Friday, February 28, 2014

Delay in installing gates on Narmada dam? Modi is playing politics with people's sentiments By Rohit Prajapati*

Counterview Special

Delay in installing gates on Narmada dam? Modi is playing politics with people's sentiments 
By Rohit Prajapati* 
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi repeatedly raises the issue of gate installation on Sardar Sarovar Dam and accuses the Prime Minister of India, Government of India for the alleged delay. For a man who aspires to the next Prime Minister, Modi should stop speaking irresponsibly and misguiding the people of Gujarat. The Congress party is no less culprit, as it also plays to the gallery. 
Why is Modi not clearly representing the Supreme Court ruling before the people of Gujarat and trying to misguide the people? It is the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) which is not giving permission to install the gates because the villagers whose land will be submerged are still not resettled and rehabilitated as per Supreme Court Order. Narmada Control Authority is an expert body constituted by the Supreme Court and not a political body. 
The main reasons behind the gate issue is the Supreme Court order dated 18 October 2000 in Narmada Bachao Andolan v/s Union of India. (AIR 2000 SC 3751). In order dated October 18, 2000 in Narmada Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India and others the then Chief Justice BN Kirpal, Justice Dr AS Anand clearly stated that the NCA was “empowered to constitute one or more sub-committees and assign to them such of the functions and delegate such of its powers as it thought fit.” 
Accordingly, the order recalls, the NCA constituted the following sub-groups: (i) Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Welfare; (ii) Rehabilitation Committee under Secretary, Minister of Welfare to supervise the rehabilitation process by undertaking visits to R & R sites and submergence villages. (iii) Environment Sub-group under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests. 
The order further says, “Before embarking on the Sardar Sarovar Project it was necessary that the Master Plan for rehabilitation of the families to be affected is completed. On November 13, 1996, a meeting of the Review Committee of the NCA chaired by the Union Minister of Water Resources was held. This meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of all the States including Rajasthan and representatives of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.” 
It adds, “In the meeting it was unanimously decided that the reviews of the implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation measures will be undertaken for every five meter height of the dam jointly by the concerned R & R Sub-group and Environmental Sub-group so that work could progress pari passu with the implementation measurers.” 
As the order clearly states, the reviews of the implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation measures will be undertaken for every five meter height of the dam jointly by the concerned R & R Sub-group and Environmental Sub-group so that work could progress pari passu with the implementation measurers. People of Gujarat should note that this “pari passu” clause is preventing the gate installation on Sardar Sarovar Dam and the concerned authority is the Narmada Control Authority. ‘Pari Passu’ is a Latin term which roughly translated means “at an equal pace.” 
The Supreme Court Order further states that "he R & R Sub-group and Rehabilitation Committee of NCA are responsible for applying its independent mind on R & R. The Sub-group convenes its meeting regularly to monitor and review the progress of R & R while Rehabilitation Committee visits the submergence areas/relocation sites to see whether the rehabilitation is taking place physically and to hear the individual problems of the PAPs. The R & R group, keeping in view the progress of relief and rehabilitation, has not permitted the height to be raised, until and unless it is satisfied that adequate satisfactory progress has been made with regard to R & R.” 
The order says that the R&R group, keeping in view the progress of relief and rehabilitation, has not permitted the height to be raised, until and unless it is satisfied that adequate satisfactory progress has been made with regard to R & R. It points out: 
“In the NCA, Re-settlement & Rehabilitation (R & R) Sub-group has been created for closely monitoring the R & R progress. This Sub-group is headed by the Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and is represented by Members/Invitees of participating States, academic institutions having expertise in R & R, independent socio- anthropological experts and non-Governmental Organisations. The functions of this Sub-group are as follows: 
1. To monitor the progress of land acquisition in respect of submergence land of Sardar Sarovar Project and Indira (Narmada) Sagar Project (ISP). 
2. To monitor the progress of implementation of the action plan of rehabilitation of project affected families in the affected villages of SSP and ISP in concerned states. 
3. To review the R & R action plan from time to time in the light of results of the implementation. 
4. To review the reports of the agencies entrusted by each of the State in respect of monitoring and evaluation of the progress in the matter of re-settlement and rehabilitation. 
5. To monitor and review implementation of re-settlement and rehabilitation programmes pari passu with the raising of the dam height, keeping in view the clearance granted to ISP and SSP from environmental angle by the Government of India and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. 
6. To coordinate states/agencies involved in the R & R programmes of SSP and ISP. 
7. To undertake any or all activities in the matter of re-settlement and rehabilitation pertaining to SSP and ISP.” 
At the end of the order Supreme Court insisted on “ensuring compliance with conditions on which clearance of the project was given including completion of relief and rehabilitation work and taking of ameliorative and compensatory measures for environmental protection in compliance with the scheme framed by the Government thereby protecting the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.” 
Keeping these principles in view, it gave following directions: 
“1) Construction of the dam will continue as per the Award of the Tribunal. 
2) As the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group has cleared the construction up to 90 meters, the same can be undertaken immediately. Further raising of the height will be only pari passu with the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation and on the clearance by the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group. The Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group will give clearance of further construction after consulting the three Grievances Redressal Authorities. 
3) The Environment Sub-group under the Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India will consider and give, at each stage of the construction of the dam, environment clearance before further construction beyond 90 meters can be undertaken. 
4) The permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 meters will be given by the Narmada Control Authority, from time to time, after it obtains the above-mentioned clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group. 
5) The reports of the Grievances Redressal Authorities, and of Madhya Pradesh in particular, shows that there is a considerable slackness in the work of identification of land, acquisition of suitable land and the consequent steps necessary to be taken to rehabilitate the project oustees. We direct the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to implement the Award and give relief and rehabilitation to the oustees in terms of the packages offered by them and these States shall comply with any direction in this regard which is given either by the NCA or the Review Committee or the Grievances Redressal Authorities. 
6) Even though there has been substantial compliance with the conditions imposed under the environment clearance the NCA and the Environment Sub-group will continue to monitor and ensure that all steps are taken not only to protect but to restore and improve the environment. 
7) The NCA will within four weeks from today draw up an Action Plan in relation to further construction and the relief and rehabilitation work to be undertaken. Such an Action Plan will fix a time frame so as to ensure relief and rehabilitation pari passu with the increase in the height of the dam. 
It added, “Each State shall abide by the terms of the action plan so prepared by the NCA and in the event of any dispute or difficulty arising, representation may be made to the Review Committee. However, each State shall be bound to comply with the directions of the NCA with regard to the acquisition of land for the purpose of relief and rehabilitation to the extent and within the period specified by the NCA.” 
Narmada has always been used for political expediency by both the political parties in Gujarat.  The NCA has recently clarified its position the SSP status report on its website. After 2006 several NCA meetings took place, but in none decision was taken to give go ahead for gate installation. The Gujarat government had at one stage as a last attempt tried to get the permission to build pillars for the gate but that too was denied, as the rehabilitation compliance has not taken place. 
What Gujarat government markets as a holiday package in monsoon with an overflowing dam, actually causes devastating effect when the backwaters of this overflowing dam submerges several villages in neighboring Madhya Pradesh. It was last year that Madhya Pradesh villages suffered unprecedented submergence in the Narmada Valley. 
Presently the reservoir waters at the present 122 meters height are not being even fully used as the several CAG reports have pointed. The Supreme Court clearly states in conclusion that the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group will give clearance of further construction after consulting the three Grievances Redressal Authorities and permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 meters will be given by the NCA, from time to time, after it obtains the above-mentioned clearances from the Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-group and the Environment Sub-group and each State shall be bound to comply with the directions of the NCA with regard to the acquisition of land for the purpose of relief and rehabilitation to the extent and within the period specified by the NCA. 

Social Activist of Gujarat


Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

Narendra Modi: Traders have more risk-taking capacity than soldiers. This is verbatim what appeared in the TOP STORIES tape on NDTV 24/7 TV channel at 2055 hrs (8:55PM) on 27 February 2014.

This comment of Mr.Narendra Modi as he woos traders in his election campaign, coming on the heels of the fire accident in INS Sindhuratna that has claimed the lives of two officers and hospitalization of seven sailors, is not merely in bad taste, but shows that he is woefully unaware of what soldiers do. It shows that he holds the service of soldiers in low esteem. It is well to correct Mr.Modi's impression with regard to his statement.

It is true that traders may take risks, but these are financial risks, and the reason for taking such risks is expected profit or business advancement. There is nothing wrong with that, but when a trader takes a risk and wins, he makes personal gain; if he loses, he only loses money. Most often, the trader risks borrowed money, not his own. But most importantly, risk-taking by traders is purely voluntary. If he does not take a risk, he continues to make his business profits.

When a soldier takes a risk, he risks his life or limb, and the reason for taking risk is usually because he is ordered to perform a risky task in the course of his duties, which directly concern the defence of India's sovereignty and integrity. In other words, the soldier takes risk for the people of his country, including traders and yes, including Mr.Narendra Modi himself. If a soldier refuses to perform his duty which often entails personal, bodily risk, he is liable for severe disciplinary action. Does Mr.Narendra Modi imagine that the 1999 Kargil operations were won by soldiers who took no risk more than a trader who plays the stock market? Did the two officers killed in INS Sindhuratna not take more risk than the traders whose votes Mr.Narendra Modi seeks?

This statement of Mr.Narendra Modi can demoralize the rank and file of our soldiers and young officers, who are the actual risk-takers. Mr.Narendra Modi needs to publicly apologize to the Indian soldier for having made that statement, even if made out of ignorance. Considering Mr.Narendra Modi's opinion regarding soldiers, one can only wonder what priority he will give to soldiers and soldiers' problems if he comes to political power in the general elections.  

In an admirable act of moral courage, Admiral D.K.Joshi took moral responsibility for the accidents. Would Mr.Narendra Modi have the moral courage to apologize for his statement or will he cravenly deny having made that statement, or claim to have been misquoted, like politicians are apt to do? Only time will tell. But the world needs to know what Mr.Narendra Modi thinks of the Indian soldier, whom he compares unfavourably with traders.

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)
475, 7th Main Road
Vijayanagar 1st Stage

Thursday, February 27, 2014


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

It is Sunday, 23rd February 2014:  the UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt was visiting Ahmedabad listening to eye witness accounts from the victim-survivors and others on the reality of Gujarat.

Ms. Rupa Mody came up to the podium. She began in her usual calm, composed manner. She would have perhaps narrated the heart-rending story of her great personal tragedy a million times over. In a matter of minutes, however, she could hardly continue. She broke down and sobbed inconsolably asking this one question: “will my Azhu ever come back?”   Rupa, we all know is a Parsi and on that fateful day of February 28th 2002, when all hell broke loose, she was there in Gulberg Society with her two little children – Azhar and Binaifer. 

She shared with the Rapporteur how several persons in authority were contacted by Mr. Ehsan Jafri (a former Member of Parliament), seeking security for the members of the housing society where they lived when the mobs had gathered outside to attack them. But no help came.  The mobs broke in and ruthlessly attacked the people, raped the women and burnt them, leaving 69 dead in one of the most horrific attacks during the Gujarat Carnage of 2002.

What happened the previous day, February 27th 2002, when 58 passengers traveling by the S-6 coach in the Sabarmati Express lost their lives (near Godhra) was a tragedy beyond comprehension! For next 24 hours, nothing happened anywhere! But early noon, on February 28th, after Maha-aartis in several parts of Ahmedabad city and other parts of Gujarat, all hell broke loose!

Mobs belonging to the Sangh Parivar, with complete connivance of the Gujarat Government, raped and brutalized, plundered and pillaged, burnt and killed at will! Even as she breaks down, Rupa asked this one question: “what did I do to deserve this?” Apart from being attacked herself, till today, she does not know what has happened to her only son: Azhar. Rupa’s traumatic story of a mother longing for her son to return is just one story of hundreds of victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage, who still relentlessly struggle for truth and for justice.

It is true that there have been some convictions – some powerful people like Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi have been found guilty and have been given some exemplary punishment.  But, everybody knows that these convictions are just the tip of the iceberg and quite often the small fry are sacrificed to save the big fish.

Top of the list is Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat who presided over the carnage and who has not shown the slightest bit of remorse or taken responsibility of what took place.   There is an overdrive by his PR machinery to show that he has got a “clean chit” from the courts. It is extremely strange that a report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by R.K. Raghavan is regarded as the ‘final’ say whereas another report by Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curiae suggesting several lapses and loopholes in the SIT report is ignored by many.

An important new book by Manoj Mitta entitled ‘The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi & Godhra’ clearly lays bare the many contradictions in the SIT report and forcefully argues that “crucial evidence has fallen through the cracks”. In his interview to the Outlook magazine (17th February, 2014), the introduction states, “Indeed as he (Mitta) forcefully argues, the anomalies of the SIT’s closure report point to far more than the relativism of the truth; they mock India’s commitment to its national motto: Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs)”.

Yes, today marks twelve years since that terrible tragedy unfolded in Gujarat on a hapless minority community. Some would like the victim-survivors to forget things; to bring to closure that terrible chapter; some even think of making the man who presided over this violence the next Prime Minister of the country! But for a person like Rupa, whose tragedy has been immortalized in the film “Parzania”, there will never be any closure. She waits…. she waits….. she waits…. for her Azhu to return home.

Will Rupa experience the triumph of truth and justice?

27th February, 2014

(*Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad–380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333   Fax:  79 27489018   Email:

Bring Modi to justice, urges meeting hosted at UK Parliament

Bring Modi to justice, urges meeting hosted at UK Parliament

For the immediate attention of Editors and Forward Planning

News Release: 27 February 2014

Two of Yusuf Dawood’s brothers, on holiday in India twelve years ago, were brutally killed during horrific communal violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Over 1,500 died (including three British nationals), hundreds of women were raped and 200,000 people driven from their homes.

He was among the speakers at a packed meeting hosted by John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, and supported by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, at the UK’s Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 26 February 2014, focusing on the role of Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate for the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s forthcoming elections.

Messages of support were received from many individuals and organisations including Sir AnishKapoor, CBE, an Indian sculptor who is one of the world’s most eminent artists, and Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, a distinguished British barrister and human rights campaigner and Mike Wood, MP for Balley. Sir AnishKapoor wrote, “I am deeply grateful that you are doing this. We are in a moment of great danger and your call to our sense of justice is much needed”.

At the meeting Suresh Grover of The Monitoring Group outlined key events during the ‘orgy of violence’ in 2002 and ‘Narendra Modi exposed: challenging the myths surrounding the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’, an extensively researched report, was launched, Professor Chetan Bhatt, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, spoke of Modi’s links with the ‘Hindutva’ movement, which uses the guise of religion for its extremist brand of politics, and its ‘deliberate attempt to suppress freedom of speech’ in this country. Virendra Sharma (MP for Ealing Southall) had originally agreed to host the meeting but withdrew after coming under pressure from supporters of Modi, who tried in vain to force the event to be cancelled.A few then turned up, some of whom tried to disrupt the meeting, but did not succeed in silencing discussion.

Pragna Patel, of Southall Black Sisters, spoke on this movement’s disturbing attitude to and treatment of women, including sexual violence ‘unprecedented in nature’ in 2002. Professor Gautam Appa, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, exposed the inaccuracy of claims often made by BJP supporters that the Supreme Court has cleared Modi of responsibility and that Gujarat is a model of good governance and prosperity.

‘There is international consensus that Narendra Modi was responsible for the 2002 genocidal attacks in Gujarat,’ wrote AnishKapoor. ‘India' s long history of cultural and ethnic tolerance is gravely in peril with the rise of this politician whose association with the fascist right cannot any longer be hidden. It is deplorable therefore that Britain continues to dialogue with this man and that British parliamentarians and businessmen shamelessly extend a hand of friendship to him and his political associates.’ Helena Kennedy warned that ‘Sectarianism is a scourge in our modern world and any politician or political party inciting, encouraging or creating a supportive landscape for such hostilities should be roundly condemned. Modi is a serious danger to peace in India and beyond. I strongly support the campaign to expose the threat he and his supporters present.’

An Early Day Motion to the House of Commons was announced, and a delegation of MPs to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asking that there should be no engagement with him until he has been held legally accountable for his role in the violence. The meeting also heard that action is underway for an international tribunal on genocide in Gujarat.

Imran Dawood, who was with his uncles when they were killed but survived despite his own injuries, was also present at the meeting. They are deeply missed, Yusuf Dawood explained: ‘Sometimes you sleep, you dream, and they’re there, and then you wake up.’The family are pursuing a civil case against Modi. We have no hatred in our hearts of anybody. We are Gujaratis and love Gujarat and its culture” he said. However he pointed out that “you can’t just brush things under the carpet if you’re going to progress.”

Mike Wood, MP for Batley where they lived, was one of those who sent a message of support. He said, I extend my whole-hearted support for prosecuting Mr Modi not least for the communal violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002 which claimed so many innocent lives including that of my constituents and their driver.  He should remain banned from this country irrespective of the results of the upcoming Indian elections until he has been brought to account for his actions in fermenting racial and religious violence and bigotry”.

The Awaaz Network and Monitoring Group, who organised the meeting, can be contacted by calling Suresh Grover on 07816301706 or

For further information or to obtain the report, please contact:
Email or ring 020 74302869


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! by Fr Cedric Prakash (February 26th 2014)


Happy Birthday Ahmedabad!

By: Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! You are 603 years ‘young’ today! A sense of pride and of nostalgia overwhelms us. Not too many are able to celebrate their 603rd birthday. You have meant and mean so much to so many! Thank you Ahmedabad! 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! I wonder why many of the folk here are afraid to call you by your real name, ‘Ahmedabad’? There is a corrupted form “Amdavad” doing the rounds. So after so many years, why are people here unable to accept the fact that you are Ahmedabad: a great city founded by a great ruler Ahmed Shah? 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad!  And today we remember Ahmed Shah, a great king. Legend tells us that “ in AD 1411 when Ahmed Shah was marching south from Patan, he saw some hares chasing dogs on the banks of the Sabarmati. Marveling at the courage of the hares, he decided to drop anchor at that very spot. The city of Ahmedabad came to be known after him.”  What a great metaphor indeed! 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! We rejoice when we hear that Ahmed Shah had the courage and the vision to build a temple for his Hindu wife, the Bhadra Mandir, a great testimony to someone who was able to transcend the narrow confines of his own religion. Unfortunately, in Ahmedabad and the rest of Gujarat, we have today one of the most draconian laws of India innocuously called the ‘Freedom of Religion Law’.  Will we ever learn? 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! We celebrate the Sidi Syed Jali, “the tree of life” by the master stone craftsman Sidi Syed in a mosque in the heart of the city. Since 1572, it is a very powerful symbol of the diversity and pluralism which has been so much part of the city. Unfortunately, recently, the bigots who try to rule the city think otherwise and they have conveniently put aside this great symbol.  We weep with you Ahmedabad! 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! The “River-front” is made to depict you today! There can be no greater insult to you Ahmedabad.  You who have been the home to all kinds of people; but today, because of the riverfront thousands of poor people who are the lifeline of the city are displaced – some of them have been shunted out to the periphery of the city.  Besides, the waters in it have nothing to do with the Sabarmati. These are waters pumped from the Narmada canal: precious water meant for North Gujarat and Kutch are now being used to “beautify” the city. Ahmedabad, we hang our heads down in shame! 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! People are talking about “development”: about buildings and flyovers and swanky areas.  But nobody talks about the thousands of people living in the slums or the more than four lakhs of Muslims confined to a huge ghetto called Juhapura; or the Bombay Hotel area and several of the colonies to which the Muslim survivors of the Gujarat Carnage are condemned to a dehumanized existence or the fact that almost daily the Mother Teresa Sisters have to pick up dying men and women from our streets. What has happened to your soul Ahmedabad? 
Happy Birthday Ahmedabad! There is so much more that can be written.  It is high time you give us - the people of Ahmedabad, a birthday gift: Give us a heart which is inclusive of all, give us the courage to speak and stand up for the truth and above all the wisdom to discern the right from the wrong, the good from the evil and MAY YOU HAVE MANY MORE BIRTHDAYS! 
26th February, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sting operation reveals massive manipulation by opinion poll agencies By ET Bureau | 26 Feb, 2014, 04.43AM IST

Sting operation reveals massive manipulation by opinion poll agencies 

By ET Bureau | 26 Feb, 2014, 04.43AM IST 
NEW DELHI: A number of opinion polling agencies approached by undercover reporters agreed to manipulate poll data, a television news channel has claimed, sparking a fresh controversy in a heated election season as senior ministers and political parties called for an investigation. 

Clips from the sting operation aired by the channel showed many pollsters agreeing to produce favourable numbers by leveraging the so-called margin of error, a statistical concept meant to indicate the quality of sampling and the accuracy to be expected from survey results. "For a price, the prediction of seats tally can be changed to suit the interests of political parties. 

The agencies have no qualms accepting even black money for this purpose," the channel, News Express, said in a statement. Polling agencies approached by the channel include QRS, CVoter, Ipsos India, MMR and DRS, apart from a clutch of littleknown ones. Representatives from these agencies are seen responding variously to the undercover reporters, who posed as consultants for political parties. 

India Today magazine and Times NOW have said they were suspending opinion polls conducted by C-Voter, pending an explanation from the agency. 

Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party called for an investigation. Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal urged the Election Commission to urgently take up the matter. "This (the expose) is a very serious development. It shows these agencies are trying to manipulate public opinion. It is nothing but paidnews, manufactured to serve vested interests. 

This is an extremely serious offense that warrants a full-fledged inquiry... I also call upon the Election Commission to take all effective steps to ensure such shady operators are not allowed to manipulate the public opinion in the run up to the elections." In November last year, the Election Commission had written to the government asking that a law be passed to restrict release of opinion poll results after the notification of elections. Fourteen out of fifteen national parties had agreed to the proposal. 

BJP opposed the proposal, saying such a move would impinge on freedom of expression. "We got the idea for the sting operation from the Election Commission letter. And then the fact that there seemed to be a new opinion poll almost every day now. Everybody is a pollster and a psephologist it seems," said Vinod Kapri, editor in chief of News Express. 

Failure to explain environmental compliance off Narmada: Green tribunal's fresh concession to Gujarat govt


Failure to explain environmental compliance off Narmada: Green tribunal's fresh concession to Gujarat govt

Women protest against the weir next to the Narmada river
By Our Representative
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s powerful quasi-judicial environmental watchdog, has agreed to a Gujarat government plea for “more time” to replay to the case filed by senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati demanding immediate stay on the construction of Garudeshwar weir, which he has alleged is being constructed without complying with the environmental protection Act, 1985, not to talk of going into formalities such as taking a nod of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA). The weir is proposed as part of the effort to turn downstream areas of Narmada dam into a tourism spot, even as providing water to industries in the belt around Ankaleshwar and Bharuch.
In a statement, Prajapati has said, the very fact that the Gujarat government had to seek more time suggests that the state officialdom “is not in a position to give any clear cut explanation / information whether Garudeshwar Weir has environment clearance or not or under which law of the land or notification or permission the construction of Garudeshwar Weir is going on”.
Prajapati added, “This reflects the so-called efficient administration of the Government of Gujarat. Not just today but to provide such information about environment clearance and issues raised by us in our petition Government of Gujarat needs two month time to prepare the reply. That clearly indicate that even prima-facie all is not well with Garudeshwar Weir and there are lots of problem with legality of the ongoing of Garudeshwar Weir."
The NGT order allows the state government to submit its reply by April 17. This was for the second time that the government sought more time and was allowed. Earlier, on January 31, the NTG allowed the state government to file its reply by February 25. However, the government failed to do so. The petition alleged that the weir would lead to the submergence of 11 villages -- Garudeshwar, Gabhana, Kevadia, Vagadia, Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vasaantpura, Mota Piparia, Nana Piparia and Indravarna, directly or indirectly affecting 11,000 villagers.
The petition is based on the fact that the original Narmada Project got permission in 1987 but did not “concretely envisage” the weir, not did it include assessment of social or environmental impacts of the weir. Random land acquisitions for the weir first took place in 1991 in the submergence areas of the Garudeshwar weir” but “substantial acquisition” took place over the last one decade.
In March 2012, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), implementing the Narmada project, handed over contract of the weir to Ritwik Project Limited for Rs 299 crore and in September 2013 the work for the weir began. The petition is based on a letter by Shekhar Singh of the NCA to the  Union ministry of environment and forests, which says that environmental and social impact for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir had not been taken, hence the weir cannot be constructed.
Singh, in his letter had also warned against potential adverse effect on fisheries in the upstream and downstream areas, and also impact on biodiversity of the area. Meanwhile, the state government kept saying that the Garudeshwar weir was part of the Narmada Project or it was a separate project altogether. It said, the Narmada Project has a relief and rehabilitation package which is not applicable to the Garudeshwar dam affected villagers.
A senior activist said: “If they were part of the Narmada Project they would have been offered this package. When they protested, a high level committee meeting took place on October 10, 2013 of the Government of Gujarat which included various ministers from the cabinet and concerned bureaucrats and a new relief and rehabilitation policy was formulated for affected people of the Garudeshwar weir.”
The activist further said, “The Garudeshwar weir is part of the power component of Narmada Project in which Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra share is 57 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, both in cost and benefit. The implementation of the Garudeshwar weir cannot be taken up without express consent from these states. The two states have not agreed to the weir, and have refused to part with the cost of the share.”


Monday, February 17, 2014

Four myths about India's prime ministerial candidate. by Fr Cedric Prakash

Four myths about India's  prime ministerial candidate.

By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
As a Christian and particularly a Jesuit priest, I take stands and believe that while being open to dialogue and reason, one has to be unequivocal about what one stands for. So, I take a stand against politicians or political parties that are sectarian, corrupt, casteist and above all those who indulge in the criminalization of society.

I do not espouse any political party. All have their own drawbacks. A reality check would show that each one has failed the people of India in some way or another, especially the poor and the marginalized, either because of their particular ideology or because they have catered to a particular class or caste.

All this brings to mind the powerful words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) in which he condemns “the economy of exclusion and inequality” and “a financial system which rules rather than serves”.

We have to accept that genuine fears and anxieties exist about Narrndra Modi, the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate and three-time chief minister of Gujarat becoming prime minister, after the general election due in May.

However let me clarify some matters about Modi and his rule in Gujarat.

Myth 1: Modi is a development man

This cannot be further from the truth. Gujarat has always been a developed state from the time it was carved out of Bombay state in 1960. Economic indicators clearly show that Gujarat under Modi has been ‘worse off’ than under previous governments (even the BJP one before him).

The fact is that foreign direct investment in Gujarat has taken a severe beating in the last few years and even local investment is far below what is being flaunted. Regarding social indicators, Gujarat fares poorly.

A UNICEF report published in 2013 says social development in the state has not kept pace with economic development; almost every second child in Gujarat under five years old is undernourished, while three quarters are anemic.

Myth 2: The Gujarat carnage is a thing of the past and Modi has been given a “clean chit”

Many believe the courts exonerated Modi of involvement in the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots in 2002. The hard facts are, however, very different. First of all, no court has given Modi a clean chit.

True, there is a Special Investigation Team (SIT) report that says there is not enough evidence against Modi.

But this has been challenged, with the petitioner Zakhia Jafri being given leave by Ahmadabad magistrates to question the merits of the SIT report in a higher court.

Raju Ramchandran, appointed by the Supreme Court as amicus curiae for many of the Gujarat riot cases, asserts that there is enough evidence to prosecute Modi on several counts with regard to the violence in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Modi has neither shown any remorse nor taken responsibility for the killing of innocent people under his watch. The least a chief minister could have been expected to do was to enforce law and order and protect the life and property of every citizen in his state. That he ignored this responsibility, there is no doubt among many. That he has denigrated minorities has been documented by the print and the electronic media.

Myth 3: Modi has “made up” with the minorities

There are some claiming to be representatives of minority Christian and Muslim communities who sing Modi’s praises.

A careful analysis indicates these people have vested interests, especially in business, and are not really interested in their community or what is happening to minorities in the country.

In 2003 Modi introduced an anti-conversion law and established rules to govern the implementation of this law in 2008.

It is perhaps one of the most draconian laws in the history of democratic India. It forbids a citizen from converting to another faith unless she/he has permission from civil authorities.

Even now, police and intelligence officers constantly visit Christian institutions and Christians in general, making all kinds of inquiries and demanding to check baptism registers and other records.

Myth 4: Modi is not corrupt

In May 2012, anti-corruption campaigners Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal visited Gujarat. They came away declaring it the most corrupt state in the country. Why they have not continued to highlight corruption in Gujarat is anyone’s guess.

Several years ago, the Tata Motor Company was allowed to establish a plant to build the “world's cheapest car” in Gujarat with surprising ease, flouting every rule in the book and even the state's industrial policy.

It is alleged that the Adani Company controls the price of compressed natural gas, amassing huge profits. In addition, the role of the Ambanis in mega projects in Gujarat is being questioned. The way environmental laws are flouted and the terrible ecological degradation that is taking place all over the state, all point to the fact that corruption is alive and kicking in Gujarat.

Another indicator is the way land has been handed to big corporations, displacing thousands of small farmers across the state. There have been huge protest rallies, but they were not covered by a media, which by and large seems to have been muzzled in Gujarat.

These four myths provide an insight into the grim reality in Gujarat under the leadership of Modi. No one really knows if he will become prime minister. But India deserves better leaders. Indian politics revolves around regional parties. As of now, the BJP has practically no allies from several states. Most regional parties are obviously waiting to see which party will emerge as the single largest party in the 2014 elections.

Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is the director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.


Saturday, February 01, 2014



NOW WHAT HAS THE PONTIFF DONE? Which world are you in? He’s all over the news. 
REALLY? NOTHING TERRIBLE I HOPE. ONE JUST DREADS WHEN CONVERSATION COMES AROUND TO THE CHURCH. Relax. The Pope is a hero. In fact a superhero. He’s been dubbed SuperPope. 
SUPERPOPE? A few days back Italian artist Maupal painted the Pope as Superman on a wall in Rome. 
THAT’S REAL COOL. Yup. It has the Pope flying like Superman with his right fist pointing forward. And he’s carrying a black bag that has the word “value” written on it. The Vatican has tweeted the picture to thousands of its followers. 
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL THEN? THE POPE FAMOUS AMONG CATHOLICS. Dude, chill. He’s also on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. And he was Time magazine’s “Person of the year 2013”. 

ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE? HAS HE CUT A SINGLE OR WHAT? Nah, nah he's not jiving. The magazine has done a cover story on him. And this is what it has to say: “...a man whose obvious humility... and devotion to the economically 
disenfranchised has come to feel perfectly suited to our time...” 
DID YOU SAY ECONOMICALLY DISENFRANCHISED? IS HE A COMMIE UNDER THE CLOAK? Not really a leftie. But as many liberals have said, he has his heart in the right place.
WHAT ABOUT TIME? Its managing editor Nancy Gibbs has called him “a new voice of conscience”. 
WOW! FRANCIS ROCKS! He is really a cool dude. Guess what his views are on gays? 
WHAT? “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” 
THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY! He’s done other things too. Like he doesn’t stay in the papal palace but prefers a two-room apartment, carries his own suitcase, calls up the faithful who write to him and he loves to tweet! 
PEACE BE UPON HIM. Hallelujah.

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