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Showing posts from March, 2021

When Deoras wrote 'approvingly': Hedgewar saved him, others from Bhagat Singh's path

By Mohan Guruswamy*  The term 'gotra' has Rigvedic origins. It originally was used to denote cattle belonging to the same cowshed, and hence to a single owner. In course of time it evolved to be equivalent to lineage. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor or patriline.

Food habits, climate change: Indian politicians don't even refer to 'existential' threats

By Shankar Sharma*  Average westerner's eating habits lead to loss of four trees every year, and renewables plus batteries offer Australia the same energy security as coal, according to a recent research , which adds, our food habits thus are a major cause of climate change.

Stan Swamy, 84, has 'no history' of violence against others, bail rejection unbelievable

By Our Representative  In an appeal for “immediate bail” to 84-year old social activist Stan Swamy, more than 2,500 signatories have regretted that they are “shocked by the rejection of a bail application filed by him in the Bhima Koregaon case by the special NIA (National Investigation Agency) court on March 22, 2021.” Swamy was arrested on October 8, 2020 and continues to languish in jail.

Gujarat coin campaign to end untouchability: Dalit rights NGO begins donations drive

By Our Representative  As part of a unique campaign to melt all the brass utensils and articles collected from across India and mint a 1111 milligram diameter coin, on which the image of Dr BR Ambedkar's famous anti-untouchability Mahad satyagraha of 1927 will be engraved, Gujarat’s top Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, has begun a major donations drive from people willing to take part in what has been called “no rallies, no sit-ins, no slogans and no call for Bharat bandh” programme.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Delhi manhole deaths: 'Inexperienced' Dalit workers were forced to enter in sewer line

By Our Representative A team consisting of civil society network, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) activists, who visited to the families of two sanitation workers who died while cleaning up a sewer on March 25, 2021 in Pearl Grand Banquet Hall in Gazipur, Delhi, has regretted that government agencies, owners of septic tanks and contractors "are openly violating the Manual Scavengers Act, 2013 and directions are given by Delhi High Court", one reason why "poor Dalit sanitation workers are being killed while cleaning sewer/septic tanks."

Violation of India's global obligation? 107 coal blocks 'offered' for commercial mining

Counterview Desk  In a letter emailed to Dr S Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs, Government of India, well-known power and climate policy analyst Shankar Sharma has posed a question as to what stance would India take at the Climate Summit in US proposed by President Joe Biden in US next month, at a time when the Government of India has already announced its decision to offer “40 plus 67 coal blocks for commercial mining.”

Bihar's govt's legal armour for 'unbridled' powers to suppress dissent, rights activists

Counterview Desk  India’s top civil society network, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), has demanded the Bihar government should immediately withdraw the “undemocratic” Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, calling it a draconian law, insisting it was “passed in a draconian manner.” It adds, the bill, passed on March 23, on the anniversary of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, “effectively turns Bihar into a Police Raj.”

Gujarat rivers' highly toxic discharge cause 'great risk' to livelihood in towns, villages

By Our Representative  In a letter to the chairman and member-secretary, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Government of India’s anti-pollution watchdog, and to officials its Gujarat counterpart, senior environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), have said that one of the state’s biggest rivers, Mahisagar, which flows off the state's cultural capital Vadodara, has turned into “disaster in motion.”

Law in my kitchen: Notion of privacy in the context of gender, body, desire, sexuality

By Simi Mehta, Anshula Mehta The law in India never uses the word ‘desire’. There is no law of desire or vocabulary present in the State that talks about desire. However, this “term can refer to a gamut of things including gender, politics, culture, history, sociology and all the subjects that go into making law what it is.” Desire acts as the bridge between the mind and the body.

'Little reason' to agonize over Ashoka Varsity, Pratap Bhanu Mehta's resignation

By Aviral Anand*  A certain section of the Indian intelligentsia is very perturbed at the recent events at Ashoka University. The alarm seems chiefly about the resignation of one of its star faculty, Pratap Bhanu Mehta. It is almost laughable this should have elicited the horror that it seems to have, given that Ashoka is a private university with a good number of businessperson-types among its founders. And the fact that PB Mehta has always been a sedate intellectual, his critiques quite mainstream and even good natured, most often.

'Anti-constitutional, high handed': NAPM on Gujarat farm leaders' arrest at press meet

By Our Representative  Calling the recent arrest of several Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders on March 26, the day on which farmers across the country were observing Bharat Bandh, “anti-constitutional” and “high handed”, the Gujarat chapter of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil society network, has said that this was done “under instructions of the state government”.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Why apex court 'shouldn't entertain' Rizvi's petition to remove 26 verses from Quran

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed* Waseem Rizvi has stirred the hornet’s nest. In a recent PIL in the Supreme Court, he has demanded the removal of 26 verses from the holy Quran claiming that terrorists used these verses to "promote jihad". Waseem is going around throwing tantrums as earlier: He had written to the Prime Minister to close down all the madrasas since these breed terrorists. This was very badly viewed in the community. In 2017, Rizvi announced to offer the entire Ram Mandir area to the government.

New pregnancy law: Should women justify abortion? Whither reproductive rights?

By Simi Mehta, Nishi Verma* Abortion is a highly emotional issue and one that excites deeply held opinions. However, equitable access to safe abortion services is first and foremost a human right. On March 17, 2021, India’s Parliament passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Bill, 2021 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. 

Punjab meet on Bhagat Singh: 'Insufficient' presence of Dalit farm, industry workers

By Harsh Thakor*  On March 22 the youth of Punjab at a conference, staged by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)-Ugrahan  and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU) at the grain market in Sunam, tried to resurrect the spirit of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. It was staged in the hometown of martyr Udham Singh, whose name glimmers in the annals of India's anti-colonial history.

Do ladies dressed in ripped jeans rip apart eternal ‘Bhartiya’ culture?

By Shamsul Islam*  Tirath Singh Rawat who took over as chief minister of Uttarakhand on March 10, 2021 is a senior cadre of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He started RSS career by becoming the organizational secretary of the Uttarakhand unit of Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarti Parishad (ABVP: the student appendage of the RSS), later promoted as its national secretary.

Vigilante harassment of nuns in UP with police help: Modi, Shah asked to intervene

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lancy D Cunha, national president, All India Catholic Union (AICU), and spokesperson AICU John Dayal, have demanded action on a vigilante group and the police for reportedly harassing two nuns in train in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, insisting the government must “send strong warning against persecution of minorities”.

One year on, 'vulnerabilities' of migrant workers continue to persist in multiple ways

Counterview Desk  In a statement on the condition of India’s migrant workers one year after the COVID-19 lockdown, the Working Peoples Charter (WPC) network has regretted that “India does not have a central, formidable policy or law to safeguard its migrant workforce despite the horrors of last year”, pointing out, “One year on, the vulnerabilities of migrant workers continue to persist in multiple ways.”

India 'critically needs' prophetic courage of Romero, gunned down by Salvadoran rightists

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Even a cursory glance at the realities which grip India today, will make one realise how grim the situation is. On every global parameter, from the happiness index to the freedom one; from democracy to economic indicators, the country has plummeted miserably and as never before. Untruth and injustice, divisiveness and discrimination, exploitation and exclusion have become the ‘new normal’!

Environmentalists warn contempt action: Gujarat lignite power plant 'pollution'

Rohit Prajapati, lignite plant in the backdrop  Counterview Desk  Gujarat’s senior environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have warned of contempt proceedings for allegedly violating the Supreme Court order dated February 22, 2017, in the Writ Petition (Civil) No 375 of 2012, against the state public sector undertaking (PSU) Bhavnagar Lignite Thermal Power Station (BLTPS) “for non-compliance of the major conditions of the environment clearance”, even as going ahead with lignite mining.

State polls: How Tamil Nadu governance has steeply fallen from lofty levels of Kamaraj

By NS Venkataraman*  Those living in Tamil Nadu in the age group of 65 plus , who have seen the type of quality governance that Kamaraj provided as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, now constantly regret that Tamil Nadu governance has steeply fallen in the last six decades from the lofty level to which Kamaraj raised it.

Journalists barred from temple on account of their religion, Press Council protests

Board barring Muslims' entry (left) by temple mahant (right)  By Our Representative  Two journalists from well-known news and current affairs portal “Millat Times”, which publishes everyday in Urdu, Hindi, and English, have been denied entry for coverage on account of their religion. Bringing this to light and taking strong exception to this, the Press Club of India (PCI) said, “This is singularly unfortunate”, and PCI “criticises the incident in the sharpest terms.”

Where are the ‘values’ in India's private varsities that the 2 professors talk about?

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The two inspiring thinkers left Ashoka University within two days, first Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta and followed by Professor Arvind Subramanian . Their resignations are based on the non-alignment of the values of the university in the recent time. Leaving a prestigious university based on the changing values of the university brings question in mind pertaining to, what/where are those ‘Values’ in the private universities in India that the two great Professors are talking about?

Poor conviction rate in child sex abuse: Top NGO to map targeted drive for 5000 cases

By Our Representative  The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is all set to launch the Justice For Every Child campaign, in which it has decided to intervene in 5,000 “strategic” Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases in 100 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC) at the district level, regretting that at 88.8% pendency as of today, if no new cases are added after 2019, “it will take 8.2 years to dispose of current POCSO cases in courts.”

Gathering 'storm' around Gujarat Dalit RTI activist's murder amidst official inertia

Jignesh Mevani paying homage to Amrabhai Boricha in Bhavnagar By Mahesh Trivedi*  Claiming to be harassed and humiliated by upper-caste men, Gujarat Dalits, forming about seven per cent of the state’s six crore plus population, appear all set to begin a fresh move to gird up their loins to take on the "oppression" they have been facing under the BJP rule.

Anti-untouchability move? Dalits to 'mint' brass coin to be laid beneath new Parliament

By Rajiv Shah Gujarat’s top Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, is all set to initiate a unique campaign under which families from different parts of the country will contribute a brass article or a utensil -- all of it will be melted and minted into a 1111 milligram diameter coin with the question engraved on it: Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be reality yin 2047?

Sabarmati riverfront's lake-like stagnant water 'ignores' Ahmedabad's climate, culture

Sabarmati's Stagnant water body  By Bernard Kohn*  The Sabarmati river is one of the major west-flowing rivers in India. It originates in the Aravalli Range of the Udaipur district of Rajasthan and meets the Gulf of Khambhat of Arabian Sea after travelling 371 km in a south-westerly direction across Rajasthan and Gujarat. Forty eight km of the river length is in Rajasthan, while 323 km is in Gujarat. The Sabarmati is a seasonal river whose flows are dominated by the monsoon, with little or no flow post monsoon.

How contractual sewer worker succumbed to his gruesome profession in Narela, Delhi

By Sanjeev Kumar*  Bijendra, aka Bobby, aged 47 lost his life doing a doleful job of cleaning the sewers at around 01:00p.m. in Pocket -3, Sector A-9 of Narela, Delhi on March 19, 2021. He had been in the profession for almost 10 years. He was the lone bread earner in his family and an only parent to his three minor daughters; after the death of his wife, approximately five years ago. Bijendra was accompanied by his colleague Vinod, alias Mota, to his daily work on 19th March, 2021. The work had been in progress for a couple of days under a private contractor named Manoj Sharma, who was given the contract by Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The workers had not been facilitated with any safety/protective equipment by their contractor. At the time of the incident, the two workers and the contractor were at the incident spot, who later was accompanied by the Action Officer Vinay Kumar from DDA. Vinod stated that they had opened two gutter lids, prior to opening the third one which led t

#BlackLivesMatter, anti-CAA stir, farmers’ protest: Lessons from global movements

By Simi Mehta, Anshula Mehta  There has been an exponential increase in protests around the world, and these have been hailed as the site for speaking truth to those in power. These global phenomena have a unifying symbolic representation. The question that persists is that do all these protest sites create the same impact on power? Do all these protest sites become harbingers to saving an ideal of democracy? Are their differences in perception, symbolism, the role of actors involved and the outcome? Should these movements be valorized and glamourized?

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Muslim boy denied water in temple part of 'culture' Dr Ambedkar fought in 1927

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A lot has been said about the barbaric incident of a Muslim boy being beaten, scolded and denied water to drink at a temple complex near Ghaziabad. Many people expressed shock and sorrow and rightly expressed solidarity with the boy. Many said that their 'Hinduism' does not reflect this and that they are ashamed of the incident. Many apologised that their idea of India was not this where an innocent boy is denied the right to drink water.

New labour reforms: What safety net for workers in urban informal economy?

By Arup Mitra, Mayumi Murayama*  Considerable overlaps exist between rural and urban poverty through migration and employment in the informal economy. However, several of the low-income households have been residing in the urban space for a very long time and it would be misleading to interpret them as a fresh spill-over from the rural areas. In fact, the elasticity of urban poverty with respect to rural poverty is very low. In spite of the fact that parts of the informal economy share close links with the formal sector, residual activities conducted on a large scale within the informal economy cannot be overlooked. Further, many of these low- income workers reside in slums and squatter settlements. Rural transformation has not been accompanied by the growth of demand induced activities. So, the rapid population movement from the rural space occurs in relation to the large cities, if not all the urban areas. But an exclusionary urban policy is not the right method of reducing the city

Another 5 years for Mamata despite 'little focus' on economy, development?

By NS Venkataraman*  I am not in politics. However, I am a close political observer for the last several years. I try to objectively analyse the movement of politics and politicians to the best of my ability, without having any prejudice or love or hate for any political outfit or political philosophy.

Paltry increase in NREGA wages, as tycoons get tax rebates, loan waiver: NGO network

By Our Representative  Well-known civil rights network NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, protesting “extremely paltry” increase in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), has said that the so-called rise has been effected despite the fact that the country’s economy has “still not fully recovered from the disruptions caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns imposed by the government last year”, and those who had migrated to their villages are failing to get job in cities or rural areas.

Privatisation push: Govt of India 'evading' responsibility towards marginalised women

Counterview Desk  Marking International Women’s Day and Savitri Bai Phule’s Death Anniversary, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which observed Feminist Week of Resistance and Reflections from March 7 March 14, has recalled “responsibility” of the state for ensuring the ‘basics’ (education, food, health, social security) for all, in a universal manner, but “especially for the most marginalized individuals and communities, which constitute a majority of our population.”

BJP 'cornered' 54% of all-India parties' assets, followed by Congress 17%: ADR

By Our Representative  Top advocacy group Association for Democratic Reforms' (ADR's) analysis of assets and liabilities of seven national parties has suggested that the highest assets for the FY 2018-19 were declared by BJP, amounting to Rs 2,904.18 crore (54.29% of the total), followed by the Indian National Congress (INC), which declared assets worth Rs 928.84 crore (17.36%) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) declared assets worth Rs 738 crore (13.80%).

Thrilled! Vishwa-Guru Bharat to 'teach' world to do lavish fairs for underprivileged

Prime Minister flagging off 75 week celebrations on March 12 By Dr Indira Hirway*  I am indeed very thrilled! India is fast moving towards becoming Vishwa-Guru! Our Prime Minister gave us this wonderful news while launching a 75 day, sorry 75 week, celebration of completing 75 years of our freedom on the March 12, 2021. The celebration will be organized at 75 places covering the entire country. He stated that India is fast moving towards becoming Vishwa-Guru, a teacher of the entire world, a leading light and a mentor of the world, and will soon shine as the Harbinger of Enlightenment in the world!

Lessons from BLM, Kashmir: Empowering youth in conflict zone, grassroots democracy

By Dr Nyla Ali Khan*  Considering electoral processes in my state of adoption, Oklahoma, are healthier than they are in my state of origin, Jammu and Kashmir, I remind millennials to identify important issues to them as voters, so they are inspired to make a significant difference by participating. I will not deny the feeling of hopelessness that sets in when one sees the implementation of an inequitable law or a policy that legitimizes the deployment of state violence. 

Kashmiri diaspora view: US can 'unlock' Afghan conflict via Indo-Pak truce on J&K

By Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai*  The Kashmir question is one of the oldest unresolved international problems in the world. The experience of nearly seven decades has shown that it will not go away and that an effort is urgently required to resolve it on a durable basis. ‘Durable’, in this context is synonymous with ‘equitable’. It is imperative, whatever be the rights and wrongs in the equation as far as arguments go, real populations with a pronounced sense of identity of their own, with their suffering and their aspirations rather than just legal title and merit are involved.

Home Ministry's criminal law reform seeks to 'stifle' dissent, undermine gender violence

Counterview Desk  In a detailed note to mark the International Women’s Day and the Savitri Bai Phule’s Death Anniversary as part of the Feminist Week of Resistance and Reflections (March 7 to March 14), the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), commenting on the gendered access to justice and law, has said that recent Government of India changes in legal frameworks, whether intended or already brought into existence, have been “unmindful” of the lived realities of marginalised sections.

Gujarat 'neglects' healthcare: Budget down from 5.54% to 4.98% despite 8% policy plea

By Mahender Jethmalani*  The Gujarat Finance Minister recently presented the state’s annual budget of Rs 2,27,029 crore for 2021-22. The budget for next financial year indicates an increase of Rs 22,003 crore (10.73%) from the revised estimates of 2020-21. The lockdown impact is quite visible on the expenditure budget of 2020-21, as the revised estimated expenditure would be Rs 2,05,026 crore, down by Rs 12,261 crore against the budget estimate of Rs. 2,17,287 crore in 2020-21.

Truth behind RSS claim: Did Hegdewar, Vajpayee participate in freedom movement?

By Ram Puniyani*  As RSS, the parent organization of the ruling BJP, has grown tremendously during the last few years, attempts are being made by ideologues from its stable to prove that it was a major player in the freedom struggle. Rakesh Sinha, a well-known RSS ideologue and currently BJP MP in Rajya Sabha, claims that the Civil Disobedience Movement was “invigorated” due to the participation of RSS founder KB Hedgewar.

'Shallow' promises in Punjab budget: Raw deal for social sector amidst rising debts

Manpreet Singh Badal, Finance Minister, Punjab By Dr Gian Singh*   The annual budget is a very small glimpse of government policies which is often deceptive. Significant changes are made to the government's revenue and spending policies in the budget due to political and many other calculations. With the passage of time, the economic condition of the State governments has been made very poor as compared to the Central government. The dependence of the State governments on the Central government in economic matters seems to be increasing day by day.

Govt of India goes ahead with 'deep-rooted' conspiracy to kill public sector banks

By Thomas Franco*  The Finance Minister recently announced that government business handled by the government banks, i.e. public sector banks, will also be provided to the private sector. Already certain government businesses have been slowly handed over to the new generation private banks. State bank of India (SBI) was handling 99% of the government business at one point in time. Now it has come down to 58%.

Following dictates of 'politicised' TUs? Going on strike, bank staff victims of herd mindset

By NS Venkataraman*  Bank unions announced strike on March 15-16 to protest against some policy issues. Their demands relate to the government decision to merge and privatize banks. It is not the first time that strikes have been organized on these issues.

Ciminalising 'tool' created, name: Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Rejitha Nair* The year 2021 in Gujarat opened its account with 647 alleged land grabbing cases under investigation, 16 FIRs filed against 34 land grabbers within 35 days of Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020 (GLGPA), as informed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Gujarat State, in a press conference on January 22, 2021. He further informed that of 647 alleged cases, 605 applications of land grabbing were received by different collectors who have initiated suo moto proceedings in 42 cases. The total land in these cases is estimated to be around 1.35 lakh square metre, worth Rs 220 crore as per jantri rates (ready reckoner of land prices in different parts of the state). By March 15, 2021, at least six even cases are before the Gujarat High Court. Of about 11 cases reported in the daily newspapers, in three cases, grabbing of government land is charged, and the rest are land disputes between two individuals. The promptness of the district collect

Top Brussels-based rights group seeks release of anti-Adani adivasi woman campaigner

Counterview Desk  Brussels-based non-profit Front Line Defenders has strongly demanded the release of Hidme Markam, an Adivasi-based human rights defender of Chhattisgarh, known to have been an intensive campaigner advocating for indigenous rights. An anti-mining campaigner, focusing on projects led by large corporations such as Adani Pvt Ltd, which allegedly threaten to destroy a sacred Adivasi hill, considered a local deity by the community, she was arrested by police on March 9 when she was celebrating International Women’s Day.

HSBC shareholders seek exit from funding Adani's 'contentious' Australian coalmine

By Our Representative  In a move that may embarrass India's top business house known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shareholders of HSBC, a British multinational investment bank, the largest in Europe with total assets of US$2.715 trillion, are likely to decide at its AGM on May 28, 2021 a plan to exit coal financing related to the Adani Group, as it begins digging the Carmichael mega coal mine in Australia, reports Melbourne-based South Asia Times.