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Delhi's 75% young Hindu women practice ghughat; it's 90% in urban Rajasthan and UP: Pennsylvania univ survey

By Rajiv Shah
While the Narendra Modi government may want to fight gender inequality by passing the triple talaq bill in the Lok Sahba, a recent study has revealed that Delhi’s 75% of young Hindu women in the group 18-25 practice ghunghat. Based on high profile Social Attitude Research, India (SARI) survey, the study also finds that, in this young age, whopping 98% women in rural Rajasthan, 90% in urban Rajasthan, and 91% in rural Uttar Pradesh, and 90% in urban Uttar Pradesh practice ghughat.
The SARI survey was carried out in 2016 by the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI), University of Pennsylvania. Its results have been published in November 2017 as a paper by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), “Explicit prejudice: Evidence from a new survey”, authored by Diane Coffey, Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana and Amit Thorat.
The study claims, it is a “representative” sample of adults in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and SARI “dataset is unique”. Done by “…

Why has this book on GSPC accused Gujarat journos for failing to question Modi hype

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking accusation, Subir Ghosh -- the writer who shot into prominence for controversially criticising Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), India's top industrial house, for cronyism in a book he co-authored, "Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis" -- has called Gujarat-based journalists, without naming them, of "intellectual laziness" for failing to expose state PSU Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC).
In his new book, which was released recently in Ahmedabad ahead of state assembly elections, "Grand Illusion: The GSPC Disaster and the Gujarat Model", Ghosh does not stop here, he continues to heap insults on Gujarat journalists, saying, they did not report or question the the GSPC's actual reserves in its Krishna-Godavari misadventure, announced by Narendra Modi to be 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf).
Ghosh says, not only did newspaper reports seemed to buy the Modi argument of the 20 tcf claim as being "proved" reser…

When Modi "invoked" President Ram Nath Kovind's caste to woo OBC Koli votes off Somanth and Jasdan

By Rajiv Shah
There is strong flutter among Sangh Parivar insiders. For the first time, they have begun conceding, the party's Hindutva agenda is falling apart, that too in a state which has been it's political lab since mid-1980s. Riding on this agenda, based on which the party ruled Gujarat for 22 years, Narendra Modi stirringly emerged on the national canvas in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning comfortable majority.
"I am not suggesting that the BJP would lose in the state assembly polls, which end on December 14. It would retain power, even if with a reduced majority", an insightful Sangh insider, who has been watching the electoral scene from close quarters for about a month, told Counterview. "Our concern is totally different. Instead of Hindutva, which seeks to unite all Hindus under one umbrella, what we see is a direct effort to woo castes for electoral gains."
Calling it a "matter of concern for the BJP and it's ideology", this in…

Gujarat's Panama Papers link? State-owned GSPC had "links" with controversial companies investigated by ICIJ

By Rajiv Shah
In a new book, Subir Ghosh, Bangalore-based journalist, researcher and writer, quoting an ex-Government of India bureaucrat, has alleged that the former bluechip state public sector undertaking (PSU) Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has had links with a company that was associated with dubious business concerns mentioned in the infamous Panama Papers.
Titled “Grand Illusion: The GSPC Disaster and the Gujarat Model”, the book’s writer is a co-author of the controversial “Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis”, which has invited Rs 100 crore defamation suit from the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). The book was released in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Published by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, another co-author of “Gas Wars”, the book quotes former economic affairs secretary EAS Sarma as writing to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) “bringing in the Panama Papers angle”, says Ghosh, after the ED did not respond to an earlier plea to investigate into GSPC’s alliance with a priv…

Democratic reforms NGO relies on Gujarat MLAs' data to say: They used just 54% of electoral expenses allowed

By Rajiv Shah
The Election Commission (EC) of India and the Narendra Modi government may be under scanner (click HERE) for "undermining" transparency by refusing to part with any information on the controversial Electoral Bonds scheme, allowing political parties fund their activities secretly.
Yet, surprisingly, in its new report, a top NGO, "working" on democratic reforms, has used official figures to analyze Gujarat MLAs' spending during the 2012 state polls, without once recalling the huge black money used during the elections.
Reasoning the use of the figures the MLAs have provided, and refusing to doubt them, the NGO, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), has used a disclaimer: "Information about MLAs in this report has been taken from the election expenditure statements filed by them and submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat. ADR does not add or subtract any information, unless the EC changes the data."
Considering all information the…

India slips to become 15th worst country for Christians to live; it ranked 31st four years ago: US non-profit Open Doors

By Rajiv Shah
Open Doors USA, an American non-profit organization, has triggered Hornet's nest by ranking India 15th, next to Saudi Arabia (14th), among 50 top countries where Christians allegedly face "most severe persecution for their faith". Blaming the "persecution" on BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it says, "As a result, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily."
According to the study, "While the level of intolerance continues to increase, Christians are regularly attacked by radical Hindus", adding, "The level of impunity has gone up markedly, with communities of converts to Christianity from Hinduism bearing the brunt of the persecution... They are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs, and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed."
Significantly, Open Doors ranked India far better -- 31st -- four years ago. Ranking North Korea No 1 …

India "hungrier" than North Korea, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Iraq: Now World Economic Forum cites top US report

By Rajiv Shah
While top bureaucrats in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) may have worked overtime to "lobby" and "manage" certain well-known international institutes (click HERE) in order to show how Modi's popularity is on the rise and the economy under him is looking up, it appears, they have been less successful with certain institutes. One of them seems to be is the World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Zurich, known for "uniting" world political, business  and academic leaders for economic development.
If only a few weeks ago, WEF came up with a comprehensive report ranking India's global gender index at 108th among 144 countries, it has now approvingly comments on a high profile Washington report, "India is hungrier than North Korea."
Pointing out that India has slipped in Global Hunger Index (GHI) from 97th to 100th rank, WEF, in a short but succinct commentary, notes how India, "home to the world’s second-largest population…

Improved ratings? Modi's top Gujarat babus in PMO "worked out" strategy to lobby with Washington institutes: Insider

By Rajiv Shah
Did Narendra Modi's top bureaucrats from the Gujarat cadre, currently in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), work out a well-planned strategy to lobby with three top international institutes, all headquartered in Washington, World Bank, Moody's and Pew, for ensuring a sharp image make over of Modi ahead of the Gujarat elections, after all three last year seemed least cared to show India under Modi in good light?
It would seem so, if a top insider of Gujarat government is to be believed. According to this insider, he knows how at least one of the closest Modi aides, who is a Gujarat cadre retired IAS bureaucrat and has been one of the most trusted Modi men ever since the 2002 Gujarat riots, was the key person who worked out a complete plan to ensure that the three institutes change their "approach".
"Those who have been in the Gujarat government under Modi have had enough experience about how lobbying works in the US", this insider, who did not…

Gujarat's health risk higher than 13 states due to child and maternal malnutrition: World Bank-supported study

By Rajiv Shah
A new study, published in one of the world’s most prestigious online health journals, “Lancet”, has revealed that, among major Indian states, “model” Gujarat’s mortality and morbidity risk factor as a result of child and maternal malnutrition is higher than as many as 13 of the 21 major Indian states.
Calculated using a World Health Organization (WHO) term, Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) rate, which seeks to quantify the burden of disease, with one DALY considered as one lost year of "healthy" life, Gujarat’s DALY rate for child and maternal malnutrition is 5013 per 100,000 population.
Major states with a higher DALY rate than Gujarat for child and maternal malnutrition – which the Lancet considers the most important health risk factor out of 17 factors – are seven, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Interestingly, not just prosperous states but also Odisha, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Hi…

Manual scavenging in India to continue because of growth of toilets, 65% of whom are unsafe: Top UN official

By Rajiv Shah
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Leo Heller has expressed the apprehension that, despite a 2013 law prohibiting manual scavenging, the “generations-old practice of imposing sanitary tasks onto the lower castes” (Valmikis) would continue because of “the growth in number of toilets.”
In a preliminary report Heller has prepared for submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) following his visit to India from October 27 to 10 November 10, 2017, he said, his assertion that manual scavenging will “continue to be practiced in a caste-based, discriminatory fashion” comes despite the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission’s “preferred technology for excreta disposal – the twin-pit latrine.”
Asserting that he himself met “a number of current manual scavengers in Uttar Pradesh from various districts (Mainpuri, Hardoi, Bareli, Firojabad)”, Heller said, “I heard from several family members, during meetings in Del…

MastarCard study ranks India 41 of 42 countries, "beats" only Pakistan in digital payment despite noteban shock

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study, sponsored by MasterCard, one of the top American multinational financial services corporations, has said that, despite the “self-inflicting shock … by demonetizing its currency” a year ago, India beats just one country, the neighbouring Pakistan, in what it calls digital experience – a term used for identifying adoption for online transactions.
Carried out by the Fletcher School’s Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Tufts University, bringing this to light, the study ranks in all 60 countries countries’ regulatory, infrastructural, and identity- and interface “present in the digital environment, identifying the countries “by speed, quality, and ease of use when transacting online.”
However, from the 60 countries, it chooses 42 countries for ranking "digital experience."
Principal investigator of the study, Dr Bhaskar Chakravorti, senior associate dean of International Business and Finance at the Fletcher School, says, the lesson fro…

Warning bell for Gandhians: Dalit activist "justifies" Godse on learning Mahatma blackmailed Ambedkar

By Rajiv Shah
In what should prove to be a warning bell for Gandhians of all hues, a dangerous trend appears to be taking shape, accelerated amidst a sharp upswing of information explosion, especially through the social media. A senior Dalit rights activist, who has been actively involved in organizing the Valmiki community in Gujarat, put out a Facebook post justifying Nathuram Godse murdering Mahatma Gandhi on October 3, next day of Gandhi Jayanti.
While this activist deleted the post 24 hours later when he was told this would send a "wrong message", when contacted, he told Counterview, "I went to a Dalit rally in Dholka. There I came to know for the first time how Gandhi pressured Babasaheb Ambedkar into giving up the demand for separate electorate for Dalits, allowing us to elect our own representatives to legislatures."
The activist, who has been in the forefront of the fight for the cause of manual scavengers and manhole workers, continued: "Gandhi betrayed…

India slips in World Bank ranking on starting business, registering property; overall 30 point jump is from pre-GST data

By Rajiv Shah
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have tried to extract political capital out of the 30 point jump noted in the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business report, calling the 100th ranking among 190 countries “historic”, a result of what he called “all-round and multi-sectoral reform push of Team India”, but a comparison with the last year’s report suggests there is little cheer about it.
In fact, India’s ranking in what could be considered as perhaps the most important factor for calculating ease of doing business, “starting a business”, has actually slipped by one point, from 155th to 156th. In yet another factor, which could be considered equally significant, "registering property", India’s ranking has slipped even more – from 138 to 154.
While the World Bank also notes slip in two other factors, “getting electricity” from 26 to 29 and “trading across borders” from 143 to 146, in a few other factors, the improvement is not as drastic – for instance, the ranking…

Bollywood screen-on time for females is a meagre 31.5 %, compared to 68.5 % for male characters: Study

By Rajiv Shah
A new study of gender bias in India’s Bollywood movies suggests that whether it is plots, posters or trailers, a male is mentioned around 30 times in a plot while a female is mentioned only around 15 times, adding, “There is a consistency of this ratio from 1970 to 2017(for almost 50 years).”
Second study on the subject (click HERE for a previous study by Oxfam India) this year, it is based on data extracted from 4,000 movies with cast, soundtracks and plot text since 1970, and data from 880 movie trailers since 2008, is titled “Analyzing Gender Stereotyping in Bollywood Movies”, and has been carried out by a group of researchers from IBM Research-India, IIIT-Delhi, and DTU-Delhi.
Referring to how male cast and female cast have been addressed, the study says, “Verbs like kills, shoots occur with males while verbs like marries, loves are associated with females”. Further, “Males are often represented as rich and wealthy while females are represented as beautiful and attract…

"Model" Gujarat agricultural wages one of the lowest in India, gender gap is market driven: Union ministry report

By Rajiv Shah
A top Government of India document has said that, in “model” Gujarat, the real wages of both male and female agricultural workers in 2016-17 were worse than most major Indian states. At Rs 223 per day, Gujarat’s male agricultural wages were lower than all but three of 15 major Indian states; and for females agricultural workers, Rs 202, they were worse than all but five of 15 major Indian states.
The document, “Report of the Committee on Alignment of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Wages with Minimum Agricultural Wages: July 2017”, released by the Ministry of Rural Development, quotes the Labour Bureau, Shimla, based on the data obtained during July-May 2016-17.
While Gujarat's agricultural wages for both male and female workers is are lower than those in Bihar, Assam and West Bengal, the highest per day agricultural wages during the year were being paid in Kerala, Rs 661 for males and Rs 494 for females. The all-India average of the real agricultural w…

Congress presence in Gujarat's urban areas remains in margins, as Rahul "pulls" huge crowd in rural, semi-urban areas

By Rajiv Shah
Even as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi this week completed the second leg of his whirlwind visit to Gujarat ahead of the state assembly polls, to be held in December, all eyes are set on whether the party, which got 38.9% votes in the 2012 polls as against the BJP’s 47.9%, would be able win over the huge crowds Gujarat's Congress leaders had mobilized for him.
Despite Congress being upbeat, as seen in their postings on the social media, especially the photographs of Gandhi amidst thousands of people on streets, and on atop two sides of buildings, senior party leaders doubt that the "tide" would, if at all, turn for the Congress.
The reason, they opine, is simple: Despite discontentment among city middle classes, traders and small entrepreneurs, who have been the BJP's traditional base, the Congress' presence in the urban areas remains in the margins.
In fact, a senior Congress leader, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, and is said to be close to par…

No compelling reason why NREGA workers should get minimum wages as stipulated by Act: Govt of India panel

By Rajiv Shah
In a move that has shocked farm workers’ activists, a high-level Government of India committee headed by a senior bureaucrat has recommended that the wages paid under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) cannot be on par with minimum agricultural wages law for rural farm workers.
In its report, the Committee on Alignment of NREGA Wages with Minimum Agricultural Wages, set up by the Ministry of Rural Development, has said a major reason why there should be divergence is, “There is a major difference in the work done by the agricultural labourers and the work performed by NREGA workers.”
Headed by additional secretary Nagesh Singh, the committee, which has given its recommendations in July 2017, believes, this is necessary, as “the wage rate for agricultural labourer is basically a time rate”, while “wages under NREGA are for piece rate work with fixed schedule of rates for work which is measured and only then payment is made.”
Even otherwise, says the committ…

India's 88% policymakers "don't know" women's early marriage rate, 77% maternal mortality rate, 38% UN's SDGs

By Rajiv Shah
That Indian policy makers have had little or no empathy for the social sector and they are more concerned about business interests is widely known. However, a top international survey of five nations has provided convincing data showing that 38% of India's policy makers have little or no knowledge of even the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The report says, as many as 15% of Indian policy makers have no knowledge of SDGs, which is the highest among the five nations surveyed. Further, 23% said have "not much" knowledge about SDGs.
The report regrets, "The highest proportion of policymakers with not much or no knowledge of the SDGs was found in India (38%)."
The survey report, "Equal Measures 2030", prepared jointly by global civil society and private sector organizations, says that in Kenya 65% of policymakers reported knowing “a great deal” about the SDGs, compared to 29% in Senegal, Colombia (20%), and In…

India ranks 131st in procedures, 110th in time taken to start business among 137 countries: WEF report

By Rajiv Shah
Even as pointing out that India has slipped by one rank in the world competitive ranking from 39th last year to 40th this year, after massive upward swing over two previous years, the high-pofile Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) in its new report has found India's ranking extremely poor in providing business environment to investors.
Thus, the "Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18", ranks India 98th in intensity of local competition among 137 countries it analyses, 124th in total tax rate, 131st in number of procedures to start business, 110th in time taken to start business, 124th in trade tariffs, 118th in imports as percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), 104th in flexibility of wage determination, 129th in female participation in labour force, 111th in exports as percentage of GDP, and so on.
Taking into account India's poor social sector, suggesting, it comes in the way in creating robust competitive environment, the report ranks India 9…