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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

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

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

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

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

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…

Protest organized against Hyderabad national Urdu varsity chancellor, a "Modi appointee"

A protest took place on the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) campus in Hyderabad against its chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed, dubbed as an RSS appointee and a Modi man. The protesters sought Ahmed's removal from his post, alleging interference.
Calling it "very unfortunate" and "wayward", Ahmed in a statement said, first the university "hurt the national sentiment in the aftermath of the martyrdom of our 44 soldiers by celebrating a gala musical evening and then followed it up with this protest against the chancellor, who had reprimanded the administration for having gone through with this festivity."
Alleging that the protest was engineered by the vice chancellor, Ahmed said, it is being used "as fodder" to create an atmosphere against the chancellor, whose photograph was blackened. He added, "The future of these poor students is not in safe hands."

Police raid 40 minority houses in Gujarat village, beat up women, children: Complaint to district admin

About 300 individuals belonging to the Muslim community, in a representation to the Amreli district collector, have complained that the policemen, forest staff and electrical staff of the Pashchim Gujarat Vij Nigam raided 40 houses of Semardi village of Dhari taluka belonging to the minorities and looted them.
The representation said, this happened on February 17 afternoon. Not just males, even women and children were not spared. They were indiscriminately beaten up. They did not even spare children's toys, even as they destroyed TV, fridge, fans, treasury closets, window bars, bathroom and toilet doors, bicycles, motor bykes, etc.
Asking the district officialdom to immediately rehabilitate the victims, carry out a survey to make payment against the destruction of property, take legal steps to ensure equal justice for all to regain trust in law and order machinery, the representation wanted the officialdom to ensure that those who raided the houses return cash, jewellery and othe…

SC order may be made pretext to attack lakhs of forest dwellers across the country

The forest rights organization, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), has said that the latest Supreme Court order in a case challenging the Forest Rights Act (FRA) is a major blow to the struggle of tribals and forest dwellers for justice and to the homes, lands and livelihoods of millions of our poorest people.
A CSD statement said, the Government of India, for the fourth time in a row, chose not to argue at all in the Court. "As no other party can speak effectively in defense of a law, the version of the petitioners – forest officials, ex-zamindars and a handful of wildlife NGOs – was hence taken to be the truth."
The Supreme Court’s order directs various State governments to report on the status of people’s claims for their traditional rights over lands, forest and forest resources under the FRA, and – for some States – goes on to state that claimants whose rejections have “attained finality” should now be evicted.
According to CSD, "The fact is that numerous of…

Gujarat budget allocation for minorities' welfare discriminatory: MCC

Calling the Gujarat government allocation for the minorities in the state budget “discriminatory”, Minorities Coordination Committee (MCC) convener Mujahid Nafees has said, as against its population of 11.5% of the state, the state government has set aside only Rs 5.51 crore for them. Total size of the 2019-20 budget, presented in the state assembly on February 19, is Rs 1.92 lakh crore.
Giving a breakup, MCC says, quoting budget papers, while the Gujarat Minority Finance Development Corporation has been given Rs 1 lakh, Rs 1.50 crore go to the National Minority Finance and Development Corporation, and Rs 4 crore for the Multi-Sectoral Development Plan (MSDP), meant for minorities.
The civil rights organization had demanded Rs 5,940 crore for the development, protection, education and employment of minorities. In a statement, it regrets, “But the current government, which talks about development, has deliberately neglected the plight of 11.5% of the population in Gujarat.”
It underl…

Atmavodhanand's fast unto death: Civil society to protest against govt "silence"

Several civil society organizations have decided to hold a foot march starting near Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate, to Jantar Mantar via Copernicus Marg on February 23 afternoon, followed by a public meeting, to protest against the government’s alleged silence on fast unto death by Swami Aatmabodhanand for free Ganga since October 24, 2018.
A National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) statement ahead of the protest rally regrets, "Regardless of all the claims being made in the Ardhakumbha, the symbol of the Ganga-Jamuni culture, river Ganga is in danger. While the Ganges in Uttarakhand is suffering from dams, pollution, sand mining, barrages and waterways affect the river in the plains."
Aatmabodhanand, 26, of Matri Sadan is on fast unto death after the death of Swami Sanand (Prof GD Agrawal), who gave up his life after 111 days of continuous fast for the noble cause of free flow of Ganges.
A student of computer science, Aatmabodhanand took sanyas at the age of 22 under…

Food security: Delhi HC asks state govt to file reply on "failure" to implement greivances mechanism

The Delhi High Court has issued notice following a contempt petition against the Delhi government's failure to implement directions on grievance redress under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The petition was filed by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan for the state government "failure" to comply with the directions of the High Court given in September 2017 regarding implementation of grievance redress and accountability measures under NFSA.
Giving time till March 5, 2019 to the government to file its reply, the High Court in September 2017, while hearing a PIL on the difficulties faced by people in accessing their entitlements under NFSA (due to Aadhaar being made mandatory) took cognisance of the non-implementation in Delhi of provisions related to grievance redress under the NFSA.
The High Court had stated that they were appalled to note the failure of the Delhi government to promulgate rules under the NFSA, including those related to transparency, grievance r…

Music festival in Hyderabad Urdu varsity an "insult" to memory of CRPF jawans: Chancellor

Firoz Bakht Ahmed, chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad, has sharply criticized the university authorities for bothering little about the sacrifice of 44 CRPF jawans in near Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir but going ahead with celebrating a gala musical evening on February 16 involving 2000 MANUU students, teachers and journalists.
Ahmed, who was appointed MANUU chancellor last year but holds little authority, says in a statement, "Nothing more insensitive and anti-national", adding, this was being in order to appease students to obtain a "positive" report from the UGC Fact Finding Committee. It is probing into allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation in the university.

Melghat Tiger Reserve, Amravati: Tribals' community forest rights "ignored"

Khoj, a forest rights organization working in the Melghat region of Maharashtra, has said that villages in the Melghat Tiger Reserve, Amravati, Maharashtra, have been relocated without resettling either their individual rights or their collective community forest rights (CFR).
In a letter to the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, Khoj's Purnima Upadhyay has said, this is a violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), adding, the affected Villages are Barukheda, Nagartas, Amona, Churni and Vairaat.
"In fact the people of Vairat had made their CFR application, however, it was rejected at the Gram Sabha of the Gram Panchayat and the appeal to the SDO was not heard appropriately", Upadhayay said, adding, "There are further more villages to be resettled and hence your urgent intervention is needed".
Pointing out that "people are not only adequately informed by the authorities", the letter states, "It is the responsibility of the administ…

Allocate Rs 5,900 crore for minorities: Letter to Gujarat CM ahead of interim budget

The Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), Gujarat, has demanded that the state government should allocate Rs 5,940 crore for the development of minorities, regretting, unlike Government of India, Gujarat has no separate budget for them.
In a letter sent to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani ahead of the interim budget session of the state assembly, MCC convener Mujahid Nafees said, this situation is there despite the fact that Gujarat has 11% population of minorities, of which 9.7% are Muslims, and the total budget for 2018-19 was Rs 1,825,000 crore.
Insisting that the minorities are "very backward" and need "protection", Nafees said, a new department of minority affairs on lines of the Centre should be created and it should be allocated Rs 1,000 crore.
Other major demands are: A State Commission for Minorities which should be allocated Rs 250 crore; Rs 1,100 crore for the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) for Minorities; an allocation Rs 500 crore for …

ADB was the biggest lender to India in 2018: Report

As per the Early Warning System, which was started by the Coalition for Human Rights in Development to collect and verify information about the proposed and existing projects, India had 112 active or proposed projects funded by Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in India.
These institutions included Asian Development Bank (ADB); Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); European Investment Bank (EIB); Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO); Green Climate Fund (GCF); International Finance Corporation (IFC); New Development Bank (NDB) and World Bank (WB). As per the data, last year, India witnessed a total investment of USD 16341 million from the DFIs mentioned above. ADB was the biggest lender with total investments of USD 2049.5 Million, followed by EIB with USD 698.62 Million.
A report published on the site of the Centre for Financial Accountability by Ankit Agrawal and Anuradha Munshi says, the infrastructure and transport sector witnessed 53 per cent of all the prop…

Only 5.7% foreign prisoners in India received consular access, 65% are from Bangladesh: Report

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in its new publication, ‘Strangers to Justice: A Report on Foreigners in Indian Prisons’, has regretted that only 5.7% of the total foreign prisoners -- i.e. 222 out of 3908 -- have received consular access. Prepared to understand issues of detention and repatriation of foreign nationals in Indian prisons, the report is based on Right to Information (RTI) replies from 26 states.
Shedding light on various problems that affect the lives of foreign nationals confined in prisons in India at every step of the criminal justice process, the report states that in the 26 states and Union territories that responded to the RTI plea, of the 3,908 foreign prisoners, 1,657 are undertrials, 1,382 are convicts and "an astonishing 869 await repatriation." West Bengal, it adds, alone confines 55% of foreign prisoners.
Pointing out that foreign prisoners are from 58 countries, the report says, 65% of them are from Bangladesh, and 522 prisoners ar…

Demand to amend food security Act to fight India-wide starvation deaths

The Right to Food Campaign (RFC) has said that the recent spate of deaths shows the National Food Security Act (NFSA) is "limited in its vision and implementation", insisting, "It is currently not even able to ensure the minimum; which is that a person does not go hungry due to lack of food."
Releasing its demands before political parties, which will release their manifestos for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, RFC said, "The Act needs to be amended to expand its scope and also ensure that it prevents hunger (by including a section on starvation protocol) and also contributes to better nutrition status of the people (by including pulses, oil in PDS, eggs in schools and anganwadis etc.)."
Pointing out that the "elections are coming at the backdrop of regular reports of starvation deaths from different parts of the country" and "farmers protests", RFC said, there is a need recognise that the "current situation of hunger is a reflecti…

In a "huge" victory, human rights leader Teesta Setalvad granted anticipatory bail

The Gujarat High Court has granted anticipatory bail to top human rights leader and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) secretary Teesta Setalvad, and her partner and CJP office bearer Javed Anand, in connection with a case of alleged misappropriation of funds obtained by her education programme KHOJ.
Based on a complaint filed by a former CJP employee, the Gujarat police alleged misuse of funds received for education related activities for KHOJ project under ‘the Scheme for assistance for experimental and innovative programme for education at the elementary stage includes non-formal education’ linked to Department of School Education and the Sarva Sikhsah Abhiyan.
Calling it a huge victory, CJP said, the complaint "falsely states that funds were used for personal reasons, and to create and distribute printed materials that could cause communal disharmony, the polar opposite of the purpose and outcomes of KHOJ."
CJP statement claimed, "Both activists have cooperated …

Sexual harassment: NAPM extends support to protesting Jamia students

India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) has extended solidarity with the students, mostly women, of the Jamia Millia Islamia, in their struggle against the Head of Department (HoD) of Applied Arts Department, who they allege is responsible for multiple reprehensible acts, including sexual harassment of students.
The students have been protesting for about 10 days on account of the reported sexual harassment, threats and intimidation they face at the hands of current HoD, and also on account of favouritism, backdoor entries and administrative irregularities allowed for and by this particular Professor.
NAPM said in a statement, what has complicated matters is that instead of standing by the aggrieved students and immediately addressing these grave complaints, the Jamia administration has largely ignored the severity of the incidents and the legitimate demands of the students. That the said Professor has been ‘sent on leave’ is not at al…

Only 40% forest land claims approved, 10% tribal farmers got land titles: Memo to Gujarat CM

Gujarat's tribal rights organization, with a claimed membership of over 10,000 in seven districts, Eklavya Sangathan, which organized a rally on February 11 at the riverfront in Ahmedabad, has demanded that tribals' right to own forest land, get foodgrains as per the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, and 100 days' employment and minimum wages as per the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) be implemented in the state.
Addressed to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, a memorandum submitted to the district collector, Ahmedabad, said despite the Forest Land Rights Act (FRA), 2006, out of 1,82,869 applications for forest land only 40.40% claims have been approved. Also, most tribals have been given “adhikar patra” or cultivation rights, and only one-tenth of them have received land titles.
The memorandum said, even though there is no provision in the law that the people receiving salary or pensioners are not eligible for land, the state go…

Govt of India rejects RTI plea for Cabinet note on 10% quota to EWS, survey, if any, on it

The Government of India has rejected a right to information (RTI) plea, sent to the Social Justice Ministry for seeking Cabinet note, along with Annexures, if any, submitted to the Union Cabinet for securing the Constitutional amendment for providing 10% quota to the economically weaker sections (EWS), saying, as per the provision under Section 8(1)(i) of RTI Act, 2005, it is not obligatory “to give any citizen Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers”.
The GoI has also rejected senior RTI activist Venatesh Nayak plea to receive copies of “correspondence and file notings pertaining to the subject”, copies of “any census or survey data or study or research report along with recommendations received from any committee or commission that constitutes the material which formed the basis of the said proposal to amend the Constitution”, and copies of “correspondence received from the office of the Prime Minister in relatio…

Gujarat, Central govt "mess" over poisonous Narmada waters

Even as the Gujarat government is going ahead with Narmada Jubilee celebrations, Mother Narmada is allegedly facing it's worst-ever crisis. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in a statement says that after stopping Narmada water from big dams, the drinking water consumption was reduced, and now the reservoir is getting polluted.
The "poisonous" waters of the reservoir has killed fishes in tonnes, says NBA, adding, despite this, the Gujarat and Central governments are confusing everyone. First it was suggested that this was due to certain chemical released from the turbines of the dam's power houses. Then it was said that the fishes died because water was drained out to remove crocodiles in order to develop tourism.
Meanwhile, senior officials of the Rajpipla Gujarat Water Supply Board said it was not safe to drink water without purifying it. Clearly, the main canal and branch canals, it was found, had increased sulphide levels. This happened, it was suggested, bec…

Telugu Christians hail Andhra govt for seeking to include Dalit Christians in SC category

Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC) and the Federation of Telugu Churches (FTC) has thanked chief minister Chandrababu Naidu for an Assembly resolution seeking the inclusion of Dalit Christians in Scheduled Caste category, saying, "We appreciate your consistent stand on this issue forthrightly stressing the need to treat the Dalit Christians on par with Dalits who had adopted Sikhism and Buddhism as they too continue to suffer discrimination and deprivation."
In a letter to Naidu, they said, "We are sure that your will convince other political parties that are in alliance with you in the United Front at the national level on this matter and pursue it with the Centre even after the forthcoming general elections."  The resolution was passed in the Andhra Assembly on February 6, 2019 for including the Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste category. It was passed unanimously. The resolution has been sent to the President and the Prime Minister of India, …

Protest demonstration: Dalit solidarity with Prof Teltumbde in Ahmedabad

As part of protests being held across India, several Dalit rights activists gathered in Ahmedabad to show solidarity in support of Prof Anand Teltumde, sought to be persecuted allegedly on "frivolous and unsubstantiated" charges, such as he sympathizes with Maoists, that he helped provoke violence at Bhima Koregaon early last year, and that he planned a 'Rajiv Gandhi like assassination' of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The protesters believed that it was part of the effort of the BJP rulers to silence dissent, pointing out that Prof Teltumde was born to a Dalit peasant family in Vidarbha, studied at IIM- Ahmedabad and furthered his career as MD of BPCL and CEO of Petronet India. He taught at IIT Kharagpur and at present has been at Goa Institute of management. A prolific writer, Prof Teltumde has written extensively on the subject of caste.
A note circulated by top Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan said, The Supreme Court of India had given him protection u…

Facebook page dedicated to farmers' cause "hacked", complaint filed with Morbi police

A Facebook page dedicated to farmer’s issues, problems, and knowledge has allegedly been hacked. The page was created in September 2014 to raise the voice of Gujarat farmers’ issues and problems. Its owner, Sipai Husen, claims, it has received more than 2 lakh likes, and it was growing at rapid rate in short span.
“On January 29, 2019, the page, which raised the voice of Gujarat farmers, went silent. It was hacked by some anti-farmer and anti-social elements”, Husen, said, adding, “I am shocked to find that some anti-social and anti-farmer elements have taken over our farmer’s Facebook page. We were working hard in highlighting the issues of Gujarat farmers.”
Husen, who lives in Panchasiya village of Wankaner taluka, has filed a police complaint in Morbi to get justice. The Superintendent of Police, Morbi, has handed over the matter to the Cyber Cell, Gujarat Police.

Dalit literature festival ends with "pledge" to create a new literary world

The two-day Dalit Literature Festuval at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, has concluded with the slogan 'A new world of literature is possible'. The issues discussed included: past, present and future of Dalit literature; challenges of Dalit literature movement; contradiction between Dalit literature and Marxist literature; participation of Dalit and tribal women in literature; female movement in Dalit literature; tribal and nomadic communities in literature, society and culture; minorities’ and literature; question of identity in Dalit literature; and Dalit literature in Indian languages.

Maulana Azad chair created at IIT-Gandhinagar to "promote" Urdu

A Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Chair at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar, has been created in order to encourage Urdu in Gujarat, where not even a single Urdu daily is published. This has been made possible, says Firoz Bakht Ahmed, Chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) because of efforts by Prof Hamida Banu Chopra of the Berkeley University, California, and Prof Sudhir K Jain, director, IIT Gandhinagar.
Ahmed, speaking on the occasion, said that, even today, Urdu happens to be the language of the heart firmly cementing the bonds of culture among people from all cultures and backgrounds. He added, Azad was the symbol of interfaith bonding between all the communities fighting for freedom from the clutches of the British.
Prof Akhtar-ul-Wasey, an Urdu celebrity, said, ironically, the language has been kept alive by Hindi cinema, FM radio, madrassas and the occasional recitation of couplets from Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz in the Parliament. A language do…

Himachal activists fast for a day in support of Atmabodhanand

About 100 delegates of social organizations of Kangra and Dharamshala districts of Himachal Pradesh observed one-day fast and held a public meeting demanding that Ganga and other rivers from Himalayas continued flowing uninterrupted.
Supporting Swami Atmabodhanand, on fast in Uttarakhand to save Ganga for more than 100 days, a senior participant, environmentalist Kulbhushan Upmanyu, said, "All the 54 dams proposed on Ganga and its tributaries should be banned. Pollution in the lower plains of Ganga is growing, illegal sand mining and large scale deforestation continues. There is a need to strengthen the protection of the catchment area of ​​Ganga basin. Ganga Act should be passed by the government for this at the earliest."

Gujarat IAS cadre ex-bureaucrat regrets poor state performance in education, health

Former state health commissioner Dr Amarjit Singh, Gujarat cadre IAS, made a civil society consultation in Ahmedabad an occasion to come down heavily on Gujarat's performance in social sector. Quoting official data, he suggested that, despite economic growth, Gujarat remains one of the worst performers in the social sector. Not only does the state have one the highest out of school girls in the age group 15-16, 24.9%, he said, children’s learning levels too are extremely poor.
Recalling his visit to a school during the Gujarat government-sponsored Gunotsav festival for improving quality of education when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was state chief minister, Dr Singh said, he went to a Jamnagar school, which was in good condition. Finding the photographs of national leaders hanging on the wall, he asked children who they were. None of the children could identify Sardar Patel or Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr Singh said, he talked with the principal of the school as to find out what was the r…

Govt of India "undermines" anti-tobacco cause: GST exemption to businesses with Rs 40 lakh turnover

The decision of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, which consists of the finance ministers of centre and all the states, to exempt businesses with turnover of Rs 40 lakh, raising the threshold from Rs 20 lakh, would, ironically. give a big boost to the beedi manufacturing units, most of whom, according to experts, fall within the Rs 40 lakh limit.
“This would indirectly undermine the Government of India campaign to fight tobacco”, a social activist fighting for tobacco free India told CounterView, adding, “Before GST came into force, there was no tax on beedi manufacturing units producing more than 20 lakh beedis. At the Rs 20 lakh threshold, the no-tax regime, for all practical purposes, was applicable to the units producing up to 30 lakh beedis.”
The activist underlined, “Now, with the new norm, proposed by the GST Council, nearly 98% of beedi manufacturing units would be out of the tax net. This would help them expand their activities, even as earning more profits at the co…

Protesters in Haridwar, Delhi support young saint fasting for the sake of Ganga

One-day fast was observed at Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar, by youth under the leadership of Varun Baniyan, who announced that their protest by tying black ribbon on their arm will continue till the young saint, Atmabodhanand, is on fast for more than 100 days for saving Ganga. Addressing the protesters, former MLA Amrit Kumar said that youths should fight for Ganga, while youth leader Amardeep Roshan pledged support to the movement.
Meanwhile, at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, relay fast for saving Ganga entered the seventh day, with social workers, lawyers, politicians and people from different walks of life, came forward to express their solidarity for protest. Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay award winning social workers, underscored the need to unite in order to fight together for Ganga.
Among those who sat on dharna included senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, women’s rights leader Subhashini Ali, president of the National Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and veteran Gandhian thinker Ramchandra R…

First Dalit literature festival seeks to include all deprived sections under the word 'Dalit'

A two day first Dalit Literature Festival, with the slogan of  'A new world of literature is possible', was inaugurated at the University of Delhi's Kirori Mal College. Those present included writers Latekar Mohan Das Naimishrai, Laxman Gaikwad, Rasal Singh, Bally Singh Cheema, Suraj Batta, Prof Hansraj Suman, Balraj Singh, Mahendra Beniwal, Manju Rani and Sanjeev Danda. Among social activists, Medha Patkar attended the event.
The seminar saw participants give a new meaning to the word Dalit, which, according to them, should include scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women, nomadic tribes, the transgender community, farmers, labourers, in fact the all the deprived sections. Dalit, it was pointed out, is the symbol of struggle and resistance.
While Mohandas Naimishrai said that Dalit literature is not the literature of luxury, but of sufferings and struggles, Laxman Gaikwad added, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is sitting in power, should allocate budget for adiv…

Debunking those branding Gandhi racist, South African official says, Mahatma influenced Mandela

A senior South African official has debunked the view currently being held by several African academics, particularly Ghana and South Africa, that Mahatma Gandhi was anti-black, saying, the country’s tallest leader Nelson Mandela as also Ghana’s anti-colonial leader Kwame Nkrumah were “influenced” by Gandhi.
Anil Sooklal, an ethnic Indian, who is deputy director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), which is the foreign ministry of the South African government, said, Mandela was “aware” of the limitations of Gandhi’s views and had insisted that one shouldn’t go by what he may have said at a particular moment by his action.
Sookalal, who delivered a public lecture at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, on Gandhi Mandela Legacy, criticized the decision of the University of Legon, Ghana, for removing Gandhi’s statue because he was allegedly a racist, saying, Mandela, who stood for a violent revolution, was ultimately influenced by Gandhi’s non-vi…

Union budget allocation for minorities "reduced", is discriminatory: MCC

The Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, reacting to the interim budget presented in the Lok Sabha by Minister of Finance Piyush Goyal, has regretted that the budgetary allocation of Minority Affairs Ministry has been reduced.
In a statement, MCC convener Mujahid Nafees said, the budget for the ministry in 2018-19 was Rs 4,700 crore, which has come down to 4639.99 crore for 2019-20, adding, a Rs 60.01 crore decreased “shows that the government is discriminating against the minorities” and “does not want India's minority communities to grow on the path of development.”
“MCC considers the budget as discriminatory and demands that the Government of India should allocate at least 10% of the total Central budget.

Budgetary allocation for education "grossly insufficient", can't address key issues: RTE Forum

Commenting on the Interim Budget presented by the Government of India (GoI) in Parliament on Friday, Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has said that the budget has again failed to provide “the long-pending demand of an investment of 6% of GDP on education.”
According to him, “A mere allocation of Rs 38572 crore (only negligible increase of Rs 6238 crore from previous year) under National Education Mission of which only Rs 36,472.40 crore for School Education under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan is grossly inadequate to universalise education up to secondary level.”
He added, “The total budget allocated for education sector, Rs 93,847.64 crore for 2019-20, with an increase of Rs 8, 837 crore from last year’s allocation of Rs 85, 010 crore, is totally insufficient for any substantial improvement in elementary and higher education.”
Asserting that the GoI has failed to address the key issues of the education sector, like the huge number of out of school children …

Charges against Fr Stan Swamy "false": Petition to Maharashtra CM

A petition floated by one George Pattery, condemning the allegations and defamatory charges  against Fr Stan Swamy from Ranchi by the Pune police as under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA) as false, says, "These charges frame him in the Bhima Koregaon case,  call him an 'urban naxalite', and accuse him of plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister. They are patently false and defamatory", the petition says.
Pointing out that the police forces of Maharashtra led a witch hunt of human rights activists, poets, teachers, lawyers and trade union leaders on August 28, 2018 across several locations in the country, the petition, addressed to Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, adds, "They have viciously attacked those who fight for the rights of the poor, dalits, women and indigenous peoples (adivasis)."
The petitioner says, "Indifference and apathy of the Supreme Court of India is seen towards the violation of basic human ri…