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Showing posts from 2016

Notebandhi is nasbandi of fastest growing economy in world, will not produce any long-term benefits

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By Kiran Pandit*
If the objective of the government was to fight corruption then very clearly notebandhi (demonetization) will not hurt corruption. How do pink coloured notes prevent babus and politicians from not accepting bribes?
Black money that is in our system is not corruption. Demonetization may reduce black money, there maybe more money coming into the banks and people will resort to cashless transactions. That's fine. But how does this make the corrupt honest?

Demonetization: In Modi's home state, a tribal sold 10 kg brinjal for Rs 10

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By Akash Kumar*
It is already more than a month, and you can still see queues outside of banks and ATMs. The demon of demonetization is still hunting crores of people in India. Everyday changing goals, from black money to cashless economy, providing new withdraw and deposit limits, government mvoes are shocking common people. The fascist nature of the government is throwing crores of common, marginalized people into misery.

Demonetization: Millions of man hours on queues, 100+ deaths. Why punish 96% of people for crimes done by 4%?

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By Ujjwal K Chowdhury*
Let us not fool ourselves and ask the following questions or look into the following issues:
(A) Around 12 lakh crores of 14 lakh crores of demonetized money has come back to RBI and with 20 days to go more. At least 1 lakh crore or more will return. Then there is some money already with RBI from the earlier notes. So where is the black money and counterfeit notes gone? Or have they become white?
(B) It is obvious that less than 10% of the black money was held in cash. Some say only 6%. Above fact shows it.

A clarion call to decide on comprehensive agenda to achieve sovereign rights over forests, its natural resources

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The land rights movement, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), has organized a march to Parliament on December 15 seeking implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. A BAA note: 
Sovereign Rights over natural resources in the forest region have always remained a core demand of forest dwelling communities since the colonial days when British colonial power imposed its forcible authority over all natural resources, thus denying the traditional symbiotic relationship between communities and forest resources.

Nonviolence is the way, something we should begin to put into practice both individually and collectively

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By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
Violence continues to throttle several parts of the world: in the past few days, bombings in Istanbul, Turkey and in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt; the escalation of violence in Aleppo Syria -- are just some of the violent acts which have resulted in several deaths and many more injuries. In some places violence has become a way of life, highly institutionalised; little children grow up on stories of war, of how the ‘enemy’ needs to be dealt with.

Decline of human rights protection regime: Why Chhattisgarh officials may never appear before NHRC

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By Pushkar Raj*
The recent summoning of Chhattisgarh officials by the National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC) for abuse of power is significant due to the expectations from human rights protection institutions in the country to deliver on their mandate.

Jayalalitha and Dravidian movement: How politics in Tamil Nadu became art of managing contradictions

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By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Many in media were shocked to see the last remains of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha being buried and not cremated as per the Hindu customs. Actually, the hype of media reached its crescendo and they were well prepared for a grand brahmanical ceremony, but unfortunately their wish could not be fulfilled.

Project Remonetisation: Apogee of divisiveness amidst effort to paint Dubaiesque picture of India Rising

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By Shantanu Basu*
In the myth-making, politics and economics of Project Remonetisation, all cash outside the banking system have earned the dubious moniker of being ‘black’. Nowhere in sight of discussion are fundamental issues of the future control of citizens’ moneys and their security, costs of currency replacement, legality and necessity, even constitutionality and limitations. Instead Indians are beamed TV images of Chief Vitalstatistix astride his throne, carried aloft by his minions, while holding the Roman Empire (of evil) at bay.

Castro: In lieu of a tribute

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By Rajiv Shah
It was August first week, 1985. Strictly speaking, this my first foreign trip. Earlier, in late 1960s, I had been to Nepal in a school tour, but that was hardly foreign. I was sent to Havana by my bosses in “Patriot”, the former Delhi-based pro-Soviet daily, to cover world indebtedness conference, called by Cuba’s supreme leader Fidel Castro. This was my first assignment; the effort, apparently, was to ascertain if I could be transferred to the news bureau from the desk.
A semi-communist then, I held Castro in high esteem, and I was actually quite excited. Hardly a photographer, I even carried with me to Havana a heavy Nikon SLR, which my maternal uncle, settled in US – Bharat Kinariwala, 90, professor-emeritus at Hawaii University – had given me. I had hardly put to it any use till then. I was sure, I would be able to click some photographs of Castro, which I proudly did, after borrowing a zoom lens from a reluctant photographer in the press gallery.
Castro threw a hug…

To these professionals, Modi is a "nation builder", as if this is happening for the first time in independent India

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By Sanjiv Bhatt*
There’s something to be said about Narendra Modi. Though he is a photoshopped demagogue, he has been able to dumb down the minds of people who I (mistakenly) thought would be able to have a more discerning sense of what’s going on. What I see now is a shocking case of brain meltdown. These people are not the street ruffians of the VHP.
They are also, at least ostensibly not, RSS brown shirts. They are professionally qualified people, with good life skills, and also reasonably honest in what they do with some sense of what constitutes ethical behaviour and practice In their respective professions. What beats me is the way in which these people have swallowed Modi’s hogwash hook, line, and sinker.

Demonetizing Rs 500 and 1,000 notes will lead to decrease in purchases, profits, investment, income

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By Hemantkumar Shah*
The decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from currency is a macho decision by the government which will have no positive impact on Indian economy.
(1) In 1978, a similar decision was taken by the Morarji Desai government. But the black money volume increased. It did not reduce. A same result will be there this time, too.
(2) In 1978, hardly 10% of people were using these notes. At present, almost all people use these notes. So they will be harassed for exchange.

Dismantling democracy: Today it’s not merely writing on the wall; freedoms are curtailed, dissidence quashed

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By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
The way Fatima, the mother of Najeeb Ahmed (#najeebahmed) the missing JNU student was treated on November 6, 2016 evening by the Delhi Police was just appalling. She was at a rally peacefully protesting with several others about the mysterious disappearance of her son. They were demanding that the Police and the Central Government need to do much more to trace Najeeb. The rally was disbanded by the police. There is enough of evidence (viral on social media) to show how Fatima was dragged, manhandled and detained by the police. Several other protestors (including students) were also detained.
This is not the first incident happening this past week. Some opposition political leaders who were protesting the death of a retired soldier were also arrested and were made to stop their protests. The son of the soldier who had gone to meet these leaders was beaten up by the police.

Bellicose BJP and antsy AAP: Why Kejriwal's "surgical strikes" earned the ire of panick-stricken Gujarat rulers

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By RK Misra*
Cats stalk quietly and wolves prey in packs but why is the behemoth of a BJP getting paranoid over antsy Aam Admi Party (AAP) and barking up all manner of trees?
Quite simply, because it’s iron clasp grip on Gujarat is slipping and a queasy national party leadership is stuck for options to reverse the trend.

Execution is a terrorist's tool, stop cycle of violence: World Coalition Against Death Penalty

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By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
‘Execution is a terrorist's tool: Stop the cycle of violence’, screams a powerful poster brought out by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (www.worldcoalition.org) for the World Day against the Death Penalty , October 10, 2016! The focus this year is on ‘terrorism’ and whether the death penalty is actually a deterrent to an act of terrorism.

How Gujarat government refused to make public inquiry commission report on corruption

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ByRajiv Shah
It was February 2011. I was in the Gujarat state assembly, covering routine House proceedings. Mostly boring, as after sitting for the whole day, I wouldn’t get a story worth reporting, except for the usual BJP-Congress duels, which seemed to be happening more according to a written script. On one of these days, a good friend, Mahinder Jethmlani, running Pathey Budget Centre, a small state budget analysis centre in Ahmedabad, reached up to me with a colourful four-page folder.
It was the summary of a report prepared by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), Delhi, which qualified Gujarat as the most transparent of the 10 states had it surveyed. Titled “Transparency in State Budgets in India”, it gave a score of 61.7 to Gujarat for budget transparency, as against the average of 51.6 for the 10 states it surveyed. The score of other state was Madhya Pradesh (60.2), Andhra Pradesh (51.8), Chhattisgarh (56.1), Odisha (52.6), Assam (51.1), Jharkhand (48.4)…

Proposed legislation suspends all civil rights, gives police unbridled powers to arrest anyone ‘on suspicion’

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By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The Government of Gujarat continues to be on the offensive. Unable to deal with growing unrests and protests on several fronts, it has decided to unleash another draconian law called the Gujarat Protection of Internal Security Act (GPISA). Apparently, a draft is now ready and the Bill is expected to be tabled in the State Assembly at the next budget session.
The provisions of the forthcoming law are draconian on several counts; they negate the fundamental rights of citizens and go against the grain and spirit of the Constitution of India!

Need of the hour is to leave the nitty-gritty of the country's foreign affairs to professionally trained diplomats

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By Rajiv Sharma*
In the most deplorable attack that has shaken every Indian, Pakistan sponsored terrorists killed 17 soldiers of Indian Army and injured more than 30 in Uri in Kashmir today. Modi has made a routine statement that those behind the attack will not go unpunished. Others have also condemned strongly. But the question that demands immediate answer is that how Pakistan could dare to unleash such a big attack on our Army?

RSS internal assessment on UP alerts BJP leadership about rough road ahead, Amit Shah has miles to go

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By David Livingstone*  If with 14 ministers from Uttar Pradesh (UP) in Narendra Modi’s Council of Ministers, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) president Amit Shah thinks that the victory for his party in the forthcoming Assembly polls in the state is just a few yards away, he is bound to realise by the end of this month that he has miles to go before his dream fulfills.

Land allocation to Dalits: A feasible option to end oppression?

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By Rajiv Shah
A major plank of young Jignesh Mevani, widely projected as the new Dalit icon of Gujarat, is that the state government should provide five acres of land to each Dalit family, and it should part of the solution to rehabilitate those doing the despicable job of manually scavenging of dead cattle. The view apparently stems from the understanding that agriculture is a respectable profession, and can certainly provide a good livelihood option. Mevani has threatened, in case five acres land is not offered by September 15, he would launch a “rail roko” agitation.
Trained as a lawyer under late Mukul Sinha, a well-known Gujarat High Court advocate who shot into prominence for his tough counter-questions to those who appeared before the Nanavati-Shah Commission of inquiry into Gujarat riots, Mevani’s “passion” for land is not new. It existed five years ago, too, when I first met him in the Times of India office in Gandhinagar. He had told me how most of the land, which had been r…

Why the pledge to give up scavenging dead cattle may face roadblock

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By Rajiv Shah
The year was 1993. I had just joined the Times of India, Ahmedabad. With very little knowledge of Gujarat then, as part of my frantic effort to know the state, its people, culture, society and politics, I would meet as many people as I could –experts, activists, politicians, others. One person whom I would often visit was Achyut Yagnik, considered then – as now –the main contact point for journalists landing up in Ahmedabad. As friend, philosopher and guide, Yagnik would also help researchers, Indian and foreign, in every possible way, sending them to Gujarat’s different parts to interact with knowledgeable individuals.
One such researcher was Shalini Randeria. An ethnic Gujarati settled in Germany, Prof Randeria is currently rector of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. There was a special reason why I could connect myself with her –we were in the same class in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Delhi, in 1960s. Yagnik handed me over a photocopy of her PhD thesis which she…

CAMPA: Government of India’s pro-corporate step at the cost of the common people, especially tribals

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By Sadhan Mukherjee*
With the passing of the CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority) bill in the Rajya Sabha on July 28, the BJP government seems to have done away with the basic rights of the tribal people to forest produce who live near and in the forests.
This is one more pro-corporate step of the government at the cost of common people, especially many tribal groups who are socially and economically deprived.

Rupani is a better choice as Gujarat CM, but is that enough?

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By Rajiv Shah
You can be a frank and an approachable leader, but is that enough for you to solve social issues which bog society? Soon after Vijay Rupani became Gujarat chief minister on August 5 evening, a top Sachivalaya insider, whom I have known for more than a decade, phoned me up to know what people thought of “the new incumbent”. Hesitant, I told him that he knew Rupani for quite some time, in fact ever since Rupani was in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, hence he should know better. Refusing to be named, he didn’t mince words, “Rupani is frank, approachable, dynamic”, adding, “It has always been a boon to work with him.”
I have known Rupani a little bit, though certainly not as much as this insider, who keeps a close tab of what’s goings on in the nerve centre of Gujarat politics. Without any doubt, Rupani is “approachable”. Off and on, while covering Sachivalaya, I would consult him about political goings on around Modi, and though he was frank and approachable, he never cro…

Govt of India Model Act to “help” corporates, seek separation of cultivator from landowner, commodify land

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By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India, after failing amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 through ordinances, appears all set to achieve its aim by asking states to adopt a Model Act, and make laws for land leasing which facilitate land privatization, even as benefiting corporates.

Dalit outrage? BJP in Gujarat appears “relaxed”

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By Rajiv Shah
Amidst the recent Dalit agitation in Gujarat in the wake of the July 11 attack on four Dalit youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) community off Una for skinning a dead cow, I decided to find out what would be the impact of the incident, already a national issue, on Gujarat po litics. Apart from immediately getting in touch with some senior Dalit rights activists, I contacted a few senior BJP and Congress leaders, too. The reason I did this was, one of my friends, who happens to be a senior activist, Ashok Shrimali, a Dalit, would always tell me how, over the years, and especially after the 2002 riots, “80 per cent of the Dalits have moved away from the Congress to the BJP”.
While a few other non-political Dalit activists would vehemently deny this, I decided to go by the observation of Teesta Setalvad, who said in a recent article, “Dalits and the Hindu Rashtra: A Close Look at the Gujarat Model”: “As we saw in 2002, it is Dalits who have been used and abused to carry …

Centre has done the right thing to initiate a probe into the funding of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO

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By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
Some ten years ago, while I had started to hear Zakir Naik, my first impression was that he is an Islamic researcher, having command over his other religions’ scriptures, with an amazing memory bank backed by skilled oratory. However, when time progressed and he started disparaging and belittling other religions and their gods and goddesses, I could gauge through his nefarious design of spreading the Wahabi-Salafi brand of exclusivist and dogmatic Islam under which extremism and bigotry are allowed.

Uniform civil code: Shariat was made 1400 years ago. Must society remain stagnant for 1400 years?

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By Markandey Katju*
I am a strong supporter of a uniform civil code. All modern countries have a common law for all citizens, and India must modernize if it is to progress.
It is stupid to say that if sharia is abolished Islam will be abolished. It is also stupid to say that Sharia was made by God. Sharia grew out of the feudal, backward social customs in Saudi Arabia in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is totally outdated today.

When Modi held a “midnight meeting” and told his top officials to lay off when rioting began…

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By Manu Joseph* This is the origin of the perception that on the night of February 27, 2002, Narendra Modi held a “midnight meeting” during which he told his top officials to lay off when rioting began…
In May, 2002, a few weeks after the burning of the train in Godhra, I was in the office of a human rights activist. There, by chance, I got to know that Haren Pandya, a minister in Modi’s cabinet, had deposed before a people’s tribunal, which included retired judges.

Why Congress failed: BJP, Modi have mastered communication skill on social media like none others

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By Pratik Sinha*
Perceptions matter a lot. Before 2014 elections, a question was constantly asked on social media by many people as to what Congress did for 60 years, a question originally floated by BJP. Though the question itself is ridiculous, but since it went unanswered for the most part, it became part of the psyche of many - Congress did nothing for 60 years.
Social Media has been around for well over 10 years. Congress President Sonia Gandhi doesn't have any social media accounts while Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi made one only in 2014. Most senior Congress leaders, with the exception of Shashi Tharoor, joined social media just a few months before the elections.

Clamour to ban Zakir Naik’s Peace TV flows from the fact that he can’t be fought intellectually

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By Adv Masood Peshiman*
Bangladesh politics is embroiled in the deadly tussle between the two ladies, the Prime Minister Hasina Wajid and Khalida Zia, the opposition leader. In the teeth of the brewing crisis the Prime Minister Hasina Wajid is pushing up the incessant agenda of stifling the opposition, including the Islamists which has given rise to the volatile atmosphere in the neighbouring country. In that volatile situation there are escalating attacks on bloggers, Hindus and non-Muslim minorities.

Swamy “used and abandoned”? This is what happened in Gujarat

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By Rajiv Shah
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have “cleared” his views on BJP’s maverick politician Subramaniam Swamy. However, whatever I know of Modi as chief minister of Gujarat during my nearly 15 year stint in Gandhinagar as the Times of India correspondent, it wasn’t at all surprising the way he reacted. His “critique” of Swamy, if it all it can be called that, came after Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan had decided to quit and return to the academia in Chicago. So, was Swamy “used and abandoned”, to quote a phrase used by Gujarat’s top cop GL Singhal in the “Gujarat Files”, a book based on stings by journalist Rana Ayyub to “expose” government role in 2002 riots and fake encounters?
In fact, any reference of Swamy as a “maverick” would remind me of a Gujarat-based maverick politician, with whom I had, I must admit, an uneasy relationship. Looking back, I sometimes feel it was perhaps a mistake on my part to be ill at ease with this IPS-turned-politician, who had been a Cab…

Nothing Gandhian about prohibition in Gujarat; it’s a British legacy

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Rajiv Shah I lived in Moscow for seven long years from 1986 to 1993 as Patriot correspondent, and travelled almost all corners of the ex-Soviet Union – from its Far-Eastern cities to its northern most port Arkhangelsk, many of the Central Asian towns which were later ravaged by internecine ethnic clashes and, of course, the cultural capital, St Petersburg. Yet, what surprises many of my acquaintances and friends is, how couldn’t I “learn” to give up my essentially teetotal characteristic?
Even the doyen of Indian diplomats, TN Kaul, couldn’t change me during his ambassadorship in Moscow. At embassy parties, not once, but several times over he would approach me, saying, “This is bad, Rajiv! You must at least hold a glass of wine!” I would obey, hold the glass till the toast was over, and abandon it immediately thereafter.
Not that I haven’t ever sipped alcohol. During informal gatherings in Moscow, I did indeed taste home-made wine, as also Georgian and Moldavian wine, rated pretty high.…

“Wasted” waters of two re-profiled rivers — Narmada and Sabarmati

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By Rajiv Shah
I have in my hand a new book, “Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis”, edited by two scholar-activists whom I have known for a little while for their insightful reports on ground-level environmental issues and their implications – Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon.
While I found most of the papers published in the book (published by Sage) too theoretical, hence would possibly require expert reaction, two of them interesting me. The first one is a paper by Shripad Dharmadhikary, a passionate expert on river systems, once associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. What interested me in Dharmadhikary’s paper is his strong, perhaps unique, argument on how the Narmada project was conceived to put into practice the “flawed” notion that water should not be allowed to go waste into the sea, and how this concept has ruined ecological systems.
The second paper that interested me is by Himanshu Burte, faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Burte deals with …

Modi’s educational qualifications — An unnecessary controversy

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By Rajiv Shah
Ever since the controversy – if can be called that – broke out last year about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BA and MA degrees, I had been informally telling some of those involved in questioning his educational qualifications, including Ahmedabad-based political activist Roshan Shah and a few scribes, that, what I know for sure is, he was an MA student in Gujarat University. I am naming Roshan – whom I have found to be a fine person with good insights into local Gujarat issues, and a keen campaigner against Modi and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel on social media (something Modi’s opponents utterly lack) – because he was a kingpin in raising this and similar such controversies, citing RTI pleas and complaints.
Not that doubts about Modi’s educational qualifications did not exist earlier. They did exist even in my mind after he became Gujarat chief minister. Yet, these doubts seemed to have got cleared, when during an informal gathering, I asked Dinesh Shukla, a …