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

 

Gujarat – PUCL Report on Rajkot on SELF IMMOLATION INCIDENT


 

(Observations and findings of PUCL investigation team)

 

On 5th April, 2013, a team of Peoples’ union for Civil Liberties (PUCL – Gujarat) went to Rajkot for Fact Finding of the incident of Self immolation by five persons of a Nepali family in Rajkot. The incident took place at Municipal Corporation premises, in the presence of number of securities, officers and visitors of Rajkot municipal corporation. The whole episode was over within a span of less than 10 minutes as private visuals and RMC Close circuit TV footages shows.

 

On the third day of the incidence, the  PUCL team met varied sections of people including the family members of the deceased people, Municipal Commissioner and Deputy Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot Municipal corporation, Security personnels, Eye witnesses of the incident, journalists, residents of Chhotunagar society, Rajkot Police Commissioner, eminent citizens, etc. and questioned them on the basis of the information obtained from the media reports and other public sources

 

BACKGROUND

 

On 3rd April 2013, seven members of a family in Rajkot attempted self immolation in Rajkot Municipal Corporation. Out of these, three members, Sh. Bharatbhai Mansingh Vishwakarma(Age 40), Sh. Girishbhai Mansingh Vishwakarma( Age 25) and  Sh. Ashaben Bharatbhai Vishwakarma(Age 35) died almost by the time they were taken to the hospital. Sh. Basmatiben Mansinghbhai Vishwakarma(Age 60) and Sh. Rekhaben Mahendrabhai Vishwakarma(Age 30) struggled but died on 6th April in the Burns ward of Civil Hospital, Rajkot. While Sh. Gauriben Girishbhai Vishwakarma and Sh. Shantaben were saved.

 

Sh. Mansingbhai Vishwakarma, the father of  victims Bharatbhai and Girishbhai, used to stay with his family in the common plot of Chhotunagar Society, Nr. Amrapali Cinema, Rajkot, earlier than 1980. The Chhotunagar society had given this place to stay as he was providing security to the society. He built a hutment in the premises with the permission of society members, the electricity  and water connection was provided by the society, both the connections were in the name of society office bearers of that time. Mansinghbhai used to serve as the security of the society, he died three years back. While Sh. Basmatiben and other lady members of the family used to do household chores in the houses of the society members till the incidence took place.

 

Three years back, Sh. Mansinghbhai died of heart attack. After his death, the remaining members of the family were allegedly pressurized by the society members to vacate the place. That resulted in bitterness in the relationship between the family and present office bearers of the society.

 

Meanwhile, some part of  old house of the family was broken and in its place, they started construction of new wall to support to old structure. Some of office bearers of the society and municipal councilors Mr. Rajbhai Zala and Mr. Mirani represented to the Rajkot Municipal Corporation to stop the construction of new wall. Rajkot Municipal Corporation gave notice to the family and with immediate  effect the water connection by RMC and electricity connection by Society were withdrawn since August 2012. Against the notice of  RMC the family moved to  Civil Court. As remaining members of family said that, they were being harassed  by many calls at very odd time like late night, at the time of lunch and dinner by RMC town planning staff, other RMC staff members and some unknown persons. Many a times they used to visit the place and male members of family using RMC vehicles and staff to threatened the family with abusive words. These were happening frequently while the case was going on in the court.

 

The Civil Court dismissed the plea of Nepali family on 23rd of March, and they were allegedly not only pressurized but also threatened in person and also by telephone by various people to vacant the land.  The family claims that these persons include society members, the staff of Municipal Corporation and Town Planning, Police Personnel as well as the local Corporators. The harassment level went to such an extent that the family came to the Municipal Corporation premises to complain against the harassment by the RMC staff , the municipal commissioner Mr. Bhadu was out of office,  the deputy commissioner Mr. Kotwal refused to hear them with insulting words. They felt that they have lost all hopes to get justice, then they self immolated themselves in front of the Municipal Commissioner office.

 

With this background, the team members of P.U.C.L.-Sh. Balendrabhai Vaghela, Sh. Kamleshbhai Bhavsar, Sh. Bhavik Raja and Sh. Rimmi Vaghela, interrogated some people and could get the following information:

 

 

Madhura (Daughter of Sh.Bharatbhai Nepali who died by Self immolation)

 

According to Madhura, her grandfather Sh. Mansinghbhai Nepali was serving as security of the Chhotunagar Society since approximately last 50 years. Three years back, he died by heart attack. From that time onwards, society residents have started their harassment. Among those who were harassing, she could name Lalitbhai, resident of ‘Ashirwad ‘, Rajyaguru, Dushyantbhai, etc.

She further said that they were harassed to vacate the place. No written notice has been served, but they were threatened time and again. They had water and electricity supply. Those connections were also cut since last six months. She said that some people used to call her father on his mobile even at midnight and threaten.

On asking she said that among those who called her father were Jhala and Mirani.  Her father and uncle’s mobiles are still missing after their death. They are two sisters and five brothers. She is eldest and studying in the 12th std. other brothers and sisters are also studying. Her grandmother Basmatiben, Age 55 and Aunt Rekhaben, Age 28 are still serious and admitted to Burns Ward of Rajkot Civil Hospital. (Both of them died while the report was being prepared). Congress has given them Rs.1 lakh each. They have many times registered complaint in Gandhigram, Amrapali, and other police stations. Once she herself has gone. But no action has been taken. Initially they exerted normal pressure. But the society people then started doing lot of pressure on us. My Uncle returned home just one month back and now he is dead. No tax bills but light bill used to come.

Elderly people used to send us out before they discuss within themselves. She says even if I die, I seek justice. I don’t need money, I need my parents and family members back.

 

Joshnaben Bhatti (volunteer of Nari suraksha, a women organisation)

 

According to Sh. Joshnaben’s claim, the 11 volunteers of their organisation are continuously standing with the victim family and helping them. she said that pressure on Doctors, Hospital staff, Police,  Family members,  volunteers of Naari Suraksha Samiti etc. was being exerted by higher authorities for signing. The volunteers are threatened to leave the place. The Police personnel are saying that if you don’t sign then we will declare the dead bodies unidentified. The third brother Mahendrabhai was missing yesterday evening.

When he returned, he said he was threatened on one hand and offered 20 lakh rupees on the other hand.

 

 

Gauriben (Wife of Girishbhai Vishwakarma)

 

I demand that we want justice. She said that last night before the incident somebody called on Bharatbhai’s mobile. The society residents always used to threaten them. That bookseller used to say, “Want to fight?” Even the Municipal Corporation Staff used to come and threaten in very abusive language like “Go away. Land is not your father’s.” Girishbhai used to do job and then left job. No notice used to come. One one car used to come. We had been complaining to Police many a times. They took complain, used to assure help but did not take any action. When our water and light connections were cut, that time also we along with Nepali Samaj people went to police. But they did not take action. Mahendrabhai, the youngest son is not having any job.  She said that they are staying at that place even before the society was constructed. She emphatically said that what has been published in newspaper as dying declaration is not truth. They doubt that they were not in the situation to talk so many things. They would have never said that police has not harassed them. Because even police was also harassing them time and again.

It came in the newspaper that all were frustrated by the harassment to such an extent, but that is not true. There is some game within it.  It was to such an extent that her mother in law Basmatiben and her husband Girishbhai had developed high blood pressure. No body came to save. It is shocking. She also claimed  that it is not self immolation. Somebody else has put them on fire. When she tried to save them, she was held and resisted. And somebody said that you don’t worry, we will save them. I could not see the face of my husband, could not even give a sip of water. Even I had kerosene and petrol. Kerosene alone cannot catch this much fire. Somebody might have put petrol in it. Corporation staff did not come for help and rather they closed the door.

 

 

 

 

Meenaben (Family relative from Bombay)

 

She supported Sh. Gauriben’s claim that it is not self immolation but they are being killed. She said that C.C.T.V. camera were kept off to conceal the facts. We want justice for the remaining people of family. If necessary, you please take representation even up to Delhi. One can do immolation, how all can do that. Rather if one has done immolation others will go to save.

 

Ajay Bhadu (Municipal Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation)

 

Sh. Ajay Bhadu said that on the day of incident he was not present in the office but was reported about the incident on his return. As he was not present, the family went to meet Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Mr Kotwal. Talking about the detail of the case he said that municipal corporation has regulating authority over private construction. Accoding to General Development and Control Rules, all society have to keep atleast 10% of their total area as common plot. Regarding common plot or any encroachment over it, it is society’s deal. Municipal Corporation can only give notice in the case of any construction over the common plot. And so in spite of repeated complaints by the residents of the society, Minicipal Corporation took the stand that it is internal matter of the society and Municipal Corporation cannot interfere. The residents of the society also represented to the Collector Office and other authorities from where the directions to act came. But yet the stand of Municipal Corporation did not change. He said that there is a provision for the Municipal Corporation in such cases only if the residents of the society hand over the common plot to Municipal Corporation.

He claimed that the Municipal Corporation came into the picture only when the Nepali family started construction in that plot. The residents of the society gave written complain one year back and so on the bases of that Municipal Corporation gave a primary notice to the Nepali family in May-2012 to which the family replied. Again in August-2012, final notice was given which was to be mandatorily replied within one week. Against this notice the family went to civil court. Meanwhile in spite of continued complains of the residents, Municipal Corporation took the stand to wait for the civil court judgment. The civil court dismissed the application on 22nd March.2013. Yet Municipal Corporation decided to wait for getting the written judgment in their hands. Ironically they got this written judgment in the evening of 3rd April.

He accepted that the local Corporators accompanied with the residents of the society once or twice during their representation to the Municipal Corporation. Now that civil court had dismissed the appeal, it might have created frustration for the family. Further, the residents of the society gave it in media. Due to condition created, the family might have felt depressed and have taken the recourse to such extreme step. When we questioned him that as builders get chance to regularize their illegal construction by paying impact fee cannot this be applicable to this poor family? He replied that technically it could have been applicable if their construction would have been done before March-2011. We asked him that the family had water connection as well as electricity connection, are they not sufficient to prove their legal possession. He replied that water connection was taken in the name of society and not in the personal name of the family. Further even if the family gets tax bill on their name yet that does not prove their possession. He said that the 5 lakh rupees each as compensation to the family is being announced by the Municipal Corporation on humanitarian ground. He also assured that as long as the family is in the stage of distress, the Status Quo will be maintained.

He said that the family entered the Municipal corporation premises from the back side-from unofficial door. So our security personnel could not notice them.

 

Mr M.M. Kotwal (deputy Municipal Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation)

 

Mr M.M. Kotwal claimed that on the day of incident no one had come to make representation before him from Chhotunagar society. At the time of incident he was in the meeting in his own office with Tax Officers Sh. Kagathara. Sh. Rupareliya Sh. Prajapati and Account Officer Sh Nandani. On hearing some noise he came out of his to find out what is happening but one of his staff member closed the common glass door for his security. Peeping through the glass he could see nothing else but lot of smoke. He opened the door to inquire further but as lot of smoke started entering the office he was compelled to close the door. He returned to his office and called 108 ambulance as well as fire brigade. The other officer of Municipal Corporation sitting with him during our visit informed us that 108 ambulance always remained ready in our own premises and fire brigade is just adjacent to their office.

We further inquired with the security personnel,  the visitors of the Municipal Corporation Office as well as Sh. Naranbhai Madhubhai who tried to save the victims on the day of incident with the help of his own shirt. While the security personnel claimed that the victims brought cans of Kerosene. Naranbhai claimed that they brought fuel in the pouch. All of them could not say clearly whether the fuel  used was Kerosene or Petrol or any other object.

 

 

 

 

Sh. Ranchhodbhai Dobariya (Resident of Chhotunagar Society)

 

According to Sh. Ranchhodbhai Dobariya’s claim he was the first person to construct house even before the society was set up. Few years after some rooms were there outside the peripheri of society  where Sh. Masingbhai were taken shelter. He used to remain very sick and so residents of society decided to give him shelter in the common plot of the society and in this manner ten years after he came to the society Sh. Mansingbhai started staying in a small hutment with his family approximately in the year of 1990. He used to work as security of the society. We used to help his family by providing grains, oils etc. Society has decided to give him a fix amount of salary. We had very intimate relationship with the family. And the family was very dissent and there was no nuisance. Only the youngest of the son Mahendrabhai was liquar addict and used to drink liquar with his circle sometimes. But otherwise no other nuisance was created by them. When a skim was announced for housing on Sadhu Vaswani Road, the society members helped all three sons of Mansinghbhai to get a house each by draw system. There had been no pressure or threate from society members on the family. But only when they started new construction, all the problems occurred. but still then no one used to enter their premises only the people whose name they have given used to take photographs of the progress of the new construction. But that too from outside the premises. If they have not demolished their old structure and started construction of newer one, there were no controversy at all. And yet society has never said them to vacat the place. They have only objected the new construction. Ranchhodbhai strongly feels that they have taken such extreme step only dye to somebody’s instigation otherwise no other such factors were present.

 

 

Nizamuddinbhai Ansari(Resident of Adjacent Society of Chhotunagar, his house is just opposite to the desputed land)

 

Nizamuddinbhai claims that he started saying in the society since 1983 that is about 32 years back. At that time Mansinghbhai was already staying with his family and doing security of the Chhotunagar Society. He did not know much detail of the despute but he feels that they would have taken such extreme steps because of harassment only.

We could not contact Sh. Ghanshyambhai Pandya, executive member of the committee of the society.

 

Mansukhbhai Joshi (Educanionist, First appointed Mayor of Rajkot Municipal Corporation and eminent citizen)

 

Mansukhbhai said the citizens of Rajkot are very much disturbed by the incident. As the Municipal Corporation is not paying any heed to a common people’s cause, the people are very much frustrated. This incident is the highest expression of such frustration. He also repented that the people are becoming so selfish that while making housing skims, they do not make any provisions for their service class like security, scavengers, domestic workers, etc. He also felt  regretted that in such condition we are not being able to do anything actively to check such incidents. But he assured that we will provide as much financial help as possible to the remaining family members and try to ensure that the education of all the children do not suffer.

 

 

H.P.Singh (Police Commissioner, Rajkot)

 

Sh.H.P.Singh said that the investigation is going on. We are trying to gather the evidence. Media and other people give stress on arrest but our focus is on gathering the evidances. He accepted that in the past written complains were done in different police station from both the sides and necessary actions were taken by the police. He said that even if the lost mobile of Sh. Bharatbhai and Sh. Baratbhai, we will opting call details from the company.

 

SOME MISSING LINKS

 

  • In the conversation with most of the people, we felt that all of them did not believe it to be natural incident. They felt that somebody might have instigated them to do so. The family has not given any such ultimatum to any concerned people family member, relatives or authorities of taking such step.
  • The people in large number were present. Police personnel and media persons were also present. The full shots have been taken of the entire incident. The timing of the incident is near about 12.00 noon, the busiest hour in any of the offices. It doesn’t seem natural that no one came to save them.
  • According to Gauriben’s claim, when she tried to go instinctively to rescue her husband, she was stopped and someone assured her that we will save them, you don’t worry. But no attempts of saving can be seen from the footage of the media coverage. Then who and why would have assured her so?
  • The disputed land was the common plot. It is road touch. The land of the society is said to be worth crores of rupees. Is there any role of land mafias in the whole episode to grab the land?
  • According to the family, they have done police complaints repeated number of times, even sometimes in written. The police assured them to take action. But no actions have been taken to check the threat. Why? Was there any pressure on Police?
  • Family members strongly feel that it is not self immolation. According to them, “ a big Game” has been played with them in this incident. What is the root of such belief? What can that probable “Game” be?
  • The fire extinguisher was very near to the place of incident. Even ladies toilet was nearby, where one of the lady went after being immolated. Why no one tried to use the fire extinguisher or water from the bathroom.
  • Even the offices of Standing Committee Chairman, Opposition leader, etc. were nearby the incident. What was the status of those offices? What actions were taken by them?
  • When some people are self immolating, how can Deputy Municipal Commissioner close the door of his office from inside?
  • No one is yet clear whether it was kerosene or Petrol that was used?
  • How so many people(7 in number) with inflammable thing like Kerosene could enter the premises where the security companies are so large in number that even Municipal Commissioner doesn’t know the number?
  • The fire brigade is just adjacent to the premises. Yet it took long time to reach. And reached only to find that owing to lower level pillars at the entrance of the Municipal Corporation office, it is not possible for their vehicle to enter.
  • The video footage shows that even when ambulance arrived, the staff of ambulance is not taking the victims in stretchers. They are waiting for them to use all their energy to reach the ambulance. The staff is waiting down. And they take them to the stretcher only after they collapse. Is this the emergency service?!
  • Up till now, the names of two local Municipal Corporators have come-Sh. Kamleshbhai Mirani and Sh. Rajbha Jhala in the dying declaration of the victims. Police has neither arrested them, nor even interrogated them. What can be the reason?
  • Today(11 April, 2013), C.C.T.V. footage of the Municipal Corporation office revealed the suspicious presence of the B.J.P. Councillor Sh. Narendrabhai Solanki during the time of the incident. It was also found from the mobile call details of Sh. Bharatbhai Vishwakarma that on the previous night, i.e. on 2ndApril and even on the day of the incident i.e. on 3rd April, before the incident, number of phone calls have been done by Sh. Narendrabhai and from the office of Standing Committee Chairman. Why did police not make any arrest and only interrogated even after such substantial evidence?
  • If so many conversations happened before the incident, why the victims did not mention them in their dying declarations?
  • Were dying declarations of the other two victims who died on 6th April taken or not?
  • The members of the ruling BJP were so sure of the innocence of their Corporators, that they took out procession in their support. Then why is it that the Chief Minister did not make any statement in the incident? Why the Chief Minister, Speaker or even the Governor not even said a word of condolence to the victim family?

 

These are the questions that are yet to be answered. It is very difficult to conclude in such situation. May be follow up interrogation, if possible, might help us to conclude. In any manner, our conclusion lies in the answer of the above mentioned questions.

Looking to the Seriousness of the problem, we demand a high power committee headed by retired high court judge should be formed to investigate whole episode thouroughly to find out some missing links as mentioned above.

 

Balendra Vaghela                                             Kamlesh Bhavsar                                Saurashtra – Kuttchh Lokhit                           Advocate (Ahmedabad)

     Sangharsh Samiti (Rajkot)   

 

    

     Bhavik Raja                                            Rimmi Vaghela

     Democratic Student Organization            All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan

     Ahmedabad                                             Ahmedabad

 

 

MEMBERS OF PUCL INVESTIGATION TEAM

 

————————————————————————————————————Report Released by

Gautam Thaker – General Secretary – PUCL (Gujarat) M.09825382556

 

Why is Narendra Mod i- Accused No 1


Why Modi is accused no-1?

DNA Correspondent, April 16,2013

MODI1

Zakia Jafri’s petition claims Modi administration had supported and ignored communal violence in 2002. The state police and administration did not pay heed to intelligence bureau record about hate speeches by right wing activists and mobilisation of mob. DNA brings excerpts of the protest petition.

l Modi contacts the then VHP leader Dr Jaideep Patel immediately after information of the Godhra tragedy comes in, even before he meets home department officials

l Sinister decision was taken in ‘mini-cabinet’ meeting at Godhra where Patel was present

l Administration and police were deliberately paralyzed and neutralized by conspiracy hatched by Modi and the then DGP K Chakravarti, the then police commissioner PC Pande, additional chief secretary (home) Ashok Narayan and other important officials

l Victory of Modi in Rajkot by-election a week before Godhra riots with a very slender margin

l Ehsan Jafri had been active campaigner against Modi.

l Meeting at Modi’s residence on February 27, 2002 night effectively neutralized the police and administration.

l Alert messages of State Intelligence Bureau (SIT) of provocation and build up of mobs as well as showing possibilities of violence were ignored.

l The SIT deliberately conceals and ignored during the probe regarding documents of SIB regarding hate speeches issued by RSS and VHP workers.

 

Gujarat reeling under severe drought – #Narendramodi


On March 26, Revenue Minister Anandi Patel had declared water scarcity in about 4,000 villages and towns in 10 districts of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat
Illustration: Anand NaoremIllustration: Anand Naorem

Rajkot, Apr 14 (PTI): Narendra Modi may be on a campaign selling his model of governance, but Gujarat is reeling under severe drought that has left Saurashtra and Kutch regions parched and people battling odds to get even a pot of drinking water.

An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the cash crops may have failed because of the drought this year that has come on the back of 11 normal monsoons. The water situation in half of the state has worsened with the onset of summer as big and small water reservoirs have dried up, forcing women in rural area to travel long distances, sometimes two to three kms, everyday for water.

Modi had, in his speeches in the national capital and in Kolkata recently, made claims regarding supply of piped water for long distances, thanks to Narmada projects. But familiar scenes of people jostling to get a bucket of water when a tanker arrives once in a while in their village or urban area are common in Kutch, Saurashtra and some northern parts of the state.

“Our children are thirsty as there is severe drinking water problem. Officials here are merely giving us hollow promises. No steps have been taken for regular supply of water by tanker to us,” said Saroj Makwana, a resident of Jetpur town in Rajkot district where water is supplied every 10 days.

“Ours is the remotest area where drinking water is being supplied once in 15 days. And despite our repeated representation to local municipal officers, the condition is unchanged,” said a frustrated Champaben Rabari of Amreli city. Protests and bandhs are order of the day in affected areas. Amreli city had observed a total bandh recently on the issue of non-supply of water. Women taking out protest marches with empty water pots has become a common scene in affected areas.

Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat had witnessed acute water scarcity in 1998 and 1999 when successive years of deficient rains had made life difficult for the people of these three regions of the state. But 11 good monsoons from 2001 to 2011 had made people forgot those years of scarcity, driving Gujarat to double digit agriculture growth.

The state government also appeared to have taken the situation lightly when the rain goods were smiling as two major projects — Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river and Kalpsar project — conceived to solve drinking water problems of scarcity-prone regions, have not progressed as per schedule. Modi took over as the Gujarat chief minister in 2001.

Seventy-five percent of the canal network of Sardar Sarovar Project still remains to be completed by the state government, which is an impediment in taking water of big dam constructed on Narmada river to the parched lands of state, as per the data presented in the state assembly.

While the Kalpsar project was conceived to build a reservoir with dam in the Gulf of Khambhat to harness flood waters of nine rivers during the time of Keshubhai Patel government in 1998, it is still in the study stage mode even after 14 years of conceptualisation.

On March 26, Revenue Minister Anandi Patel had declared water scarcity in about 4,000 villages and towns in 10 districts of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat. However, the opposition has said this is too little, too late.

“The state government should have anticipated the situation of scarcity last June itself as many areas of Kutch and Saurashtra had deficient rain and still it has done nothing to avert the situation,” says Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, whose Congress party has launched a 12-day ‘Jal Adhikar Yatra’ to highlight the water woes experienced by this region.

The government, on the other hand, has been denying the existence of the water crisis. It claims it has been supplying more water to this region for the last six months and is resolved to implement on “war footing” a contingency master plan of Rs 134 crore to provide water to Saurashtra and Kutch.

Government spokesperson and Finance Minister Nitin Patel, while brushing aside Congress claims, charges opposition leaders with ‘misleading’ the people by ‘spreading lies’ on the water situation. “We have already been providing enhanced water supply to cities like Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Amreli,” Patel said.

Narmada water and Sardar Sarovar Dam issues have also been raised by both the state BJP and opposition parties for scoring brownie points over each other. Congress and Gujarat Parivartan Party have accused the Modi government of ‘inaction’ to complete the construction work of the Narmada canals.

“Since 2006, the height of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam has reached to 121.92 meters and that was enough for the storage of water which could have been used for irrigation in 10 lakh hectare agriculture land and provide drinking water to 11,000 villages and cities, but they have not completed the canal network,” Vaghela said.

However, state BJP has alleged that as the central government has been stalling the permission to raise the height of the dam to 138 meters and to build gates on the dam, people of Saurashtra and Kutch were facing acute water situation. Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar are the worst-hit districts in Saurashtra where people are supplied water once in three to fifteen days in different areas. Around 500 villages and some towns in these areas have to depend on water supplied to them by tankers.

In Rajkot, water levels in 34 reservoirs and dams like Aaji, Nyaari, Bhadar, Setubandh, Alansagar, Machhu have receded to almost 3 per cent of its storage capacity. Total water storage capacity of these 34 dams and reservoirs are 28,032.69 million cubic feet (MCF) whereas at present it is only 664.63 MCF there.A similar situation exists in other districts like Amreli (8.92 per cent), Jamnagar (0.43 per cent), Junagadh (6.06 per cent), Porbandar (1.11 per cent), Bhavnagar (5.29 per cent), Surendranagar (7.15 per cent) and Kutch (14.04 per cent). Deficient rain has also created problems for farmers and agriculture production has been hit.

“Though we are yet to ascertain production loss due to deficient rain, it must be between 15 to 20 per cent in cash crops and about 20 per cent in other crops including vegetables in Saurashtra and Kutch area,” a state agriculture department official said. He said the Rabi season has witnessed 15 per cent less sowing in comparison to the last year due to less rains.

Agriculture expert and former Director of Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) Dr Y K Alagh said “though the figure have not come out yet, if you compare the date of State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) of previous two years, you can at least very conservatively say that because of deficient rain 15-20 per cent crop has failed in the state”.

 

In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, no Narmada water for dalits #WTFnews


Fact-finding Report on Implementation of Food Security Programme in Kalahandi district, Odisha

Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Apr 10, 2013,

CHITALIYA (RAJKOT): In the villages of Jasdan taluka in drought-hit Saurashtra, dalit women prefer to remain silent. That’s for the fear of the upper castes in a state whose chief minister Narendra Modi is busy trying to conjure up an eclectic image to subserve his perceived prime ministerial ambitions for 2014 polls.

“Those people (upper castes) will abuse us again if we speak,” mumbled one of the women, only to be given a warning look by the others.

The water scarcity in Saurashtra is due to deficient rainfall, but the calamity is man-made for the dalits. Members of the community claim they are not allowed access to Narmada water, the only source of drinking water, by upper caste members. Ironically, upper caste farmers have their own borewells and don’t need Narmada water as much.

The dalits in ten villages of the taluka allege they are not even allowed to draw water from the main sump. “We have to listen to casteist remarks and are even threatened if we get close to the sump,” said Jaya Makwana, who fetches water under scorching sun from a source 3km farther. The worst affected are villages of Chitaliya, Khadvavadi, Kanesara, Parevala, Jivapar, Nani Lakhavad, Kothi, Barvala and Devdhari. There are around 100 dalit families in each village dominated by Kolis.

Unable to bear both injustice and thirst, women from these villages recently approached the deputy collector with their tale of woes. But the women were allegedly threatened on their return for taking up the issue with the authorities. “Should we remain thirsty because we are untouchables?” Makwana fumed.

Narmada water in Chitaliya is so erratic that villagers would not even get supply once a week. After the trip to the deputy collector’s office, water is being released once in five days. But the dalits say the main sump is still off-limits for them while the small one doesn’t get a drop.

The sump in the dailt area of Kothi village was never connected with the Narmada pipeline. “Our only source was a hand-pump which went dry last month,” said Maniben Makwana, 65, a dalit.

“We are looking into complaints of discrimination. We have also directed the water resources department to connect hand-pumps to the pipeline,” deputy collector R H Gadhavi said.

 

Gujarat- Demolition drive horror: one dies as 5 people set themselves on fire


PTI : Rajkot, Thu Apr 04 2013, 

Self-immolation

Five persons, including three women, today set themselves ablaze in Rajkot Municipal Corporation office to protest the civic body’s alleged demolition drive, police said.

The five, identified as Rekha, Asha, Vasumati, Bharat and Girish from Chhotu Nagar area near Raiya Dhar of the city, today poured kerosene and set themselves on fire in RMC’s central zone office, police said.

They were rushed to Rajkot civil hospital where condition of two of them was stated to be critical.

When contacted, Mayor Janak Kotak said that RMC has nothing to do with the incident as the civic body had no plan to carry out demolition in the area.

The five might have had a dispute with a member of their society because of which they took the extreme step, Kotak said.

The RMC has decided to initiate a probe in the incident and appropriate action would be taken against those found guilty, he added.

He extended all possible support to the victims and said they would be shifted to private hospital soon

Narendra Modi in your Gujarat – Booze is cheaper than water !


English: Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Guja...

With Narendra Modi is chasing his PM dream, booze is cheaper than water in Gujarat 

Published: Monday, Mar 25, 2013,

Place: Rajkot | Agency: PTI

Opposition Congress today alleged that liquor has become cheaper than water in parched Gujarat as Chief Minister Narendra Modi is busy chasing his “dream” to become prime minister and ignoring the plight of common people.

“Water is not easily available in drought-hit areas in the state but liquor is not only readily available but at the rate cheaper than water”, state unit Congress president Arjun Modhwadia told reporters in Rajkot.

“People of as many as 160 villages from Saurashtra, North Gujarat and Central Gujarat are facing shortage of drinking water. However, the chief minister is dreaming to become prime minister and not doing anything to bail out the affected people”, he said.

Tearing into Modi’s claims of development, Modhwadia said they are nothing but a ploy to mislead people and the Legislative Assembly.

Modhwadia accused Modi of sitting on the Central fund of Rs 1500 crore meant for drought-hit areas and misusing it for “self propaganda”, Modhwadia said.

“I urge the state government to use the fund only to solve the drinking water and fodder problems and not of self-propaganda,” he said.

Continuing his tirade against Modi, often being projected as BJP‘s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 elections, Modhwadia said the BJP government has failed to provide relief to scarcity-hit areas unlike erstwhile Congress government.

The senior leader also alleged that the law and order situation in Gujarat was deteriorating and the crime graph going up.

Modhwadia downplayed the high-profile crossover of party MLA Vitthal Radadiya to BJP, saying that such “minor” developments seldom affect the Grand Old party.

 

Gujarat: Minors among 3 Dalits killed in police firing #Narendramodi


Sept 24, agencies

Three Dalits, including two minors, died in two separate incidents of police firing near the Than police station in Surendranagar district. The first incident took place on Saturday night and the second one on Sunday evening.

The tragedy followed a clash between Dalits and members of Bharwad community over auctioning of stalls at an annual fair organised by the Than municipality. A Dalit youth was allegedly beaten up by the Bharwads on Friday after which the Dalits filed a complaint against them with the Than police station.

The following night, the two groups clashed again near the police station, according to Superintendent of Police Raghvendra Vats.

He said that soon the police intervened, following which the Dalits allegedly clashed with them. During the clash, sub-inspector K P Jadeja allegedly opened fire, injuring 17-year-old Prakash Amarsinh. The youth died at the Rajkot Civil Hospital.

There were just four or five policemen present during this incident, Vats added.

The SP said the two groups clashed with each other again on Sunday afternoon and when the police reached the spot, they allegedly pelted stones at them. The policemen again opened fire at the mob, killing two Dalit youths — Mehul (16) and Prakash (24) — and injuring one. The condition of injured Chhana Mauji Vaniya is said to be critical.Witnesses said Prakash was shot thrice.

According to Valjibhai Patel, a local activist, the situation remained tense in the town till late on Sunday as the Dalits refused to take the bodies and demanded stern action against sub-inspector Jadeja.

Rajkot Range IG Praveen Sinha said that hundreds of community leaders had converged at the Rajkot Circuit House and police were trying to pacify the angry Dalits.

In-charge DGP Chittaranjan Singh said that CID (crime) DIG R V Jotangia has been asked to investigate the incident. “He will probe if there was any negligence on the part of police and if it is proved, action will be taken against them,” said Singh.

While state Social Justice Minister Fakirbhai Vaghela he would be visiting the town, an inquiry has been initiated by the social welfare department under its secretary Sanjay Prasad, said sources in the government.

The government is suspecting ‘overreaction’ on the part of police. District Congress spokesperson Naushad Solanki blamed the police for the incident. He said Than Municipality chief Vasram Chavda, a Dalit, had complained against SI Jadeja allegedly for being anti-Dalit and had even staged protest against him. Subsequently, Jadeja was transferred last week, but he was yet to be relieved.

District Collector Pradeep Shah, however, said it was not a case of atrocity “but rather a law and order problem”.

This comes on a day when Chief Minister Narendra Modi was touring the district as part of his Swami Vivekanand Yuva Vikas Yatra.

The incident also affected railway traffic between Rajkot and Ahmedabad, which passes through Than, for several hours.

In Narendra Modi’s good-governance regime, four villagers expose mega housing scam using #RTI


Vinita Deshmukh | 21/09/2012 02:54 PM | Moneylife

Four villagers who tenaciously used RTI are presently on a satyagraha in front of the Rajkot district collectorate demanding action against corrupt officials in the Indira Awaas Yojana but no one, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, is listening

While Narendra Modi’s Gujarat is portrayed as a sterling example of good governance, brazen corruption in the premier housing scheme, Indira Awaas Yojana meant for those below poverty line (BPL) has not led to action against corrupt officials who have been diverting housing funds meant for the poorest of the poor to the ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ of the village, as exposed through RTI (Right to Information).

The Indira Awaas Yojana scheme is run by the Union rural development ministry to construct houses for people below poverty line. The financial assistance comprises Rs75,000 allotted to a woman or in the joint name of husband and wife. It is also extended to widows and war widows. It was the plight of a poor widow of Dhank village in Rajkot district that led to the corruption trail through incriminating evidence found through a series of RTI applications filed in the last two years, but the corrupt continue to be protected.

To protest against inaction by the state government, four villagers of Dhank in Rajkot district where the scam was exposed, Bharatbhai Ghughal, Bhanjibhai Jogel Naranbhai Varagiya and Govind Gangera are on satyagraha for the past one week in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office, to demand proper action against officers responsible for corruption in Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY). These officers, which include block development officers, assistant engineers and sarpanchs diverted funds to the rich and influential of the village for renovation of their houses. In some cases, the very same ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ people were also beneficiaries of another similar state government-run scheme, Sardar Patel Awaas Yojana (SPAY). As per rules, only villagers below poverty line can avail of one of the two schemes.

The endless power of citizen empowerment through RTI is reflected in this particular case, two villagers of Dhank who studied up to Std VII—Bharatbhai Ghughal and Bhanjibhai Jogel—tirelessly pursued the RTI route for two long years and blew the lid off a mega housing scam that is allegedly prevalent in most villages of Gujarat. Their frustration at corrupt officials not being punished despite incriminating evidence they exposed forcing the State Information Commission to direct vigilance commission to take action, has forced them to sit on satyagraha in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office.

In a press statement issued by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) which has guided these two villagers to crusade through RTI, Ghughal and Jogel have stated that, “We are agriculture labourers. Through RTI we came to know about the scam. We have approached the vigilance commission, as well as panchayat, rural housing department but no action is being taken against the officers who were responsible for this corruption. We were threatened by village sarpanch and panchayat officials but we are fighting for the cause to change the system. It’s almost a year but government has not taken any action against the responsible officers.” The press release has appealed to citizens and activists, nationwide to contact Bhanjibhai Jogel, Bharatbhai Ghughal on 09974573036 for moral support and send emails requesting action on the corrupt to RM Patel, Additional Chief Secretary, Panchayat and Rural Housing Dept (GOG)

secprh@gujarat.gov.in, commi-prh@gujarat.gov.in; D Rajgopalan, Chief Information Commissioner – Gujarat gscic@gujarat.gov.in ; Rajendar Kumar, District Collector Rajkot collector-raj@gujarat.gov.in and/or N B Upadhyay, District Development Officer, ddo-raj@gujarat.gov.in.

Jogel and Ghughal filed RTI applications at the Gram Panchayat office in 2010 requesting names of the beneficiaries in Dhank village for the IAY and SPAY schemes for the last five years. When the sarpanch came to know of this, he along with his men beat the duo. In fact, he threatened to kill them by burning their houses in the night—a statement which he made in front of the District Development Officer (DDO) who was unmoved by it. Refusing to cow down, they took the help of Pankti Jog, a RTI activist working for MAGP which also has a whistleblowers’ helpline, based in Ahmedabad. She filed a police complaint and also ensured police protection to them.

When the PIO did not reply, they filed the first appeal with the first appellate authority, that is, the District Development Office of Rajkot district. During the hearing, the PIO submitted a hand-written chit with six names of beneficiaries who received allotment out of the rules. Jogel and Ghughal refused this shabby information and demanded a certified copy of the list of beneficiaries and whether they belonged to the BPL section of the society. Says Pankti Jog, “finally multiple RTI applications were filed to procure the same information and finally they received the list. The information stated that there were 65 beneficiaries in the last five years out of which 22 of them belonged to the affluent class and had received multiple benefits, meaning they received money two to three times under the two housing schemes and had renovated their houses with it.”

Jogel and Ghughal then analysed the sheet, re-worked it in an excel sheet format and with red marks defining irregularities. They then sent it to the Vigilance Commission for suitable action against the illegal beneficiaries. Says Pankti Jog, “The Vigilance Commission was initially slow in its action but in March 2011 directed the principal secretary of the panchayat department to conduct and inquiry and submit its report to the commission. The panchayat department sought details from the District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) by conducting investigation on ground. The two RTI applicants helped the authorities in identifying homes and the DRDA conducted a panchnama and collected testimonials which proved that 22 affluent households had indeed siphoned the money meant for the poorest of the poor.

Manu Moudgil, who has done a case study on this issue states that the villagers bravely used the RTI after the conventional methods of procuring failed. He writes, “it was in 2010 that Gughal and Jogal observed that well-to-do people owning large properties were getting the houses meant for below poverty line persons. They, joined by four others, decided to raise the issue first through official representations. Their first step was to file a joint complaint to the Taluka (Tehsil) Development Officer (TDO) on 30 March 2010, seeking an inquiry into the matter. Getting no response from the administration, they armed themselves with knowledge about the RTI Act, which they had heard was bringing about transparency in governance.”

Despite incriminating evidence found against the seven officers including the sarpanch of the village Dhank which has a population 7,000 odd, neither the Panchayat Department nor the Vigilance Commission is taking action against them. States Pankti Jog, “corruption in these housing schemes’ disbursal of money runs in crores of rupees across Gujarat but the Narendra Modi government seems hesitant to take action.” The reason why these poor villagers have had to resort to satyagraha.

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at vinitapune@gmail.com.)

Police atrocities on dalits: High court issues suo motu notice to Gujarat #Narendramodi


TNN | Aug 10, 2012, 03.55AM IST

 the state home secretary and Rajkot police commissioner to explain the alleged police atrocities on dalit women and children.

A bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharyaand Justice J B Pardiwala took suo motu cognizance of the issue on basis of a letter from the president of Gujarat Dalit Sangathan, Jayanti Mankadia. The bench sought a reply from the concerned officials in two weeks.

In his letter, Mankadia sought action against the policemen under the Prevention of Atrocity Act for the alleged police action in Rajkot on June 25. He also demanded protection for the victims, who were allegedly tortured by the cops. The applicant has also sought a probe by the National Human Rights Commission.

According to case details, there were clashes between two members of the dalit community and Muslims in Rajkot in June, where primary school teacher and dalit leader Gunavant Rathod was killed. The residents of Ambedkarnagar took out a procession on June 25 to protest the killing. “Immediately after the rally, police forcefully entered residences in Ambedkarnagar and assaulted people, including women and children,” Mankadia alleged.

Rupa Sondarva (16) sustained spinal injuries and is now facing disability for life, he said in the letter adding, “Residents are not only facing multiple FIRs but also fearing retribution from the police and they need protection.” The HC, which decided to treat the letter as a writ petition, appointed advocate Shalin Mehta as amicus curiae to assist in the proceedings. The state government has been maintaining, on the other hand, that the police had to lob teargas shells to disperse the mob, as it blocked the road during the protest. When it did not work, cops took to caning which resulted in injuries to various persons. However, the complaint is to the cont

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