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Archives for : Kractivism

Why both Modi and Trump are textbook populists


Amit Varma

As Donald Trump raised his tiny paw and took the presidential oath this Friday, I had just finished reading an outstanding book that, I thought, explained Trump as well as many other leaders on the world stage today. In ‘What is Populism?’ Jan-Werner Muller, a Princeton professor, lays out all the ingredients from which you can cook up a populist movement. I was struck by how closely our own prime minister, Narendra Modi, matched Muller’s definition. Consider the following characteristics that characterise populists, as defined by Muller.

One, they claim that not only do they represent the people, but that whoever does not support them is, by definition, not part of ‘the people’. Muller says this is “the core claim of populism: only some of the people are really the people.” As Trump put it in May last year, “the only important thing is the unification of the people— because the other people don’t mean anything.” Think of how the BJP treats Muslims and Dalits as second-class citizens.

Two, populists are not just anti-pluralism, but they’re also anti-elite. Muller writes, “Populists pit the pure, innocent, always hardworking people against a corrupt elite who do not really work (…) and, in right-wing populism, also against the very bottom of society.” Think of Modi’s railings against the “Lutyens elite”.
Three, they portray themselves as victims even when they are in power. As Muller puts it, “majorities act like mistreated minorities.” Modi still rants against the elite even though he is now their leader, and paid BJP trolls still call journalists ‘presstitutes’ even though they control much of the media. Trump, who has been a crony capitalist insider all his life, is a classic example of a pig calling the pigsty dirty.

Four, populist parties tend to become monolithic, “with the rank-and-file clearly subordinated to a single leader.” Trump decimated the Republican Party on the way up, just as Modi is now the Supreme Leader within the BJP, which once had multiple leaders of stature.

Five, populists pride themselves on their “proximity to the people.” Modi being a ‘chaiwalla’ is a key part of his narrative, and as that famous photoshopped picture of him sweeping a floor shows, the common-man element is important to him. As it is, indeed, to other populists. Hungary‘s Viktor Orban and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez both hosted shows similar to Modi’s Mann Ki Baat.

Six, populism is simplistic, so populists can only think in simplistic terms, which can lead to “an oversimplification of policy challenges.” Modi’s demonetisation is an example of this, as is Trump’s attribution of America‘s job losses to immigration and outsourcing.

Seven, they tend to believe in conspiracy theories, which “are rooted in and emerge from the very logic of populism itself.” Indeed, the RSS’s view of history is itself a sort of giant conspiracy theory.

How do populists behave once in power? Muller outlines three things that they tend to do.

One, they “colonize or occupy the state”. They fill up all the institutions with their own people, co-opt those that are independent, and reshape the system to their will. Think of Modi’s appointments of cronies to the Censor Board and FTII, the replacement of the Planning Commission with Niti Aayog, and the recent virtual demotion of the RBI to an arm of the finance ministry.

Two, they “engage in mass clientelism: the exchange of material and immaterial favors by elites for mass political support.” Think of the sops Modi offered before the Bihar elections, or the ones expected in the next couple of budgets leading up to important elections.

Three, they shut down dissent in civil society, starting with NGOs. Muller writes, “rulers like Vladimir Putin in Russia, Viktor Orban in Hungary, and PiS in Poland have gone out of their way to try to discredit NGOs as being controlled by outside powers (and declare them ‘foreign agents’).” Sounds familiar?

I’ll leave you with a pleasant thought, though. Here’s why I think both Modi’s and Trump’s populism will ultimately fail. The narratives of populism, based on some of the people being all of the people, only work in broadly homogenous societies. The US will be a minority-majority country by the middle of the century (ie, whites will be less than 50% of the population), and a Trump won’t be possible then. As for India, our diversity is our greatest defence against creeping fascism. Populism might work at the state level, but nationally, we are too diverse. That puts a ceiling on how much support Modi can get, which I believe already peaked in 2014, when he could be all things to all people. I think he already senses this. How will he respond?

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Maharashtra – Woman dies after family planning operation, 2 serious #WTFnews

Woman dies after family planning operation, 2 serious
YAWATMAL: A woman died while two others are battling for life after the medical officer (MO) of Belora primary health centre allegedly botched up family planning operations at a camp organized at the village in Pusad tehsil. The MO, Dr Swapnil Satpute, allegedly cut the intestine instead of Fallopian tube while performing the operation.

Medical officer of Pusad Dr Chandrashekhar Bhongade said an inquiry has been ordered and if the concerned doctor is found guilty for dereliction of duty or has committed any lapses while performing the operation, action would be taken against him as per law .

The deceased has been identified as Sharada Kale (26), a resident of Bara village. Vandana Ashok Deokate, a resident of Kumbhari village and Aruna Pradip Chavan, a resident of Kanherwadi village in Pusad tehsil, are admitted to Yavatmal Government Medical College (GMC).

Confirming the incident, Yavatmal GMC dean Dr Ashok Rathod said Kale was brought dead to the hospital on Saturday while condition of one of the two women is critical. The post mortem on Kale was performed on Saturday and the report is awaited.

Dr Satpute operated upon 15 women at the camp organized on Thursday. On Friday, Kale, Deokate and Chawhan were rushed to government hospital in Pusad after their condition started deteriorating. Due to non-availability of proper medical facilities, the doctors there referred them to GMC Yavatmal.

Panic-stricken villagers thronged the PHC but Dr Satpute was found missing. They alleged that the PHC is managed only by a nurse while Dr Satpute mostly remains at Arni. They demanded that the doctor should be booked and arrested immediately. The police station officer of Khandla BS Jadhav and Pusad SDPO rushed to the spot and pacified the villagers.

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Activist Bela Bhatia Attacked At Home In Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, Asked To Leave In 24 Hours


B Bhatia has worked for several years in Bastar, Chhattisgarh that is affected by Maoist violence.
BASTAR: An activist was threatened in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar today by some 30 men who allegedly barged into her home and gave her 24 hours to leave. Bela Bhatia, a researcher and social activist, was allegedly told by the goons that she would be killed and her home would be burnt down if she didn’t leave immediately.

According to whats app message from her-.’I have been attacked by a mob of 30 or so men who came in a white bolero-type vehicle and mobikes. This was the beginning. Later it became big and ugly. They threatened their way inside the house. They said I would have to leave the house immediately or they would burn the place. Somehow I persuaded them to allow me to change and that I would leave the house right then. I managed to call the collector and alert him to what was happening. I locked the house and came out. They had got the landlady to come out and were threatening her that she must see to it that I move out immediately. I kept reassuring them that I would asap. That my landlord and his sons had been called to the thana yesterday. And that they have already communicated to me that I must leave. They were very belligerent and kept threatening to break the lock and burn. The sarpanch had come by then and was watching. After about half hour police arrived from Parpa than a including the thanedar. The belligerence of the mob continued.’

“Bela agreed to leave and pleaded for time – a few days. They refused and wanted her to leave immediately. Eventually they agreed to give her 24 hours to leave.

Ms Bhatia has worked for several years in Bastar, a part of Chhattisgarh that is severely affected by Maoist violence. She has alleged threats ever since she helped tribal women allegedly raped by security personnel file police cases in 2015.


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Comrade Ramchandran Missing from Howrah Station

#Families refused compensation by Government
#ভাঙ্গড় এই মুহুর্ত
Palash Biswas
Image may contain: 7 people, people sitting and child
Anand Swarup Verma \on his FB wall:
Com K N Ramachandran, General Secretary, CPI (ML) Red Star, who reached Howrah railway station by around 5 PM on 22nd January 2017. He is missing since then. All attempts to contact comrade K N Ramachandran over his mobile phone are in vain. Comrade travelled from Lucknow to Howrah to declare solidarity with the people and the CPI (ML) Red Star comrades who are heroically resisting super imposition of a power grid by Mamata Government at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district of W. Bengal. The Party suspects the involvement of Mamata’s notorious Special Police in comrade’s missing and appeal to the communists, progressive democratic forces and like-minded people for their wholehearted solidarity and support at this critical juncture.
It is terrible development and represents Bengal scenario at present under the rule of Maa Mati Manush government.
Comrade Ramchandran has been active in democrat movement in Bengal for last few decades and converse in Bengali very very well despite his South Indian status.
Bhangar Movement is against unabated land grab by Builder Promoter Syndicate mafia in New Kolkata and suburban Kolkata with all the district town.
The recent turmoi was created by this mfai goons who are known leaders of the Ruling Party.They looted land of the people in Muslim dominated area Bhangar and while People`s resistance got momentum there,these antisocial elements known best as TMC muscle Power used the police and RAF as cover and dressed as police the fired indiscriminately,two innocent young boys sacrificed in the violence.
The area has been captured by those anti social elements who have been getting land for builder mafia.Murders,Arson and rapes have been the tools of mass displacement,ethnic cleansing.
The Government and its machinery has done nothing to stop this anarchy and now they brand the leaders of Bhangar uprising as Maoists and CM  Mamata Bannerjee has ordered to arrest the leaders of the movement including the students branding them as Maoists but has not taken any action against those elements who are basically responsible for continuos violence and displacement,unemployment and resultant anger turned into people`s uprising. Mamta has been habitual to brand anyone Maoist since she has got the helms of power.She did not spare women in Kamduni or students or simple boys romthe tribal belt and the hell losing.
With the absconding comrade Ramchandran it is once again the anarchy scenario in Bengal which should be protested and resisted.
One section of media which also supported persecution and repression in seventies, during Nandigram and Singur movement to brand everyone Naxal or Maoist has launched a misinformation campaign.
Meanwhile Paribartan Panthi People`s Singer Pratul Bandopadhyay has wrote a song against this terror but Bengal Civil society has not responded as yet.
সরকারের দেওয়া লোকদেখানি দুই
লক্ষ টাকা নিলেন না
ভাঙ্গড়ে শহীদ
মফিজুলের পরিবার।
লড়াই চলুক।

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Bastar’s tribal reporter-couple: Editor’s pride, colleagues’ envy, cops’ bane

Ritesh Mishra
Raipur, HT
Highlight Story

Reporter couple Pushpa and Nitin Rokde. (HT Photo)

She is a Gond tribal from Chhattisgarh and he a former Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable from Maharashtra. Together, Pushpa Rokde (née Usendi) and Nitin Rokde make for a unique couple in the state’s Maoist hotbed of Bastar.

Both are reporters with the Dainik Prakhar Samachar and are the editor’s pride, colleagues’ envy and a constant source of worry for the security forces.

As Bastar’s only tribal woman journalist who knows the forested terrain and speaks the local Halbi, Chattisgarhi and Gondi dialects, Pushpa, 35, enjoys unparalleled access and trust in a region where officials fear to tread. She scoops stories that often force mainstream media to take note and embarrass the establishment.

In 2015, she was one of the first to report on the alleged rapes and atrocities by security forces in Bijapur. Two weeks ago, it made national headlines again after the National Human Rights Commission found prima facie evidence of the crime and asked the Chhattisgarh government why interim relief of Rs 37 lakh should not be paid to the victims.

Journalists, especially women, have been under fire in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region. In 2016, Malini Subramaniam of Scroll was allegedly attacked by unidentified people and she had to leave Bastar later. Same year, Alok Prakash Putul of BBC was forced to leave Bastar, where he had gone to report on a story.

The police had also arrested Sai Reddy in 2008 and Santosh Yadav and Samaru Nag in 2015 under the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act. In addition, there have been reports of journalists facing threat from groups backed by the police.

But the reporter couple of Pushpa and Nitin have been defiant. While the tribals warm up to Pushpa because she knows their language, Nitin, 38, who quit the CRPF after inquiry over an encounter, “knows the system”. She is based in Bijapur and he works out of neighbouring Dantewada. Both these districts in Bastar division are among the worst affected by left-wing extremism in the state.

Together, the couple has unrivalled insight and access, and their reports inevitably bring pressure. “Police tell me to cooperate, but they do not press it beyond a point because they know I won’t budge,” says Pushpa.

Nitin followed Pushpa into journalism after quitting the CRPF. “He expressed dissent over an encounter and seniors started harassing him. He resigned,” says Pushpa, without elaborating.

Nitin is equally cryptic. “I was very disturbed after that incident and was called to Delhi by senior officials in 2006. Later, I was kicked out. I decided to come back here and work for the poor people.”

Last year, he had told HT he left the force because he had “seen an officer kill a junior” and clammed up.

Pushpa, who dropped out of school in Class X to help her family, had started as a proofreader in 2003 in the daily where she is now a key reporter. In between, she resumed studies and became a graduate.

Deepak Lakhotia, the editor and owner of Dainik Prakhar Samchaar, says the couple is an asset for his 30-year-old newspaper. “Pushpa’s stories are brilliant and we don’t have to work on them.”

One of Pushpa’s many “sources”, a tribal woman who lives “deep inside” Bastar, offers a reason for why she has their trust. “She understands us. She is one of us. She is the one with whom we share our pain and anger.”

When Pushpa takes their voice to her newspaper, the issue often gets picked up by others. “More than three dozen stories of mine have been followed by mainstream media in the country,” says Pushpa. She brushes aside the fact that those reports never credit her for the “breaking” and “exclusive” stories.

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As Maharashtra Makes Big Mining Push, Tribals Push Back



By- Poorvi Kulkarni

Madia Gond tribals in Surjagad village, Gadchiroli district, in south-eastern Maharashtra, congregate for the annual pre-harvest festival. This year, as they sat huddled around festive bonfires, they discussed the big push being given to mining activity in the region by the Maharashtra government.


Etapalli and Bhamragad talukas, Gadchiroli (Maharashtra): Over two nights in early January, Madia Gond tribals–or Adivasis, as they prefer to be called–of south-eastern Maharashtra gather every year in a clearing to celebrate their pre-harvest festival. They sang, danced and feasted on pork and mutton, as they worshipped their deity, Thakur Dev.


This year, there was disquiet among the 1,000 Adivasis who had congregated here from 70 neighbouring villages. As they sat huddled around festive bonfires, they discussed the big push being given to mining activity in the region by government of India’s richest state, by state gross domestic product (GSDP).


On December 23, 2016, 80 trucks and an earthmover were burnt, as The Telegraph reported, 20 km from the festival site, allegedly by Maoists opposed to mining projects revived after nearly a decade. In 2016, the state asked companies that had halted mining–in the Madia Gond village of Surjagad–for fear of naxal attacks to resume work.



On December 23, 2016, 80 trucks and an earthmover were burnt 20 km from the festival site in Surjagad, in Gadchiroli district, allegedly by Maoists opposed to mining projects revived after nearly a decade.


Surjagad is in Gadchiroli district, on a swathe of land that bears about 60% of Maharashtra’s mineral wealth, which includes 17 minerals–including coal, limestone, iron ore and manganese ore–with reserves of 5,753 million tonnes, or 22.56% of India’s mineral reserves.


The Adivasis were particularly worried that prospecting licences have been issued for 25 new mining projects, across more than 18,000 acres across six talukas (sub-divisions) of the district, according to information gathered six months ago from the district mining office by Visthaapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, an activist body.



A copy of the pamphlet being distributed at the annual pre-harvest festival in Surjagad, in Gadchiroli district, about fresh mining projects coming up in the area.


Speeches by local Adivasi leaders expressed fears that the mining would wreck their habitat.


“We believe that distinct worlds of people, animals and other living and non-living things inhabit forests, hills, rivers and rains. If these elements of nature are disrupted, the world we inhabit too will be destroyed,” said Rama Mahaka, 40, the bhumiya (village priest) of Bejur village in Bhamragad taluka.


The tussle in Gadchiroli is illustrative of larger battles unfolding across India’s tribal homelands.


Why miners come to Gadchiroli–and other tribal lands


Resource conflicts are an intensifying and under-acknowledged phenomenon across the coal-rich farms and forests of central and eastern India–a mineral used to generate over 60% of India’s power. Few urban Indians know or think about these pitched battles unfolding almost every month in rural, often remote, areas of their country, as IndiaSpend reported in September 2014.


Half of India’s top mining areas are in tribal lands, such as Gadchiroli. Between 2011 and 2014, 48 mining leases were approved in tribal areas across the country by the union ministry of mines. The average proportion of forests in India’s mineral-producing districts is 28%, more than the national average of 20.9%, and mining invariably leads to their depletion and displacement.


Much like the Adivasis of Surjagad, tribal communities in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district, Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district and Odisha’s Khandadhar Hills, all regions rich in minerals, have united against mining projects. They refuse to buy the argument that mining will lead to employment generation and development. They are also angry that their gram sabhas, or local village councils, were not consulted when mining licenses are given out.


Moved for Mines: India’s dodgy data

In a 2007 paper, academic Walter Fernandes estimated the number of Indians displaced between 1947 and 2000 to be 60 million (other estimates put it at 65 million), with 5 million of these displaced by mining. Citizens living on India’s margins comprise the bulk of our displaced–for example, adivasis or tribals are 8% of the population, but make up 40% of the displaced, according to the Planning Commission’s 12th Plan document. The graph above uses some state-wise estimates from Fernandes’ paper, which does not include data from the mineral-rich areas of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.


Since it came to power in May 2014, the government of the National Democratic Alliance has moved to boost mining and industrialisation, altering laws to remove consent from local-government institutions.


For example, the ministry of environment and forests did away with the requirement of public hearings, as part of the environmental clearance process for some projects, such as mines seeking expansion–a move that was begun by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government towards the twilight of its regime.


Similarly, one of the first things then rural development minister Nitin Gadkari did on assuming office was to dilute gram sabha consent and social-impact-assessment provisions in a land acquisition law passed by the UPA in January 2014, replacing its colonial-era predecessor, in force since 1894. This note, prepared by Gadkari’s officials, details the government’s thoughts on gram sabha consent and expanding exceptions to the law.


“We appeal to the government to not destroy our traditional community resources and biodiversity by digging mines in our forests and hills in the name of employment generation for locals,” read a resolution of the 70 gram sabhas of Etapalli taluka, Gadchiroli district, sent to the governor of Maharashtra through the district collector last year.


Resolution of the Gram Sabha of Surjagad, Etapalli (Gadchiroli district)

A copy of the five-page resolution passed by the gram sabha of Surjagad village, in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, appealing to the state government “to not destroy the traditional community resources and biodiversity by digging mines in our forests”.


Jal, jangal, jameen–the question of habitat


At the festival, there were pamphlets distributed about the fresh projects coming up in the area and banners denouncing them.


“We were told that the auctions for these projects have been carried out and MoUs (memorandums of understanding) have been signed with the mining companies. They are now at different stages of environment and forest clearances,” said Mahesh Raut, convenor of the Andolan.


The Adivasis said the delicate link between jal, jangal, jameen (water, forest, land) and the lives of the people needed to be conserved.



A banner denouncing the coal-mining projects is displayed at the annual pre-harvest festival in the Madia Gond tribal village of Surjagad, in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra.


Gaaytaas (those responsible for village security in traditional Adivasi systems) from different villages made public speeches at the festivals, reiterating the need to preserve the forests.


“This is the first time we are using the festival to discuss issues relating to livelihood and rights,” said Rajashri Lekame of Bhamragad Patti Gotul Samiti, a traditional group of local leaders and gram sabha committees’ chairpersons.



Rajashri Lekame of Bhamragad Patti Gotul Samiti, a traditional group of local leaders and gram sabha committees’ chairpersons, speaks to villagers during the annual pre-harvest festival. “This is the first time we are using the festival to discuss issues relating to livelihood and rights,” Lekame said.


Communities are only consulted for minor minerals: govt


The gram sabha resolutions passed last year have not elicited any response from the government. Gadchiroli collector ASR Naik said he did not clearly remember. “There may be many letters/ resolutions addressed to different entities,” he said, in a text message to IndiaSpend. “I would have to check all of them,” he said.


Section 4(k) of The Provision of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996, makes it mandatory for gram sabhas to be consulted before mining lease is awarded for minor minerals in schedules areas.


As per Maharashtra government’s Regulation of minerals, minor minerals include stones used for making household utensils, building stones, gravel, marble, kankar, etc., and major minerals are those used for other industrial purposes–coal, manganese ore, iron ore, bauxite etc.


Naik said, as per the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957, iron ore mined in Surjagad is a major mineral. “I think the authority to which the letters are addressed would take appropriate decisions,” he said.


The promise of jobs and growth


The government has promised industrial growth, more jobs and an increase in income of Adivasi families in the region once mining begins, as the The Indian Express reported on August 28, 2015.


But Adivasis said the forest yield was enough for them; 1,267 gram sabhas in the district had earned Rs 35 crore from sale of tendu (an ebony tree) leaves in 2016 after the Maharashtra government freed the sale of tendu and bamboo from state monopoly.


The government gave ownership rights of forest produce to gram sabhas to directly auction the produce to private bidders. This meant that each family earned between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 in around 15 days.


“When families are already earning in lakhs, why are they being told about jobs and development?” said Ramdas Jatare, a member of the Maharashtra Gram Vikas Jan Andolan (Maharashtra people’s movement for village progress).


Jatare alleged that the government wants to set up infrastructure projects in the region, not to improve local conditions but to make things easy for big businesses.


“They build roads because they want to sell their cement,” he said. “They provide subsidy on agricultural equipment because they want to sell their products. They mine because they profit and get commission. It is the government and the corporates who gain from the current notion of development.”


How fish traps, rice huskers enrich Adivasi society


Researchers who have been working on documenting the biodiversity conservation and management practices of Adivasi communities held the same view.


“Models of development for Adivasis have been formulated by non-Adivasis,” said Neema Pathak Broome, member of the Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, an NGO. “It is because of this that there is a pattern witnessed globally in countries of South America and Africa too where Adivasis and their practices are under serious threat.”


Broome, who is helping the Madia Gonds in Gadchiroli document their economic, educational and social systems, was speaking to a group of manjis (village heads) from Surjagad during the festival. The aim, she said, should be to allow Adivasis to plan for their own development.


Some researchers also pointed out that Adivasis use simple and effective tools for their daily needs such as theles (fish traps) and dhenkis (rice huskers) that need to be brought into the mainstream discourse.


“Instead of being dismissed as undeveloped, the knowledge-base of their practices needs to be documented, understood and incorporated by mainstream society,” said Harshit (he uses one name), who co-founded the Facebook page, Humans of Gondwana, in September 2015.


Jatare believes that along with forest rights, Adivasis must also be given their cultural rights. “There is a rich tradition of barter and collective work that is prevalent in our societies which is still completely distinct from and is preferred by us over mainstream economic practices,” he said.


People here are also caught in the crossfire between Maoists and the state. “The situation is very tense and difficult here now as we are opposing mining and so are the Maoists,” said Lalsu Nogoti, a lawyer who practises in the Aheri civil court.


In the Adivasi lands, Adivasis are now a minority


Many believe that even before physical eviction from their homes takes place, Adivasis would leave their homes themselves if the forests are destroyed.


“We read in history that Chandrapur had a Gond king,” said Jatare, a Madia Gond, originally from Surjagad, who now lives in Gadchiroli town. “But, after coal-mining projects started during the British period, there is barely any Gondi population now in Chandrapur. We do not know where they went.”


No more than 9.35% of Chandrapur district belongs to scheduled tribe (ST), while 38.71% of the total population of Gadchiroli is ST, according to Census 2011.


But, Jatare said that there has been a steady decline in Adivasi population in Gadchiroli too since the formation of the district in 1982.


“The Adivasi population in the district then was 60% and Gadchiroli was carved out of Chandrapur as a separate district because of its predominant Adivasi population,” said Jatare. “But now, our population has reduced to just 38%.”


Today, festivities and tensions co-exist in the region. A group of young girls from Parayna village sing in the Gondi language at the Bhamragad festival about their concerns:


Gorga mara khalisi uda jabura khin jangal,
Soba uda metta gilga khalisi uda kal kal pong near dodda guda


(In the midst of hills and rocks lie forests,
Come to see them)


Metta dod pollam tipu-tapu nangil puji pantha tendana,
Aajrasa saal niche pant tandis pishan


(In the midst of the hills flows a river,
Come to farm there)


Unnees chyanobeta pesa kanoon laago ito,
Jal, Jangal, Jameen sathi naate naate garam sapa baneki akal


(1996 PESA law is being dismissed by the government,
To protect water, forest, land, we will hold a gram sabha)”.


(Kulkarniis a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and a researcher with Haqdarshak. Her former employers include Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and Hindustan Times.)

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India – Have you seen the Nuclear ponds of Jharkhand ?


The Nuclear Ponds Of Jharkhand

Posted by Ankush Vengurlekar i

While cycling solo, I’ve always had the best coincidences. I feel that nature just takes care of me while I surrender myself to its elements, discovering what it has to offer to the lone traveller. This is self-evident when I meet some of the best activists and people who’ve been fighting for the rights of the tribals and those who’ve been wronged by the government’s apathy.

I’m on a 900 km solo cycling expedition through Jharkhand to highlight the plight of tribals because of mining and displacement. My first stop is at Jamshedpur, 115 km from Ranchi in Jharkhand.

It is 7 am, I’m at the hotel entrance in Jamshedpur, and I am greeted by labour on his motorbike. This young, 21-year-old affable activist is Arjun Samat. “Where is your cycle?”, was his first question. When I tell people, I’m on a cycling expedition; they usually expect to see the bike by my side at all times.

I explain that I normally ride the bike to the main town or village. And that, it is at the guesthouse while we visit the community and villages. He takes me to a chowk in Turamdih, about five km from Jamshedpur, where around 10-15 men are sitting with their bikes parked nearby. There’s a discernible tension among the people, and they keep turning to look at the building which reads UCIL (Uranium Corporation of India Limited). Arjun tells me that we will be waiting for some of the men to return from the UCIL office and then discuss at length.

Turamdih is among the more recent of the five Uranium mines that were started by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, back in 1954 when it initiated India’s first Uranium mining. This is on the Howrah-Mumbai main line and was commissioned in 2003.

Founded in 1967, the UCIL is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and processing. The centrally owned Corporation is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore in India. Uranium is the main fuel source for running the nuclear power plants that are installed in the country and India presently generates about 2% of its total energy from nuclear sources.

Arjun tells me that the contractual labour at Turamdih are having a dialogue with the UCIL officials to try and negotiate an issue over conducting medical tests for the contractual staff. I express my surprise at the mention of contractual labour at the uranium mine. Isn’t there permanent labour to do these jobs? Isn’t this a highly sensitive commodity? How is it being mined by contractual staff then?

Suku Heramb escaped alive from the nuclear mine accident of May 2016 which killed 3 people in Turamdih.

He smiles, as he did quite often during our time spent together. “One of the most sensitive and important parts of nuclear mining is done by the contractual labour at ₹300 a day. They are not given any medical or health benefits, no protective suits or safety gear. In fact, a few months ago, in May, there was an accident, where a section of the mine collapsed, and two workers lost their lives inside one of the mines. The families seldom receive any compensation for deaths occurring during work”. “So what is the discussion about today?”, I asked. “The company has made medical tests for all contractual daily wage labour compulsory”. “Isn’t that a good thing?”, I asked naively. “It is”, he claimed. “But they want the labour to do the test themselves, the contractor is saying that it wasn’t mentioned in his work order at the beginning and as such, he cannot bear the expenses now. The cost per person is about ₹3500, and that is about 10 days wage for the labor”.

“What happens if the labour is diagnosed with some medical problem due to exposure? Or respiratory disorders? ”, I asked, as my curiosity increased. “That is exactly the dilemma most of them are facing”, said Arjun. “Without a medical certificate, they won’t be able to work, and if the medical certificate throws up some ailment that is most probably caused by exposure to radiation or fine particulate matter, due to working in the mines, the contractor will ask them to leave”.

I asked him whether the displaced villagers who’ve lost their lands are given jobs in the uranium mines. “The mines are situated on land which was originally inhabited by the villagers of this area. After they were displaced due to mining, some of them received jobs. Even for the unskilled jobs, not every working member of the displaced family gets a job. This, in fact, creates disparity within families, where one brother may get a job and the benefits therewith, whereas the other brother has to search for daily wage labour work. This is increasing the rift among families and sprouting economic disparity within the villages. Children of employees go to central schools, get medical access and better employment opportunities, whereas the other members of displaced families are forced to live a wage based life and seldom make progress on the human development indicators of health, nutrition and opportunity.”

We then head over to a tailing pond on Arjun’s motorbike. A tailing pond is where the tailings i.e. uranium mining waste, in the form of a slurry, are stored in an artificially constructed pond. The pond may be lined at the bottom, or not. In this case, the pond isn’t lined, as informed by Arjun. “This is a 64-acre tailing pond and takes the waste of ore processing from the nearby plant. The ore is mined, refined and sent to Hyderabad for further processing. Until recently, the nuclear waste from Hyderabad plant was also being brought and dumped in this tailing pond. But after protests by us activists, UCIL was forced to stop.”

“This radioactive slurry is being stored in the open, doesn’t this pose any health and environmental hazards?”, I ask. Arjun smiles at me and says, “You are not even from here, and you understand this basic fact, but somehow the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy) and BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) officials don’t acknowledge this fact.”“Has the pond ever overflown?” I shudder at that thought. “Yes, in 2003, it rained a lot continuously. The tailing pond overflowed into the neighbouring farms. It killed all the crops that year. Not only that but some small animals too, died by ingesting that water. The groundwater has been polluted, and the company won’t admit it. However, they have asked the nearby villages to stop using ground water and are instead being told to take water from the multiple water points installed by the company. During summers, the slurry dries up and gets carried by the wind all around the pond, to neighbouring villages.”

A toddler rests in Turamdih village merely a few hundred meters from the nuclear tailing pond.

We visit a village, which is less than 100 meters from the embankment of the tailing pond. An infant is furiously kicking a cat on his charpai, while hen run around pecking at the ground. The mother of this child has just returned from washing clothes and is drying them up on a wire stretched across the verandah. An image which would seem normal, if one chose to ignore the fact that these villagers are clueless that they may be inhaling radioactive dust and drinking water that could possibly be radioactive too, or may be coming in contact with radioactive soil on their farms.

“Think about it for a minute”, he tells me. An army man is made fully aware of the dangers of his work before he is sent to the border, with full arms, ammunition and an entire apparatus ready for his safety. But here, this contract labour is giving their lives for nuclear ore, which is equally a matter of national security. Yet, they are on contract, with no benefits or even basic safety gear. When someone from the army loses their life, they’re declared as martyrs who sacrificed their life for the country. Then why isn’t the same status accorded to these mine workers who are giving their life for the country? These resources are being used for the nation’s safety and development, right? These tribals lose their lands for mining, then get employed as contractual labor, and some even lose their life. Why are they the only ones making all the sacrifices?

The sun sets over the huge pile of debris that has been formed by excavating a new tailing pond in another village. I realise that here in Turamdih, the sun has long set on the future of these village communities, all under the name of national development.

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The LGBT page has disappeared from the White House’s website


Posted by Josh Withey in news
Picture: GETTY

Barack Obama’s LGBT legacy is unquestionable. 

Under his leadership marriage equality became a reality in all 50 States, the US army set out to lift the ban on transgender service personnel, and in 2014 he issued an executive order banning LGBT discrimination by Federal contractors across the board.

Unfortunately, that looks like it could be set to change.

As the old administration departs the White House, change is underway.

Trump’s new staff have begun to take over offices, Twitter accounts and the White House’s official website.

It’s on this website that a certain page has been deleted.

When you attempt to access the page, at time of writing, you’re greeted with this message:

The requested page “/lgbt” could not be found.



Here’s what was there before the deletion.




This is a worrying sign for America’s LGBT community, and the change hasn’t gone unnoticed.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Trump just became president and the LGBT section of the White House’s site is already gone

WTF. Within 1 hr of his Trump had removed the WH pages on civil rights, LGBT rights & climate change. 

Photo published for Trump’s WhiteHouse.Gov Disappears Civil Rights, Climate Change, LGBT Rights

Trump’s WhiteHouse.Gov Disappears Civil Rights, Climate Change, LGBT Rights

The minute Donald Trump was sworn into office, the White House’s web site changed—dramatically.

White House website scrubbed climate change and LGBT rights pages. There is, however, a new page on “Radical Islam”.

Nice going, America.


Back in December, Trump reportedly gave his ‘assurances’ that laws protecting LGBT people would be scrapped when he reached the Oval Office.

Worryingly almost all of Trump’s cabinet, including his Vice President Mike Pence, share anti-LGBT views.

During his time as governor of Indiana, Mr Pence advocated siphoning off government funding for HIV treatment and instead putting it towards gay “conversion therapy”.

LGBT charity Stonewall told The Independent last year:

During this period of increased change in the US, it is imperative that the incoming government continues to build upon recent legislation which has strengthened equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people – such as equal marriage.

Equality cannot be allowed to recede, either in the US or globally and we hope UK and US governments will continue to work together to support international LGBT communities.

This election campaign has also revealed that there are some deep divisions in the US, making it essential that the new president and his cabinet are proactive in unifying communities and fighting discrimination.



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Bastar -NHRC records pending testimonies of 14 adivasi women victims of rape and sexual assault #Vaw

NHRC records pending testimonies of 14 adivasi women victims in the Peddagelur-Bellamlendra cases of rape and sexual assault by security forces following NHRC order.
 Accirding to Bela Bhatia of Bastar  Adhikar Shala (BAS), A five-member NHRC team visited Peddagelur and Bellamnendra villages (Basaguda police station, Bijapur district) on 19 and 20 January to record testimonies of women victims of gang rapes, sexual assault, and physical violence by police and security forces, that occurred in two separate incidents in October 2015 and January 2016. This team was constituted following the NHRC order of 6 January 2017. In the order, the NHRC had issued a show cause notice to the Chhattisgarh  government about awarding compensation to 16 victims of rape and sexual assault on the basis of statements recorded by NHRC (in March 2016) and statements recorded by the judicial magistrate during 2016. The testimonies taken during the two days were those that were pending, ie, not covered by either the NHRC or the judicial magistrate so far.
On the 19th, the NHRC team recorded statements of six women victims. Testimonies of relatives of two other victims who were unable to come were accepted. The ninth person on the NHRC list, from Gundam village, could not come as she had gone to collect firewood and had not returned. In this case, the team members talked with other Gundam women who had come about the incident. The nine women are from three villages: Peddagelur, Chinnagelur and Gundam.
Today, 20th, 5 women testified in Bellamnendra. The testimony of the husband was accepted in the case of the sixth woman, who could not come because she was visiting relatives.
Of the five women, there was one who had suffered gang rape, one sexual assault, others who had suffered beatings and looting, and one who was not a victim but deposed on behalf of her aged husband who had been physically assaulted.
In both villages, people had come in large numbers. The NHRC team was accompanied by police, security forces, and others in plain clothes. The forces remained at a distance from the site of the main proceedings. An AAP team (including Soni Sori, Tripat Yalam, Sadanandam Berojee, Vivek Sharma, Sameer Khan, Ramdev Bhagel) and Lingaram Kodopi were also present.
Members of the NHRC included: Pupil Dutta Prasad (SSP), Kulbir Singh(DYSP), Nitin Kumar, Monia Uppal and Suman Kumar (Inspectors).

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From pimples to mental torture; former DH scribe files complaint with NCW #Vaw

Pressure cooker is finally blowing. And it seems it is blowing for a cause now. In what many be seen as first of its kind, a woman scribe who formerly worked with a Bengaluru based national daily, Deccan Herald (DH) has registered a complaint with National Commission for Women (NCW).

Former employee of DH, Chetana Divya Vasudev has raised a complaint of ‘mental torture’ and ‘derogatory conversation’ on her appearance on January 18.  It is very strange to hear such complaint emanating from a news paper which is know for its progressive stands. Moreover this is a first ever complaint getting registered with NCW from the state of Karnataka, according to available information.

Chetana Divya claims that while working as a senior sub-editor in DH’s Metrolife section – all through her journalism journey for three months, she went through many ordeals which led to come out of the organisation. Before that she was working with the feature section of New Indian Express.

Prior filing complaint with NCW she resigned from DH. Chetana shot off a grieving resignation letter on December 11, 2016. In this candid letter, she has mentioned ordeals she encountered in DH which opens up a larger debate on the working condition in media houses.

First leg of trouble kicked her just after she joined the organisation towards the end of the August. The letter claimed, in the beginning she was denied access to internet, which is oxygen for scribes in the digital age. However, this issue was resolved on her insistence to provide access.

Divya was writing feature stories in Metrolife and according to journalists in other media organisations she is a good writer and kept the readers in grip of reading her write-up. Team managers of Metrolife in later days allegedly started to brand her ideas of feature stories as controversial and were allegedly criticising her for sourcing ideas from social network; Facebook.

Divya in letter says she was constantly overworked making calls after office hours as pressure on her to take quotes for stories on time was only mounting. Divya was also chided for unable to bring required quotes in time for her feature stories. In DH’s feature section she alleged rules kept changing on team lead’s moods and she was unable to get the hang of it.

Despite her priority was to generate quality stories, she was forced to change her priority to deliver only stories given as targets due these constraints. Bengaluru’s infamous traffic concern was not at all on the list for delay in delivering stories, she laments in her resignation letter which is secretly circulating in media Whatsapp groups.

What pushed Divya to resign?

What is more worrisome than anything else is treatment of this employee in DH. “One Monday I called a colleague to inform her that I had been throwing up all morning and couldn’t come to work. But two colleagues of mine who knew of this situation minced no words in letting me know that they thought this was a random illness and nothing compared to big health issues rest of us have. Sadly one colleague implied that I had faked it – in a team meeting – by saying, I know who is sick and who is not.”

Later there was a twist in turn when colleagues started to point out about pimples on the face of Divya. A co-worker strangely told her that she can take as many days’ leave to cure it and take it under priority.  Two of her colleagues pressed that others are concerned about Divya’s skin problem and it may affect other employees. The colleagues went on to warn that HR department may pull her up for this problem. They also advised her to consult a doctor immediately, letter stated.

While this derogatory conversation and uncomfortable issue was brought to the notice of the Associate Editor of DH, he simply said he failed to understand what the problem was, letter claimed. Unable to withstand this trauma, Divya resigned and now has filed complained with NCW to fight for larger cause.

Associate Editor, Subrahmanya K reacting to Samachara said he is sad about what has happened. He confirmed that Divya brought this issue to his notice and he instructed this to her senior colleagues to handle it. “I am a man. It’s woman’s issue and how can I deal this? Hence I directed this to her colleagues.”

Subrahmanya further said there is no reason to be offended, when colleagues suggest to consult a doctor. “If someone is suffering from cold and colleagues fear that it may spread to them also, what is wrong in suggesting to visit a doctor?” he asked.

When contacted Personal Secretary of NCW Chairperson, he said “Chairperson Lalita Kumaramangalam is little busy and can be contacted later”. On the other hand Divya taking legal advise likely to to pursue this case hotly and this issue may set an example to question the odds in the media.

However, this is just an individual case and many be termed as individual centric. But there are slew of other issues haunting journalism employees in giant media houses and contract labour is a prime reason behind this. Samachara will try to explore contract labour system currently prevailing in prominent media houses in the coming days.

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