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Showing posts from July, 2019

Whither protection? 88% Gujarat employees without job contract, 67% sans paid leave

By Rajiv Shah 
Amidst apprehensions that the Government of India’s new labour codes, tabled in Parliament recently, are driven by the interests of the industry in order to “alter” the labour protection landscape in India “beyond repair and reclaim”, facts have come to light suggesting that “model” Gujarat has been one of the worst states in the country as far as providing any form of protection to its workers is concerned.

Private pressure: Health ministry says, patients must 'obligatorily' pay hospital fees

Counterview Desk
The civil rights network Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) has demanded from the Union health ministry that it should ensure there is “no dilution” in patients’ rights, insisting, the ministry should adopt the charter on patients’ rights based on the recommendation to the ministry by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last year.

No civil society or activists came to Unnao girl's rescue: Her story 'didn't suit' them

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The Unnao story is the failure of the Indian system and deep-rooted corruption and nepotism inside it. The girl was fighting a lone battle over a year, especially after she accused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldip Singh Sengar of raping her. The party did not bothered to take any action against Sanger. And it is equally surprising that, in the city of Unnao, nothing appears to have happened.

Conviction of ex-BJP MP: Punctuation mark in battle against illegal mining mafia?

By RK Misra*
The conviction of an MP for murder by the CBI court in Ahmedabad reveals how the rich and powerful get away with heinous crimes unless the judicial system works as it should. “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”, or so goes an old saying.

BJP making RTI toothless, UPA 'failed miserably' to market the great achievement

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
A massive people’s campaign is currently underway in the country to save the ‘Right to Information’ (RTI) Act. The campaign which can be visited at www.SaveRTI.in is also going viral on social media under the hashtag #SaveRTI – with several thousands of eminent and other concerned citizens already having signed it!

Linking aadhaar with election ID would 'disenfranchise' elderly, manual labourers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to the Election Commission of India (ECI), more than 200 prominent citizens have said that a petition Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India before the Delhi High Court seeking an e-voting system using fingerprint and face biometrics should be “dismissed”, as aadhaar linkage with the Election ID “would harm the right to vote that Indian citizens have under our democracy, flowing from the Constitution and the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.”

Rise in regional, secessionist forces 'triggering' heightened violence in India: Study

By Rajiv Shah
Is India compulsively moving towards a situation where centripetal tendencies are increasingly challenging centrifugal tendencies? A new research work, which has studied "link" between regional parties and secessionist forces, and resultant violence, goes a long way to imply that India's federal structure, governed from Delhi, is becoming fragile and may come under stress. For, already, no amount of "appeasement" of regional aspirations or "clampdown" on them is helping mitigate the situation.

Direct cash transfer to poor students? Private interest 'masked' as policy critique

By Sandeep Pandey, Praveen Srivastava*
Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Professor of Education Economics at University College London and President of City Montessori School Lucknow, in a critique of the draft New Education Policy (NEP) has identified poor school and teacher accountability as the main cause of learning crisis in public schools. She has advocated Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to parents to enable them to have the purchasing power to hold the schools accountable.

Andhra capital project 'failed' to address needs of 21,374 landless households: World Bank

Counterview Desk
Working Group on International Financial Institutes (WGonIFIs), a top advocacy group monitoring involvement of such top global bodies like the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in projects in India and their impact on communities has said that the WB’s International Inspection Panel’s Report on Amaravati Project has “validated” issues raised by civil society organizations (CSOs).

Uranium mining: 'Frightening' implications for river inflows into Nagarjuna reservoir

Counterview Desk
A civil rights organization fighting for forest dwellers’ rights, Human Rights Forum (HRF), has demanded that the Government of India should withdraw the decision to survey and explore the tiger reserve in Nallamala forest for uranium, even as asking the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments to reject the survey and exploration proposal.

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Govt of India's new labour codes 'exclude' millions in unorganized, risky, vulnerable jobs

Counterview Desk
In a strongly-worded commentary, the Working Peoples' Charter (WPC), an initiative to bring together all organizations working with, and organizing people dependent on the informal sector, has said that the new labour codes tabled in Parliament are “primarily driven by the interests of the industry” in order to “alter the labour protection landscape in India beyond repair and reclaim”.

Increase in online harassment of India's journalists by troll armies, hate messengers

By Nava Thakuria*
Each India year India records five to six journalists’ deaths take place. In the first half of 2019, so far two incidents of scribes’ murders have taken place. The first victim belongs to Maharashtra. Anand Narayan was reportedly murdered on June 4 at Antop Hill locality of Mumbai. Narayan, 38, was murdered at his residence by the miscreants.

NREGA wages should be 'part of' floor level minimum wages, much above Rs 178

By Our Representative
Strongly protesting against the Central government’s plan to keep NREGA workers outside the purview of whatever floor level minimum wage is declared, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM) has said that while the BJP government’s Wage Code bill in the Lok Sabha on July 24 2019 which would fix a national floor level minimum wage, the Rural Development Minister “has stated that NREGA wages will continue to be less than this national floor level minimum wage.”
“This implies that NREGA workers will continue to be exploited and will be forced to work at pittance wages”, NSM said, adding, “Ironically, this will result in the Central government disobeying a law that it is making mandatory for everyone else. It will also result in shutting out one of the largest sections of our rural work force from a right that will apply to all other workers.”
Insisting that MGNREGA wages must be “a decent, dignified wage and above the national floor level wage”, MSM demanded that “a clause…

Govt of India 'undermining' state legislatures' powers by amending RTI Act

Counterview Desk
Senior Right to Information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak, who is with the advocacy group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, in an email alert to Counterview on the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, passed in the Lok Sabha on July 22 and introduced in the Rajya Sabha on July 24, has argued that the Government of India appears to have undermine state legislatures' powers while pushing through the amendment.

Seven ex-information commissioners oppose RTI amendment, say govt 'not honest'

By Our Representative
Seven former Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission (CIC) have condemned the move of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, terming it a direct attack on autonomy of information commissions and peoples’ fundamental right to know, urging the government to withdraw the "regressive" amendments.

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), 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.

Demand for separate anti-atrocities law for minorities in Gujarat

By Our Representative
A Gujarat-based civil rights organization has demanded that the state assembly, currently in session in Gandhinagar, should come up with Minorities (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, on line with the anti-atrocities laws for scheduled castes and tribes. The decision was taken at a well-attended meeting of the Minority Coordination Committee (MCC) in the state capital.
Jignesh Mevani, independent MLA from Vadnagar, and a well-known Dalit rights leader and also popular among minorities, told the meeting that he would surely raise the issue of having such a law in the assembly. “I would come up with a private member’s bill on this if this does not happen”, he assured about 600 minority representatives from across Gujarat attending the meet.
MCC convener Mujahid Nafees, addressing the meeting, said that the need for such a law is important because atrocities against minorities are increasing in the state. Even those transporting buffalo are being attacked by cow vigilan…

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.

Based on NGT's Vapi order, polluting units across India told to compensate for eco-loss

By Our Representative
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Government of India’s anti-pollution watchdog, to coordinate with State PCBs to make an assessment of compensation to be recovered from polluting units for the period of last five years, taking into account the cost of restoration and cost of damage to the public health and environment and the deterrence element.
The NGT said in an order that the scale of deterrence “may be related to the period and the frequency of defaults”, insisting, “No further industrial activities or expansion be allowed with regard to ‘red’ and ‘orange’ category units till the said areas are brought within the prescribed parameters or till carrying capacity of area is assessed and new units or expansion is found viable having regard to the carrying capacity of the area and environmental norms.”
The NGT order follows the CPCB coming up with a new Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) …

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.”

Top British weekly blames Amit Shah over 'destabilization' in Assam over citizenship

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded attack on Union home minister Amit Shah, who is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most trusted Man Friday in the ruling establishment, top British weekly “The Economist” has said that the recent “rant” of the top politician calling immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam “termites” and “infiltrators” is not just “a standard bluster from a nativist politician railing against illegal immigration.”
Calling it as suggestive of “threat to stability” waiting to take place, the weekly says, “The supposed illegal immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim. The purge is exacerbating sectarian tension in a state that saw bloody Hindu-Muslim riots as recently as 2012, when some 400,000 people were displaced.” Despite such state of affairs, Shah considers the campaign in Assam against “illegal” immigrants “such a success that he wants to replicate it throughout the entire country.”
According to “The Economist” though Shah wants all these people will be “deported”, iro…

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.