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Showing posts from March, 2016

Trump an American Modi? No way, say NRIs

By Rajiv Shah
A tweet the other day by a well-known America-based political scientist, Milan Vaishnav, amused me. Associated with the think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has research centres in Beijing, Beirut, Brussels, Moscow, and Washington, he quantified what I had witnessed during my recent US visit: Though he has been called “American Modi” by many in India, Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump isn’t quite liked by NRI Modi supporters.
Impossible to dub him a “left liberal” by any stretch of imagination (he supports market reforms), Vaishnav’s tweet said, “Reminder: Upwards of 80% of Indian-Americans vote Democratic.” That was in response to a story in “The Hindu”, “Indian-Americans for Trump? Only a handful”.
Though I haven’t ever met or interacted with Vaishnav except through Twitter, his commentaries have interested me. In one of the latest ones, published in “Foreign Affairs”, he says, “The challenge for Modi is to use his considerable politica…

Ahmedabad's tree cover down to 24% from 46% in two decades, likely to bottom 3% by 2030: Study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study, sponsored by the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangaluru, has said that Ahmedabad's tree cover fell from 46% to 24% over the last 20 years, while the city's built-up area up increased by 132%. It predicts, by 2030, the vegetation cover will go down to 3% of Ahmedabad's area.
The study, which covers three other cities, Kolkata, Bhopal and Hyderabad, has used satellite-borne sensors, comparing images over decades and modeled past and future growth to reveal the rate of urbanisation in the four Indian cities.
The study says, Kolkata's tree cover fell from 23.4% to 7.3% over 20 years, while its built-up area went up by 190%; by 2030, its vegetation cover will be down to 3.37%. Bhopal's tree cover fell from 66% to 22% over the last 22 years, and by 2018, it will be down to 11% of the city's area. And Hyderabad's tree cover fell from 2.71% to 1.66% over 20 years, and by 2024, it will be 1.84% of city's area.
R…

Child marriage more prevalent among Gujarat's rural rich compared to middle and poorer groups: UNICEF study

By Rajiv Shah
A new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, which seeks to give policy directions to India on how to reduce child marriage, has said that in Gujarat's rural areas, the despicable practice is “strongly associated with caste membership”, and underlines, “Child marriage rates are highest among richer, high caste girls.” The study -- titled “Reducing Child Marriage in India A model to scale up results”, by Jyotsna Jha and scholars from the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, Bangalore -- quotes a Gujarat government document, to point towards howpoor education of teenage girls has led to the high prevalence of child marriage in the state. The 2015 document, Joint Review Mission for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, says, “For every 100 boys enrolled, only 69 girls are enrolled at secondary level in Gujarat”, adding, “The gaps exist for all social groups but are higher for OBCs [Other Backward Classes] and Muslims.” “The gap further widens if one takes the …

Uttar Pradesh Dalit boys feel more empowered than those from "model state" Gujarat, rest of India

By Rajiv Shah
A recent interaction by Counterview with around 50 Dalit youths off Ahmedabad suggested that Dalits from Uttar Pradesh feel relatively more empowered to fight against untouchability and caste discrimination compared to other states. In fact, the interaction showed that blatant discrimination against the Dalits may have become a thing of the past in that state.
Asit Ranjan from a village in Allahabad district, told Counterview during the two-hour session at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), about 12 kilometres away from the famous Tata Nano small car factory, that After Mayawati became Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Dalits higher castes dare not practice untouchability in distribution of water, or providing tea at the tea stall, or entering temple."
Added his colleague, Arvind Chaudhary from yet another village in the same district, "Earlier, the barber wouldn't entertain Dalits. But now things have changed. They dare not say no to us any more. We feel empowered.&q…

Dalits: “Trained” to be empowered?

By Rajiv Shah
The other day, after several months’ gap, I visited Dalit Shakti Kendra, situated around 12 kms from the spot where the now-famous manufacturing plant of Tata Nano car is located. Situated away from Ahmedabad in a pollution free atmosphere, my purpose, unlike my earlier visits, which I had made to attend several rights’ groups events held there, was very specific. I had come to know that 50-odd boys had come from different parts of rural India, mostly Dalits, to be trained in some sort of technical skill; alongside, they were also being “trained” to be empowered in their struggle against discrimination.
Belonging to poor families, these children seemed educated; majority of them had email id, which they immediately forwarded to me. They knew how to operate email on their smartphone. Naturally, they were more aware about the issues around them. I specifically avoided asking them about Rohith Vermula, the new Dalit “icon” who had committed suicide under pressure allegedly fr…

Gujarat No 1 in Govt of India pushed report? Not in labour, infrastructure, economic conditions, governance

By Rajiv Shah
A report by a top Delhi-based think tank, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), prepared under the direct leadership of Amitabh Kant, ex-secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Government of India, has claims that Gujarat ranks No 1 in the NCAER State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI), though there is a dig.
N-SIPI has been divided into two separate indices. The first one includes five “pillars” based on which the index has been arrived it. These pillars are: labour, infrastructure, economic conditions, political stability and governance, and perceptions of a good business climate. It is called N-SIPI 21, as it includes a survey of 21 states out of 29.
The second index, called N-SIPI 30 (29 states and one union territory), is based on an index arrived at on the basis of four of the five pillars, labour, infrastructure, economic conditions, political stability and governance – but excludes the “perceptions of a good business clima…