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First ever reduction in male workforce in 2017-18 since 1993-94: Govt of India report

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In a stark revelation, a Government of India's yet-to-be released report has said that, for the first time since 1993-94, the actual size of India’s male workforce, or men who are working, has shrunk. Data from the National Sample Survey report, "Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFC) 2017-18", says that there were by 28.6 crore employed males in the country during the year.
This, it is reported, is the first instance of a drop in the male workforce that steadily swelled from 21.9 crore in 1993-94 to 30.4 crore in 2011-12 when the last NSS survey was conducted. This suggests fewer men were employed in 2017-18 compared with five years ago.
The decline in actual numbers occurred, again for the first time since 1993-94, in both rural and urban male workforce. The slide is steeper — 6.4% — in the rural areas compared to a 4.7% setback observed in the urban sector.
The yet-to-be-released PLFS report put the unemployment rate for male in urban and rural segments at 7.1 per cent a…

Elections 2019: Civil society network WNTA plans activists' meet on March 23

Well-known civil society network, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), has asked activists across India to join an event it has planned for March 23 -- the day of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru – for its campaign "Desh Mera, Vote Mera, Mudda Mera" it has launched in order to work out a strategy for the 2019 elections, saying Indian democracy is at a “critical moment”, and even as real and substantive issues had begun to surface, “suddenly the focus has been shifted national security.”
Insisting that “there seems to be a deliberate attempt to keep the focus on emotional issues so as to avoid critical scrutiny”, WNTA in its appeal to activists said, “The first and foremost duty of a citizen is to prevent this derailment and bring the focus back on real issues such as unemployment, farm distress, rising inequality, hate crimes, condition of marginal communities and deficits in the basic welfare provisions.”
Pointing out that “while it is for political parties to contes…

India No 2 in natural resource extraction, causing adverse impact on environment: UNEP

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A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Resource Panel (IRP), “Global Resources Outlook 2019: Natural Resources for the Future We Want”, has raised the alarm that 10 economies across the globe, including India, are responsible for over 68 per cent of global extraction of resources today.
Expressing serious concern that more than a third of all materials in 2017 were extracted in China, the report states, the country is “followed by 7.6 per cent in India and 7.1 per cent in the United States.”
At the same time, the report says, while Europe “generates 20 per cent of the global resource-related value added, impacting just 5 to 10 per cent on the environment, India’s resource-related value-added in 2017 was just 4 per cent, but its environmental impact was as high as 7 per cent.
The report comments, “This inverse pattern of domestic resource-related value added and environmental impacts may be a sign of varying environmental standards, bu…

Pak scholars' invite to world Urdu meet cancelled because Islamabad promoted terror: Govt

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Close on the heels of former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju strongly objecting to the cancellation of invitations to Pakistani scholars for the three-day World Urdu Conference to begin on Monday in Delhi, the Government of India organizers have come up with the explanation that this was as a consequence to "the way Pakistan has been indulging in cross-border terrorism."
To be inaugurated by Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Human Resource Development, a chief organizer, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) vice-chairman Prof Shahid Akhtar, told media that there will be participants from Canada, Russia, France, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Denmark, Japan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Mauritius, apart from 40 Urdu scholars from around the country.
"Urdu is a window to the cultural heritage of Indian ambiance of harmonious bonding between one and all", he said, adding, the subjects to be discussed would include “Urdu as a Medium of Instruction: Primary t…

Delhi-Haridwar foot marchers for "saving" Ganga resolve to oppose BJP in elections

The Delhi to Haridwar foot march, which started from Jantar Mantar on March 9, 2019 concluded today at Matri Sadan, Haridwar, the site of long fasts for conservation of Ganga. Currently, 26 years old Brahmachari Atmabodhanand is on fast for 145 days in order to press upon the government listens to his demands.
Earlier, Swami Nigmanand lost his life after 115 days fast in 2011 against illegal mining in Ganga, followed by Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, formerly Prof GD Agrawal, who lost his life on October 11, 2019 after 112 days of fast demanding halt of all proposed and ongoing hydroelectric power projects on Ganga, illegal mining, deforestation in river basin and flow of sewage into Ganga.
A meeting was held in the presence of Atmabodhanand and Swami Shivanand, head of Matri Sadan, in which environmentalist Ravi Chopra, member of Parliament from Nepal Met Mani Chaudhary, and Asia representative of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Phoolman Chaudhary were present.

Demand from Gujarat Govt to support silicosis patients continuously on oxygen

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Senior health rights activist Jagdish Patel, who heads People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, has asked the the Government of Gujarat to urgently arrange for oxygen concentrator for patients like Sikandar alias Ratan, suffering from silicosis since 2013. At the age of 33 Sikandar began working as agate polisher on a vertical wheel machine known as patiya, used to make round beads.
Patel in a statement said, since 2013 Sikandar got sick and had to leave the job. He did not know anything on his right to claim compensation for silicosis and has not filed any compensation claim under the Employees Compensation Act. He is now completely bedridden. He needs to be on oxygen all 24 hours, even in the toilet.
Every third day, says Patel, someone from the family has to travel in autorikshaw to Anand, the district headquarter from his village Mamhmmadpura. Married with two children, he is landless, and his daily expenses of treatment are around Rs 250 which his family can…

ESIS to enrol private practioners, as it expands to Vadodara district, "benefit" 80,000 workers

The Employees' State Insurance Scheme (ESIS) has decided to enrol private practioners to "overcome" the scarcity of doctors following its decision to expand its wings in Vadodara district. According to ESIS, in all, 80,000 workers of the district would benefit from the scheme, which would require 1.75% contribution from workers' salary and 4.75% from the industrial units where they work. All the workers who salary is Rs 21,000 or less would be enrolled in ESIS.
Prominent health rights activist Jagdish Patel of the Peoples Training & Research Centre, Vadodara, even as welcoming the ESIS decision, said, Vadodara and its adjoining areas lack quality and affordable health services, resulting in people being asked to rush the Siyaji Hospital in Vadodara in case of any serious disease. It has also been found that, often, workers are at the mercy of private practioners, who charge huge sums for any treatment.

New single women's organization in Gujarat demands increase in pension to Rs 5,000

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A new organization, Ekal Mahila Adhikar Sangathan, proposing to fight for single women’s rights in Gujarat, has come into existence following a meeting of an estimated 1,500 single women, many of them from the minority community. The meeting was held in the North Gujarat town of Himmatnagar.
Those who actively participated in the meeting included Huraben M Dani, who was elected as convener of the organization, Jamila Khan from Ahmedabad, women from several villages of Sabarkantha district Hansaben, Vllasaben, Halima Ben, Hasinaben, Seema Ben, Gangaben, Hasuba, Hina Ben and Lila Ben.
Several male activists joined in to help form the organization, including Mujahid Nafees, who leads the Minority Coordination Committee, Gujarat, as also Junaid Ansari, Shailesh Thakkar, Danish Khan and Shakeel Sheikh. Nafees agreed to take a leading role in the organization.
Following the meet, an 20-point memorandum was handed over to the district collector, Sabarkantha, demanding lifelong pension to …

Linking Godavari, Cauvery based on "ecologically unscientific" premise: SANDRP

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Sharply reacting to Union water resources minister Nitin Gadkari, who has said “linking Godavari and Cauvery rivers will be the top priority for the next NDA government”, well-known civil rights organization South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said, “There is no surplus in Godavari as accepted by all the concerned states”, and even if one were to accept the notion of surplus in a river, it is “ecologically unscientific.”
Gadkari recently said, the interlinking of Godavari and Cauvery would be done by taking the backwater of Godavari from Polavaram, taking that water to Krishna, Krishna’s water to Pennar and Pennar to Cauvery -- the tail end of Tamil Nadu.
Calling it a dream project, on which his ministry is working, he added, “Actually, the water problem in the country is not the problem of whole of India. There are some pockets; but basically, water scarcity is a problem related to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya…

Revocation of invitation to Pakistani scholars for Urdu meet "sheer madness": Katju

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Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju has termed the decision not to allow Pakistani Urdu scholars to India the World Urdu Conference as “sheer madness”. In a Facebook post, Katju said, “Hadd ho gayi paagalpan ki… I strongly protest against the revocation of invitations to Pakistani Urdu scholars to the World Urdu Conference to be held from March 18 to 20 in Delhi in the auditorium of SCOPE (Standing Conference of Public Enterprises), Lodi Road.”
Appealing to all invitees to refuse to attend the conference to protest against this ridiculous act, Katju says, “This stupidity has crossed all limits, and is an insult to Urdu, a great language born in India, which is falsely branded as a language of Muslims and a foreign language by bigots.”

35% job loss after demonetization, 50% dip in revenues of MSMEs: Economist

Talking about the "adverse" impact of the November 2016 demonetisation, a senior academic has revealed, at a meeting organized by the Financial Accountability Network India and Delhi Forum, two civil rigs organizations, ever since, India's micro and small enterprises have suffered 35% job losses and 50 per cent dip in revenues.
Dinesh Abrol, professor, Institute of Studies in Industrial Development, further said, likewise, the credit disbursed by the banks shows that out of a total outstanding credit of Rs 26.04 billion as in November 2017, 82.6% of the amount was lent to large enterprises, and MSMEs got only 17.4% of total credit”, which further worsened the unemployment situation.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Sunilam, a senior civil rights leader, said, the difference in the Minimum Support Price and the market price of the agricultural products is over Rs 50,000 crore, higher than the Union Agriculture Budget. Added Vijoo Krishnan, a CPI-M leader and joint secretary of…

Delhi to Haridwar padyatris in support of fasting saints seek "undammed" Ganga

The Delhi to Haridwar padyatra in support of saints fasting for Ganga has completed halfway, even as Brahmachari Atmabodhanand completed his 140th day of fast in demand of a clean and "undam-aged" (undammed) Ganga. As many as 17 marchers started their foot march to Haridwar from Jantar Mantar on March 9.
If in Ghaziabad the yatris were received by the kind hospitality of Jansatta apartment residents, in Modinagar they were hosted by Sant Ashram, and in Meerut by Sheikh-ul-Hind Madarssa. The yatris included people from states ranging from Punjab to Bengal, Kashmir to Maharastra.
The padyatra hopes to create awareness among people about the issue of Ganga and saints fasting and dying for this cause. A statement issued on behalf of yatris said, "We also hope that government will wake up to the sacrifices being made by saints."
The padyatris participating in the march include Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar; Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Bhartiya Kisan Mazdoor Sanyukta Union…

PMO "tries to stop" civil society meet held in Gujarat Vidyapeeth to discuss erosion of Gandhian values

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Did the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) try to stop a pre-arranged civil society meet at Gujarat University, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, held on the occasion of the 89th anniversary of Dandi march to highlight the importance of nonviolence at a time when the country is allegedly facing violent religious and caste divisions?
Organised by Delhi-based civil rights body India Inclusive, and called India Unites Convention on Nonviolence and Harmony, well-known human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi told the meet even as it was about to begin, "PMO rang up to say this meeting should not happen. It is not known what is there to be afraid of from such a small gathering." Hashmi named one of the organisers of the meet as the source of information about PMO.
Speaking on the occasion, former Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph regretted sharp erosion of values for which Gandhi stood for -- unity in diversity. Also pointing towards lack of respect for constitution, democracy and freedom …

Gujarat govt "not transparent" in appointing information commissioners: Top RTI activist

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Top Right to Information (RTI) activist Anjali Bharadwaj has accused the Gujarat government of failing to be transparent in the appointment of information commissioners, saying, despite clearcut Supreme Court order to fill up vacancies within a month transparently, things remain extremely secretive and nobody knows what it is doing.
"Currently, there are just two commissioners in the state information commission as against the total eight posts. Even the Gujarat government has sanctioned five posts, yet it does not seem to be doing anything to appoint them", Bharadwaj, who is co-convener of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), and was in Ahmedabad in connection with a civil rights organizations' meeting, said.
The civil rights organizations' meeting, organised by well-known human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi in Ahmedabad under the banner of India Inclusive, was held to mark the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's historic Dandi marc…

Arrest of Odisha tribal leader meant to "appease" corporates ahead of elections

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The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), "strongly" condemning the arrest of Lingraj Azad, leader of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, who, with the Dongria Kond forest community successfully fought the Vedanta corporation's attempts to grab adivasi land, has said, but for their struggle, "generations of adivasis would have been dispossessed".
AIFRTE said, "The ecological balance of the region, protected by the Dongria Kond's sustainable life conditions, would also have been irreparably damaged and lost." And with his arrest, "once again it appears under threat."
Asserted AIFRTE, "The Odisha government has revived it's efforts to promote the discredited cause of exploitative corporations and to deny the adivasis inhabiting these mineral rich lands over many centuries their legitimate human rights."
Saying that Lingraj Azad, national vice-president of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, a'member organization of AIFRTE, …

Top Gujarat PSU fails to find irregularities against "rough-and-tough" non-IAS babu, compensates

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The three-year old tug-of-war between AK Vijay Kumar, a non-IAS babu known for his rough-and-tough ways, and Atanu Chakraborty, a Gujarat cadre industry-friendly IAS bureaucrat, has come to an end following intervention by Gujarat chief secretary JN Singh and two other bureaucrats.
Kumar, who previously served the now defunct PSU Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) is currently special officer, industries, Government of Kerala, and official on special duty, investment promotion, Government of Andhra Pradesh on a "pro-bono basis" in Delhi. Chakroborty, ex-MD, GSPC, a former boss of Kumar, is secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), Government of India.
Things heated up in 2015-16, say sources, after Chakraborty “compulsorily" retired Kumar from GSPC on the basis of a five month discrepancy over the latter's birth date. This was "backed up" with an FIR filed with the Gandhinagar police accusing Kumar of "irregul…

PDS biometric validation pushing Ahmedabad's slumdwellers to starvation: HDRC survey

Days are not far off when Gujarat’s business capital Ahmedabad would be added to the list of places, led by Jharkhand’s rural areas, where failure of aadhaar-based biometric authentication led to  25 of 45 starvation deaths across India since 2017.
Ahmedabad-based NGO Human Development and Research Centre (HDRC) survey has revealed that Kesarben Ramabhai Thakore, 85, a poor women living in Sheherkotda slum area of Ahmedabad, is unable to get her ration from the public distribution system (PDS) because her fingers fail in biometric authentication.
An HDRC note claims, Kesarben, a single woman, “often goes to bed hungry if she is unable any food, for which she must go out begging daily”, adding, there were in all 1,795 families (24%) out of 7,512 surveyed who do not get ration because of “technical glitches”, which include fingerprint validation.
An HDRC media interaction with tens of slumdwellers revealed that a majority of them did not know that the biometric authentication is not…

ODF+ status? Ahmedabad's 14% slumdwellers defecate in the open: HDRC survey

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The Government of India may have “upgraded” Ahmedabad to “open defecation free (ODF) plus” status, following a third party audit “certifying” that the city has “hygienic and usable public toilets”. But a recent survey by the civil rights organization, Human Development and Research Centre (HDRC), has revealed that 13.71 of the slum-dwelling families – 1,030 out of 7,512 – are forced to go out in the open to defecate, allegedly because there are no public toilets for them.
Carried out among 24 slum pockets across the city, individual testimonies suggest that at several of the places there are no public toilets, and if public toilets are there they are non-functional, and representations to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) officials have elicited replies like the AMC has “no money” to lay down gutter lines, and that the complainants should do is to “go and represent to the elected representative.”
Talking with newspersons in Ahmedabad, two slumdwellers – 35-year-old Jyotsnaben M…

SP, DMK and TRS accounted for 46% of all regional parties' incomes: ADR

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An analysis of the officially declared income of 37 regional parties in the financial year (FY) 2017-18 shows that it was Rs 237.27 crore. Of this, Samajwadi Party (SP) reported having the highest income of Rs 47.19 crore, which forms 19.89% of the total income of all 37 regional parties, closely followed by DMK Rs 35.75 crore or 15.07% and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) whose income was Rs 27.27 crore or 11.49%.
Overall, in FY 2017-18, the total income of top  regional parties (SP, DMK, TRS) alone amounted to Rs 110.21 crore, which comprised 46.45% of the total income of 37 regional parties, collectively.
The total expenditure of all the 37 regional parties in FY 2017-18, was Rs 170.45 crore, says the analysis carried out by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) based on audit reports these parties submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI). Top three regional parties that incurred highest expenditure were SP which spent Rs 34.54 crore, followed by DMK Rs 27.47 crore a…

Top Odisha civil rights leader arrested, NAPM warns of "morcha" on March 11

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The National Alliance of Peoples’s Movements(NAPM), calling the arrest on Wednesday of Lingraj Azad, leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, by Odisha police illegal and deceitful, ha said, he "successfully fought the valiant struggle against Vedanta corporation along with Dongria Kondh."
"Initially it was reported that he has been arrested in an old case but just now we have learnt that sedition charges has also been slapped against him", NAPM said in a statement, adding, . Azad is "a fierce fighter for the rights of the adivasis." He is national vice president of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad and national convener of NAPM.
The top rights network said, "Arrests and attacks are not new to him in nearly three decades of his activism. He has faced physical attacks and harassment from the state for his struggle against the systemic oppression and corporate loot of the natural resources", warning, if he not released, it would plan a morcha in Bhubanesw…

UP land rights activist "untraceable" following arrest a week ago: AIUFWP

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Grassroots land rights activist Nandu Gond of Lilasi Village, Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, is said to be untraceable for about a week, with the local administration refusing to say anything about his whereabouts. and his family and relatives are concerned.
Arrested late last month, Nandu Gond, alleges Sabrang India, a site run by top human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, he is sought to be implicated in a second false case even after the High Court protected him against arrest in another "malicious" case.
According to the site, Nandu Gond’s only crime seems to be is that he is an assertive land and forest rights activist and is president of the Forest Rights Committee (FRC), Lilasi area, thana Nevarpur. For the past four months, he was forced to be on the run, even after the Allahabad High Court directed on a stay against his arrest (February 8, 2019).
Sokalo Gond of the All-India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) has been quoted as saying, " "Fro…

High resolution images by top San Francisco lab "suggest" India didn't inflict damage on Jaish camp

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High-resolution satellite images, which are claimed to have been reviewed by a top US expert, are said to suggest that "a religious school run by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan appears to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the Islamist group's training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants."
Referring to these images, top news agency Reuters says, "The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike", adding,  "Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available. But the images from Planet Labs, which show details as small as 72 cm (28 inches), offer a clearer look at the structures the Indian government said it attacked."
According to Reuters, "The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are…

India's unemployment 7.2% in Feb 2019, it was 5% a year ago: CMIE

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The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has said that India's unemployment rate in February 2019 was 7.2 per cent, higher than 7.1 per cent in January 2019 and much higher than the 5.9 per cent in February 2018 or 5 per cent in February 2017. Releasing latest figures, the top consulting agency has said, simultaneously, the labour participation rate fell from 43.2 per cent in January 2019 to 42.7 per cent in February.
"A year ago, in February 2018, the labour force participation rate was 43.8 per cent. Since then, this ratio has slipped to a low of 42.5 per cent. It seems to be stabilising within the range of 43.2 and 42.5 per cent", CMIE says, adding, however, "The most worrying part of the monthly labour participation rate series is that it has been systematically lower than the corresponding levels a year ago."
According to CMIE, "The falling labour participation rate implies that lower and lower proportion of the working age population is willi…

INTUC, AITUC creating hurdles, "not allowing" workers to take over closed Century Mills

The struggle of the workers of Century Mills in village Satrati, district Khargone, located on the Mumbai-Indore Highway, has completed 500 days. The relay hunger strike in front of the Mills gate and the labour office has completed 230 days. The workers are demanding Business Transfer Agreement (BTA) with the Mills management, under which the workers would run the Mills, as the owners want to close it down.
BTA is sought to be implemented following an Industrial Tribunal ruling, which directs the present management not to close down the Mills and hand it over to the workers, numbering close to 1,000. The management, says the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), which is fighting for the workers' rights, is refusing to implement the Industrial Tribunal order.
As the management does not want to run the Mills, NAPM insists, it can give workers the option of either taking VRS, take a cash amount (which can be up to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh), or hand over the Mills to th…

IIM-A survey finds "improvement" in business climate in January 2019

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The Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), basedon the responses of over 1,600 companies, mostly in the manufacturing sector, has said that the business inflation expectation has declined further to 3.10% in January 2019 from 3.29% observed in December 2018.
Regarding cost perceptions, around 52% of the firms in January 2019 reported that increase in costs has been more than 3%, down down from around 61% in December 2018, during the last one year, and the proportion of firms perceiving significant cost increase in January 2019 has declined to 24% as compared to 27% in December 2018. Nearly 58% of the firms in the sample reported that sales are ‘somewhat or much less than normal’ in January 2019. However, the proportion of firms that reported ‘much less than normal’ sales has remained similar during December 2018-January 2019 period.
The proportion of firms in the sample reporting ‘normal or greater than normal’ profit…

Drop sedition charges, release human rights defenders: EU MPs' letter to Govt of India, NHRC

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European Parliament’s 20 members, expressing concern over the crackdown on human rights defenders in India, have asked the Government of India and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide an open space to civil society. In a letter, they have said, “India is the largest democracy in the world, and an important strategic partner of the European Union, whereas the relationship between the two is based on shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.” Addressed to the ministers of law and justice (Ravi Shankar Prasad), tribal affairs (Jual Oram) and social justice and empowerment (Thaawarchand Gehlot), and NHRC’s liaison officer for human rights defenders, the letter says, there are “worrying signs of shrinking civil society space in India”, underlining the need to “take urgent steps to change course, release all detained human rights defenders in the country, drop all charges against them, and allow them to carry out their work free from risk or impedimen…

Oxford-based India, Pakistan students insist: We refuse to see our friends as enemies

Seventy Indian and Pakistani students at the University of Oxford have said, they are "deeply disturbed by the escalation of tensions over an impending war between India and Pakistan", adding, "As students in a land that is foreign to our homes – India and Pakistan – we’ve always marvelled at how we seamlessly gravitate towards each other, and how we are able to come together in community in ways we can’t back home."
Strongly condemning the suicide bombing in Pulwama, Kashmir, on February 14, 2019 which claimed the lives of around 44 Indian soldiers, in a statement, they say, following the terrorist attack, warmongering that has brgun is also "deplorable." They add, "At a time when India and Pakistan are lurching from crisis to crisis, we condemn the irresponsible rhetoric flooding the media in both countries in the strongest possible terms.
Pointing out that as students they often talk about the similarities they share in their food, culture, hist…

Modi coined the term divyang, why is he mocking dyslexic people?: Disabled rights body

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The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), condemning what it called "the disrespectful and insensitive" remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an interaction with students at the Smart India Hackathon 2019 organised by the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, has said, these were "all the more unpardonable as it comes from a person holding such a high office."
"Instead of answering a question posed by a student, the Prime Minister sought to take potshots at his political rivals. In an uncalled for and totally insensitive response the Prime Minister tried to portray all dyslexic people in poor light", said NPRD, adding, "And this disgusting attitude comes from a person who had equated disability with divinity and coined the term 'divyang'."
According to NPRD, "Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign Modi had used terms like blind, deaf, lame etc. to belittle his rivals. It is a reflec…

Most Favoured Nation status to Pak can't go: Govt of India had said before Pulwama terror attack

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India may have withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, but, ironically, just a month and a half earlier, the Government of India had asserted that this is not possible or desirable. Bringing this to light, a tweet by one Jagdish Shetty commented, "It took a terrorist in Pulwama to wake them up!"
In reply to a letter to BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy to take away the MFN status from Pakistan, CR Chaudhary, Minister of State for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, said that as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in accordance with provisions of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GAIT), 1994, India accorded MFN status to all WTO countries, including Pakistan.
Criticizing Pakistan for refusing to reciprocate appropriately, the minister said that neighbouring country is yet to fully accord MFN status to India, and it maintains a negative lis…

Eliminate administrative gaps which lead to anti-people judgements: Modi told

PS Krishnan, former secretary, ministry of welfare, Government of India, has in a letter asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to eliminate "gaps in governance and administration, revealed by a number of recent judgments which have adversely affected the legitimate interests of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEdBCs)."
According to Krishnan, "there have been a number of judgments" that suggest, these "have not been and are not being handled effectively", adding, "As a result of these gaps, governments have had to deal with important issues and problems pertaining to SCs, STs and SEdBCs in episodical and disjointed manner, without consistency."
"What has happened in the Forest Rights Act (FRA) case highlights this serious gap, which cries for urgent correction", Krishnan says, adding, "The urgent correction and elimination of these gaps is necessary to remove inequality i…

Film premiere held on "colossal disaster" hydropower projects are having in Satluj Valley

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The Delhi Solidarity Group and the Kriti Film Club held premiere of the film "Ho Gyi Hai Pir Parvat Si" (The Mountains Agonized), directed by Subrat Kumar Sahu, who is known for making films that reflect our social structures and has often been sceptical about the "way of development" through his craft. Held at Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, the film by the independent filmmaker is about the impacts of hydropower development in the Satluj Valley.
The 111 minute film, shot between 2010 and 2017, travels from village to village on the landscape that falls under Seismic Zones IV and V, capturing visuals of colossal disaster and resident testimonies of the already deleterious impacts of many ongoing hydro-power projects on the local farm-based economies, on their precious water sources, causing deforestation, health hazards, landslides, flash floods, leading to desperate situations for the local communities and also threatening to drive them into dis…

Agricultural GDP to grow by a mere 2.7% in 2018-19, down from 5% in '17-18: Report

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Latest estimates suggest that in the third quarter of 2018-19 (October-December), agriculture and allied activities grew at 2.7 per cent as against 4.6 per cent during the same period last year. The situation wouldn’t be any better for the full year in 2018-19, when the growth in agriculture and allied activities was estimated the same, 2.7 per cent, down from 5 per cent in fiscal 2017-18.
“Low monsoon and post-monsoon rains have pulled down post-kharif and rabi production, which is being reflected in the GDP numbers,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings, has been quoted as saying. Data show, India’s wheat production in the 2018-19 rabi season is expected to be 99.12 million tonnes, marginally less than 99.7 million tonnes last year, though rice production is estimated to touch a record 115.6 million tonnes in 2018-19, from 112.91 million tonnes in the previous year.
At the same time, India is expected to harvest a lower rapeseed and gram crop in this rabi season, as the mo…

NGT asks Gujarat govt to form committee to halt environmental damage of Tapi river in Surat

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Taking serious view of “illegal construction activities, dumping of waste, dredging, digging, illegal discharge of effluents and absence of demarcation of blue line and red line in the river bed by the Irrigation Department” in the area of Tapi river in Surat, Gujarat, the National Green Tribunal (NTG), New Delhi, has directed the state government to form an official-level committee to halt the “damage” it is causing to the environment.
The five-person committee, NTG said, should comprise of “representatives” of the Secretary, Irrigation Department of Gujarat; Gujarat State Pollution Control Board (GPCB); Secretary, Urban Development and Housing Department of Gujarat; district collector, Surat; and the Surat municipal commissioner “to review and coordinate” necessary measures.
At the same time, even as calling Tapi river “one of the polluted river stretches in the State of Gujarat”, NGT in its order in the Nav Yuva Sanghatan & Ors vs Secretary, Narmada, Water Resources, Water Sup…

600 prominent Indian citizens appeal to Indian, Pak govts to "refrain" from further hostilities

As many as 600 citizens of India, “deeply concerned” at the recent escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan leading to “climate of intolerance”, have appeal to the two governments to “refrain from further hostilities, overt or covert, and to resolve their differences within the framework of international law and human rights.”
In a statement, they have said, while “nothing can justify the act of terrorism that took the lives of more than 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama on February 14, 2019”, nor can “anything justify the Pakistan government’s covert support of armed groups that have carried out this sort of attack in Kashmir”, they insist, “India’s response to this incident must abide by international law in letter and spirit.”
In a statement, they have said, “The history of war across the world has repeatedly shown how easily and speedily an armed conflict can escalate well beyond what was initially expected”, adding, “It would be easy for seemingly “safe” strikes and counter…

Has proposed project to dump "treated" effluents into Arabian sea got eco-nod? RTI plea to GPCB

Top Ahmedabad-based environmental group Paryavaran Mitra has filed an application with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, regarding the construction of a pipeline that would reportedly carry treated effluent from different cities of Gujarat and discharge it in Arabian Sea, wondering, “How many industrial estates and Central Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) are part of this project?"
Seeking details on each of them, the plea has also asked GPCB to provide feasibility study report, if any, about the project, and who was given the work order to prepare the report regarding the discharge of treated effluent through underground pipeline in Arabian Sea”, even as wondering as to whether the constructing an underground pipeline to carry treated effluent requires Environmental Clearance, and if any Environmental Impact Assessment report has been prepared for it.
The environmental group has further asked, “Which are the state and Central g…

NGO to agitate, ask political parties to commit in manifestos to make Aadhaar voluntary

Rethink Aadhaar, an NGO campaigning against compulsory use of the Aadhaar for all public services, has decided to launch a nationwide agitation during March 17-24, saying, the campaign would be aimed at pushing politicians to take a stand on this in their election manifestos.
In a communiqué, the NGO has said, this is part of the efforts "to push parties to take a stated stance to at least ensure that Aadhaar is purely a voluntary ID similar to other OVDs."
Pointing out that a petition of demands on this has been drafted,” the NGO insists, “We will need to conduct at least one on-ground countrywide agitation prior to the elections, which will be accompanied by circulating a status update on Aadhaar exclusions, leaks, and other critical failures of the project.”

100 Indian, world conservationists criticize Supreme Court order to "evict" forest dwellers

A joint statement by about 100 India’s and the world’s about 100 conservationists and conservation biologists, expressing dismay on the recent Supreme Court order to allegedly evict a million claimants under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of forest land, has said it is "a real setback for conservation in India."
According to them, "Forest dwellers have for centuries used and managed these forests that we are now considering to be valuable for conservation. The rights of local communities are an integral part of any sustainable and just model of conservation, as is now recognised in international law."
"Furthermore", they say, "FRA not only recognises these rights, it also legally empowers communities to protect their forests and wildlife as well. It is the first and only law in India that gives those who live in and with forests the power to protect them."
They adds, "Since it was notified into force in 2008, the FRA has been a key weapon in …

Come up with Ordinance before electoral code to stop eviction of forest dwellers: Letter to Modi

PS Krishnan, IAS (retd), former secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Welfare, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to BJP chief Amit Shah and his Congress counterpart Rahul Gandhi asking their respective party chief ministers to file review petitions against the Supreme Court’s order of February 13, 2019, has said, it is good that an all-party consensus on STs' forest rights, but this is not enough.
The apex court order had allegedly endangered the rights of over a million forest dwellers over forest land. According to Krishnan, such review petitions "virtually never lead to positive results", insisting, "What is required is decisive action, which will at one stroke resolve the problem, and this has to be through the legislative route and, initially, at this pre-election stage though the Ordinance route."
Asking him to "consider issue of such an Ordinance, before the Election Code of Conduct comes into force", Krishnan says,…

India's economic growth in Oct-Dec 6.4-6.9%, lowest in 5 years: Reuters survey

In what may prove to be a major embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top international news agency Reuters has created a flutter by saying that it's survey of economists suggests India's growth rate slipped to 6.9 percent annually in the October-December quarter.
Pointing out that it would be the "slowest growth in five quarters, making it harder for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP to persuade voters that government policies were delivering economic success", Reuters' estimate comes one day ahead of the Government of India is scheduled to release the second advance estimates for fiscal 2018-19.
According to Reuters, "Weaker domestic and external demand were key factors behind the economists expectations of sub-7 percent growth. India would still be growing faster than China’s 6.4 percent growth in the same quarter, but its economy has decelerated from the more than two-year high of 8.2 percent growth posted in the April-June quarter."
“The ec…

London's India, Pakistan solidarity group asks leaders to stop "warmongering"

Three civil rights organizations, South Asia Solidarity Group, London; Awami Workers Party, Pakistan; and University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) India Society, have “urgently” called upon “warmongers” of India and Pakistan to “draw back from the brink”, insisting, “We want peace in South Asia and call on the Indian and Pakistani governments to work for peace, not war.”
Criticizing the BJP government, in a statement, they have said, the suicide bomb attack on February 14, in which 40 jawans of the Indian CRPF were killed at Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), is being used by it to “whip up nationalist anger before the general election due to start in April.” They add, “In doing so the India’s BJP government led by Narendra Modi is recklessly taking the country to the brink of war with Pakistan.”
At the same time condemning “the warmongering and attacks with which the Pakistani military has responded”, the statement urges Pakistan to “to stop fu…

Indira Gandhi negotiated with France's Mitterrand for Mirage-2000 in 1981, used in Surgical Strike 2.0

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Prime Minister Indira Gandhi negotiated with French President Francois Mitterrand in 1981 for the purchase of 150 advanced Mirage-2000 warplanes, used by the Indian Air Force in the surgical strike 2.0 on February 26, 2019 to attack Jaish-e-Mohammad camp at Balakot, deep inside Pakistan. The negotiations were for a $2 billion deal, which were meant to give India “a major source of aircraft other than the Soviet Union and give France's Mirage production lines a new lease on life”, the "Washington Post" (WP) had reported in 1981.
The deal came in following Indira Gandhi’s strong criticism of Pakistan's “plans to buy U.S.-made F16s”, the paper said, adding, the negotiations were finalized by Mitterrand and Gandhi, who participated in the summit meeting of 22 world leaders in Cancun, Mexico in October 1981, dealing with issues of economic growth for developing countries.
The negotiations from the Indian side were led by Defense Secretary PK Kaul, who, said the report, b…

Protests planned in several states against Centre's silence on SC order to "evict" a million tribals

The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), a national platform of adivasi and forest dwellers' organisations, has announced a national struggle over the next two weeks against the "unjust attack" on millions of people whose claims under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) have allegedly rejected through a Supreme Court order.
CSD said in a statement, "The Supreme Court's order to evict over one million claimant families is the direct result of the BJP government's decision to not say a word in court for the last four hearings. This is only the last step in this government's consistent sabotage of this law, from May 2014 to the present."
Mass protests would be launched under the banner “BJP Sarkar Jawab Do!”, starting on February 26 and ending on March 10. On February 26, Jal Jangal Jeevan Bachao Sajha Manch will be holding a mass rally in Bhopal.On February 28, Adivasi Chhattra Sanghatan and allied groups will be holding rallies in all districts of Madhy…

NGO team finds chemical waste being illegally dumped on a farmland in Vadodara district

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Claiming to have exposed a racket in Vadodara district involving a former Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), environment group Prakruti Suraksha Mandal (PSM) has said that its team has found large scale illegal disposal of solid waste in the premises of a farm in Nani Bhadol village of Savli taluka. In a statement, it said, the team found a tempo emptying barrels filled with chemical waste barrels on the farm.
“We made a complaint to the GPCB, Vadodara, which sent its officials to find out what was happening. The officials were surprised to see this type of activity was taking place”, said PMS’ Salim Patel, noting, “On inquiry, the officials found that a former GPCB employee was also involved in this illegal dumping of waste.” Suggesting that this is not an isolated incident, Patel added, “We demanded the GPCB should take investigate into the racket and take strict action against the culprits.”

Dalits, Muslims being targeted in UP: Rihai Manch

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The Uttar Pradesh civil rights organization Rihai Manch has taken strong exception to targeting of Dalits and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar district, pointing out that National Security Act (NSA) is being "selectively" imposed on members of these two communities, suggesting "Manuvadi" behaviour of the Modi-Yogi government at the Centre and the state.
Addressing media in Khatauli, Muzaffarnagar district, Manch leaders referred to the arrest of individuals during the April 2 Bharat Bandh, saying, most of them are Muslims and Dalits, and were booked under NSA.
Rajiv Yadav, general secretary of the Manch, said, "On one hand, cases against the 2013 communal violence accused, including BJP MLAs and MPs, are being withdrawn, on other, cases are being framed on fake charges on the deprived sections of society. Even minors and women in Khatauli are not being spared."
He said, things have reached another extreme in Deoband, where students from Kashmir, Azamgarh, Jaunp…

Issue ordinance to undo damage done by SC order to "evict" tribals: Letter to Govt of India

In a letter to Union minister for tribal affairs Jual Oram, former secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Welfare, PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd), who was also member, National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities, has said that emergency action is required to immediately stay eviction of lakhs of STs and find complete solution to the situation that has arisen following the Supreme Court order of February 13.
The order, says Irishman, directed 21 States to evict a mind-boggling number, mainly of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and of some other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs), in the case of the Wild-Life First and Ors vs the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ors.
The letter regrets, "It appears that your Ministry was not in the picture in this case. In view of the orientation of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, there is room for apprehension that the facts and the Constitutional and legal position pertaining to STs may not ha…

Karnataka High Court quashes ED decision to freeze Greenpeace accounts

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The Karnataka High Court has quashed the freezing of accounts of Greenpeace India by the Enforcement Directorate, holding the order of freezing to be null and void. Funding to the top international environmental watchdog was blocked following a raid by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at its Bangalore office in October 2018.
In a setback to the ED move, not only has the High Court allowed funding of Greenpeace, it has directed immediate defreezing of Greenpeace India’s account.
Diya Deb, campaign director at Greenpeace India, has welcomed the Karnataka High Court's decision to unfreeze the bank accounts of Greenpeace India, saying, the decision not only strengthens its "belief in democractic values and constitutional propriety but also attests our stand that the organisation functions in accordance with Indian laws and for the benefit of society at large."
The campaigner adds, "We hope that the attempts to shut us down will continue to be thwarted by the Courts which…

NGO working in J&K border area, two others receive Rs 5 crore HCL CSR grant each

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HCL Foundation, the CSR arm of HCL Technologies, has granted Rs 5 crore each to three NGOs -- She Hope Society for Women, Wildlife Trust of India and Srijan Foundation Noida, India -- under the top industry's corporate social responsibility programme.
The grants were handed over to the three NGOs in the presence of Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, and Sourav Ganguly, former captain of the Indian National Cricket Team. These were in recognition of the NGOs' exemplary work in the field of healthcare, environment and education, respectively.
The HCL Grant award ceremony, held at the HCL Technologies campus in Noida, was also attended, among others by Shiv Nadar, founder and chairman, HCL, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, vice chairperson, HCL Technologies.
The She Hope Society for Women Entrepreneurs works in remote, border and isolated areas of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on physical rehabilitation. It would use the grant as humanitarian assistance to strengthen inclusion and safet…