#Gujarat- 15000 Gujarati pilgrims rescued ? #Uttarakhand


 Tales of survivors magnify the absurd claim

By Vishal Dutta, ET Bureau | The Economic Times, 30 June 2013

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi meets flood-affected peopl Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi meets flood-affected people at a relief camp in Haridwar on June 22, 2013

It’s raining heavily, its zero degrees, I am freezing and rain water is gushing down from the hills. Five of us have managed to reach the terrace, the other four died on the spot on the ground floor due to water and debris… I can hear three women half-buried in the debris screaming for help.

I need to help them or else they will die. But my legs are swollen… The entire town is pitch-dark… my mobile has last point charging… You don’t speak, just hear me and try to get help from the Gujarat or Uttrakhand government or get in touch with Central government….”

That’s a chilling mobile phone recording of a five-minute desperate plea for help at close to midnight on June 16 from Hiren Dave, stuck in the hills of Kedarnath, to his friend Javal Patel in Ahmedabad. Javal hasn’t heard from his 36-year-old friend since then. It’s almost two weeks now that Hiren and 12 others of a group of 40 pilgrims that went to Kedarnath are missing. Hiren’s SOS to Javal was just one of the many he made as the clouds burst over Kedarnath on that fateful Sunday. Through that night he and his family members ­ as well as Javal in Ahmedabad ­ made frantic calls to different help agencies in Uttarakhand, Delhi and in Gujarat.

No One Listened

“The government hardly has any presence during crises and like a fool my friend was asking me to get the government’s help,” says a broken Javal. “That night I was so near to him, but still helpless to do anything. Hiren was begging for help and the government was nowhere near.” Along with Hiren, four of his relatives are also missing, even as his wife and younger brother back home are scurrying around for help and information. Manshuk Patel is one of the 40 from the group who has been brought back from Uttarakhand. But eight of his family members are still missing.

Hospitalised for depression, Patel is inconsolable and has lost his will to live. No government official visited him; neither has the government been able to provide any information about his missing family members. Ashok Barot, 52, a head constable with a local CID crime branch in Gujarat, was lucky to survive. A high blood pressure and diabetic patient, he decided to stay back in a bus, 17 km off the Kedarnath shrine. The next morning when he saw a huge tsunami hurtling towards him, he and other passengers ran toward a hill.

“Halfway up, when I turned back to take a look at the parking, nearly 80 parked vehicles had got swept away at one go,” says Barot in disbelief. Against this backdrop of devastation, the mysterious and atrocious claim that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi rescued 15,000 from the state is black humour at its worst. “He was able to rescue only 150 Gujaratis via air,” Arjun Modhwadia, Gujarat Congress president, told a local daily. For their part, Modi and the BJP have distanced themselves from the ‘Rambo’ act. “Such claims reflect the sick mind of the politicians and the real anti-people vote politics of politicians. This is nothing but exploitation of people’s pain for their narrow vote politics even in such a manmade disaster situation” says Rohit Prajapati, an RTI activist and founder of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, an NGO.

Politically motivated claims also undermine the stellar efforts of the armed forces that had deployed over 8,000 troops to rescue over 2,000 stranded people (till the time of writing). The Rambo feat appears even more absurd when juxtaposed with Gujarat’s own disaster management set-up, suggests Prajapati. “Looking at the numerical strength and skills of the present staff of the GSDMA [Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority], it appears that the department is in coma,” he points out. The GSDMA was formed by the state government a week after January 26, 2001 earthquake hit Gujarat.

Nearly 17,000 people had died. To substantiate his argument, Prajapati points to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) released on April 23 this year, where it has clearly said that between 2007 and 2012 GSDMA held only two meetings. And the state’s draft State Disaster Management Plan was approved only in July 2012.

The report further points out that emergency operation groups to address the immediate impact of a particular incident were not created. Interestingly, it’s the same CAG report which had warned that an Uttarakhanddisaster plan did not exist. A detailed email questionnaire sent to the office of GSDMA CEO Ranjit Banerjee inGandhinagar remained unanswered. When contacted, an official at the office informed this reporter that Banerjee would not be replying.

Prajapati is fighting for setting up a chemical disaster emergency plan in Gujarat, as the state has large chunk of chemical industry ­ it accounts for more than 62% of the nation’s output of petrochemicals and 51% of chemicals. He says the GSDMA may have got some awards but does not have chemical emergency and nuclear emergency plans. For the moment, however, all eyes are on Uttarakhand, and how many more of the missing can be found. Says Palavi Patel, elder sister of Hiren: “The real test of any government’s potency is during catastrophes and not during good times with food security bills and employment schemes.”

Mithi Virdi Nuclear Plant: Experts pick holes in enviornment report


DNA, Ahmedabad, 8 March 2013

Ahmedabad: Experts are already questioning the environment impact assessment (EIA) of the proposed 6000-MW nuclear power plant at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar prepared by Engineers India Limited. Why has the report not mentioned the water bodies present in the area where the plant is coming up? Or elaborated on the hazardous industries in its vicinity?

Speaking at a press conference in the city, Dr V Pugazhendi, who has extensively studied the impact of radiation on health, made his dissent quite clear. “It is mentioned that the plant shouldn’t be close to any water body, yet the area where the plant is coming up has two water bodies,” he said.

He said the report also fails to mention the presence of hazardous industries near the nuclear project site. “The EIA report states that the Sosiya ship breaking yard is 4 km from the site while in reality it is only 700 metres from the site,” he said. He added that nuclear plants need 100% pure water and the project plans to use a desalination plant to make use of water from the sea. “But the presence of Sosiya ship breaking yard has already polluted the water and there is evidence to show the presence of heavy metal in the water. How will the plant clean such heavily polluted water?” he asked.

Pugazhendi also said that the report failed to mention the presence of lignite mining taking place in the area. “It is sitting on the Cambay basin fault line and mining only adds to the danger,” he explained.

Also voicing their points of protests were villagers who had staged a walk-out at the environmental public hearing held earlier this week at Navagaam in connection with the project.

“Government officials are allowed to seek the advice of experts, but we are not,” said Baluben of Neshwad village, 25 km away from the proposed nuclear plant. According to Baluben, she and other villagers chose to walk out after the collector refused to allow outsiders (experts) to speak at the meeting. Close to 5,000 people had walked out of the hearing after the collector allegedly refused to let the villagers speak first.

Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said that the hearing did not follow the proper rules. “There were songs being played exalting the benefits of nuclear power. This is against the rules. You cannot do such things, yet the collector was a mute spectator to this,” said Prajapati.

 

#Gujarat- Even police don’t have sexual complaint panel’ #womenrights #Vaw


By Ramaninder K Bhatia, The Times of India, 20 February 2013

VADODARA: Despite the recent focus on exploitation of women in Indian society, home and workplaces, many offices of Gujarat government, including police force and labour department and also the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) have not bothered to implement the Supreme Court (SC) guidelines on establishing committees to deal with complaints of sexual harassment.

Stating this, Vadodara-based trade union Jyoti Karamchari Mandal has issued notices to the state DGP, labour commissioner and VMC commissioner, asking them to do the needful at the earliest. A copy of the notice has also been sent to commissioner, Vadodara Police.

“The 15-year-old Vishakha committee guidelines clearly state that a complaint redressal mechanism concerning all sexual harassment cases, should exist in all government, private organizations, but our inquiries have revealed that most of the government offices are not even aware of this aspect, forget about implementing it. We are systematically approaching government offices in Gujarat in the next few days before taking legal recourse,” said Rohit Prajapati, general secretary of the mandal and an RTI activist.

VMC commissioner, Ashwini Kumar said that a panel does exist in the corporation, but he would further inquire whether it is functioning according to the SC guidelines. “A senior class I woman officer heads the committee as per the rule,” he added. DCP (admin) Prabhat Patel of Vadodara police said he would have to enquire whether any such panel existed in the force, here. “However, I do know that there has been no such complaint of sexual harassment within the force in Vadodara,” he asserted.

Prajapati said VMC had not advertised about the existence of the panel by putting notices in the main office or outside the offices of senior officials, including the mayor. “These panels have to have 50% women members and a member from an outside agency or NGO. The police force do not have any such committee at all.”

Earlier, several women NGOs had held a meeting with 20 government offices under the aegis of district collector, only to find out that except for the pollution control board, no other department had such a panel. Though, action was promised within 10 days, only the education department has so far bothered to set up the committee, NGO Sahiyar’s Trupti Shah stated.

The MS University (MSU), too, is yet to set up a committee as per the SC guidelines.

___________________________________________________________________

IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Narendra Modi replies to RTI query of Rohit Prajapati


English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World E...

English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World Economic Forum in India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PRESS RELEASE
15 October 2012
  • An open letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi by Rohit Prajapati.
  • In reply to Rohit Prajapati’s RTI application dated 23-04-2010 the Chief Minister of Gujarat’s office states that “In addition, would like to inform you that about point no. 1 & 2 of your RTI application dated 23-04-2010, information sought by you is about the period before date 25-1-2007 and government’s term was over in December 2007 and after new government came in as per our working method, old records were destroyed so demanded information can not be made available to you.”
  • “With your (The Chief Minister) emphasis on ‘information technology’ in governance, the soft copies of the correspondence should be present in some official databank, or one would assume that you or your office are deliberately withholding or denying information that should be in public realm and your public accountability as the chief minister stands questioned, following such a stand of destruction of official records on the mere pretext that it happened because of change in Government.” – Rohit Prajapati

 

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