रविवार, 20 अप्रैल 2014

Kuldeep Nayar disapproves of BJP's attempt to use his name in election campaign, terms it "shameful"

April 20, 2014: Ninety years old, veteran journalist  Kuldeep Nayar expressed his outrage and anger when he was informed about the rumour being spread by a website saying "Kuldeep Nayar joins Arun Jaitley's campaign". He  disapproved of this misleading story dated April 19, 2014.

A representative of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) spoke to him today at 12.50 PM in this regard. Mr Nayar said, " I have always written against them. This shows how low they can stoop.  This is shameful." He is currently in Delhi at his residence. He wanted a statement to be issued informing the public at large and media about this misinformation campaign by supporters of BJP.

Mr Nayar is also the author of 15 books, including "Beyond the Lines", "Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent", "The Martyr : Bhagat Singh Experiments in Revolution", "Suppression of
judges", "Without Fear: The Life and Trial of Bhagat Singh" and others.

Mr Nayar is also a human right activist who has formerly been High Commissioner to Great Britain and a MP.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com


CPI-ML unleashes its "unity offensive" in support of Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi

After supporting Prof. Anand Kumar of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi's elections, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) has unleashed its "unity offensive" in support of Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi. CPI-ML's cadres would work in Varanasi to expose Modi's communal face and his corporate-centric development in Gujarat.
"Our party would extend support to AAP's Kejriwal in Varanasi against Modi," said Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI-ML. Bhattacharya said that the  had decided to support Kejriwal to ensure the defeat of Modi from Varanasi.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) is also reaching Varanasi to galvanize non-BJP, non-Congress votes in favour of AAP.

Meanwhile, ninety years old, veteran journalist  Kuldeep Nayar expressed his outrage and anger when he was informed about the rumour being spread by a website saying "Kuldeep Nayar joins Arun Jaitley’s campaign". He  disapproved of this misleading story dated April 19, 2014.

A representative of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) spoke to him today at 12.50 PM in this regard. Mr Nayar said, " I have always written against them. This shows how low they can stoop.  This is shameful." He is currently in Delhi at his residence. He wanted a statement to be issued informing the public at large and media about this misinformation campaign by supporters of BJP.

Mr Nayar is also the author of 15 books, including "Beyond the Lines”, "Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent”, "The Martyr : Bhagat Singh Experiments in Revolution", "Suppression of judges", "Without Fear: The Life and Trial of Bhagat Singh" and others.

Mr Nayar is also a human right activist who has formerly been High Commissioner to Great Britain and a MP.

शुक्रवार, 18 अप्रैल 2014

Labour Court rules aginst Zee News, orders reinstatement of a woman reporter

A labour court in Mumbai has ordered the reinstatement of a woman reporter of Zee News Ltd whose services were terminated because she got pregnant. GEETA SESHU reports for The Hoot.
In a major victory for the rights of women working in the media industry, a labour court in Mumbai has ordered the reinstatement of a woman reporter of Zee News Ltd whose services were terminated because she got pregnant! 
In an interim order, the Sixth Labour Court judge, Mr K B Wagh, said that she should be allowed to resume duty and paid her wages as before the termination, from the date of the order. Alternately, the company was ordered to deposit 50 per cent of the wages in court till the final disposal of the case. (The Hoot has a copy of the order). 
The journalist (name withheld on request), was working with Zee News as a reporter for two years from 2010. Trouble began when she intimated her senior about her imminent marriage in March 2012 and applied for leave. After much persuasion, she managed to get the leave approved. When she returned on duty on May 7, 2012, she was issued a show cause notice about her work but even this was withdrawn without any inquiry being held. 
In June 2012, she got pregnant and intimated the HR department of the company, as per its policy, on July 17, 2012. She was issued a letter on July 28, 2012 to undergo training but this was not held. A couple of days later, she received a letter dated July 1, 2012 that her annual performance appraisal was not up to the mark. Stressed by these events, she fell ill and fainted on August 3, 2012 and was hospitalised. Her leave application, along with medical records, was submitted the same day but on August 16, 2012, her leave application was disapproved. On August 19, 2012, she received an email that her services were terminated. 
According to her complaint, her performance appraisals were always good for the two years she worked in the company before intimating the latter about her marriage and pregnancy. The company, her complaint contended, wanted to avoid paying the statutory benefits under the Maternity Benefits Act and had terminated her services without any domestic enquiry, thus violating the provisions of the MRTU and PULP Act, 1971. 
Interestingly, it took a year for the court to determine the final termination date – whether it was the email dated August 19, 2012 or on August 20, 2012 when the company produced the termination order. The court contended the former was the termination date. Again, the judge suggested the two parties attempt to settle the matter but even this failed when the company offered to issue an experience certificate. 
In the interim order, the judge has upheld the contention that an unfair labour practice had taken place under the MRTU and PULP Act, 1971, and that requirements under Sec 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act (a month’s notice or wages for retrenchment) and Sec 12 of the Maternity Benefit Act had not been complied with. 
According to the advocate for the complainant, Vidya Iyengar, the case was a good illustration of the problems women face in the media industry. “Terminating a woman’s services a week after she informs the company that she is pregnant is a complete violation of the Maternity Benefits Act,” she said. 
The lawyer for Zee News, Tanmesh Shetty, told The Hoot that his was only an interim order and the company would definitely go for appeal. “The judge can’t provide any final relief at the interim stage. We are challenging it in the Industrial Court,” he said. 
Besides, the contention of the complainant that she was terminated because she became pregnant was wrong, he said. “There are so many women employees in Zee who get married, get pregnant and resume after family life. Why will Zee create trouble for one person? She was very callous in her duties and Zee was lenient with her”, he said. 
Iyengar, who said this was the first case in the media industry to successfully challenge termination on grounds of pregnancy, added that several companies give women employees arduous tasks to discourage them from working while they are pregnant or force them to quit. It was important to stop this practice, she felt.

Independent Editors emerging as an endangered species

It appears that independent editors are emerging as an endangered species in the current political climate. The editors like Aditya Sinha, Sidharth Vardarajan, Hartosh Singh Bal, Kumar Ketkar and Qamar Waheed Naqvi have resigned. This list is growing with each passing day.Only likes of Rajat Sharma and Javed Ansari are having a field day. 

Fresh poll sought amidst complaints about tampering with Electronic Voting Machines in Ranchi

Following complaints about tampering with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs),  Jharkhand Vikas Morcha -Prajatantrik (JVM-P) has demanded fresh poll in Ranchi. When political parties created a scene in protest, Ranchi police reportedly assaulted politicians and journalists the night of April 17. 

BJP candidate Ram Tahal Chaudhary, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha -Prajatantrik (JVM-P) candidate Amitabh Chaudhary and TMC candidate Bandhu Tirkey have informed the district administration about it.

Amidst denial of any malpractice by Jharkhand Chief Election Commissioner P.K. Jajorioa, a judicial probe has been demanded by BJP in the matter of tampering with EVMs. The authorities were accused of working in collusion with Congress party. 

Big Dam Fundamentalism in Gujarat: Himanshu Thakkar

Imagine that a state government wants to build a Big Dam, with height of 31.75 m on a Big River. The River has already seen a large number of dams, agitations, controversies and legal disputes.
This dam is going to cost several hundred crores of rupees, just the initial civil works’ cost is Rs 299.43 Crores[1] out of approved construction cost (alone) of Rs 438.18 Crores[2].

But this dam will not provide any irrigation. Not supply any water to anyone. Will not do any flood control. Will not be a net generator of power. In short it can claim none of the benefits that a standard dam project claims.

And yet it will have fairly serious impacts. Hundreds of hectares of fertile, useful land will be destroyed. River itself and biodiversity of the river will be destroyed. In the downstream too there will be huge adverse impacts. Hundreds of tribal families will be adversely affected. Almost all of them have been affected by an upstream dam project. The government has refused to answer any of their concerns. The people are already agitated and have declared their opposition[3],[4] and have also legally challenged the project.
However, we do not know full social or environmental impacts of the dam, since such an impact assessment has never been done. The work on this project according to the government started in Feb 2013. Any such dam project would require impact assessment, management plan, public hearings, environmental appraisal, clearance, monitoring and compliance mechanism. But this one had none of it and does not want to do any of it! It does not have even a Rehabilitation Plan. Not even one on paper, as most such plans are.
Majority of the purported benefits of the project are supposed to legally go to another state, but that state has said it does not want the dam, nor does it want to share costs or benefits. And still the state government has started work on the dam.
We are used to telling a lot of bad dam stories. But this one seems to be a unique one.
Why does the state government want to build this dam? What are the benefits and for whom? Why is the Union Environment Ministry allowing such an illegal dam? Is this not dam fundamentalism?
Ok, enough of mystery. Let us understand what this project is about.

Garudeshwar Dam This story is about Garudeshwar dam[5] on Narmada River in Bharuch district in Gujarat. With height of 31.75 m, it is a major dam, since any dam above 15 m height is considered big dam by national and international definitions. The Garudeshwar Dam will create a huge 12 km long reservoir.
Ongoing work at Garudeshwar Dam site. Photo: SANDRP
Ongoing work at Garudeshwar Dam site. Photo: SANDRP
Sardar Sarovar Dam in the upstream of Garudeshwar dam. Photo - SANDRP
Sardar Sarovar Dam in the upstream of Garudeshwar dam. Photo – SANDRP
It is proposed just downstream from the most controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam Project (SSP). The SSP is being constructed under the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. The Garudeshwar Dam is proposed as part of the power component of the SSP, to act as downstream storage when the 1200 MW River Bed Power House (RBPH) of SSP will act in a Pump Storage Supply (PSS) mode. This means that Garudeshwar Dam’s basic function is to store the water released from RBPH during peak hour power generation. This water stored in the Garudeshwar dam is then to be pumped back to the SSP reservoir during off peak hours. Pumping the water back to the reservoir typically takes about 20% more power. This is in comparison with the power generated when a unit of water was released from the upstream dam (SSP in this case) during generation mode. It means that Garudeshwar Dam will be net consumer of electricity. This kind of project could have economic viability when there is additional tariff for power available during peak hours, which is not the case today. In absence of such valuation, such projects are not even economically viable.
According to the NWDT award, Madhya Pradesh gets majority, or 57% share in the power benefits (and costs) from SSP, Maharashtra gets 27% and Gujarat 16%.

Another objective of the Garudeshwar Dam[6] is to create a reservoir surrounding Statue of Unity, being propagated as the world’s highest statue on a small island 3 km downstream of the SSP Dam.

None of the required Statutory clearances obtained The minutes of the 80th meeting of SSCAC (Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee, the statutory interstate body to coordinate construction of SSP, it is chaired by Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources and includes senior officials of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, in addition to Narmada Control Authority) held in March 2013 notes on the issue of Garudeshwar Dam, “The work to be taken up by GOG in compliance of all statutory clearances. The committee accordingly directed GOG to take further follow up actions.” It was no secret to SSCAC that GOG had taken no clearances, how could then SSCAC wash its hands off with such a statement?

As per Supreme Court Order of Oct 2000 (Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Union of India and Others), as also earlier statutory orders under NWDT, the sanction of Rehabilitation Sub Group and Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority is to be obtained prior to every stage of work related to SSP. No such sanction has been obtained by these authorities. In fact, as per letter written by Shekhar Singh, a member of ESG of NCA on March 24, 2013, there has not even been impact assessment of the Garudeshwar Dam, which is necessary before ESG can consider clearing the work on Garudeshwar work:
“Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA. In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream. However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

Similarly, since it is a work under SSP, the R&R policy of SSP is suppose to apply to the people affected by the Garudeshwar Dam. This also means that a R&R Plan have to be prepared and consent of the affected people taken and R&R completed a year before the construction work, which too has not been done, nor a sanction of RSG of NCA taken.

The reservoir upstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam has been declared eco sensitive zone and protected area. The Garudeshwar Dam will create a reservoir that will be affecting the river close to the SSP Dam and thus will be within the eco sensitive zone and legally, such a work requires clearance from National Board of Wildlife, but such a clearance has not been taken.
Since Garudeshwar Dam is proposed in tribal area, consent of the gram sabhas is also legally required. No such consents have been taken.
Thus, the work that has been going on is completely illegal.

State benefiting the most, questions need for the Garudeshwar Dam Official documents obtained by SANDRP under RTI Act shows that GoMP has repeatedly shown their disagreement with the need for Garudeshwar Dam. Here are a few instances from official records. Strangely, in spite of this clear disagreement from a majority beneficiary state, the decision to go ahead with the project was taken by Gujarat and endorsed by SSCAC. The other statutory bodies like the Narmada Control Authority and its Environment Sub Group and Rehabilitation Sub Group were not even consulted.
  • June 2011 The minutes of the 101st meeting of the PSC of SSCAC held in June 2011 noted, “Summing up the discussion the Chairman observed that the extent of disagreement is now so acute that the very need of Garudeshwar Weir is being questioned.”
  • July 2011 The events thereafter moved rapidly. Following a request letter of GOG on July 21st, 2011, Secretary to Union Water Resources Ministry (also chairman of SSCAC and NCA) called a meeting of participating states on 25th July, 2011. At this meeting, Madhya Pradesh continued its disagreement with the need for the Garudeshwar weir, as recorded in the minutes of the meeting[7], providing reasons of their opposition: “The representative from Govt of MP also informed the stand of their government on the construction of the said weir mentioning that State of Madhya Pradesh will become surplus in power by the year 2014 and as such, Madhya Pradesh may not like to avail such a costly peak power. According to their calculations, the tariff for peak power may be more than Rs 6 per unit. In view of this, State of Madhya Pradesh is not in the favour of the proposal of the Garudeshwar Weir requiring the sharing of the cost of construction and the energy required for reversible operations.”
  • The response of the Secretary (MoWR) was strange[8], “GOMP to review their stand of surrendering their share of peak hour power generation by reversible operation on RBPH machines and confirm about the same for further course of action.”
  • The fact that GOG and Union Govt (even as opposite parties were ruling the state and the centre, showing amazing collusion of pro dam fundamentalism) were so much hand in glove that the secretary, brushing aside the objections of the majority beneficiary state of MP, decided to push unwanted dam down the unwilling state’s throat: “Secretary (MOWR) while concluding the meeting, stated that the construction of Garudeshwar Weir needs to be taken up urgently & completed expeditiously…”.
  • March 2012 The Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) pointed out in their letter dated 21.03.2012 to SSCAC[9]), “there is no mention about Garudeshwar Weir in the NWDT Award”.
  • The GoMP also made it clear in this letter that GoMP does not concur with the proposal in view of “the change in power tariff scenario”.
  • Aug 2012: The 104th meeting of PSC of SSCAC records on this agenda Item no 104-5, “The representative of GOMP conveyed that, at this stage, they don’t agree with above decision and a note of dissent in this regard will be sent soon.”
So the state that was supposed to get 57% benefits and also pay same proportion of costs, has refused to concur with the scheme.
Status of work According to the Agenda notes for the 81st meeting of SSCAC held on March 28, 2014, till Dec 2013, 6.88% of excavation was the only physical progress on the Garudeshwar weir. Financial Progress achieved was even less, at 3.19%.
Some recent Developments:
  • Oct 2013 The affected people and eminent Gujarat citizens write to MoEF and GOG[10] to immediately stop illegal work on Garudeshwar Dam. Affected people and their leaders were put under house arrest when Chief Minister and former Deputy PM L K Advani came to the Kevadia Colony to lay foundation stone for the proposed Statue of Unity.
  • Jan 3, 2014 Gujarat Government[11] is considering use of force to suppress the movement against the illegal work on Garudeshwar Dam.
  • Jan 27, 2014 Tribal women of 70 villages to be affected by the Garudeshwar dam go to the site of ongoing work and ask the contractor to stop the work as it is illegal, without necessary clearances, impact assessments and consents.
  • Jan 31, 2014 National Green Tribunal order (Lakhan Musafir & Anr Vs. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd and others – Application 10/2013 WZ): “We deem it proper to grant three (3) weeks time to Respondent No.1 to file reply affidavit and make it clear that in the meanwhile if any work done, it will be subject to final outcome of the present Application, without claiming any right of equity arising out of execution of construction work and without pleadings in advance of any ‘fait Accompli’.
  • Feb 25, 2014 NGT order: “Learned Additional Advocate General, seeks time to file comprehensive reply affidavit, as regards the nature of project in question. He submits that filing of such affidavit requires co-ordination of various departments and Agencies, which will take certain time. He, therefore, seeks reasonable time to complete the exercise of preparing reply affidavit. He undertakes to maintain directions as regards keeping of equity, in the light of earlier order dated 31st January, 2014.” The application next comes up for hearing on May 9, 2014.
  • April 1, 2014 People of 70 villages affected by Garudeshwar Dam hold protest demonstration in Vadodara.
  • April 14, 2014 Blasting at Garudeshwar village for the dam leads to rock fall on people, endangering lives of children and also shaking of houses.
Conclusion It is clear that Garudeshwar Dam does not have any justification, any impact assessment study, any required statutory clearances, any consents from affected Gram Sabhas and or even from the state which is supposed to get majority of the questionable claimed benefits. This dam seems like a symbol of Gujarat Government’s dam fundamentalism.
The reason as to why the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is not taking action against this illegal work or why the Union Water Resources Ministry is supporting the work or why the political opposition in Gujarat is silent on this dam is still a mystery. However, under the current circumstances, the project must be stopped immediately. We hope NGT takes this step urgently. It is high time that political parties fighting elections in the area and Gujarat take a stand on this dam immediately.
Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)
[1] “The letter of acceptance-cum-work order for the construction of Garudeshwar Weir across river Narmada near village Garudeshwar has been issued to agency M/s Rithwik Project Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad by SSNNL, Gandhinagar vide letter No. CPC/ Garudeshwar Weir/ 2011/657-P-II dated 04.05.2012”, as per Minutes of 104th meeting of PSC of SSCAC held on Aug 23, 2012.
[2] Minutes of 104th meeting of Permanent Standing Committee of SSCAC held on Aug 23, 2012, obtained by SANDRP under RTI.
[3] That the officials knew about the opposition is clear from the Gujarat Samachar clipping of Oct 22, 2012, carrying warning from affected people that if their issues are not settled, the work on the dam will be stopped. This clipping was included in the agenda notes for the 80th meeting of SSCAC held on March 25, 2013.
[4] The minutes of the 105th meeting of the PSC of SSCAC held in Feb 2013 noted on the issue of Garudeshwar dam, “The representative of GOG informed that work is delayed due to objection of the local peoples for giving better R&R package”.
[5] Calling is weir is clearly an attempt to mislead everyone, giving an impression that is a low dam, which it is not.
[6] http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/garudeshwar-weir-could-pave-way-for-sardar-statue/776013/
[7] Annexure 79.2(C).5 with the Agenda for 79th meeting of SSCAC held in Feb 2012
[8] Agenda of the 79th meeting of SSCAC held in Feb 2012.
[9] Obtained by SANDRP under RTI Act.
[10] http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/tribal-body-demands-scrapping-of-garudeshwar-weir-113102901241_1.html
[11] http://www.counterview.net/2014/01/government-now-considering-to-use-force.html

Reliance sends legal notice to author of "Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis"

Reliance sends legal notice to author over 'pamphlet' on gas scam
Company alleges that Paranjoy Guha Thakurta's book about Krishna-Godavari gas deal is malicious, names Flipkart and Amazon among respondents. 
Reliance Industries Limited and its head, Mukesh Ambani, have sent a legal notice to journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, his co-authors and distributors for claims made in the book Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis. Focussing on gas exploration in the Krishna-Godavari basin, the book sets out to highlight alleged "cases of crony capitalism that allowed the Reliance group to blatantly exploit loopholes which were consciously retained in the system to benefit it," says the jacket.

Describing the self-published book as a "pamphlet," the defamation notice details RIL's objections and demands that the book be withdrawn, its online sales stopped and a public apology tendered. Among those served notice are the popular online book sellers Flipkart and Amazon.

According to the allegations made in the book jacket, "Prime minister of India Manmohan Singh has been accused of changing ministerial portfolios at the behest of the Reliance group. There have been claims that the group deliberately ‘squatted’ on reserves of natural gas and curtailed production in anticipation of higher prices that are administered by the government, to the detriment of the interests of the country’s people. Spokespersons of the group deny these allegations and contend that gas output from the Krishna-Godavari basin came down on account of unforeseen adverse geological surprises. Sections within the Indian government do not buy these arguments. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has alleged, among other things, that the contract between the government and Reliance Industries Limited is deeply flawed, thereby encouraging excessive capital expenditure and lowering potential benefits to the exchequer."

Point by point

The 11-page RIL notice contests these claims. It says the book seeks to influence an ongoing public interest litigation case filed against the Krishna-Godavari basin contract between RIL and the government. The case has been filed by Common Cause, an organisation led by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is a founding member of the Aam Aadmi Party. The legal notice says that Thakurta is a member of the governing board of Common Cause, and that the case was filed in the Supreme Court in anticipation of the book, to help its sales. Bhushan was one of the speakers at the book's launch in Delhi on April 15.

The notice gives an "illustrative list of malicious and defamatory contents of the said Pamphlet". It contests the charge that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India found the contract drafted to favour RIL, or that RIL influenced ministerial portfolios. The book claims that S Jaipal Reddy was relieved of his charge as union minister for petroleum and natural gas in October 2012 and given another ministry because he was refusing to "kowtow" to RIL. The book says that the ministry under Reddy wanted to levy a penalty on RIL for the falling gas production in the area, which caused a loss to the exchequer.

The notice also takes objection to a number of remarks the book makes about Reliance and the Ambanis. Some such are cited: "From January 1980 till October 1984, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards, several government policies were ostensibly framed  or 'designed' to help the Reliance group." Another is a joke about the Ambanis: "A popular joke of the 1980s started with the question: Which is the most powerful political party of India? Answer: The Reliance Party of India."

Authors respond

In a statement to Scroll.in, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and his co-authors said that the book "has been 'more than fair' to Reliance Industries Limited and Shri Mukesh D Ambani by quoting and providing their version of events, circumstances and controversies in 'great length and depth', including detailed interviews with senior RIL personnel like BK Ganguly."

The statement said that "the authors are exercising their fundamental right to free expression enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India." It added that the legal notice "is like an act of intimidation and harassment" and that "an appropriate response" will be provided "as per the legal process".


Photo Credit:http://www.gaswars.in/