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Showing posts from October, 2015

Half of India's health facilities have no access to electricity: World Bank report on "ease" of doing business

By Rajiv Shah
Even as ranking India 130th in the ease of doing business among 189 countries, up from 134th a year ago, the latest World Bank report, “Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency” has quietly suggested that all’s not well on the social front in India. It has pointed towards “unreliable electricity supply”, which has adverse “consequences for a society’s well-being and living conditions.”
Comparing India with Kenya, the report states, “25% of health facilities in Kenya can count on a reliable power supply” , and suggests India not far behind (page 72 of the 338-page report.
“In India nearly half of health facilities have no access to electricity at all”, the report insists, adding, “Most public services are compromised when power shuts down. And outages can pose a threat to personal safety—such as by putting out streetlights and traffic lights and by disabling burglar alarms in homes.”
Interestingly, the World Bank remark has been made alongside its eff…

Land ceiling bill meant to "help" industrialists set up shop, easily sell land: Internal Gujarat govt note

By Rajiv Shah
An internal Gujarat government note, prepared by the state revenue department and in possession of Counterview, has admitted that the recent amendments to the state’s land various ceiling Acts are meant to “enable the industrialist to speedily establish industry”, in such a way that the industrialist could “purchase” the land for industrial purpose “without prior permission of the district collector.”
In order to do this, it said, it has amended Section 63 AA of Mumbai Tenancy Administration and Agriculture Land Act, 1948; Section 55 of Saurashtra Gharkhed, Tenancy Administration and Agriculture Land Act, 1949; and Section 89-A of Mumbai Tenancy Administration and Agriculture Land (Vidarbh Pradesh and Kutch region), 1958.
The amendments await President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee’s nod before they could become legal entities. The Gujarat governor refused to sign the amendments, and instead sent them to the Government of India for approval, as they invited wide-scale criticism o…

India "improved" in Global Hunger Index in 2005-14, though inter-state differences remain: Top study

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, “2015 Global Hunger Index” has ranked India No 80th of 117 countries selected for calculating global hunger index (GHI). While this is better than Pakistan (No 93), this is no consolation, as it India’s ranking has been found to be lower than the other important neighbouring countries – China (No 21), Nepal (No 58), Sril Lanka (No 69), and Bangladesh (No 73).
Prepared by three western institutes, Concern Worldwide, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Welthungerhilfe, the report maps global hunger levels and identifies the improvements or the deterioration of food security in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, even as pointing out that there is a “complex relationship between hunger and conflict.” 
Pointing out that GHI is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally, regionally, and by country, the report has looked into four major issues while calculating GHI:
· the proportion of undernourishe…

New Gujarat land law triggers fears among farmers in state

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015, unanimously passed in the two-day monsoon session of the Gujarat state assembly – after Congress MLAs were suspended for creating a “ruckus” – is finally beginning to get national attention. The Bill is lying with President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, awaiting his final nod after the Gujarat governor, O.P. Kohli, sent it to Delhi for approval. According to sources, the risk-averse Kohli felt that its provisions needed “Central scrutiny”.
Gujarat Congress leaders met the President recently, asking him not give sign the Bill. They allege that it seeks to “hand over” surplus land – acquired during the land reforms days of the 1960s but lying idle since then – to industry and not to landless and marginal peasants. Taking a similar line, Gujarat-based farmer activists have begun pointing towards how the Bill seeks to do away with the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960, whose main purpose was to distribute surpl…

Gujarat land bill: Only surplus land in urban bodies to be "acquired", as it "can't be used for agriculture"

By Rajiv Shah
Contradicting the claims of Gujarat-based activists and the Opposition Congress, a senior Gujarat government bureaucrat has told Counterview that main purpose of controversial the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015 “is to transfer surplus land, lying idle, within municipal corporation and municipality bodies, for public purpose”, and “not to take away land meant for Dalits, tribals and other marginalized groups, as is being made out.”
Sharply reacting to the critical view taken on the Bill, the bureaucrat, who was involved in drafting it, but refused to be named, said, the term “public purpose” is pretty well-defined – “it does not mean handing over land to any industrial house, as is being made out, but to transfer the idle land for, say, creating a solid waste recycling site.”
The bill is currently lying with the President of India for his final nod after the Gujarat governor decided not to sign it, apparently taking note of the possibilities of …

Govt of India order "prohibits" foreign-funded NGO trustees to work as independent mediapersons

By Rajiv Shah
It is now official. In what may be interpreted as yet another attack on the free functioning of non-government organizations (NGOs) in India, the Government of India has expressed the view, in black and white, that the trustees of society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, and receiving foreign contribution under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), cannot be allowed to work as independent mediapersons.
This has come to light in one of the several objections raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, regarding reasons given to prominent human rights activist Teesta Setalvad on why MHA has decided to suspend FCRA license of Sabrang Trust, which she heads along with her husband, Javed Anand.
The MHA objection, in its order dated September 9, 2015, quotes the FCRA, 2010 to say that trustee of such an NGO is “prohibited” to be a “correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, owner, printer or publisher or owner”.
Referring to Teest…

Gujarati classic Saraswatichandra, an accomplished literary work, now in English

By Rajiv Shah
India's pioneering literary classic in Gujarati, “Saraswatichandra”, is finally available in English. Translated by well-known Gandhi expert Tridip Suhrud, who has been instrumental in implementing one of the most ambitious projects of digitizing the entire Gandhi heritage, Suhrud terms the late 19th century novel by Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi as ranking among the “most accomplished literary works” of India.
Running into four volumes, Govardhanram began writing the novel in 1885, with its last, fourth part having been published in 1901. Running into 1,700 pages, Suhrud told Counterview, he translated the classic, because “for 128 years we in Gujarat had not done so", despite the fact that “it is the most important literary work of Gujarati language.”
While the first volume is out and has been published by Orient Black Swan, the other three volumes – which are at the editing stage – will be out over the next about one and a half years. The first volume runs i…

Gandhi opposed ban on cow slaughter, Ambedkar wrote it was common practice in ancient India

By Rajiv Shah
At a time when lynching of Mohamad Ashfaq on the “suspicion” of keeping beef in his refrigerator is sought to be justified by powerful politicians of the country, facts have come to light suggesting that two of the most important pillars of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi and Baba Ambedkar, opposed ban on cow slaughter tooth and nail.
Speaking at a prayer meeting in Delhi on July 25, 1947, Gandhi said he would advise thousands of those who had written to Rajendra Prasad demanding a ban on cow-slaughter not to “waste money”, as their postcards, letters and telegrams  had had “no effect” (click HERE to read the full text).
Referring to a telegram he received “which says that a friend has started a fast for this cause”, Gandhi insisted, “In India no law can be made to ban cow-slaughter”, underlining, “I shall suggest that the matter should not be pressed in the Constituent Assembly.” The Constituent Assembly, under Ambedkar’s chairmanship, was then already involved in the onero…

Gujarat cops' confinement in garage for 16 hrs "symptomatic" of brewing rebellion among junior men, women in khaki

By Nachiketa Desai and Rajiv Shah
The recent incident, in which an additional director general of police (ADGP) of Gujarat locked up 17 policemen in his garage for more than 16 hours without water, food and electricity to ‘teach them a lesson’ for being “lax in carrying out domestic work” is being interpreted among official circles in Gujarat Sachivalaya as a symptom of brewing rebellion among the women and men in khaki.
The policemen were freed them state director general of police (DGP) PC Thakur rushed two senior IPS officers to rescue them from the garage. Those who were locked up by Vipul Vijoy, a 1983 batch IPS officer, in the garage of his official bungalow situated within the Police Training College in Karai, off Gandhinagar, included one sub-inspector, 12 assistant sub-inspectors and four police drivers.
The cops were locked following “some altercation over doing work sluggishly”, following which the ADGP ordered them to go inside the garage and locked them up, sources in the P…