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Showing posts from 2016

India is 50% urban, Govt of India's 33% estimate based on stringent classification: World Bank-supported report

By Rajiv Shah
A new high-profile report supported, among others, by World Bank, has said that the Government of India estimate that the country’s urban population, 420 million or 33% of its total population in 2015, undervalues the “true extent” of urbanization in the country.
The report, titled “Better Cities, Better Growth: India’s Urban Opportunity”, blames this on India’s official classification of urban areas as being “more stringent than in most other countries”, pointing towards “long delays in the redrawing of municipal boundaries for fast-growing new areas on the edges of existing metropolitan areas.”
Quoting World Bank studies to arrive at a globally comparable definition of urbanization, the report estimates that “India is already over 50% urbanized”, adding, “Such a finding would underline even more emphatically the central importance of urbanization for India’s development.”
Apart from the World Bank, those who have partnered for preparing the report include World Resources …

Custodial deaths: NHRC "unwilling" to recommend prosecution of police officers despite prima facie evidence

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Bound by Brotherhood: India’s Failure to End Killings in Police Custody”, has accused the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for having “failed to ensure accountability in custodial deaths” in India.
Based on field research and interviews conducted from April 2015 to April 2016, interviewing 45 witnesses and family members of victims of custodial death, and speaking to 25 lawyers, civil society activists and journalists, the report states,” A major weakness of NHRC has been its unwillingness to recommend prosecution of police officers, even when there is prima facie evidence that officers have committed a criminal offense.”
Pointing out that the NHRC “typically recommends only interim relief or compensation for victims”, the report, based on interviews conducted in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh, and in New Delhi and Mumbai, says, “Delays in investigations, transfer of cases to i…

Hindu women are less educated than Muslim, their gender gap is worse than all other religions: Pew

By Rajiv Shah
In a revelation which is likely to create ripples among Hindutva advocates, a top US research organization, Pew International, has said that Hindus may have made “substantial educational gains in recent decades”, yet the fact is, they “have the largest educational gender gap of any religion in the world”.
“On average, Hindu men have 2.7 more years of schooling than Hindu women, and just over half of Hindu women (53%) have no formal schooling, compared with 29% of Hindu men”, the Pew International report, titled “Religion and Education Around the World”, says, adding, "The gender gap in higher education is narrower, but Hindu men are still nearly twice as likely as women to have post-secondary degrees (13% vs. 7%).”
Worse, the report notes, “Even in the youngest generation of adults in the study, Hindu women are considerably more likely than Hindu men to have received no formal education (38% vs. 20%).” Based on information collected from 131 countries about differences…

Bio-piracy: Govt of India lenient, doesn't support litigations, as it would affect foreign investment: Study

By Rajiv Shah
A just-published study has revealed the Government of India (GoI) has not been supporting litigations arising from violating National Biological Diversity (DB) Act, 2002, pointing towards how the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), the country’s watchdog for implementing the Act, has been at the “receiving end” for most of the litigations.
A statutory autonomous body, NBA functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, GoI, and was established in 2003 to comply by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which India signed in 1992.
Insisting that refusal to support legal cases can itself be “very resource draining”, the study, “Litigating India’s Biological Diversity Act: A Study of Legal Cases”, says, “Legal capacity to deal with cases is also quite limited in the bodies set up under the Act”, adding, the GoI “does not undertake the litigation work of the Authority.”
The result is that, according to the study, undertaken by researchers, S…

Polluted villages around Gujarat's cultural capital have brownish red to pale yellow groundwater: CPCB report

By Rajiv Shah
A recent Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report has found that groundwater of villages near Vadodara, known as Gujarat’s cultural capital, is highly polluted due to “industrial activity”, mainly because of what it calls “unscientific disposal of hazardous waste water” into the effluent treatment channel.
The report, which is based on a study of samples taken in several villages near Vadodara, says that the colour of the groundwater all over varies from dark brownish-red to pale yellow, adding, the situation is particularly extremely alarming in groundwater locations around the dye intermediate industries.
Prepared in September 2016, the CPCB, which is a Government of India statutory body responsible for monitoring pollution, decided to carry out the monitoring job on receiving a complaint from the Farmers’ Action Group (FAG), a local people’s organization, about groundwater pollution in two talukas of Vadodara district, Padra and Jambusar.
The CPCB examined groundwat…

It's mischievous, Gujarat govt "closed down" Narmada dam gates disregarding plight of 20,000 outees: Medha Patkar

By Rajiv Shah
Well-known social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan has told Counterview that the Gujarat government cannot close down Narmada dam’s gates, as it would risk the life and property of at least 20,000 oustees of Madhya Pradesh living in 192 villages. Text of the interview: 

Q: A top Gujarat government official has told Counterview (click HERE) that it would get all clearances to close the gates of the Narmada dam, raising it to the full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.94 metres. Your comment…
Medha Patkar: They can’t do it… But let me first start off with how many oustee families, in our view, have been resettled in Gujarat, which is obliged to provide a house and a five acre land to any oustee family, whether from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh (MP) or Maharashtra. They are in all more than 11,000 of them – 5,500 from MP, 5000 from Gujarat, and 750 from Maharashtra. Even they have been partially rehabilitated. A large majority of them have been given poor quality lan…

Castro: In lieu of a tribute

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 huge pa…

Gujarat govt: Jha Commission report on corruption in resettling Narmada dam oustees "poorly prepared"

By Rajiv Shah
Setting aside fears of large-scale submergence in Madhya Pradesh, top Gujarat government insiders have authoritatively stated that the crucial permission to close down the gates of the Narmada dam will surely be obtained by June 2017, ahead of the monsoon season, in order to store as much water as possible during the rainy season up to the full reservoir level, 138.64 metres.
Considered crucial for the state assembly polls, scheduled for December 2017, insiders quote circles close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say that he would take a final call on the matter by mid next year "following environmental and resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) clearance from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as also the Narmada Control Authority (NCA)."
The NCA permitted Gujarat government to raise the dam's height to 138.64 metres in June 2014 by installing gates, but ordered these should remain open till the clearances were obtained. If the gates are closed, the water…

Foolhardy to assume demonetization would extinguish black money, warns Finance Ministry research paper

By Rajiv Shah
Did Prime Minister Narendra Modi go ahead with demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1000 notes without allowing any expert analysis of the impact it might have on the economy? It would seem so, if a recent paper by a research team attached with a Union finance ministry outfit is any indication.
Terming the step “a large shock to the economy”, the research paper says, the Government of India has been arguing that the cash that would be extinguished would be “black money” and hence, should be rightfully extinguished to set right the perverse incentive structure in the economy.
Pointing out that “this argument is based on impressions rather than on facts”, the paper argues, “Facts are not available to anybody” on what might happen, and that “it would be foolhardy to argue that this is the only possibility.”
Titled “Demonetisation: Impact on the Economy”, the paper has been prepared by researchers Dr Kavita Rao, Dr Sacchidananda Mukherjee, Dr Sudhanshu Kumar, DP Sengupta, Suranjali Tan…

India's under-5 pneumonia-diarrhea deaths go up in 2015-16, albeit marginally; action plan far off target: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile report prepared to mark the World Pneumonia Day (November 12) by a well-known US-based institute has revealed that, over the last year, there is an increase, albeit marginal, in the number of under-five deaths among children because of pneumonia and diarrhea.
Titled “Pneumonia & Diarrhea Progress Report: Reaching Goals Through Action and Innovation”, and prepared and published by the International Vaccine Access Center, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the 2016 report reveals that have been 296,279 deaths, as against 297,114 deaths mentioned in the 2015 report.
This suggests a considerable improvement in pneumonia and diarrhea deaths in children under five – it was 436000 deaths in the 2013 report and 318,000 deaths in the 2014 report – the report regrets, between 2015 and 2016, “The ranking of the 15 countries (including India) accounting for the greatest number of pneumonia and diarrhea deaths remain unchanged.”
No doubt, the repo…

Demonetization: India's economic growth unlikely to improve till second half of 2018, predicts Motilal Oswal

By Rajiv Shah
Motilal Oswal, one of India’s topmost financial services firms, has predicted that the economic growth of the economy is likely to slow down in the second half of 2017, and is unlikely to improve in the next one year because of demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. In a sector update, it says, “Overall, while economic growth in the second half of 2017 could be lower than expected, fundamentals of the economy should improve from the second half of 2018.”
Noting that on two earlier times when demonetization was announced – in 1946, just before Independence, and 1978 – it had little impact, as the notes that were withdrawn, of Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 (both in 1946 and 1978) and of Rs 5,000 (in 1978) were of high-value and “rarely held by the common public.”
Thus, in 1978, the macroeconomic impact was “negligible”, the firm recalls. “Real GDP growth was 7.7% in financial year 1978 and 7.5% in financial year 1979”, while the “industrial sector grew ~6% and 11% in these tw…

Ease of doing business? Gujarat ranks No 1 in just one of 10 reform categories, fails to make it to top five in eight

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India’s latest inter-state comparison may have humbled Gujarat to No 3 position in ease of doing business, from the No 1 it enjoyed a year ago. However, what should be even more disconcerting to state policy makers is, of the 10 reform categories examined for ease of doing business, Gujarat ranks No 1 just in one.
Equally, the assessment, carried out by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Government of India, in partnership with the World Bank, finds that of the 10 categories examined, Gujarat ranks in the first five positions in just two reform categories –access to land and in commercial disputes resolution enablers.
Thus, in access to land category, the assessment, which is based on the implemented DIPP’s Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) for states/union territories in 2015-16, covering the period July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, Gujarat is No 1 in availability of land, and No 2 in commercial disputes resolution enablers.
In the oth…

India's fossil fuel, especially coal subsidy equaling 2.7% of GDP, main hurdle in climate change target: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, “Thermal Coal in Asia – Stopping the Juggernaut”, by top international energy consultants, Energy Transition Advisors Pty Ltd, has raised the alarm that India’s fossil fuel subsidies, especially those related with coal, remain a major hurdle in the country’s contribution to achieving climate change target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees centigrade.
Pointing out that the fossil fuel subsidies are a huge drain on India’s finances, too, the report says, “The accumulated losses of India’s power distribution utilities equates to about 2.7 per cent of GDP, largely owing to the provision of free or underpriced power.”
Suggesting that this is a populist subsidy, the report says, “India has long suffered from an overall shortage of generation capacity” with 300 to 400 million people not having access to electricity. Yet, it adds, ironically, “the official peak demand (approximately 145GW) and installed capacity (around 290GW) create an opposite impression—i.e…

Dalits, Adivasis disproportionately affected by poverty, pushing India's Global Hunger Index to 97th rank: Report

By Rajiv Shah
An India case study, supplementing the report “2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI)”, which ranks India 97th in GHI among 118 countries, has regretted that “by contrast, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, all of whom share the BRICS high table with India, have a single-digit score” in undernourishment.
While the 2016 GHI report has been prepared by  prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the case study has been published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
Worse, the case study says, “India’s neighbours, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, have better GHI scores as well.” The GHI report shows, Bangladesh ranks 90th, Sri Lanka 84th, Myanmar 75th, and Nepal 72nd.
“Although the country has managed to reduce instances of stunting among children by nearly half in the past decade compared to the previous one, India remains home to one-third of the world´s stunted children. It therefore falls into the ‘serious’ category in this ye…

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

By Rajiv 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),…

India's poverty estimate would go down to 12.4% from 21.2% if new methodology is adopted: World Bank report

By Rajiv Shah
The World Bank wants India to urgently rework its methodology of estimating poverty, more "compatible" with international estimates, saying if it does so, it “would eventually lead to a substantial downward revision of the poverty numbers in India” – from 21.2 per cent to nearly half of it, about 12.4 per cent, as worked out for the period 2011-12.
It is not known if the Government of India will accept the new methodology. If it does, the BJP-led government can go around propagating how poverty in India has substantially gone down, just as it did while revising GDP methodology, showing a higher GDP growth than previously estimated.
However, there is a risk in estimating lower poverty rates: It would mean providing fewer doles to people under populist programmes, alienating lots of people getting advantage of subsidies because they are categorised as poor.
Taking strong exception to the way India has been estimating poverty, the World Bank says, in its new report, …

India's officials shadow journalist writing book on 2002 Gujarat riots? Scribe's claim in PEN International report

By Rajiv Shah
Revati Laul, an independent journalist who is writing a book about the 2002 Gujarat riots, has made it know how she is being meticulously shadowed for the last 18 months during her investigation into the massacre that took place 14 years ago through the eyes of three men who were part of a riotous mob. Laul is known to have been attacked by a 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre convict in January during her probe in Ahmedabad.
Writing in the just-released “Fearful Silence: the Chill on India’s Public Sphere”, a joint research project by the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto, and PEN International, a high-profile non-profit organization promoting freedom of expression across the globe, Laul says, though she has still not written a word, “Gujarat’s state intelligence bureau has been monitoring me.”
Giving details, she says, “One day, they asked someone I’d spoken with earlier how they knew me and what had I been inquiring about. Irritated, my con…

Ahmedabad ranks 43rd of 53 districts surveyed in Govt of India's cleanliness report, worse than most of Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report has ranked Ahmedabad 43rd in its cleanliness survey of 53 districts it has selected for the purpose. Worse, Ahmedabad, which is desperately seeking world heritage tag from UNESCO, ranks poorer than all but one of the 13 districts chosen from Gujarat out of 53.
With a score of 71.6 out of 100, the survey finds Ahmedabad, the business capital of Gujarat, and sought to be projected as a model for urban India, performing worse than the tribal districts of Tapi and Narmada, with a score of 74.9 and 78 respectively. Only one district, Panchmahal, ranks worse than Ahmedabad, with a score of 64.1.
The best score in Gujarat is that of state capital Gandhinagar, 82.9. However, the survey finds Gandhinagar to rank 18th of the 53 districts surveyed. The best performer in India is Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, with a score of 96.8. Next is Nadia district of West Bengal with a score of 96.8, followed by Satara district of Maharashtra with a score of 92.…