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Showing posts from July, 2019

Unresolved? 36 Rafales now cost 7.1 billion euros, 126 in 2012 cost 7.75 billion euros

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Rahul Gandhi tried to make the Rafale issue the sharp edge of the sword to politically slay Narendra Modi. He failed. But that does not absolve the Modi government from providing convincing answers as to why we are paying almost three times more for each Rafale than what was offered in 2014. People need an explanation. It is not a defence secret. It is an essential truth that is being sought.

22,000 children risking lives in India's 'illegal' mica mines, 10-20 die each month

By Rajiv Shah
An investigation by a high-profile e-journal run by a top American digital media and entertainment company focused on young women, Refinery 29 (R29), which based in the Financial District, Manhattan neighbourhood of New York City, has raised the alarm that 9,000 miles away, nearly 22,000 children are risking their lives while working for a paltry sum of Rs 20 to 30 per day in mica mines of Jharkhand and Bihar.

Amaravati project: Now China-led investment bank 'withdraws' under public pressure

By Our Representative
In yet another setback to powers-that-be, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has pulled out of Amaravati Capital City Project of the Andhra Pradesh government. The decision, communicated by its spokesperson Laurel Ostfield, follows the World Bank -- a co-financier of the project -- last week pulling out of the project.

Enrolled but 'not attending': Whither adivasi girls' education in Madhya Pradesh?

By Rahul Banerjee*
I set out four decades ago to try and improve the situation of Adivasis in the Western Madhya Pradesh region but unfortunately have mostly met with failure. However, nothing hurts more than the most recent in this series of failures because it is related to girls' education.

RTI amendment: Would Govt of India now 'downgrade' statutory bodies CVC, NHRC?

By Our Representative
Hundreds of people took out a protest march in Delhi on Monday against what its main organisers, the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), termed "regressive amendments" being made to the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Shouting slogans of "RTI Bachao, Loktantra Bachao", protestors concluded the march at the Constitution Club where a Jan Manch was held.

Demand to withdraw sedition charge against 30,000 unnamed Adivasis, activists

Counterview Desk
Every 10th Adivasi of Jharkhand’s Pathalgadi area is charged with sedition, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM), a network of activists and people’s organisations, which organised a protest in Ranchi in front of the Governor's house, has said. In a statement following the protest on Monday, JMM has called for larger support to stand up against violations of Constitutional rights of Adivasis and use of sedition law as tool for repression.

None of India's ministries, departments have mining children on the radar: MPs told

By Our Representative
A delegation of two civil rights groups, Samata and mines, minerals and People (mm&P), has impressed upon several of India's members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss and raise issues relating to illegal mining, the Samata judgment, children in the mining areas and the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in Parliament, adding, the issue of involvement of gram sabhas in decision making ought to be central for allowing any new projects in forest areas.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk
On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

Govt of India seeks to 'subvert' autonomy of adjudicating authorities: RTI amendment

Counterview Desk
India's independent Right to Information watchdog, The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in a statement, has said that the Government of India’s proposed amendments to the RTI Act to empower the Centre to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States “seriously undermine” the law.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Uninterrupted, clean Ganga? Five years of Modi rule 'keeps' the river shackled, shocked

By Vimal Bhai*
In a recent address to Parliament, the President of India said that the government has set a goal for making the Ganga uninterrupted and clean by 2022. Along with the Ganga, the government will work on a similar pattern on the Yamuna, Narmada, Kaveri, Godavari and other rivers. This has got me worried about the future of these rivers in the country.

Introduced in Lok Sabha, amendment proposals a 'blow' to RTI's federal scheme

By Venkatesh Nayak*
In less than two months of returning to power, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA-III) government has revived its 2018 proposal to curtail the autonomy of the Information Commissions established under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). A similar attempt was made exactly one year ago but the Bill to assume power to regulate the tenure, salaries and allowances of Information Commissioners across the country was not tabled in Parliament.

PUCL should listen to others sans intrusions of 'received' analysis, ism, political belief

By V Suresh*
In the background of the triumphant re-election of the Modi government for a second term covering 2019-24, more concerns arise than merely the fact that we will witness a continuation of 5 more years of communally divisive, sectarian and majoritarian politics.

As World Bank pulls out of Amaravati Capital City Project, activists call it 'major' victory

By Our Representative
In a significant move, which is likely to have repercussions at multiple levels, the World Bank has decided to pull out of the $300 million lending to the Amaravati Capital City project in Andhra Pradesh. Wthe orking Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs) and the affected communities of the Amaravati Capital City Project have welcomed the decision, saying the project was being implemented without taking into account threat to people’s livelihood.

Satellite images may be used to support verdict to 'evict' lakhs of India's forest dwellers

By Our Representative
Ahead of a crucial Supreme Court hearing on July 24, indications have emerged suggesting India's top officialdom is preparing grounds to support the controversial petition by hardcore conservationists, which led the apex court to order on February 13 a time-bound eviction of millions of forest dwellers, whose claims for forest land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was rejected by authorities across India.

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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