them under preventive detention laws.…

Scheduled castes got a "raw deal" under Govt of India credit schemes: Economists

By Our Representative
In a detailed presentation before a seminar in Delhi in front of civil rights and Left-wing politicians, two senior economists with the Transdisciplinary Research Cluster on Sustainability Studies (TRCSS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dinesh Abrol and Rollins John have said that the Government of India’s (GoI’s) credit schemes meant for the country’s marginalized communities, as also minorities and women, have failed to take off.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

In Modi's chest-thumping, self-valorisation Air Force has not even incidental role to play

By Anand K. Sahay*
Narendra Modi has proved a red-hot, election-time, hyper-nationalist. We saw this after Uri when key Uttar Pradesh state polls were 12 weeks away, and now after Pulwama when the Lok Sabha election is six weeks away. At other times, he has shown a lack of skill to craft a politics which lessens security threats. Kashmir is a perfect example.

Modi govt "controlling" statistics, data bodies for political considerations: 108 economists

Counterview Desk In an appeal, 108 economists and social scientists across the world have taken strong exception to the Government of India (GoI) seeking to release economic data which it considers politically unfavourable, pointing out, such an approach is bound to put “the national and global reputation of India’s statistical bodies is at stake.”

Would women's reservation become gateway for backdoor entry for the savarna elite?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has declared that his party would reserve 33% seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies, as their representation "is very low". He went a step ahead and suggested that he would also ensure that 33% women are taken into the Union government's various services.

Salt farmers hit: Railways "uproots" track in Little Rann of Kutch on Dandi march day

By Pankti Jog*
Agariyas from Dhangadhra and Patadi, the towns situated along the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, may not participate in voting on April 23, the day polling takes place in the state, as a mark of protest against an “insensitive step” that the Indian Railways has taken – to close down the Kuda-Dhangadhra Railway line and uproot the track.

Forest rights: Supreme Court Feb 28 stay temporary, BJP govts "supporting" corporates

Counterview Desk
On February 28, the Supreme Court stayed its two-weeks-old order directing 21 states to evict 11.8 lakh illegal forest dwellers whose claims over the forest land have been rejected by the authorities, but civil society organizations believe it is a temporary reprieve, as state governments have been asked to file affidavits giving details about process adopted in rejecting the claims.

Agitating for martyrdom of soldiers, why is BJP silent on saints dying for Ganga?

By Sandeep Pandey*
In 2011 Swami Nigmanand died on the 115th day of his fast against illegal mining in Haridwar. Matri Sadan, the ashram with which he was associated alleges that he was killed by poisoning in the hospital at the behest of a mining mafia. Swami Gokulanand, who sat on first fast organised by Matri Sadan along with Swami Nigmanand in 1998, was murdered in 2003 in Nainital by mining mafia.

Only 12.7% schools comply with Right to Education, progress just 1% per year

Counterview Desk
A civil society report written in the shadow of the upcoming national elections, marking the completion of five years of the i.e Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), has sought to focus on its performance against the backdrop its Election Manifesto 2014 "Ek Bhatat Shreshtha Bharat… Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas", which made a number of commitments on education.

Odisha tribal, Dalit rally asks gram sabhas to takeover community land, demands housing

By Our Representative
Hundreds of landless and homestead-less people from different gram panchayats, including Kharadi, Ampolba, Sukinda, Dudhjori, Lembo, Sansailo, Haripur, Hathibari and Kuchika, coming under of Sukinda tehsil, staged a protest rally and dharna on March 11 before the tehsil office of Jajpur district demanding land rights. The protest rally began at the Sukinda Cricket Stadium giving the slogan “Patta Nai to Vote Nai”.

2019 polls: Political parties told to fight "undeclared" emergency, protect people

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), claiming to be a coalition of more than 30 “progressive” organisations, activists and intellectuals working in different parts of Jharkhand for the rights of poor, Adivasis, Dalits, women and minorities, has said that India is passing through a phase of “undeclared emergency”, and the 2019 elections provide an “important opportunity” to reverse this predicament.

NREGA wages "abysmally low" at Rs 179 per day: Demand to increase them to Rs 600

Counterview Desk
In a letter Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha secretariat, representing a collective of civil society organizations and independent activists working on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) across the nation, has regretted that “NREGA wages have been abysmally low at a national average of Rs 179 per day”, violating the Minimum Wages Act (MWA), 1948.
Insisting that NREGA wages have been illegally delinked from MWA, the Morcha has said, alongside, one sees is “unpredictable delays in payments” forcing workers to turn away from this programme, “jeopardising growth and development in the country.” It demands, that the MGNREGA wage rates “in all states should be raised to Rs 600.”
Text of the letter: NREGA has been a lifeline for the poor, with one in every three rural households working in it. About 5 crore households access some employment under this Act every year. Even though most households are able to access t…

Ayodhya mediation? Sri Sri's choice shocking, he has "close connections" with RSS

Counterview Desk
Well-known political observer Shamsul Islam, retired faculty, University of Delhi, in an open letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has argued that the mediation order in the Ayodhya case is bludgeoning of the Indian constitutional polity which the Supreme Court is “duty-bound" to safeguard.
Especially taking strong exception to the choice of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shakar, Islam recalls a March 2018 interview to a leading Indian periodical, asking Muslims to "give up" their claims on Ayodhya, even as  warning that if it was not done it would lead to "a situation like Syrian civil war".
Text of the letter: You know more than anyone else in the world that Indian constitutional polity treats all citizens equally irrespective of their race, creed, religion, language, culture and gender. But the observation of the Bench (consisting Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer) headed by you in the Ram Janam…

Govt of India refusal to give black money reports on demonetization "violates" RTI Act

By Our Representative
Obtaining the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) board of directors minutes “approving” the demonetization decision of the Government of India (GoI) 28 months after he made a Right to Information (RTI) plea, senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak regrets, these do not have any mention of “the black money reports submitted by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP, an autonomous research institute under India's Ministry of Finance) and two other research institutions.”

BJP put up highest number of candidates with crimes against women for MP, MLA polls

Counterview Desk
In its note, “Women's Political Participation and Representation in India”, released on the International Women’s Day (March 8), the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has found that just nine per cent of MPs and MLAs across India are women, adding, among the state assemblies, none of the states have more than 10% women candidates.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

Indo-Pak conflict, adversely affecting Kashmiri women, being used to "reap" political mileage

Counterview Desk
The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific having 236 member-groups from 27 countries in the Asia Pacific, has sharply criticized powerful forces in India and Pakistan getting involved in “unsubstantiated claims and counterclaims that are encouraging hyper-nationalism and religious fundamentalism” following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.