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Showing posts from 2019

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Nirma told to publicly declare it's 'not using' carcinogenic chemical in detergents

By Rajiv Shah
An influential Delhi NGO has told the powerful Gujarat-based industrial house Nirma that it should come up with a public statement stating it is not using nonylphenol, a “disrupting chemical” commonly used to manufacture detergents, which the NGO claims is “a persistent, toxic, bioaccumulative chemical” that acts as a “hormone disruptor” and can be responsible for a number of "adverse human health effects”, including cancer.

Indian economy data unreliable, appoint Abhijit Banerjee to remedy things: GoI told

By Rajiv Shah
Even as suggesting a series of measures to push out the Indian economy from the current “great slowdown”, well-known economist Arvind Subramanian has advised the Government of India (GoI) to urgently set up a committee under the leadership of Nobel Prize winner Professor Abhijit Banerjee in order to trigger the process of “generating and disseminating accurate data.”

Krishna Kumar's Gandhian tips on education in Ahmedabad, a communally divided city

By Rajiv Shah
A few days back, when I met Prof Krishna Kumar in Ahmedabad, a prominent scholar on education, whom I have considered over the last two decades more as the main brain behind Prof Yash Pal’s well-known report "Learning without Burden" (1993), I just couldn’t resist recalling my interactions with him as a BA (honours) English student in Kirori Mal College in Delhi. Prof Kumar was in Ahmedabad to deliver a lecture on why our education system was failing to succeed. It was an Umashakar Joshi memorial lecture.

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

India 'worse' than Pakistan, other neighbours in social hostilities score: US think-tank

By Rajiv Shah
A recent report, published a top American think-tank based in Washington DC, the Pew Research Center, has found India faring poorest among the 25 most populous countries across the world in social hostilities index (SHI), which seeks to analyse 13 different issues related with social tensions arising out of religious discord and violence.

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

India enters quagmire of 'mistrust economy', as GDP growth officially slips to 4.5%

By Rajiv Shah
I have had a special liking for GDP, and it isn’t new, either. During my Times of India days in Gandhinagar (1997-2012), I remember, how as chief minister, Narendra Modi, post-2002 Gujarat riots, kept harping on the state’s double digit rate of growth rate continuously for three or four years, but got a little puzzled when, during a press conference, I asked him how was it that an official document talked of just 5.1% growth rate.
Perplexed, he kept quiet for a little more than a minute, looked around for an answer, and finally got one from the then finance secretary, who, sitting behind him, murmured something in his ear. “It so happens that when your GDP rate is very high for several years, it reaches a plateau, and then the possibility of as big a rise becomes difficult”, he told the media.
A good explanation, I thought, but wondered, why was it that he continued harping on the double rate of growth for so long, when it wasn’t the case. During those years, data wasn’t …

'Discussed' with Modi, Gujarat Rann Sarovar proposal for Kutch runsinto rough weather

By Rajiv Shah
Top Saurashtra industrialist Jaysukhbhai Patel’s by now controversial proposal to convert the 4,900 sq km Little Rann of Kutch area, an eco-sensitive zone – a UNESCO biosphere, world’s only wild ass reserve, and a nesting ground of lesser flamingoes – into a huge sweet water lake, called Rann Sarovar, has suffered a major roadblock. At least three Central agencies have expressed serious doubts about its feasibility.
While Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani is said to be positive about the proposal, which has been opposed by the salt producers in the Little Rann, as it would take away their livelihood, as also by environmentalists, Central agencies, including the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) have raised doubts on it on technical and environmental grounds.
The proposal -- to be implemented in two phases -- requires "harvesting" the water of rivers draining into Li…

As fear 'grips' right liberals, Arvind Panagariya, too, would be declared anti-national?

By Rajiv Shah
It is surely well-known by now that India's top people in the power-that-be have been castigating all those who disagree with them as "anti-nationals". Nothing unusual. If till yesterday only "secular liberals", and "left-liberals" were declared anti-national, facts, however, appear to have begun surfacing that, now, guns are being trained against those who could be qualified as right liberals, too. Let me be specific.
The other day, a former bureaucrat of the Gujarat government, an IAS official, known for his keen perceptions of the state of the economy, whether India's or Gujarat's forwarded to me a video – an interview with Mahesh Vyas, managing director and CEO of India's topmost private sector data company, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
Interviewed by the news portal “The Wire”, long dubbed as "left liberal" by critics, of late Vyas has made a niche for himself by strongly asserting how unemployment…

Resettled Gujarat Narmada oustees 'lack' proper housing, health facilities: LSE study

By Rajiv Shah
A London School of Economics (LSE)-funded study, even as asserting that the Narmada dam oustees resettled in Gujarat are materially better off than their counterparts who have been living in semi-submerged areas and have not been resettled, has admitted existence of poor availability of public health facilities and housing even three or four decades after they began living in the villages with state support.
The study, titled “Are Resettled Oustees from the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project ‘Better Off’ Today?” by carried out by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, consulting editor with the Times of India group and a research fellow at the Cato Institute Washington DC, and Neeraj Kaushal, who teaches social policy at the Columbia University, New York, and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Massachusetts, finds that a whopping 73% per cent of the resettled oustees do not have access to public health.
Recently published in the research journal &…

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”
Noting that “there was Buddhist occupation” in Ayodhya then, Prof Varma, in an interview recently  “updated” in Huffington Post following the Supreme Court’s verdict handing over the Babri site to build a Ram Lalla temple, said, this is what even Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), also said after he carried out “some kind of survey” around the Ayodhya region in 1861-62.
Belonging to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and inserted as observers in the ASI team excavating the site following a Sunni Waqf Board plea in the Babri case, …

Cops' 'inability' to deliver justice? Model Gujarat ranks 12th among 18 major states

By Rajiv Shah
A Tata Trusts study, released in Delhi on Thursday, has ranked “model” Gujarat 12th out of 18 major states it has analysed across India to “assess” the police's capacity to deliver justice. Several of the advanced states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well as some of the so-called Bimaru states such as Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found to have ranked better than Gujarat.
Sponsored by India’s oldest philanthropic organization, founded in 1892 by Jamsetji Tata, the 146-page study, “India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid”, has been carried out by well-known civil society experts from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), DAKSH, TISS-Prayas and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
Seeking to rank states in delivering fair and speedy justice, the study claims to have used only government data, saying, “S…

Banned? Indian ports 'received' 38 US plastic waste containers reexported from Indonesia

By Rajiv Shah
An Indonesia-based international environmental watchdog group has dug out what it has called “a global pollution shell game”, stating how officials in Indonesia approved re-exports of “illegal” US waste shipments containing plastics mainly to India, as also to other Asian countries -- Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam -- instead of returning them to the US “as promised.”
An investigation by Nexus3, forwarded to Counterview, said that hundreds of containers arrive in Indonesia from the US and other developed countries carrying wastes, some of which were recently seized by the country’s authorities as “illegal and improper due to the fact that they contained plastic wastes and hazardous waste contaminants in the paper scrap.”
The investigation provides the container number of each of the containers tracked, the date of export from the US, and the date of final arrival in India and other Asian countries. The containers went to Asian countries instead of the US despite the f…

Business interests? Hindu bankers 'helped' Company Raj to flourish, colonize India

By Rajiv Shah
A new book, ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company’, authored by well-known Scott historian William Dalrymple, has said that a major reason for the success of the East India Company (EIC), which “colonized” the country between 1600 and 1857, was the support it got from Indian financiers or moneylenders, including Jagat Seth of Calcutta, Gokul Das of Benaras and other “Hindu bankers” of Patna and Allahabad.
Insisting that textbooks wrongly attribute that the British ruled India between 1600 and 1857, Dalrymple, in an interview with South Asia Times (SAT) editor Neeraj Nanda in Melbourne on the book ahead of its launch, said what is little understood is the “the corporate nature of that period of Indian history”, which turned into a “role model and” a “new factor” in world history. The British rule, according to the historian, lasted for just 90 years, between 1858 and 1974.
Already making waves, “The Anarchy” tells the story of EIC, tracing its history…

As workers suffer, Assam tea business chain retains 60-94% of earnings in India, abroad

By Rajiv Shah
A recent paper, published by the high-profile UK-based NGO Oxfam Great Britain (GB), has revealed that supermarkets and tea brands in India retain more than half (58.2%) of the final consumer price of black processed tea sold in India, with just 7.2% remaining for workers. “For a typically sized pack of branded black tea sold in India priced at Rs 68.8 for 200g, supermarkets and tea brands would retain some Rs 40.4, while workers would collectively receive just Rs 4.95 per pack”, it says.
Titled “Addressing the Human Cost of Assam Tea: An agenda for change to respect, protect and fulfil human rights on Assam tea plantations”, the paper is based on the findings of research studies by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the Bureau for the Appraisal of Social Impacts for Citizen Information (BASIC), further says that it uses “retail prices as a proxy indicator” for its estimate.
Exported abroad, the paper, authored by Sabita Banerji, Robin Willoughby and Amrita …

India's policies 'erratic': Raghuram Rajan doubts WB's Ease of Business ranking

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Raghuram Rajan, who resigned as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor in 2016 ahead of the Modi government’s controversial demonetization move, has taken strong exception to the World Bank seeking to show India climb up the East of Doing Business indicators, saying these do not match “the actual conditions in India” that “prevent businesses from working easily.”
In a lecture he delivered at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, US, Rajan, who is professor of finance at the University of Chicago, referring to issues of trade and investment, doubted if these have received the much-needed ease of doing business in India for firms that “produce both for the domestic economy and internationally.”
According to Rajan, “One would want a slashing in some of the old regulations that holdback firms and focusing on improving the ease of doing business. There's been some attention, but largely focused on the World Bank indicator…

What's behind rise and rise of Girish Chandra Murmu, Gujarat cadre IAS official

By Rajiv Shah
Girish Chandra Murmu. The very name amuses me. A 1985 batch Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat retiring next month, I still remember, during my interaction with him as the Times of India (TOI) man in Gandhinagar, his rather huge laughter (a loud “ha ha ha”) after he would frankly tell me what all was going on in the government. Now, the very same Murmu, 59, has been appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
It has been widely reported, not once, but several times over, the role Murmu is said to have played as in the chief minister’s office (CMO) during Narendra Modi’s tenure in Gujarat – that his name came up during investigations into the 2002 riots and Ishrat Jahan encounter; and that he was "deputed” to tutor the witnesses who were to depose before Nanavati Commission in 2004, a charge leveled by RB Sreekumar, a 1971-cadre Gujarat cadre IPS officer.
But here I don’t want to talk about all this; nor is this about how Murmu – wh…

India’s cyclical slowdown severe, downturn sharp: Now World Bank contradicts itself

By Rajiv Shah
For the powers-that be, surely, it is but natural to consider this a proud moment: That the World Bank’s new “Ease of Doing Business” report has shown India jumping 14 points; and that India is one of the two countries across the globe out of 190 economies analysed among the 10 top “improvers” which have shown climbed so sharply – the other country being the tiny Djibouti in the huge African continent.
Further, if the report is to be believed, out of total of 11 business regulatory reforms in the past two editions of Doing Business, India made 14 sizeable improvements during 2017-18, while Djibouti improved on 11 counts; and overall, it was important that two economies with “the largest populations, China and India, demonstrated impressive reform agendas.”
So far so good. But after reading through the report today, I decided to read another report, also by the World Bank, which I had meticulously downloaded and kept in my computer for a closer perusal on some other day, …