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Showing posts from 2019

Guard EVMs, role of Election Commission not neutral: Concerned citizens appeal

A group of concerned citizens have in an appeal said they are "deeply perturbed" with reports coming in from various parts of the country of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and even a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) being transported in unauthorized trucks and private vehicles, allegedly to exchange EVMs from strong rooms and replace them with alternate EVMs.
Pointing out that there are also videos of EVMs being stored in unauthorized storage houses and shops, the appeal says, "While the Election Commission (EC) has denied over years that EVMs can be tampered, many of us have been raising the issue of EVM tampering from Gujarat 2002 election onwards."
Signed by academicians, litterateurs, trade union leaders, social activists and film makers, the appeal says, "We are concerned that voters’ verdict sealed inside the EVM machines is sought to be tampered. We strongly believe that the responsibility of ensuring that the Voters’ Verdict is not changed…

Demand for 50% EVM verification with VVPATs: Missed call campaign set to cross 1 lakh mark

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In May first week, several political activists got together and launched a missed call campaign (on the phone No 9667655855) in support of the demand that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50 percent electronic voting machine (EVM) data with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.
During the counting for the Lok Sabha polls on May 23, as per the Supreme Court guidelines, only two percent EVM data will be verified with VVPAT slips. As of May 21, morning (10.30 am) a whopping 83,994 persons gave a missed call supporting the demand of 50 percent EVM verification with VVPAT. "We expect the numbers to cross 1 lakh by May 23, when the counting takes place", said one of the organizers of the campaign.
At the same time, senior political activist and environmentalist Mahesh Pandya had simultaneously launched a petition through change.org with the same demand of 50 percent EVM verification in each Assembly Constituency with VVPAT. …

Vidyasagar statue vandalization culmination of hate culture: Gujarat memorandum

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About 45 Gujarat activists have, in a memorandum to the President of India on the vandalisation of the statue of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar last week in West Bengal, have said that the incident is "the culmination of the culture and politics of hatred that has unleashed in our country." The memorandu, however, refrains from naming any political party. "Words fail to condemn the vandalisation of the bust of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, one of the pioneers of Indian social reform movement, during the election campaign of Loksabha poll at Kolkata", the memorandum reads, adding, "Starting from Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Tagore and many were inspired by Vidyasagar. Devaluating the greatness of renaissance and freedom struggle will push us to the dark age of feudal society."
Continues the memorandum, "A culture of talibisation has usurped in the country. Statues of Gandhiji, Ambedkar, Periyar, and Lenin have been vandalized in recent past. Vandalism of statues is no…

No minority community midday meal scheme cook-cum-helper in Gujarat: Govt of India

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A Government of India fact-sheet, released late last year on the midday meal scheme across India, has been brought to light to show that Gujarat is one of the two major states with zero minority community cook-cum-helpers. The other state is Chhattisgarh. In the country as a whole, out of a total of 25,12,111 cook-cum-helpers, 6.14% or 1,54,438 are from minority communities.
Out of 96,329 cook-cum-helpers in Gujarat, 10,887 or 11.3% are from scheduled castes (SCs), 22,542 or 22.4% are from scheduled to tribes (STs), 43,705 or 45.37% from other backward classes (OBCs), and 19,195 or 19.92% are from the general category. SC population of Gujarat is less than 7%, while there are 14% STs in Gujarat.
A Right to Information (RTI) plea filed by a senior minority rights activist failed to get any information on this score from the Gajarat government. Mujahid Nafees of the Minority Coordination Committee told CV News that the official concerned sought to provide the same information that i…

Withdraw FIR, "fake" charges against Bihar TU leaders in Araria: NAPM

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a top human rights network, has taken strong exception to FIR and "fake" charges registered by the Araria (Bihar) District Police against activists Kamayani Swami, Ranjit Paswan and 150 un-named persons of the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) for sitting in "peaceful satyagraha" against bureaucratic delays and corruption in Nagar Parishad Araria.
In a statement, NAPM said, On the May 7, 2019 around 200 members of JJSS, a local union of workers and marginal farmers, and residents of Baijnathpur in Araria District, Bihar, gathered in front of the office of the executive officer of Araria Nagar Parishad. Using the satyagraha method as a means of non-violent protest, people were demanding release of money in “Sabke liye Awaas” , “Swachh Bharat” and “Lohia Swachh Bihar Mission”schemes and social security pension scheme.
A representative body of JJSS even met the officials, and later executive officer Dinanath Singh …

As Narmada goes dry, environmentalist asks: Where's Gujarat govt's water policy?

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Senior Ahmedabad-based environmentalist Mahesh Pandya has sharply criticised the Gujarat government for failing to come up with water policy despite "grim" situation across the state. Pandya, who heads Paryavaran Mitra, told a seminar jointly called by the Gujarat Institute for Civil Engineers and Architects and Public Cause and Environment that the water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam is 119 metres, yet Narmada downstream is dry.
"Sea waters are intruding into Narmada, salinity has gripped the villages along two sides of of the river, yet chief minister Vijay Rupani is dreaming of water tourism for 12 kilometres downstream of the dam, by filling up 32 metres water", Pandya said, adding, "Plans to have a barrage at Bhadbhut at the mouth of Narmada allegedly to stop salinity ingress invading the river are being toyed since 2012, yet nothing has happened."
Pointing out that the plan to bring to life dead rivers too has gone awry, Pandya said, industrial u…

High Court seeks explanation: Delhi govt attitude towards food security "lackadaisical"

A Delhi High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anup Bhambhani has sought to know from the Delhi state government if any action has been taken to put in place the statutory grievance redress framework under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
It was hearing a contempt petition filed by the civil rights organization, Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) against the state government for its "failure" to comply with the order of the court dated September 1, 2017.
The bench directed the representative of the food department to file a detailed affidavit along with relevant documents on steps taken since the order of September 1, 2017 and where the file was currently pending.
Expressing its dissatisfaction with the reply filed by the state government to the contempt petition, the bench observed the government attitude was lackadaisical, as the rules for grievance redress and accountability have still not been promulgated more than five years aft…

Central, Gujarat govts told to clarify: Why hide facts on pollution in Narmada Dam, canals?

In a letter to Gujarat and Central government authorities, top environmentalist Rohit Prajapati has wondered why is it such a big secret that it is refusing to share information on reasons behind the presence of sulphide and decrease in dissolved oxygen (DO) in the Sardar Sarovar Dam and its canals.
Referring to water samples taken in February 2019 by his team of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) activists, Prajapati said, though he had declared the pollution level, and informed about it to officials concerned on February 12, 2019, he has still not received any reply.
The letter, sent, among others, to the chairman, Narmada Control Authority, Gujarat chief secretary, and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) chairman, says that the state government declared that the concerned authorities were seeking the help of the Oceanography Department, which has the equipment and expertise to collect samples from the base of reservoirs, wondering what has happened thereafter. Suggestin…

Youth in Bhopal say they want to vote Modi, as they "haven't heard" the secular narrative

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Senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi, known for her anti-Modi slant, has regretted that youth in Bhopal have not heard the "other narrative" on why BJP shouldn't in these elections. Talking with a group outside a sweet shop, when she asked whom do they want to win, the immediate "reply was Modi".
"I spoke to them for 15 minutes. I got their attention within 2-3 minutes. They listened. I could see on their faces they had never heard another narrative", Hashmi said in a recent Facebook post. Bhopal is witnessing a keen battle between Malegaon terror accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur from BJP and veteran Congress stalwart Digvijay Singh.
Hashmi, who is known to have campaigned against BJP, especially Modi, ever since the 2002 Gujarat riots, admitted, "I have maintained since 2002 secularism has not failed. Our reach has failed. We are too small a numger to counter RSS propaganda."
Recalling that her organization, Anhad "held camps fro…

Reinstate, make permanent 150 suspended sanitation workers: Online petition

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Sanitation workers, students and teachers of the Delhi University have in a petition to the vice chancellor taken strong exception to the recent overnight termination of over 150 Safai Karamcharis from their jobs, pointing out that the "cruel irony of laying off" this happened on May 1.
Asking aware citizens to sign the online petition, the plea to the vice chancellor says, the termination followed the expiry of the tender of the contractor Sulabh International which had hired workers on a contractual basis. This includes 35 workers who had filed a case in the labour court for non-payment of fair wages, ESI and PF.
The petition says, the terminated workers had been employed in Delhi University for the last 3 to 15 years and have been systematically exploited and harassed by the contractor and the university under your watch. It claims, women workers have been harassed by bouncers of Sulabh International openly with complete impunity provided by the university.
Accusing th…

Suspend senior cop Falguni Patel for "abusing" Dalits, demands Jignesh Mevani

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Jignesh Mevani, Gujarat Dalit rights leader and MLA, has demanded that the state government should immediately suspend Aravalli district's deputy superintendent of police Falguni Patel for allegedly abusing Dalits in Khambisar village after people from the dominant caste stalled a Dalit wedding procession, leading to clashes. “A video is viral on the social media. It is enough of evidence to institute an inquiry against her under the anti-atrocities Act”, he said.
Addressing media, Mevani, flanked by top Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, accused Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani for keeping mum over the row, saying this amounted to “siding with the casteist sections of the village”. Referring to four similar incidents on Dalit wedding procession in rural Gujarat which took place over the last one week, he said, instead of taking action against the dominant caste people the cops were acting against the Dalits, who are the victims.
Insisting that these are clear cases of prev…

Sexual harassment allegation: President of India told to ask CJI to abstain from performing duties

The Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), a Gujarat-based rights organization has, in a memorandum, asked the President of India to intervene and protect the credibility of the Supreme Court following the recent incident of allegations of sexual harassment on the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The memorandum says, “Today, we are facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility of the Supreme Court. In dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India, the court has failed to adhere to the principles of natural justice and follow established principles of law for the inquiry into sexual harassment allegations.”
“We stand in solidarity with the complainant”, asserts the memorandum, adding, “We strongly object to the summary dismissal of the allegations and absolving of the CJI without adherence to the norms of a fair and independent inquiry.”
It adds, “The procedure followed in this case not only stands in utter violation of the basic tenets of natural justic…

Congress separated itself from anti-Sikh mob, Modi became friend of rioting 2002 mob: Time

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The "Time" magazine, which is making headlines for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi "divider in chief", is surprisingly soft on the Congress for the party's alleged participation in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Pointing out that the country has "a long history of politically instigated sectarian riots, most notably the killing of at least 2,733 Sikhs in the streets of Delhi after the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards", the top journal states, "The Congress leadership, though hardly blameless, was able, even through the selective profession of secular ideals, to separate itself from the actions of the mob."
On the other hand, according to "Time", "Modi, by his deafening silences after more recent atrocities, such as the killing of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, proved himself a friend of the mob."
The weekly states, Modi "made one yearn for the …

Why did Govt of India maintain ominous silence in PepsiCo case against Gujarat farmers?: Activists

PepsiCo India Holdings Ltd, which withdrew their legal suits against the farmers at the Commercial Court of Ahmedabad and the district court of Modasa, have done it under intense public and political pressure, farmers’ rights groups have asserted in a statement, warning, this in no way means that the public campaign is over. The battle is only half won on the field. The Government of India maintained an ominous silence on the issue, taking cover of the matter being sub judice.
Addressing media, their advocate Anand Yagnik stated that these farmers are into subsistence farming and not commercial farming. It must be kept in mind that in India the right of farmer to cultivate land and agricultural produce is superior to the right of MNCs seeking protection in the name of registration. The law of India allows farmers to use even registered seeds and take produce.
Kapilbhai Shah, Coordinator, Beej Adhikar Manch, a newly formed platform to protect farmers’ seed sovereignty, recalled, wh…

CSR funds are not going to grassroots level civil society organizations:VANI

The high-profile NGO Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) has welcomed the Government of India move to appoint a High-Level Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility under the chairmanship of Injeti Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), to review the existing framework and guide and formulate the roadmap for a coherent policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The committee is entrusted with the task of analyzing outcomes of CSR activities/programmes/projects and suggesting innovative solutions, use of technology, platform to connect stakeholders, and social audit.
In a letter to Srinivas, and signed by K Shivakumar, VANI says, it has already presented 16 recommendations for advocating the effectiveness of CSR, adding, it conducted two programmes Tamil Nadu, where grassroots civil society organisations (CSO) complained that they are not able to get funds from CSR.
According to VANI, CSR funds are not flowing to the grassroots organizations even though th…

Upload details with photographs of govt's water conservation work: Gujarat CM told

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Ahmedabad-based environmental NGO Paryavaran Mitra has demanded that the Gujarat government should go transparent regarding chief minister Vijay Rupani's statement that between May 1 and June 12, 2018, a capacity of 12,000 lakh square feet of water conservation facilities were added in the state.
In a letter to Rupani, the NGO's director, Mahesh Pandya, said that the state government should also go public regarding which are the 32 rivers which he claimed were revived, which were the 13,000 new ponds were created, and the 5,000 km long canals cleaned up.
Insisting that details about this should be put up on a government website that people could come to know about the "excellent" work the state government says it has been doing for water conservation, Pandya reminded Rupani that he had also claimed, a whopping 82 lakh mandays employment was given to 2.62 lakh citizens for all these works.
"The details should be uploaded on a government website along with photog…

Atmabodhanand ended fast after "significant" civil society pressure on govt

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Welcoming the Government of India move which led Swami Atmabodhanand to break his 194-day fast at Matri Sadan, Haridwar, for cleaning up Ganga, senior activist Chandra Vikash, who campaigned for the cause, has regretted that this was made possible only after “significant pressure” from civil society groups on the government to “relent on its criminal negligence” for the cause.
Calling Ganga a “most valuable natural resource”, he said, despite this, the government tried to “to cover up by a canard of lies and disinformation to cloud the public opinion on how it had cleaned up the Ganga.”
Vikash added, Nitin Gadkari, the minister in charge of Ganga rejuvenation, has now “climbed down from his vague proclamations of having cleaned up 80% to 70% and most recently 30% when the truth is that the mother river is even more polluted and being wrecked by dams and other encroachments even in areas where the previous Manmohan Singh government had declared eco-sensitive zone.”
“This entire operat…

Scarcity of water in tribal-dominated Chhotaudepur: Gujarat CM asked to intervene

In a letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, a senior Dalit rights social worker, Kantilal Parmar, has said that the state government should take urgent steps to ensure provision of water in tribal-dominated villages of Chhotapudepur district of south Gujarat.
Pointing out that even handpumps in a large of such villages are not in a working condition, especially after early this year, Parmar said, the situation is bad despite the fact that the Narmada dam is not very far away, and the Narmada canal passes through the district.
"The state government should provide details on whether it is providing Narmada water to the tribals", Parmar said, regretting, despite complaints in the past "no steps have been taken by the state government to mitigate the situation."

Demand to provide midday meal to poor students admitted in private schools

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Senior Ahmedabad-based activist Mahesh Pandya has demanded that private schools should provide midday meal to poor children who have been admitted in private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
In a letter to the Midday Meal Commission, Gujarat government, Pandya, midday meal is an important government scheme to ensure poor school going children get nutritious food.
"However", Pandya, who is director, Paryavaran Mitra, an environmental NGO, regretted, none of the private schools where poor children have been admitted under the RTE Act are provided with midday meal. "Arrangements to provide these children with midday meal should be immediately made", he insisted.

Costs of environmental damage due to illegal mining in Gir-Somnath, Junagadh sought

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Gujarat State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to assess Net Present Value (NPV) of limestone following illegal mining in Gir-Somnath and Junagadh districts of Gujarat.
In its order dated May 1, it also asked the three agencies to calculate the cost of damage to environment and pristine ecology, cost of mitigation and restitution of the environment, and deterrent environmental compensation. NGT asked GPCB to submit detailed of actions taken before by July 24, 2019.
The order follows an application filed by Sreeja Chakraborty regarding illegal limestone mining in Gir-Somnath and Junagad districts of Gujarat. The plea said, limestone mining is been carried out without any prior Environmental Clearance from SEIAA. As many as 20 miners were identified by the applicant.

Gujarat High Court directs state govt to treat pilgrimage spots of all religions equally

The Gujarat High Court has ruled that the state government agency meant to look after religious spots, Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Board, should take under its fold holy pilgrimage spots of all religions. Mujahid Nafees, convenor, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), had filed a public interest application (PIL) (201/2018) in the High Court, seeking equal treatment to all religions from the Board.
The PIL said, the country's constitution clearly asserts that the state shall not promote any particular religion, and shall treat every religion equally. Yet, the Board is promoting religious spots of a particular religion to the exclusion of others. The High Court directed the state government to treat pilgrimage spots of all religions equally. Nafees said, the High Court order is an important step towards justice for disadvantaged sections.

South Gujarat river interlinking scheme to "displace" tribals, farmers of 288 villages

South Gujarat’s tribal rights organization, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morch (AKSM), has raised the alarm that the ambition river interlinking project, Par-Tapi-Narmada Link Scheme, is likely to lead to acquisition of 10,559.70 hectare (ha) of land, of which 4,439.40 ha is forest land. Of this, only 967.80 ha is government land, while the rest belongs to farmers, including tribal farmers, or is forest land.
Under the scheme, says AKSM in a statement, the Government of India claims, the rainwater floods which flood the Ukai dam will be diverted to Maharashtra, so that several areas of South Gujarat are saved of excessive flooding. “This is travesty of the truth”, the tribal rights body states, adding, “The main issue is, are the tribal farmers of Gujarat going to be benefited from the scheme. The answer is a clear no.”
Those who suffer because of the river interlinking scheme are tribals belonging to as many as 288 villages of Valsad, Tapi, Navsari, Surat, Narmada, Vadodara and Dang di…

Gujarat potato farmers tell PepsiCo: Withdraw court cases unconditionally, compensate

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Gujarat potato farmers sued by PepsiCo have rejected the top multinational corporation’s (MNC’s) announcement that it would withdraw cases against them under certain terms and conditions, asserting that Indian farmers’ seed freedoms are non-negotiable. Talking with media in Ahmedabad, one of the four potato farmers, Bipin Patel, flanked by half-a-dozen farmer leaders, said, “We learn from media that they will withdraw cases against us, but this should be unconditional.”
Chhabilbhai Patel and Vinodbhai Patel, also present on the occasion, added that they should be paid compensation for the harassment they were subjected to even though the law is very clear on the subject, regretting, while the Gujarat government is learnt to be negotiating with PepsiCo, it has still not talked to them.
According to them, the court proceedings came as a shock to them, including the amount of damages that the company was claiming – Rs 1.5 crore each. It was clearly trying to intimidate and harass us. I…

Adani mine in Australia would "remove" a top habitat for the black-throated finch

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Commenting on the Australia's Queensland government’s Department of Environment and Science decision that India's powerful Adani Group's plan to "manage" its proposed mine’s impacts on the endangered black-throated finch is "inadequate", the international NGO 350.org has said that is "yet another example of the failure of this company to meet the standards expected of the mining industry in Australia."
The top NGO's Australian office in a statement said, "We have lost 29 Australian bird species in the last 200 years, and Australians don’t want to see more extinctions on our watch. The Adani mine, if it were to proceed, would remove one of the last remaining habitats for the black-throated finch."
The Adanis' plan to “save” this bird included a proposal to relocate the last of the species to a habitat that happens to sit on land owned by Clive Palmer – and is under a current proposal for another coal mine that would remove tha…

Indian industry's sales levels, profit margins drastically go down: IIM-A survey

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The latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has revealed that in March 2019, nearly 3/5ths of the firms in the sample reported that sales are ‘somewhat or much less than normal’, and the proportion of firms that reported ‘much less than normal’ sales has increased sharply to 38% in March 2019.
The BIES report further said that the proportion of firms in the sample reporting ‘normal or greater than normal’ profit margins has declined further to 33% in March 2019 from 38% in February 2019, the This is primarily due to sharp increase in the proportion of firms reporting ‘much less than normal’ profit in March 2019, it added. The results are based on the responses of over 1600 companies.
The survey report also said, "One year ahead business inflation expectation, as estimated from the mean of individual probability distribution of unit cost increase, has increased to 3.68% in March 2019 from 3.55% observed in Februa…

No respite from child labour as 2 lakh schools close down: National consultation on RTE told

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A civil society consultation organized by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Campaign against Child Labour, and the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development in Delhi has been told that the Government of India is “not serious about” about RTE and there has been only 4% increase in RTE compliance since 2014, when BJP came to power.
Ambarish Rai, national convener, RTE Forum, said, “At this rate it will take nearly 90 years to fully implement the RTE Act”, insisting, it is the government’s responsibility to open schools to make education accessible, but over the last five years, the BJP government
“has closed down nearly 2 lakh schools”, which suggests that it is aiming to “hand over education to private players.”
Alka Singh from Save the Children, who presented a consolidated report card of education that details what has happened over the last five years, said that from amongst 5-14 years of children there are almost 1 crore child labourers. She added, there are 80,000 st…

India's 99 river water projects completed? Modi "misled" nation, Parliament in Feb

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Wondering whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi misled Parliament and the nation on February 7, 2019, well-known environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that in his reply to the debate on President of India’s address to the joint session of Parliament, the PM said India has done the work of "completing" 99 river water projects through expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees.

Pointing out that Modi mentions the figure 99 in that 28 second interval at least four times, Thakkar says, “Interestingly, the PM claims completion of these 99 projects was a means of empowerment of the farmers.” Calling it “highly questionable”, Thakkar insists, “As the farmers feel totally slave to the operators of the irrigation projects, in whose decision making, implementation or operation, farmers have no role.”
“And yet”, according to Thakkar, BJP’s manifesto, published with PM’s letter dated April 8, 2019, contradicts him whe…

India fourth largest spender on military, defence expenditure rose by 29% since 2009: SIPRI

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A new report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says that the five biggest spenders on military in 2018 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France, which together accounted for 60 per cent of global military spending. It adds, at $66.5 billion, India was the fourth-largest spender in 2018.
The report says, adding, “Military spending in Asia and Oceania was $507 billion in 2018 and accounted for 28 per cent of global military spending. Five of the top 15 global spenders in 2018 are in this region: China (rank 2), India (rank 4), Japan (rank 9), South Korea (rank 10) and Australia (rank 13).”
Pointing out that “India’s military spending rose in 2018 for the fifth consecutive year, and was 3.1 per cent higher than in 2017”, the report says, “At $66.5 billion, India’s spending was 29 per cent higher than in 2009.”
“Despite this rise”, the report says, “India’s military burden in 2018 was at one of its lowest levels since the early 1960s: 2.4 per c…

Gujarat CM queried: Where has 24.81 acre feet of water disappeared from Narmada dam?

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Releasing month-wise data provided by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), well-known Gujarat farmers’ rights leader Sagar Rabari, in a letter to chief minister Vijay Rupani has said that, citing low rainfall, the state government has stopped providing irrigation water starting with February 15, even though there has been enough water in the Narmada dam’s reservoir.
The letter says, as of today, out of 90 lakh acre feet of water from Narmada, Gujarat has received 63.38 lakh acre feet of water. Further, the level of water in the reservoir is constantly going up, reaching 119.50 meters, as the inflow from Madhya Pradesh is continuing. On the other hand, as against 17.92 lakh hectares (ha) of the Narmada command area, only 6.40 lakh hectares, which is just about a third of the command area, is being irrigated.
Rabari continues, of the 90 lakh acre feet of water, if we set aside 10 lakh acre feet for drinking water and industry, we are entitled to get 80 lakh acre feet for irrigating 17.…

137 workers died at Gujarat construction sites in 2018: RTI reply

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Right to Information (RTI) replies to the Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS) has revealed that, in 2018, as many as 144 construction work-related accidents took place in Gujarat. Obtained by filling RTI pleas to police stations across the state, the replies show that 137 workers died in these accidents last year.
In statement issued on the occasion of the World Workers' Memorial Day, which falls on April 28, BMS leader Vipul Pandya said, as many as 990 construction workers in Gujarat lost their lives over the last 11 years. Most of accidents took place in top Gujarat metros, Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, mainly involving migrant workers from Dahod and Panchmahal districts, he added.
Pandya further said that for the safety and health of the construction workers, the Government of India has enacted the Building and Other Construction Works (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996, and the state government formulated rules for the Act in 2003.
About Rs 2,200 c…

PepsiCo tells Gujarat potato farmers: Enter into purchase agreement, or don't use "registered" variety

The legal suits initiated by PepsiCo India Holdings against four farmers of North Gujarat has been scheduled for hearing on June 12, 2019. This follows a hearing on Friday in the Commercial Court in Ahmedabad, where senior advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik filed his appearance and vakalatnama on behalf of the farmers in the four suits.   PepsiCo submitted to the Commercial Court that it wants to settle the dispute with the farmers. The plaintiff has been quoted as suggesting that either farmers give an undertaking that they shall not use registered variety or they should enter into an agreement with PepsiCo to purchase seeds from it and thereafter sell produce also to it on terms and conditions which PepsiCo has been offering to the farmers of Gujarat.  To the suggestion of settlement, Yagnik submitted to the court that a proposal be put to farmers and a reply would be sent to PepsiCo based on what the farmers want to do.

Modi's statement on N-weapon button mindless, disturbing: CNDP

The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) has said that it is with "shock and dismay" that one takes note of the Indian Prime Minister's "public nuclear sabre-rattling" on April 21, 2019 in Barmer in Rajasthan, when he "mindlessly and sarcastically" declared that India’s nuclear weapons were not for celebrating ‘Diwali’.
Signd by Anil Chaudhury, ND Jayprakash, Sukla Sen, Lalita Ramdas and Achin Vanaik, a CNDP statement said, "To speak so casually about the possible use of nuclear weapons and that too for the purposes of winning votes through arousal of hatred and by promoting an ugly, masculinist militarism, is deeply disturbing."
It added, "The very least that is demanded from nuclear armed governments is that their leaders should display some sense of responsibility and sobriety in what they say and do. That Prime Minister Modi has disregarded all this only goes to reinforce the view that South Asia is potentially the mos…

Sadhvi Pragya's statement on Karkare unfortunate, despicable: Ex-DGPs

Seven ex-DGPs -- Julio Ribeiro,Prakash Singh, PKH Tharakan, Kamal Kumar, Jacob Punoose, Sanjeev Dayal, Jayanto N. Choudhury, and N Ramachandran -- have in a statement said that the remarks of Sadhvi Pragya, a contestant from the Bhopal constituency, on late Hemant Karkare, Indian Police Service, Chief of ATS, Mumbai Police, are "unfortunate", and though she has retracted, the fact is "Karkare fell to terrorist bullets on 26/11 in the line of duty while defending his country."
Ex-DGPs say, Karkare "would probably be alive today had he not volunteered to return to the Maharashtra cadre from a plum posting at the Centre with the specific intention of working with the Anti-Terror Squad to prevent and investigate the activities of terrorists so that the rest of us could sleep safe in our beds. The country owes him a huge debt of gratitude. Anything that detracts from this is worthy of strong condemnation."
The statement continues, "This despicable and r…

Hold credible inquiry into sexual harassment complaint against CJI: Civil rights leaders

Thirty civil rights leaders have expressed “extremely concern” following the complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation made by a woman employee of the Supreme Court against the Chief Justice of India. “The charges are prima facie serious enough to warrant an independent inquiry by a high level independent committee”, they have said in a statement.
Those who have signed the statement include Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy, Bezwada Wilson, Yogendra Yadav, Harsh Mander, Syeda Hameed, P Sainath, Anjali Bhardwaj, Aakar Patel, Shabnam Hashmi, Amitabh Behar, Maj Gen SG Vombatkere, Kavita Srivastava, and Meera Sanghamitra.
The statement says, “The complaint has alleged arbitrary actions taken against the complainant, resulting in unprecedented victimisation that she and her family have been put through and continue to suffer after she rejected the alleged sexual advances, including the unjust termination of the services of the complainant, the suspension from service of her …

On fast for six months, Atmabodhanand warns: Will up water for clean Ganga if govt doesn't listen

An open warning young saint Atmabodhand, on fast in Haridwar for ensuring clean Ganga for the last about six months, has said that he would give up even water if by March 25 the Government of India does not concede to his demands. Bringing this to light, Matu Jansangathan, an Uttarakhand-based civil rights organization, has regretted, quoting the saint, that no representative of the government has come to talk to him so far.
In a statement, Matu Jansangathan said, the government “has neglected his demands for the past six months”, it is “not talking to him nor is replying to him in writing”, adding, “In a democracy this is a shameful act seeking to circumvent constitutional and moral force of non-violent movements.”
Recalling that on October 11, 2018, Swami Sanand wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he died in a government hospital in Rishikesh, the civil rights body said, Modi never cared to send a reply. “The government has not taken any concrete positive steps on…

Bangladesh's anti-terrorism "policy" leads to forced disappeance of 500 people: Paris report

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The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in a new report on "enforced disappearances in Bangladesh" has said that country's government has used these "to silence members of the political opposition and dissenting voices." The report is based on 30 interviews with victims of enforced disappearances that occurred between 2012 and 2018, their family members, eyewitnesses, and information from other civil society organisations.
According to the report, “Vanished Without a Trace: The Enforced Disappearance of Opposition and Dissent in Bangladesh,” state actors, including military and police, "worked in tandem to make people disappear. Some returned home, alive but silenced. Some were found dead, supposedly killed in crossfire. Others never came back."
The report believe, "There is a clear pattern of Bangladeshi authorities using enforced disappearances to silence political dissidents, especially since 2011." Documenting…

NGO releases videos showing workers entering into gutter in Ahmedabad without safety equipment

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A Gujarat-based grassroots organization, Manav Garima Trust (MGT), has taken strong exception to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) failing to implement the law prohibiting manual scavenging, saying, AMC has continued to use workers to clean up underground gutters without providing any safety equipment.
Releasing two videos and several photographs taken between January and April 2019, MGT director Parsottam Vaghela said, this is a mockery of Swacch Bharat Mission and the Supreme Court judgment of 2014, adding, these workers, employed by contractors hired by AMC, are sought to forced descend into gutter lines in the middle of night, though the law prohibits this after 6 pm.
One of the videos shows a worker entering into a sewerage line at 1.00 am in Bapunagar in February (on the top), and another one is of Vejalpur (the second one) taken a fortnight ago this month. Vaghela says, despite the death of two gutter workers in Bawla in Ahmedabad district, AMC has not woken up, add…

Ex-PM Manmohan Singh praises NYAY for its "Keynesian effect"

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“Endorsing” NYAY – Nyuntam Aay Yojana – announced by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called it “a powerful idea with dual objectives – to wipe out the last remnants of poverty and to restart stalled economic activity in our nation.” Under NYAY, the poorest 20% of Indian families will be given an annual income support of a uniform amount of ₹72000 for each family.
Singh in a statement said, “By providing direct income support, NYAY will empower our poor with economic freedom and choice” and it will “usher in an era of a minimum income guarantee and help create a new social contract for a new welfare state.” He added, “NYAY will also help restart our economic engine that has come to a stop today.”
According to Singh, who is known as a keen supporter of free market economics, “Money in the hands of the needy will stimulate demand in the economy which can then lead to increased economic activity and job creation, referred to as the Keynesian effe…

Amit Shah earns just Rs 56 lakh annually, owns Rs 40 crore assets, faces four serious charges: Affidavit

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BJP's  high-profile candidate from Gandhinagar, Amit Shah, who also happens to be the party's national president, has claimed that his annual income is just about Rs 56 lakh, and his main sources of income are agriculture, rent and share market. Shah has also declared that he owns 40.32 crore of assets -- 23.55 crore movable and Rs 16.77 crore immovable.
In his self-declared affidavit, Shah has also said that he faces four serious cases, related to "mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc." (IPC Section-436); "promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony" (IPC Section-153A); "imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration" (IPC Section-153B); and "criminal intimidation" (IPC Section-506).
Releasing these figures, advocacy groups Gujarat Election Watch and Association of …

Pragya Thakur's outlook is in "sync" with Modi's: Swami Agnivesh

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Well-known saint-activist Swami Agnivesh has said in a statement that BJP Bhopal candidate, Pragya Thakur, has "maligned" the cherished memory of Hemant Karkare, the martyr in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, adding, it "deserves to be condemned by all Indians, irrespective of party affiliations."
He said, "To claim that it was her curse that led to the untimely death of a brave police officer, who laid down his life in the line of duty, and for which he had been given highest civilian award (Ashok Chakra) in 2009" proves that "the lady may have the vestments of a sadhvi, but is wholly devoid of any spiritual sensitivity."
According to Agnivesh, "BJP did not choose Pragya for her spiritual finesse or political maturity, both of which lacks utterly. She has been chosen because of her ability to communalise the election. "Commenting on BJP seeking to "tactically distance" itself from Pragya’s statement, he added, "It cannot…

In 3rd phase, 27% BJP, 24% Congress Lok Sabha candidates declare criminal cases on themselves

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An analysis by the National Election Watch (NEW) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) of the self-sworn affidavits of candidates fighting Lok Sabha elections in the third phase (April 23) suggests, among the major political parties, and 40 (44%) out of 90 candidates from Congress, 38 (39%) out of 97 candidates from BJP have declared criminal cases against themselves.
As for serious criminal cases, 26 (27%) out of 97 candidates from BJP and 24 (27%) out of 90 candidates from Congress have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.
In all, 1,594 candidates' affidavits analysed by NEW and ADR suggests that 340 or 21% candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves, and 230 or 14% have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.
Further, 14 candidates have declared convicted cases against themselves, 13 candidates have declared cases related to murder (IPC Section -302) against themselves, and 30 candidates have declared cases related to atte…

Sir Syed's contribution recalled at Jamia Urdu's 80th Foundation Day

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Speaking on the 80th Foundation Day of Jamia Urdu, Aligarh, several Urdu enthusiasts, includind MM Ansari, former member, Universities Grants Commission (UGC), Firoz Bakht Ahmed, chairman, Academic Council, Jamia Urdu, and Dr Jasim Mohammed, director, Jamia Urdu, suggested how Urdu became the language of composite culture, paving the way for communal amity among communities.
While Kuldeep Agarwal, former director, National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), stated that that the purpose of all the Indian and international languages is to achieve the spirit of fraternal ambiance and ecumenism, Musaid Kidwai, an academic, said that Jamia Urdu’s research wing’s purpose was to define the problem sectors in the field of Urdu language not only within the country but also internationally as well.
A coffee table book, “A Journey of Urdu” was released along with a compilation of Sir Syed’s writings, “Mazamin-e-Sir Syed”, authored by Farhat Ali Khan. Attended by students from different cour…

Book on seven interconnected "political" murders, including Haren Pandya, Justice Loya, released

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A controversial new book in Hindi, ‘Satta ki Suli’, with an account on CBI judge BH Loya’s death case, released in Ahmedabad, has sought to cover not only the alleged murder of the judge but also a series of seven other "political murders".
The book, authored by Mahendra Mishra, Pradeep Singh and Upendra Chowdhary, starts with the murder of ex-Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya and gangster Sohrabuddin and his wife Kasuar Bi, witness Tusliram Prajapti, followed by that of judge Loya and two others, advocate Shrikant Khandalkar and retired judge Prakash Thrombay.
Earlier released in Delhi, speaking during a similar ceremony in Ahmedabad, Mishra, who is editor of the web portal "Jan Chowk", said that it was remarkable, the book was being released at a time when freedom of expression was under threat. Criticising "Caravan", the e-magazine which first broke Loya's death, Mishra said, it failed to continue with required follow-ups as it was brought unde…

Future MPs being told to take a pledge to ensure sufficient budget for rape free India

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As part of the Rape Free India Campaign, the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation (KSCF), in alliance with the Shala Mitra Sangh, a civil society group of Gujarat, released a draft pledge for the would-be elected representatives of the Lok Sabha polls, asking them to swear for ushering in a rape-free India.
The pledge would seek to make future Members of Parliament to take up two major issues in the Lok Sabha: That they would ensure a budgeted action plan to make India rape free; and that 10% of resources in union budget should be allotted towards making the country safe for women and children.
Releasing the pledge, KSCF said in a statement it is a matter of "grave concern" that issues relating to safety of women and children are not being raised during the polls, even though, as per the National Crime Research Bureau data, one child is sexually abused every 15 minutes in our country, 106 rapes take place every day, and between 2015 and 2016, crime against children …

Study documents 34 smart city projects forcibly displacing 17,700 people last year

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A just-released study, "Forced Evictions in India in 2018: An Unabating National Crisis", prepared by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), New Delhi, has said, it has documented forced evictions in 34 of the 100 ‘smart cities’ being developed across the country." The study, which documents evictions across India because of different types of development projects, says says, smart cities alone displaced 17,700 people.
Among the glaring examples it cites include the Tamil Nadu government demolishing about 1,700 homes (of over 4,200 identifed houses) for a ‘smart city’ project related to restoration of water bodies in Coimbatore, and in Thanjavur, where over 130 homes were demolished for a ‘smart city’ project to renovate a moat.
Then, HLRN says, un Nagpur, Maharashtra, 12 homes were destroyed for the Pardi Flyover, as part of the ‘smart city’ development work. In Machhi Bazaar, Indore, 455 families lost housing as a result of a road-widening ‘smart city’ project.…

Release Haragopal, others, arrested for demanding release of top poet: AIFRTE

The All-India Forum for Right to Education ( AIFRTE), in a statement, has condemned the arrest of Prof G Haragopal, member of AIFRTE Presidium, Prof Katyayani and Venugopal, along with many others in Hyderabad by the Telangana police, while they were in an indoor meeting demanding the release of poet Varavara Rao and other intellectuals arrested recently.
Claiming that Rao and others were arrested on "totally false and trumped up charges", AIFRTE said, the new round of arrests" is most condemnale and represents a new low in the current political situation in India today."
AIFRTE in a statement said, "Not only are innocent persons incarcerated without proper cause or evidence, but even those who protest such insupportable confinement are now being treated like criminals in an attempt to stifle all democratic protests."
It added, "Evidently, the Telangana police went to the extent of even blocking all the roads leading to the meeting hall so that the i…

43% Congress, 32% BJP Lok Sabha candidates declare criminal cases against themselves

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The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has found that, among the major parties, 16 (31%) out of 51 candidates from BJP, 23 (43%) out of 53 candidates from Congress, 16 (20%) out of 80 candidates from BSP, 3 (14%) out of 22 candidates analysed from AIADMK, and 11 (46%) out of 24 candidates from DMK have declared criminal cases against themselves.
Analysing individual affidavits filed by candidates fighting Lok Sabha elections in the second phase (April 18), ADR has further found that, among the major parties, 10 (20%) out of 51 candidates from BJP, 17 (32%) out of 53 candidates from INC, 10 (13%) out of 80 candidates from BSP, 3 (14%) out of 22 candidates analysed from AIADMK, and 7 (29%) out of 24 candidates from DMK have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.
In all, ADR, in alliance with National Election Watch, has analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 1590 out of 1644 candidates, who are contesting in the Lok Sabha Phase II. As many as 54 candidates have not bee…