Chhattisgarh- No Maoists were present when forces opened fire, say villagers


May 19, 2013

 

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

“The villagers gathered in one particular area for community dining, which is a ritual at this time of the year. It is part of the seed festival and there were no Maoists around. The forces opened fire without any provocation,” said a local on condition of anonymity.

Locals of Chhattisgarh’s Edesmeta village — where at least nine persons were killed during a gun battle late on Friday purportedly between security forces and Maoist fighters — have told The Hindu that there was no Maoist presence in the area at the time and that the forces had fired without provocation.

“The villagers gathered in one particular area for community dining, which is a ritual at this time of the year. It is part of the seed festival and there were no Maoists around. The forces opened fire without any provocation,” said a local on condition of anonymity. Two other villagers seconded his testimony.

The incident had taken place in Bijapur district’s Edesmeta forest — about 600 km south of the State capital Raipur — under the Ganglur police station during a combing raid by joint forces. Reports suggest that most of the victims were innocent civilians. Senior officials confirmed that at least seven casualties were villagers and prima facie not attached to the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Chief Minister Raman Singh has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The dead villagers were identified as Guddu (10), Pandu (45), Bahadur (12), Joga Karam (40), Punem Lakhkhu (15), Punem Sonu (40), Karam Chhonu (42) and Karam Masa (27). Guddu and Pandu were father and son, as were Bahadur and Joga Karam. CRPF soldier Devaprakash died after he was shot in the forehead.

Police say at least one of the slain villagers was a Maoist and that they seized a country rifle made from the spot with the CPI-Maoist’s ‘West Bastar Division’ inscribed on it.

The incident took place when six teams of joint forces — a mix of State police, CRPF personnel and elite commando force CoBRA — were converging upon the Maoist stronghold, Pidiya, from six different directions. “In last few months we have moved in the Pidiya area thrice. We are targeting Pidiya as it is a strong base of the Maoists,” Additional Director-General of Police (Naxal Operation) R.K. Vij told The Hindu.

The forces were reportedly moving from six police stations — Sarkeguda, Jagargunda, Basaguda, Cherpal, Kirandul and Ganglur — towards Pidiya and reached Edesmeta village, around eight km from Pidiya, when the Ganglur team came under heavy fire.

“There were some villagers who were cooking food for a group of Maoists. One of them came towards the force and alerted the rest of the team; firing started and the forces retaliated,” said a senior officer. The senior officers told The Hindu at least seven persons killed in the exchange of fire could be “innocent villagers”. Another officer said “they could also be with Maoist militia”.

On Saturday, senior officers told The Hindu that Maoists were using the villagers as “human shields”. However, other officers refuted this claim and said the villagers were shot when they happened to stray into the firing line.

Post-mortem was conducted in Ganglur police station.

 

Activists bristle as India cracks down on foreign funding of NGOs


By , Monday, May 20, 7:14 AM E-mail the writer, WP

NEW DELHI — Amid an intensifying crackdown on nongovernmental groups that receive foreign funding, Indian activists are accusing the government of stifling their right to dissent in the world’s largest democracy.India has tightened the rules on nongovernmental organizations over the past two years, following protests that delayed several important industrial projects. About a dozen NGOs that the government said engaged in activities that harm the public interest have seen their permission to receive foreign donations revoked, as have nearly 4,000 small NGOs for what officials said was inadequate compliance with reporting requirements.
The government stepped up its campaign this month, suspending the permission that Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs across India, had to receive foreign funds. Groups in the network campaign for indigenous peoples’ rights over their mineral-rich land and against nuclear energy, human rights violations and religious fundamentalism; nearly 90 percent of the network’s funding comes from overseas.“The government’s action is aimed at curbing our democratic right to dissent and disagree,” Anil Chaudhary, who heads an NGO that trains activists and is part of the INSAF network, said Tuesday. “We dared to challenge the government’s new foreign donation rules in the court. We opposed nuclear energy, we campaigned against genetically modified food. We have spoiled the sleep of our prime minister.”In its letter to INSAF, the Home Ministry said the group’s bank accounts were frozen and foreign funding approval suspended because it was likely to “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the government is not against criticism. But when an NGO uses foreign donations to criticize Indian policies, “things get complicated, and you never know what the plot is,” the official said, adding that NGOs should use foreign donations to do development work instead.

The United States is the top donor nation to Indian NGOs, followed by Britain and Germany, according to figures compiled by the Indian government, with Indian NGOs receiving funds from both the U.S. government and private U.S. institutions. In the year ending in March 2011, the most recent period for which data are available, about 22,000 NGOs received a total of more than $2 billion from abroad, of which $650 million came from the United States.

Government bars groups that oppose nuclear energy, human rights abuses from accepting overseas donations.

U.S. officials, including Peter Burleigh, the American ambassador at the time, quickly moved to assure Indian officials that the U.S. government supports India’s civil nuclear power program. And Victoria Nuland, then the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States does not provide support for nonprofit groups to protest nuclear power plants. “Our NGO support goes for development, and it goes for democracy programs,” Nuland said.
Although Singh was widely criticized for his fears, the government froze the accounts of several NGOs in southern India within weeks.“All our work has come to a stop,” said Henri Tiphagne, head of a human rights group called People’s Watch. “I had visited [the] Koodankulam protest site once. Is that a banned territory?”

But the government’s action appears to have had its desired effect. “NGOs are too scared to visit Koodankulam or associate with us now,” said anti-nuclear activist S. P. Udayakumar.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said many NGOs are afraid to speak up about the suspension of their foreign funding approval, which is “being used to intimidate organizations and activists.”

Analysts say the government’s way of dealing with dissent is a throwback to an earlier era. But Indian authorities have been particularly squeamish about criticism of late. As citizens have protested corruption and sexual assaults on women and demanded greater accountability from public officials, authorities have often reacted clumsily — including beating up peaceful protesters and cracking down on satirical cartoons, Facebook posts and Twitter accounts.

Donors look elsewhere

Officials say NGOs are free to use Indian money for their protests. But activists say Indian money is hard to find, with many Indians preferring to donate to charities.

A recent report by Bain & Co. said that about two-thirds of Indian donors surveyed said that NGOs have room to improve the impact they are making in the lives of beneficiaries. It said that a quarter of donors are holding back on increased donations until they perceive evidence that their donations are having an effect.

“They give blankets to the homeless, sponsor poor children or support cow shelters,” said Wilfred Dcosta, coordinator of INSAF. “They do not want to support causes where you question the state, demand environmental justice or fight for the land rights of tribal people pitted against mighty mining companies.”

INSAF, whose acronym means “justice” in Urdu, has seen its portion of foreign funding increase significantly during the past 15 years. Now it receives funds from many international groups, including the American Jewish World Service and Global Greengrants Fund in the United States, and groups in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The top American donors to Indian NGOs include Colorado-based Compassion International, District-based Population Services International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“It is not a question about money, it is a fight for our right to dissent,” said Chaudhary. “I don’t need dollars to block a road.”

Asked last week about the Indian government’s moves against foreign-funded NGOs, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the department was not aware of any U.S. government involvement in the cases. The spokesman said such civil society groups around the world “are among the essential building blocks of any healthy democracy.”

The situation in India is not unlike the problems that similar groups face in Russia, where a law passed last year requires foreign-funded NGOs that engage in loosely defined political activities to register as “foreign agents.”

 

Ecologist Gadgil takes former ISRO chief Kasturirangan to cleaners


Monday, May 20, 2013, | Agency: DNA

Attacks report on Western Ghats as favouring rich and powerful illegalities.

Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil has now joined many environmentalists in attacking former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) head K Kasturirangan‘s high-level working group (HLWG) report on the eco-sensitive Western Ghats, saying it endorses “exploitation.” The Padma Bhushan awardee architect of Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) report, Gadgil, has torn into the report saying it favours the “rich and powerful of the country and of the globalised world.”

The former ISRO chief had been roped in by the Ministry for Environment and Forests (a move which amazed many given his zero experience in the field of environment and forest management) to head the 10-member HLWG. This panel was asked to advise the Centre on how to conserve the Western Ghats.

Comparing his own report with that of the HLWG, Gadgil says in his letter, “Based on extensive discussions and field visits, we had advocated a major role for grass-roots level inputs for safeguarding the ecologically-sensitive Western Ghats. You have rejected this framework and advocate a partitioning amongst roughly 1/3rd of what you term natural landscapes, to be safeguarded by guns and guards, and 2/3rd of so-called cultural landscapes, to be thrown open to development, such as what has spawned the Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam of Goa,” and adds “This amounts to attempts to maintain oases of diversity in a desert of ecological devastation. Ecology teaches us that such fragmentation would lead, sooner, rather than later, to the desert overwhelming the oases.”

Gadgil also reminds Kasturirangan of how the WGEEP had underlined the importance of habitat continuity maintenance, and of an ecologically and socially friendly matrix to ensure long-term conservation of biodiversity-rich areas. He further says, “Freshwater biodiversity is far more threatened than forest biodiversity and lies largely in what you term cultural landscapes.  Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections of our people. That is why we had provided a detailed case study of Lote Chemical Industry complex in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where pollution exceeding all legal limits has devastated fisheries so that 20,000 people have been rendered jobless, while only 11,000 have obtained industrial employment. Yet the Government wants to set up further polluting industries in the same area, and has therefore deliberately suppressed its own Zonal Atlas for Siting of Industries.”

Gadgil is most critical of the way Kasturirangan’s report “shockingly dismisses our constitutionally guaranteed democratic devolution of decision-making powers, remarking that local communities can have no role in economic decisions,” and says, “Not surprisingly, your report completely glosses over the fact reported by us that while the Government takes absolutely no action against illegal pollution of Lote, it had invoked police powers to suppress perfectly legitimate and peaceful protests against pollution on as many as 180 out of 600 days in 2007-09.”

Pointing out how “India’s cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity,” he cites the instance of lion-tailed macaque, a monkey species confined to Western Ghats which thrives in the tea gardens. “I live in Pune and scattered in my locality are a many banyan, peepal and gular trees; trees that belong to genus Ficus, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a wide variety of other species,” Gadgil bringing the personal to the realm of the eco-social. He says, “Through the night I hear peacocks call and can see them dancing from my terrace,” and underlines, “It is our people, rooted in India’s strong cultural traditions of respect for nature, who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the Ficus trees, the monkeys and the peafowl,” while bemoaning efforts to snuff it out. “This reminds me of Francis Buchanan, an avowed agent of British imperialism, who wrote in 1801 that India’s sacred groves were merely a contrivance to prevent the East India Company from claiming its rightful property.”

Gadgil ends his letter on a rather scathing note. “It would appear that we are now more British than the British and are asserting that a nature-friendly approach in the cultural landscape is merely a contrivance to prevent the rich and powerful of the country and of the globalized world from taking over all lands and waters to exploit and pollute as they wish while pursuing lawless, jobless economic growth. It is astonishing that your report strongly endorses such an approach. Reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!”

 

Protests against Maruti Suzuki management and Haryana Government’s pro-capitalist stance


Check out video of the protests by Maruti Suzuki workers and activists in front of Haryana Bhavan in Delhi on May 18th:

Different organizations including Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, KNS (Krantikari Nawjana Sabha) and Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) have been behind the protests going on for several months against the repressive measures by the Maruti Suzuki Management as well as the Haryana government under Chief Minister Hooda. The Haryana Government has unleashed brutal aggression on the peaceful protesters, who have been demanding the immediate release of all those arrested under false premises, most recently on the night of May 19th, to prevent workers from joining a dharna the next day on May 20th. Despite the arrests to try and intimidate the Maruti Suzuki Workers and activists, the protest in front of Haryana Bhavan went on as planned. But once again the Hooda Government showed its true color by exposing its dirty nexus with the capitalists.

On May 20, when the protesters tried to reach the ministers’ office, they were attacked by policemen who lathicharged the unarmed protesters, injuring several of them, while some were reportedly arrested as well.

Maruti Suzuki Workers Protest

Photo Courtesy: Radical Notes

The demands are absolutely legitimate, since it is the legal and ethical right of workers to get organized. But the Maruti Suzuki management has created the trouble by not allowing the workers to form their new union. Instead, with help from the Hooda government, MarutiSuzuki management fired several permanent workers, who are still jobless (thanks to the jobless “growth” under the neo liberal economic onslaught anyway). Many workers  and activists have been threatened by the police and harassed, like arresting them from their homes and that too late at night. This naturally helps because when they nab the protesters individually, they are at their vulnerable most. Therefore, the workers are demanding immediate reinstatement of the fired permanent workers and making all the casual ones permanent with immediate effect. Activists suggest that this movement has been one of the brightest examples of working class unity in recent times, whereby not only casual workers’ rights have come to the fore from permanent workers but also the highly spirited way the workers are protesting from an anti capitalist viewpoint.

 

Protest Against Uttar Pradesh Power Plant Enters 1000th Day


Several people’s movements have emerged in recent times against industrial projects. The reasons behind the protests vary from opposition on environmental grounds to lack of proper compensation for land acquisition. But without doubt, it has always got something to do with protecting livelihood, which the Indian state machinery is hell bent on snatching away from the people.

A protest against a nuclear plant has been brimming for 1000 days now in villages in Uttar Pradesh. Farmers, mostly from SC and OBC communities, in Kachari village had gathered for the 1000th day of the protest against the 1980 MW Karchhana power plant. It was under the Bahujan Samaj Party back in 2007 that the project was first conceived. As much as 2,500 bighas of land was acquired from 2,286 farmers in eight villages, namely Devari, Kachari, Katka-Medhra, Dehli, Dohlipur, Bagesar, Kachara and Bhitar. But once the project was handed over to Jaypee group in 2009, violent protests from the farmers erupted and it got stalled.

Protest Against Karchanna power plant

Photo Courtesy: Brijesh Jaiswal / The Hindu

While some of the farmers had accepted compensation, more than a hundred reportedly had refused it at the onset. Now, almost all the farmers are refusing to part with their land. Instead, they want compensation for the loss incurred due to damage to land. The impasse is compounded as the farmers are in no position (and mood) to return the money for compensation.

The police and local petty politicians have first tried to bribe them, but when it did not work, they started using goons and threatened the farmers with dire consequences. The farmers have maintained that the lands are fertile and they don’t want anything but the project scrapped. But living under constant threat has taken a toll on them, as they are often afraid of cultivating the fields fearing attacks.

Despite Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s promises that all the charges against the farmers will be withdrawn, no such action has been taken.

As a footnote, it must be pointed out that the patriarchal mindset of the people have come out, ironically through these protests. Check out this photo and you will know what is being meant:

Women in Karchanna Protest

Women in Karchanna Protest
Photo Courtesy: Brijesh Jaiswal / The Hindu

Not only that, one of the reasons the farmers did not want to give away land included their worries over not being able to give land as dowry!

This is indeed the dilemma in India, where the capitalist structure is in a comfortable co-existence with feudal values.

 

PRESS RELEASE- 147 workers of Maruti Suzuki Union in Kaithal Arrested


MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION
Reg. No. 1923
IMT Manesar
PRESS RELEASE: 20th May 2013
We are facing one of the most brutal repression by the government on our movement. While we have adopted the democratic and peaceful means available to demand the release of arrested 147 workers, withdrawal of and reinstatement of terminated 546 permanent and 1800 contract workers, the government has only responded with force and malice and in collusion with the Maruti Suzuki company management.
Our peaceful dharna has been going on since 24th March, which included hunger strike, deputations, rallies, which are all in the ambit of our democratic right guaranteed in the Constitution. This was forcibly broken on 18th May by the huge police force of thousands of personnel in riot gear, tear gas etc. They came in before curfew under Sec.144 was declared on the entire town of Kaithal at 5pm with effect till midnight of 19th May to prevent our call for a protest demonstration on 19th May in front of the residence of Haryana Industries and Commerce Minister, Randip Singh Surjewala. Thousands of people from across Haryana and other pro-worker people from across the country were to come to express solidarity.
At 11.30pm on 18th May those on the site of the dharna, 96 workers and activists were arrested and sent to Kaithal Jail under Sections 188, 341, 506, 511. This includes a member of the Provisional Working Committee, MSWU, Yogesh Gawande, and two Trade Union activists who have been coming in support, Shyamveer who is a correspondent of the workers newspaper, Nagrik and an activist with Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, and Amit and who is a workers’ movement activist and current Phd student in Economics dept, CESP, JNU, New Delhi. On the morning of 19th May, 4 more workers were arrested from their homes in the villages nearby.
On 19th May 2013, we decided to go ahead with our pre-declared program, and around 1500 people started coming in solidarity from across Haryana in the morning. These included primarily workers and our family members and relatives, and people from village Panchayats, democratic and mass organizations and individuals. A huge police force and CID Haryana personnel were all over the Bus Station, Railway Station and all points in the town to follow and stop anyone who was coming for support. We gathered near Pyoda village 2km from the city limits, and started to peacefully march to register our protest, that all those arrested on 18th May night be released immediately so that talks can happen. Barricades and a huge police contingent of over 2000 personnel with water cannons and tear gas vehicles, stopped us on the road next to Surjewala’s residence.
At 6.30pm, without any warning, the stationed police force started a brutal lathi-charge and tear gas and water cannons were unleashed mercilessly on the protestors, which included in large majority, women, children and old men. Hundreds were seriously injured and admitted to the hospital. The police came with a second round of lathi-charge when people were still in a state of shock. The government has acted with malicious intention, and with a view to crush the struggle while all wanted to do was register our peaceful protest in front of our elected representatives, and yesterday’s actions and arrests shows this.
Eleven workers and activists were arrested on completely fabricated charges of serious nature. These are:
 Ramniwas of Provisional Working Committee, Maruti Suzuki Workers Union
 Deepak Bakshi who is advisor to the MSWU and General Secretary of Hindustan Motors-Sangrami Shramik Karamchari Union, Kolkata
 Somnath who is a correspondent of the workers newspaper, Shramik Shakti
 Suresh Koth, who is panchayat leader from Koth village, Hissar dist, Haryana
 Nitish
 Mangtu
 Premchand
 and three more people, whose names are still unclear.
They have been charged under non-bailable Sections 148, 149, 188, 283, 332, 353, 186, 341, 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC, 3 of P/D, TPDA, 8NH for blocking the highway and 25 (54 and 59) of the Arms Act. They have been
produced in the Kaithal Court today 20th May 2013 and sent to 14days of Judicial Custody.
This is a serious pre-meditated assault on especially those of the active workers and activists who have stood in solidarity with us and to show us again as criminals only because we continue to protest against the wrongs that have been done to us for the last two years since 4th June 2011, and especially since 18th July 2012 when it became apparent that the government is openly siding with the company against workers and activists. This is the reward the government has again given us workers for asking for our rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution.
We appeal to all workers, trade unions and workers organizations, democratic rights and civil rights organizations and mass organizations and democratic minded individuals and to come out in protest in this hour when we need all forms of solidarity. We reiterate our just demands of releasing all the arrested workers and activists and reinstatement of terminated workers.
Provisional Working Committee
Maruti Suzuki Workers Unio n

 

#India – Systematic diversion of community resources to the private sector #mustread


Pits of sleaze

 Frontline

Show Caption
1 / 5
  • AT a mine in Chhattisgarh. Indiscriminate mining by cement plants here have resulted in the displacement of people in Adivasi areas.
  • Anil Ambani holds a jar containing the first coal from his Reliance Power's Sasan mines in Madhya Pradesh, in Mumbai on September 4, 2012. Critics say the government is subsidising private electricity discoms like Reliance and the Tatas and asking the poor to pay higher tariffs for electricity.
  • Coal-loaded wagons in Kolkata. The guidelines for allocating coal blocks were changed from time to time to facilitate increased participation of the private sector.
  • Aam Aadmi Party leaders outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on April 28 with power bills collected from people.
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As many as 32 coal blocks were allocated when he led the NDA government.

Systematic diversion of community resources to the private sector in the name of growing energy demands has been the trend since the advent of neoliberal policies, but the allocation of coal blocks by the UPA-II government was done in total violation of norms. By AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA in New Delhi

ON the face of it, the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report on the allocation of coal blocks is a formal indictment of the United Progressive Alliance-II government, which not only failed to adhere to legal and bureaucratic procedures while allowing captive coal mining but also doled out mining licences selectively to incompetent and unprofessional companies. Firstly, the standing committee, headed by Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee, says its report, called “Review of allotment, development and performance of coal/lignite blocks”, scrutinised the functioning of the screening committee and examined the guidelines for the allocation of coal blocks. Secondly, it pointed out that the monitoring mechanism and the review of coal blocks by an Inter-Ministerial Group had been far less than satisfactory.

Barely had the UPA-II government recovered from similar allegations in the 2G spectrum case when the standing committee report on coal blocks gifted the opposition yet another opportunity to shout down the government in Parliament on an issue that has been on the nation’s mind in the last one year: corruption. While the standing committee highlights the inadequacies of the UPA-II government in its report, it does not, however, link the bureaucratic malpractices with the neoliberal governance model that India adopted in the early 1990s and its structural malaise. Two trends are absolutely clear from the findings of the standing committee. One, a crony capitalist structure as a result of economic deregulation has firmly entrenched itself in the political ethos of India. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are not just integral to this structure but have helped perpetuate it. Two, India has witnessed a systematic diversion of community resources like coal and other minerals to private hands, which have scant respect for either the environment or inclusive development. The diversion was justified by different governments since 1991 in the name of the growing energy demands of India. Both these trends are not mutually exclusive as can be inferred from the standing committee’s findings.

The standing committee points out that the Union government has abused its powers and handed out natural resources to a few “fortunate” companies, without following a transparent system. In the course of its investigation, it also found that some of the companies which had been allocated coal blocks were neither professional mining companies, nor did they have the expertise to conduct scientific mining. This is a clear violation of the guidelines for the allocation of coal blocks. In fact, the screening committee and the inter-ministerial group colluded to allocate illegitimate mining licences. Consequently, it has demanded an investigation into the decisions of the screening committees and recommended strong penal action against those involved in such an arbitrary process.

Systemic changes 

Such partisanship in governance is not just a consequence of institutional corruption. The systematic tweaking of laws and guidelines since the early 1990s points to the fact that such institutional corruption is an inevitable outcome of a larger economic model and a philosophy that advocates the withdrawal of the state from all processes of regulation. To understand this in the context of coal allocations, it is imperative to understand how the concept of captive mining came about and how it was facilitated by different governments.

With the advent of the private-sector-led economic growth model in the 1990s, the Coal Ministry declared that the production of coal should be doubled in 10 years to sustain the growing manufacturing sector. Since around 70 per cent of India’s power supply comes from coal, the Ministry estimated that a sustainable growth rate of 8 per cent over 10 years would require the production of 90,000 megawatts (MW) of thermal power. To reach this target, the Ministry planned to open 500 coal mines over the next 10 years in addition to the existing 600 mines.

To facilitate such massive production, the government decided to invite private companies to coal mining. This required amendments to the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, which mandated that only government agencies can have access to the coal resources of the country. The standing committee quotes the Coal Ministry’s response in its report: “Under the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, coal mining was exclusively reserved for the public sector. Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Coal Companies Ltd (SCCL) had the main responsibility of supplying coal to all end users. However, in the face of burgeoning demand, these companies were not able to meet the entire demand due to resource constraints, resulting in import of coal. This necessitated allotment of captive blocks to specified end users, mainly to augment availability and bridge the gap between demand and supply of coal. Captive blocks are allocated only in some specific priority sectors.”

Many energy analysts believe that allowing private players’ entry was a strategic failure in itself, and instead of taking the easy route, the government could have invested in government agencies to make them technologically equipped to handle high pressures. Moreover, what made the government believe that CIL was ill-equipped to handle the growing demand is a moot question. The government, at this point, conveniently forgot that coal mining had been nationalised precisely because private companies were not in a position to adequately increase the investment in their mines. The standing committee report says: “As adequate capital investment to meet the burgeoning energy needs of the country was not forthcoming from the private coal-mine owners, unscientific mining practices adopted by some of them and poor working conditions of labour in some of the private coal mines became matters of concern for the government. On account of these reasons, the Central government took a decision to nationalise the private coal mines.”

The amendment to the CMN Act came about in a conspicuously hurried way. In 1992, the Ministry of Coal stated that the amendment was a “matter of urgency” and initiated measures for the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Act. However, the Law Ministry disapproved it. Hence an amendment Bill was passed in July 1992 in the Rajya Sabha but was held up in the Lok Sabha. This time, citing its urgency, the government promulgated an ordinance in January 1993, which the Law Ministry approved. Finally, the Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha in April 1993. The amendments to the CMN Act allowed private sector participation in coal mining operations for captive consumption towards generation of power and “other end uses” which may be notified from time to time.

However, after a fierce debate the government allowed for some regulatory guidelines, which, the standing committee points out, were openly violated. The guidelines laid down certain principles for allocating coal blocks, in order to protect government agencies and prevent private companies from operating unsystematically. It said: “A) The blocks in greenfield areas where basic infrastructure like road, rail links and power lines are not immediately available should only be given to private sector. The areas where CIL has already invested in creating such infrastructures for opening new mines should not be handed over to the private sector. B) The blocks offered to private sector should be away from the existing mines and projects of CIL. C) Blocks already identified for development by CIL should not be offered to the private sector. D) Private sector should be asked to bear the full cost of exploration in these blocks which will be offered to them.”

However, most of the coal blocks allocated throughout India were not in greenfield areas but in populated areas. It is because of such high-handedness in coal allocation that both government and private companies have consistently faced resistance in times of land acquisition. The standing committee found that not only were many coal blocks of CIL diverted to private companies but that this happened where CIL had already developed enough infrastructure for mining. Many coal blocks were allocated by diverting lands of reserved forests. The “no-go zones”, meant to protect the forests, were hurriedly converted to “go zones” to open up private mining in the forests. The most pertinent example of such allocations is in Chhattisgarh, where private coal mining has mushroomed around Central Coalfields Ltd, a holding company of CIL (“Mining Tussle”, Frontline, July 16, 2010).

Expansion of end use 

The amended Act allowed the private sector to meet the growing demands of energy. However, a vague description of “end use” allowed the government to permit coal mining for industries ranging from iron and steel to cement. The standing committee notes that the production of cement was included as an approved end-use for the purpose of captive mining of coal in 1996. Therefore, cement-producing companies also became eligible to undertake coal mining for captive consumption, instead of buying coal from the market. Indiscriminate mining by cement plants in Chhattisgarh has resulted in chaos and large-scale displacement of people in Adivasi areas (“Standing up to the state”, Frontline, June 17, 2011).

Guidelines were also changed from time to time to facilitate increased participation of the private sector. The standing committee notes: “The Ministry has informed the committee that guidelines were first framed in 1993. Thereafter consolidated guidelines were framed and adopted in 2003. The guidelines were further modified in 2005 and in 2006. In 2005, the Expert Committee on Coal Sector Reforms provided recommendation on improving the allocation process, and in 2010, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act was enacted, providing for coal blocks to be sold through competitive bidding.”

A detailed report compiled in 2008 by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, which gives the scale of ecological damage done by such indiscriminate mining, notes: “Every major legislative and regulatory change that has happened in the last 14 years in India in the mining and minerals industry has been done in the name of the National Mineral Policy (NMP) (1993). The mining sector has been opened up for private investments, foreign direct investment has been allowed and regulations have been relaxed (by the NMP).”

NDA’s active involvement 

Initially, facilitation of the private sector’s entry into mining came from the Congress party. And despite its vocal criticisms against the UPA-II in the matter of coal allocations, the record of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is no good. In fact, it can be held equally culpable. The list of NDA’s achievements on the BJP’s website proudly declares that it introduced the most significant energy scheme in India’s history. The scheme was more of a vision called “Power to all by 2012”. The standing committee notes: “The production of coal assumed a greater significance after 2003 when Government of India pronounced a mission ‘power to all by 2012’. Accordingly, the GOI envisaged capacity addition of 1,00,000 MW of power by 2012 and in order to meet this increased capacity, corresponding increase in the coal production was required in X-XI Plan periods (2002-12).”

In fact, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government made coal allocation in a much greater way than the Congress had done before. As many as 218 coal blocks were allocated from 1993 to 2010. While only five and four blocks respectively were allocated under Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and H.D. Deve Gowda, Vajpayee took an unguarded approach while allocating coal blocks. Thirty-two blocks were allocated during the NDA government. The Congress, of course, took this rash approach further by allocating 175 coal blocks from 2004 to 2010.

Along with the “Power to all by 2012”, the NDA regime passed the New Electricity Act, 2003, with the stated objective of helping electrify rural areas. But not so public is the fact that the power sector was deregulated and private players were allowed to generate and supply electricity. This facilitated the entry of private companies into power generation, which required thermal power. The NDA regime provided extraordinary facilities to the new players and at the same time disinvested in public sector power plants. Coal blocks were allocated to power companies, cement plants, steel factories, and so on, within the same region so that they could dig out coal for their primary businesses at a minimum cost of transportation. This meant that many companies were allocated mining licences without having any expertise in it. It worked like this: a company chooses a “coal block” and submits an application to the Ministry to mine there, in a process called “linkage”, and the Coal Ministry allocates mining rights to the company after getting an environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Ministry of Coal told the standing committee that there were three ways of allocating coal blocks. The first method was called “captive dispensation through screening committee”, where most of the violations of guidelines happened. The standing committee notes that the screening committee allocated coal blocks in a highly opaque manner. It has also pointed out various instances of the inter-ministerial group interfering in the screening process to allocate coal blocks to a few companies. Who can forget the instance of the Delhi-based Pushp Steel, which got a mining lease in Chhattisgarh for only Rs.1,00,000, with no experience or capital, both prerequisites for allocation?

The second method was “government company dispensation”, in which coal blocks were allocated to government agencies. The standing committee has highlighted various instances where CIL allowed private companies to mine in its coal blocks. The third was “tariff based competitive bidding”, where coal blocks were auctioned.

Auctioning of community resources like coal, in the last 15 years, has led to a speculative rise in the prices of coal. “Speculative rise in coal prices has led to multiplier effects on common people. Increased tariff of electricity and price rise in most products in the market are a result of this. Instead of such auctioning, if the energy sector, which I consider a very crucial sector, had remained in the hands of public-sector units, common people would not have experienced such a steep price rise in the last few years. Today, the situation is ironical. The government is subsidising private electricity discoms like Reliance and Tatas, and the poor are being asked to pay higher tariffs for electricity,” Ashok Rao, president of the National Confederation of Officers’ Associations (NCOA) of Central Public Sector Enterprises, told Frontline.

Policy changes are made to ensure inclusive and real development. However, a hasty change in the economic approach since the 1990s entailed that the government showed an extraordinary willingness to stop all forms of regulation and still retain its power to control economic processes. This is a sordid mix, the outcome of which can be nothing but scams such as this one. The standing committee notes: “218 coal blocks allocated with geological reserves of about 50 billion tonnes have been allocated to eligible public and private companies under the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973. Out of that, 25 coal blocks have been de-allocated. Out of de-allocated coal blocks, two coal blocks were re-allocated to eligible companies under the said Act. Thus, the net allocated blocks are 195 coal blocks with geological reserves (GR) of about 44.23 billion tonnes…. Out of 195 coal blocks allocated so far for captive mining, 30 blocks have started coal production and out of 160 captive coal blocks allocated during 2004 to 2008, only two have started production.” The standing committee also notes with shock that no revenue was accrued to the government from the allocations and recommends that all allocations from 1993 to 2011 be investigated.

Such dubious record puts a question mark over not only the efficiency of new policies but also on the unholy government-industry partnership which promotes such policies. “The arbitrary distribution of mining licences has led to the emergence of a secondary market. The companies get mining licences but resell them to other players, completely disregarding the end-use for which they had got the licence in the first place,” said Nilotpal Basu of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Among the five companies raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation was the Hyderabad-based Navbharat Power. This company was allotted two coal blocks in Odisha in 2008, but it sold them to Essar for Rs.230 crore a year later without developing the block. The guidelines place no restrictions on such reselling. Companies have applied for coal blocks without any experience and expertise so that they could sell them for hefty amounts.

Mining leases have become a property realtor’s dream. The standing committee report and the disastrous experience with captive mining surely mandate the need for a re-authoring of policies to stop the transfer of valuable community resources to the private sector. It has been established through a series of scams that the private sector is not as efficient as it claims to be.

 

#India – Farmers’ suicide rates soar above the rest


MUMBAI, May 18, 2013

P. Sainath

 The Hindu

Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011. In some of the States worst hit by the agrarian crisis, they were well over 100 per cent higher. The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. And it is on this reduced base that the farm suicides now occur.

Apply the new Census totals to the suicide data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the results are grim. Sample: A farmer in Andhra Pradesh is three times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else in the country, excluding farmers. And twice as likely to do so when compared to non-farmers in his own State. The odds are not much better in Maharashtra, which remained the worst State for such suicides across a decade.

“The picture remains dismal,” says Prof. K. Nagaraj, an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Prof. Nagaraj’s 2008 study on farm suicides in India remains the most important one on the subject. “The intensity of farm suicides shows no real decline,” he says. “Nor do the numbers show a major fall. They remain concentrated in the farming heartlands of five key States. The crisis there continues. And the adjusted farmers’ suicide rate for 2011 is in fact slightly higher than it was in 2001.” And that’s after heavy data fudging at the State level.

Five States account for two-thirds of all farm suicides in the country, as NCRB data show. These are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The share of these ‘Big 5’ in total farm suicides was higher in 2011 than it was in 2001. At the same time, the new Census data show that four of these States have far fewer farmers than they did a decade ago. Only Maharashtra reports an increase in their numbers.

Nationwide, the farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) was 16.3 per 100,000 farmers in 2011. That’s a lot higher than 11.1, which is the rate for the rest of the population. And slightly higher than the FSR of 15.8 in 2001.

In Maharashtra, for instance, the rate is 29.1 suicides per 100,000 farmers (‘Main cultivators’). Which is over 160 per cent higher than that for all Indians excluding farmers. Such gaps exist in other States, too. In as many as 16 of 22 major States, the farm suicide rate was higher than the rate among the rest of the population (RRP) in 2011.

The data for 2011 are badly skewed, with States like Chhattisgarh declaring ‘zero’ farm suicides that year. The same State reported an increase in total suicides that same year. But claimed that not one of these was a farmer. What happens if we take the average number of farm suicides reported by the State in three years before 2011? Then Chhattisgarh’s FSR is more than 350 per cent higher than the rate among the rest of the country’s population.

In 1995, the ‘Big 5’ accounted for over half of all farm suicides in India. In 2011, they logged over two-thirds of them. Given this concentration, even the dismal all-India figures tend to make things seem less terrible than they are.

Ten States show a higher farm suicide rate in 2011 than in 2001. That includes the major farming zones of Punjab and Haryana. The average farm suicide rate in the ‘Big 5’ is slightly up, despite a decline in Karnataka. And also a fall in Maharashtra. The latter has the worst record of any State. At least 53,818 farmers’ suicides since 1995. So how come it shows a lower FSR now?

Well, because Census 2011 tells us the State has added 1.2 million farmers (‘main cultivators’) since 2001. That’s against a nationwide decline of 7.7 million in the same years. So Maharashtra’s farm suicide rate shows a fall. Yet, its farm suicide numbers have not gone down by much. And a farmer in this State is two-and-a-half times more likely to kill himself than anyone else in the country, other than farmers.

Karnataka, in 2011, saw a lot less of farm suicides than it did a decade ago. And so, despite having fewer farmers than it did in 2001, the State shows a lower FSR. Yet, even the ‘lower’ farm suicide rates in both Maharashtra and Karnataka are way above the rate for the rest of the country.

These figures are obtained by applying the new farm population totals of Census 2011 to farm suicide numbers of the NCRB. The Census records cultivators. The police count suicides. In listing suicides, the State governments and police tend to count only those with a title to land as farmers.

“Large numbers of farm suicides still occur,” says Prof. Nagaraj. “Only that seems not to be recognised, officially and politically. Is the ‘conspiracy of silence’ back in action?” A disturbing trend has gained ground with Chhattisgarh’s declaration of ‘zero’ farm suicides. (That’s despite having had 4,700 in 36 months before the ‘zero’ declaration). Puducherry has followed suit. Others will doubtless do the same. Punjab and Haryana have in several years claimed ‘zero’ women farmers’ suicides. (Though media and study reports in the same years suggest otherwise). This trend must at some point fatally corrupt the data.

At least 270,940 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1995, NCRB records show. This occurred at an annual average of 14,462 in six years, from 1995 to 2000. And at a yearly average of 16,743 in 11 years between 2001 and 2011. That is around 46 farmers’ suicides each day, on average. Or nearly one every half-hour since 2001.

 

#India – The Draconian #ITAct


Draconian act

free1.jpg

May 20, 2013 : dECCAN hERALD

The arrest of Jaya Vindhyala, president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL) in Andhra Pradesh, is the latest case of arbitrary and highhanded police action to restrict freedom of expression.

The case specifically involved online freedom of expression because the alleged offences related to a posting on a Facebook page. Vidhyala had made a posting critical of Tamil Nadu governor K Rosaiah and an AP legislator Amanchi  Krishna Mohan. While the same information published by the local print media had invited only a notice of  legal action, its online publication  has invited arrest and prosecution. It is difficult to understand how there can be different standards of response to the same information in two forms of media. Online media postings  are made by individuals and they are more vulnerable. Freedom of expression is basically the individual’s freedom to express opinions and it should be guaranteed and protected, whatever the medium of expression.

While dealing with the case, the Supreme Court has directed state governments to not arrest anybody  for a post on a networking site unless the action is cleared by senior police officials. But this is no relief because senior police officials are also vulnerable to pressure from political authorities who are offended by postings in online media, as in this case. Vindhyala’s postings contained only matters revealed under the RTI Act and other information in the public realm. And yet she is being prosecuted. This is because Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, under which the action was taken,  is  very restrictive and draconian.

The section in effect differentiates between an ordinary citizen and a person who uses social media for comment. While the citizen has a defence under Section 19(1)(a)  of the Constitution and other relevant provisions of the law, the netizen can be proceeded against under Section 66 A. This is anomalous because social media is actually gaining more popularity and importance than conventional media and they provide an empowering forum for individuals.

This section should be removed from the IT Act because it is discriminatory and liable to be misused, whatever the guidelines that are given to the police. A number of cases of highhanded actions under the provision  have come to light, including  the arrest of two girls in Maharashtra who questioned the shutting down of Mumbai in the wake of Bal Thackeray’s death. Union Law minister Kapil Sibal’s recent assurances on the bill in parliament were not convincing.

 

Gujarat – Death threat to RTI activist: Police get no lead yet


Express news service : Rajkot, Mon May 20 2013, 04:06 hrs

THREE days after RTI activist Nathalal Sukhadia of Amreli was allegedly threatened by an anonymous caller after he declared to expose the alleged corruption in the administration of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), Amreli taluka police has not achieved any breakthrough in the case.

“We are seeking the call details of Sukhadia and trying to identify the person who made the phone call,” an officer of Amreli taluka police said on Sunday. Sukhadia hit the headlines last year after he alleged the then state Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani and his family members of irregularities in the affairs of Amreli District Cooperative Bank on the basis of information he obtained under RTI. The activist’s campaign had dented the reputation of Sanghani and had contributed to his defeat in state Assembly elections in December last year.

But Sukhadia had filed a complaint with Amreli taluka police on Friday, stating that a man called him at 9.56 on Thursday and threatened to kill him if the activist called a public meeting on Monday.

The activist is fighting election as a director of the APMC. The election will be held on May 23. He had announced to hold a public meeting to “expose corruption” of the outgoing BJP-backed APMC board. “The board had indulged in corrupt practices in auctioning 400 shops . I suspect the caller was an aide of one of the outgoing office-bearers,” Sukhadia said.

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/death-threat-to-activist-police-get-no-lead-yet/1118127/#sthash.yz8pMe2a.dpuf

 

Previous Older Entries

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,234 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,767,651 hits

Archives

%d bloggers like this: