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Showing posts from November, 2023

Big machines, experts 'can't tame' Himalayas: Big lesson from Silkyara tunnel collapse

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*   The safe return of the 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel near Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand is a matter of great satisfaction for the entire nation. Kudos to all those involved in the rescue operation for the last 17 days! The tale must have been horrifying, but the way we saw the smiling workers coming out, reflected their energy level despite all odds. Yes, in one sentence, these are the sons of the soil, who toil hard to make our lives better.

Stands 'exposed': Cavalier attitude towards rushed construction of Char Dham project

By Bharat Dogra*  The nation heaved a big sigh of relief when the 41 workers trapped in the under-construction Silkyara-Barkot tunnel (Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand) were finally rescued on November 28 after a 17-day rescue effort. All those involved in the rescue effort deserve a big thanks of the entire country. The government deserves appreciation for providing all-round support.

In a first, ex-BJP CM brings 'warring' Congress, AAP Gujarat Adivasi leaders on one platform

Counterview Desk  In an interesting development, former Gujarat BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta brought together Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tribal leaders of the eastern tribal belt on one platform to claim that under the BJP rule in the state Adivasis are being pushed to the margins because of large scale siphoning off of funds meant for the scheduled tribes, comprising nearly 17% of the state population.

Union Health Ministry, FSSAI 'fail to respond' to NHRC directive on packaged food

By Our Representative  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the adverse health effects caused by packaged foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Recognizing it as a violation of the Right to Life and Right to Health of Indian citizens, the quasi-judicial body called for a response from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding its selection of front-of-pack labels aimed at providing consumers with information to make healthier choices.

UN nuclear chief 'ignoring' huge costs for India, neighbours in the event of a mishap

By Shankar Sharma*  The UN nuclear chief has said that nuclear energy must be part of the equation to tackle climate change. Keen observers of the nuclear power industry will find this continued advocacy of nuclear power as a solution to climate change as bizarre and against the true interest of humanity; because there have been no credible argument in favor of such an advocacy, and because the numerous associated concerns raised by civil society groups from around the world have not been addressed by any credible agency yet.

Crackdown on Chhatisgarh tribal protestors a 'carpet security' for mining operation

Counterview Desk  The civil rights group, Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), even as condemning the District Reserve Guards' (DRG's) alleged attack on protestors at the Orcha Nadia Par, Narayanpur, Chhattisgarh, has said that the "militarization" of the region is "closely tied to the corporate loot of people’s resources by crushing people’s democratic resistance against it".

POCSO victim 'taken handcuffed' to court: Madras HC 'must take suo moto cognisance'

Henri Tiphagne By Our Representative  Henri Tiphagne, director of the human rights organisation People’s Watch, based in Madurai, has taken strong exception to a woman constable taking a 15-year-old Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act victim to the court handcuffed to record a statement. The victim, said Tiphagne in a complaint to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, was accompanied by a woman police constable from Annai Sathya Home to the magistrate court in Kotagiri to record a statement under section 164. The woman police constable took the victim in a bus to Kotagiri from Ooty.

China now 'sole challenger' to IMF, World Bank, other global lenders to poor nations

By John P Ruehl*  In October 2023, amid celebrations commemorating the 10th anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing, Pakistan and Chinese leaders signed a multibillion-dollar deal for a railway project. As a pivotal component of China’s efforts to promote economic integration and develop infrastructure abroad, Pakistan has received significant developmental assistance from Beijing through the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

Is India emulating west, 'using' anti-terror plank to justify state-supported violence?

Fahad Ahmad, Baljit Nagra*  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused India of being involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader, on Canadian soil. Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Indian government is defiant and denies involvement. Indian officials have instead admonished Canada for being a “ safe haven ” for Sikh “terrorism,” a pejorative for Sikh self-determination .

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Four years gone, yet transgender rights law 'failing to offer' gender-affirming services

Counterview Desk   The All-India Feminist Forum, an ally of the top civil society network National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), in a statement on the occasion of the Transgender Day of Remembrance*, has regretted that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in August 2019 with “insufficient consultation” with transgender persons and groups despite “multiple protests highlighting some key problems”, particularly the issue of self-determination.

'Fewer opportunities': Why Indian girls appear to be less engaged in politics than boys

By Sara Wilf*  Girls in India report being less interested and engaged in politics than boys and cite fewer opportunities to participate in politics, we found in a recent survey of youth across India . Further, although political interest and engagement was higher for older boys (ages 18-22) than younger boys (ages 14-17), girls’ political interest and engagement stagnated across age groups.

How national chauvinism 'overtook' sport despite cricketing glory of World Cup 2023

By Harsh Thakor*  The recently-concluded cricket World Cup was a testimony or manifestation of the thrills, intensity, twists and turns in sport and evolution of the game of cricket. It carried on the trend of the World Cups of yesteryears. Possibly, this was the best ever Indian team in a World Cup, and arguably amongst the best ever to contest a World Cup.

'A most unlikely Gandhi fan': Ex-Hamas chief who addressed online meeting in Kerala

By Sandeep Pandey*  There was much hullabaloo about former Hamas chief Khaled Meshal addressing an online meeting in Kerala during the ongoing Israeli war on Palestine provoked by a Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, 2023. Hamas is described as a terrorist organization by Israel as well as United States even though it came to power in Gaza through elections. US-Israel refuse to have any dealing with it, instead preferring the relatively moderate Fatah which rules West Bank under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. 

Covid response? How, gripped by fear and groupthink, scientists 'failed' children

By Bhaskaran Raman*  “Today’s children are tomorrow’s future”, “Nurture children’s dreams”, “A child’s smile is sunlight”. These are some cliches, rendered rather uninspiring through repetition and obviousness. However, for nearly 2½ years, society forgot these cliches, children suffered as science failed and groupthink prevailed. Worse, all of this has been swept under the rug.

Authorities 'use' choppers for crack down, whisk away Gadchiroli anti-mine protesters

By Our Representative  The civil rights network*, Forum against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), claiming to be a joint platform of progressive organizations and individuals, has demanded “immediately release" of eight arrested activists of Damkondawahi, Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, rounded up for protesting against expansion of a major mining operation.

What happens when cricket is turned into 'dharmayudh' between India and others

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  India ‘lost’ the World Cup. Winning or losing is part of the game, but what happens when the game becomes part of the political propaganda and the audiences are not sports lovers but fans who hate others? An Uttar Pradesh daily gave a headline for the final game as ‘dharmyudh’.   The game of cricket is being used for political purpose. As cricket is a powerful business in the country, every non-playing dignitary in the game earns much bigger sum than the player. 

Mumbai cops 'intimidate' minority youth, esp girls, protesting Palestinian kids killing

Counterview Desk  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Maharashtra, condemning the illegal detention of peaceful protestors, harassment and filing of criminal case against 13 people in connection with a peaceful prayer gathering in Mumbai to commemorate the children killed in Palestine on the occasion of Children’s day, has insisted, "Democracy demands that right to protest be protected not punished."

Vadodara school kids celebrate Constitution amidst grim realities of injustice, inequity

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Rosary School in Vadodara, Gujarat, is one of the premier educational institutions of the State. It is co-educational and run by the Society of Jesus. It caters to about 2,300 students from all walks of life. The School that was begun in 1935, provides quality education to make students women and men ‘for others’!

India's failure? G20 ignored food insecurity, economic inequality, ecological destruction

By Joe Athialy, Praskanva Sinharay  The 18th G20 Leaders’ Summit, under India’s Presidency, concluded with the adoption of the New Delhi Declaration. In the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and a “ new cold war ” between the US and China, there was much uncertainty about the possibility of a consensus among the G20 leaders.

Right-wing 'push' for one official language behind move to change India to Bharat

By Phillip M Carter*  When India invited delegates attending the G20 summit in September 2023 to dinner with “ the President of Bharat ,” rather than “the President of India,” it may have looked to the world like a simple case of postcolonial course correction. The word “India” is, after all, an exonym – a placename given by outsiders. In this case, the name came from the British, who ruled the subcontinent from 1858 to 1947, a violent period of colonialism that later came to be called “the British Raj.” “Bharat,” on the other hand, is the word for “India” in Hindi, by far the most spoken language in the nation . Alongside English, Hindi is one of two languages used in the Indian Constitution , with versions written in each language. “Bharat” may, therefore, look like a well-reasoned and uncontroversial replacement for a term anointed long ago by outsiders – something akin to how Eswatini , Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso updated their countries’ names from the colonial designations “Swa

Rare parliamentarian who 'thoroughly studied' socio-economic impact of GM crops

By Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi, Nivedita*  Recently, Basudeb Acharia, former Member of Parliament, passed away . He left behind a legacy of scientific approach to the difficult question of deciding on GM crops. Contrary to the popular misconception about politicians in general, the Parliamentary Committee headed by him worked on GM crops like a bunch of scientists and at the end of it emerged as experts. This report stands out as the finest piece of Parliamentary work on science and business related questions.

Home Again at Kollappaly: Cooking, cleaning, gardening, taking care of mental illness

By Rosamma Thomas*  Mareeshwari, Mariamma, Daisy, Jaya and Lilykutty are middle-aged women who share a home in Chaitanya Residency, Kottappaly, Kerala. Living with them is a much younger Shebil, who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from a local institute. The women have all been former residents of Maria Sadanam in Pala, about 8 km from their current home.

How 2003 Mumbai suicide by Dalvi and Khan triggered struggle against contract labour

  By Harsh Thakor  Last month, on October 3rd, 2023 we commemorated the 20th anniversary of Anant Dalvi and Akhtar Khan who martyred themselves by committing suicide in protest. Their suicide manifested the struggle of the workers against the barbaric contract system. Today, thousands of workers are trapped by the tyranny of the contract system, worldwide.  Khan and Dalvi symbolized the dreams of hundreds of workers in India and the world. Above all it was the bondage of a Hindu and a Muslim worker who were martyred together, so it also symbolised banner against Hindutva protagonists.  I was privileged to be participant in many of the significant protests and campaigns which still shimmer in my memories, like an unfading light.

Why there's no justification for Hamas attack on Israeli civilians: Osama letter explained

By Bharat Dogra*  Whenever highly unjust violence is unleashed on some people, there can be calls for revenge violence. However, as the big ones responsible for the initial violence may be beyond the reach of the victims, it is quite possible that they end up targeting those who are easier to attack, in the process perhaps killing entirely innocent persons. This can lead to a cycle of indiscriminate violence in which many innocent lives will be lost.

US fashion industry’s ‘empty promise’: Living wages for Bangladesh garment workers

By Sonali Kolhatkar*  ’Tis the season for holiday shopping, and as American consumers ready their spending dollars, few of us are likely to link our gift buying to the high cost of low prices on the other side of the planet. This is especially true for what has come to be known as “ fast fashion ,” the clothing equivalent of a Big Mac: attractive, affordable, and throwaway.

Bangladesh is 'burning', yet India continues to engage with the Hasina government

Sheikh Hasina, Khaleda Zia By Nava Thakuria*  The ground situation in Bangladesh remains disturbing as the opposition parties continue demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which she has already rejected outright. The political opponents have threatened to boycott the forthcoming national election due in January next year and pronounced nationwide protest demonstrations and blockades across the south Asian country.

Uttarakhand tunnel disaster: 'Question mark' on rescue plan, appraisal, construction

By Bhim Singh Rawat*  As many as 40 workers were trapped inside Barkot-Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi after a portion of the 4.5 km long, supposedly completed portion of the tunnel, collapsed early morning on Sunday, Nov 12, 2023. The incident has once again raised several questions over negligence in planning, appraisal and construction, absence of emergency rescue plan, violations of labour laws and environmental norms resulting in this avoidable accident.

Karnataka rainfall shortage 'not a rarity'. Needed proper energy conservation policy

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding a few serious problems facing the people of Karnataka, which needs urgent and serious attention of the state government. The larger issues are the serious rainfall deficit in the monsoon season this year, and the consequent crippling power shortage. Many recent developments, as highlighted in some of the news links below, should be seen as valid and serious concerns, and also as some of the feasible options for the state to satisfactorily address the life threatening concerns for our people.

Govt of India's 'dubious' Electoral Bonds sale move after EC's Model Code advisory

By Rosamma Thomas*  Commodore Lokesh Batra, veteran of the Indian Navy who has consistently campaigned for transparency in decision-making by the government, in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on November 14, 2023, pointed to the violation of the Model Code of Conduct by the Union government in announcing the sale of electoral bonds between November 6 and 20, 2023.

Used for checking corruption, irregularities for 15 yrs, RTI being turned into 'dead letter law'

By Bharat Dogra*  "People of this country have a right to know every public act, everything done in a public way, by their public functionary. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing." -- Justice Mathew, Supreme Court of India, in State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narain, 1975. "No democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of the government... that an open society is the new democratic culture towards which every liberal democracy is moving. Our society should be no exception." -- Justice PN Bhagwati, Supreme Court of India, in SP Gupta vs Union of India, 1981. "The citizen's right to know the facts about the administration of the country is thus one the pillars of a democratic state. And that is why the demand for openness in the government is increasingly growing in different parts of the w

High demand for thermal power result of 'not having' diligently prepared energy policy

By Shankar Sharma*  What a great scenario is emerging in our country! At a time when the global society is making efforts to reduce the GHG emissions by actively pursuing the path of accelerated reduction of fossil fuel burning, our government seems to be taking pride in adding massive coal power capacities (See 12 GW thermal power by next year to meet high demand, says RK Singh ). And the vastly unsubstantiated reason given is the "high demand".

Proposed Modi yatra from Jharkhand an 'insult' of Adivasi hero Birsa Munda: JMM

Counterview Desk  The civil rights network, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM), which claims to have 30 grassroots groups under its wings, has decided to launch Save Democracy campaign to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Vikasit Bharat Sankalp Yatra to be launched on November 15 from the village of legendary 19th century tribal independence leader Birsa Munda from Ulihatu (Khunti district).

Scrap 'deal' to send Indian workers to Israel for replacing Palestinians: Central TUs

By Our Representative    The Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and Independent Federations/ Associations*, opposing the alleged move to export Indian workers to Israel to replace Palestinian workers, has said that the move signifies the Modi government’s unethical and duplicitous stand on Israel, which is "shamelessly escalating its genocidal attack against Palestinians, rejecting appeals by the UNO or even their masters, the USA for a ceasefire".

India taking 'devastating' route as Sri Lanka regrets walking on slippery palm oil path

By Bharat Dogra*  The Indian government first made a big mistake by getting highly dependent on imported palm oil to meet its edible oil needs, despite having a rich and diverse heritage of traditional oilseeds. Instead of correcting this mistake by increasing the production of traditional oilseeds which are rich in nutrition and well-integrated in local cropping patterns, the Indian government is making a second big mistake by taking up a massive plantation of palm oil trees spread over several hundred thousand hectares in biodiversity rich areas like the North-East.

AstraZeneca (Covishield) sued over ‘defective’ vaccine: Some uncomfortable questions

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  A couple of lawsuits in the UK high court are making the headlines in the leading British Newspaper “The Telegraph.” These landmark cases revolve around concerns over the adverse effects, including death, from the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. The lawsuits claim that the efficacy of the vaccine was overrated and the adverse effects downplayed.

Forest Man who built forest one-and-a-half times the size of New York City’s Central Park

By Prantik Deka  This is a remarkable story of a man whose extraordinary vision allowed him to see the forest for the trees. Over the span of 40 years, Jadav Payeng has dedicated his life to nurturing and transforming a once barren wasteland in Assam's Jorhat district into a lush green forest reserve teeming with animals, birds and insects of all kinds.

Brahmin by birth, Communist by disposition, Varavara's poems reflect soul of oppressed

By Harsh Thakor*  Varavara Rao was born in 1940 and became an established poet in his early teens. At the age of 17 years, he was published in the journal called “Telugu Swatantrata”, which gave him status as a modern poet. At 18, he wrote ‘Don’t Fear, Dawn Will Break’ which was considered one of his best poems. At 26, he started a journal called “Modern Literature in Telugu”. His first poetry collection came out in 1968. Since then, around 17 volumes of poetry have come out.

IIM-A survey 'debunks' GoI claim, says: Sales, profits of Indian firms remain subdued

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's (IIM-A's) latest round of Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has found that sales and profit margins of Indian businesses have remained subdued despite tall claims by the Government of India (GoI) that the Indian economy doing well even as world is going in wrong direction.

Beijing's 'big concern': Threat to China’s export-led economic model, manufacturing

By John P Ruehl*  The 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing on October 18, 2023, witnessed the usual smiles and handshakes. But China’s economic landscape, dependent on robust supply chain networks, is facing turbulent times. The U.S.-led trade war had already disrupted Chinese industry and supply chains before the COVID-19 pandemic further backlogged ports and exacerbated disruptions. The Biden administration has meanwhile continued to expand policies restricting China’s access to the U.S. market and technologies , including new restrictions on advanced chip exports announced just one day before the BRI summit .

Chilly winter awaits thousands of homeless households following Himalayan disasters

By Bharat Dogra* Starting from Delhi on a hot afternoon, I could feel the first chill of cold weather on reaching the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh in the evening. Winter has arrived early here, I felt. By the time I was resting in my home, I could not manage without a sweater and a quilt.

War on Gaza 'stalls' New Delhi G-20-agreed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor

By Vijay Prashad*  On September 9, 2023, during the G20 meeting in New Delhi, the governments of seven countries and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding to create an India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor. Only three of the countries (India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates or the UAE) would be directly part of this corridor, which was to begin in India, go through the Gulf, and terminate in Greece.

Stubble burning choking Delhi? But why none is talking of highly polluted Yamuna water?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  As the #Diwali festival comes nearer, sarkari environmentalists get active in Delhi about the 'state of air pollution' in the National Capital Region. The darbaris had been busy in 'reporting' from Israel but now they have got enough matter of 'public importance' to report.

Depleting city green spaces, forests, water bodies, urban farming causing Delhi pollution

By Sandeep Chachra*  As the air pollution levels escalate in Delhi and the National Capital Region, it is vital to understand the weight of the impact – a silent but substantial toll that Delhi residents are paying with an estimated loss of 10% of their lives, equivalent to 12 years.

Legendary Bhupen Hazarika’s 70s hit ‘Auto-Rickshaw Chalao…’ gets new video release

By Prantik Deka  The iconic Assamese song ‘Auto-Rickshaw Chalao Ami Duyu Bhai’, written and composed by legendary musician Dr Bhupen Hazarika, has been given a new lease of life with the release of a music video.

CAG officials 'exposing' govt misdeeds being transferred out to punishment posts: CCG

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to the President of India, focusing on concerns about the autonomy of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), 86 signatories belonging to the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), have said that the working of the CAG appears to have slowed down, and that the organisation, despite detection of flaws in expenditure by the government, is reluctant to present these to Parliament and make information public.

Intensified repression in UP? Cops, ABVP 'attack' BHU anti-sexual assault protest

Counterview Desk  Civil rights network Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)* statement condemning "the joint attack by police and the BJP's student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)" on Benaras Hindu University (BHU) students protesting against sexual assault in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-BHU. Text:  On 5th November 2023, students at Benaras Hindu University (BHU) have been met with naked oppression from the joint forces of the police and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), during the course of a protest being waged by the students against the sexual assault of a student of IIT-BHU and institutional apathy and disregard towards rampant manifestations of Brahmanical patriarchy. The incident, which took place on 2nd November was met with cold responses not just from the university administration but also from the police and other state institutions. Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh is no different from the central Narendra Modi gover